Friday, January 29, 2010

What Spawn is Reading This Week

It's been an eclectic week here at the old RR Ranch. ;) This week's books were allover the map:

We started with a classic and an old favorite of mine - Blueberries for Sal. I can still remember my elementary school librarian reading it to us in the tiny school library when I was in second grade.

Blueberries for Sal (Spawn's LA teacher used this as part of a lesson to illustrate the change you need to make to singular words that end in y when adding -ies to make them plural.)

Next is a series that's also an old favorite of mine - The Berenstain Bears. Spawn has a nice little collection of these books because I just can't prevent myself from buying them when I see them. ;) Did you know Jan & Stan Berenstain are from eastern PA? The RR is just a few miles north of their homebase of Bucks County along the Delaware River! Anyway, Spawn requested this one at bedtime this week and I thought it was VERY appropriate. ;) The funny thing is - no matter how many times Spawn asks to read this book to put off bedtime, the lesson just doesn't hit home. ;)

Spawn has been doing a little more independent reading lately, too. He's been opting not to have a bedtime story every night. :( Now he tells me about what he reads over breakfast in the morning when he reads his own bedtime story. =) For those who don't know - Club Penguin is a social networking site for kids ages 5 - 12. A SAFE social networking site. I can set et Spawn's account so he can only use a prest list of phrases in conversation with other penguins - to avoid having him give out ANY identifying personal information. It keeps Club Penguin fun AND safe for him to use.

He's really into Club Penguin's 'Pick Your Path' book series and The Secret Agent Missions on Lucky for us, they make the Club Penguin Secret Agent Handbook. ;) The 'Pick Your Path' series is wonderful. If you've very read one of the classic 'Choose Your Own Adventure' books, you know exactly what I mean. (Spawn does have some of the original 'Choose Your Own Adeventure' books,too. ;)) Club Penguin has produced several of them and they're wonderful, fun stories to read alone or with a friend or group. And a great value, too - it's the never the same story twice! =D

I ♥ cyberschooling!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Creature from the Unscrubbed Bathtub...

Lesson Learned: Never ever forget to clear all the toys and detritus out of the tub after a 7 year old boy's bubble bath.

So there I was  - minding my own business - about to take a shower yesterday afternoon while Spawn worked on a few lessons with CS Dad. I'd been dreaming of a long, screaming hot shower for days and the best I can usually manage is 3 - 5 minutes under whatever hot/lukewarm/room temp water is left. :p

I grabbed a big, fluffy beach towel and my pricey and precious Bio shampoo and conditioner (which Bath & Body Works no longer makes >:( ) and made a mad dash for the shower before someone found something they desperately needed me to bring them or some such. I brushed out my hair, brushed my teeth (while I'm there I might as well, ya know ? ;)), and did a quick Swish & Swipe ala FlyLady. I reached over to pull back the curtains and...

..let out the most horrific, bloodcurdling, embarrassing, girly scream the world has ever heard. :o Because this is what was waiting for me in the tub:

I know what you're thinking, but it's not a little squid! It's huge! And it was attacking this poor pirate ship:

It's one of Spawn's new Mega Rig sets that he got for Christmas. We just got it out for bathtime a few days ago and I forgot to have him put it away after his bath that morning. Trust me - I'll never forget again! =D It's a wonder it wasn't CS Dad who left it there to see what would happen. He likes to booby-trap things he knows I'm going to be the one to open next. Ask me sometime how he booby-traps my car - and I fall for it every time. >:(

I also get startled by cats who hang out in the bathtub waiting for spiders and dark shadows in the laundry room and a creeped out feeling when I'm in the laundry room when the cats stare at me while using their litterbox. (Ew. :p)

Spawn took his dojo patch test last night and CS Dad video-taped some of it, so keep an eye out for that in the next day or so. I'll try to get some of it up on our YouTube Channel tonight.

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Compostable Drinking Straws?!

I can't tell you the joygasm the words above bring me when I say them..."Compostable Drinking Straws"... ::sigh::

We got a snotty letter around the first of the year reminding us that drinking straws are not recyclable and fines would be assessed to those who tried to recycle their plastic drinking straws. Meh. >:( Charlatans! Heathens! Lovers of waste and overflowing landfills! I abhor thee! >:(

But I can't give up my drinking straws. So what's a drinking straw-loving girl supposed to do? I can' just throw away plastic straws. The landfill would be overflowing if I threw away everything plastic that the recycling company doesn't take...But then...oh, then...fate intervened!

Today, I saw a photo over at Be Different...Act Normal and in the photo was...a striped paper drinking straw! :o It made my compost-loving heart go pitty-pat I tell you! I haven't had a paper straw in my drink since we went on a choir trip to New York in 9th grade to see Tommy on Broadway and had lunch at The Hard Rock afterwards. The flavor of The Hard Rock Cafe will always be ginger ale sipped through a paper straw to me. I had completely forgotten about paper drinking straws! I must have some!

The most common purveyor of said straws is Aardvark, but their prices nearly made me choke. Yikes! :o I'm not made of money! Then, I stumbled across these wrapped, striped, paper straws - 500 for $14.50 and these unwrapped, striped, paper straws - 500 for $13.25 from Can Do Chefs. Woohoo!!! I kan haz strawz again!

I had to update this post. Look what I found on the same website: Compostable, biodegradable, white birch wooden cutlery!!! 100 pk. for $5.90?!?! That's cheaper than what I'm paying for the plastic ones now!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Snaggletooth, Mullet, and Scooby-Doo

Spawn's Art and Music theme this marking period has been puppetry and characterization, so we've been making puppets! I think the best part of these lessons has been sharing my love of the Muppets with Spawn. His teacher has assigned videos of behind-the-scenes footage of Jim Henson's Muppets and earlier work (before color tv!) and Spawn is so engrossed, engaged, and in love with these puppets! Construction paper puppets are SO easy to make. I'll have to put together my own videoso I can share the process, but I do have some photos of our finished work ready to share with you all now. =D

Mama has a go at some sharp, reptilian teefs. (Please excuse the horrid desk mess in the background. It's the end of the marking period. I'm only sleeping like 6 hours a night due to the amount of work that needs to be finished that we fell behind on during our 6 (!!!) illnesses this quarter. :p Even my Christmas tree is still up. :p)

Spawn's little Snaggletoothed reptilian hand puppet with angry, Russian unibrow 'like Daddy's'. You know I'm not making this up. He totally calls his father's eyebrows 'angry Russian eyebrows'. =D I especially love the fringed mohawk and crazy eyes. (Add some liquor breath and happy hour and you have a certain someone's mother-in-law... ;) ...well, minus the mohawk. ;))

My puppet, Mullet (I ♥ his Burt Reynolds 'stache.):

My puppet Mullet's mullet:

Spawn also got to make his first diorama this quarter. Having never made one before, this was more of a lesson about HOW to make one (with a bit of home facilitator help) and what his teachers will be looking for in future dioramas, so he can make them more independently in the future. He made the decisions about what scene to do, what to include in the scene, did all of the coloring, most of the cutting and pasting and wrote the title and author, so I felt pretty good about his understanding of the process and we had a lot of fun trying to duplicate the scene from the book. =D

I ♥ cyberschooling!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Monday, January 25, 2010

For My Friend, Eileen

A little bento porn. =D From:

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

What Are Your Kids Eating for Lunch?

You may know what's on the handy, little printable menu on your school's website from month to month, but unless you go there and see it and taste it - what do you know about the quality of the food being served to your child?

Is it possible that your child is eating a lunch that looks like the lunches eaten by the intrepid teacher @ - Fed Up: The School Lunch Project - swathed in plastic and cardboard packaging, loaded with fat, preservatives, additives, dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and possibly still frozen or not cooked/reheated correctly or safely? Is your child at risk for early-onset diabetes? Or maybe developing food allergies due to the excess gluten, peanut oil, trans fats, etc. offered in these questionable school lunches?

You can start at home by packing healthy, waste-free lunches for your kids. Try something new like the speedy bento lunches made by Biggie at Lunch in a Box or just buy a new lunchbox that your kids get excited about taking to school. Laptop Lunchboxes are a great, colorful way to excite your kids about the healthy things you're putting in their lunches. If you don't live in southern California, but you'd like to try bento at home, check out J-Box or J-List for fun bento boxes and bento supplies (disclaimer: I'm an affiliate) that can be shipped anywhere in the contiguous US.

Check out more amazing Laptop Lunches (like the one at left) made by blogger Jennifer Shmoo over at Vegan Lunch Box.

Or visit the Laptop Lunches Flickr Pool for more Laptop Lunch-packing inspiration.

These lunchboxes are rather infamously known as 'un-Lunchables', but I think it's for good reason. DO YOU KNOW WHAT GOES INTO THOSE LUNCHABLES BY OSCAR MEYER?!?! :o Neither fit for man nor beast. ;) Deli meats loaded with preservatives, fatty cheese, candy bars, Wonka Nerds, Juice boxes, sodium-laden tomato sauces and mustards, fatty mayonaises...UGH! :p

Traditional bento boxes are being packed in non-traditional ways with non-traditional foods in the U.S. every day. Try your hand at one or check out the HAPPY and FRESH Bento Flickr Pool to see more lunches (like the one at right) and get inspired to pack beautiful, healthy lunches for your kids and yourself!

A new addition to the waste-free lunch market is the new(er) Goodbyn - a slightly over-engineered lunchbox that compartmentalizes kids lunches, entertains with stickers and silly faces, but takes up a good bit of room and has no space for freezer packs. It will hold a whole banana so a child's entire lunch won't stink of banana by lunchtime, but I think this one could use just a little tweaking. The Laptop Lunch system doesn't come with a lunch bag, but at least you can order one made specifically for it that will accomodate a freezer pack to keep things cool until lunch time. ;) The Goodbyn on the other hand - is BIG. Like fill-a-whole-backpack-big. :o

Everyday, I thank my lucky stars that it's possible for me to cyberschool Spawn. I can make him healthy lunches from scratch everyday and keep a close eye on his diet and development. I'm so blessed. =D

I ♥ cyberschooling!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Karate-Do and the Best Hot Dogs in the Slate Belt

Ever oversleep so outrageously late that you nearly missed a class at NOON on a Saturday? We did - today. :p Ugh!

CS Dad usually sets an alarm on his iTouch, but he left it downstairs when we were getting ready for bed last night and I always get up early without an alarm clock anyway, so I didn't bother to set the bedroom alarm clock. Imagine my surprise when I rolled over and looked at the clock and it said 11:18!!! :o Thank goodness I'd thought to pack poor Spawn's bento the night before - we had to be out the door in 7 minutes!!! Poor, sleepy Spawn - I tossed him out of bed, poured some juice and his meds into him, stuffed his poor, bleary-eyed self into his karate gi, brushed his teeth, and all but carried him like a football under one arm out the door. =D Thankfully, I had the forethought to grab his lunch bag, lunch, and a Soy Joy for breakfast as we ran out the door. =D

Spawn's pre-packed bento-ish/waste-free lunch: a star-stamped PB&J in Spawn's new "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" Wrap-N-Mat, yesterday's uneaten peach slices in a Lock & Lock, and some grape-flavored water in his SpongeBob Sigg.

We arrived just in time for Spawn's karate class at the Y - by the skin of our teeth with just five minutes to park, check-in at the front desk, and run down to the dojo in the basement. :p Today was the day we'd be finding out if Spawn was going to test for his dojo patch this month and I did NOT want to be late. Unfortunately, Spawn needs a little more time for his meds to kick in, so he was a little spacey and bleary-eyed throughout class. :( He got a practice sheet for his patch test this Wedneday night. He needs to practice his Tsuri Ashi, Fumi Dashi, Gedan Barrai Uke, Uchi Uke, Gyaku Tsuki, (Choku) Hineri Tsuki, Mae Geri, Hiza Geri, and Hantei. Thankfully, he knows what all those mean. :p

Spawn is a Koei Kan karate student, so he has to learn the katas as well as the vocabulary. He even speaks some Japanese now. =D I can't possibly explain how far Spawn has come over the last 4 years thanks to Koei Kan karate.

After karate, we decided Spawn could use a milkshake. (His pediatrician would like to see a little more weight on him, so he 'prescribed' 2 - 3 milkshakes a week for Spawn until he's in the 60th percentile for both weight an height.) Spawn loves McD's Arctic Orange shakes, but the machine was broken at the McD's in town, so we had to improvise. Fortunately, CS Dad remembered the old-school drive-in down the street - an old favorite of mine from when I was a kid - was open year-round. So we ran over to Daisy Dairy Bar to see if they had a an orange shake. They did!!! But then the siren smell of real shoestring fries and crispy, grilled hot dogs wafted over to us at the ice cream counter. No way were we getting out of there without a hot dog each, some fries, and Daisy Dairy Bar's infamous fruit punch. ::sigh:: Spawn offered to eat his lunch bento for dinner, so it's back in the fridge. :p

Spawn had hopes of eating fast and playing on the jungle gym while his dad and I finished up, but I think the fact that's it's January and he was in an all-white karate gi were just lost on him. :p After firmly putting my foot down, we ate our scrummylicious hot dogs and...this smell came to me. It was a flashback triggered by the combination of fries, ice cream, and fruit punch, I think. I had a brief flash of sitting in that same booth with my dad during one of my visits with him after my parents' divorce when I was 4. It must have been December or January because I remembered having the same argument with my dad over going out to play on the merry-go-round in my new coat and how I couldn't wait until the next warm, sunny day because I only saw him on Tuesdays and every other weekend. =D Tiny little guilt trip queen - that was me. ;)

I am so done with this crazy Saturday! I need a nap. :p

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Friday, January 22, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy...

It's the end of the marking period and we're sick with a cold...again. :p The marking period ends on Tuesday, our entire family is sick again, AND I just got over a sinus infection about a week ago that left Spawn behind on his school work by several WEEKS. :o CS Dad tries to do it all, but he just can't keep up without me, so here we are - sprinting to get it all done before the end of the marking period again. ::sigh::

So, in the style of some of my more recent posts, here's a look at our week-in-review:

Nugga helps Spawn with some Math. Drooly help, but the boy loves to curl up on a cold morning with his best bud on the couch in a nest of blankets and pillows for early morning lessons like Math and Language Arts.
This is what happens when you buy your 7 year old (who hates to wear socks like the rest of his family) polar-fleece-lined Crocs online that are supposed to have removable, washable liners that don't come with instructions for removing the liners and said 7 year old spills a yogurt smoothie down his leg into his NEW >:( polar-fleece-lined Crocs. I had to do some online research to figure out the trick to washing the liners. By all accounts, they are removable, but you'll never get them back in again, so online advisers suggest just throwing the Crocs in the wash and air-drying them. Which probably works fine with everything except week-old, dried-up, yogurt smoothie. :p How do I know? I washed them and the entire load of clothes they were in three times to get rid of the yogurt smell BEFORE I decided to just soak them separately and hand-wash them. Sweet jeebus, what a production! >:( Then, I hung the Crocs upside-down on the dual shower rods in the bathroom. (I have no idea why there are two shower rods -they were here when we moved in.) The bathroom is right next to the utility room - the home of our furnace - so it gets really toasty up there above the shower. The Crocs were dry in no time flat!

Spawn and CS Dad did a very cool experiment this week in Science lessons. CS Dad showed Spawn how humans can affect the food chain by ruining local ecosystems - like beaches that are both fish and bird habitats that are affected by oil spills. They poured vegetable oil and hot cocoa mix into water to make it REALLY dirty and oil-looking, then dipped 3 feathers in the mix and set them aside once they were all grimey and oiled-up. Next, they dipped the feathers in three different cleaning 'solutions': cold water only, hot water only, and hot water with dish detergent added to find what was the best way to rescue birds that are affected by an oil spill to undo the damage done by man as best as possible.

I can't tell you how much I LOVED this lesson. Spawn doesn't care for getting dirty, so this also illustrated for him how soap helps get you cleaner when your hands are dirty - a nice bonus to the lesson!

CS Dad just couldn't pass up the opportunity to show Spawn how soap chases away oil and dirt.

Spawn's last-minute swimming class, snack bento that I packed as we were RUNNING out the door this afternoon (clockwise from top): Invisible (ie: dye-free) Grape Kool-Aid in the SpongeBob Sigg Bottle, a 1/2 cup of canned, sliced peaches (we are REALLY low on fresh fruit right now, but I had no qualms about polishing off the rest of the can of peaches for lunch ;)), and 3 marshmallows with about a 1/4 cup of Annie's organic chocolate bunny grahams.
Spawn can't manage something as slippery as canned peaches with a food pick, so I threw a pack of reuseable, plastic utensils in with his lunch bag. (And chuckled at the prospect of taking out the fork and spoon and leaving him just the chopsticks to see what would happen ;) - hee, hee...evil Mommy thoughts!)  I'm not sure where you can get these utensil sets anymore. I got mine from IchibanKan Online last year before they closed. :( Maybe try J-List?

 The final, packed, snack bento product. I love this freezer pack lunch bag!

And just a little while ago after we finished dinner, I was giving Nugga a little tail/hiney/haunches rub with my feet since she insisted on laying on the couch. This is the stink-eye she gave me when I stopped the hiney-rubbin'. "You not done puttin' the rubbin's on my hiney, Mama."

I ♥ cyberschooling!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More Ways You Can Help

Haiti seems to be on everyone's mind and lips these days. Beyond making donations to charitable organizations involved in the relief efforts there's another pressing concern we're facing here and I know many of our friends are dealing with this, too. Our childrens' fear.

"Mommy, can that happen here?" "Can there be earthquakes here even if there haven't been before?" "If there's an earthquake, will we die?"

"I don't know." and "I don't think so." just don't measure up when you know your little guy is being kept awake at night by his busy little brain worrying over the worst case scenarios that his mind can conjure up. I'm always telling Spawn it's okay to say "I don't know.", but it really feels insufficient under the circumstances.

When Spawn was old enough to understand and ask about the World Trade Center bombings and the hijackings, we used a wonderful, age-appropriate Bear in the Big Blue House video that was made to address those concerns of the toddlers at the time. Heroes of Woodland Valley

It's really about trusting adults to take care of you and talking to a trusted adult about how you feel if you're scared or angry or don't know what you are sometimes. It's a wonderful resource that extends beyond toddlerhood. But when it came to Spawn's questions about earthquakes and our safety, I knew knowledge would do more for him than any Bear video could. ;)

BrainPop has made all of their online earthquake lessons and resources available for free to everyone for the next few weeks. No subscription required!

Nothing makes Spawn feel better or puts him more at ease than DOING something about the problem and his fears. We ran another fire drill recently, too, just to be sure Spawn knew what to do and where to go in an emergency. Don't have a home fire emergency plan? Go get one over at for Kids. Click here to print out a worksheet to map out your fire escape route.

I ♥ cyberschooling!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

What Spawn is Reading This Week

All of these cool new comic books were gifts from Spawn's best friend, Spike, and were in his goodie bag from Spike's birthday party last weekend. They're just like the cartoons, but, surprisingly, the cartoon really lends itself well to being turned into comic books. I've read just the first story in issue #151, but Spawn is so into these, I can't get my hands on them to read any more. In fact, he's been reading these himself instead of having me read him a bedtime story. :( (At right, Scooby Doo #139, below, left, Scooby Doo #150, below, right, Scooby Doo #151. )

It must seem like we spend a lot of time reading mysteries, but there's a good reason. Spawn has trouble with reading comprehension due to his problems with inattention. Mysteries force Spawn to carefuly review and keep track of important and seemingly unimportant details throughout the story because I always stop before we find out who 'dunnit' and ask Spawn if he thinks he can solve the mystery before we read it. He's about 9/10 most of the time, so he's come along way since we started this in September!

I ♥ cyberschooling!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom

My 100th Blog Post!!!

::Imagine circus music playing here: doodoodoodoodoodoodoodoodoodoo::

I've got tons of stuff to update, but I couldn't find my camera card reader, so here it is - all at once. :p So, first, here's a bunchof random photos of stuff we did this week:

We call this one "I don't need my eyedrops, Mama, and I'll bite your face off if you try.":

Notice she's laying on no less than 3 pillows and 3 blankets in this one:

Spawn's Swimming Class Snack Bento from last Friday - 1-15-10 (clockwise from left) Wild Cherry Capri Sun, Apple Walnut Soy Joy (they were giving these away at the Y two weeks ago and I nabbed half a box then ;)), 2 Baci chocolates, and grapes in the goldfish box:

This was a lot more disposable/waste than I usually let myself put in Spawn's lunch, but he asked for the Capri Sun, we had the Baci leftover from his Christmas stocking, and we got the Soy Joys for free... :p

I packed Spawn's snack bento in this handy little lunch bag - it has freezer packs sewn into it so all I have to do is stick the bag in the freezer the night before and pull it out ten minutes before I pack it so it softens up so the freezer packs don't break from being unbent. Spawn's SpongeBob Sigg bottle full of filtered ice water fits nicely on top, don't you think? I bought both the bag and the bottle at Wegman's last year. =)

This is all I got back after the drive home. No Capri Sun pouch, no Soy Joy wrapper, no Baci foil...which I just realized means they're probably stinking up the floor behind the driver's seat in my car right now... >:( AND I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHERE THE LOCK & LOCK CAME FROM!!! :o I didn't pack that on Friday, but it had marshamllow and chocolate graham cracker residue in it, so I suspect this is one that Spawn stashed away that I packed several weeks ago. Yuck. :p Boys are  gross. :p

No Saturday lunch bento to show off because Spawn played hooky from karate class to go to his best friend Spike's super hero birthday party at Kehler's Kids Fun Factory in Broomall. It was a bit of a haul because Spike lives in Chester County and we live in Northampton County - almost on the border of Monroe County - not exactly next door. ;) I didn't think Spike's mom could top last year's birthday party for Spike, but she managed it! Spawn was going to wear a super villain costume, but chickened out at the last minute. :/ So much for those adorable capes I'd been working on. :p Spawn decided they were too babyish for a cool party, so we left them at home. :(

Spike and another friend get a hula-hooping lesson while Spawn and the other kids enjoy the moonbounce:

Spawn plays the hula-hoop circle race game with the other party-goers:

We play this game at family reunions with two longs lines of ten or twenty people and race from the beginning of the lines to the end as fast as possible. First hula-hoop to the end of its respective line and that line wins. =)

Spike takes a stab at the hula race game:

Spawn and Spike take a whack at the BIG trampolines side-by-side:

Spike's 18 month old sister, Ladybug, foams at the mouth to get out there and play with the big kids:

Spawn runs the obstacle course race:

Spike's hero cake and decorations (made by Unique Cake & Catering, 103 17th St, Bristol, TN 37620-1931, (423) 764-2253)‎:

Superhero tablescape with 'real' glowing kryptonite:

Spike and Spawn at opposite ends of the table whorking down cake and ice cream like it's going out of style:

Me with Spike's mom's and grandmother's poodles (from left to right) Jacques, Gigi, Jean-Luc:

Yes, that's Lola at my feet at that moment, too. I was like flypaper for pooches suddenly!:

Saturday night, when we got home, I discovered I could peel dead, dry skin off my face with packaging tape. Don't ask. :p

So, there's what you missed this week. I know - we're boring. :p Thank goodness for the occasional birthday party! CS Dad is doing some math with Spawn, so there's hope for some entertainment value there, too. ;)

I ♥ cyberschooling!

Chrissi, Cyber School Mom
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