Monday, September 29, 2008

wondering

Those of you who are homeschoolers out there... have you ever had one of those days, or multiple days where the kids brain seemed to just stop working and well, you wonder why in the world you are doing school at all? BUT you feel like you must persevere and DO school that day? Why do I torture myself? Oh, yes, because I don't want them to feel that they can act this way and just get out of school... Thankfully these days are few and far between.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

raku

Last month we attended a Japanese Festival and among many wondrous things that we were able to see and partake in this is but one of them. We were able to watch a potter fire some Raku pottery. Raku started in Japan and is a method of firing pottery. It produces a great finish to a piece, and usually one that is poisonous with lead. Do not use your raku pottery to eat from please!

I have heard quite a bit about Raku, but I have never seen it done before and I was quite interested in watching this. The kids also loved seeing this take place. They have watched their daddy fire pottery at VBS/marketplace and so they knew the process, and they have had it described as I have shown them and talked about the pottery that I have done. But this was unlike anything they had watched before.

This is a picture right after he took the kiln off the pots. They are orange hot still and just a few seconds after this shot was taken they went ahead and picked these up with long tongs. It was incredible.



Here he is with the long tongs putting the pot into a small garbage can filled with straw on the ground.



You can see the fire start in the straw because of the extreme heat in this picture.


While the pot was in the metal bin, he talked to us a little bit, but not more then about five minutes. He then pulled the pot out and put it into water. I got wide eyed cause well, when I have put really hot things into really cool things, they have really broken, but this guy knew what he was doing.



They passed the pieces around afterwards so we could all see them. The interesting thing was that I could touch them. Weird to me, considering how long we usually wait for a kiln to cool before you could touch your pots. They were beautiful and the other interesting thing is that they smell like smoke!




I really followed only the one pot with these pictures, but if you look at the first picture you will also see this pot below and this is it finished. They both turned out so well. Very interesting process. The kids loved it!

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

faith, hope and love

Sometimes in life we are led to things and sometimes they find us. One or the other happened the other night and the following small plaques and I met up at Target. As soon as I saw them I thought of someone very specific in my life.



I suppose you could say that this friend is a great believer in these three little words. Faith, Hope and Love. That in itself would have caught my attention, because she and I have spoken about this portion of scripture and how she would even like to have a sign hanging on her wall with this Scripture on it. When I saw them though what really caught my attention was that they had the Chinese characters on them as well.



You see, this same wonderful family is awaiting their daughter from China and I have been praying for this family and hoping for them and I have faith that this family will be together and the love will abound. See! The Scripture is perfect for them. The problem is the delays right now with Chinese Adoption and so we continue to hope and pray and have faith and we continue to love on one another until this little princess of God comes here and we can love on her



So you see... I had to buy these for my friend. I even eluded that I had something for her and would give the "small gift" to her the next day. Then I checked her blog and found that she had found the exact same items on the same day I did. So I decided to write this instead and I decided that I would keep these and use them as my own reminder. A reminder to pray for this family and a reminder to hold these three things even closer to my heart.

So, my dear friend, I hope you don't mind that I am keeping your gift (yikes!) and I hope you know how much I appreciate your friendship. Thank-you for your friendship!


And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

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Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Picture Collage on How to Get the Best Seat in the House, Courtesy of the Neighborhood Lions



Hmm... this spot is kinda lumpy. I need to find a new spot.
He certainly looks comfortable. He only needs a little snuggle buddy. Hehehe...


This post continues into the next two posts. I was lazy and posted the pictures on separate posts...
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Yup, I will just sneak down in here and see if there is room for me. Or not. I am sure he won't mind.



Ah, yes, now, this is one comfortable Lion covered mattress. Perfect.



It may have one slight lump in it, but I think it will be fine!



I figure he will last about 3 seconds longer.
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What? You aren't comfortable? Hmm? Dear?



Oh, you are leaving? Tired of this spot you say?




Ahhh... there we go, the best spot.

I will admit that we all laughed quite a bit when we watched this beautiful Lion kick her dear husband out of his spot.
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Amur Tigers

On Thursday we went to the zoo to check out the 5 baby tigers that were born in April. This was the mom's first litter and it really isn't that common for there to be five cubs for a first litter. We are SO excited to have these five cubs nearby for us to visit. The Boy is obsessed with Tigers and he was over the moon ecstatic about the little cubs. They did not disappoint us at all. They played and rolled and pounced all over each other and their momma. Tigers are one of the few cats that really enjoy the water and we did see all five in the pool at the same time.






These Tigers are endangered and The Boy really would like to work with them and help them when he gets older. I keep trying to talk him into something closer to the United States, something more like the Bald Eagle. So far, there is no way! I am sure though that he will change his mind a dozen times or more before he is considered grown, or he could always be like his Daddy and never decide. ;)
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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Morning Joy

There is nothing like waking up next to a nice warm snuggly cat who has curled up by your side. Nothing like it. Also nothing like walking half asleep into the laundry room to start the first load of laundry and stepping on a nice wet hair ball from said cat. Nope. Nothing like it.



Top of the morning to you all there also, hopefully without the hairballs.
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

One Saturday a Month


Just one Saturday a month as I wake up and lay in bed trying to eek the last bit of sleep out of the night before I am forced to deal with feeding two kids and a dog and a cat and a husband, just this one Saturday a month I realize something. It is the Saturday for Gab and Nibble!!! This actually gets me out of bed quite quickly and as I hop up and do all my morning preparations, getting dressed and doing my hair and all of these things that usually get done on Saturdays MUCH MORE SLOWLY I think about what kind of coffee I will have. Ahhh... now that is something to think about when brushing your teeth!

I skip downstairs, check out what Ike did in the night and check my email and let my family know that this is the Saturday morning that they are on their own. John just grins slightly and completely understands. I drive over to the chosen location, this week it is St. Louis Bread Company, sometimes it is at more personal places that serve full omelets and other such yummy things. I walk in and feel like I was just welcomed at Cheers where everyone knows my name! Ten ladies sit around a table with their mugs of coffee and their bagels and their ready smiles and the ready chatter. We talk of homeschooling our kids and we talk about Bible Studies and we talk about our gardens and our homes and our issues with weird neighbors and our issues with strange family members.

The time passes so quickly as we sit and eat pumpkin muffins and sip coffee and tea. Laptops are pulled out and blogs are figured out and pictures are shared and tales are told. Finally someone's cell phone rings. The dad's have broken the mom solitude of the now afternoon. We all scoop up cell phones and say our good byes. We will see each other in the coming week, but it will be with kids and our conversations will be vastly different. They will be interspersed with calls to children, "Don't pick that up! Please don't touch that. What did your sister do? Can you stop crying long enough to tell me what happened? Please don't run in here."

You get the picture. This morning is almost as sacred as church and I do treasure it and can I just tell you how GOOD that pumpkin muffin tasted! MAN!

This reminds me of how important these times are for us moms. The times taken to be without children and it doesn't need to be that long. These mornings often drag onto the afternoons slightly, but they are certainly not weekend retreats!

Once again, I Thank-God for the amazing Homeschool group we have and what a stupendous blessing it has been to our family.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

If Spiders Bother you Scroll on by...

A month or two ago, I was stepping into the house from being in the backyard and I saw a weird looking wolf spider. I stopped and turned back and saw this amazingness. I do not know if any other spiders do this, but wolf spiders will carry their egg sack around and they will also carry their babies on them once they are born. I have no clue how she carries so many babies but she does.

In the first picture you can see that she looks, well a little lumpy and odd.



In the second picture, if you look closely, which I have so nicely cropped in tight for you, you can see her and all her babies. Look at all those little spiders! Amazing!



This is her from another angle so you can see what she looks like as a hard working momma. Someone has to take care of this crowd and she has quite the job cut out for her. You can do it little friendly spider! Go with God and catch all those nasty flies and mosquitoes!



Feel free to click on these to be further shocked by how close I got to this spider!
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Friday, September 5, 2008

The Post That Was Meant to be Short

I know I haven't updated in forever. What can I say. As a good friend told me once when I was struggling with a canoe in Canada, "Excuses are like feet, Anna, we all have them and they all stink." My femininity was not happy with that statement but eh, it is true.

We started school this last week and it has gone quite well. The kids seem to be getting so much more out of school and the whole process seems to be much easier. Maybe we are all just getting better at this.

I did have a moderately sad story to tell on my sweet boy. I have hesitated to discuss things like this on my blog because of my children's privacy but I do think that sometimes in NOT talking about things like this, others think that our lives are all perfect and they end up feeling alone in their struggles. So, I have decided to share a few things that I have not shared here before.

My Boy has had a slower time with reading. I honestly do not think he has true reading problems, I really do think that this area of his brain is just developing a little bit slower then other areas and for him, that is perfectly normal. The language area of his brain always developed slower. As we have been homeschooling I have felt all the standard pressures that moms feel, but in the homeschooling world, sometimes those pressures are on steroids (not that the pressures are intended, I want to make that clear). We feel that since we are doing everything one on one and we are able to customize our children's school work that they should be the most brilliant intelligent children on this earth. The fact of the matter is that not all kids are created the same. I did everything I was supposed to do with my son. I read to him from the time he came home from the hospital. I now have more children's books then anything else in this house and they are VERY well read. The problem arose when I decided that we should start Kindergarten. He was by age ready, but he was not really ready.

I bought curriculum. I watched homeschooling friends buy advanced curriculum and I quivered. I saw amazing papers by children who were homeschooling and were so advanced. I grew determined. I organized and plopped books in front of him and planned and then grew frustrated at his lack of interest. He didn't want to write his name. He didn't want to learn to write numbers. He didn't want to sound things out. He didn't want to do any of it but have me read to him. That is all he was truly comfortable with. Half way through Kindergarten I tossed half the curriculum out the window. I ditched the Math entirely. I continued to struggle through the Language Arts. I was determined that MY SON would not have problems with this. I had read to him since he was one week old. I had read TONS to him in these years of his life. He knew his letter sounds. I was sure that he would get reading. I was sure that it would all click.

The next year I bought the next level of curriculum. I now know that what I should have done was redo the previous year and not think a thing of it, but I persevered. I continued. I bought the next level of Language Arts, I bought a totally different Math. I continued reading and reading and reading. I decided that the particular Language Arts wasn't working for us and so I decided to buy Hooked on Phonics for grade one. I ordered it and opened it all up and stared in dismay. It had them already reading blends. He was no where near ready to read blends, he was not really able to read simple three letter words like hat and cat and mat. I put it back in the box and ordered the K level and wanted to cry. The K level came and the lists of letter sounds he had to do were redundant and boring for him. He was losing interest faster then I could finish a simple K level lesson. I packed that box up and put it on the shelf also. I stopped doing Language Arts. I stopped doing Phonics with him. He was burnt out. I was burnt out. His little sister was sitting down and doing all the K level language arts. It was time for a season of rest in this field.

We all took the rest. We continued with the History and Science that he loved. We continued with the Math that he worked through. We continued reading aloud to him.

A good friend of mine has a son that she still struggles with in reading and in many areas of school and she would encourage me and tell me that if you do nothing else continue to read to him. Just read, read, read. Well, thankfully the curriculum that we use is very read aloud heavy and that was working great. She tells me that even though her son still struggles with reading his vocabulary is absolutely wonderful and it is because of all the reading they did with him.

After a few weeks with no Language Arts and no Phonics at all, I started prepping the kids for this new thing I decided to call Box Work. I ordered the Language Arts from Sonlight, the company that we were doing everything else with (except Math). We had never tried their Language Arts and it was time for something new. I bought them plastic file boxes with the hinged lids. I bought them special clip boards and put their names on them. I had them decorate the file boxes and I had them decorate some little folders and told them that this is where their new work would be going. I set one up for each of them and when I ordered the curriculum I ordered two sets of the K level Language Arts consumables. I also ordered their K level readers. This worked much better. This level was easy for him and he found great success. It wasn't called phonics or language art or anything else. It was called box work and it was set up differently then anything he had done before. He did the activity sheets with little problem, but he didn't want to try to read the little books much at all. I would have him work through some of them but I didn't push it hard at all. He wasn't ready. Just like he wasn't ready to talk much at age two, he wasn't ready to read at age six. I did find some books that he loved and I have bought them all to slowly reward him with them. They are here. I will try to remember to talk about these at another time.

We finished the year weakly I felt. It was done. He wasn't reading. I was getting concerned about the fact that in classes at church and with other kids it was quickly going to become apparent that he wasn't reading. After VBS one day this last summer he let me know that he wasn't a good reader. My heart broke just a bit. I debated again whether I should have put him in the K level VBS for this reason. I hadn't done that, I had kept him in a class that I felt he would fit in well with and he did do alright, but apparently he also learned that he wasn't a good reader.

This summer, I spent my time slowly finding all of the books and Instructors Guides that I would need to do the work for the next level of school. In July I started wondering about my sanity. I started thinking seriously about redoing the whole last year of school. I do not call this holding him back and there are several reasons that I decided to do this. With the curriculum that we use and love, at the Core 3 level the readers that the kids read and the history starts to mesh. I wanted him to be able to take advantage of that and if we continued on the way we were there is no way he would be able to do that. Another reason that I started contemplating doing Core 1 again is that he loved it and he certainly would not mind one bit. I added in tons on my own as well. We would get extra videos from the library and we would get extra books from the library as well and so, I could easily continue this and we would be fine. Another reason that I started contemplating this is that The Girl was really ready to go straight to Core 1 and skip Core K. She was already reading more fluently then The Boy and if I put them both on Core 1 my life would be much simplier and they would have much more time to do other things and we would be able to share in so much more in our homeschooling.

So, after I had already bought nearly everything I would need for Core 2, I carefully packed it away and ordered the few things I would need to teach Core 1 to two children. I warned The Boy that The Girl would be doing much of school right along with us and I let him know that we were going to be redoing much of what we did before. He was perfectly fine with this. The history and Bible with this curriculum is really quite advanced and so I do not feel that I am holding back his education, actually I feel that this whole process is probably one of the most beneficial things I have done thus far in his education.

Now, the first day of school I sat with them at breakfast and I read them our Bible work and the verses and then I read them the History. Then we started with our word list for the week. These were all simple words. All the "at" words were present and both of the kids knew them all. The Girl did read them a bit easier then The Boy, but he didn't struggle with them. I left her to color in her new coloring book and I took The Boy into the living room to read a short story in his book. He refused. He sat on the sofa and refused to hold the book. He refused to point to the words with his finger. He refused to sound out one single letter on the page. He had reached the point where he honestly believed that he could not read. He felt that he was going to blow it again... once again and he refused to do that. His sweet little boy face crumpled up in a wrinkled mess as he struggled not to outright cry and I held him. I knew he could do it. The story had no new words on it then the word list. I talked him through it and tried to explain how he could do this. It was a process. Finally, I got him to agree to us taking turns reading lines. I read one line then he read one line and on we went through the short story. He did it. He faltered slightly, but he made it the entire way through and then we snuggled and cried together.

Then The Girl came into the room and The Boy left to color and she sat down and read the entire story without a glitch. I was so happy and proud of her, but it is honestly such a bittersweet moment because she is two years younger then her brother and though I am thrilled that she read that without a hitch, it does make life more interesting with my little faltering reading boy.

I never intended for this post to be so long and I have not posted on this at all ever because I really wanted to protect my little boy. I grew up with two sisters who struggled with reading. One who will always struggle with reading and I wanted to protect my little boy from everything I watched them endure. I do not think that I am opening him up to ridicule here and I do not think that I am protecting him less by sharing this, but I do think now that maybe someone can benefit from my story of growing.
 

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