Wednesday, August 24, 2011

An earthquake and a field trip

K has a project for life science to create a scrapbook of sorts with pictures and scientific names of different life forms. When it was assigned last week, she asked if we could go to the zoo to get pictures rather than pulling everything off the internet. After a check of the calendar (and the weather forecast), we picked Tuesday as the perfect day. We even invited friends of the girls and had a sleepover Monday night before the big field trip! It was so exciting!

The zoo trip was one of our best ever. First off, the weather was nice for August - hot, but not oppressive, especially as the zoo is located north of us, on a "mountain", and is heavily wooded. Second, because for the very first time I took only my camera and a small wallet - no stroller, no wagon, no heavy backpack. Just me. It was so liberating! Third, the animals were weirdly, oddly, awesomely active. In spite of the warm August day which would normally mean everything was snoozing in a dark corner, everything was up and moving and coming close, to the point of making eye contact. Even the nocturnal animals.

All that strange behavior could be explained by the fact that we had an earthquake yesterday. The NC Zoo is about 230mi from the epicenter and I didn't even feel it, but it might have agitated the animals. I've certainly never seen that much activity from zoo animals.

First there was the ostrich that was hanging out just below us, looking up and watching us.

Then the elephant that wandered over.

The bison came as close as their electric fence would allow.

And the polar bear was not only awake, but moving around and playing with a bowling ball.

There were many other examples - the bears that paced the back of their enclosure, the cute nocturnal cacomistles that were racing around their exhibit, and the owl that followed us back and forth, pinning us with his intense stare. It was definitely weird behavior, but it made for an exciting zoo trip.

The girls had a great time hanging out together and they learned lots of new things. The zoo had a great beekeeper who showed us the queen bee and answered the girls many questions. We talked about geysers and forest fires and Yellowstone National Park. Did you know the scientific name of the bison is Bison bison? I didn't either, but I won't forget.

K and her camera were busy and the others were very patient as they waited for her.

There are many things I love about the NC Zoo - the trees, the large natural environment exhibits, the beautiful and well-kept grounds. Probably all of that contributes to the thing I like least about the zoo - it's HUGE! I think it's a 5 mile walk if you take all the trails (which we didn't) and it's on a "mountain" so it's all up and down. It's so bad that at the summit, there's a sign congratulating you.

We were tired, but it was worth it.

L and her friend played and raced and posed and exclaimed over the "tiny elephants".

K chatted with her friend (because they're far too mature for such childish games) and got pictures of the animals and plants as well as the plaques that gave the scientific names. Now to get the pictures printed and scrapbooked and one more project is checked off. I know she wishes that every school assignment involved so much friends and fun!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Our Homeschool This Year

It's my friend Fiddledeedee's curriculum round-up! It's where we talk about the curriculum and structure we're using this year to educate the young minds around our house. I've been meaning to write up a beginner's review of our new curriculum, so this is the perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.

You know, if I wanted to kill birds. Which I don't.

My first step in deciding our curriculum for this year was an honest evaluation of last year. Last year was a slacker year. For the kids and for me. I tried a looser approach to homeschool and I had great aspirations at the beginning of the year for more interactive, unit-based learning. More projects, less worksheets. More student-led, less confined to what some book said we had to do next. The fun stuff other homeschool families talk about doing all the time.

It didn't go quite like I thought. We got through the year, we learned things, and everyone did very well on their tests, but it wasn't our best effort. All that looser structure means much more work on mom's part to plan and gather outside resources and keep everyone moving forward. I wasn't really into all that. For this year, I knew that I needed to go back to something more structured for everyone's sake.

We'd done A Beka in various forms in the past and it had worked well for us, but the kids had decided they didn't like it. I knew the heavily structured approach was what we needed, so I offered them the Bob Jones curriculum. Same idea, different format. They fought it, too, but I pulled out my secret weapon.

I took them with me to the curriculum presentation.

Bob Jones became a shiny new toy. They got to see the sample videos, flip through the books, click around on the site and see the calendar and blog functions. And they got free homeschool t-shirts when we ordered. They went from "No!" to "How soon can we start?!"

L's first day of school was the last Thursday in July. K was off at camp, L had numerous dance commitments the next week, and I wanted a chance to focus on one kid at a time while we all learned this new curriculum. It was the best decision ever. L and I watched all her classes together and figured out the best way to organize all the books and manipulatives as Bob Jones 2nd grade has a ton of both.

K joined us on Monday and I could focus on her work. K is 10. Most kids her age are in 5th grade, K started under a late cut-off and is technically in 6th grade, but she complained so much about how easy all her work was that we gave her 7th grade work this year. It's all very confusing. In practicality, it means that her work this year is hard and takes a long time. There's a big jump from elementary to middle school and she's really not happy that school has suddenly gotten a lot more difficult.

Do you want to see what our school looks like?

Of course you do.

We do school up in the loft and I'm "school" enough that I make the kids sit at desks. My biggest concern was having 2 kids watching school videos just a few feet from each other. Mr. at Home solved the problem with big, puffy headphones which K uses most of the time and L uses only when I make her. I warned the girls that I was taking pictures and if they didn't want the whole internet to see their usual mess then they needed to clean off (and around) their desks. So yes, these photos are a bit staged, but at least it was good motivation to clean their desks!

Here's K in her corner. Her desk is generally pretty clean and she has been known to lean so far forward in her chair that she slides off.

On the other side of the TV is L's desk. Her desk took lots of cleaning (and her hair took lots of brushing) before she was ready for her picture.

While K is trying to get closer to her work, L spends a lot of her time trying to get away from hers. Like yesterday. L spent several minutes laughing at K for sliding out of her chair only to somehow step into the trashcan and send herself and all the crumpled papers flying across the room. It's like a circus full of clowns around here some days.

In a couple of weeks, all of our other activities will be going strong. K is in band and Science Olympiad, both the girls are doing dance, and all three of us are doing Community Bible Study. We're back in a local homeschool support group and we've got a number of field trips already lined up for the next few months. It's going to be a busy, full, and fun year.

After 3+ weeks of the BJU Press online, here's what I see.

- It takes a looong time to do everyday. We used to be done by lunch and now the girls are working into the afternoon most days.
- There's lots of papers to check.
- L learned cursive in kindy with A Beka and has beautiful thin, slanted handwriting. BJU teaches a very simple, round pre-cursive handwriting that morphs into a babyish cursive later in the year. The curriculum demands so much more in every other subject and L was frustrated at first, but it is improving her printing, so we're sticking with it.
- The daily "What do I need for each lesson" is organized by course rather that by lesson and some courses number lessons from 1 - 170 and some list it by chapter and section, such as 02-08. The student log-in has checkmarks to show which lessons you've completed, but you can't see those with the parent log-in, so it's harder to figure out which lesson they're on.
- Did I mention all the papers I have to check?

- Teaching. Time spent giving explanations and examples and great stories and fun puppets and cute skits and actor-portrayals. We didn't spend as much time on that last year and it's making a difference. Yes, it makes school longer, but they are understanding and retaining the information much better.
- Lots of practice. All those worksheets and papers that I complain about grading means they are trying out their learning and I can make sure they're getting it. They also learn how to stick to something until it's done right even if they don't necessarily enjoy it.
- Higher expectations. BJU moves quick and expects more of the girls than I would doing it myself.
- Plenty of parent involvement without being completely parent-driven.
- It's on-line. It's easy to see log in what they're doing and everything I need is right there. There's the answer documents and little videos just for mom explaining what the teacher is covering each day and all kinds of extras.
- It's more college prep than most of the other stuff I've seen.

So far, Bob Jones is working for us. I'm really liking it and I think the girls like it more than they'll admit. It's not as "fun" as other options, but they're learning much more with this one. It's been a steep learning curve with figuring out how everything works, but I think we've got it down and running smoothly now. I am glad we started in plenty of time to work out the kinks *before* all our other school activities start. I wouldn't recommend Bob Jones for everyone. It's a demanding, time-consuming curriculum for both parent and child. My kids are both smart and self-motivated which is perfect for this curriculum. If your child works slowly and whines every time he is required to put pencil to paper, this curriculum will drive you both batty. If he takes longer to grasp concepts, you will want a curriculum that allows more flexibility of timing. If you need something portable or you're on the go a lot, you'll find this confining. However, if you and your kids need structure and accountability and challenge, this is a great option.

To read about more homeschools and the way they do things, go to and follow the linky!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Homeschool T-shirt giveaway

When we ordered our curriculum for school this year, the curriculum specialist gave each of the girls a homeschool t-shirt. K was immediately in love with the idea of t-shirts! for homeschool! She wears that new shirt often.

Today in my email, I got a notice about a contest for a company that makes homeschool t-shirts of all kinds and I knew I had to enter. And will probably be ordering some shirts from them in the future. If you're a homeschooler and would like to enter, too, you can go to and enter for yourself. We can all show our support for homeschooling!

And, you know, explain why our school-age kids are running all over town during school hours.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Our anniversary cruise

After years of talking about it, we finally did it. We finally went on a cruise. Our very first one. We decided that we didn't want to spend our whole vacation driving to the port, so we picked one that left from Charleston - 7 night eastern caribbean, Nassau, Lookout Cay, and Grand Turk. We even happened to book during a sale and got a great room for a great price. Then we spent the next several months counting down the days.

Grandma and Grandad drove out to see some championship softball and dance recitals and stayed to take the girls on their own vacation to Tennessee while we left a day early and headed down to Charleston. We spent our evening wandering around town and looking for the port, just to make sure we'd know where to go for departure. We finally decided this dinky, tiny, building might actually be the port and headed back to our terrible, minimally adequate hotel to wait until it was time to GO ALREADY!

We drove up to that tiny, dinky port with a great big boat parked next to it and joined a long line of cars waiting to get on, even though it was still really early. All I gotta say is that the security wasn't as intense as an airport, but there were a gazillion checkpoints. A terrorist would give up in frustration and go home. We breezed through and finally, actually stepped onboard the boat.

Only to find that we weren't allowed in the room yet, so we took our carry-ons and made our way up to the Lido deck for a free lunch.

I know you're thinking that lunch wasn't *free* as we had already paid for the cruise. BUT. There's all kinds of food and entertainment and stuff going on all the time. We were gone from Saturday to Saturday and there's no way what we paid for the cruise covered all the stuff we got. We're not the customers they make their money on, though. Before you step on the boat, they issue everyone a card linked to an account linked to your credit card. Anytime you want to buy something on the ship, you just swipe your card. So people are swiping that thing morning to night for everything from overpriced drinks to bingo cards to diamond jewelry. That last night, the oh-so-helpful stewards slip your purchase list under your door for your review. Our sheet was maybe half a page, all small purchases. Some people were walking around with reams of paper. For us, the cruise was an incredibly affordable vacation where we spent far less than we could have on any other trip.

We spent the next 7 days doing a whole lot of nothing. Due to a medical emergency with a staff member, we had to detour to Canaveral to meet an ambulance and missed our day at Nassau. No biggie for us as we hadn't planned any excursions there, and it was heartening to see the ship make a hard right turn and shoot across the ocean at almost 20 knots to save a man's life.

So Mr. at Home and I read books and watched the ocean roll by. We wandered the decks and played corn hole. We saw comedians and musicals. We marveled at the white sand beaches and snorkeled through clear water with sting rays. We made new friends, but mostly we just spent a whole lot of time hanging out together.

We will definitely be taking another cruise. We want to take the girls, my parents, our friends, anyone we can drag along with us, and we'll definitely be going back alone. It was truly the *perfect* vacation.

And....we're back!

Did you know I was taking the summer off from blogging?

Neither did I!

As I told someone this summer, if it doesn't have to do with right this minute, I can't even think about it. We went on the cruise (it was heavenly), came back and directed VBS (it was a HUGE fabulous undertaking), took off for a week of sun and dance in Orlando (rather more work than play), came back and sent K off to camp (she loved it) while I had a fun-filled few days with Lydia (she also loved it), then we started school. Now I finally have a few minutes to breeeeeeeeeathe.

Have I mentioned that I like the school schedule? The routine and (mostly) knowing what to expect each day mean that our lives run a little more smoothly. My goal is to get a few blog posts knocked out, write about our crazy summer, include some pictures for those who care, and just enjoy the act of writing again.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Capturing a photo

I finally convinced K to let me get a picture of her in the new shirt I made her. She wore it to church Sunday and I made her stand in front of the door for a picture before I let her go in the house.

Because I will resort to tough love to get a picture.

So here she is in her new top.

Isn't she cute? She looks much older than 10, unfortunately. Then L had to get in on the pictures and I thought I'd post a few here so you can see what I go through to get a good picture.

Tomorrow, Mr. at Home and I are leaving for a cruise to celebrate our anniversary and the grandparents are taking charge of the girls. So I'll be back in a week or so with some more really cool pictures.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Where Grandma is recruited to do a little work

My parents have come to visit and I always like to have a little project going on. Sometimes, they're even planned. Like "let's paint the loft!" Sometimes, they just happen.

A couple of weeks ago, I went to the fabric store and purchased supplies to make the girls each something. They flipped through the pattern books and waffled over their favorites. They dragged me from one side of the store to the other looking for the perfect fabric. We raced through to find the necessary notions before the store closed. I took it all home with the plan to get it done the week before my parents arrived.

It didn't happen.

That meant that when my parents arrived, a large bag sat in the dining room waiting. I finally got around to cutting out the patterns, then asked my mom if she'd like to help sew. She does love to sew, after all, and is the one who taught me. She readily agreed and I allowed her to pick whichever one she wanted. She grabbed to pretty flowered fabric on top, which was L's outfit.

I was kinda hoping she'd pick the other one as K had chosen a fancy top made of shiny crepe with a frill and ruching, which seemed intimidating. But it turned out to be easy.

L's outfit, though marked as "easy", had a top with a balloon skirt, there were pleats and gathers, 3 different fabrics, and it turned out that the pattern instructions were terrible. I'm happy that one got left to the expert. While I made K's shirt and L's shorts, Mom wrestled with that top, arguing with the instructions out loud and doing things her own way. In the end, she won the fight and L has an awesome new outfit.

Isn't it cute? Thanks, Mom! Yes, it is supposed to be a top and shorts, but it turned out long enough for a dress. (I'm glad we didn't make the "dress" length.)

I haven't gotten K to pose in her new shirt yet. She promised to wear it Sunday, so I'll try to catch her then.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Beautiful AND smart AND athletic

It was a very busy weekend.

I know organizations want to get everything in before Memorial Day weekend and school getting out, but they always end up packing it all in on the same weekend. Wednesday, I started feeling the beginnings of a sore throat. Thursday saw some final errands and my parents arriving before K had a softball game that night. Thankfully, their win that night meant that she wouldn't have any games on Saturday. I also went to the doctor just to make sure it wasn't strep. It wasn't. Just a nasty cold that I would have to power through. Friday was L's dress rehearsal for her year-end recital, then early to bed.

Saturday morning, the alarm went off at 5:22. Actually 2 or 3 alarms went off because I *had* to get up. K and I got dressed quietly and quickly and headed out before 6am, toward a local university for our area Science Olympiad. The rest of the morning was devoted to three events that K and her partner were competing in. They felt they did well in a technical writing event and a physics event, but they were fuming over an event called Secret Structures where the rules stated they would build a bridge or a tower, but they ended up having to construct a ramp with inadequate materials and *no one* could build one that met the requirements. They felt cheated and angry, but they did admit that they felt their ramp was the best in their group. After they finished their events, I left K with her partner's mom and headed back across town for the next event of the day.

L's first recital was at 3pm and I'll put together a post focused on her next, but this post is for K. All during the recital, I kept my phone out because K was supposed to text me with the results. L was in two dances, but during the others, I kept a close eye on my phone. K texted that they hadn't won anything in their first event. Then nothing in another. Then she sent me a text that they had won 2nd in Secret Structures! The one event that frustrated them, that they couldn't achieve the goal, that's the one they nailed. It's a big deal as it's the first year they've allowed homeschool teams and so the first year this team has existed and there were 33 schools and groups involved.

Mr. At Home left the recital to pick up K, then took her home with a headache while the rest of us stayed through the second recital. A late dinner out finished the evening and we all came home and collapsed, because our weekend and our busyness wasn't over.

Sunday afternoon was the championship game for K's softball league. Her team sailed through the double-elimination tournament and stayed in the winner's bracket. That meant that they played the winner of the loser's bracket for 1st place. If they won, they got first. If they lost, they would play a double-header and the winner of the second game would win 1st place. It was terribly hot, sunny, and humid and everyone was hoping we'd get it won in the first game. We had 4 canopies, a big fan for the dugout, and coolers of water and cold bandannas standing ready.

We won the game 8-0.

Congratulations to K for her brains and her brawn!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Building a Softball Team

Have I mentioned that K plays softball?

Not just plays softball, but really loves softball?

She's played every spring since she was 5 and every fall for the past few years. Over all those seasons, we've learned a little about what it takes to make a successful team and a successful player at each of the age levels we've played so far.

When we started this season, we had a great coach and some great players that we've been with before, but the team just wasn't at the same high level of play that they should've been. Sure, we had some new girls and some weaker players, but we had a good core of good players. They just weren't living up to their potential.

We had girls that could pitch, but only one good, consistent pitcher.

We had girls that could hit, but no good, consistent hitters.

We had girls that could field, but the girls were getting bored and inattentive in the field.

I puzzled over the difference as we hit a slump and lost game after game. Why were a historically good coach and players having such a hard time this season? I finally decided it was that the team lacked an aggressive, superstar talent that could motivate the others. We have talent and we even have an aggressive personality or two, but not anyone that could lead. The girls were defeated and they were digging the pit even deeper.

But then

We tied a high-scoring game. And we won a game. And the coach created a new training program for the pitchers and they started pitching well. And he encouraged everyone to swing the bat. And we won another game. And all that defense practice started to be used in games. And we won another game.

Suddenly the pitching wasn't losing the game no matter what the rest of the team did. The girls gained confidence and started enjoying playing and became more aggressive at the plate, on the mound, and in the field. We don't need one aggressive, superstar talent to motivate the team. They can see the difference themselves in the way they're playing and they LOVE it. Yes, it's not all about winning, but it is more fun when you win.

For awhile there, Lazy K had come back. She was taking it easy and getting bored and didn't really care all that much. She was getting shuffled between the outfield and third and batting toward the bottom of the line-up, which she didn't like, but didn't care to make the effort to prove herself.

The past few games have seen a huge turnaround in her play. When she's in the field, she's on her toes, bouncing and ready for the ball. When it comes toward her at 3rd, she's charging and making smart decisions of what play she needs to make. Their season tournament has started and tonight K made 2 double-plays and you never see double-plays at this age level. She has earned her spot at 3rd and is responsible for a large percentage of the outs of the last few games. Even the opposing coaches have complimented her.

Our team still has the same players we had at the beginning of the season. They are no more talented than they were back then. They have worked hard this season, but probably no more than any other team. We just found our winning formula. Once the pitching fell into place, the games finally became interesting to the other players and they've proved they have the stuff to play well. These girls became aggressive, knowing they have a chance to win. Our team is now the total package - we can pitch, we can defend, and we can hit.

And they are a whole lotta fun to watch.

Sent from my iPad

Monday, May 2, 2011


There are several major milestones in the life of a child and a parent.

- Learning to walk

- Being potty trained

- The first day of school

- Losing the first tooth

- Learning to ride a bike

Considering the long and difficult process that many of those were for my youngest, I should have known that the bike-riding thing would be tough.

L has one of those tiny bikes, made for toddlers who decide they are too cool for tricycles. She's not shown a whole lot of interest in it and she's still fairly small, so we never worried about buying her anything bigger. A couple months ago, we decided that it was time that she learn to ride a 2-wheeler. She is seven, after all, and she said she was ready. I took off her training wheels and we went to work. After 20 minutes of her screeching in my ear in dramatic terror, I gave up.

Obviously, we weren't ready.

I did refuse to put the training wheel back on, figuring that it would be an incentive to her to learn. K learned when she was 5, but she also had the motivation of a street full of kids who could all ride. She simply couldn't keep up with them using her training wheels, so she had to learn so she wouldn't keep getting left behind. She also didn't spend the whole practice session shrieking in my ear.

Recently, my parents got new cruiser bikes - very cool things that they're bringing with them on their trip to NC in a few weeks and if L wanted to ride with them, she knew she needed to learn 2-wheeling. She begged me to put her training wheel back on, but I had conveniently thrown them away and I told her she wouldn't be able to go fast enough anyway. She HAD to learn.

This morning, she routed me out of bed asking me to teach her to ride her bike. I sent K and L down to the little park up the street to get started while I got dressed. Then for the next 30 minutes, we went round and round the walkway with L going a few feet, then swerving into the grass. We were both frustrated, but at least she wasn't shrieking. After one particularly snarky, grumpy complaint from her, I left her sitting in the grass while she she cried in a temper and I walked back to the big swing and waited her out. Even while I sat and thought out elaborate punishments for her attitude, I had to admire her tenacity in trying to outsit me. She finally had to admit defeat and she picked herself and her bike up and started trying again.

We decided that her bike was a little too addicted to the grass (and she needed to have enough room to learn to ride before having to worry so much about steering), so we went back closer to home where the nice wide street slopes gently down to the cul-de-sac. And what do you know, that kid CAN ride her bike! She proudly rode it up and down the street, learning quickly to get it started and stopped and to steer it around the manhole covers.

She still needs a little work steering it around curves, but she and her sister have been riding their bikes all day, so it won't be much longer. I guess she's proven that she can do it and I need to invest in a bigger bike and helmet for her.

If you'd like to check it out, I made a video of her riding just a few minutes after she figured out that she could do it. It's at

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter dress up

Easter means many things in our family. First, foremost, most importantly, it is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ. But there are other little traditions that make Easter fun. One tradition we share with most other families I know is that Easter means new dresses and white sandals. If you're really feeling fancy, you might also get a new hat or gloves to go with your new dress.

This year, L was extremely easy. She pulled a beautiful, long, fluffy, pink and white concoction out of the hand-me-down bins (from when K could actually be convinced to wear a beautiful, long, fluffy, pink and white concoction) and she declared that she had found her Easter dress. Truth to be told, she really just wanted to wear the same dress she wore last year - it's pink, sparkly, and twirls (a perfect dress trifecta) - but I convinced her that she should wear the one that was "new" to her.

K, on the other hand, has moved to the juniors department and so we spent an evening at a local department store where she found racks of dresses she liked, but we had a heck of a time finding one with an appropriate neckline. I threatened to shorten the straps on almost every one she tried on. Thankfully, the one she liked best was extremely modest, especially after the addition of knee-length capris.

It turned out that finding a dress was the easiest part. K's dress is gray pin-striped and I knew it needed a splash of bold color, so I wanted to get a large flower for her hair. We had a...difference of opinion regarding the perfect kind of flower (not too floppy) and the perfect color (bright). We finally compromised on an orange rose and I heaved a sigh of relief that the worst was over.

Until this morning.

We had to get up and dressed incredibly early and the girls were grumpy. I fixed L's hair with a side ponytail and a large pink rose she had picked out.

Then I moved to K's hair. K has lovely hair - incredibly thick, loose curls, a golden brown that burns a fiery copper in the sunlight. It's the kind of hair most women would kill for, but it simply frustrates K to death. I pulled it into a loose side ponytail and she argued about the curly bangs. She's been growing them out for awhile, but they still curl mercilessly. She wanted them pulled straight and pinned down, but I figure she's got to learn to embrace the curl sometime. So again, we compromised and I pulled the bangs over to one side and carefully arranged the curls. She was still grumpy about it, but she got a ton of compliments. Honestly, it's the absolute perfect look for her hair. Then she left it the way I fixed it even when she changed and we went to some friends' house for a cook out.

It's nice to know that she did decide that I was right.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Getting up in the morning

It's 7:45am. I'm sitting up in bed and checking my email on my cool new iPad when I hear a knock at my bedroom door and a dark head peeked around the corner.

"Isn't it time to go?"

I assured her that we didn't have to leave until 8:45. The head disappeared and I went back to my browsing.

The clock turned to 8 and the head popped back in. "It's 8! Is it time to go?!"

I explained that 8 is a long way from 8:45 and she disappeared. A few minutes later she comes back with pop-tarts and iced tea, an incentive for me to get out of bed and get moving. So I do. All the while, she's hovering just outside my door until I finally shoo her back upstairs.

So what had L so keyed up? It was the last day of Bible Study.

Every Thursday during the school year, we go to Community Bible Study (CBS). Every week we read passages and answer difficult questions and we discuss sometimes difficult topics (Amnon, Absalom, and Tamar, anyone?). We dive deeply into Bible truths that many people will never even read, much less try to understand. It's a lot of work, especially at the tender age of 7. We've been going for 4 years and it's still my girls' favorite weekly activity.

Why? They're in class with friends they've known for 4 years. They sing and they play games. Today they even had a little pizza party. But it's something more. Yesterday, I listened in the car, catching glimpses in the rearview mirror, as K patiently helped L to finish the 2 lessons they had to get done for this week. L hates to not get her work done each week and she was willing to forgo playing in order to get all the questions answered. L even announced that if our schedule was too busy next school year, she'd give up her much beloved dance so we could go to CBS.

Folks, that's devotion.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why you need to learn how to sew

Some believe sewing to be a dying art. Ha! If you can sew, then you can get whatever you want even if you can't get what you want.

Did that make sense?

Tomorrow is Tenebrae service at our church. Tenebrae is a quiet, dark service observing the 7 final things Jesus said on the cross. I'm reading and singing and needed a dark top. I was checking while we walked through a couple of stores today and I found a really cute decorated t-shirt, but they didn't have it in the right size. Which made me grumpy. Until I looked a little more closely at at the top and made a bold decision. I went and found a plain black t-shirt and after dinner, I went to work.

I pulled bits of fabric from my stash and grabbed my machine and my sewing box.

I cut long strips of some synthetic fabrics - silky, gauzy - then melted all the edges with a candle lighter. I ran a gathering stitch down the center of each strip and gathered them, then I sewed them to the shirt in swirls. Voila! A really cool shirt, exactly like I wanted, even when I couldn't get what I wanted.

All it took was a little bit of know how with a sewing machine and the courage to try.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Painting Easter Eggs

I love my family and their creativity! We went to a family painting class today at my favorite Cajun Canvas where everyone was supposed to create little Easter eggs. Small canvases, a decorated egg sitting in the grass, your name written across each, so each person had their own little matching works of art to hang together.


As soon as I announced that I had signed us up for the class, the first question was "Do we have to paint it just like hers?" And then the ideas started flowing. It soon became apparent that the tiny 5x7 canvas wouldn't be enough, so when we arrived for class today, I got us switched to a larger 8x10 size.

But you see...the power was out at the studio, which was such a minor detail that we never considered NOT having class. We just moved everything closer to the front windows and opened the door and dove right into the project. While the rest of the class was dutifully painting traditional eggs on tiny canvases, we were drawing out our own fun ideas.

I LOVE how each canvas reflects each person's personality! K drew a cartoon and L asked for me to draw a basket for her eggs, then she painted it and I added the black outlines at the end. Mr. at Home came up with the idea for an egghead and he did an amazing job of painting. My painting ended up pretty traditional as I spent a lot of time helping the others with mixing paint and explaining how to get their ideas down on their canvas.

All in all, it was a fabulous fun time and I loved sharing something I really enjoy with the rest of my family. Seeing all the different canvases together makes me laugh at my crazy, crafty, talented, creative family!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Posting from my iPad

Did I mention I had ordered a new iPad? An iPad 2, in fact.

Mr. at Home, being the fabulous man he is, ordered us both iPads. Mine is white with an orange cover and his is black with a navy cover. And they are awe.some.

I do so love my iPad. We didn't get the original version as we never could justify the cost vs. usefulness. This time we just went for it and I'm so glad we did.

Reasons I love my iPad

1. Since I left my laptop in Texas, it's been so nice to not have to steal the kids' laptop.
2. It's so tiny, I can tuck it in my purse and carry it to the cupcake bakery and have something to do during dance afternoons.
3. Angry Birds is so much nicer on the bigger screen.
4. Typing on it is so much easier than I ever expected.
5. It's super cute.
6. It keeps my kids occupied while waiting. Glow Paint, anyone?
7. Love the cameras and video chatting. You need to get your own iPad 2 so we can call each other.
8. I can write Sunday School lessons at Panera without dragging in my laptop and bag.
9. Free Nook AND Kindle applications means more free books!
10. Bigger calendar screen than my iPhone so I can see more stuff.
11. Works anywhere there's wi-fi, which is almost everywhere.

I have had trouble figuring out how to post to Blogger from my iPad since it the text entry box didn't work, so this is a test of the HTML entry box and we'll see how it looks when it posts. Next I'll try the email posting functionality and see how that works for pictures.

So thank you, dear, for getting me a cool iPad!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fun stuff

Spring has been crazy CRAZY, but I'm tired of complaining about all the scheduling stuff I do to myself. If I dare to mention one more new thing that I've added to my schedule, just beat me. So today I'm going to talk about the fun parts of out busy schedule so I remember why I'm doing this.

1. Homeschool. One thing I think is a HUGE benefit of homeschooling is that learning isn't confined to a classroom or to a teacher. My kids ask questions about all kinds of things at all times of the day. Just this week, our car conversations have taught us about mummies, the water cycle, and modesty. We've covered personal and household responsibility with "See a mess, clean a mess" because I want my kids to become adults who can look at a situation and figure out what needs to be done. Their future husbands and managers should thank me. We've also fit in plenty of worksheets and phonics and history reading and lessons on mean, median, and mode.

2. Science Olympiad. One new part of our school this spring is getting ready for the NC science olympiad. K is paired with another 5th grader for 3 events - Describe It, Build It (a technical writing thing), Secret Structures (building a structure to meet requirements given at the event), and Newton's Notions (elementary physics). I'm coaching the first two events and the other mom is coaching the last. We get to spend a couple of hours every Friday learning a whole lot of physics and having a blast with all hands-on activities. We're less than 2 months out from the competition and K is really looking forward to it.

3. Band. K is learning the trumpet and loves every minute of it. I don't even have to badger her to practice.

4. Community Bible Study. We're wrapping up our 4th year and have signed up for next year. The girls love their classes and they're getting a whole lot of in-depth Bible knowledge. K thanked me for CBS a couple of weeks ago saying that it helps her tremendously when the kids play Bible Trivia at church. And we have a family with 4 children adopted from China that we often go to lunch with afterwards, which makes it all even more fun.

5. Softball. K's been playing in this league for 5 seasons. We know many of the girls and parents and like them. The league is competitive enough that it's fun to play, but the coaches are still nice and supportive. K gets lots of exercise, she plays well, it helps her set goals for herself, she has friends there, and it's something she enjoys. Even L is starting to play catch with us; she can throw very well and she's started to catch more since she stopped moving out of the way whenever a ball came to her. Don't worry, she still declares that she will never choose any sport over dance.

6. Dance team. L is taking 5 classes a week (all grouped on 2 afternoons) plus an extra rehearsal here and there and she LOVES it. She and I went to dinner alone on Monday and it amazed me how knowledgable she is about dance and competition and what the judges like and what they mark off for. She's definitely paying attention to class. She likes the trips for competition and we're both excited about going to the beach this weekend.

That's about all I have time and attention for right now. Next up, church activities!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Unfun tasks

Have you ever woken up and been unexpectedly motivated? That long, boring, unpleasant task that you've put been putting off suddenly looks doable and you hop out of bed ready to go!

This morning in North Carolina is beautiful. It's sunshiny and even though the wind is yet again whipping mercilessly through the treetops, the temperature is supposed to head into the mid-80s for one day of summery glory. It's the perfect day for putting away the girls' winter wardrobe and pulling out all the shorts and sundresses.

A long, boring, unpleasant task that suddenly looks doable.

Well, actually, only parts are boring or unpleasant. First, the girls pull all their winter stuff out of their closet and pile it up while I explain that, no, that need to keep a few pairs of pants and a jacket or two accessible because there will be times they are needed. Next, we pull down all the boxes of summer/hand-me-down clothes and a big fashion show ensues. That's the fun part. All those clothes must be tried on to see what fits after all. But then the unfun stuff must still be done. The girls must be motivated to put their "new" clothes away. The clothes that could possibly be used another year by L and all the winter clothes must be packed into bins and stored. The rejects must be either taken to consignment, stored for winter consignment, or dropped off at Goodwill.

See? It's a full day's work of work and one I tend to put off until the last possible moment. But today the weather and the empty schedule make it the perfect day for it. I got the girls' schoolwork all laid out and planned it so that I did one child's clothes while the other did their worksheets. But then...

But then!

L and I walked into her room to get started and I remembered. Monday is laundry day. It's absolutely useless to try to put away winter clothes when they're dirty. So all that motivation, all this warm sunshine, all my planning and arranging was useless. Today we will wash clothes and maybe, maybe, we'll be able to cram the wardrobe switch in somewhere else this week. If you see L running around the beach this weekend in sweatpants and snowflake sweater, well, you'll know I tried.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Softball and Butterflies

Today we're talking softball. Because it's spring and softball is a huge part of our lives in the spring.

K's softball team has 2 usually good pitchers with experience at 10U and one up-and-coming pitcher who's new to 10U. Experience at this level is important as the pitching rubber moves back 5', it's all girl pitch (no more "modified" where the coach steps in after 3 balls), and the skill and intensity and dedication of the players jumps hugely between 8U and 10U. Unfortunately, only 1 of those 3 pitchers is actually pitching well right now. C is on fire, while her twin, who is historically the better pitcher, gets freaked whenever there's a batter at the plate. Last season, she hit a couple of batters and ever since she's been so worried about hitting someone that she consistently throws outside. The new pitcher is doing okay, but she's got some work to catch up.

So we're training up some new pitchers. There's a couple of girls who've been working on pitching, but only one has pitched in a game. K had pitched a few games last year, but she while she wanted to pitch, she wasn't committed enough that she wanted to actually *practice*. She has finally decided that she does indeed want to pitch enough to practice everyday, especially since our 2 main pitchers will be missing Saturday's game and they need someone else who can get the ball over the plate periodically.

You'll be so excited when I let you know that I told you all of that backstory just to get to the following funny little nugget.

Today we had a mini pitching session here at our little park before the pitching practice with the coaches. L accompanied K and I to the park and she brought along her own hand-me-down glove because she wanted to play, too. We formed a little triangle and began tossing the ball around to warm up.

Now L is a fairly athletic little person. She may not want to play sports, but she has some natural abilities that show up pretty quickly when we're playing around with a softball or soccer ball. She can throw a softball strongly and accurately, but she can't catch it because she's always jumping out of the way so she doesn't get hit. She's also not all that committed to the game.

Case in point:

Today I had thrown her a ball which had bounced past her because she moved *away* just as it got to her. She turned and ran after the ball. As she was running, she suddenly exclaimed, "Butterfly!", and turned to chase a bright yellow butterfly that happened to cross her path.

The softball was completely forgotten.

So we'll leave softball to K and let L revel in her dancing. She and I are off to a dance competition in Myrtle Beach this weekend, so I'm liking the dance thing pretty well myself. I'll be the one sitting on the beach, watching the waves roll in and the little girls splashing and laughing, as bright and carefree as butterflies, as they dance along the sand just for the fun of it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pictures of Cindy Jae at "college"

Southeastern Guide Dogs, where Cindy Jae is off at college, has a blog called the Blue Coat Journal. The trainers post stories and training tips and lots and lots of pictures of the dogs in for training. I often get a post in my Google Reader from them with pictures of dogs - lots of black labs and yellow labs and they never post any names. I mean come on, how in the world do you tell one black lab from another in a picture? Even when Cindy Jae was here and all the dogs were running around, sometimes the only way I could tell which one was her was by calling her name and seeing which one ran over to me. If they were still, Cindy Jae was shorter than the others and she had a blockier head and a thicker tail, but you still had to compare them to tell which was CJ.

But today's journal post? I am 100% certain that several of those pictures of a black lab are Cindy Jae. Go look at it here The pictures of the black lab and the white lab are Cindy Jae and her sister Angel. You can tell Cindy Jae by her Superdog pose, with her legs stretched straight out behind her as if she were flying through the air.

She looks happy and is doing well from all accounts. She just needs to keep growing up and one day she will be an awesome guide dog.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Shiny new toys

Mr. at Home recently had a surprise birthday.

No, actually I didn't mean a surprise party, though that was part of it. He had a surprise birthday.

You see, back in January when the real anniversary of his birth came around, the transmission on my van, well, broke. As in spontaneous combustion. As in the service guy said it would make a nice paperweight, but it would never be repaired, rebuilt, or otherwise reincarnated. Transmissions are dreadfully expensive, so Mr. at Home decided that he would rather postpone his birthday so I could buy him a nice present without guilt. I suggested the whole idea of randomly choosing a day and declaring that his surprise birthday. He loved it and his birthday was officially postponed indefinitely.

I tried a couple of times to arrange a dinner out with friends, but between sicknesses and trips and work and activities, I couldn't pin down a date. This past Friday afternoon, I sent a text to friends and we had everything arranged in about 5 minutes. A stop a Best Buy for a gift, a run into the grocery store for a cake and candles, and a few extra minutes of decorating at my friend's house and Mr. at Home had a fun and fabulous surprise birthday. His birthday present was the Nexus S smartphone he'd been drooling over for months. Apparently, even after actually possessing it and using it, it's still just as drool-worthy, so that's a good thing.

Today, I stole his old iPhone to replace my little android with the cracked screen. The ever-patient Mr. at Home reset everything to my accounts, but we still couldn't get the data service working. I figured that there's a difference between android service and iPhone service and AT&T would have to make the change, so I raced over to the AT&T store while L was in dance and the amazingly helpful sales guy didn't bat an eyelash when I explained that I wanted to switch my SIM and my service to an unlocked, jailbroke iPhone without reupping my contract, losing my unlimited data, or paying more per month. No problem, he said, took care of it, and walked me to the door in about 5 minutes. I was *impressed*. So if you want a good AT&T salesperson in the Charlotte-area, I can point you to a great one.

Since the iPhone was going to work out and it had been done so quickly, I had time to go across the parking lot to the mall and buy a cute girly cover for my "new" phone. You know, *for protection*. So it's now sporting a light blue cover with orange and white and dark red swirls. And I *finally* got to play Angry Birds. I had tried playing it on my little android phone, but the processor was so slow that "Angry" was about all I got out of it. Now, I think I'm slightly obsessed with figuring out how to destroy those green pigs.

Yes, it's a hand-me-down phone, but it's still cooler than the one I had and did I mention the cute cover?

And I'm about to get something else that's brand-new.

Yesterday the FedEx truck stopped at our house and dropped off a small, slim package. A bright orange Smart Cover for an iPad2. Unfortunately, I don't have an iPad2. Yet. But I do have one on order. We decided to take the plunge and we ordered a black iPad2, a white iPad2, an orange cover, and a navy cover. I get the white one with the orange cover. They are shipping each part separately and the orange cover was the first to arrive. I pulled it out of the box and rolled it back a forth a few times, but it just isn't as fun as I hope it will be when there's, you know, AN IPAD under it.

Then I can play Angry Birds *bigger*!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dance team trips

Warning! This will be another picture heavy post, but they *are* cute pictures and I know you'll enjoy them.

The past two weekends have been busy with dance competitions - first in Durham, then in Smithfield (which is just past Raleigh). This whole dance team thing is a wild and crazy adventure and there's a steep learning curve for newbies like me.

Our first trip, L and I stayed with another mom and daughter from her team. We're both homeschoolers and the girls are both the same age with the same high level of energy and crazy, so it's a good fit. L and I arrived early so we watched part of the solo/duet competition Friday night, then we met A and her mother at the hotel where the girls were WOUND UP. It was a competition! They were in a hotel! Together! The next morning we honored A's request for a "fried egg" for breakfast, then we headed over to the venue.

There's nothing quite like the chaos that is a dancers' dressing room for a competition. Stuff and people crammed into too tiny spaces. We lucked out when the boys' dressing room was moved just as we arrived so we quickly took over their vacated space and had room to breathe for a few minutes. I shot these pictures of A and L stretching.

Don't they make adorable pirates?

The very next weekend was competition #2. A's mom had to go out of town for a homeschool conference, so we took charge of A for the competition. Mr. at Home and K got to go with us and we decided to break up the long drive with a stop in Raleigh to get L an American "birth certificate" and take the girls to the Museum of Natural Sciences. Unfortunately, the person who could take care of the paperwork for us wasn't there, but the museum was.

The NC Museum of Natural Sciences is an awesome place to visit. The kids were fascinated by the butterfly exhibit and the large skeletons of whales and dinosaurs. There were snakes to pet and gemstones to admire. For young kids, it wouldn't be terribly fascinating as there were precious few things you were allowed to touch. It was mostly a look and read kind of thing, but even the 7-year-olds were well-entertained for a couple of hours.

The little girls were ready to go fairly early, so we headed down the road again to the hotel and their indoor pool. Where my girls proceeded to show A how mean they could be to each other. Sigh... They don't often get in fights, but having an audience brought out the worst in them. Thankfully, a time-out showed them the error of their ways, but the pool fun was over so we went back to the room for showers and hair braiding and dinner at Cici's.

A wasn't too keen on the idea of Cici's, but she stuffed herself just as much as the other girls. An early bedtime and an early alarm for everyone, then two little girls needed buns and full make-up, the room had to be packed up, and then we raced out the door for the competition venue. The dressing rooms were a little bigger this time so they didn't seem so crowded, but we still didn't have much room. Thankfully, K helped get A dressed and kept track of all her clothes and costume pieces.

It was a long morning waiting to perform then waiting for awards, but the team had improved somewhat between competitions #1 and #2 and we came home with a higher rating this time around. It was a good trip, but somewhat crazy with 2 high-energy 7-year-olds to keep track of. Next competition isn't until April 9th, so we have a nice long break AND it's at the beach where we're staying all weekend in a beach house with some of the other moms and kids. Can't wait!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Finally posting about our trip to Texas

Spring is beautiful in North Carolina. The trees are budding, coloring the landscape with brilliant whites, soft greens, vibrant yellows, blushing pinks, and startling purple against gray trunks. I'm enjoying it mightily.

Through my windshield.

It's been a busy few weeks. Good weeks. Productive weeks. Just lots of time getting people where they need to be. I did actually have a little time to blog and such, but it's been tough getting to a computer around here. Mine is in Texas, gremlins attacked the back-up disk and then the Mac desktop (don't worry, both those are back up and fully restored), and my kids keep wanting their laptop. When I do steal their laptop, I end up just playing around a bit before it's off to the next thing.


I now have the pictures from the Texas trip on this computer and I have time to write about our awesome trip!

First, we arrived in Texas where we were promptly snowed in, which was followed by week's worth of visiting with various branches of the family tree. We got to spend lots of time with my younger brother and his wife. Dinner, bowling, laser tag, and late nights of hanging out and talking about everything made it a really neat trip. It took awhile, but my little brother is finally old enough to be interesting ;-) I got to help teach cursive to the class my mom was subbing, the girls got to visit a real classroom, and I found myself back in the familiar doc-in-a-box for the inevitable sinus infection, but I *finally* got over weeks of illness.

At the end of the week, we got up early and took off for Vicksburg with my parents. Our first stop was the Civil War battlefield in Vicksburg. That is a really, really cool place. I would *love* to live close enough to just explore all the monuments and the sites for the battles. It's a huge thing that you drive through while listening to a man on CD explain things. There's simply too much to see and experience that he can't cover it all.

You start at the visitors' center where we were joined by a large ROTC group to watch a movie. There are also large cannons and an example of the breastwork.

The girls got Junior Ranger books and started to work on them, but they were quickly overwhelmed trying to look out the windows, listen to the CD, and answer the questions. Those workbooks were WAY harder than normal, too, so we quickly dispensed with the Junior Ranger idea and concentrated on enjoying the memorials, like this one.

There were so many neat things to see and learn about. There's a Union ship they raised from the riverbed and so many artifacts they recovered from it.

Across from the boat is the cemetery where some of the Union soldiers who died in the battle for Vicksburg are buried. It's sobering to see the many, many graves scattered over the hillsides, so many of them for unknown soldiers.

We stopped at one particularly well-marked battlefield and I tried to get the girls to visualize the battle. We were parked at the top of the bluff on the Confederate line and blue signs showed exactly how far the Union army advanced. A sign told of one hero charging bravely across the field.

You can read about the War Between the States all you want, but there's something about standing on the ground where a battle occurred that makes it so much more personal.

Before it got too late, we left Vicksburg and headed south along the Mississippi to Natchez for another day and another history lesson. We watched Gone With the Wind as part of our Civil War study and I thought they would enjoy seeing that those amazing houses really did exist.

On Saturday morning, we went and got tickets to tour 3 antebellum homes, then we decided to add another impressive one to our day's activities.

Our first home, Monmouth, is now a beautiful bed and breakfast and restaurant with a lovely garden and gorgeous decor.

The girls were taken with this cute little "courting bench".

Our second stop was Dunleith, also a bed and breakfast.

We decided it would be the *perfect* place for a wedding. The best thing about that tour was that the guide had grown up as very good friends with the children who had then lived in the home. He had allll kinds of stories to tell. He was also not one to follow all the rules and let us into closed rooms and showed us things not normally seen on tours.

He allowed the girls to sit on this sofa, only afterward telling me that the set was worth many millions of dollars.

After Dunleith, it was onto Auburn, where L found a tree full of beautiful blooms had dropped a few onto the ground just for her enjoyment.

By that point, Grandad and L were a little bored with the whole house tour thing and they opted to wander around outside while K went with Grandma and I to see and admire.

This house was a little different in that it sat empty for 60 years before a society stepped in to rehabilitate it with the help of the city. Only a little bit is known about it's history, but it's really a very pretty place, especially with this staircase.

Our last stop was the unfinished Longwood.

It's such a neat concept for a house, but the Civil War pulled out all the workers before anything more than the "basement" was completed. The owner soon died and his wife raised the children in the basement, which was really far nicer and larger than most homes.

After a long day of house tours, we took the girls to a local park and let them run off some excess energy.

A highly successful, fun, educational trip. You know, I might procrastinate writing all my blog posts from now on as it's been kinda fun to relive the trip in the telling.