Sunday, November 30, 2014

Flying High at Skyzone

For Kyndal's birthday she wanted our family to go to Skyzone in Kansas City and out to eat at Cici's Pizza. We were finally able to schedule a time to go this weekend. It was so much fun!!! Here are some pics just to show how much (and, yes, we are all VERY sore today, and exhausted!) ...

I even got in on the action! 

Collin's brother Austin is a daredevil!

Brynne had a blast!!! She learned how to do a flip!

Kyndal's inner-tumbler came out in full force!

Collin was a beast on the dodgeball court.

Eli was a little less than a beast, but had a blast!

Dawson dominated the foam pit with his stunts.

Friday, November 28, 2014


It's the day after Thanksgiving and I just spent 10 hours shopping. I am exhausted and laying in bed with a cup of chamomile tea. I have had lots of time to relish in my blessings. And there are many.

I'll start with this man right here and our marriage.

We are like anyone else ... we have had our ups and our downs. But I cherish our marriage and the husband that Rick is to me. I am a very blessed woman to have a man who works so hard to take care of me, who cares about me and how I feel, who does all he can to help me have a joy-filled life. He is hard-working and selfless and I am thankful he is mine.

Oh these kids. They occupy such a huge portion of my heart. I find myself navigating two completely different bodies of water in my parenting. There are the older kids and the younger kids.

If you think that parenting becomes easier the older your kids get, then you haven't yet been the parent of an adult child. I have great kids, yet I lose sleep every night worrying about them. I pray for them harder than I have ever prayed. I find myself smiling so often at the excellent young adults they have become. They make me so proud each and every day and I am so grateful for the close relationships that we have. I have prayed for their future husband and wife since they were small babies. I would pray for them while I fed my babies and rocked them at night. And we have been blessed with Collin and Taylar. I am happy they are in our family and are there for Kyndal and Dawson to love.

And my younger kids ... they are amazing. They are so smart and witty and quirky and fun. They make each day a joy to live as I get to see first hand how smart and inquisitive they are. Their personalities are so different yet they are very rarely apart, by choice. I cherish the days that I have with them because I know that these days will be over so quickly. I look forward to each day that I get to spend with them.

My home is somewhere that I have grown to love so much. I knew the first day I stepped into this house, when it was a disastrous pit, that I was meant to resurrect it into a quaint and loving home. I could stay in this house every day and not leave it. It is filled with all of my favorite things and my favorite people. I don't need much here to make me happy. I don't need new things. I don't need the best of everything. I don't need a lot of space. What is needed is a home where we all feel comfortable and cozy and loved. And I know this house has provided that for our family.

My extended family is a blessing. I have the pleasure of living just a few blocks away from my parents, from my daughter, and from my sister. I have an uncle who lives in town (hi John!), an aunt who comes to visit every week, and a grandmother who is living out her last days in the community health care residential facility, where Dawson works. My other grandmother comes to town every couple of weeks to get her hair done by Kyndal, so we get to see her often, as well. I get to see three of my four nieces as often as I like.

Rick's family has been such an important part of his and my life these past couple of years. His sister and brother-in-law have graciously opened their home to him while he is working during the week. He gets to see his niece and nephew often, and his brother and sister-in-law came for an extended visit this summer. I know that time was special to him. Rick had the opportunity to be with his mother during her last bout of chemo and watch her come through it with shining colors. These are important times for us to share. The good and the bad.

And let's not forget our furry kids. These dogs never leave my side, and most of the time my lap. But they keep me company and keep me warm at night. There is never a lack of love when you have your pups around. Chloe still comes to see me most days while Kyndal and Collin are at work. And we have had the pleasure of welcoming Yadi into their home in all his puppiness. They are a lot of work, are high-maintenance, and I vacuum enough hair that I could open a doggie wig business (is there a market?), but I can't imagine our days without them.

Right here ... these things I have mentioned ... they are all I need. It took me a lot of years to realize that, but I certainly do. I am thankful for the simplicity of our life and the closeness of our family. And not one minute goes by that I do not stop to consider all of which I have to be thankful.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Wednesday Hodgepodge

Besides Thanksgiving it's also National Game and Puzzle Week ... what game have you played most recently, and who were you with? Have you worked a puzzle of any kind in the past week?

A puzzle, no. But we have been playing several rounds of UNO lately. It can get pretty intense around here!

What is the one place you were thankful for this year?

Definitely my home. It is a place where our family has celebrated so much and grown so close this past year.

Take a nap, watch football, go for an after dinner walk, or hit the stores ... which ONE is on your must-do list for Thanksgiving Day?

As shameful as it may sound ... shopping. After our family celebrations are complete, I leave Rick home with the kids and I go to Walmart for Black Friday sales. I really do get some great bargains on the kids' wish lists from Santa.

Besides Thanksgiving, what's your favorite home-cooked meal?

I love homemade asian chicken stirfry with extra water chestnuts over white rice. Yum.

What product from an infomercial would you most like to own?

I don't watch commercials so I don't ever see infomercials. I really can't think of anything. But I'll share a memory from my childhood. Remember the Ginsu knives that could cut through an aluminum   can and then perfectly slice a tomato? We ordered those and they really did work great!!

Christmas shopping? Have you begun? Finished? Will you shop on Black Friday? How do you feel about stores opening on Thanksgiving Day? What percentage of your shopping is done online?

I have gotten a pretty decent start on shopping. I am nowhere near finished, but I should be pretty close after this weekend. So, yes, I will be doing Black Friday shopping. I am not a huge fan of stores dragging people away from their families on Thanksgiving. But, it can't be denied that there are great bargains to be had. My family is pretty "done" by early evening anyway so I don't feel too bad leaving them snuggled up in their pjs watching a movie while I hit Walmart. I usually have a pretty decent list, but am not desperate enough for bargains to end up hospitalized or in jail. I do love to go shopping on Black Friday, as well, but am not too interested in getting up at 2 or 3 in the morning to beat the crowds. This year I am going with my mom, my daughter and her future mother-in-law, and my son's girlfriend and her mom. Even if we don't buy a thing it will still be fun to spend the day with these amazing ladies. I usually do about a third of my shopping online. When we lived in Oklahoma I would get up on Christmas Eve morning, early, and go to the local shopping center to pick up on some last minute bargains. It was lots of fun and if we lived that close to good shopping now I would do the same thing.

What are you most grateful for that adds beauty to your everyday life.

Well, my morning coffee certainly helps. It helps me to open my eyes just a little wider to actually see the beauty around me. The easy answer to this question is to say 'my family' ... my husband and children. But, it's just the truth. They provide all of the beauty in my day that I need.

Insert your own random thought here.

This morning a young woman we knew and went to church with in Oklahoma passed away. Her name was Ginger Lovan. She was 35 years old and leaves behind an awesome husband and three children. Jason and Ginger had been called to missions with King's Cross that works with orphaned children in Haiti. They lived there for several years, building and teaching in a school, until Ginger was diagnosed with cancer. She leaves behind an amazing legacy, but a heartbroken family. Ginger was an extremely sweet girl and I feel privileged to have known her. In honor of Ginger her family is requesting donations to the King's Cross School. If you would like to make a donation you can go to THIS WEBSITE.

Rest in peace, sweet Ginger.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Random 5

1. Rick has a continuing education class to take in New Orleans in January. Although New Orleans is not my favorite place to go, getting to go anywhere with my husband alone without the kids quickly makes it a favorite! With his airline points I am able to fly with him for free and relax in the already-paid-for hotel while he is at his class. In other words, it's a free vacation!! He and I haven't gone away together for more than one night for a couple of years. I am really, really looking forward to it!

2. I have mentioned it a couple of times this week but our new direct vent furnace was an incredibly smart purchase! It works perfectly for us, and we have been toasty warm all week.

3. Dawson and I are meeting with an Army Recruiter on Monday to discuss his future. He knows that he wants to go to community college next year to utilize the A+ Scholarship he has earned. He wants to be a high school history teacher. After two years at the community college he will need to go onto a state university to receive the remainder of his teaching degree. He wants to come out of college without any debt. He also knows that he will not make a ton of money has a teacher. So he is looking into the Army Reserves or the National Guard for college money and for additional income for when he is teaching. He will not sign on until he is done with community college, but he is wanting to learn everything he can about it to decide if it is a viable option for him. I am very proud of him for considering his future so seriously.

4. We are finishing up our latest book in the Little House on the Prairie series. We will complete On the Banks of Plum Creek and all remaining activities for it on Monday and Tuesday next week and then will take our Thanksgiving break. That leaves us with about two weeks before we take an extended Christmas break so I don't want to start a new Little House book as the lessons are broken down into four-week sessions. So, I am thinking of switching gears to Christmas and doing two weeks of Christmas literature studies with Tomie dePaola. That will require some planning on my part but the planning will do nothing but get me in the Christmas spirit.

5. Yesterday I bought our Christmas turkey because it was on sale for a great price. When I was carrying it into the house, the grocery store bag ripped and I dropped the 15 pound turkey on my toe. This morning it was purple. Ouch!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wednesday Hodgepodge

What's something you take for granted that when you stop to think about it, you feel truly grateful for?

Oh this is easy .... definitely my husband. He does so much for me and the kids, and does it so regularly, that I definitely take him for granted. He is just someone I can always depend on and don't have to ask for help. He is a very giving person and makes it clear that he desires to make me happy and make my life as easy for me as possible. I get so caught up in the day-to-day of my life that many times I don't stop to realize how much more difficult my life would be without him. I am truly blessed to have Rick as a husband.

The color brown ... love it or not? What's your favorite shade of brown? Most loved something in your home or closet in a shade of brown.

I LOVE BROWN! The main colors of my house contain brown. My closet is full of brown. Chocolate brown is my fave. My two favorite items of clothing are my dark brown puffy jacket with a furry hood and dark brown short Uggs. In fact, I wore both of them yesterday.

What's something you're looking forward to today?

I love days like today. It's cold outside and I have absolutely no reason why I need to leave the house. I am going to put on some comfy clothes, teach some school, fix some dinner, and then snuggle in for my beloved Wednesday night television shows.

The word 'feminism' is not new, but it has been generating all kinds of headlines in recent days and months. What do you think/feel when you hear the word? If you're a woman, do you want to be described as a 'feminist'? Why or why not?

Well, if it's been a news headline then I don't know much about it. I don't really follow the news except what is reported on CNN Student News that I watch with the kids. I prefer to be a hermit and not worry about all the stupid things others are doing out there in the world. It is obvious that feminism has done nothing but make women less feminine. To me 'feminism' means "I am a woman but I want to be a bossy man." It is comforting to have a man take care of me. I have tried being the feminist woman, working the high-pressure job while failing to be a good wife and mother. It caused nothing but stress and destruction and pain. Making a decision to take my rightful place in the world, of being a wife and mother first, a keeper of my home, was the smartest thing I have ever done. I take pride in hearing my daughter, who now has a career, say that when she has children she wants to be a stay-at-home mom, and hear my youngest daughter say she wants to be a mom and homeschool her children. I am not against women working as long as they are first able to take care of their home and family ... I am currently working three jobs (babysitting a 5 year old in the mornings, working two afternoons at Kyndal's salon, and teaching an online business law course.) But if any one of these three things starts to interfere with me taking care of my family or leads to me neglecting my home then I will eliminate one, two or even three of them. I have done things both ways and the current way is best.

What is something you personally can't eat without making a mess?

Tacos. It doesn't matter if they are hard or soft tacos. I always get it all over my face and the insides always end up all over my plate.

When did you last surprise someone with a little gift, or when were you last surprised by someone with a little gift? What was it?

Last weekend I brought Eli home a Disney Infinity character that he had been wanting. He was running a fever and I knew he would be down for a few days and knew he would enjoy playing this character on his game. Rick gets me little things all the time. One day I received a package with a canvas tote bag from Mood fabric store in New York because I love Project Runway and always wanted one of the Mood bags. Just the other night he sent me a picture of a half-zip fleece pullover he found in a shop in San Francisco while on a business trip to see what color I would like. (He knows that half-zip fleece pullovers are my current winter uniform.)

Share a favorite quote, saying, song, lyric, or scripture relating to gratitude.

For some reason the song Amazed by Lonestar immediately came to mind. I don't know that it is necessarily about gratitude, but I guess it could be. I have a platter on my kitchen counter that says, "Have an attitude of gratitude." I look at that every day and it is a constant reminder to be grateful (even when I am standing there doing dishes, cooking, or cleaning the kitchen for the 49th time that day.)

Insert your own random thought here.

How about a picture of my new best friend.

Last winter our central furnace went out. We have a 100 year old house and replacing the entire HVAC and duct work was not an option. It was a long and bitterly cold winter last winter. We survived with electric heaters. But it was miserable. I could do it again if I had to, but luckily I don't have to! Funds are not there to replace the system again this year so we opted for a direct-vent furnace. And now we have a warm house!! It is located in our dining room which in right in the center of the house and when it kicks on it warms up our living space in about 45 seconds. It is fabulous!!! Believe me, I am GRATEFUL!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Two Decades

Happy birthday to Kyndal! She is 20 years old today. First of all, I think I am too young to have a 20 year old daughter. I mean, wasn't she just born a few weeks ago? Sure seems like it.

This has been such a big year for Kyndal. She graduated from cosmetology school, bought a house, moved out on her own, got engaged, and got a job at her dream salon. Now she is in the middle of planning her wedding. Oh, and she became a doggy mama for the second time today. Her and Collin are the proud parents of Yadi, a 17 week old Miniature Australian Shepherd. I know she is going to be a great mama to him as she is to Chloe, her first baby.

It's strange to sit back and watch your young daughter turn into a young woman. Kyndal has undergone an amazing transformation in the past couple of years, and especially this last year. I spent the better part of 19 years worrying daily about her but now I have confidence that she is going to be okay. After a few bumpy years we are the best of friends and it is nice to have the kind of relationship where we can really talk and share our lives with each other. I am thankful that she still comes to me for guidance and even, sometimes, heeds my advice.

Backstreet Boys Groupies

I am very proud of the young woman that Kyndal has become. She has greatly surpassed what I thought any young lady would be capable of achieving. I should have known that my little independent spitfire would accomplish whatever it is she wanted. She is my daughter, after all. She's got a stubborn streak.

This next year will bring even more milestones for her. She will be married in the summer, and there is talk of a baby as soon after marriage as possible. I never doubted for a minute that this would be the life she would choose.

So as Kyndal embarks on another exciting year, I ask for your prayers for her. She is, after all, still my little girl.

Monday, November 17, 2014


Well something great happened this weekend ... I became a Great Aunt! My niece, Rylee, delivered sweet little Ellie Noelle on Saturday morning. She was 6 pounds 5 ounces and 19 1/2 inches long. She has a head full of black, silky hair and she is absolutely gorgeous! Mama, daddy and baby (and my sister, the new grandma) are doing fine and they are now home starting their new life with Ellie.

Yeah, we're all pretty much in love ...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Heat and Lack Thereof (Prairie Primer: Plum Creek Week 3)

We had a pretty great week around here, if you ignore the frigid cold temps that blew in! Brrrr! It's been crazy cold! But we are all snuggled up in the house keeping warm. And home is where we will be staying for the next several days as Eli now has the virus that nailed Brynne a couple of weeks ago. His fever has not gotten as high as hers, but he is much better about drinking fluids so I am sure that is helping.

On the last warm day before the frigid temps hit.

Despite the newest round of sickness to hit us, we had a very productive week. (Don't know if I am going to be able to say that about the upcoming week.)

Each day the kids continue to do their math assignments (they have completed Lesson 18 in Math U See), grammar assignments (they continued working on helping verbs), Bible (stick figuring the birth of Jesus), and personal reading (Eli is finishing up a book in the Middle School series by James Patterson and Brynne is reading a new book in the Dear America series: Like the Willow Tree by Lois Lowry.)

A huge highlight for the kids this week was when Carl Azuz gave a Roll Call shout out to all of the Homeschoolers who watch CNN Student News. No he didn't say, "I'd like to welcome the Taulman family" but we sure felt like he did. It's great to see the show recognize all of us homeschoolers who faithfully watch them. We love that show and hope to take a field trip to the CNN Headquarters in Atlanta sometime soon.

We continued to read On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder and do our Prairie Primer lessons. We also watched two episodes of "Little House on the Prairie".

This week's topics of study included:

Heat Transfer: Conductors vs. Insulators

We spent some time on Monday completing a science experiment we copied from Beakers and Bumblebees. We did a full science notebooking page on the experiment, documenting our Focus Question, Plan, Hypothesis, Observations, Data Collected, and Claims. We all made different guesses as to which materials would insulate the water the best or be the best conductor of heat transfer. We were all wrong! It was a good lesson!


We learned all about the grasshopper plagues that hit the Midwest in the late 1870s. It was this plague that destroyed the Ingalls' wheat crop and plans to pay off all of their debt from building their house. Those were some devastating years!

We read aloud the book Grasshoppers by Sophie Lockwood and then did research on what weather conditions exist for "Grasshopper Weather". Then the kids drew pictures in their science notebooks of what the weather was like in Fall, Winter and Spring to make the conditions ripe for a swarm of grasshoppers.

In 2012 there was a swarm of grasshoppers around Albuquerque, New Mexico, that it could be seen on Radar! The weather professionals were confused and thought that their radar must be broken until they realized it was grasshoppers. Yuck!

The kids also learned about the parts of a grasshopper and about the food chain and their important roll in it.


A big topic, especially involving Nellie Ollsen, is the one of vanity. We discussed vanity by reading scriptures from the Bible and individual stories from On the Banks of Plum Creek. Then we watched Beauty and the Beast to see what consequences were in store for the prince, and Gaston, from being vain. Lastly we made vanity cakes using the recipe from the The Little House Cookbook. Ours were a flop because I molded the dough too tightly into a ball instead of just moving it around in the flour before putting them in the oil to fry so they didn't puff up. These things only used a few ingredients but were very hard to make! You had to have your oil temperature just right, the right consistency of the dough, and more. Ours were like hard balls, but they tasted pretty good!

Veteran's Day

We took a break from Prairie Primer on Tuesday to celebrate Veteran's Day. This year we decided to learn about the Dogs of War. This was an emotional lesson for us as we so cherish our four dogs. Knowing what dogs have gone through in war zones throughout the past few hundred years (and before) was heartbreaking. We shed lots of tears for the fallen dogs and their handlers. In fact we had to stop watching The True Story of the Vietnam War - War Dogs - America's Forgotten Heroes because we were actually sobbing.

To cheer us up at the end of the day we made homemade dog treats for our pups using this recipe. They have loved these treats and they are so much better for them than store-bought treats.

I told the kids that it would be a super cool fundraiser to make and sell these dog treats and then donate the profits to America's Vet Dogs. What about a bigger fundraiser, like a bike-a-thon at the park? Maybe a pet parade and contest? Wouldn't that be cool? Maybe just before Veteran's Day next year? Something to consider!

It was another fun week in the Little House books. It always makes me look forward to what's in store for the next week! Join us to find out!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Random 5

1. Well, now Eli has the virus that hit Brynne so hard a couple of weeks ago. He has the exact same symptoms she had ... a very slight sore throat, a very tiny bit of stuffy head, and a fever. So we are back to being snuggled up at home.

2. Out of all the t.v. shows I like to watch (and there are many), Project Runway is my favorite. However, I realize that I must suck at identifying New York caliber fashion. On this week's episode of All-Stars, the six designers I picked with the strongest designs were in the bottom six. Apparently there's a reason I am a stay-at-home homeschooling mom and not a fashion magazine editor. You will only get how funny this next statement is if you are a fan of the show. If you aren't then you can just skip ahead to number 3 .... "Do you know the people who hate Nina Garcia? People who suck."

3. My niece Rylee is having a baby right now as I type. I mean she is literally pushing out her baby girl as I am typing this. My mom just texted me and said that the baby is face up so she is having trouble pushing. Shoot up a little prayer for her if you don't mind. UPDATE: Ellie Noelle was born this morning and weighed 6 lbs. 5 oz. She is perfect and beautiful! Mama and baby are both tired but doing great!

4. It is coooooold! Winter has come early to the Midwest. It's supposed to get down to 10 degrees this week. We are not quite ready for this burst of frigid air. I love winter, but not when we are supposed to be enjoying our favorite season of fall!

5. My sister-in-law, Shawna, has written a children's book and is participating in Kickstarter to try to get funding to get it published. It is called The Wheels on the Bicycle and is an adaptation of The Wheels on the Bus. Tim (my brother) and Shawna live in Oregon and are part of the bicycle movement (they even moved all of their furniture and belongings to their house with bicycles!) so this project is very near and dear to them. If you would like an opportunity to make a pledge and receive a copy of her book when it is published, you can go to THIS LINK. Any pledge would be appreciated. Shawna will not make any profits on the book. She has done this out of pure passion and all money charged for the book will go directly to publishing and shipping costs.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wednesday Hodgepodge

I am just going to start out by saying that I feel really exposed in answering these questions this week. My answers confirm just what a hermit I really am.

We celebrate Veteran's Day in the US of A on November 11th. When did you last interact with a member of the armed forces (either currently serving or retired)? Have you ever written a letter to a soldier, bought a meal or coffee for a soldier, said an unprompted thank you to a soldier you encountered out and about somewhere? If you are not in the US, comment on a similar holiday in your own country.

My last interaction would have been with the Blue Angels when we were getting autographs last Spring at the Naval Aviation Station in Pensacola. To my knowledge I have never discussed military service with anyone who has served. I interact with veterans all the time, my dad being one, but I don't know that we have ever discussed his time in the military. My mom and I have had more discussions about our years in the military, when I was very young, but that's about it. I, ashamedly, admit that I have never reached out to a soldier.

You can have fifty pounds of anything at all (except money) ... what would you choose?

Comfy clothes, comfy jammies, robes, and slippers. I love to be comfortable, especially when it gets as bitter cold as it is right now.

When did you last receive an invitation in the 'real' mail? What was it for and did you attend? When it comes to RSVP-ing, are you an 'early responder' or a 'last minute, barely-under-the-wire kind of guest?

I recently received a postcard invitation to a home interior type party. I did not RSVP at all. I completely forgot. Usually I send an RSVP immediately upon deciding whether or not we can attend the event.

What's something you really don't like to waste?

Water. When we have water left in a drinking glass, I pour it into the dog or cat bowls. I use my dehumidifier water to water my plants.

Cheers, Friends, M.A.S.H., Seinfeld ... of the ones listed, your favorite long-running sitcom?

I was never a big fan of M.A.S.H. I did love the later years of Cheers and even have the series finale on VHS somewhere. Seinfeld was something I watched hit or miss. But I really did love Friends. Every episode is hysterical. It would be my favorite of the four.

What decision are you glad you made?

I have never regretted quitting work almost 14 years ago to come home and take care of my family full time. I have cherished the time I have gotten to spend at home with my children. To always be here with them and for them is my greatest joy.

In this month of 'Thanksgiving' what is one thing that's different today than it was a year ago that you're grateful for?

Last November I was at the beginning stages of my child support case and all the stresses involved with it going into the holidays. Now we are at the end of it. I wish I could say it's completely over, but it's still not. My ex has filed a motion for a new hearing because he didn't like the results of the last one. The judge will rule on that tomorrow. I am hoping and praying that things will be finalized tomorrow because enough is really just enough. I am grateful that we are more near the end than back at the beginning. That is for sure. (At least I hope we are. I have certainly learned to not count on anything where my ex is concerned.)

Insert your own random thought here.

We decided to purchase a 62,000 BTU Direct Vent Furnace since we cannot afford to install a whole new furnace, ducting, etc., in our old house. It's been ordered and should be here in the next week or so. I am anxious to see how well it will work for us this winter. It has to be better than our little electric heater. The bitter temps are already here and I have a feeling it's going to be a long, miserable winter, just like last year.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Weekly Wrap-up ~ Lessons (Prairie Primer: Plum Creek Week 2)

It actually felt great to get back to school this week after being off all last week due to Brynne's sickness! We had a great week of learning!

The highlight of our day each day (after watching Carl on CNN Student News) is reading our latest Little House book. This week we read Chapters 13-23 of On the Banks of Plum Creek. So far this is my favorite book in the series.

In grammar we learned about helping verbs. And I mean we learned them. You just gotta memorize those suckers. There's no other way around it. To help us out we learned The Helping Verb Song (to the tune of Jingle Bells). By the end of the week Brynne had the song memorized and now knows all 23 helping verbs! Eli almost has it memorized, too.

To finish up our study of the parts of a tree, we completed a Parts of a Tree Unscramble from and watched the video The Secret Life of Trees by the University of Illinois. These were both very good.

As Laura and Mary started attending school in our reading, we learned about the great educator Noah Webster. We watched Who Was Noah Webster - Drive Through History. We have this series on DVD and the kids are now old enough that they really enjoy it. We will be using it more and more.

Then the kids did a Noah Webster biography reading assignment and an online quiz by Garden of Praise. I was thrilled at how well the kids did on this. We are not ones who usually take tests. In fact I completely shy away from reading a passage, answering questions, and then testing on them. It feels like the part of school that I think is worthless ... total memorization and regurgitation of information. Typically I know when my kids have retained information that we have studied because they talk about it and use it in real life situations. I don't need them to mark A, B, C or D to show me they have learned something about a topic. But I was curious how well they would do if they were required to take a reading comprehension test. They read the Noah Webster biography that was detailed in facts. Then they answered 20 multiple choice questions. Eli only missed two and Brynne only missed one. They were beaming at how well they had done! And I was, too. It's always fun to have confirmation that they really are as smart as I think they are! Then Brynne saw that there were other biographies and quizzes that were on the site and she wants to do some just for fun. Okay ... go for it!

We started learning about Conductors and Insulators from Science Kids. This was a computerized activity where the kids could choose items that they thought would light up the bulb when placed in the circuit. They learned the attributes of those things that would be good conductors and those that wouldn't (insulators). On Monday we will be doing a set of experiments about conductors and insulators. I am looking forward to the experiments (they look fun!) and getting back into our science notebooks.

We did a short writing assignment by doing a five-senses descriptive paragraph. We had just read a part of the story where Laura falls in the freezing cold creek. I had the kids imagine themselves doing that and to describe, with all five of their senses, the experience. Our writing could use a little work. We haven't done a lot of writing this year but we will pick back up with Write Shop after Christmas and do regular daily assignments.

Ma and the girls would make star light catchers out of old scraps of paper to hang off their shelves since they did not have money for other decorations for their home. They resembled a string of paper dolls. We took a few minutes to make some.

The topic of debt has come up in our Little House assignments lately. We watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie where the Ingalls family had built up a tab at the general store waiting for Pa to receive payment on a job he had been working on at the mill over the past couple of months. When it was time for him to get paid he was told that the company they had been doing the work for had gone bankrupt and they would not get paid. The family had to sacrifice (truly sacrifice ... not the 21st century's version of the word) to get the debt paid. Then one of the stories in On the Banks of Plum Creek involved the family borrowing all of the supplies to build their house with an intention to pay the debt once their first wheat crop was harvested. There is evidence of possible "grasshopper weather" so we are anticipating they will lose the crop and not be able to pay the debt. The kids are stressed about this as we are reading. I have also been sharing with the kids some instances of how debt has affected our lives personally. I have tried to be as honest with them as possible. What they have learned from these stories is, "Just don't do it." Do not go into debt. Don't. Honestly, if this is the only thing they learn this entire school year then I am happy.

We listened to and discussed the song Uncle John is Sick Abed. This song is part of a story where the girls are playing "Ring Around the Rosie" on the playground because that's what Nellie wants to play, but the other girls want to play "Uncle John". Nellie gets mad and pulls Laura's hair and trots off like she has won, but then the girls walk away from Nellie and play Uncle John anyway. (Of course Nellie's behavior always gives us good topics of conversation!) The kids took this story and completed a sequencing worksheet to determine if they could remember in what order the events of the story took place. We had read this a couple of days before so it was a challenge for them. But they did great! It is also interesting to learn about the different games that children played in pioneer days. Very interesting.

We spent a couple of different days creating a prairie flower landscape canvas to hang in my bedroom. We used this tutorial and worked together. We have loved visualizing what the prairie fields must have looked like at the Ingalls' home and now we can see a piece of it every day. I love the way it turned out! I am honored to hang it on my wall!

We spent the last 45 minutes of each of our school days watching Little House on the Prairie. This week we watched Season 2, Episodes 1-4.

Brynne started basketball practice this week and the kids are back to bowling on Saturday mornings. Did you know that in three games of bowling you walk approximately one mile? With the strength exercises of lifting and throwing the ball, you can bet we count our bowling time on Saturdays as P.E. school hours. They receive constant instruction from the owners of the bowling alley. Eli is also going to start bowling on Friday evenings to get in some extra practice because he treats bowling as his sport. He doesn't just think of it as recreation. He wants to improve and compete in it.

We figured up all of our hours to determine when we will be able to take our Christmas break. We will take off Thanksgiving and the day after and then will end school for the first semester on December 12th. We will then take off school for a month before we resume on January 15th. Seeing a long break ahead gives us incentive to put in our hours now.