Friday, June 30, 2006

Monthly Medley: Classical Music

After a hiatus in June (for obvious reasons!) I am ready to pick up my Monthly Medley again. For July I have decided to share some ideas for music appreciation. I am no expert and certainly not a connoiseur, just an enthusiastic amateur musician who enjoys both playing and listening to classical music. So, please drop in on Monthly Medley during July and discover some of my favourites.

Mopping the floor after a c-section

Yes, I confess ... I was mopping the floor only three weeks after a c-section. Worse still, I was down on the floor scrubbing. I know, I know - I should be taking it easy. But ...

I feel faintly guilty admitting it, as if I have been given an undeserved bonus, but I think I had the easiest c-section ever. Immediately afterwards I waited for the spinal block to wear off and the pain to kick in, and it never did. The only pain relief I needed was paracetamol - nothing more than I would take for a moderate headache. The medical staff kept looking at my notes, looking bemused and muttering "you don't seem to have been given any pain relief ..." (I had been written up for various drugs up to and including morphine). "No ... I feel fine. Really!" I would reply, feeling something of a fraud. I didn't even get the routine ibuprofen pessary given in that hospital because it was contraindicated by my asthma. And lest you think this indicates any stoicism on my part, I have to admit to being a wimp when it comes to pain. If it had hurt, believe me - I would have been taking anything offered! Yes, I was sore and getting in and out of bed was no fun to start with, but that was the worst of it. I was sitting up in bed complaining I was starving and demanding food within hours of the surgery and was trotting happily round the ward the next morning.

I came home after three days feeling so much better than I had done during pregnancy - which was, in all honesty, eight months of feeling atrocious - that I have found it a struggle to remember I even had a c-section. I have energy! I am not coughing! I can move! I can breathe! Mopping a floor is as but nothing! Last week I had some surface sensitivity and soreness - healing nerves, I guess - and I ache a bit if I overdo things, but most of the time I feel pretty close to 100%. At least I did until today, when I woke up with mastitis ... and yes, I am resting now. Curled up on the bed with a laptop and a sleeping baby, waiting for the antibiotics to kick in.

Don't you feel hot?

"No", says Star ... wearing a winter fleece on a day with temperatures well up into the 80s.

"Wouldn't you feel more comfortable in a T-shirt?"

"No", says Star.

So that's OK then ...

(She did admit defeat and change later on in the day!)

Thursday, June 29, 2006

I'm a Motivated Mom!

Thanks to recommendations on the 4 Real Learning board I discovered the Motivated Moms Planner. I have tried Fly Lady before - more than once - but with little or no success. I either drowned under an influx of reminders, found myself one, two, three or more rooms behind, or forgot my shoes. Motivated Moms I can do! Even with a three week old baby.

If you sign up for the Planner you get a downloadable file with fifty two weekly checklists. On one side are daily tasks ranging from "make beds" and "do laundry" to "exercise" and "read to children". On the other side are short lists of jobs for each day. You do what you can and don't worry about what you can't - it will all come round again soon enough. Today's list was:
* Change dishcloth/towel (check!)
* Mop kitchen (check! I even gave the floor the most thorough clean it had received in months)
* Dust family/living room (didn't get to that one)
* Change hand towels in bathrooms (check!)
* Clean up computer hard drive (not needed as computer is still nearly new)
* Clean out vehicle (also not needed as new car has not yet had time to accumulate clutter)

Now that to me is a realistic list. Maybe I will not manage everything, but I can at least manage a fair chunk of it. It will also be easy to delegate tasks from both lists to the children. And best of all, I can use the planner without feeling behind and getting discouraged.

Plans for next year

'Tis the season to be planning
Tra-la-la-la-laa, la-la-la-laa ...

I had managed to do most of my curriculum planning for our next school year pre-baby, but never got round to sharing what I had planned. (Oh, how I love planning! If only I was a quarter as good at implementing them as I am at producing pretty plans and schedules!) Over the next couple of weeks I'm intending to add a series of subject-by-subject posts on what I have lined up for Angel and Star, as and when I have at least one hand free to type with. Before reading them, I highly recommend checking out this post on keeping your eyes on your own work from Real Learning. Bear in mind the plans I am posting are specific to my particular children, taking into account their various strengths and weaknesses. The particular combination I hope will work for us would very likely not work for others. Come to that, at least some ideas will turn out less well in practice than I hope and need to be changed as we go through the year. But hey! Plans are there to deviate from ... they just give me the structure I need to make sure something educational happens!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Latin-Centered Curriculum and CM education

Andrew Campbell's new book The Latin-Centered Curriculum has recently been creating a stir around the blogs and message boards I read. Yesterday I finally got round to checking out his website and reading the sample pages. Unfortunately I can't yet squeeze the book into my budget, but I am definitely bumping it well up my wishlist.

I am a Latin enthusiast. I think there are very good arguments for studying Latin as the backbone of language and grammar studies. From my British perspective I have always been somewhat baffled by the huge emphasis placed in American education on English grammar, which was only loosely taught here even in the days before education was dumbed down. I eventually realised that the reason for this is that the traditional British education system has always relied heavily on foreign languages for grammar study, and in particular the study of Latin. The most academic schools here, with selective entry for those eleven year olds who pass an aptitude test, are known (and have been known since the middle ages) as "grammar" schools, and that does not mean English grammar - it means Latin. In many areas grammar schools have now been phased out or turned into private schools, and those that do remain place less emphasis on Latin and the classics. Worse still, even where Latin is taught little emphasis is placed on the formal study of Latin grammar. The same applies to the study of modern foreign languages - lots of "understanding from context", little grammar. Cue a generation of grammatical illiterates (but that rant belongs on another soapbox. I digress ...).

The Latin centred curriculum [Aside: I just can't set aside years of British orthographical conditioning to add that extra "e" to "centred"] is a "classical" education in the way I have always understood it; an education based on the classical languages, beginning with Latin and adding Greek, leading to the reading of the ancient classics in the original. Charlotte Mason was not an enthusiast for this type of classical education, yet reading the online sample of Campbell's book I was struck by the similarities between the education he advocates and a CM style education. The section is titled multum non multa, meaning "not many, but much". At first sight this looks quite different to a CM style education. The Latin centred curriculum limits the number of academic disciplines, whereas CM advocated a broad curriculum covering a wide variety of subjects, ranging from the academic to the practical. However in other respects there is a great deal of overlap. For English and History the core readings required by the Latin centred curriculum "consist of a very few representative masterpieces that the student reads slowly and studies in depth". Charlote Mason also had her students read slowly through a small number of literary classics and "living books". Under both methods children's literature and historical fiction are extras, the icing on the cake to be read as part of the child's leisure time (the Parents' Union School schedules list them as "Evening and Holiday Reading"). Both methods put a heavy emphasis on linguistic study, though from a different perspective. Obviously the classical method focuses on the classical languages whereas Charlotte Mason gave a high priority to modern languages as well as Latin*. Students of her Parents' Union School studied French from the age of six, and by their teens they were learning four languages: French, German, Latin and Italian. A larger part of their school time was spent on language study than on any other subject. Finally, both educational methods eschew busy work and make it possible to complete the formal part of a student's education in a short time, leaving plenty of spare time to pursue the student's own interests and hobbies.

So I am intrigued. I have been thinking about the place of Latin in our schooling, and what I have read on the Latin-Centered Curriculum site has me feeling that a greater focus on Latin would fit well with our CM style education. I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book in the not too distant future.

* Although I have never seen any mention of Greek in anything I have read about CM education I spoke recently to someone who was in awe of the well-rounded education her mother received at a PNEU school - which included Greek.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Ding dong!

If that doesn't beat all! The remote button on the key for our new car has an unintended secondary effect. It rings our neighbours' door bell. Every single time we lock or unlock the car. And worse, it doesn't just set off the standard "ding-dong" chime they get when the door bell is pressed. It has discovered whole new levels of chime nobody suspected lurked inside that bell ... "Ding dong ding DONG! Dong dong ding DING! Ding dong ding DONG! Dong dong ding DONG!!!!" Think Big Ben without the hour striking at the end of the chime. Thank goodness they have a good sense of humour ... and a bell that can be easily disabled and cheaply replaced!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Another new arrival

A few days before Little Cherub was born our car went one fault too far ... a pool of water in the passenger footwell storage compartment for the second time in less than a year. This car was a brand new model when we got it - courtesy of an insurance claim after Tevye reduced the previous car to scrap before its first birthday - and it soon became apparent that Renault had launched this particular car with a whole series of teething troubles ... one of which is the mysterious recurring footwell leak, which can have any one of a number of hard-to-identify causes. As the car is now out of warranty, we had visions of multiple trips for repairs and endless bills for fixing the various Renault quirks. Repair bills for reasonable wear and tear are one thing; repair bills for totally unnecessary faults are another! After Little Cherub's arrival we decided enough was enough and the Renault had to go. Courtesy of a good enough deal for Tevye to make a 400 mile round trip to Yorkshire to buy it, we are now the proud owners of a Vauxhall Zafira:

This is the smallest seven-seater car on the market here, which in America I'm sure would be considered microscopically, ridiculously small, but so far we love it. When I say small, I mean we can have seven seats or luggage space, but not both - the rear seats fold down into the floor when not in use. As we very rarely need both, we are just happy to have the flexibility of extra seats or extra space. Now I have to wait until my c/section has healed so that I can drive it!

So relaxed!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Baby trivia

I make no apologies for being more than a little baby obsessed, and could not resist sharing a few tidbits of baby trivia.

* There is nothing softer than newly washed baby hair.

* Little Cherub's hair colour is being watched with fascination. Although it looks as dark as her sisters' hair in photos, it has had very definite highlights from day one. Now it is changing colour at the edges - but to what? Light brown? Surely not dark blonde given our colouring? Or is that a reddish tint we can see? I'm beginning to have suspicions that a ginger haired grandmother on my side of the family may have introduced a red gene. Watch this space ...

* I love the graceful waving movements tiny babies make with their arms and hands. Kind of baby tai chi!

* Little Cherub has fur on top of her ears. How cute is that?

* She has put on three ounces in her first ten days. Three whole ounces! Oh, clever baby ...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

And another for Little Cherub

Just for fun, here is one for Little Cherub ...

I am from my mother's milk, from sleepy eyelids and soft, downy hair.

I am from the brick town house snuggled between its neighbours, summer cool and winter warm.

I am from the daisy, the buttercup, the forget-me-not.

I am from Sabbath prayers and stubborn argument, from English and Yiddish, from Smith and Holmes, from Cohen and Lewinsky.

I am from musicians and dancers, from practical common sense and inventive eccentricity.

From precious pet names and whispered endearments.

I am from Catholic and Jew, from Catechism Class and Cheder, from Christmas and Hannukah, from Easter and Passover, from Old Testament and New.

I am from the Home Counties and the Jewish East End, from Sunday roasts and smoked salmon bagels.

From refugees from Hitler's wrath and a little boy spinning dreidls for monkey nuts; from farm labourers building their own Methodist chapel and a little girl lighting candles at England's Nazareth.

I am from scrapbooks and digital cameras, from webcams and DVDs. My memories are hopes for the future not reflections on the past.

Where I'm From

Inspired by Rebecca at A Gypsy Caravan I couldn't resist making an attempt at one of these poems ...

I am from open coal fires, from Marmite, fish fingers and Wall's ice cream.

I am from the half-thatched farmhouse on top of the hill, with tumbledown barns, rutted drive and cluttered yard.

I am from hedgerows of hawthorn, elderflower and blackberry; from green pastures, corn fields and hay meadows.

I am from summer holidays and sandy beaches, from stoic countrymen in wellington boots, from village and countryside.

I am from cooks and teetotallers, from farmers and higglers.

From "do your best" and "mustn't grumble".

I am from Primitive Methodists, from John Wesley, harvest festivals and Sunday School anniversaries.

I am from Buckinghamshire farmland and wuthering northern moors, from roast beef and Yorkshire pudding.

From the trenches of World War I, pheasant shooting in No-Man's-Land and poison gas; from haymaking in trousers tied with string to keep out the field mice.

I am from faded, nameless monochrome photographs, from Super 8 film of happy children playing, from slideshows of family holidays from years gone by. Beloved memories slip out of focus into distant genealogies. I am my past.

If you want to trying one of your own, you can find the template here.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Ten things I learned in my first week

by Little Cherub ...

1. I like milk. Lots.

2. There really is milk on tap whenever I want it.

3. It is not necessary to scream hysterically if milk does not arrive within two seconds of deciding I want it. Pulling faces and a small grizzle is all that is required.

4. It is best to stop guzzling before milk starts to overflow out of my nose. (I am having trouble grasping this one.)

5. What goes in one end comes out the other. It is far more fun to wait until my nappy is off so that I can test parental reaction speeds as I aim various substances at them.

6. I have great hair! Everyone I meet tells me so.

7. Hair washing is an abomination that should not be inflicted on any self-respecting baby.

8. Every so often my body does this weird jerking thing and a loud noise comes out of my nose. I find this alarming. Mummy says not to worry, it is just a sneeze.

9. I love to be cuddled.

10. There just aren't enough hours in the day for everyone to cuddle me as much as they would like to.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Another picture

... of Naomi with Jolly Tall (as named by Star who likes Jane Hissey's Old Bear books).

Monday, June 12, 2006

Naomi's dramatic arrival

The full story ...

On Thursday morning I had a routine 38 week ante-natal check with the community midwife. Naomi's heartrate was fast, my blood pressure was up, and I hadn't noticed any movements that morning - although as it was only 9.30am I hadn't thought anything of it. The midwife felt that my poor health over the last few months (all the asthma, coughing and repeated viruses) had started to affect the baby and sent me to the hospital to have her heart rate and movements monitored.

We arrived at about 11am and after taking a somewhat circuitous route via the Emergency department ended up attached to monitors on the delivery suite by 11.45am. After 30 minutes a senior midwife checked the heart trace and wasn't at all happy with it - not only was Naomi's heartrate consistently high, but there were none of the variations which would indicate normal movements. She called an obstetrician who was even less happy. She briefly considered inducing labour, but when she realised that she couldn't prod Naomi into any movement or response decided she needed to come out immediately by the express route ... a c-section.

From that point things moved at a speed that would not have disgraced a TV medical drama. I was prepped for surgery before you could say knife (ouch! terrible pun!). I discovered later that the lady whose planned c-section was just ending was shifted out of theatre in short order due to the pending emergency (we ended up in the same room after our sections). One of the anaesthetists came to take my medical history, check what I had eaten and so on, and to explain what would be happening. This doctor was an absolute star. She stayed with me throughout the entire procedure, holding my hand, reassuring me, and talking me through every aspect. Thanks to her I was able to stay calm despite the fact they were obviously seriously concerned about Naomi's condition and determined to get her out as fast as possible. I was rushed through to theatre where they had me hooked up to drips and given a spinal block in the time it took Tevye to get into a surgical gown. No time to wait for the spinal block to take its normal course ... I was tipped backwards to help the anaesthetic act quicker and the instant they were sure that I wouldn't feel any pain from the cut they started the operation, warning me that I would feel a lot of pushing and tugging but that there was no time to wait and it would ease up as the spinal kicked in fully.

Naomi was born at 12.48pm, two minutes after the operation started and within fifteen minutes of the decision to carry out an immediate c-section. I discovered later that her Apgar score at birth was an abysmal two (anything under seven is considered to be poor) . The fifteen medical staff in theatre included three pediatricians who whisked her off for resuscitation and worked on her simultaneously. Thanks to their efforts within two minutes she was breathing independently ... but oh, that was a long two minutes! When she began to cry everyone in the room broke out into huge smiles. Five minutes after birth and her Apgar score was up to nine. She was brought over for us to cuddle for a few minutes before they took her off to special care for observation. An hour and a half after she was born she was returned to us with a clean bill of health.

According to one of the midwives present at the section the cord had been wrapped round Naomi's neck. Whether this was the cause of her distress, or whether it was a function of my poor health, or a combination of the two, we don't know. Whatever the cause, we are grateful beyond measure to the medical staff whose prompt actions ensured that we now have a beautiful, healthy, little baby ... and to all those people who have prayed for us throughout this pregnancy. Those prayers have been answered every step of the way from the earliest days when we knew that there was a very high chance of miscarriage because of my age right through to the circumstances of her birth. Once again we have been privileged to see God's love and care for us in action, just as we were with Tevye's surgery back in March. And what a wonderful gift he has given us in our precious little daughter Naomi Rose!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Naomi Rose

Our beautiful new daughter Naomi Rose was born at 12.48pm on Thursday 8th June by emergency caesarian section, weighing 5lbs 7½oz. Although she gave us a scare with her dramatic entrance she is a perfect, healthy little girl and the whole family is besotted!

I can't thank all those people who have prayed for us throughout this pregnancy enough. Your prayers were answered, and we are blessed to have our little miracle with us. Full story to follow later!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Star's debut!

Star played in her first ever brass band concert at the weekend. The junior band made a guest appearance as part of a programme the senior band played at the local theatre. She was so much the smallest band member the announcer had to ask her to stand up so that people could see her ... when seated the only visible bits were two small feet dangling a couple of inches above the floor and the top of her instrument above the music stand. Angel also performed as a member of both the senior and junior bands, taking on the role of solo cornet with the juniors for the first time - scary because is meant sitting in the most prominent position and carrying the tune. Mum, Dad and Grandma were very proud members of the audience!

On Sunday the senior band had their annual photograph taken. Angel is the small, dark haired girl sitting on the grass. Poor Angel is very unimpressed with her uniform jacket, which is at least six inches too wide - but it was the smallest they could find!


... is sitting down to write a blog post only to find that Blogger is down ... then finding that when it is back in working order you have forgotten what you were going to write about!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

More baby knitting

Grandma and I have been doing more knitting for Little Cherub. My mother made the little yellow jacket in 4-ply - nice and light for summer. The pink double-knit one was my effort, and is a bit larger so should fit in the autumn.

I'd forgotten how much fun knitting for babies is!

Anyone for chocolate truffles?

Angel and G had an urge to bake yesterday and decided on chocolate truffles. Unfortunately the only things they could find to put them in were muffin cases, which were a little on the large side. Even more unfortunately G dropped the cocoa powder tin.

They did a good job of cleaning up after themselves ... but Angel went in search of the hoover without noticing that she had stepped in the cocoa powder.
What did I say about it being their younger siblings who were prone to mess making?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Planning a planning day

The schools here are on a week's half-term holiday, so today I'm swapping children with a friend whose two daughters match mine beautifully in both age and personality. Star is going to play with her friend F, and F's sister G is coming here to spend the day with Angel. Both pairs are very much on the same wavelength. Star and F's wavelength can be a little tiring as it tends to produce a lot of noise, mess and bugs (they have been on a bug collecting kick recently). I am getting the easy end of the deal with two sensible eleven year olds who will probably spend most of the day arranging each other's hair, dancing, chatting and giggling. While they chat and giggle, I'm planning to have a planning day.

I know from experience that if I don't have plans and schedules for our schoolwork prepared in advance everything rapidly dissolves into chaos. My plans and schedules are flexible, but I need to have a plan in place from which to deviate. With Little Cherub added into the mix next year, I'm trying to get as much of the planning done in advance as I can. I have pretty much decided what books we will be using and have most of them to hand. Today's job is to parcel them out into weekly schedules, which will doubtless be tweaked, flexed, and rescheduled numerous times once we actually start work on them. But hey! This is my idea of fun. I enjoy planning. Some ordered corner of my mind gets pleasure from admiring a completed schedule. So ... today will be a leisurely day curled up with the new laptop - yes, our new computer arrived! - planning and scheduling to my heart's content. As the weather looks good I may take a break to potter out into the garden and sit on the swing seat and read for a while. I may even have a burst of energy and try to finish planting the containers Star and I started last week. I'll certainly eat some chocolate. Other than that, I'm planning on planning.