Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Day at the Park; or, Kittyboy Not Allergic to Bees

The knitting group I've attended off and on (more off than on), and a homeschool group I need to start attending are merging experimentally at a great time and a great place - Tuesday afternoons, at Washington Park! Take the toddler, take a washcloth-in-progress - best of all worlds!
Turns out, there's a limit how much you can knit while chasing Kittyboy. But it was still a really fun afternoon. First I had to convince him that he COULD play without me looking over his shoulder - that he was perfectly fine playing with me sitting on a bench instead of following him. Then I had the opposite problem, trying to get him to play at the jungle gym near where I was sitting, instead of the one across the park! (So, that's a "Yes!" to independent play!)
He had lots of fun with the other random toddlers who happened to be playing where he was. They spent a lot of time pointing at each other and saying various things that weren't all that intelligible. WHEE, however, is understood by all! WHEE is universal!
He also got pointed out as a good example! His climbing skills are QUITE proficient, and another mom used him to try and teach her son who was maybe a few months younger how climbing works. "See where he puts his feet? And then he uses his legs, and then he pulls himself up!" Again and again, time after time, as both boys enjoyed the tornado slide - the one scampering up with ease, while the other used the "mommy elevator".
He did a somersault down the tornado slide once, apparently because he couldn't decide whether to go down sitting up or feet-first on his tummy, and so he decided to do both at once. Didn't phase him. I'm not sure he realized what happened.
He wanted very much to do the rock wall - if he were just an inch taller, he'd be doing it, easy. Boy loves to climb. And is good at it. 'Nuff said.
I learned a few things. 1) apparently any mom in a skirt can substitute for me if he wants one and she's closer. He chatted at length with one lady about a ball he had found. His end of the conversation was mainly, "Ball - yeah!" He grabbed his Aunt Carey by the hand, said, "Mommy!" (news to her!), pulled her over to the teeter-totter, and said, "Bounce! You bounce, up-down!" and she did the teeter-totter with him until I rescued her. Which I admit to not doing as fast as I could have.
2) Kittyboy is not allergic to bee stings. Useful knowledge, since a hive has taken up residence in a hole in our yard (we put shoes on him when he plays in the yard, and have pointed it out as a spot to stay away from). There were several flying around the playground, evidently he put his hand down on one and it stung him. He came running to me with that high-pitched squealing cry that means Something Actually Is Wrong, and the bee still stuck in his palm! Yeah, that was fun. I flicked the bee off, carried him squealing over to Carey and her friend Shannon and asked, "So have you ever removed a sting before?" Shannon got it out, by which time he'd calmed down considerably. He snuggled for a while, but went back to playing pretty quickly. All that swelled was his hand, and that not too much. So hey, now we know - not allergic. Or afraid of flying insects - after the bunsen burner/candle equation, I would have thought a bee sting would make him afraid of anything small and winged. Not so, to my great relief.
3) Somersaults down tornado slides - fun. Somersaults down stairs - not. More tears, a bleeding lip and skinned nose, more snuggling. While we snuggled and rocked, I asked him, "Do we want to go home now?" He sobbed, "Nooooo!" And soon went back to playing.
All in all, it was a very good day with moments of not-so-goodness. But a wonderful day overall!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tot School

I have found a lovely blog for homeschooling preschool - the creatively named 1plus1plus1equals1 (think about it... think about it...) written by Carisa. "Tot school" is a Montessori-style of preschool based on educational play (which is what preschool is, or should be, right?). And Carisa has all sorts of wonderful ideas, tips, tools, and just plain encouragement for anyone homeschooling under the age of five. I found Tot School by following another wonderful homeschooling blog, Making the most of being at home.
Montessori is SO the way to go. I keep reading again and again, "Just give the child what you want him to learn with and see what he does with it." So that's what I'm trying to do now. It makes things a lot less frustrating, actually, and come to find, the lesson gets learned anyway.
Example - I have been beating my head on a brick wall trying to help Kittyboy match things. He has these word cards that he loves looking at (they're Winnie the Pooh), and I figured we could use them for matching. Lay out two cards, hold up one, and ask which one matches the one you're holding. We both HATE this game, him because I'm interrupting his fun and he doesn't know what I want of him, and me because beating your head on a brick wall starts to hurt after a while. But therapists want him to match things, and I want him to match things, and I'm sure he wants to match things just so I'll quit bugging him.
Better idea - give him the cards and see what he does. I ended up with matching pairs carefully strewn (I love that phrase) all over the living room. He's getting there, just in his own time, under his own steam, and in his own way. And how he did it, he was actually picking matches from more than two at a time, because he dumped the whole box and THEN started sorting. He just didn't like how I was doing it.
Next I'm going to just give him his whole "colors drawer" and see what he does with all the fabric swatches! Will he sort them by patterns, or by colors? Or will he use them all as blankets for small toys? Whatever he does, it'll be a learning experience!

(Carisa, if you read this, I am going to try and do a weekly Tot School post, assuming of course that I can figure out how McLinky works!)

Oh my gosh, he's NAPPING

My son has not taken a nap since last Saturday. Which is bad enough on its own, but since evidently he does still need the sleep, his 7-7:30 bedtime has been creeping backwards. Wednesday night, I believe it was, I had to put him down at SIX. That's insane. No one goes to bed that early. I wouldn't mind except that A) I would prefer a break in the middle of the day, and B) I am then trapped in the house until Husband comes home at 9:30. No after-dinner, "Oh drat, I need such-and-such for breakfast tomorrow," really quick errands or anything. And, at his old bedtime, a 7 p.m. church service is only stretching his awake time by an hour or so, that's doable. When he's melting down at 6, nighttime services are impossible. If I thought it would ensure a nap, I'd keep him up until 8 - but when the toddler needs to sleep, the toddler NEEDS TO SLEEP. You can only mess with bedtime just so far.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Better than Reality TV

(okay, to be honest, ANYTHING'S better than reality television, but that was my friend Carey's response to this post in e-mail form)
Taking the Cat and Kid to the Vet:
I called the vet to ask advice on our cat Harriet's recent litterbox issues, and the receptionist said it could be a UTI. Fun. So since they had an opening at 4:30 that afternoon, I jumped on it. Keep in mind, the toddler chose yesterday to NOT NAP. And I had to take them both.
So I got the cat in the carrier, that was fun, and I explained to Kittyboy that kitty doesn't feel good, and so she needs to go See Doctor. See Doctor is a magical phrase with which he is VERY familiar, and he kept pointing at Harriet, crying in her carrier, and asking, "Kiy okay? Kiy [high pitched] 'wa wa wa'! Kiy okay?" I told him she was going to BE okay after seeing the doctor, just like he is okay after he sees the doctor, and that he should reassure her that he has experience with doctors and doctors make you Okay. So the whole way to the vet, he was saying, "Kiy, okay. Kiy, okay. Kiy be okay. Kiy see doctor. Kiy okay." And I told him she was just crying because she doesn't like her "car seat", and that he is a very big boy for riding so nicely in his. But she doesn't like hers, so she cries about it.
When I put Harriet down at the counter, Kittyboy sat next to her and kept up the monologue of reassurance, but was distressed when they took her back to weigh her. "Kiy? Kiy? Kiy? Kiy? Kiy?" I told him they would bring her back, but he wasn't convinced. They brought her back, then we all went back to the room, where the toddler was not so understanding about why kitty was on the table and he wasn't. He likes sitting on examining tables. He's very good at it. It's what he does at the doctor. And he kept up his talking the whole time I was talking to the vet, about kitty and kitty see doctor and kitty okay?
He was okay until they took her out for the urine test (how do you get urine from a cat who won't go? a needle!!!! through the abdomen!!!), and then he was very upset, and when I said we were NOT going back to the waiting room (where they had coloring books and a little table), he did the screaming-and-arching thing. I had to sort of pretzel him, like Alice in Wonderland with the baby pig, and sing Hail Holy Queen many times. Hey, at least they did all that out of his sight, if not out of his hearing, I can only imagine the din if they were stabbing his kitty with a needle and Harriet was yowling and fighting and him screaming because his kitty was being hurt, THAT would have been a disaster. So it was good that they did the urine testing in the back. We could hear her, though. She's LOUD. (Well heck, if it were me, I'd be plenty loud and there'd be injuries involved)
Then they brought her back, and the doctor said she didn't have any blockages or stones, but her urine did look "chunky" (umm... chunky???) and the test for infection would take about ten minutes. Kittyboy wanted to see her, so I set him on the table next to her, and he went on about kitty being okay, and said, "You kiy snuggle?" (I snuggle kitty?) I said kitty had to stay in her carrier, but he could snuggle her when we got home (thinking, "she won't be that snuggly..."), and so he put his arms around the carrier and rested his head on top and said, "You kiy snuggle." It was so precious!!!
And then I read him his Jonah book that he'd brought, easily a couple dozen times - it's a short book. And doctor came back and said poor Miss Harriet had TWO strains of bacteria, boy oh BOY did she have an infection, and she would have two medications, one to make her comfortable while the other kicks her infections' collective backsides. So we went to check out, Harriet was quietly growling in her carrier ("Kiy rrr rrr rrr!"), and in the waiting room, there was a PUPPY. A boxer puppy, so, you know, dog-size. And toddler saw puppy, and puppy saw toddler, and we had a contest going of whose "puppy" would stay under control for longer. Puppy was on a leash, hurling himself at the end of the leash in fact, trying to get to that little human who looked so friendly, and his owner was sitting on the floor with her heels dug in trying to keep him back, and Kittyboy was standing at the corner of the counter pointing and saying "Doggie! Doggie! Doggie!" and just when the puppy would be back under control, then he would run forward a yard or so, and I would have to yell STOP and call him back, and it sounded for all the world like we were both corralling dogs. "Stop! Sit! Stay! Come back here!" And of course my telling Kittyboy to "heel" as we went through the waiting room - we've been practicing "heel", which if you think about it, is an efficient, single-word command meaning, "Don't pull ahead, don't lag behind, stay right at my side and nowhere else." What better command to teach a toddler? But it does sound odd to people.
We stopped at the other side of the counter to sign more stuff, and the puppy scooted up to Kittyboy, in a "play bow" pose the whole way, just soooo wanting to play with him, toddler reached to pet him, and Harriet, in carrier next to him, GROWLED. Actually, her growl is more like a ROAR. Very loud, sudden ROAR from the small cat carrier, like I was transporting a miniature circus lion. That poor puppy jumped back three feet, in the air, and cowered next to his owner. Harriet HATES dogs. Harriet's ten pounds. The puppy had to be three times that. Apparently it's all about volume.
Kittyboy then had a tantrum for unknown reasons outside the office (perhaps because his kitty scared off the nice doggie?), he didn't get particularly happier when I told him I was NOT carrying him and Harriet, he had to walk, he had no choice. He did walk. "Kiy okay? Kiy [low growly voice] 'rrr rrrr rrr'. Kiy okay?" Then he started bawling when we got to the car, saying, "Kiy wy you? Kiy wy you? Kiy wy you? Kiy wy you?" which I interpreted to mean "Kitty ride with me?" and I kept telling him, KITTY WAS RIDING WITH HIM. KITTY WAS IN THE CAR, RIGHT NEXT TO HIM. HE WAS RIDING WITH KITTY. ALL WAS WELL. He kept it up the whole way home, loudly, while crying, non-stop, possibly without breathing, "KIY WY YOU?KIY WY YOU?KIY WY YOU?KIY WY YOU?KIY WY YOU?" if you can imagine that, for twenty minutes straight.
That he then addressed, "Kiy wy you?" to Harriet specifically as I was letting her out of her carrier, makes me think he was instead asking kitty if SHE was all right. "Kitty, all right you?" or something like that. I went down to the computer to e-mail Husband what the damages were, about the medications and all that, and Kittyboy came running down WITH her medication. "Kiy mecine? Kiy mecine? Okay!" Kittyboy likes to take medicine, so kitty should like taking medicine, right? I told him we would wait for Daddy to come home and Daddy would give her medicine. Well, Kittyboy thought he had a better idea. He proceeded to chase Harriet around the house, in his eager-to-help, well-meaning way, waving her bottle of pills, saying enthusiastically, "Kiy mecine! Kiy mecine! Kiy mecine! Kiy mecine!" "Kitty, come back here! I have your medicine! Don't you want your medicine? I like medicine! Medicine is yummy! You should take your medicine!"
It just doesn't get any better than that.
And yes, Harriet is feeling much better now.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Toddler Conversation

"See Mayee! You see Mayee!" (boy refers to himself as "you")
"Yes, you see Mary." (he was in the hallway looking at an icon)
"Mayee (garblegarble) Tokos! Fay Tokos!"
"Yes, good job! Yes, Mary is the Theotokos!" (we had been working on that word)
"Fay Tokos mean Mama God."
"YES, Theotokos means Mother of God! Wow, you have been paying attention!"
"Mayee Fay Tokos Mama God!" (with that little "What a good boy I am!" giggle)
I think my little theologian deserves chocolate!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Elevation of the Cross

After forgetting the Nativity of the Theotokos until The Day Of, now the SECOND of the two biggest holidays in September sneaks up on me with even less warning - didn't know until I sat down to read blogs during Kittyboy's nap. I knew the Elevation was the 14th - I also believed the 14th to be tomorrow.
Fortunately, Kittyboy DID take a nap today, and I attacked my craft drawers for popsicle sticks, glue, whatever I could find. Father usually celebrates the Elevation on the Sunday immediately preceding, which was yesterday, when we were out of town at a family reunion, so obviously we'd missed out on church. This is the feast day celebrating the finding of the Holy Cross by St. Helen, and there is a procession around the church with a cross carried on a tray decorated with flowers. Tray, cross, flowers, that much I could come up with.

The cross is popsicle sticks glued together, and the base of it (so that it stands up) is a hairspray cap. Yes, I was scraping the bottom of the barrel here, I need to start stocking up on craft supplies. But it was a cross that would stand up, and I traced a cross on construction paper that he could color. And when Kittyboy woke up, we went outside to pick flowers! As you can see, he was very happy with the popsicle-stick cross, and insisted it had to come along with us.
I hadn't come up with anything clever for a tray - I never entertain, I had no little trays about to press into service, so I decided he could decorate a "tray" himself. I did think to take his shirt off and lay down newspaper before handing him his very first paint brush!It doesn't show well in the picture, but it was green, yellow and gold paint. Within it, he painted a lot of crosses, or so he told me. And no paint got onto carpet, and only a little on his shorts, which were cut-off sweat shorts anyway.

I had cut pages from an icon calendar a couple years old, and the September one was naturally the Elevation of the Cross, and so we sat with the icon and I read the text that went along with it, and he helped me put mums around the cross on the tray.
As you can see from his coloring sheet, he is very proud of his new-found ability to draw straight lines and circles. He drew many of both.
Sadly, future family reunions are likely to always be the second Sunday in September (they switched it just this year from Labor Day weekend, we'd not even thought about a conflict with a feast day), three hours away in the Champaign area - BUT, we can still be in church for the Elevation if we leave here way early and attend at Three Hierarchs there in Champaign.
Next year, we'll make it!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fun with Shapes

I hadn't had any luck thus far with any shapes, but colors are starting to catch on, so I was going to keep going on colors today, but this morning he started pointing at random mostly-round things and saying, "Circle! Circle! Circle!" so plans changed! He is now into shapes!
And here is his shapes drawer:The shapes book, a puzzle, and propped up in the back of the drawer are his cards. I'm having good luck with the "drawer per subject" approach, he sees all his options and goes for whatever catches his fancy, and sees that he has MORE options if the first fails to hold his interest, so you don't have to keep bringing him back to show him what else he can do. And with it all being one theme, he sees the same shapes over and over. He calls squares rectangles, which technically they are, and the shapes book points that out - that a rectangle has four sides and four square corners, and that special ones where the sides are all equal are called squares. I switched out the Theotokos for St. Catherine of Alexandria, patroness of scholars. Makes sense for a school - and we can celebrate our "school's" feastday in November!
He's learning, too, that when we sit at our desk, we're going to do something fun - he likes to sit down and choose a drawer to play with.
He is going to blow them away when he gets re-evaluated next month.
And below is our updated space: I just love my drawers!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Nativity of the Theotokos

This morning I realized out of the clear blue sky, listening to the daily readings, that it was the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos, and I had nothing planned for Kittyboy in the way of a lesson or activity or anything, not even an icon of the feast to show him. I have got to start sitting down with the church calendar and start planning ahead.
So I told him, "Guess what! It's Mary's birthday!" We're working on the term Theotokos, he sometimes will call her Mary-toko, but she's still his Mary. (I like Mary-toko, personally, it's very cute). I told him that meant it was the day his Mary was born (obviously), but kinda left it at that, for lack of inspiration.
Then we took a walk and along the bike trail are scores of tall sunflowers, very tall plants but with small flowers coming off the main stem. I just love them, I'm going to go walking there in a few weeks and collect seeds. Kittyboy wanted one, so I picked him a couple, and then I said, "Oh, you know what, we should take these home for Mary for her birthday!" We went home, snipped some of my geranium and a bunch of my mums, and made a bouquet, brought one of our icons of the Theotokos over to his desk, and put it there with the bouquet.

The fact that there's a candle lit is a testament of his love for his Mary. Kittyboy was a little traumatized by having dinner at a hibachi grill, where the chef lit the grill on fire. Since then, he's been very, very afraid of fires - but until Sunday, he was still fine with candles. Well, this Sunday, he apparently made the connection, and became so hysterical when we lit a candle that we had to go home. Sunday evening, we tried lighting candles here to show him they're not dangerous, and he would barely touch an unlit one - and wouldn't go anywhere near one that was burning, cried and cried (we were trying to get him to blow one out). I lit a scented one when we were having lunch today, on the other side of the table, and he tried to escape from his booster chair. Well, so after he kissed his Mary and put her up on his desk and I put the glass with the flowers in front of her, I went and got a candle, and said, "How about we light a pretty candle for Mary? Candles are so pretty, and it's her birthday." He whimpered when the match sizzled, but he didn't cry, I put it in front of the icon, and kept talking about it being a pretty candle for her birthday, and when I sat down in a chair in front of it and called him to me, he came - carefully and never taking his eyes off the candle, lest it do something sudden, but he came (thank you Mother of God!). And he sat on my lap without complaint while I told him about how Theotokos mean Mother of God, and I sang Axion Esti, "It is truly meet to call thee blessed," and told him about what that hymn means and all, and why we call Mary blessed, and then he took his eyes off of Mary and the candle long enough to lean back and look at me - "Mommy sing?" So I kept singing, and kept singing, and he was okay. He wouldn't blow the candle out himself, but he let me bring it just close enough I could blow it out. Anything for Mary!
Tomorrow, I think I will replace the Theotokos with my St. Catherine, Patroness of Scholars, and we will light a candle when we pray before starting school!

Our Homeschooling Space

Firstly, THE COMPUTER WORKS AGAIN!!! Meaning I can post pictures and whatnot, and much as I love my Gig, the desktop makes it far easier to accomplish a lot at once.
Here is the promised picture of Kittyboy on his first day of school, flipping through icon cards at his little yellow activity desk, listening to the daily readings.

I like this little desk, and it can be found at most crafting stores for around $8. You can't see in the picture, but the shelves the desk is in front of hold all his school stuff, and so it was all in one place and it was School. We have this ongoing conflict in our house, however, over vertical versus horizontal storage. My theory, only a theory, is that if we had more open space in general, the place would feel more open in general and be easier to keep clean - fewer things filling open space would make it easier to notice as clutter builds. Problem with his desk where it is, is that it's yet another thing on the floor.
Yesterday, we took advantage of Husband's day off to move furniture in the living room, and by accident discovered an actual homeschool space. I have this antique washstand, used formerly as a changing table, then as a collect-everything-next-to-the-door table, and I moved it from next to the door to in a corner by the dinner table. I was envisioning storing silverware and whatnot in it as a sideboard sort of thing. Then I realized that where it was, I could just turn his chair around to it from the table, and presto! A school desk!

We did colors this morning - he has flashcards with blocks of colors, flashcards with the name of the color written IN the color (so he can match the word Red, written in red, with the card that's red), his Colors Book, and fabric swatches. Red, blue and green are still problematic, but now it's more blue and green than anything else. He gets red sometimes. Orange, purple, yellow, pink, and brown, he's pretty good with. He has until he's five, Ginny says, and if he's still shaky on red-blue-green or blue-green, that's when we ask the doctor about color blindness. Last week he was calling all three blue, this week blue and green are both green. Ginny left her beading activity bag at our house last week, and I had it set up to return when we see her next, and guess who found it! So we named the colors of the beads, too. The trick will be hiding it somewhere he can't get it, but where I will remember it!

I love that little "I did it!" grin!

And this is his colors drawer! "The Colors Book" is one of the Britannica Discovery Library series. I was freecycled a big bag of upholstery fabric samples months and months ago, and went through just this morning pulling out different colored swatches for his drawer.
I think I will move the drawers and stack them in the corner on the washstand, because if they're stored across the room instead of right there, it will increase the likelihood of stuff not being put away promptly. I wouldn't have that kind of freedom of reorganizing if I'd gone with my original idea of a basket for each subject - my mom got me the drawers. I'm now seeing that they'll be much more versatile and take up less space in the long run. You can't stack baskets, and it would have contributed to the general appearance of clutter that I'm trying to avoid. Thank you, Mommy!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Our First Day of School - my son tries to kill me!

Okay, he didn't mean to. And it wasn't related to school. But it was still funny.
School first!
Kittyboy loves sitting at his yellow plastic desk from Hobby Lobby, and I've got enough of a variety of STUFF that doing everything in five minute chunks keeps him happy. Read a book, do a puzzle, try to match cards for a bit, do the puzzle again, read another book. I like my set-up with six clear drawers, because he can just jump up when he's done and grab what he wants to do next, we don't have to guess, so that eliminates a potential frustration. We are trying what Misty advised to lengthen his tolerance of sitting - "Okay, one more, and then we can be all done," and it works okay.
I will post pictures, when the household computer is either working or replaced (I'm on my little XO laptop and can't get photos uploaded), of Kittyboy with his icon cards, listening to the daily readings from Husband's phone. That's going to be the start of the day - not readings during breakfast anymore, but at his desk. Great start to the day!
Thursday I will ask Ginny just out of curiosity, how do you test for colorblindness, and at what age? It just struck me today that some colors, he's starting to get right, and it's not so random - but blue, red and green were all consistently blue today. Huh, odd.
And now for the attempt on my life!
Yesterday, I had Kittyboy carry all the bricks, stones, and bits of broken concrete that ring our flower beds, over to the sidewalk so that Husband could mow the grass growing in between. Today, I figured he could carry it all back. And we had gotten so much done right today - reading, playing, tidying up, trampoline time, outside time, meals with multiple food groups - and he'd get in some heavy work carrying the bricks back where they came from. I was feeling sooooo good.
Then I looked up and saw my little Samson running at me with a big helpful grin, carrying a brick at shoulder height and realized that this was one of those horror movie moments when you realize that investigating the noise in the basement was a monumental error in judgment.
Boy is strong, enthusiastic, eager to help. Finer concepts such as "Gentle" and "Careful" are academic, and easily forgotten in the heat of the moment. He used to hurt us playing, and still does sometimes without knowing it. He doesn't think ahead. And he was carrying a brick at the level of my cranium.
And like the movie character who stands and screams instead of, oh, running away, or something else sensible, I wasted precious escape time sitting there in shock, thinking...
"I did NOT think this through."
The first brick, I deflected with my hands while screaming, "NONONO STOP, NO THROWING!!" He figured Mommy screaming meant we were having fun, and was on his way back with another rock before I could get up, missing my foot with it as I scrambled backwards screaming again. The third time, I grabbed HIM, and we had a hand-over-hand lesson in Giving Nicely. I showed him how to be exaggeratedly careful (the only way to make sure he IS careful is to pretend everything's made of eggshells), and thereafter if he so much as dropped the rock into my hands instead of placing it carefully as if it were porcelain, I made him do it again. Getting masonry thrown at my head was a little unnerving.
Obviously I'm still learning how much instruction is needed sometimes! As my mom said, after she stopped laughing, "You're learning together!"