Friday, December 29, 2006

Trains - Part 3

Here is the train. The engine is a Union Pacific SD50. There's a Burlington Northern reefer, a Chesapeake & Ohio gondola, a UP wrecking car, a Canadian National gondola, a UP box car and a Chicago Northwestern way car (caboose.)

Thomas has ordered a new RS3 Rock Island engine , which is a switch engine, with his Christmas money. It seems our UP SD50 is just a hair long for the 18-inch radius and switching on the shorter track. The new RS3 is shorter so he shouldn't have a problem.

Trains - Part 2

This is the control panel that Thomas built -- with just a little help from his dad.

The table top that Bob built sits on the old play table that Bob built a few years ago. Bob had a huge piece of styrofoam in the garage, so they used that to elevate the new table while they did their wiring. Thomas is doing his soldering.

A tape measure comes in handy to hold the wires to be soldered.

Ignore the ugly basement, please. Someday I'll finish painting the walls.

Trains -- Part 1

This is the train table. Bob built the 4 x 8 board and attached insulation board on top. That was part of Thomas's Christmas present. The tracks are True Track by Atlas. We bought a layout set because it was easier. Thomas and Bob have been working on this since Christmas. The track is all nailed down and they are working on the wiring.

Thomas dug out some of his old Thomas the Tank Engine stuff to play with while they were working. Any trains you see on the table are not HO scale, just his old toys. Once they get all the wiring done, they will work on scenery.

Go to bed already

It's 2:30 am and I'm still up. In my perfect world, I'd stay up until 4 or so every night, sleep until noon or so, then start my day. Well, it obviously is impossible to live my perfect world on a day-to-day basis because I'm a mom -- a homeschooling mom. I wonder when Thomas is grown and leaves the house if I will indeed go to that schedule.

It was a slow day, I putzed around the house in the morning. I talked to a friend on the phone in the afternoon, and that was a very special treat. Then my stomach started hurting. I took a nap after super until 7:30. I realized it was Thursday and my dream of deep cleaning the kitchen on our break was not going to be realized unless I got off my butt and started to work. So I did. And I felt very ill while I was doing it but I plugged away.

One of the things I find most troublesome about homeschooling is that I don't have time to devote to my home that I would like. I am not a multi-tasker, I cannot do two things at once. I have to give undivided attention to the task at hand. And that makes it impossible for me to clean during school. I mean deep clean.

Thomas and his dad worked on the electrical wiring of his model train set tonight, so I had peace and quiet. I was able to get a lot done, but I still have a good solid day's worth of cleaning in the kitchen to do. Maybe two. I also want to get the Christmas stuff packed away. I also want to get the laundry caught up. I also want to... you name it, I want to do it.

What is it about the Christmas holiday that turns your house upside down? I haven't done laundry in a week. The house is a mess. Perhaps it is because my husband has the week off and is underfoot. Sometimes I miss the days that I worked outside the home. My house was always in good shape and clean then. Yes, I had a cleaning lady come once a week, but that wasn't why it was in good shape. It was because no one was there during the day to mess it up.

Even though we're on break this week, the learning has not stopped. Thomas has learned so much about electricity this week. He's learned terms of all the doodads: terminals, switches, amps, etc. -- stuff I know nothing about (nor do I care to know!). He has spent hours wiring that track. It's a long process, definitely longer than I thought it would be. His dad taught him how to solder today. What surprised me most is that the boys spent several hours together today and tonight working on it, and Bob got tired and curled up with a book. Thomas plugged away and continued to work. All by himself. I was very impressed by that because the train stuff is in the basement, and he hates to be in the basement alone, and secondly, because he usually doesn't like to work on projects by himself.

Tomorrow should be more of the same: me cleaning the kitchen and the boys working on the train.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Give me Eight More

Anyone who has ever done an exercise tape knows that phrase, Give me eight more.

I don't know WHAT I was thinking today, but I actually popped an exercise tape into the machine, stood in front of the TV, and moved. Yes, mark this down on the calendar, I exercised. Now I did go "lite" and chose a 30-minute tape instead of an hour long, but I did it!

Thomas was so shocked he ran to tell his father who was in the basement. His father had already figured out what was going on because the house was shaking. (It wasn't really that bad.)

With all the junk we've been eating, I can actually feel that extra weight coming on -- and believe me, I don't need any more, thank you very much. I'm also on a quest to raise my HDL cholesterol number and exercise is the way to do that.

Exercise is something we lack in our homeschool. Thomas plays, and plays hard, and I think that he gets adequate exercise through that. However, I want him to learn that adult daily exercise is a good thing. Kids learn by example, right?

I want to find some kind of exercise tape he can do with me. I have almost everything put out by Richard Simmons, but Thomas doesn't care for my beloved Richard. I think a trip to the library is in order. Hopefully there will be something out there that Thomas can stomach and that I like as well.

I'm still in shock, though. I exercised today. Woo-hoo.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas & our 3D Puzzle

Last summer, we went to a neighboring town for their city-wide garage sales. I found lots of bargains, including this 3D Camelot Puzzle for a mere two dollars. I opened it up and found that only one bag of puzzle pieces had been opened. There were several bags inside. The woman running the sale told me she took out a few pieces, decided it was going to be way too difficult and time consuming, and put them back. She assured me all the pieces were there, which I believed. (They were.)

I bought the puzzle because I knew we would be studying the middle ages and castles this year. I thought it would be a fun project. I didn't realize two things: First, that this castle would be sitting in my living room for almost two months. Secondly, that this castle is listed as advanced challenge on Milton Bradley's difficulty scale.

Now in all fairness, we had a lot going on in November. We were gone for two weeks. When we returned home, we were a little down considering we had just lost the Cowboy. So none of us were really feeling like working on the puzzle.

We put up our Christmas trees and decorated the house around the puzzle. (Yes, we have two fake Christmas trees in our living room.) The puzzle sat untouched.

Yesterday I was cleaning the living room for Christmas and I decided I had had enough of that puzzle sitting there. I sat down in the early afternoon. Eventually I moved the entire puzzle to my kitchen table -- much more comfortable chairs in there. Thomas helped off and on. Bob even sat down for a good five minutes. We worked and worked and worked. In between, we finished wrapping presents, made goodies, went grocery shopping, did a few loads of laundry, etc. Work on the house a little, work on the puzzle a little.

Finally, at 2:45 am, I had finished the puzzle. My Christmas wish of getting that thing out of my living room had been realized.

The sad thing was, there were four pieces that were left over. In the wee hours of the morning, I couldn't figure out where they went. Sick of the puzzle, Thomas and Bob sat down this morning and finally figured out where they went. Thomas dismantled the puzzle and put in the missing pieces. Let me just say it is a bear to take these apart.

I told Bob that he could buy me another 3D puzzle as a gift some day. I really enjoyed it. Thomas did, too, but he doesn't have the patience for puzzles that I have.

My two-dollar puzzle was quite the bargain. They typically sell for $29.99. In fact, my puzzle is so old that they have re-vamped it. It is now called King Arthur's Camelot and has much prettier graphics. I think I would like to do The Capitol puzzle next. I don't know if it's in the budget, though. Thomas is game, though I know I'd end up doing the majority of it. And that's okay.

From our castle to yours, we'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Fun Fiasco

Oh my. We did our gingerbread house yesterday and today. I was too tired to make actual gingerbread, so we went the cheap and easy route by using icing to glue graham crackers onto boxes to make our house. It isn't pretty, but here's the house. One of the critters decided that it looked pretty tasty and ate three of the cookies.

Okay, I'll admit it, I made the darned house. I was tired and just didn't feel like decorating, so Thomas took over. I think this has to be the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree of Gingerbread houses, it's SO ugly! BUT...we had fun, so that's what counts. Our memory this year will be of the ugly house.

Thomas decided to be creative and make a gingerbread train. He used Daisy from the Thomas the Tank Engine line for an engine, and plain graham crackers for Anne and Clarabel. Velveeta boxes are underneath. You can tell that he cared and had energy when he was working on Daisy, and he too got tired and in a hurry as time went on.


A friend of mine sent me photos of her gingerbread house making experience from last year. She also sent me a recipe. So, next year I promise we'll have beautiful gingerbread houses. Hers were!

I'm not crafty, I don't enjoy making crafts. I don't like the mess. I am a perfectionist and I can't stand it when it is anything but perfect. Just imagine how difficult this was on me! But motherhood has taught me patience. I can do the craft thing, I can put a smile on my face, I can encourage Thomas. I can actually enjoy the experience -- through him. I thought his train was rather clever.

We made fudge tonight. Well, Thomas made fudge, I supervised. Have I ever mentioned, I just don't like cooking, either? I love to eat, but the cooking part is boring. So again, I put a smile on my face and pretend to enjoy myself. Thomas's enthusasim grabs hold of me and I eventually enjoy it. Tonight, though, this thought ran through my head: Who on earth can enjoy standing in front of a stove, stirring for ten minutes so it doesn't burn, then stirring to melt chocolate and marshmallow fluff? My arm got tired, I hate standing still, and it just wasn't fun.

I think in my next life I want to come back as a man. And I want to come back in the 1950s. Then I won't have to cook or do crafts. I can go target shooting, work in a shop, and do manly things that are so much fun. Sheesh, I think I sound a little sexist here.

Well, at least Thomas's train is cute.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Many late-night random thoughts

First, regarding the Brown fire. There is a follow up to the article. Tammy posted the link. Go to her blog, click the link, and you'll see a photo. You'll see one of the children trying to salvage the tree. Click on that photo to enlarge it. You'll also see a room with chairs, a TV -- lots of stuff. So if you've never been through a fire, you might think everything is salvageable, right? It all looks okay in the photo -- messy due to people, fire fighters, etc. But what you don't get through seeing the picture is smell.

My sister had a house fire several years ago. I was in college at the time, still living at home. Mom and dad left me at home to help her recover from the fire. I think they were gone about a week. They stayed at a motel, so they were in clean surroundings. The night they got home, I raced to the door to let them in, and although they were in clean clothes, showered, fresh -- they stunk the worse stink I have ever smelled. The smell they carried on their bodies nearly made me get sick. Everything they brought into the house had that smell. I cannot describe it with accuracy. Yes, it smelled like burnt goods, but it was much worse. It took a long time to get that stink out of our house.

So you see, you don't see the smell in the photos. Trust me, it's there, and it's bad. And nearly impossible to get out of the stuff that may still otherwise be good. The other thing you don't see is water everywhere. Water ruins things.


On another note, Thomas and I will be making gingerbread houses tomorrow. It seems if you don't buy a kit when you first see them, you're scre -- erh, out of luck. So I've been looking for recipes. I'll post photos when we're done.


On a final note, I did the unthinkable today. After I mentioned here that we use Rod and Staff math and that I hand make worksheets, I thought how silly for me to do that. So I got an exacto knife and cut the spine out of the student book. I then sliced the spine into five chunks that will fit in my extra-special high performance ($100) three-hole punch left over from my court reporting days. We then put the pages in a notebook (some people call them three-ring binders). I now have a book that I can circle what problems Thomas has to do, that he can take individual sheets out of, and he will now be forced to copy and do his own problems that can't be worked in tea book. I think I'd babied him far too long on that. I also feared keeping books in pristine condition so that I could resell them.

Phooey to that. He worked two lessons today and LOVED that he could write in his book. Amazingly, he did math in record time this morning as well. And he had to copy about 10 problems out of the book and work on graph paper -- it still went so much faster than our typical two-hour math sessions.

Whew. Why didn't I do that sooner? The photo is at the top -- I couldn't get it to move down here where I want it. It was very, very hard for me to cut up a perfect condion book.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Big Heart

As I was getting my donation for the Brown family ready for the mail today, Thomas asked what I was doing. I had told him the story, but he wanted to know more. So I read the article to him. Thomas then bolted straight to his room, dug for money, and came out with five old and weathered dollar bills. "It was all I could find, mom, but I'd like to give it to the family."

And so he did. He wrote a short note, folded up his dollars, and off we went to the post office.

Thomas is very tight with his money, so mom and dad were very proud of him. He has a big heart and wished he had more money to give.

On another note, we did a math marathon this morning. Thomas hates math, but we got ourselves a little behind. So this is math catch-up week. It went surprisingly well. Gee, the week before Christmas, the thought of "Santa" watching (yes, he knows) just got him in the spirit to work well. I wish that would happen every week with math, but I'll just be thankful that he works well with everything else the rest of the time besides math.

We did not start our Christmas unit today because we were busy catching up with other stuff, cleaning the house, being interrupted by the city wanting to change our water meter, phone calls, etc. So tomorrow nothing but math and Christmas. Reminds me of cramming for a test -- but at least we'll have fun.

I don't think I've ever mentioned this on the blog, but we switched math programs yet again this year. We are using Rod and Staff. We both love it. In all honesty, Thomas really does like it -- as much as he can like any math program. He likes it better than Lial's and Singapore. I like it because there is so much practice and review. Thomas really needs that. The only thing I don't like is that I have to make worksheets for Thomas. He is so slow time-wise with math that I simply have to write the problems out for him. I guess that's a mixed blessing, because I use graph paper. Thomas does much better aligning his numbers with graph paper than on notebook paper.

Our second choice is Lial's. We would have continued with Lial's except that I think Thomas needed lots more practice than it afforded.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I have an idea

I want to do something and I'm wondering if it would work. I want to start a website called Homeschoolers helping Homeschoolers. Then when we learn of a tragedy, like the recent Brown Family fire in PA, we could verify that it was real, and get local contact information.

I am the type that cries when I read these stories. I really do hurt for the families. If I can spare a few bucks, I do. So if I did this, would it help? Would it make a difference? Would it work?

Any ideas?

Of course, if this were my site, I would have something along the lines of this: Your race, religion, sex or sexual orientation doesn't matter. This is a matter of homeschoolers reaching out to humanity. You know, some kind of caveat like that, to include any homeschooler.

What does anyone think?

Homeschoolers, Fire, Contact Information

I emailed the reporter, Jill King Greenwood, who wrote the story about the family of 10, who happen to homeschool, who lost their home, their belongings, and all of their school in a fire last week. She gave me the contact information.

read article here

I'm going to send what I can. I know nothing more about this family, but my heart just aches for them. If you can spare a few dollars, I'm sure they would more than appreciate it.

Brown Family Fund

c/o Knoxville United Church

148 Jucunda Street

Pittsburgh, Pa. 15210

(412) 381-3317

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Homeschoolers house fire -- lose everything

Tammy at Reviews and Comments on the Fly blogged today about a family in Knoxville, Pennsylvania who had a house fire last night and essentially lost everything. Including their school. No one was hurt and even the cat and dog escaped, thankfully.

You can read about it here.

I haven't found any other info out there in the homeschool arena. Soooo....I emailed the reporter of the article. I got an autoresponse back from her that she won't be back from vacation until the 26th. So I then emailed the emergency contacts she left. I would like contact information so that I can make a small donation to the family, and further down the road when they get settled, perhaps there is a book or two on my shelf that they could use.

I'll be updating this when I hear back from the reporters.

I can't imagine a fire at any time of the year, but right before Christmas just breaks my heart. I hope they are able to find suitable housing. This family needs warm wishes and nice thoughts sent their way. And if you're the praying kind, a few prayers, too.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Things in Fours

Tagged by Kixque.

Things in Fours...

4 Jobs I have Had

1. Wendy's. First job ever, probably most demanding and most difficult.

2. Student assistant on a work program in my college's library.

3. Court Reporter

Aside from babysitting jobs, I have had no other paying jobs.

4 Movies I would Watch Over and Over

1. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio

I have seen this probably 20 times and love it more each time.

2. The Patriot

3. Coal Miner's Daughter

4. Braveheart

4 TV Shows

1. Survivor

2. ER

3. The View -- hey, I love Rosie. I sometimes watch during the day if I get a chance during school. I never watched The View before Rosie came on and won't if she leaves.

4. Hmm, almost anything on Bravo. I like their programming.

4 Places I Have Visited

1. Europe. Seven countries in 35 days. Wish I were rich and I'd go again.

2. Disneyworld/Disneyland. I would love to take Thomas, although we just can't seem to afford it. (Maybe I need to get a job to include as number 4 above and to pay for some trips lol)

3. South Carolina -- Charleston and Columbia. Fell in love with South Carolina.

4. Shipshewana, Indiana. Lovely Amish community that is about my favorite place on earth.

4 Favourite Foods

1. Pizza Hut pan pizza -- the best

2. My chicken-fried steak -- again, the best lol

3. homemade mac & cheese -- why I'm fat

4. a good filet mignon

4 Websites I visit daily

1. Bloglines

2. Yahoo Groups

3. Yahoo News

4. Well-Trained Mind curriculum message board. Yes, I admit it, I read it on a daily basis.

4 Bloggers I would Like to Respond if they can...

Well, I don't know if people actually like being tagged or not. (I love to play along) So, I'll leave it open to anyone who wants to play.

The week from hell

This was the week from hell for me. I was on the go so much I didn't know whether I was coming or going. Three scouting events, doctor appointment -- physical, eww --, mammogram, early-morning lab appointment and I'm so not an early morning person, dentist appointments for Thomas and I, vet appointment for the dog, three meetings, Christmas shopping, shopping for scouts, chat with a neighbor, two unplanned play dates for Thomas, massive grocery store run.

Remind me again, what is school? It was school-lite this week with tons of reading, a little math, some DVDs, and science through the TV. Thank goodness there is a science channel and that Thomas loves it.

Yeah, I know, most of you probably have weeks like this every week, but not me. I just can't handle all that going. How did I manage when I worked??? Oh yeah, I was 10+ years younger then.

On a good note, if you have problems with your lipids, like I do, start taking fish oil. I started taking it on a regular basis instead of hit and miss, twice a day, and my cholesterol was 175 -- the lowest it's been in my adult life. My triglycerides were cut in half. Amazing!!! All from about two months of remembering to take them.

Right now, after 3 in the afternoon, I am sitting in my nightgown and loving it. This was my day to catch up with bills, house cleaning, etc. I'm happy as a clam, although a little on the smelly side -- soon to be remedied.

Earlier today, however, I was bawling. Why? Because dumb a$ me forgot to pay bills in November. Forgot. Who on earth can forget to pay the bills? November was such a hard month and we were gone almost two weeks of the month. But still! I was horrified and I think the stress of the week caught up with me and I sat at the kitchen table and bawled. Then my husband had unfortunate timing by showing up for lunch during the middle of my tantrum/crying episode. Poor guy. Yes, we had a fight.

All ended well, though, after he left. Thomas came and gave me the biggest hug -- the kind that melts a mom's heart. Amazing how much better you feel after a heart-felt hug. Then he went to the bookshelf and got a book I bought years ago but have never used. The Budget Kit by Judy Lawrence.

Cute kid that he is said, "Mom, let's turn this into school. Teach me how to do this stuff." Okay. So we looked through the book. Then I showed him how I managed my bills. I showed him my Excel worksheet that I made for monthly bills, I showed him the bills, and I showed him the checkbook. He's seen the checkbook before and we've gone over bills in a unit study we did last year or the year before, but this was a good refresher. I showed him our income. I showed him our house payment, our car payment, our credit card bills -- everything. My parents sheltered me from that stuff and was I shocked when I got into the real world. I won't do that to Thomas. And while I don't want to tell the world my husband's salary, our expenses, etc., I think sharing it with Thomas is a good thing.

Then we went into a brain-storming session on how to save money, cut expenses, do more fun things. All good in theory but doubtful we'd ever be able to accomplish our ideas.

I then actually paid the bills and Thomas stuffed the envelopes, put the stamps and return addresses on and sealed the envelopes.

I think it's time to revisit money and do another unit. We still have our checks and check register left from the kit I bought him at Classroom Direct. I think we'll play our game again in January where I have him get a job and apartment out of the newspaper, set up his household expenses sheet, and go from there. The last time we did that he learned the value of a good education and well-paying job. I think it will further drive home the point. I always tell him that you're not done with school until you have at least a bachelor's degree.

Next week will be a big Christmas unit study. I have tons of things printed and ready to start. But first I have to clean the house, catch up on the laundry, wrap the presents, ... lol

One thing I noticed this week was I am not as dependent on the computer as I thought I was. I quit over half my yahoo groups, and I didn't even read messages from those I kept this week. Aside from one group in particular, I didn't miss it. Hmmm. I did read a few blogs, but actually I only sat down at the computer for 10 minutes at a time. That was liberating. So I think that I'm going to give up my computer addiction, only sit down for 10-15 minutes two times a day and call it good. I won't admit how much computer time I log in on a daily basis.

And now I have things to do, such as take a shower and put on a clean nightgown. lol

Sunday, December 10, 2006

I don't like this

Friday night after we went out to eat, we decided to drive through the park. The city decorates the park every year for Christmas. This year they had some new features.

What I saw Friday night bothered me so much that Thomas and I went through the park again last night. I snapped a photo. Sorry it's blurry, I was in my car and too lazy to get out.

In front of an 1870s log cabin are two wolves preying upon a deer.

Uhm, excuse me, but how is that CHRISTMASY? I think this display is awful, awful, awful!
So did Thomas. And, so did my husband, who is a hunter, who lectures me all the time about what really happens in life.

What were they thinking? This is supposed to be a pretty display. It's supposed to be sappy sweet and make you say ahhhh. It's supposed to fit in with everything else in the park: A Christmas tree with great-big packages underneath, polar bears, flying geese, and fountains. Last year in front of the cabin they had a one-horse open sleigh.

I can just picture the wolves attacking the buck, tearing him to shreds. That's just the kind of mental picture I want after driving through a holiday display. Not.

After we got home I started thinking about it even more. I will be honest here: I don't like the town I live in. Aside from the fact that it is a very safe place to live, the people are RUDE, our neighbors are awful, and there is nothing to do here. My friends here are all transplants like I am, because the locals don't accept outsiders. I have lived here almost ten years and I still don't feel like this is home. Honestly, the people really are rude. The store clerks always throw your stuff around and are gruff. People aren't friendly and don't wave. Last Easter, my neighbor verbally attacked me because Thomas was playing in the gutter. What kid hasn't played in the gutter? It was so bad I nearly called the police on him. I should have because he could have been cited for tresspassing and illegal dumping. (He took it upon himself to shovel the contents of the gutter -- gravel -- into our yard. There are some nice people here, but the overall attitude is nasty.

So after thinking about it, I thought that the display was fitting. I'm the buck. The wolves represent the town I live in. That's how I feel living here. Maybe the idiot at the city who ordered the display was a transplant here as well. That's the only reason I can come up with why someone would order that display!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Date night!

When Bob got home from work tonight, he said he'd take us to dinner at the Mexican restaurant and then we could come home and decorate the tree/house.

Wow, very unlike Bob to 1) Offer to spend money on eating out and 2) Get in that Christmas spirit.
I'm running with it! I did suggest we go to the new Chineese restaurant in town. It's the old Chineese restaurant that was sold, then turned into a buffet, then just recently sold back to the original owners. I know the woman who owns it, she's very nice, and so I wanted to go say hi and be supportive.

I cannot believe it is the 8th of December and my decorating is not done. I did put the tree up yesterday. I did do clings in the windows. I don't like clings but use them to afford us some privacy from our nasty neighbors directly across the street! Now if only I could do something about that barking poodle next door.

Thomas and I had a wonderful school week. Lots of learning went on. That was just what we needed, to get back into a routine and feel better. And we do. We still don't have that Christmas spirit, but I think tonight after decorating the tree, we'll feel it a bit more.

Next week is a killer week schedule wise. Doctor appointments, mamogram appointment, dentist appointments, three cub scouts we'll be doing light school: math and reading. I've been printing like crazy this week and snapping up all the holiday books at my library. We're doing a holiday season study. Ho ho ho. What homeschooler isn't? lol

Well, I need to get ready for date night. Date night in this family always includes Thomas! =)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Twice in one day

Wow, believe it or not, I got tagged twice in one day. Wisteria tagged me for Six Weird Things About Myself. I love the fact that I am weird, but my answers may scare people off.

1. I can see cancer. Well, not always, but sometimes. I see a dirty cloud or aura around people. I can see it in real life and on television. I do not see it on everyone who has cancer, but many, many, many times in my life I have had a mere glimpse of someone and blurted out: he/she has cancer. I have never been wrong. I did not see it with my father-in-law. I'd say I see it about 25% of the time.

2. I can water-witch. Years ago my husband took me to his parents' land, cut a willow Y-shaped branch and handed it to me. I did, and I walked around and all of a sudden the bark peeled off in my hands and the stick pointed straight down. It was one of the weirdest experiences I've ever had. We usually do it for fun when we're out there, although I've yet to have Thomas do it. Bob can do it, too. By the way, the spot where the bark peeled in my hands is where they dug their well.

3. My left foot is one size larger than my right foot. Makes shoe-buying/comfort a nightmare. I have another part of my anatomy that is one size larger than the other, I'm not saying what, although I'm told no one can notice. That kind of bugs me. My right cheek is higher than my left cheek due to a childhood monkey bar accident. I have a hard time keeping my eyeglasses level due to it.

4. When my mom was alive, I had a connection with her that was unreal. I knew when she was sick, I knew her ring as she called the house, I knew a lot of things that I couldn't have possibly known. For example, when I was a teen and in Europe, I suddenly went crazy telling everyone my mother was gravely ill. The teachers/sponsors were almost mad at me and telling me I was nuts. I knew something was wrong. I
felt it. Three days later that feeling went away as abruptly as it came. When I got home, 30 days later, I had found mom had had a cardiac episode and was in the hospital -- right when I knew she was ill. The day I felt better was the day she was released. She didn't tell me because she didn't want to ruin my trip.

5. I have gone to psychics and psychic fairs, and I believe in all that stuff. Well, some of it. I'm also a skeptic, but I believe in some of it.

6. My husband says I have funky religious beliefs, or a home-brewed religion. Yes, I call myself a Christian, but I also believe in what I call spiritualist or new age beliefs. I'm talking mild stuff, I'm not expecting visitors from another galaxy any time soon nor do I line my walls with foil. I am also a contrarian.
My husband says that if someone tells me to do something, I say no just because they told me to do it. I'd lump into this category that I'm a nonconforming nonconformist. I go way beyond being a nonconformist. My cousin pegged me with that term. So--don't ever tell me what to do. lol Okay, so with this confession on a semi-secular blog, there go the bloglines subscriptions, the blog hits, etc. lol

It's a good thing I am usually a very private person about such things, eh? At least I'm nonjudgmental and support everyone's rights to what they believe. Well, almost everyone. ;-)

Live and let live.

Tag 6 people:

1. Sam
2. Ms. L
3. Mama B
4. Kixque
5. Carole
6. Mother Crone


Mama B has tagged me!

1. Explain what ended your last relationship?
Me. I moved 6 hours away from my boyfriend to start my new job. My husband of 17 years was my next door neighbor. My old boyfriend didn't stand a chance, poor guy.

2. When was the last time you shaved?
NO COMMENT -- Actually last week, and I was-a-gonna today, but I wanted to shower fast and hit the library. Tomorrow, before I start tripping.

3. What were you doing this morning at 8 a.m.?
Sleeping. Actually waking up. I got up at 8:15.

4. What were you doing 15 minutes ago?
Just finished reading half of a book to Thomas, then started surfing.

5. Are you any good at math?
Well, yes and no. Basic operations, yes. Concepts beyond high school trig, no. All through high school I always asked the same question: Why are you teaching me this and how does it apply to real life. No one ever answered me, just told me to memorize those formulas.

6. Your prom night?
Ew, evil question. I was never asked to the prom. I would always get together with my girlfriends who also were not asked and do something fun. Senior year we went to see Annie, the play.

7. Have you had to take a loan out for school?
No. I had a full-tuition scholarship, believe it or not.

8. Do you know the words to the song on your myspace profile?
I don't do myspace. I haven't quite figured it out -- and I don't know that I want to. (No offense, Sam.)

9. Last thing received in the mail
Credit card bill.

10. How many different beverages have you had today?
Coffee, and lots of it, chocolate milk, two diet pepsi's, and a hot chocolate while reading to Thomas. Oh, a glass of water, too. Five. I still need to drink my V8.

11. Do you ever leave messages on people’s answering machine?
I detest answering machines. I don't own one. Drives people nuts, but makes me happy. How can I avoid people if they can leave messages? lol That said, yes, I leave messages. I'm always taken off guard and leave corny messages, though.

12. Who did you lose your CONCERT virginity to?
Andy Gibb. My poor sister had to take me.

13. Do you draw your name in the sand when you go to the beach?
No, never thought to! I play, make castles and moats and dig, but no names. I'll do it this summer just for grins, though.

14. What was the most painful dental procedure you have had?
When I was 17, the removed gum from the roof of my mouth and transplanted it to my lower front teeth. It was horrid. Run away if the dentist tells you that you have receeding gums and wants to do that. I've had several root canals and will take those any day!

15. What is out your back door?
big back yard, flower pot. uhm dare I admit this, but my ash tray, big red barn -- a garage kind not a real one, flower garden, corn field, trees. We have a pretty back yard. OH -- and always in view is the neighbor's barking poodle. Yap, yap, yap.

16. Any plans for Friday night?
I'm still working on tonight. No, no plans.

17. Do you like what the ocean does to your hair?
Well, honestly, I don't know that it really does anything to my hair. Maybe the wind whips it around, but I live in high humidity, so I'm used to weird hair.

18. Have you ever received one of those big tins of 3 different popcorns?
There's one sitting on my kitchen counter right now. A cub scout can that cost $30. That white gourmet cheese corn is awful!

19. Have you ever been to a planetarium?
Yes! Wish we lived close to one.

20. Do you re-use towels after you shower?
On a good week, I use them every other day. On a bad week, a couple days. (All depends if I'm current on the laundry or not.)

21. Some things you are excited about?
Hmm, nothing much right now. I was excited for Thomas joining his club last night. But I'm in a valley right now and, well, nothing is very exciting.

22. What is your favorite flavor of JELLO?

23. Describe your keychain(s)?
Thomas made it a few years ago at a public school fair. It's a beadie thing with a plastic hand on it. Wonderful because Thomas made it, but not my pick. I like Koosh keychains.

24. Where do you keep your change?
Everywhere. We just cleaned up all the change and found it in the ugly hiking boot bank by the washer, my wallet, the bottom of my purse, my coat pocket, and my jewelry box. I gave all but $10 in quarters to Thomas and he made $32.

25. What kind of winter coat do you own?
I'm in Minnesota -- it's WARM, covers my butt, has a hood, repels water. It's thinsulate. I can't remember the brand name, though.

26. What was the weather like on your graduation day?
Beautiful all three times.

27. Do you sleep with the door to your room open or closed?
open. the critters come in and out all night. Plus, I want to see the boogie man approaching. The light in the hall is on as well.

I tag anyone else who wants to play.

The House without a Christmas Tree

A few years ago at Thanksgiving, I remembered watching a movie on TV as a child that I absolutely loved. I remember the somewhat feisty young girl character stuffing mashed potatoes into a cousin's pocket at their dinner. There was also a Christmas movie about the same girl that was great. I really wanted to find both movies, but I never did. I just couldn't remember.

Fast forward to today. Thomas and I went to the library so I could get the book A Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli and a bunch of books for a Christmas unit I'm going to do next week. Somehow, as I was looking for a specific book, I happened to see a book entitled The House without a Christmas Tree. The lightbulb went on over my head. I pulled the book and almost cried -- a childhood favorite found again.

We came home, finished school, ate dinner and finally I had a moment. I grabbed the book, read it, and bawled like a baby. Not only was it a wonderful story, but it took me back to my childhood. I remember watching those movies. I remember hoping they'd come on TV year after year. It just warmed my heart.

As I was crying, Thomas came up to me and said, "I don't want to read it now because you're crying. Who died?" I was shocked and reminded him that people cry happy tears sometimes. Then it hit me. The book took me away from what has been on my mind, our Thanksgiving loss. No wonder Thomas thought someone died. Sigh.

If you've never seen the movie or read the book, I highly recommend The House without a Christmas Tree by Gail Rock. I will be heading back to the library to get The Thanksgiving Treasure as well. I am anxious to relive that mashed potato scene!

I wish they would play these movies on TV again. I would love Thomas to see them.

I was going to have Thomas read the book, but I decided that this is so fun, and such a happy memory for me, that I'll read it aloud to him.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Oh, Happy Day!

School's been going well. Our moods have been elevating. Things are, knock on wood, going much better.

Today was a very happy day for a cute 11 year old. Bob came home for lunch and announced to Thomas that yes, he would indeed take Thomas to the model railroad club meeting tonight and join up. Oh my gosh -- that kid was nearly bouncing off the walls he was so excited!

Surprisingly, Thomas had a wonderful afternoon of school. He worked hard, paid attention and did good work. I thought I was in for with that news, but Thomas is maturing.

Tonight the two boys were off. I had the house to myself for three hours. THREE hours. Good grief, I cannot remember having so much quiet during waking hours -- in the comfort of my own home, that is. I ended up reading catalogs and watching a TV show on 9-11. I was just so stunned and almost frozen, I didn't know what to do with myself. I will be making grand plans for next week!

I must admit I started looking out the window for approaching headlights about twenty minutes before my boys re-appeared. It actually got a little too quiet.

Anyway, that quiet was short-lived because when they returned home, Thomas burst in the door and talked 300 words per minute. Oh, mom, it was great -- they let me run the trains. I saw the Big Boy, they let me run the trains, I saw a Challenger, they let me run the trains, they took some scenery apart so I could see it, they let me run the trains, they were really nice to me, they let me run the trains, they ran Gordon from the Thomas set for me, they let me run the trains. Mom, they showed me the electrical wiring and there was so much wire and it was soooo cool. And mom, they let me run the trains.

Did I mention, they let Thomas run the trains?

Bob's version was great, too. First thing he mentioned was that they went to the restaurant right next door to have their business meeting. Bob was impressed that Thomas got to see first-hand how a meeting is run. Roberts Rules of Order. So Bob wants to teach Thomas all about "da
rules. "

Bob then reported that these guys were fantastic to Thomas. He said it's mostly a bunch of grandpas and they all showed a great interest in Thomas. Thomas's enthusiasm was equal to theirs as they all love trains. He said he just stepped back and watched. He enjoyed seeing his child so happy.

Bob was actually dreading doing this, but decided to because he knew how much it would mean to Thomas. I think he was a little surprised that he actually had a good time as well.

Bob and I have been debating what to get Thomas for Christmas. Santa always brings him a nice gift. Bob mentioned to Thomas that perhaps he should wait on a train set until we figure out what's good, what they want, etc. Thomas agreed. Thomas later whispered to me how disappointed he was.

Well, Santa had better get busy and get something. We've decided to buy an Atlas True_Track layout. I don't know which one we're going to get yet. I do know we can't afford nor do we have room for anything larger than a 4x8 layout. Of course we'll also have to get him an engine and a few cars. We haven't even started looking at the engines yet, it's hard enough to decide on the track! All I know for sure is that our engine will most definitely be a Union Pacific. Out of love for my dad, who worked for Union Pacific for over 40 years, how could we choose anything but? Even though Bob worked for Burlington Northern for 14 years, Union Pacific wins out.

It really was a happy day. I think I'm most happy because -- pardon to my secular friends -- my prayers were answered in regard to what were we going to do for a social outlet when scouts was over. This is an excellent beginning. For a child whose grandpa lives a two-day drive away, for a child who just lost his other grandpa, what a wonderful place for him to be. And there were even other kids at the meeting tonight, too.

Oh happy day indeed.

All aboard!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dirty Dancing

Did I just post that I don't watch much TV? Well, I guess I lied. Tonight I watched one of my all-time favorites: Dirty Dancing.

Dirty Dancing was made in 1987, the same year Bob and I met and fell in love. Dirty Dancing is a coming of age movie, and 1987 I came of age. There was little dancing involved in my case, as my husband always told me dancing with me is like pushing a rope. That has always been meant as a joke and it never offended me because frankly, I hate to dance.

December 31, 1986 I moved away from home from Denver to South Dakota. I started my career in January of 1987. I moved into a four-plex and soon met all my neighbors. Downstairs was an Air Force couple, who I became instant friends with. An older lady (in her 50s at the time--not so old to me now!) lived in the basement, and Bob and his sister lived next door. I met his sister first, and we got along great. I spied Bob a few times out the window and thought he was quite a hunk.

The first time I met Bob I thought he was the biggest jerk on the planet. His sister and I were talking in the hall and she kept calling him to come out and meet me. Finally, after ten minutes and several requests, he slammed the footrest down on his Lazyboy recliner and stomped into the hall like a spoiled baby who was "majorly" inconvenienced. He shook my hand, said a gruff hi, then stormed back.

My next encounter was one early summer evening I decided to go sit at the picnic bench in the back yard with a book. The Air Force couple was soon outdoors. And surprise, the big oaf joined us. Pretty soon someone brought out a 12-pack of Coors Light. We were drinking, laughing, and having the time of our lives.

I remember looking at Bob, who was wearing a tank top. He had a red-neck tan, but he had the most gorgeous, muscular arms I had ever seen. When he told me he worked for the railroad, I was in love before I knew what hit me. My daddy worked for the railroad for over 40 years, and that impressed me.


We were drunk the entire summer. We were responsible drunks, though, as we never drove drunk. We'd shoot coffee cup shots of peach schnapps chased by a Coors Light. That summer Dirty Dancing came out and Bob was my real-life Patrick Swayzee.

For the record, neither Bob nor I drink now. Just had to throw that in.

The next summer we moved in together and were married the following year.

Will I ever tell this story to Thomas???

Anyway, I was feeling extremely low tonight and watching Dirty Dancing made me feel better. It brought a smile to my heart and reminded me of my coming of age, my falling in love, my going out on my own.

It also made me think about seasons of life. I guess there really are seasons. I'm so different today than I was then. Then I was unafraid, adventurous, willing to try anything. Today I love air bags, drive the speed limit, and am overly cautious.

My youth is in the past. I've had a hard time with that. Turning 40 was hard. All the gray hair I sport is hard. But that is life.

In 1987, my dad was still working. The cowboy, my FIL, was still working. That was only 20 years ago. The cowboy is gone, my dad is aging rapidly. He's 80 and has many health issues.

So when December hit, so did my Christmas blues. I get them every year. My very first blog entry is about Christmas blues. This year is worse, after losing the cowboy. No, he wasn't my father. No, I wasn't that close to him. But it hurts and hurts bad nonetheless. Watching my husband walk around in a fog is difficult. It is very painful.

So we fake it. We fake being our normal selves for Thomas's sake. We fake cheerfulness and excitement. We go on living, as we should, although it feels like we're walking knee-deep through mud.

By this time of year my decorations are always up. I asked Bob to get them out of the shed today. He did not. I'm going to have to fake that cheer and get them myself tomorrow.

And all of this actually does relate to homeschooling. Really. As I was watching Dirty Dancing, I was thinking I really need a break. I would love to take a week off and do nothing but have some fun. Yes, we just had two weeks off, but they certainly weren't vacation days, except for our Mt. Rushmore visit. I would like to stay up late and sleep til noon. I would like to make the outside world go away and cocoon myself. But I can't. Looking at Thomas inspires me. What does he need most right now? Routine, stability, normalcy. He needs fun, laughter, and yes, school.

So the best thing I can do for him and for me is to get up tomorrow morning, do my chores, wake him up and hit the books. We'll have three full weeks then we'll get a break. I think Thomas needs that much more than I need to cocoon myself. I think Thomas needs to see that we can be sad but still get done what needs to be done. It's okay for him to see his dad down. It's okay for him to see me down. But it is necessary for him to see us getting on with life.

My season right now is to be a parent. I'm a middle-aged, 41-year-old mom. And while December is always a hard month for me, it is my job to make happy memories for Thomas, to love and nurture him, to show all emotions and to educate him.

So, tomorrow morning I'll fake it. I'll fake it until I make it.

And life goes on.

Saturday, December 02, 2006


Today we took a trip to the local model railroading club. They were having an open house and we knew Thomas would love it.

For the last month, I have heard nothing but, "I want electric trains for Christmas." This was another reason we went.

We spent almost two hours watching trains, talking to club members, and learning tricks of the trade. All three of us asked many, many questions.

After about an hour of our endless questions, we were -- rather my husband and Thomas were asked if they would like to join the club. We're in small-town Minnesota and I'm afraid that I complained about the sexism exhibited first thing when we got out of there. It was as if I was not even there. One club member we were talking to blew me off. Oh well.

Anyway, aside from that, we had a great time. Thomas is begging his dad to join the club. It meets once a week. It is mostly grown-ups, but a few kids attend with their parents and grandparents -- or I should say dads and grandpas.

When we got in the car, I mentioned to my husband that this may just be the answer to the question: what are we going to replace Cub Scouts with! Except that Bob will have to go to meetings rather than me. It's socialization, albeit not necessarily with a same-age peer group, at least it's with people who have like interests. It's extremely educational. Thomas will learn about history, electricity, scale, math -- have to know how to do a radius to lay a track, scenery/art, engineering, how to build a tressel and other things -- its educational opportunities are actually endless.

Bob reluctantly agreed. He's only slightly interested in model railroading. He worked for a railroad for 14 years prior to going back to college. He actually works in the railroad industry now. So even though he knows a lot and this will all come easy to him, I think when he comes home at the end of the day, he'd rather forget work. Oh well, what we won't do for our kids, right?

Bob and I were both more interested in the sceneries than the railroads themselves. What fabulous artistic opportunities await us! The men told us that the next time we're at a garage sale to buy a used Christmas tree. They buy them used, cut them up, and instant trees. They use gravel and run them through a sifter to make ballast. They even used cockleburs glued together and spray painted green for bushes.

Thomas, of course, was interested in the trains. He's been interested in trains since he was one. Trying to choose an engine was torture. I think Santa will have to choose his first engine. Thomas has a grandpa who worked for Union Pacific for over 40 years. Grandpa was a fireman and then an engineer. His father worked for a railroad in Indiana. Railroading is in Thomas's blood.

If I were rich, I'd buy Thomas a Big Boy. My dad worked on the Big Boys. They were the largest steam engines ever built. Thomas visited the Big Boy in a park in Cheyenne, Wyoming when he was 4. It's hard to grasp the enormity of the engine by the photo. They're.really.big. My dad worked on every single Big Boy ever made. I'd like to buy him one, but at nearly $300, I just can't afford it.

I'm just happy that this opportunity came up. I'm hoping Bob will be a sport about this because Thomas will LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it.

South Dakota in November

Thomas, in Keystone, South Dakota. Carrie Ingalls lived and died here. Only a couple shops were open in November. It was the first time ever I was able to park on the main drag. We had planned on eating lunch here, but no restaurants were open!
Mountain goats at the exit of Mt. Rushmore. I have been to Mt. Rushmore probably 100 or more times. Never have I seen mountain goats! As we were leaving, I spotted one crossing the road. Since there was zero traffic at Rushmore, I just parked the car in the road and we watched. What a delight this was! One came up to the car and had I been in the passenger side, I could have rolled my window down and touched him. (I wouldn't have, though, as they are wild animals.)
Can't see this too well, but it's a bison. We drove half of the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park. We pulled over to watch the bison. I think there were five. Thomas was delighed as one stood up, stretched like a dog or cat would extending its hind legs, and then proceeded to produce a buffalo chip. Thomas laughed about that for the next half hour. No wonder I have so many gray hairs!
The stage at Mt. Rushmore. Thomas had tons of energy so I told him to run to the bottom and I'd snap his picture. He did, twice. There was a lady sitting on a bench and I told her if I had to run up the stairs as he had just done, I'd die. She laughed and said she was thinking the same exact thing.
Thomas getting up close and personal with Mt. Rushmore. Dig those white socks! I had just bought four new pair of jeans for him, but he threw on an old pair. I didn't notice until I snapped this picture.
Thomas at Mt. Rushmore. Don't know who that little boy is to the right.

It was a beautiful day, warm. We both wore light jackets. Mt. Rushmore had so few visitors, we had front-row parking. I must admit that since they redid the grounds at Mt. Rushmore, I don't enjoy it. It used to be so beautiful. Now it just seems cold. Parking used to be free, now it's not. I think Gutzon Borglum wouldn't be happy with what they did. He was a genius and it is my humble opinion that they detracted from his work with their cold, ugly granite empire they built. Notice I didn't take any photos of the ugly pathway or the ugly granite pillars?

We had a late lunch at the Olive Garden, my favorite restaurant, in Rapid City. We then visited Toys R Us and Hobby Lobby. Then home to my inlaws' house.

This trip was made before the cowboy died, on our first visit.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

School, what's that?

We arrived home this evening. We are all exhausted, emotionally and physically. My husband said to me that I needed to start school tomorrow full swing.



We just got home. I have suitcases to unpack, a gazillion loads of laundry to do, a grocery store to go to, bills to pay, a stack of mail to go through, a check that needs to be deposited, sleep to catch up on, floors to sweep, couches to vacuum. (Snowball shed half his hair while we were gone! There are big, white clumps of hair everywhere.) I have an uncooked turkey to throw out, a fridge to clean and sanitize, meals to plan and cook, cub scout pop corn to pick up and deliver, a cub scout meeting to reschedule. I have a car that is completely trashed full of travel crumbs and dog hair. It is covered in mud as DH's mom lived in the country on red-dirt country roads. I have Christmas decorations to dig out and put up, too. Mine are usually up the day after Thanksgiving.

He wants me to do school.

AAAAAAACCCCCCKKKKK -- I need a wife. Breathe, just breathe.

Thomas and I had a brief conference. He has agreed to do nonfiction reading, spelling, reading, and math tomorrow. Easy for me, I only have to assist with math. Thank you, Thomas, for coming through for me. Oh, he volunteered to do home ec as well.

School. I need a week to get everything caught up!

We're home, we made it safely, thank goodness. Sadly, we killed a deer on our way to South Dakota. It jumped right in front of us and there was nothing possible but to hit her head on. Thomas bawled for an hour. I shook for an hour. DH pulled the deer off the road. Luckily we had no damage to our car.

I am exhausted. Whine, whine, whine.

School. Tomorrow. We'll just have to see about that.

Frankie, the zombie

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Unhappy Momma

I'm not a happy momma. Nope.

Friday, my sister-in-law asked if Thomas would like to go with her husband, son and another cousin to their house for the weekend. NO, I uttered. Their home is four hours from where we are staying.

I got lectured that I need to let go and let him experience life and quit worrying. I got chided (spg?) by my husband. I got pissed and told my husband it was up to him.

Thomas went.

He has ragged on me the entire weekend. I have not said one word about Thomas at all, but the teasing will not stop.

Now it's not that I don't trust my BIL, I do. I know Thomas will have fun. The whole point is why on earth did they need to drive four hours away when they were already at grandma's house having fun? In fact, they could have more fun at grandma's because grandma lives on 30 acres, has a cave, has a spring, has a creek. The boys were building a fort outside. They were having a blast here.

I have caught nothing but flack from almost every family member. There are 20 family members here, minus the three boys and BIL.

So here's the funny part. I finally asked my SIL *why* she wanted the boys to go to her home. Well, my sisters pick on my son and he gets upset and stressed out over it, so I just don't want him around that.

Okay, so is it me being overprotective or is it her?

This SIL is a public school teacher. I have had to endure the "homeschooled kids who enter the public school are always behind" BS the entire weekend. Did you all know that I am the only homeschool mother that is good? The rest don't put any thought into their children's educations. The rest don't educate their children.

The worst about all the homeschool talk has been that I cannot seem to come up with a good comeback. I sit there looking stupid, because I can't counter her. I guess I'm so shocked by what she says.

She wanted to know when we were putting Thomas back in public school. I smiled and said I didn't know. How about: WHEN HELL FREEZES OVER?

I think someone needs to make a list of anti-homeschool comebacks. I want to memorize it.

I have a headache.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Our Sad Thanksgiving News

The cowboy, also known as my father-in-law, passed away tonight.

He fell and broke his hip the morning after we left. So his passing, is a blessing because he won't have to suffer.

Our hearts ache, but I can't help but think about what a wonderful life he had. He was 81.

We will be spending Thanksgiving on the road again. Another nine-hour drive. This time our beloved dog will be joining us. I'm sure that will be an experience. Instead of chancing finding an open restaurant on the road, I am packing leftover meatloaf sandwiches. We are looking at that as a fun treat, as we all love meatloaf sandwiches. So, I am very thankful I made a meatloaf for supper tonight!

I told Thomas that some day after the new year, we'd have a real Thanksgiving meal and celebration.

I want to wish all my virtual friends a very happy thanksgiving. I am thankful for the blogging community, my blogging buddies, and my group buddies.

Will be back in a week or so.

Free Lapbook

I woke up this morning and headed straight for the computer with coffee in hand. I hadn't read The Well Trained Mind boards for a long time so thought I'd make a visit. I usually just read their curriculum board.

Someone asked what a lapbook was and someone answered by stating there's a free download right now at So for grins and giggles, I visited homeschoolestore, made an account and downloaded the free lapbook.

The download is for the Project Pack Continent Studies Asia by In the Hands of a Child. It is a multi-grade level. Normal price for this book is $18.

I downloaded it, opened it up and looked it over. Actually, I was quite impressed. We typically shy away from lapbook type projects because Thomas thinks that kind of thing is busy work. That kind of project just isn't suited to his learning style. When I was a kid, it would have been right up my alley.

I think when the time comes, I'll print it out and have Thomas actually do it.

Anyway, just thought I'd share the link as I love finding free goodies.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Evan Moor

This is for Mull-berry and anyone else who did not know this.

You can go to Evan Moor's website and look at many of their books online. Many of them you can look at the entire book.

I like many of Evan Moor's products, and I love the fact that they are confident enough to let their customers check out their products. Two thumbs up for them!

Mull-berry, the nonfiction book you asked me about in the comments section is one of the books you can look at. Rather than me giving my opinions, you can look at the entire book and make your decision.

I have problems opening their page-by-page book function up on my old computer that runs on Windows 98. In fact, it will completely freeze up my computer every time. I have no problem viewing their stuff on XP, though.

Not Suitable for Children who Love Seasme Street

Monday, November 20, 2006

Nine hours of this -- twice

A view, just past the Minnesota/South Dakota border. (I think -- it all looks the same.) This is what we saw for nine hours straight. I personally find the wide open spaces refreshing and beautiful.

We are home safe and sound. It was a very sad and difficult trip. I know it will be the last time we see the Cowboy alive. He gave us all a good hand sqeeze before we left, which was heart-warming.

I decided to give my husband some alone time with his mom and dad, so Thomas and I did a little sightseeing one day. We drove the Wildlife Loop of Custer State Park, toured Mt. Rushmore, went to the three open stores in Keystone and visited my old stomping grounds in Rapid City. November is just not a very good time for tourists in the Black Hills as not much is open!

My husband and I also went to the grocery store for my MIL. Thomas stayed behind. It was so strange to be alone with DH! We could not remember the last time we were alone together since beginning homeschooling! I'm not counting the times Thomas spent the night with friends, because we always stay home. We were actually out and about. We enjoyed our hour, short as it was.

I'll upload some pictures soon of our day out. I am counting it as a school day! For now, I feel so behind because I haven't bought anything for Thanksgiving dinner, I have to get my dog out of the kennel, I have to pay bills, yada, yada, yada.

It's good to be home.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A long, rambling post

It has been a "chitty" week. I don't swear on my blog, I do swear in comments on others' blogs, and I do swear in real life. So just change that word in quotes. (There, Thomas, I don't owe you a dime for cussing this time.)

This house seems to be a sick house. If it's not one thing, it's another. I ended up at the doctor's office on Monday and now have three new prescriptions and a renewal of my beloved Ambien. So at least I'm sleeping well. I am starting to feel better, too.

Homeschool this week has pretty much been a bust. We had a pretty good day on Monday, but Tuesday I had so much scout stuff to do in preparation for the den meeting, that school was dismal. Thomas did start reading Caddie Woodlawn. So far he likes it but not nearly as well as Laura. We're digging around to find some good boy series like these.

We set up a card table in our living room and are working on a puzzle. At a garage sale this summer, I came across a 3-D castle puzzle for a mere $2. They lady insisted all the pieces were in it. I'm sure they are, but the puzzle maker included a form to send of for missing pieces just in case. We've been pecking away at the puzzle and really enjoying it. My husband has even sat at the table and worked on it a bit. We've all decided we like 3-D puzzles better than regular puzzles. I still prefer online puzzles at Jigzone and work a few of those daily.

I found a website one night and had quite a bit of delirious bored-housewife fun there. I thought it smelled (in a good way) of homeschooling, and had that confirmed when I read the entire site. Thomas had a great deal of fun the next day at the site. He now wants to build his very own Lego castle. If you're studying middle ages and castles, check the site out. Sure to please if your kids love Legos! Thomas learned a lot there.

I found that site through this site, which I found on a google search. It is a great history links site which is now bookmarked in my favorites.

Last week Thomas and I decided that Story of the World was not meaty enough. He is, after all, in the 5th grade now, so I was reminded. So I broke down and ordered History Odyssey Middle Ages 2. That has not arrived yet, but our new Kingfisher Encyclopedia and The Story of Mankind arrived in today's mail. I was a little mad at Amazon because Mankind arrived with the ends of the book torn, scrunched and in poor, ugly condition. After closer inspection, the glue was off inside the book and the first several pages were -- well, icky, so it was probably the publisher. It would be more of a hassle to return it, though, so I'll just be ticked every time I see it instead. lol

I like Kingfisher. I never ordered it before because we have a similar book by McGraw Hill. I decided to order Kingfisher because I wanted to be in sync with HO instead of having to find the correct page in my McG Hill book. I was amazed when Thomas actually sat down and looked at it with me for a good 20 minutes this afternoon. It piqued his interest, probably because the pictures were better than our book. lol

Thomas has nearly completed his Nonfiction Reading book. This is by far his favorite school subject. Now he reads fine and with the discussion we do after reading, it really wasn't necessary that I get him a book like this. However, my child is like me, and he likes nonfiction. I knew he'd love it so I bought it for him. He has devoured the book. I need to order the 6th grade book and soon! This is the one thing that he will do on his own. I even caught him reading it on a weekend once.

We're heading out tomorrow to visit the cowboy for a few days. We'll be listening to Story of the World in the car, at Thomas's request, and I still need to find another book at audible. I have 11 credits left there to use up! I'm not looking forward to a nine-hour drive each way, though. Yuck. I need some flu powder.

Next week for school, because it will only be two days, we are working on scout stuff. Thomas has three badges left to complete. He's one of two boys in my den that will complete and earn all the badges. He's also going to work on his few remaining belt loops and pins from the Sports and Academics program.

That's about all that's happened at my kitchen table this week.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Another weird craft site

Holy buckets, I just cannot imagine what people are thinking.

I thought the tampon crafts were bad enough, click here and you can learn to make maxi-pad slippers.

Good grief.

Perhaps I could make a pair and give then to our "crotchety" old neighbor across the street for Christmas. he he

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Almost-Perfect Day

Today is a day I will remember. It really was the almost-perfect homeschool day.

Thursday night, my insomnia had kicked in. Even though I had taken my Ambien, I still could not sleep. My husband was snoring. He was crossing the invisible line and was partly on my side of the bed. I just had to remove myself and go to the couch. Feather pillow, DVD of Brokeback Mountain and Stop Smoking book in tow, I trapsed off to the living room. I made myself a bowl of popcorn, poured myself a Diet Rite, hit the play button, and snuggled in on the couch with my super-soft Biederlak blanket, affectionately called the fuzzy, my feather pillow, two cats. The dog would have crawled up with us as well, but there wasn't room. Instead, he laid down right next to me.

The movie started, and I just closed my eyes and soaked in the beautiful music. I need to buy the soundtrack because I love that music. In fact, that's the only reason I put the movie on. I read a few chapters of my Stop Smoking book. I have never, in my life, taken so long to read a book. I think that is a sign of a true nicotine addict.

Anyway, with a full tummy, a good movie, and all those critters, I finally drifted off. The last time I looked at the clock it was four in the morning.

I awoke to the sounds of my husband turning the television off, then he gently tucked me in. I was aware of him, but didn't speak. I just enjoyed his gentle nature, the softness of the blanket and feather pillow.

A little while later I awoke to the sounds of Thomas's voice. I could hear Spongebob on the TV as well. "Mom, it's time to get up," he said softly. I grunted. I opened my eyes and found my beautiful son sitting on the loveseat across from me. I looked closely and he had his spelling book, his vocabulary book, his logic book, and his favorite of all, the nonfiction reading book. He was over there doing work on his own.

When he saw that my eyes were open, in a bright and cheery tone, he said, "Good morning! Dad got me up before he left for work. Mom, I have showered, had my breakfast and done a lot of school on my own. I figured you must have had a bad night so I decided to let you sleep."

What a sweet kid! I couldn't help but smile at that. I got up, got some coffee in my system, showered, and when I was finally coherent, Thomas was done with the majority of his work.

At this point I realized the poor dog had not been outside yet. Just as I was starting out the door, the phone rang. My husband asked me what I thought of the great outdoors this morning. Oh my gosh, thinking quick, I said that it was pretty. Running for the window, I discovered about five inches of snow. A beautiful snow it was, too. The sky was gray, but the snow was gleaming white and it was reflecting the light so that it was very bright out. It was a picture-perfect snow. Heavy, clinging to plants, trees, shrubs. Ah. It was still snowing as well, the great big fluffy white snowflakes.

After that, we set up my boom box in the living room and put in our Story of the World disk. We listened for about an hour. We looked at books that corresponded with our CD as it played. We snuggled for awhile in the chair, then Thomas moved to the floor and listened while he played with his legos.

We would pause the CD and he would ask questions, many of which I didn't know the answer to. We would get off track and discuss other things. We kept catching each other's glance and then smiling.

It was perfect. A morning filled with love.

After lunch we decided we'd visit the library. I had a great big list of books I wanted to get on the history topic we were studying. I was anxious to get to the library then get home so we could continue our lovely day. I was so sad when we got to the library and I learned it was closed for the weekend for Veteran's day! (Happy Veteran's day to all the vets out there -- and thank you!!!)

Not wanting to put a damper on our now almost-perfect day, we decided to go shopping. We don't go shopping during school hours, ever. We both just felt the need to not go home empty handed immediately, so I made the exception this one time.

Not wanting to go to a mart store, and because we were downtown, the only store that was of any interest at all was the Salvation Army. So off we went. They had a huge Christmas display set up. We were amazed at all the cheap artificial trees they had! They were in great condition, too. Thomas and I laughed as we came up with a brilliant idea. We decided that we should buy one of those trees because they were already assembled, take it home, and use it. Then after Christmas, we could take it apart, put it in a garbage bag, donate it back to the Salvation Army. Then we could repeat the process next year. That way we wouldn't have to put the tree together every year, our least favorite part of decorating for the holidays. $15 for a beautiful six-foot tree.

It was a good idea, but I didn't want to spend $15 and I knew my husband wouldn't be too keen on that. We left the tree, but we did come home with a Classical Christmas CD, with all our classical favorites. $1. Not a scratch on it. I also picked up one book for Thomas, My Side of the Mountain for a quarter.

At the register we got "the question." An old, gray-haired, stern-looking lady asked, "Why aren't you in school?" Thomas hesitated. I piped in and said we're done with school, we homeschool. I was expected a lecture, because there was a group of senior women gathered at the register, you know, the kind that appear to be judgmental. Well, I was the only one being judgmental. They were all very nice. The one I feared the most smiled and told us her niece homeschooled all six of her children. Whew. We didn't have to defend ourselves.

After that we came home. We shoveled the driveway, and I didn't even care that public school was not quite over. Thomas is a lot stronger this winter and he did an excellent job yielding his shovel. I think he was surprised at how heavy the snow was, though.

Thomas is now in the back building a snow fort. I stood at the window, sipping my hot chocolate, watching him.

Yes, today was a warm-feel-good-fuzzy loving, learn-and-absorb-a-great-deal kind of day.

A day I'll always remember.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What day is it?

I am so lost. It is Wednesday, right?

Monday afternoon I started not feeling well. I had two meetings to attend Monday evening and luckily I felt better during the meetings. However, when I got home, I was almost out of it.

I have this recurrent pain in my abdomen. I have had it for years. I have no clue what it is. The only thing the doctor did was give me an anti-spasmodic drug for when the pain hits. Well, I haven't been to the doctor and my prescription ran out.

Aside from not feeling well, that pain hit. An Intestinal bug and that pain thing. Ugh.

Tuesday I was sick, sick, sick. I was worried I wouldn't be able to vote, but I made it. I jumped in the shower, threw sweats on, looked like a piece of work because I didn't do my hair, didn't put makeup on, didn't even care. I wore flipflops. In Minnesota. In November. DH drove and we went and voted. It took me about ten minutes, even though I knew how I was voting. I was so shaky that I kept resting my head on the table.

We always take Thomas with us to vote. I think it's very important. The place was packed and he was the only child there. The volunteers were very kind to him and chatted with him. They also gave him an "I voted" sticker.

I got yelled at by DH because we needed a gallon of milk and DH didn't want to stop and get it. Oh well. He did. He survived. Like it's my fault I'm sick and didn't feel up to getting a gallon of milk earlier.

When we got home, I passed out on the couch.

The worst thing about Tuesday was not that I was sick. Rather, it was my husband. He's been a pita lately. He knew I was sick. He also knows that when I'm sick, I gather up a bunch of work for Thomas to do independently (usually in bed next to me) and he will do it. I told DH before he left for work NOT to call home that morning because I needed my rest. I had been up ALL night long. So at 9 am the phone rings. It was my husband. He says, "It's 9, you need to get up out of bed now and do school."

I was livid. It was just the lack of respect that annoyed the h-e-double toothpicks out of me.

Last night I still was sick. Life goes on for a mom, sick or not. I did three loads of laundry, cooked a light supper, organized some schoolwork, checked email, surfed, then passed out on the couch again.

Today wasn't much better. I cancelled our dentist appointments for this afternoon. It was in the 70s -- in November -- in Minnesota -- and we were stuck inside. My dear, sweet husband startled us while we were doing pajama school at the table. He came home at 11. Seems he was sick, too.

I have always been one to admit my weaknesses. I am a whiner when I'm sick. My DH is not. Atypical, because supposedly it is the other way around, the men whine and the women endure. I didn't whine this time. Nor did DH. However, after Thomas completed his best ever narrative writing today, I woke sleeping beauty on the couch and had him read it. He knew what I was doing. Payback. He was gracious, told Thomas what a fantastic job he did, and he gave me the look. You know, that look of guilt. His eyes said sorry I was such an a$$.

This evening I was going over all of Thomas's work from today. He had an "on" day, his work was outstanding. It took me back to when I was a kid. When there was tension in the air between mom and dad, I was always on my BEST behavior. While DH and I weren't fighting, I'm sure Thomas picked up on the tension that was there. I wonder if that's why he had such a fantastic day today.

I think our tension is gone now. We were out of everything (but milk) and I had to go to the store tonight. I came home with $125 worth of groceries, so exhausted I didn't think I'd be able to put stuff up. Surprisingly, even though it was after DH's bedtime, he met me at the car, brought all the groceries and put them up. Okay, so he's officially forgiven now.


I think it's Wednesday. I need to snap out of my funk and get with it.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Impatiently Waiting

First and foremost, I'm waiting for my sleeping pills to kick in. It's close, but not quite there yet.

Secondly, I have Pete's Pond up on my husband's computer. I'm waiting for something other than birds to appear. I finally downloaded the real player thing-a-ma-bob that we needed to watch, so we just started viewing this weekend. We've seen some type of antelope, and lots of 'em, and two ostriches. I want to see an elephant. I can see becoming addicted to this, because it is calm, peaceful and relaxing to watch. Exciting when a critter comes walking by, too.

I'm waiting for tomorrow morning to come. I want DH to go to work. He was rather, uhm, grumpy this weekend, bless his little pea-picking heart.

I'm also waiting to find out WHY our Taco Bell closed. About five years back, a Pizza Hut/Taco Bell combo was built at a car wash. I love both Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, but when I'm on Weight Watchers, I can actually eat well at Taco Bell without guilt. When I'm not, I eat even better. My husband was on dinner duty tonight and he drove out to Taco Bell to pick something up. When he walked in empty handed, I nearly cried. Pizza Hut is still open, and that's what we ended up eating tonight. Now my DH is sad for me, but happy for him because when we get Mexican takeout, he prefers Taco John's. I'll eat there, and for Pete's sake, I *should* eat there because I did grow up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, home of the original Taco John's, but it just isn't Taco Bell. TB is better.

I'm waiting to start school. I puttered around all weekend organizing, going through books, correlating, etc. We've been doing Story of the World Medieval times, but we kind of forgot to do it the past two weeks. I was getting out all my medieval resources and actually got excited. I can honestly say that I did NOT learn any of that in my public school experience. I learned more when I toured 7 European countries in 35 days back in the '80s.

I questioned Thomas tonight as we were eating pizza. We had done the first three chapters of SOTWII. I asked him who the Celts were. Wow, he answered. I asked him about Beowulf. Again, he answered. He talked about the Romans without my asking. Okay, he's retaining.

This year I decided that because we usually use the CDs in the car, that I wouldn't buy the book. We have the CDs and the activity book. I don't like the activity book except for their book selections. Anyway, that was a huge mistake on my part because I don't know this time period and it's faster for me to read than it is to listen to a CD to know what to plan ahead for. I may, gulp, order the book tomorrow. I wish our library had it, darn it.

It's really funny because we had Thomas tested by the gifted educational psychologist specialist. She was a lovely woman. She told us that Thomas would not be an auditory learner in any respect, especially because he has CAPD -- Central Auditory Processing Disorder. She said he was a conceptual learner. Funny things is, Thomas is a superb auditory learner. That's how he learns best.

As a mom, you should always trust your heart, and follow your gut instincts when it comes to your child. You know what experts, well-informed relatives, and friends don't: You know your child inside and out.

I have a good kid and through homeschool his self-esteem has soared, he is happy, joyous, and perfect.

So I'm waiting for Monday morning, so we can get our week off to a good start. I'm waiting for my fantastic good-morning hug I always get.

Now I'm going to bed because my wait is over, the pills have kicked in.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Weird Craft Site

Because I am a 40-something, bored, lonely housewife whose husband's idea of a great Friday night is to be prone on the couch watching Numbers and then fall asleep, I found myself yet again, with nothing to do. All right, I'm doing laundry, but still. Thomas is no fun either, he is completely absorbed in a book.

Internet to the rescue. I decide to Google craft sites. Thomas likes making things (what I affectionately refer to as messes) and I like to find fun, creative things for him to make.

Before I share the website, I just need to share this. I have a wicked sense of humor. I find some things funny that most people don't. I'm warped and I admit it. Well, maybe not that warped, but I laugh at things my husband shakes his head at.

So this is the site I found. Crafts. I've set the stage, you know I have a crazy sense of humor, right? I've actually just been redeemed. My sense of humor is not crazy, wicked or gross. Someone out there is much sicker than I am.

For the record, I find these tampon crafts gross and disgusting and not funny at all. I do, however, applaud their out-of-the-box thinking. Those earrings -- just GROSS.

I think this made my Friday night. Perhaps the next time I'm PMSing and my husband does everything all wrong, which is always the case when I'm PMSing, I'll join the Menstrual Militia, make myself a special blowgun (and hope Thomas doesn't get it confused with his PVC blowgun that he made) and shoot my husband in the behind with tampons.

Seriously, what are people thinking???