Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Christmas Aftermath

Well, the gifts are open, the food is eaten, the sugar highs have crashed and I've decided that we will take as little of a Christmas break as possible, lol. We need that "have to do this everyday" aspect of our lives. I tried to get some school done yesterday, but all we did was build this cool solar-powered car. We did some experiments with it, like blocking the solar panel and seeing if it works from the light of a flashlight instead. It was a lot of fun and very educational... but the school books just sat on the dining room table all day untouched.

Today, I demanded that bookwork be done before the Wii was turned on. Two days of video game frenzy are enough! It's time we got back to one hour only and only after the things that we need to get done are done. OK, maybe he'll still play more than an hour because DH is home all week and he loves to play it just as much as Cameron does, lol.

Anyway, we started the day with Phonics for Cassia. She learned the line for the letter K in "The Consonant Rhyme." It's so funny, Cameron learned that poem by us doing it every day for about a month. Cassia is learning it by us doing it several times a month, lol. It's going to take us an entire year to get through it! But she is learning so much more than he is, just by being around him so I'm not going to sweat the fact that she may not know all her consonant sounds by the time she is 4-1/2 like he did. Cameron started his day with a Grammar lesson, picking the pronouns out of a story. I don't think he gets what a pronoun is at all, lol, but maybe by the time we review it the 700th time, he will. The second half of the Grammar lesson was reviewing our initials. We decided that we really like his name being C. E. Berm. It sounds very professional. For reading, Cameron read Cassia the instructions to her math book. She was working on writing her numbers from one to ten and then from ten to one. Next Cameron did his math, a Practice section on multiplying by threes while Cassia worked on her ETC book and the letter Y. We finished off with reading a couple of stories about Anansi the Spider from Story of the World. I have some more library books on him and other African folk tales that I'll try to convince them to read later today... but it is so hard to compete with that Wii!

All in all, we've had a fabulous Christmas. We thought we would be spending the holiday alone, but it turned out that my dad was able to join us for dinner. It was fabulous having him and his girlfriend/fiancé over. We don't see them nearly enough. In fact, we see them exactly twice a year: at the kids' birthday party and at Christmas. And yet they only live a couple of hours away. Oh well, it's not perfect but it's our family dynamic and I really do enjoy the time that we are able to spend together. I hope everyone else had a Merry time and was able to spend time with their loved ones.

Peace on Earth and Goodwill towards Men.

(Oh, and to explain the last two pictures on the slideshow... in Cameron's excitement to grab his Wii controller from the charger and play, he knocked over an entire glass of red wine onto my wireless keyboard! Ugh. So after hours of tedious cleaning and mopping... it still doesn't work and we have to buy a new one. I am currently typing on a hot pink and purple Princess keyboard with keys that are MUCH too small and causing my hands to cramp, lol. Ah, Christmas.)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

It's been an eventful year for us. So big, in fact, that we have needed to expand our yearly DVD of family pictures and videos to the Deluxe 2-Disk Edition!! Yes, we went 2 gigs over the limit this year, lol. No way around that. I blame Blogger. I've been much more inclined to document our lives in photo because of you all.

I hope to share some "best of" pictures and videos in the next week, but at the moment I have to check on my Dijon Maple Glazed Ham. Yum.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a goodnight. :)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Smells like Christmas!

Mmmm, just finished baking some gingerbread cookies. Yum! We were joking about the gingerbread boys taking off and running away as soon as they were cooked, and who would've known but they did! At least, they're gone now. That must be what happened to them! The real surprise will be if these cookies actually last until Christmas. The kids know they are for Santa, but I just cannot stay away from them, lol. I have two more types of cookie that I want to bake, I just need to get to the store for some ingredients first.

Anyway, yesterday the kids did a make-up class for gymnastics and adding that in with school work and the online obligations I have on Wednesday night meant that I didn't get a chance to blog. We didn't do anything especially interesting... I think. (Gosh, I've already forgotten! I have the worst short-term memory ever. Five seconds and it's GONE!) Ummm, Grammar was /ûr/ in stir, Phonics/Language was a poem about the days of the week and then writing them. That was actually something interesting. Instead of doing the copywork on paper, we did it on the white board and for some reason the kids got interested in me writing them in cursive too. It was a day of new things for both of them: Cameron tried to write in cursive and Cassia tried to write in lower case letter - both with pretty equal results, lol. Math was Timez Attack (he's beaten his 4's!) and then one workbook exercise. Spelling Time was also done and finished out for the week. I think we ran out of time at that point and had to go to the gym, so we didn't do Science or History.

Today, we started the day with Parent Day at Cassia's ballet class. Sooooooo cute! I got some video (I think! I was having problem after problem with the camera.) and if I ever figure out how to get it on YouTube or something I will share. We came home to do more /ûr/ in stir for Phonics, learn about initials for Grammar/Language, do more multiplication for Math - though I have to say I was surprised to see that Cameron got several of them wrong. The one thing I don't like about the Timez Attack game is that once you pass a level (as in 2's or 3's) you don't ever go back and review it again. It *is* reviewed when you come across it in a higher lever (as in 2x8 is seen again as 8x2) but it's pretty much gone once you pass the level. I think that is what was happening today in Cameron's math work. He kept mixing up the x2s and x3s simply because he's now pushed the x2s out of his head. I'm sure that happens to everyone though. For Spelling, Cameron chose to start the next week's Spelling Time work. Fine with me. For History, we read about Ancient Africa in our history encyclopedias. Our library books are all in now, so we will move on to those next week. I don't see how people can do two chapters a week, lol. They must just spend all day reading. My kids just don't sit still long enough for that, lol. And then we baked cookies, so that was Home Ec. Now, we better be off for our second period of Home Ec at the grocery store. I just realized that we have nothing for dinner.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Time to Waste

Ahhhh, what to do? What to do?? After the crazy busy week last week, I feel like I'm forgetting something, lol. I keep walking around going, "What were we supposed to be doing today??" and then I look at the calendar and realize that there is nothing there. Ahhhhh.

So we did school and read a book and now we're playing our respective video games or blog browsing. Ahhhhh.

Cameron started the day with Timez Attack while I was in the shower. He's on his 4's now! Who would've thought that multiplication could be so fun? After breakfast we finally moved on to /ûr/ in stir words in Phonics. He was quite happy to finally be done with /âr/ in hair. Not so happy to find a two page lesson, but we got through it just fine. Next was Grammar where he acted out all the action verbs while I read a silly poem. Cassia did not get to do it though because she was laying in her bed in protest to my horrific request that she make her bed. I said if you're going to tell me that you don't know how to make your bed then you can just lay there until you figure out how to do it. So she did. For about two hours. What stubborn children I have!! She wasn't even upset or anything (though she was very upset and screaming at me when I told her to lay down), she just lay there playing finger games until the need to go to the bathroom finally brought her out. I had even already told her that she could come out, but she wouldn't because she was afraid that I would force her to make her bed. I am having flashbacks to my own childhood when I would sit on my bed for hours at a time when my mother would tell me to clean my room. Feels like payback. Obviously, I need to find a new technique.

But where was I? Oh yes, school. Next was Math where Cameron really breezed through a page on multiplying by threes. Last week he was struggling and counting them on his fingers. This week he knows them. Thank you Big Brainz. Next was Spelling in which he did both the entire Spelling Workout lesson and the first section of Spelling Time. And then we finished off the school day with History where we read a little about Ancient Africa. I was actually pretty disappointed in the chapter because there wasn't really anything on Ancient Africa! It basically just reviewed the civilizations that we learned before and then said that people had lived in other parts of Africa, besides Egypt, too. The rest of the chapter is African Folk tales. Hopefully my library books will come in soon so that we have a little something more to go on.

Something really cool did happen during that History lesson though. Last night we were at my brother-in-law's house and we watched a National Geographic video on the Genographic Project. My MIL had participated in it and sent in a DNA sample and in return had gotten a report of her ancient ancestry and a copy of the NG series that explained the initial compilation of world DNA in an attempt to explain the first human journeys out of Africa. I'd seen portions of the series before and Greyson was causing his usual mayhem so I was only half watching and not paying any attention to whether or not Cameron was watching. Anyway, today while I was trying to read about Ancient Africa from SOTW, he kept interrupting me with things like, "I know there were people in Africa! They started out here," pointing to the map, "and walked this way," tracing the route exactly as had been shown on the DVD, "and walked all the way to Australia!" So he was watching! "Those people were our ancestors! They were the ancient humans!" Cassia, who had fallen asleep during the movie, was very interested in his explanation so he spent a very long time explaining the migration of the early humans over the Ice Age Super Continents. LOL, if I hadn't been so annoyed that he kept interrupting me while I was trying to get through this chapter, I would've been really impressed. OK, I was impressed anyway. I think that boy is on his way to becoming a socio-archaeologist!

And speaking of future careers, the reason we were at my Brother-in-Law's house was that Monday we went to homeschool day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and BIL lives much closer to it than we do. Their homeschool day is an incredibly generous affair where they let all homeschooled children ages 4 - 17 and one adult per child in for free. They had tons of activities, demonstrations, and workshops set up and they even had a behind-the-scenes tour for teens. Way cool stuff. You did have to come in a group and register in advance, but that's a small price to pay for so much value - especially since they then sent a big cd-rom of educational supplements! We had the best time. Cassia told me that she wanted to take care of the jellies. I told her that she could definitely do that when she grew up. Later in the day, we saw the otter keepers bringing them their toys and she said that she wanted to help bring them their toys. I said that she couldn't because only the staff was allowed into the exhibit area. She looked at me with that look that she's been perfecting since she was a toddler and said, "Mommy, I meant I want to do that when I grow up." Duh. So then I told her that she was going to need to study marine biology then and she agreed. So her future is now set and ready to go. ;) Cameron liked the sharks. Greyson liked his shoes. ;) Actually his favorite part was a recreation of a tidal wave crash that goes over your head. He'd just stand there and laugh. We did get some cool pictures but they are, of course, on DH's laptop.

This was the first time I've really gone to a major homeschool event. I was just electrified to be surrounded by so many homeschoolers. There were all types, sorts, and stereotypes there and I loved it. One thing I did notice was that there was a much more relaxed atmosphere of parenting than is usually present in a big public space like that. It's hard to describe but there wasn't that big push for the kids to "behave" or not to wander off or anything. I'm not saying that everyone was well behaved, I'm just saying that the homeschool parents just aren't as concerned with minor wanderings. Kids were all over, learning on their own, and everyone was cool with it. Usually you'll find some overbearing dad freaking out because a child wants to linger somewhere when the family itinerary says that it's Time to Move! LOL, or maybe that was just me feeling more relaxed than usual because I knew that I was in an aquarium full of people who respect my educational and parenting choices. In other words, I didn't feel like a freak for once. ;)

Blog Contest!

Contest to win a $50 gift certificate at Homeschool eStore! Go to the Just Some Stuff blog for the rules!

1. How many children do you have / homeschool? 3 children - one in 1st, one in pre-K, one in constant trouble
2. How long have you been homeschooling? We have been an official, registered with the state, private school for two months now - but honestly, we've been homeschooling since the birth of my first child, August 2001. I know it sounds cliche', but it's true... especially since it's now trendy to send your child to preschool, at least part-time, at age two.
3. Have they always been homeschooled, or did they ever go to public/private school? Always homeschooled. I actually decided that I wanted to homeschool when I was pregnant with my first.
4. Do you plan on homeschooling until graduation? Absolutely.
5. Do you belong to a co-op? No, but our homeschool4 -H club is very co-op-ey.
6. Do you school all year long, or use some other schedule? We pretty much school all year long though we take a lot of time off in the summer and whenever life dictates the necessity.
7. Do you use textbooks only, or do you like to supplement with other materials? We use both textbooks and other stuff. Most of our subjects are at least supplemented by living books, internet research, and hands-on activities. Some subjects are entirely that.
8. Are field trips included in your school plans, or are they just family time? Again, both planned and "other." I will plan certain trips to coincide with our studies, some trips because there is a homeschool group going, and some trips just for fun. They all count though.
9. Do you and your kids do crafty stuff together for school time? We try to, but not as much as I'd like. My oldest doesn't like them much so it isn't really worth the effort to get all that mess out. Everyone loves experiments though. We really should do more of those than we do.
10. Would you consider everyday household life stuff ‘home ec’? Absolutely.
11. Do you have any advice for new homeschoolers? Don't get hung up on labels and don't worry if your homeschool doesn't look like anyone else's. What works for your family isn't necessarily what will work for anyone else's and that's ok. In fact, that's great! It means that you are truly giving your children the education that's right for them.
12. Do you have advice for homeschoolers with little ones under foot? Deep breaths, deep breaths! LOL, but seriously, flexibility is the key. Save the stuff that needs quiet and uninterrupted concentration for naptime. Try to get the little ones involved when you can. And most of all, remember that this is a short time in all your lives. Appreciate it for what it is and try to remember that you have a lifetime to do "serious stuff."

Friday, December 14, 2007

I have a few minutes

I have a few minutes while our spaghetti water boils, so I figured I'd come report on our exciting day, lol. Cameron spent all morning playing Times Attack. He just had to keep playing until he passed those 2's. When it came to the final battle where you have to get every one of the problems right to move on, he kept missing a different one every time he tried. At that point it would send you back to review the ones you missed but then he'd miss different ones the next time. I finally convinced him to just start his game over so that he could review ALL of them, and then he passed the level in two tries. Then he moved on to threes and I finally had to make him stop. He wanted to keep going until he finished that level too! LOL.

Next was the park. Nothing too interesting or exciting there. It was a great time as usual. There's a new mom who has been coming the last couple weeks and it's been nice getting to know her. (She's the type who likes to talk so there isn't a lot of initiating conversation on my part, lol.)

On the way to and from the park though, we listened to Tikki Tikki Tembo over and over and over. I only had the read-along cd because there was a waiting list for the hardcover book. We ended up getting them both at the same time but I didn't really expect to listen to the cd. We've never had any success with books on tape at all. But I decided to pop it in on the way to the park today on a whim and WOW was it a success. I don't know if it was the actual story or just the fact that it was one of those read-along books with the chime that tells you when to turn the page, but they loved it! They passed the book back and forth between tellings and we listened to it four times on the way to the park! They kept chanting "Tikki Tikki Tembo-No Sa Rembo-Chari Bari Ruchi-Pip Peri Pembo" over and over at the park. Cassia even said she wants to name our next boy baby that, lol. And then we listened to it another four times on the way home! Cameron was really making an effort in trying to read along too. It was fun, but I don't think I'll ever get that name out of my head!!

OK, my water is boiling. Have a nice weekend, everyone. :)

Thursday, December 13, 2007


This morning's activities didn't go exactly as planned. We had a sudden (ok, I think we had 12 hours notice) visit from Comcast to upgrade our internet. So back to cable we go after three years of ever-slower DSL. It's funny how you have to just keep hopping back and forth between technologies as they improve and compete. Anyway, I'm not taking advantage of it yet - gotta wait for my tech support DH to hook us up this weekend ;) - but next week I will be able to do such amazing things as watch crazy people on YouTube without pausing to buffer first. You know, Quality of Life stuff. ;)

Actually, I saw on our tech's laptop the Comcast Customer Creed, lol. I unsuccessfully tried to find it online to accurately quote it, but it was something to the effect of "to do our best to be the ones our customers come to for the things that are most important to them." Cable TV? Internet? Phone? Sad that those are the things that are most important. What about love, family, and honor? I suppose you can use the previous three to find the latter, but still...

So while they were here working, Cameron did some work memorizing his multiplication tables with this amazing game. It's like Doom with multiplication tables (and no blood, just an ogre with a club that never really hits you). Very cool. Needless to say, he loved it. He spent over an hour trying to get the 2's down perfectly. That game is brutal too - it won't let you move on until you KNOW it. The Comcast crew (yes, they had to call in a backup team to get us installed!) finally left and we were able to hit the afternoon ballet class instead. While Cassia was in class, the boys and I ran over to K-Mart to pick up some things and look what we ran across...

Guess who wanted to rush home and do his schoolwork as quickly as possible?? LOL. So we came home he started off with Spelling Time. He got another 100% on the end of lesson test. I don't know if it's sticking or not, but he sure is enjoying it and doing really well in the short term. Phonics was an /âr/ in hair review. Cameron read really, really well. It is finally kicking in for him. Wow this has been a long journey and each little itty-bitty success has seemed so huge - but they really have been. I am almost ready to say that he is a reader. Almost. He still has to voluntarily pick up a book, but I think that may be coming soon (knock on wood). Next was Grammar where we reviewed all of the poems that we've memorized so far. Both Cameron and Cassia remembered them all - even the obscure ones that I didn't like and only spent a day or two on, lol. Math was next: a quick exercise on the three times table, backwards. (As in 3x10 = 30, -3, 3x9 = 27, -3, 3x8 = 24, -3, etc.) We finished up with the Chapter 2 workbook pages in Science. Again, I was really impressed with Cameron's comprehension of the subject and Cassia's ability to come up with obscure vocabulary words. Another thing that impressed me was how much writing and spelling Cameron chose to do while working on this. Like I said, the whole reading thing is really coming together for him. :)

And then we watched OotP. It was pretty good, but being a recent reader of the book all I can say is whooooooooooooshhhhhhhhh! WOW they sped through things! I guess you have to in order to keep it from being a 5-hour epic and I suppose they hit all the major points... but at one point my cell phone rang and I was on the phone for less than five minutes. I got back and was shocked with how much I had missed already. Dolores Umbridge was great though, but I'm disappointed that they left off her trademark black velvet hair bow. Cameron loved it. Cassia actually watched the whole thing. I'm not sure why it was PG-13? Maybe just intensity? I am really curious to see DH's reaction to it. He hasn't read the books and doesn't want to for fear of "ruining the movies." LOL. But I wonder if it will make any sense. So much is missing. He's always asking me questions about the other movies, but why did they do this and why did that happen? I tell him as best as I can but it gets confusing, lol, so I just have to tell him that if he really wants to know then he just better get busy and read the books already. That's when he stops asking questions. ;)

Nothing official on the schedule tomorrow, so it should be a nice relaxing day. Speaking of relaxing, I think it's almost time to put the kiddos to bed and jump into a nice hot bath. Mmmmmm

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Wild Life

OK, you're going to have to forgive me here. I have a total Mommy Brag. Big time, Mommy Brag. Several of them, even. ;) So a big group of us met up at a local Wildlife Museum run by the High School. It's a really neat place and one of the best parts is that is is entirely run by the high school students. They do the maintenance and upkeep of the displays, the care of the animals, give the tours, everything. It's really pretty impressive.

While we were waiting for it to be time to start, the kids were all acting pretty crazy outside - playing tag, climbing things, etc - and I was a bit worried about how they were going to be inside. The group leader, MomP, was trying to give a little instructional talk to everyone before we went in and I will give you one guess which two kids were not listening at all. Yep, mine were the ones wandering around whispering in other kids' ears and generally not showing any respect to the person in authority. *sigh* I figured we were in for a bad day.

Thankfully, things changed 100% once we were inside. They were attentive, respectful, relevant (for the most part, lol) and altogether a delight. Our group of twenty-seven children had been broken into two groups: ages 7 & under, and 8 - 14. At one point, after Cameron had very accurately explained the purpose of animal camouflage to the group, MomP asked if he might prefer to be in the older group! I declined because topics aimed to the pre-teen group would be WAY over his head, but I was so proud and honored to see him shining so. He was answering all the questions posed by the guides (and even raising his hand to do so), asking thoughtful questions of his own, listening to their directions, and was truly, truly interested in the entire thing. Several times after he made some comment or other, one of the moms would come up and ask me how old he was and comment on his intelligence. The word "brilliant" was even used once! (I told you this would just be one big brag!) LOL, I had to laugh because most of this knowledge of animals comes from tv. But really, he's not afraid to ask questions and he's not afraid to keep asking them until he really, truly understands. I love that about him. It's annoying and very, very trying at times, but it is what makes him unique, I've noticed. Apparently, it's also made him "brilliant!"

Cassia was fabulous too. She was always right up in front not wanting to miss a thing. She and a couple other little girls kept holding hands as they walked - too cute. She was also quick to answer questions and to add her own brand of comments - usually relating to Go, Diego, Go in some way, lol. The cutest thing was that whenever she asked a question she started it with, "I was just wondering..." LOL. Such a sweet thing.

Speaking of sweet things, Greyson was a really good boy too. His favorite part was the live reptile show at the end where we got to pet a ball python, a gecko, an iguana, and something else that I can't remember. He also liked the room with all the animal pelts that you could touch and pet. He liked the coyote the best. He started getting restless near the end because he really, really, really wanted me to let him out of the backpack to run around. I finally did in the reptile room and he just sat on the floor with his face pressed up against the glass cage walls, lol. I think he had a good time.

Now, I don't really mean to brag. Well, I do, but not because I think my kids are better than anyone else's. I'm just so proud with how far Cameron has come. Does anyone remember any of last year's field trips? Oh, the humiliation and frustration! This was just such a nice switch. *big grin*

So then we came home and started in on school work (because the rest of the morning hadn't been educational in the least, lol). Cameron wanted to get started on it right away because he's been on a Legend of Zelda kick lately and couldn't wait to start playing it. So we did Phonics (ear as /âr/ in hair), Spelling (where they have started introducing some proofreading marks), Grammar (picture narration), math (more 3s), and History. I was going to move on to Ancient Africa today but I still haven't requested those books from the library and I have a shelf full of books on China still in our personal library that I hadn't even looked through yet! So, I asked Cameron if he wanted to do some more China or move on and he chose China. First I read them this old Troll book (remember those?) called Ancient China and then we read one on Chinese Calligraphy. Cameron got really excited by that and wanted to try writing the sign for dragon - the most elaborate and complex character that I have ever seen. I convinced him to start small and then got out the poster paint for him.
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He spent quite a while practicing his calligraphy with a brush and then wanted to try with a pencil. That led to a whole elaborate picture of combined calligraphic characters and line drawings of dragons and fish. It's actually pretty cool. He told me that I could keep it forever and ever and hang it up in my bedroom, if I wanted. :)
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I tried reading The Princess of Wisteria Wood to them from an ancient book of Chinese Fairy Tales while they were drawing and painting, but Cameron kept interrupting me to tell me about the sharks in his drawing, lol. I finally gave up... but not before telling him about the evils of Shark Fin Soup! ;) I had to get a moral in there somewhere!

And that was Day Three of Super-Busy Week, though it didn't feel too busy at all! Our field trip was early enough in the day that we had plenty of time to get school done before 2pm and yet it was late enough that we weren't rushed to get out of the house to make it there on time! That was nice for a change! Tomorrow is just ballet, so that shouldn't be too busy or rushed though it always ends up feeling that way. Friday is park day, so that's more fun than "busy" though nothing else ever gets done on park day, lol. But since we are now only going out of town for the weekend, instead of a week and a half, that lack of productivity shouldn't be an issue at all. So I guess now that Humpday (lol, anyone else hate that term as much as me?) is over, I guess that we have conquered Super-Busy week. WaHoo!

One final note to Meesh and G - LOL, you two! Well, it's nice to know that I don't come off as badly as I feel like I do, but remember that in your cases I've already felt like I have known you before ever meeting you. It's so different talking to someone that you don't know much at all... afraid that every word might be offensive. Afraid that your peculiar sense of humor might not be appreciated by this person. But now that I think about it, one of the people that I was referring to yesterday has that peculiar sense of humor too and that's why I like her. And, now that I think about it, our kids don't get along too badly either. Hers are a little older but they play well enough together in group situations. Maybe I will suck up a bit of courage after the holidays and ask her if they'd like to get together and hang out sometime. But thanks for the encouragement. :)

Well, it's only 3:30 and I've got pretty much everything done for the day! Guess I better go find something to do then. :)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Holiday Party

Today was the big 4-H Holiday Party. There was LOTS of food, lots of music, lots of crafts and lots of fun. :) But first we had to do school. Cameron did a Phonics lesson on word pairs like pare/pair and hare/hair, then a Grammar lesson reviewing action verbs, then finished up the Language Arts block with Spelling Time. Next was math - one exercise on multiplying by threes - and then we ended with Science. I decided to skip the last two activities for the chapter. They were kind of lame, so I just kind of talked over the concepts in them (proving that air is matter) and then moved on to the chapter review and a couple of library books on the states of matter. Pretty routine stuff. Nothing very interesting, I suppose.

But then we went to the Holiday Party! We ate pizza and Mexican rice and black bean salad and nachos. OK, Greyson and I ate those things. The other kids had one slice of pizza and then went straight to the desserts. Three each. Gotta love a party when Mom is too busy to notice that you're taking another dessert until you've already eaten 80% of it. ;)After gorging themselves, the kids made paper reindeer with handprint antlers, origami boxes, beeswax candles, and wool angels. They decorated gingerbread houses. MomSW said that Cameron was "amazing" at that. She said that all the other kids were just trying to glop as many pieces of candy on as they could, but Cameron was doing a very precise job of it and making intricate little patterns with the candies. MomSM gathered everyone around to sing Christmas carols and Chanukah songs. They played a game where they stuck pictures of animals on their backs and went around the room asking people yes/no questions to find out who they were. Greyson would take turns running back and forth between the kitchen and the Christmas tree in the lobby and the giant American flag and the door hanging of Santa and the food table, lol. He did a lot of running. During the carols though, he was either sitting in his seat shredding the song sheets or he would run right up to MomSM and watch her with his face about two inches from her guitar, lol. He was pretty cute and VERY busy. I think we all had a good time. I spent some time talking to a couple of the moms that I wish I knew better. How does one approach that subject? "Hi X! I like you. I know our kids don't really get along, but I wish we could hang out and be girlfriends!" LOL. Maybe not.

So that was Day Two of Super Busy Week. Tomorrow we are touring a wildlife museum. We went last year and had a lot of fun, so I am really looking forward to it. Hey, I think that one or two of those moms I mentioned wanting to get to know better are going too. Maybe I'll try brushing up on my small-talk skills tonight. LOL, is there a website where you can learn that? If only I could just type conversations out and hand them to people. ;) Maybe I could try texting them. TTYL my BFFs. U R GR8.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Week of Frenzy Begins

Today marks the beginning of our Crazy, Too-Busy Week. Our Crazy Too-Busy Week was going to be the preamble to a Crazy, Too-Busy Vacation followed by a Rushed and Over-Extended Holiday but we wised up and postponed said vacation until after the holidays which will hopefully then become a Peaceful and Relaxing Holiday and Vacation instead.

So anyway, to recap the weekend...

Friday: Favorite Park Day. Not only was it Favorite Park Day, but it was also a birthday celebration for two of our park friends. L4 is now L5 and J4 will soon be J5. Poor Cassia is always the last of her friends to turn that year older. Somehow, she managed to make friends with a bunch of kids about 6 months older than she. Not that anyone minds but that always means that we spend 6+ months enduring, "When am I going to be 5 too?" Anyway, the party was really fun except for one thing... everyone but us brought gifts. Arrrggghhh! Every other time we have celebrated birthdays at the park we have ended up being the only ones who brought gifts, so this time I told the kids to just make cards. Oh boy, did I feel awful. I'm sure no one cares but me - because really, no one ever called it a birthday *party* they said "birthday thing" which from our experience means cupcakes as the day's snack but not presents - but I can't help feeling like a cheapskate. OK, really, I'm over it.

After the party part of the *birthday thing* (no really, I'm over it) was over we all went on a little adventure to go find giant mushrooms. One of the boys had spotted one under a tree and I mentioned to him that I had found a huge patch of them on the trail to the restrooms. (Yes, the restrooms are a bit of a hike from the playground.) Apparently, no one else had ever noticed the little magic grove of mushrooms because there was a lot of Ooohing and Ahhhing. It was quite impressive. The colors were stunning. Too bad I didn't have my camera. Next we went to the Peace Garden and the kids ran around playing tag and ruining everyone else's peace and quiet, lol. Ironic, I thought, but no one seemed to mind. Greyson spent his time climbing all the little fences surrounding the Peace Garden and running over to the adjacent dog park to watch the dogs. Luckily, he didn't try to climb the fence that encloses that. ;)

Saturday: Gymnastics. Greyson had gymnastics again and LOVED it this time, like I knew he would. I warmed him up to it by bringing him over to the foam pit where we stacked giant foam blocks for a while until he felt comfortable. He still cried a bit during the structured circle time part, so we skipped it and went back to stacking blocks. His other favorite activity, besides running around in circles, was rolling around on these little four-wheeled wake board/scooter type things. I'm guessing that next week he will be brave enough to start climbing things.

Sunday: The Nutcracker. Late in the morning we ventured out to see the matinée performance of The Nutcracker. It was put on by Our City Ballet/ Cassia's Ballet School and I must admit that I was pretty impressed with the quality. Not that I've seen a lot of ballets in my time - in fact, this season has brought me to my first two live ones - but the major parts were done very professionally and the kid parts were adorable, if not in sync. I think several (most? all?) of the male parts were performed by dancers from the Oakland and possibly San Francisco Ballets. Anyway, I had a great time. I was transfixed. Cameron and Cassia seemed to really enjoy it too, though Cameron admitted that he missed parts of it because "pictures of other things would just pop up in front of my eyes!" namely plans for his next big video game adventure, lol. Greyson was a little restless but I think he did really well considering that it was a two hour ballet! DH was really kind of over-cautious about it and kept taking him out, but I think he would've been fine just running about a bit in the back row. I mean, it's only the Our Town Ballet, not the Bolshoi or something. But whatever, I'm not going to complain since he took charge so that I could share the experience with Cassia.

I think next year I'll just plan on she and I going alone and leaving the boys at home. I'll give Cameron the option, but I doubt he will. I mean, he's been enjoying the ballets we've seen but I think, given the choice, he would prefer to stay home with Daddy and work on the car or something manly like that, lol. Cassia, on the other hand, could not stop talking about the beautiful music and the beautiful costumes and the beautiful Snow Queen (who happened to be her instructor!). Cameron did love the fight between the Nutcracker and the Mouse King (fabulous scene!) and seeing his friend T8 dancing as the Little Black Sheep. I couldn't get over how small T8 looked on stage. He's so big compared to Cameron - bulky, older, football playerish - but on stage he just looked like a little babe in arms. I can only imagine how his mother must have felt. *sigh* I can't wait for Cassia to be in something... if she wants, of course. LOL. Stage-mother in training, right here. OK, I've been rambling about this way too long. Time to move on. ;)

Today: We started the day out with an impromptu visit from relatives. It was a quick visit but it meant that we couldn't do school until after gymnastics. Gymnastics went great. Smoother than it has in a long time, which was nice. For once, I didn't feel the slightest bit frazzled by the time we left (aka, Greyson wasn't cranky the entire time). Cameron did half a spelling lesson while we were there. Once home we did Phonics (more /âr/ in hair), Grammar (learning our home phone number, which was needed), Math (multiplying by three), and History (Ancient China).

Yes, this starts the third week on Ancient China. Not exactly in time with our original schedule - Ancient China should've taken one week, several weeks ago - but with our new schedule, I think it will be ok. Especially so since I think a lot of chapters are coming up on Moses and the Hebrews and I can't see us doing a lot of extra reading on that. I mean, I'm glad it's there because it's important stuff but I think, at this point, that an introduction to the stories is about all we need. I still haven't figured out how we're working in World Religions yet. There was a blurb about Confucianism and Daoism in our Ancient China book today but I didn't elaborate on anything. I think they may still be too young for more than a vague, "there is a religion/philosophy/school of thought called X and this person was instrumental in it's development or teachings" but I don't know that more than that will be comprehended at this point. Especially since Cameron still thinks that the whole concept of a god is ridiculous.

And that should catch you up in our exciting lives. ;) We are almost halfway through Chamber of Secrets now and that is where I am headed to now. Have a good night everyone. :)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Another rainy day of course I just want to lay around all day again. ;) But we were out of bread, yogurt, and apples and we cannot last more than a day without serious withdrawals from those things so we had to venture out in the rain to the grocery store. The kids were splashing around in the puddles and saying that everything was flooded. I took that to be a teaching moment and started to describe what has been going on in Oregon lately. They were suitably impressed. As soon as we got home, they rushed out into the backyard and started playing Flood. They would paddle their pretend boats around the backyard inspecting the damage and then say, "Look out for the flood" and then run for the back door while holding their breath. It was kind of funny and really cute - I'm not sure if the Oregonians would think so though. (Which reminds me that I should email a few people.)

So aside from that meteorological lesson today, Cameron finished off both the Spelling Time and Spelling Workout lessons for the week - acing both. He also played some more math games on Funschool while I folded laundry and I thought he would protest when I brought out the math book later but he didn't. In fact, he did a Review Exercise and then even though I said we could quit, he wanted to move on to the next section in the book! So I introduced the three times table and he did TWO exercises on that! We also did phonics (words that go from /är/ in car to /âr/ in hair with the addition of a silent e) and Grammar (more action verbs). For Science we read about liquids and gases and whether or not they have definite volumes. We did one "activity" and were about to do another when Cassia suddenly decided to go into their bedroom and get her swimsuit... which, of course, woke Greyson up. He wasn't too thrilled to be awake either but wasn't about to go back to sleep. So that was it for Science. I still have absolutely no idea why she felt the need to go get her swimsuit at that moment. She never even did anything with it except parade it around on her head for about 10 seconds.

We also managed to get another two chapters of Chamber of Secrets in today. I was actually quite surprised because Greyson was screeching and howling so loudly most of the time that I could barely hear myself read. I kept stopping thinking the whole thing was pointless in that situation but Cameron kept begging me to continue. He said he could hear me just fine even though I couldn't even hear myself, lol. I'm sure there's a lesson in there somewhere...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Lazy Day

It must be the weather because all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a blanket and a good book or movie and veg all day. And it was even sunny today and about 55˚F. Can you imagine if I lived somewhere where it snowed or something? LOL, I'd probably never get out of bed.

So while I didn't do that all day, I did start our day with a nice long chapter of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. We read two of them last night. I wonder how the end of the book is going to go. We almost never watch that movie, or at least we watch it less frequently than the others, because Cameron hates the basilisk and even had nightmares about it one time. The books are so much more intense that I may have to limit our reading of it to the daytime hours.

For school we started with a review of the /ôr/ in door words. Cam did really well, after a slow start. Next we did Grammar and learned about action verbs! That's two parts of speech in two weeks and I haven't even skipped anything. I have to say that I'm quite relieved because I was beginning to have doubts about FLL. Next was math and he just did two quick pages of word problems, multiplying by two. For History we read a couple of old Chinese fables, Rikki Tikki Tembo and one about the animals of the Chinese zodiac. We also read a book about what a typical family's life is like in China. The family we read about had nine people - grandparents, their two sons and their families - living in a house the same size as ours. I cannot imagine 9 people living in this house! Cameron finished off his school day on Spelling Time. He finished off this week's work and then started on next week's! Here's the funny thing though - next week's lesson is actually a review so I didn't put any words for it into Spelling Time. The words that are in there are the programs sample lessons which are actually much harder than his current book! Coincidentally though, most of them were words with the /ôr/ in door sound. He ended up doing quite well on them.

And that's about it from here. This week we actually haven't had anywhere to go all week, except for gymnastics on Monday, so I've been taking advantage of it and not going anywhere at all. I do have to bake some banana bread on Friday and deliver it on Saturday for a bake sale on Sunday and then Sunday we are going to see The Nutcracker. But other than that, we are vegging. Next week is going to be super busy. We have something almost every day... no, I take that back, we have something every single day next week and then we are going out of town Sunday. So like I said, I am taking advantage of not having anything to do while I can. And on that note, I am going to go snuggle up on the couch with my kiddos and watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. :)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Bipartisan Home

I am in shock. We got a phone call this morning. A phone call from... can I even write it down?? A phone call from...

... the Republican Party. My husband has betrayed me. He, who incidentally never registered to vote before this, his thirty-third, year because he didn't want to be called to jury duty, registered as a Republican. I always knew he leaned that way a bit, but to actually register red?? *sigh* I feel like a woman who has suspected for years that she was being cheated on and has finally found the proof. All he could say in his defense was, "Hail to the Chief." *sigh*

Our home has gone bipartisan today in other, less horrifying, ways too. We went with a half traditional-half technological school day. Cameron set the tone this morning with Spelling Time. He finished up last week's Spelling Lesson but then accidentally closed the browser before he got to play his reward game, lol, so I reset his lesson so that he could retake the test and get his game time. He then wanted to go on to this week's lesson but I wanted him to do the first half of his Spelling Workout lesson first as the introduction to the words. He decided that he wanted to do the entire thing instead. OK! And then he went back to Spelling Time and did the first two sections of the week's lesson. He wanted to keep going but I made him stop, especially since he used the hints to help spell all the words even though he had just written them several times in SWO. If you can't retain them five minutes later, I think a longer exposure time is needed!

Next was Phonics and Grammar. Nothing too exciting in either of those except that Phonics went very easily and Grammar was a little touchy since Cameron refused to even try giving an oral narration to the fable that we read. The book suggests that if the child can't remember the story to go over the review questions. Well, he easily got all of those right but still couldn't "remember" the story to give me a narration of it. So I gave him one instead. I didn't want to stress over it. I just wanted to show him how easy it really was. He still wouldn't try though. Oh well.

Next we did Science and started learning the three states of matter. The book is very leading in its explanations, asking rhetorical questions, and Cameron was tending to guess what it was going to say next quite frequently. I was very glad to see him really thinking about what I was saying. Next we did an experiment to determine the volume of an irregular solid. We found the volume of Han Solo and Yoda and a motorcycle. Can't get that kind of education in public school! ;)

For math I let him play math games on the computer. He played Addition Attack and Cannon Math at the Funschool Arcade and kept playing each of them over and over and over until he was finally able to beat all the levels. I had wanted to find a game where he could practice his multiplication by twos but wasn't able to find one before he started getting impatient to play, lol. But it worked out well because those addition games really helped him to solidify those facts. He still has some problems with things that add to more than 10 (i.e. 8 + 5 or 18 + 15, whereas 12 + 16 is ok) but he was really starting to remember more of them by the end. And I'm not surprised, that was like 45 minutes of drill!

And that was our school day today. I've been doing some thinking about our history cycle but I won't bore you with it here. I will bore you with it here though if you are interested. ;)

Update: I just IM'ed with DH and he now claims that he's *not* a Republican, he's just open-minded. Now what exactly does that mean? Why is he evading my questions of his registered political affiliation? It's all very suspicious...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Happy Pretend Birthday to You!

Today is my DH's Pretend Birthday. Tomorrow is his real birthday, but he has to go out of town for work so we are celebrating today. I am making his favorite Curry Chicken Casserole for dinner and blueberry pie for desert. So, to that end, I must blog now when our day is really only half over.

This morning, I had the most wonderful surprise. Cameron and Cassia had found a book of Christmas stories, poems, and carols and I found them laying on the floor with Cameron reading the lyrics to Oh Come All Ye Faithful. My boy is reading. By choice. WooHoo!!!!!! During History he was also reading the history encyclopedia over my shoulder... literally, I was laying on the bed and he was laying on my back reading over my shoulder, lol. It's like he's just finally figured out that the words I'm saying match the words on the page. Yay!!

But Phonics was a chore. He didn't want to do it and so started our session off with some passive resistance. I responded in a manner typical of the dictatorship in which we live and told him to go to his room if he was not going to participate. Suddenly, the R-Changed Vowel Chant was not such a horrible thing to do afterall. Next was Grammar and the pronouns they, them, their, and theirs.

He was on a Math roll today. He did four workbook exercises! Of course, some of them were only one page long but he just kept going and going and going. By the end he was really remembering his two times table and not having to count by twos on his fingers. Actually what he would do was think about it, then check back on one of the previous pages to see if he was right or not. He was trying to do it all slyly, as if he were cheating or something, but I didn't care. I know I can't memorize anything without repeatedly reading and writing it, so why should I expect him to?

He did Spelling next. We're a little behind in Spelling. He hasn't been keeping up on Spelling Time very well. I mean, he does several sections of it several times a week, but he never seems to get around to the test and review until Monday of the next week. This week was even worse. He'll have to do last week's test and review on Tuesday and then we'll start the next SWO lesson on Wednesday.

We finished off the day with reading about the Ancient Chinese Shang Dynasty in our history encyclopedias. Never did get around to those crafts. I think the clay bowl craft won't even be appropriate until the Ming Dynasty anyway, so I'm not sweating that. We really should do that pictograph writing though... But I think we also need to pick up the pace a bit! Most people say you should do one to two chapters of SOTW a week and I think we're averaging one chapter every two weeks! The ancients are going to take two years at this pace! My theory was that we could move slowly since we started early and are pretty much schooling year round, but we started in June and people who started in September or October are starting to catch up to us! But I don't want to rush and get all caught up in that stress of not being "on schedule." I did write a rough schedule last year trying to figure out where we should be when. I wonder where we are in comparison to that - behind I'm sure. Better not to look in that case, lol. I can't hurry too much anyway because only about half of the Chinese library books that I requested are in. Many times those are what really bring a topic home. Many other times they are just drudgery but I'd hate to skip something that might be a winner. Like the one about the man who finally deciphered Egyptian hieroglyphics - I never would have thought that they would have been as captivated by that story as they were. So anyway, I guess I'll just remember my Aesop, "Slow and steady wins the race." But I also think I had better get busy requesting our library books for the next topic!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Pretend it's Friday

LOL, slacker me! I forgot to post on Friday and then I meant to do it Saturday but didn't and now I just realized that I better do it now or I will forget what work we did on Friday (and my tracker/planner is about a month behind again!).

So Friday was park day and that means a slightly lighter day. We skipped History and I was actually going to skip Grammar and Phonics but we ended up doing it anyway! Cameron started with copywork: On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree. LOL, he loved it. He has been obsessed with that song, making me sing it over and over until he had gotten it memorized. He saw the page of copywork, gave me a sly look and said, "What does that say?" I said, "What do you think it says?" and he proceeded to read it to me... except he keeps saying "pearrage" instead of partridge. Next was math and the continued work on the twos times table. After math, he asked to do Grammar. Like I said, I was going to skip it but I didn't want to deny the poor child. ;) Then he asked if we were going to do Phonics next and again I couldn't deny him. OK, he didn't really ask to do it but he asked about it so I took that to mean that we should. It all went well.

Then we went to the park where nothing extraordinary happened except that we all ended up leaving by 4:00. That almost never happens! We usually stay until 5:00 but it was cold and windy.

Saturday (and I guess I should be glad that I forgot to blog on Friday or else I probably would forget to write about this) Greyson had his first gymnastics class. It's a free play class for one to three year olds. There were lots of kids there. He was terrified. The poor little guy clung to me and whimpered the entire time. Cassia was pretty nervous her first time too, so I was expecting it, but I was a bit surprised at how long he was scared. He's usually so friendly and outgoing! Everyone always comments on it, so he must be unusually friendly too. But I just sat down on a mat and let him sit in my lap and people watch or climb up into my arms when he needed to. Finally, five minutes before the end of the class, he got brave and decided to stand up. And then he stood on a folded mat without freaking over the coldness of it on his bare feet. And then he jumped. And then he laughed. And then he jumped off and laughed and got back up on it over and over and over again. Motorboat, Motorboat rides on a parachute are the last thing that they do before everyone leaves and it was at this point that Greyson decided that this was fun and took off running and playing. He was bummed (and so was I) to have to leave just when he was starting to have fun, but hopefully next week he will warm up to it a little faster.

In other Greyson news, he fell off of a chair last night and bonked his eye on the table. It's a wooden table with rounded edges, but somehow he managed to cut his eyelid and we had to take him in to get it glued. Here's a picture or two of his shiner. I couldn't get him to turn his head the right way though.

And here's a picture of Cassia just because she wanted to have her picture taken too. ;)