Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Surprised

math equation reads 93 plus 3 equals 96

This morning, five-year-old Curly Miss surprised me by writing the above equation on the fridge without any warning whatsoever. Since we have been wandering through the fields of adding numbers up to 12, her internalization of the use of a tens column caught me off guard. I had thought her math learning stalled this spring since we haven't actually worked on it hardly at all, but I guess I was happily wrong.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Blue Screen Photography



This morning the kids and I set up a photography studio in our dining room. I hung a sheer curtain over the window and set up several directional lamps with natural bulbs to get the best light I could make.

Then Curly helped me hang up our "blue screen" which happens to have Lightning McQueen on it (what doesn't in this house?). I have never deliberately tried to use a blue screen although I have done plenty of background replacement in PhotoShop. This was the first time I shot with the intent of doing the whole finished product in PS.

Curly and I set up some test shots of her once we got the tripod ready. Then I took the test shot and used my new PS plug-in for masking hair called Mask Pro. Hubby just gave it to me for my birthday so I haven't had much time to practice with it yet.



I finished the head shot of Curly and I'm pleased with the way the tool works. Of course the learning curve means next year's pics will be better but for now I think my blue screen worked pretty well.

We dressed all three kids in their new Easter outfits and posed them all in front of the blue screen. Having the photo shoot in my own house where it's warm and where I have unlimited time and an unlimited number of shots works so much better than a studio where more variables lower our chances of success.



After many, many outtakes we got all three kids to smile at least once. Then several hours of post-production work later, we have this year's Easter photo!

I'm pleased with how it came out this year and more than pleased with my new tool. I think I am going to invest in some kind of homemade blue screen that is smooth and really practice the technique because I was amazed how well everything came together.

A really good mask allows flexibility for any number of backgrounds and poses.







Which do you like the best?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Six Months Old!!!

No smiles for the camera this time but he sure is a lot longer!!!!



Five months:




Four months:




Three months:




Two months:




One month:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Two Fun Field Trips

Our Homeschool group got together today for learning and fun, first at the Artisan bakery where we each got to bake a fresh baguette, then to campus where we sat in on a Matinee of Dancers, Drummers and Dreamers.  In between, some of us had some PE at a local Rec center and lunch at our house!  Squeezing four moms and eleven kids into our little house was tight but we managed it, fixing PB&J for everyone.


Curly and I had a blast with the social time while Little Mister did his best to keep up with all the older kids.  Teetering on the edge between baby and big kid, he tried hard to play with everyone, but had to come to Mom for a cuddle now and then.  Curly, on the other hand, pretty much disappeared into the crowd of kids and I hardly saw her except when she got in trouble for climbing on the bleachers at the Rec Center.  Typical.  She had such a fun day and I was in seventh heaven, having adults to talk to and having someone else hold Baby Bear for a while.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Narcolepsy

baby bear asleep in the bumble chair

He must think I leave him in this chair all day. Poor, neglected baby sitting in his chair while Mommy and Daddy play music really loudly right next to him. Pitiful little thing.

Aren't babies funny? Little Mister did the same thing at a similar age. I have heard numerous stories from other moms that their kids did it too. Why does sleeping in their beds cause such angst and tears but they'll fall asleep just about anywhere else?

 Little mister asleep in a booster chair

Monday, March 22, 2010

Paper Pregnancy

Last week we dove into the water by sending in our adoption application. To our surprise they contacted us right away upon receiving it, sending out reference letters to many of our friends to fill out. Unused to such prompt service, we look forward to the next step (the hardest one for me) the homestudy. A homestudy in adoption is like morning sickness in a pregnancy: difficult to get through but a necessary step.

In other, Baby Bear-related adoption news, we're set to finalize in a couple of weeks. I'm beyond excited, which makes it hard to wait. I think Hubby's excited too, especially because he will be able to stop fighting with the IRS and the Medical Insurance regarding Baby Bear's lack of a Social Security Number. We had a good inside tip from friends who adopted on navigating the tricky waters of getting a SSN for an adopted baby, which apparently they make as difficult as humanly possible to do. So, Hubby will be able to do our taxes, the insurance will stop sending us letters and we will apply for that magic number for Baby Bear to enable him to forever be linked to the bloated bureaucracy. Fantastic!

Happy Birthday, Sis!

Today on the 22nd, my sister turns 22. We celebrated last night by going to Red Lobster where the nine of us apparently merited not one but TWO waiters! The end result was that they asked us twice as many annoying questions and still managed to be magically absent when we actually needed something. The food, however tasted outstanding. We also ran into my cousin whose wife's birthday was yesterday.

After dinner, which did not get finished until after 8, we headed back to my parents' house where cake and ice cream filled in the edges and where my sister received three different kinds of scented candles.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Don't Skip Anything Important!

One of the most common questions I get asked when people find out I homeschool our kids without using any sort of prepackaged curriculum is, "How do you know you're not going to skip something vital?"

I have two answers to this question.

The first is: What is vital? Do you, as an educated adult really remember the life cycle of the honeybee? Chances are you'll say no, but you know where to go find the information if you need it. Bingo. That's vital. A curiosity about the world around us and the ability to find the find the information they need are replacing the older model of filling children's heads with facts. For one thing there are simply too many facts. For another information is at our fingertips like never before.

The second, more practical answer is this: Curriculum Standards.

From time to time I do what other certified teachers do. I go hunt up a list of things my age-group of students need to know and make sure I'm not missing anything. A lot of things are covered by living a normal life. Holidays and traditions? No problem! Personal hygiene? Got it. Counting by fives? Oops, forgot that one. Note to self, next time we're playing counting games, remember to count by fives for a while.

It's not hard to give a child a well-rounded education in the playful context of everyday life. It's really quite amazing how children who watch an episode of Kipper where he builds an igloo are suddenly quite keen to learn how water turns into ice and a science experiment using a freezer can turn into homemade popsicles!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Brothers



Little Mister loves to make Baby Bear happy. He'll sit by Baby Bear's side pressing the musical button on the glow worm over and over to make the baby smile.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring is here!

With the weather getting nicer and no dog, the kids can safely go out in the back yard to play. I love them getting fresh air as well as using their imaginations as they do "kid stuff" with the sticks and dirt and grass.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day Off

Baby Bear

This person, being five months old, prefers to not sleep during the night.

Baby Bear

He likes to stay up and play until midnight or so...

hubby feeding the baby a bottle

This person, being an absolute sweetheart, spends a lot of time at night doing this.

Baby Bear

"Daddy, you deserve a day off."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

My Favorite Holiday That Isn't Really

Why do I love St. Patrick's Day?



First of all, my name. It's kind of cool to have songs made with your name in them, like "Come back to Erin." It's fun to poetically have the same name as an entire country. Especially a country with awesome stuff like step-dancing, pennywhistles, Guinness and shamrocks.



Secondly I'm related to leprechauns.



Third, my favorite color is green. Kelly green, the brighter the better. It just sort of gives me a happy, tickly feeling inside. My daughter, who knows this, often colors green things just for me. That gives me a tickly feeling too.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Helpful



My attempts to practice the parts for the choir music were made more enjoyable and more difficult by the presence of a small helper who thought he should be the one playing the notes.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Leap of Faith

Sometimes I wonder if we're not gluttons for punishment.  Hopping on the adoption train for the second time seems a mixture of the excitement with which a pregnancy is announced and the dread of months of paperwork, uncertainty, frugal budgeting and lots of prayer.

But as I sit here with my little son on my lap, I know in the end it's all worth it, even if the journey there is a bit of a roller coaster.  Nothing worth having comes easily and the joys of each child far outweigh the difficulties.

So, yes, we're adopting again, internationally this time.  We're looking at Ethiopia and Dove Adoptions, International. We've requested a girl, whom we've jokingly nicknamed "Sister Bear" after the Berenstein Bears. Right now we're in Paperwork Land and not even close to being done with it (we just started) so we won't have a timeline, an age or a match for several more months. But we've begun and that's something!

Little Mister Wrote His Name

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Busy!

I have been so busy this week! I realized I have only blogged once or twice the whole week. I thought that cutting back on my computer use for Lent would result in more time and instead I have acquired several new clients and my time has gotten munched. Not that I'm complaining. I love doing web sites. I just started one for a business here in town: Absolute Refrigeration. I'm pretty happy with how it's coming together and I think the owner will be too. A couple of weeks ago I finished Hewitt Home Design and I'm still working on one for First Baptist Church (on a test site at this point).

Those were on top of my usual work for my boss, taking care of kiddos, planning the music for an Easter Choir at church, helping organize a baby shower for a friend, doing adoption paperwork and teaching at homeschool co-op. Whew!

I also got a new phone. Mine finally kicked the bucket: not surprising since I tend to cling to my phones for years longer than they are intended to work. The new one has a full miniature keyboard and a nice big screen. I actually chose it because the buttons were the easiest to feel out of all the available phones. Accessibility again. I wonder if phone manufacturers realize how many people choose based on such a trivial feature.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Adopt-a-bean


We met with the adoption lawyer today!!!!  In a month we can finalize and leave the ocean of paperwork and uncertainty behind.  So far everything looks to be smooth sailing.  I found the lawyer to be really nice and personable.  I have never talked to a lawyer in a professional context before and did not know what to expect.  She said she loves doing adoptions even though they are paperwork-intensive because they are "happy law" and so much fun compared to the divorce cases or bankruptcy cases she also handles.  Interesting.

One month more till "Gotcha Day!"

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Birthday

I turn 33 today! Tonight: peach pie with friends.


This week has been going so much better than the last few weeks. The kids are healthy again and I at last have shed the nasty migraine I had last week. It was a weird one: as long as I kept the light low it did not hurt so badly so I spent the week in sunglasses and not seeing much. I'm glad to be back in sunlight-land again.

Letter Tracks

About a week ago the big kids spent a good part of their morning stringing letter tiles together into various shapes. Little Mister made train tracks while Curly drew a boat. Our homeschooling is finally picking up again after mostly watching movies while the kids had colds.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spectacular



Last week we took both kids to the eye doctor for checkups. Since we're homeschooling and they won't get the eye exam the schools provide, I wanted to make sure their eyes were healthy and working right!



The doctor took one look at my own Coke-bottle glasses and my daughter's early reading skill and immediately began talking preventative measures. I nodded; my Dad has been telling me for years that if the doctors had handled my own glasses differently as a kid I would not have the eye problems I do now. He prescribed reading glasses for her and handed me a brochure on "learning lenses".



Little Mister was next and I actually had some concerns about his vision. His timidity on stairs and his intense photophobia (light sensitivity) had me a little worried that he might be seeing double or have other vision issues.



To my relief he was only farsighted, more than the common toddler vision development. Apparently he uses both eyes together, has good color vision and his retinas are healthy. Whew! So he got glasses too. Both kids had prisms, meaning we couldn't get the cheap online lenses so it was a pretty penny by the time both pairs were ordered and we added the Transitions lenses in Mister's glasses to give him some light protection.

But if the glasses prevent later eye problems, make reading more comfortable and help Mister to be more confident moving around his world, it will be totally worth it! Now my children, like me, have Spec-taculars, my own "punny" word for them.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Five Months!



Since there is not a 29th day of February to mark Baby Bear's five month birthday, I took a picture last night. He is doing great and growing like a bad weed, as my mother likes to say. Still on the tail end of a cold, his nose is stuffy but other than that he is happy and healthy, eats well and sleeps well. He's a great baby and we're thrilled with him.

For comparison in sizes with the other "month" photos, click the "milestones" tag below and you should be able to see all of them on one page.

Happy Days Are Here Again

I have high hopes that this week will go better than the previous two. All of the kids are well again (and sleeping again), the weather is warming into an unusually early spring and my ear infection is gone. If hubby's work will just settle down we'll have much more reason for life to be good again.


Speaking of sleeping, look who is big enough to sleep in his crib! He loves to see the mobil as he goes to sleep. Although I co-slept with Little Mister and had planned to do the same again, it is working better this time for crib sleeping. Each kid is different and Baby Bear sleeps the best when snuggled in the crib or Moses Basket on his side.