Thursday, December 13, 2007

My gift to the world...

I'm sewing my own giftbags this year. I've been reading, hearing, and talking with others about how much garbage the holiday gift-giving season generates for our planet, and decided that reusable giftbags were the way to go. Plus it gives me an excuse to keep doing simple sewing projects that I can complete in a short amount of time - I like quick and easy.

Here's my first giftbag, made from fabric I had sitting in my closet:


And it folds up so nice for storage:

I still have some kinks to work out. The assembly process wasn't as smooth as it should have been because I was having trouble visualizing how to place the ribbons so that the bag could be reversible. I'd also like to do a mitered edge on the bottom of the bag, but I can't figure out how I can do that and have it reversible. The examples I found online were for single-sided bags. I have some ideas that I think I'll work through on some scrap material first. Maybe I'll have to whip out a bunch of these over the next 10 months, and then sell them at holiday bazaars next year! ;P

Okay family, friends, and lurking blog readers - I need your help. We're going to order photo greeting cards (should have already done that - thank goodness for Costco), and I can't decide which picture to use.



What do you think?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I'm so amazing

LOL - I'm feeling pretty full of myself after completing not just one, but TWO sewing projects in the last three days! This is astounding on many levels, mostly because I have have a long record of starting projects and not quite finishing them. Seriously, I have a pile of outfits that I made when A. was a baby that need nothing more than a button or a snap, and I have crochet projects that are a few granny squares shy of being full blankets. It's a terrible disease to be stricken with, but I know that I'm in good company when it comes to having the inability to see things through to completion.

N. had been after me for a week or two to make her a new robe. Her last one, which she wore up through this last winter, was made by my aunt and given to N. as a Christmas gift four years ago. I looked around the stores we usually frequent, and didn't see anything that struck mine or N's fancy. Finally I decided that this was a job for Sewing Mom! I stumbled upon a fantastic 50% off sale at Joann's over the weekend, and came home with a pile of pretty, pink fleece. From the time I laid out the pattern to the point at which it was ready for my little fashionista to wear was just over 24 hours.

Here she is, singing along to the Plain White Ts.

Digging the sewing machine out of the closet prompted me to dig deeper into my stash of sewing stuff. There are a bunch of patterns that I never got to for N. back when she was A's age. Needless to say I don't have much use for them now (I'll probably freecycle them), but I did find a pattern for a hooded jacket and pants I could make for A. Only problem is, he wants it to look exactly like it's pictured on the cover, right down to the fabric shade and embroidered do-hicky they stuck on there. I'm trying to convince him to think outside the box a bit, but he's not really buying into it. With that project looming over me, I decided to do a quick search of my old friend The Internet. I googled "easy kids pants pattern", and low-and-behold, I found this Handy Home Projects blog! They were totally easy - from the time I started sketching the pattern to the time onto the boy was just over an hour. Granted, they aren't hemmed, so the case could be argued that I didn't actually finish them, but I'm going to ignore you. If I were really doing things right, I wouldn't have just settled for the 1/2inch elastic I had in the drawer either - they really need a wider elastic. But they're totally cute on A! And they make me happy because the fabric was the remnant from a hat a coat I'd made for him when he was an itty bitty baby.

Here he is being a bit surly, and giving me a glimpse of the teen years ahead:

That may be all the sewing I have left in me for right now, though I may be feeling just inspired enough to branch out into something besides fleece! LOL!

Random photo time. Here's N. all bundled up at the Woodinville Light Festival last Friday. Although she's grumpy in this picture (the kids were tired of waiting in line to take the train ride over to the senior center) the kids actually enjoyed themselves. And they got to see Santa land his helicopter in the playfields outside the community center. Santa's really come a long way.

Lastly, a picture hubby took of the kids when he took them out to the Redmond Watershed trails on the weekend. We had a light snow that lasted most of the day on Sunday, but amounted to very little in accumulation. The kids were surprised to see a thin layer of ice covering the whole pond there.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Homeschooler wins Hesiman!

Woohoo! Let's hear it for another stereotype being broken!

Tebow may become an all-time great
Peter Schrager /
Posted: 7 hours ago

When most 20-year-old guys visit New York City for the first time, they leave with a souvenir T-shirt or maybe a basic grasp of the subway system. Tim Tebow's maiden voyage to the Big Apple ended a bit differently Saturday night. Tebow heads back to Gainesville with a slice of college football history and a bronze statue in his hand.
The first college football player to ever run for 20 touchdowns and throw for 20 touchdowns in the same season, Tebow is now also the first sophomore to ever take home the Heisman Trophy. Darren McFadden didn't do it last year. Herschel Walker never did it. Marshall Faulk, fellow Gator Rex Grossman and Larry Fitzgerald all came close but fell shy as well. Even Doak Walker finished third in voting after his sophomore season in 1947.

Yet here was Tebow — a quarterback who threw a grand total of 33 passes his freshman season — walking through the Nokia Theater on Saturday night as a pioneer, the first of his kind.

It makes sense that Tebow would be the first to break through the Heisman's long-standing "sophomore wall." He's unlike any college football player we've ever seen. At 6-foot-3 and 235 pounds, Tebow's a freakish physical specimen. He possesses an arm from the heavens, the legs of a horse and the brain of a high school math wiz. In short, he's the prototype. Or as South Carolina head coach and fellow Gators Heisman winner Steve Spurrier put it earlier this year, "He's the quarterback of the future. Actually, he's the quarterback of today. He's really the type of quarterback that almost everyone is looking for."

Radio personality Chris "Mad Dog" Russo describes Tebow as a "linebacker playing quarterback." CBS Sports writer Dennis Dodd labels him "Herschel Walker with a rocket left arm." The accolades are endless. Amazingly, it's not hyperbole. The guy's that special.

The lingering talk in the media room following Saturday night's proceedings circulated around whether or not Tebow could join Archie Griffin as one of just two men to win multiple Heisman Trophy awards. Realistically, there's the potential for more than that.

Yes, Tebow has the opportunity to finish his career in Gainesville as not only the best Gator quarterback of all-time, but quite possibly the most accomplished and decorated player in college football history.

Tebow already has a national title and a Heisman under his belt. With two years of eligibility left, the possibilities for additional records and resume bullet points are endless.

Two more national titles? Why not? Outside of receiver Andre Caldwell and safety Tony Joiner, the Gators return just about every significant playmaker on their 2007 roster next season. Florida's got yet another top-5 recruiting class. The future's more than bright for Urban Meyer's squad — it's glowing.

The SEC career touchdown record? It's do-able. Running and passing for an average of 4.25 touchdowns per game, he's on pace to shatter it.

Two more Heismans? Though I hate to sound like Beano Cook promoting Ron Powlus, there's no reason to believe anything otherwise.

Of course, the kid is not just unique for his on-the-field accolades.

First off, he was home-schooled. On the stigma that goes along with that, Tebow jokes, "I've heard it all. Home schoolers aren't supposed to be athletic. It's like, 'Go win a spelling bee or something.'"

Tebow also happens to be the kind of guy you wouldn't lose sleep over your daughter dating. He's humble and respectful, and strong in the classroom. He didn't spend the night before the Heisman ceremony in Manhattan nightclubs and seedy bars until 3 a.m. He went on a double-decker bus tour around New York instead.

He has a good head on his shoulders and possesses an even greater heart. While most know him as the super-human one-man wrecking crew terrorizing SEC defensive lines each weekend, there are thousands of men, women and children in the Philippines that know him as a familiar face and a friend.

Tebow's spent the majority of his summers in the Philippines — living with his parents and assisting with his father's ministry — the Bob Tebow Evangelistic Association ( Where most other nationally recognized high school athletes spent their teenage summers at camps sponsored by shoe companies and enjoying nights out with the prom queen (and more than likely, her friend, too), Tebow — or "Timmy" as his mother Pam still calls him — was in the Philippines each year for two months tending to the underserved.

On top of the ministry work, Tebow's also a regular visitor to the BTEA orphanage located in Mindanao in the Philippines that is home to 49 orphans and 13 staff members. He holds these experiences as close to his heart as the ones on the gridiron.

Too good to be true? Well, there is one negative: He's indecisive. Yes, when asked whether he'd rather throw a 30-yard touchdown or run one in from 30 yards out, Tebow insists he can't decide.

"Whatever coach calls is fine with me."

Other than that, you'll be hard-pressed finding something wrong with the guy.

There are "haters" out there, though. While he's already got a Heisman and a number of school, conference and NCAA records to his name, critics point to Urban Meyer and Dan Mullen's spread system as the real reason for such unbridled success.

Meyer shudders at such a suggestion. The Florida coach explained Saturday night, "I've heard the word 'system' tossed around this week. But let me tell you something — personnel is all that matters. Tim Tebow is a great player. And that has nothing to do with the offensive style he plays in."

Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel, also a quarterback in a spread offense, finished fourth in the Heisman voting. Speaking with the media following the ceremony, he gave his thoughts on the "system" label.

"The spread offense works. It's now the staple in college football. Tim's a special player."

To be certain, Tebow's a passer first, running threat second. Spread system or not, the guy can toss a football. In 2007, Tebow finished with the highest single-season passing efficiency rating (178.8) of any Heisman-winning quarterback ever. He also threw for 3,132 yards and hurled 29 touchdown passes. You put him in that Hawaii offense, he's going to do just fine. The Wildhog formation down in Arkansas? He'd manage. The Pistol in Nevada? That'd be OK, too.

Tebow's not some interchangeable part. This was known by the Florida coaching staff even before he came to Gainesville. On Saturday night, Meyer recalled a conversation he had with Greg Mattison, the Florida recruiting guru most responsible for bringing the quarterback to Gainesville, two years ago. Mattison and Meyer were on a flight back from a recruiting trip in Pennsylvania. Tebow was going back and forth on Alabama and Florida at the time. Meyer, seriously considering the possibility of Tebow in crimson and white over the next four years, suggested that even if Tebow went to 'Bama, the Gators would be fine. Mattison, a longtime veteran of the recruiting game, quickly and sternly assured Meyer otherwise.

"If we don't get him," Mattison said, "it will set [Florida football] back 10-15 years."

Luckily for Meyer, Mattison and the hundreds of thousands of Florida football fans across the country, Tebow chose be a Gator. In two years, he's proven to be all Madison and Meyer hoped for and more.

And amazingly enough, it's safe to suggest the best is yet to come. >> Feedback | Press | Jobs | Tickets | Join Our Opinion Panel | Subscribe
Other Fox Sites >> | FOX News | News Corp.
© 2007 Fox Sports Interactive Media, LLC. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use
Portions Copyright © 2007 STATS LLC. All rights reserved.

USA Daily wrote up an article on Tebow earlier in the week as well -
"If the strapping 6’3” 235 lb. lad wins the Heisman, he’ll be making history on several counts. First, he’s only a sophomore. Second, he is the only player in NCAA history to run and pass for at least twenty touchdowns each in one season. Third, this son of missionaries to the Philippines was homeschooled in grades K through12. The last fact, no doubt, prompted Sports Illustrated to opine that Tebow is “hardly the typical college athlete.” "

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Stupid comment of the day

Things are returning to normal around here, as far as the weather goes, and evidence of the flooding is gradually being cleaned up. There are areas north that were very hard hit and are still without power. Not to downplay what they are going through after 3 or 4 days without power (we were there ourselves last December when a windstorm knocked out our power for 9 days), but I had to roll my eyes when I heard the news anchor (in his very somber, serious news anchor voice) say:

"... families still without power. Some are even having to eat a cold breakfast this morning."

Huh? Could they not have come up with a better line than that to express the hardship the lack of electricity is causing? Just "they are having to eat a cold breakfast"? If that's the case, than I want all of you to know just how bad we have it hear at our house where I will be going upstairs and eating *gasp* COLD cereal and milk once I get off the computer. I know, I know... it's tragic really. Leave a comment for me so that I can provide an address where you can send me donations so that I can have a good hot meal of eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns and not suffer through another cold breakfast again.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Glub, glub...

Well, the snow was fun. We ended up with about 5 inches of fluffy white stuff by the time all was said and done... and then the rain came. The snow turned into rain yesterday, and the temperature has gone up over 25 degrees from where it was just two days ago. We're all familiar with the freezing point of water, so you know what happened to all that snow. Then add 5 inches of rain in a single day, (and it's still falling). Our neighborhood is fine (though the seasonal stream in our backyard has returned), but here is a video from the downtown area that gives you an idea of the volume of water we've got around here right now.

My dad asked me today if I had started the kids on their next backyard homeschool project: building an ark. Hardy, har, har.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

First snow of the year!

Welcome to December! The weather people have been talking about the snow that's coming today for most of the past week, and the kids and I have been looking forward to it with eager anticipation (hubby seems to lack our enthusiasm). A Saturday snow is perfect, especially since it's all supposed to melt away on Sunday - no commuting nightmares on Monday morning (at least not snow-related).

The kids had really wanted to decorate the tree last night, but I was also supposed to go to bookclub. I managed to hold them off another day by digging out all the outdoor lights, etc. and decorating the front yard instead. We now have some mini-trees with twinkling lights, a row of candycanes, a light-up deer, and a blow-up penguin wearing earmuffs out in front, along with lights on some of the bushes near the front door. Maybe today we'll get the rest of the lights up! We'll also get the Christmas tree up (in between trips outdoors to build snowmen and have a snowball fight or two).

Thursday, November 29, 2007

"Mom, do you believe in Santa?"

Ah, nuts.

I don't remember ever questioning Santa's existence, and when my mom finally broke the news to me when I was 9 years old, I was crushed. Absolutely heartbroken. I honestly had no clue. I don't fault her at all - she just naturally assumed that by the time a kid hits the fourth grade, surely they must have some grasp of reality. The Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, Santa - I never had any reason not to believe in them. When I did find out, I felt betrayed by dishonest grown-ups everywhere who insisted on perpetuating the lie of the jolly, all-knowing, fat man in the red suit to naive, unsuspecting children. That very night (out of a need to right those terrible wrongs) I made sure to break the news to my younger sister that Santa was nothing more than a ruse, and that parents are liars. Did I mention I took it kind of hard?

So naturally I evaded the question as much as possible when the kids brought it up while we were running errands today. These things never go as smoothly as I hope they will.

Natalie: "Mom, do you believe in Santa?"

Me: "What do you mean?"

Natalie (with mild irritation in her voice, like "duh, mom"): "Do you believe that Santa is real?"

Well, crap. I don't want to outright lie. Lying by omission is one thing, but blatant lies are something else, right? I essentially ended up answering an onslaught of the kids' questions with more questions, and eventually wore them down. The kids brought the conversation back around to rememberances of Christmas past, full of clues of Santa's undeniable existence. I mean, who could possibly have eaten all the cookies and egg nog every year? And what about the hoof marks out in the barkdust in the front yard last Christmas? Who can argue with proof like that?

I guess what it comes down to is that I need some kind of magic words to tell them that the magic of Santa Claus, and Christmas, and Hope, and Love are always there whether there's really a guy in a red suit with flying reindeer or not. Some way to tell them that won't destroy their innocence, and take away their sense of wonder. Or maybe I'm making too much out of the whole thing, and my kids care way less about this then I do! I'm obviously not ready to give up on Santa - maybe I can hold them off a little longer...?

Monday, November 26, 2007

What I did on my Thanksgiving vacation...

We were getting packed up to leave town the next morning when hubby got a call from his mom that she'd been run over by a mad cow and broken her collarbone (not one of her own cows, but a neighbor's cow who was had already been in labor for two days). She's about to turn 67 and runs her cattle ranch by herself, while taking care of her aging 93-year old MIL. She's got her hands full, but now has one of them out of commission. Our presence ended up being very much appreciated by the time we left there at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.

It's a 7 1/2 hour drive down to MIL's place, so we high-tailed it out of town after dropping the rat brothers off to be boarded while we were away. We got down there Wednesday evening in time to bring in some wood to the backdoor pile from the main woodpile (their only heat is the woodstove), and get dinner ready.

I started out Thanksgiving day with my hand down the inside of a still-frozen 17lbs. turkey. Brrrr. Once the bird was in the oven, hubby, MIL, BIL and I started out in search of firewood to stock the main woodpile. We took the truck out to an "emergency" pile out in another field about a quarter mile down the driveway, and filled the back up to the gills. We dropped off part of the load for an elderly neighbor up at the end of the driveway, and then took the rest back to the house to split and stack on the main pile. Then I came back to play chef's assistant to MIL's friend who was in charge of the big meal. I even made my very first ever whole cranberry sauce! It turned out really good, and I felt so grown-up eating it instead of the jellied stuff that falls out of the can.

While I was in chopping, peeling, and dicing, the brothers were out repairing a fence. Turned out it needed a little more than just simple repairs. A series of fence posts had rotted out, and that whole section of fence was laying on the ground in pieces. They boys went out to cut down suitable poles, while their mom came back to the house to grab a lawnchair so she could properly supervise and not strain her bruised rib and broken bone. As the afternoon was getting late, I thought I'd go out and offer my assistance (I like to think that I'm a fairly capable individual, in spite of my decidedly citified upbringing). It turns out I was the perfect candidate to peel poles! MIL came out to remind us that the sun would be going down soon, and the fence absolutely had to be up before dark or we'd be taking turns staying up all night making sure none of the cows got loose. How's that for incentive to get a job done? At about that point, the dinner bell rang (yes, a real dinner bell). Hubby dropped his tools and was ready to bolt for the house while the rest of us stared at him like he must be nuts if he thought we were really going to let him leave us. We managed to get the posts in the ground, and a couple of railings on, and called it good for the night as the sun dipped down behind the hills, and the cook walked out with a stern look of annoyance on her face to drag us in for dinner. We assured her we were ready to eat! We were joined by some friends from down the Creek, and a small music party followed after the delicious meal.

That night a calf was born. The kids named him Frosty due to the deep freeze that was taking place during our entire visit to the ranch. Hubby and MIL got Frosty and his Momma up into the barn for the night, and we all went to bed.

Friday I had big plans to go join in the post-Thanksgiving shopping madness with my good friend who was up the road visiting her in-laws, too. I awoke at 4 a.m. before my alarm had a chance to go off. I could hear the sounds of the one-armed MIL stoking the fire in the woodstove, and gathering more wood from outside the backdoor. I rolled out of bed and headed downstairs, only to see my MIL's bed empty, with her sling lying off to the side. With a sigh, and a roll of my eyes, I went to go round up hubby to let him know that his mother had flown the coop and was out wandering around in the dark without her sling. Most likely she was chopping down some large tree with an axe, or pulling calves out with her bare hands - something against the instructions she'd been given which were more along the lines of taking it easy, and keeping her arm immobilized. Sheesh - parents - they just don't listen. ;P

When I returned from the Black Friday outing, it was time to finish building the new fence. That took a couple of hours. When that was over, I wandered up to the barn because MIL had said that one of the other cows was in labor but hadn't delivered yet. I was fortunate enough to get there just a few minutes before the calf was born. The mama just laid herself down at the top of a little hill in the barnyard, and out slipped the calf... toboganing down the hill. At first the calf didn't move, but within a few seconds she started moving, and the mother went down to start licking her off. I ran inside to get MIL, and eventually we had the kids out there, too. If the calf was a boy, the kids wanted to name it "Shark" but it was a girl, so they named her "Fish". Below are some videos of Fish's first hour.

Fish's first steps:

The fun continued right up to the end of our visit. When we were packed up and getting ready to say our good-byes, MIL came down and asked if we could stay just a little longer, as it looked like Fish's mama was showing signs of infection. MIL wasn't sure she could do the antibiotic injections one-handed, so we got the kids back out of the car and went inside. In the end, it turned out MIL's cows are quite comfortable with her, and she was able to walk right up and give two injections with no problem at all. By the next day, Mama was back up on her feet and doing much better.

All in all, we had a blast. Hubby and I dream of moving down there some day. He says that just as soon as medical and retirement benefits, and decent pay, come along with working out in the boonies, we can look into it. For now we'll have to settle for being city slickers, and enjoy being periodic weekend ranchers.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Borrowed this from my sister - I couldn't resist!

11/29/07 UPDATE:
My 8-year old was sitting here next to me and saw the Happy Thanksgiving cartoon. "What's that?" she asked, and then a mortified look of understanding came over her face. With a tone of utter disdain in her voice she exclaimed "Who would think that is funny???" LOL - poor kid!

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Shocking Announcement...

I have a shocking announcement to make. (This line is only funny to me, and maybe one other person. Inside jokes are the pits.)

Anyway, as I was saying... I have a shocking announcement to make: We joined WAVA. It's okay! We're just part-time, and we kept our home based status. I only turned to the Dark Side a tiny bit.

Most of you are probably going "huh? that's not shocking." (ha, ha, ha... again, inside joke. I'm slaying myself here!)

Well, here's the deal: WAVA stands for Washington Virtual Academy, and they use the K12 curriculum. We used K12 years ago when we lived in California (through CAVA - I want to live in Jamaica so we can join JAVA. Is it late? Am I sleep deprived? I'm just loopy tonight). Anyway, K12 is inherently evil. They've mastered the art of marketing themselves to homeschoolers and enticing them with a great curriculum, but then charging ridiculous amounts of money that most nearly-broke homeschool families can't afford on their own, so they join these public school (or charter school) programs. In the process, homeschoolers usually have to give up their homeschool status (something I refuse to do because I'm stubborn and it just makes me feel more in control), but the rest of the world still sees them as homeschoolers (you educate your children at home, that must mean you're a homeschooler, right?). The whole thing really muddies the waters and blurs the lines between what is homeschooling and what is public schooling. The virtual academies actually piss off the NEA and the homeschool activists about equally. Anyway, here in Washington state, homeschoolers have the legal right to access any public school offerings in their district that they want on a part-time basis, and I'm choosing to take advantage of that.

This was a really hard decision for me. I became president of our local homeschool group this fall, and I've been on the board of directors for over a year - I felt like I needed to set an example for new homeschoolers out there, and that the best way to do that was to take a "pure" approach, free from any ties to the school system. But I kept feeling drawn back to K12. I always liked using their curriculum before, and I really think it's a good match for N. I finally decided I needed to pursue enrollment with WAVA. Hubby thinks it's an outstanding idea (except that he knows that all the paperwork and reporting is going to make me ultra-cranky) - I still wasn't so sure. That is, until I found out we could enroll part-time even though we're from out-of-district. That sealed the deal for me. I needed to make this decision based on what's right for our own family, not based on how that decision is going to be perceived by people I barely know. My friends won't turn away from me - they'll just snicker. LOL

People keep asking me why I felt the need to make this change in our homeschooling right now. There are a lot of reasons. One is that K12 has always called to me. I'm constantly coming back to it, multiple times a year, and trying to figure out how to make it work for us financially. N. still doesn't read fluently. While I'm sure that will come in time regardless of what we do, and many of my friends have had the patience to wait it out longer with their own kids, I found myself losing that faith. Adding more structure seems like the solution for now. N. is going to be 8 1/2 soon. She's a fantastic kid, with a vivid imagination and wonderful ideas - I feel like I'm doing her a disservice by not taking our schooling to a higher level and opening up more of the world to her. I don't feel like I have the self-discipline to see that through on my own. I need the push of an outside "voice" to breathe down our necks and tell us to get our butts in gear. So I'm making myself do this, and I'm going kicking and screaming, and I'll probably compain loudly, but it feels like the right thing to do.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

It's a Calgon day

It's not even 9am, and I feel like I'm in that old "Calgon, take me away!" commercial! LOL!
Andrew is trying my patience. In his defense, he spent the last 3 days having a tummy bug, and is obviously still feeling a little out of sorts. But he's been crying since he woke up two hours ago. First he was sobbing because his nose is stuffed up "and I'll never be able to breathe out of it again!". I reminded him that crying usually makes noses more stuffed up. Does he want to blow it? No. More sobbing. Goes to his room, mad at me, and strips down to his underwear.

Now he's hungry. I thought he said he wanted waffles. Apparently I was wrong. He wants oatmeal. More crying. And he'd like apple juice. No problem. But now he's cold, and there are goosebumps on his arms - crying. I suggest clothing. NO!!! It's not because he's not wearing clothing that he's cold (silly me), it's because the sun isn't out enough (let me get right on that...). And he's hungry, because he's so cold that he can't use his arms to lift his hands to raise the spoon to his mouth. And he wants the bumps to be off his arms.

So he's sobbing, actually a full-blown tantrum right now. There's nothing that I can do. He chooses battles that cannot be won, or refuses to let be solved. And so he cries. And then he sits in a corner and sings from the song Ugly Bug Ball "I've got nobody to hug. I'm such an ugly bug." And he doesn't want anyone to talk to him, hold him, or comfort him. He wants to be alone to stay in his funk.

Vent, vent, vent. sigh.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

On those days when you're feeling just a bit snarky...

This "Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List was sent to one of the homeschool e-groups that I'm on, and hubby and I got a good chuckle out of it. You can click on the link for the full text of it (and check out the new Secular Homeschooling Magazine), but a few of our favorites were:

2. Learn what the words "socialize" and "socialization" mean, and use the one you really mean instead of mixing them up the way you do now. Socializing means hanging out with other people for fun. Socialization means having acquired the skills necessary to do so successfully and pleasantly. If you're talking to me and my kids, that means that we do in fact go outside now and then to visit the other human beings on the planet, and you can safely assume that we've got a decent grasp of both concepts.

3. Quit interrupting my kid at her dance lesson, scout meeting, choir practice, baseball game, art class, field trip, park day, music class, 4H club, or soccer lesson to ask her if as a homeschooler she ever gets to socialize.

4. Don't assume that every homeschooler you meet is homeschooling for the same reasons and in the same way as that one homeschooler you know.

5. If that homeschooler you know is actually someone you saw on TV, either on the news or on a "reality" show, the above goes double.

7. We don't look horrified and start quizzing your kids when we hear they're in public school. Please stop drilling our children like potential oil fields to see if we're doing what you consider an adequate job of homeschooling.

10. We didn't go through all the reading, learning, thinking, weighing of options, experimenting, and worrying that goes into homeschooling just to annoy you. Really. This was a deeply personal decision, tailored to the specifics of our family. Stop taking the bare fact of our being homeschoolers as either an affront or a judgment about your own educational decisions.

12. If my kid's only six and you ask me with a straight face how I can possibly teach him what he'd learn in school, please understand that you're calling me an idiot. Don't act shocked if I decide to respond in kind.

16. Don't ask my kid if she wouldn't rather go to school unless you don't mind if I ask your kid if he wouldn't rather stay home and get some sleep now and then.

17. Stop saying, "Oh, I could never homeschool!" Even if you think it's some kind of compliment, it sounds more like you're horrified. One of these days, I won't bother disagreeing with you any more.

19. Stop asking about how hard it must be to be my child's teacher as well as her parent. I don't see much difference between bossing my kid around academically and bossing him around the way I do about everything else.

20. Stop saying that my kid is shy, outgoing, aggressive, anxious, quiet, boisterous, argumentative, pouty, fidgety, chatty, whiny, or loud because he's homeschooled. It's not fair that all the kids who go to school can be as annoying as they want to without being branded as representative of anything but childhood.

23. Quit assuming that I must be some kind of saint because I homeschool my kids.

24. Stop talking about all the great childhood memories my kids won't get because they don't go to school, unless you want me to start asking about all the not-so-great childhood memories you have because you went to school.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Back in the old days...

I recall that when I was young, jack-o-lanterns were traditionally carved with a paring knife, scooped out with a spoon and your bare hands, lit with a votive candle, and your end result was generally some variation on the triangle-eyed, bucktooth-grinned pumpkin. I think all we have left of the good ol' days is the chore of pulling out pumpkin guts. Here's N. gutting her pumpkin... And here's A. plugging his ears while Daddy plays with power tools... I'm kind of surprised that Rotozip didn't include a pumpkin carving demo in their infomercial as one of the many benefits to owning that handy dandy little tool. It greatly increases the enjoyment to be found in pumpkin carving. There's just nothing like having pumpkin bits flying through your kitchen, and the roto wind rushing through your hair.

And lastly we have the finished product. A scary monster, and a wolf head.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

We're back!

The kids and I flew down to southern California on the 18th. We spent a day at The Money Trap, er... I mean Disneyland (aka "The Happiest Place on Earth", but I'm not quite certain how it got that reputation). My 4-year-old declared that he hated it there after spending hours of his life standing in line for rides. I think they took away more good memories than bad, so all was not lost.

I was also able to go watch my very good friend L. being awarded her black belt. I am so proud of her, and she earned every last thread of that thing! We also got to visit with many of our old friends. It was our first time back to CA since moving from there almost two years ago, and it was decidedly too long to have been away. And just to make us feel right at home, the Santa Anas rolled in and put on a firestorm for us! Not necessary, but thanks anyway! Fortunately, all our friends are safe. The fires are still not completely out, and we're continuing to keep all those wacky Californians in our thoughts and prayers.

This past weekend, we all went to a halloween carnival at the local YMCA. The kids went in costume, and I donned a witches hat (I asked hubby if he thought there'd be anyone dressed up as members of the Village People, but he only rolled his eyes at me). We met my sister and nephew there, too. The kids came away with bags of candy and toys, and N. even won a cake in the cake walk, which totally made her day.

As this whole entry is full of unrelated topics, I may as well throw in a recent observation I made about little A. Up until very recently, he had never drawn a picture of anything looking remotely recognizable. He would throw a couple of different colored scribbles across a piece of paper, and announce to me that it was a drawing of fourteen bunnies in space suits riding on the back of a runaway train heading straight for the open mouth of a T. Rex. I always had to kind of take his word for it, ya know? Well suddenly, like in the last few weeks, he's become a very detailed artist. He passed briefly over drawing people as a single circle with dots for eyes, and went straight to drawing people with a head, neck, body, hair, ears, clothing, etc. in a matter of days. Apparently he didn't read the part in the child development books that said he was supposed to be doing crude drawings a couple of years ago. Last night he drew a tiger with a head, neck (necks are very important to him for some reason), body, tail, legs, hair, stripes, and whiskers. Where did this come from? I'm tempted to take it as a sign from the Unschooling Gods who would remind me that, given the opportunity, all children develop the skills that they need at the time when it is right for them, not at the time we think it should be right for them. The fact that I wasn't stressing over the observation that my son was "behind" in his drawing, yet we frequently freak out over our daughter's delayed reading skills, also speaks volumes about the things we value as a society. LOL, back in pre-historic times hubby and I probably would have been pulling our hair out with worry that our male child would never be able to make a proper cave drawing! ;P

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Are you right brained or left brained?

Go here to find out. Post in the comments section to let me know how you see the figure spinning....

Monday, October 8, 2007

Tag, I'm it!

If vegiemama can tag herself, why by golly, so can I!

1. Your rock star name: (first pet, current car) Amy Sienna
2. Your gangster name: (favorite ice cream, favorite cookie)Peppermint Samoa (now that is scary, LOL!)
3. Your fly guy/girl name: (first initial first name, first 3 letters last name) - Lkoc
4. Your detective name: (favorite color, favorite animal) - Blue Hawk
5. Your soap opera name: (middle name, birth city) - Lynn Seattle
6. Your Star Wars name (first three letter last name, first 2 letter of first name) - LauKo
7. Superhero Name: (2nd favorite color, favorite drink and add "the") - The Purple Hefeweizen (LOL - It's a bird! It's a plane! No - it's The Purple Hefeweizen!)
8.Nascar name (first names of your grandfathers) - Can I go with my grandfather's nickname? It works so well for this one, LOL! - Edgar Bud or Bud Edgar
9. Stripper Name: (favorite perfume, favorite candy) - Lilac Snicker
10. Witness Protection Name: (mother's and father's middle name) - Jeanne Ray (sounds more like a convicted criminal - no offense to any actual "Jeanne Ray"s out there!)

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Baby steps

Did I mention that my doctor told me that my risk of heart attack from not doing the daily aspirin therapy is greater than my risk of gastric bleed from taking it? I think she's trying to scare me, LOL! It's working, a little. She okayed taking a wait-and-see approach if I'm really going to make diet and exercise changes. We're testing my cholesterol again in January. I'm feeling pretty optimistic after talking to my dad and stepmom, and after vegiemama's comments about her husband's success battling cholesterol through lifestyle changes.

This week our biggest lifestyle change was increasing our intake of veggies. We rarely get more than a couple of veggie/fruit servings in a day, but I've really bumped that up. Part of that has been changing the make up of our dinners - more focus on vegetables as entrees, rather than thrown in on the side. I also rediscovered hummus recently, and love dipping carrots, peppers, and broccoli in there. Another lunch I enjoy is grilled portobella mushrooms with onion, peppers, and basalmic - really good over salad greens, or on whole wheat.

I've been hearing pretty awesome things about flax seed, and oatmeal (who hasn't heard about oatmeal?). Turns out oatmeal is pretty amazing - something in it actually binds with a component of cholesterol and removes it from the body. I think it's the same general idea with the flax seed - plus they're both loaded with lots of good stuff. So this was day two of eating oatmeal for breakfast with flax added. I'm going to have to make myself some homemade oatmeal, because the instant is loaded with sodium.

I also discovered this little goody today:
They are Nature's Path Foods Flax Plus Pumpkin Granola Bars, and they're low in fat, sodium, have no cholesterol, and are a good source of fiber and protein. Two thumbs up!

In other news, when the kids got home this afternoon from shopping with hubby for a birthday present for me, they were falling all over themselves to tell me about what they'd seen. They'd stop by the creek to see if the salmon were spawning, and A. proudly told me that "we saw TWO dead salmon!" - totally made his day. They saw a live one ("It was a sockeye, Mom!"), but the dead ones were the best, LOL! Two weeks ago the salmon weren't yet spawning in the local creeks. Hopefully the kids will humor me and allow us a trip back over there this week.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Next time you take your kids to the pediatrician

You might want to read this story before your next well-child visit:

Doc, what’s up with snooping?
Pediatrician paranoia runs deep

By Michael Graham | Thursday, October 4, 2007 | | Op-Ed
They’re watching you right now.

They counted every beer you drank during last night’s Red Sox [team stats] game.

They see you sneaking out to the garage for a smoke.

They know if you’ve got a gun, and where you keep it.

They’re your kids, and they’re the National Security Agency of the Nanny State.

I found this out after my 13-year-old daughter’s annual checkup. Her pediatrician grilled her about alcohol and drug abuse.

Not my daughter’s boozing. Mine.

“The doctor wanted to know how much you and mom drink, and if I think it’s too much,” my daughter told us afterward, rolling her eyes in that exasperated 13-year-old way. “She asked if you two did drugs, or if there are drugs in the house.”

“What!” I yelped. “Who told her about my stasher, I mean, ‘It’s an outrage!’ ”

I turned to my wife. “You took her to the doctor. Why didn’t you say something?”

She couldn’t, she told me, because she knew nothing about it. All these questions were asked in private, without my wife’s knowledge or consent.

“The doctor wanted to know how we get along,” my daughter continued. Then she paused. “And if, well, Daddy, if you made me feel uncomfortable.”

Great. I send my daughter to the pediatrician to find out if she’s fit to play lacrosse, and the doctor spends her time trying to find out if her mom and I are drunk, drug-addicted sex criminals.

We’re not alone, either. Thanks to guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics and supported by the commonwealth, doctors across Massachusetts are interrogating our kids about mom and dad’s “bad” behavior.

We used to be proud parents. Now, thanks to the AAP, we’re “persons of interest.”

The paranoia over parents is so strong that the AAP encourages doctors to ignore “legal barriers and deference to parental involvement” and shake the children down for all the inside information they can get.

And that information doesn’t stay with the doctor, either.

Debbie is a mom from Uxbridge who was in the examination room when the pediatrician asked her 5-year-old, “Does Daddy own a gun?”

When the little girl said yes, the doctor began grilling her and her mom about the number and type of guns, how they are stored, etc.

If the incident had ended there, it would have merely been annoying.

But when a friend in law enforcement let Debbie know that her doctor had filed a report with the police about her family’s (entirely legal) gun ownership, she got mad.

She also got a new doctor.

In fact, the problem of anti-gun advocacy in the examining room has become so widespread that some states are considering legislation to stop it.

Last year, my 7-year-old was asked about my guns during his physical examination. He promptly announced to the doctor that his father is the proud owner of a laser sighted plasma rifle perfect for destroying Throggs.

At least as of this writing, no police report has been filed.

“I still like my previous pediatrician,” Debbie told me. “She seemed embarrassed to ask the gun questions and apologized afterward. But she didn’t seem to have a choice.”

Of course doctors have a choice.

They could choose, for example, to ask me about my drunken revels, and not my children.

They could choose not to put my children in this terrible position.

They could choose, even here in Massachusetts, to leave their politics out of the office.

But the doctors aren’t asking us parents.

They’re asking our kids.

Worst of all, they’re asking all kids about sexual abuse without any provocation or probable cause.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has declared all parents guilty until proven innocent.

And then they wonder why we drink.

We had a similar experience at our last well-child visit. I'd scheduled both kids for the same time slot, thinking that would be easiest. In the past we'd had a ped. that actually kept our kids together for the appointment, but this time they were split up. While I stayed with A (4 1/2), the nurse was alone with N(8) and asking her questions. In trying to determine how much tv my kids are watching each day, the nursed asked N. which television shows she likes (not how often she watched them) - from that she concluded that my kids watch 5-6 hours of tv/day. I disagreed, but she said she couldn't go in and change it because she'd already entered it into the system. Thankfully this was just something mundane like tv viewing, but I don't care for my kids being manipulated and put in uncomfortable situations, especially when they don't even realizing they are "incriminating" themselves or their parents.

On Location: Extreme Makeover Home Edition, Project 511

A local woman and her family were chosen as the recipients of a complete home makeover by Extreme Makeover, so the kids and I went over there this morning to help "Move That Bus!". You can find out more about it at this website where they have before, during, and after photographs.

Spectators were being shuttled from a nearby city park with buses chartered by ABC. N. and I actually went up last night to check it out (we spied Ty through one of the upstairs windows!), but there wasn't a lot going on, and we were freezing cold. This morning we were shuttled up to the location at around 8:30, and already they were saying the Bus Scene was being delayed another 30 minutes. By 9am they were saying 11am, but things actually got moving before then. The kids and I weren't in a great location. We were packed in about 3 or 4 people deep on the sidewalk across the street from the house, with many holding umbrellas as we stood in a light off-and-on drizzle waiting for something - ANYTHING - to happen.

The crowd of spectators:

We had some celebrity sightings. First we saw Pauli (saw him last night, too, but didn't have my camera). He was nice, and turned to give all of us a big smile (though he moved quick and mostly I got shots of his back, LOL). Then we saw Ty, who finally appeased the cries of "Ty! Ty! Ty! Ty!" from all the teen girls in the crowd, and got goofy with the spectators. Then I saw Michael standing in the driveway of the house. He also waved and smiled to the crowd.




There were a lot of people standing in the spectator area who had volunteered to help out during the week. I overheard that the house itself is ready to move into, but that there will still be 2-3 weeks more work to be done. Still, not bad for razing a house to the ground, and then building it back up again in just over week (granted, they work 24/day during that time). I cannot believe what that neighborhood has had to put up with. There are streets blocked off, they've got cars, trucks, trailers, flood lights, generators, porta potties, garbage dumpsters, and more, parked in the yards of people's homes. I assume ABC will be paying for someone to come out and re-sod most of these yards, and I hope the families were appropriately compensated for their trouble. The house itself seems nice from the street - not too pretentious or anything. It's a "green" home (you can read more about that at the link up top), which basically means it rates high for energy efficiency, both inside and out.

This is the view looking up the street towards the EMHE house:

Here's the view of the front of the house, and the architectural drawing (oriented as you see it from the street):

Being a spectator was amusing. The crew works to get everybody pumped up, excited, and loud, but what we don't realize when we're watching from home on tv is that the crowd is pretending to yell for a bus that isn't there, and a design team that isn't actually coming out of the front door of the house, or a limo that has driven down the street fifteen times already. There is a lot of editing that happens on that show. They definitely got footage of N. twice - once when she was shouting "Move That Bus!" and once when we were doing the general "Whoooooooo!" while waving, clapping, and jumping up and down. So now we'll have to be sure to watch it when it airs (rumor has it that will be in January).

The limo with the EMHE logo taped over the license plate:

Getting the crowd pumped up:

A. was getting tired and ready to go, so I finally had to tear N. away from the hoopla. Little did I know, they'd decided not to run the shuttles back down to the park while any of the filming was going on. Faced with either hoofing it back a couple miles, or going back and making A. stand in a loud crowd of people, I decided we could start walking while I tried to reach hubby by cell phone. He obviously couldn't drop everything and leave work to bail us out, but a very nice lady who was returning to her car parked close by offered to give us a lift back. I took her up on her generous offer, and the kids and I were back to our van and driving off to the local Starbucks for warm beverages in no time!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Party! Party! Party!

Yesterday I had to run over to Kinkos to make copies with the kids. For some reason they're always a little crazy when we go in that place, so I prepped them before we went in "No running around, and try to keep your voices down, please. People are trying to work in there."

Poor A. He just couldn't contain himself. He was running under the tunnels (the area underneath each of the work stations), pulling himself up onto the posts that mark the line you wait in at the counter, jumping, running, hugging N, hanging on her, doing handstands. All while I made two double-sided copies.

When I was finally done and we were back out to the parking lot, I stopped A and had him look at me while I told him "In the next store, I need you to control your body. That was too much craziness, and you need to keep it together a little bit." He "Okay, Mommy"s me, and we cross the parking lot to our car. As I'm getting him buckled in his carseat he exclaims.

"ARR! It's my brain!" and starts punching himself in the head.

Me, slightly horrified, though not completely unaccustomed to seeing him flog himself: "It's your brain?"

"Yah, Mom. Ya know? My brain tells my body to do these things, and I have to tell it not to."

"Really? How do you tell it not to?"

"Like this:" and he whacks himself again, "It's a party in there!"

It was quite an insightful conversation, actually. I've read of kids with ADHD describing parties in their brain, though I've never heard A. use that description, nor would I necessarily consider him hyperactive (LOL, although yesterday in Kinko's a wave of movement had definitely washed over him). I'm happy that he's able to reflect inward like that and describe what he's feeling - maybe someday that ability will carry over during his fits of anger and disappointment, too. I don't think I've ever had a party in my brain - I think I'm missing out!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Wake up call

Last week I went to the doctor for a physical. I hadn't been to the doctor for a general check-up in nearly 5 years, so it was time, especially since I knew my blood pressure is out of control right now. I've also had a few "in your face" moments in the past year where I became aware on some level that I'm a grown woman now, not a child - it's time to take responsibility for my own health. I think some of that comes from having friends diagnosed with cancer, a parent with declining health, and a 35th bday right around the corner. Don't get me wrong, I generally feel like a young pup, but if I don't get my act together where my health is concerned, I think I'll be feeling old before my time.

I'm fat/overweight - whatever you want to call it - but I'm losing weight (down 15 lbs. so far *yay*). It's a long slow road to losing 80+ pounds. I had stopped taking my bp meds, but started up again after recurring headaches that prompted me to check my bp. We're still trying to tweak my meds to get it under control. These things I knew I was dealing with. Now I get a call from the nurse telling me my cholesterol is high, and the doctor wants me to start right away on cholesterol meds and a daily baby aspirin. Okay, really - isn't that for old people? People who have had massive coronaries, or a stroke or something? Is this really necessary? I really don't want to go on more drugs. I'm 34, for pete's sake! I really wanted to handle this all through diet and exercise, but it seems that the doctor feels that we can't wait around that long. And the other issue is that the other recommendations they gave (sodium restricted diet (ie. no additional post-cooking salt), low-fat, low-cholesterol diet) we've already been following for years. I need to lose weight and exercise more, plain and simple. If I choose not to lose weight and not exercise, then I am choosing to damage my body, killing myself, shortening my life. The longer I sit around waiting to get healthy, the shorter I can expect my life to be. The motivation of fear....

Friday, September 14, 2007

More homeschooling in our local news

From the

Homeschooling makes the grade for some families
Staff Writer

Eight-year-old Nnamdi Iheke of Bothell walks just a few hundred feet to school each morning.

His classroom is the family kitchen, a place where he can learn in full-dress or pajamas, whichever suits him.

The Ihekes are one of about 450 Northshore-area families that have chosen homeschooling as their preferred form of education.

Some work completely solo. Others partner with co-op groups, private educators or even school districts to get the job done.

“There are as many ways of homeschooling as there are homeschoolers,” said Marna Marteeny, who teaches her two children, ages 9 and 12, at their abode in unincorporated King County.

Likewise, there are multiple reasons that parents embrace these methods.

Homeschooling puts the student-adult ratio at roughly one-to-one, allowing each student to get an individualized education that fits his or her unique pace, interests and learning style.

It also turns the world into a classroom, where field trips become a regular part of the learning regimen. Trips to the aquarium and even family vacations become a part of the educational experience.

“We took our kids to England,” Marteeny said. “Is there anything you can do in England that isn’t historical? It’s all educational.

“This year, we’re going to Yellowstone. We’re hoping to find wolves.”

Bothell resident Kalisa Fraser says that homeschooling will give her the flexibility for an extended visit with family in Brazil. Her kids will come along and immerse themselves in the culture while learning Portuguese.

And they won’t have to play catch-up after returning home.

“I’m definitely excited to have more control over how we live as a family,” Fraser said. “We’re big advocates of public education, and teachers have all my respect in the world. They do a really hard job, and they do it well, but it was a matter of doing what’s right for my family by controlling our time and the curriculum.”

Despite its touted benefits, homeschooling has its skeptics.

Nnamdi’s father was one of them at first. He grew up in Nigeria, where homeschooling is far from the norm.

“He wasn’t keen on it,” said Nnamdi’s mother, Gina. “We chose to give it a try for a couple of years and decided this was just working for us.”

The more unwavering doubters say that homeschooling stunts social development.

Advocates counter by pointing out that children educated at home typically attend group activities each week.

The Northshore School District even partners with the YMCA to offer art and physical-education programs that allow homeschool children to play with peers.

Proponents also note that homeschool kids aren’t segregated into age-specific classrooms.

“The kids learn to talk to adults like people,” Marteeny said. “There isn’t that separation between the kid world and the grown-up world, so they learn to interact with everybody.”

Homeschool parents do acknowledge certain challenges associated with opting out of a formal education. Most eventually run into subjects that they don’t feel comfortable teaching, for example.

Gina says she found it difficult to explain why multiples of 10 sometimes need to be carried over when doing subtraction. She bought a DVD to help Nnamdi understand the concept.

And when her son asked to learn about spiders — a topic that grosses Gina out — she signed him up for a class about insects at the zoo.

The goal, according to homeschoolers, is for parents to act more as learning facilitators than actual teachers.

That’s when networking groups come in handy.

“List serves are really important because you learn what other people are doing, and you learn about the resources that are available,” Marteeny said. “That mom-to-mom information is the best you can get.”

Several dozen networks and organizations in north King and south Snohomish counties are dedicated to the field of homeschooling.

Parents can also hire outside help or send their kids to classes through co-ops and private schools.

Marteeny’s 12-year-old son, Benjamin, meets regularly with groups that are studying Mandarin, applied government and environmental activism, as well as invertebrate biology.

The Northshore School District also provides enrichment classes and consulting with certificated teachers through its Home School Networks program, which began in 1997 and now serves nearly 600 students a year.

In addition, teens between the ages of 16-18 can take college courses on the state’s tab through the Running Start Program.

Homeschooling requires structure and time commitment, according to parents.

“It consumes you,” Gina said. “It’s a part of my life, like a full-time job. I divide myself three ways, between my house, my family and homeschooling.”

That hasn’t kept working parents from homeschooling.

Marteeny, a former nuclear engineer, tutors math part time when she’s not busy teaching her own kids and running a household.

Fraser works full time with the Microsoft Corp. sales and operations team.

“If I can do it with my schedule and the demands on my time, anyone can do it,” she said.

Washington law states that students who participate in homeschooling must learn 11 subjects — ranging from math to art — and participate in annual testing, which can be done in the form of an analysis by a certified teacher, or by way of a standardized exam.

Those who participate in the Northshore School District’s Home School Networks program must pass the Washington Assessment of Student Learning exams, just like traditional students.

Parents wishing to homeschool must meet one of four requirements: either earning 45 quarter units of college-level credit, attending a parent qualifying course, working with a certified teacher or receiving approval from the superintendent of their school district.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Zoo day

We went to the zoo today! The idea came to me last night after the kids had gone to bed. The weather is supposed to be fantastic for the next week or so, and we avoided the zoo for most of the summer due to the crowds, so it was high time we head down there. It was a great day, and N. commented that it was nice to have the zoo to ourselves without big fieldtrip groups milling around. I had to agree with her!

We went to the animal encounter show, which is basically a chance for the handlers to give the animals a dress rehearsal in front of an audience. They had four different animals in various stages of training, and explained how they use a clicker and food rewards as part of their positive reinforcement. This was right up N's alley! Especially when they brought a rat out to practice it's run up a fake rock, across a rope, and through a small door in the "cliff face" (ie. back wall of the stage). Now she really wants to go out and buy a clicker ASAP to train her rats to do something, anything, but she's sure it will be really cool. N. and I talked to the handler about what her background is, and how she got into this line of work. She has a degree in zoololgy, and started at this zoo as an intern ten years ago. She highly recommended participating in 4-H as a good opportunity to learn more about animals and animal training. This is something I've been considering, so I now have more incentive to investigate it further.

Next we went over to the Rocky Shores area, where we were surprised to see two zoo employess with a giant hornbill waiting to get on the elevator as we were getting off. Not what I was expecting to see as the doors slid open!
After getting off the elevator, we wandered over to the walruses who were being fed. Man, they are HUGE! There was one keeper for each of the three walruses, and one keeper who was talking about the animals and answering questions. Conversation turned to walrus breeding, which was kind of interesting. Breeding season is January to March, and the only way to determine whether a walrus is pregnant is through a blood test to detect progesterone levels. Problem is, their progesterone levels are naturally high all through the summer, so they won't know if either of their two females is pregnant for another month or so. Gestation is 15 months, so they'll still have plenty of time to prepare if it turns out there was a successful mating. Apparently there have only been 5 successful breeding attempts of walruses in captivity (offspring surviving longer than one year), and there have been 6 live births that didn't survive the one year mark. At this zoo, one of the walruses has given birth twice - one died during the birth, and the other died at four days old (believed to be the result of aspirating meconium in utero). I'm telling you, it was fascinating stuff!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Local Homeschooling Article

This is another group in the area, over on the westside.

Parents and children who are part of an informal network of about 200 homeschool families gathered to eat, talk and play Tuesday at Wallingford Playfield. (Andy Rogers / P-I)
Celebrating home education
Membership in informal Seattle group has soared in past four years

Last updated September 4, 2007 11:51 p.m. PT


Kids from toddlers to teens raced around the Wallingford playground Tuesday to celebrate not going back to school, the day before most Seattle youngsters are preparing to go back to class.

But that didn't mean the kids on the playground weren't pumped about their education. For the kids, who are part of the Seattle Homeschool Group -- one of the largest secular groups of its kind in the area -- every day presents an opportunity to learn.

"I like it because I can play and learn at the same time," said Hanz Hosler, 8, taking a break from playing Capture the Flag with about two dozen other kids.

The Seattle Homeschool Group, a loose-knit network of parents who are teaching their children at home, has grown from about a dozen families four years ago to more than 200 families today, said Elizabeth Davies, who is homeschooling her two children. The group meets informally each week to share ideas and resources.

Dissatisfaction with schools is probably the biggest reason people begin homeschooling, said Kathy Woodford, who pulled her two children out of schools in Bellevue to begin teaching them at home in January.

Jennifer McDowell-Wood, a civil engineer and mom of two, elected to homeschool her two children -- who she said were "on the gifted side" -- out of a desire to escape what she saw as the "one-size-fits-all" approach offered through traditional education.

Homeschooling has grown beyond the stereotype of the conservative, religious family teaching their kids around the dining room table, said McDowell-Wood. Today, home schoolers embrace a variety of philosophies -- some religious, some not -- and employ a variety of teaching strategies, from the completely unstructured "unschooling" approach, to a more structured use of curricula.

The parents who choose home schooling come from a variety of backgrounds. They are teachers, engineers, photographers, tech workers, filmmakers, lawyers and farmers. One described herself as "your basic Seattle knee-jerk liberal" who believed in public schools and never imagined herself a homeschooler.

"It was not even on the radar," said Jennifer Thames. But when her son, Nick, now 11, started school, she saw his love of learning start to plummet. So she made a different choice.

What all the parents shared, however, is a common belief that kids learn best with the individual attention of their parents, and the opportunity to guide their own educations by what intrigues them.

For Angelo DeLaurentis, 10, that's Greek mythology at the moment -- and reading. "I just finished 'The Two Towers,' (part of the Lord of the Rings series,)" he said.

For Alaina Woodford, 12, it's writing that has captured her imagination. She just submitted her first piece of fiction to an editor.

Homeschooling is a lifestyle as individual as each family that tries it, McDowell-Wood said. Some take summers off. Some don't. But for all of them -- everything from trips to Hawaii to trips to the grocery store can offer up lessons.

Washington law requires kids to get an education, but doesn't dictate how they get it. Children who are homeschooled are required to take an approved annual exam to chart their progress, but otherwise there are no formal requirements for how they get to graduation. Many progress faster than their "grade levels" and start community college early, parents said.

If parents need extra help, they can turn to outside sources, such as math-tutoring centers -- or each other. The Seattle Homeschool Group regularly taps the talents of other parents, or pools resources to create opportunities for the kids, such as hiring a coach for the chess club.

Many parents said they treasured the education they were getting alongside their kids.

"I'm constantly learning stuff from them," said Maggie DeLaurentis of her three homeschooled children, ages 10, 8 and 5.

One son's recent interest in medieval swords has introduced her to a whole new epoch in history and culture. "There's a lot of stuff I don't know apparently."

While homeschooling apparently appealed to the kids, a few do ask to go back to school.

Cynthia Heckman's 15--year-old son will start high school this year -- his first time in public school -- in part to play baseball and to socialize with his friends.

"It was his choice," she said. "He has a ton of friends there already."

That made Tuesday her first not "not-back-to-school day" picnic. "I'm a little freaked out about it," she said.

But she and the other parents said raising kids independent enough to make good choices was part of the reason they undertook homeschooling.

And the other reason was to ensure their children loved to learn.

On the playground Tuesday, it appeared to be working.

"Learning shows up everywhere," said Bailey Smart-Zimmerman, 11. "If you do it all the time."

Not Back To School

Yesterday was our homeschool group's annual Not-Back-To-School Picnic at a nearby park. It had poured down rain for most of the morning, but then let up about 30 minutes before we were scheduled to be there. As is usually the case for homeschoolers, most folks arrived at least 45 minutes after the scheduled start time. :P FOUR HOURS LATER most of us were still there, and I finally had to call it a day and gather the kids up to make a stop by the library.

While we were at parkday, one of the moms thought she saw deer in the wetland area that's fenced off next to the playground. Sure enough, we went over and there were two of them nibbling on the grass. Most of the moms and kids eventually made it over to go watch these deer from a distance of only 25 feet or so away. What a great way for all of us to spend the first day of school! ;P

Last night I survived my first meeting as president of our homeschool group. It seemed to go okay for just winging it, though next time I'm planning an open discussion, I'll actually prepare questions ahead of time, just in case! I was nervous for most of the meeting - first nervous that we weren't going to fill up all our time, then nervous that we were going to go over before everyone had a chance to talk. We ended right when we were supposed to be out of the room, which meant we were over by about 5-10 minutes. If I'd started on time, it would have been perfect! ;P

Friday, August 31, 2007

Weekly wrap-up

The last smatterings of sun might actually allow us to finish getting the deck painted!!! I primed the stairs and lower deck earlier this week, and painted the stairs and a portion of the lower deck yesterday afternoon. Supposedly rain is in the forecast for tonight, so I'm debating about whether to go any further with this project today. The weekend should be clear though. The darn dog keeps looking at me as he walks over the newly painted area while I'm sitting here typing on the computer. He's like a kid who is doing something he knows he probably shouldn't, and keeps their eye on Mom to see what she's going to do about it. Now he's gone to go lay down - I think he's figured out that I'm not inspired to do anything but type this blog entry! LOL!

The kids finished their summer of swimming lessons yesterday. The instructor and I were talking about how much N. has progressed over the summer. Her skill has greatly improved, but more notable than that is the increase in her confidence. N. is asking to continue with swimming, and is conjuring up fantasies of competitive swimming and a future Olympic debut ("Mom, if I improved this much in just a couple of months, think how good I'll be in a few more months!!!"). LOL - who can stand in the way of that kind of logic? In his final lesson, A. put his whole head in the water three times on his way across the pool! That was his big progress for the summer - well, that and the fact that he'll apparently swim to the side if he falls in fully clothed. *wink*

Our second week of school went really well. N's attitude was soooo much better than last week, and she agrees that it takes less time to get it all done if we're not arguing about it. She's taking a lot of pride in her work, too. The handwriting took less time, and we were able to do extra math this week with me doing the writing while she dictated answers to me. History has been fun this week, and I think we've all learned a lot. My world geography skills aren't the greatest, so I'm enjoying studying small areas at a time and making mental connections. I can't remember if I mentioned last week about how disturbed I was to realize that the cradle of civilzation (the Fertile Crescent; Mesopotamia) lie in what is present day Iraq. How sad that the area continues to be a place of such unrest. Anyway, the kids learned about Egypt, the first writing, and the early Jewish people. We packed a lot into this week because I accidently placed a hold on a dvd too early, and it was due back to the library before we were going to get to it. The dvd was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, and the kids LOVED it. They're suckers for a good musical, so this was right up their alley. We've been talking a lot about what lessons the story of Joseph and his brothers can teach all of us (about parenting, sibling rivalry, faith, "power" - this was an interesting one because A. was talking about how powerful the Pharoah was, so we talked about power that comes out of respect vs. fear). A good week overall.

Oh, we also finished a book this week that the kids enjoyed (N. in particular) - Whittington, by Alan Armstrong.

Now we've started Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling (same author who wrote Minn of the Mississippi that we read a few weeks ago). Hubby remembered seeing the movie of Paddle-to-the-Sea as a kid in grade school, so I did a quick library search and sure enough they've got it. I've put it on hold now, too.

Off to go rescue a super-villain from behind the bookcase!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

This is why we take swimming lessons...

N. had a make-up swimming lesson today since she had missed a week when she was gone at girl scout camp. A. and I were sitting in plastic chairs along the side of the pool watching - until he hopped out of his chair and tried to climb back into it again. His chair flipped forward, causing him to fall backward - right into the pool. He reacted just what he is supposed to - surfaced, and then tried to reach the edge. Of course at that point I was already grabbing him up out of the water. He didn't cry, but was surprised, cold, and embarassed. Because he wasn't supposed to be going in the pool today (!) I didn't have any change of clothes or a towel for him, so I wrapped him in N's towel and we sat in the sun. He was exceptionally quiet for the last 20 minutes of sister's class, and just snuggled with me the entire time. I wonder if this will make him think twice before goofing around in the chairs again?

N. reminded me that this is the second time in his life that he's fallen into a body of water while completely clothed. The first was a couple of years ago at the pond on MIL's property. That time his quick-acting uncle jumped in after him. Apparently A. is making a habit of this, so I'm really glad the swimming lessons are paying off!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Weekly Wrap-up

(From my post on the ivillage homeschool message board, where I've been a member for 4 years now...)

We're wrapping up our first week of the new year today. This is our first year where I've actually mapped out my own lesson plans, and have structured our school time. Prior to this we were *very* relaxed hs'ers. After a lot of reflection, talking to dh, and listening to dd, I decided it was time for us to try something different.

For the most part, the week went well. The kids are enjoying the TOPS Primary Lentil Science, and are both using it together and helping each other out. They like having the freedom to go pick any activity they choose each day. It was a LOT of prep work for me to have all of the experiments ready to go at a moment's notice, but it's definitely been worth it to have that flexibility.

A. is blazing through Singapore Earlybird 1B. I remember that Natalie had done the same thing with these books. We just go until he stops asking to do more, LOL! He's doing 6-8 pages/day. I've also started him on Handwriting Without Tears. His concentration when he's forming his letters is so cute. Sometimes I'll hear him under his breath saying "Focus, focus" - I think he's been listening to me talking to dd!

N. and I had a harder time this week. Actually, the first three days in a row she ended up crying during handwriting and math. The first day, I tried to just let it go (not let myself engage in it), but the second day I found myself bringing up the option of ps. I hate doing that, but it really showed me the desperation I'm feeling about where some of her abilities are at - mainly with writing and reading. Day three was worse. She takes forever to finish her writing (in handwriting or math), and her whole overall attitude during these subjects is just so negative. Slouching, pouting, slamming her pencil down. I hate it. I told her that if she's going to fight me on this stuff, than I rather she fight someone else (ie. a teacher) on it so that she and I can enjoy our time together.

The reality is that she's just like me and dh were as kids (daydreamers, easily distracted), and I have a pretty good idea how things would go for all of us if she did go to school. I imagine she'd have an even harder time keeping focused with all the distraction of a full class of kids, wouldn't get her work finished during school, and then I'd *still* have to fight her on it at home in the evenings, when that would be our only time together. Dh and I agreed that ps isn't the answer. Dd and I had a more calm, rational talk Wednesday night about the importance of both Attitude and Effort. Apparently some of it sunk in, because yesterday went MUCH better. She did her two pages in HWT without complaining, and even self-corrected herself on a couple words and went back and re-wrote them before I even looked at it! For math, I noticed she was having trouble focusing again, even though she was determined to get it done. After only getting four problems done in five minutes, I offered to do the writing for her if she told me what to write - she ended up finishing the next 15 problems in under five minutes! Why it is that holding a pencil, or the act of writing, is blocking up everything else is a mystery to me, but if we can work around it, then I will.

We have parkday with our hs group at a local lake today. Two days ago it looked like summer had abruptly come to an end, so we're now trying to soak up all the remaining rays of summer sun we can find!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Speaking of history...

This was right in line with what we were discussing today in our homeschool (What is history? What do historians do? What do archaeologists do?). It's so nice to have such a timely example!

Egypt discovers what may be oldest human footprint Mon Aug 20, 12:24 PM ET

Egyptian archaeologists have found what they said could be the oldest human footprint in history in the country's western desert, the Arab country's antiquities' chief said on Monday.

"This could go back about two million years," said Zahi Hawass, the secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities. "It could be the most important discovery in Egypt," he told Reuters.

Archaeologists found the footprint, imprinted on mud and then hardened into rock, while exploring a prehistoric site in Siwa, a desert oasis.

Scientists are using carbon tests on plants found in the rock to determine its exact age, Hawass said.

Khaled Saad, the director of prehistory at the council, said that based on the age of the rock where the footprint was found, it could date back even further than the renowned 3-million year-old fossil Lucy, the partial skeleton of an ape-man, found in Ethiopia in 1974.

Most archaeological interest in Egypt is focused on the time of the pharaohs.

Previously, the earliest human archaeological evidence from Egypt dated back around 200,000 years, Saad said.

First day of school!

1 day down, 179 to go (more or less).

Things went fairly well today. I had our schedule all laid out, but it's going to need some tweaking I can tell. History took way longer than I'd allotted, and science took less (though they were begging to do more science, but I held them off - leave them wanting more, I say!). A. did three times as much math as I was expecting ("One more page?" does a page "Can I do one more page?" does a page....) He even did a page in handwriting, which I wasn't expecting. I'd figured we'd alternate math and handwriting for him so he'd only be doing focused work for no more than 10-15 minutes/day (trust me - I've seen plenty of learning happen in the past 8 years that didn't require sitting down to a desk - 10 minutes is enough for my 4 year old). At any rate, I certainly wasn't forcing him into anything today, so that was cool.

N. dragged her feet on handwriting this morning. She and I have been having a lot of heart-to-heart talks recently about what my goals are for her, and what her goals are, and whether we're on the same track or not. We seem to be on the same page - she wants to read better, and be able to write more/faster - but disagree about how to get those results. I think she'd like the abilities to magically appear. Last I checked, that's not likely to happen. If you want to become a better writer, you're going to have to sitdown and write once in a while. Same goes for reading. I'm not into torture - I think that 15 minutes of handwriting (OMG - can I tell you that it took her that long to do two pages in HWT today???? Thank goodness two pages is all I have planned for her each day for the next three months), and roughly that amount of daily reading aloud is not unreasonable. I almost broke out the "If you won't do this work at home, than I have to send you away to school" (ie. public school), but I've kind of promised myself I wouldn't use those tactics this year, and definitely not on the first day. Nothing a few deep breaths on my part couldn't take care of, LOL!

The kids LOVED working on History Pockets today! Very glad I found those. They also totally loved doing Lentil Science. Today was more of an introduction to the materials, and making observations, but they of course took it further and started creating their own experiments. That's pretty much what I was hoping would happen with the science this year. N. has been so eager to have her pail filled with knowledge, where science is concerned - which is fine, not awful. I'll still read to her and give her the facts she's after, but I really wanted to find something that would get her wheels turning on their own a little more - light the fire, so to speak. We'll see if this does the trick.

Timing-wise, the day went something like this...
9am - Natalie does two pages of Handwriting Without Tears (Andrew did one page)
9:15 - History (SOTW, Encyclopedia of World History, narration, History Pockets)
10:20 - short break
10:40 - Science (TOPS, job card A/1)
11:00 - lunch/break
12:15 - calendar/math (computer game and workbook)/read-aloud (narration)
1:10 - Done! (though Natalie will need to read to me this afternoon)

I think I'm going to swap history and science. History required too much sitting and listening after N. had just struggled with handwriting. I think it would have gone better if they could move into science after that, and then put history on it's own with a big break afterwards. Total time to get all that covered: 2 hours, 35 minutes. Shhhh.... don't tell! :P