Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Kids Are Growing Up.

Both kids told me today that they are going to use their own bathroom from now on. They've both showered in their bathroom and now they have moved their face wash, moisturizer, toothbrushes and pastes into their bathroom.

I thought I was dying for the day to come when Marc and I would have our bathroom to ourselves, but now I find myself all sad. They are growing up. These baby steps towards independence are so bitter sweet.

The last laugh is on me.

A few weeks ago, a homeschooling buddy, Deva was mocking the Snuggie. I wholeheartedly joined in. I've been tickled by this strange product ever since. I should have known that it would be a successful product when Ben asked for one. He thought it was the most perfect product he'd ever seen.

You have to love a company that gives you the code to publish their ads on your web page.

Advertising Age reports:
The Snuggie blanket launched nationally on direct-response TV in October, just as the economy was slowing to a crawl, so the timing seemingly couldn't have been worse. However, it turns out the timing couldn't have been better.

The quirky little blanket with sleeves has become the raiment of the zeitgeist, with more than 4 million units sold in just over three months and more than 200 parody videos on YouTube. Fox News honed in on a woman wearing a Snuggie as she braved the cold attending Barack Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20, five days after Ellen DeGeneres donned one on her daytime talk show.

With 4 million of the blankets already shipped or on order, or just under $40 million in retail sales, Scott Boilen, president of Allstar Marketing Group, Hawthorne, N.Y., is laughing all the way to the bank. The company behind the Snuggie is moving the blankets out the door as fast as it can get Chinese suppliers to crank them out.

Great bright hope to end battle of the light bulbs

A story in the Mail Online is one of the most heartening stories I have read for ages. I would never have dreamed 2 years ago that light bulbs would be a subject near and dear to my heart.

I totally detest those energy efficient fluorescent ones. I struggle enough coping with light because of my frozen left pupil without having to deal with the nauseating and headache inducing flicker and color.
A lighting revolution is on the way that could end at the flick of a switch the battle between supporters of conventional bulbs and the eco-friendly variety.

Cambridge University researchers have developed cheap, light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs that produce brilliant light but use very little electricity. They will cost £2 and last up to 60 years.

Despite being smaller than a penny, they are 12 times more efficient than conventional tungsten bulbs and three times more efficient than the unpopular fluorescent low-energy versions.

The bulbs fully illuminate instantly, unlike the current generation of eco-bulbs.

It is reckoned the bulbs, which were unveiled yesterday, could slash household lighting bills by three-quarters.

If installed in every home and office, they could cut the proportion of electricity used for lights from 20 per cent to 5 per cent a year. As well as lasting 100,000 hours, ten times as long as today's eco-bulbs, the LED bulbs do not contain mercury, so disposal is less damaging to the environment, and they do not flicker - a problem that has been blamed for migraines and epileptic fits.

I can't wait for them to reach the market in the US.

Mercury in corn syrup? Food made with ingredient may have traces of toxic metal

The Sun Sentinel has this story.
A swig of soda or a bite of a candy bar might be sweet, but a new study suggests that food made with corn syrup also could be delivering tiny doses of toxic mercury.

For the first time, researchers say they have detected traces of the silvery metal in samples of high-fructose corn syrup, a widely used sweetener that has replaced sugar in many processed foods. The study was published Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health.

Eating high-mercury fish is the chief source of exposure for most people. The new study raises concerns about a previously unknown dietary source of mercury, which has been linked to learning disabilities in children and heart disease in adults.

The source of the metal appears to be caustic soda and hydrochloric acid, which manufacturers of corn syrup use to help convert corn kernels into the food additive.

This is not a definitive study as the sample size was small (20 samples with 9 positive), however, it is yet another reason to avoid corn syrup like the plague. This is one of the few food stuffs that I am a total fanatic about. If we see it listed as an ingredient, we don't eat the product.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Homeschool Showcase is up!

Kris of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers has just published the latest edition of The Homeschool Showcase (formerly the Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers.

I loved this carnival but two posts in particular made it really worthwhile to me.

Jenny Wren's Nest post on how shemade homemade soaps with her daughter gave me great inspiration. This is a craft that Shira would adore. I can't wait to get to Michael's to purchase the necessary materials.

The other post was by fellow Objectivist, Michael Gold. Michael is one of the few educators in the States who is reintroducing reason and logic into education. Others are Scott Powell from History at Our House and Lisa Van Damme from The Van Damme Academy.

Michael talks about Educational Regifting i.e. marketing spin by educational facilities on what is basically a case of The Emperor's New clothes in education.

Getting back to the educators I mentioned a paragraph ago, if we lived in or near Laguna Hills, CA, I would have given serious thought to sending Ben and Shira to school outside of the home. The Van Damme Academy is the only school I have ever considered for my children, but the commute would be too great from Virginia.

My kids and I learn history from Scott Powell from History at Our House. Before he went solo he taught at The Van Damme Academy.

I am not able to say enough good things about Scott's teaching abilities. Marc, my husband, who is no mean teacher himself, said that he likes to listen to Scott's history lectures to re-energize himself and to remind himself of how a truly great lecturer teaches.

Scott is passionate about his subject and imparts that passion to his students. His history program is so much more than Wise Bauer's Story of the World. Rather than just telling a story, he draws connections for the children, helps them understand why they are learning what they are learning and shows them how the great story of history impacts on their lives today. Better still, the only work it requires from me is for me to download the MP3's, to listen to them with my children and to do test prep with them. I don't have to rush around finding tons of reference books, setting up crafts or even digesting material before teaching it. Scott does all that for me in 3, half hour lessons a week. As a historian and gifted teacher, he is far more able to teach history than I am.

While his history course is outstanding, the true gem for me is his "History Through Art" program that you get when you sign up for his history lessons. I have no background in art appreciation and feel the lack most deeply. I feel that I am receiving the education I so sadly lack by sitting in on the lessons with my children. During one half hour a week, we look at a beautiful piece of art and learn how to truly look at and appreciate it.

One of the perks of homeschooling, is that I get to choose the best ways to educate my children. I fully understand that I am not their best teacher in al subjects, but that I am the best facilitator that they will ever have.

My goal is to have my children taught by the best people I can find in each field of study (sometimes that's me, but often it is someone else). Right now they are taught history by Scott Powell, art by a professional artist and art teacher, Lee Gerry Wertheimer, literature by my dear friend, Lydia who has a masters in English literature and who taught at the university level and chess by Coach Kala Dawson from Championship Chess. I teach the rest of the subjects because, for now, I consider myself their best teacher.

However, I am eagerly awaiting the release of David Harriman's elementary school science program. I hope that it will be MP3, video or live internet based. I want my children to learn science within a historical context with connections being drawn between concepts. Kim from Kim's Play Space, is doing a science class in her area that looks really good. I wish that we could attend it.

I can foresee a time when I may hand over the math to Michael. Even though I did three years of math at university, I suspect that once we get to calculus, that I will probably prefer to have someone else teaching my kids. My two appear to really enjoy math. The other day they told me that they want to start 6th grade math in September. This means that we need to finish the rest of 4th grade and the whole of 5th grade in 7 months. I think it is doable. These kids are so competitive. I mentioned in passing that their friend Benny, who is a grade ahead of them, is doing 6th grade math. That's all they needed to hear. Now they want to do math the entire summer so that when they are in 3rd grade, they too will be doing 6th grade math. Oy, vey, the genes of the parents are alive and well in these kids.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dog Trainers

My dogs are expert trainers, they have me trained to perfection.

We tried to train the dogs to ring a bell when they need to go to the potty. Archie is not interested in bells, but Hershey loves them. She's discovered that if she rings the bell a human, generally mommy or Shira will open the door for her. Then she discovered if she body slams the back door, a human will let her come back inside. Some days this dog rings the bell every 10 min or so. You can see her little doggie brain working, "got to practice with these humans so they don't forget. Let's see if it will work this time".

Archie has decided that the only way to be fed is from my hand. He will sit and look at the food in his bowl and then look at me. I move the bowl to him and he ignores it. I put a put a little bit of food on my hand and he gobbles it up. I then give him the food in the bowl and he ignores it. Will only eat his food if it comes from my hand.

I created this feeding problem when he was ill. Archie and Hershey were victims of dehydrated Chinese chicken. Thankfully an on the ball animal nutritionist told me that their anorexia and vomiting was probably as a result of the Chinese chicken. I was at my wits' end. The dogs had gone almost two weeks refusing all food except the odd chicken treat. I tried food after food, I sat them on my lap and tried to coax them into eating. Nothing worked. Then we found out about the chicken and small dogs. I stopped treats on Tuesday and slowly but surely the dogs have been improving. Archie discovered that he rather liked sitting on my lap and being hand fed so now he expects it.

My Saturday

Ben has a playdate this morning and we weren't successful in arranging one for Shira. Ben has big plans for "boy" play today and Shira has no real interest in it. She asked if we couldn't have a "mommy and Shira" day.

I LOVE days where I do things with just one child. They are so different on their own. Shira, in particular, is far more vocal when she doesn't have Ben around.

Here is what she has planned for us.

She wants to paint my hands. Yesterday we received our first edition of Ask Magazine. Cricket Magazine Publishing bills it as a magazine of arts and sciences for kids. This edition of Ask has a feature on Guido Daniele's hand paintings. (You have to follow the link to see his hand paintings.). Wish me luck. LOL.

Then she wants to bake. We can't bake until later today because I don't have some of the ingredients.

She wants to bake, this vegan, gluten free pumpkin pie, these strawberry and chocolate chip scones, banana chocolate chip bread and and Mexican chocolate cake.

I hope these recipes work as vegan, gluten free baking is not the easiest way to bake. Everything else we've made from Karina's Kitchen has been great, so I have high hopes for these dishes. The only problem I foresee is that I'll have a duty to help the children eat the cakes.

Last night Shira and I made this fabulous Gluten Free, dairy free "tapioca" pudding. It was so simple to make and is loaded with good fats (and calories, but we'll forget that for now).

Wish me luck. I am about to have my hands painted

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I'm back

The whole episode with my eye left me feeling very burnt out and even after my eye was no longer so painful, I had no inspiration to blog.

Yesterday, however, when something happened that had me wanting to blog, I realized that my spark had come back.

Shira and Ben are reading Erin Hunter's "Warriors" series. Yesterday Shira finished a book and our library did not have the next one so we trekked off to B&N to buy it for her.

While we were there I saw a bookmark with the cat charm and pointed it out to her. She was enchanted. She begged for the bookmark and spent the next few hours telling me all about how awesome it was to have a bookmark with a totem from the book she was reading.

She opened a whole new world for me. I am not a bookmark type of gal. I tend to use whatever scrap of paper I find lying around. My bookmarks are typically those reply cards that fall out of magazines, old kids' artwork or receipts from my shopping. I didn't realize that a kid could become so excited about a bookmark.

I think that as she starts new series of books, I am going to endeavor to make her a bookmark that is specific to that series. For instance, she has the "Frog Princess" series and a dragon series waiting in her "to read" queue. I'm looking for a frog and a dragon charm and will make her book straps with a few jewel like beads and the relevant charms.

I wonder if this isn't a neat gift for young girls. A book and matching bookmark?

I have to read a few books from this Warrior series as I am currently excluded from many of the conversations in this house. Ben and Shira are obsessed with these books. They talk about intricate details of the lives of the cats and they spend countless hours playing very involved games where they are cats from the various tribes.

It makes my heart sing with joy as it brings back all the most wondrous memories I have from my childhood. I think I spent half my childhood living the lives of the characters in the books I read (the other half was spent reading said books).

Friday, January 2, 2009

King Tut and Gluten free goodness

We're in Atlanta for a few days to see the King Tut exhibition and to visit the Georgia Aquarium.

Ben was underwhelmed by the King Tut Exhibition, but Shira loved it. Even though Ben was bored, I was pleasantly surprised that to see that much of what he learned about Egypt during Scott Powell's History at Our House lectures was retained. He and Shira had great fun identifying where in the "heartbeats" the various pharoahs fitted. (Scott designed a neat little timeline for the kids that showed periods of greatness - the heartbeats).

I was nearly doubled over with laughter when Ben shouted out, "look Shira, there's Queen Hot Chip Soup" and one old lady sternly corrected him to "Queen Hatshepsut". He turned to her and dripping condescention the way only a 7 year old can, replied, "I know that, but it helps us remember her name when we call her Hot chip soup".

After the exhibit we went to Pizza Fusion for lunch. Ben and Shira had their first ever commercial pizzas and are in love. They've asked for pizza for dinner as well. Jeff, the owner of the Buckhead branch was wonderful. I'm in love with this chain as they do organic, gluten free and vegan pizzas. What more can a girl want?

Apparently they are opening a branch in Richmond, VA. Ben told me that a 2 hour drive is nothing if it means he can get safe pizza. LOL.

Tomorrow we see the aquarium and do a behind the scenes tour. I can't wait.

Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers: Homeschool Showcase (Formerly The Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers) #14

Kris has published the second edition of Homeschool Showcase . This is what Kris renamed the Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers that I used to run. Kris has done a splendid job and I thank her once again for taking over when I was in a bind.

My good news is that the inflammation in my eye has completely resolved and I have a provisional bill of good health from the retinologist. He is 98% certain that I don't have a tear in my retina but there is so much debris in the vitreous from all the surgeries I've had on that eye that he can't be certain. I go back in a month for a check up. It's so good not to have to use steroid drops hourly (you have no idea how much they hurt me as they destroy the tear layer of the eye).

Also, a big thank you to Janice Campbell who hosted The Carnival of Homeschooling in my stead when it was my turn and I was not able to do so because of my eye problems.