Thursday, June 28, 2012

What Were We Thinking?

Yep, we've gone and done it.  We are fostering 5 kittens that are about 13 weeks old.  We have been thinking about doing this for a couple years but knew we couldn't do it till we were no longer renting.  I had contacted someone letting them know we would be interested as soon as we got the renovations done on our house but we received an urgent email looking for someone willing to foster 2 kittens.  When I called the contact, I was asked if we'd be willing to watch 5 instead.  We were reluctant to take 5 at first but we might as well;  they needed a place to stay and we have the space.

The skittish one
The playful one

The reluctant one

The friendly one

The loving one
As any regular reader knows, my daughter loves all animals.  She has talked about how she wants to be a vet or work at an aquarium.  We figure that fostering will give our daughter an idea of what it's like to care for an animal (physically and emotionally) and then have to give it to it's (new) owner.

Hubby and I agree that we need to do everything we can to help our children focus their learning on  the thing God has called them to do which we'd like to this is also something they enjoy doing.  That means we first need to help make sure they REALLY know what they want to do.

Hubby has been teaching our son computer programming with programming robots as the ultimate goal.  So far our son is still very excited and gun-ho about robots as his future vocation.  This allows us to make sure that everything he does is focused on making sure he is moving toward that ultimate goal.  Why send him to horse camp if he'd be better served by $200 in cash to spend on parts to build a robot (or robot camp in a year or two when he's old enough)?

So how can we help our daughter determine if she really wants to care for animals?  That's simple, let her care for animals.  If she enjoys caring for kittens and can part with them once they are adopted, then maybe we can move on to something else like talking to someone who works at the local aquarium or talking to a vet, or someone at a zoo (or all three).  The woman from the rescue said that if these work out well, she would even consider letting us take younger ones to let my daughter get a more full experience of the kitten experience.

All I know is that these kittens are SO cute and sweet, I might have trouble parting with them too.

Oh, and we found a bonus too.  We had a couple days notice before the kittens were dropped off so we convinced the kids to do a REALLY good job of cleaning up their toys so we didn't have any kitten hazards out when they showed up.  I must say, the house ended up pretty clean.  :-)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Big Reveal

In my last blog post I mentioned that I had been in a self-imposed hold for my life.  I told you that I was trying to accomplish a goal I had set and that I was working on my next goal and would probably be in another sort of hold for a while.

Well, today I'm going to tell you what this is all about.

I have decided to become a licensed realtor.  This is not a decision I came to lightly.  In fact I've been thinking about it for about 3 years but wanted to wait till the kids were older.  Technically, I'd like to wait till they are even a few years older, but life has necessitated that I do this now.

You see, a month ago my husbands hours were cut dramatically and for an indefinite period of time.  He is working on a new idea that we think will be able to bring in enough money to pay the bills, the only problem is that it will not be to that point for a few more months (maybe as many as 6 - 12).  So in order to help pay the bills without eating up all our savings till we get to that point, I decided I would try to find some work.  I still wanted to be able to have pretty flexible hours so of course I thought real estate.

When I contacted the realtor who helped us buy our new house asking her what I needed to do to get the process started, she asked me to come in to her office so we could talk about it.  When I got there, her partner was with her and I was offered a job working as a buyers agent once I got my license.  This is awesome on multiple levels: 1. My realtor was AWESOME!  She is the kind of person I want as a mentor and now she's going to be!  2. I got a job offer based on the way I bought our house (first time ever I think that's happened), and 3. I feel this was God's way of saying that this is the right thing for me to be doing right now.

So, what has been taking up all my time.  The licensing process of course.  In order to take the state test, you have to take a 63-hour state-approved class.  At the end of that class there is also a test.  Well, this last weekend I wanted to complete the class and take the end of class test.  All I needed to do to successfully complete the course was to get a 70% or higher on the test.  How thrilled was I when I got an 89%! 

The class I took was an on-line class.  That way I could fit it into my busy schedule but also because the earliest classroom class doesn't start till July 10.  During the online class, I had a few technical problems accessing the book so I ended up getting a study guide off Amazon so I could make sure I would meet my goal of taking the test when I wanted to.  After ordering the book the technically difficulties went away so I never really needed it.

Once I finished the class I scheduled my state test for the first available date which is July 3.  Since I have over a week to wait, I decided to take the practice tests in the study guide I bought to make sure I didn't forget any information.  I've taken 2 of 5 sample tests and I barely passed one and failed the other.  Not because I forgot a lot of information but because the book covered more information than apparently the online class did.  AAAAKKKK!!! 

So now I'm freaking out that I'm not going to pass the test next Tuesday.  My parents are planning on coming down in a few days to bring a 15' sail boat for us to store (and use - yippy!) so I know I will have them watching the kids some while I cram some more.

One more thing that I know will be really helpful.  Prayer.  If you could please do me a favor and pray for me I would appreciate it. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Life Off Hold

The last week it's felt like my life was on hold.  I admit it was self-imposed.  You see I had set a goal for myself that I wanted to complete something before the end of the weekend (yesterday) so I did everything in my power to make sure I did what I needed to accomplish that task.  Unfortunately, it meant some other things have not been taken care of as well as I would have liked.  Today I got to work on all of that.

So far today I've:
  • done laundry (lots of it), 
  • swept the house (I love having tile and pergo - no need to get the vacuum out all the time)
  • caught up on paying the bills
  • sent in paperwork to change our address for voter registration
  • made numerous phone calls I've been needing to make for a while
  • moved stuff from the camper to the house (we all start sleeping in the house beginning tonight).  All the noise from the wind and rain last night meant I hardly slept at all so I just decided tonight I would not endure it again.
  • listed to my daughter read to me (my favorite thing, I must admit)
On my list for the rest of today:

  • spot mop the kitchen and dining areas
  • get my grocery list together
  • make dinner
  • clean up some branches that fell on our driveway
  • research how to prop up our poor banana tree (it didn't like the wind and rain either)
  • and after the kids go to bed, I'm going to start working on my next big self-imposed, time-sucking goal.  It has a deadline of July 3 so it won't last too long.  It's completion will bring some definite changes for my family.  More to come on that soon  :-)
Now I'm off to work on my list.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Science, Daddy Style

I'm sorry this post is so late in coming, but needless to say things have been hectic (and it took me a while to track down the pictures I wanted to include since some were on my phone and some were on hubby's). 
Anyway, a while back my hubby mentioned that he wanted to do an experiment with the kids that he's wanted to do since he was in high school.  He was never able to do it because he never had an extended period of time near salt-water.  So a couple months before we moved out of the rental house he got the experiment started. 

What was it?  Making our own coral reef.  Cool huh?!?  It requires Daddy’s special skill set as well because his research showed you need to have an electrical current to make it work (hubby’s an electrical engineer / computer science major for those who don’t know).  Essentially you make a current go through the metal mesh screen (pictured below) and the calcium will be attracted to the screen.  Once enough calcium builds up, little critters should come and voila, you have a coral reef.

Daddy showing us his creation
Getting it ready to put in the water

Into the water it goes

Hooking up the power

After a little over 12 hours we were already seeing a slight buildup of calcium.

All the little white dots are calcium building up.
Unfortunately, the stainless steel rod we used as part of the circuit must not have been completely stainless steel because it began to rust and eventually fell off.  We ended up leaving the crate in the canal while we tried to figure out what to do. 

Needless to say, closing on a house and moving ended up taking over our time and we kinda forgot about the experiment.  As we were gathering up the last of our stuff from the rental we remembered that we had left the crate tied up off the back dock (probably not a good thing to leave it there for a boat to crash into).  When we pulled it up, this is what we found.

We even had a few barnacles.  

Coral!  How cool is that?!
We're not exactly sure why the coral attached to the plastic and not the metal (as the research showed it would), or why it didn't need the electrical current for the entire time it was in the canal but it's pretty cool that it happened. 

I guess all of those questions will be left for another day.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Florida = Visitors

I know fellow Floridians can relate to this, but living in Florida means you have visitors particularly in the Winter.  My in-laws visited us in the rental house in January.  My parents visited in February.  I can't say I blame them.  They are from Iowa and Virginia respectively and temps in Florida are a break from the monotonous cold (it is why we moved South).

What I wasn't expecting was for everyone to visit us again in May.  My mother-in-law came for a little over a week while my father-in-law was on a business trip (Again, I can't blame her.  I don't like being home alone either).  What was really surprising was to get a call from my parents asking if they could stay for a little while.  They were half way to us and wanted to surprise my daughter for her birthday.

Who are we to turn away family!  So we had 3 visitors at our house at the same time (while it was still under construction).  We were able to get one of the bedrooms done just in time so that we could squeeze everyone in.

What our visitors may not have expected was that we put them to work while they were with us  :-)  My dad was put to work by my husband almost every day doing things in the yard.  They cut down a few trees, pulled lots of weeds, and removed some of the stuff the previous owner had left behind.  Just about every evening, all the adults (and occasionally the kids) were out doing work in the yard.  

My mother-in-law also did a lot of cleaning inside the house.  You see, the bedrooms all had blinds that were covered in mildew.  Needless to say, opening your windows and letting all the Florida humidity in the house and then turning on the A/C is not a good idea.  I am amazed at how clean they are too!  I had considered just buying new ones, but now I don't have to.

We weren't all about the work though.  We did play some too.  We swam in our pool a few times (great way to cool off after all the yard work) and we all went to the beach too.

One thing I know is that, those few days of working with others has given us a bit of a kick in the pants that we needed to get more things done.  It's been really nice being able to check things off the list.

Anyone else want to visit?  We could really use some help putting up some gutters and creating drainage ditches for the torrential rain we get occasionally ;-)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Growing Up

This weekend is a special occasion.  One of my dearest friends has a daughter who is turning 6 years old.   It seems like just yesterday I visited her in the hospital with my almost 3 week old daughter.  Time sure does fly!  Happy birthday E!

That means that almost 3 weeks ago (during my hiatus from my blog and Facebook) my daughter turned 6.  I can't believe how fast time is going by!  It seems like just yesterday my daughter came home from the hospital.

For my daughter's birthday this year we decided to get a pass to Busch Gardens for the rest of the year for the entire family (and Sea World for the kids and I).  So a couple days before her birthday we went to Busch Gardens for the day.  Daughter and I were all about seeing the animals and Hubby and Son were all about the rides.  We all had a great day that was topped off by a visit to my Uncle's house for dinner and some catching up.  Needless to say the day was a success!

The last few years, it has become very apparent that my daughter LOVES animals.  Just about any animal in fact.  She can see a snake and say, "Awwww, it's so cute."  (That is SO not how Mommy & Daddy feel about snakes!)  The animals she's most fascinated with right now however are parrots and dolphins.  That's why it was really cool, when she got this sign for her birthday from Grandpa and Grandma.

Daughter's name has been removed from pic for safety reasons
This love of sea live is also the reason we added the Sea World pass.  It's also instigated something else lately.  My son does everything in his power to not write (a boy thing I've been told), but my daughter has a new-found love of writing, in particular about animals (and movies about animals such as Winter).  Sometimes she will copy from a book and sometimes she will draw pictures of her own and then ask an adult how to write the words she wants to go with the pictures.  She's even phonetically sounded out some words on her own as a surprise gift to me (it's so cute when it's technically spelled wrong but I know she spelled it correct phonetically).

I love seeing my daughter grow up and become a "big girl."  I pray I will be able to see her as a young woman and as a mother some day.  I just kinda wish it wouldn't happen this fast.

I bet E's mom would agree.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Like Father, Like Son

Anyone who knows my husband and his family knows there are numerous engineers in the family.  Some have engineering degrees (they cover mechanical, computer, and electrical engineering I believe) and those that don't have an engineering degree seem have a knack for figuring things out.

My son is certainly following in the family tradition.  The other day I asked him to make me something to prop open one of the doors in the house.  I told him how much I wanted it opened and the rest was up to him.  He came up with a door stop made of K'Nex.

A couple weeks ago, our family went to Orlando for the first annual Orlando Mini Maker Faire. 

Essentially it's a nerd fest.  So hubby and son were in heaven.  There were booths where you could see things that people had built (e.g. local school's who participated in First Robotics competitions, a couple who invented a better swimming flipper, and people who made model R2D2's, among many others items).

There was also an area where kids could solder LED eyes into a robot pin.

Hubby was impressed as was the person overseeing. OK... so was I.
Daughter wasn't as interested in the faire, but she was drawn to one booth in particular.  The toucan and the fruit hanging from the tree in the picture below were animatronic and moved their "lips" or beak to the lyrics of various songs played using an iPod.  It was pretty cool.

Needless to say, next year the girls will be staying home.  I'm sure the boys will be going back though.  After all, they found a vendor there that sold them a basic programming kit that was up and running after just a couple hours of working on it.

Can you tell that my son was happy that he had written a program "all by himself"?

It's amazing to see how much alike my husband and son are.  Right now, my son is very proud of that fact.  Based on my recollection, that desire will end around the teen years so I suppose we'd better enjoy it while we can.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Be Careful What You Ask For

For the last few months we've been experiencing what I'm told is a pretty typical dry spell in Florida.  We noticed it because the pools (we have one at the rental to deal with as well as the new house) have been loosing so much water to evaporation that we've had to drag out the hose to fill them back up.  We've also been out regularly watering our orange trees.  Needless to say, we've been praying for rainy season to come so we could stop all the extra water consumption.  Maybe we should have been a bit more specific in our prayers...

We were living in our camper in Florida this time last year and we got to experience a leak into the camper and some flooded roads at the campground but we figured that was just a case of maintenance (on the camper and the campground).  A couple days ago we discovered what it's really like to experience the rainy season in Florida. 

Florida rainy season can be brutal!  I was not prepared to do any measuring so I'm not exactly sure how much rain we got, but based on the increased water in our pool I would say it's a good guess that we got 4" in about an hour.  We ended up with a total of about 5" before it was all said and done. 

The lady we bought our house from mentioned that the water had a tendency to run down the driveway toward the detached garage, but we weren't expecting THIS much.

Just to the side of the garage.  You can see the water flowing around the building.

We also found that the water pooled in the back yard,

parts of the front yard,

and made a river of our entire driveway including the carport.

Driveway after the rain

The house is also lacking gutters so we ended up with sheets of water flowing off the edges of the house.

Looking out to screened in pool
A couple days before the rain, I noticed that our banana plants seemed to be a little water logged.  Now we know why.

Base of banana plants
So now we are coming up with a plan of attack to help with all of this.  We want to get gutters (which we will use to collect rain water from for dryer times), we need to do something about the driveway, and we need to do something about the pooling water in the area where we were planning on putting our garden.  Afterall, we don't want our seeds floating away when it rains.

Proposed garden area.
All I know is that rain is a good thing, but there is a limit. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Back From My Break

I'm not sure how many people realized it, but I took about a week hiatus from Facebook and my blog.  OK, technically I haven't posted on my blog in well over a week.  Part of the reason was because we've been busy (I'll write about some of that later), but the main reason is because I wanted to rethink whether I even want to keep using Facebook and keep up with my blog.

When I first started my blog, my goal was to stay in touch with family and friends once we moved to Australia.  When we discovered we would not be moving to Australia and started touring around the US in our travel trailer I was hopeful I would end up with other homeschoolers following what we were doing.  Needless to say, the travel only lasted 3 months and I have only one follower outside of my family and long-time friends.  A bit discouraging to say the least.

So what's a girl to do when things aren't going the way she had hoped?  Regroup.  And that's what I've been doing the last week or so.  I have decided that I'm going to keep doing the blog, but my focus will be on informing friends and family of what we are doing and not worrying about how many followers I have.  I know the grandparents are particularly fond of hearing and seeing what we are doing and my blog is a great forum to share it with everyone all at once.

I am not planning on closing my Facebook account any time soon either, but I did learn that I don't have to check it nearly as often as I was before.  It was kind of nice having all that "free" time to do other things.