December 28, 2007

Rubik's Cube

Anyone else use instructables or google to solve it this week?

December 26, 2007

Wii wish you a Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas. Hope you took time this year to reflect on Christ our Lord. We have had a wonderful time in Maine including a beautiful Christmas eve service.

We are enjoying the family in Maine. After a LONG plane ride which involved arriving at the airport at 5pm and arriving at our final destination at 5am (this is just Minnesota to Maine) and dealing with some cockroaches in our plane we arrived and put the trip behind us.

Now we are here for the holidays and a nice long visit. I suprised Serona and the kids with a Wii for Christmas. For the many of you who were in on the surprise and helping keep it a surprise - Thank you! They truly were shocked.

To those of you wondering - no I did not go crazy locating one. I purchased it back in the first week of August! Yes I kept it a surprise for that long!!! Thanks to showing up at one of Serona's best friends houses with box in hand asking if he would keep it until Christmas. A whole bunch of friends and family members were involved allowing me to keep the whole things a surprise.

Now the whole family from Sirah age 4 to grandparents in their 50's are enjoying playing games like bowling, boxing, Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero to name a few current favorites. We have to dodge Ciarans remote control car to do so sometimes though.

We are doing much more than playing Wii. For one thing enjoying this lovely Maine high 30 degree weather! Sledding, Ciarans snowboarding and just being outside in the sun. Playing Carcassonne with grandma and grandpa last night was fun too. Hope you are enjoying your Christmas week.

Merry Christmas

December 16, 2007

December 15, 2007

Christmas Shopping

1978 Lucas Film Christmas Card

December 12, 2007

Our Family

Looking at my sidebar I realized I have not updated our family bio in almost 3 years!!! Some of this will be repeat information for some of you. For the others, welcome and enjoy visiting with our family.

There is Serona (the dad), soon to turn 33. He is a director of product management for a software company. He has two undergrad degrees in Political Science and Philosophy and a graduate degree in Communications, and is also a former debater. His interests are reading, writing and blogging, keeping up with current events, technology and politics, wine tasting, anything and everything Star Wars, and of course his Xbox 360.

Then there is me, Mother Tenn, also 33 and a Stay at Home Mom. I am fairy active in our homeschool co-op especially in planning field trips. My undergrad studies were in Environmental Politics and I have an MA in Communications with an emphasis on Social Movements and Argumentation. My current interests are: reading, blogging and writing,journaling (I maintain 4 journals actively: a prayer journal and a journal for each of my children), research (especially technology, current events and homeschooling), knitting and crocheting and when I find time water aerobics.

Next come the children: Rhiannon, Ciaran, and Sirah.

Rhiannon is 8. She is an avid reader and at times it is difficult to get her head out of a book. She loves horses and her horseback riding lessons. She has recently taken up sewing and 9 patch quilts. She enjoys history and hates long division. She is developing her friendships and doesn't understand why boys and girls don't want to be friends anymore. Her current favorite music is Relient K and Vivaldi (interesting mix). She is a very inquisitive and intelligent child and always keeps life interesting.

Next meet Ciaran, 6 and a half. Ciaran is full of energy and has a passion for nature. He still loves frogs with a passion, though his interest in nature has expanded to include other creatures and nature in general. He still prays at night "God thank you for making all things good and for this world you created. He enjoys video games just like his dad. His current favorite is Disney Extreme Skate for his Gamecube. He will do anything for a half hour of video game time. He is getting ready to start basketball and snowboarding this winter. He has a wonderful personality and is always smiling that contagious smile he has.

Then there is Sirah our four year old. She has a personality all her own and a comfort with that. She asks me "Is today a matching day?" She can often be found wearing multi-colored stripes, with a clashing shirt and something sparkly or shiny on her had - somehow it works on her though it would not for so many other people. She is the kind of kid that makes all adults want to have another one like her. But she has her fiesty and stubborn side too that she saves just for me and Serona, complete with hands on hips and sighing. Being a third child she is very content to do her own thing and just be around us. If a disney princess is involved she is all over it. She also loves her sisters horses, fairies, Bitty twins and being read to all day long. She enjoys playing "foods food" where she makes us cookies, tea, etc while we do school. She also really LOVES being my assistant in the kitchen and has the biggest servant heart of the family. She has been known to get up and make everyones bed in the house, or clean a room and then tell us about it. She has a genuine, loving personality and another great smile.

Rounding out our family are our Australian Shepherds, a five year old male and a 3 year old female. They are loving, patient with our children (I am amazed at what they tolerate from them, especially Sirah) though these same dogs are fiercely protective of the kids and very loud barkers. They love to run ruts and spend time in the yard.

We are Christian environmentalists, social justice advocates, vegetarians, right-leaning, techies, outdoors loving, geo-caching, non tv watching, attachment parenting, extended breastfeeding, crunchy granola, readers, researchers, life-long learners, Guinness and wine drinking and sometimes funny and enjoyable to be around. So come get to know us and stay awhile. We love having you.

December 5, 2007

Bills...Papers...More Bills...

This blog post actually started as a comment over on Phil's blog. But it started to get too long for a comment and I figured it made more sense here. In his list of chores he dislikes his number one is paying bills. I can relate as it used to be very near the top of my list as well.

I used to make a pile of bills to pay, and another pile of things to do, people to call, etc. Then I had a pile of things to file and I had stacks of paper and it seemed to take hours and I was grumpy about my bills and making ends meet and would worry and tie myself in knots. Serona and my kids could probably have told you the day I did bills as I was unpleasant. I went to a friends house one day and saw she had some folders on her kitchen counter I asked about them and she told me it helped her stay organized for kids activities. I thought I can do that and with my bills too.

About four years ago though I started a new system and it REALLY worked for me and now not only do I not mind paying bills but it would not even make my "chore" list because it never piles up. I share it because it is easy to use, I have recommended it to many friends who now use it and it is very simple. Also it is a great time of year to consider starting.

I took my friends idea and went another step further. Being a former debater I immediately think of these 32 pocket expanding files. when I think organization. So now each year in December I purchase a new one for the next year. I tape a piece of white paper to the front and write the year. Then 32 numbers. Next to each number I write the title of what will go in that slot. I place this on the center island in my kitchen where it stays year round.

When mail comes. I stand at that island counter - I throw out all catalogs, junk mail, credit card offers, etc right to recycling (behind me) or trash (next to me). Then I open all important mail and sort as I do. Anything that needs to be filed, paid, dealt with immediately etc. I immediately file anything that needs to be in its slot (medical statements, insurance statements, kids new calendars, church stuff, etc) - next I look through my need to deal with if I can't get to it at that moment it goes in my number two file which I check every few days when I have some spare time. If I can deal with it I will. Last I have my bill pile. I log onto my computer (also right there on the counter) and into my online bill pay. I open my bill pay and pay all my bills then.

Wait you say but what if you can't pay them all now but need to pay some after next paycheck (say in two weeks) or in a month. Well we are in that position too but my bill pay lets me postdate any payment I want. So I log in fill in the payments and type the date I want the money sent out of my account. I can even write checks to individuals and small companies and my bank sends them a check for me at no additional fee.

After all my bills are "paid" at least my responsibility for paying them is done. I file them in their slot. Done. Now you may cringe at the thought of doing "bills" every day but really that all together takes me 5 minutes, maybe 10 if I happen to get a lot on the same day. That is just a few more minutes than most people take to do their daily mail. And I no longer have really long grumpy bill times. Occasionally I really can't get on the computer and pay, or I want to question a bill, or check where I am going to get the money to pay for it, then I toss them in the front slot for bills and pay them next time I get my mail.

I have done this faithfully for 4 years now. The key to this working is two fold. You MUST keep it in a central location and you must use it regularly. After all this time I can tell you a few of my favorite things about this

1. Bills don't feel like work
2. I have a better grip on and understanding of my finances because I am in them daily
3. I am surprisingly organized now
4. I can find almost anything paper related in under 10 minutes. We recently had to find a credit card we opened in 2003 for just a single purchase. I went back to the 2003 file and found it filed under credit cards. I can find warranties, receipts, etc as long as I know what year I purchased it in - even I can remember something like that.
5. Taxes are easier
6. I save money because I have very detailed records of everything from cc and debit purchases to utility and energy use at my fingertips.
7. I am not grumpy about bills anymore
8. My kids are learning organization and how to use the system
9. I get rid of more junk mail because if I don't have a place for it - it goes in the trash or recycling
10. It is really easy and quick. This post is long and detailed so it makes it sound complicated but it really isn't.

When I shared this with my friends several asked for my folder list. Yours will look different based on your paper use in your life. But this can give you an idea of what I use it for and some of it does change from year to year. Here is 2007

1. Bills
2. To Do
3. Taxes
4. Homeschool
5. Active Kids file (I put church, current sport calendars, etc) then move them when season is over to trash or individual kids file
6. Serona Work
7-11 individual credit card and banks (citibank, discover, etc)
12 - Student Loans
13 - Mortgage
14 - utilities (water, trash, electric, etc)
15 - Phones (home and cell)
16 - Auto and Home Insurance
17 - Medical
18 - Household Expenses
19 - Serona
20 - Tenniel
21 - Rhiannon
22 - Ciaran
23 - Sirah
24 - Stationary, Envelopes and Stamps
25 - Craft/ Activity Ideas
26 - 401 K
27 - Stocks
28 - Travel
29 - Legal Records
30 - Warranties
31 - Receipts

So now I don't mind doing bills and we are fairly organized.


November 26, 2007

Online Coupons

I am not a thrifty person. I am not a coupon clipper or much of a deal shopper. My mother is and she taught me how. I am just too lazy and not convinced it is generally worth my time and effort. With one major exception - online retailers.

Every time I load my online cart up (for me quite frequently) I stop and open a new tab and do a Google search for coupon codes, discount codes, etc for the store I am shopping at. Why on earth not? It takes me seconds maybe a few minutes at most and at least half the time I come up with a coupon that saves me money.

Just tonight I was doing my grocery shopping from an online grocer and started with a cart full of groceries at 123.45. I found a $50 off orders of $125. I went back to my cart and added a two dollar item in order to save $48. Another quick search brought me free delivery for the remainder of the year (retail value on the site of 50). Saved me another $7 off my current order. Grand total 68.00 - I saved nearly half my grocery bill plus I now have free delivery for rest of year. Say I order 3 more times that is an additional $21 saved. And because I don't need to worry about shipping costs I can make small orders in the middle of the week if i need to with no penalty.

Now that was worth a few minutes of my time. While that was one of my best deals in recent times i almost always manage to find anywhere from 10-20 off an order or free shipping - often both. Take a few minutes to Google coupon codes - it is usually worth your while.

I am nearly done with Christmas shopping. My personal goal is to be done each year by December 1st so I can just enjoy the month of December. This year, just like the past few years has been done almost exclusively online and with free shipping and no tax. Have to love that :)

Boys Will Be Boys

There is just something innately different between boys and girls. An interesting thing that they both like at my house is hammering rocks. There is something about banging a hammer on a rock sitting on another rock that they all seem to like. However the play ends differently.

When the girls do that here they tend to either examine the insides, notice the sparkles or find the pretty parts. They make fairy dust or collect the little bits. But boys - well boys find different things more fun.

Today Ciaran had two little friends over and they asked if they could hammer rocks. I said yes as that is not that uncommon, reviewed our safety rules and let them play. I checked on them regularly as I was watching the two year old year today. After awhile of doing this I checked on them again and noticed they had figured out how to use the back of the hammer and scrape it to make a spark or two. Next thing I knew there were piles of leaves on top of the rock as they tried to make sparks. The hammer was confiscated and they were quite unhappy their fun was over.

I reminded them about the danger of fire and how a little boy contributed to the large wildfires in California and how fire was nothing to play with. How their minds work that way amazes me. They did not mean anything bad by it - really just curiosity that left unchecked can go too far. Everyone is safe and it will be a long time before Ciaran can use a hammer for anything other than banging nails in.

Meanwhile my two little girls here have spent the day in dress up costumes, playing horses, princesses and tea party. The biggest dispute was over which pair of dress up shoes they got to wear. On the other hand I have had three boys playing together all day without a hitch - now three girls together? That might not have gone as well. So Boys will be boys and I am just thankful Ciaran has other boys to be boys with.

November 25, 2007

Reading Habits

Lately I have noticed I have been doing a lot less pleasure reading. I read atleast an hour out loud a day to the kids so it is not as if I was not reading but I have just not gotten into any good books lately. It is odd for me. Then today when reading my RSS feed I clicked over to look at my statistics. That is when I discovered this

"From your 82 subscriptions, over the last 30 days you read 4,860 items, starred 0 items, shared 227 items, and emailed 1 items."

So I have been reading a lot online haven't I? In 30 days I have read almost 5000 articles and/or blog posts on the computer. To be sure I just skim many of these - some only the first paragraph or so others I fully read. Usually everything I share I read in full. So even just that is about 8 articles a day in full. When I do the math for those my RSS feed says I read that would be over 150 a day. There is no way that is accurate. I guess maybe I read that many headlines in a day and decide what to read in more detail.

So in the past month I have added over 200 items to my Tenniel's read list over on the right hand column. Guess it gives you a peek into what interests me the most. It also gives me an easy place to store all my favorite things I have read in the past year or so. When I wanted to buy Serona a pair of headphones I went back through my shared items to find the Cnet review of the pair he liked. Useful for someone whose brain tries to keep up with too much information.

I recently read the article about how my generation is reading less but I really wonder if we are or if our reading interests have just shifted? As winter settles in there is nothing like a good book on my lap to read through. Though I would be willing to consider the Kindle if the price ever comes down to something more reasonable. Each winter I read atleast a classic a month - usually I start with Austen helps me think about the finer things in life during a season when it can be so dreary here in MN.

How about you? Do you read news online? My kids asked the other day why the paperboy never comes to our door and I explained I do everything on the computer for my news. That did not surprise my kids since I spend a decent amount of time on there.

Do you have an RSS feeder? If you use Google Reader you too can look at your statistics and be amazed at how much you read. Do you read a lot of books for pleasure? I find often after reading to the kids all day I just don't want to pick up another book but I am happy to read about what is going on in the world.

I also find I go through data fasts. I need to just disconnect for awhile especially after there is a lot of depressing news. Sometimes I just say nothing on the computer but email and that is good. Other times I will only allow myself to read my rss on my blackberry when I am otherwise waiting or wasting time. Sometimes I limit which subscriptions I will read - only blogs of friends and family, or only tech news (my single biggest time suck - I subscribe to lots of tech and science blogs that I find interesting). Anyway I was still surprised at quite how much data I actually peruse over the course of a month!


November 24, 2007

When NOT to turn out the light

One of the results of raising readers is a tough bedtime. Maybe not for everyone but I recall as a child as does Serona that it was tough for him. As a parent I am raising kids who love books and have learned quickly the one thing we have a hard time turning off the light for and making them stop doing is reading. So what do they all do the moment they get into bed? You guessed it pick up a book.

We go through phases of how much we push turning off the lights, stopping reading and how much we allow this time in bed. Generally if it doesn't affect them the next morning I can't say I mind. However if they are crabby because they are not getting enough sleep that is another issue all together.

Well tonight - it is now an hour after bedtime and two out of the three are awake still reading in bed. I was all set to turn off the light when I discovered Ciaran reading (not looking at pictures) but actually reading a Magic tree house book all on his own. There is NO WAY I am going to turn out the light on that one. He has been struggling with confidence on reading quietly alone and still prefers to read out loud which we are happy to help with. But if he wants to read until 11pm tonight that will be just fine by me. Given that he wakes up around 6am each morning I am guessing he will be asleep within a half hour but I won't be turning the light out tonight.

Return of Bob

We have an old friend in our house that alternates between being very loved and completely neglected. At times this friend is with us every day to the point we tire of him at other times he is tucked away on a shelf gathering dust wondering where all the love went and hoping that soon another child will discover him.

He is getting old, worn, and torn in some places. He has lost pieces and been replaced numerous times and will be looked back on with fond and unhappy memories by all. He has been in hiding for over a year - almost two now I guess. Today we had to do a major search to locate him - can you tell we love him?

Are you curious yet? Our friend Bob has returned this time into the hands of a very eager Sirah. This is Bob of the Bob books fame. Today we looked for over a half hour to locate the book Mat for Sirah who insists she is ready to start reading. She was very excited and climbed into Serona's lap very proud of her first turn with Bob.

Together they turned the familiar pages once more. This time for Sirah's very first time. As I watched Sirah in Serona's lap I was filled with joy and anticipation at what is to come. The time of teaching a child to read is so precious. It is an ongoing journey as we introduce them to more and more of the literary world. But there is something so very special about teaching them to turn individual letters into sounds and words and watch those ever important light bulbs go off in their cute little heads for the first time.

Just this morning I listened as Ciaran read Frog and Toad and Little Bear to me without assistance. As I listen and help him through the Magic Tree House books and the plethora of non-fiction books Wonder series books from the library he is rapidly devouring I can still remember the first time he climbed on my lap with a Bob book insecure about if he could read it.

Today we help Rhiannon understand a difficult word or concept or struggle to find reading material that is at her level but also appropriate for her reading level and substantial enough to fulfill her voracious appetite for books. We look forward to the days we can introduce her to Tolkein, Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Heinlein, and yes even Rowling. But for now we continue to watch her enjoy Bibee, Lovelace, Barrie, Ingalls-Wilder, and really any book she can get her hands on. Still it was only 4 years ago when she first climbed into our laps with a bob book with as much confidence as Sirah that she was in fact ready to read whether we were or not.

It all started in our house with Bob. Bob is out again and will be strewn through our living room, library, family room and bedrooms. He is here to stay for awhile until Sirah is ready to move beyond him. A funny thing happens with Bob. When he comes out suddenly the other kids pick him up again and visit their old friend. Maybe they are remembering how hard he seemed once to understand but mostly they just notice how easy it seems now. They will read to Sirah and with Sirah and maybe in their own way remember their reading journey.

This time when Sirah is done I have no logical reason to keep Bob around with no other youngsters in the house. Still somehow I know we won't be parting with him. Always good to have an old friend around. Maybe some day a niece or newphew or even grandchild will meet Bob and experience their first moment of climbing into a lap with trepidation and confidence all rolled together as they turn the pages for the first time and meet a familiar friend to so many.

Welcome back Bob! Happy to see you again old friend. Thanks for being the same after years on the shelf.

My TV made me want a Wii!

We have an old pair of rabbit ears to attach to our television that we keep in storage. We take it out a few times a year. To watch presidential addresses, the Olympics, thanksgiving day parade and a few other random things. In general though we just get static, movies and video games on our TV. Our reasons are plentiful and we have been tv free our entire marriage.

Recently with TV seasons coming out on DVD, Serona and I have watched a few shows we were curious about and from time to time I watch some reruns on the computer. Nothing is yet to convince us to get TV back into our home. The invention of DvR technology might one day allow for it - but nothing has impressed us enough to deal with the downsides for our family.

Anyway I digress. Thanksgiving morning we watch the parade. This year Serona and I were up late the evening before so we set everything up and allowed the kids to watch it together without us. About an hour or so after they started watching I came downstairs and said "Happy Thanksgiving" they responded in kind and then nearly immediately Rhiannon said "can we go see National Treasure II and Enchanted" and Ciaran pipes up "I want a Wii!"

I actually had to hold back a laugh because I realized this was all new to them, commercials. We talk about advertising a lot in stores or when we watch films. What makes you want that and why. It actually is a game we play. So we talked about their requests. In reality that wasn't too bad because we already planned to take them to see those films and as for the Wii well who wouldn't already intuitively KNOW that Ciaran would want a Wii?

So in a way I did not feel too bad about their requests because really the only commercials that seemed to stick with them were things they were already prone to prefer. I asked if they saw any other commercials they liked and wanted something from? It was a good discussion. Then we did an experiment with turning off the sound on commercials. A funny thing happened - they stopped watching them and started talking to each other. Even commercials they watched before. We talked about that. Anyway it was interesting to me to see their reactions to commercials.

I am thankful I don't deal with that on a daily basis. I know DvR eliminates some of that - but still it is one battle I don't need to deal with as frequently. So will they go see the films and get a Wii? Well our decisions on those questions have nothing to do with the commercials they watched.

November 16, 2007

Quiet Down Please

Our home is a loud home. We are loud people. Our life works at a decibel most people don't understand or function well in. My kids 'whisper' louder than some kids I know talk. The whole inside/outside voice doesn't compute that well because we are loud all the time.

Some days I just wish we could quiet down. I try with some sort term success. I brew tea, I put on classical music, I speak softly. It never fails though shortly after we start the volume meter is rising until it reaches near full throttle again.

I have learned to block a lot of it out. I can carry on conversations in a loud and crowded room, I can listen to both what the kids are doing in the next room and pay attention to the person in my room with me. I have even learned to tolerate the multiple and conflicting music playing in each room late in the evening as the kids go to sleep. What I am still working on is accepting the sheer volume of my childrens voices, Ciaran in particular.

Now I fully accept that we raised them in a loud home, we are loud adults and we love loud music. My kids favorite band right now is Relient K and there is not too much quiet about them. We play music in the car and in the house. We sing, we talk over music, we are just basically loud people. We are overwhelming to some other people. I have had kids in our car or home who are generally quiet kids and seem overwhelmed or shy at first. However, with only one exception so far, I have watched these kids relax and open up in our home and car once they know it is okay, the just kind of roll with it and I hope enjoy spending time with us. They come back anyway so that is a good sign.

Our home has it's sort of peace and comfort. It is comfortable here but it is not quiet. We have a certain peace that we find among the chaos and loudness of life but it is not the quiet respite of a bed and breakfast. I used to think it was just normal for houses with kids to be this loud. Kind of expected that this was life for everyone with small children. Then looking around I discovered there are many homes and families that truly have quiet kids and quiet calm atmospheres. Sometimes when we go there I worry that we are like bulls in a china shop. Because quiet kids can come into a loud house and you don't notice the difference so much but bring a few loud kids into a quiet atmosphere and you pretty nearly immediately notice something is different.

Our family personality is who we are and truly I am okay with it. I don't know that any of us would fit comfortable in the silence for too long. Don't get me wrong breaks of quiet reading and play are always welcome. Everyone has their quiet place they retreat to when they need to recharge. Whether it be in our library, living, room, bedrooms, backyard, everyone has a place they go to just be quiet for awhile and we respect when each of us needs that. Our main spaces though are usually full or energy, busyness, music, and lots of clear communication. It is also simply put loud.

Some days I just want the quiet - but then I look at my kids who are confident and very capable of expressing themselves and I remind myself that a home looks different for everyone. A home provides what its members need and while part of my idealistic brain would like that to be a quiet retreat place I know in my heart that is not what we need - we need a place to let it all hang out and be who we are, a boisterous and gregarious loud group. So bring out the kitchen band, microphone and escape to a coffee shop for a much needed break later on.

Peace in whatever form you can get it,
87% Geek

November 10, 2007


The kids had their annual standardized testing this week. It was Ciaran's first testing experience. He did not legally need one but we wanted to see where he was at and get him used to it. The kids both thought the test was fun. Of course being able to play with star wars legos when it wasn't their turn probably helped some with the enjoyment level. Both kids are doing just fine - at or above where we expected them to be. Tune in next year for the next progress report.

Some Days are Like That

You know those days when you wake up and you know what kind of a day it is going to be and you want to crawl back into bed? Well Friday was that day for me. We woke up at 6:00am and I wanted just 10 more minutes. Everyone up, dressed and out the door without breakfast by 7am(no milk in the house). But wait the garage door people call to inform us they are coming in 2 hours and the garage must be cleared from the walls so they can install new track, door and opener). Oh did i mention this was also going to be an expensive day? Since we just winterized anticipating the drop into the 20's we had this week (Complete with 2 days of snow flurries) our walls were lined with stuff. Throw an extra unanticipated half hour into our morning.

Run to the bagel shop where everyone consumed a non-healthy high carb breakfast low protein (great for our diets - not) - we keep running. Drop Serona off at work, run to friends home to drop children off to make it to my dr. appt. Pulled into the lot 2 minutes before my appointment was set to start to my amazement. What I was hoping was going to be a simple problem to fix appears to be more. Go from one dr. to a specialist who schedules an MRI to learn more about my nerves and see what is causing this chronic leg pain and numbness I have been having for several months that is steadily getting worse.

Run from dr to house to check on garage installation which is thankfully going well. Write a nice fat check to them only to discover that my water heater repairman came and left. Yes not only did we need to install a garage door and opener but our water heater sprung a leak the night before and it needs to be replaced with another big check. In addition to that our carpet is completely saturated and the the water got into our walls. Won't that be fun to deal with next?

Back across town to pick up the children. Skip our field trip to wait for the water heater installer to come. Kids are choatic, my emotions are high, my pain is increasing from the mornings testing. Serona discovers he needs to work late - oh and can you run to the dry cleaners and bank for me. Everyone back into the car, pizza for dinner and back home. Back out at bedtime to pick him up from work. Home to deal with the water damaged carpet.

Sigh. But some days are like that. Hopefully the weekend will calm down things a bit. Spent today watching movies, playing video games, knitting and relaxing with a dehumidifier and fan going all day. It could be worse and I know that. So take those days in stride and remember tomorrow will be better even if you just ignore the dishes, laundry and step over all the clutter so you don't have to face one more thing today.

Aren't you glad to know we have days like that too?
Now playing: Switchfoot - We Are One Tonight
via FoxyTunes

Now playing: Switchfoot - Gone
via FoxyTunes
Now playing: Switchfoot - Stars
via FoxyTunes

November 7, 2007

Raising Readers

That is one of our primary goals in homeschooling and in life in general - to raise readers. Since they were born (and before I suppose) we have been reading out loud to them and as soon as they could read we required them to read every day. Weekends are optional but no screen time unless they read, so they usually do.

We read a lot. We read a variety of things and at all sorts of times of the day. The library is our friend and we still have well over 1000 books in our home. Because we read so much I keep track of it. I always wondered about what I read when I was younger and now as my kids get older I still try to remember titles of books I loved growing up so I can share them. So I bought Book Collector software, asked for and received a bar code scanner for Christmas and keep crazy records - because I think it is fun. Maybe someday my kids will be glad I did. For now they simply know to put everything they read in the green box so mom can record it.

Recently I had to count how many books we read for the month of September and October for the Scholastic Classroom Care program. I realized that not including what Serona and I have read for fun or research in these months (I am not sure of that total would guess around a dozen books or so) we have read 303 books over just those two months!

Now the breakdown can be seen over in the right column in our reading list section. I know the number sounds amazing to a lot of people. I want to clarify something though. A great majority of those are simply storybooks that I read out loud to Sirah and Ciaran. On average a storybook takes me anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on the length. So lets average that and assume I read about 120 in a month and you discover I am really only reading out loud about 850 minutes a month or about 30 minutes a day.

Now look at how productive reading out loud 30 minutes a day to a young child is! As the kids get older we are doing more read aloud time in regular chapter books. For now I am doing both - chapter books and storybooks so I am probably a bit closer to an hour a day reading out loud. To be sure we don't read every day for that amount of time. Some days we don't read out loud at all and other days I may do it for almost 2 hours. The point though is reading is a regular part of our lives, a big part of our family actually. And the thing I love is that we all enjoy it. Reading to my kids snuggled up in a chair, couch or bed is probably my favorite thing to do with them. Rhiannon runs off to our library with a book to lay on the leather love seat when she needs some recharge time.

We are raising readers and that makes me very happy. Go read to or with your kids today. If they see and hear you do it regularly they are much more likely to do it themselves. I challenge you to read for an average of 30 minutes a day with your kids this next month - see how it goes and if you like the results, I know we are happy here.

November 5, 2007

How To Start Again

How do I start blogging again? I have been out of rhythm of blogging for awhile now it seems. This has been a fall of living the moments as they come and little time for anything else. I am tired and don't have the energy for much of anything extra. We have had a lot of missed blogging opportunities but have enjoyed just living life.

I went on a special vacation to see my brother and SIL and new niece in sunny Southern California. We had a great time, it was so nice to see them and to soak in some sunshine. Appreciating that even more today as the first snowflakes are falling in Minnesota! I think if money was no object Laguna Beach would be the place I would choose to live. It is simply gorgeous there even if I could not find a single geocache we tried to find due to altitude issues in California. The beach always holds a special place in my heart and that is a beautiful one with many private corners and interesting rocks and jetties. We had a nice visit and I enjoyed some baby time. I do miss the feeling of a baby in a sling held so close but I must admit I don't miss the sleepless nights! Enjoying that part of having older kids along with the independence it brings.

I arrived home and the next day my parents arrived for a nice long stay. Seems those weeks went by in a blur but we had a lot of fun. The time always passes quicker then we think it will. It is always the last day and we are taking pictures. The kids really enjoyed having the time with their grandparents. Since we only get to see them once or twice a year we really try to make the most of the time that we have whenever it comes up. This visit included a kids musical performances and plays, a trip to the zoo, an apple cider field trip, volunteering together at Feed My Starving Children, and of course the kids favorite a trip with an unlimited bracelet to the Mall of America. But really we just enjoyed being together as a family. One of my favorite random moments I think came when we were eating out and Serona was trying to convince Sirah to eat a little more before desert. He commented on how small her bites were and she took some on her fork and said "Is this a sizeable bite?" We all took a double take to see if that is really what our 4 year old said - It was. Mom and I even got out for an evening away and Serona and dad enjoyed playing video games together.

During their visit Serona and I purchased Zunes on clearance and began the HUGE task of ripping all our cd's into digital format. We were saving them onto a backup drive that just died after about 4000 songs. It crashed, all our music, backup files and pictures. Thankfully we have backups of the photos in other locations but all the time we spent ripping cd's - gone!

When the grandparents left would have been a natural time to calm things down - but our schedules did not really allow for that as last week was also really busy. It was a good busy but still busy. We had a great field trip to the Minnesota Raptor Center. I highly recommend it if you live in the area they did a great job and all the younger kids really enjoyed it. It is hard to tailor to our groups sometimes as our age range can be rather wide. Sirah was really excited as her favorite animal right now is the owl. She loved being able to see them up close and see so many different ones. I think this is a trip we will do again in the spring. All the kids enjoyed it and it made some of our craziness feel worth it.

Horseback riding lessons are still going steady but will be wrapping up soon with Rhiannon's first horse show. After she completes the show we will be stopping for a time. The overall experience has been great but intense for her. She really learned a lot about horsemanship and competition. She has enjoyed her time doing it and I am sure it will come back to be part of our lives again soon.

Next up for our family - Ciaran's first foray into basketball. Our neighbors generously gave us their basketball hoop and trampoline for Free!!!!! How wonderful is that for my very active kids? We have been playing together outside a lot lately and using their interest for some PE time for school even. That is the next activity we will be doing here.

Sirah is starting to pipe up interest in being brought into the rotation so I am going to need to figure out how to work it with three kids and we will see what she gets interested in and brings our family into.

Geocaching has been non-existent lately due to our schedule. I did try 6 or 7 of them in California with no success. My brother is convinced it doesn't really exist. Of course geocaching where he lives adds new elements like altitude, mountain lions, rattlesnakes and coyotes. So alas we have not been doing much in that area lately.

Our homeschool coop has been moving on steadily. The kids have been enjoying their classes. Ciaran is enjoying his so much that I am contemplating shifting next semester to just teaching him Five in a Row since he seems to really get a lot out of that type of lesson. Rhiannon has been enjoying K'nex, snack preparation, and learning about the oceans. Sirah loves having her own special class and all the crafts and games they do. I have been enjoying teaching my classes. This has been the most laid back semester I have done yet and I really enjoy it. I am teaching less intensive classes and having fun with it. The kids seem to be enjoying and still learning and getting things out of it.

I taught class in full jedi get-up last week and that was fun. Serona sewed all our family costumes. At least one of us knows how to sew. The kids in my class enjoyed it but I think the boys in the 8-11 year old group at our co-op really enjoyed seeing it more. I let several kids try out the lightsabers and tried to answer questions when asked. It was a bit uncomfortable for me at first, like when I went into Starbucks in costume or met the man replacing our garage door in full costume, but I eventually grew more comfortable in it. I have worn the costumes many times but usually for an event or special day - it is usually not quite so out of place as it was that day and in general I don't feel comfortable in a role of attention. But it was worth it and even fun.

I have really enjoyed teaching this Star Wars class. We are talking about different film and literary elements from the saga. I have found out more interesting details and the more I study and teach it the more impressed I am with George Lucas' work. We have covered things like: protagonists, antagonists, coming of age, climax, plot elements, themes, costuming, character creation, setting, special effects, sound effects and soundtracks. It is fun to see the kids understanding these concepts in a fairly natural way because it is related to things they understand really well from the movie. We even had the group over to play Star Wars trivia pursuit. It was a fun evening and a fairly close game. We did not let Serona play :)

My other class is just as fun to teach. The kids go outside each week and have free time to sketch things they see in nature. We provide minimum structure and offer ideas and suggestions but they are free to do as they want. The kids have made some really wonderful and creative drawings. I think they are most appreciating just having the time to sketch without being rushed or pressured. Some do just one drawing the whole time and others do many. This class can easily be taught for a variety of ages with very little prep.

At home school has been fluid. We have had intense days and slower days. Some days we get a ton done and others just a few subjects but somehow we have managed to stay on track overall. The biggest news here is Ciaran who has gone from resistance to reading bob books this summer to finishing reading his first Magic Tree house book last week! We are so proud of him. He is excited. He is also really enjoying that he gets to play more video games now that he is reading better. As I type he is playing Lego Star Wars and loving it.

Well that is all the time I have for blogging now, Sirah woke from her nap and came to snuggle in my lap. You can guess which choice I am going to make! Well I am back and hopefully more regular now :)


Now playing: Hawk Nelson - 36 Days
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Now playing: Hawk Nelson - Right Here
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Now playing: Hawk Nelson - Hello
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Now playing: Hawk Nelson - Things We Go Through
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October 23, 2007

We Now Interrupt This Broadcast

To inform you regular blogging will resume in a bit after the grandparents visit ends and I recover from a trip to sunny california and family here for a spell after that. In the interim let me bore you with this....

Your Vocabulary Score: A

Congratulations on your multifarious vocabulary!
You must be quite an erudite person.

October 15, 2007

Pumpkin Carving

Serona's Sirah's Rhiannon's Ciaran's

October 9, 2007

Top Ten

Okay so they are not all the funniest but some of them really made me actually laugh out loud because they hit home.

Random Moments

We have these moments that pass and I think - I should blog this and then I forget maybe sometimes that is for the best. Still some of them came back to me today and I thought I would add them here.

In the car today Ciaran asked me what a building was and I said it was an apartment. I asked if he knew what that meant and he said "Yep April lives in an apartment in Ninja turtles"

At the school table today I shared with the kids that they would need to help Serona out since he will be teaching them for the next few days. Ciaran's eyes grew wide and he said "Really? He's going to let me play alot of video games!"

While trying out voice chatting with a friend who is new to IM she was excited and said this would be perfect with a webcam. I looked around at the scene - the huge mound of laundry on my couch and Ciaran climbing over the couch to the ledge that overhangs our staircase and I thought thank goodness this is not on video!

The dinner discussion about the fact that yes meat in the packages on the grocery store does in fact still come from animals and it does not just appear there magically. Somewhere along the way Ciaran got a bit confused about this.

The first words to Serona from Ciaran each day generally describing his latest progress in video game of choice, currently MonkeyBall. Sigh - could he maybe mention the fact that he read two books today and learned the capital of Vermont?

The laps ran up and and down the stairs to burn off the energy preventing us from focusing or making good choices.

We did have some moments that made me proud today along with those that made me smile and groan

Like Ciaran doing alphabet flashcards with Sirah and creating a game to keep her interested. The image of her sitting on the floor in a circle of flashcards that she got right and the two of them smiling at each other and actually getting along.

The excitement in Rhiannon when she arrived home after a day spent at a friends house and horseback riding. The smile and excited way she described even little details of her day.

Sirah's demanding to do "real school" and working so hard to try to trace her letters right on the little workbook page she choose. The look of satisfaction at a job well done when she was done and had achieved what she set out to do.

Ciaran teaching Sirah how to make a clay pot and her calling him master and him saying "Stop just call me Ciaran"

The little tea party Sirah and her friend had all dressed up as princesses complete with English accents.

The wonderful show Sirah created and performed for me with play silks, dress up and odds and ends around the house.

Rhiannon's final personal narrative about how she came to love horses. The joy of her finishing it and a job well done.

Pulling together a lesson plan about Vermont on the fly. Complete with printed out maps, and images of the state bird, flower, tree and flag for them to glue to their state page. Watching them draw the pictures that represent the things we read about - some mountains, trees, lakes, sap buckets, and covered bridges. Sharing with the kids how many states I have been too and how many they have already been to themselves, much more than many their age.

The contentment I felt when Ciaran asked himself to read first thing this morning and his request to read a second book. The realization at how well he is reading now compared to just a month ago.

Teaching Ciaran numbers that add up to 10 and watching the light bulb go on. There are few moments I treasure as much as watching those light bulb moments.

These are just some of the moments that made up my day today and made me smile. These are the moments I hold on to and am thankful make up my day. Tonight at dinner I realized Rhiannon had been away about 6 hours and it felt long - and then I realized that is less time then she would be at school each day if she went to our local school. It made me so thankful just for the time I have with them each day.

Yes I have 5 loads of laundry to fold and another bunch to do tomorrow. Yes I have chalk all over my carpet right after I vacuumed. Yes I just decorated with world and state maps and a lunar moon model. Yes I got excited when I finished up our history curriculum for last year (yes I am aware it is next October). Yes I crave coffee in the morning when I never did before since college. Yes I started cooking dinner at 7pm tonight after being home all day. Yes I ran out to the store to get toilet paper at 8:30pm because we realized then we would not make it through the night without some. Yes my kids are listening to skip count cd's to fall asleep, competing with my own Pink Floyd to and my husband is downstairs lost in Halo land.

But tonight for just this moment I am going to soak in all those beautiful memories and moments that made up this simple ordinary chilly October day. For it is in those ordinary moments that I find contentment and joy and I remember the reasons we do this to ourselves each day and that yes we really do like it and love one another and the life we have chosen.

Kiss your babies,

Now playing: Pink Floyd - Us And Them
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Now playing: Pink Floyd - Coming Back To Life
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Now playing: Pink Floyd - Welcome To The Machine
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Now playing: Pink Floyd - The Final Cut
via FoxyTunesof above.

Now playing: Pink Floyd - The Gunner's Dream
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Now playing: Pink Floyd - Eclipse
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Now playing: Pink Floyd - When The Tigers Broke Free
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Now playing: Pink Floyd - Two Suns In The Sunset
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October 8, 2007

Nature Walks

One of the reason blogging is so light in the fall is that it is one of the best times to live in Minnesota. This year our fall has been odd - though I don't know what I am really comparing it to when I say that. Still we have had cool crisp fall weather and hot 80 degree weather, lots of rain and lots of sunshine. So you never can tell. Well we grab on to those great moments and get outside as much as we can.

We go on nature hikes a few times a week in the fall. We pick a local park and go for a good walk, draw nature sketches, catch wildlife, or geocache. Some days we do all of these things and others we just end up strolling and enjoying the view. I love being outside with the kids, I love it even more when Serona can join us in the evenings or weekends but we just enjoy being out as a family.

The kids have learned to be flexible and we told Sirah the other day that she will have a strong constitution for all the walking she has to do for a child her age. I would say the minimum time we spend walking is about an hour. Sometimes we walk one mile in that time somedays we walk three in that time or just a little longer and majority of the time she has to walk on her own. \

Yes more than once I have to remind her that we do not speak "whinese" in our family but for the most part she really is great about it. Unless she sees another child in a stroller then she will pitch a fit that she needs a stroller or backpack or to be carried - otherwise she is content to walk and be one of the big kids. Besides our accidental 7 mile walk at the beginning of the summer kind of set the bar unreachable and we can always use that to remind the kids that they in fact can walk a mile back to the car themselves. Usually though our walks are pleasant, relatively short and filled with lots of nature stops.

Lately Rhiannon has begun classifying our walks. "Does today have to be a weight watchers walk?" or "Can we just have an explore and appreciate God's creation walk?" or "Can we go geocaching while we walk?" Often our walks overlap all these kinds of walks but it is interesting to listen to her describe the different kinds of walks we typically take with her bent on which she likes better.

We had a great walk last week just the kids and I at a favorite Nature Center. We saw an osprey, leopard frog, red-tailed hawk, bald eagle, ducks, chipmunks, squirrels, and caught a garter snake. We stopped to examine many different types of fungus including a puffball which was larger than a softball. We stopped for a rest and listened to the wind in the trees and appreciated the perfect 70 degree and sunny day we were having. The kids asked if we could pray and sing, so we did. It was not contrived at all it was simply from their heart as they had spent the day in God's creation they wanted to thank Him in their own way. It really was a special moment to be a part of.

We returned to this nature center a few days later to take Serona on a walk. We walked different trails but eventually came across the spot where we stopped for that special moment. The kids remembered and talked about it as we passed through the space. This time at the end of a longer and hot humid walk with temperatures in the 80's and the sticky heaviness right before a big thunderstorm you know needs to come. Serona caught a garter snake on this walk too and we enjoyed the fall leaves and the kids found some fun trees to climb. As we held hands and walked along the path with the kids running ahead of us I was so thankful that this is part of who we are as a family and I love this part. I can even deal with the "whinese" and the need to go to the bathroom at the precise moment we are atleast 2 miles away from any sort of bathroom option because to see us as a family outdoors is worth it.

Nature walks are easy to build into your day. They don't have to be long or complicated. They are a nice way to pass an afternoon, a morning or even just an hour in the middle of your day. Often you don't need to go very far to have a place you can get out walk around and appreciate nature. Some days we bring our sketch books and enjoy that time. Other days we bring a field guide or our GPS. Still so many days we just walk with a bottle of water and see what we see making snapshots without a camera as we build those memories into the lives of our kids and ourselves. So if you haven't taken a nature walk lately I encourage you to do it and have fun with it.

Travelling Mom

We are beginning our US geography studies and I started with a printed out map that I colored in all the states I have been to. I realized there are only 8 states in our country I have yet to visit ~ a great majority of these were visited before I was 30.

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.

I have spent a variety of time in each state sometimes just stopping for a day or two, some for full vacations, some to work in and a few I have lived in. I would not claim that I have a grasp on each of these states simply by visiting them. In many cases most of what I visited included hotels, restaurants, and college campuses. Still a great majority of them I have driven through which you do get a feel for a place as you drive through it. I feel a pretty strong understanding of Illinois as I have traveled nearly every direction within it.

I have been to every state east of the Mississippi, the entire west coast and desire to see the rest that I have missed. There are things I love about many states and it would be hard for me to pick a favorite. I have lived in New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon, Georgia and Minnesota. With inter-collegiate debate I visited so many states and cities I stop keeping track along the way. It is fun to sit down and see what I still have left to see - some of the best are left! That is good because it encourages me to go. Ok I can't say I am excited for Idaho but maybe it will surprise me. The rest of them I really want to get to and I won't leave Idaho out. Maybe I can acheive this before I am 40? Okay maybe that is optomistic and I should shoot for 40 but getting to all those before I was 30 I have a pretty good start.

I am looking forward to studying US geography with the kids this year!

It will be fun to

October 6, 2007

High of 75

A perfect theme song for life in Minnesota when my body desires the weather of Southern California!

High of 75 by Reliant K

We were talking together
I said, "What's up with this weather?"
Don't know whether or not
How sad I just got
Was of my own volition
Or if I'm just missing the sun
And tomorrow, I know
Will be rainy at best
And the forecast, I know
Is that I'll be depressed
But I'll wait outside
Hoping that I'll catch sight of the sun
Because on and off
The clouds have fought for control over the sky
And lately, the weather has been so bi-polar
And consequently, so have I

But now I'm sunny with a high of 75
Since You took my heavy heart, and made it light
And it's funny how you find you enjoy your life
When you're happy to be alive

And the temprature's freezing
And then, after dark
There's a cold front sweeping
In over my heart
And we might break up
If I don't wake up to the sun

Because on and off
The clouds have fought for control over the sky
And lately, the weather has been so bi-polar
And consequently, so have I

And now I'm sunny with a high of 75
Since You took my heavy heart, and made it light
And it's funny how you find you enjoy your life
When you're happy to be alive

Sunny with a high of 75
Since You took my heavy heart, and made it light (Made it light)
And it's funny how you find you enjoy your life
When you're happy to be alive

October 4, 2007

Prayer and Encouragement Group

For the past nearly three years I have been part of a wonderful prayer and book group that has recently come to an end. I have missed the support and fellowship of those wonderful ladies even though we still talk frequently - it is not quite the same as meeting each week before the sun is up.

Another prayer and encouragement group is starting at a perfect time for me. A wonderful mix of ladies and we will be working through the book The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie O'Martian. I am looking forward to our time together, to the support, encouragement and developing friendships.

If you have never had an opportunity to be a part of a group like this I encourage you to consider joining or starting one on your own. The rewards are so plentiful. It is so easy to organize. Pick a book you want to study. Along with the one we are doing a few other past favorites for me have been: The Power of a Praying Parent, A Woman After God's Own Heart, and Blue Like Jazz. But pick something you like and want to read together. Then pick a date and time (ours is very early in the am before dads head out to work) and then open it up to others, from your neighborhood, your homeschool support group, your church, whoever you want to spend more time with.

Then start meeting and talk about the book you read and open up a part of the time to share prayer requests and pray together as a group. Be available to each other in between meeting to talk, share and pray. This knits your hearts and friendships together and offers you a special place of prayer coverage and the opportunity to support and pray for others.

I have been blessed to be part of a wonderful support group and also our homeschool cooperative. We have many opportunities to build relationships and receive encouragement and we do in each of those places. However I get that much more support by seeing the same group of women each week in a very intentional way and praying for them and knowing they are praying for me and my family. There is something very special about that time and the relationships built there. The amount of answered prayers and support that I have seen over the past few years is amazing! I encourage you to try something like that (maybe at a more sane hour) and enjoy.
Now playing: Relient K - High Of 75
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Now playing: Watermark - More Than You'll Ever Know
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Now playing: Relient K - Must Have Done Something Right
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Now playing: Sara Groves - Know My Heart
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Now playing: Relient K - Sadie Hawkins Dance
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Now playing: Sara Groves - This Journey Is My Own
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Letting Go

To "let go" does not mean to stop caring,
it means I can't do it for someone else.

To "let go" is not to cut myself off,
it's the realization I can't control another.

To "let go" is not to enable,
but to allow learning from natural consequences.

To "let go" is to admit powerlessness,
which means the outcome is not in my hands.

To "let go" is not to try to change or blame another,
it's to make the most of myself.

To "let go" is not to care for,
but to care about.

To "let go" is not to fix,
but to be supportive.

To "let go" is not to judge,
but to allow another to be a human being.

To "let go" is not to be in the middle arranging the outcomes,
but to allow others to affect their own destinies.

To "let go" is not to be protective,
it's to permit another to face reality.

To "let go" is not to deny,
but to accept.

To "let go" it not to nag, scold or argue,
but instead to search out my own shortcomings, and correct them.

To "let go" is not to adjust everything to my desires
but to take each day as it comes,
and cherish myself in it.

To "let go" is not to criticize and regulate anybody
but to try to become what I dream I can be.

To "let go" is not to regret the past,
but to grow and live for the future.

To "let go" is to fear less,
and love more.

-- Author Unknown

October 2, 2007

New Reading Lists

Well hard to believe the month of September is over and it would seem we spent the month reading from our lists this month. This year I will attempt to keep three seperate monthly lists. The first list is our family read alouds and storybooks. Anything I read aloud to any or all of the kids. In addition I will keep a list of all the books Ciaran reads and all the chapter books or assigned reading books Rhiannon reads (it is impossible to keep track of everything she reads).

All together for the month of September these three lists total 168 books read in the month of September! This does not include any books Serona or I read for ourselves nor does it include the multiple times we read some of these favorite stories. Let's say our library card got a lot of great use this past month! Hopefully you can find some new book ideas with these lists. Feel free to email or leave a comment with a specific question about a book if you have one. Enjoy!

On the way to work

We drive Serona to work most mornings - we are a one car family so if we want or need the car for the day we drive him into the office. This has been routine for majority of our 10 years of marriage. Sometimes interesting things happen along the way.

Today Serona was lamenting the fact that he taught the kids the "jinx" game and wondering why he did it. I gave a half sort of smile and I raised my eyebrows as if to say "you reap what you sow". Of course I also reap what he sowed.

I will be honest I have banned the punch bug game, the jinx game and other annoying car games because my patience has worn thin and I can't take another round of arguing over who has more punch bugs than the other. He got a knowing grin and smile and I knew I was in trouble.

He then says to Ciaran

"inch and Pinch me are on a wall - inch fell off who was left"
"pinch me" says Ciaran in innocent thoughtless reaction
Serona turns and pinches him.

It was an instant hit with the kids of course and I groaned inside. Well it took all of about 45 seconds before Rhiannon pipes up:

"Flap and Slap Me are on a wall. Flap falls off who was left" and Ciaran received a slap to the head. _Sigh_

I watched as Serona tried to navigate this one and explain why pinching someone was funny and okay but slapping someone was not. I just stayed out of it all together.

Right before Serona got out of the car he said "That is it, no more fun for the day. You are not allowed to have any more fun." To his defense the point he was trying to make was that they needed to settle down and not be so silly but that is not quite how it came out.

So you could sum it up by saying that on the way to work dad encouraged pinching and slapping and forbidded fun for the day. Then he got out of the car and wished us a good day and headed into the office. I said maybe it was the day to change places and let me go into the office and he have fun schooling the kids after that start to the morning.

I suppose at least he did not feed them donuts and candy (known to the kids as "morning medicine" after grandparents visit this summer)and then hand them over. As school was winding down and we were approaching lunchtime today Ciaran tried it again on me. "Bunch and lunch were on a wall...."

How many days until I leave for California????

September 29, 2007

A Great Day

Friday was a great day. We started the day with a 5 mile bike ride to our service project for the day. It was a glorious day to be outside and a nice bike ride. The one down side to biking with young kids is it is hard to gain momentum. Pulling the trailer is enough of a workout without the added challenge of needing to stop mid hills and every so often to keep pace with Ciaran. Still it was a lovely bike ride.

We try to do at least one service project a month during the school year. This month we spent the day packing meals for children. The kids were glad to be back into the routine of it. Even Sirah does her part, she has been helping pack meals since she was two. The kids really enjoy the service projects we do. I am hoping to add more in as they get a little older.

After we got home we spent the rest of the afternoon at the apple orchard with our homeschool group. This apple orchard is a favorite with the kids. Along with lots of great apples to pick there are lots of animals to pet and hold. They held baby chicks, ducklings, kids, and lots of other baby animals. They fed cows and saw pheasants and ran with the chickens and hens. They loved this. At one point Sirah got head butted in the tummy by the mama goat. She is okay and was happy once we were on the wagon ride. The kids got to pick some popcorn to keep until New Years before we pop it. We bought 19 pounds of apples and 12 pounds of squash. Can you tell what we will be having for the next few weeks?

We picked Serona up and headed out for a walk at a favorite pond until the sun was setting. We headed home for a pizza and movie family night. All in all it was an excellent day.

Weight Loss Update

Well it has been 11 weeks since Serona and I committed to changing our lifestyle and began Weight Watchers and more regular exercise. You can read all about Serona's happy feelings in the beginning.

Things have improved since then, we have had ups and downs and frustrations along the way. But so far I have lost 20 pounds and Serona nearly 30. We have made some positive changes and are starting to feel the results. A long way to go in slow steps but it feels good that we have accomplished what we have.

September 27, 2007

Today's Highlights

Starting the day with:

Rhiannon saying to Ciaran - "Did you know that poop is a solid, pee is a liquid and farts are gases? If you did all three at once we would need to create a new element."

Walking into town to run errands, stopping for a picnic lunch under a tree and reading stories there and naming cloud shapes.

Stopping on the way home to do a nature notebook drawing on a fairly busy stret corner, cars wondering what we are doing.

My kids all dressed in kimonos from Japan using their fans to hide their faces.

Ciaran doing his math problems on the trampoline. Stopping jumping only long enough to write the answer on the board.

My personal favorite of the day:

Going to the post office wearing this t-shirt and getting comments about being out with the kids and how helpful my t-shirt must be in them learning. It comes out that we are homeschooling and the moment the word is mentioned the whole busy room suddenly went silent as people tried to figure out what to say. We just smile big and tell them to have a great day!

September 26, 2007

Hours of Entertainment

Our neighbors got teepeed last night. Ciaran was outside playing lightsaber duels with his friend. The toilet paper was an open invitation for them. I found them knocking it down off the trees and saw my neighbor come outside. I went over to talk to her and told the boys to go home. She said they might as well play in it if it was already there. So I handed the boys a garbage bag and told them as they played they could help by picking it up and throwing it out.

They have literally spent well over an hour knocking toilet paper out of a tree with lightsabers and cleaning up the neighbors yard. It won't be perfect but you can see grass again and all the shrubs have been cleared and as high as they could reach and knock down is cleared out of the tree - they even came in for another bag and the other four kids here went outside to join them.

What a fun way to lend a helping hand!

September 25, 2007

The Sweet Spot

I don't play golf much to Serona's disappointment. I still can't see the point of spending hours on a course chasing a ball and frustrating myself. I have heard that when you hit the sweet spot and watch the ball soar into the air it makes it all worth it. I can't speak to that. What I can say is I have a secret sweet spot that is much easier to achieve than the perfect swing.

A child sitting in my lap snuggled close and listening to read aloud stories. That is it for me - today I actually plucked Sirah out of playing with her siblings so she could come sit in my lap so I could read to her. While the activity no doubt benefited her it really was all about me today. I just needed that time, that quiet, that closeness, that sweet spot that makes it all worth it.

As my four year old sits in my lap and I realize I have just a few years of this left I want to cling to this. This is the sort of thing I know I really will miss when they grow up because I have spent so much time doing it and loving it. Sure my 8 year old will still sit there but only for short periods of time as she gets uncomfortable and I imagine these moments are quickly coming to an end with her. I have spent so much of the past 8 years with a child in my lap reading to them that I can't imagine the loss when this time passes, so I am trying to treasure it even more than I usually do.

So as I read Molly Lou Melon, Marvin. K Mooney, The Seven Silly Eaters, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and Glitter Kitty for the millionth time I will love those moments and be thankful at how easy it is to feel the joy of that sweet spot without ever stepping foot on the greens.

September 22, 2007

Nature Notebook Class

This semester for our homeschool cooperative I am teaching a great and easy class for the 2nd-4th graders, nature notebooking. On the first day I gave a general overview of what nature notebooking was and what sorts of items they might want to include in their books. I gave them only two rules for the book.

1. It doesn't have to be perfect.
2. If God made it you can draw it

Only God made it perfect so all I want you to do is draw from your heart and mind what you see in the way you want to. Then we headed outside.

We had a lovely but breezy day to be outside. Thankfully some flowers survived our first frost in Minnesota and they were able to sit outside near the flowers and sketch. There was a wide variety of what was sketched - trees, spiderwebs, flowers, berries, landscapes, leaf rubbings, moths, grasshoppers, bees, and on the list went.

I think this will be a lovely class - as the kids gain confidence and continue to enjoy themselves. It was a sight to see the kids all spread out in different spots sitting quietly sketching. Some worked very quickly and went through several pages drawing individual items such as a single berry on a page. Others sat for a long time and created complete landscapes.

We encouraged each child to draw for the entire time no matter how many items they sketched and to put the date, location, and time on their pages so they can refer back to them later. They all seemed to enjoy themselves and this is a time I will look forward to each week. In case of unpredictable Minnesota weather I will have field guides, books and pictures for them to sketch from indoors when needed.


We just dropped Serona's sister and our 17 month old nephew at the airport after a wonderful visit. We had a great time just "doing life" as she said. They are wonderful and very easy house guests. We went hiking, walking, to the children's theater, out to eat, and just did all the normal things we usually do. The visit went far too fast but we enjoyed ourselves.

It was fun to have a little one in the house again - made Sirah look so much bigger than she normally seems to me. Since she is the baby of our family she seems so young but then seeing her next to our one year old nephew she seemed so much older. The kids were overall great with their cousin. At times needing reminding to play and help him out but often doing it on their own because they enjoyed it.

If he had a ball and our little Leap Frog Fridge magnet ABC player he was content no matter what. I spent an evening alone with him and we had fun together. We even went to the Mall of America right after the tornado sirens went off and they had evacuated the place - making it a perfectly empty time to visit.

Sadly we only get to see them once a year or so but we made the time count. It was lovely to have them here to spend our days with and have some companionship throughout the day. We will miss them - but maybe we will head out their way again soon. After all Southern California is a lovely place to visit, if only we could afford to move there.

September 7, 2007

Just Add Water and Dirt

The weather was just glorious and as you know our morning was not so we headed outside to meet friends at a park. The rest of the day went swimmingly. The kids played at the playground, found a geocache, had a water fight in a nice big water pile, climbed a nice big dirt pile while completely soaking wet, swung on swings, took turns with Ciaran's skateboard, and played a game of baseball with an imaginary ball. We were there for hours and they were soaking wet and rather dirty at the end of the day. But who cares? It was a perfect day to be a kid and do kid stuff. The day ended with one of the moms bringing Dilly bars for everyone. What a day to be a homeschool kid - at the park all afternoon leaving when others are getting out of school. Next time must remind myself - solution to a bad day: just add water, dirt, sunshine and friends - who could ask for more? By the way these are not our kids but not a bad representation of what they looked like at the end of the day.

FOR DADS ONLY - Thoughts on Internet Security and Kids, from a Dad's Perspective

Hey All. This is Serona, DH of Tenn. I wanted to chime in on the topic of internet security for kids in our homes is concerned. Lots of folks in our small and large circles of friends and spheres of influence are asking about this. As a techie and early adopter of internet technology I think my $.02 is worth about $.04 or so.

This missive is intended for folks with kids who are increasingly using the web for school, play, and friend interaction/maintenance/generation. The questions I hear a lot are along the lines of "what internet filter should I buy?" or "how can I protect my youngster from < insert appropriate scary internet thing here: naked pictures, naughty words, creepy older men posing as 12 year olds etc. >?"

Gang, it's not that complex when you think about it.

Family internet security is like sex. Rather it's like sex ed.

Let me explain.

First, you should know more about it than your kids do. If you don't get this about sex then something is probably seriously amiss and you should stop worrying about internet and take your son/daughter out for some quality re-get-to-know-you-again time. In the tech industry we say, "RTFM" (look it up)

The same applies for understanding web technology as it pertains to your kids' usage. Here are some (but only SOME) of the basics you should know (because your kids already do):

Common Browsers: MSIE, Firefox, Opera, Safari, etc. They all have tutorials, help files, etc. This is the basic biology - the parts of the body.

Browsing/ web mechanics (e.g. how scientific diagrams of flowers, sonnets by Shakespeare, and naked girl pictures can all appear on your computer screen) You need to understand THE BASICS of how web pages, images, chat/IM dialogs are transported through the aether to your screen. I'm not talking about knowing the guts of HTTP or how IP packets are routed through hops. I'm talking about things like the fact that the "internet" is a series of "request" and "receive" commands that display on your screen. This means you cannot receive anything that you did not ask for. (now it gets complex - because you can actually "ask" for things that you are not aware of - even without being "hacked"). This is like understanding that babies don't come from kissing but usually as a by-product of certain frictions between humans of opposite sex (don't bother me with the exception cases right now).

If the kids in the family understand that they cannot accidentally see something they shouldn't without having asked for it - even if they don't realize they're asking for it, they will

A) be more careful in what they ask for ( e.g. careful with multiple-meaning search terms, etc)

B) be less likely to try to bamboozle you with teen-techno-web parent-N00b speak. (e.g. "that web site must have been H4X0r3d Mom!")

Second, Communicate. Give age-appropriate information that is designed to be built upon. You don't give your 5 year old daughter all the ins and outs < irony / > of sex. You do give your 5 year old daughter an understanding of privacy, good-touch vs bad-touch, and how to care for her young healthy body. You do give the mechanics and maybe some general rules of sex and sexuality to your (insert family-determined appropriate age here) year old daughter. In between those ages you gradually provide detail/additional information
exception cases, strategies for avoiding (insert bad sexual behavior here), and strategies for encouraging (insert good sexual behavior here).

It might be Judo that you teach, or how to call mom for a ride home from a bad date, or how to keep the boyfriend at (insert 1st, 2nd, 3rd base here as governed by parent) or maybe more Judo. Similarly, teach your kids how to tap the plethora of information available in age-appropriate manners. This also involves giving them gradually increasing measures of freedom and privacy, but only as they earn that privilege from proving that your trust in them is warranted. You don't let your 9 year olds go alone on a skinny-dipping blind-date (duh!). Why in the world would you let your 9 year old have text-chat sex on the web? The answer is that you wouldn't! "I DON'T!", you exclaim. But how much do you know about what they're doing online? "YOU DON'T!" I exclaim. That's why you are asking about software filters instead of asking about how to be a better parent.

Remember, it's not "spying" if there is no expectation of privacy.

Third, realize that, like sex, the web is FUN! But it is only SAFE when you 1) know what you are doing and 2) are doing "it" according to the standards that govern healthy behavior. For us Christians, that means sex is good and fun when it's between a man and woman married to each other. For us web surfers/users it means the web is great when we follow the rules and expectations set by our families - not some software program. But by jebus it is a blast! Where else can you chat in real time, for free with friends / family on the other side of world/country/town? Where else can you find the answer to ANYTHING (and usually a video to go along with it)? Where else can you publish your creative thoughts, engage people smarter than you in conversations on topics that interest you, verbally spar with people with whom you disagree and explore the side tracks that hyperlinks provide (if you don't know what a hyperlink is, see the First thing, above). But, like sex, the web can be used appropriately and inappropriately. Like sex, there are certain things that simply should not be done with strangers or friends or even best friends forever. Like sexual endeavors, using the web alone can be a stress relief, or a tension creator. If you've talked with your (older) kids about masturbation (yes, I SAID IT!), good grief, why are you NOT talking to them about when and how it is appropriate to use the web.

Gang, there is lots of technology pitched and sold to parents that preys upon fears of kids seeing pictures of naked people or reading dirty words or getting raunchy or profane or simply annoying emails. The reality is that this will stop some stuff but never all. So what do you do when those words or pictures, or emails get through? There is no substitute for being a parent. If you web experience is currently inundated and overrun with NSFW images and content, or your kids are web-camming with strangers at odd evening hours chances are your issues go deeper than a filter.

I'm not down on filters (really) but I'm down on technology as nanny or parent or overseer. Be a parent first. Use technology as a tool, to your advantage.

You use your knowledge and experience of sex to inform the ways and methods you use to teach your kids about it. Use your knowledge and experience of web based technology to inform the ways and means you use to teach your kids about that as well. If your knowledge and experience with the web is behind that of your kids, then by-gum, get some. At least you can't get all those nasty diseases we heard about in health class from the internet.

Thanks for reading.