Saturday, October 24, 2015

Playing Catch-up: School

I am playing catch-up today with this blog.  In September, I had some technical difficulties with my phone and felt as though I would rather wait to blog until I could get my pictures off my phone.  Now the issues have been solved, so, working my way forward:

Our school year has been going really well so far.  We are immensly enjoying geography.  We began learning the seven contients and made a salt-dough map. 
 Next, we learned about China and made our Great Wall model.  
 The kids still enjoy playing with it! 
 We learned how to make paper, like the Chinese did so long ago.  When we were done making the paper we wrote our numbers in Chinese on it.  We added marigold petals for flair.

 While in "Japan," we held a tea ceremony.  Darth Vador attended.   My brother and sister-in-law lived in Japan for several years and so many of the things we used were actually from Japan including the cloth, tea-set and tea.  While the kids sipped their tea, I read them some japanese childrens stories from the book Uncle Jason and Aunt Becky sent for Christmas one year. 

This tea ceremony made a huge impression on Ryan.  He continues to ask for more tea ceremonies.  Right before leaving for vacation, we studied India.  We happen to have an authentic south Indian restaurant nearby so we tried it out.  Ryan actually really enjoyed the curry and the bread and several of the sauces.  

 We also built a replica of the taj-mahal. 

Co-Op:  Our little co-op committed to taking fieldtrips all of September.  One of those was to a place called Meadowcroft, a replica village of early coloniel life.  They had an indian village so we enjoyed learning about the differences between tee-pees and wigwams and everyday life.  

 Ryan's favorite activity was throwing spears with the atladle at a "deer." 
 Here they are trying on clothes at the trading post.
 They "attended" a colonial school.  The school marm let them ring the bell and read from the primer.  She showed them the water bucket and ladle and let them play coloniel games at recess, including rolling large hoops with a stick.

 Finally, we were able to see the rockshelter, the oldest in America.  It is still an authentic archeologist digging site to this day. 

When a Fun Afternoon Becomes Not Fun and Ultimately a Tale of Kindness

Fall has reached its peak here and it's stunning.  Brilliant oranges and yellows and fiery reds are dotting the landscape.  The smell of damp leaves is everywhere.   Crunching follows every footstep as leaves are crushed underfoot.  It's a great time of year.  Yesterday was particularly beautiful.  It was sunny. The sky was bright blue.  The air was cool and crisp.  
In the words of Catherine Marshal, who so aptly said, "It's today I must be living!" I gave the kids a half-day of school. We went to the park and it was glorious.  The kids whooped and hollered and stretched their little legs.   We had also brought the dogs, so within a few minutes a circle of kids had come over to pet them.

We went for a nice stroll after a while down a path into the woods.  The path opened into a meadow dotted with trees and we saw a brilliant orange tree.  The sun was shining through the leaves just so, lighting them up.  It was beautiful.

The kids made a leaf pile from the fallen leaves at the foot of the tree and just enjoyed throwing leaves, kicking leaves, chasing each other and trying to find the brightest colored ones.

After a while, it was time to go run a few errands.  I dropped the dogs off on the way to the store, which turned out to be a really good thing.  We were in and out of the store with no problem and were headed home with our one working window rolled down, enjoying the nice breeze, when our fantastic fall afternoon took a sour turn.

We were sitting at the light on the highway about three miles from home when the car began shaking violently. Then it died. Right there at the light it died.  Uh oh.  I tried to re-start.  It coughed and sputtered.  I tried again.  It made a short roaring noise like the engine turned over, so I threw it into drive to have the car begin rolling backwards.  I guess it hadn't started after all.  The light changed to green.  I threw my hazards on.  Dylan began to cry.  "I'm scared!" He sobbed.  So was I.  My worst nightmare, being broken down, in the middle of the lane with no way to even move, on the highway....with rush hour approaching.....but I couldn't tell my four year old that.

             Instead I said something cheerful like , "We're fine.  Everything is OK."  And speed dialed my husband. Who didn' answer.  Four increasingly irriated calls later, he still didn't answer.  I was practically shouting at Siri, when I finally gave up trying to call and demanded she "TEXT JOSH," which she obediantly did. No immediate reply. Cars were whizzing by and traffic was building up behind me.  Step two, I decided should probably be to call the police.  What's the number for the police? Surely it's not a 9-11 call, but I don't have the number for the police. Surely Siri would know that. She's a robot. Robot's know everything.  So I (probably was yelling) at Siri to call the police.  It turns out calling the police is the same as calling 9-11 to Siri.  She called 9-11.  Good to know for the future.   The operator was able to dispatch the police and we just sat tight.  While we were waiting for the police to arrive, Josh called me back.  "What now?" I wanted to know.  He gave me a number for AAA.  We weren't members, but it looked like we were going to be real soon.  I was on hold for about ten minutes.  While I was sitting there with the phone clutched in my sweaty palm listening to steriotypical elevator music the officer showed up.
              He came over and asked if I was able to move the car.  I tried to start the car and shifted it to first gear as he directed and the car immediately began rolling backwards.  Since I wasn't able to move the car out of the lane at all, he asked if a tow truck was on the way.  I told him I was on hold with AAA.  He told me to tell them that I was "in a bad spot and to make it a priority."  So I did when I finally spoke to a human on the other end of the line.  They assured me they would.  Then the agent on the line asked if I had anyone else in the car with me who needed to be transported.  I told him I had two small kids in the car.  He got their ages.  Then it sounded as if he was shaking his head through the phone.  He told me his driver was not going to be able to transport the kids because car seats don't fit in the truck.
"My driver cannot safely transport those kids.  Is there anyone you can call?"
Silence on my end as my throat closed over. We have friends who would be willing, but they live 45 minutes away through two tunnels and it's rush hour. No.  I can't call any of them.  No family lives less than six hours away.  No.
"No" I finally told him.
"Well you are gonna need to find a way to transport those kids.  My driver can't do it."
"OK." And that's when I finally broke down and cried.
             I called Josh back.  He gave me a number for a taxi service and the whole time I was wondering how we were going to pay for it. Then I thought of one person who might be able to help us.  An old co-worker who had recently moved to our area.  I called her up and got her voicemail.  I left a possibly desperate sounding message.  While I was in the middle of sobbing out our situation to the taxi service, she called me back.  She was able and willing to come get us but it would take about thirty minutes.   I thanked her and said we'd wait for her and gave her our location and let the taxi service know something had worked out and they kindly wished me luck. About that time the AAA tow truck guy arrived.  He was a big african american man with a gap in his teeth and he was wonderful.  His demeanor was incredibly soothing.  He took a look at the two scared faces of my kids and my possibly tear-streaked one and in a deep bass reminded me that my car breaking down wasn't my fault, which made me want to cry again because he sounded so kind.  He asked if anyone was coming for me, and I told him a friend would be by in about thirty minutes.  He sortof shook his head and said with a sidewase gesture at the kids "We'll pile 'em in."
             And so, that is how, under full sight of an officer of the law, my four year old and six year old sat in the front of a tow-truck, double-belted and very much against the law and AAA policies, and this kind man took us home and helped me get my groceries out of the car.  
He had to call in when we arrived and take my payment.   He was trying not to let them know he had transported us, but the numbers weren't adding up and so they figured him out.  I could hear the person on the other end giving him a hard time--reminding him that was not safe and against their policies and bless him--he stood right up to them. "Who you talkin at??" He exclaimed indignantly at the person on the other end, "She was all shook up.   I wasn't going to leave them.  They'd already been there awhile....two small kids man."  The conversation ended with the other person backing down.  It seems like my rescuer could take care of himself, which was basically awesome.  
I'm so grateful to have met this man and for his kindness in transporting both me and my kids two miles home so we didn't have to wait another thirty minutes.  I'm also grateful for his calm, comforting demeanor which soothed my frazzled nerves.   I'm also grateful that we live in a country where roadside assistance is a thing and that even if you don't know them there are people you can call in a sticky situation who will help you.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Lazy, Last Day of Summer

Ok, so technically it's not the offical last day of summer.  But last sunday was officially the day before school starts!  It was heart-breakingly beautiful out.  Seventy-five degrees, sunny and breezy....perfect for laying around and reading a good book, outside under the trees.
 For Dylan, nearly every moment is a perfect moment to tackle, crawl on, body slam, etc....his brother.  So, he enjoyed doing those types of things.
 Later that evening, we attended an outdoor movie night our friends were hosting.   Everything was so elegent and pretty! There was an icecream buffet and all the guests brought toppings for the icecream.  There were coconut shavings, chocolate chips, chocolate and caramel sauce, pineapple, strawberries, sprinkles, whipped cream topping and more. 

 There were an assortment of beautifully colored bowls.  Each one was a different size, shape and pattern.  
 We watched Big Hero 6 snuggled in blankets and hoodies in the backyard.  Such a great way to end summer vacation!

Back to School!

I remember this adorable little fellow the morning of his first day of preschool....THREE years ago!
 He's a little taller this year.  His cheeks are a little less pinchable, but that hair,he's still got that hair.
 Three years ago he was so excited to start preschool with all his daycare friends.
 This year, he's *technically* starting first grade.  Where does the time go? 
 Oh, and let's not forget this little imp.   Three years ago he was still enjoying nap time and learning how to talk. 
 But this big boy starts preschool.   Goals for him this year include learning to sit in his seat for short periods of time, how to take instruction from a teacher (or rather teacher-like instruction from me), and identifying letters/sounds and numbers and one-one correspondance.  Of course, there will also be lots of fun games for this active little guy.
 But I have a feeling he will add a special, more active dynamic to our school year this year.

 I spent some time cleaning out the school room and getting it ready for a new year a few weeks ago.  For science we will be doing Apologia's Zoology 2--Oceans/Ocean Animals.  So I changed our bulletin from outer space to an ocean theme.   I hung a world map because we will continue to do world history and geography this year. 

 I'm particularly excited about the geography curriculum which I found here.   The kids will be issued passports which will be stamped with the flag of each country we "travel to" as we learn our way around the world.  It is full of projects and hands on crafts (we get to build the great wall of china next week, how awesome is that?) and it very nicely introduces cultural awareness as the kids will learn how to say "hello" and a few other common phrases in the language of each country and it comes with recipies to eat various foods from that country also. 
 This is our calendar corner.  This is mainly for Dylan's math. We are doing Saxon Kindergarten math and supplementing as needed with MathUSee Primary.
 This is our area for displaying the best papers and art projects.  Also, where we can hang important phonics rules and general teaching area.
 The bookshelf is all organized by subject.   I found a nice little chalk-board box, which for now, holds our read-aloud books for the year.
 Each kid gets a basket to put their books and papers. 

As a final touch for our school room, we arranged glow-in the dark stars in the shape of some common constellations on the ceiling.  It's nearly invisible during the day, but at night whenever we walk through that room when the light is out, just look up and we can pretend we are having our own personal star party!