Friday, December 28, 2007

Disney is homeschooling?

Well, surprisingly, it sometimes was.

Animal Kingdom--the least surprising place to learn. The kids were given little books with animal facts and a place to get stamps from different stations. Katie and I went to the survival center (or something like that) and learned about habitats. Kate and Zack were given a ton of time by two cast members to discover which animal left a certain kind of scat, footprint and teeth marks on the plants (turned out to be a white Rhino--a personal favorite). They were given a lesson in recognizing animal calls and walked around the aviary with a chart to help identify the birds. Plus the whole place has zoo exhibits all around.

Epcot--We went to Paris! Pete wanted to see an ancient movie on France, which the kids loved and now Katie wants to learn more about the country. We went to Mexico and talked about the Day of the Dead and Aztecs. We Soared over California on the hang glider ride and talked about the crops they grow there. They also have a KidCraft program where they collected paper cut outs all over the park, which had info on different countries or technologies. Plus, We got lucky and the closed for renovation Space Ship Earth was open for testing for a couple of hours and we traveled through the history of humankind.

MGM Studios--A stretch, but we did learn about some great old movies, which I love and want them to appreciate.

Magic Kingdom--We went to the Hall of Presidents and learned a bit about past presidents. Unfortunately, we mostly heard a long, boring and insipid speech by the idiot currently in office--but it was a chance to teach by example a lesson in decorum as I sat politely and waited until the end instead of standing up to exclaim "What an IDIOT" and blow raspberries over and over as the GW Bush robot addressed the crowd.

We talked a bit about Mark Twain--although we never did make it over to Tom Sawyer Island :-(

We also went to the Carousel of Progress ride in Tomorrowland. Very corny, but a sweet walk through the history of technology.

So, no, not a master class at an ivy league school for sure but here and there and everywhere, opportunities abounded.

Spotting the White Rhino

Monday, December 17, 2007

Disney Surprise

I had always planned to bring the kids back to Disney before they turned 10 (and become adults in Disney pricing) and that was even more settled when we received vouchers from Jet Blue last year for sitting at the airport for 12 hours. We had done a quick and cheap(er) two days at the Magic Kingdom when they were 6 years old.

Originally, we planned to go in April, but I got a brainstorm when Pete took off an extra few weeks before starting his new job--which he started today, BTW. Let's surprise the kids and go to Disney now!

So, I sneaked their clothes into the suitcase and we sneaked the suitcases into the car, woke them at 5am last Sunday and off we went to Orlando. They were very suspicious when we got to the airport and had completely figured out our destination when we landed. They were thrilled but subdued due to the early rise.

This was the big trip, staying on Disney property, using their meal plan and seeing all the parks, except the water parks. It was very fun and the only challenge is not to spend gobbs of money once you get there. Lots of rides empty out into the gift shop, there is something called the Bippity Boppity Boo shop where little girls can get a bun in their hair for a mere $50 (yikes!). I was stunned by how many we saw who had gotten the whole hair, costume and sash for $200. Crazy!

Katie was longing for the princess treatment, so I appeased her by letting her buy some hair do-dads and putting it in a bun myself. I am very proud of them, though, they played and ogled everything in the shops but didn't whine or beg for anything. I decided to get them some Disney trading pins and lanyards and they had fun trading with cast members and other kids for the last two days of the trip. And, of course, we squished pennies at all the parks.

The trip was great, the weather was sunny and warm, the waits were short and the food was good. Zack was tall enough to go on all of the roller coasters with Pete. Katie and I prefer milder thrills, like the Peter Pan ride :-) Zack and I both nursed colds the entire trip, which meant early bed times, but otherwise we had a lot of fun and did most of what we wanted in each park.

There were other nice surprises--we ended up with a corner room with more space and light and with a trundle bed, so K&Z didn't need to share. Pete and Zack won all day fast passes at Disney MGM and they gave Pete two extra for Katie and me. The kids got free pins from a cast member. We saw lots of costumes characters with little to no wait and Katie scored a free bag of cotton candy for being nice to our food server one day.

The trip home was BUMPY! The flight attendants were not allowed to stand and that always makes me crazy. As it turned out, it was not as bad as I had expected, so I kept my cool for the most part and Katie and Zack were preoccupied with the TVs in their seats to worry too much.

Here are some of the pictures we took (mostly Pete and the whole reel is 430 pictures).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Snow and Cookies

It snowed last night and Zack headed out to enjoy it first thing this morning. Katie took a bit longer to wake up, but then she, too, headed out to enjoy it before it melted. Actually, more of it lasted out the day than I expected but certainly not enough to explain the HORRENDOUS DRIVING in Virginia starting with the first snowflakes yesterday afternoon! Unbelievable!

Today I braved the idiots on the road to head to Lorraine's in MD to bake many batches of cookies with her and Nanci. We had a great time and ended the day with a mountain of baked wonders. Snow and baking--Christmas is coming!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The start of the holiday season

Zack's latest Bionicle creation

Planting trees in Arlington with church

Pete and Zack planted trees too.

Wasn't it just Halloween?!

I had a busy start to November and now, just as we are getting our schedule back to "normal," the holidays are here and we're all messed up again.

We started the month with a trip to Mt. Vernon with a homeschool group for colonial days. We had just been to Mt. Vernon alone at the end of the summer and had only signed on to this trip because of the extra activities that were listed for colonial days. Sadly, many of those activities didn't end up materializing but it was a gorgeous day out and everyone got along well so it was fun.

Next day, off to Stafford for haircuts by our stylist extraordinaire Selena. Well--I got a real haircut, Katie got a trim and Zack got his shaped for growing it long. She suggested he use styling wax to keep it out of his eyes until it's long enough to tuck behind an ear. I'm not sure he'll put up with it long enough to really grow it out.

I had an event in Tucson and Pete was home to handle the schedule at home, which, I'm told, went fairly smoothly.

One week of normalcy
Scouts, TKD, Nature Class, dance, yoga, art, friends, movies, books, library and all the rest.

Pete accompanied Katie to the Girl Scout dance and she was over the moon to dance with daddy.

One icky thing--the next day, Katie was the only one from her troop to go to a Hip Hop workshop. She was teamed with other girls her age and overheard them call her weird. I think I was more sad and angry than she was. She seems to take these things in stride and reports having had a good time overall. I'm hoping that speaks to her feeling good about herself and not looking for validation from everyone else. That would be nice.

And here we are, three days from Thanksgiving. We'll head to Mom and Dad's in NC on Tuesday night and stay through the weekend. It will be nice to see dad, who is feeling more himself after surgery. I saw him in the hospital but Pete and the kids have been anxious to see him F2F.

The absolute best thing about November has been having Pete home and I will miss him being around 24/7 when he starts work again next month. He has been his old self again and has been getting some much-needed relaxation and time with us.

So much to be grateful for in the past year. And so much to look forward to in the year to come. Enjoy the Turkey and whoever you're with.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007




We had a great Halloween season this year. As most of you know, Halloween is my favorite holiday so we start early and wear costumes as many times as we can.

Started with Cox Farm on what I thought would be the last warm day. It did get colder in the following week but then got warm again. Kate and Zack had a good time, but I think they would have had a better time if we had arranged to go with friends.

Two weekends ago we went to a friend's pumpkin carving party. Pete was very nice and scooped all the pumpkins and they had special little saws to cut the designs which made it very easy for them to carve on their own. Sadly, Zack's pumpkin went soft and fell apart late last week so we had to toss it out and get him a new one :-(

Boo at the Zoo was last Friday--in the pouring rain. I confess, I was cranky about going but the kids were set on it so off we went. We had a great time. Even Pete and I got trick or treat bags for braving the elements. I think it was much more fun in the rain this year than it was with fine weather last year. I was kind of bored last year.

Saturday our HS group had a party at one family's house. They were nice enough to do up their basement as a haunted house. Others brought crafts to do--goop and popcorn balls--another brought a bucket for apple bobbing and we all brought food. Kate, Zack and I made mummy dogs. Pigs in a blanket basically but wrapped up to look like mummies.

Katie's GS troop had a big party on Monday. Not an official Halloween party, the founder of GS was born on Halloween, but costumes were worn anyway and we made gourd spiders. (stick 8 pipe cleaners in the sides and glue on some googly eyes and you're done!

Today we watched "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!" and "Witch's Night Out," an ancient cartoon made back when Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd were still doing SNL. Unfortunately, it looks like that vid is about to go. It's very static-y.

Then we watched Ghost Hunters on the Sci Fi channel, had dinner and got into costumes.

It was my turn to walk the neighborhood with the kids and we headed out at 6:45pm too excited to wait any longer. Pete stayed home to hand out candy.

Katie and Zack had it by 8:30pm with full buckets and about $7 each in UNICEF collections. It was a great night.

Now it's time to hit the stores and stock up on more decorations for next year!


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Katie and Zack in the news!

A field trip we went on hit the news yesterday.

Check it out!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007


Katie and I learned how to knit yesterday! We can cast on, knit and perle (not sure of that spelling). And no tears were shed--a major difference from the last time someone tried to teach me. Wow!

Katie practicing perling--it's hard!

Zack lounging on the new chair last night

I thought Katie looked adorable in her braids last night. Today her hair is all wavy.


Sunday, September 30, 2007


We decided one very nice day to head out to Annapolis. It was fun. Pete and I are lucky that the kids enjoy historic sites/cities as much as we do. I know some adults who have to drag their kids to places like Williamsburg. My kids ate it up. The historical building markers are color-coded and they got into trying to see at least one building in each color.

At one historic house's garden

A cicada just out of its shell

On a canon in front of the MD state house

Again at the garden

Katie wants to be a children's book illustrator/author because she loves to draw and she loves kids. She also still wants to be a veterinarian.

Zack still wants to be a scientist and loves all things Egypt.

These are great things. I'm finding it much easier to work in the science and Egypt than the art. There's a good art class Katie could take--several in fact--but it's another place to get her to and what do Zack and I do in the meantime?

I don't want them to do everything together anymore, now they are getting more sure of their likes and dislikes. The scheduling is tough though and it's a hard call on what to say yes and no to.

I'm sure parents with kids of different ages must go through this from the start and I've never envied it. But because I've never really had to deal with it, I'm clueless!

Monday, September 24, 2007


I have a cold in my nose and I'm cranky. Why I've chosen this moment to update the blog, I have no idea. I may re-think it before I hit the "publish" button.

The end of August was CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not here at home, but all around us stuff was going on with friends and family. Lots of phone calls, lots of listening, lots of thinking, praying, feelings too-- gratitude, worry, anger, sadness, shock, awe. The whole deal, you name it.

So, the curious among you are undoubtedly saying--what stuff? I understand. If nothing else, I am the ultimate in nosiness. However, these are other people's issues, circumstances and business and not mine (or maybe yours either) so I'll stick to my own reactions instead.

Some things I've noticed when issues come up

--many people seem surprised I discuss things that are upsetting me with Katie and Zack. Seems to me it would be much scarier for them to notice me on the phone all the time, having feelings about it and then having to imagine what's going on. They have very active imaginations, so I think they would really get going with no facts.

--how nonplussed they seem once I do fill them in

--they ask terrific questions that I know adults wonder but don't dare ask

It's September and that time of year I get asked a million times how "school" is going. I never know how to answer this question without begging more questions, or worse, opinions about what we're doing. The best I can come up with for folks I like is that we don't really do school and try to change the subject. The worst I come up with is "fine." Blech. Sounds too apathetic for words!

The answer is we are doing less school every year and learning more about learning every year too. It's trial and error around here folks. I now have two years of homeschooling to look back on and it's a mixed bag. Some things worked--not that I realized it while it was going on--some things didn't. No schedule and unschooling all the way didn't work for me. Going crazy about everything didn't work either. Having fun while working through a curriculum worked. Being on a loose schedule worked, field trips worked. Some park days, classes and projects worked some of the time. Some didn't. We remain a half-year "behind" in math, which makes sense since we started the curriculum halfway into the year. And yes, we're homeschooling this year. And yes, we might do it right up through highschool. We might not. We might be living in who-knows-where by then so it's a pretty silly question anyway.

In other news, there's this:

Katie showing off the rocket she made for Boy Scouts (honorary member)
Did you think she's wearing a Red Cross T shirt in this picture? Me too. But ofcourse you can plainly see it's a white cross. A T shirt Pete brought back from Switzerland.

The vehicle Zack made from many defunct vehicle Lego sets.
Wearing PJs in the middle of the day?! Yup. That's how it goes around here every now and again. More crazy, lazy homeschooler stuff.

Crossing the "lava" pit in a team-building activity.

Life is grand.


Sunday, August 19, 2007

The rest of the summer

Been traveling, visiting, taking classes and hanging around. The summer FLEW.

July brought:
Pete's birthday--we went to an unexpectedly expensive dinner at Fogo De Chao but it was incredibly fun and good.

Phil and Carrie's 25th Anniversary party--and a trip to LI with a side trip to see the Brooklyn Museum and Children's Museum.

Yoga class--for the family, included stories and we did the animal yoga moves to help tell the story.

Police Concert, the VaHomeschoolers Conference, camping and Busch Gardens and a trip to NC to see g'ma and g'pa--these ran one into the other, in not a great scheduling plan on my part. Got the tickets for the concert in Philadelphia and didn't realize I needed to be in Richmond the following day by 8am. After the conference we went camping for two nights and visited Busch Gardens during the day. I thought there would be more for Katie to do at Busch Gardens, since she doesn't ride roller coasters, but even the thrill rides were too much for her. For Zack, it turned out he was too short for most of the roller coasters. We'll wait a few years before trying that park again.

August (so far) had Pete's band recording, a trip to Atlanta for business for me, a trip to Zurich for Pete, NC for the kids and me, Tucson for me for business again, and a baseball game (the Mets beat the Nats--yay).

Somewhere in there we braved the heat and went to the Folklife Festival in DC.

Sadly, while we were in NC, the squirrels demolished the corn field :-(. Katie was quite upset. The corn had started to sprout and the stalks were at least 3' high. We'll try again next year but it was pretty disappointing.

Here are photos--not in order-

Phil, Carrie and the kids at the 25th party

Katie and Zack digging for fossils at the Folklife Festival in DC

Katie helping out at the puppet show at the VaHomeschoolers Conference

Pete taking the 90 degree drop on Busch Gardens' Griffon ride

Katie and Zack at Busch Gardens

Zack, Kate and a friend put on a show at the Brooklyn Children's Museum

It's been a busy summer. Still didn't get all that I wanted to accomplish done. The heat this year was incredible--good thing the president tells me there's no global warming or I'd be worried by the 105 degree heat wave.

Here's a try at putting a video link on this site--it should take you to YouTube

Here's a bit of Pete on the Griffon
bunnies and birds outside my room in Tucson
(Please note that I have pulled the video of Katie's recital--there were 21 views of the video and that seemed too public and uncontrolled for my taste.)
Off to get the house in order and plan our next adventures.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


The corn is growing! We can see the corn silk poking out from the shoots. I read that cayenne pepper will keep the squirrels away. We gave it a try on the pumpkins and the corn and so far it's working.

Pictures soon but this news was too exciting to wait.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Mostly pictures

So, another busy month with lots going on. Katie had a spectacular wipe-out at a BS bike rodeo. We got her right back on the bike and she's fine. Big scrapes on her knees and elbows--a sign of a good summer coming!

Katie and Zack both had sleepovers for their birthdays. They went fairly well and, aside from the lack of sleep for Pete and me, were pretty low maintenance.

The girl scout sing-along on 6/9. A good time but hot out. There were about 150,000 girl scouts at the event. Katie is wearing her "swap hat." The girls make little do-dads to trade with other troops and they pin them to their hats. She loves this and traded a lot. It's a nice way to meet girls. We met some from as far away as Hawaii!

The corn, zucchini and pumpkins continue to grow. This shot is a bit dated. The corn is a good 3' high now and the stalks with the pollen are up. On the advice of Ivanna, we shook them around to try to cross-pollenate and hopefully get some real corn.

Pete and Zack went on the B Scout camping trip. Here they are, looking sleepy.

Katie had her piano recital and played her song perfectly! She looks way too grown up lately. Her teacher is going off to college next year and we'll be sorry to lose her.

We were in NY for my grandmother's funeral. It went very well. A nice service and lunch afterwards. That night we saw my good friend from childhood, Allison, and her terrific family for a pizza dinner. The next day we were off to NYC. Spent one day at the Brooklyn Museum--check it out if you have the chance, it was great and shares a parking lot with the Botanic Garden. Sadly we had no time to check out the garden, but it's a good excuse to go back. We only had 5 minutes at the NY Transit Museum, also in Brooklyn, but it was enough time to run through the real antique subway cars. (Don't let the terrible Web site turn you off, it's a great museum for kids--lots of hands-on stuff to do.)

Spent the evening in my old neighborhood at Broome and Delancy in the City. We hit Economy Candy and I couldn't resist buying a pack each of the gum and candy cigarettes. Just too evil to pass up.

Next day we spent almost entirely at the American Museum of Natural History, which features a replica of "Dum Dum" from Night at the Museum. I'm sure that section of the museum is seeing more visitors than in it's entire history.

There was also the BS Raingutter Regata right before we went to NY. Katie won first prize in the sibling race.

I got a cap on my cracked tooth-ouch and tonight Pete's band has a big gig in DC--come!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Recent events

Lots going on, so much so that I don't really have time to write things up here. SO--lists--

I was working all through May right up until the kids' birthday. While doing that:
--the kids finished up their world music class
--the kids finished up a science class
--they did more astronaut training
--Zack went camping with Pete and the Boy Scouts
--Pete went to Huntsville AL for two days
--Pete went some other place for two days
--Pete went to Salt Lake City for 5 days
--we all met in NC to celebrate my parents 50th wedding anniversary

--the whole family went to see my nanny and say goodbye (you can see more about her here)
--a week later nanny died
--Pete went yet somewhere else for two days
--I went to Dallas for work for 5 days
--I cracked a tooth in Dallas
--we celebrated the kids' birthday with the family
--I got things ready for the end of Brownies
--Zack bridged to Webelo Scout
--Katie flew up to Junior GS
--Pete had a show with the band
--Katie and I went camping with the Girl Scouts
--Somewhere in there Piano lessons went on, Zack moved up to Blue belt in TKD, I moved up to green stripe belt in TKD, we covered 2/3s of the times tables, they learned to read cursive.

Next week is the BS bike rodeo, the Girl Scout Sing Along (why not join us if you are or ever were a GS?) and Zack has a sleepover. At some point Katie is having a sleepover and a recital, we have a trip to LI for Nanny's memorial, Pete goes to Cincinnatti and I need to get a crown on my tooth.

So, a typical month.

Here's some snaps:

Zack getting BS awards

Katie camping

Zack bridging to Webelos

Katie and a friend bridging to Juniors

Monday, April 23, 2007

Children of the Corn?

Just planted our cornfield and zucchinis, pumpkins and carrots. We can't tell the difference btw the zuks and the pumpkins though, so not sure how many we will get.

We have a LOT of corn planted. It's a bit late for the seedlings, which really should have been moved last week, but it was still freezing and the wind was incredible, so we needed to wait until we got back from NC.

Tuesday we went on a field trip to Shirley Plantation. It was a fine trip and, since I paid for it so long ago, it seemed practically free. We learned a bit about portrait painting and then had a chance to try some watercolors. Usually they talk about children learning to sketch and paint nature as part of their education, but it was way too windy to try outside.

After the painting, we headed to the tool shed to try out some period games like pick up sticks, marbles and jacks. Then it was off to the main house for a tour. The same family has owned the plantation since the beginning and they still live on the second and third floors.

They gave us a treasure hunt map when we were through so we could learn a bit more about the other buildings around the plantation. It was windy and chilly, but a good time.

We ate lunch in the car and then--off to g'ma and g'pas house for a quick visit. That day, nanny went back into the hospital and it looks like she has taken another turn for the worse. I talked to the kids about it and we all went to see her at the hospital which cheered her up quite a bit. I also printed out some photos and Katie made a card to brighten up the room a bit. I don't think she's very aware of it, but it sets a nice energy there anyway and let's the nurses know a bit more about her.

We spent some time on the beach, but it was still pretty chilly. Didn't warm up until Friday afternoon really.

Katie spent time remembering how to ride her bike and Zack set up all his cowboys, soldiers and police officers on the porch table. I worked and it was nice to have the kids occupied.

It was nice to have some sun--even if it was chilly--and a chance to visit. We'll be back in a couple of weeks for my folk's 50 wedding anniversary, but that will be pretty hectic.

Today is sunny and summery. A good day to get our hands in the dirt and plant those veggies.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The garden

A quick progress report on the vegetable garden:

Here they are our first day 4/1

And sprouting today 4/8


Katie is sick with a fever today :-( but wasn't feeling badly until around lunch time so she was able to enjoy her Easter basket and egg hunt. I knew it was time to take it seriously when she didn't want to finish dessert!

Zack, after another bout of stomach flu on Saturday night, is feeling much better. And in another act of prize-winning mothering, a few minutes ago I realized that he'd been in the tub for about an hour and not yet tucked in bed. His hands and feet were very pruney but he seems to have survived the great soak.

Spent the weekend loafing around. Now I have to figure out what to do with my Brownie's tomorrow...

Friday, April 06, 2007

Uh, what was that about the sun....

OK, so mother nature has other plans and we're now expecting about 2 inches of snow tonight.

In the meantime, there was a break in the blustery weather on Wednesday night and we ran in to check out the cherry blossoms. As usual, I forgot my camera and had to settle for the cell phone.

In other news, Katie and Zack spend almost every afternoon playing the the kids down the street.

Katie recently asked me why they have schools if everyone (meaning her school friends) hates going so much. I tried to be tactful in my response.

Easter is almost here and I've been informed that the Easter Bunny ALWAYS leaves cool stuff in the egg hunt eggs.

We started a vegetable garden and are very glad we planted in seedling starters housed in the living room instead of outside in the impending freeze. We are hoping for a crop of corn, zucchini, pumpkins and carrots.

We'll keep you posted on our progress.