Archive for November, 2006

Tree in Our Trail

November 29, 2006 @ 1:18 pm | Filed under: , ,

Holling Clancy Holling’s books seem to be a staple for the homeschooling library, and ours is no exception. The girls and I have enjoyed several of Holling’s books over the years, especially Paddle to the Sea and Pagoo. (The title character of the latter book served as the namesake for not one, not two, but three hermit crabs who were cherished members of our family for a couple of years. Ah, Pagoo, Pagooess, and Pagooie, we knew ye well!)


I had tucked Tree in the Trail aside to await the right moment, and the other day I decided that moment is now. It’s the story of a cottonwood tree that takes root along what would later become the Santa Fe trail. Our recent cross-country tripapalooza took us right along sections of that very trail, and the scenery in the book is now very meaningful to my kids!

We are only four chapters in, but so far all of us are loving it. I actually got choked up when the Indian brave who saved the tree as a sapling came back to visit it on horseback later. The girls were transfixed by the idea that there was a time when "horseback" didn’t exist, a time when people didn’t know about riding horses. Sure, we’ve read other books about horseless cultures, but you don’t really think about about the absence of riding animals when you’re immersed in tales of what the characters ARE doing. It was a great light-bulb moment for the kids, especially Rose (my horse fanatic), another making-real of knowledge that had been merely dry fact before. Which is the best, the very best, thing about reading with my children: seeing those lights come on, and basking in their warm glow.

More Gift Ideas: Books on Drawing

November 29, 2006 @ 7:51 am | Filed under: ,

In the comments yesterday, Faith of Dumb Ox Academy wrote:

Thanks Lissa! This is perfect timing. We have been doing ten minutes of
drawing at our Family school (or what the kids call Breakfast school).
My kids are very intimidated by drawing and all claim they can’t, so we
decided from now until Christmas we’d draw every morning for ten
minutes. These little exercises will fit perfectly into our new routine.

My kids have all enjoyed and been quite inspired by the I Can Draw series published by Usborne Books. Here’s an excerpt from a long piece about drawing books I wrote last last year—

These are some drawing books my kids are nuts about. The Usborne
ones NEVER stay on the shelf; someone is always using one, it seems.
They’re also fond of the Draw Write Now series, but we’ve always
ignored the Write part. They just like the step-by-step instructions
for drawing things like the Statue of Liberty and buffalo. (We only
have a couple of them, but I’m assuming the others are just as good.)

I Can Draw Animals

I Can Draw People

I Can Crayon

On The Farm, Kids & Critters, Storybook Characters (Draw Write Now, Book 1)

Christopher Columbus, Autumn Harvest, The Weather (Draw Write Now, Book 2)

Native Americans, North America, The Pilgrims (Draw Write Now, Book 3)

The Polar Regions, The Arctic, The Antarctic (Draw Write Now, Book 4)

The United States, From Sea to Sea, Moving Forward (Draw Write Now, Book 5)

Animals & Habitats — On Land, Ponds & Rivers, Oceans (Draw Write Now, Book 6)

Animals of the World, Part 1: Tropical Forests, Northern Forests, Forests Down Under (Draw Write Now, Book 7)

Animals of the World, Part 2: Savannas, Grasslands, Mountains and Deserts (Draw Write Now, Book 8)

Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad

And these are two books that I’ve been using to improve my own
skills a little…I especially love the snippets of advice Claire
Walker Leslie gives for drawing trees, plants, birds, etc. She has a
knack for pointing out just the right way to approach the tricky bits
that don’t come naturally to me, like how to make a tree branch look
like it’s really curving out of a trunk.

Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You

The Usborne Complete Book of Drawing

There’s also a highly rated video program called Draw Today which I’ve got on my own Christmas wish list! Have any of you tried it out?

As for stuff with which to draw, I tackled that topic too on Bonny Glen a while back.

How to Draw Practically Anything (As Long as It Barks, Quacks, or Roars)

November 28, 2006 @ 7:10 am | Filed under:

Here’s a fun site for the kids! And mom too, for that matter. How to Draw It is the gift of Santa Fe artist Pam Neely to sketchers-in-training everywhere. Her site features step by step instructions for drawing simple, charming animals—everthing from mice to unicorns, from hippos to seahorses. You can even subscribe for free weekly drawing lessons via email. Each lesson includes a delightful snippet of poetry about the animal in question.

These are great pages to print out and give to the kids. I know my little gang will have fun with these lessons!

It’s All a Blur

November 26, 2006 @ 8:01 pm | Filed under:


We are still reveling in being together again, the seven of us. This was Scott’s first long weekend off since we arrived in SoCal, and it was just really really nice to have him home, all to ourselves, for four whole days. In some ways this was the first four-day weekend our kids have ever known. Scott was a freelancer for eight years, beginning the day Rose was born. We used to have to make a special breakfast on Saturdays just so our kids would know it was the weekend.

This weekend, long as it purportedly was, whisked by in a rush of giggles and squeals. Our Thanksgiving feast, with "just" the seven of us, and then another trip to the zoo, and then a trip to the park. We can’t get used to parks and short sleeves in late November. The sight of palm trees still catches me by surprise. Every day, hummingbirds come to visit the basket of red and purple flowers that hangs outside my kitchen window. Their wings flutter so quickly we can’t see them moving, which is exactly what the days are doing right now. Slow down, I whisper. I want to savor this, every moment of it.

My Other Part-Time Job

November 22, 2006 @ 1:22 pm | Filed under: , ,

If I earned a wage for all the hours I’ve clocked on my kids’ medical issues, well…I’d be a case manager, not a mother. But I’d also be rich.

I spent this first month in California shoving to the back of my mind a looming dread  over the necessity of Finding New Doctors. Oh, how this pains me. We had the most fabulous family practice back in Virginia. Excellent and attentive doctors, compassionate and capable office staff, kind nurses. I loved everyone there, really loved them! Even the lab tech who took my blood. I miss her. I miss the whole gang. Thanks to Wonderboy, we spent so much time in their offices we might as well have kept extra toothbrushes there.

Best of all, oh so marvelous, was Dr. H., whose name I’d like to shout all over the internet but if I did her phone would never stop ringing because SHE MADE HOUSE CALLS. She was the doctor I’d been looking for my whole life, or at least since Jane got sick in 97. Scott and I used to sit in the hospital lamenting the fact that no one in our families had married a doctor, because we could have really really used one in the family, someone to call up and say "Listen, there’s This New Weird Thing going on—do I haaave to haul the kid into the office? Or can this just be a wait and see?"

And then Dr. H. walked into our lives—through our front door!—and I swear I was like a sixth-grader all over again. Hi, you’re so awesome, will you be my best friend?

You want to know how awesome? When I told her I was going to be driving all five kids to California by myself, SHE OFFERED TO FLY WITH ME INSTEAD.

I almost took her up on it, but I was afraid I might accidentally lock her up in a secret room in our house and never never let her go. And she has kids of her own who need her. Humph. So when the time came, I hugged her goodbye and bawled like a baby all over her stethoscope.

And here I am, poring over our new provider directory, cowering at the thought of starting all over with some stranger. It’s like dating again after a bad breakup.

There really ought to be an eHarmony for finding doctors.

One pediatric practice here was highly recommended by several of our new friends. I took a deep breath and made the call, which felt like going on a blind date. Nice voice on the phone says that yes, they are taking new patients but the first available well-child appointments are in January.

I’m fine with that, as long as they’ll see us before then if someone gets sick. I’ve been burned this way before—some docs won’t see you for sick visits unless you’re already a patient. But these folks say, nope, not a problem, if someone gets sick we’ll get you in right away.

So, okay, it’s a start.

BUT. My next question was about finding an audiologist for Wonderboy. He needs new ear molds for his hearing aids about every six months. The current pair was made in late June. Already they’re getting a little loose; he’ll need a new pair in Jan or Feb for sure. And I know how these things work. We’ll have to have the new-patient visit to the audiologist too, with hearing tests, and then they’ll probably have us come back a second time to get the ear molds made. And then it’ll take a few weeks for the new molds to come in. Time, time, it all takes time. I’m an experienced case manager now and I know you have to anticipate the patient’s needs.

So the new pediatrician’s office recommended an audiologist. But THAT office says there’s a two-month wait for new-patient appointments there, too. And also? They can’t make an appointment for Wonderboy without a prescription from his pediatrician.

Me: "A prescription? Do you mean a referral? We have a PPO now; we don’t need specialist referrals as long as they’re in the network. Which you are."

Audiology office: "No, a prescription. For a hearing test."

Ohhhhkay. Right. Because, you know, there’s such a black market for hearing tests. Hearing test abuse, it’s a real problem in urban centers. Especially among three-year-olds. Their mothers are always trying to sneak in preschoolers with perfect hearing just to get a quick buzz off those intoxicating beeps and clicks.

I called the pediatrician’s office back. I told Scott it was a test: how they respond to this situation will give me a good idea of what has the upper hand in their practice: human need or red tape.

The first person I spoke with scored well. When I explained that I can’t wait until January (when our new-patient appointment is scheduled) to get the prescription because then it will be MARCH before the audiologist can see us, and probably APRIL at the earliest before we get new ear molds, and even though Wonderboy doesn’t need new molds now, he will certainly need them before April—when I (gasp, pant) explained all this, the Unnamed Office Person on the phone totally understood the problem. She took all our info and said she’ll have a nurse call back.

So now I’m waiting for round two. Meanwhile, I keep finding myself staring at the phone, with Dr. H’s number on the tips of my fingers. Chill out, I tell myself. They have good doctors in California too. I might call her anyway, because now that she’s officially not our doctor anymore, I am totally latching onto her claiming her as a friend. And if she ever does fly out here for a visit I promise not to make her give us all checkups.

Mom Planners Revisited

November 21, 2006 @ 7:19 am | Filed under:

All right, it’s been a few months—how are your day planners working out for you? Care to share updated reviews on the planners you wound up with?

Here’s another one for you to check out: the Mom’s Daily Planner by Mahoney Publishing. It’s a spiral-bound planner in a nice, compact 5×8" size. (Fits nicely in a purse.) It has tabs on the sides with the names of each month, and its daily pages are laid out in a four-column format with times running down the side. The first column is labeled "Mom," and the others are for your kids. In all the feedback I’ve received for the planner series, the ability to track mom’s activities and kids’ activities in separate columns or spaces was very high on people’s lists of desired features. (The BusyBodyBook* has a similar layout, but its format is weekly instead of daily.)

Each month begins with a one-page month-at-a-glance calendar, and then there is a separate page for each day of the month. I’ll upload a sample page at the bottom of this post. Because this planner uses a page-per-day format, it’s pretty thick (about the same size as the CWDP menu & lesson plan version) but the Mom’s Daily Planner doesn’t include extra material like the menu pages. The planners that are laid out in a two-pages-per-week format seem to include more bonus materials like to-do lists.

The cover is a thin, coated card stock in pink, blue, black, or green. The publisher is offering a free 2006 planner when you order a 2007 edition. (And as a reminder—I don’t make any money off these planner recommendations; this is just a series of reviews for your information!)


*About the BusyBodyBook—I just discovered they are offering free downloads of weekly "Fridge Grid" pages for anyone who’s interested. They would make great chore charts! The publisher is also offering a 25% discount on the 06/07 planner. Enter Fundraiser Code BBBLOG during checkout out to receive your 25% off.

More planner reviews:
Catholic Woman’s Daily Planner
Small Meadow Press — Circle of Days
The BusyBodyBook

Another Gift Idea: Art Prints

November 20, 2006 @ 6:49 am | Filed under: , ,

Back to that art print post I mentioned yesterday. Like many homeschoolers, my family chooses an artist for picture study every couple of months. I usually pick out five or six paintings to use as wallpaper on our computer, which is located in a central area of the house. We talk about the artist, read a little about his or her life, look at where he falls in time. If I can get hold of a cheap calendar with prints of his work, we cut out the pictures and hang them up.

In this way we make the acquaintance of, oh, four or five artists a year. (At one point I was aiming for one artist a month, but then we had another baby and moved across country, yada yada yada.) And I was thinking how lovely it would be to commemorate each one by choosing our favorite work and having it framed, so that over the years we would grow a collection of paintings that mean something to our family.

We do have a couple of Carl Larsson prints framed (calendar pages, so the color quality isn’t perfect) and recently we picked up some Van Gogh prints when frames were on sale at Michael’s. It struck me that a wonderful way for other family members to be part of the fun of picture study would be to include the names of favorite art prints on holiday wish lists. A favorite Renoir on the wall is a delight in its own right, but a favorite Renoir from Grandma is even more special.

LOL—this is a very hard post to write—I keep worrying that it sounds like I’m dropping hints for my mother and mother-in-law. I’m speaking in a general sense, honestly! But of course both grandmas do ask me for gift ideas for the kids every year, and I think from now on I will start including some paintings on those lists.

The Artchive Poster Store is one good source of framed prints. Of course it’s much cheaper to just buy the print and watch for frame sales at Michael’s or Target.