Sunday, January 27, 2008

Snow Day

We woke to snow this morning.
It doesn't often snow like this in the Willamette Valley,
at least not our end.


Our snowman has filberts and raisins for a face, for the birds.

Snow on the fence

Making a snowball

Friday, January 25, 2008

I want to play!

My Irie sis is playing book tag. I want to play too. Pick me! Pick me!

Share the 5th line of the 161st page of the book you're reading.

I can't remember the last time I've been reading a book. As in one book. Here's my list:

"Canvasback, female, 19-24" "
(The second line, because there are only two lines of text, from p. 161 of National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds--W: Western Region. Here's what a canvasback looks like, in case you're wondering.)

"He could not hear any noise of water on the shores."
(from Swallows and Amazons, Arthur Ransome. Our newest read-aloud.)

"At that moment a bluebird, perched on the picket fence, sang a few lovely notes and flew off to an apple tree that was still holding on to the last of its pale pink blossoms."
(from Pocketful of Pinecones, Karen Andreola. Almost done with this one.)

"The image of the blind musician or the blind poet has an almost mythic resonance, as if the gods have given the gifts of music or poetry in compensation for the sense they have taken away."
(from Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Oliver Sacks.)

Editing to add: I got so excited that I forgot to say "You're it!"

If you've got a blog and you're reading a book of any kind and you haven't played this game yet and you read this blog entry then Tag! You're IT!

I can't wait to see what you're reading!

A Day in the Life: Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday. Fine young middle gent is now officially five. He got to choose his birthday breakfast: French toast, melon, bacon, and the last of our summer blackberries.

Winter birds. We've got robins and crows and all kinds of little flitty chirpy birds. I wish they'd just hold still for a moment so while we look them up in the bird book. When they're on the fly it's hard to distinguish whether this one has a white stripe across the ridge of its brow, or that one has rusty patches along the rump.

We've been scolded several times, both at home and outside our lovely piano teacher's house, by a kind of a jay that we've been trying to identify, a blueish bird with a light gray chest and a dark head. First-grade gent was supposed to finish yesterday's science, but he spied the bird hopping about on our neighbor's lawn across the street, so we all bundled up and out we went to sit in the driveway. It was 26 degrees, but gloriously sunny. The driveway froze our bums, but it was peaceful sitting to listen to the birds. Our bird song book came in handy. We played the call of the Stellar's jay, and a curious (or defensive or territorial, maybe) jay called back, and even perched on a branch on our yard until the bouncy gents made the bird nervous and it flew away. We think these jays are Western scrub jays. They're beautiful and they're all over the neighborhood. The birds will make a lovely addition to our nature notebooks.

To the bakery to choose a cake. This young gent turned giddy at the idea of choosing his own cake, so we piled in the car and drove to Sweet Life Patisserie. He picked a cake called Strawberries and Cream. I practically started drooling right there. We cheated a little and the gents got tiny cakes, petit-fours, even though we planned to eat birthday cake later. Shhhh...don't tell.

The young man helping us at the counter was positively charming. He did not ask me if I'd said, "Polly" or "Tommy" or "Tully" or say, "Huh?" with furrowed brow when I asked if he'd please write fine young gent's name on the cake. He noticed that I had my hands full with three excited gents, the little cakes for those gents, and a full bowl of coffee--one of those round wide cups that promptly slopped coffee all over the table when I set it next to an exuberant cake-elated young person. Helpful Guy smilingly brought out my cannoli, some forks and the birthday cake in a box, and even checked to make sure he'd spelled "Tolly" correctly (he had) before he sealed the box. I love taking my fine young gents out and about but on occasion it's like herding cats, as the expression goes. We manage just fine, usually manage gracefully even. And today, thanks to Helpful Guy, I had a few moments to settle with my guys and enjoy my coffee.

A little help kindly given goes a long way. So whoever you are, Helpful Guy, thank you from the bottom of this hands-full momma's heart.

Birthday Wrappings:

A pillow sham, a large fabric gift bag, a small white box (reused) decorated with dragons by lovely artistic lady, and the packing paper from one of fine young gent's birthday packages decorated with the birthday boy's own fine handprints in his favorite colors.

Prizes inside the wrappings:
A backpack, cars, Legos, a book and a t-shirt with some kind of beetle on the front. His last present is on the way. We knew our bug-crazy gent would get a kick out of a praying mantis study kit. I almost ordered the praying mantis set while I was doing my Christmas shopping, but I decided that no, I'd remember to order before his birthday rolled around.

Who was I kidding? I can barely remember what day it is, much less that I'd decided to wait to order a gift.

Until yesterday when I wrapped gifts, I was convinced that the praying mantis kit was safely stashed away on the closet. I'd thought about ordering it. I forgot that I hadn't actually done it. His fine young cousin was supposed to get the same gift. Oh well. Good things come to those who wait, right? Plus, I had also forgotten to clear fine young cousin's gift with my sister. It's always a good idea to check with someone's mom before you gift that someone with bugs. Especially bugs with long legs and beady eyes. I think she was very relieved to find that the kit comes with a bug enclosure.

My guy is five. Five! I still remember so clearly the gray day when he was born, how good it felt to welcome him and hold him. He was so little.

Life is good.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Books, Books, Books

Santa loves books. Grandma loves books. I love books. Christmas books and book gift certificates meant that the Poohsticks shelves have been blessed with new books to read, to look at, to study, to wonder at, to ponder.

So, for Mom...I didn't forget to answer your question about "book hits" so far. Ok, I lie. I did forget. Then I remembered but I didn't have time, so I forgot again. Then I remembered again, but my good friends Ben and Jerry wanted to hang out and watch Project Runway, and I couldn't say no. And then....well, dang it....I've finally gotten to it. Here it is:

Ten Christmas Hits, or What We're Reading

1. Catwings series, Ursula LeGuin.

Stories of four cats born with wings and their adventures. First-grade gent devoured these books one after the other. His favorite: Wonderful Alexander and the Catwings. Or Jane on Her Own. Or one of the others. He couldn't decide on a favorite after all.

2. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak.

Amazing. Deserving of a separate post, which I hope to write soon.

3. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Who hasn't read this lovely classic? Lovely lady, 12, is enjoying her way through her very own velvety copy of The Secret Garden. We've already got a tattered second-hand copy, which means that once she's finished the book, the velvety copy will be her very own. She struggles with reading comprehension, so we're using this gentle story as a learning tool and taking it nice and slow.

I told her today, "Ooo, tomorrow you get to meet Colin. Oh, Colin and Mary are such a good match."

"You mean they'll get married?" she asked.

"No." I laughed. "Remember what Mary's like, kind of cross and disagreeable? Well, Colin and Mary are two peas in a pod."

She puzzled through "two peas in a pod," then remarked, "Well, Mary's getting a little bit nice, anyway."

I think my delight in this story may be rubbing off on her.

4. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, Oliver Sacks.

A recommendation of my mother's, I bought this for myself with a Christmas gift certificate. Sacks examines music and neurology together. It is fascinating. If you're a music-lover, interested in our quirky and complex brains, or both, this is the book for you.

5. Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I'm cheating a little. We didn't get any Little House books for Christmas, but I just finished reading Little House on the Prairie to the fine young gents, and we were all sad when it was over. We fell in love with life on the prairie, both with the Laura's stories and with the prairie itself. The descriptions of the landscape are breathtaking. Coming at the tail end of a history unit on pioneers, we were fascinated by the accounts of establishing a home on the prairie.

6. Hannah Montananovels and High School Musicalnovels.

I have no idea who writes these, nor have I read one, but I've got a lovely lady who absolutely swoons over teenybopper pop star stuff, and she reads them obsessively. So I'd say they're a hit.

7. Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song, Les Beltsky.

The title says it all: This book offers the songs (or squawks or screeches or moans) of 250 different North American birds. Turn to the beautiful illustration of a bird you'd like to hear, find the bird number on the digital strip to the side of the book, and press the button to hear the bird call. The fine young gents and I are fascinated by this book, and it will be a fun addition to our spring bird study.

8. Home Ground: Language for an American Landscape, Barry Lopez (Ed.) and Debbie Gwartney (Ed.).

Also deserving of a separate post, Home Ground is a nature study for the word lover. Or is it a word study for the nature lover? At any rate, the books offers definitions of landscape features, words that we're slowly forgetting as we lose our intimate connections to the land upon which we live.

9. Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning : A Story for Mother Culture, Karen Andreola.

Written as the fictional diary of a young mother, Pocketful of Pinecones is a gentle how-to for the art of keeping Charlotte Mason-style nature journals. It is lovely and inspiring, though perhaps a bit simplistic and heavy-handed regarding the virtues of back-to-the-land farm life over life in the city. Nature descriptions, gentle parenting, the art of leading children to learning, nature poetry, and a deep sense of faith and wonder at God's amazing Creation are woven beautifully into the story, so that it inspires rather than instructs.

10. Any book about bugs.

The fine young gents were given several books about bugs for Christmas. The books have been pored over and I have been asked many times to "Look at this cool/gross/huge/funny bug, Mom!"

11. (Because I can't stop without mentioning this amazing book) The Arrival, Shaun Tan.

Long long ago, I wrote a book post which included mention of The Lost Thing, also by Shaun Tan. My mother remembered that we're Tan fans and sent The Arrival for the Poohsticks readers. I use the word "readers" loosely, as The Arrival is an incredible worldess graphic novel. Tan's amazing artwork really captures the strangeness of the experience of an immigrant coming to Australia. First-grade gent likes the detailed pictures, and the book has depth enough to entertain and inspire even the teens and adults in the family.

And of course, all of the other new books on our shelves...some eagerly anticipated at the top of the to-be-read stack, some quiet gems with which we haven't yet aquainted ourselves.

Winter star poem

I stood beside a hill
Smooth with new-laid snow,
A single star looked out
From the cold evening glow.

There was no other creature
That saw what I could see--
I stood and watched the evening star
As long as it watched me.

Click here for a printable "February Twilight" color poster or coloring sheet.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Friday Field Trip: Natural History Museum

Field trip to the Museum of Natural History at the University of Oregon.

If you get a chance, go there to see the oldest shoe in the world.

"Experience 15,000 years of Northwest cultural history and 200 million years of geology. Realistic environmental displays portray four geographic regions of Oregon, each a different time in history." (From the museum website.)

The hands-on room is the best. Here, first-grade gent is examining an actual lion skull.

Nature walk through the Eugene Pioneer Cemetery, also on campus, 16 acres of trees, grass and old graves.

The fine young gents consented to pose for a picture before they ran down the path.

It's a wonderful walk. Even in 35 degree weather. Brr!

Heading back, thirty minutes later: Mom forgot to put quarters in the meter, and we're all freezing. Time for ramen at Toshi's!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Earth Child: Starlight, Star bright

Earth Child 2000: Earth Science for Young Children Games, Stories, Activities, and Experiments, Kathryn Sheehan and Mary Waidner.

Earth Child 2000 is filled with activities intended to develop environmental awareness in young children, with a focus on developing that awareness by creating personal connections between children and nature. Activities are divided into sections with titles like "Circle of Day and Night" and "Trees Are Terrific!" and "Let There Be Peace on Earth," with activities that correspond to the theme of each chapter. The activities range from nature walks and observations to imaginative and cooperative games to ways to advocate for the environment.

The subtitle of the original edition included this phrase: "and Other Ideas About Living Lightly on Planet Earth." Isn't that lovely? "Living lightly on Planet Earth." I think that idea, the philosophy of the book, is what drew me to this book in the first place. "I don't need another nature study book," I'd tell myself every time I visited the bookstore. It was always still there on the shelf. I checked every time, and each time I pulled it off the shelf I'd read an activity that sounded like something we'd love to do. Finally I just bought it. My instinct was right, this book absolutely belongs on the Poohsticks bookshelves. It sat on the shelf for a few months because I just wasn't quite sure what to do with it, so I wrote "Earth Child" on the weekly school schedule, chose a few activities, and wrote down a plan. With that, Earth Child has been the perfect addition to our nature studies, the kinds of activities I might not think of on my own, educational and nature-connected so that it suits our family and school philosophy.

Earth Child inspired our lovely star-wishing activity. The original activity called for me to teach the fine young gents the "Starlight, star bright" rhyme then take them outside to choose their own special star. While we didn't follow the activity suggestion exactly (it was daytime, for one), it provided us a perfect jumping-off spot for one of the most peaceful and creative activities we've done for some time. The fine young gents weren't sure what to wish for at first.

"More Legos!" piped one young man. "I want more Hot Wheels!" shouted another.

"We've already got Legos and Hot Wheels," I responded. Truth be told, I was a little disconcerted by my materialistic concrete thinkers, especially since the point was to start creating more of an Earth focus. "We'll be making our wishes on special stars, so let's think of the most fun and fantastic wishes we can."

And they got it. One gent's wishes would inspire the other to make a new wish, and back and forth they went, choosing for me to write down their most special wishes. At bedtime, in their pajamas, they bundled up and we went into the back yard to tell our wishes to the stars.

Tomorrow we'll be visiting the planetarium, another Earth Child suggestion. Loving husband is planning to take the ladies and gents outside with the telescope on the next clear night. We'll be delving into the "Wonders in a Garden" and "Wet and Wonderful" sections in the spring. We'll learn more about living lightly on Planet Earth.

Life is good.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

When You Wish Upon a Star.....

I wish I could fly.

I wish I could catch a falling star.

I wish it was raining puppies and kittens.

I wish it was snowing.

I wish I could fly on an airplane.

I wish I could see shooting stars.

I wish it was raining popcorn.

When you wish upon a star,
Makes no difference who you are
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you

If your heart is in your dreams
No request is to extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Worth Every Penny

Ten School Items Worth Every Penny We Spent
(On Wednesday because I just plain ran out of time on Tuesday. I was teaching my kids and stuff, go figure.)

1. The World Atlas Flip Charts: $7.99 on the clearance rack at Borders.
Not only is it a handy reference for geography studies, the fine young gents pore over the maps in their free time.

2. The library and the parks.

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating: I'm amazed that there's a place we can get as many books as we can carry, bring them home and read them for free. We just have to bring them back when we're finished. Incredible.

We voted for a new library until we actually got one. I forget how much it actually raised our taxes, but it's sure a lot less that we'd have spent to purchase books for special projects, short-term studies, following our noses. We check out hundreds of books each year, not to mention CD's and educational movies.

Ditto on the parks. I'm glad that at least some of our tax dollars are spent leaving places a little wild so that we have the opportunity to explore. Interesting note: The newer parks built in our town usually have a "wild space" deliberately incorporated into the design of the park. A favorite park of the fine young gents was a flat boring field before the city turned it into a park with a playground, but the park design also included a large empty flat space perfect for playing soccer or Frisbee or for just for running around, grassy hills with shade trees for running or rolling or lounging on the grass, and a large wild hill with tall grass, logs, stumps and large stones.

3. Plastic totes with handles: $8.99 each.

One for each child. Each child has a box containing that child's school. Books used daily, extra pens and pencils and glue and tape, paper, reading book and timer, sketchbooks, games, crayons, and more. Even three year-old gent has his own school box filled with drawing supplies and toys. "Get your school boxes," I chirp at the beginning of each school day. The boxes store neatly under the sewing table. The necessary materials and supplies for a successful school day are immediately at hand while lovely lady and the gents make their way through the school day. We can add any necessary books from the bookshelves and take school to the park or gymnastics or Grandpa's or piano lesson.

4. Bookshelves: $200(ish) each for the large ones.

School books to the left of the entertainment center. School reference books for me, picture books and library books to the right. Retired/waiting curricula in the sewing room. Non-picture books fill an entire bookcase in the upstairs hallway. Bookshelves in the office, in the bedrooms....We need those bookshelves.

5. The minivan.

It gets us where we need to go when we need to get there.

6. Art supplies: Lots

Providing quality art supplies for our art lessons costs a little more. Everyday scribbling gets Crayola. For art lessons we use special markers or pencils or pastels. Not the outrageously expensive ones. One could spend thousands of dollars in the art supply store buying the fancy art supplies. I haven't gone quite that far. But I do believe that using good art supplies sends the message that what the ladies and gents make is worth the investment, which translates into a little extra attention on their part, a little more effort, a little more thought.

7.Enchanted Learning: $20.00/yr.

Maps, printable "I Can Read" books, holiday crafts and coloring, information about animals. Invaluable. Our geography, science and nature studies just wouldn't be the same. When we visited the bee tree, I looked up honeybees on Enchanted Learning and found a fantastic honeybee printout. We've printed maps for geography, an African animal book to color for our African savanna study, and a ladybug fact sheet the day middle young gent captured several ladybugs for his bug habitat.

8. Bug habitatand bug vac: About $35.

Middle young gent, nearly five, is almost certain to become an entymologist one day. He'll pick up earwigs, play with potato bugs, and he's constantly capturing tiny crawling creatures and putting them in yogurt cups with holes punched in the lid with a ballpoint pen. Then forgetting them around the house. For Christmas, he was given a bug vaccum and a clear plastic habitat for the bugs he captures. No more mystery cups left around the house (I hope). And he gets to watch his little friends. And his little friends stay right where they belong, which is anywhere they have absolutely NO chance of crawling on me.

9. The dictionary: No idea because I've had it for as long as I can remember.

"Look it up." The dictionary gets hauled off the shelf and thumped on the table often. Sure they could look it up online ( but where's the fun in that?

10. Pencils.


Items deserving of Honorable Mention: Umbrellas and rainboots so that we can go out even when it's raining, newspaper subscription, magnifying glasses and magnets, a large table, the piano and my membership to the gym so that I can get out of the house once in a while all by myself.

Wordless Wednesday: Frosty Pond and Poohsticks

Monday, January 14, 2008


...and more random notes.

Five kids. Minus one lovely lady, off to her dad's. Plus four of my sister's children, one lovely lady and three fine young gents. Plus lovely lady, returned home. Nine kids.

There were glorious sword battles all through the house. Give a four-year-old princess a sword and she'll really hold her own. A dastardly pirate dared try to capture her beloved Aunt (that would be me), and she fought him off.

We played at the park in the pouring rain, and rolled down grassy hills in the sunshine the next afternoon.

We ate pizza and watched movies.

I spoiled them all rotten.

It was grand.

I went to the gym this evening. My lofty goal: Get over myself and get in the pool. Not "get in the pool and swim." Just "Get in the pool."

I figure that if I just get over my biggest hurdle, myself, the exercise part will be easy. So my entire goal for this trip was to get my squishy buns into the water instead of just thinking about going to the pool. Sometimes breaking things down into little pieces makes it easier. You'd think I'd already know that, since that's my general rule of thumb when it comes to teaching my ladies or gents tasks that produce frustration or anxiety: Just do the first thing. Worry about the next things next. But I don't always remember to give myself the same grace. So I fuss and stew and procrastinate.

The pool was not empty late at night, by the way.

There were people.

The lap lanes were jammed full and there were people playing in the other part of the pool. Or standing there talking. What's up with that? It's an exercise pool. But there's a big circle of people standing there yakking away right in the middle of the pool. So I floated around, looking stupid and aimless all the while, I'm certain. Then I soaked in the hot tub.

But no matter how silly I looked, I drove myself to the gym tonight and I got in the pool. Mission accomplished.

Meditation. I've never meditated. But I think it might be worth a shot.

I'm too cheap to go out and buy a book on meditation. Naturally, I Googled "how to meditate."

I seriously for real ran across a site, that says this:

"Have you ever wanted to meditate but were not up to the hours of dedication usually required to get any real benefit?... "

Um....isn't that kind of missing the point? Likely really really really missing it?

Hey...but guess what. If you buy their products, their special 3-15 minute meditations, you'll get the benefits of hours of meditation practice in only minutes. Why am I not shocked to find that they're hawking some products?

Obviously, I'm one to point fingers. I'm devoting my hours and hours searching for "how to meditate" and giggling at what I find. Maybe I should get off the computer, sit my rear down and spend at least 3-15 minutes trying to be aware of my breath.

Tomorrow's Tuesday Ten: Ten Things Worth Every Penny
Ten things I've purchased that have been worth every single penny I spent.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Sometimes it's the little things....

So, initially the list ideas spinning around in my head went along these lines: Ten Things That Really Annoy the Crap Out of Me, or Ten Things I Don't Want to Do Today (Twenty Things?), or Ten Whine whine whine whine get the picture. It's January, season of damp and chill and dark grey days and rain rain rain. But then I started thinking about one of my very first posts ever, about blueberry picking. Yeah, my life isn't perfect. No one's is, right? But I really do want to remember the delights in my life and not the whines, the berries and sunshine instead of the spiders and itchy grass.

And then I remembered that I recently resolved to count my blessings. Only a week ago.

Well. Hmmph.

That's enough mental meandering, for me. Sheesh. I just took all the fun out of my own whining. Don't invite me to any grumpy-old-fart parties, or it might spread. Before we know it the whole darn world will be skipping and throwing daisies. Sheesh.

So, anyway, delight. Not Whiz-Bang-WOW! delight. Just those little spots that brighten our days. Maybe you come around the corner and see the kids sharing something, or look out the window to see a perfect spider web.

Tuesday Ten: Ten Little Things That Bring Delight to My Days

1. Getting a package.

Usually the package is for loving husband. But when that brown van pulls up at the curb, there's this moment of excitment: What is it? The real delight is in the anticipation. It's kind of like a mini-Christmas morning.

2. Walking into a room to find a kid curled up with a book.


When seven-year-old gent learned to read, he pestered me to teach him. So I did, despite my conviction that a four-year-old didn't really need reading instruction. The things our kids teach us....

Then he stopped reading with me. Completely. He didn't want anything to do with any activity that related reading and Mom, except bedtime stories.

What did I do wrong?

Nothing, it turns out. Because I kept coming across him curled up in odd spots around the house: On the top of the hallway cupboard, on my bedroom floor, in the corner by his bed....silently mouthing words to himself as he turned the pages. He'd gotten the basics, so he was teaching himself, thank you very much. I'd just keep on going, pretending I didn't notice. Every so often he'd ask, "Mom, what does this word say?" And I'd tell him. "Mmm," he'd say distractedly, and keep reading.

3. And along that line....Teaching a beginning reader.

That little "Aha!"

The little half-smile when they get a new word.

"Look, Mom, that says kitten!!"

Love it.

4. Daffodils.

My mother-in-law brought me fresh bright daffodils.

"Spring is coming!" they tell me.

5. Phone call from a friend.

Thank you, dear friends. You brighten my days.

6. Oh the noise, Noise, NOISE, NOISE!!!

I love those evening when the ladies and gents are laughing and playing. They usually enjoy one another. Lovely. Delightful, even.

And we've got the play room in the basement when I'm done enjoying the ruckus.

7. Puddles.

8. And hot chocolate afterward.

9. Books.

Beginning a brand new book. Re-reading an old favorite. Finishing a book so good that I want to turn right around and start all over at the beginning. Reading together on the couch. Reading a childhood favorite out loud to the ladies and gents and falling in love with it all over again.

10. Following our delights.

As a homeschooler, I read about people who strive for delight-directed learning. And I sigh. I want every moment to be delightful. But then I remember that school is like real life: No matter how delightful our lives, we still have to wash the clothes and make dinner and brush our teeth and pay the bills. We still have to learn math and science and reading and writing.

But then the lightbulb goes on, "Oh! I get it!" says fine young gent about his math page. Or he giggles about the funny story he wrote.

Or I leave the world map out on the table while I make lunch and hear the fine young gents finding all of the places in the world with diamonds or snakes or monkeys.

Or we take a detour when we capture ladybugs in the bathroom and put them in fine young gent's brand spankin' new bug habitat (hopefully a replacement for the yogurt cups with holes punched in the lid....careful if you find one around here, you never know what might be inside). We learn about the ladybug lifecycle, make nature journal entries, and learn a ladybug fact. (Did you know that in 1999, four ladybugs went into space?) We're all happily engaged.

Delighted, in fact.

Aaaaah. That was easy. It put a smile on my face. I'm still tired and it's still gloomy out, but my heart is lighter. I love this life that I've been given. I am blessed beyond measure.

Life is good.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Activity Box: Flying Paper

I made a Science Box for preschool gent. I called it Flying Paper. The goal: Hands-on activities to encourage guided and independent exploration and to make science fun.

The real goal: Keep him busy while I was teaching his older brother. Which failed miserably, by the way. He sure was busy. But when there's paper flying around the room it's really hard to concentrate on math. So I gave up on the whole "keep him busy" idea, and we'd all break out the box together on rainy afternoons or when we were feeling fussy and at loose ends or when one of the fine young gents pulled it off the shelf and said, "Let's play with this!"

We made helicopters from paper and paper clips, and rockets with paper, tape and straws. Parachutes. Kites. All sorts of gliders and planes from folded paper. We experimented with the length of the arms of spinning paper helicopters to see how they worked best. We found out that our paper gliders worked best on the stairs and even better if we gently let them go rather than flinging them.

Look at that face:

Science is fun! Heck, I had a great time making rockets and the like. And the box certainly encouraged both guided and independent exploration. So our goals were met after all.

Make a Science Activity Box: Flying Paper

You need:

A plastic tote or very large shoebox to hold everything
Paper (We used paper from the recycle bin.)
Paper clips
Coloring pages: Airplanes, hot air balloons, rockets, helicopters

Other supplies, like drinking straws or plastic grocery bags, will depend on the specific activities you choose.

Activity ideas. Check out Mudpies to Magnets(Robert A. Williams, Robert E. Rockwell, and Elizabeth Sherwood) and More Mudpies to Magnets(Elizabeth A. Sherwood, Robert A. Williams, and Robert E. Rockwell) or another preschool science book from the library, borrow one from a friend, or buy them. Or search the internet for activity ideas. I photocopy the activity page, place the items in a large Ziploc bag or a folder, and staple everything together. Instant experiment! The directions are right there with the materials.

Our Flying Paper box included these activities from More Mudpies to Magnets:

Dizzy Snake (p. 110): Draw a spiral on paper, cut along the spiral to make a hanging snake.

Parachute Drop (p. 124): Fabric parachutes were lots of fun to drop from the top bunk.

Spinner Helicopters (p. 124): Our favorite! Spinning cutouts weighted by paper clips. (You can find a similar template and simple lesson plan here.)

Paper Rockets (p. 126): Another favorite. Blast simple paper rockets across the room by blowing through a drinking straw. (Paper rockets are fun to make. Try these, or for a more challenging design, try this NASA paper rocket activity. Here's another fun paper rocket, and a rocket lesson plan.)

First Fliers (p. 134): Cut out and fold to make a paper glider.

Aerodynamic fliers (p. 138): Paper airplanes! (Basic paper airplane instructions and links to more paper airplane sites here.)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Saturday, January 05, 2008

From my Inbox

Remember those porcelain dolls I swore to post on Freecycle? Then kept putting it off...and putting it off. I mean, what a hassle to send an email to the list then put the dolls out on the porch when someone wants to pick them up. (rolling myself)

This was in my inbox this evening:

What a SURPRISE to get 7 Dolls, I am at a loss for words of Thanks. These are beautiful! I enjoy working on things, so they will be fixed soon. As long as my hands & arms allow. I have Rhumatoid Artheritis, and Fibromyalgia so work with my hands is as beneficial as painful.....keeps me alert.
I have several wigs, also. Your little girl does little damage, it looks like she enjoyed Her Friends company.
Thank you

No, really, thank you. My sappy self is delighted and nearly in tears.

The idea of tossing my daughter's formerly beloved dolls in the trash broke my heart.

Gathering them and placing them in a paper grocery bag: Free

Posting a Freecycle message: Free.

Placing the dolls on the front porch on the designated day: Free.

The idea that Julie and Caroline and Stephanie and the others will have a new life, and new names, and are meant to eventually be loved by another little girl....Priceless.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Butterfly Eyes

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow, Joyce Sidman. Illustrated by Beth Krommes.

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow is a lovely book of nature riddle poems set in a meadow. Each pair of lovely riddle poems is followed on the next pages by the answers to the riddles. Kromme's illustrations are gorgeous. Sidman also wrote Song of the Water Boatman, a collection of pond poems. (Poohsticks review here.)

Butterfly Eyes is a perfect companion to Song of the Water Boatman, and I have a feeling we'll be pulling it off the shelves and poring over it often.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Tuesday Ten: Happy New Year!

Yeah, I know, it's not quite The Thing any more to make New Year resolutions. I stopped making them myself a few years ago, partly because I never kept them and partly because I couldn't think of any "good" resolutions in the first place.

But this year....I've got some goals in mind. It's not about making a resolution as a tradition, it's about resolving to point myself in the directions I want to head anyway. What better day than the first day of a new year to take some time for personal reflection and goal-setting?

Tuesday Ten: Ten Resolutions for the New Year

1. Get it done.
Remember my to-do list? The junk list?

Get it done.

The basement is nearly clean. We've just got a few things to get rid of and it will be neat and organized for, say, a couple months.

I finally posted the porcelain doll parts on Freecycle. And our old baby gate.

I promise myself that I will paint the bathroom no matter how much I hate to paint.

2. Reduce, Reuse, Recyle. Environmental responsibility. Reduce my carbon footprint.

Carbon Conscious Consumer Logo

Whatever you want to call it. It's not just about using less wrapping paper. We're heading for more of a lifestyle change than a specific strategy: Beginning to look for less packaging, buy only what we need, reuse what we can, recycle what we can't. Wash clothes in cold water, bring our own bags to the grocery, buy local produce. Volunteer at the community garden. Simplify our lives. Walk more, drive less. Appreciate what we have.

3. Count my blessings.
I will strive to live a life of gratitude and joy, thankful for the gifts in my life instead of wanting-needing-yearning for more. I am blessed beyond measure. What more could I need?

4. Learn to meditate.
I went for my yearly check-up last week. My doctor and I had a discussion about anxiety. Anxiety of the "Everyone hates me" dwelling on every possible way I might have offended another person keeping me up at night kind. It's gotten really awful over the past year. Silly, and embarrassing to admit, but there you have it. It's one of those monsters that shrivels when you expose it to the light of day.

Anyway, she prescribed an anti-depressant. I'm not totally averse to taking medication, by the way, but the next day I read this 2006 Psychology Today article, "Mastering Your Own Mind," about meditation.

A little time to myself.

It can help reduce anxiety.

No side effects.

Plus, meditation sounds kind of cool. I'll be able to say stuff like, "Oh, this morning when I was meditating...."

(Shhh...don't tell my Irie sis. I like to make fun of her and her "woo-woo" ways. I don't really mean it because I think she's cool, but it gives me something to laugh at, so just don't tell her I actually take her seriously and respect her and stuff. That'll take all of the fun out of my life. Hers too, I'm sure. Heh heh.)

5. Regular gym schedule.
I go to the gym. But I need to go regularly.

I want to start swimming late at night when the pool is empty. Very very empty. Otherwise, people might see me. Exercise swimming is a whole new world to me. I've never done it before and I don't know what I'm doing. I might look stupid. I may have mentioned something about anxiety....looking stupid is just. not. okay.

So maybe my gym resolution should really be to just get over myself already. Heck, I could probably make that resolutions #5-10 and be done with my list.

6. Find a church.
One that suits our whole family. We're at a crossroads. We love some things about the church that we've been attending, and at the same time we're feeling called to find another spiritual home.

I'll start with the church down the street, the one within walking distance. Wouldn't it be lovely to get up on Sunday morning and walk to church instead of grumping everyone into the car?

7. Wardrobe.
A whole new wardrobe!

Just kidding. Really, I want to simplify the wardrobe I've already got. Get rid of the things I don't wear regularly. Buy thoughtfully.

I figure if I simplify I'll have less laundry to wash.

8. "Buu-uut Yes! We have no bananas! We have no bananas today!"
Find more ways to say "yes" to my children. Even though they're not perfect, they're perfectly who they're meant to be. I resolve, not just for this new year, but for always, to remember to honor the messy loud forgetful lovely young people in my life.

9. Sing more and grump less.

10. Life is good.
Not a resolution. Or maybe it is. Life is good.