Monday, July 31, 2006

And Speaking of Girth...

I had my first person of this pregnancy come up to me yesterday, ask when I was due and upon being informed that the blessed event wasn't expected until October, widen their eyes in surprise and say, "Oh really?!? That long, huh?"

Yes, thank you. I am enormous and only getting bigger.

The Beginning

Because my ever increasing girth suggests that we might just be having a baby this fall, we started our homeschooling year this morning, so that, if I need to take a longish vacation to recover and get used to the baby and lack of sleep, I can.

So far so good. It's going to take a while for the kids to get the idea of narrating what they hear and read back to me, but I think we can get it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Language Barriers

My children like to plan their birthdays well in advance and although my Middle Girl won't be turning four for another two months she has informed me that this is what she wants on her cake:



At least she told me she wanted a cake with Cinderella, Jazzman and Oriole on it. What else could she possibly mean? Heh.

Sigh

It's hard being 5'8" with a basketball around the middle and the accompanying all-over size increase, when your sisters-in-law are both younger, cuter, 5'4" and wear a size 0.



Thursday, July 27, 2006

There's Eighties Music and There is Music Made in the Eighties

A certain most beloved Honorary Aunt to my children, because she thinks torturing me is a good idea, sent The Boy a CD of The Bangles Greatest Hits. Which we are now called upon to listen to every single time we are in the car and most of the time when we are at home.

Finally, I cracked. I told the children I couldn't take any more 80's music. Oddly enough the next song that came on the iPod was from Joshua Tree. But U2 doesn't count, in my mind, as 80's music. It certainly doesn't have the boppy sound of The Bangles. And besides, the children have no idea that Joshua Tree came out in the 80's and I wasn't in the mood to enlighten them.

As my punishment for that omission though, Walk Like an Egyptian was playing as we were checking out at the grocery store.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Gimme a Break!

I have a friend at church who claims every couple should get a shower every ten years. Why? Because by then all the stuff they got has started to wear out. We're a little ahead of schedule, because our ninth anniversary is coming up in December and we've already replaced almost everything in the last few years.

Of course, the crystal vases are fine and we're still using some of the towels, though they've been relegated to the upstairs, less used bathroom for some time. The iced tea maker and the Black & Decker Mini-chopper are still going strong. The Good Housekeeping Cookbook I got isn't one I use heavily now, but it is still a great reference and I pull it out more often than you'd think.

Other things just haven't survived. Our crockpot lost a handle a long time ago and finally started acting up a year or two later. The toaster oven caught fire (not from any bread crumbs in it, but from a bad heating element). We've replaced all those things over time and I've briefly been a bit sad for the loss of the wedding loot as I pitched out the broken items.

The one item I both longed to have die and also dreaded dying the most was our vacuum cleaner. As one of our wedding presents, we were given what should have been (judging by the price) a very nice upright Hoover. However, ever since the first time I used it in our very first apartment and it slipped a belt causing it to emit funny odors and stop sucking stuff up, I haven't exactly been fond of it. Over the years, it has travelled the country with us and I've spent a lot of time putting the &#*@) belt back on.

When we moved into our current house, even the movers made fun of our upright vacuum in a house with no carpets, but I have continued to drag it out for all the area rugs and to sweep and dust mop everything else. But I have hated that vacuum all along and while I hated it, my husband managed to think even less of it (even if his relationship with it was less close than mine).

A year or so, I accidently (really, I didn't mean it) ran over the cord and the vacuum, thinking that it was a lawn mower started eating the cord. Although I didn't really want to spend the money on a new one, I was some what hopeful. Had I killed it? Was the day of liberation from the Hoover finally at hand. Sadly, a bit of electrical tape and the thing kept right on going -- slipping belts here and there, but never offering to spark or act dangerous.

I finally out lasted the thing though. Two weeks ago, it stopped picking much of anything up. The bag wasn't full, the belt hadn't (for once) slipped out of place, and not only had the suction ceased being up to par, it was making a huge internal racket, as if it had started canniblizing its insides.

This time, I wasn't about to pay for a repair man to look at it. I started researching canister vacuums before the corpse was even out of the closet. I found what I wanted. I found an even better price with cheaper shipping for the same thing new on eBay, and I snapped it up. It arrived in three days and while I can't say I love vacuuming, I must say that I do have a great affection for the new little Bosch in the closet. Let's hear it for the Germans (but don't mention the war)!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Water, Water, Everywhere

What does one do with an almost four year old who has suddenly decided that wetting her pants is acceptable and will either sit around in the wet ones for ages or sneak off quietly and hide the evidence?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Old Chairs to Mend

Last week and over the weekend, seemed to be chair fixing time. This would certainly be a more interesting post if I had taken before shots, but I didn't.

I've always wondered how hard it would be to reupholster a chair. I've put new seats on lots of dining room chairs, but never tried anything that is fully upholstered. And for my nice furniture, I consider paying someone to do a professional job to be completely worth it. However, I have still wanted to try it and I had just the chair.

My children have one of those miniature upholstered rocking arm chairs. Ours came from a yard sale and probably wasn't too clean when we got it, but after spending some intensive time with my children it was much worse. There was an stain from oatmeal that spilled on the seat, something had caved in on both arms, and there was a rip in the fabric on the back. The fabric used to cover it was also thin, quilting type fabric and not what I would use for upholstery.

I ripped everything off leaving a bare skeleton. The foam had shredded on the arms of the chairs, because it was thin 1/2-inch stuff and was supported by nothing underneath. We put in some scrap wood supports and replaced all the foam on the chair. Then I used left over upholstery fabric to given the whole thing a new skin.

I can see several flaws in it, mostly from cutting the fabric too short, but it is a lot nicer than it used to be.




Justin also got in on the chair fixing trend. When we recently cleaned out our attic we were left with two chairs that we needed to either get rid of or fix. In our kitchen, none of the chairs match. This is not particularly due to any style choice, but rather, because we'd never felt like spending the money on a complete new set of chairs and so we (or my mother) have picked up a chair or two here and there as they show up at yard sales and such. This usually means the chairs are old and often some what rickety. We've had very few chairs that didn't get Gorilla glue and pipe clamp therapy before entering general use. And I've had one chair that had a leg fall off while I was sitting on it.

The two broken chairs we had in the attic were both cute, old oak ones. One had had a cross brace break from what looked like dry rot when the Middle Girl stepped on it once. The other, also broken by the Middle Girl had been tipped back and one of the back legs had snapped into two pieces. Both of these accidents happened almost two years ago, and so it was definitely time to decide whether these chairs were doomed or deserved another chance. I'm not totally convinced that the one with the once broken leg will withstand my family, but the other looks as good as new with a whole new brace, which has been stained and shellacked and if you aren't looking for the fix, you'd never notice that it hadn't always been one of the sturdiest chairs we own.




Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Learning By Example

Last night we smelled a certain aroma wafting from the nether regions of the Toddler Girl. I was holding The Middle Girl in my lap and doing something on the computer, so it was left up to my spouse to do the diaper change.

The Middle Girl looked up at me and said, "When I have babies, I'm going to change a lot of poo-poo diapers, but sometimes I'm going to be working on the computer and Pompin (the name given almost a year ago to her future husband) will have to change the diapers then."

Yup. That seems to be how it works.

I Love Rock and Roll

I thought it was funny the other day when I heard my three year old singing, "We will rock you." When I heard my 20 month old wandering around singing, "We will, we will, we will rock..." that cracked me up.

Then there is my 6 year old, who loves Walk Like an Egyptian and wants us to buy other songs from the Bangles. We keep telling him that they only had two songs worth listening to, but since he already knows more about everything than his parents, he believes that he needs to verify this information for himself. We have been wrong before, of course, not thinking that Thomas and the Magic Railroad was one of the greatest movies ever made, so our taste is suspect.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Books Everywhere



Getting ready to homeschool, I've done a lot of reading and thinking about how we want to approach things. I'm most drawn to the idea of classical education, but at the same time the way we tend to dive into the interest of the moment around here, I think we may have a hard time sticking to a strict schedule for some things.

I am attracted to the descriptions and ideas found in A Well-Trained Mind. It is a compelling book, but having put none of the ideas into practice with my children, I can't yet speak to how some things will actually work for us.

I really like the idea of studying history and literature in a more or less linear fashion and I know the kids are interested in mythology and the ancient world, so we'll be starting with the Ancients and working on from there. Having checked out almost every book they recommended for the first year to preview, we are going to use many of the suggestions the authors for our basic curriculum, although there were a few books they highly recommend (the ones written by them, that were not as impressive as some of the others).

At least at this point, until we find out that none of it works for us, we're planning to use the following:

  • Saxon Math 1
  • For grammar I liked English for the Thoughtful Child better than the recommended First Language Lessons (which has one repeating the definition of a noun for over 30 lessons and seems to talk down to the child)
  • We're undecided about whether to use Hillyer's A Child's History of the World or Bauer's The Story of the World, so I've bought both to mix and match as I see fit.
  • For science we'll start out studying animals and are planning to use The Kingfisher First Animal Encyclopedia for our basic text and rely on a lot of extra books and trips to the zoo to round out that study. We'll probably move on to studying human anatomy and then plants in the spring.
  • Although, I suspect there are much better books that do the same thing, a friend of mine works for a local religious publisher and brought over a present for the kids a few years ago of the book At Home With God. It offers short family scripture readings and suggestions for discussion and prayers, and something that forces us to do more than a simple family prayer at meals is probably a good way to get back to studying Scripture with the kids in more detail. I'm also partial to the beautiful Family Treasury of Bible Stories which presents one story for each week of the year, as a way to repeat and learn a story and its message in depth.
  • Eventually we'll have the kids take some sort of music lessons, either violin or piano, but for now we'll stick to our family habit of singing and we've gotten tickets to the local symphony's children's concert series.
  • Since I was a German major, I'l probably try to teach a bit of German. Maybe we'll start with some simple folk songs and a few phrases. I still remember the first conversation in the first German book we used in Seventh grade, so some of those things can really stick in there for a long time.
  • We've already got poetry books and mythology books and stuff like that for the kids to read and more can easily be found at the library, of course.


So that's the basic idea, thus far. We'll be working on penmanship too and who knows what else as we have time and the spirit moves us. I'm hoping The Boy and I can both learn to knit this year, since that's one of the things we'll miss out on by not being part of the Hippy German School.

As I said, all of this is untried, but I've looked it all over and knowing how my oldest child, at least, likes to work on certain things and knowing how he learns best, I believe and hope that these books wil work for us.

The only book I can, at this point recommend without reservation, is Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I've used it (and followed up with an old and out-of-print book called The Natural Way to Reading, which covers some tricks and sounds left out of Teach Your Child to Read) to teach one child to read very well and my three year old is on about lesson 70 and very excited that she can read words in real books now. Although I have no doubt the book would not be the best teaching method for every child out there, mine have both done really well with it and its slow, incremental approach. My younger brother actually learned to read from the same book over twenty years ago, so it's a program that's been around for a while.

We've got the curriculum end taken care of, more or less. Now to get out and meet some other home schoolers in the area and find some kids to play with now and then.

Monday, July 17, 2006

I Need Another Weekend

The weekend just past has been a busy and productive one, but now I need a second weekend to just relax for a while.

Friday night started out nice and lazy. Justin and I watched Casablanca, which I hadn't seen since I was in high school and Justin had never seen before. I'd forgotten just how good a movie it was and it makes me want to go on a Bogie kick and rent of few more of my old favorites.

Saturday morning, The Boy crawled into our bed at 6:00 to cuddle and mentioned a book he was looking for, which we knew was in the attic. Our attic has become, in recent months, a pit of despair and the cause of much woe any time we thought about it. We've been talking about cleaning it for ages, but never quite brought ourselves to do it. But not Saturday -- by 6:15 we were up, dressed and hauling stuff around. By the time the girls woke up and we quit at 7:30, we had a full station wagon load of stuff to take to Goodwill and an attic we could actually get into and find things in once more.

After eating breakfast and watering the potted plants, we headed out to do important things like checking Big Lots for something we were searching for (which we didn't find, but we did find a few other things we had been wanting and hadn't considering looking for at Big Lots) and then on to Sam's Club for olive oil and coffee.

In the afternoon we cleaned out the toy cabinet and rearranged things as well as permanently removing a lot of junk. That night Justin cleaned out our desk and I did some basic, necessary kitchen cleaning.

Sunday was full of more projects. I roasted a chicken in the crock-pot to shred for later meals, made pesto with my out-of-control basil (I freeze it in 1/2 cup containers to use later), and baked cookies for VBS, which started on Sunday night. Justin cleaned out our laundry "room" (it's actually a closet big enough to hold the washer, dryer and water heater and that's all).

The house is now fundamentally much tidier (though I'm just going to close my eyes when I open my closet and pretend that I didn't just throw a bunch of stuff on the floor instead of hanging it up) and it's nice to have all that stuff done. As I said to my husband, it felt like we were nesting, but it's a bit early for that since I don't think at 26 weeks that I'm quite in the third trimester yet.

This morning we're having some friends over to keep us company and play. After that, who knows? I doubt anything I do will be cleaning related.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Thank You

I appreciate all the support for our plan to home school. I certainly will be blogging further about it as days go by. Right now I'm in the process of getting some of the books I ordered from various places and it feels like Christmas. Yay for books!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

An Infestation





The other day I found fairy princesses flitting around the garden. They seem to be the nice, generally non-biting kind (although I wouldn't press your luck on that one).

The Crazy Lady

Last week, I mentioned that we had a new project in the works -- one for which I would probably link my name forever with insanity. For some of you, who have more children than I ever will find crawling, racing, and screaming around my house, perhaps I won't really seem so insane after all. I know others have certainly been in a similar position and survived, which gives me hope. I'm not entirely sure that several of them haven't been or should be committed though, so we'll see.

My crazy project stems from the realization that with limited resources one cannot have everything. In this case, one family with a moderate income cannot easily put four children through private school. We've actually been well aware of this fact for some time, but recently decided that there was really no reason to spend more money on private schooling, when ultimately we could not sustain that expense for much longer.

We've notified The Boy's school that we will not be returning and I've begun picking out books and drawing up basic ideas for what The Boy will be learning. That's where the crazy part comes in -- having never homeschooled anyone before and expecting the arrival of a little one in October, we're still going to give homeschooling a try.

I'm not too concerned. The Boy already reads well and is happy to investigate any interest to the hilt. We've already begun polishing his handwriting and if we squeeze in some math and hit the required amount of days and hours from our state, I think that screwing up first grade would be fairly difficult. At least, I hope so.

We'll probably start our school year at the beginning of August so that we'll have time to take a good long break in October and November if we need it.

I admit that I'm nervous about the whole thing, but I know I can do it. I taught The Boy to read. I'm teaching The Middle Girl to read. If I can do that, we can make it through elementary school, I'm sure. What I'm not sure about is when they'll be coming along with the strait jacket to wheel me off to the looney bin. They do tend to keep one in the dark about such things.



Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Ambition

The Boy (having a conversation with some random grown-up): Dinosaurs, dinosaurs...blah blah...Xenotarsosaurus is my favorite dinosaur, but I wouldn't want to meet one because it's a carnosaur...blah, blah...dinosaurs...

Grown-up (slightly condescending):
Are you going to be a dinosaur scientist when you grow up?

The Boy (slightly condescending): I'm going to be a paleontologist, yes.

Later, in the car to me...

The Boy: After I retire from being a paleontologist, I think I'll go work for Pixar.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Where Did I Put My Crown?







What Kind of Princess are You?




The Noble Princess
You are just and fair, a perfectionist with a strong sense of proper decorum. You are very attracted to chivalry, ceremony and dignity. For the most part you are rather sensible, but you are also very idealistic.
Role Models: Guinevere, Princess Fiona (of Shrek)
You are most likely to: Get kidnapped by a stray dragon.
Take this quiz!








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From the lovely and noble Sarah G.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Changing the View

We spent a large part of Saturday outside working in the yard. Although the house may often be in shambles and I haven't mopped in a lot longer than I would care to admit, it pleases me far more, in the warm months, to dig in the dirt and be outside.

Justin spent most of the day building these:




That's a cage to tidily keep the birds out of our raspberries and a teepee to keep the grape tomato from swallowing all the other plants in our veggie bed.

I spent much of the day filling in our new flower bed. We bought a some new plants and I divided and/or moved several other things from other places in the yard.



I would like to get a trellis to put by the fence on which to grow perhaps a clematis and I would like to put some sort of permanent feature of interest -- some sort of sculpture (I found a large whimsical head that would please me) or a bird house or something along those lines toward the fron where we have a point in the bed where garden meets path. I think that may wait for next year though.

When I started to get hot, I began to envy this fellow and his lounging ways.



A nap in the shade would have been nice, but getting things done is even better.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Almost a Week Late

Here are the kidlets all dressed up in their red, white and blue (or some combination thereof).

4th of July.jpg


Those wishing to ooh and aah over the cuteness of my children, can see more photos here.

Friday, July 07, 2006

How To Make A Six Year Old's Eyes Light Up

Buy a roll of masking paper that is 3 feet wide and 140 feet long. For about $9 (the above link from Ace isn't quite what we bought at Home Depot), this roll will provide a huge amount of drawing fun and is a lot cheaper than buying a smaller roll at Michael's.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Spelling Question

If you had a child that shared a name with the Queen of the Netherlands and a nickname with a former Prime Minister of Israel, how would you spell that nickname? Would you spell it like the insect, the infinitive form of the verb sometimes conjugated "am," Andy Griffith's Aunt, or as the former Prime Minister of Israel spells it?

Back From Not Going Anywhere

Hmm...It's getting a bit dusty around here and I'm lucky they didn't change the locks while I was gone. Actually, I've been home all the time, having had an uneventful weekend of doing things like planting a hydrangea (Annabelle) and watching the husband work. We grilled a few steaks, watched some fireworks from far enough away as to make them almost boring, and that was about that.

But we have been very busy with something else we've been considering doing for a while and I'll discuss that a lot more once its actually done. It will be a big project and probably guaranteed to prove once and for all that I am insane.

So how's that for the shortest long weekend wrap-up?

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