Thursday, December 31, 2009

National Blog Posting Month

Well, I tried National Novel Writing Month back in November and didn't make it so far. I started late and got 10 000 words into my novel and then decided it was WAY too intellectual so I scraped it and made it another 10 000 words into a second, much more fun, idea. Close to 20 000 words...not bad but a long way from that 50 000 word goal! So, I'm giving it another go but instead the goal is to publish a blog post every day for a month (any month). It should be manageable considering I used to, once upon a time, post quite regularly.

I moaned and complained about this blog not being what I anticipated anymore so now I'm going to do something to change that! (Thanks Tim from TOS...visit his blog here!)

To find out more about National Blog Posting Month please visit .

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Overview

We had a lovely time and hope you did as well!

Waiting patiently to dig in to our snacks on Christmas Eve!

Keeping it easy for the pregnant lady!


Christmas bunch..... was YUMMY!!

Liam loves his new DS is driving Mommy crazy!

Morgaine's favorite gifts!

Not a bad looking turkey!

Christmas Supper

Sunday, December 27, 2009

24 Weeks-Growing, Growing, Growing....

One day early last week, I spent the night awake because I could not be comfortable because of round ligament pain. Every movement hurt as everything stretched and grew.....really, REALLY grew!!

I'm very, very suddenly looking like I am closer to 37 weeks than 24! I feel absolutely humongous! I don't make my babies small but this is ridiculous. Not only am I looking really pregnant, but I am feeling really pregnant. Breathing and eating have already become difficult and sleeping has definitely become interesting with my nest of pillows. I'm thinking I will have to find a bed of my own soon as more and more pillows make their way into the bed! Poor Mike!

We are still waiting for confirmation on whether or not I will be able to use a midwife for the remainder of the pregnancy. Two midwives are required to attend a home birth and the second midwife is due to be away around my due date so they are unsure as to whether or not they'll still be able to take me. I am also not in their jurisdiction and they have not been taking client from "away" since the new regulations have come into place. I should hear back from them on the 11th of January with news on whether of not they think they can help me out. As of now, my appointment in their area has been put on hold.

Only time will tell....

I continue to feel pretty good but am ready to have a "final" plan in place as to the birth...

I will let you know more as soon as I know!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Opps, We've Done it Again....Maybe

As you know we have a soft spot for cats in need. Remember George? Remember Mama?

Well, here is the newest addition.

Mike showed up on the doorstep at noon with this kitty in his arms and I couldn't turn them away. One of his elderly clients had been feeding this cat outside for a while but noticed that it was getting more and more matted signaling that she no longer had an owner. Of course, kind hearted Mike decided we could take her in for now. Hey, what's one more cat when you already have four, right?

Anyways, it is our intention that she be a short term boarder until we find a suitable home for her so if any of you wonderful kindhearted Capers out there would like a kitty we do have one available. She seems to really, really patient and affectionate. I think she would be good with the other kitties but right now we do have her separated from the rest of the gang. She has a couple little sores from being outside fending for herself for a while but they look like they will heal well with a bit of time.

Certainly feel free to let us know if you or someone you know would like to open your home to her. Until then, we are the proud (crazy?) owners of FIVE cats!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Wishing you a Blessed Solstice

You darkness, that I come from,
I love you more than all the fires
that fence in the world,
for the fire makes
a circle of light for everyone,
and then no one outside learns of you.

But the darkness pulls in everything;
shapes and fires, animals and myself,
how easily it gathers them!—
powers and people—
and it is possible a great energy
is moving near me.
I have faith in nights.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, On Darkness

On this shortest day of the year take a moment to reflect on the darkness but then gracefully and graciously step into the light of a new day. Embrace those around you and celebrate a new dawn, a new light, a new day. Many blessing to you and yours as you celebrate solstice and Christmas with those that are dear to you and much love and light as you head into a new year filled with new beginnings.

Namaste....Blessed Be

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Place of her Own

Ever since she's been born Morgaine has shared a room/bed with someone. As an infant she snuggled in close to Mommy and Daddy and then when she got too big for that, she and Mommy got a room together in the basement where it was cooler. Then, when Mommy had enough of that, Morgaine moved into Liam's bed with him. When we moved to Cape Breton, the room was big enough to have two beds. So she finally had a bed of her own and did really well with it. Liam and Morgaine have very different sleeping styles, though. Liam likes it dark and quiet. Morgaine likes the light on and to sing herself to sleep. Even though there's not a lot of extra room in out house we decided to give Morgaine a place of her own. Daddy cleared out the storage room and Mommy painted (pink, of course!).

Morgaine loves her new room.....

BUT somehow by early morning they usually end up with each other (sometimes in Liam's bed, and sometimes in Morgaine's) and their favorite things to do is to "camp out" in Liam's room on the floor!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Maestro Classics-A New Twist on a Much Beloved Favorite

Product: The Tortoise and the Hare: Stories in Music
Company: Maestro Classics
Price: 16.98$US

It was a great pleasure to review "The Tortoise and the Hare: Stories in Music" featuring the London Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew. As a family, it was pretty much our first ever experience with books on CD (besides one totally annoying book/CD combo I borrowed from the library last summer). I have to say that it was a WONDERFUL experience for my son and I. Combining a classic story with a delightful new classical score preformed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra is a winning combination.

My 4 year old daughter dismissed this product immediately saying she already knew the story of "The Tortoise and the Hare". However, this CD was so much more that just the classic retelling of a timeless Aesop's fable. Liam was delighted that the story was so much more involved and complex than the one that he was familiar with. The hare who is "exceding proud of his lower extremities", the pretzel vendor of Paris selling his wares at the starting line, Mrs. Beaver and her new French style cafe, and the tortoise whose only desire to make a respectable showing at the race are brought to life by narrator, Yadu (who does a phenomenal job). The "silences" are punctuated with a delightful musical score that portrays each characters personality without words.

In addition to the story (running 20 minutes 44 seconds) the CD also includes information on the original Aesop's fable, the composer (Stephen Simon) discussing how he was able to create a score for the story that fit each character so well, the song "Pretzel Vender of Paris" as well as a sing-a-long of the same song. The informational booklet that is included with the CD includes basic information on music, hares and tortoises (and how the are different from rabbits and turtles, the words and music for "The Pretzel Vender of Paris, as well as puzzles and games for your young student to complete.

If "The Tortoise and the Hare" does not appeal to you then Stories in Music offers a variety of others to choose from. Choices include:

  • Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel

  • The Soecerer's Apprentize

  • Swan Lake

  • Peter and the Wolf

  • among several others you can learn about here.

There are currently 7 titles available for 16.95$US and 3 additional gift box sets (which include a paperback version of the book in addition to the CD package) available for 24.99$US. You can also purchase 3 CDs for 45$US by using coupon code MAESTRO45. To help you make your choice, samples are available on the Maestro website. I personally think that these CD sets would make a wonderful gift and I would be happy to see them under my tree this year! I would also be more than happy to share these CDs with other music lovers on my shopping list. They are delightful, entertaining and just generally really well done!

***Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mathletics by 3P Learning-A Review

Company: 3P Learning
Price: 99$ Canadian per student per year. 59$US per year per student in America (49.95 if you know the human calculators favorite number....9)

We've had a lot of opportunities to try out different math programs this year (both on the Homeschool Crew and just in our little homeschool). I would have to say that in general it has been very hit or miss. We've tried some things that we've loved and then we've tried some things that we really didn't. There have been programs that I've had to bribe my son to try. Thankfully, Mathletics by 3P Learning was not one of them. As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I received a 45 days membership to Mathletics' online math program.

Mathletics offers a variety of ways (over 750 actually) to challenge your child (grades K-8th) while they practice their math skills. When your student first registers, they can customize their own avatar (hair, eyes, nose, etc) that they can use to compete with other students from around the world (which is also a great geography lesson because more than once we pulled out our world map to see where other students were from). However, if your child would rather, practice mode offers a variety ways to challenge your child and with a variety of rewards/credits given for reaching certain scores even a reluctant child might find themselves enjoying trying to reach higher and higher scores.

We begun using Mathletics by having Liam play against other students. Unfortunately, this caused some stress because he'd panic if he typed in the wrong answer and then feel bad because it would take him time to correct his mistake (your child and either answer the question wrong hitting enter and go on to the next question or backspace and correct their answer before continuing and Liam would get flustered looking for the backspace key and then because he fell behind give up). After seeing this cause him stress, we decided that it may be best for him to work on the practice section instead. The practice section allows the student to practice a variety of math skills (many, MANY more than the competition section). Students earn medals/certificates and credits as the answer questions and unlock bonus games. My son really enjoyed this but did get stuck on wanting to get every section PERFECT (because the perfect sections get a gold shiny bar beside their names as opposed to the blue one the student receives if they haven't answer every question right). It took me a while to convince Liam that it was alright to make mistakes and that by making mistakes you actually learn. A good lesson that needed to be taught.

While there is a lot to captivate a reluctant math student, Mathletics also offers a lot of extras for the parent as well. When you register your child, you actually get a parent account where you can log on to see your child's results in the various areas he has practiced. You can receive weekly progress reports e-mailed to you directly which reflect your students weaknesses and strengths. I really appreciate that I didn't have to stand over Liam to see what he was learning and I am sure that he enjoyed that Mama wasn't watching over his shoulder!

With a Canadian price of 99.99$ per year, I would be reluctant to purchase this product for my family at this point. While Liam had a lot of fun and I really appreciated the ease of use, I cannot justify the cost (which is per student, by the way) for a supplemental curriculum as it would be difficult to use this product as the core curriculum so an additional math program would likely have to be purchased (in my opinion). I know that the American membership is significantly cheaper at 59$US (49.95$US if you know the human calculator's favorite number "9") and at that price I would be much more willing to purchase this product as it does have a lot of benefits over other math "drill" programs that I have seen.

To find out more about Mathletics please visit their site here. (Americans may have to type link can be finicky) To read more reviews by other Homeschool Crew Members please click here. (Some reviewers seem to have had access to additional material (instant workbooks) that I was unable to view for some reason. I was told by the company that because I had a trial membership that I did not have access but pretty much everyone else reviewing did).

***Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Belly Pictures-22 weeks

Eeks, the time is flying.

I did find my USB wire last night (finally!!!) so I will post both the 20 and 22 weeks photos. I am sure I must have taken 18 week photos as well but I cannot find them. Things continue to go well. It looks like we may have the opportunity to travel to Bridgewater/Lunenburg to deliver this baby with a midwife. Mike, especially, remains uncertain about the maternity care at the local hospital here and we've been spoiled to have a midwife for the other pregnancies. We will have our initial information/first prenatal appointment down there early in the New Year. As it is a bit of a trek, the kids and I would likely rent a place in the area for a month or so before the birth with Mike joining us close to the delivery date. I have every confidence that we will find something that will work out well for us.

Anyways, that's the update....

Now, for those of you who are just longing for a glimpse of my stretched marked belly (he he he) I was trying to figure out how to make a photo strip of all my pregnancy photos so far (so you could see the changes) but I could not figure it out (if someone knows a good program to use on a Mac, let me know).

Without further ado, here's 20 weeks....

and 22 weeks.....

I'm definitely growing but I think because I was soooooo swollen in the early weeks (remember these) that some people are still unsure whether I am pregnant or just continuing to gain weight. My belly certainly doesn't play peak a boo very much anymore and with a baby in there that was measuring close to a pound at 20 weeks (I don't make them small) it will only get bigger and bigger from here on out!!

Opps, I thought I posted

some belly pictures but I guess I didn't because I was soooooo excited that I will be giving birth with a midwife (or at least I am pretty sure I will be)!!! YAHOOO!!!!

(and yes, I found my USB wire so pictures to follow shortly...)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tektoma-Informational Post

Product: Tektoma: Game Tutorial for Kids
Company: Tektoma
Price: 140$US per year (14.95 per month)
Additional Information: 14 day free trial membership available

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given a 3 month membership to Tektoma, a website which allows you to play and develop your own computer games using easy to follow video tutorials. There are tutorials for everything from racing games, platform games, fantasy games and more. Each tutorial lets you know what will be involved in the games so that if you do not want your child to view certain content you can choose different tutorials (some contain shooting but are relatively non-violent...think older Mario Brothers games here). Unfortunately, the software used to develop the games is not supported on my Mac so I was unable to take full advantage of this subscription. I did get the opportunity to view some of the tutorials and supplemental resources/premade "sprites" (characters/vehicles needed to make the games in the tutorials). I believe that if there are avid gamers in your house (whether a child or an adult with limited (or no) computer programming experience) who might like to try developing their own games this is a worthwhile membership to invest in.

To use Tektoma to it's full potential you will need:

  • Windows XP or Vista

  • Broadband Internet (the video tutorials are MASSIVE and would not work well with a dial-up connection)

  • Any current browser

  • GameMaker software installed on your computer (available for free on the Tektoma Website)

According to the website, Tektoma offers you:

  • Engaging video tutorials for ages 7-17

  • Tutorials of varying skill levels and topics

  • Learn at your own pace in the comfort of your home

  • Natural progression helps develop technical skills

  • Customize your learning experience

  • Low monthly membership fee gives access to all our resources

  • New curriculums available monthly

For a 140 dollar year long membership (or 14.95$US per month) you also get access to forums where you can gain additional support when building your games. Tektoma also offers a 14 days free trial membership so you can try it out to see if it is something that interests you and your family before you commit to buying a membership. If we had the requirements on our computer this is something that I would consider purchasing (likely on a monthly basis) for my son as he really loves games and is also interesting in making his own. He has tried several online sites but nothing seems near as complete as these tutorials and software. To get your free 14 day trial membership click here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Spelling Made Easy with All About Spelling

My son, who is 6, spells well for his age. I, on the other hand, at MUCH older than 6, do not spell very well. My method of spelling is to write the word down and see if it looks right. I decided that this year I would start a formal spelling program with Liam. I was quickly bombarded with questions like "when do I use a K and when do I use a C?" "How do I know if a word needs CK at the end?" and "why does night and weight have a 'ght' at the end instead of 'te'?" Unfortunately, while I generally spell correctly, I do not know the rules behind spelling so I was unable to give him really clear answers. Thankfully, as part of the TOS Crew I was selected to review All About Spelling (Levels 1 and 2). This easy to use program could not have come at a better time!

This product is broken down into levels (currently 5 with another to be introduced in the spring) that start with the basics and progress from there. It is important to note that the levels are not based on grade level and while the spelling words contained in the earlier levels may not prove difficult for your older student the teachings in these earlier levels ensures that there will not be gaps in your child's grasp of spelling. Even an older child that it having some difficulty with spelling would benefit from starting at level one of this program. Liam and I have had time to get through most of level 1 in the review period and will move on to level 2 come the new year. Level 1 begins by teaching how to write and say the first 32 phonograms and how to segment words into sounds and then syllables. Several spelling rules and tips are taught throughout the lessons as well. Students learn about short and long vowel sounds, how to write the plural of words and when to use "ck" at the end of a word (amongst much more).

According to All About Spelling's website (their comments in bold, mine in regular font), All About Spelling:

  • is multisensory: Studies suggest that children learn better when they use more that one sense to learn a subject. All About Spelling incorporates hearing and seeing with kinesthetics (writing, moving tokens and letter tiles) to teach students how to spelling.

  • is logical: I really appreciate that this program makes sense. I'm not teaching things and wondering why I am teaching them. The lessons follow a logical progression which is good for the teacher and good for the student as well because neither are left guessing what the purpose of the lesson is. Each successive lesson is built on a previous one and Liam was clearly able to see that and point out the connections.

  • is mastery-based and has continual review: Liam did not appreciate this as much as I did as he does not have a lot of patience for doing things over and over again. I, on the other hand, feel that it is pointless to move ahead with any subject if the student has not grasped the easier concepts related to that topic (one of my issues with public school is that students can get let behind because in general the teachers don't have time to make sure that all students have mastered the topics being covered). With continual review, the students do not forget what was learned previous and as they continue to built on the concepts they gain confidence in their spelling skills. Using an index card system for learning and review, each topic (coloured coded and provided to you on perforated card stock) is divided into three sections (review material, mastered material, and material for future use) and separated by index cards also provided with the level. This simplifies things greatly and eliminates the need for lists and scralwed notes to track progress.

  • is clear: There is no guessing when it comes to All About Spelling. Each lesson is carefully planned out and scripted, not giving the teacher a chance to worry about how to introduce the material. As I mentioned, the program is logical and what is logical is usually clear for both student and teacher.

It is also worth noting that All About Spelling contains NO GAPS. If there is a reliable rule that will help your child out, we teach it. If there is a tip that will help your child master a certain spelling pattern, it’s in there. I've been able to teach Liam some of the spelling tricks that he asked about in is "how do you know..." questions. I also have confidence that his other questions will be answered as we progress through the other levels of All About Spelling.

For the cost of 29.95 (for the lessons) and 26.95 (for the starter kit containing tiles, magnets and phonogram CD used for all levels) I think that this program is a worthwhile investment if you are struggling to figure out the best way to teach your child how to spell well. Be sure to check out their website for more information on this program.

***Any products reviewed by me as a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew have been given to me free of charge in order for me to provide you with an honest review of the product and/or how we used the product within our family. I do not receive any other form of compensation for the reviews posted on this blog.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What we are up to-Early December

In no particular order...

  • Lots and lots of drawing....Liam is making up a fantasy book (mostly drawings), Morgaine is obsessed with drawing princesses and knights, and I am fooling around with my early Christmas gift of professional colour pencils from Mike.

  • Gestating a wee baby BOY. 21 weeks along now and looking pregnant and feeling better.

  • Hoping to get in a couple births as a doula/labour assistant before my wee baby comes earthside.

  • Learning about Advent and trying to get back to a more natural family focused holiday with lots of crafting and baking.

  • Learning how to play keyboard (sort of) with Kinderbach (review to follow shortly).

  • Working on making the house ready for our spring time addition (we have a couple walls torn out at the minute and hope to get a bathtub put in soon).

  • Enjoying drama class. The kids had a blast during their first semester with Class Acts Drama School.

  • DESPERATELY searching for my USB wire as I have a ton of photos/post ideas ready but no way to get the pictures off my camera.