Tuesday, August 31, 2010

It's a wrap

Over the summer I felt a nostalgia for the wrap skirt of my past. As a girl, my mother made me quite a few of those easy wraps. I remember learning to make a square knot (as we called them....not probably Boy Scout quality) with the sashes. The wrap seemed the perfect summer skirt. One saturday I came across a yard sale with loads of patterns. Low and behold, the wrap skirt. I think it may even have been the same pattern my mom had. It looked really similar. Unfortunately it was definitely the wrong size. But, says I, how hard can it be to make a larger size? Not hard. So, pattern in hand and measuring tape by my side I plodded through. This is a reversible skirt. I regret the blue on the one side. I'll never wear it out and it's not my favorite blue. It works though.

One thing I forgot about the wrap is that it isn't always modest. Getting in and out of the car, walking in the  wind, etc. can all be a little more revealing than I am comfortable with. Marilyn Monroe I am not. But it was a fun trip down memory lane. It's a great skirt to throw on for church. My summer fling.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010



I never thought I'd say that I love a Nintendo DS game. Well, I've changed my tune. In fact, I'll go so far as to say that this little game is educational. The game is Scribblenauts. In the game you play as a character named Max. He needs to collect these little stars called starites. There are different levels in the game and the starites are placed in progressively more difficult locations. In order to get the starite you need help. Here's where the educational component comes in. To get help you have to write or type in the word of the item you want to create. For instance, if the starite is in a tree, you can type in ladder and a ladder will appear. You use the ladder to get up the tree. 

This was an easy example. Another example requires you to face a tornado or angry bees, a deadly piranha or a situation that calls for some decent imagination and problem solving. Of course knowing how to spell is essential as well. I don't ever play video games. I don't like them. I'm hooked on this one. The funniest part of this is that I am not nearly as creative as my children. For instance, I just couldn't figure out how to get rid of the piranha. I tried shooting him with a gun, I tried wearing armor, I tried using a fishing rod (he even kills you on land). I just couldn't think of what to do. I presented the problem to the kids and they fairly quickly told me to get a shark to eat him. It worked!

The reason I purchased this game was multi-faceted. I thought it would be good for spelling practice and for problem solving. I figured it could be a fun addition to our school day in small doses. In addition, it has already helped Nathan to feel successful. In fact, he was pretty proud today when he did some great problem solving that I NEVER would have come up with (he needed to get into a small space so he created a shrink ray, a man and a rock. He had to get the man to shoot him with the shrink ray so he threw the rock at him to get the man mad!). He said he was pretty proud to be smarter than his mom!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Rosary Koi

Here is a little quilt I made for my sister-in-law for her bridal shower. She loves koi and I've been trying to figure out just how to incorporate koi into a quilt for her with one of her grandmother's rosary parts. I have to admit I've been thinking on this for over 6 months. I finally determined to use English paper piecing (shell pattern) for the scales of the koi. The rest of the fabric I painted. The whole thing is hand appliqued and machine quilted. The paint ran a bit more than I thought so it sort of looks like the koi has feet. He's a bit more turtle-ish than I was planning. The broken rosary fit perfectly around his little body. I hope it will bring her fond memories for years to come.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Language Arts Puzzle

Here's post number two about curricula I'm excited about using this year. This particular curriculum is a hodge podge of language arts that I've created just for Nathan. Like I said in my chemistry post, curriculum is exciting because I can choose to use whatever they need. In the case of Nathan, he is in need of extensive language work.Here's what I've finally come up with:

  • Speech/Language therapy 45 minutes per week. You have no idea how hard it is to find a good therapist that takes your insurance. The school denied our request for speech therapy. They never deny our tax money, do they? We love Miss Patty and I'm thrilled to be working with her. I mean, I'm thrilled Nathan will be working with her.
  • Social Skills group 1/x per month. This is run by Miss Patty and an OT. They ran a group over the summer that Nathan participated in and will continue with a few of the boys over the school year. 
  • Mobile Therapy, 2 hours/week. To work on social skills and anxiety. We're still waiting on the therapist. You have no idea how long it takes to get things up and running. Lets pray for a good MT.
  • Reading Fish comprehension program. This program will be used intensively for the first two months of school. It focuses on visual imagery and cognitive skills training. I bought the ebook for $19. 
  • Earobics for Adolescents. Earobics is a program I looked into when Nathan was very young. It is a reading program for kids with auditory processing difficulties. Nathan learned to read very easily and so I didn't think this program would benefit him. Now I am wondering if he doesn't have some auditory processing issues. I was able to find the program on ebay for very cheap and plan to use it as a fun school activity. Nathan loves using the computer and needs to have some part of school that isn't stressful.
  • Vocabulary Cartoons. This book is amazing. I feel like I've been looking for it Nathan's whole academic career. Nathan is a visual learner. Teaching him vocabulary with only words is like teaching ESL by speaking louder. This book uses rhyming and visual mnemonics to teach vocabulary. Example: Abduct. Sounds like duck. The page includes the definition and sentences but also a cartoon of robbers at a lake sneaking off with ducks under their arms. I used the book with Nathan for a week to test the waters. He was able to memorize five words, tell me the definitions and use the words in a sentence after only three days of five minutes a day. This is amazing for him. The book also includes a review test after every ten words.
  • What Did You Say? What Do You Mean? This book was written to help kids with Asperger's understand idioms. It also involves pictures (many of them silly). I bought this book last year and never used it. Since Miss Patty was working on idioms with Nathan I figured I'd do so as well.
  • Teaching Writing Structure and Style. I used this last year and Nathan was very successful with it. It is very structured and involves teaching writing not by making the kids come up with their own stories but by outlining something already written and rewriting the story. I'll focus on research writing with him later in the year and simple informational writing at the beginning. Writing will be used mostly in conjunction with history and science. 
  • Math class and orchestra. What???? Yes, I consider these part of Nathan's language arts curriculum. I signed him up for Algebra 1 with a local co-op. Math is one of his best subjects and I think he needs to be challenged with a class outside our house. He needs to be with kids his own age. Orchestra I consider to be good for his brain. He really takes in the music and again, will have social opportunities with kids who are genuinely nice to him. Kids who have gone out of their way to greet him and talk to him. 
Well, this turned into a long post, didn't it? Most of you won't use this curriculum for your kids. Maybe you will find something that works. I can't tell you how many hours I spend looking for just the right thing. Hopefully this post will save some of you time and effort. I'll keep you posted on Nathan's progress throughout the school year. I'm most interested to see how the Reading Fish program works for him.
Teaching Writing Structure and StyleVocabulary Cartoons: Building an Educated Vocabulary With Visual MnemonicsWhat Did You Say? What Do You Mean?: An Illustrated Guide to Understanding MetaphorsEarobics 1 for Adolescents and Adults Home Version (Sound Foundations for Reading and Spelling)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Real Science 4 Kids

Real Science-4-Kids, Chemistry Level II, Student TextbookAs a homeschooling mom, I love planning curricula. I love the catalogues, the books, the ideas, the choices, the freedom! Freedom? Yes, the freedom to choose to teach my children in ways they will enjoy and be captivated (I hope). That being said, sometimes they have to work on things they don't enjoy. That's life, right? Well, I thought I'd do a few posts about some of the curricula I've chosen this year that has me excited. These aren't in any particular order. Although my children always ask me what favorites I have, I hate choosing one thing over another. So, as I said before, these posts won't be in any particular order.

Nolan has always had an interest in chemistry. Just yesterday when we were making pasta he asked what made the bubbles in the boiling water. I was surprised by this question as I know he knows heat makes water boil (212 degrees F., right?). Yes, he knew that. What he wondered was why the bubbles formed in the water? What made the air pockets? Where did the air come from? 

Of course, if I had had my brain together, I could have talked about H2O. My brain wasn't together, we needed to eat and get to a piano lesson. So.....I just told him it was good he would be studying chemistry this year. Not a proud homeschooling mom moment. Reality is, I am glad he will be studying chemistry. He asks me questions I can't answer all the time.

In the past, I've always followed The Well Trained Mind when it came to science. One topic per year in four year cycles (Biology, Earth Science/Astronomy, Chemistry, Physics). Use a spine science book (generally from Usborne or Kingfisher), read, experiment, sketch, write. The only downside to this method was that I was having to decide which topics to cover. So, when it came to chemistry this year, I wasn't feeling confident in my ability to pick the correct topics in the correct order, etc. I went on a search. 

I discovered Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry Level 2. This is real chemistry. I took chemistry in my junior year of high school. That was a long time ago. To be honest, I didn't actually understand it then (although I loved all the math that went with it). I really wanted Nolan to have the opportunity to study chemistry in a systematic but enjoyable way. This curriculum does it. I bought the ebook because it was more updated than the paper copy (and less expensive, too). A teacher's manual and lab book are available, too.

The program is only 10 lessons long but I think we'll have plenty to work on. To be honest, there were lots of things I didn't remember learning (what's a mole?). Here are the chapters:

  1. Matter, Mass and Moles
  2. Chemical Bonding
  3. Chemical Reactions
  4. Acids, Bases, and pH
  5. Acid-Base Reactions
  6. Mixtures
  7. Separating Mixtures
  8. The Chemistry of Carbon
  9. Polymers
  10. Biological Polymers
This level 2 program is geared for 7-9th grades. I read all of the first two chapters and felt it very challenging stuff but well explained (ie: I was able to understand it after thinking A LOT). Since Nolan tends to be smarter than I am and can remember many more things than I can, I think he'll be fine. We'll take it slow unless he wants to move faster. The chapters are colorful with lots of large diagrams and pictures. The end of each chapter includes a summary and study questions. There is a lab for each chapter that utilizes the scientific method and encourages the student to come up with his own experiments. 

CHEM C2000 Intermediate Chemistry KitThe Mystery of the Periodic Table (Living History Library)My hope is to purchase a chemistry set for Nolan at Christmas to further enhance this program and to keep his interest. I also have the book The Mystery of the Periodic Table to include in his study. He loves to read and so I am always trying to find living books to incorporate in every lesson.

Real Science 4 Kids is published by Gravitas Publications. It seems to be a growing company with new products every time I look at the web site. The Level 1 (grades 4-6) programs include Biology, Chemistry and Physics. They also have Pre level 1 for early elementary. Check out their web site for more information.

I'll keep you posted on Nolan's progress with this program throughout the year. We start school on August 30th so we have just a few more days of summer. Look for more posts about my favorite curricula for this year in the days ahead. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Favorite Summer Lunch

We've been trying to eat healthier this year. It all started out because Mike was having a lot of joint pain in his hands. For a musician that is really scary. As he looked into possible causes, wheat allergies came to the forefront. So, in desperation, he stopped eating all grains. His pain went away. His skin cleared up. His sinuses stopped draining. He lost weight. 

Needless to say, he has continued eating naturally and mostly grain free. I'd like to find out more specifically which grain he is allergic to. Is it wheat, corn or something else? He doesn't really care. To accommodate him, I've vastly changed the way I cook and the type of foods around the house. I buy very little that is processed. We buy our fruits and veggies at market twice a week. We're looking at planting a garden. 
So the picture above is my favorite summer lunch. The lettuce changes depending on what I find at market but the rest is pretty standard: red pepper, carrot, cucumber (always peeled...I hate the skin), goat feta (made here in Lancaster county), tomato and calamata olives. Although I should make my own dressing, I'm lazy and partial to Neuman's Own Olive Oil and Vinegar. Yum, Yum. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Taking a Hard Look

I don't like to say no. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. If I can help, I will. Sometimes, even if I really can't help or don't have the time, or see that it really isn't what my kids need, I do it anyway.

As the school year is approaching I have found myself in a few situations where I tried to fit in activities or classes to please other people. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to remind myself that my priority is to my children, not others. Don't get me wrong, these other people aren't pressuring me to be involved nor are they guilting me into anything. I don't need the guilt of others, I've got lots of my own. It's all me.

I'm learning. Slowly. I've been able to say no this year. I've been taking a good, hard look at what my boys need academically, socially and most importantly, spiritually. That means doing for them, not for others. It means going against the flow. It means leaving old groups and joining new ones. It means pushing them and myself into sometimes uncharted waters. It feels uncomfortable at times. Other times it is freeing.

So I'm finishing out the summer months trying to remember that it's o.k. to put ourselves first for a change. I know that if we are worn out and over extended, we are no good to anyone. To fill my own cup means that I will always have something left over for others. I want my cup to be full. I want to have enough to share.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Of skirts and roses

I know, I know. Several days (or was it weeks) ago I said I'd post some of the sewing I'd completed this summer. Here's a not-so-great view of the skirt I made from the Sew Serendipity book. I really love this skirt and want to make a few more. I didn't add any of the "extras" that abound in the book. She shows you how to add ruffles and edging and pockets and ruffles on the pockets, etc. Too be honest, I'm not quite that fancy. But....I do love the way she puts in a zipper and I also adore the fact that her models come in all shapes and sizes. Different body shapes and sizes really change the way a dress or skirt look. It's nice to be able to see how something may look on YOU (not the skinny, flat chested model) before you expend the money and energy making something. I've gotten a lot of compliments on this skirt and it truly was very simple to make. I did find the sizing to be a bit off. But, it could just be me, not the pattern. Maybe I'm measuring myself wrong. On the upside.....I was able to use a smaller size than I thought, so I'm not complaining!

Here's a picture from the yard that I wanted to share. It made me think of these words:
Hope amidst despair. 
Mike and I have destroyed one of my flower beds in an attempt to eradicate the bamboo that had taken over. As you can see, we are still in the process of digging out all the bamboo roots. This isn't going to be a quick process. I'm learning that few things worth doing are fast and easy. This morning I noticed that the roses that live on the side of this bed have really blossomed (pun intended). I think perhaps giving them some freedom from the bamboo and day lilies that were crowding around has helped. Of course, I know nothing about roses so who knows why they are looking so beautiful. It is so nice to sit here at the laptop and see their beauty amid the mess. Let us always look for the beauty no matter the mess we see.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Shameless post #2 pride and bragging

After the show....drama in a tree.
more hunters
The hunter
After bragging up my husband in the last post, I thought I'd brag up my son in this one. Nolan spent the last week at camp. Broadway Choir Camp.Yes, folks, we are thrilled that in our very own town we have the opportunity to send our dramatic son to a camp where he gets to perform for only pennies an hour. And the shows are GREAT! 

Nolan as (insert your own think here).
In the past Nolan has been involved in School House Rock, Jr. and Godspell, Jr. This year he was able to participate in Seussical the Musical, Jr. He even had a little solo (he was Yurtle the Turtle, judge). I can't say enough great things about Lori, the director. She really whips those kids into shape. 
Nolan as Yurtle the Turtle, judge, with the birds in the background.
Needless to say, Nolan is tired. Well, exhausted may be a better word for it. It was a great week and a great experience for him. I'm sure there will be much more theater in his future. Actually, with him, every day feels like a dramatic show!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Innocence Mission or shameless promotion post

Don, Karen and my hubby, Mike trying hard to like photo shoots.
It's funny how often I forget that my husband is a rock and roll superstar. When I first met him the band was in the throws of a record deal with a national label. Mike was at my high school graduation party and when he was asked where he went to school (meaning college...he's 5 years older than I) he responded, "I went to the school of hard knocks." How rock and roll is that??? (If you knew my husband, this was actually just his way of avoiding all the questions about why he quit college to be a musician.)

When we started dating he was just home from recording a new album in New York. Several months after we started dating and falling in love he was off on a cross country tour while I was a college senior trying not to cry my eyes out every night. You should read the letters I wrote to him.....SAPPY! So, we got married and then he left to record another album. I have a special fondness for Glow. It was the album that happened while we were dating, got married and through till Nathan was born. So much of our early life together.

I start to forget that not everyone has multiple guitars and a giant amplifier in their living room. That most people do not decorate their dining rooms around a double bass. That when cleaning out the basement, most wives don't have to ask their husband if he plans on using the giant, metal, foam-filled guitar flight case in the future or can we get rid of it? It is just such a part of life.

Mike doesn't tour the country anymore (although I think he'd probably like to do it one more time). He'll be the first to tell you how unglamorous it is. He'll be the last to tell you that the band has been on the David Letterman show and NPR. He's the most un-rock star like person you'll ever meet. I couldn't have married him otherwise. So, maybe he isn't quite the rock superstar I make him out to be, but I love the music and think everyone should, too.

Here's the new record, My Room in the Trees. Mike is the bass player. He likes to stay in the background. Karen and Don are great friends and write terrific music. You couldn't meet more lovely people if you went out searching. That shows in the music. Click here for a free mp3 download of one of the new songs. Click here for the official web site. Now, go out and buy the CD. You'll be happy you did.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Do you remember how slowly time went by when you were young? Especially when looking forward to some exciting occasion? Christmas was the slowest to arrive yet seemed to last for more than 24 hours. Each moment seemed to stretch into a small eternity. No more.

I don't like to vacation early in the summer. I like to have something gorgeous to look forward to during the hot and hazy days. The years we've gone away in June happened WAY too quickly. At least by saving the vacation until August it seems to slow time down ever such a little bit.

Of course, I'm sitting here typing on the Monday morning AFTER our vacation. We vacation simply for many reasons. The first reason is financial but really, it is the way we prefer. So, we spent a wonderful day at Hershey Park. The weather was beautiful, not too hot, not too cold. The kids had a glorious time. I can remember thinking my mom was such a doofus because she got sick on rides. Guess what??? I'm a doofus. The older I get, the more nauseous I become on rides. I blame the kids. When I was young I could (and did) ride anything. After child birth it started with the spinning rides. Yep, felt like morning sickness all over again. This year I discovered that I get nauseous on roller coasters too. I rode a couple anyway....that's just the kind of gal I am. My favorite ride???? The bumper cars. Ok, I loved Zoo America, too.
The ocean in the morning
Mike commented that when he was a kid there was NO WAY he would go to Zoo America. We feel fortunate that our kiddos enjoy both things....the thrill of the ride and the contemplation of the animal.
Burying his brother in the sand.
The end of the week we spent camping at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware. We love it there. I woke every morning to the most amazing bird song. It was joy in the dawn. It was odd to see so many trees and no squirrels, though. We did see a few dolphins when we walked to the beach one morning.
My sand angel
My favorite moment? Watching the boys run into the ocean with joyous rapture on their faces. My boys love the water. It was especially wonderful to see Nathan happy. He's a teenager and often sullen. I think it is some combination of teenager and autism that makes him often reclusive and his face a mask of indifference. My mother's heart breaks so often at the apparent lack of joy in his life. I hope and pray it is just a phase. So my heart was full for a few days to see my young man show outward signs of happiness. We must get to the beach more often.
Boogie board mania.
It rained the night we were intending to head out to the boardwalk. The boys were disappointed but we assured them we would spend our last afternoon there. It was hot, to be sure. We walked, we wandered into shops and then began searching for a lunch spot. Nathan disdained every little restaurant at which we browsed. Why can't a teen ager just let his wishes be known ahead of time? Pizza? Sure. Oh....pizza on the boardwalk, not in town? Sure. Thanks for telling us. So, pizza at Grotto's (yum) in a sit down booth (thank you Lord), three times in a row on the crazy spinning ride (kids only....how can they spin that fast after eating all that pizza and not throw up???). Ice cream on the way to the car. Nathan told us he was so happy we decided to go to the boardwalk last because he likes to save the best for last. Bliss.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do It Yourself Book (hey....they're writing and I didn't ever ask them too!)
Now we're back to the old grind. Nolan is at camp this week and I must eradicate bamboo. Don't ask. It's horrible. Cooking camp is off but I did offer Nathan 5 days of school credit if he started in on some of his work. His choice. He thought about it for quite a while and then said ok. I told him I'd give him the mornings to himself (while I struggle with the bamboo) and then we'd start in on school after lunch. I really love having some wiggle room to take days off during the school year. 
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