Saturday, February 11, 2006

It's a Small World After All

The way we form friendships is changing in this new millennium. I have many online friends. The internet has opened up the great big world and enabled us to meet people that we wouldn't ordinarily meet in our day-to-day lives. I think it's a good thing.

I've been very fortunate in that I have been able to meet some of my online friends. The first meeting I had was in Indiana. We had traveled to Indiana for my dad's family's reunion. While there, I met up with a woman I'll call Amy. We had sons the same age. We met at a local McDonald's. We had lunch, the boys played and we talked. For a couple hours. We were both scared to death that the other was an ax murderer and had a really good laugh about it. We decided that we were both safe and she drove me to my motel (my dad had dropped us off) and before we got out, asked if we wanted to go to the petting zoo. We ran into our room, asked dad what his plans were and then I informed him she's not an ax murderer and we're going to the petting zoo with her. Once outside the motel room, out of site of the parking lot, I snuck a cigarette. Yes, I'm a smoker. It had been a few hours, I was nervous at first, and I really needed a smoke.

When we got back into her car the first thing she said was, "You just had a cigarette." I apologized profusely because I know smokers stink. I told her I had the dirty habit but I didn't tell people because it is such a character flaw. She started laughing and pulled a pack of cigarettes out of her purse. She was a smoker, too. Before we left the parking lot, we got out of the car, let the kids play in the grass and we had a smoke together. She was wanting a smoke too and was to polite to mention her dirty habit.

I always thought that was a funny story. Two characters, with nasty habits, being found out.

I've met other online friends, too. There's a bunch of ladies that I know that live in the vicinity of my dad and my son and we got to meet them and their kids this summer. We had a wonderful time. My son enjoyed it as much as I did. While we were on vacation in November, we met up with yet another mom and her kids in South Carolina. Another great time.

While I take privacy and security on the internet very seriously, I still enjoy meeting people and making friends. I think it is wonderful for my son to branch out and meet others beyond our local community. The whole experience makes the world seem smaller in a way. Or perhaps it opens up his world to make it larger.

Another aspect about friendships and the internet is "regulars" on message boards. While I don't post often on any message board any more, I do read some daily. I feel I know the people who post -- their online persona, at least. I get sad when I read sad stories, I get happy when I read about triumphs.

I do start to care about people: Message board posters, bloggers, members of groups. The one problem I am facing at the moment is how do you tell someone you barely know that you are hurting for them, you feel so bad because they are really having struggles. I learned some very sad news last night about someone I met online, someone I admire and like very much. I've never met this person, and chances are that I never will. That doesn't mean my heart doesn't ache for what she is enduring right now. Sending off an email seems so impersonal and can never convey what a face-to-face conversation would. How will this person ever know that she has really been on my mind *a lot* lately, that I wish there were something I could do or say to make her trials easier. How could she possibly know I am very sincere. I guess the only way is for me to blog about it. She'll read it when she is able. Hopefully she'll know. I can't make her pain go away, but sometimes it just helps to know that someone out there sincerely cares.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Another art mistake

We've been using Artistic Pursuits, which I think is a good program but my son doesn't like it. I thought I'd buy the Evan Moor book How to Teach Art to Children because it was listed as being for 1st-6th graders.

Well, that was a big mistake. We've done several lessons out of the book and made some cute designs and bookmarks, but my son thinks it is for kindergarteners. And it kind of is -- youngish.

So...if you want a good art book for K-2, buy this. I wouldn't buy it for older children that want to be more grown up.

Live and learn. Someday I'm going to move to a big town that has a bookstore. Then I'll be able to hold a book in my hands, flip through it, show it to DS and get his opinion. Of course I could have done this at the Evan Moor and learn.

Someone wants a recipe from ME???

Snort, I'm not good in the kitchen. If you knew me in person, you'd chuckle about asking me for a recipe. ;-) (But my CFS is really good.)

I'm in the north so I call it Chicken-Fried. I know others call it country-fried.

Chicken Fried Steak

buy 4 cubed steaks at the grocery store
buy a box of cracker meal
3 eggs
salt and pepper

I use an old electric skillet that I bought when I was 21 at a garage sale for $1. I pour a bunch of olive oil in, set it to 380. (I couldn't do this on a stove to save my life.)

Meanwhile, I get out three eggs, crack them (and pull the shells out of the bowl because I am kitchen challenged) and pour in milk. Mix well. I don't measure the milk -- I just pour some in. Thick and eggy is how I like it.

I rinse my cube steaks off in water (I'm weird) then I dip them in the egg batter, then I dip them in the cracker meal, flip and push hard to really get the cracker meal stuck on. Throw them in the frying pan, and when it feels right (this is the only thing I have a feel for) flip them.

Meanwhile, open a packet of "just add water" country gravy and get that going on the stove. Also start heating your choice of canned or frozen of veggies.

Top it off with some instant mashed potatoes and you've got a yummy, high-fat, un-nutritious meal!

There, that's my recipe. Seriously, this is the only meal I fry.

I do cook -- I'm trying to be funny here -- but I don't like to. I think in a previous life I was very rich and had servants and I haven't adjusted in this life. lol (Or else I'm just lazy. I don't mind doing dishes, though.)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Two Fun Days of Math

Yesterday and today we had fun with math.

Yesterday instead of getting out our Singapore book, or working on fractions from our Painless Fractions book, we grabbed our library books.

We sat in our big chair in the living room and read some books.

First was Millions to Measure by David M. Schwartz. This was a fun book that explained how measurement was and came to be today. Second, we read On Beyond a Million, an Amazing Math Journey. This was a fun book that taught my son the meaning of googol and googolplex. Finally, we started G is for Googol, a Math Alphabet Book. Together, we didn't make it past B because mom got carried away doing binary numbers. I was also tired of reading, so DS took over and made it J on his own. He loved this book and we will finish soon.

It was a fun break from computational math.

Today we read a few chapters from This Book is About Time by Marilyn Burns. This was fun, but I skipped a lot as I was reading. We didn't make it too far, but DS now has an understanding of the time zones. He knew what they were before, but the history behind them was fun to learn (think railroads!) and he has a much better grasp. We then went to our big world map and played what time is it where when it's X time here.

That wasn't enough for our math today, so I grabbed my book of handouts that I made and taught DS Roman Numerals. These have not been covered in Singapore, but something he needed to know. I made a chart for him, and he got the letters down fast. I had printed many worksheets off the net and he did three in about ten minutes. He had a lot of fun. Tomorrow we'll review concepts and read some more of the Time book.

I got all my ideas from Rebecca Rupp's book Home Learning Year by Year. These were all mentioned in the 4th grade section. Well, G is for Googol is mentioned in the 5th grade section. I think these books could be read at a much younger age, too, yet weren't too babyish for a 10-year-old -- which was my biggest worry.

We're stalling right now in math. We have decided to ditch Singapore Math altogether and do something totally crazy. Tonight I ordered Lial's Basic College Math. We are going to start working in that book and using the Key to books as supplements easing him into concepts.

I was really surprised when I read the Table of Contents of BCM. I think it will be very doable for my bright boy. My husband, the engineer, asked me why I hadn't done this a long time ago. He mentioned that he was going to suggest it, but that I spent so much time researching curriculum that he thought I had already decided against a basic math book. I had never even thought of such a book until some friends were discussing it. In fact, I didn't know such an elementary college math book existed. Shows what I know!

Hoping it all works out!

My son was tagged, wants to answer online =)

I was tagged by Addie the Adventure Mouse.

Jobs I've had:
mowing the lawn
boring house cleaning
cleaning the cars

Movies I can watch over and over again

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Places I've vacationed
South Dakota
South Carolina -- my favorite

My favorite dishes

Biscuits and Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Goldfish pretzels

Sites that I visit daily

My website, but it's not ready to share yet (it's a download)

Places I would rather be right now
South Carolina
New York City

Bloggers I am tagging
No one -- I don't read blogs except sometimes my mom's.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Rest in Peace, Froggy

My son won "Froggy" at our county fair in August of 2004. Froggy appeared healthy, no warning signs that he was ill. My son just found him dead. Sigh.

Rest in Peace, Froggy. There's one sad little boy who loved his fish very much feeling very blue.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Tagged by Doc, so here goes:

Four jobs I've had:
library assistant
Court Reporter

Four movies I can watch over and over again:
The Patriot
Coal Miner's Daughter
Forrest Gump

Four places I've lived:
Laramie, Wyoming
Cheyenne, Wyoming
Rapid City, South Dakota

Four TV Shows I love:
Reruns of West Wing on Bravo
Wife Swap

Four Places I've vacationed:
Charleston & Columbia, South Carolina

Four of my favorite dishes:
Filet Mignon
Bean Burritos
Pizza Hut Pan pizza
My chicken (country) fried steak (I cook only one thing really, really well and this is it.)

Four sites that I visit daily:
Yahoo News
WTM boards

Four places I would rather be right now:
South Carolina
Disney World -- my son has never been!
in a nice but unpretentious house nestled in the woods on an acreage that I own far, far away from neighbors and their darned barking poodles.

Three bloggers I am tagging:
addie-the adventure mouse
samuel men can play, too!

Review of Key to Decimals

I purchased Key to Decimals last week off Ebay. They arrived today in the mail and I couldn't wait to finally see what this Key to series was all about.

Well, my first impression was...that's why it's so cheap, no bright, shiny cover, just a paper cover. No biggie. Opening up the pages my first impression was......EWWWW. They use some old-fashioned (I'm thinking 1980s IBM Selectric typewriter font) and it was UGLY. There's also hand written problems. What I did like was occasionally there were pages with graph paper background. We use graph paper a lot in math to help DS with number size and lining things up properly.

Aesthetics are important to me and apparently they're important to DS, too. I called him over to take a peek. His first comment was, "Mom, that's ugly. Yuck." However, he sat down and did three pages on the spot and got over the ugly font.

I bought the entire decimal set. After I looked through all four books page by page, I understood why this series was so popular. It's to the point, good, solid, very repetitive stuff.

I'm sold. Ugly font and all. I will be buying the geometry set and possibly the measurement.

There's no rush when teaching a child. Mastery is a good thing, and we'll continue using our math program and then following up with work in these books.

Sick Day

This morning I got up, took care of the pets, poured a cup of coffee and sat down at the computer. I didn't feel well. I did my normal morning surfing and as I was about to finish up, it hit.

Mom was sick. Really sick.

DS was eating his breakfast and I informed him that today he needed to read a book and he may listen to SOTW on CD while doing art. Mom's going back to bed.

I slept the entire morning. Hard. I woke up twice, once to see my son at my bedroom window blowing on the glass and drawing pictures on the condensation. The next time I awoke it was to DS saying here, mom, this will make you feel better. He had made me a cute little heart card. It did make me feel better.

DH came home for lunch and I returned to the land of the living. DS had read his book and listened to a few chapters of SOTW. He had made a few pictures out of construction paper. That's it.

I find it amazing that even with a sick day, DS did not turn on the computer, he did not turn on the TV -- no Gameboy, even. He didn't work "hard" but he did do what I asked. He's a good kid and makes me very proud.

I don't have sick days too often. But they do happen. We survived. I'll even be able to put down something in my record book as being accomplished.

Going to bed early tonight and hopefully everything will stay where it is supposed to tomorrow.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Monday Morning Ramblings

I have a whole bunch of disjointed rambling thoughts this morning.

It's cold here. -1. It's an assault to the system going out in it. That cold is brutal and will definitely wake up and incoherent mom taking care of her dog on a Monday morning.

This weekend my son was glued to the computer. He was working on his website. We sent the link to my cousin and my sister. My cousin signed his guestbook and was impressed, waiting to hear from my sister. My son wants me to spread the word -- but I told him he needs some more polish and content.

I see this website as a huge learning experience. So far he's just been using the templates provided, but he's been playing around and amazing me with his ability to do so well. I set the site up and then told him to figure it out. He has. Mull-berry, thank you for the book suggestion. Our library doesn't have it so I put it on my wish list at Amazon. More on buying books later.

Aside from all the fun aspects of building a website, the reason I'm excited for his new-found love is it is the perfect opportunity for him to start writing. Up to this point we have not done a formal writing program. My son has done some Evan Moor books such as the Super Sentence and Paragraph books, he's done a few assignments from Writing Strands, but he wasn't really ready to conquer writing.

I believe that my son has dysgraphia. His handwriting is not typical of a 4th grader. His letters are big and uncontrolled. His cursive is a little better, but not much. It is physically painful for him to write. That's basically the reason we bought the Alphasmart. His typing lessons have been going well, although he hates some of the finger configurations because it hurts his fingers -- but he's had a few timed writings typing 15 WPM with one or no mistakes which thrilled him. And me.

It just seems as everything has come together and the cosmos says it's time for him to write. So today we are going to organize and map out his website on paper. I'm going to make a list of topics for him to write about. (Another benefit of the website, organization!) He started a blog at my request. One two-sentence entry so far.

This is just one of those times, as a homeschooling parent, when you get excited because everything is coming together. For once, I have a highly motivated child for a project he is loving more than anything else he's done in school to date. It can't get any better than this.

The only down side to all of this is that I really would like to buy some books as guides -- for him as well as me. I know I can find it all on the internet, but I'm such a book girl -- I like to have a book in hand that I can read, that DS can read. Our library doesn't have anything that I'm looking for and my husband has an aversion to me buying any more books.

This is the man who can read two paperbacks in one evening. This is the man who, when we were first married, would take me to the bookstore on Saturday mornings and spend $30-50 a weekend on books. (20 years ago that was a lot.) This is the man with four tall bookshelves so full of books the shelves are bowing. The books are double stacked, then more stacked in between the tops of the books and the empty space between the next shelf up. This is the man that gave up his book buying for family. This is the man that goes to the library weekly and gets 12-15 books at a time. Maybe he's jealous that he can't fulfill his book-buying addiction any longer, but he has a problem with me buying books for DS.

I don't think that's a fair statement. I think he has a problem with me spending a lot of money on homeschooling. I don't think I spend a lot by any means, but he has issues. I sneak books into the house. Not good, because I'm a very honest person and it bothers me. I use the library as much as possible, but sometimes they don't have what we want, even through ILL. Sometimes I just want to own the book, to have the new smell, enjoy the feeling of the the clean, crisp pages...

I feel an Amazon spending spree coming on.

Enough of my rambling thoughts. I have a son to get up, a school to run, a day to start, a website to plan.