Monday, September 30, 2013

Just Another School Day!

This fall we're trying out a unit study type of curriculum for our social studies, so at some point in the day we all end up sitting down at the table at the same time to do some reading and have some good conversation... or attempt to have some good conversation, at least!  Results vary due to the involvement of children in this endeavor.  :)

We try to do this while Evan is napping. Lincoln has been getting some one on one puzzle building time with Grandma.  What will we do when Evan gives up his morning nap?!  

Sunday, September 29, 2013


It's good to have a dad, because dads are different than moms.  Dad likes to take long walks in the cold.  Mom does not.  Dad likes to play soccer on the driveway.  This Mom does not.  Dad likes to load all the bikes up and explore the trails with little boys.  Mom does not have the energy to!

The kids are lucky to have a dad who always makes the time to get out and do fun things with them.  I'm lucky to have a spouse who understands kids grow up too quickly and need love and attention when they're little, which they won't be for nearly long enough!  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sewing Date!

Viva has been expressing an interest in sewing lately so when I received an email about a free quilt class where kids were welcome I decided we should give it a shot!

The state university has an extension service that offers different types of classes - this month they were putting together a flannel rag quilt for the Children's Hospital.  Viva was able to cut fabric, sew some lines, and snip the fringe.  The simple pleasures of being young, right?!  She tells me it was delightful and she can't wait to do more.

Next month they're making pajama pants - maybe we'll be there!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Build, Build, Build

Jake built the structure below recently from CitiBlocs:

When Bentley saw what Jake built, he made his own structure:

Viva doesn't build as much as the boys do. Instead she organizes things:

Here's yet another train layout Jake built:

And a design in pattern blocks:

Thursday, September 26, 2013


It takes me fifteen minutes to get them all laced into their skates. I always help Bentley first because he likes to spend the most time on the ice. 

Viva spends a good deal of her ice time collecting ice shavings to form ice balls. I ask her not to do it because I'm afraid someone might skate over her fingers while she's collecting the shavings. If there aren't a lot of other skaters, I let her do it.

Bentley likes to see how fast he can skate around the rink. Jake sometimes joins him. On this particular afternoon the boys talked the skating rink attendant into timing them. Two young men (adults) were at the rink that day practicing their hockey skills and they noticed the boys were playing some type of game, so they asked the rink attendant what Bentley and Jake were doing and how fast Bentley and Jake's times were. Then they timed themselves. Bentley didn't notice that they were playing his game--which was just as well because they were much faster than he was.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Flip Flop Learning

Last month we were sent See It and Say It Flip Flop Spanish, from Flip Flop Learning, to review.  Flip Flop Spanish is appropriate for ages 3 on all the way up to adult age, and costs $99.95 (it ships for free, which is always a welcome bonus!).

What comes in the kit?  A 2 year Spanish program compromised of 4 audio CDs, a set of paddles for quiz/review purposes, flashcards, and of course - the curriculum manual.

What's to love?
  • The schedule!  It's very doable and goes at a nice pace.  One lesson a week, and every 6 weeks is a "break" week to review what you've learned and take it easier.  It only takes 10-15 minutes for a daily session, so it's not hard to get it done.
  • Extremely easy to get started with.  Follow the quick step guide which tells you how to start in 5 minutes - put your manual in the binder, open it.  Grab your flash cards and hit play on CD 1!
  • The flashcards are organized by color and number (which lesson you see it in).  This makes it easy to find the ones you need.
  • You can easily adapt this for different ages.  With younger kids (like mine) just do one lesson a week and stretch it out.  With older kids move at a faster pace and add in a Spanish notebook to focus more on their grammar.
  • The program only teaches 160 words over the course of the curriculum.  But this means you really know those words, and you have plenty of practice with using them in sentences.  It also allows time to focus more on the grammar of the language, because you're using small set of words to practice with that you (hopefully) know very well!  The Pareto principle that 80% of the  value comes from 20% of the work may well apply here too - learn the common words, and their sentence structure, first and you're well on your way!
  • It's easy for the kids to quiz each other with the paddles and the flash cards.  I can participate if I want to, but I don't have to be there for them to get some practice time in.
  • Extra resources are available online.  Like this section of the website, for example, that provides extra tips and ideas on games to play to help learn the words!
  • A big focus of the curriculum is actual USE of the words you're learning - the application of them.  Not just a laundry list of cool words in your head that you'll probably forget soon.
  • Hand writing = optional.  My children (and I'm sure they're not the only ones) quickly get tired of writing during the day.  Since you can use flash cards to make your sentences the amount of writing required by this program is minimal.
  • There is a white board paddle included that you can use to play Spanish Pictionary with your flash cards, and to write answers to questions on - the kids think that's fun!
  • The audio tracks for the lessons are split out, so the tracks for one lesson are on 3 different tracks.  This makes it MUCH easier to review just the part of the lesson you might need to.
  • If you want to make it all a little more *formal*, you can purchase student workbooks, available for different age ranges, to supplement the program.
  • The flash cards are nice and sturdy.  Which means they can handle the abuse they will, inevitably around here, be exposed to.  :)
  • Why is it called SEE It and Say It?  The curriculum revolves around the flash cards, which have pictures on one side and the word on the other! 
  • Easy and more fun to do as a group!  As opposed to some language programs that are either 1) designed to only be used by one student at a time, or 2) workbook based so you can do them together but you're still, in effect, working alone.
How do we use it?  At lesson time on day 1 you listen to the CD while you follow along in the manual.  At different points in the lesson you flip over/arrange the flash cards being used in that lesson - so you need to have those out and ready.  On day 2 of the lesson you do the same lesson over!  On day 3 some teacher time is involved as the lesson is taught, again, without the CD this time.  Once all the words for the lesson are mastered you can move on to the next level!

There is a fun looking iPhone app that goes along with the program that I haven't checked out yet but I plan to.  It's a flash card app with some nice extras - tons of lists already in the app and more (free) coming when you purchase it, the ability to check or x the words you know, shake to shuffle, and more.  I think my kids will like it.

The verdict on See It and Say It Flip Flop Spanish?  If you're looking for a different and entertaining Spanish program that is easy to use and fun then this should definitely be on your short list to research!  Fun and entertaining do not, however, mean that the program is not substantial and with value.  An easy and non intimidating introduction to Spanish?  Check!  I just wish it came in a whole slew of languages.  :)

If you'd like to see what other members of The Old Schoolhouse's Review crew thought of this product, you can check out their posts here.

Lego Shopping

Bentley has been asking for weeks to go to the store and check out the new Lego sets. We've told him it's better to go shopping when there is a sale. Why pay full price when usually you can get a better price by being a little patient or buying online. Bentley is a saver, so I thought this logic would appeal to him, but it's been a tough sell. After waiting weeks, we finally gave in and took him to the store. Fortunately there were some Legos on sale. Unfortunately, the sale was a buy-1-get-1-half-off sale. I hate those sales. What if you don't want two?

Bentley had Jake along and Jake was looking to buy, too, but to maximize the savings you need to buy two items priced the same. Lego sets come in every price: $6, $9, $10, $15, $20, $25, $30, $50, $70, $100+. The chances that both boys want a set priced the same are slim. And, of course, the sale only applied to three of Lego's many lines. The good news was that the boys liked the three lines that were on sale (City, Chima, Star Wars). The bad news was that Bentley was interested in a $50 Chima set and Jake wanted two $25 sets (one City, one Star Wars), so we needed a fourth set to get a sale price on Bentley's set. Opa has a $70 Star Wars set on his Lego Wish List, but that particular set was sold out at this store. So then Bentley started looking at the Lego Castle sets. 

Viva was along for the shopping trip, too. She wanted to check out the Lego Friends sets. They are shelved in the girls' section next to Barbie. They weren't on sale and the set she wanted to see wasn't stocked at this store. Viva wasn't really looking to buy, so she happily moved on from Legos to Barbies to Pet Shop toys. She had a great time just looking at everything. The children don't go to shopping with us very often and when they do we're usually in a hurry and they don't get to linger on the toy aisle. (Viva told me the best part of the trip was carrying the basket. Huh.)

Lincoln meanwhile was checking out the MegaBloks. This is probably because we have a big bin of toddler size MegaBloks in the downstairs family room. (Two big bins of Lego Duplos are in the upstairs family room.) Just like Viva, he was quite content to look and look, occasionally asking us to take something down from a higher shelf.

After much looking and discussing and two visits to the bathroom, opa and the boys decided they needed to visit another store or two to see what they had on their shelves. I had a date with a friend, so I needed to go home. Viva, Lincoln and I were dropped off at home and opa, Jake, and Bentley visited another Fred Meyer store and ToysRUs. 

They had no better luck at those two stores. The sets they wanted were out-of-stock or too high-priced. Later that day Bentley had his mom buy him a Star Wars set that was sale priced on Jake decided to forgo a purchase and save his money. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Puzzle Piece Imp

Kara and the trio go to a homeschool coop group on Fridays for three to four hours. I stay home with the two little ones. Last Friday Lincoln and I were getting ready to do a puzzle together when I remembered that I had laundry to change from the washer to the dryer. I went upstairs and changed out the laundry, but then I got distracted and didn't go straight back downstairs. Lincoln came upstairs to find me and eventually we made it back downstairs. 

When we sat down at the table to do the puzzle, I discovered that some pieces were missing. We found one on the floor and another mixed in with great-grandma's newspaper, but we could not find the last missing piece. I looked and looked. I asked Lincoln if he knew where it was. I looked some more, even going upstairs. I asked Lincoln again where he put it. I checked his pockets. 

After spending far too much time on this mystery, I had to concede defeat. Kara and the trio came home. It was time to take Viva to dance. I volunteered to take her because I had some errands to run. On the way out of the house, I told Jake that if he located the missing puzzle piece, I'd pay him $4. (I hate it when games, puzzles or sock pairs are incomplete!)

It wasn't even ten minutes later that Kara called me on my cell phone to tell me that Jake and Bentley had found the missing piece. Jake asked Lincoln where it was and Lincoln took Bentley upstairs to my bedroom and showed him right where it was--on the bookshelf next to the trains. 

Why didn't he show me where it was when I asked? He's an imp!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Officially a Walker!

Evan has been flirting with walking for the past couple of weeks, he takes some steps, trips... and starts over (as seen in the above clip).  But now?  He's going pro!  He's been walking in circles around our main floor today, giggling to himself as he goes.  He's quite proud of his skill - and so am I!  Let the even crazier fun times begin, right?!

Library and Park Trip

Evan made his first (of many, we hope!) trip to the library this past week.  Grandma thinks he doesn't get out very often and that we ought to let him see the world.  I'm not completely certain I agree but I was a good sport.  :)

First we went to the library, then we checked out the new park that is (finally) open and right next door to our great library!

Best fun ever - putting the books in the book drop.  One at a time, no less!

Books.  It's what libraries have!

Chairs that I think have been there since I was a kid. :)

Evan off to explore a reading nook.

Trapped by Jake upon reaching the reading nook.

Playground fun!

Lego Victory

It has taken me months, but I have achieved a major Lego Victory! Last spring Kara scored 57 pounds of Legos on Craig's List. Included with the Legos was lots of nonLego junk: marbles, toy cars, toy soldiers, coins, dead AA batteries, polished rocks, unpolished rocks, plastic beads, dust bunnies, candy, broken crayons, colored pencils, scrap paper, rubberbands, etc. Also in the mix were some fake Legos (Megabloks). I'm a purist so the fake Legos needed to be sorted out and discarded.

When the boxes first came into the house, they were put on the kitchen floor. The children enjoyed looking through them for a half hour. I looked through a couple of boxes and saw that it was going to be a major project sorting and cleaning the Legos before they could be added to the children's Legos. I carried the boxes downstairs and set up a sorting station. I diligently worked on the project for a week or two while I listened to TV. Then I came to my senses. This wasn't fun. It was a nasty job. I took the boxes to the guest bedroom and stashed them. Months passed and no one asked about them. 

At the beginning of summer I cleaned out the craft room and moved the boxes to the garage. There they sat waiting and waiting. Kara started cleaning out the garage in preparation for winter: the Lego boxes had run out of places to hide. It was time to get serious about sorting them because they could have no true home until they were sorted and cleaned.

The sorting process was time consuming. Each Lego piece had to be carefully examined to determine if was the genuine article or a fake Lego. (99% of the time the word Lego is somewhere on an authentic Lego piece. It might take a magnifying glass to find it, but it's there.) After ascertaining its authenticity, a piece was then placed into one of the following bins/bags: garbage; treasures (nonLego); treasures (unusual Lego pieces); small pieces; minifigures; older, weird Legos; super dirty Legos; unsure if it's a Lego (consult Matt); larger sized Legos; Hero Factory Lego pieces; and finally all other Legos (a very big bin). There were thousands and thousands of pieces to be examined, so I recruited help.

Bentley, Jake and Viva were the obvious solution. They have good eyes and they were the primary beneficiaries of this project. They didn't like doing it and they whined about doing it, but I didn't like doing it either, so I kept cracking the whip.

How many hours did we put in? It's hard to say for sure. It seemed like a hundred...but it wasn't. Jake and Viva had a tendency to get distracted by interesting finds, but after a few reminders they got in the groove and picked up their pace and then I had three good helpers. The trio worked with me four or five times for twenty to forty minutes, so they put in maybe two and half hours each. I had done a third of the work before I drafted the trio and I put in a couple more work sessions on my own, so I put in at least fifteen more hours. After the sorting, I had to clean them all. Here's what we ended up with:

What do you think I could sell cleaned and sorted Legos for on I checked sold auctions and 25 pounds of used Legos sell for around $175. After discarding all the nonLego junk, there was 45 pounds of Legos. If we got $7/pound, we'd receive $315. I think Kara paid $50, so that leaves us $265 in exchange for our labor. That's $10.60/hour. The children would be happy with that wage, but I'm not going to be repeating this experience. I'd rather quilt or read. (Viva, too, would most likely choose reading over earning $10.60/hour sorting Legos.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Suit Redux

The new suit, at church, on the kid.  :)

(With a white shirt, of course.  Bentley thinks white shirts are the only way to go.  I've tried tempting him with blues and stripes and yellows and purples, but no.  White and white.)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Too Much Hair!

Evan and Lincoln went in for hair cuts this week!  Whenever I approach Lincoln with scissors or the trimmers he shrieks, which means his hair has gotten a *bit* long.  Genevieve has started putting pony tails and barrettes in his hair which seemed to me a good indicator that trims were in order.  I decided to take them in for cuts since it's hard to hold him down AND cut his hair at the same time.  I'm thinking the resulting cut wouldn't look so great if I went with that approach!

Results?  Despite some tears at the hair place we have some good looking little dudes!  It is always crazy how when you trim baby hair the baby immediately starts to look like a miniature adult.  It's bittersweet.

(Pictures?  Don't have them yet.  But I'm reasonably confident that Evan and Lincoln with their new haircuts be featured on the blog in the not too distant future.)


Opa and grandma have gone away for a week. We are en route to Kauai (Hawaii) where we will spend seven days and nights catching up on sleep. It's been over a year since we left town. 

While we are gone it'll be a busy week for Kara even though Matt is at home. Some of you may be thinking "So what if Kara's nanny is gone for a week? I've never been fortunate enough to have a nanny." True, true. However, it's a big change in routine for her. Our daytime routines are based on two workers and there will only be one for the next week. It's not going to be easy. I hope Kara will relax and not try to start a new project while I'm gone. 

I don't want to come back and have to dig out of big hole like last time I went on vacation. Mark and I were gone for two weeks and during that time Kara repurposed the craft room. She turned it into Lincoln and Evan's bedroom. When I came back I had to reorganize the spare bedroom downstairs to make room for all the craft supplies she displaced. 

To make space for the craft supplies I moved forty boxes of books from the spare bedroom into the downstairs family room. There they sat for over a year. It was a crazy year. We had summer guests. Kara was on bed rest. We had the interior of the house repainted. We had new carpeting installed. And, of course, we fed, nurtured, schooled, entertained, and played with Bentley, Jake, Viva, Lincoln, and then Evan. 

Despite my many valid excuses, every month or so Kara would ask me when I was going to deal with my book boxes. The problem wasn't really a lack of time (I have many free evenings), it was more of an emotional issue: I love my books! However, I couldn't deny that many of the books I hadn't read or referenced in over a decade, some in two decades. I needed to join the 21st Century and go digital. A month ago I started ruthlessly weeding through my books. I've made great progress--$300 dollars in credit at the used book store and seven boxes donated. I still have too many books, but I will persevere in downsizing until I can fit all the boxed books on bookshelves.

Have I gone off topic? Gone could refer to my books. Many of them are gone. Now I'm gone. 

P.S. Kara: No new projects while I'm out of town. I mean it.

The Helper

Lincoln loves to help. When great-grandma drops something on the floor or needs something put in the garbage, he's the boy to ask. When Viva practices for her tap class, Lincoln often joins her. When she finishes she asks him to take off her tap shoes and he does it for her. It's not an easy task.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Opa in Charge!

Last Friday night Kara and I left opa in charge of the five children while we skipped town and attended an overnighter with our women's group from church. Matt was in Washington, D.C.

Kara and I left at six p.m. and were home again by noon on Saturday. Evan slept the majority of the time we were gone. Lincoln went to bed with Viva in mommy's bed. Dinner was cheesy bread and breakfast was muffins. We left a movie for the children to watch. Opa and the children reported that things went well. 

(Viva had one minor complaint. She said opa only allowed them to have three Skittles each from the bag that their mom left for them. Opa said he thought they were Starbursts. It's true that Starbursts are a lot bigger than Skittles, but three still isn't very many! Opa and Daddy are convinced that candy leads to sugar highs. Mommy and grandma know that sugar or no sugar the children bounce off the walls.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Evan: Keeping Up

Evan doesn't walk quite yet, so his entertainment options are more limited than his big brother's options, but he still manages to keep just as busy.