Monday, July 14, 2014

CSA 2014 Weeks 4, 5, and 6

Continuing the CSA saga, above is the photo of my last pick up in June. Pictured are kale, turnips, chives, broccoli, peas, red cabbage, two red leaf lettuce, and escarole. Please note that there are two chives, as I felt compelled to swap my fennel for a chive from the swap box. I am not ready to try fennel yet as it smells like licorice which is not my favorite flavor. I will try it some day, however, when my resolve grows steelier, or when I steal it (my resolve that is, not the fennel). Also note, there is no kohlrabi. This was an oversight, as I was supposed to collect it, but it got missed because I was scatterbrained. Possibly the effect of the fennel.

My cat would like to introduce this next CSA photo. Pictured here is the first week of July's haul. There is 1/2 gallon of apple cider, basil, two lettuce,cauliflower, zucchini, spicy leaf lettuce blend in a bag, green cabbage, garlic scapes, green onions, radicchio and blue and raspberries (mostly eaten on the way home by the troupe). Not seen here are some Blackcurrants, which were not enough to turn into anything jammish and I'm not really sure what to do with. Also, note that there are now three kohlrabi. I asked nicely about getting one since I had missed it the week before, and the kindly young lady brought me three. I thought she meant for me to pick one of them, but she put all three in my bag. Included in the picture is a hidden secret. That Cooler everything is on? It's totally packed with peas. That week was all you could pick peas included in the share! We would have picked more except we had to go to another engagement. We ate quite a bit of those peas fresh, and the rest I blanched and froze for stirfry.

Here's some pictures of the family doing U-pick that weekend:

 The following weekend, last weekend, I made a stop at Meadowbrook farms and picked up some (hopefully) fertilized eggs for my mother's broody hen to sit on. The funny thing is that Meadowbrook is the farm that adopted our roosters! So the eggs might be their progeny.

My Mom's Broody Hen
Ducky, Lord Ruler Supreme...

...not to be confused with Ducks.

 Then I went to the other farm. The Fishkill Farms one. I U-picked (I-Picked?) the blueberries (one pint) and the green beans. I picked up red onions, kale, radicchio, red lettuce, green lettuce, leaf celery, carrots, 2 zukes, and a few apricots. They came home in a basket next to me in the van. I will bring the basket again next week as it was much easier to transport than the bags.

Other things I did, but are not pictured here- I went to Ithaca with Kalah and we went to a little farm market. Among other sundries, I bought a bushel of pickling cukes, which I turned into... pickles, 10 quarts. Kalah and I made an attempt at turning much of the remaining CSA produce into more veggie pickles this evening. 5 quarts of those. We'll see how it all tastes after a few weeks mellowing out in the pantry!

Monday, June 23, 2014

CSA 2014 Weeks 1, 2, and 3

Back in March I paid for a Large CSA Share for the 2014 season. I paid $950. This was difficult to come up with all at once. I am trying to pay back my savings account from my grocery budget and then I will try to put money aside to do this again next year. I consider it not just well worth it for the food, but also for the education about seasonal eating, learning to like new things and learning how to cook them or preserve them and sharing them with the kids. Pick ups began the first week of June.

CSA first week pick up was great. I left the kids with Rachel and ran out to see how this worked. My friend Georgia happened to be there at the same time and excitedly gave me a tour of the little system. Essentially there are two shelves, one for the large and one for the smaller share and you sign off your name and read the little labels on the shelf to pick one or two of whatever it says is in your share this week.

The first week was a lot of green things. 2 head of lettuce, chives, bok choi, a bag of baby spinach, kale, little white turnips, a little pint of early strawberries and a gallon of Apple cider. I used the swap box and traded for the half gallon of cider someone left behind. I think I left lettuce. In case someone else just didn't get enough.

On our share email were directions on how to freeze cider you have too much of. In our house this is never a problem. I can't imagine a universe where this is an issue.

Week two. I took people with me. Everyone to be inexact. And I got my mom and brother and sister on the way. Because I needed help. Share included two heads of lettuce, a Lb of baby bok choi, Green onions,Kale,  more little turnips. Two bags of storage apples and an offensive thing called "cilantro" which is no longer welcome in my home. There was also a Quart of strawberries, but they were eaten in the car so voraciously that even the little paper container was shredded in the best tradition of  velociraptors.

Also I bought more stuff:
Kale was on sale, so of course. More of it. Storage apples were 20 Lbs for $20. I sauced these. They are delicious. I want to see if there are any left this coming Friday for more such sauciness. Snow peas also cheap in season. I think the bag was about a dollar. What wan't cheep was the U-pick strawberries. What you see on the table is about $45 of them, about $6/ Lb! I tried to turn them into Jam but I misjudged the thickness and the jam is too sweet and thick. I may cook it again with some apple and see if it does any better. but I learned a lot. And Robbie tried to eat apples. Which was pretty cute. He kept running away with them like he thought he would get into trouble.


Week three I just took Libby and left everyone else home with Chris in the afternoon. We had some U-pick strawberries with our share and went out to the field for our quart. This time I didn't buy any extras and we ate them all fresh to save me all the work of preserving them.

Another welcome gallon of cider, two heads of lettuce, garlic scapes, a little broccoli, Chinese cabbage, parsley, green onions, beets, Swiss chard, the Qt of strawberries. I also purchased two basil plants you can kind of see on the messy counter above. Robbie is sampling the lettuce.

I'm looking forward to wk 4!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Full Sized Answer to Prayer

The Mothership

A year ago, God answered a prayer, and I've been meaning to share the tale. Here it is now.

Our story begins with an odd smell and a funny noise on a long country road near a place called Wanaksink, New York.

It was clearly engine trouble, thanks to that helpful little indicator light on our Ford station wagon's console. We'd bought it used when we had our first baby and needed a little more room- Chris' Neon was a 2-door, and my Escort was a 4-door only in name -- in practice, the back doors wouldn't unlock to open anymore, which made getting people in and out of the back seat interesting and moving a baby car seat in and out pretty much on par with a houdini contortion exercise. So we'd let go of the escort (it had been mine, from my Dad when I first was driving to work) donating it with all of it's interesting little quirks (Jiggle the shifter before you start it...) to a charity and waving goodbye. We had recently had a bout of repair attempts on Chris' Neon, and the fixes had mounted to the point that we were pretty sure age had totaled it for us. Another donation tow truck had carted it off too. We'd gotten a minivan to accommodate our family when we had outgrown the station wagon. But we'd left the family at home with sitters for the weekend, so it was just us, on a crazy adventure, alone, with only baby Penny. The minivan needed some work done and so it was sitting in the driveway. We would deal with that when we got back.

And now the station wagon was pretty much out of commission. We weren't sure it would go another mile and we were pretty sure we were too far from any signs of civilization. So it was nothing short of miraculous to find a town ahead with a campground sign as it's only offering to the passing travelers. It wasn't much, but we took it because we didn't have any other options at this point aside from hope for a station, somewhere. We went along pretty slowly as Chris tried to nurse it without completely ending our engine.

Lo and behold, the mechanic's had a rental car service. I found it odd because it was hardly a destination location- no trains, planes, or buses, no businesses nearby. But we'd happened to land the one place we could find some wheels. We rented a car, packed the baby into it and continued to our weekend homeschool conference. Along the way we talked about the costs of engine replacement versus getting a new-used car to replace our second vehicle.

"What if we don't replace it?" I remember asking.

Penny in the hotel on our trip to Rochester in 2012

I wouldn't have a car while Chris had it on workdays, of course. But if there was anything I really wanted to do, we could drop him off at work so we could use the car and pick him up after. We were filling up every seat in the minivan anyway. Sam's legs were outgrowing the seating in the back of the minivan and the baby carseats were all jam packed with the kid booster seats. We would need a bigger car, not another little one. So why not wait to buy and save up our cash?

We went with that idea. When we got back, we had the minivan fixed, we had the station wagon scrapped and taken off the insurance. I stayed home more and I really kinda liked it. I tend towards being a hermit- even when I'm out and about, I like my space and I'm socially awkward. I like you I just don't know how to be likable or something. I know some people call this being introverted, but I'm hyper self aware and I think that's a character hazard in me, because I need to be more focused on others and less on myself. Still, having more time at home helped me to improve my parenting, my housekeeping methods and perspective and I think it was a good season.

Where would we stow one more kid? Don't mind the toothpaste on the mirror.

Penny was about two and we were expecting again. Now there was clearly a time limit on how long we'd fit in our seven passenger mini van. Every evening, we prayed as a family for God to provide the right full sized van.  We had only managed to save $5,000. But the full sized used vans we were seeing ran over $20,000. And most were very bare bones- no AC or carpet or interior door paneling.

We kept praying and we kept looking.

God doubled our money with a bonus and sizable tax return. But it still seemed only half of what we needed. The due date was coming. In fact, we were due to have Robbie any moment. We would either need a loan or have to by a small used car and start an actual caravan when traveling as a family. Chris said, no, we would not go in debt for this car. We are not called to keep being in debt. We kept praying but we didn't know how God was going to provide double the money again.

Instead, He halved the price!

My Dad was watching Craig's List for us and came across a clean, privately owned Ford E350 XLT (the XLT meant all the trimmings!) for almost exactly what we had in the savings account for the van! We test drove it and it felt like just the thing. What was the hook? Well, it had liens on it. I believe the price reflected the likely difficulty of selling a vehicle that wasn't paid off yet. Chris was patient even in the face of silly name calling from the seller (Chris is a nervous Nellie, apparently. That's what you get for being thorough and careful); Chris just distrusted handing over the cash would mean a payment of the loan or that the bank would clear it from the title properly before the transfer. We considered just backing away from the purchase, except we knew what a rare find and a good price we were looking at from months spent looking at the going rates. Thanks to that body of experience, we decided to pursue the buy. Chris walked through the paperwork one step at a time and asked for signed agreements and paid the loan, then paid the seller the difference and had the title transferred completely lien-free!

For the first time in our married life, we have purchased a vehicle debt free from day one. God provided. He asked us to be faithful with what we had and he doubled it. He asked us to do without for a time and even made doing without a blessing in itself. He asked us to wait even when it seemed we were out of time- but He extended our time with a late arrival! He even went over the top and gave us more than just the bare necessities.

It's so bright out here in the world.

 He's always done this- provided just what we need just in the moment we need it. I want to be anxious for nothing, I want to be like the people (my Dad, the generous managers at work, my mom who drove us in her full sized van once a week, my sister who babysat while we van hunted etc) who participated in being a blessing to us as part of God's answer to prayer. I actually am glad our engine died on the day it did, because I'm so excited about what He did in my heart and how He provided something better. I'm so glad our kids got to see the answer to our prayer pulled into the driveway.

Of course, my heart knows that many of God's beloved (everyone is beloved of God!) around the world today have no vehicle and many of them, no way to maintain and fuel one if they wanted one. They have problems much more basic than personal modes of travel.  I look at the way I'm blessed and I cry out in prayer for those who have unmet needs. I try to be an answer to those needs in the ways I can practically be. I also know He is working out His kingdom in their hearts and lives too.

Because... Cat on the internet.

So, I don't want this testimony to be misconstrued as the Joel Osteen brand of prosperity gospel "Pray for a swimming pool and someone will show up to install it for free! Just ask God!" No. But, if we are doing what He's called us to, seeking after His righteousness, and we need something to perform the work He's called us to, we are invited to make our *needs* known to God. And we can trust that He will provide for us according to His will, either the thing we seek or another way to accomplish what is needed or a clearer idea of what is actually needed. And we can watch and be surprised by the unexpected ways He shows up in our lives. Even when it seems He's not answering the way we'd like, or not coming through on our time table. He's heard you and He has it worked out, just be faithful and trust and have eyes to see.

Workin on it

From Matthew 6:19-34
“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

And Proverbs 22
Choose a good reputation over great riches;
being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.

The rich and poor have this in common:
The Lord made them both.

A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions.
The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

True humility and fear of the Lord
lead to riches, honor, and long life.

Corrupt people walk a thorny, treacherous road;
whoever values life will avoid it.

Direct your children onto the right path,
and when they are older, they will not leave it.

Just as the rich rule the poor,
so the borrower is servant to the lender.

Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster,
and their reign of terror will come to an end.

Blessed are those who are generous,
because they feed the poor.

Throw out the mocker, and fighting goes, too.
Quarrels and insults will disappear.

Whoever loves a pure heart and gracious speech
will have the king as a friend.

The Lord preserves those with knowledge,
but he ruins the plans of the treacherous.

The lazy person claims, “There’s a lion out there!
If I go outside, I might be killed!”

The mouth of an immoral woman is a dangerous trap;
those who make the Lord angry will fall into it.

A youngster’s heart is filled with foolishness,
but physical discipline will drive it far away.

A person who gets ahead by oppressing the poor
or by showering gifts on the rich will end in poverty.

Listen to the words of the wise;
apply your heart to my instruction.

For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart
and always ready on your lips.

I am teaching you today—yes, you—
so you will trust in the Lord.

I have written thirty sayings for you,
filled with advice and knowledge.

In this way, you may know the truth
and take an accurate report to those who sent you.

Don’t rob the poor just because you can,
or exploit the needy in court.
For the Lord is their defender.
He will ruin anyone who ruins them.

Don’t befriend angry people
or associate with hot-tempered people,

or you will learn to be like them
and endanger your soul.

Don’t agree to guarantee another person’s debt
or put up security for someone else.

If you can’t pay it,
even your bed will be snatched from under you.

Don’t cheat your neighbor by moving the ancient boundary markers
set up by previous generations.

Do you see any truly competent workers?
They will serve kings
rather than working for ordinary people.

To mother is to repeat yourself is to mother.

I just had my hearing tested. I made a special request at my checkup to have it done because I feel like I can't hear anyone. Like they are mumbling at me. And so, I thought, maybe I am going deaf. Maybe my hearing is not quite what it should be. But it tested out great and my practitioner looked inside and said there's no blockages, looks all clean and healthy. So here's what I'm really thinking. Everyone mumbles.

They do it because they're lazy. They're to lazy to speak out clearly. Forming and articulating words is too much trouble to go to. You would have to move your tongue and lips and jaw and cheeks and make air come out at a reasonable rate. It's complicated. Too complicated when some murmuring and grunting and caveman pointing might get what you want.

They do it because they're rushing. Because going into the space where the person you want to communicate with and looking them in the face and being still instead of speaking while in transit is just going to tak etoo much time.

They do it because they are uncertain of the message or themselves. Maybe they are worried that the reaction to what they have to say will be undesirable so they almost don't want to say it at all leading to lack of intentionality.

They do it because they want to say they informed me, but they really don't want to talk about it. Or because it's bad news they really don't want to own up to their part of.

They do it because it's a habit. Because that's how they always talk.

They do it because they don't gauge ambient noise well such as fans and running water.

They mumble because I mumble and they communicate like I do.

(*Old post from my drafts folder)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Life Eutectics

So today I'd like to talk about eutectics. I'm not much of a chemist, but there was some empirical knowledge I gained from working with ceramics, and one of these concepts-in-practice was called eutectics. You can look up eutectic on wikipedia and be dazzled by charts about it and possibly grasp the theory far better than I can explain it, but I'm going to try to put it in a nutshell anyway. The idea is that you can take two or more materials that generally melt at a temperature too high for you to maintain, but when they are together, these particular substances have a lower melting point than they would separately. There may be good reason for this, but to me this still seems like an easter egg in the universe's programing. Surprise!

This concept in mind, I'm just thinking about life at my house lately. Four days a week my sister brings my best friend's two kids here with her. She's being paid (fairly, but not terribly much) to look after them, and I'm offering a place for them to spread out and do school and play and interact with my own kids (They are living at their grandparents' house, which is partly under construction inside and can be a little limiting for little ones.) They eat here, study, play, bathe, etc. With my own 6 kids we were already kinda nutty. So you might expect chaos.

And yet (apart from cabin fever setting in while we wait for spring. . .) the opposite seems to be the case. It's not easy, but things are more functional than ever at my house. Expecting others most of the week forces me into a routine and to prepare myself and my home. It forces me to simplify my expectations of my day. And yet, at the same time, I usually get more done than I ever had in the past, because Rachel is here to help hold the baby or wash dishes or marshal the kids through cleaning up after themselves etc. I help with Willow and Lilly and she helps with my kids, her nieces and nephews, and there's no real division of child care in that bigger sense (although there are some things she regularly handles and does transport them here). Finally I'm not just being tag teamed by kids, but passing the baton with someone else during the weekdays. I'm able to sort through a bin of clutter that used to sit for a month, to keep up with the laundry, to move things in and out of storage and rearrange furnishings, to run an errand during business hours and so on. Even more exciting to me, I spend more time with my sister and I feel I know her so much better. I'm constantly impressed with how she patiently and loving interacts with the kids, consistently corrects them and keeps her cool in front of them. We talk, and I'm so excited to communicate with another adult in daylight. I'm so glad to be able to help Kalah with her kids and to help Rachel with her sitting job and I know Kalah is excited that her sitter is able to help me.

This is like the perfect storm. I don't know how long it will last, but it's an arrangement I'm so glad for at this time in my life. The eutectic is the three of us coming togetherand finding that somehow the math works out less taxing for each of us. We're still each asking something of each other, but we're each giving too, and there's some hidden secret that's making each of our lives work out together.

Now if I could just find the secret to perpetual motion.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Who numbers the days

To my sweet tummy dweller-

We have been waiting for a long time for you. I have been frustrated not knowing what day your birth will be on, but today I think that there are many things I do not know, things only God knows of you, hidden things: the moment of your conception, the days your life on this earth will count to, the hour you will come to call Jesus your Lord, the time of your baptism, the day you may marry on, and even the days of your possible children's conceptions and their births and future possibilities. The cascading written futures are all God's and I have been foolish to be anxious for knowing this one. It is a joy to be your mother and I am glad of your life within me.

I do look forward to kissing your face soon while I take comfort in knowing that it is God who numbers all of our days.

I love you.
Love, mommy <3

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Learning to Teach: Pre-Reading

Lately a various people have asked me how I teach reading to my kids. After yakking it out a couple of times, I've come to realize there is somewhat of a rhyme to my reason, even if it's not a system, per se. I also thought that maybe it would be helpful to others who are teaching little ones. Or know little ones. Or maybe are way past ever being interested in raising kids but just like reading about me and my ongoing adventures. I love you guys too.

First, a disclaimer- I'm not a certified anything in this field. I don't know what to do with kids who are exceptions to any rules or whatever. I'm sure I'm missing something someone considers vital. I'm just not that worried about it since I'm three kids into this reading thing so far (two more on their way to reading) and it's going swimmingly. I'm sure I'll eat my humble pie and have some of my own issues to get over with each individual. Every kid is a unique person with unique needs and as their parent you are best equipped to be sensitive to those needs as they are ever changing and to adjust accordingly. If you ever feel overwhelmed about it there are always resources and experts to check with but it's usually over-kill and nothing that worrisome if you stick with something and love on your kids.

So before there is reading, there is pre-reading. The number of skill sets to identify with pre-reading might be overwhelming, since in a way it starts with language and identification and the whole miracle of the mind of an infant who is interpreting her whole world through her sensory input. First she is learning to identify things, not just as objects in her field of vision, but as interactive objects in space that each have qualities associated with them. She's comprehending spacial relationships, time and change, experiencing emotional connections with the world around her, and generally building up a sense library. And if you're like most of us, as a parent you are talking to her all the while. So she is gradually building associations between the sounds you make and these sensory experiences. The repeated ones reinforce connections in her mind, and as she starts experimenting with sound making and motion making she herself favors repetition, reinforcing what she's learned in her own practice, even if it's just a single syllabic noise or random raspberry sound she's learned to produce.

Pretty soon she's understanding a lot of what is being said around her, or at least picking out the things that are pertinent to her experience. Given time, she begins playing with those word noises herself, and the more success she has in responses to those word noises, the more certain she is of their meaning.

A couple of years later (or even as late as three or four years is not abnormal), when she's forming words and little sentences, then she's taking command of her language and realizing that others can be made to understand her. All the while ever since the earliest time, I hope, you've been reading with her. Together, hold a book appropriate to her development stage and just read.

The first concepts about books will just be as objects. Things that can be carried, pages that can be turned, bright colors. At some point the photos or illustrations will become recognizable icons, thanks to pointing and naming. Because, let's face it, a house is not the same thing as a picture of a house. So what they've began to learn is that an image can stand for an actual object.

Now as you've been reading with them, they've also begun to realize that certain books prompt certain stories to be told, so that the same book consistently causes you to to tell them the same story. If a favorite story is read often enough, they may even begin to memorize some of it. Just like they like to reinforce language skills by being (sometimes painfully) repetitive, they may also often bring you the same books without any concern that they've already heard it a dozen times today. Be as patient as possible with this, as long as they are engaged and genuinely interested.

In addition to reading picture books with them, let them hear you reading aloud more advanced chapter books. Let them enjoy quality stories without worrying about laboring to read yet. Let them see you enjoy reading quietly to yourself. All this will help your little one to have a desire to participate and become literate too. You may not think of yourself as a reader or think it's your favorite hobby, but you need to model it, and model an enjoyment for it in order to encourage them.

When they start being interested in singing along with you, (which may be long before they speak words, since they love to hear and dance to music!) begin teaching them popular alphabet songs. As much as is reasonable, supply them with letter games and toys. Be careful not to just teach them the letter names, but more specifically the basic letter sounds. Just like they have learned that a picture of a dog stands for an actual dog, and especially if they can be prompted to tell you that a dog says 'woof' or 'bow-wow' or whatever onomatopoeia you elect, they will be ready to accept that a symbol 'letter' represents a certain sound. This sound learning is the most commonly understood 'pre-reader' stage, although everything that comes before in terms of language and symbol learning is also foundational and I consider pre-reading skills to really begin from birth.

Before I continue, I want to add one thing to prevent frustration. No one learns on a schedule. No one learns on a perfect upward-climbing linear graph formula. Some times we gain ground, sometimes we are stagnant for a while, sometimes we learned to parrot but not to understand and need to be reintroduced, sometimes we actually forget what we knew, and other times we have rapid growth in our skills. This is true for all people of all ages in all areas and types of learning. So it is not anything to be worried about if a pre-reader seems to spend a long time in one stage without advancing, or even needs to be reintroduced to anything they seem to have forgotten.

So once your child is learning letter sounds, how do you get them reading? Well, I do a number of surreptitious things, but I never try to rush them to the starting line. Instead I am watching for the readiness signs.

When I am reading, I will try to select early readers with repetitive words. (Even though I personally can't stand most of them!) I will begin to put my finger under the word I am reading as I am reading it, so they can associate the word they hear with a set of symbols on the page. If they are familiar with the story, I will begin to pause at simple key repeated words and let them say the word in the story. This may begin them on sight reading (more about sight and phonetic approaches can be said on a post about reading approaches after the pre-reading stage. I won't get into this now, except to say that I believe both to be essential to reading fluently and both important to teach at the same time). They may begin to recognize familiar words just by their shapes. At the same time, I will try to 'sound out' words in front of us, on book pages, signs, in birthday cards etc. I will sound out the letters as I draw my fingers under the word and then repeat the sounds until they strike a familiar chord and indicate a word. I will not pressure the child to do this, but simply let him see me doing it. Now he will begin to get the idea that letters make sounds and put together sounds make words, and words come together in sentences and books and so forth.

He may or may not be interested in writing the letter forms, although I worry least at this point about his writing. I let him trace and copy letters and I help him 'spell' and write by guiding his hand. More than the prettiness of his letter writing, I'm only most interested in that he's learning to hold a writing implement properly and comfortably, and that he's recognizing that letters put together mean things. He may or may not be ready to write his name and if he's really ambitious, also the names of others he knows well. I do not push writing for pre-readers as anything but play, allowing them to prompt me and ask me to help them make a letter and not initiating it or pushing it myself. It usually comes up when they are drawing and want to sign their name or write on it the name of the person the picture is for, or make a simple phrase like "I love you" to include in the picture, or maybe to make a birthday wish list. They may ask how to make certain letters they have been enjoying learning about and you can show them by guiding their hand to drawing an example on a separate paper to let them copy their own way. Try not to get into correcting them or asking much. Reverse letters are very common and are part of the mental to hand development. (Sometimes I write with my non-dominant hand to remind myself how hard it is to be a new writer!) Writing demands more complex skill and can frustrate the young reader if he's not ready for those motor skills.

At any rate, he will begin at some point to recognize that the civilized world around him is full of these letter forms. He will have the tools to figure them out and will have observed how you can break down a word with a bunch of letters into a series of sounds. And at this point I just wait. I don't do anything new, just continue reading and pointing to words as I read and doing sounding out and letter sound repetitions. Eventually, sooner or later my little almost-reader will do something very special.

They suddenly read something to me.

By now the child can be any age between three and seven or even older depending on the individual. I wouldn't worry about how long it takes them to get to this point because reading is a very necessary part of getting along in society and if you're doing all the pre-reading things, reading together, making letter sounds, pointing out words as you read, at some point they will *want* very badly to decode the writing and they will come to it when they are ready. It is more important that they want to read, and not a good idea to pressure them to it. It is important that they own the skill as a personal achievement and not as a challenge they feel put upon about.

The first thing they read on their own, unprompted, can be a sign on the road. Or a label on something, or a word from a piece of junk mail on the table, maybe a card they received in the mail that they really want to understand on their own. In the case of some of my children it has been the cut scene in their video game or a talk bubble in a comic book they were so determined to enjoy. If it is a word that they have never memorized from the easy readers you read with them before then you will be especially sure they have begun to decode the written language.

Celebrate. Now you are ready to read!