Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kayaking the Intracoastal

Justin and I grabbed a babysitter and ventured out into the Intracoastal on Monday to kayak around the islands near the Navy base. That was my first time kayaking in waves, and I think I did okay. My near drowning incident made me a bit leery, but knowing that Justin was there to “save” me, made all the difference.

The water temp was wonderful, and the sun’s rays weren’t too hot. We saw a pod of dolphins swim by, a jumping fish, and possibly a sea snake. The waters started to get crowded with boats towards the end of our trip, which increased the waves dramatically. I’d like to try that trip again when there are fewer boats out and about (plus, the smell of exhaust on the water is not all that appealing).

I hope you enjoy the photos.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Being There For Liftoff

How many children can say that they were at Kennedy Space Center to see a space shuttle launch? Not many, I’d say. As of May 12th, my children could add their names to that short list.

Last fall I bought tickets for us to see a night launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on its way to make repairs on the Hubble telescope. We decided to take my father with us as his birthday present. Unfortunately, there was a delay in the launch due to a malfunction with the Hubble telescope, so we had to wait until the mission was rescheduled. That delay pushed our trip to just a few weeks ago.

I was under the impression that there were “limited” tickets available for the launch viewing area, so I figured that there would only be a few hundred people at the space center to view the launch. We would be able to meander around the Space Center, taking our time at each exhibit. Boy, was I wrong! There were several THOUSAND people there to see the shuttle, not to mention the thousands of others who made the trip to the Cape Canaveral area in hopes of seeing the launch. It was somewhat overwhelming at times, but spectacular nonetheless.

Growing up half of my childhood in Florida, I had seen several launches…some from home, some from school, and one from the beach. Same for Justin. The kids, on the other hand, hadn’t and wouldn’t have that same opportunity, so we were all really excited about the launch. Unfortunately, many of the exhibits were closed, so there weren’t as many things to see as there were the last time we were at Kennedy Space Center. We spent a lot of time waiting to get into the Space Center and then a lot of time waiting in our viewing area to see the shuttle go off.

Because of the volume of people, we decided to secure our viewing location nearly three hours before the launch. The kids did great. We ate a nice picnic lunch and then the adults took turn saving our spot, while the rest of the group went and saw the exhibits that were available. I walked the kids around several times while we waited and saw some “wildlife”…alligators and turtles.

The launch was amazing. From our viewing area, we could see everything. I know the kids were impressed. We watched a power point that showed some of the preparations made before a launch the day before, so when the kids saw the shuttle on the launch pad, they were able to visualize the steps that were taken to get the shuttle to its location. During the following week and a half, we followed the crew’s progress on their telescope repairs.

The experience was definitely an educational experience enjoyed by all. There aren’t any additional improvements planned for the Hubble, so the trip was somewhat special. I’m glad we were able to expose the kids to a wonderful program and bring it close to their hearts.

Here are the launch and landing videos from MSNBC.

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Her First Art Show

On Friday, Jolie participated in her first art show. She and her teacher went through her art that she produced in her class throughout the year and chose two pieces to present. The rest of her artwork was put in her portfolio and made available for people at the art show to look through. She and her homeschool classmates’ art work was combined with the art teacher’s after school art classes’ art work to complete the show. Jolie was truly excited about the opportunity to show off her work to more that just her family.

The art teacher is offering summer classes, so Jolie will probably attend one day a week. She really enjoys the classes, so I’m willing to pay a little bit each week for her to improve her art skills, learn about artists, and have an hour each week away from her brothers.

I will reevaluate at the end of the summer and see if we choose to enroll her in classes next year.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Win a Free Rosetta Stone Latin Program

While browsing the Five J's blog (there can't be that many families of five out there that all have J names), I found out about a contest to win a free Rosetta Stone Latin program.

We have been learning Latin for a few years now. We started out with Latin's Not So Tough during the second half of Jake's second grade year. It was a nice starter program for us. We completed levels 1 and 2, but hit a roadblock in level 3. I don't necessarily think it was the program so much as Jake's learning medium had changed enough that he wasn't as interested in workbooks/worksheets any longer.

This year we have been dabbling with Getting Started With Latin and truly enjoying it. I like that we can do all of the lessons orally and that Jake is doing more than just memorizing vocabulary. Maybe it is just because he's older, but Jake really seems to be retaining much more from his Getting Started With Latin lessons than he did with Latin's Not So Tough.

I would love to win a Rosetta Stone Latin Program to further our Latin studies. Here are the rules should you also choose to enter the contest. But if you don't, that's okay too. Your lack of participation gives me a better chance to win.

Rosetta Stone is the fastest way to learn a language and has been the #1 foreign language curriculum among homeschoolers for a while — and you can WIN the *all new* version 3 Rosetta Stone Homeschool LATIN program… FOR FREE! This is the first year you can get Latin in the brand new Version III update.

This is a $259 program (and believe me it’s worth every penny!)This is a computer based curriculum and Rosetta Stone will also include a headset with microphone, and a supplementary “Audio Companion” CD so you can practice lessons in the car, on the go, or where-ever! Students participate in life-like conversations and actually produce language to advance through the program. Rosetta Stone incorporates listening, reading, grammar, vocabulary and writing along with speaking and pronunciation lessons. For parents, the new Parent Administrative Tools are integrated into the program to allow parents to easily enroll up to ten students in any of 12 predetermined lesson plans, monitor student progress, grade completed work (the program grades the work automatically as the students progress- I love that!), and you can view and print reports for transcripts. Homeschooling a lot of kids at your house? This program is designed to enroll and track up to ten students (five users on two computers) and will work for nearly all ages — from beginning readers up to college students.

To win this most excellent Latin program copy these paragraphs and post them in (or as) your next blog post, and/OR link to the contest from your facebook page and/OR email the information to your homeschool support group – Then go to the original page and leave a comment saying that you’ve posted about, or have linked to, the contest. Please make sure the link works to get back to the original contest page when you post. And good luck!

Again, head on over to Jeneric Jeneralities and enter (or not) today.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Happy Mother's Day to Me

We spent this year’s Mother’s Day with my parents. Because we weren’t going to be home for Mother’s Day itself, the kids (Justin) wanted to do Mother’s Day early. You have to understand that Justin is a terrible surprise-er…a wonderful gift giver, but terrible with surprises. Case in point, I was proposed to at a stop light, while driving two of my younger sisters to youth group, with Justin leaning through the front seats from the back seat of the car (it’s a great story that I’ll have to tell some day). He just couldn’t wait any longer. The ring had been in his possession for maybe six hours. Justin gets that excited to give me gifts, which I think is really sweet, but somewhat annoying. We’ve decided that he can’t purchase any gifts more than two days before a holiday or event, that way I only have to listen to him ask me if I want to open the gift early for at most two days.

So, last Thursday (before dinner, of course) I was presented with my presents.
1. Ice cream maker – electric and hand crank capabilities
2. Running clothes – shorts and sport top
3. Marley & Me dvd
4. Electric griddle

Needless to say, he went a bit above and beyond his gift giving limit for Mother’s Day. I have been somewhat sloppy with our budget so far this year, and am in the process of reining in our spending a bit, so although I loved all of my gifts, it seemed a bit excessive.

Ice cream maker – this has been on my Wish List for quite some time (we keep a running wish list on the refrigerator so that I know who is in need/want of what when a holiday or birthday rolls around). I am finding that we eat a good amount of ice cream. In trying to eat as healthily as possible, I purchase organic/natural ice cream without any additives. Having an ice cream maker will allow us to create the healthy(er) ice cream I feel better about feeding my family. Grade – A; good functional gift

Running clothes – these too have been on my wish list for some time. I try to run at least 10+ miles a week, and need to update my running wardrobe from the old cheerleading shorts from high school that ride up as I run and sports bras that reveal a bit more that I’d like, to something a bit more functional. This outfit is great…I will be able to wear the shorts for running or biking, and the top covers my midriff, which isn’t always my favorite feature. Grade – A-; another functional gift

Marley & Me dvd – I don’t watch much if any television except for the occasional PBS special. Instead, we have a Netflix membership and get weekly movies. Because of this, we don’t purchase many movies. If we do, they are usually just those that we have seen and truly loved. I really enjoyed the movie, although I cried my eyeballs out for what seemed like hours, but I’m not sure that it will be watched all the time, thus decreasing its functionality (we hadn’t previously seen it). Grade – B; beautiful movie, not very functional

Electric Griddle – we are breakfast people. I make a lot of pancakes, French toast, etc. Justin was trying to be sweet and get me a pan that would allow me to make more pancakes at one time so that we could all eat together. Right now, I usually stand over at the stove making pancakes while everyone else eats. I hate when food that I’ve worked hard on gets cold, so I want everyone to eat, but I too would like to be eating with them. I, however, was concerned with the non-stick coating on the pan. Plus, finding the receipt in Justin’s pants sealed this griddle’s fate. I took it back to the store and will instead add an enamel coated cast iron griddle to my Wish List. Grade – C-; functional, but not needed

I had a wonderful Mother’s Day…both early and actually on Mother’s Day. I’m hoping to finalize the updated budget and brief Justin on it in the next week or so. Then he’ll know who much he is “allowed” to spend on gifts that he has to purchase at the last minute so as not to spoil the surprises that I so love. I love you, Bub.

Just for the record...all I "asked" for for Mother's Day was a small bamboo plant. Go figure.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Beach Kids…Well, Sort Of

My hubby lived his entire childhood in the Sunshine State. I’m not sure that he actually left the state more than twice before he turned 18. Living in Florida, most people are no more than two hours from the ocean, whether it be the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. This was definitely the case for Justin. As a child, he was always at the beach. It is no surprise, then, that he took up the arts of surfing and skim boarding. You can imagine his excitement at our return to the state of his youthful adventures and his visions of spending ample time on the sandy shores, romping and playing with his family.

Daydreamed visions can be deceiving from time to time. I’m sure Justin imagined us driving the few miles from our house to the beach, jumping out of the van and running excitedly to the water, spending hour upon hour basking in the sun and enjoying the surf. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

I had a near drowning experience when I was 14, and don’t care much for the ocean. I’m not a strong swimmer, and rip currents are definitely not my friend. I prefer a river or lake to the ocean any day. Justin knows that I will not go in the water above my knees unless he is right next to me ready to save me if necessary. I am also a burner. I just think of the sun and need to reach for the aloe leaves. Instead of a tan, my freckles just connect.

Jake really enjoys the beach. Justin has started to take him out and teach him to surf. He can swim, but could use some fine tuning, which swim lessons this summer on base should help with. When he’s not trying to surf, Jake is in the water boogie boarding his heart out. If he gets tired, he’s content with building sand castles with Jolie and Jensen, but is really at home in the water.

Jolie hates the beach. She had her first Florida beach experience when she was about 6 months old. Justin dangled her feet in the ocean as a wave approached, and it was downhill from there. For a while, she hated the sand. We took a family vacation to Kitty Hawk, NC and actually had to carry her from the hotel room down to the blanket each day. She finally warmed up to stepping off the blanket the last day we were there. Now that she’s a bit older, she will walk down to the beach and actually enjoys playing in the sand. The water is another story. She, like me, prefers to stay dry at the beach.

Jensen has no fear of the water. He will take his sandals off and walk straight into the ocean. He is getting some exposure to the water and shows swimming potential. He doesn’t care for cold ocean water, but I’m sure if the jelly fish stay away this summer, he’ll be out enjoying the water with this brother and daddy.

Justin loves to surf and skim board while we’re at the beach, depending on the waves. He has gotten in the habit of checking the surf report every morning when he watches his morning news on the computer. The beach is relaxing for him, and I’m sure he’d spend as much time at the beach as possible if he could.

We may not be the picture perfect beach family, but I think we all get some much needed free recreation time during our beach adventures. I’m sure the kids will fondly remember their beach time, or at least that is what I hope. I bet Jake will be surfing before we leave Florida, Jolie and Jensen may dig their way to the center of the Earth, and once Jensen can swim, I’ll be able to relax under the umbrella and read a good book. We won’t live in Florida forever, so I hope that we can all enjoy it while it lasts.

Getting Caught Up

Much has happened since the last time I posted. One of my sisters gave me a kick in the behind to get me blogging again. It can be hard to get back into the blogging routine once I'm away from it for a few days.

I'm sorry if the next few posts are a bit out dated. Got to get everyone caught up to speed.