Sunday, May 30, 2010

Five in a Row: The Story About Ping

A'right, this isn't going to interest some of you, but I'm hoping that some of you might come play along and join us for our attempt at summer learning. School isn't even OUT yet, but we just couldn't wait to start our summer unit studies. I decided that we were going to do a program called Five in a Row, which is a simple and easy to follow curriculum--with tons of room for fitting it into your family, schedule, and life. The basic idea is that they give you one book to study each week. You read it for 5 days in a row, and include activities that build on the story and all the subjects found within the story. We are having a BLAST--so I decided to share what we're doing. Come play along.

Our first unit features The Story of Ping by Marjorie Flack.

We supplemented the text with these books, among others, for our subjects:

Basically, I just went to my library and grabbed a bunch of books on China.

Social Studies and Georgraphy Unit: A-Z China was fantastic because it threw in a lot of cultural information, along with some Chinese vocabulary. I wondered if my kids were old enough to get into The Emperor's Silent Army, but Thing 1 really took to it, and my husband and I were fascinated by it. We also made our own maps of China, with the basic map coming from Apples4theteacher--click here.

Math Unit: Count Your Way Through China wasn't as valuable for the text as it was for teaching us to count from 1-10 in Chinese:

1 - Yee
2 - Uhr
3 - Sahn
4 - Suh
5 - Woo
6 - Lyo
7 - Chee
8 -Bah
9 - Jo
10 - Shur

Yes, I typed that from memory. I am so proud of myself. So, we learned to count in Chinese for math, but we also spent some time adding and subtracting ducks. In the book it says that Ping has a huge family of aunts, uncles, and cousins--it was fun to take away the aunts and see how many were left. To do this, we used little counting ducks we have, but you could use anything to represent the ducks--even beans. It was great fun.

Science: Floating, diving, swimming, currents. Domestic ducks and wild ducks. YouTube videos of cormorants fishing for their masters. Why is the Yangtze River yellow? There are a LOT of science possiblities in Ping!

Language Arts and Art: For our art unit, we studied the pictures--the reflections in the water, and the way that the artist used ink and then filled it in with colored pencils. I pointed out that he only used the primary colors, and then layered them to create secondary colors. Then we grabbed some paper and played around with ink/colored pencil drawings, using only red-yellow-and blue. They turned out surprisingly well for 5 and 3 year olds. We also printed out basic maps of China and filled in broad areas--mountains, deserts, green tropical areas, cold areas, the major cities and rivers, and--of course--the Great Wall.

Kid's Movies to Go With: Ni-Hao Ki Lan series and Disney's Mulan.

Finally, for our field trip, we went to a local Chinese restaurant and had dinner. The kids greeted the owner with a friendly Ni-hao! And asked her how to say "thank you" -- "xie xie" (it sounds like "shia shia").

Next up--Lentil by Robert McCloskey (of Blueberries for Sal and Make Way for Ducklings fame.) It promises to be wonderful--grab it at your library and read along! :)

List of authors: The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack, A-Z China by Junstine and Ron Fontes, The Seven Chinese Brothers by Margaret Mahy, Count Your Way Through China by Jim Haskins, The Emperor's Silent Army by Jane O'Connor, We Come From China by Julia Waterlow.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


My garden has become a jungle.

Remember the picture of me digging my bare toes into the dirt?
I doubt I could find a spot to stand now.

And I love it.

But I have this one tomato plant...
HEY! I saw your eyes glaze over. *snaps fingers* This is a good story.

Where was I?
Oh. My tomato plant.

Well this tomato plant has decided that it wants to recreate Jack and the Beanstalk in my front garden. The thing is very nearly as tall as me. An overachiever. I mean--it's not even supposed to grow the big tomatoes. Just little cherry ones that I will pop into my mouth when I walk by and, on occasion, slip to my kids because they LOOK like fruit and then watch as they spit them out and glare at me. It never gets old.

But yesterday I came home and it had toppled over--cage and all. Flop. Right on top of the blueberry bush.

"Ger'off!" I pushed at it with all my might. It eyed me for a second before stubbornly flopping back over. I called my husband to come out and help me. We both tugged it upright again. Only now it looked like it was pouting.

Sheesh. Who knew a tomato plant could act like a teenager?

Then there are the squash. They somehow took a wrong turn and think they're in the Amazon. Small children could congregate in their shade and start a new colony.

I don't even like squash that much, and it looks like they're going for the gold. The harvest has the potential to reach "grundle" in size.

If you find an anonymous paper bag of squash on your front seat--it wasn't me.
If you find a GIGANTIC tomato plant plopped on your front porch smoking weed (HAHAHA!), well, that, I'll have to admit--might've been me.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Can You Hear Me Now?

I woke up this morning, after an interrupted night's sleep (because The Munchkin never read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and doesn't know that we're all supposed to be OVER THAT by now) and decided "Today's the day I take control!"

Heaven only knows why.

Any by "take control" I mean that I announced to my children "Today is a no TV day!"
My brain in my head screamed, in chorus with them, "WHAT?!?!?!?!?!"
"Yup" I chirped, like someone possessed, "today we're going to play outside and use our imaginations and have FUN!"
The real me in my head clamored "BUT HOW AM I GOING TO TAKE A SHOWER?!" while Thing 2 started screaming for Blue's Clues.
"Maybe we'll even like it so much we'll turn it into No TV WEEK!" continued the Crazy Lady that somehow took charge today over the screams of her offspring.

Well. If I'm jumping off the cliff, might as well really go for it.
No TV.
No candy.
No giving in to the three year old when he pitches tantrums that would impress even Ghengis Khan. Which may be his new nickname, by the way.
Yup. Today, I'm going to be the kind of mom I always intended to be in the first place. Even if I now realize that the mom I always intended to be was probably a complete maniac.

Fake it 'til you make it, right girls?

Monday, May 17, 2010


Last night I asked Thing 1 to put on a pull-up.
She asked me why.
I told her "Because you drank a lot at dinner and I don't want you to wet your bed."
Minutes later, she asked me if she could have a glass of milk. I said no. She asked why.
I told her "Because you drank a lot at dinner, and I don't want you to wet your bed."

This morning, I found that she had gotten up in the night to go to the bathroom, taken off her pull up...

and peed all over the couch.

There are no words.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

All Hail the Queen...

I have had a nerve wracking week.

Last Saturday, I took my friend, Merriweather, who was visiting from Maine to go and check on my bees and see how they were settling into their new hive. Well. They were downright ornery (meaning, they kept flying at me and buzzing and generally acting like bouncers). And I couldn't find my queen. I was so flustered by my own inexperience that I just hurriedly put the hive back together and ran away.

All week, I've been thinking about my queen.

A hive must, absolutely must, have a queen. They can't survive without her. They depend on her to give the colony cohesiveness and direction. They count on her for more baby bees, to keep the hive strong and healthy. Just by her mere presence, she sets the tone for every bee in my hive. All 10,000 of them, and counting.

But without my queen? Well. Without a queen, the workers start just wandering around like teenagers at the mall, being promiscuous without any clue of the consequences. It doesn't take long at all for the colony to shrivel and fail without their queen.

So I've been anxious about her. Without her, I fail.

Today, my mentor (bless him) met up with me and we gave my colony a thorough going-over. I have been humbled, which is a good thing--I am more careful. I ask lots more questions. I ask for more help. And on the second to last frame--there she was. But even if I hadn't seen her, I knew she was there. The colony was in perfect order. You could easily tell, they have a queen.

Which has gotten me thinking about my own little home, and my own children. How often I set the tone. How little I realize it. How I can send out the "All is Well!" signal, or the "Every man for himself!" signal at any given moment. That's my job. To set the tone. To give my own little baby bees cohesiveness and direction.

I need to be a better queen.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Hey guys.

I'm sitting here at my computer, feeling discouraged.
And it's over the dumbest thing, really.

I'm putting together a wedding invitation suite for a bride in the midwest. It's a lovely invitation. The first set that I'm trying to print out, on my own, rather than sending it out to the printer I use. To try and save the bride money, that's why. But wedding invitations are a big deal. The paper needs to be heavy. The colors need to be rich. And you *must* have a dpi of 600 pixels. Not 300. 600. And I can't.get.the.darn.thing. to print the right size.

Isn't that shallow? To be feeling all weepy because you can't figure something out?
But I do.
And it stinks.

Because, before you know it, you find yourself wandering in Discourageland, which is not as fun as "Land"s and "World"s that I could name, including Gatorland or Reptileorama.

You start at the gate of "Aw, man, why can't I get this to print right?" and Fast Pass right on to the "I can't budget" rollercoaster of guilt, stopping for a quick snack at the "Ample is My Middle Name" food court. Before you can even get in line for the daily gameshow "Let's count all the ways you were a bad mom today!" you're already deep and mired in a place that looks like West Texas and smells like two day old sauerkraut.


So, in an attempt to saunter away from Discourageland, tra la, and not stray into the kitchen (boo hiss) I went over to NieNie and watched her video. If you haven't seen it yet, you should go over and check it out. It takes forever to load, but it's worth it.

And it'll get you out of Discourageland. At least for awhile

Thanks for listening. :)

Sunday, May 9, 2010


You know, I am a pretty fantastic mother.
And I'm not just saying that. I'm basing my superior status on empirical evidence.

Let's examine the facts:
1. I have three children.
2. None of them have died.

Right there, I am way ahead of most mothers in history. I don't think 5% of mothers could claim those accomplishments a century ago, which I think had less to do with dysentery and cholera and more to do with poor mothering skills.

But there's more. Oh yes, there's more.
3. I love to enrich my children's minds with copious amounts of PBS Kids "Curious George" and, thanks to Netflix "watch instantly", a healthy dose of WOW WOW WUBBZY: WUBBZY'S BIG MOVIE. I think that letting them watch androgynous creatures that speak with various accents and have no relationship to reality helps prepare them for the real world, with a special emphasis on doing anything you want and getting away with it.
4. The worst swear word my kids have come up with, so far, is "poop." So that's good.

So there you have it. I am a fantastic mother.
Hope you are feeling as confident and assured of your place in the future Hallmark Hall of Fame "Special Mothers" made-for-tv movie as I am today.
Happy Mothering.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Everybody do your share...

This morning, Munchkin hucked her eggs off her high chair tray and declared herself "STUCK."

I got her out and started chanting the "Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share" song.
You know that song right?

She crouched down next to me, pointed at the eggs, and sang the REAL version of that song. It goes like this:
"Mom-my, Mom-my, Mommy Mommy Mommy Mommeeeeee..."

Yep. That's about right.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


When I was a little girl, if I got up really late at night, I would go out to the living room, and I would find my mother.

She is a night owl.

Almost without fail, she would be there, eating red pudding and watching something--the Star Trek films are what I remember most.

If I got up at just the right time, she would share a bowl of red pudding with me.
That was the best thing ever.

I understand why she was a night owl. The peace while children sleep. Cleaning up a house or a room and having it stay clean--even for just a little while.

If you came to my house and woke up late, you'd find watching movies. Probably Harry Potter. Maybe Sense and Sensibility. And eating red pudding.

I would share a bowl with you.

My daughter has discovered this habit of mine, that I got from my own mother. She loves to join me for "Girl's Nights."

No one can tell me that those moments of parenthood aren't the best, most magical things ever.