Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The blues

Today was a hard day. Since my last prenantal appointment I had to up my blood pressure medication, and it’s bringing me down – as in, it makes me feel down. It’s a common side effect, apparently, but a feeling I am not very familiar with, frankly, and as a very practical, down to earth, no need to ponder/better to take action – kind of person, I’m not sure how to handle it, because it’s interfering with the way I usually handle things.

I usually bounce out of bed in the morning and take care of whatever needs done – no matter how challenging physically or mentally; I’m full of energy and determination. I’m organized, plan well, and keep control. Hardships or bumps in the road, cranky or sick kids, mean people – nothing gets to me, and I usually have the endurance of a marathon runner!

Now, I wake up and stare at the ceiling, thinking about all the things that need to be done, and wishing I could go back to sleep. It’s very disturbing. I go through my day feeling slightly lethargic, and today when the boys strayed from their school work, something that would usually send me off immediately chasing them down and getting them right back on track, I didn’t get up, but actually welcomed the silence around me.

This is one of the busiest times of the year, and I can’t afford – time wise, inspiration wise, and energy wise – to be feeling like this. I’ve spent the evening trying to come up with ideas to help me back on my feet: lists, snacks, outdoor exercise, etc. but I sure could use some ideas from you, dear reader, as well. 

So, please, what do you do to inspire yourself? Where do get your boost from when you need one?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Our general curriculum idea

The most common question I am asked regarding home schooling is, “Which curriculum do you follow?” and most of the time, the person asking assumes I am following a specific program. We don’t. We use the general structure of the classical education, but everything else, we’ve patched together or have made up ourselves. I say “we” because although I am in charge of most every day teaching (which is why I sometimes use “I”), our children’s curriculum is something my husband and I have worked out together.

Based on the classical approach to education, the focus of our first four years – the grammar stage - is facts and memorization. The subjects we study are English, Math, History + Geography, Science, Music + Art, and starting in third grade, Latin, and fourth grade, French. It’s all quite basic; the goal is to build a strong foundation in English and Math, and add as many facts as possible, as well as curiosity.

The next four years make up the logic stage, where the student learns to ask and answer questions about the facts: Why? How? etc. The subjects studied during this stage are English, Math, History + Geography + Religion + Social studies, including some philosophy, Science, Music + Art, Logic, Latin and French, adding German and/or Spanish after a couple of years. Why so many languages, you ask? Studies show, that if you start learning a language before the age of twelve, your chance of learning this language well, including the acquisition of a perfect pronunciation, is much bigger. I am living evidence. Also, they are learning these languages because I know them, my husband doesn’t, and we both feel I have a clear advantage. So we are passing on that advantage to our boys.

During the last four years of the primary education – the rhetoric stage - the student learns to articulate arguments in an elegant and convincing manner, defend ideas and engage in critical thinking. Since we haven’t got here yet, I don’t have an exact plan on what to focus on or include yet, but I assume that in addition to our regular studies and progress (with the addition of certain subjects, such as Greek), we’ll have to at least spend some time preparing for AP exams and the SAT.

Every year over the four year cycle we follow a theme:

1. Prehistoric and Ancient
2. Medieval
3. Early Modern
4 Modern

This year is a medieval year. Most of our subjects relate - as far as possible - in one way or another to the central theme of the year. This approach is best described in The Well Trained Mind. Our only exception is science: since last year we rotate the four science subjects – biology, geology + astronomy, chemistry, physics - in yearly cycles. More on why and how we do this when I discuss our science curriculum.

Sounds fun, right?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Philosophy of education

We started out our home schooling journey by reading about several approaches to homeschooling, including works by Charlotte Mason and Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well Trained Mind. We developed our initial curriculum, inspired by the university education we received at the Catholic University of Leuven as well as the best parts of our pre-college education received in the US and Sweden respectively, based on the classical approach to education. Our education is language based, interdisciplinary and systematic, with an emphasis on character and on great books; the study of classical subjects, such as history, grammar, logic, Latin, Greek, mathematics and science.

We believe that this specific approach to education will enable our children to study and become most anything they desire. We believe that the outcome of their classical education will be a solid knowledge base and an effective tool for learning, research and expression. We also hope that it enables them to become responsible and sensible citizens.

Sounds good, right? To me, as a homeschooling parent, it is important to have a philosophy worked out, for inspiration, of sorts, or perspective, so that when I realize that the toddler has rolled out an entire pack of toilet paper rolls in the hallway while I was trying to teach my second grader the phonetic sound ae without success, and it turns out the fourth grader spent the entire hour hidden away with a video game somewhere instead of doing his math, I know why I’m torturing myself I choose to home school.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Wild Turkey 101 in Beirut

In the past, my husband (and I) would buy a couple of nice, if possible rare, bourbons to enjoy throughout the holiday season every year. We’d not only drink the bourbon but use it to make candy and other delicacies. After moving to the Middle East where bourbon can be rare, our tradition has depended on availability, and even here in Lebanon where alcohol is readily available, it can be tricky to find real bourbon, let alone a nicer bottle.

Last week we looked through the stores where we usually shop, to no avail, but remembered on our way home that Score Market sometimes has Jim Beam and on occasion even Maker’s Mark. On our way there, we passed by that relatively new liquor store on the same street, and peeked inside. Imagine our surprise when lo and behold, tucked away in a corner we found a bottle of Wild Turkey 101 – in our opinion, the most superior bourbon in its price range. We reacted like typical western expats in the Middle East: my husband grabbed the bottle immediately, clutching it – even though nobody else was looking to buy it (we were the only customers in the store!) - while I looked behind the other bottles to see if there was another one, following our expat instinct and rule, “if you find something you like, stock up! You never know if there ever will be more of the same product.” We looked at the shop holder and asked if he had any more of the same bottle, and he, a little surprised by our excitement, told us no, but that he could get more. We then looked at the price, and it was probably the cheapest Wild Turkey 101 we had ever seen. How lucky! We paid for the bottle and promised to come back for more.

And since everyone had such a great time at our Thanksgiving dinner and the bottle nearly vanished, it will be sooner than we thought. I’m hoping we can save some so that I can have a taste of it - sometime next year.

Of course, if you live in Beirut and you are looking for a bottle of Wild Turkey 101, then I made everything up in this blog post. There is no Wild Turkey 101 anywhere.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving dinner in Lebanon, v. 2012

Here we go; our Thanksgiving dinner menu, including drinks:

Pre-dinner drinks: Freshly homemade Margaritas, with a virgin alternative for those in a family way

  • Peanut soup (Yes, he’s fun like that, my husband; he likes to cook and try new, odd-sounding foods)

Drinks, main course: Peppoli Chianto Classico 2010 for the adults, 7Up for the kids, and water for the pregnant lady
  • Roast turkey with bread stuffing and gravy
  • Creamy mashed potatoes
  • Sweet potato orange casserole
  • Succotash
  • Derby day asparagus
  • Martha Stewart’s Roasted pears and red onion
  • Ocean Spray Cranberry sauce (Oh yes, if you lived in a place where finding a can of Ocean Spray tucked away on a shelf is an instant tears-of-joy inducer, you would too!)
  • Two types of corn bread (one Halal and one pork infused version)
  • Chicken pot pie
  • A fresh salad (Yes, we did. And get this: mainly because the kids wanted it. Go figure.)

Dessert drink: Wild Turkey 101 (found by chance in a store near Jeanne D'Arc - I will tell you more about this in a later post)
  • Pumpkin pie with freshly whipped cream
  • Dark chocolate fudge cake

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Busy Thanksgiving eve

Yup, you guessed it; I got sucked into another work project. It took a little extra time to finalize the files that were due beginning of this week, but now that is done, and I don’t have another impending deadline until the middle of next week, which means I can spend some time catching up on the house and enjoy Thanksgiving weekend. We are having friends over for dinner tomorrow, and the preparation began already this morning, with Courtney making chicken broth. We still have to get a couple of last minute ingredients for our complete feast, and will go past the grocery after my prenatal check-up today. Then we will come home and cook pies, make stuffing and a couple of other sides that can be prepared in advance. Oh, and I also have choir rehearsal, which I probably need to prepare for a bit. In the meantime, the boys are studying their lessons, and Abraham sat down to watch the Tales of Beatrix Potter ballet from 1971.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dead dryer :(

When we arrived in Lebanon in the fall of 2010, we went down to Corniche El Mazraa and bought a Campomatic dryer in one of the appliance stores there. Earlier last year, the drum seal started coming out, and since this summer, clothes will occasionally come out of the dryer with black marks on them, after getting stuck. A sign that it is time to replace the drum seal! I managed to contact Campomatic earlier this fall, and they provided me with a phone number for their service department, however then we had to watch our spendings, and I have had to hold off on calling them. This weekend, sadly, our dryer got tired of waiting for a new seal and died completely. It’s an electrical problem; possible, easy and cheap to fix, I hope. I cannot do the home schooling, work, the rest of the house work, and manage all my other obligations without a dryer. It has only been three days, and I can tell you this is a fact. Several people have told me that they do just fine without a dryer – even wonder why I need a dryer, since we live in such a warm climate - and I’m sure not everyone needs a dryer, but with three boys, a fourth on the way, full time school and lots of work, it’s just not for me: too many clothes and not enough time!

Is there something like this that you will not live without? (Apart from all the obvious things of course!)

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Just regular boring old home schooling

There are so many amazing homeschooling blogs out there, written by parents who seem to have time and energy to do it all; every day there’s an exciting craft, activity, field trip, or project, all documented in a well written post with amazing pictures. I feel both inspired by these blogs and inadequate, isolated and mediocre. We do extraordinary school-related things sometimes but most of the time we just get through our regular every day work. I almost never take pictures of anything because every time I get the camera out, it turns out the boys have taken the batteries to use in their Wii remotes (Santa is SO giving them rechargeable batteries with a charger this Christmas!), and really, most of my blog posts are written in a tired, sorry state and almost barely make sense half of the time.

Still, I hope you are able once in a while to pick up on my passion and enthusiasm for home schooling. It’s definitely there; I love teaching my children and learning alongside them, and although special activities, crafts, trips and projects are fun and great for a change of pace at times, I find the everyday scholarship awe-inspiring.

To celebrate our ordinary, day to day school work, I am going to dedicate a blog post each to our standard subjects over the next couple of weeks. What subjects do we study? Why? What do we want to get out of our studies? How much time do we spend on each subject? What materials do we use? How are the lessons structured? How do we assess the results?

Before I can start though, I should describe to you our educational philosophy, our approach to learning and scholarship, our academic ambitions and motivations [for our children] and our general curriculum. Make sure to check back soon for a post on all that!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Speaking of gender equality...

End of the work week round-up

Guess what I’ve been busying myself with? That’s right; lots of work. And then the regular school work of course, house work (except for laundry, which I’ve successfully ignored all week, resulting in everyone looking a little… odd, at the store today), the 3-year old, social commitments, and everything else that usually takes up my days. I tried to focus extra on every boy one day each this week, and although I’m not sure it will always work, it was a good strategic move, well needed at this time. August got a good shove in English and Latin, as did William actually, and Abraham, who often is left to work or play by himself while I work with the older boys (and then acts accordingly, that is, he turns into an attention-seeking, mischievous, stubborn out-of-tune-with-mama nightmare preschooler), got an entire day filled with exciting activities and special, stimulating time with mama. This last day was in fact the best invested hours I’ve spent in a long time. He turned into a little angel, and tonight’s bedtime was a breeze.

We lasted the whole week – 7 days exactly – on the $140-shopping we did last week. It’s wasn’t impossible, albeit a bit time consuming and arduous, since making the kind of food from scratch that you end up cooking when money is short, takes time and produces a lot of dishes (as does trying to brush out my hair without conditioner, ha ha).

Today we went to Spinneys armed with our new bank cards, and bought food for a couple of weeks, plus all those things we were holding back on last time; cereal, bread (despite this fact: the problem with making your own bread for a while, is that you realize how much tastier fresh home baked bread is than store bought) hot dogs, sandwich meat, condiments, foil, nuts, coconuts (yes, my boys not only look a little odd sometimes, but also have some peculiar favorite foods), conditioner (yes!), fabric softener, tortillas, sea food, etc.

We’re armed for a good weekend filled with some work, rest, exercise, and fun.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Baby's strong kicks

I can't quite remember when I felt my boys' kicks for the first time, but I do remember that - just like this time - they start out as light flutters, that have me wondering, "Might those be baby kicks?" Eventually, the feeling is so distinct and so frequent, that the baby's kicks are a natural part of my day. I don't remember the kicks getting very hard until the third trimester, however this baby has quite a jab that, even this early, makes me stop occasionally and think, "Whoa! Another little strong boy." It's comforting and pleasant, and I can't wait for when the boys start being able to feel their brother move as well!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Gender equality

I grew up in emancipated Scandinavia. My mom was a 1960’s and 1970’s typical feminist, who went to women’s camps, and spent a lot of time and effort revolting against the male biased norms of our society. My dad and mom shared all house work equally, and there were years when he did more because my mom was involved in politics and spent several nights every week in long meetings. It’s thanks to people like her, that my brother today enjoys a long, paid paternity leave for example while his wife works, and that I can enjoy so many funny parenting blogs in Swedish, written by stay at home dads.

My husband comes from a more traditional home and society, the rural mid-west, and over the years I would say we have met somewhere in the middle. In theory we are on the same page, and obviously there’s a lot more to gender equality than housework, but I still think that practical application is important. My husband doesn’t run the household with me, but he (mostly) does his share when prompted, and he steps up when necessary. Obviously, compared to a lot of men here in the Middle East, he is a house wife saint personified.

How will our boys turn out? In general, they help out with housework more than I even remember my younger brother did when he was their age. They treat any female with respect and despite the common media culture, express a firm view on the relationship between the genders that I am proud of. I'm thinking there's hope.

Although there’s always room for improvement. All three boys for example, have at separate intervals explained to me that there are two types of toys/games/books/movies: there are toys/games/books/movies for BOYS, and then there are toys/games/books/movies for BOYS AND GIRLS, such as My Little Pony, Dora, and dolls.

Like I said, still a bit of work left there, but I’m hopeful.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sometimes you speed up without noticing

I finished my present work this afternoon. Early - the delivery is not due until tomorrow afternoon, or as the people I work with call it, Tomorrow EOB (= End Of Business). There was no indication I wouldn’t need every minute of my time, however I’ve been very focused and suddenly, there it was; finished. This meant I could spend the rest of today recuperating, taking care of the house, check my planner, and prepare for the rest of the week.

Yesterday morning when we discussed our plans for the week, I told the boys that I would have to rely on them working independently Monday through Wednesday (which is enough work for them but not exceptionally challenging), but now I can surprise them tomorrow morning with the launch of an extensive Viking project, involving essays, presentations, map work, crafts and a lot of reading. 

They’ll never know what hit them!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Fifteen years of happiness

Fifteen years ago yesterday, I put a ring on a young man’s finger, and received a ring in return. This beautiful, amazing man and I promised to love each other until death do us part. Only God was our witness. We stood there trembling from cold on a deserted, freezing, windy beach in Oostende at sunset, made a toast to our eternal happiness (a 1986 Margaux, served way too cold) and proceeded to a small, cozy, fireplace equipped restaurant that served dark beer, fresh paté and warm wine.

We were officially married later in a courthouse halfway across the world (after we managed to save up money for tickets), but this day – 11-11-97 – is the day that is etched into our rings, hearts and minds forever, as the day we said, "I do."

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Continuously nearly falling off the line

It’s really storming again today: heavy rain, thunder, lightning; I’m constantly being thrown off line, which is very bad, since this entire day was a working day for me. As I do this specific project through a remote desktop server, my work has been lost and then recovered again more times than I can count since this morning, and I haven’t got even half the work done that I was supposed to today. I still have a couple of days left before the deadline, but I was hoping to have the bulk of my work done this weekend, so that I could focus on the boys’ schoolwork this week. Now I’ll have to work Monday and Tuesday while the boys get through their basic work, and all the big history, science, and other projects, like special papers or writing assignments, will have to be done towards the end of the week, leaving no time for review.

Sigh. How come balancing motherhood and homeschooling with a professional life never feels composed? 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cheap, simple pleasures

Yesterday it rained, there was thunder and lightning, and the temperature went down to 23°C. The whole day was kind of dark and damp, which was fine, because all I had to do was go shopping and then work. It was even nice, since it has been kind of warm and damp lately, and the crisp breeze was refreshing. 

The boys went out and played in the rain. Ever since we lived in Egypt, they ask to go out and play every time it pours, and I’m fine with that, as long as I don’t have to go with them! Abraham’s rain boots from last year didn’t fit – his feet have grown almost 2 inches! – so he wore crocs. The boys splashed around in the puddles in the playground for quite a while, while I made hot cocoa and when they came back in, I threw their clothes in the washer. Their cheeks were red and rosy and they smelled like rain. What a treat!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Finally: shopping done!

It’s going to take five business days for our new bank cards to arrive, which made shopping this morning a bit of a challenge: all we had was some cash left, and we were out of everything from laundry soap, toilet paper and flour, to salt, sugar, any kinds of cans and fresh produce.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner and healthy snacks for three growing boys, one pregnant woman with cravings and a grown man - for an entire week – for under $140. It was hard: the laundry soap alone here cost $20 and the dish detergent $5, milk – we consume about 1 ½ L/day – cost $26 altogether (I know! It’s insane!), but we did it. Yes, really.

I wasn't able to get any of the quick foods I buy for busy work weeks, like hot dogs, frozen fries, frozen berries, fish sticks, ham for sandwiches, etc.; in fact, it will not be our most pleasant week food-wise, but I think we’ll get through it. We have to.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Half mission accomplished

Got some work done today. Failed to restock our kitchen. We were getting ready to go when I realized that our debit cards expired at the end of last month and that we had forgotten to go to the bank and pick up our new ones. The bank was closed for the day and we had no way of getting any money. A classic.

What did we eat? Courtney made corn bread for breakfast that we ate with eggs and gravy. We made smoothies out of frozen melon and strawberries, had McDonalds burgers for lunch, I found some kiwi hidden in the fridge that was perfectly ripe, and for dinner we found a pack of pasta and tomato sauce that we had with fresh bell peppers. Odd, but it fed the family. It’s amazing how much food we've managed to come up with in our house after we ran out of food.

Tomorrow we will shop. Inventive cooking and tons of work don’t go together very well.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Oh, what a day!

For various reasons, including remote server and program problems beyond my power, I’m way behind on the big work project I’m in the middle of – or that I’m supposed to be in the middle of, but that I, in reality, am just starting to get into – and I needed to really, really just spend the entire day today working. 

But then the morning was a big chaotic mess because Abraham had an accident in his bed, and then we all got swiped away by the election frenzy - by the time I started looking around the house to start the day, we were half way through the morning, the boys were getting hungry and I realized there was no food. So I made a shopping list and summoned everyone to a shopping round. By now though, my dear husband had fallen sound asleep after having stayed up most of the night watching the election coverage, and he was out of commission. I refused to go to the store alone since we needed so much [and I really just needed to work] – we’re even out of those items that virtually never run out, like emergency UHT milk and bread crumbs – I found some left-overs to feed the boys for lunch instead, putting off the shopping. After their meal I had to help the boys with their school work, spend some time with the 3-year old, and clean up. I might or might not have attempted to start my work. Mid-afternoon the little one started climbing the walls, so I asked the boys, who by the way only made one mistake each on their math assignments today (Hurrah! – Maybe trauma was the way to go?) to take him out to the park for a little while, until our piano teacher was due to arrive at 4 pm.

When they left I sat down in front of my computer; finally, work!

I was just getting into it when I heard loud banging on our front door, and screaming in the hallway. When I answered the door I saw blood – Oh my gosh, there was so much blood! – streaming out of August’s mouth, seeping through his fingers that he was using to cover his red, panic-stricken face. His mouth was just a big blood-covered mess. To the sink and cold water, ice pack, towels – lots and lots of towels; do you have any idea how much a mouth can bleed?! – then to the couch, comforting and trying to calm August down enough so that we could assess the damage. His pants were covered in blood. “Are your teeth OK? Can you feel if your teeth are hurt?” Praying. Everything is there; his teeth are intact, thank God! His head is fine, except there’s a deep cut in his lip.

He had run too close behind the swings, and a boy’s foot had hit him in the chin, which made him pierce his lip with one of his “fangs” (he has really sharp teeth on the sides).

I’ve been in this situation several times now: do we go to the ER or not? Does he need stitches? Is it a real emergency situation? It was really hard to see because of all the blood and swelling.

At this point our poor piano teacher shows up and I’m thinking “Oh my, what are we going to do now?” when August insists on having his lesson. Maybe it will help him calm down, I think, so they went ahead. 

In the meantime I made dinner: a pack of fish sticks and some white fish from the back of the freezer, along with some odd potatoes, carrots and cauliflower that were left in the vegetable box in the fridge. 

When dinner was ready and August finished with his lesson, it was time for me to go to choir, but by now the swelling in August’s lip had gone down a bit, and it was easier to see the damage. Both Courtney and I agreed that the cut indeed was something a medical doctor should have a look at. It was still bleeding and just really, really deep.

So off we went. The usual drill: triage, cashier’s office (where they always ask me the same questions, “Are you Courtney? What is your father’s name? Who is Abraham? – They always ask this; I’m thinking there’s some kind of attachment to our file requiring them to ask about an “Abraham” every time we show up. – is this your daughter August? Why does it say he is a girl in your records? etc.), then the actual ER. It was all over fairly quickly and without much waiting or pain. Because the cut is exclusively in his lip, the surgeon explained, they will not sew. It should heal by itself. Keep it clean. A nurse administered a tetanus shot, and we were on our way. I went to choir and August went home.

After choir I put the boys to bed, and cleaned up after dinner. August had some Ibuprofen for the pain, and William read to Abraham. There I was, past 10 pm, with hours and hours of work left to do, and still no groceries in the house. How?!

For the first time in a very long time I thought “I could really use a drink.” Normally I might have had something, because I do drink - not excessively and not all the time of course, but I really enjoy especially Italian wines - or if the mood is right, gin & tonic or a margarita. Oh, and Galliano. However, naturally, when I’m pregnant or nursing an infant, I can’t, and especially when I’m pregnant, I even have a bit of an aversion to alcohol, so it wasn’t a real craving, but an idea about a certain situation. You know, like in the movies, when people say, “Gosh, I could really use a drink.”

I made some soothing chamomile tea with honey, plopped down on the couch, and sitting absolutely still, I could feel the baby kicking and tumbling inside my body. What a treat. Sigh. 

Everyone’s fine. We all got through today. August’s teeth are intact, and he’s going to be OK. We’ll go grocery shopping tomorrow, and I’ll work tomorrow. Thank you Lord, for watching over us.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Test scores and tears

Do your kids cry when they don’t score 100% on tests or exercises that involve some kind of reward? My 9-year old spent 10 minutes on the couch today bawling, because he forgot the $-sign in three of his math-test answers, which in our family warrants a 0.

I don’t push my kids very hard, I don’t make a big deal out of these things; I just tell them to fix the mistakes and encourage them to believe that by thinking about it, they won’t make them again. I have started trying to use carrots and rewards to eliminate unnecessary mistakes in works that they deliver. E.g. once/week I’ll tell them, “If you make less than 3 mistakes on this math lesson and mixed practice, you only have to do the lesson practice tomorrow, and can skip the mixed practice.” This is what we tried today; since William forgot the $-sign in three answers, and made two other minor mistakes (similar – forgot the units), he doesn’t get the reward today, but gets to try again tomorrow. No biggie, right? Wrong! This whole incidence resulted in a complete meltdown.

We don’t learn for testing - in fact, we have probably done just a fraction of the testing other kids have done at their school - but I do want my boys to develop skills that will help them score well, when testing becomes necessary later on in life. Eliminating silly mistakes is a step in this direction. But how to motivate it without tears and disappointment? Or maybe learning to handle failure is part of the educational experience?

Later today, William had a grammar test on which he scored 49/50. It cheered him up a little, but then of course he spent quite some time fretting about his one mistake.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Expanding my comfort zone

I’m not out and about a lot. I homeschool the boys, I work from home, take care of the house and the kids, socialize with neighbors in the park, and all this pretty much occupies most of my time. I get groceries, of course, go to my prenatal check-ups, choir and music group practices, and run errands, but this is all within walking distance. I’m not the kind of mother who explores markets, souks, shops around for the best manicure in town, visits fares or exhibitions, go for drinks, or try new and interesting restaurants with my friends. I always imagine these activities take a lot of car rides, time, and effort that I just don't have.

Today though, I did something I haven't tried here in Beirut before. I desperately needed new glasses, went out, and found a shop close to campus where the optician seemed competent. I got a new prescription, and even got a new set of frames, that were not brown or black. I know, right! The optician was really helpful in recommending a style and color, and I didn't have to pay an arm. 

Then – oh yeah, it gets even better! – then I went to get my hair cut at one of the places that one of my more chic friends had recommended - also close to campus, but still! – AND I threw in a pedicure while I was there. And I didn’t choose blue or transparent nail polish, but went with a winter color; a fancy dark Bordeaux. It looks great. The hair cut is so-so, but I’m never going to be happy unless my sister-in-law cut my hair, so I count it as a success that I didn’t run home crying. It’s not badly done, but nothing like the hair cut I wanted. It’s 2-3 inches shorter than I asked for, and while I wanted him to cut my hair straight off, he rounded it towards the front and layered it. Then he blow-dried it into a really strange arrangement which pretty much blew away as soon as I left the salon.

Exhausting. But... interesting.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Shouldn't count my chickens

I should add to my previous post on Lazy Parenting that obviously we still have one baby to raise, so as the Swedes say, 

I shouldn’t praise the ice until I’ve crossed it all the way. 

Maybe this boy will be totally different. And perhaps we should try something new. For the sake of fairness, I’ll put this baby in a crib, get a pram, bottle feed and use the cry-it-out method for bedtime.

Ha, ha, just kidding.

Attachment Parenting is for lazy parents

Although we never sat down and marked off techniques on a sheet of paper, our natural parenting instincts often overlap with the much loved and hated Attachment Parenting approach. To be honest, our motivation is not just driven by research showing that breastfeeding is good for baby, but there’s also a fair amount of convenience involved. I just can’t imagine myself getting up several times at night, sit in a rocking chair nursing my baby, put him back down in a crib and then go back to sleep in a different room. I’m more of a reach over in bed, nurse baby half asleep and then doze off again kind of person. I don’t think I could sleep properly if I couldn’t hear my baby breath. I breastfeed because really, it’s the easiest way to feed baby anywhere anytime. And it’s cheap! When they’re older it’s still the quickest way to put them to sleep, and really, would I want to struggle with weaning and all that it entails (engorgement, upset child, sleepless nights, etc.) when it can just happen by itself eventually? Ha, ha, ha. I wear my baby because it’s the most convenient way to transport him and keep him happy, and I just don’t like hearing a baby cry, so I respond immediately if I hear it and do whatever needed to make it stop.

Yes, you’re right. Maybe ours is more appropriately called the Lazy Parenting method, actually.

Anyways. How has all this worked out for us? We have three healthy, independent boys that never really cried at all, weaned themselves without any drama involved, go to sleep by themselves and sleep in their own beds all night without ever coming back into ours. The biggest challenge I’ve had is resisting the urge to pick them up and bring them back into my bed when I go to sleep. Happy kids, happy parents.

Of course we never tried anything else. Maybe there are easier systems, more efficient, or short cuts to a secure, happy, independent child. And all children and families are different of course, so maybe all this doesn’t always work. I’m glad it has for us though, since we’re …you know, lazy parents.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Because sometimes it's nice to just be alone

Yesterday I went out to run errands, alone. Why does this warrant a blog post? I’ll tell you!

Usually when I run errands, Abraham comes with me, because every time I get ready to go somewhere, he’ll say “I really, really want to come!” or my dear husband has some odd errand that he needs to run and since he hates going out alone, he asks if he can come. Often I end up with both of them.

Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my husband and children. Since we homeschool, I see my kids most of every day, and since my husband works mainly from home, I usually see him most of every day as well. In addition, we all enjoy doing things together, as you might have noticed, and a lot of our spare time activities involve the entire family.

So maybe I enjoy going out alone sometimes; just me, my thoughts and my list. I get through everything more efficiently; there’s nobody holding my hand, walking with a sluggish pace and stopping to look at everything, and there’s nobody asking to go to Starbucks for coffee or stop to browse for electronics we have no intention of purchasing at Virgin. Also, I can go off and rummage through the clothing piles at Eldorado for a few minutes, without anyone sighing from boredom, or chat for an extra minute with the man at the fabric shop.

Yesterday I did both, plus everything else on my list (or sort of, a couple of the things I couldn’t finish: the optician wasn’t in so I couldn’t get my new prescription, and I really didn’t see a candelabra that I liked/could afford). I was only out for less than two hours, but it was quite invigorating. I even stopped to have a snack (yes, when you’re pregnant a small cheese burger is a “snack”) and enjoyed eating it on the go, alone, without having to wipe someone else’s mouth or hear complaints about the lack of nutritional value in McDonald’s food. 

It was a good and well needed break.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Finding maternity wear in Beirut is...

...practically impossible, if you, like me, don’t have a lot of money to spend, and/or don’t have a car to drive around seeking out special boutiques all over town. There’s no Motherhood or Old Navy. A few weeks ago, I even took a taxi to the ABC mall, because I had seen on the H&M website that they would have maternity clothes (neither their store in Hamra, nor their store at the Souks have it). Turns out, they don’t sell H&M mama at the ABC mall either. In fact, the shop holder told me, the only H&M in Lebanon that has maternity wear is in Sidon, a 45 min. drive south of Beirut. Really? I mean, really?! I asked them if perhaps they could bring in a few items for me, even offered to pay in advance, and they just laughed at me, “We can’t do THAT!” Nice customer service, H&M – not!

Quite desperate I found a small boutique in Hamra a couple of weeks ago that sells maternity wear, but unless I would like to be mistaken for a pregnant prostitute, there was nothing there for me to buy. Then I remembered having seen the occasional maternity t-shirt in the medley of clothing at Eldorado on Hamra street. It’s a store that sells brand clothes that for some reason were rejected by the original shop. Like an outlet, I guess. Sometimes they have a lot of nice items from a variety of brands like Calvin Klein, Target, Walmart, H&M, C&A, Part Two, Vero Moda, etc. and sometimes they have nothing. I went, searched through their piles, and… I didn’t find a big collection of maternity wear, but I did come upon a small stack of H&M mama ¾ sleeved t-shirts with ruched sides in various colors, Large and Medium. Good enough for me! Paired with the jeans and pants that I have from earlier pregnancies, my two skirts and one dress, I’m good!

I'm not chic or fashionable, but at least dressed.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

We are not alone!

Today we met another American homeschooling family living here in Lebanon: our first and only, so far. It was great. There’s no secret handshake or a homeschooling fellowship with passwords and symbols, and I have yet to meet a homeschooling family anywhere that homeschools for the exact same reasons as we do, or use the same material. But we do have that one thing in common; our choice to teach our children at home. It was very nice to meet them, and to know that we are not the only weird ones in this established school-centered community. And making new friends is always fun too!