Archive for February 2011

Reading List February 2011

February 27, 2011

I only read one book in the month of February, but WOW, what a book!!  Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.

I must admit that after a maddening experience with Anton Chekhov in high school I was hesitant about giving Russian literature another try, but I am so glad that I did.  Running at 817 pages, Anna Karenina is not light in content or actual weight (I suspect my copy weighs as much as my oldest daughter did at birth).  For a novel originally published in the 1870’s I was constantly amazed about how much of it was still relevant today.

For instance, I just had to write down the following quotes:

It was fine for those who had no daughters to talk that way; but the princess understood that in making friends her daughter might fall in love, and fall in love with someone who would not want to marry her or who was not right as a husband.  And however much the princess was assured that in our time young people themselves must settle their fate, she was unable to believe it, as she would have been unable to believe that in anyone’s time the best toys for five-year-old children would be loaded pistols. (p. 45)

One was the inferior sort:  the banal, stupid, and, above all, ridiculous people who believed that one husband should live with one wife, whom he has married in church, that a girl should be innocent, a woman modest, a man manly, temperate and firm, that one should raise children, earn one’s bread, pay one’s debts, and other such stupidities.  This was an old-fashioned and ridiculous sort of people.  But there was another sort of people, the real ones, to which they all belonged, and for whom one had, above all, to be elegant, handsome, magnanimous, bold, gay, to give oneself to every passion without blushing and laugh at everything else. (p. 114)

Just call me one of “the banal, stupid, and, above all, ridiculous people”.  (Just FYI this is the viewpoint of one of the characters, not necessarily the author.)  The last few chapters had several more quotable sections, but they would be spoilers so I’m not referencing them.

The book also offered and interesting look at tsarist Russia and a peep inside the Russian Orthodox Church.  I wish I could compare those sections with the experiences of A Priest’s Wife as an Eastern Rite Catholic.  Great book that reinforces why “classics” are considered classic.


7 Quick Takes (v. 42)

February 25, 2011

1.  We are having a bit of a nursing issue.  Sabrina (8 months) seems to like to chomp down on my right breast as she’s pulling off, and her two sharp little bottom teeth drew blood the other night.  Right now I am trying to nurse on that side as little as possible and quickly  get my finger over those teeth to force her off, but I only have to be slow once for her rip the scab off.  And have I mentioned it is EXTREMELY painful to nurse on that side….it hurts even when she’s not nursing on it at this point.  I’m getting so full of milk on that side, though, that I’ve actually been able to hand-express.  I keep trying to feed it to her in a sippy cup or mixed with cereal, but she’s not biting on to that.

2.  I gave Bailey (8) these two reading assessments from A to Z Home’ Cool.  On the first assessment she scored 4.9 (fourth grade, ninth month).   On the San Diego assessment her independent reading level came out at 5th grade and her instructional level was 6th grade.  By either one, she’s reading at least two grade levels ahead.  I don’t think that makes her some kind of super-genius, but as a homeschooling parent it gives me confidence that she’s doing at least as well, if not better, than if she had gone to traditional school.

3. Piper (5) has a new favorite activity: math problems.  When we’re in the car, before bedtime, or any other time she feels like it she’ll hound me or my husband to give her addition and some “taking away” problems.  If you give her 2+3, she complains that it’s too babyish.  If you give her 9+8, she complains, “I’m only five”.  She really likes double-digit problems like 20+30.  She likes to find the underlying patterns and quick tricks of how to solve them.  And for a long time, she’s also enjoyed just memorizing math facts.  I know it’s probably just a phase, but we’re trying to ride it out as long as possible.

4.  I should probably say a little something about Katie (2 1/2).  She has totally hit the Terrible Threes early (it’s not fair!!).  The silver lining is that when she is being anal retentive about which straw or which bowl that she uses it gives us an opportunity to practice her colors.  We can tell, though, that she is starting to process things at a more three-year-old level as she tells stories about things that have happened, and she thinks that parts of The Office are hilarious.

5.  This Wednesday we are going to get our taxes done.  Family of six + one modest income = negative tax bracket = large refund.  I know, I know, that we could adjust things so that less is taken out of my husband’s paycheck, but we treat our tax refund like a large savings account that we can only access once a year.  It’s better that way.

6.  This week the FlyLady  zone was the Master Bedroom.  I washed the sheets and pillow cases, flipped the mattresses, dusted the cobwebs, cleaned off the dressers, and even vacuumed.  Of course the rest of the house looks like a tornado hit, but my bedroom looks really nice.  Hmmmm, I’m not exactly sure it’s supposed to work that way, but I don’t think the FlyLady is a homeschooling mom with four small children.

7.  Yesterday we doubled up our schoolwork because in a few minutes we’re off to help my mother-in-law find a desperately needed new pre-owned car.  Not only does she need reliable transportation to get to work, but she also basically acts as our back-up driver since we only have one vehicle.  I’m packing up snacks, drinks, and activities to try to keep the kids busy, but this should be an adventure.  Seven of us are going car-shopping; I don’t know how many of us will be coming back alive.

7 Quick Takes (v. 41)

February 18, 2011

1.  Sabrina developed a nasty fever on Sunday afternoon.  I took her to the doctor on Wednesday where I was told that she had a five-day upper respiratory virus but to call if it hadn’t cleared up by Friday.  Well, the fever disappeared Wednesday night, but now she has splotches on her face and trunk.  I’m waiting for the pediatrician’s office to finish their weekly two-hour meeting and call me back with instructions.

2.  Needless to say it has been a very stressful week since my normally laid-back and sufficiently mobile baby has been cranky, clingy, restless, and requiring fever medicine through the night.  And of course, these things hit just as we have a friend visiting from out of town.

3.  Here in Illinois we’ve having a ruckus thanks to a state senator trying to pass a bill to force all homeschoolers to register.  I think he means well; he’s worried about those who may be “pretending” to homeschool their kids.  But it’s another instance of punishing the majority for the actions of a very small minority.  I think this senator has become very informed about homeschooling this week thanks to the 4000 people who marched on Springfield, but there are still things that he needs to learn…like the government can not fix everything.  There will always be people who evade laws.

4.  I got to thinking, though, about how people who are against homeschooling are often like people who are moderately pro-choice.  First of all, they feel uncomfortable going against the norms that they’ve been indoctrinated into (children have to go to school to learn/ women should have complete control over her own body),  they have misconceived notions about what is involved with each issue mostly influenced by their personal feelings of what they would do, and once they stop to think about each issue objectively with real facts they often change their minds.

5.  I had a bad experience with a popular blogger a few months ago, and I no longer visit her blog at all.  Sometimes, though, I come across her name mentioned on other blogs that I frequent.  It’s kind of like a punch in the gut each time; I get so angry when I think of how she treated me and allowed me to be treated on her blog.  But I am going to try really hard each time that I get angry to stop, take a deep breath, and pray for her instead.

6.  I’ve got another two weeks until our library reopens in the new building.  Not only am I excited to see it, but I will greatly appreciate it when they unlock the account capabilities so that I can renew books online again.  I will probably have a ton of fines by that point, because I have some books out that I need for homeschooling but I can’t properly renew them because of the building move.

7.  The weather has been a little warmer this week, and a lot of the snow has melted.  I aired out the house some yesterday, and I’ve been trying to let the kids go outside to play with their neighborhood friends a little bit (at least as much as I can with a sick baby).  I know this is just a temporary thing.  I give it about two weeks before I get to try out my new snow pants.

7 Quick Takes (v. 40)

February 11, 2011

1.  Bailey and Piper had a wonderful time at the Daddy/Daughter Dance last weekend.  They each received a purse, a princess wand, and a balloon, and Piper won the balloon center piece at their table because her birthday was closest to the 4th of July.  On the way home, Rick overheard her say, “This has been the best day in my whole little Piper life.”

2.  This week I’ve been trying to integrate some of the cleaning tips from FlyLady.  I first read Marla Cilley’s book about six or seven years ago, but I wasn’t really in a place where I felt up to integrating her sound suggestions.  After she was mentioned in the book Switch that I read last month, I decided to revisit her housecleaning philosophy.  Mainly, I jotted down the routines I already had and integrated some of her tips for trying to do short bursts of cleaning.  I also put together a more substantial “Control Journal” and adapted some of her cleaning lists to my own needs.

3.  Now that Sabrina can crawl around, she’s able to entertain herself for longer chucks of time.  That does make it a lot easier to get some things done.  I feel like we’re moving past the hardest part of the first year with a new baby.

4.  Bailey just entered a writing contest for American Girl magazine.  She typed it up on the computer, but then I had to go back through and add all of the uppercase letters and periods.  I don’t know if it was because she still hasn’t fully grasped those concepts, she was being lazy, or she was finding it a laborious thing to do on the computer since she doesn’t know how to type.  I think it was the latter two mostly.  The whole project did make me aware of the deficits in her writing skills, but I’m trying not to panic and start some sort of grammar/writing boot camp.  The hardest part, though, was trying to guide her through the editing process without taking over her story, knowing when to offer suggestions and when to keep my mouth shut.

5.  That is always one of the hardest things about homeschooling:  deciding when to push and when to step back and let learning develop naturally.  I’ve decided that I’m going to have start pushing a little bit more with Bailey’s math.  She’s still doing way too much addition with her fingers, and she’s going to need some multiplication facts memorized before the end of this semester.  We did a math facts boot camp last spring, and then I backed off a little bit.  But I think it’s time to pull out the addition and subtraction flashcards in addition to her normal daily math work.  I might see if I can pick up some multiplication ones this weekend, too.

6.  After looking through Bailey’s American Girl magazine, Piper decided that she wants an American Girl doll.  I’m not sure that a $100 doll is the best idea, though.  Her birthday is still eight months away, so I’m hoping to find a cheaper alternative before then.  She’s already suggested that several family members go in together to buy it for her.  If she did get one, I would definitely be hitting the craft shows to look for outfits.

7.  In recent weeks, we’ve actually made it to the 10:00 Mass at our parish.  Since Sabrina was born 8-months ago, the 10:00 was just unmanageable (and the kids do not do well at the 5:00 vigil), so we had been going to the 11:45 at another nearby parish.  It’s good to be back home, though, with the priests we know, the wonderful music led by our amazing and nice musical director, the bells during the Consecration, and all of the familiar faces.

Barbara’s Calorie-Dense Trail Mix

February 10, 2011

I put together this calorie-dense trail mix recipe to give me a tasty snack that would be healthier than a pack of swiss cake rolls.  I mix it up in a gallon storage bag and scoop it out about 3/4 of a cup at a time and eat it with a big glass of milk.

Peanuts (salted):  3 cups

Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips: 1 cup

Peanut Butter Chips:  1 cup

Raisins and/or Craisins:  1 cup total

Sunflower Seed Kernels:  1/4 cup

7 Quick Takes (v. 39)

February 4, 2011

1.   We’ve managed to survive Snowmageddon aka Thunder Snow aka the third worst snow storm to hit the Chicago area in 125 years.  We got between 18 and 22 inches (depending on the snow drift) around our house.

2.  Sabrina is a full-fledged crawler with two teeth now.  It’s hard to believe that she’ll be 8-months-old in a little more than a week. I officially put away all of the bouncy seats since she is so big now.

3.  I’m writing this on my brand new laptop.  We needed a third computer and I spend a lot of time now sitting outside gymnastics, so I decided that my own personal laptop would come in handy.  I’m still getting used to Windows 7 and newer editions of Word and Excel, though.

4.  We just finished our third week of homeschooling, and my first with two students.  Things have been moving really smoothly.  I think the three key moves have been trying to get up as close to 8:30 as possible, making sure we all get dressed at 9:30, and setting up that 15 minutes of silent reading for Bailey while I work with Piper.

5.  The 8:30 wake-up normally gives me time to sit down and snuggle with Katie while she watches a show and I drink my coffee.  She seems to really need that time in the morning, and then she is more willing to occupy herself during school time.

6.  We watched the Steve Martin Cheaper by the Dozen last week.  As these things go, that’s a pretty good family movie.  The pro-family theme as opposed to “children are accessories that come second to my career” theme in general society.  And I love how the parents object to their oldest adult daughter’s boyfriend sharing a room with her in their house because of the example for the younger kids.  We just got in Cheaper by the Dozen 2 to watch.

7.  Tomorrow night my husband has a very special date with two young women.  Every February our parks district hosts a Daddy & Daughter Date Night for dads with daughters ages 5 to 17.  This is Piper’s first time going and she has been counting down the days all week, and thankfully neither she nor Bailey seem too upset over having to share their date.  I can’t help but smile when I think about the date night in 2016 when Rick has four dates ages 5, 7, 10, and 13.

January 2011 Reading List

February 3, 2011

Let me start by saying, I totally forgot a book on my December 2010 reading list.  I especially can’t believe I forgot to include it since I absolutely LOVED the book.  I edited my December post to include this, but I wanted to post it in my January 2011 so that all five of my regular readers would be sure to find out about it.

The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer by Joel Salatin:  Joel Salatin is a quasi-famous farmer in the natural food “industry”.  This was a book about things that make his farm different from most industrial farms, and why everyone thinks he’s crazy because he’s not just about making profit at the expense of everything else.  And I totally want to steal his title when I write my parenting/homeschooling memoir, “The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Homeschooler”.

Now for the new year:

1.  So You’re Thinking About Homeschooling? by Lisa Whelchel:  I reread this book, the first homeschooling book I ever read, at least once a year.  It was that time.

2.  Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll:  This was my first time reading this childrens classic.  It’s interesting to note the differences and similarities with the various movie versions I’ve seen over the years.

3.  Coffee with Nonna by Vincent Iezzi:  This short book is a compilation of parables revolving around Jesus that the author’s Italian grandmother told him during their special coffee time together.  While Nonna’s stories may not have been factual, they all carried certain truths.

4.  The Haunted Rectory by Katherine Valentine:  This was a good mix of suspense, horror, religion, and “real” characters.

5.  Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal by Joel Salatin:  This a collection of stories and issues that Salatin has had to deal with just to run his independent and natural farm and sell his food products.  While I don’t agree with all of Salatin’s libertarian ideas, he further opened my eyes to the unintended consequences of too much national regulation and government intervention beyond a local level.

6.  A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:  This is the first of Doyle’s stories featuring Sherlock Holmes, and the first Doyle or Holmes book I’ve ever really read.  (I think an excerpt of Hound of the Baskervilles was in some school text book.)  I look forward to reading more of Doyle’s Holmes stories and trying out his historical novels.

7.  How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish:  I love their book Siblings Without Rivalry, and this book has lots of good information for communicating with your kids better.  This is a great start for a lot of issues, but my only concern is that they don’t seem to really have a place for just expecting a certain amount of obedience.  They also completely dismiss time-out for children, when even many adults need time-outs to pull themselves together or keep from creating havoc.  But it is still a really good book for all parents to read.

8.  The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease:  This is a must read for parents.  It discusses the importance of reading aloud to your kids from birth through high school.  There are tips for implementing read aloud time in your home and lists of great books.  This is actually the second time I’ve read this, but I felt more prepared to initiate more read aloud time in our home this time around.  This is going down as a “maybe” on my purchase list.

9.  The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise:  This book is what initially inspired me to introduce logic and history earlier in our homeschooling than I originally intended.  While I think that their overall program is way over the top and could possibly turn a kid off of learning all together, it is full of good ideas to be cherry-picked.  This was the first time I read all the way through their sections on the Logic and Rhetoric stages of classical education.  I will probably eventually buy this book just for the resource and reading lists.

10.  Endangered Minds by Jane Healy:  I have mixed feelings about this book.  I’ve heard this touted in homeschooling circles as an anti-television/anti-video game book, and it tries to be.  The biggest problems are that a) there’s no definitive proof that television and video games alone do or don’t change children’s brains for better or worse and b) her areas of reference for this book are highly outdated.  The most recent edition came out in 1999 before the mainstreaming of the internet or the rise of cell phones and text messaging.  She has a whole chapter detailing the problems with Sesame Street, but I’d really like to hear her take on Dora the Explorer, Blues Clues, and Super Why that seem to rectify some of the Sesame Street problems.

There’s lots of great neurological studies in the book.  In fact, a lot of the science explains why read aloud time, logic training, and the development of public speaking skills are so important; it really made me think of the two books I had just read.  I just wish that she had kind of summarized at the end of the book the most important things that parents/teachers can do to help children excel in their reading and thinking skills.

10.  Switch by Dan and Chip Heath:  This is a GREAT book that everyone should read.  It talks about how people set about making changes in their life or buisness that stick and why most changes don’t stick.  I could totally see why some things in my own life had worked and while others hadn’t.  And it’s also given me a better understanding how to implement changes in the future.  GREAT, GREAT BOOK!!  (h/t to Erin at bearing blog for recommending it.)