Thursday, September 27, 2007

Winding Down

Our week of vacation is slowly coming to an end. We've spent the last few days relaxing and just enjoying not having much to HAVE to do. My mom and step-father came up yesterday to spend the end of the week with us. We enjoy having them, and they like to play with the kids - which kind of gives dh and I a little break.

We had our day of rain today. It was lovely, as I really enjoy rainy days at the beach. Watching the clouds skirt along the coast and sitting on the deck while a lightening storm rages off the beach. I can see for miles.

DH took this picture as the rain began to move away this evening...

We had planned a day trip to Roanoke Island to see the aquarium, visit Fort Raleigh (the Lost Colony) and walk around some of the other tourist spots. But, with the rain we postponed it till tomorrow. Today, we drove back to Frisco and visited the Native American Museum.

I was really impressed considering that it it is a private museum and located in an old house in a village known for having the smallest post office. They had quite a collection of native artifacts from all of the United States and the Inuit peoples, including pieces found on Hatteras island. The bead work and examples of clothing were wonderful. I wish other museums would put as much of an effort into presenting the Native American cultures.

Tonight we held Robbie's First Birthday party, a few days early since Mamaw will not be able to come up to our house next week. It is hard to believe that it has been a year since that crazy October.



Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Road's End

Today we drove north until we ran out of road. We've been to one end of the Outer Banks to the other in the last couple of days.

Mary and DH climbed the last of four lighthouses today.

The Currituck Lighthouse is located in the beautiful community of Corolla. Just down the road from the lighthouse is the renovated, historic district of Corolla. Including, the old one-room schoolhouse (now housing the Wild Horse Museum), general store and community church.

We also made a stop at the NC Wildlife Coastal Education Center. This is the coastal version of the wildlife center that Mary and Katie take classes at when we are home. They had a great museum on history of fishing and hunting along the coast, along with information about all the wild birds that winter over in the area.

Emily made friends with the catfish

Tonight, the little ones are abed and DH is teaching Mary how to play backgammon. I'm heading outside to enjoy watching the full moon.



Monday, September 24, 2007

Beach Day and another lighthouse

Today was the day to head down to the beach and set up our semi-permanent canopy. Since Robbie had decided to take a nap at the time when everyone was ready to leave, I stayed back at the cottage while DH took them down to the beach. The plan was to pop the tent up and then sunblock the girls and have fun. Unfortunately, the wind at the beach didn't cooperate with him and he struggled for nearly an hour before someone took pity on him and helped. He was just finishing up when I walked down with Robbie.

We had a good time out there, even with the strong winds that were blowing. Robbie was absolutely enthralled with the waves. He loved it when I stood him up in the water - no fear from that child. Mary, Emily and I built small sandcastles for Robbie to destroy. Katie walked along the shoreline examining all the shells and seaweed that had washed in during the high tide.

We came home for lunch and nap time for the two little ones. DH decided to take Mary and Katie for a drive to Jockey's Ridge (the big sand dune people hang-glide off of). Mary and DH had talked about hang-gliding during this trip, but I think DH had changed his mind about taking Mary this year. They at least wanted to see the dune, and I wasn't really looking forward to trying to climb it with Emily and Robbie.

On the way back they pulled off and visited lighthouse #3 - Bodie Lighthouse. This is another small, but pretty lighthouse on the island.

We only have one more lighthouse to hit on the banks, which I believe we may take a ride up to tomorrow. We are all a bit red from today and need to give our bodies a rest from the beach - so it would be a good day for a short trip (or not so short trip).

Tonight all have been aloed-up and are asleep early.

Ahhh - Peace and Quiet


Good Morning

Sunday, September 23, 2007

We're Here

It has been a wonderful beginning to our vacation. I enjoyed sitting out on the deck last night listening to the waves crash and watching the stars come out.

Today we were busy! We decided since it was one of the hotter days for the week to do a day trip and save the beach for when it will be more comfortable. Today was lighthouse day.

We headed south - first to Ocracoke Island. Which, required a ferry ride.

Once in Ocracoke it took us longer to drive the island than to see the lighthouse. But, at least we can mark another lighthouse off of our NC lighthouse list. It is one of the prettiest lighthouses in the state. And, growing up in a place very near to Ocracoke- it always feels comfortable there.

We stopped for lunch at the local sandwhich shack, in which I think we were the feast for mosquitoes that were the size of birds.

Since we had time before the next ferry to Hatteras, we decided to stop at the Wild Pony Pen, where they collect the wild ponies from the islands each year (to avoid overcrowding). There was a nice, short walk through the maritime forest to a viewing stand.

Even though they are 'penned' it is still their natural habitat.

After another 40 minute ferry ride, we headed for Cape Hatteras Lighthouse with a pit stop along the way at the Frisco Native American Museum. The local Native American tribes did not live permanently on the islands, but used them for hunting and fishing trips. Because of tiredness from the younger group we did not go into the museum. We will go back another day with just the older two. But, we did go on the self-guided nature walk.

This is a model of a native hut.
The signs along the path not only identified the tree but also explained how the native peoples used it as food or medicine.

Mary has been looking forward to climbing Cape Hatteras Lighthouse since we told her about the trip. You should know I am terrified of hights, so I made Randy go up with her. The lighthouse has 260-something steps to the top, or equal to a 12-story building. Apparently, she was taking two steps at a time on the way up. From the top they could see the path along which they moved the lighthouse back from the beach a few years ago.

While they were climbing I took the rest of the group over to the museum, which like a lot of National Park museums was so-so. Not very interesting for the younger ones. We did pick up the junior ranger worksheets for them to do this week to earn 'badges'.

We got back in time for 30 minutes of beach time before the clouds moved in and the wind really picked up. The girls liked watching the kiteboarders who were flying through the water and Emily loved her first chance to really dig in the sand.

Tomorrow is relaxing day - beach day for the kids. I think we need it after today.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

T -2.5 and counting

Two-and-a-half more days and we will be on the way to a VACATION! If you think I am a little too excited about it, please understand that this is our first whole family vacation that is longer than a 4-day weekend to somewhere our extended family already is and that is totally focused on us and fun!

One more day of 'school' today, and then the books are packed away until we return. Our summer quarter is basically finished!! Yoohoo - and it has been a good one. Last night I went ahead a completed Mary's grade report. I went back and forth on giving her one - and finally settled on a very simple three-level assessment of where we are along our goals for the quarter/year.

E - Exceeds Expectation: Have we moved faster and further along my planned pace for this? Have adjustments had to be made? Has an effort to do more and go further really been made in this area?

S - Satisfactory: Are we moving along at the planned pace? Everything falling into place?

N - Needs Improvement: Have we slipped in our pace due to lack of effort?

As this is a totally subjective scale and grader (and for my purposes this is absolutely okay) I can take into account issues such as my role in us not meeting any 'scheduled' goals, a change in materials or other such things. What I am hoping for Mary to start picking up on is the relationship between effort and outcomes. And, after our review and talk last night, I think she sees the glimmer of that. We discussed our goals for the fall quarter and how we could bring up her one 'N'.

All-in-all, she did well. And we really have had a good Summer Quarter. She had two E's, 6 S's and one N.

Now, or well after today, we will be on vacation focus. I have already started my lists and have been doing laundry like a crazy woman. I would like to clean my house before we go - but that seems to be a pie-in-the-sky dream. This afternoon I am watching a friend's kids for 5 hours, and Friday really does need to be spent out of the house running errands. And, just found out last night that they have changed Mary's soccer games to 10:30 on Saturday, which means we will be here for her to play - but the van will need to be packed and ready to go beforehand.

I am taking the old, missing keys, laptop with us. It works (slowly), I can upload pictures and will even have WIFI access. The downside is I tend to misspell a lot on it since some of the keys stick or I am actually hitting the board underneath. But it will be worth it to sit on the deck, listen to the waves and be able to tell all about it.



Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday Nature Walk

The weather is soooo good this week. Yes, that good. That we could not let it pass without some sort of nature walk. Today was the only day we have with NO running around for classes or errands - so today it was.

The chill in the air this morning had me facing this in order for me to find clothing for the two little ones.

We could open our own children's clothing store.

I emptied out the storage shed and sorted through all of our bags and boxes. None of the children will be going without this winter. And, I did manage to reduce some by filling two bags for Goodwill.

Thanks to friends and all I have boxes of girl clothing all the way to size 14.

The clothes are sorted by child and all I have left to do is wash them all. Then, we will be living that 'two season' shuffle for awhile, until I really can put away all the summer clothes for the next one down.

This afternoon we went across the highway to the local 'lake' (using that term loosely).

We warmed up on the exercise equipment before heading down to the trail.

I had to admire a tree that was actually changing color, as opposed to shriveling up and turning brown.

This area is generally a very, very wet marsh. It is turning into a grassland.

The other side of the path still had a little water left which had to be explored before we moved on to the lake.

This trip we actually found some turtles sunning themselves, a rarity over the summer.

This normally skittish white heron allowed me to take his/her picture.

Mary and Emily watching the ducks nap along the bank.

We found a nice shady patch where I could sit for awhile and the girls could explore. We've started nature journals this year as part of our CM approach. I'm taking a relaxed approach with trying to get Mary to participate. Choosing instead to let her watch me do it.

I'm no artist, but I'm less and less afraid to pick up the pencils and try. This was a white duck we watched sleeping across the water.

This was a sketch I did earlier in the month while the girls were playing on the playground.

It was a good afternoon out.



Gratuitous Kids Pictures

Don't really have a post to add these to, but just had to share.

Emily 'helped' make Katie's butterfly birthday cake this weekend.

Here is my little man. Put some clothes on him and he just looks so much older. He has his two bottom teeth now, and just felt this morning that he has two on the top breaking through.



Monday, September 17, 2007

Breath, relax, repeat

The last five days have been a whirlwind. A fun whirlwind, but exhausting. I am earning my vacation (only five more days!!!).

Since I was last able to post we have had the normal school stuff going on - piano, gymnastics, books read and all that. We've also had rain, sweet rain (although accompanied by severe weather), two birthday parties, one football game, Sunday School and lots of family visiting.

Katie turned the BIG "5" on Sunday. She is leaving the realm of 'preschool' and entering those 'elementary' years.

See that hair in the first picture - Robbie still doesn't have that much hair!

Since her birthday follows her father's and grandfather's in a period of two weeks we had a family party. Mary's first soccer game of the season was canceled for Saturday, so we had the party during that time.

On Sunday, we had her 'friend' party. This year she wanted to have it at the bowling alley, just like Mary did in December. The kids and adults had lots of fun. Since we didn't reach the minimum with the number of kids attending we let Emily bowl, with daddy. I wish with all the things going on I had remembered to put new batteries in my bag before the party. That was disappointing to not get any pictures.

Every night for the last week I have fallen into bed exhausted, in that I am really happy kind of tired.

I'm on the count down for vacation time. This week we need to do our normal activities, plus Katie has her wildlife class on Wednesday. Somewhere in their I need to make my 'to-be-packed' list and make sure we have enough clean linens and towels, clothing, etc to take.

This is also our last week of the Summer Quarter - so i need to finish Mary's 'grade' report (something for our use only).


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

And the day continues

To make up for the two hours wasted while I tried to fix my email that I had messed up, we had night school.

Mary didn't seem to mind this type of night school.

Today was the day that we hit the relaxed threshold. My kids do well with a little freedom - but too much and by the end of the day I am ready to put them on ebay.

After the late night last night, I let the older two sleep in. And then we had to rush around to get to piano this morning. Emily, who needed to sleep in and didn't, was a bear at piano. I was so glad to get back home afterwards. I fed the animals some lunch, and then Katie and I sat down to do some schoolwork. The girls found some free VeggieTales CDs we had gotten from Chick-fil-a at some point and spent nearly an hour making up dances to the songs.

I finally decided to set Mary up with her own email account. Which then proceeded to march me down 2 hours of purgatory while I tried to figure out how Mary could have her own mailbox. In the process I messed up my email set-up and had to fix that. Everything is fine now, and Mary is absolutely thrilled to have her own email. She has a friend that moved this summer and they are excited about being able to email each other. It was totally worth it if watching her type and sound out words this afternoon was any indication.

I did make Mary do her Math lesson for the day. And, beyond that ... not so much.

I went shopping this afternoon for Katie's birthday presents. And, came out with a new telescope for us and the Zoo Tycoon ($10) computer game. If Mary had not had to go to soccer this evening I don't know if I could have gotten her off the game. This game is so awesome. In order to take care of the animals she has to look each of them up in the 'research book' to decided type of fencing, how many per space, terrain, food, etc.

I've told the girls to prepare for tomorrow so we can catch up from this week. Other than gymnastics, I plan on staying home. There is school work and then my mom is coming up on Friday - so we also have housework.



"It was fun not having any school today."

Spoken by Mary yesterday evening as I was about to pass out from exhaustion of "not having any school."

We started off the day watching a Schoolhouse Rock video on the Preamble. I was watching in prep for next Monday (Constitution Day) when Mary woke up and immediately headed for the computer. She had to rewatch it a couple of times before going on Webkinz to feed her pets.

I told everyone that we needed to make a morning run to the grocery store, since this morning when I was trying to make the salt dough needed for today's project I realized we did not have enough salt. That was enough to ensure cooperation from Mary and Katie - Salt Dough, ooh what are we going to make today?

When we got back Mary made the batches of the salt dough for us to use, reading the directions and all.

Once it was made it needed to rest for 30 minutes. So we went online to a site on Venice, Italy I had already bookmarked. With so many wonderful pictures, I had the girls concentrate on going through the pictures of Carnival costumes. And, then told them that they would be making their own Carnival Masks.

I really wish that I had a finished picture of Mary's mask. She did a great job, but would not let me take a picture of it 'for the computer' and then she gave it to her grandfather as a birthday present yesterday evening.

Even Emily got into all the action. Katie joined us late into the project as she wanted to spend some more time on her 'Jumpstart' program. This weeks learning tool for her.

Between making the masks and painting we had a couple of hours. So, we cleaned up the stray pieces of dough, made lunch and cuddled up to catch up on our read alouds for the week. Mary had found her Dover coloring book on Wetlands, so she colored while I read. This really allows us to read for longer stretches.

At 2:15 it was time to pack every thing up and head for town and Mary's Wildlife Class. We finished "Anne of Green Gables" last week and are now listening to "Lamb's Tales of Shakespeare", today's selection was The Merchant of Venice.

Since, I had almost two hours with the other three I though I would just drive around until at least the two little ones finally fell asleep. By the time I realized that this wasn't going to happen I was already close to the north-side of town and decided to stop at the Homeschool Bookstore and see if I could find Katie's math workbook, that I really didn't want to order and pay shipping & handling. They did have it - YEAH! and I also found a used copy of the old Math-U-See with the VCR tapes for Cheap. I really want to see if a video presentation works for Mary and/or Katie and this seems like the least expensive option to find out if the program is worth the money. If it works we will see about ordering the program to begin in January.

Once I dragged the little ones out of the playroom it was time to head back to the south-side of town and pick-up Mary. Along the way Katie looked through her Math workbook and upon reaching the back of it declared it "Too Hard". Katie doesn't like Math and doesn't think she will ever be able to figure it out (kind of like Mary and reading). So I asked her some questions to show that she does math everyday without thinking about it;

"If you have one piece of gum and I give you another, how many will you have?"
"Great! Okay, If you have 100 pieces of gum and I give you another 100 pieces, how many will you have?"
"Too Many!"

I chuckled all the way back to the wildlife center over that one.

After picking up Mary we came home to clean up and make a quick dinner. Once Dh came home from work and ate we needed to drive over to his parent's house to wish his father a Happy Birthday. And, I still needed to make a card for the children to give him.

At the in-law's house Mary started watching the "Dirtiest Jobs" show while the adults visited. In this episode Mike Rowe was catching snakes along a waterfront, then they took them back to the lab to measure/weigh/insert microchip/and 'puke' so they could see what the snakes are eating. This led to a few conversations. While, most everyone else found it disgusting Mary and I were quite interested in it.

We got home late. Put the little ones to bed and read with Mary the next two chapters in "Carnival by Candlelight" by Mary Pope Osborne. Yes, it was fun not having any school today.

Today we have piano lessons (not school) and we received their new typing/phonics program that they want to try (again, not school), and I want to look at the MUS videos and I am sure they will want to also (so that won't be any school). And we need to look at more pictures of Venice today as a follow-up to what we read last night (Prison/St. Mark's Square/Bridge of Sighs).
A family of six living and learning. You might catch us outside in the mud or working on crafts. We always seem to be on the go, come on and join us.