Friday, January 31, 2014

Week 22 ~ A full and blustery week!

In My Life ~ We finally got some snow to go with the freezing wind that has been around for weeks.  The storm came in several hours early and made a mess for the schools and people trying to get home from work. We missed dance classes twice this week and a host of other appointments were canceled. The kids loved the snow. I enjoyed it, too, but could have gone without the minus 7 windchill while sledding and also getting more frozen pipes. This time they thawed without breaking! That is a blessing. I learned how to shoot pictures with the continuous button this week. I got some great shots of the kids sledding.

Dance ~ Little Red Riding Hood is preparing for the Tween Company Showcase. They are performing Stop in the Name of Love by The Supremes. It's going to be a cute dance. As soon as their little show is over, it will be time to start getting ready in earnest for Alice and Wonderland. Tom Sawyer and Little Red Riding Hood are so excited about this upcoming show.

Astronomy ~ We made star jars in astronomy this week. We also read all about our sun. The kids loved making the jars.

  • water in a jar (to simulate the weightless effect of space)
  • corn syrup (to help with the sticking together of glitter during "hydrogen fusion")
  • silver glitter (helium)
  • red glitter (hydrogen)
  • gold buttons (to show nuclear fusion)
  • curled up pipe cleaners (to show matter)
First, we added the water and corn syrup to the jar. Then we added the matter. We then added helium and hydrogen to the jar. We shook the jar to create "nuclear fusion" and added our gold buttons. A star is born! We then added lots more red glitter to make our star become a red sun. Lastly, we watched the star start to separate as it began to die. We learned that this is called a planetary nebula. Finally, the star turns into a white dwarf at the end of its life.

Art Studies with Grandma ~ We managed two art studies in the last week. First, we learned about the painting, American Gothic, by Grant Wood. We did a picture study of this painting and then learned about parodies. We then looked at the many parodies (Google Image) created for the American Gothic painting. The kids loved them and were quickly brimming with ideas. Grandma gave each of them a printed copy of a photo of the actual American Gothic house and they then created their own parody.

Little Red Riding Hood made a pig and teddy bear standing in front of the house.

Goldilocks made Larry and Bob from Veggie Tales.

Tom Sawyer made two characters from Minecraft.

We also studied Salvador Dali this week. We read two children picture books and looked at several pieces of his artwork. We did a picture study of The Persistence of Memory. We learned about surrealism and then tried making our own surrealism artwork. We took pictures out of magazines and then added our own drawings.

Little Red Riding Hood ~ Food Land
Goldilocks ~ Rescue Dog (notice Dali's handlebar mustache on the dog)
Tom Sawyer ~ Past and Future (didn't use magazine cutouts)

Not Buying It Challenge ~ We entered the challenge to not buy in the month of January, because we had some emergencies which sucked up all of our extra money at the beginning of the month. I knew we already lived a frugal life and didn't have many of the extras that are a given in American society, so I wasn't sure we could make that big of an impact on our budget. However, we actually did make an impact between going without and selling on Amazon. I am glad to say we made it all the way through the month without borrowing any money from savings or putting anything on a credit card! We even managed to pay off one medical bill completely!! The downfall to this is that we have a long list of needs and wants now. Our cupboards are bare. We haven't had sugar, salt or coffee in 3 to 5 days, and Goldilocks' sneakers split in half a few days ago! Thank goodness it has been plenty cold enough for her to wear boots this week. (There is always a silver lining.) Our printer has been without ink the entire month and our typewriter ran out of ink two days ago. Lastly, for the last 2 weeks, the girls have done a wonderful job taping back together their broken rubber band bracelet loom without complaint. This craft project has been all the rage with my girls this month. Little Red Riding Hood has found the rubber bands on sale and the best price in town. She even has a coupon to make it cheaper.
So, we are going to continue being very careful and keep working on getting completely out of debt (less the house). We plan to finish paying off our minivan in the next few months and be free of our credit card in a year. We decided to make a list of the things we want/need and wait a few weeks to buy them. This weekend, we will be buying a pair of sneakers for Goldilocks, food, and laundry detergent and ink for the printer. We are also going to purchase a new loom for the girls. In the future, we will be buying much more on Amazon. Even groceries, such as salt, is cheaper on Amazon.
Wow, that was a long post. Thanks for hanging in there.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 24, 2014

Week 21 ~ Planning, Performing and Pastimes

In My Life ~ This week has been filled with planning. We are beginning a unit study on World War II that will carry us through the end of the year. I can't believe that we only have 15 weeks to go for this school year! It seems like we just started the other day. World War II is a huge undertaking. There are so many parts to it. I have decided to give the kids an overview and then go through the war from many different countries. I also intend to explain the holocaust to the children, but really stress the heroes of the holocaust who helped to save so many. There are always good people, even when it seems that the world only holds evil. I want the children to feel empowered and know that they can always choose to do good. My library floor is covered with books as I make my plans. I am really looking forward to this unit. I can't wait to get down to learning with them.

Performing ~ Goldilocks is doing lots of cheer leading performances right now. She had one at a local university this past weekend and has another tomorrow morning. She is really having fun with the cheers. The crowd was very supportive of the special needs teams. I think this may end up being a good confidence building activity for Goldilocks.
This is about half of her team.

This little guy is a serious performer, too! He got his new leotard from the Special Olympics. He still needs the special shorts. He was a proud boy and ran outside in the freezing temps to show it off to his sisters (who were playing out in the yard).

Pastimes ~ Little Red Riding Hood is really enjoying making rubber band bracelets. She has learned how to make so many different kinds. She takes her storage case everywhere she goes and spends all of her allowance on more rubber bands. This is very big deal for a girl who usually saves every penny.

Goldilocks has really been working hard with her horse drawing kit this week. All of the pictures are tracings, but she has done a great job adding color, saddles and scenery to the pictures. She is really doing a nice job tracing the horse as well. I love to see the kids being productive.

Parties and Play Dates ~ We had a party in school to celebrate saying goodbye to the 1930's. We celebrated with Twinkies which were invented in 1930. My kids had never had them before. Boy, they tasted like chemicals ~ Yuck! We also had a lovely play date at the mall with some friends. We power walked the mall since it recently has been is too cold to play outside. We then sat in the food court and played board games and drank Chick-Fil-A lemonade. What a fun morning.

We finished up Out of the Dust, which the kids thought was a good, but depressing, story. We also got the 3R's done every day and made considerable progress in spelling. I am also very pleased with Tom Sawyer's typing and story telling this week. Go Tom Sawyer!

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 17, 2014

Week 20 ~ Photography, Astronomy and Not Buying It

Artist Study of Dorothea Lange ~ We finished an artist study of Dorothea Lange this week. We studied many of her photos from the 1930's to the early 1950's. We used the books Restless Spitit The Life and Work of Dorothea Lange and Dorothea Lange Looks at the American Country Woman. We talked about staging a shot versus candid shots. We talked about how a picture is worth a thousand words. We then looked at famous portrait photos from other photographers using the book, Life Faces. Some of the photos were candid and others were staged. I then challenged the children to take their own staged photographs of each other. I asked them to try to catch an emotion in their pictures. Once they were pleased with their creations, we loaded them to Photobucket and turned them into black and white or metropolis. Here are their results.

Goldilocks's Pictures ~ 

This picture was staged and taken by Goldilocks (13) of her sister. She was trying to get a sad or reflective look.

She also staged our dog, Lady, getting into the recycling. She wanted the edges of the photo darker when we edited so the picture would look more like a scary or mysterious photo.

Tom Sawyer's Pictures ~ 

Tom Sawyer (11) wanted to catch a picture of his sister being contemplative. He set her up holding a wooden apple.

He also staged this shot of kids peeking through a doorway. However, he wanted to be in it, so Goldilocks took the picture with much directing from Tom Sawyer.

Little Red Riding Hood's Picture ~

Little Red Riding Hood (10) wanted to catch her brother in a shocked pose. She put her reading glasses on him and made him pose with a "girly" book.

Astronomy ~ We finally got underway with our study of astronomy. We read the first chapter in our books, Real Science 4 Kids Focus on Middle School Astronomy and Beyond the Solar System Exploring Galaxies, Black Holes, Alien Planets, and More. The children learned the difference between Geocentric (earth at the center) and Heliocentric (sun at the center) solar system theories. Then then drew what they had learned and narrated the information back to me.

The kids then went out to look at the night sky with Daddy and found the North Star, the Little Dipper and Orion through our telescope.

Not Buying It ~ I added $10 to my gas tank and spent $90 on food this week. Other than paying our bills not another dollar was spent!! I am very much looking forward to payday on Friday. There is hardly any food left in my home and both of our cars need gas. However, we had good meals all week and no one went hungry. We ate homemade soup many nights and used meat as a flavoring. I kept up with making things from scratch or making do without this week.

Things we fixed this week:
  • Glued Little Red Riding Hood's ballet shoes back together for the second time (we are going to need to replace them very soon).
  • Sewed up several holes in Tom Sawyers sweat pants.
  • Made more dishwashing detergent with borax, washing soda, and baking soda.
  • Removed the cast and bandages from Boomer (the dog) so we wouldn't have to pay the vet to do it. I was going to take him in to have the stitches removed, but he  pulled them out last night and the leg looks good. 
  • Washed the cars by hand to get all of the salt/sand off of them.
  • Fixed the typewriter that had a broken part -- thanks to DH.
The Rest ~ We have a very busy schedule starting Friday. It will be interesting to see if we can avoid buying food out on the road. I have spent much of my free time this week exploring the video option on my new camera. I can figure out how to make videos and download them to the computer. But when I try to upload them to blogger it takes forever and I keep giving up. Does it really take 20 plus minutes to upload a 40 second video? Does anyone have any ideas how to get the video on here?

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 10, 2014

Week 19 ~ Frigid Weather, Frozen Finances and Frosty Lessons

What a chilly week. That song that has the line "the weather outside is frightful" seems to be permanently stuck in my head. We are starting to reach more normal temperatures around here. We plugged along better than many. We only lost power a few times for less than 20 minutes each time. Also, only the 1970's addition to our house ended up with frozen pipes. The 1950's part of the house (which houses our two bathrooms) did just fine. So we carried water down the hall to do dishes, cook and generally keep the kitchen going for 2 days. The pipes thawed without breaking and all is now well. It could have been much more difficult and I am grateful it worked out so well.

Homeschool Lessons ~ We started back to school this week. I was pleased that we got off to a fresh start and everything was smooth sailing for the first 3 days. Thursday was a little bit shaky, but we still got most of our lessons done. The kids and I are reading Out of the Dust and studying the dust bowl period in American history. We are starting a mini unit study on Dorthea Lange. The kids will be doing photographic portraits with my old camera next week. We are also listening to We Are the Ship (about the Negro League in the 1920-30's) while we are in the car. This is a nice complement to Tom Sawyer's chapter book on Jackie Robinson. Little Red Riding Hood is working her way through Kit's Story Collection. She really learns lots of information from the American Girl Doll books. Goldilocks is busy doing her own thing in literature. She just finished Tales of the Fourth Grade Nothing and is moving on to another Harry Potter book. They are all making progress in the Three R's, using their Complete Curriculum Flash Kids workbooks. We also started watching 1940's House on DVD. I can see that this show is going to help us spring into World War II. Tom Sawyer already wants to build a bomb shelter in the back yard!

We did some experiments to test out the frigid weather this week. We were successful at making snow out of boiling water. We threw the boiling water into the air. Also, we tried making frozen bubbles, but they didn't work well for us. Maybe, my homemade bubble solution wasn't quite right.

Boomer ~ had an accident at the end of last week. He was running across the yard and stepped on a glass plate. Yes, I, too, would like to know why there was a glass plate in the backyard. The plate broke and a piece flew up and cut an artery in his leg. I have never seen so much blood in my whole life. The children were WONDERFUL! They followed my commands perfectly and we got Boomer into the car with lots of towels. Goldilocks did an excellent job holding deep pressure on his leg while we drove to the animal hospital. We must have been a sight when we arrived at the animal hospital because people cleared the way for us! The children and I were covered in blood. Thankfully, we were right there when he got hurt, the kids were quick to follow directions and the animal hospital is only 2 miles away! Boomer is fine. Now, if I can just keep him from pulling his stitches out for one more week, this ordeal will be over. To say the least, the cost of this emergency swallowed up any and all extra money for the month, which leads me to Melissa's challenge...

Not Buying It ~ We are doing the best we can to not spend anything extra this month. Besides the dog's emergency, we had to pay our property taxes on the piece of the side yard we had to buy last year from the previous owner who had separated it from the main property and that holds our septic system). So our finances are almost frozen. We do not have cable TV, smart phones, or other luxuries often thought of as standard in America society. We do have a Kindle Fire and the one DVD at a time plan with Netflix. I wasn't sure how much more we could cut. The first 10 days have not been as hard as we suspected. I did have to buy a special measuring dipstick for our underground oil tank. We sure don't want to run out of bio fuel with the current temps outside. Also, I purchased a protective case for our Kindle at a store that was going out of business. It was marked down to $6 from $49.  I just couldn't pass up that deal. It is a very hardy case. Other things we did to save money this week.
  • Grandma cut the girls and my bangs and trimmed Little Red Riding Hood's hair (a savings of $23).
  • We ate every meal and snack this week at home. (We usually spend about $25 on organic snacks out on the road.)
  • In the process of getting some pickles from the jar, one of my kids poured out all the juice. Realizing that there needed to be some liquid in that jar, he put water in it. This made the pickles rather tasteless. So I prepared a new pickle syrup and poured it over the pickles (savings of $6).
  • I made my own dishwasher liquid from baking soda and borax with a vinegar splash in the rinse cycle. It works pretty good. I hope to get washing soda this weekend to make the solution even better (a savings of at least $4).
  • I spent $120 on food this week and have about 30% of what I bought left over for next week. We even have a large organic ham from the freezer for next week. (This is a savings of $80 since we usually spend $200 a week on groceries.)
  • We are keeping the house at 64 degrees to stretch our bio fuel. (This is our usual temperature, so there was no extra savings here.)
So we saved $138 this week!

Blessings, Dawn

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Twelve Days of Christmas

We celebrated the 12 days of Christmas this year. It was fun and I think we will use the ideas we came up with this year to play Secret Santa for someone next Christmas. Each day we had a special food or activity to go along with the song. There is considerable confusion about when the 12 days begins. Many say that the 12 days of Christmas starts with Christmas Day and ends on the eve of Epiphany. Yet others believe it begins the day after Christmas (Boxing Day) and ends on Epiphany. And still others practice it by leading up to Christmas Day.

1) A partridge in a pear tree ~ We had both fresh and canned pears with our dinner.

2) Two turtle doves ~ We ate two Dove chocolates.

3) Three French hens ~ We had three eggs with candies in them beside our dinner plates.

4) Four colly birds ~ We decided to go with the term used in Europe for the saying colly birds or eating crow. We all wrote down a regret or misdeed we did in the past year and then burned it.

5) Five golden rings ~ We had onion rings for lunch.

6) Six geese a laying ~ We had a plastic egg hunt and each child found six eggs with pennies in them.

7) Seven swans a swimming ~ Everyone had bubble baths with ducks (the ugly duckling story comes to mind).

8) Eight maids a milking ~ We had chocolate milk for breakfast.

9) Nine ladies dancing ~ We had a dance contest during evening time with Daddy.

10) Ten lords a leaping ~ We flunked on this one. We did lots of leaping around while playing with Nerf guns.

11) Eleven pipers piping ~ We had homemade bread sticks shaped like pipes.

12) Twelve drummers drumming ~ We watched drum corps battle it out on YouTube.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, January 3, 2014

End of Quarter Two and a Birthday for Goldilocks

We are halfway through the school year already. Time just flies by!! We had another excellent quarter. There were some changes from the first quarter. The biggest change was putting the kids into a workbook program for grammar, writing, spelling and math. The truth is that I love the science and history more than grammar, so I was far too often letting them skip spelling to enjoy a science experiment or cook up something to correlate with their history lessons. Now, before we begin anything else, the kids have been doing a page from each section of their complete curriculum workbook. We have been using Flash Kids Complete Curriculum. This way, I know that they have made strides in the basics each day before we move on to the longer, drawn out projects. We still have been using Teaching Textbooks and All About Spelling a few times a week. I much prefer these programs, but we needed a bit more daily accountability. The other major change this past quarter was that we added occupational therapy (OT) appointments twice a week for Goldilocks and Tom Sawyer. I can't say enough about the wonderful program they have been going through. Tim is the only one who is still doing neurofeedback therapy and that may be only for a short time more.

Little Red Riding Hood (10) ~ I am really pleased to see the steady improvements in reading for my girl. She still doesn't look forward to reading, but the words are coming easier. Grandma has taken over doing vision therapy exercises with her several times a week. They are using visual games, this website, and reading together to enhance her vision skills. She has continued to enjoy and do well with math, scoring a 97% accuracy this quarter. Her perfectionism has still gotten in the way, but at least she has been pulling herself together faster these days. She has really enjoyed tween company at the dance studio. She did so well with all of the dances in the Nutcracker. This studio puts on a very professional show in a theater that seats 500 people. Little Red Riding Hood has begun to really like modern as well as ballet. I've enjoyed seeing her stretch out into other forms of dance. She has also had fun in gymnastics, performing splits on the balance beam without a spotter, doing cartwheels on a low beam and completing vaults without a spotter.

Tom Sawyer (11) ~ Tom Sawyer has been doing so well. He really liked doing his workbook in the morning. I thought he would give me a hard time because of the writing, but he did each page quickly. His workbook is for 5th grade, which he has found to be easy. I chose the 5th grade book because I knew we had some gaps in grammar and he isn't a fantastic speller. The rest of the book has been a good review for him right now. He has continued to read some chapter books along with carefully selected graphic novels. He likes to learn about history through graphic novels, and we have been supplementing our history studies this way for him. Tom Sawyer has been doing really well in OT. He has been writing better and has learned to have fewer issues with spacing. He also has been learning to be more appropriate with his sensory need to touch people and things. The therapists also have been working on his core strength. It has been wonderful to see so much progress. Tom Sawyer has been enjoying gymnastics and it looks like he will qualify for the Special Olympics this coming Spring. He was also in the Nutcracker this year and did a super job. While he was disappointed that there were only two students in his dance and theater class, he'll continue in it because he loves the teacher so much.

Goldilocks (13) ~ This past quarter, Goldilocks continued to learn more successfully in her room than with her siblings at the table. She has been listening to many hours of audiobooks a week. She has listened to five of the Percy Jackson books, as well as to Sarah Plain and Tall, Skylark, Anne of Green GablesElla Enchanted, Island of the Blue Dolphin, Bless This Mouse, and Centerburg Tales. She continued to write reports and has organized her thoughts a bit better. She has continued with the same math tutor. While it has been going fairly well, she skipped doing her homework several times (saying it was too hard). Her tutor has now asked her to complete it even if she doesn't know exactly what she is doing, so the tutoring session will not be a waste of time. I think she will be done with the Flash Kids Complete Curriculum 3rd grade workbook in the next quarter. She has gotten most of the pages correct with 90% accuracy. She has continued to enjoy Magic Tree House books. They have come easily to her and she seems to have understood the information. OT has been a good experience for her. She has worked hard on sequencing and has even had the opportunity to plan and cook a meal at therapy ~ she really liked that. Goldilocks has been working on keeping an appropriate space with her siblings and other kids. She tends to pick kids up off the ground without asking or when it is not appropriate. Goldilocks has liked gymnastics and is looking forward to being in the Special Olympics this Spring. She also has been enjoying special needs cheer leading. I have not been so thrilled, however. It has been very disorganized and they have canceled the practices about one-third of the time. That lack of routine has not been good for our family.

Timothy (23) ~ Timothy has been doing very well at his day program for brain injured individuals. He really has enjoyed all of the field trips and charity work. This quarter they volunteered at the animal shelter, food bank, and with cleaning up disabled peoples' yards. They also went to the Grove Park Inn to see the gingerbread house contest (they had entered a house), to the Biltmore House, and on numerous walking tours that ended at coffee shops (to name just a few field trips). They were also interviewed several times by a college class that has been learning about brain injured individuals. On their in-house days, they did crafts, cooked meals, took care of their winter garden, participated in a book club, played board games and had group therapy. We have been so pleased with this program. He still suffers with lots of anxiety and possibly depression. We may move into trying some prescription medications, since the natural route has not made enough improvements in his mood. That is something we will be considering this coming quarter.
Goldilocks turns 13! ~ Goldilocks and I decided to celebrate her birthday with a trip to the Chocolate Lounge and a horse and carriage ride. We had lots of fun with our entire family at the Chocolate Lounge. Everyone got to pick their own dessert this year. Goldilocks wanted a Smarties (candy) cake, so I added a package of candies to her slice of cake. It took a few days for the weather to improve enough to go on the horse and carriage ride. We had a girls day out trip on the carriage. Goldilocks really liked her ride.

It is shocking to realize that my Goldilocks is 13 already. There is so much work to do with helping this young lady meet her highest potential. I feel like time is passing so quickly! I pray this year we will uncover some of the keys to her success.

Lastly ~ Goldilocks' favorite gifts were a new comforter made by Grandma and a horse canopy that I picked up at a yard sale over the summer. Goldilocks refuses to sleep in a bed, because the underneath of the bed has always scared her too much. For now, she is happier with a mattress on the floor, so I was happy to make her bed space more cozy in these little ways.

Blessings, Dawn

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

My New Year Word and a Review of Games

When I sat down to think of a word for our family to focus on this year, many came to mind. However, "cheerful" is the one that stuck out as an important word for our family. To be cheerful is to be noticeably happy and optimistic. It is presenting a happy face even when you don't want to or don't feel like it.

I pick this word because we are a happy family overall, but we are a family that is stressed out, exhausted and has been living in what many would call crisis for 23 years now. Since the day our oldest was born, we have faced one medical crisis after another. This year has been no different than most of the rest. Eleven years ago, my husband and I were seeking to complete our family and chose adoption to do that. We figured we were good at special needs and so we accepted two special needs babies (and while we are good at special needs, it is an exhausting journey). Then we were blessed with our youngest 10 years ago through a very joyful surprise pregnancy. So life has been crazy and busy around here for a long time. Some might think that I should pick the word rest or stress free, but that just isn't realistic. We spend hundreds of hours a year in doctor and therapy offices. Our second oldest (who is oppositional, fetal alcohol affected, reactive attachment disordered daughter) just turned 13 and has been removed to emergency respite twice in the past 6 weeks. It is not about to get less stressful around here in the near future, people. But, a cheerful attitude can make every trial easier to get through. So that is our goal this year ~ to show a cheerful attitude as much as possible!

Now, on with New Year's Eve and fun with our new board games!

Spot It! ~ This is a really quick pick up game. It can easily travel and fit right into your purse. Each round only takes a few minutes to play. It also helps improve vision skills, which is one of the things we are focusing on this year for Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks. Tom Sawyer is way too good at this game. He wins almost all of the cards, so sometimes we have to play without him to give others a chance.

Clue ~ This is an old classic that my kids have fallen in love with this Christmas. I think we have played it about 15 times over the last week. This is a great game for deductive reasoning skills. 

Q-bitz ~ This game works on visual dexterity. We picked it to help our girls with vision therapy. It is a fun and challenging game (at least for everyone but Tom Sawyer). He solves each puzzle in less than 60 seconds! I really need to look up careers for people who are exceptional at visual games. This kid is amazing. We all love this game, and I am sure it is going to become a new regular around here.

PicWits! ~ Do you love the game, Apples to Apples? Well, this game is a cousin to it but with pictures instead of phrases. We thought we would love it and indeed we do. It is just as much fun as Apples to Apples and the pictures are so unique. This is becoming a quick family favorite around here.

Staxis ~ This is a finger biting game. It is a balancing game where you are trying to get rid of your sticks. However, if you knock any sticks off, you get the sticks. This game takes some serious eye hand coordination. We are glad to have this game, but I suspect it won't be pulled out as often as others. It makes some of us feel stressed out and we have enough of that already!

Happy New Year!

Blessings, Dawn