Sunday, October 24, 2010

Series Sunday: iPod Touch for the Classroom, Part 2 – Language Arts

First, in case you don't know what an "app" is, it's simply software that installs on your iPod. Some of it requires an internet connection to use (wi-fi). You can download directly from your iPod using the App Store on the first screen, or you can download from iTunes on your computer and sync to your iPod later.image

Literature (E-Books)
One of my favorite reasons for my daughter getting an iPod is for the e-book reading capabilities. Virtual libraries are at your fingertips!
  • Stanza It reads the majority of book file types available with the exception of .txt files.  However, .pdf files are not its strength. You have to zoom into each page individually to read .pdf files.  Still, for free, it's got a beautiful interface with page-turning graphics and a nice dimming feature for night reading.  It also has great resources that tell you where to get free e-books, like Project Gutenburg. (Free)
  • For reading .pdf files without having to zoom every page individually, I recommend GoodReader. It is not as visually appealing as Stanza, and the app costs $1.99, but it is worth the time you save from not having to convert .pdf  and .txt files into .epub files for each book using a separate desktop program such as Calibre.  The small price is worth getting rid of that hassle-factor.  ($1.99)
For guides on how to get books onto the iPod Touch, view the guides on Calvin's Hub and Lexcycle.

      • You can learn SAT Vocabulary using winAPlusLite.  I am sure there are plenty of Vocabulary programs out there, but this is the first one we found that was free, and it has some decent interactive games to help teach vocabulary, including multiple choice word lists and flash cards. (Free)
      • Great tool that includes both dictionary and thesaurus. (Free)
      • Word Scramble Challenge Edition is a lot like Boggle.  Warning: very addicting, and your homeschooler may have arm wrestle Mom to get the iPod back. (Free)
      • Whirly Word is like Word Scramble, but with less letters.  (Free)
      • Puzzler World US Lite includes word search, crosswords, sudoku, and more. (Free)
      Research and Reference
      • BLB (Blue Letter Bible) Bible and study tool, allowing you to make notes and highlight verses (Free)
      • iSource Lite Check form of MLA, APA, and Chicago documentation.  (Free)
      • Better Letters is great for penmanship improvement for all ages, based on Getty-Dubay Italic. ($1.99)
      • ABC Tracer Beginning manuscript handwriting for the younger grades.  (Free) 
      This is only a minuscule amount of apps for educators and students.  You can browse through all the education apps  HERE.  The next part of this blog series will focus on apps for math. Happy surfing!

      Saturday, October 23, 2010

      Saturday Six for 10/23/10

      1. Which side is your armrest in the cinema? Whichever side is not being occupied.  If I’m with the hubby, it’s the side we share because I am usually cold.
      2. What is Beauty? Beauty is anything that brings you joy and makes you smile, yet does not take away from someone else’s happiness. (Keeping in mind that we choose to be happy, then finding beauty should be easy!)
      3.  If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a song about him? Because some kid had a poor sense of sarcasm, and poor Jimmy was probably being bullied by that kid on the bus.
      4. Which is a stronger emotion: anger or love? Anger is usually more forceful, but not stronger. Anger does not keep marriages together. Love is shown in actions that range from grandiose to those little things like saving the last piece of pie for a loved one, holding the door open, and a quiet peck on the cheek. All the combined force of love makes it stronger in its culmination.
      5. Would you give your life to save someone else’s? Yes, especially if that person was in my family. 
      6. Why does mineral water that has “trickled through mountains for centuries” go out of date next year? It’s all from the tap!  Don’t believe the hype. Get a water filter and save your money!
      Thanks to Blazing Minds for these questions!
       Blazing Minds

      Thursday, October 21, 2010

      The Fine Art of Toilet-Papering

      I realized earlier as I picked up the last roll of toilet paper in the house that I forgot to buy more at the store the other day.  In this house, with 3 females (who are home all day), just how valuable this commodity is.  How ironic that “commodity” and “commode” are formed from the same French word meaning “suitable” (sorry, that’s the English teacher trying to jump out).

      In our town, I think that stores could raise the price of toilet paper and see lavish profits. Here, throughout the year, and especially during homecoming week, teens in the area participate in tee-peeing houses. I don’t know enough teens here to know what they call the activity down here. Where I’m from, we said you “got rolled” if you woke up to find your yard and trees plastered a billowy white blanket when there was no snow in the forecast. 

      Here in Louisiana, rolling is done to popular kids.  If you are tee-pee’d down here, it’s a badge of honor, like you’ve been accepted into the “in” crowd.  Back in Tennessee, if you were rolled, it either meant that you didn’t have a vicious dog to guard your house, and/or you had a location that was an ideal canvas for some Charmin (but don’t expect a thank-you from Mr. Whipple).  Yikes, remembering him makes me OLD.


      I lived in the same house until I was 18, and we were only rolled once.  I think it was because we had a huge, wide spruce tree in the front yard that some kids saw as the “Mt. Everest of trees” in the neighborhood.  The poor kids never got even half-way up.  Clearly, they were amateurs.

      I can’t say I was an expert either.  As a teen, I’d only gone rolling once. A friend and I rolled one house, not very well, but we were inexperienced. It wasn’t bad for a first try.  We didn’t know the people that lived there. We were just finding an easy target. We tried to hit a second house that night, but you don’t take your chances when the “Duke” of the neighborhood is barking like he’s going to rip your head of if he finds you. We ran home (we walked to the next subdivision over to find our targets).  We were 13, out of breath, and a full of adrenaline. 

      Back then, with less-stringent animal control laws, dogs roaming in the neighborhood were always a risk. I’d tried to take another friend who spent the night with me to roll someone in my neighborhood, but I quickly changed my mind when I remembered that two Rottweilers lived close to us. They were sweet dogs, but I didn’t want to startle one of them in the middle of the night.

      Most of my adult years in Tennessee, I didn’t live in areas where a lot of rolling occurred. About 10 years ago, a group of adults (myself included) did go and roll our preacher’s house one year.  It was all in fun, and we spelled out his name in his front yard.  He was a good sport about it, and we all had a good laugh.  I think some of us were trying to relive our youth.

      Apparently, rolling is popular again.  With the rise of the internet, there are guides like this Wiki How To Toilet Paper a House article, and even a Ning network for people who love to teepee.

      Now, in spite of a curfew on kids in our town, you find plenty of houses in toilet paper wrap every week here. With the large live oak trees, the results can be very impressive. It reminds me sometimes of how the Spanish moss drapes from the branches.

      But then I feel for the people who have to take the stuff down.  Especially if it rains… what a mess!  Anyway, I wonder if the victims ever try to think on the practical side and consider using all that paper for anything, as long as it stays dry?  Maybe shipping material? Or insulation?  All I know is that a lot of toilet paper is being bought in southeast Louisiana, and a great deal is not being used on bottoms.  And now I am anxious as I think of the last roll in my bathroom.  I hope the teens don’t buy it all before I get to the store tomorrow.

      Wednesday, October 20, 2010

      Fun with Recycled Pop-Tab Bracelets

      IMG_1086 I saw this tutorial on how to make a cute bracelet on one day, and started saving tabs of our soda cans so we could make our own.  We included them in the party favor bags of my daughter’s friends after her birthday party because they had loved the ones we’d been wearing so much. One bracelet requires about 20-25 tabs, some elastic cord, and 10-15 minutes. These are adaptable; you can use ribbons in different colors or different colored tabs.  This site shows an example of pink ribbon used instead of elastic cord.

      A Google Images search also shows other things you can make with pop tabs, including belts, purses, and more!  Happy recycling!

      Tuesday, October 19, 2010

      Techie Tuesday:

      I consider myself a low-maintenance gal.  I would say I am easy to please when it comes to demands that I make.  But there are a few things that make my day a lot better. is one of those things.


      A friend recommended Julia Cameron’s The Artist's Way a few years ago to me.  Cameron suggests using morning pages, which involves writing 3 pages of stream-of-consciousness prose, so that your day can be more productive.  There are no rules to the type of writing it must include.  It can be as mundane as the details of everyday life, or it can be the most beautiful poem you’ve ever created.  You can use it for prayer.  There are really no rules for the morning pages.  You can read more about them here

      I began writing my morning pages in a notebook, pouring out my thoughts onto 3 single-spaced college-ruled pages a day as quickly as possible. I thought my hand would fall off after those 3 pages.  Apparently, I should have bought a smaller notebook.  It took me nearly an hour the first day. I got a little faster through the first week, but my penmanship was sloppy, my hand wasn’t feeling any better, and the kids were impatient.  I jumped ship a little after 2 weeks, and my morning rendezvous with my morning pages came to an end.

      Surfing around on Twitter several weeks ago, I read a tweet that mentioned morning pages and  I checked it out, and renewed my dedication to the ritual that same day. I’ve been hooked ever since.

      The creator of the site, Buster Benson, created a tool to allow people to write their morning pages online in a secure manner, without too many bells and whistles to distract them from the task.  Three pages of typed prose is approximately 750 words, hence the name.

      The best part about it is that I can type so much faster than I can write. I can reach my 3 pages usually in 15 minutes, depending on my thoughts and interruptions. 

      The site features some customization, exporting and searching days, and motivational online “badges” to help keep you on the wagon.  The only missing piece right now is universal mobile access, but I believe that will come in the future.  (I wrecked all my streaks last month because I went on vacation and couldn’t save the pages I’d written on my pda to the site.)

      The site is free, but accepts donations from “patrons” (those who want to help Buster cover the cost of maintaining the site fees he must pay monthly by donating $4 a month).

      If I can accomplish writing my 750 words while drinking my vanilla coffee in the mornings, the rest of my day feels much better.  Apparently, countless other people feel the same way, as Benson had to switch servers today because of the increased traffic the site was receiving. 

      Thanks, Buster Benson, for making my morning pages an enjoyable daily ritual.

      Monday, October 18, 2010

      Pinky and the Eye

      Not to be confused with “Pinky and the Brain.”  imageI would prefer that silly cartoon over what is plaguing the 2-year-old right now. 

      I had planned on coming up with a better post today, but I have spent most of the day dealing with a non-working air-conditioner (which we do still need in mid-October in southern Louisiana) and a baby with a nasty sinus infection which has permeated into his swollen lymph nodes and now also his eyes.

      I thought the junk coming out of his nose was nasty, but the eyes, they are just GROSS.  Every time he wakes up it is a challenge to clean them and put eye drops in.  Not that getting to sleep is an easy thing lately, with our air conditioner on the fritz.

      I used to think that parents who had kids with pinkeye just had some red around the eyeball thing that was not a big deal.  I admit, humbly, I was WRONG. 

      I feel for any kid who has recurring pinkeye.  Who wants to have boogers coming out of their eyes all day?  It’s not like the poor kid can hide it.  At least the nose conceals most of its prisoners. 

      I know how aggravating it is when you want to wake up in the morning and can’t open your eyes.  Now, if there is something yellow and crusty holding your eyelashes like super glue, that is much worse than just being overly tired or sensitive to light. And with the cold, the eyes are tearing up more than usual.  The body is probably toting around a good extra pint of fluid in a toddler with a cold.  A good portion of that seems to be coming out of the eyes.  Then, the crying ensues when we have to clean the eyes and put drops in again, so the cycle repeats.

      I’ll be glad when this bout with pink eye is over.

      Sunday, October 17, 2010

      Simply Saturday: Simplifying Our Homeschool, Part 2 - Agendas

      I meant  for this post to happen yesterday, but my sinuses had another idea.  I'm still calling this a Saturday post, so take THAT, my runny nose and sore throat. 

      Thank goodness I have my homeschool week planned out before Monday morning rolls around. 

      There are many things I could do without to survive a homeschooling day, but one is essential (besides our curriculum) in getting the following week to work without a hitch: the agenda.

      First, let me explain what our agendas are NOT:
      • Our agendas are NOT locked-in schedules. Schedules imply that there are time increments and set amounts of time for each subject. My kids' agendas don't force them into any time-locking capabilities.
      • Our agendas are NOT chore lists. We have a separate space for our chore lists, but my girls know which chores belong to them and on which days they must do them. My oldest daughter's iPod is set to remind her on days that certain chores are due.
      • Our agendas are NOT lesson plans. Not in the formal sense of the word. From my public teaching days, lesson plans included objectives, steps of instruction, practice, and assignments. The lesson plan in a public school is a tool to keep the teacher on track with achieving objectives.
      Here are the goals and benefits our agendas DO accomplish:

      • The agendas tell my kids what has to be accomplished in each subject for the week.  This includes telling them when they must take tests and how much reading needs to be done for the week.
      • The agendas prepare the kids for our weekly co-op. The girls are reminded that even though they have a week to prepare for their co-op classes that we take with other homeschoolers at a local church, they will be very busy if they wait until the day before to work on co-op assignments.
      • The agendas tell me what sheets I need to prepare for the following week, including what blackline master copies I need to make for tests, books to have located and ready, and an idea of how much time we will need to work on subjects we do together.
      I created these agendas as a tool for my kids, so that they know, and can see, what needs to be accomplished every day.  We have tried other systems, such as Sue Patrick's Workbox System (our modified version), and Managers Of The Home (MOTH) schedules, but we couldn't lock our day down to interruptions by toddlers, animals, and the other pauses that happen inside our classroom.  Simply put, I wanted to make sure the girls got their work done by the end of the day on Friday, and that is the best way for them to plan their own week out.  The agendas are a loose adaptation of my friend Joanne Calderwood's HS Student Planner.  It's a great resource, and wildly popular in the homeschool market.  If you are looking for an all-in-one system, Joanne's planner is the best I could recommend for parents looking to make their kids more accountable and responsible. Click the link above to find out more about her system and self-teaching philosophy. (I say I am loosely adapting Joanne's system because I haven't given my kids as much control over how much they have to do for the week.)

      Rather than printing the agenda out every week for my girls, I printed a blank grid on colorful paper with labels for subjects and days of the week.  Then I laminated it for easy reuse. 

      Blank agenda:

      Agenda filled out for the week:

      As a side note, if you don't own a laminator as a homeschooler, I recommend getting one. They are a great way to save on printing costs, and the kids love to use them for various projects.  I can laminate anything on an 8.5x11" sheet, and suddenly, a single sheet of paper lasts for months.  I have laminated blank handwriting sheets with dotted lines to work with my youngest daughter with penmanship, and I use the opposite side (completely blank) when I need to quickly help one of them with math.  Here's a picture of the blank handwriting sheet (it needs to be cleaned a little better, but you get the idea, and you can see it's been used a LOT).

      Now, for those people who need a written record of what was done, the nice thing about the agendas is that I can choose to make copies of them if I choose on our 3-in-1 printer. I am not quite that meticulous.  I like to see that the work is done, but I don't need an extra paper record of it checked off for each week.

      The girls enjoy crossing out what they have done for the week, and we have found it saves a lot of headaches and arguments when they can see what is due.  If the kids get behind for the week, they have to work on it on the weekends.  They also know that if they choose not to do a certain subject that day, they are only making it harder on themselves as the weekend approaches.  The only drawback to this is when my oldest sees that she'll get extra time to play with friends at the end of the week, and she ends up speeding through her assignments, only to have me look over them and make her redo her work of it because of penmanship that is too sloppy or too many mistakes.

      Each week (preferably Friday, after all the current week's work is finished), I take the agenda, and begin filling it out for the following week.  I just write the assignments, one subject at a time, and if something needs to be done with me (rather than be worked on independently), I try to label it on the sheet.   Sometimes I'll make that special mark in a separate dry-erase marker (I've discovered that the darker whiteboard markers erase the easiest).  If we have nothing to do for that subject that day, I cross the day out with a horizontal line. (I see in my filled-out photo that I forgot to add in 2 days of history work in the example.) It only takes 30 minutes to an hour each week, and then I can forget about lesson planning for the weekend, knowing our classroom is ready again for Monday morning.

      What are your favorite scheduling and planning tools?  I'd love to hear from you!

      Friday, October 15, 2010

      Friday Fill-Ins

      Ok, I am participating in NaBloWriMo (a post a day for the month of October), and because I spent most of my day planning a lot of posts for the rest of the month, I neglected today's.  Thank goodness for blog carnivals like Friday Fill-Ins.

      I had considered posting pictures of my accomplishments tonight, after spending some extra time giving my youngest his first at-home haircut (we both escaped unscathed).  But I was out of time to post pictures for my blog. I was proud of how his hair looks, considering I didn't set out to give him an all-over cut, but the pictures will have to wait for another day.

      So, without further adieu, here is this week's Friday Fill-Ins: #195.

      1. Wow, it's quiet in my house tonight.

      2. The classical music playing softly on the piano in the background is beautiful.

      3. My favorite way to start a day is coffee, always coffee.

      4. I handed the children their treat bags and he walked in the door holding a pumpkin.

      5. I look out my window and see lizards (still)!

      6. My progressing age is what I've been thinking about lately.

      7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching a movie, tomorrow my plans include laundry and getting Halloween costumes for the kids and Sunday, I want to take a nap!

      Thursday, October 14, 2010

      Thursday 13 - Lovely Louisiana

      Thirteen Things I Love about Louisiana
      1. No need for socks until the end of November.
      2. Pink geckos and green anoles
      3. The SAINTS (especially Drew Brees and Coach Sean Peyton)
      4. The trees... live oak trees, loblolly pines, and palms of all kinds
      5. Gumbo, jambalaya, muffalettas, and po-boys
      4. Beignets (They are so good they deserve a separate number on the list.)
      7. Community Coffee
      8. Native-born dialects/accents and quirky regional idioms
      9. Cajun French
      10. Being just a few miles from Gulf Coast beaches
      11. Festivals galore
      12. Electric bills in the winter
      13. Mardi Gras parades

      Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
      The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

      Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

      View More Thursday Thirteen Participants

      Wednesday, October 13, 2010

      Wordless Wednesday - Lizards Still Here

      The reappearance of these little geckos (after a brief hiatus last week) on the outside of my kitchen window reminds me that we still have some warm days here in Louisiana. They are always entertaining to watch as they hunt for moths and other bugs at night, but they disappear when it is cool enough to have the windows open and the A/C unit turned off.

      These lizards are one of the first things I discovered and love about this state (though I am relieved to see them outside my kitchen window rather than on the kitchen floor).  I'll take the lizards any day over snakes or alligators, though!

      ~Thanks to Uisce for Wordless Wednesday.

      Tuesday, October 12, 2010

      Simplifying Our Homeschool

      As homeschoolers, we spend a lot of time at home, and things can get pretty hectic in spite of that convenience. My goal here will be to show you how I have simplified my school day, and how it has made all the difference for me. Every homeschooling family has its own method and way that it gets through the day.

      I don’t intend to bash certain publishers of curriculum that didn’t work for me, or to bash other methods of homeschooling. I just want to show my readers from time to time what works in our family, and what has helped me in attempting to reclaim a part of who I was before homeschooling (and even before children).  I invite your comments and your suggestions!

      Monday, October 11, 2010

      iPod Touch for the Classroom, Part 1

      I was going to post much earlier today, but the arrival of my daughter's iPod Touch has had the house in a tizzy this afternoon.  As a mom, I consider myself "middle-of-the-road" when it comes to technology. I would say that I know enough to get by, probably more than many moms do, but I'm pretty new to any Apple product.  I'm haven't drunk the Mac kool-aid yet.  I still like my PC, like the options it provides, and like that I can alter it in ways that I have been accustomed to for many years now. I don't know if I could do that with a Mac.

      But let me say that from what I've seen so far (as I have had some limited time syncing my daughter's iPod today), that the iPod Touch completely blows me away.  I am still amazed at all the apps that we can use for our homeschooling activities, not to mention fun and convenience.

      I will spend more time in coming weeks explaining the various apps we will be using.  So far, the ebook reader Stanza is so impressive that I'm looking for a version for my ancient PDA.  I will leave you this evening with a few links from other sites and blogs that help show a few benefits of having an iPod in your classroom.
      Happy surfing!

      Sunday, October 10, 2010

      Are there chinks in your armor?

      Paul is one of my favorite biblical characters. His life and writings show us how we are to handle trials through our daily Christian walk. I particularly love the book of Ephesians.

      I’m very thankful that we are in such a wonderful Sunday school class at our church. We have teachers who work diligently every week to help us think about our daily walk with God.

      This week our lesson was focused on Ephesians 6. I know homeschoolers love to use this passage on the armor of God as a unit study for Bible lessons at home. It’s a great lesson for all ages.
      I won't go into each part of the armor described in the passage. I'll leave that for those who feel moved to further study, but today, we need to make sure our armor is in tact, and that we didn't forget any of the pieces. Having lived in the Bible belt most of my life, I know that Christians are sometimes guilty of “grading” our sins. Maybe it’s Dante’s fault that our theology is less introspective. We’ve all been guilty (including myself) of pointing fingers at other people’s mistakes. Most Christians understand that errancy, and we remember that when we point a finger elsewhere, it leaves three more pointing back at ourselves.

      As we put on the armor of God, we are guarding ourselves from attacks in the spiritual world. If we forget to put on one portion of our armor, we expose a weakness elsewhere. Sure, most of us aren’t guilty of murder, but failing to guard against our weaknesses easily exposes the chinks in our armor to Satan. We may be great at not lying, but our tendency to gossip or lose our temper may be our downfall. Pride is a big one.

      As Christians we remember, “We aren’t perfect, but we’re forgiven.” God’s grace provides us that comfort. And in studying the traits we need to have in Ephesians 6, we can make sure that we are properly guarded so that we don’t ignore our own faults.

      Are there chinks in your armor? Any areas in your life where you are especially vulnerable to sin?  I encourage you to read Ephesians 6:10-17, and may you be fully protected from outside attacks.

      Saturday, October 9, 2010

      Learning to Put off Pettiness

      I have learned over the past few years that there are some things in life which take so much energy that to continue them is not helpful for my health or my spirit.  One of those things is pettiness.  So many things in life are really petty.  When you allow pettiness to control you, it drains you and those around you.  As one blogger LoveBabz states, acting in a petty way is manipulation in disguise.

      The Free Dictionary says petty is  "Marked by meanness or lack of generosity, especially in trifling matters."  I have experienced pettiness in people whom I considered to be close to me, and unfortunately, the worst of these situations resulted in an end of communicating with the people.  I still love these people, but when it hurts to communicate with someone after repeated attempts, you begin to realize that it is best that you each go your separate ways so that you can each experience a fuller life.

      Though I may not be able to comprehend someone's utter irrationality, trying to convince a person that their ways are petty is usually a futile attempt.  The only person you can change is yourself, so you can only do your best and keep moving forward.

      As Walt Disney states, "Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious... and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths." Even though Disney may have been referring to inventions, the quote can be applied to life in general.

      Sometimes I must remind myself to make a conscience effort to escape manipulation of petty actions and talk.  Pettiness keeps you from moving forward, because being petty usually causes you to look back... back at someone's mistakes, someone's failures, someone's incompetence.  And since we can't change the pettiness in others, the best change we can make is to get rid of our own petty actions, and avoid the pettiness of those who inflict it upon us.

      Friday, October 8, 2010

      Frugal Friday - Hair Color

      When we moved to Louisiana, not only did I lose my favorite hair styler (who had been styling my hair for over 20 years), I lost a few brain cells also. Apparently, I forgot the "If it ain't broke" saying, and decided that I needed to do something different with my hair.
      First, let me say that I have covered my gray colored my hair for many years. I'm not too proud to admit it.  Nope, I don't have any plastic anything in my body, have never tried botox, but when it comes to color, I count that as makeup for my hair.

      When we lived in Tennessee, I used to purchase some semi-permanent color from my hair dresser, and take it home and do it myself (much easier than asking the kids to be still in the salon).  I soon discovered Natural Instincts at the drugstore.  I asked my stylist about it, and she assured me that it should not turn my hair bright orange, green, or some other undesired color (not bashing those of you who do it). Rainbow colors are cute on some people, but I'm not one of those people.  So, I bought the drugstore box, took it home, and tried it out, knowing that if some disaster occurred, I could always make a trip to the salon to try and fix my flub as much as possible.

      It worked great, and I started a routine.  I would even find deals where I could get the boxes for 50% off. I'd buy 4 boxes at a time, and I still would visit my hairdresser for a nice cut when I could (we moved to another town, but I would travel to see my trusted stylist).

      Soon after we moved to Louisiana, I grew tired of the color ritual every 8-12 weeks.  I decided I needed to do something different.  I started (by the advice of someone close to me, who shall remain nameless), to buy permanent hair color.  Now for those of you who don't know what the difference is between permanent and semi-permanent, let me explain.  Permanent means will fry your hair.  Just like a permanent which can curl or straighten your hair, permanent hair color has some smelly stuff in it when you start dousing the stuff on your hair. It has ammonia in it, which not only makes your hair stink to high heaven and think you've gone on a field trip to a chemical plant, but also does a tremendous job of drying out your hair.  Goodbye soft smooth hair; hello, breaking hair and flyaways.

      So, I met a sweet girl here in Louisiana who works in a high-end salon several months ago. I was frustrated with the condition of my hair, and I needed a haircut badly. I thought about trying something different, like adding some highlights.  Well, she had some lovely suggestions, and I scheduled an appointment for a cut.  I was pleased enough with the cut (took some getting used to, and I am still not a fan of using the razor cut scissors on my hair) for me to schedule an appointment for a color.

      When I went in for the appointment, it ended up being a 4-hour appointment with lots of layers of color and highlights.  It was a bit of a pampering session, and luckily, my 2-year-old, who was along for the ride, slept through part of it.  However, my kids, as a whole, were not happy at all staying at the salon for 4 hours.  I was pleased with the immediate results of the color, though, and my hair looked as natural as it had in high school.  I was a little taken aback (ok, shocked), when I got ready to pay, and the price was $170.  That blew my entire personal hair budget for over a year.  I could have bought a year's worth of color and gotten several cuts from my former hairdresser for that same price. 

      Now, there are some ladies that need the salon lifestyle, thrive on it, and see it as a refuge for pampering, socializing, and great products. I know the gal who colored my hair did so with love, good intentions, and a true belief and love for what she does, and the products she uses.  That just can't be me with my family and my budget.  We have too many mouths to feed, and I began to think of how many groceries I could have bought with that same amount of money.

      After investing that much money in one trip to the salon, I was very careful to use shampoos only for colored hair, and faithfully use conditioning and strengthening treatments to help keep my hair moisturized and prevent breaking.  However, I'm now convinced you can't put that many chemicals on your hair for that amount of time without suffering some damage.  (I've always begged my mother to let her hair grow out and not go every 2 months for a color, cut, and perm.  Her hair style has changed very little in 25 years, and I think it's thinning because of the abuse it has suffered.)  I thought my at-home pampering would help my hair, but it continued to break, and I was losing more strands in the shower than normal.

      Finally, after 3 months, my hair had begun to grow out, and I needed to color again.  I was not willing to spend another $150+ on color, and so I went back to what works for me.  I bought my trusted Natural Instincts for $8 (no coupon or specials), took it home, and followed the directions.  My hair is softer than it has been in a long time and isn't coming out of my scalp as much.  My hair feels like it's returning to it's normal state again. 

      Lesson learned, hair.  No need to fall off in gobs in the tub anymore. 

      Change is not always bad, but not when you realize you have made things worse, it's time to go back to what works.  I need to put a big flashing sign up on my desk....

      Thursday, October 7, 2010

      Fabulous Fall

      The NOLA area has been beautiful this week, and I have enjoyed opening my windows since we got home from vacation.  Since the house was closed up for almost 10 days, it really needed airing out.  Even though the lizards and geckos are not as visible, I am enjoying the cooler weather.

      Fall in New Orleans also generally means an end to hurricane season. Ok, I know there are 6 more weeks, but the chances are really going down.  I have watched the National Hurricane Center website almost obsessively since June 1.  When I say obsessed, I mean that I have a bookmark saved on my laptop browser and my PDA, I'm friends with my favorite weatherman on Facebook, and I have been known to check the site as it is updated 4 times a day (at 1 a.m., 7 a.m., 1 p.m., and 8 p.m. Central Time). Yes, if I happened to wake up in the middle of the night, I've checked then, too. I am thankful to be gaining that part of my sanity back a whopping half of a year.

      According to all the weathermen here, New Orleans is having an unseasonably cool start to fall.  Last winter was one of the coldest on record.  But on the flipside, this summer in Louisiana was miserably hot (I don’t think there are many summers here that aren’t).  Our A/C unit failing during one of the hottest weeks this summer made it even more sweltering.

      Fall makes me very nostalgic, thinking of times spent back home in Tennessee.  I miss seeing the colors of the changing leaves on the maples, Bradford pears, and other deciduous trees.  Louisiana doesn’t have enough changing leaves for my taste.  
      Fall in Tennessee is also a time when my seasonal allergies calm down. It’s dry, crisp, and cool in the mornings, and just warm enough not to freeze during the day.  I miss the crunching sound of the dried leaves under my feet. Sitting by the fireplace with the smell of spiced cider and seasoned wood burning where you can roast marshmallows for s’mores is a great way to spend an evening,

      When people in Louisiana think of Tennessee, they often think of fall and the glorious colors in the Smoky Mountains.  The paint-splattered trees set on a rolling hillside is a stark contrast to the flat wetlands of Louisiana. East Tennessee is one of my favorite places to witness God’s creation, and fall reminds me that spring will begin life anew. 

      What are your favorite memories and traditions of fall?

      Inbox Decluttering Update: Day 3

      I have now reached my goal in less than 3 days of having less than 1000 total messages in my Gmail account.  68dbc62d-a495-40a5-aef4-27d49520da89

      Those 874 emails take up a tiny fraction of my total space.

      It is really nice to finally have that excessive data (I guess that is the appropriate word) out of the way.  Now, I take a couple of extra minutes to unsubscribe from any email I may have before signed up for, and I am hoping that eventually I won’t have to delete so many emails automatically.  I have also signed up with NutshellMail as recommended by Lifehacker.  It combines all your Twitter and Facebook feeds, replies, etc. into one neat email.  It makes it easier than getting everyone else's replies to someone's picture, comment, etc. on Facebook in separate emails for days on end. You can even choose how many times a day you want to get updates, and what types of updates you want to receive.

      My next goal is to work on my local/hard drive program’s inbox.  It has a meager (*ahem) amount.

      Now, the problem is that when I try to use my standalone email application, my computer’s memory is eaten up. I think it will improve as I eliminate some emails.  2000 emails are a lot for the hard drive to handle at once.  I don’t dread it, though. I think I can get it done pretty quickly.

      Too bad I didn't know about this nifty little tool/game called 0Boxer before I went on my inbox declutter trek. I would have smoked some people's stats out there with the number of emails eliminated in a short time frame.  I don't need a game, but the program is a great motivator for those who dread the task.

      Eventually I'll move to my external hard drive, which is now cluttered with things that aren't on my laptop. THAT will be a task, but as I am learning to let go of more and more physical items, I guess I am moving to becoming a digital hoarder.

      Wednesday, October 6, 2010

      Wordless Wednesday

      The King of England and one of his subjectsIMG_1073
      We call the boy King of England because he is so demanding.  Now that he has a crown, he really lets it go to his head.

      Tuesday, October 5, 2010

      Disney Vacation on a Budget

      I was thinking I could give this post the title “Disney, Take Two” since it was our second family vacation to Disney.  But we didn’t really take TWO, you see.  We took THREE.  Yep, all three kids.  I guess technically, we took all three kids the last time as well, but I was pregnant with the youngest, so he was easy to keep up with.

      Somehow, we survived this trip with a preteen who has a tendency to be melodramatic (as I imagine most adolescent girls are), a happy-go-lucky girl who was ready to ride every roller coaster in the parks, and a wild, rambunctious 2-year-old.  And we did it without a stroller.  Yes, we’re a little nuts.  We made a pact that we would not spend 15 dollars per day on a stroller when we were already spending so much on tickets and the occasional snack inside the parks (the hassle of pushing a stroller around the miles we’d walk was not appealing).

      Even without a stroller, the youngest was usually patient in lines.

      IMG_0901 image
      The last time we went to Disney, we put the entire vacation on a credit card.  We had just found out we were expecting baby #3, and we figured our plans to go in 2008 were out the window with a newborn in tow.  So we bit the bullet, and put the entire thing on plastic.  We stayed on the Disney Resort, ate in all the parks with their meal plan option, and felt like royalty.  Our first trip to Disney was 4 days and 3 nights.  Of course, it took us many more months than that to pay off the credit card, but we didn’t regret it.  Disney does give you red carpet treatment, even in their value resorts.  We left wanting more, and we knew we’d return. 

      This time we did things differently.  Being debt free now, we saved for several months to pay for the entire vacation with cash. We spent two days in Magic Kingdom, three at Hollywood Studios, and one at Animal Kingdom. We paid cash in advance for our tickets, stayed at a more luxurious 2-bedroom condo off the resort, and ate dinners mostly at restaurants outside of Disney, had sandwiches from our cooler for lunch (which we went back to the parking lot to eat on certain days), and ate one lunch in a Disney park.  We were able to stay a full 7 days this time (with two extra days at a different hotel both on the way to Orlando and on the way back).  Our vacation was double the time, with an extra kid, but our cost was not doubled at all.  Though I am not a fan of paying for the parking (which if we’d stayed on the Disney premises would have been waived), we still did not spend as much per day, even though we had an extra person.

      Next time we go, we want to make sure of two things.  First, we’ll go later in the year, during the slow season for Disney.  And second, we will wait a few more years until the youngest grows one more foot. He was able at the age of 2 to ride Goofy’s Barnstormer rollercoaster and loved it, but I’m sure his sisters will be ready to get him on more thrill rides next time.

      Monday, October 4, 2010

      Cleaning My Inbox

      I confess. I am an email hoarder.

      I opened my Gmail account in 2007, and I have kept emails in it from as early as 2007, many even being newsletters to which I am no longer subscribed.  Some emails are so obsolete that I don't remember even getting them, or why I'd want to keep them.

      I was looking at the bottom of my Gmail screen yesterday, and not that I don't have enough space in my Gmail account, but I noticed that I was using about 10% (around 800MB) of my allotted space. screen
      This was my inbox this morning, after I'd deleted about I had already deleted about 1000 (yes, that is correct) emails from it.  I had been patting myself on the back about that one, but the space issue still was there. 
      Now why would 153 messages take up 800MB of space??

      Well, they don't. Most of these 153 messages had no attachments at all.  So I started reasoning.  One reason for my expanding account is that I do a lot of freelance editing that involves receiving large PDF files.  Another space-eater are pictures. Many of them I have kept in my Gmail account and not moved to my hard drive yet.  But even all those files didn't seem to add up to 800MB.

      I started hunting.  I found this little link in the left sidebar under my personally-created labels.
      I discovered another reason for my huge amount of accrued space is an automatic feature called "Archive" that I think Gmail did when I converted several of my messages into Mozilla Thunderbird.  Well, I won't go into how or why it happened.  I'll admit it, I'm geeky, but I don't even want to think about how or why it happened right now.

      When I clicked on the "All Mail" link, I was shocked to see the number of emails on the top panel change from this
      to THIS.
      Yikes.  That will take a while.  I deleted 1000+ emails yesterday, and it took me about 30-45 minutes, but I figure if I can do that many every day, I'll be down to under 1000 TOTAL emails in no time.

      After that I will tackle my Mozilla Thunderbird inbox, and my hard drive will thank me for it.

      Thursday, September 23, 2010

      Christians Illuminating the Social Media

      (Preface: I have been on an extended hiatus from my blog. I am going to try to do better, and hopefully have some direction in my ramblings in this and future posts.)

      One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Ephesians 4:17-5:20 (NIV).  This is a long passage, so it takes a while to read, but there is such good advice there for Christians today, that I refrain from skipping any part of it (my additional thoughts follow).
      Living as Children of Light
      17-19So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
      20-24You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
      25-28Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. "In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.
      29-32Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
      Ephesians 5
      1-2Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
      3-7But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.
      8-14For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible. This is why it is said:
         "Wake up, O sleeper,
            rise from the dead,
         and Christ will shine on you."
      15-20Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord's will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
      Your Online Reputation Can Spread Quickly
      As Christians, we should not only watch our walk in our day to day physical activities, but we should also be mindful of our online activities (and that includes staying away from the obvious sites which promote pornography or gambling).  It's not just about what media or messages we allow to be transmitted to our screens, but also what we messages we send out online in our language and activities.  As Christians, are we "living as children of light" online at our favorite social network hangouts? We need to remember that our status updates are read by potentially more people online than in our personal, physical lives.

      Foul Language on Facebook
      I am disappointed by what some people have the nerve to post on certain social networking sites, especially Facebook. The amount of profanity that pervades the vocabulary of some people is disheartening. I am certain that these offenders are more verbose than they are demonstrating. If a friend on Facebook consistently uses foul language, I have no apprehension in using the "Hide" function. 

      The Ever-present "Like" button
      Crass language even seeps into the many “like” applications that Facebook allows on its site. Here's my rule of thumb for "like" links: If I wouldn't want my children to read it, then I don't click it (not even if I agree with the general idea). If I click on a “like” with profanity in it, I may as well be condoning the statement, and I don't want the foul language showing up next to my name in someone's feed.

      Taking it a step further, I try to refrain from clicking "like" on anything besides a person or business of some kind, though, so please don't judge me if I don't click "like" on a link saying that I love Jesus or any member of my family. Those statements go without telling the world, and I don't want to allow those dozens of generic applications to email me through Facebook.  The notification emails from these applications do nothing but take my time away from those whom I love, negating the purpose of clicking links that say, "I like the statement that I love my husband/daughter/son/mom/Jesus." (Just how many weeks in a row can it be "Daughter Week?")

      As part of my effort to simplify all things around me, I have also blocked most games on Facebook, because I discovered how much time I could have been putting to better use.  My news feed is streamlined, revealing the more important items that people share (news, websites and tools). Even with all my efforts to hide and clean my Facebook feed, it is still not as clean as Twitter, due to the new game applications that come out each week on Facebook.

      A New Appreciation for Twitter
      I'm not knocking Facebook, but I find that with Twitter, I actually learn something. The resources I have discovered on Twitter would have taken me twice as long to find on Facebook.  External links on Twitter can be opened more easily with my mobile device, and I find people to follow in areas that interest me.  This blog post by Terry Whalin (whom I follow on Twitter) explains other benefits of using Twitter.  You can also read an interesting debate on using Twitter vs. Facebook which reflects some of my own thoughts.

      After saying all this, I am not leaving Facebook. I sometimes have to click through a few pages in my news feed to see if there is anything important I may have missed in the last day. I limit my time more on Facebook now.  I try to check my page for a few short minutes a day, checking on pages of close friends and family and those who are on my prayer list. 

      I welcome your comments. Have you found Twitter more satisfying, or have you yet to explore it? You can even follow my tweets!

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