Near record flooding

Here in Interior Alaska we have been having a lot of rain recently. While it normally is rainy starting this time of year, it usually is just showers, drizzle, and mist rather than steady rain like this year. We’ve gotten over 3 inches of rain this week with another inch or two expected tonight.

Rivers are flooding around Fairbanks with some roads under 2 feet of water closest to the rivers. Normally the Chena river in Fairbanks is 1-2 feet deep but was more than 8 feet deep today and still rising. The Tanana river is normally around 21 feet deep but was over 26 feet deep today, more than 2 feet above flood stage. The flood warnings have been extended through Saturday as it is continuing to rain. According to the National Weather Service, this is the highest water level on the Tanana river since the record flooding in August 1967.

Cancer and cell phones

There was an AP article today about a researcher in the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute who is raising alarm about the possible link between cell phone use and brain cancer. Cell phone emit radiation between a tv and a microwave oven. While the new models are better than the older ones they still give off the radiation. There’s just no way around it since that’s how the signal is relayed and received.

You would never think to put your head in a microwave and most people don’t sit directly against their tv so what’s different about a cell phone? First a cell phone is designed to be against your head. Yes, you can now get those hand’s free headsets, but a lot of people still don’t use them. Second, a cell phone is portable and convenient. It has become ingrained in our instant gratification society. Even children are using them.

Here lies the biggest threat. Most research has been short or medium term in duration. The reasearchers are biased for cell phone being harmless and thus most of the results have confirmed minor risk. However, there is growing evidence that long term exposure to cell phone use has increased risk of brain damage and brain cancer. At what point does the minimum risk add up to become long term exposure has not been determined.

3 years ago my husband started getting headaches when he used a cell phone so (this among other reasons) we stopped using one. On the rare occasions he needs to use someone else’s phone, he still gets headaches. We know of others who also get headaches from cell phone use.

Having a friend’s dad die a few years ago from brain cancer, it’s not something I want to take a risk for getting or giving a device to my children which may cause it. It’s just not worth it no matter how small the risk. Even one child getting cancer from cell phones is too many.

The most common reason for getting cell phones for kids is safety. Yet only a very small amount of call made on cell phones are safety calls that can’t be made from elsewhere like pay phones. Sadly as more people start using cell phones, more companies are taking out pay phones, making it harder for those of us without a cell phone. Some calls are business related that need on-the-spot decisions but a vast majority of them are just chatter.

With all the risks, we should err on the side of caution. Instead it seems cell phone use is on the increase, especially among young people. Plus now wireless computer internet is becoming widespread. While this is safer because it isn’t right next to your head, it still worries me.

Perhaps I’m being a bit over conservative or jumping to conclusions. Still, I like my brain and especially my kids to work. I’d almost say cell phones and wireless devices are becoming the new cigarettes. 50 years ago or so when cigarette use was becoming widespread, it’s use was considered fashionable. The risks were considered minimal. Now we’ve had long-term studies and thousands of people have died from their use. We can keep this from happening with cell phones if we are cautious and put limits of usage on them now, especially for kids and young people whose brains are still developing. A cell phone should be a choice of last resort for communications not the first.

Ordering 2nd grade

Today was a good mail day. I got the packet for ordering stuff through the school district for this year and the Adventures in Odyessy CD’s. I’m going to do purchase orders this week so things will hopefully be here when I get back from my trip and we can begin school. I already have the Christian Light Education order for language arts, reading, Bible, and preschool.

Here’s what I still need:

Math-U-See: Beta, student and teacher kits

WinterPromise: The World Around Me and American Story 1

Atelier Art: Level 2, module 1 (I may wait until we have started school a few weeks for this)

The weather has been giving us a taste of fall. Temperatures have been in the 50’s during the day and mid or low 40’s overnight. I actually had a small yellow leaf fall on the car yesterday and there is a yellow leaf on a tree outside our living room window. *sigh* Winter’s coming. It is supposed to get back into the upper 60’s later this week before starting our fall rains. I’m going to melt back East. Their low temperatures are warmer than our high temps!

Oops proof recipes

Once again my More With Less cookbook has proved its worth. I love this cookbook. i have seldom had to go to the store to buy anything I need unless it is something that I’ve run out of anyway. The recipes are easy, healthy, filling, and my family gobbles them down. They are also cheap to make which is a plus in these days of rising prices for everything. We have made 2 recipes just today from it- pancake mix and lentils with beef (or in our case moose).

Most of them can be stretched for company and are forgiving. I found this out tonight. A lentil recipe calls for only 2T of rice but with the kids distracting me, I put in 2 cups! No big deal since it was in my biggest pot already. I just added a little extra spice and more water. Now we will have left overs.

I just wish there was a place to buy lentils in bulk. I have only found them in 1 pound bags at the grocery stores and Sam’s Club doesn’t carry them. The price recently went up from 99 cents to $1.19. That’s a 20% increase! Still not bad considering I can get 3 big meals from 2 bags.

Tips for hands-on learners

I got an e-mail today asking for advice for kinesthetic (hands-on) learners. Since there are probably more out there wondering the same thing, I thought I’d post my reply here.

Thanks for asking about teaching methods I use. We’re changing things around a bit this year. I’m finding the biggest thing is just have a variety of activities and allow lots of wiggle time instead of insisting he sit doing writing based activities all day, although we will still do some of that too. He also needs consistency in routines. For instance he knows we do reading every day, he will have to do the workbook lesson but the lessons themselves may be different activities. Part of learning for kinesthetic kids is learning when you really need to just sit still and get the work done. That’s hard and we try to limit that time and have movement breaks or activities between them.

My husband and I are also very fond of little teachable moments. Taking a minute or two to explain why something is the way it is. Then when he “officially” learns that he can remember what we were doing then and it helps him better understand.

One thing that has helped greatly in all subjects is using a kitchen timer. I give him a set amount of time to do the work. If it is done before the timer goes off he may get a reward. If not then he has some sort of punishment unless he has tried but truly doesn’t understand the work. Rewards can be extra time the next day, going to the park, extra free time, or occasionally a small treat. Punishment is usually loss of a privilege or time-out and depends upon how much extra time he takes to complete the work.


We love to use Math-u-See for math so he can fiddle with the blocks to find the math answers after watching brief the video intro. As Mr. Demme always says, “Build it, Write it, Say it.” Using multiple senses makes memorizing anything easier. I’ve tried to apply this to other areas of his learning.

LANGUAGE ARTS and READING SKILLS, I switched from Abeka to Christian Light Education. Abeka was through but not very engaging. The work was very repetitive and he was getting burned out by the end of the year. Abeka reading only had very basic comprehension questions whereas CLE has a full range of reading skills and comprehension. CLE has more variety in their workbooks even though they are more plain. They also have study skills lessons which Abeka didn’t. I think these are important to learn (especially for kinesthetic learners) and not all parents know them or how to teach them so having them built into the curriculum is great.

He’s already reading about 4th grade level going into 2nd! Intensive phonics was the key here. We used gross motor skills and tactile learning to help reinforce the phonics but the phonics was primary. Once he decided to read, he can’t put books down. I try to get things he is interested in and let him read wherever he wants. We are using WinterPromise so he has activities to reinforce the reading rather than narration.

Keeping the lessons short and focused without a lot of distractions (such as busy pictures or multiple topics/sounds at the same time) so he could maximize his sitting still time when first learning to read really helped. I’m going to use CLE’s Learning to Read program with my daughter rather than Abeka for this reason. Their progression of sounds is better too. They have little rhymes and stories for each sound. The kids can move around when learning them rather than staring at a flash card. Flash cards didn’t help much for my son. He did like to play matching games with them but as regular flash cards, he couldn’t sit still for very many and we both grew bored with them that way. Most of all constant review was essential but had to be done in a creative manner to keep his attention.

I hope this helps. I have a blog with more homeschool thoughts and tips you may want to check out. If you want to read more about CLE, their website is

Please feel free to write if you have any more questions or want me to explain something better.

UPDATE:  Dr. Guffanti has compiled a complete list of responses like mine. Click here to read his full article.

Plain clothes shopping spree

Since getting my tickets to DC, I’ve been on a shopping spree for plain clothes. First I bought a rose print dress at a thrift store here in town. It needed some simple mending on the collar and I cut the decorative buttons off to make it more plain. It’s very comfy.

I don’t have a decent slip so I went online and found some underthings I liked. While I was at it I bought a dress and nightgown from the same place, Vermont Country Store.

I got a white mesh Eastern Round traditional headcovering and some sunbonnets from MennoniteMaidens.

I’ve been looking at modest/cape dress makers online. The dresses are $45 or more plus shipping. The’re nice but… Plus, since they are custom sewed there was at least 3 weeks before shipping. I looked on e-bay and found 2 used dresses I liked and bought them. One is pink made from Tropical Breeze fabric, which I’ve been wanting but couldn’t afford new. The other is a coral print but may be too small, however the price was extremely reasonable and I really liked the way it looked (pockets are a plus) so I took a chance.

I hope everything arrives soon and fits. I’ve never ordered clothes this way before, only a few shirts and a hat from catalogs. I also expect to find a thrift shop down there to get more reasonably priced basic dresses. Most of the dresses at the thrift shops here are office dressy type or skimpy and trendy. I’d also like to try to find a couple of nice full aprons (pinnafores) to keep the dresses clean and perhaps some for my daughter as well. I’d better bring an extra bag. 🙂

2 of my new dresses. The first is from Vermont Country Store. The other is a cape dress from e-bay

2 pictures of Round Eastern style headcoverings and the bonnet I bought.

Odds ‘N’ Ends

Little Karen woke up sick today. She had a fever 103 when I got her up. She nibbled at her oatmeal then went back to bed. She’s now resting on the couch. I’ll give her some get-well-tea with honey (Just for Kids: Organic Cold Care by Traditional Medicinals) to sip when she wakes up again.

While she was in bed, Richard and I cleaned his room. That was a big project. His toy table had become a catch-all so now he couldn’t find anything. We cleaned that out along with the corner beside his bed where books and stuffed animals tend to accumulate. I swept and he made the bed. We filled almost an entire grocery bag with trash and old papers that were hiding in his room. Much better! I just hope he isn’t coming down with whatever Karen has. He’s resting in bed now.

I spent an hour hoeing in the garden before lunch and another this afternoon. The potatoes are up and had become overrun with grass. I spent most of my time on them. I also hoed the paths. The lettuce, beets, and carrots needed to be weeded by hand. I was just too hot. Its almost 80 outside. At least there was a little breeze to keep the mosquitoes and other bugs away. The peas still need to be weeded but that’s all. I pray we get some rain soon. Things are starting to wilt. With the shading weeds gone, they will wilt even faster but if we get rain, they will grow much better. It’s been a couple of weeks since I weeded this thoroughly. I’ve been doing spot weeding but not very well or it’s been raining until this weekend.

My husband called last night. He is in Canada at the factory making the boiler. They are running about a week behind. They offered to ship it up to Anchorage but he decided to stay and bring it up himself. That way he can start installing as soon as he gets home.

Sunshine on My Shoulders

Only in Alaska (and perhaps other arctic regions) would you get this forcast taken tonight from WeatherUnderground:

Partly cloudy with isolated showers this evening… then sunny after midnight. Lows 55 to 65. Northeast winds 10 mph. Local gusts 25 mph in the evening.

I love living here in the land of the midnight sun. Of course, it also is the land of the noon moon in the winter. 😛

Somehow, John Denver’s Sunshine on My Shoulders seems appropriate to this post and my mood. Enjoy!

And since today is the Fourth of July (at least for another hour), his Eagles and Horses also seems appropriate.

God in US History

I listened to Focus on the Family this morning driving with my kids. They were doing the first of a 2 part series on God in US History called America: Designed with Godly Intent. I am somewhat of a US history buff so this was interesting. It is an aspect of US history that often gets shorted or even left out all together today. However, as Dr. Dobson and his guest pointed out, God was very influential on our Founding Fathers and the early documents in founding of our country. Unfortunately the current trend is taking the non-establishment clause which forbids the government from creating a national religion and turning it into a suppression of religion which is quite different. It has gotten so bad that parts of our founding documents including the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence have been banned from public display because they mention God! This is just one interesting aspect of God’s role in US history discussed on the program.

I went ahead and bought the CD of the series as well as a DVD titled America’s Godly Heritage. There was also a collection of 12 US history themed Adventures in Odyssey shows titled For God & Country which Richard wanted. Since he’s studying early US history this year, I figured it would be a fun add in. All together it cost $54. Shipping is free.

Getting ready to go East

As I briefly mentioned in a prior post, I am going to be going to Virginia for training at Christian Light Publications in August. They are affiliated with conservative Mennonites and I’ll be staying with a family. As such, women trainees are required to dress the part while there. Dresses and skirts must be worn and be below the knee even when sitting or kneeling. No low cut or “v-neck” tops. No jewelry (I’ll need to take out my earrings in the day but plan to sleep in them so the holes don’t close). Plain headcovering.

I have some long skirts, but most are too warm (Alaskan summer where 80 degrees is considered very hot). I do have 2 that are thinner which I will bring with plain colored t-shirts. I also bought a plain rose flowered dress today at Salvation Army. It is short sleeve but still almost to my elbow. It is a petite so mid-calf rather than ankle length like most dresses are on me. It had 4 fancy buttons for trim on the waist which I cut off to make it more plain. The center of the neck is ripped but I think it should stitch well. I may look on the internet for more dresses like it. Its more comfortable than I thought a cotton dress would be. The back is a bit tight near the shoulders and the sleeve cuffs but that may be because I’m use to t-shirts. Now I just need a new pair of shoes and a lightweight slip then I’m set for clothes if I don’t get another dress or two. I really need to learn to sew dresses.

I ordered a white Eastern Round style mesh headcovering from Mennnonite Maiden (it will be interesting going through the airports wearing that). I also ordered a calico sunbonnet (I burn easy) plus one for my daughter and a friend. The total was $40 including shipping to Alaska. I am worried that the colored scarves I usually wear may be taken for gang colors (not very likely but not something I want to even take a chance with). I am going to order some new scarves since they now have a color I like to wear and have been keeping an eye out for.

I have my tickets. I originally looked into tickets last month and tickets were well over $800. Then the hotels were very expensive with no room at the hostels. No thanks. Something said “wait, don’t give up”. Well, I checked on Monday and prices round trip to Washington DC from Alaska had gone down to $560! (out of curiosity, I just checked prices again and they went up by $300) I found a hostel for $30/night that had availability for the 3 nights I would need. The times are great getting me into DC around 1030am. I have a day and half to explore before getting on the train to Staunton. I’ve always wanted to take this train trip. The hostel has directions from both the airport and train station which was a plus. Monday I found a rental car for $540. RentalCarMama had the same rental for $350 today. Needless to say, I canceled the first one.

I’ve started going to a water aerobics class at the gym to get myself into shape a bit. I may rent a car but will still do a lot of walking plus dealing with the heat. I’ve gone to 2 classes and enjoyed them. The teacher is fun and the others in the class are friendly. If I can loose some weight in the process even better 🙂

I’m excited.