Taekwondo Tournament

Yesterday we all competed in a taekwondo tournament between the Victory schools in the area.


Adrian got best forward roll for his board break (they don’t score the little people the same as they score everyone else), Fritz got 4th (participation) for his traditional form and 3rd for his traditional weapons form (nunchucks), and Cameron got 1st place for both his traditional form and extreme weapons form.


Jamie got 3rd for his traditional form, Ani got a participation award, and I got 3rd for board breaking.


Standardized Test Season is Upon Us

The other day I took the paper my older kids brought home with them a few weeks ago and highlighted the dates of the standardized tests they’ll be taking. Ani’s first is on Monday (English). She also had to take algebra and biology. Cameron will have to take reading and math.

I hate standardized tests. I get that we apparently have to prove kids are learning something in a way that isn’t teacher given grades. But I’m not sure standardized tests is the way to do that.

A few times over the course of the year so far they’ve taken what they call benchmark tests. These tests give an idea of how well the kids are doing in class and whether they are likely to pass. But those benchmarks have pretty much nothing to do with the reality of classroom work and assignments.

For example, Cameron got a 64% on his most recent reading benchmark. This was apparently a “good” score. If it was the actual test he would’ve passed by a large margin. Never mind his next lowest grade for the quarter was 80%. The benchmark scores count in their final grades (though his reading teacher actually dropped the benchmark score in his third quarter grade calculation because it was so ridiculously out of the norm for him). Ani’s had some similar way out of the norm scores on her benchmarks, too.

For the last week and a half in Ani’s English class they have been prepping for the test on Monday. Basically learning how to pass. This means that’s 2 full weeks (plus random days through the school year) devoted to test prep. They could have used that time to learn things that are actually relevant in the real world.

Standardized testing doesn’t start until 3rd grade. And yet my kindergartener and second grader were doing test-prep-lite on occasion. From early on these kids start getting stressed over these tests. Ani’s a bit anxious about her English test on Monday. Never mind she’s gotten high A’s all three quarters this year in English. Then again, a sophomore friend who is brilliant failed his English STAAR last year the first time he took it. He had A’s every quarter in English, too.

The superintendent said he’d get rid of the standardized tests if he could, if they weren’t required by the state. I know a lot of parents would stand up and cheer if he did.

My Fourth Reader

I taught three kids to read, but my fourth insisted that he had to go to school and have a teacher teach him to read. Mommies can’t do that. Never mind he had already learned his letters, their sounds, how to sound out CVC words, and a few sight words at home. In public kindergarten, he learned just a few more sight words he didn’t already know. That’s it for learning to read in 5 months. Since I brought him back home in January, I’ve been working on teaching him to read (actually we started after school before I pulled him out). I got Primary Arts of Language: Reading (which we love). And now he is reading. Reading quite easily, actually.

On Friday, since he had proven he could read all the words in the first reader without a problem (well, down is still giving him a little trouble), he got the reader. This video is him reading it the second time (he actually read it better the first time because he was much less distracted). The video is very long and I mostly just videoed it so when he is older he can watch it and see himself reading his first ever book. I don’t have a good stapler so I had to put it together a bit wonky (it’s 28 pages long plus the cover) so when I tried to video him holding and reading it, it didn’t work out because he was more concerned about the flapping pages and strange placement of the staples. It worked better with me holding the book while he read (and Cameron using the camera), but he still had some random questions and comments every so often.

If you had told me 2 years ago…

…that we’d be doing taekwondo – and enjoying it – today, I’d’ve asked you what you were smoking. And I’d’ve been pretty sure it was something very, very strong.


We were couch potatoes. Cameron used to play outside, but as he got older, even he started preferring to sit on his butt all day long.


None of us liked sports. We didn’t like to exercise. I didn’t even like to sweat! Ever.


Then – and who knows what we were thinking – we signed up for taekwondo. For four months 5 of us took classes twice a week and now Ani does as well.


It’s not just taekwondo either. Four of us do kickboxing, too (0-3 times a week depending on our schedules).


And the crazy part? We love it! We absolutely love it! It feels good. It’s fun to do together as a family. It’s totally awesome!

Pi Day 2014

We celebrate Pi Day (3/14) every year with pizza and pie for dinner. This year I discovered I signed up to feed the sister missionaries on Pi Day (just happened to be an open slot… it didn’t even occur to me when I signed up what day it was).

This year we made four pizzas. One cheese, one pepperoni (with the pepperoni making pi of course), and two Mediterranean (one with kalamata olives, one without).


For dessert Ani made a cherry pie and I made a chocolate cream pie.


Our celebration was made totally awesome because the sisters totally got it. In fact, one was in the MTC Pi Day last year and her parents sent her a pie to celebrate. She had memorized Pi to 314 places in high school just for fun. When it came time to share a spiritual thought, they tried Alma 3:14 and then Mosiah 3:14. Neither were especially obviously good for a spiritual thought, but they managed to totally tie them together and give a lovely Pi Day thought to leave us with!

Rainbow Cake!

Some time ago Ani begged us to buy her a very expensive (for cake mix at least – it was 3 bucks!) tie dye cake mix. Being the awesome parents we are, we got it for her. And then it sat in the cabinet for a couple months because Ani is usually ridiculously busy and never had time to make it. This week is Spring Break, so after she got home from taekwondo camp yesterday, she and Adrian made the cake together.



Adrian told Ani he wanted to “scramble” the eggs but first he had to “cut” them to get the insides out.


They divided the batter into 6 different bowls.


Then they (well, Ani) added specific numbers of drops of dye to the bowls of batter and then mixed them in. She added a few extra drops to the red one because it initially came out really pink.



Next Ani carefully poured about half of each color of batter into the cake pans in rainbow order. The result was beautiful round rainbows ready to be put in the oven.



About 20 minutes later the layers were baked. Interesting how different the two layers came out in the end!


Once cooled, they were ready to be iced. Cameron even got involved at this step (still wearing his taekwondo belt).


Ani got the honor of cutting the cake.


It made an excellent, delicious dessert! It may have been an expensive mix, but it was totally worth it for a special treat.


Laundry Detergent

Over the weekend I made a new batch of laundry detergent. I really love this stuff. It make our clothes feel so much cleaner than premade detergent.

I assembled all my ingredients. Borax, baking soda, super washing soda, oxiclean, and fels naptha.

I decided to try microwaving the soap and crushing it instead of grating it. This saved tons of time! I unwrapped the bars one at a time and put them in the microwave.

After 2 minutes of nuking, they were all puffed up and funny looking. The house also reeked of soap. Fels Naptha doesn’t have much of a scent normally, but for some reason microwaving it really releases the smell.

After a few minutes of cooling I broke apart the puffed up bars. This was super easy. The result looked bizarrely like scrambled eggs.

After another few minutes of cooling, I scooped the soap bits into our little Ninja a bit at a time and processed them for a few seconds.

The result is powdered Fels Naptha. I decided to do it this way because I almost always wash clothes in cold water and even though I didn’t have an issue with the grated soap dissolving fully, I figured this way might be better. Plus it mixes with the other ingredient powdered better than grated.

I poured about half the ingredients (the recipe is here) into my bucket and mixed well and then added the other half and mixed again.

I put the newly mixed up detergent into my fabric softener crystals container (from last time – I didn’t use the crystals this time) so it’s all ready and convenient to use.

My last batch lasted about 14 months so I expect this batch will as well meaning I won’t have to worry about making laundry detergent until at least May of 2015.

4 lb 12 oz box of Borax – $3.38
3 lb 7 oz box of Super Washing Soda – $3.24
3 lb container of Oxiclean – $7.52
4 lb box of Baking Soda – $2.18
4 bars Fels Naptha – $3.88 (97 cents each)
Total Cost: $20.20

Figuring about 300 loads of laundry (which is probably figuring low), this works out to about 6 1/2 cents per load. Honestly, I’d use this stuff even if it was more expensive than regular detergent because it gets the clothes so much cleaner looking and feeling. The fact that it’s really cheap is a great bonus.

Fritz’s First Paragraph

I don’t love the writing part of Shurley English as time goes on, but for now I am using it with Fritz (we’ll switch to IEW probably in the fall). Yesterday, Fritz wrote his first paragraph. It was a two-point paragraph on the topic of favorite colors. He told me he has never written so much at once in his life and he didn’t really enjoy it.


My Favorite Colors

People have so many favorite colors. My favorite colors are red and blue. I am starting to like red. Red is a bit pretty because it is on rubies. I have always liked blue. Since water is blue it is my favorite color. I think red and blue are pretty nice colors.