10 Years of Casey and Kyle

My husband’s comic strip (which has been largely supporting our family for nearly 10 years) celebrated its birthday last month. It’s hard to believe that the two kids who were the original inspiration are now 14 and 11!

To help commemorate the occasion, we had a party at the local library. The children’s librarians there have been immensely supportive of the comic for years (including letting us have the last book launch party there two years ago), so it was a natural choice. We had quite a few kids come to do Casey and Kyle themed crafts, and all of them really enjoyed it. It was super fun to see the kids excited about the characters and to hear them recite their favorite jokes (from the strip) to their parents. He even wrote a new book for the celebration (though it wasn’t quite back from the printers… we’ll actually see it the first week of April).

Our older boys were each in charge of one of the craft tables; the younger set got to participate by making crafts and otherwise just enjoying the party. Small Fry loved getting his picture taken with the life-size characters.

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From its conception, Casey and Kyle has been a really fun ride, and we’re looking forward to (at least) 10 more years 🙂

Blessings,

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(Re)Learning Cursive with CursiveLogic (review)

A few weeks ago, the opportunity to review the CursiveLogic Quick Start Pack was presented to me. I might have passed, but then I got to thinking about Seahawk and how he sometimes forgets how to form his cursive letters. And when he doesn’t forget, they’re often sloppy – not difficult to read per se, just messy. So after some careful consideration, I decided he could probably benefit from CursiveLogic. In addition to the main curriculum workbook, we also received a copy of the The Art of Cursive coloring book. The other benefit of doing this review at this time was that it was right around the time we were displaced due to flooding, and having a physical workbook was something of a calming influence. It’s hard to explain, but it really helped us to feel grounded in a frantic time in our lives.

CursiveLogic review

CursiveLogic is a bit of a different approach to writing in cursive. It doesn’t just teach the letters. Instead, this method breaks each letter down by shape, helping students to figure out the very basics of writing in cursive. Students learn at a young age to draw circles, but they’re never (usually) really taught how to use that basic skill to influence their handwriting. Thinking about it after having used CursiveLogic with my son (age 14) for a few weeks, and it really makes a lot of sense now, though. CursiveLogic has broken it down into four basic “starting” shapes, and every single letter in the English alphabet falls into one of those categories. The main one I’ll focus on today is the “orange oval,” which includes the letters A, C, D, G, Q, and O (in lowercase).

IMG_1144Lessons are grouped by the color shape of the different letters, so your student won’t be learning the letters in alphabetical order. Each lesson has several parts and is divided up into “days.” Depending on your student and his or her maturity and motivation, you could potentially move quite quickly through the lessons. We chose to move a bit slower (as written, not too slow), but that’s because I really wanted to monitor my son and make sure he was mastering each shape as we moved. He’s a typical teenager and tends to a) be more concerned about finishing than doing well and b) easily revert back to old habits. I really wanted him to focus and get those shapes down as muscle memory before we moved on, so we didn’t move as fast as we might otherwise have with a student who already knows how to read, print, and write in cursive.

cursivelogic comparisonYou can see in Seahawk’s “before” picture that his handwriting was adequate. Not amazing, not terrible, but adequate. After working on this lesson for just a few days, he showed great improvement. The thing that really helped him master it was when I explained to him that the oval shape has a bit of a hook on top before changing from the shape to the letter. Before this, he was getting more of a slide up into the letters rather than the oval shape. Once he understood the purpose of the oval, his handwriting improved immensely – and he said it was easier to write that way! It was quite rewarding to watch him “get it” and hear how much he appreciated these lessons. But it’s easier to appreciate something when you (the student) can see your own improvement, which was totally the case with Seahawk and CursiveLogic.

When he finishes the workbook, I think Seahawk will enjoy taking some colored pencils to the coloring book. We didn’t do a whole lot with it during the review period because I wanted him to focus on the actual work at hand (remember that teenager mentality – he could easily have tried to talk me into letting him color instead of doing a lesson, and that’s not adequate). In fact, The Art of Cursive is designed as a supplement to the curriculum, and is not intended to be something done instead of the lessons. He does seem quite interested in being able to work on the pictures that “are made up of cursive letters and words.” I think having that coloring book hanging out “mocking” him will be good motivation to him being willing to finish this curriculum.

In addition to the workbook and coloring book, CursiveLogic has a webinar. I wasn’t able to view it because we have iffy internet at the moment, what with being in temporary housing. Especially at the beginning of this review, I had no idea when we would be moving again. There are lots more Crew reviews, though, and several (maybe even most, I’m not sure) of them did watch the webinar, so make sure to click the banner below and check those out so you can learn more about that.

If you’re interested in trying CursiveLogic with your child (or yourself!), now is a great time to do it. CursiveLogic is offering a 20% discount on the CursiveLogic Quick Start Pack, which includes the workbook (not the coloring book) and webinar. These retail for $49 together. Just use coupon code CREW2018, which is good through March 31st, 2018.

Blessings,

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The Art of Cursive & Quick Start Cursive {Cursive Logic Reviews}
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Picture of the Week: Ouch!

In our temporary housing house, there’s a gas fireplace. This isn’t something we have a lot of experience with (our old house had a wood fireplace, but we moved out of there almost a year ago). Because it’s been so long since Dragonfly has really been around fire, he was a bit careless and accidentally touched the glass in front of the fire. I was right there, but you know kids – they go from fine to injured before you have a chance to even move and save them. I picked him up and got his hand under cold water immediately, and we kept ice on it for a long time after that, and it looked like it was going to be okay. There was no redness or anything. Fast forward two days, and it was very red. One more day after that, and it had blistered up (nearly his entire pinky finger was affected) and was full of liquid. At this point, I took him right to the urgent care clinic (because it was a Sunday). While we were there waiting for the doctor, the blister popped and left a puddle on the floor. The doctor came in shortly thereafter and cut away the dead skin and put a burn dressing on his little hand. Now it’s been a few more days, and while I think he’ll have quite the scar when he’s done healing, he is in fact healing. And we (Dragonfly as well as the rest of us) are being much more careful around that hearth!

This is about midway through the healing process. It got quite a bit worse for a couple of days, but is now much better (though still healing).

This is about midway through the healing process – after the redness showed up but before the blister did. It got quite a bit worse for a couple of days, but is now much better (though still healing).

Blessings,

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Wulf the Saxon (Heirloom Audio review)

I have a special treat for you today. My older boys have spent the last couple of weeks listening to the new drama from Heirloom Audio Productions, Wulf the Saxon. Today, they will share their reviews with you.

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From Seahawk (age 14)

The story kicks off with the Earl Harold in his chambers, talking with his wife, Lady Edith, about a problem concerning Wulf the Saxon, who had insulted several noblemen. The Earl then exiles him to keep him out of more trouble, including possibly prison (since they are good friends).

Some time later, Wulf is called out of exile so that he may apologize to the king himself and then serve as second in command to Earl Harold in the war against the Welsh. During this war, he proves himself to be a brave warrior and and excellent commander, so he is made noble himself.

Wukf then goes on a victory cruise, and the boat shipwrecks on the French (Norman) coast, where they’re captured by Duke William of Normandy. While captured, the Duke tricks Harold into swearing an oath of loyalty to William. Meanwhile, Wulf has escaped from captivity and goes looking for help. He finds a family powerful enough to free Wulf’s friend and master from William’s grasp. Wulf quickly befriends this family, and it is a friendship that will last him his entire life.

When Wulf returns back to England, he finds that the King of England is ill and has passed command of the country to Harold, who now has to use his new power to civil war in England – all the while dealing with William, who demands that Harold fulfill his oath of loyalty.

I think that my favorite part of audio dramas in general is the sound effects. The wind, the carriages, and even the sound their horses make when they’re running into battle… It really brings the history to life.

Side story: we have 2 pet frogs, which means we also have lots of crickets on hand also. When we were listening to Wulf, there was a nighttime scene, and we didn’t know until we turned off the CD player that the sound was not part of the recording.

As far as things I did not like about this production, I don’t think the excitement built as much as in other story lines (from the same company). Normally, the first disc is set up and the second disc is the climax. Wulf has more excitement spread through the whole thing. This is not bad, but I prefer an epic ending. In this one, the climax (disc 2) was more tying up loose ends than anything else.

Some of my favorite audio dramas include In Freedom’s Cause and In the Reign of Terror, both of which are available from Heirloom Audio Productions.

Thanks for reading my review.

Seahawk

From Munchkin (age 11)

wulf coverWulf the Saxon is about a young Saxon who was shipwrecked on the shores of France. There, he becomes friends with a family, who, after three years, sends him home where he discovers a lot has changed. Wulf soon realizes that England is struggling and on the verge of war. Serving his king on the battlefield, Wulf stays loyal to courage and honor.

My favorite part was the ending, which I liked because it was the Battle of Hastings, which I’ve studied with my dad. It’s one of my favorite historical time periods.

My least favorite part was when Wulf was shipwrecked in France. I did not enjoy this because I didn’t find it exciting. This part didn’t feel like the rest of the audio drama to me. It was just a lot of talking without as many background sounds, which took away from the normal intensity that I’m used to hearing from Heirloom Audio.

Final Thoughts from Mom

While I’m not a huge audio person (I prefer visuals), I’m always glad to have a chance to review these dramas because I know my kids (especially Seahawk) really enjoy them. Oftentimes, they come with a great study guide, too, to help make the drama into a full unit study. Many of these are available on the Live the Adventure Club website, which is run by Heirloom. As of the date of this posting, there isn’t one for Wulf yet, though. 

You can purchase the 2-CD set of Wulf the Saxon for $29.97, which includes a free mp3 download. If you prefer just the mp3, that’s available for $24.97. If you want more than one copy, there are bulk discounts available (see website for details). 

Membership to the Live the Adventure Club is $7.95 per month and includes access to loads of great resources, including the study guides I mentioned before. This price also gets you a free copy of all Heirloom dramas, on physical CD, before they’re released to the public. There’s also a $5.95/month plan, which is the same as the other except you get digital downloads of the dramas (no CDs).

Blessings,

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Wulf the Saxon {Heirloom Audio Productions Reviews}
disclaimer

Flood!

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The past few weeks have been rather… interesting. About 4 weeks ago, the kids and I were at the house doing their lessons (we’ve been staying with my in-laws), just us. The washing machine was going, not unusual for that time of day (around 10 a.m.). Suddenly I heard a gushing sound. Assuming the washer had pulled its hose from the wall, I ran over and turned it off. Nothing happened. Well, the washer turned off, but that didn’t stop the water from continuing to gush. Seahawk rushed over to see what was going on. Being younger and more agile than me, he was able to climb up onto the top of the dryer to get a peek at what was going on. All he could tell was that the water was coming straight out of the wall. All the while, water is building up on the floor, and is several inches deep at this point. We found as many towels as we could and built a dam between the laundry room and the kitchen (it’s just a regular-width doorway separating them) to try to mitigate the spreading of water. Seahawk got to work trying to find a way to turn the water off. When it became clear that that wasn’t working, he tried to figure out a way to divert the water instead. Munchkin was on the floor in front of the washer and dryer, sweeping as much water outside as he could (fortunately there’s an external door in the laundry room). I was on the phone trying to get either Will or either of my in-laws to come and help.

Seahawk finally gets the water diverted. He was so clever! He used the foil tube coming out of the dryer and jimmied it up to the leak. Since that tube already led to the outside by way of the dryer vent, the water started pouring outside instead of continuing to come inside. This whole process took about 30-45 minutes from the start of the leak. Not long after, Will arrived back for lunch to find us all frantic. He took over the calling of his dad and stepmom as well as anyone else he could think of (church people, mostly) who might be able to help. No luck. (Being a Monday morning, everyone was at work – except my FIL, who was a doctor’s appointment.) Finally his stepmom called us back and told us how to turn the water off at the street, so Will did that. This was nearly 1.5 hours after the initial outpouring started. It was such a relief to have the water stop! With no more water coming in, the four of us got to work cleaning up the pool that had taken over the kitchen. When we went into the master bathroom looking for more towels (we’d used up literally every single towel, blanket, and clothing item we owned besides what we were physically wearing at the time), another unpleasant surprise awaited us: that room was on the other side of the laundry room wall, and water had escaped under that wall and flooded that room too.

It took us another 45 minutes to an hour (and about a dozen Costco rolls of paper towels) to get the laundry, kitchen, and master bath dry. Right around the time we finished, my father in law called and let us know that he’d be there in 15 minutes and had gotten hold of a handyman-type from church who was also coming over to help. When they both got there, we left to get some lunch (it was nearly 2 p.m. now). We came back to a very frustrated FIL and friend. They’d tried several times to fix the pipe, but every time they turned the water back on to test their work, everything exploded again.

We had only a few minutes at the house this time, because it was the big kids’ ballet day. We took them out there, and I bought a few groceries while they were dancing. When we got back to town at around 7:30 that evening, the house was vacant. Will went into the bathroom while I put the groceries in the pantry. The water was still turned off – not a good sign. So he called his dad. His dad made an insurance claim, and they were putting all of us up in a motel that night and sending a work crew over to assess the damage the next morning.

Because it’s not my house, I’m not going to go into too much detail into the damage, but suffice it to say that with nearly every step the crew took (as in, step in the process, not footstep), they noticed more and more damage that would need to be repaired.

So, we’ve been living in a hotel for the past 4 weeks. Just this past Saturday, the insurance company found us a rental house (furnished) that was available for 2 months, so that’s where we are now. After that, who knows. It’s possible (though no one is holding out much hope for this) that the house will be done by then. If not, we just might end up back in the motel. Time will tell.

Tips on long-term hotel living will be coming next week. Hopefully you won’t find yourself needing them, but just in case…

Blessings,

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Recipe: Easy Guacamole

Most of my life, I thought I didn’t like avocados. I grew up in a home where my mom didn’t use them, and they always looked kind of weird, so I never bothered to try them, assuming that I wouldn’t like them. About three years ago, we were at our friends’ house, and they made tacos – with guacamole as an optional topping. I decided to give it a shot, just out of curiosity, and wow! Now avocados and guacamole are one of my favorite things to eat. I’ve tried guacamole from lots of different restaurants, and some of them are okay (Red Robin, any local Mexican place) and some are not (Chipotle, Fuddruckers). The thing the “bad” ones have in common is an overpowering fresh onion flavor – I’m not a fan of raw onion (and that’s not a blind distaste – I actually don’t like it). So I thought I’d share my favorite recipe for making guacamole at home, which is the best I’ve ever had, in a restaurant or otherwise.

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Easy Guacamole

1-2 avocados, depending on how much guac you need/want
Approximately 1/4 cup salsa (your favorite)
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste

Cut the avocados in half and remove the pits. Scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash it lightly with a fork.

Add the salsa and spices and continue to mash and mix until everything is well combined. Taste. If it’s amazing, you’re done. If it’s only almost amazing, adjust the seasonings (salt is the one I always need to add more of) and try again until it’s exactly the way you like it.

Blessings,

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Nutcracker Marionette

In the midst of Nutcracker season, my boys were also really into making puppets (they still are). Munchkin combined these two interests and made this Nutcracker Marionette. It’s made from mostly all refurbished materials – toilet paper tubes, straws, cereal boxes, and string. I love his creativity here!

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Blessings,

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Picture of the Week: Growing Up

We took the boys to one of the local malls on New Year’s Eve, just to get out of the house for a little while. The big kids had some Christmas money (neither ended up getting anything that day), and the little kids just like to be in exciting places.

We didn’t end up spending a lot of money that day (those are the best trips to the mall, yes?), but we did get the little kids each a ride on the indoor Ferris wheel. There were only three kids riding at that time (my two boys plus one little girl), so the boys had to be split up into separate carriages. I was a little nervous letting Dragonfly ride essentially all by himself, but he did great. He was super excited about being up there, and he behaved perfectly. I needn’t have been worried.

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Blessings,

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His First Chapter Book

Small Fry is 5 years old now (5 1/2, actually). He’s still learning to read, but he’s definitely getting stronger at it each time we practice. To help encourage his continued maturing in this skill, I decided to take the plunge with him into reading a chapter book instead of just a picture book at bedtime (nothing wrong with picture books, but for my own sanity, we needed something a bit longer and less repetitive). I chose James and the Giant Peach, knowing that would be a great choice for a little boy, and I was right. He absolutely loved it! He had no problems remembering what had happened from session to session, and ever since we finished, he’s been begging for another chapter book.

Will assigned him a little drawing assignment when we’d finished the book, and Small Fry really liked that, too. He had so much fun drawing James, his buggy friends, and the giant peach being carried overseas by a flock of seagulls. 🙂

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Our next one will be Charlotte’s Web. I’m super excited to read it to him after the success of James.

Blessings,

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