Teaching My Baby To Read

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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Why you should really go to Forks, WA

The book version of Bella's truck is on the left, the movie version is on the right.

The book version of Bella’s truck is on the left, the movie version is on the right.

Pimp my ride Bella Swan!

You’re looking at the two biggest attractions in Forks, WA.  For some reason, a couple of old trucks parked in front of the visitor center are calling to people from all over the world.  I even met a family from Holland.

Kudos to Stephenie Meyer for turning the sleepy little town of Forks into a place that is on the map.

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But the real reason Forks should be remembered is because it is right next to  Olympic National Park, which is quite simply awesome.

Olympic National Park has it all.  Mountains, glaciers, beaches, hot springs, rain forests, wildlife and lakes.  My only regret is that I don’t have a picture of Hurricane Ridge to share.

For those of you who are a bit hazy on Washington geography, Olympic National Park is on the Olympic Peninsula, which means Pacific Ocean beaches.  From Edmonds, we take the Edmonds/Kingston ferry over to the Peninsula, and then start driving.  The Pacific Ocean is about four hours from home.

Want to go arm-chair camping with us?  Grab your bug spray and let’s go!

Want to go arm-chair camping with us?

We need a tent that can handle rain.

Sol Duc Falls

Sol Duc Falls is 1.6 miles roundtrip, and gorgeous.

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach has garnets in the sand!

A nurse log in the Hoh Rain forest

Hoh Rain forest is a great place to look for nurse logs.  Those are fallen trees with other trees growing out of them.

The Hall of Mosses.  Trees like Big Leaf Maples use moss to stay hydrated.

The Hall of Mosses. Trees like Big Leaf Maples use moss to stay hydrated.

Lake Crescent

Lake Crescent

Roosevelt Elk

Roosevelt Elk

Dungeness crabs on Kalaloch beach

Dungeness crabs on Kalaloch beach

Green Sea Anenome

Green Sea Anemone

Beaches without people

Beaches without people

A mosquito massacre on my car.

A mosquito massacre on my car.

 

 

Truth in Blogging

No, it's not real.

No, it’s not real.

Do you ever get tired of reading mommy blogs that make life seem too perfect?  I hope my blog isn’t like that!

I would guess that most bloggers are like me, they clean things up before they take a picture.

Of course, some people are naturally very tidy.  Probably nobody would ever say that about my kids and me.

So for the sake of truth in blogging, here’s a picture of what the playroom floor currently looks like:

Fun times...

Fun times…

My kids constantly leaving random things all over the house was the inspiration for my “I Brake for Moms” column that came out on Sunday in The Everett Daily Herald.  Here’s the link:

http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20130728/BLOG5205/707289976#About-the-poop-in-the-bathtub—-it%2526%25238217s-not-real

Now to tackle the mess…

 

“Homeless at Harvard”, a book you gotta read

If you are a fan of Black Like Me or Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, then I have a book that you will love.  It’s called Homeless at Harvard: Finding Faith and Friendship on the Streets of Harvard Square  and it’s by John Christopher Frame.

While Frame was a divinity  student at Harvard, he spent a summer living with the homeless community of Harvard Square, so that he could better understand  their circumstances.  Unlike John Howard Griffin or Barbara Ehrenreich, Frame was upfront about his identity.  He didn’t try to trick anyone.  (Although I totally give Griffin and Ehrenreich a pass for their deceptions.)

“Homeless at Harvard” is a small book and very readable.  Moms and Dads, you can find time to read this.  It would also be a great piece of literature to discuss with your teens.

Frame addresses all the big issues you think about when you consider homelessness: addiction, abuse, gender issues, religion, mental health, and learned helplessness.  Frame doesn’t offer any definitive answers.  There’s nothing neat and tidy about the ending.

While reading this book I found myself really thinking a lot about Ayn Rand.  I don’t like Objectivism at all.  (I even wrote a column about it.)  I think that Jesus stands for everything Ayn Rand is against.

But…if giving a panhandler money means helping them feed their cocaine addiction, then that’s not what I want to do.  But how do you help?  How do you know whom to help?

Near the end of “Homeless Harvard” Frame talks about relationships.  You can offer a homeless person your smile and conversation.  You can acknowledge their personhood.  That’s important too.  Frame really made me think about that in a new way.

After I finished “Homeless at Harvard” I found the author’s website.  I feel like I know every person pictured.  John Christopher Frame should be commended for giving them a voice.

P.S. I received a free copy of this book from Booksneeze in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

I review for BookSneeze®

The John Locke Experiment, SOTW III

A marshmallow, a chocolate chip, a raisin and a teaspoon of sugar.

A marshmallow, a chocolate chip, a raisin and a teaspoon of sugar.

Do you know what sweetness is?  Were you born knowing what sweetness is, or did you have to experience sweetness to understand?

That’s the question we were asking today as we learned about John Locke.

In case you were wondering, yes, this is another part of our summer adventure listening to Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Vol. 3: Early Modern Times, 2nd Edition (9 CDs).

  

(Btw, check out the SOTW Pinterest board I’m creating with Mrs. Warde from Sceleratus Classical Academy.)

The John Locke experiment comes from page 99 of The Story of the World Activity Book Three: Early Modern Times.  Parents read actual exerpts from John Locke’s An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, while kids eat the sweet stuff.

Then you have a discussion about how John Locke believed people were born as a “blank slate”, or “tabula rasa”.

As activities go, this one only took about five minutes.  But hey, how many 8-year-olds and 4-year-olds are out there learning about John Locke this summer?

You might even say that my kids were born blank slates with ultimate potential, but their mommy is turning them into nerds, one summer day at a time…

Guerilla Warfare and SOTW III

Rocking out with history this summer!

This summer the kids and I have been listening to Susan Wise Bauer‘s epic book  The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, Vol. 3: Early Modern Times, 2nd Edition (9 CDs).

My eight-year-old son Bruce has also been reading the text version, and we’ve been trying to do some of the projects from the activity guide, which I’ve shared on the SOTW Pinterest board I’m creating with Mrs. Warde from Sceleratus Classical Academy.

 

But with Alaska, camping, swimming lessons and sleeping in, we haven’t done as much with SOTW III as I had hoped.

Yesterday however, was a lot of fun.  That’s because we played the guerilla warfare game from page 71 of the Activity Guide.  This was a tie-in to the story of Aurangzeb, “World Seizer” of India.

(On a side note, since we are listening to the audio version of SOTW, I thought the name was “World Caesar”.  Ooops!)

Here’s a brief quote from the Activity Guide: “Aurangzeb spent twenty-six years in the Deccan, fighting off guerilla warriors.  Guerilla warriors are soldiers who fight in sneak attacks and from under cover.” (p 71)

A hands-on learning approach to understanding guerilla warfare (without anyone being hurt).

A hands-on learning approach to understanding guerilla warfare (without anyone being hurt).

Susan Wise Bauer’s idea is to have kids try to hide under furniture around the house, and sneak attack their parents, grabbing ribbons which are close-pinned to mom and dad’s back.  If they pull this off unnoticed, the kids get a point.  If the children are caught, the point goes to mom and dad.

Granted, there is a moral issue to be considered when you are turning something as horribly serious as guerilla warfare into a game.  This isn’t a subject to be taken lightly.

But I think the point is to teach children that in many wars, weaker fighters are successful combating stronger troops by not following the traditional rules of warfare.  This also becomes important when understanding America’s Revolutionary War, which is also covered in SOTW III.

So a “game” like this is only one part of a larger discussion about power, control,  and the heartbreak of war.

Stay tuned for more of our SOTW adventures this summer…

A Gold Star Guided Reading Library

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I’ve posted before about my obsessively organized Guided Reading library and reading nest.  If you a newbie to my blog, you might be wondering what Guided Reading is all about.

So here’s some teacher training for moms:

The reasoning behind  my bizaro library is that organizing books in categories makes book selection less intimidating for young readers.  This is a trick that teachers use in classrooms all the time.

I get my book boxes from Ikea.  They are supposed to be used for dresser drawer organization.  They aren’t very sturdy, but they are super cheap and you can write right on them.

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Our book collection continues to grow, and here is what our middle grade library looks like right now:

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This summer I’ve added a twist to our organization system and it’s something that you could only do in a home setting, as opposed to a classroom.  I bought a pack of stickers for my eight-year-old son Bruce, and am letting him put a gold star on every book he’s read.

For home use only!

This is a very long process!  We are working through the library a couple of boxes a day.  So far, Bruce has used up 200 stickers.  He’s probably read 80% of our books.

The stickers system has a lot of benefits:

  • I can keep better track of what my son reads.
  • We can move unread books to the front of boxes.
  • My son can quickly find new reading material.
  • In the future, there will be a slight “oomph” to my daughter to read as widely as her big brother.

The wicked part of my library?

I keep running out of room!!!

Dragonwitch, by Anne Elisabeth Stengl

I’m a little groggy this morning because I stayed up late last night finishing Dragonwitch (Tales of Goldstone Wood), by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.

When I first started reading Dragonwitch I was really confused.  Stengl throws so many other-worldly terms at you that it’s easy for your mind to shut down.

So I skipped the prologue and started fresh on Chapter One, which was a lot easier to manage.  Then later when my brain was accustomed to all of the fantasy terms, I looped back and read the prologue again and it all made sense.  By the time I was halfway into the novel, I was hooked!

Dragonwitch is complex in the way that Tolkien is complex.  Every character has two, three, or even four different names.  The narrative arc cuts across different worlds and different histories.

But Stengl manages to pull it all off.

I should note too, that Dragonwitch isn’t the first book in her series.  So perhaps if I had first read Heartless (Tales of Goldstone Wood), I would have jumped into the storyline quicker.

What is that storyline you ask?  Whoa… that’s a difficult question.  But if I was to try to write an elevator pitch for Dragonwitch it would be this:  “When a faerie queen’s love gets rejected, she smolders an entire world.  Only the unlikeliest of heroes and his hodgepodge of brethren can stop her.”

P.S.  I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinions and review.

It takes all types of people to camp

North Sauk River Falls

North Sauk River Falls

Here’s my “I Brake for Moms column from this week.  Check me out on page two of The Good Life section in The Everett Daily Herald.

http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20130721/BLOG5205/707219971/-1/blog5205#People-watching-was-part-of-the-fun-of-camping

BLISS, a new way to celebrate birth

Watch out Baby Showers!  You've got some competition.

Watch out Baby Showers! You’ve got some competition.

No, I’m not pregnant!  (That ship has sailed.) But I’m still of the age where I have lots of pregnant friends.  I have my go-to baby gifts.  I have my stock set up congratulations cards and sentiments.

All those things seem a big haggard after reading Bliss: A guide to unique gift giving for the expectant mom, by Hava Skovron.

Skovron has created a new tradition for expectant mothers which she calls BLISS.  The idea is to start in month three, and then celebrate pregnancy with a new gift every month.  Each month gets a new theme; kind of like wedding anniversaries.

Month 3 = Paper

Month 4 = Lotion

Month 5 = Cotton

Month 6 = Photo

Month 7 = Wood

Month 8 = Silver

Month 9 = Food

The BLISS gifts can be as humble or expensive as your budget dictates.  A paper gift could be a homemade gift card or a spa certificate.  A wood gift could be a simple picture frame or a brand new crib.

Cool idea, right?  The book contains hundreds of ideas for each month.  There are also suggestions for how to organize a BLISS giving group, and how to deal with adoption.

Here’s the sad part.  I read this book today while still grieving over my friends’ loss of their newborn baby.  So all of Skovron’s ideas had added meaning for me.

A pregnancy after miscarriage or infant loss is/would be very scary.  BLISS gifts could be a great way to help a hopeful mom through her fear.  Instead of having a baby shower, you could follow BLISS and send comforting gifts for the mother instead.

Paper could be a note of encouragement.  Lotion could be hand cream.  Cotton could be a set of soft pillowcases for a good night’s sleep.  All the gifts could offer encouragement and understanding.

I really love this idea of BLISS.  Thank you Hava Skorvorn for your creativity, and for giving me a complimentary copy of your book so that I could review it.

A Reading Chart That Didn’t Work

At least it was only $3.

At least it was only $3.

Here’s an idea that totally failed this summer.  Not only that, but on my new WP blog I can’t figure out how to enlarge pictures, so I’m striking out on that point too.  You probably can’t even see what this is a picture of!

The backstory is that I found a really cheap reading poster kit at the craft store for about $3.  I put it up in our family room the first day of summer.  I also found some notepads shaped like books.  The plan was to write down every single book we read this summer, and hang the papers below the respected genre chart.

The problem is that Bruce(8) reads a ton of books but isn’t interested at all in recording what he reads.  Jenna(4) can’t read a book all on her own yet, plus she doesn’t write, so it was all up to me to use the system.  I get an “F”.

Sigh…  At least I’m only out $5 for the whole endeavor.

Making Perfume?

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Note!  This is not a how-to on how to make real perfume.  That’s the reason behind the ironic question mark in the title.  My son Bruce(8) was interested in trying to make perfume, so this post is sharing the results of our experiment.

 We boiled flowers in water for about 5-10 minutes.


We boiled flowers in water for about 5-10 minutes.

When the flowers looked like this we stopped cooking them.

When the flowers looked like this we stopped cooking them.

Then we strained out the flowers.

Then we strained out the flowers.

We put the perfumein old canning jars with a little splash of peppermint schnapps.  The water was so hot that the jars sealed on their own.

We put the perfume in old canning jars with a little splash of peppermint schnapps. The water was so hot that the jars sealed on their own.

I added the peppermint schnapps at the last minute because I thought that might help add a little bit of preservative to the mix.

Our final results?  It smells like we created rose water.  The liquid actually has a really nice, extremely mild fragrance.  It’s weak enough that kids can spray it all over themselves and still not actually smell bad.

I think our next step is to check out some books from the library, so that we can explore the science behind making perfume for real.

Chasing Francis, Review

My latest Booksneeze book is Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale, by Ian Morgan Cron.  I received a free copy of this book, in exchange for my honest opinion and review.

I’ve never read any of Cron’s work before, but he is also the author of Jesus, My Father, The CIA, and Me: A Memoir. . . of Sorts.  He is an Episcopal priest and a doctoral candidate studying Christian spirituality at Fordham University.

Chasing Francis is a hybrid of sorts.  It’s the fictional story of a big-box evangelical pastor in the middle of a spiritual crisis.  Woven into the pastor’s narrative, is the true story of St. Francis of Assisi, as well as some fun arm-chair touring of Italy.

This is a VERY funny book.  Cron is extremely witty, but he’s also a deep thinker.  I also view him as a “peace maker” as opposed to a “peace lover” because Chasing Francis builds a very strong bridge between evangelical protestants and Catholics.

I’m giving this book five stars on Amazon because I really loved it.  But I thought I’d close my review with my own thoughts about Assisi.

When I went to Italy as a 19-year-old, I was truly shocked.  Assisi blew me away with it’s consumerism and decadence.  Everyone seemed to be trying to make some $ off of St. Francis.

Here’s a picture from my album:

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I remember thinking, “Would St. Francis really want this gigantic cathedral?”  It seemed to me as a young 19-year-old, to be everything St. Francis was against.

My trip was back before the days of normal people owning digital cameras, so I don’t have any more pictures; just memories.  But as I recall, inside the cathedral there was a lot of painted gold.

Yeah, because St. Francis loved gold.  (Not!)

I was hoping that Cron would address some of that sentiment in Chasing Francis, but he really didn’t.  I understand why, because it’s not really kosher for a Protestant to criticize a Catholic in a book that’s trying to mend fences.

But even after so many years later, I’m still wondering what St. Francis would say if he could see the cathedral that’s named after him.

Or actually, I wonder what St. Francis would do…

I review for BookSneeze®

Sunprints

Remember when my daughter and I started our fairy-house village? (It has since expanded, btw.)

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Another thing we did that day was make sunprints. That was one of my favorite types of art to do when I was little. The only problem back then was, acquiring the sunprint paper.

Now of course, Amazon makes everything easy:


Step #1 is to put flowers down on your paper.  I don’t have a picture of that part.

Step #2: Out in the sun for 5 minutes.

Step #2: Out in the sun for 5 minutes.

Step #3: Rinse with cold water.

Step #3: Rinse with cold water.

Step #4: Dry

Step #4: Dry

Enjoy!

Enjoy.

My son is itching to try making sunprints with negatives. Good luck finding those!  So we’re waiting on Auntie to mail us some when she gets the film in her old fashioned camera developed.

I actually had a very funny conversation with my 8-year-old explaining to him what negatives were.  I feel old…

My last post about Alaska, I promise!

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My “I Brake for Moms” column from today.  Check me out on page 2 of the Good Life Section in The Everett Daily Herald.

http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20130714/BLOG5205/707149983/-1/blog5205#Cruise-to-Alaska-feeds-the-soul-and-the-waistline

The Big Nugget Tour, Review

Matt Hayashida, Iditarod Musher

Matt Hayashida, Iditarod Musher

In Skagway my family went on The Big Nugget Tour which included meeting Matt Hayashida (a veteran Iditarod Musher), seeing sled dogs get harnessed to a summer sled, holding puppies, learning to pan for real gold, going into a room that was 40 degrees below zero, touring a brewery, seeing a huge piece of mining equipment, and lunch.

We chose to do The Big Nugget tour instead of riding the White Pass train because I thought a 3 hour train ride would be boring for my very active family.  It turns out, we made a great choice!  The Big Nugget Tour was “touristy” but a whole lot of fun, and my kids learned a lot about Alaskan history.

Here are some pictures:

An old fashioned sled that kids could sit in.

An old fashioned sled that kids could sit in.

Matt's real suit.  Behind it you will see the booties the dogs wear, plus bags for supplies at each stop.  (The bags look like flags.)

Matt’s real suit. Behind it you will see the booties the dogs wear, plus bags for supplies at each stop. (The bags look like flags.)

One of the racing dogs.

One of the racing dogs.

The dogs practicing in their summer sled.

The dogs practicing in their summer sled.

Holding a sled dog puppy who just licked me.

Holding a sled dog puppy who just licked me.

Panning for gold was my 8-year-old's favorite part.  But he was convinced that he would actually strike it rich.

Panning for gold was my 8-year-old’s favorite part. He was convinced that he would actually strike it rich.

This was a huge piece of portable mining equipment that tore up the river, spewed out dirt, destroyed the environment etc., all for $800,000 worth of profit.

This was a huge piece of portable mining equipment that tore up the river, spewed out dirt, destroyed the environment etc., all for $800,000 worth of profit.

There was a Disneyland type set where you got to see what a mining camp used to look like.

There was a Disneyland type set where you got to see what a mining camp used to look like.

My kids really remember this part of the tour a lot.  They learned a lot about the Yukon Gold Rush.

My kids really remember this part of the tour a lot. They learned a lot about the Yukon Gold Rush.

Inside the tasting room.  This isn't a great picture, but the rest of them show my children.  We got to taste several glasses of beer, root beer or wine.

Inside the tasting room. This isn’t a great picture, but the rest of them show my children. We got to taste several glasses of beer, root beer or wine.

Inside the brewery.  My three-year-old wasn't interested, so one of the tour guides took all the little kids out to the river to throw rocks.  Nice!

Inside the brewery. My three-year-old wasn’t interested, so one of the tour guides took all the little kids out to the river to throw rocks. Nice!

To me, it seemed like the whole town of Skagway was a tourist trap.  Most people don’t live there in the winter, and all of our tour guides were from Utah, New York, or other places besides Alaska.

But sometimes tourist traps are really fun.  Our day in Skagway made a big impact on my kids, and was one of their favorite parts of the trip.