Saturday, May 29, 2010

Rocket Launch

Space has been of great fascination in our household lately.  The kids have been perusing all of Doug's old Space Camp stuff, and we've watched several shuttle landings and a take-off or two.  Doug thought it would be a lot of fun for our family to build and launch a model rocket.  So, Wednesday afternoon the kids and I assembled the rocket.  Olivia did help some, but for the most part she watched through the lens of her brand new camera!  (Hmmm....if this post is any indication, I might find myself in a few more pictures.  I'm not sure how I feel about that!)

Doug even managed to take a break for a few minutes and come help assemble the launch pad. 
After an hour or so we had a fully assembled rocket.
We wanted to give the glue plenty of time to fully dry, so we waited until Friday morning for our launch.  We bagged everything up and carried it out to the huge field behind the church.
After placing the engine inside the rocket, Doug mounted it on the launch pad.
Then we made sure the launch controller was ready to go.
We counted down and fired off the first rocket (using the smallest engine size to test the waters).
(Understandably, there are no pictures of the actual launch - it was hard enough to follow with our own eyes, much less try to capture in still form or even video!)  It was a beautiful launch!  The parachute deployed perfectly, and the rocket came almost straight back down to us!  After we collected the rocket, we all studied the burn patterns inside and out.
Then we mounted a slightly larger engine for our second try.  I stuffed the parachute in poorly, so it didn't deploy the second time, but the rocket was none the worse for wear.  For our final launch we try to convince Steven to press the button.  He wasn't too sure about it...
The last launch was beautiful, and the chute deployed perfectly!  But, then a gust of wind picked it up and carried it to the tree line between the church and the movie theater.  Doug was the hero of the day and managed to rescue the rocket from the tree where it landed!

All in all, a fun way to spend a sunny Friday morning! 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Birthday Fun

We had so much fun celebrating Olivia on Wednesday!  She slept the latest that morning, and while Doug was cooking the requested birthday breakfast, Steven and Angie helped me hang the birthday banner and balloons.  When Olivia got up, she just sat down in front of it and stared.  I think she liked it!
We canceled school for the day in her honor, so the kids played all morning while I worked in the kitchen.  Livie showed her more grown-up tastes by requesting a carrot cake this year.  Cream cheese icing doesn't decorate well - and everyone knows that carrot cake and cream cheese icing just have to go together!  So, we worked out a way to have a somewhat decorated cake without having to use too much decorator icing.  The result was an outlined bunny face with a purple bow made out of sprinkles...
We enjoyed pot pie for lunch and then had cake and presents.  Steven and Angie gave her some stationary, we got her a watch, and then she had her sock doll.  She was excited!

Shortly after lunch the phone rang - her best friend from Mississippi called to wish her a happy birthday!  Those two silly girls talked for quite some time before we moms decided we'd like to have a bit of a conversation before the phones went dead!
I got the requested pretzel dogs ready to take up to church for supper, and then we loaded up and headed to the church for the afternoon.  One last surprise awaited our birthday girl there.  On Tuesday Olivia had combined all of her birthday money and her own savings and ordered her very first camera.  Due to her diligent savings and the gifts from grandparents, she was able to buy a really nice 10.2 mp Kodak Easyshare camera!  We were so proud of her!  Anyway, when we ordered it, the statement from Amazon was that it would take a couple of extra days to process the camera and the estimated arrival date was June 1 or 2 - a full week after ordering the camera.  Imagine our surprise when Amazon shipped it on Tuesday right after she ordered it!  Not only that, it was shipped from Memphis which means it got to us on her birthday!  Doug had it waiting for her at church when we got there!  She was ecstatic (and Doug and I were pretty thrilled, too)!  She's already tried to set up backgrounds to photograph Susan the sock doll...
She also was the photographer for all of our Wed afternoon activities - including the building of a model rocket.  We launched it today, and she photographed that adventure as well.  So, stay tuned for pictures of our rocket adventures. 

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Download N Go Homeschool Curriculum Review

We recently had the opportunity to work through two unit studies from a brand new curriculum.  Download N Go curriculum from The Old Schoolhouse is created to be a series of quick and easy week-long unit studies that combine minimal preparation with extensive learning.  They also provide ready-made contents to create a lapbook, quickly familiarizing even the most inexperienced lapbooker (like myself) with this popular homeschooling technique. The best way to present an introduction to Download N Go is to send you directly to their website – Also, here is an interview with the author as she answers basic questions about the curriculum.

The units we reviewed were Davy Crockett and Whales Tales. Each study included five days of links and exercises combined with the resources needed to created both a journal and a lapbook of the material covered. To avoid redundancy, I won't copy all of the information about each study into this review, but I encourage you to click on the title links to see a more detailed description of the studies.

How it Works: Download N Go offers their titles separately or in money-saving units.  Once the titles have been purchased, an email is sent when each unit studies is available.  The unit studies can then be downloaded and printed.  Each study we received contained a total of 83 pages, approximately 60 of which needed to be printed (per child) for journaling and lapbooking. 

The study is designed to be read through on an internet-connected computer and filled out on paper.   Every step of learning involves clicking on at least one link to find answers to the journal questions and lapbook activities.  Depending on the reading, writing, cutting, and gluing speed of the child(ren), each day’s lesson work will take anywhere from two to three hours. 

Comprehensiveness: Each unit focuses heavily on either science or history with references to other subjects.  Open-ended question format leaves an opportunity for grammar and writing education at the parent’s discretion.  Up to four relevant spelling/vocabulary words are listed per day.  Hands-on suggestions are included in each study, and a relevant (optional) book list is included with each day’s assignments.  A math curriculum would need to be added separately. 

Personal note: Were this to be our primary curriculum source, we would intentionally seek out additional resources to deepen our understanding of lightly referenced concepts.  For example, we learned that Davy Crockett served as a legislator, but we didn’t learn much about what a legislator does.   We learned that whales are mammals, but only lightly touched on what a mammal is and how it differs from other animals.

We would also be sure to have a timeline book or wall hanging for entering the dates mentioned in each historical study so we could clearly see how the information from various studies fit together.

Cost: The unit studies themselves are very reasonably priced at $5 to $7.95 per unit, depending on the number of units purchased at once.   This is a great price if there is access to a solid local library for readers and additional resources.  Without such access, the expenses of trying to round out this curriculum could add up very quickly.  The other cost factors to take into consideration are the basic supplies needed each week (glue, brass brads, and folders) and the cost of printing approximately 60 color pages per student per week.  There is also the consideration of a math curriculum. 

Our Opinion:  So, did we like it?  Well, we learned a lot.  And, the girls had fun with it.  Above all, we learned some new techniques that could really improve our learning experience. 

  • We discovered how much fun it is to use the internet to supplement learning – something which I have neglected to do in the past but will be more diligent about in the future.
  • We learned how easy it is to lapbook.  A lapbook is essentially a lap-sized display board.  Utilizing pictures, brief notes, and vocabulary words in handy display, a lapbook is intended to be a memory-trigger for what the child has learned.  Download N Go reminded me that hands-on activities really do reinforce memory, and it taught me how to use lapbooking as one hands-on option.

The bottom line, though, is that Download N Go is just not for us.   Here are the specifics on how it could be great for someone else and why it wasn’t for us… 

  1. Parents and children who like cutting, gluing, coloring, and writing to be the main focus on a school day would definitely want to consider this curriculum.  Parents who, like us, prefer for those to be side activities would probably want to look elsewhere. 
  2. In this curriculum, the internet is the primary source of learning information (through carefully selected and safe sites, using multiple sites for each set of information in the likely event a link is no longer active), with the goal being to create a journal and a lapbook of all you’ve learned.  Books are supplemental.  Although we enjoy looking up additional information online, our family prefers to glean our primary information directly from books.  
  3. This curriculum is created for those who like to continually jump from one thing to the next.  Five minutes of reading here, two minutes of video there.  Although my girls enjoyed the videos and online resources immensely, their attention span was negatively affected by the fact that we never rested in one place for more than a few minutes at a time.   
  4. Parents who need their children to be highly independent would be drawn to this curriculum. Children who can easily maneuver through documents and follow links on the computer (parents would need to pre-check all links each week) could do this work independently.  Parents who, like me, prefer to be more interactive might find themselves with a great deal of “dead time” while working through this curriculum.
  5. Parents who love to take a foundational curriculum and run with it would be delighted with the freedom and flexibility of this curriculum.   We prefer a more distinctly outlined and all-inclusive curriculum.
  6. Those who really like to focus on one topic at a time while keeping the topic small enough to cover in a week would really enjoy this curriculum.  Our family learned this week that we prefer a broader approach than unit studies provide.

Although Download N Go is not what we would seek in a primary curriculum, there are many who would find a perfect match in these unit studies. 

If you are interested in other people’s opinions, click here to read more reviews of this curriculum.  If you think Download N Go just might be for you, here are purchase options to get you started.  And, now is a great time to buy as Download N Go is offering 20% off any multiple pack purchase!!  Just enter the code DNG20PKS at checkout to receive your discount. 

And, finally, Download N Go is sponsoring a huge contest!  Click on the button below to learn more about the giveaway package and how to enter!

The Adventure Begins Giveaway!

Davy Crockett and Whales Tales were sent to me for review by Litfuse Publicity Group.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Celebrating Olivia!

It's hard to believe it's been nine years.  She was so little then - she's so big now!  
The neatest thing is that even though she has grown, both in size and in personality, she is also still so much the same.  It never ceases to amaze me how God can instill into such a tiny baby all of the personality that will make that baby who she will be years in the future. 
 Watching Olivia grow over the past year has been a treasure.  Her maturity is shining through in a new way, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
She is still a dreamer...
...but her dreams are taking on more reality.  And, they are reflecting a growing love for God, His Word, and the furthering of His kingdom. 
She still loves the things she has loved throughout her childhood, but she is beginning to also be drawn to grown-up things.  While in a way it's sad, in another way it's absolutely delightful to watch. 
Olivia, sweetie, I am proud to be your mommy.  I am thankful God blessed me with you.  We are so different, and He is using our differences to teach me about Himself through another's eyes.  Happy birthday, baby girl!  We all love you!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Simple Woman

(Don't forget to click on the picture above and visit Peggy's site!)

For Today...Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Outside my window...the summer heat here in full swing.

I am thinking...about my to-do list.

I am thankful for...early morning (relative) coolness that allows the kids to play outside for at least a little while; a well-insulated house; functioning air conditioning and lots of fans.

I am wearing...a sleeveless black top and khaki knee-length shorts, hair up in a twist, no shoes.

I am creating...clothes for the sock doll.

I am remembering...nine years ago being huge and hot and wondering when the life-changing moment (the birth of our firstborn) would come.  Little did I know we’d be headed to the hospital the next day!

I am post my Download N Go review on Thursday.

I am reading...nothing right now; that will change by next week.

I am feel better soon.

I am hearing...the air conditioner and the fans.  Steven is napping and the girls are very quiet – either finishing school work or reading.

On my mind...friends and their needs.

From the learning rooms...back to Sonlight this week and loving every minute of it!  Introducing long division with one and reinforcing carrying with another.  Finished Lewis & Clark.  Contractions, prefixes, and suffixes.  ABC’s.  Lots of fun stuff!

Noticing that...the momentary regret I felt for not finishing school so as to have a full summer break has worn off.  In truth, we like breaks, but we like school too.  This is definitely “us”.

From the kitchen...attempts to cook well while still staying cool!  Homemade ice cream helps – last night it was French vanilla with Reese’s peanut butter cups broken up into it.  Yum!  Olivia’s birthday requests: Bunny-shaped carrot cake; pancakes, eggs, and sausage for breakfast; chicken pot pie for lunch; pretzel dogs for supper.

Around the house...enjoying the newly rearranged living room and study.  Contemplating the library, especially the need to inventory it.

One of my favorite things...peaceful afternoons followed by the family coming back together.

A few plans for the rest of the week...Olivia’s birthday celebration tomorrow; the assembling and launching of a model rocket – hoping for a Friday AM launch; a potentially uneventful weekend (the yard will probably have to be mowed) capped off by a Travelers baseball game on Sunday evening and a trip to Judsonia to see my grandparents on Monday.

A picture worth sharing...Steven loves to pick out his own clothes…

Steven's clothes

Monday, May 24, 2010


Doug and I need change now and then. We both know people who have never moved other than when they got married. They have never rearranged their house. Nothing ever changes - and they like it that way. That is so incredibly foreign to us! Even growing up, I remember getting to the point that I needed a change. A rearranging of something. My bedroom. My school setup. Something. College was the same way. And, Doug and I both moved a lot, so that contributed to the reality of being accustomed to change.  Doug and I recently counted up how many times we've moved in our lifetime, and it's been a lot - the average was once every one and a half to two years. It's just in our blood to have change. (God knew what He was doing when He put us together, didn't He?)

One of the easiest ways to find change is a home rearrangement. While some people shudder at the thought, Doug and I find it immensely enjoyable! We were going to do it for date night, but just really didn't feel well. So, we put it off until Saturday. We still didn't feel well and didn't have much energy, but the rearranging was almost like therapy for us.

The focus rooms for this go-around were the living room and study (the fourth bedroom where the kids' toys are kept).

The biggest change was removing the entertainment center from the living room. Woo-hoo! I so prefer having the tv out of the main living room!

So, here's the living room now...

It's a more open and peaceful arrangement, we think.  We really like it.

And, here's the study...we finally hung the curtains I made nearly three months ago.  Yay!
We moved my glider out of here and into the living room, and we moved our games into the library (which will be the next rearrangement project when the bug strikes again).  We like it a lot!  Such a peaceful room!

And, Steven broke it in immediately by building what I think is an airport on the floor...

Thursday, May 20, 2010

I am creating...

I obviously didn't get Simple Woman's Daybook posted this week.  I thought about going back and doing it, but decided to just share what I'm creating this week.

Background:  Olivia loves homemade gifts, both to receive and to give.  Typically when it comes to her birthday, Doug and I have her gifts planned long before May even arrives - usually bought or completed!  Somehow this year it all sneaked up on us.  Last Wednesday - a mere two weeks before the special day - we realized we had nothing.  Not even an idea!  So, I asked her what she wanted. 

A sock doll. And a sock horse.  And a specific wardrobe for the sock doll. 

Where she came up with the idea, I don't know.  From a book, I'm sure.  But, that's what she really, really wanted.

So, Doug and I set on a mission to figure out how to make a sock doll.  (The horse is just not happening - not enough time!)  Fortunately my mother-in-law reminded me that she'd passed on a sock doll pattern book to me several months before.  I'd just looked at it a few days earlier.  I can't believe I forgot it!  So, for the past week I've been working on a sock doll.  It's not great, but it's coming along decently.  As of right now she's lacking a face and clothes.

No pictures yet, but they'll be coming.  Here's hoping it is what she wanted! 

Monday, May 17, 2010


I've mentioned how much the kids love to see C-130's fly over when we're in Little Rock.  Well, Doug and I have thought several times that we needed to take the kids up to LRAFB in Jacksonville to see the C-130 on display at the base entrance.  We just never seemed to get around to it. 

Then, the Friday we saw Alli off, we walked outside the airport and up a sidewalk to see if we could spot a few planes taking off and landing.  As we walked out, we noticed a C-130 flying nearby.  The more we watched it, the more it seemed that it was descending.  Surprisingly, it seemed to be coming in for a landing right in front of us!  We were incredibly excited, but the excitement only grew as we watched it touch the ground and speed right back up to take off once again.  It was practicing a touch-and-go!  (FYI: A C-130 is a cargo aircraft, and a touch-and-go is when the plane literally barely touches the ground while releasing cargo, personnel, and/or equipment and then immediately takes off again.)  That definitely made for a thrilling end to our morning visit to the airport. 

And, it spurred us to make a stop in Jacksonville a priority for the day. 
The kids listened as Doug pointed out various aspects of the plane and told them some history on this particular plane.
The plane on display at LRAFB was the last C-130 out of Vietnam and also the last flight to help evacuate Vietnamese who had helped the Americans in the war.  One of the refugees on that flight is said to actually live in Jacksonville!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

At the Airport

Well, it's been a week - I intended to get this post up on Wednesday, but managed to let Wed, Thurs, and Fri all three slip by me!  So, here it is...

Last Friday we headed back up to Little Rock to send my little sister Allison off to Jordan.  She will be doing summer missions work there before starting her senior year at Univ of Ar - Fayetteville.  Ashley and sweet little Abigail brought her to the airport, so all of us had a sweet visit.  Here's a shot of the girls...
We naturally had to take turns loving on Abigail.  It's so much fun having a baby niece/cousin!  And she's such a delight!  I wish I could live right next door and "kidnap" her every day!  She has the sweetest grins!

This is my favorite shot - are those not adorable grins?
Meanwhile, Angie and Alli enjoyed their typical silliness.  They are two peas in a pod!
(They decided to try on each other's sunglasses - keep in mind, Alli is anti-pink and Angie is all for it!)
Finally, it was time to send Alli off (and we finally got Steven in on the fun - he'd been wandering around the airport with Doug most of this time; sweet Doug let the girls and me visit).
That was the beginning of another fun family day - two days "out" in two weeks was a fun blessing!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Simple Woman

(Don't forget to click on the picture above and visit Peggy's site!)

For Today...Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Outside my window...partly cloudy skies, freshly mowed grass, and the sudden disappearance of the coolness of the past three days.

I am thinking...very scattered thoughts.  Must find a way to focus today.

I am thankful for...flexibility, even for structured people like us.

I am wearing…a short blue-flowered skirt and light blue top, black sandals, and hair not yet brush this morning. I need to get to that!

I am creating...nothing really.  Not feeling very creative these days.

I am remembering...some of the books I read and enjoyed as a child.

I am reading...just finished Heart Mender by Andy Andrews (a re-titled and slightly polished version of Island of Saints I mentioned last week); Life, In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson & Tricia Goyer

I am hoping...for enough coolness this morning for the kids to get a good, solid stretch of outdoor playtime.

I am hearing...the kids goofing off with each other over breakfast.

On my mind…unsaved and struggling loved ones.

From the learning rooms...a unit study of Davy Crockett to review next week.

Noticing that...all three kids are in a good mood today. I like that!

From the kitchen...beef teriyaki and rice, sadly without egg rolls, I believe, unless I can find one last package hidden in the freezer.  Here’s hoping!

Around the house...or maybe on top of the house…it appears that a woodpecker was attracted to the vent pipe coming off our water heater.  We haven’t heard him since yesterday morning, but he made quite the racket!

One of my favorite things...discovery and the facial expressions that go with it.

A few plans for the rest of the week...continuing to work through an evaluate our unit study, normal church activities, a lunch out for me tomorrow, and a pretty much uncommitted weekend.

A picture worth time was just too much…


Monday, May 10, 2010


It should be obvious by now that we are pretty big Sonlight fans, and it would take a lot to get us to switch to a different curriculum.  But, one thing I've discovered over the past few years is that I love interacting with parents who need help determining whether or not homeschooling is for them, and if so what direction is best for their family.  As shocking as it is, Sonlight is not for everyone!  My heart's desire is to be able to truly encourage other homeschoolers to find what is best for their family rather than just being an unofficial Sonlight representative. 

I realize that by jumping right into Sonlight as our homeschool choice, I missed the experimentation process that a lot of families go through.  So, beyond the experiences I had growing up as a homeschooled child, my curriculum familiarity resource list is rather narrow.  I've been praying that the Lord would give me a wider knowledge base, helping me to better understand other homeschooling options and how they might benefit certain homeschooling families.

A couple of the big catch phrases for homeschooling these days are unit studies and lapbooking and I honestly don't know much about either one.  So, when an opportunity came up to do a blog review on two one-week unit studies that incorporate lapbooking, I was thrilled!  God had recently led Doug and I to evaluate some scheduling changes with our homeschooling.  Those changes have opened up the flexibility we need to take two weeks away from our Sonlight curriculum to work through these unit studies. 

So, this week we are working through the first study - Davy Crockett.  Next week we will be working through a unit study on whales.  Stay tuned for reviews coming in the next two weeks! 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Flexibility and Days Off

Most days structure is what our family intensely needs.  We all thrive on it and do so much better when we stick to it.  But, there are occasions when we have a desperate need for flexibility.  That's where we are this week.  Last week was a not-so-great week of school.  We had our wonderful family day on Friday, which helped, but then had a weekend of Steven being sick, the rest of us feeling rather draggy, and storms threatening to plow through our area.  Even with being home most of Sunday, we still entered this week sluggishly. 

We had a full day of school Monday and did a couple of things in school yesterday.  As of this morning, however, I am officially utilizing my authority as teacher by calling off the rest of the week of school!  We do need to finish up the last few things in our corn and bean project, but other than that, there will be no school work.

The mornings are still cool enough for outdoor play, but the afternoons are getting pretty steamy.  So, we'll have outdoor fun in the morning.  I'm sure bikes will be a big part of that fun.

I finally went out with Angie yesterday to get her started on learning to ride without training wheels.  Yes, I've been lazy - but now she has definitely outgrown the training wheel bike, so it's a necessity.  She did really well on her first day, quickly riding short distances on her own.  We'll probably go back out again this morning before it gets too hot. 

Meanwhile, Steven loves his little three-wheeler, but he's also riding Angie's old bike.  Yes, it's pink.  Yes, he will probably be getting something a little more boyish for his birthday.  But, for now a girly bike is what we have.  Fortunately he doesn't seem to mind too much! 

When May arrived, the afternoon heat hit.  So, there probably won't be much outdoor fun in the afternoons.  Who knows what kind of indoor mischief we can get into, though!  I'm sure there will be a LOT of this...
 ...just because in this family we can't seem to help it.  If we don't have a book nearby, none of us know quite what to do!  I'm so thankful for book review blogging because it has gotten me back into reading, too. 

And, just because we're talking about reading, I have to throw in this picture, too.
I walked into the girls' room the other night to tell them that book time was over and they needed to turn off the lights.  This is what I found - both of them in Angie's bed sharing a book.  They love each other so much and just love doing everything together! 

There will be a good bit of playing, too.  The kids have quite the knack for practically building a town with a combination of Legos of all sizes, Lincoln logs, and bristle blocks.  I'm sure they'll have the study floor covered in no time!

I'll probably try to get in a decent amount of writing and continue with the school planning for next year that I'm so excited about! 

This afternoon we'll get to be with Doug at church, trying our hardest not to distract him from his work!  :-)  I'm thinking about some kind of fun surprise activity for tomorrow afternoon - still working on that one.  We'll see what happens. 

Whatever comes of the rest of the week, I'm excited.  The Lord just seemed to be laying this break on my heart starting yesterday afternoon, and the more I think about it, the better it sounds.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Simple Woman

(Don't forget to click on the picture above and visit Peggy's site!)

For Today...Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Outside my window...a beautiful day with clear skies, bright sunshine, and (at least for now) perfect temperatures.

I am thinking...about how incredibly blessed I am.

I am thankful for...friends, and how much God is teaching me about true, Biblical friendship.

I am knit sundress with red and white stars.  Looks rather patriotic!  :-)

I am many sundresses as I can find material for! (The girls really have the right attitude in the summer – there’s nothing like a nice, cool dress on a hot summer day!)

I am pray.  Prayer hasn’t been top on my mind for a good week or so, and that needs to change.

I am choose a Christ-like attitude in all things.

I am reading...other than my long-term daily reads, I’m between books right now.  But I’m about to start Island of Saints by Andy Andrews and Life, In Spite of Me by Kristen Jane Anderson (with Tricia Goyer)

I am hearing...the neighbor dog barking for attention, fans around the house, and my children outside.

On my many things and people. It’s amazing how focusing on prayer helps keep it all straight – imagine that! 

From the learning rooms...a relaxed day, our first in a while.  We’ve been driving hard for several weeks, often getting five days of work done in four.  We’re relaxing today.  Meanwhile, I finally got started on next year’s planning yesterday!  I’m so excited!

Noticing that...Steven just needs to talk everything out.  Continually.

Pondering these words...Rejoice in the Lord always. (Phil 4:4)

From the kitchen...Baked potatoes with ham and a delicious looking cheese topping.  Mmmm…..

Around the house...a nice, cool breeze from the fans and open door.

One of my favorite things...the flexibility of homeschooling.

A few plans for the rest of the week...normal routine, a visit with a friend, and probably a trip to Lowe’s or Home Depot at some point.

A picture worth sharing...sweet school time with Livie, stretched out on her bed together.

Liv & Mommy