Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Random Updates

I had such good intentions last week of posting more. And then the puking started. First K, who was quite ill for two days and not terribly energetic for a third. Then Alec, who threw up twice one evening and played quite cheerfully in between. He napped more than usual yesterday and today, but it goes to show how much easier it is to kick a virus when you're not perpetually fighting the infection in your bladder.

Anyway, among other news:

- We saw Arrietty last Monday. It was just so fantastic. The pacing was slow, but the animation was so gorgeous that we didn't mind in the least because we just sat and took in all of the details. K loved it too, and we've started reading The Borrowers to her at bedtime. That's significant because it's the first chapter book she's shown this much sustained interest in. I think she inherited my difficulty with absorbing things through just listening without anything visual to back it up. I can read until the end of time, but I have real difficulty absorbing the same book if I hear it. Similarly, being told how to do something isn't nearly as helpful to me as a nice diagram or set of written instructions. Auditory processing is not my strong suit. Up to this point, K has only wanted books with pictures for her to look at as we read, I suspect because the pictures helped her keep up with the story. But we're up to chapter 5 of The Borrowers, so she can listen to longer texts without pictures if she tries.

- We took K to a new urologist a month ago. He was quite nice and K even liked him enough not to dive under the table upon seeing him, so that's an improvement. We're now on a regimen of frequent water drinking and cranberry pills, which seem to be working pretty well. We have a standing antibiotic prescription if we need it, but we haven't needed it so far. I'm really hoping this is a sign we're making progress.

- Our infant carseat picked up some mold on the straps while being stored in our last garage. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide if it was possible to clean it off without damaging the strength of the straps. Finally, last weekend was the last opportunity for Babies R Us's baby equipment trade in, so I sent B out to get the car seat out of the shed so we could look at it again and decide once and for all if it was salvageable.

As it turns out, all of my indecision was rendered moot when we discovered that a squirrel had been chewing on it. Not to mention pooping in it. And at some point, apparently ran off with the cover.

Well, that certainly made the decision a lot easier. So now we have a new infant carseat. I haven't done any other baby prep, but Godric can now show up and we can at least take him home from the hospital.

I think I'm in a bit of denial about the fact that I'm 31 weeks pregnant and will most likely have a baby two months from now. Part of it is that having had two babies at the end of June, my internal pregnancy clock is two months off. Mentally, I feel like I should only be five months along. My body, however, is acutely aware that I'm 7 months and is letting me know it doesn't appreciate it with the joyously traditional pelvic pain of the third trimester. So I really do need to start thinking about baby planning.

*We're getting baby clothes back from the nephew who wore them last summer, although we need to buy at least a few 0-3 month clothes with long sleeves and pants, since a late April baby needs warmer clothes than a late June baby.
*We have plenty of small diapers, although I should probably order some more one size covers because unless a potty miracle occurs, we're going to have two in diapers for at least a while. Eventually, I'll have to decide what to do about the larger cloth diapers, which are getting decidedly ragged, but we have at least six months for that.
*We gave away some baby equipment, so we should decide what we want to replace. Do we really need a baby swing? A double stroller would be really nice. We can look through some consignment stores for those.
*We also really need to decide what to do about the bed situation. We currently have a queen sized bed, which hosts both of our children on a fairly regular basis, leaving and I desperately hugging the edges of the bed. Adding another child to the already overstuffed bed will require an advanced degree in Tetris. When Alec was born, we put K's old toddler bed next to ours for extra room, but he's using it now. So do we get a king sized bed? Buy a twin to shove next to our current bed which will eventually get used by one of the older children?

Two months is starting to seem awfully close, all of a sudden.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

FIAR: Owl Moon

We've been covering Owl Moon by Jane Yolen in a lackadaisical way over the past week. Owl Moon is the story of a girl who goes out with her father on a winter night in hopes of seeing an owl. So naturally we've been learning about owls and the moon.

You can buy an owl pellet online, but K's grandfather was visiting and brought a couple that he had found in the woods. Since these were fresh from the owl and not nicely sterilized like the ones you find online, I was quite grateful that he was there to handle the dissection. The reason pregnant women shouldn't change cat litter is that it can carry toxoplasmosis, a disease adults barely notice but is dangerous to fetuses, and the place cats normally pick up toxoplasmosis is from eating wild rodents. Even after microwaving the pellets to help kill the germs and taking care not to touch them, I'm not sure I would have felt safe being that close to them. Anyway, with the help of some plastic utensils and a multitool, the pellets were dissected and it was deduced that they were the remains of a bird and some sort of small rodent.


We spent another day reading all about owls. We also did a neat art project I found called Winter Birch Tree, where you put down masking tape to look like tree trunks and the moon, cover the paper in dark blue water color paint, sprinkle some salt on to give the effect of snowflakes, and then peel up the tape so you have a lovely nighttime scene of trees and the moon. If one wanted, one could use the opportunity to point out the use of shadow in the art in Owl Moon while adding shading to the trees. We didn't, or at least as far as I know since this art project happened while I was at work. K's two efforts didn't have much resemblance to those on the web page I found the project on, but they're lovely in their own way and she had fun.

On our last day, we read a bunch of books on the moon and solar system, watched several videos on Discovery Streaming, and then did a project on the phases of the moon. It was a fun and productive day, but not in a way that gives me a lot to talk about.

So that was our week of Owl Moon, which was really more like a week and a half. I've been trying to plan out what we're doing in the next few weeks. At 30 weeks pregnant, my energy is pretty low and getting lower, so I think we won't be covering a lot of books as thoroughly as I would like. I'm also not cleaving terribly closely to Five in a Row at the moment. K keeps giving me requests for topics that it doesn't cover very well, like London, or her ocean obsession or her longstanding request to make a volcano. Added to that is the fact that FIAR is a bit poor when it comes to racial diversity or really much of any diversity outside of the USA and Western Europe. So next week we're doing a book on Hawaii (to be determined based on what I can get from the library), which will address the volcano desire as well as some ocean life. After that, I'm contemplating Robert McCloskey's One Morning in Maine and Time of Wonder jointly, which will give us the excuse to spend more time on the ocean, and even throw in some dentisty, another subject of interest (no, that particular choice doesn't address the lack of racial diversity, but they're good books for the ocean-obsessed child). Beyond that, I'm not sure yet.

Books used this week:

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
See How They Grow: Owl by Mary Ling
Owls by Tony Angell
Owls : the Silent Hunters by Sara Swan Miller
Great Horned Owls by Doug Wechsler
I didn't Know That the Sun is a Star by Kate Petty
The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons
The Moon by Elaine Landau
Moon by Steve Tomacek
The Magic School Bus Get Lost in the Solar System by Joanna Cole

Monday, February 13, 2012

Homeschooling: catching up

So we've been engaging in educational pursuits lately, really. Many of my plans have been stymied by the nasty cold I've had for the past two weeks. K also threw a wrench in my plans for starting with a week on castles and the Middle Ages by developing a grand passion for the ocean and fish.

I'm finding myself often being caught wondering where I draw the line between insisting K do the things I have planned and deciding that the advantage of homeschooling is that we can follow her passions. When it comes to reading and math, I'm good at staying firm, although I might make compromises like letting her spend more time on Reading Eggs or put off a handwriting assignment until tomorrow. But with everything else, my feeling is that in first grade, it's only reading and math that have a particular level that a child should be able to achieve. As for the other subjects, it's important that they learn history, science, art, health, etc. But there is anything in particular in those subjects that you can point to and say, "A first grader should know that." It's not like she should be expected to know American history through the War of 1812 and have a good grasp of geology. So since our approach is that she should be exposed to these subjects but the actual topics we cover are entirely up to us, it's hard to insist that we absolutely must be learning about castles when all she's interested in is dolphins and sea anemones.

So we finished up The Duchess Bakes a Cake and our study of the micro-organisms that help make our food by making bread and yogurt, then moved on to Very Last First Time, the story of an Inuit girl in Canada who goes beneath the sea ice at low tide to gather mussels on her own for the first time.

And here was where I ran into a problem I've worried about since embarking on FIAR: what if K refuses to read the main book? We had a bit of this with Cranberry Thanksgiving, but I was able to get her to listen to it after some persuasion. The thing is, sometimes K will take one look at something and decide she absolutely does not like it and will not be moved on the subject. She's extremely stubborn, and I have learned that fighting it head-on is the worst possible approach if it's not something that's really important (stubborn refusal won't get her out of a trip to the dentist or picking up her toys, for instance). It's better to try and take a different angle or give her time to warm up to it after some persuasion. In this case, for reasons she wouldn't or couldn't explain, K refused to read Very Last First Time. And I was getting sick and was nearly seven months pregnant and just didn't have the patience to work her around to it.

So I decided that there was nothing stopping us from covering the topics I had planned on covering. So we read lots of books on the Arctic and spent quite a bit of time looking up information on the sea animals that live there. We did a lesson in pontillism, which is the style Very Last First Time is illustrated in, but works fine as a standalone topic. K developed a passion for sled dogs, so we looked up information on them and K spent quite a bit of time getting pulled around in a laundry basket by her visiting grandfather.

From there, we moved on to Owl Moon, by Jane Yolen, with more success. I'm hoping to finish it up in the next couple days, so it will get an entry of its own.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Alec at two and a half

Today, Alec put together a 12 piece puzzle. Admittedly, it was the kind where you put the pieces over an identical picture, so he had the help of being able to match the piece to the picture, but even being able to do that it pretty good for a two year old. And it was a reminder that while development isn't as dramatic in late toddlerhood as it is in the first two years, they still have a way of sneaking new skills in behind your back to surprise you.

Cognitive: Alec has been very interested in letters for a while and recently started in on numbers. He can name a bunch of letters (one of his favorite toys for a while has been a little electronic toy that says the name of a letter when you press the corresponding key) and can often be heard wandering around counting. In fact, he's making discipline with K a bit difficult because I sometimes use the count to three method, only when I say "One..." he then fills in "Two, three, four!" It's remarkably hard to maintain good discipline when you're having trouble keeping a straight face. I have heard him count to five (as in, associating numbers with objects) and recite numbers up to 15. He knows a wide variety of shapes and colors.

He is particularly interested in music these days, and thanks to Little Einsteins, can identify a number of instruments as well as melody lines to various pieces of classical music. I think we will definitely getting him music lessons when he's a bit older, although I'm not sure where to start because the Suzuki method has never really appealed to me.

Verbal: He talks a lot, but has definite issues with articulation, so good luck understanding him. He's getting more and more intelligible though. When K was his age, I spent a long time trying to figure out how any child who had said as many words as she had could talk so little. Eventually, after she finally started talking regularly, I realized it was because while she had vocabularly, she had trouble with articulation and wasn't willing to say things if she couldn't do it correctly. Alec has the same articulation issues, but the difference is that he's never let a little thing like intelligibility get in the way of what he has to say. The cheerful babbling is slowly developing into cheerful words that we can understand now, which is fun to watch develop.

Physical: At his two year appointment, he was 33 1/2 pounds and 38 inches tall, which is 95 percentile for weight and off the charts for height (for reference, those were K's measurements at her 3 year appointment, and she's never been small). He's certainly bigger now, although I don't know how much.

In gross motor skills, he can now walk up stairs one at a time while holding onto something, and step down them as well, although he prefers to sit down and bump his way down them. He can't jump yet, although he can do the incredibly cute crouch and leap up without his feet actually leaving the ground. He is adept on the playground and I think there is very little he can't climb.

In terms of fine motor skills, he's getting closer to coloring within the lines of pictures. I haven't been able to tease out anything representational in his art yet, but he holds crayons and pencils correctly (he was absolutely fascinated with his sister's handwriting book tonight, but I was too mean to let him scribble in it).

I finally had to give him a real haircut after his adorable baby curls turned into out of control shagginess. He's such a big boy now, in so many ways.