September 11th, 2011

We Remember

Every year I feel an enormous sense of loss when September 11th rolls around. I didn’t lose anyone and I didn’t even know anyone personally affected by the attack on our country. But as I sat in front of my tv that day, clutching my three year old boy, crying, I felt real pain. I’ve always been very empathetic to other people’s pain. And I knew this was bad. I cried and cried for days and weeks. Everything set me off. I wasn’t alone, either. The country mourned along with me.

On this tenth anniversary of the attack I wanted to do something special with Cade. I didn’t want to scare him, but I wanted him to realize that bad things happen all the time and we can’t help that. But we can try to take back some kind of control from crazies, weather or just plain weird things that could happen. I reminded Cade that his daddy was a federal worker who worked on the top floor of a tall building in Richmond. And I thought we could do something to help him, to give him some kind of control if anything were to ever happen.

I was perusing a website on Google Chrome called WikiHow and it had an article on how to create an urban emergency evacuation kit. It was such good timing and Cade and I thought it was a perfect project for us to do to commemorate 9/11 and help protect my husband, Cade’s dad.


We began by adding reflective tape to an old backpack that we had laying around.


We tested it in the bathroom to see if it was fully visible in dim light.


We put lots of supplies in ziplocks because ziplocks are amazingly handy to have in an emergency. Bruce had an old pair of tennis shoes that he was saving to use for lawn mowing, but we snatched them and some socks for our kit.


We pretty much followed the instructions from the site. And we hope that Bruce never, ever has to use his kit. But if he does I’ll be glad that we took a small part of our day to make it for him.

And we will never forget that Tuesday in September when our security was shaken. God Bless those who died and the brave souls who tried to help them.

June 29th, 2011

Cade’s Job Chart

I’m not one of these parents that agrees with the philosophy that kids should help out JUST because they are members of the family. I believe that in life we are all motivationally inspired. Nobody goes to work and expects no pay check, no matter how much they love their job. The lawn doesn’t get cut because we think it should be cut, it gets cut because we would be embarrassed and think less of ourselves if it looked terrible. Our pride is our motivation.

My rant leads me to this revelation; kids need to be motivated to do chores. And in my family technology always comes to my rescue. All of my kids have been very motivated by technological things. Cade is no different. When I heard about I knew it was something we had to try. And boy, does it work like a charm!

This online chore chart works because Cade gets to choose his jobs and his rewards. When I set it up in the beginning I assigned chores to each day of the week and gave each chore a different point value based on what that job was worth to me. For instance, I really, really want Cade to brush his teeth every day and he’s not so good at that. So I give that a higher worth than making his bed or taking out the trash. For me, the personal hygiene attention is worth the points.

We also have a category for extra jobs. These are jobs that I can assign that are out of the ordinary, that need to be done, that he can do to boost up his points. For instance, I have ‘collapse boxes that have accumulated in the attic’ and ‘learn to cook something that you eat’ ‘ power wash the front steps’ or ‘sweep out the garage’.

Cade is quite diligent and goes online to check his chores every single day, even the days where we have been super busy. He hardly ever does everything that I assigned, but he does a LOT more than he ever did before.

So what is his motivation? I’m so glad you asked!

The reward section of the site is split into three different categories; save, share and spend. He can split his points amongst those categories any way that he chooses. So if he wants to save 50% of his points (each point is equal to one cent), then that amount of money is sent right to his savings account by me. The sharing category is for charity contributions. And you wouldn’t think that kids would probably use this feature, but Cade does. His charities are Save the Earth, Water for People, PETA, Mercy for Animals, and Helping Every Animal Live (HEAL).

The last reward category is the spend one. I’m sure this is the most common category for most kids and it’s been the most common for Cade, too. The rewards in this category can be linked right into, so that your child, with your permission, can order a video game, book or something else from Amazon that you have already pre-approved. He can’t order it unless I put it on his reward options. There are also custom rewards. I’ve included things like a family game night, choosing where we go out to eat or two firebelly toads for his aquarium and a bunch of other rewards.

Cade received his second reward in the mail today. This was an item that he asked me to put on the list after he’d been doing the chore chart for a few weeks. His first reward was to put money in his savings account. Today he got a water bottle from PETA. He’s so excited to show it off that he even allowed me to take a picture. I cannot recommend this site enough.


June 26th, 2011

Marine Science Redux

Last year Cade and went on a trip to the Marine Science Consortium. It was absolutely the best trip we went on all year. So this year we went back with some new friends and some old friends. And we had a blast again. This year I blogged about it for the VaHomeschoolers blog, so if you want to read ALL about it you’ll have to click over to there.

Just to tease you a bit, here are some additional pictures that I took. Because you just know how much I love pictures. :-)

PhotobucketThe singing on the buses was not Cade’s favorite part of the trip….LOL

PhotobucketThis was our first hike to see the local flora and fauna.

Photobucket My nook was a big hit with the kiddos.

PhotobucketThese are the dorm rooms.

PhotobucketThis is from the research boat cruise.

PhotobucketNature is everywhere and these kids really appreciated it.

PhotobucketCade and Isabella are checking the water clarity.

PhotobucketNow they are checking the speed and direction of the current.

PhotobucketIsabella is Cade’s fencing buddy. She is also a homeschool buddy.

PhotobucketI can’t remember the name of this tool, but it goes down to the bay floor and scoops out some gunk….

Photobucket…then we check for critters to identify later.

PhotobucketIn this photo our group is getting ready to trawl for organisms and haul them up in a big net. That’s me up in front with the big hat.

PhotobucketAfter removing all the organisms that we could identify later and tossing the duplicates back to the water, the tedious job of picking the nets clean ensued.

PhotobucketThis is my favorite shot of my friend Nan who came with her husband and two little kids who you see in the photo with my nook.

PhotobucketAt the intertidal zone we collected tons and tons of specimens for identification. It was messy, but oh so fun.

PhotobucketThis was Cade’s favorite part of the adventure, getting into the lab and identifying everything.

PhotobucketCade did not waste the educators. He asked zillions and zillions of questions.

PhotobucketI’m convinced that NASA has the most beautiful beach on the East Coast. I mean seriously, look at that. Isn’t it gorgeous? And  yes, I realize that I have almost an identical picture of Cade from last year. Who knew he’d wear the exact same clothes…Haha.

PhotobucketAt the NASA Space Center at Wallops Island Cade got to demonstrate the astronaut’s suit. He said it was really heavy.


They even have a very nice little museum.

PhotobucketOn our way home there is a lookout where you can pull off the road and take pictures. So pretty!

Here is the series of posts that I put together to document last year’s trip:

Martinzoo – Marine Science Trip

Martinzoo –  Tom’s Cove

Martinzoo – Intertidal Adventures

Martinzoo – Research Boat Cruise

Martinzoo – Micro & Macro Organism Lab

June 13th, 2011

Our Solar Art

Cade and I are done with school. But school is never done with us. Bit by bit we just keep the learning coming. This week we were inspired by my friend Jennifer, whose blog Toadhaven is always fun to visit. This project, which only uses a block of wood, a magnifying glass and some strong sun, was too irresistible to not try. Oh, and some sun glasses sure do come in handy. My phone rang during this project and I couldn’t see anything but a purple, blurry blop while trying to find the buttons on the phone. Haha!

PhotobucketYou start with a block of wood. We have a little kids carpentry set that has a bunch of scrap pieces of wood in it. But anything works. In fact, we had to be extra careful at the edges of our art to not set the deck on fire!

PhotobucketI was surprised at how easy it was to control. I did one first because I wanted to know how to tell Cade to progress with it. And any time the smoke got strong, indicating an imminent flame, I pulled back and it went right out.

PhotobucketCade learned much faster than I thought he would. He was very instinctual about it. But you’d have to gauge your own child’s abilities before attempting something like this, especially around a wooden deck. Jennifer did hers on the sidewalk near their yard, which was a better idea. It was so hot that Cade’s art piece actually took several days.

PhotobucketWhile I had decided to design my own swirly, arrow art piece, Cade decided to just follow the grain in his block of wood. And I actually like the way his turned out better than my own.

PhotobucketOne thing I noticed, though, was that the spots where I had penciled in my design seemed to grab the light easier. So I felt like I had an easier time than Cade did, since he wasn’t following pencil, just grain.

PhotobucketThis is Cade’s finished project. Isn’t it cool! I love all the dots and lines. It looks especially nice from across the room. We trying to figure out where to hang them now.

PhotobucketThis is mine. The way I hooked Cade onto this project was to finish mine first and hand it to him. Immediately, he brought it up to his nose because he could smell the smokiness of the scorch marks. I said, “Doesn’t it smell good?” and he breathlessly replied, “Yeessss….mmmm.”

I have to use any hook I can for art….LOL

May 3rd, 2011

(Sneaky) Web Math Day

Cade has been on a roll for the last three weeks with some heavy topics. He’s been studying WWII, Samurai of the 16th Century, animal rights and the plethora of current event topics that have bombarded the news stations. He’s been glued to CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc. He keeps reminding me that we are living in an historical time. So, I’ve been letting him go his own way.

That is the deal. He does an entire year of curriculum, mostly of my choosing, but with his input. And when he’s done I let him have the rest of the year to study whatever piques his curiosity. He can go in whatever direction that curiosity takes him. And he LOVES this time of year. It motivates him at a time when most kids are getting all antsy. (Haha- I just noticed that if you rearrange the letters in ‘antsy’ it becomes ‘nasty’ – How appropriate is THAT?)

But today I wanted to break up the trend for just one day with some fun web games. He always likes those and this way I could sneak some math into his agenda. So I came up with a list and it kept him busy all day.

If you need a break from your curriculum, give the list a try and let your kids have fun with math. I’d say that any kid over the age of ten would be ok with all of these sites. I had fun with them myself.

Bap (two levels) spatial reasoning

British Pool – angles and geometry

Falling Stars – reaction time

Mini Golf – (two games) geometry and angles

Battleship – Logic

Sliders – (8 square, then harder) spatial reasoning

Math at the Mall - math skills for real life

Netwalk – Logic

Jungle Jean – Logic

He particularly liked the Battleship, Netwalk and Jungle Jean games.

April 3rd, 2011

Me? An Editor?

Recently I was asked to help edit the blog for the Vahomeschoolers Connection, which is a statewide blog that helps homeschooling families learn more about homeschooling in Virginia and about how to find out how VaHomeschoolers can support them in their homeschooling journey.

This is what we all do, right? This is why I read blogs and why I write my own blog, to help others who are on the same path.

Even though I’ve been blogging about the adventure that Cade and I have been lucky enough to partake in, I was still pretty darned nervous about blogging in a venue that wasn’t my own. It’s very nerve-wracking when all of a sudden there is oversight to your writing.

I’m not an educated writer. I never went to school and my writing style is very raw. But I’ve always loved my blog and been pretty proud of it, especially when complete strangers tell me that they’ve read and enjoyed it. Hopefully, I’ve helped a few people along the way.

If you want to read my first post for VaHomeschoolers you can read it here: Confessions of a Conference-phobe

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