Thursday, August 21, 2008

Typical Homeschool Day?

We started school last week, but are still not into our "routine". There have been 2 dentist appointments, a birthday, and 2 college students to do last-minute shopping with and move to school. Yesterday was Jason's 10th birthday, so he was excused from school for the day! He played with his new soccer video game and went bowling with a friend instead. Maybe next week, we'll find our "routine".

I'm not exactly sure what our routine looks like. People often ask what a typical homeschool day looks like. Hmmmm. "Which day would that be?" I could describe what school looks like on a day when we are home and not going to volleyball practice or games or choir or science class or Co-op or running errands... but that wouldn't exactly be typical. I could describe what an ideal school day would be like... but that wouldn't be typical either. So to pull a random day out of the hat - let me tell you what today might look like. It is 10:00 AM and Jason is watching a recap of yesterday's Olympic events on ESPN while I am updating my blog. Amanda slept over at her friend E's house last night because it is was E's birthday. So in a couple of minutes I will remind J to finish his morning chores and have some breakfast, and I'll do the same. Then we'll sit down on the couch and work on the next section of "How to Study Your Bible for Kids". I'll read aloud some more from our history selections for this week - The Story of the Middle Ages, Trial and Triumph, and The Byzantine Empire - and J will read from Tales of King Arthur. We'll do a lesson of Sequential Spelling and a page of Easy Grammar, and then he'll do his Horizons Math lesson for today. Mmmm, lunch will be in there somewhere as well, and Gregorian Chants sung by the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of St. Maurice will be playing as background music ( we are studying the Middle Ages!) Eric will be packing his piles into suitcases and bins all afternoon. I will run over and pick up Amanda after lunch, and she'll hopefully have time to at least do her math ( Teaching Textbooks Alg.I - still ) and maybe some reading before getting ready for volleyball. Mark will get home early so we can all drive up to Henderson at 3:00 for her game against Crossroads Christian School this afternoon. We'll get home and I'll throw together a quick but nutritious dinner - unless we stop at Taco Bell - and then I'll look at today's list to see what didn't get done that needs to be bumped to Saturday, since we'll be going to Boone tomorrow. Eric will realize that we haven't bought him any SNACKS / FOOD to take to college and we'll have to make a run to Super WalMart. Amanda and I will put in some computer time, I'll read a chapter from "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" before J goes to bed, and then I'll probably stay up way too late, along with my teens.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Birthday Parties Don't Need to Be Elaborate!

Don't let anyone tell you that birthday parties have to be expensive and elaborate to be fun! I try to let the kids have a special birthday party each year, usually here at our house, although we have brought cake & ice cream to the bowling alley for a party on a couple of occasions, and missed having a party a couple of times altogether due to ....fatigue and lack of planning??? Oh well, hopefully the successes will blot out the memory of mom's birthday failures.

The secret to a good birthday party? I would say lots of play time! And a little bit of planned activity.
And lots of play time. And some good party food. And play time. And not TOO many kids! haha

Jason invited 5 friends to come over for a backyard camp-out Friday night for his 10th birthday. Amanda invited a friend to sleep over as well, to give her some company amidst all these little boys! The first thing we did was carve rubber stamps! Each child received half of a white vinyl eraser ( found in any school supply aisle ) They used pencils to draw a block letter of their initial on the eraser - only a tiny bit of assistance was required for a couple of the boys. Since I didn't think it wise to pass out X-Acto knives to this group, I made cutting tools by plucking the eraser out of a pencil with a pair of pliers. The empty metal eraser holder easily sliced through the vinyl erasers, letting the kids shape their initials. When finished, the boys practiced inking their stamps with watercolor markers and stamping onto small notebooks!

Now, the reason for needing the stamps was that we were headed out on a Letterboxing adventure.

Letterboxing is an activity that combines treasure-hunting with rubberstamping!!! People hide plastic boxes containing a rubber stamp, notepad, and pen, carefully wrapped in ziploc bags, in a public location, and then post clues on Letterboxing websites, such as or . I printed off the clues to a couple of local boxes, piled the kids in the car, and headed out in a light rain shower. The boxes we searched for were located in 3 different town parks, which gave the kids a chance to run around a bit and burn off some energy... a very nice side benefit! Once a box was found, the kids took turns stamping the enclosed notepad with their initial stamp, and then using the enclosed rubber stamp to mark their own notebooks.

Everyone was hungry when we got back home, so we whipped up a supper of grilled hot dogs, green grapes, and
Mexican Layered Dip with tortilla chips. Jason opened his presents, and then he next thing on the agenda was wiffle ball, so since our backyard is full of deep holes dug by our crazy canine, the boys again jumped in the van, this time with dad and Amanda, and headed to a local ball field. A little over an hour later they were home, ready for a big pitcher of lemonade and slices of Snickers Ice Cream Cake. After that they were back outside for flashlight tag, and then they finally settled down to watch "Fat Albert" before trooping out to the back yard to the pop-up camper to play a game of Catch Phrase, and then when dad came out a little later, to go to sleep! A couple of these boys apparently have "city-folk" for parents, because I heard a couple of comments about lack of AC in the camper, BUT I think they all had a good time. :-)

It is killing me not to have a camera! Sarah took hers back to college, Eric was away for the weekend with his, and Amanda's is broken! Agh! Oh well, use your imaginations.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

One Gone

Yesterday Eric, his girlfriend Ryan, and I took Sarah back to college in Boone and moved her into her new dorm. She is an RA ( resident advisor), so she has to be back on campus EARLY. Eric doesn't go until a week from Friday.
Boone is a 3 1/2 hour trip - one way - so this was an all-day-event. The weather was beautiful though, and we had a nice trip out there, arriving around 12:30. It took NUMEROUS trips for the 4 of us to carry all her belongings into the building and up the elevator to her room. Then it took us about an hour to rearrange the furniture in her room to suit her and make room for the rented micro-fridge ( combination microwave oven / mini fridge ) which was waiting in the middle of her room when we arrived.
Once all that was done, we walked over to the campus bookstore so Eric could pick up his new MacBook laptop computer! Oh, he is a happy camper! :-)

Then we made another trip to WalMart ( the shopping never ends) for the couple of things that we hadn't picked up earlier in the week - printer ink cartridge, make-up, and food - apparently the RAs are only fed sporadically for the first few days since dining halls are not operational yet.
All this work made us all hungry, so we pulled into Mellow Mushroom Pizza Restaurant and dug into a large pepperoni pizza before we dropped Sarah off at her dorm and started the trip back home, arriving around 13 hours after we left. I intended to drop into bed, but couldn't resist a couple hours of Olympic viewing. It was GYMNASTICS, after all.
We'll do it all again next week. :-)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

What Have We Been Up To?

Well, I haven't been posting very often, have I? Summer is winding down quickly. Yesterday was the last day of New Life Camp, so Sarah and Eric are back home. But Sarah leaves for college on Tuesday and Eric follows 10 days later. That means trips to WalMart and Target and Kohls and Staples and the shoe store. Since Eric is a freshman, we are outfitting his dorm room from scratch. Sarah has most of her dorm stuff already, but needs new sheets ( she is moving from a dorm with reg. twin beds to one with x-long twins!) and school supplies and clothes and shoes. Whew! We don't do anything elaborate - no matching curtains and rugs and disco balls and hi-def TVs :-), but the list is still pretty long!

Because they are heading off to a college 4 hours away, we are also trying to get in doctor and dentist visits. Sarah has been bothered by back pain for a few months now, so we took her to a chiropractor this week. This was a first for our family! The x-ray showed a slightly out -of-position hip joint, which is causing her spine to curve slightly and creating inflammation that is pressing on the nerves in her lower back. He adjusted her back and pushed the hip back into place, but until the muscles in that area "relearn" the correct position for that bone, they will continue to pull it out of place. So she needs 5-6 weeks of treatments in order for it to stay put. So it looks like we know what she'll be doing over Christmas break!

I was in a "baking" mood Saturday, so I made a Chocolate Layer Cake from a new recipe from the Food Network website.
It was divine. I took it to a potluck lunch on Sunday and it was polished off in no time.


1 cup ( 2 sticks) butter, softened at room temp.
3 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 T. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 cups sifted unbleached all-purpose flour OR cake flour
1 1/3 cups lite sour cream
1 1/2 cups hot coffee

8 T. ( 1 stick ) butter, softened
16 oz. lite cream cheese, softened
8 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
1/2 cup cooled coffee
4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
6 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 3 ( 9-inch) cake pans.
In a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment ( or with a hand mixer) cream the butter until smooth. Add sugar and eggs and mix until fluffy - about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and mix. Add 1/2 the flour, then 1/2 the sour cream and mix. Repeat with the remaining flour and sour cream. Drizzle the hot coffee into the bowl as you mix, until it is all added. The batter will be thin. Pour into prepared pans and bake until the tops are firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean - about 35 minutes. Halfway through baking time, quickly rotate pans in the oven to ensure even baking, but otherwise try not to open the oven door. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire racks and cool completely.

Frosting: In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Slowly drizzle in the melted chocolate, mixing to incorporate. Add the coffee and vanilla and mix. Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition, Beat until fluffy!

Set one layer on cake plate. Frost with about 2 cups of the frosting. Add 2nd layer, cover with frosting, add 3rd layer and frost top and sides with remaining frosting.