Thursday, November 25, 2010


So one of the new responsibilities I have taken on since moving to Kenya is homeschool. I realize that my kids are still preschool age but we all know that Kindergarten is the new first grade which makes 4K the new Kindergarten! I came prepared to make sure that my little ones were getting the enrichment that they needed at this age the best way I can provide here in this setting. Since I peruse homeschool blogs and always find what other people are doing very interesting I thought I do a quick update on what exactly we are doing for "school" this year!

First, I think I've learned that it is easiest to fit "school" in as we go about our normal day. I just want for them to really get the idea that there is a big wonderful world that God made out there that is ready for us to explore. Claire is the only one doing any sit down school work so we just do little spurts throughout our day - 15 minutes of math after breakfast, 10 minutes of handwriting before we go on a walk, 30 minutes of read aloud time (our favorite) whenever!

Here is the basics of the curriculum that I am using this year. Claire is still 4. She turns 5 in December so she will be in Kindergarten next school year. I feel like she is ready to take on K level things so we are basically starting K now based more on her age than the fact that she was born 4 months after the K cut-off age. Since I am her teacher I can do what I want! I don't have to wait until September because of a school calendar so that is nice.

Core curriculum:
Sonlight K with readers 1

Headsprout (we started this awhile ago - we are finishing up the first 40 episodes).
BOB books
Modern Curriculum Press Phonics Readers

A Reason for Handwriting K

Explode the Code 1

Singapore Math Earlybird A & B

Artistic Persuits

I really enjoyed researching different options and coming up with what I think will work well for our family. Last year I did the Sonlight 4/5 curriculum with Claire and loved it. Moving into the K level seemed natural. I LOVE the emphasis on great literature and reading that Sonlight offers. Read aloud time is precious to us and I love bonding over good books with my kids. I feel like I am knitting them into their childhood and we all love it. Even for non-home school families I would recommend looking at the Sonlight read alouds for your child's age level and using it as a guide for reading material or library check outs. I am thankful for the guidance it has given me. I would have underestimated Claire's ability if not for Sonlight.

I can recommend all of the resources I am using this year. Headsprout reading is amazing. It is a computer based reading program recommended to me by a friend who is a reading specialist. It has worked great for Claire in teaching her how to read and also teaching her basic computer skills. Singapore Math and A Reason for Handwriting are new to us but we are enjoying both a lot so far.

It is a joy to be able to teach my children and experience all of their new discoveries first hand. It is also nice to have them be learning so much but still have a day to day life that for the most part involves making mud pies, playing dress up, play dough, doll house, barbies and getting filthy dirty every day.

An American Girl Birthday

We decided to celebrate Claire's birthday a little early while we were in the US with our family. She has recently really gotten into American Girls and well, I'm excited. I love dolls and all things little girly and these dolls are just so much fun and sweet. Since there is an American Girl Cafe in Atlanta we decided to a girls only lunch for her there (a special treat for a little girl with two brothers and two boy cousins!).

Hannah (her doll) was looking a little rough from her trip from Africa. She came to the right place to get fixed up though!

Jo Jo and Gamma

The "birthday girl" about 7 weeks early!

Hannah went straight to the salon after our lovely lunch to get fixed up. She got her hair done and as a treat she got her ears pierced!

All of the ladies had a fun time eating and shopping together and celebrating FIVE years with our sweet Claire!

All dressed up . . .

I realize this is Thanksgiving but I thought I'd catch up a little bit and share our Halloween fun in the States! This year we had a little American Olympian . . .

Super Why . . .

and Olivia the Pig

We went to the Marietta costume parade with cousins Mac and Graham a few days before Halloween

and then got to trick or treat in Birmingham with Claire's sweet friend Sydney.

All of our kids are within days or weeks of each other. It is so much fun (and a little wild) when we get them all together!

The "babies" Batch and Gus

The girls trick or treated holding hands. It was so sweet!

They all had so much fun trick or treating in Homewood. They got an amazing amount of candy considering how little they are!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Our trip to the US

Well here it is the last day of our trip and I am just getting around to blogging about any of our time here! We were so thankful that we were able to have this time at "home" for the past 4 weeks. We had not planned on coming back during our two years in Kenya but Rhett had the opportunity to attend the Infectious Disease Society of America meeting in Vancouver. Lucky for us, my parents decided it would be in their best interest to fly me and the kids over with Rhett (vs them making the trip again!) so we turned it into a family vacation of sorts. We arrived just in time for Ford's 3rd birthday party celebration. He has been talking about his "Mickey Mouse Birthday" for months (not sure why the only interaction he has had with Mickey Mouse is a pair of pjs). It brought back lots of memories because we celebrated Ford's first birthday with a similar tailgate/family party and that was when Ford opened a special gift of a "big brother" t-shirt and shocked everyone with the news of Gus's future arrival!

My Mom found this toy motorcycle which was a huge hit for Ford who LOVES "pikis" as we call them in Kenya.

The kids stayed with grandparents while Rhett and I took off on our first "no-kids" vacation ever and went to the meeting in Vancouver. Rhett attended lots of meetings, sessions and poster presentations with lots of really smart people from all over the world who have lots of knowledge of infectious stuff. I had quiet, alone time in our hotel for the first time in almost 5 years. It was nice. I rented a bike on a couple occasions and rode around Stanley Park. It was lovely. We connected with some old friends and colleagues and had a nice time catching up. Here is the only picture I took in Vancouver - just to prove we were there.

We spent a couple more days with Rhett's family when we got back then we had to put Rhett on a plane back to Kenya while we headed west to Birmingham! First we had some more goodbyes to say . . .

(saying goodbye to Doc at the office - hence the cool head gear you get to wear when you are an ENT).

(and Gamma who would see Claire one more time during our visit but not the boys).

More to come on our time in Birmingham and Athens . . .

Friday, October 08, 2010


I am always looking for a travel deal. I have found that usually means visiting places not during the high season. Examples are Maine in June, Puerto Rico in July and San Diego in November. I once suggested we visit Iceland in February and Rhett said no. When I reiterated what a great deal it was- $149 r/t from Atlanta he reminded me that it was FEBRUARY. IN ICELAND. We went to Florida instead. But this time I suggested we go to Dubai in August which is kind of the opposite of Iceland in February. Rhett actually agreed this time and we set out for our Middle Eastern adventure. We found out why we got such a good deal - It is HOT. Like the high was 120 and low was 99 each night. And no, it is not a dry heat. It is extremely humid because it is on the Arabian Gulf. But as we learned winter is the time to be outside in the UAE and during the summer everyone moves inside the "malls" which are really indoor cities. It goes against most of what Rhett believes in to vacation inside a mall but he was a good sport since it was a great place for kids and we had a great time.

The Dubai Aquarium inside the Dubai Mall.

The largest aquarium viewing panel in the world.

The Burj Khalifa (I have no idea how to take pictures in the dark soory). It is the tallest building and the tallest freestanding structure in the world - by a long shot. The second tallest building is about 2/3 as tall.

We went to the indoor ski slopes at Ski Dubai. We played at the snow park and Rhett went skiing.

The kids went tubing.

Funny that this is Ford's first time in the snow. Does it count?

The best place in the world for kids is Kidzania. I can not understand why this place isn't in the US. It is a big children's museum set up like a city. You (kid) get a check when you arrive and you take the check to the bank where you get Kidzania money. Then you get to go spend your money. When you need more money you go to work. Simple idea but SO much fun!

Here is Claire spending some money getting her nails done!

Ford went to the barber shop and got some facial hair (too bad Daddy had just shaved his beard off!)

Then it was time to make some money by working at the milk factory making boxes of milk.

And making more money by working as a dentist, nurse, painter and many others.

Here she is working as a chef.

And as a model on the runway! So much fun! They announced them as they came out and everyone wanted to be a model or a rockstar - except Claire who wanted to be a teacher :)

Now our trip up the Burj!

View from the top of the world!

You start to loose perspective that those are 40-60 story skyscrapers down there!

Gus on the Burj at sunset.

The architecture was simply amazing. It seemed like an architect's dream. The most modern buildings I've ever seen. We took a tour through the old part of town and enjoyed some more traditional architecture too.

Somehow I always seem to end up on a water taxi. It is so hot in this picture I can not begin to describe it to you. We also spent a day at a great water park. We started a new family tradition of filming our vacations "Amazing Race" style. It was fun to send to our family at home and will be a fun way to relive our holidays one day.

Dubai offered lots of comforts of the US - mostly comfortable beds, soft towels and good food. We ate at McDonald's, Subway and Macaroni Grill! The breakfast at our hotel was out of this world -but we definitely have expanded our breakfast horizons since living overseas. We love roasted tomatoes, smoked salmon, cheese, croissants, olives, hummus and tea for breakfast these days. I still can't get into baked beans for breakfast but, hey, I'm not ruling it out. There were wonderful American options like waffles and scrambled eggs too :) We still talk about how great that breakfast was! A lot of what we really enjoyed about Dubai were the comforts that we haven't
had in Kenya (the joys of fast food). I was excited about the shopping but quickly found out there wouldn't be much of that going on. I picked out a pair of Nike running shoes and did the math 3 times before concluding they they did indeed cost $285 dollars. Needless to say I didn't buy them or anything else. Our kids had a blast though and we were able to show Ford real, live, working traffic lights. However, when we arrived at our hotel he picked up the remote control and said "What's this?".

We had a great vacation and it was a nice step away for a week of family fun. Dubai was great for kids and we would recommend it for a get away from East Africa. It was fun for Claire and Ford to pick up their 4th continent too!

July in Pictures

We spent a lot of time outside in the mud and muck and practiced our game faces.

Rhett grew a beard.

Gus learned how to eat with a spoon.

Ford climbed trees.

We spotted a Kenyan motorhome.

We ran into a Massai Warrior on a rope bridge on the way to lunch.

We went to Ngong Hills to visit our friends and see their project there for Vapor Sports.

I celebrated my birthday and anniversary with 8 dozen roses.