Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Equestrian Girl!

Today was Equestrian Girl's Birthday. She couldn't wait to open her presents this morning - luckily she slept in later than on Christmas morning. It was light out.

She liked her card.

She knew what was in this package.

It was this brown fleece jacket that we were going to have embroidered with APHA and her horse's name...but it didn't fit. The sleeves were too short.

The next gift was a surprise. She thought it was books. It was half a dozen frames for her ROM's (Register of Merit) from APHA. She actually only has 5 right now but the frames came 2 to a pack and no doubt she'll earn another one next year.

Later we went shopping, ran some errands and then went out for a semi-fancy dinner at our favorite restaurant - Stillwater Grill. I had thought she'd want to ride too but we really didn't have any time since we got such a late start this morning.

Happy 12th Birthday Equestrian Girl!

Monday, December 28, 2009


Last year I spent approximately 9657 hours between Christmas and New Year's Eve chronicling our entire year in scrap book pages. In previous years I had managed to complete this task in just 8544 hours during that lovely week of aftermath but last year I had discovered digital scrapping and just knew it would save me tons and tons of time. What I didn't take into account was that I was creating all these wonderful pages in 8.5"x 11" to fit my printer but the books I had bought called for 12"x 12" pages...which meant I did this very cool combination of digital and old fashioned scrap booking but it took foreeeeeever to do.

This year I had a new plan of attack. I even started a bit early and had picked out my favorite few pictures from at least 10 out of the 75 events I photographed in 2009! I also had figured out that Scott's new printers for his t-shirt business would work with 12"x 12" paper and he had all these lovely ink cartridges that were just sitting around doing nothing since he had swapped them out for special transfer inks. I was a bit worried about the cost of the photo paper in this size but was very happy to find that HP was having a great sale on their 13"x19 paper (I can trim) making it only $0.89 per sheet!

I started Christmas Day afternoon and just 36 hours later (including sleep) I was DONE!! 52 scrap book pages all done digitally. Some were "quickie" pages designed by "real" scrap queens where I just had to plug in a picture or two but most were done by me using papers and elements that I've either purchased or downloaded for free.

Enjoy a selection of my favorites!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Homeschooling: I received an email yesterday from a woman I am honored to call friend. Marcie Lipsitt is a self-less fighter for the rights of special needs children to get a free and appropriate public education as allowed by federal law. She came through for me with advice and help when we needed it most as Motocross Boy was about to be expelled from public school. She encouraged us with our decision to homeschool and inspired me to continue to fight for the rights of other special needs public school children even if we weren't going that direction. So I wasn't too surprised when about a year ago with her family she agreed to allow HBO to film them for a documentary on bipolar disease in children. I also knew it would be a quality and fair program if Marcie was going to be involved. Her email yesterday was letting us know that the documentary will finally air on HBO2 January 6th at 7 p.m. I'm now on a search to find someone who can record this for me since we don't have HBO... Diagnosis Bipolar: Five Families Search for Answers

Christmas Breakfast: When we were young the tradition was always for Dad to make his famous "sticky buns" for Christmas morning breakfast. I'm not sure how that got started or even where the recipe came from but they were yummy and we all loved them. Later as an adult with my own family, we started making what I think some people call "monkey bread". It was easier than the sticky buns but had a similar taste and no nuts - I have a family of nut haters somehow. This year I wanted to try something new and while looking for something else I spotted this recipe for Raspberry-Stuffed French Toast with Custard Sauce. Anyone who knows me knows I'm not a baker and I don't like anything complicated. This didn't look too bad and I usually have most of the ingredients except Neufchatel cheese. It was delicious!!! Everyone loved it this morning and I highly recommend it. Do pay attention to the fact it serves NINE. I'm going to try freezing our leftovers - we'll see how they fare.

And Christmas isn't Christmas without the bathrobe early morning bleary eyed pictures. And yes, that is a blender that Motocross Boy got for Christmas!! His VERY own blender for making his yummy smoothies.

Equestrian Girl is showing off a silver blingy necklace and earrings set that she will wear for Western Pleasure classes next year.

Scott and I are not in any pictures this year. The kids were up at 3 a.m. squeaking the floor boards and talking LOUDLY hoping we'd wake up (as if we could sleep through that!) and let them come down to open presents. Made them wait until 6:30ish.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ticked me right off...

Equestrian Girl and I got back from the cottage a little while ago. We were there a bit longer than planned - we had just ran up to clean the house to get ready for renters we have coming in after Christmas. Last night when I was cleaning the basement I noticed one side of the window in the bedroom was cracked. On closer inspection I saw that it was actually pushed out of the frame at the top and the latch was unlocked. I ALWAYS lock that window and usually the blinds are closed too (and they were open which is how I noticed the window was cracked in the first place). After mulling it over since nothing was missing and the house looked just like we left it, I decided that when Motocross Boy's friends were over last time we were up one of them must have fallen against that window and broke it but never said anything. We called and asked Motocross Boy and he didn't think that had happened but it seemed to be the only logical explanation. I probably should have gone outside to look but it was dark and I didn't.

So this morning I'm dusting the TV and I realize the stereo is gone! I'm 100% sure it was there when we left because Equestrian Girl had asked to take it home just as we were walking out the door and we said no because we didn't really have anywhere safe to put it since the truck was packed. I had already called the window people to come fix it so then I had to call the police. When I went outside with the officer to see the outside of the window, sure enough, someone had carefully chipped away the seal in order to pry the metal holding the glass out of the wood frame. The prying cracked the glass but none had actually broken out. They had pulled it out from the top corner just far enough to slide something down to flip the lock open then slid open the window. VERY odd that all they took was that little stereo - probably not more than $50 3-4 years ago (Scott's mom had sent it as an x-mas gift) and even closed the window when they left. The detective dusted for prints (I was cracking up that he was doing that for a $50 stereo but whatever) but didn't find anything useful. He even tried to get foot prints from the little bit of dirt that was there!! Slow day for the detectives in Mancelona I guess. He was thrilled to discover that I still had the box for the stereo including the serial number on it. That about made his day I think. That's what happens when you don't have garbage service - you save all the big boxes to burn in the bonfire pit in the summer but that one hadn't made it out yet.

I was pretty proud of myself last night. That window was leaking cold air pretty bad and we had plywood in the garage and plenty of dry wall but no saw. Nothing to measure with either. Then I found a couple of pieces of ceiling tile that looked to be pretty close to the right size. I fit the two big pieces in pretty good and then found two narrow strips to fill the gap. One was too long but I could score it with a kitchen knife and then break it. Then I found a roll of duct tape and went to town! That side ended up better insulated than the good glass side. But the window guy that came out this afternoon was supposed to board it from the outside too so it should be pretty secure since they can't actually fix it until after January 4th. Apparently the glass supplier is shut down for the next two weeks. Only up north.

Scott was freaking out that we were up there alone and hadn't even taken the dog with us but I really wasn't worried. The snow is so deep now that anyone would be nuts to try getting in through the back again and I had left the truck outside so anyone driving by would see someone was there. The detective said it looked like whoever did it knew what they were doing the way the window was opened but to only take that little stereo was weird. Didn't even take the bottle of tequila in the frig... So we are guessing that someone might have pulled in the driveway and spooked him off. We get a LOT of turn arounds for whatever reason. Very weird.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Old Houses

I really love old houses and the architecture. Our house was built in 1923...or maybe its 1927 - I can never remember - but it's been remodeled and added on to so many times it's hard to know what it was really like when it was "new". We find little remnants of the past when we remodel. Right now our master bathroom, which was an add on in the early 80's is semi-torn apart revealing an old opening in the original side of the house. Apparently the room we now use as an office (which was originally a bedroom) had a second window!

When we drive back and forth to the barn we pass this house. It's old and very beat up. The picture actually makes it look better than it is. It also sits very close to the street corners as you can see and while this isn't exactly a busy intersection, it does see a fair amount of traffic for being dirt roads. We always joke that Equestrian Girl is going to buy this house - she could probably afford it right now the way houses are priced around here.

This is another house that we pass. It looks a lot older than it probably is. I think it's a sad little house.

Now this house I love. I love the simplicity. I love that it's all white. I love the single wreath as a Christmas decoration on the door. I love that it probably has incredible lighting inside. I love that it's different.

We pass within 100 yards of this house every time we go to the barn but I never noticed it until just recently since we don't actually drive in front of it. And then the other day - it was waving at us! We just had to go closer and take a look and a few pictures.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Homeschooling: When we fell into homeschooling I really had no idea how many parents were truly passionate about schooling at home. I really didn't know why they would need to be. I slowly came to understand the why and the importance as well. It's often difficult to be passionate about something that has such close ties to government. You must often choose to someone in government who supports your choice to homeschool but goes against many of your other beliefs.

Today there was an article in the Detroit News that fanned my passion.

In a nutshell, the author of the article points a whole lot of blame on the "lax" homeschooling laws in Michigan for the child abuse and subsequent deaths of two children. I find this interesting:

Based on data reported by CPS agencies in 1999, it is estimated that nationwide, 2,000 children died as a result of child abuse or neglect. Children age 3 and under accounted for more than 3/4 of these child fatalities. The actual number of deaths may be higher, as not all child maltreatment fatalities are known to CPS.

These are national statistics but if 3/4 of the children being abused are under age 3, where exactly does school come into this? And of the other 25%, how many go to public schools? I bet it's more than 2.

If you go on to read the comments to this article you get even more annoyed. So many of the commenters just have no clue about homeschooling. They are still pulling out the socialization card! Have you ever met a super shy kid and just assumed he or she was homeschooled? Of course not! Just like you wouldn't assume they go to public school. They are also all over Michigan having more regulations for homeschoolers suggesting we need to use the same curriculum and state standards...and those are just how successful for how public school students? Hardly. And that's not to say that I don't worry about how my kids stack up against what they'd be learning in public school (well, at least the core curriculum stuff, not the peer pressure and bullying stuff). I have often chosen their curriculum based on the fact it tracked against the state standards...just don't force me to do that please!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Count down...

Horses: Last weekend we went to a horse expo...let's just say I was glad we had free tickets. It wasn't overwhelmingly awesome. Supposedly the real Hidalgo from the movie of that name was there. We didn't see him. On the way home we stopped for fast food.

I don't remember Motocross Boy wearing a hat...but he has one on in this picture so I guess he did. How odd.

Homeschooling: Four days deep on the new scheduling and record keeping system and all is good.

Motocross Boy went nuts on the math today and is now more than 50% done with his math curriculum. The program he uses keeps track of his progress in a colored pie chart. He's filled up two whole sections of pie and parts of the rest! He loves seeing this visual and so does Dad - they show me all the time even though I log in almost every day to check his assignments!

More horses: I went to the barn alone tonight. I rode for about an hour. I am feeling incredibly relaxed and exhausted...I love it. I forget how much I love to ride when I don't do it for months at a time during the summer. Most of my horsey friends don't get to ride much in the winter...I do the opposite. Not sure I know how to ride without six layers of clothes on!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Assignments & Record Keeping

Homeschooling: One of the things we've struggled the most with homeschooling is how to handle assignments and record keeping. We've managed to bumble through a variety of methods from "come see mom" for each thing which doesn't work all that well since I work full time and am not always available, to an online system that just wasn't flexible enough. We also have to find a solution that works for both kids who have very different needs and learning styles. One gets overwhelmed when he sees more than 5 assignments at a time. The other likes to see all her work for the full week. Both tend to jump around from doing one subject per day and then doing all their math for the whole week the next day. There's trade offs.

The online system we've been using since September let them see the assignments for EACH day (though not a week at a "glance") but working ahead really mucked up the system because then I had to keep track rather than the program and they had to remember to mark those assignments complete on future days. What resulted was a semi-chaotic state where I wasn't ever quite sure what they had done or not.

I spent this weekend developing yet another new "system". It starts with a binder with a special cover page. I was out of blue ink when I printed this one but I sort of like the "orange" look I got and let it go.

Next is a "week at a glance" of subject assignments with color coordinated tabs.

Under each colored tab are all the assignments for that subject for the full week. The column to the left is so they can date them and to the right they can fill in the grade if it's something they do online that grades itself (they still have to email or print the results though so I can verify what they wrote).

All of it is coordinated through this Numbers document (Excel for you PC users!). This is the master list of assignments for each subject for the year. I simply cut and paste them into the weekly charts and copy the grades back into this chart for safe keeping and a permanent record.

So far so good but it's only been ONE day!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

SPUR Banquet

Horses: Today we attended the SPUR of the Moment Horse Show banquet. Equestrian girl did VERY well in that series. She was the champion for 2 classes. And reserve for many others!

That's our friends Sheri and Sandhya in the background handing out the awards.

This is "Mad Dog", one Equestrian Girl's horse show buddies. Her nickname just kills me!

Sandhya is getting married in June. If she uses that smile at her wedding she'll be a beautiful bride. Sheri is getting married too but I didn't get any great pictures of her smile. And the guy with the hat kept hiding his behind his coffee cup...

This is another of the horse show buddies...she looked so cute all dressed up I didn't even recognize her!

Mad Dog and Equestrian Girl hamming it up for the camera.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Time of Year...

Horses: This is my time of year. Or it will be as soon as shopping is done. I truly enjoy cold weather and am happiest when I'm bundled up head to toe. I know how to dress for the cold and tend to look oddly at those who choose to suffer rather than just add an extra sweatshirt. I purposefully buy jeans that are a size or two too big just so I can wear thick long johns underneath. And the fleece turtlenecks from Lands End that I bought last winter are my best friends. My husband's old Carhartt is big enough to put over top of multiple layers of sweatshirts and I wouldn't live without my stick on toe warmers bought by the case at Costco each fall.

This is also my time of year because I get to ride. A lot. As much as I want. Equestrian Girl sits around being very bored while I take my dear sweet time bopping around on Stanley. Last night she gave me a lesson. She told me I was a terrible student. She set up a pattern for me. The first time through she gave me "last place". We tried harder and I got a "4th". Yea me!

Motocross: There is absolutely nothing to write about for our motocross world. It's on hold.

Homeschooling: We are in a good rhythm right now. Equestrian Girl is pounding out the work to finish by Wednesday ever week. Motocross Boy is working on math every day with Dad and is two clicks away from totally mastering division. He loves Aleks math and watching his pie chart grow.

I'm thinking about adding a new piece to our curriculum through Defined Stem Learning. We are doing a 14 day trial and I'm hoping the kids like it as much as I do. So far I'm quite impressed and for my very visual learners I think it's a good fit.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Happy Horse Dance!

Horses: We are doing a little happy dance around here with Equestrian Girl. The year end results were finally posted for the Michigan Paint Horse Club and....drum roll....she did fantastic! Three 1st places with a 1st place tie in trail. One 2nd and four 3rds. We are especially happy since this was her first year showing breed (Paint) and her first year riding canter and her first year riding Stanley!!

This handsome boy below is Floyd. He's Kim's boy - Kim is Equestrian Girl's trainer. We stopped out to see him at his new barn.

The little guy with Floyd is his pasture pal - a rescued pony that is now about 100 years old! Not really but he has grown the longest winter coat that I think I've ever seen on a horse - it's got to be about 4 inches long or more.

This is Kim riding Floyd. He just learned how to steer last week.

The two cuties below look like twins but they aren't. Both are weanling Friesians with one being a girl and one a boy. They have long YELLOW hair growing out of their ears and are just totally adorable.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cold. It's Cold.

Horses: Yesterday afternoon Equestrian Girl and I drove up to MSU to watch a little of the Cowboy Christmas Horseshow and do a little browsing at the tack booths set up. We knew for sure one of the ladies from the barn was taking her horse up to show tomorrow in the regular classes (actually her trainer is going to be doing the showing) and we figured we were bound to know a few other people as well.

When we got out to the arena to sit down, they had just finished up the 13 and under versatility challenge for English/Western (they'd come back later to run barrels) and were excited to see a couple of girls from our old barn getting ready to go in for the 14-19 class age group. In that class was our old trainer and a horse we knew from Paint shows but we didn't know the rider. (Later we found out it was her friend riding).

The fun really started when they got ready to do the barrel racing. Most of these horses were NOT speed horses at all. In the 13 and under group one of Equestrian Girl's friends from the SPUR shows was there and did a nice slow lope/trot around the barrels - she had fun seeing her and went down to talk to her later. Our old trainer was riding a horse that wasn't at all happy about running barrels. The Paint we know turned into quite a show as his rider tried convincing him it was okay to go faster than a trot!

We had wanted to stay for the freestyle reining class but it was already 8:30 and we have an hour drive home from MSU with a big day planned for today. Another horse filled day! But it's also going to be a bundle up day. Last night driving home it was 24 degrees with a bright clear sky. This morning its.....13 degrees. It will be fun to see how our new trainer from FLORIDA handles this cold day!

Homeschooling: I recently wrote about how I feel we should embrace technology. The very next day I read about a study that shows that kids who use technology such as texting, email, blogging, and even facebook actually have better writing skills than those who don't. I'm always a little leery of such studies wondering who paid for them but in this case the study was done in England where full disclosure and restrictions are a bit stronger. It was done by a British university...

Birds & the Bees...when you homeschool you have total control over this topic to present it and teach it and explain it how you feel best. A while back we started family reading time where we went bit by bit through a birds & the bees book. I had carefully researched various books and had found two that I felt would work best for our family. After each section we talked a little bit about it and made sure both kids had understanding. And then we dropped it as a 'topic' of homeschooling. That's not to say we stopped discussing it in total - we often had either private or family discussions as things came up. A few days ago I came across the book and pulled it out thinking it might be a good time for a quick refresher. I also suspected one of the kids would see the book and take it for their own personal reading. Sure enough, last night Motocross Boy came downstairs to get some index cards and saw the book asking if he could take it upstairs to read...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rain, rain go away...

Horses: It rained here yesterday afternoon and part of the night. It was a deep drenching rain so no doubt we'll have plenty of mud again. I just love when the ground gets nice and soft so the horses can churn it all up good and then it freezes into something totally impossible to walk on. It's like what I imagine the surface of the moon to be like...

We didn't go to the barn to ride Stanley last night. That was mostly me - I had no desire to go out in that dark rain. But we have been going at least 5 out of 7 days and I've been riding myself every time we go too. I don't usually ride at all during show season, or at least I don't ride Stanley. I felt very strongly that being a new horse to us last winter it was important that Equestrian Girl and him develop a strong bond and he didn't get confusing signals on a regular basis from two very different riders. I believe it worked. He is very connected to her now. We've been tossing around the idea of me riding in a class or two at the open shows next year but we'll see. I will take a few lessons this winter and see how it goes and if I can find some cheap show clothes, maybe.

Motocross: Last winter there were THREE indoor race tracks for motocross in Michigan. This year there are NONE. One was rather far away but the boys went out there early in the winter season to check it out. Their first comment was that the ventilation was terrible. It was built in one of those golf dome type places and the air exchange just wasn't enough. A few weeks later they were shut down for just that reason. Every time they thought they had it "fixed" they would get shut down again. Another place that the boys had gone to a LOT the winter before had trouble with his lease on the building. No go this year. The third track was our favorite. They had a nice pit area that was semi-heated, fan stands that were toasty warm, and a pretty nice track that was well maintained. They held a race series that Motocross Boy loved and a great banquet at the end of the year. A few weeks later the place was locked up and closed down in foreclosure.

All this means that if Motocross Boy is to do any racing this winter it will have to be outdoors if the weather is okay or they'll have to travel. Apparently there's a couple places in Ohio and Indiana but none are real close...several hours away.

Homeschooling: I read an interesting article this morning about how schools have been fighting the use of cell phones in class and how they are so often used for cheating. Students will save information on their phones and then use it during a test. Or they will text questions and answers to other students. Motocross Boy is an expert at figuring out ways to cheat on some of his on-line material (which is why I now have to print so much!) but he's never used his cell phone and I don't think he knows anyone to text to get an answer during the day! Equestrian Girl has never used hers to cheat (that I know of anyway) but she has used it to take a photo of her on-line test results to send me. We use one on-line program for science that we all really love but there's no way for them to email or save their test results for me to see if I'm not there. Since this program is quite independent, I'm don't make it a habit of being around when either of them use it. Thus the reason for taking a photo I guess!

There's a lot of controversy in the homeschool world about how much technology to embrace in schooling. We are more on the side of "more is better". Our society is advancing so quickly in this field that it's difficult to keep up. Both of my kids can do things with computers that I still have a hard time comprehending. Equestrian Girl can whip stuff out of Gimp or Photoshop before I can figure out which icon to click on. Motocross Boy can track down a piece of information he needs in seconds. When I told him he needed to read for "exactly" fifteen minutes, he quickly downloaded a little program that was a digital timer. The other day Motocross Boy came in asking me how to spell Adolf as he typed it into Google. Huh? He had caught the tail end of a program on the history channel that mentioned Adolf Hitler and wanted to learn more about him. Instant access to a world of information....

In my opinion our society is changing and our kids need to keep up. We do too. I remember at work when we first got our laptops and were told that we would learn to use them and work with our contact database program or find another job. We had people leave because they were afraid of that black hunk of plastic and electronics. I jumped on the opportunity (I was also much younger then) and it paid off handsomely. I was considered one of the go-to people and am still considered one of the more techno-literate people. We don't have many around that can handle both PC based and Mac based programs...but I can and it helps. Our kids are going to have that leg up if we continue to expose them to technology in age appropriate safe ways.