August 19, 2014

Blog Resuscitation?

Some friends and I were talking about how we've all basically stopped blogging but that we all had thought about starting up again.  Life is busy, but maybe I can manage it.  While many, many things have happened since my last update, for the most part our lives are the same.  So rather than catch anything up, I'll just start from here.

Our new school year officially starts on Sept 1, but we got going early.  The three older kids are all taking classes this year.  Geshtro takes computer coding with Start Code.  FunnyGirl is taking Chinese at Summit Academy, and Dimples is taking some co-op classes in Sept and also has indoor soccer lessons.  Both girls do rock climbing once a month.  We still unschool so this is about as scheduled and as we get.  Our days still consist of mostly reading, housework, and mindfulness/meditation activities. 

We haven't become religious, so not much has changed there.  The older two girls are starting to ask more questions about heaven and what happens to a person when they die.  FunnyGirl is big into ghost stories so she has her own ideas about an afterlife.  I just answer their questions as they come up and listen to their ideas, then we talk about what they currently believe and move on.

I took a couple of coding classes this year and I'm working on a couple of projects freelance.  I'm hoping to make a business of it eventually, but with my very full plate it's just baby steps right now.   B is still plugging along at work.  Lately we've been dreaming more and more about our move to Canada. 

So there it is, a boring update.  Not sure it's the breath of life I was going for, but I'm making dinner too (one that all of the kids are refusing to even try, as usual) and trying to figure out why I can't get another blog to point to the correct domain.  I used to be better at multi-tasking or perhaps that was just wishful thinking.   Gonna hit publish now and hope I feel inspired to keep this thing alive.  We will see....

September 10, 2013

What homeschooling looks like when you are planning a trip to Disney

We are those crazy people that take a trip to Disney every few years.  We've been more times now than is reasonable for a family that does not live in Orlando, but we do love those theme parks.

Since all of the kids are old enough to appreciate more than just the rides, I am preparing them by reading the original Grimm Brother's fairy tales and the tales of Brer Rabbit before bed each night.  With Geshtro, I am reading Tom Sawyer.  He also recently finished The Sword in the Stone. With Dimples, I am reading the Disney Fairies books.  I plan to read Mary Poppins as well.  That may be all I can fit in before our trip, as far as reading goes.

We also took a trip to The Wren's Nest, the home of author Joel Chandler Harris, who wrote the Brer Rabbit stories.  While there, the kids were questioned about their knowledge of the Civil War.  It's something we've briefly talked about, but not really delved into.  I thought now was as good a time as any to learn something new.  I found a book we had on our shelves about Frederick Douglass which Geshtro is reading.  He pointed out to me that his life "didn't seem too bad for a slave".  This sent off some warning bells in my head, so we have been supplementing that text with his Wikipedia entry.  Also I found one of his autobiographies for the Kindle is free.  He'll be reading that one next for a first hand account of a slave's life.

The two books that Geshtro are reading have led to some discussions about the term negro and other more derogatory terms.  He wasn't familiar with those words, so after an explanation we talked more about current language that is still used and it's effects on the people it is aimed towards.

Tom Sawyer has sent us off to re-listen to The Radio Adventures of Doctor Floyd and the episode where they are transported into the book.  In one episode Dr. Steve says he thought Tom Sawyer was a song by Rush.  This, of course, has us looking up the video on YouTube.  Geshtro wanted to know if the song or the book came first and after explaining that, we found this little blurb of information about the song.

In the December 1985 Rush Backstage Club newsletter, drummer and lyricist Neil Peart said:
" Tom Sawyer was a collaboration between myself and Pye Dubois, an excellent lyricist who wrote the lyrics for Max Webster. His original lyrics were kind of a portrait of a modern day rebel, a free-spirited individualist striding through the world wide-eyed and purposeful. I added the themes of reconciling the boy and man in myself, and the difference between what people are and what others perceive them to be - namely me I guess".

 It's more than just history that we are learning here though.  In preparation for the walking that we will do while at Disney, we have begun taking family walks.  This necessitated our buying new tennis shoes for each of the kids.  Up to this point, our kids have mostly worn Crocs or other various slip-on types of shoes.  They were all pretty ignorant about how to tie shoelaces because of this.  So we have been working on those skills as well.  Besides shoes, we are also creating a new habit of family togetherness and fitness.

On this trip we will able to take advantage of the free dining plan, so we have set up several dining reservations.  To get ready for this, we talk daily about proper table manners and etiquette around meals that are not prepared as they are used to or that they do not like, and how to handle those situations.  This is a big one at our house since SweetPea is allergic to milk and I've been making more and more vegan meals.  Many new foods are being introduced and old favorites are being adjusted.  There is a lot of complaining at mealtimes.

And these are just a few of the ways we are getting ready for our trip and learning from the experience.

September 9, 2013

The Wren's Nest

The Wren's Nest is the home of Joel Chandler Harris, author of the collection of Brer Rabbit stories.  I'd been wanting to visit his home for a while since the kid's are big fans of Song of the South and the ride based on the movie at Disney.  We visited the museum in Eatonton a couple of years ago.  For this trip, we got a group together and booked a storyteller as well as a tour of his house.

Our storyteller

The Tar Baby

Mr. Harris' desk at the AJC

Brer Bear

Brer Fox and Brer Rabbit

Our tour guide


July 12, 2013

Summer book - The One and Only Ivan

We are reading The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.  I found it when I was looking for books similar to Wonder.  I wouldn't say it's similar, other than the reading level, but they both have very interesting covers.  I don't know who came up with the phrase "Never judge a book by it's cover."  That's silly.  I will almost always pick up a book that catches my eye.  That's how I found my favorite author of all time.  How could you not pick up a book that looks like this?  Although, the updated cover is even better.

So Ivan is a gorilla and this story is written from his point of view.  It's a fictional story, but it's based on a real gorilla.  You've probably heard of him, especially if you are in Atlanta since he lived at our zoo for 16 years.  He died last August at the age of 50.  Before he was at Zoo Atlanta, he lived in a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington.  His real story is fascinating and you can read the highlights at the Zoo Atlanta website.

Another story within the book is about Jambo, a gorilla that stood over a boy who fell into the gorilla enclosure at a zoo.  He was badly hurt, but while he lay unconscious, Jambo protected him.

We are only a short way into the book, but it's inspiring a lot of good discussions.  Do animals know when they are in a zoo or a mall?  Do they miss their natural habitats?  Is it o.k. for humans to put animals on display?  What does the sentence, "A good zoo is how humans make amends." mean?  And what does it mean when Stella (the elephant) smiles sadly in response to Bob's (the dog) question about why she and Ivan aren't in a zoo?

Kids ask the most amazing questions.

I'm really looking forward to reading the rest with them.

July 8, 2013

Fourth at a lake

We hadn't been to the lake house in two years so when the opportunity arose we jumped at the chance. The girls and I were just coming off an intense week staying at my parent's house and I had one day to get things together before we were off again for a three day trip to Lake Sinclair.

Things didn't start off very smoothly.  It was pouring rain when we dropped off B, FunnyGirl, and the dog at the marina so they could take the pontoon across to the house.  It would be another 45 minutes before the rest of us joined them by driving around the lake.  The rain had stopped, but the water at the house wasn't working.  It was already 4pm, would we be able to get someone to come out there this late in the day?  If not, were we willing to stay the night with no working bathroom facilities?  We had plenty of water to drink so that wasn't an issue.  We got the well pump guys on the phone and they said they could be there in a couple of hours, but depending on the problem they might not be able to fix it.  We decided to stick it out.  Good thing we did too.  It was a simple fix (though they had to work in a downpour) and we had water again by 7:30.   Yay!!  Still we had already talked to the kids about the possibility of going to the bathroom outdoors.  Surprisingly, none of them was against the idea.  I think they might have even been bummed when they never got the chance to try it out.

We had a few more mishaps, including B falling off the dock but fortunately there was nothing more serious than a couple of bruises.

Check out those new swimming skills!
SweetPea loves water.

Max enjoys the lake from the dock these days.

The rain continued off and on for the whole trip, but when it cleared the skies were magnificent.  When it wasn't raining we got to swim or go out on the boat.  When it was, we got to watch as the storms moved across the lake.  Once the winds were so strong we had to struggle the shut the doors.

Sometimes we swam in the rain too.

Our second day we were joined by B's mom and step-dad.  The girls got to go fishing then.  Dimples caught two little ones and FunnyGirl snagged one right before we had to go.  We don't keep them because we don't eat them.  Letting them go is just as much fun as catching them, I've been told.

It was the Fourth of July, but we didn't go out onto the lake to watch fireworks.  We could see plenty from the porch and the kids weren't that interested anyway.  I think they are a bit spoiled by Disney fireworks that are synchronized with music and water.

Chillin' while we wait for the rain to pass.

Boats are perfect for napping.
Swings too.
SweetPea is getting used to our constant travels.  She can be very clingy when she sees me, but she's getting better at recognizing her grammas.  Granny got about two hours of her all to herself while I got a much needed break.  

Photo by Granny

 There is always plenty of cool stuff to see at a lake.

As usual while we were there B and I started talking about what it would be like to live at the lake.  It's not really a possibility right now, but maybe one day.  At least we can visit whenever we want.

June 29, 2013

What homeschooling looks like when you aren't in your own space

I could probably do a whole series on what homeschooling looks like with the various stages of a baby.  I don't really have time though, because of the baby.  I've got just a minute or two before she really loses it as it is.

This week has been particularly complicated because we are staying with my parents, who also happen to be taking care of my Gramma.  She recently had a stroke and is trying to get back onto her feet.  There is a lot of drama around all of that and unfortunately most of the burden for her care falls to my aunt who lives with her.  This aunt never had kids and isn't used to dealing with someone who is dependent (not to mention stubborn as an ox.)  Anywho...

Another of my aunts is also here for the week.  She's visiting her mom (Gramma) and also giving my girls swimming lessons.  So it's a jam packed house and a jumbled mess of early mornings (at least for us), swimming afternoons, community dinners (all vegan so far!), and too late nights.  My kids aren't used to having to go to bed early enough to accommodate an 8am wakeup.  Four days in now and I've got some cranky kids, a cranky me, and some cranky parents/aunts/gramma who are learning how to deal with new situations from the stroke.

Did I mention a cranky baby?  She already doesn't want me to put her down (ever) in this strange house.  We've been spending several nights a week here for the entire month, but she is clearly not as comfortable here as she is at home.  The last two nights she screamed for a while really late after everyone had gone to bed.  This alarms my parents, but I'm used to it.  She did this a lot at our house.  It's just the first time they've had to experience it.  I tried to tell them it wasn't pleasant.  Unfortunately, we have to stick it out to get the swim lessons completed.  Maybe tonight will be better.

So what homeschooling looks like right now is all of us trying to deal with situations that we are not comfortable in and don't want to be doing.  We will be here another few days and then have holiday plans of our own.  By the end of it all we may need a full week to decompress.  I went to my very first group therapy on Friday and one of of the moms asked me what is was like to be home with the kids all of the time.  For the most part it's just our normal lives and we don't know anything different.  However,  we each have our own space and routines.  The more we are away, the easier it is to see just how important they are, not just for me.  The kids need this space too.  FunnyGirl is especially struggling and I see a lot of myself in her.   Even SweetPea wants her toys, her familiar rooms, and her daddy.

I think sometimes I forget that kids are just as complex as adults.   You can't just throw them into things and expect them to act perfectly.  And they can't always explain what it is that is bugging them.  I know plenty of adults that can't do that either.  

June 24, 2013

Girl Scouts summer trip to Stone Mountain

Last year we didn't participate in any of our normal homeschooling activities and instead opted to spend most of our time at the pool in my parent's neighborhood.  The kids missed their friends a lot as the summer wore on though, so this year we decided to keep up better.  One of the things we wanted to do was attend the Girl Scout summer meet ups.  Last Wednesday we met at Stone Mountain for the laser show.  The kids found the actual show boring, but were happy to see their friends beforehand.  We made a stop at the Dollar Tree on the way to pick up some fun stuff so we could avoid the overpriced stuff they sell there.

Two giggling girls excited to get to the lawn.

Confederate Memorial Carving

Best dollar spent.

Bubble raspberry

Ignore the dust on my lens, please.


Geshtro says he hates when I take pictures he doesn't know I'm taking.

The other dollars spent.

Pretty good for the iPhone camera, yes?

Ohhhhh!  Ahhhh!