25 December 2009

Merry Christmas

To catch the real meaning of the “spirit of Christmas,” we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the “Spirit of Christ.” -Thomas S. Monson

21 December 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook

Outside my window... it's cold and dark, with a sharply pointed crescent moon. We have a dusting of new snow refreshing what we already had.

I am thinking... about Christmas presents I need to finish making.

I am thankful for... my cozy house, my Monkey, Sparrow, and Andy. Oh, and lots more things that could fill up a post all by themselves.

I am wearing... Jeans and an old tshirt.

I am remembering... how much fun it is to have a tiny baby!

I am going... to finish this, tuck my Boy into bed, and maybe work on those presents a few minutes before I sleep.

I am currently reading... uh, would you believe that I can't remember? Even though I coldn't put it down and actually just finished it this afternoon? Crazy. It was about Henry VIII's sister Mary.

I am hoping... they find Susan Powell.

On my mind... Christmas plans and Christmas presents, particularly the ones that aren't quite finished yet.

Noticing that... I need to drink more water. Dry skin is so unpleasant, and drinking water will fix it right up for me, if I can just get enough into me!


From the kitchen... funeral potatoes, homemade ketchup, strained some whey out of my first batch of yogurt, trying for a better texture. We'll test it out tomorrow.

Around the house... I need to pick up, put away, and vacuum. And wrap the presents that are stashed in various "secret" locations.

Read more Daybook entries...

Just Silly

17 December 2009

Nutcracker

Some friends of ours take lessons at a local ballet school. One that does the Nutcracker every year. Monkey and I read the story, and then we went to their production.



First things first. This was the first time Monkey had sat on this style of chairs, so it was a good thing that there were just a few extra minutes left when we got to the auditorium. He had a good time checking the wiggle in his seat.

The show started and Drosselmeyer sketched the basics of what was going on at the beginning of the story. This was the only spoken part in the whole production. When it was finished, the scene opened on the party at Clara's house. During the party, Drosselmeyer brought out his wonderful dolls to delight the crowd. My friend A. is the one with the big bow in her hair and the cute tutu-looking dress.









I didn't find out until several days later that A.'s Dad was the jester that was part of this group of toys, so I didn't end up with any pictures of him. After a demonstration of the wonderful toys, it was time to put them away. A.'s exit was most entertaining!



Clara, of course, loves the Nutcracker. Her brother, being a pesty little brother, takes it and breaks it.





Next we saw the March of the Toy Soldiers, and the big battle with the Mouse King. This was, I think, Monkey's favorite part. He really got into the sword fighting! I was charmed by the "Mouselings" that were trying to help save their King. They were so cute!











Mouse King vanquished, Nutcracker freed from the enchantment, I realized that I was starting to run low on batteries as Clara and the Prince go on their fairytale adventure with the Sugarplum Fairy. But I did get some pictures from the second half of the show.





One fun part was the Dance of the Sugarcane. A.'s younger sister, C. (center, with glasses), was in this one, as a "twirlygig," and she looked like she was having a wonderful time!







Then, it was on to the exotic destinations. Chinese Tea, Arabian Coffee, and Russian Trepak. I was particularly impressed with the Russian dancers, because they were so athletic, but they were hard to do justice to in the pictures, and the more so because these dances were all somewhat short.







Mama Gingerbread was just too funny; all those little kids in her skirt! If you look closely, she's also got a gingerbread baby up top there.







The Waltz of the Flowers was particularly fun - they had little kid dragonflies buzzing around, and some adorable Baby Bumble Bees that I didn't get pictures of.

It was a good time! When Monkey saw me working on this post, I had to stop and show him all the pictures I had up 2 or 3 times, and they made him smile. I'm thinking it was a successful outing! That's the nice thing about student performances: it's OK to take your student audience. And this one was a lot of fun.

Hands-on Homeschool Carnival




The latest edition is up, and we're included! These families have some great ideas for keeping their education hands-on!

14 December 2009

Hope For Peace

Because of the long history of hostility upon the earth, many feel that peace is beyond hope. I disagree. Peace is possible. We can learn to love our fellow human beings throughout the world. Whether they be Jewish, Islamic, or fellow Christians, whether Hindu, Buddhist, or other, we can live together with mutual admiration and respect, without forsaking our religious convictions. Things we have in common are greater than are our differences. Peace is a prime priority that pleads for our pursuit. Old Testament prophets held out hope and so should we. The Psalmist said, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
-Russel M. Nelson, Blessed are the Peacemakers

13 December 2009

Sunday Scripture



We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them, both in making laws and administering them, for the good and safety of society.

We believe that no government can exist in peace, except such laws are framed and held inviolate as will secure to each individual the free exercise of conscience, the right and control of property, and the protection of life.

We believe that all governments necessarily require civil officers and magistrates to enforce the laws of the same; and that such as will administer the law in equity and justice should be sought for and upheld by the voice of the people if a republic, or the will of the sovereign.

We believe that religion is instituted of God; and that men are amenable to him, and to him only, for the exercise of it, unless their religious opinions prompt them to infringe upon the rights and liberties of others; but we do not believe that human law has a right to interfere in prescribing rules of worship to bind the consciences of men, nor dictate forms for public or private devotion; that the civil magistrate should restrain crime, but never control conscience; should punish guilt, but never suppress the freedom of the soul.

We believe that all men are bound to sustain and uphold the respective governments in which they reside, while protected in their inherent and inalienable rights by the laws of such governments; and that sedition and rebellion are unbecoming every citizen thus protected, and should be punished accordingly; and that all governments have a right to enact such laws as in their own judgments are best calculated to secure the public interest; at the same time, however, holding sacred the freedom of conscience.


We believe that rulers, states, and governments have a right, and are bound to enact laws for the protection of all citizens in the free exercise of their religious belief; but we do not believe that they have a right in justice to deprive citizens of this privilege, or proscribe them in their opinions, so long as a regard and reverence are shown to the laws and such religious opinions do not justify sedition nor conspiracy.

We believe that the commission of crime should be punished according to the nature of the offense; that murder, treason, robbery, theft, and the breach of the general peace, in all respects, should be punished according to their criminality and their tendency to evil among men, by the laws of that government in which the offense is committed; and for the public peace and tranquility all men should step forward and use their ability in bringing offenders against good laws to punishment.

Doctrine and Covenants 134:1-5,7-8


11 December 2009

Weekly Wrap-up



It's been a good week this week, though we did have a bit of a blizzard throw a monkey wrench into some of our plans. But it turned out fine.

Phonics: We got our "penny game" back out and practiced blending. It's been a while, and it showed at first, but Monkey was doing very well by the end of the game.

We used 6-sided dice this time (I couldn't put my hands on the 8), the better to practice counting & number recognition. It's become the "penny game" because we use coins for our pieces. We also read a whole slew of books this week! Sometimes, it seems like Monkey can't be bothered much with reading. But right now he's got a mess of favorites. Stop, Train, Stop! is one we have from the library right now, and we've all got it more or less memorized. Wise or not, I ordered that one this morning; it should be here in time to go under the tree.

Math: We're getting pretty good at our math routines, for the most part. Monkey knows what to do, and he is definitely getting better at counting. We'll bundle the straws we've been counting into our first group of 10 the next time we count, probably later tonight if everything goes well. I'm also finally getting organized enough to do begin working on lesson two in Math Expressions. I think we're going to end up spreading out the "lessons" over a couple of days because his attention span just isn't very big lately. That's OK. He's clearly getting better with the numbers. One of our more hands-on activities is he helped me count my stitches as I cast on to knit him a scarf. And I didn't have the yarn quite right, so I had to stop and do it again, so he counted to 30-something, then to 45. And then, because I always double-count my stitches, he counted to 45 with me again. Starting at 11, he needs help, and after 20, he needed me to count first so he could repeat it. But I was very impressed with all that counting!

Nature Study: That blizzard canceled our plans to head to the park, but Monkey got a chance to play in the snow a couple of times, which made him a very happy camper. Sadly, it's now dropped below zero (Fahrenheit), so we're not going out to play until it gets warmer. I simply don't have the gear for that, and I worry about those cute little pink cheeks! (After all, the scarf is only 8 inches long or so at this point, and still attached to the knitting needles, so it's not very useful yet.) We're supposed to get more snow next week, so there will be plenty more. I think it's fair to say that we're going to have a very white Christmas this year! The picture is my lilac bush. It doesn't really do justice to the heaps of snow we got.



Memory: We hadn't done much with this over the past couple of weeks, but when I asked Monkey to say his verses for me this week, he did very well. I think that Romans 8:16 has reached a point where we need only to do some maintenance, and 2 Timothy 1:7 is coming along very nicely.

Read Aloud: We're making slow progress in Through the Looking Glass. I don't think that this one is as much fun for Monkey, probably because he's just a bit young to pick up on all the very silly stuff going on. However, I am really enjoying it. We're getting to the point in the book where I need to start thinking about what I'm going to read next. Last time I was at Half-Price Books they had a number of Winnie-the-Pooh books that looked like they were probably beautifully illustrated. I may look into those. Monkey loves bears, and I think he'd really enjoy them. Plus, it'd nice to have Christopher Robin - a boy - be the main character. We've been reading a lot of stories about girls because it turns out that's what I'm familiar with!

Art: We worked on making some ornaments. I used Confessions's idea for snowman ornaments. Clearly, her kids are older than mine: look at how tidy their prints are! But we're having fun and the snowmen are turning out adorable. I'm trying to talk Monkey into gifting a few of his creations, but so far that's not been a winning idea.



Mom's Ed: I've been munching my way through a stack of baby books. The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth was a great read. I'm working on Birth Day right now, which deals with a lot of history, and being written by a pediatrician, is an interesting perspective on birth. Between attending that birth last week, and now finding out that I'm pregnant myself, yeah, I've got babies on the brain. It's a good thing. All other self-education projects are more or less on hold until I get this out of my system.


Here's a bit of gratuitous cuteness:


We took Monkey to visit Baby R. at the hospital, and he got to "hold" him. That is, Monkey sat on my lap, and I sat R's feet on Monkey's lap while Monkey wrapped his arms around the swaddled bundle of baby. It was terribly cute. Since then, he's made a habit of wrapping up his blankets and carefully holding them. They alternate: sometimes he's holding "R." and sometimes it's his "sister."

10 December 2009

Software Giveaway Reminder

Don't forget: the SpellQuizzer software giveaway is supposed to end tomorrow night! Thus far the odds of winning are great, because there are no entries yet, strangely enough. I think this software would work great for spelling practice in either a public school/homework setting or a homeschool setting.

To enter:
1. Post to your blog about this giveaway and review. Do this before Dec. 11, 2009.
2. Come back and leave me a link to your post in the comments of the original review and giveaway post.

If you would like, you can use the following code for your post. Just copy and paste.




It will look like this:

Visit Baby Steps
SpellQuizzer software works with any spelling program, whether homeschool or public. Click to enter Ritsumei's giveaway on Baby Steps for a chance to win SpellQuizzer!

Hurray!!!

I have a new widget for my blog. It looks like this:



Because we're going to have a baby at the end of next summer! Hurray!!!!

For the purposes of blogging, this baby will be known as "Sparrow." We're excited!

09 December 2009

Some Great Ideas

I was just clicking around this afternoon, taking a short break from working on my Christmas gifts, and I ran across a blog called Confessions of a Homeschooler, and she's got some outstanding ideas for Christmas crafts in her most recent posts! Edible Christmas trees, which are extremely cute, a "stained glass" Jesus craft, and a whole bunch of J activities, centered around Baby Jesus. There are some very adorable ideas that she's generously shared for free. This is definitely a site that's going in my blogroll so that I can return regularly for more ideas!

BWS tips button

Confessions of a Homeschooler, you are my newest featured blogger!
Please feel free to grab a button from the sidebar.


Featured Blogger

Sling Giveaway!

11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven is giving away a gorgeous Hotslings baby carrier!



To enter click HERE.

I've never used a hotsling, though Mommy9 says she loves them. I can say that slings are a lifesaver! I used a Mobywrap with my first, and plan to do it again with all future children we have. Babywearing is the best.

08 December 2009

In My Home


Do not trade your birthright as a mother for some bauble of passing value. Let your first interest be in your home. The baby you hold in your arms will grow quickly as the sunrise and sunset of the rushing days.
-Gordon B. Hinckley (emphasis added)



Trish, of Mommyx12, has some beautiful thoughts about Mothering, and about the joys that are only to be found in the home. She quotes Michelle of She Looketh Well:


He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside still waters . . . In returning to Me and resting in Me you shall be saved in quietness and trusting confidence shall be your strength . . . Come to Me all you who are weary, I will cause you to rest.

No, I don’t believe Jesus is behind this crazy pace. Am I willing to listen to the Voice of my Good Shepherd instead of the voice in my head, or the the voice of our culture?


And then she adds this wisdom of her own:


I have gotten into the habit to actually whisper a prayer each day and ask the Lord to bless my eyes to see and my heart to feel the joys and happiness that can only be found within the walls of my own home.


What a wonderful idea! I need to start doing that.

Thanks, Trish.

06 December 2009

Thought This Was Interesting


Policies restricting food and liquid intake [during labor] date from an era when laboring women were routinely given general anesthesia and risked aspirating food into the lungs. Modern anesthetic techniques have virtually eliminated this risk, which is further reduced by the fact that only a tiny minority of laboring women, even among those who deliver via cesarean section, actually receive general anesthesia. ...

Elizabeth Allemann, MD [said,] “Women deserve to be fully informed about what the evidence actually shows, and it’s time that the medical profession abandoned policies based on the outdated and paternalistic idea that patients should play no role whatsoever in the decision-making process.” -The Big Push For Midwives press release

Read more...


The commentary above comes in response to a recent statement from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which uses phrases like "may be allowed to quench their thirst" and "women are not allowed to eat." Part of the Big Push's objection is to the paternalistic nature of such language: this is not words used by people who see themselves as a hired consultant, adviser, and emergency safety net. This is something said by people who think they have a right to order women around. The other objection is that this recommendation is not supported by research.

I'm currently reading The Thinking Woman's Guide to a Better Birth by Henci Goer, and she has a lot to say about how the "nothing by mouth" rules stack up next to the research. Chapter 4 is all about this topic, but I'll pull out some of the highlights.


In the 1940's, back in the days when general anesthetics were administered through opaque masks, doctors began forbidding food to patients undergoing surgery because they realized that vomiting and inhaling food particles into the lungs (aspiration) was a grave and often fatal complication to surgery. Since laboring women during this time were usually heavily drugged and often had general anesthesia even for vaginal births, doctors extended the policy to childbirth. On on grounds whatever, and despite knowing that clear liquids empty rapidly from the stomach, the ban included drinking too. Thus, nothing by mouth... became standard practice before surgery and during labor.

Today, changes in anesthetic and obstetric practice have made aspiration a vanishingly rare event. Less than 2 per 1,000,000 pregnant women in the United States between 1988 and 1990 died of
any anesthesia-related complication - not just aspiration - during delivery. ... Nonetheless [nothing by mouth] in labor remains the norm at many hospitals. ...

To begin with, eating and drinking in labor are safe. In three large U.S. studies totaling seventy-eight thousand women in labor who ate and drank freely, there was not one case of aspiration. The anesthesia-related maternal mortality rate in England and Wales, where oral intake in labor is usual, is identical to the rate in the United States, where it is not. ...

Why then the strenuous objections to oral intake and the insistence on routine IVs? What we have, once again, is an obstetric belief system that defines childbirth as a medical-surgical event. Eating and drinking do not fit this model. IVs do. ...



In addition to being a direction that arose in circumstances that no longer exist, Goer goes on to point out that forbidding food and drink during labor not only makes the process of labor unnecessarily unpleasant, it may pose some risks to the baby as well:


Hunger and thirst cause considerable discomfort. ... In addition, during pregnancy, starvation causes a faster, sharper drop-off in blood sugar levels, and an earlier switch to metabolizing body fat. Vigorous exercise - in this case, labor - accelerates this process. This is a problem when women fast in labor because metabolizing fat produces ketones. In animal studies, ketones have been shown to cross into fetal circulation, making the fetal blood more acidic (acidosis). Acidosis is a symptom of fetal distress... (Pages 75-79)


Really makes that statement from the ACOG sound a lot less generous, doesn't it?

05 December 2009

Weekly Wrap-up



We didn't "wrap-up" last week because while we did a little in the beginning of the week, school wasn't really the focus. We still did some fun things that count as school. For instance, we played UNO with Grandpa on Thanksgiving day. At home, Mom counts this as Math. At Grandpa's, well, nobody was thinking of anything but having fun!



This week started out strong, but got a little bit exciting toward the end. But it's been a good week nonetheless.

Monday, we did pretty well. We put up our tree, we did some work on Monkey's letter books - T, M, and N. This time, I gave him pictures and he cut, identified the right book, and glued them in more or less by himself. I grabbed a Christmas gift I'm working on and did that while he worked. We also read a few more pages in Through the Looking Glass.





Tuesday, we went out and got some good nature study in, as well as a library trip.







Wednesday, I have no idea what we did. I just can't remember.

But I remember Thursday! Thursday was the day my friend came over for a bit while she labored with her first baby (the hospital was full, and she wasn't that close yet), and I ended up going to the hospital with her and her husband to help them out while she gave birth!



He had a bit of a rough start: the cord was wrapped around his neck, he was facing the side (not the bottom), and he was "waving" - that is, his hand was by his face. So he spent his first few minutes getting worked over on the warmer.



They got him pinked up, and Daddy got to finish cutting the cord. He's doing just fine now. When I spoke to Mommy this afternoon she said that little R. is finally getting the hang of nursing, and they expect to be home Sunday morning.

R. actually came very early on Friday morning, and I was out of sorts after doing counter-pressure for about 10 hours, into the wee hours, and then staying a little longer while they got R. sorted out because he had some lingering breathing irregularities, so Friday was also not a school day. But we got to go visit and hold the baby!

03 December 2009

Classical Homeschool Carnival #4




Welcome to the December 3, 2009 edition of the Classical Homeschooling Carnival! Around here Thanksgiving is just behind us, and Christmas just ahead, and it's a good time for a bit of inspiration to get through the holidays.


Paige at Elemental Science presents History Project: Building a Castle, in which she shares how they added a hands-on element to their study of medieval castles.


Molly shares her hands-on, kinesthetic methods of teaching spelling with File Folder Spelling posted at Counter-cultural School.


Ritsumei shares a few thoughts on learning Latin and other languages in Learning Latin, Among Other Things at Baby Steps. She also is hosting a giveaway for SpellQuizzer software, with entries due by Dec. 11.


Kristiana shares the accomplishments they had in spite of sickness in Weekly Report 15 « La Scuola d'Argento posted at La Scuola d'Argento. In spite of not feeling well, it looks like their family had a great time with some cranberry activities in connection with their reading of Cranberry Thanksgiving.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of
Classical Homeschooling Carnival using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

02 December 2009

Learning Latin, Among Other Things

No, I'm not doing it yet, but it is on the agenda for when Monkey gets bigger. It's a large and rather foreign project, so I like to read about it. I like to see what I can learn from other people's experience. Andgela, over at Walls of Books, has a great article about Latin in the Grammar stage, and references another article, this one from Memoria Press that also looked really good.

Memoria Press has an interesting idea: learn just grammar first. This strikes me as sort of backwards, but when I think about the difficulties I have had with learning Japanese, it begins to make sense. I studied Japanese in college, and since then have wanted to "finish" learning the language, but have struggled to merely keep up what I learned in the first place. Several times I've set myself vocabulary learning tasks to help my fluency. It's never worked very well. But the idea presented in these two articles seems to be that the vocabulary is pretty useless without a context to put it in, and that context is embodied in the language's grammar.

In terms of Latin, Angela has a number of suggestions for what to do in the grammar stage: teach the kids to love it through exposure in music and sayings. Have them begin the memory work that will lay the grammatical foundation for later work. Ask them to memorize scripture. All these things make a great deal of sense to me, now that I think about them, and are ideas that would translate well into other language learning.

01 December 2009

Giveaway and Review: SpellQuizzer

The Review

SpellQuizzer is a downloadable spelling program that helps kids (and adults!) learn their spelling and vocabulary words. They contacted me last month and asked if I would be interested in reviewing their product, and gave me a complementary copy to look over. This is the first time that somebody came to me for this sort of thing! As it turns out, I really like SpellQuizzer, and think it'd be a fabulous addition to either a public or homeschool education.

So, the idea with SpellQuizzer is that you take an inexpensive microphone and automate the spelling practice. You make your list, which doesn't take long. Then you practice. It's easy and quick and painless. When I finish the list, it offers to re-do the ones I missed, and when I finally get them all right, it offers to scramble them up and let me have another go at the list. It's very efficient. In addition, each word on all the lists go into a database, with their recordings and hints, and you can create new lists from that database.

I don't actually have a microphone, which turns out to be just fine too, though it's not quite as easy. You, the list maker, have to think harder about the print "hints" you give, rather than just saying the word into your microphone. However, I was able to download a Latin-based word list designed for spelling bee preparation, and it had the recordings. It worked out very nicely, because although nearly all the words on the spelling bee list were ones I thought it would be good to practice, there was 144 of them on the list and it took too long to get through. 15-20 is much more workable, and it's not hard to break it into that size of chunks. (Though it did take a minute to figure out how to do it.) So I can use that database to create new lists using the words, with their recordings, after I download.

In addition to doing spelling lists, this program is flexible enough to do a couple of other things too: one the website talks about is vocabulary learning. You put in the definition, the student gives the word. I didn't test extensively, but it looks like SpellQuizzer also can handle special characters, so you could probably use it for foreign language study as well, as long as it uses a Latin alphabet. It didn't like the Japanese I put in, but the little bit of Spanish I tried went just fine.

The SpellQuizzer web site has pre-made downloadable spelling lists that you can download and use with the program. They've got message boards, though those look pretty new, but given time they may develop into a nice list-swapping resource.

The Giveaway

The gentleman that developed the software, Dan Hite, has graciously offered a free SpellQuizzer registration key for one lucky winner! Here's how you qualify:

1. Post to your blog about this giveaway and review. Do this before Dec. 11, 2009.
2. Come back and leave me a link to your post in the comments.

If you would like, you can use the following code for your post. Just copy and paste.




It will look like this:

Visit Baby Steps
SpellQuizzer software works with any spelling program, whether homeschool or public. Click to enter Ritsumei's giveaway on Baby Steps for a chance to win SpellQuizzer!

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