Thursday, December 3, 2009

Basement doors

They replaced the old sliders with new French doors. Ta dah!

Muddy fun

It rained like crazy yesterday. Today the sun came out and it was warm enough for playing outside. The creek is rushing, and the pile of sticks and leaves in it shows that the water reached the top of the bank.

How did the dog get so muddy?

By digging in the sandbox?

Audrey says Lucy was rolling in the yard, but I think there might be more to the story.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Braces progress

September 16, 2009:

November 14, 2009:

The dog's gone bananas!

Three guesses who put the banana sticker on Lucy's head...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

For you, Mom

Here's where you'll plug in your blow-drier when you come visit.

This is what you'll look like standing in front of the sink and plugging in your blow-drier (if you had gingerbread man pajamas.)

Living room rearranged

The fireplace looks like it's part of the living room now. We angled the rug to cover up the parts of the floor where the columns were. Audrey got a huge splinter before the floor was patched, and we had to take her to the doctor to get it taken out. They used the biggest tweezers I've ever seen. She was very brave at the doctor's office. When Scott and I tried getting the splinter out at home, Audrey screamed like her face was being chewed off by a chimpanzee.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The living room opens up

During the planning stages of the basement remodel, the structural engineer suggested removing the living room columns now rather than in a few years when we remodel the main floor. That way, they won't have to re-do the structural walls in the basement in a few years. I have been eager to see the columns go, and the leftover wall bit that served no purpose. Mary liked climbing the columns, but it turns out it was a good thing we got rid of them when we did, because nothing was supporting them from underneath, and they were starting to sink through the sub-floor into the basement. The crew put 700 pounds of steel in the living room ceiling to support the 2nd floor. They jacked up the floor from below to make it more level, so they'll be able to get the new joists into the basement ceiling. It was quite an operation. I love standing by the front door and looking into that newly opened space. Without that leftover wall piece in the way, you can see all the way into the back of the room, rather than staring at the dead end of a hallway. It looks extra big, since we haven't moved the furniture back in yet.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Audrey's Seinfeld impersonation

"Why do they call it a toilet? It isn't a toy, and it's not lit."

Monday, November 2, 2009


The week before Halloween, Mary and Stephen went to a party given by Mary's orthodontist (with braces-friendly treats, of course). Audrey was going to go, but she didn't like the decorations, so she and I didn't stay. Mary is a zombie and Stephen is a Transformer. Audrey is a black cat.

The kids each carved a pumpkin. Mary didn't like scooping out the pumpkin guts, but she did most of the work on hers. Audrey designed her pumpkin's face, but I did the cutting.

While we were carrying the pumpkins to the front yard, Audrey tripped and fell on top of hers. She cried a lot, but we were able to rebuild it with duct tape and toothpicks, turning it into a mummy Jack O'Lantern.
Audrey had a fever on Halloween, so she didn't get to go our trick-or-treating. Mary and Stephen went out together, and Mary shared her candy with Audrey. Audrey got all the braces-forbidden candy, and half the braces-friendly candy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Lucy pics

When Lucy gets kicked off the couch, this is where she likes to sleep:

The basement opens up

They knocked out the wall that blocked the view from the stairs to the sliding glass door, so now you can see the whole space. Same view, two different days:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Basement remodel

The vision:

The reality:

Here's what it looked like before demolition started:

In just a couple months (we hope), the chilly toy pit will become a great hangout. It'll be a school room, craft room, media room, sleepover party room -- in other words, a flexible rec room. With a heated floor and a doggie door, and better storage. And the closet under the stairs will still be a secret clubhouse.

Friday, October 9, 2009

On our honor

Here we are in our Girl Scout uniforms. Mary is a Junior this year, Audrey is a Daisy, and I'm a Daisy leader.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lucy's new trick

She's moved up from just catching crickets. Now she's managed to catch a squirrel. When we first got her, I made a dog toy by tying a piece of yarn around the handle of an empty half-gallon milk bottle and dragging it around for her to chase. I had no idea I was teaching her how to catch squirrels. Now we call that game "squirrel on a string", and it's her favorite game. 

Audrey's new trick

Audrey called me into the computer room because she needed help finding the Disney Fairies website. She had typed "diznefarez" into the Google search window, but didn't get any matches. Better not leave my credit card laying around, or she might figure out how to order "diznefarez" toys and movies.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Review: Tools for Young Historians from Brimwood Press

We bought the whole deal from Brimwood, including the scroll timeline and the toothpick lessons. Here's the verdict so far:
Worldview lesson package: She LOVED it. She liked the readings, the crafts, and the discussions.
Toothpick Time: she found it a bit tedious, but it covered important concepts about how centuries are labeled. 
Calendar Quest: she loves the story approach to learning history, and wants to read ahead
What Every Child Should Know about Western Civilization: she likes the information in this guidebook, and she especially likes sticking the stickers on the backs of the Hats of History cards as a visual reminder of what each civilization we read about accomplished. The information sparks some good discussions about everything from the roots of our system of government to whether time can be measured using the metric system. She does the map work, and adds new historical terms and names to her glossary. Some of the questions are discussed orally, and some are answered in writing. 
Scroll Timeline: I was reluctant to shell out the big bucks for this, but having a timeline we can unroll in the upstairs hallway is useful, and she likes adding the stickers to it, and seeing which countries are represented and when they began. I'm glad I got the timeline, since it's a good way to see all of history at a glance. The CD ROM has an Excel file that can serve the same purpose.
Historical Fact Sheets: I print one off the CD ROM whenever it's recommended in the curriculum and have her fill it out and add the corresponding sticker to the timeline. So far she's done a Form of Government fact sheet about Sumerian theocracy, and Arts and Architecture about the Pyramids of Giza. Up next, she'll fill out a Famous Men fact sheet on Hammurabi and a Literature and Theater sheet on a Babylonian creation myth.
Color the Western World: we're not really using this, but it'll probably be a good reference when we're done
I also got the four historical novels to use after we finish the whole course. There's a literature guide for the first one.
I also bought the guide on how to write historical fiction based on family stories, since she loves creative writing. 

We're taking a lot of time with this curriculum, since she's enjoying it so much. I've decided to do history this semester and science next semester, since that allows us to "go deep" and not feel like we have to rush through anything to try to get a certain number of subjects done each day.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The girls are enjoying their gymnastics classes. Here, Audrey shows off how flexible she is. Mary is in the background on top of a big cylinder mat. The kids like to roll in it like a hamster wheel.

Mary is demonstrating the grapevine move on the balance beam. Cross front, cross behind, cross front, cross behind ...

Audrey is doing "ice cream scoops" on the beam. When she gets to the end of the beam, the teacher tells her to land with her knees bent and then do a "ta dah" with her arms.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mary's braces

She's been smiling a lot since the braces went on, not because she wants to show them off, but to keep them from rubbing the inside of her lips.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Studying The Music Man

Last month I went into the Homeschool Gathering Place (a great store in Raleigh that sells popular homeschool curricula and used books and other cool stuff) to get two things and came out with a whole stack. One item in my stack was Movies as Literature. It was something I had seen online a while back and thought I'd have to remember it for later. Well, it's later. The manual gives discussion and essay topic questions for 17 movies. It's meant to be a high school literature course, so most of the movies are over Mary's head, but there are two we're going to study this year: "The Music Man" and "E.T."

We started by attending an outdoor showing of "The Music Man" at Duke Gardens. They've been showing free movies on Wednesday nights all summer, and the theme was musicals.

The gardens hired a company to come in and set up a giant inflatable movie screen. Mary and I drove out to Duke after supper for the twilight movie. We brought lawn chairs and bought refreshments from the popcorn cart. It was a pretty chilly evening, and Mary was pretty sleepy by the time the show ended at almost 11:00, but we enjoyed it. It's a lot easier to focus on a movie in a dark theater, even an outdoor one, than it is at home. All around me, I could hear other movie-goers who just couldn't help singing along.

Mary watched the DVD again at home later that week, with the subtitles turned on so she could catch all the words. Today, I had her read the questions pertaining to a specific scene, then watch just that scene, then discuss the questions. She had to look up some background information to be able to answer some of the questions, like finding an image of "American Gothic", looking up the definition of "legitimate" and so on. We talked about what the couple in "American Gothic" would think if their son rebuckled his knickerbockers below the knees, and memorized jokes out of Cap'n Billy's Whizbang.

I downloaded the soundtrack, and Mary's been borrowing my iPod and singing all over the place, with the headphones on, just like her Grandma. (Finally, something other than "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat"!) I ordered some easy piano arrangements of songs from "The Music Man", and when the book comes, she can learn to play them.

I told her she's not allowed to watch the DVD bonus features until we're finished with all the discussion questions.

Here are some "Music Man" links I found:
Music Man Square in Meredith Willson's hometown of Mason City, Iowa
Music Man Glossary in case you weren't around in 1912 and don't get all the references

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lucy's breed

(not Lucy - from the Black Mouth Cur website)

We haven't done any DNA testing, but I'm pretty sure we've got a Black Mouth Cur. The rescue organization woman wrote "lab mix/black mouth cur" on her paperwork, but I thought black mouth cur was a description, not an actual breed. They were bred to be good all-around farm dogs, the kind of dog you'd like to have if you lived in Texas Hill Country in the 1860s. Although Old Yeller was played by a lab mix in the movie, in the book he was a cur dog. Once we get our Lucy trained, we can take her out boar huntin' in the swamps.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Meet Lucy

We met her on Saturday and brought her home today. She came from PetSaverNC.
The rescue operation called her a lab mix. She's got the coloring and head shape of a great dane. You can't see it in this front view picture, but she has the black around the mouth like this guy:

She shouldn't get as big as him, though. We hope.

Oh, and we didn't intentionally choose a dog that matches our floor. But the shedding won't be as noticeable, and not having to sweep as often is a nice bonus.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How to build a LEGO dog, by Audrey, age 4 1/2

First put the collar on your head:

Then you put the body on your collar:

Then my feet go on my body:

I'm happy now. My feet are all repick. (Ellen's note: she didn't explain what "repick" means):

Thursday, August 6, 2009

more summer photos

After Mary and I got back from the Galapagos, we spent July 4th in Belleview with Mom and Dad, then went to visit the Orlando cousins. All of us girls went to Cocoa Beach together. Audrey had a great time playing with her cousins in the water, but Mary was so exhausted from all the traveling that she slept the whole time.

On the drive to North Carolina, we stayed one night in Fernandina Beach. This time Mary stayed awake long enough to enjoy the water and sand.

We visited the fort before leaving Fernandina Beach.

Mary spent a week at Girl Scout camp riding horses, swimming, canoeing, learning archery, and NOT being homesick at all!

The day after Mary got back from camp, we drove down to the Charlotte area for Scott's company picnic weekend at the Carowinds amusement park. They've got roller coasters and a water park with wave pools and water slides. Mary found a couple of rides that didn't make her sick. Audrey was just tall enough to go on the rides the next step up from the baby rides, which was fortunate, because she LOVES LOVES LOVES roller coasters.

The park straddles the border between North and South Carolina, and one (maybe more) of the roller coasters goes through both states. Here are Mary and Audrey straddling the border.