Friday, January 31, 2014

School IDs

This is a sample of of Neil's student ID card. By no means are we required to make these, nor do we ever really need them. Regardless, I still make them for the boys to keep in their wallets. I print them on heavy card stock and then laminate them. Obviously, I've X'd out some vital information for safety reasons, but you get the idea. This card is from last year also.

It made me think of my old high school ID card I had in a box in my closet, so I dug it out to look at it. Funny how they had a place for a signature, but then someone went ahead and wrote my name on it. That isn't my writing. They should have just put "name" and then a place for it to be written in. I think the stickers were for lunch passes to let me off campus. I can't remember. That was such a long time ago. Do you still have your school ID cards?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Up late reading ...

I am pretty tired today because I stayed up too late last night. I normally go to bed early, but last night I picked up the book, I Have Lived a Thousand Years around 10:30pm. I couldn't put it down. I think I finally went to bed around 2am. It's a middle grade novel about a thirteen-year-old girl who survives the Holocaust. I found this copy at a thrift store awhile back, but last night was the first time I really started reading it. Apparently, this is a mass-market version that was supposed to be used in schools in libraries. There is a longer version called Elli: Coming of Age in the Holocaust. I read it is much more detailed, so I'd like to read that one as well. I added it to my wishlist on Amazon, but who knows — maybe I'll stumble across an old copy at the Salvation Army sometime.

For school I'm reading Lois Lowry's book, Number The Stars, another story about the Jewish people during the Holocaust. Even though the two main characters are girls, my boys are really enjoying the story. I told them about the other book this morning, and I think they're interested in hearing that one as well. Even though both boys are old enough to read chapter books on their own, which they do often, I still set aside time to read aloud to them. They usually draw while I'm reading, and it's a nice way to end our school day.

I am pretty sure we have a copy of Ann Frank's, The Diary of a Young Girl as well, so I'm going to try to round that up. Maybe one of the girls have it in their rooms. I read Corrie Ten Boom's book, The Hiding Place last summer. That's another inspiring story of love and survival.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


I took a few pictures of the resident squirrel today sitting outside on a rock covered with snow. We had a little bit of sun earlier, so I think all the critters came out to enjoy it. Did you know that American red squirrels are also known as pine squirrels, chickarees, and fairydiddles? I didn't know that. Fairydiddles? Bizarre. Did you also know that females can mate with 4-16 males? I didn't know that either, but it sure explains all the chattering I hear outside.

Also, did you know that only about 22% of red squirrels live past age one? The average lifespan is about 2.3 years. So, think about that. If they're lucky to live past age one, not much more time goes by before things start looking grim again. They can live longer, up to eight years, but it's not the average. Some people hate them, but I think they're adorable.

Monday, January 27, 2014

James Hayden Christensen Dean

If you follow my blog, you'll know that I've done photo comparisons before. Click here to see a few of the ones I've made. They're just silly things I like to do for some reason. Anyway, James Dean's birthday is coming up. I know this because he and I share birthdays. I've always been a fan of his. And, being the Star Wars fan I am, I also love Hayden Christensen. 

It's too bad they couldn't cast Hayden for a film about James Dean's life. I know there was a TV movie made in 2001 with James Franco, although I haven't watched it. Even so, Hayden's resemblance is uncanny — at least I think so.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

To U-No or not to U-No ...

That is the question, isn't it? I'm not sure what made me think about these candy bars recently. Every now and then something like this hits me totally out of the blue and I have no idea what sparked it. I hadn't had a U-No bar in years, so I bought one yesterday when we went to the grocery store. If you've never had one, they're kind of like a 3 Musketeers bar, except they're denser. U-No bars aren't as fluffy, and the chocolate is much thinner than a 3 Musketeers. U-No bars also have finely, ground almonds mixed in, although those are hardly noticeable.

I wouldn't say these are my favorite candy bars. I'm such a candy freak that I'd have a hard time picking a favorite one. However, Lindt's dark chocolate with chili is definitely in the lead at the moment. Many candy bars come and go. U-No bars have been around since the Twenties. I guess that says something. Considering I hadn't had one in years, it was fun to try it again. Now I'm heading to the TreadClimber to hopefully work some of it off. Wish me luck ...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Macro Shmacro ...

One of these days — and I know I keep saying this — I'm really going to have to sit down and get serious about learning how to use my camera. It's still fairly new to me, although it's a lot like my old camera, so there really is no excuse. I'll figure it out ... eventually.

I've been having fun playing around with macro on my Canon, such as with these photos. I'm still surprised how good of a camera my iPhone 4S has, and I have fallen into the trap of using it too much. On New Year's Day Rick and I went up to Glacier NP and I found myself using my phone more than my Canon. Kind of sad, but each seem to have good qualities about them.

I also use filters a lot, but mostly on my Instagram photos. I know a lot of people seem to take pride in using the hashtag #nofilter on their pictures. I do that sometimes, but using only if adding a filter makes it look worse — not better. For me though, I like the filters and frames, so I use them a lot. Sometimes the filters make my pictures resemble more of what I saw with my eyes. Sunsets are like that. You can see the most vivid sunset and take a picture of it, only for it to show up pale in comparison to how you saw it. A simple filter or adding contrast can really bring the filters out. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

They say everyone has a twin ...

Yesterday I was talking to some friends on Facebook about Melissa Gilbert marrying Timothy Busfield last year. I was a huge fan of Melissa's when I was a kid. I loved both the books and television show of Little House on the Prairie. I wore my hair in braids a lot too, so I could relate to Half Pint. Timothy played Eliot on the show thirtysomething, which I also loved.

All my life I thought of her as sort of a twin to me. Then yesterday I went looking on her Instagram account and saw the picture on the left below. It kind of freaked me out. I started looking at her pictures more and saw she posted ones of squirrels, cats, candy corn — you get the picture now, right? She's a lot prettier than I am, but I just thought it was kind of fun to see all the similarities. Do you think you look like someone famous? If so, who?
If you click the images, you can see them larger.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Go, Manny, Go!

I have started revising Manny again. Manny the Mountain Goat was the first story I wrote that got me interested in writing for children. After visiting Glacier National Park with my family in 2003, I was inspired to write about the mountain goats in the park. I submitted it many, many times over the years, but no one was interested in publishing it back then. It's gone through many changes, such as going from over 1700 words down to 640. Yikes, huh? It's amazing what you learn over the years. It even has a new title — Manny's Big Adventure

I have been playing around with the notion of self-publishing it, but haven't set anything in stone. I've asked Nathan to draw me what he thinks Manny would look like, using the stuffed toy we have as an example, as well as the dozens and dozens of pictures I've taken of goats in the park. Nathan has a gift of drawing amazing facial expressions, and I think he'd do an awesome Manny. I've been considering having him illustrate it for me, and then publishing it on Lulu. Like I said, I don't know for certain yet. It would be a big job for Nathan, although one he could handle pretty well. It still might be fun even if we only printed enough copies for family and some friends. So, for now ... Manny is back on the drawing table. Yay for Manny!

I also have some other big projects I want to work on. I still have unfinished school yearbooks. Having those hanging over my head really bothers me. Some are actually finished on the computer, but I haven't had the money to print them up. I need to sort through what needs to be done, especially before this school year comes to an end, and I'm faced with the 2013-2014 yearbook. I also have that darn latch-hook rug. Remember how my New Year's Resolution in 2013 was to finish that leopard rug? I got it out to take a picture of it so I could blog about it here. Yeah ... sadly, the picture was all that got done. Maybe my 2014 resolution should be to make more of an effort on my 2013 resolution. Sad, but true.

How about you — anything you need to finish or get working on?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Trash to Treasure

I guess I'm turning into quite the redneck hillbilly. Seriously, I've never been one to dig through the trash before unless I accidentally threw something away. In all respect, I still wouldn't consider myself a Dumpster Diver by any means. I see those people at the dump site all the time. I am not one of them. The only time I'll pick something up is when it's sitting next to the bin, or right on top. If it's yucky in any way, shape, or form — forget it.

We don't have trash service at our house. I believe we can get it, but it's hard for the trucks to make it up our hill in winter. Most everyone here keeps their trash in the garage and then takes it to a site, where it's picked up by trucks and taken to the county dump. So, about once a week we load our bins up and go to the dump site, usually on our way shopping or something. 

We've seen entire families digging through the trash. It's pretty sad. Rick saw a girl standing in one of the bins and she held up a dirty, old shirt to see if it would fit her. It's heartbreaking. People don't make much money here, and times are hard for a lot of them. Then there are the people digging through looking for copper or other things that they can sell. In all honesty, those people creep me out. I hate going to the dump when people are digging through trash because sometimes they barely even wait for you to finish tossing your stuff out, more or less drive away. That's creepy. However, every now and then I come across something sitting next to the bins. I do what every wife would do — make my husband get it for me. I mean, seriously. How can anyone resist a big, wooden moose with bluebirds on his antlers?

Or a hard copy of Love You Forever that was in perfect condition?

Or these cute little fairy tale books?

Or even this Santa mug that's absolutely huge?

Or this little, wooden sleigh that just happens to hold my Burger King reindeer?

Or a desk organizer that you can fill with pens, pencils, markers, and rulers?

So, yeah, I guess I have become quite the redneck collecting my treasures. Even so, I haven't actually gotten INTO any of the dumpsters yet. Give me time, I guess. The other day we stopped at the dump to get rid of our trash when we found that little bear up on top. The fairy tale books were next to it. In the bin were all kinds of toys, some in perfect condition. Ironically, we were on our way to the Salvation Army to drop off some of the boys' clothes that no longer fit. We grabbed a few of the things from the bin, including a Fisher-Price farm and one of those popcorn popper walkers, and took them in with the boys' clothes. I guess people cleared out their kids' stuff after Christmas and just left stuff at the dump site. One time there was a box next to a bin with a full set of Encylopedia Britannica in it. I really wanted to get that, but had to leave it behind because we already have a set. I'm sure someone snagged them. I guess it really is true when they say ...

One man's trash ... another man's treasure!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Where do I start?

If I had a dollar for every time someone said, "I'm thinking about homeschooling; where do I start?" then I'd have, well ... a lot of dollars. Seriously, I get asked this a lot, and sometimes by total strangers. The other day one of my photo prompts was for a "collection", so I took this picture. It was for a homeschool photo challenge, so I figured a picture of my homeschool books would be appropriate. Most of my books are pretty dated. I haven't bought a new book on homeschooling in a long time. After 15 years into it, I guess that's understandable. I should, however, take a look at what's out there the next time I find myself at a bookstore. It's never too late to try something new, I suppose. I just counted and I have 25 books on homeschooling. They're all on my bed right now — boy, what a mess.

Getting back to the "Where do I start?" question, I always tell people to do two things. First of all, buy a book on homeschooling. Don't go online first. You'll only be totally overwhelmed. There is so much information on the Internet. I know that sounds like a good thing, but not first off. A simple how-to book on homeschooling is a better choice. It will be more complete, verses a website that might send you to this link, that link, and every other link in between. I started homeschooling back before we really used the Internet like we do today. All I had were books. I still think they're the best way to start. So ... how did I start homeschooling?

My girls went to an awesome private school, but it simply got too expensive. It was competing with our house payment, and we just couldn't swing both. We decided to put them in a fairly new school our church had started. We figured that would be good because it was at our church, it was a Christian school, and the tuition was way lower. They started in September, and by October, I was pulling my hair out. We had so many problems. I only knew one homeschool family, and to be honest, they seemed kind of flaky to me. They spent most days at the beach, and I wondered if they were doing any work at all. Because of that, I had a really limited view on what homeschooling was. Things weren't going well at the church school though, so I bought my first book — Should I Home School? by Elizabeth & Dan Hamilton. I read it right away, and then quickly devoured every other book I could get my hands on. I decided, however, to have the girls stick it out that one year at the church school. It was hard, but we got through it. I used that time to educate myself and prepare our home for school in the fall.

The second thing I recommend to people is to check out the Home School Legal Defense Association. It is a Christian-based organization, which isn't always everyone's thing. Even if they choose to follow a secular style of teaching, HSLDA offers lots of information on local and state homeschool groups. I've been a member there for 15 years now. What do they do exactly, you might ask? This is from their website:

HSLDA is a nonprofit advocacy organization established to defend and advance the constitutional right of parents to direct the education of their children and to protect family freedoms. Through annual memberships, HSLDA is tens of thousands of families united in service together, providing a strong voice when and where needed.

If I were to add a third thing to my to-do list for families considering homeschooling, it would be to attend a convention. Most states have them once a year. Some states have more than one. I attended several while I lived in California, and I've been to two since moving to Montana. The last one I wanted to go to was cancelled, so I'm hoping they announce a new date soon. Even though I've been homeschooling 15 years, I still learn something new at these conventions. They usually have start-up workshops for people who are interested in homeschooling. The workshops aren't just how to teach math, how to teach multiple grades, and stuff like that. A lot of times they have workshops for dads, teens, even how to organize your classroom or what curriculum to buy. They always have a merchandise hall. That can be overwhelming, but it's a great way to get a hands-on look at what type of curriculum is available.

Books on homeschooling really helped me, along with going online, talking to other people, and attending conventions. The books were the most helpful, to be honest, which is why I have 25 of them. There are so many different types of books too. One of my favorites when I first started what a book simply called Home Schooling by Deborah McIntire and Robert Windham. It was simple, easy to read, and full of great reproducible forms. For the upper grades, I really liked Barbara Edtl Shelton's book called Senior High: A Home-Designed Form-U-La. To this day, I still use the forms in those books to keep records and such, although I usually make them myself. Another good one was Homeschooling: A Patchwork of Days by Nancy Lande. I really liked this one when I was starting because it was a collection of stories from 30 different families sharing one of their homeschooling days. I found it especially helpful to see what other families did during their homeschool days. You can find all these books on Amazon, although they are quite old by now. Most came out in the 1990s when I started. One good thing is that many of them are available pretty cheap — some as low as 1-cent plus shipping. Don't forget your local library because they tend to carry a lot of books as well, both newer and older ones.

When I started back in the late 1990s, only 850,000 of the children in the US were homeschooled. I believe that number has gone up to 1,770,000. That's a big increase, and it means that 3.4% of school-aged children are being homeschooled. I taught Nichelle from 4th grade through 12th. Nicole did 2nd grade through 12th. The boys have been homeschooled since preschool. I'll continue with them until they finish high school. Then they can choose if they want to go to college like their sisters are doing now, or create another path for themselves. I have about 6.5 more years devoted to homeschooling my children. We've had our ups and downs, but for the most part, it's been a journey none of us have regretted taking.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

Rick and I drove up to Glacier NP yesterday for New Year's Day. We got there in the afternoon, so we didn't spend much time. It was chilly, in the 30s, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been. We brought along snow shoes, which really helped on the ice. I took a few photographs, which you might have already seen if you follow me on Instagram or Facebook. I've been so couped up in the house lately with being sick so it was really nice to get out for awhile.

I hope you all have a wonderful, blessed 2014!