The Story About Ping

After taking a break for vacation Bible school, it was nice to be back to our schedule. The kids were extra excited about it and spent Monday morning reorganizing the basement school room so we could get started right away.

I chose to do the book “The Story About Ping,” which is about a duck on the Yangtze river who gets into trouble after he hides to avoid punishment for being the last duck on the boat. This book was written by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese in 1933, but it’s a classic.


Bo is covering the S he accidentally drew backwards.

We started the week by talking about family. Ping lives on the boat with a very large extended family, so we started by talking about what family really means. We discussed adoption and marriage and talked about how people don’t have to be related to you to be family.

They drew pictures of their family. Bo wasn’t sure who to include at first. “Our small family or the big family?”


Maggie's picture included baby Joe and mommy.


Bo drew crosses to show the family members that have died.

Both of them started by drawing Baby Joe, which I thought was really cute. Then Bo said his paper wasn’t big enough and he insisted he had no room for bodies – just heads. Then he drew my brother Joe and my uncle Joe (who he calls his Gruncle Joe). He kept adding heads and then when he drew anyone who has died, he drew a cross next to them.

Maggie’s drawings are starting to take form, which is fun to watch. She loves to draw and she takes great pride in her art.

After they finished their drawings, we constructed a family tree/pedigree of our family. We started with my parents and Patrick’s parents, and did all of our siblings and nieces and nephews. Since my family is so large, we had to keep it limited to those three generations. Our chalkboard would only hold that much and I had to keep moving Patrick’s side of the family over to make room for mine.



I would zoom in more but there are some secret baby names on there.

Bo really loved trying to remember who everyone was and what their children’s names were. It reminded me very much of my grandmother Oa who really values family trees.

We reviewed family relationships and saw them visually on the family tree. We counted all the aunts, uncles and cousins on our tree.

Finally, we ended by thanking God for family. Maggie said, “Dear God, thank you for my family because I love it.” And Bo said, “Dear God, thank you for making my family. I think you did a beautiful job.” So sweet.

On Tuesday, we reviewed the letter P. Maggie did her prewriting page and is doing so much better working independently on these. I had Bo try to draw the cover of the book and copy the title. He really liked that and even tried to make his letters fancy like they are on the book.


Then we reread the paragraph that counted Ping’s family members and we glued little pieces of paper to a chart to count them. I set Maggie on tearing up and then gluing 42 pieces of paper for his 42 cousins and Bo worked on the rest of the family. They loved using glue.



On Wednesday, Patrick taught them all about Jonah from the Bible. He narrated and drew pictures on the board. Bo was so intent and interested. He kept asking questions and predicting what was happening next.


Maggie thought the goggles looked great with her outfit.

Bo really loves whales, so we drew whales with Jonah in the belly. We also discussed how it could be a fish or a whale – that the Bible says fish but they didn’t differentiate between fish and whales when it was written.


Maggie wanted help drawing the whale, but then drew all kinds of things in the whale, including me.


Thursday was all about China. We used some YouTube videos to learn to count to ten in Mandarin. We looked at photos of the Great Wall, dragons and the Yangtze River which figures prominently in the story.

We practiced using chopsticks with trainers. I tried to teach them without the trainers, but they got very frustrated. Then we used them to put some pompoms in a baby food jar.



Then we made pretty simple paper lanterns so they could have some practice with using scissors. They were easy: fold a piece of paper in half, cut some straight lines starting at the fold and ending about an inch from the edge, unfold and roll up.



My super dramatic son pretending his needs his lantern to see in the dark.

Bo was really disappointed we didn’t do more with dragons, so we made dragons with paper bodies that come off the paper for some 3D flavor.


Maggie was happy with just this but Bo wanted more.


Bo added a tail and a head and wings.

The last thing we did was make a great feast of fried rice, spring rolls, fried tofu and fortune cookies.


Maggie's fortune is actually true!!

The kids helped me cut up water chestnuts and bamboo shoots for the fried rice.


And they really loved stealing veggies while I cooked. Maggie loves cucumbers and napa cabbage. And Bo was super excited about the tofu. Oh and the green tea with honey was a hit.


We also found China on the world map. The kids were so excited and kept saying it was the longest day of school ever.


Friday was our last day with Ping. We made it a water day. We discussed how ducks don’t get wet because they spread oil on their feathers. To illustrate this, we cut duck shapes out of a paper bag and coated one with vegetable oil. Then we sprinkled water on both. The water on the oiled duck beaded up and it soaked into the other duck.


Then we filled a bottle with three different liquids. We tested each of the three liquids first and tried to predict which one was the heaviest and would be on the bottom. The decided corn syrup would be on the bottom.


We added red food coloring to the water for fun.


The corn syrup and water mixed, so our final bottle only had two layers, which was disappointing. But the kids like to shake the bottle up. I asked them to predict what would happen if we let it sit after shaking it up and Bo said he thought it would separate into the layers again. He watched intently until it stated to happen and was so excited when he was right.

My kids already knew that eggs sink, so I asked them what we could do to make them float. We discussed density and and I suggested we add salt to the water to change its density. They were amazed when the egg floated in the salt water.


Stirring in the salt


And the floating egg!

We also related this back to the beach and the salt water there.

Then we wanted to test a set of other objects too see if they floated or sank. We predicted what would happen before each object and then placed them on a sheet according to their results.



Bo kept suggesting further tests. What happens when we fill the objects with water? What if we put all the objects in the bowl – will it still float? Love that scientific brain. Maggie was still better at predicting if an object will float though.

We ended the week by going out on the boat with the whole family and selling out some water birds to observe. We saw ducks, geese,  one cormorant and one great blue heron. It was a beautiful afternoon and we had a great time chasing birds.




Daddy is never happier than when his whole family is on the boat with him and a line is in the water.


Dear Luna

Dear Luna,

You would be 16 months old this month.

You would be cruising all over the place and eating everything in sight.

You would be laughing and smiling and playing with your siblings.

You would be doing crazy things that defy explanation and logic while also making it impossible for me to scold you without laughing.

You would be wearing cute little bathing suits with ruffles and bows and sunscreen.

Or you could be wheelchair bound due to your Turner Syndrome. You could be a 24-hour concern, requiring my every ounce of energy but worth every exhausted moment.

I would be anxious about your every breath instead of mine. I would be worried about every cough and cold and rash and scrape and ache. I would hover and over-protect and flip out. I would yell at people staring at you and threaten kids who weren’t polite.

I miss you. And I mourn the fact that I don’t have you. The fact that there was this little piece of me living in this world who I didn’t get to nurture and hug.

I mourn that Maggie has missed out on having a baby sister and partner in crime.  She misses you too. And is often sad about it, but I learn so much from her. When she says she is sad about you, the very next thing she says is that she will see you in heaven when she dies.

You are such a part of this family. I have four children – not three. I delivered you just as painfully and joyfully as I delivered Bo, Maggie and Joe. I did hold you for a moment. I did kiss your tiny hand. I did get to say goodbye.

I owe you some thanks. Thank you for teaching me that every soul means something. Thank you for teaching me that I can be brave in the face of loss. Thank you for teaching me not to take things for granted.

Thank you for Joe. I would not have Joe if I had not lost you first. I would not appreciate Joe or be as patient with Joe if I had not lost you first.

I would not understand my mother’s love for me – the child born after loss – without first losing you.

I know for sure that having you and losing you was all part of God’s plan. I know without a doubt that this all happened the way it was supposed to. But it still hurts and I am still sad. I still wish things could be different. But different in a way that would allow me to have Joe too.

Mostly, Luna, I love you. I love you without knowing you. I love you without meeting you. I love you completely. I love you in a way that I can’t explain.

Give my daddy, my sister and my brothers big hugs and kisses for me. You are a lucky little girl to be there with such a crowd of amazing people.

Your Momma


This was the story I wanted to do last week with the Fourth of July, but it worked out better to do Blueberries for Sal instead. Fireboat by Maira Kalman is about the real life fireboat called the John J. Harvey from New York City. Built in the 1930’s and retired in the 90’s, the Harvey came out of retirement on 9/11 to help fight fires and save lives.

On Monday, we practiced with our letter F. We wrote them on the board and Maggie did a prewriting worksheet. Then we listed as many words as we could think of that started with F. (The word “fart” got a lot of giggles.) We finished the letter F activities with a F scavenger hunt.


She still needs some help.

Then we went back to our basement school room and talked about timelines. We constructed one on the board starting in 1930 and ending in 2020. We found 2014 and practiced how to say what year it is. This was difficult because big numbers like 90’s and 80’s are numbers we hadn’t really covered before.


Then I took suggestions from Maggie and Bo for dates to put on our timeline. Our birth years. When mommy and daddy got married. Even put grandparents’ birthdays and great grandmother Oa’s birthday on the timeline. Bo thought it was weird how everything was clustered in one area of the timeline.

Then we opened the book and found the major dates in the history of the Harvey and added those to our timeline too.

We made smaller timelines on paper for each of them starting with the year they were born and ending with 2014. Bo noticed that he had more events on his than Maggie did. Again, the years were hard because the numbers were big.


On Tuesday, we learned all about David and Goliath. In the book, the Harvey is retired and considered pretty useless, but ended up being needed on 9/11. So I had them tell me how the two stories were similar. Bo had a memorized answer to what the story of David and Goliath teaches us: “Nothing is impossible with God.” So we ran with it. I think Maggie was having a harder time with it, but eventually she said she wanted to be brave like David.

They drew pictures of David and Goliath and I had them repeat the story back to me using their pictures.


Bob's handiwork

Maggie noticed the size difference between David and Goliath, so we reviewed the big/small lesson from last week and sorted buttons according to size.


Also mentioned in the book was the word “hot-cha” which led too discussion on nonsense words, so we spent probably too much time coming up with words for things. Bo was very good at this. A great big storm is called a “wundow” and Baby Joe’s squirming can be described as “woogely-boogely.” Maggie took some prompting but when I asked her to come up with a word for how smart daddy is she said “sum art.” When I said that smart is already a word, sh said “No! Suuuuumart.”

Also, Bo noticed that there were a lot of lists in the book, sho we practiced making lists of things. We talked about grocery lists and wish lists and Christmas lists. Then we listed things we love. That was a full day and one where I let them take lead and explore.

On Wednesday, I let daddy teach them all about boats. I thought at first that he was teaching over their heads, but Bo was really into it and even Maggie has repeated things she learned that day.  We acted out rowing and steering and driving a boat. Maggie loved that.



He took them on a historical tour of the design of boats starting with canoes and moving on through lots of different boats. They learned terms like johnboat, runabout and center console. We also differentiated between displacement boats and planing boats.

Then we used a picture boat to identify some of the boats in Fireboat. Ocean liners. Tugboats. Things like that.


We took a field trip out to the garage and got in daddy’s runabout and learned boat vocab like bow and stern and all that. The kids really liked being in the boat and really seemed to be into learning the vocabulary.


On Thursday, we learned all about NYC. We looked at lots of photos of things like the Twin Towers, Times Square, the Empire State Building, Central Park and the George Washington Bridge. I will admit that I partially cheated by letting them watch “Enchanted” – a movie they love so they could identify the landmarks we went over.

We talked about the foods too (big deli sandwiches, big floppy pizzas, hot dogs and bagels) but Bo insisted that we have those foods too so it can’t be special about NYC.

Friday morning, we continued with NYC and talked about 9/11. They built skyscrapers with Legos. We looked at photos of 9/11 and talked about what would happen to a building if a plane ran into it. We prayed for people who died and who had family die that day. We talked about being trapped and that led into a discussion about heroes.


We moved pretty seamlessly into talking about public servants like doctors, fire fighters and police officers. We borrowed some dress up uniforms from a friend and they each dressed up as something. Then we talked about what they would do in case of a tragedy like 9/11. They loved this. We prayed again and thanked God for them.


Officer Korn



I had every intention of having them do some exploration of who their heroes were and stuff like that, but having had a rough week personally I felt like they had done enough.

This week we are taking the week off so we can reinforce their Vacation Bible School lessons instead. After that, we will be studying The Story About Ping.

Broken Hearted

Everyone grieves differently. If I had a penny for every time I have heard that in the past four years, I would, well…I’d have a whole lot of pennies.

Yes, I get it. I won’t process things the same way as my husband, my mother, my sister and my brothers.

And I think I have nailed down how I have chosen to deal with losing a brother, a baby, a sister and my father in less than four years. My grief has manifested itself as irrational anxiety regarding my health and the health of my loved ones.

In other words, this is a conversation I have with myself often:
“Ouch! My arm aches!”
“Oh no…is that a sign of something bigger?”
“Like what?”
“Osteosarcoma. Myocardial infarction. Arthritis. Osteomyelitis. A million things!!”
“Are you sure it is not from the three hours I spent pulling weeds in the yard yesterday? Or the baby I carry around 24 hours a day?!”
“Psh. No way. Oh! Is that chest pressure? I am leaning toward a heart attack.”

And on and on and on it goes. I begin to convince myself that my body is trying to tell me something and I become hyperattentive to all the little aches, pains, twangs and twinges I feel. I convince myself I have chest pains or that those twinges and cramps are signs of cancer.

I start to outline all my imaginary symptoms to Patrick so that he can report them accurately to the ER doctors when I fall over unconscious.

So I spend my life in constant fear of dying. I know what it feels like lose a parent and I see what it has done to my nephews to lose their mother. I don’t want my children to feel that. To know that hurt.

I feel like there is a tiny beast curled up in the space where my heart used to be and it bites me now and then to remind me to be afraid. At least once a day.

Part of me wants to ignore it. This anxiety is a result of my grief. I need to breathe deeply, relax and everything will be fine. You are imagining it, Katie.

Then I think that I am ignoring my body. My dad spent the whole day before his heart attack feeling sick and promising that he’d see the doctor if he still felt bad in the morning. Would he still be here if he had listened to what his body was telling him?

My grief is no longer predictable or reasonable. I feel like I have slipped in something sticky and the more I struggle, the more of this junk I get on me. And it’s keeping me down on the floor because it’s too sticky to pull myself up.

The accumulation of my losses has really started to chip away at my sensibilities.

Then this morning, at 5 o’clock after I put my sweet baby Joe back to bed, I decided I was going to ignore my sleepy eyes and study my Bible. According to my notebook, the last time I had a good and thorough exegetical study was the day that Joe was born. Maybe here is part of the problem? And I clearly didn’t finish it as I stopped in the middle of a paragraph. Galatians 2 and I stopped in the middle of verse 17.

So I picked up where I left off.

Business as usual until I got to verse 20. “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.”

Forgive me for taking this verse out of the context of the passage which is talking about being justified by faith and not by the Law. My husband would (rightly) hang me by my toes. But I read that and thought about my current stage of anxiety…

This life is not my own. I was so willing to admit that when I was trying to mourn the loss of my daughter Luna – that I didn’t own her and that God had every right to take her from me. I even remember praying daily when I got pregnant for the first time that I would accept whatever happened to him because he was a gift from God and not something I was owed. So why did do I feel so differently about my own life?

When I chose to live my life for Christ, I died. I already died. The person writing this right now is a work that God will continue to improve on my whole life. In fact, in verse 19 it says “for through the law, I have died to the law so that I might live to God.” All the church and ministry and prayers and studying that I do, that is an expression of love to a God who made it so that I don’t have to do all those things to get to heaven. And if God wants me to die, it should be my joy to do so.

I have lost sight of that love. I resented the loss of my father especially. I was angry. I was so angry that I couldn’t pray as much as I used to because my favorite way to start a prayer was “Father in heaven” and now my father is in heaven…so it hurt to say that. It was like I was giving God the silent treatment. And if I am being fully transparent, I am still reluctant to fall into his arms the way I need to. It’s like I am talking to him, but I won’t hold his hand. Instead of the warm and affectionate “Father in heaven” I use a more distant “sovereign Lord.”

Then I thought of my love for my husband and children – the love that makes me afraid to die because I don’t want to leave them behind. The love that makes me anxious that I will discover some sort of mysterious terminal illness. And verse 20 tells me what kind of love Christ has for me – “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself up for me.” Would I give up my life for my children? Absolutely. Would I sacrifice myself for my husband? In a heartbeat. But why am I afraid to let God choose that for me?

You know, Christ also was anxious about his death on the cross. He prayed fervently that God would choose a different way, knowing all the time that He wouldn’t. My husband mentioned something to me the other day about how God knowingly designed the human wrist, full of sensitive nerves and ligaments. He designed the wrist knowing that Christ would one day feel a nail driven straight through those intricate and painful nerves. Christ knew exactly the nature of his death and he still accepted it.

And so it is with a more human hesitance that I try to accept that God’s will for me may WILL include death.

I am not saying that I am magically no longer anxious. Because I still am. But I am working on focusing on the ultimate goal here which is not me. It is not even my husband or children. My ultimate goal is to live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me.

Pray for me to be able to remember that when my anxieties creep up on me and that beast in my chest where my heart used to be bites me.

Blueberries for Sal

Again with a late update. This week was a little busy because my husband and soon were participating in a summer wrestling camp at MACA until lunchtime. We had to save school for after naps which didn’t leave us too much time for much.

I moved our schedule around a bit so that we could go blueberry picking during this week and do the book Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCoskey. We love this book for its clever story about a girl and get mother who encounter a bear cub and his mother while picking blueberries.

Our first day was a little minimal so that we could run out to have dinner with family. We talked about the letter B and worked on some pre-writing exercises with Maggie. Last week I said she wasn’t interested in doing these or trying to stay on the lines but this week was a completely different story. She has really been working hard at it. Practiced writing B’s on the board and Bo practiced his lowercase b’s as well. We talked about the sound that B makes and listed a bunch of words that start with B. “Bo!” “Bear!” “Bed!”

Then the edition of the book we own came with a CD of songs and activities which we did. The changed some popular songs to feature bears and blueberries like “Here we Go Round the Blueberry Bush” and “Ten Little Blueberries.” Maggie, just having gotten up from her nap was a little reluctant to participate, but Bo was all over it. I took lots of pictures but then switched phones and can’t find them.

We took a break on Tuesday so that could go out to eat with my mother.

On Wednesday, we concentrated on the parables from Luke 19 – the Lost Coin, the Lost Sheep and the Prodigal Son. Patrick told them the parables and we talked about what parables are for. We reviewed a bit about symbolism that we discussed last week.


Patrick explaining to them the parables.

We hid a coin and had them search for it. We did this a few times and then they were pretty bored with it. 


Bo proudly displaying his coin. And his mohawk.

We then acted out the Prodigal Son, which was pretty interesting with a four year old and a two year old. It was more like readers theatre or probably more accurately repeat-after-me theatre. But they liked it and they really liked running throughout the house to find props.

We talked about being lost or found. Then we made paper “hugs” Because they really liked the part of the story where the father greets the Lost Son with a hug. Maggie decorated hers and Bo wrote “found” on the inside of his because he wanted to be sure that everyone knew he was found and not lost.



Bo took this picture himself.

On Thursday we talked about differences.  We started with bigger than/smaller than. In the story, there is a small girl with her bigger mom and a small bear with his bigger mom. The story also compares the size of Sal and her mom’s buckets and compares the amounts of blueberries they picked. So we moved from size to number – greater than/less than.

I made them little Pac-man style monsters that they could use to practice figuring out which was greater than the other. There were a few different worksheets I made them. One with dots they had to count, one with numbers and one with shapes of different sizes. They were very excited to put googly eyes on their monsters too.



Then we saw that the mouths of their monsters were very much like the greater than/less than sign (does that sign have a proper name?) and we practiced that on the board. We only did this briefly because I honestly don’t think the sign is the important part.


The last thing discussed this day was how some things can weigh more than something else and that is different from overall size. We constructed a scale out of a dowel rod and two baggies. Then predicted which object would be heavier and then we tested. A little intro to the scientific method, of course. Maggie is ornery and would always pick opposite of Bo even if Bo presented a good case. But they liked it.



Friday morning was a beautiful, breezy, warm day and was perfect to go blueberry picking. We went with my mom (Nana) and it just so happened to be her birthday, so practiced our B sounds and made her birthday cards. I found a little tin pail like the one in the book and we let Maggie carry that to put berries in.



There is a lot of onomatopoeia in the story, so we dropped blueberri
es in the pail to see if it sounded like it does in the book: kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk. And we talked about other words like that. Drip drop. Flip flop.

I had every intention of making a bean bag toss but had a busy week and with the fourth of July we had a good time with family instead. We baked some blueberry buckle together and that was enough for us!


Next week is Fireboat by Maira Kalman.  Looking forward to a normal(ish) week.