Archive for August 2009

Says It All

August 30, 2009

7 Quick Takes v. 4

August 28, 2009

7_quick_takes1. Last Saturday I went to the library to pick up our history books for the next few weeks.  As I was looking through the DK Visual Dictionary of Ancient Civilizations, I became less and less content with the  history sequence I had copied out of  The Well-Trained Mind.  I felt like there were some gaps, and it felt a little disjointed like many school textbooks.  So, I decided to revamp my entire history sequence.  I added certain civilizations that were overlooked originally, and I made a note of key terms or concepts that I wanted to get across about each one.

I decided that I wanted to start our Ancient History year by talking about Creation:  Genesis 1, creation myths from other cultures, the geological history of the earth, and Big Bang theory.  I also wanted to include more correspondence with Old Testament history to show how the Bible reflects the history of Mesopotamian culture.  In First Grade, I don’t really expect Bailey to understand Big Bang Theory (who really does anyway) or who the Akkadians were.  I just want to make her aware of certain terms and underlying ideas.  I want to plant seeds that might  grow over the course of the next few years.  However, once I completely revamp my Ancient History Outline I can reuse it in later years for more in-depth study.

2.  So all of these last-minute history changes occurred two days before the start of our homeschooling semester.  Our first day went great.  We easily got through all of our planned lessons (plus a little extra math), and I got all of my scheduled chores done as well as sorted and boxed outgrown clothing.  Bailey wasn’t keen on Tuesday’s catechism lesson, and the All Things Catholic Cards took quite a bit of time on Thursday.  I may have to tweak our religious education work.  Otherwise we got everything done.  Well, we still have today’s math lesson but that will probably wait until after dinner since we have to head for the dentist’s office in a little bit.  And I confirmed my suspicion that things run more smoothly if I avoid the internet until after all of our work is done (unless it’s part of our work, of course.)

3.  I believe it is really important to leave plenty of time for play and self-discovery as part of the homeschooling life-style.  And when those two things naturally converge into something educational, it is always so cool.  Tuesday Piper (almost 4) asked to do one of our floor puzzles about space.  Once we finished putting it together, I offered to tell her a little bit about each planet.  “Hold on, ” she said.  “Let me get a piece of paper so I can take notes.”  Well, she came back with paper and a crayon.  As I pointed out each planet, she copied down each name from the puzzle.  She started to peter out around Uranus and wrote the last few backwards (she was looking at the puzzle upside down at the time), but it was a blessing to be able to engage her natural curiosity and desire to learn.  That’s homeschooling at its best.

4.  Of course, I need to try to remember this when one of the kids wants to take their curiosity and desire to learn in directions that I do not want to go.  What started out as a vocabulary lesson about how the Greek word photos means light and is incorporated in English words that refer to light, Bailey decided to turn it into a full-scale study of light.  She started becoming obsessed with the idea, deciding that she had to write some sort of a report about it.  I think she was really less interested in learning about light and more interested in having something to make a production of learning about.  At least that’s how I justified putting her off.  I think this confirms that I do not have the temperament to be a full-blown unschooler.

5.  I have several posts in my archives about trying out cloth diapering.  I realized that I hadn’t written anything in awhile, so I felt that a small update was in order.  I stopped using them about six months ago.  Around mid-March our lives became very hectic.  The cloth diapers started getting used less and less as we were home less and less.  Then as Katie turned one she needed fewer diaper changes, especially if she was wearing disposables.  After about four-months of non-use I decided I was tired of them taking up space in the kitchen, so I boxed all my cloth diapering supplies up and put them away.

Were they worth what I payed?  Yes and no.  They certainly got us through some very tight financial spots over the winter.  It was nice not to have to shell out big bucks for disposables every week when Katie was going through a lot of them.  Now, though, we can get by with one $6 pack from Aldi a week.  I probably did not get back the money I invested, but they will probably earn their money back if we have a fourth child.  Cloth diapering is one of those things that really saves the most money if you use them with successive children.

6  Recently my husband and I discovered the yummy goodness that is Nancy’s Italian sausage pizza.  I’m not usually a huge fan of sausage pizza, but their Italian sausage is just delicious.  We received a mini-menu attached to our pizza box, and I found so many things there I would love to try from their Italian Sausage Sandwich to their Spinach Salad.  Mmmm.  So many delicious options, only so much money.

7.  There’s a beat up index card pinned to my bulletin board that includes two phone numbers and strange names, and last night my husband asked if it could be thrown away.  Then I explained what it was.  See, we have had multiple issues over the past few years with Comcast repair people showing up hours late for a repair appointment or not showing up at all without so much as a message.  After about the fiftieth time in a three day period of calling the main Comcast number and getting through to a service center in another state and having to repeat our entire story to the fiftieth representative, I somehow managed to score the direct phone for the Comcast dispatcher in our area.  This index card holds the names and phone numbers for the local dispatcher and a senior technician.  As long as we have Comcast cable it will never be thrown away.  It is more valuable than gold.

Explode the Code Online

August 24, 2009

As I mentioned in a previous post, we did a last minute switch in our homeschooling plans to use Explode the Code Online.   The Explode the Code workbook series had been recommended as a fit for Bailey’s learning style, but I had never felt compelled to look into purchasing it.  Then I found out that there was a new on-line version and just started casually checking it out.  The more I learned the more I felt that this would really be something good for Bailey, but the price was a bit steep.  Plus, I already had our plans made for the semester.  But I kept thinking about it and thinking about it.  Finally, I had Bailey watch the video demonstration with me to see if she even seemed interested at all, and she got really excited.  That decided it for me.  In the first two days of having the program set up, Bailey completed 40 units and played for 68 minutes.

Overall, we really like it so far.  My biggest complaint is that there are a lot of things that you have to kind of figure out on your own after you purchase it.  For instance, the video demo only tells you a little bit about two of the four buttons a child can earn for completing a unit: the butterfly and the bee.  The four buttons (paper airplane, butterfly, ladybug, and bee) correspond with four levels of mastery (advanced, proficient, basic, and below basic).  [The whole thing kind of reminds me of the O.W.L. grading system in Harry Potter.]  Another piece of important information they forget to tell you is that the program doesn’t just monitor completion speed, but it also grades according to it.  The child earns a butterfly if she gets every question correct, but she can only earn a paper airplane if she is correct and fast.

There is also a “Fun” button that the child can earn each day after completing a certain number of units and/or amount of time as determined by the administrator/teacher.  This is obviously designed to keep students in a classroom setting from trying to get too far ahead or sitting around being bored and disruptive once their work is finished for the day.  The “Fun” button basically takes the child to a list of links to other websites with games.  Some of the links were ones we already visit frequently like Noggin and Disney, but there are some new ones that Bailey is having fun exploring.  There’s a mix of educational and non-educational websites.

There are also more exercises than what the demo shows.  As Bailey explained to me, some include copy-work; she reads the word, clicks on the matching picture, and then types the word.  There is an exercise that works kind of like a spelling test or bee, too.  Another exercise includes a list of words that must be matched with one picture at time.  So, there is enough variation on the theme to keep it interesting.

Being unfamiliar with the Explode the Code workbooks, it’s taking me a while to get a grasp on just how well Bailey is doing so far.  I learned that there are eight workbooks, but I wasn’t really sure how relevant that was to the on-line version.  However, the on-line version basically follows the scope and sequence of the workbooks.  I think the online version has the advantage over the workbooks due to automated feedback.  It can automatically tell when a child needs more practice on a skill or can skip to the next level.    For instance, after Bailey earned a paper airplane for unit 5 of lesson 4 in book 1, the program automatically skipped her to unit 7 of that lesson.  The computer can customize in a way that a teacher/parent may not be able.

I originally thought that Bailey could probably start somewhere around Book 3.  After discussing it with her, though, we decided to start from the beginning.  Actually, the program started with the assessment for Lessons 1-4 of Book 1 rather than the “beginning”.  I’m glad we did this for two reasons.  First of all, as with any new computer game/program there’s a certain adjustment period as you figure out the controls and the rules.  For instance, the first day Bailey earned several butterflies instead of paper airplanes because we didn’t understand about the whole speed issue, so she kept walking away between questions to tell me things about the program without using the “pause” button.

Secondly, Bailey is learning a very important lesson that has nothing to do with Phonics.  She’s always had a tendency to look for short cuts in her work.  Especially when it has come to reading, she has been very sloppy, often making wild guesses about what a word was rather than taking the time to sound it out.  In math she looks for patterns and assumes she knows the answer based on what the previous ones were.  Well, it is coming back to bite her on this program.  She’s earned three or four bees where she’s completely bombed the unit because she didn’t pay attention to the directions; she just rushed into the exercise without really looking to see what she was supposed to do.  This was a real problem during the initial assessment, so the program really did put her back at the beginning.  A little review won’t hurt her, though, and it is well worth it if she learns the importance of thoroughly reading and following directions.

I’m still trying to dig through the myriads of information in the student summary report.  There are graphs that show her Quality of Unit Completions (how many of each type of button she’s earned) and her Progression Pattern,  as well as a chart showing her performance and a skill description for each Lesson she’s worked on in that workbook.  I can also get an even more detailed break down of each lesson by clicking on the skill description.  There’s a similar page for each workbook, or I can track her overall progress and performance level for the entire series.  There’s also a Usage Calendar so you can see at a glance how many days your child has worked with the program, and you can click on a date to see a “comprehensive daily session report” for that day.

I can also see how Bailey is stacking up compared to the California State Standards (they plan to include other state standards in the future).  On one hand I am leery of “state standards”.  On the other hand, it’s kind of reassuring to get an objective assessment of Bailey’s reading skills.  She’s pretty much where I figured, and where she would need to be to get by in school.  She’s proficient at the majority of Kindergarten reading skills.  She’s struggled a little bit with 3 of the 7 First Grade tasks that she’s tried so far, but as she is just starting First Grade I wouldn’t expect proficiency in everything yet anyway.  Surprisingly, though, she is kicking butt when it comes to spelling.  She even has shown advanced performance with Second Grade spelling tasks.

I do wish that a more detailed scope and sequence for each workbook, lesson, and unit was available without going into change the settings.  Otherwise I’m really happy with the program and I think it was the right fit for my daughter.  We’ll see how much she accomplishes in the next year before our subscription runs out.  Right now I only plan to require two sessions a week, but I have it set up where she can access it whenver she wants.  I think the “Fun” button adds an extra enticement since she has already found several new websites that she can only access through Explode the Code, and her access to them resets each day.

7 Quick Takes (v. 3)

August 21, 2009

7_quick_takes1.  There’s been some debate since my 7 Quick Takes last week as to whether Piper’s invented word is “ploomp” or “ploop” without the ‘m’.  I had debated myself about it.  I think though that she uses both terms interchangeably.  At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

2. I remember reading in the Tightwad Gazette the suggestion that a housewife should work as many hours at home as her husband works at his job.  Well, since his work load has been lighter this summer, I’m afraid I have given myself a lighter load, too, and it shows.  This week my husband went back to work assisting with the New Faculty Orientation.  I thought it would be a good time to try to get the house in order before we start our semester on Monday.  So, I put together a three-page list of “Deep Clean” tasks, and I’m also trying to integrate an updated daily chore schedule.

Between a diaper leak and the usual First-Day-Back-at-Work pandemonium, Katie and I were up at 6:00 in the morning on Monday.  I got quite a bit accomplished, though.  It probably helped that I knew if I sat down for very long I would probably pass out from exhaustion.  Sometimes it’s better just to keep moving.  Our house isn’t sparkling by any means  (hello, home all day with three kids), but after a week of intensive scrubbing at least it’s not full of scary funk anymore.  I hope I can keep it at a manageable level.

3. From time to time we’ve had a small ant problem in our house.  Since I’ve actually been keeping the kitchen floor clean this week, the little ants have found another food supply somewhere.  However, now we have a huge ant problem.  In the past two days, we’ve had these gigantic black ants appearing.  It’s like someone took the little ants and put them on steroids and crack.  Besides being four times the size of a normal ant, they are also extremely fast.  They keep scurrying to and from the water heater closet, but I don’t understand why.  There are plenty of openings there where the pipes go in and out of the walls and floor, but I don’t know what suddenly made them decide that our kitchen was the place to be.  The first few were shown some leniency and gently set out on the back deck, but after the third or fourth one I started running out of mercy.

4. We got busted by the Po-Po, or at least the Illinois Tollway.  They decided that we skipped the Plaza 35-Cermak Rd Toll Booth one too many times.  Three strikes over the course of a year, and we’re out $62.40.  The $2.40 is for the actual missed tolls; the $60 consists of three $20 fines (one for each offense).  That’s just what our already depleted pocket book needed.

Obviously, we did not intend to skip the toll booth.  We obviously hit all of the other ones on the way to and from Wisconsin.  There’s just something about that particular one, though.  It always sneaks up on us for some reason to where we can’t safely get over to the toll ramps.  I kind of wonder since we’ve missed that exact one three times if that particular toll area is a problem for other people, too.

My husband is ticked off that they waited until three offenses to send out a ticket.  He thinks that if we had been fined after the first time we might have been more conscientious about stopping.  I don’t know; he may be right.  We could consider getting an I-Pass, but I’m not really keen on voluntarily allowing the government to track my car.  I guess we will be more vigilant and see about paying missed tolls on-line before a fine accrues if necessary.

5.  We have a Comcast repair person who lives in one of the other townhomes in our section.  Every day we can tell when he’s come home from work because we hear the beep!beep!beep! of him backing in to the parking area right outside our living room window.  The first few times we thought it was the alarm on the refrigerator warning us that the door isn’t closed…only much louder.    My husband and I have started keeping track of what time we hear the beeping each day in case he ever needs an alibi.

6. We normally only use about a 1/2 pound of hamburger a week, if that.  I really hate to buy more than we need, and my husband will not touch anything that involves frozen hamburger.  Well, a couple weeks ago I got this crazy idea that if I went to the meat counter at the grocery and asked they might wrap me up the exact amount of ground beef I need.  I had very vague memories of my mother doing this when I was a child, but I was a little unsure.  So, I found my courage and tried it.  Guess what?  It worked.  Not only did I get the correct amount, but it was half the cost of the pre-packaged pound I would have normally purchased.  Who knew that those guys in the white coats who wander around the meat department could be so helpful?

7.  Last Saturday I came across the television movie Degrassi Goes Hollywood.  I used to watch “Degrassi:  The Next Generation” fairly regularly, but I hadn’t watched it in awhile.  I was confused about a few things in the movie because I had missed some episodes.  For instance, what is the history between Manny and Jay?  Wikipedia to the rescue!!  So, as I read through all of the episode summaries, I had a shocking revelation.

See, my husband was a big fan of the original Degrassi series in the 80’s.  We had even borrowed the entire original series from the library a few years ago and watched them all.  One of his favorite characters was Caitlin, who also appeared on some Next Generation episodes.  Well, it turns out the character’s last name is Ryan; Caitlin Ryan.  Our youngest daugther is named Katelyn Ryan.  I realized that my husband subconsciously named our daughter after a character on Degrassi Junior High.

I don’t know why I am that surprised; he consciously named our oldest daughter after Bailey on “WKRP in Cincinnati“.  (Piper was not named after one of the sisters on “Charmed”, but her middle name came from a Jimmy Buffett song.)  He suggested that if we ever have a son we can name the kid after his other favorite Degrassi character, Joey Jeremiah.  Of course, since Joey and Caitlin were constantly breakin’ up and makin’ up that could just be a little gross to have a brother and sister named after the Degrassi super-couple.

Big Plans for the Fall

August 17, 2009

Next Monday, as DH heads back to the classroom, we’ll be starting our fall semester of homeschooling.  It’s taken quite a bit more work to coordinate this time around for a variety of reasons.  First of all, Bailey sincerely asked to include more science experiments (although I think the more accurate term is “demonstrations”).  This is way outside my comfort zone, so I’ve been doing a lot of organization to include this.  Secondly, after reassessing her learning style, I started looking for some more hands-on learning materials.  Third, after reading The Well-Trained Mind, I felt inspired to add a dab of history and logic to our schedule.  Fourth, after much discussion and debate, DH and I decided not to send her to Religious Education classes at our parish but to do religious instruction at home as well (with the blessing of our wonderful Director of Religious Education).

As usual our main focus is math and reading/vocabulary.  We will continue to use the Singapore Primary Mathematics series four days a week (M, T, R, F), finishing up level 1A and then moving on to level 1B.  On Mondays I plan to incorporate one English from the Roots Up card per week and have Bailey put together a Roots Up binder.  Each page will include a Greek or Latin root and its meaning written by her own hand along with pictures drawn to represent the root’s meaning.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays we were going to use  Singapore’s Word Study 1; however, just last week I discovered Explode the Code On-line.  It seemed perfect for Bailey.  It was $55 for a one-year subscription (add that to my tally), but to see her get excited to learn to read was priceless.  As soon as we got it set up, she played for an hour.  I figure I’ll plan on two 20-minute sessions a week for when her interest wanes.  We’ll save the Word Study 1 for another semester.  In the meantime, I now have to go through and scratch out”Word Study” and write in “Explode the Code” on every page.  Oh, well…

Just the idea of doing the science demonstrations makes me nervous, so it would be very easy to conveniently run out of time to do them if they were tacked with work that I felt was more important.  So, I set aside Wednesdays for science demonstrations gleaned from Janice Van Cleave’s 201 Awesome, Magical, Bizarre, and Incredible Experiments. I thought that would also be a good day to incorporate a short history “lesson” following the history/biography scope and sequence recommend in The Well-Trained Mind and using books available at our local library.  We’ll round out our Wednesday’s by doing Mind Benders logic puzzles, starting with Beginning Book 1

With so many things to juggle, I decided to write out a weekly lesson plan for the first time.  I developed my own schedule sheet using Excel (I Heart Excel!):

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First of all you will notice that I just listed things like “Singapore Math” and “History” rather than specific pages or lesson numbers.  I wanted to keep it fairly flexible in case we missed a few days, needed to spend more more time on something, or worked through faster than expected.  Each of these subjects has its own sequence page where I just check off each completed lesson in order.  The science demonstrations are more specific for each week, with notes about any special materials I might need.  Secondly, I have left Fridays fairly open.  Once our math is done I plan to use Fridays as make-up days, and if we have nothing to catch up on then I’m putting together a list of extra learning activities (flash cards, charades for reading practice, etc).

As part of our religious education, I’ve picked at least one saint feast date to celebrate each week.  We’ll read a little about the saint, perhaps add a prayer card to our key ring for Mass, and do a coloring page.  I even have a few recipes we can use to celebrate.  On most Tuesdays we’ll be discussing lessons from the St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism v. 1, but on some weeks it will move to Thursdays depending on how feast days fall.  We will also be using All Things Catholic three-part cards to learn the names and definitions of various church vessels; I anticipate learning as much as she will.

And then I have Piper to consider.  She often asks to do school work, too, but I am hesitant to do any formal preschool with her.  I’ve bought a few preschool level workbooks for use on demand.  Otherwise I just try to follow her learning interests.  I also hope to incorporate a little one-on-one time every morning either letting her help me with chores, reading books, or playing games together.  She may also participate in our history, science, and feast day presentations as much as she desires.  I suspect she’ll learn a lot just from being around for the other lessons.

I’m hoping to still keep our formal schooling time to no more than an hour each week day.  I know some things will need to be tweaked as we go along.  For instance, I’m not sure if the best time to discuss the Catechism will be during the day, over dinner, or at bedtime.  Bailey and I have had a lot of good theological discussion at the latter two times.  I also want to keep a lot of flexibility in our schedule so that we can deal with whatever curve balls or opportunities life throws at us.  And as usual, I expect a lot of unplanned learning will continue to happen.

7 Quick Takes Friday (v. 2)

August 14, 2009

7_quick_takes

1.  Although, I once declared my love for the show Jon and Kate + 8, I’ve stopped watching.  I am extremely curious about what’s going on and am tempted, but in good conscience I don’t feel like I can watch it anymore.  I think that in the best interest of the children they should stop the show.   I think Jon and Kate both need to reassess their priorities, and I feel that watching the show would equal condoning their behavior.  Besides the whole tabloid mess that it has become, I’ve also become really tired of all the cross-promotion for other shows and products that’s become more and more prevalent on the series.

However, I still love to watch 18 Kids and Counting with the Duggar family.  They always just seem like such genuinely good people.  Lately they’ve been using their series and celebrity (along with a lot of hard work, dedication, and heart) to help their dear friends the Bates triple the size of their modest home in preparation for their 17th child.  I know the Duggars have received a few perks for themselves as well, but it was amazing to watch them give like that.

2.  Every time I watch our Live Aid DVDs I always get chills when I watch Queen perform.  Freddie Mercury was an awesome singer, songwriter, and performer.  It’s amazing to watch his interaction with the crowds and their spontaneous responses, especially during “Radio Ga-Ga”.  He died too soon.

3.  Speaking of Queen, every time I hear “Somebody to Love” I think of Anne Hathaway singing it in Ella Enchanted.  I love that movie, even though it is so different from the book.  I think I’m able to accept that because they just took the general idea of the book and completely retranslated instead of just making  a bad adaptation.  I actually considered purchasing it, but as long as it keeps playing on cable every month or so I’ll just wait for now.  Although, I bet the DVD has some fun special features.

Somewhat related, I’ve been intrigued by the movie Velvet Goldmine (it is about a bi-sexual glam rocker).  It’s not a movie I would want to own, or even necessarily watch all of the way through again.  (It fully earned its “R” rating.)  However, the music, costumes,  and some of cinematography are captivating.  Some of the songs keep running through my head.  “Baby’s on fire, better throw her in the water….”

4.  Back to more “G” rated entertainment, I made the discovery this summer that most Major League ball parks allow you to bring in your own food and a small soft-sided cooler.  We took full advantage of this at Miller Park and Wrigley Field.  I stuffed our cooler with bottles of water, yogurt cups, a pint of whole milk, sliced cantaloupe, an apple, sliced cheddar, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  In addition to the normal array of baby food, I added a big bag of Chex mix, granola bars, cereal, and honey buns into the back-pack.  I’ve learned that kids with full bellies = happy, less whiny kids.  We still spent about $25 at each park on food (mainly hot dogs), but that’s a lot less than we used to spend with very little to show for it.  Plus, we were able to include some healthier choices like the fruit and yogurt.

5.  My parents are coming up for Piper’s birthday in October, and they’ll probably bring presents for Bailey’s November birthday as well as Christmas stuff.  So, I’m trying to put together my gift suggestion lists, so they and other relatives can start shopping.  I’m having the usual debate between suggesting quality items that will last a long time or cheap stuff that will break within a year, giving me a good reason to throw it away.  Of course, I still try to come up with a lot of non-toy ideas.

6.  For the first time in a long time I picked up a copy of Biblical Archaeology Review; it was their 200th issue.  That magazine really makes the Bible and history come alive.  I was in awe looking at pictures of jewelery from the 6th century BC found just outside Jerusalem.  And I was totally cracking up as they reviewed some of the complaint letters they received over the years about a “Bible magazine” including pictures of people consuming alcohol at a banquet and of pretty female diggers, or even worse promoting pornography by including photographs of fertility goddess idols and art depicting Adam and Eve in the buff.

7. When she was about four or five, Bailey invented the word “disastrophe” (disaster + catastrophe) which still gets regular use around our house.  Piper has recently contributed the word “ploomp”.   “Ploomp” is a verb meaning “to expand or inflate”, as in “It’s just ploomping out all over the place “.  Sometimes “ploomp” is also used in place of “plop”.  It’s just a fun-sounding word:  ploomp.  Ploomp!  Ploomp.

200!!

August 10, 2009

This is my 200th published post.  That’s a bit of milestone.  When the first one was published in January of 2008, I wasn’t sure how long I would stick with it.  Perhaps I would be one of those bloggers who posts for a couple months and then disappears into obscurity.  There have been long periods between posts from time to time, but I never just gave up.  Even during those periods, I had lots of stuff running through my brain, just little time to write about it.

So what’s the secret of my endurance?  Well, I think it is that I mainly just write for myself.  This blog is part journal, part notebook, and part commentary.  Even if I didn’t have a single reader, I think I would still do it just for me.  Therefore I am quite content with my handful of regular readers (and I do mean handful).  Of course, if anyone else gets any sort of enlightenment or entertainment from my simple posts then that’s great.  And if my average daily readership doesn’t exceed 14, I am fine with that, too.

In honor of my 200th post, I thought I would give an update on how my munchkins are doing.  Bailey will be seven in about three and  a half months, and she is starting to look it.  She’s getting tall and lean, and those baby teeth are working their way out.  As you can tell from her blog she still loves fashion, but her enjoyment of sports has developed more and more, too.  She has a pretty impressive baseball card collection, baseball bobble-head collection, and with the help of her father a budding baseball card autograph collection.

Academically, she would be going into the First Grade.  Her reading level is right about that K/1 level that would be expected in regular schools.  Look for an upcoming post regarding our homeschooling plans for the fall, but I have learned that she takes a lot in from just regular discussion.  Overall, her moods have mellowed out.  She doesn’t have quite as many melt-downs over little things as she used to unless she’s extremely tired or hungry, but she still has lots of spirit (aka tenacity, particularity, passion, and assertiveness).  I also see certain signs of more intellectual maturity.  And even though in her own mind she is six going on sixteen, I still see a lot of the little girl in her.

Piper is coming to the end of the Terrible Three’s; she’ll be four in October.  She likes “flowers and butterflies and rainbows and unicorns”.  She has hit that princess stage and enjoys hearing fairy tales.  But don’t be fooled by her big blue eyes and sweet smile, she is also extremely fierce.  When her big sister hurts her in anyway, she doesn’t whine; she gets even.  She doesn’t pull any punches, literally.  She beats up on her Daddy like he’s a side of beef.  After going through a period where she would not allow a single kiss or hug to be given or received, she is letting us sneak in more and more without protest.  But we know that her favorite form of affection is snuggling.

I don’t do any formal academics with Piper at all, unless she asks to “do school”, too.  I have a short number of preschool workbooks on hand to keep her busy.  Otherwise we just follow her lead.  Lately she has been interested in words that rhyme, and sometimes we play games about letter sounds.  She also keeps asking how to spell different words that she wants to write down.  Lately, we’ve been doing jigsaw puzzles together at her request, and sometimes she likes to snuggle in my lap and read books.  I have been grabbing some “new” books at the library to encourage this habit.

Katie is 15-months old, and she is an absolute delight.  She walks around everywhere, preferably in her hand-me-down size 5W sandals.  First thing every day, she brings them to me and says, “Shoes!!”.  She probably has a 15 to 20 word vocabulary that she uses consistantly.  Sometimes it sounds like she’s repeating and using new words or phrases but it’s like listening to a radio that’s been turned down really low…you think you heard it, but you’re not sure.  Her most common words are “No!”, “Yeah.”, and “Mom!!!”.  And we can tell that she understands way more than she can say as she follows simple directions.

Katie loves to climb and explore, and she seems to get a big kick when she does something like her big sisters.  She plays tea party with the toy dishes, scoots little cars around the floor, throws a ball pretty well, and loves pat-a-cake.  She alternates between loving and hating the rough attentions of her big sisters, but Daddy is her absolute favorite person that isn’t part of her food supply.  She squeals with delight whenever he appears and follows him around begging to be picked up.  She already has a very strong will and does not like being thwarted or told “no”; she buries her head in anguish whenever corrected.

So, that is a small snap-shot of my girls at this point in time.  It may look completely different by the time I hit 300 posts.  People always say, “Enjoy your kids while they’re young because it goes by in a flash.”  I can already understand how true that is.  Sometimes I can’t believe that my Bailey is already so big, and didn’t I just push Katie out yesterday?  And somewhere along the way we became a completely Catholic family.  I wonder what other wonderful surprises the good Lord has in store for us.  I’ll just have to wait and see.