Winding Down

This is my favorite week of the year. I love the week after Christmas because no one expects you to do anything. Everyone is on vacation. Music lessons? Nope. Sunday school? Holiday break. Sports? See you next year! Regularly scheduled play dates? Out of town. At our home we have been playing video games, catching up on school work, building with Legos, and leisure reading. I am slowly returning to a much less harried version of myself. Things had gotten out of hand around here since October and I am very serious about creating the changes necessary to regain a bit of peace. I've started following Flylady again and have already started getting results. Her organization system is designed for people like me. I'm easily sidetracked and not a "born organized" type. In addition to this system, I have made a hard rule for me and the kids.
Absolutely no more regularly scheduled events of any kind 
are being considered until further notice.

I don't care if the event is only for a few weeks. Anything more is just too much. You see, I love my family and I would like to enjoy life with them. Running at the pace I previously set was wearing me out. As a result, I was starting to spread the frustration to my husband, kids, and most likely my friends. So, I now lace up my shoes, de-clutter my home, and reclaim my home and life. It's only been a few days but the kids have noticed it both in the house and in me.


A few of my favorite things

Over the years my kids and others have come up with some great terms. Enjoy!

"Christmas crumbs".... broken glass tree ornaments.  As in, "Mom, the cat ran up the tree and made Christmas crumbs!"

"Ex-penseful" .... the feeling of wanting to open the gift. A cross between exciting and suspenseful. As in "Just looking at those gifts makes me feel ex-penseful!"

Advent... "the longest days of the year even if people say they are the longest nights."

"Play-tivity"... A kids nativity set. "This is my play-tivity. The other one is the no-tivity."



We just completed our first year with Jr. First Lego League. It has been a great experience for all of us! The theme this year was Body Forward and the kids were asked to come up with a replica and poster of a biomedical invention that makes things better or easier for everyone. Oh, did I forget to mention that some part of this had to move?
Working? Playing? Yes!
Tons of Legos helps

The first idea was to create a prosthetic arm from Lego pieces. After weeks of reading books on the subject and a field trip to a prosthetic designer, we decided that it just wasn't working.
After another brainstorming session, the kids clearly wanted to do something with a military theme. After some online research, they decided to reconstruct a Combat Support Hospital (CSH and pronounced "cash") that is used for troops in combat areas.

Da Vinci robotic surgery
X-ray machine
The CSH unit has five stages. A helicopter to transport the injured from the battle field, an armored transport vehicle to carry the injured to the tents, a triage tent to asses the wounds, an operating tent, and an intensive care unit tent for recovery. The cycle is complete as the recovering soldier is once again loaded aboard the helicopter to be flown to a better hospital.  Sound like a lot? Not for these kids. They attacked to project and really produced an outstanding display.

Coming together! Clockwise from lower left: helicopter, transport vehicle, triage, OR, and ICU
 The moving parts were on the helicopter which was supported on poles above the rest of the display. A motor made the blades spin and a manual crank lifted a wounded minifig in a basket. Some of my favorite features for the other stages were: a transport vehicle with opening doors for a minifig to fit inside, a curtained off exam room in the triage made with a Lego fishing pole and net, the x-ray machine, the da Vinci robotic arms for the OR, a sink in the OR, IV poles and beds in the ICU and lastly, nurses and doctors toting laptops!

setting up at the JrFLL event
The final result!

The day was a success. The judges were impressed and the kids did a fabulous job describing their project. Every member spoke comfortably and knowledgeably to the judges. We were so delighted when we were asked to show our project as a representative of the junior level in April at the high school FLL event! We'll be there!

The project is not all that we did. We used the WeDo system and the Lego Education Set to teach programming and the use of simple machines. I blogged about this earlier here.
Working with the WeDo


Taking an Oath

My husband became a naturalized citizen when he took an oath in a federal courtroom this week. I could write for days on the beauty, the emotions, and the reasons my husband decided to take this path, but this blog is mostly about what my children are learning. Homeschooling often works best when living life and believe me, they learned a lot about citizenship this week. Here are some of the things my kids now know that most Americans (in my experience) don't:

  • An alien is just someone who isn't from here. (My son's current favorite factoid)
  • Each country has its own rules as to how you can become a citizen.
  • Some countries give you citizenship if you are born there, others don't. The US does. Switzerland, for example, does not.
  • Most countries give you citizenship if your parents are citizens. The US does. This can lead to dual citizenship.
  • A "Green Card" isn't green. It used to be, but it's now white and looks like a regular ID.
  • You don't automatically get your green card (residency) or citizenship just because you marry a citizen. It takes a long time, tons of legal papers, and a lot of money. (I get this a lot. TV and the movies have really shaped the false perception that once married foreigners are "safe" from deportation. No way! We were a "cut-and-dry" case and it still took us over two years just to get his residency.)
  • People who are naturalized citizens are as much a citizen as someone who was born here except they cannot become the president.
Over fifty people from over 20 different countries were sworn in this day.
  • Citizens here do not have to carry identification to prove they are citizens, so most of the naturalized citizens will get a passport just in case they have to prove it anyway. After years of making sure to always carry his residency card, my husband just feels incomplete without something.
  • Passports say with which country you have citizenship and are valid forms of ID.
  • You can have more than one passport if you have multiple citizenships.
  • Once you are a US citizen, the US does not count your other citizenship(s) any longer unless you are a minor.
So, how many did you know? I know I learned a lot through this process and I have a very high respect for immigrants. What most of us were just born with, they choose.


Present for Christmas

I almost missed this day. I was tired and wanted alone time so I tried to convince my family that they should go get the tree and I would help them trim it when they got home. At the last minute, my husband gently convinced me that experiencing the holidays is better than planning them. I went and had a great time. The trip was a silly, magical, cocoa and candy cane filled morning. It would have been a tragedy for me to have opted out of those memories!

A wise friend once told me that someday my home will have everything at a ninety degree angle again, but it will be quiet, and my husband and I will be alone. So, I am trying to gift myself with the experiences of Christmas. I want to be present for the moments; every loud, messy and chaotic one of them!