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Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's been a day!

Wake up, Scott to sailing by 8, do a little laundry, cut TJ's hair, TJ's soccer pictures at 11 (done by some company charging $20 a picture, so you KNOW I took my own),

TJ's team- the Rays

TJ-he's loving this soccer

followed by Goodwill for Mimi's halloween outfit (we wouldn't want to plan tooooo far ahead, LOL), then home for my mom to get Mimi between 1 and 2, wash some dishes...then a collossel nap ;-)
Because of said nap, this afternoon slipped away without me making it to the grocery store to get the things I needed for dinner (philly cheesesteak sandwiches are always better on bread, LOL)...I'm sure that never happens to anyone else. So since I needed to make arrangements for Scott's return home (he had a sailing regatta all day with some evening activities too that had no definite end time), and since I wanted to check out a local church's "fall festival" activities (not impressive) before deciding if we should take the littles there. (Mimi is at my mom's for the night for her birthday treat). So the hubs said to grab a $5 foot long from Subway for dinner for the 4 of us.

So I did just that...went to Subway, picked out a sub, had them make it, paid...and walked out to find my van COMPLETED blocked in. I did not have my phone, or I would have taken a picture. How does that happen in a half empty parking lot in a time span of 5 minutes???

And it was a small white car to boot, not even some big honkin' SUV. I should explain I had pulled into a spot with a huge concrete light poll in front of it, so going forward at all wasn't an option. And the white car had come up the aisle the wrong way and looped around my van so they were in the parking space at the wrong angle and totally overlapping my bumper by a good foot and a half...with about 2 inches between my bumper and the side of their there was no escape.

So I went back in Subway and asked the people who had come in after me if they had a small white car. Nope. What about the leather goods for bikers store next door? Nope...but I did run into someone we used to go to church with. Off to the instant lottery/internet gambling store next door (what kind of town do I live in, anyway?). Nope, none of their partrons, most of whom they know by name, had just entered or drive a white car. But the manager did come out to sympathize and gauk, Hungry Howeys? Not a patron in back to the drawing board.

Plan B? The police, 'cause I really didn't want to have to go in the tattoo parlor, Big Lots, the produce store, Dollar General, Friendly's, and Arbys...oh, and the Sunshine Opry... to ask every single woman (there was a big, wide open purple purse on the passenger seat) if they drive a white car.

So I borrowed a cell phone from the lady we used to go to church with (whose name I COULD NOT remember) and called the police. In the few minutes it took for the lady office to arrive, more gaukers had shown up with some seriously unkind things to say about the driver of the little white car...It goes in the books for a "bad parking job" trust me. Anyway, I didn't have unkind things to say, but I also was a little concerned that the car might have been stolen and dumped there, given the purse on the seat, and I was concerned I could wait all night for a driver who never appeared.

So the police officer, after gauking abit herself and commenting that it would take quite a good driver to get back out of that spot without hitting my car, proceeded to pick up where I left off going door to door in the stores.

She found the driver in Hungry Howeys...
not a customer...
not a delivery person (that would have made my life a lot easier with the dead give away delivery sign on the roof)...
just a upper-teenage girl who works there and came to work 20 minutes late, parked her car, and ran out the driver's side (where there was a grassy curb) without ever looking back to see that she wasn't even fully in the space, let alone blocking someone else in. She was really apologetic, thanks to the police officer's guidance, no harm came to my vehicle.

I got home, the hubs and I had a good laugh, and we ate and took the littles to a local park for a bit of fun. TJ managed to wiggle a tooth out between soccer pictures this morning and the park tonight, so he's a bit more snaggle-toothed.

Why do boys always assume things are better 12 feet off the ground?
I should have Sari ask Aunt Fanny about the dangers of doing this...

She thinks she's "all that" now that she can pump the swing on her own.

Mr Snaggle Tooth

TJ and his daddy

Then we came home, and I took off to Alberton's for some shopping (paid $80, saved $64, and only used one coupon). I got "The Joneses" from the Red Box for the hubs and I to watch and we had ourselves a "date night"...except my computer has been in my lap the whole time typing this. And now it's off to bed..we've got church in the morning and a busy day and night ahead of us.
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Friday, October 29, 2010

Buckets O Fun - Yuck Review

I know, "fun" and "yuck" don't seem to fit in the same sentence. And trust me, yuck is NOT what your kids will be saying. But Yuck is the name of a line of polymer play materials that Buckets O Fun sells so that you can have, well, buckets of fun!

So what is Yuck? Yuck is actually four different products.

All four are made from polymer granules. The granules are of differing sizes,

and they each produce a different type of Yuck-





All you have to do is add water to each of them to get the Yuck ready to play with. They can be used for good clean fun, and game suggestions/uses are recommended on the website and on print materials. But they can also be used from a homeschooling perspective for more intentional science, and the Buckets O Fun company has paired up with a science teacher to come up with some basic experiments for you to try with your Yuck.

The pros: The Yuck Science pamphlet has great information about what polymers are and simple suggestions for activities to do with each kind of Yuck that really help to take Yuck as a "fun activity" to Yuck as a basis for some real science. And those provided activities served as a jumping off point for other ideas (i.e. let's grow seeds in it, let's use the snowy one to make bone models). Or if you just want to have fun, there are tons of suggestions for how to play with your Yuck like burying small trinkets in Chunky Yuck to find or putting Saucy Yuck on a slip and slide. The mischief/fun is endless! And a little Yuck goes a LONG way. Our samples were about a tablespoon of each type, and we have about a quart of Chunky Yuck, 3 cups each of Saucy and Snowy, and 1 cup of Sticky. I can only imagine how far a 1 lb. bucket goes!

The cons: Because Yuck is a polymer and it absorbs water, you can't just wash it off your hands without risking clogging your drains (since the polymer will continue to absorb water), so that means you really must plan out the play time with the Yuck. Plus, once it's been touched by people, bacteria is introduced, so while you might be able to play with it for a few days, you really can't reuse it safely beyond that. It strikes me that Yuck is best played with outside where you can hose it off you and anything you use it with, and it will naturally biodegrade. That makes Yuck a warm weather activity-which is not too much of a problem here in FL, but might be elsewhere.

The Bottom Line: Yuck is cool. And my kids unanimously voted the Snowy one their favorite. It's probably my favorite too. We don't get snow here in FL, so this is a very cool substitute. And beyond the coolness factor, it is a great object lesson on polymers and how they work.

Yuck can be purchased from Buckets O Fun in 1 lb buckets and the price is $18 or $20 depending on the variety. But they also will send any individual or group free samples like we got of each of the different types of Yuck so you can try before you buy. I'd highly recommend giving the samples a try and I know my kids would LOVE for me to buy a bucket of Snowy so they can have fun with it for ages to come. To read what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about their experiences with Yuck, go HERE.
Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received a small sample packet of each of the 4 types of Yuck to try out with my kids. That is all the compensation I received from my review.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

The Sunday Evening Post...a day or two late

I started week 2 of the Couch to 5K. It took me 2 weeks of week one to even think of trying it, and I was really thinking I might need 3 weeks of week one, but I gave week 2 a try tonight. I did it. THE WHOLE THING. I never once petered out before the 90 seconds (of jogging) was over. Somehow though I think I'll be spending 2 weeks on week two also :-).

How is it that another week-end passed without us even remotely getting done what we had set out to accomplish. How does that happen? What does time seem to speed up on the week-end, not slow down. Even without Scott having sailing, Saturday was full with Mimi having T&T baking, a trip to the grocery store for me, and then an impromptu trip to Tampa to take Mimi to see one of her best friends..RM. I love the opportunity for those girls to get together. And selfishly, I got a haircut by RM's mother and she even colored my hair with the color I had bought earlier that day. She stayed the night there and they brought her back Sunday afternoon. RM's "Gram" lives in a local town that had a Craft Festival going on, so I went down there since Mimi wasn't actually "done" at RM's Gram's-they were having a birthday party for her and had not yet gotten to cake or some of the other activities. After the party ended, I had a photo shoot with some of our dear friends and took some pictures of 3 of my kids to boot.

Last Monday we went to Disney with friends...

Not a bad picture of Aunt Fanny

Sari claimed her God Mother as ride partner all day

While we were at Disney, a piece of my crown fell out...the same crown that has given me years of trouble. So on Wednesday, I went to one dentist, my new one, to get a filling fixed that was still causing me some sensitivity issues, and today, I went to my dentist of many years and got the crown replaced. Both (thank GOD) were gratis since both were not issues of my doing, but my mouth is really sore tonight. My new crown looks really nice though.

This Monday, since our public schools were out, I declared a "teacher planning day" too and we did minimal school work and a lot of chore catch up and then all four kids spent the afternoon playing with friends. Actually, Sari spent all day playing with the girl (Z) who lives behind us. They did really well playing together, especially for as many hours as they were together. Their first project? Rake and sweep leaves!

Later, Z and her mom did a bit of face painting. Sari enjoyed her stint as a tiger!

See, we really do get fall here in FL...even if it only comes in leaves falling off trees and not in fall like temps.

Speaking of that, we had had a near record dry spell, and my garden showed it. We went something like 24 days without rain, but it finally rained a nice rain last night-right as I ended my run ;-). My garden and my yard are much happier now!
Lastly, my kids are LOVING having a new Aunt. They get mail on their birthdays, and today they even all got Halloween cards. They were beside themselves ecstatic. They love to get mail. Thanks Aunt S...where have you been all their lives?
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Happy 11th Birthday Mimi

I already blogged about Mimi's birth story HERE, so I won't bore you again. But I want to say happy birthday to my favorite big girl. I've always said she has a special spirit, and God has big plans for her. Today, I asked her what she wants to be when she grows up, and she said, "a writer". I guess it fits-she's endlessly creative, her handwriting is deplorable, and her spelling is horrendous...perfect for a writer, LOL. I think she's beautiful inside and out no matter what she becomes. Happy Birthday Mimi! We love you!

Here are some pictures from today:

Cake time...we're very laid back around here. Want candles on your cake? Okay, light them yourself, LOL. (Actually, she ASKED to light them.)

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Sunday Evening Post

Maybe that's what I should title my "random" blog posts since they most often happen on Sunday evenings :-).

I was talking to Presley about our chickens and dissed my slacker chicken (the Easter Egger who was not laying STILL). The last time I dissed the girls to Presley, it was because none of them were laying and right away, we got our first egg. Well, the next day after mentioning my slacker chicken to her we got our first green egg. All four are laying now. Yay!

TJ has been playing soccer in a local town. His games are Friday nights, which I LOVE because it leaves the week-ends open. He played goalie for half the game this week, and I have to say he ROCKED. Goalie is not what I would consider his strongest suit, but he did great. They were playing an all girls team of VERY aggressive players, and he had to stop I would guess at least 10 attempts at the goal. It was a funny juxtaposition that they girls team they played was so good, because two of the girls on TJ's team can barely kick the ball without tripping over it or falling down (I'm being TOTALLY honest). Amazingly, both THOSE girls scored Friday, so it was a night of great rejoicing.

School has been going fairly well, but our days are still full and long. Three weeks ago we added in another science at a friend's house, so now Scott does Astronomy and Anatomy, and the three others do Botany and Anatomy. Well, Sari really pesters the other two while they do Botany, but that's a whole 'nuther subject.

The first week the kids studied cells, and their hands-on project was to make cells out of jello using common candy as the parts of the cell. It was yummy fun.

Last weekend we went to a local folk festival (the hubs was on the committee-he did some of their website work).
Tj relished the chance to play the hammered dulcimer since Em won't let him touch hers. She and I went and listened to a local dulcimer club play for about an hour, and she is inspired to really being learning how to play...but we need a tuner first and we don't have a spare $25 right now. So we wait...and/or play out of key...

We went Monday to Disney with friends. We hadn't ever gone there with them before and the kids all did really well. Those kids had not ever been to the Studios, and the mom not for 20 years, so it was fun to see the park through new eyes. S., the mom, found this shirt and suggested it might be perfect for my eldest...I whole-heartedly agree.

All the kids enjoyed trying on every hat they came across. Here's TJ as Kermit.

In Precept, they are putting together a veggie tales themed comic book. Scott, always wanting to find a way to do anything he's NOT supposed to be doing, and happy to try to justify it under the guise of school, got out the playdough and started making veggie tale characters. His 3-D Bob was better, but I didn't get a picture of that.

Here's TJ's asparagus guy.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tag! You're it- I want to know...

I was tagged by my friend Heidi over at Review and Reflections. (The direct link to her "Tag You're it" post is HERE.) Here’s how the meme works: There are 8 questions for me to answer, and then I will tag 8 people to answer 8 questions I think up. Here are my answers:

1.Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? If so, how close to being finished are you? I’d like to know your Christmas shopping personality. Typically, I shop year round as I see great deals and/or gifts I know are "just right". But this year, I really haven't done much of that. Honestly, I haven't really been shopping much at all, so I have not got very many gifts taken care of yet. Finances have played a part in that too this year, so we'll see what the next few months bring. It's weird to be so unprepared.

2.Is there a particular field trip destination that you and your kids could (and do) visit over and over again? We are spoiled to have major theme parks right in our "backyard" so we visit Disney at least once a month. We travel to NY every year, and we love to make the most of our road trip by visiting lots of different places on our drive to and from. We too love Hershey World, and Washington DC, and also would love to revisit the Tennessee Aquarium, which is amazing, and everyone should check it out.

3.What is your favorite season, and why? Fall! I love fall. I grew up in New York,and still remember the amazing beauty of being surrounded by hills and mountains of all the colors you can imagine. And I love the crispness in the air, the break from the summer heat, the transition from one extreme (heat) to the next (cold). Of course, here in FL, fall really just means a change to weather that more closely mimics summer to the rest of the US, but as I type this, the windows are open and this morning it was downright chilly ;-).

4.Are you content with your home? As I type this the immortal Biblical concept of being "content in all circumstances" replays over and over in my head. So let me say I am blessed to have a home, and if nothing was ever changed about it, I would be content with what I have...but honestly? Half my house still doesn't have power for fear that turning it on would burn the house down. And my kitchen is 7' across and 20' long with my fridge right in front of my back door (yeah, that's really great for your freezer in FLORIDA). The short list of things I'd change (if money was no object) is opening up the kitchen somehow so it is open to the rest of the living space, moving the fridge, and changing out the 3 for a dollar peel and stick flooring and 50's white counter tops with gold flecks in them. I'd also like to create a master bath. Because our house was built in 1883 and added on to in the 50's, we don't have a master bedroom, let alone an attached bath. But we do have four kids and without getting to involved, let's just say there are times when the privacy of our own bathroom would be nice. Plus, it will be good for the resale value if we ever move. Last would be making the 1200 square feet of "basement" downstairs into usable space. The bottom line is, like Heidi who tagged me, I have plenty of space, it's just not well allocated, and that's what I'd most like to improve.

5.Do you have a dream vacation destination? I love to travel and see the world. I've been blessed to have traveled to Jamaica and Wales/the UK. I'd love to go back to either one, or anywhere really. The hubs and I will get to go to Hawaii in two years, and we are practically counting down the days, so that's a dream in the process of coming true. I guess a "dream" vacation would involve the ability to run off with my camera and just be free to shoot whatever my little heart desires.
6.Do you have a favorite Bible verse? Does the whole Bible count? Okay, well if not, I have several favorites, but here's one...Micah 6:8 He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?

7.Do you decorate your house for the seasons? If so, do you have a specific treasured ornament or decoration? I used to decorate my house for every season and holiday. I have boxes of stuff in the basement that are a testament to that. But I'm lazy, and I HATE putting it all away after the season is over. And I have kids, and the energies I used to direct toward prettying up my home now are spent in other ways. But I'm not a total curmudgeon, we do have fall leaves on our Jesse tree and hanging on our window, and we ALWAYS decorate for Christmas- just not as much as I used to. I love to trim the tree, because every ornament tells a story. And as much as I am trying to sever my relationship with "stuff", I have many treasured items that were made by my great-grandmother (she did ceramics) that I love to bring out at Christmas.

8.What one thing would you change about yourself if you were able? I'm with Heidi on this one...I’d change my size...well, and maybe stop these crazy old-lady hairs that keep sprouting all over my face.

Okay, now it's my turn to tag people and ask them to answer questions.

1) Do you have a favorite recipe or meal from when you were a child? I have ALWAYS loved my mom's chicken cacciatore, and while I have the recipe, I've never made it myself because I'm afraid it just won't be as good. She also makes a mean Cherry Chicken-it sounds strange, but it's really good. And her stuffing is the BEST, hands down.

2) On that same thread, are there any meals you HATED growing up? You mean besides anything with veggies? Seriously, my mom used to make tuna noodle casserole, and I never, ever liked it. To this day, I have no desire to ever try it again.

3) I'm on a food kick, but question #1 made me think of this- what is your favorite Christmas cookie or treat? Cookie making is a HUGE part of our family's Christmas celebration. I have two favorite cookies- Peppermint balls (which are a BIG pain in the BUTT to make) and Berliner Kranz (a kind of shortbread cookie with orange in it).

4) What is your favorite bit of child rearing/homeschooling wisdom? My current mantra is one I got from Carol Barnier...The here and now is NOT the forever and always. With a special needs, high maintenance child, I have to repeat that to myself several times an hour ;-).

5) What song did you and your spouse dance to at your wedding? We danced to the theme song from The Princess Bride...The first line is, "Come my love, I'll tell you a tale...of a boy and girl, and their love story". Ahhh, to be young again ;-)

6) If you could live anywhere (in the USA), where would you live and why? For decades, I've said NC/TN/VA because they get all four seasons, but not too much of any extreme. And I hate FL because I've never acclimated to the heat and lack of seasons. BUT, the older my kids get, the more I realize our "roots" are here now, and while I'd still love to move, I'd have to take ALL our closest friends with me because I'd be lost without them.

7) What is your favorite book SERIES? I love the Mitford Books. Maybe it's our Episcopal background, but they just are so engaging to me. The characters are so well developed, they become like old friends. I love the one character's mantra, "No rest for the wicked, and the righteous don't need none."

8) What's your favorite book genre, and a surprise favorite from it? I love historical fiction, and I've read or listened to a TON of it. I tend to prefer that for family listening in the car too (we are listening to a Henty book now and just finished two Elsie Dinsmore books). One of my favorite "surprises" was The Geurnsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and I'm happy to lend it to any locals who want to check it out.

Here are the people I decided to tag:

Julie at Winchester Academy

Tiffany at Hillside Hollow

Crispy at Peters Peapod

Melissa at KiwiYates

EC at FindingNoah

Heidi at Reviews and Reflections (probably breaking the rules tagging the one who tagged me, but I want to see her answers and of course she doesn't have to do the whole thing all over again.)

Kris at The Knitting Wannabe (By the way, she's the one who inspired me to try this "couch to 5K thing". I did my first official (i.e. with the app) session tonight, and thanks to Kris's advice to SLOW WAY DOWN, I actually completed 5 1/2 of the 7 running cycles. My outer calf muscles stilled cramped HORRIBLY or I would have run them all. I have to figure out that problem and soon because after the first 60 second run, every step is agony.)

Cristy at Through the Calm and Through the Storm because a) I adore the song her blog is titled for and b) she's one of my mini-crew and has an amazing story so you should all check her out.

Okay ladies, now it's your turn :-).
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Read, Write & Type by Talking Fingers, Inc. Review

Developing good keyboarding skills has never been so important as it is now. There is no doubt that our children will do most of their "written" communication on a keyboard. So what if you could start them out learning keyboarding skills from the very beginning? What if they could learn to type as they learned to read so that letter sounds and finger strikes were synonymous? Well they can, with Read, Write & Type.

Read, Write & Type is designed for students in grades K-3 and is different from traditional reading, writing, or typing programs in so many ways. First, it was developed by a neuropsychologist and is specifically geared toward how the young brain learns. Because of that, it has multiple "safety nets" to ensure success to students at any ability level. Second, it is based on the idea of developing "motor memory" to allow students to use all their senses to learn phonics and at the same time immediately connect those phonetic sounds with a letter and a finger stroke on the keyboard. So students learn to sound out, read, and type any word they can say. Children get instant feedback to correct their errors, and parents can view and print detailed reports to see what areas children excel in, and what areas they might need more work in. The program will not let them advance without being ready for the next step, and has built in review "stations" where students practice skills until they are ready to progress. Read, Write & Type can even be used by students for whom English is a second language, and it currently features built-in help and instructions in Spanish, Arabic, and Bahasa-Melayu, with more languages to come soon.

The Pros: I cannot tell you how much my kids LOVE this program. They fight over who gets to use the computer first. In fact, TJ has finished all the lessons already. Granted, he (9) and Mimi (10) both knew how to read when they started it, but the tying together of letter sounds with letter placement on the keyboard has been invaluable. I can actually watch my son type without him looking at the keyboard at all. It's amazing. If every product made learning so much fun, I would never have to struggle to get my kids to do ANY schoolwork. My youngest, who is 5, enjoys it too, and I can tell it has helped to reinforce letter sounds. I see the results in our reading lessons. I've also seen her just be more comfortable with using the computer keyboard.

The cons: My biggest con is that, while there are tons of charts/reports to show your children's progress, if you are one of those parents who likes to fully know what your child is doing/learning, there's no way YOU can "play" Read, Write & Type yourself. If you play as your child, you will advance them along further than they have actually mastered, and while you can go in in and review what they've already worked on, that does not allow you to preview what they will be doing next. I can say I've spent enough time checking out the program either over their shoulder or going in and reviewing things that there is nothing I've found that's even remotely objectionable so I am comfortable just letting them do their thing. But if my youngest gets stuck, I don't necessarily know the ins and outs of the program as well as I would like to be able to help her out. The other con is really more a bit of advice- if you have younger kids, you need to be sure you or their older siblings don't help them along too much, or the program will think THEY have mastery over a sound that they really don't know that well. It happened to my youngest with the "i" sound. Her well meaning siblings "helped her" through some exercises, and now she's at a review level that she is not ready for. I have just figured out how to go back to let her redo certain exercises to practice the "i" sound, but that is where that "being able to play as an adult" would have made things easier because it took a little digging on my part to find it, and I had to be very careful that in doing that, I didn't progress her even further in the game.

The bottom line? We love Read, Write & Type. I can honestly say that I think this is the most excited about a review product my kids have ever been. In fact, my son is being for Wordy Querty- the next level of Read, Write & Type- since he has completed this program (although he can still go in and review, and the program even highlights sounds he could still use practice in). I don't think I'd use it as my sole source of reading instruction for beginner readers since it's really a program your students do on their own (or with you at their side) and not something you actually teach them, but it is wonderful reinforcement for phonics, it offers the most unique typing instruction I've seen (relating the letters to their sounds), and it also encourages them to write silly stories using the RWT keyboard "storytellers" (aka letters) and lets them read "e-mails" from kids around the world- another feature my kids just loved. I would wholeheartedly recommend Read, Write & Type to anyone with students in K-3 grades who need reading reinforcement and/or need to learn keyboarding skills.

While Read, Write & Type has been around for quite a while in CD form, Read, Write & Type Online premiered in 2009. It was the online version that members of the Crew received to review. Read, Write & Type Online pricing varies depending on the number of users, but it starts at $35 for one student. The boxed CD is $79, but may be the better value if you have more than 2 students who would use this product.

Talking Fingers, Inc. also has a companion product for Read, Write & Type called Wordy Querty. Wordy Querty is for students in grades 2-4 and focuses on spelling rules and frequently repeated patterns in words. More information about both products and a FREE demo of the first several lessons can be found at Talking Fingers, Inc.

Go HERE to see what the other members of the TOS Crew had to say about their experiences with Read, Write & Type.
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

I'm fat...

There. I said it. In public. I'm fat. I did SO well 2 1/2 years ago when I did a modified "Weigh-Down" thing and lost about 20 lbs. And I kept it off. For a LONG time. But then suddenly in the last year, without me changing anything (expect getting older, LOL), I put it all back on. ARGH! It's terribly frustrating.
So now, it's bothering me. My auto-immune stuff is all flaring right now, and I hurt all over. And I KNOW that it's not all weight related, but I also know it wouldn't hurt to weigh a little less.
So a friend from church has been doing this "couch to 5K" thing. She downloaded an app onto her iPhone, and it tells you what to do and how long to do it for. And it sounded so easy, even a caveman could do it ;-). So I, who have NEVER, EVER run in my whole life unless something was chasing me, decided to give it a try.
So step one, spend a RIDICULOUS amount of time online trying to a) find the app she downloaded-there is more than one, b) install said app onto my phone, and c) load music into said app to listen to on my adventure.
After I paid for the app, I could NOT get it to download. I tried and tried. For about 30 minutes. And while it was work-I'm certain that did not count as a workout. While it was trying (unsuccessfully) to download it, I decided to check out what music I had on my phone. Ummm. That would be none. And no chance of remedying that any time soon since that is WAY beyond my pay-grade when it comes to technology.
About this time, I'm figuring God might be trying to tell me something....
So I give up on downloading this file which I have already paid for because I can't get it download no matter what I try. And the light is fading by the millisecond, so I'm about out of time...
SO I head out to do this thing on my own. I mean, It's 90 seconds of walking, followed by 60 seconds of jogging. Rinse and repeat. My phone has a timer, I can make it work even if it's a bit crude.
The 90 seconds of walking went brilliantly.
The 60 second of jogging? Not so good.
Let's just suffice it to say 60 seconds is an eternity to someone who doesn't run. EVER. So I jogged. And the first 10 seconds were great. The next 30 I survived. The follow 7b were torture, and that's where it ended. 47 seconds? Seriously??? You'll apparently find my picture in the encyclopedia under "sloth".
And then walk 90 seconds? I barely could breath after 90 seconds. Oh, I walked it, but I kept walking too. So I basically settled into 2 minutes of walking, followed by jogging until I died, followed by 2 minutes of walking again. I actually made it to 60 seconds of running by the 3rd and 4th interval. But I had spasms in the outer calf muscle in both legs that were so bad I wanted to die by the time I got home...
So I learned some lessons.
First and foremost, be sure to take my heart medicine at least an hour before so it's in full effect before I attempt anything fasted than breathing ;-).
Second, someone who has had asthma and pneumonia and has lungs full of scar tissue probably should adjust her expectations a wee bit about what is do-able on the onset.
Third, apparently God was trying to tell me something...I'm not even ready for couch to 5K. I have the couch part down-pat, but the 5K part...or anything more than NOT realistically going to happen on even the ease-into-it couch to 5K schedule.
But I'm not giving up. Not yet. We'll take baby steps and see what the future holds.

Lord, I'm so blessed. I have two legs that move under my own power. I have lungs that work, even if not optimally. I have food when I'm hungry...and perhaps too much of a sweet tooth...and You have always, always provided for our needs. I'm grateful for Your provision more than I could ever say. And I pray for Your strength to get my lazy self off the couch and doing something, anything, physical and active.
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Friday, October 8, 2010

Who knew...

Chickens get chicken pox? Actually fowl pox. Go ahead. Ask me how I know. Oiy! It's just one more thing in an already crazy life. If they stay as "dry pox" the girls should be okay in about 5 weeks. If any of them get the "wet pox" there is a much better chance of mortality...And just when three of the four of them finally started laying.
Welcome to my life :-)

Lord, I know they are just chickens...but they are our chickens. And not only are they providing food for us, but the kids are kind of attached to their "girls". Your word says you feed the birds and cause the lilies to grow without toil, not to mention you created everything...will you please heal our chickens?
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Digital Frog's Digital Field Trip Series Review

Digital Frog Intl Logo

While we still are a year or two away from any science that involves (gulp) the dissection of animals, as a mom who is not keen on recreating THAT particular lab experiment at home, I had already been exposed to the fact that a company called Digital Frog makes a very well acclaimed digital Frog Dissection software. It's on my "must buy" list for high school home schooling ;-). So when I saw Digital Frog's name on the list of TOS Crew companies, I was praying I'd be chosen for this review.

And I was!

But not for their Digital Frog software.

You see, Digital Frog is branching out into other digital science products, and the product we got to take a look at is their Digital Field Trip Series.

Digifrog Wetlands

The Digital Field Trip Series currently consists of three different Digital Field Trip experiences; The Wetlands, The Rainforest, and The Desert. And they are like nothing you've ever seen before. It's almost like having virtual reality in your house-just minus the cumbersome, and multi-million dollar, equipment. Since each trip works generally the same way, let me describe the Wetlands one, since that's that we did most recently. When you put your CD in your hard drive, it immediately offers you several options to explore regarding your ecosystem. There is , of course, the actual digital field trip, but there are also several supplemental activities too. We began with the field trip, so I'll start there. The trip is "way cool" to quote my kids. Each trip consists of real footage from real places, and you make your way through those places by moving from post to post. You can literally look up, down, and 360 degrees around at each of your posts along the way. To enhance the experience, there are plenty of ambient noises to make you feel like you are really there. And each post has plants or animals to spot. When you find them and click on them (or when you click on their name, if the actual subject alludes you), another window opens with TONS more information about that subject-what it eats, what eats it, how it survives in that environment, etc. Sometimes there are even movies to watch about whatever you've found.

Digifrog Desert

When you're done exploring, head back to the main menu for supplemental activities. For the Wetlands, there are informational "movies" about how bogs form, games to play about the food chain, activities for identifying the different types of wetlands, the study of a bog, mechanisms of wetlands, and lastly information about endangered wetlands. Plus each ecosystem has teacher information and printables to go with the lessons. You could spend hours and hours to fully glean every tidbit of information if you wanted to!

The pros: If you can't go there, these are the next best thing. They have painstakingly researched and thought up everything you could possibly want to know, and then put it into a format even my 5 year old enjoyed. The kids wanted to control the mouse and find the things at each post. They LOVED the food chain game and wouldn't stop until we had ALL the connections right. They also loved the videos that enhanced some of the animal/plant information screens, especially the one of the "water vines" in the rainforest. In fact, any animated screen drew them in ;-). Digital Frog certainly lived up to its reputation.

The cons: Price. The field trips are available individually on CD for $60 each or as the Digital Field Trip Series, which is one CD with all three field trips, for $125. That's just a LOT of money for a product that augments a curriculum, but is not a curriculum in and of itself.

The Bottom Line: I am SO conflicted here, because unlike many, many other products that are expensive for no good reason, I am SURE these field trips were incredibly costly to produce. Being able to pan 360 and up and down at each stop on the field trip? That HAD to be expensive to make happen. And I understand that. I really do. So for once, I feel like the company is probably quite just in charging what they do for their product, and the quality speaks to that. But the bottom line is I just don't have an extra $125 lying around, so as much as I LOVE it, and as much as I understand that there was a very real, and undoubtedly very high, cost involved in making these field trips, I just would not be able to buy them myself. And many of the homeschoolers I know are in the same position....
If money were no object, I'd say everyone would enjoy owning these Digital Field Trips. And I learned long ago that everyone has different levels that define "affordable", and so I definitely think you should visit their website and check it out for yourself. To check out what other members of the TOS Crew had to say, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received the Digital Field Trip Series CD for free so that I could provide my honest review. That CD is the only compensation I have received.
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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Random Updates

I have SO much I haven't blogged, but most of it is just our daily minutia...

Here's some catch-up stuff, in order of importance...kind of...or maybe in order of my limited remembrance...

Sari read her first sentence today!!! I'm such a sap...I had her call her daddy and Miss J to tell them both, and tears leaked from my eyes the whole time.

Scott finally finished his math book. He's EONS behind. EONS. So finishing one and moving on to the next is a huge deal. If we are diligent, he can move through the things he needs to cover in the new book in 14 lessons, and we started the first today. That means I have to order the next level really soon!

I've been getting Scott up at o' dark hundred to do his schoolwork before everyone else is up. It's not trying to wake a sleeping lion. And then I have to sit over him to keep him on task (or his daddy does if I am particularly close to losing it by 6:30 AM). I have lost my quiet time, and I have to find a better solution, but for now this is kind of working.

School is still taking us FOREVER every day. With four kids, and all needing individual instruction, we are working from before sunrise (with Scott) until around 5 every day. This week we did Saturday school too. I know it is all about seasons in life, and I am abiding in this one, but it's not easy...especially for a person who values sleep, and lots of it.

I went dumpster diving at 7 this morning for large cardboard boxes for our science class. I now have four "life size" cardboard kids in my living room. Yippie!

We went with Marie's family to Hidden Waters Nature Preserve today. It was a spur of the moment thing, and we haven't been there in a LONG time. The last time the two of us went together, her son got stuck in quicksand as a terrible lightning storm approached. It was AWFUL. She got him out but his shoe was gone. We all high-tailed it out of there with rain falling so hard it HURT and lightning flashing everywhere with us as the tallest thing around once we broke the tree line. It was scary. Well today, we found J's shoe...the one he lost over a year ago. Crazy, isn't it? We also saw a very large owl today, which was really cool.

Here's a God story I haven't shared. I got a mailing about a month ago from our energy company saying, "Since you have this wire might want to protect your water heater too." Well, I didn't, and I was a little hot under the collar that I had this "wire" service too, and when I called to check on it, it turns out that we had had it since 2004. Well, before I made a rash decision to cancel it, I asked what exactly it covered...
It turns out it covers any electrical problems you have in your house...up to $500 a year in work. And we had had electrical problems that left us with half the house in the dark. And this service would cover fixing up to $500 of the problem. That $500 was about 10 hours of labor, and that was enough to fix 5 outlets and rewire the downstairs lights and the washing machine on to their own circuits. We still have plenty that is not done (almost none of our wiring is "up to code"), but that was such a blessing to be able to get even that much covered. I can plug in a light in my bedroom again, and there are no extension cords running from room to room. PRAISE GOD!!!

Okay, that's it. It's midnight, and I need to get to bed since 6AM comes awful early.

God, thank you for the small things. For little successes that encourage me in days of despair. For forgotten service plans that you use to meet our needs. For friends who will do things with no advanced planning just because it's a beautiful day. Help me to be just as quick to praise you in the difficulties and storms of life too. Amen
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

LanSchool Review

Boy! Have times changed! When I was a girl, computers were the size of ROOMS, and letters were the way you communicated tidbits from your life to people who lived far away. People who lived closer just got the whole story by telephone or a casual meet up at the grocery store.
But now, computers are the size of small books, phones are portable, pervasive, and powerful, and you can "text" and "tweet" any little bit of minutia to anyone in mere seconds. And all those advances pose a myriad of new problems for today's teachers...and any homeschooler who allows their child internet access to gather knowledge.

Enter LanSchool, classroom management software with today's tech-laden lifestyle in mind. LanSchool offers monitoring software that pairs up designated "teacher" computers with "student" computers to allow the teacher full monitoring capabilities. But it does so much more. Teachers and students can use it to send messages back and forth ("I have a problem with question 3."). Teachers can use it to give instruction ("See me when you are done with your work."), share information from their own computer screen with students, share one student's screen with everyone else, blank out student screens, limit Web, Drives, Print, and Applications, and so much more. You can view your students' screens, take screen shots, take control of their computer, and even create and send out tests all on LanSchool. Oh, and the newest upgrade even allows for video sharing, so if you find a video on YouTube that you want your students to watch you can share it with them, so the teacher maintains control of the access, but can allow everyone to view the resource. There's even a feature for teacher/student co-searching of the internet.

The Pros: Although this is designed for typical building classrooms, it has many applications in a homeschool setting. I like that I can log in remotely to my son's SOS work and view his progress and grade assignments without having to be on that computer. And I can view sites he has visited on the internet (he's 13...I like to know where he's been online). I can log my 5 year old in to her software without leaving my other children, and help her when she gets stuck without having to interrupt what I am doing to go to that computer. I can send them love notes or remind them to stay on task without anyone else ever knowing. And, since our computer is password protected, I can use the "send a message" feature to keep the computer from hibernating in between student usage so I don't have to spend my day logging in one, then the next, then the next, then the next...And I want to be sure to say that it's amazingly user friendly, so even a tech-avoiding person like me can use it easily.

The cons: There will be some things you wish it did that it doesn't do. I can't name anything specific, I can just tell you, you'll think, "I wish it did THAT". With each upgrade it gets better. The version we originally received did not allow for video sharing and the newest version does. And their tech support is amazing and responsive, so it likely will do whatever you think of that you wish it could do in the near future, but just not now. And technology changes SO fast, that we've managed to "stump" LanSchool a few times with weird glitches. But they always listen and address the problem and offer other solutions in the meantime.

The Bottom Line: A home license for LanSchool, which lets you monitor up to 3 computers, is $99. Classroom pricing varies depending on the class size and number of licenses being purchased, so you traditional school types will need to go HERE to check that out. For homeschoolers, you have to decide if you need a product like this badly enough to warrant the cost. In our case, given that I have a teen aged boy who needs internet access for his schoolwork, two upper elementary kids who do a little online and sometimes need help, and a 5 year old who ALWAYS needs assistance, it's really nice to have. I LOVE having the ultimate control over their computer and having complete monitoring/remote access capabilities.

LanSchool licenses are forever, but upgrades are covered for 3 years from date of purchase. To find out more about LanSchool and how it works, I suggest you go HERE and give their free trial a try. And please check out their site. There are tons of testimonials and tutorials that will give you a much better overview than I have managed, I'm sure.
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Sunday, October 3, 2010

Weeks 2-4 Continued...

Here are some more pictures from the last few weeks.
We read a story about the star in the middle of an apple, and then cut some in half and used them to make stamps for paint.

Sari is studying a letter a week. This is some of her work from "A". It came from HERE. It is so amazing how many free resources there are on the web, and I thank EVERYONE out there who makes their materials available to other homeschoolers!

Buttons from our "B" week.

A book based on "We're Going on a Bear Hunt". She got to paint the mud...

Cut construction paper grass...

Watercolor the river...

Hole punch some "snowflakes"...(hard to see on white paper, I know)

At Disney, you can learn to draw a different character every day. This day was Piglet. Scott could not get his to a level he was happy with, so he kept retrying :-).

Sari did this all on her own!

Mine :-)

Mimi's (TJ was so unhappy with his, he threw it away...that's why I don't have a picture to show you for his.)

Scott's Apologia Astronomy work- I love how Lapbooks reinforce the learning!

This was meant to be an "ad" for Earth, but Scott was a little over everything school related, so he figured selling the Earth off was a better idea, LOL.

Scott's cursive with Peterson's Directed Handwriting.

Learning how to figure out the area of an irregular shape-Scott's Right Start math.
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