The most requested thing for dinner around here? Noodles. With butter.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Math Help

Today was kiddo's first day of school. My first day will be next week. In honor of the new school year, I thought maybe some of you might want some internet sites to help your student(s) with some of their math.

Not all of these sites will help all levels of math, and some sites are more appealing to parents and teachers than to kids... it's just a menu... pick and choose...

FREE SITES Elementary level. Timed skills practice. Keeps track of progress. (Abby likes it.) Elem/Middle level. Good games for many subjects- not just math. Grades 3 - 8 THE BEST SITE for problem solving and visual thinking. You will enjoy working through the problems with your kids. Elem/Middle level. Lots of math games.

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives Parents should get familiar with this site- especially if they homeschool. Lots of different math activities. You DO NOT have to download or purchase- you can use it straight from the site. and Good explanations of math topics from fractions to algebra and beyond- even finance. Lots of links and games. Hundreds of thousands of videos with all levels of math explanations. Some are excellent, some are dismal. Parents might want to weed through to see what is useful. Instructional videos on many topics.

SUBSCRIPTION SITES Pre-K to Algebra. First 20 problems per day are free. Subscription gives access to hundreds of practice problems by grade level and state standards. Well worth the price. Keeps track of progress, good communication with parents. Grades 1- 10. (I have no personal experience with this program, but it appears valid and has three different levels of subscription.)

Of course, you can do an internet search and see how many other sites will help you with your math, but these are good starting places- especially if you don't have a lot of time to spend searching.

Best wishes to you for an excellent school year!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

THE TRIP- part 4

All the places we went this summer... all in the pink or red zones on the weather channel right now. All have extreme or high risk of high winds and/or flooding. Gettysburg and Hershey might be far enough from the coast, but everything else will feel the effects of Hurricane Irene.

Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, and Yorktown are closed for the weekend.

Washington, D.C. has battened down the hatches. The Washington Monument is closed indefinitely due to cracks caused by the recent earthquake. I hope it doesn't topple in the winds.

My brother and his family have secured the lawn furniture, stocked up on batteries, gas, sandbags, and canned goods, and plan to hunker down tonight.

Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York, Plymouth, Boston, Portland, Bangor... It's going to be interesting.

I can hardly tear myself away from the weather channel, even though they show the same generic, non-relevant video clips over and over and over... You know- the one with the lady who has a brace on one wrist and she's reaching into her shopping cart to put her bags and bags of supplies in the car. Nothing in that clip tells you what to purchase for a storm. Nothing in that clip identifies it as specific to this storm, and yet they keep showing it over and over and over and I think I saw it 27 times yesterday and I only watched the weather channel for a little over an hour! That lady is famous. (Ooooooh- I just realized that today they might have guys with microphones standing in the surf wearing blue parkas with the weather channel logo! That will be good viewing.)

Anyway, I'll get more trip photos to you soon.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Project Before and After- Chairs

I like to have rolling stools for the computer stations in my classroom. It's easier for the kids to push rolling stools under the counter than to push in regular chairs. Once the stools are all under the counter, it gives my classroom a cleaner, less cluttered look.

Last summer, I went on craigslist and asked for inexpensive rolling office chairs- I didn't even care if the backs were functioning, I basically wanted a seat and good wheels. I got three of these for $10, and the fourth one just showed up in my classroom one day. I didn't have time or money to do anything other than dust them off, but this year I decided to spiff them up a bit. I took off all the seats, sprayed them liberally with Lysol, waited for them to dry, and covered them with gray vinyl. I removed the dust covers on the bottoms, and put them back on after I stapled on the vinyl, but I didn't remove the old fabric. I guess I didn't really want to see how disgusting the foam might be...
The metal bases got a good cleaning and a solid coat of gray primer before I sprayed on two coats of the metallic blue. For the most part, the painting went very well, but occasionally a wrinkle appeared in the paint. So I had to sand out the wrinkles before putting on the last coat of blue. I hate it when paint does that, because I hate sanding. The weird thing is there was no rhyme nor reason to the wrinkles- they were just random. Argh.

Here are the finished beauties in my classroom- just waiting for new 6th grade butts to support:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

THE TRIP- part 3

Days 6 & 7, July 14, 15 Washington DC

Did you know that Ford's Theater is part of the National Park Service? Yup. The people who work there are park rangers. Seems like the least out-doorsy job for a park ranger...
When you visit Ford's Theater, you are first directed downstairs to the museum which houses great information and artifacts connected to the Civil War and Lincoln assassination.
After you have spent time there, you may go through the back hallway (where Booth went on his deadly deed), and up to the audience section of the theater.
From there, you can see the President's box and the stage where Booth landed after he shouted, "Sic semper tyrannis" and jumped out of the box.
At designated times, a park ranger will come out on stage and give a description of the night of the assassination. These rangers are very well versed in the events of that fateful night, and their talks always leave me with a chill down my spine. I've heard the talk about a dozen times, from about a dozen rangers- and each one is a master storyteller. (That's the kind of park ranger I would want to be- an indoor one.)

After you see and hear what Ford's Theater has to offer, you can go across the street to the Petersen House.
This is where the men carried President Lincoln after he was shot. They laid him on a bed in the back bedroom, and somewhere, in some museum display, is the pillowcase with his blood on it. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see the Petersen House this time in DC because it was being renovated. The part of the street that is between Ford's Theater and the Petersen House is usually paved with red brick- a symbol of the Lincoln's red blood that dripped across the street. Since they are working on the Petersen House, it looks like they might be doing something with the red brick as well.
Ford's Theater is a must-see if you ever get to visit our nation's capitol.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Our dog now has a conscience

Our dog now has a conscience- thanks to 4 weeks of dog obedience boot camp and the miracle of modern technology (also known as remote control zap collar).

I know, I know... how could I zap such a cute little thing? He's so A-DO-WA-BLE, how could he be any trouble at all?
Yeah. That cute little thing had a Napoleon complex bigger than Alaska. He has bitten people- innocent little kids, neighbors with dogs, a sister-in-law... He is 13 pounds of strong-willed Schoodle, and quite a force to be reckoned with.

So we boarded him with a trainer while we were on THE TRIP. She figured him out in about two seconds and showed him who was boss by laying him on his side in a submissive pose. He did NOT like that, and fought her tooth and nail. After about 30 minutes, he relaxed enough for her to take her hands off of him, but he was still not happy.

At the end of his time in boot camp, he was a changed dog. He now heels while walking on leash. He rarely jumps up to greet us any more. He can go outside with me without being on a leash and he doesn't run away. On the rare occasion I have had to zap him, he comes back to my side and looks to me for instructions. We still have a long way to go before the training is fully cemented in the dog's mind, but for now, it's just nice to know that he knows who is boss. It's actually rather refreshing and it got me thinking how the small shock is a little like a person's conscience.

The shock alerts the dog that he is doing something that is not right. Our conscience should do the same thing.
The shock causes the dog to stop the bad behavior. Our conscience should do the same thing.
The shock brings the dog back to his master's side. Does our conscience bring us back to God? Do we confess, repent, and look to Him for further instructions?

If the dog doesn't respond to the shock at level 15, the trainer told us to dial it up in intensity. Makes me wonder if our conscience does the same thing. I guess it pays to heed it the first time around...

Friday, August 12, 2011

Good stuff for traveling

I love it when I find the exact right thing for doing whatever it is I am doing. It's like finding the piece of the jigsaw that has eluded so many for so long- the endorphins fire away in my brain and all is right with the world.

Last spring, I found the exact right shoes for THE TRIP. It is hard for me to find shoes that are even close to right, but exact right is cause for celebration. Exact right that costs less than $100 is an endorphin and wallet Mardi Gras.

The criteria:
- Must be adjustable. I have a narrow heel, and I don't want to step out of the shoe.
- Must have arch support. I have plantar fasciitis.
- Must have both support AND cushioning in the heel. Again- plantar fasciitis.
- Must slip off quickly and easily for airport security screening.
- Must fasten quickly and easily after airport screening.
- Must feel good on bare feet. (who wants to pack socks for a 22-day summer vacation?)
- Must be a color that works with the rest of the planned wardrobe.
- Must have toe protection, but also open enough to breathe.
- Must be lightweight and easy to clean.

The exact right?
Women's Dozer III by Teva. I chose the Walnut color. Ordered them online without even trying them on in a store first. They fit perfectly. They felt good. And, they stood up to everything I threw at them, from museums to memorials to musicals and more!

I heart my Tevas.

Monday, August 8, 2011

THE TRIP- part 2

Day 3: July 11 Jamestown, Virginia (about 95 degrees and very humid.)
In 1607, 13 years before the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts, a group of 104 Englishmen made a 5 month voyage to the banks of the James River to form a settlement in Virginia.
The site where they landed is now called Historic Jamestowne and is still used as an archeological dig site.
There are some foundations of original buildings, part of the church where Pocahontas married John Rolfe is still standing, and there's a really cool museum with tons of artifacts found on site.
Down the road from the landing site is a glasshouse which sits near the ruins of the original glasshouse.
Glass making was one of the early attempts at manufacturing in America. It didn't produce the profits they hoped for, but this re-creation gives us a good glimpse into the process.
They sell what they produce here- even ship it home for you if you want.
A bit farther down the road is the Jamestown Settlement. This is a visitors center with a museum, cafe and gift shop.
Outside is a re-created Indian Village, replica ships , and fort.
This is where we started our day and spent the most time.

Day 4: July 12 Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. (Topped out at 100 degrees. Have I mentioned that it is humid?)
After the introductory movie at the Visitors Center (Story of a Patriot starring Jack Lord, 1957), we crossed a bridge into the farm at Colonial Williamsburg. We saw tobacco and corn growing, heard the stories of slaves on the farm, and looked at the animals.
Then we walked into town to tour the Governor's Palace.
Got some cold lemonade and proceeded to the main street of the town.
We saw Bruton Parish Church- many of our founding fathers attended there.
We visited the magazine where the guns and powder were kept,
got in trouble near the courthouse,
checked into many businesses along the way,
and stopped for a bite at Shield's Tavern before going to the Capitol Building- also known as the House of Burgesses.
After that tour, we saw the jail (spelled gaol in those days) and the apothocary shop.

We ended our time at Merchants Square where the Christmas Shop is always a big hit.

Day 5: July 13 Yorktown, Virginia. (Cooler than yesterday- only 96. But still humid...)
Yorktown is the site of the final major battle of the Revolutionary War. We spent time in the Victory Center museum, re-created camp site, colonial farm, the battlefield museum, and the actual battlefield itself.
There are lots of things for kids to participate in here- from dress-up to gun demonstrations.
They had fun running around the battlefield
and then we went to lunch and headed north to our next destination- the Washington DC area.

More later.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

THE TRIP- part 1

Day 1: July 9- Travel.
Yup. It takes about a day to get to the east coast. Partly because of the time change, and partly because the airlines don't believe in direct flights any more. They want us to spend money at other airports, so they give us a tour.
We got into Baltimore around 11pm, got the rental car (I heart Enterprise) and headed two blocks away to our motel.

Day 2: July 10- Richmond, Virginia. (Mid 90s and humid beyond belief.)
Richmond has a TON of history, so we had to pick and choose what to see on this trip and not overload our brains. We started at historic St. Johns Church which is the location of the famous Patrick Henry speech that ended with, "give me liberty, or give me death!" It is a functioning Episcopal church, but we were too jet-lagged to get up early enough to get to the service. We aimed instead for the Sunday afternoon re-enactment of the colonist meeting that brought the emotional Mr. Henry to his dramatic conclusion.
After all the observers were seated in the church, 6 or 7 costumed interpreters walked in. Some sat in the front, others sat amongst the observers. We were not allowed to video or photograph once the "meeting" began, but we got shots of them afterward.
The meeting was fascinating. Listening to our founding fathers discuss the issues of the day really put us in the moment. The King and Parliament were truly being unreasonable. What were they to do about it? And what of the activity in Boston? Did the Tea Party help or hinder their discussion with Britain?
I got chills listening to the whole of Patrick Henry's speech. I am pretty sure I was in agreement with him the entire time until he got the the "death" part. (Death? Really? Couldn't I just go hide in the hinterlands somewhere until all of this blows over? I promise I won't be in the way...)

The church is set on the highest point in Richmond, and right smack dab in a cemetery.
Oops- I should say graveyard. A graveyard is a burial ground within church grounds, a cemetery has no church. We saw graves of many famous people- Edgar Allen Poe's mother is buried here, as is George Wythe- a signer of the Declaration of Independence. (His death was under some suspicious circumstances- and his murderer was not prosecuted because the only witness was a slave and slaves could not testify!)
Even where you see no headstone, there's a grave under your feet. There is no room to bury here any more- the last burial was in the 1970s.

At the gift shop, I bought a book titled Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, A Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy. It's about a woman from Richmond whose family owned slaves, but she grew to see slavery as the evil that it is, so she worked from inside Richmond to help free slaves and to get messages to the Union during the war. I'm only about half-way through but it is fascinating. I love getting books when I travel- they are the best souvenirs.

After the church, we grabbed a bite at McD's and then went to see the Confederate White House and the Museum of the Confederacy.
There were tons of artifacts in the museum, and it was good to see the kids take such an interest- even if it was the museum of the losers.

That evening, we drove about an hour to Williamsburg, where we stayed for 3 days.
The girls had the hotel pool all to themselves and we unpacked and made ready to tackle Jamestown in the morning...

More later.