Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Just the Facts

The other day I was trying to explain to Alex the expression, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." I guess I have the perfect example here: I'm using all of my writing energy and skills on my curriculum and website, so unfortunately, there's nothing left for my blog (I'm sure my mil is going through Blog Withdrawal). Nevertheless, I'm back--but with nothing clever...just the facts.

The kids had their spring break Friday and yesterday. A friend came to visit, and the kids absolutely adore him, so I thought it would be a good time for a break. Saturday they had their first soccer game, which went well despite the obvious loss. Upwards leagues do not keep score at this age, but Michael informed me it was "like 20-0." Surprisingly, the game was much more like a soccer game than I had anticipated, and our two kids really are quite good at it, especially considering they've never played; I'm thinking we've found our niche (as opposed to basketball).

Saturday was a gorgeous day weather-wise, and we enjoyed some time outside in the evening with some other friends who came for dinner. The weather on Easter Sunday, of course, was not so wonderful. It never fails that the weather turn freezing cold on Easter. This is because the girls have adorable, new spring dresses. Next year I'm buying them Easter sweaters. Of course, if I do that, we'll have record highs.

Yesterday wasn't much better in the weather department. In fact, it snowed a little bit. When the first few flakes fell, the kids were so excited and yelled, "It's snowing, it's snowing." "Nah," I said, "that's just some pear blossoms blowing around in the wind." But no--they were right. I was wrong. Anyway, the snow was falling as we made our second trip to my new favorite place: Learning Things. Last time, the cold of the warehouse cut my visit short. This time I went prepared with two coats on and gloves. Nothing's gonna keep me from spending a fortune on books!

I also made off with a microscope (which completely caused the budget to fly out the window--don't tell my husband!!), complete with some sample slides which the kids have already studied this morning. We have also taken a look at some of Alex's skin which she generously donated. I haven't yet taken her up on her offer of pricking her finger to provide some blood to study. Her other suggestion was that she go out and skin her knee so I could get some bleeding that way. I think we'll stick with the prefab slide of frog's blood for now.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Never-Ending Storm

That's what the kids have dubbed it. And they're right: although the sun is shining right now, I think there's at least one more round headed our way. It really began this morning at 6:30 when a huge clap of thunder sent the youngest boy scurrying downstairs and into our bed. After last night's storm that ripped through downtown Atlanta, I decided to check the radar online. That was when the second thunder shook the house, and a second boy ended up in our bed. The girls slept through what ended up not being much of a storm.

The real never-ending storm began after lunch. Although we were on the outskirts of the tornado that blasted through our area, we had a 5-minute burst of incredible wind that, had it lasted longer, would have dumped all of our chairs and possibly the grill into the pool. When this started, we all crowded into our windowless guest bathroom.

The second round followed the exact same path, and from the pictures you'd think it was a snow storm:

It was hail. From inside, it sounded like our whole house was a kettle of popping corn. We waited this one out in our little bathroom hideout as well.

We've had a couple of heavy thunderstorms since our last tornado warning. Although they weren't storms worthy of our Bathroom Hideout, Alex now runs into the bathroom at the first sound of thunder or drop of rain. Should be an interesting night if this continues...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Drama Boy Still Lives

You can read about Drama Boy's debut performance at the doctor's office here.

All I can say, having just returned from Michael's annual check-up, is that I know why some people opt out of vaccinations. It has nothing to do with the blah, blah percent of kids who suffer such-and-such a side effect from whatever shot (forgive me if I'm offending anyone). They just don't want to deal with the drama. Of course, I know not everyone has the joy of experiencing drama to its fullest just from a tiny pin prick. I know that because Alex had a shot today. She gritted her teeth, held my hand, closed her eyes and didn't shed a tear.

Drama Boy? Well, it took three of us to wrangle him on to the table and hold him down. And, seriously, it sounded like he was being tortured. Later, I asked him, "Now, it wasn't really as bad as you thought it would be, was it?" He solemnly nodded. "So you're just a ghost then because it sounded like you were dying."

At least the boy knew what grade he is in.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Food Network, Ho Chi Minh, and the Mefong River

We love the Food Network Channel in this family. My husband--for whom cooking is a hobby (am I lucky, or what?)--is probably the biggest fan, but the rest of us have our favorites as well. Jacob often requests Unwrapped, and Alex and I enjoy watching the latest cake or pastry challenges. Just the other day, I discovered a brand new favorite: A Cook's Tour. And the episode I watched where the host visited Vietnam inspired me to abandon our regular studies and spend the day immersing ourselves in Southeastern Asian culture.

We began by finding Vietnam on the map and then labeling and coloring our own map to add to our World Notebook. After mapping it, we read about it. Once we discovered that the majority of people in Vietnam are Buddhists, we read about Buddhism. I was so impressed with Alex as she helped me complete a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting Christianity and Buddhism.

After reading about Vietnamese villages, rice paddies, and the beautiful countryside, it was time to see it for ourselves. I had the kids watch the episode of A Cook's Tour that was my inspiration, and it did much more than just discuss the food in Vietnam, though that of course was the focal point...and what totally grossed out the kids! I'm a little grossed out too by the menus presented: a duck--feathers, blood, innards and all--coated and baked in clay, lobster "blood" mixed with Vodka, and birds' nest soup. Even the narrator almost lost his birds' nest soup after he had forced it down.

So after the kids were completely disgusted, I suggested that we make our own Vietnamese meal. Needless to say, they weren't too keen on the idea as images of bird mucous and beaks ran through their heads. I sparked a little more enthusiasm, though, when I mentioned Vietnamese spring rolls and soup. We LOVE the Vietnamese (cooked) spring rolls! They were a favorite in Africa (we called them Nems), and Mark perfected the Nem long ago.

So my gourmet cook made up the Nem filling and set to work on the soup. While I was rolling Nems, I put my eldest to work on a little writing assignment:

My name is Ha Nguyen. I live in Vietnam. I am eight years old. I live with my mom, dad, sister, and grandfater. My dad is a fisherman. He sometimes brings home a fish or two (that's on special occasions). We mostly eat produce or rice. My favorite place to go is the marketplace. It has good food baskets and dishes. Besides the market, I love to go to my friend's house. Her name is Ha Ya. She's my best friend. I live happily here.

The End

(I provided her with the name of one of my former ESL students. She came up with Ha Ya herself (think Karate when you pronounce it!!).)

Once our dinner was prepared and our homework completed, we cleared an area in the family room, spread a sheet, and got ready to eat Vietnamese-style (or at least as was portrayed on A Cook's Tour). We got out our Asian dishes and chopsticks and settled on the floor for dinner. It was delicious! Now I'm just trying to convince Alex that a good Vietnamese child would probably have fruit for dessert, not peanut butter cookies!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

'Tato Heads

Decorator Tater night at AWANA. Their original ideas:

Alex: Ruth Tater (under the Bibliotater category)

Michael: a racecar potato

Jacob: an airplane potato

I asked Alex how she planned on making her Ruth Tater recognizable as Ruth. She shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know," she said. "Maybe I'll draw some grains of wheat on a piece of paper." A cute idea to be sure, but I wanted to win. So I came up with Rahab. And she helped me. A little bit. Actually, she was the one who reminded me there was straw on Rahab's house where the spies hid. And she was quick to decorate Rahab Tater's home with a rug and pictures on the wall. (After I had already placed a small book replica of "Spies Like Us" on the floor.) Alex helped stamp a stone wall to adhere to the shoebox. Her Tater was complete with a window and red/scarlet ribbon hanging from it.

Michael was excited about his racecar until he saw his daddy helping Jacob with the airplane, complete with a working propeller. Of course he wanted an airplane too. I tried to explain to Michael that with two identical potatoes, chances were slim either would win and nil on them both winning. He couldn't be persuaded otherwise. So both boys took Airplane Taters and were proud to show everyone how to make the propeller fan spin by connecting the mini-fan to the 9V battery.

(The Princess also got a potato...to quiet her following me around the house asking, "Ere's my 'tato head?" Her 'tato head sported leftover fake eyelashes and a blue sash. No Tater Person in particular, but as far as she was concerned, her 'tato head would do! Since Daddy is in town this week, she didn't have a chance to show it off at church, but I don't think she cared one bit.)

And the winners? Two out of three. Alex took the Bibliotater category, and Jacob won with his airplane in the Silly Tater category. I groaned inside (and maybe even complained to a couple of friends) when I heard they all won but Michael. Michael is my sulker, and I was anticipating his sulky ride home and a sulky day tomorrow. But what great life lessons we could get out of it! Honestly, tonight I was too tired to give out any life lessons. You know what, though? He didn't sulk one bit! 'Course the fact that he is expecting a visit from the Toothfairy tonight might have lifted his spirits. Unfortunately, he thinks the Toothfairy might be giving him $15.00 so he can buy a new Lego set he's been eyeing. We may be in for some life lessons tomorrow after all when his disappointment in the tooth exchange brings on the sulking.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Coming Out of His Shell

Finally. Most kids go through a short-lived bout of separation anxiety around 1 or 2 years of age. Jacob was completely normal in that respect; however, his separation anxiety has been anything but short-lived. A couple of years ago, I was the only Cubbie mommy to accompany her son on stage to receive his ribbon; I had visions of walking across a similar stage with my grown son as he received a diploma, marking the end of his college career. This year I've been teaching AWANA and, as I go through my preparations and set-up for the lesson at church, there he is so close on my heels I trip over him every time I turn around; I've often wondered what it would be like to, instead of tripping over his short 5-year-old frame, run smack into a 6-foot-tall man everytime I make a move.

He's not like this at home. So, essentially, it's like Jekyll and Hyde. Ask any of my friends from church--they come over to my house, and their mouths drop open in astonishment as they watch Jacob interact in his comfort zone. "Is that the same little boy I see at church?" they ask. Same one. That's why it's been frustrating. This frustration has led to several battles because we initially were of the philosophy that if we didn't push him out of his comfort zone, he wouldn't ever have the chance to get over it. But when the tears started Saturday nights in anticipation of the next morning's activity, we realized that sobbing over the prospect of going to church wasn't really a positive thing. So...we began just letting him do as he felt comfortable to do. For the past two years, this has meant him tagging along to service with us...and sitting so quietly you wouldn't know he was there (I think he was terrified we'd send him to Sunday School).

This past week, however, he began baby steps toward breaking away from us. Wednesday night he decided he wanted to participate in Game Time. And...he couldn't stop talking afterwards about how his team won Tug-of-War--TWICE! On Sunday, I asked him my standard, "Are you sure you want to come to service with us? Wouldn't you rather go to Sunday School." He shook his head. And off to service he went. But half-way through the singing, he said quietly to me, "Actually I do want to go." I don't think I've ever sprinted so quickly out of a church service...before he could change his mind. And he was a brave boy and had a wonderful time in Sunday School!

My big boy has already told me he plans to play games tomorrow night. And plans to go to Sunday School on Sunday. My baby boy is growing up! Looks like I won't have to walk him across that stage to get his diploma after all!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Swamp Gas

Jacob has a little stomach bug. He was sitting on the pot this evening before bed yelling, "Ewww...swamp gas!"

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Homeschool ESOL

Recently, Denver decided to do a little affirmative action in the gifted program of their public schools. You can read about it here. Read the article for yourself, but may I just point out that essentially, they are turning their gifted program into an ESOL program. Brilliant, Colorado! Maybe we'll consider moving to the Centennial State because my highest aspiration is to have my students--gifted or not--learn English as a second language. Actually, with my training and experience in an ESL class years ago, I really could just turn our homeschool into the Pierce Academy for English as a Second Language. Please don't get me wrong: I love diversity. I even enjoyed teaching ESL. But, come on, let the kids who actually test gifted enjoy an environment where they can shine and where they do not have to waste educational time waiting for the language learning curve to catch up with their classmates!

And on other educational fronts--this one pertaining to homeschooling--please go to this website to sign a petition to depublish the recent California ruling that homeschooling is illegal and may only be an option to parents who are certified to teach. The California law is actually more specific in saying that the parent must be certified for the age/subject he/she is teaching. This means I wouldn't be eligible to teach my children until they are in middle school and then I could only teach them English. I suppose if I lived in Cali, I could set up a little tent in the schoolyard and have my children come out during their 4th period study hall so they could be learned in their readin' and writin'. I know the Golden State is a world away from us here in the south, but trends tend to start in California. Let's stop it before it spreads!

Friday, March 7, 2008

New Hobbies

Right. Just what I need. Since I have so much time to work on the hobbies I already have! But today's co-op sparked a new interest in the boys and in me. We've been working through the Keepers of the Faith series with our homeschool group, so in a very politically incorrect way, the boys have been learning "boy" things, and the girls are picking up "girl" skills. You know, so we can ensure our daughters' success barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen and so the boys can hunt and gather.

Today's girl skill was cross-stitching, something I enjoy doing on occasion, but a skill which tries my patience when I'm trying to teach it. I was therefore very happy to have the opportunity to send my daughter into the capable, sewing hands of another. And she did great and even admitted after much prodding that this teacher was indeed much more of a patient cross-stitching tutor than I!

While the girls were busying their hands with their dutiful female activity, the boys were outside learning archery. And from the best of the best I'd say; their instructor, one of the fathers, is some sort of weapons expert in the Marine Corps (or at least was at some point). He was very patient with the boys, and they did very well! Jacob was the first to hit the target, and they both improved a whole lot just in the short time we had. I really wanted to try my hand at it as well, but none of the other mothers appeared as enthusiastic and since it IS all about the kids, I let them get their time in. But...the instructor was kind enough to send us away with a handful of arrows, so you just know it won't be long until we're all out in the backyard trying to be Robin Hood. And since we'll be studying the middle ages next year anyway, I think I see a whole unit study developing!

You Need Some Fun in this House!

OK. Don't laugh. But I'm an avid, faithful...closet...Supernanny watcher. I know, right? What can you learn from a 21st Century-style Mary Poppins who visits these outrageous families made up of children who cuss like sailors, beat each other up, and walk all over Mom and Dad? Well, I always go to bed Wednesday nights having pulled some parenting tidbit away from the drama. This past week's episode featured a young mom of 7. Ages 8 and under! My guess is that she way beats me on the number of times she gets stopped at the grocery store with an, "Are they ALL yours?" "Yes." "Wow! You have your hands full!" exchange. Anyway, Supernanny got it right when she told the young mother that there just wasn't much fun going on in the household. So true, so true. Same in this household.

Like this mother, I have my daily agenda which must be accomplished before I allow myself--or the kids--any "fun"--however that word may be defined. And that is exactly why, when I saw my friend's number on caller ID, I ignored it. She's the kind of friend who is always making life fun for her kids. I knew she was calling because she's always kind and always thinks of me and calls to see if maybe I'd like to go along for some fun as well. Fun. How can I be expected to just pick up and go have fun with the kids when there is still so much on my agenda?

As I was resolving to accomplish my to-do list and come up with some excuse to tell my friend about why I couldn't indulge in any fun, I heard Supernanny's british accent in my head: "You just don't have any FUN in this house!" OK, OK, Supernanny. I'll go have some fun. I'm sure we'll all survive if my kindergartener skips handwriting! And we might even be able to study Massachusetts and Connecticut some other day.

It was a beautiful, spring-like day yesterday, and we had a great time at the park. Not without a few owies of course--Michael skinned his elbow while performing a daring wheelie on his scooter. And not without the disappointment of not being able to find a letterbox which was supposedly 8 paces from a rock the size of a softball--great hiding techniques whoever hid it; like that rock hasn't gotten misplaced over the years! We did, however, find a second letterbox at the park, and the kids were able to stamp our notebook and leave our stamp imprint in the letterbox guest book.

In addition to our fun letterboxing adventure, the kids exercised, laughed and talked with their friends, explored, looked for tadpoles in the pond, walked the "plank" (a log referenced in a letterboxing clue), AND I got to enjoy some adult conversation! So, Supernanny, thanks for reminding me to stray from my agenda to have a little fun around here. And thanks to my friend for always thinking of me! Hey, we may even get around to Jacob's handwriting practice today!

Saturday, March 1, 2008


My cute little boy--the one who flaps merrily from one end of the court to the other like a bird, the one who freezes mid-court when the clock begins its count down from a minute so he can cover his ears before the buzzer, the one who would rather play tag with the boy he is guarding--that boy scored not one, but THREE baskets today!

It was the 5th period (they play six 6-minute periods). Michael was down under the basket, and one of his teammates passed him the ball. There was a brief deer-caught-in-the-headlights moment. I held my breath and whispered a thought, "Please pass it, please pass it--to a teammate, that is." His coach yelled, "Shoot it, Michael!" And he shot and scored! There has never been and never will be a prouder little boy than my little Michael after he scored his first basket! But it didn't end there. A teammate stole the ball from the opposing team, passed it to Michael who hadn't really moved from his place under the net; he shot it and scored again! And it repeated a third time! After that, he got two more good shots on the goal.

I couldn't be prouder of Michael--not because of his accomplishment, but because he's still having fun. And because he revels in simple joys. And because I know he felt so good when all of his teammates were patting him on the back, giving him high fives, and making a point of congratulating him. And because I love to see that sparkle in his eyes.