28 February 2008

Updated Adventure List

Life at Chez Smiffy: Adventures accessible from SE Michigan
has been completely reformatted and updated. Have a look! I think it's a lot more usable now have a look and let me know which of your favorite adventires I missed.

Homeschool Geography

Jack loves Google Earth.Google Earth Logo

It really is a cool program. It lets you look at satellite pictures of pretty much the entire planet, and each new release has cool new toys. Since you can zoom out and see the whole planet as though from the moon, or zoom in to see your own car in the parking lot at work, it makes it relatively easy to help make the leap from globe to map, to the world around us.

At four, I'm pretty sure Jack hasn't really made the leap to recognizing our house from the roof view one gets on Google Earth, but he does enjoy starting at our house and visiting Mormor in her suburban house in Bell Post Hill, then Grandma in her suburb in San Antonio, then his brothers in Sweden and Australia...which he recognizes by the labels we've attached.

All of his Aunts and Uncles are on there, too, and as he races around the planet, he learns things. He found the Antarctic and saw that it is indeed covered with snow! And it's not far (as these things go) from Mormor's house. The Arctic, on the other hand, is closer to Bella and Leo's house.
But it is turning out that Google Earth has other benefits in teaching Geography.

Jack's rule is that he can check out pretty much any book from the library, whether Mamma thinks it has any redeeming value or not. (Books we pay for have to pass the twaddle test.) He recently checked out Astro Boy, where he learned about the concept of earthquakes. Later he was playing on Google Earth and he noticed earthquake icons. After a few minutes, he realized that where ever he saw a lot of earthquakes, he also saw a lot of volcanoes! He explored a bit more and verified that where ever he found a lot of earthquakes there were always volcanoes nearby.

So we checked out some books and videos that explored why that is. I'm pretty sure he didn't follow the science in either the books or the videos, but he enjoyed the videos anyway, and we've started to set an excellent precedent that whatever he discovers, we will help him get more information about -- and at this stage there is *lots* of information out there, if not always aimed at Jack's level of understanding.

In exploring a little more, I also found that there are a lot of other people doing interesting work with Google Earth, and you can use GE to explore all kinds of things - - from the growth of London to world population to rising sea levels ... I haven't looked at all the options -- but if your child is older, you might want to!

I have the feeling I had a lot more to say -- but I'm late hitting the shower and I seem to be developing a flu so I'll leave it at that for now. If this is less than coherent, I do apologize. More when my brain gets back from wherever it has wandered off to.

26 February 2008

My sweet gypsy boy...

I heard from my middle son, Corey, this morning.

He's in Spain!!!

Corey has always had a case of wanderlust...and now that he's working full time he has the money to wander in style!!!

In this case, he went to visit an old buddy from high school -- Kyle is married and living in Spain.

I hope to hear more in the morning...

24 February 2008

Valentine's day Thanks

Many, many thanks to everyone who sent Jack a Valentines card! He was thrilled (despite appearance later when I tried to get this photo) as each arrived and displayed them with great joy on our "correspondence mirror".

20 February 2008


As I came home last night, I almost tripped over a HUGE box that was sitting in front of the front door. Since I had my hands full, I called Rod to come and help, and we looked at each other and asked “What is it?” each assuming the other had ordered something. Nope, neither of us had…we were puzzled.

We checked the mailing label – yes, it was delivered to the right house.

I looked at the return label, and remembering our conversation last week, I had a hunch – but no, that seemed improbable. This box was HUGE.

With great excitement, we tore into the packaging.

It *IS*!! Not one Foxfire book, but the whole set!!! Amazing! Astonishing! I handed a volume to Rod and explained the background of these things…his eyes were wide.

We dug around until we found the packing slip – sure enough, these are from our dear friend, Mark, who even in pain and recovering from is always ready to do a kindness!

We read the covers of each volume to each other with growing excitement – and then Rod burst out laughing. He laughed so hard he had tears in his eyes…

I was puzzled.

Wiping the tears from his eyes, but still grinning “This isn’t only an amazing gift – this is also a great joke! Mark has a subtle sense of humour, but sharp, very sharp!”


Ohhhhh …. <grin> “Yep, now we can be even more ‘almost Amish’”

Thank you, Mark! Thank you so much … I have never even dreamed of the extravagance of owning those books, but I am excited beyond words by them and can’t wait to read them all!

Thank you!!


19 February 2008

Chore Wars

Got kids who would rather play a game than help out around the house? Looking for a way to get the kids more interested in getting their toys out of the living room? A way, perhaps, to get the garbage out to the curb somewhat painlessly?

Have a look at Chore Wars!
Jack has been playing Chore Wars since July and he still loves to collect point -- and he's thrilled to see his points climbing and climbing!

It's pretty basic, but it can help give the "payoff" that your kids are otherwise missing from doing chores when "Thank you" just isn't working.

16 February 2008

Tough winter

Sorry it's been so quiet here at Chez Smiffy.

It's been a tough winter. Nothing horrible has happened -- had it, perhaps it would have been easier to break the silence.

No, this winter has been tough in a more subtle way. It's colder and more snowy than it's been for years - -which is fun at first. but it palls eventually.

And then ...

Starting just before the holidays, we have experienced a long and tragic string of deaths -- not 'ours' for the most part, but near at hand.

First, just before Yule, a young woman associated with the farm where we get our milk, meat, and eggs died in childbirth. Rod had met her at the seminar he went to, and they took a special liking to one another because she was from New Zealand.

Just after Yule, a former co-worker of Rod's, a young man in his early forties, fell at home and was killed. Coincidently, he shared my birthday.

On New Year's day came word that my oldest son's grandfather had, not unexpectedly, died. It wasn't unexpected...but it was a serious blow to the family because he was in all ways the Patriarch and a fine, decent man who will be missed literally all over the world. Coincidently, he shared Rod's birthday.

Next came word that the mother of a friend dear to me had died.

Then word that my cousin's daughter at died at age 26 in a motorcycle accident.

As you can see, most of these would be simply sad but not terrible personal to us, except that they are mounting up so fast. (I have the sense that I am forgetting some, and will come back and update if i remember who.)

Now, on top of this, there has been a lot of other bad news. The two-year old son of a friend whom I admire deeply was diagnosed with leukemia a couple of weeks ago, the mother of another dear friend has hurt herself, and our beloved Grandpa John has slipped on black ice and hurt himself again. John's is, he says, more dramatic and painful than serious...but still!! This while Mark is still recovering, and we're still worrying about him.

And then there are the more immediate problems...the kitchen sink had been leaking for a while. For a long time, it was only when we used the garbage disposer, so we kept a bucket under the sink and used the disposer as seldom as we could. That wasn't hard, because we compost almost anything that would otherwise go down there. Recently, though, it started leaking always, every time we used the sink -- we we've had to stop using the sink. Yuck. What a pain. Rod has bought the parts and will pull the plumbing apart and repair it tomorrow when I can be home to chase a boy. (More likely, we'll escape, sop Dad can work unmolested by a helper.)

Just as we sorted that out, Rod's car broke down. The entire undercarriage needed to be replaced, I think. (Not keen on these technical details.) $2,500 0r 3,000 later, it;'s happy again -- but this seriously jeopardizes our trip to see Mormor and the Ozzie brothers in Australia. We were about to plunge our savings into the pocket of the airlines...and now it;'s not clear that Jack and I will be going after all.

And just to keep things really entertaining, I also slipped on black ice and fell down a flight of porch steps, landing on my ribs. Ouch.

I have been having chest pains lately...the doctor gave my heart a clean bill of health and asked if I'd been under any unusual stress lately. I said I didn't think so...but looking back over this, maybe I have.


Thanks for listening to my whine.

I am on my way to a five-hour scrapbooking class -- I should end up in a much better mood to blog later today!

08 February 2008

The Babies' Birthdays by Jack

by Jack

Well, they had a cake late because we had such a fuss that it spent over night that it took overnight and then we almost caught up on another day to bake the birthday cake!

And then finally at night we got the frosting and then everything went well again. And the babies enjoyed enjoyed their birthdays and it all went well.

Bob is 9 and nothing actually happened that is actually is actually in very good shape.

This is Baby, she is 6. Then Adam, who is 10. Next Scarecrow, he's 17! And next came Fallyn, and she's 11. Bob is 9, same as I said in the first one. And that's everyone.

Mamma's translation. We were late celebrating the babies birthday. The had a mass birthday on February 1st, but we had trouble getting organized to bake their cake. Then it took two nights -- one to bake the cake and a second to make the frosting. Once we were finally organized, the babys enjoyed their birthday, though we didn't do anything special for them.

Bitter Homeschoolders Wish List

Deborah Markus, from Secular Homeschooling Magazine, has published a very funny "home-schoolers wish list".

We haven't had to face much of the response she refers to (well, except maybe #10), but it's still funny.

(Not sure why she refers to it as a "The Bitter Homeschooler's Wish List" -- but maybe it would feel different if we faced a lot of that sort of response.)
1 Please stop asking us if it's legal. If it is — and it is — it's insulting to imply that we're criminals. And if we were criminals, would we admit it?

10 We didn't go through all the reading, learning, thinking, weighing of options, experimenting, and worrying that goes into homeschooling just to annoy you. Really. This was a deeply personal decision, tailored to the specifics of our family. Stop taking the bare fact of our being homeschoolers as either an affront or a judgment about your own educational decisions.

16 Don't ask my kid if she wouldn't rather go to school unless you don't mind if I ask your kid if he wouldn't rather stay home and get some sleep now and then.

24 Stop talking about all the great childhood memories my kids won't get because they don't go to school, unless you want me to start asking about all the not-so-great childhood memories you have because you went to school.
...and there's lots more. Go check it out!

Oh, and if you're interested in seeing what kind of a firestorm this poor little list has caused its author, check this out. Deborah is carrying the expense of publishing a delightful home school magazine on her own shoulders, and people do this to her!

03 February 2008


Hey all --

I have a big request. I am posting it here because I don't want to make it of anyone specific...

Jack and I recently read the Bobbsey twins and he fell in love with the idea of Valentines day. He wants to get "lots of Valentines cards just like Freddie and Flossie". I will be giving him one -- but if anyone else has one left at the end of the project and wouldn't mind sharing with Jack, it would make him VERY happy...

(This is one time when being "in school" would have been an advantage...)

I promise to share photos and thanks here.


01 February 2008

They grow so fast, Part 2

Corey, my second born, in a photo taken in 1984.
So sweet, so independent...so cute!
Corey works hard and is absolutely true to himself and one of the most ethical people I know. I am so happy to know him 0-- and so proud that he's my son!! (And a very handsome boy in his own right!)