Friday, December 31, 2010

And the picture fest begins…

First up, Universal Studios:


Averi loved this guy.  She kept giving him a thumbs up.  And the Mummy ride is awesome.




First rollercoaster ride


“Snow” fell during the Barney show.  It was just soap, but the kids loved it.


The next day was Islands of Adventure.  We started the morning in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which was absolutely incredible.  The attention to detail was amazing.


After riding Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (mind-blowingly amazing, but be prepared for some motion sickness), we ate breakfast at the Three Broomsticks.  It was the best food we had at Universal (which wasn’t saying much, I’m afraid).  They served a decent English breakfast, although the blood sausage was not to my liking.



Me, sporting my new earrings Ashley brought for me from Mexico.  Sadly I lost one of them less then a day after I received them while I was on the X-Men version of the Tea Cup ride.  Spinning extremely fast + large earrings = sad Chelsey.



The butterbeer was delicious.  It was like a very sweet cream soda with a lovely foam at the top.  The pumpkin juice was quite good as well, like drinking liquid pumpkin pie.




I love this picture of Hogwarts at night.  Gorgeous. 

We didn’t browse any of the shops (good thing for my bank account), since the lines for the shops were as long as for some rides, although we did regret not purchasing a scarf later in the week.  Kiera and Ashley did brave the hour and a half wait for Ollivanders.  It was worth it, since Kiera was the one in her group picked to try out the wands.


I thought that Seuss Landing had the best Christmas decorations of any park we went to, Disney included.  They were so fun and whimsical.


The kids loved getting to meet the Grinch.  Yes, he was rude.  Yes, he was extremely funny.  And yes, the kids had no idea what to make of him.



Ah, my hero!



Unfortunately this picture turned out blurry, but I love it anyway.  Check out Averi trying to make Spider-Man hands.

Some recommendations if you’re planning on visiting Universal Orlando:

1.  Stay at the resort (we stayed at the Royal Pacific).  It’s very close to both parks.  You can walk or get a water taxi.  You also get in an hour early to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  You should have seen the crowds swarming the place when it was opened to the general public.  We were so glad we got that bonus.  But the best perk of all is using Universal’s Express Pass.  Your room key gets you in the express line of almost all rides, which takes you directly to the loading area.  We didn’t have to wait more than minutes for any ride (except Harry Potter and the Rock It rollercoaster, which don’t have Express Pass lines).

2.  If you don’t stay at the resort, buy the Express Pass.  SO worth it to skip the lines.

3.  Don’t buy the meal deal.  You’re very limited to what food you can get, and most of it was pretty nasty.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Orlando 2010: The Facts

Number of hours delayed on airplanes: 4 (3 there, 1 back)

Pieces of luggage brought: 14 (8 checked, 6 carry-ons)

Pieces of luggage lost: 5 (2 there, 3 back, all recovered)

Time we arrived at our hotel in Orlando: 2 am

Time we woke up to go to the theme park that same morning: 8 am

Days spent theme parking: 7

Number of theme parks visited: 6 (Universal, Islands of Adventure, Magic Kingdom (2 days), Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios)

Most people staying at the rental house at a time: 14

Number of spare rolls of toilet paper provided by the rental house: 0

Contents of our mattress at the house: unknown, but the squeakiest material ever

Time it snowed on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom: Midnight on Christmas Eve

Number of cheetahs we saw at Animal Kingdom: 3

Times Katie went on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: 3

Favorite live show: Flights of Wonder

Katie’s favorite ride: Jimmy Neutron (Universal)

Paul’s favorite ride: different every time you ask, but most recently it was Pirates of the Caribbean (Magic Kingdom)

Averi’s favorite ride: Ween the Poon (Winnie the Pooh at Magic Kingdom)

Aaron’s favorite ride: Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios) or Dragon Challenge (Islands of Adventure)

Chelsey’s favorite ride: Tower of Terror

Best resort perk: Universal’s Express Pass

Number of gloves we needed to buy to make it through a cold spell: 5 pairs

Best stroller ever for schlepping three kids around Disney World: Joovy Caboose Ultralight

Ride that was worth the wait: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (Islands of Adventure)

Ride that was not worth the wait: Mission: SPACE (Epcot)

Park inspiring most oohs and ahhs: Wizard World of Harry Potter at Islands of Adventure

Most crowded time of the year at Disney World: week after Christmas

Best Christmas decorations: Seuss Landing (Islands of Adventure)

Best little-used parent perk at Disney: switching off

Number of character meals: 2

Best park food: 1900 Park Fare (at the Grand Floridian)

Worst park food: anything available for the meal deal at Universal Studios

Most fun character to interact with: Anastasia (the stepsister from Cinderella)

Cutest character moment: Averi running as fast as she could to Tigger, wrapping herself around his legs, and smiling for all she was worth

Proof that Averi was spoiled rotten: saying “Ever my want!” whenever she’s told that she can’t do or have something.  Obviously she was told she could have whatever she wanted far too many times.

Number of pictures taken: 655 (plus many that were deleted)

Camera used: Nikon D40

Video camera used: Kodak Zi8

Hours of sleep we got: far too few

Best behaved kids ever: mine

How good it was to sleep in my own bed again: indescribable

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Betcha Didn’t Know…

I know that I said I was going to be catching up on what we’ve been doing lately (because I’m sure our lives are SO fascinating to the outside world), but I was cleaning the kitchen and thinking about how great my husband was, and I had an idea.  Aaron’s fairly quiet in a crowd, and he’s definitely not one to blow his own horn (that’s why he married me), so I thought I’d share a few interesting tidbits about my honey.

1.  Aaron is a music fiend.  Most people like music, but he LOVES music.  And two of his favorite genres are classic rock and jazz.  He’s seen both Herbie Hancock and Aerosmith in concert.  And don’t tell anyone else, but he even likes the Dixie Chicks, which makes me very happy.

2.  Not only does he like music, but he’s very musical.  He plays the piano and the bass guitar and sings wonderfully. 

3.  He served in Lithuania (part of Eastern Europe; one of the Baltic states) on his mission and speaks fluent Lithuanian.  It’s extremely useful.  Because, you know, Albuquerque has such a high percentage of Lithuanian speakers.  He also remembers a lot of high school German.  Who actually remembers the language they took in high school?

4.  He’s a quick thinker.  He wins most of the time when we play Boggle, but I nearly always beat him in Scrabble.

5.  His scriptures are PRISTINE.  Not that he doesn’t read them, but he is meticulous about how he handles them.  At least, they were pristine until he left them on the roof of the car and they flew off on the drive home from church.  I’m afraid I felt a little bit of vindication then.  HA!  There!  Now your scriptures look only a third as worn as mine, instead of out of the box new.

6.  He still wears a pajama shirt he got in sixth grade.  Yes, Connie, the Starlab shirt is alive and well.

7.  He makes me so mad sometimes because he’s good at everything.  But he can’t play basketball.  Imperfections are endearing.

8.  He has a dome toe.  I don’t know how to describe it.  Suffice it to say that if I needed to identify his body, the toe would be the indicator.  It’s that odd.

9.  He has a great mutant power.  He can fix nearly anything by taking apart and putting it back together without changing or repairing a single thing.  It’s happened so many times it’s freaky.  But very cost-effective.  (Side note: We all have mutant powers.  Mine is being able to guess the time very accurately.  Not telekinesis, but it’s something.)

10.  A few years ago he began weightlifting, and he loves it.  Our garage is slowly becoming a mini gym.  He’s got a power rack, tons of weights, gymnastics rings…and yet his spatial visualization is so good that we can still park both cars.  And we only have a 2.5 car garage.

So there you go.  Ten interesting facts about my husband.  I think he’s pretty great!  Love you, Aaron!

Catching Up

I’ve missed posting on a lot of events lately, so I’ll be doing a few catch-up posts over the next few days.

First of all, Galloping Grace Pumpkin Patch.  Yes, I said we’re behind.  But indulge me.


Pumpkins are perfect for perching when you have a little bottom.


Averi is very strong.  She can hang on the gymnastics rings that Aaron installed in the garage for a surprisingly long time, and she’s been known to haul his 10 pound medicine ball around the house.  So this large pumpkin was a piece of cake.


Check out that shot!  I think he’s got a throwing arm, Dad.


Playing in the hay bale maze.  Perfect height if you’re 35 inches.


We had a LOT of outtakes for this shot.  But my little cowboys are sure adorable.


Ah, the duck races.  A perennial favorite.


The wood cutouts are extremely popular with our kids.  They all have to pose in everyone they come across.


Much time was spent on creating Mr. Pumpkinhead.








We had a terrible tragedy before the horse rides.  We managed to get in line just before it got hugely long, but it wasn’t until it was almost our turn that I was informed we needed to fill out waivers.  These, of course, were located on the other side of the pumpkin patch.  Aaron and the two oldest held our place in line, but Averi wanted to come with me.  So we “ran” as fast as her little legs could carry her so the kids wouldn’t miss their turn.  Unfortunately she tripped and fell and cut open both lips on the gravel.  So I arrived at the front desk with a child bleeding all over her face and my shirt and wailing at the top of her lungs.  Of course, being the fantastic mother that I am, tried to mop up her face with a (hopefully) clean tissue I fished out of my purse and insisted on signing the injury waiver forms right away.  While I held an injured, screaming child in my arms.  Luckily, one of the women had compassion and some common sense and went and got Averi some ice for her lips so they wouldn’t swell up too much.  It didn’t seem to work too well, since by the time we got back to the horses it looked like she was making fish faces because her lips were so puffy.  But at least the ice gave her something to distract her.  She still wanted to ride the horses, and she had a great time, despite the non-horse-related injury.  Or course there are no waivers to sign for that sort of incident.


Being extremely brave and cute.




I loved that they had the kids let go.  It was definitely confidence building for them.



I highly recommend the Galloping Grace Pumpkin Patch for any Burquenos.  It’s very fun, very close, and FREE.  Also, any donations and purchases help out a great cause:

“Our mission at Galloping Grace Youth Ranch is to bring pure joy to children. We accomplish this by connecting children with horses. While at the ranch, children experience the rewards of working hard, serving others, and expressing gratitude to those people who make it possible for the ranch to operate. In addition to this, they spend valuable one on one time with the horses.
It is our firm belief that the cost and lack of accessibility to horses in our area prevent children from experiencing the joy and responsibility a ranch can provide. For these reasons, Galloping Grace Youth Ranch has made a commitment to operate entirely free of charge.”

On a side note: We are just a bit excited about our upcoming trip to Disney World.  When we were in tithing settlement, the bishop asked Katie to offer the prayer.  Of course she mentioned nothing about tithing, but was sure to say that we're thankful we could go to Disney World.  I may or may not have busted up laughing.  In the middle of the prayer.  In the bishop’s office.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Charlotte Mason Education

I apologize for not having posted lately, but things have been rather crazy around here. My husband is convinced that I cannot live without a major life change every six months or so. I blame my father. Our last big change was getting a dog in April (and, BOY, was that an adjustment!), so it would seem that we’re due.

We decided to pull Katie out of kindergarten at the end of October and begin homeschooling. Every single person I’ve told has asked, “WHY?? What happened?” The answer: Nothing. Nothing in particular happened. But we certainly do have some reasons behind our decision.

The Whys:
1. Kindergarten is very long. We left for the bus at 8:20 and she didn’t walk into the house until 4:00 pm. That is almost eight hours, the length of many full-time jobs. And she’s five. She was completely burned out by the time she got home, as evidenced by her irritability and tantrums. On top of that, she usually had 15-30 minutes homework and we were expected to read every day for 30 minutes. I think it’s far too much formal schooling for any elementary school child, let alone a 5-year-old.

2. I felt I had very little time to spend with my daughter. The first hour of the day was spent getting ready for school. After she got home, we did homework, and then I needed to begin preparing dinner. We then ate dinner, cleaned up, got ready for bed, and read if there was any time left before her 8:00 bedtime. This time is truncated even more when we have dance class. Aaron and I missed her, and so did her siblings.

3. Children in school are often so busy being students that they no longer have time to be kids. Reading is extremely important to me, but I often found myself skipping reading time in order to give her more time to just play and be outside. I really disliked have to choose between two things I valued so highly.

4. I strongly disliked both the reading program and the math program they have at Katie's school (and throughout the school district). Because she's so far ahead, that time in school is wasted. She'll come home and tell us that she "learned the letter U today." I had to resist rolling my eyes, because not only did she have her letters learned years ago, but she began reading at four.

5. We also felt as though she was picking up a lot of negative habits from her peers. Phrases that had never been heard in our home started popping up. She began being extremely critical of Paul, when they had been glued at the hip before. She also started being much more sassy and beligerant. We’ve noticed a dramatic falling off in the sassiness since she’s been away from school, so I do believe that much of it can be attributed to her time in school, and not just the age, as some have suggested.

6. So many important subjects are overlooked in the public schooling system because teachers have to teach to tests. Arts, languages, and nature appreciation are given short shrift (if they are taught at all). I think that these are essential to becoming a well-rounded person, and I wanted to be able to devote more time to them.

7. Much more can be accomplished when there’s a 1:3 ratio than a 1:20 (or 1:10, when both the EA and the teacher were working with the kids). I knew that we could cover more in a much shorter period of time because of the increased attention on her needs and abilities.

8. The following quote made me sit up and take notice: If we continue to send our children to Caesar for their education, we need to stop being surprised when they come home as Romans. ~ Dr. Voddie Baucham

After a month of school, I started thinking that we needed to explore our options. I considered charter schools and nixed that idea because of long commute times (meaning even more time would be spent away from home) and because they don't solve many of my concerns. I began researching homeschooling methods, thinking that perhaps there was a better system out there. I stumbled across the Charlotte Mason method of education, and I was convinced.

Here's a brief summary that illustrates seven characteristics of a Charlotte Mason education, as found at Simple Homeschool:

1. Habits

Charlotte believed that the development of good habits within a child provides the foundation for early education. She wrote, “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.” For this reason Charlotte advised delaying formal academics until age six, instead advocating play and work within the gentle boundaries of the family unit. (Because Katie has already begun formal schooling, we will continue that, but will likely not start our other children in formal lessons until six.) Charlotte saw good habits as so crucial that she recommended putting all else aside if a bad habit appeared, and working with the child (in a friendly way) to reconcile the issue before it could develop further.

2. Style of Lessons

Charlotte Mason style lessons are short, especially for young children. The goal is to train the child to focus fully on their work, but only for the amount of time they are developmentally capable of. For early elementary-aged children this often means only 5-15 minutes per subject. In older grades the duration extends to 45 minutes or more. When a child becomes restless, Charlotte advised changing the lesson to a different type of subject–maybe moving from handwriting to music study, or from math to handicrafts.Short lessons means that more subjects can be incorporated into a school day. This fits with the Charlotte Mason philosophy of introducing many topics to children and allowing them to delve deeper into the ones that spark their interest.

3. Living Books

Living books are the opposite of textbooks—quality literature (either fiction or non-fiction) written by an author with a passion for the topic. The writer’s passion and expertise breathes life into the book, as opposed to a textbook that gives impersonal overviews of many topics. Living books present inspiring stories that engage the minds of children and adults alike, providing characters our children can look up to and emulate.

4. Narration

A Charlotte Mason-style education uses narration as one of the central methods to evaluate a student. The goal is to teach a child to think and express themselves clearly. Up until the age of 10 or 11, Charlotte advises teachers to use mainly oral narration with a child. After listening to a short passage of a book, the child will tell back, in his or her own words, important aspects of the story. Letting a young child do this orally helps them develop analytical thinking skills without getting stuck by the physical mechanics of handwriting. At around age 11 Charlotte Mason teachers begin having children do written narrations, which lengthen and become more in depth as children get older.

5. Dictation

Dictation exercises introduce and reinforce spelling and grammar concepts. Charlotte recommends using inspiring quotations or Scripture for dictation. The child studies the passage until they are certain of the spelling and punctuation. Then the teacher dictates the passage slowly while the child writes it down. Formal grammar study is usually delayed until age 10 or 11 in a Charlotte Mason education.

6. Art & Music Study

Charlotte Mason believed in exposing a child to greatness in many forms, which is why she introduced music and art appreciation at her schools. In Charlotte’s schools, one composer or artist was studied each term–both through experiencing the music and art, reading living books about the artist, and perhaps reproducing the style through art or music lessons.

7. Nature Study

Charlotte thought children should spend as much time as possible outdoors, especially as young students. Students kept their own detailed nature journals and also used nature guides to discover and identify the natural world in their neighborhood.

If you know me well, you could understand why this education style would appeal to me. I love the concept of using "living books" instead of textbooks. There's also an emphasis placed on memory work (memorizing scriptures and poetry) which I believe is a lost skill. I also love how much importance is placed on being out of doors. I think that it's becoming more and more clear how much we've lost by our very sedentary lifestyle in America.

We will be using the curriculum provided by Ambleside Online, and our days will look something like this:

Every day (except Friday):
Copywork & Penmanship
Poetry (A Child's Garden of Verse, Mother Goose, Shel Silverstein, etc)
Drill (exercise in the form of games, dance, calesthenics, etc)
Reading Practice

Book of Mormon
Winnie the Pooh (unabridged series)

Composer studies (Term 1's composer is Beethoven)
Shorter story (such as Make Way for Ducklings)

Book of Mormon
Beatrix Potter

Art Studies (Term 1's artist is Durer)
Chronicles of Narnia

Nature notebooks
Weather study/long walk
Games and Puzzles
Field Trips (if arranged)

Whew! Because of the very brief lessons (10-15 minutes), we should be able to cover a great deal in a short amount of time. This will (ideally!) give us time to have a daily walk, lots of outdoor play, and plenty of unstructured time. (Although, I have to note that today is one of the first days where we’ve actually accomplished EVERYTHING I planned on doing. Better to be over- than underambitious, right?)

We’ve really enjoyed homeschooling so far. We’ve been to see “The Nutcracker,” which Katie loved. We’ve sewn cards for grandparents, made autumn decorations, played games, and spent lots of time cuddling and reading together. The other day we read Gingerbread Friends by Jan Brett, and it included a recipe for gingerbread. Normally I would have thought, “That’s fun. We should do that sometime.” Instead, we got up right then and made gingerbread. I love having a plan, but I also love that homeschooling allows for spontaneity.

I love the following quote by Charlotte Mason, and I would really like it to be a guiding principle in our homeschooling:

“The question is not,—how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education—but how much does he care?

And about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? And, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hot Diggity Dog

Poor Lando’s been so cold this autumn (it appears that his cold tolerance is about as high as mine).  Since greyhounds have very little body fat, they’re more susceptible to the cold than most dogs.  This, unfortunately, does not explain my aversion to the cold.  But that’s a different matter… It was high time he got a coat.  And since coats for greyhounds run about $60, I decided that the only sane thing to do would be to make one. 

I found vague instructions and some pictures on a website that helped me know what I wanted, and then I went from there.  This was the first time I’ve ever made something using my own pattern, and I’m so proud of how it turned out.  It looks EXACTLY like I imagined it would.  I used an old sheet for the pattern material (draped it over him and drew the outline right on him—so technical) and made a mockup so I knew that it would fit and have the right shape.  I then picked out my fabric—a sherpa fleece for snuggliness and a wide corduroy for durability and a bit of weather protection.  A few hours later and here is Mr. Dashing himself:

DSC_1418 .

It fastens with velcro in the front and also has a band (sewn into the coat) that wraps around his body to secure it around his middle (again with velcro).  You can barely see the end of the strap in the above picture.



It even has darts in the back to keep it from flapping around his bum and so that it looks nice and tailored.  He hated the million fittings I did, but I’m mean like that

And look what Lando has learned how to do!



For those of you that don’t know, greyhounds aren’t sitters.  They will rarely sit on their own accord; it’s either lie down or stand.  Their bodies are just proportioned in a way that makes sitting awkward.  So it’s taken some work to get him to learn how to do this.  He’ll only sit on his bed for now (maybe because it’s cushy on his bony bum?), but we’ll work on that.  We use the clicker training method, and so far he can sit, settle (lie down on his bed), jump, stay (for about 10 seconds), touch a target (my hand), and wait at the door.  He also knows “MINE!!” (employed most frequently by Averi, since he has a bad habit of stealing her food) and “Out!" 

So there’s my cute puppy and my latest sewing project.  Any suggestions on commands/tricks to teach him next?  Any more dapper dogs in their winter apparel?  Let’s see pictures!

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Yesterday was Digital Scrapbooking Day (yes, there really is one!), which means that I got a ton of new kits, so my desktop needs to be cleared off to make room. Enjoy!

Robot Valentines

Averi Love

Before and After

Camping with Dad

Life Is Good

Little Swimmer