Monthly Archives: February 2015

Day 137: Sight words

It was a sparkly winter day today.


Boy got up early, early and read a book before the rest of us were even awake. But then the kids quickly had toast and I had a cup of coffee, and then we all got dressed and went outside first thing around 8am to play. A lot of the kids’ warm things were wet from the wash, so I had to get a little creative, but we managed. It was a little cold, but beautiful.

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I stayed outside and played with the dog and just hung out for an hour or so. The fairy house is still going strong, as you can see.

Fairy house.

Girl dug out this little cat from the snow and made a snow friend for her.

Yard cat and snow friend.
Yard cat and snow friend.

I went in at 9:30 to make pancakes and the kids stayed outside until 10, then came in and ate. I found the dog sitting and looking sadly at Girl’s sunny daybed, which was covered in doll clothes from the night before. I cleared them off (with Girl’s permission) so Dog could take a little after-play nap in her favorite spot.


After breakfast, the kids played until 11. Girl asked if we could get out her Calico Critters, and she dressed them and set up a house on the floor. She said this about her Hedgehog family:

“Every day they celebrate Day of the Dead. Every day they put water, salt, and masa together in a bowl, and they pray. And they don’t have a TV, because they’re having lots of fun without a TV, like we do. And you know who decided that? The kids did. And they’re having lots of fun in a little, but very cozy house. And they’re fine with their little house, because they have lots of stuff to do in their little house.”


At 11 I sat down with Boy and did some math (addition with renaming), which he had no problem with. Then we had a snack before practicing violin at 1pm (per yesterday’s agreement). Boy started to freak out a little mid-lesson, but pulled himself together and played great throughout. After violin Boy did his forensics homework with no problems while Girl made a birthday card for her friend, and wrote all the words herself. Then I jumped in the shower while they ate.

After this late lunch the kids got warm things on again and went outside to play for another hour and a half, then came in for baths and dinner. While I was making dinner I heard Boy reading to Girl: he’d found an easy reader that had the word ‘he’ in it a lot. ‘He’ is Girl’s second sight word. Whenever they came to a ‘he’ Girl would shout it out excitedly, and Boy read the rest of the words to her.

And so I think to myself, we are so far from perfect (and it will always be that way) but some things are very good.

Day 136: Snow castle

It snowed last night.

The first thing I noticed when I took the dog out this morning was that a big branch on the little live oak out front was bent down almost to the ground under the weight of snow.


Whoa! I said aloud.

The yard looked beautiful.


But I went back inside for breakfast and coffee. Papa was making pancakes. The kids wanted to go outside right after they ate, and I needed to borrow our next door neighbors’ shovel to clear the sidewalk and front walkway. It was still snowing a little, and I asked the kids to be very careful not to disturb the bushes because the birds were all sheltering. We have a lot of birds that live in our yard year round, and some winter visitors. When it’s nice, you can hear them all the way down the block.

Before I got the kids all dressed, though, I took a kettle of hot water out back to pour on a couple of trouble spots on the roof, where ice can build up and then prevent melting water from running off, making it back up under the trim and into the walls. It happened during a storm last year.

After I poured the water, I set the kettle down in the snow and took a look around the back yard. A big limb fell off one of the pecan trees overnight, and the lower limbs of the magnolia were weighed down to the ground. It looked pretty magical underneath. I told Girl when I went back in that there was a snow castle out back for them to play in.

Under the magnolia
Under the magnolia


I helped them get all dressed in their warm things and they went out back with Papa and the dog. Papa wanted to build a snow fort while I shoveled.

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Everyone stayed out until almost noon, then came in for popcorn and hot chocolate while Papa went out to the store. Papa came home with snacks, supplies, and burritos and tacos from Moe’s for lunch.

Boy really wanted to go back outside after lunch, but I told him he needed to copy his George Washington sentences and practice violin first. Unfortunately, those two things took several hours to do, and Boy had a total meltdown during violin. I also had kind of a meltdown. Papa talked to Boy for a while alone in my room, and then we made up, and came up with a plan to try to have violin go better.

On the up side, this is the third set of biography sentences Boy has needed to copy, and there were no eraser wars this time. It took a long time, but the writing itself was far less emotionally fraught this time around.

But there was still light after all of that, and it had even started snowing again a little, so the kids went back outside. Papa and I stayed inside cleaning up a little, every once in a while yelling through a window to tell the kids to stop doing something or another. Some days Boy and Girl need almost no supervision. Today was not one of those days!

We didn’t have dinner really, just more snacks (carrot sticks, apples slices, hard boiled eggs, tortilla chips and popcorn) and then Boy started reading again. Girl wanted Papa to play guitar to her and sing, but Boy just wanted to finish reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (which he started yesterday afternoon; he was reading a lot off and on last night and today).  So Papa sang to Girl in my room and then read her a book, and Boy got in bed in his room and finished Charlie in an hour or so, but then still wanted me to read to him.

So I did, from a book of Mexican animal tales, about a brave and patient sea turtle who helped create the world.

Day 135: Corn tortillas

Today was a pretty good day.

After breakfast this morning the kids were making Q-tip and pipe cleaner dolls and some other things for a bit, then Girl got dressed to play outside in the fresh snow. Boy stayed inside to make dough for corn tortillas, then joined Girl outside while the dough rested. They stayed out there for an hour or more. When they finally came in, Boy made tortillas for everyone for lunch.

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After that we went to the library so I could pick up holds, and both kids picked out some books on their own to read.

When we got home Boy started reading Charlie and the Chocolate factory until it was time to get ready for ballet, and I fed him dinner before he left. While they were gone, I wrote a chapter of Girl’s musk-ox story for her, and we did a couple of other little things together.

When Papa and Boy got back, Boy was completely immersed in his book until it was time for bed, and kept reading in bed, too.

Tonight it’s going to snow more, so Papa will be home with us yet again.

Day 134: Co-op

Today was only our second day at co-op this semester; last week was cancelled for snow, and the week before that Girl had a fever.

We all had a great day. It was my first day helping out in Girl’s Play and Learn class for the first two hours of the day, mostly working with one child who needs some extra attention. I loved being in Girl’s class with her, seeing all of the things they do. It was a little tough for her having me there but paying so much attention to another child. At circle time, she silently pulled her little rug square next to me, where I was sitting with the other child on my lap. Girl curled up into a little ball on her rug square, forehead to the floor, not saying a word. Maybe she was trying not to cry. I rubbed her back while we listened to the stories, and then she seemed better. She told me later that it made her a little sad that I was paying so much attention to someone else, but I explained that that was my job in her class, to help this friend of hers.

In the morning Boy had his biographies and forensics classes. In biographies they talked about George Washington, and in forensics they talked about fibers. I don’t know much more than that, though hopefully I can get more details out of him tomorrow, if we have time for chatting.

At lunch time Girl went to the nursery with all of her little girl cohort to play for an hour. Boy ate lunch at a table with one of his friends, then they went outside and ran around until it was time for their third class, fables. They all introduced themselves to each other this time, and the teacher told me later that Boy announced that there were three important things about him: 1) That he was strong enough to lift 20 lbs., which is almost half his bodyweight, because he weighs 45 lbs., 2) That he has $519, and that’s the truth, and, 3) That he is good at math. The adult helper in that class sat with Boy during the art project to make sure he didn’t get overwhelmed (much like I’m helping my little charge in the mornings).

After lunch Girl had her science class. They made rainbow milk paint, and then made a drawing of what it looked like. Girl made a numbered picture list across the top of her page of the things we would need to do this at home.

What you need for rainbow milk, according to Girl’s picture list: 1) Q-tip, 2) Liquid soap, 3) Food coloring, 4) Tub, 5) [something], 6) Smock/apron.
Last period Boy had Daring and Dangerous Club for Boys, where they were visited by a Navy air traffic controller who talked to them about what he does. Girl hung out in the nursery for a bit, then asked if she could sit out in the main room and listen to ladies talk (something she really enjoys).

When we left, it was snowing. We drove home and the kids played outside with the dog for a bit, before coming in for popcorn.

Day 133: Yellow corn, blue corn, red corn

Geography Club was postponed another week for crappy weather, and it was the last day of Papa’s long weekend (time off for re-enlisting). Tomorrow we have co-op, so I just planned to do a little bit of normal stuff today: math, violin, letters with Girl. Boy did do some math (subtraction within a thousand), and I wrote a chapter in Girl’s musk-ox story for her. Next they wanted me to make a batch of corn tortillas, and after that we tried to play violin.


While Boy played, Girl set herself up on the couch looking at the prairie books. Now that I look at the pictures, I see that she is looking at the prairie dog pictures in both books. I should ask her what she’s been thinking about them.

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Boy started off fine, but was trying to focus on getting his fingers exactly on the tapes, and he ended up having a meltdown. So we called it a day. Papa was out most of the day at the gym and then the mechanic’s, so when I lay down for a nap, the kids were playing on their own. I could hear them laughing. It turned out, when I got up, that they were making dolls with Q-tips, cotton balls, tape, and markers, and were messing around with the erector set motor. There was a Q-tip Cinderella, and a Q-tip Ninja. After I got up, they made a “Ninja Princess Castle” out of a styrofoam piece the new vacuum was packed in.


Ninja Princess castle
Ninja Princess castle

Papa was home in time to take the kids to ballet.  I was short-tempered with Girl trying to fix her bun, and snapped at her when she said the pins hurt. She almost started to cry walking over to the door to get her shoes on, and I felt terrible. Gave her hugs and kisses and said I was sorry. Even at her maddest or saddest (and no one can be mad and sad quite like Girl) lots of kisses can always make her feel better. You can feel the mad and sad draining out of her with each kiss. When she feels almost better, she will say, “One more ginormous hug. One more ginormous kiss. Now say I love you.” And then she’s better.

I was having a tough day (I have tough days sometimes. More on that sometime, maybe?) so I didn’t feel much up to making dinner. I made a simple meal of wild rice with pine nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, carrot sticks on the side. I heated up beans, too, for Papa.

I’d found a box of four chocolates Boy was given as a Nutcracker gift, and I told the kids they could each have one after dinner. Boy said he should let Girl choose first, and I said, You mean, because ladies go first?  Yeah, he said. Yes! That’s nice, kiddo, I answered.  What if he had to choose between gummies and chocolates with another girl, he asked, but he couldn’t eat gummies (like Girl can’t), should he still let the girl choose first? Yes, I said, but what did they think a lady should do if they both wanted the same candy? We all agreed she should probably share.

Next Boy posed this scenario: What if you had to choose between yellow corn, which would give you a short life with lots of fun, or blue corn, which would give you a long life with a lot of hard work? (We recently read a Hopi myth that featured different tribes choosing different colors of corn, though the options here are of Boy’s own devising.) We all three chose a long life with hard work, because we all said we didn’t mind working, and it would be better to be with family as long as we could. Girl came up with a third option: red corn, which would give you ‘a medium long life, with not that hard work, and some fun.’ She said she’d go with that, and anyway the corn might be wrong. Because it’s just corn, she said. What does corn know? 

Day 132: Fog and water

After rain all last night on snow, this morning started off with fog.


I started making beans and corn tortillas this morning while the kids went directly to Boy’s room to start building with Duplos. Boy built a warehouse. Girl made a series of small structures and dolls: Hansel and Gretel, Goldilocks, the ‘Army King.’


After eating tortillas, the kids got dressed to play outside.

It wasn’t cold, almost warm, despite the lingering snow and fog, and they were outside for a couple of hours, playing in the slushy snow and the water cascading off the roof.

I was thinking today how sometimes I don’t actually know very much about their day, because if they are getting along they don’t really want me around for pretty long stretches. This was one of those kind of days. I did go outside to bring some trash at one point, and they were stirring ‘soup for for the snow people’ in the big red bucket with a hockey stick; it looked like it was made with roof water, slush, and chunks of ice they’d collected.


Eventually, while pushing a Cozy Coupe through a puddle at least three inches deep, Girl slipped and fell into the water. I happened to be right there, so I scooped her up and brought her inside, got her wet clothes off, and put her right in the bath.  Once I had her snuggled on the chair, I brought the nearly-as-wet Boy inside for a bath, too.

After baths, Papa put together a globe puzzle with them, and then Girl played in her area while Boy read about Alexander Graham Bell for a while.


We decided a week or so ago when Boy was really having meltdowns that we should put all TV watching on hold for a while. We all love TV, but Papa and I also know that it just isn’t good for little minds when it comes down to it. And especially if one of the kids is in a rough patch, seeking refuge in television probably isn’t the best tactic. We’ve been really surprised that the kids haven’t complained, nor have they tried to turn TV on in the mornings. But I will say that a couple of times I have missed the kids watching TV. Tonight was one of those times. What to do with them? They were being ornery, I was making dinner, we just had to get them through…exactly the times that moms and dads are like, hey, guys, how about a show? But Papa offered to put together an erector set with them. I was in the other room, but it sounded pretty horrendous.

Still, isn’t a hilariously awful half-hour building an erector set with your dad better than a half hour watching Batman? TV is a break from life. I want their days to be filled with life, even, maybe especially, the boring ornery parts.

Day 131: Thaw

This morning after breakfast (Papa made french toast sticks from leftover baguette) Boy wanted to get outside as soon as possible before the snow started melting. I transcribed several chapters of Girl’s musk ox story for her, and after a little bit Girl joined Boy outside. They cut snow blocks, gathered icicles and collected different ice shapes off the ground where water had run off the roof and then refrozen.

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When they came back in, I got out the big bin of Duplos from the closet, and the kids went into Boy’s room, closed the door, and built practically all day until dinner. Papa and I took turns taking naps.

Tonight at bedtime Papa finished reading the kids a couple of books about Mexico that they started last night when I was at dinner, and then I read Girl one of her nature magazines.

Tomorrow should be another nice day at home, though I’ll need to get a number of things ready for Geography Club on Monday. Maybe we can finally make tortillas!!

This morning when we woke up the pipes were frozen for the second day in a row (I thawed them outside with a blow dryer and an extension cord), and while the snow started to melt today, it’s far from gone. It’s raining now, though, so we’ll see what we wake up to tomorrow. But it should be nearly 50 degrees!

Day 130: The last very cold day

Today we did more math, more letters. Girl wrote upper and lower case H’s, and we came up with many words beginning with ‘h’ giving mimed hints to each other. I left the house for the first time since the snow, driving on our crazily iced, rutted, and snow-mounded unplowed city streets to bring Boy to a violin lesson. Tomorrow the snow will probably all melt away since the temperatures will go up.

Girl played outside by herself with the dog. Snow pants are a miracle for her; she can stay outside for so long with them on. I am so grateful to our friend who gave them to us.

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Boy decided to try drawing one of his Lego figures: an angry looking skeleton guy with red eyes. (Goodness knows what set he’s from; I really have no idea.) Boy asked for my help with a couple of things, the various circles and the ribs. Everything else is his. We laughed because his eyes are supposed to look scary, but the way I drew the pupils, he just looks like he’s rolling his eyes with exasperation.


Girl drew many pictures in her journal for her musk-ox story, and dictated at least five ‘chapters’ of writing. The Mumma musk-ox lost six babies, and has only found two, so I guess we’ll be working on this for a while. Girl is very proud to have her own journal. I think she really likes the MBTP curriculum for her age, but of course I give her control over what we do from it.

This evening I walked across the street to have dinner at my neighbor’s house with a number of other neighbor-ladies. It was difficult and a little exasperating trying to get there with all of the frozen snow and unsanded ice. It was shockingly slippery and treacherous. But I didn’t fall. It’s hard to imagine that tomorrow or the next day it will all be gone.

Day 129: Alphabet

Math today for Boy, letters and numbers for Girl, and she started a ‘journal’ in which she drew several pictures of muskoxen and dictated the beginnings of a story to me. It was supposed to just be ‘a story’ but we are several chapters in; Girl is taking this assignment more seriously than MBTP probably envisioned.

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Girl knew more letters than she did yesterday.

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(After that the kids were playing outside in the absolutely blue-sky brilliantly sunny 20 degree weather for more than an hour, chopping up chunks of hard icy snow with a hockey stick and the broken off end of my edging spade in order to build ‘houses,’ climbing, adventuring, lying on the snow, and just generally having fun with each other, the dog, and the universe.)

Day 128: Musk ox

Papa was home again this morning because of the snow and ice on the roads. He made us pancakes again. All of the kids’ activities were cancelled.

Boy was having an ongoing debate with himself this morning about how to share cars with Girl. If they are both playing with them, how do they divide them? This morning he took the ones he wanted most, then offered a number of cars to Girl, telling her (and himself) how cool they were. He kept asking us to come see the cars, so I knew something was up. I asked him if he felt like maybe he’d done something wrong. He said yes. I made the point that Girl would always rather choose her own cars, and the only really fair way to divide things is to divvy, taking turns choosing. (I have always told them that pirates invented divvying because everyone had to agree that the division of booty was fair, or they’d get into terrible sword fights.) I told him that people usually want to be able to choose for themselves, rather than being given (even generously) by someone else. That that is why people prefer democracy to having a king or a queen, even a kind one. In a democracy, people are able to make decisions for themselves, rather than the king choosing for everyone. That that’s what Benjamin Franklin was all about. Boy liked that.

We finished reading the Benjamin Franklin book after breakfast.

And we started a new math book today. I had Boy sit and look at the table of contents, to see what he’d be doing in the next couple of months. I want him to feel ownership, both of the book and of his math learning. We read his textbook together, then he did some exercises.

Girl also wanted to do ‘school’ this morning, so I got out her MBTP box and teaching guide. (‘School’ is what the kids call it when we sit down and do work from a book, either a workbook or activities from a teacher’s guide.) Of course, we are still on week 1! But she is definitely interested in letters now, so I suspect I may be asked for school more frequently. While I was working with Boy, she did a page of upper and lower case A’s each. Then I showed her her first sight word: ‘you’, and we looked for it in a little reader. Every time we came to the word ‘you’ Girl read it out loud. We talked about how letters make a sound, but a word is certain letters, arranged in a certain order, and has a meaning. So if you took a letter and put it somewhere else, it wouldn’t be the word ‘you’ anymore. Boy pointed out that ‘no’ and ‘on’ are the same letters, but different orders.

Then we looked at numbers, and practiced counting up to 20 several times. Then we looked at all of the letters of the alphabet, and practiced making the sounds that they make. We’ve got a long way to go on the letters, but I don’t feel like we are in any hurry. I want her to be in charge. I don’t want to try to make her learn faster than she wants to. At the same time, I want to be available on the days when she wants to sit down and look at letters, or anything else for that matter.

In this unit, we should be reading ‘A is for Musk Ox’ but we had to return it to the library last week. But still, Girl’s activity book included a musk ox craft with yarn and cotton, and musk oxen are cool. So we looked up a picture, and both kids made one:

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We looked at the map to see all the cold places that musk oxen live, talked about the fact that the world is warmer in the middle, colder at the top and bottom, named the continents. Later we read about what musk oxen are like, what they eat.

After that the kids dressed up to play outside, and I could see them outside having a great time in the snow with the dog. They got into a fight after about an hour, and Girl said she wanted to come in. Boy stayed out for a bit. When they were both inside I had to make a phone call, and they went into Boy’s room to play. A minute later I could hear Girl yelling and crying. She’d wanted to make a ball run, but Boy said it was his and started pulling her away from it. I yelled at him (too loudly) and made him sit in the bathroom while I took a shower because I said I couldn’t trust him to play alone with Girl, that he’d been being unkind to her, even hurting her.

For the rest of the day, I tried not to have them be alone without one of us watching, and I may continue with that for a few days. Papa and I also decided no tv or screens for the time being. Something’s up with Boy, and probably he needs more supervision and less stimulation until we get it sorted.

And from there I just tried to do what I could to make the rest of the day good. We practiced violin, and then I sat down with Boy and looked at a southwestern pottery book. I was looking for design patterns that we could draw together. I like the mathiness of the pueblo designs, but also I think sketching is a great practice for Boy.

I do it first, so he can see how it isn’t perfect, how I work hard to see what’s going on, and we use the drafting kit to work out the design, but I don’t worry about the lines or the coloring being perfect, how it can be a little messy. I told him that’s what makes a sketch beautiful, its imperfection.

The book, my sketch, Boy's sketch.
The book, my sketch, Boy’s sketch.

I’m hoping we can work on these designs together all week.