Saturday, March 27, 2004

Books This Week

I got on a reading kick last weekend which continued through the first part of this week. I even was able to somehow keep the house neat!

Earlier this year, I read Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian. I started it before going to see the movie, but my eyes crossed at all the naval terms. Watching the movie actually helped me to understand the book better, even though the movie doesn't follow the plot of just that book. I enjoyed the movie, by the way, then finished the book.

Uncle Rich mentioned that he preferred the Horatio Hornblower books by C.S. Forester. I borrowed two from him and dove in. I agree that the Forester books are much easier to follow without as much naval jargon. At first, I wondered what kind of hero that Hornblower could possibly be if he suffered from seasickness! I came to admire his ingenuity in problem-solving, his agility in coming up with a plan of action, setting it into motion and following through. In the first book, Forester tells the story in the third person, but in the second book, he tells the story from the point of view of another lieutenant interacting with, observing and forming a friendship with Hornblower. I appreciated that variety in approach. I liked how the lieutenant tried to understand what Hornblower thought and why he acted as he did. The author didn't spell everything out for the reader, he made me wonder along with the lieutenant.

There are eleven books in the series!!!!!

Matthew just finished Little House on the Prairie and read a couple of Chinese story picture books this week. Evan is reading The Railway Children by Edith Nesbit. Sophie's favorite library book this week was about a princess and fairies, surprise, surprise.

James has been reading in the books of Acts to us in the evening. In the morning, I've been reading God With Us by Marianne Radius to the kids.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Paper and Piano

This week I read to the kids about the Mongol Empire and the Ming Dynasty of China in the book The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer. We also read several library books on the same topics. I did not know that the Mongol Empire was the largest empire that the world has ever seen. We read about Marco Polo who travelled The Silk Road to China and became friends with Kublai Khan. Today, we "made paper" to remember that the Chinese invented paper (in 105 AD, but the invention did not reach Europe until 1009 AD.) The kids tore up little bits of construction paper into a blender. We added water and I pureed the mixture into a pulp the color of sweet potatoes, as Sophie noted. We poured the pulp onto a screen over a pan to drain the liquid, pressed it between two screens and rolled it with a rolling pin, and laid it outside to dry. Even if it doesn't turn out that great, the kids have enjoyed the process. (We found this project in the Story of the World Activity Book.)

Mrs. Green, the boys' music teacher commented on how well Evan has been doing with his piano playing lately. For the past several weeks, he has faithfully set the timer for thirty minutes everyday and practiced the whole time without complaining. Last week, he told me that he liked piano and my jaw about dropped (he used to be quite the complainer.) I'm so glad that he's learning the worth of practicing, even if it is tedious at times.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

For the past two days, I've been reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis aloud to the kids. I remember that this was the first of the Narnian Tales that I read as a kid. I started reading it while visiting at a woman's house (I don't remember the details). The story captured my imagination immediately ("surprised by joy"!) I had to get ahold of the whole series when returning home...The kids protest everytime I take a break from reading it. They thought it was hysterical when Reepicheep spanked Eustace with the flat of his sword for swinging him around by his tail (Reep is a 2 ft. tall, chivalrous talking mouse.)

This week, I let the kids watch the movie The Man From Snowy River, a little each day. (I fast-forwarded through the mushy kissing ; ) They had just finished listening to The Black Stallion on tape and so watched a horse movie. Yesterday, I washed dishes and watched them while they watched the movie. When Evan saw the horses plunging through the snow, he looked at me and grinned and looked up at a new print of a painting titled "Horses in the Snow" by David Stoecklein that is hanging in our family room. Exactly. (I'll take pictures of our family room once we have the walls painted so that you can see our new additions.)

This morning, I had them play "War" with dominoes. The boys each drew a domino, multiplied the two numbers on their own domino and the kid with the highest number kept both dominoes. The one with the most dominoes at the end won the game. I just realized that if you multiply the numbers up to 10 by 9, the two numbers in the answer will add up to 9! Ex: 9x2=18 (1+8=9) or 9x7=63 (6+3=9) Maybe everybody knows that but me. Blush.

Yesterday, Sophie decided to write a letter to Ana, her cousin. She told me what she wanted to say. I wrote it down. She copied it. Later, I called Loey, Ana's mom, who said that when she and Ana had gone to the mailbox earlier, Ana had wailed, "My friends never write to me anymore!" They opened the box and there was the letter that Sophie had written to her earlier this week! Ana said that Sophie is her best friend EVER.

...This morning, Sophie insisted on writing another letter to Ana even though the one that she wrote yesterday is out in the mailbox. : )

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

New to Blogging...

Saying that I'm new to blogging is probably obvious from the stark appearance of the site. If any of you visiting are more computer savvy and desire to share advice on how to add color and graphics, I'm all ears, or eyes, I guess.

As I learn more, I'll post more lists pertaining to our family's venture in homeschooling.

The title, "Our Side of the Mountain", is derived from one of my oldest son's favorite books: My Side of the Mountain. By the way, a favorite book that he recently read was Journey From Peppermint Street by Meinert DeJong. I myself couldn't put it down. The author gives one a poignant view into the inner thoughts of a young boy: his dreams, fears, joys and perspective on adults as he embarks on a delightful adventure.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Merry and Pippin

I'm not talking hobbits. Guinea Pigs. One of James' coworkers gave the boys two four-week old piggy brothers in December. We named them Merry & Pippin. Okay, so you can probably tell who influenced the decision! ; )

The piggies are growing large. Merry especially spends the majority of his time eating. We call him the HOG. Their "dad's" name is Samson--go figure.

Pippin is a shier (not Shire) creature. He spends more of his time in the hutch section of the cage. When I turn him belly side up to brush his tummy, he relaxes and licks his paws. Merry, on the other hand, struggles under the same treatment which is a pain because he has longer hair which mattes easily.

Evan feeds them their hay and pellets and gives them fresh water each night. When the pigs hear the bag crinkling, they squeek, "Breep, breep, breeeep!" Matthew is in charge of feeding them some parsley every day for Vitamin C. Sophie occasionally feeds them carrot.

I have the joy of changing their bedding.

Enjoy the pictures!





The Kids' Take on San Francisco

Evan: We went to San Francisco with Dad who had to work there. We rode a cable car, a trolley car, a ferry, a bus, in a mini-van, and on a horse! I liked the cable car, because I stood outside near the rail. There was a turn-table in the street to turn the car around.

Matthew: We rode a ferry boat around Alcatraz and under the Golden Gate bridge. Next time we must go to the top of the lighthouse of Alcatraz! We saw sea lions jumping out of the water.

We went to Mrs. Pam's horse ranch. She told us what horses think about. They think about food and safety. I rode a horse.

Sophie: I liked the Silver Guys. They were all silver like robots. One gave me candy. When I put money in the cup, they moved and shook my hand. One girl was scared. I wasn't scared. I cried when I had to go see the sea lions, because I really liked the Silver Guys.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

San Francisco Trip

James had business in San Francisco January 20-23, and we decided to make a family trip out of it, including the weekend prior as well as the MLK holiday.

We had a rather rocky start to the trip due to sickness and a hanging bag which remained hanging in our closet at home. Our first San Francisco experience was spent shopping in Mervyn's as James had no clothes other than what was on his back–not an impressive first impression of San Francisco for the kids, but it got better!

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On two different occasions we visited Fisherman's Wharf. We toured some historical ships. We took a Bay Cruise (described by M in his portion of the letter). We savored clam chowder and crab. We laughed at the sea lions, some frolicking near the pier bothering the sleeping wet "gunnysacks" piled atop one another. At frequent intervals, hoarse barking erupted and fierce posturing led to pushing battles which ended with a sea lion losing his place on the stack. They were real animals!

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The kids particularly enjoyed some street performers. S took a shine to the "Silver Guys": men who had spray-painted themselves and their clothes silver from head to toe. They stood stock still until a passerby dropped a coin into their cup which set them into robot-like gyrations. The first Silver Guy we encountered would shake hands, speak in a strange hissing voice, remove his sunglasses to reveal eerie silver-contact covered eyes, draw a fake gun, and pose for any desired pictures. S cried when the rest of us wanted to move on to see the sea lions again. She was thrilled when we ran across another Silver Guy later who had candy as part of his act!

Speaking of candy, we tasted the best chocolate EVER from the shop Chocolate Heaven at Pier 39. We snacked on chocolate-covered dried blueberries, strawberries and apricots. It is a good thing we don't have that store at home.

We also listened to a steel drum band. James came in the house the Saturday after we returned home to inform me that the kids were out front, beating on tin cans, with a paper cup labeled "Tips" strategically placed in front of them.

On the Lord's Day, we worshiped at the closest Orthodox Presbyterian church to our motel. We were surprised to find that they use the same Psalm books that we have and sing Psalms acapella. Following the service, the members graciously invited us to eat with them at their fellowship meal. We enjoyed talking with different folks and marveled at the way Christian community and a like precious faith makes the world seem to be a smaller place. "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" (Ps. 133:1)

One of the members, Pam M., invited the kids and me to visit her family's horse ranch. On Thursday, I drove our rented mini-van with the kids over the Golden Gate bridge and on the freeway to her ranch. She and her daughter, Suzy, teach horse-back riding lessons to kids. Suzy rode with S while Pam taught the boys some about horses (see M's letter). Suzy rode with M while E rode a horse all by himself (a very docile horse, mind you). Later, even M and S had a chance to ride solo. I got a kick out of seeing the delight in their eyes and comparing their small bodies to the massive horse. The kids felt useful while helping to curry some of the horses and feed them hay. Pam gave them "hay rides" in a wheelbarrow.

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The M's had us over for dinner that evening at their house by the bay. James took a ferry across to join us after work. We enjoyed getting to know the family a little. Suzy had just finished school in Colorado to become a certified horse trainer. Stephen, Pam's son, recently went on a missions trip to Uganda and he shared his slides with us. We didn't get to meet Pam's husband, Ray, because he was working and the other two kids were at Covenant College. We were impressed and blessed by the Ms' ready hospitality in the middle of their busy schedule.

The kids and I also enjoyed outings to the Legion of Honor art museum, the botanical gardens, a Dutch windmill replica (especially fitting as E just finished the book The Wheel on the School set in the Netherlands) and the ocean. We experienced a year's worth of field trips!

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This week the kids have been pretending to be cable cars and trolleys personified. Another time, M was pretending to pack to move to San Francisco... I think they enjoyed the trip. M informs me that "next time" we have to go and see the giant redwoods.

We're thankful to God that we were able to incorporate James' work trip with a family vacation and for His provision of safety in travel.