Archive for November, 2007

Online Word Games

November 23, 2007 @ 7:52 am | Filed under:

I know I read a post somewhere recently that linked to a free online word game in which players make as many words as they can from a certain number of letters. I played the game once, but now I can’t find it. Anyone know what I’m thinking of?

It wasn’t Babble (a combination of Boggle and Scrabble), which we love.

It was a lot like Neopets Word Poker (my favorite Neopets game), but without the pirates.

I can’t remember what it was called, nor where I saw the link. Hmm. This is…puzzling. (Ba dum bum.)

UPDATE! Hypatia found it. It’s Eight Letters in Search of a Word, which I’m sure I, like Hypatia, first read about at The Common Room.

There are other fun game suggestions popping up in the comments. Thanks, and keep ’em coming!

By the way, my kids and I are back on an iSketch kick. I go in first and create a private room, then send an invitation to the other computer. (We have two usernames.) Much shouting and hilarity ensues: this game, which is an online version of Pictionary, is a blast. In years past, we used to have great fun setting up iSketch dates with faraway friends. Might be time to resurrect that tradition!

Feeling Thankful

November 22, 2007 @ 7:25 am | Filed under:

You can see why.


And on this day, ten years since the Thanksgiving Day Jane finished the in-patient, high-dose phase of her chemotherapy protocol, it seems like a good time to recall this post I wrote three years ago, just before I began this blog. (Rilla is celebrating in retrospect. She is glad there is a big-sister-Jane in her life.)

She finished the last round of high-dose chemo on Thanksgiving Day
of 1997. We ate Boston Market turkey and stuffing in the hospital
playroom while her meds finished running. There were two more years of
low-dose chemo to go, but we expected to spend most of that period as
out-patients. When we got home that night—home, where we hadn’t spent
more than ten days in a row since March—it was late, a cold, clear
night, with as many stars as a New York City sky can muster. I remember
thinking I couldn’t imagine ever being more thankful for anything than
I was to be carrying that little girl up the stairs to our apartment
that night.

I was wrong. Today I watched Jane feeding Wonderboy a jar of baby
food. He thought it was hilarious to have his big sister be the one
feeding him, and he could hardly eat for laughing—big belly laughs that
made the other kids crack up, and then the sound of their laughter,
which he can hear clearly now with the hearing aids in, made him guffaw
all the harder. I stood frozen in the kitchen, holding my breath as if
they were a flock of rare birds who might fly away if I moved. Beanie’s
curls bounce when she laughs. Rose laughs mostly with her big brown
eyes. Jane is like a poster child for joy. It bubbles out of her and
spills over to everyone around.

There’s a little part of me that is still leaning over the bed in
that crowded Queens apartment, counting tiny red dots on Jane’s skin,
slowly awaking to the fact that we had far more important things to
worry about than what day Scott should give notice at his job. It’s the
part of me that knows, now, never to take a minute of this for
granted—to give thanks to God every hour of every day for these amazing
treasures who have been entrusted to my care, and for the guy who gives
his all in helping me take care of them. They are miracles, all of
them. Especially that golden girl beaming at her little brother as she
lifts the spoon to his laughing mouth.


Call for Submissions: November Carnival of Children’s Literature

November 21, 2007 @ 7:14 am | Filed under:

It’s that time again! This month’s Carnival of Children’s Literature will be hosted by MotherReader, who has a theme in mind:

For this month I want a tip as a reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer,
publisher, or editor of children’s literature. I want a lesson learned
from a teacher, librarian, author, or parent with regards to kids’ lit.
It doesn’t have to be a post that you did in November or October,
though you may consider tweaking and re-posting an older entry to use.
You can pick a post from any point this year. The deadline for
submission is Saturday, November 24th, and I’ll post the Carnival on
Wednesday, November 29th. Send your links through my email or the Carnival site
and please indicate, if possible, whether the tip/trick/hint is more
for reader, writer, illustrator, reviewer, publisher, editor, teacher,
librarian, or parent.

So there’s your mission for this holiday week. A much nicer way to spend Black Friday than fighting the mall crowds, if you ask me.

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Why I’m Behind on My Book-Reviewing

November 19, 2007 @ 2:59 pm | Filed under:

The horses, having learned a thing or two from the three little pigs, have eschewed such mundane construction materials as straw, sticks, or brick for the mansion they are raising. The foundation has been laid, and it is not only sturdy but captivating.


There is some question as to whether walls will ever go up; the laborers are too busy reading the floor.


Say, that ballet shoe looks tasty!

All the Robert’s Snow Posts Linked on One Page

November 18, 2007 @ 9:27 pm | Filed under:

The indefatigable Jules of 7 Impossible Things has created a page containing links to every single Robert’s Snow "Blogging for a Cure" illustrator feature. Wow! Explore these links to meet some of the many marvelous illustrators who donated snowflakes to the Robert’s Snow auctions, and whose work makes all our bookshelves more beautiful.

My Robert’s Snow posts:

David Macauley
Timothy Bush

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More on Art Supplies

November 18, 2007 @ 4:10 pm | Filed under:

In response to the question about paints from the other day (on Lilting House), my pal Joann writes:

C’s favorite media are Prismacolors and
acrylic paints.

Acrylics are water clean-up, mix nicely. She likes

She uses Daler-Rowney acrylics from Dick Blick or and they are made in ENGLAND! Not China! Not sure about the lead content. I
would think that oils would probably be prone to have heavy metals in them as
some of the pigments are from earth minerals. (I don’t remember why I know
that.) BUT I did see in a Dick Blick catalog some "H2Oils" that are water

I LOVE oils for myself. The richness, the
thickness, the globs. LOL

We love Prismacolors too—the soft creamy feel when you’re coloring with them, the gorgeous hues. I bought a huge set almost ten years ago (!) from Timberdoodle, and we are still using those pencils! (I do think I replenished with a smaller set several years later, because the kids had used up their favorite colors. But those pencils really do last a long time.)

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The Speech Banana

November 18, 2007 @ 9:52 am | Filed under: , , , ,

This Lilting House post gets more search-engine hits than anything else I’ve written. Every week I am amazed by how many people land on my blog via a search for “speech banana” and related terms. I thought it might be helpful if I reposted it here. This post was written in June of 2006. More recent posts on related subjects can be found in the hearing loss archive, including a photo essay about getting ear molds for hearing aids and advice regarding the newborn hearing screen.

Wonderboy’s hearing loss came as a shock to us. Sure, we knew he’d failed the newborn hearing test. Three times. But those rounds of testing were administered in the NICU where there is always a humming and beeping of background noise, and the tech had told us that ambient noise could skew the test results. We had more pressing things to worry about: his (minor) heart defect; his recovery from omphalocele repair surgery; the genetic testing necessary to determine whether he had a potentially serious chromosomal syndrome; the fact that he was going home on oxygen. At least he was going home, and we tucked the hearing-test business to the back of our minds and focused on the immediate business of keeping him alive.

Every month the health department sent us a letter reminding us to have the hearing screen repeated. Sure thing, we said, just as soon as things slow down a bit. We were constantly having to take him to some specialist or another. The chromosome study came back negative: his medical issues were not due to a genetic syndrome. He was just one of those babies for whom something goes slightly awry early on in utero, resulting in a number of physical abnormalities down the line. An MRI had shown brain abnormality, but what its effects would be, no one could say: time will tell, they said. (They are still saying that.) He had extremely high muscle tone (hypertonia) and could not stretch out his arms and legs very far. His fists were tightly clenched. He started physical therapy at four months of age. He required emergency surgery to repair a double hernia with incarcerated bowel. The cardiologist was still keeping a close eye on his heart. The hearing test would just have to wait.

Besides, we told ourselves, we know he isn’t deaf. He startled to loud noises. Of all the things there were to worry about, we really didn’t think hearing loss was one of them.

But by six months, we had suspicions. He wasn’t babbling. He didn’t turn his head at the sound of my voice, lighting up with recognition before even seeing me, as our other children had. We took him back for another hearing screen.

He failed.

The audiologist said something about a “mild” hearing loss, and I thought that didn’t sound too bad. “Oh, no,” she told me, hastening to set me straight. “It isn’t like a ‘mild’ fever. ANY hearing loss is serious. Most speech sounds fall at the bottom of the scale, so if you have any hearing loss at all, you’re going to have trouble with speech.”

As it turned out, Wonderboy’s loss was a bit more serious than the audiologist first thought. Further testing placed him at the “moderate” level on the scale of mild—moderate—severe—profound. Unaided, Wonderboy’s ears can’t detect sounds softer than 50 decibels. Most speech sounds fall in the 20-decibel-or-lower range. Our little guy can hear vowel sounds, the louder middles of words, but few of the consonants that shape sound into speech. For Wonderboy, people probably sound a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Wah-WAH-wah-wah-waahh-wah. We learned about the speech banana: the area on a graph that shows where speech sounds fall in the decibel and frequency ranges. Wonderboy can’t hear sounds above the horizontal 50 line on that chart.

(More or less. He has a sloping loss which is slightly better at the lower frequencies.)

By his first birthday he was wearing hearing aids, and what a huge difference we could see! Aided, he tests around the 20-decibel range. He hears and understands a great deal of what we say. He is two and a half years old now, and he is finally beginning to add some consonant sounds to his verbal speech. Daddy used to be “Ah-ee” and now he is “Gaggy.” (This cracks me up. You can get a lot of mileage out of calling your husband Gag.) Grandpa is Amp-Ha. Wonderboy’s baby sister is “Gay-gee.” As you can see, he doesn’t have a B sound yet. His M is perfect, though; I have been Mommy, clear as a bell, for over a year.

Boy1But Wonderboy’s verbal speech is only part of the picture. His actual vocabulary is enormous, thanks to sign language. He uses a combination of sign and speech; we all do. Although it appears he will be primarily a verbal person as he gets older, sign language will always be an important second language for him. Hearing aids, incredible as the technology is nowadays, don’t do you any good at the swimming pool. Just for instance.

Hard of hearing. It used to be a phrase that conjured up in my mind the image of a grizzled old man with an ear trumpet. What? What’d ye say? Speak up, lad! (Apparently he is a grizzled old Scotsman.) Now it applies to my son. Words pop up on a TV screen, “closed captioned for the deaf and hard of hearing,” and I’ll give a little mental jump: Oh! That means Wonderboy!

Watching our children learn to speak is one of the great delights of parenthood. We mothers tend to collect their funny pronunciations, their experimentation with the meanings of words. This time around, my joy has been doubled, for I get to see communication unfold in two languages. His funny little toddler signs are just as endearing as any “helidopter” or “oapymeal” ever uttered by a two-year-old. (“Oapymeal” was one of Jane’s. It meant oatmeal. I served it often just to hear her say it.)

I put some links in my sidebar for American Sign Language resources. I can’t say enough about the wonders and benefits of ASL, not just for deaf and hard of hearing children, but for all babies and toddlers, especially those with any type of speech delay. ASL is a beautiful, nuanced language, a visual poetry. I count myself privileged to have been put in the way of learning it. Jane is determined to certify as an interpreter someday, and I have to admit I’m a little jealous. I wish I’d learned at her age.

Wonderboy makes a fist and touches a knuckle to his cheek, wiggling the hand. “Ah-hul!” he shouts. Apple, in two languages. The speech banana? We’ll get there, one way or another.

*Audiogram image courtesy of

Related posts:
Signing Time DVDs
More about Signing Time
Rilla Signs
Unsolicited Signing Time Commercial
Signing with Babies, My Favorite Topic

Best Gifts for Homeschoolers Master List


Here’s another topic I’ve written many posts on, both here and at Lilting House.

Books We Love, Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

Signing Time DVDs
More about Signing Time

Yet more about Signing Time

Showcase Presents comic book collections

Settlers of Catan, Wedgits

Books on drawing

Art prints

Family memberships to zoos, museums, etc.

Each of the above link is a longer post on the subject.

Note: these are old posts and may contain links to my Amazon Affiliates account.