Sunday, November 28, 2010

A History Lesson

Chalk it up to homeschool lessons learned the hard way.

Back at the beginning of the year, I had a hard time finding a history curriculum for K that covered American History on a 5th grade level. I would have settled for anything in the middle school range, but we kept running into too hard or way too easy. I finally found one - a textbook that separated everything into short lessons that were easy to assign and easy enough to understand while still being somewhat challenging. It was working well for us.

Until last week.

When we got to the American Revolution and the book devoted all of *3* pages to that very significant part of our history.

3 short pages.

The next 3 pages were about the people who refused to fight in that war. There's something not right about that quantity and ratio, so I did a little research and discovered the book was published by the Mennonites. Who are pacifists. Well, alrighty then. That explains it.

It doesn't excuse it; it just explains it.

I'm not planning to chuck the book out the window just yet, but we will be setting it aside for a bit while we supplement with other resources that actually teach the American Revolution. What a revolutionary concept!

Get it? Revolutionary? I crack me up.

We'll be reading Johnny Tremain, a historical fiction novel that explains much of the build-up to the revolution and how it started. Then we'll do a lapbook, which is this big posterboard-like "book" with lots of things pasted on that give information about your topic. I've never done one, but it looks interesting.

And keeping things interesting is Homeschool Lesson #1.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An orange wall

For years, I've wanted to paint my living room orange. A dark orange. A spicy orange that makes you smell pumpkin pie whenever you look at it. I love fall colors. My favorite color is even orange. I've been using a fall-like color scheme in the living room for awhile, but I could never commit to orange walls. Orange is bold. Orange stands out.

Orange is scary.

I finally decided to paint the short wall around the fireplace. I thought about orange and dreamed about orange, but whenever I looked at paint samples, I shied away from it. On Saturday, I took the girls to a birthday party and had 30 minutes to kill before it started, so we went into a nearby Lowe's to look at paint colors. I picked up the orange shades, then put them back. "Maybe I should just do a brown. It would go with more. Or a red-tone."

"If you don't paint it orange, you'll never be happy," my wise 10-year-old told me.

So yesterday I went in and picked out a dark orange paint color. A furious debate raged inside even as I presented it to the clerk to mix up. There were other colors. Safer colors. After all, what about Christmas? Orange would look terrible with red and green. But I put in my order, wondering if the clerk thought I was weird for picking a color called "Bountiful Harvest". Getting the gallon in my cart was a small triumph.

(If you're a guy, you're probably thinking, "This girl is a freak. It's paint, not something important. You know, like electronics or a gun.")

I bought the paint and I picked up a few little accessories because I had figured out how to make an orange wall work for Christmas decorations.

So I painted the short wall around my fireplace and the short half-wall attached to it and I. LOVE. IT.

I love the fluffy wreath I made and the glittery snowflakes I hung above it.

I love my feather tree and the dark glittery branch dressing up my birdhouse.

I love this little orange bird.

I love the huge candlestick my parents bought me for my birthday.

My orange wall is exactly everything I dreamed it would be and it makes me so happy.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Southeastern Guide Dogs

It's been almost 2 weeks since Cindy Jae went off to college. Today Mr. at Home folded up the crate and we stored it and the baby (puppy) gates on a shelf in the garage. I found a few abandoned bones lying under the couch and tossed them in the trash. A few days ago, we painted the loft where tiny puppy claws had scratched the wall and a rough puppy tongue had licked the paint off. Slowly but surely the house is recovering from a year of having a labrador retriever puppy.

I find myself enjoying the mornings where an insistent whining isn't forcing me out of bed for an early walk in the rain. I also miss the excited greetings when I walk into a room, the cock of her head as she watches me in the kitchen, or the instant sit whenever she sees me with a treat. The cat is happy now that the big black bane of her existence is gone. She's wandering the whole house and even playing with her toys that had been all but banned while there was a dog who would eat them.

While I'm painting and sleeping in here, Cindy Jae is living in style at school. It's a long 10 hour drive down to Palmetto, FL, through small towns and past large horse ranches. Cindy Jae rode in the back of the van on a tie-down and spent the entire trip sleeping or gnawing through a large knuckle bone filled with peanut butter. She handled the trip amazingly well. We arrived at the hotel just before sunset and then made a mad dash for the beach. Dogs weren't allowed on the main beach, so she had to wait in the car for the few minutes we got to stay there. We did find a little stretch on the way back where she could get out and down to the water. In Cindy Jae's mind, beaches are for *running*! She raced back and forth, pulling us with her, and trying her best to get out into the water. We let her get out some energy then headed back to grab some dinner and get to sleep. We didn't have a crate, so she spent the night attached to the desk leg by a short leash and she settled right down and slept all night. She had never been so perfectly behaved.

The next morning, we packed everything back in the van and drove over to the guide dog school. It's a beautiful campus tucked into a quiet spot with only a few houses nearby. Lots of nice buildings housing offices and kennels, lots of walking paths with a tropical feel, statues, memorials, and people scattered about walking dogs.

It was match day for a new class (where the blind people are matched to a guide dog to begin their new partnership), so things were busy. We met some of the employees and volunteers and one of them arrived with a collar and leash and led Cindy Jae away to her new life.

Trust me that was one excited dog. There were people! Who were paying attention to her! There were smells! More dogs!! By now all of her brothers and sisters are there, most of whom were in our puppy group here so she knows them well. It'll probably be another 2 weeks before we here anything about her progress, but I don't doubt that she's loving her new home.

After we turned over Cindy Jae to the kennel person, we got a tour of the rest of the facility. We saw puppies that had been born just the night before and puppies that were 3 weeks old. Those puppies grow *a lot* in 3 weeks! In the main kennel, we saw a couple of dogs that had been in our puppy raiser group. They reported back to school in the spring and are almost done with their training at the school.

This is Duchess (black) and Rocky (yellow).

And this is their kennel. As you can see, it has indoor and outdoor areas, other dogs to socialize with, and lots of room to play.

Rebecca, who had raised Rocky, asked us to take Rocky for a walk for her, but he had just come in from a walk and was headed to get a bath. So all I got was a couple of pictures for her. We headed out to stand in line to walk another dog (they have volunteers come in throughout the day to walk the dogs around campus). The girl brought us a big yellow lab and announced, "This is Toby."

Hey! We know Toby, too! He's the brother of Rocky and Duchess, but he suffers from allergies and is currently being evaluated for a different career. We got one good picture while he pulled me all over the campus. He pulls like Cindy Jae does sometimes, but his extra 30 or so pounds makes a huge difference.

It was a wonderful experience seeing the guide dog school. It's huge and very professional. They do a great job of involving the community in helping to care for the large numbers of dogs there and I know they'll take excellent care of Cindy Jae.

When I returned home, I found a certificate, a pin, and a letter from President Obama himself awarding me The President's Call To Service Award. I feel so special.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Getting back to the nitty-gritty

We've been going in, out, up, down, round and round, for almost a month now. I'm getting ready to settle into a real routine again, but guess what?! It's the holidays!! Keeping a routine during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year is a pie-in-the-sky dream.

We really, really need to focus on school. We've been doing lots of valuable life lessons in serving, volunteering, planning, relationships, and personal growth, and we worked on creating and giving presentations, but not much nitty-gritty curriculum. Thankfully, we don't have any big plans that will disrupt that over the holidays. It's just juggling all the little things that pop up. But we're going to buckle down and get some curriculum done and I have a fun little something to help us out.

I've been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid review. My opinion will be entirely my own, so be sure to come back and read about my experience. Time4Learning is anonline educational program that can be used in many ways including as a homeschooling curriculumor afterschool tutorial. Find out how to write your own curriculum review for Time4Learning.

That is the official legal notice that I'm signing on to try out the Time4Learning curriculum. I have a friend who uses it and she and her kids like it. So we're going to see what it's like. Hopefully, it'll give the girls a little extra fun stuff to help keep them (and me) focused and motivated during the holiday craziness.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Seeing the Ocean

We drove all day. At the hotel, we quickly changed and the girls and I got back into the car, racing the sun to the nearest beach. Like time and tide, sunset waits for no man and especially not "Battery Exhausted" messages on your camera. A quick dash back to the car for my extra batteries and back to join the girls at the water's edge for the last few rays of sun.

In typical fashion, the reactions of my girls were very different.

K stood quietly as the water rolled over her feet, staring out to the horizon. She was mesmerized by the vast stretch of ocean before her - the power and majesty, the steadfast pull of the waves. She was still for a long time simply absorbing this mighty, ancient, and living proof of God's sovereignty.

My fairy child, L, flew into the water with abandon, joining the waves in their wild and glorious dance on the sand. She twirled and laughed, jumped and splashed, racing through the foam in joy. Her heart sang and everything in her had to move and sing with it.

Both my daughters saw the same ocean. Their feet moved through the same waters. Yet when they looked out across the dark rolling waves, each saw a different picture.

Contemplative by nature and exhausted from a grueling weekend of softball, K saw strength and peace.

The sunshiny L, who had been cooped up in a car all day, saw joy and hope.

So many things in life work the same way. The way we view a situation is colored by our attitude, our nature, and our circumstances. What I see is what I need in that moment and it will not be exactly the same as what you see. It's also how we see God. He reveals to us different aspects of Himself exactly when we need it. Sometimes I need his unlimited reserves of strength and sometimes I need to experience a pure and simple joy in Him.

When you look at the ocean, what do you see?

This post is part of Tuesday's Unwrapped. Click the link for other inspiring posts.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Because my bed is comfy

I really should be getting a shower right now, but it's just too cozy sitting underneath my special gray blanket to get up and get things done. So I decided to write another blog post instead.

So far my to do list is getting done. Yesterday, we got everything ready and L and I dropped it all off for the bake sale and got the oil changed in preparation for our vacation. We made it across town, arriving just in time for K's game and we watched as the girls pulled out an awesome win just before the rain arrived.

This morning I dragged L out of bed and we all dressed in our warm clothes again and trekked back across town for more tournament games. When we arrived at the field at 9am, it was 39 degrees.

39. degrees.

My TX/NC blood is just not thick enough for 39 degrees. We were bundled up in plenty of layers and hats, but it was still cold. Even the dog required a blanket on the ground before she would lay down.

K's team dropped behind early in the game, but they managed to heat up the bats and came out swinging during the last inning. We won 7-6. Our awesome coach and his wife provided sandwiches for the team and families so we got to stay at the fields together and keep everyone's excitement going, because we had to play a fresh team at 1pm.

I think our girls were excited because it was slightly warmer for the second game while the other team just thought it was miserably cold. Out of our 11 players, 9 hit the ball their first time out and our pitchers were locked in. It was an exciting win.

We had just enough time to drop Daddy, K, and the dog off at home before L and I headed back out to a bake sale for her dance team. Another 2 hours in the cold, but we did get to know some of the other dancers and moms. And when we got home, dinner was waiting for us.

So far tonight, I've got the kitchen cleaned (it is officially closed until after vacation) and most of the laundry done. Tomorrow is church, then at least 1, possibly 2 softball games, then back home to frantically pack and clean. I don't really mind having to get everything done tomorrow night. I'm just so happy that our softball team is playing so well. The championship game(or games since it's double-elimination and we have to beat the winner's bracket team twice to get 1st place) tomorrow is against another team from our own association. Most of the girls are friends and have played with each other or for one of the other coaches before. They've all been dreading the possibility of having to face and beat their friends for the championship. But whoever wins tomorrow, all the girls have just been fantastic and our association will have the 1st and 2nd place teams in the league.

And then we'll be headed to sunny Florida so I can finally thaw out!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A quick catch-up because life is CRAMMED FULL

Today I've made 2 batches of fudge, 23 bags of orange/lemon slices in little round bags tied with curly pipe cleaners to look like pumpkins, and a large pot of beef and barley soup. I've also cleaned the kitchen, started some laundry, reminded my children of various tasks that needed to be done, and gotten them involved in all the cooking, baking, organizing, and cleaning.

And it's only lunchtime.

This afternoon will be filled with slicing and bagging fudge, supervising K as she makes cookies, getting the girls dressed and ready, dropping everything off for tomorrow's bake sale to raise money for L's dance team, grabbing dinner on the road, then traveling across town for K's softball tournament game.

So if you wonder why I haven't posted on the ol' blog lately, most of my days have been like today. Tomorrow is (potentially) 2 games and a bake sale and Sunday is (potentially) 2 more games. It's the league championship tournament and K's team will play until they lose. It occurred to me about 1 hour ago that I am out of time to finish my cleaning/laundry/packing for our vacation.

Because after a fall of craziness, we are leaving Monday for vacation, but even that has been in flux.

The plan *was* that my parents would drive out here and spend a week or so watching THE RANGERS play the World Series, watching K play softball, and enjoying the beautiful fall leaves. Then my dad's brother contracted a serious case of pneumonia+strep+a lifetime of poor health. He was in a nursing home and my dad is the one who takes care of him, so he stayed home to deal with that and my mom flew out here alone. The plan then became whenever my uncle was doing well enough, my dad would join us.

We spent a week enjoying Grandma, but my uncle's situation quickly went downhill and my mom flew home. My uncle passed away Thursday afternoon. Because of our commitments here and the fact that the whole main reason for the trip to Florida is to return our guide dog puppy to school, we can't make the trip to Texas for the funeral. I hate that, especially for my dad's sake.

I'm still hoping things will settle down there at home and my parents can still meet us in Florida for part of the trip. I know they were really looking forward to doing Universal and Disney with the girls and the girls were excited about them being there. Hopefully, that will still work out. I think they need a some relaxation and laughter just as much as we do.

I think the washer is finished and I've got more clothes to wash. And fudge to slice. And an oil change to get. And...and...and...