Friday, May 31, 2013

I Spilled my Bucket

I have discovered something about myself.  I have a big bucket of patience, but little tiny pebbles get poured into the bucket leaving less room for the water/patience.  The more annoyances that are added, the less patience I have.  Annoyances are tiny, most people wouldn't even notice them, but they leave a fine layer of sand on the bottom of my bucket.

Yesterday's annoyance during dinner time was:
1. a sticky kitchen and dining room floor - despite being cleaned 3 times.
2. a toddler screaming in her high chair, just because her voice is so awesome that all must want to hear it.
3. Working quickly to get dinner on the table before all 5 children run away from the table
4. Discussing the weeks upcoming activities.
5. (the big one) a 10 year old who tells you that you are WRONG.  Repeatedly.  All.The.Time.  Even when I am mid-sentence.

So, when for the third time I explained that she did in fact have one less soccer practice on Tuesday and she once again interrupted me mid-sentence to tell me I was wrong.  When I told her that I wasn't wrong and she better not walk away from me AND SHE WALKED AWAY FROM ME . . . . I may have "dropped" a bowl of strawberries to the ground with force and broken the bowl.  Maybe.

I felt better.  Even though now I had to clean the kitchen floor again AND clean up the broken dish.  Plus it was one of my favorite dishes.

Several different things could have happened at this point.  I could berate myself for spilling my bucket of patience or we could learn from what happened.  Here is what I learned.

1.  No one wanted to go tell Daddy what happened.  Several times I suggested someone tell their father so he could help clean up.  Nope.  They preferred to handle it on their own.

2.  Connor immediately started cleaning up the bits of broken bowl.

3.  Lainy Ann refused to let Connor help.  Her words are paraphrased; 'I am the one who made mommy mad because I was rude, so I should clean everything up.'  Then they started fighting about that.  *sigh*

I shouldn't have lost my patience.  I should have balanced that bucket on my head while juggling the balls in the air and riding the unicycle through the kitchen.  But I did.  And my child recognized her role in that mess.  She was willing to clean up that mess.  And her big hearted brother - who was completely innocent - was also willing to help.

Of course the rambunctious-twins used that opportunity to release the kitten from his cage  . . . . . And the toddler kept screaming in her high chair, but now she was mad we wouldn't let her out of the high chair and run around on the floor cutting her feet.  We are so mean.  And thus my bucket acquired more bits of sand . . . .

SCRATCH Lesson #6 **draft*

Final Class

Option of programming alone or in pairs

Create a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors

Extension activities include a reward animation.  Some students chose to create a new costume for their sprite and their sprite turned into the appropriate item (rock, paper, or scissors)

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Moments of Awesome in the Middle of Busy

Today Eleanor hugged her oversized flower cookie from Panera.  She told Aunt Cristina all about it.  Exclaimed "my flow-ler cookie" then hugged it, then ate it.  It was the cutest thing ever!

Yesterday Alexander told me that people die when they are 100 and then they are buried in the ground.  He doesn't want to be buried in the ground so he is not going to turn 100.  I asked him how he was going to do that.  He told me that after he turn 99 he will just stop having birthdays.  (bonus: he can clearly count to 100, a Kinder standard, at 4 years old)

William, today, said, "remember when we saw the moon come up over the mountain when we were camping?"  I do remember that.  I remember telling the kids and them being half-hearted about it and going back to watching the fire crackle.  But he remembers it fondly now.  He told me he had never seen the moon rise like that before.  Then he launched into a discussion about why the moon is bigger when it is first coming up rather than after it has already risen.  Then he wanted to know if it is called a sunset, then what is it when a moon goes down.

Connor is chatting with me.  Online.  He is learning the importance of completing a thought.  I am able to teach him and use big words with him - thus teaching him a bigger vocabulary.  Since I can multi-task we can have uninterrupted conversations about fun things.  He also really likes emoticons.  He also likes typing bad words into the thesaurus.  And giggling about it.

Lainy Ann is big.  She is starting to recognize when I am stressed or tired and tries to fix it.  I fel badly about this and tell her its not her job to fix everything, its her job to be a girl.  But she is a fixer (like her mom).  When Eleanor gets really upset Lainy Ann helps her to take deep breaths and calm down.  When I ask her if we should get a dog she gives me rational reasons why its a bad idea.  She is officially big.  I can have real conversations with her about life.  Its scary and wonderful at the same time.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Pictures in my Head

Sometimes I don't have a camera handy, or the kids are so far off that the picture would be too small and difficult to make out.  Sometimes it is the atmosphere surrounding us that won't be able to be captures in a picture.

This Saturday we were at the Leo Nedheoff AYSO88 tournament.  Another Saturday and more games of soccer.  Tournaments are different though.  Hundred of same age soccer-playing kids are hanging out at the park, killing time, and when its game time, playing hard.  This past weekend the weather was gorgeous  a little overcast in the morning, a nice breeze in the afternoon.  We applied sunscreen  (not often enough) and the kids were the kings of the park.  They played together, they played with strangers, they looked after each other.

Games were back-to-back.  Every hour a new game started which only gave spectators and players 7 minutes between games to get into place.  It was hectic, but it was running like a well-oiled machine.  At noon the field was empty for a one hour lunch break.  The siblings swarmed the field, barefoot, with their own soccer balls; size4, size, 3, and even a few size 1s.  An impromptu game popped up with the under 8 crowd.  William jumped in goal, he looked even tinier against a U10 goal.  The U5 kids started trying to make goals.  Even Eleanor got in on the action.  It was fun knowing that every one of those kids will be playing in the fall season and when they are old enough they will play tournaments too.

I love being at soccer.  We are surrounded by good people, great sportsmanship, people that are kind and considerate.  People, strangers, that are willing to watch out for another child and enforce the rule of the game.  I love congratulating the other team on a good game, even if we didn't win.  I love when the girls encourage each other on the field.  I especially love when the girls make a tunnel at the end of the game chanting "We are proud of you, so very proud of you".

Monday, May 13, 2013

Lesson 5** - SCRATCH

Share projects students completed at home.  Did anyone make Rock, Paper Scissors?

Review the tools learned from the last 4 lessons:

  • Variable (keeping score)
  • Sub-routines
  • broadcast
  • forever block
  • if-else block

Get into pairs.  Explain the benefits of programming in pairs.

Create a pop quiz with 3 questions and 3 answers.
Create a reward animation when answer is correct.
Change the costume of the sprite to the color/answer.
Keep a tally/score

Color questions:
What do blue and yellow make?
What do red and blue make?
What do yellow and red make?

Math equations:

Shape Questions:
What has 3-sides?
What has right angles?

** This assignment is derived from another project found online:

Assignment 1
Pop Quiz (#9)
1. Choose a quiz topic (Examples: colors, parts of a cell, vocabulary words . . .)
2. Create a list of possible answers
3. Create a Sprite to "ask the question."
4. Allow user to type in an answer
5. Compare user's answer to question
6. Provide user feedback to tell the user if they are correct or incorrect.

1. Keep score of correct answers.
2. Give a final percentage of correct answers.
3. Use movement and sounds to make game entertaining.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Birth Order

Aunt Vickie is currently writing a term paper about birth order. She interviewed me about how I have seen birth order affect personality and raising my children.  I couldn't think of a lot of concrete examples.  But this morning birth order smacked me in the face.

She found one of the boys soccer trophies.  She came out of the bedroom and said, "me soccer ball trophy" "take a picture" "Cheese".

Really?!?!  She truly is a product of her generation and her siblings.  She has watched me snap pictures of big siblings showing off their trophies, art work and certificates.  She understands the pride is accomplishments and how that should be shared.  Or she is just playing copy cat.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Scratch Programming: Lesson 4

Using Variables and Sub-Routines

Who changed their random number guessing program to include a count of how many guesses were used to get the right answer?

What other changes did you make to your program?

Teacher flips a coing while student guesses the answer.
1. Ask, "what do you pick? Heads or Tails?
2. Flip the coin
3. Check the answer

There are three steps required to guess coin flips.  However those major 3-steps are broken down to sub-routines.  In this lesson we will learn how to make the best use of sub-routines.  When we used Light-Bot in our first lesson we used functions to give instructions to the robot.

In this lesson you will create one main program:

When green flag is clicked
Forever loop
When broadcast ___ wait
When broadcast ___ wait
When broadcast ___ wait

Set the broadcast to:
get player choice
flip coin
compare result

Then create sub-routines for each type of broadcast.

When I receive get player choice

You must use the "and wait" command so the computer knows to wait until all sub-routines are completed.  Also ALWAYS use a stop script command.

When I receive flip a coin
set coin flip to pick random 1 to 2
use an if-else command to assign the numbers to either heads or tails

When I receive compare results sub-routine
Use an if-else command so the program can decide if the answer was correct.

 Finished program is below:

Extension Activity:
Make a new game.  This time the game is Rock, Paper, Scissors.  The program will be same as above but instead of only 2 random answers (heads or tails) there is a possibility of 3 random answers.

Rocket Academy: AFTER

The full moon rose over the hill as we finished setting up our tent on the Pack 360 hill at CVO.  It was perfect and magical.  We would have never seen it at home.  There were so many moments like that while we were camping.  I am grateful for them all, but I still hate camping.

Its definitely getting better though.  I invested in an air mattress and a 0* sleeping bag and I slept toasty and comfortably all night long.  We have kicked Connor out of our tent and he has his own now, which freed up some space in our tent.  We planned ahead and set reasonable expectations for the weekend.  Last time we camped I lost a kid, there was a wind storm and the baby pooped up her back.  That was the baseline.  No lost kids and broken lips and our trip would be considered a success.

We kind of cheated this time.  My mom stayed home with Eleanor and a bottle-fed kitten for the weekend.  Last time it was the 2 year old who got lost, this time the 2 year old had to stay home.

Friday night we arrived a tad later than planned, but we still got a good parking spot.  Connor was responsible for hauling his own gear and setting up his tent himself.  Having a 10 year old along and not having a 2 year old really did help things.  The kids truly were able to haul, set, sort, and lift all of our gear.  We did remember our tarp for under the tent.  We also brought a sun shade and 6 camp chairs so the following day would leave me sun-free.  Friday night was a simple meal of corn dogs and mac n cheese.  It was perfect for my picky kids.  We had a small campfire and s'mores.  Then we hauled our food back down the hill to the car so it was "bear-safe".

Connor and Joe slept together and laughed long into the night.  It was annoying for me who was too-tired, but I love that he is creating these great memories with his best buddy.

Saturday morning Connor and Joe were up giggling before dawn.  When you are camping with 60 other families when one person wakes up, everyone wakes up.  We had a morning fire - lots of instruction from lots of scout leaders about appropriate fire usage for the kids.  What a great opportunity for them.  Lainy Ann volunteered to walk down the hill to the car and retrieve our food for the day.  The truth is she was looking for the Pop-Tarts.  At 10 years old it was the first time she had every eaten Pop Tarts. Breakfast was very good - or I was very hungry - grilled cheese omelets  sausage, hot chocolate, and a croissant.

I had decided to park myself in the shade between the Rocket Field, the craft tables, and the BB Gun range.  So we did.  We had brought along our large shade structure and some paracord for bracelets.  I had snacks, water, sunscreen and bug spray. Even Pack 319 came over to make paracord bracelets and visit.   The only thing we were missing was a sign that said "Pack 360".  The children were allowed to do anything they wanted with relatively little supervision.  Buddy-system was imperative.  At one point a stranger "returned" Alexander because he was lost and went on a hike with another pack.  I panicked for a bit thinking of what had happened the previous year.  Turns out that William was also on the hike and he was staying together with his buddy.  He was crying on the way back to us because he was supposed to stay with William.  What a good little guy!  I gave him an extra squirt of kool-aid in his water.

By noon the children were head to toe filthy with bright red stains on their lips from staying hydrated with kool-aid and fruit punch.  They were sticky and gross from sunscreen and bug spray.  And they were happy.

The afternoon was spent watching rockets shoot into the air and fall to the ground.  We made more paracord bracelets, visited with friends, stayed in the shade and let the kids get even dirtier.  Their favorite activity was box hockey, which as far as I can tell is a box, sticks, a puck and dirt.  Lots of dirt.

Connor and Joe decided to "whittle" which just means using their pocket knives to make sticks sharp.  Boys.  We had lots of talks about using our knives properly and not losing them.

As dinner approached I had a mini-break down.  I really can't handle the sensory issues of filth and stickyness of sunscreen.  I needed a cold Pepis and there was none for 15 miles.  The kids needed to be washed down, but they wouldn't stay near me long enough to find them all to clean them and then get them into uniform for dinner and campfire.  Caskey was hitting his limit as well and wasn't very helpful.  But my village came through.  I took a few minutes in the tent to wash myself down, our friends moved all the chairs to the campfire, Caskey found the kids and scrubbed the ring of dirt in Alexander's neck that I was sure was permanent.  We force-fed the kids a meal of cordon bleu.  Yum.

The sunset and the songs began.  My savior appeared carrying a Pepsi and I watched the campfire program with the other scout families.  Lainy Ann had organized a group of 8-10 kids to perform "invisible bench".  I am still really proud of her for coming up with the idea on her own, finding the group to perform with and even rehearsing.  Then at the last minute she had to make a substitution.  It all came off without a hitch.

I fell into bed earlier than the previous night.  Connor and Joe didn't stay up talking all night and I knew that in less than 12 hours I would be home.  Sunday morning we broke down our camp.  We hauled tents, sleeping bags, and bags to the car.  Connor was much less excited about packing up than he was about setting up.  We all worked together as everyone got packed up.

A/C and a bug free environment plus a cold drink from drive-thru made me feeling almost human as we arrived home.  The children stripped naked in the laundry room and were bathed and in jammies by 1 pm.  Our camping trip was a success.

Successes:  Great shade, hat, powdered lemonade to keep everyone hydrated.  Great new sleeping gear for me.

Next Time:  I should have hung my solar shower and bathed the kids.  I would have felt better.  I also should have brought along 2 or 3 Pepsi's in a cooler.  We don't currently have a cooler and we opted not to buy one since we had to purchase a new tent and sleeping bag.

All in all it was a success.  I would prefer not to take Eleanor camping until she is 4+.  Next Rocket Academy will be even better as the kids get older and become more independent.  I love love love camping with friends who know my weaknesses and strengths, who will take my kids on a hike and sit in our shade and make bracelets with us.  We all bring something different to the group, including love and support so moms are able to camp without spouses.

Alton Brown-ie Recipe

I added butterscotch chips, because everything is better with butterscotch.

Soft butter, for greasing the pan
Flour, for dusting the buttered pan
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar, sifted
1 cup brown sugar, sifted
8 ounces melted butter
11/4 cups cocoa, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.

In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs at medium speed until fluffy and light yellow. Add both sugars. Add remaining ingredients, and mix to combine.

Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8-inch square pan and bake for 45 minutes. Check for doneness with the tried-and-true toothpick method: a toothpick inserted into the center of the pan should come out clean. When it's done, remove to a rack to cool. Resist the temptation to cut into it until it's mostly cool.

SERVINGS: 16 (PER BROWNIE); Calories: 243; Total Fat: 13 grams; Saturated Fat: 8 grams; Protein: 3 grams; Total carbohydrates: 28 grams; Sugar: 22 grams Fiber: 1 grams; Cholesterol: 83 milligrams; Sodium: 82 milligrams

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

*Its not my recipe.  I found it online.  It is WAY better than break-and-bake fake crap from Nestle.  And it was easy since I didn't have to scoop out cookies.  The best part is you can choose the size of your one cookie - even if the serving size is only 4 cookies. . . 4 giant cookies . . . so you don't have to share.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

2 1/8 cups (10 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons butter (1 1/2 sticks), melted and cooled slightly
1 cup (7 ounces) light brown sugar
1/2 (3 1/2 ounces) cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips (or more)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Adjust the oven rack to lower-middle position.

Line a 9X13-inch baking pan with foil, letting the excess hang over the edges of the pan by about 1 inch so you can grab those edges and pull the brownies from the pan after they have baked. Spray the foil-lined pan with nonstick cooking spray.

Mix the flour, salt, and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside. Whisk the melted butter and sugars in a large bowl until combined. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla and mix well.

Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined; do not overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the spatula.

Bake until the top of the bars is light golden brown, slightly firm to the touch, and edges start pulling away from sides of pan, 24-28 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature.

Remove the bars from the pan by lifting the foil overhang and transfer them to a cutting board. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve.

Preschooler lessons for Big Schoolers

Preschoolers all have the same handbook, for the most part.  That's why I have the same handbook for them.  I had tons of these stories for Lainy Ann and Connor, but the reality is things haven't changed too much in our house with the additional children.  We just multiplied the love.  Multiplied the lessons.  Multiplied the activities.

So this morning, on a rainy spring day when we rushed out of the house to get all the kids to school on time, for the thousandth time I promised, "if you don't get dressed, you will go to school naked." I had to follow through and teach the lesson.

I silently walked into his bedroom.  Found warm clothing for the dreary day.  I took his hand, found his lunch and his shoes.  I picked up the four-year-old over my shoulder and carried him out the door through the rain.  I plopped him in his overnight-cold car seat in only his underwear.  I carefully buckled him, so as to not give his delicate skin a burn or pinch.  I drove to school while he cried.

But this time the lesson wasn't just for the 4 year old, although he learned it well.  The older kids said, "you actually did it.  You are taking him to school naked."  And I realized it was an opportunity.  I said., "yes I am.  I may not be perfect.  I may loose my temper.  But I do not lie."  So I reminded them of all the seemingly-idle threats I make, 'if you hurt my child you will find another place to live', 'if you don't complete your chores you will miss your game', 'if you can't put your clothes away I will take them away'.  Understanding dawned for the older kids.  Mom means what she says.  Then they all recited times in the recent past when I have followed through with threats.  They remembered.  They believe me.

Alexander is not scarred.  He cried on the way to the big kids school.  Then he apologized.  His sincerity earned him the chance to dress quickly in the parking lot of his school.  He will dress faster next time and he will remember.

But so will the big kids.  They will remember that when I say, 'if you slam that door again you will lose the door' that I mean business.    

Mommy: 1
4 year old: 0

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Real Food

I spend a lot of time reading labels, shopping organic or all-natural, avoiding excessive sugar and all dyes.  My kids get 'bad stuff' only about a dozen times a year - birthday parties, Easter and Christmas.  But even so, I take a lot of short cuts.  We eat baby carrots, and lots of fresh ready to eat foods.  It is just easier with our crazy schedule.

But I recently watched a TED talk by Jaime ____ about how low-income children couldn't even recognize certain vegetables in their whole form.  So, although my children eat quite a bit of peas, I don't think they would recognize whole peas or even a pea plant.  We are going to start trying more whole foods, cooking more, and experimenting more.

Last week I purchased whole carrots - up until this point I always bought baby carrots in a ziploc bag - easy and ready to eat.  But this week I bought a whole bunch of them with the greens still attached.

I showed Alexander the carrots when I got back from the store, "Wow!  You got carrots.  Real ones.  Like the ones bunnies eat!"

The kids helped me prepare the carrots, skin them and cut them.  Then they disappeared!  The kids ate the carrots in record time.

Next Challenge:  Eggplant