Friday, December 29, 2006

Clean as mud?

My friend Joan gave Sass a container of Crayola's Sudsy Mudsy for Christmas this year.

Oh. My. Gosh. She loves it! This is, after all, my girl who would rather play outside in the mud than just about anything.

And truly, as far as bath time fun stuff goes, this is one of the best ones we've used. The mud is really soap, and it actually smells really good, kind of fruity. It does turn the water an icky brown color, but that's the only drawback for me. Sass thinks it's cool though. LOL!

It even comes with its own little shovel to scoop out the mud. Too cute!

Clean-up is actually a lot easier than with most of these types of bath toys. It does leave a pink residue once the water is gone, but it only takes wiping out the bathtub with a wet washcloth to get rid of it. No scrubbing like with the bathtub crayons. YAY!

We'll be getting more of this stuff!

Friday Fact

Something about me that you probably don't know:

I cannot read books that are written in present tense. I think it's because I can't believe that what is happening in the story is happening at that moment. I see the story as more of a record of what has already occurred.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Recent reads

I realized last night that I've really gotten away from mentioning my lastest reads, so here are a few of the more memorable ones from the last few months.

  • The Frog Princess. Cute, cute, cute! I love books that retell a traditional fairy tale. This particular one . . . well, I'll let you read it. This is one that Sass and I read aloud. Spyder joined us too, but he decided that I read too slow for him, so he finished it before we did. We have two of the sequels, but we haven't started the next one yet.
  • Eragon. Very traditional epic fantasy, and occasionally wordy, but overall quite good.
  • The Chronicles of Chrestomanci, Volume 1. Nice, easy fantasy. Complex enough to be interesting, but still on the fluffy side.
  • The Moorchild. Lovely, lovely story with wonderful characters. I was entranced.
  • Montmorency and the Assassins. The third book in Eleanor Updale's Montmorency series. I didn't like it as well as the first book, but better than the second.
  • 84 Charing Cross Road. Absolutely charming, and a must-read for book lovers. 84 Charing Cross Road isn't about the books though. They're more supporting characters. The main characters are Helene and the staff of the bookshop, and the story is the relationship that develops. Since I'd first read this book a few years ago, this was a skimming sort of reread, like looking through a familiar photo album. You know what to expect, and part of the fun is remembering.

In reading this list, it's blatantly obvious that I've been spending most of my time on children's and young adult books. It started out as a way to stay ahead of Spyder, but I've been enjoying this retreat.

The 12 Days of Christmas?

I've been thinking lately that I'd like to begin a few new traditions to end our Christmas celebrations. Everything seems to abruptly climax and end on Christmas Day, and it seems as if everyone is at a loss for what to do next.

We watched The History of Christmas recently, and I was reminded about some of the older celebrations, including the Feast of the Epiphany. We attend a Protestant church, so we don't celebrate Epiphany, at least as a church. I've been thinking though, if it might be a good idea to celebrate it as a family. It would be a better way to ease us out of the holidays and into the new year. Plus, with all of the commercial Christmas distrations over, it would be easier to focus on celebrating Jesus' birth.

I didn't think of it until after Christmas this year, so I haven't put anything into practice except for continuing to discuss the Christmas story. I am gathering ideas for next year though.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Poor little Sass

She's sick. She's had the sniffles since last week. On Christmas Eve it turned into a cough that only got worse, and it's been going ever since.

Strangely, she seems to feel fine. She's playing as usual; she's eating normally; she's generally the same old Sass, just with a horrible cough (including chest congestion).

Tomorrow would be 5 days for the cough, and that's my limit, so we took her over to the little minor medical center. The doctor checked her ears and her lungs, and they were fine. It's just the cough and congestion. He prescribed a strong decongestant for her, so perhaps that will do the trick.

I sure hope so. The Triaminic and Robitussin just weren't cutting it.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Kathy's quotes 12/26

We cannot do everything and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

- Archbishop Oscar Romero


I needed this today.

Our time has been so hectic lately that it seems like I can't keep up. Today was spent at home, reconnecting with my children. Sass and I played dollies. Spyder and I snuggled on the couch and talked.

Spyder took a three hour nap. Sass took two little naps. And they both really needed it.

As for me, I did four loads of laundry, changed the sheets on the beds, and cleaned the kitchen a bit. Even doing that little bit, I was wiped out.

Tomorrow I'll begin again.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Please forgive the bullet points. I'm too tired to write coherent paragraphs!
  • The weather was awful. Rain, rain, and more rain. Cold rain. The temperature hovered around 38 degrees all day.
  • I ended up not getting to bed until about 2:30 am -- cleaning up from the party and all -- and I overslept. We started the present opening party at Mom and Dad's an hour later than we should have.
  • My mom loved the gift that my dad gave her. In fact, she loved it so much that she started crying! My poor daddy didn't know what to think. He gave her a Past-Present-Future necklace. I am very glad that she liked it so much. It was sort of a family effort. My sister told us that she wanted it; I found one on sale at a fantastic price -- and went to buy it on Black Friday (which is a huge deal in itself!); Dad paid for it. LOL!
  • Christmas dinner at my cousin's house was very nice. She has MS, and because of the MS she has good days and bad days. For the last several years, the family get-togethers have been on bad days. This year was a very good day though, and I could see the person that I remember from years ago. That was a gift in itself.
  • The movie tickets that we gave my cousin-in-law were a huge hit. In fact, when he came to say thank you, he told Skeeter, "When I found out you had my name, I was hoping you'd give me movie gift certificates again!" We draw names, and Skeeter had his name two years ago. I felt bad that we gave him a repeat present, but just couldn't think of anything else! I suppose it all worked out! :o)
  • Sass got a Dora scooter today, and she's been riding it all over the house since she opened it.
  • Spyder got a metal detector, and I can tell he's going to be treasure hunting everywhere. I hope that most of it is outside though!
  • Skeeter spent the afternoon trying to repair my sister's computer, which would be tedious and horrifyingly annoying for me, but he loved it.
  • Thankfully the weather never got cold enough for the rain to change to sleet or snow. The wind was really strong though, and I was glad to make it home. The poor dogs were very glad to see us. We brought them in immediately, and I heated some chicken broth to pour over their dog food. I like to think that they appreciate the warm food in their tummies on a cold evening.

It was a wonderfully satisfying day with family!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

What a day!

WHEW! I'm exhausted!

We had our 8th annual Christmas Eve Fiesta tonight! It seems so strange that it's been 8 years since we started the fiesta tradition.

Our family opens gifts on Christmas Eve morning. It seems early to most people, but it really works out best for us. We always have the fiesta that night, and Christmas Day is spent with other family. Opening them on the morn of Christmas Eve gives the urchins a chance to actually enjoy their gifts.

Actually, Christmas Eve day is probably my favorite part of Christmas, with everyone at home doing little projects or playing with their new toys. I spent the day cooking -- beef enchiladas and chicken tortilla soup. Skeeter spent the day playing around with the computers. He gave me a fantastic handheld computery thing, and he had to learn how to use it so he could teach me!

The urchins got a GameCube for Christmas this year, and Spyder spent the day moving between the GameCube (a Scooby Doo game) and a new Nancy Drew game that our friend Julie gave him.

Sass was in a little bit of gift overload, so she tried a little of everything. Her Diego playset, her Mary Poppins doll, her books and book/CD sets.

Guests started arriving around 6:15, and we had a house full of people by 7. We ate yummy Mexican food, played board games, and watched Spyder and a friend do experiments and magic tricks.

The last of our guests left just a few minutes ago, and now it's time to clean up and get the stockings ready for tomorrow morning!

It was a really wonderful day!

Friday, December 22, 2006

Friday Fact

Something about me that you probably don't know:

I wear shoes all the time, even when I'm just around the house. When I get dressed for the day, I get completely dressed, all the way down to my socks and shoes. And I stay that way until time for bed. I just feel like I'm not fully dressed without my shoes.

Oh yes, and my toes are almost always painted -- usually bright red. :o)

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Racing toward the end

Spyder has set a goal to finish his first Awana Truth & Training book before the end of the year. He's really taken it upon himself to memorize his verses.

The book is supposed to last the entire year. It's divided into 8 "Discovery" chapters, with about 7 sections per chapter. Spyder just finished Discovery 7 last night, so he only has one more chapter to go and he'll be completely done. He won't have any trouble making his goal.

After that, we'll start reviewing and practicing for the Awana Bible Quiz that's coming up in February.

I'm so proud!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Oh dear!

My car is still unwell. The urchins and I drove it to my parents' house today (about 70 miles away) for my dad to have a look.

He did the easy stuff first -- changing the oil and brakes. Just as he was finishing with the oil, he got sick. That's how the flu comes on him, with no warning. One moment he was fine, tinkering with the car with Spyder "helping" him. The next moment, he was freezing and had to go inside. He didn't even clean up the mess, and he never leaves a mess in the shop. He may leave his socks on the floor, but he's fastidiously clean with his shop and tools.

He didn't get a chance to look at whatever engine problem there is, and I certainly wasn't going to ask. For some reason, he's very susceptible to pneumonia, and his cold/flu troubles usually lean that way.

I decided to drive it home and hope for the best. I had gotten about 20 miles into the trip, and it quit on me. Totally quit in the middle of the highway. I recognized it early enough to coast onto the shoulder. I sat for a moment and tried again. It started, and I began to get back onto the highway when it died again. I tried this several times, each with the same result, then I called my dad. And I hated to do that. Ultimately we decided that I'd just leave the car and have Skeeter come to get me.

Being the stubborn, er, tenacious person that I am, I finally got it moving and back onto the road. I immediately turned it around and started back to my parents' house. I figured that the closer I got it to the house, the less time it would take when my dad could finally come and tow it.

I ended up making it to the house, praying the whole way. Most of the drive is on roads with no shoulder, and I had to go over a huge bridge. The bridge was where I was most worried, and it's definitely where I prayed the hardest. :o)

Skeeter did come to my parents' house to get me, and we just left the car there. So now I'm completely carless, with my last minute Christmas Eve party shopping to finish! YIKES! At least I'm mostly done with gifts.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Kathy's quotes

My friend Kathy has been doing a "quote of the day" service to friends for several years. Here are some that have touched me this year.


A leader does not conform; you can't be part of the crowd when you're out in
- Anonymous


You do the world no favors when you hold yourself back.
- Mike Bishop


Even in our darkest times, God is right beside us.... God gives us exactly
what we need at the moment we need it, ignoring our impatience and pleas for
the wrong things.
- from "Living Faith" July/August/September 2003 issue


There is no greater loan than a sympathetic ear.
- Frank Tyger


If you're serious about something, you have a plan.
- Fr. David Knight, from a "Twilight Retreat" 8-13-02


God has the right to first place in our life, because He bought it, and at what a price: His precious Blood.- Fr. Larry Richards


What might look like heroism could just be a stubborn streak.
- Fr. David Knight, from a "Twilight Retreat" 8-13-02

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Book frenzy

I went to the Scholastic Warehouse Sale this weekend.

Oh. My. Goodness.

It was, quite literally, held in the local Scholastic warehouse. Part of the warehouse was open to the public, and anyone could go in and shop. All books were half off of list price. Half off! Plus, I had a coupon for $10 off a purchase of $50 or more.

I could almost hear the angels singing when I walked inside and saw all of the fantastic stuff they had. Not old no-one-wants-to-read books either. One of the things I bought was Peter Pan in Scarlet ($9), which just came out this fall! I found so much great stuff. Christmas presents, homeschool supplies, the works!

I found 5 Usborne Internet-linked books, which I love to use as homeschool reference books. Those are well worth the $8 regular price, so I was overjoyed to find them at $3 to $4 each.

A few other things that I found:

Those are just the ones that I can remember offhand. My urchins are both getting loads of books this Christmas!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A bit about me, Christmas quiz edition

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Wrapping paper

2. Real tree or artificial? Artificial

3. When do you put up the tree? The weekend after Thanksgiving

4. When do you take the tree down? New Year's

5. Do you like eggnog? Sort of. I like boiled custard a lot better.

6. Favorite gift received as a child? A BB gun (oh yes, a Red Ryder BB Gun when I was about 8)

7. Do you have a nativity scene? Yes

8. Hardest person to buy for? My dad

9. Easiest person to buy for? Inside my family -- my children; outside my family -- Julie (we have basically the same taste, so I just buy something that I would like!)

10. Mail or email Christmas cards? Normally I mail Christmas cards, but I've let it slide for the past couple of years.

11. Favorite Christmas Movie? It's a Wonderful Life

12. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Probably, but nothing comes to mind.

13. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Dressing

14. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Colored

15. Favorite Christmas song? Secular -- Gloucesterhire Wassail; Religious -- What Child Is This

16. Travel at Christmas or stay home? A mixture of both

17. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer? Yes

18. Angel on the tree top or a star? Star until Christmas Eve

19. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? Christmas Eve morning. I don't like opening presents as part of Christmas Day.

20. Most annoying thing about this time of year? The mood of the shopping crowds

21. What is the thing you most look forward to doing this year? Christmas Eve morning with the family

22. What do you need the most for Christmas this year? A new car, definitely

23. Whats your favorite Christmas memory? The year before my Nana died.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Fact

Something about me that you probably don't know:

I love to cook -- most everyone knows that -- but I absolutely stink at desserts. Main courses, soups, sides, hors d'ourves . . . no problem! Desserts . . . no way! I can muddle my way through cookies and cakes, but anything more complex is just beyond me. I have a few tried-and-true dessert recipes that I tend to use frequently.

My mom is a dessert queen though. She can whip up some fabulous stuff, and I haven't been able to master most of her favorite recipes.

Ah, a moment of enlightenment

Spyder came running into the kitchen earlier yelling, "Mooooooommm!! The Inconceivable Guy is Rex!"

There's just nothing like that wide-eyed, surprised, pleased-with-yourself look when you've figured something out.

I've no idea why it took him this long to figure it out though. He's seen those two movies a hundred times. :o)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

An unplanned adventure

My car died today. I actually had the same problem last night, but this morning it started up just fine. I had (mistakenly) thought all was well. We had a few errands to run, so I decided that we'd take a chance.

In retrospect, this wasn't the smartest decision I've ever made.

We had managed two of the four stops with no problem. The third stop was Wal-Mart, one of my Least Favorite Places. The store itself was relatively painless, which was very surprising since it is the Christmas season. It wasn't terribly busy, and I managed to get everything on my list.

We finished up and went to the car at about 3:30. It wouldn't start. It gave the usual "rrrr. . . rrrrr. . . rrrrr" as if it wanted to get us home, but it wouldn't ever start the engine. I called my dad to see what I could do. Ultimately, the answer was not a thing. I called several friends who live nearby, but no one answered the phone. Skeeter was out of town for the day, so he couldn't help.

The urchins and I ended up leaving everything in the car and walking home. Oh yes we did. We walked 3.5 miles in heavy traffic, then in the dark, with Sass in her Princess shoes. Of course there were no sidewalks, plus we had to cross a 6-lane road, a 4-lane road, and several small business connector roads. WHEW! We started walking around 3:45 and made it home around 5:30, but that did include a rather long bathroom break. Luckily we were almost home by the time it got really dark, but it still wasn't easy. Our neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks (grrrrr!), so we had to walk through the yards. The street is just too busy to walk on it instead though, especially when people are getting home from work.

I am thankful that the weather was nice today. It was warm when we started out, and no one was really chilly until sunset. We had only bought two small items that needed to be refrigerated, so I didn't have to worry about food spoiling in the car.

Spyder thought that it was a grand adventure. He called it the "Treasure Trail" since he found loads of little things for his pockets.

It could have been much worse. One thing is certain though: we were all tired at the end of this adventure!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Today's craft is for the birds!

Really! We made bird feeders today. They were the easy feeders, made with pine cones, peanut butter, and birdseed. The children love making them though.

We usually make them in the spring, but we're supposed to have "unseasonably warm" weather for the next week or so. We were spending the day in the yard anyway, looking at rocks and dirt -- excuse me, SOIL -- so we decided to make the bird feeders as well, just for fun.

We decided to hang them in "Lucy's tree" -- the one that she guards from the squirrels -- so she's had a bigger job than usual since then! :o) We wanted to be able to see the birds using the feeders though, and that's really the only tree that we can see from inside.

Sorry, Lucy!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

You know you're a bookaholic when

. . . your daughter comes in to see you reading the gifts you're supposed to be wrapping.

. . . you have to be dragged away from said gift with a "MOOOOOOM! You're supposed to be wrapping, not reading!"

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Spyder's creative genius

MOM! I need some paper, quick!

I have some art in me that I've just have to get out!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Fact

Something about me that you probably don't know:

I am very particular about my bed.

I sleep on flannel sheets year-round because they're so much softer. I can't use cheap flannel sheets either. The cheap ones feel hard and bumpy after just a little while. I buy new sheets once a year. I also can't sleep on dark colored sheets. It makes me feel weird.

I make the bed every day, and it has to be made just before I get into bed for the night. If the urchins decide to wallow in the bed during the day, I have to remake it before I turn it down for the night. Wrinkled sheets make me very uncomfortable, and a wrinkled comforter is just as bad.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Bednight story

Sass and Spyder always get bedtime stories, "bednight stories" as they call them.

Skeeter usually tells the stories -- he's better at it than I am -- but I do my fair share as well. The format is that each child gets to pick 5 words that will be used somehow in the context of the story. They LOVE it, especially in giving us words that are completely unrelated to see how we'll use them.

Tonight Sass wanted to tell the story, so I got to pick the words. Mine were cow, horse, dog, cat, and bird.

The story that she told was about a farm where the horse wanted to live in the mud with the pig. The other animals saw this craziness and started doing things that they shouldn't.

I was pretty impressed. Sass really did a good job with it. It's been a while since she tried telling the story, and I could tell that she really thought it out rather than just jumping to use all of the words I gave.

My favorite part?

"Then the dog jumped up in the air to catch the bird! They're juicy, you know."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A day in the life

Lately I've had several people ask, "What do homeschoolers actually DO all day?" so here is a bit about how we organize our schooling activities. This is not necessarily typical of any other family! It seems that the more homeschoolers I know, the more I realize that everyone does things differently.

I tend to categorize our studies into math/science and liberal arts, so that's the way that we study them. We do math and science on the same days. English, history, and geography are also on the same days. We don't have an exact schedule for which studies belong on which days because that can change depending on the week. We do different outside activites several times a month, and the days (and even times of day!) are not always consistent. It would drive me batty trying to set an exact schedule of days and times. Instead, we work it around what is best for our schedule, making sure that math/science days and lib arts days are done at least twice a week.

Today was liberal arts. Our history study right now is Ancient Mesopotamia, so we used the dough that we made at Thanksgiving and made our own cuneiform tablets. Spyder decided that cuneiform was actually much harder than Egyptian heiroglyphics (which we studied last year). Cuneiform used about 600 different symbols, and Spyder and I both had a difficult time remembering any of them. After the cuneiform tablets were made, we took some of the dough and made a model of a ziggurat.

We also read pertinent selections from The Story of the World, Ancient Mesopotamia, and The Mystery of History. I had wanted to read a bit from Gilgamesh the Hero, but the children wanted to move on to geography, so that will wait til next time.

Geography today was pretty easy. The children both played Carmen Sandiego on the computer, working together -- YAY! Spyder also did a crossword puzzle, and Sass did a coloring sheet.

We read part of Gail Carson Levine's Cinderellis and the Glass Hill before Sass fell asleep on the couch. Spyder and I had hoped to get to the end of it today, but poor Sass was exhausted. She'd gotten up at 5:30 am with Skeeter, so by noon she really wanted a nap! (So did I, but I didn't get one!) While Sass was snoozing, Spyder and I talked about parts of speech and did Mad Libs until Brittney and her children stopped by for some serious play in the backyard.

After our friends had gone, Spyder decided that he wanted to learn German (no idea why though). He got out an audio course that we've had for years. He put the first cassette in the player, and he worked on that for almost an hour. I finally had to dig out my old German/English dictionary and my college German texts. He was thrilled! I have a feeling that we'll be scouring the libraries tomorrow afternoon for an course that comes with a book.

That was it for the "official" schooling, but during room time tonight, Sass drew pictures of ziggurats. LOL! I suppose some of the information did sink in. I always wonder if it does.

Spyder spent his room time looking through my German texts, then reading Mystery in Massachusetts. He finished Mystery in Massachusetts, then he moved on to Skinnybones.

Tomorrow, on to new adventures in astronomy, earth science, multiplication, and division!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Party hard?

Oh. My. Gosh.

We went to a family Christmas party for our church's Awana workers. The party lasted from 2 pm to 8 pm. By the time it was over, I was so beyond "ready to go" that I can't honestly remember if I said goodbye. It was quite a lot of fun, but six hours for a party was just a bit too much for me.

It was supposed to be from 2 pm to 6 pm. That's a bit long anyway, but they did have activities planned for everyone. The problem was that most people didn't show up until almost 3 pm! We were late starting with everything.

The host's house is on about 10 acres of land, complete with a stream and a pond. The children had a wonderful time playing in and around the stream, and they even fished for a bit since the pond is stocked with fish. Sass has been sick for the last few days, so I tried to keep her inside most of the time. (I knew that it was a lost cause with Spyder from the beginning.) The hosts have two girls who are a few years older than Sass, so we played with their little animal toys for an hour or so. After that first hour, she got bored with the toys, so she did end up going outside with Skeeter and Spyder for a while.

After a couple hours of play, we all came inside and had a huge barbeque feast. During the feast, Michael Ann remembered that the children had a special choir practice at 6. YIKES! We had at least six of the choir members there! Michael Ann took the children to choir practice while the rest of us cleaned up and played Secret Santa. We were into a mean game of men vs. women Pictionary when the children got back.

As soon as they were back, the hostess had them play a kind of musical chairs with a wrapped gift, which they all thought was just excellent. At the end, they all got to open the gift and pick a toy out of it. I'll have to remember that game for our fiesta.

It was really fun, but with having such a busy week and being sick, it was just a little bit too much party for me.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Friday Fact

Something about me that you probably don't know:

I like to wash dishes. Crazy, isn't it? I do though. I like the way the water feels on my wrists and hands. I like standing at the sink and looking out at the yard during dish time. It gives me time to think in a way that nothing else does. I generally do the dishes when everyone else is busy so that I can take 15 minutes or so and think.

I hate putting the clean dishes away though.

Cough, cough

Not the children. Me.

I've had the cough for several days, but it's gotten worse. This morning it was terrible, and it hurt.

We have our homeschool playday today, and we're going, but I bet we won't stay for long. I'd skip it altogether if I hadn't promised Carla that I'd be there.