Sunday, March 18, 2012

PE with a PEacock Feather

This is a great rainy day activity to do in a large open space. I wanted to test it out with just one kid, so when Bean was at grandma and grandpa's this Thursday, I gave a peacock feather to Tey and showed him how to try to balance it on his hand. It lead to much hyperventilating. He initially thought, "I can't do this." But he stuck to it and got better. 

Concerned Kitty - Mei Spots a Real Cat for the First Time

Doesn't she look so concerned?



Dear me! What is that?!
No worries. She's just signing "cat" and saying "[Me-]ooow."
It's supposed to be on your check and wiping sideways across your face like whiskers, but down like a beard works ok too.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Nocturnal Project - Living Books Part 3

You know that sense of mourning you felt when folding up your infant's 0-3 month clothes for the last time? It kinda felt like that today when I brought back just about the last of our library books about night-time things. At this point it's feeling like we've reached saturation and our nocturnal project has ignited an interest in wildlife and "saving the animals," so we're going to shift gears a bit.

In all, Bean read over 70 books about nocturnal animals, astronomy, and great thinkers like Galileo. During the past 2 months, several books clearly emerged as his favorites. He would read them over and over again daily or several times a week during "free choice reading" and he'd want to read them to others too. These are literary treasures and I am so grateful for our libraries giving us access to them for free.

It surprised me how much he took to reference-type books such as the following two:
Night Sky AtlasNight Sky Atlas by Robin Scagell
We borrowed this book from the library for the past 2 months. The best part are the actual pictures constellations with the previous pagse being translucent and can be laid over. The translucent page has both the connect-the-dots image of the constellation as well as an outline of a more realistic picture to better imagine what the constellation is. I was never able to figure those out before this book. It's was Bean's idea to trace each one of the constellations into a "report," even ones only visible in the southern hemisphere. This books also introduced Greek letters as alpha refers to the brightest star in a constellation, beta the second brightest, etc. Bean finds "alphas" everywhere now, such as in droplets of water on the shower walls.

The Book of North American OwlsThe Book of North American Owls by Helen Roney Sattler
We actually borrowed 2 copies of this book from the library by accident, but then it turned out to be useful to have one copy in Bean's room and one downstairs. The page depicting all owls organized by size first grabbed his attention. Then he enjoyed reading up on the owls towards the end of the book where each species has its own page. From this, he has learned to distinguish about 9 different owls. In fact when we went on an owl prowl the other night, he could identify a hawk owl when our tour guide from the forest preserve did not know what it was.

Because the great-horned owl is the largest owl found in Illinois, Bean was particularly fond of it. We highly recommend:

Tiger With WingsTiger With Wings by Barbara Esbensen
This is a picture book but does not read like a story, but more like an encyclopedia entry. It is extremely informative, providing every detail about great-horned owls that a kid would want to know. Some of Bean's favorite facts from it are that ear tuffs are not ears at all but movable feathers to show anger, these owls are the only birds to have upper eye-lids, they commonly eat skunks as they can barely detect the smell, and female great-horned owls are larger than males. These facts come in handy when pretending to be great-horned owls, using mommy and daddy's bed as a nest.

An Owl In The House:  A Naturalist's DiaryAn Owl In The House: A Naturalist's Diary by Alice Calaprice
This is the book that made Bean really fall in love with great-horned owls. A scientist journals about his discovery of an owlet and how he nurses it back to health. This book has Charlotte Mason written all over it. It really brings the topic to life through the author's drawing of Bubo and documentation of what he does over 3 years (and his increasing love for him during that time). This is by far the most advanced book I've ever seen Bean read. Amazon lists it for grades 4 to 6 and ages 9 and up. He actually hasn't finished it yet with about 10 pages left. I think he's is stalling because he does't want it to end!

Bean told me that he likes books that follow the life cylce of animals, perhaps from reading about Bubo. The following two books are beautiful picture books that do just that.

Ookpik: The Travels of a Snowy OwlOokpik: The Travels of a Snowy Owl by Bruce Hiscock
This year was an eruption year for snowy owls with lots of media coverage so we read some newspaper clippings about it (though they are not nocturnal and didn't quite fit the theme of our studies). It was this book, full of water-color paintings, that gave us lots of factual information. It traces the first year of life of a typical snowy owl, Ookpik ("snowy owl" in Inuit) and reads somewhat like a nature journal/adventure story/poetic encyclopedia entry.

Can you tell Bean developed a slight obsession with owls? We also read about racoons, skunks, foxes, bats, and snakes, but the only other nocturnal animal that he really liked almost as much as owls were wolves.

Look to the North: A Wolf Pup DiaryLook to the North: A Wolf Pup Diary by Jean Craighead George
This author is brilliant and we have since read more of her works, but this book started it all. The illustrations are majestic and extremely detailed. This story book follows 3 pups for almost their first year of life. I particularly appreciated how the development of wolf pups was related other noticeable events, for example, "When the crickets are chirping, look to the north. Wolf pups are learning adult wolf talk. Learning wolf talk was perhaps Bean's favorite and  very useful for make-believe. He also pretended to raise wolf pups and tallied the passing of nine real days on a piece of paper so he would know when they would open their eyes. From this book, he also drew the connection of Greek letters to dominance in wolves and other pack animals as one of the wolf pups rises from the bottom to become the beta.

For this project, Bo took the lead on finding resources for the related topics of mythology, poetry, physical sciences, hands-on experiments, and biographies of relevant people in history. If you want his recommendation on books, you'll probably have to ask him personally or beg him to blog. He found the following 2 books that Bean really liked about Galileo.

Galileo's Leaning Tower Experiment: A Science AdventureGalileo's Leaning Tower Experiment: A Science Adventure by Wendy Macdonald
This is a fun story about discovery through asking questions, experimentation an observation. It teaches a great lesson too about not just believing what others say, but finding out for yourself, and also believing in yourself when others will challenge you. Bean: "This book was about dropping things. They dropped bread, cheese, hammers, buckles, chicken feathers, paper, and rocks to see how fast things fall. They learned that some things fall the same speed. Aristotle said that things fall at different speeds."

Galileo's Journal, 1609-1610Galileo's Journal, 1609-1610 by Jeanne Pettenati
This book is formatted like a journal (which Bean really seems to enjoying these days), but is a fictional picture book. It makes the material very approachable for the youngest of readers, telling the story of Galileo's spyglass and his discoveries. The excitement and curiosity in the journal entries are catching! Bean: "It was funny that Galileo thought that three stars were circling around Jupiter, but there were 4 moons instead of three. The spy glass would let him see Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn."

That loss I feel is temporary as I know we can always borrow these books again. We are certainly not finished learning about all thing pertaining to the night. We will continue to investigate it more as we explore other things and draw the related connections. Unlike baby clothes, we will never grow too big for nocturnal studies.

See here for Part 1
See here for Part 2

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Spring is in Full Bloom

Some beautiful things I saw today while at my in-laws with the kids:

Cooper's Hawk


Paper Birch



Farming action
An Angel 

3 Crafts in 3 Days

I don't know what has gotten into me, but I've all of a sudden embraced the idea of crafting.

It's justified, though, because instead of buying over-priced, mass-produced pieces of junk, I can make my own one-of-a-kind piece of junk reusing stuff that would generally end up in a landfill. Plus, it's an outlet for me and I desperately need of that.

The I.D.E.A. store in indispensable for getting crafty stuff really inexpensively. I especially love them because all of their items are donated, which is super green, and the money raised supports our local schools. This weekend they had a frame sale and I got a black lacquer frame for 50 cents. This quickly and easily became my to-do list dry erase board for the kitchen, just by adding a piece of scrapbook paper and some letters.

At The I.D.E.A. store I also spotted these vases for a quarter a piece and a bunch of silk daffodils (I can't remember the cost of those, but probably 50 cents too). So Tey, Mei and I filled the vases with rice and stuck in the flowers and now we have a spring-theme mantle. I'm not sure if I will add more to this. I kinda like its simplicity.

Tonight I made a moss monogram. I had to borrow a glue gun from a friend because I didn't even have one. Truthfully, I don't think I've ever even used one before. I told you I wasn't crafty! Anyway, I cut an "E" from recycled cardboard, which surprisingly took me almost 10 minutes to do. Then I spent another 20 minutes hot gluing moss to it. Lastly I glued magnets to the back, so it would stick to our front door.

I'd much prefer to have spring-y ribbon to hold it up but because I'm not generally crafty, I don't just have some lying around. This will have to do. Our front door is our magnetic letter door anyway, so I may just run with this idea and keep making seasonal monograms.

Thanks to dear lillie blog for the monogram idea, and to for the wipe off board idea.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Happy International Day of Women

Being a mother is a tremendous responsibility, but for a daughter especially. 

I knew a daughter would likely look up to me more than her dad and I wasn't ready for that even when I was pregnant with Tey. Considering that I'm now a SAHM, it's ironic that it wasn't until I had graduated with my PhD and felt stable in my job that I finally felt ready to have a daughter. I was pregnant 2 months after being hired and a couple weeks after finding that out, the sono showed that it was a girl. I cried tears of joy as well as honor that God had chosen me to be her mother.

International Day of Women 2012
Mei is my sunshine. She has changed my life forever and for the better. Nothing and no one inspires me more to be a better woman so I can be a good role model for her. The burden is heavy even as she is just one year old. Though she has no idea about the oppression of our sex, it seems inevitable that she will not only know it, but experience it herself firsthand. 

Too soon will she be told she can't do something just because she is a girl. Too soon will she feel the pressure to dumb down her intelligence just for acceptance. Too soon she will be targeted by ads selling  products promising to make her more attractive to someone else. It both saddens and angers me to no end. 

So for now, I cherish her innocence. Many nights before I put her to bed, I hold her so tightly in my arms as if I can stunt her from growing up. Sometimes, I pray for her so hard that I'm on the verge of tears. I think of this song and it gives me some measure of comfort.

This year, International Day of Women with Mei was free from heavy messages about women's rights, our struggles and overcoming barriers. Instead, today we celebrated with some of Mei's favorites: books about ducks, solving her shapes puzzle, having a friend over to play, and one of our first successful ponytail (with the help of a couple clippies). 

It won't be long before I feel compelled to share with her the larger truth about being a woman, but for now I revel in her accomplishments as a 16th month old girl with nothing to hold her back. I hope that this day can be an annual reflection on Mei's womanhood and how we can foster that fully in other girls. It is with great optimism that I look to our girls' futures and anticipate seeing their potentials become their realities, especially for my own baby girl (who I'm trying to convince myself will always be my baby girl).

Four Kids Should Never Be This Easy

We had a friend over this morning and it was perfectly blissful. The kids played superbly and there was barely any fighting, grabbing or arguing. He lulled me into a false sense of confidence that we could totally manage another.

Bean adored him and really took initiative in bringing him toys. I hope we didn't overwhelm him.

Mei was like his shadow a lot.

He was such a great sharer!

Obviously his mom takes a lot of pictures. My kids never look at the camera. Omigosh, look how cute they both are with their lovies!

We headed upstairs to read. The two of them loved when I made an elephant sound. You can see him pointing to an elephant now, which I think he called "fin." I think I might have also taught him to say "spi" for spider. His parents will need to confirm that.

We put Mei down for a nap, and I asked if they wanted to give kisses. I love her little grin after she gets one. Toddlers are so delicious!

Back to playing with the big boys after Mei went down. They are making a blueberry pie...obviously.

He stayed for lunch and liked my cooking too, so he's a keeper. We're looking forward to having him and maybe his siblings over again soon!

Bean Logic: Faith and Feminism

Me: Martin (Luther King) and Rosa (Parks) worked together
Bean: Martin organized a boycott and Rosa organized a girlcott.
I corrected him on that one.

Bean: I'm going to name my child something from the Bible. I'm going to name one of my kids "Sampson, the strongest man in the world. And I'm going to name one of my kids "Jesus."
Tey: Noooo, that's not right.
Me: [silent giggles]

Me: Today is International Day of Women. People all over the world are celebrating great things that what women have done. Can you think of any great women? [Hoping he'll say, "You, mom!"]
Bean: God. He is the best woman in the world. He can be a he or a she.
Me: Who told you that?
Bean: I don't know?
Me: Then why do people call God a "he" so much?
Bean: I don't know.
Honestly, I don't remember ever talking about God's gender, but I love playing devil's advocate with him. I assume he's going to get it much worse from other people, so I better give him practice, and a taste of his own medicine.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Weekend Update: Read Across American and March of the Penguins

We took the kids on a couple "adventures" this Saturday. Yes, we called them that.

Read across America was our first stop. We debated whether or not to take Bean because he might be bored, but he actually liked it. We got there near the tail end, so it was not as crowded and we got to do what we wanted for as long as we wanted. Running from activity to activity to earn stickers to get a book really stresses me out. Instead, we spent a lot of time at a booth that taught about dental hygiene where Mei brushed teeth (one of her favorite activities), Tey played a letter game to make words (which we've been working on lately), and Bean read a Berenstain Bears book about going to the debtinst (boy does this kid love Berenstain Bears). This woman even agreed to read our kids a "long" story from Aesop's Fables (our kids have been enjoying those at home) though she seemed hesitant at first. We did stop at several other booths and we got enough stickers to earn books for each of the kids too. 

Next we went to a March of the Penguins event at the Orpheum Children's Museum. We bought a family membership, so now I really need to take the kids more often to make it worth it.
Bean petting a taxidermy penguin
Bean showing that he's almost as tell as an emperor penguin
Tey matching baby penguins to their mommies based on their call
Tey waddling with a baby penguin (which is supposed to be on his feet)
Tey used this to dive into the ocean in search of krill and small fish. He always emerged with a good catch.
Both the boys participated in all the activities they had set up for the event. I know they had fun, but hopefully they learned some stuff too. Here's one just for fun, Tey jumping on little icebergs.
We'll have to watch March of the Penguins with them again. They liked it the first time, but that was a while ago.

What was Mei doing all this time? Mostly running around, She's gotten speedy! She and I spent a good amount of time in their kitchen area and she made me a pan of cookies. I didn't even show her how to do this, but she just started lining them up...

until the whole tray was covered then she put in in my lap. Looks like we have another little chef!

I was surprised that when it was all over and I said it was time to go, Tey asked what our next "adventure" was and I told him "naptime" and he was cool with that. I think he was beat too!

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Candy Mom Can

Tey gave a gift of experience to Bean this Christmas instead of buying another thing to add to the clutter of the house and to our Chrismas carbon footprint. We had just finished reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so when I saw that Champaign Park District was putting it on at the Virginia Theater, I suggested it as a gift he could give Bean. I gave him some other ideas too but I don't remember what they are. So, after almost 3 months of anxiously waiting until March, tonight was Willy Wonka day!

You could taste the excitement!
The boys outside Virginia Theater
Their review during intermission. Sorry for the darkness. 

An usher teaching Bean about the orchestra pit
Me and my Tey exchanging words of love. Fact: intermission is always the perfect time to tell your date how much you love them.
A twitter friend of mine has a daughter (the Candy Man, er, Woman) in the show and seriously, she was the best. I don't think I am biased. Both the boys also thought she had the best voice and best costume. We met her after the show to tell her good job and went around to several other cast members as well.

Want to know that the kids told me in their own words?

Tey's narration of the event:

"We sat, of course. We watched the show. The candy man was singing. The candy man was singing the best at the show. Willy Wonka gave all his stuff to someone else."

Bean's original narration of the event while I typed:
"I remember that lights turned on and off and curtains opened and closed. Charlie got a golden ticket. Veruca Salt a golden ticket. Augusta Gloop got a golden ticket. Mike got a golden ticket. Violet got a golden ticket. And Veruca Salt, Agusta Gloop, Mike, got in trouble. But, Charlie got Willy Wonka’s hat and walking stick. We sat the whole time. We watched the whole time. And Charlie also got Willy Wonka’s whole chocolate factory. The end."

After I showed it to him we went through an editing process where I tried to teach him about removing repetition and grouping similar thoughts. Here is his finished report:
"I remember that lights turned on and off and curtains opened and closed. We sat the whole time and we watched until the very end. Veruca, Agusta, Charlie, Violet and Mike each got their very own golden ticket. Everyone got in trouble, except Charlie got rewarded with Willy Wonka’s hat, walking stick and his whole chocolate factory. The end. Do you ever think you’ll be going to Willy Wonka?"

I loved the creativity as he added more detail and flair the second time around. His improvements were better than I expected too. For example, for "We sat the whole time. We watched the whole time," I encouraged him to combine the sentences and remove the repetition. I thought he might say "We sat and watched the whole time," which is how I remember learning in school. He came up with an even better sentence that has his own Bean flavor, "We sat the whole time and we watched until the very end." 

The candy mom can cuz she mixes it with love and makes the world taste good!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Evidence of Tae Kwon Do

A couple weeks ago, a friend requested to see pics of Bean in his Tae Kwon Do uniform, but sadly I had none. I'm horrible at taking pictures regularly because I honestly don't think about it. When I do think about it one or more of the following situations seem to plague me: 1) I don't have the camera with me, 2) I can't seem to find the camera, 3) the batteries aren't charged, 4) the memory card is full. So, although Bean has been taking lessons since December, this is the first I have ever documented it. Doesn't he look so serious?

He takes classes at a local academy that focuses on the form and art of Tae Kwon Do and not the competitive sport. I was extremely impressed by Master Hyong who established the academy, his experience, and how he was able to connect with Bean immediately. The academy's emphasis on the philosophy of Moo Do, the art of living seemed like it would be a good addition to homeschooling. In fact, the sessions he attends is composed of homeschooled children and their families.

As of now, he is the youngest in his class and the lowest in rank. This is actually a good reminder to him that he doesn't know it all and he has much to learn from others. It's been amazing how his focus and stamina have increaed. When he first started he'd have to sit out periodically because he was tired, but now he is practicing the whole hour. He has also grown in respect for others. They use the entire class as teachers, so he's been taught by grown adults, to kids just a couple years older than him. About a month ago he tested the waters as far as not listening and doing his own thing, but hopefully that seems to have passed. Today Master Hyong came into the observation area to give me a high-five and tell me that Bean was making great improvements and we were doing a good job. Yay!

So here is some footage. This time the class was split by age, so the parents and Master Hyong were on the other side of the room. This instructor teaches Bean about as often as Master Hyong does, and he is great with Bean. They are doing warm-ups, triple punches to be exact. 

Here he is reviewing his White Belt Poomsae. I honestly don't know exactly what that is, but it seems to be a series of moves of basic blocks, kicks, punches and stances. It's kind of like yoga poses that you practice over and over again. The point is not to just do them but execute them as best you can in order to gain a greater awareness of yourself and to increase focus.