Monthly Archives: November 2008

The Ferris Wheel

Madison has been asking to go on the ferris wheel since the night we got here four months ago and I have put it off as long as I possibly could.   It is a huge, impressive ferris wheel, but it goes very very slow and I was told not to go on it in the summer when it is hot.

Now that the weather has cooled down considerably, we decided to brave it and went this weekend.  It was very slow, but there were some beautiful views and we had a nice, slow, peaceful ride.  I actually don’t think Madison will ask to go again because it was pretty boring, but I am glad we went.  Here are some pictures from our afternoon…

The biggest building in the background of this picture is the hospital on Camp Lester where the baby will be born.

The mall, Jusco, and a hotel. This is part of “American Village.”  According to Matt, the water in the background is the East China Sea.

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Madison’s Handsome Bathroom (Our home, part 2)

When we were cleaning yesterday, Madison went to grab the camera so we could take a picture of her bathroom to put on the blog. According to her, she has the “handsomest” bathroom. Since we do have three bathrooms in this house, I let her choose how she wanted hers decorated for the first time. She chose frogs. It’s not my favorite, but it’s not my bathroom.

On a positive note, we already had the green shower curtain. It’s not a perfect match, but I’m happy with it.

I found these little frog suction cups things at the 100 yen store last week and thought they would work really well for hanging up her bows, since, once again, the walls are all tile and we can’t really hang anything up. So far they have stayed, so I’m happy.

And yes Mom, I know you want to see the living room, but you have to wait until Matt comes home so he can push the entertainment center against the wall!

This is what happens…

when your 5 year old gets a hold of the camera.

We’re getting her a camera for Christmas… not sure if that’s a good idea or a bad idea…

BTW, the shirt she’s wearing in this picture is one of Matt’s.  She been sleeping in one of his shirts almost every night since he’s been out of town.  It’s cute.  She’s very excited for him to come home – she told everyone at church he’ll be home in two days and this afternoon she made him a card that said “I Heart U.  Come Soon.”

End of First Quarter Report

So this will be my first homeschool report since moving to Japan and starting Kindergarten, so you may want to grab a cup of coffee before you start reading what I am sure will turn into a novel.  Given my past history.

We have been doing school for about 9 weeks now, a total of 50 days.  This actually puts us about even with the local DoDDS school here – I checked, because I was worried that we were getting behind.

Overall, I am really happy with where we are right now.  We definitely started out a little slow in September, for multiple reasons, but mainly because I was having second thoughts about whether we were making the right choice, or whether Madison should even start Kindergarten this year.  It also didn’t help that I didn’t receive some of our books until October – they took two months to arrive – you really can’t predict shipping times around here.

It’s easy to say we’re going to homeschool when we had a preschool age child, but once Madison was old enough to actually start school, I kept feeling like I was going to mess this up somehow.  And since her birthday isn’t until October 25th, she wouldn’t be starting school if we lived almost anywhere in the states, but here in the DoDDs school system, the cutoff date for Kindergarten is October 31st.  After a lot of consideration, we decided to go ahead and start her with Kindergarten now.  And I do feel like that was probably the right choice for us right now.  She is definitely doing great with school, and most of my apprehension is gone now (which is not to say that it won’t return in the future…).

So here’s where we are:

Bible

We have continued with Bible Study Guide for All Ages where we left off at the end of preschool. We are about a quarter of the way through Unit 2.  I am still really happy with this program.  I’m really impressed by how much she remembers, and I am learning from it too.  I especially love that it goes through the entire Bible teaching the facts at the appropriate age level.  We are still using the Beginner Level, which is for ages 3-K, and I plan to continue using it until we get through all 4 Units, which should be the end of First grade, and then we’ll start over using the next level.

Reading/Phonics

We finished up with Headsprout.  Her reading skills are definitely not as strong as I’d hoped they would be at the end of this program, but she is definitely reading, which I am thrilled about.

We are about halfway through Book Two of Explode the Code, which is helping reinforce what she learned through Headsprout.  I’m hoping to get through Book 4 by the end of this year.  We are also doing ETC online in addition to the hard copy books.  It’s basically doing the same thing twice, but she enjoys having computer time and I think the extra practice is good for her.

I also added in First Language Lessons for Little Ones.  The main reason I wanted to add this is for the picture study and the poetry appreciation, but it also teaches phonics rules and has copywork, so it’s extra reading practice.  We started with Volume Three and I think that was a good place.  We didn’t get the book until about a month ago, but we are already on Lesson 42.  And Madison loves it, which is surprising because reading is not normally her favorite.  I think I will probably move on to the next book in this series next year for language/grammar/copywork for first grade because so far we are both really enjoying it.

Also for reading we are, well, reading.  Madison read most of the books that went with Headsprout, most of the Bob books I have, and now we are just picking leveled readers from the library.  I try to have her read two new books each day, and then she has to choose one to reread to Dad when he comes home from work.  But, sometimes I do just let her do just one chapter or one story because some of those leveled readers are long.  I also purchased McGuffey’s Eclectic Primer and have her read a few lessons out of there at the end of each week.

And finally, I also read to her every day.  We have read My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, The Dragons of Blueland, Meet Kit, and now we are working on Anne of Green Gables.  We’ve also read tons of picture books.

Handwriting

Initially, I didn’t plan to do any formal handwriting; I thought I would just add it in other areas.  But after watching her writing develop, I thought it would be good to teach her how to correctly write letters.  We are using Handwriting Without Tears about three days a week (up from two days a week at the beginning of the year).  She really likes it, it takes less than 5-10 minutes each day, and I have definitely seen improvement in her writing.  After I teach her the “correct” way to write a letter, she generally remembers and writes it that way, which is normally neater and quicker.  We just finished with capital letters and will start on lowercase letters next week.

I’ve also done a few lessons from Draw Write Now with her.  She loves doing them, but we just add it in for fun on Fridays when we have time.

Math

We continued with Right Start Level A where we left off at the end of preschool.  We are on Lesson 38, which is not as far as I hoped we’d be, but like I said, we got off to a slow start.  I love this program.  I actually think it moves a little slow for her right now, but I’m happy with that too.  I like that there’s hardly any worksheets and there is a lot of hands on.  And I really feel like it’s sinking in.  Previously, we did the first half of Horizons Kindergarten, and she got all the answers right, but I didn’t feel like she was actually getting it.  That may or may not have been true, but I am much happier with the feel and the pace of Right Start.  We do Right Start 3 or 4 days a week, depending on our schedule.  There are also a lot of games that go with the program, so Madison and Matt play some of the math games each night for extra practice.

We are also supplementing Right Start with Singapore Earlybird Kindergarten Math.  The main reason I added that is because I didn’t want her to learn to answer questions for Right Start; I wanted her to have practice doing math a different way.  She loves doing the Singapore because it is so easy for her.  I ordered the Level 1A and 1B, which were ovbiously too easy because she did both of them, for fun, in three weeks.  She calls Singapore her “Fun Math.”  So then I ordered Level 2A and 2B (those four books comprise Singapore’s Kindergarten math program) and we are working through them now.  We got the books on Tuesday and we are on Lesson 4 in Book 2A now.

Five in a Row (Social Studies and Science)

This is probably the one thing about our Kindergarten curriculum that I am not sure about.  I know that a lot of people use it and love it, but I am really not feeling it.  We’ve still done it every week, but it’s just not what I wanted it to be, if that makes sense.  Basically, Five in a Row is a curriculum where you read the same book each day for five days, and each day you do a different activity based on the book.  For example, one day we talk about the geography – where the book takes place – and we find that place on the map.  Another day, we talk about the type of art used in the book and explore different mediums.  There also normally language activities, math activities, and science activities.  We do the geography and art every week, but we don’t always get to the science.  That is probably the subject that has gotten the shaft so far in Kindergarten.  I even bought some science experiment books, but we just haven’t really gotten them off the shelf yet.

One thing we did that Madison and I both loved was pumpkin week.  We spent the whole week studying pumpkins and cooking with pumpkins and made a pumpkin lapbook and it was wonderful.  I enjoyed it so much more than FIAR, and I think Madison did too, because it was her idea.  So I’ve decided to stick with FIAR except for once a month when Madison will get to pick a subject that we study for a week for fun.  Some of the things we’ve talked about doing are apples, oceans, butterflies, etc.

Other

Originally, I had wanted to enroll Madison at the DoDDs elementary school for specials so that she could go in each day for an hour, be with other kids and get her art/music/PE time in, but after a lot of thought, Matt and I decided that we didn’t want to commit to that this year.  The time wasn’t great for our schedule, and I really didn’t want to have to fit that in when the baby is born in March.  But we did still find some other activities for Madison to essentially serve the same purpose.  She is in ballet once a week, we go to Storytime once a week, she is in Girl Scouts which meets every two weeks, and of course, she has bible class at church.  We also just started an art class which meets twice a week.  I don’t know if we will continue to do the art thing, right now that is just on a trial basis.  I don’t want to overwhelm her, but so far, our schedule is pretty relaxed.  Almost everything we do away from home is on Wednesday, which makes for one crazy day, but the rest of the week is great.  I’m also looking into Japanese lessons (I’m waiting to hear back from the instructor) and would like to start music lessons after the holidays, but in order to start those things, we may have to cut something else…

So that is pretty much where we are with homeschool for the year.  I’d like to commit to writing weekly reports, but I just don’t know if that is going to happen.  No promises.  I will say I am very happy with where we are as far as Kindergarten goes, and I think that Matt and I made the right choice to go ahead and start her.

A trip to Cocok’s

Ok, I know as soon as you all read this post, you are going to be booking your plane tickets to come visit me.  Just give me a little warning so I can get your room ready 🙂

Madison and I had the most amazing afternoon.  We went to Cocok’s, which is a spa/salon here that specializes in toe art.  I am really picky about my toes – they are very sensitive and generally, I don’t let anyone else touch them.  The only people who have ever cut them are my mom, my husband (when I was too pregnant to do it myself), and me.  And of the four pedicures I have had before today (all for special occasions), I haven’t enjoyed a single one of them.  I just don’t like people messing with my toenails.

However, today was amazingly different.  I was still uncomfortable with the filing and clipping part of the pedicure (which didn’t take long at all), but the pedicure also included a foot bath, a thirty minute foot/leg massage and, of course, the art.  It was so wonderful.  Madison got hers painted also (although I didn’t spring for a massage for her), and so she was still and quiet and so good.  It was such a peaceful afternoon.

This picture really does not do my nails justice.  They are beautiful.  And I think this is an indulgence that I will continue to treat myself to until the baby is born, since bending over is quite uncomfortable and clipping my own toenails is out of the question for a while.

Madison’s were very cute, and she did stay very still, but the second she was “dry,” she rushed off to the play area and her’s did get a little smudged.  If she wants to do it again, she’ll have to sit longer and skip the play area.  In case you can’t tell, that’s a smiling pink daisy with clouds in the background.

We ended the afternoon with a trip to the new Starbucks that just opened across the street from Cocok’s and  to the 100 Yen store.  It was a very nice peaceful day, which I really needed.  I also got my car cleaned out (a good idea since Matt will be home in a few days), so driving is once again a nice peaceful experience for me too.

And I’ve already decided on the purple reindeer for my Christmas pedicure…

Welcome to our home! (Part 1)

After almost three months in Japan, I am finally feeling settled enough to post pictures of our house.  I have received all of the furniture and curtains I ordered, and most of my pictures are up on the wall.  So, welcome to the first part of our home tour:  the Master bedroom and bathroom.

Here’s our Master bedroom…

This room is upstairs – all of the bedrooms are upstairs.  Matt painted the walls blue for me, and the curtains are from our living room in Missouri.  It’s funny when you move so much, you end up with stacks of curtains that don’t fit any of your current windows.  It was nice to find curtains that fit!  Also notice the box unit on the wall.  This house doesn’t have central air.  Instead each room has it’s own box unit.  It really hasn’t been too bad yet.  A few days in the summer were bad, when I had been baking and it was really hot, but I started baking in the morning instead and it hasn’t bothered us since.  Actually, we are lucky that this room has a ceiling fan, but there are two lights that are both on the same switch, so we can’t run the fan at night unless we want to sleep with a light on…  Oh well.  Like I said, it hasn’t been too bad yet.

This is the only one of our dressers we brought.  We have another matching chest, but because of our weight restriction, we only brought the dresser and Matt and I are sharing it.  The pictures on the wall are our wedding picture and a wedding cross-stitch my mom made for us.  And you can see in this picture that the floor is schoolhouse tile.  We bought a rug that covers most of the floor, which is also nice because we have to run the cable cord across the floor.  Since the rug covers most of that up, there’s less of a chance we’ll trip on it 🙂  I’m rethinking my decision to buy a white rug though.  Not sure what I was thinking there.  It gets dirty really fast, and carrying the vacuum up and down the stairs is not great fun.

And these are our closets.  They are ugly, for sure, but it’s really nice having those extra cabinets on top.  We can fit a lot of stuff in there, which is nice since there’s not a lot of storage.  And they are deeper than they look.

And here is our lovely Master bathroom…

The toilet is behind the door.  Things I like about our Master bathroom?

1) Having one!  That is really nice, although it is pretty much the family bathroom.  More often than not, Madison takes her baths in here too.

2) Really good water pressure!  In fact, its almost too much for me, which is very rare.

3) This is the only faucet in the house that can accommodate a water filter.  Unfortunately, the water here has lead in it, so I bought filters for all the sinks.  However, the filters don’t fit on any of the other faucets.  So we all brush our teeth in here, and all the water in the kitchen is filtered through a Brita water pitcher.  Since that is getting really old, Matt is supposed to be bringing home a new kitchen faucet when he comes back from the states.

Things I don’t like?

1) The mirror, which is a medicine cabinet, is so high on the wall I can’t see into it.  I imagine this is something Matt likes about the bathroom, but I really don’t.

2) The cabinet is not attached to the wall very well.  When we first moved in, it appeared to be, but over the last couple months, the caulking as completely detached and I’ve discovered it’s not really installed.  That’s something I should probably call the housing office about, but it’s pretty low on my priority list.

It’s also tiny, but that doesn’t bother me too much.  This house has three bathrooms, which is crazy to me, for base housing.  And the yellow tile everywhere is not my favorite.  You can’t really hang anything on it, so the walls are bare.  But overall, I’m pretty happy with how the bedroom and the bathroom turned out.

Go Dog Go!

I haven’t done many posts about homeschool lately.  This week will be week 9 for us, so the end of our first quarter and I’ll try to get something together and post it this week.  It’s hard because I feel like there is so much to say, I don’t know where to start.

But today Madison did something for the first time that I really wanted to share.  We have been working really hard on reading – and she is getting really good at reading.  I am so proud of her.  Last week, we were at someone’s house and she started reading one of their books.  I had just mentioned that I am homeschooling her and one of the parents said “Well, it looks like that is really working for you.  She’s a great reader.”

But anyway, today, for the first time, Madison went to the bookshelf and picked up a book and started reading it just for fun while I was on the phone.  Yeah!  It was Go Dog Go.  And she read the whole book on her own –  well, she did ask me about two words, but to me, that is great success.  Not only that she could read the whole book, but she wanted to.  For fun.  Yeah!

Yummy new recipes

On my old blog, I wrote a long post about transfat.  I’m not going to climb onto that soap box now (I’ll save that for another post), but if you want to read about why transfats are so dangerous, check out this website.

A little over a year ago, I started trying to completely cut transfat out of our diets, including anything that contains partially hydrogenated oils.  We did really good for a long time, but since we’ve moved, I’ve been a little lazy and gone back to using box mixes for cornbread and refrigerated biscuits.  Well, it was partially being lazy and partially that I just like the taste of those things!  I didn’t have a good recipe for cornbread muffins – I like mine a little sweet – or for biscuits that were light and fluffy like the refrigerated ones.  So since Matt has been gone, I have been on a mission to find new recipes that I can make instead, without transfat, and I am happy to announce I have found two very good ones.  Definitely not the best I have ever tasted, but far and away the best I have ever made.  Seriously, when I made these biscuits last week, I ate eight of them in two days.  Mmm… I want to make more right now.  And the cornbread is pretty tasty too.

So here is a link to my new, very tasty, very light and fluffy biscuit recipe.  The only thing that disappointed me about this recipe is that they didn’t freeze very well.  I like to freeze rolls and biscuits when I make them so I can take one out and warm it up anytime I’m in the mood, and these dried out quite a bit when I pulled them out of the freezer.  Also, for these to be truly transfat free, you need to replace the shortening with butter.  I use Smart Balance, and it’s still tasty.

And here is a link to my new sweet cornbread muffin recipe.  There is a lot of sugar in this recipe, but it is so worth it.

Try them and let me know what you think!