Wednesday, March 31, 2010

No school for C this week

Here's what's been happening:
  • C is still a little feverish, so she won't go to school tomorrow. There's no school Friday because of Easter break, so she won't be going to school until Tuesday, at the earliest. We have a big day planned in Dallas Saturday, so she needs to get better fast.
  • My husband and C and D finished a Mars Rover 3D papercraft, which is now on display in D's room. C's Mars Rover is almost finished. The link is to an archived page of paper models of spacecraft, and loads very slowly. Before bedtime, my husband and D were watching some NASA videos from here, showing a Tet walker, which is a non-wheeled space rover. If you or your kids like that sort of thing, get over there.
  • C got her Spyology book in the mail and brought me a huge pile of sixteen dollar bills to pay for it.
  • D had an Easter egg hunt at school today.
  • I went to the gym tonight and did 4 miles at an incline. The ring was destroyed and Sam and Frodo are recuperating in Minas Tirith. I started LOTR at the beginning of October 2009 and slowed down quite a bit in The Two Towers and over Christmas break, but I'm just a few hours from the end now, not counting the undoubtedly interminable background material in the appendices.
  • Tonight, C did 16 pages of her Kumon 2nd grade Geometry & Measurement workbook, covering measurement, scales and money. She's very close to the end. She's saving up to buy a small (and in my opinion overpriced) fruitcake in a tin from Collin St. Bakery.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Darth Vader on a basketball court

Here are a few things that have been happening:
  • My husband and I got up at 3 AM to check on C. A good thing, because her temperature was 104. I dosed her with Motrin. By the morning, she was down to 102, and later in the day, it was just under 101. I'm hoping it will moderate further tomorrow and she can go back to school on Thursday. D seems fine, but we are unsure whether he'll be able to go to school tomorrow. The past several days, with the help of our new Netflix/Wii setup where you can choose a movie and watch it almost instantly in very good quality, the kids have been setting new records for screen time, but C has been very sick. The past two days, she's been slipping off to take naps, which she never, never does normally.
  • My husband finished reading the first Harry Potter to D tonight and they recently finished Texas in Bloom: A Wildflower Guide for Children. It's not clear what his next bedtime book will be, although C is lobbying for Henry Winterfeld's Detectives in Togas. "Don't be surprised if it never mentions elevators," C told D, explaining that the book is set in ancient Rome. At bedtime, I read the kids a few pages of From Seed to Plant, but that's a picture book, and will hold us only so long.
  • D complains of nightmares. He was telling my husband of a recent one, which involved Darth Vader on a basketball court. Fortunately, D was able to follow his dad's advice and take control of the dream and Darth Vader started fighting storm troopers.
  • At some point today (perhaps in response to an inaccurate book), D said indignantly, "Mushrooms aren't plants!"


I've gotten some good deals on a variety of magazine subscriptions (mostly about $1 an issue) and I have a few thoughts:
  • I've forgotten which magazine is the offender, but have you ever noticed the sort of advertising that runs next to elaborate gourmet recipes in magazines? That's right, ads for frozen or food and other dinner-in-a-bag products. Hmmmm.
  • I've decided not to renew my subscription to Sunset. I like their home design books, but all the high-budget travel stuff in the magazine was starting to tick me off.
  • Quite unexpectedly, I really like House Beautiful. I don't actually like most of the rooms shown in the magazine (too busy, too cluttered, too painfully elegant), but I appreciate the interviews that describe the thought process behind each project.
  • I've been subscribing to Mother Earth News for something like a year, and it's advertisers are an interesting contrast to the advertisers in many other magazines. I ripped out a page from the current issue and here are the advertisers: a portable saw mill, a cone seeder, a chicken coop, a machine for making molding and tongue and groove, a mini bulldozer and a chipper shredder. If anything, the advertisers are more hard-core than the articles. MEN has got to get a new graphic designer, though.
  • I'm a recent subscriber to ReadyMade, which is a somewhat more urban, younger, Stuff-White-People-Like version of Mother Earth News. NTTAWT. Their design is hit-or-miss (like an ottoman made out of tires in the previous issue), but their projects are fun, but usually without getting as in-depth as MEN. There was one item from the current issue that worried me: "Forage for Mushrooms and Greens." They recommend some books on identification, but I'm not sure that that's adequate.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Training wheels, etc.

The kids are home sick today and my husband has taken D to the pediatrician. D's tummy has been bothering him for a couple of days, and we want to hear that he's fine. Like the hospital, the pediatrician has moved from its central city location to a location on the outskirts of town. Getting there on the interstate is currently above my skill level.
UPDATE: My husband just called and the doctor thinks D is fine, but we need to watch him. C just has a little fever.

Last night, C finished E. Nesbit's The New Treasure Seekers and my husband took the training wheels off D's bike at his request. Last night, C was making paper fans and small mummy cutouts, saying that she was going to do a China and Egypt giveaway.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Castle cards

I oversaw some high-level negotiations this evening. Here's how it went down:
  • D pointed out that C is not using her Klutz castle-building cards and said that he would like them.
  • C pointed out that she paid $15 for them.
  • I observed that things are worth less when they are used. I said that if I were selling the cards on Craigslist, I might only get $1 or $2.
  • C pointed out that this isn't Craigslist.
Eventually, we agreed on $10 as a fair price, and the money and cards changed hands. Around bedtime, I suggested to D that he could do castle-building while his dad read Harry Potter. D liked that idea and spontaneously decided that he would be building Hogwarts. Over the course of the day, C had gotten very flush with cash, so my husband ordered Spyology for her, on the understanding that she will pay for it when it comes.

I tend to be pretty watchful about business dealings between the kids, because D tends to need protection. (There is a favorite story in my family about my grandpa and how he persuaded his younger sister to trade her dimes for his nickels, seeing as how nickels are bigger.) What was interesting about tonight's transaction was that D initiated it himself and he negotiated very capably for a 5-year-old dealing with an older sibling.


One more thing about today's workbook spree. I asked C, "You gonna stop now?" "Noooo," she replied. "I'm going to go until I reach the end of the book." She didn't literally do that, but 16 pages is pretty good.

Also, my husband tells me that C was able to figure out 7 X 7. All by herself, she added 7 X 5 (which she knew) and 7 X 2 (which she also knew).

The kids are now watching Jetsons: The Movie, and I am starting to think of going off for an afternoon nap.

Self-esteem and Kumon

C says, "Yesterday I made a poster that said 'I'm a winner.' Then I threw it away."

My husband has just set up our Wii so that we can get Netflix movies instantly. Netflix's "Watch Instantly" feature has a smaller film catalogue, so using the Wii for Netflix gives more choices and better picture quality. We don't have cable at home, so we're going to have to monitor the situation and make sure that there is a quid pro quo before we let kids watch anything. There is a password. Anyway, today's quid pro quo was that I asked C to do two pages of her Kumon 2nd grade Geometry & Measurement workbook. Once I got her working, she got excited about it. We do have a financial incentive system going for the workbooks. C did 16 pages of the workbook, which works out to $4 total. That probably sounds totally out of hand, but in my defense, the kids have to buy their own glue sticks, glitter glue, tracing paper, construction paper, Scotch tape, drawing paper, other art supplies, and most books and toys, and they each have a container where they save up for charitable donations. There was a time when they would spend their money almost immediately, but lately they've been extremely conservative. Both of their piggy banks are near bursting. Anyway, today in her Kumon workbook, C worked with clocks, inches and feet, feet and yards and centimeters.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dominoes and Jumpstart

We ran our monthly board game club after school as planned. I need to tweak a few things before next month's meeting: 1) get a roster with names from the office 2) buy name tags 3) choose a game. Today my husband introduced a simple version of dominoes, which the kids played with great enthusiasm. We also reminded parents to send snacks in our reminder email, shortened our meeting time at a principal's suggestion and brought several chess sets. I get the feeling that Texans have dominoes in the blood. There are more variations of dominoes than I would ever have expected: Texas 42, Chicken Foot and Mexican Train. I'm not totally sure what game we should try next month. Scrabble and Monopoly are possibilities, but I'm not sure they'd be fun, since they both have a tendency to drag on. Our multi-game sets include Mancala, which my neighbor with the beagle says is very fun. As we draw closer to the end of the year, I'm wondering whether we should do the board game club next year. I had some frisky big kids (some 5th or 6th grade boys), plus a sniffly chess player who was having a hard time accepting the rule about how your move is final once you remove your hand, plus C's wanting to make domino runs rather than play dominoes, plus a hungry big boy who was about to poach a smaller boy's Doritos, plus a little boy squishing a ziploc full of dandelion leaves in water. Nobody was persistently bad, but there was plenty of drama. Fortunately, my husband and another dad were there and we had enough domino sets for everybody. So, will we do it again next year? I don't know. C wants us to, and we would be able to reuse games from this year.

In other news, C is almost finished with her Jumpstart 2nd grade. I was happier with what she was working on this evening. She needed
to identify adverbs, identify correctly and incorrectly formed plurals, and do some multiplication and division. C has the adverbs and plurals down cold, but there are some soft spots in her multiplication and division.

I'll leave you with today's D quote. D says, "I don't know what 'exist' means."

Visitors and dominoes

Yesterday, my SIL (hello K!) and a baby nephew were in town. Nephew has the classic round cheeks and pudgy grasping paws of babies in our family. He is on the verge of walking and will be turning one in a couple of months. D and I took them to Starbucks, the children's museum, then we picked up C from school, went briefly to the zoo, and then met my husband for dinner. SIL brought a crocheted elephant and a crocheted elephant (very, very cute) for the kids. SIL flew via DFW and recommends the DFW USO, which seems very well-suited for the needs of military families with children.

We're doing dominoes for our board game club after school today. There's supposed to be a new weekly chess club at school for older children, as well as a gardening club run by a middle school science teacher (who I am getting to be a big fan of). The school is less than a decade old, so the extracurriculars are still developing. For a long time, the only extracurriculars were organized sports, but that is changing. The school also is finally up to 10th grade and will be adding 11th and 12th as the kids get older. I'm very curious to see how the administration will deal with the logistical issues involved in creating a high school on such a small scale (220+ students divided among 12 grades). I am interested in having the kids do a math or science club in a few years, and my husband and I may need to take a leadership role in helping that happen.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday notes

Here are a few things that have happened:
  • D likes my manual treadmill. I hate it, but recognize that it's good for me. It's possible to set it up so that you can do Wii jogging while using the treadmill. That is a lot more high impact than jogging on carpet in your living room, which feels pretty silly.
  • C has been reading E. Nesbit's The New Treasure Seekers.
  • D asked his dad to draw waves. His dad complied and D said, "That's not how C does it, but that's all right."
  • I sent out an email for the walking group I am supposed to be in charge of and did about a 2-mile walk this morning, right after the kids left for school. I went to the gym after that and did about 40 minutes on the treadmill. I wasn't good for much after that beyond some laundry and a nap, but exercise does seem to keep my appetite down pretty well. An old walking partner from a couple years back has a new baby and there's a good chance that she too will want to start walking regularly again soon.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"Traditional" math

C was a bit stumped by a math trick she had learned at school tonight when she was doing her Singapore Math homework. So was I, until my husband explained what you need to do. Here are some examples:

$4.30 - $.99=

$2.20 - $.95=

$8.25 - $5.95=

The trick is that you add the same quantity to both numbers in the problem, so that we are now subtracting friendly whole numbers, rather than multi-digit scary monsters. Like this:

$4.31 - $1= (we added $.01 to each)

$2.25 - $1= (we added $.05 to each)

$8.30 - $6= (we added $.05 to each)

I did not do this sort of thing ever in our vanilla elementary school math in the early 1980s. I'm not familiar with the reform math textbooks, but from what I hear, there may be analogues to this Singapore approach in the reform math books.

Tuesday notes

Here's some of what's been happening today:
  • My cilantro is starting to come up.
  • D says, "Mom, I know how to read the word 'shampoo.'" We read one Bob phonics book today. D is somewhat resistant to reading the Bob books, but reading one a day won't hurt him.
  • D wants to have his training wheels taken off his bike.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Monday notes

The kids got off to school. Here are a few notes as to what's been happening:
  • C has finished The Little Prince and is working on E. Nesbit's The Treasure Seekers. I never really got into E. Nesbit as a kid. I don't know what was wrong with me. Sample quote from The Treasure Seekers: "It only takes four hours and a quarter now to get from London to Manchester, but I should not think anyone would if they could help it."
  • My husband and I have been plotting against the kids' My First Leappad (from Leapfrog). We have both that and the Leappad (which is for bigger kids). There are books and cartridges that you attach to the Leappad and then use a stylus to have the book talk and to do interactive activities. We've had them for 4 or 5 years and neither has ever worked properly, but the My First Leappad has been specially useless. I tossed out the My First Leappad books and cartridges last night and my husband took the My First Leappad to bits, keeping the screws, a speaker, a battery cartridge and a small cushion for his purposes.
  • D told me this morning, "If you asked me what ten plus twenty is, I would say thirty." C has been working on him.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday notes

Here are some things that have happened recently:
  • My husband and kids did not make it to the car wash yesterday, but they did everything else on that impressive errand list from yesterday.
  • Our across-the-street neighbors have bought a house and are moving out. We will have two empty houses facing us from across the street, and rumor has it that our neighbors to the right on our side of the street are also buying a house. Even without these recent developments, there are about 6 empty houses in the neighborhood, only one on our street so far, fortunately.
  • As expected, C has been finding giving up chocolate for Lent difficult. We have been allowing her to commute that to two Hail Maries.
  • C is reading The Little Prince.
  • D hops forward on one foot very impressively. I've seen other maneuvers from him that make me think it a pity that we don't have a Cossack dance troupe in our part of the world. Given his immediate ancestry, his coordination is amazing. Soccer?
  • We went to a birthday party down the street earlier this afternoon. It was a purely neighborhood party, involving representatives of four families. The kids played Twister, Ring-Around-a-Rosie and London Bridge is Falling Down.
  • My husband's retirement plan sent him one of those little booklets. I dipped into it and discovered that if you had invested $10,000 in the stock fund in December 1999, you'd have made 0.10% on it over the course of the next 10 years. Investing $10,000 in their global equities account would yield negative 1.25% over 10 years.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Change of plan

The plan for today was that C would go to a horseback riding lesson in the morning and then we'd VROOM to the Dallas Zoo and hang out with OK-based friends for the afternoon. That did not happen. The ranch canceled C's lesson because of the expected cold front and we woke up to a big thunderstorm this morning, temperatures in the high 30s, and a cancellation email from our friends up north who were dealing with sleet and snow. Yesterday was in the high 70s here, but that's the way it goes.

I didn't accomplish a whole bunch today, but I got the kids new library books from the college library in the AM. C is now reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and I expected she'll be done by breakfast tomorrow. The college's children's collection contains many dismal and forgettable titles from the 70s and 80s, but I'm trying to pick out the good stuff. I'll eventually start using the book lists that are found in the back of some gifted books. D has been asking for some books on mold and mildew. I went through the children's plant section and wasn't able to find anything specifically on mold and mildew, the lone fungi book from the 1960s didn't have enough pictures, but I did get a number of plant books and a book on mushrooms. We're going to have to try the public library downtown. (I'm not super excited about driving there, but it just occurred to me that I can park at the kids' school and walk both ways. I tend to forget how small downtown is.) Later in the day, my husband took the kids out to do errands. They got gasoline, went through a car wash, went to the ATM, dropped off donations, got ice cream (we got gift cards at a birthday party), went to the cafeteria for dinner, and I mostly took a nap.

The papaya was disappointing. It had a nice soft texture, but it smelled like old sweat socks. Maybe it was overripe? Maybe they're supposed to smell like sweat socks?

UPDATE: C just popped out of her room to hand me Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Grandparents' Day

I just got back from 5.5 hours at school for Grandparents' Day. I chatted up dozens of people, drank lots of coffee and ate mini-scones, went to lunch twice, visited two classrooms, saw C's impressive history notebook (which covers high points from the Fertile Crescent to Rome) fended off a headache and listened to two recitations. I snuck home after that. It's been very fun (and I will have to make sure to do it again), but I am fried. Hot lunch today was burgers, fries, and Dr. Pepper floats. I sent the kids peanut butter and jelly today, as usual (I had missed the deadline for March hot lunches). C (who does not even actually like hamburgers) complained. I pointed out to her that being Catholics, we don't eat meat on Fridays during Lent. C objected, saying that everybody else at school was Catholic, and they're having meat. (C does have a hard time believing that everybody isn't Catholic, even though she goes to a Protestant school.) A classmate overheard this conversation and a lively ecumenical dialogue ensued. "Protestants are free!!!" said the classmate. I got C a Dr. Pepper float, which was what she was probably thinking of, anyway. Here's some more stuff that has happened over the last couple of days:
  • Yesterday, D and I went grocery shopping. At his request, I bought a papaya. I have never bought a papaya before. I also got two pots of tulips, knowing that C would appreciate it.
  • Some surveyors have been lurking around our neighborhood.
  • Yesterday, I signed C up for a summer sewing camp and C and D up for two weeks of Red Cross swim classes. There are a few more things I want to sign the kids up for, but registration hasn't opened up yet for everything.
  • C finished Kipling's Just So Stories. She has read a pile of library books lately, but has turned up her nose at Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Little House on the Prairie and My Side of the Mountain.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day

Today both kids were in school for the first time in nearly two weeks. I took a lovely nap. After school, D asked to read Bob phonics books, but thought better of it. "Let's play kittens!" he told C. C made paper shamrocks and decorated the fabric from a broken umbrella (a great treasure to the kids). We went to dinner at the cafeteria, where the staff had set up for St. Patrick's Day karaoke. Both students and staff sang. Somewhat after bedtime, C finished up Hugh Lofting's Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Doctor Dolittle, green onions and Zoob

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • C has finished Kenneth Grahame's The Reluctant Dragon and Hugh Lofting's The Story of Doctor Dolittle (1920). The latter has some un-PC spots due to the doctor's voyage to Africa (I gave C a little talk on the impropriety of certain language in the book), but the animal stories are very fun.
  • I planted some white Lisbon bunching onions today, in the hope of future harvests of green onions.
  • My husband and D built a Zoob scorpion, 6" long, with a beautiful curving tail. D also read two Bob phonics books today.

Monday, March 15, 2010


The kids are home today. D just made the generalized offer, "Wanna see my belly button through the Eyeclops?" C was not interested. She read about a quarter of the way through the complete stories of Hans Christian Andersen over spring break, but she's done for the moment with sad stories of naive little mermaids, vain emperors, poor little match girls, etc. She's just polished off Roald Dahl's The Witches (much better than the disappointing movie) and Dorothy Canfield Fisher's 1917 Understood Betsy (about a city girl who has to go live with country relatives). Little House on the Prairie is still unread and unwanted. I have put the first DVD of the TV series in our Netflix queue.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Here's some of what's been happening:
  • The kids have slightly elevated temperatures and have been behaving suspiciously (i.e. I found D curled up on the floor this morning with his face in the carpet), so we are deeming them sick. We decided to put off today's planned cave trip (the ubiquitous local limestone produces excellent caves) and the kids will probably stay home from school tomorrow.
  • C has finished Roald Dahl's Matilda and James and the Giant Peach.
  • I learned from neighbors that the college will not be demolishing half our neighborhood this summer, but is planning to do the whole thing summer 2011. Delay is good. The area will be left as a big grassy expanse until money comes in for a major construction project. Whatever happens, we're supposed to get six months notice. There's a change in administration due in a few months, and we plan to write a letter and to encourage our neighbors to write, too, explaining the importance of preserving a faculty/staff neighborhood when nearly all of the faculty lives 20 minutes away. I don't want to live in this particular house forever with its odd floorplan and foundation issues, but I would like to live in this neighborhood.
  • D told me this morning that he doesn't want to have baby books in his room, so he and my husband sorted his books and D filled a box with unwanted books (mainly board books).
  • I got my House Beautiful in the mail this week. They have an interview with a designer which I cannot leave unblogged. She has two little kids, a girl named Zinnia and a boy named Rascal. Zinnia is in the realm of the acceptable, given traditional flower names like Rose, Lily, Iris, Daisy, etc. Rascal, however, is a dog name.

Saturday, March 13, 2010


Here's some of what's been happening:
  • C finished A Bear Named Paddington.
  • I found an old to do list in C's handwriting. 1. Get Horchata 2. [Children's Museum] 3. Detectives in togas
  • We celebrated D's birthday with two families we know, for a guest total of two adults and six children. D's mint chocolate birthday cake had some problems exiting the cake pans (perhaps due to the large package of chocolate mint patties that went into the batter) and my husband spent a long time last night piecing it together and gluing it with lots of chocolate frosting. Fortunately, with enough chocolate frosting, anything is possible. I put a WALL-E candle on the cake, and in front of the WALL-E, I stuck a sprig of mint to represent the green plant that he finds. The cake was very good with vanilla bean ice cream. Toward the end of the party, the kids all played Wii games. It's a surprisingly social activity.
  • My husband asked rhetorically, "What's a googol minus two?" C answered that it is 98 nines, followed by an 8.

Friday, March 12, 2010

C's library books

C has taken the bait. So far, she's read Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox and his Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, as well as Half-a-Ball-of-Kenki (a retold African folktale, the hero of which is a giant ball of cold cornmeal mush) and Mr. Popper's Penguins. I have just put A Bear Named Paddington in her room.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


Here's some of what's been happening:
  • D turned 5 today. My husband baked a carrot cake (using his traditional 50% whole wheat flour substitution) and I made frosting and frosted it. At D's request, we got him a couple of hard rubber balls as his gift. At his party on Saturday, we'll give him the Usborne Time Traveler. He also got cash gifts from his grandparents that we plan to put toward travel and summer activities (bead camp, swim lessons, a trip to see some local caves soon, Baltimore in the fall), plus we expect a couple more books from relatives. Don't cry for D. Our kids have enough toys.
  • D read three Bob phonics books.
  • I went to the main college library and got a heavy stack of books for C from the children's section. She burns through substantial books at about one a day, if she likes them. If, I said. C is unfortunately anti-library. She dislikes the idea of enjoying a book and then having to give it back. I have reassured her that if she really, really likes a book, I will get her a copy, and I have parked the pile of library books in her room.
  • My sister just bought a tractor!

Big numbers

My husband: What is a thousandth of a billion?

C: A million.

My husband: What is a millionth of a billion?

C: One thousand.

House for sale

I just got a mass email from one of the homeowners near campus that I leafleted a few weeks ago. They are selling their 3,000 sq. ft. 3BR/4BA custom home for $415k. That is way, way out of our range, but at least somebody is selling. It's been years since I've seen a listing.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Here's some of what happened today:
  • C's Egyptology book arrived in the mail and she paid $14 for it.
  • I weeded and cultivated about half my small garden and cut back the dead parts of the mint bush. The kids and I planted some gladiolus bulbs (it might be a bit late--the ones I planted two years ago are starting to come up), some carrots, some radishes, and some cilantro. As you may recall, I planted carrots and radishes last fall. I'm not exactly sure why, but that was not a success. The carrots barely even sprouted and the radishes never formed much of a root. Maybe it was too late in the year, maybe I should have watered more, maybe our soil is wrong, etc. That was disappointing, but I'm trying again. This will probably be our last garden at this house, since a year from now, we will most likely be getting ready to move.
  • My husband is busy building a telescope for a friend.
  • He made us pizza for dinner again. It's not super cheap compared to frozen or restaurant pizza, but it is possible to customize it for D, who dislikes tomato sauce.
  • C told me about a boy in her class who wanted to give up school for Lent.
  • This evening, C asked me what 6 X 600 is. I told her 3600. C replied that now she knows what 60 X 60 is, and hence how many seconds are in an hour. I asked C why she asked what 6 X 600 is, rather than 60 X 60, and she told me that she wanted to keep it simple.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Here's some of what has been happening:
  • C did a lot of biking.
  • We all watched West Bank Story, a 20-minute film parable about love and warring falafel stands.
  • C is crazy about protozoans, which they are studying at school.
  • C finished Winterfeld's Castaways in Lilliput. She doesn't want to read Little House on the Prairie.
  • D is a little bit sick.
  • For dinner, I made the braised chicken in yellow curry on page 43 of Nancie McDermott's Quick & Easy Thai, with some changes. I used green curry and added slices of ginger to the chicken as it was cooking, then served it with brown rice and broccoli and optional green onion slices. The ginger was a bit overwhelming, but I think everybody liked it. I'm starting to wonder what my version would be like with fried tofu.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday report

Here's some of what happened today:
  • I took the kids grocery shopping and wound up with a number of items I did not plan to get (Capri Sun juices, a half gallon of Blue Bell Blackberry Cobbler ice cream and a small bag of Cheetos).
  • My husband cleaned the garage.
  • C finished reading Henry Winterfeld's Mystery of the Roman Ransom (the follow-up to Detectives in Togas).
  • D did about 10 pages of the very repetitive and poorly thought-out Jumpstart preschool workbook. (This evening I bought a Kumon Numbers 1-30 workbook for D and I am planning to throw away several no-name workbooks that I've never much liked.)
  • C cashed in 35 points and took us to Chick-Fil-A for dinner. The kids spent what must have been an hour in the play area.
  • C did one page of her Kumon Writing Words workbook.
  • The kids played car wash.

Spring break begins

Spring break has begun. For a week or so, I had been holding in reserve a copy of Henry Winterfield's Detectives in Togas, a children's mystery set in ancient Rome. I gave it to C yesterday and it was all finished by the early afternoon. The college library has the sequel, which is nice.

In other educational news, C got to play Crayon Physics on the computer last night (my husband got the game very, very cheaply during a special). It's a fun but very hard game where you solve simple physics problems with tools that you draw on the screen (ramps, boxes, pendulums). Wendy, your kids might like it. There are a number of similar games out there now, which I'm glad to see, since I feel that some 30 years into the computer revolution, educational software is still pretty crude.

The cafeterias are closed and we are fending for ourselves again. Last night, we had ham, sweet potatoes, and a bread pudding with craisins and vanilla rum sauce.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Re-Forming Gifted Education XI

We are now on Chapter 10 of Karen Rogers' Re-Forming Gifted Education: "Developing Your Child's Plan and What Happens Next."
  • Rogers begins the chapter with the story of Marcelo. Marcelo is very talented in math and science, but struggles with composition because of handwriting issues. Marcelo is skipped into a close-knit sixth grade class, where he suffers a lot of hazing and gets into trouble when he retaliates. Marcelo withdraws socially and academically. He was clearly unhappy with his situation, and the school stated they would do nothing to accomodate his need for challenge until he could get his "behavior" in order. They were not convinced he was "that bright." In their words, Marcelo had gotten off "on the wrong foot" in this school, and they felt it was Marcelo's own responsibility to fix it.
  • If one considers the theory behind the current "middle school philosophy," the school's attitude and response to Marcelo and his parents is not surprising. [...] In fact, they wanted Marcelo tested for the Emotional and Behaviorally Disordered class. They felt that until Marcelo got "on the right track" socially and emotionally, there was nothing they could or should do for his cognitive development. Their belief was that if he really had the potential to begin with, then his cognitive development would come at the appropriate time anyway. [This is pretty scary stuff, fellow parents.]
  • What went wrong?
  • Rogers says that to answer that question, we need to review the basic elements of an educational plan.
  • An educational plan must be detailed and specific about what steps will be taken to continue the gifted child's academic progress and talent development. These steps are the heart of the plan and should account for approximately 60-65% of the effort the school will expend on the gifted child's behalf. This piece of the plan--which contains decisions for instructional management and delivery, curriculum adaptation and acceleration--must be carefully spelled out. Further adaptation listed in the plan should indicate the name of the person who will be responsible for implementing and for monitoring its success. As a check and balance, each adaptation must be thoroughly explainable by a particular need of the student--that is, it must match or correspond to one or more specific cognitive functioning levels, learning strengths, learning preferences, personality characteristics/behaviors, in-school interests, or outside interests of the child.
  • The second aspect of the plan consists of actions to be taken that will help the child remediate any weaknesses or issues he may have. It is expected that this piece of the plan will account for no more than 10% of the child's work time in school. The "weaknesses" may be academic, social, emotional, or motivational, but a specific plan must be listed for working on each of these weaknesses. Marcelo, for example would need assistance in writing or learning keyboarding to use in writing essays.
  • The third aspect of the educational plan includes provisions for the psychological adjustment of the child. [...] No more than 5-10% of the school's effort would probably be expended in this area, but that small amount might make all the difference in whether a child proceeds without psychological damage in what often can seem like a hostile environment for gifted students.
  • The final aspect of the plan will help the child adjust socially, both with his intellectual peers as well as with his age peers. What co-curricular activities might the child be steered toward? Is there a pull-out program in which the child can participate? Marcelo's plan needed to include provisions for participation in a science or other club he would enjoy. [...] This part of the plan will account for approximately 20% of the child's activities, with the focus being more on providing time to interact with like-ability peers than with agemates.
  • Notice that nothing was planned for Marcelo's psychological or social adjustment, nor to remediate his writing difficulties.
  • I apologize for all this quoting, but this is really important stuff.
  • As the format in Table 10.1 shows, the educational plan should be proposed for one year and then be revisited to see if it is still "working" in each succeeding year. [Table 10.1 looks very useful. It has a line for each intervention category (academic progress, academic remediation, psychological adjustment, socialization) with a separate box on each line for such things as domain, frequency, who and how managed and assessment.]
  • Rogers gives us Marcelo's plan, which has the academic progress line filled in, but nothing filled in for remediation, psychological adjustment, and socialization. She invites us to fill in the blanks.
  • Marcelo's socialization will be helped most if he can be placed regularly with other bright students who are either from older grades or from his same grade. Encouragement to join the science club or the MathMasters team might be a start. Volunteer tutoring, such as with special needs students in the school, might be another avenue for him to feel socially accepted in the school.
  • Rogers invites us to write one more educational plan for another child before writing a plan for our own child.
  • Rogers explains how to set up a meeting with a principal, suggesting helpfully that parents "Suggest options that are not too costly."
  • Rogers sets out a list of "Shoulds" for schools. A gifted child should make 1.5 to 2 years of progress every year. Gifted kids should take the SAT and ACT in middle school. Gifted middle school students should be able to take high school classes, and gifted 9th and 10th graders should be able to take Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. Later in high school, gifted students should be able to get dual credit for college courses, both brick-and-mortar and online. Rogers thinks that gifted kids need a counselor to "look after" them. "It is estimated that the counselor's student load will be as great as all other counselors in the system, but that the nature of the work will be different--there will be more of a focus on academic advising, college counseling, career guidance, special opportunity recommendations for gifted students, etc."
  • Rogers also has a "Shoulds" list for parents. Research and save for college as soon as possible. Look into early college entrance. Make a book list for your family. Find intellectual peers for your child to enjoy activities with. Find volunteer opportunities for your child. Provide a wide range of activities "to develop hidden interests, but then allow your child to dig in deeply when an interest is found." "Help your child practice memory skills as home..." Include your child in decision-making that affects her.

We have now reached the end of Re-Forming Gifted Education.

Re-Forming Gifted Education X

I'm still working on Karen Rogers' Re-Forming Gifted Education. We are currently in Chapter 9, Out-of-School Provisions for Gifted Children. As always, I am highlighting and commenting rather than summarizing. Quotes are in bold or quotation marks.
  • Rogers said that as of 1995, "less than 3 cents of every $100 in education is spent on special programming for gifted and talented learning." That funding has been reduced, so that (as of 2002) "only 1 cent of $100" goes to gifted education.
  • "Gallagher (1965) estimated that it costs a school 27% more to fully educate a gifted child as compared to the costs to educate the general population of students." I suspect you can trim that number down with a couple of grade skips.
  • "Memory is increasingly important as a child progresses through elementary, middle, and high school and then goes on to college." Rogers recommends developing memory "through practice in wide and varied areas."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

D's dragon has a new house

I forgot to mention in the previous post that D has moved his stretchy purple dragon (named "Stretchy") into the pink Little People house. Stretchy has his head sticking out a window for convenient feeding. I heard D telling C, "Stretchy loves his pet. He loves it so much he isn't going to eat it."

Friday and Saturday

Here are some notes from the past couple days:
  • The kids love running on my new manual treadmill.
  • D was typing numbers on the computer: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 100, 200.
  • Spring break has arrived and the cafeterias are closed. Last night, my husband made pizza (our very first homemade one) with 50% whole wheat flour, Boboli pizza sauce, mozzarella, and mountains of mushrooms (it being a Lenten Friday). It was not notably cheaper than the commercial version, but it was very good. He used the bread machine to make the pizza dough.
  • The kids' 500-piece Zoob set arrived yesterday. So far, they are being very responsible about picking it up. D and his dad made a lovely suspension bridge.
  • My husband did our taxes today. We are getting a nice tax refund, which will go toward our house savings.
  • C went to the ranch today and rode the pony by herself with no lead rope. C gave them a picture that she had drawn of herself on the spotted pony. It is now tacked to the bulletin board in the office.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Thursday and Friday

We showed Devil's Playground (the Amish Rumspringa documentary) last night to four guests. This morning, my husband and I made a run across town to an HEB with a bakery and we got cupcakes for D's school b-day party. With getting ready for our party last night, there was no time to make cupcakes. I got a dozen sports themed ones and six Spiderman cupcakes (three with spider rings, three with Spiderman rings) for a dozen kids. You see the problem. The kids eventually took the shortage of the Spiderman ring cupcakes pretty well, but I was sweating it for a couple of minutes. There's a graduate potluck tonight that we may or may not go to. We're also heading into spring break and will probably celebrate D's birthday two more times (once on the actual day, once on the Saturday). We've had so much illness this spring that all of this social activity is very unfamiliar.

I've been working on closets, which at least in my case, seems to be the key to getting a handle on the house. It's very important to know what we actually have. I've been through the kitchen cabinets, the shelves over the washer and dryer, and my kitchen pantry and I've scrubbed out the fridge with vinegar. For last night's party, I had a pineapple, a glass dish of nectarines and mangoes and bananas on a metal stand grouped together on the counter between the kitchen and the dining room. It doesn't sound like much, but I think it's very pretty. I've been reading Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan's Apartment Therapy and he recommends buying fresh flowers every week. I can't really justify the expense of buying fresh flowers regularly, but I can totally imagine buying a pineapple every week.
Aside from aesthetics, our basic issue is that we are going to be moving sometime within about 12 months (barring a reprieve from the college), so we need to go through all of our possessions and sift them.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thursday morning

We had some excitement this morning when D shut his right pinky in the hinge of a step ladder. It left a deep indentation on his finger, but he says he doesn't need ice. We will continue to monitor the situation. We're showing Devil's Playground (the Amish documentary), so we have a bunch of important stuff to do today.

D and C are saving up points for a big Zoob set (that's a jointed construction set, good for building moving figures). C has had her 80 points for some time, but D just finished up his 80 this morning (it's an $80 set, which is why our price in points had to be so astronomical). D read the 4 first Bob phonics books to me, and he did it very well (he's been through them a couple times already). When C was little, I didn't allow her to repeat reading phonics books, thinking that it would just foster memorization and fake "reading," but I've loosened up with D. As you go on, phonics books get rapidly harder and harder, so I think it is worthwhile to do repeat readings of the easier books to build up those reading muscles. This morning, we had only one clear example of fake "reading." In set 1, book 3, there's a picture of Dot admiring herself in a mirror. The text says, "Dot has a hat." D read that confidently as "Dot has a magnifying glass."

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

No money for donuts

I was looking at C's assignment notebook today and discovered a note for me from C. "You didn't send money for donut day!"

I've just started working on summer stuff. So far, I'm looking at two weeks of Red Cross swim classes for both kids, a couple weeks of gifted camps for C, bead camp for both kids, a riding camp for C and one week of sewing camp for C (they'll work with sewing machines). C did swimming, beading, and gifted camps last summer and would have liked to do more beading and swimming. It sounds like a lot, but only the gifted camps are full-day. The rest are either half-day or just an hour a day. That's fine with me. While long vacations can drag on, even a little bit of organized activity can provide inspiration for independent play for the rest of the day. There are some other things that I'd like the kids to try eventually, but we have a lot of summers ahead of us. There will also probably be a trip to British Columbia in there somewhere.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


D asked me, "Do you spell "wonder" W-U-N-D-R?" He had it all written out in magnetic letters on a cookie sheet.

D has lately been having a lot of electronic time, and I've been meaning to work on that (I personally tend to go into power-saving mode when the kids are home a lot). Today he did about 10 pages of counting exercises and number writing in a pre-K workbook. His counting is excellent, but he needs help forming some numbers.

Re-Forming Gifted Education IX

I'm still wrapping up Chapter 8, which is "More Program Provisions in School." Quoted material will be in bold or quotation marks. I'm discussing, rather than summarizing.
  • Gifted learners tend to make connections between new and prior learning more frequently than other children [...]
  • This would certainly support the necessity of enrichment experiences for gifted learners that incorporate multiple disciplines.
  • Linking different disciplines will engage the interests of students in the exposure experiences. For example, a child like Maria knows all there is to know about the history of the Civil War in 1861-1865 in the United States. Through exposure enrichment, she links the aftermath of the war to the Civil Rights movment of the 1960s and affirmative action in the 1970s, as she connects with sociology, business, government, and current events. Her interests broaden as a result.
  • Rogers gives a chart showing how Maria's interest in the Civil War can be turned into art (wartime photography), social studies (biographies of major figures), literature (Red Badge of Courage), science (improvements in battlefield medicine), and mathematics ("How statistics of troop strengths and war casualties were kept and calculated"). It all looks pretty good, except perhaps with the exception of the math, which may be more interesting than it sounds. You'd have to be pretty on-the-ball to keep up with Maria as a teacher, and Maria would be one of many gifted students, perhaps each with their special interest that needs to be developed and expanded.
  • Rogers thinks that gifted children should read the Great Books, as well as biographies of famous people.
  • Rogers suggests that gifted children should work on "real world problems." In implementation, the results of "real world" projects can be disappointing, if not silly (my thoughts, not hers). However, "Maker (1983) suggested that "real world" products should be evaluated by "real audiences," that is, experts in the fields that incorporate such products." This is very good.

Monday, March 1, 2010

For MH

This is for you, MH: "Olympic Drinking Games: Vancouver Gets the Gold".

Monday morning

D brought me some magnetic letters and asked if you spell "lip" L-I-P. Then he went over to the fridge, looked at a Dave Ramsey magnet and asked if S-A-V-E spells "save."

My husband took the car to Walmart for a new battery. For months now, it has been wheezing when we start it. "Ruh-ruh-ruh-ruh, ruh-ruh-ruh, ruh-ruh-ruh, VROOM!" We wanted to get a new battery before we send it in for its 75,000 maintenance over spring break. So far, so good.

Re-Forming Gifted Education VIII

I am continuing to blog Karen Rogers' Re-Forming Gifted Education. We're finishing up Chapter 8: More Program Provisions in School.

  • Dr. Brian Start of the University of Melbourne has spent the last 10 years measuring the comparative learning rates of children of varying abilities and has concluded that the learning rate of children above 130 IQ (gifted) is approximately eight times faster than for children below 70 IQ (mildly mentally impaired) (Start, 1995). [The difference in learning speed is undoubtedly much less dramatic for children with a smaller IQ gap, but this really calls into question whether inclusion is a good idea. I would not, for instance, advise that anybody train with a running partner who runs either eight times faster or eight times slower. For either the faster or the slower running partner, it's going to be a frustrating experience.]
  • Professor Julian Stanley and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins have suggested that mathematically precocious students are significantly more likely to retain science and mathematics content accurately when it has beeen presented two to three times faster than the "normal" pace of a traditional mixed-ability class (Stanley, 1993). [Have you ever noticed that it's actually more tiring to walk very slowly than to walk briskly at your normal pace?]
  • Further, Stanley has found that gifted students are significantly more likely to forget or mislearn science and mathematics content when they are forced to review and drill with it more than two to three times.
  • The same may hold true for other academic areas. Rogers suggests compacting (removing unnecessary repetition) the curriculum for gifted children.
  • Sternberg (1985) has labeled gifted learners as "decontextualists" in the way they process information. In other words, when they acquire new information, they tend to chunk it in large "contexts" and then store it that way in long-term memory. When asked to retrieve such information to use in solving a math problem, for example, gifted children can quickly pull out the large chunk and retrieve the solution, but may be unable to break down the larger chunk to tell how they came to the solution. This certainly has implications for the need to restructure how gifted students acquire information. It suggests that they are most likely to benefit from learning the whole of a concept initially, with subsequent practice thereafter to help them see the parts of this whole. [I suspect this is highly area and child-specific. I have seen something very similar with C in the way that she assimilated vast amounts of information about sea life a year or two ago, but I don't think that it is true of her in other academic areas.]
  • Rogers suggests open-ended projects and guided discovery for gifted children.
  • Dr. James Campbell (1988) also found in studying "award winning" mathematics, such as Math Olympiad, that problem-oriented independent study, when regularly scheduled, was the factor that each of these programs had in common. In most cases, no textbook or exams were given; rather, each student was assigned stimulating open-ended problems for homework. [My husband got a lot out of math competitions when he was younger. However, there are a few points in this paragraph that give me chills. While it is true that many excellent courses have no textbook, it is not true that not using a textbook will make a course excellent. One thing that the academic trainwrecks that I have known have in common is the lack of a textbook, or the presence of a textbook that was written or is in the process of being written by the instructor. Maybe you as a teacher are the miraculous exception, but maybe you're not. Any instructor who goes with this free-form approach has to be very organized and know their subject inside out.]
  • Freeman (1985) and Van Tassel-Baska (1985) have argued that gifted children, by their nature, want to "know all there is about a subject" and therefore "crave depth."
  • Bloom's longitudinal study on talent development in young children (1982) pointed out that a key to later eminence in a talent field was whether the child with talent was provided with frequent "benchmarks of progress," such as an exhibition or competition.

There's still a bit more to Chapter 8, but we are closing in.