Sunday, September 29, 2013

A spiritual thought

I don't often talk about religious things on this blog, for that is not its focus. There is an important principle I just wanted to throw out there for anyone who might need to hear it.

Jesus Christ really lived. That is historical fact. The records handed down over the last 2000 years teach us that Jesus testified that God would send His Spirit--the Comforter and Spirit of truth--to witness of Jesus and guide us into truth.

This Spirit is the Holy Ghost (Ghost just means Spirit). When we pray for guidance, humbly listening and sincerely desiring to follow the guidance, the Spirit imparts guidance to us, often gradually yet sometimes suddenly in ways that seem miraculous. If you doubt it, have enough faith to pray to God and ask him to know the truth of His existence. He is there and loves us all very much. He'll answer you.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Homeschool Carnival

This week's homeschool carnival is up at The Foodie Army Wife. I contributed to this one.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Math fact progress

At the end of the summer, I was running out of options to help dd8 get over her mental block regarding addition facts. Finally, I wrote a book about her and her stuffed pet tiger going on adventures around the world wherein I covered all the addition facts she needed to memorize. I titled it Adding Adventure to Life. She read it over and over, and at last she knows her math facts with confidence. We're now getting her speed up using "five-minute frenzy worksheets (free at A week ago she took over 20 minutes to fill out one of them (it's 100 problems), and today she did it with perfect accuracy in just seven minutes.

That wind whistling past your window is my enormous sigh of relief.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

National Piano Month

It's National Piano Month! And to celebrate I will...continue fixing up the piano I got in August. I'm so close now.

All I have to do is glue some felt back on (I should never have taken it off, but I didn't want to damage it with varnish) and finish putting the piano back together. And get some polish and a buffing cloth to really make the wood shine. Then I'm really done with it. Really.

And then on to varnishing the new organ bench and refinishing the two tabletops my kids have most utilized over the past five years. Homeschooling is hard on the tables.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Welcome, new niece!

My sister just had a baby girl. It was her third child, and mom and baby are doing well.

She waited a bit too long after the amniotic sac broke to head to the hospital and ended up giving birth ten minutes after getting there. Her husband missed the birth because he had to park the car and register her with the hospital. It makes me grateful for the valet service offered at the hospital in our city. If I ever use the valet service again in connection with a speedy childbirth, I will remember my sister's experience and tip the valets generously and with a good will. :)

Because it happened so fast, there was no chance for her to get an epidural. It's funny to see her grousing about how labor hurt so much. Seriously? She had the baby two hours after the water broke and then she got prescription pain meds after the birth! Maybe it hurt so much because it went so fast. Funnily enough, she's extremely athletic, as in she does triathlons for fun. I do sympathize (I felt like a train had run over me after my third delivery), but I have every expectation that she'll bounce back quickly. And I look forward to seeing lots of cute baby pictures in the near future.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


For some reason, as we were eating dinner on the porch, the children decided that they wanted to make a spider web. Why not? The weather is nice (finally). Here's their creation:

(I added the teddy bear. They're not that mean to their toys.)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Art and Khan Academy

Each Friday we do an art lesson. I decided to use the art history videos on Khan Academy even though their intended audience is a bit older than my girls. But the videos have been surprisingly helpful and inspire interesting art projects.

Two weeks ago, we watched the video on Greek columns, and then at the park, dd8 sketched playground equipment supported by different kinds of Greek columns. Last week, we watched the video on the vanishing point, and then dd8 and dd6 drew pictures using the vanishing point concept.

Vanishing Point exercise drawn by dd6 in September of 2013

Today, we watched the video on Albrecht Durer and woodcuts; I wasn't about to set the children to carving wood, but I let them make potato stamps and use them in tempura paint to make their own stamped pieces of art.

I think Khan Academy is a great boon to education.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Dd8, who recently asked me to tell her "when she says something intelligent", just got the end of a Q-tip stuck in her ear canal. We're hoping it works itself out on its own. If not, it's off to the urgent care tomorrow afternoon.

Update: The doctor at urgent care found no cotton swab tip in her ear canal. Although he did pull out an impressive couple of globs of impacted ear wax.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Civil War

We finally reached the American Civil War. It's near the beginning of Volume 4 of The Story of the World. My children are too young to understand the seriousness of that war, but I'm trying to give them a feel for it. I'm stretching our coverage of it over 2-3 weeks and showing them multiple videos about it. But I know that in four years we will all be able to get much more out of our study of it.

I consider myself a Westerner, and I grew up reading the histories "written by the winners", i.e., from the Northern, anti-slavery point of view. I don't have a good feel for the Confederacy or its motives, but I have a friend from Georgia who I hope can come over and tell us a bit about the Civil War from a Southerner's perspective.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


Back at the beginning of August, dd3 was very sick with a gastrointestinal bug. Because it lingered so long and caused her so much pain, we worried that it might be appendicitis. Because urgent care facilities have limited abilities to rule out a diagnosis of appendicitis, I took her to the emergency room, where she continued to feel terrible for hours but eventually threw up and felt better. So it did look just like a regular GI bug. Just to be safe, since it looked like she might also have had a urinary tract infection based on the quick test strip they used on her urine, the hospital gave her IV antibiotics and a prescription for oral antibiotics for the next ten days. The urine culture came back negative two days later, so I felt really foolish for taking her to the ER for a mere stomach bug. But I gave her the whole course of antibiotics anyway because I still worried about appendicitis. It's misdiagnosed with alarming frequency, especially in young children. GI illnesses increase the risk of developing appendicitis soon after, and since appendicitis can often be treated successfully with antibiotics, I decided to be better safe than sorry.

The very day that dd3 was being evaluated at the ER, my sister who lives an hour away came to visit us overnight. Her kids ended up getting sick and vomiting, too. Fast forward to last week...she and her children were dealing with a bad flu-like illness.

My sister called me on Friday night wanting advice about whether to take her seven-year-old daughter to the hospital, as her family doctor was worried about low electrolyte levels that were showing up in her daughter's blood test. I talked with her for a while then recommended she talk to our brother who is in medical school and whose wife had appendicitis a couple of years ago.

This morning I found out that they had taken my niece to the urgent care on Saturday, from which she was taken by ambulance to the hospital and put on an IV for hydration. Medical personnel still couldn't figure out what was wrong with her, though. Finally, they did surgery on her this morning and found a burst appendix. She's a big, healthy girl normally, so I think she'll come through this in the end, but she's in for days or even weeks of hospitalization, IVs, and lots of antibiotics.

I keep thinking various things: 1) Did I contribute to this mess by passing on the stomach bug to my niece? 2) Did I make things worse by not telling my sister to follow her doctor's advice on Friday night? 3) Why is appendicitis so blasted hard to diagnose correctly?

I've heard it said that a maxim of emergency medical practice is that if a woman of childbearing years presents with abdominal pain, the first thing to rule out is an ectopic pregnancy. Perhaps there is a similar maxim for children, vomiting and abdominal pain, and appendicitis? If not, maybe there should be?

UPDATE: She did not actually have surgery yet. They diagnosed her this morning through ultrasound. They did a CAT scan this evening. They think the appendix is perforated and that it happened a few days ago. She might have surgery tomorrow. If all goes well, she might even get to go home at the end of the week. We are all praying a lot for her.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Homeschooling Carnival is up!

I actually submitted a post this time, too. I often mean to, but life gets in the way. Anyway, here's a link to this week's Carnival of Homeschooling.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Another causation/correlation mixup

There were lots news articles this past week on the internet about European men being 11 cm (or over 4 inches) taller than their counterparts one hundred years ago. The most important factor behind the increased height is "the improving disease environment, as reflected in the fall in infant mortality".

The Science Daily article I've linked to here goes on to say
In northern and middle European countries (including Britain and Ireland, the Scandinavian countries, Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, and Germany) there was a "distinct quickening" in the pace of advance in the period spanning the two World Wars and the Great Depression. This is striking because the period largely predates the wide implementation of major breakthroughs in modern medicine and national health services. One possible reason, alongside the crucial decline in infant mortality, for the rapid growth of average male height in this period was that there was a strong downward trend in fertility at the time, and smaller family sizes have already been linked with increasing height.
Other factors in the increase in average male height include an increased income per capita; more sanitary housing and living conditions; better general education about health and nutrition (which led to better care for children and young people within the home); and better social services and health systems.

All well and good. Except one thing. They think that smaller family sizes result in taller children? Um, no. As long as children with genes for height receive plenty of nutritious food to eat and don't suffer from terrible diseases when they're young, they will grow up big and tall regardless of how many brothers and sisters they have. In prosperous countries with plentiful, affordable food, wise eating habits can be practiced in large families just as easily as in small families.

I served an LDS mission in Poland less than ten years after the "Iron Curtain" came down. LDS people, along with Catholics, are known for having larger than average families. The American young men serving missions in Poland were nearly all tall and rather appallingly healthy in contrast to the Poles of the same age who had grown up in want (thanks, communism) and breathing polluted air.

There are so many times that correlation is mistaken for causation. Someone should start a blog dedicated to showcasing examples of that. I'd follow it.