Sunday, March 30, 2008

March Madness

Suprise Easter Egg Hunt

Our church decided to have a little Easter egg hunt for the kids after mass today. Kansas Dad and I had missed the announcement earlier and were a bit unprepared, but grabbed a couple of bags from the van and took the kids over. First Son ran around in the older group like crazy picking up eggs. First Daughter wasn't quite so focused. She'd pick eggs up, try to open them, throw them back down. At one point she insisted on eating some chocolate she found immediately, before she'd pick up another egg.

I'm sorry I didn't have the camera with me, because they both looked cute running around in raincoats. It was their first "official" egg hunt and they enjoyed it -- though First Daughter enjoyed the candy most of all.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A Good Book Day

This morning we all headed to the main branch of our library for their used book sale. We bought a huge box of books for $7! I only made it through about half of the children's books before the kids were bored and ready to go home. I didn't get to look at the grown-up books at all. So next year, Kansas Dad and I might ask someone to watch the kids so we can browse at our leisure.

I was pleased with my purchases, though. I found about five books that were on our list and another ten written or illustrated by people who were on the list with other books. They're pretty much all used library books, so they have marks and some wear and tear, but it was even cheaper than requesting them from other branches of the system, so I figure we did well.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Nearly Free Books

I recently signed up for this book club. It's a great way to "recycle" books I don't want anymore while getting credit to order a book I do want. I've already mailed out 7 or 8 books and have ordered my first.

You can set up a "Wish List" so when someone posts a book you want, you'll automatically receive it (first request, first serve). I'm encouraging you all to join as well because the more people who join, the more books we'll have to share!

It's all free. You just have to pay shipping on the books you send, which costs a bit over $2 (usually). With every book you send, you get a credit, so it's like paying $2 for each book you receive -- but your choices are probably more extensive than at local used bookstores (and cheaper than most used books on Amazon with shipping). Plus you can browse and order from home after the kids go to bed and the stores are all closed, which comes in handy every once in a while -- or all the time.

So check it out. If you do decide to sign up, I'd really appreciate it if you gave my email address as a reference. (I think I get an extra credit.) For those of you that know me, it's my alum address (first name dot middle initial dot married last name dot year). Email me if you want me to confirm it for you.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

All Is Well

First Daughter had her 18 month well child visit today. She hates the doctor's office, of course, and kept asking to leave before they even called us back. By the end she seemed to realize the doctor wasn't really hurting her when she listened to her heart and looked in her ears...and that's when she got the shots. Poor girl! She's well and healthy, though, so we're happy.

The stats:
24 pounds, 1 ounce (just under 50% for her age)
33.5" (just under 95% for her age)

First Daughter seems to be getting better about going to sleep once she's in her crib. We still have to stand by her side and occasionally rub her back, but we're pretty happy when she goes to sleep after we put her down.

Kansas Dad and I watched a movie together tonight. We don't do that very often. (He's usually working at night and we tend toward TV on DVD from Netflix which require less time at once.) It was nice. Kansas Dad even got to feel baby move again. (The first time was while we were in Boston.) Baby's getting stronger. We could watch the belly for kicks!

Cut It Out

First Son hasn't been interested in trying out his scissors. Today I pulled them out, along with construction paper (yellow, his favorite color) even after he said no and he was interested enough to cut rather than paint.

I'll have to be sure to put the scissors somewhere safe so he's only cutting under adult supervision. (I'm not as worried about cuts on him as you might think...mostly I'm worried about all our belongings! I distinctly remember cutting up some doilies when I was a little girl. I don't have any doilies around, but I'd hate to find books or such similarly treated.)

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

We had a pretty quiet Easter Sunday. We went to mass this morning with my parents and then all headed to Grammy and Paw Paw's house for Easter lunch and fun. (We would have prefered the Vigil, but they all started at 8 pm...exactly bed time! Maybe next year we'll brave it with the kids.)

First Daughter before church. Yes, that's a Cheerio in her mouth...Kansas Dad made a huge warm breakfast, of which she ate her share, but you'd never know it from how she asked for Cheerios five minutes later.

First Daughter enjoying her Easter cupcake. (Mostly she crumbled it to bits and smeared the frosting all over her hands.)

A better picture of First Daughter's Easter dress. It's one of the few new things we have for spring (thanks, Grammy!) which we found at Burlington Coat Factory at a very good price.

First Son refused to participate in the Easter egg hunt once he found his present (a new Veggie puzzle). He insisted on putting it together immediately. Like last year, we had to run around and pick up most of the eggs we'd put out.

First Daughter did enjoy the hunt, at least for a while. I have a little video of her you can see if you know us. Just email me and I'll send a link.

By the way, First Son had also been dressed in Easter finery, but had to change after a pre-lunch walk outside. These are the only clothes we had for him at Grammy's house, so his Easter is immortalized by a Michigan shirt and jeans with a patch. Next year I'll have to remember to take a picture before we leave the house for Easter mass!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Pre-Easter Celebration

We began our day at the zoo this morning for their Easter celebration. Of course there were goodies galore for all the kids (encouraged to bring Easter baskets) and all of us enjoyed the animals and popcorn (and hot cocoa - brrr, it was chilly).

A nice picture of First Son with Papa.

Hanging out at home is just as fun as the zoo, apparently. (See those nice irises and tulips behind the kids?)

And a snuggly First Daughter with her Gram. I really need to work on taking more pictures of my parents with the kids! (By the way, First Daughter is snuggled up in my coat, which she insisted on taking to bed as well.)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Out and About

This morning, my parents and sister took the little ones to our local science museum. Everyone had a great time. They finally got First Son to leave by promising a trip to one of his favorite restaurants for lunch. After a bit of a quiet time, we headed to the big indoor pool.

First Daughter was fearless, going down the toddler slide over and over again, even though she bumped her head a bit (since she couldn't manage to sit up all the way down) and slipped under the water every time. She also kept trying to make running leaps into the water like the 7 (or so) year olds she watched. She loved it! It's a good thing First Son is so good at the pool because it's a two person job to watch First Daughter on the slide. I won't be taking the kids swimming alone any time soon.

I did take the camera, but left it in the locker, so no pictures this time.

Free Baby Yogurt

First Daughter loves her yogurt in the morning. (Unfortunately, given the expense, she often asks for two!) So I was pleased to see this offer to receive some free.

Only one per household and the offer's only good until April 30th!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Off to Work

First Son received a tool and construction set for Easter from Gram and Papa (thanks!) but First Daughter was most impressed. (First Son grabbed the flashlight and played Gideon for hours, when he wasn't battling Papa with his Pirate "swords" - coopted knives from our plastic dishes.)

Moving On Up

Today First Daughter began wearing her 24 month / 2T / 2 (which I can't be bothered to separate). Thanks to the generosity of my three nieces and a cousin's daughter, we need only some rainboots to complete her spring and summer wardrobes. (Most of the fall and winter clothes will return to storage.) I love having drawers full of "new" clothes and she looks so cute in them!

The kitchen and bedroom are in a bit of disarray, though, as I clean, sort and pack up the clothes to put away.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Home Again, Home Again

Kansas Dad and I arrived home tonight after four wonderful days with friends and loved ones in Boston and New England. Many thanks to those who were so generous with good company, good food and their homes while we were visiting. We loved some time to reconnect! Maybe next time we can bring the kids.

First Son and First Daughter seemed to do just fine with Grammy and Paw Paw, though First Daughter did not want to leave my lap for the whole first hour we were home (when they both should already have been in bed). They got to bed late, but I'm glad they were awake to see us.

My parents are here for Holy Week, so posts for the next few days will probably magically appear after Easter. We hope you have a blessed week!

Happy Girl

Friday, March 14, 2008

Six Nights!

For the past six nights, we haven't had to go in to First Daughter's room at all after we've gone to bed. (There were a few times we went in while we were still awake, but that doesn't bother us as much.) This is a real breakthrough since she's been waking up every single night, sometimes for hours.

We think she was teething. Her eye teeth are all peeking out now, so that may have been the problem.

We also recently switched to disposable diapers because they're about half as expensive as the gdiapers inserts (though I do love those gdiapers). Overnight, they were not nearly as good, so we think she was waking up cold and wet. Poor girl. We've started using premium diapers overnight (which First Daughter wants to wear all the time because they have her favorite red monster on them) and I think that helped as well. (I also bought some cloth inserts we could use in the gdiapers and we're going to try those overnight as well.)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Danger Danger Everywhere

Raising Children Toxic Free: How to Keep Your Child Safe from Lead Asbestos, Pesticides, and Other Environmental Hazards by Herbert Needleman and Philip Landrigan

This book is a little out of date (1994), but it was still interesting - and very easy to read. Mostly I'm shocked over and over again at how chemicals are used throughout our society (industry and home) without any testing whatsoever. Even shampoo, make-up and fancy anti-aging lotions contain chemicals that have not been tested at all for safety or toxicity!

I was impressed by the authors' desire to be reasonable. They wrote the book for parents (and pediatricians) but don't want to create anxiety about what can't be controlled or minimal risks. A lot of books about the toxins children encounter are a little overbearing.

I know there are people who think autism is caused by vaccines, but I think it's much more likely caused by a chemical (or a combination of chemicals) released into the environment. It may even be a prenatal exposure that puts children at risk. The FDA has too much to do, not enough money and not enough authority, but at least there are some restrictions and protocols. Nearly everything else is fair game. It's so difficult to show an actual effect within a population that dangerous toxins are released into our air (water, etc.) for decades before we realize they're a problem. There really should be toxicity requirements before chemicals are used in products, especially household products.

As a side note, he mentioned the dangers of lanolin, which I never really believed before, but apparently it's because it's derived from sheep's wool and many of the sheep are treated with pesticides -- so the pesticides are still in the lanolin when we use it. (Lanolin is marketed specifically to nursing mothers and for babies.) We never used it that much, but now I'll be more careful.

By the way, these authors have a newer book, published in 2002, that I also intend to request from interlibrary loan.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

First Daughter's Choice

Prayer for a Child by Rachel Field

Our sweet little girl loves this book! We picked it up at the library, of course, but are seriously considering it as a little Easter present for her because it's so adorable. It's a comforting little bedtime prayer. First Daughter will "read" it to us, jabbering away at each page before turning to the next. I think her favorite page of all is the one full of little children (as we pray for all the kids in the world).

It was one of the recommended titles in Honey for a Child's Heart and First Daughter's first real love of the ones we've tried so far.


The dissertation defense is officially scheduled. Kansas Dad will be at Fordham fending off the attacks of his three reviewers and three examiners (though I think one of them is both, so perhaps it's only five people) on April 4th! He'll have a few revisions to make, print on special Fordham paper and turn in before hopping a cab to the airport for flights home the following Monday. (He also intends to avail himself of the library for research on the other three projects he's got brewing - busy guy, our Kansas Dad.) I hope he finds time for some of our old favorite haunts, as well.

I find it amusing that he'll be flying home from New York on the same day I'll be flying there. Maybe we can wave to each other from our airplane windows...

Now that I think about it, these trips together add up to the longest time Kansas Dad and I have gone without seeing each other in over ten years, a bit over eight days. That's not so amusing, but we must do what we must do.

I should plan a grand celebration for when I'm back. He won't be a student anymore!!!

More on the California Ruling

Go here to read more about the California ruling on homeschooling. (I posted about this earlier, here.)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What First Daughter Is Saying - An Update

all done, drink, milk, eat, bunny, cat, dog, pancake, bird, bye-bye, diaper (as in change my diaper), ice cream

mama, dada, baby, please (pees), more, ball (mall), uh oh, hi, shoes, bubble (brubru), right there, noodle (lulu), pop (as in a balloon, not soda), eat, juice (oosh), light (ite), Bob (ma), Larry (ary), Elmo (bobo)

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Calming Down"

Purple Mustache

Smoothie, yum! And, yes, she's drinking out of a regular cup. I try to give her one at every meal, even though many times I still give in to the sippy cup because it's so much less messy! (She's pretty good with an open cup, until the end of the meal when she starts to play more.)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Spring is Here!

Look at my tulips!

Diaper Change

First Daughter got out all the materials and tried to change her own diaper. Can you imagine how wonderful that would be? Of course, we'd really just have her use the bathroom. Perhaps it's not as far away as we thought.

Busy Weekend

We usually spend our weekends running errands, going to the grocery store and going to church, but this weekend was different. Yesterday an old friend of Kansas Dad's came by for lunch. I let the kids empty a box of Cheerios on the floor and revel in it for a couple of hours of peace so we could talk. (It was great.) Then we rushed off to mass and a baptism for the youngest of a family of five kids, so that was crazy. It was great to see them again and catch up a little. The kids went to bed late, especially with the time change, but that didn't stop us from heading to the zoo right after breakfast for a tour with a friend and her son (just a few months younger than First Daughter). After heading home for bed, nap and quiet time, Grammy and Paw Paw came for dinner -- and we grilled out! Spring is here. As you can see, the kids wore winter coats to the zoo, but we were playing outside just in our long sleeves before dinner. We had bubbles galore!

Advertising to Babies

Buy, Buy Baby: How Consumer Culture Manipulates Parents and Harms Young Minds by Susan Gregory Thomas

Every once in a while I have to read a book like this to remind myself I need to
protect my kids from the influences of the corporate world. Marketing companies, advertising companies, publishing companies and entertainment companies do not have my children's best interests at heart; they're concerned with making money for themselves and their clients.

I never really believed the educational claims of anything watched on TV for the youngest children. We don't have what you'd call "educational videos" in our cabinet. (Mostly what we have are VeggieTales videos.) I was, therefore, surprised to learn that studies of babies and toddlers watching TV (whether shows designed for them or those targeted to preschoolers) were learning something after all. They are learning to recognize characters, which is essentially the brand awareness capability of babies and toddlers. I shouldn't have been surprised since First Daughter recognizes the Veggies, Elmo and probably Clifford, even though she's not interested in watching the TV shows.

So by watching the shows, we're essentially watching long commercials for products. I'm not too worried about the Veggie ones. There aren't that many products and I can live with them. (Plus, we already own them and I think there would be rioting in my house for weeks if I decided to throw them out.) Other characters, though, are everywhere...cereal boxes, fruit snack boxes, juice boxes...all sorts of stuff we do not buy.

She also confirmed what I'd long suspected. Most toddler and baby books are really just more ways to get character faces into the home. They don't have real writers or illustrators. I scanned our shelves and removed a few of the ones the kids hadn't seemed too interested in anyway or ones that I thought were particularly annoying. I kept ones they really loved and figured we'd deal with the consequences. I'm going to avoid buying books with TV characters in them anymore, though. If they're based on a classic character, we can buy the real classic book. Given our new and improved budget, I don't anticipate any problems with this plan. When you're buying as few books as we intend, you want them to count.

I think we'll be more careful about what we purchase, but I wasn't so horrified that I'm going to ban these sorts of products from our house. (I was much more concerned about their ubiquitous presence in classrooms, especially in day care centers and preschools, but as we intend to home school and our kids will probably stop going to school this summer, it won't affect our family as much. I feel sorry for other children, though. Perhaps someday I'll have to join a lobbying group of some kind...I'll think about it when I have some free time.)

Saturday, March 8, 2008

How To Do a Puzzle

See, nothing to it.

Never Full

She had two bowls of cereal and a pancake at breakfast. She insisted she was done. I turned from doing the dishes fifteen minutes later and found this scene.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Mmmm! Vegetable Soup!

Homeschooling Threatened

California ruling could put homeschooling in jeopardy

I don't know all the particulars of the case, having seen different versions from different news outlets, but this ruling has riled me up. The judge believes parents are not capable of educating their children unless they hold a teaching certificate in the appropriate grade and, perhaps more disturbingly, that "keeping the children at home deprived them of situations where (1) they could interact with people outside the family, (2) there are people who could provide help if something is amiss in the children's lives, and (3) they could develop emotionally in a broader world than the parents' 'cloistered' setting." He didn't rule about one family's situation. He ruled that homeschooling in any circumstance should be illegal in California (which I'd heard had fairly homeschooling-friendly laws).

I agree that children should interact with those outside the family and should have people they can approach if having problems at home (which could just as easily be a fear for a parent's health as their own), but I disagree that the answer is to outlaw all homeschooling. Rather than depriving parents of the right to determine the best way to educate their children and their families, we should be putting in place procedures to check in occasionally. (Don't ask me what those would be; I'm not in a position to suggest policies for the state of California.)

I take offense at the judge's demeaning comment about the parents' "cloistered" setting. There are a lot of horrors out there around our schools. Last week when I was in Seattle, I heard from a teacher who interviewed a student for a magnet program. This student was willing to endure a long commute on a city bus and one reason he gave was the dead body he saw out his school window the previous week. Is this the "broader world" the judge would have us abandon our kids to? I know not every school is like that, but he didn't talk about this particular family, he made a ruling for every single family in California, comprising over 150,000 homeschooled children.

I admit, one of the reasons I want to homeschool my children, at least in their early years, is to protect them. I want to protect them from unnecessary homework, standardized tests, labels (from the schools themselves, not just peers), and from people they should respect (teachers) who profess ideas antithetical to our faith. More than anything, though, I want to provide my children with a loving, fun, amazing experience as they grow intellectually, academically, physically and emotionally. Right now, we believe homeschooling is the best way for our family to do just that. The thought of a judge threatening our right to do what is best for our children is infuriating.

Thank goodness we live in Kansas. I only hope no one here gets any ideas. (Technically, there are no homeschooling laws in Kansas. Homeschooling families establish a "private school" with a little form and then have to meet certain criteria. We do have to show the "teacher" is acceptable, but since either of us could teach at a private school here in Kansas, that shouldn't be a problem.)

Update on 3/10/08: Find more information here, at the HomeSchool Association of California. Click here to sign a petition to request depublishing of the case. You do not have to be a resident of California to sign the petition.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Opening Doors

Today I encouraged First Son to jump in the van and crawl across to his seat through the door on his sister's side as I was buckling her in. Instead, he ran around to the other side. As I was calling to him "That door isn't open," he unlatched it and pulled it open. Easily.

I had no idea he could open the van door!

I wonder if our van has child locks to keep him from opening it from the inside...Maybe it doesn't matter yet because I'm pretty sure he can't get himself out of his car seat.

But I was very sure he couldn't open the van perhaps I should check up on these things.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Silly Me

Today as I was waiting for Kansas Dad to finish winning his racquetball games against his brother, I noticed another dad feeding his little one, probably four or five months old, a bottle. I thought to myself, "Oh! I want a little baby!"

Then I had to laugh at myself, because in a few months we'll have another baby! I thought exercising (which I did before I sat and waited) was supposed to help me stay sharp but perhaps it's not enough to combat the sleep interruptions of First Daughter combined with all those pregnancy hormones.

Elephant and Piggie Silliness

There Is a Bird on Your Head by Mo Willems

I happened to see this book when I was looking for a different one and picked it up because the title amused me and we've enjoyed books by this author and illustrator in the past. First Son laughed out loud the first time we read it, and continues to do so. It's a silly story and the humor appeals to four year olds and adults alike. I love the expressive faces the most! First Son has already memorized it and loves to read it to us as much as he loves for us to read it to him.

We picked up a few of the other Elephant & Piggie books at the library, and feel this is the best of the four. (There are two others you can pre-order at Amazon.) Highly recommended for the preschool crowd!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ready for Bed

This is how we settle down in the evenings...or at least, that's what they're supposed to be doing.