Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday:
"We all walk in the land of dreams."

"We all walk in the land of dreams. For what are we but atoms and hope, a handful of stardust and sinew. We are weary travelers trying to find our way home on a road that never ends. Am I part of your dream? Or are you but a part of mine? Welcome my brother, Phantasos, for this is surely a phantasmagoria, a fantasy world, and we are all players."
Libba Bray, Going Bovine

This week I thought I would feature my current top ten favorite books.  This is an eclectic mix, with some children's and young adult books, some classics, some more current, plus a play.  Each of these books has left a distinct impression on me in some way, and at the time that I read each one, changed my perspective on understanding life, love, relationships, friendships, society and culture, and/or dreams and desires.

I do want to note that the Bible is not on my list of favorite books, nor is this list in any way to be understood as my favorite books "other than the Bible."  One does not list air or water on a list of favorites.  They are essential to life; so is the Bible.  It is unjudgeable.  It does not belong, even at the top, of a list gathered on my decree, waiting to be replaced when the next great work so moves me. It does not impart opinions, or guide a reader to possible perpectives or understanding.  It is the Truth.  It is the Word of God.  It IS.  

1.    2.  

3.    4. 

5.    6. 

7.    8. 

9.    10. 

What are some of your favorites?  Leave a comment, then check out some other top ten lists here:

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

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Friday, October 26, 2012

Week 1: "Do not despise the bottom rungs ..."

"Do not despise the bottom rungs in the ascent to greatness."
-Publilius Syrus

After much ado, we finally started week 1 of our K4/1st grade year this week.  It has been a tough week, as we really haven't been working on anything with any regularity since probably May, so neither SC nor I are quite back to having a schedule.  This week it took us about 3 1/2 hours in the afternoons on Monday/Wednesday/Friday, and one hour in the afternoons on Tuesday/Thursday, to complete our schedule, but SC is a dawdler and it takes her much longer to do some of the activities than it should due to lack of focus.  Hopefully as we progress through the year and she get more used to the schedule, this will get better.

We have turned our dining room into an office/school room, and SC has a small desk from Ikea that is just her size.  

I spent the prior two weeks working hard on completing a schedule.  I styled it after the Sonlight plans, and ended up using MS Excel rather than MS Word due to the fact that I can never get tables to work correctly in MS Word.  Once I figure out how to link to documents, I will add a link for anyone who wants to borrow the template.  If you want to take a look and try it for your own plans, click here.  Here is how it ended up looking:


So, here is what we did this week:

Reminder: We are using the History Odyssey: Ancients curriculum.

Monday we completed Pocket 1 history pocket ("What is History?") and read the information included in it.  Part of the pocket was discussing the words "past," "present," and "future."  We had a great time talking about things that have happened in the last year, things that were happing now, and things that were going to happen in the future.  We were also able to discuss all these words as they related to SC's Halloween costume choices, as she has the next five years planned out already.


Wednesday we read Story of the World "How do we know what happened?", watched the Bill Nye Archaeology video, used the Webster's New World Children's Dictionary to define "archaeology," and drew a picture about what she learned from the readings.  She chose to draw her picture of an excavation site after we read the awesome book Archaeologists Dig for Clues (Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2).

Friday we read the book The Magic School Bus Shows And Tells: A Book About Archaeology and discussed the history words we had learned this week:
  • ancient
  • basic needs
  • civilization
  • history
  • archaeology
  • artifact
  • past
  • present
  • future


*I used a site called ZB Fonts Online to create our own fill-in-the-blank version of the definition for SC to use when she copied her vocabulary word this week.

Reminder: We are using Explode the Code (ETC), A Reason for Spelling (ARFS), and A Reason for Handwriting (ARFH).

Monday SC took the consonant pretest that accompanies Book 1 of ETC.  She didn't miss even one letter, which tells me it was a good idea to skip the end of Book B and all of Book C, which just goes over the rest of the consonants.  Wednesday we reviewed short "a" with final "t" and worked on page 1, while Friday we worked on pages 2-3.

For ARFS and ARFH, both have a six-week review/practice, which we started this week, practice #1-5 for ARFH, and practice #1-8 for ARFS.  Handwriting and spelling are two of the lessons we are doing daily, not just M/W/F, because I believe this is something that should be practiced every day.

Our read aloud this week was to finish up Dinosaurs before Dark by Mary Pope Osborne.

Reminder: We are using Math-U-See Primer level for our curriculum.

This week we started an introduction to addition, where we discuss the symbols "plus" and "equals," plus work on using the base 10 blocks to create simple, single-digit addition problems.


Reminder: We are using Apologia Exploring Creation with Astronomy with the Junior Notebooking Journal for our curriculum.

This week we started Lesson 1: What is Astronomy, where we briefly discussed the stars, planets, the calendar, the solar system, and astronomers.  She really enjoyed practicing gravity, jumping and dropping things, shouting "falls to the Earth!"  She worked on coloring two pages from the junior notebooking journal, plus we practiced reciting the planets in order, and created a fact sheet from what we had read about.  Next week we will complete Lesson 1 and do the lab project.


Reminder: We are using Bible Study for All Ages: Beginner for our curriculum.

This week we picked up with our Bible lessons where we had left off and studied Genesis 47-50, as well as started on Daniel with books 1 & 2.  We actually moved Bible lesson to right before bedtime, and it has been great because AC can help reading and instructing while he is here, and it has been great to do this all together as a family.


While we were in San Francisco, I picked up a book called Don't Let the Pigeon Finish This Activity Book!, and SC worked on the first two activities, tracing and copying a picture of the pigeon, and creating a bus stop sign.  She really loved the Mo Willems "Pigeon" books, so this was a no brainer to get when I saw it.  She has been asking every single day to do activities from it.



I decided to hold off on starting French for right now, to get us used to being back on a school schedule, plus it is already more intensive than last spring with history and science curriculum.  Also, most of our out-of-the house activities are in the morning, which means all of our school is done in the afternoon, and SC is pretty tired.  Hopefully next fall, once she is officially five years old and her activities will make the assumption she is in public school all day, we will be able to rearrange it to spending the morning on school and she will be more fresh for French.

What was your week like?  Leave a comment, then check out what other homeschoolers are up to at

Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thankful Thursday: "I was entirely happy."

"I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, 
like the pumpkins, 
and I did not want to be anything more. 
I was entirely happy."
Willa Cather, My Antonia

This week I am thankful that I found some tiny pumpkins growing on the huge vine that I have allowed to take over the vegetable garden in the backyard.  

We planted some "Cinderella" pumpkins late in the summer in hope that by Halloween we might have some to display by our front door.  Unfortunately, harlequin bugs got to all but one of the plants.  Flower blossoms only appeared about two weeks ago, and as large and sprawling as the vine had become (this is one plant, folks), I could not find any female flowers or pollinated "baby" fruits hidden under all the leaves.

We are due for a cold front this weekend (maybe today!), so I decided to finally pull out all my left-over tomato plants from the summer harvest.  Mixed up in the tomato plant was an arm of the pumpkin vine, and I was thrilled to find three tiny pumpkins attached.  Now, I highly doubt they will miraculously develop before Halloween next week, but if it stays fairly mild until Thanksgiving, we may be able to use them for pie or other tasty treats!

Here is what they should look like when they are grown.

If you garden, what surprises have you found in your garden?  Leave a comment, and then check out more Thankful Thursday posts here:

Thankful Thursdays Button    Loved and Lovely

Also, if you missed it, I started a new "What 2 Read Wednesday" link-up yesterday.  Check out the post here, and if you want to link-up, check out the rules here

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What 2 Read Wednesday:
"Life is a million different dots ..."
Book Review: Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

"Life is a million different dots making one gigantic picture. 
And maybe the big picture is nice, maybe it's amazing, 
but if you're standing with your face pressed up against a bunch of black dots, 
it's really hard to tell."
-Rebecca Stead, Liar & Spy

Having previously read Rebecca Stead's Newbery Medal-winning novel When You Reach Me for one of my library science classes, when I stumbled across her latest novel, Liar & Spy, prominently displayed for the taking at our local library, I couldn't help checking it out.

The story centers around seventh grader Georges and his family's move from a house to an apartment after the loss of the father's job, as well as the absence of the mother as she seemingly works double-shifts at the hospital to support the family.  As Georges struggles to adapt to a new way of life, plus deal with a bully at school, he meets the homeschoolers (Bohemian extreme unschoolers) upstairs, twelve-year-old Safer and his younger sister Candy, and immediately becomes embroiled in Safer's self-appointed spying gig to determine what the evil "Mr. X" has been up to.

Throughout the novel, Georges figures out what it means to be a true friend, and that life can be hard, but worth it.  This novel was a very easy read, just like When You Reach Me, that moved quickly, and Stead's writing does a wonderful job of bringing the reader into the story, such that by the end of the novel, the reader's emotions are engaged effectively.

I would Liar & Spy, as well as When You Reach Me, for as young as middle-grade students, but older students and adults will find it just as captivating.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: "Keep your eyes on the stars ..."

"Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. 
Keep your eyes on the stars, 
but remember to keep your feet on the ground." 
Theodore Roosevelt
Speech at Prize Day Exercises at Groton School, 1904

This week I want to focus on ten museums/exhibits I hope to take SC to this year.  I am very excited we were able to budget in a membership to our local science and history museum, but it also includes reciprocal memberships to over 200 other museums around the country.  This opens up an allowance for quite a bit of exciting experiences as we are able to travel along with AC on his business trips, plus any family trips we may be able to fit in.

1.  Fort Worth Museum of Science and History:  This is the museum that is closest to us, and the one with which we have a membership.  They have a fabulous on-site children's museum, plus a great planetarium, which will fit in well with our study of astronomy this year.

2. Witte Museum/Mummies of the World:  I am very excited we will be able to tag along with AC after our Seattle trip to San Antonio, Texas and see this museum exhibit.  SC and I have just started with ancient history, and though we will not be to mummies and Egypt by the time we go, we have already talked about real mummies thanks to a McDonald's toy advertising for the movie Hotel Transylvania.  We looked at the pictures of the exhibit online and are both ready to get to see it in person.

3. Perot Museum:  This is a new museum that opens up in December and has been rumored to be awesome.  It is also a science museum and has a big astronomy exhibit, along with ten others, and an on-site children's museum.

4. Houston Zoo:  Last year SC and I got to tag along on a trip with AC to Houston, and it also happened to be on SC's fourth birthday.  While AC worked, SC and I went to the Houston Zoo, and I was blown away.  The Fort Worth Zoo near our home is always mentioned as one of the top five zoos in the country, but I actually preferred the layout and accessibility of the animals at the Houston Zoo.  I hope we get a chance to head down South again this year, and maybe take AC along with us this time.

5. Children's Museum of Houston: This is supposed to be one of the best children's museums in the US (according to the internet), and from the look of the website, it has tons of hands-on things for kids to do.  It would be a fun thing to add into a trip to Houston if we get the chance to make one.

6. Exploratorium: According to their own website, this is a museum of science, art and human perceptions.  They have a planetarium, various exhibits about living things, the body, and the world.  However, the most cool thing is the tactile dome, a maze in complete darkness that you have to get through solely by touch.

7. Lawrence Hall of Science:  It is too bad we won't make it back to San Francisco before the end of 2012, because this museum has an awesome-looking "Math Midway" that ends January 6.  Of course, they have a planetarium, plus a bunch of hands-on activities for kids.

8. Natural History Museum at LA County/Page Museum and La Brea Tar Pits:  This is a museum I distinctly remember going to when I was SC's age, and it was such a neat experience.  Though we have travelled to Southern California many times, we have yet to make it to a museum, and this would be a great one to finally get to.

9. Children's Museum of Tacoma:  Since we will be heading to the Seattle/Tacoma/Portland area, we thought it might be fun to visit a kid-friendly museum while we were there.  This one is unique in that it has very specific playscapes to focus kids in one way or another.  For example, one playscape is dedicated to all things water, and kids are provided with aprons to keep them dry.  Another playscape is dedicated to messy projects, and still another to individual creations.  Sounds like it will be right up SC's alley.

10. Dublin Writer's Museum: Yeah, this one is all for me!

What museums would you recommend around the US?  Leave a comment, then see other top ten lists here:

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thankful Thursday: "A happy family is ..."

"A happy family is but an earlier heaven."
-Sir John Bowring

When AC and I met, I knew he was the one when I realized I could be even my silliest with him (I am usually a pretty serious person) because he did not feel it detracted from who I am most of the time, but rather added to my multifaceted personality.  On the flip side, AC also has various aspects of his personality that range from silly to serious, and blended together, we fit.  It is obvious that God created each for the other, and that our marriage was His plan all along.  Similarly, and this is something we tell SC all the time, she specifically was created by God to be our child specifically.  Even though I know this, it still is such a relief to me that SC is a little bit of each of us, plus quite a bit of her own, and like a puzzle, it works really well for us.

This afternoon, as I was preparing to blow my straw paper toward the back of the car at SC, I was struck by a wave of gladness that we are the type of family who blows straw paper at each other.  We are the type of family that makes funny faces at each other, and plays in the rain, and digs in the dirt, and spends endless time tickling.  We are the type of family that dyes our hair semi-permanent pink or purple "just to see how it looks."  To me, that means we stick together, no matter what (we blow straw paper at nice restaurants, too), and can take a break from the stress of life to just enjoy life with each other.  I am thankful that I have been blessed with a family with a great collective sense of humor, and that we have such a good time just being together.  I am thankful that God knows just what I need in my life, from the goofy-and-smart husband who indulges my football whims, right down to the beautiful little girl He has blessed us with.

What are you thankful for today?  Leave a comment, then check out what some other people are thankful for at:

Thankful Thursdays Button

Loved and Lovely

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: "It was the best butter, you know."

"The March Hare took the watch and looked at it gloomily: 
then he dipped it into his cup of tea, and looked at it again: 
but he could think of nothing better to say than his first remark, 
'It was the best butter, you know.'"
-Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

This week, for Top Ten Tuesday, I wanted to feature my surprising craftiness.  Last week SC was invited to an Alice in Wonderland themed tea party birthday party that required a "tea party" hat.  Not having anything on hand that would specifically do, we set out first to Target to find a hat, and then Hobby Lobby to get some supplies, and with input from SC, I crafted a grand tea party hat.  

So, in ten steps, here is how to make an awesome tea party hat:

(1) Purchase a plain, floppy-brimmed hat.  We got this one here, in black.  It was on clearance for $4 at our local Target store.

(2) Purchase/gather any supplies you want to affix to the hat.  Also, if you do not like the original hat color, purchase spray paint.  SC wanted everything on her hat (including the hat itself) to be purple, her favorite color.
  • hat
  • purple glitter spray paint (like Krylon 4-Ounce Glitter Aerosol Spray)
  • tulle (we got two shades initially, but I only used one)
  • wide ribbon
  • floral garland
  • large flower with detachable stem
  • scissors
  • hot glue gun & glue
  • stapler

(3) Spray paint the hat (outdoors or in another well-ventilated area) so it is the color you want.  We wanted the purple glitter look, so used the glitter paint, but you could use any color or finish (solid, translucent, glossy, matte) that you wish.  

*The paint will make the brim much stiffer than it was originally, so if you wish for a super-floppy brim, you may want to just paint the crown and use a darker/less translucent tulle to add the color.

(4) Start pulling tulle off the first roll you want to use.  Fold one side upon itself in an accordion fashion, leaving the other end free.  Affix the folds together with a stapler.  Make sure the stapled side is more tightly scrunched than the open side, which will create a somewhat circular "skirt" result with the tulle.

You can do this without measuring up against the crown of the hat for a while, but eventually will need to wrap it around the outside edge to make sure you only use as much tulle as you need.  Cut the tulle off the roll when the "skirt" is complete.

(5) Using the glue gun, apply hot glue to the circumference of the crown.  CAREFULLY attach the tulle "skirt" to the crown with the staples up above the brim (so they will be hidden by the ribbon).  Again, be careful! The tulle is sheer and the glue will seep through, causing burt fingers.  

*At this point, if you wish to use a second layer of tulle, repeat steps (4) and (5).  We left it with just one so that the glitter paint showed through.  However, you could use multiple colors or even different widths of tulle to create a neat look.

(6) Measure out the length of ribbon needed to wrap around the crown of the hat, plus about 2 inches to fold over neatly.  Apply hot glue carefully to the bottom portion of the crown, directly over the staples, and up about an inch (or more if you have chosen a very wide ribbon) all the way around the hat.

CAREFULLY press the ribbon to the glued area of the hat starting on one end, going around.  Keep in mind that your ribbon probably will not lay flat.  If you chose not to attach floral garland, feathers or other items on top of the ribbon, you might want to choose a ribbon that isn't as shiny as the one I have chosen, which really shows all the wrinkles.

(7) When you have wrapped most of the ribbon around, fold the last inch under itself with a dab of hot glue.  Then affix the rest of the ribbon, adding a bit of glue on top of the already pressed ribbon to hold the folded-over end.

(8) Measure the appropriate length of floral garland (or you could use a feather boa!) around the circumference of the crown.  Decide how you want the end to look and cut to the appropriate length.  Place the garland up against the edge of the crown and, starting with the end, carefully pick up sections of the stem to apply hot glue underneath.

If your garland has larger flowers, you may want to add some extra glue under each of them to make sure they stay put.  Also make sure all leaves are pointing the direction you wish (so you don't see the backs) and add a dot of glue as needed.

(9) De-stem (with scissors, or some will just pop off) the large flower that will be the focal point of the hat.  Decide where you wish the focal point to be, but you can also use the flower to cover any oops spots or if you have a giant buckle (like I did) that sticks out even after everything else is on there.  Apply quite a bit of hot glue to the base of the large flower and press into place, making sure to angle it toward the front of the hat.  Hold the flower in place for a few minutes, because the weight of the larger flower might make it move before the glue cools and hardens.

*This would also be the time to add on large plumes or any other items you wish to tuck into the garland.

(10) Try the hat on the wearer!  Keep in mind the more stuff you add to the hat (including spray paint), the heavier it will be.

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

Any comments, advice or opinions are welcomed.  Don't forget to check out other "Top Ten Tuesday" posts here

**This post contains affiliate links.  Please read my disclosure statement.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"And then there is California."

There is science, logic, reason; 
there is thought verified by experience.  
And then there is California.
-Edward Abbey

This past weekend I traveled to San Francisco to meet AC after the Oracle OpenWorld Conference.  We had a great time together, and got to do some touristy activities.  

On Friday, we took the boat across to Alcatraz Island.  It was really neat to hear the audio tour, as told by a former prison guard.  However, I think much of the tour would have been better relayed through visual displays on the wall (to be read at leisure), or even a television documentary.  I was also amazed at how small the cellblock area was.  I had made assumptions that it would be very large, but it was only three short hallways, and three stories tall.

The coolest part of being on Alcatraz Island was that we had an unobscured view of the planes practicing for the Fleet Week shows.

Saturday we took the opportunity to head south of San Francisco to Stanford University.  Being from Texas, we love to watch football, and AC is a big fan of Stanford, though more specifically their band and the unofficial mascot, "the tree."  

We picked a great game to go to (they played Arizona), and had great seats, only three rows up in the corner of the endzone, that only cost us about $25 total.  AC was thrilled he could purchase SC a stuffed tree as a souvenir.  

We also went to a number of amazing restaurants, including Fog City Diner; Tiernan's Irish Pub, where I had a delicious shepherd's pie (which has made me impatient for January and Ireland);

TOWN restaurant in San Carlos, where we got to sit at the kitchen bar and watch the executive chef do his work; and Sear's Fine Food, where we had the most delicious breakfast (eggs Benedict for me) before heading to the airport, and saw actor Johnny Depp as he was leaving.

Of course, no trip to San Francisco is complete without a trip to Hubert Keller's Burger Bar (we went twice), and were thoroughly disappointed we could not get in to Kokkari, a devine Greek restaurant, due to the massive amount of people traveling to San Francisco for the weekend due to a large number of events in the city.

I also discovered a local bookshop called Alexander Book Co., which made me wish we had more (or any) independent book shops near our home.  This shop is the epitome of the local, independent bookstore, and I had extreme bookstore jealousy.

All in all, we had a great time spending time together, but we very much missed SC, who stayed at Grandma's house.  It is good to be home!

Feel free to leave comments in the form of suggestions, advice or opinions about anything I have posted here.
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