April 29, 2004

At the Library

I truly enjoy our weekly treks to the local library. The kids enjoy spending time picking out books and reading there and they also each get to play a computer game there that they enjoy. While they play and browse I search out the books for the following week. I enjoy being able to browse the sections of our children's section and we always leave with so many books I wonder how we can read them all - but we usually manage it somehow! I select majority of the books - but I allow each child to pick out three books of their own (with my approval) on anything they want. We also pick out an audio book for the car (current choices The Trumpet Swan by EB White and The Silver Chair by CS Lewis) and they may pick out a video every other week.

I love the variety that the library offers us and the ability to try out a wide variety of books. I also love our personal selection of favorite children's books that we come back to time and time again. Together it is a nice mix of books for our children and for me while they are still in the "Read to Me Mommy" stage. As I type this Ciaran is sitting in his bed "Reading" a family favorite "Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do you See" by Eric Carle. He also plays a game with this book that we found here. It is designed to be a felt board kit but I printed them out and laminated them and he plays with them and loves it. Rhiannon also uses it when we read the Spanish version of the same book. Off to read more books.


April 28, 2004

Books Coming Alive Through Play

A friend recently asked me if my recently turned three year old son was absorbing everything he was listening to through the books we read and listen to on tape. I said I thought he was and saw it mostly through his play. Today was a perfect example. We spent the day outside, it was nearly 90 degrees and just a perfect day to be outside (there were still nice breezes) so we took advantage of it.

I wanted to have some special playtime with each of the kids - so I put Sirah in the swing and asked Ciaran what he wanted to play - he wanted me to climb up into the fort on top of their swingset - I agreed - he was ecstatic. I asked what he wanted to play and he said he wanted to buy some chocolates and I said okay - where was he going to the store and then he told me he was Charlie Bucket (no joke) and that I would be Mr. Wonka. This is from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl in case you don't recognize it. I called him Charlie and he called me Mr. Wonka and he ate a candy bar and then got to come to my chocolate factory where he met the girl who liked to chew gum and we went on adventures in the factory. We listened to this book on tape a few times about a month or two ago.

A little later (after playing soccer with Rhiannon - yes I actually ran around the yard today) he asked me to make Stone Soup with him. He got a big bucket and put some rocks in it and then directed me and Rhiannon as to what we were to bring to him. We went back to our houses to find the ingredients he needed for Stone Soup. He mixed it all up and then we shared it all together. He requested both of these games entirely on his own and then gave directions pretty closely based on the books.

I've also witnessed him and his sister acting out Bible stories. One moment I caught my breath and had to stop from exploding was when Rhiannon was tying a sled to Ciaran. When I asked what she was doing she said "We're playing Joseph and I'm selling him to the Egyptians" - we had to review the point of that bible story and what was acceptable play and what was not.

So many of the books we read I later see come out in their imaginative play and the games they create. We need to remember to give kids more credit than we do. Ciaran has only recently turned three but it is clear he is taking in much of what he is exposed to. He requests to listen to Vivaldi (which I played in our yard today while we played soccer), likes to look at paintings by Monet and enjoys listening to chapter books with intricate details. He has fun with them and makes them a part of his life. He even makes up stories about the characters from the Hundred Acre Woods and our families imaginary friend Benkin (a mouse who lives under a tree in our yard) - they have quite a bit of detail too!


Simple Pleasures: How To Eat A Mango

The kids had a choice for dessert tonight between a mango or chocolate chip cookies. Surprise! They chose the mango! We surfed around online to try to find the best way to eat a mango. Of course we could have called our good friend who spent 3 years living in Africa and enjoying fresh mangos right off the tree. But it was not the most conveinant time to call I'm sure if she reads this she can correct our method and teach us the best way of eating mangoes.

We found this helpful website: How To Eat A Mango with the following directions for eating a mango:

"Slice the mango length ways close to the seed. Now cut that slice half way lengthwise. Now simply peel the skin back on either side of the slice with your fingers and teeth as you eat the pulp. Now repeat the process with the other side of the mango.

Now you are left with a mango with the two sides cut and eaten. Now simply peel the skin from around the mango and eat around the seed."

The kids thought this was a hoot and they took nturns eating the middle part very nicely - each had two of the sides and they even saved me the last bite! It was yummy and fun. Sweet and sticky perfect summer and apring treat for kids~


Nearly 90 degrees!

Too nice and too hot to blog today just playing!


April 27, 2004

OT: Ban Fisher Price

While not a fan of plastic toys - my kids do enjoy "The Little People" and accompanying accessories. I was highly disappointed to find out we will need to not purchase anything from Fisher Price and I will be
writing them a letter as I am outraged at their newest contest. According to Hedy Nuriel, LLLI's Executive Director:

Fisher Price is currently running a "Ready-Set-Grow" Sweepstakes on its US
web site. The fifteen prize packages include a six-week supply of formula
delivered directly to each winner's home.

If you would like to let Fisher Price know how you feel about this program,
send your emails to
Mattel. The contest closes
May 17th, 2004

To view the Sweepstakes web site, got to
Fisher Price.

Direct your letters to

Neil Friedman, President
Laurie Oravec, Director of Public Relations

Giving away free formula interferes with breastfeeding and encourages the use of artificial breastmilk instead of mother's best. Write and let them know how you feel.


Morning at Play

The kids and I have had a morning of play. I let them take turns choosing games. We have played Marbleworks and an owl ABC game for Ciaran, Pretty pretty princess and "pop-up piggy" for Rhiannon. Rhiannon invented pop-up piggy just today. She brought out her pink piggy bank and some pick up sticks - she handed Ciaran and I each two sticks and we needed to match them from the remaining ones. After we had matches - the piggy would pop out and we had to feed him the matched sticks so he would go away again. This cycle continued - there was no real end to it or winner. Though she could have created a way for that to happen she did not. I enjoyed playing her made up game, it was fun and creative.


April Reading List

50 Below Zero by Robert Munsch
A House for Mouse by Babs Shook
A Pony's Tale by Jodi Huelin
A You're Adorable by Buddy Kaye
Aardvarks Disembark by Ann Jonas
ABC by Dr. Suess (5)
A Pair of Red Sneakers by Lisa Lawston
A Pocket for Corduroy by Don Freeman
Anno's Magic Seeds by Mitsumasa Ano
A Sip of Aesop by Jane Yolen

Are You a Spider by Judy Allen
Arrow to the Sun:a Pueblo indian Tale by Gerald McDermott
Baby Sister Says No by Mercer Mayer
Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman
Best Dad in the Sea: Finding Nemo by Walt Disney
Bitter Bananas by Isaac Olaleye
Blessings Everywhere by Dandi Daley Mackall
Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See by Bill Martin Jr
Buzz Buzz Buzz by Veronica Uribe
Carrot Seed by Ruth Frauss

Can You Tell Me How to Get to Seaseme Street by Eleanor Hudson
Celebrate the 50 States by Loreen Leedy
Chick by Funfax
Chicka Chicka boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr (4)
Chuck Yeager Breaks the Sound Barrier by R Conrad Stein
Clap Your Hands by Lorinda Bryan Cauley
Clifford the Small Red Puppy by Norman Bridwell
Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett (3)
Color Fun by Snapshot Books
Company's Coming by Arthur Yorinks

Counting Sheep: Why do we Sleep? by Janice Lobb
Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory by HA Rey (2)
Dawn by Uri Shulevitz
Ducks Disappearing by Phyllis Naylor
Earth Day by Linda Lowery (2)
Eat up Babies by Pattrice Aggs
Edward in the Jungle by David McPhail
Engines Elevators and Xrays by Janice Parker
Flo the Lyin Fly by Max Lucado
Fox in Socks by Dr Suess

From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons
From Sheep to Sweater by Robin Nelso
Fun with Zip and Zap by John Shefelbine
Gigi and Zachary's Around the World Adventure by Gilles Eduar
God Made All the Colors by Lion Publishing
God Made you Special by Eric Metaxas
Going to Sleep on the Farm (2)
Good Morning Little Fox by Marilyn Janovitz
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Hansel and Gretel by Lisa Ingalls (2)

Happy Birthday You Belong in the Zoo by Diane deGroat
Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox
Hello Shoes by Joan Blos
Here is the African Savanna by Madeleine Dunphy
Hey diddle, diddle by Dianne O'Quinn Burke
I am Playing by Mercer Mayer (3)
I can Swim by Edana Eckart
If I ran the Zoo by Dr Suess
If I went on Safari by Susan Hood
If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Numeroff

If You Give a Pig a Pancake by Laura Numeroff
If You Look Around You by Fulvio Testa
If You Take Mouse to the Movies by Laura Numeroff
I'm Sorry by Sam McBratney
Irish Step Dancing by Mark Thomas
Is it Far to Zanzibar? by Nikki Grimes
Israel by Elaine Landau
It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G Shaw
Jacob's Gift by Max Lucado
Jamberry by Bruce Degen

Jesse Bear What Will You Wear by Nancy White Carlstrom (2)
June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner
Just a Bad Day by Mercer Mayer
Just a Mess by Mercer Mayer
Katy and the Big Snow by Viriginia Lee Burton
Kisses by Cyndy Szeekers
Learn Your Numbers by Sparkle Books (2)
Lots and Lots of Zebra Stripes by Stephen Swinburne
Marshes and Swamps
Me and My Family Tree by Paul Showers

Millions of Snowflakes by Mary McKenna Siddals
Moo Cow Moo by Santiago Cohen
Morgan Plays Soccer by Anne Rockwell
Mother Goose by Walt Disney
Mouse's Birthday by Jane Yolen (2)
Mr Brown Can Moo by Dr Suess
My B Book by Jane Belk Moncure
My First Baby Signs by Linda Acreddo
My First Book by Jane Belk Moncure
My Little People School Bus by Doris Tomaselli

My Many Colored Days by Dr Suess
My X.Y,Z Sound Box by Jane Belk Moncure
Ocean by Samantha Gray
On Sand Island by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Our Class Took a Trip to the Zoo by Shirley Neitzel
Pet Animals by Lucy Cousins
Picnic with Piggins by Jane Yolen
Pigs Move: Fun With Math and Travel by Amy Axelrod
Playing by Shirley Hughes
Put me in the Zoo by Dr Suess (2)

Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood
Rainbow Joe and Me by Maria Strom
Raising Yoder's Barn by Jane Yolen
Recycle by Gail Gibbons (2)
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by Dana Rau
Sailor Moo Cow at Sea (2)
Sally Gets 123 by Richard Scarry
Sam and the Tigers by Julius Lester
Scarecrow by Cynthia Rylant
See the Yak Yak by Charles Ghinga (2)

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis
Shadows by April Pulley Sayre
Shanty Boat by Charles Temple
Sheep in a Shop by Nancy Shaw
Simple Machines by Allan Fowler
Sisters by David McPhail
Skateboarding in the X Games by Suzanne Murdico
Skip to My Lou by Nadine Bernard Westcott
Sleep Book by Dr Suess
Sleeping Beauty by Katherin Lawless

Snappy Little Dinosaurs by Dugald Steer
Snow by Uri Shulevitz
Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner
Snowshoe Thompson by Nancy Levinson
So Far from the Sea by Eve Bunting - for older children (about the Japanese concentration camps)
Sorting and Sets by Henry Pluckrose
Spring is Here by Tara Gomi
St Patrick's Day Alphabet by Beverly Barras Vidrine
Stranger in the Woods by Carl Sams
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

Stone Soup by Marcia Brown
Subtraction Action by Loreen Leedy
Summersaults by Douglas Florian
Sunflower by Miela Ford
Swamp Angel by Anne Isaacs (2)
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Tanya's Reunion by Valerie Flourney
The Best Place by Susan Meddaugh (2)
The Crayon Box that Talked by Shane DeRolf
The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado

The Enchanted Storks by Aaron Shepard
The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood (3)
The Little Squeegy Bug by Bill Martin Jr
The Magic School Bus Shows and Tells: A book About Archaeology by Joanna Cole
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg
The New Friend by Charlotte Zolotow
The Poodle Who Barked at the Wind by Charlotte Zolotow
The Right Touch by Sandy Kleven
The Sailor's Alphabet by Michael McCurdy
The Seasons and Someone by Virginia Kroll

The Snow Tree by Caroline Repchuk
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
The Story of Noodles by Ying Chang Compestine
The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg
The Sweetest Fig by Chris Van Allsburg
The Taxi That Hurried by Tibor Gergely
The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
The Winter King and the Summer Queen by Mary Lister
The Wretched Stone by Chris Van Allsburg
The Year at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen

This is Soccer by Margaret Blackstone
Thomas the Tank Engine by Re. W. Awdry
Time for Bed by Mem Fox (2)
Tuesday by David Weisner
Twelve Hats for Lena: A Book of Months by Karen Katz
Tyrannosaurus Time by Joanne Ryder (2)
Welcome to Spain by Geraldine Mesenas
Welcome with Love by Jenni Overend (6) - excellent book on homebirth
What if the Zebras Lost their Stripes? by John Reitano (2)
What the Animals Were Waiting For by Jonathan London (2)

When Addie was Scared by Linda Bailey
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce
Word Bird's Summer Words by Jane Belk Moncure
Yellow by Sarah Schuette
Yellowstone National Park by David Peterson
Yoshi's Feast by Kimiko Kajikawa (4)
You're a Bear by Mavis Jukes
Your Heart by Terri DeGezelle
Yummy:Eating Through a Day by Lee Bennet Hopkins

Zambia by Timothy Holmes (read parts and discussed all the pictures)
Zathura by Chris Vans Allsburg
Zebras by Melissa Stewart
Zebras by Zoo books
Zelda and Ivy by Laura Kvasnosky
Zelda and Ivy and the Boy Next Door by Laura Kvasnosky
Zelda Zach and Zodiac by Bill Peet
Zero Gravity by Gloria Skurzynski
Zig Zag The Sound of Z by Alice Flanagan
Zoe and her Zebra by Clare Beaton

Zoo Flakes ABC by Will Howell
Zoo Patterns by Patricia Whitehouse

Updated April 29, 2004

April 26, 2004

Stealers of Discipline and Joy

If I was a conspiracy theorist I would say there was a conspiracy occurring today to keep me from being disciplined right after I admitted I needed to be. There is something in the water with my kids today, they have just given up on listening. They have used ink stamp pads on their walls and all over their bodies (even the bottom of their feet), they have had a water fight, they have watered the rug thinking it was the garden, they have washed the walls and made big messes while doing it. They have put glue on their wall and their hands and we have been through several outfits.

I've been trying to keep my cool, I've enlisted Serona via Instant messenger from work and I have prayed. I've been patient, I've lost my temper, and I've tried to be creative. Mostly now I am tired and I want the day to be over. I know it is all a normal part of childhood and normal for their ages, but that doesn't make it easy.

If I look hard I can find the underlying causes of the problems and try to resolve them. But the reality is the behavior is still exhausting and incorrect and needs to be dealt with. It seems nothing is making an impression today. It is one of those days I understand "throw the towel in" and "Calgon take me away". Of course I can not do that and no one ever said parenting would be easy - suppose one challenging day in the midst of many other good ones is a small price to pay.

Even in the midst of this day - Sirah smiles and it is contagious. Rhiannon tells a "joke" that makes me laugh and I enjoy some snuggle time on the couch with Ciaran. I look at each of them and see their strengths and remind myself that they will be teenagers someday and these are the good days. I look at their challenging behaviors and try to find the good charachteristic I need to help turn this into and sometimes that helps. When all else fails I have to just laugh or as the indigo girls say - I'd cry my eyes out. It's really not that bad - kind of funny when I look at all in writing.


Great Family Day

Yesterday was a nice family day. We had a big breakfast of pancakes and strawberries, did some cleaning and organizing and then took a family nap. We headed out for a long (over two hours) walk around the neighborhood, we stopped in a grocery store and picked up some fruit and veggies and continued. We stopped at a pizzareia and ordered delivery that met us at home right about when we arrived from our walk.

We ate pizza and watched a discovery channel movie on the Space Station we rented from the library and then after the movie we got ready for bed and folded three loads of laundry, then headed into the library for some special family reading time. The kids were off to bed and Serona and I watched a movie with Sirah and I worked on another blanket. A great day.


April 25, 2004

Disciplined Life

I used to believe that balance was key to a happy and productive life. The older I get the more I realize that discipline is they key to balance. I need to be more disciplined with myself in a variety of areas of life: household responsibilities, finances, relationships, time management, eating habits, exercise and finances. It is not that these are out of control for me or my family - it is that they could always stand some improving and I am finally admitting I need to be more disciplined.

This is not an easy admission for me to make as I am a laid back easy-going person who often resists structures. But I am finally coming to realize that as the family grows we all do much better with some basic structure and discipline in our lives. we are all more at peace when the house is clean. The kids respond better when they can anticipate what is coming next. I will feel better when I am at a healthy weight which requires eating and exercise discipline. The bottom line I need to just stop talking about it and do it better.

I know what I need to do and it starts with going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. Two things I have resisted my whole life. It includes regular household chore schedules and more routines during each day. It requires a commitment to more exercise and healthier eating habits. For me it also includes a daily quiet time and limiting time I do things I enjoy (such as blogging).

I know I need to do it in babysteps and for me that means living with my timer and remembering I can do anything for 15 minutes. It is often stopping after 15 minutes that is harder for me.


April 24, 2004

Mommy Reading

Current Books Being Read:

The Glorious Appearing by LaHaye and Jenkins
Gathering Place by Thomas Kinkade

Your Three Year Old by Ilg and Ames
Your Four Year Old by Ilg and Ames

Making Room for Life by Randy Frazee
Wll Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer
Honet for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt

Current Audio Books:
Shepherd's Abiding by Jan Karon
Modern Scholar: The Modern American Presidency by Robert Dallek

Next in line:

Your five year old by Ilg and Ames
Siblings Without Rivalry by Faber and Mazlich
How to Talk so your Kids will learn by Faber and Mazlich
100 Best Books for Children by Anita Silvey
Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

April 23, 2004

Keeping my calm

As you can imagine with three under the age of five there are times my patience is tried, today we had one of those moments. I must admit for all our reading we do - I do not care for arts and crafts and mess, so sadly my kids don't get to do it that often. Recently they have really wanted to paint - today I agreed _sigh_ and soon discovered why I've been so slow to. I convinced them to do water paints - which was not so bad - I threw out dropcloth down and put the easel on it and then let them paint for awhile - it was easy to clean up. My mistake was in agreeing to allow fingerpainting and with BLUE no less. It was going okay until they started sticking entire hands in the container at a time and squishing and spilling. I started to lose it and sent them to the bathroom to clean up - Rhiannon dripped blue paint on the carpet along the way. The easel was covered in blue paint and so was the dropcloth.

As I was cleaning the spots in the carpet and checking on the kids in the bathroom I hear very unhappy cries from the schoolroom. Sirah managed to crawl through the paint and somehow got it all over her face! I didn't know whether to laugh, cry or scream, I think I wanted to do all of them. Instead I grabbed my camera and took a picture, then carried her into the bathroom so her siblings could witness what their mess caused and cleaned her off. I proceeded to clean as best I could the rest, sending the kids to their rooms while I could regroup.

A little time passed and I realized I just needed them to go outside and run off some of the energy I apologized to them for losing my patience and expressed my frustration at the situation. I praised their artwork and creativity and sent them out to play. I suppose this is one of those moments I will look back on and smile (like my parents must now years after my brother and I decided to make it snow in our living room using Comet) and I'm glad that overall I kept my calm.

In the end we have some blue paint stains on a carpet that no doubt will see a million more stains with three children and an Australian Shepherd. We have content kids who have made some artwork and loved every minute of it, one ruined outfit of the babies (unfortunately one of my favorites)and some cute pictures. And we built a memory that will stand out for years to come.


Problems with Blogger

There appears to be some problem with blogger.com now - I'm trying to work it out. In the meantime, rereshing the page seems to work.


April 20, 2004

Tripping Down Memory Lane

MusicMatch Artist on Demand has been wonderful overall for our family. We use the Composer on Demand function daily and it saves us money from buying a bunch of albulms. I listen to internet based radio all the time now, and our music selection is almost endless for friend's visits and parties. However, there has been an unanticipated downside: it is very easy to relive your past through this.

I don't know about you - but for me music is so representative of stages of my life and there are a lot of memories attached to certain songs and artists. I find myself late at night listening to really random and old bands to see if I still like them or to figure out why I ever liked them in the first place and sometimes it brings back floods of memories I had forgotten (or tried to at least). Music Match has a similar artist function which makes it easy to follow your trail and history. I had a wide variety of music interests over the years (sometimes at the same time). Some recent blasts and flops from the past I've listened to are (in no order):

The Eagles
Don Henley (I saw a deadhead sticker on a cadillac)
Sophie B Hawkins
Belinda Carlisle
Fleewtood Mac (a nice now and again even now)
Gordon Lightfoot (reminded me why I liked him)
Van Morrison (still a favorite)
Billy Joel (You can take the girl out of NY but you can't take NY out of the girl)
Crosby Stills Nash and Young
Bruce Springsteen
Counting Crows
James (still listen to him)
Pink Floyd (will always be a fav - own near complete collection)
Duran Duran (wild Boys Hungry Like the Wolf?)
Tears for Fears (real genius)
Genesis (Gabriel and Collins)
The Police
Van Halen (I know many don't think of 5150 as "real" but dreams is one of my favs)
Rush (still classic)
Suzanne Vega aka Luka
Leonard Cohen
Cat Stevens
Harry Chapin (cat's in the cradle has new meaning)
The Cure
The Smiths (still listen to Morrissey and we own many "There's a Light That Never Goes Out)
Violent Femmes
Billy Idol
A Ha (best video ever - of course i stopped wathing over 10 years ago)
Richard Marx
Night Ranger
Meatloaf (you're never gonna find a coup deville in the bottom of a cracker jax box)
Black Crowes
Grateful Dead
Beach Boys

I suppose I am giving my kids excellent "picking on me" grounds later in life. But it has beenn a fun stroll. Some I listened to for awhile - others went right off as I say "what was I thinking?" but mostly they brought back good memories

Too Many Pursuits

I am finding there are just too many good things to do with my time and I want to do them all. Some recent things I find myself choosing between for my limited "free time" are: blogging, crocheting, reading, writing my book, surfing the internet, and truth be told sleep. Soon enough biking and hiking will be added to that lengthy list. It is hard to make choices of what to do when. I suppose that is the same for everyone - sometimes I wish I had that time stopper that Hermoine had in the Harry Potter series.


A day of reading

We spent the better part of the day reading. When I was adding the books to our current list - I realized we read nearly 30 books today! Now many of them were short storybooks (I read to Sirah a bit today as well) but still I know I spent over 3 hours reading today. We spent nearly three hours at the library today - some of that time was spent looking for books and playing computer games - but we read quite a bit too. It was a good day - but I must admit to be all read out. I was planning on reading more of "The Glorious Appearing" my current book - but I can't do it. I also spent the past two hours cleaning out my email account (shame on me for not dealing with it as it comes in) I think I will crochet a bit and head off to sleep.


Starting Off S Week

It's been a good morning so far. We started with some phonics work in our library - while Ciaran and Sirah pulled books off the shelves to look at them. Rhiannon has come so far already - today she showed me that she has mastered blending three letter words with short vowel sounds - she no longer needs to sound most of them out.

We had some storytime this morning - each child picked two books and I picked some myself. Most centered around our S theme for the week. As we read we point out words and objects on the pages of the book that start with S. We read a few yesterday and spent the day pointing out words that started with s. Today we worked on our sound box- we collected toys and items from around the house that start with the letter S and put them into our book. Then throughout the week they can add things to the box and take some out saying what it is and what sound and letter it starts with. We went from room to room filling the box (we opted to not put the salt and sugar in from the kitchen! The kids really enjoy this activity and it does not take that long. It is a great springboard for the rest of the week as well.

We took some time to talk about hearts today - reading a book about children's hearts and looking at diagrams of hearts. Ciaran has his annual cardiologist appointment today - so we wanted to refresh his memory about what the tests entail and show him what his heart looked like. I will follow-up this lesson with a printout diagram from Enchanted Learning of the human heart and all the parts that make it up.

Rhiannon is working on her capital and lowercase S handwriting and when she finishes we will take a walk and see how many words we can find that start with the letter S. This evening we will work on our science project for our upcoming science fair.


We don't know it all

Serona does a nice job over at CyberEcology explaining how the general public and even the media are often NOT privy to all the information that our political leaders are (and there is good reason for that). This blog post is worth a read to remind us to be critical of what we read and that the media does not know it all either.


April 16, 2004

Zambia Lesson Plan

We read Zambia by Timothy Holmes this week. We actually only read pieces of it and discussed each of the pictures. My kids really liked the ones of children in slings. After that Serona took them down to the world map on the wall to show them where it was and then over to our globe to show them again.

They asked how long it would take to travel there and then Serona estimated a 16 hour plane ride. Since then we talked a little about why they want to visit and what they might see there. We have also been talking about Africa in general this week as we studied zebras and went to the zoo, so I was able to make some nice tie-ins.

Tomorrow we will look at the flag of Zambia and do some coloring sheets of African masks (they liked the one in the book) and trace the country's outline and practicing writing the name. A quick and easy lesson on a far away country with a simple book from the library and the wonderful resources of the "answer box."


Flower Shop Field Trip

Our homeschool group headed to a local flower shop for a fun field trip. On the trip the kids got to learn the history of the flower shop (seeing old pictures and learning stories about the founders and the way they built the business). They went into the main distribution center to see where the bouquets go to be shipped , they watched someone wrap up flowers for delivery, walked through the order center (where they take phone and computer orders), went into the freezer where they keep the flowers (here they learned about where the flowers come from and how they are kept until they are used and sent). We walked through the floral design room and watched many designers putting together a variety of bouquets and corsages. Each child on the tour got to plant their own impatient plant to take home and had a coloring sheet to bring with them. We ended the tour by walking through their wide variety of shops and ending in a gift shop (as all well planned tours do). I must admit to being surprised and impressed with Ciaran's behavior. He did very well through the entire tour, listening to directions and even paying attention and being quiet. It was a fun field trip and one I would recommend to others.


Flower Shop Field Trip

Our homeschool group headed to a local flower shop for a fun field trip. On the trip the kids got to learn the history of the flower shop (seeing old pictures and learning stories about the founders and the way they built the business). They went into the main distribution center to see where the bouquets go to be shipped , they watched someone wrap up flowers for delivery, walked through the order center (where they take phone and computer orders), went into the freezer where they keep the flowers (here they learned about where the flowers come from and how they are kept until they are used and sent). We walked through the floral design room and watched many designers putting together a variety of bouquets and corsages. Each child on the tour got to plant their own impatient plant to take home and had a coloring sheet to bring with them. We ended the tour by walking through their wide variety of shops and ending in a gift shop (as all well planned tours do). I must admit to being surprised and impressed with Ciaran's behavior. He did very well through the entire tour, listening to directions and even paying attention and being quiet. It was a fun field trip and one I would recommend to others.


Homeschooling in Minnesota

The Star Tribune's article For many, family room doubles as a classroom has some interesting points. Including:

"The Swans, of Brooklyn Park, are among more than 16,000 Minnesota children who receive their primary education at home. That number has grown by more than 20 percent over the past decade. Nationally, about 2 million students in 750,000 families are educated at home."

I am unsure where they are obtaining their stats from, but it is an interesting read.


April 14, 2004

Zoo Lesson Plan

During our X, Y, and Z week I planned a trip to the zoo. The kids had a blast - they even got to hold a baby rabbit and touch baby chicks. Ciaran's favorite was the sharks and Rhiannon liked the dolphin and flamingos. They also really enjoyed the otters and the tigers. They watched the sun bears and the fish tanks for awhile.

We did lessons spur of the moment based on their interest. A big fish was laying right next to glass and we were able to talk about why they have gills and how they work. We compared sizes of animals and discussed why some prefer the dark to the light. We talked about what different animals eat. They were able to touch some fish and some skeltal displays. I had contemplated creating a scavenger hunt but decided instead just to go with the flow of the day.

After a few hours and lunch we headed over to the gift shop where Ciaran picked out a shark to add to his ever growing animal collection. Rhiannon picked out a dolphin ring. We do not typically pick up gifts at places we go - but I'm glad we made an exception this time, it was 5.00 well spent.

When we arrived home we did an impromptu lesson on the zoo and what we saw. We headed over to Enchanted Learning to print out fact and coloring sheets on several animals of the kids choosing. We also printed out and colored a book of zoo animals, which includes simple sentence copywork. We discussed some of our favorite animals and experiences of the day.

We ended the day with reading the following books:

If I ran the Zoo by Dr Suess
Our Class Took a Trip to the Zoo by Shirley Neitzel
Put me in the Zoo by Dr Suess
What if the Zebras Lost their Stripes? by John Reitano
What the Animals Were Waiting For by Jonathan London
Zebras by Melissa Stewart
Zoo Flakes ABC by Will Howell
Zoo Patterns by Patricia Whitehouse

Easy and fun day. There are so many more things you can do with this as well.


April 12, 2004

Curriculum Overview

We had a nice Easter here - the kids and Serona were sick so we just had a low key day here. An Easter egg hunt and the Easter story in the morning and then relaxing and watching movies most of the rest of the day. We had an unusual Easter dinner of pancakes and home fries (it was perfect) and then some snacks before bed. We watched Return of the Jedi and Dinotopia with the kids. I finished an afghan I was working on for a friend and it was a relaxing day.

Thought I would recap recent activities with each of the kids for the record.


We are still working through our basic curriculum of the following resources (plus whatever we supplement with) based loosely around the concepts found in The Well Trained Mind by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer (a nice outline of a classical style education) and The Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola (a nice review of the concepts of a Charlotte Mason based education) :
Phonics Pathways by Dolores Hiskes
Bob Book Fun Set A Level 2
Primary Phonics 1 by Barbara Makar
Storybook Treasury of Dick and Jane and Friends by Grosset and Dunlap
Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer
My ABC Bible Verses by Susan Hunt

Christian Liberty Nature Reader Book 1 (Christian Liberty Nature Readers)
by Julia Wright

What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know by JR ED Hirsch
Spectrum Math K - though I can't wait to start Miquon Math

Other activities we work on include:
Handwriting practice (individual letters and sentences)
Nature Study Notebook (personal drawing journal)
Classical Music Appreciation (currently on Beethoven)
Art Appreciation (currently on Mary Cassat)
Handwork (currently potholders)
Letter of the week activities (currently x,y, and z)
Many Daily Read Alouds (see current reading list.

And of course free play time in the yard and with toys. Some of her favorite activities right now include swinging, riding her bike, digging in the sand, playing with her dollhouse, imaginative play and making maps and lists for everyone to follow. When asked what she wants to do she almost always asks for me to read her a book. She also really enjoys books on tape. She is currently listening to Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll and Prince Caspian by CS Lewis (both unabridged). She enjoys dancing and putting on shows and in general being the center of attention.


We are just playing our way through learning. We are focusing on his ABC's, numbers 1-10 and learning the letters in his name. He seems to have his colors and shapes down now. He has much more patience for listening to stories now. The other day he requested and listened very well through a 42 page non-fiction book on Israel (it did have lots of pictures but still stop took almost 20 minutes to read through). We try to go through his alphabet atleast twice a day pointing to and saying each letter and often tracing them. He can count easily to 10 with help to 20 and is slowly understanding how much things are (moving from route memorization to understanding of concept of numbers). We also do a letter of the week and plan activities and learning around that letter (this week is x,y and z). I am trying to teach him to write and recognize his name (this is currently quite challenging).

Some of his favorite things to do right now are dig in the sand, slide on his swinget, climb on anything, ride his trike, play soccer, build cities with his blocks, drive his cars, playing with his trains and doing puzzles. He also loves stamping with ink and doing anything crafty. He takes part in these aspects of Rhiannons studies, as well as the daily read alouds:

Nature Study Notebook (personal drawing journal)
Classical Music Appreciation (currently on Beethoven)
Art Appreciation (currently on Mary Cassat)
Letter of the Week activities (including keeping a sound box)


Sirah just plays with us and is growing so fast. She is crawling all over the place and is getting harder to keep up with. She is starting to pull herself up and stand by herself for a few seconds before falling down again (she gets up and starts again right away), she is beginning to cruise on furniture and it is clear she wants to be more mobile then she is. She is starting to babble more and more and her smiles are still so wonderful. She is definitely fully mobile now and can get where she wants to. She loves try to pick up and eat little pieces of anything and paper. Her toys are often bypassed for some fascinating piece of pea gravel that has migrated from our swingset. She loves being in the backpack or sling (though she prefers the backpack) and just sitting with us. The only thing we do with her is sing to and play with her and talk to her about things.


April 10, 2004

Minnesota Homeschooling Conference

MACHE's annual homeschooling conference is coming next weekend to Duluth MN. For more info check out this article, or the MACHE flyer.


April 9, 2004

Easter Crafts

Here are two easy and relatively quick easter crafts our kids enjoy.

Family Easter Cross
Trace each family members handprints on construction paper and cut out (using one color for each member)
Cut butcher block paper into two long strips and attach in the shape of a cross
Glue the handprints to the paper
Write on the handprints Easter 2004 (or corresponding year)
Glue to cardboard (we skip this step because i like to save them in our portfolios each year)

Bird's Nest

Cut two strips of construction paper
Roll together in a circle and staple so you have two rings (one for the head and one for the body)
Staple the rings together
Squish an opened paper lunch bag down to form nest
Glue the rings onto the nest and decorate with eyes, feathers, and a beak

Our kids did this one with their homeschool group and it was very easy and turns out cute.


April 8, 2004

Sirah's milestones

Yesterday was a big day for Sirah. I sat her on the floor in the playroom in a safe spot for her to crawl and left the room for just a minute to check on something. As I returned I found her standing! She had crawled over to a bookshelf and pulled herself up to standing. She was so proud of herself but could not figure out what to do next (thankfully she did not attempt to cruise yet) and I helped her sit down. She spent much of the day trying to pull herself up on whatever was available.

As if that was not enough to accomplish in one day, she figured out how to get off her back. I laid her down for a nap in our family bed and returned when I heard her awake. I found her sitting in the middle of the bed! She managed to roll over and sit herself up. Days of unattended napping in bed are over as well.

I forget all the milestones at this age. These past few weeks she has learned to crawl, roll, pull herself to standing and imitate sounds. I love watching her learn - though I guess we must admit it is time to babyproof.


Obsession with Paper

Why do small children love to eat paper and cardboard? Put Sirah in a room on the floor and she will crawl over all the brightly colored toys and nice wooden toys we have and make a beeline for either a piece of paper or cardboard to eat. If she can not find one of those she will settle for her second choice - some small piece of fuzz or Pea gravel (thanks to the playground) anything she can put in her mouth that she is not allowed to.

I can immediately take it away (to howls of protest) and replace it with some fun and interesting toy only to see that toy flung across the room as she heads off for the next piece of fuzz or paper she can find. My days of sitting her down and leaving her are long over. Let the fun begin!


April 7, 2004

Enjoying the Weather

After a winter that felt like it would never end we have been enjoying this wonderful change in weather. It was nearly 70 yesterday and we took advantage of that spending nearly all day outside. After this mornings events we had some friends come over and play in the yard. This family is very special to us - one of the first families we befriended after moving to Minnesota - their son and Rhiannon are still best of friends (even after going months at a time without talking to or seeing one another). She always says how she is going to marry this little boy. His sister is a few months younger than Ciaran and they play very well together. The mother and I get along so wonderfully and we have realistic expectations of one another and don't mind if we go months without a return call - then we get together and often spend entire days together as if we were together just yesterday, friends like that are truly precious and we treasure the family.

After they left the older two took naps and I had some special playtime with Sirah. We laid on our bed and just talked and played baby games for awhile. Then we went down to the playroom and she crawled around for a long time just exploring her world with me there by her side. I was able to nurse her to sleep, pick up and start dinner before Rhiannon woke up. When she woke up I had another "mommy" moment as I cleaned and peeled potatoes she sat at our kitchen table and did some puzzles and we chatted. It was a very nice moment. Then she worked on some patterns until Ciaran woke up.

When he woke up they played his new game Cranium Cariboo (a wonderful birthday present he just got from his aunt and uncle). They both love this game and have a good time playing together with it. A fun game for the 3-5 age set and it is an excellent teaching tool as well. I finished making dinner while they headed back outside again.

After dinner we headed out into the yard all together to finish putting together our new gazebo (we had zero shade before) only to realize we were unable to move it by ourselves - so we put it together and will await help to move it to the right location in the yard. The kids played on the swingset while we finished putting it together. Rhiannon and Ciaran took turns pushing Sirah in the baby swing and she loved it!

Then it was bedtime and the kids did pretty good about not fighting us. Storytime and bedtime routine and off to bed. Serona headed downstairs to play his Neverwinter game with some friends online and Sirah and I watched Ronald Reagan: A Legacy Remembered and I worked on the blanket I am making for a friend. I have really found that I am enjoying watching presidential biographies and life histories - they are so interesting. Thankfully between Netflix and our library we have a pretty good selection (though I would not mind owning these).


April 6, 2004

Spring Mornings

We've spent most of the morning outside. The kids started the day outside playing on the swingset until they were cold. Inside for some Phonics Pathways work and playing a really cool opposites game Ciaran got for his birthday. You match two pieces of opposites (one side in English the other side in Spanish) to make a complete picture. I can easily adapt this game to challenge both of the children, since Rhiannon wants to learn Spanish.

Then it was outside again for some bike riding in the driveway. They rode for a long time until they had problems listening to directions - then we went for a nature walk. We went down a pathway near our house and went up and down some hills then ended up stopping by a waters edge to draw a picture in our nature notebooks. After that we headed to a nearby playground and they swung on a tire swing and went down a big slide until Sirah started complaining of the cold.

We headed home for a snack and some reading time. We read a cute Chinese legend on the origins of noodles and another story set in Japan. We read about Earth Day and discussed pollution, reducing, reusing and recycling. Rhiannon drew a map of our neighborhood on a whiteboard and then practiced drawing some of her lowercase letters in her workbook. Ciaran is keeping Sirah enthralled with the "gravity" game, she drops it and he picks it up again. Waffles with fruit for lunch and friends coming over to play this afternoon.

Over lunch Rhiannon sang "My Little Claddaugh Ring" and "When New York was Irish" by Andy Cooney. She also played with and taught Sirah nursery rhymes and fingerplays this morning. Some include: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Where is Thumbkin, Pat-a-cake, So big, This Little Piggy. It was alot of fun to see them play together.


Afternoon Activities

Yesterday in the afternoon we interspersed playing in the yard with a few other learning activities. Rhiannon did a few pages from her Phonics Pathways book and we continued with our short vowel drills. Then she read me a Bob Book and read some words off some flash cards. We worked on our bible memorization and I read her a few books around our XYZ theme of the next two weeks. She did two file folder games (counting money and matching words to pictures) while I played with Sirah. We also began working on telling time - she has the hour down pat - but the minutes is giving her some difficulty (I am thinking of printing out a clock with the number and then the amount that means next to it) and we will keep working on that. She also practiced writing lowercase x,y, and z.

Together Ciaran and Rhiannon played Nature Bingo, a Care Bear game (moving pieces to a matching die) and used their Leap Pad Imagination Desk for the letters X, Y and Z. The rest of the day was spent playing outside.

With temperatures expected to reach nearly 70 here today I believe we will be outside all day.


April 5, 2004

Learning Through Play

We've had a good morning of combining play with learning. Rhiannon decided to make a picture book and some bookmarks for a friend. So she sat at her desk and drew the pictures- occasionally asking me to spell a word or two for her. While she did that Sirah crawled around on the floor and found a variety of things to put into her mouth. I have to remind myself this is how she is learning about her world (I just wish the smallest particles were not the most interesting to her) and not be exasperated. It is actually a lot of fun to watch her learning to crawl. Right now she has this fun crawl that we call a "bear crawl" she crawls on her hands and toes rather than her knees.

Meanwhile Ciaran and I had some special time to work together. First we put together his new Armadillo shaped puzzle I must admit this was a TOUGH puzzle (even I had a hard time with it at first). Then we played our wooden memory matching game for awhile - until we matched all the pairs. As he matched a pair we made the sound if it was an animal and said what letter and sound it started with. Next we played with our Wooden Pattern Puzzleboards. While he worked on this I played with Sirah on the floor while checking his work.

Next we put together his wooden magnetic ABC book. We did each letter and sound and the word together. Occasionally we added another word that started with the letter. He also decided to jump up and collect animals from his animal collection (museum style lifelike hard animals) any animal he had like the panda, and the monkey. Then the animals helped him find and match the pieces. Then he wanted to make a meal so he got out his wooden food cutting kit (ours is a combination of this set and another) and made us all a meal (while I played with Sirah and helped Rhiannon staple her book together).

We finished up our morning playtime with a frog stages of life puzzle . We really like these puzzles as they are challenging and fun. The puzzle is layered with four layers - each one showing a stage in the life development of the animal (we also have the butterfly). I was surprised that Ciaran can do them himself - but he is a determined boy and very good at puzzles.

Off for an afternoon filled with laundry.


More Reasons Not to Watch TV

A recent study reinforces what many parents already know - TV is not good for young children. Here are some of the highlights found in this article :

"Very young children who watch television face an increased risk of attention deficit problems by school age, a study has found, suggesting that TV might overstimulate and permanently 'rewire' the developing brain.

For every hour of television watched daily, two groups of children - aged 1 and 3 - faced a 10 percent increased risk of having attention problems at age 7.

The findings bolster previous research showing that television can shorten attention spans and support American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations that youngsters under age 2 not watch television.

'The truth is there are lots of reasons for children not to watch television. Other studies have shown it to be associated with obesity and aggressiveness' too, said lead author Dr. Dimitri Christakis, a researcher at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle."

While not a purist by any nature we have limited the amount of TV our children watch substantially. As many know we have been a TV (cable and network) free house for the entirety of our marriage (almost 7 years) and I have been TV free for an additional 4 years.
So that does eliminate many of my problems with TV (content, advertising, value system and so on) however we do allow the children to watch pre-selected videos.

We did try very hard to not have them watch much TV before they were 2. We were pretty successful with Rhiannon in this area - Ciaran was exposed to more as his sister watched it. But we still did pretty good. We do allow them to watch about 5 hours of videos(often educational) a week - less in the spring and summer. But after reading this piece I may even cut back.

Periodically we go completely video free for a week at a time. You can read more about our last motivation for video free time in my Banning TV post.

The reality still remains that most often when I allow the kids to watch a video it is for my convenience and not to benefit them. Now with the nice weather it is just as convenient to encourage them to play in our yard and I find the benefits far better than the benefits of TV. Other than a muddy yard and pea gravel in my house to clean up there are no disadvantages to them being outside.

Next time you are tempted to turn the TV on try encouraging outdoor play instead or pick up a book and read it to them. Even as I type this Ciaran came up and asked me to watch a movie - I said no you may play outside. He said "I want to watch a movie" and again I said "No. Go get ready to play outside. " He said okay and trotted off to his room to get ready. Guess we are heading out.


April 2, 2004

Motherly moments

Yesterday Rhiannon came down very suddenly with a fever over 105 and she was miserable. She is okay - it appears to just be a virus (which I now have as well) but she was so miserable last night. She feel asleep quite early for her (as soon as she laid in bed at 8pm) but woke up at about 10pm really sad. I went into her room and gave her some medicine to help bring down her fever which was back up at 105 and she asked me to stay with her. The other kids were asleep so I did.

I brought in my pillows and crocheting and laid on the other end of her bed propped up on pillows. The sickness was just starting to settle on me as well and we were both experiencing alternating chills and sweating. We laid there on opposite ends of the bed and Rhiannon asked me if I would crochet and tell her a story. I rubbed her forehead and back for a few minutes with my cool hand (she was burning up) and then I settled in and started to crochet and tell her made up stories about herself and her siblings with their friends Benkin (a made up character who stars in many of our homemade stories - he is a mouse that helps the children on their adventures that only the kids can see), Winnie the Pooh and all the characters from the Hundred Acre Wood.

I told stories of camping with them and helping Rabbit with spring cleaning and having vegetable soup. They went on walks and help Eyeore rebuild his house. They played Pooh Sticks and enjoyed being all together. The second story I told Rhiannon asked if I could not include Rabbit because he was grumpy and made people do things they did not want to, and always wanted everything his way. We used this as an opportunity to talk about how our friends may feel when we are bossy and always demand our way (a struggle of Rhiannon's she is working through) and different ways we could avoid this.

Then I sang songs to her: twelve Disciples, Jesus Loves Me, TorraLora, You are My Sunshine, The Joy of the Lord, Jesus Loves the Little Children, Amazing Grace, Cumbaya, and a made up song about Rhiannon to name a few. While I sang she tried to sleep and I was working on a blanket. I relay felt like a mom in this moment and it was a special moment - even though we were both pretty miserable and sick.


Sharing Skills

Yesterday several moms from our homeschool support group came over with their kids for a playdate. During the time the kids were outside we were able to talk about some computer skills. I plan to offer a computer skills hands on workshop sometime in May and some of the moms wanted to get a jump start on some things.

We were surrounded by kids yesterday so we were unable to really concentrate. However, I helped each of them set up a blog of their own to keep track of their homeschooling and whatever else they want. In addition we talked about the benefits of Mozilla. I showed them how to download it to their computer and some of the basics of using it. We focused mostly on the tab function and saving bookmarks of several tabs. We talked about how to use this in homeschooling. I also showed them how with Mozilla you have an automatic Google search built right into your address bar.

There was so much more I wanted to share, but it will need to wait until we don't have kids running at our feet. It was nice to be able to share what I could. This group of women has given me so much already - I am glad to be able to help them in some small way. That is one of the benefits of a support group - everyone has different skills that they are able to share and offer and that makes the group so much stronger.


April 1, 2004

Phonics Games

Last night we played some phonics games and had a good time. We play several different games with our floor alphabet mat - the big foam interlocking pieces one. We play an alphabet match game where I hand each of the kids small letter books that we have (uppercase on front, lowercase on back and several pictures that start with the letters as pages) and they have to put the book on the corresponding letter. Ciaran matches upper case and Rhiannon matches lowercase to uppercase. After all the letters have been matched they sing their ABC song while they clean them up and then put them in box. Another variation we play with this game is to take a variety of items and have them place them on the letter that matches the beginning or ending or vowel sound in the word.

Another game we play is Phonics Jumping. One way to play this is to make a sound and have them jump to the right letter. Another way we play is to say the letter and have them jump to it and make the sound. Still another way we play it is to say a word and then they have to jump to each letter in the word. Rhiannon especially enjoys this game.

Another game we play with this mat is color match - I have them jump to all the blue squares - or shout out a color and they need to jump there. This is especially nice when Ciaran is getting frustrated with all the phonics work - which is hard for him. It is nice for him to have something that is easy for him. Using the mat allows me to work with both of them at the same time and do things that are easy and hard for each of them. I can often lead two separate games - or modify the same game to meet both of their needs.