Saturday, February 28, 2009

Art Projects from Today


Ellie has been working on watercolor painting this semester. This is her first big project. She chose the subject herself. It looks a little bit blurry because of the scanner. Aren't the colors beautiful?

Kate drew a cat today. What fun!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Another Field Trip to the Museum of the North



Effie, the Woolly Mammoth.



Today, we took another field trip to the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Above are some of the pictures that we took today. There is no flash photography allowed and the galleries are pretty dim, so it was difficult to get clear pictures. Click here to see pics from our first trip.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Respite Report

Tonight was respite care. The night where spouses of deployed soldiers can drop their kids off for a few hours of free babysitting. What a much needed break!

I only left the middle three kids. Tori is still nursing and I hate to leave her anywhere for very long. Ellie was desperate for some one-on-one time with me, so I decided to treat her tonight.

It was wonderful. We had a drink at Starbucks (which I never go to). Ellie felt so grown up.

We went shopping at Barnes and Noble, Fred Meyer, Petsmart and Old Navy. It was nice to be able to peruse the stores without having to keep Nick from grabbing everything we passed!!

We bought Andy an ipod. Yes we're becoming iNerds :) I am going to fill it with music so that he can ditch the CDs and have tunes with him in his office in Iraq.

We picked out beautiful matching summer dresses for the girls and a shirt for me. I thought that we could take a family picture this summer in the yard - minus Andy of course. :( I just hope that it gets warm enough to actually wear them. It has warmed up to the 20s, but it felt a bit weird to be shopping for warm weather clothing already.

Ellie talked me into walking around Petsmart. She decided that she might like a lizard of some sort. I don't know that I could handle that. I told her that she would have to do some research and write me a paper on what would be required to feed and care for them before I made any decision. I committed to nothing!! She does have her own room now though and so she could conceivably keep a pet in there and care for it on her own. She would not receive any help from me with a lizard though, I can tell you that! Maybe a kitten?

When I went to pick the kids up from respite care, the report from Nick's caregiver was terrific! She said that he was so well-mannered. He was very polite and played with all of the kids. No crying. No fighting. No tantrums. When he saw me, he simply said "Oh, Mom! You're back!" and happily got his coat on and returned the toys he had been playing with. My little boy is growing up!

So, I have to say that I am very grateful for the respite care that is offered to us each month. It's nice to have a few hours here and there to spend without all of the kids. I just wish that it could have been scheduled for tomorrow night. No babysitter = No Bunco night :(

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Homeschool Memoirs - Four Legged Friends


Something often overlooked on our blogs is the ‘other’ family member that sleeps at the end of the bed. We fail to mention our fur children even though they are a huge part of our lives. Is your ‘pet’ is really the king or queen of the house? Maybe you just tolerate having an animal because the husband or kids can’t live without one. Or some of you might be ‘animal free’, take issue with ‘just another responsibility’, or find that you’re deathly allergic to dander. With as much a part of our personal lives as pets tend to be, I figured it would be good to share about our animal friends (or the lack of them).

Who doesn’t love looking at furry critters - even if they aren’t your own? Some of us spend more time inhaling them than looking at them (cat belly can be addictive). Let’s not forget the slimy froggies, swimmy fish, feathery birds and other interesting creatures that some keep, also! Do you have an exotic pet to tell about? Or a neat animal story? Have you ever rescued a wild forest animal or had something strange wander up on to your porch?

Tell us your pet history. What was your first pet? Which was your most memorable? How about today? How many pets do you have? Do they help or hinder your homeschooling?


Me and my sister on our pony "Molly"


I grew up on an island in the woods with lots of room to roam. No neighbors. No fences. Just a dirt road and a forest to explore. What a great childhood I had!

We always had animals of all kinds : dogs (always at least 4 at a time), cats, rabbits, chickens, geese, 2 goats, a pony, a pig, parakeets, fish, turtles, and a rat. I'm sure that I'm leaving some out!! There was always a four legged friend around to keep us company. Most of them were nice (although those geese were evil! That hissing was really frightening). I always thought that I would like my kids to grow up in the same fashion.

But, things haven't gone the way I thought they would. Do they ever?

First of all, back then I didn't know that I would marry into the Army. Can you see us with a U-Haul full of pigs and chickens heading cross-country to our next duty station?

We are nomads and I have accepted that. We never know where we will be living next. It could be overseas or we could be living in a small apartment somewhere stateside.

I know that there are plenty of military families that have pets. I for one have a hard enough time being alone with the kids for a year-long deployment without the added responsibility of caring for a pet. And a move with animals? That scares me.

I have to say that we gave it a try this time. We bought a house with a big yard instead of living on post. We promised the kids a pet and we delivered. We found Buster at the animal shelter. He was a very energetic and loving yellow lab. Besides running away whenever given the opportunity, he was a great dog - a wonderful companion for the kids.

We had him for about a year when I started really worrying about my abilities to properly care for him though. He needed someone to play with him and take him on walks constantly (duh - right?). I can honestly say that I didn't know how much work it took to have a dog. Growing up, our dogs were always outside. Since we had no neighbors and no fences, they just roamed around and got plenty of exercise on their own. Not so with Buster.

He liked to hunt (according to the previous owner) and I don't go moose hunting very often (ok, never). The cold climate and constant snow cover made taking him outside unpleasant. And when spring hit - you wouldn't believe the melting mess in the backyard!! I will spare you the details...

Under normal circumstances, I probably could have handled all of this. With baby #5 on the way and a husband about to head to Iraq for a year-long deployment though, I made the decision to find him a new home.

We were all very sad to see Buster go. He was the only pet the kids had ever had (other than a couple of beta fish in CA).

It was hard on all of us, but looking back now (it's been almost a year), I know that I made the right decision. Thinking about how hard it was for me to keep the yard clean for the kids, how often we had to open the door into below-zero temps to let him out, and how many times I had to drive around the neighborhood searching for him after he had run away (including paying a ticket once), it made sense to me. He was more responsibility than I was able to take on at the present.

Do I think that we will always be pet-less? Definitely not. We will eventually settle down and when we do, maybe we'll have our own little menagerie, not unlike that of my childhood (but minus the geese!)




Ellie and Buster, Sept 2007




Great job Andrea!!

I'm so proud of my little sister. She came in 4th in the all-around at the Worlds Women's Highland Games in Phoenix last weekend. She also broke the U.S. record in the hammer. She looks super cute in her kilt too! ;)

Ready to Bake


Ellie has recently been teaching herself to bake. She has made chocolate cake and banana bread using the mixer and oven without any help from me. I am so proud of her! I am secretly looking forward to the day when she can take over in the kitchen and I can sit back and enjoy the food.

Her grandma was sweet enough to make her a cute little apron. Now she can bake in style. I'm excited to see (and taste) what she makes next!

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook


FOR TODAY February 23, 2009...
Outside my window...is a beautiful sunrise
I am thinking... is it really Monday already? Maybe it should be a 3-day weekend.
I am thankful for...finally finding the vacuum cleaner wand!! Goodbye crumbs!
From the learning rooms...we are finishing up on Ancient Greece before moving to Rome.
From the kitchen...cereal this morning.
I am wearing...workout clothes - I'm getting on the treadmill soon.
I am creating...nothing at the moment.
I am going...to dance class and to the grocery store.
I am reading...When Women Walk Alone
I am hoping...that everyone goes to sleep early tonight (including me!)
I am hearing...the pitter-patter of my son's little feet.
Around the house...I am cleaning out the truck today.
One of my favorite things...summer in Alaska - if only it would come a bit quicker and last a bit longer!
A few plans for the rest of the week: nothing special
Here is picture thought I am sharing...

This is me and Ellie years ago. I can hardly believe she'll be 10 this year! Time sure flies!

To join in the fun, or read other daybooks, go to: http://thesimplewomansdaybook.blogspot.com/

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Videos for Preschoolers

I hate to admit it, but sometimes I have to put the little ones in front of the TV to keep them occupied while we work uninterrupted. If I have to do it, I at least want to give them something educational. No Disney movies during the school day. (We're not watching TV all of the time, I promise! We don't have cable though, so when they do watch something, it's a DVD. At least they don't see any commercials!)

Here are some of the things I allow them to watch:

1.
The A to Z Symphony by Classical Fun Music. Even my 9 year old likes this DVD! I even enjoy listening to it in the background, because it's just wonderful classical music! I often find the kids dancing in front of the TV when this one is on!
Directly quoted from their site:
The A to Z Symphony Video. Music Appreciation 101 - For Ages 0-5! “The A to Z Symphony” consists of 26 independent, one-minute videos set to the melodies of some of history’s greatest composers. Each letter's vignette is preceded by a written and spoken introduction of the title and composer of the music, so they become associated with the video, and memorized naturally by young minds!
Video images were selected specifically to complement the mood of each masterpiece. Children will learn the music, and name titles by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky! It's college-level music education - as easy as A-B-C!
Here you can watch previews!!


2. The Letter Factory, The Talking Words Factory, and others from the Leap Frog series:
I have been really impressed with how well these videos do at teaching the kids the basics of letters. Nick (who is almost 3) has been noticing letters where ever we go. "Mom, that's a B, it says ba, ba, ba!" These worked with Lexie also and she is reading pretty well for a soon-to-be 5 yr old. I am by no means saying that this is a replacement for reading to your children and teaching them phonics, but it has been a good introduction for the kids and it's something educational for them to watch while I'm busy!


3.The Magic School Bus
Oh, why can't I be a cool teacher like Ms. Frizzle? I always wished I could pack the kids in a Magic School Bus and take off on a fascinating field trip to outer space or up someone's nostril. Alas, I don't have what it takes...

Amazing Animals

4.Various Foreign Language DVDs - My theory is that if it's in another language, then it's educational! My kids can count in many different languages :) I remember a period of about 6 months when Kate (then about 2 or 3) was absolutely enthralled with Chinese. It was a bit hard on my ears, but she loved it!


5. Little Einsteins. I know that I said no Disney during the day, and Little Einsteins is technically Disney, but I really do love this show. Famous paintings, classical music, musical and dance terms, geography - what's not to love?

I'm in vacuuming bliss...

Remember a few days ago when I posted about how distraught I was that I couldn't find the vacuum wand anywhere?

I looked everywhere. I enlisted the help of the children and made them look everywhere. We still couldn't find it. And the cracker crumbs were starting to pile up....

This morning I got desperate. I offered a $5 reward to whoever could find it. There wasn't much interest. I upped the reward to $10 and everyone scrambled away.

30 seconds later - yes truly 30 seconds - Ellie came up the steps with it. It was under Lexie's bed (I promise that I looked there twice!)

It's amazing how motivated they can be when they want something.

So, now I am in vacuuming bliss. :)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ancient Greece for kids

Ancient Greece has definitely been one of our favorite time periods to study. There are so many fascinating myths to read and interesting things to learn. Here I have compiled some of the resources that we have been using in our studies.

Notebooking pages:

Here are some notebooking pages I made :Greek Gods and Goddesses, Creatures of Greek Myth, and The Twelve Labors of Heracles
Here are some free Ancient Greece printables, coloring pages and puzzles from Activity Village. (I wouldn't let your child on the site though - I saw some advertising not appropriate for kids).

We also used notebooking pages from NotebookingPages.com and TheHomeschoolShop.com

Websites:
(Please note that while I have browsed through these sites, I have not looked at every page and I don't suggest that you allow your children on here without first looking for yourself! They may prove to be helpful in your studies though.)
The British Museum has a great website where you can build your own Greek temple, play a game at identifying the gods and goddesses, and much more.

Greekmythology.com has a bunch of information on the Greek myths and has links to some online literature. Here is another that is very thorough in describing who is who in Greek mythology.

Books:


Years ago, we were able to find a copy of D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths on CD. I highly recommend it if you can get your hands on it. The kids LOVE listening to it. I am not sure if it is still available for sale, but I would check your library to see if they have a copy.

Videos:
The children watched videos from the Greek Mythology for Students and Ancient Civilizations for Children series, available at Library Video, or hopefully at your local library:

Friday, February 20, 2009

Good Luck Andrea!


Weight for Height


Sheaf Toss

I just wanted to wish my little sister good luck as she heads down to Phoenix, Arizona to compete in the Women's World Highland Games Championships this weekend. I would LOVE to be in Arizona, cheering her on, but that's not possible this year. Alaska is just too far away for a weekend trip.

I absolutely love Highland Festivals! The dancing, the games, the food, the kilts, the bagpipes in the background. The games are really amazing to watch. If you're in the Phoenix area, go and cheer her on for me this weekend!!

(Here is a site explaining some of the events for those of you wanting to know more!)

Where would you be??

Where would you be hiding if you were a vacuum cleaner wand?

I have looked every conceivable place to no avail. In the refrigerator? I looked. Behind the couches? I checked. In the dirty laundry baskets? I searched.

Nick likes to sneak it out of the closet and use it as a sword. My knight in shining armor. :)
Unfortunately, he doesn't put it back when he is done.

Cheerios and goldfish cracker crumbs are piling up around the house. The car is disgusting. I desperately need that piece to the vacuum cleaner!!

I feel like I'm living in an I Spy book. I keep searching around the house in every nook and cranny I find. Maybe it's in pieces - then it could fit into a much smaller spot.

I'm sure that when I find it, it will probably be somewhere very obvious - out in the open.

I just hope that I find it soon!!! Any ideas? Where would you hide?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Happy Birthday Kate!

Katie at about 7 months old.

It was 7 years ago today that I gave birth to my darling second daughter.

She came quick. I was 10 cm dilated when we arrived at the hospital and she was born almost immediately. Andy still likes to tease me, because I didn't even have to push her out. The doctor had me give a few big coughs and out she came, 9 lbs even. I'm not kidding!!

The funny thing is that she has never slowed down. She always has to be moving and doing and going, and I think that she probably always will. It's just who she is.

Happy Birthday to you, my sweet little Katie! You are my little firecracker and I love you!

Postponing the Procedure


I have decided that we will go ahead and have the procedure done to clip Tori's frenulum under her tongue, but I am going to hold off on it until Andy is back from Iraq. Then I will have his logistical and emotional support. :)

I know that it is not a major surgery or anything, but the thought of putting her under anesthesia still worries me since she is so little.

So, we will probably have it done next October. I think that is still early enough to head off any speech problems.

Those Sneaky Socks



After the laundry post last week, I knew that I would eventually have to tackle the sock basket. That was very evident today. No one had socks in their drawers.

I buckled down and did it. It wasn't fun. Andy's socks were in there. They must have been from his visit in January right? There is no way those have been sitting in there since September - at least I hope not!!

Anyway, I matched them all up and what did I have left? 28 lonely socks and 8 single mittens!! Can you believe that? Where could they be? I guess I need to start searching through everyone's sock drawers to see if their partners might be hiding in there. If not, then I will just save myself some grief and finally throw them out. :)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Homeschool Memoirs - Fan the Flame


It seems like many homeschoolers begin to see the fire die out around this time of year. Yet it doesn’t always take a whole lot to get the flames burning bright again. It may be one small change in your routine. Maybe it’s trying out an idea you’ve been pondering for awhile. Or you might need to throw on a bit of kindling on to fuel that fire.

THEME: Let’s see some sparks of imagination as we encourage one another, sharing ways to get your homeschool efforts cooking again. What is something you’ve done, or thought about doing, to “fan the flame” of waning motivation?

Yes, this is the time of year when flames start to need some fanning.

The major problem that I have been having is in being organized. Last summer, I did a pretty good job of entering in our first 6 months worth of school assignments into Homeschool Tracker.

The problems is that I stopped there (school started and my hubby left for Iraq) and I never went back to enter in the second half of the year. It's easy enough for math and grammar pages, but when it comes to our history and science, I really need those assignments planned out ahead of time, or else I'm rushing around the night before (or in the morning) trying to get things ready. It's really draining.

So, my job for this coming weekend (after art classes and a birthday party) is to get at least the next couple of months worth of lessons entered in so that I can relax a bit!

Besides that, we're doing fine. The kids are still interested in school (well except for Latin!)

We're all anxious for some warmer weather. Getting done by May (when it finally gets nice here!) motivates us to keep going every day. We're looking forward to taking mid-May through mid-July off before starting again with the next school year.

I think maybe this weekend I will pull out all of this year's notebooks full of work and have the kids look through it. I hope that looking at what they have accomplished will motivate them to keep going....

No Sleep for Me

Have you ever had one of the those nights where the kids just won't go to bed?? With 5 of them, it seems like some nights they tag team me and I don't get a chance to rest. Last night was a prime example of that.

Nick went to bed nice and early at 7:45. He was pretty beat.
Tori went to sleep around 9 and snoozed.
The rest of the girls just could not fall asleep. By the time Lexie drifted off, it was almost midnight - I'm not kidding. She was needing extra snuggles last night.

I almost got a chance to go to bed. But then Tori woke up at 12:30 with a runny/stuffy nose and would NOT go back to sleep. She is never fussy at night and she's normally a wonderful sleeper.

By 2 a.m., I decided that I might as well take a shower since I was up anyway. I left her in her crib (which is in my room) and hopped in the shower. I was in there just long enough to get completely wet when Nick came knocking on my door - wide awake of course.

So, I ended up laying back down with a very talkative Nick in my bed. He just kept putting his face right up to mine and talking about Thomas the Tank Engine.

Why did this have to be the morning that I promised them french toast and sausage instead of the normal cereal?

Needless to say, I am a bit worn out today. I'm hoping to make up for it tonight....

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook


FOR TODAY February 16, 2009...
Outside my window...still snow :)
I am thinking...that I am going to look into piano lessons for the kids.
I am thankful for...healthy kids.
From the learning rooms...we are still studying Ancient Greece. We're going to talk about the Olympics and Greek drama.
From the kitchen...Pasta with alfredo sauce for dinner. I can do that since Andy is gone. When he is here, if there isn't meat, it isn't a meal :)
I am wearing...PJ bottoms and a T-shirt
I am creating...Greek gods and goddesses worksheets
I am going...to the grocery store to pick up stuff for Andy's care package.
I am reading...through homeschool science catalogs. I have to find something for next year.
I am hoping...that I get on the treadmill for at least 40 minutes today.
I am hearing...Nick playing at my feet.
Around the house...I will be calling the plumber in the next day or so. The heating pipes have to be fixed/thawed :( Home ownership is expensive!
One of my favorite things...my Polish pottery collection.
A few plans for the rest of the week: Girl Scout Thinking Day
Here is picture thought I am sharing...

I love to hear her reading out loud to me!

To join in the fun, visit: http://thesimplewomansdaybook.blogspot.com/

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Another Reading Milestone

Kate has reached yet another reading milestone. She has been reading chapter books for a while now, but she usually reads a chapter or two at a time and then sets them down for later.

I bought her a book when we were at the store a few days ago. She started reading it in the car. When we got home, she continued reading it on the couch. Then, she moved to her bed, where she finished it. All in one sitting!! I am so proud of her. She was actually very proud of herself also - and rightly so.


Here are some of the non-school books which she has recently read:

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Kate's Valentine's Day Art

I wish that I could say we had a wonderful Valentine's Day. We had planned a small tea party for this afternoon. Ellie baked mini heart-shaped cakes for the occasion. She is starting to get very comfortable in the kitchen and I love that!

Last night though, I was hit with a horrible stomach bug. I lost 10 lbs overnight. I think the only other time I have lost that much weight at once is having a baby! I think I'm recovering, but I still have not felt myself all day long. I've been snoozing on and off.

To make matters worse, Ellie threw up this afternoon. She is pale and weak and resting on the couch.

The tea party was a bust. I told the girls that we would postpone it for another day. A healthy day. I am just hoping that no one else ends up getting sick!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Family Virtues Guide: Kindness


We were talking about kindness with week and trying to practice it a bit more than usual.
For some reason, there has been a lot of petty bickering in the past couple of weeks and I'm hoping to nip it in the bud. I want the girls to understand what a special bond they have as sisters, friends, and classmates. I want them to go out of their way to be kind to each other.

It's truly amazing what a kind word or a small deed can do to cheer up someone's day. It puts a smile on everyone's face and a bounce in their step.

Affirmation: I am kind. I look for ways to help others. I show kindness to any person or animal I see. I do all I can to take care of the earth. I remember my connection to all creation. (from The Family Virtues Guide by Linda Kavelin Popov)

Aloha from North Pole!

This month's homeschool club had a Polynesian theme. The island atmosphere was just what we needed to beat the winter blahs.

Lexie doing the limbo.


I think we might need to buy some hula hoops this summer...
Everyone thought they were fun :)


Ellie, Limbo Queen :)

Nick, as always, was a handful. :) I would expect nothing less...
He's happy because he got a spider tattoo on his hand.

Sisters.

Lexie is showing off her butterfly tattoo.

My new gadget and some rambling

Yesterday was supposed to be a quiet day at home. We ended up being out of the house for about 4 hours.

I had noticed that my tires were all very low. We have an air compressor, but I forgot to have my husband teach me how to use it and how to fill the tires before he left. Yes, I know it is probably super simple, but I don't know how to do it and I was overdue for an oil change anyway, so I packed the kids up and we headed to Walmart. I like to get it done there, because then I can push the kids around the store or sit and eat at Subway instead of sitting in the lobby of jiffy lube with all of them.

So, we ate lunch and browsed. My truck is now running much better and seems to have better traction on the icy roads. I'm thankful for that!

After the oil change, I decided to stop by and see about upgrading my cell phone. I have had the "free" model for years now and I wanted something more. I don't gab on the phone much - who can with 5 kids? But, I am out of the house a lot and I would like to have access to my email during the day.

I walked out of the store with a new iPhone. I think my world has just changed!

Wow, I spent hours yesterday just trying to get it set up the way I want it. Trying to figure out how to use it. I think I'm good to go now.

It's like a little mini computer that I can take with me. I can check and send email. I can listen to music. I can surf the internet. I can get directions. I can read books (I have the Bible and a bunch of classics on there!). I can write notes (No more forgetting the grocery list at home!). I can blog from it. I can take pictures. Oh yeah, and I can even use it as a phone :)

Technology and it's daily advances never cease to amaze me.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Using Your Senses" Poetry

Today we used Giant Write Every Day: Daily Writing Prompts by Evan Moore for our journal writing (pg. 94). I couldn't get the girls to quit writing!! I expected them to each write a poem, but they just couldn't help themselves. Kate wrote 5 and Ellie wrote 9 poems using the model from the book.

Here was the model:

Choose an emotion/feeling etc. and describe it with:
Color
Taste
Smell
Feel
Sound
Sight

Here are some of the examples of their work:

Anger is black
Dark, bitter chocolate
A dragon's breath
As sharp as a dark knight's sword
The yelling of a lady's voice
Anger is a dark cloud. (Kate)

Beauty is red
The taste of a marischino cherry
The smell of lavender
As soft as a cute kitten
The singing of a girl
Beauty is love and kindness. (Kate)

Boredom is white
Rice, Cleaning Fluid, Empty Brain, Mute
Boredom is a blank page. (Ellie)

Jealousy is a bright green
A green sour lime
Lemon juice
A slap to the head
Teeth grinding
Jealousy is a frog in the throat (Ellie)

Hope is a light pink
Honey
A pine tree
A held breath
A slow mountain breeze
Hope is a great laurel. (Ellie)

Dreamy is a light purple
Vanilla ice cream
Lavender
Eternal Sleep
Lullaby
Dreamy is a soft pillow (Ellie)

Minoan Dolphin Fresco


Here is a watercolor painting that Ellie did today of a famous Minoan fresco from the palace at Knossos.

Homeschool Memoirs - How Many Loads?

To join in on the meme, go here.

We’ve been catching up and throwing out a lot of the clutter in our home this past week, and thankfully it looks as if we’ve done so! However, one thing we won’t ever really get rid of, especially in a large family, is laundry. Everyone has it, but just how much?

THEME

This question was posted at a Large Family Homeschooling fourm, and I thought it would be fun as one of the memoirs.

Question: Watching the Duggars, and other mega families [our family of 11 is small in comparison!] I was astounded at how many loads of washing. Do all large families do 7 loads a day and more, as I was thinking it sounds a little OTT?

So share all about your laundry. It’s on very rare occasion that it’s suitable to air dirty laundry. lol


Clean and Fresh by Jerianne Van Dijk
Clean and Fresh

I have 5 kids. One of them is in cloth diapers. Another is in dance class 3 nights a week and gymnastics. I do a lot of laundry. The diapers are done daily, but the rest I try to save for Saturdays.

I actually get some sort of sick satisfaction out of sorting the clothes into piles and throwing them in the washer. Strange, I know. Maybe it's because no one else ever hangs out in the laundry room, which makes it a kind of mom sanctuary. ;) If only there was a hot tub in there next to the washer and dryer....

I don't mind folding the clothes either. There is something relaxing about it, especially with the hum of the dryer in the background.

As much as I enjoy the beginnings of the laundry cycle, I abhor the end. They have to be put away.

The clothes sometimes end up sitting in the baskets until I start doing laundry again the next week. The kids pull a pair of underwear or a beloved shirt out of the piles during the week (of course messing up the neat piles!). But who can blame them? When they come out wearing a skirt and tank top (when it's negative 20 out) then I know that it's time to refill their dresser drawers. :)

My problem could easily be solved if I just made the kids put their own clothes away. They are plenty old enough to do the task (the older three are 9, almost 7, and almost 5).

For some reason though, it bugs me when they aren't put away neatly (which they rarely do). Like I have time to worry about what the insides of their drawers look like, right? I just need to let go and pass the task on to them. Laundry day would be much more enjoyable for me.

Oh, and how did I forget to mention the *S* word? Dare I say it? SOCKS! I can't be the only one that has a huge basket full of unmatched socks in their laundry room.

You know the deal. You need to leave the house, but have no socks in your drawer - because who really likes to match socks? So you dig through the basket, searching for 2 that are close to matching so that you can leave. Of course, it's that times 6 because the kids' socks are in there also. I about need a shovel to look through there (it's an extra-tall basket).

Eventually it gets really annoying and has to be dealt with. I put in a long movie - maybe Pride and Prejudice or Wives and Daughters and I do nothing but match. For hours.

And what is at the bottom of the basket? About 20 lonely socks that have no partner. The sockmonster has claimed his victims. They will never be seen again. Occasionally, one will fall out of a fitted sheet in a year, but by then its mate has met its fate in the trash can.

I wish I had all of the answers and I was super-duper organized. But, I'm not.

Sorry, but you won't be learning any laundry organizing tips from me today :)

Why Don't Houses Come With Instruction Manuals?


Living on a military post is easy. If anything goes wrong in your home, you simply call the repairman and it is magically fixed. For free.

There was no on-post housing when Andy arrived in Alaska and we were anxious to get moved up here, so we ended up buying a house instead.

There are perks to being a homeowner. Tax breaks. The ability to paint your walls and make changes to the home. Not having a landlord. We have a huge yard and much more privacy than we would in a townhouse on post.

But there are definite disadvantages also. Like dealing with every tiny problem that goes wrong in the house. Having to either fix it yourself or having to find the right person to do it for you. And then there is paying to have it fixed (that's definitely a big one).

I just wish that I had a clear, concise book (it would probably be several volumes long) that included step-by-step instructions to MY PARTICULAR HOME along with labeled pictures of where everything is and how to troubleshoot. A list of phone numbers of reputable repairmen would be helpful also.

When I asked Andy why houses don't come with manuals, he insisted that they do. They are called husbands!!

Duh! So my current problem is that my manual is in Iraq!! The only way I can open my manual is to send an email and hope it responds before a complete and utter crisis occurs. This is not very efficient. And ultimately I still have to deal with it. Which I hate.

I don't think that it's necessarily that more things go wrong while he is deployed. I just think that it seems like there are more things because I am the one that actually has to deal with them.

He's not even halfway through the deployment yet. In the 5 months that he's been gone, plus the month-long NTC rotation he was on right before he left, the water softener died, the boiler had to be fixed, the pipes froze twice, the pipes under the bathroom sink came apart, and I have had to do minor carpentry work a few times. What else could I possibly have to deal with over the next 7 months until he gets back??? I shudder to think about the possibilities.

The plumber was here on Sunday thawing out our pipes. This is only Wednesday, but I have yet another home-related thing to deal with!

We have absolutely no heat to the bedrooms (which are on their own thermostat). I am normally a let-one-leg-hang-out-of-the-blankets kind of a girl. Last night I went to bed with socks and a sweatshirt and an extra blanket on. And I was still cold. I guess when it's -20 outside, your room can get pretty igloo-like with no heat coming in.

I think I may have found the problem, but it involves wires. I DO NOT touch wires of any sort. I refuse. So, I am again going to be paying someone over $100 an hour to come and fix something in my house. Oh, the joys of home ownership....

Well, I suppose I should go upstairs and check to make sure that my children haven't turned into little kidsicles during the night. On the bright side, we have heat to the rest of the house, so maybe we'll sleep in the living room tonight :)

Supercharged Science!

Yesterday, Ellie attended an all-day science workshop called Supercharged Science. She came home excited about science!!

She wanted to know more about electronics and insisted I order more "pieces" that she can work with. Here is a clip of her putting some of her stuff together. They built a mini "robot" which moved by the vibrations of a propeller. What fun!




She is also interested in learning more about astronomy - which we studied earlier this year. I didn't delve too far into supernovas and other galaxies though and that is what she would like to find out about.

I am glad that she was exposed to some subjects which we have yet to cover and that she had the opportunity to do some great experiments.

I am considering buying some of the science programs they offer for next school year. Here is a video about their Science Mastery Program which includes DVDs. I like the fact that *I* don't have to be the one doing the experiments. It is stuff that Ellie can work on by herself.

She came home from the workshop with a CD containing more experiments to do on her own. At the very least, I am going to have her work on some of those :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Making Cards Made Easy

I love the thought of making my own cards. Notice I said the thought.

I like to look at blogs like sow.sprout.bloom and Butter Beanz and see what beautiful, creative things these women can do in their free time. The recipients of those cards are very lucky indeed. It would make anyone feel loved and special to get one in the mail.

The reality though is that I don't have time to make my own cards. I actually don't even have the time to lick stamps. Or address envelopes. Or walk the 30 feet to the mail box to send a card. I might be exaggerating slightly, but not by much.

I have felt awful in the past. Birthdays or special occasions have passed and I didn't send a card. I promise that it's not because I don't care! It's because I spend my days cleaning peanut butter off the floor and washing dirty diapers and educating my children and the list goes on and on. Cards have been on the bottom of the list.

I recently found a website that can help me move my card-sending up the list a couple of notches. It's made for people just like me!! It's called Cardstore and I absolutely adore it.

I can choose from tons of different templates, but I can be semi-creative and add my own pictures and messages. They looks so professional and beautiful and the best part is that all I have to do is push send and then the card is addressed and stamped and sent for me.

I have found the solution to my yearly question: "What do I send for Christmas cards?" I am always torn between writing out a great newsletter and sending regular cards. I always want to enclose pictures, but I never do. I now know EXACTLY what I'm doing next year. I am choosing a card that has templates for pictures on the front AND I'm writing a newsletter on the inside of the card.

I love finding things that make my life a little bit easier...

Update on Tori's tongue

We went and saw the doctor today. Apparently Tori is now considered too old to just "clip" it with scissors in the office. They are afraid that she would wiggle around too much.

So, now surgery has been scheduled for March 5th. This frightens me. I know that it's nothing major, but she's only 9 months old and the thought of putting her under general anesthesia scares me silly. Part of me wants to just back out of it and deal with the possible problems later.

I really think that later in life, she would be thankful that we corrected this while she was young though - before it caused her any problems.

Is there anyone else out there that has had this done??

To clip or not to clip? That is the question.


Tori was born with a very tight frenulum. It extends to the end of her little tongue, giving it a heart-shape. It is hereditary, and it's entirely my fault. I was also born "tongue-tied". Mine was clipped when I was very young (I don't even remember it).

Apparently they don't clip them now like they used to. They like to wait and see if it poses a problem (ie. with eating or speech etc.). Children often "break" them during the first couple of years by falling or running into things.

I had a harder than usual time getting Tori latched on when she was born, but she is now a champ at eating (as you can tell by the rolls on her arms!). So, why clip it now?

My fear is that as she reaches toddlerhood and preschool age, she might have delays in her speech because of it. Do I want to wait and see if she has problems and then have it clipped? I am afraid that then it would be traumatizing. I would rather she didn't remember it. I would also rather clip it now before it causes trouble. I would hate for her to be behind on her speech development because ot it.

I should add that Nick was also born tongue-tied, although his did not extend to the end of his tongue like Tori's. However, I had an EXTREMELY hard time nursing him in the first month. I almost went to bottle-feeding, because it was just too difficult and painful. I stuck with it though and eventually he was able to nurse, although never quite as well as his siblings.

When he was a couple of weeks old, I took him in to have his frenulum cut, because he was losing weight since he couldn't eat properly. The doctor couldn't do it though. His was very thick and it would have required surgery. I couldn't put him through that, so we didn't do anything about it. He is speaking a lot now and I am trying to keep my eye out for any possible speech problems. It's so hard to tell at this age (almost 3).

Tori's frenulum is not thick like his was, so hers could probably just be clipped with scissors (which is how mine was done.)

So, today we are headed to the doctor to see what can be done. I am not looking forward to it. Who wants to see their baby hurt? Not me :(

Am I making the right decision?

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY February 9, 2009...
Outside my window...is the same old snow. I still need to get out and shovel the steps! I am happy that the days are starting to get longer. I can really notice the improvement to my sleeping and general happiness :)
I am thinking...that I would like to work on some genealogy this week if I can find the time.
I am thankful for...precious running water. We went 3 days with frozen pipes and it was tough. I can't imagine living without it on a regular basis!
From the learning rooms...Ancient Greece. We're listening to a lot of Greek myths this week.
From the kitchen...only cereal this morning. I am making a run to Sam's Club, so we will probably have a great dinner.
I am wearing...yoga pants and a T-shirt. (Not that I do yoga, but they are comfy!)
I am creating...nothing at the moment.
I am going...to drop Ellie off at an all-day science workshop and then on a trip to Sam's Club.
I am reading...The Venetial Betrayal by Steve Berry.
I am hoping...that Tori's doctor's appointment goes well. She is "tongue-tied" and her frenulum may be cut this week.
I am hearing...the sounds of my children and the laundry going. It's the soundtrack of my life :)
Around the house...I have a lot of housework to catch up - namely laundry and dishes. 3 days with no water can make quite a mess.
One of my favorite things...sleeping in :)
A few plans for the rest of the week: maybe a small Valentine's tea party for the girls this weekend.
Here is picture thought I am sharing...

I sure wish I had her eyelashes :)

To join in the fun, go to The Simple Woman's Daybook .

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Rock Collection


We have owned a couple of different rock sample collections over the past few years, but we LOVE the new one we purchased this year.

The other collections were mounted onto the cardboard back and labeled right under them. Of course, little toddler hands ripped them off of the backing, because the rocks needed to be held!

This time around we bought a much larger collection (I believe there are about 70 different rock samples) and they are numbered with stickers. There is a key, which lists what each rock is. In this way, the kids can pick the rocks up and guess what they are. Then they can check the key to see if they are right! This one was worth the investment!

Small World's Wordsmithery #3


We've enjoyed yet another week of Small World's Wordsmithery Creative Writing Lessons. What fun they have been! The kids are more than happy to share what they have written in their journals so far.

Here are some examples of their work this week:

Day 1
Pick 3 foods. For each one, write a sentence that describes the food in such a way that it sounds awful:
1. The mushy brown banana slowly glooped off my fork. (Ellie)
2. The chocolate-covered bee stung my mouth as I chewed.(Ellie)
3. The blood-like pomegranate juice seemed to slush around.(Ellie)
4. The mushy greasy mushroom made me throw up. (Kate)

Day 2
Write a mouth watering description of your favorite dessert.
1. Thick, creamy chocolate frosting covers a heavy, heavenly double chocolate chip cake.(Ellie)

Day 3
Write the menu for your ideal meal. Use at least one adjective for each food.
1. Breakfast: Light, fluffy pancakes drizzled in sticky, sweet syrup. Lunch: Fresh turkey sandwiches with juicy orange slices and fizzy root beer. Dinner: Tomatoey spaghetti with sugary lemonade. (Ellie)

Day 4
Write a recipe for crocodile pie.
1. Ingredients: 5 cups diced crocodile, 1 cup cooked cabbage, 1 box jambalaya dough, 1 coconut, 1 stick butter. Chop up coconut and mix with melted butter, croc, and cabbage in a mixer bowl on high, until creamy. Pour mixture into a 9X6X3 pie pan. Put in an oven for one day on 400 degrees. (Ellie)

Our favorite exercise was sentence stretching (changing simple sentences into more descriptive ones).

We started with: The man went to the big city.
And we came up with:
The young fisherman waddled to the big snowy city of Fairbanks.(together)
The handsome gardener skipped to the big city of roses. (Ellie)
Mr. John drove to the fishing place in Fairbanks. (Kate)

We started with: The woman ate lunch.
And came up with:
Jany enthusiastically gobbled down her turkey wrap. (Ellie)
The kind woman ate lunch at Pioneer Park. (Kate)

The water is running

A Close-up of a Faucet with a Single Drop of Water Coming out of It by Todd Gipstein
A Close-up of a Faucet with a Single Drop of Water Coming out of It
We have running water folks! The pipes were indeed frozen. One of the valves had somehow been shut off, causing the circulation pump not to do it's job. We should be fine now.

I am going to be so busy tonight. 3 days worth of dishes, a week's worth of laundry and 5 stinky kids to bathe ;) And I'm going to allow myself a very long, hot shower too!!

I will be happy to get all of the water jugs off of my kitchen counter and the buckets out of the bathroom. We can now move on with normal life :)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Things are getting smelly....

So, we have now had almost 2 days with no water.

Things are starting to get stinky in here.

There is a slight trickle in the bathtub, so we are catching that water in a bucket so that we can continue to flush toilets. Thank God for small miracles. :) Things would be pretty dire without that!

The plumber said that he "should" be able to come tomorrow afternoon. I sure hope that he does! We still don't know if the pipes are frozen or if there is a problem with the water pump. I have absolutely no idea. This is definitely not my area of expertise.

The dishes have piled up, the laundry has piled up, and we're all getting stinky.

I have pulled out the disposable diapers and paper plates.
We will have some catching up to do on housework when the water starts flowing again :)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Rocks, Minerals, Fossils, and Soil



Here is a link to the above notebooking page which I created for our studies.
You are free to use it if you like!

We have spent the past few weeks studying rocks, minerals, fossils, and soil. The girls enjoyed these studies - especially learning about gems. :) We broke open geodes, grew crystals, and "mined" for "gold" and "gems".



The mining for gems was harder than we thought it would be! It was kind of messy too (lots of dust). I would suggest doing it outside if at all possible.

Here are some of the resources which we used during our studies:

Pipe Problems

I just posted about getting used to my pipes freezing and what happens? You guessed it! I have frozen pipes. The only water we have is a very small trickle coming out of the bathtub faucet.

Ellie also has a friend spending the night. And we can't flush the toilets. Or wash our hands. This is not good.

I am trying to fix it myself before calling a plumber. Last time this happened, I sat and blow dried the pipes under my sink for hours to no avail. What worked in the end was cranking up the heat in the entire house and going to sleep and praying that I would have water when I awoke.

I am actually surprised that they are freezing this time. It's above zero (last time it was about negative 50, so it was understandable). It's not like water isn't always flowing through our pipes. I have 5 kids for goodness sakes! There is always laundry or dishes being washed, people bathing or flushing the toilets, and we drink water all day long. I will have to see if there is some way we can insulate them better I guess.

It's starting to get uncomfortably warm in here. I even turned the heat up as high as it would go in the garage (which I usually keep very cool). The pipes go through the garage first, so I am hoping that this will work! I am holding out for about another hour and then I will have to head to the store and buy a cartful of water and come home and call a plumber. Of course it's already 4 on Friday night!! I wonder what their evening rates are....actually I hope I don't have to find out!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Heart of the Matter: Beating Those Winter Blues


Beating Those Winter Blues.

Oh the winter blues. We have them!! Do you??

This is our second winter in Alaska. It seems like it's winter here all year long! I haven't seen my grass since September. It can get a bit depressing. The summers are wonderful, but way too short.

It was definitely a big adjustment moving here from California, where we had very mild winters.
We have adjusted though. I have gotten used to plugging the car in at the grocery store, bundling the kids up in 50 layers of clothes (slight exaggeration), dealing with frozen pipes, etc.

It's actually not the cold itself that bugs me so much. It's the darkness and the lack of fresh air.
When it's below negative 20 out, who wants to spend any extra time outside?? Not me.

Especially since everyone keeps their cars running at the stores and has the heat going in their homes which makes the air outside icky. I know that you imagine Alaska having such fresh air, but let me assure you that isn't the case during the winter in town. Yuck.

I sometimes feel like we're a family of bears, hibernating for the winter in a dark cave. Wake me when Spring comes....in April or maybe May??

The only way I keep myself sane is to keep busy. We get out of the house throughout the winter (unless it gets below negative 40 - then we usually try to stay home if we can). We had a few weeks off during the holidays and then we had a cold snap where it was below -40 for a week or so. We were really going stir crazy. Cabin fever had set in. I'm glad to be back to "normal" again.

I keep the kids in gymnastics and dance so that they can burn off some extra energy - otherwise they are bouncing off the walls at home, and I don't blame them! They are also in Girl Scouts, AWANA, and art classes.

I have a treadmill which I try to get on every day. It cheers me up :)

I wish I had more answers on how to beat those blues, but I don't. I'm anxious to read how you all do it!! I could use some good ideas - and some sunshine :)