Monthly Archives: December 2012

Rest in Peace, Katniss

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Katniss is the dear, sweet white one in the left corner.

Katniss is the dear, sweet white one in the left corner.

One of Grace’s sweet little mice, Katniss, passed away yesterday.  If you’ve been reading our blog for a long time, you may remember when we got Katniss and Rue.  They were supposed to be part of a science experiment (non-harmful to the mice, of course), but the experiment, for several reasons, never came to be.  Instead, Katniss and Rue have been wonderful pets for Grace and the family.

We are all very sorry to see Katniss go.  She had a full, happy mouse life with lots of veggie treats to snack on, organic cotton yarn and paper towels for nesting, wheels to run in, and toilet paper tubes to run through and chew.

We will have a small burial for her later today, but I wanted to share happy Katniss pictures with you.  She will be missed. 😦

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Second Christmas…In Pictures

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Today was Second Christmas at our house.  (Grace alternates between her two houses for Christmas day.  This year, she was at her mom’s on the official day, so we celebrated again today.)  For all of the other Second Christmas celebrators (for whatever the reason), we wish you a Merry Second Christmas!  Ours was fantastic, and we hope yours was, too. 😀

Preparing the snacks.

Preparing the snacks.

Treats for Santa, Santa Mouse, and the reindeer.

Treats for Santa, Santa Mouse, and the reindeer.

Everyone ate their snacks...yay! :)

Everyone ate their snacks…yay! 🙂

Santa Mouse left a gift in the tree. :D

Santa Mouse left a gift in the tree. 😀

Grace detests Justin Bieber, so I thought it would be fun to torment her by planting him right in the top of her stocking. :D

Grace detests Justin Bieber, so I thought it would be fun to torment her by planting him right in the top of her stocking. 😀

Sleepyhead finally gets out of bed! ;)

Sleepyhead finally gets out of bed! 😉

Not so excited about the Bieber puzzle.  Strange, that. :D

Not so excited about the Bieber puzzle. Strange, that. 😀

Loving her new journal!

Loving her new journal!

Very happy to get that iTunes gift card!

Very happy to get that iTunes gift card!

Frank just can't believe how awesome Second Christmas is. :D

Frank just can’t believe how awesome Second Christmas is. 😀

Puttin' the Biebs together. :D

Puttin’ the Biebs together. 😀

Each day, Frank asks us for a dollar so he can go buy a cheeseburger.  (Don't question the dog asking us for money. ;) )  As a Second Christmas present, we gave him a dollar and a ride to the drive through.  Yep, he got his cheeseburger...plain, no bun. :D

Each day, Frank asks us for a dollar so he can go buy a cheeseburger. (Don’t question the dog asking us for money. 😉 ) As a Second Christmas present, we gave him a dollar and a ride to the drive through. Yep, he got his cheeseburger…plain, no bun. 😀

Merry Christmas…Part 1

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We won’t actually be celebrating Christmas with Grace here until Thursday, but I wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas on the official day, so:

Merry Christmas!!!!  I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas are having a wondrous and magical day! 😀

I’m sure we’ll be sharing some of our “Second Christmas” festivities with you on Thursday. 😉

The Week (Or Two) In Pictures

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Fun with DNA!  Grace assisted in the creation of this model at the Science Center. :)

Fun with DNA! Grace assisted in the creation of this model at the Science Center. 🙂

 

 

 

 

Part of a rather interesting explanation of evergreens and sugar cycles at the Nature Center. ;)

Part of a rather interesting explanation of evergreens and sugar cycles at the Nature Center. 😉

More fun at the Nature Center.

More fun at the Nature Center.

A quick little water pressure demonstration.

A quick little water pressure demonstration.

One of many new reptile friends. :D

One of many new reptile friends. 😀

So pretty!

So pretty!

Snake snuggles. :D

Snake snuggles. 😀

Learning about evergreens.  (Actually, looking at me taking pictures when she should have been learning about evergreens. ;) )

Learning about evergreens. (Actually, looking at me taking pictures when she should have been learning about evergreens. 😉 )

Trying some white pine tea. (Nature Center)

Trying some white pine tea. (Nature Center)

Using some problem solving skills to use a 24" string to measure out exactly 18".

Using some problem solving skills to use a 24″ string to measure out exactly 18″.

"Volunteering" looks a bit more like reading and eating.  The folks at the Literacy Council are good to us. :D

“Volunteering” looks a bit more like reading and eating. The folks at the Literacy Council are good to us. 😀

Preparing for a science experiment...balloons + yeast + sugar = fun. ;)

Preparing for a science experiment…balloons + yeast + sugar = fun. 😉

A yeasty balloon success!

A yeasty balloon success!

A Personal Narrative Sample from Grace

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We actually struggled to get this personal narrative sample completed.  Grace didn’t seem to be able to leave the fiction behind and write about something that happened to her.  Her first attempt was completely fictional, so we ditched that one right away.  Her second attempt was about her first day of homeschool, but it was filled with things that didn’t actually happen, so we threw that one away, too.  After having a chat about personal narratives (something that, in theory, she had no trouble understanding), Grace decided to write about the very scary time she was chased by a dog.  Isn’t it strange that someone who writes so well would struggle so much with one little sample about herself?

Anyway, I share all of this so you know that our writing samples aren’t always great on the first try.  In fact, they rarely are.  Grace proofreads her work and makes corrections.  I proofread her work for grammar and spelling, and she makes corrections.  Sometimes, we still find corrections that need to be made after a sample hits the blog.  Sometimes entire essays get thrown to the wayside.

I’m also oh-so-grateful that homeschool allows us the time to deal with the grimy, gross bits of writing.  I don’t feel like she’d have the opportunity to trash things, re-write things multiple times, and spend days developing characters and plots in other schooling situations.  Yay for homeschool! 🙂

Okay, without further ado, Grace’s personal narrative:

I pushed away a low hanging branch and inspected the tree’s base.  Pulling away the dead leaves, I dug around its base for small boxes or containers.  I sighed.

“Any luck?” I called. Emily looked up from the bush she had been prodding.  She shook her head. I got back on my knees.  “Why,” I whispered. “Do geocaches have to be so well hidden?” I looked around.  At least the area was pretty.  A small fountain bubbled in the center of a garden, filled with violets and lilies.

Suddenly, just as I had leaned down to search some more, Emily let out a loud, triumphant ha-ha! I jerked my head up, whacking it   against a low hanging branch.  Running my fingers over the not, I walked over to Emily.

“What was that for?” I asked. Emily smiled.

“I found it!” she said, holding up a small grey lunch box. I smiled.

“Great! Now all we need to do is sign in.” Emily pulled out a pen and started writing. When she was finished, she stuck the box in a nearby tree.  We turned and followed the worn path back to the parking lot of the church. I could see the car, so I decided to run to it. As soon as I got within twenty feet of it, a huge black dog emerged from the trees.

He stopped, and I got the feeling he either wanted to play or to have a snack, so I did the logical, calm thing: I ran for my life.  But there was a small flaw in my plan: the dog was faster than me. Way faster. Soon I could hear him panting beside me. Fear bubbled in my chest. My legs burned, but I forced them to go faster. I saw Emily waving her arms and shouting. Whatever she was saying, it slowed the dog down.  His panting grew faint. I slowed, and started panting myself.

Emily grabbed my hand. I heard a snap from behind me and a short man pushed his way through the trees.  He called out, and after a few seconds, the dog came to him.  Emily’s eyes hardened. Oh no. She marched up to the man.

“Excuse me, but your dog just chased her halfway across the parking lot? Why was he not on a leash?” she snapped.  The man stared.

‘We were just taking a walk,” he said tonelessly.  I glared. Even if you’re ‘just taking a walk,’ your dog needs to be on a leash!

Emily rushed over to the car and opened my door for me. I sat down without a word.  Emily started the car and pulled out her phone. Please not 911, please not 911, please not 911, I thought.

“Animal control, how may I help you?” a muffled voice said. I sighed. Better.

“Hi, my stepdaughter was just chased by three large black dogs. The dogs had and owner, but he had practically no control. What? Ok, his license number was…” I stopped listening and leaned against my door.  I didn’t even notice the other two dogs. Sighing, I closed my eyes, and for the first time, did not feel very fond of dogs.

-Grace<3

Inflating Balloons…The Weird Way

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Grace performed a nifty little experiment today for Science.  She took a really roundabout way to blow up balloons. 🙂  We’ve done experiments with yeast before, but this one was a fun addition.

First she gathered supplies...balloons, two plastic bottles, a "funnel" (we used a rolled up piece of paper), yeast, sugar, a tablespoon, and a measuring cup.  (Not all pictured. ;) )

First she gathered supplies…balloons, two plastic bottles, a “funnel” (we used a rolled up piece of paper), yeast, sugar, a tablespoon, and a measuring cup. (Not all pictured. 😉 )

 

She added one cup of warm water and a packet of yeast to each bottle.  One bottle also got two tablespoons of sugar.  She swirled the bottles a bit to mix the contents and then popped a balloon on top of each one.

She added one cup of warm water and a packet of yeast to each bottle. One bottle also got two tablespoons of sugar. She swirled the bottles a bit to mix the contents and then popped a balloon on top of each one.

 

And then we watched the magic happen!  Okay, so it doesn't look so magical right now, but just wait...

And then we watched the magic happen! Okay, so it doesn’t look so magical right now, but just wait…

 

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…and keep waiting…

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…and, whammo! The bottle that had sugar did an okay job of blowing up a balloon. Yay, carbon dioxide! 🙂

(Yes, we’re aware that we should have had two of the same bottles, but these were scavenged from our recycling bin…I wasn’t about to go to the store to buy matching bottles. 😉 )

If you do this one at home, be sure to have some tape handy.  We sprung a couple of leaks around the top of the bottle with sugar, and the tape handled damage control pretty well.

What We’re Up To

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We have tons of stuff on our plate for this week…as usual. 😉

Today, Grace started reading Three Cups of Tea (the Young Reader’s Edition), had a super-short math lab to investigate water pressure, and visited with some reptiles at the Cold Blooded Encounters.  Of course, that was on top of tackling some grammar and math review.

So, what’s in store for the rest of the week?

Language Arts:  Grace will continue reading Three Cups of Tea.  She’ll also finish up a unit on sentence structure and (finally, finally!) a unit on personal narratives.

Math:  We’ll continue with Perfectly Perilous Math, math labs and all.  (I’m sad that we’re almost finished with this book.)  Grace will also be working on her problem-solving skills on IXL.

Science:  Grace will keep working with Spectrum Science to learn more about conducting good experiments.  She also has a Nature Explorations class at the Nature Center…I’m sure we’ll have some good pictures from that one. 😉

Social Studies:  We’re still learning about Ancient China…this will be on our agenda until after New Year’s.

Field Trips:  Grace has her first class in a three-part series to learn about orienteering.  (I am so jealous that this class isn’t for grown ups!)  She also has the previously mentioned Nature Explorations class and trip to Cold Blooded Encounters.

Community Good:  We’ll be helping out at the Literacy Council again this week by covering phone duty while the staff has a much-deserved Christmas lunch.

Yep, we’ll be good and busy the rest of the week.  That’s okay…we’ll have the next week and a half to recover. 🙂

Teachers Are Awesome

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We were going to post some pictures on the blog yesterday, but it suddenly seemed trivial in light of the events in Connecticut, so we opted to wait.  Since then, I’ve not been able to stop thinking about that school and what happened.  To think about the fear and confusion and death of that many children breaks my heart.  I actually sat down and cried (something I don’t do often…and admit to even less often) after reading the news reports.

I’ve also been thinking about the teachers of that school.  No doubt some of them died attempting to protect their students.

I taught middle school for seven years.  Though I detested the policies, the paperwork, and the testing, I had the pleasure of working with some incredible teachers.  It might sound kind of hokey, but when students are in your classroom, it really is like they are your children while they’re there.  It is a teacher’s job to care for, discipline, and guide students…you can’t do that day after day without having a genuine sense of parental bond.  When teachers talk to other teachers, they refer to their students as “my kids,” “my babies,”  or “my children,” not “students.”

So, if your children are in public school, please know this: Regardless of how you feel about a teacher’s grading policies or attitude or level of experience, that teacher would, without hesitation, put herself (or himself) in harm’s way to protect your child.  Of the teachers I used to work with, I can’t think of a single one who wouldn’t put their own lives in danger to save “their children.”  I suspect the same is true in schools across the country.

So, go hug a teacher because they’re a pretty awesome crowd. 🙂

What We’re Up To

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Here’s what we’ll be doing this week:

In math, we did some “nautical math” today with Perfectly Perilous Math.  Grace converted between miles and nautical miles while solving a multi-step word problem.  (Had she failed, her whole crew would have mutinied!)  We also made an astrolabe and did some goofy angle calculating.  Grace is also working on problem solving skills on IXL…those pursuits will continue throughout the week.  More fun math stuff?  We’ll be looking at water pressure and measurement.

Language Arts is all about The Hobbit this week.  We had to do some quick rescheduling of reading materials when I realized the movie comes out this week.  Grace is busting her booty to get the book read before we go to see the movie.  Not wanting to leave a ton of awesome literary activities behind, we decided to focus on the literature unit stuff after she’s read the whole book…we just don’t have to time to get it read and do all of the activities in one week. 😉  Okay, so it’s not all about The Hobbit.  We’ll also be working on grammar, sentence structure, and personal narratives.

Science is going to be full of experimenting fun…kind of.  We will be doing one experiment that involves a rather indirect way of blowing up balloons, but Grace will also be reviewing and learning more about the scientific method.  We’ve started a new science program (the last one we were using was boring and wrong for us, so we’ve thrown it away…isn’t homeschool grand?), so we’ve done a bit of rewinding. 🙂

Social Studies is all about Ancient China for the next couple of weeks.  Grace is working on one of those nifty history folders.  Never fear, there will be pictures!  (We’ll also be doing some Hands on History, but that will come later.)

Other than that?  Grace has class at the Science Center this week (always fun!).  She’ll also be helping me paint her bedroom.  That’s a process everyone should go through. 😉  It’s not really school, but we’re almost finished watching all of the Harry Potter movies.  Just one to go!  Since Grace tore through all of the books, we decided it would be fun to watch all of the movies together.

That’s what will be keeping us busy this week.

Have a fabulous week!

It’s Our Step-iversary!

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Eight years ago, I married my very most favorite fella in all the land.  This is him…

Love, love, love! :)

Love, love, love! 🙂

But something else really important happened that day, too.  I officially became Grace’s step-mom.  I have been so very fortunate to have such a wonderful step-daughter, so I like to acknowledge our “step-iversary.”  Grace is an extremely thoughtful, bright, clever, funny, easygoing young woman and it has been a joy (most days 😉 ) to be part of her life.  I look forward to being there as she continues to grow into an awesome grown up.  I am so proud of her, I just might pop. 😀

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Love, love, love! 🙂

 

Happy Step-iversary, Grace! 😀