Monday, June 28, 2010

A Trip to Urgent Care

Today Audrey earned for herself the honor of becoming the first of my children to get stitches! Poor sweet girl! She was goofing around with Melinda and then her feet disappeared (this is my hypothesis on why she falls so often) and she landed on her chin.

For being all wide and gaping and scary looking, it actually didn't bleed much. But there was no way a band-aid was fixing that to Urgent Care we flew!

All said and done, it was a 3 hour event. Mostly waiting of course. The worst part was the three shots to numb the area, but Audrey did very well. She never once cried. When I told her she was brave, she admitted she was scared. I told her that being brave doesn't mean you aren't scared, it just means that you do it anyway--even if you are scared. And she did it! What a brave girl!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Time for a Friendly Garden Update

Finally, it seems like things are starting to grow!  Even though I don't have any red tomatoes yet, I finally see the promise of harvest.

My artichoke plant has just skyrocketed.  I have somewhere around a dozen artichokes growing!

I think the center artichoke is about needing to be harvested.  It's hard to know, not ever having grown artichokes before, but everything I read says to harvest while before they open up too much.  (Artichokes belong to the thistle family, and the artichoke itself is the flower.)

My poor green beans need to be harvested.  The plants haven't really thrived where I planted them--I'll be looking for a new location next time around.

The corn is still growing strong, and is finally developing fruit as well:

I have one fat do you know when to pick these things?  Do they just keep growing forever?

Here's my biggest bell pepper, it's maybe 2" in diameter.  Purty cute.

And lastly my tomatoes...the Roma tomatoes seem to be doing the best as far as the actual fruit goes:

And my heirloom tomatoes have finally decided to show some fruit as well.  I have three varieties of heirlooms: Black Krim, Mr. Stripey, and Pineapple.  The Black Krim has had a bit of a hard time getting established, although there is one little tomato on it finally (no pictures of that one, sorry).  The Mr. Stripey seems to be doing well all around.  Here's some of the little tomatoes on it right now:

The Pineapple variety is doing pretty good, although the plant itself has a couple of issues.  The baby tomatoes are sure cute though:

My peas are mostly sun-scorched (need to find a shadier place for those little guys) and I don't have any melons growing yet.  All in good time, the weather here is still solidly in the low to mid 70s.  I do have some blueberries ripening that the critters haven't seemed to have discovered yet...unlike the strawberries which I am apparently growing for the exclusive enjoyment of squirrels.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Week Without my Boys

Thank goodness this week is coming to an end!  I've been without my boys for far too long.  Although we girls have kept busy, life just isn't the same with my man and my little men.  While they were in the BVI (British Virgin Islands) on a sailboat, getting another stamp in their passports and getting tan (well, maybe not Andrew) we have been holding down the house here in So. Cal.

But like I said, we have kept busy.  We:

  • had a friend of Melinda's stay the night for the first two nights
  • had a lovely dinner at the grandparents-around-the-corner's house
  • went to church (and will go again tonight)
  • ate dinner at Mimi's Cafe
  • went to Yogurtland
  • painted our toenails
  • slept in
  • bought new movies to watch over and over
  • had a day out: the girls with TuTu watching Marmaduke, me at CostPlus
  • went shopping for craft supplies
  • bought audio books and headphones
  • had a shake at Ruby's
  • weeded and gardened
  • read and cooked
I'm sure there was more.  I made a lot of progress on my book blog, and did some writing as well.  I didn't keep up on my exercise (oops) nor did I get any quilting done (drat) but it was difficult, what with concentrating on making it through the week and all.  Well, I can sigh with relief and get on with my life because my hunny will be home soon.  *sigh*

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Homeschooling: A Year in Review

This school year has been a difficult one for me, due to a lack of solid preparation in the curricula/planning department, combined with an unplanned move that left me mentally swamped for the first half of the school year.  Those things have definitely colored our year, but will hopefully affect next year in a positive manner.  Generally speaking, we had such a great time with WinterPromise's American Story 2 last year that I switched almost everything over to WP this year, which didn't work out so well.  Item by item, here's the deal:

HISTORY:  I chose WinterPromise Quest for the Ancient World for history because the age range was right (4th-6th grade), it covered the right time period (Ancient History only), WinterPromise was great for us last year with American Story 2, and the spine, Mystery of History, looked great.  In the end, we loved the Illustrated Family Bible and had fun with the Hieroglyphics Treasure Chest but the large majority of the program just didn't work well for us.  Mystery of History, although I loved it, bored the kids to tears.  In retrospect, it would have worked better if I'd pre-read each weeks lessons and taught it in my own words instead of reading the lesson together...if I'd had the time and mental where-with-all. Overall, it lacked the variety of non-fiction books that we loved in American Story 2, and that--combined with difficulty in organization and implementation (separate schedules for the students, notebooking pages)--made it less enjoyable.  I realized that it was those NF books (rather than all the hands-on craft type things that WinterPromise is known for) and the website/dvd suggestions that I really liked about WinterPromise last year.  I will probably use it again at some point, but not next year.  [next year: SL Core 2 and K, Oh California, miscellaneous additional books, as well as geography study]

LITERATURE:  Really, nothing beats Sonlight for great literature.  We used much of the first half of Core 6, and all of Core P4/5 and loved most of it.  We will absolutely continue with Sonlight. [next year: second half of Core 6, all of Core 2, Readers 2 Advanced, Core K, various beginning readers]

LANGUAGE ARTS:  Whew.  I don't know if I'm ready to talk about this one!
--Audrey started the year using McRuffy Language Arts K.  She enjoyed the different workbook pages until they started getting repetitive, and enjoys the readers for the most part.  We discontinued using it because too many words were popping up in the readers that didn't follow the rules she was learning.  Also, some things seemed to be taught in an illogical order towards the end of the program. [next year: Phonics Pathways, Writing With Ease 1, Handwriting Without Tears 1]
--I started Andrew and Melinda out using WinterPromise's Language Arts, hoping that using WP for history as well as language would streamline our day.  There were, however, too many frustrations with unexplained topics, and we quickly reconfigured our language curricula choices.  Next year we are trying something completely different.
--Andrew, for most of the year, used Junior Analytical Grammar, which I loved for it's logical progression and simplicity, but Andrew felt it to be complicated and difficult.  He used IEW's writing lessons for a while, but then we switched to Wordsmith Apprentice, which he seems to tolerate better.  That boy just doesn't like writing!  He also used Words are Wonderful for vocabulary which was fine, bordering on busy-work. SpellWell for spelling--I like their word lists, but don't know that the execution worked so well for Andrew. [next year: Character Quality Language Arts]
--Melinda also used Junior Analytical Grammar, and it went over her head sooner than Andrew's.  She used Just Write for writing, and All About Spelling (the most amazing spelling program ever). [next year: perhaps/probaby Character Quality Language Arts]

MATH:  Andrew and Melinda used Math-U-See, which I have been very happy with.  It presents everything in such a logical, sequential way that they don't struggle with the concepts at all.  Towards the end of the year, when I realized that they could use a little more drill/refresher on the basics, I started having them do Math Minutes as well.  Audrey has used RightStart as her base, which is a GREAT program, and added in Horizons and Math-U-See because she can't get enough. [next year, continuing Math-U-See and RightStart, undecided on supplemental program]

SCIENCE: We started out with WinterPromise Rock Around the Earth, which I was really excited about...until we started.  I was very interested to learn more about the earth and geology with the kids, but this program was BORING.  I tried to stick with it for quite a while, and then ended up switching to Sonlight Science 2 and 4, which has worked out great. [next year: finish Sonlight Science 2, 4, and K, then undecided]

ELECTIVES: This year we learned how to play Chess with WinterPromise, and Piano with Pianimals and Bastien.  All worked pretty good (Pianimals is great--highly recommended, especially for young beginners) and we will be continuing with piano lessons next year, adding Audrey in.  [next year: at least piano, health, art]

All in all, next year I am going to attempt to streamline Language Arts, focus on math and writing instead of history and grammar, reduce stress with a better routine/schedule, and lighten up the year with unit-sized electives and interest based science.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Swirling Bits of Randomness

At night, as I'm sleeping, my brain keeps churning thoughts.  Normal, right?  Isn't that what dreaming is all about?  Well, often--instead of dreams--I end up with an interesting platter of random thoughts awaiting me in the morning.  What I can't figure out is if those random thoughts are actually interesting, or if I only think they are because I've been asleep for the last eight hours and therefore am no judge as to what is interesting and what is not.  Today I've decided to publish those unfiltered thoughts (scary!) so I can look back at them this afternoon and judge with an awake, rational mind.  I may be posting an apology later today...or deleting a post!  And with that, I'll let you be the judge.  This is what was on the platter this morning:

As I was pouring out the last quarter of my perfectly-good-first-cup-of-coffee this morning and making myself a new, hot, fresh, steaming cup in its stead, I thought of my brother Matthew (who has admitted that he does--or would like to do--the same thing.)  I love you, Matthew!  (...and everyone else too, of course, but I'm only halfway through my coffee and not up to snuff on my equal opportunity-ness...)

One of the teachers in Audrey's Children's Church class is named Mr. Kirk.  Audrey used to think his name was Mr. Curve.  The funny thing is, the second name makes more sense to her.  She can't understand why somebody would be called Mr. Kirk.

Raccoons walking on a roof in the middle of the night sound abnormally large and ominous to whomever happens to be sitting under that roof.  Said noise is made even creepier if that person is alone with a black cat in said room, in the middle of an enormous city where raccoons ought not to exist.

I am sitting on the couch with my coffee.  I have random piles of books around me.  13 books within reach, to be exact.  At least 8 of those books are books that I want to read, at least 5 of them I am actually in the middle of reading, and what am I doing?  Sitting with my laptop, typing out randomness.  I even procrastinate the fun stuff.  Geez.

If you need to do a quick job of picking up the house in anticipation of guests, (notice I'm assuming that everyone else procrastinates and doesn't do it on a continual/daily basis,) where do you begin?  The room that everyone sees when they first walk in the house?  The room where people will be spending the most time?  The room that's the cleanest?  Messiest?  Can you guess where I start?  Well let me just say that if you pick up the cleanest rooms first, you can cross off an amazing amount of spaces off your list in an amazingly short amount of time.  I got a full 1/3 of my house picked up before I finished (dumped) my first cup of coffee! (Do you like the positive spin on that?  Do you think that procrastination necessitates optimism?)

All right, all right, my 2nd cup of coffee is kicking in.  Off to write grocery lists and wash towels and get on with my day.  And, eventually, to get the messiest 2/3 of my house picked up.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Happy 6th Birthday, Audrey!

'Tis the season of birthdays around our house!  This week Audrey turned six--a big deal for her since it indicates many changes:

  1. She is actually physically bigger.  All of a sudden.
  2. She has passed the point of being legally required to use a car seat.
  3. She has decided to relegate her blankie to bedroom use only.
  4. She has been initiated into the world of hair straightening procedures.
  5. She had a friend [cousin] spend the night for the first time ever.
  6. She has become the first--and only--of our children to have a bounce house for their party.
Her best friend [cousin] has very straight hair, which made Audrey want to turn her very curly hair into very straight hair.  It worked well, although her hair wasn't convinced it should remain straight for too long.  Good thing I took a picture quickly!  It's amazing how much longer her hair looks when it is straight.

Audrey had a barbecue/pool/bounce house birthday party two days before her actual birthday.  What do you think was barbecued?  Ribs, of course!

When I asked Audrey what kind of cake she wanted for her birthday, she knew immediately.  She described the Claim Jumper Seven Layer Cake, but with chocolate dipped strawberries instead of nuts. There was no way on earth I was going to buy a 7-layer cake for $110 that serves 40 people!  So I made a Mel-o-Version instead.  Three layers is plenty, thankyouverymuch.

Blowing out the candles:

Melinda created a couple of games for the kids to play, including her very own tape-the-tail-on-the-donkey.  What a great little hostess Melinda is!

Opening gifts:

What a joy Audrey is to have!  We love you!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Creating an Herb Garden

The first project that I undertook at our new house was pulling out a patch of ivy and turning it into an herb garden.  Ivy is not one of my favorite plants.  A bed of ivy brings to mind spiders, snails, and rodents at the very least.  Likewise, removing ivy is not one of my favorite gardening chores.  I started removing it early in the year in order to have time enough for amending and planting before the year got too warm.  Good idea, right?  Right. Except if the soil you are pulling the ivy out of happens to be like clay, and the weather you are working in happens to be rainy.  So, with the help of my gardeners (who don't enjoy ripping ivy out of mud either) I got rid of the ivy...and the old stump it was covering up.

With all the ivy out, I set about the arduous task of removing roots from clay, and trying not to look at all the poor worms I chopped in half with my shovel.  I had been planning on planting a small fruit tree in the center of the space to anchor it, but as I started digging up roots I realized that 12"-18" beneath the dirt was concrete.  So plan B was to find something else with some height but without the root system of a tree:  enter the artichoke.  After adding a few bags of compost to the soil, I tired out and gave up.  On with the hardscaping: a simple round raised bed (put together with extra cement pieces and bricks and filled with potting soil) and some slate tiles for stepping stones.

Meanwhile, I started some sunflowers from seed.  I've always had a horrible time with spacing seeds far enough apart, and an even worse time at thinning [killing] some of the precious baby plants, so all of these got replanted eventually, and I now have a small sunflower forest in my herb garden.

I happened to find a blueberry bush at my garden center and snatched it up without even thinking about the poor thing's needs.  I assumed that if it was being sold near me, it'd be suited to my weather.  That, I'm afraid, will remain to be seen after a few seasons pass, but as of now it is doing quite well.  The leaves have some beautiful coloring.  I ending up sinking a pot into the ground and filling it with it's own specialized blend of soil. From what I've read, this pot should be sufficient for it's root system even when mature.  And (SHHH!) I've already eaten a blueberry. DON'T TELL MY KIDS!

The herb garden is now basically complete.  Apart from the artichoke, blueberries and sunflowers, we also have cilantro, boxwood basil, cinnamon basil, chives, thyme, lemon thyme, marjoram, tarragon, sage, pineapple sage, and oregano (regular sweet basil is back in the garden) in addition to 3 types of lavendar, and some marigolds, cosmos and snapdragons filling in some extra space for now.

Here's a view from the other side:

I do still need to do some weeding and mulching, but everything seems to be pretty happy right now.  The artichoke has grown like gangbusters, even with the grasshoppers and snails ganging up on it.  Today, actually, I uncovered an amazing treat, a baby artichoke!