Monday, December 17, 2012

Home Again, Jiggety Jig

Just a quick update to say, yes, he's home! He came home a couple weeks ago, and we then had the opportunity to go see his sub before they drove it to the shipyard. The family day ended up on the same day of the USS Enterprise's decommissioning ceremony, so traffic was a little crappy on base, but it was okay. The boat was actually docked right next to the carrier, too, so we saw a little of that action on the walk in.

They didn't put in the spiral staircase, so we had to climb straight down the ladder to get in. This didn't bother me, but I was really worried about how the kids would do. I was happy to discover that Wyatt, with just a little coaxing, handled it just fine. Oscar had to be hauled down by his dad, but he's small enough that that was no problem.

Then, we got to spend a few hours wandering around the sub, checking out what every thing is and how it works. We had lunch there, too, and I was so excited to watch the boys get to finally experience what life for their dad is like. They had him hoist them up onto his rack, which was on the very top this time around. Oscar got scared pretty quick, and Wyatt proclaimed it not really to his liking.

All in all, it was an awesome experience. It'll be years before the chance comes again, so I'm really glad we were able to make it work out. We're juggling one car, and Oliver had duty that day, so I actually just drove up, had dinner with him, then left him back on the boat the night before (they had pulled in that afternoon) so we could come back the next day. It was sad not to have him home his first night (or second), but it was worth it.

Leave is coming up now, too, so yay for finally having a break from this Navy stuff for a bit!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Baby Fishy

I'm definitely feeling this baby moving around inside, which is really bizarre because I'm only 13 weeks. I saw my midwife this week and she said for a third baby, that's totally normal. So, okay! It's weird because clearly the kid has tons of room to swim around in there - she tried to get it on the doppler and, after finding the heartbeat almost immediately and losing it, it took awhile to find it again. I brought the boys with me, and Wyatt stood right up next to me, listening in with a big grin on his face. It's really cute to share this with them - he was too young when I was pregnant with Oscar to understand what was going on.

In other news, I'm trying hard to be patient, and it's a struggle right now. I can't say anything else about it, but, yes, it's all about a missing spouse! Argh. I know that us moving here rather than going to GA, then moving up a few months later was better. Truly, it was. Between the pregnancy (that we knew nothing about when we PCS'd), to getting homeschooling going, to just things like the second car that we was shipped here, but we would have had to drive up for the second move, it was all better. But, wow, I'm sick of this separation! All I have to say to people who choose to geo-bach on purpose - you are crazy. That is all.

We did turn today into a library day. Wyatt found some Magic School Bus books there, and was so excited about it. He'd watched some of the show at school, and eagerly sat down at a table and read through one of them while we were there. Happily, I just picked up the entire series over Black Friday when Amazon had the set down dirt cheap, and I also got a good price on a science kit based on the series that will be sent out monthly, starting in December. I've been kind of stumped on science for awhile, so I'm excited about it. We'll try to find corresponding books through the library, and I'll buy a few if I have to, then have the related DVD to watch as well as the experiments in the kit to work through.

We picked up donuts on the way home, had a snack, then turned school into a math (can't slack on that one!)/reading day, with some Magic School Bus DVDs at the end (he was SO excited to come home and find out I had them - I had debated waiting for Christmas to give them to him, but now I'm glad I didn't). It was a good day, which hadn't started out as such. Here's hoping the end of the week is just as good.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Patience is Elusive...

We're so close to being back together as a family, but not quite there... It's a lot harder to have patience with it when you are so close to the end. On the plus side, I'm nearly twelve weeks and the morning sickness (why was this ever named morning sickness? For me, it gets worse as the day goes on, but I'm usually fine when I wake up) is fading away slowly. I'm looking forward to the middle trimester; it's always the best one for me.

I'm actually hoping to run again when Oliver gets back. I haven't been able to do much since we moved as the boys are past the age of strapping into a stroller - not that I even own a jogger, anymore. Sold that puppy to someone in the Bahamas! Once you have multiple kids, and have chosen homeschooling for awhile, a jogger just doesn't make sense anymore.

Oh, and in the interest of cramming this post full of baby-related stuff, I got a crib! And mattress. For fifty bucks! A friend here had a relative that was getting rid of it. It was barely used, just been in storage for a couple years. I'm thrilled; that saves us several hundred dollars. It actually looks very similar to the one I gave away before we moved, not that I would have cared much what it looked like; it's just a temporary holding pen for a couple years that pretty much no one will see but us, after all.

Finally, the homeschooling gig is slowly coming together. I've even got Oscar doing reading lessons again. I had to buy another program, but he loves it, and no longer fights me, so it was worth it. It's been interesting bouncing back and forth between them, but I'm just trying to assign Wyatt something independent while I work with Oscar.

I have also started Wyatt on a new math program. We're going to keep up with some of the other stuff, but I don't think he's being challenged enough, and I need something with a little more structure as math is a weakness for me. We did the first few pages today; it took him forever because he kept distracting himself, but I think it might work out. Crossing my fingers on that one.

I'm doing very free-wheeling spelling lessons, though. The program I initially tried was a bust; it was rule-based, and he couldn't seem to recall any of the rules it was teaching, so I gave up, did some research on how kids learned to spell, and am doing something entirely of my own device now. I think it may be working, too - he used to write scribbles whenever he was playing and needed something written for whatever reason, but now he is actually writing words, and is far less stressed about whether they are spelled right or not (which I think was a huge impediment to writing before). Which is not to say that I've taught him that spelling right isn't important - more that it's okay to be wrong, and how to find the answers when he is.

Now, I just need to figure out how to be more organized. Everything is in a single bookcase right now; it's togther, but that's about all I can say about it. It's getting too chaotic, and I need a better way to let the boys know what is expected from them each day. I've got a few ideas, but think I will wait for Oliver to return so I can go out and search for the right supplies on my own. I will get a LOT more done that way!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Halloween is over - and so is Sandy, and not having a washing machine - whew!

I am absurdly tired right now. Sort of sad since it's only 1430, and the kids were nice enough to let me sleep in a couple hours while they watched Mythbusters on Netflix. I really don't think I'm as worn out with this pregnancy as I was with Oscar, but it wipes me out halfway through the day. Just to trick-or-treat, I had to lay down for awhile in the afternoon so I could muster the energy to walk around the neighborhood with the boys.

Oh, yes, the cat's out of the bag - we're expecting again! Considering how much I hate being pregnant, and a lot of other things, I'm pretty sure this time it will be the last, but we're happy about it. Once again, I'm doing a first trimester without Oliver, but such is life for us. He should be back here in another month, just in time for me to stop puking. Clearly, he is not sad about this, haha.

Anyway, the baby's due on June 6th. I can't exactly say it was a surprise to find out I was pregnant because, well, we DO know how babies are made, but we weren't exactly trying, either. Mostly playing Russian Roulette with it because we couldn't make up our minds. Hideously romantic, I know.

I had an ultrasound and determined I am not, thankfully, carrying twins. I'd had some irrational fear that that would happen, so it's good to know we're in the clear there. I also had all the initial tests, was told I have some kind of thyroid issue, so my midwife wants to put me on meds for the pregnancy, and maybe beyond. I have to admit, I'm kind of surprised by this. I have no weird symptoms, no family history of thyroid issues, and wonder if this is all some kind of test fluke, but we'll see, I guess. I go back in a month, so I'll have a nice long chat about it then.

In other news, hurricane Sandy almost rained out Halloween. Luckily, at least for us, that didn't happen. We mostly ended up with a day stuck in the house while the streets around us flooded out. Our housing area, though, seems to be on higher ground, so nothing bad here. We didn't even lose power, unlike a lot of my relatives farther up the coast. I certainly am thankful about that one.

We did nearly have a minor tragedy, though. Oscar had some very specific ideas about the Captain America costume he wanted for Halloween. He didn't want the redesigned movie one, but wanted the old school one with "wings" on the helmet. He also didn't want the muscle ones, which I have to agree look incredibly stupid. So, I had to go to the internet. After one cancelled order because of not enough stock (that took them four days to tell me, grrr), I tried again, only to have Sandy delay it. It finally showed up on the 30th, just in time for the church's trunk or treat, that was more like a "walk around the cultural hall and get candy" event because of the cold front that swept in after the hurricane left.

Technically, masks were outlawed at the church event, but I let him wear it, anyway. It totally wasn't the same without it, and, um, it's not a full mask, so I didn't see the issue. The only person to complain was another kid whose parents' had clearly not allowed him to wear his (he had the movie Captain America costume, and, yeah, it was almost impossible to tell what he was since he also didn't have a shield).

So, after my Halloween rebellion, we trick-or-treated for real the next night around our neighborhood. It was cold, and half the houses we went to with lights on didn't answer the door, so we gave up after awhile, but the kids still had fun. Andros definitely wins the Halloween prize, however. That's a holiday they do far better than what we had in the States (although, I'm talking the base here, not the outside community, which really don't celebrate the holiday).

And, finally, our storage stuff actually caught up with us yesterday!! Which means I have a washer and dryer again. Well, almost. After figuring out how to hook up them up myself, something that included having to buy a new cord for the dryer and switching it out due to the newness of our house, I discovered that the vent is completely blocked by something that feels straw-like. I'm guessing it's a bird's nest, because our laundry room is upstairs, but I'm really not sure. It definitely has to go, however, before we can use the dryer. I'd prefer to not have a fire. Luckily, I can call maintenance to get rid of it, as I have no desire to tackle that particular project. Hooking up a washer and dryer was enough alpha-female behavior for one week.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Say What Again?

I had an interesting conversation with Oscar yesterday. We were having one of those "What does _____ eat?" conversations when he came out with this one: "What do criminals eat, Mommy?" I kind of looked at him funny, then tried to explain that criminals were just people who made bad choices, not an actual species. 

I have actually wondered before whether or not this is how their line of thinking went, so I wasn't entirely surprised by the question. It was, however, a confirmation that cops and robbers is a game that can be very much misunderstood by kids.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Major Life Changes

So, Virginia. Here we are. Well, most of us. Oliver is cooling his heels in Georgia, trying to finally check into his boat. I am fairly sure it's going to happen today, which is a huge relief.

We actually drove him down there so he could report on September 17, after spending a week in VA getting our housing worked out (and got lucky enough to have our stuff arrive the day we did, so they delivered it before we had to drive to GA - I was SO happy about that!). He didn't actually report to his boat, though, but a sort of transitional command that vets people and makes sure all is in order before they move on to their actual commands.

For the most part, this is no big deal. They spend a couple days running around doing paperwork and double checking everything, then that's it. Unfortunately for us, it turned out to not be so simple. From the medical records we accidentally left in VA (I had to drive back and overnight them, only to have them get temporarily lost in the Navy's mail system for almost a week), to the lack of a barracks room that Oliver had to practically beg for (something that should have been a given when he showed up because he had been ordered to move his family to another state), to the submarine physical that apparently had to be redone, to the total backup of the eye doctors there in Kingsbay because one was transferred unexpectedly...

Slowly, he's been working through the whole mess. The medical records were found, an eye appointment unexpectedly opened up, and we are no longer looking at a November time frame to get him to his boat. The physical is finally almost done, and hopefully we will get some more concrete information about when he'll be joining us here.

I have more to say, but am not ready to say it, so you'll have to wait, but our life has been so crazy lately! And it's going to get crazier. I'm still trying to figure out this whole homeschooling thing. It's been tough with the move and transitioning, plus missing husband, but I'm at least working out a math, cursive practice, spelling program, and reading time day that mostly works. I just recently worked a little science into it, and will hopefully improve on that as we get farther on and have less pressure on us. There's a library near our home, with a couple more with in a half hour that we can also use. I'm going to work out a few field trips when I have the energy for it, and we're definitely going to do some schooling this summer to make up for the last few months.

So far, I think we all like it okay. Wyatt, while missing his old school a bit, has told me he's glad to be homeschooled, so that makes me feel better about the decision. I like teaching him, although I'm sort of surprised at times at the gaps I'm finding in what he knows. I don't know if that's a warped expectation from me, or if his schooling on Andros was a little more uneven than I realized, but we're working on it.

I really want to start up the Spanish program I ordered for them, but am struggling with how to fit it in. I hope I can find a way to do that soon. So much to think about!

Anyway, I'm going to keep blogging for now. I keep thinking about quitting, but since I have gotten terrible at journaling, find Facebook a poor way to look back and see how things were in life, and now actually have something to talk about, I think I am loath to quit. So, for you three people who still read this, thanks for hanging around! It's always good to hear from you!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Reflections on the Past

I haven't been posting much on here. I think about it, then I just don't. Maybe blogging has run its course with me - I actually came close to picking up my years-long neglected paper-and-pen journal the other day. I don't know. We'll see.

Anyway, life is changing very fast right now. Or, it will be changing dramatically when the movers show up next week to start packing up our stuff. I took the boys over to the school to return the last of our books to the library there, and had a chance to say good-bye to several people there, including Wyatt's Kindergarten and first grade teacher.

After doing that, I walked home feeling reflective, and here I am, typing on the blog again.

We've spent three years in the Bahamas. It's been a life-changing experience. As I prep for this move, I'm startled by how more relaxed I am about the details. This despite what has been a constantly changing set of orders, one of which came a week ago and has us moving to a different state than we expected.

Our last move, the lack of information freaked me out, and I was so worked up about whether or not the way we were used to living would be possible here. Thinking about the contrast, I realized today that while I've moved around the US quite a bit, each move only required small adjustments in lifestyle. It wasn't too noticeable, or really required that much out of me.

Living here, though, has required us to do just about everything differently. I no longer expect things to happen instantly, no longer fret when I can't get something I was so sure we needed, and no longer agonize over uncertainty or change. I actually thought I was a pretty flexible person before moving here, but realize that really wasn't the case at all. Maybe I was flexible by American standards, but that is about it.

We're going to be homeless by the end of next week with no housing lined up due to the last minute orders change, and Oliver is going to be living in a different state than we are for several months. We don't know how we're going to manage that, financially or otherwise, but I know we'll figure it out. It may not be pretty for awhile, but stuff has a way of working itself out even if it isn't "perfect" the way it happens.

I'm going to miss this place, even as I'm very happy to be moving on. I think that's the best time to go - when you have a lot of reasons to move on, yet you know you will be sad to say good-bye to certain people and places. That's where I'm at.

I very much hope we get another chance to live overseas some day. My first taste has only made me want more.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

¡Los ordenes han llegado!

We've got orders. They came at the end of last week. It was very nice to actually see them, read them....and realize this move is going to be way more complicated than we'd thought. Because nothing is ever simple here. Nothing.

I am sure we'll figure it all out, but trying to talk out the details was making my head spin the other day. We've got all the things about getting out of here to worry about, then a small storage shipment from WA to track down, a car to ship, and then the issue of only a couple months before we move again waiting for us, which definitely affects what housing we will choose.

So, I've emailed the ombudsman of the boat he's heading to, and am trying to figure out stuff on that end. Oliver will run around here and do all the paperwork, while I get the house ready to meet the movers.

Speaking of that, I went out to our shed (detached from the house) where we keep the bikes and other outside stuff this weekend. I caught sight of a mouse running around, so got pretty aggressive about cleaning stuff out and making a dumpster pile. We've had a mouse problem in the house, and trapped six mice before it seemed we'd solved the issue, so I'm not at all happy to see any mice near our trailer.

Working in the shed, I didn't find any real evidence of a mouse den, other than a plastic bag that had been shredded, but there were plenty of lizard eggs, a cockroach, and a couple of ant nests in bizarre places. I didn't do a full clean because we still have time (and the bugs will just come back and I'll need to do it again), but I did notice that a window fan, taped into its box, that we'd put out there because we have central air and don't need it, had tons of dead ants under the packing tape sealing the tape. This struck me as rather bizarre, as did the ant nest I discovered between the boards we had put on concrete blocks for a makeshift shelf out there. Another bin, with tools and things like sandpaper that we rarely use, had a lot of ants crawling in and out of it, so I'm not looking forward to cleaning that one out.

Ah, life in the tropics!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vamos a mudarnos....¿a un hotel?

Oscar told me yesterday that he wanted to move to a hotel so he could go bowling. I looked at him curiously, and realized suddenly that he has absolutely no memories of living in the States. He had just turned two when we moved here (literally days after his birthday, we got on the plane), so Washington is just a blur. As a result, he associates things like going to a restaurant, a toy store, mini-golf, and bowling to time spent in a hotel. If we aren't in a hotel, we don't do those things because they don't exist on our island.

It's curious how you can see things through your kids' eyes in a totally different way. I am wondering how he will adjust to life in the country he was born in, but doesn't remember. I suspect it will be fine; maybe harder for me, actually, since living here requires a lifestyle change that is very profound. I've got to go back and figure out how to do things all over again. My perspective is nothing like it once was, and I mean that in a good way.

Living here has been frustrating and maddening at times, but it was so, so very good for me.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Waiting Game...

I'm really tired of waiting. It feels like I'm stuck in limbo right now - waiting for orders to finally arrive, waiting for the move to come, waiting for my son to finally be done with school so we can start figuring out how this whole homeschooling thing is gonna work out...


It's going to be fine, and we're not talking about a lot of time, really, but it's tough to be sitting on the edge of so many things. There's only so much housecleaning; curriculum studying; house-staring online (since I can't exactly do anything else without a concrete date to work with) that one can do. I am having fun pitching stuff, though, and doing that reminds me that we've wasted far too much money on stuff. So, I'm not spending on much other than food right now, and I've convinced the boys to get rid of three bags of toys in exchange for two new Hero Factory guys. I'd say that was a pretty great coup there.

I'm trying to enjoy the last months we have here. It poured rain this afternoon, in a crazy, puddle-producing way that also knocked out the sketchily connected wifi tower on our street. When I went outside afterwards, I noticed a ton of snails making their way across our sidewalk, all of them headed in the same direction. (Is there some kind of snail convention I don't know about?) I called the boys outside, and we spent quite a bit of time watching them. I never realized snails could move as quickly as they did. I love stuff like that - this island is full of weird moments like that.

So, whenever I get exasperated with the waiting, I try to remind myself that there are a lot of thins I will miss. Not the least of them being Oliver home every night. That's gonna be a hard one to give up.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Okay, just kidding - it was just the latest info on the ordmod. They're coming, though. It'll be nice to finally start looking for a place to live for real. Only a few months left to go here.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


We've heard from a little birdie the orders may have arrived. Have to wait until Monday because Bupers doesn't seem to work at home (or we can't seem to get the password right - dunno which), but I believe we're looking at a September date, which means a move in four months. Still unclear where and for how long...but the end is in sight!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

What's the Point, Again?

So, there's this guy I see around base sometimes. He wears a helmet when on a bike, as is required. He does not, however, buckle it under his chin -  instead, he wraps the straps around the helmet itself, where it rides precariously on top of his head.

This kind of baffles me. I mean, I know there are plenty of people who choose not to wear a helmet because it isn't "cool", and there are even more who don't seem to know how to fit it properly, but this is an outright worthless way of wearing a helmet. As soon as the guy crashes, the helmet is going to be long gone before his head  hits anything. At least if the straps were hanging loose (like way too many kids around here wear their helmets) there might be some hope of it hanging on and providing a little protection.

As a person whose been in more than one bike crash, one of them being a head collision where a helmet saved my face, literally, I'm unimpressed with the faux headgear that fulfills the rule here, but does nothing to actually fulfill the reason it exists...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Zipping My Lips...For Now

Well, it's been awhile since I last posted. Not that I've been terribly good about it lately or anything! There is a reason for this. We've got a situation brewing that has taken us by complete surprise, and depending on how it turns out, will complicate things much more than expected. I don't want to discuss it more than that, but eventually I will be able to do so. Since it's consuming my thoughts so much, though, I've had to just stay away from here as part of me just really wants to spew my guts.


Instead, I'm going to babble a little bit about Spanish because when I'm not thinking about the aforementioned situation, I'm thinking about Spanish. This week has been spring break for the kids, so I decided it was a good time to string together a more formal language lesson. I was taught using immersion classes in college, and found it to be fairly effective, so that's the way I'd like to teach them. I put together a lesson on colors (they already know at least half of them, so I figured it was a good way to start), and used a free printable book on Easter (¡Felizes Pascuas!) that had pictures of conejos (bunnies) and huevos (eggs) with color descriptions.

It was actually a lot of fun. I started with a color song I found on Itunes that they really loved, then played ¿Donde está ______? with some colored eggs I made out of construction paper. Oscar quickly got bored with that (and even declared, "This is boring!"), but Wyatt seemed to like it. Then we moved to the book I'd printed out. I kept my speaking to Spanish only, and that was okay with them for the most part. The book had only Spanish phrases to figure out what colors to color the pictures, and I was really impressed that Wyatt wasn't even waiting for me to read them, he was figuring out what he had to do all on his own. I really didn't think reading would be a skill he would pick up at first, since I haven't spent any time on alphabet and how each letter sounds.

Anyway, I'd say overall the lesson was a success. My head hurt after speaking only Spanish for a half hour, and I quickly realized I can't depend on myself to put together the main lessons if we're going to do immersion. I'm just not strong enough in the language. I can supplement, though, and get creative with outside resources, plus I know I can read books to them in Spanish and be okay with pronunciation. I need a spine, though, or this isn't going to happen.

Ideally, I'd enroll them in a class, but, sadly, our country has yet to really realize the value of language learning at the elementary level. I've spent a lot of time looking for something in the place we're moving, and am coming up empty.

So, I think I'm going to buy a program I've been looking at for awhile. It's called Calico Spanish, an immersion program used in schools, and they have a homeschool version. It's the most scripted one I've found, and it comes with a lot of hands on things to promote language learning in young kids. It's not cheap, but I think I've resigned myself to having to spend the most on language learning. Hopefully, we'll get lucky and find a friend who speaks Spanish so we can get some free practice in, but I can't count on that.

I think I'll wait to get it until we move, though. Instead, this summer, I'm just going to try to keep informally teaching them. We're gonna label, label, label everything in the house, and I'm using this book, Play and Learn Spanish by Ana Lomba to pick up some new phrases to use with them. It's a pretty great reference book for teaching little kids, as it goes over a lot of the things you'd say to your kids in normal life, all categorized by topic. Oscar is actually responding very well to this; he's even trying to do more than just Spanglish it with a few words here and there and is using verbs.

I don't really know what the end result of all this will be; I hope we all get comfortable using it, although I'm not expecting full fluency or true bilingualism for the boys. I just don't think I speak it well enough to make that happen, and classes are so incredibly difficult to find. My far-out-there hope is that we get stationed in Rota, but, yeah. Probably not gonna happen. So, we'll make do with what we have, and just hope for the best.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Where's the Mail?

We got back from a week long trip to Florida this weekend. As is typical when we go away, we had a pile of boxes waiting for us when I made it over to the post office on Monday. Half of them were full of food, and the other half had homeschooling stuff (mostly books). Everything was fine with all of them.

Today, though, I went to check the mail again and had a first: an envelope that was opened, resealed, and completely empty. The books missing were a couple of used science books I'd bought from someone, so it wasn't a big loss. It's crazy though - we've had three computers shipped here now (two laptops and one desktop), and every single one made it through fine. Of all the things to steal...

Mail here is decent, all things considered. Sometimes, we get packages that are clearly handled poorly. I've had containers of dishwasher powder and laundry soap beat up so badly they were spilling powder everywhere. A few other things have had dings and such, and we've gotten a few boxes that were mashed or partly open. Never had anything stolen outright, though (unless you count two boxes from Amazon that vanished, never to be seen again - no idea what happened there, although the replacements came just fine).

I did notice there was no customs form, so maybe that had something to do with it? This was a package that had been taking far too long to come, so I had already pretty much given up on it. It was weird to find the empty envelope in my mail.

And I just watched a helicopter carrying a torpedo fly by our house.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Thoughts on My Spanish

So, I've been studying my Spanish rather hard the last few weeks. Between podcasts, a grammar book, and reading Spanish language blogs, plus the kid's books I bought to use later with the boys, I'm happy to discover I haven't lost nearly as much as I thought I had. I am, however, completely baffled as to how I managed to pass two college-level Spanish literature courses in college (one of which required me to write analysis papers in Spanish). I either had some very understanding professors, or I've lost more than I thought I have.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Orders Update (Sort of), and Other Stuff

First off, I learned recently that Oliver's orders are being modified, as we expected. I'm biting my fingernails because there's the chance he will lose his boast and get something else. Hopefully, that doesn't happen because I've gotten rather excited about this particular set of orders.

However, since I have, as usual, no control over the outcome, I am not going to worry about it. I'm typically one to obsess over things, so this ability to roll with the punches is fabulous. Much as I wish this time in the Bahamas had been more about being a tourist and getting to experience local culture, I cannot overestimate how much good it has done for me in some very surprising ways.

Still, sometimes you need to escape the island life, and we're burning some leave in a condo in Orlando right now. I find it sort of amusing that Oliver has never been in danger of losing leave before, even back when he was on the submarine and it was extremely hard to find opportunities to do so. It's fairly easy to take leave here, but he doesn't do so unless we have plans to fly off-island. It seems silly to take leave when you live in the middle of everyone you work with and a ten minute walk to your office...

We actually managed to go to church today. First time in a year. It was kind of nice, although my dear, sweet four year old spent the car ride there proclaiming how he "hated church". What he actually means is he hates any situation that is new and requires him to be away from his family (needless to say, this child is thrilled by the idea of homeschooling - not only because he will be learning at home, but because his brother will no longer spend so much time away from him; he really misses Wyatt when he's at school). The last time we regularly attended church, he was not even two years old and still hated being left in the nursery. He's gone maybe three or four times over the last two and a half years, the last time being last summer.

So, I gritted my teeth and hoped for the best. Overall, they both did okay. Wyatt leaned over about twenty minutes into Sacrament Meeting and asked how much longer before it ended. I decided it wasn't a good idea to tell him we still had over forty minutes to go... Oscar went to Primary, and I didn't have to sit with him. He wouldn't sit with his class, though, but was sitting with his brother when I left. About ten minutes later, someone brought him to me in my class because he'd been crying inconsolably. He took one look at me, asked for his little stuffed bear, which I had in my bag, then went back to class when I handed it to him. He had no more issues, other than a bathroom break I helped  him with. Maybe moving back and attending church regularly won't be totally miserable at first. I'm crossing my fingers on that one.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Teaching Spanish

Wyatt has a PE teacher who speaks Spanish, I believe, as his native language. Last year, he'd give the kids a mini vocab lesson before they went out to do whatever was on the schedule that day. Wyatt loved this, and would come home excitedly sharing whatever word he'd picked up that day. Oscar picked up on it, and will now walk around the house proclaiming "doce" whenever he feels like it. Both the boys will often ask me what something means in Spanish, forcing me to search my atrophied Spanish background to try to remember what that is.

Now that I'm working on a study plan for the boys, it struck me that I could probably introduce them to Spanish in a more formal way. I started looking for a program geared toward young kids, and found it far more painful than I had hoped it would be. I have zeroed in on one, though, although I'm going to wait a bit to order it in case I happen across something else. I found a bunch of exceptionally cheap Spanish early readers on Ebay to supplement it. I figure I'll go with that, and see how it is.

The main issue, though, is that I don't think I can really expect them to actually learn the language if we don't use it at home. This means I need to be able to speak to them. So, I bought a book to review my own Spanish, and have been listening to the Notes in Spanish podcasts to help me regain some of my ability (which are an absolutely amazing conversational resource, by the way. They have worksheets, too, and I very much want them, but since they are sold by a couple in Spain, they are going to be far too pricey with the exchange rates between the Euro and dollar right now) . I'm pleasantly surprised at how much I still remember, and I'm hopeful I'll be able to keep us all talking in Spanish at home, even outside of lessons.

I do, though, worry about making sure they can hear the correct accent, which is why I'm going to be using a lot of listening and video activities. My accent was decent when I was learning, so that's a good thing now, but was kind of bad for my confidence when I was studying it because people thought I could speak the language far better than I actually could. They'd start speaking a mile a minute and I'd freak out. The best thing about teaching my own kids is that I don't at all feel the same pressure to speak well that I crippled me before. I'm just going to give it my best and see how it goes.

I was happy to find out there are quite a few websites now where you can hire a tutor to either give you lessons or practive conversational Spanish over Skype. The ones coming out of South America are pretty cheap, only about ten bucks an hour. When we move back to the States and have a decent internet connection again, I think I'm going to sign myself up for tutoring.

Oliver made me rather happy the other day, too, by saying he's thinking about studying Spanish a bit, too, so he can jump in. He speaks Portuguese, and lived in Brazil for a couple years, so it shouldn't be all that difficult. The two languages are VERY close. I can often understand him when he throws a phrase at me and vice versa. Our ultimate goal at this point is to take a family trip to Spain in a couple years.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Going a Little Crazy...

I have not been able to fall asleep the last couple of nights, despite going to bed far too late. As soon as I lie down, my brain starts spinning, turning over a million different things in my head, and it seems to take forever for that to stop long enough for me to fall asleep. On the one hand, not a lot of is going on at the moment, but on the other, I've got a TON of prep to do for this year ahead.

I'm really very excited about homeschooling, and I've got nearly everything decided on, curriculum-wise. Except math, which is by far my weakest subject. Everything else, I'm feeling confident about, and I'm starting to order the materials we'll be working with. Math, though, ugh. Every time I feel good about a program, I read about another one that sounds awesome, and I suddenly don't know anymore which way to go.

I keep telling myself to just pick something and see how it goes, but then I just freak out some more. My background in math is weak because it was neglected by my parents, so I'm determined to give my own kids the grounding I lacked. So, every math program I look at is accompanied by my concern that it isn't thorough enough, or won't be the "best" way to teach them, or that it will end up not preparing them for high school math as well as it should. Plus, some of these programs are exceptionally pricey. Nothing like throwing down a couple hundred bucks for something you end up hating three weeks later... Luckily, I have a  couple months before Wyatt is done with school here before I have to decide. Hopefully, I can get myself to take the plunge and order something before then.

I don't have this problem at all with the other subjects because my background is far stronger. I actually paid a good chunk of my way through college by working as a writing tutor, so it gave me a good look at what kinds of issues there are in kids fresh out of high school. There is no way my kids will not know what a thesis statement is or how to write one by the time they enter college. I feel similarly about things like history and social studies. Science is not a huge thing for me, but it doesn't hold the same mystery and frustration as math does, so I've found that one fairly easy to plan, especially at the elementary levels.

I plan on schooling year-round, with breaks throughout the year as needed or when they coincide with Oliver's leave opportunities. We're going to start some time this summer, after I give Wyatt about a month off, I think.

At least, that is the plan right now. The orders situation is in massive flux. We have hard orders, but his command is most likely not going to release him on time for them. So, he needs new orders but they have yet to be worked out. This stresses me out because we're fast approaching the window of time that the actual move will have to be arranged if he is actually leaving on the orders he has. I am trying not to worry about this, but it has made it impossible to really make any concrete plans.

Mostly, though, I'm ignoring the date issue, planning on getting all our school stuff ready anyway, purging our household goods for the two moves ahead of us this year, and all playing it by ear. I have clearly finally learned how to do this military-life thing because, for once, I'm not actually all that worked up about the uncertainty. I'm just going with what I have, and trying to make sure we can change mid-stream if we have to.

But, I still am having trouble sleeping. I guess that's how the stress is finding an outlet right now.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Girl Scout Cookie Switcheroo

It's been Girl Scout cookie time here. We put in an order a few weeks ago, and the cookies finally arrived this week. Except, they aren't quite what we thought we'd ordered...

We always, always, always buy Thin Mints and Samoas. Always. I was a Girl Scout, and got hooked that way, and those are just the two cookies we get when we have a chance. I never realized there are actually two bakers making cookies, and they don't all have the same names. Or the exactly the same recipes.

So, instead of getting our dark chocolate flavored cookies, we got some made with milk chocolate. I don't know who thinks this somehow makes them the same, but as someone who is extremely picky about chocolate, it's NOT. And at $3.50 a puny box, I'm pretty disappointed I won't be eating any of them (luckily, my family is not as picky about the chocolate as I am, although Oliver definitely noticed the difference, too).

I guess it's time I learned to make them myself. And I don't think I'll order them again - but I will buy them directly so I can for sure what I'm getting. Poor marketing on the part of the Girl Scouts, imo.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Homage to the Grocery Store

I never realized before what an amazing place a grocery store is. I sort of took for granted there would always be some place fully stocked with foods of all kinds some easy distance from my house. In fact, there would probably be two or three of them to choose from. I spent a fair amount of time complaining about the lack of something or other there, or criticized how one was far better than another at certain things. I'd still probably complain today about that, but I don't think I'll ever take such an amazing place for granted again.

The first thing I'm going to do when we move back to the States is head to the grocery store armed with a list of all the basic and exotic ingredients I can think of. Like apples. And rice paper and mushrooms so I can make these. Everything we can't get now, or can only get after it's spent far too much time being transported various ways. Wilted lettuce and withering green peppers are fairly common fair here.

After two and a half years, I've gotten used to this as much as I can, but I am definitely tired of trying to come up with something for dinner every night. I try very hard to get it in my head what we are having that morning so I am not hit with it at 1600. There is no such thing as meal planning when you don't really know what is going to be for sale that week in our gas station-sized grocery store (which also has about a 1/4 of the space dedicated to non-edible things).

I am a fan of the lowly grocery store. It's awesome. It's amazing how your perspective can change.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why We Are Going to Homeschool

Warning: Exceptionally long post ahead!

Okay, I feel a need to write this post because I know how frustrating school decisions can be. I also know that I was helped immensely by being able to hear (and read) the experiences of others who have dealt with this before me. I am NOT going to go on and on about how fabulous homeschooling is and how I think it's the ultimate answer to everything. I'll get back to this, but my ideal solution doesn't exist, and that frustrates me like you would not believe.

Anyway, back to homeschooling. I always swore I wouldn't homeschool my kids. I was actually homeschooled. I went to public school through the second grade, then all six of my siblings and I were pulled out of the system.

In some ways, this was a terrible thing. While I think my mother made a decent try at it for awhile, by the time I was in high school, she would register us, pick up some books from the school, and say have at it. And that was pretty much it. Near the end, she didn't even do that. I actually found out when I was a junior in college that when I had turned 16, she'd gone to the school and registered me as a drop out because it was finally legal to do so.

Thankfully, I didn't know this when I was applying for college. Because, you may be surprised to know, I went to college right when I should have graduated from high school. And I graduated cum laude with a B.A. five years later (yep, some trouble picking a major there). I was okay because I'm intensely curious and I love to learn. I also love to read, so I took myself to our library every week and brought home an armful of books. I set myself a rule - I could bring home three books for "fun", but I also had to pick up one nonfiction and one book from the "classic" shelf. I'm very much a visual learner, so this worked for me. I did struggle a bit with math because I was also left on my own for that, and so I ended up having to take a remedial course before I could sign up for Math 101. That was my only real bump in the road academically, however, and I got As in both math classes.

Despite my success in college, however, homeschooling the way my mother had done it left me with a massive feeling of inferiority and as if I had to work double time to catch up. All those horror stories about homeschooled kids never leaving the house were mostly true in my case. My parents had no money for lessons, and the only homeschooled group we were part of, we stopped going to when I was young. I did have a church youth group and Girl Scouts (which I hated), but that was about it. I felt frustrated at having missed so much, and avoided talking about my homeschooled past whenever I was with friends.

So, I figured there was no way I would ever consider not putting my kids in school. I didn't want them to feel left out or feel later that they could have done bigger things with their lives (or at least had more choices) if only they'd gone to school. I really couldn't imagine that homeschooling could ever really be much of an answer for anything.

And then I had kids. Two little boys that I'd give my life for, two boys that I'm very close to and have weathered many storms in our Navy life together. I had a plan for how I'd put Wyatt in school. I wanted to do only one year of preschool two or three days a week. Then I'd avoid the fad of full-day kindergarten and make sure he was in a half-day program. I felt that would give him a good transition to full-day school in first grade.

Then we moved to a place where there was no preschool program period. There was a small day care, but it was just a day care - a place to leave your kids where they can play supervised. That, in my opinion, was not at all worth the money. So, I taught him to read and kept him home all year.

Then I went to register him for kindergarten and found out they only have a full-day program. Despite going in and talking to the school, they were absolutely adamant that they wouldn't work with me and he had to go full time or not at all. I swallowed my anger and enrolled him because they had me there.

And, like I thought he would, he struggled to adjust. When I brought up my concerns again, I was once again thrown up against this attitude of, "We know kids, and we can handle this, so stop worrying". Thankfully, his teacher was awesome, and we worked out something that made it bearable. He adjusted by Christmas and hasn't had trouble since.

That whole experience, though, left me with a very sour taste in my mouth. I think I had thought of sending him to school as a place where THEY worked for ME, but that really isn't the case. Instead, THEY are the professionals who think they know more than you do about what your kid needs. Their rules go, and even if they don't jive with what works with your family or don't even make rational sense (like the rule that you can't bring a younger child on a field trip, even if the only kids you'd be asked to help watch are your own and maybe one other classmate of your child's), you have to suck it up and deal with it.

I do get that they have to deal with a bunch of kids, and it's tough to accommodate an individual situation. The central question I have there, though, is whether or not I just want to swallow that answer and accept it, or if I want to look for a different solution.  Especially since the kinds of issues we've had here are tiny compared to what we'll run into in a large school where we'll be far more a number than a name.

Because we're going to move away from here, and we can't afford a tiny private school. Not for two kids. We're also going to move again a few years from then. Their education is going to be interrupted over and over again. I've had far too many conversations with other military parents about the headache of trying to keep their kids' educations together. The schools don't have a great ability to keep up with requirements and such from state to state (not to mention internationally), nor do they have any real ability to cater to our kids' varying situations. It's just not going to happen. I don't want that for my boys.

I also don't want to have to consider school when we pick orders. Orders picking is stressful enough without having to worry about what the school system is in the various options. Plus, when trying to find a house, often very last minute or from far away, struggling to find one in a "good" school system makes that process infinitely more difficult. So school just doesn't fit our lifestyle in a lot of ways.

So, we're going to homeschool. Ironically, the free-range schooling I had as a kid is going to serve me well. I've seen firsthand that it truly is possible for someone to thrive academically without going to school. I also know to think outside the box when it comes to educating them because I'm not approaching it with the mindset that we need to do everything like it would be in a school. I also know where the weaknesses are in my own experience, and I mean to correct them. The internet is an amazing thing. It's enabled homeschoolers to network in ways that my mother just could not do. There are co-ops with classes and clubs to join, and a wealth of curriculum, books, and other materials (not to mention all the online education delivery options out there now) to access. There's no way their math will be neglected like mine was.

While we may not be able to afford private school, we can afford classes. Wyatt's quite interested in playing soccer when we move back to the States, so I mean to find a league and sign him up for it. I am determined to give them opportunities for these kinds of things as much as I can.

It's taken me a long time to really feel comfortable with this decision. It was overwhelming and scary thinking about striking out on my own. The more I've read, however, and the more I talk to other people who have done this, the more it feels possible and exciting. I did hate handing my son over to someone else for seven hours a day. It felt wrong somehow.

And here is where I have to swing back to my statement above. Despite the length of this post, I know I haven't touched on all the issues or reasons we are going to homeschool. A huge reason we are going to homeschool that I haven't yet addressed is because public school seems to operate on this "one-size-fits-all" method that just doesn't work. It also seems to believe that kids fail because they aren't being drilled enough on the basics, and that we need more hours spent on academics or we will just keep falling behind as a nation.

I don't believe this at all. I think our kids need more time to play, more time outside, and far less time at school. My son's school gives them all of 15 minutes for recess every day. Fifteen minutes. He complains about this, and I am right there with him. They do have a great P.E. teacher who gives them a better time to run, so at least they are getting some physical exercise, but there is something important about unstructured play. Because these kids don't need to spend seven hours a day on academics. In fact, that's not even what happens, anyway.

While I am glad we have homeschooling as an option, I wish it weren't the only one. Far too many people have no choice when it comes to school, and I think that's terrible. I'd like to see more respect given to parents, more cooperativeness between schools and parents, and massive support of the charter school program. Why the charter school program? Because the charters are actually putting new options into the hands of parents who cannot afford anything else.

My ideal school is one that allows me to enroll my kids for straight academic classes, yet does not take up their entire day. It's one where we can then choose extracurricular activities for the afternoon - or choose to not do any of them if the kid needs a break for a semester. This flies in the face of what people think our kids need, so I know we will never see it happen. My kids are only young once, so I have to fight for them in the only way open to us.

So, we are going to homeschool.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Funny Homeschool Video

 So, I ran across this hyperactive video about the seven lies of homeschooling. We're going to be homeschooling next year, and I mean to write an actual post about our reasons, which I don't believe I've really done yet, but for now have a look at this:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dragging My Heels

Okay, I'm not going to lie, this month has dragged on. And I'm afraid the same will be true of many months ahead. I'm having a tough time waiting out this period of pre-move. Waiting on orders, waiting on a reenlistment, waiting on finding out when we will leave here (which, by the way, may get changed yet again, which means some anxiety about the orders we supposedly have in the bag)...I'm hoping it's not all going to drive me insane.

In truth, I think I've dealt with it far better than the last time I had to go through this. I've stayed calm, not thought a ton about it, and just carried on. The place where it shows up is in the day-to-day tedium where I feel like I'm going through the motions in an interminable wait.

This is a frustrating way to live, however, so I'm trying to find things to keep me going. Oscar and I have been hitting the books hard, and he's making good reading progress. We signed up for a free month of ABCMouse to give it a try, and I signed up for a homeschooler forum that is hopefully going to give me a chance to demo (and review here) a new online reading program for three months.

I've also been taking the boys out to the park a lot more. A couple weekends ago, I convinced Wyatt to get on his bike again after leaving it dormant in the shed for over a year. Oliver ran up and down the street with him, and he finally learned to ride it sans training wheels after about an hour of work. He was insanely proud of himself, and both boys have been doing a lot more riding around outside since then.

The boxes for our LEGO sorting project finally arrived, and that's been an ongoing job. I'm nearly done labeling them all, and they are proving a huge improvement over what we were using. Not perfect, no, and they require more maintenance than the old system, but building is leagues better, so it's a win in my book.

Finally, for myself, I decided to go crazy in the kitchen and bake stuff that I've either never tried or rarely do. Last week, I made Soaked Wheat Bread, which was so good I think I might actually switch to making that all the time instead of the wheat bread recipe I've used for a couple years now (I make all our bread - the stuff we get here really is that bad).

Yesterday, I experimented with an eggless cake recipe, trying to make it vanilla, and it was far too heavy. That hasn't stopped the boys from eating through it, though. Apparently, you can slap frosting on just about anything and they will proclaim it fabulous.

Speaking of frosting, I also decided to make cinnamon rolls, something I haven't made in a long time and have never really gotten the way I'd like them to taste. I was all prepared to try several different recipes in the search of one I could love (I really didn't think my family would mind that!), and ended up finding the perfect one on the first try. They tasted so close to Cinnabon while still warm, and were still really good the next day. I can't say what they would have tasted like after that because they barely lasted that morning. There's also no picture because I was too busy eating them to think about blogging about them. Here's the recipe if you are inclined to give them a try. Fittingly, it is named, "Clone of a Cinnabon".

Next up: Bagels (anyone have a good recipe they'd like to share? This will be my first time ever trying these!)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

And It's Official (Sort Of)

Well, the orders are here. The official, hard copy, "they are really yours orders". That is, about as definite as things ever get in the Navy. We're still not absolutely sure he's going to be allowed to leave shore early, so that's a worry, but hopefully all will fall into place.

We got the orders we want, and while I worry we just signed ourselves up for an insanely hectic year, I'm cautiously optimistic that it will all be a grand adventure. Mostly, I just have to survive the next few months here trying not to let the little things (and people) get to me. Had an awesome powwow at the park with a couple friends who completely get what I am talking about, so I feel a little better for some reason.

Although, I did learn from one of them that we are soon going to have to pay for our flights back and forth from here. Supposedly, it will be a "minimal" cost, but when you have to multiply it by four, "minimal" has a way of growing into "painful". How grateful I am this is happening near the very end of our time here and not the beginning.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Running and I Have Had a Falling Out

I've long loved to run. I've been very back and forth about it, but the last two years have been good. I've been dedicated, and have kept up running three or four times a week (minus some vacation time and an injury to my heel that slowed me down for a bit). We even picked up a basically free treadmill they were getting rid of here that has made it far easier for me to keep up since I prefer to run during mid-day when I've got kids to keep an eye on. I've lost most of the weight I need to lose (grr at that stubborn belly fat leftover from two pregnancies...), and I'm proud of myself for really sticking with it.

For the last few months, however, I've found myself slogging through every run. I'm watching the miles, slacking off on the speed, anything to get through it. Sometimes I'm only running twice a week because I am that disinterested. Sadly, it seems running just doesn't do it for me.

Maybe it's because I have never done a race. Doing one requires flying to the States, so that's a hassle, plus I have never been confident enough to do one myself. I don't know anyone else here that runs, so there's no partner to keep me going, either. Maybe that's it. Or maybe I've gotten everything out of it that I can right now. I dunno.

The biggest problem with this is I cannot fathom just quitting exercise of any form. I have to find something to take its place, something that I look forward to the way I used to look forward to my run. I am determined that that baby belly is not going to take up permanent residence in my gut. Plus, I'm just happier in general when I exercise regularly.

So, I finally broke down and bought the Zumba Wii 2 game I've been staring at since November. I have had a love for dance pretty much all my life, but have never really done anything with it, much to my sadness. Last summer, while visiting Oliver's family, my sisters-in-law invited me to attend a Zumba class with them. I'd never heard of it before, but figured why not. It was so much fun.

Unfortunately, aside from a brief period when someone with the DVDs "taught" a class here on base, there are no Zumba classes to go to. I always intended to start going when we moved back to the States, but with my running slump, I need something now.

I'm now in my first week of using the game, and I've found it to be a decent substitute. It's not in any way as fun or good as going to a live class, but it's definitely better than watching a DVD (at least for me). As a game, it's actually terrible, because the Wii is not sensitive enough to really know what you are doing. I'm screwing up half the steps, yet getting five stars for my technique just because I happened to shake at the right time (you wear a belt that holds the remote against your hip). I don't care about that, however, since I'm just doing it for the exercise.

I am definitely looking forward to getting the chance to attend a live class again, but hopefully this keeps me moving and shaking enough to not lose ground on my improved body shape.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Changes Are A-comin'....Sometime in the Future!

Just maybe we've got some orders picked out. Oliver is hopeful we will see them in the next couple weeks giving him just enough time to reenlist with a bonus. The biggest complication is whether or not he'll be able to leave here early or not. Time will tell.

The big news for us, though, is that these orders will result in two moves by this time next year. Despite the craziness of that, and my worry that it will be difficult to find a place to live in for the six months or less we will be in the one duty station, I'm excited about this. It gives an opportunity to live somewhere I've always wanted to live, while still being on sea duty (with its extra pay), yet not deploying because they will be in the shipyard for a long overhaul of some sort.

Part of me thinks I'm crazy for saying yes to another shipyard period - by the end of the one we did in Washington, I was so disappointed that the first patrol ended up being only six weeks long! And, no, this had nothing to do with whether or not I wanted Oliver gone. Life really was that bad.

This, though, is not going to be quite the same situation. We'll be in a much better area, with more to do, and a profound improvement in the weather. We'll be making a better decision about whether or not to buy a second car (still don't want to do that, but we might have to so I don't go insane - if there's  a good bus system, though, we'll totally give that route a try), and I'm not going to be pregnant or whacked out by an IUD. Plus, I'll be homeschooling, which will actually enable to me to get out more than if I were just shuttling them around to public school. I'm absurdly excited about that, and have already begun working on putting together a curriculum for them.

So, we're taking a leap of faith here, but I'm hopeful it will work out well. I'm definitely ready to move away from our island home. It's been a very enlightening, interesting couple of years, and I'm really glad we had the option to come, but all the hard things are kind of in my face lately. Sometimes, it's time to move on.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Back From Legoland and Other Stuff

We've been back from our trip for a few days now. Wyatt is at school and Oliver back at work. Oscar and I are beginning some more serious reading lessons, and I'm happy to see he seems to be absorbing them.  I do, however, have to deal with some complaining about how "boring" it all is before he will sit down. I'm using computer time as a reward (as in, he gets none until he has his lesson), and when we are doing it, he will ask to do more than I had planned on, so clearly he's enjoying them despite the drama.

Up until now, I've been teaching him rather informally, but we were reaching an impasse with that. So, I picked up the book, "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons". I looked at a lot of reading programs, but finally went with this one because of the good things I read in homeschooling forums plus the cheapness of it compared to the pricey, packaged curriculums that I also looked at. I figured if we didn't like it, I wasn't out of too much money.

We do like it so far, however. I'm going to be skipping through the first set of lessons much faster than one a day because he doesn't need the drilling in letter sounds that a true beginner would, but it does seem to be teaching him how to parse words and begin to sound them out. He was doing some of that spontaneously yesterday afternoon, which was very encouraging to me.

As for Legoland, well, it was in Wyatt's words, "better than Disney World". And for them, I'd tend to agree. The entire park was designed with the 12 and under set in mind. The roller coasters are some of the slowest I've seen, and there were very few rides that Oscar couldn't go on. I was disappointed that the Hero Factory section wasn't built yet, despite being on the map. Our kids are big Hero Factory fans, so that was a real bummer to find that out when we tried to find it.

However, there was plenty of other stuff to keep us busy the two days we were there. Here are a couple highlights:

 At the font gate. It was cold that morning! We had to stop and pick up some warmer stuff to wear on the way. Oscar was completely upset that we were making him wear a coat for the first time in two years. We ended up paying a little more for Lightning McQueen one just so he'd stop freaking out and wear it. Luckily, the second day was warm enough to shed some layers.

There Duplo stations where at almost all the rides. Oscar wanted to stop and build at every single one.  We let him do so a few times, but they were all the same and there was a lot of other things to see, so we had to keep him moving sometimes.

 This was by far the fan favorite of the trip. There was an area where you could check out four tires, then go to some bins of LEGO and build your own racer. They had two different types of tracks to race them on. One that had let four or five people line up their cars, press a button for a countdown, then watch them race after the barrier dropped. There was also an extreme, near vertical track that allowed you to test the durability of your vehicle. We spent over two hours here the second day.

 This ball place was so much fun. There were two levels, this upper one with guns you could shoot soft balls down on the people below, and down below there was a giant cannon and this thing that would make the balls pour into the air and rain down on everyone. The balls themselves were pretty nasty, and I was glad there was sanitizer at the entrance, but we all had fun playing in here.

Miniland rocked. Tons and tons of LEGO construction, most of it representing real places. This shuttle was part of the NASA section. They had a countdown, then smoke roared out of the bottom of the shuttle. This was a great place to go for a bit after the park's official closure.

Overall, we had a great time. It was kind of out of the way, and not really that close to Orlando. For us, driving from West Palm, we had to go through orange fields (including a factory that made the air smell like oranges) for not much else, which made the drive rather long and boring. Hopefully, the area will get more built up. There are several hotels right next to Legoland, but most of them are pretty skanky looking. It would have been nicer to stay nearby, but I'm glad we got a much nicer place 15min away.