Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Online Learning Replaces Snow Days

A school district in Ohio is trying online learning this year to replace snow days. Then they won't have to make up snow days in June, when no one wants to be inside!

Here's a link to the NPR story:


Monday, November 22, 2010

The Chosen

I just finished an excellent book, The Chosen by Chaim Potok. The story is about two Jewish boys growing up in New York City at the end of World War II. One boy is a Hasidic Jew named Danny. He becomes unlikely friends with the narrator, an Orthodox Jew named Reuven. Each of their fathers are important influential men, but the boys have very different relationships with their fathers. Danny's father is "raising him with silence", which means he only speaks to him when they are studying the Talmud. Reuven and his father talk about everything, including his friendship with Danny and the way Danny is being raised by his father.

I learned a great deal about Jewish history and thought from this book. I have to say, I admire the seriousness with which the characters in this book take their faith and the great lengths the older generation goes to in order to pass this faith down to their children. We Christians could learn a lot from them.

I can't put into words all my thoughts about this book, since I just finished it this afternoon. But I know it is one I will be thinking about for a long time to come.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bremer Bank

I heard a story yesterday on NPR's Marketplace about a great community bank in (of all places! :)) North Dakota. You can listen to the story here:


Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Thomas Jefferson Education

I am reading an excellent book right now, A Thomas Jefferson Education by Oliver Van DeMille. It's about using classics to educate your children. But the emphasis is on educating yourself first. One of my favorite quotes is, "In reality, you are unlikely to pass on to your children a better education than you have earned yourself. ... The most effective way to ensure the quality of their education is to consistently improve your own."

Another point the author makes repeatedly is that the purpose of education should be to help people be good. In other words, it should give them the wisdom to discern what is right and what is wrong in any situation, and the courage to do what is right regardless of the personal cost. Classics help in this endeavor by providing examples of people choosing right or wrong, and what the results of those choices are. By studying these examples, we can develop our ability to see situations in our own lives more clearly. And the examples of those who chose to do what is right can help us make those same choices.

I've been inspired to read and study more classics now, and I'm hoping I can inspire my family to join me!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Economic Trends and Grocery Shopping

This morning, while my favorite writers racked up more word count, I went grocery shopping. My usual store is a large discount grocery store which doesn't take credit cards and doesn't run specials or mail out weekly fliers. It isn't much to look at. It doesn't have a deli or coffee shop or any of the other amenities a lot of the other stores in town have. But it always has the best prices in town, which is why I shop there, because I'm cheap!

I got there before 8 am, and the place was already packed. I had to play cart derby and avoid running into other people and their carts as I went around corners. One thing I've noticed recently at this store is that they keep their stock rather low. I think it's called "just in time" supplying. They have just what they think they're going to sell and not one item more. And if you happen to be the 10th person that day who wants something they normally only sell 9 of, you are out of luck. That happened to me this morning. Despite the early hour I arrived and the fact that it's less than two weeks before Thanksgiving, they were out of turkey loaf.

(Now I can hear all you Thanksgiving purists and foodies exclaiming "Turkey loaf?? You eat turkey loaf? For Thanksgiving???" I've discovered over the years that the only thing my family likes about turkey is that you can make sandwiches with the leftover white meat. So now, instead of going to the trouble and expense to roast a large bird, only to have at least half never touched, I get an all-white-meat turkey loaf...it slices beautifully for sandwiches...and save my energy for making all the side dishes everyone really does love.)

I had to get turkey loaf. I mean, you can't have Thanksgiving without at least a token amount of turkey, right? And I wasn't planning to go grocery shopping again until after Thanksgiving. So I decided to stop at one of the "fancy" grocery stores on my way home and see if they had any. I get there, and the parking lot is almost empty. The aisles are quiet. I don't have to dodge any carts. It was eerie. Then I realize this is a sign of the current economy. The people who used to shop here on Saturday mornings are over at my regular store, because they've decided low prices are more important than all the niceties this store has to offer. For some reason, I felt a little sad. I found my turkey loaf and went home.

Friday, November 12, 2010

NaNo Goal Reached!

My daughter finished her NaNo novel yesterday, ending with 52,500 words! Today she started on her second novel. I couldn't keep that girl from writing even if I wanted to!

My husband is still working hard on his. If he keeps up his current pace, he will finish before Thanksgiving!

I'm so proud of my two writers, esp. since I've tried creative writing and know how hard it is. I can barely come up with a blog post every day!

(And I know this is a short one. It's Friday, and I want to spend time with my family. I'll try to come up with a longer one tomorrow!)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

What's for Dinner?

I love facebook! I know, it can be a huge time-waster. But it's a great way to keep in touch with people near and far. And it can be an excellent resource. Today I was planning meals for the next two weeks. (Grocery shopping requires me to get up at 5 am, so I can drive my husband to the bus stop...we have one car...so I try to limit going to once every two weeks.) I was uninspired and tired of making the same old meals. So I asked on facebook for some ideas. In less than thirty minutes, I had over a dozen great suggestions!

So in case you need some ideas, too, here they are:
Chicken spaghetti (put a couple frozen chicken breasts and a can of Italian style diced tomatoes in the crockpot. Put it on low all day, then serve it over pasta.)
Meatloaf, lasagna, chicken fajita, salmon patties, chicken marsala, chicken divan, chili
Grilled cheese sandwiches and soup
Potato-leek soup, corned beef and cabbage, shepherd's pie
Fritatta (It has diced potatoes in the bottom, with eggs, onion, bell pepper, and cheese (and a few other things) mixed and on top. Add bacon bits for fun on the top and bake.)


Monday, November 8, 2010

Happy Birthday, Margaret Mitchell!

Today is the birthday of Margaret Mitchell, the author of Gone with the Wind. She was one of the first women reporters for the Atlanta Journal back in the 1920's. But she was plagued with injuries which went back to a serious fall from a horse she'd had at the age of 20. She eventually had to give up her work and was confined to bed for a long period of time. Her husband brought her stacks of library books to give her something interesting to do. When she grew bored with reading books, he brought her a Remington typewriter and suggested that she write her own book. And we know where that led.

I'm sure the day she had to resign her newspaper job, she must have thought her life was over. Little did she know what was just around the corner. I wonder how many times we feel that way. Some tragedy or setback throws us for a loop, and we are sure life will never be the same. And we are right; it won't be. But perhaps God has something else, something bigger, waiting for us, if we'll just walk around that corner.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Working Vacations

We just got back from a conference my husband attended for his work. One of the advantages of schooling at home is that my daughter can work ahead and/or pack up her school and take it with her. So we take advantage of these working vacation opportunities whenever we can. My husband really enjoys having us along, too. I don't think he'd enjoy traveling for work otherwise. Homeschooling and virtual schooling are hard work, so it's nice to stop and realize some of the many benefits our family can enjoy because of it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Easy Hot Crab Dip

My NaNo Nerds were writing in full force today. No pesky school or work to keep them from racking up their word counts! So I decided to make them a special lunch. My local grocery store had "crab-flavored seafood" on special, and the package had a super-easy recipe on the back. The best part is this dish seems complicated, but it's not. My Nano-ers thought I spent all morning making it, when I really spent most of the morning on the couch, reading a good book!

8 oz. chunk-style crab (imitation crab works just fine!)
1 tsp. of lemon juice
4 oz. cream cheese
4 oz. sliced or chopped almonds
2 tbsp. milk
pepper to taste

Set aside half of the almonds. Mix together the rest of the ingredients. Put in an oven-proof container. Sprinkle the remaining almonds on top. Bake at 400 degrees F for 12 minutes. Serve with crackers or toasted bread.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Shhh...Don't Tell Chrisa!

Chrisa is busy in the bathroom. I think she's trying to make herself beautiful, so I may have the computer for a loooong time! So I have a chance to tell you all about how awful writers are.

Hey, no stealing my computer! Or insulting me on my new blog! Writers are not awful. It's these people who do nothing but sit on the computer and blog and never write anything interesting: they're the awful ones. I think that people who the only thing they do is blog should be banned!

Only thing I do?? I do a lot of useful, interesting things. I'm not the one who sits in my "home office" (really a bedroom!) all day staring at the computer! I actually go outside every day! I'm not the one with pasty white skin, and I'm not afraid of the sun. Unlike some people I know. Like I said before, writers are weird!

If you do so many useful, interesting things, then why don't you post about those things, instead of the lame posts you do, ranting about writers and professing your love to the dishes. And it is a home office! I actually get work done, unlike some people I know. What do you really do? Sit around and watch TV?

I've decided I'm done with this dump of a blog. You can have it back. You couldn't pay me to keep it. Bye, everyone!

If you want to check out a real blog, look at: chrisathomasstories.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NaNo Nerds Update: Day Four

The NaNo Nerds are still writing like nuts. I don't understand writers...personally, I think they must all be crazy. I mean, think about it...they sit around all day, thinking about people they just made up, and acting like these people are real! My daughter will say that she just found out something about one of her characters, something this character never told her before! Hello?? You made up this character! How can she be *telling* you ANYTHING?? It's like Susan said in the first Narnia movie..."They're beavers! They shouldn't be saying anything!" Don't you agree with me? How can anyone think writers are normal...oh, help! I'm being attacked!! Save me plea....

Hello. This is Chrisa Thomas. I have taken this blog over from that ridiculous woman who ran it (extremely badly) before. Now you'll finally get quality writing on here! I have kidnapped Mrs. Thompson so she will no longer be able to post atrocious lies on this dump of a blog. Talk to you soon for some quality blogging.

Chrisa Thomas

Editor's Note: The Battle of the Blog will continue tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Day, the Day After

Republicans across the country are celebrating their huge gains today, and those of us in Wisconsin are no exception. Here, the Republicans took the governor's office, as well as winning a comfortable majority in both the senate and the assembly. Those of us with children enrolled in public charter online ("virtual") schools have high hopes that the next legislative session will be good for our schools.

Let the celebrating begin!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Doing My Duty

Today I took my daughter to her school's state testing site. She attends a public charter online school, and one of the duties we parents agree to is that our kids will participate in state testing. I'm no fan of standardized testing, and there were a dozen other things she would have rather done today (like write more on her NaNo story!). But every privilege comes with responsibilities. We are very grateful for this public school option, and so we cheerfully (more or less) went to testing.

I also did my duty as a citizen of my country, my state, and my village this morning and voted. I am excited about several of the candidates I voted for; a couple are just the least worst. But it is a huge privilege to live in a country where we have a say in who our leaders are. And as my father-in-law says, if you don't vote, you don't get to complain. (Actually, he doesn't use the word "complain", but this is a family-friendly blog!)

And now what you all really want to know: how did the NaNo Nerds do on their first day? Excellent! They both exceeded their personal word count goals for the day, and they enjoyed the writing process. As for me and the dog, we took a walk together, then he napped while I read. It's been a long time since I just sat and read a book for pleasure. It was great fun, but I have a feeling it might get old by Day Thirty.

Tune in tomorrow for Day Three!

Monday, November 1, 2010

NaNoWriMo Widowhood: Day One

NaNoWrMo officially started at 12:01 this morning. My daughter actually set her alarm, got up, and wrote for over an hour. Then she went back to bed and wasn't seen until quite a while past her usual wake-up time. (One of the joys of schooling at home..no bus to catch!) And don't think she is unique in this craziness. Several of her writing buddies from around the country were writing at the same time. They even set up a chat room so they could give each other updates. They were jealous of the girl who lives on the east coast, because she got to start writing before the rest of them. (Evil time zones!) And the poor girl in California! Everyone else had gone to bed before she got to start writing!

My husband (who did have a bus to catch this morning) did not get to participate in this party. But he is ready to start the minute he gets home from work this afternoon. So it looks like I'm going to be spending a lot of quality time with the dog for the next 30 days. Wish me luck!