Happy Birthday, Joseph!  It’s been a wonderful five years with you.  I love watching you learn and grow.  I appreciate the lessons you’ve taught me in patience and wonder, in creativity and perservierence.


We celebrated your birthday with Grandma and the following Saturday with Grossvater and Grossmutti and your godparents.  You blew out all five candles in one go!


Grandma and Dad-o got you snap circuits and you’ve played with them every day!


I write so much about you in your Educational journal and in the review cycles that I’ll leave it at that and move on to the “Cute Things They Do” notes. (Stephan writes this time.)


A young blackbird, not yet fully capable of flight, landed in our kitchen balcony and couldn’t take off out of it anymore.  Joseph tried to encourage it: “Hello baby bird!  Fly up in the sky and eat some clouds!” 


When Ellie’s umbilical cord fell off, Joseph exclaimed: “The spinal cord is off!” 


At church, Joseph tells everyone it’s his birthday – and Noah’s and Anna’s, whom the people there don’t know.  He also yells at F, a slightly younger boy, for hitting Vivienne. 


Joseph joined Bappe in his garden work and shoveled dirt into a large mound.  He explained: “Ich mach e Pilatus!” 


We had a third birthday party with the godparents and grandparents on the fourth of July.  The kids had a lot of fun playing and eating.  Joseph blew out all five candles at once. 


I still don’t know the best way to review and summarize the Educational journal, but I keep plugging away any which way until I find a better solution.


Educational Journal Review Cycle C: Socialization, Character, Field Trips, Religion, Other

March – May 2015


Socialization and Field Trips


Visited Uncle Jul and Heidi in their nursing home.

Bildung zu Hause yearly meeting (homeschoooling association)

Several visits to fellow homeschoolers with 4 kids 5 and under on a farm.

A 12-year-old from church (I’ll call him J) started coming to spend time with Joseph once every three weeks to act as a mentor.

Numerous grandparent and cousin visits.

Fire Department demonstration

Lucerne Transportation Museum (twice)


Library (several times)

Time with neighbors and visits from friends with and without kids

Catholic church service

Airport observation deck and play area

Krabbel-Park (gym turned into play area for kids)

BCF Fam Jam (Families from our Basel church gather once a month for play, prayer and fellowship. This one was outdoors.)


Joseph has picked up the greeting ritual of the culture. Sometimes he greets people by name, extending his hand for a shake.


Life Skills

Picking Up: I introduced a series of 5 minute timed warnings to help the kids self-regulate their before-lunch clean up. It works fairly well. (See journal Educational Journal Entry March 21st for details)

Telephone Skills: Our landlord and the pastors wife at our church both said they were impressed with Joseph telephone skills. He answered, spoke, and passed the phone on to me.

Nature/Farming: We visited the Sidler’s farm several times. Joseph loves playing with their dog, catching chickens, watching how the machines work, jumping from hay lofts, etc. He also likes helping Daddy in the garden, and is learning to do a good job.

Fire Competence: Joseph can strike a match, light a candle, and drop the match in a bowl of water.

Cooking: Joseph made cupcakes from a recipe book from the library, reading and doing a lot on his own, but requiring a fair amount of help from me as well (and taking most of the morning).

He also made orange juice using the juicer, almost all on his own.

Forward-Thinking: Joseph discovered a “taxi” or a two-person tricycle at the toy library and negotiated to get it. I agreed saying he’d have to walk their rather than bike because he would have to ride the “taxi” home and I couldn’t then carry his bike. He agreed, and when I was ready to go he was ready to walk but with bike helmet in hand. He thought ahead enough to know he would need his helmet for the ride home!



Joseph continues to mature but still has difficulty losing a game or not getting his way. We’ve had increasing trouble with him expressing his frustration with violence (not dangerous, but not good) but when we react calmly and firmly rather than getting frustrated ourselves it helps him calm down. During Grandma’s visit we saw almost no violence - maybe he needs more attention?


Joseph knows many books of the Bible and their order, enjoys reading the Bible passage at our evening devotional, and often joins in with the liturgy.


Note to self: I wrote this and have completely forgotten it. I need to remember!

A series of events has lead me to conclude that I should stop worrying about how structured activities segregate people by age and underestimate people’s abilities to contribute in a meaningful way (especially children), and just try to make the opportunities that I think are more valuable. . . The odd thing is, it often takes less work to create an opportunity that’s meaningful to us than it is to try to fit into a pre-made activity.

Posted by harp on Wednesday, July 8, 2015 at 2:40 pm | Edit
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Welcome, Ellie!  We’re so glad you’re here!  For those who like details, here they are.  For the rest, there will be a birth announcement with the vital stats coming out soon . . .

With each kid I’ve had more and more pre-labor contractions and with Ellie they were particularly hard to distinguish from labor.  Four weeks before the due date of June 15th I thought my water had broken, but it was a false alarm.  As soon as my homebirth window started I did everything I could get prepare labor – taking long walks, raspberry tea (which is interestingly enough a labor tea here and not an all-things-motherhood tea as in America), etc. etc.  Still, whenever contractions picked up they’d die down again in a few hours.

Mom arrived and we all enjoyed spending time with her while waiting for baby.  She was able to see much of our routines and special places.  With the help I was able to cook and freeze several meals and take care of other household needs.  I even sorted and filed all our US tax papers from 2008 to the present.  The due date came and went.  I had mentally told myself that it would still be fine if the baby came as late as the 21st because it would still give us a good week with Mom here.  Still, I had hoped the baby would be early . . . my journal reads “waiting in limbo is hard!”

Five days after the due date it looked like things were intensifying, but once again, as bedtime rolled around, contractions went away.  The next morning, however, I was woken up at 4am with a clear and strong contraction, followed by more every 10 minutes.  This time I was pretty sure things were underway, though given my track record I was pretty sure I’d be laboring all day and only delivering the next.  I used the early morning time to write some emails and wrap up some computer business between contractions.

We have a book about homebirth that describes labor as “Mommy has pains in her tummy” so I used that phrase to explain to the kids what was going on.  Vivienne said her tummy hurt, too, so I got out the peppermint oil, which helps with nausea (real or imagined, it works).  I love the smells of the oils, but this time it made me feel nauseous.  Try as I might, I didn’t manage to keep my cookies down.  “Yep, labor for sure” I thought to myself.

It was Sunday the 21st and we’d planned to eat pancakes and go to the Catholic service (our church was on retreat and didn’t have a service that day).  By the time the pancakes were ready, I was feeling fine and hungry, and figuring on a long labor, I joined the lot in our pancake feast.  By 9am contractions were nearly gone.  At 10 we decided to go to church after all.  Another false alarm!

The rest of the day was uneventful, except for the fact that the Catholics didn’t have a Sunday service either (they have them on Saturday nights in the summer).  Around dinner time contractions picked up again and during Family Meeting (Sunday evening tradition) I’d have to stop and concentrate through them.  Around 8pm I had a contractions that made me want to have Stephan near me, so I figured it was time to call the midwife.  Not long afterwards they died away.  9pm is my bedtime and my body turned off.  The midwife arrived at 9:30 and I had to admit my belly was quiet (thankfully the kids were too – asleep in bed).  She gave me the option of taking a walk and trying some homeopathic pills to get labor going again, or of going to bed and getting rest.  I opted for the walk – I wanted that baby!

The midwife, Stephan and I took a short walk that was interrupted by many little contractions.  We practiced how Stephan could support me during them, which was quite helpful.  I still didn’t think it was all that much more than what I’d been experiencing before and I wasn’t convinced I was in real labor, or at least thought I had lots of laboring yet to do.

Not too long after returning home I asked her to check me – I was five centimeters already!  That was happy news.  I’d be having my baby sometime tomorrow!

Normally I labor on my own or with static support from Stephan, but since we’d practiced Stephan was able to push on my back in the right way that really reduced the pain and helped me work with the contraction and allow it to take over rather than fighting it.  I labored mostly standing up to let gravity help.  I tried hands and knees (the favored position for birthing two of my three) but the pile of pillows was too unstable a support.  The midwife suggested I try my side.  I had one contraction there and didn’t feel I could allow the full power of the contraction work so I wanted to move.  Patricia (the midwife) said I could give birth on my side, too (of course at the time I didn’t have the energy to say I knew this because Joseph was born that way) but I thought I was far from delivery and wanted to move, but another contraction came and I started pushing and the baby started moving!  I couldn’t believe I was past transition and pushing already.

I’ve never been so fresh for birth (I’m mostly up the whole night before with contractions and don’t deliver until much later) so I had energy to push.  The amniotic sac broke and the head was close.  More pushing and suddenly water cannon-balled out and hi the midwife – tricked ya!  A push later and the head was born.  Apparently I was told to wait to push out the rest but I didn’t hear it.  I pushed and more baby came out so I kept on pushing.  She was here!  I’d birthed her in the same bed and in the same positon as I had Joseph. 

I rolled to my back to receive my baby but had such pain I was paralyzed.  I also couldn’t believe it was over already!  When I caught my breath I asked what time it was.  I had tried not to think about it before, but it would be so nice if the baby came on Stephan’s guess also because it was Father’s Day and the summer solstice.  The answer was 11:01pm according to our bedroom clock which is 3minutes behind . . .

Amazing!  At 9:30pm I thought labor had stopped and 1.5 hours later I had a baby and on the 21st to boot!

The midwife pushed the placenta out and my pain slowly subsided.  I had had trouble with muscle cramps in my lower belly during pregnancy, so I’m guessing they seized up at the same time the uterus was trying to expel the placenta.  In any case, as usual, I was in too much pain to have an ecstasy moment of pulling the newly born to my chest.  I always dream about it before and after but in the moment – ouch.  At least the memory isn’t painful and it stays sweet.

The midwife was impressed with the size of the placenta so decided to weigh it.  A normal placenta is 500-700 grams.  This one was 900!  She said no wonder the baby didn’t want to leave the womb – it was a five star hotel!

After some cuddling we checked the sex – a little girl!  She had some vernix but not much.  She scored a rare 10 10 10 on her Apgar, with perfect color and good cry at birth.  At 51cm long and 3650grams she was thankfully smaller than Daniel.  Stephan cut the cord and she had little trouble latching on to nurse.  I let the midwife dress her up so we could settle down and get some sleep.

Mom got to see the birth (the kids never woke up) and she went to bed soon after so she could get some sleep and be ready to greet the kids in the morning so we could sleep a bit longer.  I couldn’t sleep much longer than my usual wake-up, also because of the news I had to share with the kids.  Can you imagine going to bed with two siblings and waking up with three?  What fun.  They fell in love with her right away.

We held a family naming session in the morning and quickly agreed on Eleonora Margaret Stücklin (Ellie for short).  It’s pronounced with five syllables – think Italian.  Most sources agree that Eleonora means “light” in some variation.  Even though she was born in the dark it was still the summer solstice!  Too bad Father’s Day isn’t always on the 21st of June, but at least it might help me remember what month Father’s Day is in!

Ellie is a peaceful baby.  I had a little trouble breastfeeding the first week, but I am healed now.  She eats well, sleeps well and uses the potty well.  I’m much more relaxed about EC – doing none at night and only as I feel like it during the day and we still catch most of her poos.  It’s amazing what being relaxed with buy you.  I wonder if that’s why she sleeps better than my others ever did as babies.  She regularly gives me two 3 or 4 hour stretches as night and a 4 hour afternoon nap (smart in this heat).  With my others I considered it a small miracle if they had a 3 hour sleep stretch.  Four happened a few times a year . . .

So I am so thankful that I am allowed to have and hold a beautiful, healthy, precious little baby girl!  Life is anything but easy, but we are blessed and we are happy!  (Except that we had to say goodbye to Grandma – we all miss you!)

Praise be to God!

Posted by harp on Wednesday, July 1, 2015 at 8:38 pm | Edit
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Vivienne cannot wait to meet her baby sibling.  She plays midwife every day, checking on the baby with toys turned into imaginary tools, and giving me acupuncture with the corner of a ruler as carefully and tenderly as she saw the midwife do it, complete with putting a pillow between my legs and all.


Vivienne loves getting a stroller out of the toy library (I refuse to buy one and keep it about) and loves taking her doll for walks.  It doesn’t matter if it’s raining and we just got back from a walk, she’ll ask if we can go for walk one minute later . . .


Vivienne gets upset easily, but she has made wonderful progress in calming herself down.  Her efforts dial down the pitch and volume and reach more of a normal voice to communicate her needs are clear.  She’ll even ask for help calming down when she’s having trouble doing it herself.  Being a rather emotional person myself, this sort of break-down management is vital to functioning well, because the intensity of emotions never really goes away.


Everyone is enjoying the summer weather and outdoor activities.  Vivienne has made a few attempts at bike-riding, but the time is not quite right.


I have only one note on her from the month, our excuse being baby prep and waiting.  She might not have to wait long!


“V crossed her eyes at me.” – I think this is Stephan saying that Vivienne can cross her eyes and did so to him.

Posted by harp on Sunday, June 21, 2015 at 5:48 am | Edit
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Daniel is a delight!  His language experimentation is taking off and it is just too cute.  We love our little bundle of baby fat and smiles!

It still takes a trained ear to understand his sentences.  Sunday during prayer time I told him to fold his hands and he said “I don’t want to pray” clearly enough for me to understand but I didn’t have to worry about being embarrassed.

He is happy to imitate words he has just heard, as when Stephan told him to pick something up (“hole” (hol-eh) in Swiss German) and he did, saying a clear “hol-eh.”

He comes up with sentences on his own (without having just heard the words) as when he noticed Joseph pour the last of the milk.  Daniel said “Milch isch fertig!” (The milk is gone.)

There are too many words to record and share.  Perhaps what we hear the most is “My auto!”

Posted by harp on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Edit
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While biking in the driveway with Vivienne Joseph said “I won!  Vivienne, you got lost.”

Another winning incident: “I win!  Vivienne is next to win.  Daniel is last to win.”


Educational Journal Review Cycle B: Music, Art, PE

Feb. – April 2015


Dramatic Play

Joseph and Vivienne have developed their dramatic play, from reenacting scenes from movies and cartoons, like Cars and Mickey Mouse Club House, to stories from book or their own inventions.



Joseph enjoys music, playing around at the piano, banging on drums, tooting the whistle, singing, playing with the violin, etc. especially when others are already engaged in music making, like when we have rehearsal for doing music at church.

He can sing all 8 verses of Mary Had a Little Lamb.

We (Joseph, Vivienne and Janet) went to a performance of by the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra of Fantasia.  It was a bit too advanced for them and a bit too loud for Joseph, but they did well the whole concert.

Joseph occasionally pulls out the piano learning book Faber&Faber and enjoys teaching himself, asking me his questions.  He knows the names of the keys (or can figure them out) and play simple motives from the book (not reading staff music yet).


Art: Origami, Painting, Cutting and Pasting, Drawing

During making time (7:30-8:30 each morning) Joseph usually works at the workspace making all manner of art.

Origami is still a favorite and he can follow instructions with good precision.  He sometimes, but rarely, asks for help.  He made a bunch, put them in a box, wrapped it and labled it for his Godfather’s birthday all on his own initiative.

A recent project was making monthly calendars as I do for our Family Calendar, based off of an American calendar Great-Grandpa Wightman sent us.  He uses the ruler to make a straight line and fills in the days of the week and holidays as well as the numbers.  He completed every month for 2015.


Joseph drew a Hello Kitty without tracing or using a reference.

We paint occasionally.  (It’s limited by my willingness for mess still.)

The kids will make props for their dramatic play, like a paper crown to dress as a prince.

Joseph has made many paper figures using the library book Alles aus DIN A4: Reise ins Abenteuer by Norbert Pautner.  Here is a video of a marble run he made.  It was my idea to use the TP rolls as supports, but he did all the work himself.  Since then he has made multiple versions of nearly everything in the book.


Physical Education

We continue to swim about three times a month.  Joseph can put his head under a few seconds (6) and move forward a bit.  He experiments with floating if left alone.

We walk or bike most places and nearly daily.

Joseph enjoys wrestling and jumping around and off furniture, running around outside and racing his bike.

He can swing and pull himself up on the trapeze and pump himself.

Posted by harp on Thursday, June 4, 2015 at 8:24 pm | Edit
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Vivienne is excited about meeting her baby sibling.  She is so happy her Grandma is here.  She enjoys dressing up and dancing, and caring for her dolls.  She is eager to help and eager to please.  She can get her breakfast by herself.


Her language continues to develop, with only a few mispronunciations left, but one cute one is “elegator” for “elevator.”


We were having fondue and Stephan said “The cheese is dripping” and Vivienne said a short while later “Jesus is dripping.”


At the moment, the German children’s book series about Princess Lily-Fairy is in.

“When I am a fairy, I can fly like Prinzessin Lillifee.”


Stephan will have to expand on the note “At bedtime Vivienne intercedes for Daniel.”


That’s it for now!

Posted by harp on Thursday, June 4, 2015 at 9:47 am | Edit
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Daniel is experimenting with talking!  Today I offered him a roll at lunch and he said “heh” which means yes, then said “row.”  He isn’t just using his personal words, like please (bitte in German) which comes out “du-dah” but trying to form words more correctly.  It’s not just for communication either.  He can say “nein” but has started saying “no,” too.  He puts a few words together, using whatever language or personal words he knows.  For example, “ow-ai ow du-dah” is a new attempt at the word “outside” a well-used “auch” (also in German) and his personal word for please.  Put it together and it means he wants to go outside, too, please.  He almost always tacks on the please with his requests – what a polite boy!  Examples, “hif du-dah” (Hilf bitter – help please) and “ow du-dah” (me, too please).  I always love these fundamental stages, like crawling and walking.  It means soon we get to discover much more of his personality!

More examples:

Daniel walks to the door where Stephan recently left, holds out his hands palms up and says “uh oh, where Daddy?”

He wanted to serve himself honey, so pointed to the honey and said “da du-dah.”  Stephan said “do you want honey?” but Daniel said “nei” because he knew if he said yes, Stephan would serve him honey, and he wanted to do it himself.  This repeated a few cycles until one of us asked if he wanted to give himself honey.  Afterwards we realized he was attempting the word “selber” but we hadn’t recognized it.  Learning to talk takes patience and creativity for all involved!

“ah-ba” is confusing as it is a German word meaning down, but he uses it to also mean “up” since it is somewhat like “up-ah” as well.  Context makes it easy, though.


Daniel can hold his own on the playground, climbing up and sliding down on his own, including fast or spiral slides.  He can walk down the stairs without holding on (though we all prefer if he does).  He climbed up and down a steep ladder to the loft in a barn (at the farm of homeschooling friends.  They have a website, so I suppose I can use their name on the blog, Sidler.)


He is strong, but is generally gentle (except when chucking toy cars, his favorite toys – yes “auto” is a common word these days.)  Once I was outside with Vivienne and Daniel while Joseph was inside.  Daniel somehow noticed that Joseph was crying and came out to tell me.  I can’t remember now how he communicated it, but he clearly wanted me to follow him, which I did, and discovered the crying Joseph.  How sweet!  It’s so great to have siblings look after each other.


With some more pain, his lower canines are finally in.


He likes to stuff bits of tissue up his nose because Joseph often does to stop his nosebleeds.  The learning by imitation stage is still strong . . .


I gave him a haircut this month – the first besides a bang-trim.

Posted by harp on Tuesday, May 19, 2015 at 2:52 pm | Edit
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It’s late.  Joseph’s educational summary took too long and I didn’t even add any picture samples!  I’ll share the two notes I have on him this months and the educational summary.  Joseph is growing up and we’re enjoying it a great deal!


We visited homeschooling friends who have a chicken farm.  The kids loved it, and Joseph caught a chicken!


“Mommy, do phones live on earth, too?”  - Stephan will have to explain this note if there is anything to explain . . .


We got official permission to homeschool!  So these academic summaries have a double purpose.  I’m writing much more now than I did when I started, and I don’t yet know how much we have to send in.  I hope to find a good balance soon!


Educational Journal Review Cycle A: Reading, Math, Academics

Jan. – March 2015



In January we started a read-out-loud time around 10am when we’re home.  Joseph usually listens attentively and always remembers which chapter we’re on and can often give a few details about what happened the last time we read.  So far we’ve read two Narnia books by C.S. Lewis:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

Prince Caspian


Joseph reads a lot on his own, especially during quiet time when I’m napping and working and can’t observe what he’s reading.  So the list I have is only a fraction of what he reads.  I have about 55 books listed from this period and only three are from March because of my decreasing ability to record his reading.

We also go to the library regularly and Joseph can read comic books in German with increasing success.  He shares what he learns in conversations at other points during the day.


An example of his reading level is that he read on his own, without anyone having read it to him (except long ago when he was 2) Night of the Moonjellies by Mark Shasha.


He also went through a phase of wanting to read the Bible passage for our daily devotional.  He’d trip up on many words, but would persist through.  Currently he likes to follow along in his own Bible as Stephan reads.


Memorization/Poetry Time

In January we started reciting a poem or song a few times just before read-out-loud time.  It takes little effort and time and the kids love it.  It doesn’t happen every day, but enough for us to have covered several poems.  Our review schedule is very light (every 1st, 3rd, 10th, 30th, 90th day after it’s memorized), but at least for the first poem we did (“The Purple Cow”) Joseph remembered it (as well as author and author’s dates) after a two-month break.  If it proves too long for the others I’ll switch to a once-a-month ongoing review.  For Joseph, poetry is fun and worth playing with – I love that!  He makes up variations like “As I was going up the stair, I met Hughes Mearns who wasn’t there . . .etc.” - way to include the author in the poem!

List of Poems Joseph Has Memorized

“The Purple Cow”

“Mary Had a Little Lamb” 8 verses

“The Little Man Who Wasn’t There” by Hughes Mearns (1st verse only)

“Singing Time” by Robert Louis Stevenson

“The Vulture” by Hilaire Belloc


Hebrews 13:20-21 (learned and recited during our daily Devotional)




I let the children choose what they want to do for dictation, but they have to do something.  Often we write a thank-you card or birthday card and often Joseph will choose to write the greeting and sign his name himself.  He likes to take dictation for his siblings.  When we write in the dictation journal it is often to tell about a story, like what happened in a Mickey Mouse Club episode. (See an example dictation typed up for the March 7th summary.)



Joseph uses writing naturally when he has a need.   He now creates the family calendars (he made them through Dec. 2015 and we use them weekly at our Family Meeting) and enjoys writing entries in, like birthdays and events.  It helps develop his writing and spelling.  For example, when the midwife was visiting he cut out a Swiss cross for her and wrote her name on it correctly because he had seen it on the calendar. 

Joseph also enjoys writing emails to folks, especially Grandma.  We support his interest, help when he asks, and otherwise leave him alone to continue his natural development.



Jan. 10th we started “Homeschool with Daddy” time on Saturday mornings when we are home.  They do similar activities (poetry, reading, making time) but in Swiss German (reading is in High German).  The kids get plenty of practice reporting on what they did in Swiss German over lunch and dinner when Stephan is home, but it’s also been effective to have some intentional instruction time on Saturdays when we are home (though it was awkward at first!).  They’re reading Heidi and memorizing Befiehl du deine Wege.

Language days are currently:

Monday – High German

Thursday – English

Saturday – Swiss German

We are not strict about it, but it shapes our conversations enough to have a positive effect.



Joseph mostly explores math on his own or casually with Stephan.  I print out some exercises (ELK-Verlag Kopfrechnen zu zweit 1. Schuljahr – he did 12 during this period) and leave them around, and he picks up books or does sheets Grandma sends.  He plays with his Math Whiz calculator and quiz machine, memorizes birthdays and the dates of the poets whose poetry we learn.  I rarely test him because he is making clear progress on his own.  For sure he can count by 2’s to 100, 3’s to 102 (and I’m sure by 4’s, 5’s, 6’s, 7’s and probably more but I haven’t tested him as he can do his multiplication facts through 12x12).

He can do single digit addition and subtraction, and two or three-digit when there is no carrying or borrowing.  He likes to calculate how long a person lived by subtracting their birth and death dates, so multi-digit subtraction has relevance to him, and he is slowly learning.  Here is an example conversation

Aunt Prudence was born in 1955.  Dad-o was born in 1953.  1955-1953 = 2 (he asked for help getting the answer).  Dad-o is 61, so Aunt Prudence is 61-2 = 59 (that calculation he could do in his head.)


He became interested in Sudoku with Stephan’s guidance (but needs lots of help).


Science/Solar System

We had a solar eclipse here and it sparked interest and investigation into the solar system.  Joseph knows the planets in order and various facts about them.


The kids take regular field trips to the Transportation Museum in Lucerne with Stephan (about once a month).

Posted by harp on Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 9:39 pm | Edit
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Our dear Vivienne likes to help and to please, and crumbles if her help turns out to be unhelpful or if we respond too harshly with a direction.  Again, she reminds me a lot of myself.  She is getting better at learning to recover and control her emotional outbreaks, and we certainly do appreciate her willingness to help and care for others.


Viv was our best Easter egg hunter, searching diligently for chocolate eggs and sharing them generously.  Her generosity is a curiosity to me.  She will share things of limited supply, like her candy, but crumble at the idea of someone else using loved toy even if she’s not using it.  More and more I’m adopting the “wait a few weeks” parenting solution to problems.  Before I step in and do something, I acknowledge that it’s not idea, but wait to see what time will do before stepping in.  (Obviously this does not apply to a child walking into a road, but with less life-threatening situations.)  Clearly, she can be generous, and sometimes she is not.  Aren’t we all that way?  Yet . . . well, I’ll wait and see how it develops.  It’s amazing how often in waiting the problem resolves itself, or I gain clarity into the nature of the problem and can better address it.  It hasn’t yet gotten so bad that I wish I had stepped in sooner.


Vivienne is adept at language, and still asks us to point to the words as we read them in books.  She has taken an affinity toward Psalm 24 in the King James Version, which we are currently reciting at our daily devotional.  She can say quite a bit of it with us.  Joseph has started joining and even Daniel lights up when we get to the “Lift up your heads, oh ye gates” part.  I truly wonder if “accessibility” of children’s material is important at all.  Why do our kids love Psalm 24 in old language but Joseph and Daniel don’t like me to dance?  Clearly life is more complicated, but this is about Vivienne and not about parenting . . .


Vivienne also likes playing with language, finding her own way of jazzing up names and words like her father does.  An example: “crumpledeelumpled.”


Slow and steady with the potty.  She used the church bathroom on her own, and does fine in familiar situations.  Other outings often are too engaging for her to get to a toilet in time.  She’s more consistent about getting up at night to go, but still wets a few times a week (but thankfully the pull-ups aren’t causing a regression, so that makes clean-up much easer).


We’ve been going to playgrounds more as the weather warms up.  She can climb up the tall green slide near our place.  I think I’ve written before that she can pump herself.


Life with kids who can talk can be frustrating, but never boring.  I don’t think to capture the lovely exchanges, and wonder if they are too personal, but Stephan recorded this one.  It occurred the same day I told Vivienne not to climb on the wall of the balcony because if she fell she would crack her head open (okay, so I’m not always eloquent).

Vivienne: When I cracked my head open, I will be with God.”

Janet: Vivienne, do not crack your head open!”

(Clearly, my admonition was mixed with spiritual understanding and I was desperate that she not try to satisfy her curiosity!)


Experienced parents, how should I handle the balcony-be-with-God problem?


In the other news – we got a car!  An old used car from church friends, but it still runs.  Now all I have to do is relearn how to drive a stick and brush up on Swiss driving rules . . .

Posted by harp on Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 2:17 pm | Edit
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I am loving this stage with Daniel right now.  He wants to do everything himself, which can be frustrated (read spills from pouring his own OJ, cereal, and yogurt) but also means he is making incredible strides towards independence.  I’m trying to take the time to train him, so that when Baby comes he can do more on his own.  It takes patience to ask him to get out his PJs and wait and guide him, so it is quite tempting to just continue to pull them out and dress him, but he can do it if I wait, so I’m trying to be patient, holding the image of me stuck nursing an infant and unable to do it for him.


Daniel is a super wonderful cuddler, too!  Since I’m up early now, when the kids wake up we often have some snuggle time on the couch, and it is such a precious investment and exchange of love before the day of work and frustrations begins.


Daniel understands quite a bit, and is speaking more, though mostly in Swiss German and so indistinctly that only those of us around him a lot can make out what he’s saying.  For example, if he comes whining to me “owowowow” it does not mean he’s hurt, it means he wants to do something too.  It comes from the German word “auch” (also) which sounds like “ow” in Swiss German.  If he’s hurt he says “owa” – what Swiss kids say when they are hurt.


He says “Daddy” and “Mama” and “auto” (he loves cars, and can play on his own for a while with the few that we have – just enough! He even likes to sleep with one).  “tizah” means “this one” (does it come from da doh or dies dah in Swiss German?).  He babbles sentences, and likes yelling at the constructions workers in our front yard, like they yell at each other.  He says “wc sitze” when he’s on the pot, but I won’t attempt to transcribe it.


Yesterday we enjoyed the last day of sun for a while and went to two playgrounds and worked in the garden after our picnic dinner in the yard.  The kids played quite well independently, and Daniel even went down the “green slide” – one that is so fast that kids shoot out at the end and land on the hard matting.  I usually watch the kids until 2 years or so, but I was busy with something else and looked up to see Daniel going down on his own – he landed perfectly!  After that I left him alone, and each and every time he shot out and landed hard on his bum or nose or hands but he never complained!


His top left and right canine teeth finally came through and the nights are better.


His words might be hard to understand, but we think it is quite clear when he sings “Twinkle” – the pitch and rhythm at least!  So cute.


We love you, Daniel!

Posted by harp on Saturday, April 25, 2015 at 6:44 am | Edit
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There’s no point in explaining that we’ve been busy.  I had thought about doing a self-reflection on my birthday, but I’m just squeezing in the time to catch up with Joseph.  Again, we don’t have too many notes.


Joseph likes playing with his timer, and one evening set a time for each activity (devotional, reading time, etc.) then asked how long they’d sleep and set the timer for 11 hours.  Of course it would be the one night when they all slept to 7am and as I tried to retrieve the self-made alarm clock I woke Daniel up . . .


The kids had a blast at the annual meeting of Bildung zu Hause (homeschool association) and Easter with the Swiss Grandparents over was of course fun.


Some vocabulary development:

As Joseph let the power cable in on the vacuum cleaner he said “Es goht yne schnäll wie Zug!” (It goes as fast as a train.)


“Daddy whizzed home.”


Educational Journal Review Cycle C: Socialization, Character, Religion, Life Skills, Other

Dec. 2014 - Feb. 2015


This is a hard topic since it is so general and I’m tired, but good enough is better than perfect (nor not done, which is what would happen if I wanted to do a good job.)





Joseph can help in the kitchen, both cleaning and cooking, and mostly does so gladly.  He can make his own oatmeal on the stove, flip the Sunday burgers (with supervision), get his own breakfast and snack and wash his dishes afterwards.  We have a “five-minute wipe-clean time” before his Media Time when the kids wipe a floor area with a wet rag.  Joseph usually does a decent job covering the area (but not necessarily paying attention to detail).


Joseph often needs to be reminded to pick up after himself, but is remembering on his own more and more, especially taking care of his PJs and cloths in the morning and evening, and picking up the toys before media time.  When he puts his mind to it, he does a good job cleaning up, even sorting a mess of content from three large bins mixed together



Joseph gets a weekly allowance of one Franc, with a required .20 to savings and .10 to God.  He can count the amount of money he has and knows if he is able to buy a Library DVD (2Fr) or a chocolate bar (65Fr) and can give the exact amount if he is not spacing out when we checkout.



I don’t have many notes on character.  At this age it’s a mother’s daily work so I don’t necessarily think to include it in the Educational Journal.  Joseph is usually willing to help others when asked.  He is generally kind and gentle, except when he is acting out comic book scenes when he can be rough without thinking of what he is doing.  He is learning to control his anger and not slam doors when sent away for not being calm and in control.  He very often uses polite phrases (please, thank-you, excuse me, I’m sorry, etc.).  He is able to happily spend 1 ½ - 2 hours by himself for his quiet time after lunch, which might be personality, but I think it is good character to be able to be comfortable in one’s own skin for a good length of time.



Joseph enjoys being with his siblings, and lights up when with other kids.  We see kids of all ages at church, on the playground, during play dates, at special events, at the library, etc.  In a new situation he has no trouble introducing himself and playing right away.  He plays well and happily, except in competitive games, which we don’t play at home (i.e. he doesn’t know how to loose well).

He will ask the librarian for help finding something.

He can answer and speak on the phone.

He is not the most socially aware or sensitive person, but he does care for someone who is upset and call for help if needed.  He is very engaged with his own thoughts, so he has no trouble spending time alone, or separating from the group to pursue his own ideas.  Yet if others are doing something interesting to him he eagerly joins in.


Media Time

30 minutes a day. Current favorites: ABCya.com games for all grade levels, Timez Attack,

Library DVDs (Mickey Mouse, Cars).

Joseph can sign into the computer, select what he would like to do, or insert the DVD, navigate mouse and keyboard (hunt and peck) and close up afterward.

He watches his sister’s media time of 30 minutes and occasionally we’ll watch YouTube videos in the afternoon related to a question that came up, but often (less than weekly), so 1 hour is the max for time with screens (I do “boring” work on the computer when the kids are around, and Stephan does his computer time after they go to bed. We have no TV).  I used to think this was still a bit much, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s far less than most kids, and it has many educational aspects, from saving money for the DVDs, to learning to use technology, to training the habit of cleaning up before pleasure, and learning to stop when it’s time.

Posted by harp on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 10:00 pm | Edit
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Vivienne is at my side saying “I don’t want you to work.”  So this will be brief.  Add the fact that we’ve been busy and stressed (yes, I need to cut the stress for baby’s sake) so we only have two notes from the past month on Vivienne!


March 8th the swing in our yard broke while she was on it, and she’s complained on and off about back-of-the-knee pain.  It’s more off than on, so I’m waiting to ask the doctor about it until our appointment Wednesday.


We’ve switched to pull-ups because washing sheets is a pain and despite my fears she would regress, she’s pulled off a 1 miss a week rhythm for the past few weeks (mostly on Sundays, after the regular week schedule has been interrupted . . . hm)  She often gets up to pee on the pot on her own and goes back to bed.


She almost always asks us to run our fingers under the words when we’re reading.  She loves learning facts from her brother (not numbers so much, but planet names, and other words they find in books).  She draws our family and the baby in my tummy.  It’s hard to believe not too long ago she made us draw everything for her.  I’m so glad she’s grown in confidence and is happy to draw for herself (mostly).


Tall, elegant, helpful, easily frustrated, loving, emotional Viv.  Can’t imagine life without her!

Posted by harp on Sunday, March 22, 2015 at 9:05 am | Edit
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Daniel says “Mama” now!


He can catch a ball (maybe it was an accident) and has a good throw and kick.  He’s our little helper as ever, growing daily in his abilities.  He can entertain himself for a while playing Brio trains, putting a small (not closed) track together and making sound effects as he runs the trains up and down the bridges.  He can empty the potty without spilling.  Sadly, he’s not consistant about using it himself, but if he sees the remains for Vivienne using the potty, he’ll pick it up carefully, walk down the hall and into the bathroom, set it down so he can lift the toilet lid, and dump it.

The poor guy is struggling with his lower incisors and has been for a while.

He paid me a great compliment the other day.  During morning snack he kept asking for something “nah” and I couldn’t figure out what it was.  Then he started singing what sounded like “Twinkle” and I remembered that I’d forgotten to do my piano practice during snack for the past few days.  I asked if he wanted me to play piano and he said yes with a big smile!



Posted by harp on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 2:46 pm | Edit
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How Joseph is growing up!  But he still does cute things.  While reading “Silent Night!” from the hymnal he said “Silent night, holy night, shepherds quack at the sight.”


Janet: “Do you want me to show you how to cut your meat?”

Joseph: “I will show myself how.”


Vivienne loves Angelina Ballerina, and there is a line in it where her mother says “Angelina, your dancing is nothing but a nuisance!”  At the dinner table Vivienne refused to only get half a tortilla, wanting a whole one, so I said fine and started eating the half that I had offered her.  Vivienne freaked out and Stephan took her from the table to help her calm down.  Joseph turned to me and said, “Mommy, your eating Vivienne’s tortilla is nothing but a nuisance!”


We’ve reduced food consumption during Lent, to practice doing without so we can learn to put others first, and so that we can enjoy all of God’s good gifts again when Easter comes.  Again, as if to prove that example is always more effective than words, no matter how well we think we’ve explained ourselves, Joseph apparently misunderstood and though there would be no food during Lent.  The morning of Ash Wednesday he walked into the kitchen and exclaimed “We DO have food!”  And yes, he knows exactly how many days until Easter.  Maybe we should fast during Advent, too, then we won’t have to give a bunch of presents at Christmas, just coming back to meat and dessert will be exciting enough! lol


Stephan taught Joseph how to do Sudoku puzzles, and he can do easy ones with some help.


Joseph: “How do you spell Connecticut?”

Janet: “Hm, oh dear, C-o-n-n-e-c-t-i-c-u-t?” [I’m a bad speller, and spelling out loud is even harder.]

Stephan: “How do you spell Connecticut, Joseph?”

Joseph: “Kahn and a dot.” [Conn.]


February 23rd Joseph sings Jingle Bells from memory, including the verse.  Obviously Christmas made an impression on him.


Joseph find it very important to know how old people are and when they were born, and how old someone else was when someone else died, etc. etc.  We’ve started memorizing poetry and he insists on learning the dates of the authors (correction, he insists on me finding their dates for him and he only needs to hear once and he remembers . . .).  It leads to interesting questions, such as


Joseph: “When Grandma was four, how old was Hugh Mearns?”


Joseph enjoys reading the Bible passage at our daily devotional.  He read passionately (i.e. loudly) though he can hardly understand what he is reading (Bible vocab is not that easy.)  He was reading 2. Cor. 1:19 and said “ . . . who was preached among you by me and Silas flat and Timothy . . .”

He read the footnote “b” after Silas as “flat” as in music . . .


He is growing in social awareness.  As we said goodbye to Tante Anita (his great, great Aunt) he said goodbye and “Machts guet” – a typical fairwell (be well, or do well).


They’ve learned “King of the Jungle” in Swiss German in Sunday school.  He enjoys the song, and though the words are much simpler than those in the Bible, I doubt he understands any more given his mispronunciation . . .

Stephan’s note “Jesus is the king from the jungle.”  He’ll have to explain if there is more to it.


Here’s on to my Educational Journal review cycle B: music, art and PE.


Music/Art/Physical Fitness Summary for Joseph Nov. 2014 – Jan. 2015



Joseph had just begun to draw figures and not just letters and numbers at the start of this period.

He’s started painting by numbers, coloring in the lines with correct colors.

Connect the dots are still his favorite (doing ones with hundreds of dots that he got for Christmas).

I moved and expanded the workspace so all three kids have good room to work with their feet on the floor, with room to expand to the dining table (which we often do).  Most of the pens and paper are all available at kid level, and they know how to clean up.  A lot of drawing and cutting and taping happen throughout the day because of the easy access and central location (living room where I do most of my work).

(click to enlarge)



Physical Fitness

Our main physical activities besides play (which is the main one), are walking, biking and swimming.  We walk nearly everywhere and Joseph often rides his bike (2 wheels, hand breaks) and does a very good job obeying (mainly, riding up ahead and stopping at the point I’ve told him to to wait for us to catch up.)  Tuesday morning we go swimming for about 1 ½ hours.  During this time there are school classes and baby swim classes, so there is lots of inspiration (not to mention noise) to go around.  Joseph can stay under water for a few seconds (around 6 secs, to get a diving stick, for example), and can swim forwards a bit with the support of a noodle or float using the doggy paddle.  I do almost no instruction with him as he doesn’t want it and is making slow but steady progress on his own.  At the start of this reivew period he had just started to make forward progress (inches).



Joseph enjoys participating in music, whether singing, “playing” piano, violin, or other instruments, and with us or by himself.  Again, he resists formal instruction, but learns a great deal from observing our rehearsals for leading worship at church or from my model of piano practice (in 2015 I started going through Suzuki book 1, doing 5 minutes during their morning snack.)  I answer his questions, but usually he’s happy on his own steam, reading through the hymnal, playing and singing at the keyboard, watching the numbers go by as a CD plays in the computer, getting out the instrument bin and marching around the bedroom directing his siblings, etc.  If he is in church for worship, he will join in the singing most of the time.

He sings song from memory, and alters the words as he feels like it.  Example: changing the Mickey Mouse clubhouse song to “J-o-s-e-p-h Andreas Stücklin!”

We learned Mary Had a Little Lamb (8 verses) as part of poetry memorization time and it’s also a Suzuki piano piece.  He sings the whole song and also improvises words to new verses.


Here’s an example of his singing – we were supposed to start together but he went off on his own.  We join in, then I get the giggles, so pardon the rest of the recording . . .


Since Advent we’ve resumed singing a hymn or two at our evening devotional.  Joseph often picks the hymn and joins in enthusiastically.



During this period Joseph and Vivienne have really started to engage in dramatic play, acting out scenes they have watched in videos or read in books, or making up their own (disjointed) stories.  I love this.  I loved it as a kid, and I love watching it now (though I don’t participate because I have too much to do . . .)

Posted by harp on Saturday, March 7, 2015 at 4:36 pm | Edit
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Vivienne loves pink, and Hello Kitty, and dresses, and Angelina Ballerina.  She loves all the cute stuff she got for her birthday, and carries her Hello Kitty bag with her everywhere.  She loves dressing up in her dresses and dancing to music.  It makes me happy.


She’s really learning to control her emotions and calm down when upset, though it’s not easy (on anyone).  I’m remembering what I wrote last time and realize it’s really gotten much better.  It’s the kind of growth you can hardly notice because some days are worse than others, but with a month or more of perspective the improvement is noticeable.


From our notes:


Vivienne loves books and retelling stories.  She’ll often talk so much when I’m reading her a book that it’s frustrating.  Once I took a little too much time taking a breath after she asked me to read a story, and she started off on her own.  She “read” the whole story to me without me saying a word!  She sometimes asks me to run my finger under the words as I read, so it seems the interest in really learning to read is growing.  She knows most if not all of the letters, and can find most if not all on the keyboard to (thanks to her brothers tutelage as she does ABCya.com games for media time.)


She can sometimes wake up at night on her own to pee, but still has a miss or two a week.  Progress is slow, but it still seems positive.


Vivienne bought Hagels with her money.  She’s been very generous with them, letting anyone have some whenever they want (though we only let them come out on Sunday mornings.)


Funny word play:

Janet: “That’s enough food to feed an army”

Vivienne: “Is that Narnia?” (She heard “an army” as “Narnia”)


Janet: “I put your rain gear in the shelf.”

Vivienne: “Where’s the raindeer?”


All Vivienne: “Du muesch nit my stuff grabbe!” (“You must not” in Swiss German, “my stuff” in English, “grabbe” the English word “grab” turned into a German sounding verb.)  This sort of mix up is very common, and absolutely hilarious.  She gets better every day, though, as her German improves.  (She rarely uses a German word when speaking English, except for weird cases like “Princess” is always the German word.)


“Mommy, I’m sad at you.”


Today Joseph and Vivienne wanted to go to the store to buy milk on their own.  I agreed to let them if I shadowed them from behind.  It was an adventure and major learning experience for us all.  They did lots of things right, but after all, they are only 3 and 4.  They got separated, and after keeping an eye on Vivienne, I couldn’t find Joseph.  It took long enough to find him that he had panicked and was crying, about to run out of the store thinking we’d gone.  I refused to help them, telling them I wasn’t really there (except for guiding a crying Joseph back to Vivienne and again at the check-out, when Joseph had no money . . .) which ended up with both of them in tears.  At that point I had them admit that they weren’t quite ready to go on their own so I’d really be with them the rest of the trip home (trip home – it’s just across the street!).  I’m so glad they were able to try when they had the enthusiasm, and I think Joseph learned the lesson of why it’s important to stick together better this way than with any sort of lecturing.

Posted by harp on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 at 1:33 pm | Edit
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