Tuesday, September 27, 2011

One of Life's Joys

Today, I shared one of life's joys with my youngest boy: loose leaf tea. Who knew that my sweet boy would exhibit such appropriate enthusiasm for a sample of rooibos?!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Les Livres du Lundi

(For those of you who are not sure about this post title, it translates to Monday’s Books. I am trying to be more intentional about utilizing my French—even in small ways. I expect that this title will become a weekly feature on this blog, affording the opportunity to discuss a significant love in my own life and one I’m hoping to pass along to my children: BOOKS! Each week will include my favorite reads as well as favorite children’s book selections.)

My Selections:
This past week, I’ve had my nose in a few different books. I finished “The Tiger Rising” by Kate DiCamillo very quickly. I had picked up this book as a potential read-aloud with the children, intrigued by its inside cover description as a narrative about hidden emotions. While I found the characters convincing and the narrative skillfully weave themes such as life’s challenges, dealing with painful feelings, and relational community, I think I will save this book for a while before reading it to my kids. They may need some additional maturity before the plot’s ending twist can be viewed in perspective with the book’s central themes.

I’m also in the midst of “How We Decide” by Jonah Lehrer and “Finding Sophie” by Irene N. Watts. The former is another neuroscience special that has numerous fascinating accounts of scientific experiments and researchers’ interpretations of the inner workings of the human brain. The latter is a young adult novel about a displaced teenager in post-war England.

Jadon’s “Book of the Week:”
“Port Side Pirates” by Oscar Seaworthy, illustrated by Debbie Harter
This book contains a wonderful, sing-song, rhyming text with a repetitious refrain. The bright, imaginative illustrations feature interesting characters and captivating activity. In addition to its cute and simple storyline, the book includes appendixes which note some very remarkable pirate facts, including information about various kinds of ships, pirate history, and details about the lives of famous pirates.

Children’s Book Honorable Mentions:
“Blue Goose” by Nancy Tafuri—teaches about colors and color-mixing in a cute, simple story

“How Do You Count a Dozen Ducklings” by In Seon Chae—with engaging narrative and charming illustrations, this book introduces the concept of multiplication

“Monkey Tales” retold by Laurel Dee Gugler—funny classic stories

“Sam’s First Library Card” by Gail Herman—entertaining book combines information about library services with a lesson about honesty

“Warner, Don’t Forget” by Lynn Seligman and Geraldine Mabin—another cute story with a figure-it-out ending

Happy Reading!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Love...

Piano music…

...from Abby's beginner tunes to my favorite Chopin waltzes to improvisational jazz.

"Pianos are such noble instruments -they're either upright or grand." ~ Author Unknown

"To play without passion is inexcusable!" ~Ludwig van Beethoven

"Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons. You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body." ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

"Without a piano I don’t know how to stand, don't know what to do with my hands." ~ Norah Jones

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Birthday Project

This year, for Mike's birthday, the kids really wanted to give him something special. We put our heads together. What Dad really wanted, what he needed most, was just a quiet space for his studies. So we came up with a plan.

We zoned in on an old storage room that was in the back corner of the basement--that back corner we never went in. A 6x8 closet with one small window. Oh, and it was really, really dirty. But we saw potential, so everyone pitched in, and with some serious scrubbing and generous amounts of paint, it started to look pretty fresh--not fancy, mind you, but functional.

Grampsie came one day and added some outlets and extra lighting. Daddy's white board, bookshelf, and desk were placed inside.

Then, today (it was a PD day--everyone home from school!), for Dad's birthday, we added some finishing touches. The door label, of course...

And some decorations! A neighborhood friend had taken a bunch of pictures of the kids and me one afternoon. She provided a CD full of excellent photos. Today, we printed some favorites, cut out some inspirational phrases, and wrote some encouraging notes of our own. Then we made three "clotheslines" (with pushpins and string) across the beams of the ceiling. With mini binder clips, we hung our words and images for lifting Mike's heart and eyes.

The other thing we needed to make was a cake! This year we tried a raspberry-filled lemon layer cake with lemon icing and fresh raspberries. YUM!

It was a fun day of projects (plus the traditional Friday family supper at Tim Hortons and an excursion to the Gatineau Sports Center for a recreational swim) and a special birthday celebration!

(I love the expressions on the kids' faces in this picture! Can't you just see how much they love interacting with Dad??)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Handsome Boys

The Tapper boys have updated their looks. Both Ethan and Jadon have gotten some new eyeglasses. We got the multiple pair deals because Team Tapper seems to be especially hard on frames and lenses. If you haven't seen them yet, here is a peek at their new looks!

As for Andrew, he decided that he was done with his "BIG HAIR" experience. Today, he got a big cut! Here is the BEFORE:

And the DURING:

And the AFTER:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Life Lessons

A few life lessons learned recently…

1) Poison ivy won’t kill you. (Poor Ethan, upon being diagnosed with this skin condition and prescribed a steroid cream for treatment, looked up bravely into my eyes to ask if he was going to die. It does say POISON, of course.)

2) Carrying sleeping 8-year-olds is bad for Dad’s back.

3) Read-aloud chapter books are great. Like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But movies do not always match the book. (We also just finished “The Incredible Journey,” and I was very impressed with the children’s comprehension despite some pretty considerable vocabulary. We are looking forward to a viewing of “Homeward Bound” soon!)

4) Homemade skateboards are difficult to steer (…especially when they involve nailing the wheels of your brother’s roller blades into the sides of a short length of 2x6), but it is still a fun project to try.

5) International adoption clinic doctors might chuckle when they ask a four-year-old about his friends, and he lists of a few names, and then they ask who his best friend is, and he announces boldly, “GOD!”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Compliment Taken

(after school, talking in the kitchen...)
Andrew: “Mr. G. is a good teacher, Mom.”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Andrew: “Well, he doesn’t let people be lazy. He's actually kind of tough. He makes us work hard…if kids are just kind of doing whatever, he will be like, ‘Just get going’ and stuff.”

Me: “Oh, so, you think he will help you to do your best?”

Andrew: “Yeah. He won’t let people just do easy stuff. He kind of reminds me of you.”

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Works for Us

Today, I wanted to share a couple of domestic organization tips that are working for us--some simple stuff we've gleaned from others that makes a positive contribution to our family life.

1) The Laundry Steps
Laundry seems to be a never-ending process at our house, but it has settled into a manageable routine with lots of cooperation along the way. Sorting is now know as "laundry basketball" in our house. There have also been quite a few lessons in proper folding technique. Still, the part of the laundry process that is the most tedious for me is putting away. That's where the laundry steps come in. Basically, as the laundry is folded, I/we place it into piles according to who wears the clothes. One pile each for Dad, Mom, Andrew, Ethan, Abby, and Jadon. Then, when all the laundry is folded, I take responsibility for putting away the grown-up's clean clothes, but the other piles are simply placed on the bottom four steps. The children know that, whenever they see a stack on "their" step, it is their responsibility to pick up the pile whenever they go up to their rooms. Because we do laundry six days a week--usually just one or two loads a day--the piles are usually fairly small (carryable) and rarely prompt whining. The Laundry Steps have certainly helped to make the Tapper laundry process a more cooperative system!

2) The Words Glasses
Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 1 Peter 3:10
Reflection upon our words has been a major focus in the Tapper house recently. We emphasize kindness and respect, but it is not easy. Highlighting "kind words" and "respectfulness" and "gentleness" to children makes one realize one's own faults rather quickly! We are all working on this together!

It has helped us to have a visual reminder. We now have two glasses on the middle of our dining room table. One is the "good" glass, and one is the "bad" glass. We also have a container of fake coins. Each morning, the glasses are emptied. Throughout the day, I listen for the kinds of communication that is happening between the children. If I hear put-downs, discouraging words, or harsh tones, a coin goes into the "bad" glass. If I hear kind and encouraging words, a coin goes into the "good" glass. I do not say anything about the glasses, but the children check the glasses regularly to monitor their progress. Sometimes, the change is dramatic. There will have been a bad mood in the house (say, after school when everyone is a little tired and testy), but someone will notice that the glasses are a bit lopsided in the wrong direction, and, suddenly, a call will go forth for kinder words...and the whole mood of the family will change! It is terrific! At the end of the day, more coins in the "bad" glass means extra chores. More coins in the "good" glass means more family fun (for example, extra reading time, a family game, or another fun activity). This simple visual reminder has been very helpful in our home!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Preschool with Jadon

As we jumped back into the school routine last week, I was reminded how much my boys thrive on structure. It makes sense. I mean, I like things to be organized and well-planned. And my life has allowed me to generally expect that things are going to work out okay. In contrast, my boys--due, I believe, in large part to some hard early life experiences--have developed a certain hypervigilance. They can put a lot of effort in to making sure things are lined up in a way that is going to work out okay.

As much as I tried throughout the summer to lay out the individual schedule for each day, my efforts simply did not compare to the repetitive nature of school days. Andrew and Ethan appreciate the unmistakable structure of the school year.

Of course, this year, Jadon remains at home while all three of his siblings engage in the public school system. I believe that, like his brothers, Jadon will flourish in an environment that is structured, predictable, intentional. Last year, I borrowed from this site to establish a weekly preschool plan. Jadon (and Abby) and I had a great year, studying weekly themes from moon phases to sheep to trains. We also covered the whole alphabet plus several digraphs, emphasized every color and shape I could think of, and learned lots of new vocabulary words. I am not sure who had more fun with our "preschool" -- was it the kids, as they learned and discovered, or this mom, as she facilitated their learning and enjoyed the daily connection encouraged by library books, letter worksheets, or fingerplays?!?

After last year's successful preschool experience, I was really looking forward to another year with Jadon. My only problem was that he had mastered all the concepts from last year! What could I do now? At first, I thought that I would try to follow a similar theme-centered program, but incorporate more French language in order to increase his readiness for French immersion kindergarten next year. However, I began to worry that our somewhat mischievous, bright little boy might actually need the challenge of language acquisition in kindergarten.

Instead, I've decided to focus more on character formation. I have chosen 34 character traits (courageous, servant-hearted, gentle, content, diligent, etc.) to emphasize throughout the year. For each focus trait, we will discuss a story from the Bible and learn an appropriate memory verse. I will try to come up with activities, crafts, games, etc. to reiterate the weekly theme throughout the week. While I plan to cover some language arts and math concepts as well, the character issues will be prominent. I am really excited about how this year will go!

This week, we will be highlighting the characteristic of attentiveness, telling the story of young Samuel, and learning Psalm 85:8. I hope to play some Simon Says, give lots of praise for listening and obeying, and incorporate some musical activities that require careful listening. Feel free to share any ideas you may have with me! Also, if you are interested in my whole plan for the year, feel free to email me or leave me a comment with your email address, and I will be glad to share what I have come up with.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Summer Favorite Photos

The Tapper family loves to build. Rarely does a day go by without some LEGO or wood block construction going up...

Both Abby and Jadon took to two wheels this summer. Jogging along with four bike-riding kids has been a great way to exercise...
Even when there is no ice, there is still hockey here!...

Andrew and Ethan had a French tutor come throughout the summer to help them keep up with their French. She was creative and fun, offering comprehension games and sidewalk spelling tests...
Abby and I had a special night out and went to see Ballet Magnificat!'s production called "Journey of the Prodigal." What a fantastic show! (And a terrific daughter...)

Of course, summer is the best time for an ice cream cone...

We had a real blast with our end of the summer family adventure at Eco-Odyssey in Wakefield, QC...

Now it is just Jadon and me at home (I am planning a post on our home "preschool" plans for this year--stay tuned!), enjoying each other...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Abby's First Day of School

Mom: How was school today, Abby?
Abby: (jumping up in the air with a pumping fist and a broad smile) GREAT!
Mom: What was you favorite part?
Abby: All of it!