Archive for May 2010

7 Quick Takes (v. 26)

May 28, 2010

1.  It has been really hot here in the Chicago area.  Of course, it seems much worse because we don’t have working air conditioning.  I’ve been trying for a month to get it replaced, but I realized yesterday that I had been talking to the wrong companies.  I finally found the one company that actually understands the “special” air conditioning system, and maybe by the end of of next week we’ll have some A/C that works.  Then the temperature outside will probably drop to the forties.

2.  Even though it has been hot, that hasn’t stop it from raining at the most inopportune times…like whenever the kids have a teeball game.  At this point Piper has had two games canceled, and Bailey has had three canceled due to the weather.

3.  My carpet looks amazing thanks to the company that came out to clean it.  They could only do so much with the couch, but it smells nice and clean.  The kids are mad, though, because I won’t let them eat or drink in the living room as much as I used to do.

4.  I finally used my Barnes & Noble gift card from Christmas.  I have such a wonderful library system I have a hard time even spending gift money.  I opted to get Usborne’s Medieval World, which will be our history spine next school year.  And then I bought Patrick Madrid’s Surprised by Truth.  I have policy about buying books that I haven’t read yet, but I made an exception because it is so highly recommended.  It is also something I can’t get from my library.

5.  I’m going to try to put off reading the Patrick Madrid book until I’m in the hospital, so as soon as it was delivered (I learned that B&N members get free shipping) I put it away in my hospital bag.  I’ve got most of my bag packed.  I used this blog post from two years ago to remind me of my packing list.

6.  My husband has been at home every time I have gone into labor.  Sometimes, though, I start thinking about what I would do if he wasn’t at home and I couldn’t get a hold of him for some reason.  The first person I call (besides my midwives) when I go into labor is my mother-in-law because she comes to stay with the other kids.  But she couldn’t stay with the kids and drive me to the hospital at the same time.  And I wouldn’t dare try to drive myself .

So I started making a list in my head of who I could call last minute to drive me to the hospital.  While we don’t necessarily have best friends in the area, I am thankful that we have made enough connections in the community that I can come up with a short list of people who I would feel comfortable asking if necessary.

7.  This became even more of a worry, though, when my mother-in-law was put in the hospital yesterday.  She has bronchitis which is aggravating what used to be a minor heart condition.  So, please keep her in your prayers…and not just because I’ve realized how dependent we all on her.

Why I Hospital Birth

May 26, 2010

I’ve known several people, in real life and via the internet, who have given birth to their children at home.  I totally support their right and decision to do so.  I know that it is totally safe, if not safer than hospital birth, in most cases.  However, I still prefer to give birth at a hospital.

One of the reasons that I choose the hospital is because at the hospital I actually feel less pressure to take care of other people and I can focus more on my own needs.  I know that if I were laboring at home long-term every sound from downstairs would have me jumping up to see if I needed to intervene or help with something.

Secondly, those 48 hours that I spend in the hospital after delivery is a special time that I just get to focus on my new baby.  Yes, my husband brings the kids, my mother-in-law, and my parents to visit us each day for an hour or so, but the rest of that time is me and my baby getting to know each other pretty much by ourselves.

Once I get home there are other kids who need/want my attention.  My parents are there to help out, but they are also there to visit from out-of-state.  Meals for everyone have to be determined and ordered.  Stairs have to be climbed to get to bed.  The hospital actually allows me a little peace before I feel pressured to get back into normal life; not that I don’t wish that the hospital had thicker walls and provided more snack options than stale graham crackers.

I wish that I would have given consideration to home birth with my first child.  My first birth experience was not the best.  A midwife at my home probably would not have broken the water bag during a normally progressing labor.  I probably would not have had access to demerol.  I probably would not have had a routine episiotomy.  I probably would not have had to labor in a crappy position with people screaming directions at me.

Even though I was educated about how it would be best for me and my baby to avoid all these things before I had my first child, I was not confident enough to stand up to my doctor.  My doctor was a very nice person, and I do not believe that she meant me any harm.  But she also was very set in her ways, even though it was obvious just from my prenatal check-ups that her ways were not the best.  But again I was not confident enough to walk away from her voluntarily, especially since I had already switched providers once during that pregnancy due to insurance issues.

Which makes me think that the most important plus of home birthing is not the location itself, but the type of person who is likely to assist you with birthing at home.  They are probably less likely to try to intimidate you or scare you.  They are more likely to know their limits and respect your boundaries.  It may be harder for them to get set in their ways because they regularly practice multiple ways of helping women birth their babies.

After the birth of my first child, we moved to a different state.  I was lucky to come across an all-female OB/GYN practice near my house.  I could tell right away that they were better organized.  And when I became pregnant with my second child, my regular doctor immediately recommended that I consider using the two Certified Nurse Midwives in the office.  Each one has since caught a baby for me, and my birthing experiences have been revolutionary compared to that first one (somewhere I even have pictures to prove it).  That’s why I continue to give birth at their hospital 40 minutes away even though there is a new hospital five minutes from my house.

Plus, I learned a lot from my first birthing experience.  I have analyzed everything that was wrong about it a million times.  And I’m very lucky that I avoided an unnecessary c-section or a necessary c-section due to the use of unnecessary practitioner interventions.  At this point, I understand intuitively (rather than just intellectually) how my body works and am unafraid to stand up for what I feel is truly best for me and my unborn baby.

Some home-birthers may think that I’m the “brave” one for continuing to go to the hospital to give birth.  (Or they may secretly think I’m just plain dumb for doing so when I know I don’t have to.)  But I really think the birthing location is less important for a good birthing experience than being well-informed, well-supported by a good health care provider, and confident enough to trust your body and your intuition.

Spring Wrap-Up 2010

May 24, 2010

I’m not sure if I ever detailed our homeschooling plans for Spring 2010, but now that the semester is over.  It’s time to talk about what we did and learned.

-Bailey-

Bailey completed Learners Word Study workbook 1, Brain Quest Workbook grade 1, and Mind Benders Beginning Book 2.  These covered vocabulary and logic.  For practice with her print handwriting, Bailey used handwriting worksheets from Spelling City.  We reviewed some of our Ancient History topics from the fall, explored some of the Wonders of the World, and finished up by looking at the Maya.

Once I started assisting Bailey with her Explode the Code Online it became less frustrating for her.  I didn’t ever give her the correct answers but I helped guide her to figure things out for herself or avoid making some mistakes.  She started moving more rapidly through the program.  But for the last six weeks of the semester, I stopped giving her as much help and made her start doing the program more frequently.

Bailey completed Singapore Math 1B, but she did not pass the “final exam”.  Instead of moving on to 2A, Bailey started an intensive program of addition and subtraction drills using Kumon and Flash Skills workbooks from Barnes & Noble.  She will retest on the 1B material over the summer.

Bailey also prepared to receive her First Holy Eucharist (FHE).  We studied The New Saint Joseph First Communion Catechism and put together a commemorative lapbook.  We practiced for her first Confession (which went really well) and worked on learning the Act of Contrition (which we still both need to work on memorizing better).  As her FHE approaches in June, we’ll practice how to receive it properly.

-Piper-

Piper completed the first Singapore Math Essential Kindergarten workbook and started a little bit on the second book.  She also did the first Explode the Code beginner book.  She asked to to do school work fairly often, but I still did not force her to do any.

Piper seemed really interested in memorizing math facts, though.  She would often ask what was the sum of two different numbers and then repeat it back.  As our semester was winding down, we played some Boggle Jr., and I realized that she could sound out and spell some three-letter words.  Which has me debating whether to start reading lessons with her this fall or wait until next spring as I originally intended.

-Katie-

Katie became absolutely delightful as her speaking vocabulary, awareness, and personality took off.  She became less and less of a baby and more of a little girl as she recently turned the ripe old age of 2.  She’s starting to show an interest in colors, numbers, and letters, and she knows quite a few shapes already.  And she’s demonstrated a wonderful memory for knowing where things belong and household procedures as she demands to help me with various chores.  (I just hope it lasts.)

-Me-

I learned that I can take more time with Ancient History than I thought when I used most of my entire sequence in the fall.  This left me with just a small section to cover and too much time.  So, that’s why we reviewed and turned to Wonders of the World.  I will certainly keep that in mind when we do Ancient History again in fifth grade.

I learned the importance of the Home Instructor’s Guide (HIG) in using Singapore Math.  Bailey probably would have done better with 1B if I had a better idea of which topics were “seed planting” and which ones she really needed to master.  Plus, I would have had more ideas for dealing with topics that she found difficult.  I will be going back to purchase the 1B HIG for use with the other children.

I realized how important discipline is in homeschooling.  Not only did Bailey do poorly on her 1B test, but she had a complete emotional meltdown in the process.  This was the culmination of weeks of whining, fussing, and lashing out any time she was asked to do anything the least bit difficult whether it was subtraction or Explode the Code.  I spent a lot of time pondering how much of it was due to unreasonable expectations on my part and how much of it was a disciplinary issue.  I concluded that it was mostly the latter and took some steps to correct her behavior.

In this process, I did have to do some tweaking.  I raised my expectations for her on Explode the Code by making her do it five days a week instead of two and giving her less guidance.  When it came to the math drills, I worked to find the balance between expectations that were too high or too low.

As usual, I learned as much as the kids did.

Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum

May 22, 2010

In the past I have been very unsure about the whole idea of the Classical homeschooling method with its Trivium, but I did cherry-pick some ideas from The Well-Trained Mind including the decision to introduce logic work and the history cycle recommended in that book.  This book takes a different look at things, showing that even two people who claim to follow the same method can have different approaches.

In Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum Laura Berquist shares the classical curriculum that she designed to use with her own children based on her own trial and error and influenced by Dorothy Sayers.  Berquist’s curriculum is the basis for the Mother of Divine Grace School homeschooling program.  But the book title is slightly misleading because it doesn’t really help you to design your own classical curriculum.  It basically just outlines her curriculum choices with maybe two or three options for spine books in some subjects.

This book gave me a lot of food for thought, though, and I’m planning on buying my own copy (a very rare compliment indeed).  For one thing, I like Berquist’s approach to religious education.  She doesn’t just buy a packaged curriculum for the subject; she’s put together a unique set of books for instruction and discussion.  I especially like her recommendations for high school since they revolve around applying Catholic teachings to real life situations.  I’ve really kind of been at a loss of how I want to handle religious education in the future and Berquist definitely gives me a starting point.

The biggest thing that will have me cracking this book over and over is the reference lists.  Starting in Grade 4, there are reference lists of real books, poems, and saints for a certain historical period.  Once you get to high school the lists are more detailed as they cover historical fiction and non-fiction and literature.  I’ve been thinking for a few weeks about the layers I want to add when we start our history cycle again for 5th through 8th grades and how I would love to do a Literature-based history curriculum in high school.  This book does a lot of the work of putting something like that together for me.

Now we probably won’t follow Berquist’s sequence exactly.  She puts a lot of emphasis on American History, and just like in most schools Modern History is kind of non-existent.  So, I do plan to continue using the four-year rotation of Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and Modern History at least through 8th grade.  I will just tweak her lists to fit our schedule and goals.

We won’t be doing Latin, either, which she starts in about 4th grade and continues through high school.  Around that period, we’ll probably just start a few vocabulary programs based on Latin and Greek roots.  Then we’ll do Spanish and/or a foreign language of each child’s choosing.

One thing we will also be doing that she doesn’t mention at all is home economics based on the book Life Prep. for Homeschooled Teenagers.  How to navigate credit cards, loans, health insurance, and budgeting is probably one of the most important things that I can teach my kids.

Since I read this book, though, my mind has been swirling with thoughts and ideas.  I’ve updated my tentative homeschooling plans through grade 12 (knowing that they are not set in stone).  And I’ve got a list of possible resources for religious education, geography, history, writing, and literature that I want to check out.  I know this will be a great reference for years to come, and I’m hoping to get a hold of her book Teaching Tips and Techniques for more food for thought.

7 Quick Takes (v. 25)

May 21, 2010

1.  36 weeks down, four to go.  Not that I’m counting or anything.

2.  One of my midwives just got back from a two-week stint in Haiti teaching basic childbirth assistance to local women.  I wish I could have asked her for more details, but since I had been late for my appointment I knew I couldn’t take up too much more of her time.  Maybe if she’s the one on call when I go into labor we can discuss it while I get my IV antibiotics.

3.   DD#4 seems to be sticking it out in the right position, head and face down.  She did not like it, though, when the midwife started feeling around to check her position, and my belly has been kind of sore ever since from being roughly poked and prodded inside and out at the same time.

4.  I’ve whittled down quite a bit of my pre-baby to-do list.  I’m hoping to get most of the rest of it done in the next week.  I’ve got a company coming to clean the living room carpet, the couch, and the dryer vents on Monday.  After they’re gone I’m going to set up the pack ‘n’ play bassinet/changing table and a few other things.

5.  Sunday will be my 33rd birthday.  I’m shipping all of the girls to Granny’s to spend the day and night.  My main purpose was to get them out of the house for when the carpet cleaners arrive on Monday, but it should have the unexpected side effect of allowing me to actually watch the Lost series finale with minimal interruptions.

6.  It’s amazing how the shopping has been the easiest part of my to-do list to get done.  I really do need to get around to cleaning those bathrooms and scrubbing all of the sticker residue off the kitchen floor.  At least I got the actual stickers removed this week.

7.  Piper is supposed to have her first teeball game tonight.  I can’t decide if I want it to get rained out or not.  On one hand, a rain-out would push her season back yet another week.  On the other hand, my husband can’t be there because he has to attend the graduation ceremony at his college.  So, my mother-in-law will have to wrangle Bailey and Katie at the ball field on her own while I take over assistant coaching duties.  I wouldn’t mind assistant coaching a group of 16 clueless four-year-olds so much…if I wasn’t 36-weeks pregnant!!

Modesty Rules

May 17, 2010

I am the mother of three daughters (four if you count the one in the oven).  Clothing is a major issue in our house.  One of the first signs of the Transitional Two’s to me has always been when they want to start picking out their own outfits.

As my oldest daughter has gotten older, modesty has become more and more of an issue when we go shopping.  It’s amazing to me the outfits that are designed to emphasize body parts that young female children haven’t even developed yet.  And when I go shopping for myself it is a struggle as I try to find modest, age-appropriate, and correctly sized items between the womens and juniors departments.  I dread trying to navigate it with my grown daughters.

Now, I understand that modesty can mean different things to different cultures and religions.  Within conservative Christian circles there are endless debates about if girls and women should be confined to wearing “skirts only” .  Then there are issues of sleeve length and head coverings.  Swim suits are an absolute mine field.

I have always thought of myself as a fairly modest person.  Yes, in my younger days I was known to wear an extremely short skirt or dress from time to time, but usually with bicycle shorts underneath.  I tended to eschew anything low cut, especially during high school when I didn’t have anything to show off to begin with.  But most days of my life, I’ve been a jeans and t-shirt kind of gal.

I started setting general guidelines when Bailey was about five.  That may have been when she loudly demanded to be allowed to buy a bra, and I realized that she would always try to push the limits to try to dress older than she is.  She desperately wants to be a teenager thanks to the skewed impressions she received from various television shows before we ditched our cable.  I figured it would be easier to start teaching and enforcing modesty rules then rather than when she actually has body parts to flaunt.

Of course my modestly guidelines for my own daughters are more conservative that what I had for myself, but I still think they are fairly moderate.

1.  Shirts must cover the belly completely when arms are down and mostly when arms are lifted over head.

2.  All shirts must be able to be worn with a regular bra (not a strapless) and no bra straps showing.  This allows tank tops, but not spaghetti straps.

3.  All shirts must be form fitting enough to prevent others from seeing down the collars when bending over.

*The only exception to rules two or three is when another shirt that fits the guidelines is worn underneath.

4.  No short-shorts.  While I do not have a set length in mind, in general no one should be able to see your underwear at any time between the shirt and pants combination and you should be able to sit down without getting a wedgie.

5.  No super-short skirts, with a possible exception if leggings are worn underneath.  Skorts and leggings are our friends.

6.  Swim suits should cover the belly and all private areas.  They should not have ties to hold them together or plastic rings that leave gaps of skin.  I may eventually buckle down and require board shorts or swim skirts as a part of swim attire.

7.  Bathing-suit style leotards (as opposed to unitards) should be worn with shorts or sweatpants during practice but will be allowed on their own during competition, if we get to that level.

8.  All clothes should be machine washable and not require ironing.

OK, this last rule isn’t about modesty.  I just don’t do dry clean, hand-washing, or ironing.  Eventually, as my daughters begin to develop more womanly bodies I’ll probably have to initiate rules about tightness and tops being too low-cut.  Hopefully, I have some time before that becomes an issue, though.

Of course, purchasing the appropriate clothes is only part of the battle at these ages.  All it takes is one good growth spurt for modest shorts to turn into short-shorts.  (I am thankful that bermudas have come back in style as they give me more breathing room.)  Then there is shrinkage in the wash which often turns lots of good shirts into belly tops.  (I tend to look towards Old Navy because the childrens clothes are cut bigger than other store brands and have less shrinkage issues).  And the worst is when the kids are between sizes where the size down and the size up become immodest for different reasons.

Modesty is about more than just clothing choices, though; it also encompasses thought and behavior.  Of course, these areas can be a little more gray and harder to regulate.  I also have to sometimes deal with an over-abundance of modesty.  Since all of our girls will be sharing rooms, they are going to have to be willing and able to change clothes in front of each other.  I don’t have time for them to be locking each other out of the room while they get dressed, especially when they get easily distracted from the task at hand.

As you can tell, I don’t expect my girls to dress like nuns, but I don’t want them dressed like hoochies either.  As they grow into young women, I hope they will learn to discern between clothing items that accentuate their natural beauty without putting all of their wares on display for the general public.  I want them to be comfortable in their clothing and with their bodies, but show the world that they have more to offer the world than just a nice “orchestra” or “balcony”.  Their clothing should be an outward extension of their inner confidence, beauty, and self-respect.

7 Quick Takes (v. 24)

May 14, 2010

1.  35 weeks today.  I am starting to get a little panicky.  I have a long to-do list put together with the tasks split up over the next five weeks of pregnancy.  But I keep thinking of new things to add to the list, and I am starting to worry about what will happen if I go into labor a few weeks early.  I think its nesting instinct kicking in…I must get all this stuff done as fast as possible.

2.  So, last night I insisted on a trip to Target to buy little diapers, nursing pads, a baby outfit, and a variety of household items that needed to get replaced before I go into labor.  I cleared out most of my shopping list except for a few things I have to order online.

3. One of the things on my shopping list last night was a large zip-up case to hold all of our children DVDs.  I am so tired of picking up plastic DVD cases off the floor.  For months I’ve been keeping the actual DVDs on a computer disc ream to keep them safe anyway.  The only reason I didn’t do this before is I’m generally not a big fan of removing discs from their original cases, but this will certainly simplify things.  I am still going to keep our nicer movies in their cases, but move them out of reach.

4. I am really proud of my daughter Bailey right now.  She has found a series of books that she likes to read, and she is devouring them faster than I can get them in from the library.  Her reading has taken off so much that she’s moved into the last section of her Explode the Code Online, which I think is supposed to be at least two grade levels ahead of her.  I can tell all the math fact drills she’s been doing for about month are really sinking in as she added 25 + 13 in her head the other day.  She’s really blossoming in gymnastics class thanks to her wonderful new coach (who is the head of the program).  She’s definitely one of the top five (if not top three) players on her coach pitch baseball team, being the only one I think to get a hit every game as well as making an awesome out with her accurate “Rocket Arm” and having awesome situational awareness.  And she asked to go to confession a couple of weeks ago and is looking forward to her First Holy Eucharist within the next month.

5.  I am totally in love with my Katie, who celebrated her second birthday last Sunday.  She is so sweet, so funny, so smart, and so helpful.  She does tend to be a little possessive of things and jealous of her sisters snuggling with me which makes me a little nervous for the new baby.  But she is otherwise a delight most of the time.  I think it helps that at this point I have several tricks up my sleeve for avoiding the pitfalls of the Transitional Twos.

6.  Lest my Piper be forgotten, she is just so perfectly Piper.  She is convinced that she is the “smartest person in the world” and loves to recite addition and subtraction facts to prove it.  She has mellowed out a whole lot in the past six months, becoming more affectionate and less temperamental.  I’ve noticed a big improvement, too, since I moved her bedtime up about 45 minutes.

7.  We’re getting ready to hit a transitional time with finals week starting on Monday.  My husband will be finishing up the spring semester, and then the following week his schedule completely changes as the three-week summer pre-session begins.  At home we’ll be finishing up spring homeschooling semester and starting  our summer work (look for an upcoming post or two).  And I will start adding weekly midwife appointments into our already hectic schedule of gymnastics classes and teeball commitments.  If I can just make it until the evening of June 12th without going into labor…