Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Whenever Jeff is here on weekends we try to stay busy because of his ADD, or ADHD, or his low tolerance for boredom, or his 7-8 Cokes a day. It depends on which source you ask... but I am straying from the real topic... we go places. Sometimes we have a specific destination in mind and sometimes we just drive. Jeff wanted to get a closer look at the Superstition Mountains to our east so we DROVE in their direction. On roads. And later on dirt roads. We had lunch before leaving home and wouldn't you know it, Nature decided to place a call! And then we happened upon this tiny blessing...

And I fell in love with Arizona all over again! Can you see the Superstition Mountains in the background? This dirt road led to another paved road, which led us smack into Apacheland Movie Ranch and Superstition Mountain Museum. If I had known we were only five minutes from civilization, I wouldn't have used Ol' Blue, but that's all yellow water under the bridge now.

Apacheland has been the setting for many a Western movie set, and for many t.v. shows too. Who out there remembers Gunsmoke? You have to be pretty old like me to remember that television series... but to the point... Gunsmoke was filmed in Apacheland too. (Now who has ADD?) So we toured the place.

We saw this rusty rock crushing thing

And these big rusty buckets

And these old machines in a cage

And then this is where the kids decided that Apacheland was a place that Grandpa Ellis would love!

There's a church...

...where Elvis lives

And a windmill

And all the rest of this stuff

And then we got bored, so we left.

The End.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Unless you were actually here today, you will NOT believe how warm it was... 87 degrees!!! Can you even believe it? And I don't think that is a record high for this date. It has been really warm for about three days and even though it's harder to walk the dogs in the middle of the day, it makes the evenings and nights sooooo nice. It reminds me of summer in Utah, here, right now. So today I am loving the extra warm weather and trying to preserve the feeling of being warm enough so that I can make it through the rest of March when we get back in a couple of weeks. Another high point to the past few days has been my current wheels. My brother-in-law has been borrowing our big, black truck for hauling around atvs and whatnot, so I got "stuck" with my sis-in-laws RAV4. Oh how I love parking wherever I want, pulling in and out of traffic without cringing, or holding my breath every time I have to merge on to the Interstate. The RAV4 is no Prius, but it's still a pretty sweet car to be "stuck" with! Thanks Woodards!

Since we have a lot to do in the next 9 days before we leave AZ, we decided to tackle a few of those things today... get it over with. We have quickly become addicted to some of the things this lovely State has to offer that we just can't get at home. For example, we drove all the way out to Queen Creek Olive Mill again last week to get just one more yummy gelato, and stock up on the best olive oil you will ever taste. There are a few health food items that Sprouts carries here, and we've never seen in any of the local places in Utah so we needed to stock up there as well. On our way to one destination, we happened upon the grand opening of a Dunkin' Donuts and we decided we HAD to stop.
It didn't really even have to do with whether we can get Dunkin' Donuts in Utah or not, because maybe we can, I've never checked. It had more to do with the fact that we mostly eat the most bland and boring foods on the planet (at least they are bland compared to donuts) and donuts sounded so good today. Even better they have a drive-thru! We got a whole dozen and started eating them in the car right away. Brit took control of the box like he was the boss of us and all that; he said he would take a bite of each one and then pass them to us. Kaylee was turned around clawing at him and we were not settled back down until we each had a donut in hand. We pulled into the parking lot and that's when all hell broke loose! It took me several minutes to realize that we were just shoveling those poor donuts into our mouths like we might never eat again! I would say this is a new low for us, except that we did this same exact thing last week with KFC. Oh, and sorry about your car Jen. Haha! I'm kidding?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


In case you didn't already know, last weekend was Valentine's Day. Jeff wasn't planning to fly down three weekends in a row, but all it took was this face...

...and he was sunk. So Daddy arrived, chocolates in hand, to make this the best Valentine's Day weekend of all time.

Friday we decided to have lunch at The Landmark Restaurant in downtown Mesa. It was yummy and a fun/unique place to eat. And while we were already there, we thought, why not visit the Arizona Museum of Natural History?

This guy (or gal) greets you as you walk in and my first thought was that I'm grateful Jeff will be hunting tiny (helpless and defenseless) wild pigs this next weekend instead of one of these. The odds are more in the humans' favor to get out alive, I'd think.

Imagine meeting this guy face to face in a dark alley! Sort of looks like me in the mirror first thing in the morning... till I get my face on.

The Museum was just aw'right dog, it was just okay for me. For the life of me I cannot understand why this...

And even more specifically, why in the world, this?..

Apparently many of the answers we seek can be found by simply lifting the lid! There was more on poop, A LOT more, but I am too tired to to go on. It's time for me to take a break. Maybe I'll have some tea... and poop.

Saturday we stumbled upon Apacheland but it deserves a post of it's own. Hopefully I'll give it one!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Kaylee tagged me for this and I ALWAYS follow through with tags... sometimes... eventually I try!

My five faves

Five fave things

Five fave movies
Mamma Mia
The Notebook
Nat'l Lampoon's Vacation
Moulin Rouge
Little Miss Sunshine

Five fave books
"Ishmael" daniel quinn
"A Return To Love" marianne williamson
"The Historian" elizabeth kostova
"The Red Tent" anita diamant
"Pride and Prejudice" jane austen

Five fave foods
Sweet potato fries
Fresh squeezed juice
Ice cream

Five fave places
Anywhere in the Caribbean
The beach
Anywhere my family is

So that's me, in an approximately 25 word nutshell!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

WHY HOME'S COOL? *UPDATE! edit to FAQ paragraph*

I have been asked more in the last few weeks about homeschooling than any other time since I started ten years ago. I didn't realize how obvious it would be to Arizonians that we are "different" than most of the other families here. Everywhere we go on a week day, between the hours of 9am and 3pm, we get asked at least once why the kids are not in school! The difference must be that in Utah, public schools are on a year round rotation, with certain kids always "off-track." People are used to seeing school-aged kids tagging along with their parents during the day. Here... not so much. But nice old ladies at the grocery store are not the only ones asking about homeschooling. I've had a few people call, email, or just ask me about why we choose to educate this way, how we do it, and do I think they could pull it off. So I will answer the last question first by saying, yes, I believe ANYONE can homeschool, and be successful at it!

Why did I decide to homeschool? What drove me to give up precious, quiet hours that we all earn after raising babies to toddlers, and toddlers to pre-schoolers? The answer is both simple and complex at the same time. I was going to try to list all of these reasons from top to bottom, but in the end, none of the complex reasons matter because the simple reason for why I chose to homeschool, and stuck with it, is that it felt right. That doesn't mean it wasn't scary at first, or that it wasn't hard. It doesn't mean I didn't doubt myself on a regular basis either. But once I made the choice to do it, I gave it my all. I read stacks of books. I ordered curricula. I talked to other homeschoolers and got involved in a few activities and groups. It WAS scary, but I was determined to make it work. When I think back to the early years I have to laugh at myself. I wasted a lot of energy worrying about making Brit's homeschool experience as close to a public/private school experience as possible. My methods now are so different. That is the way it works though, you learn as you go.

So... how is it done? In Utah you can homeschool any way you like. The school district will not have much to say about how you teach your kids, or what you teach them, so long as they are being educated in some way or another for the required number of hours each year. If you are considering pulling your kids out of public or private school, the first thing you should do is to contact the school district where you live, inform them you will be homeschooling, and that you have sent your letter of exemption in. In Utah there is a state-wide organization for homeschoolers to help inform, protect, and educate parents called Utah Home Educators Association. I suggest visiting their website if you are considering homeschool. My guess is that each state has a similar organization that could be found thru a google search. Once you've pulled your kids out, my second bit of advice is to join a "group" of homeschoolers in your area. These groups are pretty easy to find nowadays by searching for them online. I personally subscribe to at least four Yahoogroups in my area, and participate actively with two of those groups. It helps to get involved with other homeschooling families. You can also join co-ops where actual classes are taught. And then, sit back and just let things happen for a while. Ease into it, find a flow, don't try to make your homeschool days feel like public/private school days. Some kids need to "decompress" after being in such a rigid kind of environment. It could take up to a year before everyone readjusts to the changes. Something important to remember is that when your kids are with you, they ARE learning. Even if you are outside weeding flower beds, or inside cleaning the kitchen, they are learning something from you. Everything we do is considered homeschool. Once you have a chance to catch your breath, start reading! Find whatever information you can on homeschooling. If you hate to read reference type stuff, use the internet, or talk to as many other homeschoolers as you can. Soon you will start to see your own brand of homeschooling emerge and you can build on that.

What does a typical day look like for us? K, I'm going to let you all in on a little tidbit about me... I am not a big schedule follower! I kinda despise rigidity and love flexibility. On the flip side, I like to feel in control and organized. Yes, I am my own worst enemy! The compromise is that we try to get all our academics done in the morning before lunch so that we can be more flexible in the afternoons. And the biggest thing I try to avoid is over-scheduling. Before we left for Arizona we would get up in the mornings, do our chores, take our showers, eat our breakfast, and then get going on the lessons we had for the day. This year I signed the kids up for classes offered in our area that they said they were interested in such as art, debate, and fitness. Kaylee belongs to a book group that meets once a month, and Brit belongs to a teen group that meets twice a month and then sometimes on weekends for activities. Kaylee has taken piano and violin for music, and Brit is learning to play the guitar. In Arizona we have not had the classes like we did at home, but the rest is similar.

FAQs. There are some predictable and frequently asked questions about homeschooling. What about socialization? What about friends? What about Prom? Aren't they missing out on so much? What about college? First, I think the fact that there are over a million registered homeschoolers in the U.S., and the numbers keep growing, says something about the perceived obstacles. I'm going to go out on a limb here and just say it like I see it... what kids are getting at school is NOT socialization! *Edited to say* Socialization (IMHO) is so much more than a few hours a day in a classroom or on a playground, it's about all the things and experiences we help provide for our kids, and the diversity of those experiences. I agree that if a family decides to homeschool mainly to keep their kids away from "regular" kids, there will be obvious differences. Our personal decision to homeschool was not to isolate our kids from society, but more to help them be a part of society, with fewer of the negative distractions that are inevitable in a crowded classroom. And friends? This issue has become more important as my kids get older, and has been something we do have to work on constantly. But, that is not always, or even usually the case for most if you live in an area where there are kids o' plenty and where you may have them involved in church and sports activities. Kids are starting to have to rely more on these types of friendships anyway as more people choose charter or private schools and neighborhoods are divided up this way. What about all of the rites of passage that your kids would miss out on? Prom and other school dances, high school graduation, sporting events or playing on teams. There are many ways to handle these issues and you have to handle them differently with each child. In Utah, at the high school level, kids can enroll part-time for only classes they are interested in, or they can enroll in a couple of classes to be eligible to play on the football, baseball, etc. team. Beyond that, there are so many leagues to get your kids involved with if sports are their calling in life. In Utah, we have two separate proms at the end of each school year, but again, there are ways to work around this issue. Each college or university has it's own requirements for admission. As far as I know, no one has ever been turned down admission to college or university because they were homeschooled, including Ivy Leaguers such as Stanford, Harvard, Yale, etc. The plan for getting into the college of your choice is to plan ahead! No matter how you've been educated, you must find out far enough in advance what that college or university will require of you, learn and study to the level that will be required, and do the pre-requisites that they will want from you. Most often, homeschoolers will simply need to show that they are/have been homeschooled, have taken a college entrance exam (ACT, SAT, etc.) and be able to pass the essay or admissions interview. Most homeschoolers who plan to continue on with their higher education actually get an early start by taking college courses online.

Wow! I'm getting tired! How 'bout you? Hopefully some of this info will help, especially the people who were asking in the first place. I could write a novel length post about it all, there's so much information to cover. I think this is good for now. The choice to homeschool is a very personal one. If it's what you FEEL is right for you and your family, the whys and hows will fall into place. However, it is much easier to take it on with help from others who have been there. I'm always willing to talk about what I've learned along the way. Just ask.

Monday, February 9, 2009


We had a fun weekend because Jeff was here and he brought a good idea with him. Since we are trying to take advantage of the many cool places to see in "The Valley" while we're here, there was bound to be another adventure this weekend. Jeff somehow found the info and directions to Queen Creek Olive Mill. How, and why would he suggest going to an olive mill? You'll have to ask him. But it WAS a good idea. Our trip and tour to the mill was both educational and DELICIOUS! We learned all about growing and harvesting olives, we learned that there really are no black olives and the process needed to get them black, and we now know what the difference between Extra Virgin olive oil, and all the others is. Did I already mention there are no black olives? And after our visit to Queen Creek Olive Mill, I doubt any of us will be eating black olives anymore. We did eat at the Mill though. The owner, "Perry," is Italian, for real, from Italy and he has a cafe right there at the Mill. We had bruscetta. Yes, Nate, I do know what bruscetta is:).


We also had salads and olives that were super-yum. But the best part of our lunch was the gelato! Rich, creamy, straight from Italy gelato.
Kaylee got vanilla bean

Brit got lemon and raspberry... he loves the sour!

Then we spent a crap-load of money on oils and olives.

Olive trees are pretty and smell so good!

Too many choices!

If the chance to tour an olive mill comes your way, I say, DO IT! We had a great time. We filled the rest of the weekend by dining at "Sakana" (our new fave Japanese joint here) with Mr. Woodard and Meggy on Friday night, Wii Fit, a long anticipated daddy/daughter brunch for Jeff and Kaylee, and a movie. We eat out a lot when Jeff is here because he is just not that into tofu and rice (imagine?!) and it's been fun to try new places. I think we found another new favorite this weekend in "Streets of New York" on Signal Booty and Baseline. Pizza, pasta, subs, and salads. We tried a little of each and everything we got was delish. For any locals reading... it's worth the drive all the way out here to East, East, way East Mesa. And since I am doling out advice and suggestions, I'll say this, "Coraline" is cute, but really, maybe not for younger kids. We're still kind of cocking our heads to the side and saying, "Ummmm... Hmmmmm...."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I have a nickname for most everyone, and for many inanimate objects as well. I get this from my Grandpa Dar I think. Moving to a new place has really been a mind-suck since I've apparently, and subconsciously, had to find nicknames for so many new things! I've had a dull kind of headache for a few days which should have been my first indicator that I needed to give it a rest, but it took me till this afternoon to put the pieces together. So... I won't be nicknaming anything new for a while, but that doesn't mean we can't have fun with the names I've already given out.

The Filipino boy who lives next to us is named Mac, pronounced "Mock", and who I call "Mocking Bird" or just Bird.

The guy who lives diagonally across from us is a permanent resident here, has a lot of "friends" coming and going, and doesn't seem to work on a regular basis. I've nicknamed him "The Dealer" for obvious reasons.

The girl Kaylee's age who lives behind us is Louise. I call her "Louisa May."

Signal Butte is one of the main streets in our little area, but we pronounce it "Signal Booty" because that is how Kaylee read the street sign the first time she saw it.

We use the San Tan Freeway quite often and I've dubbed it "Carlos Santana Fwy."

Which reminds me that I call another little boy, Sam, who lives by us "Sam Tan."

Our two dogs are named Dodger, who we call "Super" because he is the best dog ever, and Jasmine, who we call "Dummy" because she is a knuckle-head.

Kaylee and Brit have hundreds of nicknames by now. But lately Kaylee has been "Princess Pinchy Bottom."

I don't know why I give everyone a nickname, maybe it helps me to remember names and places. The longer I've know a person or place, the more nicknames I have for them. Am I the only one who does this? Is there some kind of scientific or psychological reason behind it? I don't know. I don't always call people or things by their nicknames either, especially if the name isn't very nice. If my grandpa were still alive, I'd ask him why he always gave people nicknames. Maybe he had it all figured out.

Monday, February 2, 2009


I'm happy to post that after only two days I have cut my Wii age down to 45! Does this seem fishy to anyone else?