Safely in Nebraska

We made it to Nebraska last night, with our usual small catastrophe.  This time it was Jack throwing up all over everything in the back seat — his clothes, his shoes, his coat, my coat, my purse, Victoria’s favorite book, his coloring book, Alex’s bottle, the seat, the floor….  Sigh.

We had to drive for several miles to get to a gas station and then I cleaned everything as well as I could.  The gas station bathroom had a sign that said Out of Order, of course, but the nice employee let us use the sink to try to clean things as best as we could and gave us some bags for the messy clothes.  At least we had suitcases full of changes of clothes in the back!

Nobody got sick again after we were finally back on the road, and we got here just about when I had estimated (I always plan for a small 30-60 minute catastrophe!).

The kids are having a blast playing with Tiffany’s kids, using their nifty new Wii, reading, playing on the computer, running around outside, loving on the animals, playing fairies and cars and castles,  and enjoying neat people.  Risa and the girls walked down to the library van today and brought back bags of books.

Right now Risa is in the kitchen cooking a lovely vegan Indian curry dish (it smells fabulous), Victoria is drawing Manga using a new library book while entertaining Alex, Jack and Anna are drawing, Jessie has disappeared to read and Jackster is watching Wall-E.  Tiffany and Rex have escaped to go visit his mom and have some time together.

Life is good.  🙂

New Year's Magic

10 Ways to Make the New Year Magical…..

1.  Get out the wine glasses (plastic if you like) for New Year’s supper and serve sparkling juice.  Go around the table making wishes for the new year for each other.

2.  Together, make up some fortunes (both serious and silly, but all good) and write them on slips of paper.  Roll the paper up into tubes and tie with ribbon, then place in a bowl.  Take turns drawing fortunes and read them aloud.

3.  Take out the calendar for next year and randomly fill in dates with fun things to do.  They don’t have to be big things.  Make an appointment to eat supper in the back yard in June, to go to a matinee with your toddler in October, to all wear blue on February 9th…

4.  For each family member, take a sheet of paper and record the highlights of the past year.  Make a list of accomplishments, challenges, milestones, bad & good events, best friends, favorite activities, etc.  Take the time to make it beautiful and either slip it into a scrapbook or photo album.  Invite the kids to help decorate the pages.  Don’t forget to do one for you, too!

5.  Make a goal collage for next year.  Grab some old magazines and have everybody cut out words, pictures and images that represent good stuff for the new year.  Either fill a scrapbook page for each person or start a family altered book from an old textbook and have each person make her/his own page.

6.  Make a symbolic fresh start.  For each family member, clean a small area somewhere on New Year’s Eve.  Each person should help clear & organize her/his own space.  Whether it’s cleaning off mom’s desk, organizing a toddler’s book shelf or making a teen’s vanity table beautiful again, start the new year with a peaceful, tidy spot to focus on.

7.  Make breakfast wish roll-ups.  On New Year’s morning, spread crepes or warmed flour tortillas with spreadable cream cheese.  Fill a plastic baggie with blueberry (or other berry) syrup and snip just the tip of the bag.  Help pipe symbolic one word wishes over the cream cheese (friends, $, A+, love…) and then roll up.  Serve with extra syrup for dipping and eat your words!

8. Invite each family member to make a list of goals for the new year.  These don’t have to be resolutions but merely things each person wants to accomplish.  Some can be simple, some hard, some humorous… anything goes.  Save the sheets in a safe place for next year and then take a look at what everybody has accomplished (and what doesn’t seem to matter anymore) a year later.

9.  Take the piles of art you’ve saved from this year and all of those old math papers, activity sheets and history quizzes.  Ask the children to put aside the special stuff and cull a nice pile of them to make streamers by running them through the paper shredder.  At midnight (or an earlier hour for little ones), do the countdown and toss it all in the air.

As long as there are no strange papers in there, the whole mess can be cleaned up and used as mulch on the garden, meaning that the art and history will help flowers grow in the new year.  No garden?  Mulch some house plants.  🙂

10. Write a letter to your child, summing up the past year and expressing all your love and pride.  Date it & leave it on the pillow New Year’s Eve.  (For younger kids, read it to them before bed and put it someplace safe for later.)

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I wish you and your families all the best for the new year.  It’s so easy to get caught up in the mayhem and the clutter and the lists of what we ought to be doing.  Don’t forget what the biggest things on your to-do lists should be– having fun, loving the heck out of your children & relishing life.

Slow down.  Give things up.  Laugh it off.  Make each day count, with at least one thing that is magical or truly matters.  And give yourself a break!

And when life gets crazy this year, take the advice of those wisest of people (aerobics instructors) and don’t forget to breathe.  😉

Happy New Year!!
Alicia (circa 2003)

If it's Monday we must be leaving again

And with that, we’re heading out to Nebraska again.

A fabulous online mama friend from Canada is flying down for a couple of days. Risa, Tiffany and I are all on a HS list together and brave Risa is coming to spend the New Year’s holiday at Tiffany’s. I can’t wait to meet her.

While I’m down there, I may be staying to celebrate my birthday. Tiffany says to stay the whole time but we’ll see if she’s sick to death of us by then. 😉

My car’s CD player isn’t working so I’ve raided the basement for old cassette tapes. I found gems like Tanya Tucker, Weird Al, Rick Springfield and Herman’s Hermits. It’ll be quite a drive!

How to do 9 Weeks of Spelling in 20 Minutes

We homeschool in that gray area of not quite unschooling.  I call us “relaxed, eclectic” homeschoolers because it sums us up best and also nicely avoids labels where there are rules we have to follow.

Yes, I am so anti-authority that I balk at unschooling rules.  😉

I have also been on the wrong end of the Evil Unschool Queen, and also just occasionally like being able to go “Wait!  We haven’t done spelling in months!  Spell kumquat!” and have my poor hapless children have to comply.

Ah, the power.

Anyway, today was one of those days when I suddenly decided we should do spelling.  And since we hadn’t done spelling in months (in a “schooly” way), I decided we needed to make up for lost ground.

So I googled “third grade spelling lists” and presto, found this nice teacher who’d done some work for me.  A year’s worth of spelling lists for Anna.   Then I called Anna up, found her a notebook and a pen that worked, and told her we were going to do spelling (sorry, Evil Unschool Queen, she was thrilled).

Since it seemed kind of silly to make her spend a bunch of time writing words she already knew, I just read the words out loud and had her spell them orally.  If she got them right, we kept going.  If she got one wrong, I spelled it out for her and had her write it down.

I told her we’d keep going until she had 10 words written down.

We went through week 9 before we had enough.

After that, I asked her to write each word in a sentence.

She wrote them out, had fun being creative and silly with her sentences, and learned them.  I’ll add those 10 to the list when we take it up next time (which could be in March when I suddenly shriek that we haven’t done spelling again).

Then I printed out a year’s worth of 5th grade for Victoria and asked Daryl to read through them with her to do the same.  She, too, had a blast and did great.

Think how many hours the poor kids would have wasted writing out words they already knew if they did spelling every day.  And since they only have to do spelling every other blue moon, they think it’s a treat and happily eat it up.  It’s win, win, if you ask me.

Or at least it works for us.  🙂

Now if I could only figure out how to do 9 weeks of laundry in 20 minutes…

A Few Pics from Christmas

Grandma says noooooo touching!

I’m not touching!

Okay, I’m touching.

Singing Christmas carols with Grandma.

Waiting for breakfast.

More not to touch?!

Twas the night before Christmas…

Visiting with Great Grandma L (in her 90’s and still in her home, with lots of help from family). Isn’t she lovely?

And with Grandma (lovely too!)

Unwrapping presents Christmas morning…

The big kids sang karaoke with Grandma and Grandpa…

While Alex accompanied on the organ…

And then joined in!  (Don’t eat the microphone, Sweetie)

I love my in-laws! It was a very happy Christmas.

Now to get ready for New Years and another trip!

When do I get that long winter’s nap? 🙂

Great Little ASL Site

The kids have been learning American Sign Language, using a combination of books and videos.  They watched Talking Hands the other day and it was nice and slow paced for the little ones and repetitive enough that even I know their signs after one viewing.  We got it through Netflix, a favorite HS resource for us.

Today I found this comprehensive ASL site where you can look up words and see them signed with a little written description of what the sign looks like too.  I was looking for “more,” since that’s something Alex asks for a lot and I wanted to show him the sign.  I found that, along with everything from Mormon to moron as well.  🙂

I’m ordering some more sophisticated DVDs from Netflix next time.  At some point I’d like to find a real person to do some tutoring with the kids and maybe a class.  Anybody have any recommendations for other good ASL resources?