Monday, March 22, 2010

An Exciting Home School Opportunity

Over the past few years, several of my online friends have been on the Review Crew for This Old Schoolhouse ( TOS Homeschool Crew Blog.) They have had the amazing opportunity to try out different homeschool products to see how they work for their family. I've been able to read their reviews to see what could work for us. I've found several products this year that I might now have ever stumbled across on my own -- Addison's writing program (Write With the Best) and my favorite laundry soap ever (Virginia Soaps and Scents) are just two products.

I recently applied to be on the Review Crew for the 2010-2011 school year. After submitting my demographic information, I received my first two products to review. I'm excited to see how they work for my family and perhaps what I can learn about how to teach my children when I try them out.

Stay tuned for my reviews...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Picture Books -- week 1

In true Cristi fashion, I had great intentions of getting library books to start on my goal of reading The 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know. It would've helped if I had taken the list with me when we all went to the library. I wasn't about to leave empty-handed so I did the best I could from memory.

Here's what Lauren and I ended up reading this week: (ones on my goal list have a star)

* 1. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr.
2. Bear Snores On, Bear's New Friend, and Bear Wants More by Karma Wilson
3. Knuffle Bunny and Knuffle Bunny Too by Mo Willems
* 4. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
5. Mouse Mess by Linnea Riley
* 6. Duck on a Bike by David Shannon
* 7. How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague
* 8. Froggy Gets Dressed by Jonathan London (and a few more Froggy books)

There are still quite a few books left in the library bag to keep for next week.

I was amazed at how much Lauren is getting out of these books, especially as compared to a year ago or even last fall. I was particularly surprised to see her make connections amongst the stories that we've read. For instance, in Knuffle Bunny, Trixie loses her stuffed animal in the washing machine. Lauren remembered that Corduroy was also once lost in the washing machine at the laundromat. (That's from A Pocket for Corduroy, not the original story.) She also found all the hidden pictures of the pigeon in the Knuffle Bunny books.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Guest blogger and her first book review

I said the other day that Addison was an avid reader, especially if we're talking about reading anything unrelated to schoolwork. She also drives a hard bargain. Earlier this week she agreed to write a review of her current favorite series of books, but only if it counted as her writing assignment for the day. I proposed a counter-offer that it would count as a writing assignment if it was written well enough for me to post on my blog.

Artemis Fowl is a series by Eoin Colfer about a boy genius. He wants gold, and will do anything to acquire it. He kidnaps a fairy elf, Holly Short of the LEPrecon, and demands the ransom fund. After the first book he makes friends with Holly, and they save the fairy world from Opal Koboi, an insane pixie criminal mastermind. Artemis Fowl is fantasy, but it’s not completely unbelievable. It’s also a bit depressing at points, but it’s still a good story. One of my friends told me to read it, and I loved it. We’re really excited about when the last one will come out this summer, and I can’t wait to read it. These books are amazing!

I look forward to being able to share more of her book reviews.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring means...

extra Physical Therapy and the first muddy shoes of the year!

The trail through the woods near our house didn't fare too well with more than three feet of snow this year. It wasn't too muddy when we started off from our house, but the last little short-cut to the playground was a mess. Two large trees had fallen down, effectively blocking what used to be a clear path. The clear path is now more of a shallow creek anyway. Lauren and I blazed a trail, climbing over fallen branches and trying not to get stuck in the prickly bushes. When we were finally close enough to the playground to see the slides and swing set, we realized that the dry creek bed wasn't as dry as it was last summer. All of the melting snow has created a roaring stream at least an inch and a half deep. Thankfully, someone had arranged cinder block step stones and we didn't have to wade through it. I think Miss Jill (Lauren's new PT) would be happy to know that she's getting a workout at home this week.

This morning's Spring surprise was just a few feet from our front door. There are all sorts of sprouts popping up, and since it is our first spring in this house we have no idea what we'll find next.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What we're reading... (part 1)

I've often wanted to blog about our homeschool lives. It took me a while to get back into the swing of things, and it seems like we're going through another busy streak right now. We might be behind in Writing Assignments, there may be a few lessons worth of math problems that I need to check, and somewhere there's a list of history readings that keep getting pushed off to another day. Thankfully, the kids love to share our read-aloud times and enjoy reading on their own.

Lauren enjoys picking out her own books in the library. She can find the Berenstein Bears shelf and the Froggy shelf all by herself. I'm trying to broaden her interests and check-out a few of my own picture book favorites every time we go to the library. I recently remembered a listing of 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know, collected by the New York City Public Library. At first glance, I'm familiar with at least half of them, and Lauren has heard maybe a third of them. My goal is to work our way through all of the them before Christmas.

Brennan still loves listening to audio books. I can hear a Boxcar Children mystery in the background tonight; he always has something on when he goes to bed at night. His all-time favorite author is probably Andrew Clements, author of Frindle and A Week in the Woods. He also enjoyed reading through the Jack Stalwart series of books by Elizabeth Singer Hunt. I consider it a huge accomplishment that he usually has at least one book tucked into a bag with his DS when we are out for the day. His iPod usually has several audio books on it too.

Addison reads so much that I have trouble keeping up. It's a big strange knowing that she's as avid a reader as I am, but that we have completely different styles. I like realistic fiction, and she prefers fantasy books. Her favorite series lately is Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, and I've seen a lot of wizarding books around here too. All of our Harry Potter books are well-loved, and I think she's searching for more that are comparable.

The last really great book that I read was The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It was quite an unusual concept -- an entire book composed of the letters amongst the main characters. The author pulled it off quite well, and I was engrossed in the story of a British island occupied by the Germans during World War II. I raved about it to some of my friends on Facebook, but I inadvertently forgot to put a "chick-lit" warning on my review. I still highly recommend it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What a difference a year makes!

January 2009:

Just a few days before Lauren was admitted to CHoP last year, we went tubing as a family. Lauren was bundled up so snugly in her snowsuit that she could hardly move. We plopped her into a child-sized inner tube, and she managed a few trips down the "bunny slope" before we retreated back inside to warm up.

This year, we had a sinking feeling that Lauren wouldn't be content on the bunny slope. Thankfully, she was allowed to join the rest of us on the real tubing runs. I was still a bit afraid that she'd either change her mind when we got to the top or that she'd have decide that one try was enough. I was wrong. We all had a blast and didn't even have to venture inside to warm up until after our two hour time slot was finished.

Posing at the top of the hill, after nearly 2 hours worth of tubing

Addison and Lauren going down together -- I love the way Lauren is waving back up at me.

I couldn't always see Lauren's face on the way down the hill, she always looked up with a huge smile when someone helped her out of the tube at the bottom.

I think our best run of the day was when all five of us linked our tubes together and went down together:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A long overdue update

Lately I've been thinking, "I should post that on my blog". I've also had several people ask to see pictures and it would be easy to post I here. My favorite line was, "I'm going to make sure I post a Lauren update now that someone reminded me that this week is Congenital Heart Disease Awareness week." We had nearly three feet of snow that week so I didn't get much time on the computer. Before I post funny things that have happened lately and before I post the pictures of what DC looks like buried under way too much snow and before I post pictures of Miss Fearless on the water slides, I'll post an update.

In a nutshell, Lauren's doing fantastic. She was in Philadelphia a week or so ago for another routine heart cath, and it showed absolutely no signs of rejection. It looks like we've finally reached a good dosage on her anti-rejection drugs so there won't be many early morning trips to the lab to get blood drawn at 8 am. She continues speech, physical, and occupational therapies each week, but its slowly becoming our new norm and not just one appointment after another.

On the feeding front, she's made remarkable progress. We're still waiting on an opening at the feeding program at Kennedy Krieger in Baltimore with hopes that she'll be tube-free. We were able to work with a local speech pathologist who helped Lauren immensely and even convinced her that barium tastes good. Lauren passed a barium swallow study in late January and is drinking part of her formula by mouth. She is willing to eat anything, but she still struggles with swallowing difficult textures like meat.

Now that I can put a check mark beside the line on my to-do list that says "Write blog update about Lauren", I can feel free to post other stuff without guilt.

I promise to post pictures soon. I'm also hoping to get back in the swing of blogging -- talking about our homeschool materials, books I'm reading, what the big kids are reading, what we're doing with our free time, etc, etc.


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