Friday, January 29, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday

1. I think 2 1/2 (the golden age of NO) is just easier the 6th time around. Ten years ago, when Mxyl said, "NO!", he was challenging my parental authority and rejecting me as a good mother. Now, Oob says, "NO!", and this little person is just trying to assert himself in the great big world. Neither of them get the cookie before dinner, of course, but I'm just more compassionate with Oob and I don't take it personally (sorry, Mxyl!). My favorite thing Oob says is, "Nokay."

2. Choclo is the most polite disobedient child ever. He never says, "NO!" It's always, "No, thank you." As in (Me), "Choclo! Get in bed! NOW!" Choclo, sidling away with a very polite tone, "No, thank you, Mommy." Must. not. take it. personally.

3. Why spend money on pricey math manipulatives? On a hunch, I gave a head of garlic to Choclo. He spent an unbelievable amount of time removing the papery husks and separating and counting the cloves. Now he is counting them into (and pouring out of) a jar. His comment? "Smells good!"

4. Mxyl is headed out for the Polar Bear Plunge! He will be camping out in 20 degree weather and then take a refreshing dip in the Chesapeake Bay on Saturday, probably during a snow storm. These Boy Scouts are rugged! It's for a great cause, though, Special Olympics. If you'd like to sponsor him for $1 to $5, you can do it here. All the money goes to Special Olympics!

5. I am feeling a bit sheepish. I have had a bad cold for the last two weeks. Finally, the Emperor insisted that I go to the doctor. Dr B. gave me on an antibiotic.

Then he said, "Here's what I think happened, some days you would feel wiped out, so you would rest. The next day you would feel better and try to catch up on all the stuff you didn't do while you rested, and the next day you would feel wiped out. Every day you told yourself, 'I think I'm getting better.'"

I think I sat there with my mouth open. Is he psychic?

No. He has 11 kids himself, and has carefully observed his wife.

6. I got the guest room cleaned! No picture of that room, because I forgot to lock the door. Within 12 hours, Choclo and Oob found the bag of compressed gerbil bedding (pine shavings). What fun! The filled the little coffee maker. They filled the shower. They merrily strewed the rugs. They pulled out the drawers and the bins on the shelves. The entire room now smells very, very fresh. As fresh as a Carolina pine forest... Isn't it remarkable how much they can compress into those little bags? But, I noticed when I downloaded the pictures, someone took pictures of the kitchen! Thanks.

7. Here's a happy picture of Leena. Ordinarily, I 'm always trying to get pictures of the kids smiling, but every so often, I ask them to look angry, sad, silly, scared, scary, and so on. They love to ham it up, and I get pictures of all the different ways they looked. We choose the 8 best pictures, label them, print them on one sheet (wallet size) and save them in their "Not Scrapbooking" binder. Often we get pictures we weren't trying for, "You look hungry! You look tired! You look like Popeye!" I'll post some later!

More with Jen!

Monday, January 25, 2010


It was a dark and stormy night. A shout rang out, "My bed is wet!"

This is not what you want to hear at 10:30 pm, when you are just getting to bed.

Upon investigation, the bottom bunk, and only the bottom bunk, was soaking wet. Not a leak in the roof, then. The child in question was just getting into bed (very, very late). Not a leak in a kid, then.

A shocking discovery: the fish tank next to the bed is disconnected and empty!! No, not quite empty, both fish are miraculously alive in about half an inch of water on the bottom.

Conclusion: Choclo is in serious trouble.

But... how could he possibly have done it? The tank itself would have been too heavy for him to tip over, and, even if he had managed it, he would not have righted it. Besides, the space between the fish tank and the bed was dry.

We gave up, put Mxyl in the recently cleaned guest room, refilled the fish tank, and went to bed puzzled.

The next morning, we resumed our investigation. Choclo, upon close questioning, yielded a clue. "The fish tank was bad! The fish tank splashed me again and again!"

Leena added another clue, "Choclo told me [in a clandestine, illegal, after bedtime conversation] he was wet, and I felt him, and he was."

Mxyl put it all together. Choclo had crept out of the top bunk into the lower bunk, disconnected the air tube, and sucked on it. This created a siphon effect, causing a gallon and a half of water to spurt out all over him (and the bed)! Bad fish tank indeed.

Case closed!

Anyone know how to dry out a mattress?

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Klenda!


Klenda decided to have a party where everyone could have the most fun possible. She planned out: Ultimate Fun Blocks! She divided the kids into 5 teams and planned out 5 activities that they would rotate through: 1. Wii Sports Resort, 2. Lego or American Girl websites, 3. Peggle, 4. Foozball, 5. cake decorating. Each team decorated a mini cake and then we combined them to form a number 11. Everyone had a fantastic time!

Happy Birthday, my sweet and thoughtful 11!
I'm so glad to have you as my sous chef!
I'm so glad to have you as my tea buddy!
I'm so happy to have you as my daughter!
May God bless you and fill you with joy!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Busy Busy

It's been a crazy week and I've had a bad cold/sore throat/laryngitis. I wonder why, with all the colds the kids get, why don't they ever lose their voices?

At any rate, I've been working and resting a lot this week which doesn't leave a lot of time to blog.

We put in some new (matching!) book cases in the living room. I think this completes the overhaul of that room (which started with getting new couch covers). Here are some shots of the final result.

We then did a massive overhaul of the exercise/storage/Lego/robot/game room. We put the old bookcases in there and now have enough room for everyone's stuff, plus enough extra to box in! Not pretty, but practical.

I'm still working on the guest room, with the dreaded homeschool room looming on the horizon!

Wednesday was someone's birthday!!! And we had two parties that day (which somewhat explains the snow theme). She'll have a separate post coming up.

And today is the March for Life. The Emperor, who founded the Maryland chapter of Democrats for Life, is going, along with Mxyl, Klenda, and Zorg. This is Zorg's first year, and they are all very excited! They spent quite a bit of time making signs this morning. They all wanted "Former Fetuses for Life" on one side, and then they each came up with their own slogan on the back. I'll try to get a picture when they get home.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Day in the Life

I've been thinking for a while of doing a day log for those who are curious about how we do what we do. So far, no "normal" days have turned up, so I'll talk about today.

If I get up at 5:15, I can pray, do some exercise, get myself ready and get the kids up at 6.

I actually got up at 6(!) prayed while getting ready (we pray the Liturgy of the Hours which is, essentially, all the psalms and a whole lot of scripture spread out over the year). We got the kids up around 6:30. Sort of. This part got messy as some kids got ready right away, then drifted into books or play and other kids didn't get ready but followed the example of the others.

Fridays are "kid's choice day," so we planned the day over breakfast when we finally had everyone there (we finished about 8:00 which is an hour late for us).

They decided to:
read the library books for English,
do computer games for math,
do experiments for science (several kids got science kits for Christmas),
watch Liberty's Kids for social studies,
take a hike for PE since the weather was warming.

I also told them the things that needed doing:
fold and put away laundry,
put away the dozens of books in boxes in the library,
make bread,
clean the kitchen,
take out the trash, and
bathe Oob and Choclo.

I also intended to do more mailbox reading with Choclo,
clean up the Christmas detritus in the guest room, and maybe make some phone calls.

We started with chores! The kids and I divvied things up.
I gathered trash while giving direction and assistance.
Everyone put away 10 books in the library.
Zorg managed the dishwasher while Klenda and Mxyl made bread, Leena cleared the table, and I assisted the Lil Guys (Choclo and Oob).
Mxyl cleaned the kitchen while Zorg and Leena handled the laundry; Klenda bathed the Lil guys while I finished up the library and provided direction and assistance.
I'm sure the dining room and kitchen got swept in there also.

We were done about 9, and I let kids go read as they finished up their jobs. I was last because I was helping clothe the Lil Guys who were reluctant to leave the bath, let alone wear anything afterward. I then snuggled with the Lil Guys and a stack of board books.

Around 10, we pulled ourselves out of the books. I turned the older four loose on their science kits, left the Lil guys playing in the living room, and made an attempt at the guest room.

Right about the time for the first complaint from the older kids (Choclo and Oob getting into their experiments), I discovered that Choclo and Oob had never opened their Christmas stockings! Taking the better part of valor, I skipped the candy and handed them their little toys instead: a wooden locomotive for Oob (which he used on the piano keyboard for quite some time), and a friction tractor for Choclo (which he played with quietly on a different floor!).

Around the time the Lil Guys tired of their toys, it was 10:30, time for me to make lunch. Choclo and Oob, tired of being ignored (and getting hungry) started squabbling over the step stool. Someone got sent to their room in tears. I made spaetzle while coaching the older kids to finish up the science and clear the table. Oob sang the Bob the Builder song over and over, just in case I might forget that he would really like to watch Bob the Builder right now! Zorg told me that if anyone ever wanted to eat him, he would have them eat his hands first because he would be able to get a robot hand, and, also, he would put poison on his hands.

The kids set the table with some direction and we sat down to eat at 11:00, right on schedule. We discussed current technology in robot arms and the possibility of being able to control a prosthesis with your mind. Then we decided where to hike.

After we cleaned up, we piled in the car and spent a lovely two hours wandering about in the woods. It was probably more nature study than hike. It may have been more, "Let's poke things with sticks" than "nature study." At any rate, it was the end of the cold spell and the woods held that austere beauty of warm winter days.

We came back and watched the first two episodes of Liberty's Kids, which turned out to be excellent. Then the kids did whatever while the Lil Guys watched Bob the Builder and I worked on the guest room and then blogged my squid stuff.

Just like that it was 3:30, the Emperor came home and it was time to make dinner!

I didn't get to the math computer games. I probably should have done that instead of the science since we were doing the hike and tonight is robot night (everyone builds robots or snap circuits). I also didn't get to do the reading game with Choclo. I spent a lot of time on the hike, and then he was too overstimulated to try it. I would have done the hike the same way again, however, because a warm January day is rare, we all needed the exercise, and the exposure to the beauty of the woods is something I consider very valuable. I'd like to do a separate blog on that, and show off the pictures!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday

The Squid Fact Edition
(Why? Because I like squids. And my kids like squids.
Also, I think squids are proof that God is waaaaaay more creative than we ever imagine.)

1. Giant squids have green blood because their blood is built around a copper instead of iron.

2. Giant squids smell like cleaning fluid because they are full of ammonia. This makes them float if they don't swim (as opposed to the little ammonia-free squids which sink). It also makes them taste really bad. Just say NO to giant calamari. Interestingly, giant squids' major predators are sperm whales. These whales have no taste buds, so the ammonia doesn't bother them.

3. Squids, like octopus, can change the color, pattern, and the texture of their skin! Even better, many squids have bioluminescence: they can make their patterns light up in different colors. They are even able to change from bright pin points of light to a diffuse glow. Some squids seem to actually produce enough "wattage" to make their own search light!

4. Squids have no backwards or forwards. They can rapidly move by jet propulsion in any direction. They pull water in to their mantle, then shoot it out through their funnel.

5. Squids have the largest nerve cells in the animal kingdom. They are actually used as a model to study the human nervous system. These giant nerve cells give squids the fastest reaction time in the animal kingdom!

6. When squids swallow, their food passes straight through their brain. It's a hazard of having your head in the middle, I guess. Their brain is shaped like a doughnut, and the esophagus goes through the middle.

7. Squids are immune to nerve gas. No kidding! Researchers noticed that squids have the unique enzymes needed to break down the components of nerve gas, so they gassed a squid, and the squid was fine.

Extra bonus: You can make a life size model of a giant squid and hang it on your ceiling! But then, people will think you are nuts.

More quick takes (but probably not more squid) with Jen!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What Would You be Willing to Do

To get six loads of laundry done without scolding, nagging, or being personally involved?

Would you be willing to draw scars on your kids with markers and call them laundarrrrrry pirates?

Would you be willing to dig into your long forgotten stash of candy corn to provide appropriate booty?

I'm not saying I am such a mom, just that, if I were, it would be totally worth it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Choclo is Reading!!!

I got two of these little mailboxes from Target's dollar section. Unfortunately the doors aren't hinged like the one in the picture, but they pop on and off easily enough.

I cut up a piece of poster paper into sizes that would fit into the mailboxes (I suspect index cards would be easier, but I didn't have them). I wrote simple words on each card: cat, sat, mom, dad, on, in, hat, pot, pop, you get the idea.

I put one into the mailbox and put up the flag. Choclo siezed it, shook it around and sang, "We just got a letter..." (Thank you Blues Clues!). Then he opened it, spun the card around a few times, and sounded out the word (c...a...t). He then asked me what it said, I sounded out the word exactly as he had done and he then announced, "It says, 'cat!'" We did this over and over and over. We started stringing the words into sentences like, "Choclo sat on Mom." Key: we stopped before he was tired of it. Stopping before they want to stop is a fantastic tool in teaching reading (or anything else).

Eventually he will get tired of spinning the card and sounding it out slowly and asking me to repeat him. Right now that's part of the game, but probably for only a few days. And then... Bob Books!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Favorite Book

For home schooling: Hot Fudge Monday:Tasty Ways to Teach Parts of Speech to Students Who Have a Hard Time Swallowing Anything to Do with Grammar.

By the way, I never get paid to recommend anything, and I had to buy the book myself (alas)!

I got this one from the Emperor. I have actually graded assignments from this book for quite a few years (from his high school classes), and I always find myself slowing down to read them because they are so fun!

Teaching writing has always been interesting with us. Both the Emperor and I are (or, in my case, have been) professional writers. We both love to write. We also can see that a lot of the early writing in classrooms is forced misery. Misery because kids have to write a great deal before they naturally develop fine motor skills. Forced because there really doesn't seem to be a way to get evidence of learning from 25 or 30 kids unless they can write stuff.

At home, you have luxury of using other assessment tools. I can have a kid read a book and give an oral report. I can do a unit on Egyptian history and have the kids create and explain a diorama which will tell me how much they learned. I can have kids create and put on a skit that explains the parts and functioning of cells (they used a sheet as the membrane and had themselves pop out as different organelles ready to explain their role in the cell).

This means I can teach them letter formation and basic writing at the usual time, but I can wait until they have the physical dexterity before asking them to write lengthy passages. So far, I only have two kids who can easily write more than a page, but they write amazingly well! By that I mean their writing is interesting, their mechanics (grammar, punctuation, and spelling) are remarkable for their age (OK, our spelling varies by child, but Bookworm Adventures has helped a lot!), and, best of all, they are developing a sense of style.

So, how do you transition from "not writing a lot" to "loves writing pages and pages?" My answer has been "motivation." Hot Fudge Monday has this in spades! Personally, I find the assignments hilarious. Use pirate talk to teach interjections! Rewrite caveman dialogue to show the use of prepositions! Best of all, many of them are invitations to write stories. You are the chicken about to cross the road: describe your run to glory! Don't forget to explain why you did it!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Seven Quick Takes Friday

The Parenting/Parents/Squid Edition

1. Oob is a really-o truly-o 2 1/2. You can tell because when you call his name, he answers with a cheerful, "NO!"

2. Here's an easy way to learn to control your temper. Whenever I raise my voice, Choclo pleads, "Please don't be angry, Mommy!" in a voice which sounds as if I have been beating him with chains. It's a good reminder for me that words can hurt, too.

3. Through an odd confluence of medical issues, we are in the throes of potty training Choclo and Oob at the same time. My feelings on this are not helped by the fact that Choclo constantly tells me that he is 8 years old (especially since it does feel like he's been potty training for 8 years). You might think having lots of kids makes you an expert. Nope. It just means you've survived. I did find Jen's most recent post absolutely hilarious and very encouraging!

4. I loved our visit to my folks so much, but I am really enjoying my programmable thermostat. It's easy to forget what heating the house with coal involves. If you've only done a wood fire, all I can say is that coal is much harder to start, tricky to keep going, and very, very heavy. But it is way warmer than wood, and, once you have the skill, you can keep it going over night.

5. Have I mentioned that my parents are rugged? They are. They don't have a dishwasher!! I remember begging them (as a kid) to get a dishwasher. Every single time my Mom would look at me quizzically and ask, "Why? I already have three dishwashers?" (meaning my brother, sister and me). Have I mentioned that I am now spoiled? I am.

6. Just in case I'm making it sound like my parents are Luddites, they also have laptops and cell phones. And indoor plumbing. And quirky senses of humor.

7. Speaking of quirky, I got 3 great book for Christmas: Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow, and The Search for the Giant Squid by Richard Ellis. Which reminds me, If you've noticed that squids can move with equal speeds backward and forward, I'm sure you've wondered how squids can shoot forward with their legs all pointed stiffly in front of them. I mean, going "backwards" their legs trail behind them, sure, but forwards? It turns out they can stick their suckers together like snaps! How cool is that? I'll have to do a whole post (or two) about all the cool stuff I'm learning about squid.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Week of Mondays

Monday I: The Emperor goes back to school. I consider our usual Monday schedule and decide we'd better ease into things. We go light on the seat work and put away a lot of Christmas stuff.
Score: Kids: Very Happy Mom: Very Tired but Satisfied

Monday II: We run our usual Monday schedule. Much whining ensues. But we end up getting a lot done.
Score: Kids: Moderately Happy Except for Those Who Have Forgotten Everything They Ever Knew About Long Division Mom: Very Tired

Monday III: First day back to co-op, do you remember where your back pack is? Everyone has a great time, but the vital trip to Target I tack on to the end was really pushing it.
Score: Kids: Very Happy Mom: Very Tired but Happy

Monday IV: All set for back to normal... and someone has a fever. I jettison the schedule and decide that if we can get the thank you notes done and the floor swept and the most vital e mails out and everyone is still alive when the Emperor returns, I shall consider it a triumph.

Guess what? I did all that and blogged!!! I think I'll have one of the kids walk behind me for the rest of the day, whispering, "Remember, thou art mortal!"
Score: Kids: Very Happy Mom: Very Happy and Kinda Tired

Moral of the Story: I think part of being happy while home schooling (especially when you are going through a rough patch) is recognizing what you have done instead of thinking of what you wanted to do.

Some days it does feel like the most you've managed is to keep the kids from killing each other. Guess what? Teaching them to get along is something they will use more often than long division (we hope). In school, they call those affective goals.

Oh, and be sure to teach them long division. Again.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy 2010!

We had a lovely little party - lots of fancy snacks!

We watched Cirque de Soleil: Dralion.

We counted down to midnight (in Rio de Janero).

We watched the fireworks from Sydney Australia:

And then we went to bed!