Friday, July 25, 2008

Foto Friday

In honor of it being Friday, and the fact that I have finally pulled out my camera again, we have a bunch of photos to share from this week.

Here are Mary and Katie working on their Rainforest pictures. They are adding animals and plants found on the forest floor.

We did make it to The Museum of Life and Sciences yesterday. The weather was wonderful and the museum was packed. There were quite a few things that I had to promise the girls that we would come back to after school starts so they could have more time with it.

This is the Sound & Movement room in the newest exhibit. There are small cameras in the ceiling positioned over each square. Each square has an assigned sound, and as the camera/computer detects movement within the square it plays the sound. Depending how you move or how fast you move changes the tonality & tempo.

Of course, these two did not totally understand the principle...big empty room, lots of colorful lights and music. It has to be fun.
Mary, on the other-hand tested out the principles on a much smaller scale. The small computers around the room that allowed her to assign sounds to different zones along this white pad. Then through motion detection she could create her own piece of music.

After our train ride, the girls asked if we could walk down to the outdoor wildlife/nature area. I had not planned on it as it is a bit of a walk and this time of year it can be so hot that you might not see the animals. But, they wanted to and I could tell that it would be much less crowded than returning to the museum.

I guess the lower temps and humidity also brought the animals out to play.
These bear cubs are about Robbie's age. We watched them for about 20 minutes romping around, wrestling and climbing on the tree to the left. Mary found the video screen and camera controller and spent most of the time operating that, even after I told her it was much more fun to watch with her eyes.
Over at the pond, the kids fooled around with the various hands-on displays; paddling like a duck, swimming like a tadpole, setting up rocks and sand along a model river to show how objects can flow along a river to a pond. Here Katie and Robbie are matching animal sounds with pictures.
The shy red wolves were actually out and about today, pacing along the fence line in their habitat. These are special pups, the first red wolves born in captivity in NC in a long time. The museum is working with conservationists to help build back up the declining red wolf population.

After a stop by the Lemur habitat, who were having their mid-day nap, we moved on the the "Catch the Wind" exhibit. We had not actually made it to this exhibit since it opened. What a wonderful surprise. This is the place we cannot wait to get back to this fall.

The centerpiece of this exhibit is the sailing pond.
The small pond where you can interchange the sails and see how it affects how the sailboat moves across the water.

And, the big pond. Along the side are captain stations that allow you to steer one of the boats in the pond. Steering, sails in...sails out, all to see how well you can catch the wind.
There were several other smaller areas, like this one which talks about how some insects have wings that are made to catch and use the wind. Mary is experiencing what it might be like to be a giant, metal dragonfly.
After about three hours of sun, crowds and a lot of sensory input we were all ready to pack it in and head home for a nap. We made a quick stop back at the main museum for a few promised minutes in the "Play & Learn" area. Robbie made friends with this large stuffed horse and decided to take it for a ride. "Home, boy, home."


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Good Beginning

It was nice to find out that after 2 1/2 months of no textbooks the girls have not only maintained, but advanced. We picked up on our Math exactly where we left off, and except for having to remind Mary that she needed to borrow (I didn't have to re-teach it, just remind her that she needed to use it) they have taken off. Katie, who had been struggling with adding on a number line, just gets it now.

Last spring we finished the last of the readers I had for Mary, so we just took a break from reading for awhile. Now she is reading library books, her Wildlife Explorers notebook and instruction pages for whatever independently. Big jump from grudgingly reading, and only wanting to read aloud to me, to using reading to learn what she wants to. It makes a huge difference in how I can plan our day-to-day activities. It frees up time that I can now spend with Katie and Emily.

Speaking of Katie, I pulled out the reader she was ready for back when we took our three days she has read it completely and easily. Thankfully, I have a pile of them through the 2nd grade level so we will just move on to the next one. All that extra practice of reading every picture book I read to Emily and Robbie over my shoulder has paid off.

They are enjoying the unit on Tropical Rainforests that we are doing for science. So much so they have pushed me to do about two weeks worth of reading this week. As the big assignment Mary and Katie are each drawing a mural, and idea from the old curriculum "My World Science." Since, we have started out so well I've decided we are going to head out the the Museum of Life and Science. In the Insect and Butterfly house they have a large assortment of tropical insects and poisonous dart frogs. Of course, there are also a lot of fun activities and a new Sound and Movement exhibit.

It should be a good day



Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Starting Slow

As the heat of the summer finally descends upon us we are gearing ourselves up for our summer quarter. After 2 1/2 months off I expected a little more grumpiness on the part of Mary and Katie, but got very little. Give it a few days...

Anyway, this is our light quarter as far as how much we do each day. I still want plenty of time to get out and play, go swimming or even travel. We are only going to hit two subjects or so per day until after school goes back at the end of August. And, even then I have a fairly condensed load for each of them this year. We enjoy having enough time each day to chase our own rainbows.

The girls are almost finished with their math books from last year, and really could move on into their new books now. But, I figured if we just do math three days a week we can finish these and start new math books with our Fall Quarter.

We've also hit a new milestone in our education. I have, for the first time, assigned Mary an independent reading book. This one is for our history unit and is a book on Christopher Columbus. She is to read it this week and be prepared next Monday to write a two paragraph summary with me. Her reading has improved so much over Spring Break that this is finally possible. And, it is HUGE for us.

After all my back and forth stress trying to decide 'how' for this year, I really do think this is going to be a good year. Even with adding in a preschooler and very, very active toddler. We are in the end spending very little money on actually textbooks, which has given us a little more to cover some of the multitude of activities on their lists.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Life Interruptus

I can't believe it has been 10 days since I last posted. Well, I can actually. I have started a half-dozen posts during that time period, but for one thing or another I have never finished them. Life has been busy for us, especially over the last week.

Mary and Katie were both involved in day camps over in the city, which involved getting up at the unfathomable time of 6:30 AM and preparing bagged lunches, making sure they had all their stuff in a book bag and getting everyone up and dressed to be out the door at 7:30. Trust me when I say that having my kids in public school would in no way make my life easier.

But, they did have a great time at camp as they always do. For them day camp is something special. We put a lot of thought into selecting just the right one for them each year. It isn't some glorified, expensive day care...and they treat it as such.

Mary attended a "Sail and Science" camp, where she learned the basics of sailing a sunfish sailboat. She did wonderfully, winning the capsizing award as being one of the best and most gung-ho about tipping the boat over into the water and then flipping it back right-side up. We are already being pressed by her to attend the sleep-away sailing camp on the coast next summer.

Katie went to the "Nature Explorers" camp. Kind of a basic intro to animal and nature study, but she got to do it through group games and lots of playing with other kids her age. The highlight for her was finding another little girl who also collected animal, they talked and shared and we have a new best friend who only lives 45 minutes away.

I do have to say the neat thing about them going off and doing these separate classes without me in tow is the sharing in the car on the way home. Normally, I'm right there experiencing everything right along with them, but this time they got to talk it out and give me something new and interesting every day. I have to admit hearing about their day like this was kind of refreshing.

The little ones and I had our own special days here at the house. The couple of days we needed to run errands we did them on the way back to the house. We visited the library for preschool reading time, visited the large park that has a train we could ride on, played with friends at their house, had water play in the backyard, or just helped me with chores around the house. Emily has been into paper cutting this week. Which, generally, has meant me having to pick up some of the smallest pieces of paper scattered all over the arts & crafts area. But she has also finished up with some really fine, recognizable works. She also received a new box of sidewalk chalk from her aunt, so she has spent some time outside with those. For three-and-a-half she is a pretty good natural artist.

Robbie has been right there along side Emily, for better or for worse. He managed to learn a few more words, and many more sounds. He prefers naming objects by the sounds they make, rather than their actual names. Which I think is pretty cute, although I am sure someone has a scary story out there about how it is a major sign for one dysfunction or another. The fact is he has a great ear for mimicry.

We still have one more trip planned, and Mary has one more short sleepover camp for the summer. But, we are all ready to start easing back into a routine and doing a little more focused work. The temps this week are supposed to jump back into the 90s and 100s, a good time to stay inside. Mary wants to learn Chinese (yes, she has yet to finish her exploration of China) so I am going to create my own workbook with things I can find online and we will use a free Chinese language CD we got from a restaurant in the kid's meal. Katie right now is all about reading and writing, she has caught the bug Mary has always managed to avoid. She has been spending some time each day on and I'm going to start sitting with her and reading for some time every day. Emily's cutting activities has given me the push to start working with her on some tracing skills, which she can then cut out. Me, well I am trying to give myself some time each day for knitting. I have a long list of knitting skills I would like to learn.



Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blueberry Picking???

We have had blueberry picking on our agenda since Tuesday. As always life seems to intervene and we have not made it, yet. Tuesday, my SIL called because they had our nephew (from DH's other sister) visiting and wanted to go swimming. So, that is what we did. Then yesterday I called the blueberry farm to find out their picking conditions to find out that they had been picked over on Tuesday. I figured it wasn't worth the 45 minute drive for the limited amount of berries we could get. I did some research and have found another place, even closer, that allows picking on Tuesday and Thursday. Hopefully, this late in the season I can still get enough to fill the freezer.

Since we didn't go anywhere yesterday I took the opportunity to keep working on my decluttering of the house. I concentrated on the kitchen; sorted through old food stores and reorganized all the cans, boxes and bags. It is funny that when it is all disorganized and scattered I sometimes feel as though the pantry is all but empty. But once it is straightened up I can see all that we actually have. The stockpile is still going strong, especially since this time of year I am rarely touching it. I feel very fortunate about our food supplies for this coming winter.

I'll take this opportunity to whine about my garden. I am going to have to move it to the other side of the house next year. As the trees in the yard have leafed out more and more with each passing year, my hours of direct sunlight have decreased to such a point that we no longer get much yield at all. I'll keep this garden patch for winter/spring crops which always do well over there, and create a new raised bed on the north side of the house for summer/fall crops. That will have to be my job this fall. Since it will have to be inside the fence, I'm going to have to come up with some way to keep the dogs and kids out of it.

We had a fun night last night. After our daily, evening severe thunderstorm moved through we lost power. Thankfully, I had just finished putting together the mac 'n cheese that was the kids' dinners. DH and I had planned on finishing the leftovers from earlier in the week. We had dinner by lamp light, listened to classical music on the radio and just chilled out. The power stayed off for almost three hours (coming on just in time for me to catch the first of a three-part documentary I wanted to watch). The kids played hide n seek, the darkness adding a certain level of difficulty to it. Mary found some craft projects that she could do by lamp light. I turned the heel on my sock and then put it away so I could read some more in the library book that is due tomorrow. Everyone enjoys it when we 'lose power'. Of course I warned them that we may find ourselves doing this more and more as electricity prices keep climbing.

As my t-shirt says: Life is Good


Monday, July 07, 2008


The blue sky we saw at the 4th of July celebration is pretty much the last of the blue skies all weekend. Storms moved in just before we got ready to leave to see the fireworks causing a mass of last minute postponements. When the rain finally stopped around 10:30, at least our neighbors were ready to shoot off their illegal fireworks, until midnight. Off and on for the last three days we have watched thunderstorms move through the area. On the bright side we are now officially above average for rainfall this year.

I did manage to run one errand this weekend to Goodwill, and am quite proud of what I found. I went to drop off some bags of stuff I put together while decluttering a couple weeks ago, and decided while I was there I should do some looking. I am trying to gather some more blankets/comforters for this coming winter (natural gas prices have increased nearly 80% - OUCH!). But also I needed to get myself some shorts and jeans. I took $40 with me and spent $38, but got:
~ two twin comforters
~ 2 pairs namebrand overalls in perfect condition for Robbie
~ 3 t-shirts in really great condition for Robbie
~ 2 pairs of shorts for me
~ 2 pairs of jeans for me
~ 1 pair of denim capris for me
~ 6 children books to add to our library
~ 1 pair of barely used soccer cleats for Mary
My hands were so full and I had meet my dollar limit for the day, so I didn't even get the chance to look through the girls' clothing for Fall clothes for Mary. Later this week I hope to get back there with Mary and look at their selection.

The rest of the weekend I spent right here at the house doing this and that. I pulled back out my knitting. Now that it is all organized I can see what I have and plan projects. I started by unraveling a sweater my grandmother had started before she died. Honestly, I agonized over this. I inherited all of her knitting supplies, including the several unfinished projects. She had great taste in yarn and always overbought for her projects. I saw all these wonderful things I could make with her yarn, but first had to take apart those projects she never finished and I couldn't do it. My mom reminded me that my grandmother was a depression child and never let anything go to waste...she wouldn't want me holding on to perfectly good yarn in "her memory." So now I just need to complete a project worthy of my grandmother's memory with her yarn.

Until I decide which project to tackle with GM's yarn, I returned to my sock making. I still have not completed my first sock. So, that is my goal right now. It feels good to have needles in my hand again.

When I needed a break from knitting, I hit the kitchen. We were running short on bread for this coming week and it had been so long since I've made any I did. We have two wonderful loaves of my honey-wheat bread for this week. The kids were so excited. They like the brand of potato bread I've been buying recently (doesn't have HFCS), but they love my bread.

And while I was there, I made a batch of homemade baby wipes. This was purely out of laziness as I didn't want to have to ride to the grocery store for only wipes. I had not made these since Mary was a baby. I forgot how nicely they clean.

Even with the rain it was a nice productive weekend. Mary's best friend is back from her trip so I have been asked if we can hang around so they can play. I hope, hope, hope that everyone else can get outside and play for awhile.


Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth of July

Our small town throws an "Old Fashion 4th of July Celebration" every year in the downtown area. This year we decided to hop on our bikes and ride the two miles into town for the street party. Bouncy houses and big blow-up slides everywhere, old-fashion ring tosses and the big bike parade made up our day. We had a blast and ran into several friends.

The big finale was when the fire department opened their hoses and sprayed the crows in front of the old train depot. That felt really good just before we jumped back on our bikes and rode the two miles back home.

DH took the girls swimming for the afternoon since he had to go clean pools anyway. Robbie took a three-and-a-half hour nap, which left me laying around on the lounge chair outside reading a book. It is a tough life.

He brought home fish fillets and shrimp for our holiday dinner tonight. Mmmm, I love a man that can cook. Later tonight we will be heading back out to try to find a place to watch the fireworks.

Have a great holiday!!!



How lucky are we?

I've been kind of quiet recently. Not knowing what to write, as we have been hanging out and enjoying each other's company. The nights have been relatively cool with low humidities allowing us to sit out on the deck and watch the kids play as the sun sets and it turns dark. DH and I look at each other and know the other one is thinking "how cool is this."

After gorging themselves on tv for the last couple of months, the kids have turned it off and are finding lots of things to keep them occupied. Organizing the craft supplies has been wonderful in that they can finally find what they are looking for. Which means a whole lot of art work is being made by everyone. Books, those things my kids were starting to treat as some sort of deadly disease are now scattered every where, with frequent trips to the library for new refills.

We finally made it to the city's swimming pool after talking about it for a month or so. Everyone had a blast. The baby pool is perfect for Emily, who is basically swimming now and just needs to know she can touch for reassurance, and Robbie who is new to this whole wading in water bit. Mary, of course, is a fish and is all over the main pool. Katie, just this year is coming into her swimming self. She is still more comfortable near the edge, but is starting to realize that she really can swim. We will be heading back again soon.

Last night DH and I were treated to an impromptu concert and dance show by Mary and Katie. It made me realize that Mary really is an auditory learner, something I suspected but her kinesthetic tendencies always were so strong. She hears a song once or twice and then can sing it back to you without missing a beat. They had so much fun doing this for us and we laughed and laughed. At the end, they finished up with a selection of camp songs from last week.

We have plans for tomorrow to take our bikes downtown for the parade and street festival. Wish me luck as I will be going up the biggest hill yet towing the trailer with Emily and Robbie.

Have a Happy Fourth!!



Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Birthday present came today

Introducing the 2008 human powered minivan, complete with storage behind the seats.

I was really worried about pulling this. Would I actually be able to tow two children and the trailer up the neighborhood 'hills' we have, but it is very lightweight and the two large wheels help to balance the weight. We all took it out for a spin around the block this afternoon and the two little ones enjoyed the ride. Robbie so much that he climbed back into it after we came home wanting to "go, go!"

In other news, we also had our 4 new windows were installed today. These replaced the original casement windows that were nearly impossible to open. And, what a great day to try them out - low '80s and low humidity.

Very busy, interesting day.


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.