Sunday, September 25, 2011

Great book finds!

Can you believe this entire lot of books cost me $2.32 at the Salvation Army? I originally posted on Facebook that it cost $2.57, but I had forgotten I'd spent a quarter on a little dinosaur toy for Neil, so it was even cheaper. Normally, I pay a dime for kid's books at the Salvation Army and hard covers are sometimes a quarter. They're having a sale right now, so they were even cheaper than usual. How great is that! I buy a lot of Little Golden Books because I collect them. Sometimes they're not in the best shape, but every now and then I get a first edition one that's a real find.

We already have a lot of the Great Illustrated Classics, so I was thrilled to find Frankenstein. I think I paid a quarter for that one, maybe less with the sale. My boys are interested in the Frankenstein story, but still way too young to read the original, so this will be an easier way to introduce it to them. They always peek around the corner when I watch the original film around Halloween every year. They're interested, but they don't like anything too scary. Maybe one of these days they'll watch it with me and realize how sad of a story it really is.

The other great find was Stanley's Christmas Adventure. We just read the original Flat Stanley in school last week for the second time. We're going to be taking part in a Flat Stanley exchange with another homeschool family, so the boys are excited about that. We've only read the original story, so I was thrilled to find one of the sequels. I also found one of Roald Dahl's books, George's Marvelous Medicine, which we didn't have, so that was cool.

How about you -- gotten any great book deals lately?

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Eye Update

Ewww -- an eyeball. Halloween is coming, so I thought I'd post a picture of my eye. Eyes are creepy and mine is no exception, especially right now. Thanks to everyone who has asked how my eye is. For those who missed what happened -- a little over a week ago I was helping Neil with an outside science experiment. I was documenting it with pictures and when I bent down to take a photo, a piece of grass poked me in the eye. When I came up, I had something like a hard foxtail stuck in my eye. I couldn't get it out, so I had to cover my eye and go inside. By the time I got to a mirror, the foxtail had wedged itself completely under the lid. After a few panic-stricken moments, I was able to get it out. It felt better, of course, so I didn't think I needed to have it looked at. Fast forward a week later and it was really starting to hurt, so I knew I had to do something.

I finally stopped being a baby and made an appointment with an eye doctor. It had been about seven years since my last eye exam, so I knew I was way over due. This was a medical visit though, so I'll have to go back for the exam later. Anyway, the doctor said my eye was pretty scratched up and he could see where the sticker-thing had poked through. He also saw two specks of seed material floating around. He got one out, which wasn't a pleasant experience. When he went back for the second one, he couldn't find it. I still feel something that seems to move from place to place, so I think it's still in there. He sent me home with two prescriptions -- some drops and an antibiotic ointment to use for a week. He also suggested I start taking fish oil supplements. That's something I wanted to do anyway, so this was just a good reason to start. What's one more tablet to the handful I already take?

I've been using the drops and ointment for about four days. Yesterday my eye was feeling pretty good, so I thought it was on the mend. People were asking about it, so I was telling them how much better it felt. Then of course, Murphy's Law struck and it started acting up again last night. Typical, huh? So, it goes from feeling okay to feeling irritated and scratchy again. I'll give it a week and then call to make another appointment to have it checked. I'm such a baby when it comes to my eyes. I'd honestly rather have a root canal than an eye exam. I've never liked anyone messing with my eyes. I felt like passing out when the doctor told me he was going to use the wooden part of a Q-tip to roll my eyelid back. Ack! That wasn't fun. The drops aren't fun either. I've never been able to put those dumb things in. I'm getting a little better, but not much. The ointment sucks and everything is cloudy when I get up in the morning.

So, I'll give it a week and see how it does. Hopefully, that second piece of seed will work its way out, if it is still in there. Then I'll have to go back for that dreaded eye exam. When I went in, he had me read from the chart and I totally flubbed that up. He said to read the smallest letters I could see, so I started with the third line. Bad choice. I went back up to the first line, but even messed that up. My eyesight is shot. The doctor said I have Dry Eye Syndrome, so that's why he suggested the fish oil supplements. He also said I don't tear up the right way and when I do, it's not normal -- whatever the heck that means. To make a long story longer, I have a lot of issues going on in addition to the eye injury, so I think this is just the start of many eye exams and treatments. Oh joy ... lucky me.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Where's my island?

Do you ever feel like like you're living on the Island of Misfit Toys? So, let's see here ... there was the Spotted Elephant, A Dolly for Sue, Bird Fish, a cowboy who rides an ostrich, a Charlie-in-the-Box, Trainer with his square wheels, a toy boat that sinks, a squirt gun that squirts grape jelly, an airplane that can't fly, and more. I guess we can't forget Rudolph,  Hermey the Elf, and Yukon Cornelius -- they're all misfits, too.

As a kid, I watched Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer every year at Christmas. Even when I was little, I could relate to the toys on this show. I never felt like I fit in anywhere -- not at school, not with kids at school, and not even in  my gymnastics class -- which I loved. Call me a killjoy, but I used to get irritated when the coach would stop to talk about make-up, rather than let us take our turn on the balance beam. My mom spent hundreds of dollars for me to take gymnastics -- not learn about lip gloss.

I recently joined an online message board and I completely feel like a misfit there. It's for a subject I know a lot about. You'd think I'd fit right in, but I don't. Maybe it's because there are so many members and I haven't gotten to know anyone. Or maybe it's because everyone has their own way of doing things and think their way is the only way. Or maybe it's because they're all super opinionated and can't find it in their hearts to be supportive and accepting of people who do things different than they do. I don't know. I'm no angel. I'm not perfect. But good grief ... I hope I'm not that bad. I've spent a lot of time there hoping to make some new friends and get encouragement, but it doesn't seem to be happening for me. Either I'm just like one of the Misfit Toys ... or they're inhabiting the whole damn island.

Okay, that's enough of my pity party for the day ... sorry.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Creepy Crawlies!

This picture of Neil was taken on Tuesday afternoon. Try to overlook his ripped sweatpants. I swear, my boy's pants all look like that. They flip out when I threaten to throw them away. They have nice clothes -- really, they do! Anyway, Tuesday was his first day doing science and there was an activity he wanted to do. The project was for him to take a jar and bury it in the ground, just at the level of the dirt, and leave it overnight. Then he was to check it a day later and see if any critters managed to get caught in the jar. Awhile back, my mother-in-law had given me some preschool paint jars that had plastic lids and an opening for a paint brush, so these worked perfect. It was like the Tunnel-O-Doom because nothing had a chance when it came to sliding down and trying to get out. So, we found an animal hole that looked like it had been abandoned and stuck the jar in that along with a little dirt, some grass, and leaves. I honestly didn't think much would be in the jar when we looked at it today. Boy, was I wrong!

It's hard to tell here, but the jar was FILLED with creepy, crawly critters! If you look on the right, there's a cricket. Click on the picture to make it larger -- he'll be looking right at you! The jar was bursting with life and everything was totally anxious for freedom. There were quite a few earwigs, some spiders, red ants, black ants, a millipede, the cricket, and quite a few bugs we couldn't identify. Neil poured the jar out onto a piece of construction paper and I tried to take as many pictures as I could before they all scattered away. The cricket was playing dead, but as soon as we backed away, he perked right up. Needless to say, it was a fun experiment for Neil. We can't do stuff like this just any old time because of snow, so I'm glad we've had such nice weather to do it. I couldn't believe all the critters that fell into the jar!

See this picture of the pencil? That sharp pointy thing got stuck in my eye yesterday. It happened right after I took some pictures of the jar buried in the ground. I wanted to document it for Neil through pictures, and as I bent down to take the last one, I didn't see a very long, tall piece of grass sticking straight up. It was like a foxtail and it went right into my eye. I struggled to get it out, but I couldn't, so I had to rush in the house. At first it seemed to be stuck IN my eye, but by the time I made it to the bathroom mirror, it had moved and was floating over my eyeball. It was hard and very sharp. I started to panic, but finally got it out. Talk about drama! A simple science experiment turned into a lesson in first aid. Eeek. Anyway, my eye felt better after I got it out and I didn't think there was any damage. Then it started bugging me more and when I looked I could see a little black circle in the white of my eye. I think the foxtail might have actually punctured it. Of course, I'm being a pain and haven't been to a doctor yet. If it's still bothering me tomorrow, I'll probably go in and have it checked out.

Then after school today, the boys and I (and Denny!) spent several hours out in the yard collecting more bugs. They had one jar literally filled with grasshoppers and another bursting with ants. They also managed to catch some damselflies, dragonflies, a butterfly, a housefly, and some other critters. I got lots of pictures for them along with some short video clips. It was definitely a creepy-crawly kind of day!

Monday, September 12, 2011

First Day of School ...

Today was our official first day of school for the 2011-2012 year. We had planned on starting the day after Labor Day, but something came up and we decided to hold off until today. I hate starting mid-week anyway, so it worked out better for me. The boys have been really excited about starting again and are looking forward to all the stuff I have planned this year. In addition to our regular academics, we're doing a little Spanish, some newsletter design, typing, poetry, and more. I've got a lot planned, so hopefully they can keep up with me. Or vice versa -- which ever comes first!

Below is a picture of our reading chart for the year. This year we're doing "Nuts for Squirrely". Every time the boys read a book, they write the title and their name on a paper acorn and glue it on the chart. By the end of the school year, I hope to see the tree filled with nuts as well as scattered on the ground. We do this every year. Last year we did "Mousies for Denny". The year before that we glued worms on a giant apple. We've done other things like leaves on trees, ants at a picnic, bones for our dogs, gumballs, pickles for Dilly, etc. It's a fun way to keep track of all the books the kids read each year. So anyway, we survived our first day, so all is well.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Trash to Treasures ...

Or maybe a better title would be -- Junk I Find At The Dump! I'm getting pretty bad about picking stuff up at the dump these days. I wouldn't say I'm a dumpster diver, by any means. I never go in the bins, but I see lots of people do that here. Some probably do it to find stuff to sell and make money. I'm sure others do it out of necessity. I'll never forget the story Rick told me about the family with two young girls who were digging around in the trash bins. One of them, a teen, was in the bin and held up a dirty top to see if it would fit her. How heartbreaking is that?

By dump, I mean a trash bin site, and not the county dump. We don't pay anyone to come pick up our trash. Instead, we take it to a trash site and it's then picked up and taken to the bigger dump. I just wanted to clarify that in case someone thought I was hanging around the county dump. I haven't gotten to that point yet -- ha ha! Now don't go giving me any ideas. After all, Christmas is coming!

A couple of weeks ago we were pulling out of the dump site when I spotted a coffee mug sitting on one of the bins. I told Rick to stop the car and of course, he grumbled and complained. I said, "I can use that to hold pens and pencils in." So, I got out of the car and walked over to it. Right underneath the mug was this black desk organizer. How weird was that? So, I picked that up along with the Santa mug and brought them back to the car. Rick grumbled again and said something about us not needing to go shopping anymore when we could just come to the dump. We were at Staples today and I saw the same black desk organizer for $10. Considering mine cost me nothing and looks brand new, I guess I got a bargain. It even spins!

We were there again today and there was this huge ceramic bunny. I told Rick, "Go get me the bunny!" but he would have nothing to do with it. How rude is that? So, I had to get out of the car and check the bunny out myself. It was a cookie jar, but the top had a broken part that was kind of sharp. It smelled funny too, so I decided to leave the bunny where it was. I came walking back with three porcelain Indian figurines and Rick goes, "What are you going to do with those?" I said I didn't know and stuck them in the back of the van. I just couldn't let those little Indians sit there in the dirt like that. That would have been terrible.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Almost ready ...

I finally got our classroom picked up and organized. Well, at least for this picture anyway. What you don't see is the big pile of junk sitting on the floor that I shoved out the door so I could take this picture. For the most part, it's picked up and ready to go. It's a big room and this picture only shows a portion of it. The boys and I sit at that round table mostly.

We were planning on starting school the day after Labor Day, but we had a little set back over the weekend and were called out of town. Since the rest of my book order didn't arrive until Tuesday, we decided to hold off and officially start next Monday. So, Monday it is -- better late than never.

I was bummed that some of our old computer programs won't work in our new system. I had wanted the boys to do these programs we had for Spanish and Bible. Sadly, they won't run on the computer we have now, so I'll have to come up with something else.

We're also going to be doing a monthly newsletter this year. I'll have the boys work on that each Friday. Then at the end of the month, we'll print up copies to mail to family and maybe a few friends that might be interested in what we're doing. That should be fun and will give the boys a chance to learn how to design a newsletter on the computer.

So, just a few more days and we'll be back in the swing of things!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Brutus the Bear

We stopped by the Montana Grizzly Encounter yesterday. This is a small bear exhibit just outside of Bozeman, Montana. These bears have been born in captivity, usually in very poor conditions, and can never be released in the wild. When we arrived yesterday, Sheena (below) was wandering around. Brutus (above) had just dug himself a hole in the dirt and was relaxing in the shade. It was in the high 80s and grizzlies don't like the heat, so Brutus wasn't about to budge from his nice, cool spot. At least we got to see Sheena walking around for a bit before she settled behind a rock herself.

The last time we were at this place was in 2005 when we were first looking at homes near Helena. I guess it was a fairly new exhibit back then because it only opened in 2004. I have a bunch of pictures of Sheena from that first visit as well. She's 25 years old and I think Brutus is only about 9 or so. If you've ever seen the show Expedition Wild, you might have seen Brutus before. He's on there a lot with the founder of the Montana Grizzly Encounter, Casey Anderson. I was hoping Casey might be hanging around yesterday, but he wasn't. The girl in charge said Casey and Brutus are about to start filming new episodes soon. She said Brutus gets really excited when he hears Casey's truck because he loves going for rides. I don't want much television, but I might have to start watching this show.

Friday, September 2, 2011

My Boys ...

I took some pictures of Neil & Nathan yesterday. They turned out okay considering they're just snapshots. The sun was bright and the boys had a hard time keeping their eyes open for the short time we were out there. I'm debating whether to take some more using a fill flash or if these will be good enough for the year. I gave up a long time ago paying for professional portraits. I'm such a cheapskate. At least they had just gotten their hair cut, so they don't look as scruffy as they usually do.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

With sadness ...

I just found out that a long-time friend of my family has passed away. This picture shows me with Betsi right after Rick and I got married. Betsi did the flowers for our wedding in 1988. Apparently, ours was the first wedding she ever did. She said she had been so nervous at the time. I remember taking this picture because the photographer said something and Besti replied, "Now I'm gonna cry!" Someone caught this snapshot just as she said that. Betsi did a beautiful job with our flowers. I still have a box of pearl-topped floral pins in my sewing box that she stuck in the centers of the little white flowers of my bridal bouquet.  They'll be bittersweet to see now.

I wasn't super close to Betsi, but my sister was. I've known their family since I was about five. Her mother lived right behind us and her father lived in another house fairly close by. Betsi and her sister, Francie kind of went back and forth between houses. My sister was good friends with them and I was the "tag-long" mostly. I'm sure they hated me being there, but some of my fondest memories of being a kid was hanging out with them. They used to skip school and go to Carrows for coffee. Sometimes I'd go with them. I can still taste the coffee with all the cream & sugar I'd add to it. It was because of them that I started drinking coffee at such an early age. I also remember going to the bowling alley with them and eating these great, big cinnamon rolls. We'd slather them with butter before eating them. Odd, but good.

Over the years I lost touch with Betsi until last summer when we reconnected on Facebook. She'd see the old pictures I'd post of myself as a little kid and say, "Now THAT's the Rena I remember!" It's funny how your mind sticks with a certain image of a person no matter how many years go by. After hooking up with Betsi on Facebook, I was pleased to see she was so set in her faith. I never knew her to be religious growing up, so I was happy to see how comfortable she was talking about what was important to her now as an adult. Like I said, we weren't super close, so I didn't know she was sick until just a few months ago. I had no idea how poor her health really was. Betsi will be missed by many, many people, myself included.