Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Life Lessons via Looney Tunes??

Along our learning life pathways, we meet many many resources to learn from. Strangers, teachers, friends, relatives, pets, cartoons. Cartoons you ask? Yes even cartoons. I think I touched on this a few days ago but where was your first experience with classical music? The Bugs Bunny Show, I'd wager. I bet you can all hum that tune they played in the episode where Bugs is massaging Elmer Fudd's head. Admit it - even now it's in your head. ;)

Someone blogged a few days ago about how downhill Sesame Street has gone since its hayday back in the 70's. If you don't have young kids now (or haven't watched it since you were a kid), turn it on today. It's jibberish...twaddle...yuck. Nothing like the wonderful things I was taught there. I learned my letters and phonics and numbers and counting of course. But I also learned about people who were different than me. I learned some Spanish and sign language. I saw my first physically and mentally disabled people there...and learned that they were pretty much just like me but had some different obstacles to overcome than I did. I saw real friendships like Bert and Ernie and Snuffy and Big Bird. They hurt each others feelings and said things they shouldn't and then they forgave each other and had a better relationship for it. *Those* were real friends. ;)

Now, Sesame Street has gotten too politically correct. Did you know Cookie Monster doesn't even eat cookies anymore?? Sad but true... Cookie Monster Crumbles To A Healthy Diet.

And don't forget Looney Tunes! Yep, Looney Tunes.
"Everything I Learned, I did not Learn in Kindergarten...I learned from the Looney Tunes" by JustJen. A *great* list there!!

So keep your eyes never know WHERE you'll be learning from next. ;)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Manners and Cache

Would somebody, ANYBODY, explain to me why people don't say, "excuse me" to my kids when they're standing in the middle of the aisle? Instead, the offended party stands there silent with her cart, waiting for me to notice her. When I finally do notice her, she gives me one of those smiles that says, "I'm smiling but on the inside I'm thinking I want to yell at your kids to MOVE IT". This happens ALL THE TIME. It frustrates me to no end. I want to look at the adult and say in a condescending voice, "Say, 'excuse me please' and they'll move". But I don't. I'm not the kind of person who can say that but boy do I WANT to. It happened to us three times in Walmart today and we were literally in there for less than 10 minutes. Do they not see the holes on either side of my kids heads and realize that they must be EARS? Arrrrgh. OK...guess that's a pet peeve of mine. ;) Do me a favor, ok? Next time you're in the store and someone's kids are in your way, PLEASE look the kids in the eyes and say, "Excuse me, hun". Just for me. Try it. Maybe we'll start something where kids are treated like they have ears and brains. :)

Onto other things...
The kidlets and I went on our first geocache today! It was based on Harry Potter and since Matthew is reading through the series, it was a really great one for our group. We were supposed to meet a friend today but he got sick and since the kids were disappointed, we decided to do this instead. So I plugged in the coordinates into my new spiffy GPS and we found our way there. Its location was in a local park that we know fairly well and it was pretty easy to find.

"Which direction now, Mom?"

Harry Potter Cache

You've heard of the game show Cash Cab, right? Well here are the CacheKids inspecting their treasure.

In most caches you'll find a logbook where you sign your name and date and leave comments. Then in the container you'll find all sorts of odds and ends. You take a treasure and leave one in return for the next person. There were Happy Meal toys, small stuffed animals, stickers, toy cars, etc. My kids picked out a spider ring (Matthew), a princess tiara (Rose) and a die (as in the singular form of the word dice) (Jade). We left two magic rings and a key chain that Hubby brought back from Vegas that had "Treasure Hunters" printed on it. I thought it was especially appropriate. I guess I'll have to start a box for keeping trinkets specifically for geocaching.

Though it was ccccccold (Jade's complaint) and muddy (Rose's complaint) and in the woods with bugs (Matthew's complaint) and I worried about copperheads the whole time (my complaint), we did have fun...and Linnae didn't complain once...not even when I was carrying her and my big camera and my GPS and cell phone and car keys (not that I'm complaining but it will be much easier when she starts walking!). But in spite of our minor complaints, we did have fun and are looking forward to the next hunt.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Earth Day

The question...
"You're a homeschooling family" [read: 'you are quacks']
"and you guys always do something unique" [read: 'you're always doing really weird things]
"I'm sure you did something really interesting for Earth day." [read: 'what insane idea did you come up with THIS year?']

The answer...
"For Earth Day, we called the exterminator and had him spray poison all around the perimeter of our house to ward off the ant army that found us."

The comeback...

[oh yeah, you may try to stick your tail between your legs but I can still see it on your way out the door]

Saturday, April 26, 2008

You say it's your birthday....well it's my birthday too!

Yes, in addition to the other birthday most of you moms with young children are celebrating today (Webkinz, of course!), this is the day I turn the big 'ol Three - Five. Kind of a milestone, eh? Yes, I needn't make excuses...I know you all wish me well and have very busy lives. :) Plus, you know *I'M* not very good at remembering dates either! teehee

So my kids have been VERY excited waiting for today to start. First, it was Mom's birthday. Then it was the Webkinz extravaganza!! THEN, Mom decided to go nuts and FINALLY have baby sister Linnae's late birthday party today too. THEN - Ohhh my...Grandma is taking the whole family out for dinner at one of our favorite places...Red Lobster. Please, those of you coastal people, just let me believe it's good seafood, ok? I DO live smack dab in the MIDDLE of the freakin' States and fresh seafood, like a trip to the beach for the day, is...well...probably not truly possible in my lifetime. So I'll have my coconut shrimp and 'fresh' snow crab legs tonight and truly tell myself that it couldn't possibly be better on the coast. It's ok...I don't really know what I'm missing, right?

So the kids were on me the moment I awoke to get my presents opened. Of course Hubby was sleeping in so that was on hold while I cleaned up the kitchen, fed the baby, contained over-tired Rose and stumbled through making coffee because I wasn't in bed last night until ohhhh...about 1am. Just watching TV shows and chillin' out. Of course at 2pm now and just a couple hours before the party and then dinner out, I'm REALLY wishing I hadn't made that choice last night. Do they actually make mini toothpicks to hold eyelids open for you while you sleep? Hmmm

The kids gave me my first Webkinz of my very own...a very cute Panda bear. He's the pet of the month for May so I'll wait a few days to register him. Hubby got me a GPS. Yes, I actually asked for one, along with a few other items. My interest is mainly in geocaching. First, it looks fun. Second, it's something the kids can do with me (and Hubby)! (For so many politicians harping on 'family values' these days, it amazes me that here in the midwest, we have movies, dinner, hick dancing and bars. There are outdoor things like walking, parks, zoo, etc. but those things are very weather dependent and small children tire quickly when walking. There are bowling alleys and skating rinks but those are overrun by smokers or unsupervised, mean kids far too often. Where are any family events still coming?? Through CHURCHES. But that's another post) Where was I? Oh yes, geocaching. Third (and a very distant third) is because it will teach us great life lessons (you know how I hate to use that E word).

If you live in a cave, geocaching is pretty simple. There are hundreds, nay thousands, of sites that log geocaches. A geocache is like a buried treasure. Doesn't have to be buried - could be hanging off a tree branch, etc. But there's something to find. Sometimes you leave the object for the next geocacher, sometimes you take what's in there and make a new one. The sites give specifics about it. They're in local parks and all sorts of places. If you want to get an idea of where caches are around your area, check out I've been interested in this for over a year and I'm really excited to have the GPS to do it now. I think kids will also get a lot from it - sense of adventure, mystery, problem solving, directions, knowledge of how to read and follow maps, topographical information and more. I'm very excited to get started!

My particular GPS has major highways and interstates but no smaller roads. I would like to upgrade the map later on to include roads - it would be extremely helpful for this woman who sometimes finds herself in the middle of nowhere. ;) So now when you tell me to get lost, I truly can.

Friday, April 25, 2008


I just did the Meyers/Briggs Personality Test and I think I rated the same as I did 15 years ago so I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise to me. What IS interesting, however, is that many of the career matches listed are things which I have wished I was or have done at some point. I've written my resume out to the side for your amusement. :)

ENTP (I posted the graph on my blog sidebar)

ENTPs are often happy with the following jobs which tend to match well with the Originator/Intellectual personality.
* Actor - was in drama club and teams all throughout school. Many school plays.
* Artist - I do lots of crafts but not art. I don't feel artsy unless you count music.
* Comedian - I'm pretty funny (I think) and like to entertain but I wouldn't want a career out of it.
* Computer Analyst - worked on IBM's help desk
* Computer Programmer - took programming classes in college and helped a programmer design a new system when I was working in the mortgage division.
* Consultant - Uhh...yep, computer consultant
* Designer - I do like to change things around in my home. Not sure I'd like to design for a living but I do enjoy doing that kind of stuff.
* Engineer - see Inventor
* Entrepreneur - could you put 'homeschooler' under here? maybe??
* Inventor - I don't invent machines but I do very often find something I like in a store and come home to make/build it myself.
* Journalist - I've always ALWAYS loved to write. Was on numerous newspaper teams in school and I did an awesome newsletter for my old playgroup which I just loved doing.
* Lawyer/Attorney - ICK!?!? Though I *do* love to gather information. ;)
* Marketer - This is actually something that interests me though I have no experience with it other than my own natural morbid curiosity.
* Musician - OK, I've done every choir that ever came my way in school and church and then some. I played flute all through high school and college. I took classical guitar lessons for a while. I'm teaching myself keyboard (slowly). Very musical here.
* Photographer - well, you needn't have read my blog for years to figure out that I have an avid interest in this! I have played around with nice cameras and really love all the things I can do with them graphically too!
* Politician - DOUBLE ICK!?!?!
* Psychiatrist - My mom has told me time and time again that I should be a counselor or shrink or psychologist throughout my lifetime. And if I hadn't gone the husband/kids/SAHM/homeschooler route, I just might be one today.
* Psychologist - see above
* Public Relations - well, I'm doing the publicity chair for my MOPS group next year! LOL And I blog here for 'public relations' - does that count? :)
* Sales Representative - Do I sell homeschooling? teehee Though I think I'm pretty persuasive and can talk people into things fairly easily so even though the title doesn't appeal to me, it might be something I'd enjoy.
* Scientist - I do love to see HOW and WHY things work. I do a good amount of experiments with food on a daily basis. I really love to watch Alton Brown explain WHY mushrooms
* Systems Analyst - I love diagnosing computers. Mine is a very very **very** old hunk of metal that I've upgraded just as far as I possibly can. I think I currently have the RAM maxed out at 1 GiG. I'm running a 333 processor. Yes, older than actual dirt. Flash almost always kills my browser. I have to put the extension on Firefox so I can kill Flash manually. Joy. YouTube is just not possible. :( Alas - Hubby speaks of some such thing called a 'laptop' - what wonder could that be?? And perhaps soon??? Hmmmm....
* Writer - Ummm...I'm blogging, I've written poetry, stories, and am even working on a few books here and there in my spare time these last few years (well, to be honest, I *have* been busy having babies the last 8 or so

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Feelin' Groovy

Last week, we decided to go to the St. Louis Botanical Gardens. Of course you know we learned a lot about botany that day but there was so much more too!

On the way out of the subdivision, Jade yelled, "Slow down!" I followed up with "you move too fast...gotta make the morning last...just kickin' round the cobblestone...looking for love and feelin' groovy". That became our song for the day, as well as good discussion material. We talked about music styles and how there are different time periods associated with different types of music.

Later, we saw some balloons over a car dealership. One was a small blimp. We discussed the shape, the name, the Hindenburg, and then Matthew began to compare/contrast it to airplanes. We talked about which is probably cheaper to make, which is considered safer, etc.

A little further down the road, we saw my old roller skating rink. It's been abandoned for years now but the bright blue building is still there. That got us remembering about our recent roller skating escapade and Matthew said he was still very excited to try skating again and take Rose too. We then talked about wood floors vs concrete floors and inline skates vs old style. Matthew wished they had skates for beginners with 4 wheels on both sides - 'a good combo of both kinds of skates!' We then did some brainstorming about why they don't make skates that way - maybe it's harder to do the corners in them or maybe they're too heavy, etc.

Matthew spotted a good sized tree and said he guessed that would be a good climbing tree. We made a list of what he thought were requirements to be labeled as such. 1. Branches that are close to the ground but very thick 2. A nice thick tree 3. Good foothold spaces

As we came up to some construction, Rose asked what they were doing to the overpass. I said they were grading it. Matthew asked what that was and I explained how grading helps water flow across the bridge and drainage and soil retention.

We passed a humongous quarry. I heard Rose say very seriously in the back seat, "I bet that's a GREAT place to find dinosaur bones!" Matthew then proceeded to tell her that they weren't excavating because they were using big machines and if they were looking for dinosaur bones, they'd have to be much more careful and use smaller tools. They talked about archaeology for a while.

A while later, Rose asked me what the Yield sign means. Matthew said, "It means that the car behind you can go around you if he wants to go faster." So I explained 'yield' to them and gave a few practical examples (other than for road signs).

We also drove past some big old style water towers and Matthew asked me how they worked. I gave the basics and said we could look up more info when we got home.

At this point, I found that we were a little lost and I had to stop writing down our conversations. All these topics (and more) just on the way there! I could have easily popped in a DVD and let them zone out so I could call a friend on the phone but I didn't. Though we do have a DVD player in the van, I don't use it frequently, usually only coming home from a long day (if it's a long drive to the city and back) or on road trips.

But our day at the Botanical Gardens was just beginning. We went specifically on this day because the St. Louis Herb Society was having their annual Herb Days fund raiser. They brought herblings (my term) to sell to the public. We got a nice assortment of stuff I use regularly and then headed into the Gardens themselves.

If you've never been to the Botanical Gardens in St. Louis, put that down on your list of things to do when you come visit me. :) They were just gorgeous and since the nature of the place is seasonal, you'll never see the same things twice. Here are some great pictures from our fun day (if you click on the pictures, they'll enlarge so you can see details).

We especially loved the Japanese Garden with the huge lake in the middle

Jade found that the holes in the bridge were *just* the right size for her to see the ducks and fish below.

Some of our favorite flowers...
A double daffodil

Gregii Tulip

I love the gradation in this flower bed with the same flowers. I wonder if the sun/moisture level caused it?

They were putting up some new art pieces in the Gardens on this day and we watched them work on the main piece all day. When we came in, they were trying to put it in place and having trouble because their machine wasn't large enough - it kept tipping over. By the time we left, they had brought in the big guns and were finally getting the job completed. The art pieces were made of stones and mirrors and little pits of all kinds of things. I assume it was relating to Earth Day and that they used recycled materials. The kids loved playing on them and the pieces really were amazing to look at!

Matthew was especially interested in seeing the hedge maze because his latest Harry Potter book contained one. But a worker told us that they'd just replanted it and it wasn't very tall. The kids still had fun with it though. It was a bit easier than intended but just *perfect* for Jade's height. ;)

A parting shot of the gang

And a parting thought. This was on a series of wrought iron signs but I especially liked this one. It seems appropo for me. :)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Interesting morning here

I promised I'd talk about the room-switch-dance so I need to preface this by explaining that. Since we have a 4 bedroom house, everyone had their own room until now. Linnae, who just turned 1yr, has been in a crib next to my bed. The others I moved out around 9-10 mos to their own rooms but knowing I'd have to move everyone around, I delayed it. But the last couple of months of her having me up 10 times a night has finally taken its toll. I was done sharing a room with her. Here's what the set-up was before...

1. Matthew had the bottom portion of a bunk bed in his room.
2. Rose was sleeping on our futon in her room.
3. Jade had the top portion of a bunk bed in her room (as an aside, this works GREAT for young kids who are transitioning to beds but are afraid to fall out - built in rails!!)
4. Linnae in our room in the crib.

So first we needed another bed. The two older girls were going to share Rose's room (it's the biggest kids room) and the futon takes up a lot more space than a twin bed so we decided the girls would have the bunk bed, un-bunked until Rose is a little older, in their room. So that left Matthew without a bed. After MUCH searching, he decided on a loft bed with a desk and bookshelf underneath. So over the last month, we've slowly been reorganizing and getting his new bed in there. Here's the finished product:

This Monday, I moved Rose's bed and the crib into Jade's room and Matthew's bed and Jade's bed into Rose's room. It was a big day. It has worked out well and everyone's sleeping just fine. And Linnae?? Sleeps better than ever!! Where she was waking me 5-10 times a night, now she wakes me once or none. I do believe that my sleep-apnea-RLS Hubby was waking her all night long. So the move was long overdue. I'll take pics of the girl's rooms when they're organized. We're not done yet.

So that brings us to this morning. I was up late last night and soundly sleeping...for once since having Linnae about a year ago...when I found myself dreaming that a pile of books or something had fallen off the bed or couch. I could swear I heard a thud but whether it was the dream or something else, I was startled awake. Hubby woke too and asked me if I was shaking the bed. I had a brief passing thought of 'yeah, I jumped when the books fell in my dream' but wasn't awake enough to answer him out loud. I turned over to go back to sleep and he said, "What time is it?" He'd been up really late with work so I said, "Just go back to sleep." He touched my arm and said, "What time is it?" So I rounded the time and said, "4:30".

This morning as I was getting dressed, I found this (and if you're the nosy type, click on the picture and it will enlarge so you can read some of the titles of my favorite books):

Other than the glaring announcement that I need to clean out my bookshelf, I just picked up the fallen over wipes box, straightened the books and finished getting dressed.

When I got downstairs, I checked email first, as I KNOW you do. :) And there from my auto-email-local-homeschool-message-board was an email about "did you guys feel the earthquake?" I announced it to Hubby and he said, "Was it at 4:30? That's why I asked you what time it was because it felt like an earthquake to me." Yep. Just in case you live in a cave today, lower Illinois had a 5.2 earthquake that we felt over here west of St. Louis, MO. Other than some old buidings losing some of their bricks, damage was pretty non-existent and no injuries reported. I did feel the 10:17 after shock (4.6) though no one else in my household did.

After returning upstairs, I realized that the initial shaking this morning must have knocked my books over, which knocked the wipes box over, which I heard and inserted into my dream, which woke me up.

It's not a major happening in the grand scheme of things but I've been thinking about it all day. It's kinda scary that I was so out of it in that place between sleep and wakefulness as to not realize what was going on at the time. Granted, it wasn't major shaking here but enough to knock my books over evidently.

I suppose you Californians aren't too impressed with my story but for me, it was a pretty big thing. The good news? Well, the odorous ants that have been coming in for 2 months are surprisingly totally gone today. Have only seen one stray so far and it's almost 2pm. Maybe the quake scared them back underground...or better yet...maybe it created a very deep chasm into which they all fell. THAT'S a nice dream!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Grammy works at a Christian day school and along with doing office work most of the day, she is the librarian. This works well for us. They get lots of donated books, movies and tapes/cds that, as a Christian school, they cannot use. For example, if it talks about Santa or The Easter Bunny or evolution or items that are too young (board books) or duplicates. These rejected items are put in a pile for the teachers to take home for their personal use. We get to look through as well.

The latest batch of books had Dragonology in it. It's a really neat book but probably mentions magic somewhere so they couldn't use it at the school. Matthew LOVES it. There was a thick cardboard dragon in the back to put together and that was done immediately. The dragon flew around here for a couple days and earned a spot of honor in his room on his bookcase. What's neat is that he's going through the Harry Potter series right now so dragons fit right in there nicely.

Yesterday it was a nice day and the kids wanted to go outside. The two older kiddos went and left Linnae, me and sick Jade inside to do the room-switch-dance (more about that later). Matthew came in after a while and asked me if he could have some of "that putty you used to put my poster up". Eying him suspiciously, I asked why he wanted it. He replied excitedly, "So that we can set a trap for the dragon!" [pause for dramatic effect while I pondered what in the world he was thinking] He continued, "Well, Rose and I are trying to figure out if dragons are real or not so we think we should put some putty outside and try to capture a dragon footprint!" The Scientific Method at its finest. :)

Thinking fast, I said, "That's a great idea! I'm not sure that putty would be the greatest medium for footprints though. You know what works really great?" Now it was his turn to eye me with suspicion. "Mud," I answered. His whole face lit up as he exclaimed, "YES!! Mud is really great - like how it preserved the dinosaurs!" He ran down the stairs and out of the house yelling, "ROSE!! We need water!!"

We have a large compost bin made out of concrete blocks in our back yard. To save the neighbors the site of beautious concrete blocks (lol), we enclosed the area with some white trellis gate pieces. [See? We're great neighbors - come live by us!] It has been really windy the last week as we have cold fronts followed by warm fronts (and tornadoes). So part of our trellis gate was knocked down in the wind...or so I thought.

Today, the kids ran outside again to "check their trap". They played some too and when they came in and Matthew had settled at the XBOX with the girls watching him, I asked them about what they did outside.
me: So, what did you guys do outside?
Matthew: We played.
Rose: I picked a dan...uh...dandelion.
me: What else?
[Matthew is zoning out to Crash Bandicoot]
me: Did you find a dragon print?
Matthew, disappointed: No. But we re-set the trap for tonight!
Rose: Yeah, we filled it up again.
me: Where is your trap?
Matthew: By the compost bin.
me: Oh, so you think the dragon will head to the compost bin?
Matthew: Well, that's where the gate is knocked down! We think he might have done that.

I teased Hubby that he should go give them a dragon print tonight but I'm not sure how ethical that is. Should I playfully indulge his imagination about dragons or would it be cruel when he realized it was a plant? Knowing Matthew, he'd probably be angry that we faked it. But I'm looking forward to seeing where this experiment is leading us. :)

Monday, April 14, 2008

What's the difference between onions and textbooks?

Most people don't cry when you cut up a textbook!

I'm not even sure where to start in talking about the homeschool expo that I attended this weekend. I was only there one day and got so much information that my head is still swimming! And most homeschoolers were there to buy curricula as well! At least I got to skip that step - I can't even imagine trying to decide between the thousands available.

Exhibitors lined the halls and rooms of a THREE story bigger-than-life church. The only church I've visited that was larger was my brothers in AZ and people would literally walk in there thinking it was a shopping mall. ;)

I started Saturday with a speaker from our homeschoolers lobbyist group, FHE. As well as entertaining us, she gave us information on MO homeschooling laws, examples of log sheets and some information about different methods of homeschooling. Yes, she did mention unschooling! The other major methods she talked about were
1. Traditional - (think "school at home") This is the idea most people have in their heads when you say 'homeschool' - it's filled with worksheets, curriculum and lesson plans. These people usually have school for set hours each day.
2. Classical - This method is heavy *heavy* in reading and teaches things according to age and mental readiness.
[excerpt from the above link]Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium.
Check the link for more info.
3. I think the other they mentioned was Charlotte Mason style - This woman believed that kids should explore other areas outside of reading, writing and 'rithmatic (she lived in the late 1800's/early 1900's). She thought they should explore art and music as they had interest to do so. This method relies heavily on having the children notebook what they're learning. From writing a sentence or two about it (or for younger ones, they can draw pictures or have an adult write what they dictate), to collecting items from nature...anything you can imagine in a scrapbook! There are CM curricula out there but I'd venture to say, in my humble opinion, that she probably wouldn't like that too much, from what I've read about her. ;) Think "learning through living books". What's a living book, you ask. Well, I'm glad you did. A living book is something that gives you a real sense of the subject in a personal matter. A living book could be Tom Sawyer, Little House on the Prairie and Swiss Family Robinson as opposed to a non-living book like the encyclopedia or classroom textbooks that give information but don't give much feeling or mood. Admit it - how much more thought have you given to the movie, Titanic, than the couple of dry paragraphs you read about the disaster in school? I hated history in school. But after we read The Diary of Anne Frank, I wanted to know more about WWII.
4. Unschooling - and you're figuring out what that is. :)

To my local homeschooling friends in MO and IL, I'd highly recommend getting a copy of their book, "First Things First". It goes over all the above as well as record keeping, transcripts, homeschooling support groups in MO, and so much more! You can get it on CD at the link for $5 or in book form for $10.

After that session was over, I started out in the Notebooking session. This would appeal greatly to CM homeschoolers but I think Rose would especially love to do this so I ran in to get the basics. But I got a good idea of where she was going pretty quickly and looked through her kids notebooks that she brought with her. I stepped out about halfway through and ran downstairs to the other session I wanted to see that hour. [That's the only problem with these things - I want to see every session and can only pick one an hour!] I stepped into Diana Waring's History Via the Scenic Route. WOW. Can that woman TALK! She's so fast that you're afraid to laugh at her jokes because by the time you stop to breathe, she's 10 sentences past you. Filled with more energy than I could ever EVER imagine, she sped us through some major history and did it so well that hers was the only booth I actually bought something from that day. Can you imagine? Me, who detested history, bought a history CD...for ME. LOL Not for my kids but for me ('course I'll be nice and share if they ask)!! (My title joke is hers, I must admit)
She talked about anchoring history on itself. Why does the year 1776 stick out in your mind? Did it ever occur to you that Mozart was creating music abroad that year too? History was taught to me in groups of events instead of chronologically; I think I would have preferred the latter.
She talked about things you can do to make history come alive for your kids...Take the Roman Empire for example. Read The Robe (living book), Caesars Gaelic War, build a roman arched bridge, map and study the size and changes of the Roman Empire according to ruler, make anise cookies. Anise is an herb that smells like licorice. Roman rulers used anise to scent their linens. So, stick a licorice stick in your child's pillowcase and let them think about being a powerful Roman. You can also make Joseph and Mary puppets going to Bethlehem. Yes, Joseph and Mary.
Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.
This was the reason that Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem and the reason that Jesus was born there. Remember the whole Marc Antony/Cleopatra/Julius Caesar story?? Caesar Augustus was adopted by and named after his great uncle, Julius Caesar. When you connect the dots, it makes more sense and now it has a REASON to be remembered rather than dates you memorize for a week until you're tested on it.
I really loved Diana's presentation and am looking forward to listening to her whole series of history audio books.

Expo, part 2 next time. :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

It's all fun and games

I had the joy of teaching my kids how to play Uno yesterday. Ahh the thrill!! Being the youngest of my siblings and the only girl, I was always on the lookout for play a game with me. The yes's were too few and far between for my liking. Of course, when you're the youngest, the older kids are playing games for older kids - it's a hard spot to be in. I did beg my way into games of Gin Rummy and Trivial Pursuit a few times though.

On the way to learn how to do the marbled paper (and btw, why didn't any of you guys tell me my fried brain was spelling marbled wrong?? I don't know WHERE my head was!?!), I stopped at a garage sale. As my usual readers know, I love a good bargain. If you ever want to find me in Target, look for the clearance racks. ;) There I will be. But I digress...ok - garage sale. I walked up and saw this incredibly cute Little Tikes girly house. PERFECT for my three girls, I knew from experience that these things are NOT cheap, even second hand. Just for kicks, I peeked at the price tag. $50 FIFTY DOLLARS???? What was wrong with it?? I looked around - this thing hadn't even been used outside!!! But sadly, the woman wouldn't take a check and in this world of credit cards everywhere, I just do NOT carry cash anymore. After sharing the sad story with my homeschooling friend who was leading the marbled paper craft, she took pity on me we exchanged cash for a check and my girls are now proud owners of a new summer home. (I'll put pictures up when the weather is warm enough for them to play with it.)
There was a stack of games in great condition. I grabbed Uno Madness (the board times you and pops up after a minute) and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (admit it, you're singing it in your head right now!). We decided that they should probably learn regular Uno first before stepping into the world of madness. So, armed with the brand-new deck that Grammy gave Rose for Easter, we started playing. We played with the cards laid out so everyone could see and help each other. I have to say, it says ages 7-10, I think. But Rose picked it up quickly with little help...I think younger kids can handle it fine. After we played a couple hands of that, they started Uno Madness. I didn't find it nearly as fun but the jumping board was such a novelty to them that they had a great time.

(For those of you who spotted the SonLight curriculum box in the background, it's not what you think! LOL A friend gave it to Matthew because he was eyeing the cut-out castle on the inside of the box.)

On Monday, we went to a friend's after-school birthday party. It was a beautiful day and we mostly played outside. Matthew climbed his first tree and was so darned proud of himself. I got a few great pictures but, alas, I was playing around with my settings (my attempt at learning manual picture settings) and had my film speed set way too high for outdoors and all I have is a big white blur. :( However, I did figure that out by these pictures...
The girls and other parents and I were outside in the front yard while the boys were in back. Birthday Girl's mom and neighbor got out some bikes, basketballs and rolling toys for the kids. The adults stood in the street, watching for cars, and the kids played happily between the two houses. At one point, my back was to the kids and I was talking to Marie. Her eyes got bigger and bigger as I hear this rushing sound behind me. As I turned around, I catch Jade coming down the sloping driveway just as fast as she could, no fear at all, yelling, "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee" all the way across the street and into the neighbors yard. And I thought I had to worry about Matthew in the tree! The pictures don't quite do the drama justice but here she is in all her glory...

Just look at her form! Leaning back to get the most bang for her aerodynamic buck!! Now if that isn't science at it's best and most fun, tell me, what is??

I guess those are the highlights of our fun and games this week. I'm excitedly heading to a homeschooling conference tomorrow (Whoooohooo!!) and can't wait to come back refreshed and armed with new ideas. :) Have a great weekend!!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Marbled Paper

Yesterday our small homeschool group made marbled paper. I had no idea what to expect beforehand but imagined something like putting a sheet of paper in a cake pan, squirting a few globs of paint and rolling marbles around by moving the pan. Was I ever pleased and surprised that this isn't what happened! :) (I did enough of THAT craft when I taught preschool.)

Marbled paper is a beautiful outcome with little work. It's a GREAT craft for everyone, especially really young kids, because it's fast, easy, fun and smells like Daddy.

1. Get some kids and trays (if you need help with this step, you should look for another craft). Protect your work area with newspapers or tablecloth, etc. We're using food coloring and if it stays on your hands for 3 days, you can imagine what it'll do to your carpet. ;)

2. Spray shaving cream into trays (one mom mentioned she's seen it done with whipped cream but I haven't tried that). We used good ol' Barbasol (apparently it's at the $1 store). You just want enough in there to cover the bottom well. Using a spatula, spread the shaving cream as even as possible (if you need help with this, see my cake-decorating friend Stacey). Then put a *few* drops of food coloring on the tray in various spots. I'd start with like 5 drops spread out nice and wide.

3. Run a straw through the drops and swirl all around until you find a pattern you like (if you need help with this, my artsy friend Mrs. Pivec can help!).

4. Take a piece of paper (we used about 5X7 size) and lay it on top of the shaving cream masterpiece. GENTLY tap paper down - enough to stick the cream to it but not so much that it comes over the edges. Then pull the paper out (another reason not to shove the paper down). You will have a lot of shaving cream on your paper. Colored paper also works well. We used both regular paper and card stock (if you need advice on card stock, my crafty/scrapbooking friend Jean would be willing!). They both worked nicely though the regular paper probably curled a little more.

5. Place paper (dry side down) on table and squeegee off the shaving cream (if you need help with this step, my friend Jen often acts like a human squeegee between work, kids and her new home business!). Be sure to use a nice squeegee for this - a cheapo one will make the job frustrating. This is when the beauty happens. It's amazing to see what pretty patterns show up under all that cream!

6. Hang to dry (if you need help with this, I'm sure my new crunchy online friend, Kez, would have some great, she would probably be a great one to 'hang' with in person!). They dry pretty quickly - maybe 30 minutes or less. Then you might need to place a heavy book on top of them for a while to reshape perfectly flat.

7. Now you have a beautiful masterpiece that you can write notes on, scrapbook with or just show off what a fabulous artistic mind your child has (just don't tell them how easy it was!). If you're still drawing a blank about what to do with the paper, check out one of my very favorite blogs, Making Books With Children, for ideas).

8. Swirl some more and repeat. Add some more colors and repeat. Just be careful - adding too much color and mixing too long will turn all of it brown. But you can take it quite a way before that happens.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Yes, the rumors are true!!

After a 20 year hiatus, I am back on roller skates.

The THINGS we will do for our children, eh??

I actually *adored* skating as a kid. Every first Thursday of the month, our church would rent out the closest skating rink, gather their records (yes, records) and head to the church bus. After a 20 minute drive, we piled out and into the rental skates. It was a wood floor and the majority of attendees were youth group members but did we have FUN skating to our favorite CCM artists! Back in the day, it was lots of Petra, Michael W. Smith, Glad, Amy Grant, etc. I really loved it.

I've realized as an adult that the reason I don't like to exercise is because I don't like to sweat. I hate that sticky feeling. But with skating, if you're a fast skater, you blow the sweat off as you build it up. In hind sight, it was probably the *perfect* exercise for sweat-hating me. I also enjoy swimming but hey, if you don't have to get into a suit, WHY would you ever???

Yesterday on the way home from church, Matthew was reading his newsletter. There was a section about a fundraising skating party for a girl at our church who has Rett Syndrome. There was begging involved and I told him I would think about it. After all, I am still recovering from my rib/back stuff and I'm clumsy by nature and Hubby had plans of his own yesterday so it was all up to me. But being an unschooler and wanting to introduce him to any possible experiences [within reason...we won't EVER be bungy jumping!], I really wrestled with the decision. After several more attempts on his part, and a few walks down memory lane on my part, we decided to go.

A few years ago, he saw an episode of Caillou (who has since been banned from our home on account of his constant WHINING and his parents constant giving into whatever whim he has). In that episode, Caillou decides to go ice skating. In 15 minutes, you see him decide to go, whine his parents into taking him, his first step on the ice, his skating beautifully and him going home. So Matthew, I think, thought it would be really easy. And if ice skating with one blade was easy, roller skating with the old style (non-inline) skates would be even easier. But he wanted to invite Grammy, so we called her and she came.

When we got the skates on, he was a little trepidatious. But as he skated on the carpet, his confidence climbed and when "Who Let The Dogs Out" came on the speakers, he wanted out on the skate floor.

If you haven't been skating in 20 years, let me tell you a few things.
1. Roller rinks are still run down nasty places to be.
2. Skates are still run down nasty things that have so much black gunk on the rollers that there's no way you can have a smooth ride.
3. Amazingly, candy/soda prices have not skyrocketed there like they have at movie theaters. Sodas and big candy bars were $1.
4. I *still* don't want to eat anything they serve. ;)
5. Wood floors aren't the thing now. Apparently, painted concrete floors with tiny bumps all over them are the rage. I'm sure they're much easier on concussions.
6. Painted concrete floors are very slick. Slicker than snot, I'd say. In many ways, it WAS ice skating.

Matthew heads out onto the floor. The best image will be to image someone who's never skated before being shoved onto an ice rink in roller skates. Need I say more? Then I get out there to rescue him. I'm thinking I'll skate backwards and hold his hands. The best image will be to imagine someone who's not skated in 20 years boldly stepping out with confidence onto an ice rink in roller skates. Need I say more?? Yeah, not a great idea.

He freaked out, I kept trying to urge him on. We made it halfway down the wall to the next off ramp. He then proceeded to dump himself unceremoniously on the bench and announce that it was too hard and, "Let's just go home!" I let him rest for a bit and hoped he wouldn't give up. The kid in me really wanted him to learn how to skate and love it as much as I did. But what really matted to the adult in me was that he not quit just because it was hard. I wanted him to give it a really good try. But he wasn't budging...he wanted to go home. It was about this time that Grammy showed up. And she put skates on. I told her that he wanted to go home and she said, "I'll get him out there". She went around a couple times to get her skating legs back. Her hiatus from skating hasn't been as long as mine. When she was still teaching at the day school, she would go skating with the elementary kids in the summertime so it's only been more like 10-15 years for her. Still...

She came back and somehow got him to agree to go out again. She held his hand and he stayed near the wall. He was doing more of a walking-in-skates rather than actually skating but she got him out there.

They went all the way around a couple times. Then they came in to take a break. After a bit, I couldn't find Matthew. I finally spotted him - he was going around all by himself! He was holding onto the wall but he was OUT THERE!

At this point, I went out to get some exercise. I started a diet last week and wasn't going to have time to walk my 1.5 miles today so I decided to skate if I got the chance. He was doing fine on his own so I got out there. I got more used to the floor but still...slicker than snot. I slid around and probably looked like a toddler most of the time but it was fun and I actually had fun laughing at myself. Once I got it mostly down again, I decided to practice the backwards skating again. I was doing fine (though it was much harder on that slick floor) but at one point, I found myself in the middle of the rink and suddenly, my eyes left my skate and started to follow the disco light on the floor. The next thing I knew, I had come down hard on my left knee and then to the floor. I felt really foolish but hey, I'd skated pretty good for someone who hadn't done it in 20 years. ;) I dusted myself off, setting a good example for Matthew, and kept skating. A few more turns around the rink and I caught up with Grammy. She turned to say something to me and started to slide on the concrete. She reached for the emergency exit, missed and did a literal belly flop on the concrete floor. I think I stopped breathing until she started to sit up and I saw an 'ok' look on her face. She hit hard and I was quite concerned about her. But she dusted herself off and got back up on the horse too.

By the second hour, he was out in the middle of the rink holding onto nothing. He was skating the small inner circle. You remember that circle - the one where you'd meet another girl, hold hands and skate in a circle, right? Or practice your shoot-the-duck? He even told me later that he fell and hurt his rear really bad but got back up and kept going. My little over-actor gets super huge points for waiting until much later to tell me about it. ;)

I'm beaming with pride today because he didn't let it beat him. He didn't give up. Rose has stubborn determination...probably too much. But giving up on things is easier for Matthew and I am so incredibly proud of him that he kept trying and didn't let himself miss the fun.

Today, Grammy is pretty sore where she fell (mostly on her chin, which hit the floor pretty hard) and my knee is very tender when I touch it but we're ok. I was so worried that the fall would make my back/rib worse but it's no worse than it was.

He can't wait to go back! Next time, he says, he can't wait to take Rose. Neither can I! But next time, I think, I'll see if I can find a wooden floor.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

It all started, innocently enough, at Stacey's favorite place

Yep, Walmart. (Stacey LOVES that place!) Since Hubby now works from home and he's "home" at 5pm, we can now do errands in the evenings instead of stacking them all up for the weekend. So on Thursday night, we took the clan out with plans to hit Walmart (briefly), Blockbuster (to return only) and the mall for a couple returns of mine. We started at Walmart.

Hubby needed something for his office and Matthew had a return. For his birthday in September, he'd gotten a duplicate Bionicle. Last week we spent reorganizing his room and found that extra Bionicle. I asked why it wasn't opened yet and he said, "Mom, don't you remember you said we could return it for money?" I know Bionicle has their new line out now and I've seen some of the old ones clearanced already so I sadly explained that he needed to return items as quickly as possible before they go on sale so he can get the full money out of them. So walking into Walmart, we were discussing it again and he was worried about only getting $2 for a $10 item. We walked in the front door.

Hubby was carrying Linnae and said he was going to get a cart. I handed him the floppy seat for her and saw the goslings following after him. Matthew and I stopped at the greeter for the stupid return sticker. Matthew handed the guy his sealed Bionicle container. The senior guy looks it over, slowly, and says something about Lego's still being the #1 choice for boys, slowly, and puts a happy face sticker on it and slowly hands it back to Matthew. Rose appeared by my side at this point to see what was going on. Matthew gave me a look that said, "MooooooM - I didn't want this guy's stickers when I was three, I *certainly* don't want them NOW!" I said to the guy, "This is a return". He says, "OH! I thought he was showing me his toy!" Ummm...yeah, because that's what all 7 yr olds want to do is show the old stranger at the front of the store their toys (especially without saying something like, "See my new toy!"). He slowly peeled the sticker off, slowly scanned the canister about 10 times and slowly FINALLY handed it back to us, asking if we knew where returns are. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I LIVE HERE! And did I say we were in a hurry trying to get to three places tonight (plus the mall is a 15 minute drive)?

So having gotten through that ordeal, we finally met up with Hubby who had finally figured out the floppy seat and gotten Linnae in it. He said he was headed to office supplies. I said Matthew and I were headed to returns in the back. We start to leave and Rose fusses that she wants to go and Hubby said, "Can you take her too?" I said, "Yeah" and we left. We were cutting through furniture when we hear over the PA that there's a code Adam (for those who don't live there, it's like an Amber alert - for missing children - inside Walmart). When this code goes on, every Walmart employee stops what they're doing immediately to find the lost kid. I decide that this is a good teachable moment. I tell the kids that there's a lost little girl and if they see one wandering around by herself to let me know. We plow through to returns and amazingly, there's no line. As the lady is doing her stuff, employees come from the break room and ask her if the alert is over. She says no. Matthew held his breath as the lady scanned it and ~whew~ he got full price for it. He was ecstatic. I know the feeling. :) Well, he obviously wanted to see if the new ones were the same price so we stopped in toys. We hear the Adam alert again but this time, it seems it's not exactly an Adam alert...this time, it's that they *have* the kid, it's the parent who is missing. They say she's a 2 yr old with brown hair.

While standing there looking at Bionicles, another mom stops me and asks what toys a 5yr old boy likes. I think back and scour my frazzled (and in a hurry) brain and say Matthew was into Buzz Lightyear and Legos. [Friends with girls, let me tell you - no matter WHAT age, LEGOS are always a hit with boys!!!! Think of little boys as engineer students - anything they can build or demolish is a GREAT gift.] Matthew was having trouble picking between a couple items and I remind him that he has more money in his bank at home and I would be willing to lend him the extra. Rose runs to the next aisle to look at Littlest Pet Shop stuff. We hear the Adam alert again, "Attention - we have a 2 yr old with brown hair at the front of the store. She's really cute." Matthew finishes up in his section and we meet Rose. She's trying to decide between one case and the next for her pets. A couple comes by us and says, "Did you hear about the lost kid? Who could lose their kid for so long??" I said, "Well, actually, it's pretty easy. Like tonight, my husband is with me - sometimes one parent thinks the other parent has the child and vice versa." She placatingly agrees and says, "We saw her up front - she's just adorable!" Then she points at Rose and says, "She looks just like her". Whatever. I've been told the curly blond with green eyes looks 'just like' Rose too. In one ear and out the other. We hear the alert again while this lady was jabbering.

I spend a few minutes explaining to Rose (another teachable moment) that the $15 container only holds 25 pets but the $20 container will hold up to 150 pets and it's the better deal (plus it looks more sturdy, will stand up, etc). So I help her weigh the pros and cons (the feature animal included) and we start to leave the aisle when Hubby calls me. "In case you're wondering, I have Jade." STILL, I don't get it yet. I'm thinking, "of course you do - I left the two little ones with you". "What?" I ask. He says, "She was the lost girl up front."

Can I just say that I wanted to crawl under the nearest rock??? I don't mind telling you that I didn't even want to meet up with them and ADMIT that she was my child at that point. I KNOW what everyone in the store was thinking about "that poor girls mother!" I don't know that I've ever felt more stupid...well, it was close to the day I broke Matthew's leg (have I ever blogged about that?) but this was worse. I mean, I EXPLAINED the actual scenario to the lady in toys!! And she said she looked 'just like' Rose!!! Jade had probably been up there for 30 minutes before he retrieved her. But Mommy guilt got the better of me (was she scared??) and I trudged through to office supplies, where I found them waiting for me. She was her usual happy-go-lucky self, none the worse for wear and proudly showing off her happy face sticker (probably the one Matthew had removed from his return).

I asked him how he knew it was her. He said, the last announcement said her name was Jade (which I didn't hear) and he told Linnae, "Guess I know who that is". Upon finding her, he asked Jade who he was (without prompting her) and she said, "Daddy". He asked her what she'd been doing and she said, "riding the horse". See there's a stupid mechanical horse at the front of the store. We have never ridden it but it definitely would catch the attention of a 3yr old. I'm guessing that when Rose came to meet up with us and super-slow guy at the front, Jade followed her...and then got sidetracked on the horse. When she turned around, we were gone. Looking back, we don't think she was with us when we split up by the shopping carts. And yes, I was so sure Hubby had her that it never once crossed my mind that it might possibly be one of my kids. At least I was sympathetic to "the girls mother" instead of wanting to flog her like the rest of the store.

My only hope at this point was to get out of the store before anyone we knew recognized us (and her). We were standing in checkout when childhood best friend's sister, Bev, stops in her tracks.

~Everything went in slow motion like that episode in Frasier where Roz is disgusting from just working out and sees an old high school classmate. She says, "Please, please, please, God don't let him recognize me!". Then you hear, "Roz, is that you?" And, eyes still upturned, she says sarcastically, "Thanks for listening!"~

Eyeing Jade, she asks, "Is this YOUR little girl?" Embarrassed, I fumbled through explaining that each of us thought the other had her and quickly made our way out the door. Of course, in hind sight, she did know me when I was that age and since Jade is the spitting image of me (poor thing), shouldn't she have recognized her immediately? teehee.

She was so close to the front doors, I'm just incredibly thankful that someone noticed her! I asked Hubby if they explained how they found her and he said they were too busy telling him how cute she was. Yep, I should have known when they mentioned she was cute on the PA that it was one of my kids. [evil grin]

Of course, on the way to the van, I called my mom to relay the story. Her first response? "Laurie, you'll do ANYTHING for a blog post!"

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


kinz. The Easter Bunny brought us the world of Webkinz this year. How did I stay out of that world for so long?? I don't know. Frankly, I'm feeling ambiguous about it too. On the one hand, it's a great learning tool. On the other hand, my computer time is now severely limited.

For those of you in the dark, Webkinz are stuffed creatures (typically pets and farm animals) that you buy for about $15 at toy stores. You then take them home and register your animals secret code on their website. Then the fun begins. You get an empty room to start. Various other objects are given to you as well as some money. From there, the possibilities are endless. Think SimLife on a kid scale. You play games to get Kinzcash and you perform 'jobs' to earn cash. With that cash, you can buy food for your animals (you have to keep them fed or they'll die) and you can buy items for their rooms from furniture to toilets to accessories (you have to keep them happy too).

From that nasty E word standpoint (educational), they've built in some great features. One of our friends animals said his favorite food is a lollipop. So our friend kept feeding the animal lollipop after lollipop (that's a hard word to type!). His hunger meter was good but his overall health wasn't. He got sick. So our friend took him to the vet and the vet said he needed vegetables and rest.

Some of the games are re-dos of very common games like Tetris and Pong, etc. but spruced up and animal-themed. There are also harder card games that require you to think and there is a big section of trivia questions too. When Rose ran out of money and her animal was getting hungry, we talked about better use of her money (Matthew has no problem talking her into spending HER money but he's a good saver in his own game) and I stayed up one night to get her some money after she went to bed. Now I find myself wanting to log in and play a few rounds just because the games are fun. I did tell the kids that my birthday is later this month and I'd love my own Webkinz. teehee

You can also chat with your friends who are online (chat uses only pre-approved words so it's kid safe), and invite those friends animals into your animals room. It's a great online world for the kids. :) Rose and Matthew have each bought another Webkinz already.

So if you don't hear from me soon, just envision Matthew, Rose and me vying for the computer. ;)

Today is Linnae's first birthday. We expected Hubby to be out of town this week so the big party isn't planned yet and he ended up not being called out. So we'll have a little pizza party tonight with her (she likes to chew on the bones a.k.a. crust) and a larger extended family party later in the month.

She's marine crawling all over the place. She's starting to get up on her knees and hands but my other kids never really crawled in that sense either. FIL likes to tease that it's because Grandpa was a marine but I think it might have something to do with the hardwood floors. If you're in a sleeper (which mine are mostly for their first couple and you're on wood floors, it's easiest to pull yourself with your hands and let your body slide, seal-like. I think on carpet, you don't slide and getting up on knees is really the only way to move around. Regardless, she's also trying to pull herself up. I keep telling the kids to kick her feet out from under her - I mean, I need another walker?? - but they won't do it so I suppose that's around the corner too. Where DID I put that gate for the stairs?