Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 In Review

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This weekend we were discussing all the things we did in 2012, only there was a lot of silence. As in, no one could think of anything that we did. It's been an emotionally draining & challenging year, but when we stopped to reflect back on all that had happened or been done there was laughter & smiles as we discussed our year:

January: 

We made our annual trip to Baker's Beach with cousins, Aunties & Uncles. We live for this trip & look forward to it every year. There's laughter, friendly competitions, & a lot of insanity. We had a wallaby fight outside our tent at 2am which I had to break up by whacking wallabies, something I don't generally recommend. I scared an elderly man when I chased a naughty possum off our tent & halfway across the camping area. We woke up to find out hot cocoa pot, which we thought had been put up, licked clean by wildlife. Nearly came home with a mouse in our tent. Rushed home with Mr S so we could take him straight to the ER. He had a badly sprained ankle after falling off a dune & a nifty caterpillar sting to match.

Our annual Australia Day Party. Nothing fancy, a game of croquete in the back yard. Family. Flag. Sparklers. An occasional trip to the beach. Morgan made a giant cookie ice cream cake which was the hit of the party, & have been requested frequently ever since.

February:

Morgan turned 11 & Mr S & I stood there wondering where on earth the time had gone. Only two more years until he's officially a teenager, & Morgan can't wait. He's still thin & gangly like he's always been. Short for his age. Full of curiosity & a deep desire to know & understand everything. He's full of compassion & can't understand how anyone can be mean to another person, unless maybe it's him trying to deal with a pesky little brother.

We had an early morning delivery on the 10th as well. A trash can. The final {maybe} saying in a long running family joke where my children once offered our eldest niece's friends all their trash. Out of context it seems incredibly insane, but the teens had all offered our children chocolates, & our children unsure what to do with the trash offered it right back. The sign that came with the trash can still makes us laugh, daily, because it's hanging on Morgan's bedroom door!

March:

A Leprechaun ran wild in our home. We don't normally do much of anything for St Patrick's Day, but I decided to shock my children by tearing up the house before I went to bed. Grafitting some family photos with a dry erase marker, & tinting lots of food green. They woke up in complete shock, one they broke through the rainbow I hung on their door. They demanded to know why Daddy & Mommy had such a messy party.

Mr S bought me an iPhone. My old mobile phone was causing him much grief in the fact that I never had a signal & we had to call & ask for it to be reset a few times too many. I received a phone call on the way home from an outing telling me to run by the Mac Shop & pick one up. My children were in total awe.

April:

Mr S turned 4-0. We had a fantastic Murder Mystery party where my sister-in-law made a stunning performance at dying. Our neighbors trekked four houses up dressed so funnily all the children playing in the street ran home. For the first, & most likely last time in my life, I wore a mini skirt & black eye shadow. The clown did it, & fooled us all. We had such an amazingly wonderful time the boys want to have Mystery birthday parties.

I was diagnosed with a plethora of food & environmental allergies/intolerance's. Some of which we knew & some of which came as a real shocker. My children cried, but brightened when I told them if I couldn't have milk I guess someone could eat my portion of the ice cream hence forth. We've learned to navigate the road reasonably well, all though I still miss pizza. It's a small sacrifice to give up for feeling good & being migraine free the majority of the time.

May:

We started our new school Curriculum & fell madly in love with it. My boys enjoyed every minute of it, all though there were a lot of sniffles & quietness at the end of one of our books this year. It was a weird time to start with a new curriculum, but we're so glad we did! Crazily enough my children are now history crazy, & Jayden can tell which world war is which simply by looking at helmets, guns, & planes.

Mr S cashed in his 40th birthday present from Nana & we went on a lovely afternoon cruise up the Tamar River. We saw some amazing things, learned an incredible amount of local history, & got to watch a camera running under the boat where we hoped to spot a seal but only saw fish. We spent the whole weekend in the City & saw a reproduction of the plane from the book The Glorious Flight & screamed our hearts out at the footy match.

June:

Jayden turned 9. It wasn't that long ago that he was all of 2 & just letting people besides me hold him. He was 2.5 before our neighbor saw him without a dummy/pacifier in his mouth. Now he's a rather outgoing little boy who lives for all things manly. He simply can not get enough of all things military.

We said good-bye to Poppy as he went home. We cried, we laughed, & we talked long into the night. In fact we still do all of these things. Our world was turned upside down & not a day goes by that we don't miss him.

July:

Morgan tackled long division, a concept he wavered on for a while. He's incredibly mathy & was determined to figure it out. We celebrated his new accomplishment & he relished every single minute of it.

The boys crawled through intestines as we reconnected with our local home education group. Our trip to the science museum is still chatted about all these months later. Of course they most especially remember Morgan getting to help make poo & the ability to read incredibly funny, but true, facts on the back of toilet seats.

August:

We gave Nana a surprise party when, after falling sick & landing in hospital, she was at our house for her birthday. The boys were insistent that we lay out the party cloth & everything. We love celebrating birthdays & this was no different.

Our old Blue Beast of a car gave up the ghost on us. Not before causing us to call RACT to come help us get home after conking out on a back road. Or missing the book exchange with our local home ed group, or causing us to walk all the way into town & back again. It served us well.

September:

We got the new Purple People Eater of a car which causes lots of laughs & people comment on how it's an old Cadbury car. True, it is. We love it. It serves us well & we are incredibly grateful for the opportunities & doors God opened to provide us with what we needed in such an incredibly short time.

We cried our eyes out over a devastating Footy loss as the Hawkers lost in the Grand Final. There was breath holding, cheering, & screams as we watched an amazing footy match. Maybe next year boys, maybe next year..

October:

We went to America after keeping our arrival secret for 3 months. The hardest secret we've ever had to keep. The boys dreamed of strolling up & pretending to be pizza men. We arrived too late to pick up pizza on the way. We also didn't make a totally surprised entrance thanks to the interior light in the car coming on & staying on long enough for our identity to be revealed before we knocked on the door. We had a wonderful time & can't wait to go back & visit again.. hopefully for a pinch longer next time.

We made our first trip to Hobart as Morgan had his first test for Irlens. The journey there was nothing compared to the journey Morgan's been on to see help. So many emotions wrapped up in that trip, but we'd make it again 1000x over if we had to.

November:

I turned 35, & had to do the math to figure out how old I was. My children laughed, my husband thought I was putting him on. Truthfully since falling pregnant with our first child I've not been able to remember how old I am. When the Dr asked me at my 6 month appointment I told him I had no idea, he & Mr S sat there doing the math to figure it out.

We had our Home Ed review with the home monitor who fell in love with our books, our home, our learning area, & our children's art. While I don't enjoy these home visits because I worry too much, they are always pleasant & rewarding. We passed with flying colours.

December:

The boys went ice skating for the first time & fell in love with it. They beg me to tell them all about how I use to go ice skating in the back yard on our creek in NY state. They can't wait to go back, all though Jayden's really hoping next time he doesn't fall & get freezer burn on his arm.

We officially wrapped up school for the year. We weren't sure we were going to make it at times, but we did. What an amazing accomplishment it was, what a wonderful school year we had. We're looking forward to starting next year.


Goodbye 2012, Hello 2013!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Chocolate Knife?!

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We took the boys into the city this past weekend for a bit of Christmas shopping. We had a great time walking around & peeking in ship windows to see all their displays, listening to the buskers playing a variety of songs. We ran into one lady who was so overcome with excitement she couldn't stop telling us how excited she was, it was really quite funny!

While there we popped into the sweet shop, one store we don't usually visit. While gawking at the jars of candy & the other treats on display Mr S walked up to me with a chocolate Swiss Army Knife. I was absolutely blown away by it!  From a bit farther back you didn't even notice the wrinkles on the packaging & when he held it up I thought he was indicating that Morgan's knife had fallen off again. It wasn't until I got closer I realised it was actual chocolate.

The packing was well done! I nearly bought a couple so we could see what the mold they chocolate had been poured in looked like, but we managed to walk out of the shop without a single one in our possession. Which leaves us wondering exactly what the chocolate inside the wrapper looks like!

Of course, after a quick google search, it turns out the insides are just as realistic. Some of them are even sold in fancy boxes like the swiss army knives come in!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Morning Routines

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This picture is a good indication of what our house looks like at about 8:15 on the average morning. Around here, especially in the summer, we're up pretty early. It's hard not to be when the sun is streaming in your windows. The boys have been making their own level/world in a Lego Wii game that they have. Morgan's really into trying to design his own game & Mr S has promised to help him with it, but explained that you need to start with the basics.

The basics didn't exactly move at the speed Morgan was hoping for, but while he's waiting to expand beyond that level of thinking he realised he could make some pretty amazing game play for Mr S in his nifty Lego game. This seems to have appeased all involved & keeps them pretty busy too. It's quite funny to see them thinking up complex situations in which each thing must be solved before you can complete your mission.

Morgan spent all his video game time for three days building this crazy thing & then wanted Mr S to play it through. Unfortunately we were out quite late that evening & by the time we got in everyone was too tired to mess with video games, so Mr S promised to have a go of it in the morning.

I came in from my morning walk & sat down to ice my knee to the three of them discussing what needed doing. It was quite funny to watch & Morgan was really pleased when it was dubbed "Rather tricky". Of course Morgan informed Mr S, ".. you're only testing it remember. I'll be changing some things up so it works better for the next time you play." I seriously snorted when he said that.

The boys have been troopers over the years helping test many of Mr S' games, & it's always frustrated Mr S when they prefer the prototype game. You know, the raw one with a lot of goofs in it, yep, those are their favourites. I think it's because they find all the goofs really funny, that & the funky sound he'd hooked up to them originally. I guess it was only natural that Morgan would give his father the same warning. The only reply I heard over my snorting was, "Just don't get rid of the pumpkin car, I love that!"

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Handmade

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I was looking through my art board on Pinterest & showed the boys a few art projects I thought they might enjoy & that were relatively simple. Morgan fell in love with several & wanted to begin right away,  Jayden was suffering from a bad day & opted out.

Morgan worked on one entitled Warm & Cold Colors over on Craft Junkie which was inspired by Kathy Barbos Art Projects For Kids Blog. Kathy has some fantastic ideas, some of which we've had a blast trying before & many of which I have planned to try at some point. Thanks to the quick & simple template available this project is super easy to do.

I showed Morgan the variety of ways others had done the same one & the mediums they'd chosen to get the effects they had. We have each one of those mediums that he could choose to use, but he went with the oil crayons. I'm glad, they have such a beautiful & vivid colour to them. I think we picked them up at Birchalls a few years ago & they are still going strong.

We ended up putting the finished project in a black frame & he's wrapped it up to give to a cousin. He has a few more art projects planned to work on to give to others.  I have to confess I'm kinda jealous others are getting his awesome artwork because he really does an amazing talent for it. I hope they enjoy it as much as we enjoy watching him work on it!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sticker Shock

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I don't buy boxed cake mixes or any other boxed mixes. In fact, I generally don't even stop to look at the boxed mixes in the grocery store unless we're down the health food isle, those ones usually avoid egg & dairy.  A couple of weeks ago, though, I was in the grocery store & noticed the familiar red spoon label of a well known US boxed cake/cookie/sweet mix: Betty Crocker.

It's not often we find familiar labels in the store & so it caused me stop & gawk for a minute. The longer I gawked, though, the more shocked I became. Check out the price on those mixes, will you?! You're reading that right: $5.19. Those same mixes use to cost all of .97 cents when we left the US. No idea how much they are now as I didn't even stop to look at them when we were there earlier this year, but I'm pretty sure they aren't anywhere near $5.19.

Mr S asked what on earth I was doing, & I said, "Check out the price on the Betty Crocker stuff!! Who'd pay $5 for this stuff?" "I dunno, do they have lemon?" I made a beeline for the milk that he complained we were out of & suggested he spend his $5 on the milk he wanted instead.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Ice Skating

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Our second to last event with our home ed group this year was ice skating. I have a general rule about participating in things that cost money, especially higher amounts, it's a weird rule with a lot of reasons, but it doesn't really matter because I completely broke that rule because I was desperate to take the kids ice skating!

I spent the two weeks leading up to it telling them all sorts of stories of the ice skating my siblings & I use to do on the little creek that ran through our backyard in NY state. They were pretty excited until I was reminded of the time our friends were over & we were playing hokey on the ice. One brother fell on top of another brother & it was all fun & games until the younger brother got up & we noticed he'd managed to get his eye lid sliced by a skate. The boys wanted to know if that meant ice skating was dangerous. I assured them no one was playing hockey or dog piling on the ice.

It was a long, mostly for the kids, drive down to the rink. We're talking 3+ hours. Most of which we kept busy with listening to a book, gawking at landmarks, & keeping an eye out for the bus that the rest of the group was riding on. We opted to drive ourselves down, because while the offer of riding on the bus sounded grand I kinda thought the reality might be considerably different.

The boys had a blast on the ice, & Morgan was doing incredibly well by the time we left. Jayden's missing from the picture because he's the one who took it. I don't suggest staring at the photo too long or you might go cross-eyed. Mr S was with us & was brave enough to skate too. He was having nightmares of the last, & only time, he ice skated which ended in disaster.

I have to confess, though, that the ice was in rough shape! Except for the times the ice on the creek melted & then refroze I'm pretty sure our creek was considerably smoother then that ice was! There were even a few potholes which caused quite a few slips, spills, & falls. Everyone had a grand time though, & when I mentioned the condition of the ice Mr S said, "Well of course it's not in good condition, we're Australian, we're not use to ice!"

The only thing funnier was when we were done & handed in our skates I ran to use the toilet & forgot I didn't have skates on anymore. I nearly tripped into the bathroom in my attempt to glide on skates. It was well worth a few laughs, all though the poor Mum I fell into might not have found it quite as funny.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Accidents Happen

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Map making around here is pretty common. Morgan maps with a more realist view point, but Jayden prefers to make war maps. Ones with troops all over where he can put play figures on it & push & sweep them to explain what's happening in the battle. In fact, he wanted to know if we'd get him maps for Christmas just for this purpose.

Last week he made one such map & wanted to know how he could age it. Morgan suggested he crumple it up in a ball to make it wrinkly. I suggested he burry it in the garden to get it dirty. He did both, but wasn't pleased with the results. It needed to look older. I offered to burn the edges for him with a candle. He was really excited.

So after I burned around one edge he wanted me to burn the middle. I told him that it could result in no map. He didn't care. So we had a nice aged look happening when he asked me to try it on another part, which we did. Only, Morgan called out & I looked up until Jayden screamed, "it's on fire!!!" We had a small hole in the map, but in the amount of time it took me to put it out we had a huge hole. I was mortified because I hadn't suggested he run a copy off before we began our experiment.

Jayden, however, didn't care. "Awesome! Now the enemies will never steal our real plans!" Yeah, not exactly sure who the enemy was, but I eventually found the crazy thing wrapped around a water bottle. When i attempted to remove it I was informed that I was messing with official business & the General would not be happy about this.  Pretty sure our history studies went right to his brain this year, I think we call that success.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Night Out

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A couple of weeks ago Mr S got to join a friend to see the new James Bond film, I'm not a huge Bond fan to be honest so it was a real treat for Mr S to join a guy to go see this movie. The boys wanted to know what we'd do instead. Personally, I was all for popping a bowl of popcorn & watching one of the many chic flicks that are sitting on my shelf completely unopened, but the boys weren't about to go for that. I suggested a Christmas movie & popcorn, but then the boys reminded me the popcorn maker was broken. Which reminded me I'd thrown it away ages ago.

Jayden then informed me that Kmart had popcorn poppers in their advert for $12 so I suggested we go get one & then come home & watch a movie. Okay, so I really tried to convince them to watch a Princess movie with me because I had Tangled & Brave on the shelf too. Jayden adamantly disagreed with that idea, his idea was to go to Subway. I guess even the popcorn wasn't going to lure him in on my idea.

We took Jayde's idea & went with it... after we picked up a new popcorn popper. The weather was beautiful so we walked down to the water's edge & watched the ferries do their thing while we ate. We checked the rocks for any of the red alge they were getting in Sydney, but all we found was the green slippery kind.

By the time we got home they decided they didn't want popcorn, or a princess movie. We watched something else, all though it completely slips my mind as to what exactly that was. It wasn't until the following morning that Jayden realised he'd never gotten a single bite of popcorn. He greeted us with, "By the way Mom you never made popcorn! Can we have some for breakfast?"

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Peppermint Bar Cookies

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We don't have desert very often around here, but Morgan was really itching to cook something. I think he felt a little left out of not helping much with our Thanksgiving feast. He'd had every intention of helping to make a few of the treats we had then, but he got very caught up in other festivities of the day.  We had the supplies in the pantry for chocolate chip cookies, so the other day that's what he decided he'd make.

Only, we also had some candy canes in the cupboard another little boy was itching to eat, so I thought the best thing to do was to combine the two. The chef was on board so after they opened up all the candy canes we whizzed them in the food processor until they were small chunks.

Morgan whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. We've always used the Nestle recipe except that we sub coconut sugar for both white & brown sugar called for in the recipe. I also had them sub coconut oil for the butter because they wanted me to eat some & I can't have dairy. Normally we just sub half the butter for coconut oil. I had them sub the eggs too because I can't have those, but you don't have to do any of that.  Mix up according to the normal directions. Then we mixed in the crushed up candy cane.

He used the largest rectangular pan in the cupbard which is smaller then a sheet cake pan, but larger then an 8x11. How's that for exact? Spread the cookies evenly into the pan. We also had some dairy free chocolate in the pantry that we were going to use for Thanksgiving & hadn't. I figured he might as well use that too, so we whizzed that through the food processor as well & then he sprinkled it evenly across the top. Bake for 15-20 minutes,  cool.

Incase you couldn't tell from the picture you'll probably have to move pretty quickly to get one. The guys devoured them & then each lamented the few they got. I ate one & then paid the price for eating wheat. The only thing I forgot to have them sub. It was tasty until the migraine took me out! I think it would have looked prettier if he'd sprinkled candy cane on top of the melted chocolate, but you know they just care how totally awesome they taste. They didn't even care that I pulled out my special snowman plate...

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Keeping Track of Audio & Ebooks

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We've been members of Audible.com for years now. I say years, because I can't actually remember how long we've been members there for, I just know it's been a long time. It's a pretty simple, & fun, club. Basically, as a member, you get a specific amount of tokens each month, then you use those tokens to grab a book for "free". We started out as a one token a month family, but eventually upgraded so that we have 2 tokens a month. Seriously, I think we'd love 3 a month now that the boys are old enough to want specific books too, but they also have really awesome sales over there so sometimes I pick up books then too. We listen to audio books for school, in the car, during storms, when camping, while doing chores, & just about any other time you can think of it. Needless to say we have a lot of audio books. The kids will often ask if we can get one book or another & I'll say, "You know we own that right?"

Kindle books are about as bad. I don't make a general habit of buying kindle books & just keep my eyes out for the various places around the internet that share the free listings. My husband & bil were mortified when they were using my kindle for something & discovered I had all most 700 books on the thing. I really freaked them out when I said, "Yeah, & I've only paid for about 6 of them. The rest were freebies at one time or another."

The upside is we have a lot of awesome books at our disposal, for which I'm extremely grateful. Books never go astray in our home. It's fun to listen or read them over & over again. To allow friends & family to borrow them, yes even our audio & ebooks {you know you can loan ebooks out right through your kindle account, right?} so they can share in the fun stories too.

The downside is that we often forget what we have until we go to grab it again & Audible or Amazon notifies us that we all ready own the book. It happens, a bit too often I'm afraid. I usually have a huge stack of books to read through, which is the case now too, but when I grab the kindle to read something I'm often not sure where I want to start. For instance, I know right now I've got several Christmas books on there I'd love to read, but I can't remember the titles.

I decided to get serious about cleaning my mess up & turned to Delicious Library. I'd tried it out a few years ago for free, but didn't purchase it then because I was using Library Thing. Library Thing is a nifty website where you can keep track of all the books, cds, & what not that you own. It's really a great way to keep track of what you have because you can even tag the books & things. For a person with books in two countries this is a great way for me to know what's where.

However, I'd fallen away from using it, to be honest & when I went back there to see if I could print lists of my books out so that we could see what we had, I couldn't seem to find a way to do it. Which reminded me of my trial time with Delicious. You can print your book lists. The whole shebang or you can print them off in categories {known as shelves} so you can see what you have where. This is exactly what I needed!

I entered all our Audio books & all our Kindle books into the crazy thing. While you can scan barcodes with it, there was no way I could do that with e-items, so I had to do it the old fashioned way & enter all 800 plus items in by hand. Time well spent though, really. I then printed it out my various shelves & threw them in a notebook with page protectors in it. I've broken it down, for now as: Kindle Kids Books, Audio Kids Books, Audio Chapter Books, etc. I'll break it down by genres later.


I was also able to create the lists of suggestions I had for my boys with this nifty programme simply by entering in the titles that we didn't own but could grab from the library, audible, or kindle. The rest that we all ready owned I just dragged & dropped right onto their own little shelves, printed them out, & filed them into our notebook. Easy peasy!

Now when the books say, "I don't know what to read!" or "I want to read something different!" or "What's on the kindle? Any new books?" "Do we own..?" All I have to do is remind them there's a e-book catalog on the shelf & they can refer to it. Of course, I'll have to remember to update it when I grab new things. My plan is to enter the new stuff into the programme immediately & then reprint necessary pages monthly depending on how much we obtain in a month.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Book Lists, kits, & more

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I slapped the kids book bag kits together yesterday afternoon for the reading challenge. As I mentioned before I used the bags that we'd gotten for free at the book shop a few months ago, I also stuck in some pins/buttons they included with the bags. If I was really talented & had the supplies I'd have remade the buttons so that they were made to say something about the little challenge.

I printed out one of the little reading logs I shared yesterday, some bookmarks I made. They use it to keep track of time spent reading. They actually have bookmarks that keep track of that, you can use them as a stopwatch or a timer, but Morgan's batteries are flat. I really don't want them reading for time as much for enjoyment anyway.

I also tucked some books in the bags to help get the ideas flowing of books they could read. These were ones I pulled off the shelves that I knew would interest them. Jayden, for instance, is into all things zoological related & war related. Finding books for those interests was really easy, especially when I realised I'd forgotten one of our WW2 books this year! Morgan is into all kinds of history, anything involving inventions or experimenting, & lots of make believe type stories.

I didn't end up making up anything fancy for the bookworms, because as it turned out the kids ate the worms & left the frogs in the cupboard. I wasn't quick witted enough to come up with something flashy involving books & frogs so I just threw them in snack baggies & chucked them in the bag.

We then read the rules & prizes out to them which caused a lot of cheering & squealing around here. We had to wait a full three minutes for Jayden to quit screaming with joy over the idea of getting a trip to the lollie shop, I had to remind him he still had to shop in the sugar-free section which brought an abrupt halt to his partying.

Then I shared a list of books I'd created for each of them. I put 20 books on each list & we read the synopsis of each book. They have some of the same books on their lists, & then they each have a few their own all based on ability & likes. They both made grand plans in regards to which books they wanted to read first & other such funny things, but then when we ran to town in the evening Morgan brought his pocket money & picked up another Enid Blyton book & spent a half hour reading it.

Just to make sure they don't forget their own objectives in regards to the prizes they are aiming for, I hung a copy of the goals/prizes chart on our tv stand. You know, right next to the Wii, which they never have free reign over, but seem to ask to use an awful lot.

You can snag the Puffle bookmarks here if you're interested. If your kids are hard on bookmarks I'd suggest printing on cardstock. I also made a pdf copy of the rules so that the boys could see those to refer back to in regards to genre of books to pick. I edited them slightly that even after reading all the required books they could still only count 4 comic books & 8 picture books to their lists. I know that picture books have plenty of value, & I also know there are some much longer picture books out there. However, the purpose of this challenge is to encourage them to break out of their comfort zone just a little bit. You can snag the rules here if you want.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

2013 Summer Reading Programme

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This summer I decided I wanted the boys to participate in a reading challenge. Our library offers some kind of reading programme, but if often starts at the very beginning of December with little public notice. Considering we are in there weekly & they don't widely advertise it until school is out it always drives me batty.

This year, I thought I'd create my own reading challenge for the guys. Something to keep them reading through the summer, encourage them to expand their tastes with reading, & with a little bit of a reward at the end of each week.

Thus our 2013 Summer Reading Challenge was born. I made notes about it throughout the past few months in my notebook & finally sat down & finalised all our plans. I based this on how many weeks we'll have off over the course of this summer. 3 weeks in December & 5 weeks in January. We start back the first week of February so no real time there. From there I decided what was a reasonable amount of time & book for my kids to read.

However, my boys are really caught in a cycle of reading comic books. Don't get me wrong, they have their place & value if they encourage the kids to read, but I'd like them to expand their horizon now. Morgan really fell on these books & never moved past them before we got a firm diagnoses for him. Understanding that he could only focus on one word at a time explains why comic books were fun & reasonably easy for him to read.

Our basic plan is in the image above, you can click on it for a large picture of a pdf copy of what we're doing if you'd like to challenge yourselves as well. If you're looking for a few more details here's what we've got planned:

1. We officially start on Monday, December 10th. Mr S & I will discuss the rules with the kids Sunday evening before bed & present them with their starter kits.

2. The Starter Kits is a really fancy way for saying I rounded up some items from around the house to encourage them. Each kit will include: 1 book bag {when I purchased some classics earlier this year at my local book shop they gave me two beautiful book bags which I'll share photos of later}, 3 book marks {They'll each have their timer bookmark to help them keep track of time, ones I'll print off where they can keep track of the pages they read, & the third is a duplicate of the first I mentioned for when they use it up.}, 1 certificate to snag a book from Audible.com {we have an account there so I have some credits that I'd like to let them use if they want to snag a book each to help get them going}, & a reading log so they can keep track of what they are doing. I'm also putting a stash of bookworms in their bag.

3. We'll look at their reading logs on Saturday & deal with prizes then, this will be especially helpful for the week 7 price, because this will mean a trip to the honey factory where they can get double dipper cones made without sugar.

4. We're offering a Grand Prize to both of them as well as the Super Grand Prize. This way, even if they don't reach the weekly goals it won't matter, they can still claim the grand prize. All though, the way I devised each weekly plan was that they should be able to accomplish the task by reading for 1 hour 6x a week, except in the final week where they'll need to make up 2 extra hours. I'm not sure that will be a big issue for some of the larger audio books Morgan has planned to listen to. We can purchase actual Amazon gift cards at our local supermarket, so we'll either pick them up there or just allow them to pick out what they want & go from there.

5. Grand Prize & Super Grand Prize, should they obtain them, will be given out at our Finale Party.

6. The Finale Party will happen the final weekend of our Reading Challenge. The boys will have until then to reach their goals. {I have this image of one of them reading like mad in an effort to snag that Super Grand Prize right up until the minute our party starts.} At the party they will also receive certificates for participation as well as for the amount of hours or books read. Each party goer will be asked to dress up as their favourite book character & then share about their favourite book, preferably one they read during the course of the challenge but knowing Morgan he'll dress up like The Ginger Bread Boy which is his all time favourite books most time.

7. There are a few finer details about the book choices they can make.. In an effort to keep them from limiting themselves to picture books & comic books the following guidelines have been put in place: Each participant must read 5 Audio books or 10 hours; 2 chapter books or 300 pages; 4 picture books; 2 comic books; 1 non-fiction book.  To help them even more: Read one book you started but never finished. Choose a book from a new series to try out. Pick a book you've always wanted to read, but never got to, this is especially helpful when picking audio books because they are not limited to ability when one only needs to understand what's being read to them. Ask Mom for a list of books you might enjoy & pick a few from there. {I've actually been jotting down, like crazy, books I think each of them would enjoy.}

8. Once all books in the above categories have been met they are free to choose what they'd like. The idea being this will keep them from choosing all picture or comic books & still help them meet their goal in order to cash in on the Grand Prize.

Resources:

Reading Logs
Bookmarks
Certificates
Book Log For Littles
Rewards With Matching Bookmarks
Audible.com
I'll share the book suggestions for the kids later.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Planner Update

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After sharing that we were working on a new planner for next school year, I had a few requests to share what the inside looks like. The pictures are a little iffy today, but hopefully you can make it all out.

For the cover I rounded up a few favourite photos from the past year & assembled them with a few digital scrapbooking items I had floating around my computer. I seriously have too much stuff floating around on my computer, so much so I've said a few times I need to get it cleaned up this summer while I have time!

The black rectangle on the file tab next to the picture with the boys & the dog is actually covering up our last name. It's not some odd, unknown shape floating around ont he front of our planner.

I was going to use a picture of the four us acting completely insane that we took at the beginning of this year while we were staying out of town, but it was taken with a phone camera & was incredibly poor quality.  From top right: Mr S & the boys solving a code I left on the table for them one Saturday. The boys disembarking from our Sydney flight, the line was long & we had to wait anyway so I snapped a photo. The boys & the dog in a giant crater in a wave wall down at one of our local beaches. We were attempting to distract our dog from another playful pup who was out for a training exercise. The balloon I released at our farewell for Dad. Mr S with a bit of sponge upon his head, he likes to make us laugh, me after I whacked all my hair off for my birthday, Morgan sporting his nifty new green glasses, Jayden wearing a pair of 3D theatre glasses with the "lenses" removed. What you can't see is he's also wearing a t-shirt that makes him look like he's got a tux on.
If you've ever used or looked at The Well Planner Day planner you may recognise some of these pages. Over the years I've obtained a couple of their planners, but they are set up for a US school year & considering we don't school in that time frame or with only 2 terms the layout doesn't work for us. I emailed the company to ask if they would ever consider a differing layout for those of us who live outside of the US & they directed me to their new online planner. I'm not a huge fan of online planners, so I set about making a planner with a few of their ideas that would best suit our needs. The above page is a "time table" for the first term of our school year. Just a basic guideline, which some in the house need to remind them of when they should be doing specific jobs vs enjoying heaps of free time.
We like working towards goals, mostly because when you home educate you often stay on a topic until your children have conquered it. This little page is perfect for that. I also made note of specific holidays that Mr S will not be working for our other things we have planned for the year. I did include a page for grades, but we've never given the kids grades before. We've debated playing with assigning grades as Morgan is a year away from highschool. While his entrance into an Australian university isn't going to call for his highschool grades we'd rather be over prepared then under prepared.
The last page went at the start of our term, along with a few others to help us be organised & discuss what our goals & aims for a given term are. This one goes at the end of that time frame so we can jot down all the things we feel we did accomplish, even if they weren't all what we'd aimed for. All of these pages repeat themselves in the planner for all 4 of our terms. I also included a page for goals for the following school year, because honestly as you near the end of the year your mind starts thinking in that direction, at least mine does, & I like to have a place to jot them down so I don't forget intended ideas. It was weird, though, writing 2014 on something!

Each week ends with the journaling page.. I like being able to jot down those learning moments that happen on the fly. Conversations in the car, games we played, dawning moments a child has, etc. Which reminds me of a funny story, but i'll have to share it later.

Each week starts with this page. I like to write down prayer request from friends, family, & especially my the family in my home. Our school days start with the hymn were learning for the month, followed by prayer. Before we pray I ask the kids if they have any requests & if either of them would like to pray. I share requests that friends have made or that I might have. The interesting thing about this is that I've noticed if a child is having a particularly off week or day or really struggling to beat a bad habit they will often lodge it in the form of a prayer request where, "we do not judge others, but cover them in prayer." It also helps the rest of us be more aware if someone is trying, very hard, to break a bad habit.
This has to be one of my all time favourite ideas, & it did not come from the original planner I first mentioned. In fact I think I might have mentioned this once before. Anyway, the page is quite simple. It has the days of the week listed on the side & the months listed across the top. It's a two page spread. You write in the dates yourself & then can arrange your school schedule from there at a glance. What days will be off, what days are holidays, etc. I made one of these up earlier this year & filled it in for 2013. It was so easy to build our terms for next year based on that, & then we rolled with laughter when we saw we'd picked the same schedule as the local public schools will be using. 


Hmm, not sure why this is blurry looking, but anyway.. Each month is a two page spread, despite the fact that the above image doesn't look like it. Sunday - Wednesday are on one side, Thursday - Saturday are on the other along with a quote & a Bible verse for the month. I typed in all our holidays & birthdays when I made it but will add other things as we go along.

Each week is also a two page spread, again it doesn't look like it but it is. Monday - Wednesday are on one side, Thursday - Friday with a few extra spaces for jotting things down are on the other. One of the features I really loved when looking through planners on my computer was the idea of highlighting the week of the month that you are on. Thus I added that feature to my planner for the year ahead. I also jotted down the topics that we'll be using this year on the left hand side of our paper. The days are written across the top. Morgan & I will most likely be sharing this planner as he learns to guide himself a bit through his school days. The idea is that he'll look at the list of things that apply to him & highlight them when he's done. I'll look them over & either leave a checkmark in the box on the right hand side of each column or I'll leave a grade. We're looking at starting to grade his work in preparation for highschool.

These are pages I tucked in the back. You might have to click on them to be able to see them better. The left one is for books or items I may borrow or loan out. Most times when I see curriculum or resources collecting dust on our shelves I like to be able to gift them to people who may need or want them, but sometimes there are things we're not quite ready to give away but more then happy to share. This will help me keep track of what's where. The page on the right is for those pesky websites & computer programmes. I can't tell you how many times I've heard Mr S call out, "What's the user name & password for.." I started writing some of that stuff down a long time ago. Now that the boys are members of some sites & have programmes that require usernames & passwords I have more people calling out to me. I thought a little page in the back of our planner would be the right place, because now I can say "just check the planner fellows!"

I have a few other pages in there for keeping track of grades if I want to do that this year, it's not a required thing where I am but we'd rather be over prepared in regards to Morgan & highschool then under prepared so we'll just see what happens there. There's also many pages for notes & pages to keep track of books we read each month. I just have to finish binding it up. I was out of binding for the size it is, just over 1.5 inches.  When I went to the office store to get some, the fellows working the front corner decided they didn't have anything that big aside from comb binding. I suspect the fellows working were unaware that they do indeed because I've purchased large coil binding there many times. I might have to make a trip into the city to get what I need though.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Art Curriculum Review

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I mentioned a few months ago that we were blessed with some fantastic art curriculum in exchange for a review. It's normally the kind of thing I accept for a variety of reasons, but on occasion I do. This happened to be one of those occasions, & my family was delighted I did. If you're interested in knowing more about this curriculum, or what we thought of it, you can check out our review over here.

And while I'm speaking of reviews.. To the variety of people who keep begging to do guest posts on my blog, I'm sorry that's not something I do. Our blog is the place I choose to journal the comings & goings of our life. Our home educational triumphs & failures, the outings we take, & the funny moments around our home. Thus it is a personal space that we choose to keep "open" for friends & family around the world. While it is true that many strangers we don't know have found our blog & seem to enjoy reading it, we aren't interested in offering this small space for random people we don't know to leave guest posts on our blog encouraging people to go buy a product that isn't even available in the county we live in.

Please stop sending me review opportunities if you aren't willing to ship to Australia. Don't ask me to review your company or product if you aren't willing to ship to me in Australia or my family, friends, & readers who happen to live abroad as well. If you haven't quite figured it out from the name of our blog, we don't exactly live in America.

I'm sorry, but I simply won't review something I can't see, touch, or use. If you can't ship internationally or only want me to reach a small percentage of people it's just not gonna happen. Be happy. Smile, & all that good fun loving stuff.

Which means, in case I haven't stated it yet, that as a general rule of thumb I don't review products that can't be accessed by the people who live in the same country I do. Yeah, cause there's nothing more annoying then reading about something that sounds like a wonderful fit for your family only to discover it's inaccessible where you live.

As for the curriculum above, they DO ship overseas, & it's worth it!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Final, 2012, Week In Review

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I'm combining our last two weeks of school into one nifty post, simply because we don't have many photos of either week, but it's been fun to keep track of our progress throughout the year.

We're officially done with school, all though we have a couple of books we're in the middle of that we'll finish reading &/or listening to this week. We also have two homeschool events to attend, which we're super excited about.

We're hoping to have a little end of year party on Friday evening completely with certificates of completion for the boys & a campout in the backyard. We'll see what happens as our Friday is looking pretty full too!

It's been a wild ride this year, but a really rewarding school year too. Both boys have completed a lot of work, but more importantly grown as individuals which is always so rewarding to see.


The boys finished off the last of their notebooking projects for the year. The ones above are all about World War II, but they each also wrote a small report on the Cold War. Their timeline notebooks are full to bursting, which has them pleased as punch to say the least.


Another WWII project they finished but still needed to paste in their notebook. This project reminded me of all the yellow ribbons that were up during Desert Storm. The boys wanted to know if Gram had a blue star in the window while Uncle D was deployed, we always end up having interesting conversations from small projects.


We finished up our WWII Battle Maps. These were very fiddly, but the boys really enjoyed the finished project. They coloured a base map, coloured another map that was cut out & then glued to a plastic overlay, & then they cut out battle markers {arrows} that they glued down to another overlay. Now when they hear battles mentioned they just run & check their maps.


Majorly exciting day was when Morgan's glasses showed up! There was quite a bit of excitement as we raced off to collect our package. He's still struggling with the concept that he must wear them, & often, for them to be of help. He was complaining that he couldn't read his Bible well, I told him to put the glasses on. He was out when he complained of one of his eyes hurting & he lamented he didn't bring his glasses. One thing we learned was that some children will learn to "turn off" one eye in their effort to over compensate with the sight issue. We're now wondering if the eye that aches when he doesn't wear the glasses, is aching because it's the one he was "turning off". Either way, his confidence was boosted hugely when he wore them to a recent park day & all the adults & children told him they thought his new glasses were super cool.

 
We had company in town too, & we showed them how to play Ticket To Ride, a huge family favourite. This game, in board of electronic form, is played daily in this house. Our company, a completely different Uncle D then the one we normally mention, not only enjoyed the game but the nifty Paleo Brownies we served to eat while we played. Thus the plates in the background of the picture.

That pretty much wraps up our past couple of weeks. We've also got our Jesse Tree up, which the boys squeal with delight about each year. They recently had a fight about, when they are grown up, who will take it with them. The only outcome they came away with was that whomever took the Jesse Tree didn't get the party cloth. I completely ruined their day when I informed them if they wanted to use the Jesse Tree & Party Cloth they had to come back home. I'm cruel, what can I say! 

We're so ready for our summer! Warm day, lots of beach time, & plenty of good books to read. Divine.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Let Me Boost Your Confidence

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I am a homeschooling mother. I worry, I cry, I fuss, & I freak out. I’m pretty sure anyone who’s ever homeschooled their children can relate to that. We put a lot on our shoulders, we figure if we mess up we’ve ruined our children.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that all Mamma’s worry about that very thing. They worry that any hiccup or poor choice on their own behalf can scar their child for life. It happens. We make mistakes, we move on. Our children generally come out unscathed & as happy as they were before it ever happened.

Every two years the state sends someone around to our home to evaluate, with a home visit, how we’re doing & what we’re using to teach our children. It’s always an unsettling experience. Not because the people they send around are unpleasant, quite the opposite really. They generally are quick to put you at ease pointing out that they, too, once homeschooled their own children & they totally get that hands on experience in the real world is ten times more important then the textbook you thought would be a great idea.

Yet, it’s always unsettling wondering if you’ve forgotten something. Did you cover everything you should have. Did you keep enough records of what happened. Will they notice that we’re not nearly as far along in the math book as we’d like to be this year? Will they notice that after 2 solid years of spelling my child still spells you uoy? Will they care that that my 9 year old puts some kind of weapon in every picture he draws, or that there’s a king huntsman spider upon the speak her drew in art? Will they doubt my ability to do what I’ve been doing for the past 6 years? What if they tell me that I totally stink at my job? Will I be brave enough to smile or will I break down in tears & scream things like, “I know, I know, but you could have been kinder in how you told me!” 

None of that has ever happened though. Every time we open the door & let an evaluator in they are always pleasant & cheerful. They ask lots of questions, & one year I thought it was because I must not have shown enough work, but the women confessed after 80 minutes of chatting that she just enjoyed hearing my accent & so she kept asking me questions. 

This year wasn’t much different, but we had a new pile of nerves. The evaluator was new, to us. Our old faithful one had retired. It’s not that we were any less nervous inviting her into our home, but I’d stopped panicking & picking up shoes & socks before I let her in. The morning the new lady came I ran around in a hurried frenzy asking who spilled potato puff crumbs on the floor, I didn’t bother to ask why they ate potato puffs for breakfast. 

I demanded to know why children were still in their pjs when there was plenty of clean normal clothes to wear. I ran around telling my children to stop spazzing out while they gawked at me with a look of utter confusion on them until I tripped over a computer cord. At which point I probably would have asked who had the gull to put it in my way {never mind that I requested it} when Jayden announced, “She’s here!” 

We all put normal smiles on our faces & invited her in. We shared all the work we’ve accomplished over the past two years. We shared some minor struggles we’ve had in regards to teaching certain subjects to certain students. We shared an unreal amount of resources.

We laughed together over pictures of God eating atop the temple in the boys Bible books, or the handful of french fries he’s handing out after the miracle of bread & fish. Then she oohed over books she saw & asked about titles that really caught her eye. When she told us she loved our book selections, which are often like old friends to us it really boosted my confidence.

I don’t say this to boast, but to encourage. I confessed to her that it’d been a crazy wild year for us. That we’d started school in January like we always do, that we had a minor set back in the delivery of our Core curriculum. That we settled into a routine only to change math curriculums for some, spelling for others. We experienced the loss of my father, & learned to cope in ways we never thought possible. We received, at long last, a diagnosis for our child who’d hobbled along with reading for so long & had to learn new ways of helping him cope as we embaressed this new found information.

It’s all things you tend to take in your stride, but it’s not until someone puts the question to you, “How are you doing though?” That you have to stop & think. I don’t know about most of you, but I don’t take the time to stop & think about how I’m doing. I just am. That is not to say I walk through life blindfolded or immune, but you learn to cope with whatever comes in your path. 

I really had to stop & think about the question. “I’m okay.” was my response. I am okay. You learn to live the best you can in the situation you are currently thrown in. It’s not always easy, but you make do. Eventually things return to a form of normal that you can be at ease with, at least for a while. 

When our evaluator looked at me & said, ”I'd like to quit my job & come learn with all of you. These beautiful & yummy books are just calling out to be read & I can only imagine what a delightful time you have!" It made every tear we shed, every hurdle we climbed, & every bad day we had worth it. 

For there is nothing quite so as uplifting as hearing a stranger telling you, "You've got it right. You're not messing your kids up. You are doing an amazing job. Your kids have learned so much & it pours forth from them." I needed those words today, this week, this month, this year.

So I wanted to pass those words on to anyone reading this, because it’s true. You do have it right. You are not messing your kids up. You do an amazing job. Your kids have learned so much, & it does pour forth from them, all you have to do is stop & listen to them. Be amazed. Be empowered. Breathe.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

2013 Planner

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Three weeks to go & we're taking six weeks off to regroup, recoupe, & get ready for a new school year. I'm making mental lists of all the things I need & want to do during that time. One of which is getting my planner for next school year all set up. All though, I jumped ahead a little on that one.

I had snagged a few of those nifty little Subway art posters, for free around the internet, this year, & realised that I could use them as my tab dividers for the planner. With a bit of help from google I found a few more to have 12 that I was pleased with. I really wanted to print them right on my tab dividers, but it just wasn't gonna happen. Thanks to the nifty tag they wouldn't fit in my printer. So I did the next best thing.

I printed out the art, glued them to the tabbed dividers & then laminated each one. The best part is, the tabbed dividers were pre-hole punched & the nifty subway art covered it up so when I punch them again with my binder it won't look double hole punched.

I'm working on the inside of it & want to finish it off soon so I can get it all printed & bound. One of the many things on my summer list is to plan out a few things we have on tabs for next year. Weeks off, book lists, etc.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Christmas Star

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What can I say? When the boys saw the kiwi start at our local Woolies they wanted their photo taken with it. The sign upon it encourages them to, so we did. Mr S wanted a piece of the action, because he's like that you know. We did not, however, share our photos on Facebook. We figure you can shop at whatever store you want if your lucky enough to have other options!

Don't ask about the letters the boys are holding, just don't I beg you. If you say anything about that absurd letter Y Morgan will crack every joke in the book he knows. It was suppose to be the letter M, but that's what happens when you're 4 & your Daddy plays one of those ridiculous claw machines that eat your money. You end up with a Y, that you still love & adore when you are 11. That you still annoy your mother mercilessly with because you can make a million and one different jokes about Y. At least the J makes sense, right? You know it does!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving

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Our little family has made it a tradition to celebrate Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving has always been one of my most favourite holidays. The trick to celebrating holidays when you don't live in the country of your birth/nationality is to embrace new traditions. For my family this means that we don't go visiting pumpkin patches. We no longer annually run the Turkey Trot, a 5k put on, annually, by the local YMCA's in the US.

We get a dramatically smaller turkey which only takes a few hours to cook instead of a whole day. We don't get up early to watch the Thanksgiving Day Parade, & we don't even have to think about the whole Black Friday/Thanksgiving Day sale debates. Of course, we also don't wrap up the holiday with a glass of eggnog & warm slippers. It's usually more like ice cold lemonade & a view of the blanket of stars in the clear warm sky.

There are a few traditions that we do keep, even though they mean going a little farther then we'd normally have to go. Turkey alone is one of those things. Every store in town is not selling turkey, & those that do charge an astronomical price. $60 is not abnormal for, what I'd generally call, slim pickings. You have to remember that in the US I was serving more people, & we often sent leftovers home with people. In fact, one year I distinctively remember cooking 2 large turkeys. For Morgan's first Thanksgiving {he was just shy of 12 months} the turkey was bigger then he was!

This year Mr S selected the turkey & I have to say I quite loved that. There was no debating sizes & prices for me. There was a quick shout out the door as he took off for work, "Don't forget the turkey or it won't quite feel like Thanksgiving." Followed by a harried call at his lunch break to say, "I don't know if I got the right one. I thought I had a 50, but I ended up with a 62." {That was in reference to weight, not price, & no it wasn't pounds. We had a 14 pound turkey.}

Other annual traditions are generally based around the food I prepare for the family we invite over. Dishes that I always remember seeing on the table at Thanksgiving. Fruit Salad {top left photo} has always been on the holiday table & use to be brought by my great-grandmother. In fact, the stories we pass down are always how she lamented not only the price of grapes but the fact that in the US at that time they always had seeds in them. So when my boys helped slice the grapes for the salad I told them how lucky they were because Buddy had to pip them.

The thing about the fruit salad is, there isn't much fruit in it. Just bananas, pineapple {tinned}, & grapes. You have to remember that in the N. Hemisphere there's not always a whole lot of pickings in regards to fruit late in the season. It's mixed with whipped cream & marshmallows. I can't have it because of the dairy in it, & when I considered not making it I was told that was just wrong. Which is why we made a last minute dash to the local IGA for bananas & grapes because while I'd remembered the whipping cream for the salad, I'd rather forgotten all the rest of the ingredients. See, the upside to Thanksgiving in Australia is that you don't have to worry about your local corner shop being closed.

Corn Pudding was another one always brought over by my great-grandmother, & over the years despite the many funny looks I get for mentioning the dish I've yet to feed it to someone who thought it was icky. All though this year I had to try & make it egg free & I think I failed on that attempt because it was a bit dry. What a shame that I'll have to make it again! Sorry, no photo because it came out of the oven & went straight on the table.

Cranberry Sauce {top right}. In America I use to go to the shop & buy a couple of bags of fresh cranberries. I'd make a regular sauce & an orange sauce. Or sometimes a new & random recipe I'd find in a magazine. Regardless it wasn't never hard to come by cranberries. I've never seen a bag of fresh cranberries since being here, all though OceanSpray does ship tiny little bitty jars of whole berry cranberry sauce here. Loaded with sugar & rather pricey. However, I discovered at my local health food shop that they sell dried, unsweetened, cranberries. As an experiment one year I purchased some & boiled them in water. Let them sit & low & behold they jelled right up. I was in awe. Every year since I've made cranberry sauce, but I generally give it a good whizz with the stick blender because my guys prefer the smoother consistency. Sometimes I even make maple cranberry ice cream & throw the sauce in it. It's really delicious, I didn't make some this year much to the annoyance of a little boy I know who loves cranberry sauce & maple syrup. I haven't told him I reserved some dry cranberries to make this later. Shh..

Cherry Pie {bottom right}. It was always the tradition growing up, once I was old enough, for me to make the pies for Thanksgiving. Mom said it was because I make the best pie crust, my husband agrees with her. Either way I always made apple, pumpkin, & cherry. Sometimes there were others, sometimes there weren't. One year I made extras & we sent them to friends. One year I decided I was making way too much pie & I should cut back. Especially since I'd found this recipe for a chocolate peanut butter pie & since Mr S doesn't like peanut butter I knew I'd have to make one without peanut butter. We were now on the verge of having 6 pies for Thanksgiving, not to mention the cookies the kids decorated. I sent an SOS out via email that year & said how I thought of not making the cherry & pumpkin pie. I got a reply back from Dad who vetoed the whole idea because he needed his cherry pie, & it would be untraditional not to have pumpkin. Mr S agreed with him whole heartedly. We had 6 pies that year.

The thing is, in the US you can buy pre canned Cherry Pie filling pretty inexpensively. You just make your pie crust, open the tin, dump it in the shell, bake. That's it. Easy peasy. You can't do that here. You have to actually make the filling, which is much tastier all though highly time consuming too. Not to mention Tassie cherries aren't quite ripe yet, even the earlier varieties which are rumoured to be ready in a couple of weeks! However, there were cherries in the shop this week from the mainland so I told the boys to keep guard while I snagged a bag & dumped the entire box of cherries into my bag before making a quick exit from the produce section. Then we came home & made cherry pie filling, along with a cherry pie. There were no complaints, even though I did not make a pumpkin pie this year.

As for the bottom left picture. That's pretty much how I cook Thanksgiving Dinner here. Barefooted, because it was too hot to be bothered putting on shoes.. with my pants rolled up, & demanding to know who closed the side door because know the pie wasn't cooling quickly enough. Or while darting across the kitchen to balance cooking a turkey & chicken.

The rest of our meal is pretty simple though because I tend to just make a variety of salads along with mashed potatoes. I actually considered canceling Thanksgiving one year, because you know.. we could just eat turkey sandwiches or something. My idea was vetoed, which is how we learned to make our own Aussie/American traditions, & I'm glad we did.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Birthday Cards

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Birthdays are kinda a big deal around here. As sad as it is for our children to get older, in the emotional sense, it's a big deal too. There are certain traditions the boys have come to love & expect. They also do their best to try & carry some of them out for my birthday.

Oddly enough, I never buy them a birthday card. I just don't. They've never complained about it or asked about, all though one year Jayden requested a card, a very specific card. He wanted one with a singing & dancing hamster on it. We bought it for him after searching through 5 stores to find it. He was delighted.

When Mr S takes the boys birthday shopping it's always a funny ordeal to me while I sit & wait. There's also lots of whispering & giggling & many half told stories because they realise if they tell me what's so funny they'll blow the secret they are trying to keep.

The night before my birthday Jayden was so excited he simply couldn't sleep. We found him on the couch the next morning. Or rather, I should say I found the remains of his blankets on the couch. He was up at first light, literally, & pounding on my bedroom door to know if I was awake, "Not that I'm waking you up, but since you area awake can we give you presents?"

He was very intent I open his card first, which he'd especially picked out all by himself. I know homemade cards are sweet, & we really do love them around here so don't hesitate to give them to us, but I absolutely love it when my boys pick out cards. They use to give such funny cards because they always based it on the picture. I'll have to share some of them one day. Jayden, despite being able to read, wanted to pick out a really girlie card for me. He didn't bother to read, he just snagged the girliest looking card that was pink & had a teddybear on it.

That's his up there on the right. Notice the writing on the front? "For my Beautiful Wife." I laughed so hard before pulling myself together & saying, "Such a cute card, i really love that bear holding all the flowers!" He'd apparently wanted to give me flowers too, but thought he could only buy them at the veggie shed & didn't want to tell me to go there because he thought I'd know what he was up to. When I opened up the card he'd painstakingly written a message to me too which read: "Mom hop uoy in a gooe uor brftae {heart} Jaydin" {Which means: "Mom, hope you enjoy your birthday, love Jayden} I looked up & said, "Oh, did you know you put an I in your name?" He leans over & says, "What?! Daddy! Did you try to change my name in the card when I wasn't looking?"

Then Morgan gave me the card on the left. He actually read the card before purchasing, & it was equally funny. Can you read it? "Your birthday card cost Terry & Sue an arm & a leg" His sense of humor is just like Mr S'. Morgan decided to make it a bit more girlie by adding some Hermoni lego stickers to it, because he deemed me just as smart as she is. Talk about feeling special!

Yep, homemade or store bought my guys pick out some very cute & funny cards! Then again they've always picked out pretty funny gifts too. They once gave Dad a set of boxer garden lights. Morgan was attracted to all the nifty stripes & polka dots. They also gave him a play hot-wheels set once because, "I'm sure he'll love the cars!" they couldn't wait for him to open it so they could use it. One year, while decorating coffee mugs for all the adults for Christmas I turned my back to stir something on the stove & when I turned back Morgan had drawn a whole "cops & robbers scene" on my sister-in-law's mug. But, "Mom! I used pink, I know Jacqueline will love it because I picked pink! See?" There were guns & bullets too. I'm sure she cherished that cup forever. Ha! Pretty sure they purchased my brother a model car once. With the ages 2-5 year olds on it. Made of wood. "Because he loves cars too, & this will be so easy for him to do because it says so on the box!"  I'm looking forward to Christmas shopping with them next month, it's always so much fun!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Family Traditions

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In my family when a baby is born Mom has always done a counted cross-stitch picture to welcome the new one. This was true for each of my children, along with beautiful crocheted blankets, my favorite is a blue & white one that I, admittedly, used anytime it was laying around & a baby didn't need it. Mom has made many cross-stitch pictures over the years.

In fact, she has some gorgeous Civil War ones hanging on her walls at home. I still remember when she was working on them. She had to count the number of threads in the material she was working on because it was linen & not the pre-holed {is that a word} adia cloth you generally use. I can't remember if my boys noticed those pictures while we were in the US, I meant to point them out to them because we'd discussed how Gram had the generals from the war on the wall, but I digress..

I've also made a few over the years, all though I tend to be much slower at it then Mom is. So much so that I've been working on the same one for a couple of years now. Sad, but true. Which means the one I had planned to do after it as a gift has been sitting there waiting for years too. I really should remedy that situation.

When I spotted the Pledge of Allegiance cross-stitch pattern I thought it would be really fun hanging in our schoolroom, but I was lazy & asked Mom to make it for us. She did. When we moved I was certain I'd packed it in my bags, but you know for 6 years I looked for that thing. It's true, I became discouraged each time I thought I knew where I'd stashed it only to find it missing. There's a hoodie that has a story all most identical to this.

While in the US Mr S & I were looking through all our stuff in storage & what did I stumble on? Yep, our Pledge Of Allegiance cross-stitch that Mom had made. I squealed so loud my cousin said, "You have to take that back with you!" Ha, of course I was taking it back with me. I haven't gotten it framed yet, & as you can tell by the nifty little crease across the kids chins I haven't even ironed it yet. Nope, instead I pulled it out of my case & slapped it on the art line.

I also stumbled upon both of the boys baby samplers. To which there were also squeals of, "Aww, remember when these were hanging on the boys walls.." I thought I'd brought both of those back, but upon unpacking I only found Jayden's:


The glass on his had been broken & when I rescued the picture I must have put it with the other one. Morgan's is a Noah's Ark picture & must be safely tucked in with the other framed pictures. Can you guess what themes their nurseries were when they were born? Ha, not that they had glorious nurseries, as long as Jayden's been around they've always shared a bedroom. In fact, when I mentioned having them sleep in their own bedrooms for a change, Morgan was absolutely mortified.

Someday, if I actually remember I might snap a photo of one or two that are laying around that I made, but seriously, they can't compare to Elliot up there. The photo doesn't show it, but his colours really are very vivid & beautiful. I love Boyd's bears, don't you? I use to buy Mom one each year for her birthday & Mother's Day until the store I purchased them at closed down. Our family traditions are pretty well woven into each other, I love that.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cray Guys

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Over the past couple of months we've been helping a family member pack & prepare to move. Two weekends ago, or was it more now?, we helped this family member actually move into their new living accommodations.  The thing is, moving isn't easy & it's usually not without it's own stresses.

We spent many weekends helping pack in order to make moving day go more quickly. There were moments of complete insanity, but that's pretty normal for this family. Moving day arrived bright & early with a few extra family members along to help. There was still some minor packing to do & plenty of unpacking too. None of which is too cumbersome, just tiring & often very boring.

It's moving the big stuff that gets to me. Whenever the guys move the bigger pieces of furniture I cringe. It's not because I'm worried about dents & dings, but because those big old fridges, loaded dressers, & whatnot always look like they are about tumble over on them. I've learned it's best not to watch.

I was dutifully sticking to my, "do not watch" when I heard things tumbling in the fridge. I ran out to remind them the fridge had glass shelves in it, to which they didn't care because the doors of the fridge were currently flying open while they had it on the lift going into the truck. It was one of those laugh of cry moments, in which we all chose to roll with laughter at the absurdity of 5 adults scrambling to slam doors.

Mr S was guiding the fridge while his eldest brother was pushing the fridge after they got it up onto the truck. Another moment I hate because I'm thinking getting squashed by a fridge would be pretty painful! However, when Mr S yelled out, "Hey Mate, stop I've still gotta get out!" I turned around. His brother, in normal older brother practice, rolled with laughter & finished shoving the fridge in the truck.

Next thing we know Mr S's head pops up over the top of the fridge & says, "Very funny. I'm stuck." More laughter. Mr S doesn't move. I say, "Are you really stuck?" "Yes!" "Can't you climb over that table & around the book case?" "Um, maybe." A few minutes later we see a leg come up & over, followed by half his body only to see it all slip back out of sight.

It took him a good ten minutes to maneuver around the items, a brother to help pull him, & a whole lot of laughter on my behalf. There was also a lot of picture taking, all though they aren't very good because I was laughing so hard. In fact, I was laughing hard enough that the next door neighbor came out to see what was going on, & when she vanished so did half the workers who were went to join her for cream & scones. I'm not kidding!

Mr S eventually escaped, without harm & even enjoyed a plateful of scones & cream. The later of which was rumoured to be completely delicious, I can't attest to that as they were loaded with dairy. Nothing like a light hearted moment in the middle of a long & tiring day.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Another Week In Review

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The closer we get to the end of the year, 3 weeks to go now, the faster my children seem to run. In fact we've been so busy this week this is actually last week's stuff that happened!

We got very carried away reading The Winged Watchman last week which is a really sweet book about World War II. My boys really loved it & despise when I'd put it away for the day. The only downside to the book was that I don't speak Dutch so I'm pretty sure I was pronouncing the names pretty poorly. Not that my children minded, but I have to confess it really made me wonder...


While reading about World War II last week Jayden was dutifully building away. Can you tell we were  reading about air raids at the time? Jayden built this little scene with a plane, a few ground troops, & well, I think the bus was suppose to be a tank, but I can't remember!


We had a solar eclipse last week which, thankfully, we'd told the boys was coming. Jayden asked us every day if the next one was the right day. I'm so glad he did! I told them I'd wake them up if they weren't up so they could watch it start to finish. So there we stood in the front yard with x-rays glued to our faces in our pjs while the rest of the neighborhood gawked at us as they attempted to get ready for school & work. We missed the last 20 minutes of it due to extreme cloud cover, during which we time we discussed x-rays & how to read them.


Jayden reviewed lines this week in his math. He was delighted to pull out his notebooking page to be sure he had the names right. I have him do some of his math in the book & then we type answers in to the computer from there. We had a sensitive mouse track pad & it was choosing answers for him if he hovered too long over a specific area while reading the math equation. Ahh, we have to love technology right?


Morgan worked on probability, square roots, & an assortment of other things this week. Yes, that's Bananagrams out for math my friends. Because you use all sorts of things for math too right? The really funny part was that I dropped 6 letter tiles in there. I thought I'd dropped 2 Ts, 2 Ss, & 1 A in the bag. I was curious to see how his graphs would work based on those letters. Well, turns out I actually dropped in 3 Ts & only one of each letter. I was sitting there thinking, "This is a little lopsided considering what I put in the bag!" We had a great laugh when it was over.


We made our way through this stack of books this week. Well, we didn't finish the bottom two last week, but then again we weren't suppose to. If you're learning about WW II & looking for a historical book that's reasonably gentle for the younger crowd, The Winged Watchman is so worth it! My boys enjoyed Thimble Summer which we read some of & listened to some of. It was a sweet little book & they really loved Garnet's enthusiasm for life. We had such a long chat about what WE would do if we'd gotten locked in the library. It sounded like bliss to us, the whole thing, to ourselves!


Lots & lots of notebooking pages were done this week. The boys really loved the propaganda buttons. Interestingly enough a lot of US propaganda was up this week & some of last, on Facebook that they picked up for what it was thanks to this little lesson.


The other side of the papers above. That little pocket is so very full of old WWII propaganda posters. See Rosie there on the front? I'm so getting a t-shirt with her on the front that says, "I teach math" It just made me laugh. Come on, admit you want one!


More notebooking pages. L to R: Ration booklet & token holder. There's another picture of the inside you'll see later, I think. It inspired the boys to want to do a WWII day, which I'm working on planning for next year in the winter where a blackout will make more effect on them. The Holocaust booklet, speaking of many concentration camps, as well as famous Jews from that time. Navajo Code Breaker page which is two sided & discusses how the Navajo language came to be used in the war.


Inside of the ration booklet. Lots of cutting they did with it, but it made them very aware of how rationing worked in regards to what could be bought when, where, & how.


A variety of Army papers that the US Soldiers would have had. I snapped photos before they were filled out with any kind of personal information. That little red booklet is thick. It's the handbook officers were given, & my boys enjoyed looking through it & trying a few things out.


Medals & ribbons given out during WWII for a variety of things. Jayden was in love with this page. He could not wait to look at books with WWII soldiers in it to see what kind of medals they had. Which reminded me that Nana had a medal from her Uncle being in WWII, & when they asked if they could see it she was delighted.. until we all remembered it was in storage & not in her home. Alas..


This was suppose to be the personal Rucksack of John F Ebel. Inside is a story about him, his medals of service, photos of his mates, souvenirs, & other little goodies. Jayden was highly disappointed that he could wear the rucksack when it was put together. I'm thinking he'd really love one for Christmas, along with a WWII helmet.


This page was a trifolded page & it caused lots of excitement too as they could see the break down of all the various forms of warfare & weapons used. I'm pretty sure that page will be getting a bit of reference as we finish reading a few WWII books I found on the shelves & in the library.


Last but not least was the K-rations page. The boys were impressed the soldiers got a spoon with every meal. Seriously, that cracked me up to no end. It's all an adventure to the innocent isn't it? A cool new spoon with every meal, eating of of packets & tins. They were a little unimpressed that cigarettes were included in the rations, which equally made me laugh. I know, I know, but a lot of their reactions were just so very sweet & innocent.

Somewhere in that week we also had a trip to the park, a dinner at the beach, & lots of outdoor play. We're loving the warmer weather ahead. The boys are now anxiously planning a summer victory garden, which seems like a perfect way to prepare to wrap up this unit!