Scientific Art

I totally snagged this idea from Pinterest, but it is a perfect fit into our Solid, Liquid and Gas unit study while being an art project at the same time. Double duty!

We began by putting a container of old crayons in rainbow order. (The boys each picked out a new box of crayons for school so these have been going unused.)

Continue reading

Three Cheers for Adult Time

The boys and I are together almost all the time, especially now that we are homeschooling. In a lot of ways, this is great! I know tons of parents who wish they had more time with their kids, and for that, I’m a lucky girl. But sometimes it becomes too much – too many needs to meet, too many demands that only I can fulfill and definitely too much noise. Sometimes, depending on Chuck’s travel schedule, Jeremy and Jackson are the only two living beings I talk to all day. At all.

You can see why having adult time every once in a while is mandatory to maintain some semblance of sanity. Occasionally, I like to talk about adult things with other adults who have similar adult interests. Once in a while I like to eat a meal without ordering two kids meals along with it. And sometimes, I really want to listen to Little Lion Man without having to censor it for naughty language.

Enter Matt and Amy, stage left.

After our roller coaster riding on Saturday, we met up with Matt and Amy in Pigeon Forge for a mini-weekend away from the kids and also to celebrate Amy’s birthday. When we still lived in Chattanooga we’d spend almost every weekend together grilling out, playing cards and letting our kids grow up together. They were some of the people I missed the most while living in Amarillo for two years. Now that we’re just a couple of hours away, it’s much easier to resume our regularly scheduled friendship.

Thanks for the great weekend, friends! I really needed it.

Roller Coaster Rider

Before Saturday morning, the only roller coaster I had ever been on was the piddly one at Lake Winnie in North Georgia. Most enthusiasts would hardly call it a coaster, but to me, it was more thrill than I could handle and that was well more than a decade ago.

When we purchased Dollywood season passes this spring, I never intended to ride the roller coasters. I mean, why would I? They were above my risk level, the boys couldn’t ride them anyway, and I like keeping my food down. (Also, I bungee jumped 10 years ago and wound up with the worst migraine I’ve ever had.) Resigned to my “Safety First” mentality, the first time we visited the park, the boys and I sat out while Chuck rode a few on his own. It didn’t bother me one bit to watch with both feet on the ground.

However, Chuck and I had Saturday morning to ourselves, and as season pass holders, we could get into the park an hour early. With my game face on, we woke up with the sun and got to Dollywood at 8:30 a.m. with the explicit purpose of putting these old bones on a roller coaster.

Or three.

Nervous knots do not even begin to explain the physical state I was in. I warned Chuck about potentially explosive diarrhea, or maybe I’d only make it through one ride and decide to sit out the rest. There were no promises. My stomach churned with anxiety. Upon seeing the parking lots signs for Dollywood, my arms and legs trembled. I began a series of nervous yawns and my teeth chattered.  Good Lord, why did I agree to this? 

Chuck made sure to point out all the little happy children running to the roller coasters with such enthusiasm, and here was I being so silly. Yes, well lots of people run to their eminent death when they are totally and utterly clueless. 

The first ride was the Mystery Mine. I climbed the staircase at a snail’s pace, but it was to no avail – there was no line, no one waiting before us. We sat in front, I was strapped in, I lowered my head, closed my eyes, and quietly weeped inside. This is nuts. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want… 

The Mystery Mine spins you every which way in all directions, including upside down with two vertical drops. The first time was miserable, I won’t lie. I saw nothing and made no sound. Sweat poured from my hands as I gripped the metal harness for dear life. For some insane reason, I was talked into riding it again. The second time I peeped an eye open twice and squealed. The third time I kept my eyes open about a quarter of the time and screamed throughout most of the ride. The fourth time I kept my eyes open about 75 percent of the time – including when we went upside down. I screamed until I couldn’t scream anymore.

The Thunderhead wasn’t nearly as scary (despite the 100-foot drop), but I also kept my eyes closed through the entire first ride on the off-chance the coaster rolled off its track or the wooden beams broke at the bend. (You never know!) By the fourth time on the Thunderhead, I was wide-eyed and screaming with excitement. Again, there were no lines and virtually no waiting, so we’d have a turn and run back to the gate to go again.

After eight runs, we rode once on the Tennessee Tornado, which is a looping, spinning, 70 mph thrill that left both of us wanting to hurl. It was a 30-second ride with five loops or something ridiculous like that. When it ended, we wobbled down the stairs and agreed we were finished.

I give myself three stars – one for guts, one for determination, and one for not having explosive diarrhea. Thank you, Chuck, for making me go. Sorry for digging my fingernails into your bones.

Five Things I’ve Learned…

…from the first week of homeschooling:

1. It’s worth starting early so we can be done early.
2. It takes a lot of reminding to treat Mom like Teacher. (“You wouldn’t whine like this to your teacher at school, so don’t do it with me.”)
3. Snack time and recess are huge incentives.
4. The Tennessee State Flag was ratified in 1905.
5. Running errands during the day when all the other kids are at school is super fantastic!

I asked the boys this morning if they like being homeschooled. They both emphatically cheered, “Yes!” Of course, I will ask them again in May.

We’re off to the pool for an afternoon treat. Thanks for all the support, readers.

Happy Weekend – xoxo

I call No Fair

On August 7, I was casually perusing Twitter when I noticed a tweet from a gluten-free blogger whom I follow (glutenfreegirl). She mentioned a woman named Jennie and something about sending her support and love. Naturally, I was curious about the woman based on her name but I also wondered what spurred the tweet. I clicked on the link to the woman’s Twitter page.

Here is a brief excerpt from her August 7-9 feed. Start at the bottom with her simple reference to making marinara sauce. Then go up two tweets to see the shattering of her heart in a million pieces.

Her husband, Mikey, died suddenly from a massive heart attack. Here is her blog post about the loss of her sweetheart: 5:52 p.m. (If you have a tissue nearby, watch the last video that was made of Mikey dancing with one of his daughters.) His death happened in minutes. One minute he was here, the next he was gone.

I post this because I call No Fair. He was too young, his daughters are too young, and his sweet wife didn’t have an ounce of notice to prepare for anything.

Go hug your husband, your wife, your children. Hug them tight and often.

In other melancholy news, did you see the Yahoo story about the loyal retriever who wouldn’t leave his owner’s side – even at his funeral? Navy SEAL Jon Tomlinson died in the Chinook helicopter attack in Afghanistan on August 6.  Good heavens, I just can’t take it.

The Best Shade of Orange

It’s that time of year – almost. We’re a week and a half away from the start of Tennessee football, so it was time to show our support. I’ve waited all year to spend autumn in east Tennessee – for the foliage, for the festivals and for football. We’re working on scoring tickets without having to sell one of the children to afford them.

I’m back to spending mornings on the back deck now that the overnight temperatures are dropping. Summer was too smothering, but yesterday it was a delightful 59 and today it was 65. It won’t be long until the leaves start to change and then I suspect we’ll do a lot of school work outside. Wouldn’t you?

Two Things

1. To say that Jeremy is excited about starting Cub Scouts would be too casual. He’s really, really, REALLY excited. So much that he wore this outfit every single day last week (hat and all):

2. Art projects are going to be a huge challenge for me because I really, really, REALLY don’t like making messes in my house. We painted today. I’ve just sent the boys outside so I can calm down.

First Day of Homeschooling

This is the fifth photo I took of the boys at breakfast in an attempt to catch Jack’s eyes open. Oh well. I blame the flash.

I woke the boys up a hair before 8 a.m., and after telling them to get dressed, this is how they appeared in the kitchen – as Obi Wan Kenobi and Boba Fett. Since we don’t have a dress code, I went with it. They ate “J” pancakes for breakfast and we got right to work.

I know all the other homeschool moms and dads have lesson plans and schedules, but I don’t yet, and that’s because I really don’t know how this is going to look. We have curriculum and some sort of idea about how it’ll go this year, but nothing is concrete. And that’s on purpose.

We started with journaling an “About Me” page. I measured their height and weight and we talking about the things they enjoy at this age. Jeremy wrote an entire page while I more or less interviewed Jackson, copied his answers and he drew pictures to go along with it. Then came math.

Jackson will complete a PreK book prior to starting his Kindergarten work since we are still dealing with some cognitive delays. We’re starting at the very beginning.

Jeremy is using Math U See curriculum, and he completed the entire first lesson with very little help from me. This is good!

After math, I sent Jackson to computer time on Starfall so I could focus singly on Jeremy for reading – with which we’re also starting from the very beginning. He’s only been exposed to sight words in school, so we’re starting from the beginning with phonics. On reference from my friend Tara, we’re using Explode the Code. Again, Jeremy sailed through the first lesson, but I expected that. I don’t mind it being easy at first since we’re starting with building block number one. I suspect we’ll move quickly through the first book and hopefully the second.

Suddenly it was 11:15, my coffee was cold and the boys were hungry. We ate lunch and began a science experiment. Liquid, solid or gas?

That jar is currently sitting on the deck in the sun so we can evaluate what happened to the ice cubes after a day of direct heat.

Then it was time to play! Jeremy called it recess, so I called it recess. We went to the park. They didn’t change clothes.

After coming home we checked on our jar of water (surprise! it’s a liquid!), ate a snack and did our Bible lesson. The day became much more relaxed after that. We hung around, they played, I ran. They picked hot dogs and french fries for a special First Day of School Dinner and now Jeremy and I are about to bake cookies. Overall, the day has been swell.

In a few weeks we’ll begin co-op classes with other homeschoolers and Jeremy will start Cub Scouts. (Jackson can begin next year, if he so chooses.) Our schedule will become a bit busier, but I’m refraining from doing too much. I’m not sure how this year will go and I’m determined to keep it flexible, so I’m hesitant to make too many commitments.

As far as curriculum goes, I like the university approach. We’ll do math and language arts everyday, but as far as science, social studies (which will be Tennessee state history), art and other electives go, we’ll tackle them in a twice-a-week rotation.

I have 180 days to make an academic impact. Day one was a good start.

Results

I kept the boys separated again this morning and some in the afternoon. Upon announcing they could play together, they quickly put on some old Halloween costumes and ran into the woods to play Star Wars.

Mission accomplished, I’d say.

Let’s see how long this lasts, shall we?

“Today, you don’t have a brother.”

That’s what I told them, and it could be a huge parenting mistake that I’ll regret later, but I’m tired of the bickering. This morning they were at each other’s throats – Jackson pestering the tar out of Jeremy and Jeremy angrily annoyed by his little brother’s antics. It’s entirely mutual, and we’ve tried a number of things, from conversations and lecturing to discipline and isolation.

Today, they are single children. They could be tomorrow as well. I split them up and they aren’t to talk to one another. Harsh? Maybe. Last resort? Yes, today it is. But I’m willing to try anything to get these two to stop fighting over the most petty and meaningless things. They are together all the time, all day, so perhaps being separated today, all day, will created a renewed desire to be kind.

Or maybe not. Keep your fingers crossed.

P.S. When I told them they aren’t to talk to one another, to not even acknowledge each other exists, you should’ve seen the look on their faces. The shock alone gave me a glimmer of hope.

Pancake Failure

The boys were excited when I announced we were having Star Wars pancakes for breakfast instead of the usual boring bowl of cereal. Praise and enthusiasm filled the kitchen! What fun! What spontaneity! Mom, you’re so cool! Thanks for making us Star Wars pancakes! They’re going to be so good!

Yeah, they would’ve been good – had I not forgotten the non-stick cooking spray. Oops.

The Last Week of Summer

After registering the boys with an umbrella school, I whipped out my calendar and began marking down the days we’ll do school and the days we won’t. It’s a loose schedule, no doubt, but it’s a start and I’m going to do my darnedest to stick to some sort of a routine. The flexibility of homeschooling is partially what attracted me, but you and I both know that floundering and spontaneity aren’t my strong suits.

I’ll do my best.

We’ll begin school next Monday, so that means we have one more week of summer to lounge, swim, stay up late and eat irresponsibly. I’m not exactly sure what else we’ll do – or if we’ll do much of anything else. The boys are certainly exhausted of one another (thank goodness co-op classes and Cub Scouts start soon!), so whatever it is we do, the boys will be separated. Today I am thankful for a two-story house.

Over the weekend I finally received my own copies of Green Bay: A City and Its Team. It took more than a year to design and edit it. To finally hold the finished work in my hands was quite emotional.

If you’d like to purchase a copy (or ten), click on the link above or visit Amazon.

Yotel and the Delano Homestead

We were fortunate to have a handful of people to stay with while on our vacation – Lesli and Jimmy, Aunt Debbie and Uncle Bob, and my parents – but while Chuck and I were away on mini-trip without the kids, we elected to stay in out-of-the-ordinary places.

In fact, that’s usually how we like to travel. Why stay in a boring hotel when you can sleep in a room from the future, where you have to check in via computer at Mission Control?

Continue reading

How I Spent My Summer Vacation – Chapter 2

The second part of our trip excluded the boys. Parents, you can imagine why. You never fully appreciate a quiet car ride until your car rides aren’t quiet anymore. Sometimes we didn’t even listen to music.  We stopped where we wanted, ate where we wanted and didn’t give a thought to schedules. It was lovely.

First, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the crab cakes we ate along our way to Philadelphia, just outside Baltimore. After a quick internet search, we found a favorite local spot and bought two. They were absolutely, positively perfect.

Upon leaving the boys with my parents, we drove to New York City. That’s right. DROVE. As in, Chuck drove OUR CAR in MANHATTAN. Every travel guide will recommend you take the train or some sort of public transit, as driving and parking in New York City isn’t favorable. (My nervous knots reflected this the closer we got to the city.) Frankly, we found it to be easier than expected. It helped that our hotel had its own parking garage and it was located just a few blocks on the Manhattan side of the Lincoln Tunnel. And when we left the city on Sunday morning, traffic was significantly less than it would’ve been on a weekday. Still, those people are aggressive. Very, very aggressive. You drive in the lane you claim by force.

Continue reading

How I Spent My Summer Vacation – Chapter 1

I misspoke in the last post. Upon uploading the photos from my camera, I discovered not 463 photographs to sort through but 510. Good grief. Someone should’ve told me to chill out.

Naturally, I can only share a fraction, and it’ll be a small fraction. We’ll start with Chapter 1: Washington DC. It shouldn’t surprise you that our stay in the nation’s capital was planned around the release of the last Harry Potter film. In keeping with Girls Weekend tradition with Susan and Lesli, we had to see it together, and that meant waiting an extra two weeks until we could all be in DC at the same time.  It was bittersweet to see the last movie together – not just for reasons of loving the books and films, but also because we’ve shared this tradition for nearly a decade. Girls Weekends will continue, but Harry will not longer be a part of them.

(Bummed about the glare on the movie poster!)

In addition to HP7 Part 2, what also made this weekend special was getting all of our families together. Not only had the three husbands not been in the same room since Lesli and Jimmy’s wedding day in October 2000, but the four children had never formally met. Sure, babies have traveled and such, but Jeremy and Jackson had never spent time with Avery (Susan’s daughter), and they’d only spied on Henry (Lesli’s son) briefly in our living room a few months ago. Basically, our little core of three has sprouted to 10 and it was nice to have everyone under one roof.

Of course, being in DC warranted two other things: seeing some of my extended family (grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins!) and touring national monuments and museums. In total we spent five days there, and we squeezed out every ounce of energy the boys had.

After DC, we drove to Philadelphia to stay with my parents for a few days and see a few historical sites downtown – like the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the gravesite of Benjamin Franklin.

Then, we left the kids and escaped. But more on that later.

463 Photos. Here is the first.

I took a crap-ton of pictures on our vacation. Way more than I should have, but sometimes I just can’t control myself. It’ll take a few days to upload, edit and post them, so hang in there, cause I know you’re SO excited to see photos of my boys standing in front of the White House.

This single photo was the only one taken on my birthday, not with my camera but with our new iPad. I have to say – we’ve come a long way from the Speak ‘N Spell.

*The photo was taken somewhere in New England. Special thanks to my parents who kept the boys for four days so we could enjoy riding in a quiet car. 

**Happy Weekend!

33

In the past 12 days, we’ve been to eight states (or is it nine?), visited a dozen historical museums and monuments (from the Museum of American History in Washington DC to Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts), and spent time with the family and friends we have scattered across the east coast. I have 438 pictures on my camera to prove all the fun we’ve had.

I even saw The Death Hallows twice. It was really good, and I cried at the same part both times… the silver doe. Sniff, sniff.

Once we get settled in at home and the suitcases go back to the storage room, I’ll upload photos and share. I also need to formally arrange our homeschooling paperwork, especially since Jeremy’s former elementary school has called me twice this week. I can’t believe school already started.

Finally, thanks to all of you who took a moment to wish me Happy Birthday yesterday. Cheers to a new year. Dear 33, be kind, will you?