The Giant Egg and a Science Lesson

Yesterday I found the biggest egg I have ever seen, in one of the nest boxes of our backyard chicken coop.  I was planning to make eggs for lunch today, so I called the boys to see when I cracked the egg because I was sure it would have 2 yolks.  And it did, but it must have been inside the hen too long because there was opaque white material in the egg as well. It really did look like two eggs seamlessly fused together, from the outside.  And when I first cracked it, there were two yolks, but one was fragile and broke before I could take a picture of it.  We didn’t use the egg, it  just looked too strange so I was afraid it might be spoiled.  Anyhow, my 7 1/2 year old started asking questions about chickens laying eggs, and then about how babies grow and how they get out of their mother’s body.

I’m not very proficient with unschooling, I’m more of a fan of curriculum and workbooks, but this was the perfect opportunity to give it a try, so I went with it.  I found a copy of Hello Baby! that my mother gave him when his little brother was born.  The book explains, among other things,  the basics of how the baby develops with diagrams and some short descriptions.  We looked at his old ultrasound pictures. We looked at pictures from my baby shower so he could see my belly when I was pregnant with him.  I showed him this animation which shows simulations of how the baby develops, and I showed him this medical animation of childbirth to answer the “how does the baby get out” question.  We talked about the uterus, the placenta, the amniotic sac, the umbilical cord, and the birth canal.

My son wanted to know about what happens to the umbilical cord and I explained, even found a photograph of a baby with a cord clamp still in place, but I haven’t yet been able to find a video of the pulsating umbilical cord or a cord being clamped and cut.  It do want him to know that the cord should not be cut until it stops pulsating, even though many medical professionals clamp the cord immediately after birth.  A friend on FB shared a link to her blog, which shows a beautiful video of a home waterbirth.  The video is made with a collection of still photographs.  It is rather discreet as far as birth videos go, as the water blurs the images slightly when the baby emerges.  I feel comfortable allowing my son to view this, it is really well done.  There are even pictures of the new baby’s siblings admiring the newborn boy as well as pictures of the family together after the birth.

But back to what started our discussion, we also looked at photographs of developing chick embryos. We discussed how developing mammals are different from developing birds, and how they are similar.  I explained how the yolk sac functions much like the placenta, to nourish the growing chick.  I told him that the chick has tiny blood vessels that travel from its body to the inside surface of the shell to provide oxygen, something that we noticed when one of our own backyard flock hatched out some chicks last summer.  For a good explanation of how the eggs are formed inside a female chicken, we found factsheets on the anatomy and physiology of the reproductive tract of a female chicken.  I highly recommend this source, as there are some great photographs of the ovaries with developing eggs and also a the oviduct and vent.  These are from dissection, and they are well labeled.

I was very pleased with our first experience using an unschooling approach.  I’m impressed with the resources that are available on the internet.  Only one site that I used to teach today was completely new to me, but I was grateful that I was able to pull together the resources needed for our study very quickly.  Including items that we had around the house such as the photographs, book, and ultrasound pictures, worked very well for us too.  My son was very interested and asking well thought out questions.  I highly recommend trying out this approach, even if you are a curriculum lover like I am.

Here are two photos of our June backyard hatching, the youngest members of our flock.  They are now 7 months old and laying their own eggs.  Enjoy!

Teaching Piano To My 5 Year Old

My son Jamie is about to turn 6 next month, and I have been using The Music Tree book, Time to Begin, to teach him to play the piano.  This is the first book in The Music Tree series.  We started last summer and we are progressing through the first book in a leisurely fashion.  I decided to start him early because he has always been very interested in music and seems to have an ear for it.  I have only basic musical knowledge and I find the program easy to do with him .

There are two Time To Begin books. One is a songbook and one is an activity book. There is also a music CD available with the songs being played, which theoretically the student could learn to play a duet of sorts by playing along with the CD. I don’t have that and I’m not sure how useful it would be to us. For us it is best that Jamie looks at the book and he tries to figure out how to play the song shown. I read the explanations from the book to him and ask him questions like “Which hand do you start this song with, right or left?” (Because the notes where the stem points up are played with the right hand, and stems down are played with the left hand) When he first started, I tried  demonstrating how a song was played and he would simply memorize it and not try to read the music. He also has a real knack for finding the correct notes just by trial and error if he knows how a song should sound.

To help him with a new song I ask him to look at the keyboard shown on the page, with arrows pointing to certain keys and labeled “R” and “L” for right and left. Then I ask him to find those same keys on the piano. If the song starts low and goes high, I ask him whether it starts low or high and then ask him to show me on the piano which of the specified keys are the lowest, etc. He sometimes needs to count how many groups of notes there were on a page, so he would know *how* low or high he needs to start so he can play the whole song going either up or down the piano without running out of keys. For the Time To Begin book it seems to be necessary to have a keyboard or piano with at least 5 full octaves in order to play the songs.  One of the hardest concepts for Jamie so far, was to figure out where to start when a song started in the middle, went up one octave, back to the first octave, and then down one octave.

Right now I have Jamie learn about two new songs per week and then spend the week practicing them every day. But he probably could go a little faster. Sometimes a new concept is hard for him to understand, and when that happens I give him a break for a week or two, by going back and having him play songs he has already learned.  If necessary, I help him to review previously taught concepts when he goes back to the “old” songs.  But the nice thing about Music Tree is that the student learns some basic music reading concepts which are much simpler to understand than note reading is for the beginner. The gradual block building of concepts in Music Tree is excellent.  The activity book does a great job of reinforcing the concepts necessary to read the music in the songbook.

One of the things I didn’t understand when we started, was why they have the student play only the black keys for a while, before starting the white keys. I understood very quickly that the black keys were easier to distinguish, appearing in alternating groups of two or three notes. Specific white keys, on the other hand, are much more difficult for the beginning student to distinguish. Once Jamie mastered finding the black keys shown in each song, he was able to learn the names of the white keys. Since he was accustomed to finding the proper black keys it was easy to show him how 3 white keys were just below each 2 black keys, and these are always C,D,E. And the 4 white keys below each group of 3 black keys are F,G,A,B. He can now look at the music and identify the first and second note and find the corresponding white key on the piano. He can also move up and down the octaves of the piano with relative ease, finding the proper keys quickly.  I am very proud of his accomplishments.

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Gift Ideas for Kids with Sensory Integration Dysfunction

Over the past year or two we have shifted our focus with gift giving for our children to therapeutic items.  The kids really enjoy them and they provide play with a purpose.  If you are more organized than me, you can use them to develop daily sensory diet for your child.  Here are a few of my favorites: 

 We put a jumpolene in our basement, gave it to my 5 year old last year for Christmas.  It can be used as a trampoline for children, with a recommendation of two kids at a time and a total weight of 150 pounds or less.  Instead of using it as a trampoline, we bought ball pit balls for it in Kmart, $15 per 100 balls, though we did get some of them on sale for $10. I managed to wheedle his grandparents and his uncle into buying some of the balls because you need a lot and they do add up. Our OT has 1,400 balls in her Jumpolene.  Be careful where you buy a Jumpolene.  I bought it from California Fun Toys and they only offered a warranty of one month.  The manufacturer, Intex, told me that they offered a “courtesy replacement” should the Jumpolene start leaking within 3 months.  Unfortunately, they didn’t bother printing that information on the box so we didn’t know to call them in time.   But I understand Abilitations has a great warranty and will replace it if it starts leaking air before you have it one year.  Our OT has had hers replaced free by Abilitations more than once.  I can tell you by experience, it is worth a few extra dollars to have the peace of mind of the one year warranty.  Be careful if you need to move your Jumpolene, don’t pull it by the top chambers because that tends to break the seams.  We also have a mini trampoline, the boys love to use it to jump into the ball pit.  Trampolines are good for heavy work, proprioception, and vestibular stimulation.  The vestibular sensation, which comes from the inner ear, is responsible for balance.  Overstimulation of this sense results in a feeling of dizziness or vertigo, which you may be familiar with from various amusement park rides.

Another great sensory item is “Super shape changers” from Oriental trading company. A size large is only $20. These look almost exactly like Body Sox but they are about 1/3 the price.  I think these are good for proprioception, which is the sense of where the various parts of the body are located in relation to each other as well as where the body is in space.  If you want the brand name Body Sox, I recently found those for $37 at www.allegromedical.com.  Oriental Trading has nice tunnels for crawling through, for about $20.   Crawling is good for developing upper body strength and as “heavy work.”  Finally, they have some cute pop up dome tents for indoor use, also inexpensive. 

Swings are a very commonly used item for kids with sensory integration dysfunction or autism.  We have an Ikea Ekorre hanging swing and we love it. See ours here, next to the ballpit:  Swing and Jumpolene Ballpit  These don’t seem to be available from Ikea any longer, but there are lots to be found on Ebay and they aren’t too expensive. Many of them can be purchased as a “buy it now” rather than going through the hassle of bidding.  The hanging swing is grey canvas with a round, red bottom inside into which their round air cushion is inserted.  It is enclosed on three sides, offering a safe cozy retreat for the child.  Incidentally, Ikea has a lot of great furniture ideas for sensory kids, such as the items listed here. I like the swivel chair with the pull down canopy for a relaxing retreat from a too-bright world. We don’t have it yet, but I’m hoping sometime in the near future. Ikea also has inexpensive pop up tents and a tunnel.  Their colorful car rugs with roads on them are a nice item as well, it encourages imaginative play and some crawling while pushing cars around.  

 Another great sensory swing is the Cuddle Swing from Abilitations or Sammons Preston which are both made of a soft and stretchy material.  They are similar to the one recently featured on Extreme Makeover Home Edition, though I never have been able to determine exactly which brand was featured.  The Cuddle Swings enclose the child like the body sox do.  

 I made some crash mats shortly after we got the jumpolene/ballpit, giant (Like 4′ x 6′) pillowcases filled with chunks of furniture foam. You can use clearance priced fabric to do this.  Don’t make the mistake I did and buy the foam brand new. Try to find a mattress or furniture company that will give you scraps. My son likes to crawl under these mats like you would with a weighted blanket, as well as jumping onto them.   He goes into the ballpit with a flashlight and pulls the crash mats over his head so he can play with the flashlight in the dark.  We sit on them together to read books.  I also use place one under his feet when he practices piano.  It gives him something to rest his feet on and keeps him from kicking me and from resting his foot on top of mine while I try to tap out the rhythm for him.

For weighted items such as vests, blankets, and lap pads at a reasonable price, visit hugsnstitches4u.com    She makes very nice handsewn items, you add the weights to save on shipping.  She can even make the items with your child’s favorite character.   I just got a vest for my 5 year old and it is sewn beautifully. 

 I like to choose stocking stuffers from http://www.therapyshoppe.com.  They have sensory fidgets, oral motor items, fine motor, small games, and much more for very reasonable prices compared to other therapy catalogs.  We have purchased many items, such as the motorized wiggle writer, little critter massagers, lots of fidget balls, whistles and string pipes, cute animal mini tape measures, chewy tubes, wikki-stiks, triangular crayons, short jumbo crayons (love these!), and lots of other small items.  We also bought the weights for our new vest there, they were very reasonable too.  Here is a nice list of other stocking stuffer ideas for sensory integration.  http://specialchildren.about.com/od/sensoryintegration/qt/sistockingstuff.htm

Another great item that is helpful for proprioception as well as vestibular stimulation, is a hop ball.  Did you ever have a hippity-hop ball as a child?   My 5 year old has been enjoying his red hop ball, sized for children 5 and up,  for over a year.   He is very tall, and loves the color red with a passion.  Our 3 year old is just getting big enough to use one.  We are giving him the yellow hop ball, which is sized for a children 3 and up, for one of his Christmas gifts this year.   How fortunate that his favorite color happens to be yellow!  There is also a blue hop ball, for children ages 9 and up, that supports up to 300 pounds.  I really like the Gymnic brand, the hop balls have been very durable.

Here is a list of other items in the gross motor category. For balance and coordination there is the Monkey Balance Board or Ducky Balance Board, approximately ages 3-6.   EZ Steppers are a good item for both balance and bilateral coordination.  We are giving our 3 year old both a balance board and stompers for Christmas.  For upper body strengthening, the Twizzler Twist and Spinner Bar or a Trapeze Bar with Rings would be a good choice.   Since it is winter here right now, I plan to buy one of these in the spring, probably for my 5 year old’s birthday. 

More to follow…

Explaining The Value Of Money To Young Children

Today as I started doing schoolwork with my 5 year old, I gave him the task of putting the correct date on the top of our magnetic calendar while I went to get an item to start our work.  I was gone for about 30 seconds, and as I left I admonished him not to chew or break the pieces.  When I returned I found that he had bent the “Today” magnet, almost breaking it in half completely.  The only thing holding it together is the thin white layer on which the word was printed.  After giving him a piece of my mind, I gave him a lecture on the value of money which I think hit the intended target.

We, like most families, struggle to keep the family budget “in the black.”  Similar to other homeschooling mothers, I need to limit the hours I work outside the home.  I do have an internet business as well, but we have a very tight budget. I have noticed that my boys are very careless, breaking toys and other items around the house.  So after my husband and I had a discussion about upcoming expenses such as filling the oil tank, I was not happy to see the piece from our brand new magnetic calendar broken.  I explained to my son that I had just spent hard-earned money on the new calendar and it is designed to be used for years, but I felt that he was not hearing me.  So this is how I explained the concept of money to him:

 I told Jamie that his Daddy works very hard every day to earn enough to buy us the things we need.  I told him that I work too, and if we don’t have enough money I won’t be able to spend as much time with him.  He heard about how Mommy and Daddy worry about not having enough money if something big breaks.  I told him that our furnace broke several years ago and we had to spend thousands of dollars to replace it.  I named many of the things that parents need money for:  payments on the house, electricity, oil for heat and hot water, food, toys, school supplies, clothes, and more.  “Everything you see in this house cost money to buy.”  I told Jamie that when he breaks things or is careless, it makes me feel that he does not value how hard Mommy and Daddy work to pay for them.  I asked him “Do you want Mommy to have to work more hours and not be able to be home with you as much?”  He agreed that he would rather have Mommy at home more.  He was very sad about the calendar piece being broken but I told him he would just have to use it the way it is.  Perhaps each day, the broken piece can be a reminder of our discussion.  I plan to keep reinforcing our conversation by pointing out when he is wasteful or careless. 

 I would welcome helpful comments from other parents on how you deal with this issue in your family.

I recently found this page on teaching children the value of money, some more good ideas.  http://www.raisingsmallsouls.com/teaching-children-about-money/

Using the Math-U-See Skip Counting and Addition Facts CD

We just got our Math-U-See (MUS) music CD for learning the skip counting and addition facts.  The songs are sung by a children’s choir.  I think the music is pleasant to listen to, though it can easily get stuck in your head and drive you nuts.  “Choc-late eight is taking two, not from me, just from you, choc-late eight is taking two, with his vacuum”  (To the tune of London Bridge).  I always say passing it on helps get rid of it, LOL.  I like the fact that they use Bible references in the songs, although the CD also has songs using Science and Literature facts for those that prefer it.  Or for public school classroom use.  My 5 year old is picking up some of the skip counting facts, and we have only had the CD for 4 days.  I like to use it in the car.  We also played games with some of the addition facts songs.  There is a song about building a wall using ten, and you stack the manipulatives.  A ten bar goes on the bottom, then you build each layer using the unit bars.  For example, the second layer of the wall in the song uses the six and four.  I found that once I heard the song enough times I was able to use the included songbook and just sing it without accompaniment.  This allowed me to sing the song slow enough so my son could find the appropriate manipulatives to build the wall.  You have to hold onto the wall as you build it though, or they will fall over easily.  The pieces do not stay together tightly.  We also did this with the song about adding to nine.  It was fun for both of us.

I have two criticisms of MUS Skip Counting and addition facts.  In the songs with the addition facts, sometimes it is hard to understand the children that are singing.  And Steve Demme’s quirk about saying 11 through 19 as ten-ty one, ten-ty two, and so on is included in the songs.  Most of them also say the number as what our English language uses, but I think one or two do not.  And since the children are hard to understand at times, a child listening to this may become confused.  Sometimes it sounds like they are saying twenty-four instead of one-ty four, or thirty-three instead of one-ty three.  So if you aren’t careful, your child may think nine plus five is twenty-four or nine plus four is thirty-three.  But if you sometimes sing acapella with the songbook you could reinforce the correct answers.  All in all, it is good and my child likes listening to it.

Playing Kickball with Sensory Integration Dysfunction

My 5 year old son played kickball for the first time today, and it wasn’t pretty.  Since our church offers weekly group activities for the homeschooling families, we decided to start bringing our son for “Fun Fridays” with gym and other activities.  So we went for the first time today.  The group played kickball, and it really brought back a lot of memories of what gym class was like for me as a child.  At first I watched my confused little boy try to participate in the game.  He can’t seem to keep his eyes on the ball so I could see I would have to be more hands-on and help him out.  To kick the ball, Jamie waited for the ball to come to him and stop, then kicked it.  But then he didn’t know to run.  When he was told to run, he ran out past first base and kept going into right field.  After some explanation, he knew to stop on the bases.  But to keep his attention on the game so he would know when the ball had been kicked again and he could go to the next base, that again required hands-on intervention.  Yelling at him to run was useless unless it was accompanied by a push in the right direction.  He, like me as a child, seemed to have no idea what was going on.  He found it confusing when the teams changed places also.  At first he was placed in the far right field, but he sat down on the ground there.  The next time his team was in the field we put him between the pitcher and third base.  He never happened to be looking if the ball came to him, even with repeated admonitions to “watch the ball”.  Then when he saw it he would kick it, even after repeated instruction to pick up the ball and throw it to a base.  (I don’t suppose if he did manage to get the ball in time that he would know which base to throw it to.)  When he did see and go after the ball he tried to wrestle with one of the boys on his team to get it.  Needless to say, the other team scored big when that happened.  It was a challenge for him to keep his eyes on the ball even when it was his turn to kick.  It will be interesting to see what his appointment with the behavioral optometrist next month shows.  I had a little talk with him later to discuss the object of the game for kickball.   He hadn’t realized that he was trying to win for his team rather than winning individually.  Not surprising.  Of course this is one of the disadvantages of playing a game with a group of mixed ages, the younger ones that have not played before can drag down their team.  I would have hoped that Jamie could have played better since I was standing right behind him to help him.  But it seems that neither watching nor listening are his strengths.  Strange as it seems, this same child is doing mostly first grade work academically.  We will have to see how things go next week. 

Homeschooling, potty training, and my husband’s new diet

Jamie did a little better with homeschooling this week.  I told him that he  cannot watch TV while he eats breakfast.  Instead he must do all his schoolwork before he gets TV or computer privileges.  We were only allowing him 1 half hour show before, but it seemed to affect his school performance so I decided to make him wait.  I also started using the reward chart I got from Scholastic.  He puts on a sticker for each subject we work on, under the appropriate day of the week.  This encourages him to try to read a little bit too, at least until he memorizes where everything is located on the chart.  We are working on memorizing the unit bars in the Math U See manipulative set.  Each number one to nine has a different colored bar with the appropriate number of squares on it.  I started yesterday and he knows them already.  I expected it to take a week or two, but once we colored the workbook picture of the unit bars he seemed to know them.  Today we played some games suggested in the teachers guide.  “If you’re happy and you know it…” grab a five, Simon Says “put a three on your nose” and things like that.  Jamie really wanted to play musical chairs.  I couldn’t figure out how that related to learning the unit bar values but he suggested putting a bar on each chair.  Then he told me the value of the unit bar in the chair whenever the music stopped and he sat down.   I kept changing them around too.  It was sooo much more fun than doing the workbook.  Next week we will work on addition.  I think that is pretty good for just starting Kindergarten.

Reading is still a challenge.  I’m trying to make it a “just right” level of challenge, but he really balks.  He understands phonics very well, but it seems to be a visual or attention issue that is holding him back.  His OT says that she feels he has difficulty tracking objects with his eyes and covers one eye sometimes when he colors,  so we made an appointment with a behavioral optometrist to see if there is a problem.  I know he is young still, but I also know he is quite capable of reading many words if he would just keep his eyes on the book.  His phonemic awareness is very good, and he only gets confused about whether the vowels are short or long.  If I could start again I would never have taught the long vowels when I first taught him the sounds the letters made.  But once he gets some of the rules down he should figure it out.  (Like an “e” on the end makes the “a” say it’s name, and that sort of thing.)  I’m going to order him a spelling book from Modern Curriculum Press and we will alternate that with phonics/reading.  Spelling is basically phonics in reverse, so it should help.  The book is a little below the level he is working at, so it should improve his confidence too.  I understand that the book starts with matching words that begin with the same sound, and moves on to some of the phonics rules later in the book. 

Samuel is doing a little better with the potty.  He actually went independently to his little potty when I had him in just a t-shirt, and had a bowel movement.  Another day I thought he was ready and he went again on the small potty.  He doesn’t wet much anymore, he has that down cold.  Even most nights he is try, I stopped using diapers at night.  I’m hoping to get him into Head Start in the fall, I just got through the first part of the red tape and now we will wait and see if he qualifies for a spot.  Apparently his receiving Birth to 3 services almost guarantees him the spot.  It does seem easier to work with Jamie on school without Samuel distracting him.  I think it will be good for both of them.  And the lady from Head Start claims that they can finish potty training him, LOL.

On the health front, my husband started on the Cinch Inch Loss Plan this week. Basically you replace breakfast and lunch with shakes. Their shakes are very high in protein to help you feel full, and high in leucine to prevent loss of muscle mass. There is a snack bar included in the plan for a snack, to get you through between shakes. There is also a metabolism boosting vitamin supplement and energy tea mix. My husband told me the first day that he did not feel hungry on the plan and that he felt like he had more energy. He even played with the kids right after coming home from work, which is unusual for him. Stay tuned to find out how well it works for him.

Our best family vacation yet

We just got back from a long weekend in Shapleigh, Maine.  A good friend of my husband’s invited us to come up for a few days to stay at his family’s cottage.  Right on the waterfront of, I think, Mousam Lake.  They had a nice clean, sandy beach, and the water was comfortably warm.  The kids had a wonderful time digging in the sand, swimming, and going for boat rides.  “Uncle” Jeff was wonderfully patient with the children, kind, and an incredible host.  His sister and brother in law nearby came to entertain us as well, offering their boats, playing with the kids, watching them so we could eat uninterrupted.  What a rare treat!  Jeff served us a wonderful seafood and lobster feast last night and we ate until we could eat no more.  The boys, of course, turned up their noses at lobster.  No problem with that, LOL.  Jamie preferred burgers.  Samuel accepted the haddock cooked with onions and cracker crumbs. 

I knew enough not to try to waterski, but my husband did and also went tubing.  He is paying for this with sore, stiff muscles all over.  Luckily I was needed to stay at the house while Sammy napped and I just enjoyed the peace and quiet.  Jamie did try tubing too, with his Daddy.  Jamie got the benefit of a much gentler ride than Jeff and Greg were given.  LOL.  The boys couldn’t get enough of riding the boats, especially Sammy.  Every time someone got into a boat, even to tinker with it, he wanted in.  But they didn’t pester, unlike other vacations.  They had such a nice time on the peaceful beachfront.  There were a few other children staying nearby and Jamie enjoyed their company.  They were asking for him as we were packing up to leave.  I was so sorry to tell them we were going.  I had thought Jamie was not getting along well with them, it was nice that they asked for him the last day.    One nice thing this year, now that Sammy is a little older, we sent both boys down to the water with strict rules they must have their life jackets on at all times.  We watched them carefully from the deck if we weren’t down on the beach.  Sammy can’t take off his vest, and Jamie kept his on according to the rule.  We use Type I offshore vests because they turn the wearer upright in the water.  Sammy never fell in, but it was good to have with him running up and down the boat dock.  He enjoyed picking rocks up from the shallow area near the beach and dropping them off the end of the dock.  He was very persistent too. 

Tomorrow we will go back to our usual routine.  I hope the boys can be contented playing at home, as I have to work in the afternoon.  Jeff suggested we return for a visit to see the fall foliage in October, so we hope to return for another peaceful weekend.

A difficult week

Jamie is continuing to do well with music, handwriting, and math.  But reading is such a struggle.  He is pretty capable, but he just won’t keep his eyes on the material long enough to accomplish much.  I’m thinking to taking him to a behavioral optometrist to see if there is a visual problem.  His OT also suggested this might be an issue, since he can’t maintain focus while playing catch either.  In the meatime, I’m thinking of writing some words on index cards and scattering them on the floor to make a game.  Like, pick up all the cards that use ai to make the long a sound.  Or something along those lines.  Maybe pick up all the words that are animal names.  I think he would like that better, it would get him up and moving.

Jamie is enjoying his swim lessons.  He now jumps into the water independently, ducks his head under, etc.  He needs to be reminded to hold his breath underwater.  He doesn’t want to wear his water wings in his grandparents’ or his cousin’s pool because he can touch the bottom with his toes now.  He would do better if he would close his mouth and breathe through his nose.  It makes me nervous hearing him cough and sputter. 

 Little Samuel is having an exceptional week of being terrible two.  Every time I am not looking he goes and chases my 14 year old cat around the house.  I tell him she is too old to be chased, she is tired, stop chasing her, etc.  “Why?” he says.  Eventually I get to “Because I said so!”  LOL.  This week Samuel has not been doing well using the potty.  He had a bout of diarrhea one day, which I think may have been a food reaction.  But then after a few attempts on the potty, I put a diaper on him and he had a big, formed BM.  Maybe he was blocked up?  I’m not sure what to do with him.  I started giving him probiotics again yesterday.  He developed a horrible rash which was not responding to natural things like coconut oil, so we had to go back to topical antifungal cream.  I tried leaving his bottom bare today to help the rash, and he rewarded me by making an awful mess on the carpet while I was working on reading with Jamie in the playroom.  Of course he always manages to soil his feet when he does this.  Then he went chasing the cat behind the couch before I discovered it.  What a mess!  I cleaned him up in the shower, with the water a bit on the cooler side.  Then I had him sit on the toilet while I cleaned up his mess.  He got an earful about this one, LOL.  I sure hope he can go to headstart in the fall.  I need a break from this toddler thing!

 The worst thing is I can never complain to my husband because he will just remind me that I wanted kids.  It’s the same if I complain about the dishes, cooking or housecleaning.  He ties all that to the kids too.  But I still want to try again for a girl.  I just wish you could skip from age 1 to about age 5.  It would be so much easier that way.    

Seeing improvements in 5 year old Jamie

This week I have noticed that Jamie seems to be gradually improving in several areas.  I had increased his b-complex to a full tablet a couple days ago. I still have to use a little “tough love” to get him to take it, as in making him drink the crushed tablet in juice before he can have breakfast. But he is getting used to taking it every morning anyway, and I have seen some positive changes. He is fighting a little less during the transition from play to homeschool activities.  His focus and attention are much better. 

Jamie is doing very well reading the “floating notes” in his piano book and playing them with fairly accurate timing.  That is, he is playing the half notes and quarter notes shown in the music more accurately than in previous weeks.  He is picking up the new songs more easily, and seems to be doing a better job reading the music instead of trying to play by ear or memorize the pattern of the song if there is one.  I’m really glad I chose to start piano with him.  I thought with his fondness of music he would take to it, it’s nice to be right sometimes, LOL.  I don’t really know much about piano, but I’m having good luck using The Music Tree beginner book to teach him. 

Jamie is also focusing longer on math and handwriting.  Today he even asked to do more math after I had done one page with him and was satisfied that it was enough.  He wanted to bring out “decimal street” and build numbers on it.  This is something unique to the Math-U-See books.    Once we finished that and moved onto handwriting, he asked to write the number 10 after we had practiced what I had prepared for today.  We are using Handwriting Without Tears for that.  Usually I don’t have him write in the workbook, but just on the magnetic “slate” and the little chalkboard one.   He is now doing better writing in the book, which is a good sign.  I know that writing on the chalkboard is using more of the large muscles of the arm, while writing in the workbook uses the small muscles of the hand more.

Samuel is coming along with the potty training too. He actually told me he needed to go yesterday, and had a BM in the potty instead of on the floor or in his training pants. He is getting very independent, he actually told me to “Get out” after he sat down. LOL.

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