Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Book that Inspires

Last weekend I took Mary and Katie to the library to pick up some books for the next few weeks. The two of them did their best to decimate the natural science/animal books. Out of the massive quantities of easy read books on Tigers, Koalas, Snakes and Sharks, a book by the title of Quest for the Tree Kangaroo: An Expedition to the Cloud Forest of New Guinea landed in our bag.

Who knew that there was a kangaroo that live in trees like monkeys? Not me...never heard of them. These creatures are absolutely adorable. Quite possibly the cutest animal I have ever seen. But, more than the intriguing topic, this has to be the best juvenile non-fiction natural science book I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It isn't an "easy reader", written on what would probably be a 6th grade reading level, which makes it a really good read aloud for my children.

The author, Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop join a conservation scientist on a trip to study Tree Kangaroos in the Cloud Forests of New Guinea. The two of them document the entire trip from introducing the scientist in the group, discussing the supplies needed to undertake a two week trip into the bush, exposing the reader to the lives of the people of the native villages and how these natives have been convicted to no longer hunt the tree kangaroo. What a great book not just on the science of these creatures, but how scientists actually work out in the field.

This 'science' book has been a springboard for geography, cultural awareness, comparisons of how different people live and why conservation of our resources are important. The awareness that scientist and conservationist they see on TV don't work in a vacuum and the enormous amount of supplies and help they receive from people all over the world to do their jobs. It oesn't just report what scientists have discovered about Tree Kangaroos, but How.

Very inspiring for us.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Day at the Lake

In celebration of me starting to feel a little more normal, and considering the forecast for tomorrow is mid-40s rain and 30mph winds, we put away the school books and headed out for a day at Jordan Lake.

We ate lunch by the lake, played on the playground and then headed out on the 1.4 mile loop trail. It only took us 1 1/2 hours to walk the trail and we got passed not once but twice by the same woman. But it was so worth it.

After uploading the pictures I realized that there are none of Robbie, but rest assured that he is with me - I was just the one with the camera.

Mary swears she saw a bat inside this hollow tree.

This tree was about 100years old.

Again, I love images of them walking away in a line like this.
The water levels are way down. I am standing in a clump of marsh grass that should be in the water to take this photo.
One of the reasons it took us 1 1/2 hours to walk a mile-and-a-half, frequent rest breaks.

We did manage to see several hawks, a pair of egrets and a very large squirrel nest. I love our nature days.


Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Lost Month

January is almost gone and I am left feeling like I have lost a whole month somewhere in here. It took me days after the surgery to feel as if all the pain killers and anesthesia had left my system. Since then I have slowly been building back up to some 'normal' level of activity. By the middle of the day I find myself exhausted, counting the hours until DH can come home. I still can only bend over and pick up so much so the house has been in a constant state of chaos and by the time I need to fix dinner I'm so tired I'm not even hungry, so DH has been basically working two jobs this week. Went back to the surgeon for a follow-up this week and all is fine. The tiredness is normal and should slowly clear up of the next couple of weeks. I just hate not having the energy.

Of course it isn't just the surgery making me feel tired. Walking and climbing 16month olds are exhausting just by themselves. We have been working on teaching Robbie what "NO" means. He has been giving us lots of opportunities for these teaching moments. His two favorite activities right now are climbing up the computer desk to get to the items on top of the hutch - you know those items we purposely put away up there so no little hands can get to them; and climbing on top of the kitchen table.

When he gets tired of those games he and Emily team up as the destructive duo. The other day while I was fixing lunch and they were supposed to be playing in Robbie's room, I found them in the bathroom with a container of baby powder.
Emily was making powder soup - all over the bathroom floor.

On to better news, it does appear Emily has climbed over the potty training hump. Emily loves my mother so much that she will do anything for her - including finally using the potty. She is now in underwear during the day, and although she still has the odd accident, she is using the potty mainly. Can I just say how happy I am that this day has finally come to our house. Three down and one to go. How early can I start training Robbie????

School has been going okay. We have been getting our work done and reading lots of magazines and library books. But crafts and science projects have been put on hold lately. Playing outside has been hit-and-miss and only lasting short periods of time as the weather has been cold, or wet, or cold and wet. Our days are often so little about the workbooks and more often the other things, so I feel like a lot has been missing since we started back at the beginning of the month.

We have finally gotten our timeline made and hung on the wall. We are using some dot matrix printer paper that Mom had given me and made an approximately 13ft. long run of the paper along the wall. We added the dates for the ancient history that we have already covered. Now, we will be able to just add all the things we come across in reading, math, science and so forth.

And, I have pulled together the information for our big winter/spring project of creating an official backyard habitat. Mary is supposed to do the design and we will work together to finish the manual labor. When it is all done we can apply for a certificate and a sign for the yard.

My computer time is up - sounds like Robbie is somewhere he doesn't need to be.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

It got interesting

After several weeks of calm life it got interesting again.

Monday morning I woke up to the heat not working, again. Based on the symptoms this time I knew it was going to be a relatively easy & inexpensive fix, but had to wait until DH came home from work. He diagnosed it as being the second motor and we just had to track it down.

Monday night we had a really fun time. DH started a good fire in the fireplace, we moved our three small space heaters around the house and managed to keep the house a comfortable 66. The girls wanted to watch Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - so we just cuddled up and watched it together. 1:30 Tuesday morning I woke up in excruciating pain. I had to wake up DH several times. I thought I was going to die. As soon as we could get someone over Tuesday morning, DH drove me to the ER at the hospital. Apparently, my Gallbladder had been in bad shape for awhile. I spent the entire day in the ER waiting for space in the operating rooms to do the surgery. I didn't get into surgery until 10:30 that night, so I also ended up spending the night at the hospital.

DH had the nearly impossible task of coordinating help with my SILs, finding the part to fix (and actually fix the heater) and be with me to be able to sign paperwork and be my voice as they had me on heavy narcotics throughout the day. Yeah for DH as he managed to get all this done and really be with me throughout all of this.

The heater fix ended up costing only $6 for the part and took him about 15 minutes to replace. The house I cam home to is pretty clean and the chores are all done. The kids were happy, although they did miss me. And, apparently all my little niggling body pains and issues were mainly related to the gallbladder - so here is hoping I will be in better shape in a couple of weeks.

Now the pain medicine is kicking in and I'm going to take a nap.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

My new project

On our way home this week from piano I came across this bicycle sitting in a neighbor's yard with a "Free" sign. I brought it home to see what DH thought. It is actually in okay shape. We have put air in the tires and they are holding. The front gears were stripped so we put the chain on the middle gear in the front and it still gives me seven mid-range gears. How many do I really need for puttering around here.

I want to replace the seat with one that is padded. My old behind can't take these pointy un-cushioned seats for very long. And, I have been 'window' shopping on-line for baskets. I can't decide if I want a front basket, rear basket or even just go ahead and get both.

My thoughts are that I will be using it not only to get out and exercise with the kids, but also for quick trips to the store and library. Yesterday Mary and I rode our bikes to the library and had a great time, although I do have to say my legs were burning by the time we got home. It really didn't take us any longer on bike than when we take a car since we can cut through the woods as opposed to going around a couple of neighborhoods.

For the last six months I have been wanting a bicycle, but with all of our other expenses could not justify the $100-$200 expense. Again, I am reminded that if I wait long enough good things will come. Now we are on the lookout for a really big bike for my 6'5" husband.


Monday, January 07, 2008

I cannot believe this story????

SWAT officers invade home, take 11-year-old at gunpoint
Cops demand boy go to doctor because of fall during horseplay

I have no words....


I'm sorry...

but I have to put this up. This video is too creative and too true to not get out there. It has been all I can do over the past couple of weeks not to post any political stuff. But the truth is I think there is an inner activist I have never seen before inside me.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost



Friday, January 04, 2008

End of week cap

Our week has been pretty uneventful. Trying to get back into the rhythm of school and chores and fun, and that always means a few testy days. Unfortunately it has been cold. Cold - Cold, and dry to boot. None of us want to spend more than the minimum amount of time outside - which means they are all getting somewhat antsy, and not a little irritating. Outside, active nature time is a must for us, obviously.

Wednesday was a struggle all day in regards to schoolwork. They wanted to do it...and they didn't. I tried to light a fire, but the wood was still a little damp and my fire building skills are not the best. I had visions of a nice roaring fire and all of us curled up listening to me read. Instead I spent an hour or so messing with the blooming thing. By that time the children had decided to occupy themselves with the motherload of playdough Emily received for her birthday, and they were not in any mood to be dragged away from that. In the end we did manage to do reading, math and science, and DH built us a nice, warm roaring fire when he came home from work.

Thursday went better, thanks to gymnastics in the middle of the day. Once they had expended all the cooped up energy Mary and Katie were much more inclined to finish their work. We worked through the first couple of chapters of the math book I found at the library. It surprised them, as they thought it was going to be BORING. Mary even did okay having to re-read her poem three times in order to answer my questions.

Today, being Friday, is game day, crafts and science activities. And, since I haven't planned out any science activities for today, it was games and crafts. Mary has been busy making God'sEyes and asking me to teach her how to sew (I told her to get back to me after I take a sewing course). After lunch they pulled out a few games and have been busy occupying themselves. I really wish they would go outside...really wish.

We have done well this week eating out of the pantry and avoiding grocery stops. I did go by the store after my appointment Wednesday evening, mainly to pick up more eggs, oatmeal and a box of baby wipes. I also had to get a refill card for my cellphone. I ended up spending $59 all together, since I found chocolate chips on sale, decided to treat Mary to some cream cheese and myself to M&M's that were on sale(these are my evening sanity medicine). All-in-all, not to shabby for me. This weekend I am going in search of soy flour to use as an egg replacer in my baking - eggs are just getting too expensive to use.

We have been eating well this week (always the case at the beginning of the month).

This was dinner last night:
1/2 lb Kielbasa
1 small onion
2 TBS roasted garlic
1 can kidney beans (rinsed)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup instant rice
1 can corn
~ 2 cups of water
dash cumin
dash oregano
salt and pepper to taste
a few drops of hot sauce

I have followed recipes for red beans and rice in the past, and they have never come out as good as this quick and easy stove-top recipe. I could have precooked some rice and used that, but I had this box of minute rice that only had a cup or so left. It made enough for a small army, or at least for our dinner and leftovers for DH today.

So, like I said the beginning of the month in a pantry challenge is always fairly easy. Wait until the end when I start coming up with some real creations ;)


Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Back to the Grind - Yeah

After nearly a month off we are totally ready to hit the floor running today. In fact the girls have been asking when we are going to start lessons again for the last few days.

The holiday has been a bonanza of finding books and materials for us to use this coming quarter. Mary received both The Daring Book for Girls and The Dangerous Book for Boys (I couldn't decide as both books had really good ideas and activities. Of course Mary thinks the girl's book should also be named "Dangerous", because girls like being dangerous too. Mary also received a box set of Felicity books from the American Girl collection, which has led to an interest in the American Revolution period.

Whereas, Katie received more miniature animals for her collection, including a whole tube of sea animals. She has decided that we need to study oceans this period for her. Which works out because I can do a unit study for both of them incorporating geography and all.

At the library I found where they hid all the good math books in the adult non-fiction section, and came home with Math Magic for your Kids by Scott Flansburg. Lots of great activities and games for adding a little more natural math into our day. I can already see a renewal and a fine to get through this book with the kids.

I cleaned the girls' bedroom and went through all our board games (getting rid of the ones that are broken or too many missing parts) and am good to go today. The girls made a list of what they would like to do today: math, reading, science and making God's Eyes following the directions in Mary's book. I would like to go on a walk, but it is only going to be in the upper 30s with a howling wind out of the NW.

Anyway, I'm still really looking forward to this coming year. The break was good for us, we needed it and now we are ready. At least until February/March when the late-winter doldrums set in.

And, for Melora, I am taking the Mary and Katie skiing the first weekend in February and they have asked if there was anyway we could stop by and visit you again? They still talk constantly about our visit this summer.

A family of six living and learning. You might catch us outside in the mud or working on crafts. We always seem to be on the go, come on and join us.