Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another School Year, Another Attempt at the Blog

Just for Megan and Amy, I'm making some use of my iPhone in the dentist's waiting room. The kids are watching Ichabod Crane & Mister Toad and so, might possibly, allow me to finish a thought. I wouldn't put any money on that though. ;)

So despite my best efforts, the kids are growing up. Can you believe that when I started this blog Cameron was in Preschool/K-4? Well, now he's in 4th, Cassia in 2nd, and Greyson (the baby in my profile pic, lol) is in Pre-K/K-4. Before I know it, I'm going to have a house full of teenagers and THEN what am I going to do???

Since I apparently haven't blogged since March, I'll catch you up on the last year a bit... What did we do? We seemed to be so busy doing everything that we didn't have time to do anything. The kids each made it through, maybe, half a math level; we only made it through 2 or 3 lessons in Writing Stands; did almost no history or science. But we DID do book club, cooking, global art & crafts, sewing, and outdoor adventuring in 4-H; piano (Cassia) and violin (Cameron) lessons; American history via the old PBS cartoon Liberty's Kids; scouts; sports; many, many audio books; and a zillion field trips. It was a good year of unschooling. We learned a lot, but this year I'm feeling the need for more structure in our lives.

So to that, I've created a "schedule" for this school year. It's extraordinarily loose as far as schedules go, but it gives us some direction. Each day has 8-10am blocked off for schoolwork and 10- noon for cleaning the house. After that, the schedule varies according to our other activities and includes things like science projects (Cassia's request), cooking, history projects, and tea & poetry afternoons.

We've been on the schedule for four days now and it's been a partial success. We gotten math, writing, and reading done every day, but we never get started on it until 10. Cleaning is a bit of a hit and miss - no one ever wants to and I just don't feel like the fight most of the time - but I think that might improve with a little bit of consistency, hence the scheduled time.

Today is supposed to be our science project day but I have nothing planned. I think if they work quickly with their bookwork and actually help me clean once we get home from the dentist then we'll have time to do an experiment from one of the many kits we have before soccer practices. See the schedule is a good thing- I never would have thought of that as a plan for today if it wasn't already on the schedule.

Well, it looks like it's going to be my turn soon so I better bid you adieu. Happy New School Year!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Ignore this

Testing why I can't seem to read my blog from my phone unless I write a new posting.

Oh, looks like I figured put how to add a picture tho....

Big oops there. Yes, that's the needle floating out there in the middle of the fabric.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Midnight musings

OK, it's not midnight yet, but I'm sure it will be once I finish. My days have taken on the strangest patterns. Now that the kids are getting older they are much better able to fend for themselves in the morning (get up, get a fruit & cereal bar, get a glass of juice, turn on tv, veg), I'm able to sleep in a bit. This means that I'm able to stay up a bit. Sometimes a big bit. It's not uncommon for me to stay up until 1:00 am lately which I haven't done on a regular basis since college. Mid-life crisis? Perhaps, but I'm guessing I still have a few more years before that one hits. One thing that it does stem from though is that I quit "having" to watch certain shows on tv. I still like tv - I'm not like many of my insane friends who only get cable tv when the Olympics is on and then cancel it right after (swear to god, I know at least three people who did that) but I've become less chained to it. I've found that I can let DH watch a show and go do something else. I can even enjoy a show just about as much by only hearing it from the next room. It's liberating. It really is.

So what am I doing? Sewing! Or at least trying to. Here is a tooth pillow that I made for Cameron:

Cassia has a matching pink one.

And here are some quilted potholders that I made:

It's been a really rewarding pastime for me. I've always pegged myself as a "can't sew" person, but the truth was I never really tried. Well, I tried to make a dress once in junior high Home Ec but the pattern I picked out was much too hard and I got quickly frustrated and quit. Ended up failing that portion of the class, actually. That pretty much set the tone. I made a pillow in 1999 and turned some old flannels into napkins in 2004. I tried to make an outfit for Cassia around that same time, but again, it was hard and I got frustrated. I didn't entirely quit that time though. I finished the capris but never got around to the shirt. I don't think she ever wore them. There was just something wonky about them... not sure what.

But for the last two years, Cassia has been involved in a beginning machine sewing project at 4-H.
Last year she made an apron and this year she's make doll bedding - pillow & blanket for the doll and a coordinating pillow for herself. Well I figured, if a six-year-old can do it, so can I. So for Christmas I recycled some of her old clothes into little drawstring bags to hold handmade Easy Bake Oven mixes. (Which are really good! SOOOO much better than the icky chemically ones you buy.) It was such a fun and EASY project that it inspired me to do more.

DH's aunt makes these gorgeous quilts and she makes that look so fun and easy that I thought I might give that a try too. So far, I've made 5 quilt squares. Three with a Roman Tile pattern (pictured above) and two with a tulip pattern.

The first squares were super easy and fun. The actual quilting and binding of them was a bit more difficult, but overall I'm happy with the effect and I learned a ton. The tulip pattern was a lot more complicated. I learned, as I progressed, that a little measuring and marking goes a long way and the extra time spent there saves a lot of time ripping out bad seams. They eventually came out looking quite nice. The quilting of them has been more challenging. First I was going to attempt to hand quilt them but soon realized that the batting I'm using in these potholders is much too thick for me to learn such a fussy new skill. So then I tried machine quilting them, like I did the first set, but the tension is all off and it's been a nightmare of knotted thread and skipped stitches. I think I've finally got that down but the pretty little pattern that I had planned on is not looking very pretty with my less than perfect sewing. I think that I may rip it all out again and go back to trying to hand quilt it anyway.

As you can imagine, this isn't really stuff that I can work on with little ones around so I can't get too crafty until after they go to bed. Which means I've been up until at least midnight every night for the last couple weeks. *Yawn* But, I'm feeling pretty self-satisfied. I'm not giving up. I know I can do this if I just keep practicing and that's actually a great feeling. I'm really enjoying that this IS hard. And somehow potholders and tooth pillows don't seem as intimidating as clothing and such. If I screw up a potholder, who cares? It's probably going to get stained and burned anyway, right? If I screw up clothing it's wasted time and money because no one is going to wear it. At least that's what I'm thinking. The bottom line is just that making clothing wasn't satisfying to me but this is.

Oh, and I just realized that we have a play to go to in the morning so I'm going to have to get up early. Blah. OK, enough about me. ;) Maybe tomorrow I'll actually blog about the kids and this school thing.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Smooth sailing?

One of the nice things about sick kids is that it gives you the opportunity (aka excuse) to stay home for a while. Aside from our little farm excursion on Monday, we haven't been anywhere all week which gave us a wonderful opportunity to just stay home and focus on schoolwork. Which we did.

The spelling tic-tac-toe is still going fabulously. They really enjoy working on it now. Cassia's favorite is "Write a poem with the words." This one activity has inspired her so much that she's been writing poems about everything. She wrote one the other day after a conversation about balloons and air density...

Air, air here and there
Air, air everywhere.

Simple, yes, but I love it. Mostly I just love the inspiration of it. It inspired some breakfast talk about the rhyme and rhythm of poetry too (what is the literary term for that?) and then a quick reading of Robert Frost. And all that from Spelling? Nice.

Math is moving along nicely. Cassia finished up her book and has moved on to level 2A. Cameron has one more exercise and a review or two to go. The fact that we've been doing it every day though means that no one is complaining about having to do it every day. It's just routine. It's just what we do. Also nice.

We haven't done history every day, but we've done it at least three times a week the last few weeks. They built a Viking ship out of a cereal box the other day and are thrilled to once again be able to trace the paths of our readings onto maps. You see, our scanner was broken for ages and so we weren't able to do any of the things from the Story of the World activity guide unless I actually managed to go to Staples and make copies... which didn't happen very often, as I'm sure you can imagine. Now we have a new printer/scanner/copier and all is right with the world again. :)

We've read lots of books. I picked up a bunch of easy readers from the library and almost every day I have Cassia or Cameron read to us. We've also been continuing with our Goblet of Fire read aloud and I think Cameron finally, really, appreciates how much better a book can be than the movie.

Our really big thing of the week though has been writing. We started Writing Strands 2 this week and it has been so much fun! I think they, Cameron especially, have really enjoyed focusing on the ideas of writing rather than just the mechanics. The first lesson was on describing things and we spent three days building up big, beautiful sentences describing a pen and then we culminated today with each of them writing their own unique descriptions of something. We talked about how wonderful language is that you can say exactly the same thing in so many different ways.

Cameron's sentence: Greyson's little, orange squirt gun soaks surprised people.

Cassia's sentence: Our broom is yellow and green and used to sweep kitchen messes.

They drew illustrations too. The really great thing about this program is that it is written for homeschoolers so it's extremely adaptable to multi-age use. They were each able to work at an appropriate level to themselves and both earned an "A+" for their efforts. (I had to remind Cassia of the arbitrariness of the grades when she seemed to get overly attached to her A+ and she said "I know, but I still like it." LOL)

So it turns out that drafts saved on BlogPress are not saved into your blogger dashboard, so I'm going to go ahead and publish this now and edit it on the other computer. Mobile blogging in my living room is tiring. ;)

Cassia and Cameron seem to be feeling much better so this was written (mostly) while they were in their respective piano and violin lessons. Cassia also reluctantly went to ballet (she was afraid she might start coughing) and ended up doing just fine. Greyson, however, spiked a fever again and so I caved and called the doctor. Five days of fever is too much for me. Turns out he has a double ear infection and is now thrilled with his yummy pink medicine. (It's so much easier when they actually like the stuff, lol.) So hopefully he'll be feeling better soon. Dr. D said to give him a call back if these coughs last for more than two weeks. Seems like they always last for longer than that, but we'll see how I feel about that next week. We're already on day 8 for Cassia and Linus.

So it's been a week of ups and downs. Up on the brain work, down on the health meter. I guess you can't have it all. ;) We'll see how our newfound academic routine holds up in the weeks to come. It's so hard to hear the call of the books when the sun is screaming "Come and PLAY!!"

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, February 22, 2010

Here we go again

Four little lovebirds sitting in a tree, C-OU-GH-I-N-G.

Yes, sick again. Cassia and Linus came down with fevers and coughs mid-last week. We had to skip a play that we had tickets for (hate that!) and missed music lessons for the second time this month. We did take advantage of the home time though and worked on spelling, math, and history. We also read Roald Dahl's The Fantastic Mr. Fox. That was a great book. It was so exciting that the kids wouldn't let me put it down and we read the whole thing in just two sittings.

By Friday, everyone seemed much better and we went ahead and went to the Cub Scout Blue and Gold Dinner. We were on the decoration committee and had a good time with the paper chains, streamers, and balloons. The dinner was delicious and the ceremony was great - at least, that's what I heard. By the time dinner was over, both Linus and Greyson were done with the whole thing so I ended up taking them home before the ceremony. Cameron got his Bear badge with the rest of his pack (even though he had to finish up the last of the work on Sunday). He's spending all his spare time working on arrow points now.

Saturday morning I took Greyson to gymnastics. He saw a little boy in the lobby who was doing a trial class and it was like love at first sight. They were instant best buds and were on exactly the same Silly Wavelength. They were driving me kind of nuts, but one of the coaches just loved it. She said that she had never seen Grey interacting with another child like that before. He tends to be quite shy and clingy when we're out (which is so bizarre if you actually know him or have heard stories, lol). He was so independent though, and has been for several weeks now, that I decided it's time to move him up to the next level of classes, sans parent. So one more week of Mommy-and-Me and then it's off for the big boy classes. That frees up our Saturday mornings for Linus to start taking the baby gymnastics class!

On our way home we spotted a sign for an "airport display day" at our local airport so we went and rounded everyone else up for an impromptu field trip. I had to talk DH into it but it was so worth it. The airport had about 20 one and two-seater airplanes on display that the kids could run up to and peer inside. It was much more informal than an airshow or a museum and the air field is small enough that they were free to just run around at will. Good times. Greyson wore his NASA commander costume and was as big a spectacle as the airplanes to the other guests, lol. He loved the attention. It was pretty cold so we headed out after about half an hour, amidst the very loud and tearful protests from Greyson.

At home we settled in to watch some Olympics and that's when The Sickness hit Cameron and Greyson. It wasn't too bad on Saturday, but by Sunday Grey was running a 103 fever and Cameron was hovering around 100. Luckily that part of it only lasts a day and today, Monday, everyone feels pretty good but still sounds really bad. Well, Grey still has a low fever but he seems to feel fine. Phew. I really hate 103.

And finally, I must tell you about our impromptu field trip of today. When we went to pick up our farm fresh eggs today, our farmer friend told us that a new lamb was born on Friday! Well, we had to go see that! We tromped through the fields and the mud to see the chickens, the sheep with the tiny little 3-day old lamb, and the surprisingly adorable pigs. The farmer's little boy grabbed Greyson and Cassia and showed them all his treasures including a large number of, what we are assuming are, old cattle bones! Apparently, the pigs dug a couple bones up in that area and then the little boy went to work with his hoe finding all the rest. Very fun stuff. That is unschooling at its best right there - farmer boy turned archaeologist!

It was so nice just meandering in the sun, watching the animals, watching the kids, watching the kids watching the animals... it was hard to leave. Unfortunately, Farmer Sally had a ton of work to do so we had to leave them. I am a bit jealous though. The grass is always greener, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mobile blogging? Woo hoo!

I finally did it. I finally got my blog connected to my iPhone! Now i just need to perfect thumb typing. ;). Now you can expect updates, with pictures even, while I'm waiting at gmnastics or ballet or violon or baseball... Oh the possibilities!! So let's see, when did I last blog? I'm pretty sure it was over a week ago so I'll just recap to there.

We started doing spelling again. A brilliant friend of mine shared a fun way to do the work. I made a tic tac toe board with different things on the boxes like "write each word three times," or "write each word in a sentence," or "write a poem with the words" - which happens to be exactly the same as writing them in sentences but is apparently more fun, lol. Anyway, they just get to pick any three things on a row for the week. It works great. The power of choice and variety is great.

Math has also taken on a bitvof variety- Cam is doing addition and subtraction with time and Cassia is doing money problems. They're both really close to finishing their books and moving up to levels 4 and 2.

We're plodding throuh history. Hopefully soon we will stop plodding and start enjoying again. We just got a new printer/scanner/copier so we can start doing the maps and coloring pages again. That always makes it more fun.

What else... did I mention that Cam has started fencing? He loves it. I don't neccesarily love the 6 - 7pm time slot, but what can you do. Little League practice just started this week too. And then there's still Cub Scouts. If I'm lucky, we'll only end up double booked a couple times a week and not every day like I'm fearing. How do you prioritize stuff like that? They're all important and require dedication and practice. I just wish everything didn't have to be "after school" hours.

OK, my thumbs are cramping. Must be time to wrap this up. Ciao friends.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, February 08, 2010

Call me crazy

Oh, so many things I wanted to blog about in the last week and I just never got to it. I really need to get that Blogger app working on my iPhone. So let's see, what were the highlights?

One day last week I donated some of Cassia's old clothes to a fellow homeschooler who said that she was a single parent, in dire straights. Now, obviously, that made me want to help her all the more but when we went to her house it turned out that it was a woman that I had run into many times before at field trips and even in the grocery store, I just hadn't recognized her name (if I ever knew it). I had always admired this woman and how well-behaved her children were. That time I ran into her in the grocery store was a day that I was feeling particularly frazzled and she really set me at peace. So to find this same woman opening the door to our hand-me-downs was both a joy and a huge tug on my heart. It felt so good to be able to give back to her some of the kindness she had given me in the past. I really hope she can get her family back on its feet soon.

What else... oh, I wanted to recommend a free online curriculum called Head of the Class. They only have preK through 2nd grades right now but promise to have up to 8th grade soon. Cassia really, really likes it. She begs me to let her "do my website" first thing every morning. Greyson likes it too. There are a LOT of printouts and lots of fun videos. Each time the child logs in, they get a menu of the lessons available - usually math, writing, spelling (not for the preK, obviously), reading, and then either art, geography, Spanish, music, etc. It's pretty fun. The one thing we've had problems with is having the lessons freeze up and not load properly. We really hate that because then it's kind of lost forever. All in all though, it's definitely worth the money. ;)

Speaking of curriculum, I was recently appalled by Cameron's writing abilities. I mean, he couldn't get it through his head to put spaces between the words! And his spelling is absolutely atrocious. So we're going to start spelling again, though this time, unlike during the summer, I won't have them write out the definitions. I think that was just a bit too tedious. I'll have them write the words a few times a day and then have a test on Fridays. I've also ordered Writing Strands and I'm hoping that will take care of everything else.

And speaking of writing (here is where the call me crazy part comes in), I've decided to try and write a book. I know. Crazy. I can't keep up with the things I'm supposed to be doing and now I'm adding this giant thing in. But the urge hit me and I just really want to give it a try. I'm going to write some easy chapter books, something that will appeal to boys and girls and doesn't involve them being stuck in school all day! I don't want to give too much away, lest someone steals my idea and does a better job of it than I can, but it's going to involve the history of cooking and the importance of eating good food and maybe a recipe or two, too. My biggest concern is follow-through. I am horrible at follow-through. I very rarely finish "projects" like this. I started some quilted potholders just after Christmas, thinking they were small enough to actually finish. Nope. Can't seem to get back to it to finish them off. Call me crazy. ;) Well, call me whatever you like but then go ahead and send me some "stick with it" vibes, if you don't mind.

OK, break's over. Back to my research.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Game on!

Today's schooling consisted of POKEMON! The original idea was to start up kind of a Pokemon tournament club, but no one really wanted to compete (except Cameron). So we just had a Pokemon playday. Two friends came over and they traded cards and played a game or two. We moms sat and chatted. It was nice.

It was actually the third time in as many days that I got to sit around and chat with moms! WooHoo! Saturday morning I went to a business meeting for our homeschool group and gobbled up eggs florentine and chai while discussing options for our new web site. Later that night I met up with some other moms and gobbled up pasta and wine (and bruschetta and mousse and coffee and...) while discussing "girl stuff" and then we topped the evening off with a movie! Dinner and a movie on a Saturday night! Can't remember the last time I did that. Today the food wasn't as exciting - blue corn chips, pretzels, and tea - but the conversation was great.

Cameron and Cassia kept playing Pokemon after their friends left and then moved on to TOPS Trumps Wonders of the World. It's funny how once you get into game mode you just get stuck there sometimes. I love that they love games. Games give you reading, math, science, adventure, fantasy, role playing, problem solving, cooperation, and FUN too!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Making mudpies

Our record of making park days this fall/winter has been dismal. Between illnesses, travel, and the stinkin' weather, we've only made about one out of every four or five park days. That a pretty bad showing for a gal who brought her 3 day old baby to park day!! ... but that was September. This is January. So this week, even though the forecast said a 60% chance of rain, even though it was bound to be muddy even if it wasn't raining, even though I had had a sore throat all week, we went for it. None of the kids was sick (except one small runny nose) and it wasn't raining at the moment. So we went.

Apparently everyone else had the same idea! It was a very crowded park day! After only about an hour, we were all itching to move so we set off on a grand adventure. We thought we were taking a short walk, but the boys took the lead and soon we were committed to The Big Hike. (The Big Hike is usually reserved for blackberry picking in late summer.) The rivers had all wiggled out of their banks. The bridge was barely above the water line. The paths had all been dissolved into mud. Giant impassable ponds lurked behind every bend. But it was fun! We had such a blast. Some of the kids were skating in their mud-caked sneakers while others had given up entirely and were tackling the trail in bare feet (or was it a bear-like feat?). We adults did our best to tread lightly and stay above ground. The kids stopped caring long before and splashed right through the center of the flooded paths. I think they probably had the right idea.

Despite the mud and the muck, the weather stayed nice through the majority of the hike. It was only during the last quarter-mile that it started to sprinkle on us and then, just as the parking lot was in sight, the sky opened up and dumped on us. LOL! Greyson, who had been one of the lead hikers the entire way (!), finally hit his limit and just stood there shivering in the cold, wet, parking lot. Poor guy. I had to carry a damp, tired baby in one arm and a soaked and cranky Greyson in the other! But we got everyone stripped down to the bare essentials and wrapped in blankets for the ride home and all was good. Hot chocolate sealed the deal on a perfect rainy day.

Gotta love it when you can embrace the weather rather than fighting it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Life is a cabaret, my friends

I was going to say, life is a circus, since we went to go see The Moscow Circus yesterday but I think a cabaret is friendlier sounding. (Of course this house is sounding pretty circus-like at the moment!)

So let's see, what's new. The Moscow Circus show was fun. Parts were a bit sultry for a "school show," in my opinion, but the kids didn't notice. Well, they didn't know they noticed but I saw Cameron react when the hula hoop girl ripped off her pants, vest, and cap to reveal a lacy red dress slit up to there, flowing brown curls, and a pout that reached to the balcony. I mean, it was a pretty stunning transformation and he's *almost* to the point that he gets why men like women, though far away from it himself. If that makes any sense.

Today was nothing particularly exciting, just lessons on top of lessons. We started out with a trip to the library. Cassia got more fairy books. Cameron got a Star Wars book. I picked up some random easy readers for Cameron to read to Cassia. He can read well enough to enjoy a chapter book now, but I'm pretty sure he's skipping about half of the words. Giving him the assignment of reading to his sister, to help her, is really my way of checking and making sure he's reading what he thinks he's reading. Devious, I know. ;)

We are hosting a Flat Stanley from New Jersey right now so we took him to the library with us and had his picture taken with our favorite librarian. Stanley was sent to Cameron but he thinks it's completely silly and so Cassia has been his true host. Next we took Stanley to music lessons and we he got his picture taken playing Middle C on the piano.

Cassia has been taking piano lessons for three weeks now and is doing a great job. She loves the homework and the practice and her teacher said she is doing so well that she doubled her work load! They were making up a practice chart and the teacher asked how often she was practicing. I rounded up a bit to 10 minutes, twice a week. She said that she was doing extremely well for only practicing twice a week. And then Cameron's teacher came out and told me that he told her that he "doesn't have enough time to practice." Uh huh. She followed that up with "How much tv did you watch today?" Hmm, he didn't really have a good answer for that one!

It's funny how he was the one who begged and begged and begged for violin lessons and now that he has them doesn't seem the slightest bit interested in playing. Cassia, on the other hand, never really showed much interest, can't carry a tune in a bucket, but is now a budding musician! Who would've guessed. This really just solidifies in my mind that you really need to try out as much as you can whenever you have the opportunity. Who knows what is going to be The Thing!

Next was ballet. Today was the first day of the new semester and Cassia's first day in The Purple Class (a.k.a. Threshold Level). I've heard it's a much more serious class and she said it was very different but that she still likes it. They always say that only about one girl in ten sticks with it to the actual upper division classes. I always wonder.... Yes, it's my dream that she become a famous ballerina, lol. I'm really curious when it will stop being her dream too.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Double project day

Phew! Today was a busy day. We had back-to-back 4-H projects, one of which was led by me, followed by gymnastics.

The project I led today was Primary Cooking and we made lots of different hors d'oeurves. I set up 4 different stations in which the kids could make (1) toothpick hors d'oeurves, (2) canap├ęs, (3) finger sandwiches, and (4) chocolate covered pretzel sticks. The kids really seemed to have fun and got very creative! I tried to stress both the beauty of the finished product and the convenience of it. I think I said several times that the main point of hors d'oeurves is to feed your guests while enabling them to walk around without making a total mess of your house. LOL, I hope they really understood the importance of the "no mess" part. ;) I'll put the pictures at the end.

Some of the parents commented that the project was really fun because it was real food that kids could really make without worry or fuss from an adult. That's actually what I love about leading cooking. I know that even really little kids can cook, all by themselves, if they just have the opportunity and the right recipes. Greyson's specialty is scrambled eggs. He rocks those eggs and is so proud to serve them up to everyone. (Honestly, he's the only one who doesn't get shells in them!) Cassia's specialty is fruit salad. Cameron, well, he hasn't found his specialty yet but I'm guessing it might be steak.

After cooking was The Money Project and they set up a mock doughnut shop! It was super fun and super full of really, really good information. Unfortunately, some of the kids were already amped up on chocolate covered pretzels, lol, and weren't the best listeners... but overall it was great fun. I was so impressed by all the business ideas coming off of everyone. Really, there are some entrepreneurs in that group, mark my words.

After that we rushed off to gymnastics where it was a surprise Star Day! Cassia was so disappointed because she didn't get a new ribbon (first time ever in this class) but the skills are getting harder. There was another girl in her group that was just beside herself with crying. I felt bad for her. The competition of this really isn't for everyone. I'm guessing E won't be in it for much longer. But once we got home and looked at her chart, Cassia and I realized that she probably would've gotten enough stars to move up a level if they hadn't run out of time for the trampoline skills. That made her feel much better.

Have I mentioned that Cameron decided to quit gymnastics? He had gotten to a place where he just wasn't getting very many stars anymore and had really just plateaued in his skills. He decided that he would rather try another sport. (Fencing to start in February.) But today during the testing he was very clingy and hugging me a lot. I was a little concerned and asked him if he was sad that he wasn't down there earning stars too or if he was happy to not have to do it. He grinned and said that he was very happy to not be down there right now. Phew. Good call.

OK, I really need to get dinner started now since it's already 6:30 (eeks!) The pictures from the cooking project are below. Enjoy. :)

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Scientists on the loose - part II

Today we went to the California Academy of Sciences museum. And it was another fabulous day. I love how when it's just us (Mom + 4 kids) out somewhere, they really step up and stick together. Greyson was soooooo into everything that he kept hanging back looking at everything, but all it took was a quick call and he came running right up. He was such a good boy. I love that. I mean, I love that he was a good boy, but more importantly, I love that he knows when to step up and be agreeable, lol. He spends so much time "fighting the power" that sometimes I'm afraid that he doesn't remember how to just go with the flow and enjoy himself. But he does. :)

We spent the day with my friend and her two boys again. Such a nice time. The kids really seemed to get along and it is so nice to just hang out with someone you've known forever. Yes, we don't speak often and haven't actually seen each other face to face in, oh, um, maybe 5 years, but it was still so comfortable and relaxing. It felt like home. I wish she lived closer.

I had an interesting time people watching in the toddler area in the museum. My friend had taken the bigger kids to the planetarium show and I was hanging out with Grey and Linus in the toddler room. As anyone who has spent much time in a toddler room knows, there isn't exactly a lot of adult stimulation in there so people watching is the main form of entertainment. There was the usual "stand back and let your child wreak havoc without ever noticing" parent and the "hover centimeters away and intervene before your child can even look at something that might cause controversy somehow" parent. There was even a slightly frazzled "yes, I know my child is bigger than everyone else and doesn't really know how to control himself but, really, what can I do but remove him from the situation when he goes too far - so stop looking at me like that!" mom, whom I really felt for and got a kick out of watching.

But I noticed two new types today. There was the "set your child up for failure right off the bat" parent who said to the sweet and quiet one or one-and-a-half year old as he approached the play ship's steering wheel, "Now make sure you share if anyone else comes over!" Now, I know that doesn't really sound bad but there was no one else around him! He hadn't even touched it and she was already warning him that he wasn't really going to be able to enjoy it because someone else might come up and they are obviously more important than he is. OK, maybe I'm reading too much into that one but it really rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. It just seemed so limiting and belittling even to set those limits on his fun right off the bat. Personally, I'd rather see him have a good time with it all to himself first and then if someone else approached throw out the sharing reminder. But then again, my kids think they rule the world so maybe I've given them a little too much leeway there, lol.

The other "interesting" parent I saw was actually quite shocking to me. It may have been a cultural difference but I saw this woman get extremely stern and angry because her toddler took off her socks. The little girl (who couldn't have been much more than one) was so cute and said "Socks off!" in a sweet little sing-song voice as she pulled one off and the mother just about went ballistic. "That is NOT appropriate! Put that back on right now! Do you need to have a time out?!?" as she practically wrestles the little thing down on the ground and forces her to put her sock back on. Now, I don't think that she was a violent or abusive mother or anything, but I do think that that was a pretty severe reaction to taking off your socks in an area where they require you to remove your shoes and half the kids didn't even have socks on! And threatening a time out for such a little thing? I'm sure she had no idea what she did wrong. I'm sure I don't either. Some people are just really hard for me to figure out.

Of course I spent a lot of time explaining to my friend's kids why food dropped on the floor was still ok for my kids to pick up again and eat. I hope no one's writing a blog about what a bad parent I am!

Scientists on the loose!

Spent the day at the Exploratorium yesterday. SO much fun! One of the great things about it, for me, is that it feels so small. As soon as we get there the kids all go in different directions! There are so many cool experiments. Every, single thing is hands on and you don't really need an adult there to read the sign to you to have fun and take some new knowledge away (though you get more out of it when you do). Apparently though, not everyone feels the same way. I've heard several people say that that place is seriously overwhelming to them. Interesting, huh?

We met an old friend of mine there and her two sons. Everyone was pretty much doing their own thing inside the museum but once we were leaving they all broke out into spontaneous games of tag and "I'll race you!" Those are the universal games that bring all kids together. My friend's husband was saying that playing tag in the Palace of Fine Arts is probably the one memory that will stick in their boys' heads. :) Love that!

Today we are meeting them at another museum. I'll try to blog about it as soon as I get home because even though I did manage to find a few minutes of uninterrupted time this morning, I've lost the feel of yesterday. Late afternoon blogging is more heartfelt, I think.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Where does the time go?

You know, just about every day something wonderful and amazing happens around here that I want to share... but then life gets in the way and I don't get around to it. And then I forget. Isn't that awful? Isn't that supposed to be the point of this whole thing? To share the joys of homeschooling and being with my kids 24/7? To appreciate and remember the little things before they slip away forever?

Oh well. What can I do but try? I guess I could aim for shorter blog posts and then it wouldn't be such an ordeal to just do it. That seems to fall in line with the whole FlyLady perfectionism thing. Chores done badly still bless the house. Blog posts that only say half of what I wanted still say half of what I wanted!

So what did I want to say? I forget. It was quiet when I started this and so I thought I would take a few minutes and get a few thoughts out, but now it is no longer quiet and my thoughts have gone the way of the wind. Isn't that always the way? Well here's a new thought then. A FlyLady inspired blog: 15 minutes a day. I need to find a time of day when I have 15 minutes (lol) and have something to share at that point. Early morning is probably my best bet. Maybe I should take notes during the day so I remember the next morning, lol. Sadly, yes, it is that bad. ;)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I'm baaaack...

OK, last week was a complete write-off. Stupid sickness. And the worst part was that it wasn't even the kids!! It was DH and me. I woke up Saturday with a headache and sore throat and he woke up with it on Sunday. He ended up with a 101 fever, swollen glands, and 3 days home from work! I just ended up with a steady stream of Tylenol and hot tea. My throat finally stopped hurting yesterday. Man, that thing just wiped me out. Nothing was accomplished all week.

Well, no, that's not entirely true. Cassia made some wonderful self-motivation strides. She was drawing a birthday card for a friend (yes, I did still have to take them to a birthday party even though I was sick because THEY weren't) and asked me how to spell "love." Cameron said, "Just draw a heart!" and she replied, "You know, I'm getting too old to just draw a heart for love. I need to learn how to read and write!" Amen, sister! She also just randomly got out an animal encyclopedia and started reading it one day. Another day it was a book on castles. Today it was a book on origami - she made a whole basket of snakes! She's my reader! Of course, she's not necessarily reading the words in these books but she is reading a lot of captions and she is discovering what wonderful treasures lie inside. She also wrote a book based on a cool tangram design and called it The Jewel of Good and Bad. She apologized to me for it "only" being a picture book but the pictures really told the story. I loved it.

Cameron has been doing a lot of puzzling: tangrams, dominoes, Legos, electronic circuits. He's also been reading chapter books at night! Wahoo!! Finally! He read a Bakugan book that he had gotten from the library and when he finished that, he started on one that DH had read as a kid. Something about a haunted something or other, lol.

Greyson has been watching Hero of the Rails over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over. He has a friend that he sees during Cassia's ballet class and they spent the entire hour last week playing Thomas trains and acting out that movie. I swear, it's preschooler crack.

Linus has just been trying to do everything that Greyson does. He's learned to jump off the couch (*sigh*) and to roll Bakugan. He can make all sorts of train, plane, and car sounds - way too cute. And he even helps me do laundry. I really love this age (15 months, if you've lost count).

So the kids have been busy, but I've felt like the week has been a bit of a waste for me. Today, I finally feel back on track and I've made up a menu plan for next week so that I can shop from a list at the store tomorrow. I've been much too free with the credit card at the grocery store in the last year and I need to cut down a bit. It's funny how spending just a little bit more than what you pay off each month adds up over the years! The best way to cut corners though is to know what I need, know what I'm buying, and know how much it costs. Hopefully I won't have to start itemizing my shopping list again. I did that for a while and while it was truly eye-opening to see where exactly all my money was going, it was very time consuming. I don't have that kind of time lately.

And speaking of time, I wanted to get a little exercise in tonight which means that I must bid you good night.