Monthly Archives: June 2012

Insects!

I decided to take a little break from our literature curriculum and follow my kids’ interest in bugs this week. So we have been exploring insects.

Monday we went to the InsectLore Bugseum out in Shafter, which is cool if you go in knowing that it is more store than museum. There are a few museum-type stations, but it is mostly a store. We bought a butterfly bungalo and some caterpillars.

This past weekend I knew ahead of time that I was planning to do this little insect unit and browsed some books at the bookstore. I had the intention of buying the DK Eyewitness Encyclopedia Insect and Butterfly and Moth books. I even had them in my Amazon cart earlier in the week. At the bookstore, I came seriously close to getting the Butterfly Sticker Book by DK because Sprout is seriously obsessed with stickers and I knew he’d love to put them all on the right places. Ultimately, I just decided that yes, the DK books are beautiful and full of lots of great photographs, but kind of an information dump/overload, especially for a bunch of preschoolers.

I did find a whole series of science books that present the information more in a storyline format that they can grasp a little more easily. They are the Let’s Read and Find Out Science series. The butterfly one wasn’t really much different in informational content than the beloved Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar and so I decided not to get it (I probably would have, but Stephen was making me narrow down my choices). I did get the Bugs are Insects one though. I just love the Eric Carle style artwork in it and how it weaves great science information in a readable format.

Bean is already going around saying, “Spiders aren’t bugs, they’re arachnids.”

The butterfly book I did decide to get is A Butterfly is Patient by Dianna Hutts Aston and illustrated by Sylvia Long. It is so full of beautiful illustrations of all kinds of butterflies with lots of great information on them too. As with the series I discovered, however, it presents all of this information in a storyline format instead of just bombarding them with tons of facts in unconnected blips.

We did read the aforementioned caterpillar story as well and made some egg carton caterpillars to look like the one in the book.

We dressed up in our various bug costumes and pretended to be bugs, danced to Flight of the Bumblebee and The Ants Go Marching, and sang The Itsy Bitsy Spider and There’s a Spider on the Floor.

The rest of the week we’ll probably do more of the same with a nature walk, a bug hunt, and a fingerprints to bugs art project I found online.

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On women, families, and careers

Earlier today, one of my former professors (and a friend) sent me this article by Anne-Marie Slaughter (former policy director at the US State Dept. among other prestigious things). I’ll agree with my professor that the article is one of the most in-depth looks at the subject of family versus career.

A lot of my friends that are also moms chose that career very early on and so only a handful of the moms in my life really understand the decision making that goes into either leaving a profession you have put so much time, effort, and heart into to be home with your family or trying to have some balance of both.

I shared these additional thoughts on the article with my professor:

I think one thing that she didn’t address as well, in my opinion, is that sometimes after having kids your goals and perspective does change and that is OK too.

Former colleagues and sources/contacts ask me all the time if I miss working and I’m not always sure what to say.

There are definitely things I miss: the sense of accomplishment; the gratitude and recognition for the work I did in the form of promotions, awards, encouraging letters to the editor, etc.; election-night pizza party all-nighters; gathering together around a TV in the newsroom to watch a major verdict come down; the rush of a breaking news story; and knowing you beat the competitors on one by a few seconds are a few that come to mind.

There are also things I don’t miss: my sleep being haunted by images I saw in raw, unedited footage; the news director cussing me out at least once a week because we didn’t have enough photogs to cover every story he wanted; the contributors that were never happy and always had criticisms; the pressure to put in more and more hours and split shifts; sticky moral situations; and being told by my editors to make changes to stories or run stories based on the whims of our advertisers are some that come to mind.

In many ways, I had already felt I peaked out in my career as a journalist. In less than two years, I had won a few awards and been promoted to editor. I was ready for something new and I was flirting with the idea of going into law (really glad that didn’t work out!) and then Bean happened (and Sprout and Sparrow) after I’d been assured it was not a possibility.

At some point, I decided that all of the career stuff really didn’t matter to me as much as raising my kids very actively. I kind of can pinpoint this decision. Sometime after Bean, one of the anchors from my first station/job called to offer me a job back there again, a better position with better pay. I weighed it and called her back to let her know that I really wanted to stay home and focus on raising Bean. She told me I was making the right decision and that I can’t get these years back.

I don’t know if I’ll go back to work in 18 years, but I do feel like this is what I want to focus on whole-heartedly. Careers come and go, but you only get one family.

I also think there is something in choosing career paths in all of this. My earning capacity as an average, small-market journalist in what many believe is a dying industry, just isn’t going to be able to compare with that of Stephen’s choice in technology. So, in our situation it really would not have made any financial sense for our roles to be reversed just for the sake of more representation of women in the workplace and “feminist” ideals. Perhaps if I had gone into law, medicine, or some other much more lucrative industry, our decision making would have been slightly different.

One other thing that Stephen and I have talked about is whether we really need two incomes just because we can have them and whether we are entitled to those two incomes. We don’t need them, we do just fine with his. We are very fortunate in that fact. I guess something related to the observation of the “dying journalism industry” I noted above is the way in which I’ve watched so many of my former colleagues get laid off or be the ones to make those tough decisions about who should stay and go. A former colleague of mine informs me that the photog staff at the paper is down to three! So, is it really fair for me to be holding a journalism position that someone else might actually need as either the only source of income or a situation where both incomes are needed for their family? I don’t know if there is a right answer, but it is something I’ve thought about.

Anyway, just some thoughts. I know I have touched a little on this subject before. It is still something I think about from time to time.

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Homeschooling and stuff

I have gone back and forth on the idea of homeschooling over the past couple years. At times I just feel so overwhelmed at parenting three small children in general, that it doesn’t seem like a good idea to throw school into the mix.

But then I read something about our failing education system or see other friends having so much fun homeschooling or know what I’ve read and minimally researched about the benefits it can have and I really want to do it.

To be honest, I find myself slightly skeptical of Christian curriculum and some Christian homeschooling groups and so don’t feel like I completely fit in with that crowd. That probably sounds terrible. I’m not sure how else to really phrase it.

I mean, I am a Christian. There are going to be some things I’ll teach my kids about from a point of view that they wouldn’t get in public school. But I kind of think I’d teach them that anyway, you know? I guess I’m just afraid of being lumped in with the “religious whack job” homeschooler crowd that gets held up as the example of why people should not be able to homeschool their kids when those sorts of debates come up.

One of the reasons I want to homeschool has to do with age as an arbitrary measure of learning and skills development.

For example, Sprout may not be potty trained, but he talks nearly as well as his big sister, knows a lot of his letters already and has been picking up on and associating them with some of their phonetic sounds thanks to time with the Starfall app. He also counts better than her and recognizes shapes and patterns better. He knows his colors and a lot of the other Pre-K skills.

Bean has a lot of Pre-K skills mastered as well. If age were not the arbitrary measure and I was planning on sending my kids off to school, I’d totally enroll her in Kindergarten this fall and I truly believe she would do just fine even if the State of California thinks otherwise.

Now, I know this is controversial. I’ve been chastised by more than one homeschooling friend that kids shouldn’t be “pushed too early” and that my kids “don’t really need to be doing academics” right now.

I’ve been doing “school” type stuff off and on with my kids since Bean was about 2. Mostly it is reading books, some theme studies, letters, art projects and crafts, worksheets and coloring, prewriting skills, counting games and simple graphing, memory games, songs, etc. My kids seriously beg to “do school” all the time.

The only reason we don’t do it consistently or daily is because of me not wanting to put forth the effort, research, mess cleaning, etc. That has actually been my own strongest personal argument against homeschooling: me. I’m often just not disciplined and consistent enough. Before we moved I strongly considered some hybrid programs and still had Bean in a pre-preschool class a couple days a week through the parks and rec district and had planned to do the same with Sprout for this reason.

Part of the inconsistency for me was coming up with or putting together lesson plans from various sources on the Internet and in preschool teacher books I would check out from time to time at the library. It’s just a lot of work to pull all of that together and often I feel I have enough or too much on my plate as it is.

So, earlier this year I decided to start looking into curriculum that was already put together. I had a few different homeschool moms that I knew used and loved the Five in a Row program. I looked over their website, read a couple more reviews and then went ahead and purchased the “Before Five in a Row” curriculum. It seemed from their website that the BFIAR was more targeted towards kids the ages of my two and then FIAR was targeted towards ages 4-6. My sister-in-law then let me borrow the next four books in the curriculum which she already had from her daughters.

The BFIAR curriculum is kind of hit and miss. Sometimes the book, discussions and activity ideas are really great and other times it really feels like they are reaching to try and come up with something. All of the books have been really cute and great though. Like with FIAR, the idea in BFIAR is to read the book every day all five weekdays and do an activity or discussion or two. Even when it is a really robust book and ideas to go with it and I scour the Internet for additional resources, worksheets, lapbooks and ideas (there are tons out there), the most it will take us to get through it all is a couple mornings/afternoons.

I kind of have this love-hate relationship with homeschooling because of this. It feels like it should take longer and that our day should be pretty full of school on the days we do it, but then only an hour or two has gone by and we are done. Which is great because then we can do a bunch of other stuff, but bad because ohmygosh now what do we do?! Haha!

Anyway, after talking with my sister-in-law about it and a couple other people I have come up with a new plan for our little school. Another curve ball that has been thrown into the mix is that my sweet nephew Avory is going to be joining us twice a week and he’s just a completely different kid than my two.

My plan is to finish out BFIAR and then probably do at least volumes 1 & 2 of FIAR. I am not going to rely on it for teaching the various subjects, though. Math is more than counting the lamps in the department store in Corduroy and social studies is more than “How can you tell that Jesse bear’s mama loves him?” in Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear?. So after looking through a few recommended options (since I didn’t have time to do a ton of research on my own really) and knowing my kids’ learning styles, this is what I’ve decided to do in addition:
Right Start Math
I liked that this has everything in the kit and makes math very hands-on. My kids definitely seem to be very hands-on learners.
All About Reading
This one had really great reviews all around and their spelling program also is highly rated. I even read one review of a mom that had homeschooled three older siblings, two of which had done different phonics/reading programs, but had done the spelling program and for her youngest she switched to the All About Reading from their tried and true program because it was that much better. My sister-in-law also said she was planning to use the readers as a review for her youngest that already reads as well and her oldest did the spelling program that they loved as well.
Handwriting Without Tears
Again, loved that they had so many physical applications for learning to write through various mediums.
Science is Simple
There were a few preschool science experiment books that all seemed pretty similar. This just happened to be the one I decided on based on the Amazon reviews. We’ll also be taking advantage of our SB Zoo membership we bought last year, the BofA Museums on Us program, and stuff like that. I’ll probably get some bug stuff from the Bugseum and maybe a few of those DK Eyewitness encyclopedia books and we have a few similiar books already on plants, seasons, sharks and dinosaurs. Then of course nature walks and all that too.
-We also read a few chapters a week from the The Child’s Story Bible, usually towards the end of dinner or right before bed. The kids love looking at the pictures that come up here and there and we sort of have this routine where after the chapter is finished they say,”We want to see the old pictures!” So we go through all the pictures and they tell us the story that goes with each one. Even little Sprout totally gets it and can tell us about them, “That’s the PassOVER! That’s Jacob blessing Eph-why-am and Menn-ash-wha. That’s Moses striking the rock and he was mad. That’s Moses and he was mad again and he threw down the ten commandments. That’s Adam and Eve and they are leaving the Garden ’cause they was naughty and the serpent was naughty too…etc.”
-Today I was at Costco and picked up the Kumon Are You Ready for Kindergarten series which seems to be a lot of cutting, pasting, tracing lines and prewriting skills, with a bit of number and letter recognition in there, I think it will be fun stuff they can do while I’m working with one at a time on something tougher and help with those prewriting, citing and fine motor skills.
-We also have some Melissa & Doug lacing cards, word and pattern puzzles that are exactly the same as the ones Bean’s pre-preschool teacher had in her class.
-For “PE” Bean will continue taking ballet this next year, Sprout isn’t quite old enough for most programs so we will re-evaluate when he turns three. In the meantime, I’ll continue taking the kids to parks, splash pads, etc. and we sure like to have a good dance party in the living room or do the YogaKids DVD workouts.

We’re planning to kind of stagger the purchases of the curriculum. I am not in a huge hurry because the BFIAR stuff is holding us over for now. We’ll probably start with reading and the handwriting stuff along with the Kumon workbooks. I will work in science and math a little later, more towards the fall.

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A little bit of science exploration

This morning the kids dug out the magnifying glasses we bought them two Easters ago. I cleaned up the lenses and showed them how to use them. So we had an impromptu bug observation trek out in front of our apartment (in our jammies).

Checking out a snail…

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A Ten-lined June Beatle.

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Being silly with the magnifying glass.

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There was a Daddy-Long Leg and a Crane Fly (aka Skeeter Eater, which is actually an inappropriate name since they don’t prey on Mosquitos afterall) in that bush.

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We also spotted another baby toad, but it got away too fast.

My kids are really obsessed with bugs right now. I should probably pick up some books on the subject, Google some art projects and maybe buy a butterfly kit or an ant farm from the Bugseum, shouldn’t I?

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Recipe for a perfect Father’s Day

Leave this:

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Head to Pismo for the Father’s Day car show. Watch some of the boys geek out on engines revving, die cast and wooden toy cars, and shiny restorations. Eat clam chowder (of course).

Drive onto the beach. Let kids play and relax.

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Let the baby eat seaweed.

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And practice standing using the back bumper of the minivan.

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Build a sand castle. Scavenge shells, feathers and seaweed to decorate it. Knock it down and play with the feathers instead.

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Make this little boy have exclamations of, “Wow!” when his daddy uses the lifted Tahoe to dig a fire pit with the wheels.

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Play some beach baseball. Even Grandpa.

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Pack up. Eat some excellent barbecue. Change kids into jammies even though they promise they will stay awake so they can see the toads on the front porch at home. You know better.

The glowing yellow snake will lead you home.

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But watch out for deer trying to kill themselves crossing the highway. And don’t get too annoyed with the aggressive drivers that tailgate and then chicken out when they have an opportunity to pass.

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My head just might explode

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Being an introvert is pretty much not allowed when you are a parent. And yet I am one. One that is always needed.

Kids don’t understand all of those “caring for your introvert” rules.

You know who especially doesn’t understand the “caring for your introvert” rules? Sparrow. This kid is a total “Mama’s boy” and could care less if I need my space. I walk out of a room, he’s upset. I do something like cooking where I am not paying 100% attention to him and he is so not cool with that idea one little bit.

If I have been gone for a bit and come back, there is screaming and crawling towards me.

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This? This was a 40 minute fit because I should dare to hold his very sleepy older brother. Jealous much? Yes, indeed.

I love my kids. Really I do. I just need my space sometimes.

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We’ve got our school caps on today

Today we read Circus Caps for Sale at “school” and cousin Avory joined us in learning fun.

We counted caps, practiced prewriting activities, designed/colored our own cap, balanced caps on our heads, put on lots of different caps that we have around the house, and we talked about money and how many of the Peddler’s 50 cent caps we could buy with the money in our piggy banks.

Pictures of our day:

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We heart playdates

Last night we had a lovely time with our long-time friends Miss Talia, her husband and girls (and sister). So much fun and so glad we finally got together now that we live so close! Bean said, “We can go there now because they don’t live far away anymore!”

Aren’t our kids so cute playing LittlePeople together?

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And then this morning cousin Avory came over to play. He’s been here 18 minutes and is already rocking’ an awesome hat and has found a tractor.

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A wardrobe of my own making

If there is one thing the Twenty Pieces Project has taught me, it is that a lot of clothing is not made very well or to last beyond the current few-weeks-long season. Much of my wardrobe started falling apart and looking pretty shabby fairly early on, even some of the more high-end pieces.

So, what started with a couple cute dresses for my daughter (oh yeah, I forgot I never blogged those!) has morphed into trying to slowly replace most of my entire wardrobe with my own handiwork.

The dresses I made for Bean:
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My daughter has already worn/is wearing things I made for her nieces years ago that sometimes went through both of them and are still in excellent condition and I’ve passed a lot of these things on to friends’ and family members’ kids as she grows out of them and they are still passing them along.

I’m not saying I’ll never buy another thing again (just bought my daughter a really cute Chambray shirt-waist dress today, more on that later), but I want to make a lot more of my clothes and I will NEVER buy another dress-up costume again.

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I have washed this Cindrella costume no less than 50 times and it is still in perfect condition. The Rapunzel costume I bought is practically in shreds after only a couple washes.

A few weeks ago I picked out some fabrics and a pattern. My original plan was to make this tunic out of all three fabrics (that is the beauty of a pattern, once you find a style/fit you love, you can keep making it in other fabrics for new looks), but I have other plans now with the purchase of two additional patterns.

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I realized this pattern in the bird fabric though and love it.

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I got some additional fabric when I made the additional pattern purchases and whipped up this skirt for myself (photo thanks to Bean).

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I already have so many ideas and plans.

Just today I was showing off Miss Bean’s new Chambray dress that was inspired by her auntie’s, to said auntie/sister and in a few minutes had already conspired with her to make my own adult version.

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View E plus 3 yards of Chambray fabric I found online and I could get away with a very well made shirt waist dress in Chambray for around $26. Yes, please.

Also, somebody is freaking genius in social media over at Simplicity pattern company, you can browse all of their patterns and then they have a button to “pin” them right to your boards on Pinterest. It is awesome. I’ve already pinned all my favorites. A sampling of some of my recent ones:

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I have big plans, obviously. The thing I like about sewing compared to other crafts though, is how quickly you can get it done. Both the tunic and skirt were done (from first cut to hem) in a couple hours after I put the kids to bed. I think it also helps that I have been working with Simplicity patterns since I was in the third grade (4-H sewing for the life-skills win!) and so I often don’t even need to read directions because I am so familiar with how their patterns work. I am sure this goes against all the rules, but who needs rules all the time anyway? 😉

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Prince Philip

I recently made up a little list of sewing projects I want to accomplish for the boys since most of my sewing seems to be revolved around myself or Bean.

Today I quickly made up this Prince Philip costume (Sleeping Beauty). The leggings are from the Peter Pan costume and I figure the boys can also use the cape as a super hero cape or whatever.

And then during our photo shoot, I almost stepped on this itty bitty baby toad…

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