Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What word would you choose for 2014?

This is a blog post I wrote today...well actually yesterday, haha, for work that I thought I would share in my personal blog also.

Here it is the last day of 2013 and as cliché as it sounds I do not know where the year went. It seems like days are often long but the year flies by! This is also the time of year when many people think about New Year’s resolutions and things that they would like to change. There are changes I would like to make but sometimes it seems like “New Year’s Resolutions” can set a person up to fail if the goals are too complex. Something that I saw online this week seemed like a good alternative to that, and could also apply to the upcoming homeschool year.

I read where some people pick a word for the upcoming year. Then they use that word as a theme for the next year. I think I may do this for our home school, although I admit, I haven’t picked just one word yet.

Here are some possibilities I have come up with for my family-







When I do pick that word I am hoping to include it in our home school journey and make it the theme for the year. The trick for me will be picking just one! I’m leaning toward adventure. This next year I would love to do more traveling and road-schooling and making fun learning memories for my children as this summer I will officially have two teenagers. Before I know it they will be adults and I would love to fill some of their memories with more hands on learning, discovering new places. I would also like to start back letterboxing, which is something our family used to do often years ago.

If you were to choose a word as a theme for your 2014 homeschooling year what word would you choose and why?

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sometimes you just have to laugh....seriously.

It was a wonderful Christmas week but it was incredibly stressful for the A~man, which consequently made it very stressful for all of us. No matter how calm we try to keep things there is a huge build up of excitement this time of year. Then it seems to nosedive afterwards because all of festivities are now over. The presents are all opened and it's now time to go back to our regular diet...as we do not normally eat a lot of treats.

This results in a lot of meltdowns and crying. A lot of obsessing throughout each day about "what's next?" Time to get back in the routine that not every week will there be something exciting going on. I do try and schedule fun activities weekly, but many days even though we are schooling lightly right now, involve staying at home playing games, watching videos and playing educational games.

Today he about wore us completely out. Hubby, Z~girl AND I. He would overhear a conversation we were having, or hear someone talking on the phone, and instantly think we were going somewhere or someone was coming to our house. (grandparents) If we were to tell him when we were seeing them next he would talk about it constantly (not exaggerating) until we saw them. It completely makes my head spin with the constant questions.

But then something will happen, it always does with him, that completely lands us in hysterics. A couple of hours ago I was reading some work emails and discovered two new emails that said they were sent from my iPod. I do not have an iPod. A~man has one and he had just gone to bed. I'm still trying to figure out how he did it but somehow he had made two recordings of himself whistling a tune and sent it to my email account. It was hilarious! Yet....we do not want him unsupervised on the internet and we thought we had the settings to where he couldn't go online. I do not even know how he figured it out by himself!

I also had a bit of a flashback to his night of calling friends years ago and wondered if he may have emailed the sound file to people in my address book...but no...it only went to me. (thankfully as it was sent to my work email address) We did look at his iPod to try our best to make sure it doesn't happen again. Internet safety for kids is very important to us. There is too much junk out there I do not want them to see.

Well, I am hoping for a much calmer week!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Mosaic Review: Hello Fresh

This last month we were given the opportunity to try something different that we had never experienced before. A food review! How could I not jump at the chance to try out food, especially healthy recipes that I might not normally try? Also, it is delivered directly to your door fresh. The food comes in a heavy duty insulated box with ice packs. It was plenty cold when it arrived and in fact I kept it in the box (closed) for a couple of hours as I initially couldn't put everything away. The arrival was especially nice the week before Christmas with all the scurrying around we did.

Hello Fresh has it all figured out in four easy steps. First they create yummy recipes that we discovered were very easy to make. Next, they do the shopping for you and then deliver the fresh ingredients along with the recipe directly to your door each Wednesday. It's all laid out for you and most of the recipes can be made in 30 minutes or less.

The first recipe we (okay, I admit hubby did this one) tried out was Sauteed Chicken with Ginger Parsnips & Carrots. This one was also my favorite! The combination of chicken, parsnips, and ginger was an unusual dish.... I have never tasted anything like it! We will definitely be repeating this recipe. My hubby made mine without almonds though as I am allergic to them. The good thing is they were sealed up so there was no cross contamination with the other foods.

(pictured with the almonds obviously)

The next recipe was Yogurt Marinated Shrimp. With this recipe I can honestly say this wouldn't have been a dish we would ever have chosen to make. But what was it my mom used to say? "Try it, you might like it!" (or maybe that was Dr. Seuss?) We did try it and it was very good! We do on occasion eat shrimp but the marinade used ingredients that we would never have thought to put together. The neat thing is most of the ingredients are included for each recipe with the exception of things like olive oil, salt and pepper which we always have in our kitchen.

 The third dish, which I made this time, was Classic Beef Stew with Chickpeas and Green Beans. In the cold months I make stew often but this recipe was completely different than my own. I have never added chickpeas to it before and very rarely green beans! I made this one on Christmas Eve at lunch and it made enough for all four of us but I added more beef broth than called for. The recipes we tried out were each two servings but this one somehow made more than enough for the kids, hubby, and I. It was very good but I admit that I still like mine better. Surprisingly, Z~girl loved the addition of lemon to the dish which I was even hesitant to add as I had never heard of it before. It definitely added a nice twang to the dish. 

Here is the cost per week:

Classic Box (3 meals)-
2 people $69
4 people $129

Veggie Box (3 meals)-
2 people $59
4 people $109

Shipping is always free!

The quality of the food was very good but for our budget it is too expensive. Still, it is cheaper (especially considering the gas to drive) than going somewhere nice to eat at a restaurant. The nice thing though is that there is no contract and no minimum monthly order, so if you wanted you could order the box once a month even. I can see Hello Fresh being a great gift idea for newlyweds or even new parents! 

If you are interested in trying out their service you can sign up now and use code XN6V7C at checkout to receive $20 off your first box.

 Here is where you can find Hello Fresh on the web-

Oh I forgot to add! Sometimes the boxes come with a little extra surprise! Ours came with a gift card to order wine online.


Sunday, December 22, 2013

I wish I could tell you...

....that our Christmas festivities have gone as smoothly as Thanksgiving's did. They have not. The excitement is doubled with having grandma and grandpa living nearby. (within 20 minutes!) I think we are fortunate as it is not exactly food related. It is schedule related, which I guess ties into meal times but it is beyond that.

With Prader-Willi Syndrome routine is very important. I try to keep to a concrete routine as much as I can but my brain doesn't work that way. I cannot plan out every minute of each day and definitely cannot plan it out for the week. That makes it sound like I do not have routine but for me it works like this- get dressed, breakfast, schoolwork, lunch, and quiet time. This all happens but not with an exact time. After we have a "quiet alone time" our schedule is looser to arrange for errands, interest led schoolwork, field trips, music lessons, and in the spring and fall, sports.

Without the holidays or special occasions like birthdays he seems to be okay with our schedule of events. When I have attempted to exactly plan out our week with him knowing every extra activity things tend to go badly. He will perseverate on the special events, which drives us all batty, and as we all know "things change". We have had vehicle issues the last 6 months so that has caused us to miss some events we would normally go to. We have had a lot of at home time which I do not mind, but A~man is more social than I am. ;) Plus, at times field trip dates change or have to be cancelled for various reasons.  I do see some progress in his thinking as I will say to him "things change" and he will repeat it to me and we are able to talk about the whys of how things change.

Consequently we have had a few REALLY big meltdowns in December. Like knocking my sliding laundry room door off it's track meltdowns. He hasn't been aggressive with us thankfully but we have had a few icky times. It does make me appreciate that this behavior isn't a norm for him anymore. It used to be for a few years. (and I was physically hurt a few times) Now? Once he calms down he feels remorse and apologizes. He has been doing this for a year when he gets out of control almost every time with absolutely no prompting. He asks for forgiveness which breaks my heart in two as I know he cannot help so much of it. What's a mom to do but freely give the grace needed plus a good supply of hugs for good measure?

Today my daughter asked if we had to do school work this week. *ahem* (in the past I say what days we have off during the holidays) I told her, when A~man was not within earshot that if she wanted to she could have the week off, but that A~man would be doing his work except for Christmas Eve and day. With his special needs and learning disabilities his day goes so much smoother if a part of his day is focused on homeschool help and as much routine as I am capable of. Now if it would only stop raining long enough for us to go see an awesome local light display!

Here are some photos I took today of A~man at his finest. Loving on our wonderful dog!

Totally rocking his pink PWS awareness shirt!!! (my boy LOVES pink :)

These gentle moments are ones I treasure!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Summary of My Week (aka "feeling old")

Well, my week that started with the yuckies (no, that is not a real word, I checked the spelling) ended that way too. I finally got an appointment with my Dr...who I found out (sniff sniff) is retiring in a week. He was an awesome Dr. (obgyn, although I went to him pretty much as my primary Dr.) and I will miss him. He has been with me since my early 20's and through all of my infertility journey. He was the first one to see Z~girl, hahah. Without going into too many yucky details I most likely was having kidney stones passing which caused a couple of other issues.This is the third time this has happened and probably if there is a next time I will have to go to a urologist. Oh joy!

This last week my in-laws arrived for that last trip down to finally relocate here. Today we went over there so hubby could help his step-dad move some of the big stuff to where they will be renting until their house is built. Z~girl helped a lot too! A~man moved a lot of branches out of their yard. Me? I felt like a bump on a log as I cannot lift heavy stuff due to back issues (I also think I have fibromyalgia) I pretty much hurt all the time...some place or another. It seems like it is better in the warmer weather though. Okay...this whole post so far makes me sound like an old fart so let's move on...

This week we will be doing some light schoolin'. Slowly I have discovered taking a total break only results in boredom, behaviors, and excess fighting between the kids. Hopefully the weather will be dry enough to take some nature walks and see if we can spot, from afar of course, some animal habitats to go along with A~man's current science curriculum. In our yard alone we can see several squirrel nests (also known as a drey) high up in the trees. Each morning a pair of them, that Z affectionately calls "Nutterbutter" and "Nutterbuddy", wake us up crawling on the outside of our house. I also hope to review some compound words with A~man.

Tomorrow Z~girl and I are going to make homemade dog biscuits for all of the dogs in our life for Christmas, hahah, we even have the cookie cutters! Also, we will be making some cookies for the grandparents (in a different bowl of course ;) and for one of our sweet neighbors. I'm also hoping to make a big pot of chili and send some over to the grandparents as they are way too busy to cook right now and I love to cook and bake.

Here's to a better upcoming week!!!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Book Review~Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

I have decided that on Fridays I am going to share some book reviews in my blog. Of course "life happens sometimes, and things change" as I tell A~man, but I would like to give it a go! I have been fortunate to get a few new books to review recently for Homeschoolliterature.com. For those books I will give you a bit of a teaser and provide a link to go check out the book yourself. I also have a couple of books by local authors that I will share directly in my blog, one of which is an author who has Prader-Willi Syndrome just like A~man! So onto my first Friday review!

This first book is written by an author who was homeschooled, Faith Erin Hicks. (check out her cool website if you get a chance!)  It's actually a graphic novel and as you can see she is a very talented illustrator too! Growing up I always enjoyed reading comic books in addition to books. Sure, it was never a huge literary masterpiece but nonetheless it was great entertainment for a teen or younger child. It has been many years since I have read a comic book so when I got the chance to read the graphic novel, written and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks, it definitely piqued my interest.

Friends With Boys tells of Maggie who had been homeschooled her whole life, along with her three brothers but was about to embark on a whole new world, high school. She would have much rather stayed at home but she had no choice as her mother had left the family. She was the youngest in her family so her brothers had already entered this new world and sometimes had wisdom and direction for her (sometimes they didn't). She was pretty naive to the socialization that occurred within the walls of the school and had to learn more than her books could teach her.

Do you wanna read more of what I thought about this book? You know you do so hop on over to the complete review of Friends With Boys. Oh and if you or your older child do read it I would love to know what you think!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sean Kenney and the North Carolina Arboretum Host Lego Exhibition Part 2

I almost forgot to follow up with my second set of photos from the Lego exhibit we went to last month! Photos really do not do some of the projects justice. The grand prize winner made the cat below and it's hard to see but the cat is looking into a fish bowl...made with clear Lego pieces. Very cool! 

This one was one of my favorites in the teen to adult category. (well besides my hubby's of course ;) The base is a map of Tennessee! It is an awesome bear and guitar and I think it was a nice touch that the paper beside it told about Tennessee. 

The collages are from a handful of the displaces created by Sean Kenney and his team. These are some of my favorite ones. 

This butterfly was even more amazing up close. The size of these pieces are amazing!

It's really neat how the displays tell some facts about the subject. Such a great way to combine art and learning for the adults and children coming to check out the exhibition. 

I love this one and so did A~Man who loves lawn mowers. So many people walked right by this potting shed thinking that the lawnmower was real and not made out of Lego!


It feels like today was a slow start to the week as I am recovering from some sort of tummy trouble. Plus it is rainy and cold and not much fun to get out so....I didn't. Hubby took the kids Christmas shopping though which they loved! I also managed to get some schooling done with both kids although it was minimum. I made a new spelling list and tomorrow we will be doing some spelling flashcards with him. Zoe and I played a fun state card game too. (Scrambled States of America...highly recommend!) This week I somehow came to the realization that when I was A~man's age I was a freshman in high school! If he was in public school he would be in 8th grade due to his birth month and the cutoff but still, I can't imagine that I have a child that is almost the age to be homeschooling highschool! Where did the time go?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Our children teach us grace and so much more...

Today I wrote a post over at Time4Learning about our day yesterday. It was NOT a good day. (I work for Time4Learning if you didn't already know ;) Here is the post about our day after Thanksgiving break.  Yep, I had a full blown mama tantrum, it was not pretty and I am not proud of it. I was the cause of most of our woes yesterday. No, I am not perfect and will never profess to be. Ever. What did I wake up to though today? A son who easily forgave me with smiles and hugs. (which on one hand makes me feel even more rotten...yet blessed at the same time)

I do want to tell you a story about a restaurant we go to. We have majorly decreased our eating out but when we go out to eat my son has a way of making himself known...in a good way. If you are old enough, did you ever watch the TV show Cheers?

We live in a wonderfully quaint smaller city, but honestly when we go out to eat at our favorite breakfast stops...this is how it is for A~man. Now...keep in mind in public I am pretty quiet and I am an introvert. Yes, I love people but deep down inside I prefer to go in a restaurant or coffee shop with my family or friends and have it be a quiet affair. It is never that way. I'm convinced it is never meant to be that way if my sweet boy is there. This is where the title of my blog comes in big. Who's Learning?Who's Teaching? My sweet son forces me to be more social even though at times it is uncomfortable for me. Somehow it seems so ironic.

Today we went to one our favorite places that is not far from our house. Well they LOVE the A~man there! One particular customer that goes there almost everyday has been obviously drawn to our quirky family. (the man is retired) We haven't been there in weeks except for one time after our friend "S" had already left. A~man had it all planned out that he wanted to give him an extra PWS awareness bracelet that he had. (he wasn't there that day so A left it with a waitress to give it to him) Today we went and "S" came down and sat with us. It was so sweet. I am the first person to be overly cautious with my kids but it is nice to have someone restore your faith in humans. I find it happens more often than not. Previously he had given A~man one of his USA pins. (he is a vet) Later he must have talked to his wife as she had him give Z~girl a beautiful charm bracelet that she loves.

Today he came over and sat with us to chat (that is what people do with us ahahha) and A~man asked if he got the bracelet. He said he did and then said "I thought that is what it was", meaning PWS. Turns out the man in his younger days was a P.A. He was familiar with PWS and thought it was either that or autism. (it's both) This man had been carrying around a grocery bag for weeks hoping to see us there, his wife had sewn Christmas stockings for A and Z!  They are beautiful!

A~man despite causing me extreme stress at times....so makes it up with what he teaches me...and the fact he lets me see such a side of people that I wouldn't if we were not blessed with him.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

PWS and Holidays

Although this time of year can be a fun and exciting time, for those with Prader-Willi Syndrome it can also be even more stressful. Thankfully our Thanksgiving went relatively smooth this year. Last year our son, who was then 13, crawled out his window in the wee hours of the morning and ran away. The whole story of his elopement can be found here. I would be lying if I didn't say that memory has been in the back of my mind for most of the month. Especially after hearing about a 19 year old who had PWS, that ran away recently and was hit by a vehicle.

We were fortunate to have my inlaws here on Wednesday so that is when we had our Thanksgiving meal. As far as food goes, the way my family does Thanksgiving (and Christmas) is a lot different than how we did it growing up. I come from a big family so we would normally have 20-30 people for dinner and there was a huge variety of food. Food was in dishes over every surface of the kitchen and much of it stayed out for hours. You just cannot do it that way with PWS. We keep things very simple. We have about 4 different dishes and a couple of desserts. We can never leave food out as it leaves too much temptation and causes too much anxiety. Even on normal days we do not sit at the table with extra food. We dish up our plates in the kitchen and bring it to the table. (okay I admit sometimes we all go downstairs and watch Netflix while we eat ;)

The major issue we are having right now is even more questions than normal. (and he asks a lot of questions normally) Even more so he asks about the next meal, the next snack, the next time he will get a dessert. With the cooler weather we are getting less exercise so despite the fact our son is slim...we are watching it more than we do when we can walk a few miles a day. Hopefully we can get back swimming soon.

We took last week off from doing schoolwork but will be jumping right back in to it tomorrow. I'm thinking about getting A~man into an art curriculum that Z~girl enjoyed a lot last year. I just signed both kids up for a homeschool matchbox exchange. (I've never heard of it before this week) Each month has a theme and you take a match box and decorate it and fill it with things having to do with the theme. This month the theme is "Famous Artist" so we are going to have all sorts of fun with THAT! I am always on the look out for activities to help out our right brain visual learner and throw some kinesthetic learning in there too! I will definitely be sharing the project in my blog so stay tuned.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sean Kenney and the North Carolina Arboretum Host Lego Exhibition Part 1

Locally this fall,our nearby arboretum has had a spectacular Lego art display called Some Assembly Required with Lego art work by Sean Kenney. The display included 27 amazing creations that were done by Sean Kenney and his team of workers. We are a Lego loving family, especially hubby and the kids, and we have already been there twice to check it out. Hopefully we will be able to bring the inlaws when they are in town too!

I have decided to make this a two part post as not only was it an awesome exhibit but there was also a Lego building contest for Lego lovers of all ages! This first part will be about the creation my hubby did...with a little help from Z~girl. He participated in the 15-adult category. His entry was based on an 1879 fire hydrant. In fact he made a life size replication of one!

Hubby's Lego sculpture took approximately 7,500 pieces to complete, and about 25 hours of work. I especially like the chains on the sides plus the little fire scene going on, complete with fire, firemen and fire dog. 

I will admit, shortly before completion I observed it partially falling apart a couple of times, including when he was setting it up at the arboretum. I did not see tears...but panic was there! I cannot describe the relief he felt when we finally got it there safely and it was set up complete and on display.

Saturday we arrived just in time to see Sean Kenney pass out the awards. 

I am proud to say that my hubby won second in his catergory (15-adult), 2nd in judges choice, and 2nd in overall people's choice. (people coming into the arboretum could vote!) He was very happy about it. Oh and he was able to meet another very nice "Lego man" who won first in the category. Here is a picture of his awesome exhibit. 

I LOVED the way he did the water...and so much detail in his sculpture!

 Sometime in the next couple of days I will blog about some of the other awesome entries, plus some of the amazing sculptures on display outside in the gardens of the arboretum.


Next week is going to be a busy one! I think we will do some school on Monday, but Tuesday the inlaws should be here for a few days and I think we will be celebrating Thanksgiving on Wednesday before they leave to go get their final load before moving to NC. To say the kids are excited is an understatement! We will do some reading about Thankgiving and check out some Netflix videos (right now we are watching Dear America which is based on a book series) and maybe do a spelling test online. I found a Thanksgiving spelling list that might be fun for both kids! 

Stay tuned for more amazing Lego photos. Here is one of  a mosaic with me and my sidekick peeking through!

Monday, November 18, 2013

I WILL survive the teen years!

That is my mantra. I will admit some mornings I dread waking up as it can be such a challenge! The attitude, snippiness, the sass, and don't even think of looking at this particular teen!

Oh wait, I'm NOT talking about my child with special needs! The A~man wakes up Mr. Sunshine. Rarely any attitude and almost never any back talking. He is 14 and she is 12. I will admit he did go through some EXTREME behavior from about age 10 to a bit after 12. He could be violent. He would yell things at us when he was having a melt down that were downright horrifying. One of the worst times was when we were visiting family in SD at the inlaws house. Only grandpa was there. Both hubby and I had to restrain him (A~man...not grandpa) so he would not harm himself or us. (FYI we are trained yearly in how to safely restrain) The things he yelled...I was mortified that grandpa heard. (grandpa does have other grandkids with autism and he has been around people with mental illness) Sadly I have permanent damage to my back from when he would attack me. I'm not sure what caused him to be able to deal with frustration better. We did start dealing with his behaviors in a different way. (if anyone wants to know how we did this let me know and I will blog about it) A~man still has some challenging behaviors but I am so thankful that stage appears to be over.

I joke that I am getting payback for how I woke up as a teen. Z~girl is a feistier version of how I was in the mornings. It was best that no one talked or looked at me until after lunch. SERIOUSLY. That is how my girl is...although it can sometimes carry on through out the whole day. This transitional period before becoming an adult is SO HARD! With body changes, responsibility changes, so many changes. I just pray for God's wisdom to help me do the very best I can to help both of my precious children through this change as I love them so much!

Now, I can't go complaining and ranting without telling you some extremely good characteristics of the child that is challenging me so much right now,can I? So now I get to brag. We do not have a dishwasher...my daughter every night without ever complaining does the dishes. Growing up we did have a dishwasher and I know there were times I gave my mom grief about putting the dishes in and taking them out. Z~girl completely on her own cares for all of our critters...without complaint. Our entourage includes 6 chickens, 3 rabbits, and a dog. She is our third set of eyes with the A~man. When he is awake he needs constant supervision to keep him safe. (impulse control issues) One more even though I could list many more. She wakes up, often before me, and does her online school work. I never have to remind her.


We had a wonderful week off! It was much needed. It's now time to jump in with both feet into A~man's special needs learning and both kids are very excited about a few field trip and group activities. This week we are going on a post office tour (which surprisingly we haven't done so far in our homeschool adventures) and we will have a Christmas party with our group in a few weeks. I'm also hoping to get a group together to go see a large gingerbread house display in the next town.

As much as I complain about these teen years I wish there was a way to s l o w it down. Pretty soon my duo may not want to go on field trips with their parents (well A~man might ;) and before I know it I will be looking for SAT essay writing help!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Book Review: At Home in Dogwood Mudhole by Franklin Sanders

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An epistolary tale. I admit, when I read that phrase I had to look up the word epistolary in the dictionary which means “of, pertaining to, or consisting of letters.” That word perfectly describes how the book series, At Home In Dogwood Mudhole was written. This book of letters spanning 17 years, was authored by Franklin Sanders who also publishes a newsletter called The Moneychanger. At Home In Dogwood Mudhole is a 3 volume set that describes Franklin and his wife Susan’s pursuit to live an authentic life with their family, and go back to living off the land like his forefathers.

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The first volume in the series is called, Nothing That Eats. Nothing that eats? That is the wish of Susan Sanders as they make the decision to make major life changes. She tells everyone that they cannot acquire anything that eats. Despite that wish they go on to acquire dogs, chickens, horses, cows, pigs, ducks and sheep. They also go from having a one family farm to all the children going back home to combine their efforts to learn how to live off of the land in Tennessee.

This book contains hundreds of letters that describe the adventures and sometimes misadventures in their new way of living. Through the families ups and downs their faith and reliance on God comes shining through. Included in the volume are photos of the family and maps of where life takes them. Franklin’s ties to the south are very evident in almost everything he writes and his family commemorates this loyalty by participating in civil war reenactments. You can read a sample chapter called “PigPersuader” for free.

Even though I lived in the Midwest for almost 20 years, I have lived in the south (not far from where a lot of the events take place!) for 23 years. Oops, you know my age now. The fact that I was familiar with some of the locations, and the culture of the area he describes, drew me into the story. Having grown up in a rural area, living off the land is also something I wish my family was able to do. It was fascinating to read a story about a family that was actually able to do it!

The book itself, Nothing That Eats, is a pretty thick volume being 379 pages long. The book in paper form retails for $22.95 or in ebook formats (Kindle, ePub, or PDF) sells for $16.95. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed the book I think the price is a bit high, at least if I were to go out and buy the next volume.Oh, and the next volume in the series is titled, Best Thing We Ever Did.

I encourage you though to click below to find out what the other crew members had to say about this book that is full of adventure and TRUE GRIT!


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Monday, November 11, 2013

Cathedral of Learning of Pittsburgh PA

This past week we took a long weekend trip to see our niece who works and goes to school in Pittsburgh PA. We have been planning this trip for a long time but a few times it was looking like we would not be able to go but thankfully we were! We have not been on a vacation in a long time. It was an added bonus that our tour guide was our beautiful niece. The kids enjoyed seeing their cousin too!

On Saturday she took us to the Cathedral of Learning. I expected it to be neat but had no idea how very cool it was! Here is a photo of the outside and a photo from the highest point we were allowed to go to which I believe was the 36th floor. (it has 42 floors)

It is an impressive 535-foot-tall Gothic Revival skyscraper that was commissioned by Pitt Chancellor John G. Bowman in 1921. Different local industries donated much of what was needed to build the great Cathedral. Each room on the first and third floors were designed to represent the cultures of various ethnic groups that settled in Allegheny County.
In addition to its magnificent four-story Commons Room at ground level, the 42-story Cathedral houses classrooms (including the internationally renowned Nationality Classrooms) academic and administrative offices, libraries, computer labs, a theater, a print shop, and a food court.
In 2007, on the 70th anniversary of the Cathedral's dedication, Pitt trustees approved a project to clean and restore the iconic building. Its interior has since been upgraded and its limestone exterior scrubbed of  industrial grime. 
A landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the 535-foot-tall Cathedral is the second-tallest educational building in the world after the University of Moscow's main building. In recent years, families of peregrine falcons have nested atop the Cathedral. (borrowed this tidbit from this website)
 College classes are still held in the rooms during the week but on the weekends they are open to be toured by tourists...such as ourselves. Each room is decorated as a classroom from a different country, including the desks, windows, blackboards, and art. Often there were displays of artifacts that were actually from each country.

This particular room I think was my favorite. It was the Lithuanian room. The art on the wall (The Two Kings), designs of the windows and desks truly drew me in! Here is a great link to tour this room and all of the others virtually. 

I only wish I would have somehow taken notes on which room each picture I took was in. I LOVED these windows with the fall trees reflected behind.

We were also able to meet our nieces boyfriend. He passed my A~man test....he is a very nice young man and earned 4 stars with how he interacted with my often quirky son.

The chair Z~girl is touching had dog heads at the top...this dog bit her finger. ;)

I will try and come back and update this blog entry with which room the photos were located in. For now I am playing catch up at home. We will be taking a break from school this week as we haven't had a break (except for a day or two) since we started at the beginning of August. I will be getting caught up with lesson planning for the next couple of weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. A~man will be working on learning about heat energy and I'm debating starting Z~girl with a new homeschool writing curriulum

Oh and we returned home yesterday just in time to have dinner with grandma and grandpa! They are in the process of moving here from the Midwest and are having to make several trips to bring there stuff down south. They left this morning but will be back in a couple more weeks!

I have a lot of cleaning to do. Things sure do get messy when you pack/unpack for a trip. Plus...our dog was rather ornery for our dog sitter that came to our house during the day. He ran away, ate something he shouldn't, and left us a lovely surprise to clean up in A~man's bedroom. *gag* In A's words "It is a disaster in there."

TOS Review - IXL.com

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Ever since we began homeschooling over 7 years ago the computer has always been a big part of our curriculum. This last month we were able to try out and review IXL. Both A and Z seem to do well with online curriculum and A~man in particular is able to keep his attention focused much better while working on the computer and seems less distracted. IXL offers both language arts and math.

IXL is a math educational site for Pre-K through algebra. They also have a language arts section that is for grades 2nd through 4th grade although they will be expanding that soon. Each subject is divided up into sections of skills that are needed to be learned for each grade level that go along with each states required standards.

North Carolina

North Carolina Flag

Skills available for North Carolina third-grade math standards

Standards are in black and IXL math skills are in blue. Hold your mouse over the name of a skill to view a sample problem. Click on the name of a skill to practice that skill.

Standards document:

My son is 14, but educationally is more at a level somewhere between 2nd-3rd grade in most areas. So I tried out both language arts and math with him over the last month. One of my favorite things about both the math and language arts was how thorough each subject was, and I like how it was broken down into simple lessons concentrating on just one concept.

A slight frustration early on that we both had is that if it was something that he had great difficulty with and he got one wrong, it increased the amount of problems he had to do.  For an area to be considered mastered a student must get a certain percent correct. So a couple of times he completely did not want to go on that day with his IXL work.

But then mama got smart. ;) If he was having difficulty I would just have him go a certain amount of minutes at it (15 usually) and then come back the next day and continue on until he had it mastered. This seemed to allow the concept to “sink in” and then the next day he was able to do it with little difficulty. As each skill is mastered, they collect ribbons, medals, and other virtual prizes.

There were a few language art skills that I chose to skip with him as the concept was too difficult for him to understand, but as a whole he was successful with most of the sections he completed!

Each week you receive a report via e-mail on the progress your child has made including the amount of time spent, problems correct, and the skills that they have mastered.

Here is a breakdown of the membership fees:

  • Math-$9.95
  • Language Arts-$9.95
  • Both subjects-$15.95
  • This is the price per child with each additional child being $2 a month

  • Math-$79
  • Language Arts-$79
  • Both subjects-$129
  • This is the price per child with each additional child being $20 a year. 

IXL.com also offers a 30-day, money-back guarantee.

Both A~man and I really liked the program once we figured out how to make it work for his individual needs. Click over to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Crew to see what others thought too!


  disclaimer TOS

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

T.O.S. Review~If You Were Me and Lived In . . .


Both A~man and Z~girl love learning about other countries and their different cultures. One of our favorite home school group activities is our monthly Geography Club. This year our club is taking a different country every month and each family involved is responsible for demonstrating specific aspects about each country. Our country for this month was Turkey and both A and Z had to get in front of the group and tell their friends about the sports people play in Turkey and about notable people who are from Turkey. It is always great fun! So getting the chance to do a review on Carole P. Roman from Away We Go Media's book series was right up our alley!

We received these four books to review:

If You Were Me and Lived in…Norway

These books were created for children ages Pre-K- age 8 and while my children are a considerable bit older at 12 and 14, it was still a good way for them to get a "taste" of each of these countries. Instead of just explaining what they do in each country they try and get the reader to imagine what it would be like if you actually lived in that particular country. The first page would start with "If you were me and lived in...Mexico" and started out showing where on the globe that individual country was located at. Then it would tell about what possible landmarks you might see, possible girl and boy names there, and what your life might be like if you were a child living in that individual country.

So not only would it be telling facts about each individual country but it presented it in such a way that the child reading it could see a bit of what other children that lived there experienced in their day to day lives. I really think a child would be able to retain the information presented with this type of approach. I think it makes the children seem more real when they are doing similar things (yet different) as the child reading the story. 

We also received a neat blow up globe that is very child friendly and easy for a child to see exactly where the country they are reading about is located at. 

I can see this book series being a valuable resource with our Geography club! Our club has ages 5-15. The books would be perfect for our youngest members to learn some basics about the countries and the older members could use the basics and expand it to learn even more details about each individual country!

Each book is between 22 and 28 pages in length, the print is nice and large for early readers. The If You Were Me books by Carole P. Roman with Away We GoMedia are available for $8.99 each.


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