Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Daybook for June 30, 2009

Outside my window... bright and sunny here at 6:30 pm. Hot, but not unbearably so like it was a week or two ago.

I am thinking... about all the things on my to-do list. I decided to try something new: keeping a running to-do list saved as a Word doc on my desktop. I can look at it daily and delete or add things as necessary.

I am thankful... that even though Cecilia is getting so big, she's still my cuddly baby.

Learning at home... we have been watching things grow in our Mary Garden. I will do an update post on it at some point...

From the kitchen... I smell the bread finishing up in the bread machine. We're having it with leftovers from the deep freeze tonight. We made carrot muffins yesterday and yogurt pops today with the organic strawberries I found at TJ's for just $3.00. Later this week: hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill for the 4th, of course!

I am reading... Beyond the Birds and the Bees by Greg Popcak. And various blogs and other online stuff, of course ;)

To live the liturgy... I haven't been inspired with much here lately... we have some feasts of apostles this week, so maybe we can come up with something for those... I am thinking of Caroline's nameday feastday coming up in a month... St. Anne (her middle name is Rhiannon - is that a stretch??). I am going to order some holy cards to display on the table and add to the collection each year.

I am creating... piles of Clinique cosmetics to sell on eBay. I just need to get motivated to create all the listings!

Around the house... I have been organizing the top of the guest room closet... very, very slowly. Painfully slowly. I have been storing about 15 or so shoe boxes there, all full of travel brochures. I collected them through high school and college. I am sure my husband is thrilled that I am going to cull the stash. I think I will Freecycle them! For those who knew me in high school/college, I bet you cannot believe I am parting with (some of) my brochures! Don't worry, I am keeping the napkins and plastic bag collection! ;)

I am hearing... the girls finishing up their bath before dinner.

One of my favorite things... Earl Grey tea with milk and sugar... even in this heat!

A few plans for the rest of the week... Nothing planned. We might make a trip to the lake to go swimming, even though that is quite an undertaking to do with only one adult. I am thinking we should try to get at least a couple lake days in this summer, though.

A picture thought I am sharing...

Gabby, one of my parents' cats, ponders her shadow

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Return to my Childhood

Over the weekend, I took the girls to Atlanta to visit my parents and to swim in their neighborhood pool. We got a surprise when we arrived... neither of my parents was home when we first got there, so we went in and made ourselves some lunch. When I glanced out the sunroom window, I noticed something... I could actually see the old swingset frame. Not only that, but Michael's old baby swing that had been hanging on that frame since 1986 (looking quite dilapidated in the last several years) was gone!

The reason I could see this was because the small jungle that had taken over the swingset area had been cut back! The swingset is located in a wooded section of the property on the other side of the creek. My dad had gone across the bridge and done some serious work. He'd also taken down the old slide he had built for us over 20 years ago, and the whole swingset frame had been given a new coat of green paint. I wondered what the occasion was, doing this yardwork...

New swings! Apparently, my dad had decided that he'd clean up the swingset area and then get some new swings for the girls to enjoy when they visit! What a surprise! Thanks, Dad!! Both Cecilia and Caroline were excited to go out and swing for awhile.

Do you see the bushes behind the swingset? No, not those short little things, but the ones that are so tall that you cannot see the leaves and only the trunks are visible? Yes, those are twenty foot tall bushes! They were only about as high as the fence when I was a kid!

And I cannot believe how thick the trunks have gotten on those trees (pictured behind Caroline)!

On to Mountaire Pool... this is the neighborhood pool that my family has belonged to since I was very young. It has a kiddie pool (we always called it "the baby pool") and a big pool. We drove over after swinging to swim for awhile that afternoon.

You can see there is a low fence around the baby pool... and beyond the corner of the big pool is the deck. Up the stairs further is a large covered area in which potluck dinners, swim team celebrations, and private parties can be held. I had my 7th birthday party up there!

Cecilia liked splashing... even if it was tough to keep her balance as she tried to walk in the pool. I had to fish her out once or twice!

She LOVED the big pool! After getting used to it for a few minutes, she wanted to swim! I held her on her belly and told her to kick, and she did, as you can see. She didn't mind getting splashed and was almost about to jump out of my arms at times! Maybe she got my swimming genes... Caroline, on the other hand, got her Uncle Tim's swimming genes and as a result stayed close to the edge the whole time. She did get braver and walked out a little ways - since she is so tall that she can touch the bottom and still keep her head above water!

Just swimming along only balanced on one of my arms...

We are hoping to go to the beach later this summer... looks like Cecilia will love the pool at the condo! My little water baby!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Caroline's Take on Barney

This happened a few months ago, but I forgot to write it down... Caroline, who has never seen an episode of Barney, said something along these lines:

"And I saw a puzzle there with that Big Purple Guy on it... Mommy, what is that Big Purple Guy, anyway??"

I don't know, Caroline. I wonder what he is, too!

Other evidence that we don't do characters much in our home: Caroline recently referred to Elmo as "Elbow," and she calls Spongebob Squarepants "that sponge that walks around." Oh well, the less pop culture, the better, in my opinion! And it sure is funny, too!!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Our Fears Have Been Confirmed...

We have been quite concerned for several years now about raising children on our particular street because of a family of very fast drivers. It seems that their teenaged sons have moved out, but the mother still speeds by often. We first noticed how fast they drove down our 30 mph speed limit road when Caroline was a baby, and it concerned us that one day we would have children playing in our front yard and riding bikes in the street. Our house is at the top of a hill, so anyone coming over it quickly has less time to stop if they suddenly realize that there's something in the middle of the road at the top of the hill.

Somehow we missed all the excitement yesterday... we were eating lunch, and we did notice the ambulance drive by with its lights on, but I figured it was going elsewhere in the neighborhood and not that it was leaving the scene three doors down. Caroline mentioned that we should say a prayer for whoever was in the ambulance, so we did. I didn't think anything more of it until Chris asked later that evening, "So, lots of police activity in the neighborhood today?"

What happened was this: our neighbor who lives two houses down from us was working in his yard (or maybe in his next door neighbor's yard - not quite sure). He is frequently out working in the yard... his property has a ravine-type area on it with lots of trees and such, and he works down there a lot to prevent it from getting overgrown. Yesterday, he was pulling tree branches in a small trailer attached to the back of a small riding mower (without a cutting deck - he uses this mower frequently to haul things around). He was up on the road right by the curb, where he was taking the branches. He was on the mower when he was hit nearly head-on by a car driven by... of course, I instantly guessed that it was this particular neighbor or one of her sons. We really were always concerned that something like this would happen one day. :-(

Our neighbor who was hit was pushed back 72 feet and into his neighbor's mailbox, riding mower, trailer, and all. I assume he would have gone further if the mailbox hadn't stopped him. He was in ICU with a broken leg and collapsed lung but from what we have heard, he is going to be okay. The neighbor who was in the car claimed (according to news stories) that he was hidden from her view behind the brush pile along the side of the road. We walked past the brush pile on our morning walk today... and I am taller than it while standing, so I am unsure of how a man sitting on a riding mower would be blocked by this pile. Also, the news story says he was turning into a driveway. Based on the location of the brush pile, it would seem that he was either turning into his own driveway or his next door neighbor's driveway (the pile was between the two). Based on the scrapes in the pavement (from the trailer on the mower), he was at his own driveway when hit and was pushed back to the neighbor's driveway... meaning he must have been turning into his own driveway. What I don't understand is how a man on a mower driving towards an oncoming car, on the right side of the road and making a left turn in front of a brush pile... how can the view be obstructed by the brush pile? There is no way he could have been behind it if all those details are accurate.

Thank God we weren't out walking there when it happened. And I hope that this will be a lesson to all on our street to drive more slowly.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Bird Update

Well, the baby birds grew very, very quickly! We were able to sneak a few more peeks at them here and there and watched them grow feathers and get pretty large! We also watched the mama bird, along with another thrasher (the daddy bird, perhaps?) , bringing food to the nest tirelessly for several days. They were very devoted.

We did manage to get these photos through a team effort... Chris took the pictures while I danced and waved my arms like a lunatic while standing between him and the mother bird, who was perched in our fig tree. I am pretty sure she was greatly angered by my defense tactics!

Here they are, about to not fit in the nest anymore! It was interesting to note that they always sat facing out with their heads resting on he rim of the nest.

A close-up showing their feathers a little better... although the focus isn't just right. The branches in front of the nest interfered with getting a well-focused shot, along with the rush of wanting to tke the photos as quickly as possible!

Here is mama bird, nicely puffed up as she attempts to distract us from her nest. She was scolding and hopping around.

I am pretty sure she's giving us the evil eye here...

Well those photos were taken a couple days ago. The next day, the babies were gone!! Just... vanished! Without a trace! I am thinking they must have been able to fly away already... although they were only 10-12 days old, which seems young to me (but I know nothing about birds, so...). The weird thing is that the mother bird still thought they were there for a day or so... at least, she acted like they were still there because she was hanging around and having her typical spaz attack every time we came near the bush where the nest is located. But as of yesterday, she had left the area and has been seen in some other bushes on the opposite side of the yard. Could she have moved the babies somehow if they were not old enough to fledge??? Maybe some brown thrasher research is in order!

Of course, the other possibility is that a cat got them. I am less likely to think this is the case since the nest is intact and in perfect condition, and there are no feathers scattered around or anything. It doesn't look like the bush was disturbed in any way. Also, we have been home almost around the clock this week and the bush is right outside a window... we probably would have heard something based on how protective the adult birds have been!

But, speaking of the cats... I mentioned in my earlier bird post that some birds of another species have been dive-bombing our neighbors' cats. The cats don't like this and run off, which makes it seem like a successful strategy on the part of the birds. But there is one cat who I haven't even seen around much, but in the last two weeks, he has been in our yard at some point every single day. And the birds do not faze him. He just walks along as the birds repeatedly swoop down and ram into his rear end. He doesn't even pause or look back at them. I think this is what he was after yesterday:

Again, apologies for the poor focus. this is another nest, located in a tall bush at the edge of our yard near our garden. You can make out the black beak and a bit of the eye of the bird sitting in the nest. The cat was headed straight into this bush when I shot the video below (you'll have to be patient with it - the best view of the bird attacking the cat is toward the end of the video):

So, if anyone knows anything about birds... leave a comment! Could our babies have flown away already?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

On Sunday, the girls gave Daddy cards and a "handmade" present (see last photo below).

This is the picture Caroline drew of Daddy inside his card... when he asked her what all the lines were on his arms and legs, she said, "That's because you have hair on your arms and legs." Ha ha!

Chris had to work Sunday afternoon, so we used that time to make his present: the girls' handprints which I then arranged in a cross shape and put a prayer for fathers underneath it. I couldn't come up with a great gift idea for them to make, but I knew I wanted to do handprints. While thinking about it, I came up with the cross idea. Hopefully it looks enough like a cross, and the prayer being there might help people to recognize it as such:

Hope all the dads out there had a nice day! How blessed our children are to have fathers present in their lives!

Little Daredevil

This face says it all... "I can take on anything - I can climb any mountain. Just watch me!" Oh, don't let that melted yogurt popsicle on her chin fool you for a minute - she means serious business!

Cecilia is climbing on everything... and has been for a few months now. This is the other day, when she climbed onto the package of toilet paper to see what she could find on the counter (no knives, thank goodness!). She also bent her knees and bobbed up and down, saying, "Boucy, boucy, boucy!" She thinks it is as fun as an inflatable, ha ha.

She also climbed onto this overturned laundry basket the other day and just sat there, feeling quite pleased with herself. She has also been known to climb onto Caroline's little table and to climb onto the hearth and pull the pebbles out from around the gas logs.

Today, she set a new record in her level of braveness. She climbed up to the top of the McDonald's play area. She did this for the first time about three weeks ago (we go there to play sometimes when it is raining or just miserably HOT), but today... she climbed about 15 feet up the tunnel slide. I had to crawl in to fish her out! Then she climbed up the stairs - three times - and came down the slide! That slide has got to be at least 15 feet high. I'd be completely terrified if it weren't an enclosed tunnel slide. I did make sure to send Caroline up with her to make sure she went down the slide carefully, and I didn't let her climb up until there were no other kids up there. At one point, I did hear her fussing in the slide and had to climb up it quickly to make sure she wasn't stuck somehow.

It is so funny how daring she is... Caroline wouldn't go on playground equipment alone until she was over two, and wouldn't go in a tall play area until she was over three (and still won't go in if there are "big kids" inside it). She is cautious. Cecilia is the opposite, apparently, although I wouldn't say she is careless or fearless... she seems to be able to handle most of what she gets herself into!

The little monkey ;)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Daybook for June 15, 2009

I have been enjoying reading other people's daybook entries on their blogs and am finally going to try to do some of my own. I think it is a great way to make a weekly journal entry about what's going on in the family and around the home, something that will be fun to look back at and to keep focused on the week that lies ahead.

Outside my window... it is dark, as I am writing this after 10 pm. I am sure the baby birds are all cozy in their nest.

I am thinking... about whether or not I should make the BBQ sauce now (er, when I finish this post) or in the morning. I need it for a slow cooker recipe for tomorrow. Hopefully typing it here will make me remember to do it! ;)

I am thankful... that Cecilia went to sleep easily tonight. She's getting teeth numbers 13 and 14, and has had a restless time the past few evenings.

Learning at home... watching the squash and tomatoes grow in the garden and checking on our baby birds.

From the kitchen... I've been on a cooking kick lately (okay, when am I not, at least mentally?)... Falafels yesterday, oatmeal scones today, a turkey breast in the crock pot to be used for cold sandwiches for lunch this week (as well as going in the freezer to be used for future dinners), grilled flank steak fajitas coming this weekend.

I am reading... Finally finished Mothering Your Nursing Toddler. Didn't read it all with my first nursing toddler because she wasn't a typical toddler. I found it much more useful this time now that I have a nursing toddler who displays the "typical" traits of having tantrums and saying "mine" a lot, lol. I will begin reading Beyond the Birds and the Bees soon... it is in my "to-read" basket now.

To live the liturgy... This Friday is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. I'm going to try to come up with some kind of activity to celebrate... And Saturday is the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Hmmm... heart-shaped biscuits are always popular. Caroline loves to use the heart cookie cutter on the buscuit dough!

I am creating... lots of crafts out of felt. Caroline and I made sock puppets, I made felt board characters, and yesterday we made finger puppets for The Three Little Pigs - and a big wolf sock puppet to go with them.

the three pigs holding their straw, sticks, and bricks

the big, bad wolf on Caroline's hand

Around the house... laundry hanging to dry in the sunroom to be put away tomorrow, cloth diaper load to be dried and folded.

I am hearing... the white noise machine through the baby monitor; Chris typing on his laptop next to me; the rumble of thunder in the distance.

One of my favorite things... our two blueberry bushes in the backyard. Not as big of a harvest this year, it looks like... but still enough to make a pie or cobbler or two, I hope.

A few plans for the rest of the week... We might do story time at the library tomorrow. They have their summer reading program going on, and if I read to Caroline for ten hous, we can get a free pass to the Creative Discovery Museum. Ironically, we will be going there on Thursday using the free pass we got from the library last year. Gran will be coming to visit Wednesday through Friday. We may go to the lake to swim on Friday - the high is supposed to be 97 that day, the hottest of the year! There's a trip to the bank (ugh) later this week for LLL business, and on Friday evening we may try to make it (if Cecilia can manage to sleep past 6:30 that morning!) to the retirement social for Father Jim, our parish priest who has been there for nearly 20 years!

A picture thought I am sharing...

"...not by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin!"

We have baby birds!

A brown thrasher (our state bird) has made its nest in a bush outside our den window (the one with the window seat). A little over a week ago, Chris noticed that there was an egg in the nest... then a second egg the next day, and so on until there were four eggs. The mother bird was sometimes sitting on them when we peeked at the nest, but usually she was in a nearby tree and would begin scolding us when she noticed we were near.

Yesterday, Chris peeked and saw that the baby birds had hatched! They are just tiny little things with a bit of grey feathery fuzz. According to Caroline, "They lay in a heap." That's pretty accurate, I'd say...

Tonight, Chris went out to water the garden and told me that the baby birds were awake with their mouths wide open. So I went out with the camera a few minutes later, but they were already back in a heap, sleeping. The mother bird was nowhere in sight, but I heard her begin scolding from a faraway tree... and then five seconds later, whoosh!! She had flown only inches from me, over my shoulder, and into the next bush over, where she continued making a racket and hopping around, hoping to distract me from her babies. Well, she scared me half to death, so I think these may be the last of the photos of the baby birds... at least for awhile!

Before the eggs had hatched, the mother bird would also attempt to distract us whenever we peeked at her nest. She would fly into the nearby fig tree and squawk and hop around in the branches as if taunting us. Very interesting to see a mama bird following her animal instincts! She definitely knew to try to keep us away from her babies... good mama bird, even if it was pretty dumb of her to build her nest so close to the ground!

Here she is after dive-bombing me tonight... she sat scolding me in this faraway tree, glad that she was distracting me from the babies!

Edited to add: The birds have been interesting this spring... below is a picture taken a few weeks ago of our neighbor's cat after being dive-bombed by another bird... not a thrasher. Not sure what kind of bird it is, but it is aggressive! I have seen it go after two cats and follow another one across the street, scolding it loudly. If you look at the top right corner of the photo, you can see the bird as it swoops back up into the air. The cat is doing a funny little surprised hop - she didn't expect to have a bird swoop down and peck at her!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Homemade Felt Board

I am planning to make several sets of felt figures that go along with stories for use on our felt board. As I tell a story, Caroline and I can put the figures up on the board, and she can also use them to retell the stories herself. To begin with, I made a felt board by taping some cardboard together and then covering it with felt. I didn't buy enough black... oops. So I used some brown... it can be the dirt, right?

Here's the back... it is reinforced with another square of cardboard.

I made figures for the story The Gigantic Turnip. For some, I sketched a outline out on the back of the felt before cutting them, like this cow. Others I just cut freehand, like the cats.

Here's a pig - I used puffy paint to make the facial features. It has been a long time since I've used puffy paint!!

And here are all the characters lined up, trying to pull up the giant turnip. Excuse the lack of eyes on the cats... I thought they'd look better with green eyes, and I don't have that color.

Just a quick glimpse at something fun we have been doing lately!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ugliest Sock Puppets Ever!

Last week, Caroline and I made some sock puppets. She wanted a Mary puppet, a Joseph puppet, and a baby Jesus puppet. So, I worked on them with her assistance (she put on the googly eyes, or "eyes with pupils that wiggle," as she called them). I have never made people sock puppets before... and hope that maybe I won't have to ever again. Sock puppets are great for animals, apparently... a horse, a frog, a dragon perhaps... but people faces and mouths just don't look quite right in sock-puppet form. Or if they can look right, I don't have the ability to make them do so! These just look kind of depressed... not quite the happy glow that you'd expect from the Holy Family, ha ha!

Caroline chose the colors for the felt and the accessories (Mary's bow and Joseph's belt). Poor little baby Jesus pupet.. he's not even really a puppet, just a stuffed baby sock. And he looks like... a potato? A slug? I don't know.... he looks almost Muppet-ish.

But, we made them together, and they are much-loved. Caroline loves playing with her Holy Family puppets, and she especially likes it when I make them tell her a story. She likes them enough that she stores them high out of Cecilia's reach. I still think we'll stick to animal sock puppets in the future, though!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Push for Early Schooling

I have been tossing ideas for this post around in my mind ever since it was recommended to me. It seems that over the past several years, there has been quite a push towards earlier and earlier schooling for little ones, and also a stronger focus on academics at a younger age (not that this has resulted in higher achievement in our nation's high schoolers... in fact, I have seen fourth graders who can barely write a coherent sentence beginning with a capital letter and ending with a period!). First, there was this thing called pre-K. Now, I hear, there is a "pre-K3" program, which is a pre-pre-K (is that like being "engaged to be engaged"?), and it is becoming more and more common. I don't think it has yet made it into government sponsorship yet (somebody correct me if I am wrong - and maybe it has in other states, but I don't think it has here in GA).

I should start at the beginning. My writing tends to ramble and be long-winded, so I should try to organize my thoughts a little here (and stop using so many parenthesis!). Way back when I attended Kindergarten, in 1984-5, it was a half-day program. I am not sure if the public schools did full-day K at that point, but not many of the private schools in my area did. My K class was at a church preschool and had seven students total. Seven! My younger brothers attended K at our Catholic parish school, and I believe two of the three only went half-day. So, as late as 1990, there were still some half-day Kindergarten programs around. And we didn't need a full day. We still learned to begin to read (and without much pressure, either), and count, and also had time to play and do art projects, sing songs and learn finger plays.

I also have somewhat of a background in preschool/daycare. My mother taught at church preschools off and on when I was between the ages of four and 12, and after that she taught in preschools every year and then became a curriculum coordinator and finally a director. I always enjoyed volunteering at her preschools over the years when I had the chance. I also worked for pay at a day care center a few summers during high school and college. Then I went on to teach 3rd grade for two years in a public school and 4th grade for almost two years in a private school before the birth of my first daughter.

Of course, there are parents who have no choice but to put their children in daycare. A single parent has to work, for instance. But it seems that there is this push for earlier and earlier "learning experiences." Some families, even if they do not have a need for daycare, choose to put their young toddlers and preschool-age children into day-long, five day a week "school." I have heard the various reasons for this being so the child will be socialized and can meet friends, so the child won't be bored at home, so the child will get a head start academically, so the child will not "be behind" when he enters Kindergarten, because the child is "ready" (this often goes along with his being bored), or because the child needs to get used to being at school all day when he is young so it won't be a shock when he gets to Kindergarten. Even a half-day of preschool every day can be a lot on a little one, who really just needs to be able to have some quiet mornings at home with mother.

There is also an abundance of "learning toys" or "educational toys" for very young children. You'd be hard-pressed to walk down an aisle of Fisher-Price toys for ages birth-two years and not find a toy that does not sing the alphabet, count, or otherwise try to prattle off facts to the child. I will admit that I bought and asked for a few of these toys for my first child. After seeing more and more of them appearing on the shelves, I began to think about it and said, "No more!" Why does my 12 month old need to hear the alphabet being sung by an annoying electronic voice? Why can't toys just be fun nowadays rather than "educational?" We are in the midst of the "Baby Einstein" age.

Preschool aged children, and even Kindergarteners and first graders, are still just so little. They are prone to getting worn out easily, and seven to eight hours a day (or sometimes more in day care) is a long time to such a little person. When things like sitting at a desk, standing in line, and being quiet are added into the mix, it can be quite a lot for a five year old to take on.

To be clear, I am not anti-preschool or anything like that. Most preschools (in the traditional sense of the word) are just three or four hours a day and sometimes not even every day of the week. Many are play-based instead of academic-based. My daughter attends a Mothers Morning Out preschool - the last of its kind that I know of in this area. It is unique in that the children - regardless of age - can attend either one, two, or three days a week. Caroline goes once a week. It is a four hour period each week in which she can play with other kids, climb on the playground, do fun arts and crafts projects, and just play. I love that it has structure yet is all about playing. And I also love that she can just go once a week. Most preschools have classes for three and four year olds that meet a minimum of three days a week. If this one-day option did not exist, Caroline would not be in any preschool setting at all. I only wanted a day for her to just play with other kids, and I was lucky that this program exists here!

I have had a couple people ask me, "So, are you going to homeschool Caroline for pre-K?" I am not quite sure how to answer that. Ususally I begin with something about pre-K not being a requirement, and did you know that children are actually not required to attend school until first grade? So no, I am not officially "schooling" her this coming year. However, she will still be learning at home. She will be baking with me in the kitchen, taking walks in our neighborhood, exploring our backyard, working with art/craft supplies, and engaging in imaginative play. We will sing songs, read and tell stories, learn fingerplays, make crafts, celebrate days in the liturgical year, do chores, take care of our garden, play with water, say prayers and attend church... there will be lots of learning going on here informally.

There are many preschool curriculums available for purchase. Many are quite sweet, age-appropriate, and play-based. Many are laid out in a way that is similar to what I described in the above paragraph: songs for the week, cooking projects, crafts - sometimes all related to a central theme. I'm too cheap to buy a curriculum for preschool, ha ha... and with background in preschool settings, I have a good idea of what is involved in a preschool curriculum anyway. There are also preschool curriculums that focus on learning letter sounds and letter formation.

Honestly, I don't think I will buy a Kindergarten curriculum either. I don't have to report to the the state until first grade anyway, so K may be another informal year of learning at home. This doesn't mean there is no structure to our days - there is - but I don't think we'll be doing lots of pencil and paper work at a table quite yet. Craft projects at the table, yes... but not workbook-type learning. It is not developmentally appropriate to try to get a preschooler to sit at a table and form letters with a pencil... and my daughter already seems quite interested in letters at age four. She can write her name - some of which she just learned to copy on her own, and a few letters I showed her how to form when she asked me (and I just showed her once or twice when she asked, not sat and practiced with her). She has learned many letter sounds through being read to and asking questions... not drilling with flashcards. I don't think it is developmentally on target for a three or four year old to be writing and reading... not that it is impossible for them to do it, but that it is not what they should be doing for their age/maturity level/developmental stage. Since it seems like my daughter might actually be able to learn to read quite soon, then why not start teaching her, you might ask. Well, since she has been largely self-taught, and has been learning through daily life experiences, then why start anything "formal" now? It is not holding her back to refrain from academics until she is older... actually, most children who start out acadmecally bright very early on tend to level off and their peers catch up to about the same level. So trying to teach her to read and write at this age would be just putting the cart before the horse... it would be starting academics sooner, thus increasing the chance of academic "burnout" beginning earlier than it might otherwise, and it would be depriving her of the time she needs during these early years to just play. To not have to worry about life, but to just be a little kid. She will have plenty of time for formal learning in the future, but she will not get back this early childhood time in which to be carefree and playful, in which she can do real work with her hands and her body, which will help to prepare her for the future needs associated with developed motor skills.

So, when she asks me how to make a letter, I will show her once. Or she will self-direct herself to the alphabet puzzle we have and copy the letter from there. But I will not hold her hand and form the letter or write the letter on paper and ask her to copy it ten times. If she asks me what a word says, I will tell her. But I will not ask her to spell it out to me, ask her to try to read it herself, or go through the sounds of each letter in the word. She may end up asking me what the letter sounds are herself, anyway. I just don't want to impose an expectation of early academic learning on her - I am the adult and she is the child. She has no obligation to learn how to read and write, add and subtract, at age four. There will be a time for that, and when it comes, I will be here to guide her along.

For now, we will focus on taking walks, baking cookies, singing songs, reading stories, developing family traditions, and working around our house to make it a home.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Definitions by Caroline

Dairy Queen: "The King Dairy"

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Strange Baby Gear Marketing

This baby gear company, Stokke, looks quite trendy and modern. I came across it by following one of those sponsored links in Gmail...

This product is advertised as being "just like Mommy's tummy."
Yeah, if my tummy were open-air and surrounded by bars, perhaps. Maybe some infants are oblivious, but I am pretty sure mine would have noticed the difference, ha ha.

Now, if I was into strollers, I would want this one (well, if I could afford it... I don't even know what they cost!). As they point out, it does bring the child much closer to the parent, and they reference the studies on babies in away-facing strollers being more stressed than those facing their parent. So, not as much of a stretch with the advertising on this one, although my sponsored link in Gmail did say that this stroller "Brings Baby Closer for Best Bonding & Exploring." I would argue against that "best bonding" wording... unless they mean it creates the best bonding of any stroller on the market. I am a big proponent of the baby sling as a way of promoting best bonding.... that's not to say I don't own a stroller; I do - but it is more for use in the toddler years and as a makeshift shopping cart on a mall shopping spree (oh wait, I don't do that any more! hee hee... well, I did on occasion when Caroline was a baby). I wish the study that compared babies in strollers in away-facing vs. parent-facing positions had added baby carriers into the mix - that would have been interesting!

Then this one kind of makes me giggle... "bonding while changing." As if this particular changing table creates a better bonding experience than any other changing table, ha ha. I do think it is kinda icky that one picture shows a baby drinking from a bottle while having its diaper changed... ewww. And then the poor kids using it once it is converted into a desk... "Mom used to change my diapers here, and now I do my homework where my stinking bum once lay."