Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Mr. Nobody

There are some days where I feel as though we must be the source for all the Mr. Nobody-s of the world.  Amazing things happen in our home that seem to happen all by themselves since every single person under the roof avows any knowledge at all.  Somewhere up in the attic must be the Mr. Nobody laboratory where new Mr. Nobody-s are created.  We then provide the training ground for teaching the new Mr. Nobody-s how to do their stealthy work before they are sent around the world to other unsuspecting homes.  At least that's the only explanation that makes sense if one really believes the protestations of my children.  Perhaps we need a lesson in Occam's Razor... where the simplest explanation is often the correct one.

Do you know Mr. Nobody?  It's one of my favorite poems to quote at my children.

Mr. Nobody
Author: Unknown

I know a funny little man,
As quiet as a mouse,
Who does the mischief that is done
In everybody's house!
There's no one ever sees his face,
And yet we all agree
That every plate we break was cracked
By Mr. Nobody

`Tis he who always tears our books,
Who leaves the door ajar,
He pulls the buttons from our shirts,
And scatters pine afar;
That squeaking door will always squeak,
For, prithee, don't you see,
We leave the oiling to be done
By Mr. Nobody

The finger marked upon the door
By none of us are made;
We never leave the blind unclosed,
To let the curtains fade.
The ink we never spill; the boots
That lying round you. See
Are not our boots they all belong
To Mr. Nobody.

ps.  P18 (my 'other' daughter) has some new posts up on her blog.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Back to life as usual

Well, as usual as life gets around here.  A. starts her tech week today for Much Ado About Nothing.  I have a carpool set-up this week, so it will be much less driving for me than last time.  (Hooray!)  It also means that I will have a few (5) extra children here every morning who will be bringing their school books with them.  It's worth it to me to not have to drive and to be able to stay home.

We have Christmas music playing all the time now.  I love Christmas music, but only during Advent.  Perhaps it's because I completely overdose on it during that time and need a break from it the rest of the year.  The same thing with eggnog.  Mmmm... eggnog...  Probably just as well I can't buy it the rest of the year.

My annual Christmas sweatshop sewing projects are in full swing, and once again, as I do every year, I'm beginning to panic that I bit off a bit more than I can chew.  Sewing/creating in a panic does take a little of the enjoyment out of the whole process.

And my ongoing annoyance with museums decreeing what constitutes a family continues.  I know I've written about my personal boycott of The Shedd Aquarium because they have decided that we do not fit the definition of a family.  And now I get to add another area museum to my boycott shortlist:  The Adler Planetarium.  We are currently studying the solar system, so I thought it would be great to make a visit or two to go along with our studies.  We have this great resource practically in our backyard, so it seems a shame not to take advantage of it.  Well, it looks as though we won't be going.  The Adler has decided that 6 children and no more constitute a family and to bring my other children I would have to pay full admission price for them.  The reasoning, based on my extended phone conversation?  Well, they have to draw a line somewhere.  When I asked why, because The Field Museum and The Museum of Science and Industry allow my entire family to enjoy their museums, the phone representative had no answer.  Sigh.  It's a shame that this battle as well is back to life as usual.

(And can I just add a blatant Mommy-brag?  M. received a letter over the weekend informing her that she received a four-year academic scholarship.  I'm just a little proud of her.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving and the day after

We've had a wonderful couple of days here celebrating Thanksgiving.  On Thanksgiving, we tend to eat late.  This gives us most of the day to relax, enjoy visiting with family whom we don't get to see very often, get the tables set, and not feel too rushed preparing food.  At 4pm or so, people start changing into their dressier attire.  I didn't get a chance to take a group picture of everyone this year, but we did get some photos of G. and L. in the new dresses my mom sent.

 G., while L. was getting dressed.

 G. on left, L. on right

 G. on left and L. on right

No matter how well prepared we are, there always seems to be a frantic last half hour in the kitchen while everything is made ready to serve.  Following dinner, everyone moves into another room to watch the movie, A Child's Christmas in Wales together.  For us it seems to mark the end of Thanksgiving and ushers us into the Christmas season.  It is often very late by this time, so as soon as the movie is done, tired children are trundled off to bed and the adults finish with any cleaning up that is left.

The day after a holiday is perhaps my favorite part.  The work of the holiday is over, family is often still in town or on vacation, and we can enjoy being together without worrying about what needs to be done.  The holiday, whether Thanksgiving or Christmas is wonderful, but having it past without the vacation really being over is so relaxing to me.

So what does a family do if intense shopping is not on the schedule?

Well, for us, we started the day with a leisurely pancake breakfast, then many children joined some cousins at the pool where they were staying.  Some other people didn't swim, but spent the time reading books instead.

 (M. with L. on left and G. on right)

After a nice, long swim, it was time to eat again. This time, leftover turkey and cranberry-orange relish sandwiches. (As far as I'm concerned, the best reason for cooking Thanksgiving dinner!)




Following lunch, another group of cousins and aunts and uncles went to the Museum of Science and Industry.  Those of us staying home with napping little ones had a marathon game of Settlers of Catan (one of my very favorite games) while the spaghetti sauce simmered on the stove.

(B. and M.)

The day ended with more playing (there were 14 children here all total) and another big dinner together, though this time we used plates, glasses, and silverware which could go in the dishwasher.  Much, much easier clean-up!
G. with her cousin playing on the front stairs.

Today, all the cousins and aunts and uncles head home again.  I just need to remember in the middle of putting the house to rights, that Advent begins tomorrow.  I must dig-up the Advent wreath, some candles, and choose a devotional to do this year.  This time of year always feels as though someone has hit the fast forward button.  The key to enjoying it is to remember that there is also a pause button which I can use.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

For home,


And love,



And all things true,
We give our thanks, O God, to You.

For food that's sent to us each day,



Accept this grace that we now say.

Amen.

This is one of our family graces which we say at mealtimes.  It came to us from J.'s grandmother, and so contains a double heritage... a family connection and a God connection.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

_____________
The Homeschool Resource Link-Up will resume next Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thank you!

Look what was sitting on my doorstep this morning.  A really adorable apron (it's reversible!) and a box of pumpkin muffins.  What a lovely surprise to greet me on a day of hectic pre-Thanksgiving preparations.

There was no note in the box, but thank you to the incredibly thoughtful person who did this.  You made my day!

Thankful leaves

(To all the Hearts at Home readers. Please enjoy this post from a couple of years ago about one of our Thanksgiving traditions.)

Traditions are important for families.  They provide ways to mark the year and help to provide security for children.  (There was something so comforting to both of our adopted children when they experienced family traditions for the second time.  It reassured them that they belonged.)  One of our traditions for Thanksgiving is to decorate our table with leaves which we can write on.  Each person has two or three leaves  with their names on them.  (Which is why I turned them upside down.)  As Thanksgiving approaches, we take turns at dinner telling each other what we're thankful for and I write it on their leaf.  It is a wonderful record of what is happening in our family and the stages our children go through.

A record, that is, if you use the same leaves each year.  You'll notice that the leaves we are currently using are made out of construction paper.  This is a tribute to just how out of it I was for the years 2008 and 2009 (year of twin pregnancy and year of twin infancy).  Our original leaves are made out of fabric in fall colors, sewn by me, and we used fabric markers to write on them.  But when I went to find them this year, they were no where to be found.  I searched and searched, but they are still lost.  I did find a small stack of construction paper leaves, with our names on them and the year '2009' written on them.  I have absolutely no recollection of these leaves.  We must have used them because they are written on and A. says I asked her to cut them out last year... because I couldn't find the fabric ones.  This means that the year I was pregnant, I put the fabric leaves away somewhere.  Obviously, it was not in the normal place.  I have no idea where my pregnancy muddled mind would have thought was a good storage place.  But just as disturbing is that I have no memory of the others.  None.  It just shows how sleep deprived I really was.  I knew I was tired, but it is probably just as well, I didn't fully realize how tired I was.  I'm sure I shouldn't have been operating heavy machinery (my van).  But I'm thankful for my girls... memory loss and all.

Now I need to decide whether to make more fabric leaves (having done it once, I now know what works best), or do I wait another year and hope the others turn up, or do I just continue with the construction paper version (which I do not find nearly as appealing).  And I'm also thankful that I can spend my time worrying about  pondering such trivialities.

Rolls, extra gravy, bread for lunches, and granola for breakfasts are made.  Mashed potatoes, pies, and cubing bread for stuffing on the docket for today.  And the arrival of our visiting family.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My love affair with baking soda continues

I've already written about how useful baking soda is in cleaning stinky laundry.  Yesterday was the day I had scheduled to do some serious kitchen cleaning.  We have a lot of family coming in for Thanksgiving and I didn't want them to think we actually lived in the mess we normally live in.  (Note to all the family coming in for Thanksgiving:  That last sentence?  Just a joke to make other people feel better about the state of their kitchens.  Ours is always pristine.  Always.)  It's one of the reasons I invite people over... it forces me to clean my house.

I had several things that desperately needed some real cleaning and I had been reading about the various uses of baking soda as a cleaning agent, so I thought I would put them to the test.  So, really, letting my kitchen get rather dirty was a public service so I could test these concoctions for you.

First up, was my stove which had many months of cooked on food stains that wouldn't come up no matter how hard I scrubbed.  It's stainless steel, so I didn't want to use something really harsh on it and scratch it.  A. and I spent a good portion of the afternoon trying different combinations of water, white vinegar, and baking soda.  (Thanks to reader Susieloulou for the tip.)  I am quite happy to report that my stove now looks better than it has in a long time.  It is not spotless, but the improvement is remarkable.  What we finally ended up with was 1/4 c. of water with 2 TBSP white vinegar and 2 TBSP baking soda.  (Be sure to mix it in a large enough container because is will foam and bubble up.)  I then put the mixture directly onto the stained parts.  (I used a small ladle.)  The longer we let it sit, the more effective it was.  Some of the goo came up rather easily, but most was so cooked on that I still had to scrub it off.  The difference was that it actually came clean with the scrubbing, as opposed to past attempts with regular, chemically, kitchen cleaners.  Once it was all cleaned up, I used a cloth to rub a little bit of baby oil over it (I know, sounds weird, but it polishes the stainless steel really well) and it was clean and shiny.

Second in line was polishing the silver.  I vaguely remembered my grandmother using foil and water and something to polish silver and I thought I would give it a shot.  This attempt (hot water in the sink, dissolve baking soda, place aluminum foil in sink, set in silver) was disappointing.  The tarnish remained and M., P., and A., kindly polished it the regular way.

[My mom came through with the details... don't know why I didn't ask her in the first place.  Here's what my grandmother did to polish silver.  Take one aluminum pan, place silver in the pan, cover with boiling water, sprinkle in baking soda, let sit briefly, remove silver.  Don't put in your knives or the glue that holds the stainless steel blade to the silver handle will dissolve.]

Lastly was the microwave.  This attempt had slightly better results.  I took a cup of water and mixed in 3 TBSP of baking soda, and then set the bowl in the microwave on high for 5 minutes.  I could see this working really well if your microwave was only a little dirty, because the top layer of grime really did just wipe off.  My microwave was more than a little dirty and required a bit more encouragement to get clean.

So, there you have it, the Big Ugly House's version of cleaning myth busters.  I'm really bummed that the silver polishing-thing didn't work.  What did my grandmother do?  Mom, any ideas?

In other, non-Thanksgiving-frantic-preparation news, on Saturday I had the pleasure of turning another virtual blog friend into a real-life friend.  Fellow adoptive mom and the writer of the Adventures of Law Mommy blog and her family were in town and we were able to meet them and have lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant together.  It was a brief visit, but a lot of fun and I wish we could have spent more time together.  It was doubly special since her daughter, Lana, and TM spent time together as infants at the same orphanage.  When you don't have all the pieces of your child's past, every little bit is special.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Happy accidents, or why one should really make a muslin

This is the skirt I made for A.  At least it started out being for A.  I checked out the book, Sew What! Skirts, from the library.  It had a bunch of really cute skirts to create, plus easy-to-follow directions for drafting the patterns.  I took A.'s measurements, did all the calculations, and drew the pattern just as instructed.  I even held it up to her to visually gauge if it was going to fit.  I had the skirt nearly finished and had her try it on.  The waist was about two inches to big.  Ugh!  M. was across the room happily volunteering to try it on, but J. looked at it and suggested I try it on.  It fit.  Perfectly.  So perfectly, it was as if I had drafted it for myself.  So now I have a new skirt, and even better, a well-fitting sloper from which to create more and more skirts which fit.  A. was a bit disappointed.  Now I need to go back and make her another skirt.  Do I dare make it out of the same fabric?  (Fabric which I found on one of my thrift store forays... $2.00 for 3+ yards.)  We could never wear them at the same time... it would look a bit too Sound of Music-ish.  You know, where Maria makes the play clothes out of curtains.

I am quite proud of this skirt.  I made the pattern and then was able to put it together without directions.  I even put in an invisible zipper.  See it?  I feel more and more as though I really know how to sew.

What I love most about this skirt, though, is what no one will ever see.  Inside I used a coordinating fabric for the facing and used the same fabric to make bias tape.  The bias tape was needed because I had to finish the seams.  The fabric is very ravelly and I knew it would fall apart if I didn't do something with them.  But it was also a bit bulky so French seams and flat felled seams were out.  That left Hong Kong seams, where you finish the seams with bias tape.  I love the way it looks... even if no one sees it.

I had the same difficulty with the hem.  The fabric was too bulky to roll twice to finish it, so I found some twill tape (I love how the color matches the pink in the coordinating fabric) and used it as hem tape.


The only thing left to do is to find three large buttons to sew on the front to add some interest.  I might even wear it for Thanksgiving dinner.

Making

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Because I know you just come 'round for the baby pictures

The babies are 17 months old now and I suppose sometime soon I'm going to have to stop calling them babies.  They walk and go up and down stairs and are beginning to learn words.  Here are some pictures from the past couple of days.


L.


G., though I don't know why she is looking so squinty in these pictures.  I had to have J. reassure me this was just a face she makes and not something I need to worry about.  I'm like that, you know.


 One more of G.


L., being goofy, as she often is.  A. and P. decided that the babies needed their hair done.  L. was much better than G. about leaving the barrette in.

And now having lured you here with baby pictures, I have some news to share.  M. received the "big" envelope from the college she applied to in the mail yesterday.  Yes, she was accepted into college.  This is probably bigger news for me than it is for her.  There are certain milestones in the life of a homeschooling mother that are notable.  Milestones which confirm that you are not ruining your child's life.  Because as much as we say homeschooling is a legitimate form of education, it is enough outside the norm to cause even the most ardent of us question what we're doing every now and then.  The first milestone is when your child learns to read.  (Though I think the even better first milestone is when your second child learns to read because then you know it wasn't a fluke the first time around.)  The last homeschooling milestone is when your child is accepted into college if that is what they choose to do.  There is a small part of me that feels as though I've earned my stripes.

But the much better part as far as I'm concerned is that after much thought, M. decided she really wanted to stay in the area for college.  And since I'm not overly fond of my little birds leaving the nest, I'm glad she'll be close.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Charlotte's Web

I know, another post on my children's theatrical endeavors.  But, this is my life right now.  Well, that and driving.  Here are some of the rehearsal photos from Charlotte's Web


TM, as the Gander, P6 as the Goose and P9 as Wilbur the Pig.  Three of the P family children are in the show as well.


Wilbur with D. as Lurvey, the hired hand.  Those black plastic bags are hay bales which are covered for protection until the actual show.


And  P. as the Lamb.  (Notice the ears on her mob cap.)  Tonight is opening night and everyone is very excited and perhaps a bit tired.  I'm sure they will perk up again as it gets closer to curtain.  J. and I will once again be tag-teaming with our attendence.  The baby girls just would not be good audience members at this point in their lives, so they are not invited and will be staying home.  K. is thrilled that he is old enough to go to the actual night performance and not just the last dress rehearsal.

All the Thin Ice Theater shows have a concession stand during intermission with treats provided by parents.  It's a great way to add a little income toward the running of the company.  One of M.'s friends stayed with us part of the week while her family was out-of-town and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity for them to try their hand at some cupcakes they had been wanting to make out of the Hello Cupcake! book.  (Plus, then I would have something to offer for the concession table.)

So I bought them their supplies and they stayed up far too late on Wednesday night and created these:


Pretty spectacular, huh?  It seems a shame to eat them.  To make them even better the actual cupcake is not made from some dry store mix stuff, they used our chocolate mayonnaise cake recipe.  So not only do they look pretty cool, they'll taste good as well.

Come to the show, see the costumes, eat the cupcakes!

(Just a reminder that this is the last day of voting for the Homeschool Blog Awards.  Here is a direct link to the voting page.  Sorry about the confusing directions in my sidebar... it turns out the voting button doesn't actually take you to the voting page.  Anyway, I'd appreciate your vote in the Best Homeschool Mom Blog category.  Books are involved, you know!)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Thursday Homeschool Resource Day - Link Up -- Historical songs

Have I mentioned I have to drive a lot this week? Yeah, thought so. Between the driving and the rehearsing, there hasn't been much time for anything else. Since the commute to the theater is about 25 minutes one way, I decided to take advantage of my captive audience. We have been listening to Colonial and Revolution Songs with Historical Narration in the car while we drive.  It is a really unique telling of early American history.  A narrator will give a brief description of what is happening historically, then connect how the musical selection ties into it, followed by the entire song which was discussed.  Now, be forewarned, folk songs are history at its most unedited and some of the folk songs do make me raise my eyebrows a bit.  (Nothing explicit, but life was hard and brutal and the songs reflect that.)  It is interesting to hear some songs that I vaguely recognize and to hear the story behind them.

It is the perfect car ride CD.  My children find it interesting to listen to, but the content is not such that they would be likely to just pick it up to listen to at home.  It is a perfect accompaniment (pun intended) to our American history studies.

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We interrupt this post for a brief commercial. 

A friend of ours, who is a singer/songwriter has produced a great CD of adoption songs for children.  Not only is it a great CD, but during the months of November and December, he is donating the proceeds from his album to World Vision to help needy children around the world.  Know some children in your life who would enjoy this CD?  Great!  Buy it and please your child and help another all at the same time.  Learn more about it here.

We now return you to our regularly scheduled post.
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Now it's your turn.  What are your great learning resources to share this week?  (Just so you know, Homeschool Resource Day will take a vacation next week for Thanksgiving.)

Here are the rules:

1. Post about a resource (book, movie, CD, website, etc.) that you have found useful in teaching your children. You can also post directions for a learning activity that you have done with your children. The content of your blog must be family-friendly.

2. Link your post (use the permalink, not your blog's homepage) below.

3. Link back to this blog somewhere in your post so others can see everyone's great resources. You can use this button if you like.




Ordinary Time
Copy and paste the following code into your website or blog.



Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Schoolroom makeover -- a small beginning

I have finished the new cover I made for the futon in the schoolroom.  (If you want to see what was on it previously, go here.)  I used the former cover as a pattern, but it was tricky because I didn't have enough of the main, striped fabric.  I found it on sale and there wasn't quite enough of it to completely cover the futon.  So I bought some coordinating yellow fabric and crossed my fingers.  I don't enjoy sewing home dec-type projects... I find it stressful.  Clothing?  Even clothing with pleats and boning I'm all over.  But looong straight seams which require nice square corners?  Not so much. 

Without further ado...


Notice the new lamp shade I picked-up at IKEA.  It's hard to tell in the picture, but it is the same colors as the futon fabric.


Other things I have done to make the schoolroom a bit more hospitable:  I took down the ugly mini blinds.  Of course, now I just have empty uncovered windows, but it is not often used as a bedroom so it will do for right now.  I also took out the red rug that didn't really match anything.  The room seems bigger with just the wood floor.  I would like to repaint the trim at some point and make curtains the same shade of green in the fabric and on the most newly painted wall.  It does look much better.  But... (you knew it was coming, didn't you?) I think I have finally put my finger on what it is about the room that I don't like.  It is the lighting, or lack of lighting to be precise.  There is only one small overhead fixture in the room and even with the sun coming in, the room is a bit dim.  I really can't stand dim rooms.  I crave light, especially at this time of year.  Maybe it has something to do with growing up in Arizona, but darkish rooms make me depressed.

At least I know why I don't like to be in the room.  At some point, after saving our pennies, I would love to put-up better lighting.  Or maybe I should just figure out how to rig-up a sunlamp attached to a hat that I could just wear around all the time.  That would be stylish, don't you think?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

There's no business like show business

Yesterday marked the beginning of the first of three tech weeks we have in the next month.  P., TM, and D. are all in Charlotte's Web and have their performances this weekend.  It is TM and D.'s first experience doing a full play.  Tech weeks can be grueling... long hours every day, having to pack lunches (which is a real pain for those of us who never have to pack a lunch), more driving than usual, and some very tired children by the end of the week.  But in the end it is all worth it.  The directors of our homeschool theater group are excellent and encourage all of the actors, even the youngest, to do the very best jobs they possibly can. 

I was a musician and also very shy, so the idea of being on stage never appealed to me.  But, I have to say, after watching my children learn the craft of acting, that I am impressed by what my children have gained from the experience.

First, I am always impressed with how comfortable my children, especially the oldest ones, are in front of people.  Having to do any form of public speaking holds no terrors for them.  They have learned to be self-possessed, articulate, and natural in front of an audience.  And, you can hear them.  Second, they have had the chance to get to know some wonderful plays, often containing language that is considered "difficult".  There is nothing like having to memorize something to really make it yours.  Third, they have had to do the emotionally exercise of figuring out why a person would do or act a certain way.  Being able to put oneself in another's shoes in order to portray that person gives an emotional insight into others that might not be there otherwise.  And finally, they have learned about hard work and working together as a team.  There is a huge amount of effort needed to produce a polished final product.  My children have been able to see the direct connection between hard work and the joy of a job well done.  By negative example, they have also seen how someone who doesn't pull their own weight hinders the group and are motivated to not be that person.

I write this to remind myself that it is all worth it when I become weary of wonky schedules, too much driving, and overly tired children.  Long about Thursday of tech week I wonder why on earth I thought this was a good idea.  But then the performances come and the lights go up and I am transfixed as I watch my children briefly become someone else.  The joy they experience from hearing the applause of a job well done erases the memory of the long previous week and I know we will be back again for another round.

(If you're in the area and want information about Charlotte's Web, Much Ado About Nothing, or An Ideal Husband, email me and I will get it to you.)
________________
Remember that I will be delivering Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes on Thursday morning.  I will be happy to take yours if you get it to me before then.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Big night out

On Saturday night J. and I went out to a benefit for the Merit School of Music.  One of J.'s students is the Director of Operations for the school and had invited us to go as his guests.  It was quite swanky and we had a lovely time.  We both felt very grown-up.  There was only a moment of disappointment when we didn't win the silent auction item we bid on.  But that quickly passed as we thought about how much happier our checkbook would be that we didn't win and we helped raise the amount of the final bid.  The entertainment was provided by students at the school.  A jazz quartet played during the cocktail hour and the before dinner a string ensemble played.  They were both exceptionally good.

The people seated at our table (in the "Champagne Circle") were very nice and we enjoyed a very nice dinner and conversation.  I have to say that having 9 children is an instant ice breaker and provides one with plenty of topics of conversation.  It was also rather gratifying that no one thought we looked quite old enough to have so many children.

Can I just kvetch a bit about current fashion?  First, I'm not sure Chanel really did us a favor when she popularized the 'little black dress'.  Even though I was as guilty as the rest, the overwhelming color of the evening was black.  I couldn't help thinking of the descriptions of ball gowns from all of the 19th century fiction I have consumed over the years.  There was a wide array of color and a woman would have never worn a black gown unless she was in mourning.  I found myself longing for color.  There were a few dresses in other colors, but they were all either the same shade of red or the same shade of blue.  There was nothing truly striking.  Secondly, why are women so willing to wear what is currently fashionable even though it is not flattering?  While most of the women's dresses fit them well, there were some examples of a dress just not fitting or the style not being flattering to the woman wearing it.  I wanted to ask the women with the ill-fitting/ill-flattering dresses (and they were mostly young women, probably in their 20's), why their mothers hadn't taught them to dress.  Don't worry, I didn't... but I did want to.

Yep.  Old and crotchety, that's me.  But we did have a nice time.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Yummy, yummy banh mi

Did you notice what we're having for dinner on Wednesday night this coming week? The description of it doesn't do it justice. You need to see a picture. I'm very excited about this and will be anticipating it all week. Plus, there is a Vietnamese bakery near where J. works that makes phenomenal banh mi loaves, so he will pick some up for us to use.

The website, Ravenous Couple, is a new find that a friend forwarded to me. I don't know why it never occurred to me to look up Vietnamese cooking blogs. I mean, I read blogs on every other topic, why did I not think about Vietnamese cooking? Especially since we love Vietnamese food around here. In fact, the somewhat embarrassing truth is that we were nearly as excited to return to Vietnam to eat as we were to bring K. home. Nearly. It was a definite perk.

I am grateful that we live in an area that is home to a large Vietnamese population and consequently many Vietnamese restaurants and markets. (Yeah, I just need to keep telling myself that since the property tax bill arrived in the mail today. Bleh.) We are definitely spoiled. If you don't happen to be so blessed in the restaurant department, if you're ever in Chicago let me know. I'll give you some tips on where to go.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sewing guilt, or finishing unfinished projects

Does anyone else do this... not let yourself begin any new projects if you have a couple of unfinished projects hanging over your head?  Especially if those unfinished projects involved an outlay of money?  I do this all the time.  Part of my reactionary nature involves never wanting to do the things I have to do, even if they are self-imposed 'have to's'.  I love beginning things, but have never been so good at finishing them.  But then I feel guilty about not finishing them so I can't enjoy my new project, and so on, and so on. 

Well, this week, I alleviated some sewing guilt.  First, I finished a dress I had been working on for P.  I didn't mean for this to turn into a long term project, but it was a far fussier pattern than I had anticipated and took twice as long.  I love the way it turned out, and better yet, P. likes it.  But since it has taken me so long to finish she will have to layer a turtleneck underneath to wear it.

The front (the blue fabric is some I picked up on sale at IKEA):


And the back:


The other project I tackled was to cut into the fabric I bought to make a new futon cover for the schoolroom.  It was not inexpensive fabric, even though I found it on sale, and it has sat in my bedroom for over a month waiting for me to get up the nerve to cut out the pieces.  Having made that first cut, I'm zipping along putting it together.  Well, until I ran out of thread this afternoon, that is.  I should be able to finish it this weekend.  Can you hear my deep sigh of relief?  I'd much rather sew clothes than home dec projects, so I will be happy when it's done.

Because what I want to tackle next is making a skirt pattern from scratch for A.  She and I have picked out the fabric from my stash and found a style that she likes.  All I have to do is follow the instructions and draft the pattern.  I'm excited to try.  Plus, I learned (finally) how to put in zippers and not have them look like a 9th grade home ec project and I want to try out my new skills.

I see much sewing in my future now that I have cleared the mental decks from unfinished project guilt.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thursday Homeschool Resource Day -- Link-Up -- Everyday Science Sourcebook

One of the most popular nights at my homeschooling support group is the annual resource night, where everyone brings one or two favorite resources for learning and shares them with the group.  I thought why just have something like this once a year?  So, I'm going to create a weekly link-up where I'll share some of my current favorite resources and you can join-in and share yours as well.  I know that many of you who read my blog are not homeschoolers, but you still do creative and interesting things with your children so feel free to join in as well.

To start things off, I'm going to introduce you to one of my best science resources, The Everyday Science Sourcebook by Lawrence F. Lowery.  We don't use a planned curriculum for very much around here because I prefer to come up with my own ideas.  That's why this book is so useful.  It is really just lists and lists of science activities and experiments.  Some are very simple, some are things you might come up with on your own, but there are also some really interesting things that you might not think of.  I use it whenever we come upon a science topic that we want to know more about.  For instance, once while we were reading The Swiss Family Robinson, there was a passage discussing the use of levers.  People wanted to know more, so I looked up 'levers' in the index and found pages of activities.

Today I dug it out because we've been working on the solar system and wanted to see what activities were listed.  As a result, we went outside and learned the proper way to look (or not look) at the sun:


It would have been far more interesting had there been an eclipse happening, but when one does we're prepared.

We also measured out the relative distances of the planets if the sun were the size of a quarter.  Here they are measuring in front of our house where we put the sun.  The first few planets were all in front of our house:

 But then we went further down as we headed for Jupiter:


And by the time we reached Pluto (we couldn't leave out Pluto), we were nearly at the end of the block.  (Some were rather disappointed that we didn't have to cross the street.)  If you look very closely, you can see D. down the block being the sun while I stand at where Pluto would be:


And I realize I'm due to share some more baby pictures.  Here's L.:


 And L.(on left) with G.(on right).  For some reason G. managed to not get in many pictures this week.


L. once more, this time carrying shoes, which she likes to do.  And it's even better if the shoes can be put into the dishwasher.

And now to the link-up.

Here are the rules:

1.  Post about a resource (book, movie, CD, website, etc.) that you have found useful in teaching your children.  You can also post directions for a learning activity that you have done with your children.  The content of your blog must be family-friendly.

2.  Link your post (use the permalink, not your blog's homepage) below.

3.  Link back to this blog somewhere in your post so others can see everyone's great resources.  At some point I will have a button that you can use, but not yet.

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