Thursday, September 30, 2010

The messy family reforms: Food storage

I haven't given up on my messy family reform projects. I just haven't really worked on anything new lately. But tonight I hit the wall with my food storage. I have a small pantry cupboard in the kitchen and extra shelving in the laundry/mud/junkroom downstairs. I was trying to find something but was unsuccessful. Wonder why?

Is that awful or what?  I was just tossing things in there, cramming them onto the shelves.  

After dinner my girl and I set to work.  It didn't take very long to get it straightened up.  We started by clearing one shelf and putting like things together on it.   The work was pleasant and the results were good.

I tried to take the picture so the ramen wasn't so prominent, but there it is.

It is not perfect, but it's a lot better; I can find things now.  I still have a problem, though.  The shelves are pretty full but I still have some things I'd like to stock up on before bad weather comes.  More canned vegetables (I don't use a lot of canned veggies but I do like to keep a few things around), more dried and canned beans, and more oatmeal. (I also keep large buckets of flour but they just stand on the floor.)  I'll have to keep tweaking it and maybe not buy so much ramen all at once next time.  It'll be a while before we need to buy more.  

I also noticed that I am out of onions but have no space for them!  Better get those kids eating up that ramen!

It is hard for me to keep the food cupboard organized.  It seems that every time I get them just right, with like items together, I buy something new that doesn't fit in its space and it throws everything off.  How do you keep your pantry organized? 

"Are you smarter than an atheist?"

57 percent of Protestants can name the Bible’s four gospels.

I found that fact in the Christian Science Monitor's article "In US, atheists know religion better than believers.  Is that bad?"   I read the article after taking their quiz on religious knowledge, "Are you smarter than an atheist?"  (Hat tip to Nicola of Back to Books for pointing me to this.)

Really?  Only a littler better than half of Protestants know the names of the gospels?   The basis of the article is this:
Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups in a 32-question survey of religious knowledge by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. On average, Americans got 16 of the 32 questions correct. Atheists and agnostics got an average of 20.9 correct answers. Jews (20.5) and Mormons (20.3). Protestants got 16 correct answers on average, while Catholics got 14.7 questions right.
The article is fairly short; read the whole thing.  I disagree with the people who say "academic" knowledge about one's religion is not important.  I don't think everyone has to be a Biblical scholar but understanding the basics of one's own religion, and others too, is important.  How can we talk intelligently about our beliefs if we don't know much about them?   And why do people who reject faith know more about it than believers? 

Of course we don't use a quiz like this as a marker for faith. I think it just shows a lack of curiosity.  Learning about other religions is interesting to me and I don't fear that I'll learn something that will make me question my own Christian beliefs.  I don't worry about that with my kids, either.  I think the more we know, the better. 

Take the quiz.  It's only 32 questions, nearly all multiple choice.  Some are related to prayer in schools in the US.  I had to guess on a couple of questions, and there were some I knew the answers to but have no idea why. I'm going to have my kids take it too.  I don't expect them to do well.  There are some questions about Mormonism and Judaism that will probably stump them.  I'll be interested to see if they can correctly answer the questions about prayer in school. 

What do you think?  Is intellectual knowledge unimportant?  Can we have a strong faith if we don't know much about it?  

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.   - Matthew 22:36-38

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Works for me: emergency dinner

Today is another day when it seems that nothing is working for me.  The washing machine is leaking; the health insurance company is billing me incorrectly;  the car is in the shop.  But here is something that does work:  our favorite emergency dinner.  It's for those days when I forget to to take some critical action to actually put the dinner I'd planned ahead of time on the table.  Maybe I forgot to defrost a big ol' hunk of beef.  Maybe I failed to buy something I need and have no substitute for.  Or maybe I just ran out of time.

But we'll always have burritos. Or tacos.  Or some combination of tortilla/protein/cheese/condiments. If we ever run out of the main ingredients for this dinner, we're in big trouble.

Tortillas are a must.  Flour or corn, your choice.  We keep both on hand.

Refried beans are pretty standard.  Many people make them from scratch.  I like Rosarita brand!

Cheese:  pepper jack, monterey jack, cheddar...

Meat is optional.  Could be ground beef or turkey cooked with spices or some leftover chicken, pork, or steak.   Skip those little packets of taco seasoning mix; use a recipe like this one instead.

Condiments are nice.  Sauteed onions and/or red bell peppers (some people like green), jalapenos, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado,sour cream...  I usually have a jar of pickled jalapenos in the fridge and some "fresh" ones in the freezer.  (Just cut jalapenos in half, clean out the seeds, flatten them and put in a ziplock bag. This works with any sort of chile pepper.) 

Salsa and chips are nice too.  I sometimes make chips by cutting corn tortillas into 8ths and baking them. My family doesn't like those as well as commercial chips, but they will eat them all up.

I put the big griddle on the stove and let everyone make their own burrito, quesadilla, or taco the way they like it.  Easy.    

Even if you don't have a green salad on the side, it can be a healthful dinner if you go light on the cheese and heavy on the veggies. 

Stop by We Are THAT Family to see more of what works for people.  But first tell me about your favorite emergency dinner.

Carnival of Homeschooling

I'm a day late posting about the Carnival of Homeschooling.  It's up at Sprittibee, and this carnival has a twist:  photos of homeschool rooms submitted along with the blog posts.  I have a post in there, but no photo.  I don't have a schoolroom and my kitchen table has been messy this week.  

Go check it out!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

New favorite devotional book

How many devotional books are on your shelves?  I don't know how many we have. Many. I've used most of our books at one time or another, but I have a hard time keeping up with daily reading and usually don't last long with any one book. But I have a new favorite.

Isn't the cover gorgeous?

Ancient Christian Devotional (Thomas C. Oden and Cindy Crosby, editors) has a year's worth of  scripture and writings by ancient church fathers. It follows the liturgical year (lectionary cycle A), which always appeals to me, even though - or maybe because - my church doesn't follow it.  There is a book for cycle C; cycle B is forthcoming.  

For each of the 52 weeks of the year, there is a theme ("Humility and Service," "God Keeps Promises"), an opening prayer, Old and New Testament scriptures and short reflections on them, a Psalm, and a closing prayer.   It is designed to be read all in one day, or over the entire week, depending on the reader's desire and time available.

Here is the opening prayer for week 41 with the theme "God's Care," written by Clement of Rome:

We beg you, Master, be our help and strength.  Save those among us who are oppressed, have pity on the lowly, and lift up the fallen.  Heal the sick, bring back the straying, and feed the hungry.  Release those in prison, lift up those who falter, and strengthen the fainthearted.  Let all nations come to know you the one God, with your Son Jesus Christ, and us your people and the sheep of your pasture.  

And a reflection on Ezekiel 18:1-4 and 25-32, by Basil the Great:

Forgiveness Means Healing.  Remember the compassion of God, how he heals with olive oil and wine.  Do not despair of salvation.  Recall the memory of what has been written, how he that falls rises again, and he that is turned away turns again, he that has been smitten is healed, he that is caught by wild beasts escapes, and he that confesses is not rejected.  The Lord does not want the death of the sinner, but that he return and live. Do not be contemptuous like one who has fallen into the depths of sins. 
There are short biographies of the ancient writers for readers like me who are not up on their church history.

The only quibble I have with this book is  that the weeks are dated; week one, for example, is November 27 through December 3.   This disturbs my sense of order; I'd rather the weeks were undated.  But that is a minor problem (and my own).

It really is a wonderful book.  You can read the introduction and week one ("Keep Watch") here.  Check it out, even if you think you have enough devotional books around.  Never hurts to have just one more.

Top Ten Tuesday: news and commentary blogs

Last week my Top Ten was about friendly blogs; this week it's all about my favorite news and commentary sites.  I guess it won't take too many clicks to figure out my political and religious persuasions.  This is not in any particular order, except perhaps number one:

1. Instapundit.  Best all-around source for news and other interesting information.

2. Althouse. Commentary on popular culture, among other things.  Lots of discussion in the comments; language warning!

3. Reformation 21.  Reformed Christian online magazine. 

4. DADvocate.  Commentary on culture, politics, and high school football, sometimes.

5. Contentions, the blog of Commentary magazine.  Political, um, commentary.

6. Joanne Jacobs.  School/education issues. 

7. Paco Enterprises. Politics, funny stuff.  And music.

8. Why Homeschool.  Homeschooling news and, well, commentary.

9. Iowahawk.  Satire.  Language warning!

10. The Corner. Conservative opinion blog of National Review magazine.

See more Top Ten lists on all sorts of topics at Oh Amanda.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: is fall finally here?

It's going to be warm yet rainy here all week, so sort of fall-weatherish.  Even with the high temps I'm going for cool-weather food because I'm tired of warm-weather food!

Monday:  Chicken and black bean chili.  Seems like forever since we've had chili.

Tuesday:  Some kind of curry.   I think I planned one last week but never got around to having it.  Last weekend I picked up some Toovar dal at an Indian market, having a vague memory of a recipe using it.  I found the recipe this morning, but see I am missing some ingredients.  I don't keep tamarind paste around.   I keep telling myself to keep a running list of things like that, but I never remember to! 

Wednesday: Chicken baked with kalamata olives, roma tomatoes, garlic, rosemary, lemon, and red potatoes.

Thursday:   Spaghetti and meatballs, something I had planned to make last week but failed to do.

Friday:   Baked salmon.  Somewhere I have a recipe involving breadcrumbs and dill.  I can find it by Friday. 

Saturday:   There is an Oktoberfest going on next town over.  So maybe we'll eat there.  If not, we haven't had burritos in a while.

During this week I want to spend more time planning.   I think I need to invite someone over for dinner soon!

Check out I'm an Organizing Junkie for more menu plans!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

This blows my mind.

Can someone explain something to me?

One of my kids has an acquaintance whose stepfather does not like him.  Has, by all accounts, never liked him

How does a mother marry someone who doesn't like her child?   This is her minor child who lives with her and the new spouse.
Bonus question:  would you be surprised to learn that this kid has behavioral problems in school and other places?

I asked the seminarian today to please be sure, if he ever has occasion to remarry, that his new wife likes our kids.   Maybe even loves our kids. (I knew I really didn't need to ask him that.)

Is that too much to ask of a parent?  

What is wrong with people? 

I'm hoping I just don't know the whole story.  But, I think I know enough.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Homeschooling parents, please watch your children.

Everyone knows kids who just can't manage to behave in public.  Kids who speak out inappropriately.   Kids who need to be the center of attention or show their knowledge.  Kids who can't control their movements or emotions. 

Hey, we all know adults like that too, don't we?

When we encounter those kids in the context of homeschooling, they seem even worse.  They seem to represent everything other people dislike about homeschoolers.  I'll just say it: they make all homeschoolers look bad.  And they  make it harder for us. 

We ran into a couple of kids like that on a recent field trip.  There was a boy who could not ever be quiet. He talked over the speaker or other kids who were trying to ask or answer questions.  He made snarky comments about something someone else was saying.  And he made random noises.  Everywhere we went we could hear him.  But no parent appeared to pull him aside and correct his behavior.  I didn't even know he was accompanied by an adult until the event was nearly over.

There was a girl who seemed to be emotionally fragile.  She alternated between participating enthusiastically and becoming hysterical and upset.  She was continually accusing other kids of stepping on her feet or otherwise hurting her.  It's true that sometimes the kids were packed close together and some unintentional physical contact made.  It happens in crowded places.  Most people don't like being jostled but they understand that it's not intentional or malicious; she didn't or couldn't.

We have no idea why these kids were so out of control. They looked like kids who were undisciplined and never taught how to behave.  Maybe they weren't, but that's what they looked like.  There could be much more to their poor behavior:  autism, OCD, so many possibilities.  But, we had no way of knowing that. And, in a way, what difference would it make?  They were still disrupting the group.

Now this is where someone might say that I'm a mean person, lacking compassion for these kids.  It's OK, I've been called a mean person before. Let's assume they are not just undisciplined free spirits but have some serious issues that make it difficult for them to behave in groups.  Should those kids stay home so they don't annoy others?  No, I don't think so. I think they should have the same opportunities well-behaved kids do.  But the parent(s) - who surely know exactly how their kids are likely to (mis)behave - should have kept a closer eye on them, and stepped in more quickly when something went wrong.

A boy shouldn't be able to stand among a group of people saying "boop... boop... boop..." over and over without the parent getting him out of the way and quieting him down.  A girl shouldn't be allowed to scream at someone for an accidental push or poke without the parent moving her away, and apologizing to the object of her anger, not to mention the presenters and the kids who can't learn anything because her daughter is screaming.

You might also say "it takes a village" and suggested that other parents step in.  Of course someone was continually asking the boy to be quiet and respectful of other people.  But he did not recognize anyone's authority.  He didn't say "you're not the boss of me," at least out loud, but he may as well have.  And who is going to tangle with a teen girl who is screaming at a another kid for stepping on her foot in a crowded area?  Better to just move away. 

I suppose there are disruptive kids on school field trips too. But at homeschool events there is usually a parent for each child or sibling group.  We tend to travel in family packs.  Sometimes one family may take the child(ren) of a friend along along with their own, but still, the adult to child ratio is pretty high.  And the chaperones know the kids in their charge. They know if the child is likely to have or cause a problem.  So they should be close by and ready to respond right away.

Remember, people are watching homeschoolers closely, more closely than schooled kids.  Maybe that's unfair, but it doesn't matter.  We are the ones who have shunned social norms to raise our children in a different way, so we are subject to more scrutiny.  Our kids are too.  And there are people who are anxious to point to any misbehaving homeschool kid and say,  "See?  See that out of control kid?  That's what homeschooling does."

Parents, please:  watch your children.  Because other people are.

Mother/Daughter Adventures: New Tires and Time Together

Sometimes I am terrified at the ways I am turning into my mother.  I love and miss my mom (she died in 2002) but she had her share of idiosyncrasies.  She was never really comfortable with electricity, for example, and unplugged nearly every appliance when not in use.  Forget about ever having an aquarium with a pump that ran continuously!  Now she would be applauded for her green ways but mostly she was just afraid of fires.  Thanks to my mom I not only can't leave the house with the dryer running - probably a good practice, but I also have to be sure it's wide open so it can't start up spontaneously.

But we were always pretty close.  I am the youngest of 3 children, all spaced 5 years apart. So after everyone else was up and out, Mom and I had a lot of time and adventures together. 

Now when I say adventures, I don't mean we went on hiking trips or out sailing or things like that.  I mean going on thrift store shopping expeditions, eating lunch in dumpy little burger joints, checking out antique auction houses.  We had a lot of fun.

I was thinking of those days while out and about today with my own daughter.   We were tasked today with getting new tires - previously ordered at Costco - put on.  (I think that's a male task but our males are camping this weekend.  Woe is us.)  We'd been warned that today would be a super-busy day and we should anticipate a long wait, so we planned our strategy out yesterday.  We'd take a book, some handwork (crochet for her, knitting for me), arrive 30 minutes before store opening to be first in line, and then go to a strip mall across the street to get breakfast at Panera Bread and browse the offerings at HomeGoods. 

But late last night we found out that today is soccer team photo day!   No game, just photos.  That threw a little curve into our plans, as our photo time was just when we wanted to be arriving at Costco.  So...

She suited up and added a change of clothes to her bag.  On a whim I tossed my camera in mine. Good thing, too, because I discovered that we got a free team photo, and were welcome to snap our own pictures as well.  We figured the seminarian can take a single photo of our soccer player standing with one foot on the ball as well as anyone, so we skipped the photo package and saved $30+!  My mother would be proud. 

After the shoot we ran to the bathroom so she could change clothes.  Back to the car, up to Costco.  Number 5 in line!   We waited half an hour just to turn in our key and learn that our tires would be on in 2 hours.

Now the fun could begin.

We walked (an adventure in itself in a pedestrian-unfriendly area) to Panera Bread and I whipped out a gift card I'd obtained with credit card points.  Free breakfast!  We settled into a booth and relaxed.   My girl commented on the nice, calm music which led to a discussion of how music affects customers in businesses.  Why is the music in there so nice and calming, while in Old Navy it's loud and crazy?  Hmmm...

The place was nearly empty so after we ate we pulled out our handwork and continued to sip our drinks and chat.  It was a really nice time.  But soon enough we headed to HomeGoods.  We just wandered around slowly, talking all the while.  We had all the time in the world.

And that was the great thing about it.  At home there is always something to do: something to clean, or fold, or put away, some paperwork to deal with.   Today we were trapped in leisure time together.  We walked and talked about all sorts of things.  The sorts of things there just isn't time for at home.

After we got the car back we continued with our adventures.  We stopped in to an Indian market for some spices and dals and explored the offerings there.  My mother would have loved the place.

Now we're home and we're back to our normal routine. She has to clean her room; I have laundry to deal with.  But we are refreshed from our time together.  And I'm happy to be turning into my mother.

Saturday morning journal

It's a bit random today.

The men are camping with the Boy Scouts.  I slept surprisingly well last night for being the adult in charge.  Usually I am restless when the man is gone.  Maybe reading my new devotional book right before attempting sleep helped.  More on that later.

The girl and I are going to try to get to Costco to get new tires put on the car.  This could turn into a rant so I will just say we've been trying to get tires for two weeks.  We had our strategy planned, then found out that today is soccer picture day!  So we are trying to readjust.

Sure is hot around here for autumn!

I wanted to get a sunrise photo for this post but honestly?  My backyard trees are not so pretty, even with the sun peeking through them.  Maybe I'll get up before sunrise and go someplace beautiful one of these days.  

 I'm going to attempt a "Mr. Linky" here soon. Maybe even a button.  I want to stretch my blogging and computer capabilities.  It took me a long time just to get a profile pic up!  But today's not the day for that.

You can still join me in the comments and tell me what's going on in your world this Saturday morning.  Leisurely or busy?   Work or rest?  Hot or cold?   Leave a link to your own post if you like. 

Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekly Wrap-up: Food prep edition

Even though we did many other things this week, it seemed like it was all about food prep.

The Boy Scout is off on a campout again this weekend. Tomorrow is the annual "no utensils" cooking night. The boys have to devise a dinner to be cooked on the fire without cookware. As far as I can tell, the only things allowed are knives and a plastic bag for mixing.

This is not his first time doing this trip, but it's his first time in charge of a group of boys. He had to plan the meal and acquire the food, then figure out how much each boy owed for his share.

This was not easy for him. His plan is chicken cooked on hot rocks, potatoes baked in the ashes, and an attempt at "bannock bread on a stick." That's just biscuit dough wrapped around a stick and held over the low fire to bake. Apparently it is something many have tried but no one has mastered.

He also planned and has to cook two breakfast, but more conventionally - he can use a camp stove and a griddle. 

It was pretty exhausting getting all set up for this 36 hour campout. But I guess it will get easier over time.

Also this week we had a fabulous field trip, went to a carnival and confirmed that we are not carnival people, and did some actual school work. Tonight my girl had a soccer game under the lights.  That is, once the lights came on. They played the first half with sunlight, but, whoa, it started getting dark.  And darker. Someone called the city about the field lights and about half an hour later they came on.  It was a long evening.

All in all, though, a pretty good week. Still, I'm glad it's over!

As always, I'm linking up with Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.  Come join us!

Scoliosis update

Today my little girlie had a checkup for her scoliosis.  Earlier in the week we got an xray; today we took it to the orthopaedist for review and commentary.  He said she is doing fine; the curve has decreased a tiny bit since she got the brace.  That doesn't change anything; she will still need the brace till she finishes growing.  That's probably another 3 or 4 years.   But we knew that from the start; a scoliosis brace doesn't straighten the spine, it just keeps the curve from getting worse as the child grows.

I won't lie and pretend I didn't have a tiny bit of hope that he'd tell us that the curve was so greatly improved she could give up the brace.  But I didn't expect it.  We will see him again in 6 months to be sure the brace is still fitting properly, but she won't get another xray for a year. 

The brace has become almost a non-issue for us now.  She wears it almost all day, except when she is doing something active - soccer, gymnastics, trampoline, bike riding, going to the gym. She sleeps in it every night.  The doctor approved her leaving it off during the day while she was at Girl Scout camp last summer, but she dutifully put it on at bedtime.  It wasn't a big deal; in fact, she was able to reassure one camper who was anticipating wearing a brace soon herself.   That was a great experience for her and I hope she has that opportunity again! 

For anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about, and wants to, here are a few places to get our scoliosis story:

Happy Birthday! You have scoliosis.

The brace.

Self-pity. Or not. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Carnival of Homeschooling

This is the first week in a long time I haven't submitted a post to the Carnival of Homeschooling.  I might be out of homeschool-related things to say for a while.  But I still like checking out the carnival; you should too.  It's at As For My House this week.

Our night at the carnival

The carnival is in town.

It's a little carnival, put on by a church nearby.  It's there every year, but this year my kids said they wanted to go.  I knew they wouldn't like it - they just don't tend to like rickety rides, bright flashing lights, loud music, and games of chance in which the prizes are nearly impossible to win, and comprised of items they wouldn't want even if they did win.   But they wanted to check it out.

I thought about sending them on their own.  We live in a pretty quiet suburban area; the carnival is just over a mile away.  But there were two problems with this idea.  First, even though they are capable of the walk and most likely safe, a good part of the walk is along a busy road that is mostly commercial establishments closed at night; it's not very well lit.  There's also a slightly-scary area by the train station they'd have to pass through.   I wasn't afraid for their safety, really, but I knew they would feel uncomfortable walking along there in the dark.

The bigger problem, though, was that I knew my boy would run into friends from Boy Scouts and want to ditch his little sister.  It's nothing personal, but he's just at that age, you know?  There are places he doesn't want to be encumbered.

So the three of us walked over there together.

As we got closer to the carnival and saw packs of kids traveling together, the boy started walking ever so much more ahead of his sister and me.  Almost immediately he saw a Scout friend; he gave me a look with raised eyebrows; I nodded; he was off.

It took my girl about 5 minutes of walking around to decide she was done.  Ready to go home.  Uh huh.

So now what?

We slowly looked at the food offerings to see if there was anything she wanted for dessert. Then we headed over to a park and sat on a bench.  She pondered the sweets a little longer and decided on a snow cone.  She had wanted cotton candy, but it was the pre-made kind in bags and some of it looked kind of icky, as if it had gotten wet in spots and started dissolving.   So we walked back through, got the cone, and then back to our bench.

Shortly after that, the boy called (we were fully covered with cell phones) and said he was ready to "cut and run."  His friend had had to leave; he'd seen some other boys he knew there but no one he really felt like hanging out with.  (He's not very good at hanging out yet.)  We were probably there for a half hour; my girl said it felt like 5 hours.  She is prone to drama, that one.

We called home and alerted the seminarian that we were on the way; he leashed the dog and started walking to meet us. The highlight of the evening was the dog's excitement at running into us on the street.  We had a nice family walk the rest of the way home. 

I think everyone is glad we went, but I suspect that if we are still living here next year, no one will ask to go to the carnival.

Simple Pleasures: iced coffee and knitting

Everywhere I go now I'm running into blogging opportunities. Today I found Simple Pleasures at A Collection of This and That.

Of course new blogging opportunities also means new blogs to read. 

Today has been busy, and will be busy again in a little while, but I had a couple of minutes for a glass of  iced coffee and some simple knitting.

It's even better if I can sit down and enjoy this while my girlie practices piano.

My iced coffee is truly a simple pleasure:  leftover coffee, milk, ice.  No sugar syrups or flavored creamers.  The knitting is a simple pattern for a scarf, so I don't have to pay really close attention.

Project Simple Pleasures2

Just click on the photo to learn more about Simple Pleasures. But stop, look around, and say hi before you go!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Works for me: pocket portfolios

Last night I contemplated a post for Works for me Wednesday and was in despair because nothing is working for me. This morning I was too busy to think about it.  Other things got in the way - you know, caring for the family, homeschooling the children and all that.

This morning we started studying the US Constitution, something I've been planning for a long time. We read, discussed, and copied out the preamble, and I realized we needed a place to put our paper so we don't lose it by tomorrow when we move on. That's when I remembered that something does indeed work for me:  pocket portfolios with fasteners (or brads) in the middle.  These guys:

We use these all the time.  They are much better than binders for most of our uses.  They take up less space, stack much more easily, and are cheaper. They're easier to decorate, too, if that's important.

Believe me, this is just the start of the decorating.

You can buy these in any office supply store, or at Amazon, of course!

Yeah, something that works for me.  See more at We Are THAT family.

Stop with the Christmas already!

OK, I keep seeing these blogs with little Santa pictures and warnings about impending Christmas.  And Christmas magazines in the grocery stores.  I'm sure Costco is all Christmased up already too. Oh my! 

Christmas is a whole season away!  There's still fall!  And let's not forget Thanksgiving!  Please? 

Slow down, people!  Time's going by fast enough. 

Oregon Coast Memories

Since we've been spending some time on the Jersey Shore, I've been reminiscing about the wonderful Oregon coast that we left behind 3 years ago. These pictures are from a not-back-to-school trip we took in September of 2004 to the gorgeous Oregon Dunes.


Boy must throw sand.

Girl must pick up shells.

I think this is Yaquina Head lighthouse.  Not sure.  We are bad about labeling.

I just realized that I've never lived more than a couple hours from a beach.  (Does Lake Erie count?)  I've always lived on one coast or the other.   Now that I've said that, I'm sure my next home will be in some land-locked place!  

I'm linking up with Outdoor Wednesday. You can too. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Field Trip: Science at Sea

Yesterday was one of our best field trips ever: a boat cruise with a team of marine biologists to study fish and other sea critters.  It was an amazing trip!

We boarded the Atlantic Star in Wildwood, New Jersey, to set off on our 3-hour tour with the biologists from the Wetlands Institute.

While on board, we learned about various sea creatures, like the horsehoe crab.  I'd never known that this crab had significance to humans; its blood is used to test intravenous drugs for bacteria.

We enjoyed a beautiful, sunny, calm day.  At one point there was a huge pod of dolphins - 50 or more - swimming around us.  None of my photos captured them well. It was better to stop trying to take pictures and just enjoy the scene. 

We also had the excitement of going under a drawbridge.  First time for me!  And for my kids.  In all we sailed in the Atlantic Ocean, Delaware Bay, and Cape May canal.

The main excitement, though, was deploying a trawl net, then hauling it back in to see the treasures inside.  All hands were needed to haul the net in.  Then the critters were put into various containers to be studied.  Afterward, they were returned to the sea.  

There were touch tanks and microscopes and lots of oohing and aahing. Certain words and phrases were banned:  "ewww," "gross," and "that's disgusting."

It was a fantastic day.  I am so thankful for homeschool moms who are able and willing to put trips like this together.  This is not something we could just go do on our own.  But, we could go visit The Westlands Institute sometime.  We didn't arrive early enough to visit yesterday but I think we'll be making a trip there pretty soon.  It's a 2-hour drive but we had good music to listen to and talk about in the car.  That's schooltime too. Yesterday it was "American Cultural Studies;" I introduced the kids to the Traveling Wilburys.

If you live near South Jersey, you should look into the Science at Sea program with your homeschool group.   

Top Ten Tuesday: friendly blogs

There are a lot of blogs in my reader.  The ones listed on my sidebar are not all the blogs I read.  (I'm not very good at updating things around here.)  Some I read for news, some for political commentary, some for helpful advice.  And others I read because they just seem friendly: I'd like to meet and hang out with these bloggers.   Wait!  I have met and hung out with a couple of these bloggers!   I am not good at blog awards and such; if I was these women would get awards from me. 

1.  Cup of Grace.  Kerri is an artist and the mother of a wonderful (and large) family.  I love her ponderings.

2.  Wayside Sacraments. Leslie always has gorgeous pictures, and she knits dishcloths (and other things). 

3.  Dishpan Dribble and Blueberry House.  Mrs. Darling is the busiest person I know. 

4.  Falling Like Rain and  Pencil on Paper.  Sandy always has good things to say about homeschooling and life.

5.  Explorations in Learning.  G has great ideas for homeschooling her young kids.

6. Smallworld at Home and Smallworld Reads.  I've been reading Sarah's blog for a long time.  Love her book reviews. 

7. LLR Homeschool Mom. A new find; I just enjoy reading her blog.

8.  Barbara Frank.  A veteran homeschool mom who shares her knowledge freely.

9. Free to Learn an Lovin It.  Rana always has good things to say and does such fun things with her kids.

10. A Slob Comes Clean.  I can so relate.

Some days I haven't the time to click out of the reader to go to the actual site.  But I read every post.  I also don't follow all these blogs - I've stopped hitting the "follow" button because whether I follow or not, they are still available for my reading pleasure.  I admit I don't exactly get the purpose of the "following" thing so if someone wants to enlighten me, please do.  And honestly, if I find I need to remove a blog from the reader, it's twice the work because I also have to stop following.  Plus I've read that it hurts people's feelings when they lose followers and who wants to do that? 

I should stop by with comments more often. Someone told me she doesn't like to comment too often lest she appear to be a stalker.  Hey, who doesn't like comments?

See more  Top Ten Tuesday at Oh Amanda.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: September 20

This is going to be a very dull eating week around here. So you might want to skip right on to I'm an Organizing Junkie to read some more interesting menu plans.

Monday my kids and I get to enjoy an all-day field trip, on a boat off the Jersey Shore.  We'll be eating dinner in the car on the way home.  The seminarian will probably have a burrito or burger at home by his lonely old self.

On  Tuesday we are juggling a trip to Costco for new tires, Boy Scout patrol meeting here, followed by soccer practice.  I'm thinking Santa Fe chicken in the crockpot.  People can scoop some out whenever they are ready to eat.  Everyone loves it.

Wednesday looks like it's going to be a reasonably normal day so I think I may try spaghetti and meatballs.  I've never made meatballs and my boy has been asking me to.  If anyone has any tips or great recipes to share, I'd be happy to have them.  I'm thinking about mixing turkey with the beef.  We normally despise ground turkey but I'm thinking between the sauce and some beef, no one will notice.  Unless they read this.

Thursday will need to be meatless night, but we've  already got pasta down, so I guess we'll have some kind of curry, either garbanzo bean or eggplant.  Or maybe both!   We picked up some naan at Costco a few weeks ago and it's waiting patiently in the freezer for us to try it out.

On Friday we'll have the pizza we didn't have last week.  We're down to pizza every other week now instead of once a week. I'm hoping we can do homemade pizza soon, but it's been a little too busy.  

Saturday my girlie and I will be on our own so I'm not sure what we'll do.  She will probably want macaroni and cheese or pizza again.  Maybe we'll go out.

Sunday I'm really going to do that roast beef I keep talking about but not doing.  Today was an unusually busy Sunday so we ended up have a leftover extravaganza. 

Enjoy your planning, cooking, and eating this week.  Post your plans or find some new ideas at Menu Plan Monday.  I'm late posting today; there are 284 menu plans ahead of mine!   That's a lot of ideas!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Saturday Morning Journal: Fall is in the air

The sun is just coming up. I love the way the light looks, filtered through the trees. The windows are all open and it's cold in the house!  Fall may finally be coming here.  My family is ready for cooler - even cold - weather.  We aren't summer people.   We wilt in the heat. We prefer cool-weather clothing and cool-weather food.

It's a good morning for a long walk with the dog.... or reading till everyone else wakes up... or doing some baking.  Even though I am a morning coffee drinker I feel like making some tea right now. 

We do like summer fruit, though.
You can find this blueberry cobbler recipe here.

Today we are going to check out a local Renaissance Faire.  I have great memories of Faire at Black Point in California which I attended for years.  I won't be in costume this year but I can't wait to introduce my kids to Faire. It'll be a perfect day, sunny and just warmish. 

Join me this morning.  How are you spending this Saturday?  Are you ready for fall, or wanting more summer?   Would you prefer coffee, or tea?  Or maybe some spiced hot cider?

Click on the photo for the recipe.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weekly Wrap-up: The homework edition

This was the week our "real" classes started up. You know, the ones that don't happen at the kitchen table or even at home; the ones with a real teacher.

And real homework.

On Wednesday it was art, taught by a teacher set free when a local private school shut down.  It was fabulous. And, the kids each got a sketchbook and some homework:  draw your favorite shoe.  It's a ballet flat for the girl, a hiking boot for the boy.  Love it.

The hiking boot drawing isn't ready for publication.  It's not due till next Wednesday, after all. 

Wednesday afternoon piano lessons started up again, with a new teacher in a new location.  "I like her style the best of all the teachers I've had."  Love that too.  Also more homework, or at least more specific homework, than any other teacher.

Thursday was beginning composition.  [Cue ominous music here.]  This is a class for older beginning writers.  I think that means kids whose moms thought they would learn to write naturally and finally had to admit that that wasn't going to happen so a class was needed. Or maybe that's just what it means for me.  This class utilizes the methods of the Institute for Excellence in Writing; the teacher came highly recommended.  The moms are invited to stay so we can learn the techniques, too, so we can help our kids (and maybe ourselves).  So far, so good. 

The homework for this class is to outline and rewrite a short article.  It's due Monday, but the kids get extra points for early submission.   Mine didn't exactly fight over the computer to get theirs typed up yesterday afternoon, but almost.

Throw in some orthodontist appointments for both kids, a back xray for my girlie to check on her scoliosis, startups of both Boy Scouts and robotics club, and there's a full week.

This was also the week of The Lord of the Rings. The boy has been disappearing as much as possible to read.  We knew he'd love it.

Like most weeks, it was a mix of good times and bad.  We didn't get as much done as I would have liked.  We never do.  I've decided that I overplan, and will continue to do so on the chance that we'll have an easy week and get everything done.  It could happen!

More weekly wrap-ups at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers!

Cars that pass in the night

As the kids and I were pulling into the driveway tonight, the seminarian was pulling out.  We waved and blew kisses out the car windows.  Have a good night!

The kids had been at either the gym or a robotics club meeting, depending on the child, and the seminarian was leaving for a meeting at church.  Earlier, after I had dropped the kids off at their activities, I had dashed home to put together some dinner for the dad before I went back out to pick them up. Somewhere in that time he came home so we were in the house together for about 15 minutes.  But then I had to leave so he ate alone.  Well, the dog was here.  And I'm sure he had a book to read.  The man, not the dog.

Sometimes life is like that.  We are busy and running in different directions sometimes.  We are tired.  We are overworked.  There's always something that needs to be done so there's very little down time.

I don't talk about these times much, because if I do, someone is always ready to to tell me we need a "date night."  In fact, I have been rebuked by caring women who think I am wrong not to make date night a priority. The thinking is, when a couple is so busy they don't have time to spend together, they need to leave behind the house, kids, and responsibilities and go out together for some fun.  I get that.  I think date nights are good and I think couples should have them.  But it's not going to happen right now in our house.  There's too much happening, too much to do.

Too much to do.  People love to say "just go out; the work will be there when you get back."  Yes, it will.  And we'll still have to do it.  And we'll just be that much more behind.

The people who are encouraging date nights are kind and well-meaning but they are not offering to come over and do my laundry, pay my bills, call my insurance company about a referral to the orthopaedist so my scoliosis patient can get an xray, arrange for an oil change, take my kid to the orthodontist and the xray place, or give a math test. Even if  it made sense for someone to take care of these things for me, no one can do the seminarian's studying and writing for him.  This is our life right now.

Rather than try to squeeze in a date during these times, it works better for us to just acknowledge what's going on.  To accept that, hey, we're in another one of those times, and we need to just buckle up, hold on tight, and wait for the ride to be over. Because one day it will be over, at least for a while.There will be a break, and we'll have more time.  It might be a short break, but it will come.  Just not now.

This is also a time when the kids' need for their daddy comes before my need for my husband. When the dad's time is tight, and he's got only a little to give, I let him give it to the kids.  I've been rebuked about this too. We are warned not to let the kids think they are the center of the family.  A common saying is something like "the best thing parents can do for their kids is have a strong marriage."  Yes, that's true.  And a strong marriage shouldn't crumble because the parents don't get enough date nights.

I always laugh a little inside when someone tells me that date night is sacred in their house, that nothing ever gets in the way of it.  First, I think that's a little lie.  I'm sure there are times - sick kids, deadlines at work other emergencies - that get in the way of date night.  But I also think that there are times when something should get in the way:   a child who needs time with Daddy.

If my kids' dad has been working hard and been inaccessible all week (or multiple weeks), and there is finally a little spare time, I'm not going to take him out of the house and away from them.  We're not going to leave them home while we go out.  We'll have a few minutes to have tea - or a cocktail - together after the kids are in bed.  We'll take 15 minutes to walk the dog.  And sometimes, that is just enough. 

Remember Ann Landers, the advice columnist?  I loved Ann.  Every now and then she'd have a letter from someone in a retirement home, complaining that their kids never visited.  And then there'd be a response from someone who gave their reasons for never visiting their parents.  Often the reason was simple:  when they were young, the parents never had time for them and they see no reason to make time for their parents now.

We can't predict the future but my husband and I expect to have a lot of time alone once our kids are up and out.  We won't be seeing them every day then.  We will have the opportunity for all the date nights we want.

I can wait for that, during these busy times.  It's not really all that far off.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Carnival of Homeschooling

is up at Raising Real Men.  It was up yesterday but I haven't had a chance to look at it till tonight.  As always, lots of good reading about homeschooling.   I'll be checking out the post on boys and schoolwork right away!

New favorite recipe

On Monday my boy went to the orthodontist and came home with sore teeth. He thought chocolate pudding might help ease the pain .  I couldn't find my usual recipe so did a quick search and found my  new favorite.  We have made it two nights in a row.  I think they will ask for it tonight too (but they won't get it).  Everyone agreed it was the best chocolate pudding I've ever made.

Chocolate Cornstarch Pudding (from


  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 3/4 cups milk 
  • 2 tablespoons margarine or butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. In a saucepan, stir together sugar, cocoa, cornstarch and salt. Place over medium heat, and stir in milk. Bring to a boil, and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and stir in margarine and vanilla. Let cool briefly, and serve warm, or chill in refrigerator until serving.

I'm linking up with  Works for me Wednesday because this recipe definitely works for me.  Easy, cheap, delicious; made from kitchen staples.   What more can you ask from a recipe?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

We may not see our boy for a long time.

He started reading The Lord of the Rings last night.

He'd been avoiding the trilogy for a while. Whenever he was in need of reading material, I'd suggest it.  But he thought he wasn't ready.  That's because three years ago, when he was 10, we started listening to the audio while moving across country.  He loved it... for a while.  But then we got home and Dad started reading it aloud, at bedtime. And then we got into the mines of Moriah.  And met the Balrog.  And that was that.

But last week we watched the movies, finally. And he is hooked.

I warned him against starting at bedtime.  I told him he wouldn't want to stop.  He assured me he could.  "Mom, I can stop anytime."  OK, that's not the exact quote.

So I have this feeling that schooltime is not going to go particularly well today.  He won't fight or complain. But he won't really be here. He'll be in Middle-Earth

Monday, September 13, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Family Read-Alouds

My top ten this week is all about reading aloud. Reading together is one of our favorite homeschool activities.  Here are my family's favorite read-alouds; either individual books or series.

1.  Without a doubt, Swallows and Amazons, and the books following; 12 in all.  I could have a top ten just from Arthur Ransome!  Everyone should read these books. They are so worth your family's time.  You will all love reading the adventures of children sailing, camping, and having adventures in England's Lake District.   You can look here for some background on the stories.  Excellent, wonderful books.

Now that I've taken care of the best, these following are in no particular order.

2.  The Children of Green Knowe.  A mostly-sweet series by Lucy Boston.  Starts off as not-quite-fantasy, but does get a little stranger and a little darker as the series continues.  I wrote a little bit about it here.

4.  The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (The Wolves Chronicles).  This is a long series by  Joan Aiken.  We have not quite finished; I think we have two more books to go.  I can't say we've loved every book in this series, just most of them, but we've liked them all. 

5. The Star of Kazanby Eva Ibbotson. One of the best all-around stories ever. Exciting, beautifully written.

6. Journey to the River Seaalso by Eva Ibbotson.  An exciting orphan story. But more than an orphan story.  I wrote a review of it when we read it in 2008.  Now I'm ready to read this again. 

7.  The Misadventures of Maude Marchand Maude March on the Run! by Audrey Coloumbis. Fantastic stories of two orphaned girls in search of their uncle in the old west.  We listened to the audio book narrated by Lee Adams; perfection. 

8. A House Called Awful End: Book One in the Eddie Dickens Trilogy and following by Philip Ardagh.  Hilarious, absurd story set in Victorian England.  The audio narrated by Martin Rayner is fabulous. We've listened to this on more than one road trip.  Pure fun.

9. The Phantom Tollboothby Norton Juster.  I have loved this book since I was a kid. My kids love it now too.

10.  The Voyager's Stoneby Robert Kraske and Brian Floca. The story of a bottle tossed into the sea. I described how we used this book in our homeschool here.

But, you're asking, where is Middle Earth?  Narnia?  Well, of course.  But everyone knows about those.  

Enjoy more Top Tens at Oh Amanda.

Some days we all just cry.

It's hard to admit this but some homeschool days are really bad.  It's particularly hard to admit in a place where people who don't agree with homeschooling might read it.  I can see a few homeschooling moms cringing and a few homeschooling critics looking a little smug.

But I don't think I'm alone in admitting that some days everyone ends up crying or angry.  Or both.  It could be over some difficult and/or boring math, or a writing assignment that seems pointless, or someone's bad mood that's infected everyone else.  It doesn't happen very often.

Days like these are the ones that make us question what we're doing.  "I'm ruining my kids!"  "This would never happen if they went to school!"  "Why am I doing this?"

We need to keep our focus on the big picture when this happens.  We need to remember the reasons we homeschool.  We need to look back on the good days and the progress our kids have made. Maybe we need to pray, or get out our most inspiring homeschool book to read, read a particularly encouraging homeschool-related blog or talk to a friend.

We need to remember that things would be different if we sent the kids off to school, but not necessarily better.  I suppose there are people who had a completely happy school experience and never had any tough days.  I don't think I know any. 

I cried when I was in school.  At school, after school, in the girls' bathroom or in my bedroom, I cried over all sorts of school-related problems:  Mean girls, horrid teachers, difficult and boring math (it's unavoidable, I guess), icky science labs.

The only difference was that my mother never knew.  She wasn't with me.   I cried alone.

It wasn't her fault that I was alone. That she was disconnected.  It was just the way it worked. 

My kids may have bad days at home, they may get angry and they may cry sometimes, but they don't have to do it alone.

Menu Plan Monday: September 13

It's another week for easy, quick meals for dinner.  I am anxiously awaiting cold weather so I can start making soups, stews, chili...  all those things my family really likes to eat. 

Well, we do like to grill.  Last week's plan to brine and then grill some  chicken worked out really well.  I think I will always try to brine my chicken before cooking it.  It really made grilled chicken breasts so much better.   Brining instructions are all over the place; try it out!

Now to this week:

Monday:  Chicken enchiladas, refried beans, coleslaw.  The recipe is called Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Enchiladas; I cut it out of the San Francisco Chronicle years ago.  Their description:  “Quick, simple, mindless.  The perfect antidote to the hustle-bustle of Thanksgiving.”  It also suits the hustle-bustle of our lives right now.  I happen to have some cooked chicken so I'm substituting.   

Corn Oil
8 Corn Tortillas
3 Cups Chopped Roasted Turkey Meat
2 Cups Purchased Green Salsa With Tomatillos
1/3 Cup Sour Cream
3/4 Cup Grated Monterey Jack Cheese (or Pepper Jack if you like it a little hotter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush a nonstick frying pan with a light film of oil and place over medium heat. When hot, fry the tortillas, one at a time, until just speckled with brown and softened on both sides (do not let them get crisp); transfer
to a plate.  Brush the pan with more oil as needed.

Stir together the turkey, 1 1/2 cups of salsa, and the sour cream.  Spoon equal amounts of this mixture down the center of the prepared tortillas, fold the sides of the tortillas over the filling, then place seam side down
in a baking dish.  Spoon the remaining salsa in a band across the enchiladas.  Sprinkle with the cheese. Cover tightly with foil.  

Bake for 15 – 20 minutres, until the enchiladas are heated through and the cheese is melted.  (I usually let them cook uncovered for a couple minutes to let the cheese get a little brown.)  Serves 3 or 4.

Tuesday: grilled dinner - salmonburgers, hamburgers, sausages... potatoes, green salad.

Wednesday:  Some sort of pasta.  No meat!  My family loves meat but we have to do without more often.  I would like to get to 2-3 meatless dinners a week but I think the 13-year-old boy might run away.

Thursday:  Pork tenderloin.  Grilled?  Pan-roasted?  Sliced and cooked in mustard sauce?  Or caper sauce?  Unlikely; I keep forgetting to buy capers.

Friday:  Pizza.

Saturday:  Uncertain.  There is a Renaissance Faire I'd like to go to; there might be food there!

Sunday:  roast chicken with the typical sides.

Have a great week of cooking; find some inspiration (or post your own) at Menu Plan Monday. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Tweaking the math

Tweak:  To make small adjustments, to fine-tune.

Isn't tweaking one of the great things about homeschooling?  We can tweak our curriculum constantly as our children's needs change.  We can ditch something that doesn't work in favor of something that does.  

Sometimes that's a not-so-great thing about homeschooling too.   We can spend a lot of time tweaking and never actually get anything done.  We can spend too much time searching for the perfect fix when using what we have and just getting to work might be the better choice.

Still, we have a lot of trouble with math in our house, and it was time to do some tweaking.  We'd been using one math curriculum for a long time.  I liked it; I think it was effective.  But it was getting boring and the kids were not really moving on well.   Math was becoming way too much of a chore. So I started looking for a way to tweak it.

And I met Fred.  I'd heard about the Life of Fred math series, but hadn't really paid attention to it.  I don't remember what made me take a deeper look. 

I don't have a local  homeschool store where I can go to hold books in my hand before buying, but online samples are almost as good.  I spent a lot of time looking at Fred, then I took the leap and ordered the first book, Fractions.  But I worried that my kids wouldn't get enough repetition and practice from it, so I skipped over to the Key To... math series and picked up their fractions books.

The first child went through the Fractions series and almost loved it. He loved Fred; he didn't love the drill and repetition of Key to Fractions so much.  But he learned it all pretty well.  He is ready to move to the next books, decimals and percents.  So we'll follow the same plan as we did with fractions. 

We had more tweaking still to do.  These books are helpful and necessary.  But this child is more interested in math concepts than he is in math computation. And better at it, too.  We can let him play around with math concepts as he works on his computation skills. We're treating them like two different subjects, in a way.  So I handed him a copy of Mathemathics:  A Human Endeavor to read as a pleasure book and discuss with Dad, the math person in the family.

Between the fun of Fred, the reinforcement of Key to..., some interesting reading, and time with Dad to talk math, I think we'll do OK for a while.

Till it's time to tweak again!

By the way, I bought the Life of Fred and Key to... books from the linked source, Exodus Provisions in Oregon City, Oregon. They don't compensate me for promoting their business. It is my favorite homeschool store, and if I still lived nearby, I'd be in there buying in person. (So thankful for internet shopping!)  If you live nearby, you should too!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday Morning Journal: September 11

Fall is in the air, and that means soccer early on a Saturday morning. Today is my girlie's first game of the season.  Other than a week-long skills camp, she hasn't kicked a soccer ball since last season. She is not a serious player.  I prefer it that way. Our family is not cut out for serious sports.   No travel for us!

This is also a solemn day, one to remember.  We lived on the west coast when the planes came down.  It was a horrible day, but not really real to us.  When we spent our first September 11 on the east coast, 6 years later, it became a little more real.  People here take it more personally, whether they knew someone who died or not. 

You can find some reading to remind you  here.  A picture that should make you cry can be seen here.

Still, we go on with our days.  What will you be doing today?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Weekly Wrap-up: The short edition

This was the week we finally got back into a homeschoolish routine.  We got out all the books and actually did some work in all of them.  We read and discussed the Declaration of Independence; we progressed in our Bible study (The Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study: A Complete Survey of the Bible). We read our new science books (Singapore Science) and even completed a couple of observations.  (My kids would not call them experiments because they didn't involve chemicals.)   We got back into Latin (Getting Started with Latin) and English and Math.

We also had a not-back-to-school beach trip.

We also finally got back to the gym. Our local Y has a youth program twice a week for ages 10-12 in which they learn the different machines, proper weight training techniques, and gym etiquette.  At age 13 they can start visiting on their own. I need to get my 13-year-old on a routine for visiting.  My 11-year-old is still confined to the youth class, much to her disgust.  It's a great way for them to build some habits that Mama never learned. We went sporadically over the summer, skipped a few weeks, but are working on getting back into the routine.

Next week our art and composition classes start up.  The Boy Scouts start meeting again; Girl Scouts won't be far behind.  My girl starts up with her new piano teacher too.  Oh, and soccer!   Busy weeks coming up.

We're also thinking of participating in Geography Bee.  Our local homeschool group is getting some people together for group study and practice.  Not sure if we can fit that into our lives but it looks like a lot of fun.    If anyone has anything to say about it, let me know in the comments.

So that is my weekly wrap-up and a look ahead.  Check out more wrap-ups and post your own at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. 

The cost of clutter. And, a Walmart fail.

Last week I discovered my teapot had broken.  I picked it up to clean the counter and it had a huge crack in it. Then it practically broke apart in my hands.

It wasn't a special teapot, nor my only one.  But it's the one we use most because it's the right size for our family when we all want tea.  It was (I thought) sturdy and it was easy to hold.  The spout did not drip as so many do.

I think it got cracked when someone (maybe me, maybe another family member) tried to cram one more thing on the counter it sits on and bashed it against the wall.   It's a counter I'm constantly fighting to keep clean.

Today we are all feeling a little sickly and it's a little cold so we need tea.  A warm drink is in order but coffee sounds terrible.  I had to to go Walmart anyway for a few things so I looked for a new teapot.  Couldn't find one.  I saw the tea kettles but no pots.  I asked the Walmart associate in the area where the teapots were; she looked at me like I was an idiot but then smiled and happily led me to the teakettles.  I said "no, I am looking for a teapot, not a kettle."  She looked at me again and said "teapot?"  Very slowly as if to be sure.  I said "yes, after you heat the water in the kettle you pour it into the pot with your tea."  She just shook her head.  I wondered what she was thinking as she walked away from me.  She was very polite.  I can't fault her behavior toward her customer.  I tried not to act stunned that a person working in a department store wouldn't know what a teapot is.  Or why a department store wouldn't carry one.

One of my teapots is this cute little elephant. It was a Christmas gift that my kids picked out for me when we were at the Stash Tea Store near Portland.  They have many, many beautiful pots!  I could linger in that store for a long time.  I bought it and pretended I forgot it when Christmas came. They played along nicely. It's a nice pot but a little small. My girl and I use it mostly for herbal or spicy teas that no one else likes.

This pretty pot was a gift from a friend.  A little fragile for daily use in my house.

Now you know what a teapot is.  Tell me about your favorite one.  And take good care of it, because being without the proper pot on a tea day is not a good thing.

Things I don't want to hear on the first cool-weather morning.

"Mom, none of my long pants fit!"

Turns out one pair fits.   Just one.  And it won't fit for long.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Not Back to School Day 2010: Island Beach State Park

When we began homeschooling, our family adopted a tradition of doing some special, fun thing when the public school year started.  Sometimes we went camping for a few days; most of the time we just went away for a long day trip. Usually we went to the beach.

When we moved three years ago, things changed a lot and we didn't have our not-back-to-school trip. I'm happy to say that yesterday we corrected that and went to the beach to celebrate the first day of school.

The beach in New Jersey is very different from the beaches in Oregon. This was only our second beach trip in the three years we've been here. That first trip was to Ocean City, a resort town with a popular beach and boardwalk. We were stunned and appalled by the beach there. My kids, used to deserted Oregon beaches, hated the crowds - umbrellas crammed so close together they were practically touching; a small swimming area with a lifeguard and no swimming outside the borders. No picnicking on the beach either! That rule was probably made to support the boardwalk businesses.

In any case, my beach-loving family has avoided the beach.

Then we heard about Island Beach State Park.   It looked like our kind of beach.  Quiet, secluded, concession-free.  Dogs are allowed in certain areas.


It was probably one of our most fun beach days ever.  We played in the water and sand, flew a kite, ran like crazy, and searched for shells.  There were a lot of shells. I don't know why we don't have pictures of shells.

Even teens need to build sand forts.

It was the first time we took our dog to the beach so it was fun watching him react to it.  He liked the water except when the waves were coming right at him. He can swim! And he loved it. He was one tired puppy on the way home.

We were all tired.

Island Beach is great discovery for people like us who prefer a quiet beach. There is an interpretive center; the rest of the family visited it for a few minutes while I stayed with the dog. It wasn't spectacular, but we have been to a lot of beach interpretive centers so maybe we're a little jaded. There are a few trails to walk but we just engaged in beach play till everyone was tired and the dog was being driven mad by flies.

We hope to go back. But even if we never make it back there, it was a great not-back-to-school day.

(Linked to Outdoor Wednesday at A Southern Daydreamer.)