Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March 28, 2012

My mom has decided she is not ready to leave her house yet and she moved back yesterday.  I can certainly understand where she is coming from.  She was completely dependent on us to go anywhere and I think that was hard for her.  I was sad to see her leave but I totally understand.  I would guess she may come for a few days to visit here and there, when my brother or sister are busy or out of town or something like that. It helps knowing that my brother is now living with her so she is no longer alone.

The boys are both doing very well.  We are ahead of schedule in school and the boys are both doing great with it.

We are really enjoying our history and science lessons these days.  We have started doing them in the mornings, before our break, as we do a better job on these subjects then.  We are now using Story of the World (SOTW) as our main history book (or 'spine', as the homeschooling community refers to it).  We use the SOTW Activity Guide for doing our comprehension questions after we read the text and also for the map work.  The Activity Guide provides a coloring page and the boys enjoy coloring while I read.  I keep a list of library books recommended from SOTW and also from Tapestry of Grace (TOG) and I order them ahead of time.  We read as many of these as we have time for and find interesting also.  We choose a project from either SOTW or TOG and do them here and there along the way, not every week because we also do projects or experiments in science, but when we have time.

In science we just finished studying a section on our solar system.  I purchased a set of Styrofoam planets, sun and rings from a local store and we spent a day painting them, using pictures from this wonderful planets book we have as models.  After they dried, we hung them down the long hallway upstairs, using a guide for an approximate scale to determine how many inches or feet each would be from the sun.  The boys had so much fun with this.  They especially enjoyed the first half hour or so of the painting (and then it was up to me to finish it, although Ben actually helped most of the time) and they really enjoyed measuring the distance from the sun for each planet and double checking it to what I had written on my list.   It is not perfect but it is good enough that both boys were totally impressed at how far away from the sun many of the planets are.  They also seemed to take personal exception about the decision of Pluto no longer being a planet.  Neither of them are willing to accept that at this point and they have some pretty strong feelings about it.  It was actually kind of funny.

All of our other subjects are going just fine.  Right now I believe history/science and spelling are their favorites.  They also enjoy doing narrations, where I read to them, ask them questions and then have them tell me something they remember about what I read.  Ben loves practicing his cursive.  Nick does not love it but he does an excellent job.  I recently picked up a 5th grade reader so they are practicing reading from that aloud to me 1 to 3 times per week or so and they are doing very well with it.  We only have one final chapter in our phonics book and it is a short chapter for learning to read very long, multiple syllable words.  They had some of these in past chapters but the last chapter goes on to include even silly ones, like su-per-cal-i-fra-gi-lis-tic-ex-pi-al-i-do-tious....(spelling? - you know, from Mary Poppins).  That is the very last word they read in the phonics book.  We will get to that last chapter eventually but I'm not too concerned about it because we will also be covering multiple syllable words in spelling.

Well, our quiet time is over so I need to sign off an fix lunch.  Hope you are having a great day.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March 12, 2012

We are back from our vacation.  We drove from Oklahoma to Houston and spent three days visiting friends and enjoying the museums and restaurants in Houston.  We were also able to attend church at Second Baptist Church in Houston, which is where the husband and I met and where I went to church for many years.  It was so nice to be back and to hear Dr. Young again.  I really enjoyed it and it was nice to take our sons to church there.

On Sunday we drove to Galveston and caught our seven day cruise on the Carnival Magic.  Our first two days were spent at sea.  The weather was a bit chilly, overcast and windy on the first day.  The boys went to Camp Carnival for 2 hours in the morning and they enjoyed it a lot.  I can't remember what we did in the afternoon that day but I think we may have played foosball, putt putt golf, pool and ping pong.  The ropes course was closed because of high winds and it was too chilly to use the water slides / water park area  and pools.  The second day was a bit warmer but still a little chilly, windy and overcast.  The boys went to Camp Carnival for two hours again in the morning and spent the afternoon playing in the large hot tubs.  We probably played putt putt golf again later too.

We spent the third day in Jamaica at an all inclusive resort that had huge swimming pools, water volley ball, water slides, and a river area where one could ride large inner tubes around.  They also had a beach, beach volley ball, kayaks, lots of other water sports plus all the food you could eat.  Unfortunately it rained off and on but that did not seem to slow us down a bit and it cleared up after a couple of hours.

We spent the fourth day on the island of Grand Cayman, which was beautiful.  We took a boat out to a reef for snorkeling.  These boat guys also fed the sting rays on a regular basis so they were swimming all around and people could pet them and feed them.  It was a beautiful day but it was very windy so the water was a bit rough.  We all had a good time anyway though.  The water was amazingly clear and beautiful here.

We spent the fifth day at Cozumel, Mexico, where the water was just as clear and beautiful as Grand Cayman.  We took a cab to a nearby beach which had lots of amenities and we spent the day there.  It was my favorite day, by far.  It was a perfectly beautiful day and a perfectly beautiful beach.  We all had a wonderful, relaxing time.  The boys really loved playing on the beach and in the ocean so much, it was sad to leave.

Our sixth day was a ship day and was again somewhat overcast and misty at times.  The boys were looking forward to going back to Camp Carnival and spent two hours there in the morning and another 2 or 3 hours in the afternoon.  The husband and I spent that time together, enjoying each others company, visiting, reading and also going through a book that we are reading together.  It was a really great, relaxing day and we all, once again, enjoyed ourselves.  We spent that afternoon making sure everyone had a shower (the shower on the ship was surprisingly really good, albeit small) and packing.  We arrived back in Galveston early on Sunday morning and were in our car, heading for home by around 8:00 or 8:30am.

Every day we had all three meals together and did less snacking between meals than we normally do because we were so busy.  There were lots of places to choose from for eating.  Some of the places were only open during certain times of the day and others were open 24 hours a day.  You could choose between a buffet type of help-yourself meal or a sit down and be served meal.  They had soft ice cream and yogurt available with cones or cups 24 hours a day (chocolate, strawberry and vanilla).  I think I had a small one about 2 or 3 times a day:).  You could choose what type of dinner program you wanted.  We had dinner at the same restaurant every evening.  The food was awesome; the desserts were awesome also.  Every evening except two, we had the same waiter and he was so friendly and sweet.  We loved him too and were sad to say goodbye to him and also to our steward.  Our steward took care of our room and he was so friendly also.  When we went to dinner, he prepared our room for sleep by lowering the boys' beds (they were in the ceiling) and leaving us a very cute animal made from towels every night.  He was really good at creating the towel animals.

Before we went, I was concerned our room would be too small and confining.  It was actually perfect for us and I did not have one complaint about our accommodations at all.  The boys loved their bunk beds and, even when they were down, we still had plenty of room to move about.  All of our beds were comfortable and very roomy.  Before we went, I had read that if we were going to use the bunk beds, then our bed had to be separated into two twin beds.  We found this not to be true.  Our bed was two twin beds put together but they were very comfortable and roomy and it seemed more like a king than anything.  We had small night stands on either side of our bed, each with a small reading lamp.  We would all watch a little television together and each read our own books before we fell asleep at night.  The rooms were very well insulated and we never heard our neighbors at all.  We sometimes heard people in the hallways but I was never awakened by them.  Our bathrooms were also very well insulated.  Both the bedroom and the bathroom were far better insulated than any hotel I have ever stayed in, and I have stayed in some pretty nice hotels back in the day when I traveled a lot for work.  So, overall, I give our room an A+, which was quite a nice surprise.  Also, I loved that we got to go to three different stops and enjoy each one, but we never had to pack and unpack.  And our room also had plenty of drawer and closet space so we were able to unpack everything when we first got to our room and put our suitcases under our bed, not to be seen or needed again until we were ready to repack at the end of our cruise.

The only real downsides I found about taking this cruise was that the main attraction for adult entertainment was gambling, drinking/partying and some sometimes R rated comedy shows.  They had some other shows too but we were usually tired by the time we finished with dinner and our sons normally go to sleep around 8:30ish.  I was very surprised that the cruise line offered child care for even babies until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning.  Camp Carnival was during the day, from 10:00 to noon and then from 1:00 to 4:00, or something like that, and it was free.  Additional child care was provided after dinner and it was pay-by-the-hour. 

There were also a surprising number of smokers on the ship, although they were only allowed to smoke in certain areas.  It was still sometimes annoying when we were sitting outside and someone was smoking nearby.  Sometimes I got tired of the number of people that were constantly about, but one could go to their room to get away and if you looked hard enough you could likely find a spot in a corner where you could recline in peace, watch the beautiful view of the ocean and read or just relax.  You had to be patient when getting off the ship on shore days but the lines moved pretty quickly.  I never felt sea sick at all and actually enjoyed the slight rocking of the ship during the windy times.  It was never very bad, although there were times when you had to hold on to something if you were up walking around.

Overall I found the cruise to be a great vacation.  I loved not having to worry or even think about what anyone was going to have to eat for any meal and it was nice that most of the food was included in the price we paid for the cruise.  The only meals not included were when we had lunch at the three stops.  Every other meal/snack was included.  I loved not having to pack and unpack at every stop and we had tons of amenities on board the ship.  I also loved the relaxing nature of a cruise and that pretty much everyone was in a great, happy mood and most of the crew were very friendly, fun and helpful.  Most of the guests were also very friendly and ready to visit during wait times.  The other thing I really liked was that everyone was disconnected from the Internet and phones.  You could get on the Internet for a fee but we never did.  We had a television in our room but it received limited channels, although it did get CNN, some movie channels, Discovery, ABC, CBS, NBC, and one or two cartoon channels. It also had a map channel that showed where the ship was and gave the temperature and there was a channel that showed a real-time camera view from the front of the ship.

 I would definitely do a cruise again and I suspect the second time would be even better than the first because you learn a lot the first time around.  When we were at dinner on the last night of the cruise, some of the waiters/waitresses put on a little show for us and sang a goodbye song to us (to the tune of Leaving on a Jet Plane).  It was very cute and funny and made us a bit sad that it was our last night.  Ben, who had mentioned several times that he was homesick and that he missed his Legos, even started crying that last night at dinner.  He was kind of smiling and crying at the same time.  It was very sweet and it was how I felt too.  We were all very ready to go home but we were all a little sad to be leaving too.

Yesterday we spent most of the day driving back home and today was laundry day for me.  The boys spent the day playing all the stuff they missed playing while we were gone.  Tomorrow we will start back with a bit of school and work towards ramping up to a full/normal school day by week end.

The husband continues to work on getting his practice off the ground and also looking for another job he can do while his practice ramps up.  By week end, life should be back to normal around here:).  And we came home to absolutely beautiful weather.  It is in the mid-seventies here today and is suppose to be in the 80's tomorrow.

Oh, and we went off and forgot our camera in our car.  We bought two disposable cameras on the ship so we have very limited pictures.  I think when we get them developed we will try to have the pics put on a CD so hopefully I will eventually be able to post some pics.

Hope you all had/have a nice week!