Archive for March 2011

Reading List March 2011

March 30, 2011

1.  Half Magic by Edward Eager:  This was a list of book recommendations for young readers by the amazing Simcha Fisher.  I made Bailey read it as part of her silent reading time for school, but she just didn’t get into it.  I thought it was ok, but I didn’t love it, either.

2.  The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle:  This was the last book that I read before my self-imposed Lenten sacrifice of giving up books.  I was feverishly finishing the last pages before bedtime on Fat Tuesday.  It was a good, fun adventure book, and an interesting snapshot of the time period.

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7 Quick Takes (v. 45)

March 25, 2011

1.  It’s the mastitis that never ends…it just goes on and on, my friends….The worst of the symptoms (chills, fever, body ache) have gone, but I still have some blockages that will not go away and are continuing to make nursing slightly painful.  I haven’t been quite as on top of my antibiotics because they tear up my stomach if I don’t eat them with a something thick, but I usually get three out of four doses down a day.  In the meantime I spend most of the day with a rice-filled sock stuck in my bra that I nuke about three times per hour.  I call it my “boob sock”…in front of the kids even.

2.  How many more days left in Lent?  Is it sad that I’m already compiling a list of the first five to ten books I want to get from the library?  I may just spend all of Easter Sunday reading while the kids gorge themselves on candy.

3.  Sabrina seems to be embracing this idea of solid food.  She’s started chomping on baby snacks (Cheerios, arrowroot cookies) and is up to two level 2 jars of baby food a day.  I’m trying to get her to embrace the sippy cup as her friend.  With the way this past month has gone, I am not only counting down the days to Easter but counting down the days until I can wean her from “mommy milk” without guilt.  Maybe by the time June gets here I will feel comfortable enough to go my usual 15 months of nursing, but right now I just want to cut and run.

4.  Of course the flip side of solid feeding and weaning is the return of my fertility.  I’ll have to start watching that like a hawk, and I just pray to God that His plans agree with my plans of me not having any more babies anytime soon, if ever.

5.  Speaking of prayers, is there anything that sounds more lame than “I’ll pray for you”?  I know that prayer itself is anything but lame, but talking about praying just always seems somewhat corny.  I’m just at a season in my life where I just can’t offer much time, talent, or treasure.  All I can give is prayer.  I especially like to focus on pregnant women; I keep a “Pregnancy Prayer List” of all the pregnant women I know (or whose husbands I know) and pray for a healthy pregnancy and a safe and easy delivery for mother and baby.  I also throw some in there for pregnant women who are scared and tempted to get an abortion.  That’s just my thang.

6.  On Tuesday it was so warm that we were able to go outside without jackets.  I cleaned out the garage some while the girls rode their bikes and played with their friends.  And then it stormed Tuesday night.  And the temperature dropped.  And there was a little snow on Thursday morning.  And now I’m wearing my long underwear under my pants again.

7.  Thanks to the Solemnity of the Annunciation we don’t have to abstain from meat today.  So why am I still tempted to go for the giant fish sandwich instead of the cheeseburger when I sneak to Burger King during my grocery shopping?

Compassion for the Poor

March 23, 2011

About a month ago I was embroiled in a brouhaha on Facebook.  I basically disagreed with a “friend” who slammed anyone who was happy at the thought of Planned Parenthood being federally de-funded.  While he himself pretty much kept his mouth shut after his initial post, his other “friends” started attacking me non-stop.  It was actually funny how none of them would actually discuss my points, they just kept making assumptions and personally attacking me.  The first accusation thrown my way was that I have “no compassion for the poor”.  I finally stepped out of the conversation because it was sucking up too much of my time talking to irrational and rabid people.

But here I am a month later thinking about it, and I have some questions for those who equate the defunding of Planned Parenthood with a lack of “compassion for the poor”.

1.  What constitutes “the poor” who would be deprived of Planned Parenthood’s cheap, but not free, services?

Are “the poor” high school and college students who are still living at home, being financially supported by their parents, and are still covered under their parents health insurance but turn to Planned Parenthood so that they can go behind their parents’ backs to get contraception, treatment for STDs, and abortions?

Or are “the poor” those who are uninsured or under-insured who can afford to rack up credit card bills for clothes, computers, and bar tabs but think that putting the cost of pap smear on their credit card or setting up a payment plan with a doctor’s office unacceptable?

Or are the poor those who are uninsured or under-insured who don’t have cable television or internet or their own vehicle who would have to choose between the cost of a pap smear or feeding their kids?

I know that the last example is a bit of an extreme, but I wonder what percentage of PP customers are truly poor and do most of us in America truly know what it means to be poor?

2.  Some say that Planned Parenthood sets up their clinics in low-income areas because those people are the ones who need their low-cost services the most.  It’s a fact, though, that minorities are disproportionately represented among the poor and also disproportionately account for the majority of abortions.  The military also tends to set up recruitment centers in low-income areas, often giving the people living there an opportunity to get out of poverty by offering educational opportunities they might not otherwise have.  However, a military career has a certain amount of risk of being killed in battle.

Why do people who are worried about the poor and minorities being disproportionately targeted by the military and killed in battle not care that the poor and minorities are being targeted and disproportionately killed by abortion?

3.  One of the last comments that people made on Facebook was that one shouldn’t complain about her tax dollars going to abort a child because your tax dollars would just go to support that child anyway when he or she just ends up on welfare or in jail.  Interestingly, no one said one word about this nasty piece of logic.

So,only “poor” women abort their children at Planned Parenthood clinics?  (Not fully-insured teenagers.)

All unaborted children of poor families always end up on welfare or in jail?

Because a child might end up on welfare or in jail, it is better to kill him or her in the womb then entertain the possibility that they might NOT end up on welfare or in jail?

Let’s not even get into the historical, cultural, and systematic roots of poverty and why minorities are disproportionately represented in the prison system.  The best way to fix the problem is just to enable them to not reproduce, abort their babies, and kill themselves.

Is that “compassion for the poor”?

7 Reasons I’m Skinny

March 22, 2011

With the exception of college, I have been underweight most of my life.  Thanks to lots of Papa John’s pizza, among other things, I was a perfect weight for my height in college, but still thin.  Let’s examine the 7 reasons that I’m so skinny.

1.  Genetics:  My dad was so tall and thin in his twenties that a priest forbade him from fasting during Lent.  I have a good four inches of height over my mom.  I think it’s safe to say whose body type I got.

2.  Breastfeeding:  They literally suck it out of me.  I gain a good ten pounds when I wean.

3.  Stress:  When I feel physically, mentally, or emotionally over-whelmed my appetite just dries up.  With four kids I spend a lot of my life in a state of stress.

4.  Forgetfullness/Distractedness:  When I say that I “forgot” to eat, people look at me funny.  It’s probably more apt to say that I was distracted from eating.  For instance, I was going to eat and then I remembered that Bailey’s leotard needed to be dried.  But before I could dry her leotard I had to take the clothes already in the drier out and fold them.  Then after I switched out laundry Katie wanted a snack.  But to get her snack I had to get a clean bowl out of the dishwasher.  And once I opened the dishwasher I figured I should unload it completely.  And once its unloaded then you should reload it with dirty dishes.  Then I remember that the washing machine is empty, and I really should wash a load of whites.  Then two hours later I remember that I should have eaten something, but now it’s time to cook dinner.

5.  Bad Cooking:  I am not a very good cook.  I eat what I cook because I have to do so, but I don’t eat as much as I would if it actually tasted good.  If I was a billionaire, though, I would hire a personal chef and/or eat out for every single meal.

6.  Healthy Food Temptation:  I like salads.  I like salads with lettuce, mushrooms, cheese, carrots, broccoli, pepperonis, ham, turkey, croutons, tortilla strips, wonton strips, and lots of salad dressing if I can hit a restaurant salad bar.  But lets face it, even the most high-calorie salad that I could make at home is not going to have as many calories as a corn dog.  The same goes for a variety of healthy foods, like fruit.  If I only have time to sit down and eat one item, I really should grab the biggest high calorie item that I can.  But the low-calorie healthy food can be so tempting and tasty.  (On the flip-side of this, I am also tempted to high-sugar snacks like Swiss cake rolls that make me hypoglycemic.)

7.  Trapped:  There are times when I am just sitting around with time to eat.  However, these times usually coincide with me being trapped under at least once child who may or may not be sleeping.  While I often try to remember to pack a food item with me before I sit down, I very often find myself praying that God would grant me telekinesis or teleportation to get more food without having to move my body.

*Honorary mention:  Low Zinc:  I once read an article about how anorexics often have low zinc and if they increase their zinc intake their appetite increased.  So, basically because I don’t eat enough I may not get enough zinc which makes my appetite bad which means that I don’t eat enough and I may not get enough zinc….I really should remember to take a multi-vitamin.

7 Quick Takes (v. 44)

March 19, 2011

1.  Remember when I wrote a few weeks ago that Sabrina took a chunk out of me while nursing?  Well, now I’ve developed a nasty case of mastitis.  And why is it when I tell the kids “I’m sick”  they hear “Disobey, ignore, and argue with me twice as much as you usually do”?

2.  I got an order of homeschooling supplies in a few days ago.  I just couldn’t completely enjoy it.  This was partly because I was sick as a dog.  But it was partly because my Lenten sacrifice kept me from poring over the items and making plans.  I’m not going to lie; my Lenten sacrifices have been kind of rough.

3.  I took Sabrina for her nine-month check-up yesterday.  I figured it would be less exhausting to take one sweet baby to the doctor then stay at home and deal with refereeing the three older girls.  I also snuck by McDonald’s afterward.  Amazingly, the antibiotic and ibuprofen didn’t tear up my stomach nearly as much after a hamburger, french fries, and sweet tea.

4.  Have I mentioned that I love my pediatrician?  On one hand he is very clear about what the recommendations are from the American Academy of Pediatrics, but he doesn’t treat them like the law handed down from God.  He’s been cool with me spacing out vaccinations and prioritizing them.  He was very understanding of our current problems and gave me some good practical advice if I wanted to try weaning a little bit without having to use formula for the next three months.

5.  It’s actually getting fairly warm around here.  In fact I don’t know how much of my night sweats this week were do my fever breaking and how much was due to the fact that I was wearing ten layers under two layers of blanket in a warm room thanks to the chills I kept experiencing.

6.  Of course we are hitting that time of the year where Bailey is starting to outgrow her pants and leggings, at least the ones that haven’t had the knees ripped out.  Soon I will have to start making a list of what clothing items each child has for this summer and what they will need.  And then we’ll have to schedule our big shopping trip.

7.  It was a year ago this week since we went to Disney World.  While some of our memories may have faded, the secret sister handshake that Bailey and Piper invented in one of the bathrooms still lives on.  They’ve been teaching it to Katie this week.

P.S.  I know I should have posted this yesterday.  But I’ve been sick; give me a break.

Understanding Reading Assessments

March 12, 2011

A few weeks ago I had Bailey take these two reading level assessments.  On the first one she scored 4.9 (fourth grade, ninth month).  On the San Diego Quick Assessment her independent reading level measured at fifth grade, and her instructional level was sixth grade, but seventh grade was determined as beyond her current abilities.  Now apparently these are norm-referenced tests.  For instance, Bailey is reading at the same level as the 50th percentile of kids in their ninth month of fourth grade, so some kids in the ninth month of fourth grade read better than her and some read worse.

I more recently had Bailey take the Schonell Reading Test which claims to determine “reading age” rather than grade level.  She read 55 out of 100 words correctly for a reading age of 10.5 (which I assume to be 10 years and 5 months).  This is pretty consistent with her scoring on the other two assessments.  One thing that I did like about this one over the others is that Schonell doesn’t tell you to stop going through the list once your child misses two or three in a row.  So while Bailey started to falter around word 48, she was able to read at least one word in each of the last four groups of twelve.  Interestingly, this test only measures up through age 15.

Of course most of these tests focus on decoding skills, whether the child can read specific words.  They do not cover reading comprehension.  Can the child read a passage and understand the message the author is trying to convey?  Does she know what all the words mean together?  This is where the Lexile measure is supposed to come in to play.

I first discovered Lexile measures while looking up the recommended age levels for books at the Barnes & Noble website.  Lexile assigns a range of numbers that correspond to the reading comprehension skills of each child.  Books at the low-end of the range are easy for the child to read and understand while books at the high-end of the range may be more difficult.  The books in the middle are just right.  This is supposed to help you pick out books that will develop a child’s reading skills without overwhelming them.

The biggest problem I see with Lexile measures is that they can only be accurately derived by taking a handful of standardized tests.  They will not offer an assessment test themselves, so you just kind of have to make a rough guess of your child’s Lexile range.  They recommend either averaging the Lexile scores of books they have read or they will give you an average range based on grade levels.  This is kind of funny because Lexile seems to constantly turn up its nose at referring to grade levels, but yet they are forced to do so if they want to promote themselves.

Lexile is obviously also trying to carve out a niche in the standardized testing industry and libraries.  However, the only place I’ve regularly seen them mentioned is at Barnes & Noble, but even there not every book has been assigned a Lexile score.  Of course, only about a quarter of the books that Bailey has read recently have a normative grade level recommendation either (for example 4.9).  The most consistent label I’ve seen around has been “suggested age range” or “suggested grade level”.  Of course, sometimes you don’t know if that is referring to decoding, comprehension, or content level.

So, why in the world do I care about Bailey’s reading level anyway?  I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a bit proud that she seems to be reading two years above grade level (in decoding skills anyway).  At the same time I know this doesn’t necessarily make her a genius.  But we’ve had a consistent problem for about a year now of finding books at her comprehension level.

When you go to the library they normally have a section for picture books that are designed for an adult to read to a child because the decoding level is way higher than than content level.  Then you have a section of “Easy Readers” for children at a decoding level between kindergarten and second grade.  And then you have “Juvenile Fiction”, “Juvenile Biography”, and “Juvenile Non-Fiction” which could have decoding and comprehension levels anywhere between second and eighth grade.  This is where Lexile scoring could really earn its bread and butter.

The average Lexile range for a 2nd grader who thinks what she reads in school is easy is between 575 and 870, and this really seems about right for Bailey.  About a year ago, though, she was breezing through the Rainbow Magic series and its first book has a Lexile score of 520.  More recently she read Who Was Marco Polo? as part of her schoolwork.  It has a Lexile score of 780; she said that she could understand what was going on but she did stumble over some of the foreign names of people and places.  She might be able to comprehend books with a score of higher than 870, but it may take a bit more concentration and brain-power.  

Knowing Bailey’s approximate Lexile rating can help me in two ways.  First of all, it can help us browse the Lexile website for book suggestions for her own pleasure reading.  And when I am compiling her reading list for her schoolwork each semester I can more easily choose books within her comprehension level or slightly above.

Unfortunately, though, my library’s search system doesn’t offer any information about normative grade levels or Lexile scores, so I have to cross reference everything at the Barnes & Noble website.  I think I might just have to have a talk with the librarians in the kids section about that next time I’m in there.

7 Quick Takes (v. 43)

March 11, 2011

1.  Today is my 11th wedding anniversary.  On Sunday I was wishing someone else a happy anniversary when I realized that mine was actually coming up at the end of the week.  I wonder how long it would have taken us both to remember if Facebook hadn’t reminded us.  What are our big plans to celebrate??  My husband is taking the two oldest girls to a baseball card show, so that Bailey (8) can get Rollie Fingers’ autograph.

2.  I finally got around to watching Downton Abbey and absolutely loved it.  The good thing about British television shows is that they don’t run a show into the ground with too many episodes and too many seasons.  The bad thing about British television shows is that they are often so well made that they have you wishing that they would have more than 7 to 13 episodes per season.

3.  A few weeks ago my husband discovered that one of our priests has his own YouTube channel in which he plays guitar and sings popular songs, including Lady Ga-Ga’s “Bad Romance”.  It was a little disconcerting for both of us and led to an interesting discussion.  The priest in question admits on his blog that some people might think less of him for it but it’s a free and harmless hobby that he enjoys.  The song “Bad Romance” in and of itself isn’t necessarily horrible from what I can tell, but the inevitable association with the original artist who likes to be extremely candid about her immoral actions taints the song.

Of course, if I refused to listen to any musical artist who had committed a mortal sin that would wipe out half the musical world…including Amy Grant.  And I wouldn’t want anyone to judge my piety based on my musical tastes, either.  It’s easy to forget that priests are ordinary men called to an extraordinary vocation.  And I feel sorry for the wives and children of priests and pastors who often live their lives under a moral microscope.

4.  Sabrina is cutting four top teeth right now.  The two on either front side are partially in, and the two middle teeth are poking through.  Needless to say, someone has been a really restless sleeper this week.  But she’s been doing amazingly well overall.

5.  Katie has learned how to turn doorknobs to open doors.  The gate at the bottom of our stairs has also come loose, so she is able to open and close that swinging door.  This week the soundtrack of our life has been a combination of slams and clinks as she goes in and out of the gate and every bedroom upstairs five million times…just because she can.

6.  Piper has been having a blast going through these phonics readers that we own.  I really need to figure out where they’ve moved all the phonics readers in the new library.  She’s also decoding more and more words at her websites (Club Penguin and Toon Town) and in her general environment.  It is so cool to be with her every day when those light bulbs are going off.

7.  Speaking of the new library, we made it in there to look around the other night.  The most amazing thing is that their new way of displaying the juvenile series books inspired Bailey to pick three or four different ones to try.  Sure most of what she picked would be considered “twaddle” to the educational elite, but it is a very rare event when I have to order Bailey to put down her book and get some sleep.