Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Girls' Day Out

The girls are studying Tchaikovsky this year in music, and for the past nine weeks, we have listened to various pieces from The Nutcracker.  They fell in love with the story and enjoyed listening to the music during lunch, so taking them to see a live performance was pretty high up there on my list of things to do in December.  I was delighted to learn that the Beaumont Civic Ballet put on a performance, which meant I wouldn't have to deal with Houston traffic!  Score!!  Plus I ordered our tickets early enough that I was able to get us front row seats!  (This ended up being great for the eyes, but the ears may have paid a small price for it since there are speakers along the edge of the stage at the Julie Rogers Theater.)

The girls and I decided it would be fun to invite the grandmas to join us for a Girls' Day Out.  I'm not a "girlie" girl by any stretch of the imagination, but I did think it would be fun to eat lunch at a tea room, then head to the ballet.  It turns out that none of the tea rooms in our area are open on Saturday, though, so we all agreed on Olive Garden instead.

Before we left, the girls each gave one of their grandmothers a nutcracker ornament to hang on their tree so they would always remember our special day.

Here are the girls and the grandmas.  Meemaw is holding her Nutcracker ornament.

Here we are, all dressed up and ready to go!
 I didn't know what the quality of the performance would be like since we stayed in Beaumont rather than heading to Houston, but it was truly wonderful!  Millie got excited when she recognized the Mouse King, and at one point I looked a few seats down to see Hannah's face, and she was literally on the edge of her seat, beaming with excitement.  My heart soared!

I thought the performance was spectacular, as did the girls, but it brought a smile to face when I opened the mailbox yesterday and found these two thank-yous waiting inside.

I definitely think this whole experience was a Christmas tradition in the making!

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's Not a Goodbye—It's Just a See You Later!

Today was such a bittersweet day.  I had a church work day last Saturday, and when I got home, my mom had left a message asking me to call her back because she had some very sad news.  I knew what it was before I ever returned her call.  Grandpa had died.  And today was his memorial service.

It's hard to explain how I felt when I found out he had passed away.  There was a part of me that was excited to imagine all that he might be seeing and hearing and feeling as he left this life behind to experience God in a whole new way.  And I was also relieved that he wasn't suffering anymore.  I had just been up to see him two weeks before, and he looked like he was barely hanging on.  His breathing was labored, and he slept through most of the visit.
But there's another side of me that was just sad.  Sad that I didn't go visit more often.  Sad that I didn't listen a little harder and ask a few more questions.  Sad that my mom and dad lost their last living parent.  Sad that my kids lost the only great-grandparent they ever knew.  But at the same time, I'm comforted by so many wonderful childhood memories, some of which I think of often and others which I had forgotten until I heard my brother share them at the memorial service today. 

Memories like our weekend fishing trips at Old Gulf when I was a kid and at the cabin when I was a teenager.  Old Gulf was always fun because I got to drive his light blue and white Chevrolet pick-up truck, and we would have a huge crab boil before we went home on Sunday.  Memories like all the outings he took David and me on.  We went to the Imperial Sugar refinery, to Texas Gulf, to the park in Rosenberg with a rocket jungle gym and a spiral slide.  He would just watch patiently for a couple of hours while we played.    Memories like how he would swish my bath water for me to get out all the cold spots when I went to stay with them for a few days every summer.  Memories like the prayers I heard him say before Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner throughout my entire childhood and part of my adulthood, as well.  Memories like how I honestly thought my Grandpa was the smartest man in the world and there was nothing he didn't know!  And precious, treasured memories of how he would interact with others.  My grandpa was truly a gentleman.  He was well-mannered at all times, he was never one to gossip, and he was always very gracious in his speech.

If I can't have Grandpa forever, then I'll take all the memories I can.  And I'll cherish every one.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Show & Tell: Adventures Week 16

Today we wrapped up Week 16, our final week of school for 2010!

Bible was especially sweet this week, as we spent time focusing on Jesus as Emmanuel.  We learned that Emmanuel means "God with us," and we sang "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" every morning at breakfast.  It was such a blessing to kick off the Christmas season with that as our focus!  And I love the fact that I didn't even plan it.  God orchestrated the timing on that one!  Hannah's thinking was definitely challenged this week, as she is having a hard time grasping that Jesus was fully God and fully man all at the same time.  I'm just going to have to trust the Holy Spirit to explain that one more fully to her! 

In U.S. History, we learned that two more states—Rhode Island and Vermont—were added to the country.

When we studied Vermont, we learned that it leads the nation in maple syrup production.  Sounded like a good reason to have breakfast for dinner to me!  We cooked some pancakes, and everyone in our family tasted pure maple syrup for the first time.  We unanimously agreed that it was delicious!  :)

We also learned about Daniel Boone and his Wilderness Road, which was a trail he marked that stretched from the East Coast to Kentucky.  If my kids don't remember anything else about Daniel Boone, I think they'll always remember that he had a gun named "Tick-licker!"  Actually, we all got a kick out of that one!  And Hannah felt like it would have been an appropriate name for Sheba, too!  :)

In Science, we learned that hot air expands and cold air contracts.  We did a couple of activities to demonstrate.

First, to demonstrate that hot air expands, we made a small dent in a ping pong ball.

Then we placed the ball in a glass with hot water and put a plate over the top to trap in the heat. 

In theory, the hot water should have heated up the air inside the ping pong ball, causing it to expand so much that it would push the dent right out.  In theory.  But in reality, this is what we got ...

So the next day, after reading the helpful tips from the wonderful moms on the My Father's World message board who have walked the path before me, we challenged the ping pong ball to a rematch.  This time, we were determined not to lose!  Here's what happened ...

We also used our new knowledge that hot air expands to make a quarter jump.  First, we put a quarter on an empty sparkling grape juice bottle.  (Can I just say that my kids love it when science calls for a bottle and they get to drink some sparkling grape juice?!  It almost beats birthdays.  Almost.)

Next, we put the bottle in a stock pot and filled the stock pot with hot water. 

The heat from the water heated up the air inside the bottle, and when the heated air expanded, it made the quarter jump up.  Now, I know it sounds really impressive, and I'm not too proud to admit that I had the camera ready so I could catch the quarter as it jumped several inches into the air.  But, um, when Usborne says the quarter will "jump," they don't mean an "Air Jordan" kind of a jump.  They mean a geriatric exercise class kind of a jump.  Take a look ...

(If anyone knows how to rotate a video, please feel free to leave me a comment with instructions! Meanwhile, I'll try to hold the camera the right way while I'm filming. Yes, I know I used to be a technology teacher, but that honestly feels like a lifetime ago!)

And to demonstrate that cold air contracts, we put a couple inches of crushed ice in an empty soda bottle and put the lid on.  We were amazed at the change that occurred in just a couple of minutes as the ice cooled down the air inside the bottle.

We also learned that heat rises, and we did an activity to demonstrate this, as well.  Hannah cut a "snake" out of a piece of paper, and we held it above some boiling water to see what would happen.

Since this is our last week of school for 2010, which means a massive clean-out will most likely take place around here really soon, I want to make sure to document the results of some of our earlier science experiments.

Back in Week 11, we put a wet piece of bread in one baggie and a dry piece of bread in another.  They have been setting on a shelf in my garage cabinets for 5 weeks now, so I fully expected to see mold everywhere!  But surprisingly, this is what we found we got it out today:

This is the dry piece.

And this is the wet piece.  If you squint reeeeally hard, you can see a tiny bit of mold.
Goodness gracious, what kind of preservatives do they put in this stuff?  And I have to say, it has made me wonder what in the world my insides must look like!  When I die, will my body ever return to dust, or will my fully preserved body rise to meet Christ in the air someday?!

And in Week 14, we opened a gourmet bird buffet in the backyard.  Well, the squirrels ate the berry and popcorn garland, and they figured out how to open up the door on the cake and suet feeders, but they weren't able to mess with the thistle seed feeder at all!  And we are happy to report that we now have a rather large goldfinch family that has decided to take up residence with us!  We have had so much fun watching them, partially because they're just fun to watch, but partially because we finally had success just getting birds at our house, which, for us, is quite an accomplishment. 

All in all, it was another great week!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Easy, Breezy, Beautiful COVER GIRL!

Today I am one proud aunt!  (Even though, technically, I'm just a first cousin once removed.  But that's how we do things in Texas.)  :)

Baby Sydney is on the cover of this month's Houston Family Magazine!!!  And just in case you're not putting it together yet, this is Chuck and Nat's baby . . . you know, the one you prayed for!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Just in Case . . .

Just in case you ever take your 7-year-old daughter to a birthday party
and while she's painting her pottery, her gum falls out of her mouth and lands on her jeans,
and she tries to clean it up by herself
but her clean-up attempt only manages to smear it into the fabric really well,
and you have to leave the party to go to the nearest store and buy her another pair of jeans so she doesn't stick to everything,
but you still have the first pair of gum-covered jeans to clean up . . .

. . . just in case that ever happens to you, this is all you need to do the job:

Just in case.  :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Show & Tell: Adventures Week 15

I know I usually dive right in and start our weekly wrap-up with Hannah's school, but Millie has some


to share!  It all started on Tuesday when her worksheet had a sight word on it . . .

. . . which made me wonder if maybe—just maybe—she could be ready for the Bob Books Mrs. Cyndy gave her for her birthday.  I knew right where to find them because of my keen organizational skills spent a good half hour trying to find them in the abyss we call "the school closet." I finally got my hands on them, and we gave them a try.  She did it!  She read her first book!  She was so excited, she called Greg at work and luckily got him right before practice started.  They made a reading date for later that night when he got home.

So Tuesday was the first day ever that both of my kids were reading in bed during quiet time.  And believe me when I say those Bob Books have gone everywhere with us since then.  They even ride in the basket of her bike when we go around the block.  :)

And another big accomplishment in Pre-K . . . she made it to the half-way point on her 100 Chart!

Every day she adds one cube to her Unifix "train."  Then she counts by 10s up to the number of the day (e.g., 10-20-30-40-41-42-43.) 

Today she made it up to 50!

Proudly holding her 100 Chart with 5 rows finished and 5 rows left to go!
Then she writes the number on her 100 Chart and counts by 1's all the way up to the number of the day.  Finally—finally—she has learned that 9 is a special number that introduces the next family.  For the longest time, she would say "28-29-2010-2011."  :)

Now for Hannah and Adventures in My Father's World . . .

This week we looked at the next four states to be added to the union:  New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, and North Carolina. 

Filling out the front side of her New York state sheet.

Underlining the facts she thought were interesting on the back.

*****TRUE STORY*****

While Hannah was filling out her New York state sheet, I was telling her that Grandma was actually born in New York and moved here when she was 12. 

She looked at her U.S. map to see how far it was from New York to Texas and said, "She probably flew in an airplane, huh?"

I said, "I'm not sure about that.  You'll have to ask her."

Then she said, "Wait . . . they probably didn't have airplanes back then, did they?"


It's hard to study New York without taking a look at . . .

The Statue of Liberty!
We painted paper plates to make her crown . . .

. . . and wound ribbon around a paper towel tube for the torch, with a little yellow tissue paper for the flame.
We learned that the Statue of Liberty is green because of oxidation, and we did an activity to turn some pennies the same green color.

We took two pennies . . .

See how nice and shiny the tails are?
. . . and placed them on a vinegar-soaked paper towel in a bowl. 

The heads are nice and shiny, too!
After just 24 hours, this is what our pennies looked like!

Interestingly, it was only the heads (the side that was up) that were discolored.  The tails, which were actually touching the vinegar, still looked like new!

We also compared the size of the Statue of Liberty and Hannah.

Hannah's mouth:  2 inches.
Statue of Liberty's mouth:  3 feet.
(Hannah guessed 1 foot.)

Hannah's nose:  1 1/2 inches.
Statue of Liberty's nose:  4 feet 6 inches.
(Hannah guessed 2 feet.)

Hannah's right arm:  1 foot 9 inches.
Statue of Liberty's right arm:  42 feet.
(Hannah guessed 20 feet.)

Hannah's height:  4 feet 5 inches.
Statue of Liberty's height:  305 feet 1 inch.
(Hannah guessed 285 feet.)

Then we went outside and measured 305 feet 1 inch to see how tall this lady really is.

This gives you an idea of the size of the Statue of Liberty.  In this picture, I'm standing on the ground, and Hannah is at the top of her torch.  See her inside the red oval?  (The red arrow is pointing to it.)  Squint a little harder . . . a little harder . . . there!  (If you still can't see it, you can click on the image to enlarge it.)
Next, we shifted our attention to another popular New York attraction:  Niagara Falls.  Hannah read this book, which she really enjoyed . . .

. . . and then we made our own waterfall to demonstrate that water is always seeking the lowest point.

Our water faucet "river" flowed into our milk jug "lake."  When the lake filled up, a waterfall was created as the water continued its journey to the ocean.
When we studied North Carolina, we talked about the Wright Brothers.  I was kind of surprised that both girls already knew their story, apparently from a Magic School Bus DVD we have.  (We're big Magic School Bus fans around here!)

They did learn, though, that their first flight took place in 1903 (so yes, Hannah, Grandma very well could have flown on an airplane!) and that it only lasted 12 seconds.  We each designed our own paper airplanes to see how long they could fly.  

The best we got was 3 seconds.  We definitely need to redo that activity with Daddy here.  I think paper airplanes are just a "guy thing."  :)

Yes, Hannah and I had fun with our states this week; and yes, Millie read her first book.  But that all faded in comparison to our Bible study.  It's so much fun now that we're really studying Scripture together and not just memorizing verses.  (Not that I think memorizing verses is a bad thing.  It's a great thing!  But you know what I mean . . . I hope!) 

Yesterday we read through 1 Corinthians 13 (the "Love" chapter) together.  The ladies at our church have been taking a look at Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages for the past couple of weeks, and it has given me so much insight into what makes Hannah tick.  That coupled with going through this chapter verse by verse and coming up with examples of what each "love is" and "love is not" statement might look like when it's lived out was just an amazingly sweet time of sharing, and it gave me still more insight into who Hannah is.  I praise God for the words we shared together.  It's a privilege to be with my children every day and it's an honor to be the one who gets to teach them, but there's no feeling in the world like realizing that you really know them, and that's where we seem to be heading right now.

Next week is our last week of 2010.  We've been going at it since early August, so I'm sure we'll all enjoy a little time off!  :)

If you want a peek at school in others' homes this week, you can visit Kris' Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers or Jen's Wrapping Up the Week at Forever, For Always, No Matter What.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Lighter Side of Life

Ready for more laughable moments from the past couple of weeks?

Mom reminded me of this story after my last "The Lighter Side of Life" post . . . Remember when we went to meet author Jodi Johnson a few weeks ago?  Well, she gave each child a goodie bag with treasures like a cookie, a bookmark, a pencil, etc., and she specifically pointed out that their bags contained a JoJo & Duddi Fantastical, Magical, Test-Taking #2 Pencil.  Millie doesn't understand what a test is, let alone a #2 pencil, but she's heard enough fairy tales that the "magical" part of that comment caught her attention. 

That night we were driving to a restaurant, and out of the blue Millie said, "It's broken."  I said, "What's broken, Millie?"  And she replied, "Well, I'm waving my pencil around like this [picture a magic wand] and asking it for a kitten, but it's not giving me anything!"


The Halloween candy saga continues . . . Remember last time I told you how Hannah embraced the "trick" part of trick-or-treating by asking our neighbor for candy nearly two weeks early?  Well, we were at that very neighbor's house the evening before Halloween, and Greg said, "I heard Hannah came trick-or-treating to your house a little early this year!"  Mr. Taggart chuckled and said, "Yeah.  And from what I gather, she's been knocking on everyone's door and telling them what kind of candy she wants." 

Sure enough . . . she had been telling the neighbors that she would be trick-or-treating this year and what her favorite kinds of candy were.  Granted, we live in what could basically be described as a retirement community (except for my cousin across the street and some new neighbors next door to him) and we haven't had any trick-or-treaters in the 11 years we've lived here, so Hannah just wanted to make sure she wasn't catching anyone off guard.  But seriously . . . candy requests?!!!


At dinner one night, we were talking about where our food comes from.  Millie was trying to take it all in, and she said, "So we get meat from dead cows and dead pigs?"  I nodded my head and added, "And chickens and turkeys."  She thought for a second and—completely serious—added, "And cats."



Greg walked through the door one night with a bouquet of flowers for me.  (If you're tempted to get jealous—please don't!  The following reaction will let you know how often that happens around here!)  Hannah got this worried look on her face and said, "What is it, Dad?  Is it Mom's birthday today?  Did we forget to get a card?"


And finally, Hannah went to choose a book from the book basket one day and found one entitled A More Perfect Union.  She picked it up, flipped through the pages, then said, "This one says it's about a perfect onion!"

Glad they keep me smilin'.  Some days, it's the only thing that keeps them alive!  ;)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Joisey, Baby!

I've been pleasantly surprised over the past two weeks to see how much Hannah is enjoying her bird studies in science.  She has taken a liking to one bird in particular:  the goldfinch.  She likes the goldfinch so much, in fact, that she wanted to do her co-op presentation on it.  The problem?  It was Geography Day.  What to do, what to do?  With a little coaxing, she agreed to do her presentation over New Jersey since the goldfinch is its state bird and she would at least be able to talk about it a little bit.

We pulled some interesting New Jersey facts from our Adventures in My Father's World state sheet and some interesting goldfinch facts from Birds, Nests, and Eggs and assembled them into a book for her to read to her friends.  We did a similar project for China a few years ago (ABC's of China), and she still reads it to this day.

Here's the finished product.  (You might have to click the images to enlarge.)

It was quick and easy, and if it's anything like her China book, it will be one she revisits often!

Show & Tell: Adventures Week 14

This week we wrapped up Week 14 of Adventures in My Father's World.  (Week 13 is a special 3-day Thanksgiving unit, so we're postponing it for another two weeks.)

Bible was the highlight of our week again this week.  Our verse was, "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me'" (John 14:6).   We read John 14:1-11 to hear the verse in context.  Next we got out a map of our county, and I had Hannah find various routes from Point A to Point B.  For example, she found multiple ways to get from our house to co-op and our house to the grocery store.  Then we talked about how there are lots of ways you can go to get somewhere when you travel, but when you're talking about Heaven, there's only one way to get there:  believing in Jesus. 

We went on to read Acts 4:12:  "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."  This led to a great discussion about different names people sometimes use for God (Allah, Buddha, even "God" when it's just a generic god they've made up and not the one true God of the Bible who exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and how these are really just false Gods. 

We also read Matthew 7:13-14:  "Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."  Hannah drew the two paths on the dry erase board so we could have a visual:

Here's her picture of the wide path leading to fire and the narrow path leading to the crown.  I asked her, "Do you think most people will choose this path?" which is why there's a huge yes on the wide path and a no on the narrow path.  That definitely looked strange to me, and I guess it looked strange to her, too, because she went back and added "tec. yes" to clarify that technically, yes, you should choose the narrow path; and "tec. no" to clarify that, no, you shouldn't choose the wide path.

In history this week, we learned about about the next four states that were added to the union, which were Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, and South Carolina.

Our science typically branches off of our Bible, but for the past two weeks it has branched off of our history instead.  Since our year includes an overview of the 50 states and every state has a state bird, we're doing a unit on birds.  Our week was full of bird activities this week!

First, we learned that a robin (the state bird of Connecticut) can eat up to 14 feet of worms in a day!  Hannah and Millie measured out 14 feet, and let me tell ya, that's a lot of worms for one little bird to eat!

We also learned that a chickadee (the state bird of Massachusetts) weighs the same as 4 pennies!

We made several birdfeeders to put in the yard.  Honestly, I have no idea how successful this will be.  I can see us having lots of birds because there isn't as much food around as there is during the spring, but I can also see us not having many birds at all because they've all flown south for the winter.  I guess time will tell!

We put a wild bird seed cake in the backyard.

We put a berry and seed suet feeder in the front yard.

We put a soda bottle birdfeeder and a thistle seed feeder in the backyard.

We even used all of these ingredients . . .

. . . to make a popcorn and berry garland in the back yard.  Or a bird k'bob, as Hannah calls it.  :)  And if we end up with no birds after all of this, then there just aren't any to be found this time of year!
And it's not really fair for the birds to be the only ones who get a treat, so we made some edible bird nests for a special snack one day.

A little shredded wheat "grass," chow mein noodle "twigs," and chocolate and peanut butter "mud" . . .

. . . along with some jellybean eggs, and you have one delicious nest!

Hannah has really enjoyed the bird study more than I thought she would.  In fact, she fell so in love with the goldfinch that she decided to do this week's co-op presentation on New Jersey just so she could talk about it!

While we had the popcorn popper out for our bird activity, we made a little extra so we could try a project we read about in Farmer Boy.  Supposedly, if you fill one glass with milk and another with popped popcorn, you can add the popcorn to the milk one kernel at a time without the milk overflowing.  Supposedly.  Here's our experience:

Here's our full cup of milk and our full cup of popped popcorn.

Here are the first few pieces going in.  So far, so good!

She continued adding the popcorn . . .

. . . one piece at a time.  And the end result . . .

Apparently we're not nearly as talented as Almonzo Wilder!  :)
 In math this week, Hannah started a unit on division.  The Halloween candy called out to me and begged to be used as a manipulative!  I gave her 12 pieces of candy, and she divided it different ways.

She saw that if there was only one person to "divide" the candy between, that person would make out like a bandit!

She also saw that it could be divided equally between two people if she and Millie had to split it . . .

. . . between three people if she and Millie had Rachel spend the night . . .

. . . between four people if she and Millie had to share it evenly with Mom and Dad . . .

. . . and even between six people if Michael and Sabrina came to eat with our family one night.
And just to throw a little nature study into the mix, take a look at the spider the girls found outside their window one day while they were playing in their room!

This is the best picture I was able to take of the web, which is what they were really fascinated with . . .

. . . but check out the spider itself!  Doesn't it look like a smiley face?  It made me wonder if God knew at the time He created that spider that I'd be here one day to get a kick out of it!
We also took off on Tuesday to have fun at the Renaissance Festival with some friends.  Feel free to read about our trip here.

As always, this post is being linked to Kris' Weekly Wrap-Up over at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.  And for the first time, I'm also linking to Jen's Wrapping Up the Week at Forever, For Always, No Matter What.  If you've never been to these blogs before, they're great places to go to get a glimpse of what others are doing in their school rooms!