Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Book Report by Anabel

Much Better than the Movie!
*Spoiler Alert!! Do not read this report if you haven't read the fifth Harry Potter novel!

The book opened with Harry Potter home from school and waiting for Voldemort to start his bad doings now that he was back.  Harry was at Privet Drive with Dudley when dementors attacked him. He almost got expelled from Hogwarts because he used the patronus charm outside of school. Then he got taken to Sirius Black’s house [which is called Grimmauld Place] by Mad eye Moody and other aurors where the Order of the Phoenix was meeting. The Order was the people who were planning to stop Lord Voldemort.

When he went to Hogwarts, they got another new defense against the dark arts teacher. Professor Umbridge was very rude. When Harry talked back to her he got detention. In detention, Umbridge made him write “I must not tell lies” on the paper with a special quill that used Harry’s own blood as ink at the same time the words were carved into the back of his hand. When she became the high inquisitor, she changed rules, fired teachers, and got students in trouble.  Harry made a secret group to learn defense against the dark arts called “Dumbledore’s Army”

Harry started having dreams of what Voldemort was doing and saw that Ron’s dad attacked by a snake, and in real life it happened. Harry had to start taking oculmency lessons with Snape. When Snape had left the room Harry saw one of Snape’s memories. In his memory, Snape was being bullied by Harry’s dad! Snape came in and caught him and said that he was going to stop teaching him.

One night, Harry had a dream that Lord Voldemort was torturing Sirius. So he went to Umbridge’s office to check through the fire if Sirius was at home. When he saw he wasn’t, he got scared. Before he could get out of the fire, Professed Umbridge pulled him out. Hermione tricked Professor Umbridge into taking them into the forest. Some centaurs came and carried her away.

Ron, Ginny, Luna, and Neville met up with Harry and Hermione and they went to the ministry of magic. When they got there, there were death eaters and they where trying to get this prophesy thing. They tried to run away but some of them got hurt. Then the Order showed up to help them and Sirius was with them. Voldemort had tricked him. Dumbledore showed up to fight Voldemort. They won, but Sirius was killed by his evil cousin, Beatrix Lestrange. Then, the Minister of Magic came in and saw Voldemort. Then, everyone believed Harry. Harry was very sad and mad. At the end of the book when they got off the train to return home for the summer, Mad -Eye and the rest of the Order told the Dursleys to be nice to Harry.  He had a very hard year... again.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Brooks Academy - a most exclusive private school

Our Main Building

Our admission policy is very strict: you must be our biological child to enter Brooks Academy, but we will consider out of state transfers if your test scores and GPA measure up to our high standards. Transfer admission is only good for weekend classes so apply accordingly.


We have been working hard since moving into our temporary home.  Thus far, our curriculum has been based on finishing current novels, working on math standards for each grade level, letter writing, cursive handwriting and typing skills, Latin and Greek roots' vocabulary, life science on the island: plants, animals, insects, etc., and the exploration and colonial periods of America.  We've been busy.  The kids have found many leaf samples to identify and are creating a slideshow presentation of the plant life on Fripp.  As they finish their books, they will complete a blogging book report.  They are adding to their vocabulary dictionaries each day finding derivatives for Latin and Greek root words. We are just beginning our study of colonial America in preparation for our first big trip up the east coast.

guest student housing

Full Time Student Dormitory

We have one main dorm room suite that sleeps 6.  Weekend transfer students will have access to the exclusive guest suite located on the first floor.  Our outdoor classrooms allow for overload accommodations.


The Brooks Academy is proud to serve the five star Zagnut rated cuisine of Chef Greg a.k.a. Daddy.  Sample menus include Low Country Boil, Shrimp and Grits, Grilled Fish, Steak, Chicken, etc. (Chef Greg really likes to grill.)  Sous Chef/Hostess Jenny a.k.a. Mommy tries to make all students feel right at home.


Swimming, fishing, crabbing, clamming, tennis, golf, hiking, kayaking, sunbathing, sand castle building, biking, surfing, knitting, sleeping, walking, sliding, swinging, playing, bird-watching, deer feeding, alligator spotting.


Slave Labor for Full Time Students.  Part-Time students' fees waived (but they may have to wash a dish or two.)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Goodnight, Irene!

As we unpacked our last box, this was the image on the local news:

Irene's path 4 days ago

Had we really moved in only to be forced to move out?  What does mandatory evacuation mean, anyway?  

We watched and planned.  Since buying the Fripp house in 2006, we have never had a Hurricane threaten our coastline.  The house came with plywood sheeting for the windows, but we had never checked how they fit.  At Lowe's in Beaufort, we purchased an extra case of water and wood screws just in case.  No one in town was panicking which I found very comforting.  Maybe they knew something I didn't.  

Irene, Friday, August 26, 2011
Two days later, Irene's path moved eastward and we were unofficially deemed safe from the storm.  Looking at the storm on the satellite, we breathed a sigh of relief for us and said a prayer for those north of us.  Anabel was disappointed.  At twelve, a hurricane sounded exciting.  She has no concept of storm damage.  (Let's hope she stays that way!)  The weatherman said to watch out for rip currents and extremely high tides, but the low country area should miss most of Irene's path.  I thought, "Thank, God!"  Greg and Wyatt thought, "Surf Board!" This must be the biggest difference between men and women.
However, we both did a foolish thing on Friday: drove into Beaufort to pick up Greg's Harley.  The power had gone off briefly in the morning and we had a little rain, but other than that the weather seemed like any other day at the beach.  When the repair shop called to say the bike was ready, it wasn't raining at all.  Greg thought it best to go on in, pick it up and get it over with before heavier winds and rain began.  The kids stayed at home finishing school work while I dropped Greg and headed to the grocery store and other errands.  By the time I made my last stop at Publix, I felt my first drop of rain.  I called the house and Greg wasn't home yet.  Should I worry?  No, Greg is an excellent driver and a smart guy.  He'll be fine.  Driving home, the closer I got to the outer barrier islands (Harbor, Hunting, then Fripp) the worse it became:

My view driving home to Fripp.
If this was what the outer bands of a hurricane was like, I can't imagine how scary being hit head-on would be.  I pulled over to call about Greg.  He had stopped three times driving back and was wet to the bone, but had made it back safe and sound.

Finally, I made it home with groceries and new art supplies for the kids.  Perfect for painting the edge of a hurricane sunset...

We hope everyone made it through the storm safely!  Goodbye and Goodnight, Irene!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Too Tired to Blog

As Greg said, "It's a lot of work trying to fit 20 pounds of potatoes into a 10 pound sack."  All I can say is good grief!

Only half will fit inside...oops!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

We are here! We are here! We are here!

Welcome to Fripp Island, SC!
Now for my favorite line from Dr. Suess...  To quote the Whos down in Whoville, the tall and the small, "We are here!"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Here we go!

We pull out of 744 Paint Horse Drive with all our stuff.
To quote Emma's favorite line from Beauty and the Beast, "HERE WE GO!"  (She can sound just like Chip.)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Purge is the Word...

We have accomplished an almost Herculean Feat: We have cleaned out ALL closets, cabinets, drawers (including the junk ones), garage, and basement (no scratch that. Reverse it.) in nine days.  I just thought I was tired last week.  How naive I was!

After the game on Sunday, we came home in complete denial and just went to bed.  Yes, it was only 7 o'clock.  After only 10 hours of sleep, I awoke at 5 AM, turned on the Kerug, and got busy in our closet.  I had already packed the clothes for Fripp.  I bought the terrific under the bed bins for the kids' clothes and just used our suitcases for ours.  The rest of the stuff in the closet drawers went into garbage bags: white for "Good"will and black for the "b"asement.  I have tried to use this move as a time to purge all our stuff.  It would have been easier to just dump it all in a bag and drag it to the basement to deal with later, but I never do things the easy way.  (Yes, I was laughing as I wrote that!) Monday continued as such.

Our Closet Before...

Cut to Tuesday.  Now I am dumping everything in a bag and having Greg and the kids drag it to basement as fast as possible.  The rental walk through is at 6 pm and we will never be finished!

Take it from me, clean out now!  Don't wait till it is too late like me!  Did I really think this was a good idea... ever?
Our Closet After.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Welcome to Turner Field!

Go Braves!
Home of the Atlanta Braves!  Remember the tickets I picked up on Wednesday's Zoo field trip?  Well, they were for today's 1:30pm game with the Braves versus the Chicago Cubs.  Great game...the Braves were winning through most, but our bullpen blew it and the Cubs won.  Luckily, we love baseball... especially at Turner Field so we enjoyed the game anyway.  The day iced the cake of our last weekend in Metro Atlanta.

Emma's finished painting at Tooner Field.
We started out in Tooner Field with the kids.  Sponsored by Cartoon Network, Tooner Field's playground within a baseball stadium rocks!  Wyatt must have thrown 100 balls at the grim reaper from The Grim Adventures of Mandy and Billy batting cage.  Emma painted on the coloring wall and climbed in the big tree house while Greg and Anabel hung out in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.  The kids would live in there if they could.
Wyatt hits the Grim Reaper.

The game was starting so we didn't make it over to Scout's Alley and the Braves Museum, but last year Wyatt and I had a special one-on-one day at touring the entire Turner Field, museum and locker rooms on a Braves day off.  I highly recommend all baseball fans take the Turner Field tour.  What an excellent Field Trip for a family of sports fans!
Wyatt and I in the Braves dugout 2010

A little male bonding.
Emma enjoying the game.
In the August heat of a day game, we were lucky to have covered seats in the Golden Moon Pavilion section which also allowed us to go inside for air conditioned seats and concession stands.  After the fourth, the girls and I retreated indoors to cool off and by the fifth inning I took all three kids up to check out the view from Sky Field.  Wyatt ran the bases and we all ran through the misters.  We also took a moment to enjoy our last view of the City.  Greg, of course, didn't miss a moment of the game.  He is the only one I know that is always excited about extra innings.  He calls it "Free Baseball!"

See you next year, Atlanta!  Go Braves!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Car for Sale....Sold!

We sold my Volvo in less than five days.  I think this has freaked me out the most because I have had a car of my own since I turned 16.  Greg assured me that he would share, but it's just not the same.

We decided to sell the Volvo to simplify things (we only need one vehicle this year and Greg's Excursion is bigger and better for traveling) and add to our savings for traveling.  We meant to sell it as soon as I finished SIG at Emory, but time got away from us so we decided to wait and sell it in South Carolina. When I couldn't sleep Tuesday night, I went ahead and put it on Craig's List.  What the heck, right?  It's free.  By Friday, I had three potential buyers lined up to see it over the weekend.  On Saturday, the first couple who came to view it bought it on the spot.  As they were pulling away, I suddenly felt sad and realized what a change we really were making in our lives.  But was it a change for the better?  Not only did I not have a job and a home, but now I didn't have a car.  Was I still an American if I don't have a job, a home and a car?  I really didn't know.  I hoped so.  All I knew was that I felt weird all of a sudden.  Unnatural.

When I told my friends and family about selling my car so fast they made me feel better by putting it into perspective:  the ease and speed of the sale is just another sign that we are doing the right thing.  I don't know why, but it makes me happy to think the universe is behind us.  Are the stars really lining up just for us?  Of course not, but I am getting excited again about the possibilities of this year.

I'm not a fatalist, but it does go back to what I wrote about earlier:  We made a decision and then proceeded as if it was going to happen.  It reminds me of a line from one of my favorite movies, Under the Tuscan SunMartini says to Frances when she is doubting the crazy changes she has made in her life, "Between Austria and Italy, there is a section of the Alps called the Semmering. It is an impossibly steep, very high part of the mountains. They built a train track over these Alps to connect Vienna and Venice. They built these tracks even before there was a train in existence that could make the trip. They built it because they knew some day, the train would come."   We have been planning for this family adventure knowing some day it would come.  It looks like someday is today so I better be ready.  So long Volvo!  Hello traveling money!

"I get by with a little help from my friends..."

Greg with Bela Fleck

Anne and me with Bela Fleck
What can I say?  After 36 hours of non-stop packing (literally), I needed another break.  And who should be there when I needed them?  My friends!  Friday, I was treated to lunch with the church ladies and dinner and a concert with the Harrises.  What great friends!  I have always been easily distracted which is bad when you are working on a deadline, but sometimes a distraction is down right vital to survive.

I had finished packing all three kids' rooms and the playroom so didn't feel too bad about leaving to meet the ladies for lunch.  We had a lovely 2 hour luncheon and discussion at the local Mexican restaurant.  I will miss being able to drop everything and go to lunch with friends this year, but such is the price of a traveling sabbatical.  It is the best soul food to just sit, talk and laugh with your friends.  I felt recharged enough to go to Harry's to buy something special for dinner at Chastain Park. (Note: I did not feel recharged enough to cook and mess up the kitchen.)

Best seats in the house!
That night, we met the Harrises for an incredibly perfect Atlanta evening at the quintessential Chastain Park.  A little gourmet food, a little jazz, a little banjo... Who could ask for more?   Thanks to a generous gift of a front row center table, Greg and I had a fabulous last weekend in Atlanta treat.  For you food lovers, Anne brought red pepper dip, brie, grapes and fresh bread for starters, Greg grilled a marinated London broil for the entree and I added Harry's divine potato salad and mixed greens with olives and artichokes and we finished with mini-cheesecakes Anne picked up at the bakery.  The only thing that could have made the evening better was some great music... wait we had that thanks to Bruce Hornsby and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.  I'll admit I wasn't that "jazzed" about the acts when I first heard the names.  I didn't care though because it was CHASTAIN PARK!  I love anyone there!  I knew Bruce Hornsby from the 80s, but had honestly never heard of Bela Fleck (Sorry, Spencer!)  I am now a fan!  Amazing soulful music played on a banjo?  Doesn't sound right even as I type it, but it is true.  Just listen to this song:
Greg with Bruce Hornsby's grapes.

Thank you, Friends, for your wonderful distractions!  I honestly don't know how I am going to get by without you all for the next 11 months!  I need a medical alert bracelet as I travel that says: "In case of mental breakdown, please send friends."

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones with Bruce Hornsby

Greg also ran into Fluff (Tiger's former caddie)
Now back to work...

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Zoo Atlanta Field Trip

Yes, we went on a field trip.  Frankly, we needed a break from the cleaning out so I (Greg stayed behind to continue the fight) took the kids to our favorite place in Atlanta, the Zoo, and as usual, it did not disappoint.  Our time is at a premium right now so even though a field trip seemed frivolous, I managed to make it efficient by doing some multitasking while in Atlanta. I picked up Braves tickets since we haven't been this season and introduced the kids to the world of Swedish furniture with a little stop at Ikea. We really Carped Diem!

Zoo Atlanta has been open since its circus beginnings in 1889 when a bankrupt traveling troop abandoned a menagerie of animals in Atlanta's Grant Park.  It doubled its collection when an Atlantan entrepreneur, Asa Candler, donated his private collection in 1935.  (I guess his neighbors didn't care for the smell.)  The Zoo acquired its most famous resident in 1961 when the infant gorilla, Willie B. arrived. As a kid in the 70s, I remember visiting the zoo and feeling depressed seeing Willie B. in his concrete cage.  Wow, he had a tire swing!  What Fun!  I bet gorillas could swing for hours on that!  To my sadness, I can still see the sorrow in Willie's eyes as he sat staring at me from his cage.  No swinging at all.  Cut to the 1990s when I returned to Zoo Atlanta for the first time since my childhood.  I was amazed!  It was a happy place to be!  It thrilled me to see Willie B. in the "wild" with other gorillas.  He was master of his domain and pleased with it.  I saw no trace of sorrow anymore.  It seemed that the Zoo had undergone an heroic transformation in the late 80s after losing its accreditation and being reported as one of the worst zoos in the country.   Today, they continue to maintain and create wildlife areas for some of the rarest animals on earth being one of only three zoos in the country with Giant Pandas that have bred successfully in captivity.

Already tired in the Georgia heat.
Our field trip began in the African section of the Zoo.  (Click to see a full map of the zoo.)  This area contains all the animals of the African Savanna and Rain Forest.  Emma's favorite is the Giraffes and the zoo currently has three.  We love watching the zebras, rhinos and lions, but the addition of the meerkats and warthogs made us smile.  I don't know why the kids were embarrassed when I broke into hakuna matata.  If you're not familiar with that song, check out the video.  (I've decided to make it my theme song for the year!)

We made it safely past the lions sleeping in the sun to the Ford Rain Forest section where all the monkeys, drills, orangutans and gorillas live.  We watched several primates swing, play, eat and sleep.  The Conservatory is a wonderful air conditioned spot to stop and learn a little about the rain forest in general and gorillas specifically.  Emma and I had a one-on-one lesson in there while Anabel and Wyatt went on to the observation deck above.  She and I read about the four levels of life in the rain forest: forest floor, understory, canopy and emergent layers.  We also learned that a gorilla can be identified by its nose like people can be identified by our fingerprints.  Each gorilla has a unique nose print.  Emma played a nose print matching game and got 100% correct.

Next, we made our way to the Reptile House which once housed many of the caged animals in the old zoo.  Today, it is full of venomous and non-venomous reptiles from around the world.  As is my tradition upon entering, we went straight to the black mamba case to confirm it was safely secured.   Still there? Check.  Now to enjoy the rest of the creepy crawlies.  My parents always taught me to assume all snakes are poisonous and therefore, all snakes are bad.  As an adult I have learned that is not true.  First of all, snakes are either venomous or not; none of them are poisonous.  On a recent field trip to Amicalola Falls, I learned the easiest way to tell a venomous snake from a non-venomous snake.  Do you know?  Venomous snakes have a triangular shaped head while a non-venomous snake has a rounded head.  Also, if you are near water and see a snake swimming, if you see only the head it is non-venomous, but if you see the whole body on top of he water, it is venomous.  (I wasted a lot of time memorizing the red touches black/yellow rhyme.  I always got it mixed up anyway and have yet to see a colored snake in the North Georgia woods.)  As a parent, I wanted to set the record straight and teach my kids how to identify the snakes correctly so at each case I would ask the kids to look at the head and tell me venomous or non-venomous.  Wyatt said, "Why do we need to look at the heads?  The sign says it right on the case what it is."  I replied, "Have you ever seen a snake in the wild holding up a sign? No? Look at the head then confirm your guess with the sign."  Parents: 1  Kids: 0

Jack Black meets his character's namesake.
Zoo Atlanta added many new animals in recent years, but the most popular by far are the Giant Pandas, Lun Lun and Yang Yang.  They recently had a new cub named Po after Kung Fu Panda.  Check out the Panda Cam for live viewing of the pandas escapades.

There are also two new tiger cubs and new sun bears.  The zoo built a beautiful area for these animals which puts you above them for viewing of each.

We always end our trip with the petting zoo and children's area.  After passing the kangaroos that are too dangerous to pet, we brushed the tamer goats, sheep and pot-bellied pigs.  This used to be my kids favorite spot, but they may have outgrown the petting zoo I am sad to say.  They also used to love the endangered species merry-go-round and zoo train, but none of them wanted to ride them this visit.  Wyatt wanted to do the massive rock climbing wall, but we needed to beat the traffic...

Actually, not as messy as Greg while eating.
Overall, the zoo was a fantastic family day out.  The kids learned as they played and I enjoyed being with them and not packing for one day.  We joined the Zoo again.  As with Fernbank Museum, if you visit it at least twice in a year, being a member saves money.  We plan to return to Zoo Atlanta this fall for a Family Nightcrawler since we will need a place to stay when we come back.  A night at the zoo should make us feel right at home.


Monday, August 8, 2011

The Show Must Go On...

School, that is!  Even though we have to clean out our entire home, we thought it best to keep going with our school routine.  I have made folders and list of assignments for the kids to begin each morning with most of the activities being self-explainatory.  I am working with the Montessori method of teaching and trying to give the kids as much freedom as possible.  Being one on one is terrific, but I don't want them to expect me to spoon feed them every lesson.  Plus I have work to do: packing up all our stuff!

When we agreed to rent the house furnished it did not include all our personal belongings (Darn it.)  Does anyone realize what that means?  I didn't until I started actually trying to do it!  I didn't think we were hoarders, but I have officially submitted our application to appear on the show (our faces pixelated of course!)

I have only eight days left to clean out every closet, every cabinet, every drawer, every basket, etc.  "Kids, put the school work away and come help Mommy!"

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Miracles Happen...If You Believe!

When we started talking about our plan last year and asking ourselves, "How can we do this?  How can we afford to take a year off?"  I said naively, "We could rent our house.  Furnished, of course.  There must be some business people that will only be in town temporarily or a family relocating, but doesn't know where they want to buy yet.  Our house would be perfect for them."  We really had no idea how we would finance our adventure other than using all of our savings, but we made the decision to do this and then proceeded as if it was going to happen.


(Note: Home is not as crooked as it looks.)
Last Monday, we listed our home for lease with an agent.  We continued to clean.  On Wednesday, she brought the lockbox to put out, but I couldn't find an extra key.  We kept cleaning.  On Thursday afternoon, she called to ask if another agent could look at the house for their clients.  We cleaned like madmen!  By Friday morning, we had a contract, a deposit check and the first month's rent.  Miracle's happen if you believe and then act like it.

The wonderful people leasing our fully furnished home for the next eleven months are from Finland (Yes, FINLAND!) and in the country on business.  They are the exact people I imagined eight months ago over Christmas break when Greg and I finally slowed down long enough to discuss our plan.

Miracles happen and we are thankful.  (We haven't contacted the Catholic Church for official confirmation, but we believe.)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Home School Grand Opening!

Our Classroom
Our first week of home school favored the old description of the month of March;  it started like a lion and ended like a lamb.  All of Emma's fears soon dissipated as the week progressed.  I was worried that the kids wouldn't take it seriously if they were not dressed and at desks.  How wrong I was!  The kids amazed me at how they fell into a routine so quickly.  Waking and coming down to the kitchen table and opening their folders to work while eating their oatmeal or cereal.  The kids' adaptability amazed me!

What is our home school curriculum?  The Jenny Brooks Method - I am creating it as we go.  I am not purchasing a curriculum because I have taught each of their grade levels before and prefer the freedom to choose what they need as we work.  I can't wait for all the teachable moments we'll have this year.  I have printed out all of the standards for each of their grade levels, but we are basically working on the three Rs - Reading, Riting and Rithmatic.  (I think it is so funny that the old term for the three Rs is base on the premise of misspelling two of the three subject words.)  

For the first couple of weeks, we are concentrating on pretesting, reviewing, getting writing samples and seeing where they are in reading.  Each day, the kids wrote a letter to members of the family.  I started with teaching them the correct friendly letter format.  I thought if we are traveling the kids need to know how to write a proper letter, not just text messages.  It will be a horrible state to be in if our future leaders can only communicate in one sentence snippets.  For math, each day the kids did drills in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts.  On Friday, Greg timed them to solve 100 problems in less than three minutes.  Unfortunately, none made it.  They were very close, but no cigar.  Maybe next week, their factual recall will be quicker.  

Anabel and Wyatt are both reading Harry Potter.  Anabel has been bogged down in the fifth book for a while, but I have insisted that she rally and finish it.  I have read some aloud to help her get back into the story.

Emma's reading has us concerned.  She has regressed even though her grades last year were excellent.  I'm sad to say that we were so busy last year that we didn't even notice.  Emma is extremely gifted interpersonally/socially and can create diversions at the drop of a hat.  I think she is the Scarlett O'Hara of students.  If I were writing a parody of Gone with the Wind and casting Emma in Scarlett's role, the novel would begin thus:  "Emma Brooks could not read, but teachers seldom realized it when caught by her charm as her second grade teacher was."  Emma charmed her teachers and faked her way through by reading with friends in the reading center last year.  Greg and I are her joint Rhett Butler and can see through her tricks.  I think that was why she was so worried the night before we began school.  She was afraid the jig was up.

She was correct and I am so excited to have the time to teach her myself.