Friday, April 30, 2010

Weekly Report 4/30/10

Another 2 weeks have flown by since the last so-called Weekly Report. So, what have we accomplished homeschool-wise?

Thalia was sick last week, and mostly sat on the couch reading War of the Worlds. We had some decent discussions about the book.

Now she's back in the swing of doing what's left to do, bearing in mind that she recently finished all of Analytical Grammar, and the science co-op she was in has finished for this school year.

She's working on a report for Jump In writing program, which involved a trip to the library to find books about cats. We have oodles of books about cats, but she decided she needed different ones, new ones, somehow better ones. And she's been going through the books, announcing interesting facts like the most popular cat names, and top reasons cats are better than dogs. I'm not sure where she's going with this.

While she was sick she put off Jacob's Algebra, having discovered that doing math with half of a brain is often detrimental to her scores. She just finished up Chapter 12, Square Roots, which she did well at in spite of claiming she hates them. Now she's entered the world of quadratic equations.

RANDOM TIP: We were talking about factoring since AnnaBeth has been doing factoring in her math. And Thalia commented that Life of Fred gave a trick for factoring thatJacob's didn't mention. Not that I remember what the trick was.

Also, she's got the lead in a murder mystery, and was supposed to have her part memorized. Alas, she's behind on that.

Mango Spanish continues. She's been talking about taking a Spanish Immersion class this summer.

AnnaBeth is chugging along in Writing With Ease 3; she just finished week 10, which had selections from Farmer Boy, a book we remember well. We're finishing up First Language Lessons in bits and pieces, mostly doing it on days we don't feel terribly rushed by having to run out of the house for Improv class, Scouts, musical theatre, etc. etc. etc. (the other day she asked why it always seems like we're so busy, to which the answer is, "Because you've signed up for so many things.").

In RightStart E she's finished up factoring and prime numbers, and has moved into something called multivides. Having gone through this book once before I'm now more discerning about what's important; the multivides are NOT going to be a huge emphasis this time around. We already threw out the check numbers, since the 3s and 9s are pretty much the only ones of value that I can see.

We've finished up Time Cat as a read aloud, and have moved on to Nory Ryan's Song. In history we've been talking about Young Turks. Honestly, I never knew what the phrase "Young Turks" meant, other than as a Rod Stewart song. Sort of sums up the quality of my public school education.

Those were the highlights for our past couple of weeks. The kids want to finish up various studies, so we'll keep on with our schooling for several more weeks into the summer.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday


Needs a top and the little hanger-thingies, then it's done.

I have about 3.5 to 4 yards of this fabric -- it's a denim-weight. Why do I own this? Where did it come from? It's a mystery. Also, do rats eat ladybugs? I think maybe they do. Bethany found an ant one day, and ate it. And they'll eat this fabric whether or not they eat actual ladybugs.

Collar-in-Progress: Number 3 is started. I found a selection of Playaways at the library, so I checked one out to listen to while I crochet. It's not a book I'd read Rules of Decption by Christopher Reich), but the good stuff was all checked out. So I put a couple of holds on other Playaways.

Here's the thing -- this crocheting is mind-numbingly boring, and I can't read while I crochet (unlike knitting). I need something to listen to whilst sitting around crocheting and waiting for kids to finish whatever class I'm giving them a ride to.

Here's a finished collar, unblocked:

I'll get a photo of a blocked and starched one sometime. And then maybe someone will get a picture after they put the crystals on and put them on the dresses (you know, like, if anyone who takes lots of cool pictures with her swanky new camera has a daughter wearing one of the dresses to compete at Nationals, for instance ... gosh, I wonder if we could think of anyone who could do that ... hmmm...).

I'd write more, but I have an overwhelming amount of stuff to do. More about that later, with bonus whining.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Whew! Great job, everybody! There are some really talented kids around the St. Louis area.

We had a bit of a wobbly start for the evening when the tornado sirens went off almost exactly when we needed to leave the house, which made pretty much everyone late. But the show went on.

We took mostly video, so not many pictures. Also, I didn't get a picture of AnnaBeth in the dress I made (which now has dark green ribbon on it).

Here's the hat, though:

I have no idea why we have the following photo, but since we do:
The woman in the black and white top had on way too much perfume.

I knew as soon as she entered the building (and I smelled her from several feet away) that she'd sit near us. She alternated between sitting next to Thalia, then climbing past us to go sit in front of us, allowing us maximum exposure.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dress Rehearsal

They're supposed to show up with hair and makeup ready.

The hair was supposed to be curly with a poof, so we used spikes which we put in last night while watching Project Runway. She's got a hairnet on over the curls now, as per instructions. For the record, rats like to steal spikes and chew them up, so I wouldn't recommend this as a group project.

And makeup is supposed to be foundation and powder, blush, eyeliner and mascara, and red lipstick. Easy peasy -- I just handed her the M.A.C. from the feis bag. Well, come to think of it, I just handed her the feis bag, which is up high in the closet, and let her figure it out.

In summary, Irish Dance made this a pretty easy evening. Curled hair with poof? Stage makeup? Give me a break -- we can practically do this with our eyes closed.

This is a closed rehearsal tonight, but we can video to our hearts content during the actual show. Which is totally backwards from Irish Dance.

(I don't have a feel for how hokey -- or not -- this whole thing is going to turn out to be, so we haven't invited anyone else to the show. Lord knows we've been to some hokey shows of this type before.)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rat Couture

I've been sticking a big, old t shirt in the rat cage on a hammock -- Cally has loved burrowing through it and sleeping in it. I usually switch it with another big, old t shirt during the week since the new, young rats are, shall we say, rather leaky. So I just throw it in with the rat laundry (peed on cube, other fleece bits that have been used for various acts of elimination, crudded up hammocks).

But this past week Bethany went on one of her tangents wherein she decided that everything in the cage needed to be stuffed in the cube, and then all moved out of there (mostly because I switched out the cube) and dragged back down to be stuffed into the igloo. She gets sort of OCD with this -- she can spend hours and hours dragging a large object into a very small place using her teeth.

When I took the t shirt out of the igloo and threw it in the wash, we discovered just how much work she had put into dragging it around (for the record, it had no holes in it before it was donated to Ratland).

I'm thinking it has a certain cachet. Don't you think so? Can you see this in an Etsy shop or on Ebay? One of a kind Rat Couture! It's a new level of grunge!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday's To-Do List

Things to sew in the near future:

New cube for the rats. Or some sort of new design of a cube/hammock. It would help if Bethany stopped trying to rip new windows in the cubes with her teeth. Also, Daphne keeps peeing right outside the cube, which wicks right into the fabric, so we need more than the 2 we currently have for a better laundry rotation.

Capris for me. I have these already laid out, using a Tried and True (TNT) Ottobre pattern. Except I'm changing a bunch of stuff on it, so it might not be so TNT as I think.

Dress for Thalia for 8th grade graduation. Must fit certain parameters that ruled out everything she owned. Add to that her tendency to want to follow the letter of the law while defying the spirit (in other words, lots of comments like, "well, they didn't SAY you couldn't have a slit all the way up the skirt to your hip bone"). It's so fun to select patterns with a smart alecky 14 year old. How did my mom live through my sister and I at this age? Sheesh. Anyway, we've found a Simplicity pattern that we both like, and Simplicity goes on sale at JoAnn Fabrics later this week.

Another dress for Thalia and one for AnnaBeth for Patricia's wedding. These must be pink, which is unacceptable to Thalia for the graduation dress. Drat. Also, AnnaBeth has specified that she wants hers sewn first because she doesn't want it to be one of these things that we slap together at the last minute. Which is what happened with the Easter dress which turned out pretty good. Apparently she'd rather not press her luck on trying that again. Also, she wants to use a different pattern then the Easter dress. Drat.

Finally, it occurred to me last night that I should maybe have a new dress for the various dressy things we're going to this spring and early summer. Not that I care that much whether I wear the same things over and over and over (which you've noticed if you know me in real life). But it might be nice to have a backup dress. Sort of like the rats need a backup cube. Although for different reasons, since I don't think I'll rip a hole in my clothing with my teeth, nor will I pee on it. But you know what I mean.

Okay, once I've typed it all out it doesn't seem like such a huge deal. We can do this.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Weekend

1. Painting.

When our house was built years and years ago the entrance, stairwell, and upstairs hallway were wallpapered. Over the years various owners wanted to change the look of these areas, so they simply slopped on a coat of paint without bothering to take off the original wallpaper (because these people were lazy scum, obviously -- that's the only reason I can think why someone would paint over wallpaper -- LAZY SCUM!). Eventually the wallpaper had so many coats of paint it looked like it was going to fall down if anyone tried to paint over it. The final color was a sort of brownish pink that looked like a really disturbing flesh tone.

Here's a look at the original wallpaper; to the right is the final color of paint:

By the way, originally the entrance floor was vinyl that coordinated with the wallpaper, yellow flowers and all. It boggles the mind.

Anyway, now all of the old, old wallpaper is torn down, the walls repaired, primed, and painted a NEUTRAL color. A huge, huge job, done mostly by Rick, with assistance from Thalia, AnnaBeth, and the neighbor's really cool ladder. Next stop: ripping up carpet in the family room.

3. Sewing.

I made a quick, cheap version of Burda 7656. They are wicked ugly. Also, for the record, the Burda zipper installation instructions are really insane. Anyway, I'm sorry I strayed from Ottobre (which also has really bizarro zipper instructions, but their instructions for EVERYTHING are so terse that they seem to be written for people who don't read the instructions anyway). I'm gonna take the zipper back out and throw the rest in the trash. Sigh. A weekend of sewing, and nothing to show for it.

4. What the kids did.

Aside from helping with the painting project: Dance class. Sang at church. As a matter of fact, I nixed the idea of Thalia going to attend a dance concert with a friend because I thought they'd get home too late considering how early she had to get up on Sunday -- then we ended up watching the Cardinals (Rick was really upset that he didn't catch on the game was on until the 10th inning, but, hey, he still got to watch 10 innings!) until late, late, late. More dance class on Sunday -- I happened to walk AnnaBeth into the studio and stopped dead in my tracks when I realized we were in close-enough proximity to another a Scent Enthusiast. Oh, my nose! It had barely recovered from church! Oh, my poor kids, having to stay there in the studio -- the Scent Enthusiast was the guest teacher! But, hey, maybe it took their minds off of the blisters forming on their feet.

5. Walking.

AnnaBeth is working on the Junior Girl Scout Walking Badge (called "Walking for Fitness"), so we've been walking a lot. Plus, it was a pleasant evening, frankly -- the sort that EVERYONE should be out taking a walk (and many people were). We walked in a different direction than we have ever gone before, and discovered new things about our neighborhood. Spindly little redbuds that had just been planted (redbuds are such sweet trees), a Christmas wreath still up on the side of a house, a big field full of dandelions, a stretch where the trees formed a canopy over our heads as though the sidewalk was going through a green tunnel. Great ending to the weekend.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

New Idea!

This morning I realized that churches should have a special section for people who are ... ummm ... enthusiastic about the use of scented products and perfumes in their personal hygiene routines.

All the scented-product enthusiasts (isn't that a kind way to say it?) should be corralled together with the strategic use of exhaust fans around their area so that the rest of the congregation can be safe from having their olfactory nerves damaged.

Remember, you heard it here first.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Weekly Report 4/16/10

The big news:


Okay, actually I had little to do with it, since Thalia took it in a co-op setting. I graded some of her stuff, and looked over her lab reports. She had an excellent teacher, which is good because she wasn't that impressed with the book or some of the topics covered. Their final project was one she enjoyed -- they were instructed to design a planet that orbited a known star. Thalia's was the planet Sobek, which had no oceans -- instead it has many, many rivers. And from a distance the rivers look like heiroglyphs.

Other than that, Thalia has been working quite a bit on Jump In and Jacob's Algebra. She had to write up an autobiography for a group that she's in. And she continues with Mango Spanish. We need to figure out exactly what will take priority now that Analytical Grammar and Physical Science are finished.

AnnaBeth's priority is math -- we dearly want to be finished with RightStart E as soon as possible. Alas, there are about 50 lessons left. We've finished with areas of parallelograms and triangles for the time being, and are now back into division (leading up to factoring and prime numbers, which is pretty fun stuff). She's nearly done with First Language Lessons 4, so when we're compressed for time we feel okay about skipping it. We do Writing With Ease 4 days per week -- it's getting easier and easier. And she's taking a break from Mango French because there was a glitch in the program and it seemed an appropriate time to stop and work on some other things (like earning every Girl Scout badge possible before her troop's Court of Awards which is coming up soon).

In history this week we learned about Ned Kelly, the Iron Outlaw of Australia. Our read aloud is still Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander. Both kids are in a murder mystery, and thus spend part of each day running lines.

Piano and dance are ongoing, but Scouts will soon be over ... I love this time of year when things are ending and we're discovering more free time to try new things.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Junior Girl Scout Oil Up Badge

We started working on the Oil Up badge back in January when the oil spill in Port Arthur was in the news. AnnaBeth asked how oil spills happen, and, hey, why not get a badge if we're going to learn something new, right? Also, I can't say this enough: THE JUNIOR GIRL SCOUT BADGE BOOK IS GREAT FOR HOMESCHOOLING.

So we found a Thinkquest article on oil spills that we read and discussed, which I counted as Activity 1 - A Day's Work ("Learn what rescue workers or scientists do to try to save animals that have been affected by an oil spill'). Then we looked up some products that petrolwum is used for for Activity 10 -It's in What?.

We then set this badge aside until March, when the weather warmed up and it was a good day to work outside on a rather messy part of the badge -- Activity 5 - Make and Clean Up an Oil Spill. Our oil spill took place in a plastic container filled with water into which we dumped some canola oil:

We decided it was easier to see what you're doing if you put food coloring in the water. AnnaBeth tried several ways to get the canola oil back out of the water, including a spoon and paper towels. She's emptying the spoon into the little round plastic container nearby. She discovered that none of our homemade methods were very successful.

After spending quite a while trying to get the oil out of the water, we moved on to Activity 6 - How Does an Oil Spill Affect a Beach? She set up a beach scene in her plastic container using twigs and bits of plants, Playmobil people, a feather we found (to represent birds):

Added water, and then dumped in canola oil:

Things were calm at first, and then the waves started hitting the shore. AAACK!

(I think this would've worked better in a bigger container).

We had to throw out the feather and the plants. Sheesh, what a mess.

AnnaBeth didn't want to do the geography parts of the badge because she thought we should concentrate on science. I wanted to do them, though, because they seemed fairly easy. So she acquiesced and tried Activity 3 - Where in the World? using a map we found online that shows world oil reserves to color in a map she placed in her Girl Scout notebook with her badge records.

Then she selected one of the countries to study further -- Russia -- for Activity 4 - Around the World ("Pick one country other than your own that supplies the world with oil. Find out about the people who live there.") She read about Russia in a some books we have, including Children Around the World and DK's Geography of the World. This turned out to be one of her favorite parts of the badge.

Overall, this is an interesting badge that you can take in many different directions. It doesn't seem to be a terribly popular badge to do around here -- I'm pretty sure AnnaBeth is the only kid in her troop to earn it. Anyone else out there in blogland working on it?

Early Spring Books

What I've been reading lately:

Carpe Demon
California Demon
Demons Are Forever
Deja Demon
Demon Ex Machina

all by Julie Kenner. I had picked up Demon Ex Machina from the new book shelf at the library, mostly because I thought the title was catchy. It quickly became apparent that there was too much back story to enter the series at that point, so I started with book 1 of the series. Fun, escapist reading, but it got a little redundant reading all 5 books in a row in the space of 2 weeks. Book 4, Deja Demon, was my least favorite of the series, and also the only one I read on the Kindle. I wonder if there's a connection there, since I seem more apt to say a book's writing seems choppy and disjoint if I read it on the Kindle.

Brain Rules by John Medina. Well written, but you know most of this stuff already anyway -- get some exercise, get some sleep, repeat things to remember them etc. etc. My biggest take-away was the discussion of an experiment in which the scent of roses was released while the subjects were doing a task; the scent was also released while they slept that night. The next day the subjects who had performed and then slept in an area with the same smell had better recall than subjects that did not. Hmmm -- I wonder how that applies to homeschooling, since kids sleep in a house that smells the same as their classroom ....

The Hole We're In by Gabrielle Zevin. I wouldn't mind being in a discussion group about this book now -- it's the sort of book you want to talk about afterwards. If I were in a group I'd mention that 1) I thought the end sort of fizzled; 2) Afterwards I had the dreadful feeling that I was supposed to write a paper about the symbolism of Carolyn What's-her-face's lack of nipples, since the book seemed chock-full of imagery specifically designed to give lit majors something to write about; and 3) most of the times when the idea of "holes" was inserted in the plot I was reminded of a lampoon I read of the Left Behind series entitle Right Behind, in which the characters would dramatically pause every time they used the phrase "Right Behind" (including references to someone's right butt cheek) so you could be REALLY REALLY sure to catch that it was SIGNIFICANT ... and then I'd want to giggle at the "hole" reference, because that cast it in a rather silly light ... and I'm still not sure if the author meant it all to be quite so overwrought and silly as it came across to me. Was it self-parody? No clue. This is why I wasn't a lit major.

Change Your Brain, Change Your Body by Daniel Amen. Give a child a hammer and he'll decide everything he sees is a nail; give a doctor a brain imaging machine, and he'll think everything he sees happening in your body is related to the pictures he sees on the screen of the machine. And then he'll write a book (okay, lots and lots of books, mountains of books) on the subject. I liked one of his earlier books, and picked this up to see if he had anything new to say. In a word, no. A waste of time. I won't bother listing the ways in which this book annoyed me, because I'd like to forget that I read it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Not-Really-Weekly Homeschool Report


Analytical Grammar is DONE! Thalia has completed the entire course. Her grammar exercises for the rest of the year will be confined to pencilling in grammatical corrections to her Apologia science textbook (she's contemplating a career in editing just because she thinks some of the errors are stupid and annoying).

In other news, AnnaBeth continues to plod through First Language Lessons. She's currently memorizing "The Height of the Ridiculous", which we also have on CD as part of Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization, although a couple of the words are different. We opted to use the FLL version.

In other memorization news, both kids are working on parts in a murder mystery. They're rather vague on when this will be performed.

AnnaBeth is still using the Writing With Ease workbook 3, from which we got the inspiration for our latest read aloud, Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander (having finished Anne of Green Gables last week).

Let's see, in RightStart E math AnnaBeth has been figuring out how to find the area of a parallelogram. From here we'll move on to finding the area of triangles.

AnnaBeth has also been working on several Girl Scout Junior badges as homeschool assignments. She's completed the Oil Up badge, which touched on science as well as geography. And we're starting several of the outdoor badges, which have us investigating native plant species. OVer the weekend we were distributing our April Shower bags, and I kept giving pop quizzes about the trees we were passing (AnnaBeth did fine, even with ones I wasn't sure she knew).

And Thalia is finishing up her Apologia Physical Science class by studying astronomy, one of her favorite subjects.

As a tangent to learning about the Suez Canal, we listened to Leontyne Price's CD of Aida (which doesn't actually have much to do with the Suez Canal other than someone hoped that it could be performed at the opening since it was written at about the same time). AnnaBeth particularly enjoyed this (who knew?), and it counted towards a Junior badge (important since we're all about the extrinsic awards here -- I mean, why bother enjoying music -- or anything -- for it's own sake when you could get a badge as a reward for jumping through the appropriate hoops?).

And other school-type stuff went on ... sigh, it's hard to list it all without it sounding like, you know, a list that we plod through daily.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

What we've got so far

We've got the dress to a wearable state:

It still needs a ruffle around the yoke, and a bunch of grosgrain ribbon. But at least it's wearable.

Also, a turtleneck, made this morning from Jalie 2805 and some black bamboo/cotton/lycra fabric. Shown here with the black knit pants I made for the occasion:

(photo removed due to issues involving creepy people)

Super soft, But the neck was too small to even get over her head! Yikes! So I cut it off and put a LARGE neck on. She's a little worried that her teachers won't approve the loose neck. One of the reasons I decided to make a turtleneck instead of purchasing it was because she hates to have tight turtlenecks, so I suggested she simply tell the teachers it's a sensory issue. Most people understand that sort of thing, and can tell tales of some family member cutting out all of the tags in their clothing.

Currently I have no deadlines for any sewing projects looming. What an odd feeling!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday

The beginnings of a "Victorian-ish" dress for a musical that AnnaBeth's in:

Right now I'm working on a ruffle for the bottom. Then put it all together.

Then make the black turtleneck I thought didn't have to be done for another couple of weeks but needs to be done by this time tomorrow.

Monday, April 5, 2010

More Easter Stuff

Early church service (which was excellent -- the sort of thing that you wanted to high-five someone after), then home to hunt Easter eggs.

Linda and Mark had invited us over to their house. Uncle Mark took pictures of everyone in their dressy clothes.

Then we had lunch.

Aunt Linda always makes a Peep cake.

Afterwards we played washers,

and then ladder ball.

Then back inside where we hooked up our Wii to their television.

A great day. GORGEOUS weather.

Easter Sewing Marathon Recap

First up, Burda 8155. The fashion fabric was in the clearance section at JoAnn Fabrics for $3 per yard, plus there was some sort of discount going on.

(She's holding a black cat next to her black shirt.)

I added a lining, moved the zipper from the center back to the side, made it an invisible zipper, shortened it several inches, and modified the back slit to accommodate the new length.

Thalia added the plaid high heels from the Payless shoe add, and purple nail polish.

Next, a dress based on the bodice of Burda 9761

We were going to use Kwik Sew 3291 because she really liked the square neckline and short sleeves, but that one pulls over the head (no back zipper) and is consequently very baggy. Plus Kwik Sew is bigger around for each size than Burda (U.S. patterns tend to run bigger than European, plus the fit is different -- you can see it in the shape of the pieces). So I mucked around with the Burda pattern to incorporate the things she liked about the Kwik Sew.

The fashion fabric was a linen from JoAnn Fabric that had embroidery and sequins:

I added a lining through the main body of the dress, and cut the sequins out of the seams of the sleeves. When it was time to hem it I looked through the box of various tapes and bindings I got from Mom when they cleared out their basement, and check it out:

No clue who originally bought this for 38 cents from Kmart (maybe Grandma Dean?), but it matched perfectly:

And since all of those were finished by Saturday morning, I had time to whip up another rendition of Simplicity 3775. I kept the same modified neckline and shortened midriff, but this time used a wonderful knit fabric from Gorgeous Fabrics and shortened the sleeves. I wanted something longer than the cap sleeves the pattern shows, but shorter than the long sleeves, so I just walloped off the long sleeve version.

(My heels are sinking into the yard because it's stupid to walk around the lawn in high heels on a damp morning.)

I need to make some more of these dresses -- they're very comfortable. I discovered I could easily vacuum in it, as well as generally clowning around in it.

All the sewing was done in a little over a week.

Next up: a Victorian costume for a show that AnnaBeth's in. The fabric's in the dryer right now, and the dress needs to be done by Thursday afternoon. More nonstop sewing coming up ....

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fool's!

Thalia is in charge of snacks for her Cadette troop today. So she sliced up pound cake,

toasted it (actually, I did this part, and it was really a pain to do),

mixed food coloring into vanilla frosting,

and made faux Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

We considered making faux Tomato Soup out of vanilla pudding and food coloring, but decided not to.

EDITED TO ADD: People believed she actually brought grilled cheese sandwiches for a snack! What a hoot!