Sunday, September 30, 2012

Next Year..

While school might just be heading back into a new school year in the Northern Hemisphere, we are racing towards the finish here in the Southern Hemisphere. Can I be honest a minute? I prefer the Southern Hemisphere's school year over the Northern. Mr S says it's due to my "Monkism" issues. He might be right. I just love that we start at the beginning of the year {February} & end at the end of the year {December}. Everything lines up so much more neatly.

I'm usually well aware of what my intended plans for the new school year are well in advanced. That's not any different right now either, but what I really wanted was to get our school year down on paper so I could propose which fun things to pencil in where on our calendar next year. You know, those lovely camping trips you intend to take, museums you want to visit, etc.

Funny thing is, the local school district {as int he whole state because that's just how small our state is} has always run off a three term school year. We haven't, we've always been on a four term school year. As in, we start & stop with less time off at the end of the year. My kids get bored & boredom can lead to trouble. It's also really easy to forget a lot of stuff you learned the year before if you take too much time off. So we've never followed the state school schedule before.

Imagine my laughter when I sat down a few weeks ago & penciled in our nifty school calendar on my lovely little homemade calendar pages. Then I blocked off weeks I intended to take off. Then, because I'm morbidly nosey like that, I looked up what the school district was doing. Our times on & off are exactly the same. Except my kids always start back up on a Monday where as some of the schools bring kids back on Tuesdays. We'll also stop officially for the end of our year one week earlier then the rest of the state. I laughed loud enough the guys wanted to know what was so funny.

I told Mr S that the red blocks were times we could nip out of town, go camping, day trips, etc. Then I told him that I'd scheduled us off for the same time as the schools, so I might change it so we're off prior or later, but I dunno. I'm really happy with my schedule to be quite honest! One thing we've really loved about having differing times is that we've always had hot spots to ourselves, all though my kids are so tired of saying, "No, I'm homeschooled."

I told them they should be grateful, when I was homeschooled & got quizzed as to why I was out of school people use to proceed to quiz me on math facts or other silliness. I told them they should count their blessings that people only ask them if it's their free day or if they are on holiday.

You pencil in your school schedule, right? I'm not the only one who plans it out 4 months or more in advanced right? I won't freak you out, in the same post, with my spreadsheets for curriculum choices & other what-not for next year.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up

This is what our school table looked like on Monday morning. Generally it's bare, except for the sheets we store under our clear tablecloth. Needless to say we were a bit behind on a few of our notebooking projects, so in order to gain control of the table & keep things moving I rounded up the boys & turned on Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry. We spent the better half of the morning, cutting, coloring, folding, & gluing. There were no complaints because the boys were well absorbed in their task & the story.

We've been plowing through the World Wars books.  The boys have really enjoyed every minute of that book, & I have to confess while it's not a topic I generally enjoy reading about the book itself has been incredibly interesting. So we tackled the paper that corresponded with what we've been learning & made up our little booklets about the various forms of weapons used in the World War 1. 

The little books are put inside of a homemade bigger book. The boys loved coloring the covers of these, & while they did that I tackled a bit more cutting & did some of Jayden's glueing. He's still not keen on glue, but has stopped screaming, "Glue! My worst enemy!" Progress indeed. There was a time when he detested coloring so I never asked it of him, but now coloring & drawing are two of his favourite past times. I don't know if glueing anything will reach that level or not, but we'll take the progress we've got.

We also made up the WW I belt project. This has gotten a lot of ooh's & aah's in our home over everyone the boys have shown it too. Sadly, for Jayden, it required a bit of glueing, so I did his glueing & he did the folding. Morgan is very content to tackle all crafty things on his own as long as he doesn't have to use white glue because, "it takes too long to dry."

Inside this little belt is loaded with 8 mini projects. All of which we'd learned about from the World Wars book, & the HSITW cd. It took 100 & some odd pages in the World Wars book to cover WW I & only 2 pages on the cd. That's okay though, because the cd mentioned Alvin C. York & I would have forgotten to mention him. My family would be shocked that I might have nearly forgotten him, after all we've seen the movie more times then I can count & I'm pretty sure there isn't a one of us who will ever in our lives forget the time Dad drove us past York's home in TN. By the time we got to the base of that road everyone was either car sick or screaming for him to pull over.  The boys laughed themselves silly listening to my retelling, but I noticed neither of them asked if we'd ever go visit that house.

Last week, I think it was, we read about some of the amazing things that were accomplished in the 1900's. Top on the list was Mt Rushmore & the Empire State Building. Did you know they ran out of money to complete Mt Rushmore? Each president was suppose to be a full bust, but because they ran out of money they left it as it was. Which made us look twice as close at the picture of the actual carved mountain. We snagged these notebooking pages for free from around the web & the boys colored them on our journey down to Morgan's eye appointment. They narrated information to me to write down on the pages before we coloured them.

A few weeks ago we also studied the Spanish-American War, the boys narrated to me on that day & I jotted down what they wanted to include on their paper, then we ran a copy of it off for each child. So we finished that off on Monday by adding the pop-up explosion to it. The boys were very delighted with the effect & I was delighted to have it finally off the table.

We also read about a variety of disasters that happened during this time frame too. Some we only learned small tidbits about & others, like the Johnstown Flood, we learned a bit more about. The little booklet, when closed, looks like an old fashioned telephone! Morgan really loved the look of this booklet!

We took a small break for lunch & then regrouped to finish off the last of our projects. These little flip books of clothes often take a great deal of time & patience to make, but the boys really enjoy seeing the completed process. This time each flip page was a different year of fashion. The boys each made their own. Just a little tip, we don't print directly onto acetate, our printer ink never seems to dry when we do. We were warned about that. Instead I just hold the clear plastic {I use the clear covers I have on hand for our Proclick} up to the area that needs cutting & trim around the plastic. Then I use that as my pattern. We glue our objects directly onto that which works much easier all though it can be a bit tedious.

On top of our notebooking pages we also read through a stack of books this way:

  • Little Britches, all though I think we actually wrapped that up last week. Sad ending, a few words we don't use in our family within the book, but a very delightful story over all. Mr S was the only one not trying to hold back tears at the end.
  • George Washington Carver, while we knew he was responsible for many of the known uses for peanuts we didn't actually know why he investigated those, now we do. A really good read. 
  • All-of-A-Kind Family, oh how my boys giggled through this story. You know the, "uh-oh this won't end well" kinda things. When we reached the end of the story today Morgan said, "What?! It can't end like that! I need more!!" I assured him there were many more books in the series, with a relieved sigh he said, "Will you read more to me then?" 
  • Roll Of Thunder Hear My Cry, it's a deep book in regards to emotions. Enough so that I still remember a few things from this book when I read it as a child, but only on an emotional level. We're not quite through with this story, but so far the boys are enjoying it. I think it was an eye opener for them that just because the Civil War was over didn't mean that the fight for some Americans was.
  • The World Wars, we've only read half of this book. We're saving the WWII section for after Spring Break. The boys absolutely love this book. I read so much of it each day because they just didn't want me to stop. They scrutinized pictures, asked heaps of questions, & carried on very detailed discussions. We haven't explored all the links in the book yet, but that's okay.

Now, before you think we are some kinda super homeschoolers, bear in mind we didn't do much of any other studies this week aside from science & a few applied lessons. However, we were racing towards the finish that leads up to our Spring Break. The rest of the state took it over the last two weeks, but we like to be different & it officially starts now for us! We have a couple of small trips planned so I've snagged some audio books for the boys to listen to & we hope to finish up War Horse which we are currently reading too. Nothing too major or too formal.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sonlight Science

I mentioned a bit ago that amongst a few mid-year changes we also changed our science curriculum up. It was a really late change considering we started school in January & opted to change our science in August.

It's not that we didn't like our former science curriculum, it was more that we simply weren't getting to it & thus it wasn't happening. I mentioned my concern, the lack of science being tackled to Mr S, one evening & he asked me what other science curriculum I'd been looking over at the start of the year.

Does that happen to you too? Do you start out looking at one thing & then think, "No, I'll go this way instead." It happens to me a bit too much, & you'd really think I'd have figured it out by now that it never gets me anywhere.

I went back & looked over the Sonlight Science I'd considered using at the start of the year with the boys & was blessed to find a fellow Aussie Homeschooler who was done with the very level we were looking for. Don't you love it when God works things out for you just like that? I do. We've had a lot of that happening around here lately.

The Sonlight science uses a variety of books {excuse my favourite pjs, but sometimes we do school in our pj's, on the weekend, while eating breakfast.. we're cool like that} mixed with heaps of experiments. Unlike the curriculum we were using before {Elementary Apologia} Sonlight mixes & matches the topics throughout the year. The lessons are quick, simple, & get done. I love that last bit, & the middle bit, & the beginning bit.

The boys decided they really wanted to share the fun of the experiments & videos that go with the science core with Daddy on the weekends. I'm totally cool with that. In fact, I remember very clearly telling Mr S, once upon a time, that he'd be the science & math teacher. He agreed if I'd take history & language arts. Saturday mornings we pull our science supply kit & our science experiment book. We watch the semi-cheesy {okay, let me be clear here.. My kids love that video, but Mr S & I laugh ourselves crazy with it} video & then they set to work with their experiments.

Easy Peasy. That's kinda my theme this year, if it's easy & simple we're game for it. This experiment really excited the guys & they had an incredible amount of fun testing a variety of batteries & bulbs. At one point they even pulled out a regular sized bulb & tried to see if they had enough D batteries to power it. They didn't, & as I wandered off to get out of those pj's I said, "I bet the car battery is strong enough." I laughed, I mean I did, really! It was one of those "haha" moments where you think you've got a silly answer. Yeah, well you see I live in a house of boys who aren't about to be held back by the simple fact that they don't have enough D batteries on hand to light a bulb that could so easily be slipped into one of the many 10' lamps in the house that are empty. Nope, their eyes light up & Mr S says, "Now that's a great idea!" I hid the car keys.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


Over the past six years we've seen a lot of wildlife at the beach from penguins & starfish to dolphins & seals, but we've never actually seen a whale. This is on Jayden's great big list of things to do. More specifically to see a blue whale, but he'll settle for a killer whale if that's all that's is visible. He's got it all worked out.

A couple of days ago Mr S sent me a txt message to tell me there was a whale beached in town. I didn't notice the message for another 5 hours. The boys didn't care that it was sent 5 hours ago, they wanted to go right then & see if it had been rescued. They've actually chatted, for quite a while & knocked the socks off of, whale rescuers. It was a booth at a local festival where they were able to see & touch real baleen, check out the whale they use to train people & so on.

My theory was that if the whale had been beached 5 hours ago the tide was now coming in it would be a close call in viewing it. Thing is, Mr S forgot to tell us that the whale wasn't actually alive. Ha! So the boys & I went into town & drove along the coast line until we noticed an excess amount of cars in an area that's generally quite deserted, especially when the tide is in.

We hopped out & made our way down to the beach. It was quite the sight to be hold. A whole lot of amazing & a good bit of sad. This whale was huge, all though in a very sad state of affairs. It's tail had been quite mauled by something, we guess sharks from the look of the teeth marks. Jayden still felt the deep desire to touch it's tail & fin. He was shocked they were both spongey.

I was pretty certain it was a humpback whale, & reports from the wildlife departments was that I was right. The boys were pretty impressed with my whale identifying skills. I have to confess, I wasn't entirely certain, because while it was huge it wasn't as large as I would have expected a full grown humpback to be. Reports also confirmed it was a juvenile which shed light on that side of things.

It wasn't exactly how they'd hoped to see a whale, but it didn't totally disappoint them either. Hopefully next time the whale will be alive, & you know.. not beached too.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Technological School Problems

The problem with technology in schools today, even homeschools, is that they break. Unlike books, pencils, pens, & paper which can easily be taped broken cds don't work the same way. Neither to do computers that don't reboot with grades, scores, & plans on them. Yeah, it happened to us!

A couple of weeks ago our desktop style Mac had major issues & by the end of the day it decided to give up the ghost. Officially. Completely. No holds bar. In fact, I'm pretty sure I heard gagging sounds & gasping noises from it before it refused to do anything I asked of it. I sent Mr S an SOS at work, mostly out of pure pity then anything else.

Then we dragged out his MacBook Pro & I set Jayden up to do math on that computer instead. He was contentedly working away, & when he finished I instructed him to put the computer back on it's charger & remove the cd & put it away. I should have been more specific. I should have said, "Put the cd away. Now go put the computer back on the charger." But I did not. He walked off humming, & then I heard an all sickening cracking sound.

Seriously, I thought he'd broken the screen on the computer due to the noise, but Mr S is notorious for keeping glasses on his side of the bed so I jumped up thinking Jayde had broken a glass on himself. By the time I got to the bedroom he was all ready dashing up the hall towards his own room. I walked in & found the math cd in 3 nifty pieces on the bed.

Yeah, normally we copy math cds & have the children work from copies. That way if something happens to it, it's no big deal. We still encourage them to be really careful with them, but if the disc gets scratched or ruined in anyway there's no tears or panic. The same computer that wouldn't listen to me was giving me grief about copying discs, so we were working with originals. Crazy, I know.

I found Jayden curled up under a quilt in his bed. Apparently when he dropped the computer on the bed it flung the cd out of his hand & the computer landed on top of the cd. Honest bad luck all around on that one. I assured him no one was going to be angry with him & that we'd replace the cd even if it meant replacing the entire curriculum. There were still tears, but we discovered, with a little help, that Teaching Textbooks is awesome & will replace any lost or broken disc to your set for $15. That includes shipping within the US, yeah for awesome customer service!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Local Sights & Sounds

Life is very busy for our little family right now. There's much hustle & bustle as we go through the day to day things around here. Last week we were in town after dark & as we came to a stop at the end of a street we looked up & noticed the local cruise boat heading out. I pulled into a parking lot so I could legally use the camera on my phone. Life is good, & it's fun to stop & look around us & see the everyday things we often take for granted.

We use to see this boat nightly from our house, not that we set our watches by it or anything like that. All though I do remember the time Nana stayed with us & got up early just so she could see the boat come in. It made us chuckle, but mostly because she'd not encountered a foggy morning where the captain would lay on his horn, repetitively as he sought help to get into port.

It didn't happen often, but it was always disconcerting when it did. Something between a cross of panic & pain is what it sounded like as it desperately waited for a tugboat to search it out & drag it in. The first time it happened to us was one of those foggy winter mornings, & the boat was early we know, because it's incessant honking woke us up. I don't miss the honking part.

We once lived really close to a major rail line in Tasmania too. Jayden was four then & obsessed with trains. He'd clamber up into the windowsill each time he heard the train coming. He'd run from one window to the next to be sure he saw the whole train, but he often got annoyed that the conductor couldn't see him waving. Mr S never got use to that train coming through at 3 am. Frankly, except for the time he woke me up shouting, "Can you hear that?" I never heard the train. We aren't as close to the rail line now, but during the day I hear it's whistle a few times.

Jayden no longer clambers up into windows to check it out, but he does come to a dead standstill when he hears a siren, then without looking he tells me what emergency vehicle is most likely flying by. Considering they don't, generally, pass by our home as we're off the beaten path, I just smile & nod. He's been able to identify, & mock, emergency vehicle sounds since he was 2. I had to lay a firm rule down that he is not, under any circumstances, to mock the noises in the car. People get really angry when you pull over on a major rode when there's absolutely no emergency vehicle in sight...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lazy Days

I love when the weather changes & we can enjoy sitting out on the patio outback. It's a favourite place to hang out in the warm weather, or even the slightly crisp weather of fall, just not so great when it's pouring buckets in the winter because you're likely to get a bit damp yourself.

There's something so wonderfully peaceful about sitting out there & staring at the clouds, or watching the trees. The wild rabbits that live beyond or fence, or the occasional tame chicken who seems to find it's way to our back gate. I spent a lot of time out there in June... Sometimes it gives you too much time to think, & other times the warm breeze is like a well loved quilt that wraps itself around you.

I love the wind, do you? My Jayder Bayder isn't a fan of it, in fact he's not ashamed to tell you it scares him, but I really do love it. I love when it's a warm wind & dries my laundry faster or bathes me in warmth, I'm often very cold. I love when it's a really cool wind & your cheeks get all ready & chilled when you're walking on the beach. I even love the whistling wind on the beach that can be so deafening you can't hear the person standing next to you.

It's the sun that draws me out onto this little area the most though. It's warmth & cheeriness. I like to smile & laugh, & can't truly stand the feeling of being sad or miserable. The sun makes me smile. Watching the boys jump on the trampoline & laugh until they can't breathe, or share stories that they make up on the whim, jokes that only they understand the meaning of, or laying there watching the clouds with them.. all of it makes me smile.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


I suggested yesterday that Morgan sit down with me & look at frames online. He was pretty gung-ho with his mind made up as to what shape he'd like, but his excitement quickly disappeared & was replaced with a heavy somberness. When I asked him what was wrong he said nothing, but quickly fell apart as he shared his true feelings.

He didn't want to pick out frames because maybe, just maybe, Dr F would decide he didn't need glasses at his next appointment. Then if he picked out frames now it would be a waste of money, & even if he did pick out frames what if they came & he didn't like them? Plus, what if it all turned out to be wrong & he really didn't need those glasses. Tears started falling & he struggled to find words to really explain the rest of what was on his mind.

So I found words for him, "You mean you don't really want to wear glasses?" "Yes. I mean no, I don't want to wear them." "Do you think Dr F would have given you loaner glasses if she thought you wouldn't need them? You know, that even those these don't make the print bigger, they work just like proper glasses & if someone wears them who doesn't need them they'll hurt their eyes." Deep sigh.

He knows they are helping him. What normally takes him 45 minutes to read took him all of 25 minutes yesterday, & he actually enjoyed it. He didn't have to stop & ask me why his story wasn't making sense. He didn't need his finger or a bookmark to keep track of his place. He was smiling while he read.

I've been asked to join in enough madlibs to last me the rest of the year in the past three days. I was greeted with, "Give me a verb mom!" The strict, do not disturb mom while she's working out rule was broken because they needed help deciding if they had chosen the proper word for a past tense verb. Seriously. And all that time he'd been wearing his glasses.

When he took them off he started noticing that other things weren't as clear as he'd always thought they were. He complained of things I'd read that others with Scotopic Sensitivity Syndrome {SSS} complain about, usually before diagnosis not after. He knows the glasses are helping him, but he's struggling to accept that.

I asked him what bothered him about wearing them & while he was crying he said, "I don't want to see the world through green tint for the rest of my life, I want to see it like it's suppose to be!" So we had a chat about all the people he knows who wear glasses: cousins, grandparents, uncles, famous people he's enjoyed studying, & so on. Then I reminded him of all the books building up on the shelf that I'm saving just for him to read & the story he's desperate to write.

"Are you willing to see the world with a bit of a green tint if it means you can read any book you want & write all the stories you want, work out every math problem you encounter, & see the world as a beautiful place without fuzz?"

Quietness as he mopped up his tears.

"You don't have to wear your glasses for everything you do, but if it helps you see better isn't it worth it?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

"Everyone has something that makes them special, we don't always know it's what makes us special you know, but it's there. Wearing coloured glasses will be one of the things that helps make you special. I'm not saying you have to love wearing them. I don't love migraines or being allergic to so many things, but they help make me special."

A smile, maybe even a bit of a laugh.

We laid the frame search aside yesterday & went to the park instead, because honestly there's very little that the salty ocean air can't help a person sort out. He played to his hearts content & when we were done I suggested we go down to the local Optometrists & try on glasses there. I told him he didn't have to decide right away, but it would give him an idea of what's available. He was excited.

So this afternoon after we finished off our school for the day we went into town & made the rounds of all four local optometrists. There's not a lot of children's glasses to choose from for the teenage boy, especially when you're kinda small & scrawny for your age & tend to grow on the slower side of things. He fell in love with the middle pair in the picture above right from the start, but decided he wanted to check what the other shops had to offer.

One shop he had more fun trying on the ugliest glasses you'll ever lay eyes on, he thought it was all very amusing until he couldn't get them back on the shelf the way they were suppose to be. So I told him to run, run fast while I distracted the clerk. I actually put them back, but it made him laugh.

We went by our own optometrist who has very little for in the kids range unless you want Bob the Builder or some other more whimsical option. The glasses on the right & left in the photo above came from that shop. The ones on the left were the smallest pair of men's glasses they have. I quite liked the ones on the other side, but he wasn't as keen on them which is for the best because the price sticker was shocking & it came with no exceptional warranty.

While he was trying on glasses his eye Dr came out, not the specialist, but the man we see for normal checks. He was delighted to see us & find out how the appointment had gone. He was also slightly apologetic sounding as he didn't really know anything about the Irlens process & thus hadn't referred us. I told him we actually found out about it rather by accident ourselves. He's really a delightful Dr & very through in his job. We don't fault him at all for not referring us. I found Morgan hiding behind the glasses display, he's a bit more timid of the fellow. I think he's still cross with him for the xrays he had to have last time we visited.

We tried another Optometrist, but oh my the selection there was more ghastly then one where I suggested Morgan run for it. Morgan was extremely frustrated & near tears again, so I suggested we get some lunch so he could think through all the glasses he'd tried on & had me take photos of. The ones he had me take photos of were the ones he was most interested in, but only the ones he's wearing in the middle picture actually excited him.

After his steak & bacon pie we headed back to the first optometrist & he happily made his final choice. He was disappointed the case they gave him didn't have a push button to open like the case he's currently using. I agree with him, the other case opens & closes very roughly & I'm concerned his new glasses will go flying. I told him I'd find him a second button open/closure one & if it wasn't entirely cool enough I was pretty sure I could remedy that.

We end the day in smiles over our selections, but he still confessed over his lunch that he didn't want to make a firm choice because, "what if Dr F got it wrong?"  "Do you really think she got it wrong, or do you wish she got it wrong?" Quietness. "If you wish she got it wrong, then wouldn't it be frustrating that just one more Dr couldn't help you? I'm glad she could help you, & maybe your final glasses won't be as heavy on the green tint, but even if they are I know you'll enjoy that stack of books waiting for you." He smiled then & asked if we could, "go get those blue ones that were at the first place. The ones the girl said were a tiny bit big so I could grow into them & maybe not have to pick out new ones again so soon!"

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Journey

We've been on quite the journey with this little boy over the years, all though he'd probably be very put out to hear me calling him a little boy, but that's completely beside the point. Since the day Morgan could speak he's had a high ambition in life: to get a library card & read all the books in the library.

When we lived in America he wasn't permitted a card at our local library until he was 5. The highlight of his fifth birthday was getting his very first library card, & honestly when you're battling pink eye & the restaurant you've been dying to go to turns out to be as horrible as your parents warned you it would be, I suppose a library card really is an amazing thing.

It was the same year we started working on basic phonics & learning to read. It was a slow process from the start for him, because while he knew what each letter was on it's own & the sound they made putting them together in words was much harder for him. We really thought it was immaturity & just kept chugging along the best we could.

Throw in an international move two new reading curriculums & a couple of years & Morgan made some progress but was still not reading at grade level. For his second grade year we fully focused on reading to help him along. He now had basic three letter words reasonably under control, but throw a new word into the ranks & he struggled terribly with it. Slow & steady was starting to become slow & slower.

We played lots & lots of phonics games, sang lots & lots of songs, & plays games that encouraged blending skills. Something seemed to click for him & we climbed over our current hurdle & made reasonable progress until we got to long vowel sounds. Things came to a screeching halt again & while we eventually cleared that hurdle we seemed stuck after that.

There were a lot of tears on both sides of the line & at one point I told Mr S that I didn't really look forward to teaching the next one to read. In fact, I intentionally put Jayden off far longer then I would have normally due to the struggles I was having with Morgan. I ended up putting Jayden off so long that he was reading simple BOB books well before we'd had any official phonics lessons.  In the mean time Morgan was dutifully working his way through memorizing list after list of Dolch words which I hoped would help spur his reading along.

We noticed Morgan doing a lot of squinting one day & decided it might be time to get his eyes checked. Three appointments later we'd managed to turn up that something was going on but our Eye Dr had no idea what it was. Morgan was annoyed with the appointments, & we were frustrated that we weren't really helping him.

One day while reading about Vision Therapy I was on a website that had 3 second videos of what children might see happening on a page if Vision Therapy could be beneficial for them. One of the videos showed a sentence jump forward & backwards. Morgan happened to walk by while I was reading the website, pointed to the video & said, "Is that a video? That's what happens when I read." It was so matter of fact when he said it that I was completely taken aback!

I spent a few days doing more research & asking questions everywhere I could think to ask them. I was given so much information that I couldn't even fathom where to start. Several people suggested I start with an Irlens specialist because it would be the quickest to rule out. For me, it was also the only specialist in Tasmania on my list of people to seek help from. What a blessing!

We emailed the Dr & waited to see what would happen. A week later we heard back from her husband telling us that Dr F was in America & wouldn't be back until September. He'd have her get in touch with us then & if we'd like he could mail us some information. You have no idea how this house laughed at hearing that the one Dr we wanted to see was America!

It took a while, but we finally connected directly with the Dr & had an appointment to go see her this week. We had to make a "really, really, really, if this drive is any longer my legs might start running on the floor of this car Mom" kinda drive. The boys were absolute troopers, but the three and a half hour drive nearly did them in. Mind you, I think most of that was because they were really eager to view the city we were driving to.

Dr F is a wonderfully sweet Dr who helped Morgan feel at ease straight away. Before long they were chatting like old friends, & he was laughing about the things her grandsons {who happen to live in America} did while she was visiting, & he was telling her what he hopes to do when he grows up. They got down to business fairly quickly which normally involves a lot of questions being asked & reports being read.

Morgan was blessed that his mother is also his teacher because I could give a first hand report of when & where things started going awry for him. I could tell her what studies he excels at & which ones he struggles with. When his reading is best & when it's not. You're getting the point now right? We'd also sent in a completed questionare beforehand so that helped speed a few things up too, which is good because showing up early we still went over our allotted time!

Morgan tried out using something called overlays which are simply colored bits of plastic that you lay on a page to see how the colors help make things clear for your eyes. He whittled down the pile really quickly & then moved on to trying out colored lenses. While they say colored the lenses are actually only tinted so when you read the print & page are not actually green, all though there may be a green tint to them.

It was a much slower process for the colored lenses as he had 48 different shades to work though. He was completely worn out by the time we had it narrowed down to a reasonable amount of colors & his eyes were very tired. Dr F gave Morgan a nifty pair of dark green tinted glasses to wear to get use to how his own glasses will work for him. His tint will be different then the tint he's using as his colors seem to be a combination of colors, but what he's borrowed has all ready made a huge difference.

We'd popped into a library before our appointment & Morgan was well stocked with books. When we got to our cabin for the evening & he pulled out the robot {above picture} to make I quietly said, "If you are working on anything that requires reading don't forget you have the classes Dr F let you borrow." He put them on, but only for a short time. It wasn't until he was reading his library books & things started to blur & jump around on him that he grabbed the glasses. I was all read in bed at this point, but heard him exclaim to his little brother, "WOW! I knew these glasses would work because I didn't think Dr F would lie to me about it, but I had no idea they'd work this quickly!"

Thursday, September 20, 2012

I sat down in the, obviously messy, lounge room this past weekend & this is what greeted me. Do you see anything wrong with this picture? You know, besides the fact that everyone's on an electronical device? That's right Mr S is so computer savvy he's using two computers!

Actually he's using mine & his. I have no recollection of what or why he was using my computer, but when I sat down & saw everyone on the devices I couldn't help but laugh & snap a photo. From the signs of food on the table we must have been watching footy finals.

Have you seen that crazy picture floating around Facebook that says something like She was a classy lady all year & then football season started. My husband saw that picture & roared with laughter. He's got my number. Sadly, I'm so use to Aussie Rules these days that when we get our one lowly little NFL game each year {SuperBowl} it seems hideously slow & I want to scream "hurry up!" all the time. Sad, but true.

It's Footy Finals here in Australia & the only thing crazier then that is that not everyone in the house goes for the same team. Upside is, Morgan's team was knocked out so that calms things down a little. Downside, the team everyone else seems to go for is in the Semi Final. Which means if they survive this round {come on boys, don't act like a bunch of sissy's or we'll sick the emu's on you!} they are in the Grand Final. I never have finger nails this time of year. Another sad, but true fact.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Weekly Wrap Up Catch Up

Despite the business of our lives of late we've been steadily working away at our school. I haven't had much time to do lengthy posts, much less our weekly wrap up posts. I've still been taking pictures & taking notes of what we've accomplished each week so I can turn it into a bit of a yearbook for the boys at the end of the year, you know.. in all that spare time I have.

Our school year is three-quarters over, where on earth did the time go?! We've got 16 weeks left in our main core for the year which will be a small squeeze to fit into the weeks ahead, but that's okay.

The boys have really enjoyed the school year thus far despite the bumps & bruises we've experienced along the way. We've changed up a few of our original curriculum choices to better fit our needs which can always be a bit of a hassle mid year, but once those kinks are worked out it makes for a smoother school year for everyone.

We've plowed through another stack of books, some of what aren't even pictured. The boys really enjoyed Caddie Woodlawn but were a little unimpressed with the ending of Old Yeller. Even still, Jayden is eager to see the film by the same name. We all loved The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, but we've loved all of Betty G. Birney's books. The boys have decided they need to hunt down their own Seven Wonders this summer. The Terrible Wave was a good read, but the story left us with a few unanswered questions which is always maddening. We've also finished a book about Helen Keller & are halfway finished with a book about George Washington Carver.

Jayden has moved back into Teaching Textbook {4}. Math is not his strong suit, which is okay, but he was really not enjoying any aspect of using the Saxon Curriculum. Rather then turn him off with math all together we slipped him right back into TT to finish out the year. Truthfully, he probably could have used one more year of our total curriculum free Living Math lessons. I won't say he's jumping up & down for math right now, but he enjoys his lessons well enough & averages a 98% so he's doing well.

Morgan, our math lover, is in love with the Saxon curriculum. He's finally mastered division. We'd taken a month off from math curriculum to give him the time to become comfortable with the new concept & really grasp it before moving him forward. He's now onto percentages, angles, & all sorts of other goodies. He loves being able to use his protractors, & any complex equations. Meaning, anything that takes more then one step to figure out. It's not abnormal to find him making math problems up to solve on his own. All though our discussion about angles at the local park where we used our arms to describe the varying degrees sure got us some funny looks. Hey, what can I say..

We're still working our way through the Word Spy. We've learned some really fun & interesting things about our English language & how it came to be. We had a terrible time trying to think up a panogram that actually made sense, in fact I'm still not sure we've conquered that one. The boys really love the book which is very well written considering it's typically dry & non-fiction topic.

We read through several more books of the Bible & wrapped up the accompanying PictureSmart pages to go with them. The boys asked if we could take a break from using those to go back to using Grapevine for a while, & I agreed. We're steadily reading through the Old Testament & are up to Ruth now. With Grapevine OT we are more reading key points that happened in the OT vs reading each book. The boys really love the drawing through the Bible this way.

Both boys are plucking away at their copywork & spelling. Morgan has made outstanding progress with his spelling & now averages a nifty 95%. Such a huge achievement for him & we are so proud of his efforts! More impressively it's really carried over into his everyday work & I know that really pleases him too. Jayden's making slow, but steady, progress with his handwriting. It's still his hardest subject by far, but mostly because he detests having to be that still. I suspect if he could rely on typing instead of handwriting he'd have it made.

He's also been using the BugALoo Jr app to practice his spelling, he's rocking the score with 2884 up there. Mr S loves that we're using something he's created himself & loves the feedback he gets from us on it. It's a win-win situation across the boards for us. The guys all seem to have a big deal going for the high score there so it keeps them busy.

The boys have tackled a lot in the history department & have made many lapbook & notebook pieces to go along with them. We had a grand chuckle over the price differences in cars way back when they first came out compared to now.

 The boys colored in states from the expansion of the US. Those states in the air are actually glued on to clear plastic which is taped {hinge like} to the notebooking page base. Makes it fun to look at & play with.

We learned about various things that happened to the Native Americans in the early 1800's. We typed onto our notebooking pages before printing them out this time. The boys each collaborating together to tell us what they wanted written down.

This is a really fun little booklet. You can lift the top of the box up {hinged} & then pull out the amendments that were added to the constitution, or you can just slip them in & out of the slit in the top of the box.

We learned about many of the woman suffragettes which really riled Morgan up. He was utterly appalled that there was a time when woman couldn't do things simply because they were woman. It was even funnier when he asked who I'd vote for in the upcoming Aussie election. I told him I wasn't allowed to vote so I wouldn't be voting for anyone. He went on a 3 minute rant about how clearly they didn't know the law had changed before I could get a word in edgewise to explain that because I'm not an Australian citizen I'm not legally allowed to vote here.

We've learned about many famous people who helped shape America. Some we'd all ready met before in our other various studies & some were new to the boys so we spent more time reading about them. Morgan has really taken a liking to Helen Keller, but I think it has more to do with the conversation we often have, "If you could only choose to be one would you rather be blind or deaf?" Of course the next time this boy has a fever he might hit panic mode. Yikes!

We've also switched science curriculum {I mentioned this before} & have dug right into that. We took far too many photos of our science experiments so I'll save those for another post. Needless to say I suspect if Mr S stays in charge of science experiments the guys will be needing more then safety glasses before the year is over!

And that pretty much wraps up our past few school weeks. We've had several outings to parks with our local homeschool group, far too many trips to the local library, & a few visits to the local ER where the boys entertained many people while we waited on Nana to see Drs.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Summer Reading

I'm always gathering books up for one reason or another. I've got buckets & baskets of books all over the house that are grouped together for specific reasons. Morgan's books for next year, Jayden's books for next year. Australian history books. Summer reading basket.

My big focus of late has been on the Summer Reading Basket. After Mr S heads out for work in the summer I read aloud to the boys for an hour or so & we blow through a variety of books. Last year's basket didn't get completely emptied because we swayed from our list a bit. I'm not sure we'll clear our list this year either as it's growing with great rapidity, but I'm considering an Audio Afternoon time where we can listen to a book as well. 

You have more then one book going at a time too, don't you? Oh good, glad to know it's not just me/us. I generally have books tucked in many places so that no matter where I am I can pick it up to read if I'm not needed. Which reminds me, I need to stash a new one in the car..

I'm also setting the kids up with a reading programme, our own little thing not one associated with anywhere. By the time the library notifies patrons of their little programme it's generally a month under way, so I thought this year I'd set up one for the boys on our own. More of a challenge then a programme. I'm pretty excited about my plan, but I've refused to let the boys in on any of it. So far they haven't guessed anything.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Warm Days

The weather has been absolutely beautiful lately! We stopped by a local primary school on the way home from grocery shopping so the kids could play on the swings. It's fall break here so the schools are not in session, in case you were wondering. The boys had a blast. They really miss having a swing hanging up in the yard. We don't have any trees in our yard that can support the swing, so it's sitting in the shed collecting dust.

These swings are incredibly high up off the ground. I'm generally considered a tall person, & there was a set of them that when I was using them I couldn't reach the ground! Mr S thought it was funny, but I'm still wondering exactly how tall the kids at the local primary school are.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Science, at the speed of life

We started our new science a couple of weekends ago. Yes, we're a tad late on it, but we changed science courses for a variety of {most likely boring} reasons. The boys wanted to do it on the weekend so Mr S could join in the fun of the experiments with them. We pulled our activity box & were in the middle of an experiment when the phone rang. Generally we ignore the phone when we're busy, & sometimes even when we're not, but the person on the other end kept chatting away until we finally picked it up.

Mr S is actually holding a bit of the experiment & was trying to hook it together so Morgan held the phone for him. Our phone actually has speaker phone ability, but it takes a few button pushes & we can never remember which ones until well after the phone call.

On another note, we've been enjoying our new science. The boys love the weekly experiments & the books we've been reading. I like that we're actually getting to our science each week. It makes us all happy campers.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Seaside

Spring has officially sprung around here & we've been enjoying some beautiful weather here of recent. The tide has also been in our favour so we've been spending time at the beach too. There's nothing quite like those first few warm spring days at the beach. If you've never experienced winter winds on the beach you might not quite know what I mean, but I assure you those first spring trips are amazing.

The boys often spend more time scrounging the beach for various treasures, or digging in the sand, running on the dunes, or checking out tide pools. This particular day there was a lot of sponge on the beach, & I'm not talking about the stuff you buy in the grocery store but the natural stuff that you can find all over the beach. There were huge gobs of it everywhere along with an awful lot of cuddle bones.

There was even a piece of sponge in this bush which is a good ways up off the beach, & even the higher winter tides don't reach. Either someone brought it up or the wind grabbed hold of it & took it for a ride. How it got there didn't really interest Jayden as much as removing it from the bush. In fact, he brought it home & it's been laying in the front yard all week. Several times I've thought there's been an echidna out there only to remember it's the crazy piece of sponge.

There was a lot of trash on the beach too, & the boys were discussing cleaning it up the next time we went down. I suspect that's mostly because they want a really good excuse to bring home the spare tires we find down there now & again, the ones I keep telling them we are not taking home.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Purple People Eater

A few weeks ago I mentioned our car broke down, yeah, well that wasn't the end of it. The crazy thing was acting a bit crazy which was making me a bit nervous. Nothing like getting stranded on the back roads & trying to explain where you are when the nearest landmark is 2 sheep & an alpacca.

One evening when Mr S was suppose to head home on his bike the skies opened up & poured, so he rang home for a lift. Our Blue Beast wouldn't start! I rang him back & said if he wanted a lift he'd have to call a taxi, because mine was broken. We had ourselves a bit of a chuckle over it & the rain let up so he headed home.

After praying the rain would halt long enough for him to get here, I grabbed my computer & decided to really irritate the Big Blue Beast by looking at other cars for sale. While looking I spotted one exactly like what we had, only younger, fewer kilometers on it, & in purple. The purple made me laugh. When Mr S got home I told him I'd found out new car, & he'd love the color.

It really was just a joke, but the more we actually read about the car the less joke-like it was. We even rang the company to find out a little more information & discussed price. They were willing to take our cranky unreliable thing & were going to give us a reasonable sum considering the situation.

That weekend we were sorting out how we'd get the Beast into the city to pick up the new car when we got a message from family that they were in the city. We asked if they'd pop by the car place & take a look at it for us, make sure it was worthy of the price & ran well, etc. Not only did they check it out, they talked the sales fellow down another thousand dollars on the car.

After about fifteen phone calls later they even picked up the Purple People Eater & brought it back to us! Such a huge blessing. The funniest part is that people see the purple car & do a double take. We've had several people ask if we've painted our car because of the color change. It always makes us giggle.

We've had a few people, strangers & friends a like, who've also picked up straight away that our car was a former Cadbury car. Thus it's purple color. Incase your wondering, Cadbury chocolate {bars & other} is not only the Aussie brand of chocolate, it comes in purple boxes. The fact that purple is my favourite color has absolutely nothing to do with it, honest!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Little Things

A few weeks ago we were in it up to our necks. I'm talking one bad day right after another. Between sickies that I was caring for, grieving, & the assortment of other troubles I felt like I had the world on my shoulders for a while. Ever feel like that? I do, probably far more often then I should because I chose to carry the burdens instead of giving them to God.

By the second day of me having to leave the learning area in tears & hide in my bedroom until I could compose myself I noticed the boys were being very quiet. Not the, naughty kind of quiet, but the reflective, has mom finally lost it totally kinda quiet. In order to pull myself back together that particular day I busied myself with a shower & scrubbing the bathroom down.

When I came out I found this picture laying on my bed. Jayden was peeking through the crack in the door to make sure I spotted it, then he grinned & ran off to play for a while. I confess, his picture made me cry more, but only for a little while.

I love his perception of God smiling down on our humble little home, all though I notice that our home looks an awful lot like the old one & not the new one. {That's another story all together though.} The fact that God is a triangle actually made me smile. In our Bible lessons each day God is always drawn as a purple triangle. Jesus is usually a purple stick figure. So it made complete sense to me that God was a smiling purple triangle.

It was Jayden, who once reminded me when I got caught up complaining, bitterly, about the winter rains that if it weren't for the rains we'd forget the promise God gave us. He was, of course referring to the rainbow, & I was, of course, quietly humbled for griping about the 30th straight day of rain.

Life is like that sometimes though, isn't it? It all comes crashing in on you & for a while you're not sure you'll make it out in one piece. It's those quiet little things that often make us stop & reflect the most. Last week was incredibly calm for us, but it's back to insanity this week, all though at least emotions seem to be better. After all, I didn't cry when I had to chat with the US Consulate General a half dozen times this week, nor did I shout at the INS lady who clearly didn't like her job.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New Quilt

It's not a very delightful photo, but there it is all the same. I couldn't share my latest project because the boys really wanted to give it to Mr S for Father's Day {September 2nd} but it didn't quite work out that way for us. We've had a lot going on around here lately & I just couldn't spare much time to actually work on the quilt.

I spotted a picture of an Angry Bird quilt in my many travels around the web. It was very simplistic looking & after studying it for a while I thought it'd be fun to have a try at it. The boys picked out the material from the shop & I spent an evening laying it all out. In fact, I had the whole thing laid out when Mr S sent us a message to say he was coming home early. There was some wild crazy moments as we ran around trying to get all the evidence cleaned up & put away.

Two nights later we pulled it back out, laid the whole thing down & were halfway through pinning the pieces together when he sent us a message to say he was about to head for home. This time, I'd lost track of time with our lighter evenings! So we sent him on an errand in town so we could finish pinning the whole thing together before folding it up & hiding it in the craft room.

I managed to get a couple of the blue rays, the sun, & the grass sewn down before Father's Day, but that was it. So we put it away & debated saving it for Christmas, but the boys were very eager to give it out anyway along with the other little things they'd purchased. After all the chaos we've had going on for the past few months I finally got the craft room cleaned up & it's warm enough again to work in there for long periods of time. It's nice to have a project to tackle so I can mess that room up again.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Harry Potter Knits

A while back Morgan found a Harry Potter Knits at the local library. Unfortunately, I can't knit to save my life, so he send the patterns to my mom & asked her if she'd knit him a Weasley Sweater amongst other things. The boys were very delighted a few weeks ago when a package arrived in the mail containing Weasley Sweaters for both of them complete with their first initial on the front. There was also a cute little knitted owl, Errol, which has been the delight of many every since his arrival.

We spent two hours in the local emergency room shortly after Errol's arrival in our home, not only did he keep our boys well entertained he kept another little one laughing. That was, until we had to go, & then she wouldn't let go of Morgan's sweater & was all to willing to let him drag her up the hall. Errol had his introductions at the local homeschool group & was quite a hit there as well.

Errol gets up to a bit of trouble around here though. He's attempted to snitch donuts from the local grocery, he tried to exceed his limit of books at the library, & apparently flunked out of flying school because he crash landed when using a scooter! I think in the picture above he might be receiving a little medical attention, or just has a couple of crazy boy wizards trying to lure him to fetch more donuts..

Monday, September 10, 2012


We have this little dog named Buster. He's what we call a Dog's Home dog. Which is to say we adopted him from our local dog's home a few years ago. He came with 3 bad habits:

1. The uncontainable urge to chase ducks.  I'm not talking the urge to chase them, no sir! I'm talking the uncontainable urge. Water is not a hinderance if he's chasing a duck. Buster can swim, & swim he will if it stands between him and a quacker.

2. The horrific desire to torment all cats everywhere. He doesn't just give the four legged felines a chase, that'd be too easy. Nope. This dog takes chase, barks, growls, & carries on to the point of excess. The first time a cat witnessed this, it just happened to be the cat next door. It thought it was pretty clever to sit on our fence & dangle it's cute fuzzy little tail at our dog, but the minute Buster spotted that fuzzy little tail he jumped on the fence, while barking like mad, so fast & hard that cat took a nose dive off. It's never gotten better...

3. The desire to yank so fiercely on his lead he can knock a pro footballer off his feet. Everyone looks at our innocent little dog & says, "Oh he's so sweet." That's because they've never ever walked him on a lead before. Ever. No, seriously. Ever.

That picture of my hand is what it looks like after a 20 minute walk when a child, who shall remain nameless looses the head collar harness. All though, the verdict is still out on the possibility that the dog buried it. Over the past 5 years I've been determined to break his foul little habits, all though between you & me I don't so much mind the cat chasing issue. It's not that I don't like cats, it's that I'm terribly allergic to them & I don't want to risk them pestering my guinea pigs. That, and the last neighbors cat, all be it cute & adorable, would sit in my bedroom {yes from the outside} at 4 am & yowl & howl at us until I couldn't take it anymore & I'd let lose with a bucket of water on him.

The duck chasing issue is insane, no doubt, but it's not a huge issue except when we go on various bush walks. Which means, the habit I've most been trying to break is the lead pulling issue. We started with a regular harness which was truthfully only grand for lifting him off all fours when he'd be extra naughty & only want to play with other dogs instead of continuing on with his walk. It was also really helpful for buckling him into a chair in the car so he wouldn't break into the bacon.

Next, we moved to a chest pinching harness. The idea being that when the dog pulled it was suppose to squeeze his front shoulders together & that would cause excess pressure making him uncomfortable. Here's the deal, that lead worked about once. Yep, a grand once, but in all fairness my dog only stopped pulling long enough to sniff a nasty little Chihuahua who decided to try and attack us. You know the dog I'm talking about right? The one who runs around the doggie areas loose until it's owner comes up screaming it's name all embaressed, but doesn't actually snap it on a lead.

The only way that funky little harness actually worked was if & when I had to pull the dog on the walk. That's an absolute rarity except for when we run into New Ben & Old Ben. They were a funny pair of dogs. Old Ben was small & not into playing very much. New Ben was deaf & loved to play. Their owner adopted them many years apart from the Dog's Home & both came with the names of Ben so the owner never bothered to change the names. Buster loved to play with Young Bob & another dog named Lucy who was equally mischievous & her owner often ran up & down the beach behind her screaming, "LUCY!"

Living in a neighborhood where dog's can't just roam the beach for their walks it was getting pretty rough to walk our dog without coming back looking like that photo above. Or with my shoulder wrenched out of place, or.. or.. or.. So one day a few months ago I was in the local pet store picking up guinea pig hay.

Yeah, I know pet shops aren't all that cool, but forget that for a moment. I decided to grab a new leash while I was there, we go through them pretty quickly because the salt water & sand can do them in pretty badly. I generally buy mine at a local cheap shop because, well they are way cheaper. While looking at leads & wondering what they were made out of considering their prices I spotted a head collar harness guaranteed to stop your dog from pulling.

After reading the info on it a bit I decided I'd give it a try & if it couldn't live up to it's expectations I'd bring it back. Only, it so lives up to it's guarantee that my dog now has mixed feelings about his walks. He loves going on them, but he despises the fact he's not allowed out the door without the creepy harness on. It causes him angst, but the desire to go for a walk always wins out.

When our nifty harness came up missing a couple of weeks ago I was subjected to walk him with his old harness which doesn't do half as good a job. Needless to say, after tearing the house, the car, the yard, & the shed apart we went out & bought a new one. Which was a bit of a chore, because the place we bought it at was no longer carrying them, such a disservice because man those things are amazing! The local Animal Tuckerbox still carries them though, & the guys at the counter had no idea why we were so excited. I think we scared them.

The only downside to these nifty little harnesses is people think our dog is aggressive.. you know, cause his head collar harness looks like he's wearing a muzzle. Ha! Incase you're wondering, we use the Halti Head Collar harness, which is often known as a muzzle harness. Fear not though, our dog can still pant, chew, breathe, & play with his on. It doesn't stop him from doing anything he'd normally do, except pulling.

We did try it on our dog & had him wear it for about 10 minutes one day, then the next day we took him out on a walk. He got the point very quickly that he had to walk in stride with me, however, this harness is so effective that even the kids can walk him now without issue. He has tried, several times, to use his paws to pull it off his face, we simply make him sit check that it's still on correctly & not too tight & then resume our walk. Generally he'll only try it once on a walk because he despises having to be still instead of walking. All though he will try to rub his nose on your leg or rub it on things now & again if he thinks you're not paying attention.

Sunday, September 9, 2012


Many mornings start like this in our home, breakfast with a game of chess. We bought this cute little chess set six years ago when Jayden was all of 3. His favourite game at the time was checkers & Morgan's was chess. Yes, they've been playing those games since they were that young, younger actually. They know how to play backgammon & other old fashioned games too.

When we spotted this cute version of chess in a local shop we picked it up for Morgan's Christmas gift. It's gotten a lot of use over the past six years, & the lid to the tin is a tad dented. In fact, many times I've debated getting rid of the tin, but the bottom of the tin is the actual board game too!

Morgan started putting a request in for a more grown-up chess board last year. They had their eyes on a really fancy one for a while, but when they realised it was more for show then play they changed their minds about it.  We were going to get him something a bit more fancy, but when I said, "Oh Hooray, I can finally get rid of that tin!" he changed his mind about wanting something a bit more grown-up.

Apparently, your just never too old for playing with Big Bird & Cookie Monster.