Saturday, September 30, 2006
No, not that one. This one......
My lovely and creative Irie sis knits. She's a super knitting geek. She talks about yarn and stuff. She even has a knitting blog. The youngest fine young gent will have a cozy warm head this winter, thanks to his Tia.
Bonus: The hat will cover up the glaring fact that I should never never never EVER become a hairstylist. You'd think after four kids I'd have learned that it's not a good idea to trim the baby's hair. I tried to fix my sweet gent's little mullet, thinking that those lovely soft curls will cover any deficiencies in my barbering.
(Oh, you can just see where this is going, can't you?)
The curls are gone. I'm not sure whether to cry or throw up. Shaggy is in, right? Isn't it?
Maybe I can convince him to wear his pumpkin hat 24/7 until I can get him in for a cut.
Friday, September 29, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Monday: Nature day at the arboretum with a group of like-minded homeschool moms. Lovely lady, eleven, has Oregon Children's Choir but her dad takes her.
Tuesday: Fine young gent, kinder-- PE at the school down the street. I volunteer in the library. Lovely lady, thirteen-- Oregon Children's Choir; Lovely lady, eleven-- tutoring.
Wednesday: Fine young gents, 3 and 1-- Gymnastics; Lovely young lady, thirteen, and possibly her lovely cousin (also thirteen)-- volunteer at the Humane Society every other week. (I tried to get out of this one, but LL13 really loves the cats.); Lovely lady, eleven-- tutoring.
Thursday: Lovely lady, eleven-- piano lesson which is also a play date for fine young gent, 3, with piano teacher's daughter . This doesn't really count because her teacher is willing to teach at our house, but we still have to have everything picked up and be ready to play. Lovely lady, eleven, girls social group for girls with autism. Lovely lady, thirteen-- art class.
Friday: Fine young gent, kinder-- piano lesson.
At least I don't have to take the kids to soccer.
We brought The Yellow Umbrella home from the library so many times that we finally bought it so that other folks would have a chance to check it out too. Fine young gent, five, wanted to learn to play piano, in part because of this book. It made a great gift for the fine young gent's and lovely lady's music teachers last spring.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
The fine young gents and I played "What's that squash?" in the garden yesterday. Remember when I posted about the mystery of the squash? Half the seeds I'd planted were eaten by some night critter, and I wasn't quite sure what was left. The turban squash was hiding in the lemon balm. Looks like an "assorted squash" came up. What a lovely surprise.
I was puttering in the garden yesterday, starting the fall garden cleanup. I accidentally broke a vine that had a pumpkin still attached, so I just picked the pumpkin to store in the garage.
"Look!" I said to the gents on my way to the garage. "A pumpkin from our garden!"
Two minutes later, while I was picking through the beans looking for dried pods...."Look, Mom! I found another pumpkin! Can we have a pie?" Fine young gent was as proud as, well, proud as pie that he'd found and picked a pumpkin for me.
*Sigh* "Thank you, sweetheart. Let's leave the rest to ripen, though."
I made pumpkin pie for my little guy.
How to get from pie pumpkin to pumpkin puree: Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Halve your pumpkin(s) and take out the seeds and slimy bits. Set the seeds aside for roasting later. Brush the cut edges of the pumpkin with a bit of oil and place on a rimmed baking sheet with the cut side down. Bake for about 40 minutes (for small pumpkins) to 1 hour (for larger). When done the flesh of the pumpkin should be soft when pierced with a fork, and the outer shell should be pulling away from the flesh. Let cool until you can handle it without burning yourself, then peel the shell off of the pumpkin. Puree the pumpkin flesh in the food processor.
Using your puree: You can serve the puree as is with a little butter and brown sugar, as though it's mashed/pureed squash (because it is). If you would like to use your puree in your favorite recipes for pie, scones (my favorite!) or pumpkin bread, let it sit to cool in the fridge for a few hours, or even overnight, if you can. Some of the liquid will separate from the puree, allowing you to skim it away so that your puree is just a bit thicker. (Note: I did not do this tonight and my pie is just fine. But still, it's a good idea.) I also cut back on the liquids in the recipe just a tad if I can to compensate for the fact that it's not that thick can-shaped glob of pumpkin I'd have gotten at the grocery store. (Oops! My pumpkin snobbery is showing! Don't blame me, I've been spoiled by my garden!)
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Friday, September 22, 2006
It was sunny today. On the spur of the moment, I broke out the paints and canvasses for our action painting lesson.
Lovely young lady, eleven, went first. "I don't like painting," she said. "I might get paint on my clothes," she said. "Do I have to?" she said.
("Hmm," I said. "Wear this," I said. "Yes," I said.)
"Wow, that looks COOL!!" she said. "Can I display it on the wall?"
Fine young gent, three. A traditional young man, he was a little disconcerted at the idea of dripping and flinging paint.
Dancing, spinning, splatting. Fine young gent, five, was in his element. His performance was as much a work of art as his painting. "Mom, I paint just like Jackson Pollock!" he declared at dinner, which led us in a roundabout way through a discussion of creating unique works of art and on to, of all things, fractals. My mathematical husband had to add to my rather fuzzy description. My admittedly muddled understanding of fractals, vaguely remembered from a couple articles read long ago, one related to a study of fractals in Pollock's paintings (this takes a while to load, but it's interesting even if your understanding of fractals is a bit muddled), doesn't lend itself to clear explanation. The bonus outcome: The kids are interested in learning more about fractals, and so am I.
Lovely lady, thirteen. Her vision was of an autumn tree, the viewer looking straight down from the sky. I forgot to ask if she planned it from the beginning, or if that's what her painting brought to mind when she was finished. Either way, it's really cool.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
We made a map of our neighborhood today, blocks on poster board. Yesterday we went for a walk and sketched our street; today we collaborated to create a 3-D map. Lovely lady with autism had a meltdown in the middle of the project. Lesson learned: Schedule group projects in the morning, and assign her a very specific task before we begin working. All in all, it was great fun. The ladies and gents traced around the blocks, so we've got a map of the street hanging on the wall.
Apparently there's a castle-parking garage at the end of our street that accommodates both knights and Hot Wheels. Yeah, that's what I tell everyone when I give directions, "Turn right when you get to the castle. You can't miss it. It's a great place to park your race car or your noble steed."
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
With a late fall birthday, kindergarten fine young gent would have started public school this fall. But he was asking to learn to read a year ago, so we started what we loosely called kindergarten. I chose a handwriting book because he wanted to learn to write letters, and math curriculum, and decided to wing it for the rest. Wouldn't you know, my normally relaxed about the whole thing self agonized over math curricula. First of all, was a math curriculum even necessary for a young kindergartener? Secondly, which one? Aaaughh, the dilemma posed by too many choices. And third, when am I going to learn to relax and not worry about it? It's kindergarten, for Heaven's sake. So I chose Horizons Math, a good solid workbook-based program with a lovely teacher's guide that I opened maybe twice.
(And, ugh, the whole workbook thing, that's a whole 'nother post. Wouldn't you know it, this workbooks-are-bad, "I believe in activity-based developmentally appropriate learning activities in early childhood" mom-- that would be me-- has kids who LOVE workbooks? God really wants to teach me to laugh at myself.)
Fast forward to this year. I've had a whole school year of taking myself way too seriously, so I decided to take this year off and behave like a normal rational being. Kindergarten is not the make-or-break year mathematically. It's not like he'll never master algebraic concepts, nor is it likely that he'll fail miserably at calculus if we choose the wrong kindergarten curriculum.
So what the hey? I'll give Miquon Math a whirl.
Great choice! I look forward to teaching the lessons. Kindergarten fine young gent asks to do more math. My strong-headed guy and I made a deal: We do one side of the worksheet my way and the back side is his, to do math his way. When I'm done teaching the lesson he'll sometimes spend 20-30 minutes just tootin' around with the cuisinaire rods and worksheet.
What we love:
- The worksheets are open-ended. So far there are no written instructions on the sheets themselves. We aren't limited to what someone else thinks young ladies and gents should be learning in whatever has been determined to be the proper progression. Fine young gent can explore his own mathematical ideas. Yesterday we worked out multiplication.
- The instructions in the teacher's manual, Lab Sheet Annotations, are open-ended, offering several ways to use each lab sheet.
- Cuisenaire rods. The review linked above notes that Miquon works well for "Wiggly Willy." That's my kid! Wiggly, bouncy, never-still-for-a-moment Willy. Hands-on learning is his thing.
- Bonus thing to love: The cuisenaire rods keep the Wiggly younger Willies occupied too.
- The visual and kinesthetic experience offered by the rods and worksheets translates pretty well into more traditional math. We sometimes (for fun, mind you!) build number sentences with the rods then write them down. Or write them out and solve them some other way and check our answers with the rods.
- Last year's worksheet-loving gent slowly soured on the whole Horizons thing, not because he didn't understand it, but because the spiral approach to math bored him-- he got it the first time. Skipping ahead several pages, we found mostly more of the same. (Not to say we didn't like Horizons. We did. It was fun, colorful, engaging. Just not a good match for the gent.) Using a completely different approach has put the spark back into math, and because it seems to be based in a very child-directed educational philosophy, I don't think we'll see the spark fizzling out.
- Have I mentioned yet that we're having fun?
Don't love so much:
- My sweet husband was concerned that the curriculum was first published in the 60's. I don't much care about that. It's not as though addition and subtraction have changed a whole lot since then.
- It's pretty teacher-intensive. Actually, I don't mind at all. I look forward to teaching the math lesson for the day. Exploring the math lesson for the day.
- Three teacher manuals? I got the Lab Sheet Annotations and skipped the other two, one a diary of a teacher's year using Miquon Math with a first-grade class and the other presenting the philosophy behind Miquon Math. Hope I'm not missing much.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Ruth Rendell is a master storyteller. Her Inspector Wexford crime thrillers are interesting, intelligent and satisfying to read. Mystery and crime writing at its very best. Wexford quotes Shakespeare and makes reference to Through the Looking Glass, wonders what the world is coming to, struggles with his diet and his relationships with his daughters. What makes her books so readable is that they offer more than just straight-forward whodunit mystery. Rendell must be an astute observer of people, both strengths and follies; her characters are complex and credible. Her writing offers, particularly through Wexford, low-key commentary on human nature and why we do the things we do.
Back from the weekend visit to Mom's, I picked this one up at the library. An Inspector Wexford mystery, The Babes in the Woods is the story of two teens gone missing along with the family friend staying while their parents were away.
Another library find, Harm Done adresses not only the mystery of two teen girls gone missing then mysteriously returned unharmed, but also mobs, spousal abuse, and the dilemmas posed for the police when a pedophile is released from prison back into the community after serving his time.
The Tree of Hands is the Rendell that I've enjoyed the most. As a matter of fact, I may request it from the library. If Ruth Rendell is new to you, this is a good book to start with. I'd also recommend A Judgement in Stone and The Lake of Darkness .
One last author recommendation: More Ruth Rendell, writing as Barbara Vine. A Dark-Adapted Eye, is more psychological study than mystery, and it's gripping. Writing as Barbara Vine, Rendell doesn't follow the classic whodunit pattern in a crime is committed and a detective must follow the chain of clues to solve the mystery. Instead the novel opens as Vera Hillyard is about to hang for her crime and traces the events that lead Vera to commit the crime for which she must be hanged. I thoroughly enjoy reading Ruth Rendell novels, and I think that her Vine novels are even better. Intriguing and complex studies not just of crime, but of human nature, Vine gets at what motivates us all, and how relationships and impulses can become so knotty and twisted that they lead to (fortunately fictional) dark and bizarre crimes.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Baking Soda and Vinegar
“Why, why, why, why, why?”
Sound familiar? Young children are natural scientists, curious and eager to explore the world around them. They want to know the names of things, what will happen next, and why, why, why.
Preschool-aged children are at an exciting age for science exploration! It’s easy, it’s fun, and mom and dad don’t have to know the table of elements, the parts of the cell, or taxonomic identification. (Although those are fun things to know.) You just have to know that in early childhood, science is about finding patterns and figuring out the world. Observing, predicting, experimenting, and forming conclusions come naturally to young children. Drop a spoon on the floor and it falls. Every time! Watch the leaves change in the fall as the weather cools and bud in the spring as the weather warms up again. Mix water and dirt—mud! See a squirrel bury nuts, or watch a spider spin a web. Baking bread is science. Going for a walk to look for leaves is science. Pouring water into different sizes of containers in the tub is science. Counting the legs on a spider and then counting the legs on an ant—science.
As parents, we can explore right along with our budding young scientists by asking open-ended questions like “Where did the spoon go?”~ “How do you think the fly got caught in the web?” ~ “What do you think will happen next?” ~ “What might happen if?” Open-ended questions help children to form their own conclusions and shape their abilities to form hypotheses and make predictions. In addition to questioning we can facilitate learning by offering language to talk about what they see—sharing the names of things, or offering simple explanations like “The spider’s web is sticky.”
Simple science experiments allow young children to explore new ideas and they fill a rainy afternoon. Experiment with experiments. Follow the directions to see what happens, and allow children to play around with the materials. Put safe materials on a cookie tray and let them have at it, who knows what they'll discover. Don’t worry if an experiment doesn’t turn out the way it “should”. At this age it’s the process that’s important, not just the end result!
As we question and explore with our children we learn new things too. Their interests and excitement can be contagious. Before children, I never imagined that one day I’d be fascinated by earthworms-- did you know they have tiny bristles?-- or know several facts about each of the planets in our solar system. (Alas, poor Pluto. Our family is in mourning.) Encourage your children to follow their interests by providing more information on topics they find fascinating. Check out books from the library, find pictures on the Internet, or talk to someone you know who’s got more information. A magnifying glass, some yogurt cups, spoons, and kitchen supplies can get you on your way to some great experiments. Have fun!
Check out these books:Mudpies to Magnets and More Mudpies to Magnets (Williams, Rockwell, & Sherwood)
Bubbles, Rainbows and Worms by Sam Ed Brown
For more information on science with young children:
TRY ME! (Three simple experiments you can do with stuff in your kitchen)
Put several spoonfuls of cornstarch into a bowl. Slowly pour water into the cornstarch a little at a time, mixing with your hands. until the cornstarch is no longer powdery. What did it feel like? Did it change as you added more water? Is the glop different when you squeeze it in your hands than it is when you let go?
(At a certain consistency the glop should make a solid when squeezed, and a thick liquid that will flow between your fingers when you stop squeezing. Try it! This is a little messy, but it’s easy to clean up.)
Glass pie pan or similar clear flat-bottom container
Pour some milk into the pie pan (about 1” deep). Drop in some drops of dish soap and some food color. Watch. What happens? What if you use a clear drinking glass instead of a pan? Does anything change?
(The color should swirl around in the milk. If they are a little sluggish try adding a few more drops of dish soap.)
Three small bowls or cups
Put some warm water into three separate cups or small bowls. Sprinkle yeast over the warm water in each bowl and stir gently. To the first bowl add a little honey, to the second a little sugar, and to the third add nothing. You may want to label each bowl. Wait a few minutes and compare. What happened? (The bowl with the sugar should be the foamiest; the one with no sweetener the least.) Try the experiment again—what happens if you try three bowls with a lot of sugar, a little bit of sugar, no sugar?
Friday, September 15, 2006
It rained today, so we postponed our plans to do some Action Painting (a la Jackson Pollock). Instead the ladies and gents sketched trees, looking out of the sewing room window. Thirteen- year-old lovely lady is doing a year-long tree study of the filbert tree in the back yard. She spent about 45 minutes on this sketch, inspiring our kindergarten gent to spend a good amount of time on his sketch.
While I was in the kitchen:
Young gent (frustrated): I can't draw!
Lovely lady: I couldn't draw like this in kindergarten. I practiced and practiced. You can draw better than I could when I was five.
LL: You play the piano better than me because you practice a lot. Besides, remember? "I am always doing what I can not do, in order that I may learn how to do it. Pablo Picasso."
YG: Oh yeah!
Multi-age learning at its best.
This year's school motto, and my crazy (according to the kids) idea that we should actually memorize poems and such this school year, has already come in handy. The ladies and gents took a vote, and we ended up with the Picasso quote. I've used the motto a few times already this school year. Something along the lines of, "Of course it's hard, sweetie. If you already knew how to do this we wouldn't need to learn it, right? Remember, 'I am always.....' "
The "I don't like to draw" gent's drawing was quite detailed. My fine young perfectionist drew his sketch on the cardboard back of his sketch pad so that the white patches he colored on the trunk would show. He drew lots of green leaves. And, most importantly, he was proud of his work.
The lovely ladies decided to have a cooking class this afternoon. I tidied and corrected papers.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Reason #49: We have to work through it, whatever it is that's falling apart or breaking down.
Last spring I thought if I gave fine young gent an incentive chart for practicing piano I'd stifle his natural love of music-- by providing external motivation, I'd somehow stunt his instrinsic desire to play piano. But I was tired of watching him flop off the piano bench at the outrageously unreasonable request that he play "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star." His sticker sheet, with a Hot Wheels for a reward (naturally) got him excited about playing piano again, both lesson practices and plinking around unrewarded for fun.
I long to be one of those parents for whom those lovely contructivist child-led parenting approaches always work. I strive to honor my children's needs and honor them as persons who have wishes and desires separate from mine. I try to discipline by focusing on the positive and by gently modeling and teaching the kind of behavior I expect. And I have delightful, energetic, strong-willed children. Most days they enjoy school. Some days they have different ideas than mine about how they'd like to spend their time. Yesterday I nagged and prodded. Today a gentle reminder that they earn a reward for staying at the top of the privilege chart was all I needed. It took twenty minutes to make, five minutes to explain, two reminders. We had a smashing day.
And I wouldn't really tape anyone to a tree.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Mis Colores/My Colors and other books by Rebecca Emberley are a big hit among the younger set. This fine young gent often naps with one of Emberley's board books. The other fine young gents know a few words and numbers in Spanish, partly because they (we) have read these books over and over and over and over. And as you can see, they make fine bedtime reading. If you're a year old.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
It thrills my heart and my ears to hear the lovely ladies and fine young gents singing all day long, humming their favorite tunes and making up their own songs-- at the table, in the car, as they play, at night as they drift off to sleep. Plinking on the piano, tapping the drums. Clanging through the house that's been transformed into a music parade route. Someone always making music.
Music was a part of my childhood too: Family sing-alongs, Mom on piano and Dad on guitar and the rest of us joining in with our voices; guitar lessons and choir; listening to Johnny Cash and Frankie Lane records; old-time fiddling get-togethers at the Grange; singing and humming through the day. We didn't just sit and listen passively to the radio, we made music. Music was a vital living enterprise.
Our visit to the east side of the mountains was filled with music. Backyard guitar, fiddles, voices in the warm after- noons. I got to sing with my Irie Sis, something I've never done before. (Click on her picture to read about her guitar adventure.) I think she's always been a little shy of singing where others can hear. What a joy to hear her voice; it's lovely. It was a treat to hear David and my dad play together, Dad on the fiddle and David on his guitar. Later, Megan and David playing together, singing and talking quietly.
I picked up Dad's guitar once everyone had left and plinked around. I haven't played since high school. I still remember how to play; I was able to pick out a new song by ear the first time I tried. I'm still surprised at how natural it felt and how much I've missed playing.
Music is rooted in my soul, along with books and gardens and forests. I passionately want for my children to understand that music is theirs; not just something that we can listen to, but something that we can create. Recorded music is such a blessing: Can you imagine not being able to hear Mozart unless there was a live performance nearby? Or not being able to hear Ella unless you were fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to attend a concert? The trade-off is that music has become a passive entertainment for so many people. When we can hear the most talented musicians in the world, our own singing and playing suffers by comparison, at least to our ears. Families rarely gather around the piano in the evening because they can watch American Idol instead.
Along with the kids, I sing all day every day. I love singing. But now that the baby isn't really a baby any more I find myself longing for...something...a new challenge (or the revival of an old one), something to fill that more-and-more-often empty space in my lap. Think it would be silly to ask for a guitar for Christmas?
Saturday, September 09, 2006
It's beautiful up here. Fishing with Grandpa is the highlight of the summer for the lovely ladies and fine young gents. They talk about fishing with Grandpa all throughout the year and when summer arrives they can barely contain themselves for the anticipation. Grandpa is the most patient fishing teacher and helper around. I suspect it's really Grandpa that's the highlight of the summer and catching fish pushes the outing to the top.
Anthony Lake is a highlight of my summer. Stunning. While my kind husband took the gents for a walk I listened to the water and the ospreys and not much else. The quiet is beautiful. The ospreys were diving for fish. (Scroll down and check out the feet, wow! You can also hear a recording of their cry.)
The drive up to the lake is beautiful. Baker County is beautiful country. We spend a few hours fishing, enjoying the air and the company, then we head back down the mountain. Simple, quiet. Not the activity and noise and thrill of, say, the county fair or a birthday party. We're creating memories, the kind that renew and refresh us because they remind us of times we spent with people who make us feel treasured and respected. Memories of peaceful time filled with quiet conversation that doesn't go much of anywhere because it doesn't need to go anywhere. It's really about spending time with Grandpa, creating and sharing a mutual love of peace and beauty and the outdoors.
And here we all thought we were just catching fish and trying to keep the baby from falling in the lake.
And after we get home? Mmmmm....Fresh fish for dinner.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Rewind to mid-August: My marvelous golf-mad husband left to golf in Scotland, leaving me alone with Puking Boy and the rest of the crew. We visited my dad in Eastern Oregon for my grandparents 65th wedding anniversary, which my sister already wrote about, and I am lazy enough to link instead of doing all that writing myself. Ignore the part where she compares our children to ants.
Random photo from the shindig, the boys in their matching shirts. Makes it easy to spot them:
And one more, heading back from the party.
I like this picture, not because it's great photography, but because I know that everyone was hot and a bit dusty, a little tired, and in good spirits. The kids had been playing on the baseball diamond and the bleachers, running and jumping and chasing and yelling and just having a good time. The bigger ones looked out for the little ones. The older folk sat around and chatted. It reminded me of get-togethers with friends and family when I was a kid. Lovely.
The gents were worn out. Just after Dad told me that everyone was remarking on how well-behaved all of the kids are, and how they didn't hear us raise our voices to the kids the whole day, an exhausted young gent pitched a screaming yelling crying tantrum over bedtime. I was, um...., less than patient. Might have said something along the lines of go to bed or I'll duct tape you to a tree. Not really, geez. That's only what I wanted to say. I am sure that my threatened consequence was marginally more reasonable. Not one of my most stellar parenting moments, shall we say. Let's hope that none of the folks outside could hear the hollering (not-so-fine young gent) and yelling (not-so-patient mommy) coming from the basement.
We got home from the trip exhausted from driving and driving, and worn thin by steering ladies and gents through unfamiliar environments and food that's different, lugging in the mounds of laundry that we've brought home and so forth. It just plopped right out of my mouth: "I need a vacation from my vacation." Cliche it may be, but I did get my own little vacation. I drove to the Oregon Coast with my sisters for a weekend visit with Mom and her marvelous husband, Dick. I did have to take the youngest fine young gent, so it wasn't all naps and beach strolls, but it was enough of a vacation that I returned refreshed and ready to start school.
Old car show at the park while we were on vacation. Delightful. They were in Hot Wheel heaven.
Think they'll grow out of it?