Matthew and Joel alerted us to this great view of the Space X SES-8 launch of a commercial satellite from Kennedy Space Center this evening. As you can see, the setting sun lit up the vapor trail with rainbow colors. We even saw distant dots of the initial stages falling away as the rocket sped away from us.
A message from Matthew and Joel:
We've got two zip lines for stuffed animals in our backyard, so please come visit. $1 per stuffed animal for one ride. We're going to raise money for homeless people.
Matthew: "This is the most delicious chicken I've ever had!"
Joel: "You can blame Mom for that."
Practicing nouns with Joel, I asked him to name some animals, people, and vegetables. Then I asked him what his favorite nut was, and he answered, "Me!"
Kimchi? Joel calls it "Momchi." Guess who eats it in this family?
Matthew, to Mimi on the phone on Thanksgiving morning: "Mimi, are you frozen in?"
Matthew, at breakfast today...
Biting into bacon: "Yum, pork pig!"
After eating his first bite of muffin: "Oh, my heart's dream!"
While listening to soft, gentle Christmas music during dinner, Joel said, "This is the kind of music that could put a hundred babies to sleep."
Abigail's friend, Pam, raises horses and was kind enough to have the boys over to help her take care of them. And ride them. These were two happy kids. Thank you, Pam!
Yes, this is the last post about this summer's trip to the UK. I'm closing out here with some last random memories of Marlow - the lock, a Victorian post box, grandma and grandpa's garden.
It was a wonderful trip!
I've got to get this summer trip all posted before we get to the end of the year, so here goes with the next installment.
To set the scene, we're back in July now (I'm sure the sun isn't shining so enthusiastically in Bristol at the moment) and we're stopping off with friends Paul and Claire on our way back to Marlow from Wales.
The place is Bristol, home of Wallace and Grommit, as you can see, as well as the Clifton suspension bridge -- a creation of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (with whom Matthew was fascinated while we were in the UK).
Paul and Claire have been friends of mine since we were at Birmingham University together. It's hard to believe it, but it's over 20 years now since I attended their wedding in London. Good to see them still going strong, and they now have three great kids who did a great job hanging out with our boys despite the age gap.
Joel: "Mom, I'm putting on my best T-shirt so we can go visit Mommee Melt today."
Matthew, hearing a car rev its engine in the distance: "Maybe it's a car mumbling."
Joel: "When I grow up, I know how I'll make ice cream: I'll stick an ice cream cone under a cow's gutter, I'll squeeze, then I'll throw in some raspberries and bananas, and then I'll shake it all up!" [It might actually be easier to get milk if cows did have gutters.]
Abigail: "I guess I should make lunch now!"
Joel: "Make us some squid!" [I don't think they've ever had squid before, but they'd probably like it.]
Matthew, bringing me some film negatives he found in a photo album: "Mom, what are these?" [Oh, dear: generation gap alert!]
Joel, at lunch today: "Wow, this green smoothie tastes the healthiest of all the green smoothies we've ever had!"
Matthew, after listening to me telling them that I was going to make a key lime pie for a friend's birthday: "Can you make a lemon margarine pie instead?"
The beans. They just melt my wittle pea-pickin' heart. Both of them insisted on entering the Lego competition at the library, and both did so well waiting for TWO HOURS next to their projects while the judges took their time interviewing all the kids about their work. And wouldn't you know it, as I ran out to put more quarters in the parking meter, Joel won second place in his age category. Matthew ran over to give him a big hug, and then Joel decided he would keep his gold star trophy for himself, but he would give Matthew the new Lego set he won, because "Matthew did *so* well!" Both magnanimous. Both with huge hearts. Both melt mine.
As homeschoolers, we have to comply with FL state regulations, and one of these is that we either have to submit a portfolio of work, or a standardized test each year to show M and J's progress.
I'm going to be administering the test to Matthew this week, so I'm starting out by taking him through the Stanford Primary 1 practice test. Just to make it clear, this is the lowest level of test, and I expect Matthew to sail through it as he is well able to do this kind of work. For him the practice is more in test taking skills, since this is his first time with one of these.
As a good parent, the first thing I do is go through the instructions and look at the practice test myself -- and, frankly, I'm shocked at the poor design of the questions.
Of course, Stanford says there is only one possible answer for each question, but even in this short, 32-question practice Primary 1 test, there are three questions that clearly have more than one possible answer.
In the case of one of these, all three answers are potentially logically possible depending on the context of the sentence in the problem. In my experience up to this point, out-of-context sentences that have multiple possible meanings have been the preserve of Japanese high school and college entrance exams, so it's very disappointing to see the same wooly thinking here in the US also.
The second one was plagued not only by an issue of logic, but exacerbated this with a very poor drawing, the interpretation of which could swing the answer one way or the other.
The third question also had poorly drawn pictures, such that it was not clear if any of them could be the answer.
Who makes this stuff?
Yes, Stanford, we all know which answer is more "likely", that you "want" the child to choose, but why penalize a child for choosing a different answer just because of the poor test design. (When I called to complain, I asked Stanford's representative whether the quality of the questions on the practice test were indicative of the quality of the questions in the actual test, and received a response in the affirmative.)
No wonder they talk about practicing test taking skills. If tests were designed well, the test taker would not need to divine the intent of the person who designed it, and the only test taking skill needed would be the ability to pick up a pencil and fill in a space on an answer sheet.
Matthew will sail through his test, ticking the box for the FL regulations and allowing us to continue his education. But what about the poor kids in school whose answers can mean the difference between being classed as "on track" or "failing"? Why should they be the victims of over-priced, poorly designed tests? And why should our tax money be poured year after year into poor products?
Unfortunately, it seems that I'm not the only one questioning the quality of standardized tests. It's not just at the Primary 1 level either. Read more here about a teacher's experience administering a standardized test to eleven-year-olds and coming across the same issues and more.
I felt that both Abeka Testing and Stanford representatives blew off my concerns when I called them, so I'm glad I can vent here and get it off my chest so I can get on with the day. Thanks for reading!
(I will not quote the actual test questions and answers here,in case would be some sort of copyright issue, but they are questions 25 and 31 in the Stanford Primary 1 practice test.)
Joel: "I really like how cold my earlobes get when I lie down in my bed at night on my back."
Abigail: "Matthew, today's the day we go visit Ray and do some drumming!"
Matthew: "THANK GOODNESS it's finally here!"
Stephen: "Joel, you're being pushy."
Joel: "Yes, but I'm being snuggly pushy."
Matthew, eating pineapple with a look of ecstasy on his face...
Abigail: "Matthew, is it yummy?"
Joel: "I don't want to be a Dolphin [older kids' Sunday School class] because it's too much thinking, but I do want to go to their swimming party."
I made a salad last night with greens, julienned beets, navel orange segments, and walnuts (inspired by Practical Paleo). Matthew saw it and said, "Oooooh, it looks SO good. It makes me want to eat it, but I don't actually want to eat it."
Matthew: "Mom, your smile is even nicer now than it was when you were thirty-seven!"
intention last night was to write a scathing review of Florida's "fall"
weather, and I even had a Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings quote at the ready.
But we woke up this morning to cool breezes and are thrilled to have the
Oh, what the heck, I'll share the quote anyway
(from the author's autobiography, Cross Creek): "Here in Florida the
seasons move in and out like nuns in soft clothing, making no rustle in
We actually went on a fall-leaf-gathering
hunt-walk yesterday and did find a (very) few specimens to make our
suncatchers today. Now we just need some sun.
But I'm not
complaining--I'll take the open windows and the new oxygen. We can make
cloudcatchers instead and I'll be just fine with that.
One of the great things about homeschooling is field trips. And I'm not just talking about your typical field trips either -- I'm talking Ferrari dealership-type trips. The rule is to call and ask -- and a lot of the time, people just seem to say yes.
So thank you very much to Curtis from Ferrari of Central Florida for the tour today. I'll try to recall all the models we saw, but the main highlights were two that were in for maintenance (that we were, unfortunately, not able to photograph to preserve license plate privacy) an ultra-rare Ferrari F40LM and a Ferrari Enzo. The Enzo was on a hoist, so we were able to see the smooth underside as well as the rear diffusers. I also got to pick up the under cover that is made of carbon fiber but which weighs surprisingly little. It may not weigh much, but it sure costs a lot -- $40,000. Good job I didn't drop it.
Then we were back in the showroom. The Maserati's didn't get a look in except when we were discussing which would be our next family car. It was the 1972 Dino, as well as several 458 Italias and 458 Spiders that kept our attention. And we were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time when a lucky owner came to pick up his new 458 Spider. The metal top folded away, a quick blip on the throttle and it was gone -- but not before we had enjoyed the rasping exhaust note of the V8 engine.
We wrapped up the visit with both boys having a go in a Ferrari California. No, they didn't drive, but they got a taste for it anyway.
After we left, Matthew asked if he could borrow some money from me to buy a Ferrari. I told him he would need to earn it. Who knows -- perhaps two future entrepreneurs have been inspired today?
We didn't expect to have these taken. We were together with family after Grandma Sue's funeral, and I noticed that the lighting was really good in the room next to Lori and Steve's pool. It helped that there was a convenient director's chair for little Beans to sit in as well.
Every time I see these photos, I am so grateful for my wonderful wife and two great sons.
It's amazing what mentioning the word "homeschooling" will bring about: We now have a tour set up with a bloke called Anthony at the local Ferrari dealership. We boldly go where no beans have gone before. (And these beans are ecstatic.)
Lovely birthday so far! Pumpkin-chocolate coconut-flour muffins for brekkie, beautiful jade-green necklace from Stephen
and boys (and the Nozomi Project ladies in Japan), gorgeous silver and anodised
aluminium necklace handmade in Cornwall, some cashola to spend on
meselfy, and some happy-day cards. Nate James pumping up the volume for a
morning dance party. And the beans and I are headed to a Steve Songs
concert after lunch. More dance party! Groovin' at 38 and lovin' it.
Thank you, Papa-God!
And I'm especially missing Grandma Sue this month as it's her birthday on Saturday, but I can hardly imagine the party she's having.
Yes, that's right: The title says "Wales" rather than "England" this time. The reason? Well, in July Mum and Dad took us, with my brother, Paul, and his family, to spend a week in Wales at a resort called Bluestone.
This resort is a cluster of modern cottages and log cabins on a purpose-designed site next to the Pembrokeshire national park in South Wales. In fact, it is very close to where we would go on holiday as children -- a small village called Manorbier.
Now, South Wales is renowned for rainy weather sweeping up from the Atlantic. In fact I recall a vacation ending a day early when the weather was just so bad it was pointless continuing. But this year we were treated to some of the clearest deep-blue skies and some of the brightest sunshine I have seen for a while ... which was surprising considering we had been in Orlando.
Manorbier is a short journey from Bluestone, so on day one of our time together we set off in two cars to visit the old stamping grounds of our youth. To be honest not much had changed. Not that I would really expected it to have done. It's been around for a while already, as you can see from these pictures of the castle that dates from the Norman period.
Next, it was off to a cafe for lunch, then down onto the beach, where we paddled in the sea, explored the rock pools (tide pools), and where Dad decided he was going relive memories from 35 years ago and play football (soccer) with the boys. I think he was a little sore the next day ....
One thing that piqued the beans' interest was the progress of the beans that they planted -- beans in the vegetable garden, as well as beans in glass jars on the kitchen window sill. The rainy start, followed by the sunny end to our time in England was the perfect combination to promote wild bean growth.
But none of the green beans could grow as fast as the Matthew and Joel beans!
We are finally into July! Of course, July is really long gone, but there have been a couple of things going on since we arrived back from the UK which have kept me from keeping up with posting our England trip.
Let's just say that Grandma and Grandpa really seemed to enjoy having two little beans around. In fact, there were some displays of extravagant energy at some points -- like these bean-rolling shenanigans.
Way, way back in the early 1990s, I had just graduated from Birmingham University in the UK and was attending Riverside Fellowship. My homegroup leader was another Birmingham graduate, Amanda Ridgeon.
Now, years later, we were very pleased to be able to meet up with Amanda and her lovely husband, Glenn, again. And they don't look a day older than when we last saw them.
The boys really enjoyed walking along by the Thames with them with lots of gratuitous hand-holding going on.
Abigail first met Emma when she was studying teaching English as a second language at ITN in Bournemouth. Now 15 years and a bunch of kiddos later, we were able to meet up again in Coventry on a beautiful sunny day.
And great fun was had by all.