Sunday, September 30, 2007

scenes from the week

Did you know that I make fabulous chocolate chip cookies? Well, I do. I can't take any credit for the recipe (that credit goes to Neiman Marcus), but I do take full credit for my perfect execution of the recipe, and I think that counts for a lot.

Here are yesterday's bites of heaven:

Earlier this week we finally released our hostage praying mantis back to his native habitat. Mantids are just so cool that you can't resist holding onto them for a couple of days. He did gut a grasshopper while in our captivity, which was interesting but kind of gross. We felt like it was cruel to keep him without giving him any food, but I think the hopper was much larger than what would normally be his prey. We'll have to do some more research next time.

Noodle has been a real crafter lately. This morning she made a set of stick puppets out of cardboard cereal boxes, and yesterday she constructed a small cardboard car for Spud. I knew those cereal boxes I'd been saving would come in handy! She is quite ingenious with her creations, and additional benefits are that it keeps her busy for quite some time, and she's really improving with her scissor skills. She does so much art on her own, I'm grateful that homeschooling gives her the time to do what she wants, and that doing "forced art" won't kill the joy she finds in it.

We tend a little girl 2x/week, and the kids really enjoy the diversion and having a built-in playmate. Noodle likes it because she gets to come up with more activities for MORE kids. I think she is a born event coordinator! On a walk this week, I took my camera along for fun.

And here's one of Spud, just being his cute self. Poor little guy has a cold now, so I'm hoping he'll pass through it soon.

Friday, September 28, 2007

a good thought...

Timetables! We act as if children were railroad trains running on a schedule. The railroad man figures that if his train is going to get to Chicago at a certain time, then it must arrive on time at every wtop along the route. If it is ten miniutes late getting into a station, he begins to worry. In the same way, we say that if children are going to known so much when they go to college, then they have to know this at the end of this grade, and that at the end of that grade. If a child doesn't arrive at one of these intermediate stations when we think he should, we instantly assume that he is going to be late at the finish. But children are not railroad trains. They don't learn at an even rate. They learn in spurts, and the more interested they are in what they are learning, the faster these spurts are likely to be.

Not only that , but they often don't learn in what seems to us a logical sequence, by which we mean easy things first, hard things later. Being always seekers of meaning, children may first go to the hard things, which have more meaning, and later from these hard things learn the "easy" ones.

John Holt in How Children Learn

I think this is a fabulous point. Many, and hopefully most, people understand that infants and toddlers reach developmental milestones at different rates, and this is to be expected and perfectly okay. But for some reason, we expect all children after they have reached school age to be ready to learn and comprehend the same facts, grammatical rules, mathematical formulas, etc simply because they are the same age. This is ridiculous, and not an expectation we hold outside of primary and secondary education. Generally, by college, we have acknowledged that people have different strengths, and we no longer tell the English major that he must take all the same classes as the physics major. Nor would we expect either of them to easily comprehend all that is required of the other.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

cold, but cute!

the funniest thing this week

I stole this from my friend andrea's blog, but that's okay because she stole it from this fabulously fun fashion blog. And like I said, it's the funniest thing I've seen all week, so it only seems right to share.

Monday, September 24, 2007

it's all fun & games...

...until somedoggy pees on the bed.

I was playing "getcha" with Daisy, and we were having a great time. Then she jumped on the bed, and I covered her with the comforter, and she exploded with pee. blargh. I'd blame it on being scared, but we've played that game many times and she has always enjoyed it, so I think she just got too excited with a full bladder. So, now the duvet cover is in the wash, the comforter is hanging on the playground to dry, and Daisy is in her crate. (I did let her go outside to finish any business before sending her to jail, though, so I'm not totally heartless.)

somthing to smile about

My three favorite shows premiere this week. HOUSE is tomorrow, followed by Ugly Betty & Smallville on Thursday. We watched a few episodes of The Office this summer in reruns, since everyone and their dog seems to list it as one of their favorites, and while it was funny, I didn't love it. Plus it's on Thursday nights, at 7 I think, and we are already scrambling to record/watch Smallville & Ugly Betty, which are unfortunately on at exactly the same time. And I think I've become so accustomed to the hour-long format, that a half hour show doesn't seem to go anywhere (but I still love Simpsons, which isn't supposed to go anywhere). I also watched 30 Rock, which had some good funny, but again, not enough to knock anything else out of the lineup.

However, I do have a complaint about the season finales of each of my shows: either a character was killed/near death, or fired and not supposed to return by the end of the finale. I'm sure that has afflicted my subconscious all summer long, having such unresolved fictitious stress to deal with.


Not the Ben Stiller/Jack Black movie, which I love and own, but rather the green monster that occasionally rears its ugly head in my soul. What is the cause? I have blog envy. My friend reminded me about this blog, and I guess she is one of the most read bloggers on the internet, and while I have no aspirations to be some sort of a super blogger, I find myself irrationally jealous of people who have well-trafficked blogs.

To that end, muchas smooches to the few visitors I get on occasion! I certainly get a cheap thrill everytime I get a new comment.

I need to get out more.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

do you know the term "immunocompromised"?

That is what the doctor asked me this week at the clinic. He asked if I'd been in before, and I said, "Yes, last month."

"For what?"
His jaw dropped. "How old are you?"
"Do you know the term immunocompromised?"
"Is there a reason you might be immunocompromised?"
"Well, if lots of stress will do it, then yes."

So, another run of antibiotics and I'm good for now. Did I mention that I've been ill more the last two months than I've been the last two decades of my life? (Maybe nearly three decades. I'm pretty sure I never needed two bouts of antibiotics in a 6-week time frame before.)

Anyways, the good news is that our financial stress & woes should soon be coming to an end. The money that was supposed to be coming in at the end of August will definitely be coming in this next week. And I will happily pay all of the bills, and even the late fees, so happy will I be to be able to meet our obligations.

And then, it's time to start compiling our food/emergency storage! Yippee!!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Fluffhound

I sure love this silly little dog. Honestly, it'd be hard not to.

Dogs have amazing tongues!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

who would have thought...

that opera does a really great job of drowning out the sounds of a whiny, crying kid?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

express yourself!

So David slept on Spud's bed the night before last (he went to bed at 5 a.m. and the kids were sleeping with me), so David's pillow was still there last night when we took the kids up to bed. I plop Spud on his bed and he says:

"Who dis pillow?"

Then he leans into it and takes two big sniffs.

"Smells 'sgusting! I hate it!"

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

happy homeschoolers

So as my friends' kids and many neighbors headed off to begin their new year at school and Noodle stayed home, I must admit I was having some doubts about continuing on our homeschooling adventure. I wondered if Noodle would feel like she was really missing out or somehow deprived, or if I would be able to get a routine that worked for us. Well, we've had a lot going on, what with David's computer programmer staying with us for the past week and a half, but in spite of all the chaos, we're doing really well and I'm feeling really positive about this choice. Noodle is a happy and willing pupil, and we're both excited about all the things we get to learn. I'm amazed at the opportunities that arise naturally to learn things. Last week while we were on a morning walk she was interested in shadows, so we marked our shadows throughout the day and talked about how the angle of the sun determines how long they are and which direction they face. On Sunday we talked about camouflage and defensive coloration in animals, prompted by her questions and what she already had learned about the subject. Yesterday in the car she came up with new words to "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," which were "Buzz, buzz, buzz your bee, buzz down the hill," and she wanted to write them out on a paper so she wouldn't forget, so we helped her spell the words and she wrote them out. This took some considerable effort and patience on her part, but because it was a task that had meaning to her, she happily persevered.

In our Thomas Jefferson Education study group last week we were discussing how there are windows of learning that open in kids' minds, and these are not the same for every child. The advantage of homeschooling is that you can recognize these windows and act while the interest and ability is there. Deby related the story of her daughter attending a beginning music class taught by a friend, and the other girls her age were in tune (forgive the pun) and really "getting" everything, but it was obvious to her that her daughter had no idea what was happening. I think this frequently happens with children when learning math, especially if it is presented as abstract relationships of numbers without real, tangible applications. Sometimes you just don't get it. I was always a good student in math, but I still remember in my high school calculus class one chapter in the book that absolutely and totally went over my head. Try as I might, I could not grasp it, and in a class that I aced every exam, for that chapter I scored a 67% on the exam. I remember the frustration and futility that I felt, as I could not comprehend the material, and it wasn't for lack of trying. It's sad to think that many kids feel this way at a young age when working to learn something that they aren't yet capable of understanding. I'd always been an "advanced" student, so I didn't experience this awful feeling until my senior year of high school. Had I felt it earlier, I may not have developed the academic confidence that I had by that point. The next year, when I took calculus again in college, I understood the subject material of that chapter without too much difficulty.

I think to really learn rather than just regurgitate facts, at least two keys are required: relevance and readiness. Without those, temporary learning (i.e. regurgitation) are the best we can hope for.

And just for fun, I'm including this picture of the kids rolling the water barrels around to sterilize them with bleach last week. They had such a good time, they were disappointed when I said we were done. Happily, we have two more barrels to do and I finally bought some more bleach!

Friday, September 07, 2007


Well, after talking about keeping a clean house and visiting my friend Debra's very neat and uncluttered home, I was inspired or guilted into doing a little sorting & discarding of my own today. So of course I start with a relatively painless (for me, anyways) area: the kids' room. Noodle was happy to oblige trying on all the dresses in her closet to see which did and did not fit, along with a bunch of long-sleeved shirts from last winter. We compiled a group of cute dresses that no longer fit, which I am hoping to sell on craigslist so we can get $20 to go buy her some cute skirts at The Children's Place.

After the clothes, we went through a couple of boxes of toys to see if there were any we were ready to part with. Whooo boy, that opened up a can of worms. Unfortunately, Noodle has apparently inherited my fondness for and attachment to toys, which I'd suspected prior to today. We pulled out one stuffed dog that was purchased from a dollar store, and therefore not the absolute cutest dog, and I asked if she wanted to keep it. She started getting sad thinking about it, then said she wanted to keep it but she really didn't want to play with it. I said if it isn't a toy she enjoys playing with that much, there isn't much sense in keeping it, and if we donate it, another kid might find it who will really enjoy playing with it. She went back and forth a number of times, and shed many tears. I never pushed her, but she did keep asking what I would do, so I'd tell her. I also told her how only in the past year have I finally gotten rid of some of my toys from my childhood, but I did take a picture of them to remember them by. I don't know why it is, but toys for me hold so many more memories than other objects, so it is hardest to part with them. I told her we could take pictures of the dog, and she liked that idea. After that, we were looking through the stuffed toy bin in the play room and she found another stuffed dog and said, "I think I can give this dog away, too. I don't really play with it." I was so impressed, and really glad that I'd taken the time to talk through her feelings with her and help her feel understood.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

gonzalezes are . . .

You who know us well could likely fill in the blank with a variety of words, some of which might actually be positive!

Last year sometime I was talking to one of my sisters and she said that they'd come up with a family motto, "Kohlers are kind." I actually thought it was a nice idea, some sort of catch-phrase to inspire kids with when necessary, so I mentioned it to David. He then decided that we needed a motto, and the first thing he thought of was "Gonzalezes are grumpy." Hmph. I told him this wasn't really the idea, as mottoes are not supposed to be statements of fact, but rather inspiration to be better. Unfortunately, he got such a kick out of himself that the "motto" stuck, and while it thankfully hasn't been called upon too frequently, I didn't see it as being a step forward for our family.

So the other night we were talking after our TJEd study group, and I said I think we need a real motto. After thinking for a few moments, I suggested "Gonzalezes are grateful." He immediately liked it. We've been trying to cultivate an attitude of abundance in our household for the past couple of years, but when money is tight and comes sporadically sometimes, it can be hard to focus on what you have when you are frequently wondering and shuffling money around to pay the bills. Lately, though, I've really been making the effort to be grateful, and as cheesy as it can feel to my inner cynic, when I have an ungrateful thought or complaint, I force it out with a grateful one. This has been especially helpful in the mornings when I do not want to get out of bed. I start thinking that I'm grateful to have a bed to sleep in, grateful for the health that allows me to get out of bed unassisted and without pain, grateful for the home I have to wake up in, and after a few of these thoughts, I'm feeling pretty good about life. Perhaps I'll get my brain rewired yet!

Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, I wanted to share a recent favorite comic:

I'm grateful for comics and for the little ones who want constant entertainment. (Though I'm less grateful for that need for constant entertainment.)

Monday, September 03, 2007

fun day

So this morning I defied holiday tradition and got out of bed at 7 a.m. so I could go pick up my SIL Anita to take her "junior photos." These are of course similar to senior photos, except taken as a junior. We had a lot of fun, and got some great shots.

We then came back to my house to eat lunch and review the photos. We really wanted to go out somewhere, but both being pathetically poor (her in a typical highschool student sort of way and me in a "I swear DH's company is going to start making money soon" sort of way), decide that we should see what her parents are doing. If they had fun plans, we though we could tag along on my FIL's nickel. They were going to a movie, but we managed to sweettalk my FIL out of $22 -- $20 for the two of us and $1 for each of the kids. We decided to hit Savers, as I'd seen a sign last week that Labor Day was 50% off day! Whoo hoo! We went, and the kids enjoyed exploring the most likely germ-infested toy section (luckily I'm hardly a germaphobe) for a while, then we managed to corral them long enough to look at some dishes and clothes, and finally jewelry. We scored big time!

We bought:
1 skirt for me
2 small glass goblets for the kids
2 little mouse/rat pins
1 pair of very cool clip on earrings for Anita
1 cool funky ring for Noodle
1 random stuffed potato plush to be used at a future date
3 super cute bowls (see photo)

Anita found the bowls, but since unmatched dishes are not my MIL's "thing," she happily gave them to me. I actually do not like matching dishes. I love to find the perfect dish for eating different foods, and to choose a dish dependent on mood and desired serving size. Granted, I was reminded once again that uniform dishes do fit better in cupboards, but that is a sacrifice I am willing to make. Plus, with this strategy it isn't quite the same degree of tragedy when dishes break, which they do here too frequently, and often in 3s. Rather, I try to look at it as an opportunity to go pick out a new bowl/plate/glass next time I go to a thrift/secondhand store.

The checkout girl was a kindred spirit. When she saw the bowls she said how cute they were, and how she loves bowls, and eats almost everything out of bowls. I agreed that bowls are superior to plates, and we listed reasons including fitting better in your hands and less likely to dump food off. When I did a couple of semesters of pottery, far and away my favorite things to make were bowls. Second to that were mugs, which kind of turned into bowls with handles. I love a good bowl.

Then tonight we had a BBQ at the in-laws, and that was fun as well as tasty. Daisy got to chew on a nice big rib bone and got fat & other meat tidbits, which was a nice treat for her, and the kids got in a big water fight with their aunt & uncles & uncle's friends, which they quite enjoyed. Noodle made me a trophy, or as she calls it "a champion" out of a foam cup, a plastic baggy, a Capri Sun straw, a scrap of paper, a soda can tab, and some tape. I was the winner because I said I would dance in her dance party.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

hee hee

Noodle and Spud are squabbling over the modeling clay.
Noodle: Just a minute Spud, I need to make you something.
Spud, without missing a beat: I don't yike someting, I wanna choo choo train.