Our two child things (5 and 2) are currently in Hawaii, but we are a military family, and we live where the Army tells us. This blog is designed to keep us in touch with our family and the friends we have made along the way, to offer insight into our turbulent military lifestyle, and to share our experiences as we try out "homing school." So glad you stopped by!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Day She Decided She Wants to be a Zookeper When She Grows Up

Zookeeper. Let's add that to the list of things she wants to be when she grows up. What else is on the list? Artist, mommy, chef, mermaid, author, gymnast, and etc. But this week, we had a pretty awesome trip to the Houston Zoo, so this week, it's a zookeeper.

My sister, her husband and their daughter are visiting from Italy, and one of her good friends from high school is now a zookeeper at the Houston Zoo. Zookeeper Jessica offered to take us "behind the scenes" to see some of the animals she takes care of. So cool!

First we visited the rhinos. I'm not sure what the plural of rhinoceros is, so I'm just going to say "rhinos." The Child Thing was not timid at all with these huge, horned creatures.
Child Thing #2, however, was not quite as friendly with them. I tried to coax him into giving the rhino a pat, but he was not buying it. Oh well. This was the first time in my life that I've ever touched a rhino, and it was actually a little softer than I'd imagined.

Next came the giraffes! We got to feed this big guy carrots and sweet potatoes. Again, Child Thing #1 was thrilled!

And again, both babies were not as excited. Both my son and my niece would hold a piece of food up to the giraffe, but when that long, black, slobbery tongue came out, they changed their minds.

When the novelty of hand-feeding a giraffe wore off, Zookeeper Jessica suggested we give him giraffey kisses, and she demonstrated by putting a carrot between her lips, holding it up to the giraffe and letting him take it right from her mouth! Some of us may have been a little hesitant, but then she told us that when George Bush Sr. came to the zoo, she convinced him to do it, so we did it, too. All except my brother-in-law, the party pooper! :P

My daughter LOVED it! Here's a picture of me kissing the giraffe. Actually, the giraffe kissing me. I have always loved giraffes, but I never really desired to have one lick me on the chin. Ha!

Of course, we saw lots of other animals, too (baby elephants!), but we didn't get this close to any of the other animals. Thanks, Zookeeper Jessica for such a fun and memorable trip to the zoo! And don't feel bad for the baby. He may not have enjoyed the animals as much as his sister did, but I did find him something that he liked a lot!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Break

Well, Spring Break didn't start out too great for us. Child Thing #1 got a nasty stomach bug. Then the baby got it. Then I got it. Then everyone else we had come in contact with the previous week got it. So...we basically spent the week laying around feeling sorry for ourselves.

But...the positive part of Spring Break is that my sister and brother-in-law brought my cute little niece to Texas, and I finally got to meet her for the first time. They are stationed in Italy, so I had to wait a year and a half to see her! I bought her some ice cream to try and get her to like me. It may have worked. I'm not sure, but she's let me hold her a few times, so that's a good sign.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Fancy Nancy and the Boy from Paris Birthday Party

These days Child Thing #1 and I are talking a little bit about her birthday party. It's still a few months away, but these things are so fun that we/I like to start planning them way ahead of time. It makes the fun last longer. Thinking about her birthday, I remembered that I never posted about last year's birthday party. So...here it is!

Last year my daughter decided she wanted a Fancy Nancy birthday party. Fun! But then we decided to have a joint birthday party with the baby so that we could celebrate before their Daddy left for Iraq. Wouldn't want him to miss the first birthday party!

I wasn't sure how we could make Fancy Nancy work for a 1-year-old boy and a 4-year-old girl until I read the book Fancy Nancy and the Boy from Paris, in which a new kid from Paris comes to Nancy's school. She is so excited because everything from France is fancy, you know, but then she realizes that he is from Paris, Texas, and he is into horses and cowboys and etc. So, we had a party that was half fancy and half cowboy. I set up two tables in the backyard and decorated one with pink and purple feather boas (I also strung these along the fence instead of streamers) and a small Eiffel Tower. The other table I topped with bandanas, set up a toy cowboy set on top of it, and hung cowboy hats over the table.

The kids were all given their party favors when they arrived: feather boas and tutus for the girls, cowboy hats and bandanas for the boys. When the party started, the kids

Some of the girls enjoying their parfaits (that's French for ice cream sundaes).
 dressed up, played in the yard, had refreshments (half of our food was "delectable" like fancy macaroni, chocolate dipped marshmallows and fruit kabobs, and the other half "finger-lickin' " like chicken wings and nuggets and tortilla chips with dips), and helped themselves to the parfait bar.
Later, I gathered the kids together to play a dig-in-the-haystack game. I hid cowboy shaped die cuts in a stack of shredded paper and had them all search for them. Wow, did they go crazy for this! Everyone who found one got a prize, and I tried to be sure each kid got a prize.

Then it was cake time! Last year, I was lucky enough to live right next door to a fabulous cake decorator, so we had two wonderful cakes!

 The cakes were adorable and delicious. If you live on Oahu and are looking for a cute custom cake, look up Mantra Cakes. Here is her facebook page.
The cowboy cake
It was a fun party, and the two stars of the show seemed like they had a wonderful time, which is the most important thing! I tried so hard to make this event something special and memorable, but honestly, at this age, if you do nothing but give them cake, they are still over-the-moon.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Long Rambing Post About Curriculum

It's only Spring Break, but I'm feeling the need to prepare a homeschool curriculum for next year. Truth be told, I have been considering different curriculums since way before Christmas. This year, we are doing pre-k at home, and I was very loose with the curriculum, but next year, if I go ahead with homeschooling, we'll be official.

Not that the state of Hawaii is has strict rules about homeschooling or record keeping. But...it will still be official.

This year, I bought the phonics program from Abeka Book. I have been happy with the results. The child thing is reading, and that speaks for itself. We actually finished up the pre-k program and are working on the kindergarten one now. This curriculum may be a little too repetitive, but I think we are going to stick with it for next year for reading/phonics.

The history and literature programs from Abeka do not really appeal to me, though. They seem a bit hokey/not challenging enough/overly Christian. That may sound strange coming from someone who's a Christian, but I don't want to shelter my kids from viewpoints that are different or "brainwash" them.

So I'm having a hard time deciding what sort of curriculum I'd like to do for subjects other than reading. I'm liking the Sonlight curriculum for history and literature, and I love that they buy into the living history book theory. This curriculum has everything included and planned out for you already, so that means less prep work for me. That sounds good! But then again, choosing what you want to teach and not having it all planned out for you is one of the benefits of homeschooling, isn't it?

But I also bought The Story of the World Vol. 1 by Susan Wise Bauer, and I find it very intriguing also. It is not completely planned out, so I would have to be more involved in the lesson planning, but it is still very inclusive. For each unit, you read a short chapter from the book, and it provides coloring pages and maps that correspond with each chapter. It also gives suggestions for projects that relate to what you're learning. And these are not hokey activities...they are cool. Like to go along with ancient Egypt, it has instructions on how to mummify a chicken! It also includes suggestions on other books and biographies that you and your child could read to delve deeper into any unit. It seems like it would be pretty fun and pretty challenging.

And math, well, I don't know. If I buy from Sonlight, I will probably buy a math program from them, too. But if I don't go with Sonlight, I may try out Abeka's math, too.

So this turned in to a long, rambling post, and I kinda doubt anyone has stuck with me so far, but if you have...sorry I have rambled for so long. If any homeschooling types have opinions/suggestions on any curriculum, I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Trying Not to Worry

Alright, I tried being positive and pointing out the fun part of Army life, but today I'm worrying again...so here is another angst-filled post from this Army wife.

You may remember that we just purchased some property, and we intend on making it our home eventually. One of the many reasons we chose this particular place is that it's in the best rural school district in the area. After we closed on the property, I, like any education-obsessed mother would do, browsed around on the school district's website, trying to picture my own children as students there.

While I was doing that, I came across one announcement that I thought was so cute and endearing. The yearbook staff was reminding parents of seniors to turn in baby pictures for the yearbook. If a picture was not submitted in time, the yearbook staff would use the senior's kindergarten picture.

Perhaps that announcement impacted me more than it would most people. That concept is so foreign to our family, though. My children will never attend kindergarten and 12th grade in the same school.
And when I realized that, the worrying began. What if it is very important to a child's development to put down roots and really let them grow? What if we are permanently damaging our children's psyches by moving them around all the time?

In my heart, I know that this isn't true. I have met lots of people who grew up in the military who are wonderful, wonderful people (I have met a few who are wacky, too). But I still worry that there is something my kids will miss out on. I'm just a worry-er, I guess. Especially when the one who keeps me balanced is on the other side of the globe. If I were talking to him right now instead of typing my worries, he would probably break out in song. "Don't worry about a thing. Cause every little thing is gonna be alright." He likes to sing me that song. Like I said, I'm a worry-er.

But...I can balance myself, too. Perhaps I should instead think about what my kids will experience that other kids will miss out on.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Adventure

Lately I seem to be writing a lot about the hardships of military life. That's probably because I'm 8 months in to a deployment, which is one of the worst parts, and I'm tired of it! I am SO ready for this deployment to be over, but in the mean time I'd like to share with you what I think is the best part of Army life: the adventure!
Maybe my parents instilled a sense of adventure into me, or a sense of curiosity about other cultures, or maybe I was just a gypsy in a past life, but I love that we get to experience different parts of the world. Let me tell you, since my husband joined the Army, I have learned A LOT, and my views on the world have widened A LOT. We have lived in 4 different states, and everywhere we are stationed, we take trips to see the sights that are nearby. Within the Army, we have also made friends with people from all over the country, and even from other countries. And we don't just read about different places, different traditions and different cultures (and yes, there are definitely different cultures in different regions of the country), we experience them.
We got to go to the Big Island of Hawai'i to watch a volcano smoldering and play on a black sand beach created by its lava.

In Kansas, we took a day trip to visit the site of one of my very favorite childhood books The Little House on the Prairie. I probably enjoyed this little excursion more than Scott did, but he actually learned a lot and was quite impressed with the ingenuity of families like the Ingalls.

Now don't think that I am a vacation hog and only plan trips to places like Independence, Kansas. Here's a road trip that the husband definitely enjoyed.

These are just a few of the many, many wonderful and eye-opening places we have experienced because of the Army. Even though it's always sad to say goodbye to your home and your friends, it's exciting to know that the adventure isn't over.  We're always wondering where we'll end up next and what new things we'll get to see while we're there, and what is so awesome is that it could be anywhere in the world.
When this deployment is FINALLY over, we will be back in Hawaii for at least another year, and we plan to enjoy every minute of our time on a tropical island paradise. But after that, who knows?! Alaska? Japan? Colorado? New York? Germany? Missouri? Arizona? Korea? Australia? Louisiana? Washington?
Where ever it is, it will be an adventure, and I like the sound of that!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Seven on the Seventh: Meals I Make the Most

This month, I am listing the seven meals I prepare the most. Not long ago, I didn't enjoy cooking at all, but I have learned to like it. Experimenting with new recipes is really fun, but these days seems like I pick foods that are quick to prepare, the child things will eat and are somewhat healthy. I just can't spend an hour of my time in the kitchen when there are little ones to tend to. So...here are my seven quick meals:
1. Spaghetti. We eat this every single week. Takes 20 minutes if you use sauce from a jar, the kids love it, and I use wheat pasta and serve it with green veggies, so...it's fairly healthy.
2. PW's Asian Noodle Salad. This is an AMAZING salad (three cheers for sesame oil). The kids also love, love, love the noodle part of it, and I'm pretty sure while they're gobbling that up, they also get some of those good, raw veggies.
3. Quessadillas. Doesn't matter to me what you put in them, as long as it comes with fresh guacamole. To make guac, I usually chop up some onion, garlic, tomato and cilantro (three cheers for cilantro), and mix it in the mashed up avocado with lemon juice and a little salt. But my brother-in-law says that's the way gringos eat guacamole. That doesn't bother me much because I am a gringo, but his way is delicious, too. Just avocado with garlic salt.
4.Chili. Not the healthiest thing on my list, but what can I say...I'm a Texan. I have used tons of different recipes for chili and haven't settled in on one that is my very favorite, but here's one from the Foodie Bride that's delish and different!
5. Pasta Primavera with Grilled Chicken. More of a summery dish, but it's got pasta, it's got veggies, so it's a winner at our house.
6. Baked Ziti. My sweet roommate made this a lot in college, so I always think of her when I make it. Pasta, marinara sauce and cheese. One of the kids' favorites.
7. Chicken Tortilla Soup. I love making this in the winter, and a big pot will leave enough leftovers so that I don't have to cook for days. :)

If you have a blog and would like to join our little Seven on the Seventh group, go to this page and join the group or leave me a comment with your email. It's fun! Or, if you'd like to check out the rest of the bloggers' lists, click the link above and go to the links section.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Power of a Crayon

Have you ever had a moment, when you see something from your childhood, and the memories of it are so vivid that you suddenly feel 8 years old again? That happened to me the other day with a crayon. Strange? Maybe.
While I'm in Texas, I'm staying in my aunt and uncle's house. They have tons of school supplies leftover from my cousins' school days and my aunt's days as a teacher, and, since their children are all contributing members of society now, they offered them to us when we moved in. That was a jackpot for a homeschooler! Paints, poster boards, flashcards, colored pencils, construction paper, scissors, rulers, and of course crayons.
The crayons are contained in a shoebox-sized sterilite container. When we first opened it up, I could tell they were used by my cousins when they were kids because the colors had names that could only have come out of the '80s. Vivid Tangerine. Hot Magenta. Ultra Blue.
And then the child thing dug her hand down to the bottom, pulled something out and said, "Look, Mommy, an eraser."
I looked. I gasped. I transformed into an 8-year-old again.

Then I regained my lucidity and explained that this was no eraser. It was a crayon, an AWESOME crayon.
Do y'all remember those multi-colored crayons? I had forgotten all about them, but when I saw this one, I remembered that they were the coolest thing in school when I was little. I guess it can't compare much to the ipods that kids take to elementary with them these days, but back then...this was the thing to have!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Spring has arrived in Texas! And isn't it beautiful! I must admit, I kinda missed Hawaii during the winter months, when I actually had to wear closed-toe shoes, but I am loving Texas' Spring so far. I'm going to follow my friend Amber's lead and come up with a list of things I'd like to do this spring. I'm much more likely to accomplish my goals if I record them...especially if I record them publicly so that people can chastise me if I fail.
1. Finish Child Thing #2's baby quilt. He's a year and a half old! What's taking me so long?
2. Take pictures of my kids in the beautiful Texas bluebonnets.
3. Drive the kids into Houston so that they can roll down the GIANT hill at Herman Park (have awesome memories of doing that myself).
4. Learn a little bit about cake decorating (in preparation for a certain birthday that's coming up in a few months).
5. Teach Child Thing #1 to swim. That's for later in the spring when it's a tad bit warmer.

Out of those five items, I'd say #1 is the least likely to get done. I have been setting deadlines for myself for two years to finish that quilt, and it hasn't happened yet. I am getting closer, though. There is hope! I'll let you know when/if I check anything off of my "spring bucket list."