Saturday, March 27, 2010

Making a Volcano

Billions and billions of years ago... no, not really.  Probably about 4500 years ago (give or take a few hundred years), around the time of the great flood, this county went up in smoke.  Volcanoes erupted and spewed ash and lava all over the desert.  We can see several of the old craters on our way to my parents' place, along with the black rock that is left over from way back then.  What an educational place we live in!

We decided to make our own volcano.  Normally I run from hands-on educational opportunities, but this was okay.  It turned out about like all of our other hands-on science projects, so the making of it was a lot more fun than the actual explosion.

First, make salt-based playdough.  Knead til smooth.

Cut a circle in the top of a small box, big enough to hold a 16 or 20-oz water bottle.  Fill the water bottle half full with water. (Or half empty, depending on your mood.) Tape the box down to keep it stable.  We covered a board with a trash bag, to make the whole assembly portable and gunk-proof.

Make a mound of newspaper around the bottle in a mountain shape, and tape it down.

Now take your playdough blob, pat it out to about 1/2" thickness, and mold it around your newspaper mountain, leaving the top of the bottle open.

Be sure to landscape your volcano and plant some vegetation on it.

Some people go all out and paint their volcano realistic colors, but vegetation was all the realism that we had patience for this day.

Next, using a funnel, pour about 1/4 cup of baking soda into the water bottle.

Add a few drops of red food coloring, if you like, and taking careful aim, pour in white vinegar.  KABOOM! (Or maybe, fizzzzz.) Pretend you are in Pompeii or at Mount St. Helen's , or in the Mohave Desert, and take cover!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Made With Love

"Emily, what can I get you for lunch today?  Peanut butter and jelly made with love?"

"Yummm!  Yes!"

I slap together a sandwich.  She takes a bite.

"MMMM!" she says, "This is good!!!"

"Yes, peanut butter and jelly is always better when it's made with love, isn't it."

Emily nods.  After a minute she gives me a suspicious look.
"Do you always make them with love, anyway?"

I smile at her and nod my head.  She found out my secret. love serve one another.
Galatians 5:13

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Emily's Craft

Lest I die a slow death from persistent nagging, I patiently taught Emily how to backstitch and how to sew on a button.  (I'd have been happy to do this when she was say, eight or nine.) She took over an abandoned project of mine which was supposed to become a sock monkey for her, oh, two years ago. Meet Melanie Melody Peterson.  (She is a worm.)  I don't know where the name came from.

First, Melanie Melody Peterson in her skirt and blouse:

And now, in her nightie:

Note, this worm has two feet, unlike Lowly Worm, who has only one.  Melanie Melody Peterson is blessed to have two feet. 

And I am blessed to have a little girl who can't wait to learn something new.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Wind Won

Pants Armstrong finally rolled in at about 8:30 pm with 24 miles to go, and he called it quits.  After grinding down one mountain in a headwind, going only 9 mph, and flying down another mountain highway in the pitch dark (except for his headlight) at 36 mph, and then fighting the wind home for another 6 miles, AND nearly being run over by a bad driver even though his big headlight shined right in her face, he couldn't think of any good reason to ride circles in our neighborhood until he had racked up another 24 miles to make 200 for the day.  (Smart man.)

So, the conclusion of the matter is, while Pants Armstrong did NOT make 200 miles, he did top his own record by 51 miles (his previous record of 125 set in 1984), AND, he beat his dad's personal best by 1.3 miles, which is the most important thing of all when you are in a competition with your dad.

Add to the food total:

16 oz more Coke
 1 chocolate shake
2 large fig newtons
4 lemon cremes
3 chocolate chippers

I'm certainly glad he doesn't eat like this every day.  I wouldn't be able to afford to keep him.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Double-Century Updates

Second Update:

Pants called at 5:30pm.  The south wind picked up and it's a dog.    He is about 30 miles from home and making his way back.  BUT, when he gets here, he will only have 28 miles to go to make 200, and that's too close to quit.  So he will be out late tonight, cycling by moonlight.

First Update:
Okay, Pants Armstrong rolled in just a few minutes (12:30pm-ish) ago with 99 miles to go.  Add to the food total:

1 glazed old fashioned donut
15 oz orange juice
1 Clif bar
3 large fig newtons
1 banana
3 chocolate chip oatmeal cookies
4 lemon cremes
30 oz Coke
1 tapioca pudding
1 big ham and cheese sandwich
1 apple
2 blond brownies
gallons of water

We're just about to leave for the truck brake check point at the top of the mountain, and cheer Daddy on!

Go Daddy, Go!!!

He had to cross the highway here, and no, he did not ride against the traffic!!

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me!

Philippians 4:13

Double-Century Day

This day has been in planning for a long time, the most important variable being the weather.  It had to be just perfect.  Not too hot, not too cold, not raining, and, relatively speaking, no wind.  It's here, the perfect day, and it's even my husband's day off!

At approximately 4:30 this morning, Pants Armstrong started a 200-mile ride on his bike (spell that b-i-c-y-c-l-e).  The ride consists of three big loops right here locally, so that he can stop in Sal's Kitchen at strategic points for food, fresh batteries (for lights), and a shower.  He is now 42 miles into the ride, and so far he has consumed:

2 waffles with syrup
2 bowls of rice pudding
3 fried eggs
2 pieces of toast
and 2 glasses of milk

It might be more... I wasn't up at 4:30 to witness his first breakfast.  He took more food with him for the next leg, a 66-mile ride up and over the hill and back, across the dam, down the Nevada side, across the river again, and back home.

He'll be home for a shower, then we girls, his support team, will supply him with a lunch to eat on the road,  then we'll take him and his bike to the truck brake check point on the highway on the NV side, from whence  he will embark on the second century.  He will be equipped with lots of cookies and Clif bars to keep him going.

We expect him home around 8 pm, barring any flat tires.

And we'll keep you posted.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Forgiving AND Forgetting

Have you ever found yourself repeatedly asking God’s forgiveness for the same sin?  Sometimes it is very hard for a woman to forgive herself for the sins of her past. We lose our joy even though we know what the Bible says about God’s wonderful forgiveness:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. Hebrews 8:12

So why do we find it so hard to quit reminding God how badly we have behaved?

The Lord brought this home to me in a very personal way.  Once upon a time, someone I especially love hurt me profoundly.  Okay, you’re all wondering who it was, and guessing it was my husband. Okay, you’re right, it was. He’s a good man, and I love him. He was oblivious to my feelings in this situation and he really didn’t mean to hurt me. But for days I cried in secret, actually grieving, and my heart felt like it had been ripped open. Because I knew that I was being overly sensitive, and because I knew he didn’t mean what he said, I tried to keep my pain to myself. I resolved not to mention the offending words even though I felt he had bludgeoned me with them. My anger and indignation was gone; I was read to forgive. I had forgiven him. But long after my hormonal over-sensitivity was gone, my heart was still bleeding profusely. I cried to the Lord; the pain was still there.  And I was trying, with God’s help, to forget the whole thing.

One day, what started out to be a casual conversation evolved into a pouring out of my heart.  All the tears I had kept back suddenly gushed out, and so did my accusation.  When he knew what he had done, my dear husband felt like so much scum. “I’m so sorry,” he told me, “That was a terrible, awful thing for me to say. I am soooo sorry!”  I felt a million times better after coming clean with my hurt feelings. Suddenly my heart was healed (99%) and I felt like myself again. Life was all better.  And I loved him more than ever!

For several days, out of the blue, my husband would say, “I am so sorry I hurt you like that. Please just punch me, or something!  I feel so bad!”  I didn’t want to hit him.  I wanted to forget the whole thing.  As long as he didn’t say anything more to me about it, I was reasonably happy. But his apologies kept reminding me, rubbing salt into the wound of my heart.

Suddenly the thought came to me, This is what it’s like when I tell God that I’m sorry for the same sin over and over again!  Jesus Christ forgave me at Calvary!  Why won’t I let him forget?  I now had a new resolve.  I would let go of my sins and completely accept God’s love and forgiveness, as well as his “forgetfulness”!

Again, If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9.

"All" is all, and that is all that "all" will ever mean!

Knowing our sins are GONE is a wonderful source of joy for the Christian.  Believe the God who loves you when he says, "It is finished.  I forgive you."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What's New

For the sake of a handful of faithful friends in the blogosphere who regularly check up on me, I'm writing this rather random post.  I'd love to unplug the computer (all three of them) and go back to living in the dark ages BM (Before Microsoft), but you know how it is.  I'm not alone there, right?  It's just hard to do. 

Here's what's new at diamondsintherough, in ten paragraphs or less:

1. In a desperate moment of grabbing for something, anything, to have Alison do for history, I pulled an old A Beka World History and Cultures book out of the bookshelf.  She loves it(!), and now, all things Sumerian.  I am shocked.  But why should I be?  She is also interested in the Fifth Postulate and mathematical theory, such as proving that
 .99999999999999999999999999999999 = 1. 

Or rather, that it does NOT equal 1.   And, Alison thinks physical science is just fascinating.  I am so happy to have one child who finds her school work interesting, even if it is true that she would like to just skip the rest of it and get married.   Lucky for me, she is not old enough for that.

2.  Amy is probably the number one fan of the new DIY Dish.  So far there is one episode. Within fifteen minutes of watching it, Amy created her own official DIY Dish Double Layer Cake Pin Cushion.  Because, of course, pin cushions are all the rage.  (I didn't know.)  Go here to see a picture of it.  She later added a big flower to the top.  Next project, a wedding cake pin cushion, because somewhere around here we have a bunch of little white satin roses that are just waiting to be used on something like this.  Maybe she should save it for her sister!

3.  Speaking of cake, I am back to trying to lose a few pounds, and here is my favorite lunch:

That's Dannon's Lite and Fit vanilla yogurt, with homemade fat-free granola.  Probably the granola reverses the effect of eating a yogurt starvation diet, but I like it.  I'm one of those people who thinks chocolate chips should be a "free" item on the standard American Diabetes Association food list.  The last time I tried to diet, I did really well until I added chocolate chip cookies to my allowable foods.   I just hate it how losing weight takes so much work and self-denial.  Both run completely contrary to my carnal nature!

4.  Elisabeth is tooting along on her clarinet, hoping a friend will join her for a duet in our annual homeschoolers' fine arts recital next month.   She has whizzed ahead in math, to the point where I am not sure what to do with her.  Repetition is necessary, but if she is ready for pre-algebra, I sure can't make her do regular old arithmetic for the next two years...  And (this really makes me happy), Betsy has suddenly found an interest in sewing.  She whipped together several bags with handles, then immediately price-tagged them for the day when we will set her entrepreneurial spirit loose and let her open a store.

5.  Emily got glasses.  Cute little round purple ones that make her look really brainy. That persistent child guilt-tripped me into letting her start sewing on the machine -- what, am I crazy???  She's only six, and I can't afford to get a new sewing machine if she breaks it.  We compromised.  She is not allowed to use the pedal, but she may turn the doohickey wheel that makes the needle go up and down.  She also has made three bags, one with help, and two by herself.  She just won't take "no" "when you are older" for an answer!

6.  The other day I went into this little upholstery place looking for a nice remnant to make some little cosmetic bags and jewelry bags out of, for hostess gifts for our summer vacation.  Only $10 later I came out with enough fabric to make dozens of them -- from obsolete upholstery sample books!  The lady only charged me $1 each for them, because she wants to get rid of them.  I was happy to help her, and I took two of them. (The other $8 I spent on yardage.)  I have been experimenting with different little zipper bags and such, so fun.  My mom even hired me to make a jewelry bag for her friend's birthday.  I got so excited (this is big -- I don't get excited about many things) that I even signed up for a new gmail account and made up some little business cards to put in my bags!   You just might even see me open up an Etsy shop.  Maybe.

7.  My in-laws visited for a week, and we sent them on their way with a bad cold.  I just hate that.  We are almost never sick, except when company comes.  Elisabeth got a sore throat while they were with us, which turned into a full-fledged cold before P&D left us. They aren't back in Virginia yet; they are in Phoenix, my father-in-law in bed, probably wishing they had never stopped here.  But we did have a  really good time! 

8. Alison must learn the entire Accolay concerto before her next violin lesson.  That means I will have the privilege of hearing her play longer each day.

9. For the hundredth time, I wrote out a chore chart.  We are three days into it and doing pretty well.  We weren't quite as diligent today as we were the past couple days, but at least the house still feels restful and not embarrassing.  Each girl has a "zone" to take care of before we begin our Ladies' Coffee Hour and school.  I have been very remiss about LCH.  All it takes to discourage me is to have one child whine, "This is boooooring!!!"  So, again, for the past several weeks months, I have just skipped it and put up with the guilt.  I had to ask the girls' forgiveness for letting discouragement keep me from the most important part of the day, and we started over.  This morning my DH took me on a hot date to Walgreens to get some passport photos made, right when we girls would have had our devos.... so we haven't had LCH yet today.  It seems like whatever doesn't get done before lunch time doesn't get done at all.  And no, we don't have plans to travel out of the country.  I wish!

10. My computer is threatening to die.  If it does, I will not be replacing it, just mooching off the two others here who have computers. Even though I ran a virus scan, it keeps shutting down or freezing up or restarting whenever we watch videos online.  Well, I can live without those.  And my speakers are dead.  But without videos, I don't need those, either.  So if my little hard-headed hard drive will just keep chugging along we'll be okay.  It might even be a blessing to have a dead computer.   (I'll try to remember to thank God when it happens, and not cry, lol.)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

How to Compose "Music" in Your Homeschool

Songwriter David Nevue has written a nice piece of advice about how to compose music.  Interestingly enough, his advice is also perfectly suited to composing a successful homeschool!  Here is his article,  "Advice for Pianists: How to Compose Piano Music", shamelessly plagiarized, creatively rearranged, and with the author's permission (I would make item number one to first pray before attempting anything for the glory of God):
1.  Begin with the melody.  You don't have to see the end from the beginning.  Just start with one simple melodic phrase.  What is your goal in homeschooling?  That foundation will be the centerpiece for everything else in your composition.
2.  What is your song about?  What is its purpose?  Are you about God's glory, faith, a good witness, producing brainy kids?  Whatever your homeschool's message is, keep it in the forefront of your mind as you compose. Doing so will influence the direction your teaching takes.
3.  Is your composition just a mood piece?  Some compositions are. They kind of wander around, having no real destination. There's nothing wrong with writing mood pieces, but be warned, you can only carry a 'mood' for so long. No one else will be interested in your mood for very long, so don't let your feelings be the basis of your "music".  You need a goal.  I have to interject here that I think this is where we are stuck.  We are kind of making it up as we go, just like Alie did.  That's probably not the best way to go about it, at least not in homeschooling.
4. Follow the "muse". It's not uncommon to find that while you're developing a composition, you find yourself taken into an entirely new direction. The question to ask yourself is, does this 'new direction' belong with your original melody or homeschooling goal?  Consider whether you might really be working on two different songs and whether you need to split them apart so they can 'play' in their own separate worlds.  There is a season for everything.  Possibly the years you are teaching your children at home are not the time to be pursuing your own personal dreams.
5. Repeat with style. Once you have firmly established your melodic foundation, don't pound it into the ground. You might play your melody twice the same exact way with two different children, but the third child will likely require to you embellish it so that even though it's the same melody, its execution is different. That might mean a different curriculum, adding more (or less) play time, more hands-on learning, or a different schedule. However you do it, enhance the melody of your homeschool composition. Don't let it grow stale, or your beautiful melody will begin to grate on your listeners' ears.
6.  Build slowly, but build something with your song. Remember, you're sharing a message via your homeschooling, so arrange your song in such a way that it keeps moving in a particular direction.  If you develop a "scratch" in your recording, don't keep repeating the part that isn't working. Go on to the next passage. There must be forward motion.  Be sure to advance toward the happy ending.
7.  Mistakes count. Don't fret too much about making mistakes as you develop your song. Mistakes can lead to some very interesting changes in your music, while still keeping the same tune.  Your "mistake" might end up being the very twist you need in your song to add spice to your tune. When we first start homeschooling, we make a LOT of mistakes. It's just part of the process. Music composition and homeschooling are like pottery. You start out with a blob (an idea) and you mold it into something. The process isn't always pretty, but In the end, with persistence and God's grace and leading, you will end up with something beautiful. 
8.  Keep it simple.  For some reason, many beginning composers and homeschoolers try to make things complicated - as if bigger is better. Part of this, I think, is the need to gain the approval of others, and part of it is the mistaken assumption that the more complex a song is, the more significance it has in the overall scheme of life. No, no no. Simplicity is the key to beauty.  Just find a simple melody/goal, develop it, give it a twist, and finish it. You should be able to do it in less than four minutes if it is a song, and in under two hours a day if you are just beginning to homeschool a young child.
10. Let time have its way.  Realize that it will take years to complete your homeschool composition. Now and then, kids will "finish" a year or two early, but that hardly ever happens.  And what does it mean to finish school, anyway?  Aren't we all learning more after we have completed high school?  If it seems to be taking too long to finish your "piece", don't get frustrated. If you need to, set the composition aside for awhile and come back to it later. Sometimes you'll find it easier to continue after you take a couple months off school.  However, unlike composing a song, we only get one shot at raising our children, so take whatever time you need to get the desired end-product.
11. Finally, keep a record.  Have a journal of some sort right beside you so you can record your ideas while you're still composing. There's nothing more frustrating that having a great idea, getting interrupted, and then forgetting it. And we all know homeschooling comes with interruptions!  With a notepad or blog handy, you can take the two minutes (okay, two hours) you need to record a rough-draft of your melody and come back to it later if need be.
And last, my own piece of advice, know when to let go and be done.  Those old LP versions seemed like they were never going to come to an end, but kept repeating the same theme over and over again. My older kids are growing up and developing wings.  I don't want to keep them here too long,  with them wishing the song was finally over. This time must be spent teaching them how to make their own music.  Sooner than later I am going to have to launch my girls, and it will be time for them to be creating melodies for their own homeschool compositions.

Monday, March 8, 2010

February 2010 in Review

In February:

Emily invited the rest of us girls to a fancy tea party.  She even made us dress up in our Sunday attire!  The menu was Snickerdoodle Blondies, raisins, and water with yellow food coloring added. Elisabeth was the servant girl. (The servant girl was not required to wear her church clothes.)  We practiced saying, "Yes, please, Miss Johnson," and "No, thank you, Miss Johnson."  We tried hard not to speak to the "help", but we were so polite that we kept forgetting that she was below our station.

We had sword drills.  The first one to find Hezekiah 2:6 wins!

My amaryllis bloomed!  I do love amaryllis.  This one was particularly generous, with seven big, beautiful blooms! I buy a bulb each year right after the holidays, when they are half price.  I love it that they grow so fast.  Great homeschool science material, this.  Once it gets going, the kids can measure its growth each day!

Speaking of homeschool science projects, we are going to have to limit ours to simple projects like, see if Tide makes the towels smell better than our homemade laundry soap does.  Amy and I tried to light a light bulb in a dark closet, with static electricity.  Simple, right?  Wrong.  It didn't work.  Neither did the volcano (Oh, I forgot to write a blog post about that!  That was fodder for January, but I forgot about it!), or the paper spiral suspended over a candle, that was supposed to spin.  We won't be participating in any science fairs! 

The girls did yard work.  Again.   I can't believe it.  Twice in the same year! lol!  Just kidding.  We usually do it two or three times.  My husband thinks it is just so awesome that we don't have to mow grass, and I guess he's right.   But I do enjoy a nice soft lawn. These sweet girls had so much fun weeding our own yard that they went to the vacant house next door and spent all afternoon weeding the gravel there, too.  They filled the wagon to the brim with weeds, but that yard didn't look any different after four hours than it did before they began!  They gave up.  If we could figure out a really fast and efficient way to do this, we could make all kinds of money.  The rain here has turned most every yard into a weed heap, and we have city ordinances for weed control.

We celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary with a short trip to see my parents in California.  My dear husband explained to the scandalized sales lady, "Are you familiar with Proverbs 31:10?  'Who can find a virtuous woman? Her price is far above rubies.'  My wife is a virtuous woman, and I'd like to buy her some rubies."  She looked at him like he came from Mars!  (Maybe he did, but he's a sweet guy!) 

He also gave me the gift of time with my mom.  While Mom and I shopped, Dad took the girls down to the ocean for some fun. 

Amy played with her camera!  Actually, most of the photos on this post are hers.  Being her mother gives me copyright privileges.

We visited the Statue of Liberty.

and enjoyed Grammy's scooter immensely.

We made our regular trip to our favorite violin shop to have Alie's bow re-haired and Elisabeth's clarinet fixed. Morey's Music, in Long Beach, is the best.  Even though we are know-nothing, non-professional low-lifes, they always treat us like we are their most important customers. Their service is top-notch.  Did you know Betsy is learning the clarinet?  She wanted something no one else in the family was playing.  In answer to my plea for free instruments, dear Carrie sent me her old clarinet from junior high band, still in nice condition.  How cool is that?  And Amy borrowed a trumpet from a friend for a week or two, just to see if she could play it.  Demo below.

We ladies got lost in an auto parts store, looking for red pin striping for Alison's violin students. Works great for marking the finger positions on the finger board!

Yet another trip to the library,

and more crafting by Amy.

Emily enjoyed a sundae.

And, I was faced with a very difficult decision. (I settled for Hershey's Bliss, Peanut Butter and Chocolate.) I think I am digging for my $1 off coupon here.  The bad thing about buying chocolate when you are not alone is that you have to share it. 

Now excuse me, while I go work on my March month-in-review post.  I don't want to be late again!

So teach us to number our days,
that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

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