Monday, September 27, 2010

Pregnancy news

I promised another post after my doctor's appointment, so here it is.

As of this Thursday, I am eight months pregnant. I am slightly on the big side of that. The doctor said that my abdomen measures at about 37 weeks instead of 35. The doctor doesn't think we will be having a small baby, but he's not huge yet. We have a month yet, if the baby comes on time. A baby can gain another couple of pounds still.

The baby has turned head downward, which is of course a good thing. Especially because the baby was transverse when they last checked. The baby has not yet "dropped," as they say. I have been feeling stronger contractions from time to time, but they are still widely spaced and not a concern. Although the doctor told me I was 1 centimeter dilated and 25% effaced, I take that with a grain of salt. In earlier pregnancies, I have had widely varying measurements from different practitioners this early on, so until I feel the contractions at 5 minutes apart I don't get very concerned.

I'm still in good health, but am much more uncomfortable. My out-of-whack posture is causing sciatic nerve problems. The advice for treating this is ice packs on the lower back and walking around (avoid sitting much if possible). I also had a rambunctious little three-year-old Happy Boy bounce onto my foot Friday night (while I was propping up my feet), which had the effect of breaking my right pinky toe. The advice for treating this is ice packs on the injury, staying off my feet and propping up the foot as much as I can (avoid walking as much as possible). Now, I'm sure you can see just as well as I can, that there is a bit of conflict in what I need to do to treat these problems. I do the best I can. I have to walk around to take care of the kids anyway, so that is exercise for the nerve problem. I use an ice pack on my lower back when I can barely walk anymore from pain. When I don't need to walk I sit to get off my foot, or lay down for a nap. I can't reach my foot to do ice packs there so, there you have it. Tim tells me I'm a trooper.

I am looking forward to my parents' arrival to help out in the near future. However that is still about two weeks away. In the meantime, I'm still managing to do the basic housework, getting the kids to do their schoolwork, and trying to remember that if something is on the floor, the kids can pick it up. Naps are getting to be a necessity again.

Coming up soon, we will be off to our local flu shot clinic this weekend. The kids (and Tim) hate that I insist upon this every year. Although we homeschool, we are not isolated. We get everything that's going around. Having some protection from the worst of it is helpful. Also, if I get the flu shot before the baby is born, he'll have some protection. Babies aren't allowed to have the shot until they are 6 months old. So, anyone who spends time around tiny babies, should have the shot if they can to help protect the little ones (thinking of our brand new baby niece here).

As mentioned in my last post, we need to find time to shop for a sofa, too.

Then we need to plan a birthday party for the Pillowfight Fairy who is approaching age 8 at rapid speed. She is a little worried that the baby might be born on her birthday, and she doesn't want to share her day. I am just trying to figure out how to schedule a party with contigency plans if I need to make a trip to the hospital.

One good thing that has fallen into place in the schedule is that our neighborhood clean-up is going to be early next week. We will be able to set out all of the carpet and other flooring debris from our remodeling projects and the clean-up crews will take it away for us. Just in time for us to clear off the RV pad for my parents arrival. I hope all of the other appointments and needed things will fall into place just as nicely.

We are only three days off our homeschool schedule (courtesy of sick kids a couple of weeks ago), but we should be able to make that up by delaying our next break a little while. We'll be taking a few weeks off when the baby comes anyway. So, that will kind of reset for us what "on schedule" means for us this year. We will probably be finishing the school year at the end of May rather than the end of April. I can live with that.

I think that gets me up to date on most of our news. We are nearly one third of the way through the school year. So my next post will probably be reflecting on how that is going.

Friday, September 24, 2010

An Update with Pictures

We've been pretty busy lately. So I've been having trouble picking what to post for you next. I'll start with the beginnings of our autumn colors. It has been cooling slightly and we are starting to feel autumn coming around the corner.

Our pomegranates are ripening. I don't know how much jelly we will make this year since our crop is much smaller than in the past.

Our garden is almost done for the season. We have potted our pepper plants, the pumkins are ready (a month earlier than we intended), we have one lonely canteloupe ripening up and a couple of overgrown tomato plants at the end of their productive season.

Here is another picture of that nice big pumpkin in the garden. I haven't measured it, but it is between 18 inches to 2 feet tall. We also have a slightly smaller orange pumpkin and a much smaller white pumpkin.

With the pumpkins ready a month before Halloween, plus the fact that the baby is due about that time. We will probably be cutting these lovely things up for cooking. We got ourselves a real pressure canner to handle canning vegetables. So we plan on trying it out by preserving our pumpkins for later use. The kids love pumpkin muffins and we will be able to make a lot of muffins with these.

Now we haven't just been gardening. After we replaced our livingroom/diningroom floor recently, we were planning to make changes to our kitchen floor next. You see the poor floor has looked nasty since we bought the house, it was discoloring, and we were tired of it. This is one of the few pictures we have taken that shows the old floor.

You can't see much of the floor. It was linoleum that had a white/cream tile print on it. It had at least a couple of deep cuts in it that went all the way down to the cement slab. It had scorch marks on it of all things. It was slowly discoloring to a grayish color and had been for a few years. About a month ago, while we were canning salsa, we were running our dishwasher more frequently than usual to clean canning jars. We noticed that when we did this we had water seeping up from the cuts in our floor. This should not happen. After checking for leaks under the sink (nope) we tried living with out the dishwasher for a few days (everything dried out), then ran the dishwasher (wet again). Yep... we had a dishwasher leak that was seeping under the flooring. Apparently the flooring only went a few inches past the front of the dishwasher then the machine was sitting on the bare concrete slab. When the leak happened, it was dripping on the concrete and seeping under the flooring. This must have been an ongoing leak for some time because I have been noticing the growing grey discoloration for at least a couple of years now. We were growing mold under our floor.

With our intentions of changing out the floor soon already firmly set in our minds, plus the added incentive of a leaking dishwasher, we decided that this was one change that was not going to wait until after the baby was born. So last weekend, Tim and a friend from work moved the appliances so we could do the replacement. We touched up the cabinet paint while we were at it. We also bought a new dishwasher. So our kitchen is back together, it is fully functional again, and the floor looks good for a change. It is relatively inexpensive vinyl sheet, but that is perfect for a kitchen. What do you think?

We are still eyeing the remaining floors. Perhaps we can finish up the floors in the family room and our tile entryway sometime this spring. We will progress as we can afford it. In the meantime some springs in our most heavily used sofa just gave out last night. We will be in the market for a sofa next.

That's probably enough for now. I'll do another post soon giving an update on the pregnancy. I have an appointment on Monday.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Right brain, Left brain

All is well. I have approximately 7 more weeks before the next baby arrives. We are on schedule with the schooling. And if I want a working dishwasher in the near future we will be doing some much needed work in the kitchen in the immediate future. So the battle between order and chaos continues.

In the meantime, Tim and I are still trying to think ahead to the next step in homeschooling, so that it doesn't sneak up on us and take us unprepared. Two things we have been considering are first, what kind of physical activity do we need to get our kids into so that they don't turn into blobs, and second, what kind of art do we need to teach. As a result we are keeping our eyes open and asking for advice from those we know. Tim's brother suggested some art books to help with teaching drawing. They are "Rapid Viz" by Hanks & Belliston, and "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" by Betty Edwards. We've taken a look at them and think that these books will be helpful, but to do it right, we will need to learn the techniques ourselves to be effective teachers of them. So we are starting now (particularly Tim) in working through the lessons and exercises so that next year we will be better able to teach them.

Each book has a different slant. Rapid Viz teaches methods to take ideas and to quickly get them on paper using perspective and other technical skills. Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain is about teaching a person to better control which part of the brain is doing the artwork. It talks a great deal about what the left brain does and is good at, and what the right brain does and is good at. Reading through this information has helped to explain some things going on with us and our kids that we thought puzzling. It turns out understanding left and right brain function can be helpful in education.

OK, that's not really a huge surprise. But, until you actually learn what the left and right brain functions are you miss a really big piece of the puzzle. For instance, I knew that my two daughters seem to operate and think completely differently. I chalked this up to personality and individualism. But, now I see a left brain, right brain element at work that I had not realized before. And although I see it as useless alter a person's personality to educated them, I can evaluate whether they are operating more left brain or more right brain and tailor instruction to meet them where they are. Personalities are tricky and complicated. brain function is quantifiable and much easier to adapt to.

So what have we learned about left brain and right brain you might ask? Well, many of these things we knew in some fashion. Left brain is where language use takes place. Left brain is where logical methods of thinking take place. Left brain thinking is orderly. Right brain is more comfortable with symbolic understanding, intuition, and chaotic thinking processes. What I didn't realize so much is that the left brain likes to be the boss of the two and tries to take over even when the right brain is better able to handle the task at hand. Also, some people have a more shared way they use their left and right brains. The more we read the more we realized that although I am very left brained (no surprise there), Tim actually is one of those people that has a left-right sharing going on in the brain.

Then that got us thinking about our kids. Are they lefties, righties, or shared as far as brain function goes? The Pillowfight Fairy shows strong signs of being a left brained kid, a bit like her Mom (puzzling since she's so much like her Dad). The Adrenaline Junkie shows strong signs of being either right brained or shared like her Dad (even though she's much like her Mom in other ways). We are not sure about the Happy Boy yet. It is easier to tell when they are older. It helps if they read and write some, as well as some other older kid things, to be able to diagnose how their brains are functioning.

So now we understand better why our oldest kid does so well with language, prefers routine, and gets upset when she is asked to try something different or learn something new. Now we understand better why our second kid has more trouble recognizing patterns, can't stand to write a letter of the alphabet the same way twice, gets more confused about her left and right, and likes to move about and experience her learning, rather than hearing, or reading it. So now that we know where their strengths lie, it is tempting to just keep to those strengths. However, we need to help them overcome weaknesses too. If we just right them off as left brained or right brained, without helping them to compensate for their weak areas, we are not doing them favors. So a left brained kid can learn easily in left brained ways. But we will also have to do things to teach her how to access her right brain for some useful skills in life. A right brained kid can be very creative and intuitive, but will encounter lots of bumps and road blocks in life if she can't learn to maneuver in a world set up for left brained people.

We are already helping the left brain side of learning with our emphasis on rigorous academics in language arts, mathematics, science, history, and religion. I like to think that we are also already helping some development for the right side of the brain with teaching music and art. But even so, you can teach mathematics in left brained ways (pattern matching, counting, logic) or right brained ways (spatial perception, symbolic representation, role playing). You can teach music and art in left brained ways as well (scales, notation, perspective). So is it better to teach these subjects only to the student's strengths, avoid the strengths and work on the weaker area, or a little of both? I am currently of the opinion that you start with strengths when you can, but don't completely leave out areas where they function in a weaker mode. We may start to teach drawing from a more left brained method for a left brained kid (like perspective) and then later teach some right brained methods after progress and success has been gained the other way. We may teach dance and music appreciation to a right brained kid first, and then move on to mechanics of dance and musicals instruments to round out their learning.

It has definitely got us thinking about how we do our teaching. It also explains a lot of things that just seemed strange. Like how our Adrenaline Junkie who has trouble remembering which hand to use in playing the piano will suddenly break down and weep at the piano, not because of the mechanics of playing the piano, but because the song is so sad (in a minor key). She has a feel for the music that her older sister, who masters the mechanics more easily, misses.