Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kitchen Addition

Yesterday we watched the 5 McC kids all day while Craig and Christine were at IKEA, looking at kitchen stuff to replace their flood-damaged cabinets.  We had a total blast--the boys played hockey all morning, ate lunch, then went back outside before coming in to finish watching "Henry V", which Nathan and Isaac had begun watching for literature class at Rivendell on Tuesday.  The girls primarily stayed inside and played in the toy room or with duplos, with breaks to read books and watch a video.  Fun day!

When Craig and Christine got back, they brought me this magnetic bar, which I have wanted very badly for as long as I have seen the one hanging in Christine's kitchen!  She has a shorter one, but IKEA didn't have any shorter ones.  She almost didn't buy this longer one because she thought I wouldn't want a long one, but ha!  As you can see I have made use of all the space!  I LOVE this thing.  I LOVE how I got rid of my sticky, dusty knife block that took up room on my counter.  I LOVE how I can just wash the knives I use all the time, and then stick them right back up on the bar.  This is as good as getting my big pot rack!  Bob got that thing installed Friday before Bible study, and I immediately loaded it up!  Thank you, Christine!  I would have been happy to watch your kids even without this great gift!!

(Luke came in and read this over my shoulder, and he was astounded that the knife rack was the main focus of this post, as opposed to the awesome day that was had . . . ) 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Happy Birthday, Anna!!

Anna turned 6 on Wednesday!  Bob was in Tucson this week, but that didn't stop the fun--it just prolonged it!

Wednesday morning I baked a quick rectangular cake for Anna before I took Faith to her dentist appointment (which went swimmingly--no cavities!).  The girls all had a playdate over at my friend Lynnea's house after lunch, which was special, and after I brought them home, the girls and Caleb decorated the cake all by themselves!  They had an absolute ball.  I think I hit upon a great way to take cake-decorating off my plate . . . 

Yesterday Bob got home, so Anna got to open her presents.  She got some really fun things--a new set of realistic-looking play pots and pans, some new summer clothes, a huge princess coloring book (a BIG hit, Melinda--she is really loving it!), a Color-Wonder coloring book, and one of those Barbie heads where you can style the hair.  This was actually passed on to us by Linda and her daughter Stephanie, and Anna was sooooo excited when she opened it.  "Oh!  I've ALWAYS wanted one of these!"  Throughout the day today she's kept saying things like, "I love this doll!"  I knew she would love to have something where she could do the hair!  I'm hoping to work on her braiding skills, LOL.

Tonight we're bringing cupcakes to Bible study, and tomorrow night Bob is going to grill steaks for her birthday dinner (is she her grandma's granddaughter or what?!).  So really we're still in the middle of "the week of Anna".  Fun times!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

St. Patrick Deja Vu

We had a long, drawn-out celebration of St. Patrick's Day, especially considering we aren't even Irish!  Hey--it's fun to have family traditions.  So Nathan signed up to bring dessert to Bible study on Friday night.  He made these yummy brownies with a mint cream layer on top.  Mmmmm--I love chocolate and mint . . . He enlisted Caleb's able assistance to make green rice krispie treats.  Luke and I picked out (green) mint brownie chip ice cream during our trip to the commissary that afternoon.  Plenty of yummy greenness!

Saturday morning I put the corned beef brisket in the crockpot, but I didn't any other vegetables because I wanted to make colcannon and soda bread to go along with it.  Then Bob and I headed over to Costco to look at new cell phones . . .

Bob and I got our first cell phones back in 2005, right before he had a 2 week TDY to Colorado.  We got new phones again in 2008, around the time of our big trip out to Utah.  Both times we just got the free phones.  We always had Sprint as our carrier because back in 2005, they were the only carrier to get reception at our house, which is down a little hill.  But in between then and now, new cell phone towers have been built in the area, and we figured reception wasn't a ptroblem anymore, especially since we knew our neighbors had Verizon and AT&T as well now.

Recently we have really become aware of an extremely annoying "quirk" with Sprint, namely that we don't get our voicemail messages until a few days later.  So for example, Bob called me last Tuesday afternoon, looking for a friend's phone number.  I gave it to him and didn't think anything more of it until I got out my phone to call him Friday afternoon, on our way back from the commissary.  Hey!  I had a new voicemail at 3:39, which was weird because it was then 3:50, and we'd been driving for a little while to get off base and onto the highway!  I listened to the voicemail, which happened to be left by Bob--Tuesday morning.   I was glad I listened to it, becaus he gave some other details about a work situation that he never mentioned again, assuming I had heard the message!  Grrr.  This happens fairly regularly for us, and we weer just sick of it. 

So Sprint was not an option.  That left Verizon and T-Mobile at the Costco kiosk.  We spent awhile there, but T-Mobile just had so much better prices, as well as a better military discount by far.  Bob and I walked away to consider things, and we sat down under a big umbrella on some patio chairs there in Costco to talk.  While we were talking, and older couple came up and started examining the table, which had a firepit thing in the middle of the table and a lazy-susan sort of thing on top of the coals.  We discussed the table for awhile with the couple, and then they sat down in the other 2 chairs.  We ended up talking with them for about 45 minutes!  They are retired Army, and one of their sons is a USAFA grad who flies F-16s.  The wife was a realtor, and Bob has been thinking maybe he should do more with real estate (he has his license but has been really too busy the past few years to do anything with it), so they had a long conversation about real estate, among other things.  Anything, we all just really clicked, so it was like this fun double date in the Costco patio funriture section. 

Eventually we headed back to the cell phone kiosk, while our new friends Jack and Joan went off to finish their shopping, LOL.  There we told our very friendly and helpful salesman Diego that we were going to go with T-Mobile, and since the prices were so good, we were going to get 2 smartphone (HTC Sensation, I think), along with 2 free phones for the boys to take, like to practices or whatever.  So getting those phones and setting them up took approximately forever, and we finally got home after 7:00--much to late tos tart cooking potatos and baking bread.

Fortunately Bob spotted an email from our homeschool group saying that a Subway near us was having a grand opening celebration with all regular footlongs for $1!  So I put the corned beef in the fridge for tomrrow, we piled in the van and drove over there.  We did have to wait a little while, but it was worth it!  Of course, we weren't eating until after 8:00, and all the kids still needed baths and showers, so it was a later night than I had planned all around, but still--yay!  We had new phones!

Until we took them out and started playing with them.  Then we realized that we basically got no reception whatsoever in our house.  Well, that's not entirely true--we did have 1 bar out on the back deck and 2 bars as long as you sat in the big chair in our schoolroom.  Other than that--nothing.  Hmmm.  Now the smartphones did have wi-fi dialing, so they did actually work, once we figured out how to get the phones to recognize our wi-fi (althought he salesman had already told us that keeping wi-fi enabled all the time was a huge battery drain--great, one more thing I need to remember to turn on/turn off all the time!).  But the other 2 phones were useless.

Sunday morning on the way to church, we kept checking the reception.  We had to drive 2 miles to get a good signal.  So Sunday afternoon after we got home from church found Bob and me back at Costco, spending another afternoon with our good friend Diego (Jack and Joan were NOT there, at least that we could see, LOL).  This time we knew exactly what we wanted (only 1 extra phone though, since Verizon is more expensive), but the kiosk was even busier, so it still took forever.  We didn't get home until 6:30, at which time I rushed into action, making the colcannon and soda bread.  There was no way I was waiting ANOTHER day to eat this meal!  We ate our Irish meal Sunday night, with basically no leftovers--just enough for Bob to take to work for lunch on Monday.  I'm definitely making 2 briskets next year, and a boatload of potatoes.  I did make 2 loaves of soda bread, so there was enough of that. 

Now Bob and I are just trying to figure out our new phones (Droid Bionics).  I am definitely not technological enough (or interested enough, frankly) to figure tons of things out.  That's what I have all these boys for!  I did send one text to Amy, just to prove that we do indeed now have that ability, and now I can answer the phone without hanging up on you, so that's a step in the right direction.  Oh, and I installed the Facebook app on it yesterday during a down time at Rivendell.  No games though--the boys don't need any more temptations to spend time playing those kinds of games!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

"Backpacking Across Europe"

That was the theme for the 5th week activity we had at our elementary co-op on Tuesday.  I know I've said before how the co-op is structured, but we have 4 week unit studies on different topics--some historical, some science, some geographical, etc. each year--and for some of the units, we have a big "5th week activity" that is the culmination of the unit.  Sometimes it is a field trip, or a special speaker, or whatever. 

So the kids just finished 4 weeks learning about Europe, and they had such a fun 5th week activity!  First the kids went to various classrooms by tiers, and they each received a cute little fabric backpack that had some fake euros in it, and also a passport.  Then they all met in the big opening room, and one of the teachers talked in Polish (she's a native!).  Then they had kids come up and hold signs saying how to say "hello" in various European languages (Jonathan got to hold "ciao").  Jessica L. came over from the high school co-op to do some Irish dancing.  Jonathan said everyone liked that a lot--she's a great dancer!

Then the 4 tiers went around to 4 different rooms, getting their passports stamped at each room.  One room was a marketplace, where the kids got a globe key chain, a "football" popper, a pencil, and a compass, which they "paid" for with a fake euro credit card-thing they all had.  While there, Daniel McC taught Jonathan how to say, "Hello, my name is Jonathan.  How much does this cost?" in Italian.  The McCs took a big trip to Italy a year ago in November to visit friends, so apparently Daniel is still remembering his Italian!

Another room was an art room, where the kids got to paint a postcard scene using pointillism.  They used q-tips as brushes, and they only got to use 3 colors.  Someone had drawn a very simple scene of a sailboat on a lake with mountains behind, so the kids sort of filled in the areas with their colors.  The cards turned out really well!

There was also an Olympic game room, where they did a modified curling game, rowing on a skateboard, and long jump.  There was also a fake torch in there, Jonathan reports.

And lastly there was the "cafe", which is where I helped out for the first part of the morning (until I had to run over to Rivendell to teach science, and Christine came to TNT to take my place).  The ladies really went above and beyond with the food--a Slovakian beef and potato goulash soup, pierogies, Swedish meatballs, Swedish licorice, Polish cookies, cream puffs, baguette slices and cheese, pita bread and cucumber dip, churros, and Belgium dark chocolate pieces that looked like Pringles.  Yum!  There was peppermint tea to drink, which was also quite tasty.  I'm not much of a hot beverage person at all, but even I liked this tea!

So the kids had a fun time "backpacking" around the halls of TNT!  Then they headed over to Rivendell to finish off the day--and what a gorgeous day it was!  The temperature was in the high 70's, there was a nice breeze, and it was sunny!  When we got home the kids went down to the creek behind our cul-de-sac with Bob, and then the younger kids actually put on swimsuits and played in the sprinkler.  I can honestly say we have never put on swimsuits and played outside in March before!  Fun day!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Goodbye, Faithful Friend

This is a "Strollee" brand stroller that I bought for around $30 at a consignment store back in 2002, when we lived in Ohio.  Bob had a TDY to D.C., actually, and we all were going to go with him.  "All" of us meant Nathan, Luke, Caleb (who was not even 1), and me.  I wanted a stroller that folded up to be skinny, like an umbrella stroller (so we could easily take it on the Metro), but that had some sort of basket underneath.  This stroller fit the bill and was not very expensive.  It folded (down)in half, and then the 2 halves folded in toward each other.  It has been the most useful stroller ever.  It's been great for trips because it didn't take up too much car space, but it was a little bigger and more substantial than an umbrella stroller, and by loosening a strap on the back, you could recline the seat so a baby could be in there.

Well, all good things must come to an end . . . Back in December we stopped at Ikea on our way home from Great Wolf Lodge.  As we were leaving the bathroom on our way back out to the van, the stroller all of a sudden got all wobbly, and I realized that a metal part connecting the handle had actually broken!  The boys at Rivendell always say that Micah is a "ninja", so I assume it was his mighty ninja mind powers that broke the metal, LOL.  Anyhow, I was very glad that it happened at the end of the trip, and we tossed the stroller into the garage, where it promptly got buried in stuff and forgotten.

Until we started cleaning out the garage, that is.  I decided we are not actually running a hospice program for terminally broken strollers, so it finally made its way into the dumpster, on its way to its eternal reward for a decade of pushing our babies hither and yon.   But first I took this picture so I could give it a respectful eulogy.  If we were to have another baby, then we would definitely replace the stroller (although I have never seen another "Strollee" stroller anywhere, LOL), but right now Micah is fine in the umbrella stroller we do have.  So thank you, faithful stroller, for all the rides!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Art by Jonathan

Jonathan has been asking me quite often for quite a while to find him an art class.  I am not remotely "arty", and this has been an incredibly busy year, so . . . that was certainly not tops on my priority list of things to do!  But one day my friend Lynnea said there was an art class at her house, and there was one more space open at the table. Jonathan went for the first time a few weeks ago, and he LOVES it.  They use these chalk pastel colored pencils that I had never even heard of before.  He finished his first picture on Wednesday--these pears.  Pretty good, isn't it?!  He's working on a picture of an eagle now.  So maybe this science/math/engineering family will have one artist!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Finishing Up Latin

We had our last Latin class on Thursday, and the boys will take the National Latin Exam on Wednesday. I have been thinking over this Latin journey, and I wanted to capture a few thoughts.

First of all, we have done Latin for years. Nathan and Luke started back when Nathan was in 2nd grade, and Luke in kindergarten, using Prima Latina. We finished that book and then spent some time doing Minimus, because I had heard how fun and cute it was. But I didn't want to shell out a ton of money (like $70 or something) for the teacher manual, so we just stumbled through it. I had no idea why the verbs were conjugated differently, for example, and if a noun wasn't a subject, then I had absolutely no idea what to do with it. Still, it was a fun break, although I don't think it actually did anything as far as learning goes.

So after we finished Minimus, we went back to Memoria Press, doing Latina Christiana I and II. We took a few years going through the 2 books. I was frustrated with LCII because there wasn't really much practice at all with the grammar concepts introduced, so every day I would come up with 2 sentences to translate in English, and 2 sentences to translate into Latin.

I was planning on starting Henle I a few years ago, but then MP introduced First Form Latin, so I had the boys go through that book instead. I didn't do it with them, but it introduced more verb tenses, and now MP is recommending doing the First Form series (there will eventually be 4 in the series) instead of LC II.

So then I was once again planning on starting Henle, but we ended up waiting a few more months so that Caleb McC could finish LC II and do the class with us as well. While we were waiting, I went to the HEAV convention, where I talked with Amy Regan from Lukeion. I have heard only great things about Lukeion's Latin classes, and especially about her teaching. Well, she said she would not recommend Henle, and that most people who use it end up stopping after a few units because it just isn't organized very well. She uses Wheelock's, which is a college-level text in her classes. I picked up a cheap used copy of Wheelock's at the used book sale, and I wondered a bit if I was totally off in my plans. But I did think that I usually have a pretty good feel for what works for me, and there have been other times that people have told me that what I was going to do wouldn't work, but it did.

So we went plunged ahead with Henle, using MP's study guides. We discovered right away that the first several units were all complete review, so we blew right through them, and the MP lesson plans really weren't that helpful. But there was a TON of translating, and so using all these grammar concepts that we had spent years memorizing became quite natural. One criticism of Henle is that it has a very limited vocabulary. This was actually a feature for us, LOL. Almost all the vocab were words we already knew from LC, and a limited vocab again made it easy to focus on really using the concepts. Another criticism is that Henle is very preoccupied with Caesar and his Gallic wars. True, but this wasn't really a problem with all boys. Plus, the sentences were easy to mock (the classic "The bodies are in the river", LOL).

I found it was actually really easy to teach Henle, and I didn't think it was laid out weirdly. Maybe it is because we did so many other MP books, but it felt very familiar. I used my Wheelock's book to clarify some concepts, but it moves so much faster and introduces a ton of vocab. I think that someone who really knows Latin could easily teach Wheelock's at a high school level. Unfortunately the boys had me, LOL, so it was much, much better to have a book that actually was supposed to be high school level. Also, Wheelock's doesn't have as much practice and translation--and I don't have an answer key, which is something I would absolutely have to have in order to teach with it!

We've been taking all the past NLE exams (Intro and I) that are posted on their website, so I am hopeful that will help familiarize the boys with the vocab they are lacking. Because they are so familiar with the grammar, they often can figure out the answer by context clues or by the endings on the words. We'll see how it goes.

A lady posted on the Well Trained Mind forums about a website she developed to help review the Roman culture for the test. It was really helpful! There is a list of questions, and there is also a quiz you can take to review. (I'll have to come back later and link it--the computer I'm on isn't letting me copy and paste the link! Technology . . .) Also, I searched on youtube for "Latin 100 commercials". Lone Pine Classical School has their Latin 100 students do travel commercials for ancient Rome--watch a few of those, and you will be well caught up on all your cultural knowledge for ancient Rome!

So we'll see how the test goes. All these years of study, and all I can say is that we are now pretty fluent in what is expected for a first-year high school Latin course. I do think we are much more comfortable and familiar with everything than someone who had ONLY taken one year in high school. That person might have covered the same amount of ground, but we have it ingrained in memory since we've been working with these endings and vocab words for so many years!

And then Caleb and Jonathan (and Daniel and Joel McC) are coming along behind them. Caleb and Jonathan are over halfway through LC I. I know I want them to take the Intro exam. Who knows--maybe we'll even go farther, into Latin II. Maybe my old brain will finally be able to keep the perfect and pluperfect tense endings straight if I go through them again!