Saturday, August 30, 2008

Keeping things interesting

All summer long, A. has been having pretty severe reactions to mosquito and spider bites, developing huge, red welts. Truly massive. Well, yesterday morning he woke up with a tiny red splotch along his jaw, with a tiny, crusted over, yellow pin prick-sized spot in the center. As the hours went by it began to swell larger, and larger, and larger, until it was the size of a golfball sticking out. He looked like he had a lopsided case of the mumps. We dosed him up on benadryl, and kept an eye on it. At bedtime, I decided that if it hadn't improved by morning I was going to take him into the Saturday clinic at the doctor's office.

Sure enough, it hadn't reduced in size, and the redness was growing and spreading, with pink traveling down his neck. The doctor took a look and said that because of the bite's proximity to the glands in his neck, his body was fighting it extra hard, and the glands were beginning to enlarge. She went ahead and started him on antibiotics, in addition to benadryl, and warm compresses. He's taking Ceflax (I think between the two of my kids this is only our third time on antibiotics, and our first time with this particular one), and has to take it 4X/day. For a kid who's only awake for 12 hours/day, that's a dose every 3 hours. LOL - poor kid is getting tired of me coming at him with medicine constantly troughout the day!

Here's what he looked like earlier today...

Kind of hard to see the extent of the swelling (but can I just say that my kid has the cutest darn earlobes I've ever seen?). He was swinging while watching a video on tv and wasn't being very cooperative for the camera. With any luck, he'll be good as new by the first day of school on Tuesday! ;P

Friday, August 29, 2008

Gardening update...

I haven't discussed my gardening for a while, so I thought I'd bring the world up to speed on how things turned out...

From the latest snow on record, to a summer that never really got off the ground, this has been a really crummy year weatherwise. I have two tomato plants that are bursting with tomatoes (one roma, one golden), but neither has produced a single ripe fruit. I'm beginning to lose heart, as today was the first time in over a week that the sun has come out, and the forecast is calling for rain and unseasonably cool temps over the weekend. I'm putting out the call: if anyone knows a way to speed up the ripening process when ol' Mother Nature has let you down, I'd like to hear it. If they'll lighten up in color, even a bit, I'll try ripening them indoors. I also read that you can hang them roots and all, indoors, and they'll finish ripening (you're supposed to pick the fruit before it gets a deep color because you don't want the ripe fruit falling off and bruising). If all else fails, I'll have to look up recipes using green tomatoes.

We had lettuce and spinach in early spring. I'm thinking it's about time to get some seeds going again for a fall crop.

Carrots never worked out well, and I'm not really sure why. They put on a lot of green, but didn't develop much root (ie. carrot).

The radishes grew well, but were spicier then we liked in spite of picking early or late, large or small. We got two rounds of radishes, and let the last one flower - pretty little white flowers.

Snap peas did great, in fact they produced more than we were able to consume. They were a very rewarding crop to start from seed.

Of the 20 corn seeds I planted, only 5 sprouted (or were left behind by the squirrels and birds), and four of those produced ears. Due to the lack of warm weather, the ears are a little on the small side - I think only three will be edible.

We planted everbearing strawberry plants, 18 of them, and they put on nice foliage. Not much in the way of berries - quite small, and little production. I need to cut back the runners sooner, I think. Hopefully they'll perform better next year.

We had only one pepper plant sprout from seed. I planted it in the garden and it grew a couple of inches in height and never did anything else. Just stopped growing. Again, I think it was an issue of unfavorable weather conditions.

Surprise of surprises, even in spite of the mild summer, my walla walla sweet onions did pretty well! We harvested our first one this afternoon. They're smallish (about the size of a raquetball), with a strong bite to them, but a sweetness as well. We diced up half of one and added it to some guacamole we were making - quite tasty.

So that's the late summer report on Adventures in Gardening on the Dolphin Valley Academy campus!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Meet the teacher day

Took A. to meet his teacher at school today. She seemed nice, but there wasn't really much opportunity to talk with her since she was trying to divide her time between students, parents, and siblings all hanging out in her room. We met the brand new principal, who introduced herself to the two of us. Of course, when I went to introduce A. to her, he immediately pulled his hood over his head, made an about face, and quickly shuffled down the hall in the opposite direction. That's his way of being bashful. To know him is to love him. Imagine what he'd be like if he didn't want to go to school.

Received A's bus assignment, but had to call transportation to get him switched to a different stop. They want him to go to the stop that's closest to us, which seems like it would make sense, except that he'd have to cross the busy road at the bottom of our hill at 8:15am. Heck, I don't even want to have to cross that road during morning traffic - it can be dicey even at midday. Anyway, there's a stop at the top of our hill (neighborhood street, no intersections to cross) on a different bus, and the transportation department was able to change his info with no problem. All the half-day kindies hop on the same bus when their school day ends, and get driven directly to their homes. I hope his stop is at the beginning of that bus run! LOL!

Like I said, his teacher seems nice. She's probably in her late 30s, and has been at this school for at least a couple of years. Other than that, I really don't know anything about her - oh, except that she needs to have someone proof-read the letters she sends home to parents. So far she's letting spelling/grammatical errors slip through on a regular basis. Is that why she's teaching kindergarten, and not some higher grade? I have no idea. I'm trying to stay optimistic, and remember that teachers are human, too. I do know that there are 21 kids in his class, which I wasn't sure how to react to. A friend of mine (now a homeschooler, but her daughter had gone to kindergarten) assured me that 21 is a good class size. Actually, she said "Laura, I know that seems like a lot since we homeschool, but it's really not bad". LOL - I'll have to take her word for it. Seems like there was a pretty even mix of boys and girls, and a whole range of ages (well, a range from 5-6 years old, lol). One mom was concerned that her daughter was the oldest there because they had decided to hold off on kindergarten last year. Her bday was three days before the cut-off date, so she turns 6 this week. The youngest kid in the class turned 5 a few days ago. In looking around the room, A. seemed reassured by all the things around the room that were the same as at home - we have all the same math manipulatives at home that they do in class, which he thought was pretty cool. We also found the bathroom, and he gave it a try ("Mom, you know the place to go potty that's not a toilet, but it's on the wall? They had two of those - one higher and one lower! And you don't even have to flush them!" - I know nothing about urinals, so I hope that's true. Sound disgusting if you ask me, LOL!), and then went to the playground.

While we were out on the playground, I overheard a couple of girls playing together. They were probably 9 or 10 years old, and appeared to be friends. At one point, one of the girls was using the zipline, and the other was waiting for her turn. When the first made it back, the second girl says to her "Give it to me, NOW!" in this snotty tone, and tore it from her hands. Because it was so overtly rude, it kind of registered with me, but interestingly A. noted it too. He immediately looked to me and commented that he thought she sounded rude. I hope that he continues to be aware of what is and isn't socially appropriate, even months down the road when he's been in school for awhile.

N. got to go hiking with friends today, and had a great time. Fortunately she was dressed for the weather, with full rain gear, because while we didn't receive any rain here today, they got completely dumped on. I understand that she was in good spirits, in spite of the weather. And the family she went with even stopped for ice cream on the way home - what's better than that?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Slightly new layout

Thanks to I went in and edited my template to create a 3-column layout for my blog. I like it!

Rain, rain, go away. Do you think my tomatoes will ever ripen if summer doesn't make a final stand in the next week or so?

Day 3 of OGTKTBE: The youngest was asleep by 8:30. He was sound asleep within a few minutes of his head hitting the pillow. The oldest and I got caught up watching the first episode of Different Strokes on YouTube. It's not the first time YouTube has led me astray. Full of rabbit trails, I tell you! Would you like to hear how we ended up there? We were reading a comic strip that mentioned a "dumb waiter". Of course N. didn't know what one was, so I googled it to find an image. This reminded me of that show in the 80's with Emanuel Lewis: Webster (for those of you who don't remember, Webster would sometimes ride in their dumb waiter). Off I went to YouTube, where there were surprisingly few episodes to be found. But what did I see in related videos? Diff'rent Strokes. Yes indeed - YouTube is the blackhole of cyberspace.

Anyway, she's now asleep next to me on the couch, and I'll be hauling her 70lbs. sleeping body off to her room as soon as I'm done here. G'nite!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Success, and other stuff...

You'd think that nine years into parenting and we'd have the whole bedtime/sleep thing figured out. Actually our kids sleep pretty well now, it's just that there typical sleep schedule is slightly deviated from the norm. They generally fall asleep around 10pm, and wake up around 9am - probably more sleep than a lot of kids get, I would guess.

Seeing as how the youngest member of the family is venturing out into the world in just one week and heading off to School, it seemed like a good idea to try and steer the sleep into a more traditional timeframe. Last week we were on vacation, sleeping in various locations, with no schedule to speak of. Yesterday was Day One of Operation Make the Kids Go to Sleep Earlier. I had A. in jammies, teeth brushed, and story read by 8:15pm. I was pretty happy with that... except that he was still awake over two hours later. Not a good start.

This morning he was out of bed by 7:30am. We had an appointment to get to, and because I had other errands as well, I decided we should be out of the house before 8:30. Tonight we had the whole routine completed by 7:45pm, and he was asleep at 8:30pm. We're making some progress here on Night 2! N. is also getting to bed earlier, so this is nice all the way around.

N. had an appointment with the ENT today to see if there might be a "mechanical" cause for her mouthbreathing, and consequent maloclusion (ie. overbite - this came up at a dentist appointment last month). The dr. said she definitely has large adenoids and tonsils, but since they aren't causing sleep problems, apnea, or eating difficulties, he would not recommend removal unless the ortho says the mouthbreathing is causing the bite problems. Next we'll get the referal to the ortho and go from there!

The ENT's office was directly across from the biggest Whole Foods I've ever visited in my life. The place was a little overwhelming, to tell you the truth, but I could have spent hours there - of course I'd have to do that without children. Not sure what it is about Whole Foods, but everytime I've ever taken A. into one of those stores his behavior is completely wild. His body is completely out of control with only one speed: fast (unless I've just called him on it, at which point his speed hits zero because his body becomes limp and drops to the floor, muttering to himself that he'll never walk again - he's so much fun). At one point he was half twirling, half skipping as we approached the wine section, with end displays of precariously perched bottles of wine in grave danger of toppling in the wake of a frolicking Hurricane Andrew, each completely oblivious of the other. Clutching my ulcer, and wondering if it was really worth the effort of finding all the ingredients to whip up some fresh tzatziki, I pointed out the obvious to my whirlwind child ("Honey, stop a second. Take a look around - what do you see?" "Glass?" "Yes. Twirling while holding your arms out and skipping probably isn't the safest way through here".) He immediately stopped, clapped his hands together over his head like an arrow, stiffened up his legs, and began shuffling along making himself very narrow. He was happy with himself. I was amused, but eager to bring the shopping trip to a close.

Last thing here before I turn in...
I haven't mentioned this here before because my mom didn't really want the whole world to know, but she found out earlier this summer that she has a brain tumor. It's a benign meningioma - a "good" brain tumor to have, if you have to have one. Her doctor was taking a wait and see approach, holding off on surgery until she has more symptoms. She seems to be developing more symptoms, and is feeling really scared. Prayers, if you're the praying type, and positive thoughts would be appreciated.

Friday, August 22, 2008

By the way...

I've been down in Oregon since last Saturday. Doing the whirlwind tour, visiting family before summer ends. I've been without a computer since Monday, so I'm feeling out of touch with the world, LOL! I'll be back home in a few days. Hubby and The Dog are holding down the fort back in WA.

Friday, August 15, 2008

It is 87 degrees... my living room. Waaaah.

Have you tried Mike's Hard Pomegranate Lemonade yet? I highly recommend it for those evenings when the temperature in your house exceeds 85 degrees. You're welcome.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ta da...

I didn't really want to call attention to it, for fear of jinxing things, but we started "school" (ie. the learning that takes place when Mom takes the wheel for a while) back up again this week. It's going quite smoothly! I have to say that N. has really matured in the past year, and that's helping tremendously. She's got a much better attitude, showing a greater willingness to try things that initially seem too challenging, and an ability to focus on tasks for a longer period of time. I might get a good couple of years out of her before the teen years hit! ;P

When I was starting to brainstorm the coming school year, I had a couple of ideas in mind for a long-term unit study N. might be interested in. The one she settled on is Beautiful Feet's History of the Horse, which I actually purchased used a couple of years ago when she was at the height of her horsey fanaticism. At the time it just wasn't a good fit for us, but two years later it seems about right. We're tweaking some of the lessons to work for our own family, but otherwise I'm following it fairly closely. Three days/week is recommended, but I'm planning more on doing 1 1/2 lessons twice/week.

We also just started using Math-U-See. We've spent the past couple of days becoming familiar with the MUS blocks, having N. write out numbers in expanded notation and then "building" the number. She likes using the manipulatives, but I notice she's not very careful in her work. I kept reminding her to check what she was doing, making sure she counted out the correct number of 100s, etc. Highly distractable, this one! My tentative plan is to use MUS to review back through all the basic math facts until she has them down cold, and then continue moving forward with Singapore (my one tried-and-true friend all the way through our homeschooling).

So right now we are reading two books that I've never before read: Brian Jacques' Redwall and Marguerite Henry's King of the Wind. The writing in each of them is really phenomenal. N and I are enjoying pointing out wording in each of the stories that we find to be fantastically descriptive. Apparently we're literature nerds or something, but I'll read a passage and look over the book at her, and we'll both have these goofy grins on our faces that say "Wow! Was that not the most amazing thing you've ever read?!!" The boy child, while a fan of the Redwall movie (which we checked out from the library a couple of weeks ago, with the intent that it would give him the background so he might follow along), is irritated by the lack of illustrations present in the book. I'm lucky if he sticks around for a chapter, though tonight he stuck it out for almost two. Who can resist the evil Cluny the Scourge?

And lastly, if you've ever had a senior kitty in your life, you must read the story The Grannyman, by Judy Schachner. This author also writes all the Skippyjon Jones books, as well. If you haven't stumbled upon her yet, you should really check these kitty books out.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Map My Ride

I'm finally taking a moment to sing the praises of the website Earlier this summer, some friends of mine decided that they wanted to start getting together for a weekly bike ride and asked if I wanted to come along. It sounded like a good opportunity to ride a bike like a grown-up again (ie. without the kids along, at a pace faster than, oh, 5 miles an hour, LOL), and a chance for weekly Mom Time and some exercise. Three of us have continued regularly throughout the summer, periodically joined by another couple of friends.

I think the thing I'm enjoying most about our rides is seeing the progress that I'm making. Our very first ride was just under 10 miles, and it honestly seemed challenging to me. I remember the last mile back felt rrreeeaaalllly long. We've gradually pushed further each week, riding a little longer, pedaling a little harder. A couple of weeks ago I was somehow talked into riding 16 miles. I don't think I'd ever ridden 16 miles before. It took us an hour and a half. The following week we did a short little ride because schedules were tight, but we wanted to get a ride in. This past week we did a 20 mile ride, in the same amount of time that we'd done the 16 miles two weeks earlier. This time I was physically exhausted when we sat down for chips and salsa (did I mention that these rides frequently come to a close at a mexican restaurant? Margaritas optional). Surprisingly my legs weren't the least bit sore the next day. I'm continually amazed at what my big ol' flabby body is capable of. This of course makes me overly cocky, and I start to develop grandiose ideas, like "well, if I can ride 16 miles, I can probably do the STP (Seattle-to-Portland) next year!". Never mind that the STP is a two-day, nearly 200 mile ride. And then, probably due to oxygen deprivation endured on said rides, I find myself expressing these ideas out loud to people who initially scoff at the notion, but are then running with it one week later. Who are these people???

The question that comes up now is: how do we continue to ride through the winter in the rainy pacific northwest? When I woke up this morning my first thought was wondering whether I should get up and go for a ride while my family was still sleeping soundly. I swear, I'm not making that up - a bike ride was my first coherent thought (followed very quickly by:, but then I got out of bed and noticed that it was pouring down rain outside. This could be problematic, and I'm sure there's some kind of solution to the problem, likely involving more flexibility in both my schedule (ie. trying to ride during breaks in the weather), and my mindset (ie. rain will not kill me). My desire to ride does not currently outweigh my desire to avoid looking and feeling like a drowned rat.

Long story short: mapmyride is a great site for both tracking your own bike rides, and searching for rides in your area. You can also enter rides you complete into your personal training log, and it will figure out your average mph, and calories burned. As a mtn. biker, one of hubby's favorites is the elevation scale that shows elevation gains and loss in a graph for your whole ride. We have a trail we like to ride that contains a hill we affectionately refer to as The Wall, and seen on the elevation scale, it's clear why! We've only used the free components of mapmyride, but they also offer other benefits with a paid subscription (like actually being able to print out your route).

Investing bug

Do any of you invest in the stock market? The realm of finance has always intimidated me, and hubby too, to some extent. We are overly cautious wusses when it comes to investing and trying to grow our money.

Some events took place in hubby's family recently that caused me to take another look at stocks, and I decided to invest some "fake" money into a few that I was interested in. Just dabble a little to see what this is all about. I really like the yahoo finance tool for following investments. I can track daily ups and downs, as well as how I'm doing in each stock overall, and my portfolio collectively. You can look at charts and graphs for varying lengths of time, and put it against a graph of the market's performance for the same time frame. I also like that it pulls up headlines pertaining to companies and business sectors that you own stock in.

The fun part is that my portfolio is up 12% in the first month! My lowest performing stock is finally on the plus side as of yesterday, and a couple of my stocks are doing better than 20%. This is really addictive! And also really safe - ridiculously safe since I didn't actually make any money during this time, yet I could have made almost $700. Anyone have any advice for taking the plunge with *real* money?

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Don't play with your food

Andrew, singing during lunch today:

"The Fritos have given this land to us,
No need to fuss,
They know what they're doing.
We know that they will take care of us,
if we just follow them."

Veggie Tales fans everywhere are cringing at this very moment. I'm a bit taken aback myself!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Getting caught up on photos

Ninth Birthday

Fancy New Bike

Kids playing with the hydrangeas in our yard

Isn't he handsome?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Parents want kids to have good social skills

Results of a new survey completed for Hasbro Inc. have been released - Raising Happy Kids: Survey Highlights The Importance of Teaching Children Good Social Skills From the article:

"Parents have come to recognize social skills, more than mere niceties for everyday life, are the base for raising 'great kids' who ultimately become successful, confident and happy adults," says Stacy DeBroff, CEO of Mom Central. "These skills, which include listening, being polite and knowing how to share, shape how a child will be perceived by their peers, teachers, adults, and ultimately employers."

Seems reasonable.

Despite the overwhelming significance they place on social skills, today's parents find it a constant struggle to teach their kids proper manners and necessary socialization techniques.

This has been one of my arguments for homeschooling - that the extra time I end up having with my kids allows me to model appropriate behaviors, point out others modeling good behaviors, and help correct inappropriate behaviors as they are happening.

"While parents understand the need for behavior correction, it can become frustrating," said DeBroff. "Especially with the added time pressures of a typical busy family schedule. We don't want to spend what limited time we do have being the 'bad guy' and constantly correcting our children's behavior."

And I imagine it would be incredibly frustrating to feel like the limited time I had with my children outside of school were spent harping on them about their poor manners. It's part of my same argument up above - I want to enjoy my kids' company, not spend those couple of hours each day correcting what's wrong with them. LOL - instead I spend the entire day correcting them! Only joking... a little. ;P

"As preschools and kindergartens turn to an increasingly academic curriculum, the necessity is that children come into the classroom with basic social skills in place," says DeBroff.

So this illustrates two things: one, that the role of the school is to teach academics. That's fine, but it blows the pants off the Socialization issue that opponents always seem to bring up as an argument against homeschooling. Two, maybe sending A. to kindergarten isn't quite the right approach. LOL

Oh, and I'm sure it comes as no surprise that Hasbro has now created a game to help teach kids social skills....

Monday, August 4, 2008

What a weird, schizophrenic kind of day

N. started day camp today! This is the daycamp through the Humane Society. The ratio of campers to counselors is really low - her group has three girls in it altogether, and one of them had to leave early in the day. The remaining girl is a friend of hers, and together they got to meet their cat mascot "Ashley". They have been charged with the duty of getting Ashley adopted by Friday. N came home with all sorts of buttons/pins with Ashley's name and picture on them so that family and friends can wear her kitty face around town and try to get her a new home. Apparently she's a very sweet, adult, calico kitty, very good with kids, and quite the snuggler. She'll make a great pet for someone... not us. (Kila? LOL) They started out the day clicker training dogs, and later in the day a veterinarian came by and gave them each a stethoscope to take home. They used the scope to listen to a puppies heartbeat. Pretty fun stuff.

After dropping N off at camp, Lil' A. and I went over to get him registered for kindergarten. As luck would have it, they only have an AM kindergarten available for half-day. That was my last "out" by the way - I'd been saying that if they couldn't get him into AM, then we wouldn't do it. Looks like kindergarten is a go. This is supposed to be an easy thing, right? I mean, parents do this all the time and don't feel all conflicted about it, don't they?

So my intent with A. going to kindergarten for 2.5 hours/day is kind of twofold. First of all, it will give me some dedicated one-on-one time with N. Five years ago, when we first stepped foot into the world of homeschooling, I'd projected that this school year would be the one where she was finally working independently, heck - at least reading independently, and I'd be able to devote some more time to A. The reality is that N. is still struggling with reading, writing, and spelling, and I really want to get her over the hurdle this year with some focused work. So far I've not found a good way to either separate the kids from each other long enough to give me the time of day, without grumbling that a). it's not fair that one gets to do school with me while the other has to do something else, or b). it's not fair that the other gets to play instead of doing school. Surely some homeschooling parent holds the answer to this conundrum.

Secondly, it's time for A. to just grow up already! Kidding. Kidding. Really. Mostly. Okay, in truth we're kind of sending him to the sharks. He gets along great with his sister, and has been making more friends in the past few months with some boys he sees regularly, but he really can't deal with more than one kid at a time. He basically gets up and walks away once there are more kids involved. For a long time I thought he didn't like to play with other kids, period, but was relieved to see him finally building some friendships. We've also had the experience of him not dealing well with groups of kids when he's been in swimming, and gymnastics. He doesn't like for other kids to be in his space, or to be too loud, nor does he like it when they don't follow the teacher's directions. All of these things cause him to completely shut down physically, mentally, and emotionally. I guess part of what I want to see is if giving him more opportunities to try to work through that will somehow give him the skills to at least manage his reactions in a different way. Oh, I didn't mention that one of his more common reactions now is to bite himself on the arm or hand, and to punch himself in the head. Yeah. So kindergarten could be interesting. At least we're not afraid to pull him out and homeschool him. Though if they could have him reading before we did that, that would be pretty cool - the reading thing hasn't gone well with kid #1.

So I get kid #2 signed up at the local grade school, and then I came home to work on my outline for homeschooling kid #1 this year. Do you see how I'm bouncing from one extreme to the next here? This is going to be a really strange year.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

I love coffee.

Nothing to add to that. I haven't even poured my first cup yet, but I'm in the living room on the laptop, and I can smell my fresh brewed coffee waiting for me. Life is good.