Thursday, August 28, 2008
I am hoping that the blog will help him with his typing skills, computer skills and his writing.
Jake doesn't care for writing much. It isn't that he can't create wonderful stories...he's been asking me for years to write down his stories, which usually revolve around action figures or Lego creations. I believe Jake's dislike of writing has to do with the use of fine motor skills. I am a firm believer that all children develop at their own pace. Jake's fine motor skills have improved dramatically over the past year or so. He used to have trouble holding a pencil or crayon when most other preschoolers were coloring within the lines. I can't complain. I was almost held back in first grade because I wouldn't color within the lines. My mom thinks that I was just in a hurry and wanted to go on to the next coloring sheet. When coloring and labeling his history/geography maps, Jake will ask if he can use different types of lines to distinguish between different areas rather than to shade them different colors. I don't mind...he is getting the job done. Coloring in the different segments requires more precise fine motor skills in order to stay within the lines, whereas drawing straight or dotted lines use both gross motor skills (the movement of the arm) as well as fine motor skills (the use of the wrist and hand muscles).
As soon as Jake masters typing, I think he will more enjoy writing stories. I'm hoping that he will want to enter a homeschooling writing contest that some of my Norfolk homeschooling friends have put together. Jolie writes stories almost daily and has been coloring in the lines since she was old enough to hold a pencil. But she is shy, and has trouble opening up to adults, whereas Jake is a social butterfly and has been able to speak intelligently with adults since he started talking. Jake and Jolie were talking fluently at about 20 months old. It has been hard to understand Jensen until just a few months ago, but he was walking and darn near running at 10 1/2 months old.
All kids are different. With three of them, I realize that more and more each day. They each have their strengths and their weaknesses. I see them using their strengths and asking for assistance with their weaknesses, even at these young ages. I think their ability to ask for help, or to know where to go to look for assistance when they need it, will come in handy when they are adults.
This blog will be a good learning tool for Jake. I hope he decides to stay with it and learns some new skills in the process. Let us know what you think if you get a chance. I'm sure he'd love the feedback.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
While at park day with some of our homeschool friends, one of my vegetarian, military, homeschool friends (I have more than one that wears those same hats) mentioned that she had found a Kashi substitute for a commonly known cereal that her family likes. I inquired about the substitution and she said that the common brand had gelatin in it. Being somewhat new to the vegetarian community, I was still in the dark and asked why gelatin was a problem. She told me that gelatin was not vegetarian. I was shocked! What the heck was gelatin made of?
So being the skeptic that I am, I came straight home and Googled "what is gelatin made of," and low and behold, she was right!
According to HowStuffWorks, gelatin (specifically that used in Jell-O) is made of collagen. Oh, good. But wait, isn't collagen found in the human body?
So good of you to ask. Why yes it is. Collagen, used to make gelatin that is found in products such as Jell-O, is made of ground up animal parts, particularly cow or pig bones, hooves, and connective tissues. Gross!
Check out the HowStuffWorks page on What exactly is Jell-O made from? It is very enlightening.
Well, needless to say there will be no more Jell-O in this house, or gelatin for that matter, which is a bummer because I have several really good family recipes that use boxed Jell-O and they are really yummy. I'm really going to have to check the labels on any convenience foods we buy to try to avoid gelatin. Gelatin is smuggled into all sorts of foods that you wouldn't normally think of. Check out that yummy frosted, rectangular, wheaty cereal (they come in mini and regular) that is frosted on one side...you know the one. Just so you know, the Kashi version doesn't use gelatin.
One of my vegetarian, unschooling, home-birthing friends (yes, I have more than one of those too) said that Agar Agar was a seaweed based gelling agent that worked well. The Vegetarian Society has several suggestions for substitutes for gelatin.
So before you shake down that package of Jell-O to make that dessert, consider where it came from. Do you really want to be eating gelatin, not to mention all of the artificial colors and flavorings?
Just some food for thought...in this case, literally.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Yesterday we decided to head to the beach for some fun in the sun. Justin wanted to go surfing and Jake wanted to take out one of the boogie boards. We lathered up with sun block, packed up the van, and headed down the street to the beach.
You have to understand that not all of my children are real fans of the beach.
Jake, he loves the water and can build a mean sand castle. He was in the water the whole time, learning how to maneuver his boogie board, getting mini-lessons from Justin when the need arose.
Jolie, on the other hand, isn’t a big fan. We took her to the beach when she was about six months old and she grimaced as we dangled her toes in the water, and she has been grimacing at the thought of gritty sand, salty water, and scorching sun ever since. This beach trip was much better. She didn’t have to be carried across the sand and placed on the blanket, but instead embraced the sand and made it her canvas. She hardly stepped foot in the water and instead spent her time building sand castles, decorating them with sea shells we found on our small walk down the beach, trying to avoid the jellies.
We must live in the jellyfish capital of the US. Justin spent a majority of his time scanning the waves for incoming jellies, warning Jake if any were coming his way and then scooping up any that had become beached and placed them into a large, disgusting pile. He figured that if he kept them from going back out to sea, then maybe he would prevent the kids from being stung.
It was a valiant effort.
Although Jensen spent most of his time out of the water at the request of Justin, he still ended up getting stung…just about the same spot he was stung last time. He must just be a jelly magnet. Jensen loves the water and every time we’re near the ocean, a river, lake or pool, he has no fear and jumps right in. He’ll be getting some swimming lessons next year, unless he teaches himself to swim before then.
Justin paddled out to try to go surfing and ended up paddling right back in. He said that there were jellyfish everywhere. I’m hoping that we are just having a bad year and that we won’t have to spend the next three years avoiding jellies every time we head to the beach.
I, although completely lathered up with sun block, was the only one to get pink. I can’t complain because I have been known to get very burned (looking nearly purple sometimes). I’m glad that the kids got some of Justin’s olive complexion so hopefully they won’t have the problems with the sun that I have had.
We’re looking forward to another trip to the beach in the near future. Hopefully, the water to jelly ratio will be a bit higher next time so Justin will be able to surf and Jensen will have a sting-free time.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Yesterday's fieldtrip was a great start to our year-long study of biology. We do science in four-year cycles (biology, earth science, chemistry, physics), so Jake is getting a more advanced exposure to biology than he did four years ago. I think Jolie and Jensen will both benefit from having an older sibling expose them to more complex materials during each cycle. It works out nicely that my kids are about four years apart in school. Well, actually Jake and Jolie are four years apart in school and Jolie and Jensen are three years apart, but I’m going to keep Jensen on the same “rotation” for school as the other two so that they can all be studying the same thing at the same time. That will sure make my life a little easier.
The cycles seem to be working out thus far, although we are only on day four of our second cycle with Jake. Our four-year cycle of history includes ancients, medieval/early Renaissance, late Renaissance/early modern, and modern times. Jake is remembering most of the information about the Ancients that we did four years ago and is easily making connections with the more advanced material he is studying this year. Specifically, he was reading about Upper and Lower Egypt in his Early Times book and brought up the difference between the two kings’ crowns and how they were combined when Upper and Lower Egypt were united. He told me about the crowns and then pondered on why the two parts of Egypt were originally separate and how the lives of the people were affected by the changes that took place when they rejoined. He is definitely in the Love of Learning phase (Thomas Jefferson Ed.) and the Logic phase (classical education). I am glad that he is making those transitions. It shows he is progressing and maturing.
Don't forget, Jake is has been given the freedom to decide what he will study and when he will study it. He has kept pretty close to his weekly schedule so far this week. He is putting off Latin and GUM Drops (language mechanics), so I may need to find different sources or methods for him to learn those subjects, or just let him pick them back up when/if he becomes interested in them again.
I found a cool book called Woe Is I, Jr. that I need to order. It is a chapter book that goes into all kids of grammar and language mechanics in a story-book format. That is a really good method for Jake. He learns very well from reading printed material. I need to check with my friend about the Latin program she uses. I thought she mentioned it in her blog once, but I couldn't find it last time I searched. He would probably enjoy picking up a book and reading about Latin mechanics and then learning about vocabulary rather than vise versa.
We all learn differently, don't we? I have a great book for that too but Jensen has decided that I'm done blogging for the night by laying on my arm in his attempt to get some "hold you." More on different learning styles later.
The kids got to hold...
Red Foot Tortoises
Kim, the owner, was wonderful with the kids. She was very knowledgeable and answered all of the kids’ questions. We even learned the difference between boy and girl tortoises. Do you know the difference?
She also had several African Spurred tortoises as well. This tortoise is the largest of the tortoises found on the African mainland. These guys were still somewhat small, with the largest being about 45 lbs. In the wild, they can grow up to 80-110 lbs.
I was surprised that the kids were not adamant on getting their own turtle or tortoise. They haven’t even asked yet. That could mean one of two things…they don’t want one (unlikely) or they know that Justin and I will most likely say no (more likely). I’m not sure how the Navy would feel about transporting a tortoise overseas if we were to ever get stationed away from the US. Probably not very favorably. I think they prefer the four legged creatures and we’ve met our limit (according to military housing and overseas travel).
It was a great trip and if Kim is still in the area I’d love to do it again next year.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
We went to a birthday party on Monday and had the most wonderful carrot cake. My friend gave me her revised Allrecipes.com recipe, so I had to try it. Of course, I couldn't leave well enough alone and had to find a different frosting recipe to try. The original had a lot of fat and sugar, so I found a Brown Sugar Cream Cheese recipe to try. The frosting turned out fairly well, although not as good as her original recipe did on Monday. I'll try the original cream cheese frosting next time...but will probably reduce some of the sugar...and maybe some of the butter. We'll see. I did take out the pecans, but feel free to add some if your family likes.
Here is the wonderfully yummy recipe, along with the nutrition facts from NutritionData.com. I wish I had photos, but the kids and I cut right into it tonight, so maybe next time. Let me know what you think if you try it.
1 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup milled flax seed
2 cups wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 cups grated carrots
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9x13 inch pan.
In a large bowl, beat together eggs, applesauce, brown sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix in flour, flax seed, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir in carrots. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
Servings Per Recipe: 18
Amount Per Serving
· Total Fat: 3g
· Saturated Fat: 0g
· Cholesterol: 47mg
· Sodium: 291mg
· Total Carbs: 39g
· Dietary Fiber: 3g
· Sugars: 25g
· Protein: 4g
Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
In a large bowl, combine cream cheese, butter, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer. When combined, add honey.
Continue to beat until light and fluffy. Do not over mix, or it will collapse.
Spread immediately and store cake in refrigerator.
Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
Servings Per Recipe: 18
Amount Per Serving
· Total Fat: 3g
· Saturated Fat: 2g
· Cholesterol: 10mg
· Sodium: 38mg
· Total Carbs: 5g
· Dietary Fiber: 0g
· Sugars: 4g
· Protein: 1g
Original Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 cup butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium bowl, combine butter, cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cake.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Servings Per Recipe: 18
Amount Per Serving
· Total Fat: 7g
· Saturated Fat: 5g
· Cholesterol: 21mg
· Sodium: 38mg
· Total Carbs: 23g
· Dietary Fiber: 0g
· Sugars: 22g
· Protein: 1g
Monday, August 18, 2008
Weekly Goal Sheet
Books and Materials
Complete one lesson of Math-U-See Epsilon (practice, review, test)
Read one chapter in Early Times Egypt/Greece/Rome
Read follow-on material about weekly subject
Complete projects as desired
Read one section of Real Science 4 Kids Biology
Read follow-on material about weekly topic
Read one chapter of The Story of Science
Complete weekly experiments
Complete several pages of Latin’s Not So Tough Book 3
Spend 30 minutes each day on Typing skills and Logic
Engage in additional personal pursuits as desired
I prefer to school year round. This year was somewhat different because we moved at the beginning of June and I decided that we would just take the summer off to get completely acclimated to our new home and area. We did finish up some history over the summer that we had fallen behind on last year, but generally we just did a lot of reading this summer and met some new homeschool friends.
Today went fairly well. We are all trying to not only get adjusted to a new school schedule, but Justin has a new work schedule as well. We are now at a command where they do shift work, so his schedule will change periodically, probably just frequently enough to royally mess up our routine on a regular basis :)
I am still working to ensure that I am “inspiring not requiring” of my children, especially Jake. Growing up in the public school system is definitely tainting. I would like so much to just let him go and learn as thoughts and desires come to him, but after being force-fed “education” for half my life, it is so hard to let go even though I know that that system does not work.
Two hundred years ago, before we had a public school system, children, such at Thomas Jefferson, thrived in a mentoring world. Children learned how to read, write, sew, and work the land from and older sibling, parent, or surrogate mentor. It had worked for hundreds of years prior as well. I know that the mentoring system is an outstanding model for education; I just need to fully break my subconscious bonds with “traditional” schooling. Maybe I should just chant, “Just let go…just let go…just let go” each night as I drift off to sleep.
In the spirit of mentoring, Jake and I decided to create a weekly goal sheet so that he can work towards completing certain goals each week. I admit that I assisted in his goal planning process, but will be willing to alter the weekly goals as necessary to meet his personal educational needs. In order to truly mentor, I also need to establish some educational goals. I know I need to go back and reread my Thomas Jefferson Education book because I’m missing some of the key elements to mentoring, but I’m trying.
I know it will all come together. Learning and growing is one of the joys of being a family. If something isn’t working for our family we have the ability to change and mold it to fit our family’s needs. As the kids get older I am finding that many of our methods, be they schooling, parenting, or household living, are needing to be updated to meet the needs of everyone in our family. We are growing daily, learning from each other to better ourselves along the way.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Not long before we left Virginia, DC (short for Dog Chow) started having accidents just outside the litter box. I thought that maybe she no longer liked the kitty litter that I was using, so I decided to try a new litter. We first tried a pine cat litter. In trying to slowly save the world, I decided to do some research and learned about all of the problems with traditional clay-based litters and decided to try something a bit more eco-friendly. Pine seemed like an acceptable alternative, but neither DC nor I enjoyed the pine litter. The original pine wasn't a "clumping" litter like the two of us were used to, so it just wasn't going to work for us.
We next decided to try a wheat based litter and we immediately fell in love. The wheat is all natural, clumps nicely and can even be flushed down the toilet. She seemed to be doing better, so I figured the litter switch was the magic ticket for her. No problem.
About a week later, she started to have additional accidents just outside of the litter box. I was having trouble understanding how she could pee just outside the box (I mean seriously, the litter box is right there), so I decided to check it out one evening. Do you know what I found...she was having trouble getting her large self completely inside the covered box.
Well that wasn't going to work. I decided to try an open pan box, figuring she would have less trouble maneuvering around in the open system. Once again, all was going well and then the accidents resumed. For the time being I decided to just wash the towel under her box as needed and try to figure out a new plan once we got here.
When we got here we set her up in our master bathroom. Since the accidents were continuing, I decided to try yet again another litter box, this time a top opening system. I figured if her fanny couldn't hang over the side of the box she wouldn't be able to have any accidents. Well that backfired on me. She was so big that she couldn't get into the box, or maybe she just didn't like it, I don't really know. Either way, she wouldn't use it and I became concerned.
Not long after, I caught her sniffing around by the front closet and discovered that she had had her first real accident away from the litter box. I was angry. I couldn't believe that she had done that. I changed her litter box back to the open pan and cleaned the carpet with vinegar and water and then sprinkled on some baking soda to try to manage the cat pee smell. The smell initially went away, but came back with a vengeance.
Those of you familiar with cat pee know the nose curling smell I'm talking about. My husband hates cat pee. One of his brothers had a cat when he was growing up that used to pee on his clothes, so Justin has some baggage when it comes to cat pee. We've already had to get rid of a Himalayan kitten who ruined our previous couch by peeing all the way through it to my hardwood floor. I don't want DC to have the same fate. She might be fat and mean, but I still love her.
I mentioned DC's troubles with my vet-tech neighbor who recommended that I have her checked for a urinary tract infection (UTI). A UTI? I didn't even think about that. I decided to wait to see if it happened again, and when it did, I knew that I had to make sure she didn't have a fixable problem. Well low and behold, she had a severe UTI. Of course she wouldn't pee for the vet and instead had to be kept over night (still no luck) and then finally "tapped" in which they used a needle to get the urine. I wasn't a big fan of the needle method, but she wouldn't go any other way. She is now on some antibiotics and will be rechecked next week to make sure that she is back to normal.
I'm glad we had her checked. Her accident spot was halfway between where she spends most of her time and where her litter box is, so it would make sense that she was having accidents halfway between the two. Being the researcher that I am, I looked up some natural remedies for the carpet smell and discovered that enzyme cleaners were the best and only real alternative to make the smell really go away and make it not longer detectable by the cat so that there wouldn't be a repeat offense. I would have to say that Anti-Icky-Poo has worked wonders. I used it twice to make sure that the smell was completely gone and we haven't had any repeat offenses. I've also used it twice in the past two weeks on vomit (those are blogs for another day) with much success.
Please listen to your pet. If they are behaving in an unusual way, have them checked out by a vet. To our family, a pet is a part of the family. We lost a furry member of our family to an unavoidable health disease three years ago today. We miss him dearly and treasure every moment with our furry family members. Be sure to love your pet today.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Late last week, I decided it was time to update my anti-virus protection and attempted to uninstall my current program (ahem...Norton...ahem). Somehow during the uninstall process I (according to the Norton/Symantic technical people) made a mistake and messed up some of my Windows files. Well guess what, when you mess up some of your Windows files, many of your Windows functions don't work (can you believe it). Well, after trying all sorts of things and reading all sorts of online posts about similar problems and trying to use the restore function on the computer and calling Dad to fix it for me, I surrendered and called HP.
Well, the telephone HP man was less than helpful. I guess that I don't qualify for help in restoring my laptop if my warrenty has expired and it would only cost me $99 to get phone support for the next year. Now that is just phone support, not any type of support for hardware or sofware...that would cost me another $100-$150! He highly encouraged me to get the $229 package so that they could fix the laptop for me if we couldn't fix the problem over the phone. I played the helpless wife (I don't do it often) and said that I had to ask my husband before I spent that kind of money. The phone HP man wasn't pleased, but told me that if I wanted I could use the tech support offered online free of charge. FREE! Now that's my kind of price!
Today, the online HP tech guy was very helpful. He pointed me in the right direction, helping me to help myself. I love when that happens. I now know how to restore my PC to its factory settings, seemingly fixing all the booboos I (apparently) gave it over the past week or so. And, ironically enough, I have not been dropped from my wireless network for the past hour or so (knock on wood). I nearly cried when Windows XP started without any error messages this afternoon. Now all I have to do is reload my Office software. Luckily when I used the restore function, it saved all of my files (although I backed them up just in case).
I'm glad online HP dude taught me how to fish, rather than just give me the fish. It is so much more empowering to learn how to do something, rather than just being given the answer. Thank you HP dude!
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Yesterday Jensen was climbing on a chair in the kitchen, and Jake, being the responsible big brother that he is, decided to help him down. Well, when he placed him ever so gently on the floor, Jensen’s socked feet slipped out from under him and the rest is history.
Believe it or not, we were in and out of the ER in less than two hours. I know, I was amazed too! It was one of our fastest ER visits yet. This Naval hospital has a fairly small ER, but very fast service (well, at least the two times we’ve been there thus far in the past two months).
The Dr. decided against Dermabond, figuring that Jensen, being the two year old that he is, would probably rub it, bump it, or otherwise damage the glue, making stitches our only other option. We wrapped him up like a burrito (which is what we do after bath time each night…not sure if he’ll ever want to be a burrito again), held him tight, and got over and done with it as quickly as possible.
Had he known some four letter words I’m sure they would have been flying. Instead, the poor female nurse that was helping hold his jaw shut took the brunt of his “meanie-head” calling. He’s a strong little booger and kept yelling at the male attendants to “let his arms go.” I know he wasn’t in any pain, but instead I’m sure he was just scared. I did my best to talk to him, but he just didn’t want to hear anything I had to say.
As soon as we unwrapped him from his burrito-ness he was fine. He sniffled a few times, said the doctor (generalizing for everyone who assisted) was mean, and then moved on. He got a bunch of stickers and a popsicle for his trouble, and was kind enough to thank everyone at the nurses’ station as we walked out the door.
Lucky for us we get to go back next week to have the stitches removed. I’m sure he’ll love that hospital adventure almost as much as the first.
Jake is also a frequenter of Lego.com. He likes to watch the Lego-mation videos that people have created and posted, as well as examine the newest Lego products on the market. Because I don’t feel that my children need to have every toy ever created, he understands that he is just LOOKING at the new Lego products and will not be RECEIVING the Lego products.
A few weeks ago he discovered a new Star Wars Lego ship that had come out on the market in conjunction with the new animated Star Wars Clone Wars movie that is coming out. The V-19 Torrent looked pretty cool, but I wasn’t about to spend $50 on a Lego ship that, once taken apart, will never go back together again, but instead be incorporated into our Lego bucket. We have many ships that have met this demise…Star Wars fighters, Batmobiles, etc. For $50 I could buy him several sets of plain Legos for him to use in his general building projects or to combine with the deconstructed specialty items to create ships that even George Lucas would be envious of.
Having a summer birthday does come in handy…especially when it falls exactly six months from the night many celebrate the birth of a certain baby (did you know he was most likely born in the spring…more about that another day). Jake gets gifts exactly six months apart, nicely spacing out his present opening fun. (I don’t get that joy. My birthday is right near Christmas, lumping all of my gifts into one event. I’m not bitter at all.) This year he received a significant amount of birthday money. My one rule was that he wasn’t allowed to spend his money until he had written thank you notes to everyone, letting them know what he was planning to purchase with the money he had received. We compromised; I typed the “thank yous” and he agreed to 30-minutes of typing lessons each day (pretty good deal I think).
After all was said and done, he had just about enough for a nice Lego product. He decided that he needed to beef up his daily chore completion in order to earn the rest of the money needed for the V-19 Torrent. He chose the more difficult chores each day during our family meeting (earning him more money) and we decided that if all the daily chores were completed the kids could each earn a $.25 bonus. His has been earning about $3.50 a week, quickly meeting his goal and eagerly awaiting our next trip to Target.
Well, he got his wish on Monday and purchased the V-19 Torrent on sale at Target for $50. We spent the afternoon putting the ship together. He did all the constructing and I was the piece sorter. Jake is a throw-it-all-in-a-pile-and-fish-it-out kind of kid…that isn’t necessarily how I would have done it, but we found all the pieces and they all fit in the right places. He is pleased with is creation and has vowed not to disassemble it and put it with the bulk parts. He is taking extra care of it because he spent his own money on it.
I’m proud of him for saving his money for something he really wanted. I’m interested to see what he’ll decide to save up for next. I wonder if his chore completion will suffer because there isn’t currently a goal to save for. I guess we’ll see.