Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Mandate for Change

I am proud. I am awed. I am overcome with relief and so filled with hope for this country's future and its relationship with the rest of the world that I am practically bursting at the seams. I bow my head before the next four years and believe with every fiber of my being that we are walking toward the sun.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Hero, Zero

After many years of complete stupidity, and many more years of only mild stupidity, and then a few years of actual self-restraint and hard work, we have...paid off all our credit cards! They're done. Multiply our stupidity by zero and you get, at long last, zero. What a relief. Celebrate with me by having hot dogs for dinner instead of going out to Baja Fresh like I'm dying to do!

In honor of the day, I offer you a bit of nostalgia. Zero is indeed a wonderful thing.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Where have I been?

To Jupiter and back. For anyone who hasn't heard the news, my company has been acquired. We're in the process of merging and have to finish off our editorial calendar--which consists of an insane number of reports and which would, in a normal year, take us until March or April of the following year to complete--by 12/31 to fulfill our current contracts. I've agreed to go back to working 40 hours per week until the end of the year.

Things have been very difficult for the past few weeks, but we seem to have come out on the other side of this tunnel--at least for now. I hope that I'll be able to resume our regularly scheduled programming shortly.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Our little chanteuse

Speaking of Julie...

Untitled from Melissa C. Finkelstein on Vimeo.

Our first Weekly Report of the 2008-2009 school year

We had a good week! And may I just say, I HEART LESSON PLANS. Seriously, the lesson plans I made are helping me SO much, really keeping me on track. They make my days so much easier: Instead of having to start from scratch every morning, trying to figure out where we left off yesterday, what I had thought of but not written down for today, what we didn't do yesterday that I wanted to add in today, etc., I can just look at my Excel sheet and see where we stand. It's so freeing.

This week we did some combined history/science, reading Born with a Bang and discussing the Big Bang theory, space, matter, the planets, and more. Today we're going to watch a United Streaming video clip about the Milky Way. It's meant for high-schoolers, but is simple enough that Bella will understand the majority of it, and it will provide more fodder for discussion.

We also started using Queen's Language Lessons for the Very Young. I really like this resource, and I think Bell will too, when she gets used to it. The first few lessons had us discussing a painting and a poem, which she enjoyed. There's also a drawing to be done, which she always seems to balk at (she's a perfectionist, so she doesn't like to draw anything that's outside her comfort zone, which at the moment consists solely of flowers). I'm going to strongly encourage her to do the drawing though, because I'd like her to branch out a bit in this area. We'll see how that goes!

So far, she hasn't liked Spelling Workout, but that' s mainly because the handwriting frustrates her, and the first lessons are all handwriting. I let that fall by the wayside last year (bad mommy!), so we're going to go back to where we left off in HWT and start over. She seems to have forgotten everything we learned, so...Bella, meet Square One.

She loves Right Start Math, as always. When I say it's time for math, she cheers. (She gets that from her father, I'm sure of it.) The lesson have been very simple--we're still in the beginning, review portion of the book. It's nice to be able to rely on this great program that I know she enjoys.

We read our first lit selection, The Five Chinese Brothers, and discussed using some of the recommended questions in Suppose the Wolf Were an Octopus. Both girls really enjoyed the story, and Bella liked answering the questions. We're also reading Mary Stewart's The Little Broomstick at bedtime. This is my all-time favorite children's book. I must have read it 20 times when I was a kid, and then I forgot the title for years and couldn't come up with the book anywhere. One day, around my birthday, a package arrived in the mail from my Aunt Sue, whose book it was that I'd borrowed repeatedly as a kid. She'd come across a hardcover version at a book sale, bought it for 50 cents or so, and sent it to me. I've been waiting almost six years for Bella to be old enough to enjoy this book, and I'm loving it every minute of it!

And finally, our REAL Science group has gotten off track temporarily, but next week we plan to go to a local nature center and do our plot survey. In the meantime, we kept ourselves busy with this:

Near as I can figure, she's some kind of sphinx, but I haven't found an exact match. Either way, she's the biggest, fattest caterpillar I've ever seen in my life. Julie spotted her on our patio and we looked her up, then stuck her in our caterpillar tent (coincidentally, also a gift from Aunt Sue and family!). If you look carefully at the jar o' dirt, you can see a hole where she burrowed down into it.

She'll spend a few weeks in there and emerge as a some kind of moth, and then we'll let her go. In the meantime, I have an open jar of dirt on my windowsill. With Julie around, that's just ASKING for trouble. Should be interesting!

Monday, September 15, 2008

We've finally started!

I'm so energized I feel like I'm vibrating (or maybe that's the coffee, LOL)! We flew through a math lesson this morning, then read Born with a Bang and discussed how all matter in the universe has always existed and will continue to exist. I used the analogy of a tree using water, nutrients, sunlight, and carbon dioxide to grow and create fruit, which falls to the ground, rots into the soil to nourish it and feed the growing seed, and how nothing is actually lost, it just changes form and is used in different ways. She listened thoughtfully and then said, "So, it's like recycling?" I wanted to hug her! I love watching the light bulb go on, and she was very proud of herself.

We have Handwriting Without Tears to do this afternoon, and we can call it a full day. Woohoo!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Ooooh, right. Now I remember...

...why we only get her hair cut once every three years.

The haircut is done. After I hacked and chopped on Wednesday, Bella agreed to go to a local kids' salon to have it finished on Thursday. Everything went well...until we got to the salon. Suffice it to say that Bella was NOT amenable to getting in the chair, but I couldn't leave her hair like that, so some decisions were made, some (ok, many) hysterical tears were shed, some hair was cut, and we departed. By an hour after the visit, she was in the back of the car (on the way to grandma's) with a mirror, ooohing and aaahing over her bouncy new hairstyle. She looks fabulous, and she loves her hair, but it was traumatic for all involved. Thank goodness it's short enough to let it grow in for maybe until she's 12?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tropical Storm Hanna, Birthday Edition

Tomorrow is this kid's 6th birthday:

Happy birthday, baby!

(This is a Choose Your Own Adventure book she's holding. I read almost all of the ones that were available when I was a kid. Never in a million a years did I envision myself buying one of these for my 6-year-old someday. But that's another post.)

THIS kid's birthday isn't until Thursday:

But watching her sister open her presents was just too much for her, so we let her open one of hers. She chose the package that contained this dress, which is just too cute for words.

This guy's birthday isn't until December, but isn't he handsome?

We're also riding out tropical storm Hanna here today. So far, so good. We settled in and watched Nim's Island, and baked these:

Just like the name says, these are the best chocolate chip cookies you'll ever have. Seriously.

And Bella did a little of this out in the pouring rain:

Julie napped.

What a day!

Making evolution FUN!

Here are the books we picked up at the library today:

From Lava to Life : The Universe Tells Our Earth Story and Mammals Who Morph: The Universe Tells Our Evolution Story by Jennifer Morgan (NJ resident and fellow Rutgers grad)
Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters
Dinosaur Claws and Crests by Joanne Mattern
The Great Dinosaur Search by Rosie Heywood
The Best Book of Early People by Margaret Hynes

We've also got Usborne's Who Were the First People? coming from a member (oh, how I love that site!).

I'm thinking we're going to start with a very light version of the Big Bang, cruise through an age-appropriate discussion of evolution, and then spend some time on dinosaurs and the first people--maybe 4 weeks of prehistory? I also want to do our first lapbook at some point during this fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants experience, but--surprise, surprise!--there aren't exactly a lot of pre-designed lapbook units on evolution. I know I can find one on dinosaurs, so if I can't rise to the occasion and design my own, that might be the way we go.

In general, though, I was able to find some great ideas to make this prehistory study fun:

Little Acorns Treehouse prehistory ideas (Aside to Kate: I came across this while Googling for ideas, and I knew the name sounded familiar. Sure enough, I checked your blogroll and there it was, LOL!)
Land of the Wee Ones dinosaur ideas
PBS's evolution site

I'll report back with any ideas and lapbook designs I happen to develop. Don't hold your breath, though!

T-minus 8 days and counting

We start school in 8 days, and I'm only halfway done with my lesson plans. In fact, I've been halfway done with my lesson plans for about...3 months now. I can't seem to get started again after the initial burst of gung-ho. But I really need to get my butt in gear this week, because I am way, way more effective when I have a plan to guide me.

Part of what's holding me back is my plan to cover some prehistory before launching our Ancients study via SOTW. I have loads of books on hold at the library (seriously, like, way too many) on the Big Bang, evolution, dinosaurs, the first people, etc. But with someone to lead me by the nose, I'm at a loss. I also want to sneak a lapbook in during this prehistory survey, but again, I'm at loose ends here.

Also, I'm starting to try to factor Julie into our weeks now, via Letter of the Week. That sounds so easy, right? But it's turning to be more problematic than I expected. I think the problem here is that I have too many ideas and too few children/too little time! I need to narrow my focus, and I'm not entirely sure how.

Well, I have one more week to figure it all out. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Nature's bounty, courtesy of K and D's garden. Thanks K!

Monday, August 25, 2008

What a great idea! Rainbow Jars...

I came across this great idea on the blog of an Etsy seller whose products I adore (and who is, it turned out, a fellow MDC mama and friend of a friend!). Here's a link.

I love this idea, and so will the girls. Julie's all-time favorite pastime is (surreptitiously) pouring water from receptacle to receptacle--usually in the kitchen or living room, where I then have to clean up the mess *sigh* This activity will honor her urge to pour (on the patio) and will get them both outside too.

Thanks to The Rowdy Pea!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Book Jar list

One of our goals for this "first-grade" year is to bury ourselves in good literature. To that end, I finally compiled, from many, many sources, a huge list of books that I'd like to read with Bella (or have her read herself) in the next year or two (or three, or four!). My plan is to print out the book titles, cut out the titles and fold them up, and deposit them all in a Book Jar. When we near the end of each readaloud, she'll pick a new book from the jar, and we have to read it (or at least start it), no matter what it is. She has a tendency to to balk at books I choose, even when I know they'll be perfect for her, so this is designed to be fun for her and useful for me, and to give us lots of variety. Of course, many of the books on the list have sequels and follow-ups, so if she wants to continue in a series, we'll do that for as long as the interest is there.

Bella's reading capabilities are at a second/third grade level. Even so, some of these books are picture books that I'm just really looking forward to, some are possibly at a higher reading level than she's ready for (though we've worked our way through some pretty high-level books, surprisingly), some are "twaddle" that I know she'll just plain enjoy--we're just looking to spend a lot of time reading :-).

So, without further ado, here's the (gigantic) list I've put together. I hope it helps someone who's putting together a list of their own. I'll post a pic of the Book Jar in action when it's finally completed. Feel free to comment on books you think should be added or removed!

A Little Princess
A Mouse Called Wolf
A New Coat for Anna
Abel's Island (William Steig)
Aesop for Children
Baby Island
Ballet Shoes
Balto and the Great Race
Bears on Hemlock Mountain, The
Beatrix Potter Tales
Billy and Blaze
Blue Fairy Book (Andrew Lang)
Bread and Jam for Frances
Burgess Bird Book for Children
By the Great Horn Spoon
Caddie Woodlawn
Catwings 4 Book Box Set
Chancey and the Grand Rascal
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)
Charlie Muffin's Miracle Mouse
Charlotte's Web
Daisy Comes Home
Detectives in Togas
Dr DeSoto
Ella Enchanted
Encyclopedia Brown
Fantastic Flying Journey (Gerald Malcom Durrell)
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Favorite Poems of Childhood
Fifty Famous Stories Retold
Finn Family Moomintroll
Five Children and It
Five Chinese Brothers
Flat Stanley
Follow My Leader
Freddy the Pig
Funny Frank
Ginger Pye (Eleanor Estes)
Gooney Bird Green
Grandma's Attic books
Gregory’s Shadow
Henry Huggins
Hitty: Her First Hundred Years
Homer Price
Hundred Dresses, The
It Could Always Be Worse
James and the Giant Peach
James Herriot book of animal stories
James Herriot's Treasury for Children
Just So Stories
Little House in the Big Woods
Little House on the Prarie
Little Pear
Loudmouse (Richard Wilbur)
Mary Poppins
Mother West Wind's Children
Mountain Born
Mr Popper's Penguins
Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
My Father's Dragon
Nate the Great
Next Spring an Oriole
Old Mother West Wind
Owls in the Family
Ox-cart Man
Pioneer Cat
Princess and the Goblin
Puss in Boots and Other Stories (Anne Rockwell)
Rabbitt Hill (Robert Lawson)
Raddedy Andy
Raggedy Ann
Railway Children, The
Ralph S. Mouse (Beverly Cleary)
Red Sails to Capri (Ann Weil)
Runaway Ralph
Sarah Plain and Tall
Secret Garden
Skunk Lane (Brom Hoban)
Smoky by Will James
Sophie's Snail
Strawberry Girl
Stuart Little
Swallows and Amazons
The Biggest Bear
The Borrowers
The Boxcar Children
The Courage of Sarah Noble
The Cricket in Times Square
The Enormous Egg (Oliver Butterworth)
The Family Under the Bridge (Natalie Savage Carlson)
The Firebird
The Gifts of Wali Dad (Shepard)
The Great Brain
The Indian in the Cupboard
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
The Littles
The Magic Finger
The Magic Fish
The Matchlock Gun
The Midnight Fox
The Milly-Molly Mandy Storybook
The Moon of the Moles
The Original Winnie the Pooh books
The Red Lion
The Red Wolf
The Rescuers (4-book series) (Margery Sharp)
The Saturdays
The Storm (Lighthouse Series) Rylant
The Story of Ferdinand
The Tough Winter (Robert Lawson)
The Twenty One Balloons
The Velveteen Rabbit
The Water Horse
The Year of Miss Agnes
They Called her Molly Pitcher
Thornton Burgess Animal Stories
Trumpet and the Swan
Understood Betsy
Voyages of Dr. Dolittle
Water Babies
Wheels on the School
Wind in the Willows

Friday, August 22, 2008

The 17-year cicadas, up close and personal

Check out this terrific video, posted on my favorite HSing site by Jane in NC. I never knew I could feel so emotional about giant, army green bugs *sniff*!

Monday, August 18, 2008

What's better than gorgeous Blogger templates? Gorgeous, FREE Blogger templates!

If you're in the market for a new look for your Blogger blog, check out Lena Toews' site. Her work is simply gorgeous. I looked through a gazillion free (and not so free) templates today, and hers were the nicest ones, and they actually WORK, unlike some others I tested. She has a great eye. Thanks for sharing, Lena!

Well well well, look who's back...

It's me, of course! I've decided to completely revamp the blog, and Wordpress is not particularly amenable to that, so here we are. New school year, new blog, right?

We've been on one heck of a wild ride these past few weeks, but I'm too worn out to even post about it right now. Suffice it to say that decisions have finally been made, and I'm so relieved. I'm so looking forward to the start of the new school year!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Race against the clock...

As usual, I should be working. I have to have this report posted by midnight. But no, here I am, slacking...