Thursday, September 22, 2011


I was introduced to this today.  It's fabulous.  Try it.  We did.  We were amazed and then tickled with laughter.

Swords, dragons, fire...clearly created for boys.

Odin's stickman...more detailed than Eli's. 

Soccer Mom

It seemed so easy.  Here's a fun sport.  It counts as physical education for the homeschooling part.  It teaches sportsmanship and team playing and other...stuff. 
The kids run up and down the small field kicking a ball.  They play games aimed at teaching soccer skills.  The coaches are volunteers, so they only take it minimally seriously.  There is a small, seemingly unintimidating group of children.  Good times had by all, right? 
Our middle man wanted to play soccer after a year of his oldest brother playing.  As soon as he got on the field...wait, no.  Before he got on the field he froze up.  He got embarrassed.  I had to hold his hand the entire time.  He knew his coach.  She's someone we spend time with a lot.  He knew two children out of 5 on his team.  Still, he was embarrassed.  It took a lot for  him to actually play that first day.  When he kicked the ball out of bounds, he cried. My little tough guy cried.  It was so heart breaking.  Day two...he spent all of 30 seconds on the field and then walked off.  When it's his day for practice, he does not want to go.  When we're there for his brother's practices, he tries to play on the field. 
Not so easy.
My darling eldest, however, has turned into the jock I hated in high school.  He keeps score.  He has laughed when another child missed the goal.  He's pointed and called out the score, making sure the other team knew they were the lower number.  Oh. My. Gosh. This. Is. Not. My. Kid.
Teachable moments, right?  That's what we're trying.  I'd like him to keep his competitiveness without being The Mean Kid.  You've got to be somewhat competitive to enjoy and do well in, well, competitive sports. 

Another Round of Apple Picking

We pick apples.  A lot.  More like, I run around and pick apples while the kids eat them, chase one another and roll around on the ground.  Either way, it's fun had by all.  I get my apples.  The kids get exercise and healthy food.  What more could you ask for?
One of our favorite places to visit is Wojick's.  It's a family run farm with a good variety of apples.  They, unlike Tougas Family Farm, spray pesticides liberally.  I asked someone there if they spray their apples.  She looked at me, dead pan, and said, "Yes.  Make sure to wash your apples before eating them."  I try not to buy produce that's sprayed, however, spraying means cheaper.  I own soap and have access to water.  We simply wash our apples prior to consuming.  By cheaper, I mean 50% cheaper than other places that practice IPM (Integrated Pest Management) or follow organic practices.  I'm all for organic, but when I'm putting up quart after quart of applesauce, I simply cannot afford organic.  Now that I'm all on the defensive...
Wojick's has a tractor/wagon ride that was Silas' favorite.  He would have liked to ride it all day long.  There's also a corn maze.  And they're open at night, in the dark.  Spooky!  We'll be heading there tomorrow night if the rain holds off. 
I've also discovered a feature on my camera that "enhances" my pictures.  I think I found my new love.  Eli was there, I swear.  He was just more interested in not being near the camera. 

Fun with corn husks, a la Charlie Chaplin...

My little farmer boy

You love the enhancements, don't you?  You should.  My life seems so much prettier with them. 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

September Fun far.

Sweaty and dirty soccer kid.
Don't underestimate a good piece of straw...

Odin while peach and apple picking

Before my husband could take the trash out to the bin, the skunk got to it first.  We believe this is the male one.  Slow and not very self-preserving. 
Wolf spider identification

Stink bug nymph...we believe.  We believe a lot that may or may not be true. 

Soccer kid.
 I post so sporatically.  And my photos build up and I just don't have time to post something substantial for each memory. 

Spiderwick Chronicles, again.

We started reading The Spiderwick Chronicles, again, back in May.  We started.  I was reading to them in bed.  By the third night Silas couldn't be bothered.  Odin would flop down on his back and say, "I HATE Spiderwick!"  Eli was interested, but mildly.  It was awful.  I just wanted them to enjoy the books...because I wanted to read the books.  I put the books aside and waited.  And waited.  Until July came around.  Then I started again...on the couch.  Silas still couldn't be bothered, but he could sit and play with toys.  I wasn't so adamant about him sitting still and listening.  I had pictured us all snug in bed, reading this wonderful story together...each one of us completely enthralled and wanting more.  More snuggle time, more story.  So when it didn't happen, I would get frustrated..."Just SIT down!"  The couch scenario worked better.  There were times the only person looking at the book was me.  But, they were all listening.  We finished the books in late August.  Then we watched the movie.  My children had their first experience with the movie being nothing like the book.  "But, Mulgarath doesn't look like that!"  "Where is the Phooka?!"  "That's NOT what happened!!!" 
I asked them if they liked the movie.  Definitely.  Did they love the books?  Definitely.  We were then able to discuss why movies can differ so greatly from their paper counterparts. 
For the next couple of weeks, my children pretended to live in a world of faeries.  They built more faerie houses.  They took on the roles of Jared Grace and Mulgarath, battling it out.  They took on the roles of the Grace children and worked together to fight Mulgarath.  The took on the identities of the Phooka and Stray Sod and confused the invisible Grace children. 
I loved the book.  I loved the movie.  I loved learning some more about myself and my children.  They didn't need to be sitting snuggled against me while I read about faeries and ogres.  Eli actually remembered which book the Stray Sod was in when looking at Arthur Spiderwick's Field Guide.  They don't mention them in the movie and they are only mentioned briefly in the books.  One book.  Apparently, it's book 3.  I haven't checked to confirm this, however.  I just know that when I turned a page in the Field Guide Eli exclaimed, "I know what those are!  That's a Stray Sod!  Remember, mom?  In book 3 when Jared was going to find the elves."  I'll take your word for it, kid.  I remember the story, but certainly not which book out of the 5 held what information.  Maybe the beginning.  Maybe the end.  But the middle is kind of a blur.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Organize My Calendar

I've said this before...I am a great organizer.  I can chart, plan, graph and PowerPoint with the best of them.  On paper, I can be amazing!  In real life, I show up a week early for my son's nature class, I arrive late for play dates, I don't shower every day and sometimes I'm lucky my kids find food to eat. 
There is one thing that has helped keep me on track: A Calendar.  Not just a calendar the oil company dropped off to promote their business.  This is a simple calendar that I created on Excel to fit my family's needs.  It works as long as I put in the right information (i.e. the day Eli's nature class starts was not yesterday, but next week). 

There are rows for each family member.  I also highlight each thing for each member in a different color.  Yes, I'm pink.  And no, nature class did not start on the 6th.

I print out on two sheets of card stock and then glue them together.  I had to use extra strong magnets to hold up the calendar. 

Merging cells together when the boys all have one activity. 
 I used to have a planner.  I'd forget it in the car or would forget to write things in it because it was in my bag, far, far away in another room.  I used to use the calendar on my phone, but then I couldn't see it simply by turning my head.  And I've lost my phone.  I'm pretty sure the fridge isn't going places.  I've also tried Outlook or another online calendar.  But if I'm not on the computer, or if the power is out, or whatever other far fetched thing could happen, I won't have access to it.  And one else could see it either.  No one else really looks at this one, but I can always say..."it's on the calendar"...with my head tilted to the side and eyebrows raised.
Finding what works for you and your family is key. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Husband's Creations

"Daddy, can you make me something?"
This is what the husband hears weekly.  He always obliges, making 3 exact things for the boys.  He made the mistake of bringing home one thing for one boy one day.  I thought there might have been carnage.  Lessons have been learned.  Three.  Not one.
I have mixed feelings about the husband making things for the boys.  One day he came home with these crazy weapons.  "Well, they asked for these..." is the response I got when I freaked about DSS coming to take the children away.
Some things he makes are just pretty great.
Bow number 1

Eli and Bow number 2 - PVC pipe

Nuts and bolts robot.  It actually showed us that in order to move one part, you needed to move others.  Tricky.

A bug
 ...ignore the leaves in my sill...

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Magic School Bus A Journey into the Human Body, Tim and Ralphie's #1 Experiments

I'm pretty sure we read Inside the Human Body.  I just can't seem to find the book anywhere.  To supplement my imagination the book, we bought one of the Young Scientists Club Magic School Bus kits, A Journey into the Human Body.  There are 12 experiments and/or activities.  A lot of the supplies are included.  You need to provide things like tape, paper, pencil, vegetable oil, 2-liter soda bottle, water, stop watch, food items, and paper plate.  These activities are pretty simple and straight forward in a way my five-year-old can understand.  We rolled our shoulders around and then rolled around the ball and socket joint. 
I also got a unit study lesson and activity book at a curriculum sale.  If you like worksheets, or if your kids like worksheets, these are great additions to the learning.  The beginning sheets test your current knowledge on the body.  It's a nice way to see what you learn by the end.  For instance, we have no idea what the gall bladder does.  By the end of this month I'm anticipating that we know exactly what it does.  Odin, however, remembered that the gall bladder from the chicken processing was green. 
We watched National Geographic's Incredible Human Machine.  My kids are on the younger side and got bored during some parts and ran outside to play for ten-minute stretches.  Then they came back in and watched some more.  Towards the end of the film the topic of reproduction is broached.  I was actually relieved, despite being a doula, that they were outside at that moment.  I just am not ready for "But HOW does the sperm meet the egg???"

Tim's Experiment #1 in the background (bones in vinegar) and Eli working on Ralphie's Experiment #1.

Ball and socket joint

Wanda's Activity - life sized poster

A worksheet from the unit study book and the kit.

Science/Literature Unit book

Magic School Bus On The Ocean Floor

The second meeting of The Magic School Bus science club convened the other day.  We read On the Ocean Floor.  I really love Ms. Frizzle.  She's so goofy.
We met the day after Hurricane Irene hit, so there were three families this time around.  It was the perfect reason to leave our powerless and waterless house. 

Using straws to make waves in bins of water. 

Creating a hydrometer to compare the density of freshwater to saltwater.

Adding salt to see how the water's density changes.
Looks fabulous, right?  Photography is tricky that way.  The hydrometer experiment did not work.  I think it was more disappointing for the parents than for the kids.  The kids just took off and played.  They had fun making the waves, though.  But that quickly ended when the straws turned into implements in helping to shoot water at people.  And my kid other kids started drinking the water being spit out by the other kids. 
Things I love about being around friends and homeschooling:
Being around friends - having the support and knowledge.
Loving the environment - nurturing and loving.
Things that are challenging about being around friends and homeschooling:
Those darned kids are more apt to run off and play than to sit down and do their work!!!

And bee stings...  being outside really is dangerous.  Note to self * Do not let children throw balls at bees' nests. 
Or let them and see what lessons they have learned at the end of the day. 
To make a hydrometer, go here.

The Chipmunk Experiment

We're a little unconventional, I think.  Our cats love to leave us gifts.  Most are headless.  I've never scooped up more rodents and birds in my life.  Actually, before being an outdoor cat owner, I never scooped up rodents or birds. 
I'm a homeschooling mom of boys who are interested in bones, life & death and animals. 
Do you know where this is going?
We found a gifted chipmunk yesterday.  Intact.  Poor little guy never knew what was coming.
Today, we buried it.  Not for the sake of respecting it's life...for the sake of science.
Introducing The Chipmunk Experiment.  How long will it take for a chipmunk to decompose?  What will the skeleton look like?  Will we have to piece it back together?  Will it have any visible fractures or broken bones?
RIP Chipmunk...
I have no idea about decomposition rates.  However, I do know some things about composting.  I grabbed a large potting vessel.  There are holes at the bottom so it won't turn into a small pond....we have one of those already. 
The bottom layer includes some stones for added drainage and some pine chips and dirt from one compost pile.  Added in the chipmunk.  I thought about putting him in a plastic berry container so I could just pull it out without the bones separating, but didn't know how the decomposition rate would be affected.  Eli already has plans to experiment with a mouse if we find one, so I'll try the berry container then. 
I dug up a big, juicy shovel-full of compost from the live pile.  There were plenty of worms and large chunks of wet compost and half-composted veggies.  Lastly, more pine chips and dirt.  I put it in a semi-sunny location.  It's supposed to rain tonight, so I didn't feel I needed to water it. 
Eli - One year for the chipmunk to fully decompose.
Mom - One month.
Dad - Six months.
Odin - Two weeks.
Silas - One week.

Feel free to tell me how gross you think we are.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hurricane Irene and 40lbs of Veggies

We've been doing a lot.  We lost power for four days with Hurricane Irene.  We also got a week's share from the CSA gifted to us.  Actually, a share and a half.  That's a TON of veggies, in case you were wondering.  While we've been doing a lot and I've been diligently photographing our lives like a good little doobie.  Enjoy!
Fishing on the dock...or should be aptly captioned:  Oh, no, I lost my net under the dock...momma, can you get it for me????

Doll's Eyes at Cormier Woods.  I just love these ...they're kinda creepy.

S'mores!  Best part about bbq's...the crazy fire pit s'more happenings.

My hair before chopping it off and donating to Locks of Love.  You never realize how long your hair is until you see pictures of it.  Well, at least I don't.

Silas on our morning date.  This donut was not organic or natural in any way, shape or form.  He licked off the frosting and sprinkles, told everyone who came in about it and then left with the biggest smile on his face.

Love these bees!

Best Zucchini bread EVER!
I used 1/2 butter and 1/2 olive oil, all brown sugar, all whole-wheat flour.  It was still OH MY GOD good.  This is my new go-to recipe for zucchini bread.  And it was so a rainbow...without red, yellow, blue or not like a rainbow at all, but still colorful. 

The boys fishing with homemade fishing poles - a stick, yarn and safety pin.  No fish were caught, but good times were had.

After the hair chopping.  I went shopping with a friend and her 16 year old sister...those crazy kids and their new-fangled fashions...

Coloring by lantern light during Hurricane Irene

One tree down, one to go...c'mon kitty, keep pushing!  All jokes aside, we're terribly lucky that tree fell the way it did. 

Finding the beauty in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.