Tuesday, January 25, 2011

January 25, 2011

We are staying very busy these days, to the point where I may be spreading us a bit thin, but we are also having a lot of fun.

I have just started a Bible study at a nearby church and I think I am really going to get a lot out of it. The boys and I have visited this church twice now and the dad has visited once and we all really like it. It looks like we might have found our new home church, although we will have a bit of a drive once we move to the new house. I think it will be worth it though.

The boys are currently still in soccer and swimming and doing well, although their classes were all cancelled last week due to the 1 to 3 inches of snow we got (depending on where you lived). I was totally shocked that these places closed down. The boys and I went to the swimming place without a thought that they might closed. When we first signed them up for lessons, they had told me that they hardly ever shut down and the weather has to be pretty bad before they close. I beg to differ:). Must be an Oklahoma thing but their idea of bad and my idea of bad are very different.

The boys have also started taking violin lessons and so far so good. We have only had a hand full of lessons so far. I need to be better about having them practice during the week the things they are learning in their lesson. I am having a hard time keeping up because I have to make all of the flashcards we need for playing the games.

During this beginning time, when their attention span can wander at times, I have told them that they will each earn a dollar if they work hard during lessons. This includes paying close attention, participating with a good attitude and minding the teacher promptly. This is a magic charm for now. So far they have worked pretty well with me at home but I have kept it very short and sweet. We will eventually work up to 15 to 20 minutes of practice at home per day tops for this age.

We continue to plod along with our reading lessons, albeit very slowly because of me:). I think we are around lesson 75 in The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading. I think the half way point is around lesson 94, at which time it is recommended we start spelling lessons. Today I decided to institute a new rule for our quiet time. They have to pick one of their readers to read to themselves during quiet time. While one is reading his reader, the other practices violin with me and then they switch. After that they can do whatever they normally do (usually they play with quiet toys, work puzzles or look at books). They are choosing their reader from the readers they used when they first started learning to read, so these are very easy for them and they can read through them quickly. It will be good practice though and help improve their fluency. Nick is now constantly noticing that he can read various signs, book titles, labels, etc. He is always excited about it and reads everything he can out loud to me. Ben does not seem to notice much, although they both do equally well when we practice our reading. I think Ben's attention is just drawn to other things. He is always thinking about something and I know this because he talks to me a lot;).

Upon completion of The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading, a child will be reading at the 4th grade level. From what I have read, most homeschoolers tend to finish this book anywhere between K and the end of second grade. There is a very wide range to when homeschoolers begin teaching their young ones to read. Currently we are only doing one to three lessons a week normally and there are weeks when we don't do one at all. We are very relaxed about our preschool learning here at the Pisarik Academy:). Much of this has to do with building the new house, as it tends to take up a lot of our time and, well..., they are only in pre-K this year:). I am also still spending a lot of time reading about what other homeschoolers are doing and investigating homeschooling materials, still working through how we are going to do what we want to do for our homeschool and what materials we want to use. This really is one of my hobbies now:).

We have played around a bit with some beginning geography and they love it. When I get it out, they always want to do several pages at a time. The lessons we have done so far are about how to read a map.

I have created number charts for them to give them more practice writing and recognizing higher numbers. I put a big chart on the wall for each of them and we decorated them. I marked rows on the chart and then cut out 2 inch by 2 inch pieces of paper. They write a number on a piece of paper and then paste it to the chart in the correct place. They have written 1-30 so far. They have been doing 10 at a time so they have only done it three times so far. For numbers up to 30, they practiced them in a Kumon book once or twice and then they wrote it on the chart. The Kumon book only goes through 30 though so now they will just write on the small piece of paper. I made a lot of extras so they can try again if they don't feel it is their best. So far they are having fun doing this. Ben is usually finished first, as he has practiced writing a lot more on his own. He is always coming in to the kitchen to ask me how to spell something and he writes little notes to my mom and sister a lot and also to me and the dad. Nick tends to take more time but also seems to maybe be a bit more exact about what he is doing.

I recently ordered them a great Melissa and Doug coloring pad for boys and a bunch of new markers with 100 colors to choose from. I also happened to find a coloring book at the used homeschool curriculum store we go to that had lots of knights and their horses. So they have been coloring tons and it has been so good for Nick because it has given him or strength in his fingers. He can color or write for longer periods of time now. This is where I have been seeing a difference in their approach. Nick tends to take a lot longer to finish a picture and he does a better job of staying within the lines. Ben tends to get done very quickly because staying in the lines is not as important to him. They both like to pick very bright colors and seem to have no interest, most of the time, of coloring something the 'right' color (the horse might be several different bright colors, including bright pinkish legs and an orange body in the front and green in the back, etc.) They know the right colors but I guess they think their picks make it look nicer. They really do look very nice most of the time. If I can find some inexpensive frames, I would like to frame some of them for their new rooms.

Today I was introducing them to addition with some tally sticks. I was showing them how to write the equation that went with what we were doing with the tally sticks (0+1=1; 1+1=2; etc.) using a spiral notebook I had. Nick asked for some pages out of my notebook when we were finished. He went into the next room where we keep our supplies and he stapled it along the left side to make his own book. He came back and said this was his dictionary. He wrote his name on top and asked me how to spell dictionary. I wrote it on the white board for him and he copied it and then proceeded to write words that he knew, such as dad, doc, mom, mop, etc. He thought of quite a few, although I think they were all three letter words, whereas they can now sound out and read words up to 6 letters I think...maybe even a couple with seven. We have done very little with spelling but he was just sounding out the words like he does some words when he reads. I was quite surprised because it is normally Ben who spends time writing. Nick seems to be doing more and more of it lately. The other day, he was in the other room being quiet for a while. Eventually, he came to me and showed me his piece of paper where he had taken the time to write the alphabet in upper case letters. He got most of them correct, with a few small exceptions, such as his J was hooked to the right instead of to the left. He really surprised me because he had shown no interest in doing this sort of thing, while Ben had been doing it for quite a while now. I have to remind myself that Nick is almost 2 months younger than Ben and, even excluding that, all kids just develop differently when it comes to reading and writing.

Time to close this book. I started writing it at quiet time today and now it is bedtime and I am tired. Goodnight.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

January 20, 2011

Edited to add one additional picture, including our CWA facilitator in Moscow.:

Four years ago we were in Russia and had newly become parents of two beautiful, precious little boys.

My first time to dress Nick, as I was getting him ready to leave the baby home. As it turned out, our agency people were in a hurry to get to court with another family so we were rushed. The husband had to run to dress Ben and we did not get a picture of it.
First stop, passport picture place.
Next stop, home to the Hotel Volgograd. This was after we had given them their first bath and they smelled so baby fresh.
They really enjoyed standing here and looking out the window.
And then, off to Moscow.

And then home to Oklahoma. The perfect match. Ben was still learning to walk so he really enjoyed pushing this little ride-on toy. Nick was already walking so he was very into riding it.
About a month after they had been home, they already had chubby cheeks and chubby everything else!

Look at that belly!
Within a month of being home, Ben had learned to walk and to feed himself.

Our thumb sucker. At some point he ended up getting a boo-boo on his thumb which required a bandaid. That was the end of the thumb sucking.
Best buddies! Great memories! Looking forward to making many more!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

January 13, 2011

Here are some of the latest pictures taken of the house. I think these were taken a little over a week ago so things already look a bit different on the inside. I have not posted inside pics because they were hard to tell what's what before the sheetrock went up. So I thought I would post some. Not sure if you can tell what's what but I will attempt to describe it.

These first two are of the outside and the rest are inside. They are preparing to put on the stucco. They have been delayed with this quite a bit lately because of the cold weather. I am not going up to the house as often these days so not sure exactly how far they have come now.

On the inside, things have moved along nicely since these photos. They have hung most of the doors and installed many of the cabinets. They have also finished most of the trim work upstairs, including the closets. They have finished some of the trim work downstairs but will likely make good progress on the rest of it this week. The last time we had an update on an estimated finish date, they predicted mid-March. Now for the tour.

The pic below was taken as I was coming into the house from the garage. You can see the wood floors are down, although they wait until towards the end to stain and finish them. To my immediate right will be the mud area. The first doorway to the right will be the laundry room and the second will be the powder bath. The last doorway on the right will be to the husband's office. The lighter area just through the hall door straight ahead is where it opens to the main living room on the left and the front door on the right. The doorway all the way at the end leads to the master and guest bedrooms.

Standing in the same spot as in the first pic, looking to the left. From the landing that you can see at the top of this section of the staircase, you can see into the library and there is also a staircase there so you could go down into the library or on up the stairs. The door next to the staircase will be for the small pantry, as the kitchen is just to the right of the pantry.
Now you can see the door to the kitchen.
Here, I have stepped into the door to the kitchen and this is straight in front of that door, looking through the kitchen and into the main living room, which has a cathedral ceiling.
Now I have moved into the main living room, to the right of the fireplace and I am looking back into the kitchen/dining room. The kitchen is more to the left and the dining room to the right. The double door opening leads back into the library. The windows in the main living room look out onto the screened back porch.
In this picture, I am still in the main living room only now I am standing to the left of the fireplace. So the windows/screened back porch are behind me and the kitchen is now to my right. You can see the front door and just to the right of that is the husband's office. There is a small coat closet on the right side of the picture. The larger door to the right of the coat closet leads back down the hallway that was shown in the very first picture. The large square hole in the wall up above is in the upstairs hallway and will have a railing;). Looking to the right side of the balcony opening, you can see in through the door to B's room.
Here I am still standing in the same place. The windows looking out on the screened porch are to my right. The kitchen is straight ahead and you can now see the door I walked through when I came into the kitchen from the garage and through the hallway. You can see the stairs that are in the earlier picture also. The thing on the left wall just inside the kitchen that looks like a doorway is actually where the refrigerator will go. The black thing sticking up in the middle of the kitchen floor is the plumbing for the sink that will be in the island. The wall oven and microwave will be right next to the refrigerator and the cooktop will be on the back wall, just across from the sink.

Now I have walked through the kitchen / dining room, through the double doors that lead to the library. The kitchen is now to my left. The landing at the top of the first section of stairs is the same landing in the picture taken above, where I had just come into the house from the garage. The door to the left of the stairs leads to the storm shelter. The double door to the kitchen / dining room is to my left.
This picture was taken from the top of the staircase, looking back down into the library. You can also see the set of stairs that lead down to the hallway in front of the door to the garage.
Now I am standing in front of the attic door, looking down the upstairs hallway. The stairs to go down are just to the left. The area to my right, with the slanted ceiling, is the loft area.
Now I have moved down the upstairs hallway and am shooting this picture from that big balcony opening above the main living room, looking down and to the left. You can see the kitchen, dining room, part of the main living room and some of the windows that look out onto the screened back porch.
This picture is taken from the same spot as the last picture, now looking straight ahead. These are the windows in the main living room that look out on to the screened back porch. You can also see the two Solatubes in the ceiling. They look like lights but the lights are not yet working so this is just the sunlight coming in through the Solatubes. You can also see the scaffolding on the porch, which they will use to do the stucco.
Again from the same spot, now looking down and to the right. There will be built-ins on each side of the fireplace and the fireplace will have stone around it up to the mantle.
Now I am standing in the same spot but I have turned, looking back down the hallway from which I came. You can see a large linen closet to the left and the loft area further down. The work out room is to the right; you can just barely make out the edge of the doorway to the work out room on the right side of the hall. B's bedroom is on the left, just before the linen closet. N's is behind me, also on the left. Their bathroom is between their bedrooms and does not have access from the hallway. The only access to their bathroom is from their rooms. The door at the very end of the hallway is the door to the attic, where I was standing when I took that first picture above of the upstairs hallway.
This picture was taken from the landing, as I was coming back down the stairs and is again of the library. I really like how the ceiling turned out in this room. You can also see the windows that look out on the back yard. The wall to the left will be all built-in bookshelves. As I am standing on this landing, the storm shelter is underneath me. The double door to the kitchen / dining room is down and to my right.
And here is the double door to the dining room / kitchen, which is down and to my right:).
Now I am back in the same doorway in the kitchen where I took one of the first pictures up above, looking out straight at the fireplace in the main living room. Now I have turned to the left a bit so you can see the windows from the dining room that look out on to the screened back porch. You can also see some of the windows in the main living room that also look out onto the screened back porch. You can once again see the pipes for the sink that will be in the kitchen island.
Now I am standing in the hall doorway that leads to the master bedroom (to my immediate right) and the guest room (to my immediate left). Straight ahead of me is the hallway that leads to the garage. You can see the doorway to the garage at the end of the hallway. The front door is to the left, the main living room is to the right and you can see just a bit of the kitchen.
Another picture from the same spot, looking right into the main living room / kitchen / dining room.
From the main living room, looking up. You can see the cathedral ceiling, the Solatubes and also the ceiling of the screened back porch, which is a nice wood that will be stained a pretty color.
Standing in the kitchen, looking up at the opening to the upstairs hallway. You can see the doorway to Nick's bedroom. You can also see the front door again. I'm really sorry we chose so much glass for the front doorway. Too much exposure. But we'll make it work.

That's it for now. Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

January 1, 2011

Yes, we are still here. We had a wonderful Christmas and we are having a relaxing New Year's day. The boys received fun stuff for Christmas. It was good pretend stuff and games, both of which they are very into these days. It seems they got just the right amount, not too much but not too little.

We took our Christmas tree down the day before yesterday. My niece was visiting and she watched the boys for us so we could get out and go to a movie.

Yesterday I took the boys up to the new house to take a look around and see what had changed. We are not going as often these days, as the changes are not quite as dramatic from day to day. It was a very pretty day and not too cold so I thought it would be a good day for them to be outside. They have a lot of freedom there and there is much to do outside so they were very excited about it. We were just about to leave when Nick came in wet from waist to toe. He had slipped while running and fallen into a mud puddle. He was very muddy and very wet.

What I did not realize was that the temperature was dropping very fast while they were outside playing. They were dressed warmly enough so that was not an issue but it sure was cold while I was helping Nick strip down out of the wet clothes. Fortunately we had a hoodie sweat shirt in the back of the van and we still had his good shoes and dry socks. We have gotten to where we now keep the dirty play shoes and a clean pair of stained play socks in the back of the van for when we go up to the house and they want to play outside.

I helped him out of his wet clothes, dried him off with a towel (we also keep a couple of clean towels in the back of the van:) and helped him into the dry sweat shirt and socks. I wrapped the towel around his hips, tucked him into his car seat and got the heat going as quickly as possible. He was fine and both boys thought sitting in the car seat with only a towel covering his private parts was quite funny.

The boys had received a coupon for a trendy frozen yogurt place nearby and had been asking to go there so I had planned to take them but now we had the problem with a half naked boy. I told Nick we could still go if he wanted to put on the snow pants/bib in the back of the van. He was fine with that and it worked out well. It was so cold by then that I think he was probably happy to have them on. I had quite a mess to clean up when we got home though.

The house is coming along quite nicely. They are now thinking they may be finished with it in mid-March. I let them know my birthday is towards the end of Feb. and it would make a mighty nice birthday present:).

They poured the concrete for the front and back porches on Thursday and they are finishing up the mudding/scimming of the sheetrock now. I think they are planning to spray the orange peel affect on most of the walls on Monday. The walls in the main areas of the house will have a bit fancier finish with some sort of trowel affect. We saw it in their model house and really liked it so that will be in the living room, kitchen, dining area, foyer and the hallway areas that can be seen from the foyer/living room. I think it might be in the husband's office too but can't remember for sure.

As soon as they finish spraying on the orange peel stuff, they will start laying the unfinished hardwood flooring. I think they may start laying tile in other rooms while the hardwood floors are being installed.

We have already picked out all of the tile and granite but are still waiting to hear where we came in VS budget on that stuff. If we are too high, we may need to consider some substitutions. We still have to pick out all of the lighting, hardware for cabinets and doors, carpet and paint/stain colors. All of our trim work will be white-ish but most of the shelves and cabinets will be stained. So we are very close to being done with picking out stuff, although we will still have to pick out stuff for the lawn and also window coverings of some sort I suppose.

It is really starting to look like a house on the inside now. I need to take some more pics of the outside. We had lost our camera for a few days so we have no Christmas pics this year, although we did get some footage on the video camera. I have yet to see anything we put on that camera over the years come back off so that seems to be a black hole of some sort. Nick found the camera in the console of the dad's car the other day so now we can take pics again. They have not started the stucco on the outside yet because it has been too cold but hopefully they will be able to start soon. We actually had a couple of days where it was very warm. The boys even wore short sleeves and shorts one day, which was kind of strange at this time of year. They loved it.

I am so ready to finish the house and get moved in now that the waiting is becoming more difficult. I just have to keep my mind on other things for the next couple of months.

Did I mention that the boys are going to start violin lessons? They are so excited and I think the lady who teaches them has a very good feel for how to teach kids this young. We will play lots of games together so I can learn too and can play them at home. They are only required to practice 15 minutes a day at this age so I think the boys will be up for this. We'll see. They are still in swimming lessons and will be until at least the summer and possibly beyond that, depending on how they are doing. They are still in soccer and are really starting to get it. Ben made his first real goal during a scrimmage during their last practice and he was so happy and excited. And it was right in front of me so I had a great view of it and of him and his great big smile. Priceless.

So, overall, not much to report these days. Things are good here. We are all healthy and happy and ready for the new year. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year's!