We love the Chicago Kids Company. If you live in the Chicagoland area, I can't recommend this children's theater company highly enough. We've seen two other shows at the Beverly Arts Center besides this one (The Tortoise and the Hare, and the Three Little Pigs), and they've been very professionally done. And you can't beat the $10 ticket price.
My mom went with us on the 8th of this month to see the holiday performance of Mrs. Clause. It was really delightful. And we even had front row seats, something I hadn't expected at all! I love, love, love the theater, and so far the kids seem to love it too, so I think it will be a big part of our lives in the years to come. When they get a little bit older, I can't wait to take them to see a Shakespeare play at the Shakespeare Theater downtown at Navy Pier. Now, those tickets cost quite a bit more, so I want to make sure the kids are really ready for and want to see those plays.
After the play, the kids posed for pictures - Jared with one of the "villains" of the play, and Alexa with Mrs. Clause. What are some of your favorite memories of theater with your kids?
I'm going to be sprinkling pictures of my kids throughout this post, but really this post is about me. I don't really talk about myself on this blog because I've envisioned it mainly as a place to share what the kids' learning lives look like and to share resources and ideas with other families who choose to opt out of the institution of school.
With all my heart I believe in the necessity of interest-led learning for both children and adults. I believe that giving my children the freedom to discover the destiny that God has for them by themselves, with gentle help along the way from me and Steve, will allow them to be self-directed, love learning and develop an amazing focus and attention on what really matters.
The hard part comes when I think about all the time, energy, and commitment that I will need to invest in the next decades plus to come. I think I've become a little discouraged because lately I've been thinking about my own unfulfilled dreams. Then, through listening to some great podcasts, I've come to realize that I need to be working on my dreams, too, and not just helping my children reach theirs. If they can't see a role model of someone working hard to reach goals and dreams, how will they know how to do it themselves?
Thankfully, I'm blessed with a great mother and mother-in-law who take the kids once in a while so I can get errands done or go to appointments. A few weeks ago I decided to finally let them take the kids for a whole day so I could just work on ME! This is something I've NEVER done.
So, the kids went off with my parents in the morning and, as you can see, had a fun-filled time visiting the mall, working on computer games and drawing. Then they switched of to the other grandparents for the afternoon. And I spent hours writing, and writing, and writing. I spilled all of the dreams, goals, and ideas I have out of my brain into a journal and did some major planning for the year ahead. I even finally started up a new blog, which I've thought about for awhile, called Cash Contests for Creative Moms. Check it out if you'd like! I love this blog, but I did not intend for it to be a money maker.
So, this year, along with wonderful hopes and dreams for fun adventures with the kids, I also have some things I want to work on for me - writing projects, photography projects, service ideas, blog work, and planning for an ultimate year around the world trip.
How do you balance your dreams for your kids with your dreams for yourself?
I think I've written recently how Alexa decided to go back to ballet lessons after stopping last December. Just briefly I'll mention that when she turned three she begged to go to dance after watching quite a few ballet DVDs with me. She went for six months and then had a rather traumatic first recital and decided to stop after that. Then this September she begged to go again and has been for the past four months.
A few weeks ago she was in her second recital. This one went so much better because it was held in the same room where she takes her lessons, and it was a free, casual event. She even stood in line by herself so I could slip out and sit with Steve and Jared during her performance. She was so, so, so ADORABLE! It was just her, the teacher, and another little boy, and she did so well.
Afterwards the kids met Frosty and Rudolph and posed with them for pictures. Then we drove over to Steve's parents house for pizza, and the kids stayed for a few hours more while Steve and I did some Christmas shopping.
So, now Alexa has decided once again to stop ballet lessons. I guess it's turning into an annual thing. Not that I mind, though. Ballet can really be expensive! Even through a park district, it's $126 for a 12-week session. And then there's the shoes, leotard and tights. AUGGHHH! We'd be fine paying for it if she really loves it, so it's good she stops when she's not excited about it. She says she wants to take a break and go back in the summer. We'll see.
So far they'll take a half hour gymnastics class at the Y once a week for a six week session and that's it. I'm so relieved! I'm really looking forward to long, lazy winter days at home. I know some people who have their kids in preschool, ballet and swimming lessons all at the same time at the age of 2. At two years old! Can you believe it?
The first day of December also brought our first snowfall of the season. It's always a bit of a shock to me to come shuffling out of my bedroom in the morning to see the yard, trees, and everything in sight covered with snow. It always seems too early.
But, as you can see from the kids' faces, they weren't shocked at all. They were all too excited to get decked out in snow gear, ready mostly, to eat as much snow as they could.
I was surprised how long they stayed out in the snow. It was at least an hour. I braved the cold in my bathrobe to snap a few shots of them from off the deck.
We hadn't brought in the old sandbox or water table, so Jared had loads of fun hacking away at the ice with a golf club. Unfortunately, the snow melted quickly, so they kids were disappointed they couldn't make a snowman yet; that didn't try to stop them from shovelling or even raking the snow.
Jared's always loved, loved, loved dressing up in costumes. Usually they are not pre-made costumes or costumes you'd recognize as "being" a specific something. No, he definitely moves to his own rhythm.
I had thought that my daughter would have been the one with the creative flair of dressing in the unusual, but nope, it's my son. I love that out of the blue, he'll just show up in the kitchen while I'm making dinner his own creative getup; lately the costumes seem to revolve around white tights.
Do any of you have rather eccentric, imaginative kids?
It was a cold, cold, day the day after Thanksgiving when we bundled up to pick out our Christmas tree. I'm still not prepared for the 20 degree weather we've had this past week. BURRRR!!!
This year, we went to Menards, which we did last year, too, but I think the cold made us choose our tree a little bit faster. Even though we choose the second tree we saw, I still think it was one of our most beautiful ones yet.
The kids were so, so, so excited this year about decorating the tree. They helped last year a little bit, but this year they stuck it out until the end. In fact, before we even brought the tree home they had all the ornaments and decorations scatted all over the living room.
Jared liked hanging up the ornaments the most. I knew because of what a detailed, precise boy he is that he would. Both kids were also excited about the electric train we have running around the base of the tree.
I felt so sorry for Steve, though, because he bought several new strands of lights for the tree and, in less than an hour, one of the strands went out. He later discovered we needed to get stronger extension cords and spread out the cords and plugs, but he still had to make an extra trip to the store.
Then we watched most of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (with some creative editing from mom and dad at strategic points!). I'm so excited about this time of year. Not about the cold. Definitely. But I am excited about the stories, caroling, baking, and great, great memories to be made.
When I was thinking about how I would describe our Thanksgiving on this blog, I thought about sharing how wonderful the dinner was with the rolls, mashed potatoes, dressing, green bean casserole, turkey and the rest of the food.
I thought about how much fun we had playing Telephone Pictionary and all the laughter.
I thought about how wonderful it was when Steve's sister's husband showed Jared how to shoot rubber bands to knock off figures from blocks and how much he loved doing that all evening long.
But the memories I'll most remember came from our Thanksgiving circle sharing time. We all sit in a circle after dinner and go around sharing something we are thankful to God about. We do this three times. When my turns came around, I shared how I was thankful that Steve and I can still be crazy silly together after 8 years of knowing each other. I also shared how I was amazed how we need to be thankful about the hard things in our lives because they're there for a purpose we might not even be able to understand for a long time.
But the thing I was most thankful for, the thing I felt most passionate about, was that God has blessed me with the ability to give my children the gift of time and freedom. They are four and a half. I'd only have another 8 months with them before they'd be gone from home a good chunk of the day. They'd not have time to pursue those things that excited them for large blocks of time, and they would constantly be compared to others, tested continually and not living to the fullest.
I thought about the day, how Alexa took the camera from me and followed everyone around, taking silly pictures. I wanted to remember this Thanksgiving as a time of freedom and joy, of unbridled learning and unending adventure.
Here are some pictures of our Thanksgiving day as seen through Alexa's eyes.
What if you could grow up learning the things you were interested in? What if you grew up having everyday adventures that you helped design? What if your adventures lead you to an amazing world of new experiences, ideas and creativity?
Welcome to the adventures of two children growing up living and learning this way. Join me as I record our adventures, occassional philosophical asides on the joy of interest-led learning, and the eclectic resources we discover along the way.