Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Thankfully when we made our trip to Hiroshima with a Japanese friend a couple months later, it was uneventful weather wise. It was an amazing trip though and we will always remember it fondly. The last 5 months we were in Japan went pretty fast and before we knew it, we had new orders to Washington state, were packed out and lived in a hotel for a month in Japan. Then, we were on our way back to the states again. And this, puts us in the spring of 2012.

Once we returned to the states, there was much to be done, but far more than we planned on. We picked up our car in Texas as well as our dog, which a very good friend had fostered for us for the 3 years we were in Japan. After some visiting with her and some other friends, we were in for a long road trip to Washington state. Once we arrived, we lived in a hotel for about a month while looking for a place to live. We found a home to rent in a decent neighborhood and slept on air mattresses for a week or so while waiting for our household goods to arrive. But those were only the ones from Japan. We had another shipment (the other half of our stuff that we couldn't take to Japan) that would need to be released from long term government storage and delivered to us. So, that was about another month to receive that stuff. When they delivered it, we had them put it all into the garage so that we could go through it a little at a time. After all, we had just been up to our eyeballs in boxes and packing paper and using unopened ones for a desk or table in the midst of the unpacking mess. If you ever wonder if you really need to keep something, just put a date on it and then set a reminder for yourself to go back and look at your items after a year. If you hadn’t used any of it in that year and the only reason you are seeing it is because you had a reminder to do so….well, you might want to consider letting it go.

After three years of, the other half of our stuff, being in storage here in the states while we were in Japan, there was a lot to process. By the time we were done, it was late summer or early fall of 2012 and we desperately needed a yard sale!! One of the last sort of “normal” things we did in 2012.

Til next time….

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The Saga Continues

We were able to reach the United States a day or two before my Grandmother passed. So, that was another flight. I have done a lot of flying in my life and been to a lot of different airports. I have to admit though, it was the first time that I had gone through the Chicago O’Hare airport 4 times in less than a week!! All the while, I was trying to finish up 2 college courses and thankfully, the Professors were all very understanding of the situation we were in. I did eventually get them completed. By the time we returned to Japan, 3 weeks had gone by and Operation Tomadachi was in progress. Operation Tomadachi was the name for the U.S. military giving aid to Japan, whether it was water, clothes, food, etc. I was so glad that we were able to be there for my Grandmother’s funeral, but was glad to be back with my husband, supporting the Japanese in their recovery efforts and working to enjoy the remainder of our tour.

In the summer of 2011, we made our trip to climb Ft Fuji, but didn't make it all the way to the top because of Typhoon Ma-on, (may on) known in the Phillippines as Typhoon Ineng. That Typhoon (which is basically a hurricane, but from the Pacific Ocean) brought high winds and because of the high altitude we were at on Mt Fuji, SNOW. They closed the mountain down to climbers for safety reasons. It was definitely dangerous and cold. So, after only getting about half-way up, we climbed back down and proceeded back to the hotel to check out and get back on the train to go home. Little did we know that we would wind up in a very small, rural train station for 16 hours. As it turned out, the tunnel we needed to pass through to get home was at risk of landslides, other trains and people had been lost previously to landslides, and the Japanese did not want anyone to be hurt so...all trains were stopped until the situation was safe. Since we were in such a rural area, the only thing nearby was a 7-11. And the bathrooms…they were the old fashioned ones (not westernized), so basically, a hole dug into the ground with some lumber put around it (so you didn’t step in it) and that was pretty much it. Oh and did I mention that it was COLD?! All of the announcements were, of course, in Japanese. We didn’t speak enough to understand what all they were saying. We did, however, meet a very nice Japanese guy who did his best to explain what was happening. When an announcement came at 7 in the morning and everyone cheered, we knew that we would soon be moving. When we reached the train station nearest our house, there was a donut shop. We went in and had donuts and coffee and the kids had hot chocolate. Then, half-asleep, we walked the mile and a half home, took turns with hot showers and took a nap. I would say that we got more than we bargained for with our Mt Fuji trip!!

Stay tuned for the next installment!!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Has it really been that long?

Wow. I was looking at another blog today that is part of blogger and noticed my dashboard. Oops, it has been over 4 years, very nearly 5 years since I last posted anything. I have no idea if any of you will read this or not since it has been so long. But, here's the short of the long of it.

Since I last wrote, we were in the big earthquake in Japan in March 2011, my Grandmother passed away, we made a trip to climb Mt Fuji, another trip to Tokyo Disney Land and Disney Sea, a trip to Hiroshima, moved to Washington state, survived breast cancer, became a godmother, our family retired from military service, we moved again and bought a house! WHEW!! That is a whole lot going on in the past few years and that is just the cliff notes.

So, I will start small and just talk a little about the earthquake in Japan. In March 2011, there were many things that happened that kept me from my blog. The big earthquake in Japan hit and that is where we were living at the time, so it made for a couple of crazy months! The earthquake lasted almost 5 full minutes, which is to say, the shaking lasted that long too. If you would like to see a video of what it was kind of like, National Geographic put together a bunch of clips that people had posted to youtube and the like. It will give you a little bit of an idea of what it was like:
Tohuku Quake 2011 Mash-Up

At first, the kids and I just went about things as usual. But after about 30 seconds, it should have stopped. When it didn't, and things started falling off the entertainment center, the kids and I got in the door way as we had been taught. As we hung on to the frame and the house rocked back and forth on the rollers, we could see daylight on either side of the door as we continued to be shaken. At the end of that initial big quake, we looked outside to see the Japanese nationals who had been at the grocery store across the street from us, standing in the parking lot, looking up at the light poles and seeming rather fearful (Understandably so). Glass bottles had been knocked off shelves during the quake and had made quite a mess. The light poles were still swaying back and forth, the street was still rolling with the seismic activity and in some places sidewalks and streets were opening and closing like something out of a science fiction movie. There were aftershocks that lasted for days. The weeks that followed were filled with what were called rolling black outs. Basically, scheduled periods of time where we would have no electricity for hours at a time. During those times of blackout, it became very cold in the house we rented out in town. They have little to no insulation and it got so cold in the house, you could see your breath. The kids and I would cuddle up on the couch under a blanket and read books or play a game and wait for the power to come back on. Needless to say, it was very interesting cooking food for meals. Our meal schedule and menu changed to fit the times that power would be on. When it became apparent that the rolling blackouts would continue for an undetermined amount of time, the Fukushima radiation could become a possible threat to our area, my husband was going to be working most of the time, and I received news my Grandmother was not long in this world, we discussed and agreed that the kids and I should go back to the states for a couple weeks.

I will continue to catch you up as I get back into writing here on my blog.

Monday, February 7, 2011

TOS Product Review Vocabahead

Our language is made up of so many other languages and we have so many words in our language!!  Learning new vocabulary may seem a daunting task and even more so, when you try to figure out how you're going to remember the meaning of the new words.  Whether you're studying for an ACT/SAT or just broadening your knowledge, Vocabahead has some excellent resources!  I had the pleasure of reviewing one of their products, 'One Thousand SAT Vocabulary Videos and MP3's'
This product is convenient and it works!  The disc can be played on your computer, or you can put it on your IPOD or IPAD.  How handy is that?!  I love that our daughter has it on her IPOD, now she can learn the words anywhere, anytime, if only for a few minutes at a time.  With each word, it's used in a sentence and usually one that is memorable and a little story to go with it.  The videos are entertaining and help to enforce remembering the new word's meaning as well as spelling.  What I especially liked about the design is that when a word has more than one meaning, it was included as well as examples of the different meanings.
We already had in our homeschool day 20 minutes of preparation for ACT/SAT and various methods of prepping.  I'm happy to say that we now also include Vocabahead's disc!  Just think about it for a moment, even if all you could squeeze in were 20 minutes a day, that's 1 hour and 40 minutes after 5 days,  6 hours and 40 minutes at the end of the month!  WOW!  For $24.99, that's an excellent price!
Here is a pretty good video to give you an idea of how this works:

As always, if you would like to see some other reviews, please stop by the TOS crew product reviews
*I received this product to review for free, in exchange for an honest to goodness review*

Monday, January 31, 2011

TOS Review Times Alive by City Creek Press!

I still remember learning my times tables all those years ago and I also remember that it was a lot of repetition. I was fortunate enough to have a Mom that made things fun though! Although I have continued the tradition of making learning fun, I love all the tools that technology brings. So, that brings me to this review for City Creek Press.

Before I begin to talk about this product, look at the fun pictures and the sample video.

This truly is a wonderfully, user friendly program for learning times tables.  The songs are catchy and silly so they stay with the kids (and adults, in my humble opinion).  The images in each lesson are moving to captivate kids' attention and each has a story or song to help remember the times tables.  Our 8 year old son enjoys the program, he's giggly and looks forward to spending some computer time learning multiplication throughout the week. 

As a teacher and parent, I really appreciate the student progress report that's built in.  There are times that I need to work with our teenager and can't sit right there with him, but I know I can go back in the program later to see what he accomplished and how he's doing.

Although the program may seem a little costly at $44.95, it is well worth the money.  It's an instant download and once it's on your computer, you don't need to be hooked up to the internet all the time to use it.  It's perfect for "on the go" learning!  And...they have it available for Windows or Mac.  You can hop on over to our other TOS Crew reviews too!

* I was given this product to review for free and these opinions are my own *

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

ALEKS Review

What is ALEKS and how does it work?!  ALEKS is an online math program that not only assesses what your child knows, but helps teach what they don't know!  ALEKS stands for Assessment and LEarning in Knowledge Spaces.  The process of signing up was pretty simplistic and even our 8 year old had a good experience with sign up process.  Then comes the assessment.  Admittedly, our kids were a little nervous about completing it since it was going to compile what they didn't know as well as what they did.  Once they completed the assessment portion, they were shown a pie chart which also explained how the pie chart functions. 

As our kids worked through the pie chart, the concepts to be learned are listed as such and then have further break downs within each.  When clicking on a concept, it takes you to sample problems and after the student answers a problem in that category correctly 3 times, they are considered to have mastered it and will then be taken back to the pie chart to move on to the next topic.  If they are having trouble with the concept, they have the option to see the explanation and ALEKS will show how the problem is solved.  Of course, when explained, it does not count as a correctly answered problem.

Overall, we were pleased with what ALEKS had to offer.  The assessment portion of the program is an excellent tool for seeing where those "spaces" or gaps are.  We didn't feel it was a complete program/curriculum, but it seemed to get our 8 year old interested in learning those problem areas, especially since it was an opportunity to be on the computer.  Our 16 year old didn't get as much out of it as far as excitement goes, but she felt validated in the areas she was having trouble with.

The cost for this program is reasonable and worth the price.
$19.95 per student per month
$99.95 every 6 months
$179.95 every 12 months
*Family discounts apply*
See site for more subscription information

 Be sure to read more reviews about the ALEKS program by kindly visiting TOS Homeschool Crew reviews.

*As always, these opinions are my own.  I received this product free of charge to review honestly and that's what you have here.*

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Master Ruler Product Review!!

Wow, so exciting! Master Innovations is one of those companies that make you smile and say, "Man, I wish someone had thought of this long ago!" Yes, there's quotes there, because that's what I said when I first saw the Master Ruler. Master Innovations have come up with a creative, hands on, concrete way of learning mathematical concepts.

The Master Ruler, as their website declares, "is SEVERAL rulers in one!" It's an amazing tool for learning measurement. I can't tell you how many times I've been measuring something and thought, dang, I wish these stood out in some way, so that this would be easier! Well, with the Master Ruler, they've not only made the smaller measurements (like ¼") easier to see with the different colors, but they've made the ruler layered, so you can actually remove the layers you don't need. Flipping them back and forth allows you to get the measurement more quickly and more accurately! You can check out this video for more information and to see it working in action.

So, are you wondering at this point how your kids might like the Master Ruler or be able to use it? When working with our 8 year old son, he remarked, "hey Mom, I've never seen a ruler like this before!" When he was done working on just a few of the worksheets and some lessons that I had come up with, he mentioned that he understood fractions better! Now, that is an awesome revelation, right?! Right. Our 16 year old daughter said, "I sure wish that these would have been around when I was his (our son's) age. It would have been a lot less confusing!" Then, while doing a Chemistry experiment, she was using the metric ruler while our son used the other. What more can you ask for? We're all impressed. Here are some pictures for you!

The Master Ruler itself sells for $9.95, which I think is an excellent price, especially given the durable material! If you're interested in purchasing it separately, you can go here. To see the other options you can get with the Ruler, look at this page. And of course, if you'd like to read more reviews about the Master Ruler or their other products, please see our TOS Homeschool Crew.

*As always, these opinions are my own. I received this product free of charge to review honestly and that's what you have here.*