Wednesday, March 30, 2005

It's Jobs Bingo for the kids!

I did a riff off an idea someone mentioned on the Well Trained Mind general board recently -- creating a little bingo card for things you put off but really ought to do. In 90 minutes the boys will come home from school and discover their own Jobs Bingo cards on the fridge. Son1 (age 9) on the left, Son2 (age 5) on the right. I drew little cartoons because Son2 doesn't read yet.

These are not their regular, expected, daily chores; it's stuff they need to do less often than daily. True, our kids do not take daily baths/showers, though Son1 is being moved in that direction. I sprinkled in things I need them to work on: Son2 is very grouchy with me lately, so he has three "regular voice morning" goals for his week. I needed one more job to make the grids work, so I put in laundry, but that's sort of too big for one square. I expect to try this for a week and adjust it with them at that point. Kinda fun!

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Friday, March 25, 2005

The boy who reads

Son1, age 9, is reading Treasure Island this week. He reads at a fairly high level, so it's interesting to keep him supplied with books that are appropriate to his age and maturity as well as his reading ability. Older books are often better (more complex language in books for young kids). The last week or so of observing his reading choices has gotten me thinking.

He read a couple of Redwall books and then didn't really ask me for a library trip to get the next Redwall book (he's read perhaps eight in this long series). When he's between books I like to have some select library books for him. That works well sometimes to get him reading other kinds of stories, but sometimes he will have none of that and just reads Bionicle comics.

In this particular reading lull, we visited the City's downtown library; he found a followup to Gregor the Overlander and read that by the next day. Another day he read Son2's picture books we'd gotten from the library. Day before yesterday he read all of the National Geographic Kids and Ranger Ricks he had received in the last several months.

That same day, I think, he was moaning about not having anything to read and I suggested the edition of Treasure Island I'd picked up at the library. No interest, until I opened the book up and pointed out the feature that led me to bring it home: lots and lots of marginal drawings, explanations of terms, and notes on the story. He decided it might be worth a look, and started reading it.

The other important aspect of this edition of Treasure Island is that the typeface is moderately large and the margins are wide -- his personal copy is more densely typeset and I really believe that puts him off the somewhat difficult books at this point in his reading.

A couple of months ago he thoroughly enjoyed The Hobbit, and went on to try the first book in The Lord of the Rings trilogy -- but gave up after a while. I compared the two books and noticed that the edition of The Hobbit that he'd read (from our public library) was a larger book with larger typeface and wider margins than "normal" -- and the LOTR book (from our church library) was a standard paperback with small type and skinny margins. I prefer to read bigger typeface with broader margins, too! At some point I'll see if the library has a nicer edition of the LOTR books; I'm pretty sure Son1 would find it quite enjoyable to read.

Anyway, Son1 is about a quarter of the way through Treasure Island and seems to be enjoying it quite a lot. Hurrah!

I finished the first sock (ripped out the foot all the way once and 1 1/2 inches another time) and am to the heel on the second sock. I need to switch to a needlework project with a deadline, so I may get yarn to start a relatively simple stole for TV knitting, homework knitting, waiting knitting, etc.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Spring break

We're on spring break. The boys yearn for much GameCube and GameBoy time, and I'm cutting them off quicker and quicker every day. On Monday we took a little trip to The City's downtown library. On Tuesday we met MOMS Club friends at a local indoor play place, an excellent activity for a rainy, blustery day. Today we hung out at home all day. I pulled weeds and trimmed dead stuff in our front garden bed along the entry walkway, the first time I've touched it since fall. Maybe we'll pick up some pansies to plant, and a little ornamental grass for that open spot I filled with annuals last year...

I think there was more, having to do with giving the boys tasks to help tidy the house and car, help make meals, help do laundry, that sort of thing. I'm also working on decluttering because some friends will stop here overnight this weekend and again next weekend as they head across Oklahoma and back on a trip. They've never seen our house -- eeek! Oh well. Also, I want to pull out the playing cards and/or a board game tomorrow afternoon because that whole GameCube frustration thing with Son2 is just not getting any better. I've relaxed on my various projects for others, but I need to get going on those again before too much time spins by.

Tomorrow we were going to church to pitch in with the palm cross making, but I just learned it's off; their shipment didn't arrive in time for the first time ever! That changes the morning. Maybe we'll make muffins. In late afternoon we'll go to a MOMS Club park date -- it should be a gorgeous yet brisk day. Friday will be a MOMS Club tour of a fire station, followed perhaps by our regular weekly playdate with friends, followed by an afternoon-to-bedtime pool and pizza party for the boys (hosted by friends at a local motel!). A whirlwind end to a relaxed week off from school and that early morning hubbub.

I'm crossing my fingers that I can get everyone out the door Saturday late morning (hahaha -- I am so dreaming) because the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum has a Lewis and Clark theme all month, they have fun kids' activities on Saturdays, we've never been, and this Saturday's theme is food! I am really interested in pioneer, frontier, expedition, and cattle trail cooking! I really want to go!

K1, ssk, k ....... yo, p2tog, p2...

I had to rip back four inches on my sock. Oh well, it was gonna happen some day on some project. The sock was definitely too big, so I frogged back ("rip it, rip it") to the gusset and decreased more until it was a better size. Now I'm back to lots of knitknitknit stockinette. I'll try it on again tomorrow, I suppose (bare toes wiggling out the end!).

I also bought some yarn and stitch markers to start a little shawl "capelet" thing in candy pink: from Interweave Knits spring 2005, the Phoebe capelet by Norah Gaughan, yum. But.. it's lace knitting and it's different and it's definitely a challenge. I do a row or three at most, carefully, and then put it down for a while. If I can do it at all, it's an exciting challenge. The third time I ripped out the first two rows, that was more on the totally frustrating side of things. It's better today.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Ides of March: betwixt winter and spring

I didn't mention that we had had wonderfully warm weather and beautiful blue skies, temps in the upper 70s even, for more than a few days lately. Didn't mention because we were too busy ENJOYING IT!!! Now, after a couple of extremely windy days bringing in the clouds and cool air from places up north, March reminds us that early spring is not early summer; rather, it's that fickle, changeable series of many weeks between winter and summer. Yep, that's what spring is.

Today: Cloudy with showers. Cold. High 46F. Winds NE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of rain 70 percent.

Tonight: Rain showers this evening mixing with snow showers overnight. Low near 35F. Winds NE at 10 to 15 mph. Chance of precip 60 percent.

Tomorrow: Cloudy with rain and snow showers ending in the morning. Partial clearing in the afternoon. High 49F. Winds NNE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precip 40 percent.

Tomorrow night: A few clouds. Low 34F. Winds W at 5 to 10 mph.

Thursday: Mix of sun and clouds. Highs in the upper 50s and lows in the upper 30s.

In Oklahoma we might be basking in 70s sunny weather while the northeast gets a ton more snow, but that might be followed by an ice storm before April. You just never know. That's spring for ya. I'm breaking out the hot cocoa tonight.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

It's almost a sock!

Whaddaya know, it's gonna be a sock. Too fun.
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Now I'm in the easy part -- the foot, all stockinette, knit knit knit around and around. I've tried the sock on multiple times, to the amusement of my dear husband and kiddos (and me, too). It's just the right height for me, a couple of inches above the ankle bone.

Check out the short-row heel turn. This whole heel thing was a lot of new stuff to learn, and yet the short-row heel turn was easy, really it was. So why am I so proud of this?? Well, it's the whole heel thing, really.
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Before starting the heel flap I studied my pattern and related tips (Starter Stockinette in Knit Socks!), as well as a four-double-pointed-needle pattern I found online (Socka Sock Pattern) that has helpful descriptions of what's happening when, and was written for what I'm using, FOUR double-pointed needles. Between the two of them I figured out enough to plunge into the heel flap.

Throughout the heel, whenever I was struggling it helped tremendously to sit in front of the computer and work along with the extremely helpful pictures and instructions of Socks 101. Finally I printed the relevent pages and added them to my sock info arsenal in my bag.

Here's a better look at the right-side gusset and how it all goes together.
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THIS is the part that was beyond my understanding for a bit, despite pouring over the pattern and tips, the other pattern, and Socks 101. I couldn't think through the picking up of the stitches along the heel flap, and was all turned around as to which way to hold the knitting now! Finally I decided that clearly I had to DO it and learn by doing. That did the trick! Along with examining... undoing (I got turned around at one point in the picking up of stitches and knit the wrong direction!)... redoing... examining... etc. After a couple of little gusset rows I was off and knitting with more confidence once again.

Now I'm eager to finish this sock (decreases! grafting the top and bottom together to make the toe!) and knit the other. I want to solidify what I've learned and maybe go on to a sock in merino wool, but in a solid color so I can try twisted rib or some other fun textured thing. I want to continue a textured pattern down the heel flap, or maybe try an all-short-row heel that doesn't have a gusset. Fun!

Knit knit knit...

New desktop yarn

I introduce you to my new desktop wallpaper -- a nice hot mix merino yarn. Picture from Tiled all over my background, it says Spring! Knitting! Fun! to me.
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Friday, March 11, 2005

Busy, busy -- spring, kids, learning, challenges

My pace over the last few weeks has stepped up a notch or two. Spring sprung, and I'm busy catching up on projects, to-dos, must-dos, both business- and ministry-oriented and household stuff. I resist, though, running around like crazy with no down time, so I'm trying to mix up my routine -- rethink what I do and when (computer work, household work, planning, kid time, spousal unit time, etc.).

All that is in the midst of our current project of training the boys OUT of being nasty to each other and to me -- we realized we've been dealing with these bad attitudes for weeks now. Oops. Clearly our standard responses were not enough, so we're giving consequences after one chance rather than too many warnings, and they often hear from me in a (carefully) calm voice: "Tone..." "Attitude..." "Use your regular voice" "Take a deep breath" "Stop talking now" (when they ignore me and keep arguing/being nasty). Also, I'm staying near the boys at times that have been problematic for them. That means I work on my sock knitting at the dining table where Son1 is working on homework or a school project, and during their video game time allowance I do something similar in the room with them. Being with them really keeps their interactions from escalating. Finally, I'm making sure they clean up their projects or activities before going on to the next thing they want to do. It keeps them participating and accountable, and keeps me from going bonkers with still more clutter to deal with.

So... I'm not so good at blogging lately. Here's the rest of what's up around here :)

Did I mention spring has sprung?! Daffodils and quince are in full bloom, the pear trees and Asian magnolia trees (gorgeous!!) are blooming, the spirea shrubs have tiny white blossoms all along their graceful arching branches, the cherry trees are starting their frilly fuzzy pale-pink cloud of blossoms, tulip leaves and my daylily leaves are up out of the soil, and the dried leaves are FINALLY off our young oak tree. Let me point out that none of the above is in my yard/garden except the daylilies and the oak tree; for early spring gardens I live through others at this point :) I hate how long those oak leaves hang on. Oh well, at least I can't see it (past the garage) from inside the house. Dear husband and I are starting to talk about garden projects a little, so perhaps one of these spring weekends...

Someone in the dead of winter asked me to talk more about how we afterschool, and I feel a little guilty that I haven't blogged about anything obviously on that topic since fall. Our afterschooling has been squarely in the category of a learning lifestyle all winter, with no "schooling" per se.

Son1 and Son2 play with the tornado tube they and dear husband put together at Son2's request a few months ago (two 2-liter plastic bottles, one filled 3/4-full with water, plus a special connector). They've learned how to start the vortex/tornado, they've noticed how the vortex is different when they swirl the tube fast vs. slow, they've noticed that the water coming into the bottom bottle streams down the inside walls of that bottle, and so on, and so on.

Son2 has played some more with our Magz set of magnetic sticks and steel balls, a construction toy basically, making pyramids, stars, and peculiar shapes that he can make spin as he holds the top. Son2 is all about writing, lately, and numbers. As Son1 does his math facts homework Son2 gets busy writing 2+3=5 and similar things -- doing the math himself most of the time (!). Son2 also has discovered tic-tac-toe and plays it with everyone possible -- very handy when he's with me in a meeting.

Son2 is also facing the big challenge of learning to deal with frustration -- through video games. He gets very frustrated, which is probably tied a bit to his bad attitude lately but also I think is age-related re. the games. I'm learning to cut him off (turn off the video game) after a warning because otherwise he gets stuck in a horrible attitude spiral. Perhaps it's time to bring back the occasional afternoon card game with Mommy; a gentler practice in dealing with game frustrations might be a good thing.

Over the last couple of weeks Son1's car reading, by his choice, has been a kids' book of probability games that I got through the school Scholastic book orders a couple of years ago. He poured through the game details, and then read all of the explanations in the back. I suspect he has now been exposed to more probability concepts than I was until college, LOL.

This week Son1 finished a chocolate-theme school project (his project was to design a new chocolate bar), so I helped him approach it in an organized manner and work through it piece by piece, from brainstorming to creating a finished presentation. The most difficult part of that would be a tie between helping a teary, overwhelmed boy when I thought it wasn't a big deal, and being careful to assist and encourage but not DO the project for him or DIRECT the project or TELL him great new ideas for the presentation. I think I managed to navigate those tricky shoals reasonably well this time around. Whew!

Son1 is learning a lot through his basketball team practices and games, about challenges, learning new skills, frustration, persistence, and more. I see a lot of similarities with my efforts to learn to knit. I'm teaching myself to knit continental style, teaching myself new stitches, teaching myself how to knit a sock, and there are so many little and big things, including learning to notice when I've made a mistake and then learning how to fix it. I mentioned once to Son1 how similar I found it in some ways to his challenges (school things, basketball); perhaps now he notices Mommy working to learn, learn, get better, get better, challenge myself with something new, something else new, and so on.

Gotta go -- those are some of the things in my life this week!

Morning video game talk

(little kid voice) I have to get through that room with the spiky things and freeze the boss...

(calm daddy voice) Make sure you get all the weapons you can from that room before fighting the boss...

Son2, age 5, seeking advice from his daddy this morning at a frustrating point in Metroid: Fusion on his GameBoy. Too funny. Speaking of which, now his half hour of playing time is up.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

My spare time and thinking went to this

I started working on sock knitting, yippee!

First, a swatch. I wanted to try knitting socks, but without buying supplies. I knew I had a huge skein of acrylic variegated yarn I'd bought several years ago for doing finger crochet etc with the kids on a road trip. I pulled out US3 steel? straight knitting needles from my grandmother's set, and started on a swatch.

After knitting stockinette for a while and browsing through my library knitting books, I realized (1) I'm knitting in the right gauge and (2) I'm supposed to do a sock swatch in the round. Hokay, time to stop with an itty bitty swatch. I love the colors of this yarn.
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Fold a little swatch in half lengthwise, roll it up, tie it with the loose ends, and it's a... pincushion! or cushion/roll to hold crochet hooks, etc., I suppose. Not my idea; I read about these on a blog or KnitList or somewhere. It's about 1 1/2 inches high and 1 1/2 inches across. I just realized... I think I can use this for my small stash of eyeshadow brushes and pencils, if I can weight it down somehow. Hmm.
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Did I bother swatching in the round? Nope, of course I started a sock, and had a blast figuring everything out. I mixed up the rib so the top is seed stitch, LOL; I was knitting inside out so I deduced it needed to be turned inside out; and I've made some mysterious mistakes at two of the joins on one row -- I still don't know what I did there. I found it interesting that by yesterday's basketball game I could knit in the stands and not mix up what I was doing (stockinette). Cool. I'm using four double-pointed needles, and a striped, coated paper clip as a stitch marker.

I've learned a lot already, and I could just frog it apart and start over, but I'm going to rib for a bit and then bind it off and call it a "swatch becoming a to-go-cup warmer." I want to start again with fresh yarn. Supposedly I'm following the Starter Stockinette sock in Knit Socks!, but of course she writes it for five dp needles and I only have four. This is so cool!
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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Boys, ours, and sports

(setting aside my knitting -- I started a sock on double-pointed needles, heehee.)

Thursday evening as dear husband, Son2, and I watched Son1's basketball game in his city parks and rec league, I commented that Son1 seemed more comfortable getting close to whoever on the other team was in possession of the ball, and he seemed better at knowing where he was on the floor in relation to who he was guarding and the rest of the team. This is a big difference from how he was even at the end of the fall season, in which he learned a LOT and had fun, but was not aggressive in the least.

And then he was called for committing a foul.

I looked at my husband and he had the same reaction: Son1?!? a foul?!? You're kidding! Cool! It wasn't a nasty aggressive foul -- he just reached a bit too far in -- and we found ourselves pleased as punch that he was aggressive enough to be even considered for a foul. Too, too funny.

Afterward we stopped by the other gym at that location and watched a middle-school friend practicing with his league basketball team. Son1 loved watching these guys (who looked huge to me!) working hard, lots of body contact, really comfortable with the ball and the whole thing. Dear husband thinks Son1 might be about ready for a breakthrough in how he thinks about and what he likes about basketball. Mom here is thinking, how do we help him get to that point? when dear husband asks Son1 if he'd like to go to one of our friend's games. Yep, so it's time to find out where and when these games are and GO. Another thought -- let's start actively watching some of the March Madness college basketball games on TV. Third thought, from dear husband: he sure wishes Son1 had a friend in the neighborhood to shoot baskets with. My thought: do any of his friends (none of whom actually live in our neighborhood) play basketball? Time to be intentional about this.

We want our kids to both understand and enjoy playing team sports, at least at a casual level, and we want them to expect to be active their entire lives. We also want to be open to the possibility that either or both boys might find a sport, whether team or individual, that they really like and want to pursue. Neither of us did that in school, and it's a real stretch for me. Everything I've learned about sports beyond k-12 physical education classes has been from my husband and my kids, so I'm learning on the job here about helping the kids in the sports area.

It's also nearly time for baseball signups with the parks and rec leagues. This will be Son1's second year of machine-pitch baseball, and Son2 will play T-ball for the first time. I'm looking forward to many spring and early summer evenings watching baseball and T-ball from grassy sidelines. Last year Son1 seemed to have some talent in catching; we'll see how that develops. Time to see how our toy T-ball tee is and whether we have a practice bat for Son2; check the cost for batting practice for Son1 and do that every week or so after basketball ends; and get the baseballs and mitts out and have Son1 coach me in playing catch with him so he can practice. I know how to watch baseball, but I have absolutely no skills at playing a ball sport!

UPDATE: Curiouser and curiouser. At this afternoon's game (the only Saturday game) Son1 sunk a foul shot -- woohoo! -- AND held onto a ball for dear life and kept the other team from gaining possession -- woohoo! His grin was a mile wide after the game!