Friday, January 29, 2010

Fun With Math

When Nathan started Saxon Algebra 1/2 awhile back, I thought it would be a dry, boring textbook. It does have that look, anyhow. But then I started paying a little bit more attention to the word problems in each lesson. Like this one, back in Lesson 14:

In the flang-flung contest, Jesse Lee flang his fourteen million, six hundred forty-two units. When Jethroe tried, he flung his thirty-two million, fifteen thousand, thirty-two units. How much farther did Jethroe flung than Jesse Lee flang?

Well . . . someone obviously had a bit too much fun writing that problem, LOL. But then I realized quite a few of the word problems were . . . unique . . . to say the least.

Some enlarge vocabulary:

Because Edgar was sedulous, he turned into a boy genius and scored 2.53 times better than he did on his last calculus test. His last test score was 38 percent. What did he score on his latest test? (lesson 13) [Sedulous: working hard and steadily; diligent; persistent]

Some are ludicrously far-fetched:

Harry cornered 146 Komodo dragons in the backyard. Jennet cornered 5 times that number in the side yard. How many Komodo dragons did they corner altogether? (lesson 22)

Sometimes they are historical:

Hamilcar saw an average of 12 elephants a day daily for the 3 day period. He saw 8 elephants on the first day, and 7 elephants on the second day. How many elephants did he see on the third day? (lesson 30) [Hamilcar was Hannibal's father. He was also a Carthagenian general who used elephants. Interesting!]

Occasionally they are fanciful:

When the fog lifted, 440 ghosts were spotted skulking near the outskirts. If 240 ghosts were not spied, what fraction of the ghosts was not spied? (lesson 62)

Some make Nathan ready for lunch:

Deva ate 11/15 of the 7 1/2 kielbasas with spicy mustard. Zach ate the rest with sauerkraut. How many kielbasas did Zach eat? (lesson 64)

One sounds like a radio advertisement:

There was a big sale at Insane Irvings's Music Emporium! Everything, yes everything, was discounted 20% off the already unbelieveable low prices. (a) What was the discount on a boom box that was already an incredibly low $79? (b) What was the new insane price? (lesson 86)

I don't remember problems that actually made me laugh in my school math books! Someone had way too much fun thinking up these problems!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Finally Some Pictures

I finally got around to putting pictures on the computer, so now you all can see some if the improvements we've been making! We'll start with the carpet, which is berber.
You may be noticing our "bound" runner going from the kitchen eating area to the study (and basement), a very high-traffic path. This was a remnant from the installation, and we knew we didn't want to waste it. We also knew we didn't want to pay $2.00 a foot to have it professionally bound, so we did the next best thing: we used duct tape. Yes, this rug is semi-professionally bound with 3 layers of your highest quality off-white duct tape on each side! It certainly does the job. That was Elizabeth L's brilliant cost-saving suggestion, so if we had any kind of "Suggestion of the Month" award, she would definitely win!
And here we have the "powder room" on the main floor, with the new tile, toilet, vanity, mirror and light fixture. And the paint! We can't forget that! Actually, you really can't, because if you had seen this bathroom before, you would know that it was painted a light blue with some sort of sponging technique that sort of looked cloud-like. This very light tan paint color really makes it look totally different. We got the vanity and mirror as a set from Home Depot. I think they look really nice, although Bob had tons of troubles with the sink. He even had to return the first sink basin because the bottom part was crooked, so it would never seal right.
We really got fancy with the toilet, getting one that offers a "low-water" flush for "liquid waste", as well as a higher flow flush for those pesky solids. So far it is also doing its job, which is as good a report as one could for a toilet, LOL.

This is our basement storage room, which is under our kitchen and laundry room. It's the only unfinished part of the house. The past few months we had gotten really bad about just shoving boxes, bags of clothes, etc. in there willy-nilly. While the kids and I were in Ohio, Nathan had cleared a small space in the middle of it and set up our weight bench, but the rest of it was a real obstacle course. It took quite a while Saturday, but I can say things are back to being organized in there! This is where I let the boys play Lincoln Logs and army men. These 2 things go together, and they have a tendency to take over any room. At least in the storage room they can leave their elaborate battle set-ups and forts up and keep playing with them, except that lately there has bveen no room. As soo as I took this picture on Saturday, the boys immediately set up operations for WWIII in there, and the whole front space is filled again. The good thing is that they can disappear for hours playing in there, and it is so nice and quiet on the main floor!

I had wanted to take a picture of the whole family room, so you could see the odd spectacle of bare walls, but almost as soon as I had taken the picture of the carpet runner, Anna and Grace set up shop in the family room. I didn't feel like cleaning it up again, and I didn't particularly want to share all the clutter with everyone either, LOL. But I did take this small picture of Anna's "minivan". She and Grace are on this little phase where they move all the little chairs, strollers, baby high chair, etc. into a room, put them all together in lines, and then load their baby dolls up in them. That's because it's their minivan! Many years ago my brother Dan gave Nathan and Luke this "Tonka Joe" computer game, which had this totally cool dashboard/steering wheel thing that went over your keyboard for the game controls. Well, the girls aren't so interested in Tonka Joe, not that it would even run on our computers anymore, LOL, but they sure love the steering wheel part! And thiss minvan gets around too. They lug those chairs all over the place--dining room, play room, entry way, and of course the family room. Sometimes they have so much seating, it is more like a school bus.
I must confess the other reason why it's taken me so long to post these pictures. I have really wanted to start doing all my blogging on the laptops, but I have not been able to figure out the best way to do my pictures on them. On my main frame, I can upload the pictures from my camera using the Canon software that came with it (although I can't find any discs or anything to put it on the other computers). Then I use this HP software to crop, rotate, resize, etc. so I can blog the pictures. We have some HP software on the laptops, but I can't figure out to how edit with it. Totally not self-explanatory or obvious. So today I spent a good deal of time downloading Picasa on one laptop, since I know people use that. I put the memory card from my camera into the computer too, so all 1218 pictures from it are also on the computer. But they don't seem to be in any nice date-organized folders, and when I put them on Picasa, I could not figure out what on earth to do with them AT. ALL. I couldn't resize them, and I couldn't even figure out how to select more than one of them to blog, even though it said you could upload 4 at a time to Blogger. All I could do was rotate the pictures. Grrr. So I was very frustrated, and I went back to my very old, very slow, desktop computer, where at least I have a workable routine. There you have it--I'm not a technology lover. I guess sometimes old is better. I am, however, open to suggestions, tutorials, etc.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Few Odds and Ends

First of all, I am sure you are all dying to know what was lurking in our dryer. As it turns out, it was nothing. Bob moved the dryer out and peered into it, but he could never see anything. When he looked into the hose leading out to the vent, however, there was a bunch of wet, stinky lint stuck in there. When we tiled the room, we switched out the outside vent and hose. It appears that the new vent allows rain and dirt to blow in, and then it just sits there and molders. So Bob switched out the vent again, and hopefully that will solve the problem. I think we were both quite relieved not to have to deal with the rotting remains of a rodent, LOL.

Secondly, it's still Christmas here at our house! I was browsing on Amazon Saturday morning, looking for some old movies to put on my wish list. When I was growing up in our TV-less household, we would rent a TV over the Christmas break and watch a bunch of old movies from the library. (This was back when libraries actually HAD old movies, and didn't pretend to try to be another Blockbuster). So I was looking at Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire-type movies when all of a sudden it dawned on me that I had ordered a DVD for Bob and the boys for Christmas back in October! I had been so excited about it, and it took several weeks to arrive, making me think it had gotten lost. But eventually it did arrive . . . and I promptly forgot all about it, even where I put it! I had to go up to my closet, which is where I always put gifts, and really root around in there for quite awhile before I was able to come up with it! It was a Mystery Science Theater 3000 collection (vol. 7)!

Back when Bob and I lived in Colorado, the cable company used to regularly (once a year or so)offer some deal to new subscribers--3 months free of something like that. I would regularly sign up for that, and while we got the cable channels, I would tape a bunch of movies. Then when our free time was up, I would cheerfully cancel, and we would have some movies to watch for the rest of the year. One movie I had taped was a MST3000 episode with the cheesiest black and white Japanese movie even made--"Prince of Space". It was funny and with no real innuendos, so the kids like to watch it as well. I wanted to get it on DVD, and I was happy to find it on the vol. 7 collection, along with 2 Hercules movies, and one more black and white movie, "Attack of the Killer Shrews". We haven't watched the last one, but from the picture on the box, the "shrews" are clearly dogs with masks. Should be funny! We watched the "Hercules Unchained" and "Hercules and the Moon Men" on Saturday, and they were both as cheesy and funny as they sound like they would be!

I am hoping to get some pictures posted of our renovations, but somehow, actually getting the camera card over to the computer and getting the pictures off of it has just seemed like too much work , so that has never gotten accomplished. I would say maybe later this afternoon, but the little boys did not get much schoolwork accomplished this morning. They did a little bit and then disappeared into our newly cleaned storage room to build elaborate Lincoln Log structures while I took a shower. They were playing so nicely and quietly that I didn't want to call them back upstairs. So our afternoon will have to include a lot of school before anyone can do anything extra, like mess around on the computer!

Friday, January 22, 2010

A New Post Just For Luke

Luke keeps bugging me to post something new. The fact is, nothing new is really happening, and I am too mushy-brained to think deep thoughts. Soooo . . . that leaves things a bit barren, as far as new post materials. I can say that overall things are going well. We're in a good homeschooling routine, and we're getting a lot done. We're in one of those nice periods where we don't have a newborn and I'm not pregnant, LOL. Since I was crazy busy with co-op responsibilities before the break, that means now I am a lot less busy, which is a huge relief. It's one of those things like the old Chinese story about the man whose house was too small. The wise man told him to keep adding more and more creatures into his house (while he kept complaining about how it was still too small). Then the wise man told him to put all the animals outside, and lo and behold, his house felt huge! So while I felt busy with all the co-ops before November, after all the extra stuff I now feel like it's all a breeze! Well, not really, but I'm definitely not as stressed or busy.

One thing we have learned recently is that Slovak and Polish share 75% of common vocabulary! Bob's mom is Polish, and his dad is Slovak. His mom bought Bob a life insurance policy through the "First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association" quite a while ago, although we never knew anything about it until this past summer, when she handed us a raft of papers about it. After we changed our address with the association, they strted sending us their little monthly magazine, which is quite interesting. In the back of one issue, there was a little blurb about the Slovak alphabet, along with some common phrases. Bob recognized a few of the words as Polish as well ("Dobre"="good"). Bob asked how something so long in English could be so short in Polish. For example, "What do you have?" is "Co mate" (there are lots of funny accent marks, which I can not hope to type!) I said it must be inflected, like Latin, where the pronoun and verb tense are included in one word. So of course we did some research on the internet and discovered that yes, in fact it is inflected, and in fact, as I found on this website Polish, like other Indo-European languages, shares some Latin grammar and vocabulary. There are 3 tenses (past, present, future), 2 numbers (singular and plural), and 3 genders (masculine, feminine, neuter). There are no articles but Polish, like Latin, is an inflectional language that distinguishes 7 cases, defining the noun usage in a sentence. This feature makes our mother tongue difficult to master and presents a lot of trouble to foreigners. So maybe Polish/Slovak will be our next language! Actually, there is a new family in our church, and the wife, Anja, is Polish (as in, born in a small Polish village, grew up there, went to university there, etc.). She is a lovely person, so maybe she could be our tutor. I'm not sure how I would do with the pronunciation though. The thing I like about Latin is that there are no Latins around to actually hear me speak it!

One new development is that we have a smell emanating from inside our dryer. A smelly smell, to be exact. I asked Bob if someone had dried a poopy diaper in there, because that is definitely the aroma. The dryer had a fairly long sojourn in the garage while the laundry room was being tiled. We also can definitely say that we had a mouse in the garage before we left for Ohio in December. The mouse has not been spotted recently, so one theory is that he climbed up in the dryer innards and got himself cooked. Or perhaps something climbed into the dryer via the dryer vent, especially since we had that terribly cold snap a little while ago. Anyhow, Bob is going to spend some time searching out the cause of the smell tomorrow. Fun!

Aaaaannndd, that's what's happening here, folks. I know, I know, you all envy me my glamorous and exciting life!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Time Capsule

We are finally getting the house back together again after all the renovating. Most of the "important" stuff is back where it belongs, which leaves the stuff that is not so important. The stuff I don't really care about, yet don't want to throw away. Some of those things were on this very top shelf in our laundry room coat closet. One of those items was a humongeous blue diaper bag--the very first diaper bag I ever had! I think I used for maybe a month or 2 with Nathan, back when I used to carry everything plus the kitchen sink around. I quickly graduated to a much smaller bag, and since then I occasionally used this blue one as luggage for Nathan on camping trips, or for when we were flying and I wanted to carry a ton of snacks and toys. It really is big!

The main thing I used it for was Air Force Academy football games. We would load that thing up with toys, food, sunscreen, and so on, and it worked well for several seasons of football! Now we haven't been to an AFA football game since the season in 2000, right before we moved to Ohio. And evidently I haven't used this diaper bag for anything else since that time, since it was a perfectly preserved speciman of game day preparation! I can't believe we moved it like that 3 different times! It contained:

--several granola bars of various types
--several strawberry fruit rollups
--an almost empty bottle of SPF 45 sunscreen
--several bandaids
--several Shout wipes
--a travel bottle of Motrin
--one diaper of indeterminate size
--a travel pack of kleenex
--a spanking stick
--one big green garbage bag, for use as an emergency poncho
--3 "Air Force" zipper pulls that were some sort of giveaway
--1 USAFA "terrible towel"
--2 USAFA blue/white little pompoms
--a small wooden spoon that I remember Nathan loving to play with and chew on
--this cute little airplane that is connected by a wire to a plastic "remote control". You can make it go forward and backward, but that's about it, and since it is connected by this wire, it can't get away from you! Nathan loved playing with this during games. Of course we had never taken out the batteries, so they were really corroded, but Bob was able to get the little guy going again! That REALLY brought back the memories for me!

We used to have such a great time at the USAFA football games! We would tailgate with the L's beforehand, and then we would pack up our leftover breakfast burritoes or whatever and eat those inside the stadium. I was not such a good nurser back then as I am now, so I would not have dreamed of actually nursing right there, surrounded by several thousand of my fellow Falcon fans. I would bring frozen bags of breast milk, and on hot days we would all take turns helping to thaw them by putting them on the backs of our necks, LOL. Refreshing!

Of course, that was all pre-9/11. Now they have really tightened things down, and you can't bring any food or drinks inside the stadium. You can't even bring bags inside! So the big blue diaper bag would be a definite no-no. When Bob was an AOC, we (well, he at least) HAD to be at the games. I feel sorry for the moms now who have to bring their wiggly babies and toddlers without a big diaper bag of snacks and toys to keep them occupied! Fun memories for us, though. I finally threw a bunch of stuff away, keeping the airplane, pompoms, zipper pulls, and terrible towel, of course, and the diaper bag is in the "donate" pile in the garage. Time for someone else to make some memories with the thing!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Witch Movie?

Anna: I want to watch the "scary witch" movie.

Me: Um . . . WHAT movie? We don't have ANY movies with witches in them.

Anna (emphatically): Yes, we do. I LIKE it, and I want to watch it.

Me: Ummmmm . . .

Anna: . . . with Lowly and the cat . . .

Me: (Aha!) Oh, you mean a "Richard Scarry" movie!

So now she calls it that "witch scary" movie.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Baby Steps

Lots of oppotunities for growth and change around here today . . .

1. Faith has taken several steps! She's done this several times today, walking 5-6 steps at a time! She's pretty proud of herself too!

2. Bob put in his retirement papers. He will retire on Aug. 1, 2010. I'm sad. Everyone says it's exciting. Guam would have been exciting. Staying here and finding a different job is not exciting. But it is what it is, so here we go. At least we should be able to go to Busch Gardens one more time while he is still active duty.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Crayfish Dissection

I'm a little behind in posting about this, but on Thursday we dissected crayfish at Classical Conversations. The actual CC plan calls for only observing the outside of the crayfish, but our director, Kim, thought that was a waste of all those crayfish, so she decided we would dissect them. I offered to lead the dissection for the 3/4 graders (which I teach normally) plus the 5/6 graders, since I figured I could add more for them then their actual teacher, since she isn't a biology person. Kim asked if I could just lead the dissection for the whole co-op, which was just fine with me. Everyone was all together for it. I think it would have been easier if it had been broken up into the older kids and the younger kids, but it went really well. With all the moms there to help, things went really smoothly, even with the younger kids. Everyone (well, most everyone--there were a few pale faces!) thought it was really interesting!
I dug the old lab coat out of the closet in Faith's room, where it has hung since we moved here, untouched. I wasn't sure how "juicy" these crayfish would be, and I didn't want to get stuff all over my sleeves! I started out helping the kids go down the classification of a crayfish, since they have memorized those divisions (the old "King Phillip Came Over For Green Spinach" mnemonic). Then we talked about the outside parts.
Once we actually started dissectiong, I had to run around a lot to make sure people at every table could tell what I was talking about. There is nothing more frustrating than staring at your speciman and not having a clue what you are looking at because nothing looks like what other people are describing! A mom asked me how many crayfish I had dissected, and I told her I really don't know. I think we probably dissected one in high school (does that ring a bell, Amy?!), but I'm not sure. So maybe none. I reread the section in my Vertebrate Zoology book about crayfish and other decapods, and I read some crayfish dissection labs on the internet. The thing is, if you have dissected a lot of different things, you at least kind of know what to expect as far as what parts look like what, even if they don't exactly look like a drawing from a manual! We were able to find and identify all the major organs with no problems at all.

Here is a closeup of a crayfish's gills. My friend Lynnea, and Kim, the director, were both kind enough to take pictures and then email them to me. I had thought about taking my camera but (rightly) decided that I would be running around to busy to take pictures (and would have hands that were too dirty, LOL). So it was nice to have these pictures from friends.

I love this picture of Jonathan! What a little scientist, with his magnifying glass!

This is Nathan and Isaac McC, with Caleb McC leaning in on the left. The older kids really did a great job with everything, and they were especially enthusiastic about the whole thing. Nathan and Luke thought it was "awesome".
Science is supposed to take 30 minutes, and Kim had actually given me 45 minutes, but when I first looked up at the clock, I realized I had almost taken an hour! I apologized, but Kim said all the teachers had said they would rather have the kids stay here, because they were having such a good time and learning so much. Obviously I was having fun, letting time run away with me like that! And it was fun to do something that I really enjoy like that again, and remember that once I had a successful life that didn't revolve around kids, LOL.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

De Ja Vu

Well, there's nothing like making a mistake, and then being reminded of it again and again. So I had my wallet stolen at the National Zoo back in July. After all the hassle of getting things replaced and putting a credit freeze on my name, we still were notified in early September that a new credit card had been opened in my name at Chase. Fortunately they sent me a letter saying if this had been opened fraudulently to let them know. We were on the phone right away, and that got closed up again real quick!

Then last week I got a thick envelope in the mail from the "Penn Credit Corporation". I sort of got that sinking feeling when I looked at it! Here's what they wrote:

We are writing to inform you that sensitive personally indentifiable information about you was accessed without authorization by two employees of Penn Credit Corporation . . . Once we learned of this incident, we ended the employment of both individuals. Please be aware that the Manhattan District Attorney's Office is actively investigating this matter . . . In late October 2009 we were contacted by representatives from the Manhatten District Attorney's office concerning an ongoing identity theft scheme perpetuated by a group of individuals, including our former employees. A member of the group with no connection to Penn Credit would contact our two employees after acquiring personal information taken from pick-pocketed wallets. The employees would then, without authorization, use Penn Credit's computer resource to access the social security numbers and other personally indentifying information . . . Contrary to our company policy, those individuals would then share that information with the individual who contacted them. This individual, working with others in the scheme, would ultimately add this data to the information they had previously acquired so that they could conduct fraudulent banking transactions . . .

Wow, my name has been involved in a scam! Praise the Lord that the people at the company were caught. The good news is that Penn Credit has taken a bunch of steps to ensure one employee wouldn't be able to match people's info up like that so easily, and it is also paying for 2 years of credit monitoring through Experian's Triple Alert service, as well as a large amount of insurance in case something happens that doesn't get caught right away. Still, this doesn't give me much confidence that there aren't scrupulous people working in other credit companies. I guess this also answers the question of how a credit card could be issued in my name even after I had a freeze put on my name. Somehow these guys were able to get through that. Scary! I was also glad we switched around all our banking stuff.

I am also a bit worried about the kids. I had their SSNs in my wallet as well. This may seem crazy, but when we travel and need to use a military treatment facility somewhere, we need their SSNs, not just Bob's. I didn't have it when I took Grace in at WPAFB last Christmas for her ruptured eardrum, and it was a total hassle. I just figured it was more likely that we would need medical care than I would get my wallet stolen. Obviously I was wrong, LOL. Now they are all minors, but I am still afraid someone could just use their SSN with a fraudulent birth date. The lady at Experian wasn't very helpful about the possibility of this, other than to suggest we pay I think it was about $25 a month for a family monitering plan. Maybe these criminal guys have bigger fish to fry than worrying about this, however. I'm praying so.

Just one more thing to worry about! Actually, now that I have all this monitoring, I think I can worry less. The past few months I would stop every so often and wonder what was happening and if there was something else I should be doing.

Monday, January 04, 2010

New Year, New Paper

Well, so far this year is not shaping up to be a great one. We have been loyal subscribers of the Washington Times since we moved here. I love this paper! It presents so much more of a balanced viewpoint than the Washington Post, which is simply the mouthpiece of the Democractic party. I've always said that you could not pay me enough to get me to subscribe to the Post. I thoroughly enjoy reading the paper each morning.

A few months ago, the Times stopped delivering on Saturdays. It still published a paper, but it was only available online. I don't need more things to do on the computer, so I rarely read it there. Besides, Saturdays are made for relaxing with the paper, not staring at a computer screen!

Then several weeks ago there were suddenly no comics. Now, the Times never did have a great comic selection. I've read enough about the politics of the comic industry to know that only one paper in a town can have the rights to a syndicated comic strip, and sometimes a paper will buy up the rights even if they are not planning on ever publishing a strip, just so that a rival paper can't buy the rights. Sounds like the Post, which does publish several pages of comics each day. But anyhow, we wondered where the comics had gone, and we just figured it was too expensive to pay the syndication fee for any of them.

But then the week after Christmas, the Times announced that they were REALLY cutting back. They were only going to publish 2 sections of the paper, focusing only on international, national, and local news. No sports or anything extra. And no more print Sunday paper either. Just the online one. I'm so down! The boys are too--no sports! I enjoyed their sports sections because they had several good writers who had interesting human interest stories, as well as I just like to keep current, even in the sports world. I will really miss reading the movie reviews and the short blurbs about famous people. Even though I never watch movies, by reading the reviews, I could still converse intelligently with people who were only talking about movies.

I guess what is most depressing is that I can totally see the handwriting on the wall. Pretty soon there is not going to be ANY print Washington Times. Bob is already questioning the value of continuing to pay for our subscription, and I'm sure there are others who will too. Sigh. So the year is just starting off badly. The country is being pulled off a cliff, and now my paper is going away. Depressing.