Saturday, February 28, 2009

Just Like Shogun!

Can I brag on my husband for a minute? Many of you know that we have date night every Friday night, usually at home. We usually work a date night meal into our menu planning for the month, but we didn't actually get around to it this month. Oops! So, Doug, who absolutely loves to have a chance to be creative in the kitchen, concocted an idea for last night. I had no idea what was coming, but when his idea began to take form, I was so excited!

First he brought our electric griddle into the living room. Then he brought in a variety of food items and ingredients - cheese sticks, popcorn shrimp, steak that he'd cut into pieces and had marinating, rice he'd cooked earlier in the evening, and various spices and other ingredients. As we sat in the living room together, he prepared me an absolutely delicious dinner, Shogun style! The cheese sticks and shrimp were deliciously heated right there on the griddle, followed by some delightful fried rice. Finally he turned the heat down and prepared the steak. Oh my - it literally melted in my mouth! I had so much fun watching him cook it all right there in front of me, and I think he had fun implementing a new creative cooking idea. My Plastic Chef might now be Hibachi Chef! :-) All in all, quite the enjoyable date night. What a blessing to have a creative husband!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Home School Day at the Capitol

I have yet to upload the few pictures we took on Tuesday, but I'll hopefully get those on here soon. I think the camera is actually still in the van! Oops!

We had a great time on Tuesday. We left the house pretty early so we could take advantage of the time in Little Rock to run a few errands. Since lunch was going to be late (after our noon tour), we splurged on a late morning snack at Chick-fil-A when we got into town! Mmmmmm....chicken minis! It's been a while, and they sure were good!

After running an errand or two, we headed to the Capitol where we got registered, dropped off desserts for our senator and representative, and then browsed a bit on our own. Our tour began at noon, and we were blessed to be in a relatively small group of three families. It was quite neat because our group represented the span of Arkansas. We are in the southeast, the second family was from central Arkansas, and the third family was from the northwest corner of the state. The girls were obviously a bit overwhelmed with all of the information and didn't quite understand everything that we were told, but I think they enjoyed it all anyway.

We did realize once we got there that we were going to miss one opportunity that a little advance planning might have taken care of. My uncle is serving in the House of Representatives, but we didn't even think to contact him to see if we could say hi. We were a bit disappointed to have not had the foresight to set that up, but the girls were excited to discover they had a relative involved in what they were learning!

After a nice late lunch and a few more errands, we headed home. We look forward to going back, both on the next Home School Day in 2011 and on our own as the girls learn more about American history and government.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Holidays and Learning

Have you noticed the new gadget at the top of the blog page? Yeah, it's kind of hard to miss, I know. Well, a couple of people have asked about some of the "holidays" we celebrate - the ones that aren't quite as well known to most people. Several years ago some dear friends gave us a book entitled Every Day a Holiday from which we find many of our holidays. I'm discovering there are also many more holidays to celebrate out there. We don't celebrate them all, by any means, but it is a fun addition to each month to celebrate a few extra days. Hence the calendar. I only have a couple of holidays on the calendar right now, but I hope to fill March up very soon. You'll notice today is the Tootsie Roll Anniversary and National Banana Bread Day. We have a bag of Tootsie Roll midgets ready for today's festivities, and I just noticed yesterday that our bananas are in great need of being turned into a yummy bread. Our "holiday" sharing friends just shared a new favorite recipe of their own that I think we'll just have to try today.

As our family progresses along this journey of homeschooling, we are realizing more and more what it's all really about. Yes, book learning is a great priority of ours, and it is so very exciting to teach our children through the course of a structured school day and then watch as in daily life they show how they are "getting" the history, science, math, and language lessons they are learning each day in school. But, another thing Doug and I - and many other homeschoolers - really try to emphasize is the reality that learning isn't limited to an organized school day. We find so many ways throughout each day and experience in life to create natural teaching moments. It has been such a natural part of our lives that we haven't really realized that we are teaching our children to notice and take advantage of teaching moments on their own! But, just this morning, we saw a perfect example of that very thing.

Steven doesn't have designated chores of his own at this age, but he does have occasional tasks that he is assigned now and then, and he definitely knows the meaning of the word "chore." One thing he knows is that the girls cannot play with him until their chores are done each morning. I doubt he consciously acknowledges that if he helps them, they get to play sooner. And, I doubt that he really even realizes that by helping them he gets what he really wants - time with his sisters. But, he has, in his own way, discovered that helping them with their chores is a positive thing. So, this morning he decided to help Olivia sort laundry. My heart swelled with pride when I stopped to watch them and Olivia paused to explain what she had been doing. She wanted to help Steven work on his shapes. She had a round laundry basket and a rectangular one. She was helping Steven reinforce his shape learning by handing him clothes and telling him which shape basket to put the clothes into. It was very intentional on her part, taking advantage of an every-day life activity to promote learning. I can't tell you how proud I was of my big girl!

We are looking forward to a great week. Tomorrow we'll be heading to Little Rock to attend Home School Day at the Capitol. I'm sure we'll have lots to share from that field trip! We will also very soon begin digging into next year's curriculum, spending the next few months going through it all to see how we can supplement and enhance the wonderful things we'll be learning next year. We're all looking forward to American History and an introduction to Biology! We're also going to be trying a few new recipes this coming month, so I hope to get back to sharing our favorites with you. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Love of Learning

Have you ever gotten lost in research? You sit down to read an encyclopedia article about a subject you're researching, only to find an hour later that you're still reading and you're completely off track! Doug and I can both tell stories about getting lost in an encyclopedia. In fact, when Doug was in elementary school he read through an encyclopedia set waiting while waiting for fellow students to finish their work. Taking in fascinating information is a lovely thing!

Well, one thing that Hibbard Elementary has not been able to acquire as of yet is an encyclopedia set. We've contemplated purchasing an older edition because they're more affordable, but even those are expensive - and the world is changing so quickly! We've been praying over that, and as we were figuring our budget for next year's school supplies and curriculum, we began researching options for encyclopedias.
That's when we came across World Book Online. An annual subscription was very affordable, and it fit into our budget even after all other school needs were figured in. Not quite the same as holding an encyclopedia volume in hand, but very practical...and portable! Not to mention the fact that the online resources are constantly updated with new information as it comes out. And, with our subscription we were granted access to World Book Kids!

As I was setting up our account, I began to tell Olivia what it was all about. She was thrilled! So, I set up a thumbnail on our SpeedDial homepage, showed her how to access it, and let her go (with an overseeing eye, just to make sure everything is safe for young readers, of course). Over the past thirty minutes she's learned that ballet originated in Italy, although it is believed that the first performance was actually held in Paris, France. She's explored the dance traditions of several cultures. She's also read about the making and packaging of crayons. I'm going to have to be careful - my bookaholic might become a computeraholic if she really sees how much she can learn on this site!

All of this reminds me once again that prayer is the answer to it all - God leads us to just what we need to provide our needs while being good stewards of what He's placed in our care. I love being His child!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Steven

Steven was delighted when we came home from exercising yesterday morning to find a "tractor" in the street. He was disappointed when it wasn't digging. This morning at 8:00, though, men arrived and started using a jackhammer on the street and then proceeded to use the "tractor" to pull up the dirt and asphalt and dump it onto a city truck. (We were delighted because we'd awakened to the sound of rain and honestly did not expect work to be done today! How excited we were when the work began anyway!) He quickly planted himself on a little stool at the window so he could watch the work. It has been the highlight of his morning!

The funniest thing, though, has not been his excitement over the work done outside. The funny part has been his response. They stopped working for a while as they were waiting for the city truck to arrive to receive the dirt and asphalt. He was beside himself, begging me to go out and tell them to start digging again. Then I started hearing this... “Mommy, they’re going to dig! They’re going to dig! Mommy, will you please tell them to dig? I can go in that tractor! I can dig!” (And, yes, that is word for word!) The next statement was, "When I'm thirteen I can drive the tractor!" I didn't have the heart to tell him that the tractor would be gone before he was three, much less thirteen. After this, he decided that he knew best how the work should be done. He was not satisfied with the positioning of the trucks and other equipment. So, next I heard, "Mommy go tell them to move that truck over there! I don't want that truck there! Mommy, go tell them to dig. Mommy, there's another one truck! Look, Mommy, that truck is there! Tell them don't put dirt in that truck - put dirt in the other one truck!" Of course, he knows how it all must go, and he trusts Mommy to make sure it's all implemented just right.

While we're on the subject of Steven, he had a "first" over the weekend. He's had several haircuts, considering he has more hair than either of his sisters at this age! But, he's never had it cut with the clippers. It took me long enough to get him to let me cut it with the scissors without an all-out screaming fit. But, we'd already talked about the fact that Daddy and Steven needed haircuts that day, and I had started with Doug with the clippers. So, Steven decided that he wanted me to use the clippers on him as well. He did so well, and it was SO much easier than trying to get it all even (which I never have been able to do) with those scissors. He wanted to help me, so he had his hand on the clippers most of the time, unless I had to cut at an angle he couldn't reach. Still definitely not a great haircut like he'd get if I took him somewhere (which he probably wouldn't tolerate), but much better than recent cuts. Yay for clippers!

And, since I'm telling stories of Steven, I have to share this one last story. We were in the van the other day and Steven was getting bossy with Doug. I turned around in my seat to take care of the situation, and made the mistake of saying, "Steven, you are not the boss." His response? "I am the boss!" I managed to reprimand him before turning around and laughing as silently as I possibly could. Doug couldn't hide his laughter from Steven quite as well thanks to the seating arrangement, so he nearly bit his finger off trying to keep from laughing out loud! Yes, our son does truly believe he's the boss. We're working on that one!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday

Happy President's Day! Hope it's getting off to a great start for each of you!

Today is a good day so far for us. We were able to get back into our normal routine this morning, and it's amazing how much energy I find when I'm back in my exercise routine! The girls finished their morning chores in record time, and then all three kids found a way to occupy themselves peacefully while they waited for the sun to warm the backyard just a wee bit more.
video
As a side note, I have to confess that I really, really don't like reading aloud or having someone read aloud to me. I guess that goes along with the realization that I am a visual learner, and auditory processing requires more work and effort on my part. But, Sonlight is set up to encourage both teacher and students to read aloud on a daily basis, and I have tried to be diligent to follow through with those assignments. I have to say that listening to Angela read aloud to her brother and sister made every read-aloud assignment that we've participated in worth my while! (And I'm starting to like it more myself, too!)

As soon as the reading time was over the kids headed outside where they are happily playing in the beautiful sunshine, and I continued plugging away at trying to get the house back in order.

As for the plumbing update - there was at least some activity this morning. We arrived home from exercising (and showering - just because we expected them to be at work on the plumbing here) at church a little after 9:00 to find a hug hole in the yard and some vehicles parked in the street. But no workers. It's now over two hours later and we've seen no further activity. So, we'll see what happens next!

So, that's our Monday so far! This afternoon we'll be tackling school and focusing on some President's Day activities. Should be fun!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Our Week in Photos

We were so blessed over the past week to have had a place to camp out during the day to avoid filling our yard with not-so-pleasant contents! :-) Here are some snapshots of our week...

We spent Saturday afternoon, Sunday, and parts of other days up in the youth room. We had lots of space to spread out, and the kids enjoyed playing up there.

Each morning we found a variety of activities to keep us occupied. I brought craft supplies and the kids - especially the girls - spent a good bit of time putting together Valentine crafts to exchange on Valentine's Day.
On the other end of the table, you can see what I spent time on while the kids were crafting and playing! It's a photomosaic puzzle of Pooh in his thinking spot. I've been working on it since Olivia was a baby! Not the easiest puzzle in the world...it's been a while since I've pulled it out because I wasn't seeming to get anywhere. I'd only managed to get Pooh himself assembled. Through the course of the week, though, I was able to make a lot of progress on the background. I might actually get it finished at some point! :-)
In the afternoons we put Steven down for a nap while the girls and I worked on school. It was nice to have that essential diversion to fill a few hours each day. We tried to be creative in keeping Steven occupied as well. He enjoyed coloring, playing peekaboo with Bob and Larry, and blowing bubbles, always a favorite past-time for our active boy! He blows them and then tries to catch them - and is getting pretty good at it, too! He can catch three or four bubbles from one blow before they hit the ground! He gets excited as they stack up on his wand.
His favorite activities revolved around the "ramp." In the hallway up from the offices there is a slight incline. Steven had his Little People with him a couple of days during the week, and he would take all of his little carts and wagons, prop them up at the top of the incline, and then gently push them down the hill. He would then cackle and squeal with delight! But, his greatest fun came from riding his Pooh airplane down the hill! He'd slide down and then push himself back up backwards! Such a silly child. Here's a sample of his fun...
video
It was a long, tiring week, and we all fought grouchiness off and on. But we were - and still are - so blessed. The kids were great, and now and then it's not bad at all to be pulled from normalcy and reminded of the ways we are blessed in the life we live. That's where we were last week. We got to spend a whole lot more time doing things we don't normally get to do - me and my puzzle, the girls and their crafts, and all of us goofing off with Steven (learning, for example, that he has already figured out how to distinguish boys from girls!). I am so glad to be home, but I'm thankful for the week, too. God is always so good!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Home Again!

Greetings from home! Yes, we're back today, and it feels good. The plumbing is still not fixed, but it is functional. They started digging yesterday only to discover that the problem was worse than they originally thought. They repaired a few pipes and left the cap vented here by the house, but come Monday morning they will have to actually dig up the street. The blessing is that they were able to fix it enough that it will actually flow, even if only temporarily. We still need to be careful (we're training the kids to throw toilet paper in the trash can!), but we can use it without it flowing into the yard. So, we get to be home, and it's a great feeling.

The kids are enjoying some time outside before the afternoon rains come, and I am working on getting started on the catch-up housework. Through the course of the weekend I will make it a point to put some pictures up showing some of the things we got to do over the course of the week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Bit Out of Sorts

I have so many little stories and cute pictures to share that hopefully will be posted sometime later this week - little things that have come from our insanity over the past few days. For those of you who don't read our myriad of other blogs, our plumbing decided to fail early Saturday afternoon. We discovered a new tidbit about our current town of residence...Monticello plumbers do not answer their phones, return calls, or work on weekends. In fact, the on-call public works employee who came to make sure our problem wasn't on the city side of things said they won't even return his calls! Wow! Anyway, so Saturday afternoon we loaded up and headed to church to hang out. Later a couple of men from church came over to see if they could fix the problem, but their clog-removal efforts did no good. Finally on Monday morning we got ahold of a plumber and discovered why the clog-removal efforst failed. The pipe is broken! So, the next step was for the plumber to wait for the water main and gas line to be marked so he could work on the repair. Which brings us up to 10:00 on Tuesday night with absolutely no further progress made on the repairs. For the first couple of days we pretty much got everyone up and headed straight for the church for our morning relief and stayed there until the last potty trip for each evening. The plumber told us yesterday that we could go ahead and use the system and let it drain into the yard. So, we went back to washing clothes and dishes, and taking baths and showers here at home. But, since our yard slants down toward the house and our mosquitos are already horrid (Olivia's legs were covered with at least a dozen bites each over the weekend), we really don't want to add much more than soapy water to our yard right now. So, we are still spending the bulk of our days at church, although this morning we waited until after breakfast to leave and came on home at the end of Doug's work day for supper.

Like I said, camping out at church has been an adventure with many cute stories and pictures. The girls have had plenty of time to work on their elaborate Valentine cards for family members, and I have had a breakthrough on a photomosaic puzzle I've been trying to complete for five or six years! Hopefully, though, we'll be able to resume normalcy very soon. And when we do, I'll get the pictures uploaded and shared...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

One of Those Days...

Occasionally when the heater has decided it has worked too hard, it chooses to take a break. It's an easy problem to solve - just the flip of a switch turns it right back on again. But, first you have to realize it's not running as it should! That's kind of hard when it's the middle of the night and you don't fully wake up even though you're feeling a bit chillier than normal! :-) Such was the case this morning. The heater had decided to not try to combat the 20 degree temperature, and the house got rather chilly in the night. It made it quite difficult to get up and get going this morning.

Steven voiced his feelings on the matter by looking at Doug and saying, "I don't want Daddy to go to work today!" Awww....He was pretty easily convinced that Daddy needed to go to work anyway, but he stuck to Doug's side until the last minute. As Doug was putting on his coat, Steven asked for him to read just one book before he left. Now, how could anyone resist that?
Steven held Doug's snack cups while Doug read, and then he took them to the van for Doug and made sure Doug got his coffee mug. He was taking such good care of his daddy! I just love it!

In school this week Olivia learned about personification. At first she had a bit of trouble applying the concept, wanting to utilize simile instead. But, as we worked together to come up with some sentences, she got the idea. Then, something we were reading later utilized personification, and she picked up on it immediately! This morning she's been using personification while working through her chores, making up stories about the mop and broom and interacting with them in quite humorous ways! I just love getting to listen to my children put into practice what they're learning!

Steven is continuing in a somewhat sensitive and nurturing mood today. He got out one of the girls' strollers, found a baby doll, and started pushing her around and giving her drinks from his sippy cup. He is such a boy most of the time, but it's so obvious that he has prissy older sisters to learn from!

Angie is excited this week. Last Easter each of the kids got a little ceramic egg containing a planted seed. Steven's plant sprouted but then died pretty quickly. Olivia's lasted until after we moved here, but then died. Only Angela's remained. Angela's sprouted long after either of the other two, and we wondered at times if it would make it. Just a few weeks ago it looked like we were about to lose it. It had just started producing buds for the first time, and then it started to wither. We figured it was suffering from the cold, as we had to make sure to leave it right in the window sill to give it enough sunlight. Then, suddenly it came back to life. This week we saw some new buds and one of them opened yesterday! She was absolutely thrilled!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Falafel and Fellowship

Saturday morning Doug concocted a surprise. As we were getting up and going, he asked if we wanted to go to Little Rock for a little while. I had no idea until we got there what we were going to do - I just love surprises! He got in touch with my brother Ben and sister-in-law Ashley to see if they wanted to join us. Come to find out, they were actually thinking about coming to see us anyway!

We arrived in Little Rock, and pulled into an old strip mall. That's when I noticed the restaurant. Doug had found a Mediterranean restaurant! We walked inside, and Ben and Ashley were already there with a plate containing bowls of hummus, tabouli (Arabic salad, chopped very fine), and mouttabl (okay, so that might be a horrible phonetic spelling - it's an eggplant dip), and some small pieces of really good Arabic bread. Doug tried falafel for the first time and really liked it! I was delighted! It was a fabulous meal, even though the shwarma did taste more like a gyro than a real-life shwarma. I didn't care, though - it was all SO good!

Olivia got ahold of the camera and started snapping shots. She loves to take pictures. Here are a few of her shots - and then we got one with her in it.

Then we all headed over to Ben and Ashley's apartment. The kids fed the ducks floating in the pond that their balcony overlooks - I think they went through every last bit of Ben & Ashley's bread!

Steven kept wanting to watch the ducks, and charmed Aunt Ashley into holding him up at the door so he could see better.
Then Ben turned on Rock Band so that everyone could try it. Here's my rock band!
Steven got in on the action, "helping" Uncle Ben play the drums for a song or two.
The rest of us got to try our hands at it too.


All we were lacking was some good Third Day - or even a throwback to Petra or Whiteheart would have been great! :-)

Such fun - it's nice to get out of town now and then, and it was great to enjoy good fellowship - and really good food!