Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Caption Contest: Hippo

I had several comments about this photo of a hippo I took last week. Barb suggested I run a contest to find a great caption for the photo. I thought I'd even offer a small nature-related prize. So, what caption would you write for this photo? Let me know by next Monday and I'll pick a winner. Have fun!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Topeka Zoo, Rainforest & Park

We spent a 2nd day in Topeka visiting the zoo, their rainforest exhibit (which is part of the zoo) and the "animal" themed park which is next to the zoo. We'd intended on eating lunch there, but it is a small zoo and their only small restaurant was closed! So, we ended up at McDonald's, which was just fine as we've been collecting the Madam Alexander Wizard of Oz figures.

a cute porcupine

As we entered the rainforest exhibit, we were greeted by some flamingos just walking around!

A fruit bat - they're so big!!! I had to ask one of the workers where I might find the bats...

...and this sloth! He's just hanging around in the exhibit. We'd actually walked past the hippos earlier in the day and when we came back, this big guy (or gal?) had actually gotten out of the water and was sunning himself! I sure wish we would have been around for that. I'd loved to have seen him walk that big ole body and then plop down. :-)

This photo has 5 Monarchs! They are beginning to migrate and I couldn't believe how many of them I saw as I drove down the highway.

After McDonald's, we headed across from the zoo to the park. I found this lovely "thing" - Alexandra pointed out that it was probably a gall. I believe she's right! I didn't see anything else on the whole tree. And, this was pretty big - a little bigger than a walnut.

With her baby cousin (4 1/2 month old), Baby H.

We were so happy to have found this elephant! I had been singing "We went to the animal fair" to Baby H all day long. In it, the song says "You should have seen the monk... it sat on the elephant's trunk... the elephant sneezed, and fell on his knees (like this one)... and that was the end of the monk." I guess it was a sad ending for the monk, but Baby H was just fine.

That evening, we went out with my sister-in-law to have some Greek food. Now, I'm not a very adventurous eater and I've never had Greek food. She ordered us some humus and flaming cheese for an appetizer, and even Alexandra loved them both! Alexandra ate American food for her meal, but I had grilled chicken & pork. I don't eat very much pork, but this was delicious! And, I tried some of my mother-in-law's lamb and "OH!!!" it was incredible. So, I'm sold on Greek food. :-)

We walked through the old town that evening and even stopped at a toy store and a book store and bought a little something at each. We just cracked up when we saw this (real) cat relaxing in a store window. Now, that's relaxing!!!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

While in north Kansas, we visited both Topeka and Kansas City. One of our visits in Topeka was to Monroe School, a national historic landmark which is home to the Brown v. Board of Education museum. (This site has lots of information if you're studying this subject.) It is also a national park and Alex earned her 3rd Junior Ranger badge there. (The website says you will need to complete 3 of 4 activities, but we were surprised that she just had to read about 8 pages of information and there were NO activities to complete. They also said they'd ask her questions at the end, so we "studied" hard... BUT, they didn't ask her any questions. We all learned a lot though!)

Brown v. Board (1954) was actually not a single case, but a consolidation of 5 cases. In 1954, Brown v. Board ended legal segregation in public schools. This case overturned an earlier Supreme Court decision from 1896, Plessy v. Fergusen, which set the precedent for "separate but equal" facilities. (Follow the Plessy link... it's a fascinating story!) (This photo of Alexandra is showing 10 things which were separated as to "white" or "colored.")

The above photo is of a "data sheet" by Dr. Kenneth Clark. The "test" was given to many black children who showed results like Ethel Mae Brown's... that she thought the white doll was "nicer"; she'd rather play with the white doll; the white doll was a nice color; and the black doll looked bad.
Here's another photo from Dr. Kenneth Clark's research which showed "an 'unmistakeable preference' among both African American and white children for the white doll." Isn't that sad!

We bought one workbook that we are working through: "I Want to go to School! Brown v. Board of Education" by Carole Marsh, an American Milestones book. (There are also books on other topics - I'm not sure if this is a complete list.) It has 28 pages on each of the pages it has several paragraphs about some aspect of this case and then something to do like a crossword puzzle, mapwork, matching, etc. We're learning a lot with this book!

We're Home!

After about 2 1/2 weeks away because of Hurricane Ike, we're home!!!
In our neighborhood there are fences temporarily patched or supported by beams, missing trees, and piles of limbs and bags of leaves at everyone's house. They are saying it could be weeks before they make the first pass through each neighborhood to pick up this "green litter." So, thinks look different, but it is still home!

Here are a few photos from when my husband and I came back to clean up about 1 1/2 weeks ago.

The "green litter"

One of our fences

Our only tree that had large limbs damaged

Monday, September 22, 2008

We have power!

Hi, everyone. Our power got restored on Saturday, which was a suprise as we'd heard on Friday that it'd be at least a week. But, Alex and I had planned on going to Kansas, so we are up here having fun. Today, we went to a museum that covers Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka. Alex even earned her 3rd Junior Ranger badge. Unfortunately, I haven't loaded software to download photos on our new computers, so I guess it'll have to wait. I can't wait to share all of our adventures with you!!!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

24 Hours in Houston

On Tuesday morning at 5 am, my husband and I (and a friend) headed back to Houston. I hadn't wanted to post this on the blog before (security reasons) but my husband had been out of town when Ike hit and that was one reason I didn't want to stay home with just Alexandra and myself.

Anyway, we had to go by Bush airport to get their cars and then head we headed back to our house. I was surprised by quite a few things. First of all, electricity was out even 100 miles north of Houston! And, anytime we did pass a gas station, there were TONS of cars in line. They said the wait was taking 1 to 2 hours at the pumps. Also, I was surprised not to see a lot of damage - just a few signs which were torn up, LOTS of baby trees bent over, and every once in awhile you'd see a roof damaged or a few utility poles down.

We'd been told what to expect when we got to our neighborhood, but it was still a surprise. Lots of fences down. Lots of limbs down. Some trees down. TONS of "green" debris all over the lawns of those who hadn't cleaned up yet (like us) or piled in tall piles and bags of those who had cleaned.

Our yard wansn't as bad as expected. We lost the fence on 2 sides, but some neighbors had already lifted one up and "patched" it for now. The other one had damaged several bushes, but they might survive. The pool was NASTY and our neighbors had already cleaned it some.

It was neat to see so many neighbors out. We talked to some and they updated us on what had been going on. Our neighbors had even been having cook outs some nights! They whole neighborhood is just really becoming so much more neighborly through this ordeal!

Then, we had a quick snack, changed clothes, and got to work. (I did take photos, but I don't have the cord to download them so I'll have to do that later.)

We started on the freezer in the garage. Yikes! What a stink! I told my husband it smelled like dead animal... and he said it was! Uh... of course. Anyway, we were thankful there was only a small leak as I was afraid a lot of our stuff on that crowded side of the garage would have been ruined, but it wasn't. We got it cleaned out and then did the same with the refrigerator which wasn't nearly as bad. Some chocolate ice cream had leaked and the ice maker had leaked but a neighbor had put down some beach towels for us.

After that, we went outside and worked on proping the other fence back up. That was a LOT of back-wrenching work. I'm sure it took more than an hour, but we got it put back up and the gate will actually work now.

Then, my husband trimmed some broken branches while I dragged limbs to the curb and raked and bagged small limbs, leaves, pine needles, and pine cones. This took hours and I was aching afterwards. All together, we worked from about 11 - 5:30 pm.

Then, we went to look at our plane - and part of our part of town. It was so strange to see NO power anywhere! We saw more damage - some roofs, lots of fences, some trees, a few windows... but nothing too bad. At our little airport, most of the north facing hangars near ours were damaged... the planes, too. But, ours faces south and was unhurt.

We then visited some friends at the back of our neighborhood. They had just gotten power back on! And, so had part of the neighborhood next to us. (But, we are still without power.) They are the ones who had a tree fall between their house and their neighbors. It had already been removed. In their backyard, though, was a huge pine tree which fell away from their house. Thankfully, their neighbor's pine trees had "caught" it and it didn't hit their house. And, thankfully it didn't hit our friends house, either. It was a huge, heavy tree!

After that, we went home for dinner. I was aching and took some Tylenol and let my husband cook dinner. He warmed himself a can of soup on our gas stove and made me some Ramen noodles. It was funny that by now it was getting dark and he had to use a flashlight to see if the water was boiling. We ate our soups and some crackers and I had a little container of pineapples.

Then, it was getting pretty dark and it was almost 8 pm. We called Alexandra (our phones had started working a few hours before this) and I almost fell asleep talking to her. (We'd been up since 5 am and done a lot of hard work). I'd planned to read with my little book lamp, but I fell asleep about 8:15. A little while later, we heard a knock on the door. My husband went and answered it and it was our friend who'd gotten power back with 2 fans that RUN ON BATTERIES! I've never heard of such a thing, but we were SO grateful. The breeze felt great even though we are having unusually cool temps and low humidity for Houston.

I woke up around 8 am (yes, 12 hours of sleep!) and went downstairs and had some breakfast - a granola bar, a Little Debbie's oatmeal cream pie, and a juice box. :-) Then, I washed the dishes from last night - with no garbage disposal, I had to pour out the food we hadn't eaten - and picked up the towels that had been lying around the house where the fridge had leaked. Then, I swept and mopped the kitchen/dining area.

After my shower, I put my hair up in a pony tail (no hair dryer, so can't fix my hair) and sat on a bed with a mirror to put on makeup. Then, I loaded up some things to head back to Dallas.

My husband went in to work with a skeleton crew to see what they could do. They got power back early in the afternoon and the IT guys were busy getting everything up and running. Those who could make it will be back at work this morning.

Now, we're just waiting for the electricity to come back on so we can go home. By next Wednesday, they only expect to have 60-75% of the Houston area with power! I know ours is "expected" to be on any where from tomorrow (Friday) to Tuesday. We'll see!

In the meantime, I'm praising God for His hand of protection on so many of us. I'm praising Him for cooler weather and for all the workers and volunteers who are helping our area out. And, praising Him that Galveston wasn't hurt as bad as expected.

In the midst of this, I didn't realize how many other areas around the US had been hit. My prayers are with you all, too, as you recover from Ike and power outages, etc. Again, thanks for your prayers, too!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Woohoo! Go, boys, go!!!

I'm still safe in the Dallas area and hoping to head home Tuesday morning, though we're still without electricity at this point. We're hoping to bring supplies to our neighbors; clean out our refrigerator and freezer; take photos of our damage; and contact the insurance company.

We saw convoys of electrical trucks, tree trimmers, and even trucks pulling generators travling towards Houston and Galveston this morning. With each group of trucks, my response was "Woohoo! Go, boys, go!" much to Alexandra's annoyance. :-) But, I'm so happy that help is on the way!

I'll check in again soon and thanks again for your prayers!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Morning After Ike

Just a quick update. We are still up north in the Dallas area... and are expecting to feel some of the affects from Ike as a Tropical Storm this afternoon and evening. I did talk to 3 friends from our neighborhood today.

Some friends at the back of our neighborhood reported electricity was out at 4 am; 2 large trees down (75-100 foot tall - one theirs & one their neighbors) - 1 landed on a fence and 1 landed between the 2 houses but did some damage to each; other fences down.

At my house, no one has ventured outside yet and they are still experiencing tropical storm winds and will be for quite a few more hours. From what they can see we have the following damage:
  • the landscaping, including tall palms, around my pool is badly damaged - we had 2 huge palm trees that are broken and torn (I know I have some photos of our pool on the blog, but I can't find them right now)
  • all of the fence along the side of the house is down and large pieces of the fence behind me is gone - I don't know about the other side
  • we have 3 large trees - there is no report on one of them (no one can see it from their house) but the other 2 are standing, but have large branches down
  • thankfully, NO FLOODING! (as our house is on the corner and always the first to be threatened)

It's not over yet, but thankfully things look pretty good. I have no idea when we'll be able to go home, but I'll hopefully know more tonight or tomorrow.

Thanks again for all of your prayers! Please continue to pray and I'll let you know when I hear more.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's looking bad...

I'm so thankful that I chose to leave the Houston area this morning. We had an easy time getting out with just regular traffic.

I've been hearing projections of Ike producing 80-100 mph winds at my house! Thankfully, they think it'll keep moving and not sit on top of us creating flooding. It looks like the worst we'll get is the high winds - but those are HIGH winds!

I'm praying for all of you in south Texas. I can't wait to come home and it was hard to leave everyone & everything behind. Hopefully, we'll be able to come back on Sunday or Monday, but for now we're waiting and praying for the best. And, thanks to my friends around the country who are praying, too! I know we need those prayers to see us all safely through this.

- Dana

We're Safe Up North

Hi again, everyone. After checking out the forcast this morning, I decided that Alexandra and I should head up north to my mom's in the Dallas area. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers and I'll try to keep you updated as I find out more of what happens in our area. I'm praying for all of our friends who stayed put. Looks like they might be in for quite a wild ride!
- Dana

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Hurricane Ike

It looks like Hurricane Ike is heading more or less our way. We're planning on staying put at this point. Someone sent me a link to a neat interactive storm tracker. With it you can view the various forecast models, wind probabilites, your distance from the center of the storm, and much more. It's a great way to keep tabs on Ike!

So far, so good (curriculum reviews)

We've been back to school for 3 1/2 weeks. I can hardly believe it! Anyway, I wanted to take some time to review our various subjects/curriculum and how they are going.
  • Bible devotions: We do this first in the mornings and I'm trying not to consider it as part of school. We are studying various Proverbs using a curriculum from our church.
  • Bible Study: We are using Rod & Staff for Grade 3, God Leads His People, and this is going very well. Currently, we are studying David's life. I love that the workbooks include mapwork and lots of questions to help you remember the story, because these are pretty complicated stories. I've been drawing stick people to help us remember the key people. I plan on us doing this for every lesson to make a book.
  • Math: We used Singapore for the 1st two weeks, but then Alexandra got her own laptop and really wanted to use it. So, we are using Teaching Textbooks Math 5, something we started last year. This is going pretty well and since there are quite a few multiplication problems (we're about 1/4 through the "book" because of last year), she's getting her facts down better. We're also working on one drill sheet per day.
  • Latin: We love, love, love Latin for Children! We are both learning so much! (Yes, I took Latin in high school, but I really have forgotten most of it.) We are declining nouns and conjugating verbs and learning lots of vocabulary words. We love watching the videos - they are helpful AND entertaining. There's a CD for you car - a fun workbook - online quizes & worksheets - it just is REALLY working for us!
  • Spelling: We already switched spelling curriculums. Neither one of us was enjoying All About Spelling. So, we switched to Rod & Staff Grade 3 Spelling by Sound and Structure. So far, it's pretty easy for her, but at least we are both enjoying it AND it works on other skills besides spelling.
  • Cursive: She hasn't liked the Rod & Staff cursive that we bought and I think we might go back to working on print for awhile. Then, we will probably return to this curriculum.
  • History: We are kind of continuing with Winter Promise American Story 1 - but mostly we are just reading the books at our own pace. We're getting ready to do a pocket book about the American Revolution to finish that up.
  • Science 1 (marine biology): We started Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures a few days ago and it's going Ok. I think the first chapter is the hardest to get through. After this, we'll be studying various animals, but this is kind of the background material. We're also doing the extensive lapbook by Live & Learn Press which is a great way to do Q&A and have something to remember out studies by.
  • Science 2 (electricity): We also have been studying about electricity because of our studies of Ben Franklin for history. We've been using a kit I bought a long time ago and Alexandra's Snap Circuit kit - which is wonderful!!!
  • Science 3 (soap): We've also been doing experiments about soap with a True Book called Experiments with Soap. I've never used any of their experiment books before, and we both really like this one. We'll try to finish it up tomorrow and post about it.
  • Composition: We started IEW's Teaching Writing: Structure & Style and it has been working wonderfully! I'm learning from it, too! We did take a break this week as I think she has step 1 & 2 down pretty well and I need to watch the next video!
  • Literature: We're reading Laura Ingalls Wilder by the Benges. We're actually both enjoying this better than Laura's own series.
I'll try to post something more entertaining tomorrow - with photos and everything. :-)

da Vinci & Fly Me to the Moon

Yesterday, our school went on a field trip. Yes, our museum lets homeschool "groups" of even just 2 participate in school-priced field trips. And, even though we're members of this museum, it is cheaper to go as a school!

First, we went to the special exhibit about Leonardo da Vinci. It mainly focused on his inventions, though it also show cased some of his artwork. The used his drawings to build models. We were especially excited to see this flying machine as we once built a model of it.

I also really enjoyed this model of a life bouy "in action."

We read 3 books to prepare for this trip and enjoyed all 3:

Our second part of our field trip was to see the new 3-D IMAX cartoon about the mission to the moon, "Fly Me to the Moon." Although it has gotten some bad reviews, we loved it! We even plan on seeing it again. We went to the Cosmosphere in Kansas just last month, so space travel was fresh on our minds. But, we also read the following book to prepare:

Monday, September 08, 2008

Booster Seats

My daughter will be turning 8 soon. In Texas, booster seats are only required until age 5 and 36 inches tall. We recently told her that she could get out of her booster seat on her birthday.

I thought I'd check some state laws as we're planning our trip north. (We're now headed to Kansas, Iowa, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota!) I found a map with state booster seat laws and realized many states require kids to be 80 pounds or 57 inches or 8 years old... or all 3 like Wisconsin!

So, I was wondering... what are your state laws and do you follow them or make your child wait longer? Or how do you decide when your child is big enough to get out of the booster seat? I'm now thinking about waiting until she meets all 3 requirements... which will be quite a while.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Outdoor Hour Challenge #28: Dragonflies & Damselflies

Barb's 28th challenge was to study and try to see dragonflies & damselflies. I had seen a hot pink dragonfly a few days ago, and was so happy to see it land on our bird feeder stand today!

Isn't it beautiful?

Then, we saw a handful of bees! We hadn't been able to find any for the challenge a few weeks ago, but now we have a few. And, if you can see behind him and a little to the right... love bugs. It is definitely love bug season and they are EVERYWHERE right now. We stopped at a stoplight today and 3 "couples" landed on our windshield.

A couple of days ago, this beautiful hawk landed on our bird feeder. Wow! I took this photo through the window and then we tried to slowly open the door, but he flew away.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Daughter's Blog

Like Jamie's daughter at Rose Cottage, Alexandra started her own blog this week. She's also been sending a lot of emails to family members. I'm just amazed at how it is helping her typing and spelling skills! So, I'm going to encourage her to both blog and write emails.

We'll also probably start using Dance Mat Typing again. It is wonderful... and it's free!

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day

I read about Jamie's "labor day" over at Rose Cottage, and thought I'd share my own labor day story...

How long were you in labor? Almost 21 hours!

How did you know you were in labor? Labor pains woke me up at about 1 am.

Where did you deliver? At the hospital as planned. We called my doctor early in the morning and she told us to meet her at her office around 7 am. Then, we went next door to the hospital. Unfortunately, it was a very busy day in the delivery area and I didn't have a room at first. They had me in a wheeled desk chair at the nurses station and they kept rolling me out of the way - right during contractions!

Also, it was neat that every family member had enough time to get here... even from several states away. My brother even had a flat tire, but made it just in time.

Drugs? Yes, I had drugs and an epidural. The drugs helped me sleep some during the day, but I don't think the epidural worked - I felt a LOT of pain. Also, I tried the "breathing" you are taught in Lamaze class... and it wasn't working for me. I worked through the pain by squeezing my husband's hand. :-)

C-section? No, but it was a possibility. I pushed for 1.5 hours and Alexandra's heart rate spiked twice. They said if it happened again, we needed to do a C-section. I did get an episiotomy and they had to use a suction cup to help pull out my average size baby. (7 lbs 2 oz)

Who delivered? Thankfully, my own doctor delivered. I love my OB-GYN. :-) In fact, it's quite a drive to go see her, but I will stick with her as long as possible.

If you'd like to "play along", copy the questions, post your Labor Day experience, and link up to Rocks in my Dryer.
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