Sunday, April 26, 2009

Really Funny Picture

[Note: My mother just informed me that a lot of my photos weren't coming through, so this is a second attempt.]

One morning a few weeks ago, Benjamin suddenly strolled into the kitchen wearing nothing but:

- A diaper
- Robert's glasses
- Robert's slippers

The girls about fell off their chairs, they were laughing so hard!
They wanted me to take a picture, so here it is:

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Heading to the American Girl Party

Last week Rachael has her eighth birthday party at the "American Girl Bistro." We've never done a birthday party Somewhere Else before, and I feel a little guilty to be so extravagent, but it was a lot of fun, and the food was really good.

Here's Rebecca and Rachael (with Mia and Julie) right before we left. Rebecca is dressed like Kit, which was a Christmas present from her Grandma. Rachael is dressed like Josephina, which is a makeshift costume.

Picasa won't let me put more than 4 pictures in one post, so pictures of the actual party will be separate ...
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If he's the one working, why am I so tired?

My hard-working husband, Robert, has been working from 8:30 am - 1:00 am every night this week. He's at work right now (Saturday) and won't be home til after midnight. Last week was similar, although not quite so extreme. Next week will be the same.

Sadly, in the midst of all this, he was informed that everyone in the company is getting a pay cut.

It's been sort of surreal (and tiring) around here. Most mornings I see Robert for a couple minutes, and then I'm asleep when he comes home. Becca and Benjamin didn't see see for days. (Rachael is our "early bird" and they had breakfast together most mornings.)

I feel like I've been getting behind on everything the past two weeks. I still have two boxes of Easter Stuff I need to label and put in storage. Maybe tonight.

This morning felt good -- I swept, vacuumed, and mopped, and the girls did a thorough cleaning of their room (and Benjamin's room) and put away all the clean laundry that's been accumulating all week. Oh yeah, and I washed the ... what are they called? ... the things that go over the couch cushions.

So the house feels a lot better now.

Evenings here have been Different, though not necessarily Bad. One evening we packed a sort of picnic and went to the local school playground for an hour or two. After we got home there were tornado sirens, and the four of us, i our pajamas, read Mother Goose stories while lined up against the wall of the basement.

Last night we had "movie night" and ate popcorn and turned out all the lights. and watched the first half of the BBC production of The Secret Garden, which was very good. Rachael announced that we should make it a routine to have Movie Night every Friday night, which is not a bad idea.

We're been subsisting mostly on Trader Joe cheese pizzas, Trader Joe mandarin orange chicken and rice, and things like PB&J and mac and cheese and even a couple drive-thru meals for lunch. I am contemplating getting KFC and bringing it to a park tonight. I just don't have the energy to plan meals and cook like I normally do.

Robert is quite a guy. We all had breakfast together this morning, and, although he is very tired, his spirits are up. He even mowed the lawn before he went to work this morning. Can you believe it?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Sweet Failure (not written by me)

I just found this blog entry and really liked it, so I thought I'd share it.

All the stuff I read in her "Parenting" archive was Really Good.

Field Day!

We are members of a local homeschool group, and we do things with them approximately ...

Two times a year.

Here's what we did last spring.

Fortunately, we also attend a weekly Bible study with many of the same people, so we're not total strangers.

Last Friday was Field Day!

Here's the Wheelbarrow Race! Rachael is in the white tank top and light blue shorts.

Here's Rebecca with Regan, getting ready to start their race!

Meanwhile, Benjamin had fun in the toddler area.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

Another boring "What We Did Today" post ...

People either love these or hate these.

I'm mostly writing it because I always feel like I never accomplish anything and maybe it will help me feel more accomplished if I write it down.

Hopefully not too many of you will hate it. :)

I have been getting a late start in the morning a lot lately and I hate it. Robert has been working late (I mean, hours late) just about every night for a couple weeks, so maybe I can partly blame it on that. It's hard for me to get up and going in the mornings.

I have a routine that every Thursday morning I strip our sheets the minute my feet hit the floor, so I started with that, and then got in the shower. Thursday is also trash day, but this was one of those weeks when I was on top of things enough to get the trash out on Wednesday. Yay for me!

I think it was about 9:40 am when everybody was dressed, beds made, breakfast eaten and table cleared, teeth brushed. Oh wait, Benjamin is using the potty this week, so he didn't get dressed. :)

We started "schoolwork" today with a Math-U-See video lesson. These are about 5-8 minutes long. If you're familiar with the program, we are in Alpha, Lesson 24, which is subtracting from 10. Rachael did the lesson worksheet, then went back and did some review pages from earlier lessons, which was her own idea. She also likes the timed tests, so I used the worksheet generator to make them for her and Rebecca.

Next I gave Rachael 4 new library books and told her to take them to the couch for "DEAR." (In school-speak, this is "Drop and Everything and Read." Rachael knows this term from books and from visiting school last year.) I set the timer for twelve minutes, and Rebecca and I did some Explode the Code phonics pages together on the couch.

After that, Rebecca got interested in something in her room, so I did some "All About Spelling" with Rachael. We just got this a couple weeks ago, and she seems to really like it. We sat on the couch to do stuff with the magnetic letter tiles, then to the kitchen table to write some of the words.

Everyone was getting hungry, so we had a snack of cheese cubes.

Then Rachael did her Explode the Code by herself -- only one page today (she is in Book 5), and then wrote in her journal, which is really copywork of something she dictated to me on an earlier day.

Then we did our Five in a Row unit. Today was an Art lesson, which is always a favorite. The book this week is Miss Rhumphias.

We talked about two things today -- how to show wind in a picture, and how to use multiple mediums. Rebecca used paint and mosaic stickers to show a windy picture. Rachael used paint to make a background, and when it dries, she'll draw in something with marker.

By then it is about one thirty in the afternoon. Gosh, I'm not very time-efficient, am I? None of this was as smooth as it reads. In-between all this I'm helping Benjamin use the potty, breaking up fights, putting the clean sheets back on the bed, getting the mail, and throwing in another load of laundry.

Now it's time for a late lunch, which we have in the backyard. At about three, I bring Benjamin in for a nap. (First we read Mother Goose, then Goodnight Moon, as always.) Then the girls and I read a chapter in one of the "Kit Kittredge" books, and then we all have we call "Room Time."

Actually, it doesn't sound like very much, but I feel worn out.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Now we're homeschooling via YouTube!

You may already know that we use a curriculum called Five in a Row, where you read the same book together five days in a row, and each day do something different related to the book.

One of the books in FIAR is called Babar: To Duet or Not to Duet.

Being a musician, I thought it sounded fun, but my library didn't have it and couldn't get it (which is unusual). It is out of print, and used copies on Amazon went for over thirty dollars.


I found out that the book is actually based on a Babar TV series ... and the full episode of To Duet or Not to Duet was on YouTube!

So a couple weeks ago we "rowed" Babar by watching it! How cool is that?

We didn't go into depth as much as we usually do. We didn't do the art or Language Arts at all. Interestingly, the girls enjoyed the show, but did not want to watch it more than twice, and I even had to coax them into doing that.

We did a Babar maze and coloring sheets, and then found recitals of people playing Haydn's Surprise Symphony on YouTube! Very cool. Rachael learned to play it by ear.

I dug out some of my Music Mind Games I used in the public schools and in my private studio, and we did some rhythm and melodic dictation. It was fun. Unfortunately, we don't do that kind of stuff as often as we should.

This stuff is called "Blue Jello" because you say "blue" for a quarter note and "jel-lo" for eighth notes. As you can see, it's good for writing rhythms.

Here's Rebecca in front of her rhythms.

She would make up a rhythm, then I would clap it, but I would do part of it wrong. (A la Steve in "Blue's Clues.") They liked that, and caught me right away each time.

A better view of the rhythm itself.

Rachael went and brushed her hair, then came back so I could take another picture!

If you look closely, you can see the white braces on Rachael's legs. (Some of you may remember she had surgery and casts on both legs.) She has to wear the braces for about 7-8 more months.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What?? A 2009 Electric Company?

Every now and then we watch a few episdoes of the The Electric Company, more because I like it than for any other reason.

[Did everybody else in my generation already know that both Morgan Freeman and Bill Cosby were in it? And that Joan Rivers and Gene Wilder did voices in The Adventures of Letterman, or that Irene Cara was in the Short Circus? I didn't know any of that until about a year ago. I was also delighted to learn that Skip Hinnant (Fargo North Decoder) was Schroeder in the Broadway show, "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," which I feel in love with when I was ten.]


I recently saw "The Electric Company" listed on our local PBS channel and got very excited, thinking that finally somebody got smart and started re-airing all the shows. I eagerly taped it, but then blinked, disappointed, a few times when I started to play it back. As I FF-ed, I saw nobody I recognized ... yes, there were some letters on the screen, but ... what was this, anway? Did I make a mistake and record the wrong thing?

At first I was simply confused (as usual), but then later read about it here. It turns out that this is a new and current version of The Electric Company.

I was really irritated by this at first. If you know me well, you know I can't stand when things are Different From How They Used to Be, and that my childhood memories are semi-sacred. It also bugs me a bit that they are using the exact same name, instead of modifying it somehow.

But when Rachael heard about it, she was eager to watch it, so I finally bit the bullet and we watched this new version of The Electric Company tonight.

The most obvious difference is that, instead of of skits and characters like Easy Reader and Julia Grown-Up, etc, there are some hip-and-happening teens, somewhat reminiscent of Hannah Montana, with a storyline. Interspersed through the storyline are different songs and animated bits about phonics and reading.

Also, of course, there is no groovy 70's feel, but rather, a sort hip-hop, homeboy, modern urban feel.

When we done watching it tonight for the first time, I asked the girls if they liked it. "Yes!" they both said. "We like it better than the other one!"

My comment to them was, "Well ... I didn't hate it as much as I thought I would."

(BTW, if you're longing for the original Electric Company in all its Grooviness, YouTube has a vast assortment of clips, which I am off to go watch right now.)

Ten cents a minute?

A few months ago Suzy Ormon did an Oprah show about kids and finances. Among other things, she said that kids should never be given an allowance "for no reason." She suggested paying them minimum wage -- which works out to ten cents a minute -- and then either increasing or decreasing it if they do a good or poor job.

"Even for things like making their 0wn bed?" Oprah asked.

"Yes," said Suze, "if making their bed is something that helps you."

So ... I was thinking about this some while I went about because my business, because I am Obsessive and Weird.

Let's take Rachael, who is my oldest, who just turned eight yesterday. Here's what she does that is helpful to me:

Pretty much every day she "mostly" unloads the dishwasher, makes her own bed and often Bejamin's bed. She and Rebecca set the table for dinner and help clear the table after we eat. I've never timed all this (I'm not quite that Obsessive and Weird, although I did consider it), but I'm guessing all that adds up to about 7 minutes a day. Eh, let's even say that not all of it happens on the weekend, so ... about 40 minutes for the week.

About once a week I go grocery shopping, and both girls help me load the conveyor belt and unpack the groceries when we get home. Let's say they give me five minutes of helpfulness in that area. Okay, now we're up to 45 minutes a week.

Several week during the week she'll do Miscellaneous Things That Need to be Done; for example: cleaning up the playroom or bedroom, getting Benjamin dressed, sorting and putting away clean laundry, wiping the bathroom counter. I would conservatively guess that all those things add up to about twenty minutes a week.

So that's a conservative grand total of 65 minutes a week. And I am quite sure that many people reading this have their eight years old do more that that!

So if I understand Suzy correctly, I would be paying her $6.50 a week. Is that right?

Gosh, that sounds like an awful lot to me!

Although I understand Suze Orman's point -- or at least think I do -- I personally have never liked the idea of tying allowances to household tasks. First of all, it gives the impression that if the money isn't worth it to them, they can skip it. Second, I hate the idea of them thinking, "What am I gonna get for it?" every time they do every little thing in life.

Here's what we do: Every weekend the girls get an allowance, which is exactly ten cents per year old they are. (I picked this for the scientific reason that it is not a huge amount of money, and it is easy to calculate.) So Rebecca gets sixty cents a week, and Rachael get eighty cents a week.

Hopefully nobody tells Rachael that she deserves to be paid over six dollars a week, or else there might be a revolt.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Becca's Sixth Birthday!

Since Rachael's birthday is in two days, I figured I'd better get Rebecca's birthday pictures posted.
She turned six and had a "Princess Party." This is the first year she invited her own little girl friends (she also invited my parents.) In the past, it's been relatives and friends of the family.

Here's the Party Girls! Rebecca is in the front, in pink, next to her friend Emily.
Big Sister Rachael is in the back with Lilia.

Weeks earlier, the girls had decorated this wall. The pink paper above Rachael's head is the "Schedule" she wrote for the party.
Here Emily is taking her turn on the pinata the girls made. Another game they played later was "Pin the Crown on the Princess."

Rachael basically planned and ran the entire party.

And here's everybody in front of Rebecca's Princess cake!
We got it at Publix. It has a crown and a wand.

Here's a picture of me with my Birthday Girl.

Look at how happy she is! :)
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