Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dusting Off & Going Rogue

It's been such a long time since I've posted that I'm just going to pick up where we are at now.  I'll fill in  some of the blanks here and there when I get a chance or feel extra wordy.   :)  I must say that I'm surprised at how much traffic this blog still gets even when it's been left dormant for two years.  ...and the number of hits from sites within China amazes me even more.  Who knew we were so popular in China?

Just as a quick note... We're still in Bydgoszcz, Poland, still have 3 kids who continue to grow & amaze us, we're still a military family, and we're still Catholic.  I think those are all the biggies.

Vic & Bailey are in the same local school; Vic in Kindergarten, and Bailey in Preschool.  We're extremely happy with their school and especially their teachers.  We couldn't have asked for a better setting.

Here are The Littles in a totally staged video.  These two had been walking home, sweetly holding hands and chatting.  I pull out my cell phone to catch their cuteness, and they go all Hollywood on me. Can you hear Vic?   "Nice day, isn't it?"

For a long time we felt that Jack needed some intense one-on-one teaching to catch him up to US Standards for 4th grade.  A couple of things happened at the beginning of this school year that helped nudge us in a different direction for our oldest son.

So... [Gulp]  At the end of September, we withdrew Jack from the International School that he  attended for the past two years.

This was a massive step for us.  Although we're used to change (Hi, Army!), deciding to home school was a very serious departure for us.  We agonized over the decision.  Yes, Jack was very behind his US peers, but he was enjoying friendships with kids from a dozen different countries.  What kid gets the chance to learn about International Relations at the tender age of 10?  This is part of what we would be taking him away from, and it was a physically painful action to make.

Once our minds were made up, the choice of curriculum was our next hurtle.  Oh my gosh, do you know how many different ways a parent can home school?  Too many to count.  My background is not in education, so I focused on total curriculum packages that could hold my hand & tell me what to say.
In the end, I narrowed the field down to Laurel Springs and Calvert Homeschool.

Laurel Springs SchoolI really wanted Laurel Springs to work for us.  Olympic gymnasts attend this private online school as well as child actors and other athletes.  Abigail Breslin is an alum!  She was nominated for an oscar for goodness sake.  Surely this would be a quality school for our son.

Laurel Springs may still have been a wonderful choice for us, but there just wasn't enough feedback available for me to feel comfortable.  From what I read, this would be a perfect choice for the High School level, but I wasn't so sure about their elementary school.  I had to let this one go.

My other option was Calvert Home School.  This seemed to be the path more traveled with families living overseas, and that initially turned me away.  I thought I wanted something more significant, extraordinary for our son.  What I realized after long days of school comparisons, is that he needed a solid, tested curriculum.

Starting at 4th grade, Calvert requires the prospective student to take a skills test in order to see where the child is at grade-wise.  The boxes of books and materials don't get shipped out until after the skills test is looked over by their staff.  This took 3 days for us, which was the same as other families I know.

Once we got the go-ahead for Jack to continue in 4th grade, the boxes were shipped out.   As we have a size and weight restriction for our post, I decided to have Calvert mail the boxes directly to our Polish address.  This was considerably more spendy than using the US Postal Service, but I was provided with a tracking number (we don't usually get that) and received the box after only 5 days.

We've just completed our first week, and I am impressed with how integrated the different subjects are. Several subjects will cover an area that another subject is working on.  For example: In art we looked at and drew cave crawings while in history we covered cave men and how they evolved.  This is the kind of hand-holding I wanted... A well planned curriculum that takes me step by step through the whole school year.

I'll end with a summer photo of my kids on our whirlwind summer in the US.  Please ignore the ridiculous amount of crumbs on my sweet children.  In their defense, breakfast that morning was crazy delicious.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Halloween vs. All Saints Day

Here in Poland, the tradition of visiting family graves on All Saints Day (Nov. 1) takes precedence over any Halloween hoopla.  A trip to my favorite grocery store, Auchan, showed aisles and aisles of pretty lanterns meant to adorn the grave site of loved ones.

Wait, there's more...

Apologies to the future Grown Up Bailey.  Your hair wasn't always full of static, we were playing peek-a-boo.
As we walked through the store picking up our food for the next few days, I kept my eye out for any costumes.  None found.  All Saints Day FTW!  Can I get a woot woot?

Instead of celebrating and partying on All Hallows Eve, the Poles, and most of Europe, choose to dress up for Pączki Day, also known as Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, or Fasching.  Well, maybe there's a little partying on Halloween... we'll let you know at the end of the month. :o)  Anyone up for a Halloween party at the Sims house?

Bailey was less than happy by the time we left Auchan, and pretty fed up with Mama taking so long.  You can see how ridiculous our cart looked with all the pool floaties (for Jack's birthday party).  We definitely got more stares than normal today.

How cute are these milk containers??  If we can't go see Mickey, at least Mickey can come to us.. on our milk containers.  Can you guess which container the kids will pick as their own?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

World Wide Wednesday

Tonight was our first installment of international cuisine and culture aptly named World Wide Wednesday by our oldest son Jack.   While I originally intended to highlight one of the many countries in our family heritage, I decided to broaden my horizon.  We have lots of cultures to choose from within the family, but why not include Poland, the country we currently live in?  Couldn't I also include China? Italy?  Canada? :o) 

I chose Poland as our first choice since we're trying hard to learn about this country we currently call home.

Bigos photo courtesy of www.justfoodnow.com

On the menu tonight: Bigos, rotisserie chicken, broccoli and sliced bread with cookies for dessert.

Music: Chopin.  Thanks to the Pawlak family for their suggestion.  They were right, Chopin is the sound of Poland.

Bigos, translated as stew or hunter's stew (also as confusion, big mess, & trouble), is hailed as the national dish of Poland.  I see it on nearly every menu and all supermarkets.  A local salad restaurant even deviates from their veggie menu with a hearty offering of bigos & bread.  Full of sauerkraut, onions, mushrooms, and different kinds of meat, this 'stew' is cooked for hours and typically served with potatoes and bread.

The verdict on Polish Cuisine & Culture?
Bob:  Impressed.  Gave Mom the night off bed/bath/dishes duty. 
Laura:  Loved it!  Our next dog will be named Bigos.
Jack:  Only wanted the chicken.  Absolutely no bigos.
Vic:  No comment; he chose to sit under the table.
Bailey:  Too busy wolfing down chicken and broccoli to comment.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Train Crazy Kids

Vic at our Lego table turned train table.

Jack manning the controls.

Bailey!  How did you get stuck in the Thomas train box?  That red bridge support can't be comfortable to sit on.

Ha!  Caught Vic red handed, or rather pink handed with train track smudges.  I *thought* someone had messed with my camera.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Bathtime & Ikea

When Bob or I announce "Bath Time!", The Littles come laughing & screaming down the hallway.  We parents also enjoy this short reprieve from The Toddler Whack (tm).  Aside from the occasional pouring of water over Sissy's head by Vic, or outright bath toy thievery from Bailey, The Littles get along while bathing.

Bailey waits her turn to get in the tub.  I'm loving how her hair curls in the back!

Bailey & Vic laughing at silly ol' Dad.

Vic on Mom-n-Dad's bed.  He's fast & will take off before I dress him if I turn my back. 

 I made an Ikea run today and had a blast walking the aisles with a great friend.  Jack and two buddies whooped it up in the Kinder Paradeis while my friend and I got to shop & talk.  The Littles were supposed to be napping at home for Daddy, but I found out later they gave him a run for his money.  Poor Bob.

I'm trying to think ahead for what I'll want once we're living in Poland (Poland!) so arrived with a long list in hand.  Once we move to Bydgoszcz, the nearest Ikea will be in Warsaw, which is a 2 hr drive away I think.  As Ikea is so close to us now, we're trying to project out our wants & needs.

At the top of the list were Bob & the boy's train related items: a long/wide table top or counter from the As-Is section for their train layout, an under-bed storage bin to be hacked into a train storage/curio, and under shelf lighting for my china hutch.

Although she won't need it for another year, I bought Bailey a duvet to put in the darling duvet cover & pillowcase I picked up for a steal last year ($2.00,Thrift Shop).

I've been daydreaming about what I want to give Bailey for her 2nd birthday, which isn't until October.  I normally don't think this far out, but again, we'll be in northern Poland and it's so.. well.. foreign to me right now.  I'm afraid everything will be incredibly hard for a few months.

Anyhoo...  I planned on building Bailey a girl-sized kitchen by hacking a few Ikea pieces.  Before I even got to price different items, my bestie Angela spotted a finished play kitchen.

 Done!  Thanks, Ikea, you think of everything.

It's a little more than I would have paid, but it's a much better finished product than I could think of.  This beauty has a microwave, oven, sink, and a two burner range that lights up as if it's in use.  I may make a fridge for her once we're in Poland depending on how much space I'll have.

I'm keeping the kitchen and the pots/pans/utensils in their original packages so they'll remain undamaged when the movers do their stuff.  Not fun.  I *really* want to put it together and play with her, but it's best to wait.  I'd like to paint and add finishing touches to it like this one I found on another int'l mom's blog.

Maybe I'll pick up some supplies to make felt food for her kitchen?  In my spare time? Ha!  Here's a yummy example:


Too fun! 

Now I just need to figure out what to get the boys for their birthdays.  I'm thinking anyting train related for Vic's 3rd birthday in May and am still mulling over Jack's 8th birthday in October. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Snacks & Snow

Cranberry muffins, Yum! Bailey tries to help herself as Jack serves up an after school snack.

I've been using a new cookbook I picked up over Christmas called Saving Dinner by Leanne Ely. You can see it waiting for me on top of the bread box. This book is exactly what I need right now... healthy, tasty, yet kid-friendly menus, shopping lists, and recipes all in one spot. Each meal is scaled for 6 servings, which is just enough to feed our family of 5 and have lunch left over.

Jack and I had fun making paper snowflakes to cheer up our view outside. With the scraps he made a sweet bookmark for me while I cooked dinner.

The Littles watching a tractor plow our parking lot. They spent about 20 mins watching this guy work. Fabulous fun!

Bailey "cooking" dinner. Can you see the little bites out of her apple?

Oh, those eyelashes are so scrumptious! Vic taking a rare bite of an apple.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sims Family 2010

Oh my word, it's been about 6 months since my last blog post. Life is passing by so fast, and it seems I'm in in the same spot I was 6 months ago. A year ago. It's hard to see the differences in-between diaper changes, washing dishes (which are still waiting on me) and the never ending laundry.

My goal for this year is to write on the blog or post pictures every day. Well.. at least until I let myself off the hook. Here are the rules: the house does not have to be perfect, my kids should be in all their glory, and I don't have to sport a perfect Tx 'do.

See, I can do this! I just threw a no make-up photo of myself & my darling son on the blog. *This* is exactly what I want to remember. Vic is post-bath, sleepy, and sweetly petting the back of my head. I think I may sneak into his room & give him another kiss as he sleeps.

Here's a few pictures of our first snow day of the year. We've had a lot more since, but this is the only day of pictures. Thanks to my great friend Angela for taking these shots!

The boys had a lot of fun running around and generally going nuts. I think Bailey enjoyed herself. Hard to tell. She stood planted and mostly concentrated on what the other kids were doing.