Monday, August 23, 2010

Last Week Before School!!

It hit me this morning that if I'm going to schooling Kittyboy with a schedule (which would make record-keeping far easier - not that we need to, but it'd be a good idea), our starting date of September first is ONE WEEK away. I have a week to figure out our schedule, get copies made of the awesome workbooks I got from Rod and Staff, decide how we should do things, and I want to plan a "first day of preschool for real" photo session.
And by the way, if you have a three-year-old, check out those workbooks. Seriously. Your child will have some nearly K-level skills by the age of four - and yet they start with the most basic ideas and very slowly and subtly work up to actual critical thinking and such. It's a set of four workbooks. The first page of the first book is "Draw a line between the pictures that are the same" with two columns of pictures. Not only are the columns exactly the same (the first two match, second two match, etc), there's a dotted line to trace for each set. Then one of the last couple pages in the fourth book asks the child to draw lines between the dominoes that have the same number of dots! Nothing to trace, the dominoes aren't in any order, kind of demanding for a four-year-old, but if you've already mastered the other three books, it's not a stretch at all. And that's the precursor to their actual preschool curriculum, which I'm guessing is roughly equivalent to kindergarten, and their 1st grade curriculum is meant to start at age 6.
As far as daily scheduling, I think "school" starts after lunch, when Husband leaves for work. Mornings are Daddy/play/park time, and afternoon school is the schedule Kittyboy is used to anyway. Thanks to my friend Amy, he has a lovely school desk with storage in it, and boy will I be using that storage space.
I already did some supply shopping (sans Kittyboy), for new markers, real glue (gluesticks are about as adhesive as post-it notes, I learned this the hard way), folders for storing worksheets, a pencil case, and his first real pair of scissors. I had a lovely time going through every box of folders at the store to make sure Kittyboy would have one of each of the Toy Story folders. When I was in junior high and high school, there were folders with these beautiful paintings of fish and whales and coastal scenes by an artist named Christian Riese Lassen, and I would go through every box of folders on the shelf to make sure I had one of each painting. That way I had something to look at when I was bored. Scouring the shelves for Buzz and Woody brought back memories! The pencil case is also Toy Story (we have a theme, obviously, since he already has a Toy Story backpack). The folders would never fit in his little backpack, but that's fine, because he's not going anywhere that he would have to take them! Haha! Of course, all this has been stashed in our closet, to surprise him on his first day.
I already know that we are taking off from the week before Christmas to St. Anthony's Day in January (the 17th), and that's Christmas break. Then we'll take off Holy Week and Bright Week, and the month of August. I'll sprinkle off-weeks elsewhere in the year.
So I have this week to
1. make copies of the first workbook
2. print out and put up the fish anatomy diagrams I found online (more on our classroom pet, the bluegill, later)
3. get page protectors! That way I can put his worksheets in them and he can do them with dry erase marker and if he scribbles, I can wipe it off.
4. hunt up some "manipulatives" for counting. That's a fancy word for "little stuff to count". I'm thinking dried beans, buttons, those flat glass marbles... and a container in which to keep them.
5. find methods of organizing the (large, flat, shallow) storage space in the desk.
Not only all that, but it's great laundry weather right now - I should go do that.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Local Fish Store WIN

It's Tuesday night. Thursday morning, the Kittyboy and I head off to my parents so that Kittyboy can meet his auntie's college friend, AND so that I can pick up and take home a bluegill for my 65-gallon tank. I've been planning this "Illinois tank" for weeks, ever since the two big goldfish in that tank died, and it's been quite the project. New filters (because it turns out that relying on an under-gravel setup in such a big tank is probably why fish died periodically), new lights (to hopefully grow plants), and live plants. I was going to try and get duckweed or hornwort for plants, then found out those both float on the surface, and eventually would COVER the surface, blocking light to the grass I've already got. So I'm sticking with grass and whatever grows from those little dried bulbs they sell at Walmart.
Anyhow, lights are set up, grass has not died yet and in fact might be growing more, a bulb that I thought was a dud (been in there for months and done nothing) has now put out six inches of growth, filters are running, all's good. Getting the fish Thursday.
Need a battery-powered air pump to transport it with the absolute minimum of stress.
But those are such basic, necessary things, I didn't think to look around in advance. It's something you need if the power goes out, an emergency measure that you don't necessarily plan for, but usually when you need one, you NEED ONE. RIGHT THEN.
Petsmart had none. Petco had none. Oh, they had them online. If I had, you know, a couple weeks to wait. But if you run in crying, "Omygosh a tree just fell on our power-line and I need an air pump for my 500 gallon reef!!"? Sorry, not in stores.
I was fuming. And panicking, I need a pump in roughly 36 hours, but also fuming, because that's just so short-sighted. We had a tornado about four years ago that knocked out power to MUCH of Springfield for days or weeks, depending on where you lived. We get tornadoes every year - they don't do that much damage every year, but we get them. Not stocking back-up air pumps is like Wal-Mart not stocking hurricane lamps.
I called the only small, local fish store I could think of, The Fishman Pet Center - insert Star Wars clip, "Help me Fishman Kenobi! You're my only hope!" - and THEY have them. They have two, on the shelf, right now. They open at noon tomorrow.
And I flooded the lady on the phone with my gratitude and relief. I told her the whole long story and that neither of the major chains carry this basic, necessary piece of equipment in their stores. She also thought that was ridiculous - she knew people who lost THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS worth of fish after the tornado because they hadn't bought pumps and their store didn't have enough to go around. When you need one, you NEED ONE.
We've actually never gone to The Fishman before, because it's waaaay the other end of Springfield while the chains are only a couple miles away, but I think I will be patronizing them from now on. They know what fish-keepers need!
Sooooooo relieved... :)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Kittyboy, Angels, and Overcoming Fear

After signing up months ago (maybe a year ago?) at the Right To Life Center as a volunteer, I finally got the call to come help with something, putting address labels on a mailing. I was excited, and so was Kittyboy, because he knows that's where they have ''babies in the window''. We packed one of his little bookbags with toys, headed downtown, and discovered that the easiest 2-hr parking spaces, by far, were a block away. Just a little walk up a hill and across... train tracks.

Kittyboy is infamous for choosing inopportune times to be scared of random stuff. Just so happened he's never walked over train tracks before. We got to about level with the crossing gate, and he turned in front of me, almost tripping me. I told him we had to keep going, we had to cross, and he started whimpering and whining no, and kept pulling me in circles like a dog on a leash. He would not cross the tracks. I told him impatiently that this was ridiculous, there was no train, it was fine, and we had to go. The way the tracks are at 3rd and Monroe, there's one lane of 3rd St either side of the tracks, so we were basically in the road. So I pulled him toward the tracks again, and he jerked away hard, almost ran into traffic. Monroe's a busy four-lane. I couldn't carry him, my arms were full, so eventually I just pulled him after me over the tracks (guess I still AM stronger), and told him on the other side while he cried, that he MUST NEVER try to get away from me like that again. Of course, having taken all that trouble, the papers to be mailed hadn't come yet and we had to come back at 1:30. I'd already plugged the meter, so I thought we may as well go to the Marian Center across the street. Kittyboy loves that store. But I wasn't going to haul his stuff around while we shopped. Back over the train tracks.

Same scenario - the panic, circling around me, trying to jerk away. Dragged him back across again against his will, telling him stoically that everything was fine, there was no train, all was well. Not the ideal way to handle a terrified child, but neither could we just sit in the street and talk about it, and you have to get him calmed down before you even CAN talk about it. Which wasn't going to happen so long as he knew we WERE crossing the tracks regardless.

Back at the car, I unloaded, and asked him if he WANTED to go to the Marian Center. I pointed out we'd have to cross the tracks again. He did say he wanted to. Sigh.

Third crossing, he may have THOUGHT he was going to be fine, but no - I just scooped him up and went. Being carried didn't make things okay for him, it just made him easier to transport.

So the whole length of the block, he kept pulling in random directions, jerking away, that time he was acting panicky well after the crossing was over. He didn't relax until we were in the Marian Center.

Aaahhh, safety. Peace, quiet, church music playing, not to mention a pronounced lack of train tracks. We sat right on the floor and Talked About It. I asked him why he was afraid of the train tracks. No clear answer except something to do with a train (duh). I told him there was no train. I told him you never, ever, ever, ever run away from Mommy. I told him traffic is dangerous and You Will Get Hurt. He got all that, nodded, agreed. Except no one thinks rationally when they're freaking out, right?

The Marian Center carries an abundance of small, inexpensive pendants, pins, little rosaries, icon cards, lots of things that could have qualified as bribes/security-things. I started asking - ''Would a new cross necklace help you cross the tracks?'' ''No.'' ''Would a new little icon card help you cross the tracks?'' ''No.'' I offered, and he rejected, everything I could think of. He pulled a nice olive wood crucifix necklace off a rack and declared it was his - I looked at the price and asked, ''Could this help you cross the...'' ''No.'' And then he put it back! That cross he really wanted, he did not want enough to cross the tracks without a fight. That's serious!!

He ran over to their collection of small icons, and started pulling them out for me to name. Those were a little beyond my ''inexpensive bribery'' price range, but I was asking anyway whether another icon of Jesus would help him cross the tracks (no) or another of the Mother of God (no), and one he pulled out was the Archangel Gabriel. That WOULD be Alexis Gabriel's patron, so I asked Kittyboy if he thought we should get that ''for Alexis'', he agreed, and then I brought up how angels are God's messengers and ministers, and they watch over us. God watches over us, and angels do His bidding, right? And if God has His angels watching over us, then we've no reason to be afraid, do we? Kittyboy was holding the icon and nodding along. So did he think he could cross the tracks with Alexis' icon? Seeing as how it's an angel?

Would you believe the answer was still no?

And then he didn't want us to buy the icon, because then he'd have to cross the tracks without a fight, and he knew he couldn't do that, therefore he couldn't get the icon (so his reasoning went). And I couldn't convince him that we could get the icon regardless, and it became apparent that getting the icon was actually going to upset him further (again, see diagram of his logic above). So we put it back. But now I was pointing out every angel I saw, and telling him again and again how God watches over us (Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all three!), and His angels watch over us, and of course the Mother of God (his favorite), and his patron St. Patrick, and so we don't have to be afraid, do we? He agreed wholeheartedly - but tracks were still not happening. Talked about how Mommy and Daddy wouldn't let anything hurt him, and God loves him even more than we do - he agreed, he was quite agreeable, but No Tracks. In the Children's Room, they had a copy of a picture I want - a little boy leaning over a cliff to pick flowers, TOTALLY oblivious, with an angel hovering nearby. As many times as Kittyboy has tempted serious injury...! And I pointed it out to him. He liked it. He didn't want it (and it was well out of my range or I'd have gotten it anyway). And it wasn't going to help him over the tracks.

I'd given up, we'd looked at everything, I would just have to carry him over while he freaked and then we'd put railroad crossings on the No list, and then he saw a little guardian angel pin on a spindle by the door. He said, ''That my guardien angel!'' I pointed out that it wasn't an actual angel, it was a picture of one... wait, would that angel help him cross the tracks without being scared and running? Jumping with his arms outstretched, trying to reach it - ''YES!''

And wearing his little pin, he walked across the tracks holding my hand. He didn't stop, jerk away, spin me in circles, or try to run. He whimpered pitifully from one side to the other, but he did it!

And when we went back at 1:30 to help with the mailing, we found a parking space right in front!

(I should add that we also discussed extensively that just because God takes care of us, does NOT mean we cross the tracks if a train IS coming!)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Calendar for the Dormition Fast

Today being the first of August (for maybe an hour yet), we started the Dormition Fast, the fasting period for the two weeks prior to the feast-day of Mary the Theotokos falling asleep in the Lord (falling asleep, hence, Dormition)(Theotokos = Mother of God). Dormition is the 15th (and the 16th is our anniversary, which is why the Theotokos is our family patron saint!). I saw the COOLEST calendar craft by Amy at Crafty Contemplative, with a vine and felt flowers. The theme is "Flowers for the Theotokos", and the idea is to attach one flower every day, fifteen flowers for the first fifteen days of August. Now, Amy's idea is absolutely gorgeous and looks awesome. Seriously. Go look at it. She even has kits you can buy to make it yourself - all you need are glue and kids. But I read all this about the calendar Friday afternoon, July 30th, today was Sunday the 1st, we weren't able to catch the bus we needed to get to Walmart and get felt before the day buses stopped running, and the night buses have reaaaally long routes, I wanted to do something THAT NIGHT, and the dog ate my homework. So I came up with THIS instead. Because I am lacking in patience and felt, but blessed with a surplus of paper and markers.

This is a piece of paper with a vase or pot drawn on it, not sure which, and a plant of some sort, and our first flower attached. I taped it to the wall, under our large family icon of the Theotokos. I drew and cut out 15 large flower shapes, 15 small flower shapes, and 15 little circles. Kittyboy colored them in, then chose for me which colors should go together - each large flower shape has a smaller one in the center, then a little circle in the center of that. I believe we have one that is brown-orange-purple, hahaha. But I'm keeping my micromanaging little nose out of it, they're entirely his coloring and color choices. I put glue on the paper, he glued them together, and we're taping on one a day to the bush/vine/plant. I already foresee a space issue - we will NOT have room for 15 flowers on this plant. The flowers may extend onto the wall, I don't know. Anyhow, tonight before bed we put on our first flower, sang It Is Truly Meet, and he kissed her goodnight.

"It is truly meet to bless thee, O Theotokos, ever blessed and most pure and the Mother of our God; more honorable than the Cherubim, and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, who without stain did give birth to God the Word; true Theotokos, we magnify thee!"