Thursday, December 14, 2006

Holiday time

Lots of running around coming up as the holidays near.

I was up with a busy head at 5am today. Never a good idea, but I just couldn't help myself this morning!

Today is basically my last day at work on a marketing job I've been doing the past month. Lots of loose ends to wrap up and a report (and invoice-yea!) to write. I've been working since October and the kids have been very patient as I've been glued in front of my computer for hours on end.

So, today, work wrap up, Tae Kwon Do and a commitment tonight. Possibly some Christmas shopping.

Friday--Zack sees his OT, Katie has HS play practice and Zack has a b-day party that evening which we need a gift for.

Saturday--Katie has a piano recital and the HS Christmas play and party, which we need to bring food to.

Sunday--baking! And Pete's band has a show that night (


Tuesday--TKD and Scouts


Thursday--TKD belt tests

Friday--potluck TKD belt ceremony and Gma and Gpa come

Saturday--Church pageant rehearsal for Katie

Sunday--Christmas Eve!

Well, that's plenty to do but now seeing it all in one place I can see that there will be time to finish the shopping, bake the cookies, shop for and wrap the presents and buy and cook the food--oh yes, and Clean the House. Also, to watch Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, The Santa Clause, and the Grinch. And to read our many Christmas books.

and then Santa will come and we will unwrap and then catch a flight to Boston to see Pete's clan.

A little sprinkle of snow wouldn't hurt either--as long as it doesn't happen on any flying days. I have my drugs all ready for the flights. :-p

Hope you are filled with the spirit of the season. Happy holidays however you choose to celebrate them.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Here I am again

Did you think I abandoned the blog?

Well, pretty much for the last month. I was working on an event--90 days worth of work in 30 days--and it ate my life. We are now radical unschoolers, I guess, since I haven't done any "formal" lessons since October. Not that we're particularly formal as it is, so it wasn't this grand step off the cliff, but still, there wasn't much of a plan for giving up structure all together. But--that's life and here we are.

I need a list of what the heck we've been up to. It makes me feel better to keep track. Wait a sec while I pull out the calendar.....

OK, the last update here was Oct 20--wow, it really has been a whole month.

That weekend we planted trees at a park in Arlington as part of our church Working Together Weekend. This was the first time we've been able to participate and it was nice to get out there and get muddy. The ground was VERY hard. Our family was able to plant about 4 trees.

Katie and Zack took out and read every fall/Halloween book we owned. Then they had to clean up the big pile of books.

Some time that weekend or early the week of 10/22, I noticed a terrible smell coming from Zack's room. I realized that it smelled like animal marking. Spats (our old cat) did a lot of this when I first got him, so I know the smell really well. The only attic access is in Zack's room and that meant something was probably living up there--YIKES! Wednesday, the exterminator came and it's only mice. He threw a bunch of baits around the attic and it should be all handled in a couple of months. I still had this great enzyme spray that we used to clean the rug when Spats was so sick before we put him to sleep. While the guy was up there, I used his ladder to spray all around and the smell was gone by that evening. That spray is great!

Friday, 10/27 was Boo at the Zoo. In the rain. Kate, Zack and Pete had a great time. I had a wet time but that was fine.

We didn't do a lot of the things we normally do for Halloween--my favorite holiday. No time to go to the Corn Maize, pumpkin patch or Cox farms. This year I barely got all our decorations up. We did add a nice witch to our collection and we got pumpkins at a school fundraiser. Carving happened the day before Halloween and I had candy and pretzels already bought for the event.

We made 2 Halloween pies and Zack and Katie made decorations for our Friday homeschool group's Halloween party. We also made a mystery box of eyeballs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The party was terrific and a nice break from the work-grind for our family.

Here's what our Halloween decorations and costumes looked like:
A disappointing turn-out for Trick-or-Treating. Have to wonder if going house to house is a dying tradition. Too bad. I love to see all the costumes.

I had to work wall to wall the following week but we did get to Tae Kwon Do and Piano lessons. We skipped HS groups and one planned field trip :-(

11/6, off to Florida for my event! The flights were cheap enough for all of us to go. Katie and Zack were excited to fly again. I got my usual drugs, so I was ok with the flight too.

K&Z went to camp our only full day at the resort. They had a great time and the bad weather didn't spoil their vacation at all. My event went well and Pete was able to work from the room reasonably well.

We got back on Wednesday and the next day Pete headed out to Paris for his company's annual meeting. We were all going to go, but it didn't work out. Just as well since Pete was tied up most of the time anyway.

Other things I remember but don't know when exactly we did them--
We took out the Dr. Dreadful and Easy bake oven and the kids made some goodies; we had a play date with a family and the mom also cuts our hair--which was desperately needed; we ate too much McDonalds; the Boy Scouts went to the Navy Yard and also did their Scouting for Food drive. We tried the mentos in coke experiment to reasonably impressive results; played LOTs of board games; did one chapter in the math books; started reading the Story of the World (or just read more of it, I don't remember when we started; Zack almost finished one of the computer games that covers the whole 3rd grade curriculum; Katie took up sewing. Katie decided we should make kites one day. Lots of designs were tried but we had a hard time getting past a spinning problem. There was a Girl Scout dance last Friday.

All in all, we kept pretty busy.

I hope to be more regular in updating this but never can tell what the coming priorities will be.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Wow, who's out there?

Have you noticed the nice little map on the sidebar? It counts up how many hits this blog gets and where they are from. I just noticed three new dots, one in Europe (ok, I am STILL awful at geography and won't know exactly where that one is until I pull out the globe), one in So. America and one in Washington state. Pretty sure I know who the US one us, but who are the rest of you? And the dot in India.

Please leave comments! (Even you local folks!) I am always dumbstruck that anyone is reading this thing.

My schedule has been packed and I'm hoping to stay home today and spend time with just us. May even pass on our Friday group today. We are all wound up and I feel like we've hardly seen each other.

I'm working and either have had a phone to my ear, or my butt in front of the computer all week unless we're at an activity. Pete has been working or running around. Nights that he's been home, I've been out and vice versa. Katie and Zack have been mostly doing their own thing, when I'm not running them off to something.

We will all be going to Florida while I'm working my event. Pete will also work from there but we should get some time together, especially on the last day when I'm done and I think Pete plans to take the day off. The second day we're there, the kids will go to the resort's camp. I haven't decided if they need to go all day, but probably. Not entirely happy with that but I'll be working and Pete will get cranky with them while he's trying to get work done in the room.

I did survive my first Brownie Meeting as leader. It was insane. We had 10 Brownies, a parent with each and several siblings. There is a ton of paperwork for parents to fill out the first night. Next Monday's meeting should be a bit calmer. I'll have one parent and two older GScouts to help and only Brownies to deal with. I'm actually not sure what all my helpers will be doing but it's nice to have the help.

Pete is off to Chicago with the band Sunday-Tuesday. He'll be off to Paris the day after we get back from Florida.

Never a dull moment.

And the miracle of homeschooling is still going on around here. Katie continues reading chapter books on her own. Their addition has markedly improved. They are building things and making up stories. The only complaint is that they are not getting much time with me. I'm also seeing a lot more bickering amongst all of us and I think it's a sign of stress.

So--much as I hate to miss it, we will skip Friday group today. I will also skip the Smithsonian Teacher night tonight and we already missed the members preview of the Zoo's new Asia trail early this morning. And we'll have a very nice day and take care of ourselves and our house.

It really is fine to do this. It's just my social anxiety about not showing up that everyone will forget who I am. I really am a million times better with the group dynamics thing than I used to be, but it does creep up on me, especially when I'm stressed. So, time for another dose of deep breathing and getting out of my head. :-)

Also, time to get off the computer.

May you have a serene day too.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

New Pictures

At last the camera software is working on my computer again! Here are some recent pictures:

Zack's picture and poem from our trip to Port Discovery

Katie's poem and picture from Port Discovery

Some recent artwork of Katie's

Dolls made from Iris leaves (we didn't have any corn husks handy)

A nice picture I took at the Wash. Mon.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Well, after a MAJOR system crash, I have almost everything on my computer working again and can spare some time to get this blog back on track.

I can tell I'm more relaxed about HSing this year. Don't feel the need to update this with details on how well we are learning all the time. I do like to fill in anyone listening on our doings but don't feel so defensive about it anymore. Nice!

Tons going on and more coming up. I just signed a 30-day contract to put together a couple of events. It will entail two trips to Florida and possibly a trip to Boston and crunching what I'd normally take 90 days to get done into a month.

I officially started yesterday and I've already had to bail out on our Friday group, much to the disappointment of Kate and Zack (and me too). Sat the kids down after my conf call and explained that it is going to be a very hectic month and we may miss quite a few of our regular activities. I asked them to tell me when they're feeling angry or disappointed or whatever. I hope they will.

My work will be to remember I didn't sign on to be available for work 24/7 and to balance our regular activities with my job. That's hard for me but will be a learning experience for us all--as always! I also need to remember to reach out to other HS families. I can be so shy about asking for help and this is an opportunity to get over myself.

So, what have we been up to in the past month....
  • We went to Williamsburg and Great Wolf Lodge. We all loved it. I wish I had been more organized about the Colonial Williamsburg piece, but we had a good time roaming around on our own. It was HS week and the tickets were cheapo, so we splurged on period costume rentals for the kids and they enjoyed that a lot, particularly my performer Katie. Children in costumes get a lot of special attention from the costumed guides in the town and Katie ate this up. They also had letters from a "resident" and errands to run for her. One was to help the gardener water the plants.

Here are some snaps from the day--taken with my new do-everything cell phone:

  • Boy Scouts started for Zack with a trip to the zoo.
  • I am officially the new Brownie Leader and we'll start next week
  • Made two trips to the African Art Museum and I can't believe we didn't get to that sooner. Interesting about that trip was how well the kids did in an art museum.
  • Afterwards we went to the Hirschorn and they enjoyed that too. This is a big change from previous years when they mostly wanted to hear their voices echo off the walls. We can go to art museums now! I am very thrilled with this.
  • Port Discovery, the children's museum in Baltimore had a free HS day so we went to that. I'm never that thrilled with children's museums but I didn't mind it for free and the kids enjoyed it.
  • Tae Kwon Do takes up a big chunk of our Tues and Thurs and I am not quite so sore after each class.
  • We are delving into "The Story of the World" and I'm hoping to jump off that to some practical activities. So far Katie and Zack have been interested in the stories but not looking more in-depth. We are barely into the book and I think once we're into the Egyptians they'll want to start trying out some of the things (maybe making a mummy...)

There are tons of activities we've had to pass on--an art class, drama class, pottery class, assorted field trips and plays. It's hard to say no to all of these wonderful things but we are overloaded already and work will make this all the more difficult. It's a constant winnowing of the best from all of the good.

Hope you are enjoying the fall. All the rain can get me down but the crisp cool days make up for it.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Remembering 5 years ago

Pict: the kids in 2001

Spent the morning watching CNN's internet stream rebroadcast of their 2001 Sept 11 coverage. It was strange how naive everyone was, thinking for so long that it was an accident. I forgot how long it took to put it all together. It was still pretty horrifying to watch. Kate and Zack each spent a little time in my office watching a bit of the coverage. As soon as they stopped in I let them know that it wasn't happening right now and if it was upsetting that they didn't need to watch, but they took it very in stride. They don't remember a world where this sort of attack doesn't happen and I think that's one of the reasons it's not quite a shocking to them. I'm sure they also don't fully grasp the big picture but they look at it like I look at Pearl Harbor--oh, that's terrible but not OMG I can't believe it.

I also forgot that Katie Couric was the main anchor for NBC's coverage since it happened during the Today show. Sure that played into her current CBS job.

Lots of memories from that day came back up. I won't go through a blow by blow but some interesting thoughts came up today. I put the kids in for a nap that day and it was funny to realize that I must have done that at 9am because I was on the TV from that time on and I didn't turn it on until the kids were in their rooms. I'm sure they picked up on the high pitched energy and slept it off. They didn't wake up until Pete came home as the second tower came down around 10:30am. Also remember heading over to the school playground around the 13th so I could get out of the house. I brought my radio with me so I could keep on top of any late breaking threats. It was so quiet with no airplanes going overhead and hardly any traffic on the nearby highway. They next day Pete went back in to work we headed in to the Smithsonian Museums, which were empty. DC was deserted. I was interviewed by Voice of America but doubt I got on the air since I expressed such opposition to the bombing in Afghanistan. (bananastand)

Otherwise, we are having a nice day with nothing planned. We don't get many of these, so I'm trying to take advantage of it. We played games--Sorry, B-dimon, Uno, Scrabble. I read good things about the kids games on the Colonial Williamsburg site and they played on that for a good while. The main game is a lot like Hangman and it was fun. Now they're working together on the Shrek book on their Leapfrog. Glad they are still getting use out of that.

They are very resistant to doing any math after last year's debacle, so I'm going to wait a bit before diving into anything formal. After I finish this, they'll get out their Dr. Dreadful candy kit and the EZ bake and make some treats and we'll let the measuring count as math for today.

In older news, since it's been a while since I updated this, The Marts came to browse through the American History Museum before it closes for two years of renovation. We had been looking forward to the Muppet exhibit but it was even smaller than I had expected and it was pretty disappointing for me and, I think, all the adults. The kids had a good time though.

The VaHomeschoolers Conference went very well and I was glad I had helped out. The whole family had a great time at the museums, spent some money on new materials, hung out together and met lots of people we only knew online. There is a terrific sense of community at this conference and it was helpful to know that we are not alone. (for more on this see:

After the Conf. in Richmond, the kids and I headed down to NC to spend another week with Gma and Gpa. Unfortunately, hurricane Ernesto decided to visit as well. Turned out to be not much of a deal and we only lost one day at the beach which we spent visiting nanny at the nursing home, going to a movie (Barnyard--not as bad as I expected), and shopping.

So, with our tans freshened up, we are back to our fall "routine."

Looks like the schedule is going to be packed and I will have to try very hard to get a good amount of at-home time.

Mondays--I have be coerced into being the Brownie Leader this year, so now both Katie and I will have a Monday activity.

Tuesdays--The big day--Tae Kwon Do and Boy Scouts and once a month our coop pick up. Field Trips and Park Day also fall on Tuesdays but we will not get these in every week.

Wed--Katie's piano lesson, family yard work in the afternoon

Thurs--Tae Kwon Do and probably our weekly zoo visit. Possibly a games class at the Arlington Y, but I'm going to wait on this and see how they do after TKD.

Friday--Friday group.

Sundays--Sunday school/Church

I've also planned for us to go to Williamsburg and a play next week, an art trip and trip to Baltimore the following week, and Boo and the Zoo, a trip to Mississippi to help with hurricane relief and another play in the coming months. So, busy busy busy. All good but I have to keep my wits about me so that we use our unplanned time well.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The End Is Near

The end of summer is almost here. Although I really don't consider it over until the warm weather disappears. We pretty much do what we do regardless of the calendar. But, the end of scheduled summer is upon us and it does make me pause and marvel at how quickly the past three months went by. I wonder sometimes if summer seems to go on forever for Katie and Zack the way it went on for me at their age but I suspect that it is a faster moving world for them. Now for me, I'm just getting old.

Last week was full of stuff.

We, at last, used our Hershey Park tickets. I prefer going on Tuesdays and now I know just why. We had to go on Monday this time and the lines were crazy! I can't imagine what it must be like on weekends. Pete and Zack got some good time together as the rollercoaster team. Katie and I go for tamer, but just as fun, fare. Katie can spin endlessly, so I would go with her on the first ride and then watch her for the next 4 turns. However, THIS year I did not inflict the Tilt-a-Whirl on myself, which I can barely watch without getting nauseated! Katie and Zack are on the Whip in the picture. I love this ride. I would have been a very daring amusment park goer in the 40s :-)

Tuesday we were wiped out from Monday and we had a pajama day and just lazed around. I think the kids went to bed around 7:30, a record for the summer.

Wednesday, Katie went on a playdate at Mai's (after we waited around for an hour for her to come to us and then called to find out that Mai's mother had made other plans and didn't bother to tell us--not my favorite family to deal with). Zack and I went for a bike ride--I looked ridiculous. I don't have a bike, so I donned Katie's helmet and jumped on her bike. I received many stares. I have GOT to get a bike. That night, Pete and I took advantage of Restaurant Week to go out for a fancy dinner at Dish in Foggy Bottom. It was great and we had a chance to talk through a ridiculous argument we'd had earlier in the week. We discovered that tough conversations are so much nicer with good food.

Thursday is a blank.....feel like we did something but have no idea what...hmmm--wait, that's the day we went to a library program and collected the kids' coupons books. The summer reading program isn't a reading incentive for us (they read far more than 15 books with no promise of a prize) but I noticed they could get the coupons, so filled in the latest 15 books they' read and went over to collect. There was a nice program that day. They got to make lots of different games, instruments and picture books. That was nice.

Friday, the kids and I went to the Arlington County Fair with some friends. Their web site touted canning competitions, pig races and pony rides, so I was expecting something more farm-like. It turned out to be mostly midway games and carnival rides (none to cheap but not horrible). The heat was unbelievable and I was a bit disappointed. No big, Kate and Zack had a terrific time, and why not--they both got to get scrambled on the Tilt-a-Whirl again--that's twice in one week! We had to rush home from the Fair to clean up, get Pete and grab a little dinner at McD's before heading out to an outdoor screening of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Love the screenings in Bethesda. There were tons of things to keep the kids busy while waiting for the sun to set. They made spin art, sand art, they got waterless tattoos, played ball-toss games for prizes. We came home with a nice bag of goodies, all for my favorite price--Free!

Sunday was another lazy morning, then we headed out to Burke to go to Kohl's for some clothes for Pete and to go to the only remaining Friendlys in the area. Unfortunately, it took about 45 minutes to get our food and another 20 to get our desserts (which were the reason we went in the first place, so didn't want to skip them). We got one lame excuse after the next and never saw the manager who was promised therefore our waitress go a terrible tip, which is too bad for her since we usually are great tippers. Think we'll just go to Baskin Robbins next time.

And now it's Monday and less than a week until the VaHomeschoolers Conference (have you registered yet? ;-).


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Cycling Picts

For our next trick, we'll be heading out to a biking trail and have a whole biking/picnic day. Zack is still riding the 14" bike because his feet don't quite touch the ground on the 16", so I'll use his bike until I get one of my own.

What a lesson in waiting until they were ready. I literally took 30 minutes with each holding the back of the bike and they were off to the races!

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Yes, we have two wheeled bike riders! Pete and I were feeling totally inadequate as parents, having not taught our kids how to ride their bikes yet. We live on a very steep hill and so it takes a trip up the hill to the school parking lot to get some space to ride flat.

It's not that we haven't taken them on their bikes at all, but it was pretty rare that we wanted to go and the kids wanted to try at the same time.

But this summer I was determined to get them up on a bike. Plus, I learned the secret--teach them how to keep from falling. [Brilliant!] I was advised to teach them the V, which Kate and Zack decided was more like an A. Basically sticking their feet out at the same time so that however the bike fell their feet should hit the ground first.

Previously, I'd been trying to teach them how to ride. Now, at my parents, on a bike that was just a bit too small, I taught them what to do if they started to fall. Once they got this down (in about 15 minutes) they were more than happy to pop on the bike and go!

Since then, Pete has been taking them up to the school and riding around with them. Now I need to get a bike so we can go on some of the bike paths.

In other news we've been taking it pretty easy for the summer days. It was super hot for a couple of weeks. We've hit some free movies at a local theatre, caught the ooky exhibit and the DAR and found that it was a very interesting museum all around, took in some library programs, spent a day in Baltimore at the aquarium and science museum, shopped at the farmers market and Katie started up piano lessons again. We went to pools with friends and also got to see our cousins from Africa and friends in from Australia.

Still to come, we need to use our Hershey Park tickets. Then there's the VAHomeschoolers Conference in a few weeks, off to a last visit with Gma and Gpa and that's the summer!

Fall is beginning to take shape:
Katie shocked us by saying that she wants to take a year off from ballet this year! I was stunned and also happy that I didn't buy her new dance shoes at the end of last season. I told her she has to have a sport and she's decided to try Tae Kwon Do along with Zack. Yay--one less place to drive.

So, that will be Tae KD probably on Tues and Thurs, Piano on Wed, and our regular Friday group, plus we have to work field trips in (Tuesday class is going to conflict with those, so not sure what we'll do about that yet).

Zack has decided to play the drums but wants to do it himself for now. We're going to let him alone about it and just set up the drums downstairs as soon as he clears a space in the mess down there. We learned from the piano lessons experience that it's best to have him play around on his own. He barely touches the piano anymore, just wasn't interested in having to learn specifics yet.

I've already dropped out of one field trip group and am hoping to limit the amount of running around we're doing but it's definitely a challenge.

Ofcourse, as I dropped one group, I picked up another group. REACH is run out of the Fredericksburg area, but the woman who runs it gets amazing discounts and group rates all over VA. We're heading to Williamsburg in September and if that's the only thing we do with them, we will have saved more than we spent to join the group.

So, the challenge again will be balancing the structure I need to get things done around here, like laundry and gardening and the unstructured time for discovery that we love so much and time for friends, time for family and time time time. :-)

For now, we will enjoy the last lazy days of summer.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Why I should listen to that little voice....

...that told me two weeks of camp was too long.

They had a great first week--raving about it every day. The second week was exactly like the first except that they had already done all that stuff plus Katie's "boyfriend" decided not to be her friend for the second week (I think he got tired of being teased). It was also very hot and the leaders got tired of coming up with stuff to do that would be both fun and not in danger of throwing everyone into heat shock.

Oh well. It wasn't terrible, just not worth it. Will find a one-week camp for next year, or just skip the whole thing.

That first week worked out well because I was working and didn't have to worry about what the kids were doing and that was good for all of us.

So, I don't have much to report, since I wasn't with the kids much. They did have the Boy Scout raingutter regatta last week and they made some nice boats to race. Zack won his first race but didn't place in the end. Katie was the only sibling to race, so she was the winner! She won one race too. Everyone got a patch and dinner at the BBQ and it was a nice evening.

This week, I'm working again, so not too many activities. Lot of errands on Tuesday and we also went to the free movie in Kingstown. It was Curious George this week, which we had already seen, so I brought a book with me to read by the light of the film and it worked out well.

Zack and Katie's boats:

And another lego creation from Zack:

Lots on our list to do in the next few weeks, including seeing friends from our Friday group, which has been spotty this summer, Park Day, a lot of overdue playdates, swimming, the ooky exhibit and the American History Museum before it closes in September.

And then it will be fall again. Don't blink!

Monday, July 10, 2006


Everyone I know with a blog or personal Web site puts pictures of their kids on it, so I'm beginning to think that I'm being paranoid for no reason.

You may, or may not, have noticed that I never show the kids' faces on this site. I don't really know why. It just made me feel uneasy somehow.

But it would be an easy way for friends and family to see new snaps of them, and, really, who else is coming here anyway?

So, I'm looking for comments on why or why not to include pictures of Katie and Zack.

I'm told you no longer need to register in order to leave a comment but let me know if you encounter any problems.

Oh yes--I also have a counter on the site now. It will put a dot on the world map to show where you are. So, if you're ever in a far-flung place, check out my site and make the map more interesting ;-)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Long Time No Post

Has it really been almost a month since my last post?

Time is in its usual summer overdrive and I've been incredibly busy, overbooked and stressed out for no good reason. Always dangerous when I'm spending my time thinking about what I need to do in three weeks rather than what I need to do today.

So, June....

Here are some random recent projects:

Katie had her dance recital on 6/10. I worked backstage this time and had a blast helping with the lighting and filling in wherever needed during the show.

Katie was in three numbers this year, with three different costumes. She did very well and looked so grown up.

***caution--religion is about to be discussed--if you cannot deal with views that differ from your own, kindly skip to the next paragraph***
The next day we had a communion party to go to, so I took the opportunity to talk to Katie and Zack about what that ritual means to Catholics. When we started both told me that they believed in Jesus (like you might believe in the tooth fairy) and I had to explain that it wasn't a question of believing that Jesus existed but whether he was the only son of God, etc. I told the Easter story and they decided that the coming back from the dead part sounded kind of silly. I let them know that some people believe one thing, some another and that I thought that Jesus was a very important, spiritual guy but not the ONLY one that God gave special gifts to. In any case, I told them that it was an important day for their friend, so to be respectful of her beliefs and that it probably wouldn't come up anyway. It didn't. We had a nice day and wonderful food.

Next day off to Hanover, PA to see our friends, the Mart's new house. [Where should that apostrophe go anyway....] It's giant! The pool water was only 67 degrees, but that did not stop the kids from diving in. Brrr! Sadly, Pete couldn't come but the kids and I had a nice day.

Wednesday was Kate's last piano lesson until August and Zack's last piano lesson for good. He hasn't been enjoying it for a while now and I don't see any sense in forcing it.

Katie plays every day. She doesn't always do the work assigned but as long as she's playing and doing it on her own, she does fine when lesson time comes around. Zack says he wants to play the tuba, so I have to look into that. Don't they want kids to be older before starting brass instruments?

Somewhere in here, Pete's band, The Jet Age, finished their newest record and they are planning to tour in October.

Off to the NC grandparents for two weeks. Had a fabulous time. Spent a lot of time at the beach, went to Dixie Stampede--there was a special price for Father's Day and Katie and Zack were picked to be in the show!!! They had to chase a chicken across the finish line. They had a very lazy chicken and the other team won, but everyone got a medal anyway.

Zack got very anxious right before they were supposed to go on and he looked like he might cry but then the handler got him excited and he went out and had a lot of fun. Katie was thrilled and didn't have any problem getting out there--ofcourse, no surprise there!

We also went to the Ripley's Aquarium
and touched a stingray and a horseshoe crab. We saw both diving shows and even got to see the Dragon at Dragon's Lair through the window of the restaurant instead of standing in the blazing heat of the sun. They have loved that dragon since they first saw it when they were about 2 years old.

I had a grand plan to stop at the Virginia Science Center in Richmond on the way home, see the spaces that will be used for the VA Homeschoolers Conference [have you registered yet?] and meet the coordinators. Pete booked a train to come meet us in Richmond too. A great plan until I got in my car and it was dead, dead, dead. We finally got the battery to take a jump but obviously I didn't give it long enough to charge--I should have listened to my mother--and it died again just outside my folk's neighborhood. AAA-more jumps-many phonecalls-a lot of advice from passing friends-at last we got the car running and off we went to Richmond an hour and 1/2 later than expected.

Happily the people I was meeting were very flexible and understanding and I now know what the sites look like and the kids, theirs and mine, had a good time exploring the museum together.
In the meantime, Pete's train broke down and he showed up about two hours later than expected, so he didn't get to the museum. We picked him up at the train station and decided to head for Fredericksburg to Sammy T's, a favorite restaurant there. We had a leisurely dinner, browsed in a bookstore and got home late and tired.

July 4th, back to Hanover and the Mart's for a BBQ, swim and good conversation. And, it turned out that they have a terrific view of the local fireworks right from their front yard! Another late night but worth it.

There was a library program on 7/5 and Katie was picked to play the flowers in Little Red Ridinghood.

Yesterday, we helped friends mix clay and apply it to the walls of their strawbale structure. They are using the clay from their own yard, so it needs to be sifted, mixed with sand and mixed with water to make the clay and then it gets mushed into the straw to plaster the walls. Very messy fun work but slow-going and I'm glad that it's not my job to get the whole thing done. It will be a great room when it's done though and it was a blast to be able to help.

This week, we're also going over some math problems so we can take those two sections of the CAT test again. No surprise that they have been getting all of the review questions correct. More proof that it was me being a nut case and not their understanding of addition and subtraction that gave them trouble the last time. We'll probably take the test again over the weekend.

Next year I am going to look into an evaluation rather than testing, which should save my nerves a bit of fraying.

So, we're all caught up.

The kids have camp for two weeks, starting Monday and I have a million things on my list to get done. Hope to get at least one or two actually done.

Hope your summer is going slow and easy. --Liz

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Support is a great thing

I am so grateful for support groups and friends. After the CAT test debacle, I spoke to several people and got just what I needed. The best advice was to apologize to the kids for putting them in that situation to begin with.

Yesterday, I sat them down and explained that I hadn't listened to them, hadn't prepped them, and I was simply acting like a crazy mommy while we took the math section of the test. They agreed and also accepted my apology.

We're going to take those two sections of the test again and get a better idea of how we look when we've all had a good night's rest, some practice beforehand, I let them write in the books this time and I don't act like a maniac.

And all is well again at home and in my head.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Julie, Jennifer, Pete, Stephanie, Nanci and everyone else who listened, advised, helped and reminded me that there are very few genuine big deals.

Monday, June 05, 2006

How I got my kids to hate math

Math math math

My constant worry since launching into HSing.

We started the year with a great computer program, which the kids really liked and were basically able to self-direct. Then something happened--someone asked them a math question off the cuff, I don't remember who or what the question was about but I do remember a sense of panic when they gave the wrong answer. OMG, they'll never learn math! I'm screwing this whole thing up!

So--off to the chat groups and on line research and up pops Math-U-See. It comes with manipulatives (fancy name for small blocks), workbooks, a CD and DVD! What could be better?

Well I could have been better. The program is fine but anything done with a sense of panic or rabid need to prove to the world that I'm not screwing up my kids is going to crash and burn.

We did math EVERY DAY for as long as it took to finish those worksheets--sometimes that meant we didn't do anything else for the day. [Don't I remember thinking that all those public school worksheets were stupid make-work?] We did ALL of the review sheets, even if the first two were a breeze, we still did the third one, then we took the test. We harped on a problem even if it was unintelligible to one or both children. WE WERE GOING TO GET THIS--and I was going to make it happen. Yuck.

How I freaked out my kids about an easy test that I didn't care about

So on to the CAT test we need to submit to the county.

After drilling and grilling the kids for 6 months on math I was sure they knew everything backwards and forwards.

I was dying to get the testing over with and I launched us into the math sections with gusto. Never mind that Zack had been sick earlier in the week, never mind that they were both yawning and groaning, never mind that they didn't seem to understand how to use scratch paper and not write anything in the books (stupid rule).

The test was like sending them to Mars for an hour. I loomed over them, watching them do every problem and stressing out every time they did anything wrong. When they had unexpected trouble with the first section, we plowed through the second section anyway. I didn't even do this for the curriculum tests, I was actually able to leave them to their work on those.

All in all, their test results won't reflect what they actually know, just how they take a standardized test with a crazy mom as a proctor. [Don't I remember pulling them from school because of the deeply stupid standardized tests?]

Well, everything will be fine. Their scores won't draw national attention (to me) but they will certainly be fine enough to graduate to third grade.

And the universe, once again, provides the opportunity to learn the lesson that there's more than one way and IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT ME.

I hate that ;-)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The trials of friends

I love the fact that Katie is such a loyal friend, but when she gives that loyalty to a child that doesn't give back it just kills me to watch it.

This has been the case with a little girl named Mai, who was inseparable from Katie in Kindergarten but grew more and more distant as 1st grade wore on. She began to ignore Katie's invitations for playdates and to exclude her when playing with other girls. Katie clearly became the fall back friend.

I have had many conversations with Kate about how she should expect to be treated by friends, especially since she tries so hard to do right by others. In the case of Mai, this has always fallen on deaf ears.

So, I shouldn't have been surprised that when, after not hearing from Mai since September (Katie called several times as school started but Mai never returned the calls), Mai suddenly called last night to ask when Katie's birthday party would be. Katie immediately gave her all the details.

I do credit Kate with growth for at least asking Mai why she hadn't returned the calls, but she was so happy to hear from her that she accepted the "I forgot" excuse very readily. [OK, so the kid does have a promising future as a Bush political appointee, but still...]

Once again, I mentioned the hurt feelings and treatment she has received but Katie tells me that she still chooses to be friends with Mai (her exact words). Worse, I can't even talk to the mother because she doesn't speak English.

I know Katie has to walk through this herself and learn what she needs to learn from it but it really pisses me off!

Thank God for friends who let me vent over the phone after the kids went to bed! [Thank you Julie and Jennifer.] I know that the more I stick my nose in this relationship, the tighter Katie will hold onto it--can't imagine where she got that trait from!--but I will need to make lots of calls to friends in order to keep my mouth shut.

OK, thanks for hanging in there for that rant.

In other news:
Zack lost another tooth so now he has a blank on either side of his two front teeth. He has done everything to earn his Wolf Cub badge and he'll move onto Bears next year. He is very proud of fixing his Ravenclaw transformer all by himself, without the directions--a feat of engineering completely beyond my skill set.

Katie is in three dances in her recital this year. She has earned 8 Brownie Try-Its (badges), 3 patches and a few pins and she will be going camping for the first time this weekend--yes, rain is expected. She has a tooth holding on by the narrowest margin and I can't believe it's still in. She is creating artwork by the ream and has an interest in cooking and gardening and has been looking into both so she can do it herself.

More on math in another post, but we have made it through all that we need to do the CAT tests, which we will start up in the next couple of days. After that, our official school year is over, although our day-to-day lives won't seem much different.

Some of what we've done since my last post:
--The Boston trip:
*We got to spend a lot of time with our nephew/cousin Pascal Simon (pass-kal-see-moan), who is adorable at 10 months old and I couldn't believe how friendly he was, considering he didn't know us at all.
*We took the baby to Concord for the day, so his parents could finish packing for their move to Switzerland and got to talk about the Shot Heard Round the World, saw a cool cemetery and nice shops.
*Went up to Gloucester to a great restaurant called the White Rainbow to hear Mike Leggio play. I noted that the pianist curled his fingers just like their teacher keeps demonstrating. Late night for the kids but we all loved it. Nice when the food AND the music are both terrific.
*We spent a day at gma and gpas which had it's ups and downs but for the most part was a nice time for Katie and Zack and they got to show off their piano playing.
*We met with some friends for breakfast and walked around Boston Commons in the freezing cold for a while.
*We stopped in NYC for the afternoon to have lunch with more friends and to walk around my old neighborhood, which now sports cafes and boutique hotels, but I suspect you can still hear the shots from Chinatown and that there are still mice in the 5 floor walkup I used to live in and the intercom still doesn't work.

Katie and Zack still had Spanish class, Brownies, Cub Scouts, piano, swim, library, nature class, and Friday group.

We went to Riverbend park with the young Xplorers group, a Faerie festival--which was nice but too far away for me at 2 hours each way, a Heathen HSers meet up, and some other places I've forgotten about.

Also, Uncle Phil came through on his way down to SC. Everyone was very excited to see him and the kids showed off all their latest projects and favorite things.

I'll be working for a few weeks this month and again in July and so far it has blended in well with everything else, although I will be relieved when the testing is over and I can let the structure go for a while.

Well, now we're all caught up. More on Math later. ;-)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Come Out and Play

We suddenly live in a neighborhood where kids come to the door and ask if Kate and Zack can come out and play. I am so pleased with this! It seemed like people didn't let their kids outside anymore and I'm glad that they do still knock at the doors of their friends.

But it's also driving me out of my mind!

Naturally, now that kids are coming to our door, Kate and Zack want to knock on their friends' doors too. Great, but what exactly is going on at these houses? Are parents at home? How long should they stay? Do all parents welcome knocks on their doors? This is a new world that I'm having to ramp up on quickly.

I also realized that even though I've talked to the kids about the dangers of smoking, I haven't said much about drinking and drugs. I also realized that even though I've talked about the dangers, I never said that these substances are STRICTLY NOT ALLOWED! So this week I took some time to ask the kids what they would do if they were offered a smoke or a pill--happily they said they would say no--and I said in no uncertain terms that they are not allowed to say yes to this. Whew!

Fine, but now they're off by themselves, with people I don't know very well beyond chit chat, doing who knows what!

I am breathing deeply and giving myself some time to get accustomed to this next step into independence. I miss them when they're off playing, but also like the chance to sit and read the newspaper. Will just take some getting used to.

And they are growing up too fast.

Monday, April 10, 2006

No need to rush

I feel like we haven't had a second to catch our breaths lately. What have we been up to? I know there's tons we HAVEN'T been getting done, so I guess it's a good time to figure out what we HAVE been getting done.

Our weekly schedule, despite my desire to keep it open, has filled up considerably.
Mondays--Spanish Class and Brownies
Tuesdays--Try for a field trip and Scouts
Wednesdays--I have yoga, kids have swim class and library
Thursdays--Nature class and dance for Katie
Fridays--Piano and HS group
Sundays--Sunday school

I couldn't resist the Nature class though. It's 10 weeks, cheap, nearby and very hands-on. I also get an hour and 1/2 to myself to run errands.

Last week I tried to take the kids to the Sully Plantation for a field trip but it turned out that they are closed on Tuesdays. We were able to walk the grounds though and we found there were hiking trails on the property. We had a great time. We were the only people on the place and the weather was cool but perfect for hiking around.

Again I had to say over and over to myself "don't rush them, let them move at their own pace." I have to repeat it like a mantra on most of our trips. I have no idea what this urge to rush is about.

I was mostly successful in letting the kids set the pace and the benefit was that they had time to play on a teeter-totter made of a plank over an old tree and they had a terrific time.

Since we didn't go on the tour, we had lunch in the car after our hike and then went a few feet down the road to the Udvar-Hazy Center to see the planes and space shuttle. There is always something new there, since it is very new and they are still putting together their exhibits. This trip there was a display on the current war and the planes being used and also a piece of the Pentagon and WTCs from the 9-11 attacks. The kids had some tough questions about why people would fly planes into buildings and especially since the attackers were also killed. I answered as best I could about bad guys and strong beliefs. I also told them that is was very hard to explain and understand. Told them I felt bad that they won't know a world where this never happened.

Zack has earned another cub scout belt loop in computers that we got at the Blue and Gold dinner. Looks like he will get a swim loop and pin, a Wolf badge and a couple of arrow points by the end of this season.

Next week we are off to Boston to see Pete's brother and family off to their new home in Switzerland. I'm also hoping we can do some of the Freedom Trail if the weather cooperates. We'll swing by NYC on our way back and hopefully hook up with some friends there too.

Today we're off back to Sully to do the tours and get another Time Travelers stamp, then it's math this afternoon and reading our chapter books.

Hopefully this week we can also get into the garden and pull some weeds and start up our Ivy Pull again.

Friday, April 07, 2006


I love TiVo. We are able to watch Liberty's Kids again without commercials (when I sit there and skip them), don't miss ZOOM or Between the Lions anymore and one of the kids' favorite shows is now The Brady Bunch.

Now they can watch and I don't have to wonder what they'll be seeing--and in the case of the Brady Bunch, ofcourse there is always a valuable lesson ;-)

Monday, March 27, 2006


Went to NC last week to spend some springtime with Grandma and Grandpa. Got to see the GPs but no spring weather to be had! It was chilly and blustery most of the time we were there, but we had a fine time anyway and it turned out to be a good week to be there.

Arrived on Sunday after dropping Pete off at the airport for his trip to SLC for the week. Got in late, so just had some dinner, put the kids to bed and vegged out.

Monday, Nanny complained she couldn't catch her breath and that began our week of getting her to the hospital and visiting her there. It looks like a matter of time now, but no telling exactly how much. She seems very tired of all this poking and prodding and so would I considering the doctors barely talk to her and don't even ask before they just grab her arm or leg to examine.

Meanwhile conflict struck at the ladies golf assoc. meeting with a little woman personally attacking the board of which my mom is the pres. She was snotty and snippy and basically a jerk and although my mom handled the attack gracefully, it was not at all what she needed this week.

Then there was the cold--not the weather, the virus! Gpa and Katie had it the week before. Zack was hit first, on Monday. By Wednesday, Gma got a double-whammy from gpa and Zack and felt terrible for most of the rest of the week. I got hit on Friday but luckily never came down with the fever and hacking cough.

But was the trip ruined? No way!

While getting some paperwork from Jonathan's girlfriend, we went to B'way at the Beach and got to see the fire-breathing dragon and squish a few pennies as souvenirs. We also went to lunch at UNOs where Katie was able to make her own pizza which they then baked up for her-YUM! We rented movies, watched TV and sat around! We did the next math unit, read books, played games, built legos and almost finished Harry Potter at bedtime. We tried to fly a kite at the most wind-less beach in history, but when the kite wouldn't fly, we inspected the dunes and found a big black snake (either a Black Snake or a NC Swamp Snake).

We also struck it lucky when the Museum of Coastal Carolina and the Ingram Planetarium held a homeschool day with lots of activities including a tour, touch tank and scavenger hunt. We walked away with learning sheets a book on sharks and a discounted book on insects. Nice! Also, the local newspaper was covering the event and we think Zack may get his picture in the paper (much to the envy of Katie). This event had a double value of taking care of school that day and getting us out of the house while gma tried to sleep off the virus.

I also got to make a few dinners, clean a few floors and basically help out which, since my mother is like a well-oiled machine, I hardly ever get to do. I was glad I was there that week to lend some support.

So, it wasn't the trip we planned in our heads, but it all worked out the way it was supposed to, ofcourse. Missed Pete though :-(

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Feel of the Sun!

What great weather the past 5 days! I feel so much better when I can feel the sun on my skin again. We're back to reality starting tomorrow, but this has been a nice break from coats and cold.

We've been pretty busy around here. We started piano lessons, finished with swim level 2 and have had time to spend together as a family.

I learned a lesson in humility and lack of control last week. Zack had an intestinal thing going for most of the week and I didn't feel very well (but not really sick either), so we spent most of our time near home and taking it easy. I gave up on curriculum and just let us do whatever came into our minds.

So here's what happens when I leave things alone:

Katie made a dress for her Cinderella doll--well, let's say more that she designed a dress and let me know what I needed to sew, drew pictures, did word searches which she started in the car (I leave puzzle books there for them to grab) and brought in the house to finish, decided she can read Junie B Jones books on her own, her first delving into chapter books, and proposed making a timeline of her life so far and plans for the future.

Zack read the new Disney magazines, read some Captain Underpants on his own, did some more and watched a show on taxidermy with me. All the while running to the bathroom every twenty minutes or so :-(

They both did some math on the computer, did puzzles, made up a game about the middle ages, played with a new program on the human body where they learned how to build an entire person inside and out, and we finished the postcard geo project.

All without me leading anything whatsoever.

On Friday our HS group met at the UU playground to enjoy the fabu weather. I even did some yoga with a fellow mom (although I then found playground mulch in my belly button when I got home!).

On Saturday, the weather was still great, but sadly, we had to spend the morning at the Springfield Mall for the district pinewood derby finals. Zack was up for a style award and got a winners patch which he is very proud of. He didn't win one of the trophies on Saturday, but he had a good time and afterwards we took a spin on the carousel in the middle of the mall.

But as soon as the event was over, I insisted we do something outside. Katie had the great idea to have a picnic, so we headed over to the new Whole Foods in Old Town Alexandria to pick out some tasty morsels and head down to the riverside for a picnic lunch. What a terrific way to spend the day.

Sunday was STILL nice out, so after church we spent a nice amount of time on the playground. Pete wanted to take it easy for the day because he had a show that night. Late Sunday night babysitters are impossible to get, so we decided that I'd bring the kids to the show. They went to bed, in their clothes, at 7:30pm and I woke them at 8:30ish to go to the club. They crashed at 10:30, so we got to see daddy play about 4 songs. They hated the earplugs I made them wear but we got lucky that the smoke was not bad at all in the club.

SO a really great week and I learn AGAIN that I don't need to try so bleeding hard to ram an education into these creative, smart, funny, fabulous, kids.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Spring coming

The shoots are starting to poke up in the garden and we'll need to start thinking about spring planting soon. Katie has wanted a vegetable garden forever. I'm hoping to borrow or rent a rototiller so we can do it up right for her.

We are still doing tea, though not every day. Katie likes to bake treats in her Easy Bake oven to share at tea time. This one is a yellow cake with chocolate frosting and crushed candy cane on top, which she did pretty much on her own.

Katie and Zack made puppets in Sunday school and each made up a show on conflict resolution. Zack's (on the left) are the two super heroes that can show up when he's having angry or happy feelings. Katie made a puppet of Zack and herself (on the right) and did a play about the fight they'd had that very morning and how they resolved it.

I really appreciated the teacher letting me know what had gone on during class so we could talk about it on the way home. We all got a lot more enjoyment out of the puppets that way.

Here is our final Postcard Geography map with all the "postcards" attached.

About half come by email and I printed them out and attached them too. We looked all of the places up on Google Earth and then we found them on the big map. Most, as you can see, came from the east coast, but we did get some from Cali and one from Canada and from Australia.

Today we are having a curriculum-free day. Zack threw up last night :-( and was not quite back to normal today so it was a good day to do computer work. I broke out the Human Body game I've been holding onto for just such an occasion and it was a hit. We also got two Disney Adventure mags yesterday and they always want to dive into those right away. Right now, they're playing outside after I booted them out the door to enjoy the sun and mild weather while it lasts.

I really enjoy these low-impact days. We probably end up learning more on these days than when I'm feeling like we've got to work at it but I still need that feeling of Teaching in order to keep my anxieties down. I ordered the CAT tests yesterday and can look them over when they get here. I'm sure I'll calm down once the testing is over.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Tea Time

Katie has decided that we should have tea every day at 4pm. I've had to moved that to 3:30pm so everyone will still be hungry for dinner at 6:30.

So, every day that we can, we sit down as a family and have tea or hot milk (Zack doesn't like tea), some tea biscuits, maybe some fruit and cheese and spend a nice half hour eating, sipping and chatting. Katie heads up the effort, keeping track of the time and reminding Pete or me to put the water on to boil.

We especially like Marie biscuits, that absorb the liquid and then suddenly puff up. You have to time it just right to wait for the puff but retrieve it before it breaks up and sinks.

That time of day is a real challenge for me and to give myself permission to relax and refresh for a few minutes has made a big difference in my mental attitude. We also get to enjoy having Pete working from home. Often, he is downstairs in his office and we're upstairs or out and about without him but he's made an effort to make the time to join us for tea.

I can easily discount how important these family rituals are. Tea time has reminded me how much better we all do when we take time out to gather around the table all together.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Been making stuff

Well, no time for a proper post--again--I have seen the acupuncturist and am already feeling better and hopefully my mood will improve too! Here are some projects the kids have been working on:

Plates we made at our Friday group. Actually made these in December, but it took a while to get them back.

Katie has learned to weave lanyard, or boondoggle, so get ready for lots of keychains!

We got a lot of snow last week, which didn't last long but was the deepest snow the kids have seen in a very long time. A neighbor friend helped build the tunnel and adaptation on a design originally meant to be an igloo.

Zack BS troop is making things out of different materials to earn an Arrow Point, here's his Stegosaurus and vintage car models.

And, it's Pinewood Derby time! Actually it was supposed to be last week, but was delayed by the snow. Here's what it looked like before and after adding the tiger stripes. Dad helped a little ;-)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A Post

I've been neglecting this blog for a while and have to say I don't much feel like writing now but feel like I have to before it goes completely dark.

I've been suffering from almost daily headaches for the past month or so and they have been wiping me out and making it very difficult to organize our days. Things are going fine with the kids, but I'm wiped by the end of the day, often with a pounding head. Pete has had to step in to make dinner several times while I lay down. This is becoming very depressing and so at last I've decided to do something about it. I have the names of a few acupuncturists and will be making an appointment soon. I got about two year's relief the last time I saw one, so it is definitely time to try it out again.

Some quick updates--

Had a playdate with the aptly named Goodharts. Sadly, our schedules don't mesh very well, so it was fairly short but very nice. Both Zack and Nick like to play alone, so they say hi and then play next to each other for a while. Katie and Becca play very nicely together and include the boys when they feel like being part of the group. Christopher is still little and so just enjoys the hubbub of everone running around. I'm getting to know Angela better and it's relaxing to sit and chat over tea and cookies while the kids play. I've also been spoiled since she's been nice enough to have us to their house and I don't have to prep anything.

Spent Super Bowl Sunday at the Marts' and enjoyed cheap fun at the bowling alley's $1 shoes and game day. Good thing it was only a dollar if I was going to play that badly! Nanci put us all to shame, although none of us were up to LI levels. Nathan is great too, but we didn't get to see his true form with no bumpers. There's definitely Island blood in that kid though.

Zack and Kate are now at the Red Cross level 3 swimming class and doing nicely in the deep end. Wish I had a picture of Zack's proud face when he finished doing laps in the 12' end. Katie has never had any fear in the water but now she has the skills to back up the confidence.

I got a new math curriculum called Math U See and so far I'm loving it. It's the first curriculum I could actually understand. (Most times curricula make me feel like I've walked into the middle of a conversation and have missed the crucial information on what everyone's talking about.) The kids like the manipulatives (blocks) and I like the way the lessons are organized.

We got to see the baby Panda again on Tuesday and he was in great form. Very visible and doing tons of cute baby-animal things. As a matter of fact, we got lucky all over the zoo. A huge orangutan came right up to the window to snack and the kids got to explore the reptile discovery room, which we have never seen open. It was a terrific day made all the better because our friends the McKinleys were able to join us.

Went on a nice field trip to the DC Aquarium where a class had been arranged for the kids. It's a tiny aquarium but nice and we were able to walk over to the Nat. History museum to see the new mammal exhibit again and take more time this time. Thanks go to Laurel for setting up the trip and for sharing some of her shark teeth with the kids.

Katie made a neat invention call The Drinker, which serves up water and cups to the thirsty masses. The tricky part was the lock, but she came up with a kind of buttonhole idea and I contributed an arrow-shaped tab to slip through.

It's hard to see it, but the tab is in Zack's hand and the hole for it is in the left side of the box. There are cups attached at the other side to grab and fill and extra cups and H2O inside.

That's all I can think of. Let us know what you're up to too. xoxoxoxo

Friday, January 20, 2006


How did it get to be Friday again? The week, once again, flew.

This week was a bit more focused on academics and group meetings. I wanted to up the math and get back to more like our September schedule. The sked didn't exactly work out, but they did do a lot more math-related activities this week. They do amaze me with how far they come in-between "formal" lessons. They are getting the hang of carrying the one and Zack did very well with fractions in the math program. Katie is flying through the program again too. They both have a horror of making mistakes though. So, I've been insisting that they at least guess at an answer before I step in to help. Half they time they ending up telling me they don't need me after all.

For outings, we headed to church on Monday to celebrate MLK day. There was a combined service with our church, and Catholic and Baptist churches. The kids had spent the night with friends and were too tired to sit for the whole thing, but I'm glad they got to see some of it.

The zoo is our new regular Tuesday morning outing. This time we started at the top of the zoo and spent the morning in the bird house. We rarely go to the bird house and it was nice to take the time to do only that. After that, we got cold and hungry and went home for lunch.

Wednesday I headed to yoga, leaving the kids with Pete then they had swim. Instead of heading to the library we snuggled in bed and read books to each other until I came down with a grinding headache and had to have some sleep. While I slept, Kate and Zack read and played with his new slot car set, care of the Marts (thanks, it's great!). Katie has also been covered in sweet-smelling perfume which also came from the Marts (p-u?).
Zack's newest Lego creation:

Thursday we met with a newly forming game group with hopes that the kids would hone their chess playing skills, however, they were both too timid to play with anyone and bickered so much playing each other that it was hardly worth it. It was nice to meet the other two families but not sure what we'll do in the future if the kids won't play.

Thursday has also become Ivy-Pull Day! I'm LOVING my new hedge clippers, which make it a do-able job now. It's going pretty well. I think we'll be able to get the front-side of the house done by spring which will be a good time to plant in the grassy stuff and bulbs I want to put in its place and also give the azalea a chance to bloom without being strangled.
Here's our progress so far:

Today was our regular Arlington group. We now meet at a firehouse and the captain was nice enough to do a presentation for the kids. He put on all his gear, answered the many questions asked and showed us the firetruck. The kids got to sit inside the truck and once again I did not have my camera. Typical me.

In other news--they will start taking Spanish class over at the school starting next week. It seemed expensive at first glance and then I started to see prices of other classes go by and this one got very attractive. Found a lot of good science experiments to try on the ZOOM Web site and found a nice multiplication lesson plan site which we'll begin late next month.

Currently, Katie's working on the math program and Zack is tackling a clean up of the basement. I'll be sending them outside soon though, too gorgeous out to waste away indoors.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

A week

I had a tough week of teacher anxiety. It wasn't helped by Pete being away and me not getting to bed at a decent hour.

So, let's see, what did we do this week? Maybe I'll feel better if I see it all written down:

Pete left for San Diego.
We went to see a children's singer at Jammin Java. Great place, Pete's old band used to play there a lot. The kids danced a lot and really had a great time.
After that, we came home and did--what? Cozied up in bed and read books to each other. Katie had Brownies after dinner and Zack and I played chess while she was gone.

The zoo. All day. Really nice weather and no one else there. I let the kids play on the big pizza at the farm for a very long time, until too many little ones came to play. We didn't have to be anywhere else so I tried very hard to tame (heh heh) my habit of rushing us around and let the kids take their time. We didn't get to see everything but we did get to see the handlers feed the octopus, which made it come out from the corner its usually tucked into and also got to see a couple of deer just outside the Think Tank windows. We were able to get up very close to them from inside and we sat on the floor and watched them for a good long while. Man, they chew their food. It seemed like they worked on the same mouthful for the entire time we watched.

In the afternoon, we watched the next installment in the Private Life of Plant series we've been working our way through. Only one more of these to go, I think, then we'll start on something about evolution if I can find something good.

Tuesday night Zack had scouts and Katie and I played games.

Incredibly busy day of running from one thing to the next.

I didn't want to skip my yoga class, so I packed up the kids and the portable DVD player and they sat outside the door while I got a nice dose of serenity. The teacher, John Giunta, played a bamboo flute during meditation and I asked him after class if the kids could take a look at it. He was very nice about it and took a few minutes to explain a bit about how it was made, how it's played and how/why the sound changes when you cover the holes. I want the kids to ask people about the things they like to do, so I appreciated John taking the time to chat.

Home for a few minutes and then off to swim class. This class is great! It turns out that Kate and Zack are the only two in the class, so it's like getting private lessons for cheap. The kids and I like the teacher too. She's involved in scouting and is very willing to fill out the forms to help the kids get their sports badges.

Next, home again and then off to the library for Miss Ginny's ready readers program and to take our time picking out new books to bring home.

It was nice out and we had no plans, so it was time to start in on the ivy-pull I've been trying to get done for about two years now. I talked about invasive vs. native plants and explained that even though it seemed strange, pulling the ivy actually helps our garden. After the explanation, they felt better about pulling and decided to act as anti-invasive ivy super heroes and they did a nice job clearing out a patch of the yard. I am LOVING my hedge trimmer, which I'm using to get through the ivy roots and shoots. I don't think we could get it done entirely by hand and don't want to use the very strong herbicide except where absolutely necessary.

After that, we washed up and Zack went to work on some legos and Katie worked on something, but I don't remember what....

Katie had dance in the late afternoon and Zack and I hung out in the playroom.

In the morning we had a chat about the ones, tens and hundreds place AGAIN and it is still taking time to sink in. This time I tried it with pennies and dimes to see if that would help. I'd like to move them on to two-digit addition with numbers adding to more than ten but without the ones and tens place, I can't figure out how to get them to pick up carrying the one. I had worksheets I was going to have them do in the afternoon to follow up, but decided it would be better if I let the morning's lesson sink in for the weekend and see what stuck on Monday.

Experience tells me that this will come with time, but math is just kicking my ass in the wee hours of the morning. I hate when that happens because I know that the following day I have this air of desperation about me when we go over the work.

Later in the morning we had a meet up with the Arlington HS group at our new location. I like the room a lot and the kids had a good time. I'm so glad we found this group. I enjoy all the moms and their kids too.

The afternoon was devoted to getting the house straightened out so Pete didn't pass out when he got home. Actually, the house wasn't all that bad just a lot of clutter.

Pete got in on Friday night in time to say goodbye to Katie as we were heading her over to a Brownie sleepover. She was nervous about going, but as soon as she got there she was fine and eager to see me off. It was weird having Zack in bed here and not Katie.

Pete and Zack worked on Zack's pinebox derby car design because...

...there was a workshop for building pbd cars. Zack's is looking great, just needs paint and wheels and something about a weight that I'm glad Pete is handling.

I went to pick up Katie from the sleepover and we went out for a mom/daughter breakfast, then hung out at home for an hour before FINALLY taking everything off the Christmas tree and putting all the decorations away.

OK, I do feel better about the week. It all flies by so quickly it can feel like we didn't really do anything. I am still worried about math. They've both gone through the computer program twice and don't want to do it again, but I know they need more practice on the skills. Multiplication is also looming near and they have to learn the tables before I can move them to that section of the program. Guess I need to do a bit of research on introducing times tables so that I feel like I have some guidance. Also need to get to bed by 10 more often so I can get my head cleared of worry and be able to plan out the work ahead. It's always something.

The hugs and smiles are still worth it. :-)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Katie and Zack as Wise People at the UUCA pageant

It's nice to get back to normal this week--whatever normal is around here. With luck, my brain might even start functioning by Friday. For the past two weeks I've barely been able to put together a coherent sentence. Feel like we have been pedal to the metal since Halloween, so I didn't make any plans beyond what was already on the calendar.

Tuesday we had our first food co-op pick up. It was funny to see how little I had ordered in comparison to everyone else. Some had entire van-loads of stuff. I'm sure we'll up our orders as I figure out what everything listed in the catalogue really is.

There was lots of mud in the yard where the pick up took place and Kate and Zack got pretty filthy but they had a good time and they wash up fairly easily.

Today I was back to yoga class with my old teacher and an hour and a half class. I really missed it. Wish I could fit in two days a week, but can't carve out the time yet. I'll keep it in my thoughts and something should come up eventually.

So, we're back to Brownies and Scouts, library, dance and a new swim class (was able to find a 12:30 class Wed afternoons for them), yoga and church babysitting for me, travel for Pete and a possible tae kwon do class for Zack (also an afternoon class). Mix in some math, reading and other stuff, field trips and HS community gathering and we are back off to the races.

[By the way, Zack seems to have learned the 2 times tables all on his own and is working through the 5s nicely too with a new Leap Frog game they got for Christmas.]

Still trying to weed out the best from all the good that's out there and make time to just hang at home on occasion.

2006. Bring it on.