Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gabe Thinks Ken is God?

So I was sitting in the bedroom changing Gabe's diaper when I heard the front door open and Ken come in.

Me, to Gabe: "Who is that?  Who came in?  Is it Santa Clause?"
Gabe: "Nooo."
Me: "Is it a car?"
Gabe: "Nooo."
Me: "Who is it?"
Gabe: "Gog."
Me: "God?"
Gabe: "Yeah."

OMSI Update

So I'm going to have to think about how to do this whole OMSI thing.  I bought the kids some little science journals with drawing and writing space to bring with us.  What I would really love to be able to do is to have them spend a long time on one particular activity at the science museum, thinking about the particular exhibit and drawing and writing whatever might be relevant.  For example, we spent a little time at the fingerprint station; I would have loved to have them each be able to examine every one of their fingers, drawing (in their journals) what the fingerprint looked like and matching it to one of the labelled patterns and writing the pattern names down and so on.  But it just doesn't work.  There's two main problems:

1) The kids lose interest very quickly.  They want to spend about 10 seconds doing something and then go on to the next exhibit.  And I can't expect them to sit around doing nothing while waiting for their siblings to have a turn doing it.

2) Other people are waiting.  OMSI always has a steady supply of people.  It takes some time to, say, take a little photograph of all ten fingers of four different kids and match those up to the patterns.  If we spend all that time on one thing, no one else will be able to look at it.

So, I can keep bringing them, let them wander from one exhibit to the next; they'll have fun, but they won't learn anything.  Or, I can try to force them to stay at one exhibit until they have done it properly, which will make them cranky and piss off any other visitors who wanted to use that station too.  Anyone have any thoughts on resolving this dilemma?

Saturday, January 22, 2011


So I decided to start teaching Kyrie and Elijah to play pinochle. I have so many fond memories of playing pinochle with my grandpa, uncles, etc. that I really wanted to be able to play with them. My dad might be the only one who enjoys hearing all these details about how I taught the kids pinochle, but here goes.

Pinochle is a crazy complex game, and people always seem to be intimidated to learn it, so I figured I would start out simple with the kids and try to build it up slowly. Usually attempts to teach people the game go through it chronologically: explain bidding, and then explain meld, and then explain playing hands (winning tricks). I realized in thinking about it these last two days that the reasons these explanations usually get all tangled up is because the chronological explanation is really backwards. The bidding is one of the most complex parts of the game, because it requires a knowledge of both melding and playing hands. The place to really start is with playing the hand. Once they understand that, then they can be taught to meld and then they will be better able to understand why you might want to pass certain cards before others (or lay down, in three-handed); only after they understand all that might they be able to understand how much their hand is worth and bid on it.

So I started today just by familiarizing them with the deck, making sure they knew all four suit names, showing them how each suit has the same set of cards and how each card is doubled, showing them the order those cards go in (A 10 K Q J 9) and such. Then I told Kyrie to deal the cards out to each of us until the whole deck was done, while I went and switched the laundry loads. When I came back, Kyrie thought something was off with the cards, so we each counted ours. I had 17, Kyrie said she had 15, so I let her pick one out of mine to even it up.

We laid all of our cards down on the table, and I showed how to put the cards in order to make it easier to see what you have. (I am aware that highly skilled players sometimes avoid sorting their cards in order to avoid giving away clues to their hands. I do not believe my 6 and 7 year olds need to worry about that anytime soon.) I realized that I had forgotten to pick a trump suit, so I closed my eyes and put my finger down in a random spot on my own laid-out cards. So trump was spades.

We played the hand out, with me explaining about trumping and sluffing (although I forgot to tell them it was called sluffing) as it came up, and trying to ingrain in them the concept of playing your lowest card when you know you're going to lose a trick. I told them briefly about aces, tens, and kings being counters worth one point each, but I figured we would cover that mostly when we got to the end of the hand and added up all the counters.

However, that was not to be. Kyrie probably would have won; she took quite a few more tricks than Elijah or I did. But as we got down to it, I suddenly noticed that Kyrie had four cards to Elijah's two (and my three). Apparently I shouldn't rely on the kids to count their own cards in the first place. So I declared a misdeal and we gathered up all the cards. This might have been fortunate; if Elijah loses his first round of playing pinochle, he will probably decide he doesn't like it and not want to play again.

I dealt us out another hand (remembering to turn a card over to decide trump this time, since we weren't bidding). We were almost all done laying our cards out in order when Gabe spilled water on the table. About 5 of the cards were soaked, so we had to stop the game so I could lay them out to dry. And there you have it. Maybe next week we will make another go at it and see if we can finish a couple hands.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Boy's Dream

Elijah: "I had a wonderful dream last night.  I still remember it."
Me: "What happened?"
Elijah: "First we were playing.  Then something was plugged in, and we had to run outside before our house blew up because there was a bomb in it.  And then all the other houses blew up because they all had bombs in them.  And we ran and ran and finally we found one house that didn't have any bombs in it. And then a flying mitten came along and I jumped on it and I flew.  I flew up to outer space.  And you know why I liked being in outer space?"
Me: "Why?"
Elijah: "Because I got to kill bad guys."

He is SUCH a boy.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How Should the Digital Age affect Tests?

No, I'm not talking about taking tests digitally.  I'm talking about the questions that get asked on tests.

So Kyrie was doing quite well on that test I gave her the other day, until she got to the part that gave an excerpt and asked it if was from a newspaper, an atlas, an encyclopedia, or a dictionary.  This was followed by more questions about the four of these things.  Kyrie didn't know what any of them were except a dictionary.  So we had a little talk about it and I explained how they all worked, and I think she gets it ok now.  But as I was thinking about it, it occurred to me that "dictionary" might actually be the only one of those words I care about her knowing.

There's lots of talk about how newspapers are slowly going the way of dinosaurs, because people are turning more and more to getting their news online.  And who needs an atlas when you have Google Earth on your iPad and a GPS in the car?  Likewise, actual physical encyclopedias are being replaced by Wikipedia.  Dictionaries are the only one whose digital replacement (dictionary.com, merriam-webster.com, dictionary apps) actually get called by the same name as their physical counterparts.

So I'm sitting here thinking that these questions really shouldn't be on kids' tests anymore.  These words will be as irrelevant to their lives as 8-track tapes are to mine, as irrelevant as the horse and buggy is to pretty much everyone now alive.  (Which is not to say that they will disappear completely.... the horse and buggy are still around as a quaint entertainment.  8-track tapes are too, I think; encyclopedias may do likewise.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Comparison of Online Book Ordering

There's at least five books that I would like to buy actual copies of, so I decided to compare various sites that I could order the books from online.  These are the results.

Books/Seller Amazon  BarnesNoble  Borders  Powell's 
What's Math Got to Do with It? $10.88 $11.29 $16.00 $10.95
Real Food $10.87 $10.97 $15.99 $10.95
The War of Art $10.15 $10.15 $12.95 $12.95
Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius   $13.60 $17.95 $19.95 $13.95
Waking the Dead $10.87 $11.51 $15.99 $7.50
Subtotals $56.37 $61.87 $80.88 $56.30

Amazon and Barnes & Noble offer free shipping on orders over $25; Powell's offers free shipping on orders over $50.  Borders offers free shipping if you sign up for some program that will eventually charge your credit card.  Borders.com is the clearest loser in all this.  Powell's beats out Amazon by 7 cents, and I like that they are local.  On the other hand, three of those books would be used from Powell's instead of new from Amazon.  (On the gripping hand, one of those would be hardcover from Powell's instead of paperback, and all the rest would be "trade paper" which according to Wikipedia is considered slightly better than paperback.)

So Powell's it is.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


So I bought this test-preparation workbook, 2nd grade level, to serve as a test to see where Kyrie's at. I want to be able to reuse the workbook with Elijah next year, so I told her to write down the answers in her notebook instead of writing in the workbook itself.

Kyrie was half an hour into her first test before I realized that, instead of writing down just the letter of the right answer, she was copying the whole question down, including little circles for each answer, and then filling the circle in on the right answer.

Not surprisingly, she went a lot faster once I told her just to copy down the letter of the right answer.  (Which I thought I had said in the first place, but I guess I didn't make it clear.)

In a semi-related note, I'm reading a book called What's Math Got to Do with It?.  (Is it grammatically correct to put a period at the end of a declarative sentence that references or quotes something which ends in a question mark?)

It's a very good book - I highly recommend it to anyone who (a) homeschools their kids, (b) teaches math at a school, (c) is the parent of a kid in school, or (d) didn't like math in school and wonders why.  It does a lot (so far) to say what is wrong with the way most schools teach math and how to fix it.

One of the issues it deals with is the negative effect of our approach to test-taking.  This reinforces some of what I got out of the Montessori book about how to approach tests, but adds in some ways to do positive assessments.  Once I finish the book, maybe I'll do a fuller review.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

OMSI: Week 1

My father-in-law and his wife very generously got us a year's membership to OMSI, our local hands-on science museum.  To make the most of this opportunity, I've decided to try to go there once a week.  That way, we can methodically explore the whole thing, without feeling pressured to see it all at once or hurry through the exhibits.  I can go home as soon as the kids start acting tired; I can take a week off because of sickness or being busy, without feeling like I'm not taking advantage of this great gift.

So we went for the first time today.  I picked Tuesday because Tuesday is the day we go to the library in the afternoons (if we go at all), so I figured we could hit up the library on our way home from OMSI.  (OMSI is pronounced "ahm-see", fyi).  This was an exploratory "go to OMSI and see how it goes" thing.


1) They have lockers for $.50; we would probably need a good two lockers to fit all our jackets in.  And that option requires remembering to bring quarters.

2) They have free stroller rentals; you hand over your driver's license, which they keep until you bring the stroller back.  We did this today, so that I could pile the jackets up on it.  This did not work so well.  The jackets would not stay in the seat without falling off; I strung them through the handle instead.  They mostly stayed there, but maybe 3 times or so, one or another fell off.  The stroller was too hard and upright for Julie to be in; instead, Gabe rode in it and got very possessive when any other kid sat in it for a moment.  I think it would be better to buy a stroller that I can put Julie in, and make Gabe walk. (I had Julie in my baby-wrap today.  That was ok, but in the future it might be nice to be a bit more free to move around, so I can participate more easily in some of the hands-on things with the kids.)  We did used to have a nice stroller, but the wheel broke some time ago. Now all we have is a double stroller; it would be nice to keep Gabe contained, but I don't think I could fit it into the back of our minivan.  Since I usually carry Julie in the wrap, I haven't bothered to get a new stroller yet; I think it's time now.

3) Tuesday is a good day to go.  The lady that sold tickets said early in the week is less busy, and they aren't open Mondays (which also tends to be a day with lots of household chores for me), so Tuesdays it will be.  We did have to wait for a couple things because some high schoolers were there on a field trip; it appears that there will always be multiple school groups there, no matter what day we go on.

4) We never got off the first floor.  We sort of skimmed our way through the exhibits in the "Design" room. I kind of kept the kids moving from one exhibit to another, perhaps mostly because if they stayed very long at one exhibit, they usually started squabbling with each other about who got to push the buttons, or whatever.  I think I would accomplish more in terms of actually teaching the kids some science if Gabe was not along.

5) We spent the longest time on the scale, trying to balance various weights at various lengths on the scale arms. I would actually like to go back with notebooks and pens and have the kids approach the scale methodically, writing down what combinations work and which ones don't, to see if they can find the pattern.  I'm not sure if Savi is up to this, and keeping Gabe busy in the meantime could be difficult.

6) Eating at the snack bar would be expensive and probably very unhealthy.  ($4.50 for one hot dog, for example).  There's a cafe; I got the impression it was a sit-down type, probably more expensive, but I will check it out a little more thoroughly next time.  I had brought some cookies, so I let the kids eat those before we left.  But I was hungry and cranky by the time we got home.  (I skipped going to the library for this reason).

So, conclusions: Buy a stroller and small notebooks for the kids.  If the stroller has a place for it, pile jackets on it; otherwise, bring quarters.  Bring lunch food.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Tidbit With Savi

Savi, holding up a piece of Worthers-like candy: "Are this a suhr-kah?"
Me: "Is it a circle? No, it's an oval."
Savi: "But are it a suhr-kah oval?"
Me: "Is it a circle oval?  No.  See how this side is longer than this side?  That means that it's an oval, not a circle.   Circles have to be perfectly round."
Savi: "Are it a suh-ker?"
Me, understanding dawning: "Is it a sucker?  Yes, you suck on it."


Friday, January 7, 2011

More Tidbits

Savi, at breakfast, chanting: "Who are the greatest of all?  Mommy and Daddy!"
Elijah responds, also chanting: "Who are the greatest of all?  Jesus and God!"
Savi: "Who are the poopiest of all?"


Gabe's versions of people's names:

Kyrie:  "Tyrwee"
Elijah:  "Yaya"
Savi: "Ahvee"
Gabe: "Deeb"
Julie: "Dulee"
Mom: "MOOMMMMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE"  (He never just says Mommy; it's always a loud call for attention.)
Brittany: "Bitnee"
Shane: "zschane" [where 'zsch' is some sort of wet sound that doesn't quite sound like any one letter.]

Oh, and he totally asked for a pen yesterday.  It came out like "Ban? Ban?" And when I showed him I didn't have any (it was quiet time, and we were in his bedroom), he said "Gone?" again.  In the last week or two, his speaking skills have really shot up.


Gabe, running up to me in the bedroom: "Lee!?"
Me: "Lee?"
Gabe: "Nope."


It's hard to look at this and not think it means something: Google Maps: Mass Animal Deaths.  They all seem to be around the beginning of the new year.  So... think God is trying to tell us to repent and change our evil ways, or worse will come, sort of like with Jonah?

Thursday, January 6, 2011


Gabe came and insistently handed me the iPad box (which has a picture of the iPad on the front of the box).  "Da da da ah-pad", he says.  "There's no ipad in there; Savi has the ipad", I say.  But he doesn't relent; he keeps handing me the box.  So finally I open it up for him and show him that it's empty.

He looks at it searchingly, and then says, "Gone?".  You go, Gabe!  His speaking skills are really blossoming all of a sudden.  And yes, the ipad is gone.  Savi has it, just like I said.


At Kyrie's First Communion class last night, the issue of a "covenant" got brought up, and the teacher asked the kids if they knew what a covenant was.  I was highly amused when two of the boys said that they knew the word from Halo.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Today's XKCD article has me skimming through the surprisingly-addictive Wikipedia List of common misconceptions.

There you can learn that Napoleon did not have a Napoleon complex, that searing meat does not seal in moisture, that sugar does not cause hyperactivity in kids, that bats are not blind, that people don't only use 10% of their brains, that you don't lose most of your body heat through your head, and so on.

  • In the great wood vs. plastic cutting-board debate, I read something which linked to this article.  The whole bit got removed, though, by the time I looked back (apparently for not being a common enough misconception).  I was very glad to see it before it got removed, though, because I have been wondering about that for awhile.  (It may be back again when you look.  It appears to be in a constant state of revision.)
  • "There is also abundant empirical evidence to support bumblebee flight." This sentence made me laugh. Apparently in the time that it took me to look back at it again, it had been removed, too.

If you read it, tell me what your favorite one was.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Miracle of Pooh

In case you didn't catch this, we went to Minneapolis for Christmas.  In order to avoid checked-luggage fees and long-term-parking-at-the-airport fees, all seven of us packed our clothes in backpacks/carry-on-bags and took the MAX light rail train to and from the airport.  This worked out very well... until Elijah left his backpack on the MAX on the way home.  

He freaked out bad when he realized the backpack was gone.  I don't think I've ever seen him so upset.

Most of the contents of the backpack were just clothes.  Sad to lose, but definitely replaceable.  A hat and scarf knitted by Brittany, but those were of more use in Minneapolis; we hardly ever use them in Oregon.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Losing that meant that the nice boxed set of Narnia books that my Dad gave us would be incomplete, but again, we can replace the book if we need to, even if it doesn't perfectly match the boxed set.  As a friend of mine said when her house burned down this last year - "It's just stuff."  

But the Pooh Bear was not replaceable.  I've made a big deal out of all of the kids' "first toys", the first toy that anyone ever gave specifically to them, usually while they were still in utero.  Kyrie has her Ducky Bear; Elijah has his Pooh; Savi has her pink bunny; Gabe has a little blue duck; and Julie's Corduroy Bear is sitting up high waiting for her to be big enough to play with it.  These are the toys that are allowed to stay on their bed instead of being put away; these are the toys they often choose to sleep with and keep with them during Quiet Time.  And these are the toys that came with us to Minneapolis.  (Well, sort of. Savi is mildly obsessed with her Lilo doll, so she brought that instead.  And Gabe's ducky is buried somewhere, so I grabbed a stuffed giraffe for him instead.  And Julie's toy didn't come with us, since she's not old enough to even grab it yet.  So two out of the five toys came with us... that's less than half, but we'll just pretend it happened that way, eh?  Because it makes a better story?  What, you say you're not buying this?  Tough.) This particular Winnie-the-Pooh is wearing a blue nightshirt and nightcap; even if we could find some sort of replacement that would look like that toy, it wouldn't be the actual first toy ever given to Elijah.  

We called Trimet Lost and Found right away to let them know.  They called back the following morning to say that no one had turned the backpack in.  Things looked pretty bleak.

Ken contacted a local news station, hoping they would put out a call for Pooh to be returned.  They sent an email back saying they might, but if they did, they never told us.  

Elijah cried when he had to go to bed without Pooh.  Kyrie tearfully told him that she had prayed that he would get it back; he tearfully said that he had, too.  My heart was breaking.  I asked God frequently that Pooh would somehow make it back to Elijah.  

I couldn't see any way that Pooh would come back.  But I forced myself to remember that God was in charge; he could literally make Pooh appear at our home if that was what it would take.  It wasn't easy to believe, but it's true, so I kept reminding myself, and it helped bring a little peace.  

This morning I called Trimet Lost and Found again.  The guy said that no blue backpacks had been reported turned in. Then, helpfully, he did a search of his database for all backpacks.  He described a couple backpacks for me, none of them ringing any bells.  (I'm still a little surprised that Trimet would have so many lost backpacks around, since the ones he described sounded like adult backpacks, not kiddie ones.  Do people really leave their backpacks on buses that often?)  And then it came... "Oh, this might be it.  I see a black and blue Batman backpack.  Let me go check."  I could hear him zip it open over the phone, and he said there was a stuffed toy inside.  It was Pooh Bear.  After I got off the phone, I was so happy I wanted to cry.  (I didn't cry, though.  Not over a silly stuffed animal.  I'm waaaay too mature for that, aren't I?  I confess.  I totally cried. So much for maturity.) Once again, God came through for us.  We drove over to the bus garage this afternoon and picked the backpack up.  Tonight, Elijah gets to sleep with Pooh Bear again.  This may not be the kind of miracle that breaks the laws of physics, but it sure is the kind that touches the heart.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Homeschooling Oddity

So Savi is doing her math on the iPad today.  (The MathBoard app is awesome.  It's the perfect substitute for the printed sheets of math problems that I was having them do before.  It gives a set of problems, a bit of chalkboard space to work it out if they need to, and after doing a set of problems, you can generate a new set based just on the ones you got wrong, to correct them.  You can set how many problems to do, and the range of numbers you want involved.)  Anyhow, she starts off with the problem 7 + 10. So she counts it up, and then I hear her ask, "Mom, how do you spell seventeen?"  And I think... doh.

She can figure out that 7 + 10 = seventeen, but she doesn't know that seventeen is written with a one and a seven.

Clearly her learning is not in the usual order.  Note to self:  Teach Savi how numbers are written.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Gabe Speaks

Me, asking Gabe, not expecting a comprehensible answer: "What do you want for breakfast?"
Gabe: "Da da da da budder."
Me:  "What else?"
Gabe: "Da da da toe."  In context (Savi had asked for toast with just butter on it), it was clear that he was also asking for toast with butter.  That may have been the first time he verbally answered a non-yes-or-no question in an understandable and sensible way.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What says Happy New Year like PicVids?

 That's Gabe playing the Leapster.  In the dark.  Long after he's supposed to be asleep; after all the other kids are asleep.  I only noticed because the Leapster screen lit up his face in the pitch-dark room. :)  (The flash here doesn't quite do the scene justice, but the alternative is a black picture with a little glowing bit, which isn't that interesting to look at.)

This seems to be Julie's favorite way to fall asleep.  She does this ALL the TIME.  It's crazy.  Two fingers of one hand in the mouth, being sucked on, and the other hand kinda sprawled over her nose or eyes.  No idea why she does that.

Julie meets her Aunt Cathy!  (This starts the trip-to-Minneapolis-for-Christmas segment of the pics.) I apologize for the camera, which has been giving me a lot of glare off of lights lately.

Christmas Eve; after dinner, we got into a fun debate.  It started off with me (in the purple shirt) and my brother Ben (not shown here) discussing economics; I'm more moderate and he's pretty Austrian-style conservative.  Then my brother Greg (on the left, with the funky beard) joined in; he's got all these anarchist/extreme-left positions, and the debate moved into the field of politics and religion and whatnot in general.  Ben's wife Monika (the other female in the photo) and Luka (the boyfriend of my sister Cathy, the other guy in the photo) and my husband Ken and also Cathy all got involved in the conversation at one point or another.  At one point, I believe I found myself admitting to Ben that I did not really believe the Declaration of Independence's claim that authority derives its justness from the consent of the governed (or something like that).  Because, you know, it was that kind of conversation.  Man, is it fun to hang out with my family.

Present-opening Christmas morning.  I think the whole gang was there, except my (anti-social) brother Luke. This photo captures half of them...

... and this photo captures the rest.  Except you can't really see Ken's head behind Daniel's, and of course I'm not in there because I was taking the pictures.

Ben helps his daughter Irena hold little Julie.

Clockwise around the table, starting with the smallest:  Gabe, Evelyn, Kyrie, Savi, and Elijah.  The day before we left, we were over at Kyrie's godparents' house; they decorated tote bags while I had a blast talking with my friend/sister Kathryn.

So apparently there's this app called Angry Birds that is extremely popular - i.e. addictive - lately.  My kids certainly thought so.  They played it on Caleb's iPad until the batteries would run out.  They played other games on his two phones, and on the phones of Uncle Daniel and Grandpa too.  If I hadn't had to clean up a big mess of Legos in the attic, I might have thought my kids did nothing but play games.... :)  This particular shot is of Gabe trying to play Angry Birds.  Except he kept shooting the birds backwards instead of forwards.  Piling on Caleb was a popular activity, I gotta say.

Home again.  The kids now have an iPad of their very own.  I'm not letting them download the Angry Birds app, though.  Or any other game apps.  Ken put Solitaire on it, and I put Neflix on it.  Right now I have those two apps in a folder called "Must Ask", meaning they have to ask permission before playing those apps.  They were watching Scooby Doo on Netflix, though, when I took this shot.  It was so cute with them huddled around and Gabe fallen asleep, and there was just enough room to stick Julie on the end, so I did.  Hoping for a new banner pic.  But I have to pick between Julie smiling (above) and the other girls smiling (below).  Which do you like better?

All in all, the trip to Minneapolis went great.  It was wonderful seeing my family and getting to have long conversations with them.  Especially with Monika (who I chat with online, but have only met in person a couple times, and briefly at that) and Ben and Greg, both of whom I would like to spend more time discussing things with.  And now for the videos.

Ah, cuteness.  We all know hairdryers were invented as a weapon, right? 

This is Elijah playing the math "Planet Buster" game, which I had them doing for homeschooling.

Now here is Savi playing it.  The mouse icon and the spaceship are playing hide-and-seek.  Naturally.

Uncle Caleb is reading Gabe a pamphlet about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.  Gabe is... well, I suppose it makes as much sense to him as The Night Before Christmas would, at this point.

Kids decorating.

Oh, yeah.  The day after Christmas we went to the Science Museum.  Gotta love places where kids are encouraged to touch things. (Although I did tell them to stop climbing on it after I stopped videoing it.)  This was the tornado-demonstrating device. Pretty cool!  We also got to see a video about the Hubble telescope at the Omnitheater; all of this was courtesy of Grandpa Colin and Grandma Tina.  I especially loved the part of the movie where they did a sort of 3D zoom around inside a nebula.

This is the Angry Birds thing again.  So cute.