Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy (almost) Halloween!

We were invited to a fabulous Halloween party tonight. Once again, the kids got to dress up. If you are really paying attention, you'll notice that Joshua is Buzz Lightyear for the second year in a row. Megan enjoys any opportunity to wear the full ballerina tu-tu. Daniel is actually wearing his pajamas, but they happen to be Superman pajamas, so it is close enough to being a costume. He is also sporting his supercape that I made him.

Everyone's favorite part of the party was the bobbing for apples. Tanya is holding the bowl steady so that none of the kids dump it down the front of them. Megan did great, she managed to grab a hold of the stem with her teeth and pull the apple right out.
Joshua's apple gave him a little bit of trouble. Daniel was trying to help. Finally, Joshua dunked his whole face in the water and took a big bite out of the apple. He was quite pleased with himself.
Daniel thought about putting his face in the water. For about 2 seconds I thought he was going to. But we all know that Daniel is smarter than that - he just reached in the water and grabbed the apple out, walked over to the bench and started eating it. It was quite funny.
We came home from the party and I threw them all in a nice warm bath. We got a package from Grandma today and it had an awesome bath time toy in it. There are foam roads and street signs and motor vehicles. Daniel was the first one in the tub and the last one out of the tub, he didn't want to give up the toys.

We watched The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown and then everyone went off to bed. We have a bunch of fun stuff planned for tomorrow.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Fun on the Farm

The Future Farmers of America held a little ho-down tonight at the fairgrounds. Determined to get there on time, we actually arrived about 10 minutes too early. According to Kodiak time, that equals about 40 minutes too early. Which worked to our advantage to allow the kids to thoroughly investigate everything before it got too crowded.
Megan ran into some friends. I'm not sure if I was ever the squeal-and-hug kindof girl. These three definitely are. Megan, Jordan and Ava are three peas in a pod. Jordan and Megan are in Sunday School together and Ava and Megan are in ballet together. Between the three of them there is a lot of pink, giggling and hugging. I absolutely love that all three of us moms have very similar parenting philosophies, so the girls not only share pink giggly things in common, but all three are very polite and kind-hearted and generally pretty well-behaved as far as 3 year old girls go. I really couldn't ask for better friends for her to be around.
Aren't they all beautiful? They are so fun together. They are all going to break a lot of hearts in a few years.
The FFA has a cow for it's mascot. The kids got to go inside the pen to pet the cow. I'm surprised Daniel got right in there, too. He was a little hesitant at first, but he warmed up to the idea after a while.
We decided to support the fund raiser by having dinner there. There was a lady walking by as I was helping the kids settle down and getting things opened and fixed up for them. Joshua held up a Cheeto and said 'what's this, I've never had one of these before, is it any good?'. The lady laughed and asked him how old he was and if he had never really had a Cheeto. Actually, we buy the all natural white cheese Cheetos if we really have a need to have Cheetos in the house, but I can't really remember when the last time that was. Who really needs Cheetos, anyway? After about 3 minutes of the kids eating them, I remembered why I don't like them. Very few things are naturally that color orange, and they are wicked messy.
I'm not sure if there were other things going on in town tonight, but there did not seem to be a large amount of people out at this event. Which worked out nicely for us, and allowed the kids some freedom to go sit and listen to the folks that were playing the music. And they had a little extra wiggle-room to dance around.

School this week

I'm learning that Joshua and I both aren't that crazy about a planned curriculum. Fortunately, we are both pretty creative and have been able to manipulate the curriculum to work with us. For example, this week we've been going over the concepts of taller and shorter and longer and shorter. One of his worksheets in the practice book had an assignment with 5 different length lines on it. The directions instructed us to have Joshua draw a line longer than the line that was there, and then draw a line shorter. So we did that the first day. The next day was a review of the concept with the same directions on a very similar worksheet. As I was pouring a glass of juice, I look over and Joshua has completed the worksheet before I even asked him to. He then declared, "This is boring." I had to agree, it was boring. So we decided to use his ruler to measure the line on the paper and walk around the house finding things that were shorter and longer than the line. He was measuring everything from forks to shoes to trying to get the cat to sit still so he could measure her.

Science this week focused on balance. We both love science because it is hands-on. We practiced balancing different things on our heads walking around the living room. Even Daniel got in on that one, but he tried to balance a pumpkin on his head and was very upset when I took it away and gave him a bean bag instead. A big lesson in balance came the night we started our paper mache project. Joshua quickly learned that if he put too much newspaper on one side of our balloon that it was going to roll off the table and make a big mess. He figured it out on his own and explained the concept of balance to me. Today we practiced moving our bodies differently while keeping our balance. Even Daddy got in on it. They were all walking like tall giants and then like small mice and then like crabs and then like dogs. Then we played Simon Says and made up a silly song to the tune of the Farmer in the Dell, but focused on parts of the body - 'there's a bow on my toe, a bow on my toe, hi-ho-the-dairy-o, a bow on my toe' and then we worked our way up with knee, belly, shoulder, head. Joshua did great finding rhyming words and Daniel liked trying to find the parts of his body and Megan just enjoys anything that lets her dance around.

Joshua's comprehension of stories is incredible. In the past 10 days or so, we've read Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Lion and the Mouse, Henny Penny, The Little Engine that Could, The Little Red Hen, and The Three Little Pigs. When we finish a story we compare and contrast the story to the ones that we've already read (and he uses the words compare and contrast). We have just a few chapters left of his chapter book - The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. We are planning to finish it Saturday night. I borrowed the DVD from the library to surprise him, and I hope we get a chance to watch it Sunday night.

We always start our school session with a reading from our Devotions for Toddlers book and we take a few minutes to get settled in. There is a discussion topic in the Calvert curriculum. This week focused on being 'unique' as a homeschooled student. It discussed helping around the house and around the community. We created a new chore chart for Joshua. He is trying to earn a trip to go bowling.

Math is a little fluffy right now. He knows much more than the math that is in this early part of the curriculum. He's been adding single digit numbers for a few months now in his head with out worksheets. It's just something he started doing one day. Today we sailed through the math lesson, so I decided we should have some fun. We played Chutes and Ladders and he worked on his math skills. So if he was on block 26 and spun a 3, he added the numbers together and then moved to that block. It was fun playing just the two of us. Keith had the other kids engaged in constructing things out of legos.

His reading readiness skills are getting better every day. We love Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and recommend it to anyone that would like to lovingly find a way to help their child read. Joshua's confidence soars when he can do it himself. We are registered as a homeschool in the Pizza Hut Book-it program. However, instead of counting books read (because we'd be earning a pizza a day at this rate!), we count letter sounds that are introduced in the Teach Your Child to Read book. It looks like this week he'll be earning a personal pan pizza certificate (I have a bunch to give him).

The Calvert curriculum is a good curriculum, but it does not include any religious themes. We studied about Moses this week in our My Bible Friends book series. Unfortunately, the VCR has taken a vow of silence. So once Keith figures out how to fix it, we'll be able to watch our videos (and send out the ballet/soccer videos!).

We've been supplementing Calvert with the Core Knowledge Series. This week we continued learning about the continents and began learning specifically about our country. Joshua can not only pick out the U.S. on the map, but he can pick out many of the states and tell me a bit about them. We also look at pictures of where we've been and he tells me what state things are in, like Niagra Falls is in New York, here is New York.

This week Megan stayed awake through nap time. I am considering allowing Joshua some computer time on while I work with Megan on a few skills after lunch. Keith and I are still discussing it, we don't want her to feel pressured, but she keeps asking to play school too.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A trip to Anchorage for the girls!

Our trip to Anchorage turned out to be a very long day. We had to be at the PAX terminal by 6am this morning. Fortunately, I made some blueberry muffins last night and tossed some in Megan's backpack with a pear and a bottle of water for breakfast. She was so funny when I went in to wake her up today. We had really been talking up our adventure all week long. At 5am, I barely cracked her door open and she bolted upright and said 'I'm ready for the girls' adventure with Mommy'. I'm shocked that Daniel slept through the excitement.

We got to Anchorage in no time at all. However, we didn't get off base for over an hour. The base was in lock-down looking for a suspect involved in a hit and run accident. Interestingly, Megan and I happened to see the young man get arrested about 10 feet away from us. All of a sudden lights and sirens and squealing tires were coming down the road pretty fast. I scooped Megan up and stepped inside the building we were standing in front of. The MP's got out with their guns drawn and cuffed the guy and hauled him away. Megan was really interested in the 'boys with the guns'. And as they walked over to give us the all clear, Megan said 'thank you for keeping us safe', it was precious in her adorable little voice. Another funny Megan-ism today was when we were walking outside on the base because it was a beautiful day and I was trying to burn off some of her energy. An man in his late 40's/early 50's wearing a cammo uniform was walking toward us on the sidewalk . He got to where he was just about to pass us and Megan looked at him and said 'hey, my brother has those same pajamas.' The man laughed and smiled at Megan.

Megan and I went to Chuck E Cheese for lunch today. Enjoying some Mommy and Megan time playing games together was well worth missing out on going to the mall. We had a great time and I am amazed at how smart she is and how kind she is to other kids. She's such a little mother hen in the toddler play area.

Her eye appointment went very well. I really like the way the eye exam was done. Much more thorough than the quickie exam Megan had at her preschool physical. (Yes, that would be the physical she had for school, but yet didn't start school this year.) She did great with both eyes and her right eye, but as soon as it was time to check that left eye, she started turning her head to the side and really struggling. Dr. Arnold was incredibly patient and answered my million and one questions about Megan's vision. She does have a deficit in her left eye, but it seems to be getting somewhat better, but definitely not getting any worse. He wants to see us again in 6 months or before we move from Alaska - whichever comes first. And he knows a few good ped eye docs in the Orlando area to refer us to. So we have a prescription for glasses that I am to fill if it looks like she is struggling (and he gave me a checklist of a few signs). She was quite grumpy after having her eyes dilated. She complained that things were 'bluwwey' which I would imagine means 'blurry'. So along with my marching-to-my-own-beat middle child behavior, she has also inherited her left eye vision problems from me. I even made a special point of wearing my glasses today on the trip in case she had to come home with glasses on.

We had a great flight back. We were stuck at the PAX terminal in Anchorage for almost 2 hours waiting for our pilot. He had gotten stuck in traffic. Fortunately, Megan had a new coloring book and some markers in her back pack, and she stayed busy. I was so happy to have a friend of mine on the flight that I could sit and chit-chat with during the wait. We didn't get back in the house until almost 8pm. Keith and the boys were watching Superman. Of course I gave Keith the evil eye because I didn't think the boys needed to be watching Superman. But Keith said Joshua's first choice was Shrek, so I conceded to letting them watch 15 more minutes of the movie before teeth brushing and stories.

Another fun-filled weekend

Megan went to a really cute birthday party for one of the girls in her ballet class. It was a Swan Lake themed birthday party. It was really amazing. Megan had a great time. The girls played games and did crafts and had cake and ice cream. It was really funny to watch her interact with her little ballet posse. She is such a girlie-girl.
Megan and I came home from the party and decided to make good on my promise of creating a big paper mache pumpkin. I let the kids help with the first layer of paper, and I've been adding extra layers at night after they go to bed. I'll let them paint it this weekend and we will fill it with our Halloween candy for the Trick or Trunk at AWANA next week. I'll post more pictures of the process when we are done.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

A little something for MY side of the family. :)

My apologies to the other side of the family, whose baseball loyalties are with a different team.

This was Thursday evening watching the Red Sox game. Megan was climbing through my closet looking for clothes to dress up in, so I gave her my jersey to put on since it matches so well with her red Snow White heels. My dad would be so proud! Don't forget the headband! She is in a stage where she absolutely must wear a headband every day. I don't mind, since it covers up the hack job she did when she decided to cut her own hair a couple of weeks ago.

Daniel is in a bit of a headband phase right now, too. The headband and the shopping cart are his two favorite things. I think it is hilarious. Keith does not. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A variety of Kodiak pictures for the folks down south.

Okay, here's a few more pictures of Kodiak for those that have been asking. This is a shot off our back porch last winter in the afternoon as the sun was going down. Another view of the back yard. This time after a big snow storm. The kids love the snow and beg to go out in it. Last year Daniel did not like walking around in the snow, he would play in one spot. I'm hoping he has more fun this year, since it will be his last chance to see snow for a while.

Here's a picture Keith took when out with his mom during a visit a couple of summers ago. I think this is from the top of Pillar Mountain. I'm pretty sure they drove most of the way and then got out to hike around for a bit.

Here is Keith at work. This picture is about 4 years old, so those of you that are family have probably seen it already. Our kids have all flown in one of the C-130s at different times during our stay here. I think Megan holds the record for the most trips up to Anchorage between all the kids. She sees a fabulous eye doctor up there and has had two visits in the hospital in Anchorage. One for 'unblocking' her blocked tear duct and another for a sedated MRI. While I was Daniel's primary food source, he got to accompany Megan and I to Anchorage a couple of times. But next week, it is just a 'girls trip' to see the eye doctor and maybe something fun like the zoo, depending on how cold it is.

Here are a couple of Grandpa and one of his trips out fishing with Keith. It's so nice to be able to enjoy the outdoors in solitude sometimes. Our beaches are definitely not like the beaches in Florida.

Yes, there really are signs to warn about the bears. I forgot how spoiled I got living in an area that you just take your garbage out to the curb for the trashman. I promise to TRY not to complain when the garbage cans are out in the middle of the street once we get back to Florida. I really dislike having to take the garbage out myself. It's actually Keith's job, but when he is away, it becomes my job and I detest it. Not because I don't like garbage, because after over 5 years of diaper changing, I've become desensitized to gross things, but because I am 5ft 4inches and the bear proof dumpsters must have been made for people much taller than me, since I struggle to get the latch open every time, I just don't have the height to get the leverage I need. Keith has been joking that for the next time he is out of town, he's going to get me a milk crate to keep in the van.

Here's one of Keith out on a 4-wheeling trip with a bunch of people he works with.

Our second winter here we saw some incredible Northern Lights. My friend Susan took these pictures, I cannot take credit for her fantastic work. I did capture quite a bit on the video camera but did not manage to take any still pictures. I've seen some Northern Lights since then, but nothing as amazing as that particular night.

These last two are picturse that Keith has taken from up in a C-130. The top picture is a picture of Kodiak. I love how green it gets here in the summertime. The bottom picture is our neighborhood from the air. When you are looking at the lake, our house is between the 1 and 2 o'clock position. We live in a little house with a fenced-in yard on the lake. There are many more homes in the neighborhood now where the empty lots are in the picture.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Alaska pictures as requested!

So that was a bit of a tease...just one picture. I'll try to get more put on the site tomorrow during nap time. At the request of some friends that have never seen mountains or snow, I promised that I would try to put up more 'Alaska' pictures. This picture I took over the summer when Keith's mom was visiting. Keith and I got a chance to stay out in Chiniak without the kids for a few days. It rained the entire time we were vacationing, but that didn't stop us from doing some great hiking.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Making cookies on a snowy afternoon

Yes, you read that right - it was snowing today for just a little bit. Just enough big wet white rain to make the kids really excited about winter time. Since I spent 6 hours on Sunday reviewing for and taking final exams, I've declared a holiday from school for Monday and Tuesday this week. Just from my own school, not Joshua's; he begs to do reading lessons the minute he gets up in the morning. For the past two days we've been cleaning the kids' rooms, tossing out broken toys, giving away outgrown clothes, and re-organizing. Megan now has a nice little area to hang up all of her dress-up clothes. And I stayed up until midnight last night organizing the homeschooling supplies into some cubbies so that Joshua can get started on some stuff on his own while I clean up after breakfast. He's very self-motivated.

I went to the Scholastic Book Fair at North Star Elementary School yesterday and bought a bunch of great books for the kids. Some are sticker books and some are activity books and one or two board books for Daniel to keep in the car. It was so fun visiting in the elementary school.

Today the kids and I made pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. They are soooo yummy. I had to get some pictures. Here's one of Daniel sitting at the table. Any time he hears me in the kitchen, he comes running and gets into his seat. I just told him not to touch the cookies because they are still hot. He's saying, 'tookies? hot? no tookies hot? tookies for Daniel?'

And then I turned my back to get the other cookie sheet out of the oven only to look back and he's handing out cookies to the rest of the kids! If he wasn't so cute, he'd be in big trouble. He would pick up a cookie off the cooling rack, take a bite and pass it to one of the other kids.

Here's the gang enjoying their 'tookies'. The 4th child is Sage, Clarissa's little girl. Sage was over for a playdate and had a wonderful time! Most of Joshua's homeschool supplies are in the cubbies by the table. The top drawer has items like a cardboard shoe with a lace to practice learning to tie a shoe, some math counter things that are like legos, alphabet cards for making words and some other manipulatives that he can get out and play with on his own while I help the little kids get dressed in the morning.
Of course, today is one of those days that the house is clean, the kids are playing nicely together, I'm actually showered and dressed, and dinner is ready....only to find out Keith is stuck out somewhere and not coming home tonight. :) Maybe that means he'll be off tomorrow? I doubt it. But the good news is that he took the entire week off next week, since Megan and I are going to Anchorage next Wednesday to follow up with her eye doctor.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Not as much fun as we had hoped....

The pumpkin patch was not as much fun as we had hoped. After all the advertisements that indicated it would be a fun kids activity, it was really anything but! The kids were sad that they couldn't walk around and pick out their own pumpkins, because too many adults were racing through the area throwing themselves over the large pumkins. It made me so sad to watch Joshua so politely ask a lady 'excuse me, can I have one of those pumkins?', and she told him no. So I cheerfully scooped up three small pumkins and we made our way through the line to check out and head home. Joshua really wanted a big huge pumkin. I made a deal with Joshua that we would carve our small pumpkins closer to Halloween, but that I will teach him how to make a big paper mache pumpkin later this week.
Fortunately, we had the fire station activity to fall back on, since the pumpkin patch was such a bust. The kids did a really neat activity where they each took turns pretending to sleep and the fire fighter set off the smoke alarm and the kids got out of bed and crawled out of the 'house' to collect a prize. Megan and Joshua both enjoyed this activity. Daniel sat back and watched eating his popcorn.

We also spent quite a bit of time playing putt-putt golf. Both boys really enjoyed themselves.

The weather was really nice, which allowed us to spent quite a bit of time outside looking at the fire engines, again. This time there were fire engines from all the local fire stations. And the ladder truck had the big ladder all the way extended. Megan is holding a pair of sunglasses that she picked as her prize at the smoke detector activity. Joshua is holding a ruler, he said it would be nice to put with his school supplies.

The highlight of our weekend was that we were Boo'd this week, and we needed to reciprocate by Boo-ing two of our neighbors. So, to Boo back our neighbors, we had to make two more ghosts and make two bags of candy and leave them on the neighbors' doorsteps, ring the bell and run. Hopefully, by the time Halloween rolls around, the whole neighborhood will have had a chance to play.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Fire Station Tour

It's a rainy Friday morning and we had big plans to catch up on some laundry, cleaning and homeschooling. But that all changed when I got an email this morning inviting all homeschooling families to a tour of the fire station. We ditched the rest of our plans and raced through breakfast to get to the fire house by 10am. I'll bet the short notice and the cold rainy weather kept many families from coming out, because it was just us and another family there. Joshua was so excited to see his friend Piper there. She is a homeschooling first-grader and goes to AWANA on Wednesday nights as well. They also like to play together at Kids Fit N Fun on Thursdays.

Here is Megan holding a fire fighter's helmet. It weighs at least 20 lbs.

Here is Joshua trying on special suit the fire fighters wear when they are called to the airport for a fire. Notice Daniel helping Joshua get dressed.
Daniel was just adorable in his fire fighter jacket checking out the station. They even gave him a Kodiak Fire Station sticker to put over the generic fire fighter emblem on the chest of his jacket, so that he would look official.

It was really neat to be the only people in the fire station. We got to see where they keep the hoses and how they dry the hoses after they are used.

Here is Joshua and Piper. Some of the pictures are a little grainy because the lighting in the fire station is tough to work with. There are a lot of windows and everything is reflective, making it a nightmare to figure out whether or not to use the flash!

The kids got to take a sneak peek at the newest ladder truck. This truck has only been in Kodiak for less than 2 months. It has not been out on a call yet. We learned that the 'old' ladder truck was sent to another firestation in Elizabeth City.

Here is a picture of the two nice fire fighters and all the kids. It was wonderful for them to take the time to answer all of our questions. We are already working on trying to find a nice way to thank them.

Here are a couple of the trucks. The yellow trucks are used for airport fires and the red trucks are used for structural fires. But only in Kodiak. We learned that different places have different colored fire trucks. Some even have white fire trucks.

We also got to see that the fire fighters sleep at the fire station for 2 days and then go home for 2 days. We saw where they cook, and eat and watch TV. We learned that they have to exercise every day because they need to be strong to help people and wear all of their heavy gear. One of the fire fighters put on the air mask and showed us how fire fighters can look and sound scary when they are in their gear, but they are really trying to help.

It was a real treat to hear the different alarms that ring through-out the station for the different types of calls. We learned that even though they are 'fire fighters' they also work hard to save people in non-fire situations, such as people that get hurt hiking or 4-wheeling. We got to look at the giant map of the base. The fire fighters were wonderful with allowing us to stop and explore all the areas of the fire station. Piper and Joshua are both learning different things about maps. Joshua is learning how to use the compass and legends on maps to learn where things are, and Piper is learning how to read maps. We spent a few minutes looking for things on the big map.

And just think...we are going back tomorrow for the Open House games and safety demonstrations. We are so lucky!

Happy Birthday Daniel!!

Daniel had a great time celebrating his second birthday this week. It's amazing what a difference just one year makes. He has really become quite an interesting little person. We have so many parties and festivities to go to in the next few weeks, that we decided to just do a small cake and icecream type party for just the 5 of us.

Going to school full-time this semester has definitly help me to decide that I will only be a part time student next year. There just doesn't seem to be enough time in my day to do all the things I want to do. And since all of you failed to come up with any legal ways to keep the kids small, I figure I better slow down a bit and really enjoy these days because before I know it, they'll be complaining about their college work loads, too. I think a big problem this semester is that my classes have been general ed. classes that I probably should have taken 10 years ago. However, I have really enjoyed the Lessons for Living course I've been taking this semester. Next week, I begin a class in Community Health. I'm looking forward to it. I'll be back in my comfort zone of nursing classes and writing papers about nursing related issues. Last week, I faxed in my application to review my transcripts in preparation to graduate in the Spring. I also ordered a new nursing pin and completed the graduation ceremony paperwork. Graduation is scheduled for the end of April sometime, so if the timing of the big move works out, it will be great to actually meet the people that I've been talking to on-line for the past two years.
Joshua's homeschooling is going great. I think he really enjoys the time we get to spend together. I looked up the suggested reading list for the Kindergarteners at FLEC (possibly his elementary school next year after the big move), and we plan on reading some of those books. I did just get a HUGE box of curriculum materials from Calvert. was overwhelming just opening the box. But then I realized there was all sorts of fun things in there like modeling clay and yarn and other craft supplies. Not to mention all the easy to read books and fun music CDs.