Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ice and Snow

As I have said before, our driveway is very steep and in general not fun. When we have ice (like today) It quickly becomes impassable. We cope with this by parking at the bottom of the hill and trying not to have to leave the house.

With the kids though, it is easier to load them in a sled or put them in snow pants and have them slide down the hill. Better than risking them slipping and falling and cracking their heads on the ice.

Of course eventually it will all melt, but in the meantime the kids love the chance to slide on the ice.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


When hubby and I were dating, many a night would be spent at Sushi Chalet. We loved the all you could eat buffet. It made the drive over there worth it. Now that we live in the hinter-lands sushi is hard to come by and with 3 of us eating it (Girlie won't touch it, Boyo can pack it away) it is nothing to spend $50+ on a meal (not counting the happy meal for Girlie).

Guess how excited I was to see one of my favorite bloggers doing a cooking guide to sushi taught by a real sushi chef!!! After all importing the materials has got to be cheaper than $50 a pop, right?

Ok I teased you enough. Here is the link to Pioneer Woman and her Sushi chef, Cody.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Put 'em to work!!

It snowed. Well, it was actually on Monday that it snowed, but still. When it snows I have to park at the bottom of our steep driveway. I also usually get stuck doing the shoveling out. Hubby claims it is because I am home more than he is. We won't discuss that bit of logic.

Anyway after walking down the hill in the dark and icky for 3 days, I cancelled school and told the kids to shovel.

They did.

It may not look steep but where the driveway looks like it ends, it actually drops about 6 feet and does a turn.

At last it was warm enough to melt away the last traces of snow. Yay for 50 degree weather!!!

Hopefully it will be that warm tomorrow as we do the Klondike Derby with the cub scouts. I'll try to take pictures.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More on the CSPIA

Well I bet you are tired of hearing about this. I even had someone me send the the report. Well snopes was wrong. They didn't do their homework.

Yes you can resell used clothes, books, toys and what-have-you for kids but, and this is a big but, the seller is liable if any of those things don't meet the new testing requirements.

Also all the little shops that make custom or specialty or not hasbro/mattel type products have to test their stuff and this is financially impossible for many of these businesses.

Here is a great little movie that explains the problem

Then check out this This law will create "cultural genocide" for the Native American culture. If you can't raise your children and dress them in a way that promotes your family's beliefs and culture, then the next generation will not learn the culture and it will die.

For the Native American's (or any group that dresses children in a non-walmart way for certain events or reasons) how are they suppose too allow the kids to participate? Well if they can make their own or if they have heirlooms in which to dress the kids, then they are fine. But for people who don't have means to make their own or hand-me-downs. They are out of luck.

And along those same lines, my family does medieval re-enactment. Luckily I am blessed enough to be able to sew and make our stuff but what about the parents who have more money than time or don't have the skills. What are they to do?

Thanks for the pic Ursus Boyo is in Red

This law has such far reaching consequences that haven't even really been considered. Please write your washington people and ask them to fix the law!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Remembering Big Al

I was thinking about my grandfather today. He passed away last year.
When my sister and I were born, I guess he didn't want to be called Grandpa, or pop-pop, or any of those sorts of names so we called him Big Al. At over 6" tall in his prime, it sorta fit.
Anyway as I was saying, I was thinking about Big Al today as Boyo was trying to convince me that at 7, he is old enough to make a bow and arrow and all he needed was flint.
Do we have any flint Mama? Oh it's a rock, do you think there is any out in the yard?
I'll put a coat on (cough, cough, wheeze)
I said no. He went off to another project from the Dangerous book for Boys So far in the past 40 minutes, aside from the previous conversation, he has made a paper water balloon and was banging out Morse code on the floor to see if I understood him (nope).
So how did all this make me think of Big Al you might ask? Well, Big Al was an impressive man and while he had his faults (seriously old school thinking, caveman mentality on some topics). He was always up for trying new things.
At 70 years old he went on a canoe trip with my family and instead of coasting along and relaxing (like the rest of us), he paddled the entire time and made it to camp 2 hours earlier. A few years before he died, he bought a new computer. In his effort to learn how to work it (as it was different than the one he had previously) he reformatted the hard drive at least 2 times that I know about. Big Al was all about learning. When he heard that it was important to continue learning and taking classes as one gets older, he took it to heart, by taking celestial navigation at least 3 times before he passed. He never gave up.
Big Al was the product of a mother from Denmark and a father from Sweden. Both fresh off the boat. While he didn't teach us much about Sweden or Scandinavia in general, the genes were there. It wasn't until I met a boy from Sweden in high school that I learned that the "humpf" of Big Al's was a Swedish thing. Then hearing my baby boy do it at a year old, and knowing he hadn't heard it from Big Al, I knew it was carried on the genes.
I know Big Al didn't have much use for us girls, but he was happy to see Boyo. I wish he could have lived long enough to see Boyo now that he is "interesting." (Big Al would have let Boyo outside to try and find flint even though it is snowing and the ground is frozen. That was how he rolled.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Favorite Things

I am having one of those days when I feel whiny and cold. I started this post with a poem about how much I hate baseboard heaters but I wanted something more up beat (and less whiny). So I will count my blessings instead. I suggest that everyone take a minute and count their blessings. There doesn't that feel better?
  1. I have 2 wonderful kids.

  2. I have a loving and generous husband.

  3. Girlie is making wonderful improvement in speech.

  4. The insurance will cover 30 visits to a speech person in a calendar year.

  5. I have a sister who sends me yarn.

  6. She sent to good stuff!!

  7. I have a mom who will drive 35 miles each way to see the kiddos play soccer.

  8. I get to keep my kids at home with me.

  9. Cuddles whenever I ask.

  10. Wifi!

  11. A husband who understands that while I will share my cereal with the kids but I don't like to.

  12. Friends who have been homeschooling long enough to be able to answer questions and mentor me.

  13. Games day!! Wonderful social time for the moms and kids.

  14. My father who so kindly provided the wifi for Christmas this year. Thanks!

  15. The people on Noggin who taught my kids so many important things (though they really need a news ticker so the parents can know what goes on in the world)

  16. Pinky Dinky Doo- who taught Girlie what assume meant without using any bad words. (hey you try to think of a meaning without using the word a@@)

  17. My hubby who supports my homeschooling the kids.

  18. I am thankful that even though my boss at work is harping on cutting costs, he hasn't laid anyone off yet and is actively looking for more ways to generate income.

  19. New friends who have kids the same age as Girlie and Boyo.

  20. Hubby's work which has said that there is no worries, no lay-offs and no cut-backs.

  21. Friends that I have known my kids entire lives.

  22. Girlie finally being potty trained.

  23. Big Al for providing the genetics that gave my kids the "humpf" that is so endearing and frustrating at the same time.

  24. My mom who would drive to vist weekly when Girlie was small.

  25. Affordable linen (the fabric store)

  26. Boyo's health

  27. Girlie's personality

Ok that is all I can think of now. Not too bad for an off the top of my head kinda thing. What is on your list?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

More on Johnny Law

More discussion about the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008:

The Homeschool Legal Defense Association has weighed in - Homeschoolers will not be affected too badly by the new law. Basically, used books, toys and clothes are safe to be resold as long as the person selling has the done their best to make sure they are safe. So no selling recalled things. Isn't that just common sense?

Oh but it gets tricky. What if an item was recalled and unknowingly donated. Is the resale shop suppose to check every item against the recall list? The purchase date isn't included when stuff is donated, how would they know? And if it did manage to slip through and was caught or made a child sick, the resale shop is liable.

Even the libraries are getting involved. The law is written as to be retroactive so all the kid books on the library shelves would have to be pulled and tested. This would be a great expense not to mention think how long it would take the books from all over the country to filter though the 3 (yest there are only 3) testing sites! It would take years.

So the libraries have issues, the resellers don't have issues unless they let something slip through. But for people who make things for kids; new things, not resold or used things, there are still issues. Even though as a producer of kid stuff, you try and make sure the buttons are sewn on really well on toys or clothes, that the fabrics and yarn you choose are the best, there is still the need to get your products certified to be safe. As a new seller this would be horribly expensive.

Moms who make kids products (home based businesses mostly) have banded together to file a lawsuit against the testing requirement. The petitioners want the language of the law changed so that it isn't so vague to cover products (like clothes and books) that are not likely to have any lead content anyways.

With a bit of prayer, luck, positive thinking, and writing your congress people, this law could be fixed. Please do your part.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Mitten tree Mittens

I have been in a mitten mood. I guess it goes along with girlie's fun-gly socks. Might just be a knitter thing though. Anyway I adapted a pattern (Dullan Mittens). Really, I tried it her way first and while it is very easy, as a sock knitter I disliked her thumb design. Plus, I just had read Favorite Mittens by Robin Hansen and I wanted to try out one of her techniques. So I combined the two and tweaked and here is my pattern. It is named after the tree at the library where one can donate mittens, hats and scarfs for Shepard's staff.

Special Techniques- "Roll the fleece" This pattern requires roving. I bought mine at Knit one for $5. There was enough roving for 2 pairs of mittens.
  • Tear off a bit of fleece as thick as your knitting needle and about 6-8 inches long.

  • Wrap fleece around yarn in between stitches, sorta like when carrying a color while doing fair isle.

Gauge- 6 stitches to the inch on size 5 needles

Materials- worsted weight feltable wool, wool roving, set of 4 double pointed needles (DPN)

Directions- Cast on 40 stitches over 2 DPN. Being careful not to twist the stitches, join in a round. Work in K1P1 for 2 inches. Knit the next row increasing 6 stitches evenly around.

Start rolling the fleece around yarn and knit 9 rows. At the beginning of needle 1, start working the thumb.

Thumb- K 12 stitches. Slide remaining stitches onto needle 2. Use the backward loop cast on method to make 12 stitches on needle 3. Thumb will be worked on needles 1 and 3.
Knit 7 rows of stockinette, remembering to roll the fleece around the yarn. Then start decreases.
Row 1: Needle 1- K1, K2tog, knit to last 3 stitches, K2 tog, K1. Repeat for needle 3

Row 2: knit

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until 8 stitches remain total. Graft end or break yarn and thread though loops (2x) and tie off.

Hand of mitten- Pick up 12 made stitches, plus 1 or 2 stitches on either side of thumb (as needed to close gap) Knit 1 row remembering to roll fleece around yarn. Next row K2 tog on either side of thumb (as needed) 39 stitches.

Rearrange stitches to have 13 stitches on each of the 3 needles. Continue to roll fleece and work in stockinette until mitten measures 2 1/2 inches from thumb join. Then start decreases.

Row 1: On every needle- K2 tog, knit until 2 stitches from end, K2 tog
Row 2: knit

Repeat rows 1 and 2 until 12 stitches remain total. Break Yarn and thread though stitches (2x). Tie off. Repeat for 2nd mitten

Knit an I-cord if desired to attach mitttens though back of a jacket.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Broken crayons

A friend gave me a great idea of how to use all the broken crayons that breed in our house. She melted them into little patties and they are great for coloring or making rubbings.

Here is how we did it. First collect all the broken bits and peel off the paper.

Then fill a muffin try about 1/2 full with crayon bits and stick it in a 250 degree oven for 15 minutes.

Take out and cool, preferably outside. Once the patties are totally cool they pop right out and are ready to use.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Johnny Law

I am not an alarmist. I try to believe that the people in DC have a clue (yes laugh at me). But this new law that will take effect on FEB 10, 2009 is over the top.

There is a law that is meant to reduce lead in children's products. Sounds good so far, right. It defines children's products as anything made for use by a person under 12 years of age. So think about that for a minute. That is pencils, notebooks, desks, stuffed animals, clothes, BOOKS, science kits, the list is endless. The only things given an exemption are electronic devices.

Now I agree there should not need worrisome amounts of lead in things that kids will eat, and I see the reasoning on jewelry or tea sets. We all know that they go in kids' mouths. But what kid over 5 really still eats paper? And who lets their little one ruin books and eat them to the point where the small amount of lead that could be in the pigments in the ink would make them sick. I think the paper would make them sick first.

Anyway here is the law- in pdf Page 7 is where it gets interesting.

Here is a blog that explains this better than I ever could Learning at his feet

And here is one bit of good news. Before today, this law applied to consignment and used clothing and toys. Now re-sell stores are exempt.

This law, as written, will do terrible things to the small business community. Many mom-and-pop shops will be forced to close. I urge you to write to your people in Washington. Tell them that this is a bad idea for the economy.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Irish Cinderlad Lapbook

We finished the Irish Cinderlad lapbook in plenty of time to show it off at book reports. Yay Us!!

One of the moms had never heard of lapbooking so for any of you know don't know, lapbooking is using a folder to hold a bunch of little "minit" books. Minit books are interestingly folded bits of paper that ask and answer a question or hold information on a topic. Well that is pretty not clear huh?

Maybe a better explanation is made by using a visual-

Here is the lapbook.

Forgive the data stick. It was to cover Boyo's name.

Here is the inside. You can see all the minit books.

The story summery is a matchbook, The amazing speckled bull is done with a fan fold. Vocabulary and where did Becon find? are both shutterfolds.

Boyo liked doing his book report in this format and loved showing it off to everyone who was there.

For more information on lapbooks, to find free ones, and directions on how to make your own, check out

Monday, January 5, 2009

Fun-gly Soccer Socks

The kids are playing soccer. Yep for the next few weeks I get to sit near "those" parents. Actually except for one or two dads, I have found that soccer parents are as supportive as any other kind of parents. Of course it could just be that all the "newer" players are put on the same team so everyone on Boyo's team is as capable and excited as he is. Nice to have an even playing field. Too bad they play teams that have a clue.

Girlie is in a clinic for the 5 year olds. When I went out I bought shin guards but I wasn't thinking about socks. Really couldn't regular socks work? Evidently not. After making her play once in her brother's socks and once in Daddy's, I felt bad for the kid. So I knitted her up some lovely, fun-gly (fun but ugly) socks.

These socks were knitted magic loop style, toe up, two at a time (the only way to get the stripes to match). I used 5 different yarns. The lovely blue and green were left overs from my wonderful sister, the rainbow on the foot and the odd purple at the top were leftovers from my "clean out and get rid of it" mom, and the toe was leftovers from the socks I made for my sister for Christmas.
The socks are a tiny bit big in the toe and length of the foot but Girlie is only 5 so I figure that she will grow and even if she doesn't do soccer after this session, she'll have some interesting socks. 'Course I'll never admit I made them.
BTW I was smarter with Boyo's shin guards. His are built into the socks. How cool it that!!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Learning to Read

To a homeschooler, or to a parent for that matter, not much is as important to a kid's education as learning to read. After teaching Boyo to read (there were days I thought he'd never get it) I find that he reads pretty comfortably at a 3rd grade level. Not bad considering that he is 7.

With Boyo we did the systematic phonics approach. First the -at words (cat, bat, hat) then the -ag words (bag, tag, lag) and so on. Then we introduced some sight words (and, the, said). Then with the help of MCP phonics and Leapfrog videos, he made it. He is reading. After a while he even found a set of books that he really likes.

With Girlie the challenge has been different. Even though I started them at the same age, Girlie just wasn't getting phonics. So we stopped and I let her grow thinking that it was because she is more immature than her brother. Then this past September I tried again. She memorized the sight words with no problem, but even though she has known all her letters and letter sounds since she was 2, she just couldn't blend them to make words. Plus even when she got the pattern for the words (ie. all the -at words; cat, hat, fat) because of her speech she couldn't say the words differently enough that I wasn't sure that she wasn't just saying the same words over and over.

So we stopped again. We gave up on phonics. I thought since the public school system, in their infinite glory, did away with phonics in the early '80's, and since I was just one of an entire generation who learned to read without phonics, there had to be something out there that teaches whole language and not phonics as the basis of their reading program.

Well there is and there isn't. There is nothing I found for a homeschooler that doesn't use phonics as its basis other than just reading with your kid. Pointing out the words. Letting your kid guess the next word in the story. So that is what we did.

Then once Girlie had about 30 words that she just memorized, I found these wonderful readers.

Progressive Phonics has these readers that you download and print off. The first few of each set are FREE!!! But it gets even better! (sound like an infomercial) These are short rhyming stories that are each about a page long. The kid reads the big RED word and the parent reads all the other words. Well, that is the way they are suppose to be used, we adapted it a bit.

When Girlie reads a page, we highlight all the words on the page that she knows. It doesn't matter if they are red words or not. If she knows the word we highlight it. Then we read the page. It is sometimes surprising to her when she realizes that every word on the page is highlighted. We try to read a new page plus an old page every day. When we finish a book I see if she can read the entire book (the highlighted words) and I pay her $1.

Yes we bribe our kids. I figure their job if to learn and I get paid at my job so they should get bonus if they do really well at their job.

We have only used the Progressive Phonics since November but she is picking up reading so much faster than before. We added in MCP phonics and while it seems too easy (should have gotten B instead of A) I think it is a good review and might even be helping with her speech a bit since it forces her to sound out the words.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

So the first day with my new 2009 to-do list and I already got one thing knocked off the list. (insert happy dance here!)

6. Repaint the living room or at least touch up the spots that need a second coat ( I colored it because I can't figure out the how to make it a strike through)

Yes the room is a mess and yes that is Boyo doing Girlie's makeup. At least they are watching the Discovery Channel. But I digress...

Once the paint is dry I need to get out the trusty stud finder (so many jokes come to mind) and figure out how to hang the DVD cabinet. I am feeling empowered so I won't go wake hubby.

Friday, January 2, 2009

2009 To Do List

Sometimes it helps to have a plan. I like plans. They make me feel safe , and if my plan is for naught, at least I know I tried.

Here is my plan for 2009 (and sub lists for Boyo and Girlie)
  1. Research insurance coverage for private speech therapy
  2. Learn to cook 2 new recipes that picky hubby will eat
  3. Put all recipes that picky hubby will eat in a binder so I will know if it is an actually thing he has tried and liked.
  4. Knit a new sweater for Boyo (the one I made for Xmas was too small, I plan on frogging it and redoing it)
  5. Knit a baby sweater for Jessica's bun in the oven
  6. Repaint the living room or at least touch up the spots that need a second coat
  7. Hang the DVD cabinet
  8. Organize school stuff
  9. Buy bookshelves for living room
  10. Buy baskets for daily school stuff, one basket per kid, so the daily getting started will be easier
  11. Separate the kids into their own bedrooms
  12. Paint the kids' bedrooms
  13. Put curtains in all the windows of the house
  14. Dry clean curtains for living room window
  15. Get the right kind of hardware for living room curtains and hang them
  16. Blog at least 3 times a week
  17. Offer the Andrew Lost lapbook templates to the homeschooling community for free
  18. Post knitting pattern for bitty baby socks and bitty baby sweater from sock yarn
  19. Make Girlie a dress to wear to the girl scout Daddy-Daughter Dance
  20. Get Jessica's recipe for Mac and Cheese
  21. Make everyone entire new wordrobes for good linen and wool for Pennsic

Boyo's List

  1. Lapbook the entire Andrew Lost series and get it bound
  2. Finish Singapore Math 2B and 3A
  3. Take a reading level placement test
  4. Finish History Curriculum
  5. Learn to knit with 2 colors
  6. Learn to play chess (to earn the cub scout belt loop)
  7. Fight at practice every day while at Pennsic
  8. Become a better, more detailed writer

Girlie's List

  1. Learn to read at a 1st grade level
  2. Take a reading level placement test
  3. Learn to speak well enough to not need speech therapy
  4. Take a tour of the local elementary school in case she does end up there
  5. Learn to count to 100 using English words (thirteen instead of 10-3)

So it isn't as huge a list as it could be, but it still is plenty to work on this year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Well at least she brushed her hair!

As a family of long haired people, we have an ongoing battle with the kids to brush their hair. Either I do it and they cry or they do it but it is often still missing the "dreadlocked" areas. Girlie is particularly difficult when it comes to hair. In the past I have resorted to leaving scissors in her reach and saying "go ahead, do something." So don't judge me that she was 3 at the time.

Anyway now she has entered into the make-up and beauty phase. Which I was dead set against until it was pointed out that cosmetology is a good career and starting career training at age 5 isn't bad.

But I digress...

Last minute

I just realized that the kids have book reports on Monday. Book reports is a class/club put on by a local homeschool mom for the benefit of our homeschool community.

Anyway January's theme is Alternative Fairy Tales. Boyo will be reading The Irish Cinderlad. Girlie was told to "read" Kate and the Beansprout but she wants to do the 3 little pigs. We will see since we don't have a copy of that story.
I am thinking of making a quick lapbook or having the kids do a diorama. Since it is due Monday afternoon and I work all day tomorrow and Monday we will see how much we get done over the weekend.

Once there was a mom who, while on a search for homeschool resources and knitting patterns, discovered blogs. She tried to set one up, but her children were young and the idiot-proof, point and click technology wasn't quiet there so after 2 posts she gave up.

Then years later a friend set up a blog. A very busy and amazing friend who some how, between raising 3 little ones and running a business managed to find the time. So this mom thought, "If she can do it, so can I."

But then came the problem, what would this mom blog about? And that seemed to be an easier question than the search to find a blogging platform that was idiot-proof and point and click. Why she will blog about the kids, homeschooling and knitting!

So as I climb and clamber (knew the picture would be relevant somehow!) into the blogging world... Welcome to my Mousetower.