Monday, August 31, 2009

It's still August?

Yesterday we suffered through a hot, muggy softball practice that made K announce that she wanted to switch to dance. After she collapsed into the car, she asked if we could go swimming, so I figured it was the least I could do.

After an hour or so at the pool, the sky clouded over and the temperature dropped. Weird. But it got me thinking and I checked the weather on my iPhone. The high for Monday was forecast to be 69.

69. The high.

On August 31st.

Do you know what you have to do when the high for August 31st is 69?

You make plans to play hooky from the homeschool curriculum and you do something outdoors to take advantage of the unexpected gift of cool weather in August. Duh. That's the whole reason we homeschool.

I charged the camera battery and the girls and I took off for a day trip to the mountains. It was sprinkling for most of the trip, but it was forecast to clear off so we didn't worry about a little rain. We arrived in Blowing Rock and spent some time exploring all the little shops there. Starting next weekend, you won't be able to park anywhere near the small downtown area as the town will be clogged with tourists there to see the beautiful autumn colors. But today, there were only a handful of people wandering around and we could take our time and enjoy ourselves. I found an awesome store called The Brass Exchange that sold home decor elements. I could have easily bought at least one of everything they sold, you know, if I had won the lottery. As it was I restrained myself to buying just one large wrought iron terrarium thing like I've wanted for ages and will be a very versatile piece to use in decorating.

We got back in the car and headed further north through Boone and down some scenic byways. It was beautiful--overcast, foggy, deep colors. We got onto the Blue Ridge Parkway to go back up to Blowing Rock and get a few pictures from the overlooks. Unfortunately, the fog had thickened up there and we couldn't see anything but a white wall wherever we looked. It was a different way of experiencing the parkway.

Back in Blowing Rock, the girls played at the park and I took pictures of the beautiful flowers...and the girls of course. We spent some more time walking around time and exploring the neat boutiques and amazing landscaping all over town. When it became evident that the girls were getting tired and cranky, it was time to head home and we were back by dinner.

Have I ever mentioned that I love living so close to the mountains? I love that we can just take leisurely day trips to enjoy the cooler weather and the beautiful vistas spread out before us. Just in case you aren't lucky enough to live so close, here's a few pictures to show you what you're missing.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It doesn't pay to be shy

My house is all clean all at the same time. Did you hear that?

ALL clean!

ALL at once!

We're having our 1-year walk-through at 8 in the morning and so the whole thing had to be clean, so that was my project for the week. Thanks to a little help from Mr. at Home and the girls, we got it all down.

Tonight, rather than mess up my beautifully clean kitchen, we headed out to a little diner down the street. Instead, we changed the plan when we passed a place we've both wanted to try *AND* we noticed that they have a little playground right outside. We had some yummy mexican food and the girls had a blast on the playground running around with another group of kids they met there.

As hubby and I sat watching the kids, I noticed women heading up a nearby staircase.

They were carrying bags and boxes of what looked like craft supplies.

They were heading to a bead store.

Could it have gotten any more interesting?

I headed up the stairs, but the store hours said it was closed and I didn't want to go barging in if it was a private event. So I went back and Mr. at Home was encouraging me to go in or at least stop one of the women going in to ask what was going on. I didn't want to interrupt anyone and they were all moving pretty quick with full hands. Mr. at Home was intent on helping me out, though, and he took off up the stairs to ask for me.

He came back with the info that it was a meetup of the Altered Book Club. Out came my trusty iPhone and a quick search said it was an artsy papercrafting club.



Arts! Crafts!

That was all I needed to know so I hightailed my own little hiney up those stairs and barged in on their party. I introduced myself and met the leader and a couple of the ladies. I got to see a few of the projects some of the ladies have been working on (awesome cool artsy stuff) and I got myself invited to next month's meetup.

And it was all because I got over my little bout of shyness and dove right in.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lessons for L

We are in week 3 of school. 12 lessons complete so far. 12 chances to L to learn how this whole "school" thing works. 12 days of watching her teacher on streaming video. 12 days of completing worksheets, singing songs, making letters with playdough, and memorizing poems and verses. 12 days to learn one very important lesson.

Don't get ahead of the teacher.

Listen. Follow instructions. Watch to see what she does. And, most importantly, don't get ahead of the teacher!

Today the kindergarteners did a little project where they made a little book. I was cleaning the bathrooms when L started this class and I didn't know she was there already. She came bouncing in saying she needed help, so I followed her to her little table. Where she had cut out the circles from the pages that were supposed to make a book.

I explained that was NOT the directions she had been given. We went back and watched the lesson where the teacher clearly said to cut out only the one circle on the different looking page and then color the rest of the pictures. The part about "cut out the circle" was far more interesting and exciting to L than the next many minutes where the teacher showed an example of the finished project and explained how to color the different pictures. She just picked up her scissors and started cutting. And kept cutting. Completely ignoring her teacher.

As a result, L's project was ruined. We had a talk about what she did wrong, what she should have done instead, and how she needed to change her behavior so it didn't happen again. L then had to sit through another class where they finished the project, a visual reminder of what happens when she stops listening and does her own thing. L is very smart with great fine motor skills and so she thinks this kindergarten thing is easy so far. Now she's got to learn the other lessons in kindergarten. Like don't get ahead of the teacher.

On a more positive note, we finally got L's dance stuff straightened out. She is going to be taking 2 classes this year - Acro (where they learn flips and cartwheels and stuff) and Cheer Dance (where they learn dance moves *plus* get to use pompoms!! Oh the excitement!) Mommy's excited because she has a whole hour and a quarter free every Thursday!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Administrating the homeschool

3:14 Academy (aka Kitchen Table Academy) is breezing through the second week of our new school year. This is the first year I've had a split class and it has brought it own challenges, but the students are responding to the situation beautifully.

What is a "split class"? You've never heard of such a thing? Well, let me enlighten you!

A split class is what we called a classroom that held students in two different grades under one teacher. I went to a tiny, tiny school. My grade level had just enough students to make 1 and 1/2 classes. What do you do with 1/2 a class? Well, you stick it in the same same room as another grade that has just enough students for 1 and 1/2 classes. My first grade year, I was in Mrs. Johnson's class. She had a small group of tiny desks facing one chalkboard. On the other side of the room was a small group of larger desks facing a second chalkboard on a different wall. They were filled with 3rd graders. Mrs. Johnson split her time between us. The next year, I moved to the other side of the room and a new set of first graders took the tiny desks.

I have a new respect for Mrs. Johnson.

My split class is composed of a 4th grader and a kindergartener. Every morning K takes a folder with all her worksheets and a list of work for the day. She does most of it herself, but we do get together and do some speed and oral work in arithmetic and I explain a few things. Once we get past the beginning where she's just reviewing stuff she learned last year, I'll be doing more "teaching". K turns in all her work and I check it every evening. The next day, she has to go back and correct everything she missed. She works at the dining room table and at her desk in her room. It's our first year trying this method where she's more responsible for reading explanations and text on her own. She likes it so far, but we'll have to see how it reflects in her grades.

L has the craft room as her schoolroom. I have a laptop set on the big table with a smaller table and chair for her to use as her "desk". She watches her teacher over the internet and has all of her worksheets organized into daily folders so she can get them easily. She has adapted fairly well to "school". She loves to sing and write and she's doing fairly well with the phonics and participating when the teacher asks the students to stand/sit/sing/answer/etc. She also has to turn in her work everyday so I can check it.

I have had the biggest adjustment to this school year. K is using a hodge-podge of different curricula this year, some of which I have to do a lot of prep work for. I have to set up her daily planner sheets with all her assignments. I have to go through the curriculum guides that came with some of her subjects and decide which parts we're going to do. I have to figure out what she has to do for the stuff that *didn't* come with curriculum guides. I have to make worksheets for the short stories she reads and come up with little projects. There are 2 sets of papers to check, 2 attendance sheets to fill out, 2 binders to organize with completed work.

Soon, I know things will settle down. We'll get into a groove. I'll get used to how to set things up quickly. I'll know where to find the things I need quickly. For now, I'll just get slog my way through the hard parts and enjoy watching my oldest use her stuffed animals to act out a play she just read in Reading and my youngest race in to show off her swooping, slanting "e"s.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Whatcha doin' next weekend?

Next Friday night and Saturday morning (that would be the last weekend in August), I'm going to a women's conference. Right here in Charlotte.

I've been looking for a conference that I could go to. Something that I could go to where I could learn something. Be refreshed. Get away for a little while. Because sometimes you just need some time to do something that will benefit YOU. And while I would love to be able to take off for a week to some distant locale, alas, it would cost more money than I want to spend. Then this little conference popped up and I started to get excited.

Some lovely ladies that I kinda know are going to be helping to lead the conference.

They're going to talk about the Bible *and* have break-out sessions on things like cheap home decorating. Can it be more perfect?

The conference is nearby.

The conference costs $25.

Hello?!? It's like it was calling my name.

The conference is at Southbrook Church in Weddington, which is right outside the big city of Charlotte. And I would love for some of my friends to join me. There are still plenty of spots available. Go to the Southbrook website for information and to register. Then let me know that you'll be coming and we'll make plans to meet.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Wedding - Part 2

I hadn't forgotten my promise to post more wedding pictures. It's simply been a very busy week. Mr. at Home went out of town to a symposium, we started school, softball has started, there was a birthday party, and on and on. And then there are the technical issues. Did I mention that my laptop suffered a debilitating injury on its trip to Texas? I kept it between the couch and the recliner where it was accessible to me, but not to little feet.

Or so I thought.

It could have been little feet, big feet, the recliner, or the reclining end of the couch. Something put the smackdown on my little red laptop and cracked the little red cover and the screen it was trying to protect. It's still useable; it just has a large black spot on the screen that is a pain to work around. Mr. at Home, being the wonderful techie he is, moved my laptop profile over to the desktop when we got home, so I still have all my info just like I like it. Except that I hate being stuck sitting at a desk after years of laptop freedom. So I still sit on my bed and use the gimpy laptop for my on-line stuff (like writing posts), but the photos I needed were uploaded onto the desktop.

At any rate, I am now sitting nicely at my desk, typing on the iMac, and I can add the photos from here to the text I wrote downstairs, and the post will finally be One. Whole. Complete. Post.

And you can see it.


After a stormy night, Mr. at Home and I were up early the day of the wedding. Our girls and the other flower girl were meeting us in town, then we had to head up to the big city for early appointments to get some fancy hair-dos. We ended up arriving at Sweet 'n Sassy really early, so we walked across the courtyard to Sonic for drinks. Before we had even sat down with our breakfast snacks, the skies opened up and the rain poured down. Hard, heavy drops. I have never been so thankful for an indoor eating area in my life. But I was even MORE thankful for the wonderful Mr. at Home who walked back across the courtyard and got the car to come pick us up.

He's my knight in shining armor.

The girls got their beautiful up-dos complete with tiaras and silver glitter hairspray.

We picked up McDs for lunch, then it was back to the church. The grown-ups oohed and ahhed over the girls' hair, everyone got dressed, and it was time for pictures. I finally had time then for ME to get ready. The bride and I hung out in the dressing area since everyone else was being photographed with the groom. As soon as I was dressed, the action began and I ended up being pressed into service in all sorts of interesting ways. Help the bride with the dress during a last-minute potty break, help clean a spot of lipstick off the dress and keep the bride from getting upset over it, finish setting up the groom's cake, ask who's lighting the candles, find a safety pin, direct various relatives to the rest of the family, etc.

I finally sat down in the front pew off to the side waiting for the ceremony to start. It was so sweet to see my nephew as the ringbearer and the girls as flower girls come slowly up the aisle. Then the doors opened wide and the bride came in. By the time she past the front pew, her tears were flowing freely and my brother stood up front fighting back his own tears. It was beautiful.

As soon as the congregation was asked to be seated, the flower girls and ringbearer all came and sat with me. We knew that left in front of an audience dressed in a fancy dress with fancy hair, L would be dancing and carrying on in no time. Between her and the antics of my talkative 7-year-old nephew, there would be no one watching the wedding. So we quickly got them tucked away in a pew under my watchful eye before they had a chance to do anything.

Thankfully, the ceremony was short and immediately afterwards, the children were demanding "cake"!! But I quickly gathered my kids and took a few of my own pictures while they were so fancy.

These are the girls and my nephew (my sister's oldest) who was the ringbearer. Isn't he just a treat with those missing front teeth?

The girls look just precious here. I finally had to threaten them to get them to pose for one nice picture. This is what most of the rest of them looked like.

I also took this one of the girls and the happy couple. I thought it was so cute.

After a few more pictures, we finally made it over to the reception hall and I got a shot of the new Mr. and Mrs coming in. Those are my parents just beside them.

After the reception, we raced back to my parents' house, frantically packed since we were leaving the next morning, and then drove back into town for a dinner that was thrown by the bride's parents. It was one last chance to sit and talk with family friends before we left again and we weren't going to miss it.

I think my brother has found himself a wonderful wife and I've got a great new sister-in-law. I thought it would seem odd to have my little brother all grown-up and married, but it's really the most natural thing in the world. The difference in our ages is becoming less noticeable as the years pass and we have more in common.

It's kinda nice.

I'll leave you with two other pictures that will warm your heart. The first is of my dad and my youngest, who adores him.

Aren't they cute together?

The last is one of my sister and her other two boys. (I swear that I have yet another sister, but I somehow failed to get a decent picture of her and she wouldn't be too happy if I posted the one L took of her with extremely red eyes and a chip halfway in her mouth.) It's an extremely typical shot of the middle child who poses like that anytime I point a camera at him.

Yep, my little sister has three very cute and crazy blessings.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Wedding - part 1

As you know, my brother got married a week ago. My little brother. My only brother. The one who was born when I was 10. The bonus baby. The one my sisters and I made up silly songs for and danced around the house with. The one we held over the trash can threatening to throw him away. The one who now towers over the rest of us by many inches. The one who called before 8am the first morning he knew I was back in Texas asking if I'd come over and see his new apartment.

This is Aaron. He looks JUST LIKE ME.

The week before the wedding was busy. We went swimming with my sister and her boys and went out to see her new house, too. We had lunches with family and lunch with friends. We went to my cousin's baby shower. Hey, I didn't say it was ALL about the wedding. We did do some shoe shopping and baking and cleaning because there were lots of family of friends descending on my parents' house. My dad also took a few bridal portraits early in the week and I helped a little with that. Then he spent the rest of the week trying to get them printed to the right size and quality.

This is my brother's new wife, Theresa. She's so pretty and had an amazing dress.

The day before the wedding we all met at the church early to do the decorations. K&L were a tremendous help, then my aunts showed up and whisked them away for an afternoon of being spoiled rotten. Aunt Teresa and Aunt Deborah brought them back for the rehearsal that evening, then took them back out to Aunt Teresa's house for a night of swimming, pizza, and ice cream. I love my mom's sisters (and so do my girls!).

The rehearsal went smoothly, then it was off to the rehearsal dinner where the nicest restaurant in Terrell, TX, had simply never put the event on their calendar.A party of almost 40 people showed up claiming to have reserved the basement (where the lights were off) and no one there was expecting us. Supposedly the woman who had taken the reservations and was supposed to have made all the arrangements simply went of town without doing any of it. The owner was called and he was livid. The restaurant did scramble to do everything possible for us (the "custom menus" were hastily printed on the back of sheets from a procedure manual!) and all the guests were incredibly patient and accommodating. On the bright side, many of the guests had come in from out of town and other states and there was now plenty of uninterrupted time to catch up with family and friends. So in spite of a less than desirable start, it all ended well.

Next up is a photo-heavy post of the actual wedding day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Perfect P Party

We're hooooome!!

We had a fabulous trip and I have lots of pictures to post as soon as I get a chance to upload them. My brother's wedding was beautiful. Yes, I cried. The bride and groom were both in tears as she walked up the aisle. It was just so sweet and wonderful.

Since we're returned home, we've been ramping up for a a new school year to begin. But before we jump into academics again, the girls and I had a fun day. We spent the afternoon riding roller coasters and swimming, then tonight we had a Perfect P Party.

K snuggled up to me this afternoon asking if we could have a movie night since Daddy had a dinner meeting. And the Perfect P Party was born. We made a stop at the store for Redbox and supplies and headed home.

We put on our Pajamas and grabbed our Pillows.

We watched the Princess Protection Program.

We made Pepperoni and Pineapple Pizza.

We drank Pop.

We ate Popcorn and Plain M&Ms.

It was definitely a Perfect P Party. We need to do stuff like that more often.