Thursday, August 30, 2007


Yes, we're leaving today (but not until after lunch) but yes, I should be packing or at least showering or possibly having breakfast... but no, I'm taking pictures and updating my!

Curious what the kids did with the boxes from yesterday? Well... here you go!

Clara and her "memory card"...And... crazy enough... they both made laptop computers...LOL!

Here's Clara and hers. Her computer is a "Del"... not sure where that came from since we don't own any Dell computers...
Alex's is a "Computer 2000" ....
Don't you just love his deer in the headlights look? Poor boy... he has a tendency to not look right into the camera so being the "pleaser" that he is... he immediately sat down and gave me the wide eyed stare for about 20 full seconds before he went back to his usual M.O.

Okay... I am going to go and actually get started now... I promise, I am. :-)

ETA: I forgot... what they did with a couple of the big boxes was tape them together at the end and cut a kid sized hole between the two. They were working on a magic show and wanted to try the sawing a person in half trick. They decorated the boxes with glitter glue and stickers. All was going well until it fell over last night while Alex was in it and the whole thing broke... well... at least they still have their laptops!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


I'll get to the "wow" in just a sec... but I'll start with a pic of Clara. I know today was supposed to be our stay-at-home-day... but apparently we ended up at the park....

Now... the "wow".... I know it's in lowercase letters... that's not because I'm underwhelmed and being sarcastic... it's because I'm so completely overwhelmed that I'm practically speechless.

Yes... my prize packages from the Memory Makers Masters Contest were delivered today... all FIVE of them!!! I was so caught off guard by the number and size of them that I just had to look at them for a while.
Then the kids spotted them and they went crazy! They were soooo excited.... I couldn't figure out why since the boxes weren't for them... then Alex said "mom, when you get all of your stuff out, can we have the boxes?". So there you go... that was the real! So, I let them get the scissors and go to town on the boxes....
Which they emptied rather rapidly, piling everything several items deep on our dining room table.

Once they accomplished that they took the boxes and the bubble wrap and sprinted off. Leaving me alone with all of the "stuff". I got to go through it all piece by piece while I attempted to neatly stack everything back by the wall so we could have dinner at the table.

I have no clue where it all is going to "live" right now. I meant to clean out the cabinet by my desk to put it all in, but you know... that just didn't happen (yet).

Well... tomorrow we head to Michigan and from there, we go to Missouri (we'll come home for a night in between the two)... so I'll figure it out when we're back.... oh and I promise to take better pictures of the items too.

I'll be back in a few days!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

catching my breath...

Wow! The past couple of days have been crazy with activity!! Yesterday we spent most of the day either going to, being at or coming home from the Garfield Park Conservatory. We went to see the Niki in the Garden exhibit again with my friend and her daughter. I took lots of kid pics, but I'm too tired to edit them so here are a couple of non-kid pics... lol...

We rushed home in order to make it to Clara's gymnastics class. We were a couple minutes late so I scooted her in the door and ran back out to drop off a couple of books that were due at the library just around the corner. When I came back in, I looked at her in her class and thought that she looked so much taller than her classmates and that I didn't recognize the other girls. Well... perhaps that was because the new fall session started yesterday and that really wasn't her class... it was the class for the next younger group... sigh. When I realized what I had done, I asked if they wanted me to pull her out, but they said she was fine and that they would just see us again the next day for her "real" class.

After gymnastics we stopped in for the registration for fall dance at the studio that we went to camp at this summer. To figure out her class placement, the owner took her out into the hall and ran through some things with her. When he came back in, he started talking to the guy that was doing our registration about how Clara would be good as an "angel". I had no clue what they were talking about... maybe that was the "name" of her class or a potential role for their Christmas recital. Well... before I could wonder too long, they pulled out the information and asked if Clara would like to be an angel in their upcoming production of the Great Russian Nutcracker with the Moscow Ballet. I was completely overwhelmed so I just took the paperwork and went home to talk to Jeff. This is a HUGE commitment so I wanted to really think about it. Well... we thought about it, and we're going for it. It's going to be tough on her, but she's soooo excited! She loves the Nutcracker... that's something that her and her dad do together each Christmas... go to some event relating to the Nutcracker. This year, she'll be in it. BUT, she's the youngest cast member (so far, all of the other girls are 7 and up... Clara's five - turning 6 in October) and she will have 4 hours of dance class and rehearsal every Saturday for 10 weeks. But she is sooooo excited... she talks about it constantly... so here we go!

Today we went with our homeschool group to see the cool globes on display along the lakefront. However, it was so hot that we didn't make it through very many of them before we used our memberships and went to the Shedd Aquarium (where it was nice and cool) instead. The kids and I stayed for a bit before we had to head back toward home for Clara's REAL gymnastics class.

Here are a couple of globe pics...

Kate - thank you so much for the complements about my Cirque Shanghai pics... I love when people post comments, if for no other reason but to know that people actually read my blog... LOL! For those pictures I used my 85 mm 1.8. We were in row F (so the sixth row from the stage)... so I didn't need a zoom, plus I didn't feel like carrying one. And not knowing what the lighting would be like, I wanted the fastest lens that I had. Lighting was fabulous for an event like this.... it was basically outdoors under white awnings (top and sides)... so it was bright, but not bright, if you know what I mean. I shot in manual, I can't remember what I metered off of though (there's a good chance it was the grey concrete floor). Thankfully there was enough light that I didn't have to shoot wide open, so I had my aperture set at 2.8 (I think). I just shut PS so I don't have my file info in front of me right now, but I can look it up tomorrow, if you would like. Please let me know if you have more questions... I'll be happy to answer them the best that I can.

Okay... with that.. I'm heading to bed!! Tomorrow is a "stay-at-home-day" and I just can't wait!!!


Sunday, August 26, 2007

good stuff....

See Alex riding his bike? Notice that there are only TWO wheels and no one is holding on to him!
He *finally* did it! The training wheels came off about a year ago while we were still living in Texas, but he fell that first day and didn't want anything else to do with riding a two wheeler. Then we moved to Chicago and cold weather and snow added to his reasons not to try again. He really got interested in it again this summer, because his good friend, our neighbor, rides without training wheels. However, he was embarrassed to admit that he couldn't ride without them so he wouldn't try if his friend was around (and being that he's our neighbor, he was around a lot). Well... today our neighbors headed out of town for a trip, so today became the perfect day to try again.... nearly a year later... but he DID IT!!! He's such a pro now... turning sharp corners, avoiding his very unpredictable sister who was riding her own bike... only occasionally did his crash into a trash can or narrowly miss a telephone pole in the alley.

He had asked for a new bike, since that one had gotten too small. But we had told him that we couldn't go bike shopping until he learned to ride without the training wheels. Looks like we'll be going bike shopping soon!


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Just a couple pics from yesterday

Still haven't gotten around to editing the rest of the pics from yesterday's trip to Navy Pier. So, here's just a couple more.

See how foggy and overcast it is in this picture? There are even people with umbrellas.
This was taken about 20 minutes later. Crazy!
Okay... that's it for me today!


Friday, August 24, 2007

Cirque Shanghai

Today we went to Cirque Shanghai at Navy Pier to celebrate my friend's daughter's "gotcha day". It was two years ago today that my friend, Natalie, got her daughter, Mallery, in China. I took a ton of pictures in the show and out on Navy Pier but I'll save the Navy Pier pictures for another day... maybe tomorrow.

The Cirque Shanghai was absolutely fabulous... the kids were totally captivated. And then... as they opened the curtains for the finale, things went wrong.... we heard a snap and one of the cables broke on this swing thing that had about five people on it. None of our group actually saw the one girl fall, we just saw her lying on the stage afterwards.... she was sitting up somewhat... but didn't get up. There was confusion and they finally closed the curtains and just ended the show. We never knew what happened. I just hope she was okay.

Here are a few of the pictures I took...

Oh... and our internet/phone issue is back... so let's hope this posts!


pssst.... Ia

I don't have your email to send you the coupon code... so I sent you a PM at Scrapartist. Let me know if you don't get it.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

thanks.... and the *real* clara revealed

First of all THANK YOU all so much for the congratulations emails and posts here and on the message boards after the new Memory Makers Masters list was posted yesterday! I'm still a little in shock that they picked me... LOL!

Anyway... my other good news is that it *appears* that Comcast has FINALLY fixed our internet problems! We had a repairman come yesterday who tested everything and told us that our problem was outside on the pole, but he couldn't fix it, a line tech would have to be called. I was glad that he found the problem, but I will admit that I was a bit skeptical about his plan of action. Well... the line tech came out around 10 this morning and I haven't had a problem since. EVEN after we had a huge raging storm blow through here this afternoon. I'm sooo excited but I'm trying to not get too confident yet since it may all go out again tomorrow.

I'm sleepy and need to go to bed... but before I do... I was looking back through some pics I took of Clara last month. And I thought I would post a few to show you all who think that Clara is this sweet, innocent, cooperative child. These are the pictures I don't usually show you... this is the *real* Clara.... LOL!


Homeschool - Preview

I started this a couple of days ago with my review of what we used last year... so here's our curriculum for this year:

Both Alex and Clara:

Sonlight Core 1 (with Grade 2 Readers for Alex) - Can't wait to start this! I loved the books in K last year, so I'm dying to dive into the books of this core.

Apologia Astronomy - we love science in our house (maybe that has something to do with my degree in biology... who knows... LOL)... so along with the spiral science program that comes with Core 1, we'll be doing a year long study of astronomy.

Spell to Write and Read - man, this program scares me just to look at it... but I really think it's what we need.

Also - the Atelier Art I mentioned in my other post and the Spanish we had last year as well. Oh and Maureen... you'll love the art, it's a fabulous program... let me know if you get it!!

Alex (2nd grade):

Math-U-See - continue the Beta book we've already started.

Horizons Math Level 1 - okay, I know this seems like an odd choice to add for a boy who is working in a book above his grade level... but here's my thought process... Alex loves math and does really well with Math-U-See. I love the fact that MUS is a mastery program, but because it's a mastery program, some topics are introduced much later than other programs. For example, I had Alex take the California Achievement Test this spring and although he tested very well... there were math questions on topics that we had not covered yet even though he had finished his first grade math book. Horizons is spiral and (so I've been told) runs about a half a grade above what it is advertised for... so I thought starting with Level 1 would give him the additional math that he craves and introduce some of those topics MUS is saving for later while not overwhelming him with difficulty. We'll see how it goes.

Start Write Handwriting Software - this was bought for Alex, but Clara will probably use it at some point as well. Alex basically forms his letters correctly, he just needs more practice. I thought this would be fun... especially since my plan is to use riddles and jokes as his writing assignments... something a little more enjoyable for him. Now I just need to remember to get a joke/riddle book!

Sonlight Level 2 Language Arts - We're going to give this a whirl this year. We will also do the Explode the Code books they recommend and the Wordly Wise workbook.

K'nex Simple Machines - Gears - Clara will probably be a part of this too... but this was purchased with Alex in mind. The boy LOVES to build and engineer things, so this was a perfect fit for him. He's absolutely dying to open the package... I finally had to put it out of sight so he could forget about it.

Clara (Kindergarten):

Math-U-See - continue with Primer.

Learning Language Arts through Literature Blue Book - I think this is a much better fit for Clara this year even though it is listed as first grade.

Handwriting Without Tears - I hope this works! Clara needs a little extra help with forming her letters... I'm hoping this is the answer.

I think that's it! I'm probably missing something though... if I figure out that I am, I'll come back and add it!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Click the link below to read all about it...


Ever since the announcement was officially made, my internet has been going out... only on for about 20-30 seconds at a time, my phone is out and my blog went down... sigh!

Comcast is out here AGAIN this afternoon... so I hope to post more later!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Homeschool - Review

School starts in a couple of weeks so I've been working on homeschool stuff... I spent this afternoon working on my schedule for the first couple of weeks just to keep myself on track.

So... I thought I would do a run-down of our curriculum for this year, but before I do... here's the verdict on what we did last school year (Alex 1st grade, Clara preschool)...

Both Alex and Clara:

Sonlight Core K with advanced readers (for Alex) - loved Sonlight this year! I freaked out early on trying to strictly adhere to their schedule, but once I lightened up a bit we LOVED it!

La Clase Divertida Level 1 for our Spanish. The kids loved it and I loved that the kit includes EVERYTHING for two kids... but with the move, it got lost in the shuffle. We will restart again this school year.

Atelier for art. This is just an AMAZING program... we thoroughly enjoyed it! We didn't get through the whole set that we have so we'll continue on this year.

Lollipop Logic and First Time Analogies for thinking skills. Enjoyed these... but got lost in the shuffle of the move.

A Reason for Handwriting - Alex was doing A and Clara was doing K. UGH!!! Alex HATED the beginning portion of his book... so much that we had tears. So, I skipped the review and went straight into the lessons... he enjoyed them more but his handwriting is still not so good... so we're trying something different this year. Clara enjoyed her book but she has handwriting issues (not like Alex's messiness issues... but true issues) so we're doing something different for her as well.

Math-U-See - Totally in love with Math-U-See!!! No complaints here... still love it! Alex finished up his first grade book early spring and is now almost halfway through his second grade book.... he randomly announces that he's going to do math even though we're not doing school during the summer. What more could you want from a math program???

Stories of the Great Composers for Music Appreciation. Ummmm.... never got to it... oops.

Just Alex:
Explode the Code - Still like these.... we ended up adding book 3 1/2 after book 3 instead of going straight to book 4.

A Reason for Spelling - Another great big UGH!!! This so did not work for Alex... it was a total disaster for him. We discovered this year that Alex needs to know the reasons behind spelling rules instead of just having a list of words to practice and memorize. This just didn't work. Unfortunately I was a little zealous in my ordering last year and ordered grade 2.... hello ebay!

Learning Language Arts through Literature - Blue Book. The blue book states that it's for first grade... but I don't buy it. I think it is more appropriate for the K level. We put it away and Clara will be using it this year.

Just Clara:
Mountainwood Talking Letters - she enjoyed this but I'm not sure if I really "get" it. She did much better just watching the Leap Frog DVDs, I think.

Seems like we did more... but I guess that was it. Once we moved to Chicago we did TONS of field trips so maybe that's why it feels like we did so much more.

Okay... hopefully I'll get to the new curriculum post after dinner.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday, Monday....

Another damp and dreary day here. Honestly, I love days like today... especially since it was a total "stay at home" day for us. Well... that was until this afternoon when Clara had gymnastics and Alex has cooking class. It's so nice to be lazy once in a while and with the rain, you don't feel guilty about staying home.

I did manage to sneak in one picture of Alex between rain showers..... Comcast was here to "fix" our phone and internet this morning. The guy professed to have found the problem and claimed to have fixed it. However, later this afternoon both our phone and our internet went out. To be fair, the guy said that what he did was his first run at fixing it. He was hoping that would take care of things... but he told us specifically what to call in and ask for if his fix didn't work. So, Comcast will be out here AGAIN on Wednesday.

I cannot wait to get this fixed! It's been making me crazy! It seems to be working well enough lately that I should be able to scrap again though. Before I couldn't even shop, let alone download any product. AND... my computer would eventually freak out (especially if I had PSCS2 open) after the connection went out several times. I kept having to reboot all of the time and it eventually got to the point where it just wasn't worth it.... sigh.

On the upside... a little retail therapy over the past week has improved my mood on the technology front. I have all kinds of new toys either here already or on their way. First of all, last week while the kids were in VBS I walked down to the Apple Store... overwhelmed myself and had to go outside and take some deep breaths before going back in. That time I walked out with a new 30gig Video iPod to replace my old hot pink iPod mini that died in the rainstorm in Paris last May. I really went in to the store to buy another cute little bright colored iPod (the nano)... but with the 30 gig iPod being the same price as the 8 gig Nano... I just *had* to go with the video iPod. Sure, it's plain white... but I have my eye on some cute cases.
They had these at Borders on Michigan Ave... just couldn't make a decision at the time.

Then yesterday was the big damage day... we went back to the Apple Store after church to look at the new iMacs. We were all set to buy one when the guy convinced us to just go home and order from the website so we could use the educator discount (which we qualify for since we homeschool). What a great deal! We now have the following items on their way... a new iMac with 20" monitor (we upgraded the memory and the hard drive), microsoft office, adobe creative suite and the free iPod that comes with the purchase of a iMac using the educator discount (too bad I just bought mine last week... sigh). Fun, fun stuff! I can't wait!

Okay... I've been rambling... off to go spend the rest of the evening with my husband!


Congrats Ia!!

Thank you so much for entering the contest and I loved seeing your entry! (if you all missed it, you can see it here)

Send me a note at tkradtke AT aol DOT com and I'll send you the coupon code for the templates!

Congrats again!

Saturday, August 18, 2007


Internet was out all last night... AGAIN (and the phone too).... so I'm posting my Friday stuff on Saturday morning. This is just a quick post since we've been very lazy this morning and now its time to get going.

Yesterday was the last day of VBS. Only Alex went because Clara was up all night sick. She never "got sick" but she was up all night crying because she just didn't feel very well. Thankfully Jeff was working from home yesterday so I was able to take Alex without having to disturb Clara.... and she was able to stay home and rest. Well.... rest as much as you can with jets flying over your house all day... apparently we're in the flight pattern for the air show so we got to see some of the aircraft from our deck.

Then later in the afternoon it was our neighbor's 3rd birthday party! It was in their backyard which was nice because Clara could sort of attend without really attending. Here are some pics...

They had a face painter.... Alex got a pirate elephant....Isn't this sad? This is Clara sitting on our deck watching the party.... but at least she got to participate a little bit...

Okay... I've got to get in the shower!

more later if my internet cooperates... we'll see :-)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

air and water show preview?

That's what we were hoping for today. I had heard that they start their practice runs on Thursday for the Chicago Air and Water Show... so I went home after dropping the kids off at VBS, packed a picnic lunch and grabbed the towels and swimsuits. I picked them up and we headed across the street to Oak Street Beach. We were going to go to North Avenue Beach but I was feeling lazy and I wanted to stick close to the bus in case it started to rain (it was really overcast). We could hear jets as we headed to the beach... and then we saw them... about three or four. They flew around for awhile but that was it. I'm not sure if it just wasn't a true practice day or if the weather was a factor. Regardless... we stayed and played and had a good time!

Can you tell that Clara slept in sponge rollers last night? Her hair was obnoxiously curly this morning but by the time we hit the beach, most of them had fallen out...This guy was after our lunch...
One of the jets... I had the wrong lens on my camera... I just didn't feel like hauling the 70-200mm 2.8L down there with everything else I had strapped to my back.... so this was just with my 85mm... maybe this weekend I'll get out the other lens when I have an extra set of hands with me to help with the kids and paraphernalia...

Well... I still smell like the beach so I'm going to go shower so I can go to bed soon!


Please, please don't forget about the contest! :-)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

wish me luck! lol!

I'm going to try to sneak this post on here before Comcast cuts me off again. This week has been the final straw. We're done with Comcast and Friday (once Jeff's back from his business trip) we'll work on changing our phone and internet. Last night our phone went out in the middle of Jeff's call and didn't come back on all last night. The internet went out at the same time too. Usually it goes in and out... but last night it went out and stayed out... so I gave up and just went to bed. I really dread changing our phone number and email addresses yet again (and so soon after the move) but we really have no choice. So, just for future reference... DO NOT get the Comcast Triple Play deal even if it sounds like a really good deal... it will just takes years off your life from the frustration of it all. Deep breath... moving on....

Yesterday while the kids were in Vacation Bible School I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art (it's free on Tuesdays). While there I found out that they were having a free kids art program from 1-3. So after a quick trip through the museum (just to preview) I went back to pick up the kids and after lunch we went back over to the museum. I'm so sad that we discovered their kids art program so late... it was really cool... but unfortunately this was the last one of the summer. The kids made clay covered jars, tissue paper flags and wikki stik (must get some of these) artwork. After finishing our projects we went inside. Unfortunately they don't allow photography inside so I have no photos. The kids LOVED the museum, especially the Escultura Social: A New Generation of Art from Mexico City exhibit. They definitely want to go back (Alex suggested that we go every Tuesday).

Anyway... I'm running out of time before we've got to be out the door for VBS... but I'll leave you with a few pictures....

Alex called these guys the Popcorn Guys... because they looked like buttered popcorn... LOL!

Alex and his jar... he made a face on his and called it the "sea king"...
Clara working on her jar....
Clara and her jar.... can you tell how worn out she was??

Please don't forget about the contest I'm having... details here!!!


Saturday, August 11, 2007


We went back to the garden again today... such an amazing oasis of greenery and growth in a neighborhood of concrete and decay.

The garden has made such an incredible transformation from when we first visited in May.

Above is our actual garden plot... actually we share the plot. This front half is ours. Clara had already pulled our carrots, but they were right there at the front. Next are our zinnias. Our crazy out of control cosmos are right behind... they are absolutely HUGE but have yet to have flowered. Sandwiched between those two are two pepper plants that lost the battle for sunlight. On the right side are two of our basil plants - cinnamon and lemon. Then tied to the big blue pole are our out of control tomato plants. They are seriously out for full garden domination... we have them semi-reined in with lots of twine. On the other side are our regular basil plants which aren't doing too well due the size (and shadow) of the tomato jungle we've got going on.

That's it for now! I have the day to myself tomorrow so I'll work on a longer post then!