Tuesday, January 30, 2007

So we started smelling gasoline coming out ot the car vents and brought it in to the mechanic. After several hours he told B that it would be $2500 to fix all that was wrong. Now, I'll admit, living in NYC my whole life - I trust no one. I have a gnawing feeling that after the thou I spent last month having something fixed, the mechanics punctured my fuel line and cracked something in the front end. Both done subtly so that it would take a month for us to notice anything wrong. Then we'd have to bring it in again and I could never prove it was the mechanics who did it. I can imagine the whole scenario. A week after I brought the car in last time to have the heater fixed and the oil changed, lights started going out - first a headlight, then the dashboard light. And that same week steam was coming out from under the hood. You will never convince me this wasn't done intentionally. I'm finding a new mechanic.

Oh, so B and I are getting a new car tonight. We'll be trading in the old one to put toward something brand spanking new that will not need anything more than gas and oil changes for at least the next 3 years. Then we'll get another brand new car. That's it. We'll feel safe and not have to feel that the car will break down any minute. I researched cars to death, checked Edmunds.com, know our credit ratings, spoke to an auto dealer friend for an hour for tips, and printed out any useful info. I'm ready.

We've been home mostly this week due to the freezing cold weather. Dance is going well. I went to a fundraiser for nationals on Saturday and won a raffle basket full of football/beer stuff. The kids went to CCD on Sunday. J has a new teacher - which she's thrilled about, as the last one was a threatening tyrant who kept telling J she was going to fail. K loves being a teacher's aid for 1st graders and W just has a little playgroupy thing going on with his class of 3-5 y/os.

Did I mention I just sent out my "Christmas" cards last week? LOL. I got them made to say "Happy 2007" with a great pic of the kids on it. Hey, I tried. It was the first time I didn't get the cards out on time. And since everyone asked, "where's your picture this year!", I felt I had to do something. I can check that off my list now.

So, B met up with a friend of mine who's son goes to K's old middle school. She said an 8th grader was found in the school with a gun the other day. And this is what's considered one of the "good" schools. I think I stood there with my mouth hanging open for 20 seconds. You know how they say there are no coincidences? Well what if K was still there and was in the wrong place at the wrong time and just so happened to piss this person off that day? Schools are places full of total strangers that you leave your kids with for 35 hrs a week. Your kids are there learning things you don't know about. And I'm not talking about academics. I don't know about yours, but my newspapers are full of corrupt schools, pedophile teachers/janitors, students stabbed or shot, kids being left on schoolbuses, and how dozens of public schools are failing. Failing?! Betcha can't wait to send your kids there! If K gets accepted (and chooses to go) to the one high school she wants, of course I won't force her to stay home. I will have that knot in my stomach every day, though. And you better believe I will be a HUGE part of everything that goes on there. I worry about it, but I'm confident that this year spent homeschooling will change K's understanding of what school is for, help her learn tolerance and acceptance of different kids, encourage respect for adults, teach her how to speak out for or against issues she feel strongly about, and bring out her enjoyment of learning again. If we can do this, I'll know we accomplished everything.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The homeschool event Monday was so nice. The country we focused on was Peru. All the kids did a presentation (music, clothing, sports, food, tapestries, animals, etc), the families brought great Peruvian food/drinks (and lots of it), and you wouldn't even notice we were in a room with 21 kids ages 3-13! The kids had a fun time, loved the food, and enjoyed seeing everyone. Yesterday, I did get some cleaning done, but not the stuff on the schedule. One day, I will actually do it, I swear! LOL. K was thrilled to receive another letter from her penpal in Spain (her Kindergarten best friend moved there - and they've been writing each other for 8 years!) and promptly wrote back. For some reason, the kid has never mentioned having email - which I'm actually glad about since there's something I feel is so special about a handwritten letter. K is also eager to start on the Barron's Earth Science book she chose from B&N last week. I plan on reading it together with her. She started knitting again and is getting J to pick up a book every now and then, too.

K has such a huge collection of books that J has to find something she'd like. She is showing interest in the My America series of books, so we'll see. And she has been really busy with dance. Competition season is underway and her first one is now at the end of February. There are costumes to be stoned and fitted, routines to be perfected, and fees to be paid. Between the tuition, fees, costumes, fundraisers, and soon hotels, we're so broke. But the good news is that B got a new job and will be starting in a couple of weeks!

The hamsters are 3 weeks old today! They are so big now that the mama has to push them off her when more than 3 come over to nurse at once. They can travel through the tubes pretty well now and some are so friendly that they go right into your hand when you put it in the tank. Instead of Goliath, K chose a small tan one - the only one with a white patch on her back. They're all so cute, it's hard to think we won't have most of them in another 2 weeks.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I'm trying to come up with a workable schedule for us for the week.. I've tried this so many times it's not funny, but if I really set my mind to making it work, I know we can do it. Like for this week the plan is as follows:

Monday - Up at 8, do 1 hr AM cleaning routine, check email/boards, everyone dressed and leave house by 11 to get to global culture/geography homeschool event, leave hs event by 3, drive J to dance (3:45), pick B up from train (4:30), drive to work by 6, drive home at 9, drop off B and kids at home and get to gym by 9:45, get home by 11, do a 20 minute pick-up and kitchen wipedown, shower, check email/boards, and get to bed by 1.

Tuesday - Up at 8, do 1 hr AM cleaning routine, check email/boards, do group activity with the kids (science experiment, art project, game, etc), do 1-on-1 academics with each kid for about 30-45 min (this was requested), get everyone dressed and get to library by 2, get kids to dance by 4:45, home by 8:30, do 30 minute pickup and kitchen wipedown after American Idol (lol), shower, check email/boards, bed by 12.

Wednesday - Up at 8, do 1 hr AM cleaning routine, check email/boards, everyone dressed and leave house by 10:45 to get to science lab homeschool event, leave hs event by 2, home by 2:30, cook dinner together, drive to work by 5:30, drive home at 9, drop off B and kids at home and get to gym by 9:45, get home by 11, do a 20 minute pick-up and kitchen wipedown, shower, check email/boards, and get to bed by 1.

Thursday - Up at 8, do 1 hr AM cleaning routine, check email/boards, do group activity with the kids (science experiment, art project, game, etc), do 1-on-1 academics with each kid for about 30-45 min, get everyone dressed and get to supermarket by 12, home by 2, put away groceries and cook dinner together (for reheat later), drive J to dance by 4:30, pick B up from train, drive to work by 5:30, drive home at 9, drop off B and kids at home and get to gym by 9:45, get home by 11, do a 20 minute pick-up and kitchen wipedown, shower, check email/boards, and get to bed by 1.

Friday - Up at 8, do 1 hr AM cleaning routine, check email/boards, do group activity with the kids (science experiment, art project, game, etc), do 1-on-1 academics with each kid for about 30-45 min, cook dinner together (for reheat later), get everyone dressed and get to hs ice skating get-together by 1:45, leave by 3:30 and get J to dance by 4:30, pick B up from train, drive to work by 5:30, drive home at 9, do 30 minute pickup and kitchen wipedown, shower, check email/boards, bed by 11 (and up by 7am for work at 9am on Saturday).

The goal here is to have some sort of "expectation" so the kids don't feel so aimless. I believe many kids do better knowing what-comes-next throughout their day. My kids do. It's a comfortable feeling - especially when they had a part in creating the schedule. I do better with structure in my own life. I know if I was unschooled as a child I would have made schedules for myself all the time. The "academic" stuff on the schedule is based on what the kids asked for. They love reading and workbooks and educational websites, and all sorts of those kind of activities. I left it open for them to choose what they want to do (or not do, that's fine).

Hamster update - There are 5 white/tan ones and 6 black ones (recounted, lol). Their eyes are now open and we are holding them all the time. K's been reading about them so much - what they can eat, how holding them makes them tame for their new homes, how to tell males from females, etc. We decided to keep 2 babies - one we named Goliath because she is the biggest tan one, and one tiny black one born with 3 legs we call "Stumpy", but K has named "Fitch" (after you know what clothing store). We are getting lots of requests for a baby hamster, so finding them homes shouldn't be too hard. But we get to have them for at least another 3 weeks til their weaned. FUN!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

It is now 25 degrees here in NYC. Too cold to be outside. We've been having fun at home. W is reading better and better every week. K and J have been reading and computer-ing. We've been really enjoying the whole hamster saga. They are 2 weeks old tomorrow. They have started to venture out of the nest alone and find there way to the food bowl now. They love seeds and rolled oats. Mama hamster usually has to pick each one up by the scruff and toss them back into the nest. Sometimes almost all of them are out and about. I can see why sometimes she just retreats into the other tank for a while, lol. I finally got a headcount and there are 7 black ones and 4 pink/white ones (which will probably turn into the regular brown/white hamsters). They're so friggin cute!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

On Friday, J went to an art class with the homeschool group. They made "personal collages" with lots of pics of themselves and things that represent them. K went home on the train with my mom in the afternoon and is coming back this morning. She got to spend time with the neighbors (who are her age) and hang out without her siblings for a few days. After dance on Saturday, J got to spend the next two days out in Long Island with one of her friends. I get nervous when she sleeps over anywhere, but I guess I gotta let go sometimes, lol. W got to have us all to himself. The 3 of us went out to dinner last night and of course without his sisters there, he was an angel. Today, Mom, my sis, and I are going to a baby shower at noon. Then we're going to see Dreamgirls. Tomorrow I have to work all day. I'm soon going to put in for a position that more than doubles my paycheck and the hours are 6-10pm weekdays and 9-1 (or 2-6) Saturdays. I'm ready for it.

And the hamsters are still doing well. They're getting brave, venturing out of the nest area. The mama picks them up and puts them right back, though. There's one baby that has what looks like string around his wrist and the hand is all swollen looking. I took him out and tried to get it off, but it's so deeply embedded in his skin. He walks on it and it's not affecting his nursing or growing, but I'm calling the vet anyway. They're 11 days old today!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What a gorgeous winter we've had so far. It's been around 60 and even 70 for the past few months. Weird, though. But it seems this week will bring us down to 40ish. I love the mild weather, but I really do want some snow already.

Friday we got together with a bunch of families from te hs group and played games and hung out. Saturday I worked and Sunday we went out to mom's after the kids' CCD class. Mom and I visited my grandfather in the hospital. He's almost 92 and has pneumonia. He's been terribly lonesome since my grandmother died in October, and I just hope he knows we love him and are always there for him. It's so sad.

The kids have been having fun -- lots of playing and resting. J and W are happy learning from workbooks, printouts, and computer games. K hasn't been interested in much. I mean, she's been reading, journalling, creating stuff on the computer, playing Age of Empires and Mall Tycoon, and helping her siblings with academic stuff, but I've been feeling a bit aimless with her. So yesterday she wanted to stay home while I brought J to dance. I said ok, picked out what I thought was an interesting book (life on an 18th century plantation) and asked her if she'd please read it while I was gone. I hate leaving her home alone even though she's old enough. At least if she has something to keep her busy, I'll feel better about it. When I got home later, not only had she read more than 1/2 the book, but took about 9 pages of notes too! Wow. She said she enjoyed it and was just used to having "assignments" and being graded on them. Well I guess 9 years of school will condition a person into believing their self-worth and reason for being is based on a teacher's grade. I found that a little sad in a way. It reminded me of the Harry Chapin song called "Flowers are Red" that makes me cry every time I read the lyrics. But I can provide her with "assignments" if that what she needs right now. Maybe one day she'll feel comfortable and confident enough to trust her own choices without needing constant validation from someone else.

The hamsters are doing well. They are always in a big huddle with the mama on top of them so it's hard to get a good count, but I think I counted 11 of them. They're getting fur already and most of them will be black like the mom, but a few are still light pinkish. They're so CUTE! We love watching them yawn and flail their arms and legs around. B (and W) gives her kale and egg and makes sure she has all clean and fresh food and water daily. The only bad thing is that we can't clean the cage until the babies start coming out -- something about not disturbing the nest or she may panic and eat the babies. Ick. I don't think she's eaten any, but who knows. K already said she gets first pick when they're big enough.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I think we're still recuperating from the Holidays. The girls are up late and sleeping late this whole week. I think I need to schedule some early outings so their sleep schedule gets back on track, lol. Tomorrow we have a homeschool Game Day so that'll work. It'll also be great seeing everyone again after a few weeks. The concert was great. The kids loved it and here's a pic I took:

J had a solo lesson yesterday and her coach is saying her technique has really improved, she is doing better than ever, and she'll definitely be ready for the end of January competition. This is one of our "optional" competitions that is less than a mile away so we do it as practice mainly. Our first big one is in NJ around the end of Feb. W has pretty much decided he doesn't want a solo anymore and is happy just being in the 2 group numbers. I think it's because his friend told him how 'scary' it is to go on stage alone and also because the studio owner hasn't rehearsed with him in over a month. I know he'd love it if he just tried it once. He's surely a ham like his parents and sisters. It's just getting over that hump of fear that's holding him back. But I'll just wait until he's comfortable and comes to me. All it would take would be too see another boy his age doing a solo on stage. I hope we see one! LOL.

Oh, so remember the hamster W got for Christmas in the cool Spiderman cage? Well, yesterday when they took it out to play with it, it started having babies right there in the doll crib! I came running over, picked up the hamster and put her right back in the cage. One of the babies was in my hand, but I put it back in the cage next to the mom. I know that's a no-no, but she seems to now have 4 or 5 of them in there and hasn't eaten any yet. I know that's gross, but I was afraid since my hand got involved, she would. So now it's Day 2 with baby hamster pups and all is well. You can just imagine all the questions from the kids. Especially since B made sure to get a BOY hamster. They have been researching baby hamsters for me and are finding out all these things about them. Here's a pic of all the pups and one of the protective mama. Sorry they're blurry, I had to take them fast, lol:

W got his first library card the other day. He's never been a big fan of the library, but now that he can use his own card, he wants to go more. I really want to make a weekly jaunt there, but it seems we never find the time. It's 10am and already W has asked to "do workbook" (he did a 2nd grade book today, numbering the order of 6 pictures), do a learning website with him, and has started a Finding Nemo jigsaw puzzle. Next week I'd like to take the kids to a museum (maybe we'll try the American Indian one again) and I'll be setting up a homeschool group event at the NY Hall of Science for later this month or February.

I started a photo diary of all the activities the kids did/do this year. I'm calling it (our-last-name Homeschool '06-'07). I'm keeping it on a MS Word document which works better for me. I was looking for a free website, then decided this one should not be public. So basically it's the activity title, 3-6 photos, and a short paragraph about the activity. It looks wonderful and totally satisfies my need to be persnickety. I love doing this stuff.