Thursday, August 19, 2010

To Mary Alice on Her Ninth Birthday

To my sweet Mary Alice girl on her ninth birthday...

Is it that time of the year again already? Sigh. No matter how much I wish you would stay a little girl, you just keep on growing and changing. :) We like to joke about that, how I can't stand the thought of you getting another year older and how, on your birthday, maybe you could just stay at your current age for a change? :)

Mary Alice,

You are a precious precious gift to your dad and me. We love you more than anything on this earth. Only having your own children will enable you to have insight into what that actually means. We are blessed that God has entrusted you to us for nine whole years. Amazing!

This year has been a year of growth and change for you. I can see signs that point to the beginning of your transition from a little girl to an adult. This year, you learned about lots of "adult" things. We had lots of special talks about things that you were questioning. This was a year of enlightening for you. Most importantly, you experienced the realization that you were a sinner who truly needed Jesus to make your life worth living.

I am proud of you, girl. You bring so much joy to our lives. You have a gentle heart, one that wants to please others. You wake up early with a smile on your face ready to start the day. You are our early riser. You come in, first thing in the morning, and give hugs to your daddy and me. What a great start to the day! I always look forward to your cozy hugs and snuggles. One of your major love languages is definitely physical touch. You always want snuggles, back scratches, foot rubs, etc.

You are a planner. You like schedules. You thrive on routine. This isn't' to say that you can't deviate from a schedule at all. You love to do new things. For the most part though, you NEED your sleep to be at your best. You crash pretty quickly when you don't have enough sleep. You definitely aren't going to be the girl at a slumber party who tries to convince everyone to stay up all night.

You love to be at home more than anywhere else. You and Major are pretty good about playing together. You guys seem to genuinely love each other's company. I am proud of how sweet you are to him. I am continually a witness to your attempts to make peace with him or to try to get along when he is being a pill. I know God notices these things too. God blessed you with a heart that loves other people and wants to do what is right.

You hate injustice. Any time we are having a conversation about someone being mistreated or afflicted in any way, I can see your claws come out. Recently, I showed you an online video about child trafficking in Africa. I explained this idea to you, along with what some concerned Christians are trying to do to change things. When you heard about the maltreatment of the children, you became incensed! "How could those bad men treat those children that way?!? Those poor kids! Those men should be ashamed of themselves! How would THEY like it if THEY were made to dive under fishing boats near crocodiles and scary things? Those men should do their own work! Mom, those men are just....EVIL." Other situations where you have been angered involved meanness. The other day, you saw someone speaking to another person in a tone that was hateful and making fun of them. You told me, very plainly, "Mom, I don't like to be around when people are talking to other people that way. It is just too mean."

Right now, you love to do things with your hands, specifically cooking and sewing. Your dad and I jokingly refer to you as the next Food Network star. You love to be right along side me in the kitchen, helping me to prepare our meals. I don't know what I would do without you! You are so helpful and truly love to be in the kitchen! You can cook and bake many things independent from me. This year, you made a few birthday cakes for people. You love to try out new recipes. What a big girl! I think you are going to be an excellent cook some day.

I can't really help you in developing this, but you told me the other day that you wanted to be an expert seamstress when you grew up. You said that you wanted to make beautiful costumes just like your Gran. I am going to do my best to see that you have the skills to sew things for other people. What a useful thing to be able to know how to do! I would love it if I could do this. Maybe you can teach me? :)

I've noticed that your friends are a lot more important to you than they've been in the past. You are constantly talking about your friends, making things for your friends, planning to be at the houses of your friends, having friends over, etc. I am thankful for this and continue to pray that you will choose your friends wisely. I know so much of who you will become will be influenced by these choices.

This year, you got your first and second perm. The first perm was a disaster! It fell almost entirely flat. The morning after you had gotten the perm, you looked in the mirror and saw that your hair was a mess. It was devastating to you. You had endured all of that painful and smelly hair stuff, only to wind up with hair that looked like it was dull and full of tangles. Something about that scene reminded me of the hair dye mishap from Anne of Green Gables. What drama! Thankfully, we were able to get it repaired and all was right with the world :) You now have a head full of curly hair that you love. You are very girly and dramatic and love your new do. You are into different hair accessories, accessories of all types really. You are growing up.

You are a WONDERFUL big sister. You adore Milla and serve as a second mommy to her. You are so sweet and patient with her. You beg to get her out of bed in the morning and never complain about being asked to do things for her. When I was SO sick this year and was throwing up so much, you helped out so much with caring for Milla. Yesterday, I was downstairs in my room and I heard sounds on the baby monitor that made me smile. I could hear you and Major getting Milla out of bed. You got her up and started rocking her and talking to her gently. Then, I could hear you and Major singing songs to her and laughing together. This warmed my heart. Milla adores all of the attention that you give her. She loves her "M-alice."

I love you so much, sweet girl! I can't imagine our family without the sweet blessing of you in it. As I write this letter, you are at a friend's house for a sleepover. It just isn't the same around here without our Mary Alice.

Your dad has this habit of bringing up how many years we have left until you leave home. He has done this for years... I remember him saying, "If God blesses us to have her with us until she is eighteen, you know she has spent one-third of her time with us..." Each time I plug my ears because I can't stand thinking about it! :) I woke up this morning thinking about how, if God allows us to have you for eighteen years, your time with us is already HALF over. Boo! Several of our friends have children who are moving away from home for the first time. I know that time will come all too soon. :(

We pray for you often, girl. We pray for us too. We realize that you are changing from a little girl into an adult. We pray that God will give us the wisdom to guide you during these next few years and that He will give you a wise and discerning heart so that you can eventually make decisions on your own.

You are our precious one! We pray that God will give you many years of service to Him and that you will lean on Him as your constant friend. We love you!


Friday, August 13, 2010

Let the School Year Begin! 2010/2011 Curriculum

We are slowly easing into the 2010-2011 school year. We've already started History and plan on adding Science next week. After that week, we'll have our first official day of full-time school.

I'm getting pretty excited, but also slightly nervous about the school year ahead of us. In October I'll have to move our schedule around a little bit to accommodate our growing family. I'm also going to have to figure out ways to keep Milla entertained during our school day. This freaks me out because I really like to keep on top of things. It makes me feel great when our kids are ahead and things are going according to schedule. For the first time, the task ahead of me seems extremely overwhelming. Yes, life should be quite interesting around here in the months to come. I've been doing alot of praying. I know that I can't handle this on my own.

On to the exciting part (for me, at least)...

For my birthday this year, Josh took the kids and me to stay in a hotel in Arlington. Each year, my birthday falls around the same time as the home school book fair. As a part of my birthday present, Josh took our family to stay at a nearby hotel and took care of the kids while I carefully studied, planned and plotted for the upcoming school year. Mary Alice went along with me to the book fair. This was the first year that she aided me in choosing her curriculum. Don't be afraid...I didn't allow my soon-to-be third grader to choose her curriculum on her own. I just asked her lots of questions, showed her different options and we discussed what we thought would be best for this year. We had lots of fun mother/daughter time. I just LOVE that girl! She is such a helper to me. I enjoy her so much more every day.

Here are my curriculum choices for this year, along with some descriptions of the reasons for the choices. I will have a third grader, a first grader, a toddler, and, Lord willing, a newborn in my house.

Mary Alice's Third Grade Curriculum:


Singapore Math Levels 4A and 4B
We have used Singapore math for the last three years and have been very pleased with it. This is a strong math curriculum. It seems to click with Mary Alice, so I have decided to stick with it again this year. In a year or two, I think I'm going to look into other options for Math, possibly a tutor or DVD/Satellite teacher. One of my friends recently posted a quote on her blog that says that "People are one of two types of people. They are either number crunchers or word eaters." I am definitely not a number cruncher. Don't get me wrong, I can handle Math through middle school. I want to make sure though, that she has a teacher that is proficient in the subject matter, not just someone who can "handle" it. the years to come I foresee us making a change.


This year we are doing something a little different. I felt like Mary Alice was whizzing through her English book last year (Bob Jones English 3 and Spelling 3). I decided that this year, we were going to focus more on things like narration, creative thinking, vocabulary, and writing. I hope to go back to Bob Jones English and Spelling again next year. For this year, though, we are taking a different approach.

For writing:

Writing Strands 3
I chose this because I feel like it really gets kids to THINK. I want Mary Alice to use creativity and her higher level thinking to come up with answers to questions about the books that she reads. With Bob Jones, she was breezing through the book. I just felt like the "thinking" part was a little lacking. This curriculum has bookwork for a week. At the end of that week, she has a writing assignment that builds on what she learned about writing throughout the week. Then, during the following week, she is supposed to pick a chapter book (not an assigned book, but an age-appropriate book that interests her). I will guide her in narrating and reading comprehension for the book she chooses. Then the cycle begins again. I think one writing assignment every too weeks is adequate. I get pretty bored of doing the same things over and over again. I felt like we needed a little change to spice things up.

For vocabulary:

Wordly Wise 4
I love this vocabulary curriculum. I think it is something that she will enjoy too. Mary Alice loves to learn new words. I think this is going to be fun and highly educational. Very excited about this!

For grammar:

Intermediate Language Lessons

This book is much different from anything we've used before. It focuses on narration, dictation, poetry, grammar usage, spelling, and handwriting. Mary Alice helped me pick this out. This is much more labor intensive than our language curriculum last year. I really hope it will be a success. It is slightly old fashioned. That is one of the things that I love about it. :)


Sonlight History 3

We have used Sonlight for history for the past three years. History is the kids' favorite subject! They beg for me to read to them each day. Last year, I combined Mary Alice and Major's science and history curriculum. It worked very well. This year, they will work on science and history together again. Combining their science and history has two major benefits. It both drastically reduces my workload and helps to keep me sane.

In first grade, Mary Alice studied Creation through the fall of the Roman Empire. Last year, they both learned about the time from the fall of the Roman Empire to present day world history. This year, we FINALLY get to start learning about American history. That is SO exciting to me! I love Sonlight's approach to history. They present a view that history is about so much more than our country. The kids have learned so much about other cultures/religions. I have been learning right along with them as they devour books about various civilizations other than our own. One downside to Sonlight's curriculum is that my kids aren't very educated in Texas history. I thought it funny when I described something to Mary Alice as "looking like the Alamo". She replied, "What's the Alamo?" Our history program hasn't done a very good job of instilling Texan pride. Oh well!

In addition to the history curriculum on the link, the kids will also read a series of about fifteen chapter books (Read Alouds). I really like that Sonlight is strong in geography and also that it requires lots of time spent reading aloud to your kids. I hope that isn't a struggle for us this year, as we seek to properly balance family stuff with school stuff. Ugh!


Apologia Science

I am SO excited about this curriculum! The kids will focus on studying flying things (birds,bats, and such). They each have this little Science journal that they will use to conduct experiments and observations. By the end of this year, they should be expert ornithologists!


Mary Alice will continue on with her Rosetta Stone computer program.

And now, on to Major...

Major's First Grade Curriculum:


Singapore Math 1

This is what we used for Mary Alice a couple of years ago. We used Singapore Kindergarten Math for Major last year and will be using Singapore Math 1 this year.


Bob Jones Phonics and English 1

We used this with Mary Alice. I only had to buy the replacement consumable workbooks. Nice! I love this curriculum because it has so many fun ways of teaching phonics concepts. We have a slight little problem. Major is reading pretty well already, so going back to learn phonics rules seems a bit strange. I didn't feel right about skipping phonics instruction altogether, but decided that we would have to cover the rules this year. I also didn't think he was quite ready for second grade work and didn't want to burn him out on learning by pushing him too hard. Hopefully the fun stories and characters will make up for the super easy nature of this subject. I think we'll have fun with this.


Bob Jones Spelling 1

We also used this with Mary Alice. It should be fairly easy as well. We already had this and only had to buy the consumable workbook.


As I stated earlier, Major will be doing History and Science with Mary Alice. This is more fun for him and cuts down on my workload tremendously!


A Reason For Handwriting

We have used this in years past. I love this curriculum because it has them write Scriptures each week. At the end of each week, they get to write out a full verse, color it, and are encouraged to give it to someone of their choice. We're not always great about doing this each week, but I like how it encourages them to think of the needs of others and to create something they can use to bless others.



Mary Alice will be taking ballet, art, and drama at a fine arts school one day a week.
Major will be taking art. They cannot wait for these classes to begin.

Mary Alice will be taking her usual piano lessons once a week.


I have a sweet friend who is going to teach Mary Alice some sewing handwork skills. We are working on mapping out exactly how the lessons are going to go. I've always wished I had some of the "working with your hands" type skills. I really want Mary Alice to know how to do many of these things. I think it gives kids an advantage in life to possess real skills that they can know and use. If we're going to invest time and money in lessons, I would prefer that they would be skills that she can practice and enjoy throughout her life. I have a little girl who loves all things associated with homemaking. She is very excited about beginning embroidery or knitting lessons!

The Classical Composers Series

I found this wonderful set severely discounted online and had to purchase it. It has CDs that the kids can listen to and learn about these great composers. There are also study guides. I'm doubting that this year we will delve into those guides, though. :) This will mostly just be for fun.


I'm not quite sure what book we will be using for Bible this year. In the past, we've used Children Desiring God OT and NT curriculum, Egermeier's Bible Story Book and Vos' Children's Bible. We've also really enjoyed going through CDG's Fighter Verses over the past year and a half. We're right at the finish line for those. It is very exciting to us to see an end in sight. I think we're going to try something new this year for Scripture memorization. We'll see...

Well, that about wraps it up on our curriculum choices for this year. Even though I'm a little nervous about what will happen in October, I can't help but to feel the same surge of excitement I feel every year during this time.

I feel truly blessed to be able to be on this adventure with my sweet ones. I love that we have so much time together every day. I treasure every minute, well almost every minute. I know that time passes by so quickly. I want to do the best I can utilize the moments I have in preparing these little ones to face the world with spiritual strength and confidence. Whenever I feel tense about the chaos that surrounds me and uncertainty about the juggling of my responsibilities, I only have to look into their little faces and remember why I am doing this crazy thing called home schooling. I can rest in the confidence that, with God as my helper, I can do it! He will give me the strength that I need. I think I can...I think I can...I think I can...

Let the school year begin!

Saturday, July 03, 2010

New England Trip-Final Post

This picture was taken on the last day of our trip. We packed our bags and said goodbye to our friends at the B&B.

We drove along the coast of Maine toward Boston, stopping at a few coastal towns along the way. We saw this lighthouse up close at Bass Harbor.

We stopped for lunch in the quaint little town of Camden, Maine. I LOVED this cute little town. It had the most fun little shops with cute names like "Josephine's" and "The Smiling Cow". It was very cute. We ate sandwiches and fish-and-chips at a little restaurant there "The Mariner's Restaurant".

We walked around the town for a little while before jumping back into the car and heading back to Boston.

The next day, we left our hotel and went to the airport. We were one step closer to seeing our kiddoes again. :)

Okay, I am posting this next picture entirely for the benefit of my mom. You know how they say that every person has a twin somewhere in the world? Well, during our travels, I happened to spot several people's look-alikes. We saw a man working on the runway at the Boston airport who looked just like a twin of our friend, Terry Brantley. Then, while we were at the Red Sox game, I noticed that the woman sitting in front of us eerily resembled Josh's mom. On our return trip, I spotted this man waiting to board our plane. It was freaky to me how much he looked like my mother's dad. Naturally, I pulled out my camera and sleuthfully tried to get a pic of him. This was the best I could do. :)

Home sweet home! Here are our kids. They spent a week with my parents while we were gone. I love these sweet little buddies and hated leaving them for such a long time. Here they are, holding some of the unique (and inexpensive) souvenirs we picked up for them on our trip. Included are lobster lollipops, a shower cap and bar of soap from our B&B, shells from the beach in Maine, a Red Sox Pez dispenser, and a barf bag from our airplane. There is no need for souvenirs to be expensive. :) The kids loved their little "treasures" just as much as we loved the price. :)

So that about wraps it up for our Boston trip. We had so much fun! When I finally stepped off of the plane and back into the stifling Texas heat it felt so good to be home again. New England is wonderful! I'd love to go back for a visit again some day, but this Texas girl loves her home state. :)

Friday, July 02, 2010

New England Day 5

On day five of our trip we took a bus tour of Acadia National Park. Our little travel book recommended that we take a short bus tour to get an overview of the park and then head out to explore the park ourselves.

We started out the morning with some yummy treats, specially prepared by the host of our bed and breakfast. One of the things that I love about staying at a B&B is all of the interesting people you encounter during your stay. There were several couples who were about our age eating breakfast outside in the garden area and several older couples sitting in the dining room area. Josh remarked (and I agreed) that it would be much more fun to visit with the older couples. We met a retired college professor and his upper-crust, prim-and-proper New England wife, along with another retired couple from Cali. I enjoyed visiting with these people almost as much as I enjoyed going to Acadia National Park! They had so many interesting stories and wisdom to share. It is fun to be around new types of people. You can learn something from everyone you meet. I love seeing older couples are traveling around and being active together. I want to be an interesting old lady one day. :)

We rode our bus tour through Acadia National Park, stopping to walk around at the main sites along the way. I wish these pictures could do it justice. This place was absolutely gorgeous! I am only including a few pics of the actual park. We simply could not properly capture the amazingness of God's creation.

The weather outside was pretty foggy while we were there. We were unable to see a few of the lighthouses, etc. in the park. It would have been fun to rent a bike and go exploring along the carriage trails through the park. I felt a little sad that I couldn't really participate in some of the more active things to do in Acadia. I know Josh would have really enjoyed biking along the carriage roads. Carriage roads go all throughout the park and were built by Rockefeller with the explicit instruction that no horseless carriage would ever be allowed on the roads. Works for me! Bikers, hikers, and horse-drawn carriage rides took place throughout the day. Fun stuff!

Of course we had to stop and eat after our tour was finished. We opted to get the "Lobster Delite", a local special that consisted of a lobster roll, a bowl of clam chowder, and a slice of fresh blueberry pie. I LOVE lobster and blueberries, so this was a double treat. :)

I know this is silly to include, but while we were eating our lunch, this man walked by with the biggest dog I have ever seen. I asked Josh to follow him and get a picture of his dog. He was GI-NORMOUS. We watched the dog walked over to this fountain to get a drink. He seemed to drink up half of the fountain's contents with a few laps of his tongue. The man who was walking the dog had WAY more attention that someone with a cute baby. Nearly every person he passed had exclaimations and questions about his dog. That dog was COLOSSAL! It was about the size of a miniature horse!

That afternoon, Josh and I went hiking. We went to this area where there was a sand bar. You can walk across the bar to another area and go hiking when the tide is low. You have a couple of hours to finish hiking and get back across before the tide rises again. They told us that one unfortunate couple parked their car on the bar and went kayaking. When they came back, several hours later, their car was floating in the ocean. :)

The beach was a purple color. It was covered with broken up purplish black shells. There were several families with kids out there collecting "treasures" from the bar.

We didn't know this family. I just thought they were especially cute. One of the kids had a crab in his bucket and was super excited. Seeing this family was one of the many times that we missed our kids.

We walked across the bar and hiked for a while...took a few pictures...

There was this crazy pregnant girl who kept trying to climb up these steep rocky areas...

That about sums it up for day five of the trip. By this time, I think we were really missing our kiddoes. I would really like to take the kids out here when they are a little bit older and when I am not in such a fragile state and can kayak and bike and such. I think if we ever bring our kids out here we decided that we will rent a camper and make our own food for breakfast and lunch. Boston and New England have super high prices on their food. Of course, we did eat lobster nearly every day...but truly, what was considered an "inexpensive" meal there would be an expensive meal here.

I'm trying to knock out documenting this trip so that I won't forget anything. I probably have only about one more post until I am finished. YAY! More to come later...

Boston/New England Day 4

I am slowly, but surely getting around to documenting our trip in it's entirety. It takes me a little while, so I have to do it in increments.

On day four, Josh and I rented a car and headed out to explore the states surrounding Massachusetts. First, we drove through New Hampshire. This state's motto "Live Free or Die" was indicative of the mindset of the people here. They heavily tax tourists on lodging, food, and toll roads to keep the residents' taxes low. People who reside in New Hampshire can shop at their very own state owned liquor store, which we passed on our way through. I thought it very interesting to see the way different states operate.

We drove for several hours, stopping briefly to look at towns along the way. One of the things I loved about New England were the beautiful signs everywhere. Instead of saying "City: Population- 25,000" the entrance signs read "Portsmouth- Settled in 1623". They just had a way of phrasing things to make them literarily pleasing and cared enough to make the entrance signs to their towns alive with character. I even loved the names of the streets and stores in every town. There seemed to be so much town pride in the quaint little towns we visited.

We stopped for lunch in Freeport, Maine. This was one of my favorite little towns along the way. We ate lunch at this FANTASTIC little restaurant there, Jameson Tavern. We picked this restaurant because it was listed as "less expensive" in our travel book. Little did we know that we were eating at a place where the papers were signed that made Maine a state.

We had this quirky little waitress, who recommended that we try some of the lobster dishes the tavern had to offer. Josh and I ate a bowl of the most delicious soup I'd ever eaten in my life! It was a "lobster stew" and was full of big chunks of lobster. It tasted much like a bisque, except creamier. We found out, after ordering, that Jameson Tavern had been featured on a Food Network show (Bobby Flay), specifically for this stew. It was A-MAZING!

I also ordered a "lobster burger". The term "lobster burger" doesn't sound too appetizing to me. It was much like a crabcake on a bun and had some kind of a sauce. This dish was served with sweet potato fries and OH MY GOODNESS it was FABULOUS!

Right next door to the Jameson Tavern was the original L.L. Bean store and outlet. I absolutely LOVE this company and have poured over the catalogs, but hadn't seen their clothing in person. Sadly, there aren't any stores in the south. Josh and I briefly looked at the sports gear and clothing there. I really wanted to spend more time in their shoe section. They had Merrills and Keane shoes at about half the price you would pay here, with a much larger selection. I noticed that people in the north dress more for comfort when it comes to footwear. I am a southern girl in every way, but I do love the northern mentality when it comes to shoes...comfort first.

So...after we glanced in on the L.L. Bean store, we jumped back into the car and headed toward our final destination, Bar Harbor, Maine.

When we arrived, we found a place to stay...

It was a local bed and breakfast. We loved our time here. Everything was wonderful!

They had this beautiful garden area behind the main house where you could sit and eat or just relax.

We walked around the town and explored for a while. The weather was perfect. Later on that evening we ate at a local restaurant in Bar Harbor. We sat outside on the patio.

We walked around the town and looked into the shops and tried on some lobster attire.

We went into "Ben-And Bill's", a local ice cream shop. We sampled some lobster ice cream there. It tastes like vanilla with chunks of lobster. I would not necessarily buy a pint of this stuff, but everyone should get a chance to try some lobster ice cream in their lifetime!

We walked around that night by the ocean. It was a very picturesque area. Lots of couples and families were sitting or walking around out there beside the ocean. Absolutely beautiful!

So that sums up day four of our New England trip. I will write more as I have time.