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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Spam....It's Not Just a Breakfast Meat Anymore...

I really like Spam

I am from Minnesota, you know.  Although Hawaiians love it even more.  (It is even on the menu at some restaurants there.)

My favorite way to eat it is fried.

But, as much as I love Hormel's Spam.

I am talking about Spam comments on my blog.

Even though I started having trouble with the Disqus comments a while back and my friends and family couldn't leave me comments, the spammers, apparently didn't have the same issue.

My most frequently spammed post is Math 911.

I don't know why.  I wonder what wording I used that attracted them.

Most of my spam comments I find funny.

Like this one:

"Attractive section of content.  I just stumbled upon your blog and in accession capital to assert that I get in fact enjoyed account your blog posts.  Anyway I will be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently quickly."

That comment was on my post about Texas! 

Or, how about this one on my Comments post?

"I blog often and genuinely thank you for your content.  The article has really peaked my interest.  I am going to book mark your site and keep checking for new information about once per week."

I am positive that my whining and complaining about my mom not being able to comment on my blog really peaked her interest and good thing she checked back once a week, because there was a lot of new information available on that subject!

Or, how about this one on The One With the Cockroach?

"Youre so cool!  I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before.  So nice to find somebody with original thoughts on this subject.  realy thank you for starting this up. this website is something that is needed on the web.  someone with a little originality.  useful job for bringing something new to the internet!"

I really am cool, but I am not sure if I really have "original" thoughts on finding a dead cockroach in my coffee pot in the morning.

I suppose I could ignore those little things and just go check out their website for Uggs or knock off Louis Vitton handbags though, couldn't I?

As long as they aren't creepy, icky Spam comments, I think I am okay with getting them.  They provide good examples of bad grammar for my little students.  It is always good to use real life examples when you teach, right?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Post Merry Christmas

We had a quiet and subdued Christmas this year.  We didn't travel to any out of state family celebrations this year.  Sad, in  one way.  But, really less stressful in another.

Rainman was actually off work both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Almost unheard of in our 17 years together.  The kids and I sort of didn't know what to do with him around all the time.  We have kind of developed our own traditions and flow to our holidays....without him around.  That sounds bad, I know.  We just had to figure out what we could all do together and still be happy.

We went to Christmas Eve services, where 5 of my 6 children were in the live Nativity.  I would show you a picture, but apparently a less stressful Christmas makes me lose my mind a little and forget things like bringing my camera to church with me!  It was cute.  There was even a live Baby Jesus who cried almost the whole time the congregation sang "Silent Night".  The baby could see her mother in the front row....and stared her down with every cry. 

You could almost read her little baby thoughts....

"Why aren't you coming to get me, mom?" 

"Why are you letting these strangely costumed teenagers hold me?"

"Why are all these little kids dressed up like animals just sitting around me....staring?"

"Get up here, woman!"

Here they are before the service in their Christmas finery.

And, I even put on my contacts and extra make-up for the occasion and took a picture with Rainman.
(Honestly, I felt so good about how I looked that I forgot I was still fat.   I sort of felt like the old me again.  Although....see my gangster pinky ring?  That is actually my wedding ring....that I haven't been able to fit into for 3 years now....since the move.  I did have it briefly on my ring finger, but it really, I moved it to my pinky for the night.  Also my shirt was so tight and low cut, I was really happy that my hair has gotten so long that I was able to mask my cleavage for most of the night.)

We came home and had frozen pizza for dinner and watched some Christmas movies.  One of the most interesting ones was The Nativity.  Yes, all the Bible characters had British accents.  Yes, Joseph was portrayed as a blue-eyed blond.  Yes, Mary was a giggly teenage girl who didn't really believe the Angel Gabriel.  Yes, some of the dialogue was given to different people than the Bible said.

But, it was really a good movie.  It really humanized Mary and Joseph and made them out to be....sort of....just like us....with a tremendous calling from God.

To contrast that one, on Christmas morning, we watched The Nativity Story.  This one looked much more realistic in terms of the casting (no blue-eyed blonds) and portrayed Mary and Joseph as poor people, not middle class people like the blue-eyed Nativity from the night before.  This Mary hardly spoke a word.  She just sort of looked off into space with a furrowed brow through much of the film.

Honestly, as unrealistic as it was in so many ways, I enjoyed the Nativity better.

I tried a new crockpot recipe from Pinterest.  I tweaked it a bit and I forgot to put in the dry mustard. But it was really good and it was ready when we got up!  This will definitely become a new tradition.

We opened gifts.  Rainman went to mass.  I made a turkey dinner.  We watched movies and played with new toys and games.


It was a good day.  A very good day. 

I am blessed beyond measure.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Pre-Christmas

Here are some of the things we did in preparation for Christmas.

Church Christmas program:  (Caution....bad pictures ahead...I don't know why, but I get the worst, grainy, dark pictures at church....even when I am sitting in the 2nd row)

S-girl as the sheep (2nd from the left) and A-man as the shepherd.  Yes, I realize the irony of their having the evil looking eyes in the celebration of Christ's birth.

L-girl was one of the speaking angels (2nd from the left).

V-girl was a non-speaking angel...

I know many of you moms will understand this next part. 

I had visions of getting really cute pictures of my kids in their costumes after the program.    Because, they looked really cute.  I mean really cute!  I comforted myself with this news after every grainy dark, possessed looking picture that I took during the program.

But, I forgot one little, teeny, tiny, detail.  There is a Christmas cookie extravaganza directly following the program.  My little shepherd, sheep and angels whipped those costumes off and hightailed it to the front of the line.  The little buggers!

I did plop V-girls halo back on her head briefly to get this one:

And I did slow L-girl down enough to get a picture of her....without her costume....

And here is one of S-girl hanging Chrismons ornaments on the tree....oh, well.....

Moving along:

Our town has a Christmas parade.  We have never, ever gone in the 3 years that we have lived here.  It was nothing compared to the Holidazzle we were used to from Minneapolis.  But, let me tell you, there is a lot to be said for a nighttime Christmas parade where it doesn't hurt to breathe and you actually have feeling in your fingers and toes by the end.  Honestly, we wore sweatshirts....not jackets.

The highlight of the parade wasn't this guy, as you would expect.

But, this guy....

Who, if you can see through my dark, grainy shot could do this....

Pop a wheelie on his mower.  There was a whole team of racing lawnmowers racing up and down the streets.

We did go see a sort of grumpy one of these.....

But, above all, we tried to remember that "Jesus is the reason for the season." 

We have spent a lot of time cuddling, baking cookies and watching feel-good Christmas movies (although that hasn't been the same since we lost the Hallmark Channel in our line-up). 

We even went Christmas caroling....which, based on the reaction we kept getting....people don't do anymore....which only leaves me bound and determined to hit more houses next year.  Because, people not Christmas caroling anymore makes me sad.  And, really, when you can carol wearing a t-shirt and jeans....there is no excuse not to do it!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pictures....again....I think....?

Okay....wait a minute....I think this might work.....

("Hair bows" created by A-girl.)

Yup.  We have lift off! 


Alright!  It worked.  I still don't completely understand this whole thing. But, through various blogger friends, I tried multiple things to be able to use pictures in my posts again.  The one that finally worked and I am still not done with is going to and clicking on every single, solitary picture that has magically ended up at that site and reducing the size to 800x600.  I have managed to resize about 100 pictures so far and have about 800 to go. 

I know. 


How do I have that many pictures on there???

So, here is a quick glimpse into our December, so far....then I have to go give the kids their final exams before Christmas break and resize 800 pictures....oh, and wrap gifts and find a time to squeeze in a celebration for D-mans 15th birthday, and clean the house from when I was gone for a week visiting my mom, and catch up on laundry, and watch some of the 23 Christmas movies my babies recorded for me while I was gone with my mom.  You know, the usual.

L-girl got to go ice skating for the first time. 

I know.   In Georgia.  Sad, isn't it?

Pros:  It was really warm. 

Cons:  It was Georgia.  The ice rink was miniscule (like the size of my living room).  It cost $9.00.  There were a lot of unsupervised teens/preteens.  I am fairly certain I saw a 12 year old boy ask a 12 year old girl if she wanted to go smoke a joint while the ice was getting refreshed.  Where are your parents people?!?!?

Since the ice skating cost $9.00 a person.  The rest of us just watched L-girl go round and round on the living room rink.  We found ways to entertain ourselves though.  Right behind the rink is a cute little town that was having its Christmas festival or something, so we wandered the shops while L-girl and her softball team skated.  This railing is, by the way, 2 stories up over a brick pathway, and is the same railing that A-man almost tumbled over because he bet a friend that he could reach out and touch the branches.  I pulled him down by the belt loops (since the top 3/4 of his body was dangling over the railing) and he had to watch the girls skate glued to my side the rest of the night.

This is how our van gets cleaned out.  D-man got the short straw this time around.  He didn't even waste his time getting grocery bags, or even household garbage bags....he just went for the big guns and started tossing!

We had a facial fiasco, a Christmas parade, a trip to Santa and a few other things that I will share after I reduce a few more photos...and take a nap.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Am Trying, But, I Guess....I Am Old.

Do you remember when VCRs first came out. They were so exciting and confused your parents so much?

Do you remember when renting VCRs and movies from the movie store?

It was so exciting when you finally got to buy your own VCR and leave it hooked up all the time.

But, your poor parents, they were confused.  They just handed you the movie and the remote (if you had one) and told you to get it all set up for movie night. 

They couldn't even program the little "12:00" to stop flashing.

You would roll your eyes, and in your snotty, teen way, sort of splutter out how to do it, which channel to turn the T.V. to, and then, which buttons to push on the shiny new remote?

Yeah, me too.

Well, the tables have turned and, I have officially become my parents. 

I am confused by technology.

I thought I had been doing pretty well.  Waaaaay better than Rainman.  So, even though we don't have a lot of recent technology devices around here, I still thought I was keeping up pretty well with things....or that I could dig around and figure stuff out.

I was wrong.

I don't get it.

It is my picture issue.

Remember?  I told you that miraculously thousands of bloggers had used up all their picture memory via Picasa during Thanksgiving week.  Then, I told you I had researched and found a way that I could still add photos through either Photobucket or Flickr?

So, I got up early this morning with the intent of learning both of those programs and uploading my pictures and being back to normal around here.

But, here is the problem that is stumping me.... (and, yes, I am asking for help....I will take a middle aged eye roll and snotty tone if necessary, but my psyche is sort of feeling bruised and fragile right now)....The only pictures that will show up in my Pictures file folder on my computer are the ones I uploaded from my camera, on or before 11/15/12.

I have uploaded since that date and they show up in the Windows Photo Gallery....but not in my Pictures files.  So, I can't seem to figure out how to upload them to any program.

Am I making sense?

My pictures are there on my computer....I can see them....sometimes....but, according to any program that wants me to browse and find photos to upload....nothing exists after 11/15/12.

Help me stop the flashing 12:00....please!  I am about to put a piece of electrical tape over it and call it quits! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Still No Pictures...

Okay, I give up.  My pictures don't even show up as an option when I try to attach a picture through Blogger.  The last pictures it shows are ones that I uploaded on November 15th.  All the other pictures I have taken and uploaded show up in my Windows Photo Gallery....but, that it it.

I will have to figure out a new way to load pictures into my blog.  I guess I will have to find time in the Christmas rush to figure out how to use Flickr or Photobucket for my pictures.

Let me go teach some little minds some educational treasures and then I will be back with some pictures of those kids and our Christmas decorations....if I can figure it out.  My friend, Ellie has figured it out.  Go take a look at her cute happy orange picture.

So, hopefully I will be able to. 

Here is hoping you see me back again, soon.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No Pictures....Musings from a Skeptic

I am, apparently, among the many that received a message from Blogger/Picasa that I had run out of memory for my pictures and needed to buy additional memory space. 

Thanksgiving weekend, here in the U.S.A.

Pardon me if I am a little skeptical that we all ran out of memory from our various blogs at the same time.

I don't think it is true.

I am hoping it is just a glitch.

If it isn't, I am fairly sure I am not willing to pay money for additional storage.

I am looking into other options. 

Word Press has been mentioned.

Storing my photos in Photobucket or with Google+ has been mentioned.

I just haven't had time to really research it.

I am curious to know if any of you also received that same message when you went to work on a post?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Only a Little Embarrassing...

I guess I am like a lot of bloggers out there.  I share a lot of the great things my kids do, pictures of my house when it is clean, or, the great homeschool products that are out there.

I don't share a lot about the real aspects of our life.

I did share about how I really DON'T do it all here.

I did share about our sock problem  here.

I did share about the cockroach in my coffee here.

I am about to add another real tale to the list.

Yesterday, was Thanksgiving.  For the first time ever, we celebrated with friends.  Rainman works most Thanksgivings, so we have either gone to family (when we lived in Minnesota) and he joined us there after work, or I have hosted and we scheduled our meal around whatever shift he was working.  Sometimes, we even celebrated on a totally different day.

But, this year, my wonderful friend, Sherri, asked what we were doing for Thanksgiving because she was in the mood for a crowd.  Just inviting my family over constitutes a crowd!  The kids thought going over to Sherri's house was a great idea.  They have a really big T.V. and a fun, little, teeny, tiny dog.

So, we decided that I would make a few side dishes and she would handle the turkey.  Great plan!  So we prepped and made things the night before and then I whipped up a few of them Thanksgiving morning.

(I had a picture of A-girl cutting onions in her sparkly Hollywood sunglasses but Blogger is telling me I have hit my 1 GB limit and need to buy storage space.....I have no idea what they are talking, for picture of A-girl.  If anyone has tips on how to fix this issue - without actually buying anything, I am all ears!)

After I got my final side dish in the oven, I announced that I was going to take a shower.  I took a good long shower, put extra conditioner in my hair, washed and moisturized my face, put a little make up on.  I looked pretty good.  Got my comfy (elastic wasted) but, sort of stylish pants on.  My hair, if I leave it alone has a nice wave/curl to it, so I decided to let it be and try to wear it down.

But, I know myself well enough that once I started moving around or working in the kitchen, I would want to be able to pull it back out of the way.  Nobody wants a long curly hair...even if it is any of their Thanksgiving feast.

So, I grabbed my Lilla Rose hair clip that I am totally in love with.

Problem was that I had no pockets in my comfy pants.  And V-girl wanted me to help her get dressed.  I knew if I set the hair clip down I would forget to grab it again.  Especially because V-girl is quite picky about clothing. 

She is a bit of a Goldilocks in that her underwear have to feel "just right"...and then, the pants can't pull on the underwear too much....the pants can't make the underwear move around too much....and, the shirts she wants to wear are almost always stained, so there is a bit of bargaining over which clean shirt she likes enough to wear.  So, helping her get dressed takes a while.  Plus, there are 5 other kids around that have questions, stories that need to be told, need help putting belts through the loops, or opinions on what to wear.

Suffice it to say, if I had put the Lilla Rose clip down, it wouldn't have made it to Thanksgiving with me.  And, remember my hair was wet and conditioned and wavy and pretty....I didn't want to put it in my hair and ruin in.

So, I tucked it in my cleavage.  I would just keep it there and then, when I got downstairs, I would put it in my purse.  So, V-girl/Goldolocks finally arrived at a pair of underwear that fit her just right.  I had been able to coerce everyone into bringing an extra pair of play clothes.  Then someone yelled that the oven timer had gone off.  So, I went downstairs pulled the casserole out of the oven.  Yelled at the kids to grab their stuff.

Asked A-girl to double check the list I had made the day before so I made sure that I grabbed everything I had promised to bring, including crafts and games for everyone.  By the way, I stole a bunch of game ideas from my sister's Twelve Days of Christmas posts. They were a huge hit!!!

Anyway, I had lots of stuff to bring....successfully got it all balanced and positioned just right in the van and were able to get it all there without anything spilling along the way.  I only had to turn around about a block from our house to come back and make sure that I had remembered to turn off the oven (I did...but didn't have any actual memory of doing so). We left our house around 10:30 a.m.

Once we got to Sherri's house, the kids played, Sherri and I cooked and visited.  We had dinner.  We cleaned up dinner.  Sherri and her sister decided that they were going to Black Friday shop on Thanksgiving night.  Walmart opened at 8:00, so they decided they had better leave around 7:00 or so.  A-girl and L-girl wanted to go with on their very first Black Friday adventure.  Sherri and her sister had room, but it was 6:45 when this decision was made.  So, there was a mad rush of getting ready and off they went.

I did not go shopping.  Number one, I don't like to shop.  Number two, I don't really have much money.  Number three, I went to a Black Friday sale once when I was about 13 or 14 with my friend, Natalie.  It was a nightmare.  We went to Dayton's in downtown Minneapolis....and I think Target.  I am not sure.  I have blocked most of it out. 

Anyway, I wished them well, said I would handle putting the leftovers away and off they went.

By this time, Rainman had arrived from work and had eaten his dinner, while the rest of us had leftovers, and joined the guys for the football games downstairs on the big T.V.  So, I cleaned up the kitchen until he came up, after the game, to see if I was ready to head home.

We got the four kids that were left and headed home.  A-man had really wanted to go Black Friday shopping too and was quite disappointed that there wasn't room for him.  He also had no shopping money, so even if they had room, it would have been pointless.

D-man, S-girl and V-girl rode home with Rainman (there is always a lot of fighting over who gets to ride in the car....apparently when all you know is a big extended, high top, conversion van....a car ride is very exciting!)  A-man and I were all alone in the van.  We had a nice visit about life and Christmas.  He came up with a plan on the way home.  He announced that since his sisters got to go Black Friday shopping, that we should get to watch a Christmas movie without them.  I am pretty funny about us watching the hokey Christmas movies together this time of year.  But, I agreed that sounded like a good plan.

So, we got home, the kids got their jammies on, got a snack.  I checked e-mail and Facebook.  We finally settled in to watch the movie about 10:00.  (By the way, if you are looking for an extra hokey Christmas movie, tune in to 2006s Christmas Do-Over with Jay Mohr and Daphne Zuniga.)

I sat down and put my feet up and started watching the movie.  I had a little itch in my chest area, so I reached into the front of my shirt to scratch it.  I know.....real lady like, huh?

But, wait!  What's this?  What is in my bra?

Yes, it was my Lilla Rose hair clip that I had placed there.....just about 12 hours prior.


How sad is that?

I mean, yes, I have a bosom. 

But, I had no idea I could really hide things there undetected by me, or anyone else, for that length of time!


It is kind of sad, isn't it?

Funny.  But.....sad.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The One With The Cock Roach....

For those of you that know me in real life, it is no surprise to you that I am frugal.  A cheapskate.  A tightwad.

For those who only know me through me have probably figured that out too.

I hate to waste things.  I hate to throw away food that someone around here could eat.  You know?

So, when I have days where I don't finish all the coffee in my pot, I just let it sit there and use up whatever is left, in the morning, before I make a fresh pot.

I get up fairly early, while it is still mostly dark out.  I do my morning routine without lights. 

So, one recent morning, I came down to the kitchen in the semi-dark, shook my coffee pot.  Yup, enough for about a cup before making a new pot.

I stood in the semi-dark kitchen and poured myself a cup.  I couldn't really see other than to know I had the right aim and wasn't missing my cup.

Then I heard a plop.

Hmmm....I thought.  I must have had grounds at the bottom of my pot that congealed together or something.

Now, this is the part of the story you will be proud of me for....and I will forever thank God for.

I decided to dump out that cup and go ahead and splurge and make a fresh pot.

Based on the title of my post, you know what the plop was, don't you?

It was a big one too.  Sort of like this one. 

(Alicia, if this is finally the day you actually read one of my blog need to STOP right now and pick another one.  I mean not look any further.)

It was dead.  So, I guess it must have gone in looking for water and not been able to get back out since the pot slopes at the top.

Rainman has informed me that it isn't actually a cock roach....but a palmetto bug.

Frankly, I do not care what it is called.  I just don't want it in my house and I especially do not want to share my morning caffeine with it!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! 

Just remember to check your coffee first before you sit down with that piece of pie.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

L-Girl Can See!

Poor little L-girl....she has been squinting for a few months now.  I finally got her into the doctor who confirmed our suspicions....she needed glasses.


And, after.....
Aren't they cute on her? 

Vocal Coaching At Home

I am a singer.

It is hard to just state that, without some sort of I don't sound conceited.

But, I sing.  I love to sing.  I don't think that I have done anything special in life to be able to carry a tune.  I believe that I have a God-given talent.  I am not the best singer in the world, my town, or even my house.  But....

I am a singer.

But, even God-given talents need to be tweaked and can be improved on.

So, I was lucky when I grew up that I was able to take some voice lessons, some from my regular choral teachers and some when I was older, at my own expense, at the Macalester College of Music from a very strict Ukrainian teacher. 

As homeschoolers with six children, and living on one income, it is a bit tougher to give your kids extra things like music lessons, including voice lessons....even if they have a God-given talent themselves.

That is why I was actually excited when we got the chance to review something called Vocal Coach.

It is a way to take voice lessons at your own home.  We needed this.  I have a few wannabe singers under my roof.

I had been trying to be a coach for my girls, using what I remembered from my own voice lessons....but, some of the things I was worried I was doing wrong or remembering wrong.  Sometimes, I would talk about "tone" and try to explain what I meant when their tone needed to change....and got blank stares in return.  I didn't want them to turn into opera singers with crazy vibratos....but I wanted them to breathe right and support their voices, not sing through their noses, and, well, I wanted them to sound good.

But, I didn't quite know how to get them there.

Vocal Coach has 12 CDs that run through just about everything you would need to become a better singer.  The amount of information they give is about the equivalent of $2,000 worth of personal coaching time.  Voice lessons are not cheap.

Everything from breathing exercises to control, diction and yes, even, tone.

This is a product that I think fills a need.....and, in the words of Chris and Carole Beatty, the husband and wife creators of this program, " long as you are not tone deaf, we WILL help you become a better singer."

The Beattys have been giving voice lessons for about 40 years, so this program uses all the tricks and tips that they have developed through the years.

This video doesn't really have anything to do with how this program works, but this is a really interesting little trick to try so you can hear what you sound like to others. You know how when you accidentally hear yourself on an answering machine or voice mail....and that what I really sound like?  Yup.  It is and in the video, Mr. Beatty explains why.

(I am sure Mr. Beatty is pleased as punch that this is the picture that shows up for the clip!)

This just gives you a little glimpse into how much the Beattys know.....and proves that they can explain it in easy to understand ways....even if you aren't a singer.

This program includes 7 training CDs and 4 workout CDs, and 1 CD which has the lead sheets (more on that one later) which are super full of information and exercises to improve your voice. 

By using these CDs, my girls.....and I.....learned better posture, better breathe control, and how to listen to ourselves.

Here are my girls working on their posture, pretending that there was a string pulling them up from a string through the middle of their head.  Some of the exercises had us giggling because we looked or sounded funny....but they were effective.  Again, one of the advantages of working on this stuff in the privacy of your own home!

Here they are laying on the floor working on their breathing, to make sure the right muscle groups engage.

I did have a few issues with the program though.  I didn't like the packaging, because when we got ours, the CDs had fallen out of their little clicked in spot during transit, so I didn't really have any idea if there was an order to the CDs or not. 

There is a small instructional book that comes with the program that helped a little bit with where to start.   It told us to start with the Getting Started CD, which we did....but we still weren't sure what to really do next.  I am afraid that this might scare away a true beginner.....because there is so much information available....they might be overwhelmed.

The Instructional Guide states that most singers find 45-60 minutes is a good length of practice time for routine work.  But, I didn't know what all to include in that 45-60 minutes....or, should we practice that long for kids.  I wanted to know things much should be spent on breathing much should be spent on warming much should be spent on much should be spent on diction.....or should they all be combined?

See what I mean? 

The  Beattys do a great job teaching and I learned lots of new things, and was reminded how lazy my breathing and posture has become when I sing.  They were able to explain things that I had been trying to get through to the girls, but, we will all admit we are sort of stumbling through and just putting CDs in willy-nilly and trying things.  But, even if we aren't doing things in exactly the correct order, we are becoming better singers....just slightly confused singers!

When we were working on the warm up and breathing exercises, they moved really fast and I had a hard time remembering the melody line of the exercises.  I thought, they should have the sheet music for this so you could sort of follow along.....if you can read music, that is.  I can.

Well, one of the CDs we randomly put in one day, had sheet music for all the exercises.  To me, "lead sheets" are for actual songs, that you would sing way down the road, not the vocal exercises.  But, that is what they are for....all the exercises.  I wish it would have been made clear somewhere that these were there and to go ahead and print them before you started the CD.  We are much more successful now that we know the words we are singing and what melody the exercises follow.....or just at least if we are supposed to be heading up or down on the scales.

It says on the CD, under the word SINGER.....Printable Lead Sheets for Exercises, Progress Journal, and Song Evaluation Forms.

But, I hadn't seen that small print before I put it in.

I would have liked a precise instruction sheet that said, first put in the Lead Sheet CD and print out exercises 1-5, then put in CD #1, do the first 3 exercises, then move onto CD #2, and pick 3 get the idea.

I also wish that the instructor would have kept on singing throughout the exercises so you would know more clearly if you were on the right beat, singing the right words, etc. 

Overall, we really liked this program, because we learned a bunch.  But, we just sort of felt that we were never sure if we were doing things exactly how we were supposed to and how long we were supposed to do them.

I really liked that the Beattys sounded so upbeat and encouraging, with little nuggets of wisdom, like "Practice makes permanent...not perfect."  They have some free resources available on their website, like their free Vocal Coach Blog where they answer questions and give helpful tips.  They also have a free newsletter and are on Facebook.....look for them at Vocal Coach with Chris and Carole Beatty.

If you have any future singing stars or public speakers (this could really help speakers with breath control and stamina) in your household, or just want to be a better singer for yourself, Vocal Coach Singer really can help you get there.  You can get the 12 Vocal Coach Singer CDs and program for $119.99 or $99.99 for Mp3s.

Check out what the other future singers on the TOS Review Crew thought.  Some of them got to try a program created just to Teach Kids to Sing.

Disclaimer:  I received Vocal Coach Singer for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Only In Georgia....

Only in Georgia would this be the snack, distributed by a parent, after a 10 year old softball game!

Yes, each girl got their own can of green boiled peanuts....and they were excited about it!

L-girl heated hers up and had them for breakfast this morning. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Growing Up Wild

Surprisingly, this post isn't about our family.  Although, some people make think that my kids are growing up wild.

It is about a family named "Wild".

You know how sometimes, when you travel, you secretly don't want to really see the Eiffle Tower or Notre Dame....but the inside of people's houses and how they really live?

Not that the Eiffle Tower is a bad thing to see in person.....but, for me, I was much more interested in peeking behind doors and through windows to see what was on someone's T.V. or what their dishes and wallpaper looked like.

That is one of the reasons the series of videos from the Wild family, who are missionaries that live in Papua, Indonesia, are so awesome.

They are actually awesome for a lot of reasons, but through a set of DVDs, they show you the inside of their home and how everything works.....from electricity, to visitors, to feeding the family, to where they keep their Legos.

The Wild Brothers....Growing Up Wild is a series of videos showing the lives of  the Wild family....but mostly the four Wild Brothers.

We got a chance to watch and use 2 of the DVDs in the series.  This DVD series was designed as a supplement for homeschoolers or a Sunday School curriculum, for ages 5-12.  But, really it is so much more and I would label it as something for ages 1-100.  Fascinating stuff, especially for us safe, middle-class, suburban dwellers.

Volume 1


Volume 2

Each of the DVDs has 3 episodes, so right now, the whole series has 15 episodes.  My favorite part of church when missionaries would come and visit were their slide shows and stories about how the people actually lived.  This is live video and stories of how they live....and, since the Wild family are American missionaries, it is told through the lense of what we think is normal.  Like running water and taking showers, and how you get supplies.

They are a very cool family.  Much cooler than we are.  See?

I loved this comment from Mrs. Wild, or as she calls herself, The Wild Brothers' mom:

I tell my boys all the time,

"We learn and work hard at gaining knowledge, not so that we will become smart or be known as clever, or in order to make a name for ourselves, but so that we can be used for Christ."  I believe that our purpose is to make His name great among all peoples, to glorify Him.  I believe our purpose is to enjoy Him and all He has done and is doing and will do for us, to enjoy all that He has created.

If you remember, we are on sort of a T.V. watching hiatus around here during the week.  So, watching these DVDs was a real treat for us.  One day, I had to be out of the house with D-man for a bit, so, I told the kids that they could go ahead and watch the Growing Up Wild DVDs while I was gone.  We had only watched 1 episode together up to this point. While we were gone, they watched all of both DVDs, including rewatching the episode we had already seen.  They had watched six episodes (which are about 15 minutes each).  As soon as I walked in they wouldn't stop talking.  I got re-enactments of how noise piercing was done. and,  S-girl announced, "We must have seen 100 butts, mom!" 
S-girls version of the nose piercing. 
 A-mans version....the brown thing coming from the side is the Wano tribesmen who "shoved" the stick through his nose. I know some parents wouldn't be happy that there was nudity (local Wano tribe) or even the act of body piercing displayed......both from the local Wano tribe and two of the boys who got their nose pierced during the episode.   But, it is not like nudity or partial nudity that is shown here in the U.S.A. on T.V. shows or commercials.   It is different.  It is real.  It is not gratuitous.  It is how they really live. Plus, bonus, I am fairly sure none of my kids are going to want a piercing in a spot other than their ear!

You can make these DVDs as educational as you  want.  They are really entertaining just to watch.  They are really educational if you just watch.

But, they have included an Activity Guide (as its own CD in the case so you don't have to dig around for it). 

Click here for an example of some of the things included.  The Activity Guide explains more of the Wilds' thoughts on being missionaries, but then also gives you the chance to dig deeper into the Bible, and into simple little things like Darwinian Theory and the age of the earth.  You know.....the easy stuff! Winking smile  The Activity Guide in this section, finishes with a simple, but powerful statement...

We should always be prepared to give an answer for our beliefs.

Or, even to think practically about how to figure out the amount of supplies your family will need for the next 3 months, or 6 months, or researching solar power and photovoltaic cells.

One of the most interesting parts of the Activity Guide was the cultural comparison worksheet that was included.  It encouraged you to fill in the cultural practices in your region and compare those to the Wano people that the Wilds live among.

This DVD series makes what the Wild family is doing to real and accessible.  I sort of feel like all missionaries should do something like this.  It makes it easier to pray for them and the people they are trying to reach.  It is way better than a regular old slide show.

Even if you don't use these DVDs as "education", they are entertaining and learning will happen whether you pull out the Activity Guide or not.  For moms, like me, that have a tendency to feel that there needs to be at least a little "real" school included....the Activity Guide is perfect.

Each DVD costs $18.99, but if you invest in all 5 DVDs you get a price break of 15%, so you can get them all for about $80.

If you have kids, they will love these DVDs.  But, especially if you have a boy....a real boy....he will be fascinated by these videos....the bugs, the jungle, the adventure.  Can you guess how A-man feels about them?  Plus, an extra bonus is, I really don't think he plans on getting his nose pierced anytime soon!  Smile with tongue  Might make a fun Christmas gift or stocking stuffer, depending on your budget.

Go take a look at the whole DVD series that they have put together.  But, first, so see what the other TOS Review Crew members thought.

Disclaimer:  We received Volume 1 and 4 of the Growing Up Wild DVD series for free, in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My New PAL - Institute for Excellence in Writing

I have a new pal.  It is called, Institute for Excellence in Writing, or IEW as it is known in the homeschool world, is very well known.....and very well regarded.

But, I have a secret to tell new pal scared me.

I heard about IEW all the time from other homeschoolers.

I saw their booth at conferences.

Homeschoolers with high school kids talked about IEW.

Homeschoolers with middle school kids talked about IEW.

Even homeschoolers with elementary kids talked about IEW.

Everyone talked about it and how much they loved it.

IEW was like the popular girl in school.  The nice one.  Not the snotty one.

Who, one day, invited you to sit at her table....but you were afraid of what would happen in you accepted.  Was it a joke so she and her friends could just make fun of you?

So, every now and then I would head over to their cafeteria table, I mean, website and look around.  Get totally intimidated by content and prices (clothes and hair styles)....and leave. 

A friendship was never formed.....I was just sort of a stalker.

So, when I got a chance to review one of the IEW programs called PAL (that sounds nice and friendly, doesn't it?  I didn't exactly jump at it....but I certainly expressed an interest....and admitted that I was sort of scared too.

PAL stands for Primary Arts of Language.  There is a Reading curriculum, Writing curriculum and an All About Spelling that goes with it.  It is a really, full, comprehensive language arts program for kids.  I mean, really comprehensive.

So, first of all, take a look at what showed up in my mailbox.

Now, granted some of the stuff I got was in e-book form....but here are most of the actual hard copies of things I got.

Remember this product is called Primary Arts of Language and is intended to be used with ages K-2.  Why do you need so much stuff to teach little kids?  Had I been doing it wrong all these years?

Here is the time in the review where I confess that I got scared.  Really freaked out kind of, shaking in my boots, "Why did I even sign up for this review?" scared.

And, I did the worst possible thing I could have done at this point.  I start perusing the books.  Huge, colossal mistake.

I was scared, intimidated, it didn't make sense....I began to doubt my teaching abilities....I was going to use it for S-girl....and, I didn't know how or where to start, or what to even attempt first.

Somewhere in my browsing, I realized that there was a DVD-ROM that went along with the Reading and Writing program.  Hmmm.....probably should have started with that!

On the video was Jill Pike, the author of the PAL program for IEW, just simply sitting in front of  a gray, canvas backdrop. No fancy bells and whistles which is what I was afraid of after perusing the books.

As Jill spoke, I started relaxing, and thinking, okay.....maybe I can do this.  Ms. Pike has a very calm, relaxing demeanor about her and a soothing voice, like the nurse that talks to you right before you go into the operating feel like you are in good hands and nothing bad will happen.  (Guess what?  I just flipped over one of my books and there is a little biography about Jill.....and she was a Registered Nurse!)

Here take a little listen so you will know what I mean.  In this video clip, she is starting to explain the reading portion of PAL.

So, in case I haven't made myself clear, if you get this program, do not.....I repeat....Do Not.... open up the books and start looking through them yourself, before you listen to Jill.

So, what is the big, seemingly scary PAL program all about?

It is based on Anna Inghams Blended Sound-Sight System of Learning, which, by the way is described as "not for the faint hearted".  But, I had never heard of Anna before, so that part didn't mean anything to me.....which is good because, apparently I am faint hearted! 

I am not going into all the details of how this program works, because I will scare you away.....and I really don't want to do that.  Trust me when I say it is a lot easier to implement and teach than you think when you first see it all.  Jill explains it really well!

To put it really, really simply, it uses a combination of poetry, story telling, letter stories, and creative games and visuals to help your child learn and remember the basics about figuring out how to read and write in English.

Here is what they included as a possible daily schedule:

Our actual experience has been even shorter and snappier than this.

I read a book on communication once where it talked about trying to create word pictures in the head of the person you are talking to, because it helps them relate it to themselves and remember things better.  (I actually think it was a book on how to get your husband to really understand you....but it works in other situations too.)

In PAL, the way that they teach the letters and their sounds was one of the most successful word picture uses I have ever seen.

You know how the lower case letters b and d are often confused by young children?  Mine have all had an issue with the point where I started to wonder if they were dyslexic.  Well, for all the kids, I had taught them to make the letters with their hands....b with their left hand and d with their right hand and have them touch.....making a bed....then they could figure out if the word they were looking at had a b or a d in it.....headboard or footboard....get it?

This method has been somewhat successful.....I mean, all of my older kids can just look at b and d now and know which one it is.  For A-man and is still a work in progress....A-man only pulls out the bed still,  on occasion, but S-girl does it everytime she sees one of the letters.  She drops her pencil, makes the sign for the letter and then picks her pencil up and moves on.  Or, when she is reading aloud, she juggles holding the book while she makes the signs.....and then keeps on reading.

The PAL way of explaining letters is by giving them letter stories.

See?  b is the bomb letter....the bomb drops (the line)...and then bounces up and explodes on the right side....the circle.  And, the d is the dog letter.....his head comes first....and then his tail.

This has been so successful, I can't even tell you.  A-man who is usually around during my teaching time with S-girl has apparently been paying attention too.  S-girl was reading a story to him.  They were snuggled up in one chair together as she read. She was sounding out words as usual.  I heard her pause at one point and he said, "You know this one....that is the bomb letter."

It has stuck with them.  Even V-girl knows which one is the Happy Letter, (which is "c").

The word picture  that I sort of wished hadn't stuck with S-girl is the squealing e's....which is a word picture that whenever two e's get together, they love to squeal.  So, now whenever S-girl reads a word that has "ee" in it...she says it with a squeal in the middle.  Effective?  Yes.  Irritating?  Yup.

There are games and activities that make all of this learning really fun.

The Reading and Writing programs are separate programs, but are ideally designed to be used together.  They just have them separated in case your child already knows how to read.  They are super comprehensive and teach way more than "See Dick and Jane."

I will say that these programs are definitely teacher intensive at first, but then ease up as you kind of get in the groove.  There is a lot of prep and activities/games that need to be put together or cut out and assembled ahead of time.  Probably part of what scared me, at first.

With all the games and activities, this is another time when it would have been really helpful to have a laminator to make some of the game pieces last a bit longer.  As far as supplies go, they suggest having things like, manila folders, paper clips and index cards on hand.  I happened to have paper clips and manila folders around, but not index cards, so I just cut up some scrap paper to roughly index card size and that worked fine.

S-girl is certainly having fun with this style of learning.  She still calls in her "new school".....and asks to do it.

A few of her favorite, kind of odd, things about PAL, are getting to write with a pen, not a pencil...and just cross out mistakes instead of having to erase them.  It is really kind of funny, the first few days when I handed her a pen instead of a pencil, she would get sort of a surprised look on her face and then announce to anyone who happened to walk through our side of the school room, "I get to use a pen in my new school!"  I forgot what a big deal pens are to kids!

She also likes practicing on the white board, and loves adding to the Phonetic Farm.

This where you put all the sight-sound stuff into practice. 

(The silo is where all the letter combinations that make the long o sound "ow" as in yellow and grow.)

We also got All About Spelling, Level 1, but we haven't progress enough with the PAL program to work on that yet.  But, again, this is one of those programs that is talked about a lot in the homeschool world.

So, yes, I have a new "Pal", I finally swallowed that big lump in my throat and went and sat at the popular girls table.  She wasn't mean.  Her friends didn't tease me.  She is teaching me that there is a whole different world out there.

It is going to be a good friendship.  No more stalking.

You can get the complete IEW PAL Reading package for $69; the IEW PAL Writing package for $89; and All About Spelling for $30.

IEW has award winning writing curriculums for all ages put together by Andrew Pudewa (he is famous in the homeschool world too) and his team.  You can also take a look at their "magalog" (for those who don't know what that is....which I didn't is their magazine and catalog in one!) It is worth checking out.....and try really hard not to shake in your boots.  If I can handle this stuff, so can you.

Want to know what others on the TOS Review Crew thought of PAL or how they used it differently at their house?  Take a peeeeeeeeeek.  Darn those squealing ee's.

Disclaimer: I received the complete PAL Reading and Writing programs and All About Spelling for free, in exchange for an honest review.