Sunday, June 29, 2014

Netflix knows better than parents and Hulu is disgusting

I was a bit puzzled when I saw that a TV-MA shows was accessed on my Netflix by a visiting teen. I have that thing locked down with a password and I have the Parental Controls set to "Teen". He was watching another approved show while I was away and switched over to this unapproved one. How could he access a TV-MA show with the Parental Controls still on? He didn't have the password. I clicked on the show and sure enough, it came right on with no warning.

Upon calling customer service, I found out that Netflix allows certain "popular" TV-MA shows to leak through on the Teen setting. Excuse me? The customer service was a young man and informed me that his young sister age 14 and her 15 year old friends often watched a sexualized TV-MA show. It was popular so it was allowed on the Teen setting on Netflix. He said that they probably shouldn't be watching that show, but they do. Really? So, since some parents today don't give a rip what their children watch, Netflix will allow TV-MA shows to slip through the Parental Controls because "everyone is doing it"?  Netflix has taken control of the Parental Controls. They have allowed themselves to become judge of what is OK for teens to watch. They know better than you do, you out-of-touch parent. If parents don't care what their teens watch, let them set the parental controls to "Adult" and be done with it. Attention Netflix: Don't assume that today's parents don't care. We do and we don't appreciate someone telling us they know better than we do.

Customer Service's solution was that I should change the setting to a younger child setting and manually switch it on my computer when I want to watch something else. Really Netflix? How about fixing your Parental Controls so that parents actually have control over what their own teenagers watch! Thanks for inconveniencing me, a caring parent, so you can look "cool".

Netflix, I'll give you a clue. Make the parental controls stronger. Allow parents to choose which show ratings can be shown in their own homes. I don't always agree with the ratings, but it is a start.

Don't think Hulu is off the hook here. I tried to sign up for them. They don't even have ANY Parental Controls. None. You have to call customer service and THEY have to change your birthdate to make it appear as if you are under 17. They default to smut. You have to exert energy to put protection on. You might as well not, there are a bunch of pornographic and "Gay and Lesbian" movies and shows that are labeled as "not rated" that are available for viewing to any and everyone under 17. How about "Inside the 50 Shades - real women confess"? Isn't that precious. Don't forget "Strictly Sexual" or "After the Porn Ends - Can they really live a normal life after porn?" There are many, many more. I was stunned by the number of pornographic shows getting through even with the "under 17" on. They will not be allowed in my house. I've cancelled my subscription after one day.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Homeschooling Other People's Children

It isn't as rare as you think. In the State of Texas, it is legal and becoming more popular. I currently home educate two children that are not my own.

My oldest graduates from High School this week (ackkk) and my youngest is a Sophomore in High School. They are both independent learners and rarely need my assistance. A weekly narration on the literature and history that was read that week with my youngest is the toughest thing we do. I also drive him to an outside science class and pick up the books from the library. I was becoming quite accustomed to having free time on my hands. To all you parents who are working hard with your elementary students, hang in there. Teaching them to be independent learners who are responsible for their assignments pays heaping rewards in High School and beyond. Don't miss out on this!

Starting over with two new students has been a challenge. Firstly, these are not my children and the parent's wishes and curriculum choices may not be my own. Lots of prayer, listening and love has gotten us through this first year. I started out the year with the kindergarten student in September. His brother, who was in 8th grade, followed after Christmas break.

The kindergarten student needed a lot of attention at first. I am teaching him to be a more independent learner even at this early age. I try to walk away from the kitchen table after reading the instructions for his Math-U-See page. I check his work and give him praise for his excellent work and gentle correction for any errors. This builds confidence that he can tackle a task on his own.

Since adding his brother after Christmas, I sometimes need a block of time to check work or give some instruction to the older student.  I am teaching him to play by himself without my having to initiate a game or giving ideas for projects. The phrase "go keep yourself busy" was initially followed with some instruction on what he could do to keep himself busy (play Legos, play with other toys, read a book, play outside, do an art project...). Now, I don't have to give suggestions. He already knows what he can do. When I catch him keeping himself busy, I give him praise.

We still play together a lot during the day. We play games, go outside in the garden, go for a walk, to the library, to the park, read a book, study a science subject he is interested in... He still needs and should get a lot of face-time with me. All children need blocks of undivided attention of a parent/teacher during the day. Home education affords the luxury of giving one-on-one attention to a student. Looking him in the eyes as he talks. Not interrupting a thought or idea. Letting him discover an answer on his own without interjecting. These are all important and NECESSARY to children. Charlotte Mason is an excellent resource on this.

His older brother has a lot of bad habits from public school I am helping him improve. His mother and I talk and text daily regarding progress, problems and ideas. She is currently in nursing school and her time is at a premium. She is doing her own studying but her children remain her priority. She is amazing!

We initially started out homeschooling with mom's curriculum choices. They were a public school curriculum that was mostly written for charter schools. The writers were family friends of hers and she had personally worked through the curriculum herself as a student. While the curriculum would work for some students, it wasn't working well for hers. She recognized that early and pulled the plug. We then tested and placed him in Math-U-See, a curriculum that worked well for my boys (with different learning styles). He went from an "F" student to an "A" student in short order. We stepped him back a bit to ensure that the basics were covered. That means that he will be playing catch-up this summer and continuing his math during the summer months this year.

We also changed curriculum in history and literature. I am doing Tapestry of Grace with my youngest, so he just jumped in where we were in history and literature. Narration is a new concept to him. He is coming along very well. It also was a bonus for my youngest to have someone to talk with about what he had read. It has been helpful all around.

Science was a challenge. After finding out he has a passion for all things fast, we made a visit to our local customization and racing guru. We had a personal tour of the shop. I am currently on the hunt for an engine of any kind for him to tear apart. I also had him do the TOPS science unit on Electricity. He needed a little more hands-on from me than I anticipated, but it was a fun unit. He'll do another book from this series next year. His dad will also give him some private car repair lessons.

I think my hardest challenge is getting him to recognize that he has to change the way he thinks about school. I am not the enemy or someone to try and fool. It isn't about trying to skate by with the minimum work. It is seeing that the school work has purpose. It is about fulfilling his passion that the Lord has placed in his heart. I am seeing a glimmer of that, but we aren't there yet. I pray that the Lord works on him in the coming months.

I am also careful to give my own sons my attention. I recognized a little jealously in my youngest son early on. We now have lunch "dates" by ourselves and that is helping. I also try to stop in his room and sit down while he plays a video game and make inquiries. He loves to give me some insider information on whatever game he is playing. I explained to him that the other students need some extra attention right now as they get settled into homeschooling. He is old enough to understand this and some of the tension he was feeling has been released.

It has been a challenge for me and my schedule. My paralegal work has suddenly picked up and now I go into an actual office two days a week. So I juggle everything and some things suffer. I am looking at a very dusty floor right now. My blog hasn't been touched in a while. My book writing has suffered. It is all worth it when I hear my kindergarten student sound out a word on his own. When my new student expounds on a literature book he thoroughly enjoyed. When they open up and share their passions. My students are beautiful treasures and I am so blessed to share my time with them.

What's Happening in the Garden?

So much is happening in the backyard! The garden is exploding with life. One huge difference is that we installed a drip irrigation system. The tomatoes are so happy not getting their leaves wet. I have also noticed a big improvement in tomato disease which I mostly attribute to the drip irrigation system. We had a week of very heavy rainfall. It was much needed in this area as we have been suffering from drought. The garden plants prefer the rain and responded accordingly. I have been picking tomatoes non-stop this year! My water scarecrow is helping keep the birds from attacking my tomato plants this year. Although our motion-activated scarecrow has drenched our air conditioning repair men when I forgot to turn it off while they were in the backyard making repairs. Ooops! We all got a good laugh about that. My favorite haricot vert green beans are doing well also. I love picking fresh green beans for our supper! I have a baby eggplant which we are looking forward to eating soon. Broccoli is on its last legs as it is getting too hot to keep it happy. How we will miss our fresh broccoli. My husband loves to go outside and pick a bowlful for snacking. Each season brings new flavors. Now we are enjoying fresh tomatoes and looking forward to cucumbers.

Tomatoes are thriving. Note the diatomaceous earth powder on the leaves to keep bugs at bay.

Haricot Vert Green Beans are doing great!

our Spring 2014 Gardens

Beautiful red Swiss Chard

 


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Snail Cupcakes for Spring!

I'm no Martha Stewart, but I do love baking and I'm trying my hand at cake decorating. You can learn so much from YouTube for free!

My youngest son's homeschool science class has Snail Olympics every year. I volunteered to bring a snack for the event. These snail cupcakes went over very well!

roll out a small piece of fondant. Tapering at one end.



next, smash down on each side of the fat end for the front bottom of the body



next roll out a long piece. Flatten at the fat end and taper at the other.



roll starting at the tapered end. Keep a little shelf at the flat end.
add to the body of the snail. Press a little to adhere. Cut some
flower stamens from the cake decorating area to make antennas.
I also used a toothpick to poke little indentions on the body
of the snail.
flower stamens

I made a few white mushrooms from the fondant



I added some grass with a grass tip and icing. Put a little
crumbled up oreo cookie for dirt and put the rest of the items.
I used a little edible paint to make the shell. I sprinkled
it with a little edible iridescent powder. I also painted a
little trail of corn syrup sprinkled with iridescent powder for
the snail trail behind it.


you can see the corn syrup "snail trail" a little better in this picture.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

How the Lord Protected Us

Doesn't it seem like there are just relentless attacks of the Enemy that come in quick bursts? It seems that our family is being targeted. The Enemy would like nothing better than to neutralize us as Christians. We are ineffective for the kingdom if we are busy nursing our wounds. We must be ever vigilant of these attacks. We also must stand against these attacks and tell Satan where he can go. He has no authority over us.

Monday, March 24, 2014 at 11:00 we were targeted for attack. Death may have been the ultimate goal of our Enemy. But God...  God intervened and spared our lives.

We were coming from visiting my dear Mamon in the nursing home who has just herself fought a serious health battle and won. I saw her looking better than she had in a long time. We had a lovely visit, took pictures and gave lots of smooches. I always knew she loved me and I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to tell her how much I love her. I don't know that I will see her again on this side of heaven.

We stayed with our friends and had a lovely but brief visit. We only stayed overnight and left on Monday because we had a long list of responsibilities awaiting us at home. My son wanted to drive back on I-10. I agreed because he was a fairly new driver and I knew that it would give him some good experience and I could give him some good tips as we drove back. He was doing well. We made it from Sulphur almost all the way through Beaumont when disaster struck.

We were travelling in the right lane getting ready to go over a high overpass over a ravine. There was traffic merging onto I-10 right before this bridge. A large white double-cab work truck full of workers was merging onto I-10 without looking to see if the lane was clear. Everything happened in an instant although it felt like forever. I saw what was about to happen and looked to left to see if my son could escape. I saw another white truck in the far left lane behind us. I didn't think we had enough room to swerve in front of him. I knew we were trapped. The next second we were hit by the work truck. I can't recall the actual sequence of events. But I remember feeling like we swerved for what seemed an eternity. We hit the concrete barrier on the left at some point. I felt like we were in a pinball machine. It felt so unreal. Like we were in a movie. I kept thinking, "this isn't real". I remember trying to reach over to grab the steering wheel to help Lucas. A massive jolt prevented me from doing this. All of the sudden, we were spinning. I saw oncoming traffic on I-10 coming toward us. I knew we were in trouble. The first thing that comes out of my mouth is "Jesus". I hear Lucas repeating "Jesus". I say it a second time. I hear Lucas say something like "It's going to be OK." and our car comes to a sudden stop in the grass alongside of I-10 along the steep embankment of the overpass. The front of the car is facing I-10, but we are safely off of the freeway. I tell Lucas to pull the emergency brake and turn off the car. Smoke is inside the car and it smells strongly of burnt rubber. I try my door and it won't open. The boys exit their side of the vehicle and I crawl over the driver's seat and get out. I almost fall down because the embankment is so very steep. I can hardly stand. I look over and see the concrete-lined ravine below the bridge. I check the boys and they are fine. I can't catch my breath.

We just start hugging, kissing and telling each other we love each other. I am praising God right there on the side of I-10 for his protection. I don't care who sees. A kind lady with a small child in the back seat rolls down her window and asks if we are OK. Immediately, we are surrounded by three amazing witnesses who stopped their vehicles and are checking on us. God bless those precious people! We check over the car and see that the front driver's side wheel is completely gone. Not just the tire, but the entire wheel. As near as we can figure, it hit the edge of the bridge as we were spinning and was ripped off. It is holding onto the grass and dirt like a claw. We see a tire at the bottom of the steep embankment, but we aren't sure if it is ours. There are dents on both sides and the rear corner of the vehicle. The trunk is open. The airbags never deployed. One of our suitcases was tossed from the vehicle and lay on the side of I-10 about a foot from our vehicle. Nothing else is missing from our trunk which was full of suitcases, air mattress and other items. The glass candles I was carrying in the trunk never even broke. Amazing!

I can feel my neck already hurting. That isn't a good sign. Zack says the middle of his back hurts and Lucas complains about one of his shoulders and neck. No bruises or bleeding.

We look westward down I-10 about 1/4 of a mile and see the work truck that hit us. We can see the workers getting out of the car and checking on the vehicle. Suddenly, one of our witnesses yells "They are leaving!". The workers got back in their truck and left the scene of the accident without checking on us. I can't believe it. At this point, about three minutes after the accident, three very kind Beaumont police officers show up. The three witnesses give their information and leave. One of our witnesses tells us and the police that the vehicle that hit us is from one of two companies. How does he know this? One of our witnesses has to go to Houston where his mom is at the doctor. He says he will keep an eye out for this vehicle and call us if he sees it. (He calls later to say he arrived in Houston without seeing the vehicle.) I call my husband to tell him about the accident. He's on his way to us. He has an hour and a half drive before he sees us.

The police officers offered to take us to a nearby hotel. We took what we could from the trunk and put it in the back of the police car. We climb into the bare, uncomfortable plastic seat of the police vehicle. This is the first (and hopefully last) time any of us have ever been in the back of a police car. As we are driving up to the road to the hotel, the gravity of what happened hit me like a ton of bricks. We could have plunged into the ravine below and been killed. We could have been hit by other vehicles on I-10. We could have been seriously injured. I am overcome with gratefulness for God's protection of us and I start crying in the back seat of the police car. Lucas was sitting next to me and put his arm around me to comfort me. I assure him it is tears of thankfulness.

The police officers arranged with the front desk for us to stay in the lobby until my husband arrives. The hotel is very gracious. We hug all of the officers because we are so grateful for their kindness. One of the police officers comes back to the hotel after the car was safely towed and gave us all the information regarding where it was towed and our police report number. He told us "I don't want to scare you, but we see this kind of accident all the time and it usually involves several other vehicles plowing into the first vehicle that has spun out. I don't know how you avoided other collisions." I tell him "God protected us." 

Lucas has some scratches on his arm. We figured out is was from my fingernails as I tried to grab the wheel to help him gain control of the vehicle. We get a good laugh about that. Other than that, we had no broken bones, bruises or cuts.

I call my friend Laura and ask her to pray and have a friend look in on our dog. She prays with me and listens as I tell her how God spared our lives that day. I am so thankful for my prayer warrior friend.

The boys and I try to reconstruct the accident. Each of us remembers certain parts of the accident, so together we come up with the picture of what might have happened. Of course, we won't know this side of heaven. I can tell you that we had angels round about that vehicle and Jesus inside that vehicle with us.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them. Matthew 18:20

In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. Psalm 18:6

He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me. Psalm 18:17

The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread? Psalm 27:1

As soon as Greg arrived, we told him about the accident. We drove over to the tow place where our vehicle was. We took pictures and took everything out of the vehicle. It was totaled and we were never going to see it again.
front driver's side wheel was completely torn off

driver's side where we hit the concrete barrier

banged up

passenger side of the vehicle where we were struck. Note the angle of the back bumper.
The police said they saw the underside of the vehicle when it was towed and the frame was bent.

The next day, I am driving Lucas to school in his vehicle. I don't want him driving yet. I'm jumpy but OK. As I'm driving back, I am suddenly aware that I am running a red light. It looked green but suddenly it is red. I look in my rear-view mirror and see another vehicle stopped at the intersection where I just was and one coming from the opposite side. Clearly something isn't right. I am praying myself home. I find my mind wandering and I'm losing chunks of time. I use rhyming words instead of the word I want to use. I had some fuzzy vision in my right eye and my right sinus cavity feels pressure. My dear Laura comes to my rescue again and drives me to the doctor. X-rays reveal whiplash. My primary care physician chalks the time loss and loss of concentration to post concussion syndrome and says it will all be better in a week. X-rays later reveal that Lucas also has whiplash. Zack was spared this diagnoses. We are all in chiropractic care. Our doctor feels confident that we will be back to normal very soon. I'm driving again but I always take someone with me and call out the color of the light I see before going through an intersection. It feels ridiculous, but it works. So far, no errors.

The PTSD is real and hard after an accident like this. Closing your eyes and seeing the scenes of the accident playing over and over in your head is unnerving. I couldn't sleep well after the accident. I am overcome by emotion at odd times. I am aggravated at my husband when I think he is being dismissive and isn't being sensitive about how I am feeling. I can't even imagine how hard PTSD must be for our soldiers coming back. They have seen and experienced so much worse. Lord bless them and heal them!

Yes, we are all OK. Yes, vehicles can be replaced. Yes, the Lord will restore us to better than before. But this is all so very fresh and raw. I'm giving myself time to process and heal. It will come. It isn't fair that someone injures us and gets away with it. They stole our vehicle and our health. "Vengeance is mine" saith the Lord. They will get away with nothing.

I pray that someone in that vehicle have a change of heart and turn themselves in. They need to pay for what they did. Only a coward runs away from his responsibilities. I am thankful for those good witnesses that stopped and made sure we were OK and stayed with us until the police came. They all had somewhere to be but stopped for us. Although there was an entire truck filled with cowards, there was an entire interstate filled with righteous and caring people. God's blessing on you all.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Drip Irrigation Installation or How I Found Out I Have No Perserverance

I am the proud owner of a drip irrigation system. My husband and youngest son were amazing at designing and implementing it. Me? Ummmmm... I gave up twice in Lowe's while shopping for the system and once at home when it was being installed. Ughhh... it was a pain in the rear to design and install. No getting around it. We came up against several obstacles, the least of which was NOT me. I'm usually not such a "giver upper", but this thing ate my lunch. I'm thankful for the perseverance of my family. My husband designed and then redesigned it several times while standing in the store. That isn't the way I roll. He's more flexible. I am a rigid pole in the middle of cement. I want things planned out. He can successfully fly by the seat of his pants if need be. We made probably 84 trips to Lowe's because we forgot stuff, or something broke, or I got the wrong drip head. Well, that is an exaggeration. Probably more like 4. But it felt like 84. I was so very glad when it was all done. Now, it is like a miracle that my garden gets watered automatically every morning even before my eyes open. I don't think I will ever sell my house now. I can't even stomach the idea of having to do this again. If we do have to do this again, I am going to Rhonda's house and stay for a few days. One thing that may come back to bite us is that we dug through our "Forest Floor" landscaping. I may end up having to layer newspaper over where we dug and put another layer of chopped up trees this fall. I will see how we fare this summer. It would have been smart to do all the digging before doing our "Forest Floor" landscaping, but that's the way it all happened, so we will deal with the consequences later (if, in fact, there are any).


We dug a trench to hide the pipe in


The "T" for each bed.
The closeup of the connection in each bed
My husband showing each connection that is buried in each bed


The flexible line that is on top of each bed


We had to use a heat gun to fit the pieces together


closeup of each bed. We have a 1 gallon drip head in each square.
In the two beds that stay shady and wetter, we put adjustable heads. Because
the flexible hose on the top was so curly, we ended up affixing it in place
to the floating divider wood on top with zip-ties.
 
 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Throwing a Tantrum or How This Homeschool Mom Feels about Graduating Her First Child


Yup... this picture about sums it up.

I am a homeschool momma with a High School graduate this year. I am happy for him and all the adventures he will have. I am excited to see all that he will become with the talents our Lord has given him. I am happy to say I have successfully homeschooled my eldest son for eleven years and not totally screwed him up. *fist pump* At the same time, I am so very sad to lose my oldest son to the world. The world that doesn't understand and cherish him the way I do. The world that doesn't marvel at his brilliance and wit. The world that doesn't appreciate all the hard work he puts into everything he does. I want to kick the world's butt.

My eldest is doing dual credit courses at our local community college. He's doing very well. He also has a job at a local restaurant. He was recently promoted and is the youngest person at the restaurant to hold this job. We are so proud of his work ethic. He saved his money and purchased a very nice and reliable vehicle all on his own. He's driving himself to work and school. I rarely see him now and I MISS HIM! How many times have I read something funny and go to tell him and realize he isn't here. I know the whole empty nest thing is coming. I'm getting a taste of it now. I'm not so sure I like it one bit. Nope.

My only saving grace is my youngest son. He's three years behind his brother in age. I also am helping a friend homeschool her young teen son and her five-year old. It's a wonderful thing to have someone to pour my time, attention and love into. I think I am driving the five year old crazy with all my pictures. I realized too late that I should have taken more pictures!

Oh, and then there is going through all the pictures from the beginning of our homeschooling until now. Gulp. That'll get you.

Our family photographer, Sheree, took some amazing Senior pictures of my young man. They are gorgeous! I have to share just a few of my favorites.

Here are the Laundromat pictures:





Here are the guitar pictures in the park behind our house:












Tuesday, February 25, 2014

How to make a prop fountain for Prom or Homecoming or other event

I know you are going to think I'm crazy, but I was desperate last year when putting together a formal for our homeschool teens. I had a shoestring budget. Our theme begged for a fountain, but the budget said "no". I don't like it when the budget says no. I found a way.

First off, I found someone who was giving away one of those sand turtles. I just needed the bottom. I cut off the little knobs that secure the top.















I found a large plastic bowl and some large containers with screw off tops at the Dollar Store. I also found an ugly angel at the thrift store.















Next, I spray painted everything with some special Plastic Spray in a neutral shade. Grey would have been smarter, but I used what I had.



I used epoxy glue to secure each of the screw lidded jars and the large bowl together. It is important to use screw lids so that the fountain can be taken apart for delivery.

Also, we had to deal with the feet and head of the turtle. I made some rocks by lightly crumpling some dollar store aluminum foil. Covering it with paper mache' (paper towels stuck on with a flour/water mixture). Spray painted them with various shades of brown, grey and black spray paint. We glued those around the existing feet and head bumps to hide them.




Then we used epoxy glue to secure an extension cord. I don't think it was necessary, but it was nice to have at the time.

We sprayed everything down with a stone look spray paint. I also took some brown antiquing medium (at Hobby Lobby) and went over the cracks to give it some age. I also used various green and brown paint and ragged it on to mimic dirt and algae. We spray painted the feet and head of the turtle in the colors of the rocks.



I stuck some inexpensive ferns in the holes left over when we cut off the knobs that secured the lid.


We lined the bottom with crumpled foil. Put some twinkle lights over the foil and covered it all with blue cello wrap from the party store. My partner in crime, Antoinette, decided that it would be better if we covered the wire between each light with foil. It think it made a world of difference and would recommend doing this. Here is the finished product.

 
 



 
 
 

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