Tuesday, November 30, 2010

You Capture - Kindred

They are brothers.

They play well.

They also fight well,

but what brothers don't?

They laugh at each other's jokes,

they chase each other,

they argue,

they punch each other.

They're best of friends.

They are kindred spirits,

especially when it comes to generating mischief

like the idea that lead to

sledding down the stairs

on a beanbag sled.


For more kindred captures, visit I Should Be Folding Laundry.


Homeschool Typing Class

Plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk, DING! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzt. Remember manual typewriters? And remember Typing Class where a whole chorus of plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk, DING! Zzzzzzzzzzzts would echo through the classroom? And remember how there would be one or two of your classmates who were fortunate enough to have an electric typewriter? You'd be all settled at your desk, typewriter out, paper loaded, and you'd look up to see one of them standing there with their fancy case. "Could we trade seats? I need to be by the outlet," one would ask. What. Ever. you'd think as you picked up your behemoth machine and moved to another desk. Away from the window, the one thing that would keep you sane during the endless keying of ssssss, llllll, slslslsl, lslsls. Home Row. Fingers on Home Row. And you'd watch with envy as the kid-with-the-electric-typewriter's fingers skimmed lightly over the keys, which jumped in response to the touch. And a simple button push returned the carriage to home, whereas you had to hold on one side with one hand while pushing the carriage over with the other to prevent sliding the entire machine across the desk and on to the floor.

Yes, those were the good ol' days. And now? Well, now, it is keyboarding, not typing. And there is less appreciation for the keyboard than for the typewriter. You know how I know that? Because these days, kids use U for you and ur for your and IMHO for in my humble opinion. Seriously, you would think we would have thought of shortcuts like that back in our typewriter days when we nursed our sore fingers for days after typing a 5-page paper.

And of course our typewriters did not autofill the word we were typing or autocorrect misspellings. No, we had to actually think for ourselves. But it must be a better world, though, right? I do know one thing: Learning to type was one of the most useful skills I ever learned. So I am determined that my children will learn to type and learn to type right.

Years ago, I bought a typing book, I mean a real typing book. Like the one I learned from, only I failed to get the one that can be propped up by its own cover. However, it is the same...you start at Home Row and you spend tedious amounts of time typing things that don't make sense like aaaaaa ;;;;;;; a;a;a;a; ;a;a;a;a. I smiled when I looked through it because it brought be back to my high school days.

But of course it is the 21st century now, so I cannot expect my children to learn from such an archaic training manual. So I also got them some typing software. It fits right into the 21st century with its flashy graphics and interactive elements. The children travel through different adventures as they type themselves from one island to the next using real words. And it grades their accuracy and speed. Really, it does it all.

Two of my kids have finished the whole program. Alex is a pretty good typist or keyboardist or whatever now. And Jacob has also finished. However, when I noticed him still hunting and pecking as he typed an email to a friend, I asked him why his fingers weren't on Home Row. "It's faster this way," he replied.

Obviously, he doesn't see the big picture. He's only 8. What should I expect? If he would just stick to the program and practice it that way, he would get better. But, no, he'd rather hunt and peck his way through school papers and business reports. That will not do. So I gleefully got out my tried and true typing book. He is not all that happy about typing things like, asas asas asas ddd ddd asd asd, but sometimes doing it the old fashioned way just gets it done.

One last thing: Did you know that the sentence The quick, brown fox jumps over the lazy dog contains every letter in the alphabet? Great for practicing your typing skills. I still remember that one from Typing Class.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

O Christmas Tree 2010

I loved our Christmas tree in Georgia. Yes, it was fake, but it was 9 feet tall and looked awesome in our 20-foot tall living room. Besides that, it already had lights on it. But we knew it would not fit in the 8-foot tall living room of our rental home, so we let it go for about $2.00 at our garage sale.

I had resigned myself to the 2010 plan to simply decorate with our two Charlie Brown trees. However, as Thanksgiving approached and with it the day after--our traditional day for setting up Christmas...and as I continued to ponder Christmas with those two Charlie Brown trees...well, I just couldn't do it. So we did something we haven't done since before children turned our calm lives upside down: we got a real tree. Now don't go thinking that since we are Northerners now we went trampling through fields of snow to chop our own tree down. Nope, there's a place called Home Depot that already has them chopped and ready to go.

We chose one we thought would fit in here. It fits, though barely, and our little angel topper shall have to take the year off unless she is willing to sit atop our tree headless. I am enjoying the tree with its subtle pine smell and unique branches. As for the Charlie Brown trees, well, one of them did make it into our family room.

As a self-proclaimed control freak--especially at Christmastime--I was more than a little sheepish in telling Mark I needed him to dig one of the Charlie Brown trees out of storage so the children would have their own tree to decorate. It's just that the real tree would not fit all of the ornaments, you see. And by that I mean that it just cannot hold all of the jingle bells and cat ornaments and trains and trucks.

Audrey placing ornament

I did handle the whole thing without freaking out, so perhaps my control freak is becoming a bit calmer. At any rate, both trees were decorated, and we carried on with some of our other traditions. There were big cups of hot chocolate topped with way too much whipped cream because there were no little marshmallows.

Audrey hot chocolate

We then read from Lisa Whelchel's The ADVENTure of Christmas about the origins of the tree as an important part of Christmas. And we read our traditional story A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree. As I have mentioned before, this story about friendship focuses on one Christmas tree who never gets chosen. Because he is older than all of the other trees in this field, he is much, much taller. This fact was not lost on the Princess. After I finished reading the story, I asked, "Is there anything we can learn from this story?"

She immediately piped up: "That people should always get a tree that isn't too tall?"

Her answer was as cute as her pictures. As usual she was the only one who wanted much to do with any photos. I forced the children to at least pose for the obligatory picture in front of the tree.

4 by Christmas tree

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tradition Revision

I dreaded Thanksgiving a bit this year for two reasons: First, we wouldn't be celebrating with family, and second, since there were no family babysitters to stay all night with the kiddos, I would be missing out on my annual all-night Black Friday date with my husband.

The first problem was remedied because we were able to share a delicious Thanksgiving meal with some longtime friends of ours from Georgia who moved up here last year. It was a wonderful time of catching up and enjoying a relaxing day. And as we were winding down our time together, it dawned on me: a girls' night out would be just as fun as my traditional shopping adventure with my better half.

We made arrangements for later on, and our friends left. I headed to bed shortly after they left and may or may not have gotten about an hour's sleep before I headed out at 1:00am to meet my friend. I met her at Wally World where we knocked a couple of things off of our shopping list. Then we headed to my favorite mall, which is in New York.

Even at 4:00, the mall was quite full, and the line for Target was much too long to tackle at the moment, so we wandered around and visited some other shops were we found a few other treasures.

We had a lot of fun together chatting, looking for deals, and...waiting in lines. Surprisingly, it was already 9:00 by the time we headed back to Connecticut.

So did we start a new tradition? Quite possibly...at least one that will last until the children are old enough to stay at home by themselves.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ramblings & Routine

Typically when I am absent for any length of time it is because I am too harried to find time to write. This time, however, it is simply because life has taken on Routine, and there just hasn't been all that much to report.

We've been here 2 months, and the time has flown, yet it feels like we've been here so much longer. Which I guess is good, although there is still a large part of me that feels like a tourist. But there are now more places than I can count on my two hands that I can make it to without the GPS, so I know I'm making progress.

And we've gotten involved in a lot of things. In fact, I've joined too many groups and am now working to pare down and pick and choose those activities that are and will continue to be most meaningful for our family. My choices have revolved mostly around our church. We now attend a Community--or Sunday School class/Life Group/Small Group...whatever you want to call it. We at least know a few faces by name in the group now, and some of the ladies in that group overlap with the homeschool co-op of which we are a part as well. It's a pretty good group of women and children, and the co-op, though brand new, is off to a great start.

We also attend the mid-week activities. While the kids are in their kids' club, I am in a class enjoying socialization with adults (what a concept!). I thoroughly enjoy this night because TravelDaddy has been gone a lot, so these times with grown-ups are treasured moments indeed.

So...we are keeping busy. There are moments of loneliness where I try to imagine what certain dear friends or family members are up to down South. I miss everyone, but Facebook sure helps to make the world smaller. And we're making new friends here. It's a joy to see the kids form new relationships.

We just back from Alex's Book Club, and I had a great time observing the other 3 who hung out with me in the library with some other moms and kids. Whoever decided homeschoolers are unsocialized needs to spend an hour like I did. We took a few games along, and my two boys quickly engaged a couple of other boys and had them join in the game. And Audrey approached another group of girls and joined their game. Alex of course makes friends no matter where she goes, so I never need to worry about her. But it makes a mama proud to see her children coming out of their shell and reaching out to others.

I have no transition here, but since I'm just rambling anyway, I have to say I absolutely can not believe next week is Thanksgiving. AND I can't believe Christmas is right around the corner. I generally have all sorts of special plans brewing right now, and I have not a one. I need to get to work...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When You Leave Your Co-op in Georgia

As you know, I had this school year planned right down to the minutest detail. My plan included two co-ops: the big, giant one the kids have attended for the last couple of years and a new one with just my friend Tisha and me. We had marvelous plans for teaching our 6 kids science, history, geography, and art. A classroom experience without the public school attached.

Then came The Move which left behind my two co-ops. The big, giant co-op didn't matter that much, academically speaking, because the classes offered there are just extras, and we mainly went just so we would have a chance to hang out with other homeschoolers. But my other co-op? It mattered, especially since Tisha was going to teach art, geography, and half of history.

When we started our homeschool in its new location, science worked out just fine. I had already planned science and had all of the copies and curriculum I needed. We are doing Pandia Press' R.E.A.L. Science - Chemistry. And we're having lots of fun. Every week brings on a new hands-on experiment, and the fun text breaks Chemistry down so that even I can understand it. (If only I had had R.E.A.L. Chemistry before I sat in that high school classroom with a glazed look on my face!)

Geography has been alright as well. I have been using Notebooking Pages' state pages. We are studying the states by region and do two states per week. The kids fill out one or more of the different sheets offered based on reading we do. We also do map work on each state. The kids look forward to discovering the peculiar law for each state. For example, did you know that in Arizona, "It was illegal to kick a mule. But if a mule kicked a person, it could not be persecuted" (Read & Write Across America, Creative Teaching Press)?

My goal this year for US Geography is for the kids to master all 50 states: their location, abbreviation, and capital. To help with this, I use Seterra, which is free software you can download. It covers world geography and is a valuable tool the kids can use independently. I also made a great find at a school supply store yesterday. My US map got ruined in transit to the Arctic, so I was on the lookout for a new one and was very pleased to find one that was broken up by region. So I can put one region up at a time as we study it, thus making it a little less overwhelming for my little students.

I have flailed around a bit with art. I purchased ARTistic Pursuits and have used that successfully a little bit. It is frustrating for me, however, because I am not the least bit artistically inclined. That is why I was so happy when my friend Sharon told me about Currclick's live classes. So I signed us up for a class using oil pastels. I've never touched an oil pastel, but I sure am having fun. I enjoy participating in the class; it's relaxing, and I'm actually learning something! We have also registered for pencil sketching and will continue to sign up for the art classes.

History has been a source of frustration for me as well. I was OK the first couple of weeks because those were my weeks, and I already had detailed plans. Of course, they did not go as well with just my 4 kids as I had planned the classes to work perfectly for a bigger group. But nevertheless we muddled through them. And then, without any more plans, I wondered what to do. I thought about scrapping the whole Focus-on-US-History-This-Year thing, but then I realized that wouldn't be a good idea since geography and my read-alouds revolved around US History. So I have made up my own plan...of sorts. I am using School Specialty Publishing's The Complete Book of United States History as my skeleton. It is very skeletal in content, so I basically just use it as a schedule of events, and then I fill in the content using whatever books I can get my hands on.

So there has definitely been some adjusting and lots of tweaking, but I think we'll probably make it. And hopefully learn something. Now math...that's another story, but I can't blame it on the move, so I'll leave it at that.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Grocery Shopping in my PJs

Back in the day when computers were just becoming a household necessity, I remember hearing about a new company called Webvan. Webvan was a grocery delivery service, which functioned from orders made on the new-fangled internet. What a foolish idea, I thought. Are we really that lazy that we can't just go to the store to get our groceries?

Then I had kids.

And I understood. Because who in their right mind wants to drag 4 children to the grocery store?

But by that time, Webvan had gone under, and I could find no other company who took their place.

I have often thought about Webvan over the last couple of months as the uncertainty of a chilly, white winter looms ahead. So imagine my delight when I saw a PeaPod truck rambling down my street a couple of weeks ago. I couldn't help but notice the logo of one of our closest grocery stores stamped on the back of the box truck. "Does Stop 'N Shop deliver groceries?" I inquired of the neighbor with whom I was chatting at the moment.


I came inside and pulled the service up on the internet. Sure enough. There it was. AND they were offering free delivery for the first 60 days of use! I immediately decided I would put PeaPod to good use as soon as the Arctic weather became unbearable. By being patient and waiting until then, my 60 days of free delivery would extend almost through the worst part of the winter.

But then the Princess got sick. And we needed to eat. Plus, I really needed supplies for the co-op science class I am teaching today. What I did NOT need was barf clean-up on Aisle 3.

So I jumpstarted my 60 days and placed my order. Unfortunately, the next available delivery time slot was not until between 6 AM and 8 am this morning, but I don't mind so much because now I will actually be able to feed my children breakfast!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Tales from Midnight: A Mother's Hand

"Mommy!" Her little voice pierces the stillness of the night. I jump out of bed, awakened from an almost sound sleep, heart pounding, knowing I am on call but not awake enough to remember why.

I find her standing in the hallway. Now I remember. "Did you throw up, Baby?" I ask.

She shakes her head. "I'm thirsty," she says.

I offer her a little sip of water and then guide her back to her bed. I tuck her in and kiss her forehead. She grabs my hand. "Are you OK?" I ask.

"I want you." She looks at me imploringly.

"Do you want to sleep in my bed?" I ask and see relief flood her face.

She climbs up into my bed. I tuck her in again and turn off the lights.

She is restless.

I am almost asleep again in spite of her tossing and turning when I hear her again. "Mommy," she says with urgency, "I think I need to throw up."

I jump out of bed for the second time and grab her bucket. I am a little late.

I clean her up with a warm washcloth and then turn to address the linens. The brand new comforter was the only target. As I remove it from the bed, I glance at the tag. Dryclean only. It doesn't matter right now. I finish cleaning up and retrieve new covers.

I tuck her in again. She is still restless. Tossing and turning. Big sighs. Suddenly I feel her little hand through the covers, seeking, reaching. I clasp her tiny hand in mine. Immediately she quiets.

The tossing and turning stops. She is peaceful now, her hand in mine.