Archive for March 2010

Highlights of the Best/Worst Vacation Ever

March 24, 2010

At the last minute, my husband and I put together a short trip over his spring break to Disney World.  It was the first time at Disney for the kids.

Here are some highlights from our trip:

*I’m glad that we paid for long-term parking at a hotel near the airport.  The shuttle was much more convenient than having to figure out what lots were open at O’Hare and do a combination of walk/tram/shuttle to get to and from our terminal.

*The kids really enjoyed their first flight on an airplane.  I had Piper and Katie in one row with me while Rick and Bailey sat behind us.  The air pressure changes didn’t cause any problems.  My biggest issues were Piper and Katie fighting over the tray and me trying to bend over to pick stuff off the floor of the airplane.  Rick’s biggest issue was Bailey talking the ear off of the stranger in the seat next to her and telling every embarrassing detail of our lives.

*The kids thought all of the shuttle buses we had to ride were just as much fun as the airplane.  They also thought it was super cool and fancy when we ordered room service at midnight after we arrived in Orlando.

*We went to Disney Hollywood Studios first and quickly learned the importance of the Fast Pass.  We had only planned on spending about three hours at that park; the stand-by line for the Toy Story Mania ride was an estimated hour wait and the Fast Passes were scheduling people to come back for the “no-wait” line in four hours.  Needless to say that was one ride we missed.

*Disney really needs to expand the Fast Pass  option to the pavilions where you can meet characters.  Those lines were the longest, and those are probably more popular than many of the rides.

*With the idea that we were going to Florida, which should be at least slightly warmer than Chicago, I had packed everyone shorts and t-shirts.  At first we thought the chill would pass as the day progressed, but it was colder in Florida on Wednesday and Thursday than it was back home.  Thankfully, I had at least packed hoodies in the diaper bag/back pack in case of rain showers so we didn’t completely freeze.

*The girls loved the Magic Kingdom.  Piper loved the carousel and the Jungle Cruise.  Bailey loved the Pirates of the Caribbean.  They both liked the tea cups and the Transit Authority.

*It didn’t take us long to realize that getting around Disney with a stroller is horrible.  You have to park the stroller before you get on almost any attraction then remember to go get it when you’re done.  If we had planned this trip further ahead I probably would have invested in some sort of back-carry sling for Katie and left the stroller at home.

*Piper started drifting off in Rick’s lap as we waited for the big nightly parade in the Magic Kingdom.  She was pretty surly when he tried to wake her up, but I think she was glad we risked our safety (because she has violent tendencies) for her to see it.

*The girls were a little concerned about Spaceship Earth at Epcot, but once we rode on it they thought the video at the end where they place your head on cartoon bodies was really cool.  That was a neat new update since the last time Rick and I were there.

*I was less impressed with the changes to The Seas and Imagination, but the kids really liked Imagination or as they called it “the dragon ride”.

*Epcot has this really cool thing at each of the world showcases where kids can decorate a mask on a stick with Sharpies and then they can collect little paper charms and passport stamps on their mask from every country.  It was a neat opportunity to meet people from each represented country as well as get a free souvenir.

*We tried to keep the souvenirs simple.  The two older girls each got mouse ears and a t-shirt.  Piper picked up a snow globe for her collection and a little Disney airplane.  Bailey snagged a small Tinkerbell figurine and a Japanese fan.  Katie got a plastic Mickey Mouse.

*Traveling on a Friday in Lent is very hard, especially with picky eaters.   It wasn’t until later that we learned that there was a meat abstinence exemption that Friday for the Solemnity of St. Joseph.  I had absolutely no idea.  All I know is that we better get a few years shaved off in purgatory.

*We had turned the heater in our house completely off because the weather was fairly warm in Chicago when we left and it was a short trip.  However, there was a freak weather shift, and it was 32 degrees and snowing when we got home.  Thanks to the temperature drop our house was a very chilly 60 degrees.  Thank goodness for the fireplace and the space heater.

*I have lots of mixed feelings about our trip.  Because it was planned on such short notice, it ended up being very stressful.  We had limited opportunities for sleep, and I didn’t sleep well.  All of the speed walking while lugging a 10-pound backpack, 12 pounds of pregnancy weight, and sometimes a 20-pound toddler made every muscle in my body ache for two days.  On the flip side, it was wonderful to experience Disney through the eyes of my children.  We got lots of great pictures and made lots of great memories.  That’s why I can’t decide if it was the best or worst vacation ever.

7 Quick Takes (v. 19): Pregnancy Edition

March 5, 2010

1.  I am 25 weeks along today.  I have a feeling that my weight gain has slacked off.  I haven’t found a high protein breakfast that is quick to make since I got tired of frozen sausage biscuits.  I’ve  been lazy about making my bedtime meals.  And Lent has put a real kabosh on my habit of grabbing a double cheeseburger from Burger King after my Friday trips to Aldi.  I need to get back to stuffing my face.

2.  Overall, I feel fine.  I do notice that my leg muscles are a little more sensitive this time around.  A muscle just over my right knee gets really sore if I sit with my legs tucked up under me or curl up in bed with my knees too bent.  Breast tissue under my arms pits has already started swelling, too;  I am always more likely to get a clog under my armpits than in my actual breasts when I’m nursing.  I’ll try not to complain too much; overall I have it pretty easy.

3.  The babies movements have changed from little flutters to more pronounced jabs.  The kids got a real kick when I described the baby using my butt as a trampoline.  I’m happy that the baby is so active, but sometimes it’s a little disconcerting when you feel a sucker punch from the inside of your body.  You’d think I’d be used to it with this being my fourth pregnancy.  Sometimes I just wish the Mystery Baby would settled down and let me get some sleep.

4.  Rick and I still haven’t sat down to talk about names.  I think we are both kind of dreading it.  We feel like we kind of whiffed on Katie’s name, and it just seems to get harder with each child.  I could never have as many children as the Duggars just because I couldn’t endure that many conversations about baby names (even if the “J” thing narrowed it down quite a bit).  Actually, I love baby names.  I just hate having to agree on one with my husband.

5.  I feel sort of naughty because I haven’t had my ultrasound yet.  It was the same feeling I got when I ripped up and threw away the kindergarten registration notices for Bailey.  I’m counter-cultural.  I’m a rebel.  I’m bad to the bone.  OK, not really.  If I were really a rebel, I wouldn’t get an ultrasound at all, and I’d have my baby at home.  I’m a half-assed rebel.

6.  We went to the Babies R Us last Sunday.  Actually we went to two different Babies R Us locations last Sunday.  I’m glad we went and actually tried out the products.  I had to have a sales associate show me how to adjust one of those infant seats; they changed a bit since I last bought one in 2002.  And even though the Graco Snugride 32 is supposed to be compatible with the Graco Duoglider LX, it was really hard to get the carrier in and out.  The sales associate showed us the Baby Trend Sit ‘n’ Stand double stroller, and I liked it much better.  But they didn’t have the stroller at the one store, so we had to go to the second one.  Thankfully, I learned that the other store didn’t have the car seat we wanted before we left the first store.  I hope I never have to go Babies R Us ever again.

7.  So, this is how I look to most of the world at this point.  I know, I know, I don’t even look pregnant.  It’s even worse when I’m wearing my coat.

But see…I really am pregnant.  (Special shout out to Bailey for working the camera.)

Adventures with Singapore Math 2A

March 3, 2010

Bailey is almost finished with Singapore Math 1B; she only has a few weeks left to go.  But we’ll still have about eight weeks left in our semester once it’s done.  I just got my materials in for 2A:  textbook, workbook, and home instructor’s guide.  It took me two days, but I finally got everything more or less plotted out.

Let me start by saying that I like to organize the math in my own way.  The Singapore textbooks offer prompts about when you should move to the workbook for a specific set of exercises, but sometimes they do this multiple times in the course of one page.  I find it very annoying to flip between the two books constantly.  Plus sometimes in the past we’ve been able to completely skip the textbook explanations and move straight to the workbook exercises.

So for 1A and 1B I just went through in a Word document and broke it down into a numbered list of the minimal amount of textbook or workbook work I thought we could do in a day.  Then I would cross off each thing as it was completed.  I could easily look ahead as to what was coming next and decide if I wanted to do some practice worksheets/activities as filler before starting something new.

It immediately became apparent to me that second grade math was going to be a whole new ball of wax.  For one thing Bailey often used to do a minimum of two workbook exercises in one sitting, but the workbook exercises in 2A seem to be twice as long.  2A also covers more difficult topics like addition of double and triple digit numbers and multiplication by twos and threes.  I think these are going to require more practice and therefore more time.  Bailey really needs to get her addition and subtraction math facts through 20 down sooner rather than later.  And then she’ll need to memorize her multiplication tables for twos and threes before we move to 2B.

For first grade, I just had a straight numbered list that went from start to finish.  This time I made a separate list for each of the five units.  My sequences for 1A and 1B were each one page, front and back.  My 2A sequence is six pages (the last page is actually a list of some things I wanted to reference quickly).  My 1B sequence has 68 “lessons”; 2A has 130.  For first grade we’ve done math 4 days a week, which means that I could have gone through all of 1B in one 17-week semester.  I would need almost twice that long to get through all of 2A in one semester.  Can you hear the wheels in my brain turning manically as I try to figure out how in the world we will get it all done before next Christmas?

I’m pretty sure that we can do the 14 “lessons” of Unit 1 during the remaining eight weeks of our semester.  Then I plan to really work on drilling Bailey in addition and subtraction math facts through 20 using a mixture of worksheets, flashcards, score-keeping games, and possibly Sporcle.  Unit 2 is 39 lessons of intense subject matter, so I think over the summer we are going to skip to Unit 3 (Length) and Unit 4 (Weight) which are only 21 lessons combined and continue drilling math facts.

This leaves Unit 2, 5, and 6 for the fall semester totaling 95 lessons.  We’ll probably have to step up to doing math 5 days a week in the Fall Semester and hope that we’re able to do more than one lesson on some days.  Even if we don’t finish it all before Christmas, we shouldn’t go over too far.  I would much rather go over the timetable than rush ourselves too much and Bailey not learn what she needs to learn properly.

Now technically, 2A isn’t that much bigger than 1B.  2A has only a few more textbook lessons, and it actually has a few less workbook exercises.  However, the 2A textbook also has 24 extensive practice and review sections (an extra six weeks of work by our old standards).  I also added 9 Mental Math worksheets and 13 math games from the home instructor’s guide.  While not absolutely necessary, I think they will definitely add to Bailey’s experience and understanding.  This is another reason why our 2A sequence is so long.

And what of this home instructor’s guide?  Home instructor’s guides just recently became available in the past couple of years, especially for the younger grades.  This was my first year buying one, and I am really glad that I did.  First of all, it offers a suggested sixteen-week schedule.  That’s way more intensive than I think Bailey could handle with her temperament, but it offers a nice overview of how the textbook and workbook go together along with a few other things.  The book then breaks down each unit with objectives, notes and explanations (as a refresher for the teaching parent), instructional ideas, answer keys for textbook exercises, and game ideas to reinforce concepts.  There are also 32 Mental Math worksheets in the back.

The suggestions for more hands-on activities and games were something I really needed, because I’m not good at coming up with those or incorporating them on the fly.  Bailey is more of a hands-on learner than I have ever been.  So not only does the home instructor’s guide (HIG) offer those, but it more or less tells me where to put them.  I also added notes for each unit of my sequence with teaching ideas and a materials list.  I will keep the HIG handy for game instructions, but I don’t want to have flip constantly between three books for everyday lessons.

So, it’s been a lot of work, and I still have to plot out sequence sheets for math fact drills and a general schedule for our summer session, keeping the new baby in mind of course.  But I feel a big weight is off by having the over-all sequence finished.  And when I set up a lot of my big sequences, whether for math or history, I know that they will be all ready when I need them for the other children down the road.  I am sure, though, that it will be a new adventure with each kid.

February 2010 Reading List

March 1, 2010

1.   Birthing from Within by Pam England and Rob Horowitz:  I didn’t really care for this childbirth book.  It was a little too “kumbaya” for me (for lack of a better description).  Between the multiple quotes from Zen masters and the extreme metaphors (why can’t they just say you need to face your fears instead of referring to them as “tigers” constantly), I found myself rolling my eyes A LOT.  I didn’t even try to read the section on the importance of “Birth Art”, on which one of the authors did her Master’s thesis.  And while they somewhat acknowledge that every woman is different, they really advocate that women in early labor should be active baking cookies and cleaning house or it’s an indication that something’s wrong with them.  They comment that they’ve never known a woman who liked lying still in bed during labor, well, it’s because they never met me.  (I don’t like lying on my back per se, but I prefer either sitting up or lying on my side in the bed and being still than walking around.)  I’m not saying that they don’t have any good information in the book, but it’s basically a book written by psychologists in very “therapeutic” terms.  Just not my cup of tea at all.

2.  Damia’s Children by Anne McCaffrey:  This is the third book in the Rowan series.  As the title suggests, it follows the story of Damia’s two oldest children as one takes over her own Federal Teleport and Telekinesis tower and the other becomes the first Prime Talent on a military vessel trying to hunt down an extraterrestrial enemy in deep space.  All the military stuff starts to lose me in this book.  It’s OK, though.

3.  Lyon’s Pride by Anne McCaffrey:  This fourth book in the series follows the four oldest Lyon children as they continue to find their places in the universe.  Again, the military stuff has me skipping multiple pages.  When I read this book the first time, I couldn’t help thinking that the series kept getting worse and worse in quality.

4.  Austenland by Shannon Hale:  Jane Hayes is a closeted Jane Austen fan who has been letting her fairy tale hopes and love of Mr. Darcy sabotage her love life.  When she is given a trip to a three-week immersion vacation to Regency-period England she must learn to distinguish between reality and fantasy once and for all.  This was a cute little novel.

5.  Atonement by Ian McEwan:  This book really reminded me of Eveyln Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, more in style than content.  I liked parts one and three, but not two so much.  I’m just not really into descriptions of war/battles/soldiers in the field.  Overall, I liked this book OK but didn’t really love it.

6.  English from the Roots Up by Joegil Lundquist:  After waiting for close to a year for inter-library loan, I was finally able to get my hands on this book for teaching Latin and Greek roots.  I’ve had the card set that goes with the book, but I was kind of at a loss for how to implement them last semester.  Now I’ve got a better idea of what I might want to do with them next year.

7.  Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth by Ina May Gaskin:  I LOVE this book.  I think it helped me more through my last labor and delivery than any other pregnancy book I ever read.  It really looks at the mind body connection, especially during labor.  The first half is birth stories, and they help you see all the different possibilities for a pleasant birthing experience.  During the second half, Ina May goes into more technical aspects.  Part of it is warnings about the common issues of hospital policies and doctor mindsets that contribute to high Cesarean rates and traumatic birthing experiences.  Then she talks about how she and her colleagues have dealt with common issues like stalled labor, breech birth, large babies, and shoulder dystocia without having to turn to surgery or forceps or pain medications to extract the baby safely.  Every time I read this I walk away with a new bag of tricks to have a more pleasant and medication-free natural birthing experience.

8.   Star Wars:  Darth Bane #3: Dynasty of Evil by Drew Karpyshyn:  In this final book of the Darth Bane series, Darth Bane Bane and his apprentice play a cat-and-mouse game to determine who will be the master, and they both seek a new apprentice.  Entertaining enough.

9.  IQ: A Smart History of a Failed Idea by Stephen Murdoch:  I’ve always been kind of skeptical about IQ tests.  I am sure I have probably taken some in addition to the usual standardized tests, but I have never been informed of what my IQ score was.  Since I became involved in homeschooling I’ve become skeptical of any kind of standardized testing in general.  The book explains some of the important reasons why all people should be skeptical about the concept of IQ.  For one thing, psychologists don’t even really know what IQ tests measure.  Secondly, the concept of IQ has been used to justify some horrible things in recent history, mainly in the name of eugenics.  And the book makes you realize that eugenics is still alive and well today.

10.  Twilight by Stephenie Meyer:  OK, I could not bring myself to request this from the library, but I have been curious after all the hype.  So, when my library  happened to have it on the shelf I grabbed it.  I must admit that Edward started getting on my nerves with his wishy-washiness.  “I love you, but I should stay away from you.”  I was like, “Make up your mind and then stop whining about it.”  Overall, it was much better than expected, and I plan on reading the sequels.  I’ve seen clips from the movie, and I’m wondering just how much resemblance there really is between book and movie.