Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Surrounded by music

This afternoon I realized that dreams do come true. I've had a dream for years where I would hear music, played by my children, fill the house. I knew that there was a chance that this would not happen because my side of the gene pool did not bring musical gifts, unlike Marc's which abounds in them.

Ben's been taking piano lessons since September last year and finally the music he plays is recognizable as music and actually often sounds rather pretty. Shira's been singing with the Virginia Children's Chorus since September and each week has a new piece of music to learn off by heart. For the last month both of them have been taking recorder lessons.

For the last hour they have been practicing their music. First the recorders and now Ben is on the piano and Shira is learning her memory solo for choir. It's just so beautiful and joyous. They love their music and their instruments and that shines through very brightly.

Ben's enjoying piano so much that I no longer need to remind him to practice. He practices of his own accord 2-4 times a day. Shira has always loved singing but during the first semester at VCC she was overwhelmed and didn't trust her ability to learn each memory solo. This semester she is flying. I am in awe of her. She's learning complex pieces which are often not in English. She's learned songs in Latin, Spanish and Italian. Right now she is learning A La Puerta del Cielo.

I'm a very happy, and proud mommy.

Monday, February 25, 2008


We live at the ocean but you'd never guess it. I dislike the beach intensely. Can't stand the sand and mess so I rarely take the kids to the beach. Last week, while I was in hospital, Marc took the kids to Port Discovery to help pass the time. This is as close as my kids are going to get to surfing until they are able to get to the beach under their own steam.

Face Painting

Shira decided to try her hand at painting her face this evening. She's now on a roll. She plans on taking the face paints to co-op and painting faces during lunch time. I hope the moms will be willing.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tales for Tails

The Friends of the Norfolk Public Library hold a great program for struggling readers called "Tales for Tails". Therapy dogs sit quietly and listen, non-judgementally, to young children read.

I was very excited when I heard about the program, not because Ben and Shira are struggling readers, but because Shira is totally terrified of dogs. A rambunctious lab puppy knocked her over when she was 2 years old and ever since then her fear of dogs has increased. It had become so bad that she became paralyzed with fear if a dog even walked past on the opposite side of the road.

I thought the therapy dogs at the library might be a great way to help her. We spoke about how the dogs are specially trained to never jump on children and how they are special "doctor" dogs. We read all about therapy dogs and spoke about them ad nauseum.

Shira finally agreed to go to the 'Tales for Tail's" program at the library. The poor child was terrified, but adamant that she was going through with it. Initially she and I sat on the floor, well away from the dogs and she watched other children read. We spoke about how quiet and calm the dogs were. Then we moved into the circle of children and waited for a while. Finally Shira decided to read to the dogs.

She even petted the dogs. She is not completely over her fears yet, but reading to the therapy dogs has made a huge dent in her phobia. We plan on going to the "Tales for Tails" every month until Shira is over her phobia.

Ben read to the dogs for good measure.


Lydia over at Little Blue School coaches our homeschool Lego League team. I am in awe of Lydia as she manages to get the two Benjamins (hers and mine) to focus AT THE SAME TIME. The kids have had a blast learning about simple machines and energy sources.

Yesterday they took part in the Tidewater Homeschool Lego League Tournament and won the Inquiring Minds award.

This has been an outstanding project. Our children learned to work as a team, to solve problems and to present their project to strange people. We're looking forward to next year's Lego League Challenge.

In the mean time our group isn't disbanding. We're going to continue learning out simple machines and basic physics. Our next project is the Virginia Air and Space's Egg Drop Contest. Our Legodiles are meeting tomorrow, under Lydia's fine tutelage to learn about the physics of dropping eggs from great heights. The meeting after that is the fun one, the kids get to test out their designs.

Slow Sunday Mornings

Slow Sunday mornings are a Silverberg family tradition. Each of us spends the morning doing his/her own "thing". Marc and I tend to read and the kids indulge in all sorts of creative activities. This morning the kids made balloon people, boats, pan pipes, an Indian camp site and Shira started work on her Purim costume.

Thinking about it, the only slow parts of Sunday mornings in our household are the parents. The kids are anything but slow.

Notice the importance of tape in Ben's and Shira's projects. I buy tape in bulk from BJ's. I can see that they are going to be duct tape adults as in their mind there is nothing tape can't fix or do.

Bye, bye blackbird

The other day at Shira and her friend Benny discovered a dead blackbird at the park. Shira was devastated over the bird's death and wept copious tears in the van over the way the cruel world cut short its life. Ben, on the other hand, was much more prosaic. "you live, you die", was his response. That's my boy!

I tried to use this as a chance to explain the cycle of life and that death is a natural part of living, that without death, you can't have life. That there is nothing to mourn about a creature's moving through the cycle. That we should give thanks to that bird for giving it's nutrients back to the earth to feed something else. Shira wasn't buying it. LOL

Benny's mom took some videos of the kids burying the bird. Here's the vid of Benny and Shira burying the bird (fear not, they did not touch the bird with their hands)

Here's a video of Benny and Jillian (another homeschooler) giving the bird a funeral.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Travel Broadens the Mind.

I realized today that you don't even have to leave home for travel to broaden the mind. Ben and Shira are taking a "world cultures" class at our homeschool co-op. Last week they studied Italy and this week they made Italian food. Ben and Shira couldn't eat the food as it contained bread and cheese. However, their teacher told them how they could make a tomato and basil salad.

This afternoon Shira made one all on her own. Over the last few months, I have spent a fair bit of time with Shira teaching her how to use sharp knives, but up till now has steadfastly refused to use them. This afternoon she chopped tomatoes all on her own, shredded basil and topped it with freshly ground black pepper and some EVOO. I was so proud of her. She seems to have a feel for food because the proportions were perfect. She's on a roll, now she wants to make another dish for us.

The bigger news was that Ben ate an entire bowl of this salad. He has steadfastly refused to eat salads, tomatoes or basil for nearly 7 years. Two world cultures classes and here he is, eating salad like a champ.

I am looking forward to next week's co-op. I can't wait to see what Shira is going to cook for us and what new food Ben is going to eat.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's OK!

3 years ago when I was diagnosed with osteonecrosis in 3 joints, Shira internalized it as "mommy is nearly dead, one more bone and she'll be dead". We unfortunately only realized this last year and have spent a fair bit of time trying to help her realize that this is not the case. Things seemed to be working well until a few weeks ago when part of my knee broke off. It's been back onto crutches for me and next week I am having surgery.

It's all thrown Shira for a loop. All her fears about me dying have come to the fore. Yesterday the two of us spent a lot of time talking about it. When we were finished talking she said she wanted to make a book about it.

The title of the book is, "It's OK". She's drawn a cross section of the knee as seen on an MRI on the first page, labeled it dead knee and then in large letters has written, "it's ok". The next page has a broken piece of bone with "It's OK" across the top. The third has a pic of her, Ben and Marc with tears streaming down their faces and of course, "it's OK". Finally there was a picture of a happy heart and a final "it's OK".

She gave me the book and told me that she made it for me because I was so nervous and she wanted to help me feel OK about it all. Love that transferrance. LOL. We've spent rather a lot of time reading this book and talking about things being OK. I think it is working to help calm her fears.

Cyber Obliviots

I wonder if the majority of website designers ever test their websites? I am always floored at the number of user unfriendly websites. Do you have any bugbears? Here are some of mine.

- videos that start playing when you click on links. This drives me batty. I wish that they would load, but not play. Sometimes I am surfing while Marc is asleep next to me and I don't want to wake him.
- links that download when you click on them without giving you notice that this is a link to a download.
- sites that don't give you the parameters for usernames and passwords. I've just been at a website and this is how registration went. I typed in a user name and password and received an error message that said the user name needed at least one uppercase letter so I retyped it with the first letter capitalized. Then I received another message saying that I couldn't use special characters. I fixed that and then received another message saying that it needed to include numbers. I fixed that thinking I had covered all my bases only to find out that I had a message about the password. Same deal with the password. Wouldn't it just have been easier to write the list of requirements for both items on the same page you start the registration process?
- American websites that have the drop down menus for "country" that has the US all the way at the bottom of the list.
- flash intro's. I just want the info, not all the crap.
- short webpages. The Mayo Clinic is a good example of what I am talking about. You go there to look up a disease and instead of having a single webpage that you can scroll down, it has multiple short pages so you end up waiting for pages to load all the time.
- background music, especially cheezey background music. The other day I went to a website to look at Passover vacations and then started watching a movie. it took me five minutes to work out why an Inspector Lynley movie was playing Israeli music. LOL. OK I'm the obliviot here, but the website only started playing the music after I left it. I suppose that this is a lesson to me to stop leaving so many windows open. It drives Marc crazy that I have a zillion windows open at any one time.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Sometimes I feel so sorry for Shira. I don't know how the poor child puts up with having Ben as her brother. When the kids do their school work, I have had to start putting them in different rooms. The only time they are in the same room is if I am teaching the two of them together.

Ben has just finished doing his math problems. He was adding and subtracting fifteen digit numbers. Apparently he is incapable of writing down the answers without singing them in an ascending scale. I can hear how far he is in a problem by the note he has reached. Then when he checks his answer and realizes he has it correct, we hear a huge cowboy whoop.

He also has to talk his way through the problem. I often wonder if this isn't my fault. At 2 yrs 4 mnths Ben had around 20 words. I was beside myself with worry so a friend lent me a book on how to promote speech in a child. It said that I should narrate everything I do. So off I was, narrating my way through the day. I never shut up. Two months later Ben started talking in sentences and has not shut up since. If his eyes are open, he's talking. He narrates everything, just like I did after reading that book.

I also read a book by Jane Healy that spoke about how the frontal lobe acts as the executive and only starts developing at around age 7. Before that children don't have the ability to have good impulse control. She suggested talking through the steps required to control behavior with the children. So off I went again. For years I have narrated the steps we take and questions we ask that enable us to have good behavior.

Shira has somehow internalized this and has all her dialogues internally, but Ben appears to be unable to have them internally and everything is out in the open.

I must admit, that as tiring as it is having him talk all the time, it is very amusing listening to the inner workings of his brain. He's either a budding genius or well onto his way to a lock up ward.

it's all very trying for Shira. She needs absolute quiet when she works and Ben likes noise, especially noise he makes himself. I often think that it is just as well that he is homeschooled. there is no way a teacher could put up with his noise in a class of 30 kids.

More on Obliviots

Shira and I were at CWD Kids this morning. While we were at the check out a woman came into the store and asked the store manager to remove her display from outside the store. Her reason was that her daughter and friend were playing outside and they kept on touching the display. What happened to good old parental discipline? "Girls, we don't touch stuff that doesn't belong to us!".

No wonder we're a nation that expects things done for us. This parent saw nothing wrong in asking a store to move its display rather than control her children.