Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: February 2013

How to ditch cute guys in bed

My “I Brake for Moms” column in The Sunday Herald this morning.  Check me out in The Good Life section.

So you want a puppy?

One of the biggest deals where we live is keeping Puget Sound Clean.

It’s pretty darn important.  That’s why I love The Dog Poop Game.

Earlier this year our family went to Cama Beach State Park’s CamOcean World Oceans Day FestivalSound Salmon Solutions was there that day teaching kids about the importance of keeping animal waste out of yard waste and compost bins.

My son learned how to properly pick up dog-poop-shaped-bean-bags using plastic, and then dispose them in the trash can. What made this activity fun was that kids got to toss the “poop” about six feet in the air and win a prize if it landed in the garbage.


This game could easily be recreated for your next school carnival or scouting event. Sound Salmon Solutions also has a ton of free science curriculum available on their website, so be sure to check that out.

Hold on Tight, by Heather Klassen

Probably the worst time to review a book is after you just spent twenty minutes crying over the end of it.  (Spoiler alert.)

Hold on Tight by Heather Klassen is the first novel I’ve ever ordered from Royal Fireworks Press, publisher of the Michael Clay Thompson curriculum.   RFWP has made its name publishing high quality materials for gifted and homeschooled children.  (My son’s school uses Caesar’s English for example.)  But their novels for children are harder to find.

All of the RFWP novels are available through their website of course, but not many of them are available on Amazon. ( Here’s why.)  Sadly, I couldn’t find any of the RFWP novels through our local library.

This all made a lot of sense to me when I read Hold on Tight, the story of a girl who watches her brother leave for the Vietnam War and witnesses her family change forever.  Hold on Tight is a beautiful, moving, 78 page novella with a great deal of meaning.

But this book is not very commercial.

When’s the last time you read a middle grade novella?  Or a book for kids about Vietnam?  When’s the last time a historical book for middle schoolers became a uber-best seller?  (Having “American Girl” in the title doesn’t count.)

Klassen writes with a lyrical, almost stream-of-conscious style that is very unique in children’s books these days.  I read the first two chapters with my 7 year-old at bedtime, and he loved it so much that woke up early the next morning to finish it off on his own.

Kudos to RFWP for publishing this.

They took a risk on a story worth telling.  I look forward to ordering more books from them in the future.

The truth about money advice

A while back I read Michelle Singletary’s review of the book Pound Foolish, Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry by Helaine Olen.   Intrigued, I checked it out from the library.  It was so good I stayed up late to finish it all in one day.

Olen’s point is that most of the so-called financial experts Americans listen to are saying a variation of the same thing: “When a middle class family gets into debt it’s because they made stupid financial decisions on big ticket items or little things like buying fancy coffee.  Rich people don’t make these bad decisions and that’s why they are rich.  If Americans listen to the experts and stop wasting money, everyone could be rich.”

Sound familiar?  We (the average American Joe) believe what the money gurus say because everyone knows at least one person who got into debt by making dumb decisions.

But Olen says that when you really look at the numbers and research why Americans fall into debt, it’s not because they were going to Starbucks or buying an RV.  It’s because instead of losing their job for three months, they were unemployed for two years.  Or maybe they were diagnosed with cancer and their health insurance was lousy.  Or maybe they didn’t have any insurance at all.  Or maybe their adult child became paralyzed and they had to provide care.  Or maybe they ended up having to raise their grandchildren. Or maybe their salary is actually lower than what it was ten years ago, but the cost of food gas and everything else is higher.  Or maybe they bought a house, the market tanked, they lost their job, but then they got a new job in another state, but now they have to be out-of-state landlords on a house that is losing money.  Or maybe…( you get the idea.)

All of that is a whole lot more complicated than the fanciful idea of Americans frittering money away on a daily cappuccino habit.

It’s also really sobering.

If the average uninsured American is just one medical diagnosis away from total economic disaster, that means that our entire economy is unstable.  If my neighbor gets sick I want them to receive medical attention because #1 it’s the right thing to do, and #2 if they lose their house due to medical bills, that will effect the worth of my house too.

This book really made me understand why universal health care is important to our economy.

Another thing I loved about Pound Foolish was the shout-out to one of my favorite blogs Bad Money Advice.  I’m so sad that former hedge fund manager Frank Curmudgeon has stopped blogging, but I am happy to think that he must now be employed again.

Finally, Helaine Olen’s book introduced me to the website Playspent.org.  It’s a free game that lets you figure out how you would survive as a single mother earning $9.  Like Olen, I’ve played this game over and over again and I still can’t make ends meet.  It is very heartbreaking.

I’m ending this post with a picture of the grocery sack my family is going to fill up for our local food bank this week, and a quote from John Wesley.

“Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can.”  John Wesley

That’s the financial advice that I try to follow.

Stuffed Animal Math

How many times does your preschooler drag out her stuffed animals?  Probably a lot!

Here’s how I turned doggy-time into math-time.

First I brought out the craft sticks. 

There are five doggies and two random Beanie Babies.  So we laid out tally sticks for how many animals there were: 7.

Then we showed the number 7 with our hands.

We also made the number 7 on the abacus.

Then my daughter brought out all of the animal friends!

Jenna doesn’t understand the number 15 yet, but she does understand 5 and 5 and 5.

So that’s how many stuffed animals she has.  5 and 5 and 5.

Yummy Orange Drink

It’s been about two weeks since I had the flu, and my stomach isn’t entirely back to normal yet.  Usually I drink a green smoothie every day, but I’m just not up to that yet.

So tonight I made an orange smoothie instead.  This is a family favorite!


  • 4 whole oranges (peeled)
  • 2 cups ice
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons honey

P.S. If you don’t have a Vitamix or a Blend-Tec, try using orange juice concentrate instead.

Party on Mom!

The only bad thing about having a party is getting ready for it.

My “I Brake for Moms” column today in the Good Life Section of The Sunday Herald.

Thank you for reading!

Numbers Books

I love homemade math books!  (Here’s another example of one we made a long time ago.)

Right now I’m obsessed with dot stampers.  I’m even putting together a Pinterest Board of all the things you can do with them.  I don’t know why I never appreciated the magic of dot stampers before, but now I’m totally sold.

Anyhow, last week we made a homemade numbers book, that ties in with Right Start Level A really nicely.  I’m not going to show the entire book, but you can probably get the concept from the following picture.

The important part was to make the bigger numbers different colors.  It’s a lot easier to picture six dots as five and one, than if they were all red.

With Jenna, I’m working on visualization, not just counting.  I want her to look at five and one and know it’s six.  I don’t want her to count.

For more on this, please see Math and the Young Child which is up here for free.  It’s only two pages long, and totally worth reading.