Monday, September 30, 2013

There she goes...

Yep, that's right...we've got another little scooter in the family.  Once again, I can find out exactly how dirty my floor is just by looking at the seat of my child's pants .  If you are looking for Isabel these days, try under a table, as that my teeny girl's favorite hang-out spot.  Elijah's toys, beware...Iz is coming to get you.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Just call me Lois Lane


First, read this: School uniforms don't have to cost so much @ Greater Greater Education

Like many bloggers, I am an amateur writer.  Tiny bits of money from Endless Simmer aside, I've never been paid to write.  I was a teacher, and now I am a mom.  A mom who blogs, yes, but this blog is all my own, and because of the demand for content (from my mom), most posts just get a quick read through (if that) before I hit publish.

So, when I blithely submitted my first contribution to Greater Greater Education (sub-blog of Greater Greater Washington), it was a bit of an eye-opener.   The GGE editor (kindly) wrote back that not only was my post not ready for publication, it was not even actually ready to be edited.  It seems that my off-the-cuff style, perfect (ish) for this here blog, was not quite what they were looking for.    I contacted some sources, had a few back-and-forths with the admin person about actually logging into the system, did a  little teeny bit of html-ing.  One major and ten or so minor rewrites later, the post was finally (finally!) done.

Here's what this experience has taught me: journalism is hard.  I spent many hours on this tiny article.  It's no wonder that the 10+ page New Yorker articles take months or years to write.  Perhaps someday I might dip more than a toe in the pond of journalism, but for now, I will soak up the feeling of having completed something that was not so easy to do.   At least for a few days, when it will be time get started on my next GGE article. 

Bring it, I say.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Vidi-o the week: Bass player

Nearly every night, after Elijah puts his toys away, we are treated to an impromptu concert.  His instrument of choice lately has been his "bass", which is apparently played with a bow.  Mumford and Sons is his current favorite band.  I captured a recent performance on video for your enjoyment.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Toys I (Still) Love: Hammer Ball Box

Remember this toy?  Well, nearly two years after that post, it's back and all I can say is that someone (ahem, Iz) is in love.  Back when Elijah was loving on it, I called it the Hammer Ball Box (HBB for short), but in Isabel's case, it's more of just a ball box.  Her preferred method of playing with it is to use her own tiny fist as a hammer.

Her enjoyment of it is greatly enhance by another exciting development around here: she's on the move!  But more on that tomorrow.  For today, let's just focus on how awesome this toy continues to be. 

Elijah is a Montessorian now, and Montessori is all about natural materials.  They use glass plates and cloth napkins for snack time and metal utensils for pouring and scooping.  We have plenty of plastic in this here house  (note the background toys in the picture above) but I definitely understand why the Montessori method puts such emphasis on what things are made of.  There is something about the hammer ball box, and particularly the wooden balls, that just feels good.  They make a satisfying clacking sound when banged together, and they have just the right weight for a toddler hand. 

As I was with Elijah, I am impressed at the HBB's capacity to reveal the depths of Isabel's young mind.  For example, she recently pushed a ball into the box, then reached through the hole to grab it back.  She got the ball, but couldn't pull her hand back out. This was clearly puzzling.  She released the ball, then turned the box on its side and reached in the larger side hole.  Voila!  Problem solved.  Now if she could just figure out how to fit an entire ball into her mouth, she would truly achieve toddler nirvana.

Hammer ball box., it's good to have you back.

Friday, September 20, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday

(Vol. 6)

Hosted at ConversionDiary.Com

Last week, I was really rocking it, blog style.  This week, not so much.  Sigh.  I love writing, I really do, but sometimes it just does not happen.  So, I apologize to my loyal readers (ahem, Mom and Sarah) who may have been feeling a little bit deprived this week.  I will try to do better next week.  No promises, though.

One reason for my radio silence this week is that yesterday I went to see an allergist, so I had to be off my allergy meds for three days.  Let's just say that I wasn't sure they were really helping until I stopped using them.  Ugh.  On the plus side, I can now highly recommend Dr. Siddiqi at Allergy and Asthma Care Centers.  He hooked me up with a few new things to try.  He also called me a "walking allergy" and said I should consider allergy shots.  It would be a big time commitment, but could potentially cure my allergies.  Thoughts?

I took a little personality quiz on Elijah's behalf this week, and he came back as a "quester". Always exploring, this child loves to ask, "Why?" Ain't that the truth.  Sometimes, after the fifteenth "Why?" I resort to a sage response learned from my friend Eric, "That is a question that only you can answer." If nothing else, the child is then so confused that they stop questioning...for a moment.

I am beginning to make my peace with kale.  This recipe is helping.

Last night, Kurt read aloud snippets from this article.  Yet another reason to homeschool your middle schooler.  Seriously, though, why, oh why do teachers give so much homework?  When I was teaching, I didn't assign much homework.  I figured seven hours at school was enough.  But then parents and the principal would get mad, and I would feel bullied into assigning more work.  There has to be a better way.

This weekend, we will be eating here (with kids) and here (without). Mmm.

Isabel has the sniffles today, poor girl, and in sympathy, Elijah stated, "I can't go to school today.  I'm really sick."  It seems that the onset psychosomatic school-skipping illness happens earlier than I thought.  In case you were wondering, just like parents since time immemorial, I didn't buy it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


Mercifully, Elijah decided this year that rather than have a birthday party, he would like a birthday camping trip.  Daddy swooped in and found this super-close, super-awesome campsite.  The best part, if you ask Elijah, was the train.  The best part, if you ask Isabel, was eating the dirt.  The best part, if you ask me, was getting to spend some time in the woods with my three favorite peeps, especially my grown up (but not too grown up) three-year-old boy.

Friday, September 13, 2013

7 Quick Takes (Vol. 5)

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My sister sent me the above picture earlier this week.  I, of course, posted it on Endless Simmer for all to enjoy.  You can see my other ES contributions for this week here and here. In case you are wondering, the second picture is a mango seed.


If I could hire someone to do just one thing at my house (except dishes, but that is really 10,000 things, so it doesn't count), I would want a professional (human) stain remover.  I am not good at getting out stains, and I don't like to do it, so I end up with a big pile of stained clothes that I can't wear but am afraid to wash for fear of making them worse.  Wah.


We don't have a TV (I know, what's wrong with us?) so I don't see many commercials, but if the one you see below is any indication, I may be missing out.


Just a few ideas for when I go back to teaching someday...


For my (non-paying) job as a reviewer for the Kindle Book Review, I am currently reading a book called A Stop in the Park.  I'm not finished, so I haven't reviewed it yet, but so far, it is great.  Also, it is set in DC, which makes it extra fun to read.  I wonder, though: Is it a bad thing if your neighborhood is the one they go to when they visit "the seedy side of town?"


Tuesday was back to school night, and I think that it helped Kurt begin to understand why Montessori=awesome.  As for me, I chose St. Jerome's program because it is Montessori, but after Tuesday, I am getting excited about the Catholic part, too.  I am sure I will post more on this later, but Catechesis of the Good Shepard is really neat, and I look forward to learning more about it as the year rolls on.


Lastly, tomorrow is the birthday of my firstborn (has it been three years already?), and in celebration, we are going camping.  Yes, we are crazy, thanks for asking.  The campground is close by, and has a train, which Elijah is super excited about riding.  So please say a prayer that we get at least a few hours of sleep tomorrow night.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

It's Poetic: All Aboard!

Back when I was a teacher, one of my favorite reading units to teach was poetry.  I usually taught it in the spring, when the kids started to become restless because it comes in bite-sized pieces, allows for lots of moving around (theatrical readings, anyone?), and there was something to suit every taste.  Plus, in my own reading for pleasure, I really appreciate writers who, weather or not they are actual poets, have a poetic sensibility about them.  I think it is what separates the great writers from the merely good ones.  Even as a blogger, I am inspired by other bloggers who write with a poetic tone of voice.  To hear what I am talking about, just read any post by Lisa Jo Baker.

To begin the unit, I would always start by focusing on poetic devices.  This was an easy way to dip a toe into the land of poetry.  (Plus, terms like metaphor and simile always show up on standardized tests, so may as well make sure the kids know them.)  We would talk about a particular device, practice it, and read poems that included examples.  For metaphor, I liked to used Langston Hughes' Mother to Son.  Personification?  Perhaps The Railway Train by Emily Dickinson, or Two Sunflowers by William Blake.

I was always tripped up, however, when trying to find an example to use in demonstrating repetition.  So much so that I considered just scrapping it as part of the unit.  If only I had found All Aboard! by Mary Lyn Ray while I was teaching, it would have fit perfectly.

Though not specifically billed as a poem, this book is clearly poetic.  It tells the story of a young girl's train trip to visit her parents, accompanied by her stuffed bunny, Mr. Barnes.   As the book begins, the girl boards the train and it leaves the station, picking up speed:

Long train, silver train.  Long train, silver train.

Long train.  Long train.  Silver train.  Silver train.
Train, train, train, train.

Whooo whoooooo.

I was in awe, when reading this aloud, at how the author had managed to so perfectly capture the sound of a train speeding up using just three different words.  Poetic repetition indeed.

The cut paper illustrations  by Amiko Hirao pair perfectly with the text, creating a sensory experience that, if your child is anything like mine, will requested again and again.  And if you are anything like me in your love of language, you won't mind a bit.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

11 months!

As we pause to remember on this anniversary of the September 11th attacks that happened on this day twelve years ago, it seems essential to also count our many blessings.  Tops among my list of blessings these days would have to be all of the moments that I get to spend with Baby Iz.

At eleven months, Isabel still hasn't gotten her crawl on, but somehow manages to get a hold of objects seemingly far from her grasp.  Her favorites are tiny particles (rocks, crumbs, stale pretzel bits) that she find nestled in the carpet fibers.  Nothing wrong with her fine motor skills, that's for sure.  She can get her finds from carpet to hand to mouth faster than a speeding bullet.  This is, of course, not helped by Elijah's enthusiasm for handing her tiny things to eat. 

Speaking of Elijah, he is certainly one of her favorite people.  Sometimes while he is at school, she will look around questioningly and say something that sounds remarkably like, "E-la-la?"  Fortunately, the feeling is still mutual, and Elijah happily gives her lots of kisses on her toes in addition to various choking hazards.

Post-Ferberization, she is still sleeping through the night, much to our relief.  Now, if we could just get her to stop hating on any cup/bottle/not breast that comes close to her face, we might actually feel ready for our big Mexico trip next month.  (Next month!  You hear that, Sarah?)

Even with the long-await emergence of two tiny bottom teeth, Iz is still the happiest baby around.  Seriously, aside from the bottle, nothing upsets this girl.  Elijah knocks her over?  She laughs and practically asks him to do it again.  Stuck in traffic?  Not to worry, she'll keep herself entertained with a song of her own making.  She's just Iz, and what she is, is fabulous.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Picnics in the park

A new tradition is evolving around here, and, weather permitting, I think it's a keeper.  Every day, after Iz and I pick Elijah up from school, we traipse down to the nearby playground/picnic area for lunch.  We are typically joined by at least a few school friends, and all the kids eat together, then run around to burn off any remaining energy before nap time.

When another mom suggested this routine early on, I was skeptical.  Did I really have the wherewithal to prepare and bring Elijah's lunch every day?  But many hard boiled eggs and sliced peppers later, the answer is yes.

The park is the same one where the kids have recess, and Elijah has dubbed it the "fire truck park", titled based on his favorite play structure there.  (Please excuse the pepper juice face.  At least I had the foresight to change him out of his uniform shirt before lunch.)

Isabel is content to goof around on the blanket, try desperately to eat the grass, and smile at any and all passers-by.  That's my girl.

All in all, our daily park picnic has been a lovely way to transition from school to home each day.  And, this being DC, we should have picnic weather for another three months or so.

Friday, September 6, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 4)

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Being a book reviewer, albeit an unpaid one, I don't have as much time for reading books of my choosing.  Which is the only credible explanation for why it took two check-out cycles from the library to finish Kate Atkinson's Life after Life.  Hmm.  Also, when I added that link, I saw that it is over 500 pages, something I was not aware of as I read it on my Kindle.  But I digress.  This is a fabulous book, one that will you will keep thinking about long after it is done.  If you enjoyed The Time Traveler's Wife, you need to read this.  It definitely falls into the category of, "I could never have written that, and I am sure glad that someone else did."


Today is the last day of the first week of school (although not the first full week, thanks to Labor Day).  So far, so good.  I miss Elijah in the mornings, but he must realize that, as he is in the process of dropping his afternoon nap so that we can have more together time.  How thoughtful of him.


I just completed my third set of snack magnets.  This was the first adult set, as you can probably guess from the inclusion of wine as a snack choice.  I will soon be adding a tab to the blog with a gallery of magnets and more info about ordering, in case you know anyone who might like to purchase a set of their own. 


Today I went to CVS to refill some prescriptions.  I had to go into the store because somehow I lost the little sticker with the number on one of the bottles that would have enabled me to refill over the phone.  I had been putting this off because, well, I am lazy.  But then, when I went to the counter to discuss my conundrum, I was informed that somehow, as if by magic, the prescriptions had already been filled and were ready for pick-up.  I don't know about you, but when stuff like that happens, I feel like its God saying, "I know that you know I love you, but just in case you needed an extra reminder, here you go."


We are still knee-deep in peach season at the farmer's market here, which means I am buying peaches 20 lbs. at a time.  We actually eat a fair number of them straight up, but this week I also made some spinach-peach frozen yogurt bars (such a lovely shade of green!) and these muffins, which were kind of biscuity, not too sweet, and super yummy.   Next time I would go ahead and skip the topping, though.  It didn't really add anything to the yumminess.


Apparently, yumminess is not really a word, says blogger, as indicated by the ziggy red line that appears when I type it.  I can't say I'm surprised.  (Ziggy? Also not a word.)  However, what is surprising is that if I right-click on yumminess, I find out that "crumminess" is a word, as is "chumminess".  And looking at all three of these words in succession is making my dizzy.



And, as is often the case, I saved the best for last.  Our nephew Luke is home!    Keep praying, as he still has some recovering to do, but we are so, so happy that he is home with his mommy, daddy and big sisters.  Praise the Lord!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

For love of the series: Frrooggyy!

As previously mentioned, we are kinda into series books around here lately.  I love our library so much, and I loved how well-stocked it is, but the sheer number of books can be a little overwhelming.  I always try to pick up something new and different, but it can be hard to know in a quick glance if a book is going to be a new Elijah favorite (unless it has trains, in which case, I can basically guarantee that he will love it).  Therefore, it is great to have a few different series to fill up the rest of the book bag.  That way, we can get books we haven't actually read before, but which I know Elijah will like.  You feel me?

One series that has been reliably enjoyed lately is the Froggy series by Jonathan London, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz.  It meets my main criteria, which is that there are many books in the series, taking the edge of the mind-numbing repetition that often ensues after a library trip.  Typical of many preschool series, it follow the adventures of a character (in this case a frog) as he experiences the novel (to him) yet familiar (to kids).  Summer camp, baby sister, riding a bike: its all there.

 Despite the tried-and-true themes, there is something particularly compelling to me about the Froggy character.  He's just so darn well-meaning, even as he causes all sorts of trouble.  I think my love for him stems for the fact that he reminds me of one of my favorite well-meaning mischief makers - Brianna.  Also, there aren't too many characters, so I can handle doing the voices.  And, there is something joyful about the part in each story when someone calls to Froggy from afar ("Frrooggyy!") and Froggy, in true kid style, responds with a mildly surprised, "What?"

Monday, September 2, 2013

The best kind of Monday

Up until this point, we have kept things around here pretty unstructured.  It fits my personality, and Elijah's too, really, so we've stuck mainly with activities that we can take or leave on any given day (library storytime, ArtWorks, the park).  But tomorrow, school begins in earnest, and although it is but half the day, it gives the whole day more shape than we are used to.

So, in recognition of this end of an era, we spent the day in the best way we know how: lots of snack times; a nice long bath for Elijah and Iz together (crazy-fun, that); twenty or so Henry and Mudge books; and, of course, plenty of time spent jumping on the bed.

PS Congrats to the snack magnet giveaway winners, Angela and Shannon.  If you didn't win (or didn't enter!), but you are still interested in a set of snack magnets, please contact me and I will give you a friends and family discount.