Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Nazi Museum

Leonardo da Vinci is in Atlanta right now at the High Museum. We went there with our homeschool group on Friday. There were a few rules. Just a few. No food or drink for one. Our guide gathered us together and then had everyone place their water bottles and snacks and coolers and backpacks in a big tub for later pick up. Which was fine. Until I saw the lady eyeing my friend's toddler's sippy cup. You can't take a sippy cup away from a toddler in a museum. That's what keeps the toddler happy in your museum. But she took it away. The toddler was not happy for the rest of her visit at the museum.

No gum. And a trash can was passed around for gum deposits. I get that rule too. You don't want silly kids amusing themselves by sticking ABC gum to multi-million dollar works of art. Of course, if some rascally kid was really bent on defacing a Picasso, he might just stow away a fresh stick of gum in his pocket and chew it later. Anyway. I'm just sayin'. You can't address every potential problem with a rule.

There was no running permitted either. I get that one too. I just didn't appreciate the rude guard telling me and my grown-up friend not to run. We weren't running. Our kids were perhaps walking really fast, but we were definitely not running.

And then there were the photography rules. I had to sign a rule list in order to obtain a tag which gave me permission to take photographs. I ended up not taking any because the use of the flash was prohibited, and it wasn't all that bright in the museum. The rules did not apply outside the museum, however, so I was able to capture the giant horse with a few of our many children.

Rules aside, the museum experience was more fascinating to some than others. All of the kids enjoyed the dramatic play we were treated to in the theater at the beginning of our tour. The da Vinci exhibit itself, however, held my boys' attention for a nanosecond. I couldn't blame them. Years ago, I was very unimpressed by the Mona Lisa; I don't think it met my expectations. Audrey was enthralled for a few moments over the headset she got to wear which narrated information about each item in the exhibit. Alex, though, of course soaked up all of the information. I know she paid a lot more attention than I did. But then, I'm usually just there for the socialization.

Yes, this was another opportunity for me to get socialized...Nazi pools, nazi museums...restrictive as they may be, I always have a great time because I get to hang with the other moms. I suppose it would be a cheaper socialization opportunity if I just invited all my friends to my house to hang out. But then there would be the mess. Of course, I could always impose my own Nazi list of rules...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Lunch Impossible

It's not like I've been otherwise occupied playing FarmVille. OK, so I have. As you know I decided when I first experimented with virtual farming that it's a ridiculous thing to be addicted to, but I suppose there are worse addictions.

Oh, and I've been busy too. Today was our typical crazy Tuesday with Bright Futures and homeschool co-op. And I spent most of yesterday in the kitchen. That's right, the kitchen. I've said before it's not like the kitchen and I are strangers or anything. But we're not exactly soulmates either. That's why as soon as my mouse hit the send button on an email to the Bright Futures director in which I volunteered to make a meal for 20 people, I wished it was the Olden Days and I could reach into the mailbox, retrieve my letter, and burn it. It didn't help that my Personal Chef would be away this week. At least if he's here I know I have a go-to consultant if I Flop something or if I Freak Out in an unreasonable sort of way about anything culinary.

But I was on my own. And I selected a recipe I have made enough times to know it works and is good. My personal chef has even given it his taste of approval, so I know it's good. This recipe of mine is actually courtesy of The Pampered Chef, and I will share it at the end of this post. It is called Pasta Roll-Ups, but I call it Fake Lasagna. It's pretty easy to make. Of course, I've never made 4 pans of it at one time.

First you make some spaghetti sauce. Or if you're cooking for 20, you take some frozen leftover spaghetti sauce out of the freezer and then add more to that.

Spread a layer of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of each pan.

Then you make two thousand three hundred and two lasagna noodles. And you make the ricotta cheese. Then spend hours rolling a tablespoon full of the ricotta cheese glob up in each lasagna noodle.

Place each rolled up, stuffed noodle in the one-layer-of-sauce-covered pan.

Spoon more sauce over the roll-ups. Then sprinkle cheese over top. (I had given up taking pictures by this point, plus my hands were covered in Pasta Sticky.)

My menu also included French bread, which I made which I bought at Kroger, and a salad, which I grew and harvested from my virtual FarmVille garden came in a big, giant bag from Sam's.

And for dessert--this is where the kitchen and I actually do have a love affair--I made Can't Leave Alone Bars (which may be its actual name, but is more likely the given name my friend from whom I got the recipe dubbed it). Very easy. So delicious. Recipe to follow the Fake Lasagna recipe.

So after I made all this stuff yesterday, I wrestled with both our interior kitchen fridge and our exterior garage fridge and finally fit it all in. Then I carted it downtown ATL in laundry baskets. Because I'm classy like that.

All of the kids were extremely grateful that I had brought lunch, but I wondered why they were not mid-breakfast like they usually are when I walk in the door. That's when the director asked, "Did you bring the muffins for breakfast?"

Suddenly I had a vague recollection of mentioning something crazy and off-the-wall like me not only bringing in lunch but also breakfast.

The kids learned a valuable lesson: One can survive without breakfast. And I learned that while I'm near-perfect in all other aspects of life, I really cannot always expect to live up to ALL of my overcommitments.

Pasta Roll-Ups (a.k.a. Fake Lasagna)
from The Pampered Chef's Stoneware Inspirations but made my way

12 uncooked lasagna noodles
spaghetti sauce
1/3 c. grated fresh Parmesan cheese (or mozzarella or a mixture of both)
2 T. snipped fresh parsley
1 container (15 oz. ) ricotta cheese
1 egg yolk
1/3 t. salt
1/8 t. ground black pepper
dash nutmeg (oops - never noticed this ingredient)
additional cheese & parsley (for topping and garnish)

1. Cook the noodles.
2. Spread layer of sauce in bottom of pan.
3. Mix the rest of the ingredients (except for the topping and garnish, of course).
4. Place 1 T. of the mixture from #3 in each lasagna noodle.
5. Roll up noodle.
6. Place each rolled up noodle in pan.
7. Top with topping (duh!) and garnish.
8. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.
9. Uncover and bake for additional 15 minutes or so.

Can't Leave Alone Bars (or something like that)

1 pkg. (18 1/4 oz.) white cake mix (although yellow worked just fine too!)
2 eggs
1/3 c. oil
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
1 c. (6 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 c. butter or margarine, cubed (may I suggest butter?)

In a bowl, combine the dry cake mix, eggs, and oil. With floured hands, press two-thirds of the mixture into a greased 13x9 pan. Set remaining cake mixture aside.

In a microwave safe bowl, combine the milk, chocolate chips, and butter. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 45 seconds. Stir. Microwave additional time periods, stirring after each time, until chocolate and butter are melted and all blends together. Stir until smooth. Pour over crust.

Drop teaspoonfuls of remaining cake mixture over top.

Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool before cutting.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Pocketful of Courage M&Ms

She looks so sweet and innocent, doesn't she? Most of the time she is. But when she isn't? Well, she can throw a princess tantrum fit for a queen. She threw one of these on our first Wednesday visit to our new church. Before we got there, she assured me with her typical charming smiles that she would be more than happy to walk into her class without a fuss.

But when I got to the door of the classroom, she wrapped her little arms and legs around me so tightly, I couldn't pry them off. When I had finally freed her legs, they started kicking (me) in true tantrum fashion. I managed to pass her off to the nursery worker who, through fake smiles and above the screaming, assured me it would be "just fine" if I left the little monster with her.

What my little princess needed was a trip out to the woodshed, but truth be told, I was just as stressed out as she was. It was a disorganized first night, and I didn't know where I was to go nor where my children should be dropped off. I'm sure my frustration had worn off on her.

So, taking the nursery worker at her word, I turned to try to find my way, all the while hearing her screams echoing down the halls of the church. When I went to pick her up, she was cheery as ever. I thanked the nursery worker profusely and apologized several hundred times on behalf of my little girl. I was told that, "She sure does have a set of lungs of her!" which is polite for, "Please don't ever bring your cute little bundle of terror back to my classroom!"

All week, I dreaded this return to church, but I knew for the sake of my other 3 kids I would return. Not to mention I had already paid for all of us to participate in Wednesday nights. Not to mention I enjoy some adult interaction myself. But I dreaded doing the tantrum all over again. Clearly the nursery worker dreaded it too because when I walked in with Audrey, I heard her exclaim to her fellow worker, "Oh no!" which at first really ticked me off because this is my sweet, little princess and how dare you! But then I remembered what it is like to be a volunteer in a church's children's program. And I remembered all of the little monsters who, over the years, made me exclaim, "Oh no!" when I would see them walk through the doors.

Lucky for the nursery workers, I was armed with a brilliant plan. I built her anticipation early afternoon by telling her I had a special surprise for her. Then, right before we got to her class, I pulled out a little baggie of M&Ms. "These are Courage M&Ms," I told her. "I want you to put them in your pocket, and everytime you feel like crying, you just pop one in your mouth. OK?" She nodded.

We walked in. I knelt down to hug her and got the tight death grip around my neck. "Do you need one of your M&Ms?" I whispered in her ear. The little hands around my neck loosened and she reached in for a candy. She popped it in her mouth, kissed my cheek, and I walked out.

When I picked her up, the nursery worker was all smiles--and not a fake smile this time. She greeting me enthusiastically. "Not a tear this time!"

In Which Things Get Quite Confusing While Pursuing a Cookie Badge

The kitchen looked a little like it had thrown up, but that was alright because my daughter was being independent and baking cookies. There are several different kinds of cookies she has to make to earn her Cookie Badge for Keepers of the Faith; she chose to work on the sandwich cookies today using a favorite recipe, which I cannot reveal because the cookies are a surprise for her daddy who often visits here since these are, after all, also his Treasured Chapters.

In an effort to quell the Control Freak in me, I left the kitchen while she worked. I came in upon her request after all ingredients had been mixed together. She wanted me to taste the batter.

"Are you sure you added enough sugar?" I asked.

She nodded and then offered, "It's kind of salty, isn't it?"

Very keen taster, this one. She described it better than I did--too salty, not necessarily, as I described, just not sweet enough. I verbally went through the recipe with her. And discovered that we needed to review again the fact that a capital T means tablespoon while a little t means teaspoon. Yes, salt can be good but not in tablespoons in a single cookie recipe.

(I've always wondered why Jesus tells us to be the salt of the earth. I get that salt adds necessary flavor, but you really can get too much salt. Of course, maybe this characteristic of salt is just to remind us not to be overbearing and obnoxious. Like the Jehovah's Witnesses that interrupted our school day this morning. Of course, they sent the sweet, little old lady to whom I could be nothing but nice. And I finally researched JW's after she left. Their literature looks so much like Christian literature, I've always been curious about the differences. Google it. Interesting stuff.)

So what was I talking about? Right. The Cookie Badge and the salty cookies. We washed the salty cookie batter down the drain and started over. The next batch turned out cookies flatter than unleavened bread (in sticking with the Bible theme). This new problem was mine; I had taken the original recipe and substituted butter for shortening because, as I've said before, I have a problem with feeding my children lard. Turns out you really must use lard to make the cookies turn out.

So...we used a completely different version of the recipe. By this time, we had gone through I don't know how many eggs, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. But this batch finally turned out. I inserted my Control Freak a lot in this last batch, but I'm going to pass the poor girl on her badge because the flatter-than-pancake cookies were my fault. She made them according to the recipe; I just took too many liberties with the recipe.

Plus she and her siblings are being so sweet. I'm not sure why this homecoming is different from any of TravelDaddy's other returns, but they have planned a full party for him. Our dining room is decked out with handmade decorations, and these cookies will be center-table.

Of course there might be a little something in it for them as well: We aren't sure exactly when TravelDaddy will get home because he may catch an earlier flight. "If Daddy gets home while we're having school," Jacob asked me tonight, "can we stop school so we can have our party?"

Rules of the Game

I've played with him a couple of times. I even won once, although I don't know how. In fact, if you wanted to sit down with me and play a rip-roarin' game of Lego Party v. 1, I'd have no idea how to even begin to share with you the rules of play.

Although I'm a little skeptical, Michael swears he doesn't make up the rules as he goes. He just may be telling the truth, however, because his siblings--even Audrey--seem to possess a full understanding of which strategies to employ at each turn of the game. In fact, Alex graciously volunteered to write out instructions so I can become a better player. (I'm all for that--then we can check "Instructional Writing" off of her 2010 Writing Goals List.)

What simple facts I have gathered about Lego Party v. 1 are:

1. Each player selects a Lego dude to represent him or her on the board. The Lego dude with the blue suit and helmet can freeze other players. As he seems to be the only one who possesses special powers, it's no surprise he is Michael's choice every game.

2. There are two dice which can be rolled to determine what colored space your Lego dude can advance to. I don't know why there are two.

3. As you move about the board, you collect studs, which are like money. You can also collect golden bricks. Oh, and all the pieces are neatly stored in a Lego box after the game is over.

4. If you land on a vent, you go to jail.

5. If you roll a red, the helicopter Lego dude swoops down and steals your studs.

6. Judging by my children's conversations when they are engaged in play, there may or may not be penguins involved.

7. I'm still not sure how you win, but I know it takes a really long time to determine a winner.

8. And sometimes, even though they all know the rules so well, there can still be some bickering over the validity of these rules.


I spent the first 6 months of my tenure on Facebook clicking "ignore" to all of the FarmVille requests and hiding all of the FarmVille activity on my Newsfeed. It was annoying. Why would grown-ups want to work a virtual farm? I asked myself.

This past week, our pastor began a series called "FarmVille". So I decided I ought to check it out to see what all the fuss was about. Since I expressed such skepticism about an adult playing with a virtual farm, I know you're expecting my outlook on the whole thing to have changed since I now have firsthand virtual farming experience. However, now I'm standing in my virtual fields in my denim overalls still scratching my head and asking, Why would grown-ups want to work a virtual farm?

Thankfully, the value of the sermon series at church surpasses the value I see in plowing a plot of land which is 1/4 inch by 1/4 inch, planting it with a click of the mouse, and then harvesting the plant within a day or two. Last week we talked about being neighborly. You see on Farmville, you can visit your friends' farms to weed their gardens or shoo away gophers for them. You get Farmville cash when you do good deeds like this. In real life, though, we're supposed to be doing nice things for our neighbors without being paid or rewarded in any way. This coming week we are going to be talking about the farming metaphor in the Bible--weeds, cultivating, watering, etc.

I'm enjoying the series, and I get why the pastor titled it as he did; the title piques the interest of the many Facebook users in the congregation. It's the actual game or application or whatever you call it that I don't get. My kids would definitely get into this; they are not permitted on Facebook, however. Perhaps I'm just not kid enough at heart and am completely missing the entertainment value of the virtual homestead. I suppose that's a good thing in this instance, though, because what I don't need is another time waster!

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Nazi Pool

I homeschool, but my kids are very socialized. I, on the other hand, do not always feel so socialized. Especially at the end of weeks where TravelDaddy has been absent and my only adult interaction has been Facebook. So, in order to get some socialization, I grudgingly signed up for the swim day at the local aquatic center.

If you know me well, you may understand why I did so grudgingly. You see, even in the summer, I like my pool water to feel like pee. 87-90 degrees is perfect for pool water. Even on a balmy July afternoon. Unfortunately, I have encountered very few who share my enthusiasm for tepid water. That is why when someone says their pool is heated, I remain a little skeptical.

Going swimming in January wouldn't be a problem for me with regard to my three swimmers. All I have to do is be physically present poolside as their Guardian. But the little one, well, she presents a problem. I thought about bringing a big bag of candy and bribing her to sit on the side of the pool with me while the others splashed and frolicked and played in the water and I sat and gabbed with the grown-ups. But that would have been very Bad Mommy of me.

So I grudgingly--again--put on my swimsuit. Good thing because when I registered, the lady asked me if I had my suit on. I replied in the affirmative.

"May I see it?" she asked.

"Excuse me?" I replied.

"May I see it?" she pushed.

"Uuumm. OK," I said as I pulled up my sweater and my shirt to reveal the suit. Do I win the Miss America crown now? I suppose they want to make sure moms are not just, uh, coming to the pool to socialize (who would do that anyway?); however, they do have lifeguards present, plus if my kid was drowning, I wouldn't stand on the side of the pool complaining that I couldn't save my kid because I'm not properly garbed.

That wasn't the only annoying thing that happened when I signed in. I live about 15 minutes from the aquatic center. The center itself is part of a park which belongs to the county, not my county but a neighboring one. After asking me to model my swimsuit, she asked to see my driver's license. I wanted to remind her that my family and I simply want to swim, not adopt a child, but I remembered my manners in the presence of my children and showed her my license. Turns out she was just searching for my hometown so she could know that I am not a resident of the center's county. Which means I got the privelege of paying DOUBLE! So instead of $20 I had to pay $40. With four very expectant children standing beside me gawking excitedly at the huge slide on the other side of the glass wall, I wasn't going to turn around and go home. I forked over the cash.

And once inside it was nicely warm. My three older ones had a blast. My youngest not so much. Part of the problem was that she had to wear an obnoxious lifevest. I had her normal wings on but was kindly informed by one of the lifeguards that those were not permitted. Why was I not surprised?

I waded in with her for a few minutes before she informed me she was done. One thing I had anticipated was that there would be no food or drink inside. I was surprised then to see a picnic area with vending machines. Of course the Princess was hungry after her brief moments in the pool, but all I had was a $5. I asked my friends if they had change. When none of them did, I announced that I was going to go up front to ask for some change. After all, I paid them a small fortune for a couple hours in their pool; a handful of quarters was the least they could do. That's when my friend pointed to the sign on the vending machine. We are unable to provide change at the front desk. Again, why was I not surprised ?

I've finished my shopping list for Christmas 2010 already.

I know. We joke about it every Christmas...about how the children seem to be having more fun with the boxes the gifts came in than with the gifts themselves. But I think after yesterday I've come to a decision: For Christmas 2010, the children will receive boxes.

This is a brilliant idea. I know it is because the gifts we spent a fortune on this past Christmas received a few glorious moments of attention on Christmas morning. But the gigantic box my new chair came in?

It has been a train,

a house,

a spaceship,

a sarcophagus,

an ideal place in which to complete schoolwork,

a sled,

and a really cool thing to tote around in the wagon.

What kind of toy provides that much amusement?

So here it is...

My Christmas 2010 Gift List:

Audrey: box

Michael: box

Jacob: box

Alex: Notice she is not in any of the box pictures. I guess she's too mature for a box. I'll have to figure something else out for her. Still...that's quite a savings for the Christmas 2010 Budget!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I think God's throwing me subtle hints that I need to be hangin' with the elderly.

I haven't talked much about our church search because it ended almost as quickly as it began, and the transition to our new church has been fairly uneventful. Remember that church with the smoke and flashing lights? The same church where we attend homeschool co-op? Well, that's the church we decided to call Home. Turns out they have a "blended" service, which is a more traditional service. Which means no smoke or flashing lights.

We like having both services available because, really, if you ignore the flashiness, the worship in the contemporary service is outstanding. Then again, the worship in the more traditional service is pretty good too. We prefer the pastor of the blended service even over the main pastor who preaches in the contemporary.

To get the Perfect Church, then, if we could have both worship leaders lead using the contemporary format minus the smoke and lights followed by the blended service pastor's preaching....well, I'm not naive enough to think there is such thing as a Perfect Church. That will only happen when we are all one church in Heaven. But this perfect combination has been a topic of discussion for my husband and me nonetheless. I suppose at the very least we could make it a board game called The Perfect Church. Of course with the inherent subjectiveness about such a topic, there could never be a winner.


The one thing about the blended service that makes it a little less than a perfect match is the fact that there is very little diversity. And I'm not talking ethnic diversity here; there is some of that. I'm talking about Hair Color Diversity; there is very little of that. The hair color is mostly...white. NOT that I have anything against the old folks. It's just that this fact makes it a little bit more of a challenge to form new friendships with people our age who have children our children's age.

Wednesday night I found myself once again in a room mostly full of, uh, more seasoned people. There were three choices for adult classes: a class on God's promises, one about marriage, and one about parenting. I almost always choose the one about parenting because, well, that's where I always feel I fall short. But, really, how many of these classes do I need? NOT that I'm anywhere near a perfect parent at this point, but after awhile, they all tend to impart the same advice and wisdom. So why am I not getting it? In pondering this question and these classes, I had an epiphany. Not an extraordinary one because it's something that really ought to be obvious to a Christian: No matter how many self-help books I read or study on marriage and parenting, I will never become a more Godly wife OR mother unless I focus on my relationship with God, on who I am in Christ. So I opted for the class entitled God's Enduring Promises.

Apparently no one my age has had the same epiphany. Or maybe they just haven't read as many self-help books on marriage and parenting because there was not too much middle-aged youth represented in the room. But you know what? There is always time for forming new friendships with my peers. And who says I can't develop friendships with the older folks? And who knows? Maybe those older folks, being wiser and all that, will offer me parenting and marriage advice...a three-for-one class!

The Lazy Snack Plan

I'll admit I'm a lazy mom. Especially when it comes to the small stuff. Like snacks. Ten minutes after lunch has ended. Generally when I get the question, "What's for snack?" immediately following a meal, I answer with a, "Well, let's see...there is some cauliflower and broccoli. I'll be happy to cut some up for you."

For some reason, that suggestion always cures the snacking hunger.

This morning about 10 minutes after breakfast, Audrey wanted to know if there was anything to eat.

"You just ate," I reprimanded.

"But I'm still hungry," she countered, a little on the whiny side.

"I've got some carrots," I offered with little conviction.

Her eyes lit up. "O-tay!" she said.

"Ooooo-kaaaay," I said (to myself).

So my How-to-Get-Out-of-Making-Them-a-Snack Plan backfired. But I'm OK with that.

Little Mommy

We were working on our letters and phonics. There was a picture of a rainbow, a wagon, a goat. She was to circle the letter each picture begins with and then write the letter in the space to the right. She was doing the work--circling each correct answer, carefully forming the letter in the space. But her mind clearly was not on her work.

"Mommy." It was a statement but said in such a way as to obtain permission to digress from the work at hand.


"When I'm away from my babies for just 10 minutes, Belle watches them. She puts on shows for them to watch."


She nodded.

"You know," I suggested hopefully, "you could tell Belle she could read stories to the babies. Because reading books is so much more fun than watching TV."

"Oh, yeah," she said thoughtfully, "they read books. And watch shows."

"What do they watch?" I asked.

"The babies watch Dora. Belle watches the news."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


You can always tell when Life resumes Normal because I stop writing everyday. Part of the reason for my lack of attention to these Chapters is that all of my creative energies go into the children's lesson plans, Bright Futures lesson plans, grading Bright Future papers, grading Write4Homeschool papers, trying to work up the motivation to continue writing Write4Homeschool curriculum. (And I list that last item at the risk of giving some of my W4H students' moms who read this blog the impression that I'm a SLACKER.)

But Normal is good. Normal means that we're waking up around the same time each morning (so long as I lay off the Snooze button). It means that our school days take on a rhythm, one that becomes so familiar even to the kids that each beat flows smoothly into the other.

Normal means that at 8:00 on Tuesday mornings we tumble into the car with full backpacks, and we load the CD player with whatever new digital adventure we wish to share, and we head downtown to spend an hour and a half with some kids who truly need others to spend some quality time with them.

Normal means that after Bright Futures, we find some drive-thru so our bellies will be full as we head to co-op. And at co-op, even with a new semester of new classes, the underlying rhythm has already been established, and the kids just know what to do.

And finally, Normal means that we once again become accustomed to the absence of TravelDaddy. He is never truly absent, though. And I don't mean just in the cheesy way that he is always in our hearts, but he is after all just a phone call away.

There are, of course, always variations which weave their way into our normalcy. For example, yesterday we did not pull into a drive-thru after Bright Futures. We did not do that because my children have discovered that when it comes to setting family traditions, I am a mom on a mission. So when they ask if we can go to Applebees, and I say, "No, I don't want to spend the money", all they have to say is,

"But, Mom, it's Tradition. We always go to Applebees on the first day of co-op."

And they know that once our meal has ended and they ask if they can have the Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae and I say, "No, I don't want to spend the extra money", all they have to say is,

"But, Mom, it's Tradition. We always share a Chocolate Chip Cookie Sundae when we come to Applebees to celebrate the first day of co-op."

So really I suppose the argument could be made that even though certain things cause the Normal to vary a bit, since those variations are what we always do, they're still Normal.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The S Word

If the word snow so much as scrolls across any teleprompter in any news station in Georgia, all of the state's residents spring into action. Grocery store shelves are emptied of their bread and milk, schools shut down, businesses close early or delay their openings, cars are securely stowed in garages, and everyone gathers around their fireplaces to wait, all the while casting furtive glances outside the window.

When the snow actually begins to fall, it is the newscasters who spring into action. All regularly scheduled programming is pre-empted by the breaking news of snow flurries. Reporters are sent to all locations from which salt trucks are dispatched so they can report as each truck rolls off the premises. A lucky few reporters take off for the location where snow has been reported. Anyone who has seen a flake is interviewed. Any child who has the day off school and is excited about the snow is interviewed. Anyone who may experience any type of inconvenience due to the snow is interviewed.

Once it has been snowing for any length of time, all reporters flock toward the area where the most snow has accumulated. They nudge the tiny piles of snow with the toes of their shoes or bend down to scoop what little may be in among the blades of grass upon which they stand. And they interview anyone who has watched the snow accumulate. And any child who is enjoying the day off school by sledding down a hill of grass with a little snow mixed in. And anyone who may be inconvenienced in any way by the slight accumulation of the white stuff.

Yes, snow is indeed a rarity in these parts. And, yes, we Georgians do overreact juuust a little bit.

Our snow began to fall around 1:00 last Thursday afternoon. The snowfall began with flurries, an event which prompted Audrey to ask, "What is that STUFF falling down from the sky?" We were in the middle of a chapter of The Bronze Bow when it began; obviously it was difficult to keep the children's attention on a hot, dry, arid day in Galilee when there was snow falling outside. I have to admit, I was anxious to get my nose out of the book as well so I could watch the snow fall.

The chapter finally ended, and the kids quickly bundled up and headed outside where the flurries were quickly changing over to full snowflakes. They danced and played in it.

And it didn't take long in the frigid temps to begin to accumulate. The fact that, by Canadian standards, the accumulation was nothing to brag about did not stop the kids from sweeping the driveway to gather enough snow for a couple of pitiful little snowballs to chuck at each other.

With temps in the teens, once it began to get dark, I did force them against their wills to come in.

I promised them that there would be more in the morning as the forecast called for 1-2 inches in our area. After 30+ years of living, you would think I would know better than to trust a forecast because the next morning, I awoke to find Michael sitting in the dining room staring forlornly out the window.

With great anticipation, he had arisen early hoping to be greeted by a veritable winter wonderland only to find little had changed from the night before. "There's not even enough to build a snowman," he told me glumly. What is a parent to say? If he says, "There's not even enough Cheerios in here to fill up my belly", why, I can just give him more Cheerios, but this? Unfortunately, although I have a direct line to the SnowMaker, this I can't control.

"Cheer up," I offered. It's still early winter. I'm sure we'll get another day or two of snow this year.

For more Winter photos, visit I Should Be Folding Laundry.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Two-Dimensional Workboxes & A Clean Pantry

For more Weekly Wrap-Ups, visit Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Friday. I made it to the end of my first week of the second half of the school year. Of course, since we took December and some of November off, that means I still have 22 weeks to go, while others see the light at the end of only a 17 week tunnel. But it's all good. And it was an exceptionally good week...

Organization - Two-Dimensional Workboxes
Over the last couple of years, I have kept my eye on Sue Patrick's Workbox System. I like the theory behind the system, especially for my hands-on learner. However, I haven't wanted to fork over the money for the system, plus since our house has been perpetually For Sale, I didn't want to further clutter our home with workboxes.

So, with 5 years of tweaking experience and now 3 children who are reading fluently, I have finally found the system that works for us. We'll call it Kathleen's Two-Dimensional Workbox System. Here's how it works:
Every afternoon, I take about 30 minutes to get ready for the next school day. Let's follow what I do for Jacob as an example:

1. I get out his folder and stack his school books on the table where I'm planning.

2. I get out a blank Workbox Sheet for him.

3. I get out a blank Mommy's Daily Schedule for my purposes.

4. Going subject by subject, I:

  • Check the work he did today for accuracy. Anything that needs to be reviewed the next day because of errors, I mark on my Mommy's Daily Schedule in the slot marked "Jacob".

  • I then fill in the workbox on his Workbox Sheet for that subject so that he knows what he must accomplish in that subject the next day.
  • For any subjects he will do with me the next day, I simply write "(with Mom)" in the box.

  • I cross out any subjects he will not need to do the next day.

  • I giggle when I find things like "cool dood" written across the top of any of his papers.

  • I place his completed Workbox Sheet plus any papers he will need the next day in his folder and put it and his books on his bookshelf.

I begin the next day by doing a couple of subjects with the boys together. Currently, I am doing Math Made Meaningful 3 with the both of them so they will gain a better understanding of what exactly they are doing when they multiply and divide. After math, we work on Four Square Writing, a book I picked up at The School Box. Although I am a writing teacher, and although I had some high school students who could write no better than a second grader, I have a difficult time teaching them from square one, so this program helps me teach them to organize and add detail to their writing.

After my time with the boys, I will meet one-on-one with each child while the others go to their folders, get their books, and go to work, crossing out each workbox as each task is completed.

I had a similar system going the first part of this year, and its near-success told me I was on to something; however, for my visual/kinesthetic learner, the simple checklist I provided still left a lot of room for error of omission (either that, or he just used "I didn't see it on my list" as a very convenient excuse). This visual two dimensional box system came to me while I was lying on the massage table of a one Dr. Quack. And it's working beautifully so far. There have only been two small details missed this week.

Patting Myself on the Back
This semester we are going to be botanists. Using Apologia's Botany, we began this week by defining botany and by discussing classification. And in a moment of true brilliance, I re-wrote one of Jeannie Fulbright's activities. The activity is on taxonomy, and the instructions are to gather all of the shoes in the house and have the children sort them by creating categories. Now, I have spent countless hours attempting to train the children to put their shoes away. The very last thing I want in the middle of my living room floor on a Friday afternoon is a pile of a hundred and fifty shoes.


It just so happens that I have long been neglecting my pantry. It has been operating on an open-at-your-own-risk basis for some time now, with bags of half-eaten chips balanced precariously on boxes of brown sugar and open boxes of cereal getting staler by the day.

What better opportunity for sorting could ever present itself?

So I set my little taxonomists to work on Kingdom: Pantry, first shelf Phylum: Breakfast Foods.

Taxonomy learned. Pantry cleaned. Brilliant, no?

And does everyone remember King Phillip Came Over For Girl Scouts? We learned that little mneumonic to help us with Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species. They need a little more drilling, though, because if you ask one of the boys what comes after "Family", they will respond, "Girl."

On Other Subjects
I have finally found the subject that has stumped my oldest: fractions. Not simple fractions. She totally gets if she takes one piece of an eight piece pizza, she has taken 1/8th. It's the equivalencies, reducing, proper, and improper that is messing her up. So I'm taking a step back and going back to more clearly define each term and make sure there is complete understanding before we forge ahead. Thanks to the Pizza Fraction game for the help.

So, one down, 22 more to go. Crossing my fingers that the kids' great attitudes and my enthusiasm will not waver. If you need me, I'll be filling in workboxes and admiring my clean pantry.