Thursday, December 31, 2009

the gifts that keep on giving

Wait for it…


It’s no fun until you pull the squeaker out.


Bud had a great Christmas after all. A new rope can cure what ails ya.


Oh, and the kids got stuff, too.



You say you want a revolution?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

for your reading pleasure

The January issue of Palmetto Parent is online and will be on the stands in the next few days.

The education-themed issue includes:

I love, love, love the online magazine viewer. What do you think? Shouldn’t every print magazine do this? It sure makes life easier for writers…

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

not a Christmas card, part tres

As always, I hope this finds you well and enjoying the amazing blessings of the season. We are in year three of homeschooling and by no small coincidence, also year three of no Christmas cards. :)

Most of you keep up with us, but just in case… Caroline is a junior this year and is driving solo. The state actually allowed her to drive on her own and we finally acceded to that certification. She is proving to be very responsible (hence the reason she is still allowed to drive) and is enjoying high school. She is very involved in the high school program at church and is also on the speech and debate team at school. We are entering the “college visit” phase. Suggestions and scholarships are welcome.

Nolan is in sixth grade and is still loving school at home. I am relearning algebra, which also explains a lot about the Christmas cards. Nolan is a first-year Boy Scout, attends enrichment classes one day per week at a homeschool co-op, is involved in the middle school group at church (he also runs the sound and lights some Sundays) and just generally keeps us on our toes.

John and I are doing well. We celebrated 20 years of marriage this year and we still like each other an awful lot. John is with a new company now and he is enjoying his new job. I am still writing and I am thankful to be able to work from home.

Despite almost losing Buddy (he’s almost 14) a few weeks ago, the dogs are also doing well. They said to tell you all hello.

I hope your 2010 is wonderful. And above all else, I hope you celebrate every day as Christmas, knowing that Emmanuel – God with us – has come.

Merry Christmas!!


John, Chris, Caroline and Nolan


Caroline with a giant cookie (don’t ask):


Nolan, with… a close encounter:


Sunday, December 20, 2009

wrapping him in love


We love this little one and he isn’t even here yet. (And no, he’s not ours. For goodness’ sake, people, that would be a scary thought. I am the Great Aunt – yikes – with a big “G.” Oh no, I am the crazy Great Aunt who quilts. At least I don’t live in somebody’s attic.) Fabric is Happy Campers by American Jane for Moda. Binding and backing are vintage. I made continuous bias binding. After the initial shock of the spatial reasoning required, it turned out OK. Mistakes are heretofore referred to as “design choices.” It was all done on the machine because that’s how I roll. It’s all cotton, including the batting, so it got a little puckery after washing – but not very puckery because the backing and binding had been washed previously. The colors make me all kinds of happy. The little camping scenes with the Airstream-type camper…lovely.

Along with the quilt, for his almost-first-Christmas, little mister got a vintage book of famous explorers. I know it will be a year or two before he can read it on his own, but it’s good to get started early. He’s handsome, too.


Friday, December 18, 2009

maestro classics

Tortoiseandthehare.jpg M.C. Tortoise and Hare image by homeschoolcrew

Ah, I love this. Admittedly, it might be a little young for my son. But it’s perfect for me. We were sent a copy of Maestro Classics’The Tortoise and the Hare” for review. The CD includes the story, as well as a performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra. Through the more than 50 minutes of tracks, children (and um, parents) can learn about the story and the music – what does a particular sound represent? – and so much more. There is even an activity booklet included. (Hear samples here:

Maestro Classics also has Stories in Music for Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Casey at the Bat and more. The story we listened to was very well done and a thorough sensory experience. I really think it is great for wee littles through middle school and for parents of all ages.


CDs are $16.95 each or three for $45 (see site for coupon code).



We received a free DVD for review. I was not compensated. My opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

the good, the bad and the…


Very Mary sent me the sweetest note cards because she is awesome.


(This is only bad in the oh-my-arteries sort of way.) Alton Brown’s Free Range Fruitcake. Make it right now. I had it for breakfast.



And this… Well, it defies words, doesn’t it? I ordered a slew of novelty charm squares for an I Spy quilt I am making for a special little one. Because I love her and don’t want her to be traumatized for the rest of her life, I left this square out.

Scariest. Fabric. Ever.



More than a half million kids are using Mathletics and it is the most used math program in Australia. (In Australia, they call it a “maths program,” which is so cool I am going to start saying it myself. As in, “Nolan? Have you finished your maths?”)

But I digress.

We were given a free trial of Mathletics through the TOS Crew. While it wasn’t my son’s cup of tea, I think that says more about his current interests than the program itself. I think it is a great way to supplement and drill (but in a good way) math from numbers to “the tangent to a curve and the derivative of a function.” (I am not making that up.)

The cool thing about Mathletics is the chance to compete with other students from around the world. Because the site has such a wide reach, the competition can be new every day. Students can also score points which can be exchanges for “virtual” prizes. Think funny hats…

One super useful section of the site features downloadable workbooks on, well, everything math-related I could think of and many things I could not. The site also makes it very, very easy to track your child’s progress.

While I assumed Mathletics was mostly for traditionally schooled kids, that’s not accurate. Download the company’s information for homeschoolers here.


Mathletics is $59 per year, but if you look on the subscription page, there is a way to get a discount. (You have to answer a question…)


We received a free trial for review. I was not compensated. My opinions are my own.

Friday, December 11, 2009

geriatric vestibular syndrome, week 3

Warning: This is a long, rambling post filled with stuff you probably don’t care about unless you have a sick dog.

If you came here by searching for information about geriatric vestibular syndrome, here is the picture of hope. (Apologies for the doggie bright eyes.)



Background: Buddy is a Lab mix (emphasis on mix), about 60 pounds and almost 14 years old. He has a seizure disorder and has been on meds for nine years and has been seizure-free for several years. We maintain him on the lowest therapeutic levels of medication possible. He has arthritis and has a slightly enlarged liver, but is otherwise very healthy.

This is 16 days post-collapse for Buddy. He is still on oral antibiotics and will continue until next week. He has completed two weeks of ear drops (he had an infection), as well as initially being treated with IV fluids (two bags) and an antibiotic injection. He spent days and days on pain meds but we are now doing that as needed. As of this writing, he hasn’t need any for two days. He is on Rimadyl (generic, 120 mg per day, split into two doses). He also takes medication to prevent seizures. That is unrelated to this current illness. We supplement his diet with fish oil and glucosamine.

Initially, Buddy could not stand and was in great distress. He could not walk without assistance for several days and had approximately three days of nystagmus. (Nystagmus is scary.) The head tilt really wasn’t present until day two, but it continues. We are told he may always have that. Our consolation is that we can call him Tippi Hedren. (Think about it.) He can now go up and down the steps to the backyard on his own, but we help him down. He tends to go too fast and can lose his balance. He is happy, eating, playing with his tennis ball and giving Maggie a hard time again. Last night, he walked all the way upstairs in our house (14 steps) on his own, with my husband closely supervising just in case. Going up is easier than going down.

I wanted to point out that Bud never had the rolling or vomiting that is commonly associated with this condition and which sometimes leads owners to believe their pet has been poisoned. That’s what I would have thought had Bud exhibited those symptoms. Despite his distress (which I now believe was due to disorientation rather than pain), he did not have a seizure and he clearly knew us. (A throw back to my days in probate law – I would say he was oriented to person, but not place. Time isn’t so much a concern for him.)

We did have x-rays done of his spine and hips. Because he did not exhibit neurological symptoms initially and because he is riddled with lipomas (fatty tumors), we were concerned that he possibly had a spinal tumor. That would not have been good news. We had the option of having Bud sent to a veterinary specialist to get an MRI to see if he had a brain tumor or some kind of catastrophic brain event. We elected not to do that.

We had no idea he would gain this much recovery, if any at all. So far, so good.

Some links for you: What is the vestibular system?

An excellent informational post with the unfortunate title “Don’t Kill Old Rolling Dogs.”

are you tired of dog pictures yet?



Hey homeschoolers, it’s not just Math U See. It’s Math U Sleep On.



Here is my only complaint about Tektoma: my son wants to do it all the time. All. The. Time. We were asked to review Tektoma, which is really a set of tutorials to help kids learn to program video games, for the TOS Crew. (We received a free trial subscription.) Nolan loves it. The tutorials are for Game Maker software, which is a free download. (You don’t need Tektoma to use Game Maker – Tektoma just teaches you how to use Game Maker. You do need Game Maker to use Tektoma. Clear as mud?) Nolan quickly worked through programming a racing game, an arcade game, a platform game (platform – kind of like a Mario-type game) and is now creating a fantasy type game.

I haven’t helped him at all with this. There are several reasons why that is the case, primarily because he hasn’t needed me . But also because he gets it much better than I could. He could teach me at this point. The site is safe and seems to be well controlled.

Tektoma was born out of computer programming summer camps held by the founders. They created the site to allow year-round access for students. New features are added monthly.

The subscription price of $14.95 per month is not a bad investment at all, especially if your child has a keen interest in PLAYING video games and you want to translate that to CREATING video games. The recommended ages are 7 – 17. Nolan is 11 and has had no trouble picking this up. He highly recommends it and so do I.

Tektoma offers a 14-day free trial. Do check it out.


P.S. If you think you are interested and if (only if) you want to, you can use this link and we get a referral in the form of free use of the site for 15 days.


We received a free trial for review. I was not compensated. My opinions are my own.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

the slacker blog

I am actually going to try to take my camera out of the bag today. I have reasons – it finally stopped raining, I am making stuff and I have become the slacker blogger. I also want to do a post about vestibular syndrome, in case someone gets here via Google and they need a little shot of hope. I’ve got hope for you, lovers of old dogs. In the meantime, please do read this post. It might save some dog lives. We were this close.

Also, did you know that Christmas is TWO WEEKS FROM TOMORROW? How did this happen? I want a do-over.

Stories in print and currently online:

‘Tis the Season

Holiday Events (Sorry, this is only helpful if you live in the Columbia, SC area.)

And since I am truly seeking slacker status, I can’t even remember if I posted this here. I reviewed “The Star of Bethlehem” for Heart of the Matter and was able to interview Rick Larson, the man behind the movie.  Please drop by and give it a look. I am not an astronomer, but I can tell you the DVD is a great way to introduce the story of the birth of Jesus to someone who might not be interested in visiting a church. Bring the church to them.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

he thought i was kidding

when I asked if it was OK if I declared my love for him on a billboard. (This is a mock up provided by Fairway Outdoor. I am going to try to get a photo.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

best. thing. ever.


Feeling well enough to play ball.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

where we’ve been


Here. Just here. Buddy, who is now almost 14, was smacked down with geriatric vestibular syndrome last week. Thanksgiving plans were canceled, nights were spent on the couch, IVs were administered, lots of medicines were given (and are still being given). But it all appears to be working. Bud is improving a little more each day and life is every so slowly creeping back to normal.

Maggie says it can’t happen soon enough.


Some decorating was accomplished, using our snazzy new LED Christmas lights.


And the Christmas cactus is about to join us in the festivities.


I hope your Christmas season is off to a great start.


I wish we had this when my children were wee littles. Kinderbach is absolutely adorable and seems to me to be a terrific way to introduce young children (they recommend ages 2 –7 – I would say 2 – 5) to playing a piano or keyboard. For homeschoolers, it is a terrific early childhood music program that teaches about rhythm and much more.

Creator Karri Gregor has designed a music curriculum that is energetic and approachable for young children. They truly can learn while having fun. (No boring note spellers here. I am sure I can get an amen from former piano students everywhere.)

The program is video-based and is available online or on DVD. Online membership is $19.99 per month or $95.88 for one year. DVDs are available by level (there are six levels) at $40.45 each or $202.88 for levels 1 – 6. You can start with a free trial to see if this works with your child’s learning styles.


Level 1 - Click here for Free sample Student Activity Book
- Familiarity with the black and white keyboard landscape.
- Aural discrimination of high and low sounds as well as loud and quiet.
- Music term “Piano” means quiet or soft.
- Quarter note, half note and the beat value of these symbols in common time.
- Keeping the beat with rhythm instruments and on the piano.
- Distinguishing left and right hands.
- Finger numbers for playing keyboard.
- Introduction to songs that will be used for Kodaly Solfege.
- Introduction to pre-Staff note reading by patterns.


Level 6
- Review concepts from previous Levels.
- Introduce the notes ‘C’ and ‘D’ on staff.
- Emphasize all characters to notes on keyboard as well as C & D on staff.
- Introduce the half and whole rest with their beat value in common time.
- Addition to dynamic music terminology.
- Finger exercises, playing the C major scale with correct fingering.
- Play familiar songs with all notes both pre-staff and staff reading.
- Addition of note patterns both on and off the staff.
- Progress with composition methods.
- Read music on staff by pattern and by recognition of ‘C’ and ‘D’ locations.

We reviewed this as part of the TOS Crew.


We received a free trial for review. I was not compensated. My opinions are my own.