Jokes by Levi

What did the ice cream say when the banana asked when it could come over?
Only on a sundae!

What does a drama king wear to bed?

What do you call a swashbuckling rat?
A pi-rat!

What do you call a shoe that has a problem?
An is-shoe! (An issue)

What do you call a video game that you play with more than one person?
A "we!"

What do you call it when someone listens in on Christmas Eve?

And one contributed by a friend:
What's brown and sticky?
A stick!

Levi called me into his room saying, "Oliver's a quarterback." Oliver was on the bed on his tummy with 4 quarters on his back.

What does a crocodile say when it wants to be a rooster?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Levi has recently announced his latest profession: meteorology. We've spent some time recently exploring "extreme" conditions including volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tidal waves. Levi and Dad recently watched "Storm Chasers," a show about people who "chase" tornadoes in order to film them, measure various aspects of them and, I suspect, because they love the adrenaline rush. So, we're on a weather kick.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Doctor's Office!

One of the advantages of having a blog is that there's a place I can rant. So here's one now.

Yesterday I was in the doctor's office for my yearly exam. As I was leaving, I noticed that the receptionists were answering the phone saying, "Doctor's office." I've received this greeting before at other physician's offices and I find it strange. Why don't they just say, Dr. Smith's office?

Can you imagine other generic greetings like this? Hello, grocery store. Hi, movie theatre. Hardware store, can I help you? Bookstore!

Is that weird, or what?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Today we attended a homeschool day at a local museum. I was looking forward to learning about Baltimore's past in the garment and paint industries. The kids really wanted a "stay-at-home" day but I convinced them to try it out, plus, friends were going to be there.

I did learn a few interesting things about Baltimore's history but I have to say that by and large, the presentation was boooooring. Far too much talking for the presentation to be engaging to young kids (or adults like my friend and me). Very schooly--lecture, questions, raise your hand before you speak. Ack! Plus a film on the paint industry using words for these young kids like "anachronism."

The kids were taking it well but I could see the eye-glaze and the general b0dy-slump coming on. It would only be moments before whining or wildness ensued. Happily for us, we aren't in school and we didn't have to stay. We slipped out, ate our snacks, and talked with our friends who initiated the leave-taking.

As sometimes happens, the best laid plans for learning derail. But the great thing is that as often, learning comes when you least expect it. Sitting in bed last night at a very late hour, I was trying to get Levi to stop talking and to settle down into our bedtime reading. He suddenly sat up and announced, "Mama, math is very important! You need it for a lot of things like shopping to see if you have enough money to buy the things you need." He went on to give me his own examples of his understanding of this and I gave him some of my own. Being the joker he is, he suggested that I give him and Oliver some money and let them go shopping for "school." Nice try. We did make plans to get our toy cash register out, make a pretend store at home, and use our play money to shop.

So besides the freedom to leave boring presentations, home schooling gives us the freedom to facilitate our children's learning about ideas as they become important to them. Because of Levi's connection of math to everyday activities, he's motivated to learn about math. Math is not just a theoretical thing that someone is telling him he must learn and telling him when he must learn it.

One of the ways that Levi has started to learn about the importance of math is through budgeting his allowance. As parents, we've gone back and forth and around the block regarding allowance. And if you seek advice from the "experts" you'll find a variety of opinions. We have finally arrived at this: an amount for each child weekly, not tied to chores. At this point, it is their share of the family money to spend as they wish. I wanted allowance to be a tool for the kids to start learning about money, spending and budgeting. And I believe that for them to learn, we as parents, must keep our opinions about their purchases to ourselves. And that we must offer them enough at any given age that it can be used as a tool. Give too little and they're hopeless to buy anything now let alone save for the future. Give too much and their desires meet little resistance compared to their wants leading to no need to save.

It is HARD to watch them buy things that I consider junk or things I know are poorly made and will fall apart and disappoint them soon. I do sometimes offer things for them to think about--the construction of the toy, is it something they really want or are they just wanting to spend their money, etc. But once those things are voiced, I let them choose--and let them learn. Sometimes they are happy and sometimes they are disappointed. I cringe at the "stuff" flowing into the house sometimes--but I also think that I would rather them have experiences with disappointing purchases or what happens when money "burns a hole in their pockets" with five dollars and regarding a Pokemon card instead of now instead of a thousand dollars later.

Maybe we will go shopping for school!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Is it only me . . .

Or does anybody else find earbuds (vs. headphones) to be totally annoying? First of all, mine fall out of my ears no matter how hard I stuff them in there. I already have the smallest set I can find. Then, as a result of stuffing them in there, my ears start to hurt. The cords get tangled so that I spend at least 5 minutes trying the wrest them apart each time I use them. What, I ask, is so great about these things?

Please people, am I the only one with ear-bud use deficiency or do I have company out there?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Jr. Palentologist and Signs of Spring

Spring is promising to come though there'll be lots of back and forth of weather before it's here to stay. But . . . this spring day invited use outside. We took a little hike on our property looking for signs of spring and founds daffodils poking their stems up from the brown leaves, small buds on some of the trees, and cardinals.

Our explorations led the kids to some rocks which they collected and then smashed with a hammer in the hopes of finding crystals inside. On a walk a few weeks ago, the kids found "crystals" and developed a plan to sell them to the Maryland Science Center to fund a trip to Fiji. Parents will be left behind on this trip but they assured me they'll call and write. Now we have an even larger rock collection. Hopefully they will fund even more exotic trips.

We've also been up to:

--an experiment inspired by The Magic Schoolbus Catches a Wave DVD which has 3 episodes on it about water. We put water in a jar, right up to the top, put the lid on, put it in a plastic bag for safety and then put it in the freezer. We expected the jar to crack but the expansion of the ice managed to pop the lid off. We'll probably try again with a jar with a tighter lid.

--We tried to make a Chinese water clock by putting a plastic plate with a small hole in it into a bucket of water. The instructions we had said that the amount of time it took for the plate to sink would be considered an amount of time like an hour and we could ring a gong or bell to mark the passing of the time. Alas, our plate did not sink even after several adjustments to the plate.

--Reading about the spring equinox. Here's a good one that explains what the equinox is, why it happens, and the customs of different countries and time periods to celebrate the coming of spring. The equinox is one of the 2 days of the year when there is an equal amount of daylight and dark. The fall equinox is the other.
We're trying to decide on what to do for our own equinox celebration. What will you do?


Levi is DONE with vision therapy. Right now he and I are the happiest people on earth. I wasn't sure who it would be more traumatic for, him or me, if he need to go another round of therapy.

I'm going to tell this story for those of you who don't know about this because I wish so many more families knew about this.

Before we started homeschooling, there was some suggestion from Levi's teachers that he had trouble focusing in the classroom and was often distractible. Before any in depth look at his symptoms, educators were hinting at attention disorders. We finally felt uncomfortable enough with what we were hearing and then what I observed at home that we decided to pursue some testing to tease it out. Our purpose was to get more information so we could help address whatever problems might exist.

Long story short, a highly recommended clinical psychologist that I felt very confident in (my psychology background gave me some good measures) gave him a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder without Hyperactivity. Also due to my background in pyschology and some work I had done with young kids with ADD and ADHD, something did not ring true to me about the diagnosis. It wasn't a "not my kid" reaction--I just felt something wasn't right with the diagnosis.

Before we pursued the ADD any further, I decided to take Levi's test results and consult with 2 people in 2 very different areas. One was an educator and another is a local occupational therapist. It was striking that both advised me, totally separate from one another, that before we accepted an ADD diagnosis, Levi should have a developmental eye exam. I had never heard of this--Levi had had the usual eye exam for acuity (do your lens work to focus?) but these exams do not include an evaluation of things like the accuracy of binocular vision, how well your eyes look at the same spot on the page at the same time, and how well your eyes scan a line of print. When these things don't work, the result can be a variety of things like double vision, eye fatigue, print fading and receding, nausea when reading, and more.

So . . . we are lucky to have several developmental optometrists in our area and we arranged an exam. And, lo and behold, Levi did exhibit pronounced problems with his neuromuscular eye development--even though his visual acuity was 20/20. So . . . these problems can be addressed with "vision therapy", sort of like physical therapy for the eyes. Session are twice a week for an hour. After 16 sessions, there's a progress exam. The therapy works but can take a while. It took Levi 5 "rounds" of therapy--almost a year, to reach this point.

Levi had a progress exam just after Christmas with his own high hopes that he'd be done and was truly devastated when the doctor recommended continuing. He was so upset and sad that his crying was heard down the hallway and into the waiting room. So it was with great nervousness that we went for his progress exam today.

I had a feeling it would go well b/c lately he's been picking up books on his own instead of always asking to be read to. And his out loud reading has gotten very fluid. And we got good news. He's to be congratulated (me too!) for sticking it out and working hard.

Largely, I write this to get the information out. I feel like we had a near miss and could have been following a mistaken diagnosis for who knows how long and probably with great frustration. If one family can be spared that by reading this, I'd be pleased.

Here's a bit from College of Optometrists in Vision Development (

Physical signs or symptoms

Frequent headaches or eye strain
Blurring of distance or near vision, particularly after reading or other close work
Avoidance of close work or other visually demanding tasks
Poor judgment of depth
Turning of an eye in or out, up or down
Tendency to cover or close one eye, or favor the vision in one eye
Double vision
Poor hand-eye coordination
Difficulty following a moving target
Dizziness or motion sickness

Performance problems

Poor reading comprehension
Difficulty copying from one place to another
Loss of place, repetition, and/or omission of words while reading
Difficulty changing focus from distance to near and back
Poor posture when reading or writing
Poor handwriting
Can respond orally but can't get the same information down on paper
Letter and word reversals
Difficulty judging sizes and shapes

Children with these neuromuscular vision problems are often misdiagnosed with learning disabilities, ADD or ADHD, and dyslexia.

So this is my plea to you: if your child or your friend's child or your neighbor's child is having learning problems, pass this information on to them along with the above website!

And please send Levi your congratulations!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Honestly, Some of You Wanted to Know

Okay kids. I truly had a few of you waiting with baited breath for the result of my research on lay vs. lie. Welcome, grammar lovers! Here goes:

Again, this is from Grammar Girl and can be found in its entirety at Believe me, you'll probably need to reference this one again.

So . . . according to Grammar Girl, lay requires a direct object. (Stay with me here.) As in, Lay the book on the table (the book being the direct object.) Lie does not require a direct object as in I am going to lie down on the sofa.

Says GG, "you lay something down. People lie down by themselves."

Okay, now if that didn't confuse you, here's where the going really gets tough because lay is the past tense of lie:

"So, anyway, here's how to conjugate these two verbs: The past tense of lie is lay, so

Last week, Steve lay down on the floor.
The cat lay in the mud after it rained yesterday.

The past tense of lay is laid, so

Last week, I laid the TPS report on your desk.
Mary forcefully laid her ring on the table.

The past participle of lie is lain, so

Steve has lain on the floor for days.
The cat has lain in the mud for hours.

The past participle of lay is laid, so

I have laid the TPS report on your desk.
Mary has forcefully laid her ring on the table.

Don't feel bad if you can't remember these right away. Practice will help, and truthfully, I still have to look them up every time I use them. It's just important to know what you know, and what you don't know, and to go to the trouble to look it up and get it right because these are hard-and-fast rules.That's all. "

Aren't you glad you asked?

Goodbye Mom Jeans, . . .

hello low-er rise. Yes, I did get to go shopping. Yee ha! The result was new jeans and few other pair of pants, a few catalogue items I'm still considering, and new glasses. New glasses not here yet so you'll have to wait a few days to see me in them.

As for the underwear, (I swear, this won't be more than you want to know), I bought some only to come home and find out that the bottom coverage was not generous so I wasted $25 on that venture but now I know.

Oh, yes. And some cute sandals that will take me into my hip spring!

Monday, March 10, 2008

On and on and on . . .

Oliver has been hooked on the idea of infinity for a while. A big concept for a 5 year-old mind, let alone an adult one! He asks me things like, "How long until we get there? Infinity minutes?" He thinks this is REALLY funny.

He also tells me he can count to infinity then says, "One, two, . . . infinity!" He tries out things like adding numbers to infinity. I can't seem to explain to him why this really isn't possible just like I can't seem to explain to him why you really can't count to infinity. The ideas they wrap their heads around amaze me.

He's also beginning to "get" addition. As I was putting him to bed tonight, he was saying, "Two plus one is three, right?" "Ten plus one is eleven, right?" He's been playing with these concepts for a while, especially when we play games that require addition. Usually he has to count to add things but but tonight, poof, he was doing them in his head.

He just turned 5 which has been useful for encouraging himself to try things new and old that he hasn't liked before, hasn't been able to do or has thought he couldn't do. Now he frequently protests initially--I don't like it, I can't, etc., --but then says, "But I haven't tried it since I was five, have I?"

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Today we played with snap circuits to make a water alarm, sound controlled by a light receptor, and a few other sound circuits. I must say that playing with snap circuits with very curious children and one who's impulsive definitely quickens one's pulse. Despite my attempted explanations about short circuits and requests that, until we understand circuits and electricity better, its would be best not to experiment, I often felt that one of the kids was in immediate danger of getting zapped and our equipment getting fried. Hopefully our snap circuits will actually teach us (me included!) about electricity. For today, it was just fun to make a lot of noises, make them louder and softer, and try not to get electrocuted.

Just In Case You Were Wondering

Did you know that yesterday, March 4, was National Grammar Day? Neither did I until I went to to look up a grammar question that had been plaguing me. (Who makes up these holidays, anyway? My guess is that Grammar Girl made this one up.)

Anyway, I have been wondering over the difference of usage between "further" and "farther." So here's the answer for those of you who've been dying to know.

Says Grammar Girl: "The quick and dirty rule is that farther relates to physical distance and further relates to figurative distance. If you can't decide which one to use, you're safer using further because farther has some restrictions, and if you tend to get confused, try using furthermore instead of further.

Now you know.

Next, laying and lying, which I have never figured out.

The Fashion Police . . .

visited my house. I was convicted of 2 major offences: wearing "Mom" jeans, you know, the ones that come way up around your waist, and; wearing "granny panties," which I will just say can best be described as uninspired cotton underwear with sagging elastic. My 2 minor offenses were: glasses frames that, while not dorky, are not deemed to be really hip, and; 2 garment died L.L. Bean pullover 1/4 zip shirts.

I do like fun clothes but due to a combination of lack of time to shop, total annoyance at the act of trying to find jeans that fit, and generally ignoring changing fashion, I've found myself in a fashion rut. BUT, help is on the way! My husband is taking me shopping--yes, my husband, household fashionista and my best clothing advisor. Sort of my own personal shopper. I go into the dressing room and he comes and say, "Here, try this on."

It's funny b/c our positions is this respect have totally changed over the years. I used to enjoy the occasional clothes shopping trip to the mall and he was the one tapping his foot wondering if we could leave now. In the ensuing years, he started working in the sports apparel industry and his awareness of general and personal fashion changed. Meanwhile, I left the workplace and didn't need to be as inspired about what to wear. Now he's the one checking my t-shirt for the "hand feel" of the fabric, examining my seams, and talking about color trends. I am the one tapping my foot at yet another store and saying, Can we go home yet.

We have a babysitter for a several hours this weekend--first stop, Lenscrafters. Second stop, hip jeans.

See if you recognize me in the coming weeks!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008


A few weekends ago, a homeschooling friend introduced me to chili chocolate--that's right, dark chocolate with chilis in it. It's hard to describe. The first few bites taste just like dark chocolate but then you become aware of this lovely spicy hotness in the background. It's DELICIOUS and I have become obsessed with it. The brand I had is by Lindt and part of their "Excellence" collection.

I've been told that local Target stores carry it--unhappily, I haven't made it to Target. (If you go to Target to buy it and find they are out, I did it.) I did find a cherry and chili chocolate at my local health food store, a different brand. Though good, it wasn't good enough. I've been into several grocery stores and found other Lindt flavors but no chili. So then I started looking for it on the internet. I wasn't even successful at finding it on the Lindt website. But I can now report success at Am I going to order it? You bet your boots! Not just one either but their 6 bar package.

The sickest thing about all of this is that we are now the proud owners of 2 lb. 10 oz. of Godiva chocolate that arrived yesterday as a thank you gift. But do I care? No. I need chili chocolate and I intend to get some.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Playing with Fire

Yesterday while Adam and Levi were out together, Oliver and I stayed home. We played on the tree swing, jumped on the trampoline and then built a small fire in our outdoor firepit. Much to Oliver's disappointment, we didn't have anything to roast. He tried to roast a peppermint stick (!?) but found that he couldn't keep it on a stick for roasting. We did stir the fire and have fun throwing small sticks on it to keep it going. Oliver enjoyed experimenting with throwing water on the fire to put it out--a cupful at a time. At one point he blew on it to put it out and, whoa, it flamed again! He discovered something about air and fire. Finally we got a bucket and doused it well.

At about 11:15 pm, I was reading in bed when I noticed a smell like burning rubber or what I can only describe as the smell of an electrical fire. The smell was strongest in the master bedroom and bathroom. I searched around the house and found nothing amiss--no smoke or fire inside or out. Adam came up and looked too but we couldn't find anything. But the smell persisted and seemed to get stronger--and it made me feel sick at my stomach. I have to say that I had a fleeting moment of panic when I wondered if we had put our campfire out well enough and if I had set the house on fire.

Afraid that we might have a fire in our walls that wasn't yet apparent, we finally decided to call 911. The advised us to go ahead and evacuate the house and wait for the fire department. Two large firetrucks, sirens screaming and lights flashing, arrived at about 11:30. The whole scenario was frightening to Oliver who has been scared of fire alarms and fire trucks recently. Levi was able to understand that we were safe and that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

The firemen DID smell the odor--so I know we weren't imagining it! They checked all of the outlets and used a thermographer to check the heat in the walls. All was determined to be safe and the source of the smell remains a mystery. As of this morning the smell was gone.

The crew had fought a fire earlier in the day and their gear still smelled like smoke. After they spent 45 minutes tromping around in our house, the inside smelled more like smoke than anything else!

We're sleepy today since the crew didn't leave until about 12:15 am. It took us all a while to settle down and sleep.

Thank you, fire fighters.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Soap Making

Inspired by a home schooling friend, I got all the supplies for making soap. We tried clear glycerin soap and opaque shea butter. The kids have the most fun with the clear soap because I bought small plastic marine animals to put into the bars. Levi made a bar with a blue star fish in it and one with an orange octopus. Oliver made one with a yellow seahorse.

We added coloring to the bars, soap glitter to some, and cucumber melon scent. I also tried some bars with the shea butter and a few other additions like oatmeal and clove. This turned okay but, not surprisingly not nearly as nice as the bars I buy from Molly at Good Scents Company! I discovered Molly's Soap many years ago when Adam climbed some mountain in the Pacific-Northwest and she was part of the group. I've been a loyal customer since! My favorite is her oatmeal-clove but she has many other nice ones.

The only failure was the hand-milled ginger soap I tried to make. The bottom of my bar was nice, smooth and hard but the top 2/3 was soft and frothy. Back to the drawing board!

Our experimentation has left us with a plentiful supply of soap so if you find a bar in your mailbox, you'll know why!