The Random Writings of Rachel

November Adventures (The Sad and The Happy)

Can I have a moment of silence, please? This month, my beautiful camera, pictured above, died a sudden and very unexpected death. As a blogger, this is somewhat upsetting, because how can I blog with no camera? This camera was given to us three years ago by my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and it has served us faithfully on all our adventures ever since. Honestly, a DSLR isn't in the works for people like Angel and I. We need a tough camera that can fit in a pocket and manages to take good, pretty pictures even though Angel doesn't really have a long enough attention span to actually wait for it to focus. I have never bought a camera in my life, my previous camera was given to me when I was 16, and after 5 years of using that one, this Sony was a huge upgrade. Any recommendations for a replacement model, or at least what features to look for? I'm borrowing my Mom's ultra-compact Canon at the moment, but so far it seems especially prone to taking blurry pictures if your hands aren't perfectly still, which isn't great for two non-photography experts like us. Or maybe we just have it on the wrong setting...

{Here's the part where everyone wonders how I've managed to blog for so long without learning the basics of took diligence and commitment, let me tell you...}

We took the kids on a field trip to an International Horse Show. There were show jumping and dressage competitions, but the most exciting part for the littles was that some of them got to ride a horse for the first time ever!

Josh wasn't entirely sure what to think about the whole ordeal.

On a whim, we decided to enter a bouldering competition (not because we are awesome rock climbers, but because the competition entry fee was cheaper than normal entry), and we had so much fun. My claim to fame of the day was that I was the only lady in our group (of 5) that successfully completed both the "easy" and "medium" courses. You only got three tries for the competition, though, and I fell off on my first time on the medium course, so I didn't even get to try the hard one.

I drove once this month. Pretty sure my face shows my feelings on that subject.

Some time ago, Kira posted on her blog that she'd made this dress, but it was too big for her, and wanted to have a giveaway for it. I knew it wouldn't be likely to fit me, but I thought it might fit Rebekah, so I entered, and lo and behold, Kira was actually willing the mail the dress all the way over here to Malaysia!

Rebekah loves the new dress! I asked her if any of her friends said anything to her about the dress on the day she wore it and she said, " one really got a chance to say anything, because I was running up to people and saying, 'Look at my new dress! It's so cool! And the skirt twirls!' as soon as I saw anyone I knew."

We also had a Thanksgiving dinner at our place. This is not a photo of that dinner, however, because we took no photos of Thanksgiving. However, there was a significant amount of overlap in guests between this dinner (earlier in November) and our Thanksgiving dinner, so I call it close enough. There were 13 of us for Thanksgiving, 3 of which were 4 and under, so it was a slightly more rambunctious crew.

Our Thanksgiving menu was chicken chili, lime sherbet punch, loaded mashed potatoes, chips with homemade dip, apples with homemade dip, no-bake chocolate cookies, and a loaf of french bread. What do all of these things have in common? You can make them without an oven. ;) Because, between two households, we are currently completely oven-less, as my parents' oven died this month. (It was a bad month for electronics)

Starting a Youtube channel was a highlight from the last week of our month. Thanks for all the support you guys! We're having fun chatting about video ideas every time we hang out. This is a picture Angel snapped from an as-yet unfinished skit, because we've already had our first filming error and will have to retake because the camera was out of focus. And this time I'll probably write the items on the board in bolder handwriting to make them more readable. What would you guess that hugs, the 4th of July, and casseroles have in common?

So, I'll do what every single Youtuber does and end with the word: Subscribe!

Big News! From Blogger to...

One of my family's favorite things to do together is to watch funny Youtube videos from our favorite channels. After one evening of funny videos, I started lamenting about how it sounded like so much fun to just make all of these goofy videos with a group of your best friends and why couldn't we do something like that.

So, we got up the next morning and made a channel, Seven In All, and shot and uploaded our first video.

We already have plans for a few more. My general plan at the moment is that the theme of the channel will be to take grains of truth from our own lives--little bits of the experience of growing up overseas and living in such a gigantic family, and dramatize them and somehow turn them into not-very-serious skits.

Over my three years as a blogger, I've grown a lot, and I expect to see a great deal of growth and skill building as we work to create videos for our channel. Now that I'm working with other people, I may no longer get to be known as One-Take Vlogger Rachel. That video you just saw, took 3 whole takes to make! That's real patience, y'all.

Or maybe I'm just excessively dramatic. Or maybe Youtube will teach me what patience truly is.

Please subscribe, and add us to your list of goofy youtubers, if you're willing to watch us grow. Who knows, we might even get mildly educational from time to time.

What are your favorite youtube channels? Any recommendations for me? I prefer the clean funny ones, in case you couldn't tell by the type of youtuber I decided to be...

Once Upon a Time Birthday Party

Sarah requested a Once Upon a Time-themed party for her birthday and I was happy to oblige.

The theme of this party could also be called, "How far will Rachel go to avoid printing stuff." You'll understand when you see the decor, which was all hand-sketched because printing stuff is really annoying. Our party budget generally goes all for the food, and for this party, we spent the equivalent of $1 on poster-sized sheets of paper for our decorations.

Entering Storybrooke Sign

Neverland Map Once Upon a Time

Storybrooke Clock Tower

Once Upon a Time Party Decor

Once Upon a Time Emma's Car

Dark One Dagger Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time Magic Mirror

We hung scarves around the walls on various objects and covered up bookshelves in striped blankets, going for an "otherworldly" feel--anything to make the house not seem like the normal house we do schoolwork in every day. It ended up as a sort-of mashup of Granny's Diner, Agrabah, the Enchanted Forest, Storybrooke, and Regina's Castle.

It was perfect.

We all decided to dress up for the occasion.

Evil Queen Once Upon a Time
 The Evil Queen felt like an odd choice for MaryGrace, who is the definition of sweetness and kindness, but I had fun doing her ultra-dramatic Evil Queen eyes.

 Predictable as ever, I was Captain Hook. I follow the whole, "If you can't be yourself, always be a pirate" rule for life. I remained true to character and wore my hook the whole night, which meant I needed help making my sandwich and I almost dropped my cake on the ground, but all was well.

Also, I do know that Hook's hook is on his left hand. However, since I'm left-handed and I assume that Hook is right-handed, I figured switching arms would create the most authentic Hook experience.

Robin Hood Once Upon a Time

Robin Hood isn't usually allowed to play with her crossbow and arrows so she enjoyed the opportunity this evening.

Once Upon a Time Party

The birthday girl was Belle, and Mom was Ruby. Dad was deemed "Prince Charming" and we also had an Emma and a Mulan show up at the party. Angel opted out of dressing up, so we decided he was Jiminy Cricket.

Our food matched the theme as well:

Lasagna was the obvious choice for a main course, but most of us really, really don't like lasagna, so we decided to have pulled pork sandwiches since they're the epitome of American diner food and they are very "exotic" here.

We didn't forget the whipped cream or the cinnamon!

 Yep, watermelon hearts, too.

We had even more ideas for food, like cookies in the shape of Hook's missing hand, and Apple Crisp because of Regina's fondness for apples, but those would have required an oven, and Mom and Dad's oven died a week before the party.

We played two Once Upon a Time games--the first was one I'd created with Powerpoint slides showing various obscure or not-so-obscure items from the show, and teams had to race to tell me what the item was and what it's significance was as well.

The second game was Taboo--except with characters from the television show instead of normal words.

And now the birthday girl is one year older. Next year, double digits!

Why I Love Black Friday

'Tis the season...for lots of people to be excited about shopping and sales and on the other side, lots of people to complain about materialism and consumerism.

So I'm staking my claim in the ground and letting you know: I love Black Friday, and I love it for some of the same reasons that people wish it never existed.

2012 - Our last Christmas in our little yellow home, though we had no idea of that at the time. Some presents were definitely bought during Black Friday, like a headlamp that wasn't on sale but was perfect for my Angel. He still uses it.

My Black Friday memories involve waking up in the wee hours, bundling up for icy weather, and heading out with my parents and/or aunt in the van. Our typical stops included Kohl's, JoAnn's, Family Christian Bookstore, J.C. Penney's, or Target, depending on the list and what we were looking for that year. We'd proceed to shop until we'd finished our list as efficiently as possible and had found ourselves starving. Then we'd grab breakfast at a fast food joint and head back to my grandparents' house for Thanksgiving leftovers and other frivolity. Later, towards noon, we'd go to the annual arts and crafts show that happens every Black Friday near their house, and I'd fall in love with things like bracelets made out of forks. It was so much fun, and on years when I don't get to go Black Friday shopping, like this year and last year, I miss the experience. Granted, you have to actually like shopping to enjoy Black Friday, but I do like shopping, so that's why I have always found Black Friday to be an exciting adventure.

It probably also helps that it's not like we're trying to shop in a gigantic city. Flint, MI isn't a huge, bustling metropolis. The last few years, all the Black Friday sales and lines actually felt rather calm and laid back in comparison to the years before that.

People often claim that Black Friday shopping steals family time, but as far as I'm concerned, the hours between 12-8 p.m. would otherwise be spent sleeping, so Black Friday only means more family time for us. Angel always worked either Thanksgiving or Black Friday at the hospital while I traveled to spend the holiday with relatives a couple hours away, so I would have been sleeping alone anyways--might as well not sleep, right? We also tend to meet and start chatting with other folks waiting in the long lines and share grins over varied good deals and tips on where to find specific items, so it almost feels like a community event or party.

I think sometimes people are a little too quick to cry "consumerism" and lament over the irony of shopping immediately after being grateful for all we have, because, honestly, Black Friday prices are something to be thankful for, as they make needed items much more affordable than they generally are.

One year, our entire Black Friday shopping list consisted of undergarments and jeans. If you've ever talked to an American who lives in our part of the world, you've doubtless heard complaints about how impossible it is, when living here, to find undergarments and jeans that are 1) affordable and 2) of decent quality and 3) sized to fit typical American bodies. My parents still had 5 daughters at home at the time, so you can imagine that buying something that usually runs $35 each for $8 instead was an alluring deal (multiply that original price by 2 or 3 pieces for each lady of the family and you'll get heart palpitations). The "little girls" who run 5'7" and 5'8" can't find jeans actually long enough to be jeans in this country, so getting pants that covered their ankles at 50% off was amazing! My parents even picked up discounted clothes for my brother, because clothes for men of his intimidating stature are never cheap, and his college-student budget means he'll wear clothes with holes in them rather than buy new ones on his own. Sometimes Black Friday is a little less about materialism and a little more about a chance to wear clothes that fit appropriately and won't fall apart in the wash. Another time, we bought a couple of the infamous dirt-cheap Jansport backpacks from Kohl's to bring back here to some friends who Christmas wish had been a sturdy bag (Angel bought a work bag here back in July and it's already disintegrated so much that it's gone in the garbage. He's now using the Jansport backpack I bought for college and carried with me every day of school. They may be cheap, and I know they aren't top-notch backpacks, but they are miles better than what's available at our price range here).

If I'm ever in the USA for Thanksgiving again, I plan to go Black Friday shopping (and a mere 16 months abroad has taught me exactly what supplies I'd stock up on!).

As the day approaches, I thank all those who are working on that day, and I wish that your customers will be of the happy sort and not the sort who should have stayed in bed a few more hours. But even if you end up with a few battle stories of the crazy folks, that's okay. Boring stories never made for good conversation...or good blog posts. Happy shopping if you're going, happy sleeping if you're not!

Preschool at Home: Week 13

Week 13:
Major Themes: The Letter J and Color Theory

-Write in the number of the day on the calendar each day.
-Point out which day of the week it is.

-Sang the Sing, Spell, Read, & Write letter sounds song.
-Sing the short vowel sounds song.
-Practice writing names. 
-Practice writing upper and lowercase letters with workbooks.
-This week we focused on the letter J and had several associated activities:
  -Found things in the house that started with the J sound
  -Asked, "Does your name have the letter J in it?"
  -Listened to the Letter J song.
  -Looked at the J page in our picture dictionary
  -Practiced jumping.
  -We spread jam on slices of bread and then ate them. Verdict: The girls think jam is good. We also wrote the word jam on our writing worksheets because that is a readable word for them at this point.
  -Made the letter J with playdough
  -We tried on and modeled various jackets that I had stashed in the wardrobe.

-Number flashcards up to 20 
-Practiced writing numbers 1-15 on whiteboard
-Preschool math writing workbooks
-Counting blocks. Modeling simple adding and subtracting with blocks.

-Reading Sing, Spell, Read, and Write's Book 1.
-Teach Your Monster to Read for 5-10 minutes a day.
-Sightwords: to, has, is, the, his, her and I.

Bible and Storytime: Week 14 from Sonlight Core P4/5 Instructor's Guide.

Months of the Year: We use this song.

7 Continents of the World: Memorizing the seven continents with this song.

Telling Time: I use this song with a little clock that had movable hands.

Science: Basic Color Theory
-We mixed drops from our watercolor paints in clear cups to find out what color they made. This was so much fun. I loved the squeals as they poured the two colors in together. They had no idea what colors to expect, the idea of mixing colors to make new ones (that don't look like mud) is a totally new idea for them.
-We painted color-mixing charts for the three secondary colors: orange, purple, green.

Bahasa vocab this week is more colors:

Orange = Jingga
Gray = Kelabu
Purple = Ungu
Pink = Merah Muda
Brown = Perang

-I call out a color, they have to grab the right crayon and color with it. This is a really challenging activity for them!

Life skills: 
-Swept the floor after they cut up paper for a craft.

Crafts + Play:
-Went to the park.
-Read some "just for fun" books this week, books that the girls brought with them from home, one was about the movie Inside Out and the other one was about Beauty and the Beast.

Previous Weeks: 
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11
Week 12