Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Harry Potter, again

C is rereading the Harry Potter books, and is currently working her way through the fifth volume.

C makes progress

C is now routinely dressing herself for school.

Spring cold

Starting Sunday morning, I've been feeling sickish. Eventually, the bug revealed itself as a fairly standard cold. The kids are at school now, so I'm going to be firm with it--it has until mid-afternoon. I'm out of herbal tea, so my weapon of choice is hot water with lime juice and Splenda.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Discovery?

At the Children's Museum in San Antonio (while watching C, a girl, and the girl's dad build an arch with foam blocks), I found myself thinking about "middle class" parenting. As I believe Catherine Johnson (or somebody else at kitchentablemath.blogspot.com) has mentioned, "middle class" parenting really has very little to do with "discovery." It's intensive, it's vigilant, it's hands-on, there's lots of one-on-one attention and lots of explanation.

San Antonio

After C's 1st grade class's performance of the story of Pecos Bill on Friday, we scooped her up and headed to San Antonio. The play had gorgeous cacti scenery, cowboys, an adorable longhorn, two coyote sisters, and a covered wagon. C changed out of her boots and cowboy hat at school and we hit the road. Here are some trip notes:
  • D continues his streak of being potty-trained on the road.
  • We stayed downtown at the Crockett Hotel (one of a number built in 1909), right across from the walls of the Alamo. Breakfasts (including fluffy Texas-shaped waffles) were fantastic at the complimentary buffet.
  • My husband was tied up at a conference Friday afternoon and all-day Saturday, but the kids and I managed pretty well, especially with the help of a hotel room to return to for cartoons. The kids are good for about three blocks one-way and then back, but are not up for long, leisurely rambles, which is what you need to cover the Riverwalk properly. At street level, we saw groups of Segwayers. The Riverwalk, my guidebook informs me, was a WPA project.
  • The kids only watch videos at home (no TV), so it was interesting to see them deal with television. First of all, they didn't realize that if they went away, the show went on without them, even if the TV was off, and C initially didn't understand that we couldn't fast forward the TV. Secondly, D didn't know what ads were, and he couldn't tell the difference between ads and programming.
  • The kids (especially C) LOVED the Rainforest Cafe. We had dinner there twice. I had delusional thoughts earlier that we would have amazing Mexican food in San Antonio, but that will have to wait.
  • On Saturday morning, the kids and I visited the Alamo. We caught nearly all of a long talk covering the early European settlement of the region, US migration to Texas, the Alamo, and Texas's eventual fight for independence.
  • On Saturday afternoon, the kids and I went to the San Antonio Children's Museum, which is very nice. It reminds me of the old Capitol Hill Children's Museum in DC. There was a set of large foam blocks there that you could form an arch with. "I have an idea," said D. "We can build the Alamo." C and another girl were tusssling over the blocks. Each girl had her own artistic conception, there were limited blocks, and the projects were going nowhere. Fortunately, I was able to broker a settlement, and the two girls (with the help of the other girl's daddy) eventually built an arch.
  • Saturday night after dinner, we rode in a horse carriage decorated with blue Christmas lights through downtown.
  • This morning, we went to mass at Mission San Jose (one of the five Spanish missions of San Antonio). It is both a National Park and a working Roman Catholic parish, presided over by real live Franciscans.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Charitable giving

The Washington Post has some quotes from President Obama on his proposed changes to the tax treatment of charitable giving by high earners.

Even as he urged against demonizing the business class, Obama made clear that he thinks affluent Americans have not been doing their fair share as he defended his plan to shrink tax deductions for wealthy taxpayers' charitable contributions and mortgage interest payments.
"If it's really a charitable contribution, I'm assuming that [smaller tax savings] shouldn't be a determining factor as to whether you're giving that $100 to the homeless shelter down the street," he said. "I think it is a realistic way for us to raise some revenue from people who benefited enormously over the last several years. It's not going to cripple them; they'll still be well-to-do. And ultimately, if we're going to tackle the serious problems that we've got, then in some cases those who are more fortunate are going to have to pay a little bit more."


I don't do a lot of politics around here, but I think that Obama's example of a $100 donation for a homeless shelter is very revealing.

Graduation 2009

Rumor has it that Sarah Palin ('87) will be speaking at my younger brother's graduation ceremony at University of Idaho this spring. The family is thrilled.

St. Anthony

C came home from CCD last night with a holy card of St. Anthony and baby Jesus, which she was determined to give to her 1st grade teacher. My husband and I had to take a couple minutes to explain to her that there are different kinds of Christians and not everybody is Catholic. C's school is multi-denominational, but predominantly Baptocatholic (the school observes the liturgical calendar and they talk about people like Catherine of Siena, there's a big photo of Tolkien in the school office, the school teaches Latin, and they learn Latin chants in music). We told C that her teacher is most likely Protestant, and gave a short list of things Protestants don't generally do. "Mrs. E isn't like that!" said C. We decided to let C give the card, and she wrote up a note to Mrs. E, telling her that "you make me happy."

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that C is very excited that we are scheduled to go to San Antonio soon, since thanks to her Spanish class, she has learned that San Antonio means St. Anthony. We did a quick internet cheat search for St. Anthony last night, and were pleased to learn that he was a 13th century contemporary of St. Francis and was one of the Friars Minor. He's traditionally pictured with baby Jesus because of a legend that says that he had a vision of the infant Jesus.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

We bike the neighborhood

I am finally biking regularly with C, using the Walmart special that I got myself as a birthday present the better part of a year ago. Now that I've screwed up the courage to use the neighborhood loop, we are able to join the neighborhood kids, moms, and dogs in the evening. There is limited traffic in our neighborhood and the kids range all over the two streets on their bikes, scooters and battery-operated cars, but my training is in the neurotic DC parenting style described in Perfect Madness. So I bike along with C, periodically barking out orders on correct technique in approaching intersections, making left turns, and dealing with oncoming cars. C's left turns are coming right along and we did four circuits tonight.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Flying car

D is enjoying his new big boy Legos. He just showed me a flying car he had made.

UPDATE: C is home, and she is directing the construction of a flying car submarine.

Ross Greene's Lost at School III

Here are some more quotes from and critiques of Ross Greene's Lost at School. As usual, I'll put quotes in bold. My comments will be non-bolded.
  • You may have noticed that this list [the ALSUP] contains no diagnoses. That's because diagnoses don't give us any information about the cognitive skills a child may be lacking.
  • While diagnoses do tend to make adults take a kid's difficulties more seriously, a kid doesn't need a diagnosis, or a special education designation, to have a problem. He just needs a problem to have a problem.
  • Medicine is effective at reducing hyperactivity and poor impulse control, improving attention span, enhancing mood, reducing obsessive-compulsive behaviors and general anxiety, reducing tics, inducing sleep, and helping volatile, aggressive kids be less reactive. Medicine does not teach skills.
  • In the research literature (and in real life) cognitive skills training has often been conducted outside the environments in which a kid is having the greatest difficulty and by people the kid isn't having difficulty with--for example, in the office of a guidance counselor, principal, or mental health professional or in a researcher's lab. Skills taught in these artificial environments often haven't generalized to the environments in which the kid was having difficulty.
  • Greene is down on incentive programs, pointing out that the rewards and punishments are often flash-points for conflict.
  • Naivete occasionally makes an appearance in Greene's fictional dialogues. "I think some people just like being mean," said Duane. "Interesting possibility," Duane," said Mrs. Woods. "But why would someone like being mean?" "I don't know," responded Duane. "Maybe they don't know how to be nice." "Ah, so maybe they don't like being mean, they just don't know how to be nice." I feel that Duane and Mrs. Woods' answer is incomplete, and they are ignoring the joys of bullying and its material and psychic compensations. This reminds me of that excellent book on male abusers Why Does He Do That? In that book, Lundy Bancroft argues that almost invariably, the reason an abuser chooses abuse is that it works for him and that it is a convenient shortcut to getting what he wants.
  • Lastly, I note that within the fictional school that Greene creates, problem children earn warm interest, one-on-one time, and heart-to-hearts by having problems. Meanwhile, Joey fades from view as soon as he starts getting his act together.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ross Greene's Lost at School II

Ross Greene has a very useful survey in his book called the "Assessment of Lagging Skills and Unsolved Problems" (ALSUP). I think it's very helpful. I note, however, that there's a deep canyon dividing the ALSUP from Greene's Plan B. Plan B is empathize, describe problem, and invite problem-solving suggestions from the child, and Greene offers many engaging fictional examples of adults and children working through the steps with great success. However, there are many items on the ALSUP where that three-step would seem pretty inadequate to dealing with the problem. Here are some examples from the ALSUP list:
  • Difficulty seeing the "grays"/concrete, literal, black-and-white thinking
  • Inflexible, inaccurate interpretations/cognitive distortions of biases (e.g., "Everyone's out to get me," "Nobody likes me," "You always blame me," "It's not fair," "I'm stupid," "Things will never work out for me")
  • Difficulty attending to and/or accurately interpreting social cues/poor perception of social nuances
  • Difficulty empathizing with others, appreciating another person's perspective or point of view

Maybe I am underestimating the magical powers of Plan B, but it seems to me unlikely that heart-to-heart talks with this kind of difficult child is going to solve these difficulties, since the essence of this child's difficulties is his lack of self-awareness and inability to correctly interpret the world around him.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Ross Greene's Lost at School

My current reading is Ross Greene's Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges Are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them (2008). Greene is the author of the influential book The Explosive Child. I have mixed feelings about Greene's approach to dealing with problem children, which he calls Plan B. Plan B consists of three steps, which are designed to pull the difficult child into the problem solving process: Empathy (this mustn't be skimped on), Define the Problem and Invitation (invite the child to give their input to the problem). Much of the book is taken up with fictional episodes showing how an absent-minded but brilliant psychologist and a couple of street-smart, compassionate teachers join forces and talk problem kids into good behavior. To me, it all feels a bit too good to be true.

The first chapter is entitled "Kids Do Well if They Can." "Kids with social, emotional, and behavioral challenges lack important thinking skills," writes Greene. He believes that behavior problems are caused purely by lack of skill, rather than by a lack of desire to behave well. I'm somewhat puzzled by this black-and-white thinking. Why can't it be both lack of skill and lack of desire to behave well? Later in the chapter, Greene critiques some favorite lines that people use when talking about problem children:
"He just wants attention." We all want attention, so this explanation isn't very useful for helping us understand why a kid is struggling to do well. And if a kid is seeking attention in a maladaptive way, doesn't that suggest that he lacks the skills to seek attention in an adaptive way?

Certainly. Another option is that attention isn't readily available for good or neutral behavior, so he's got to go with bad behavior if he wants to stop being invisible.

Rock tumbling

Our first load of rocks (some that came with the tumbler, some from the backyard) just finished their first week in the rock tumbler. My husband and the kids pulled out the rocks and put in fresh water and a slightly finer grade of grit. 3.5 more weeks to go.

There was also some unauthorized garden hose play.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Price drops

A recently-renovated 1950s house in the ritzy historic district that I watch has just slipped from $330k to $300k. On the same street, a cute 2BR 1920s storybook cottage has just fallen from $250k to $244k. The 3000 sq. ft. 1920s English cottage foreclosure has just dropped from $202k to $200k. A tidy, small, well-renovated 3BR/2BA 1950s house at the far edge of the neighborhood recently appeared at $136k.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rite of passage

Tonight, we made our much awaited trip to Cavender's to buy C's cowgirl costume for her role as a narrator in her class's performance of a play based on the Pecos Bill stories. We got her cowboy boots (size 1, made in India, $40), a hat (one-size-fits-all $20, made in Mexico), and a brown 65% polyester horror of a western shirt ($20, made in China). She will be wearing blue jeans that should soften up all those browns and tans. C had somehow decided that all of her costume had to be brown, and she loudly rejected pink boots and a fringed pink cowboy shirt, as well as several rack-fulls of much cuter cowboy shirts. On the bright side, her choices will make it more feasible to hand items down to D. This is C's first pair of cowboy boots and her first cowboy hat. I think both are going to see lots of everyday use.

After we came home, the kids joyously frolicked with the boots, the hat, and their old stick horse.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Howard Glasser's Nurtured Heart Approach III

Here are some more quotes:
  • Use simple and clear requests to create five to 10 "successes" per day.
  • Glasser suggests being generous with credits, but says that the credit system needs to encompass many privileges which the child used to get for free. Parents can be very creative with their list of privileges available for purchase. One possibility is the Pythonesque option of buying a 5-minute argument. The first mother who was creative enough to design this privilege...made the cost of an argument high for each five-minute interval. She found that, instead of getting drawn into the fray, she was simply able to stay aloof and say, "your five minutes are up, would you like to buy another argument." The child said, "No, that's okay" and walked away calmly. This mother was able to compliment her son for handling the situation and his strong feelings well, as well as for numerous thoughtful statements he made in arguing his case.
  • Even natural and logical consequences, the Rolls-Royces of techniques that work very nicely with the average child, seem to consistently backfire with the intense child and sometimes seem to maintain the addictive quality of pushing the limit.
  • For older children who are too big to escort or hold in time-out, the following alternative intervention has worked beautifully: "If you don't go to time-out when you are told, then this is what will happen until you decide to do it: I will continue to give you credits for all your good behaviors. However, your credits will be frozen until the time-out is completed..." This removes the power struggle.

Howard Glasser's Nurtured Heart Approach II

One of Glasser's favorite stories is that of Shamu the killer whale and the training program that allows him to jump over a rope 20+ feet into the air on command. How do the trainers do it? They start "with the rope underwater, at the bottom of the tank." Every time the killer whale accidentally swims over the rope, he gets praise and fish. Only after Shamu starts making the connection between swimming over the rope and getting fish do the trainers begin slowly moving the rope up. "The willingness of the trainers to start with the rope at the bottom, creating successes that would not otherwise exist, directly leads to a "faster" path of learning and a level of attainment well beyond what would normally occur."

It's going to be really tempting to quote huge chunks of Howard Glasser's Transforming the Difficult Child, but I will try to restrain myself. Here we go:
  • It is not an accident that these children do not readily progress in individual treatment or that they progress temporarily and then slide back. They quickly assess that all the special attention they desperately seek would cease if they were to do more than give lip service to improvements.
  • Glasser recommends what he calls "video moments." It means just warmly telling a child what they're doing right now (when they happening to be engaged in a positive or neutral activity), without evaluating, just describing. Being noticed or recognized is much more powerful than one may initially imagine...This technique is a remarkable way of showing your child that you notice and care about many aspects of her life...It is not only a way of feeding her emotional reservoir, but of proving that she is not invisible. Indeed, many children feel they are invisible unless they are either going to the trouble of acting out or doing something exceptionally well. Glasser wants parents to try to give 10-20 video moments per day.
  • We typically attempt to give a lesson on responsibility or self-control when the child is not using responsibility or self-control. We tend to give lessons on not whining or not hitting when the child is performing the misdeed. The receptivity to the lesson is low at these moments.
  • Some children come to believe, on the basis of our actions, that they can get the best quality time when they are misbehaving. Some children feel those are the only times when they can get solid one on one, heart to heart, emotional exchange.
  • Glasser suggests using old school Don'ts with difficult children. Somewhere along the line since the time of the Ten Commandments, we've somehow gotten the notion that the rules need to be framed in a positive context. this notion is rampant in mainstream classrooms. Positively framed rules such as "Be responsible" make it much harder for challenging children to function. These children do not have a clear sense of when they are out of bounds and when they are in.
  • Glasser wants parents to applaud and affirm difficult children when they are not breaking rules, rather than ignoring them when they are good and dramatically laying down the law when they are bad. Try to "beat your child to the punch." Notice the early stages of problem behavior and praise and appreciate the self-control being used "before" the rule is actually being broken. Once a rule is broken, your choices are limited.
  • Glasser suggests "creating successes that would not otherwise exist." This closely resembles the technique of putting the rope at the bottom of the tank and rewarding Shamu every time he accidentally swims over it. Glasser's example involves a defiant six-year-old whose parents despaired of getting him to do anything they asked for. One day at school pick-up, the boy's father had an inspiration. With great pride he reported that David had gotten in the car and was in the act of closing the door when his father requested: "I need you to close the door." It was, of course, already a done deal and all that was left was to congratulate David for following directions, which was done in excellent fashion. Several other exceedingly doable requests yielded the same kind of outcome. The family was on its way.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Howard Glasser's Nurtured Heart Approach

I've owned a copy of Howard Glasser's Transforming the Difficult Child: The Nurtured Heart Approach for several years now, but based on my underlinings, I don't think I made it through the book the first time. Over spring break, I finished rereading Transforming the Difficult Child, made it through a six-hour DVD showing a seminar version, and read The Inner Wealth Initiative: The Nurtured Heart Approach for Educators.

Glasser is a somewhat New Age-y guy in a turtleneck, but thanks perhaps to all his experience dealing with truly desperate situations, he has his feet on the ground. His principles are not novel (reinforce good behavior, don't reinforce bad behavior). What is unusual is how well-worked out his system is and how well he walks his readers and viewers through the pitfalls of parenting and teaching difficult children. Glasser thinks that difficult children need different handling from ordinary children. He puts "catch them being good" on steroids. If Jonah isn't hitting his sister, say something like "Jonah, you are doing a really good job of not hitting Emily!" Glasser thinks that even five minutes total of enthusiastic and detailed praise sprinkled throughout the day can help transform a difficult child. That's phase one of his plan. Phase two is to institute a credit system to reward good behavior. Phase three is consequences for bad behavior. Phase three is somewhat fuzzier than phases one and two, in my opinion. To be fair, by the time you get to phase three, a lot of bad behavior will already have disappeared.

I'm going to be pulling out quotes and perhaps sharing some of my thoughts. Text in bold is from Transforming the Difficult Child. Here we go:
  • Some "enlightened" approaches recommend explicitly telling your children how you feel when they act out. "It hurts my feelings when you hurt your sister." "It makes me sad when your teacher tells me that you were not paying attention in school." These approaches, although potentially effective for the average child, backfire with the intense child. Not only are you displaying where the buttons are for future use by the difficult child, but you wind up giving payoff: your energy and attention to the problem behavior. Other approaches call for lengthy discussions or discourses in relation to the problem behaviors. Any way you slice it, it adds up to more energetic payoffs for exactly the behaviors that you least want to reinforce. Why water weeds?
  • ...If a child has a pre-existing perception that she gets more out of life by acting negatively, and we take only the stand of intensifying the rules or the harshness of the consequences, we will actually make things worse. A child in this situation will size up the new circumstances and conclude that, by breaking the new rules, she can now get a new array of reactions and payoffs. This can pique her interest and she will often surmise that she and her parents now are simply playing for bigger and more interesting stakes. She will not be doing this on purpose, but the addictive side of the habit will draw her toward the prospect of a larger response.

Alfie Kohn

I was just reading reviews of Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason by Alfie Kohn over at Amazon.com. Alfie Kohn is the Punished by Rewards guy. One of the reviewers of his books is a certain Vinny Delpusio, who left the following classic comment back in December 2005: "It is typical of most parenting literature in that 1) it tells you that you are doing it wrong. and 2) there is no 2."

Bravo, Mr. Delpusio!

Potty training update XXV

D accumulated 20 potty points and he purchased a baby blue elephant Beanie Baby this evening. This is his third elephant, so his next purchase will probably be the fourth member of the elephant family.

C works with D's new Legos

C has been enjoying D's new Lego set. She followed the directions and built a cute cottage with a chimney and flowers, plus a carport for a Lego car and a Lego helicopter.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dominoes

I played three games of dominoes with C this evening. She did a very good job teaching me the rules and keeping score.

Coconut cookies

My husband just finished baking three sheets of coconut cookies. The cookies contain his secret ingredient (whole wheat flour), of course.

Potty training update XXIV

As I was hoping, D's potty-going was almost perfect during his West Coast trip, as it often is when he is traveling or away from home. D generated only a handful of wet diapers on the trip. He also turned 4. Upon his return, things began to get shaky--he was resistant, and had at best a 50% success rate.

My husband and I are now using the following method: we have informed D that he is potty-trained.

Chess

D: C's going to teach me to play chess!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Taj Mahal

D got a set of Legos from us for his birthday. These are his first real, small-format Legos. Up until now, he's only had Duplos. C is enjoying them, too, and has asked D if he would like a Lego Taj Mahal in his room.

Transforming the Difficult Child

I had a rare spell of insomnia last night and spent 2-4 AM watching disk 2 of Howard Glasser's 6-hour DVD set Transforming the Difficult Child.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Return from Canada

D and my husband returned from a six-day trip to British Columbia to visit grandparents early this morning. As I had been hoping, D immediately got with the potty-training. He had a total of 4-5 wet pull-ups over the course of six days, including nights. That's really spectacular. He earned his fourth dragon very quickly, and is talking about getting a third and fourth elephant to complete an elephant family.

On the flight home, they announced that the plane would be passing over Mt. St. Helens. D closed his window and couldn't understand why the pilot would do such a reckless thing.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Children's museum

We had a date to meet a family at the children's museum this afternoon to go to a science show. This being spring break, the museum was packed and the science show was sold out. We had a happy afternoon stamping, banging on manual typewriters, practicing braille, and constructing white water rapids on a water table.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Little Einsteins

Netflix just sent us Little Einsteins' Rocket's Firebird Rescue, which is supposed to introduce tots to various Russian cultural phenomena, including Stravinsky's ballet The Firebird. I'm not really up on either Russian folklore or Russian ballet, but I was puzzled by the presence of Catch-Eye the Ogre, a villainous set of nesting dolls who imprisons the Firebird. Eventually, I realized that "Catch-Eye" is Koshchei Bessmertnyi, AKA Koshchei the Deathless, AKA Koshchei the Immortal. In Russian, Koshchei is pronounced something like this: Kah-shshshshA. Nitpicking aside, the music and visuals are great.

I take C to the pool

C and I went to the pool late this morning. We had a very nice time. C doesn't swim yet, but she manages very well at the "leisure pool" with swimmies on her arms. She was also experimenting with a kick board and a diving stick. The vortex and the water slide were off and there wasn't a life guard, but we got a lot of mileage out of the small lazy river. We really ought to go to the pool more.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Monday progress

Today C's temperature is normal and she did all of her catch-up work for her missed school on Thursday and Friday. She did five pages of math (including some rudimentary multiplication), a page of copywork and a page of spelling words. We'll need to start seriously rehearsing her Pecos Bill lines soon.

A couple days ago, C was finishing up a cute gold, red, fuchsia, and coral pink potholder when it suddenly leaped off the loom and came apart. As we have discovered, this is not uncommon behavior in the final stages of work on a potholder. C reminded me of the situation this evening and I set to work salvaging the potholder. I am pleased to announce that the potholder is done. It is C's second successful potholder. The first one has been sent to her grandparents in Canada.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cheaper by the Dozen

C tidied up the living room without my asking her. She finished her spring break Lord of the Rings movie marathon earlier this morning, and now we're watching the old Cheaper by the Dozen.

The book Cheaper by the Dozen was one of my childhood favorites, but I'm not sure how much of the old film I've seen before. I appreciated the family meeting scene where we see Frank Gilbreth (the father) bidding out the whitewashing of the fence to his kids. I also liked the scene with Gilbreth descending on the principal of his kids' new school and persuading her that his kids should be placed in grades by academic level rather than by chronological age.

Potty training update XXIII

D has earned Puff and has two points besides! He has only had one wet diaper over the past 24 hours.

Snowman sugar cookies

For months now, an advertisement for Betty Crocker sugar cookie mix has been hanging on the fridge. It is helpfully illustrated with photos of snowman sugar cookies with licorice, Life Savers, and assorted hard candies used to form a face and earmuffs. C has been eager to do this project for some time.

The appropriate time came this morning. We used Pillsbury ready-made sugar cookie dough, ready-made frosting, black licorice, and Skittles. The ready-made dough baked up beautifully, and then I handed over the decorating to C. She frosted and decorated a plate-full of cookies and I wrapped them up and froze them. We have lots of decorating supplies left as well as a sheet of undecorated cookies, so C can continue working later.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tilex

Note to self: when giving the brownish caulking around the kitchen sink a good soaking with Tilex, don't lean over the sink while working. Tilex, it turns out, also bleaches clothing.

Home decorating

"...[A] room should never look as though all its contents arrived on the same day," said a designer's mom quoted at Style Court.

Potty training update XXII

D now has 15 potty points, with 5 left until he gets Puff the Magic Dragon. C also has a Puff the Magic Dragon that she is trying to earn, and the kids had a very lively argument this morning, trying to decide who would get the right to name theirs "Puff." The kids think only one dragon should be named "Puff."

Dance time

D (to C): How 'bout we do the happy dance!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Potty training update XXI

D now has 8 potty points, with 12 more to go until he gets Puff the Magic Dragon, a green saw-backed dragon we got at Barnes and Noble.

C is asleep

C started slowing down around 6 PM. We brushed her teeth and left her listening to her book in bed. Now it's 6:53 and she's asleep. This is undoubtedly the effect of the bug she's got.

She spent all day reading Harry Potter and finished the seventh volume this afternoon. D was briefly in bed, but eventually jumped out to use the potty, then decided he wasn't sleepy. He's playing dominos with his dad right now.

Goldberg looks at the bright side

The new National Review came this morning and I just had a quick look at Jonah Goldberg's short piece, which is devoted to the bright side of recession. Here are a couple of quick quotes:

One pleasant side effect of watching Barack Obama "rescue" us from an unstable and inegalitarian 21st-century prosperity and deliver us to a sustainable and renewable 13th-century model is that Americans will focus on the important things, like family and faith, and the smaller pleasures of life, such as meals around the table and the joy of hunting and killing squirrels and other local, hitherto overlooked comestibles.

...Who can do anything but rejoice at the news that people who, just months ago, could never afford to be your neighbors can now purchase the most expensive home on the block for half of what you paid for yours?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

San Antonio

The four of us are going to be spending a couple nights in historic San Antonio later this spring. Any suggestions for places to eat or things to do, dear readers?

Sick again

After school, C seemed warm and lethargic and complained that her tummy had been hurting, so I hustled her up to the school office for a temperature check. She was at 101 degrees Fahrenheit, so we skipped ballet and we'll skip CCD (the parish religious education class). We're home now and I let her have the seventh Harry Potter several days earlier than I had planned.

Hide and seek

D and I are playing hide and seek. D still being three, I count as hiding if I creep off to the living room and lie on the sofa. I find him pretty quickly just by listening for giggles and heavy breathing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Flags of Texas

C is coloring a worksheet that shows the six flags that have flown over Texas, starting with the Spanish and the French.

Monday, March 2, 2009

French bread

Last night, my husband noticed that we were short on store bread. He set up the bread machine and thanks to the bread machine timer, we woke to fresh baked bread this morning. My husband used a French bread recipe but substituted whole wheat flour for 1/3 of the bread flour. I believe he also set the crust color to light, in deference to the kids' preference for a less crusty crust. It was a very successful loaf, with a finer grain than our usual French bread, but much moister than the whole wheat bread that I've made in the past. It cut very well, too.

Shooting star

C just made a shooting star with a flaming tail from two paper plates.

Wheelbarrow

D is building a wheelbarrow using a baby wipe box, two paper plates, and some masking tape.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Harry Potter VI

C finished the sixth Harry Potter today. She reports that she skimmed over the scary parts. She's slightly feverish and will be staying home from school tomorrow, but I will try to save the seventh volume for spring break.

Potty training update XX

D earned a red and gold dragon!