Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Grand Canyon Cake

The day before we left on our trip was Robert's 11th birthday. We were very busy packing and making last minute preparations, but I didn't want the day to go by unnoticed, so I made a cake.

I kept it simple and made a round 2-layer cake - chocolate with cream cheese frosting. Robert picked out orange frosting for the decorations.

My first mistake was not leveling the layers. The second mistake was putting the least-flat layer on the bottom. However, I realized my mistakes too late and just crossed my fingers that it would turn out okay.

I hadn't even finished frosting it when the cracks began. I quickly finished the decorating and took a picture.

By the time we put candles on it and sang "Happy Birthday", it looked like this.

We laughed and called it his "Grand Canyon cake" in honor of our trip to the Grand Canyon. :)

The appearance of the cake in no way interfered with the birthday festivities or the eating of said cake. It was delicious.

Scrapbook Layout

Inspired by Tami at Ambleside Classical Academy, I have been looking into digital scrapbooking. My biggest problem was two-fold.
  • I don't have Photoshop
  • I'm on an iMac (which I love!) and most digital scrapping software does not run on this platform
We do, however, have GIMP. After looking around the internet, I found instructions for using it with digital scrapping here. Oh, happy day!

So, after an evening spent with the learning curve, I've created this.

I am very happy with it. Now I just need to print it, which is a whole other issue! LOL

(pages created with Shabby Princess Celebrating, which can be found for free here)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Weekly Report - Sept 24-28

This was our week to try to get back in the groove after a week off. It was hard (!), but we still got quite a bit done and we're back on track now.


First, I want to share our art project for the week. We made these fall banners from a kit I got from Hearts and Trees (who is, by the way, the daughter of Barb at The Heart of Harmony). I tell you, this is a fantastic way of getting art done around here. I don't have to plan or collect supplies. I just pull it out of the bag and go. Easy-peasy and cute, fun (and educational!) projects.

Artist Study

Speaking of art, we have a new Mary Cassatt print - Woman and Child Driving. I read somewhere that the woman is her sister, but now I can't find the reference. I have fallen in love with the artwork of Cassatt. I was thrilled to find out that our local art museum has a couple of pieces of her artwork. I cannot wait for that field trip!

US Geography

As I've blogged before, we are keeping this very simple. We covered Oklahoma and Arizona this week. The coloring sheet with the state bird and flower can be found here.


We continued working on our lapbooks for Apologia Elementary Zoology 2. This week, the kids studied whale moves and made this book. I bought the lapbook instructions from Knowledge Box Central. We also watched the video clips that I mentioned here.

We will be watching Whales: An Unforgettable Journey: IMAX later today.


Robert, the boy I have to force to read, has discovered Roald Dahl. He read James and the Giant Peach and declared it "the best book ever!" He wants to read Matilda next, so we'll be stopping by the library to get that soon.

Ruth is re-reading Redwall. I think she's read every book in the series. That girl will read anything she can get her hands on. She reminds me a lot of me when I was that age.

Oh, and we finished The Penderwicks while on vacation. What a wonderful, wonderful book. I highly recommend it.


Instead of drawing for their notebook this week, I let the kids print off a picture from the internet. For the story of Attila the Hun, we found a painting done by Raphael of the meeting between Pope Leo I and Attila. Perfect! History with a little bit of art appreciation thrown in.


We finally added this in this week. It's our last subject to make it into the schedule, which means we're finally at our full load. We're using Prima Latina and my children now know the following Latin words:
  • ambulo - I walk
  • toga - toga (they thought this was funny)
  • Deus - God
  • luna - moon
  • via - road
  • oremus - let us pray
  • salve/salvete - hello
All in all, a good week.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ocean Video Clips

As part of our Elementary Apologia Zoology 2 lesson today, the kids read about whale moves. I decided to see if I could some online video clips of them and found a really neat web-site.

It's called Ocean Footage and you can search for different, short clips to view, for free, on your computer. We were able to easily find videos of whales breaching, spyhopping, lobtailing, and logging.

If you register at their site, you can view the videos at a higher quality. Everything is still free, so I chose to do this.

I think we will be using this web-site quite a bit this year.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Our Day

This seemed like a busy day, so I thought I would list the happenings to see if it was as much as I thought it was.

  • School got off to a late start. I have GOT to stop staying up late watching Heroes on DVD.
  • We got history, Latin (our first day!), memory work, and grammar done. Grammar was kind of a cheat. Ruthie made too many mistakes on yesterday's work, so I had her do a supplemental worksheet. Since I'm keeping them together on grammar, Robert pretty much got the day off.
  • We headed for the orthodontist for 1:00 appointments. These were initial consultations, recommended by the dentist. Robert needs more work done than Ruthie, but she's ahead of him dentally (fewer baby teeth), so she'll get started in about 6 months. Robert has at least a year before we start with him. I'm glad. He can use the time to learn to sit still in the chair. Sigh.... Kids did math in the car.
  • After leaving the orthodontist, we popped into a toy store right next door. I love small toy stores. They seem to have the best stuff. We found Papo figures for the first time and we all fell in love with them. They mainly had medieval figures, which is perfect for us. I caved and let the kids get one each. Robert chose an archer and Ruth got a horse. I see Christmas gift ideas for the grandparents.
  • We got home and I let the kids have 30 minutes each on the computer while I semi-napped (remember the Heroes DVDs?).
  • The kids played with some neighbor kids while I made dinner (baked ziti- requested by Ruth). Not long after it came out of the oven, Robert came home and told me Ruth lost her glasses. Another sigh... I went out and we looked everywhere she had been and couldn't find them. The other kids said they would let us know if they find them. I hope, I hope.
  • After dinner, I headed to the store because we were out of dishwasher detergent. I bought myself a York peppermint patty while there. I deserved it. :)
  • It is now 10:00 pm. Everyone is in bed. The house is quiet. And I, not having learned my lesson, am going to watch another episode or 2 of Heroes.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Another Piece in the Narration Puzzle

I blogged here about my daughter's struggle with oral narrations. We've had some successes, but her skills are still not where I feel they could be.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked her if she wanted to try writing her narrations, rather than doing them orally. She readily agreed, but I didn't pursue it. Today, when she was balking at narrating the chapter she read from Our Island Story, I asked her if she wanted to type it on the computer. She eagerly agreed and got to it.

Here is the result. (click on image if you want to see it larger)

!!!!! Unbelievable. Absolutely unbelievable. The same child who can't remember basic facts when giving an oral narration gives me this as a written one.

I don't really understand it, but I'll take it. If anyone has any insight on this, I would appreciate it.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

If It's Monday, This Must Be Albuquerque

I'm back! Actually, we're back. We all went on a week-long road trip and had a fantastic time. We've never traveled so far, or done so much at one time, as a family, before. In fact, the last long vacation we went on was a trip to Disney World back in 2000!

Here's what we did:

Saturday - drove to Carlsbad, New Mexico

This was a long day and through a part of Texas none of us had ever seen. We had expected desolation, but found it has its own beauty.

Sunday - went to Carlsbad Caverns, then drove to Ruidoso

Carlsbad Caverns are incredible! We went on a guided tour through what is called the "Left Hand Tunnel". We only had candle lanterns for our lighting. Fun! I took a lot of pictures, but often had no idea what I was taking a picture of until after the flash went off. It was very dark in there.

After our guided tour, we went to the Big Room, which is lit and has a paved trail with hand rails. There were some amazing formations.

The drive to Ruidoso was gorgeous. Griff is ready to move there. :)

Monday - a lazy morning in Ruidoso, then off to Albuquerque

Tuesday - dropped Griff's double bass off at Robertson's Violin Ship for work to be done to it (the impetus behind this whole trip), then on to Flagstaff, AZ

Wednesday - drove to Williams to ride the Grand Canyon Railway to the Grand Canyon.

We had a few hours at the Grand Canyon, which was not enough. What can you say about the Grand Canyon? Beautiful, amazing, awe-inspiring... Words just cannot express it.

The train trip was fantastic. We all thoroughly enjoyed it.

Thursday - left Flagstaff for a quick trip down to Sedona.

Those red rock formations are just beautiful. In some ways, just as beautiful as the Grand Canyon. The city of Sedona is very tourist-y, but beautiful, as well.

After leaving Sedona, we headed up to Meteor Crater, which was a highlight for Robert.

We then headed back to Albuquerque.

Friday - Griff picked up his bass and we left for home. 17 hours later (including stopping in Amarillo to see a family friend), we arrived. Home, sweet home. It's good to be here again.

We are already talking about a longer trip next summer. I think that's a sign that this trip went well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I'll be Back

I'm going to be without internet access for about a week, so I won't be posting. I'll miss everyone! Enjoy your week.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Beginning the Day the Right Way

We have always done Bible as part of our school day. However, it has been treated as "just another subject". This isn't altogether bad. My focus for for that particular subject is for my children to learn the stories in the Bible thoroughly. A curriculum (Rod and Staff for us) helps do this.

However, I have realized recently that it's not giving us the spiritual emphasis that I want. We are not beginning our days centered on God. Prayers are haphazard. We hit the ground running and never stop to really focus on our Creator.

So today I began something new. Before our morning read-aloud, we had a short devotional. I read a chapter from Proverbs, we sang the hymn we're learning, and we had a prayer. It was very simple, but a great way to start the day.

If you are struggling to find the time to spend together every day, centered on our Lord, give this a try.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Writing Styles

I was grading papers the other night. Robert and Ruth had the same grammar assignment that day - write 2 sentences, using pronouns as the subject. Both gave me correct answers, but the sentences are quite different.

Robert's sentences:

I am leaving.
They are gone.

Ruth's sentences:

She leapt into the air, her blue eyes shining.
We whispered secrets into each other's ears, giggling.

Do you see why picking a writing program that will work for both of them is very difficult for me? :)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Weekend in Review

I apologize for not posting for a couple of days. To be honest, nothing very exciting has happened. Don't believe me? Well, this is what I did this weekend.

Friday night:

Dinner was catch-as-catch-can. Griff stopped off at his parents' to help his dad with his computer. After he got home, we just kind of hung out. Bo-ring.


My dad is selling his house, so I went over to help get it ready. I spent most of time cleaning and going through stacks of books and just stuff. 38 years worth of stuff. It made me want to come home and throw out at least half of my possessions.

I then went and met a couple of friends for dinner and a movie. We saw Becoming Jane. I liked it, but I did feel that it tried a little too hard.

I then came home and watched one episode of Heroes before heading to bed.


We went to church this morning, then out to lunch with friends. We came home and Griff and I slept for almost 3 hours!! This, of course, meant the kids spent too much time on the computer and playing video games. Ah, well.

Sunday evening church and dinner out rounded out the evening.

Like I said, not much going on. There are a few changes I want to make to our school day, but those really need to wait a couple of weeks. More about why later.

Hopefully my next post will be more substantial.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Weekly Report

This was a short week (Labor Day), and I spent a lot of time planning a vacation we're going on soon, so we didn't get as much done this week as I would have liked.

My personal accomplishment this week was getting copywork notebooks made. I had originally planned to have the kids pick out copywork phrases and use my Educational Fontware fonts to make up copywork sheets for them. Operating on the fly like that doesn't work for me, though. And, since handwriting is a big problem here, it cannot be skipped. So, I used copywork selections from the Ambleside Online copywork yahoo group and made up the notebooks. The kids will spend 5 minutes each day on copywork, just working through the book. I'm also going to make one for literature eventually. There's a picture of the notebooks down below.

Robert finished the book Follow My Leader. He resists longer chapter books, even though he's perfectly capable of reading them, so this is a big deal. I took the advice of someone on the Well-Trained message boards and set up some "rules" for reading time. He must read for 20 minutes, but can choose any book from our book basket. If he doesn't like a book, he can choose a different one, but that one then has to be finished. (Thanks, Tami! It seems to be working.)

We got our ocean boxes made for science. They're not much to look at now, but they will eventually be filled with clay creations of different ocean animals. I can't wait!

Check out Trivium Academy's list of Weekly Reporters for more show-and-tell.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

My Latest Trip to Wal-Mart

I have a love-hate relationship with Super Wal-Mart. I love the prices. I hate the fact that I cannot get out of that store in less than an hour. And lately, the love of the prices is being drowned out by the other side.

I did venture to Wal-Mart on Tuesday evening. This is a recap of my experience.

Griff wanted Listerine - original flavor. The only bottles they had of that were the small ones, on the top shelf, pushed all the way to the back. There is no way my 5'3" self was going to be able to reach them. So, I asked the employee at the pharmacy for some help (bwa! ha! ha! - oh, I crack myself up). She paged for customer assistance. I waited patiently for almost 15 minutes and saw 2 employees 3 or 4 aisles away that made absolutely never effort to help me. I finally asked a different pharmacy employee for help. She actually came out, found a small ladder, and got it down for me. She was actually very nice and cheerful about it, even, so that was good.

After a couple of other items on that side of the store, I traipsed all the way over to the grocery section. First stop - milk. I have recently started buying organic milk. I don't know if you've ever looked at organic milk, but it typically has expiration dates that are weeks away. Weird, but there you go. First of all, they did not have skim milk. And the milk would expire in less than a week. Okay, so I got a gallon of 2% and headed off for the rest of my shopping.

I needed bread flour. Nope. They apparently don't believe in bread flour.

Griff eats oatmeal for breakfast most days. He likes the old-fashioned oats, not the 1-minute variety. Since he eats them so often, I always buy the 42 oz. container. They only had the 18 oz. container. What's up with that?! I bought it, but I wasn't happy.

After a few more items (and an unsuccessful attempt to find ham of all things!), I headed to the checkout. When I got in line, I noticed an employee cleaning up one lane over. Apparently a glass bottle of something like grape juice had broken on the floor. I know it was glass because I could see big pieces of it on the floor. The lane was blocked off and he was cleaning the whole thing up with paper towels!! I stood in line for at least 10 minutes and never saw anybody show up with a mop.

You know, I think could excuse the empty shelves part of my experience if it had been on a Sunday night. But this was a Tuesday night! They should have been restocked by then.

I think I'm pretty much done with Wal-Mart. It's just not worth it anymore.

NOTE: I wrote this post months ago and forgot to post it. After a couple more bad experiences at WM (including being basically accused of lying when I tried to return something without a receipt), I no longer shop there. My budget is sad, but the rest of me is rejoicing. :)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

On My Bookshelf

I love bookstores. I especially love used bookstores. And a SALE at a used bookstore is just more temptation than I can handle. So... when I found out that Half-Price Books was having a 20% off sale this past weekend, I just had to go. I got some good stuff and my to-read pile has just really grown.

Want to see what I bought? Of course you do!

Messie No More by Sandra Felton - I actually read this years ago, but it's very inspiring and I need to be inspired. :)

Answers to Distraction by Edward Hallowell and John Ratey - part of the endless quest to help my child with his ADD (not to mention me with mine)

Raising a Thinking Child by Myrna Shure - This is a book on how to teach your child how to resolve conflicts and get along with other people. It's actually written for younger children but Robert still struggles in this area, so I think it will be of benefit.

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman - This has been around a long time, but I've never read it. Pure impulse purchase.

Whew! This should keep me busy for quite awhile.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Geography via YouTube

I was looking for a YouTube video of the song "Fifty Nifty United States" and found that plus a couple of other things.

Here's the Fifty Nifty song. (lyrics)

Then I found a couple of Animaniacs videos. They are fast and kind of frantic, but fun, and I thought they might still be helpful.

The first is a song of all the states and capitols. (lyrics)

This one is all the nations of the world. (I know this is from several years ago and I haven't checked the accuracy.) (lyrics)

They also had one of the US Presidents, but I found a few things that I felt are objectionable, so we won't be watching that one. (call me old-fashioned, but I don't let my kids use the word "butt")

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Narration by Trial and Error

I am trying to incorporate more narration into our school day. We spent last year narrating from Aesop's Fables - one each week. That was a good beginning, but we really needed to expand on it.

This year, I have the children narrating the following:

history reading - daily
Bible reading - Mon - Thurs

Both of these subjects are books they read on their own.

I finally started our literature readings this week. I read aloud from a different book each day, then ask them to narrate.

Here's what I have found:

Robert - If he reads the book to himself, he can narrate beautifully. He uses words and phrasing from the reading and hits most of the important parts. I am very happy with how that is progressing.

On the other hand, read-aloud narrations are not going well at all. He cannot give me the simplest narration from an oral reading and I'm not quite sure how to handle this. I know it is part of his auditory processing difficulties, but I would still like him to do better at this. I plan on investigating further and finding things to help him.

Ruthie - She has a hard time with narrations all around. Reading to herself, read-alouds - all of it. I am currently having her read single pages and narrate after that. I am also trying to stop more frequently during read-aloud time and have her narrate. She is doing better, and I believe she will eventually conquer this difficulty, but it is slow going right now.

Today, though, she gave a wonderful narration (actually, 2 of them) from Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare reading. Let me show you what made the difference.

This is a chart showing the major characters of the story we were reading. I got this idea from Higher Up and Further In. With the help of the names written down (and my detailed drawings -ha!), Ruthie was able to tell the story back with no difficulty. She even used some of the phrasing from the story, which she never does. I was so very, very proud of her. And relieved. :)

I need to figure out exactly why this worked. Was it because the names were written down and she didn't have to remember them? Was it the combination of hearing the story and being able to look at the chart at the same time? I'm going to have to play around with it some and figure out how to apply it to our other narration subjects.

(P.S. Can you tell what Shakespeare story we read? Post the answer in the comments. I don't have a prize other than the personal satisfaction you will get from knowing the correct answer. :) )

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Wrong Answer. Thank You for Playing. Please Try Again.

Other than a year in Colorado when I was 2, I have lived in Texas my whole life. However, I have been told that I do not have a Texas accent. Some say I do not have an accent at all. This obviously says that I don't.

Oh, and about reason (d) listed below, I was NOT born after 1980. Not even close.

What American accent do you have?
Created by Xavier on

Western. Like Midland, Western is another accent that people consider neutral. So, you might not actually be from the Western half of the country, but you definitely sound like it.

And if you're not from the West, you are probably one of the following:
(a) A Pittsburgher - the quiz can't tell the difference;
(b) Someone from Canada (probably southern Ontario) who doesn't have a Canadian accent;
(c) Someone from northern New England who doesn't have a New England accent; or
(d) Someone from Texas or the Heartland who was born after 1980.
You are definitely not from New York, New Jersey, Chicago, Detroit, the Deep South, etc.</font>

Take this quiz now - it's easy!
We're going to start with "cot" and "caught." When you say those words do they sound the same or different?

HT: By Sun and Candlelight