Archive - May 2006

Fun With Science
The Godspeed
FlyLady Friday
Sonlight Box Day
Visiting the Capitol
The Joys of the Internet
A shawl for Lindsey
Garden Statues
Happy Mother’s Day

Fun With Science

We had so much fun with our science experiments today!  We are using the Usborne Science Activities Book 2.  Today we had experiments with fizz.

First up:  raisins and soda.  Pour some clear soda into a clear glass or jar.  Add a couple of raisins.  The gas bubbles in the soda will grab the raisins and lift them up.  As the gas escapes, the raisins will fall back down, but come up again when more bubbles stick to them.  This is really funny to watch!

Next:  baking soda and vinegar.  Just add a little of both to a cup and watch what happens.

And: fizzies in your mouth.  A little citric acid plus a little baking soda gets you…nothing!  You need to add liquid.  But first, mix some powdered sugar in for taste, then put a pinch of the mixture in your mouth.  Sort of a sweet and tangy fizzy thing going on.  Fun!  Put some of the mixture aside for Daddy to try when he comes home.  You can also watch what happened in your mouth by taking a spoonful of the mix and adding water to it.

By the way, if you are using the Usborne Science Activity books, Sonlight has some great DVDs to go along with them.  Every experiment in the book is demonstrated on the DVD by a fun and often silly science dude.  They are great to compare your own experiments with our to use if you don’t want to do them yourselves.  Especially if you can’t get all the materials needed.  Sonlight also sells science kits to go along with the books and DVDs so that you do have things like citric acid on hand.  I’m not affiliated with Sonlight in any way, just a big fan of their curriculum.

The Godspeed

So how old do you think America is? Well, if you are counting from the founding of the Jamestown settlement, America is celebrating her 400th Anniversary in 2007. To celebrate, the folks at Jamestown are celebrating in a big way, including a tour of a replica of the Godspeed, one of the three ships which carried the first settlers in Jamestwon. The Godspeed’s first stop is in Alexandria, VA and she is here until June 3rd. We can see her docked as we walk along the Potomac and decided to brave the Memorial Day crowds, heat and humidity to go for a tour.

First, we got a brief tour of Old Town Alexandria on our way there. I have only seen parts of it before, but I really want to get back again. We’ll have to find a way to leave the older children behind. I don’t think they will be happy with just walking and looking. Well, we found parking nearby and then walked to the river. One of the first things we saw was the paddle wheel boat, the Cherry Blossom, which we often see sailing by our house or as we walk along the Potomac. Pumpkin Girl thinks it looks like a big birthday cake

Then we worked our way to the Godspeed. We had planned to arrive around 10:30, which we did, and it was 10:45 when we found the Godspeed. The tours were scheduled to begin at 11:00, and the line was already huge! The wait was 1 1/2 hours from where we were. Yikes. Fortunately we were all covered up in sunscreen and we had water and sunglasses. There were also some activities set up and Phil and I took turns taking the children to see the exhibits. Once the tours started, the line moved right along and we were in the shade most of the time. While we waited, I gave the children a quick, impromptu lesson in American History.

Can you imagine crossing the Atlantic in such a small ship, in the middle of the winter? The trip took around 160 days.
The Godspeed and the other two ships that made the trip are shown on the Virginia State Quarter.

After a tour of the ship and some of the interactive displays on land, we headed off to lunch. We all perked up a bit in the air conditioning and treated ourselves to some ice cream and frozen yogurt. I let Bip taste my frozen yogurt, which he really enjoyed. He was so sweet, opening his mouth like a little bird for his next bite.The Godspeed will be stopping along the Atlantic coast for the next couple of months. If you get a chance to see her, you should. The price is right – free! If you go, here’s some things to know:

Go early and get in line right away. Find a volunteer with an event map and a schedule of events. There is a lot of entertainment, so you can go check them out while someone in your party waits in line.

Bring 2 cell phones or 2-way radios in case you get separated. Don’t ask how I know this.

There is no way for a stroller or wheelchair to get on board. The steps onto the ship and on board are steep. You will have to leave the stroller on shore. I have no idea how they accomodate wheelchairs.

Have a quick American History lesson before you go. Just reading about Jamestown will be enough, or even just watching “Pochantas” if you have younger children, will help set the stage.

Have I mentioned how much I really enjoy living in Washington, DC?

FlyLady Friday

I  had great plans to make yesterday FlyLady Friday and talk about the work I’ve been doing all week, but well, I was tired and I forgot.  So here I am today.

I’m hoping that writing regularly about the progress I’m making in the house will help keep me motivated.

Last week was the master bedroom.  It’s hard for me to work on the master bedroom because my housework time is during Bip’s nap time and he naps in my room.  So I tried something new this week.  In between nap times I put a video in for Bip to watch while he sat on my bed and I worked.  He likes "The Brady Bunch."  As a treat, I also let Boo and Pumpkin watch a couple episodes, too.  This way, nobody had a melt down when if I left the room.  I ignored FlyLady’s missions this time and just did my own thing.  First I pulled everything out of the room that didn’t belong there.  I sorted through what I could, but a lot of it went into the guest room.  Right away the room looked better.  Then I put a paper bag in the corner to toss the baby’s clothes in when he outgrows them.  You can’t even see the bag unless you know where to look.  Next I tackled our shelves.  We put some shelves up on either side of our bed to hold nick nacky things.  I was never happy with the way they looked – sort of random and haphazard.  I put more thought into how I arranged things and I’m much happier with them.

I also cleared off the top of Philip’s dresser and both our side tables.  A good dusting all around and the whole room looks a lot nicer.  I was also able to yank some clothes out of my closet for the donate box.

Next week is living room.


FlyLady…do you know about her? If not, check her out. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Ok. So you want to get your home decluttered. You want more control over the endless housework. You can name a hundred other things that you would rather do all day than clean the bathroom.The laundry never stops. You’d like to stop trying to drop dead of embarrassment when the doorbell rings.

FlyLady may help.

“I tried FlyLady and it just wasn’t for me.”
“All those emails…I just couldn’t get past all those emails!”
“Dividing your home into zones? Hmm. That’s kind of sick.”

Yes, I’ve heard them all. True, FlyLady isn’t for everybody, and yes, there are a lot of emails.As for the zones – well, they work.I thought I’d take the time to explain a little more about FlyLady.

A shiny sink and other daily routines
FlyLady is big on daily routines. She starts you out shining your kitchen sink every day. Go to her website to find out exactly how and why.Shine your sink every day for a week and it’ll become a habit. No matter what chaos is going on in the rest of your house, your kitchen sink will smile happily at you. You’ll start feeling better about things.You’ll realize that if you can manage to just shine that sink every day, maybe you really can get the house under control.This is your first Baby Step in developing a daily routine. You will then work on the rest of your routine, one piece at a time. Eventually, you will find yourself getting dressed every day, making your bed, planning for dinner, doing laundry and whatever else is important in keeping your home running.

“I could never be that organized”, you’re thinking.Of course you can! You don’t just get there overnight. You add one thing to your routine at a time. FlyLady will even tell you which one to work on during any given month. Last month it was making your bed. That’s all you need to add to your routine that month – just do all the things you’ve already been doing, and then make your bed. Next thing you know, you don’t even needing reminding. See how easy it is?

All those emails
Yes, FlyLady sends a lot of emails.They are divided into a few categories:Reminders, Zone Missions, Testimonials and Other. The Reminder Emails are not supposed to be read. Just look at the title, let’s say “Where’s Your Laundry?” and answer the question.If the answer is, I’m not doing any laundry today, then delete the email. If the answer is “sitting in a cold heap in the washer, waiting to be dried” then get up, go take care of the laundry, come back and delete the email.That’s all.Address the issue, then delete.

Testimonials.I set up my email program to filter all the testimonials into one folder.I read them if and when I have time.At the end of the day, if I haven’t read them, I delete them all. Testimonials are emails sent in by other FlyBabies. They are meant to be inspirational, but even email can be clutter.That’s why I give myself one day to read them.Sometimes I’m in the mood, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes FlyLady wants to address a particular area or has a little more to say about something. These usually come once a day. Again, read it, absorb it, delete it.

Zone Missions are the “extras” you do in each zone once that area is clutter free. I read the missions and if it is something I want or need to do in that room, I add it to my To Do list for the day. Then I delete the email.If I don’t want to do that mission, I delete the email.  FlyLady has divided up the house by zones. You can read about which rooms go into which zones on her website.You work on one zone each week.This does not mean during the bedroom week that you go into your bedroom, tear the whole thing apart in an afternoon, create an even bigger mess, and then abandon the whole thing in frustration. Baby steps, remember? FlyLady has come up with a number of ways to attack a room, all of which take about 15 minutes.(Again, read more about these methods on her website.) She encourages the use of a timer. Choose which de-cluttering method you want to use, set the timer and get going. It is amazing what you can accomplish in such a short amount of time. It’s also amazing how fast those 15 minutes fly by. This is encouraging to me as a busy homeschooling mom. I rarely have large blocks of time to work, but I can squeeze 15 minutes in here and there. I try to get two 15 minute blocks of time per day for each zone. Thirty minutes a day, 5 days a week – that’s 2 ½ hours of de-cluttering a week!! And it’s not overwhelming or tiring. Then the week is over. Maybe you have more work to do in that area. That’s ok. That zone will come up again next month and you can attack it with renewed vigor.

Home Blessing
This is how FlyLady refers to those weekly chores that just have to get done. She does all of her “home blessing” in one day for one hour. I don’t know how she does it. It takes me 30 minutes just to change sheets. (She says to have your children change their own sheets. Um, good theory. My children are 9 months, 5 and 7. The older two need a lot of help changing their sheets. I am training them to do it, but for now it’s a good 30 minute project.) I have tried doing all the weekly chores in one day and get tired just thinking about all that housework. And frankly, it doesn’t get done because I just can’t, or won’t, devote a half a day or more to do housework. Instead, what I have done is assign each day of the week, Monday through Friday, a zone according to FlyLady’s monthly zones. So Monday is Zone 1 (entrance/front porch), Tuesday is Zone 2 (Kitchen), etc. I spend 30 minutes or less doing weekly chores in the zone of the day. This is part of my daily routine and is in addition to my Monthly Zone de-cluttering.

Little by little I have seen my house become a sanctuary and place I can be proud of. It’s not perfect and never will be, but I’m good with that. I don’t spend my whole day cleaning and I don’t fret that I will never get everything done. FlyLady has brought a lot of peace to our home. Give her a try. Remember that it’s going to take time because you are building new habits. Her system may seem overwhelming at first because it’s a lot of information coming at you at once and you’re not sure where to start. That’s why I wrote this. Hopefully it makes things a little clearer. If you try her program and like her, stop by and tell me. If you’re already a FlyBaby, leave me a comment about how it’s working for you. I’d especially like to hear how others have adjusted FlyLady’s plan to suit their own circumstances.

Sonlight Box Day

Look what arrived yesterday!

Our new curriculum for the upcoming school year.


They were supposed to arrive Saturday, but I guess they staged a Boxer Rebellion and didn’t get on the truck, keeping me waiting until Tuesday.  Of course, it took until after 5 pm for the FedEx guy to show up, meaning my boxes sat in our hallway for a few hours.  Everytime I passed by them, I patted them lovingly. Philip had choir practice so they had to wait while I popped into the shower before he left and then put the baby to bed.  It was 8:15 by the time I got downstairs to give my boxes the attention they deserved.


I went right to work checking the contents against the packing slip, just smiling away at all the wonderful books we will be reading.  When the children were done with their movie, they immediately pounced on the books.



Pumpkin Girl grabbed The Beginner’s Bible and read the first 3 stories.  Boo chose Amelia Bedelia and a Frog and Toad book.  I’ve read about how excited other children get when the Sonlight box arrives, and I was so tickled at seeing my own children get so excited, too.  And to add to the fun, the box has a castle printed on the inside that we can cut out and assemble!  We have not yet put together the children’s Playmobile castle, so this is perfect.


Once I was done with the inventory, I separated the books into piles by subject.  By this time, the children had finished their first set of books and started examining the rest.  Each new discovery was met with "Cool!"  Boo found the book on ancient Greece and said, "Hey, this is the same as the movie."  (They’d been watching "Hercules".)  They were happy to find a new book of science experiments and its accompanying DVD and Pumpkin Girl was delighted at the new "Look With Me" art appreciation books.


Phil came home from choir practice to find that bedtime had come and gone and we were still downstairs with our books.  We were all eager to share our favorites with him and Pumpkin Girl asked if she could read the Bible story from the new Bible.  Then she read one of the stories out loud right then and there.  (Can I just brag on her a bit here.  She’s only 5 1/2 and can read The Beginner’s Bible, which is about a 2nd grade reading level.  She really amazes me.) Then, right before they headed off to bed, Boo said, "Can we start 2nd grade tomorrow?"  Pumpkin went upstairs with the bible tucked under her arm. Ah, it’s moments like these that warm a homeschooler’s heart.


Later I started putting together my instructor’s guide.  I’m really looking forward to our upcoming school year.  We’ll be studying world history from creation to the fall of the Roman Empire.  I can hardly wait.  Can we start 2nd grade tomorrow?

Visiting the Capitol

Last Thursday Philip and I had the chance to join a tour of the US Capitol led by a Congressional staffer.  I found a very nice babysitter up the street – she and her sister are homeschooled, too.  I’m glad to have found them.  We took the baby with us, since he is so portable and mellow, we figured he wouldn’t be any trouble at all.  It took us about an hour from the time we left our house to get to the Capitol, riding Metro.  That included trying to figure out how to pay for parking because the meter wouldn’t accept the smart pass we had, waiting for the first train for nearly 10 minutes and walking 2 blocks.  We packed Nicholas in his super duper lightweight stroller. I had treated myself to this stroller that I have wanted ever since Boo was a baby.  We knew we’d be on the Metro a lot and needed something lightweight and small and we also needed to replace the umbrella stroller that was on it’s last legs after 3 children.  Anyway…


We arrived and linked up with our group in front of one of the office buildings outside the Capitol.  I thought we’d be walking outside, but there are tunnels linking this building to the Capitol itself and that’s how we went.  Security was tight!!  Of course we knew it would be, but it was REALLY tight.  Traveling around the Capitol and the tunnels is pretty cool.  They have many corridors roped off so that the tour groups pass along the sides, moving slowly, taking pictures, while the staffers can walk quickly down the center. 


The Capitol is beautifully decorated.  I tried to take some pictures, but really, the camera doesn’t  capture it.  We didn’t get a chance to stop at the gift shop for postcards, but we’ve promised the older children we would take them back, so we’ll get some souvenirs then. 


The rotunda was just awsome.  Here’s a picture.

(see the rainbow?)


We also went in to the old House of Representatives room.  There are bronze plates on the floor marking the places where Congressmen who later became President sat.  Here’s Abraham Lincoln’s:


This room has an interesting acoustical feature.  If you stand where John Adams sat and whisper something, someone else standing across the room can hear you.  It can be difficult to get this to work because of the noise of the crowd.  But while we were standing there, a guy whispered, "If you can hear me, raise your hand."  He really did whisper, we were standing right next to him.  And lo and behold! The group across the room raised their hands!  Very cool.


We also got the chance to sit in the Gallery of the House of Representatives.  It was amazing.  It looks so much better in person than it does on C-Span.  We got a chance to listen to a congressman from Wisconsin engage in a friendly, and at times, amusing debate with a congressman from Alaska over global warming.  I just sat there, looking all around, just taking it all in.  We couldn’t bring cameras, bags, or any electronic devices into the gallery.  We were not supposed to talk, either.  And can you believe that Nicholas was quiet the whole time! 


Here are a couple of cool pictures I did get.  The first is Phil and Nicholas on the star that marks the center of Washington, DC.


(see how it’s roped off for people to pass through)


This one is of a gorgeous stained glass window in the ceiling just outside of the House Gallery.  I wanted a better picture, but it was right in front of the desk where you turn in your camera and stuff, so I thought I’d get what I could.  Our staffer told me not to take any more pictures.  I blamed Phil.



Our trip home took about 40 minutes because rush hour had started and the trains ran more frequently.   The babysitter gave the children good reviews and they said they had a good time. 


If you ever visit Washington, DC, make sure you check with your congressman’s constituent services office.  They have all sorts of "congressional tours" that are free.  All you have to do is ask.

The Joys of the Internet

What did we ever do without the internet?


I didn’t even get a computer until after I was married.  I had some friends in high school who had computers and they came to school with their reports printed out on continuous feed paper with those strips of holey paper on the edge.  They all had the same funny computer font.  I just handed in pages and pages of ruled paper carefully handwritten.


I remember when we first got internet access, well over 10 years ago.  We started with AOL which very happily told us "You’ve Got Mail!" every time we signed on.  Like most email newbies, we forwarded each and every joke and warning we received to our entire address book.  We learned to value of BCC, thus protecting our friends’ email addresses from being seen by the entire world as the mail continued to be forwarded.  Not to mention those well intentioned people who don’t understand that "Reply All" will send their reply to every one.  One of my friends once sent two or three emails out with recent pictures of their family.  Some poor soul on their list kept hitting "Reply All" and letting us all in on some rather interesting comments about Aunt Martha.  "K – loved the pictures, the girls are getting so big!  What’s wrong with Aunt Martha?  She’s been ‘off’ the last few weeks."  I finally replied to this person, letting her know that she was sending email to everyone on K’s list.  I never heard from her again.  I hope Aunt Martha wasn’t getting those emails, too.


One of the first internet searches I did was after seeing "Les Miserables."  I asked dh, History Buff and Keeper of Useless Knowledge, if the events were true.  He said, no, the French Revolution did not start like that.  I didn’t believe him, it seemed like a true story.  So I went home and did an internet search.  Turns out, he was right, the French Revolution did not start as depicted in Les Miz.  But the events in Les Miz are not about the French Revolution, and Victor Hugo was indeed writing about a true, but rather minor event in French history.  Seems the French liked a good riot even then. 


So just what did we do before Al Gore’s Internet?  What if I needed to find out how to keep algae from growing in my fountain?  Now, with the help of Google, 10 minutes and a couple of clicks later, algae prevention and a new submersible pump are on their way to cure my fountain quandries.  It’s a beautiful thing.


And how in the world would I have ever started homeschooling?  Library books can be helpful, but only if you have a good library.  How would I have found quite so many educational philosophies and all those curriculum companies?


I never go out shopping any more.  Loading 3 children into the car, having 2 of them driving me to distraction with their talking, negotiating DC Beltway traffic, trying to get home before nap time – forget it!  Click, click, click from the comfort of my own home, a comforting cup of chai in my other hand, baby happily asleep upstairs – and anything I could ever want or need is available to me.  Beautiful yarns for knitting, rubber stamps and supplies, computer programs, personalized return address labels, clothes, even food – they all have arrived at my home in the last few months.  Even better – homeschooling materials!  They are on a Fed Ex truck even as I type, out for delivery today. 


Granted, maybe my house would be a bit neater without the internet.  But then again, maybe not.


A shawl for Lindsey

The crochet project that I was working on but keeping quiet about was a prayer shawl. I made it for a young lady named Lindsey who has been battling a very aggressive form of cancer. She was in college when the cancer was discovered and over the last year has been through surgeries, chemo, radiation… the whole gamut. Her father is a regular on the Sonlight forum and he recently added her picture to his signature. When I saw her picture, I felt very compelled to do something for her. I had recently read an article about prayer shawls and did a google search for more information and patterns.

Prayer Shawl Ministries
Prayers Shawl Pattern(knit)
Prayer Shawl Pattern(crochet)

So I made a shawl for Lindsey. I know a shawl may be a strange gift for a young college girl, but I hope that she will gain some comfort and strength in knowing that there are people all over the world praying for her. It is called a prayer shawl because while it is being created, you are praying for the recipient. I also prayed that I would discover what God wanted me to learn from the whole experience. I believe he wanted me to learn the same things I am trying to teach my son – work worth doing is worth doing right. Taking your time and working carefully takes less time than working quickly and having to do it all over again. What matters most is not acheiving perfection, but doing your very best. In the end this is what I created:


Garden Statues

I have to admit that I love garden statues. I think they are so funny, sticking out from among the flora and fauna of a well loved garden. They are like little surprises, peeking out at you, beckoning you in for a closer look. We don’t have a very big garden. Just 3 flower beds and the rest is grass. There isn’t a lot you can do, landscaping-wise, when you live in government housing. You may or may not have a fence around your yard, so probably don’t have any sort of privacy hedges. It is a good thing they put our names on our houses or we’d never know which one of the identical houses is ours! But maybe because our houses all look alike, the small flower beds of military base housing are usually quite pretty. Each family gets a chance to express their creativity and personality in the flowers they plant and the decorative items they place in their gardens. So enter in my garden statues.

stone face

Stone Face is tucked in to my front flower bed among the petunias. The children just love him! When they help me water the flowers, they always give him a wash, too. He had to move out of our flower bed in Korea and up on to our front porch because a couple of neighborhood toddlers liked him so much that they would walk off with him.


Fatty Cat is new this year.
She sits on our front porch, welcoming visitors.


In the backyard is our memorial to Tasha the Cat (fluffy not fat) who was our faithful animal companion.

Our newest addition is the Garden Gnome.

I’ve always wanted a Gnome of my own.

Happy Mother’s Day

This was sent to me in an email.  Enjoy!


If you give a mom a muffin, she’ll want a cup of coffee to go with it.

She’ll pour herself some. Her three-year-old will spill the coffee. She’ll
wipe it up.

Wiping the floor, she will find dirty socks. She’ll remember she has to do

When she puts the laundry in the washer, she’ll trip over boots and bump
into the freezer.

Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan supper. She will
get out a pound of hamburger. She’ll look for her cookbook. (101 Things To
Make With A Pound Of Hamburger.) The cookbook is sitting under a pile of
mail. She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow. She will look
for her checkbook.

The checkbook is in her purse that is being dumped out by her

She’ll smell something funny. She’ll change the two-year-old.

While she is changing the two-year-old the phone will ring. Her
five-year-old will answer and hang up. She’ll remember that she wants to
phone a friend to come for coffee.

Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup. She
will pour herself some.

And chances are, if she has a cup of coffee, her kids will have eaten the
muffin that went with it.

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