Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Handmade Joy

Today was our homeschool group's second annual kids' holiday gift exchange. The moms have been doing the traditional "pick a name from a hat" Secret Santa gig for a few years now, but all gifts must be crafted by hand. While the moms have to guess who made their gift, the kids each personally presented to the recipient the gift they made for them. There was a lot of creativity and care put into these gifts, and they were all appreciated.

Cooooold weather at the park, so huddling in a circle was good.

William and friends Andrea and Alex.

Thomas: "What could it be?" (Connor looking on from behind)

A cool gaming t-shirt from Connor.

Michael: "Food!"

Brownie joy.

William: "A cat toy!" from Griffin.

Kittie will be very happy.

Post-Exchange Group Shot.

Happy faces.

One of the things I really appreciate about our group is their genuine appreciation for anything and everything that is hand-made or home-made, from food, to winter hats and scarves, to a gift made especially for them by a friend. It's not just the moms, though I'm sure in each household there has been intentional creation of a culture of appreciation. But each kid who opened a gift had a smile on their face and a "thank you" on their lips (okay, a couple of the littles needed to be reminded by mom). This is a good time of year to remember how blessed we are by having such wonderful people in our lives.

The boys' recipients:

Ava's snowman from Thomas.
Ella's birdhouse from Michael.
Stella's treasure box from William.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ready For Snow

These are snow shoes for someone who lives in Georgia. Devised by....okay, you all know who, so no naming in necessary. I'm thinkin' they might actually work. 'Nuff said.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Go Cart!

In his usual persistent style, Michael managed to procure from David the purchase of scrap lumber (half off!), which he immediately turned into a go-cart. He's had this design in mind for quite some time, so it only took a few hours to put it together. It's just about perfect for the long, slow slope down our street (also used for sledding when we get the occasional winter snow).

This particular go-cart must be ridden accompanied by sound effects courtesy of Bill Cosby.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Back in the Sling

There's some saying about lightning not striking twice, but I'm pretty sure it's been proven that it can actually strike the same spot more than once, thus proving the inaccuracy of the saying.

Same park. Same wrist. And after a trip to the ER, we're scheduled to see the same orthopedic surgeon to get the broken wrist fixed.

There's not much more to say than that.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Amicala Falls with Homeschooled Kids

We all hear about how excited parents can get when it's "Back to School" season. What you may not know is that many homeschool parents get excited around the same time of year. Not because we will again be shipping our kids off on yellow buses five days a week (which we won't be doing), but because, for some unknown reason probably related to "planning" the upcoming "unschool year," we all seem to get bit by the field trip bug and we all start planning field trips for our group. Unfortunately, many of them seem to end up clustered in the same couple of months in the fall, so some picking and choosing is necessary.

The trip we chose for this week was a visit to Amicalola Falls State Park. It was a bit of a drive for us (close to two hours), but it was good practice for Thomas--the longest distance he has driven so far.

Map at Visitor's Center
If have to say right off, the folks manning the post at this Park were very friendly and helpful. In our Tour of America four years ago I found that customer service was not always a priority for the Park rangers. Heather in particular, who was in charge of our group's hands-on program, was wonderful about working with us and the kids.

First up, we gathered behind the Visitor's Center in the Lower Amphitheater, and the kids all sat facing the wrong direction. Most of the moms were turned around, too. But, Heather just went with it and relocated to the back of the theater and got started.

Ready for the program

Heather talked about turtles, tortoises, and terrapins. She had a pair of box turtles (one of my favorites), a male and a female. Fun fact I did not know: Males have brighter orange or red eyes, and females have darker eyes.

Heather and Lightning
Heather passed around the turtles, and also some shells for everyone to look at. Another fun fact I did not know: In some species of turtles, their spines are actually attached to the top of their shell.

Thomas with an empty turtle shell

The female turtle, Speedbump, was brought to the Park after she was found injured (run over by a car...thus her name). She had a quite cleverly crafted repair job on her upper shell using some sort of industrial-strength adhesive. As with All Things Turtle, the healing of a shell can take a long, long, long time, and the adhesive keeps their shell together while the healing takes place.

William--not quite sure he wants to hold it...it had just peed

Michael and Lightning

One of the empty shells Heather passed around was not quite empty; it had a variety of turtle bones in it. Michael and Simon were particularly interested in identifying the different bones, and pointed out there were two heads but only one pelvis.

Simon with a shell full of bones

We won't go into how difficult it can be to get nice pictures of one's children.

Thomas and Friend

As a nice surprise, Heather brought out a corn snake for everyone to hold, pet, and enjoy. Although there was some theatrical squealing from a few members of the front row when the snake was brought out of the bag (it wasn't exactly a surprise, since it was announced in advance), just about every squealer immediately jumped up to pet the snake.

Corn Snake named Kellogg

Thomas and Kellogg

While I was being a good homeschool mom and documenting our educational experience, I also managed to steal a few shots of some of our moms.

Maria The Pediatric Nurse, and one of her Wild Goats (yes, that is what she calls her children)

Stacey The Math Expert

Christin The Writer, and Kellogg

Once the turtles had been properly passed around and admired, Heather commenced the Turtle Races. Speedbump won every race, despite her damaged and repaired shell.

Michael and Syd starting the turtle race

The second half of our hands-on program was all about building emergency shelters. It was led by a very nice young man who had never led the shelter-building program before, so he was perfectly suited to facilitate (and not interfere with) a gaggle of kids who are all about gettin' in there and getting' it done. A few of the kids had built these types of shelters before, and since all of these kids have spend so much time together for so many years, working as a team was not a problem.

Building an emergency shelter

In progress

At some point, the younger kids realized there were kind of a lot of people involved in building just one shelter, and their contributions were shaking out to be more about gathering materials and less about building, so they decided to start their own shelter.

The Youngers' shelter

You have to admit, that's a whole lot of folks to build one two-person shelter. But, it went up really quickly. And came down even quicker (we had to return our materials to where they came from). Our facilitator was so impressed with the effort and results of our group, he took a picture to post on their FaceBook page.

The Whole Gang and a completed shelter

One of the things I love about our group is the lack of "stratifying" socialization. Thomas is fifteen, and a big, hulking teenager (way bigger than me now), and one of his best buddies is a petite little sweetie-pie who can (literally) perch on his shoulder.

Thomas and his buddy, Em

William and friend trying out the shelter

This is just a random photo because I liked the angle.

Thomas on top

So, yes, we did eventually hike down the trail to see the Falls. I always think it's somewhat counter-intuitive to hike *down* to see a waterfall, but that seems to be how these things are set up. It was an easy hike, and on the way we say this old truck interestingly perched on the hillside. Obviously it fell from the road above at some time in the past, and has been resting here ever since.

Old truck

The Falls themselves, of course, were wonderful.

William at the falls

Nick, Em, Thomas, and Hannah

After hanging out at the main landing, we all went down a bit further to appreciate the view from another view.

Another view from below


And then back up the stairs...

William, back up the stairs

And, finally, a small group of us motored up the rest of the way to the top of the Falls. Very nice view.

View from the top

And a last gathering of friends at the Upper Amphitheatre.

Last exchange

Editing::Cal's Website Complete!

When I originally offered my services to our sons' golf instructor, Cal, I thought it would be a fairly simple proofreading job. But, it morphed into quite a bit more. I helped Cal with the development of the website (it started as four pages, and is now eight), and wrote/rewrote the content with his input. It also gave me the opportunity to work with my good friend Sarah Greer, who constructed the site from the ground up.

So, take a look, feel free to browse, and let me know what you think by leaving a comment.

P.S. I want to throw out a big "Thank You!" to our Beta Readers who gave us such great input on the website.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hitting The Target

This is what the tail-end of a lovely shot looks like. And, yes, that is an umbrella.

Thomas' beautiful swing

It was a good day to be hitting golf balls. Warm, but not too hot. Sunny, with just enough clouds to keep it from being too bright all the time. Thomas had been down with a cold for several days, and this was the first opportunity to get OUT and about, and get a little physical activity.

We met up with Cal at the driving range for this week’s lesson. Thomas and Michael are doing “tandem” lessons at this point, Cal taking turns working with each of them during the course of the session. It works really well, because a full hour is a bit much for Michael’s shorter attention span, and a bit much for anyone to be hitting balls and doing exercises non-stop.

During one of Cal’s spells with Thomas, Michael grabbed the umbrella from the car to use as a parasol during a break in the cloud cover and, in typical Michael style, was using it in way it was not intended. He thought umbrellas only turned inside-out in cartoons, and thought it was hysterically funny that he could make our umbrella do that. (I was not quite as amused, as I can't seem to keep umbrellas in one piece and functional for very long.)

When it was Michael’s turn to get back to the lesson, Cal, like all brilliant teachers, pounced on the opportunity to turn a distraction into a learning moment. He took the umbrella and turned it into a target.

A huge part of Cal’s approach to teaching golf is focusing on the target. “It’s All About Hitting The Targets is his tagline (go check out his wonderful website**...it’s right there in the top banner and sprinkled about all the pages). Most people assume the target is that little flag waaaaaaay down range that you eventually want to get your ball to and drop into the little hole. But, there are actually other targets on the way to the cup, and Cal works on teaching his students to find those targets and reach them, one by one, until you get to the ultimate goal in as few strokes as possible. 

And, he tries to shift the focus off of the BALL as being a target (the thing you have to hit just right with a golf club). This can be tricky on a driving range, because there’s no flag, just an open field full of abandoned golf balls. And in this case, a tree or two.

The umbrella worked great. It provided a focal point for Michael to work on his chipping. At least I’m pretty sure that’s what he was doing; making the ball pop up and land a short-ish distance away with the goal of landing in the umbrella. I loved watching that moment unfold, and couldn’t help taking a few pictures of both Michael and Thomas.

From distracted to focused in record time...and barefoot

I've never really had any interest in golf, but David enjoys it and wanted the boys to have the opportunity to learn and play. Cal was introduced to us through a mutual friend, and Thomas and Michael started lessons with him about a year ago. It's been a great experience for all of us (including David who got a "clean up your swing" session recently), and I've been working with Cal developing his message and his website.

This is where the ** comes in. I can rightly claim some bragging rights to Cal's website, since I have worked with Cal to develop the content. I consider Cal my first real-live editing client. The design and coding, by the way, are courtesy of my extremely talented friend, Sarah. You can contact her through her own website-in-progress. She is wonderfully creative, and has managed to add some really nifty functionalities to the site. It's not quite perfect yet, but I couldn't help showing it off a little early.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Driving. Oh, My...

He kept saying he was going to get his Learner's Permit as soon as he turned fifteen. He'd been saying it for several months. He went online and studied and took the practice tests, and told me his score each time he took it. He kept counting down the days until he had his Learner's Permit. I finally told him that if he needed me to take him to the DDS, he would need to put it on the family calendar. Which he did.

So, the day after he turned fifteen, I took Thomas to the DDS, and he took the test, and he got his temporary Learner's Permit.

As you can see, he was very happy about that.

And, he quite proudly asked for the keys to he could drive us home. This is him in the driver's seat with his Learner's Permit. Nervous, but ready to go.

Now, Thomas has been practicing his driving skills in safe areas for a few years now, so I knew he could drive. He's comfortable with our vehicle (despite it's size), and he takes the responsibility seriously. But, he'd never driven on busy streets with traffic. He did very well. We got home in one piece with no major incidents. I think I only raised my voice once when pointing out a looming hazard.

Once in the driveway, in park, engine off, he definitely felt the stress relief.

It is an odd thing having your baby drive you around in the family vehicle. But, so far, it is an adjustment we're both making pretty well.