Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies,

For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flow'r,
sun and moon and stars of light,

For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild,

For each perfect gift of thine
to our race so freely giv'n
graces human and divine,
flow'rs of earth and buds of heav'n,

Lord of all, to thee we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

Folliot S. Pierpoint, 1864

This post is a repeat from last year, but the message will never be outdated. I hope you all have a wonderful day thanking God for His blessings. One of the things I'm thankful for is the encouragement I've received on this blog and by reading your own blogs. We will be at home this year, hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time (pray for me!).

Iditarod Project Part III: Following the Race

Weeks ago I started a series on studying the Iditarod, but I got a little distracted from finishing it up. The good news is that I got my living room and dining room painted, attended several swim meets, took a day trip to Chicago, hosted a neighborhood gathering... you get the point! If you missed the first two segments, read these posts first:

Iditarod Reading

Making the Map

As much as we enjoyed reading about the Iditarod and preparing our map, the best part of the Iditarod project is following the race. Since my kids are accustomed to swim meets and track meets, where races are finished in minutes and seconds, it was mind-boggling for them to think of a race taking 9-15 days. We really learned the meanings of endurance and perseverance by watching these amazing dogs and their leaders.

After you have completed your Iditarod trail map, it is time to pick a musher. You are going to chart your musher's progress on your map and record how long it takes for the team to reach each checkpoint.

We had fun looking through the list of mushers and learning a little about their backgrounds. You can find a list of the 2010 mushers here. It was tough choosing a team, but we finally settled on veteran musher DeeDee Jonrowe. We chose her because 1) she's a woman (Anna's request), 2) she has had several top 10 finishes in the Iditarod, 3) she has a website that enabled us to know a little bit more about her and her dogs, 4) she has an amazing story of overcoming breast cancer, 5) she is the best-dressed musher (everyone knows her for her fuchsia parka), and 6) she is an outspoken Christian.


photo by Theresa Daily

DeeDee did not disappoint -- she and her team did a great job, finishing 13th. She completed the race in 10 days, 22 hours, 56 minutes, and 10 seconds and was awarded $17,300. We look forward to following her progress in the 2010 Iditarod.

Another musher we really enjoyed following was Aliy Zirkle, who finished in 17th place. She and her husband, Allen Moore, both had teams in last year's race -- she led the more experienced dogs and he led a team of up-and-comers.


They have the best blog, The SP Kennel Dog Log, that was frequently updated during the race, so we really felt like we got to know the team. In fact, I still follow their blog and love learning about the new puppies and the great video of their training sessions. A recent post showed what 4 tons of dog food looks like! (To my husband -- and you thought we have to buy a lot of dog food!)

My kids adore one of the dogs, Happy, who ran her first Iditarod last year. This sweet dog's story is every bit as engaging as our favorite Iditarod books I wrote about in my first post.

The Iditarod has it's critics, and if you read the comments on my first Iditarod post, you saw that I was asked not to "hype" the Iditarod to the homeschool community. But if you follow the SP Kennel blog for even a short time, I think you will see that these dogs are loved and cared for like family members. I'll also add that the first time I harnessed my own Siberian Husky to go skijoring, I was surprised at how she knew exactly what to do. She came from a family of show dogs, but pulling was in her blood, and I never saw her happier than when I took her on a run. That hardly makes me an expert, but it's my 2 cents. The topic might be interesting for an older student to research.

Now for some final notes on following the race. The standings are updated frequently on the Official Iditarod website, and that is how we followed most of the race. The eIditarod Project assigns optional activities for each checkpoint that add to the fun and learning. But as the race progressed we started wishing we had spent the money to subscribe to Iditarod Insider. The Insider offers subscriptions to video feed (including lots of live footage) and/or a GPS tracker. We did finally break down and get the video subscription, but if I were to do it over I'd get both the video and the GPS tracker. Even though we knew when a racer was getting close to the finish, all it takes is a blink and you miss it because you didn't know how exactly how close the team was to the finish. The video and GPS tracker cost $19.95 each or $33.95 together.

As I worked on this post this morning, Grace saw one of the pictures and immediately started jabbering away about various Iditarod things, and it made it even clearer how much my kids loved our this study. We will continue to be fans of the Iditarod, although a little bit more informally. Instead of the Iditarod, this year our winter project will be learning about Holland for our local homeschool group's "Around the World" celebration. But if you're looking for something to energize your homeschool studies during the long winter months, I highly recommend checking out the eIditarod Project. Registration has not begun for 2010 yet, but last year's registration started December 1st and closed January 9th. I will update this post when new information is available.

Thank you to DeeDee Jonrowe and Aliy Zirkle for granting permission to use these pictures!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Because someday you might want to know how to do this...

I've been making a lot of Latin flash cards this year, and I finally figured out how to make those little macrons over the vowels. I learned the hard way that it is not wise to just ignore them. Macrons really are used for a reason, and if your child ever has to take Latin in a classroom setting, he/she will probably be expected to know the macrons. But this is not a post about if or why you should use macrons (for further information on that subject, visit this discussion). I just thought I'd share how to include macrons in your flash cards, worksheets, or whatever materials you create for your Latin studies.

For my Mac friends:

See the little American flag in the picture below?

This helpful website shows you how to get that little flag that enables you to use the U.S. Extended keyboard:

Now that you have that set up, you're ready to add those pesky macrons. In your document press the Option key, then the A key. Your macron will appear (a little higher and longer than the finished product will be.

Then just type whatever vowel you want to use.


Now, for those of you who haven't bought a Mac yet, the aforementioned website also gives instructions for Windows users and even HTML. : )

Next up...

The overdue, final post of my Iditarod series.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What happens when kids study the globe...

I appreciate all my readers too much to let the last post be all you get to read when you come to visit my blog, but I'm also short on time tonight. So I thought I'd give you a little glimpse into a recent conversation we had in the car yesterday. We were listening to some early American music, since that's what we're studying in history these days, and I decided to give them a pop quiz.

Mom: Let's see how many of the thirteen colonies we can name.

Ryne: New York, Massachusetts, Virginia...

[Ryne continues to name several of the colonies, eventually naming nine of them, and Grace adds at least one.]

Grace: South Sandwich Islands!

Ryne: No! That's near Antarctica!

Grace: I know, but I just like the name.

One bad apple spoils the bunch

I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later, but someone has been anonymously spamming my blog. I have been receiving comments, mostly on one particular older post, with information on things like prescription drugs that I highly doubt would be useful to any of my readers. So my choices are 1) Disable anonymous commenting, 2) Start using the word verification thingie, or 3) Approve my comments before they are posted. I'm not sure I'm making the right choice, but for now I'm going to disable anonymous posting. It's a shame too, because I have received a few very nice anonymous comments, although not generally from regular readers. But I know that many bloggers REALLY dislike the word verification thingie (I personally don't mind so much -- I sometime have quite the chuckle over some of the words I have to type), and I would rather not have to approve every comment before it is posted. Hopefully this will not inconvenience anyone too much. And hopefully Mr./Ms. Anonymous can go find something more worthwhile to do besides messing with my blog!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thank you, whoever you are...

Well, this was a bit of a surprise...

I was nominated for Best Cyber-Buddy Blogger! I did know that my cyber-friend, Dawn at Olive Plants, nominated me, but you have to be nominated three times to make the final list, and I didn't think that was likely to happen. But apparently at least three people were willing to say this about me:

A blogger you haven't met, but you think you would enjoy meeting and hanging out with. She is a person that you would love to co-op with or just live next door to. Who knows, maybe one day we will get together somewhere at a blog conference?

So, Dawn, thank you! You know, there just happens to be a house for sale down the street. I promise, the winters don't get that bad here. And the others who nominated me, whoever you are, thank you! How very exciting! And if you're just visiting, welcome!

Since learning about this nomination, I've had a few moments to ponder about the whole internet/friendship thing. Last night I drove across town to a dear friend's house. She and I actually met through the internet. She's a fellow Christian autism mom, and although I was not yet a homeschooler when we "met" we now have that in common as well. We didn't know a whole lot about each other at first, so it took several emails back and forth to really size each other up.

Blogging, however, has a way of making the whole sizing-up process a little easier. For instance, when I first discovered Dawn's blog through last year's blog awards, all I had to do was look at her sidebar and instantly I knew we had a lot in common. One of the first blogs I ever read regularly, Equip Academy, I found through a homeschool email group. Sharon, a mom whose posts I always found insightful, mentioned she had a blog, so I emailed her, asking if she would share her blog address with me. I love that about blogging! It's so much easier on the internet than in real life to find people that share similar values, interests and circumstances.

It can still be intimidating to leave that first comment on someone's blog. I always imagine the blogger having a puzzled expression as she looks at her comments. Who on earth is this person, and why is she talking to me? But then I think about how excited I get when someone new comments on my blog. Well, I wasn't so excited last week when "Anonymous" left a couple of comments on an old post with some icky-looking links, but that's another story.

So here I am, about 18 months into this blogging adventure, and I'm finding myself more and more often telling my husband, "My blog-friend said this," or "My blog friend did that." And he doesn't look at me anymore like I've lost my marbles when I talk about my blog buddies.

Now it's your turn. I'm curious.

Have you ever met any of your internet/blog friends in real life?

Do you talk about your blog buddies with real life people?

P.S. Voting for the Homeschool Blog Awards runs through midnight November 21, but I promise I will still be your friend even if you don't vote for me -- there are 29 other nominations in the Cyber-Buddy category!

P.P.S. If you need some help with the Best Encourager, Best Crafts, Plans & Projects, or Best Super-Homeschooler categories, I highly recommend Olive Plants.

P.P.P.S. Also, if you feel so inclined, I really think the Homeschool Blog Awards needs a separate category for bloggers who have special needs kids. I emailed them the suggestion last year, but maybe if several of us asked this year, we could have another avenue to make connections among the special needs homeschooling community.

Really, this is the end of the post now!

Friday, November 6, 2009

A Day with the Girls

In case you missed it, someone special just celebrated a birthday. And, boy girl, did we ever celebrate it! Gracie is the most girlish of my girls and has been asking for years when she can get an American Girl doll. The answer has always been, "When you are in first grade, because that's when Anna got her doll." So the day after her birthday the girls and I took a 24 hour trip to Chicago to visit American Girl Place. Now, before you start making assumptions... no, we are not rich snobs who jaunt off for a day of shopping on the Magnificent Mile. Just ask the lady who checked our coats at the store -- we're not in the same league as the typical customer of that area. (Even I didn't realize how worn and dirty the girls' coats had become until I handed them over!) And rich snobs wouldn't use their frequent flier miles to get to Chicago -- they'd fly their own private jets, or at least go first class. You see, this trip was really just an excuse to get out of planning a birthday party! I figured the hotel cost would equal the amount we would have spent on a party. I forgot about cab fare though -- ouch! We had a wonderful time, and if you ever have a chance to visit any of the American Girl stores, I encourage you to do so.

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The Chicago store has moved to a new building since we last lived in the Chicago area, and the changes are wonderful. The main floor that carries all the historical dolls and accessories can certainly qualify as a homeschool field trip. My favorite was the display of the 1944 kitchen.

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Even though Gracie loves the American Girl historical fiction series, she picked out a doll from the Just Like You series instead. And, yes, it looks just like Grace, complete with freckles.

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Okay, I try to keep this blog clean, but I had to include a couple of pictures of the bathroom! Need some decorating ideas for a girly bathroom? I love the pink frames around the mirrors. The most clever idea though was putting doll holders in the stalls. Makes sense, right? We've never had to take a doll to the doll hospital, but from the looks of the place I think the AG people should be in Washington helping us solve our health care problems. We did make a stop at the hair salon for Anna's doll to get some TLC, and the hair dresser was kind enough to put a bow in Grace's new doll's hair for free.

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Like a good blog buddy, I try to take pictures that I think will interest my readers, and these goodies had Ruthanne written all over them.

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We finished off our trip with a late lunch at the American Girl Cafe. With only three other families in the huge dining room (all celebrating birthdays), our service was impeccable. In fact, it was that way the whole day -- everyone just doted on Grace, and she just loved it. I think this is a birthday she will always remember. I know I will.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Big Red

During my third pregnancy the big question was, "What color hair will she have?" Everybody had an opinion. She would either have dark brown hair like her big sister, Anna, or she would have blond hair like her big brother, Ryne. The odds were in favor of blond, since Marc and I both were blondies as children.

So when the delivery nurse exclaimed, "She has red hair!" we just had to laugh. The first of many laughs Grace has given us.


Her red hair may not be quite as red as it once was, but I don't think her grandfather will ever stop calling her Red. Except now she's not Little Red.


She's reading and writing. Last week she lost her first tooth. And on Sunday she turned seven. Seven! My baby is seven.