We Love Our Firefighters

November 30, 2011

So. Here is the formula for the Best Day Ever, according to Eli. First, we had a completely normal day. Then, at bedtime, I sent the kids upstairs to get in their pajamas while I cleaned up the dinner dishes. Everyone but Henry ignored me. Henry came downstairs a minute later and said, with only a teensy bit of urgency in his voice, “There’s smoke in our room.”

I ran upstairs. There was, indeed, a bit of smoke in their room, and more than a bit of a smell. It smelled like a match that had been blown out, or maybe melted crayon. Or leaking gas. The mind jumps to conclusions in these situations, and any of those smells seemed possible. I could locate nothing. I opened the window. The smoke dissipated, but the smell remained.

I should mention that Dave, who was actually a firefighter long ago, is out of town. So I did the normal thing, and called the fire department. Long story short, it turned out it was a burned out fluorescent bulb in the overhead light. Huh. Once we figured that out, the firefighters were happy to show the kids all their cool equipment. They also heartily praised our house renovations, which had nothing to do with any potential fire, but made me happy. Seriously, every firefighter I’ve ever met has been the nicest, most awesome person.

Then, of course, I said, “Before you go, we have to take a picture.” They said, “Let’s take it out on the truck!” Ok!

And that, according to Eli, is how to have the Best Day Ever.

CATEGORIES: Eli, housekeeping


November 30, 2011

Here’s Zuzu, in response to “how old are you?” I’m also posting this video so you can all think, “Oh, at least my house isn’t as messy as hers.”


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Review on Brain Burps About Books: Bailey

November 23, 2011

Hey all! I’m on Katie Davis’s podcast this week, reviewing Bailey by Harry Bliss, the story of a dog who goes to school (regular people school, not dog school).  Check it out! Katie is interviewing the founder of the charity Milk and Bookies.

You can check out info on this podcast episode by clicking here, or you can listen directly by clicking here. Enjoy!



Sewing School

November 21, 2011

This, my friends, is what homeschool is about for me. I can pick an activity that interests us all — learning to sew — and we can spend days and days figuring it out. We got this great book called Sewing School: 21 Sewing Projects Kids Will Love to Make by Amie Plumley and Andria Lisle, which broke things down very well for us beginners. It was very, very satisfying to have the boys learning a running stitch and both saying, excitedly, “I’m doing it! I’m really doing it!”

From there, Henry has been methodically working his way through the book (needle book, pillow, superhero cuff), while Eli is making up his own stuff (sleeping bag for Soup, backpack for his stuffed animal Puppy). When we went to the fabric store to get supplies, I suddenly heard Zuzu gasp, and there was a bolt of the same fabric that her sleepy bunny is made out of. So of course we had to get some, and are working on making sleepy bunnies for her dollies.

CATEGORIES: crafts, homeschool

It’s all about the nod

November 18, 2011

There is something so, so cute to me about pre-verbal toddler nods and head shakes. They’re so excited, so happy: “I can tell you what I mean! I can say yes to milk, and no to socks!”

I wanted to get a video of a Ramona nod before the opportunity passed me by and she was suddenly 15. I’m still subtitling Zuzu, but she’s way more understandable than she was in January.


CATEGORIES: Ramona, Zuzu

Street Jam

November 17, 2011

You have to love your neighborhood when you look out the window to see your neighbor and his dad playing guitars and singing on the street (“It’s something we wanted to do, and we thought we’d better try it out here first.”) They Pied Pipered the neighborhood kids around them, and Eli happily joined in to “play” his guitar. You’ll see Eli has the moves down, but that he does not yet understand that his left hand needs to be doing stuff too.

Sorry about the massive wind noise. It was windy.



Recommendation: Barefoot Books Podcast

November 14, 2011

This is sort of a Children’s Book of the Week post. It’s high time I recommended the Barefoot Books podcast on here, because it’s such a lifesaver for us. You probably know the publisher Barefoot Books — they do a lot of folk tales and fairy tales, all very good. Well, they have a podcast (mostly weekly) that is essentially audio book readings of these stories.

What this means for you (or, well, for me) is that you can download lots and lots of stories and have them ready to play in the car (assuming you can figure out how to get the iPod to play over your car speakers). They’re free, and they’re good.

I honestly recommend them to someone about once every three days; sorry for spacing out and forgetting to recommend them to you.

You can listen to them right on the podcast website, or you can find them in iTunes and download all the stories there.


Random Product Endorsements: Gadgety Timers

November 11, 2011

I find, when parenting, that a lot of kerfuffle can be avoided if you foist limits and rule setting onto someone or something else entirely. I especially like to foist the responsibility onto battery-operated gadgets. Then I can say, “Don’t blame me! The clock says it’s time to go!” Here are some things that work for us.

Ok, first up: the Teach Me Time Talking Alarm Clock and Night Light. This thing has all sorts of functions that I frankly don’t care about. Here’s what it does for us that’s worth every penny of its $40 price tag: you can set it to change color when it’s time to get up. Simple. Life changing, for us. Before this clock, Henry would get up whenever he woke up. Sometimes he would wake up at 4:00, and, especially if he knew there were new library books downstairs, he would get up and read. Often this would wake Eli, who has one volume: 11. This would wake Zuzu, who would then start crying because she was tired, who would wake Ramona. Plus then everyone would melt down before dinner because they were so sleep deprived.

So! Now, thanks to this clock, nobody comes downstairs until 6:25. You can actually set it to change color twice. I have it set to light up yellow at 6:00 and change to green at 6:25. If they’re awake, they know that when the clock turns yellow, that they’ll be able to come downstairs soon. And they know they can’t get out of bed until the clock turns green.

The other thing I really like about it is that it’s a silent type of alarm, which is especially important in a situation like ours where three siblings share a bedroom. If someone (usually Zuzu) is still zonked out, that kid isn’t going to wake up by a clock changing color.

Oh, and the other other thing I really like is that it has an analog (well, a digital analog) face. Because I’m old school that way.

Ok! Next item!

There is no end to the uses for a timer. You have 15 minutes to clean the playroom! We’ll read for 20 more minutes, and then it’s time for bed! You can have that toy for 5 minutes, and then it’s your sister’s turn!

At some point I realized that we needed some kind of timer, so I got this Cook-Rite one ($12). I was super disappointed when it came to find that it wasn’t the tick-tick-tick-tick-DING! one that I thought it would be and instead took batteries. Huh? Why change a classic?

Here’s what it does: it counts down, and then, a minute-and-a-half before it’s going to go off, it starts beeping, and the beeping gets more and more frantic, until it stops, which means your time is up. Yes, it’s annoying. And I will tell you that Dave haaaaaaates it. But! There is a huge advantage to having a “warning” bell for the kids. It helps transition toward the end of reading, or it helps to do that last blitz cleanup before your time is up and everything left on the floor gets carted off to Goodwill (um, not that I’d ever do anything so mean). So even though I initially thought of returning it, I can now heartily recommend it for parenting purposes.

Don’t get it to cook with though. It’ll make you very anxious about whatever you’re cooking.

Last item:

Full disclosure: we just got this two days ago, and I already have some vague problems with it, so take this with a grain of salt.

This is how tooth brushing used to go in our house: kid brushes for 12 seconds, asks, “Was that enough time?” we say no, kid brushes for 8 more seconds, asks, “Was that enough time?” and so on until we get sick of answering and say yes, that was enough time. Average brushing time: 43 seconds. Which includes the time when the toothbrush was not even in the mouth because the tooth brusher was asking if he or she had been brushing long enough.

Clearly we needed toothbrush timers! What I like about this one: it has a little holder so you can mount it on the wall, but your kid can also slip it out and walk around with it, which is handy if you have a bunch of peripatetic tooth brushers like we do. The big light flashes green for two minutes, and turns red when it’s done (there’s also a 20-second hand-washing timer). And, best of all, the kids think it’s fun.

What I don’t like: there’s no screw holding on the battery compartment door, so when the timer gets dropped, which it will, the door pops off and all the batteries fall out. And, also, a few times the “reset” button has gotten locked down, so it didn’t start blinking if you pressed the tooth-brush or hand-wash timer buttons. It’s easy to fix (just press the reset button again) but frustrating for the kids.

I’ll update you if these cons irritate me enough so that I don’t want to recommend this any more. But for now it has been really nice to have a few days of the kids brushing their teeth for long enough, and not asking every twelve seconds if they’re done yet.



Review up on Brain Burps today!

November 9, 2011

Check out my review of What Animals Really Like by Fiona Robinson. It’s one of my favorite picture books this year. You’ll love it.

You can see more about the podcast here on Katie’s site, and you can download the episode directly by clicking here. Go to it! Katie interviews Leonard Marcus, who has annotated The Phantom Tollbooth.

(And yes, I am working to improve my audio quality. Thanks for your concern.)



Children’s Book of the Week: Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

November 8, 2011

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

Oh my god oh my god oh my god! This book has made me into such a teenager, gushing with emotion and completely inarticulate in wonder. And not, mind you, because it’s a teenybopper fantasy of any kind, but more because I’m such an unabashed book geek that reading a truly excellent story makes me weak in the knees. And so I say: Oh! My! God! Peter Nimble!

I started to read this book myself, and then literally had to pace the room trying to decide whether to keep reading it myself (because it was so good, I just had to keep reading) or to read it to the children as a bedtime book (because it was so good! but we were also in the middle of another – much more boring – bedtime book). In the end, I decided to do both. For the first time ever, I read ahead while simultaneously reading it as a bedtime chapter book. And it was so good that it was nothing if not an extreme pleasure to be starting over at the beginning before I even finished it the first time. There were actions earlier in the book that foreshadowed the events I was reading about on my own (and I had, of course, missed the foreshadowing the first time around). It certainly helped to make my reading-aloud more entertaining for the kids (at least I think it did).

Have I mentioned how good this book is? When I started reading it to the kids, I read the first two chapters and announced it was bedtime, only to be met with simultaneous howls of protest from all four kids (Ramona is either enjoying literary treasures well above grade level, or figured she had better join in to the sibling-led tantrum).

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes is the story of the world’s greatest thief, a ten-year-old orphan boy named Peter Nimble, who steals a box containing three pairs of magical eyes, which lead him on an incredible adventure. He meets many amazing people and creatures, and the craziest and most lovable enchanted knight (the initial description of whom garnered shrieks and gasps and laughter from the kids – really).

Also my favorite birds, ravens, play a very large part in Peter Nimble, so it has that going for it also.

And I’ll tell you that, when we got to the denouement, Henry and Eli sat up in their beds and cheered, loudly, for what seemed like a really long time. They cheered like their team had scored the winning goal (um, in our world here “the hero in a book having a wonderfully surprising happy thing happen to him” is having our team score the winning goal).

Oh dear. And now I fear I’ve talked it up too much, and you all will be disappointed. Though I really don’t see how that’s possible. But maybe forget I said anything. Approach it as I did, not knowing much. Or, oooh! I know! Please go to Jonathan Auxier’s website, and play around with his author photo. That should convince you of his greatness.


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