Archive - January 2007

Ah, Youth
Ten Things…
Public Service Announcements
It’s Good to Be…
I’ve been crafting!
Homeschooling With the Brady Bunch
Hot Dog Anyone?
I Could Just Cry!
Time for an Evaluation


I went to the gym with Philip today. I spent 30 minutes on the treadmill doing the “fat burning” workout. I made my little legs walk about 2.7 mph. That’s quite a brisk walk for someone my height. I don’t run anymore after injuring my knees playing varsity soccer. Our coach used to make us run stadiums all the time and those steps were just way too tall for me to try to running up. So I don’t run at all anymore. Anyway, so there I was, walking my little heart out, sweating like a pig. The first 15 minutes were fine. I amused myself by watching the gauges on the machine tell me how fast I was walking and how many calories I was burning. The second 15 minutes were a bit tougher. All the treadmills are conveniently facing a wall of mirrors so you can watch your out of shape self jiggling along. Lovely. I discovered that Nicky B and I have the same legs. Fat thighs on a baby – very cute. On me, well, not so much. I tried to distract myself watching the subtitles on the soap opera on TV. I started wishing for an Ipod. I checked my heart rate. I tried not to look in the mirror. I contemplated the wisdom of trying to exercise. Really, if God had wanted me to exercise, he would have made me Florence Griffith-Joyner or Mary Lou Retton. Honestly, I think God likes me as a couch potato. When the man on the treadmill next to me left, I turned around and stuck my tongue out at my husband. That was when I noticed that there was a woman on the machine behind me. Heh heh. Oops. Finally the work out was over. I sludged through 1.3 miles, uphill, both ways. I burned 200 calories. I was sweating. I hate sweating.

So on the way home I got thinking. One Poptart, not one package, but ONE Poptart is 200 calories. How long does it take to eat one Poptart? Maybe a minute. And it took 30 minutes of sweaty, heavy breathing, elevated heart rate excercise to burn it off. Kind of puts it in perspective, doesn’t it? A Big Mac has 704 calories. That’s an hour and a half on the treadmill! One homemade chocolate chip cookie has 138 calories. I don’t think I can eat just one cookie. Now I’m not going to go crazy counting calories. Frankly, I’m too busy to be bothered. But it really does make you think. Because really, are you just going to eat the one Poptart and leave the other one all alone? Of course not. You’ll try not to eat the other one, but a single Poptart isn’t that big. You’ll find yourself still hungry and go eat the second one, for a grand total of 400 calories. Yikes.

Check out this site: What Does 200 Calories Look Like? Pictures of different foods worth 200 calories. So many good/better choices out there. If weight loss or healthier eating was one of your New Year’s resolutions, you’ll definitely want to see this.

Ah, Youth

Look what came in the mail for me yesterday:

A wonderful birthday card from Orlando Bloom!(click on the Valentine to see that it really is from him)I guess he was no longer able to contain his youthful exuberance for me and had to make his feelings known, regardless of the consequences. I showed my husband right away, of course. Not that I could have hid it from him for very long. I think my giggling as I came through the door would have alerted him that something was up.

I have to admit, I’m not too surprised at Orlando. After all, take a look at my picture, I’m very cute! What does surprise me is that he would make this bold move and send me a love offering through the mail. What if my husband had intercepted it? Of course, Philip’s not a big guy, maybe Orlando thinks he can take him.

I’m sorry Orlando, but I just cannot run away with you. My children would insist on coming along and somehow I don’t think that they will fit well into your 20-something, Hollywood lifestyle. Plus, my husband would probably come after us and he’s got a black belt in Tae Kwan Do and I don’t want him to mess up your pretty face. I am flattered, though. I hope we can still be friends.

Ten Things…

…I Love About the Letter T

  1. Tamales!  With homemade Spanish rice and beans on Christmas Eve, with eggs on Christmas morning.  Oh who am I kidding, I love them any time of the year! There’s a dozen in my freezer right now!
  2. Tatting.  I am a self taught tatter.  I have a baby bonnet as a perpetual work in progress and my favorite finished projects are my snowflakes.  Tatting is rythmic and soothing and highly portable.  Often you can keep a whole project in a makeup case.  And if you pack baby nail clippers instead of scissors, you can bring your project right on to an airplane.
  3. (Chai) Tea.  I get Vanilla Spice by the case from Mocafe.  You get free shipping when you buy in bulk.  My day just can’t get a proper start without my chai.
  4. Keeping Track of Time on my cuckoo clock. (follow the link, then click on the picture for a good view).
  5. a Tanker.  My husband started off his Army career as a Tank Platoon Leader in the Gulf War.
  6. Thomas KinkadeI absolutely love to see how his paintings change as the lights are lowered or raised.  Absolutely amazing.
  7. The Tiki RoomAfter a hot day of standing in line at Disneyland, sitting in the shade of the courtyard, eating a pineapple spear and watching the tikis come to life is just what your poor aching feet need.  Then you can sit in the air conditioned Tiki Room and enjoy the show.  I bet you can even sing along…
  8. Tradition, when it is meaningful, not done just for the sake of tradition.  Traditions connect us to both our past and our future. 
  9. Tasha the Cat (Fluffy, not Fat), our beloved animal companion of 18 years. I had her for over half my life.  I’m hoping that the Good Lord who cares for the lilies of field will see fit to bring our faithful little kitty to heaven for us.
  10. Taking a walk along the Potomac with my family.  Just a block and a half from our house, we can stroll along this amazing river.  We can see the Washington Monument, the US Capitol and the Jefferson Memorial on our treks.

Thanks, Dawn!

If you would like to participate in this meme, leave me a comment, and I’ll assign you a letter!

Public Service Announcements

Typepad (my blog host), is going to be doing some sort of system maintenance mumbo jumbo on Friday night, 9pm Pacific time.  My blog will be inaccessable during that time.  I’m telling you now, so don’t be emailing me wondering where I am.  If all goes well, my blog will be back where you left it on Saturday morning.

In anticipation of my blog becoming widely popular any day now, I bought my own domain name.  My blog isn’t moving, just it now has 2 addresses.  Do you want the particulars?  Probably not.  You IT types probably already know what I’m talking about, the rest of you have already  started glazing over as soon as I said "domain name." Bottom line…You can now access my blog with either the address you’re looking at right now or…drum roll please…

Learn it, live it, love it.  Make sure you’ve got the "the" in there.  You can change your bookmarks if you want.  Or not.

In conclusion, don’t look for my blog on Friday night and you can now find me at

(By the way, there is a far more interesting post from earlier today.  scroll down and enjoy the cuteness that is Nicky B.)

I’ve been crafting!

All of my scrapbooking and stamping supplies are still mostly packed up.  I had such lovely plans to hand stamp my Christmas cards this year.  Sigh.

But look!  I have managed to get some crafting done.  I made this little leaf child.  I’ve always wanted to make a nature table for the children to mark the changing seasons.  Inspired by the book  The Nature Corner, I have been wanting to make little Root Children for winter, with accompanying leaf children for spring and summer.  But I’m not very good at assembling all the bits and pieces for a craft project.  I can never find all of the components needed and so I never even start my projects.  However, I am tremendously successful when using kits.  I was so happy to find all the root and leaf children I could want at Silken Sky Studio.  This little cutie is Grass.


I’ve also been getting in some knitting during Charlotte’s ballet class.



You can find the pattern here: Multidirectional Diagonal Scarf.  Not that there is much need for a scarf around here these days. The yarn is Koigu Premium Merino, but I can’t tell you the color because the label seems to have gotten lost in our flood.  It was so pretty at the yarn store that I couldn’t leave it behind.  Doesn’t it look good next to my pink coat?


Homeschooling With the Brady Bunch

Today at lunch, Boo was wondering what archaeologists would find out about the Brady Bunch after digging up their trash.  An interesting question, don’t you think? We recently finished reading Archaeologists Dig For Clues as part of our history lessons.  The book makes the point that archaeologists rarely dig for treasure, but can learn so much about people from the trash they leave behind.  We had a discussion about what our family’s trash would tell archaeologists of the future about us.  Not so much our garbage trash, which would be unlikely to be found around our home, but rather the things we might accidentally leave behind, like maybe a plastic sword from our Playmobile pirate ship.

I guess this book has made a bigger impression on my children that I had thought.  We’ve been watching a lot of old Brady Bunch episodes on DVD lately, which my children are really getting into.  Looks like they’ve made quite an impression, too.  In one episode, Tiger chews up one of Greg’s shoes, which he obviously needs to throw away now.  So while I prepared my own lunch, we determined that archaeologists, in finding Greg’s chewed up shoe, could determine the following things:

  • From the size, style and color of the shoe, the family had a teenage son.
  • The family had a dog
  • From the materials the shoe was made from, how it was made, and the style, the family lived in the late 20th Century

Which only goes to show you that learning is not confined to textbooks.  I wonder if anyone has ever made a unit study from the Brady Bunch?

Hot Dog Anyone?

So what do you suppose is right in the center of one of the world’s most secure building?

A secret entrance to a tunnel? An ultra secure briefing facility? A fall out shelter? Jimmy Hoffa?

Would it surprise you to know that right in the center of the Pentagon, the worldwide command and control center for the United States Armed Forces is…a hot dog stand?

It’s true!

From a DefenseLink News Article:

“Rumor has it that
during the Cold War the Russians never had any less than two missiles
aimed at this hot dog stand,” Brett Eaton, an information and
communications officer for Washington Headquarters Services, said while
standing in front of the building. “They thought this was the
Pentagon’s most top secret meeting room, and the entire Pentagon was a
large fortress built around this hot dog stand.”

Reportedly, by using satellite imagery, the Soviets could see groups of
U.S. military officers entering and exiting the hot dog stand at about
the same time every day. They concluded that the stand was the entrance
to an underground bunker. “They (Soviets) thought the officers were
going to get their top secret briefings in a protected area, but really
they were just going to get lunch,” Eaton said with a chuckle.

Well, this hot dog stand has not been used for a few years and it’s days are numbered. It’s being replaced with a new eatery that will have indoor seating and restrooms and serve breakfast and lunch. It’s scheduled to open in September. (I’m hoping I can finally get my husband to give me a tour of the Pentagon and we can have lunch there.)

You’ll be happy to know that the owl that perches atop the hot dog stand to ward off birds will be placed on the new building.



I Could Just Cry!

I just found this out:

The prairie landscape of Laura Ingalls Wilder will soon be
changing. HarperCollins, in an effort to keep the classic Little House
on the Prairie series relevant to a new generation, is repackaging the
paperback editions, and will replace the familiar covers by Garth
Williams with photographic covers, and remove the inside art, starting
in January.

Williams, who died in 1996, had a signature style—whimsical and
folksy—that has endeared readers not only to the Ingalls books, but to
E.B. White’s classics as well, among others. Since 1953 Williams’s work
has graced the Ingalls series. But according to Tara Weikum, executive
editor of HarperCollins Children’s Books, sales of backlist properties
in the competitive middle-grade market have been lagging. “For readers
who view historical novels as old-fashioned,” says Weikum, “this offers
them an edition that dispels that notion and suggests that these books
have all the great qualities of a novel set in a contemporary time.”

Before deciding to make the change, Harper consulted its market.
It held an informal poll of roughly 100 attendees at the 2004 National
Council of Teachers of English conference, which persuaded them that
librarians and teachers would welcome the idea of updated covers.

But some booksellers aren’t so sure. Leslie Hawkins, owner of
Spellbound Children’s Bookstore in Asheville, N.C., says she will give
the new covers a try, but she worries that parents, who like purchasing
beloved titles from their youth, might be put off by the new look.

HarperCollins isn’t scrapping the Garth Williams art entirely;
his jackets and interior art will still be available in hardcover, as
will the colorized paperback editions from 2004. That’s good news to
Alison Morris, children’s book buyer for Wellesley Booksmith in
Wellesley, Mass. Morris believes that “when you take a classic book and
put a trendy cover on it, it’s not a classic anymore.” She feels that
Harper should have kept the interior illustrations, and won’t be buying
any copies of the new editions. Instead she’s stocking up on the
colorized paperbacks.

Kate Jackson, editor-in-chief at HarperCollins Children’s Books,
understands Morris’s point, but believes that Harper’s responsibility
is to keep the books “relevant and vibrant for kids today. A childhood
book is an emotional, tactile object, and you want it to be as it was,”
she says. “But Laura Ingalls was a real little girl, not a made-up
character. Using photographs highlights that these are not history but
adventure books.”

(The original article is here: Little House Under Renovation)



How could they?! The Garth Williams illustrations have become as much a part of our beloved “Little House” books as the stories themselves. The books were originally released with different illustrations, and later reissued with Williams’ drawings. He interviewed Laura before drawing them and she was delighted when she saw them. From her biography: “She immediately sent a telegraph to her publisher saying, ‘Mary, Laura and their folks live again in these illustrations.’ ” I remember seeing a photograph of Laura and Almanzo taken shortly after their wedding. She is wearing a coat and hat that she describes in one of her books which I recognized immediately from the Williams’ illustration. I was delighted to see for myself that he had so accurately captured these moments of her life.

I am so saddened to find out that these wonderful drawings will no longer bring to life Laura’s wonderful stories. I am grateful that my own boxed set of the Little House books is sitting safely on my shelf. I’m afraid I will be reluctant to let my daughter read them lest they end up in the Pit of No Return. She’ll have to make do with sturdy library copies for now. I still read these books as an adult and now my set will become even more cherished. I will pass them on to Pumpkin Girl in the future. I know I will not be buying any of these new editions.

Time for an Evaluation

No New Year’s Resolutions for me. They are too easily forgotten. Instead, in regards to our homeschool year, I am going evaluate what has been working and what has not. After finishing our first week back after the holiday break, here are my thoughts.

What has been working this school year:

1. Using Sonlight Core 1 for both children. They love the books so much so that Pumpkin Girl usually asks to borrow them when we’ve finished one. Most of the time she’ll reread the whole thing, whether it’s a history book or a novel, over the course of a day or two. Then she’ll hoard it in her personal stash or in her “secret place”, affectionately known as the Pit of Never Return (they named it that, not me!). We do whatever Science experiments interest us and that we can manage to do with Nicholas underfoot. Boo completes the science worksheets, Pumpkin does not.

2. Explode the Code books. My children are both very strong readers, but they can use a little phonics practice. The ETC books are perfect for them and don’t involve a lot of writing. Phil says that they like them so much because they are Chinese and all good Chinese students thrive on workbooks. This from a man who’s report card once said, “Philip does not finish all of his homework.”

3. Horizons Math. I tried so hard to make Singapore Math work, I really did! I struggled with math my whole life and hoped to give Boo a good foundation in “mental math.” But it just wasn’t a good fit. I actually started him halfway through the first Kindergarten math book. I had him doing 3 pages a day to make sure all the basic concepts were in place. When we reached shaky ground, we slowed day to a page a day, then sped back up when we were ready. He’s now in Horizons 1. I console my competitive nature by reminding myself that Horizons is said to be advanced by one year.

4. Reading to Learn Readers for Pumpkin. Having a kindergartner reading at a 3rd and 4th grade level presents itself with some interesting problems. Mainly, how to provide her with the opportunity to increase her reading skills while keeping in mind that maturity-wise, she is very much just 6 years old. I found the answer in these wonderful Mennonite readers. The difficulty level is perfect. New vocabulary words are in bold and you can look them up in the glossary in the back. The stories are very wholesome, with good moral messages. I didn’t buy the teachers manuals, but I don’t think I really needed them. Pumpkin often stops reading right in the middle of the story to tell me what she thinks is going to happen next or what the characters should do. I can tell she has no trouble with comprehension!

What has not been working

1. Spelling tests for Boo. They were like pulling teeth. In doing a little research, I discovered that most of his spelling mistakes aren’t really mistakes. He spells phonetically, it’s just that the English language doesn’t follow it’s own rules. By doing dictation and copywork, most of these spelling “mistakes” will correct themselves. We’ve dropped spelling completely.

2. Following the Sonlight Language Arts reading schedule. With Boo also reading above grade level, sticking to the LA 2 schedule just wasn’t working. I’m already having him do 2 reading assignments a day, and he would do more if I’d let him. I don’t want to drop the readers completely because all the books are so good, and I don’t want to move him into the Core 3 readers because at that point, they line up with the history books.

3. The Sonlight Language Arts worksheets. I think they contain w-a-y too much grammar for a 2nd grader.

4. Boo’s religious education classes. My first cause for concern came when Boo would come home with a 6×4 index card filled with his 2nd grade printing of one of the prayers that he was supposed to know. Printing out the Our Father is a lot of writing for a 7 or 8 year old, especially when it’s on an index card, not the handwriting paper they are used to. It was supposed to be study guide, but 1) it was practically illegible and 2)he’s known the Our Father since before kindergarten. It seemed like a lot of busy work for this very important year of First Reconciliation and First Communion. I’m not going to bash his class any further because I am not in a position to help, so at this point it would be nothing but gossip. Suffice to say, I’m not too happy with the situation.

What I’m going to change for the remainder of the school year.

1. I found a different set of readers for Boo, this time they are Amish. I don’t want both children using the same ones because Pumpkin was soooo delighted to have her very own readers that no one in the family had read before. I’m hoping that Boo’s new readers will also allow him to read at a 4th or 5th grade level, while not being too mature for him.

2. I still have all the wonderful readers from Sonlight. I have decided to let the children read these by themselves instead of out loud. I’ll give them an assigned amount of reader, probably following the Sonlight LA instructor guide. Then, they will do a narration of the chapter they read. I will use the dictation/copywork from Sonlight that is taken from the readers.

3. I am going to drop the grammar exercises in favor of copywork from other sources. We will study grammar another time. I’m going to use The Writer’s Jungle as a guide for writing assignments.

4. I ordered catechism books from Seton Home Study. I had the chance to look at them at a friend’s house and I think they’ll do the trick. I won’t pull the children out of religious ed because they enjoy the socialization (ack! it’s the S word!). They were excited to see our new religion books when they were delivered this morning, so I don’t think it will be too hard to incorporate them into our schedule. At least this way, whatever busy work they are doing in class, at least I know they are being well educated at home.

So there you have it, where we’ve been and where we’re going. I’m hoping Boo’s new readers show up soon. When we’ve tested them I’ll report back.

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