Thursday, January 29, 2015


At fifteen weeks' pregnant now, I feel I am finally able to resume doing some things that are special, like a breakfast of cream scones, lemon curd, and blackberry jam--all homemade.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Motivating Music Practice

Becoming a "music family" has created a steep learning curve for us. Take out of the equation entirely that I've been learning to be a student of music (violin), I've also and mainly been learning to be a music mommy.

John began taking piano lessons a year and a half ago at age six, Mary began piano 11 months ago (age 5) and violin six months ago (age 5), and Margaret began taking piano last week at nearly four years old. I have had to learn how to get the kids to practice their instruments (and never having taken lessons as a child myself, really had no idea of the experience).

Do they love music? Yes! They especially love to noodle around on the piano and do so throughout the day, drawn to it repeatedly. Mary was very interested to try violin, even though it's not something easy to try since there is so very much to learn before one can even make a single note. But, even though they love music, they don't love practice--especially following the rule of thumb that one practices daily the duration of one's music lesson. A half-hour lesson means a half hour daily of practice.

This has led me to many questions for our music teachers and other music moms, a lot of frustration, and a few tears. Am I a "tiger mom" and, if so, isn't that bad? Do I force the children to practice no matter how resistant they are? I've never forced them to do anything that way! But when one starts paying for expensive music lessons, and there's "skin in the game," one's philosophy starts to change a bit! The children say the love their lessons, they love being able to play, but why do they have to practice?! And then I have to explain that we're not going to pay for lessons if the children won't practice.

If a child had no inclination for the instrument and never liked it, we'd never require lessons. But a child who loves the instrument and the ability to play needs some "pushing" to practice nearly daily. How to do it?

Carrots and Sticks

I have to use both carrots and sticks. I am absolutely no expert on this, I feel like I'm barely getting my sea legs as a music mommy.

Routine helps: practicing daily at around the same time. Practicing before other treats of the day (playing outside, TV) helps.

Time limits help: Sometimes a child will practice, but oh-so-slowly that what should be 20-30 minutes takes an hour and then he or she has conveniently used up the rest of (home)school time and has no more time for academic duties of the day. Setting a timer helps. "Your piano practice only counts if you finish within the 30 minutes." Parent decides what the consequences are for "not counting" the practice.

Supervision helps: The results are tremendously better if the parent knows the details of what is to be practiced and can sit in the same room supervising, offering commentary, counting how many times the child has played the songs. This is very challenging when one has other, younger children in the home, and I often can supervise only partially.

Lists help: I now make a weekly list of exactly what songs to practice and how many times. We divide the list into songs being practiced for an upcoming recital or performance (5x daily), new songs (3-5x daily), and repertoire songs that they already memorized (3x daily). Having a list gives a concrete standard for what "Yeah, Mama, I practiced" means.

Consequences help: I've learned to stop arguing with a child flopping on the ground. I just remind the child that he or she will be "in blackout" until the music practice is done and I walk away. Blackout means no privileges, such as TV, playing outdoors, dessert. That standoff ends quickly.

And carrots help!

Breaks help: Some children are too wiggly to practice for 30 minutes: two sessions of 15 minutes is okay at these young ages.

Mercy helps: A few times, my daughter has melted down in tears. This is so unusual, so unlike her, and we've learned through trial and error that she was exhausted. This daughter stopped napping long ago and we discovered those particular tears were her "neon sign" that she needed a nap. She'd happily go off, take a nap, then wake up and do her practice with not even a reminder! I am grateful to have learned this occasional signal from her.

Motivation helps: We try to feed a steady diet of motivation to our children via YouTube videos of people (especially children) playing piano and violin beautifully. Oh, how the children love to watch such videos! We also take them to live concerts when we can. We try to make "heroes" out of skilled musicians, including children in their social circles, just like other children think of Hollywood stars or athletes as heroes.

Earning money helps: Our violin teacher explained to me that many or most of her students get paid for practice time. I resisted this practice for months because it was so distasteful to me. The teacher reassured me that she sees a consistency in her students that by age 12, they come to her, seeing the silliness in being paid for practice, and say they don't need that anymore to be motivated. We were struggling with practice time badly and morale was low when my husband and I decided to give it a try. John would get paid 25 cents per 15 minutes of piano practice time, and Mary the same for her violin (she didn't need motivation for piano). The teacher advised a key tactic: Have each child pick something for which he is saving up, cut out a picture from the catalog, and paste it up in the practice area or in their music book. He or she may use only the "music money" to buy it, no allowance or other income.

Here, it was a bit difficult for me to truly let the children pick what they wanted because I felt they were spending their money a bit foolishly. I felt they could buy something else that would get more bang for their buck. But the key was that they would be highly motivated by the object, so they picked what they wanted.

It took months, but the children have earned their first toys! (I limited them to a cost that would take one to two months to earn, not longer.) And, I must say, their behavior at practice greatly improved. It's not utterly carefree, but their compliance rate is way higher because they, as very young children, can better conceptualize a short-term, concrete goal of a toy in contrast to a long-term, vague goal of learning to play music beautifully.

John bought a Star Wars Lego X-Wing Fighter (good guy) and a TIE Interceptor (bad guy)

Decorating Mary's journal

Mary bought a journal which one decorates with stick-on gems and which comes with a "lipstick pen," a lock and key!
She has great plans to write short stories in it at night when she stays up late in bed.

I would be so interested to hear from more experienced music moms how they motivate and require music practice of their children!

I don't have any recent videos of John or Margaret playing, but I will share two videos of Mary practicing with her teacher at a lesson.

Second Grade Economics Class

Scene: Tuesday, Mama and children at the kitchen table, eating a snack of pumpkin muffins

John (8) (out of the blue): "Mama, I think everything in the world would be better if everything was just free."

Mama immediately spots the necessary stage of every child to explore the Utopian idea that inevitably leads to enforcement at the end of a gun. As they say, if you're not liberal when you're young, you have no heart. If you're not conservative when you're old, you have no brain.

Mama: "Oh, really?"

John: "Yeah! Everything one could want or would need would be free. You could just get whatever you wanted."

Mama: "So, who would supply all this free stuff?"

John: "The people who had the stuff."

Mama: "Okay. And who would provide the labor to build all the free stuff? Do you know what labor means?"

John: "Working, building."

Mama: "Right. So who would do the labor?"

John: "The usual people."

Mama tries really hard not to laugh at the boy's ready superiority. "So, why would the usual people work to build the free stuff?"

John: "Well, they'd get as much free stuff as they want, so they'd be happy to work. They could have ten hamburgers per day!"

Mama: "But they'd get as much free stuff as they want even if they don't work, right?"

John (triumphantly): "Right!"

Mama: "So, why exactly would they be willing to work to build the stuff if they can get the stuff without working?"

John: "Oh."

And that was that!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Concert: Winter Songs and Spring Trifles

On Friday night, Chris and I took the two bigs to a concert and left the two littles at home with a sitter (maybe the first time we've split up that way?). The three-year-old loved her fun time with Miss S----- and so did the two-year-old until it was bedtime and then his sense of betrayal and abandonment set in, causing him to cry in her arms for an hour.

"Winter Songs and Spring Trifles" was an evening of music and verse mostly from the Middle Ages presented by The Carolina Catholic Chorale and Central Piedmont Community College's Early Music Consort, an ensemble that specializes in rarely heard instruments (such as shawms, dulcians, sackbuts, violas da gamba, harps, and recorders) to recreate music written before 1600. After the show was a Wassailing Party to celebrate good health and cheer in the New Year.

John and Mary in period costume

Period and festive attire was encouraged, so many of the children who had been in the Shakespeare play last summer wore their costumes, as did our excited children. I wish I could have sneaked photos of the children during the concert itself; Mary especially was enraptured, her face entirely lit up and her body swaying such that she (sitting in only the third row) was a distraction at times to the sparkling soprano soloist up on stage, who kept smiling back at her.

During the reception, the many children spilled over into the gymnasium for a game of football. When it was time to leave, Mary was found in one of the two places she usually is: not climbing something high this time, but with an extremely gifted pianist of our parish playing at the piano, where that young man is always found at these parties!

The Gaudium Musicae (Joy of Music) series as conceived by our pastor five years ago has the goal of presenting fine, professional music of local artists to us so the public can experience the joy of music at accessible prices. One can buy individual tickets to these concerts or buy family tickets at $30 for the entire family, presumably no matter how big--great deals for Catholics! Considering that tickets to see professional, live music are often $30-50 per person, this is a wonderful opportunity four times per year at our little parish.

My local readers may want to consider coming to the next concert on March 22, when we enjoy High Baroque chamber music played with authentic period instruments and in period style!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Music Lessons Evolve

Our family is trying a new arrangement music lessons and I've found the whole experience so humorous because it reminds me of the fox, goose, and beans logic puzzler.

We use a talented husband-wife team for piano and violin. Thus far, the husband R. came to our house one day per week and taught piano here. The baby was usually napping and I could supervise the lessons, which always helps with practice later in the week. That whole part of the arrangement was wonderful. Then, on one evening per week, Mary and I would fly through dinner and race to the home studio of the wife K. for violin lessons. The evening was very hard on us, but I didn't want to select a daytime hour because I wanted to leave the other three children at home with my huband: how could I have my own violin lesson while watching four kids?!

But violin was getting so complicated and, when Chris would be out of town, downright untenable (hire a babysitter? take all four children, littles in their pajamas?). So, we're trying something new.

Now, one afternoon per week, the four children and I are going to the home studio of R. and K. It is so complicated, but should run smoothly in the end.

Needful change: Do not do regular school on Thursday mornings because the children will already be exhausted before we begin 90 long minutes of music education. Instead, Thursdays will become our "free morning" for art or otherwise. Then on Friday mornings, we will do regular school before fun afternoon co-op.

The three children each have a backpack with their music binders in them; I share Mary's binders.

First half hour: Mary does violin with K. in the big house, John does piano with R. in the garage studio, I watch Joseph and Margaret in the car or playing in the sunshine. Be sure to pack Theory homework folder in Mary's backpack (not John's) because K. will begin grading it.

Second half hour: K. is finishing grading Theory homework. Mary and John do a Theory class with teenage son M. Margaret takes piano in the garage studio with R. with me and Joseph staying with her. Afterward, I walk Margaret up to the big house for babysitting and I retrieve the violin music books which I share from Mary's backpack.

Third half hour: Mary does piano with R. in the big house, teenage son M. babysits John, Margaret, and maybe Joseph, and I do violin with K. in the garage studio. (At our first lesson, it was so very cute that--very much unlike his active self--Joseph stood next to me silently holding on to my skirt with one hand for my entire lesson while I played! Oh, would that he would act that way more often!)

Maybe it seems simple how I've typed it out, but it took the music teachers and I much conversation over the course of a day to come up with the plan. Then during our first attempted day this week, we kept noting pitfalls and tweaks to make in future.

We're looking forward to the children performing in an upcoming recital at the end of January, then participating in Federation at the end of February. And Mama feels like a superhero if she can manage even two practice sessions of violin herself per week!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Nature Walk and Writing Inspiration

On Wednesday, Mary (6) got it into her head to go on a nature walk. She kept dashing away from morning school to assemble a nature walk kit into her backpack. I agreed we could go walking in the afternoon when the weather was warmer.

I used to take the children on formal nature walks with sketch pads and colored pencils in hand. I love Charlotte Mason's educational ideas in this regard, but perhaps I was pushing it a little too young--I don't know! It was always my idea and required a lot of direction on my part.

I thought it was pretty neat to have one of my kiddos want to go on a nature walk of her own accord--for the first time! She found a half-eaten apple covered in ants, so drew the bugs.

Then she found a patch of mud with footprints of deer, dog, and human, which caused much conjecture.

On our way back, we stopped at the neighborhood playground, where John met two neighborhood boys and joined their football game (read: boy heaven) and the three others played on the playground.

When we got home, Mary enthusiastically declared that we should go on many more nature walks, as this one had inspired an idea for a short story she is going to write (and it's a pretty neat plot, in my opinion). She thinks more nature walks will give her more ideas. I've got to say that getting beyond the stage of having only babies, toddlers, and preschoolers is pretty exciting!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mid-Year School Report (2014-2015)

We're starting the second half of the school year, teaching second grade and Kindergarten (and my poor three-and-a-half year-old who isn't getting any preschool like her older siblings did).

School time behavior had gotten a little out of control, so during the month before Christmas, we cut down by half to the core subjects and got discipline back on track: such a short sentence for so much effort! School went really well that month, but I felt troubled that we were doing only half the schoolwork I'd like to see. Of course, my husband was nothing but encouraging.

After Christmas break and the Plague of the 2014 Holidays, we got back to school and I'm beginning to add back in the missing subjects, perhaps one per week, watching how it goes. I really, really want us to be done with formal teaching by noon each day, which is quite a feat, when achieved, and makes the mornings intense.

Changes I've made . . . 

1. The biggest change I made was geographic. For two and a half years--really three and a half years counting a year of preschool--we'd done school in the Bonus Room with all four kids in the room with me. It helped me supervise the other ones while I worked with one child at a time. But as of this year, the noise and activity levels were becoming very distracting ("why does she get to play?"). Every time I had to change a diaper or switch over laundry, I had to leave the room (up and down stairs), and the kids would stop their schoolwork to become engrossed in play.

So, two months ago I moved my base of operations to the kitchen table. I work with one child at the kitchen table while the other works independently at the dining table or does music practice in the den--all adjoining rooms. Meanwhile, the 2- and 3.5-year-olds move about at will, playing in the Bonus Room, or any other room downstairs, or in the Sun Room if the weather is fine. They're close enough that I keep fairly good supervision. I can wash dishes, make snacks, change laundry, or change diapers without losing supervision of the schooling children.

2. I drew up a new tracking sheet that is working well for us for now. (When will I find a tracking system that I stick to for years, or even for just one whole year?)

3. I instituted folders for the kids, with all photocopies for the week on the To Do side and the completed pages on the Completed side.

4. I've been promoting more independent learning, wherever I can, which doesn't feel "ideal," but does feel necessary given that I have a preschooler and a toddler in the mix too. It has been a consistent theme from successful homeschooling mothers that one must turn those kids into independent learners so that one can teach the up-and-comers.

5. I stopped having us do our daily family chores in the morning before school (which worked great) because we simply needed more time, needing to start school by about eight o'clock. Well, two months into it and I still haven't found a new anchor point for our daily chores, which means the kids aren't doing them, I am, at random times in the cracks. This is bad and I'm actively trying to figure out a fix. Score one for school accomplishments, score zero for contributing chores to the family.

What the kids are doing . . . 

MATH . . . We switched to Singapore and I am still getting my sea legs with this program. I also instituted daily practice with flash cards because I got a clue about why it's important to have the math facts memorized with fast access.

CATECHISM . . . Chugging along! I now have the second grader reading his own catechism chapters and coming to me for a short discussion about what he learned.

PHONICS . . . Going great! I don't assign additional reading time formally right now because both kids read at night for longer than the 30 minutes I would assign.

SPELLING . . . Going great!

MUSIC . . . Our music education is gaining a life of its own. The second grader has 20-30 minutes of piano daily, the Kindergartner has that much piano plus 20-30 minutes of violin, and they each have 3-5 pages of Theory homework daily (which is about another 30 minutes). I have a blog post being drafted about motivating music practice--not that I'm an expert! This has been a year of a steep learning curve in this regard.

PENMANSHIP . . . I bought new copybooks for the new semester, including a Thankfulness Journal to practice the second grader's handwriting.

GRAMMAR . . . for the second grader only and I have him doing it independently now.

HISTORY and GRAMMAR . . . After some fits and starts, we're back to a good clip at Connecting with History and associated MapQuest maps. I've now joined in the Kindergarten formally. Obviously, History does not need to be taught in Kindergarten, but this particular Kindergartner can follow along and enjoys the read alouds.

Enthusiastic about their Latin lesson
LATIN . . . We're getting back on that equus! For two years in a row, I tried to start my oldest in Prima Latina. He could follow along fine, but I'd drop the subject within the first trimester because I couldn't handle teaching one more thing. Well, I just discovered that Prima Latina comes with DVD instruction that I simply never purchased! I purchased it and began it this week (with the Kindergartner begging to be included, so I am allowing her). The children followed along with the teacher on screen much better than with me because, you know, she actually knows Latin and how to teach! (I'm trying to follow the Memoria Press suggested path for learning Latin, which is Prima Latina in second grade, Latina Christiana I in third grade, then First Form through Fourth Form Latin from fourth to eighth grade, then Henle Latin in ninth grade and beyond.) Why study Latin? Read here and here.

LITERATURE . . . I'm still not following a formal literature program, nor requiring comprehension questions or writing. I am typically reading aloud two chapter books at a time and we spend nearly an hour reading them most nights before bed . . . and I count that!

Since August, I have read aloud eight chapter books to the children (not counting several books per month within the History curriculum), Mary has read 19 chapter books, and John has read 20 chapter books.

ART . . . I just began the DVD program "How Great Thou Art" and I hope we can stick with it, perhaps on Friday mornings, and I think the kids will enjoy it a lot.

SCIENCE . . . None introduced back into the routine yet. It was quite informal anyway.

MEMORY WORK (memorizing poetry) . . . Not yet reintroduced.

EXTRACURRICULAR . . . Paused on swimming, started on ice skating. Continuing in Younger Art Class, Chess Class, Boys' Club, and altar serving.

I find homeschooling the adventure of a lifetime--and a daily dose of irony given that throughout my entire college career, I said I didn't know what I was going to do with my English literature degree, but I was not going to teach. I am frequently reminded of the U.S. Marines' motto to improvise, adapt, and overcome! (And then hide in the pantry and cry a little bit when days are tough.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

"A Canticle for Leibowitz" (review)

When I am pregnant, I find that I read fiction almost exclusively. Then for two years, I read non-fiction almost exclusively. I'm pretty sure it is because pregnancy places me in a mental fog, perhaps all my energy going into growing a baby instead of fueling my brain cells, and I just can't manage the mental acuity needed for serious non-fiction.

Reading "Lord of the World" whet my appetite for post-apocalyptic science fiction, so I read "A Canticle for Leibowitz," which I read about once yearly.

The author, Walter M. Miller, Jr., spent World War II as an Army Air Corpsman, participating in more than 55 combat sorties. Interestingly, in his three-sentence biography inside the book, he chooses to mention that he participated in "the controversial destruction of the Benedictine abbey at Monte Casino, the oldest monastery in the Western World." This is a meaningful piece of information to consider when one reads the book which is geographically based in an abbey which lasts for 1,800 years. I spend time wondering at the confessional nature of the author revealing this fact about himself.

We can learn a bit more about the author on Wikipedia, including that he was indeed a Catholic (it seems impossible that a non-Catholic could write "Canticle"). He became a recluse and his life ended absolutely tragically.

"A Canticle for Leibowitz" is "a powerful meditation on the cycles of world history and Roman Catholicism as a force of stability during history's dark times" (source).

The book is divided into three parts:

Part One occurs around the year 2,600 and tells the history of the prior 600 years. Around 2,000 (people must have been fascinated with the approaching turn of the millennium), nuclear war had broken out among all the nations and destroyed most of the people and infrastructure on earth. Among the few survivors, a hatred grew for all science and intellectuals, such that many survivors adopted the title Simpletons and murdered anyone with any learning or even literacy. (This reminds me of a common characteristic of Communist governments.) For hundreds of years, any literate person had to live in fear of his life and literacy rates were something like one in one hundred.

On the physical level, humans now come in many forms because the nuclear blasts so damaged our DNA. Many children are born deformed or unable to survive, and many people who survive birth suffer terrific malformations. This perpetuates through the entire book, 1,800 years of humankind.

One scientist who survived the nuclear holocaust was Leibowitz who ended up founding an order whose mission would be to protect any intellectual knowledge for centuries in the future when the world would begin to take interest in it again. The monks were "bookleggers and memorizers." Any books (really, fragments of writing on paper) they could find were smuggled back to the abbey and hidden, transcribed, and memorized in whole. After hundreds of years, the monks nor anybody else has any frame of reference for what they are reading in "Old English." But they save, transcribe, and memorize nonetheless.

Imagine . . .

If all Scripture had been burned to a crisp, how much of the Bible could you recreate accurately?

If every scientist were dead, all inventions gone, the world was blasted back to the Stone Age, how soon would the most basic scientific concepts be lost to mythology or forgotten utterly?

How does one even maintain literacy in a culture with no access to the written word anywhere?

For hundreds of years . . .

Part Two jumps us ahead about 600 years to the early 3,000s. There is now a marked discrepancy in cultures within the world. The most sophisticated civilization has religion (the Catholic Church survives it all), buildings, civility among men, philosophical thought, and nascent science. The most barbaric parts of the world are nomadic, viciously violent, cannibalistic, and pantheistic. People cannot travel through vast parts of the world because murder is guaranteed.

In Part Two, electricity and the arc lamp are invented. Will this lead to an renaissance of scientific inventions?

Part Three leaps ahead another 600 years to around 3,700. Man's technological achievements are as advanced as they were before the  Demon Fallout ever visited Earth. Man travels to space, has populated colonies on other planets, and has possessed nuclear weapons for 200 years.

The order of Leibowitz remains, but what is its role? Is it still to "preserve the Memorabilia" even now?

Is man capable of possessing this technology, this godlike power, without developing concomitant hubris leading to self-destruction? This is the ultimate question for the reader to consider.

Meanwhile, there is a character who lives throughout the arc of the story: Benjamin or Lazarus . . . the "Old Jew." He claims to have been born, I calculated, about 35 years before Jesus. He lives to the end . . . and he is waiting. For who (and it is a Who), we are never explicitly told. As a Catholic and knowing the author was Catholic, I ponder: Is the Old Jew waiting for the Messiah? Did he believe Jesus was the Messiah and is waiting for his return? At the end of the book, we meet Someone Who is likely He for whom Benjamin has been waiting and you won't hardly believe Who it is. I wish I could tell you!

I enjoy "A Canticle for Leibowitz" so much that I have never read Miller's only other novel ever written (and written 40 years later, published posthumously), "Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse  Woman" because I am honestly anxious that it can't live up to "Canticle."

Because I will be asked . . . is this book appropriate for younger readers?

No romance or intimacy is discussed, no coarse language used. One time a female walks in on a male in the bathtub and the scene is handled with humor. Euthanasia is a strong theme in Part Three of the book and would lead to deep discussion on this very difficult subject from a Catholic perspective. This book does contain some scenes of brutal violence, such as an arrow to the brain, but I do not think it is described gruesomely. The effects of the nuclear bomb is a major theme of the whole book and could cause strong anxiety; children of the Cold War era (1950s through 80s) were probably much more aware of these fears than I suspect children are now. In this book, no priests or clergy perpetrate any evil, but they are shown as human, with failings in anger, patience, hope, and other virtues.

Honestly, I am not very familiar with what young adults are like because I don't have any yet, but I would imagine this book would be a better fit for particularly mature readers of 12, 13, 14 or perhaps not till the later teens.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Joseph Turns Two!

Happy Birthday, Joseph!

Our sweet toddler turned two on Friday. On a child's birthday, I always enjoy re-reading his birth story: Joseph was my posterior baby whose labor puttered for three days before we got him flipped with the Rebozo technique, and active labor took only two-and-a-half hours, nearly being missed by the midwife.

I absolutely love seeing how my children looked two years ago!

Seeing newborn Joseph makes me feel excited for newborn #5.

So, how is Joseph today? He is a total sweet pea, as we find two-year-olds to be compared to three-year-olds (oh my).

Favorite Activities: Joseph's favorite activity is to wrestle with his 8-year-old brother. They are surprisingly active in their physical games but the big brother really does know how to avoid hurting him almost all the time. Joseph has recently taken an interest in board books, his favorites being "Spot," "Owl Babies," and "Wheels on the Bus." His favorite television shows are Mr. Rogers (which he calls "trolly"), "Martha Speaks," and "Kipper" (except the camping episode with the owl, which he declares "scary!"). Joseph loves to play physically, especially throwing things, like balls or any projectile object: quite a few times in public, Joseph has thrown something (inappropriately) and a stranger has remarked that "he has quite an arm!"

Sleeping: Long-time readers and friends know that I'm not the mother to come to for advice on how to get babies to sleep independently and through the night. A couple of weeks ago, Joseph graduated to having his own big boy twin bed in the boys' room, and he at least starts there every night. And I think that is awesome and I'm happy with that. Each time we go to lay down for nap or bed, I ask him, "Where is Josey's bed?" And then he leads me to the boys' room and declares happily, "Here it is!" Then we talk through how Joseph's pillow has pictures of bugs on it and his quilt has pictures of animals on it, how he has his basket of books, White Lambie and Blue Lambie, and his bottle of water. And then he points to the bedrail and says, "Gate . . . safe." And I reply that yes, the gate keeps him safe from rolling out of bed. It's our little routine.

Speaking: Joseph's language has really blossomed lately! In my opinion, he says interesting things, even though he is just stringing together two and three words, not speaking in sentences. He recently took an interest in colors, so he talks daily about the color of his cup, at first just throwing out colors randomly but now slowly becoming more consistent that blue is blue and red is red. He can say each of his siblings' names except Margaret, whom he calls "Sissy." Joseph uses the possessive tense as well as adjectives, such as the recent, "Mommy's black shoes" or "Sissy's dolly." Of course, he is a big fan of declaring things, "mine!" After Grampa Neil departed for the airport Daddy returned without him, Joseph declared, "Grampa lost." I dismissed it as too abstract of a concept for him to know what he was saying, but the day after Daddy departed for a business trip, Joseph wandered around the house and came to me to announce, "Daddy lost." Lately, Joseph has come to me when crying from an injury or something and telling me, "Sad! Crying!"--which I find fascinating--and then he might tack on, "Bump. [shows me the injury] Kiss it." Also, that he can recount to me that a television show or book was "scary" is interesting. He recently watched "Stuart Little II" (which I heartily do not recommend, E.B. White would roll over in his grave) and tells me several times per day about the airplane chase scene: "Airplane . . . [makes airplane noises] mouse . . . bird . . . mean bird! . . . chase . . . guy . . . scary." (Stuart the mouse is flying in the airplane being chased by the mean bird Falcon who is a scary guy.)

Eating: Anyone who eats better than our firstborn did is a "good eater" in my perspective. But little Joseph sure doesn't like his fruits and vegetables, so that will be a challenge on the horizon. Joseph self-feeds everything and enjoys his meat, breads, and dairy. His favorite foods are probably peanut butter, cream cheese, and cereal with milk.

Daddy returned from a week out of town just in time for his baby boy's birthday dinner (not that we would have celebrated without Daddy).

Joseph received a stack of lift-the-flap books, a push lawnmower that goes "pop! pop! pop!", a red airplane with a white stuffed mouse (inspired by his passion for that scene in "Stuart Little II"), and--my favorite--a homemade Beaker, as created by his sister Mary, because Joseph's favorite video these last six months is Beaker's Ode to Joy. (At 18 months old, others began asking, "This is a crazy question, but is your baby humming 'Ode to Joy'?" And I'd answer yes!)

They're still clueless about birthdays when they turn two.

Beaker by Mary

Opening gifts with Mama

Reading lift-the-flap books with Daddy

Joseph's new airplane
I asked for one grandparent to buy Joseph a push lawnmower that goes pop-pop-pop, which he perfectly did. In a humorous turn of events, Joseph is afraid of the lawnmower because it makes noise! I remembered that I have eradicated all electronic, noise-making toys from our home, so the din in our home--and it is a din! who would want to add noise to this?--is that of children's voices and musical instruments, that's it. This toy isn't electronic but it does make the mechanical noises of the string whirring and the key clicking, as well as the balls popping. Joseph kept backing into the corner, while the bigger kids played with it enthusiastically, and he said repeatedly, "Noise! Scary! Noise! Scary!" Joseph still won't touch the mower, but I know he'll warm up and the experience is quite funny.

"Noise! Scary!"

Reading with sister

Cake, thanks to Carvel
Quite surprisingly, when Daddy began to walk over with the candle lit in the cake, Joseph burst out in song first: "Birthday to you . . ." he managed. Maybe it's because we've had three family birthdays in the prior nine weeks?

"Birthday to you . . . "


Update from Joseph's two-year well-child visit:

  • 29 pounds (63rd percentile)
  • 2' 11.75" tall (89th percentile)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Art Fridays?

Eight weeks after purchasing the "I Can Do All Things" art course, today I finally implemented my hope to set aside Fridays for art and/or science. I selected this art curriculum from many good choices at How Great Thou Art: Homeschool Art Curriculum.

video teacher
The course is taught on video by the teacher, which I very much appreciate. There are four courses: beginning drawing, how to use colored pencils, beginning painting, and art appreciation. One could teach all the video lessons one subject at a time, or one can rotate through: for example, two days per week set aside for art, and on Week One, you teach colored pencils, then painting, and in Week Two you teach painting and art appreciation.

Our first day was spent simply drawing two pictures to make a record of how we draw before we take any lessons. The two drawings took an entire hour and a half!

The teacher is Christian and highly encouraging of all ages. I'm enjoying his style so far! (There seem to be some great specials going on right now, if you are interested in How Great Thou Art: see here and here.)