Lightsaber Week

This is the first time I’ve started a blog post at 4:45 in the the morning, but I can’t sleep!  I have been sick with an extremely sore throat for the past week and we’re leaving on vacation today.  I’m guessing the combination of all the things I still need to do and the medicine I’ve been taking are not letting me sleep any longer.  Which is too bad because I haven’t had a good night of sleep in the last week either.  It’s only been a week of being sick but I’ve spent a lot of time on the internet looking at what everyone else has been doing and I feel like it’s been a month.  There are so many projects I could have done last week…not that I probably would have, but I could have!

On Sunday evening, I noticed a sore throat and took some zinc.  The sore throat was still around on Monday morning so I decided I better get out and do the grocery shopping while I was still feeling somewhat okay.  When Jack heard we were going grocery shopping, he immediately started a new campaign.  “Mommy, do you think we should go get lightsabers today?  Aren’t we going by that store where we saw the lightsabers last week?  How about if we are really good at the grocery store and don’t fight, we can get lightsabers instead of a donut or fruit snacks?”  (The donut or fruit snack bribe is very effective for grocery shopping.)

Jack’s final assault in his campaign was, “I don’t think we should go look at the jets today.  I think it would be more challenging to get lightsabers.”  More challenging?  I love when he tries to use big words.  It kind of worked…I had been thinking about getting them lightsabers and I decided it was close enough to his birthday that I could start spoiling him.

Bribing them with food is good, but getting them lightsabers takes it to a whole new level.  We bought the lightsabers before the grocery store, we talked about some lightsaber rules and then I let them bring them into the store.  It was amazing…I never heard another peep from either of them.  I’ve never been through the commissary so fast.  They sat so quietly in the cart and I’m not even sure they moved.  It was a little eery.

Jack was so excited to get home and start battling it out with Casey.  Unfortunately Casey wasn’t feeling so well either and she wasn’t much of a sparring partner.  I don’t think Jack’s lightsaber has left his side since he got it.  He’s had it clipped onto his pants almost everywhere we go and he’s been sleeping with it every night.  When we went to the doctor, I looked down at Jack and said, “You can have your lightsaber in here but you need to put your blade away!”  Although maybe it was a cute scene – miserable mom and little girl being defended by Jedi Jack.

While I layed on the couch feeling pretty miserable all week, Jack spent a lot of time working on his lightsaber skills.  “Mommy, do you want to see my skills?”  He and Casey have spent hours together pretending to be Jedi and Sith and roaming the galaxy.  They also spent a lot of time working on a lightsaber show.  Jack wanted more of a duel but mostly it was a solo show while each of them showed me their skills.  Jack can even add some Jedi mind tricks into his routine sometimes.

There’s got to be some practical use of these “skills” Jack is gaining right?  He puts so much effort and thought into it.  Turns out that the lightsabers were a good buy this week!  Jack keeps telling me it’s one of his favorite toys.

Summer Learning

I decided to try my hand at a little homeschooling this summer.  I want to try to keep Jack from losing any of his preschool knowledge and for him to be well prepared for kindergarden.  I think he is just on the verge of learning to read and I’m hoping to help him along with that over the summer.  But really the catalyst for the homeschooling was that I found a blog called Sun Scholars and she created a great summer program.  

This is her description:
Sun Scholars is a fun, simple educational program designed specifically for stay-at-home parents and caregivers to use with their children over the summer months.  Use the Sun Scholars Summer Program to enrich your child’s summer, for summer school programs, daycare activities, childcare co-ops, and more.  This program has been created with primary school children in mind, though you will find that these activities can be altered to fit the needs of all the children in your care.  The goal is to keep your child’s mind active through the summer, when skills learned in the previous school year are often lost.

So far, I’ve worked on two weeks of the program and I think the program is great.  It’s taking a little longer than a week to do each unit because we’ve been so busy.  But I’m struggling a bit to get Jack interested in it.  I think sometimes he is just not interested in anything that resembles schoolwork.  I’ve seen him go through learning phases before.  Sometimes he wants to sit down and write his letters and make words and sometimes he doesn’t.  But it’s been a little frustrating.  I’ve used the cliched phrase, “Do you listen to Miss H when you’re at school?  …  Then why don’t you listen to me?”  I’ve sent him to time out for not writing a 2 correctly.

I realize that sending him to time out is not exactly an effective way of teaching and is not likely to get him interested in any future learning.  So I had to step back a little and try to be a little more creative and decided I don’t need to force him to do anything.  (Although I know he was refusing to write that 2 just to make me angry.)

One of the projects last week was to draw some numbers out of a bag, count out the same number of beans and then draw another number and add the two numbers.  Jack was not at all interested in the numbers in the bag or the beans.  But we brought the bean bags with us to the car dealership and while we were waiting, he started tossing the bean bags into a big box.  He started telling me how many times (out of three) he was getting it in the box and I started writing it down.  After four turns, we took a break and added the numbers together.  After another four turns, we compared numbers to see which was bigger.  He loved it.  He kept wanting me to write down numbers long after it was really necessary.  Yesterday we played a ring toss game and as soon as he started playing he asked if I could write the numbers down for him.  Later on, while I was cooking dinner he was adding them up on his own.

While I’m very happy to be sending him back to school in the fall, this has already been a learning experience for me and I think he is actually learning too.  Casey is also following along a little, doing things her way.  I’m looking forward to getting a little more work done before our first trip of the summer but I’m also looking for ways to add some knowledge into our everyday lives.  Jack can now read numbers in the 80s, 90s and 100s because we try to guess what the temperature is going to be in the car when we get in it.  He’s getting pretty good at it!

Bean Bags

Summer vacation is turning out to be a lot busier than I thought!  But I am having a lot of fun and so are the kids.  Some days have even been a little too much fun and resulted in a little meltdown by the end of the day.

On Wednesday I was cleaning up my sewing area and Jack was helping/watching.  He looked into some drawer and found these:

I made these little beanbags about 8 months ago for Casey.  (There used to be three but one is hidden somewhere in this house.)  Then I put them away because I didn’t have any for Jack.  I don’t think I had any cute boy fabric at the time.

Jack pulled them out and started playing with them and asking all sorts of questions about who I made them for and why I made them.  Eventually I told him I would make him some that night and we picked out the fabrics that he wanted.

Thursday morning started with a little crying…because I totally forgot to make Jack his beanbags.  So bright and early, and with a small audience, I made Jack his set.

He was very happy with them.  We took them to the car dealership while we waited for an oil change and he had a great time throwing them into a box.

In the afternoon, we went to the gym and the pool.  Then we stopped home so I could change, stopped by the ice rink to have a skate fixed for Pat and headed to a little outdoor concert to meet some friends.  It was rush hour and it took forever to get there.

We brought some chairs for the concert, got some pizza, had some gelato and then things started to go a little downhill.  I brought the beanbags out, hoping it would entertain the boys for a bit.  But the long day finally took it’s toll on Jack.  He wouldn’t share the beanbags, he insisted on throwing them too hard and he wouldn’t listen to anything I said.  I finally had to tell him that we were going home because he couldn’t behave.  He was just ugly.  I can’t remember ever having to leave somewhere because of his behavior.  But it was really necessary.  He ended up crying himself to sleep because he behaved badly at home and lost his stories.

So the beanbags were a blessing and a curse on Thursday.  Now they are covered in chocolate gelato fingerprints but Jack is still very happy with them.  And I’m trying not to exhaust my children to the point of extreme crankiness any more.

Oh, and the funniest part of this day was in the elevator of the parking garage on the way to the concert.  The kids were each carrying their chairs and as soon as the elevator door closed, they both opened them up and sat in them while we descended.  It was hilarious and I wish I had a picture, but it was only a few second elevator ride.

New Song in Town

Since they were babies, Pat and I have sung songs to Jack and Casey after their stories, right before bedtime.  From classic bedtime songs like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to patriotic songs like “God Bless America” to sporty songs like “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and the “Eagles Fight Song”, we had a pretty decent repertoire.  I’ve sung almost every single children’s song I know plus a few that I learned along the way.  At one point, I was singing about six songs every night to Jack.  Then he started asking for new songs and I started making them up.  It’s not so easy to make up a new song every night.

About six months ago, I let the kids watch the Wiggles sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on my phone.  Every once in a while, if I had my phone upstairs I’d let them watch a few songs.  They liked it and I liked that I didn’t have to sing Twinkle Twinkle anymore.

With the Star Wars craze that currently has this house in its grips, the kids wanted me to sing a Star Wars song.  Humming the Darth Vader theme song wasn’t quite enough.  So I converted “This Old Man” to suit my needs.  The kids call it “This Old Man Star Wars.”

It goes a little like this…
“This old man, he played one, he played knick knack on my [insert the name of a Star Wars character here].  With a knick knack paddy whack….”

It no longer rhymes any more and it makes no sense, but the kids love shouting out different characters for me to use on each number.  (Leia is always 2.)

But even “This Old Man Star Wars” got old.  One night I pulled out the iPad, opened up YouTube and searched for Star Wars songs.  We found a few versions of Star Wars theme music with different Star Wars images.  But a few nights later, we found our new favorite song.  It’s sung a cappella, with Star Wars related lyrics, but to the tune of several other movie themes written by John Williams like Jurassic Park, Jaws and Indiana Jones.

(Now that I spent half an hour trying to find this exact version, I’m not sure how we stumbled across it in the first place.  It would help if the person who posted it had spelled “cappella” correctly.  There are a few other versions out there but this is our favorite.)

It is sung by an a cappella group named Moosebutter.  With a little more YouTube searching, we found a video that shows one guy who made it look like he sung all the parts.  The screen is split into four parts and he sings/lip syncs all four parts.

Jack loves it.  He has the words memorized.  I find myself humming random parts of it during the day.  Casey sings along too.  (Pat is still warming up to it.)  Jack even knows which version of the singer (he has different T-shirts on) is singing which part.

And so, bedtime songs have been modernized a little around here.  2011 – the year of bedtime songs on the iPad through YouTube.

New Game in Town

Jenny (my sister-in-law) had Jack’s birthday present already wrapped up to give him this weekend.  She thought if he got bored we could open it a little early.  But, even though some of Chase and Charlotte’s toys might have been a little young for him, he still found them all fascinating.  They were all new to him so he took it upon himself to check out each and every toy and figure out how it worked.  There was no chance of getting bored, so we just brought the gift home with us.

While we were unpacking the car, Jack spotted the present and immediately wanted to open it.  It was already past his bedtime but we had been in the car for 3 hours and he had taken a nap and I didn’t feel like telling him he had to wait.  He opened the present and was immediately smitten.

It’s called Hockey Guys and it’s a portable hockey rink with all the “hockey guys” and Jack has been playing with it nonstop in his waking hours.  He’s created rules for the guys, sent them to the penalty box, cleared the ice for the zamboni, created benches for the extra players and really used his imagination.  At one point, he created a big archway for the players to come through as they were announced.  He also got upset when I called him to dinner because he was just about to play the “America song.”  At first, he even included Casey in his games.  Now she just likes to come in and knock as many players down in one swipe as she can.  

He also takes a few guys to bed with him.  Tonight, he called me back up to his room because he took the puck to bed with him and he had lost it.  He kept telling me he heard a clinking noise, so it must have fallen against the wall.  He thought it was somewhere at the foot of the bed and I kept asking him where exactly it was in his bed the last time he saw it.  I looked through sheets, blankets, Elmo, and a stuffed dog named Sid.  I looked for this puck for 5 minutes.  Then he said, “Oh, I think I left it in your room when I was reading stories with Daddy.”  When we found it in my room, he said, “Now we just need to figure out what made that clinking noise because I was sure it was my puck.”

What a great gift this has been and a breath of fresh air after the non-stop of Star Wars and Star Wars Legos in the last several months.  It is fun watching his imagination take off in different ways.  

Memorial Day Weekend 2011

We had a great Memorial Day Weekend in our nation’s capitol and surrounding areas!  There were lots of “firsts” for all of us I think!

We stayed with Mitch and Jenny; Jack and Casey had a great time with their cousins Charlotte and Chase.  However, it was definitely the first time that Jack and Casey have fought over who gets to sleep in the master bedroom closet, on the floor.  Jack slept there last time we visited so he naturally assumed that’s where he should sleep.  But Casey didn’t want to miss out on any fun and she wanted to sleep there too.  There was room for both of them but Jack didn’t want Casey there and eventually she was enough of a bugger that we moved her downstairs to a futon…with her dad for most of one night.

On Sunday morning, we headed into Washington, DC and the kids got their first metro/subway ride!  Jack loved it and Casey enjoyed it too.

While switching trains, Jack and Casey had pretend lightsaber battles to pass the time.

We took the metro to the Smithsonian stop at the mall and made our way to the Air and Space Museum. On the way, we saw the Washington Monument aka The Big Pencil, the Smithsonian Castle and the Capitol Building.  Pat told Jack that the Capitol Building was where all the Senators worked.  He responded with, “Oh, like Padme Amidala?”  He’s not only learning to wield a lightsaber but he’s learning important lessons on government from Star Wars.

We also literally stopped to smell the roses.

I asked Jack to pick between the dinosaur museum and the air & space so this was his choice.  It was also his choice to blow through there in under an hour.  It’s the first time I’ve gone to a museum and learned nothing.  I just followed Jack around.  There was a lot to take in at the Air & Space museum and I think he was just a bit young for it so he just wandered through.  If you ask him what his favorite part of it was, he’ll probably tell you it was the french fries that we had for lunch!

Our second stop of the day was the National Building Museum.  A friend had sent some information along about a Lego display there and I thought Jack would enjoy it.  After the crowded Air & Space museum the National Building Museum was quiet, beautiful and fun for the kids.  The Lego display was pretty interesting but after looking at the “professional” Legos, there was a whole area for kids to create their own masterpiece.

And this is what they came up with…I didn’t even know they were familiar with Frank Lloyd Wright.

After the Lego room, there was another room for kids.  This time the Lego bricks were life sized bricks and the kids had a lot of fun building a tower taller than Daddy.

Even the outside of the National Building Museum was fun…

After our day in the city, we headed back to Mitch & Jenny’s for a barbeque with their friends and neighbors.  Pat volunteered to work the grill, which is another first…first time in a few years I would say.  And then he told me he enjoys grilling!  I had no idea.

On Monday we had big afternoon plans, but the morning involved train rides and carousel rides, so it wasn’t too shabby either.

While waiting for the train, I tried to take some picture of the dads and their kids…not a one where they are all looking and smiling but I love what I got instead…

The grand finale of the trip required us to go separate ways.  Pat and Jack went to Jack’s first Phillies baseball game (at Nationals Stadium) and Casey and I went on our first shopping excursion to Ikea.  The whole time they were at the game, we were at Ikea.  We spent about 3 1/2 hours there somehow.  Casey played around all the furniture displays and then I dropped her off in a child care area and did some more shopping.  We loaded up my purchases in the car and Casey wanted ice cream so I decided we might as well go back into Ikea for it.  It was a good choice…only $1 for a cone.  Casey spent at least 30 minutes eating this ice cream cone and required 8 napkins.  But it was apparent that she was enjoying herself.

Pat and Jack had a great time at the game too.  It was so hot that Pat didn’t think they’d stay very long but their seats were in the shade and they watched most of the game.  Jack also got a ride in a rickshaw and another subway ride.  In the end though, if you ask both of them what the favorite part of their afternoons was, they both said, “The ice cream!”