Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I'm Drooling

I really want to upgrade from my point-and-shoot to a D-SLR. I have a wonderful camera with lots of great functions, but I feel like I'm ready for a bit more control than what I have.

I've been drooling over pages of photography magazines and reading reviews online.

It's pretty overwhelming. Nikon or Canon (or Olympus or Sony or Pentax....)?

There are a lot of great cameras out there. A lot of them have huge price tags. I can't justify spending thousands of dollars on a professional grade camera. I do want to dive into really learning more about photography though and I want something that takes decent pictures.

I think that I have made my decision. It was down to the Nikon D90 and the newer Nikon D5000. I think that they take similar pictures and the D5000 is cheaper, so I was leaning towards that one.

Then I headed down to the local camera store and decided that I needed to feel the cameras to make a better decision.

And I changed my mind. I like the D90 better. It feels much sturdier and more "professional" than the D5000.

Now I just need to start saving money in my camera fund towards my new toy. :) I don't think that I will regret this purchase!!!

More of Ellie's Art

This wasn't an assigned project - just something she wanted to work on. She has been spending more and more of her free time with the art supplies. She's been begging for some oil paints (we only have watercolors - which her siblings have transformed all from vibrant colors into a mottled grayish brown).

And I didn't cut the head off of the picture. She composed it that way. :)

Ellie's Self-Portrait

Here is a self-portrait that Ellie did today in oil pastels. :)

Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm Here

Yes, I'm still here. We've just been enjoying our first weekend together. :)

It has been so nice just being able to hang out and relax.

Andy made his famous spaghetti.

They played a game of Take Off! (I was chasing Tori), we watched some movies and I've been doing some serious reading up on different cameras. I'm hoping to upgrade to a D-SLR soon and I'm trying to find just the right one.

The snow is falling very lightly this morning. It is coming down so slowly that it almost doesn't seem real. Winter is really arriving in Alaska. I think another 2-3 weeks of light snow and melting and then we'll be covered until April. I'm trying to be okay with that. :)

Andy is back to work tomorrow for a couple of weeks, so we'll be working on school stuff until his leave starts.

It's so nice to have him back!!!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Come on Weekend!!!

We're anxiously awaiting the weekend - which will be Andy's first days off since returning from Iraq.

I'm sure that everyone assumes that returning soldiers are immediately off to spend time with their families, but that is not the case.

He got back on Sunday and was back in to work on Monday. He hasn't been working full days or anything, but he has to go in daily for formations, medical and dental screening, meetings, and various other in-processing stuff.

In short, we haven't seen him much. Between work and catching up on much-needed sleep, we haven't gotten to spend much time together yet.

It's hard to have him here, but not have him all to ourselves yet. :)

Our time will come though. He'll be on leave in a couple of weeks and then we'll be able to have our much-needed family time.

Until then, I'm making the kids do schoolwork while he's gone every day. It hasn't been very organized or very fun, but I'm trying to be productive.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Oh No, Not Snow!!

I'm not quite ready for the white stuff yet.

The leaves still need to be raked and the toys picked up from the yard. Plus, I really like driving on dry pavement.

I wasn't very happy when snow started falling this morning.

Thankfully, it melted by the afternoon. It won't be long though before it's on the ground for good. I'm just hoping that it waits another few weeks.

It's not that I don't like snow. Who doesn't love a White Christmas? I just don't like a white Halloween and a white Easter.

There is one good thing about the snow this year. I now have a husband here who can shovel it. :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Done With Week 7

We're finished with another week. I can hardly believe that we are close to the end of our first quarter. We are going to try to keep working a little bit as Andy goes in to work for formations and appointments. We will take some time off when his leave starts!! :)

We studied the Vikings this week (and will continue to study them next week)



Here is Ellie's rough draft for this week's writing assignment:

Monterey Beach

As I walk down the sandy shore, a salty sea air stings my nose. A light morning fog clouds my vision as smooth white sea foam washes my sand covered feet. An orange crab scuttles past me, its feet clicking together like a typewriter, making me laugh. The busy Monday crowd yells and shouts to one another. No time for them to stop and gaze at the beauty of the ocean. As the smell of exhaust fills the air, I sigh and walk back home.

The kids are still zipping through Teaching Textbooks. I am really enjoying not having to grade math assignments. :)

Don't Leave!!

Poor Nick had a hard time this afternoon.

Andy had to go into work for a quick accountability formation. Nick saw him drive away in his uniform and was sure that he was going back to Iraq. He was pretty upset.

Thankfully, he was reassured when Daddy came back an hour or two later. I think that he now realizes that Andy can be out of his sight for a while and still be "here" with us in Alaska. :)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sweet Reunion

Yes, Andy finally made it home this morning!! We were supposed to pick him up at 11 a.m. I was woken up by a phone call at 7:30, letting me know that he'd be in at 9 instead!! I woke up the kids and we scrambled to get out the door in time. I have to admit that it was much nicer than us anxiously waiting around all morning.

Unfortunately, he missed our 11 year anniversary by one day. That's okay though - we will celebrate every day for a long while now that he is back. :)

The buses pulled in and everyone got excited.

Hugs and kisses all around.

All 7 of us in one picture - that doesn't happen often enough!

Friday, September 18, 2009

In A Funk

Yes, I'm in a funk.

Still no news as to when Andy will get here. I haven't had word from him in days and days. The kids are getting anxious to see him (and of course, I am too). I'm really hoping that we get the call soon!!

The guy came to fix my treadmill today and of course the wrong part was sent out. He's going to have to come back later - after his 2 week vacation. :( It looks like I'll be a slug for a while longer.

On top of that, a couple of the kiddos have been sick and I woke up with it.

It's not anything horrible - no fever. I just have a slight cough, but I am very tired and achy. I feel like I've been hit by a bus. I could definitely take a shot of NyQuil and sleep the weekend away - but we all know that isn't possible!! I'm hoping that it will pass soon enough - I would hate for Andy to come home to a sick house. I am going to try my hardest to get to bed early tonight. I might even pay Ellie to do some babysitting so that I can get some extra sleep.

That can't happen yet though, because Kate has her first TaeKwon Do test tonight. I will have to postpone my rest until a little later.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Little Disappointed

I had really been hoping that Andy would be home by now. Over 3,500 of the 4,000 soldiers have already returned. I'm starting to think that he will be the last soldier to get off of the last plane back.

I actually haven't even received the phone call letting me know when he'll arrive. That call is supposed to come 72 hrs before he gets here. That means he won't be here by Saturday. :(

I'm trying not to be too disappointed, but I admit that I am a little sad.

It's our 11th Anniversary, and it also happens to be a respite care day (meaning that the kids are in child care from 9-5 for free). If Andy were here, then we could actually spend our anniversary together.

It looks like I'll be spending the day alone though. I suppose I could use the day to prepare for his homecoming. Maybe some house cleaning and shopping without kids around.

I'm trying to be patient, but it's hard!!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Such a Slug

The Black Slug
The Black Slug

This is me. I feel like SUCH a slug right now and I hate it.

My treadmill died almost a month ago. It will turn on, but no matter what button I push, it just beeps at me. Beep, beep, beep.

Luckily, I bought the extended 3 year warranty and it's still covered.

Unfortunately, it took me over 2 weeks to actually find my paperwork. It was tucked into a random notebook that I haven't looked at in ages. I know, such organization. At least I found it!!

So then I called the warranty people and they had the new parts sent out. I waited for a week and half for the repair man to call. North Pole isn't exactly a metropolitan area. One guy does the repairs. He was scheduled to come over today, but had to cancel. He's going to try to come on Friday (before he leaves on vacation!!!) I sure hope he is able to make it.

So, I have been a month without my treadmill and I can sure feel it. I have turned into a slug. It's not just the 5 lbs that I've gained. It's the fact that I now feel so out of shape and sedentary.

The weather has been pretty nice and I really don't have any good excuses for not getting out there and actually walking in the fresh air. I just hate walking around the neighborhood with the kids. We don't have sidewalks. Nick doesn't want to ride in the stroller, because he's a big boy. He also stops at every rock and leaf that we pass and randomly darts out into the street. As soon as we get a good distance away from the house, everyone has to go to the bathroom. It's just not pleasant. That's what I have a treadmill. :)

So, hopefully I will be back on it by this weekend!! I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Perfume Science

Today we took a break from our regular science and made our own perfume!

This is the perfect science set for any girl. They were all so happy to design their own fragrances. :)

The finished product:

I ♥ Faces: Contemplative

This week's theme at I ♥ Faces is "Contemplative". This is my daughter Ellie, deep in thought. :) Head over to I ♥ Faces to join in the fun!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Week 6 Done

We've made it through yet another week. Whew!

This week, we talked about some of the early kings of England: Alfred the Great, Edward the Confessor, Ethelred the Unready, Canute the Great, Sven Forkbeard, and William the Conqueror.

We learned about pomanders. The wealthy owned beautiful ones which they wore as a necklace, or hung from a belt. They believed that they would protect them from infection in times of plague. I'm sure that it was nice to have something pleasant to smell when the stench of medieval life was getting a bit too bad.

We made "poor man's" pomanders -the typical oranges covered in cloves. By the way - did you know how expensive whole cloves are??? I'm glad I had enough on hand at home. They were over $14 for a normal-sized jar of them at Wal-Mart. Yikes!

Lexie decided that hers should have a smiley face.

We pulled out our microscope (which I bought last year and we had never used!!!!). It is a stereoscope and in addition to regular prepared slides, you can put objects under it. The kids had fun magnifying their hair, leaves etc. I put in an order for some slides and we can't wait for them to come!!!

Ellie wrote a paragraph about fall. It is quite appropriate since fall has arrived here in Alaska. The oranges and yellows are gorgeous and our yard is beginning to fill with leaves.Here is her rough draft(it still needs to be revised and edited which we will finish this weekend):

Red and yellow, leaves gracefully flutter off the half-bare trees in a cheerful evening greeting. The warm, inviting smell of freshly baked pumpkin pie wafts through the cool air. Little chipmunks scurry past my warm feet, gathering the last acorns they can find before winter comes. The horizon in front of me shows a beautiful sunset - pink, yellow, orange, red, blended together beautifully, making it a masterpiece. I look down on the heavily trodden path, and see leaves of every shape and color, artistically littering the ground. I look up and see red, fat cardinals singing to one another. I turn a sharp corner and see it: my wonderful home, full of my happy family.

We start in on studying the Vikings next week. My Scandinavian genes are getting excited :)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Butterfly Release

We let the butterflies go free today. They were happy to finally spread their wings and fly away!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Review: WriteShop

This is our first year using WriteShop and 5 weeks into it, I'm very pleased and impressed.

Last year, our writing program left something to be desired. That's because we had no writing program. I foolishly thought that I had the time to make up my own assignments and figure out how to grade them. I didn't. Our end result was that there wasn't much writing done last year - except for some fun poems and some wonderful journal writing assignments at Small World (Thank you by the way!!)

So, this year I decided that I had to have a writing program for me to follow - for my own sanity and the sake of Ellie's education. :) I ordered WriteShop in hopes that it would be the answer. I think it has been!

What I like:
1. It is very structured with a checklist for Ellie to check off for the first revision of her assignment. She now knows to skip lines, where to add her name and date, how to leave space in the margins, etc. Little things that I was not thinking about last year. The first few lessons, she was having a hard time remembering all of this little things and thought it quite tedious having to go through the checklist. Now that she has finished lesson 5, I have noticed that the correct format of her paper is becoming a habit and she is able to whiz through the checklist. Yeah!

2. Not only is there a checklist for her, but I have 2 checklists!! One is for me to give her specific feedback on her first revision. The other is a grading checklist with points for mechanics, style, and content. This has made it a breeze for me to grade her papers!!!

3. I like the content and assignments. For WriteShop 1, the assignments are as follows:
* Describing an Object
* Describing a Pet
* Describing a Person
* Describing a Circus Performer
*Describing a Food
* Describing a Season
* Describing a Place
* Explaining a Process
* Writing a Factual Paragraph (Focus on Informative Reports and Avoiding Plagiarism)
* Writing a Concise Biography
* Introducing Journalism (Focus on Writing a News Article)
* Writing a Narrative of an Emotional Event
* Writing a Narrative of Another Person's Experience (Focus on Conducting an Interview)
* First-Person Point of View (Focus on Point of View/Personification)
* First-Person Point of View (Focus on Limited Ominiscience/Tenses)
* Third Person Point of View

The program says it is made for grades 6-10 (for the first level.) Ellie is technically in the 5th grade, but I really feel like she is going to be able to finish both Writeshop 1 and 2 this year school year. Her strengths are definitely in reading and writing. It's what she enjoys and what she excels at.

Here is an example from her last writing assignments:

Lesson 5: Describing a Food
Precious Ruby

A ripe, ruby pomegranate, its luscious skin hard but smooth to the touch, seems to glow. As I cut it open, thick pulp dyes my fingers blood red. Its small juicy morsels melt in my mouth. I scoop out some more, my hands dripping with sweet, sticky juice. I grab a spoon, its enchanting bubbles of juice robbing my train of thought. I look sadly down, seeing that my bowl of goodness is gone.

Lesson 3: Describing a Person

Video Game

My little sister Lexie squints her chocolate colored eyes in concentration as she plays a video game. She brushes muddy brown high-cut bangs out of her face and moves the nunchuck expertly with her small, clean hands. Chipped green nail polish covers her nails and shines in the dim light. Lexie's red t-shirt makes her look happier. Her tight jeans stretch over her skinny legs. Her usually talkative face is hardened with thought. "New high score!" she yells at the top of her lungs. Squealing with triumph, she finishes her game.

I am so happy to have found this program! I think it is going to both challenge Ellie and keep me sane. :)

Click here to try a sample lesson.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Yes, More Pictures of Tori

I know that I have posted way too many pics of Tori lately, but I have even more from today. We put some fairy wings and a cute skirt on her and I tried my hardest to get some good pictures. She was moving CONSTANTLY. Ellie did her best to try to keep her in one spot, but it was impossible. Still, I got a few that I really liked. And now I'm really, really, really wanting to get a big girl camera. :) A D-SLR. My point and shoot is great, but I would love some more control.

And here are a couple of Ellie.

I ♥ Faces: Back to School Collage

This week's theme at I ♥ Faces is Back to School! Here is just a small slice of our homeschool, Island Academy. :) To join in the fun, visit I Heart Faces.

Still Waiting

The gates to post are absolutely covered in "Welcome Home" signs.

About half of the soldiers are back from Iraq. I was in town the other day and could easily pick out the happily reunited couples, walking hand in hand, pushing strollers as they went shopping.

I'm still waiting for that to be me. For us to be that happy family, walking around town in the happy glow of reunion.

Andy is going to be among the last to come back. I'm okay with that. After a year, what is another week or two, right?

We are starting to get excited though. We're down to a number of days that the kids can actually understand. They are already talking about how much fun they are going to have when he gets here.

Kate is looking forward to having a chess partner again. I DO NOT play chess. Too much thinking ahead and strategy for me. :)

Nick wants Daddy to take him to the hardware store to look at tools. And to play trains and Legos with him. He really needs some guy time. Being the only boy in a house full of girls for a year has been rough.

Poor Tori really doesn't know Andy. That makes me so sad. She was only a few months old when he left. They have a lot of catching up to do!!

We all have a lot of catching up to do. He will have a bunch of time off in October, and we'll be able to just hang out and make up for lost time. Doesn't that sound wonderful?? Now if only the weather will cooperate with us a bit and stave off the snow - then maybe we could do a bit of traveling too!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

More Pics from Another Beautiful Day

Weeks 4 and 5 Update

Ok, so I decided that I didn't like delaying my post by a week. It bugged me. :) We have now finished weeks 4 and 5!! Can we really have made it this far already?

We spent Week 4 studying various rulers of the early Medieval World - Charles Martel, Charlesmagne, Otto I. We listened to Story of the World and Mystery of History CDs (Did you know that Mystery of History is on CD also??).

Anything on CD is much easier for me than reading aloud. Not that I don't like reading aloud, but if we are listening to the CD, then I can be attending to the younger kids at the same time. We often get interrupted (and I get frustrated) when I'm trying to read aloud and there are lots of "little" distractions. :)

We spent Week 5 learning about Knights and listening to the story of King Arthur. We also read a short picture book on Beowulf.

The kids made their own Coats of Arms.


Our butterflies came out of their cocoons this week. I am so happy that they survived! Nick had moved the butterfly house and the cocoons fell from the top of the house. I was worried that they weren't going to come out, but they did!!

Kate and Lexie then moved on to study the circulatory system. Here is a model of blood we made, using oil, red hots, and beans to stand for plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Ellie and Kate have finished the first 25 lessons of Sequential Spelling (4 and 1 respectively). I am really enjoying this program. I like that they don't have a set of words that they study for the week. The kids didn't like the "busy work" of the MCP Workout workbooks. I can really tell that Kate's spelling has improved over the past few weeks with this program.

Ellie's gift is definitely in reading and writing. She is very descriptive in her writing assignments - the words she uses amazes me sometimes. Writeshop has been a great fit for us, because it has very clear guidelines for the assignments, and it has a grading checklist for me (which I absolutely need!!)

Kate struggles with writing a bit more. She is only 7 though - I'm sure that she will improve with time and practice. She also doesn't enjoy reading like Ellie does. Reading is work to Kate, not something she does for pleasure. Instead of assigning her specific reading assignments, I have decided that I need to just make sure that she has 30 minutes of reading to herself (and she needs to be in a quiet place where she won't be distracted).

Ellie has finished the first unit of Rosetta Stone Russian. I like this program, but I think that I need to sit down with her and teach her the alphabet, so that she can get the full benefit of the program and be able to read the Cyrillic letters on the screen. I think that I will pull out my old books from when I was studying Russian in the Air Force and go through the sounds of the letters with her. (Russian has 32 letters!!)

The kids are loving Artistic Pursuits and they are enjoying the variations in their lessons. I feel much better about art this year!! This is coming from someone that draws stick people. This makes the lessons so easy!!

I am loving Teaching Textbooks so far. It has made my day much easier. The lectures are given on the computer. Their answers are automatically graded for me. What more could I ask for??

Kate is zipping through grade 4 math without any problems whatsoever. I don't think she's gotten lower than a 91 - and she's enjoying it.

I wish that I could say the same for Ellie. Math just isn't her thing. I think part of it is a mental block - deciding that she just doesn't like math and then she tells herself she isn't good at it. I can't blame her, because I never cared for math much either.

I have to keep telling her that she is doing fine and not to compare herself to her sister. Ellie is doing grade 6 math and with the speed her sister is going through hers, her fear is that Kate will catch up to her - or worse yet pass her up.

I have to remind Ellie that math is just Kate's thing - and that Ellie excels in reading and writing (which Kate struggles with more).

It is interesting to see how the kids can be so different in their interests and talents.

I should mention that Lexie is working her way through Horizons 1. She isn't having any problems at all - she just needs to work on her handwriting skills. She is making her 5s and 3s backwards quite often. I'm sure that's pretty normal though.