Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Good physicians in Beirut

We’ve been to a lot of doctor’s visits lately, getting good mileage out of our limited health insurance. Over the past week I’ve gone to see my OBGYN twice, August has had two ear appointments, William one, and tomorrow William is going back to see a specialist. His ears have been ringing on and off for a couple of months now, and it has come to the point where it’s bothersome – especially at bedtime and when he’s trying to concentrate. I’m hoping of course that it’s nothing serious, and that it can either be treated or that it will go away by itself eventually. Hopefully the doctor will be able to work all this out. 

So far we’ve met some really good doctors here in Lebanon, and one or two that were really quite horrible, to be honest. I’m therefore always a bit nervous about committing to a new doctor, and this is the only pediatric ENT at the hospital as far as I understand, so I hope he’s good.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Spring semester of 2013 - begin!

I’m having a cup of (decaf) tea after having sent the (almost) four year old off on a play date for the day. It’s the calm before the storm. Today, the second part of the academic year 2012-2013 starts at AUB, and we are faced with a new semester, new schedules and new challenges.

Prof. Husband was planning out his classes yesterday, and I helped him with scheduling (because I am the only one of us who owns a calendar). At a certain point he looked at me and asked in earnest, “So… When is the baby coming again?” and added that he would probably want to take a few days off for that, maybe a week. I don’t think the university grants any kind of paternity leave, but he can certainly schedule and reschedule classes to make room for the birth. Of course, we don’t really know exactly when the baby will come. If there are no complications, it will be the first week of April, but at this point, there are so many uncertainties that I’d rather not speculate.

In the meantime, we’re starting off this first week of the new semester with a typical Monday morning: the little one is off on a play date, I’m taking the oldest one to the doctor, our fourth grader is getting ready to take a science test, and Prof. Husband is teaching a new class this morning.

In the afternoon we’ll all switch around. Like musical chairs.

Happy Spring of 2013.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Our home school curriculum, subject by subject: English (2. Spelling)

As mentioned, in English class, we study four subjects: Grammar, Spelling, Reading and Writing. You can read about our Grammar program here.

2. Spelling

The boys started Spelling Workout A in first grade after having completed Phonics Pathways, and I have to admit; I’ve never really looked for a different program. My sixth grader – who’s just finishing up Spelling Workout G and will get through Spelling Workout H by the end of this year -is a master speller, and my fourth grader, who is slightly dyslexic, profits from it as well (despite what this excellent, and much more extensive review of the program says).

I have been supplementing the program slightly, by making my older student learn extra word roots, prefixes and suffixes from a list that I got out of the Targeting Grammar book. I haven’t looked at next year’s program yet – six years of Spelling Workout finished, and now what will we do? - but whatever will come, I know he’ll be prepared.

For my younger student with a bit of special spelling needs, I’m supplementing with extra spelling words. (You can read more about that here.)

In addition to all this, we discuss and keep a record of new vocabulary every day; these are mainly expressions or words that the boys get from their daily readings.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pregnancy complications

This morning I had my first third trimester prenatal appointment, and the good news is that our baby is growing well and thriving (measuring a full week and a half ahead), PLUS my blood pressure is – somewhat – under control. 

The bad news is that the placenta previa that my OBGYN discovered a couple of months ago has not resolved, and we’re now worrying about placenta accreta (not uncommon in repeat c-section pregnancies). This means a number of things, none of which are good: risk of third trimester bleeding, premature labor and birth, early delivery, risk of hemorrhaging during delivery with a possible emergency hysterectomy as a result. I am trying not to worry about these worst case scenarios at this point, but it’s hard not to (and my OBGYN’s comment, “Don’t worry! You’ll be in the biggest hospital in Lebanon!” didn't exactly help either…). My poor little baby! And, help, I can’t lose my uterus! 

I am praying that the MRI and level 2 ultrasound that are scheduled a few weeks from now will show that everything is fine, or at least not as bad as it might look. (And if it looks bad, then “we’ll have to burn that bridge when we get there,” as my dad used to joke.) 

In the meantime, I am going to take it very, very easy, and will have to cut out some of my regular activities for the remainder of my pregnancy. Better safe than sorry, right?

Monday, January 21, 2013

Our home school curriculum, subject by subject: English (1. Grammar)

When it comes to English, like most, we study four subjects: Grammar, Spelling (including vocabulary), Reading (Literature) and Writing.

1. Grammar

We started grammar in second grade with Grammar for the Thoughtful Child. It’s not very well structured and a bit outdated, but covers some of the most basic grammar topics.

For the lower grades in general, I have used the Targeting Grammar books. They are fun and fairly easy, yet they go through most of the basic grammar that is needed to prepare for more advanced studies. Sometimes when I know a little more knowledge is needed to understand a specific topic later, I add information or discuss something more in depth. Both my older boys finished Targeting Grammar Grade 5-6 by the end of fourth grade.

I’ve also used God’s Gift of Grammar A and B, and although I like the layout and its thoroughness, there’s just too much – I don’t find it to be very concise, and there are simply too many exercises (AND it’s hard to cut some out because they’re all over the place). This was my grammar program of choice though, until this summer when I discovered Rod & Staff.

Prof. Husband brought most of our school books for the academic year 2012-2013 back from the US in September last year. I had searched high and low online for a good grammar program, and finally settled on ordering Rod & Staff's Progressing With Courage, Grade 6, but of course I couldn’t know for sure that this would be what we were looking for. Oh boy was I surprised. It was the first time ever that I opened an English grammar book and thought, “This is it. THIS is grammar!” It is a rigorous program, with lessons, assignments, worksheets and tests enough to keep a student busy 30-40 min./day, every day for the entire school year, but it provides a good grammar education, and I just happen to think that’s important. What’s that? Why yes, of course it teaches you to diagram sentences! This fall I will start my (then) fifth grader on this program to do the Grade 6 program over two years, and I will definitely get the Grade 7 package for my seventh grader next year. Add our Latin grammar, and I think I can say for sure that should we keep it up, this is one topic the boys will have mastered by the time they graduate.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Science fun and Shakespeare

Our family has always been a major consumer of baking soda and vinegar, both of which are very cheap here, thankfully. The boys have had a lot of fun with just these two substances on and off for a long time. Now imagine everyone's excitement when Santa Claus brought a real chemistry set, complete with test tubes, pipettes, magnetic iron shavings, and chemicals, among other things. Together with the microscope that we bought in Italy last summer, we're really rockin' it now!

Notice the (almost) four year old's face - he - especially - loves every moment of it (he doesn't have to write a paper or a report on every science experiment we do), and asks to do science at any odd hour of the day.

I totally take advantage of this, and often set him up - so that I can work with the boys on specific subjects or projects - with a tray containing baking soda, soap, a little water, a few drops of food coloring, and then arm him with a spray bottle of vinegar. Spray a section of the tray, and colorful foam bubbles up. "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble," he mumbles, as he enjoys himself for hours by the kitchen sink.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Glitter glue morning

Preschooler at work
The biggest challenge is keeping the fourth grader and the sixth grader from leaving their own work and coming over to join him... (I can't help but partially fail. There's something very adorable about an 11-year old's enthusiasm for pink glitter.)

We're not creating any complicated, amazing Pinterest projects, but I think the pleasure and experience my little (almost) four year old gets out of using a brush, glitter glue in different colors, and various paper shapes freely, is satisfying at this stage.

To get something that we can actually use out of it, I had him cover four heart shaped pieces of construction paper completely, and when they dry, we can write out invitations to his birthday party on them.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Back to school, back to a routine

After our somewhat failed attempt to get the new semester going last week, we came back this week with a vengeance. The boys are right back at their work, we’ve found our routine and have managed to start waking up earlier in the day. I had to cut back a bit on work to accomplish this, and we have yet to sort through the rest of the toys, but at least academically, we have started making progress, which is just what we needed right now.

My goal is to finish as much of this year’s work as possible before the baby comes, and at least all the work that we all do together, like history, Latin, logic, and art. If the boys still have some math, grammar or spelling lessons left, that’s fine, since they can do those independently, and Prof. Husband can keep teaching them science – in fact, this is something that the male members of this family often engage in when mama needs a little time for herself, so we might even expect an increase in science lessons and experiments once the baby is born - but I want to make sure that most of our subjects are out of the way, so that we can relax a bit and enjoy our newborn once he’s here. 

Of course we never stop homeschooling completely – not even during breaks - since reading and discussing literature is a big part of our curriculum, and we do that 365 days/year. Especially since we’ll spend this summer in the US, with access to a library (Hurray!!), reading is going to completely take over our lives for a while.

In the meantime, it’s crunch time!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Faraya, Mzaar

Abraham is wearing a yellow jacket. Do you see him?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Faraya snow adventures

Our very generous friends and neighbors invited us to come stay with them at their chalet in Mzaar (Faraya) this weekend, which allowed us to enjoy some fresh air, sun, and snow – lots and lots of snow!

It was a bit painful; you see, I love skiing, and the lifts were not very crowded, the snow looked great, the slopes were clear and inviting, my kids eager and ready to learn – but there I was, with a big baby belly, and a note from my OBGyn begging me to stay off skis and sleds. I agreed, of course, that skiing was perhaps not a good idea for me right now; not so much because I’m worried about my own balance or falling (I’m a good skier) but because – no offence anyone - the slopes in Faraya are filled with people who have no idea what they are doing, racing uncontrollably down the hills, flailing their ski poles, falling out of the lift, etc. One hit by someone like that, and little Quartus would be toast. So we didn’t ski. Instead, we rented sleds that the kids ran up and down the sledding hill while I watched and took pictures.

It was a good weekend; I enjoyed getting out of town, the kids had a great time sledding and playing in the snow, and it was fun to hang out with friends.

Friday, January 11, 2013

A not so academic week

There we are: we’re finishing up our first week of school this year, and I can without a doubt say that it was an absolute disaster. The boys got nearly no regular academic work done, and we were not a very productive family in other ways either. I could blame it on the fact that all public and private schools in Lebanon were closed for most of this week due to an order by the minister of education (because of the “storm,” which practically was over on Monday), which left all of my little students’ friends calling us all day to ask if the boys could come out and play, but I don’t think that was the only reason. My own lack of motivation, or rather, focus, is also a culprit, I’m sure, since I usually at any time can whip up this family to do the most unpleasant things.

It’s like I needed a couple of days to just… I’m not sure. What did I actually do? A lot of laundry, including washing all of our baby clothes and putting them in the dresser. Yes, we rearranged the rooms, and sorted through approximately half of the toys. Now our 11-year old is sharing a room (which is completely arranged and set up with a play area and all) with the (almost) four year old, and the nine year old has a bedroom (which still needs some work) to himself. The master bedroom has been prepared for baby arrival (short of the co-sleeper, which we will assemble closer to the birth) and looks great, with plenty of space for… well, I was thinking laundry, maybe a diaper changing area. When my dear husband came in and saw what I had done however, his whole face lit up, and he exclaimed with joy, “Oh honey! Did you create this space for a new flat screen TV?” Ha, ha, ha. Not a chance.

I also, finally, got the whole family off to the grocery store for a big shopping (where my husband spent most of the time eyeing the flat screen TVs), and we did spend a lot of time practicing instruments, having music lessons, discussing and reading Thomas Aquinas, whipping up chemistry experiments, and I worked a bunch of hours.

Suddenly a whole week has passed, and today, the boys and I are going away for a long weekend in the mountains with friends, to spend a few days skiing/sledding/playing in the snow. The kids are so excited! Since my OBGyn ordered me not to ski, I’m thinking I’ll feel a little like a kid in a candy store, with no chance of getting any candy, but I know the fresh air and the beautiful setting will get me going. My motivation is growing stronger by the minute just thinking about it, actually, and I will be back on Monday, impetus style!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Three months to go

Right. We have another great event coming up this spring, of course: the birth and welcoming of our new baby. It seems he can’t come soon enough. As you might or might not have gathered, I’m going through a rough pregnancy. Also, I can’t wait to meet this baby, whose little head, which rests so snug to the top left of my belly button, I touch every day, and whose strong kicks keep me up at night. However, at the same time he will be here too soon, because I feel overwhelmed by all that I need to - and want to - have done before he comes.

Before his arrival, we need to rearrange the bedrooms and sleeping arrangements, to get Abraham and his bed out of our bedroom and into one of the older boys’ rooms. This entails rearranging toys, dressers and furniture in general, etc. Once that is done, I can start trying to find our baby clothes and gear stored away in a box somewhere, wash everything and sort it into one of the dressers, buy diapers and wipes and assemble the co-sleeper and set it up. I also have an extensive, thorough cleaning of the house in mind, which – apart from scrubbing every inch of the house - would include sorting out the storage closet (a great enterprise by itself, believe me!), arranging and deep cleaning the kitchen (it’s a bit of a mess with very little organizational thought behind the shelf arrangements), arrange our closets and bookshelf, wash carpets, couches, etc. to make sure our house is as baby-friendly as possible.

And then there’s the actual birth. I had such a horrible case in Cairo, Egypt, that even though I’m experienced when it comes to c-sections (three down, one to go), I’m feeling a bit anxious about the whole thing. I still have time, of course, but at some point, you know… I will have to start preparing myself mentally, physically and make arrangements.

On top of all this, I would like to do some traveling, get the boys far ahead in their schoolwork, AND get as much extra work in as possible to make up for the postpartum period when I probably won’t be able to work a lot. Of course, there’s everything else too that I have to do, like, normal, everyday things… I know. Wow, right?

Three months. You think I can do it?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Post new year's cheer

Three days; many activities, two dinners with friends, lots of cooking, clean-up, laundry and shopping – I’m a bit tired (again! I bet you’re tired of hearing about it, too!), and to be honest, it feels good to sit down and do some work. I haven’t worked for a couple of weeks, since I really needed a bit of rest, and you know, it was Christmas and all that, but now, I’m easing back into it with a couple of projects over the next few days. The older boys have a sleep-over tonight at a friend’s house, and I expect a quiet night with Abraham at my side, working. Prof. Husband has a deadline of sorts (as usual) but it appears that it’s only paperwork, so he should be available to manage ground services, such as dinner and clean-ups.

On Sunday we’ll take down the Christmas tree and put away all our holiday cheer for next year. I feel Christmas and New Year’s, even Advent, went by too fast this year, but at the same time, it will be nice to get all our space back and return to a routine, while looking forward to the next great events coming up: birthdays, Valentine’s day, Mardi Gras, Lent and Easter – Easter break and spring! Perhaps a bit of traveling - local exploration - in between. How exciting!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013: Challenge accepted

A new year: new opportunities, new beginnings, new adventures, new excitement, new resolutions.

Last year around this time, I vowed to improve my health, and change the shape of my body over the next year - and boy did I ever! You have to give me that. With the help of a little attention to my food consumption and a lot of exercise, I went from being technically obese to slightly overweight, and then, just when my ideal weight was within sight… wow, if you had asked me at the beginning of the year what I would look like on the last day of the year, I wouldn’t have guess this in a million years! What a failure!! Weight- and shape-wise, big time let down! I mean, really!

But oh, what a blessing. That I can look down at a big round belly and feel joy, excitement, and anticipation.

And tired and overwhelmed. I really can’t - with any confidence - present any new projects or ideas as firm new year’s resolutions this year. Aware of the challenges that I am facing in 2013, as exciting and positive as they may be, all I can promise right now is that I will do my best, one day at a time, and trust that faith and strength get me through this year in one piece.

(I guess technically – physically - I will not, but you get my point.)

So buckle up. We're going for a ride.

What challenges will 2013 offer you? How are you planning on tackling them?

A quiet New Year's Eve 2012

Happy New Year! Last night, we celebrated one of the most quiet New Year’s eves in a long time – it was just right for this tired, pregnant mama. The boys helped me set up a feast with candles and stars decorating the table, Courtney played music, and I made a great dinner:
  • Asparagus pate on whole wheat bread with mini pickles and cranberries
  • Cocktail salad with freshly fried shrimp and homemade thousand island dressing
  • Seared salmon steaks with fresh asparagus, carrots and homemade hollandaise sauce
  • Virgin New Year’s punch à la mama (home squeezed tangerine juice, pineapple juice, passion fruit soda and 7 up)
  • Homemade cooked eggnog (Thank God for food thermometers!)
  • Fruit salad with fresh strawberries, kiwi and grapes

After our late dinner I cleaned up and finished the last laundry of the year, and then we went for a walk along the sea, trying to spot some fireworks. There really wasn’t much this year, but enough to satisfy the little one, who managed to stay awake until we came home right after 12:30 am. The boardwalk was crowded with families and friends celebrating the new year, singing, listening to music, drinking, smoking shisha, and dancing. The sky was clear, and I would even say it was a little chilly – enough to warrant a sweater and/or a windbreaker. I really enjoyed walking with my little family; what a great way to end the old year and bring in the new.