Saturday, January 30, 2010


We were in the pool with LOTS of multicultural children at the hotel in Nashville. Sarah went up to one girl and announced, "My name is Sarah, I'm 5 years old, and I'm one hundred percent Korean and one hundred percent American." The little girl cocked her head quizzically and said, "Say what?"
Then Sarah said to me, "Thank God for Martin Luther King, Jr. Otherwise, we wouldn't all be able to be in the same pool together!"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


I saw an interview with President Obama in which he said he makes at least one mistake a day, sometimes two. Today when Sarah spilled an entire cup of juice (again), I told her that even the president makes mistakes (my responses are usually much less gracious; it's a good day). Noah overheard the whole thing and said, "Do you think President Obama knocks over a cup of juice on the White House floor every day?"

Apple Pi

Once every few years, we have such an incredible homeschooling day that it makes up for all the rest (at least that's what I'm telling myself). We were certainly due for one, and today was it.

It all began several hours ago with an inspiration for a math lesson. I gathered the troops and told them to go on a circle hunt, with each kid bringing three things shaped like a circle to the kitchen table. Then I introduced the terms "diameter" and "circumference" and we talked about how to measure them. The kids made a chart of each object's diameter and circumference and then used a calculator to divide the circumference by the diameter. I pointed out that the answer was about 3, no matter what size the circle was.

I was about to launch into an explanation about pi when Noah interrupted and said, "Hey, I wonder what the diameter of my head is!" I asked him how we might figure out the diameter without jamming a ruler through his brain. He thought for awhile and then said, "Couldn't we just measure the circumference and divide it by 3?" So we did that, and then I told them that there was a name for that special 3.14 number.

As soon as I said it was called pi, my food-obsessed daughter said, "Can we make an apple pie?" That led to an English lesson about spelling and homonyms. Sarah couldn't be distracted from the pie, so we made an apple pie, which led to a big kitchen cleaning. All in all a great homeschool day.

The pictures (which I don't know how to keep in order--if you know, please tell me!) show the kids eating a long apple peel from each end till they met in the middle and using the long peels as a jump rope.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Too safe

Before chemistry class this afternoon, I gave the kids a speech about chemical safety. I told them we were going to be mixing some potentially hazardous chemicals and that they shouldn't touch them or inhale the fumes. Noah wanted to know what would happen if they did, so I read the warnings on the label of zinc oxide about diarrhea, nausea, headaches, etc. Sarah freaked out and ran out of the room. She returned with sunglasses on and held her breath the whole time. She refused to participate in the experiment and was even reluctant to watch us do it. She said, "I don't want to get diarrhea!"

Simple pleasures

We don't usually have grapes in the winter, because they're too expensive. Last night I went to Kroger (by myself!) and noticed that grapes were on sale. They were still too expensive, but I bought some. This morning we were all snuggled up in bed watching Curious George. The kids on the show lowered a basket of grapes from a balcony to some kids on the ground. Sarah sighed sadly and said, "I wish we had some grapes." I said, "Well guess what? We do!" Her eyes lit up, and she said, "Can you lower them in a basket to us?" I don't have any baskets, so I tied a string to a toy drum and put some grapes in it. The kids went downstairs, and I lowered the grapes down to them. They were totally ecstatic!

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I was driving to Peoria today, and the kids were riding in the back, gazing out at all the sights. We hadn't been to Peoria for a month, so they seemed very interested in everything. As we were approaching a billboard that read "No phishing...Protect Your Data", I could hear Noah trying to decipher the word "phishing". My brain was scrambling for a way to explain what phishing is, but fortunately he wasn't able to figure it out well enough to even ask me about it in the short time it took to drive past it.

Relieved that I'd dodged that bullet for the moment, we came to a stoplight right next to a digital billboard. The light was red, and Noah was reading aloud the harmless advertisement about siding and windows. Inexplicably, Sarah started singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" at the same time. Suddenly the billboard picture dissolved into a scary looking mugshot of a missing criminal, announcing in huge letters that he is wanted for armed robbery and sexual assault.

I quickly initiated an impromptu game of "I Spy" in the opposite direction. "I spy something green out Sarah's window...."
Noah was too focused on the billboard to take the bait. "Arm...armed...what's armed? robbery and..."
Sarah droned on: "...all of the other reindeer...Is it that tree, Mommy?"
"No, it's another green thing. Are you looking, Noah?" How long is this light going to be red?!
I remembered when we regularly drove by a billboard that read "Gun Crime=Hard Time". Noah was a beginning reader at the time, but he didn't have any trouble figuring out what those words said. Then, of course, he wanted to know what that meant.

I know the world isn't perfect and that my kids have to learn to live in it, but can't I protect them from evil for a few more years? I hate being put in the position of having to explain deception, fraud, crime, hard time, and sexual assault to my young children, all because we drove ten miles down the road. Today I bought a little more time.

Just as the light turned green, Noah asked, "Mom, what is sexual asphalt?" and I said, "Let's talk about it later, okay buddy? Because you're about to miss the green thing and I'm going to win!" He never brought it up again. I was afraid he would remember at bedtime, when he rehashes the day's events and asks the deep questions. Hopefully he forgot about it.

Japanese Salsa

We were at Aldi today, and I sent Noah ahead to start searching for our favorite salsa, which is always buried under several layers of the kind we don't like. When he finally returned, he said, "I got the last one! I had to dig through tons of the Japanese kind to find it. " I said, "Japanese?" and he said, "Well, I know it's not exactly Japanese, but I couldn't really tell what word it was." I was very curious by that point, so I had him show me. It was jalapeno. :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Air pressure

We read a book about the first person to cross the English Channel in an airplane, and then we watched Bill Nye the Science Guy's DVD about flight. For hours after that, the kids played with air. They duplicated Bill Nye's experiments, and Noah designed some of his own. We talked about how amazing it is that something we can't even see can be powerful enough to make an airplane fly. Noah said, "It's not really that surprising, since Someone we can't see is powerful enough to create the whole universe!"

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The dreaded question

People are always asking my kids, "So...what have you been learning in school lately?" It makes me cringe, because I know what's coming next. Sarah's eyes glaze over in a blank stare; Noah looks down at the ground; and one or both of them will mumble something akin to, "Duh...I dunno...nothin'." Then the questioner will look at me like I'm a pitiful loser, and my brain will start scrambling to come up with an answer. What HAVE they been learning? What DO we do all day?

We read a lot, take walks, play games, talk all the time, cook, play a lot, visit people, watch TV, gather Cheerios into little groups, color, clean, go to the library, dance, garden, cut paper into little bits, make various structures out of our couch, tell senseless knock-knock jokes, paint, pray, go to the grocery store, bicker, do puzzles, make up mad-libs, hammer nails into wood scraps, write stories and poems, wrestle around on the floor, play Wii, fold laundry, ride bikes, sew buttons onto fabric scraps, build things with Legos, and a hundred other things. We're always working on building character, loving, serving, and getting along with people. How do I put all that into a cogent response to the dreaded question?

Pet zipline

Yesterday the kids came up with the idea that we should make a zipline for their pets to ride. After much trial and error (in school, we call that "scientific experimentation"), we finally got a decent zipline going.

First, we tied a piece of yarn between the floor lamp and an electrical cord. That worked well for one pet, but when the kids piled all their pets into a bag and tried to send them down the zipline, the lamp fell over and got dented.

Then we tried a big heavy rope tied onto a joist in the ceiling. Not good. Noah got a rope burn, and it was a very bumpy ride for the pets. We needed a smoother line.

Noah thought an extension cord would be good. After tying up the big blue extension cord, we discovered that the carabiner didn't slide down it very easily, making for a very slow trip down the line.

Next, we tried fishing line. It was very fast, but not strong enough, and too flexible. It bent all the way down to the ground under the pets' weight.

We finally decided to go back to the yarn, since it worked best. We tied it between the joist and a rocking chair in the other room, and the pets went flying!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Thank God for friends

My best friend took care of my kids today while I went to the dermatologist for the dreaded inspection of my skin. When I came back to pick up the kids, she was doing their schoolwork with them (they thought they were playing store with the cash register, but they were really learning a lot of things). Then she gave me some educational tools to use at home (she thought she was just getting rid of some avocados).

I have never bought an avocado in my whole life, so my kids (and I) were fascinated with the two that my friend gave me. We made a dip with avocado, salsa, and cream cheese. And we discovered that playing with avocado pits is great fun. Noah pretended they were Mario and Luigi, and then he pretended that one was a Jedi army and the other was a Barbie army, and they had a war.

Thank you, Jennifer. My kids love you, and so do I!