Category: Geeky Stuff

Shamus’ Autoblography

Things are crazy busy around here but I wanted to hop on and point out (for those who don’t already read Shamus’ site– though I know most of you do) that Shamus has been writing an autobiography of sorts on his blog. A lot of it explains why we specifically unschool and how his particular view of the US education system formed through his own experiences as well as how we met (today’s post was about our first date.) You can find it here.

That is all.

Where We Are: September 2011

This month (and the end of August) has seen as much busy-ness as our summer though of a new variety. We are prayerfully considering what direction we should be heading financially (have money to live on for the moment and had hoped to save up and live on it longer by bringing in more income but that all but stopped when the check finally came. Good thing God knows what He is doing (and He obviously has us trusting Him completely in this) because we have no idea. Well, we have some slight direction, and the Lord is kind of herding us in a certain direction that we are getting more and more comfortable with but the logistics of it all are still kind of out there and we don’t feel free to share yet. Still no money for the house payment and we are just waiting for the bank to kick us out– packing things up that we don’t need so we can simplify significantly is what we are focused on at the moment. Due to our awkward financial circumstances (no steady income, no savings, everything pretty unstable) they aren’t willing to work with us (not that I blame them.) So we will see what is around the next bend.

Idlewild 2011
The kids on a ride at a rare trip to Idlewild park (carload days are awesome.)

In the meantime, still doing GAPS– in fact we are being more rigorous with it while we are here so we can kick some more food allergies (which will simplify things down the road.)

P1090397
The youngest son of a friend who sheltered with us during Hurricane Irene.

We are still unschooling (and yes, the kids are still learning way more than they ever did when workbooks were a way of life for us).

We just got a package
The kids opening the box of Magic: the Gathering cards friends sent us-- our living room is overrun.

 
We are focusing on doing the next thing, whatever that is, as the Lord guides us. Right now that means I will be painting, purging excess stuff (and God willing having a yard sale, taking my grandmother shopping several times a week, helping Shamus with his projects, and more time to spend with the kids; chatting with them, being with them, loving them where they are. Shamus is currently working on his autoblography which when done, God willing, will become an eBook memoir.

If you would be praying for wisdom and direction, especially regarding our finances and where the Lord wants us but also regarding spiritual things He is showing us recently, we would heartily appreciate it.

Unschooling Life: A trip to the museum

On Sunday we celebrated Purim though not in the traditional way. There are no Messianic Jewish groups nearby and we don’t actually know anyone local who is Messianic in their thinking. So, when I heard about the free day at the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum and remembered how the kids had been begging to go, I thought it was the perfect way to celebrate God’s quiet intervention in our lives. It worked out beautifully because I actually had gas in the van, we had visited my grandmother the previous evening (we usually visit on Sundays), and everything just fell into place.

We do have a membership for the Science Center and Art and Natural History Museum but it doesn’t include the Children’s Museum (despite including all the other big museums in Pittsburgh.) This is really funny because this museum is tiny and more expensive to join than any of the others– it only gives about 3 hours of entertainment versus the others where we can spend the whole day. It is, however, included if you come into Pittsburgh and have a science center membership so make sure to hit it if you do.

I was surprised at the lack of crowd (though it was a beautiful day and the zoo had a free for under 13 day as well– I suspect the zoo was a lot more crowded.) I found it interesting that the vast majority of children there were under 6. There were a few older kids but they mostly hung back and were there with littles. It was also interesting to watch the little s immediately become interested in whatever my bigger kids were doing and that my kids immediately began exploring everything, applying the knowledge they accumulated from my dad, general discussion, books (they love the Dangerous Book for Boys as well as pretty much any experiment book), and tv (mostly Myth Busters, Dirty Jobs, and Rough Science).
Heading to the entrance

I love this shot of the kids. Esther has been waiting a whole year to go back and has been excitedly asking when the next free day was so she ran ahead. Meanwhile Rach (wearing a Hello Kitty Barbarian hoodie) decided to hang back and spend some time with her little brother.

Falling Letters
And this is what Essie had been waiting for, above all the other things there. She spent a good half hour catching letters, which made for some very fun photos (yes, that is me with the camera).

Magnets
Rachel and Issac exploring magnets in the Creativity Lab.

Magnetic sculpture

Rachel’s magnet sculpture ended up being posted at the museum’s Creativity Lab Blog here. (It is the second photo down.)

Electromagnets
Issac, who adores his Snap Circuit sets and spends quite a bit of time playing with electricity loved attempting to make this electro magnet work.
Wind

While Issac and Rachel explored magnets in the garage Esther played with sound and wind.

slide
After half an hour or so exploring magnets Issac and Rach climbed the net, tossed some parachutes and then played on the giant slide a bit.

building
The building area was what Rachel had waited a whole year to use. She loves to invent and build and couldn’t wait to start on the house sshe had designed in her head based on her experience last year. When she started this area was empty.
building
Within minutes she had help.
building
Lots of help.
wind
When they were finally tired of that room we went next door to experiment with wind.
ant hill
We then had to head to the next favorite– the human ant hill, where Rachel was immediately overrun with littles again.
Issac found fish
In Mister Roger’s Neighborhood we found the fish tank.
Trolley
The trolley
castle
And the Neighborhood of Makebelieve.
play
Tree
castlenoisy stairs
We then headed up the very noisy stairs (they sigh, and ow, and make other noises as you walk up them.)
Young Children Only
In the nursery area (where we had to explore because there were BABIES!) we found this little teeter totter with the massage “Young Children Only” to which Rach replied, “That means we can use it forever,” and then insisted on a photo with it.

water
We headed upstairs to the water area, where the kids quickly went from this to this:
getting soaked and making friends
Where they made friends with the only other older kids willing to play and got thoroughly soaked.
getting soaked and making friends
The making friends was the best part– I loved watching them quickly find like minded kids to play with without being shy (unlike myself and their dad at their ages.)
drying off
Sure it meant plenty of this and this:
drying off
But it also meant they had someone to hang out with the rest of our visit which made my extroverted oldest very, very happy.
clock pendullum
For those who went to the Pittsburgh Children’s Museum as a child, the pendulum clock is still there and Issac quickly found it and had to explore it.
clock

paper making

Meanwhile his sisters were having fun in the art room with their new friend, making paper

painting
painting, and print making.
attic
Issac wanted nothing to do with the art room (which he feels he can do readily enough at home while he really wanted to go to the Attic or “the sideways room” as he calls it.
build
And Rach went back to build in the Garage with her friend.
Esther, on the other hand, went into full performance mode which meant I got tons of incredible photos of her playing with the slow motion camera.
Many Esthers
light
Where she and her new friend spent a lot of time twisting, twirling
light
and doing the robot dance.
sound
In the attic are all sorts of cool illusions, from optical to sound, to shadow, and gravity. Here the kids play with sound.

slide

Mr. Roger's front porch
Finally they posed for some photos on Mr. Roger’s front porch swing.
swing
Then on the actual front porch swing (which is HUGE).
silly
silly
gategate
Then because it was a beautiful day they posed for some more rather silly photos on the way to the car.

 

 

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Click here to see the rest of the photos.

In Case You are Wondering

where I have been.  PAX East put a new bee in my bonnet:

Click here to watch awesome video of Birdhouse in Your Soul

Well, not that sort but still.  It’s a good song.

So I started another blog, thanks to meeting all the lovely people at The Escapist (the fact that there are other female gamers out there over 25 is AWESOME!!!! ) and got me thinking lots of thinky thoughts that I needed somewhere other than here to park.   I love you all but I think it may totally alienate you if I went on and on about games and story and art (which is what the new site is about).  That said, you are welcome to hop over there and join the discussion.  There are only 4 posts and I would definitely start at the beginning with “Another Website?!?!?”, where I explain WHY I am making yet another website.  Also, for those who are fellow unschoolers,  I interviewed both girls about female video game characters.  I didn’t interview Issac, not because he is a boy but because I asked if he wanted interviewed about it for on the blog and he said, “Nahhh.  I don’t play girl characters.  Though the girls in Harvest Moon that I like are really pretty–I have pretty good taste.”  He then proceeded with the running commentary about all he is building in Minecraft.   What more can you expect from a 9 year old boy–at least he wasn’t on about cooties and all the typical stuff like a 9 year old boy would.

And if you don’t care about geeky stuff, go back up to the top and listen to “Birdhouse in Your Soul” because regardless of geekiness it is an awesome song.

PAX East

Because I am feeling lazy and tired I will only give a brief description of our awesome weekend (and some of the God stuff that occurred) then leave you with Shamus’ more specific posts and a slideshow of all 3 days.

Not only did it work out (in an awesome God sort of way that I am not going into right now) that we got to go to the show on Saturday but we got to meet lots of people from the Escapist (including some of our kids favorite internet celebrities which totally freaked them out when we got home–“You ate dinner with the people that do the Daily Drop!!!!”) Also mission accomplished as far as going to PAX in the first place– necessary networking was done and we now have some help in getting both Shamus book and the card game marketed properly. The whole trip went very smoothly despite Shamus concerns (he doesn’t travel because bad things happen when he does). All in all God gave us a beautiful weekend, enough money to do all that we needed to do, provided tickets and dinner on Saturday, with lots of kindred spirits, perfect weather, and too much to do to get all of it done so we took our time and even stayed an extra night instead of driving home exhausted. Shamus signed lots of autographs (many more than he expected– note to self: next time bring a Sharpie), got to meet lots of cool people and put faces to names (his editor, Susan is AWESOME!!!!), and was on an impromptu panel for the Escapist while being 4 hours past his bedtime. It was a pretty awesome weekend and great to relax away from home and kids.

Meanwhile the kids had a great time with family, who made sure they were very well entertained and had as much to tell about when they got home as we did.

For more specifics about what happened each day you can read here (each link goes to a post Shamus wrote about that day/time frame):

Settling in

Being in Line

Friday

Saturday

Sunday



Cosplay at PAX East 2011

Appreciate a Dragon Day 2011

It is Appreciate a Dragon Day!

Around here dragon appreciation is a daily thing. We love our dragons. Last year I posted pictures of the dragons around the house. This year the kids got excited and made dragons and I have several new dragon paintings to share.

Rachel started making a dragon with plastic forks and coffee filters but realized that idea wouldn’t work and started making a sculptural one with a marble track Issac has. That worked– it has a rotund body, a round head, a ribbon smile, and wings from the netting of Issac’s pirate ship. Only thing is she used tape to hold it all together and it fell apart before I could get a photo. So that was a sad dragon.

Issac was going to make a dragon but got distracted trying to build the Empire State Building with his railroad track pieces.

Esther attempted to make a standing dragon from Issac’s old dragon costume (which is very too small on him). She used wire clothes hangers and old blankets to fill it. After several attempts she gave up on the clothes hangers and stuck with a plain stuffed dragon.

Finally I did a few dragon paintings (mostly asleep, I should note:) I like sleeping dragons) over the last year that I thought I would share:


Let sleeping dragons lie.


Long Winter’s Nap

Dragon’s Day Off
Dragon’s Day Off

Now go forth and appreciate the dragons in your life. 🙂  (And if you did a post about it leave a copy of the link in the comments so we can come check it out.)

December 2009: An Overview of life and learning

Because things have been crazy busy and I have yet to find a simple way to import my flickr images into WordPress. 🙂 Also my camera has dust on the lens and so has been tricky to use…which is why I am not taking so many photos. Sad.

The end of November was both my brother’s 18th birthday and Esther’s 10th birthday and since I didn’t get the photos up earlier they are in my December folder. (Aren’t I so organized?)

We made a whole bunch of chocolates and cookies (in between kid colds) and sent some geeky candy and chocolates off to The Escapist (who actually pay my hubby to write about what he loves– aren’t they awesome?) I made a whole lot more candy sushi, some more and some less realistic but due to camera issues this is the only that I got a photo of (the less realistic sushi was for people like my dad who couldn’t get past the whole “this looks like it should be raw fish and seaweed so I can’t enjoy it” thing.)
candy sushi

Also made Super Mario Brother’s stars
stars
And Pac Man cookies

Had a whole slew of work to do– both painting and computer and then got to take photos of my mother-in-laws new furniture for her (and her angel on her tree so she could share it with her facebook friends).
Angel

And then we got lots of snow (well, for December)…

which made my skiing brother VERY happy.
James

Not to mention the kids

The rest of the time has been spent doing things I didn’t get photos of like:

  • Logging many hours on the Wii Fit Plus.  It was an early Christmas present because before the snow we got lots and lots of rain, cold, wet, muddy rain and there is nothing like Christmas excited stir crazy kids who can’t get outside to drive a mother mad.  Issac alone logged 3 hours a day skateboarding and juggling while Rach enjoyed the Super Mario Brother’s like obstacle course, and Esther enjoyed trying out all the new stuff.
  • Alf, Scooby Doo, and Fraggle Rock.  The kids were looking for a new old tv show to watch and discovered these , which have triggered many pop culture and real versus fiction discussions.
  • Baking, crafting, and candy making, not to mention much  present planning, purchasing, wrapping and kidding (mostly the kids using money they have been saving– we didn’t buy that much this year.)
  • Rach made and sent out Christmas cards (myself not so much– this year I am just trying to stay on target).
  • We have been spending a lot of evenings playing board games, especially Trivial Pursuit Young Players edition (from the 80’s).
  • The kids have been spending a lot of days “playing school”.  Apparently this entails less work books and work sheets and more copying straight from the dictionary.
  • Esther and Rachel have been using the dictionary to look up ancient writing and copy it, writing out various things in early alphabets.
  • Due to a hiccup in our finances (hubby is on part time at one of his jobs so we are relying more on  his kind of  quarterly paycheck from his other job)we have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to make our money go further.  The kids have been very active in this helping plan shopping trips and figuring out ways to save.
  • Issac is reading anything and everything though not really picking up books yet, instead preferring to spend much of his spare time in his room doing what looks like tossing all his small toys around the room but which apparently is him playing out huge battle scenes and building giant Construx robots which he occasionally runs down and tells us all about.
  • The kids have also been spending a lot of time using Garry’s Mod (the program Shamus uses in his comic making at times) to create various scenes and mini games for each other.
  • We are continuing our chronological trek through the Bible.  Due to taking a month off when my bmother passed away we are in the end of the Gospels now.  It is very interesting to read about the resurection at Christmas and I think has done more for our attitude thios Christmas than anything ever before– especially as we were reading the Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount when Christmas lists were being made and now as Christmas day approaches we are reading of Christ’s death and suffering.  VERY interesting and has led to many discussions and thinking processes which do not naturally occur when just reading about the newborn baby.  (For instance the 8 year old finally realizes that Jesus didn’t stay a baby like people always seem to imply at Christmas).
  • Climategate (another good article here), the Copenhaegen conference, and the giant East coast snowstorm and several other things have led to more than a few discussions of truth and why Chistians shouldn’t get too caught up in the world and what the world media says is going on and how to have discernment and peace when everyone is panicking.
  • Finally and most recently the girls have discovered the Dungeons and Dragons 4.0 handbook and decided they wanted to play.  They have thus been studying it, designing and rolling up characters, and learning how to figure out armor class, hit points, bonuses, etc.  For those who have no clue about these things–  think probability, formulas, and real life mathematical application combined with play acting, logic, and character development based along set lines of behavior (the girls chose character alignments based on their natural character–Rach by nature is Lawful Neutral and Esther is Neutral Good) but when they play they will have to make sure their characters adhere to those characteristics and make decisions based on that.  There also will be quite a lot of math and pencil paper work to do but they are both excited and willing to take it on. 🙂

Flocked

Last night someone  on Twitter asked if there was a blogging software similar to Windows Live Writer in Ubuntu.  I didn’t know so I did some research.  The result of my findings was Flock. Flock is not a blog software only like Live Writer, instead it is a web browser based on Mozilla Firefox but with built in social media capability.  You could feasably get similar usability by adding large quantities of plugins to Firefox but Flock is sleek and smooth and all the media just works.  It is also available in ALL flavors from Windows to Mac to Linux.  If you, like me, find yourself juggling multiple open web browsers/tabs trying to keep track of writing projects, web pages in use, AND various social media sites, then you might want to look into it.

It has taken me most of the day to catch onto how it all works (though, if you are inclined, there are several video walkthru’s at the ready when you first open the browser.)  There are various settings you can adpat to your own needs plus it uses all the plugins for Firefox you feel you might need.

Pros:

  • The uploader for media works beautifully!  One of my biggest complaints about Flickr is that the apps are often hard to use and messy.  This one gives you a preview of everythign you are uploading, has all the info you might want to add, and is quick and easy to use and upload.  You can use the uploader for multiple media sites–Flickr, Youtube, and Photobucket just being a few.
  • The blog editor.  The blog editor is simple and concise.  If you blog on several sies you can enter your info for each site (which it saves), make your post, then choose which to upload it to.  It also saves drafts and has all the basic functionality you expect in a blog editor.  (I am posting this from Flock.)
  • All people things in one place.  I LOVE that you can see all your different chat mediums in one spot.  Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, etc all post to the same spot AND you can toggle between individual sites without opening them up if you like.  This really simplifies things for m (I have been avoiding posting due to issues with the image uploader in Flickr for Linux AND the uploader in the new version of WordPress iving me trouble.)
  • Feed reader.  The feed reader is built in and very well done.  You can view ALL the sites, put them in folders, see excerpts of each and how many posts in each folder.  It marks them as read as you open them but keeps them all so you can go back and see them if you missed somethign or didn’t have time.
  • I like that I can have this open with all my social media and work in a separate browser (Firefox.)  This way I am no longer confused about having multiple browsers and tabs open and trying to remember which is where and what is what.
  • It has a clipoard which is integrated into the browser AND the blogging software meaning I can grab links that I want to use later and save them easily (it also lets you email links easily.)

Cons:

  • It is a bit more clutter than I prefer.  It is beautifully themed and elegant but all the little buttons that alert you to different updates are a bit much.
  • I love that it saves my favorite sites but wish it would show me whr eit is making that my favorite and allow me to delete the ones that really aren’t.  It doesn’t.
  • It has a nice little pop-down media browser for photos and videos that I could totally do without. 
  •  I wish there were a weather widget–I keep opening Igoogle anyway to check the weather then stay since that is where my comfortable stuff all is.
  • I have to keep Igoogle in case I am on a different computer since Flock doesn’t store your settings online.
  • As far as I can see you have to manually go to twitter or facebook to actually post a comment.  I miss being able to do it from Igoogle–though granted Betwitered is down part of the time.
  • There are a few other nitpicks and some of the items may just be me not being used to the software or not having found out how to use everything. 
Blogged with the Flock Browser

WordPress 2.7 Coltrane

Testing out the new quickpress feature of the updated version of WordPress. Very cool so far. Haven’t explored it much more than this because I have spent the day cleaning with Esther and Issac–Rach threw a major fit when asked to help and was sent to her room for the rest of the day–major punishment for our only extrovert. She got bored and started doing a thorough clean up of her room, which she shares with her much messier sister. The rest of the house is now clean, everyone seems to be healthy again after several days of a bug of sorts, and Esther and Issac are voluntarily helping Rachel clean her room. Go figure.

Oh yeah, testing this out. Love the layout. Everything can be easily seen from the dashboard without a lot of clutter via drop down menus. I am loving the quickpress feature that lets you post right from the dashboard. Not sure what plugins will become obsolete because they have been combined–it would be REALLY nice if the auto upgrade plugin had been added, will have to wait and see. If you don’t have it I heartily recommend the Automatic Update Plugin which you can get here.

Note: Downside of the quickpress feature–no easy way to add links.

My Daybook ~ September 8

Photobucket

Hosted by Peggy @ The Simple Woman

Outside My Window…is a rather warm, dry afternoon (yes I am late this week) with a bright red couch sitting in the middle of the yard.  Everything else is gone–still praying for the perfect person to see it and fall in love.

I am thankful that…the rest of the furniture is gone from our front yard and that I know God has a plan for our poor beautiful couch.

From the kitchen…is a mess.  We are moving the desk out so we have someplace for the china closet when we paint the living room.  Yeah, we are painting the living room–all that open space is inspiring.

I am wearing…Old Navy shorts and top and Rockport Hiking tennis shoes–all thrifted of course.

I am creating…a new look for the living room, and the hall, and the kitchen, and the girls room.  Yeah, I am nesting or something. That happens a few times a year and my poor hubby just smiles and nods.

From the learning rooms…

Both girls finished writing their books, Issac has been reading to me nightly.  I got the kids a “math kit” from the school supply clearance at Target and Rach has been going about making charts and graphs–and insisted on getting 2 books on charts and graphs out of the library, yes, nonfiction books on different sorts of charts and graphs, on her own, because she wanted them.  Um.  Yeah.  She has also been helping me figure out the area of the living room and hall so we can get laminate floor and paint the walls of the living room.  Essie has been helping me paint her “new” desk, mixing colors to make the perfect robins egg blue. She has been reading, as usual, and is excited that we got the Bunnicula series on cd to listen to.  Issac is waiting for them to finish watching Eloise  (bought for $1 at the library) so he can watch his natural disasters video (also bought for $1 at the library).

I am going…to move some more furniture around and laer move the couch to the garage so it doesn’t get rained on.  Also working on 2 seperate wiki’s for the new unschooling site, plus need to do some more organizing and gleaning of articles for the site: Christianunschooling.com.  So far it is going well. 🙂

I am reading…some new books I got from the library (A Gail Carson Levine plus a compilation of King Arthur stories–an old passion of mine.)  Also reading the new Lucky magazine and the IKEA catalog. 🙂  We are eventually going to need a new couch. 😉

I am hoping…to finish painting the desk and move it upstairs so I can get to work on moving furniture in the living room.  Also hoping to figure out the wiki site so I can start posting to it.

Around the house…The girls are watching old videos from the library while Issac plays webkinz and in the tent in his room.

One of my favorite things…is installing a new program and it is WORKING!  Woohoo!

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week: Working on Wednesday for the antique appraiser I occasionally help out.  I am going to be working once a week for her–which will hopefully pay for redoing the floor in the living room.  Work on the wiki’s some more, gets things sorted out on the new site, etc. etc. etc.  Nevermind all that, I really just want God’s will for this week, we will see what that is.

Here is picture thought I am sharing

James took each of the kids out on the motor boat–this is right before he turned it on and suddenly she was way above the water shrieking.