Friday, August 15, 2014

Thoughts on 4-H

Meredith did 4-H for the first time this year.  I have no background in 4-H.  I was a Girl Scout.  Although I have no background in 4-H, I've heard enough stories about Kevin's experiences, including art projects and a foray into the world of sheep showmanship, that I have definitely participated in 4-H vicariously. 

When the topic of 4-H came up in our house, I was unsure whether or not I had time to take something else on.  Would my bright-eyed, beautiful, scrawny little 3rd grader be able to do this by herself?  She is so mature, yet still needs so much help to get through much of her school work.  Visions of being up until midnight helping her paste a sub-par, quickly put-together, much-stressed-over, stupid poster, came to mind.  There was no way that was happening.  Would Meredith come through and do it herself?  Yes, she promised she would. So, we decided to start with just one project, to get our feet wet.  Meredith chose Horsemen Without Horses.

I was completely unimpressed with the online information 4-H provides.  There's no good 4-H for Dummies website!  Since we couldn't make club meetings, because Meredith had a prior commitment, it took us a while to make sense of everything.  Thankfully her project leader, once we finally figured out who she was, was super nice and held our hands through the process. 

About two weeks before her project was due, I realized Meredith was still only in the beginning phases of research.  I had taken her to the library and she had gone off to some dark recesses of the building with the children's librarian to find books that fell within the parameters of her project.  She selected four books, but had probably only read a few pages.  

I marked a sheet of paper with the exact amount of days she had left before her deadline and hung it on the refrigerator.  On day four, when she still had made no progress, I said, "Meredith if you blow off this deadline, you are going to have to write a long letter to your project leader apologizing for laziness and deliver it in person."  Her eyes widened, she disappeared into her room, and read two of her books before dinner time.  (I'm glad that a healthy dose of pride is that motivating for her!)  She read the next two books the following day.  She ended up with four pages of hand-written summaries.  I helped her type them out and then she printed pictures and pasted everything to the poster entirely by herself.  

This is what a sense of accomplishment looks like!  


In the end, it wasn't just the sense of accomplishment and the dose of confidence she got, realizing she could complete something almost entirely on her own, that made 4-H worthwhile.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that most of Meredith's learning is hand-selected by either her teachers at school or by her Tiger Mom (yes, me). She doesn't often get the opportunity to deeply delve into something that she personally has selected to study.  4-H was an outlet for her to choose something she is independently interested in (she chose horses) and then go learn about it.  I liked that she was able to complete a self-directed project.  I think 4-H is a great tool to help kids to be motivated, lifelong learners.  

Next year Meredith wants to do four projects.  We shall see about that ... 


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Random summer ... so far

Here are some of the things we have been up to this summer ... other than what you have read on our myriad birthday party posts ... 

Carson got cuter than ever ... I'm seriously in love with this budding little boy.  He is so funny.  He loves to laugh with us and try to make us laugh.  Here he is eating his first whole apple.

We've been out on the town having fun.  Here we are at a splash park about 1/2 hour away from our house.

I've had to take all four kids grocery shopping every week, now that school is out.  It is crazy.  Sometimes I think it takes 10 years off my life and other times it is just fine.  Usually the former.  At the end of our Meijer trips, the kids get to ride the penny pony.  They all love it. 

Things have gotten out of hand sometimes.  Indoor ball tossing resulted in this vase (probably the only thing I have ever purchased myself that had sentimental value) shattering.  It was a memory of young love, in Tahoe, California.  Oh well, there are pictures of it whole, somewhere ... Also, in the background you can see a stack of math flashcards.  I have religiously reviewed math facts every day with Meredith.  This is my labor of love!!!  Thankfully we are making headway on speed, which was my biggest academic goal for Meredith this summer.

I packed a lunch for Kevin and the girls to go to the Indianapolis Symphony lunchtime concert downtown.  They had a lot of fun.  And Carson and I had fun eating Chinese food at the mall!  Someday soon he will be old enough to go too, though. 

I have tried a few new summery recipes, including this watermelon salad.  

Carson has become a full-fledged exploring toddler and if I don't shut all the van doors quickly enough he will crawl into the driver's seat and pretend to drive.

We have played with our sweet cousins, Madeline, Grant, and Bennett, visiting from Texas!

Madeline:

Bennett:

Grant: 

Meredith, who has been staying up hours to read at night and getting up first thing in the morning to read again for hours, finally got a Kindle!  It was our birthday gift to her.  We felt she earned it. 

We have gone on many bike rides, including biking to five or six summer concerts!  Here we are with the Myers and Kevin's parents:




We got a zoo pass and met up with the orangutans, etc.  






The three girls have participated in track at our local middle school.  Sophia is four and does great.  Some kids are even younger, starting at age two!

We have played with friends ... 

Did I mentioned the whole toddler thing?  Here he is, in full Toddler Glory, having climbed upon the table and stuffed the contents of his lunch into a flower vase. 

We went to the county fair.  Meredith did 4-H for the first time. I will write separately sometime soon about my thoughts on our first 4-H experience!


Train ride with grandpa:

Meredith and Clara did the bungee ride:

Red Velvet Funnel Cake

There has been much free time to play:

There has been time to sit on the back patio and make Slurpees and, for Meredith, to show off her bright neon clothing (things Aunt Megan purchased for the girls for their birthdays). 

And time for group hugs ...

And here we are at the zoo with cousins and Aunt Beth!

We have tried some new food. How could I pass up this yellow watermelon I saw at the grocery store? I thought it had less flavor than a red watermelon. The girls LOVED it. 

And I have been going for a run every morning.  The mornings have been so cool and pleasant.  Last week I saw this egret in our pond.  I also see tons of wildflowers and other creatures.  My favorite is a family of bunny rabbits.  It feels so good to start running again.  I'm finally back up to running a little more than a mile without stopping for breaks.  I love all the nature around me and I love having more endurance and feeling more fit!

Summer is the best!

Clara's Party

Clara is seven!  She is one of the most fun-loving and unique people I have ever know.  She is always ready with a quick retort that makes me laugh out loud.  I love her perspective on life.  It's impossible to categorize this girl. She is a tomboy who loves bugs and critters, but she also loves wearing the fanciest dresses at all times, for any occasion, even if we are just going to play at the park.  She has so much raw talent for leadership, yet she is the most nurturing, caring big sister to her little brother.  I love running errands with Clara in the backseat, telling me random things.  She is lots of fun.    

Clara wanted a pool party with only three very specific friends.  I decided to create a treasure hunt, for some extra fun and entertainment for the kids.  

The pool-themed cake: 

I had a great time browsing Party City to get stuff for the buried treasure.  

Here the kids are about halfway through the treasure hunt.  There were 17 clues and it took the kids about an hour to complete.  In the background, the girls are reading a clue and thinking about where the next clue could be found.  The kids running toward the camera probably think they already know!

The last clue led the kids to a buried treasure.  I walked about 1/4 mile from our house to a spot the kids were familiar with (we call it the "maze") off the trail from our house, and dug a hole in the ground to bury the treasure.  The kids were told to bring a measuring tape and shovels to unearth it. 

Found it! 

Trying to open the chest to explore the booty!

Walking home after the hunt ... 

A pile of clues ... 

We had the whole pool to ourselves!




The After Party, with the sisters:

Family Party Time

This year for the girls' family party, Megan and her kids were in town!  Woo hoo!!

Cake walk:

Meredith and Bennett sort through the prize loot: 

Granny with sweet baby Madeline: 

The almost-seven year old, Clara Faith:

We eat a lot of cake in July, since it's birthday month!  So for this party, we decided on something a little different, an adaptation of Pioneer Woman's blackberry cheesecake and my friend Rachelle's marbled lemon curd cheesecake.  Yum!

Clara allows the younger kids to help her blow her candle.

Hanging out with Colin and Christy afterwards: