Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pictures!!!

I told you that I we got a camera for Christmas. Well, I keep playing with it trying to learn all the new bells & whistles. While I have not gotten any perfect shots, I can find beauty in my trials and errors. Since it has been so long since I have posted any pictures, here you go. Forgive the mess...it is Christmas after all. We really did clean up the house this past weekend.

Who me? Sneaking all the chocolate...

Katie showing off the gap from where her tooth had to be removed in November.

Mary trying out the Dance Party game on the Nintendo Wii.

The annual big cousin wrestling match at Grandmommy's house.

Emily got a penguin, it kind of disappears into the background. But I like this feature of being able to darken the background.

Mary with her puppet. This is what a family room looks like when the grandparents arrive bearing even more gifts.

Have I mentioned how thrilled I am to have a camera again!!!

Peace,

Amy

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Robbie update and post-Christmas

I'm finally getting on the computer after our extended Christmas celebration. I'll start with an update for Robbie. The pediatric neurologist is pretty certain that his seizures are febrile. Which, although scary are generally harmless. They are do to a short-circuit in the brain from a fever that some children are more sensitive to. And, oddly, can occur prior to a fever starting. He will eventually grow out of them in the next couple of years. Until then we just have to be a very careful while he is climbing or in water, just in case a seizure comes on during those activities. The doctor did schedule him for a EEG on January 5th just to make sure that there is nothing else going on. After that he has a follow-up with the doctor on Jan. 29th.

Christmas was really good. I think the kids all had a great day. We got up early, of course, and had Christmas morning. Santa brought them some small goodies and candy in the stockings and the Wii!! Mary, Katie and Emily were so excited they could barely speak. Santa remembered Robbie, who is too young to be excited over the Wii and left him some wooden trains and a Thomas the Tank Engine DVD. Mary was gracious enough to wait until we opened presents before rushing off to hook up the Wii.

Mary went out with her aunt on Monday, the 22nd, to use her birthday money to buy presents for everyone else. She is growing up! Waiting for Christmas she told me that this year she was as excited to give everyone their presents as she was about what she was getting. Because Mary went out, Katie wanted to go pick out presents for her siblings too. I bank-rolled for Katie and helped her pick out some good gifts. Mary bought me the book "Twilight". I finished reading it last night. It took me awhile to get into it, but now I want to get the next one.

After our Christmas, we got dressed and headed over to DH's parents for breakfast and more gift opening. We had to be back at our house at 11am to meet my Dad and step-mother who were driving up to do Christmas with us.

By 2:00 in the afternoon everyone was gone and the kids hooked up the Wii and spent the afternoon playing with Daddy, while I tried to sort through the piles and took a little nap. In the end it wasn't as overwhelming as past Christmases have been. We limited ours to only three gifts other than Santa. Mary and Katie also got an Our Generation Doll, Emily got a Mermaid playset and Robbie got a doctor's kit. They picked up from family some more clothing, really beautiful hand-made fleece blanket, some more DS games for Mary and the Dance Party 2 game and mat for Wii.

DH and I were surprised by his parents. They gave us a new digital camera!!! Yeah! I'm still working on figuring it out and will be posting some pictures soon.

Friday we spent the day at DH's parents and had Christmas dinner. The cousins had a lot of fun playing together. Then, yesterday was clean-up & organize day around the house. Time to find a home for all those gifts.

Now, I am ready for a holiday ;)

I'll be working as much as possible this week. The neighborhood friends are out of school and we have the Wii, so I should get a little uninterrupted time on the computer. I also need to finish lesson planning for January. DH works M-W, but is off for another long weekend.

I hope everyone else is having a blessed and enjoyable holiday.

Peace,

Amy

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas is coming and all that stuff

Sorry for the title, but I just cannot get into the Christmas spirit this year. All I want for Christmas is for this year to finally be over and done. I really feel like I have spent the year trying to pull us all uphill. As we got closer to Christmas, Murphy has become more frequent in his attacks on us. I surrender already.

On Thursday as I was packing all the last minute items for our trip to visit my family Robbie had another of his seizures. As scary as seizures are this one was worse because we knew just prior to the seizure he had been eating animal crackers and could not tell if he was choking or not. Added to that he wasn't sick prior to the seizure, which is our little warning signal.

After calls to his doctor they gave us the OK to go on our trip and we scheduled an appointment for Monday morning. A few hours later Robbie did get sick, all over the van...and spiked a fever. The rest of the festive weekend was spent treating various persons in their various illnesses. I managed to not get sick before we got home.

The pediatrician has referred us to a pediatric neurologist. I was expecting a call to schedule the appointment at the beginning of the year, but was surprised to get a call from them yesterday to schedule an appointment for today. So off we go today on a whole new adventure with our youngest child.

The weekend, all things considered, was actually very nice. We got to spend some time with my mother and celebrate her 60th birthday. I'm glad we could be there as my step-father had gotten called out of town for work. The next day we turned around an celebrated Emily's 4th birthday! She's a BIG girl now. Although, she will always be my baby girl.

All the girls came home with armfuls of new Webkinz, thanks mostly to my step-mother and the store that had BOGO on them. We can't turn around in the house right now without finding one of these animals staring at us. I do have to say the girls have a great time playing with their Webkinz, and not necessarily online. It will keep them busy until Christmas Day.

We finished off the weekend with celebrating Christmas with my mom. The kids were very pleased with what they got...Mary a new hoodie and some earrings, Katie got the Manatee Webkinz she has wanted for months and a manatee book, Emily got her very own backpack with several ColorWonder kits, and Robbie got his own backpack with three board books. I received an MP3 player that I have been wanting. I'm already having a lot of fun with it, downloading podcasts and books to listen to while I fold clothes.

Randy found a tree for us on Sunday after we returned. The tree sellers are trying to pack up for the season and he found a 7' tree, beautiful shape, for only $25. Last night we started a fire, made some hot chocolate and surpervised the children decorating the tree for us. Now it is starting to feel a little bit like Christmas around here.

Peace,

Amy

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Time to enjoy the holidays

We've put the books away. Another semester is done and in the books, so to speak. Now we get to enjoy our annual three-week birthday/holiday vacation. No more soccer practices until mid-January. Do you hear the collective sigh of relief coming from our home.

Mary turned nine on Saturday. Wow, I have a nine-year-old. Next year I will have to actually use two digits on her birthday cake. We actually celebrated her birthday on Friday. It just happened that everyone was available to come over and have a family celebration. We will have her big sleepover party in January after all the holidays.

I think she had a good night. Her grandparents gave her a big surprise, a GameBoy DS Lite. Something I had told her absolutely not to expect as it went way over our birthday budget this year. I didn't even know that they were giving it to her until the day before. Along with it they gave her the Brain Game, which she has actually enjoyed playing quite a bit. Great for sharpening those math skills.

We gave her some more art supplies and clothing that she had asked for. I don't think she believes she can ever have enough of those athletic shirts and fleece pull-overs. My mom gave her more Legos and a Mandala coloring book with a HUGE box of colored pencils.

My mom came to visit for Mary's birthday and we took the kids to the Marble Museum on Friday. My mom had never been there and the kids love it. We had fun, but they had scheduled several school groups all for Friday and it was very crowded. Robbie was fixated on the ambulance and it was hard to move him away so the rest of us could visit the other stations. Mary found the woodworking bench, with real tools, and had a blast trying to build herself a bird feeder. Katie was thrilled to see that the visiting exhibit was Magic School Bus Weather. Emily would have been fully satisfied had we just left her at the water table for the entire day.

On Monday Mary and Katie are going over to their grandmother's where they will be making gingerbread houses and other Christmas crafts. I'm going to take Emily and Robbie to play at their preschool for a few hours while I run errands to pick up some last minute gifts and try to clean the house. Thursday we are traveling to visit my family for the weekend. My mom turns 60 on Thursday, then Emily's fouth birthday on Friday and our family Christmas on Saturday. It is a good thing I will have a few days to recuperate the next week before Chistmas.

Peace,

Amy

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reminiscing

I got on this morning and started thinking back to when I started the blog in January of 2005. At that time I had a 5 year-old, two yr. old, and a newborn. My 5 yr old will be turning 9 this coming Saturday, and that newborn will be 4 next week. I think about those days and nights and wonder how I was able to put to sentences together at a time in order to write on a blog. And, wonder what my excuse is today for why I can't manage to find a few minutes every few days to update here, much less my Facebook page. I'm starting to get emails from people wondering where I am.

The truth is that we have found our groove for right now, and it doesn't include time on the computer for me unless I am working, or lesson planning. All of the kids seem to need as much attention as I can give them right now. Our structured lessons are working, but of course that only works if I am there and focused. Emily has started to join us for 30 minutes every other day and has fallen right into the routine. A back-to-the-basics period has been very good for all of us.

We will finish off this week on Thursday. Friday, we are going back to the Marble Museum for a fun play day and birthday celebration for Mary. We will take the next three weeks off for Christmas.

After the new year, I hope we can get back into the groove quickly. New classes for the winter/spring will be starting up. Mary will be returning to piano lessons and will have an art class this year. Later this Spring I hope to get her into a combination nature/creative writing class. Katie is thrilled to be able to take a theater class this winter. I am also looking at some 4-H groups, trying to decide which ones we should try out.

I started this post over 12 hours ago...yes, it took me 12 hours to write 6 paragraphs. I am sadly lacking in multi-tasking abilities. I am going to go eat the wonderful dinner DH made while I was madly running children in between two different birthday parties this evening.

Peace,

Amy

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I miss my camera

I never thought that I would miss my camera so much. It isn't like I need the thing to survive or anything, but I find myself constantly reaching for the camera to record whatever the most recent nutty thing my children have done. Never more do I miss it than on family holidays when the kids pull out all the stops to serve as entertainment for the rest of us.

I do believe that we are creating a monster with Robbie. He has to be one of the most purposefully, funny toddlers I have ever been around. He has had the rest of the family in stitches for the last two days and I have yet to get one picture of it. His latest is his harmonica act; he plays a bit on his harmonica, "sings" a measure or two, back to the harmonica. When he is done and everyone claps...he bows. No one will admit to teaching him this either. Class Clown is too tame a word for this kid.

We have had a wonderful holiday. Being so close to the in-laws means we can come and go as we feel like it, and as the children need a break. Dinner on Thursday was great as always, even though I am never allowed to actually help. On Friday the aunts took the girls to the movies and Randy went over to his parents to clear out some of the fallen & leaning trees in the woods. While also getting us some much needed firewood. I stayed home with Robbie while he napped and tried to do some work. We went back over for dinner-part 2.

Today, Randy was able to get three tickets to the State football game this afternoon and is planning to take Mary and Katie with him. I'll stay home with Emily and Robbie, and again try to get some work done. Tonight the kids will stay with the in-laws (beauty night for the girls) while Randy and I attend the Christmas party for his job. After their mini-party they will bring them back home and put them to bed for us.

I hope everyone else has been able to spend some precious time with loved ones this weekend.

Peace,

Amy

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Christmas Shopping and Time Away

After the craziness of last week I was able to escape for a couple of days away. I meet my mom in Wilmington and we spent most of two days doing our Christmas shopping. Just the two of us. It has been such a long time since I have been able to spend anytime alone with my mom, which made this such a nice treat.

In two days, without kids, I was able to get all of our Christmas shopping done!!! Yeah...I am so thrilled that I don't have to sweat this out into December. I think the kids are going to be so excited this year. We didn't do much, but I really tried to listen to the kids throughout the year to determine their presents.

That was the highlight of my past week, a lot more has been going on. Last Saturday I picked up a desktop computer from a friend's house. It had some issues that they didn't want to mess with so gave it to us to see if we could fix. I reloaded the operating system, and now we have a second desktop for the kids to us. Bliss to no longer all be fighting over one computer.

The cold weather has settled in it seems. Tuesday afternoon we had snow flurries! The kids were so excited and Emily kept telling me about the snowman she was going to build. I started a fire in the fireplace once we were home for the day, and we enjoyed doing our reading and playing a few games together in the family room.

Tuesday I took Mary in for her last dentist appointment for the year. Everything is now all fixed and her next visit will be her six-month check-up in May. I know she is thrilled to be done with all those dentist visits.

Of course, I should never have assumed that I would be done taking children to the dentist. Katie bumped her mouth over the weekend, and we noticed that she had swelling that kept getting bigger. This morning I took her in to have it checked, and she ended up having her top front baby tooth pulled. It was already loose before the bump, but somehow infection and formed around the roots. Everything else was fine, and while it was a little traumatic for Katie she has bounced back well and has actually gone out to play this afternoon.

With everything going on I still feel very refreshed going into the crazy month of December. Presents are bought and hidden, wood is piled and handy, lots of games and books just waiting for us to slow down enough for them.

Peace,
Amy

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Museum trip and lots of driving

We did make it to the Museum of Life and Sciences yesterday for our outing. How heavenly it was waiting the one extra day. It wasn't empty, but not crowded at all. The kids were able to enjoy and take their time with what they wanted to do. We were even able to participate in one of the learning labs and do an experiment testing whether or not certain foods contained fats.

We spent a total of three hours there, but did leave for a lunch break in the middle, to prevent those pesky toddler meltdowns. I do have to say that the fieldtrips this year have been wonderful. All the children are young/old enough to enjoy our trips. I'm no longer juggling an infant and a toddler. And, Mary and Katie have each achieved certain levels of independence that are letting them enjoy new aspects of the museums. The next trip has already been requested, The Marble Museum in December.

Further evidence that my brain doesn't always click on all cylinders; we were having so much fun at the museum I totally forgot about all the running around that is my Wednesday evening. My friend called to confirm that I was going to be home to meet her children after school (it is a standing Wed. thing), which reminded me that we had Emily's dance class at 4pm. And, I still had not confirmed with the other parent in Mary's soccer practice carpool. We got home at 2:45, called the soccer carpool (they want me to drop Mary at their house at 5:20. Mary meet the school bus at 3:15 and at 3:50 everyone loaded back into the car to drive Emily to class. Brought everyone back home by 4:10, made arrangments with friend to bring Emily home with her. Let everyone play while I made sure that I had actually washed Mary's practice uniform. Emily is home at 5:10, send friend's children home and hog tie a kicking & screaming Emily (who does not want to get in her carseat one more time today) back into the car to drop Mary off. *I should point out that this Wednesday is actually lighter than it has been, since Katie's soccer season ended last weekend!!!

Emily did manage to overcome her car trauma, and by the time we got home was begging me to get out her maze workbook. I fed them all dinner, had baths and put the two little ones in bed early since naps were pretty much non-existent.

And, since my online work is pretty much non-existent right now while some IT issues are corrected, I spent the evening trying to play catch up with some bloggers and do some long-missed internet research. I found and downloaded the role-playing game Faery's Tale from Firefly games. It is for ages 6+ and looks like it will be so much fun to play with my creative, inventive children. After school work, we will spend the afternoon reading about how to create our Faery characters. A good way to spend a dreary, cloudy cool day.

Peace,

Amy

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Changing Plans and Changing Weather

We had plans to do our monthly visit to the Museum of Life and Sciences yesterday, until I was reminded that it was Veteren's Day. I knew it was Veteren's Day, but that never clicked in my mind that it also meant the schools were closed until yesterday morning. Going to a museum on a school holiday is not something I plan on doing, again, so we re-arranged plans.

The school kids were home in the neighborhood and my children disappeared to a neighbor's house to enjoy a stolen day of freedom. I played with Robbie and Emily, piddled around the house and did some web surfing. I salvaged some chicken breasts from the freezer that were on the edge of freezer burn, and boiled them to use in Dh's favorite pasta dish for dinner.

In the afternoon Mary and Katie decided that they needed to do some raking in the front yard, and cleaned off the walkway for us. Then they helped me gather wood so that we could have a fire ready when DH came home from work.

The evening was spent hanging out close to the fireplace. We read, going through the girls' current reading material. It gives me a chance to check how independent reading is going. Then reviewed this week's spelling words. Followed by bath time and hair braiding while warming ourselves near the fire. And, finally, off to bed early because we will be heading out the museum today.

It was a wonderful day even if it wasn't the one we planned.

Peace,

Amy

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hearing from a long lost friend

A few weeks ago my sister convinced me to set up a Facebook page so the two of us could keep in contact with each other easier. Even though there were hundreds of people from my high school who have pages I had stayed away from setting up any other friends just because I didn't know how involved I wanted to be in it. My life is pretty boring to try to condense in quick one liners. For example, this morning my entry was "Making homemade waffles. I love Mondays." Can a person be anymore boring. There is no room to describe how calm my weekly homeschool life is compared to the franticness of weekend ball games and errand running. And, honestly who but other homeschool parents can understand the thrill of those perfect homeschool days.

Last night I received a message from one of my dearest school friends. A guy that is pretty much in all my memories from 6th grade on. We went to the same college and then half-way through he came-out of the "closet" and disappeared. He is one of those people I have missed having in my life during all these years. We chatted for a few minutes before I had to go put everyone to bed. I was so very excited to hear from him. Since we have become "friends" on Facebook, several other of my high school friends have found me and it has been kind of neat catching up with them. I feel better about it than I thought I would.

Peace,

Amy

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Really good week

Coming back to a structured curriculum by Mary's choice has been a very good thing. The emphasis in that sentence is Mary's choice. The last six months of unit studies and projects with very little structure was just the time she needed to do some internal growing, developing or maturing. It is also perfect since the seasons are changing and we are all ready to hunker down in front of the fire place for a little winter downtime.

One would have thought after six months some review would be needed or that I would have to go back to at least where we stopped. Instead, I pulled out all new third grade language arts workbooks and started with those. Language Arts is the subject we have skimmed the most the last few years as I have waited for her reading skills to develop. By her choice, Mary has jumped right in and is doing great!!

Not, to be outdone Katie is joining us and is working through her own curriculum again. Being the opposite of Mary, she thrives in the world of words and books and finds math to be a chore. Following the one thing I have learned these past few years, this is the time for Katie to do what she likes, to grow and develop that area of herself. Later will be the time for stretching into more difficult areas. It doesn't mean 'no math', just not math workbooks every single day.

The week ended with a beautiful 80-degree day that we had to celebrate by going to the park to play. And, in the evening both Mary and Katie each had sleepovers to go to giving me a somewhat quiet night at home to do some catching up. And, this morning it is raining and cool...yeah as it is just in time for our end-of-season soccer games/potluck. I won't bore anyone with all the multitudes of ways that I am glad recreational soccer is over this season. Don't worry, Mary's competitive team keeps playing and practicing right through the winter. I'll have plenty of soccer to keep me busy.

Peace,

Amy

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Time! I need more time in a day!

Seriously every day seems to slip away from me faster and faster. I am beginning to enter the dark abyss of stressed out mommy and the holidays are not even here yet. I feel as if I am so busy with the little stuff lately that I am missing out on some of the big things.

We have made it through October. I cannot believe that October has already come and gone. As the end of the month came I found us at loose ends as far as schooling was going. We had finished up the Elizabethan study and had not really found anything to fully fill that void. We were spending our days playing some games and Mary was enjoying doing some trivia research, but we all felt really blah about how it was going. So, Mary and I sat down and evaluated what we are doing and where we want to go for the next few months. Her idea is to go back to workbooks for a little while. She wants the structure in them, especially as she works on her writing skills and grammar. Thankfully I have a pile of them that I had already purchased thinking that we would come back around at some point. We are going to focus on reading, research skills and writing for the next little while. Math will still be a part of the day, as always, but history and science will become a by-product of the language art skills until we get to the point Mary and I feel comfortable again.

Now that we are all starting to feel a little better I am hoping that we can go on a few more outings. Nothing like each one of us getting sick for a week, each separately to really make a month disappear.

I'm getting to the point that I am going to really schedule myself with my work time. I'm going to limit myself to 2 hours a day during the week (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) and then 4-5 hours each on Saturday and Sunday when DH can take over with the kids and some of the chores. Otherwise I keep finding myself on here for long periods working because the more I work the more $ I can make. But, it is just too much and I need to have limits. The worse the economic news became the more obsessed I was becoming about earning more money. Security and all those other hang-ups I have.

Maybe, just maybe we can all get back to normal around here and can start really enjoying our days again.

Peace,

Amy

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Monthly Update???

When I last checked in on September 12 I didn't expect a month would go by before I really got a chance to sit down and think somewhat coherently again. Over the last month I've been working as hard as I can to get some money to put away for Christmas. Unfortunately, bad luck has been working overtime also and that is sucking us dry.

September 16th was Katie's sixth birthday. She is growing up into such a beautiful, sweet child. We had a small neighborhood/family birthday for her.

In late September our whole family was laid low by a late-summer cold. Some of us (dh and I) are still trying to recover from it.

On October 2, Robbie turned 2!!! My mom was in town and all of us took a birthday trip to the Zoo. DH even managed to get off work to come with us. The weather was perfect, the kids were great and it had to have been one of the best field trips ever! The only downer was finding out that my digital camera had died.

This past week we have faced an unexpected trip to the dentist for Mary for an undetected cavity that required a cap instead of a filling. Then on Friday Robbie woke up from a nap having another one of his fever spikes. So scary as he was limp and unresponsive for 30 minutes before the Ibuprofen took affect. Thankfully DH was home and I could run Robbie to the doctor to have him checked. Since then he has been okay. This afternoon he experienced another spike, although it occurred simultaneously with me giving him his medicine so he didn't get too bad.

Now, Mary seems to be coming down with whatever Robbie has. She has been pretty immobile all day and we are trying to keep her temperature in check also. She did insist on playing in her soccer game this afternoon as her team is already short a few teammates. But, she played defense instead of mid-field so she didn't have to run too much.

So, we'll just wait and see and hope that the rest of us are able to avoid this viral bug.

When we are not sick, stuck in the car trying to get everyone to all their activities or me working; we have actually been sticking a few educational moments. We finished up Mary's Elizabethan study and have been kind of at loose ends until this past week when she has become very interested in US history. A friend gave us a US History timeline which she has been reading and studying. I see a crash course in US history coming over the next few weeks. This ties right in with her recent focus on US states and geography.

Mary's science has been focused on a physics study of simple machines and motion. We've taken a little break as she and Katie try out a few experiments from "The Best of Beakman's World" DVD that we have been watching.

Katie and I have just finished a unit study on Fish and Sharks. I'm not sure where we are going next. I'm still thinking about it and watching her for clues.

Mary, Katie and Emily have also been working together in making up various fairy tale plays for me. The amount of learning in these activities is priceless. And, often the highlight of our week.

Mary is currently reading "Judy Moody" and really enjoying it. Katie is enjoying reading through her HighLights magazine. Katie is still enjoying working through the reading primers with me and her reading is really improving. Over the last month we have read Kipling's Jungle Book aloud and are now reading through Black Beauty.

Robbie and Emily are really enjoying their "school" so far because we have either been sick or busy, they have only been twice. They never want to leave when it is time to come home. Emily has also started taking a Kinderdance class my friend is teaching. We are bartering for the class, so thankfully no $$ for that. She is doing great and loves to show me her dance.

I think that brings us up-to-date. It looks like it may be Christmas before I'll have a new digital camera unless I can borrow Mary's. I miss my camera :( . I'm going to keep working at putting aside some time every week to not only update here, but also our homeschool journal, that is really behind.

Peace,

Amy

Friday, September 12, 2008

Another weekly update

Unfortunately I think this is going to be the routine for awhile. Between schooling, working, evening activities and housework I just don't get the time to jump on here an update often. This is already setting up to be a pretty busy time in our lives.

Mary's soccer games began last Sunday. Our first game involved a nearly one hour drive, I'm sure the first of many. It was hot, humid, sunny and only 5 members of Mary's team even showed up. At this age group they play 6-on-6. It meant that her team had to play one down with no breaks for the entire game. And they ended up winning! Our team played so well and tough. Not being able to watch much of Mary's practices when I take her, I was really surprised by the improvement on her footwork since last spring.

This week in school we have been continuing our studies on the rain forest and Queen Elizabeth. At this point we are just reading and discussing a lot. Some activities printed from Enchanted Learning allow them something to do while I read. Katie, Mary and I have also been playing various flag/world geography games - often invented by Mary. Our math has mainly been of the mental math variety. Both Mary and Katie need more review to cement their math facts, so lots of white board math activities. Along, with skip counting by coloring in hundred's charts.

I've been working a lot on my online job. So far I have been able to put away about $100 into our much depleted Birthday/Christmas fund. Some of the questions people ask are really quite interesting to look up...others not so much, but since I feel like I spend my life researching info for others, I might as well get paid for it.

Starting this week, I have started watching on of my neighbor's sons one afternoon each week while she teaches a dance class. No pay, but she will help out by watching some of my kids as needed. Mary also attended her free trial for a fencing class. She enjoyed the first one, so I paid for another five classes and we will see how she likes it after that. It does mean another trip each week into downtown Raleigh, but it was quite interesting to watch. So, where we are now for weekly activities are: 3 soccer practices, two games, gymnastics lessons, and fencing. I'm still trying to find an art class for Mary, and of course we will fill in with some other one-time activities.

Next week, Emily and Robbie are going to start attending a drop-in preschool program 4 hours/week. I love the very relaxed, playful program and the flexibility of the schedule. It will give them a chance to burn off some energy outside the home while also letting me do some focused work with Mary and Katie.

In just a little while we will be heading out to the Museum of Life and Science for our weekly field trip. On the way I think I will go ahead and top of my gas tank, again. Apparently gas prices have already jumped .30 cents over night on the threat of Hurricane Ike. We are at a half-tank this morning, but a drive to and from Durham today and then we have to drive to Chapel Hill on Sunday for a game means we will need some gas over the weekend - and no telling what they will want to charge us then.

Peace,

Amy

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Coolest Play Museum

Today was our promised field trip for completing testing week. Some museums focus on science, some on history and some on art. Today for our field trip we went to a museum that focuses on play. Marbles Kids Museum. It was so much fun!!! We are going to be gifted with a membership to the museum, so we will be going a lot more this year. I took nearly 100 pictures today. I won't share all. Maybe.


Katie started off with the ambulance. She loves to play doctor.
I'd be scared if he was my driver.
Mary the post-woman.
Katie makes a great checker.
She is helping Mary, the Chef!
Mary heads over to cook.
Bread looks good!
I think Robbie wants to mail himself.

The Pirate Ship
Mary Reed, the female pirate of the Carolinas

Dress up around the world.
Mary
Emily isn't shy at all.

Mary, Queen of Scots
Sock Hockey

It has wheels!!!! I couldn't keep him off these.

Making Flags...Mary made Scotland's
Fishing!

Everyone napped when we got home. And, I finally got some uninterrupted work done on the computer.

Peace,

Amy

Weekly Report 9/5/08

We've had a great week around here, especially following last week's focus on testing.

Mary -
Queen Elizabeth I Unit Study:
~ Elizabeth I of England by Kerrily Sapet (Finished Chapter 1)
~ Mary Queen of Scots by Dorothy Turner (Completed)
~ Sightseers: Shakespeare's London by Julie Ferris (Completed)
~ Monarchs of England Coloring Book, Dover

Math:
Oral & Mental Math; used white board to figure long strings of operations
Blokus Game
Pattern Block Art

Science:
Nature Study
New Wildlife Inserts for Notebook - self-reading
Following along with Katie's Rainforest Unit

Ongoing personal art & writing projects
Built a fun house for Emily & friend

Katie -
Rainforest Unit Study:
~ Afternoon in the Amazon by Mary Pope Osborne (through Chapter 5)
~ Making a Rainforest animal notebook using printouts from Enchanted Learning

Math:
Skip counting by 5s
Double digit addition
Addition facts review

Computer:
Zoo Tycoon
Sim Safari

Creating lots of stories for her stuffed animals
Teaching Emily her ABCs
Lots of Coloring

Emily-
learning how to use the computer & mouse
computer play on Noggin (lots of online drawing/coloring games to build mouse skills)
easy mazes
coloring
Curious George books

Robbie-
Early coloring/scribbling skills
trying to walk down steps
lots and lots of playing with cars!

As a bonus, look what we got to watch climb out of its shell


We had our weekly field trip today, it will have its on entry. Now we are just waiting on T.S. Hanna.

Peace,

Amy

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Testing is Over!

We finished testing on Friday. I didn't post because I needed to recuperate. Once we got past the reading and language arts sections it wasn't that bad. But, golly. On the other hand, the Cognitive Abilities test I also gave Mary was considered fun by her. She saw it as her reward each day after finishing the achievement test.

Now that we are beyond all that for another year we can relax and enjoy our school year. Sometime this week we will head out for a museum day. We have both the Queen Elizabeth unit study and Rain Forest unit study we are working on. Sometime this month we will finish those up and move into other topics. Mary is interested in a Geology unit, and we may connect Queen Elizabeth to the previous Americas study by doing a unit on Explorers and Sea Travel. I've learned not to plan our unit studies too far ahead.

After spending most of the weekend feeling under the weather, I don't have this week too well planned out yet. I'm going to see where we go today and start from there.

Peace,

Amy

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Thought/Idea Web

This is something we started doing last Spring with our Colonial America/Revolutionary War Unit. Mary is a Right-Brain Learner and I needed some way to present the BIG Picture of the unit in an understandable way. The traditional learner might use an outline, but the linear approach doesn't work around here. I'm not sure where I came upon this idea, but I am sure it is not original as I am not that good.

After testing it out this past spring I was impressed with how much Mary retained and her interest in adding to it as we studied. Something I don't get from her in relation to our timeline or notebook.
The other day I mentioned her sudden interest in Queen Elizabeth and how we were going to switch our history study for the time being. I pulled out the materials we already had here at the house. Let me just throw out another kudos for Learning Through History, as I had a copy of their magazine covering Tudor England. From there, we headed out for a morning visit to the library to pick up several more books covering Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots.

Last night Mary and I read through several of the books and articles. Her questions lead me to decide that I needed to do a pre-unit 'Idea Web' for this unit as there is just so much going on. So, I fell asleep last night with images and plans for the 'web' forming in my mind. Yes, I am that much of a nerd.

I want to share with everyone what I put together this morning...


This is just the beginning. Each of the different color-coded ideas can be further broken down and each have their own webs. I know I am missing some information, but we will add those as we go. And, Mary can add ideas that strike her through our reading.

At this point I use the 'webs' to help reinforce topics we study and for Mary to SEE the connections. Further down the road as her writing ability develops a "thought/idea web" can be used like an outline to help her write papers.

Peace,

Amy

That's a Big Fish

On Sunday Mary was invited to go fishing with her friends and their dad. Apparently, they got their just as the automatic feeders dumped a bunch of food. Good timing.

Mary caught the biggest fish of the bunch...a four-and-a-half pound catfish.





This is one reason why I love for Mary to participate in activities with other families. No telling when she would actually go fishing with one of us.

Peace,

Amy

Monday, August 25, 2008

We have light

At the end of July the last of the bulbs in our kitchen track lighting burned out. After a few days of flipping the switch and nothing happening (I have the same disorder when the electricity goes off), I packed up the kids and headed to the store for new bulbs. Unfortunately, these are not normal bulbs. Little, tiny stick in halogen bulbs...of which there are a multitude of slightly different ones. Of course being my luck we could not find hide-nor-hair of the bulb in the store, even with store help. Went to a different store, still no luck. Lots of bulbs that were 'almost' right. Since I figured that the bulbs were already going to set us back almost $20 I wasn't going to keep wasting my gas, so we purchased a new light fixture with more normal bulbs for $22. Then the light fixture sat for three more weeks while we waited for life to slow down enough for DH to change out the fixtures.

I've been working in the kitchen using daylight and the fluorescent light over the sink. It has been like working in a cave. We finally had the time last night, with a little push from me and a bribe of roasted chicken. So, now we have what amounts to 200W of light in the kitchen. Wow, I can see all the dirt now.

The public schools started today. I impressed myself and slept through the first Senior Parade since we have lived here. I wonder if it has to do with those new windows. Needless to say most of my kids are still nestled in bed having wonderful dreams.

Later we will actually start our week of testing for Mary. We do it in the Fall since our school year begins in January. I had thoughts of switching it over to late Spring, but Mary had such anxiety over it that we just kept working through various test prep books...which she actually enjoyed. I sent off for the testing materials last week and had planned for a couple of weeks from now. But, they came on Friday and Mary was so excited (Yes, Excited!) that I had to hold her off all weekend. So, we will test this week and next week we will go visit a museum of Mary's choice.
We are making a quick detour in our history unit study. Mary found our copy of "The Queens Progress: An Elizabethan Alphabet" by Celeste Davidson Mannis, and had me read it to her last night. Midnight found us flipping through our "Kingfisher History Encyclopedia" and discussing when we would make it next to the library so we could get more books on Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots. So, it appears the Mayans and the Aztecs will be pushed aside for awhile.

Off to do some online library browsing while I have the opportunity.

Peace,
Amy

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The dentist visit went well today. At least until it was time to cough up the check, then I felt the pain. After the dentist finished doing his work to 'repair' the tooth enough to last until we could do a crown, we sat down and went through the master plan. I give this office kudos in that not only did they make out a list of all the work my mouth requires, but priced everything out, checked with insurance and gave me a final out-of-pocket breakdown. Our dental insurance requires us to pay up front and then receive the reimbursement check in a week or two. So, we worked out a plan for the work to be done so that I can pay for one visit, receive the reimbursement then come back in for the next step...basically rotating through the same pot of money. I am breathing much easier, or at least I will when I receive the reimbursements for the two visits this week.

I also think I have found the new dentist for the children. The office is happy, bright and the staff is wonderful. While I was in the chair waiting for the various epoxies to harden I could over hear the dentist working with children in the next room over...he was wonderful. I asked the dental assistant about their parent/child policies, which are very allowing. She even mentioned that I could schedule a pre-visit visit so the kids could run through what was going to happen before they come in for the real appointment. This would be very good for Mary and her anxieties.


Otherwise this week has been about as crazy as I had expected. It is the last week before school starts and the kids have been making the most of it, often over here at our house. Even though we have had upwards of 10 kids at once over here for impromptu game parties it has been a lot of fun. Katie got to sleepover at her best friend's house last night. I dropped her off around 4:30 before taking Mary to soccer practice and she finally came home at 8:30 tonight. My friend and I talked several times during the day to check in, but the girls were playing so well (and letting her get some housework done) that she just wasn't ready to let it end. I didn't need Katie back for anything so it all worked out.

When my friend brought her home tonight she came bearing lots of goodies; a boxful of books - including almost the entire collection of Magic Tree House Books and a bag of old beanie babies for Katie to add to her stuffed animal collection. I don't know where Katie is going to be sleeping soon between her Webkinz, the Webkinz Mary gave her, various other stuffed animals and these new beanie babies.

Tonight, Emily and I got a chance for some one-on-one time as everyone else was away from the house. I told her to pick out a game to play figuring she would go for one of the Memory games. Nope, wanted to play Blokus. So we did, to Emily rules. Made a pretty neat little picture and had a great time. We finished that up and pulled out the dominoes to make a few domino tracks. It isn't often Emily and I get this time without Robbie wanting to 'play' with us.

Tomorrow we will be cleaning and organizing the kids' clothing. I swear they are multiplying in the dark. I also have to do some grocery shopping as I have not really, really been since the end of July. And, then rewash all of Mary's clothes as the new detergent I bought has seemed to cause her to break out in a rash. In the evening we are having a small girlie party to watch The Cheetah Girls movie. Mary and Katie both have friends coming over. We'll do popcorn & kool-aid, curl up in the family room for one last hurrah before public school starts on Monday.

I warned Mary the other day that the neighborhood kids will be heading back to school on Monday. Her response was "Already!! This summer was too fast!" It was a really fast summer, but I am ready to have my peaceful life back.

Peace,
Amy

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I guess Summer is over...

because it has gotten busy again. My 'To Do' list is quickly getting longer, as well as my what we've done list. I'm feeling anxious on just so many levels, overwhelmed. Lately, I've gotten to the point I just don't want to be on the computer unless I'm able to veg and just play some brainless game. My normal online obsessions with homeschool blogs or frugal living websites as totally fallen off my radar.

This past weekend I stepped out of my own little comfort zone and actually attended a Homeschool Conference. Not the big 'State' one, which is held every May, but a smaller one that centers a little more on relaxed/unschooling approach. Cindy Gaddis, whom as a blog called Applestars writes about Right-brain learners and collaborative learning, was presenting and I really wanted a chance to hear her. My mom came up so that she could attend with me and we took the two older ones, letting my husband have fun chasing Emily and Robbie around for a day. When I was planning the trip it never hit me just how far of a drive Hickory was from here. We ended up leaving our home at 5:30am, so that we could be sure to be there in time for the first session.

We had a good time. Cindy's presentations were great. I just wish I had had the energy to stay for the very last session. I might have sucked it up and stayed, but the girls who had been nothing less than angelic all day were done, as well as mom and I. I didn't want to end the day on a bad note. As it was both of them crashed in the car until we stopped for dinner at a chinese buffet, where I have to say we ended up gorging. The food revived them enough to stay awake the rest of the way home, playing "Rock, Paper, Scissors" or was it "Rock, Paper, Scissors, Water, Laser, Ice, Lava".

One of the things we picked up from the vendors was a beautiful wooden Pentominoes set. Mary spent several hours at the Frik n Frak booth trying out all the different wooden puzzles. Some of these pieces were more like artwork. Since we have been home we have been reading about Pentominoes, which I had actually never heard of before we bought it. My mom had, and since we enjoy the game Blokus, she thought we would like these. Mary and I are having so much fun with them even if we struggle with trying to figure it out.

Yesterday, a la Di at Classic Adventures, I have started my own dental journey to repair years of lack of dental care. I didn't avoid it because I hate dentists, but because I went into debt trying to get my teeth fixed years ago and it hasn't become any cheaper. My visit yesterday was a comprehensive exam, meaning lets make a list of all the things wrong with my mouth. I was in tears before it was over thinking of how in the hell were we going to be able to afford this. Thursday I go back for them to do a temporary fix on one tooth so that it doesn't break right out of my mouth. I'll also meet with the dentist where we will sketch out the plan. This is one of those things that is adding to my anxiety.

Thankfully, I have a lot of things to do to help take my mind off of my mouth. Mary has started soccer practice, and has the first pre-season tournament this weekend. Katie's practices/games will be beginning shortly. I still need to get Katie and Emily registered for gymnastics this year. Call about finding an art class for Mary (she wants to study art this fall before returning to a piano/guitar combo class after Christmas). And, take Mary over to the trial class for fencing...which will probably lead up to us signing up for that. And, mixed up in all of that I would like to get online once in awhile and earn some money doing searches for ChaCha.


What am I doing here...

Peace,

Amy

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Beautiful Weekend

We escaped to the mountains this past weekend. Mary had her weekend camp to attend and DH was actually able to get away with us. It doesn't happen often, and was very nice. The weather was excellent! Especially coming off a week of temps in the '90s. I had to wear jeans in the mornings and evenings. We hung out, walked, visited the awesome small-town park, blew bubbles and watched a lot of the Olympics.

We came home Monday with just enough time to unload the car and dig out Mary's soccer gear from last season before DH drove her to practice. Soccer season as begun, this one should be interesting as Mary and Katie are officially on two different leagues.

Yesterday evening DH and I ripped out the carpet in our play room/office/guest room. Unfortuately, our older dog is beginning to have tummy problems and thought the one room still with carpet (besides the nursery) would be her spot. Cleaning did very little good and my mom is coming into town this weekend. So the carpet had to go. I've put down a bunch of those foam letter tiles for the time being. We will be replacing with wood laminate sometime this fall. At least I can finally let the kids back in the room.

Life is full. We are busy with all sorts of little home projects, summer school, watching the Olympics and I did get that research job with which I'm trying to get acclimated. Staying busy does have its good side, as I am staying out of stores and we have spent less than $100 on groceries so far this month.

Peace,

Amy

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I think I am stuck in some sort of a time warp. We've been hanging out close to home recently, the heat has been a killer.

We have been keeping up with our schoolwork and still finding a lot of time for playing. In the morning we do an hour of math and reading, then take a long break until the evening when we sit down for either history or science. It seems to be working, although we are nowhere near our full load. Emily likes to join us now with her crayons and coloring books. And, we are learning to work around Robbie.

I am currently studying for an online job I am trying to get. It won't be a great deal of money, but at this time with costs rising on EVERYTHING every little bit will help. We are slowly working on paying off the van loan and I would like to have a little bit more money to put towards it. Not to mention we are entering the "school year" and all of the activity fees are coming due. Today I will be taking the 'test' and hopefully will have good news when we get back from the mountains next week.

We are leaving in a couple days to take a long weekend in the mountains. Mary has her short sleep-away camp, and the rest of us are hanging out with the in-laws. DH is actually going to be coming with us - very unusual for him to get away during the summer. When we get back we will be jumping right in to Mary's soccer practices; two times a week over near the university. I still don't know when Katie's practices will be, but there is a chance that I will have to have them both at their practices at the same time only 30 miles apart. Help me now!!!

Well, break time is over. Time to get back to cleaning.

Peace,

Amy

Friday, July 25, 2008

Foto Friday

In honor of it being Friday, and the fact that I have finally pulled out my camera again, we have a bunch of photos to share from this week.



Here are Mary and Katie working on their Rainforest pictures. They are adding animals and plants found on the forest floor.

We did make it to The Museum of Life and Sciences yesterday. The weather was wonderful and the museum was packed. There were quite a few things that I had to promise the girls that we would come back to after school starts so they could have more time with it.

This is the Sound & Movement room in the newest exhibit. There are small cameras in the ceiling positioned over each square. Each square has an assigned sound, and as the camera/computer detects movement within the square it plays the sound. Depending how you move or how fast you move changes the tonality & tempo.

Of course, these two did not totally understand the principle...big empty room, lots of colorful lights and music. It has to be fun.
Mary, on the other-hand tested out the principles on a much smaller scale. The small computers around the room that allowed her to assign sounds to different zones along this white pad. Then through motion detection she could create her own piece of music.

After our train ride, the girls asked if we could walk down to the outdoor wildlife/nature area. I had not planned on it as it is a bit of a walk and this time of year it can be so hot that you might not see the animals. But, they wanted to and I could tell that it would be much less crowded than returning to the museum.

I guess the lower temps and humidity also brought the animals out to play.
These bear cubs are about Robbie's age. We watched them for about 20 minutes romping around, wrestling and climbing on the tree to the left. Mary found the video screen and camera controller and spent most of the time operating that, even after I told her it was much more fun to watch with her eyes.
Over at the pond, the kids fooled around with the various hands-on displays; paddling like a duck, swimming like a tadpole, setting up rocks and sand along a model river to show how objects can flow along a river to a pond. Here Katie and Robbie are matching animal sounds with pictures.
The shy red wolves were actually out and about today, pacing along the fence line in their habitat. These are special pups, the first red wolves born in captivity in NC in a long time. The museum is working with conservationists to help build back up the declining red wolf population.

After a stop by the Lemur habitat, who were having their mid-day nap, we moved on the the "Catch the Wind" exhibit. We had not actually made it to this exhibit since it opened. What a wonderful surprise. This is the place we cannot wait to get back to this fall.

The centerpiece of this exhibit is the sailing pond.
The small pond where you can interchange the sails and see how it affects how the sailboat moves across the water.

And, the big pond. Along the side are captain stations that allow you to steer one of the boats in the pond. Steering, sails in...sails out, all to see how well you can catch the wind.
There were several other smaller areas, like this one which talks about how some insects have wings that are made to catch and use the wind. Mary is experiencing what it might be like to be a giant, metal dragonfly.
After about three hours of sun, crowds and a lot of sensory input we were all ready to pack it in and head home for a nap. We made a quick stop back at the main museum for a few promised minutes in the "Play & Learn" area. Robbie made friends with this large stuffed horse and decided to take it for a ride. "Home, boy, home."

Peace,
Amy

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Good Beginning

It was nice to find out that after 2 1/2 months of no textbooks the girls have not only maintained, but advanced. We picked up on our Math exactly where we left off, and except for having to remind Mary that she needed to borrow (I didn't have to re-teach it, just remind her that she needed to use it) they have taken off. Katie, who had been struggling with adding on a number line, just gets it now.

Last spring we finished the last of the readers I had for Mary, so we just took a break from reading for awhile. Now she is reading library books, her Wildlife Explorers notebook and instruction pages for whatever independently. Big jump from grudgingly reading, and only wanting to read aloud to me, to using reading to learn what she wants to. It makes a huge difference in how I can plan our day-to-day activities. It frees up time that I can now spend with Katie and Emily.

Speaking of Katie, I pulled out the reader she was ready for back when we took our break...in three days she has read it completely and easily. Thankfully, I have a pile of them through the 2nd grade level so we will just move on to the next one. All that extra practice of reading every picture book I read to Emily and Robbie over my shoulder has paid off.

They are enjoying the unit on Tropical Rainforests that we are doing for science. So much so they have pushed me to do about two weeks worth of reading this week. As the big assignment Mary and Katie are each drawing a mural, and idea from the old curriculum "My World Science." Since, we have started out so well I've decided we are going to head out the the Museum of Life and Science. In the Insect and Butterfly house they have a large assortment of tropical insects and poisonous dart frogs. Of course, there are also a lot of fun activities and a new Sound and Movement exhibit.

It should be a good day

Peace,

Amy

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Starting Slow

As the heat of the summer finally descends upon us we are gearing ourselves up for our summer quarter. After 2 1/2 months off I expected a little more grumpiness on the part of Mary and Katie, but got very little. Give it a few days...

Anyway, this is our light quarter as far as how much we do each day. I still want plenty of time to get out and play, go swimming or even travel. We are only going to hit two subjects or so per day until after school goes back at the end of August. And, even then I have a fairly condensed load for each of them this year. We enjoy having enough time each day to chase our own rainbows.

The girls are almost finished with their math books from last year, and really could move on into their new books now. But, I figured if we just do math three days a week we can finish these and start new math books with our Fall Quarter.

We've also hit a new milestone in our education. I have, for the first time, assigned Mary an independent reading book. This one is for our history unit and is a book on Christopher Columbus. She is to read it this week and be prepared next Monday to write a two paragraph summary with me. Her reading has improved so much over Spring Break that this is finally possible. And, it is HUGE for us.

After all my back and forth stress trying to decide 'how' for this year, I really do think this is going to be a good year. Even with adding in a preschooler and very, very active toddler. We are in the end spending very little money on actually textbooks, which has given us a little more to cover some of the multitude of activities on their lists.

Peace,
Amy

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Life Interruptus

I can't believe it has been 10 days since I last posted. Well, I can actually. I have started a half-dozen posts during that time period, but for one thing or another I have never finished them. Life has been busy for us, especially over the last week.

Mary and Katie were both involved in day camps over in the city, which involved getting up at the unfathomable time of 6:30 AM and preparing bagged lunches, making sure they had all their stuff in a book bag and getting everyone up and dressed to be out the door at 7:30. Trust me when I say that having my kids in public school would in no way make my life easier.

But, they did have a great time at camp as they always do. For them day camp is something special. We put a lot of thought into selecting just the right one for them each year. It isn't some glorified, expensive day care...and they treat it as such.

Mary attended a "Sail and Science" camp, where she learned the basics of sailing a sunfish sailboat. She did wonderfully, winning the capsizing award as being one of the best and most gung-ho about tipping the boat over into the water and then flipping it back right-side up. We are already being pressed by her to attend the sleep-away sailing camp on the coast next summer.

Katie went to the "Nature Explorers" camp. Kind of a basic intro to animal and nature study, but she got to do it through group games and lots of playing with other kids her age. The highlight for her was finding another little girl who also collected animal figurines...so, they talked and shared and we have a new best friend who only lives 45 minutes away.

I do have to say the neat thing about them going off and doing these separate classes without me in tow is the sharing in the car on the way home. Normally, I'm right there experiencing everything right along with them, but this time they got to talk it out and give me something new and interesting every day. I have to admit hearing about their day like this was kind of refreshing.

The little ones and I had our own special days here at the house. The couple of days we needed to run errands we did them on the way back to the house. We visited the library for preschool reading time, visited the large park that has a train we could ride on, played with friends at their house, had water play in the backyard, or just helped me with chores around the house. Emily has been into paper cutting this week. Which, generally, has meant me having to pick up some of the smallest pieces of paper scattered all over the arts & crafts area. But she has also finished up with some really fine, recognizable works. She also received a new box of sidewalk chalk from her aunt, so she has spent some time outside with those. For three-and-a-half she is a pretty good natural artist.

Robbie has been right there along side Emily, for better or for worse. He managed to learn a few more words, and many more sounds. He prefers naming objects by the sounds they make, rather than their actual names. Which I think is pretty cute, although I am sure someone has a scary story out there about how it is a major sign for one dysfunction or another. The fact is he has a great ear for mimicry.

We still have one more trip planned, and Mary has one more short sleepover camp for the summer. But, we are all ready to start easing back into a routine and doing a little more focused work. The temps this week are supposed to jump back into the 90s and 100s, a good time to stay inside. Mary wants to learn Chinese (yes, she has yet to finish her exploration of China) so I am going to create my own workbook with things I can find online and we will use a free Chinese language CD we got from a restaurant in the kid's meal. Katie right now is all about reading and writing, she has caught the bug Mary has always managed to avoid. She has been spending some time each day on Starfall.com and I'm going to start sitting with her and reading for some time every day. Emily's cutting activities has given me the push to start working with her on some tracing skills, which she can then cut out. Me, well I am trying to give myself some time each day for knitting. I have a long list of knitting skills I would like to learn.

Peace,

Amy

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blueberry Picking???

We have had blueberry picking on our agenda since Tuesday. As always life seems to intervene and we have not made it, yet. Tuesday, my SIL called because they had our nephew (from DH's other sister) visiting and wanted to go swimming. So, that is what we did. Then yesterday I called the blueberry farm to find out their picking conditions to find out that they had been picked over on Tuesday. I figured it wasn't worth the 45 minute drive for the limited amount of berries we could get. I did some research and have found another place, even closer, that allows picking on Tuesday and Thursday. Hopefully, this late in the season I can still get enough to fill the freezer.

Since we didn't go anywhere yesterday I took the opportunity to keep working on my decluttering of the house. I concentrated on the kitchen; sorted through old food stores and reorganized all the cans, boxes and bags. It is funny that when it is all disorganized and scattered I sometimes feel as though the pantry is all but empty. But once it is straightened up I can see all that we actually have. The stockpile is still going strong, especially since this time of year I am rarely touching it. I feel very fortunate about our food supplies for this coming winter.

I'll take this opportunity to whine about my garden. I am going to have to move it to the other side of the house next year. As the trees in the yard have leafed out more and more with each passing year, my hours of direct sunlight have decreased to such a point that we no longer get much yield at all. I'll keep this garden patch for winter/spring crops which always do well over there, and create a new raised bed on the north side of the house for summer/fall crops. That will have to be my job this fall. Since it will have to be inside the fence, I'm going to have to come up with some way to keep the dogs and kids out of it.


We had a fun night last night. After our daily, evening severe thunderstorm moved through we lost power. Thankfully, I had just finished putting together the mac 'n cheese that was the kids' dinners. DH and I had planned on finishing the leftovers from earlier in the week. We had dinner by lamp light, listened to classical music on the radio and just chilled out. The power stayed off for almost three hours (coming on just in time for me to catch the first of a three-part documentary I wanted to watch). The kids played hide n seek, the darkness adding a certain level of difficulty to it. Mary found some craft projects that she could do by lamp light. I turned the heel on my sock and then put it away so I could read some more in the library book that is due tomorrow. Everyone enjoys it when we 'lose power'. Of course I warned them that we may find ourselves doing this more and more as electricity prices keep climbing.

As my t-shirt says: Life is Good

Peace,
Amy

Monday, July 07, 2008

Stormy

The blue sky we saw at the 4th of July celebration is pretty much the last of the blue skies all weekend. Storms moved in just before we got ready to leave to see the fireworks causing a mass of last minute postponements. When the rain finally stopped around 10:30, at least our neighbors were ready to shoot off their illegal fireworks, until midnight. Off and on for the last three days we have watched thunderstorms move through the area. On the bright side we are now officially above average for rainfall this year.

I did manage to run one errand this weekend to Goodwill, and am quite proud of what I found. I went to drop off some bags of stuff I put together while decluttering a couple weeks ago, and decided while I was there I should do some looking. I am trying to gather some more blankets/comforters for this coming winter (natural gas prices have increased nearly 80% - OUCH!). But also I needed to get myself some shorts and jeans. I took $40 with me and spent $38, but got:
~ two twin comforters
~ 2 pairs namebrand overalls in perfect condition for Robbie
~ 3 t-shirts in really great condition for Robbie
~ 2 pairs of shorts for me
~ 2 pairs of jeans for me
~ 1 pair of denim capris for me
~ 6 children books to add to our library
~ 1 pair of barely used soccer cleats for Mary
My hands were so full and I had meet my dollar limit for the day, so I didn't even get the chance to look through the girls' clothing for Fall clothes for Mary. Later this week I hope to get back there with Mary and look at their selection.

The rest of the weekend I spent right here at the house doing this and that. I pulled back out my knitting. Now that it is all organized I can see what I have and plan projects. I started by unraveling a sweater my grandmother had started before she died. Honestly, I agonized over this. I inherited all of her knitting supplies, including the several unfinished projects. She had great taste in yarn and always overbought for her projects. I saw all these wonderful things I could make with her yarn, but first had to take apart those projects she never finished and I couldn't do it. My mom reminded me that my grandmother was a depression child and never let anything go to waste...she wouldn't want me holding on to perfectly good yarn in "her memory." So now I just need to complete a project worthy of my grandmother's memory with her yarn.

Until I decide which project to tackle with GM's yarn, I returned to my sock making. I still have not completed my first sock. So, that is my goal right now. It feels good to have needles in my hand again.

When I needed a break from knitting, I hit the kitchen. We were running short on bread for this coming week and it had been so long since I've made any bread...so I did. We have two wonderful loaves of my honey-wheat bread for this week. The kids were so excited. They like the brand of potato bread I've been buying recently (doesn't have HFCS), but they love my bread.

And while I was there, I made a batch of homemade baby wipes. This was purely out of laziness as I didn't want to have to ride to the grocery store for only wipes. I had not made these since Mary was a baby. I forgot how nicely they clean.

Even with the rain it was a nice productive weekend. Mary's best friend is back from her trip so I have been asked if we can hang around so they can play. I hope, hope, hope that everyone else can get outside and play for awhile.

Peace,
Amy

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth of July

Our small town throws an "Old Fashion 4th of July Celebration" every year in the downtown area. This year we decided to hop on our bikes and ride the two miles into town for the street party. Bouncy houses and big blow-up slides everywhere, old-fashion ring tosses and the big bike parade made up our day. We had a blast and ran into several friends.

The big finale was when the fire department opened their hoses and sprayed the crows in front of the old train depot. That felt really good just before we jumped back on our bikes and rode the two miles back home.

DH took the girls swimming for the afternoon since he had to go clean pools anyway. Robbie took a three-and-a-half hour nap, which left me laying around on the lounge chair outside reading a book. It is a tough life.

He brought home fish fillets and shrimp for our holiday dinner tonight. Mmmm, I love a man that can cook. Later tonight we will be heading back out to try to find a place to watch the fireworks.

Have a great holiday!!!

Peace,

Amy

How lucky are we?

I've been kind of quiet recently. Not knowing what to write, as we have been hanging out and enjoying each other's company. The nights have been relatively cool with low humidities allowing us to sit out on the deck and watch the kids play as the sun sets and it turns dark. DH and I look at each other and know the other one is thinking "how cool is this."

After gorging themselves on tv for the last couple of months, the kids have turned it off and are finding lots of things to keep them occupied. Organizing the craft supplies has been wonderful in that they can finally find what they are looking for. Which means a whole lot of art work is being made by everyone. Books, those things my kids were starting to treat as some sort of deadly disease are now scattered every where, with frequent trips to the library for new refills.

We finally made it to the city's swimming pool after talking about it for a month or so. Everyone had a blast. The baby pool is perfect for Emily, who is basically swimming now and just needs to know she can touch for reassurance, and Robbie who is new to this whole wading in water bit. Mary, of course, is a fish and is all over the main pool. Katie, just this year is coming into her swimming self. She is still more comfortable near the edge, but is starting to realize that she really can swim. We will be heading back again soon.

Last night DH and I were treated to an impromptu concert and dance show by Mary and Katie. It made me realize that Mary really is an auditory learner, something I suspected but her kinesthetic tendencies always were so strong. She hears a song once or twice and then can sing it back to you without missing a beat. They had so much fun doing this for us and we laughed and laughed. At the end, they finished up with a selection of camp songs from last week.

We have plans for tomorrow to take our bikes downtown for the parade and street festival. Wish me luck as I will be going up the biggest hill yet towing the trailer with Emily and Robbie.

Have a Happy Fourth!!

Peace,

Amy

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Birthday present came today

Introducing the 2008 human powered minivan, complete with storage behind the seats.

I was really worried about pulling this. Would I actually be able to tow two children and the trailer up the neighborhood 'hills' we have, but it is very lightweight and the two large wheels help to balance the weight. We all took it out for a spin around the block this afternoon and the two little ones enjoyed the ride. Robbie so much that he climbed back into it after we came home wanting to "go, go!"

In other news, we also had our 4 new windows were installed today. These replaced the original casement windows that were nearly impossible to open. And, what a great day to try them out - low '80s and low humidity.

Very busy, interesting day.

Peace,

Amy

Monday, June 30, 2008

Dug 'em out of the sand and brought them home


Mary and Katie came home on Sunday to celebrate my birthday with me!!! We missed them a lot. It was just too quiet around here without them. Apparently they had a lot of fun at the beach and doing their day camp.

I spent most of the week off the computer playing with the little ones and cleaning/de-cluttering the house. Our garage looks like a bomb has gone off, at least until we have a big garbage pick up. But, on the other hand the house is looking really nice.

I could go on for hours about all the summer time fun we are having, but I'll save you from that. Needless to say we are really finding a lot of enjoyment in our time together right now. DH has been putting together some scrumptious meals for us, we have a pair of deer frequenting the woods behind our house, bicycle rides, homemade ice cream, and the kiddies are all home...what could be better?

Peace,

Amy
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.