Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday morning.

My husband just brought me coffee, cereal and my laptop in bed. I think I'll take the hint...

It's Sunday morning. The boys are having a dance party in the kitchen to bad 80s party music like Ice Ice Baby, It Takes Two, Push It, and Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go. I got to sleep in which is awesome every single time it happens (usually at least once a weekend - we take turns getting up with the boys). We woke up at the same time yesterday though (at the Loews Vanderbilt! Bill got a room because his company held a conference there this week so we had a little staycation...) so I am definitely getting spoiled.

We slept in Liam's "old room" last night. He started sharing a room with Finn a month or two ago and now anytime I say something like, "Will you take this to your room for me?" he  automatically corrects me. "Don't you mean my old room (in air quotes)?" We're going to probably turn it back into our living room at some point but for now it's just Liam's "old room" and a guest room when we have company.

It came in handy last night because our room was such a wreck we could hardly find the bed. We're painting. For the first time ever. We've lived in this house for eight years and have hated the color of our bedroom ever since we moved in. But we could never figure out what to do with it so we just did nothing. Then it became the dumping ground for everything that didn't have a home (the loud red rug, the computer desk, a couple extra chairs...) and so we just sort of let it be. But it's high time we loved our room. So we're painting. It's always a good first step...

I definitely have an idea of what I want the room to look like but because there are so many unknowns it feels very wait and see. In my head it is all going to work but I won't know fore sure until it all comes together in the space. Here's sort of what we're going for...

Source: via Maggie on Pinterest

Source: via Maggie on Pinterest

So far we have painted the walls a nice, warm white. The bed will be primarily white too which will hopefully help balance out more colorful things (hello, rug!) and give us an eclectic yet calm vibe. Today I will paint the trim the same white in a semi gloss instead of eggshell. I will also hopefully finish at least one of the bedside tables (I'm priming and painting...will definitely show you before and afters) and brave the big bad world of retail in search of some of the things floating around in my head.

Of course these things always look great on a Pinterest board and then you click on them and see that each lamp costs $200 and the pretty little pillow that would look just right on a chair actually costs more than the chair itself. So, we'll see. Seems like kind of a lot to fit into a Sunday (there's also Titans football!). Especially after a not-so-great night's sleep. The bed itself was super comfy but Finn woke up at some point and then Liam woke up and couldn't find us and got totally freaked out (poor guy) so I pulled him into bed with us and them I'm pretty sure I spent the rest of the night sleeping on my back with my arms up over my head. It was kind of a tight fit so I guess that was the only place my arms could go. Let's hope it doesn't affect my ability to paint.

Hope you're all having a great weekend!

Friday, September 14, 2012

L.A. Story (hold the L.A., easy on the story).

Sometimes I come up with a title for a post long before I actually sit down to write it. Or, in this case, before I even experience it.

While I was packing and preparing for our family's trip to the golden coast last week, my mind was dutifully making sure I didn't neglect my blog:

"I'll have to post something before we leave, otherwise it will be way too long between posts. Hmmm, maybe something about the trip or the family reunion? No, I can do all that in one post when I get back. I'll call it L.A. story! Perfect. I guess I could write about the Rosetta Stone thing really quick. Although, is that too many Liam posts back-to-back? Too much about homeschooling? Hmm, what else could I write about? Oh, forget it. If I don't just do it right now, I'll run out of time. Something is better than nothing..."

Insane, right?

Anyway, I'm glad I wrote the Rosetta Stone piece because that's what my editor chose for this week's column in The Tennessean. Perfecto!

As for my L.A. story, there were several times on our trip that I realized that title would really not work at all. For one, we never spent any time in L.A. at all. We didn't even fly in there! Much to our surprise, we flew in and out of Orange County. (Don't judge, but much like I pulled the trigger on purchasing Rosetta Stone after a pool party, we booked our flights to California after date night. When we hopped on the computer to check in, we were like, 'Why Orange County? A layover in Las Vegas? Seriously!? But why? There are so many direct flights! Who's in charge here...?' But when you have to cough up money for FOUR plane tickets across the country, a few glasses of wine really does make the transaction a whole lot less painful...)

We stayed in Manhattan Beach with my most favorite cousin Kelly in her adorably perfect beach house. Liam and Finn fell hard for her and Liam spent the second half of the flight home last night crying about how much he missed her. In all fairness, she is pretty spectacular. I probably would have cried too if I wasn't so consumed with the loud, wriggly toddler in the seat next to me (and by me I mean Bill because it was his turn to sit next to the boys on the long leg home...).

We drove to Orange County a few times to see my parents and aunts and uncles (and a few dozen "cousins" I'd never met before) for our family reunion (hold the "re"). I loved swimming with my boys in my aunt and uncle's pool and watching them run around the same backyard my sister and I ran around as kids. It was great to see family and I was glad we could represent our little branch of the family tree.

We spent one very full day at Disneyland, which, if you read my post about Disney World, is probably making you scratch your head and say, "Wow, she really is insane..." But it was completely different, I swear. Bill had a meeting on the property (how cool is it that people actually work there?) and his client generously comped us tickets. How could we possibly say no! The weather was beautiful, it wasn't very crowded, and since we had just been there, there was no pressure to knock it out of the park. I feel like it healed me (kinda like how my 2nd birth helped me get over my first...) and I will now stop trash talking the Disney experience (although if you can get free tickets in California, that really is the way to go...).

What started out as an obligatory trip to see family (or an "oblication" as my clever neighbor once called it), turned out to be an honest to goodness vacation. We walked to the beach every day, took turns sleeping in, ate out at restaurants (some with kids' menus and balloon artists, some blissfully without), spent time with friends, rode beach cruisers (from Manhattan Beach where we were staying to Redondo Beach for a date!), swam, read, talked, laughed...there may not have been much of a story in it, but it was as good a vacation as I can remember.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Rosetta Stone: there's the lesson and then there's THE LESSON.

One of the things we loved about Liam's "real" school was the Spanish program. Half an hour of foreign language every day at public school is pretty unreal. He loved learning another language and often said it was his favorite part of the day. We knew we'd definitely have to keep it up once we brought him home.

Unfortunately I am nowhere near bilingual. Even though I took a year of high school Spanish, two years of high school French, two semesters of French in college AND two semesters of Spanish (the last and final foreign language requirement for graduation earned me a big fat D MINUS - the D was well deserved for my shoddy grasp of the language, the minus just felt like an F you...), I am shockingly ill equipped to teach a foreign language.

Enter outsourcing!

This has been the best discovery about homeschooling so far. Instead of feeling like I am now Liam's one and only source of education in this world (gee, no pressure there), I realize I am just the person who is here to help him get in touch with what he needs. It's not so much home school as it is home directed education. A little of this, a little of's awesome.

Anyway, for Spanish we decided to go with Rosetta Stone. Actually, I was sort of mid-way through my research, reading user reviews, letting Liam do free trials, comparing prices and checking out eBay, when I got called away to a swimming party at my neighbors. When we got home several hours (and margaritas...) later, I hastily popped open my computer, saw the Rosetta Stone site pulled up, and quickly purchased the five disc box set (on sale but still $400...gulp).

Maybe I should always shop drunk. It sure makes pulling the trigger a whole lot easier.

Fortunately we really like the program. It's easy to use and a great fit for Liam. When I gave him the choice between reading, playing with his brother, helping me make dinner and doing Spanish one night, he happily chose Spanish. He goes into the office so he can do his work uninterrupted but I can still hear him well enough to know his accent is becoming quite adorable.

It wasn't always this bueno though. When we first got the program, the voice recognition feature wasn't working properly (more to do with the computer or Internet connection than the actual program). Because of this, no matter how perfectly Liam would say, "Me gustaria jugo," or "El hombre bebe agua," he would get it wrong. Wrong. Which is like a really big deal for him. And as if being wrong wasn't bad enough, the computer would also make a bummed out sound that was like fingernails on a chalkboard to my little guy. A chalkboard covered in floor to ceiling letters: "LIAM YOU ARE WRONG!!!"

It killed him.

You could watch him struggle from clear across the room. His whole body reacted to the failure. He squirmed, inched away from the computer and had to fight not to cry. It was really sad. But also really good. Because trying is one of the big things I want to help him learn to do. Not succeeding, trying. Trying something new, trying something challenging, trying something he may not have mastered yet, trying something me may never master. I want him to learn to fail so he can learn how to truly succeed.

So I sat with him and helped him be wrong time after time after time. I laughed when the computer said he was wrong and said, "Dude, this computer is loco. You sounded great to me!" Pretty soon he was laughing too. Nervous laughter at first, but soon his body began to relax as he realized he wasn't necessarily wrong. He was doing the work the best he knew how and, actually, he was doing a pretty good job!

We decided that until we got the glitch worked out he would just repeat whatever he needed to repeat once to see if the computer was working, then once again for good measure. Then he'd simply skip to the next question. When his score came back at the end of the lesson telling him he had failed, he didn't flinch or panic or cry. Because it's not a grade that is going to teach him Spanish, it's the effort he's putting into it.

The change in his attitude happened so fast it was incredible. But it was how far reaching it was that left me truly impressed.

Yesterday he walked into the kitchen after finishing up his math assignment (another successful outsource!) and I asked him how it went.

"It was great. Still pretty easy though. I got two wrong."

"You did? Why? I mean, if you know how to do it, why did you get two wrong?"

"I wanted to hear what it sounded like when I got one wrong. You know how it makes all those funny sounds when I get things right? I just wanted to see what it would do when I got some wrong."

I burst out laughing. "Do you want me to email your teacher so he knows you didn't really get them wrong? You know, so he can make sure to keep challenging you?"

"Mama, it's just two questions. I'm sure my teacher knows it's no big deal to get things wrong. I mean,  two wrong answers? Who cares?!"

No one I know...

Making mistakes, moving forward, doing his that's success!