Tuesday, January 31, 2006

She's back, and I'm brutal!

Well, I meant to update you all on the Girl's homecoming last night, but my dsl connection went buns up just before dinner last night, and I just got it back. Twenty-four hours without the internet! Phew! I made it, but it was hard. I had to call Dy twice!!! I called Papa even more than that! I am addicted, I think. So yes, the Girl is home safe, and she had a fabulous time. She is going to write a paper on her trip, so I will post it when it is finished. Auntie P will love that, I am sure!

So, you might wonder, what have I been up to for the last 24 hours, other than picking up the Girl, which was happily easy and uneventful? (Insert drum roll here) I have been clearing shelves in the basement! Yay!!! It takes a long time, but I am just going through shelf by shelf. I have been taking papers out of page protectors, have gone through all the science and picture books in the library, and all the curriculum, keeping only what I deemed really necessary. I have a huge box ready for donation and giving away, and I filled 2 black garbage bags. Don't even ask how many brown paper bags I have filled with recyclable paper! Lots of Scientific American and Sunset Mags from as long ago as 1987!! I loaded the back of Whitey up with boxes of books, bages of stuffed animals and stuff to donate (the kids saw the stuffed animals and are very MAD at me), and after we picked Boy up, headed to the East Side. Our first stop was Homeschool Potpourri, and Todd took some of it. He never takes as much as I would like, but this way there will be lots to send to Dy's boys. They are the perfect ages for these books.

We then stopped at Grandma's but only stayed in the living room, and only for 15 minutes, as my nephew is home sick with the croupy crud. There is no way I want the kids exposed to anything right now, what with audition tapes, and ACT tests coming up.

After this, we headed to Crossroads Mall (if I have to go to a mall, this isn't a bad one!) where the closest Half-Price Books is. The kids and I shlepped 3 huge boxes of books in, and then got a mighty $16.25 for them. While we were waiting for the books to be appraised, we wandered to Michael's. I was looking for a specific kind of sparkley craft pompom that the cats love to play with, but they didn't have them.

Then we walked by Shirazi. Something pulled me inside, and I found something I could not live without. It is hard to describe, but I will try (Gotta figure out that digital camera soon!!!). It is a gauzy, sheer, black, drapey cape-like blouse with lace, silk, and beautiful pink and burgandy roses in it. It has ruffles on the sleeves and in back. If you look in the Fall collection, in group five, there is a black capey thing that isn't it, but it is the closest thing I could find on the Spencer Alexis site. It had a price tag of $95. on it. I tried it on (in addition to about 10 other things that I was too chunky to fit) and it was perfect! I went back to the rack, and saw that it was on sale, for $70. I ran back into the dressing room to call Papa on the cell phone and ask him to tell me to put it back- he told me to be unreasonable. Works for me. My beautiful, inteligent children were charming the saleslady with their description of their homeschool day, and I was able to talk her down to $55. for the blousey capey thing. That's what you get by being unreasonable!! I rarely buy anything for myself, and haven't done so in years. What the heck?! It looks good on me now, and will just keep looking better as I lose weight. I can dress it up or down, and both the saleslady (yes I know it was her job, but I do think she genuinely meant it) and Papa think it is appropriate to wear to my interview tomorrow. I had been struggling to come up with something in my wardrobe (HAH!) that would be suitable. So again, I say, YAY!

I still need to take stuff to the second hand store to donate, but that's okay. Little by little, this basement will get organized. Even if it takes me a month, I am in it for the long haul.

We picked Papa up, headed home, made a lovely supper of steak, Garlic long beans, and rice noodles. Lots of good dinner conversation, too.

Well, Papa wants to read to us tonight, as we haven't for the last 4 nights. Ahhh, the Girl is home, and we can read!! Anne McCaffrey's All the Weyrs of Pern, here we come!

Monday, January 30, 2006

Oh! I almost forgot!

I almost forgot to tell you that I have an interview at the library on Wed. at 6:15 p.m. I haven't been to an interview for almost 20 years! Think good thoughts for me. I really want this!

The Girl is on her way home!

Well, I am down to mopping every hour or so, so that is an improvement. We moved the rugs, and I have been down in the basement much of the day. I cleared off 4 of the 12 shelves on one wall, while I was talking to Dy on the phone- that helped,and thanks for that good idea from Mindy, to clean and talk simultaneously! It is slow going, as I have to sort through everything bit by bit. It is going to take some time, but I will get through it.

This is what happens when a) you don't unpack boxes for 2 years after a move, b) when you finally move into your forever home, and your mother sends you home with something from her house on every weekly visit. Some of it belonged to your father's side of the family, some of it is old and may be an antique some day, some of it you just couldn't say no to your mom about. And c) when you have enough books, toys, and art supplies to house a school, and the only place you have to store it is your unfinished basement, complete with leaks, bug carcases, morning glories growing in the window cracks, and spiderwebs- lots of spiderwebs.

Well, the Papa Dude is due home any minute, and I haven't started dinner. The Boy is still working on his schoolwork, and I want to make a banner (using some rolled paper I found in the basement) to welcome the Girl home tonight. Her plane comes in at 11 pm. I am not relishing going back to the airport, but I can't wait to see my baby again. She has been having a wonderful time, and has been spoiled by our dear friends, I am sure. I can't wait to hear her stories about horseback riding, surfing, visiting the tide pools, eating at new restaurants, and playing with her friends. I am sure she will have tons to tell us. So am I being a bad mom if I make her write a report about her vacation? Her Papa answered this question with "Does everything have to be turned into school?" He was joking, but I answered with a resounding "YES! Of course it does!"


Water in the Basement

I was just sitting down to post when Boy came to tell me there is a great deal of flooding in the basement. Of course, it was soaking all the piles of garbage, recycling, and stuff to donate I had sorted through this weekend. We got all that moved, and an hour later I am still mopping and dumping buckets of water. Gotta break long enough to cook him some sausage, take myself a shower, and get him to band, then I will be bailing some more. Wish us luck- one of the rugs got wet, and the two of us will need to move some heavy stuff to get to it. We'll do that when he gets home from band. I have my job cut out for me though, in getting this basement livable. It may be time for me to be ruthless, like Amy said, and just start hucking stuff!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Testicular humour

Help! I am surrounded by testosterone!!! Potty humour, jokes about bodily functions, comments relating to talcum and male body parts.

Papa said, "Well at least we don't like football!" I retorted that if they liked football, I could at least disappear and no one would notice. Right now, I am surrounded by big BOYS who want to be near me, but who are laughing hysterically at dirty jokes! I miss the girl already- the testosterone levels are overpowering me- aaaagggghhhhhh!!

Sigh. Papa is now drinking straight out of the whisky bottle. Maybe that's not such a bad idea!!

She's leavin' on a jet plane.......

oh no she just threw up again. Oh will he let her go? My apologies to the memory of John Denver, but I couldn't quite resist.

It was 6:00-ish and Papa and I were just getting the Girl signed in at the airport ticketing desk, when she leans into me and says she needs to go to the bathroom. I tell her I do too, and we will take care of that as soon as she is signed in. The next thing I know she is vomiting on my arm. Thank goodness Papa was able to come with us this morning. He ends up having her use her canvas tote bag to contain the mess, while I finish getting her checked in. The man behind the counter almost didn't let her get on the plane- "Is she gonna do that again?" "Oh I hope not sir, usually once is enough. She is just gut-reactive and this is how she handles stress. This is her first time flying in 7 years, and her first time alone." He looked at me, then over at poor Papa dealing with the Girl, at the trail of barf on the floor, and then back at me. It was a tense moment. I almost added to the trail. Then he says, "Okay, just don't feed her breakfast next time." "Yes sir!"

We make a break for the nearest bathroom for a quick cleanup, where poor Girl is apologizing up and down and backwards too. I hug her and we get through it and make the long trek to her gate. We just make it- she is the last person on board, and was supposed to be the first. The two of us watch her plane taxi off, and make our way back to the car. Phew! I hope she will be okay on the flight, and I hope she calls me as soon as she gets in. Papa loaned her his cell phone for just that purpose. She is growing up so fast.

I tell ya', I think I eventually would get used to it, but the Girl was not the only one stressed by the airport. I was a bundle of nerves the whole time!!! My guts are in a knot, my neck hurts, and I am all keyed up! I need some tea!

Now to talk about the remaining child. Our Boy was really upset last night- he was supposed to perform a french horn solo in a school band concert, but when we got there, there was a note on the door saying it was cancelled due to a bomb threat!!! I am telling you, this is the high school where Boy was going to attend band next year. We had already decided that he won't be doing that after all, and last night just confirmed to me that we made the right decision!

Boy has some schoolwork to do this morning (no band or drama today), and then I am going to have him pick something fun for us to do this afternoon. I wonder what he will pick?

For now, I am going to fix him some breakfast while he does his chores, and then try to get some studying in while he does his. Nice normal, calming activities to destress me. Talk to you later.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

How to know whether or not you are ready to have kids

Everyone who reads the WTM boards will already have seen this, but it was too funny not to post here anyway. As Pat H. said when she posted it, you may want to put liquids down before reading, to avoid a messy computer screen.

Mess Test: Smear peanut butter on the sofa and curtains. Place a fish stick behind the couch and leave it there all summer.

Toy Test: Obtain a 55 gallon box of Lego's (you may substitute roofing tacks if you wish). Have a friend spread them all over the house. Put on a blindfold and take off shoes. Try to walk to the bathroom or kitchen. Do not scream because this would wake a child at night.

Grocery Store Test: Borrow one or two small animals (goats are best) and take them with you as you shop. Always keep them in sight and pay for anything they eat or damage.

Dressing Test: Obtain one large, unhappy, live octopus. Stuff into a small net bag making sure that all the arms stay inside.

Feeding Test: Obtain a large plastic milk jug. Fill halfway with water. Suspend from the ceiling with a cord. Start the jug swinging. Try to insert spoonfuls of soggy cereal into the mouth of the jug, while pretending to be an airplane. Now dump the contents of the jug on the floor.

Night Test: Prepare by obtaining a small cloth bag and fill it with 8-12 pounds of sand. Soak it thoroughly in water. At 3:00pm, begin to waltz and hum with the bag until 9:00pm. Lay down your bag and set your alarm for 10:00pm. Get up, pick up your bag, and sing every song you have ever heard. Make up about a dozen more and sing these too until 4:00am. Set alarm for 5:00am. Get up and make breakfast. Keep this up for 5 years. Look cheerful.

Ingenuity Test: Take an egg carton. Using a pair of scissors and pot of paint, turn it into an alligator. Now take a toilet paper tube and turn it into an attractive Christmas candle. Use only scotch tape and a piece of foil. Last, take a milk carton, a ping-pong ball, and an empty box of Cocoa Puffs. Make an exact replica of the Eiffel Tower.

Automobile Test: Forget the BMW and buy a station wagon. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment. Leave it there. Get a dime. Stick it into the CD player. Take a family-size package of chocolate chip cookies. Mash them into the back seat. Run a rake along both side of the car. There, perfect!

Physical Test: (Women) Obtain a large bean bag chair and attach it to the front of your clothes. Leave it there for 9 months. Then remove the beans. And try not to notice your closet full of clothes. You won't be wearing them for a while.

Physical Test: (Men) Go to the nearest drug store. Set your wallet on the counter. Ask the clerk to help himself. Now proceed to the nearest food store. Go to the head office and arrange for your paycheck to be directly deposited to the store. Purchase a newspaper. Go home and read it quietly for the last time.

LB, giggling

Fillin' my shoes

Hey! When did the Boy get big enough to wear my shoes? He was sitting on my lap (barely fits, I might add) during stories last night , and I noticed he was fiddling around with my shoes- and they fit him perfectly! Did I also mention that he is almost as tall as I am now? That we see eye to eye now, literally? Phew! They grow so fast.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Ignoring the Oreos

Well, I didn't drink enough water, or exercise today, but I haven't gone near the chocolate covered Oreos that I know are hiding in the drawer of Papa's bedside table, so I will call that good for today. I don't feel like I accomplished much in any area today, other than the time wasted on the computer category. This thing has a way of sucking me in! I did find several new quilting blogs today. I need to update the side bar this weekend.

Boy needs the computer, I'll yak at ya' later.


A little Latin humour

Found this at Mungo's Blog. I like it!

Preparations for the Big Trip

Well, I am sure glad we took some time off in the afternoon yesterday to go to the park and run and play in the sunshine, because we are back to the rain today. Other than yesterday, it has rained for over a month now. No complaints, just stating. I live in a temperate rain forest, and I like it, but the sun was great!

Today the Girl and I will be packing fast and furious, to get her ready for her first big trip away from home. She will be going to Huntington Beach, California, to stay for a 4 day weekend with some dear family friends of ours. Their youngest daughter and the Girl have been the closest of friends since the day they met. I wouldn't let her stay with just anyone, and I am already having little heart palpatations at the thought of her flying alone on Friday, but I am sure she will have a great time and be very safe.

While she is there, she will get to go surfing, and they are taking her on a surprise outing! She will love that! I have been filling out permission slips, and forms from the airport all morning. Sigh. I already miss her. Someone tell me this feeling of mommy aprehension and dread will ease soon.

The Boy doesn't have school on Friday. I will make him do a bit of school- ACT prep, Latin, Math, and Horn, but after that, I want to spend some time doing something fun with him. Not sure yet what that will be, but I know he has been craving some attention lately. He has a hard time when his Sissy goes away- he is very dependant upon, and devoted to her. I wonder how he will handle this 4 day weekend without her? This is really good practice for both of us for when she goes away to summer camp in a few months.

Okay, gotta go start that packing, keep the laundry going round, and maybe make some muffins or something.


I think I will start with some food talk. First off, I have had several requests for the recipe for Ham Tacos. It really wasn't a recipe, just a way to use leftovers! The ham was those ham steaks you can buy in the meat section, warmed up in a skillet, and sliced. I added some Bone-suckin' Sauce to 2 of them for the Girl and I. Then, in the rice tortilla (which are actually very yummy, surprisingly), I put the ham, some sliced toms, some lettuce and avocado, all leftovers from E's birthday dinner of tacos the other night. If you weren't using barbeque sauce, you could add a little salsa, and I like mine with a bit of Karam's Garlic Sauce in lieu of sour creme! Leftovers are good! Better than beer. And yes, when you are allergic to as many things as we are in this house, you get creative with sauces and such!

Okay, next, I promised Crissy I would give her my best recipe for cauliflower. Papa first had this in a little hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant in the Sumner area over 20 years ago. We have since taken it over.

Sausage and cauliflower
In the largest skillet you have (mine is 13 inches across), cook your favorite Italian sausages (hot and spice, or chicken apple,or ?), about 1 per person, more if a hearty eater or growing teens are involved.

When they are halfway done, add a bit of olive oil, (or I use 3 to 4 homemade chicken-broth-frozen-in-ice-cube-tray cubes that Papa makes for me), half an onion sliced thin, and a couple of whole garlic cloves.
After about 5 minutes, add a head of cauliflower (depends on size, in some cases you might want a half or 3/4), cut into medium sized pieces (2 inches, approx). Brown the cauliflower on all sides, then cook till the veggies are just tender when pierced with a fork. This takes about 10 to 15 minutes on med to med-low, depending on your stove. You can cover it to speed the cooking of the cauliflower, but it won't get as crispy brown. When the sausages are done, you can either take them out, or move them to the edges of the pan. The cauliflower browns nicely, and the onions get all carmelized. Season with a little salt and pepper, and oregano if desired. Serve with pasta, rice, or our fave, spaghetti squash and homemade pesto, or the aforementioned Garlic Sauce.

This is the basic recipe, but we modify it to use whatever we have. It is very good with kalamata or regular olives, sun-dried tomatoes added near the end, zucchini or chayotte squash, etc. We also have made it with about 2 whole heads of garlic and some shallots. Yum!

What could be better than a one skillet meal?! You can also do this w/out the sausage if you don't do them, and you can also use chicken breast cut into pieces, but I like it the best with sausages.

Hmmm, seems like there was another recipe I was supposed to post for someone. Well, that will do for now.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


We had a great lunch of barbequed ham tacos, complete with rice tortillas I found at PCC. Afterwards I was thirsty, and thought I'd open one of the root beers I bought for the Girl's birthday dinner last night. I had complained at dinner that the rootbeer wasn't very carbonated or foamy. Papa had said that having it cold made all the difference in the world, and they would be foamier today. So, I got out the bottle opener, grabbed a bottle out of the fridge, and popped the top. I poured it into my fave blue mug (so the kids wouldn't see what I was drinking, and I wouldn't have to answer the question, "Can I have some, too?"), and noticed with sasifaction that there was a huge head of foam- so much so it spilled over the top of the mug. I bent down and took a huge mouthful of foam, to help with the drips, don't ya' know, and then spewed it out of my mouth so fast!! Disgusting taste in my mouth! Bitter, yucky, yucky BEER!!!! I HATE BEER! So much for the kids not knowing what I was drinking! Such a foul taste, that after I wiped down the counter I had just sprayed, I just had to actually open the root beer, so as to get the nasty beer taste out of my mouth! How can anyone actually LIKE this stuff?!?!

I guess I should read the labels before I open the bottles next time, hmmmm? Go ahead and laugh- I called Papa so he could.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Happy Birthday, Girl!

Happy Birthday to the Girl. She is eleven years old today (well, in about one hour, lol). As always near the kids' birthdays, I have been thinking about her labor and birth, and her early years. Talking to Dy on the phone while she was having contractions and experiencing a long labor really brought it on as well. Girl's labor lasted 36 hours from water breaking to her kersplooshing out with an elbow presentation. We did it all at home, with the help of 2 wonderful midwives, and the Boy's Godmother, who was his birth partner for the whole 36 hours, as he was only two and a half at the time.

Papa wrote beautiful poems for both of the kids' labor and births. They are beautiful, and always make me cry when I read them, because he captured the experiences so very well. They are also in a very visual format, with the words dancing across the page in a style reminiscent of e.e.cummings. It works well, but unfortunately, I am such a novice blogger I cannot for the life of me get them to post without losing the layout of Papa's original poems. He has clearly stated if I cannot get them to post correctly, then they can't be posted. Sooooo, Dy, wonderful friend that she is, is trying to figure it out. If she can do it, I will let you know.

Until then, I will tell you a bit about the Girl. This won't begin to scratch the surface. She is beautiful and self-confident. She knows her mind, and is not easily swayed. I never worry about her and peer pressure. She has been this way since birth. Once, at about 9 months old, she bit me while nursing. I disengaged, and said "No. That hurts Mama." in a firm voice. She promptly reached up with her little hand and hit me on the cheek!! Put me in my place, didn't she?

She walked for the first time at 13 months, but then didn't walk again till she was 2. She knew how, she just seemed to prefer crawling. But boy did she climb!!! I had to watch her like a hawk. Once, when she was about 11 months, in the time it took me to use the bathroom, she climbed up the divider between the kitchen and livingroom, and was up in the corner of the room, her head touching the ceiling, hanging on with little primate toes to the top of the window frame. Another time, we were at the park, and she climbed up the jungle gym to the top of one of those sliding poles. I only reached her just as she was getting ready to try to slide down the pole. Again, she was barely over a year old.

She didn't start talking till she was over two, and her first words were no, don't, and stop.

She has always loved to eat, and we affectionately refer to her as a full-contact eater. She has only recently stopped needing a bib. She is adventurous and will try anything once. When your parents cook as eclectic-ly and from as many cultures as we do, this is a very good thing!

She is very determined and dedicated when she wants to be. She can also throw the meanest, longest tantrums I have ever seen, and having worked with hundreds of kids in my lifetime, I do not exaggerate on this point. It is so funny that the same girl who stomps and fusses over doing the dishes will sit and play on the piano for hours at a time.

She loves animals, elves, and her big brother. She loves to write, and has really become a voracious reader. She is poised and calm, except when she is in a crowd. Then all bets are off.

I cannot even begin to imagine life without her. She is one of my biggest joys, and we are very proud of her. Happy Birthday, dear sweet Girl.

Cracking the Whip

I am stealing this title from Dy. In this morning's post, she was talking about getting back to work. Well, it is time for me to do that too. I will also try to do this in a way that isn't a to-do list, also per Dy's style.

This was suppopsed to be the year that I focused on myself. I didn't make resolutions, but had given some thought to how I wanted the year to go. Well, we are a month into it, and it hasn't gone as I had invisioned. Not because things have gone wrong, just because I haven't been living into what I want to be- lack of intention and planning on my part. I think if I have some goals, some ideas of what I really want to accomplish, that manifesting those things might be a bit easier. It doesn't preclude good hard work and integrity, but I think it might help. To be brutally honest, I have been very lazy. I really have no excuse- the kids are tweenagers now (how did that happen so fast?!), and are learning how to be integrity in their schoolwork, and need to chip in around the house on a regular basis. This gives me many more hours of the day to do with as I see fit, and so far, I have been wasting them, not accomplishing anything more than resting and getting used to not working. That was valuable for a short while, but isn't working any more.

I am working towards getting a job that will let me contribute to the family's income (albeit in a minor way), give me some time to be in the world without the kids, but will still allow me to focus most of my energies on them and the house. And YES! I did get the application materials to the library office today!! This is step one toward being the capable, productive person I want to be.

Second, I want to get healthy. I need to engage in exercise on a daily basis, rather thatn the 2 or 3 times a week I was managing. This means I need to plug in that TTapp DVD I bought 2 months ago and actually make time to do it. Make it a habit. I think I might have the kids join me once I get the hang of it. P.E. hasn't happened for them any more than it has for me.

I need to eat healthily, which means much less sugar and carbs, and following my allergy/food sensitivity diet (which I will honestly admit to not following for the last 9 months or so). I need to lose about 40 pounds. I don't want to DIET, just want to be living in a healthy way. I know from experience that the weight will come off if I do so, so do I will.

Let's see. What's next on my NOT A TO DO LIST? Time for myself to study, blog, make art, and just be. Right. That means getting up at 6 am every day. I am getting closer, as I usually manage 6:30, but as the kids get up at 6:45, that isn't enough time. This one is so very hard for me. I am not an early riser. But I do know it can be done, and similarly to eating right and exercising, I have done it before, and made it work, so I can choose it again! In addition to studying, which has gone by the wayside, I really want to focus on quilting. I have several unfinished projects that bother my conscience, and I want to get in there and do some art quiliting, as well. I need to find space in the basement in which to work, and develop a daily routine for doing so. This leads me to my next goal.

And that is to be is uncluttered. I won't go into details, but this house needs to be gone through with a fine tooth comb. There is junk in every room that needs to go. Bills and paperwork that needs to go in filing cabinets, and boxes that still need to be unpacked. When we moved into the Farmhouse, the pervious owner had died, so all his stuff was still here, and much of it still is. It is time to load up Whitey the minivan and make a trip to the dump. Maybe two trips.

I also want to paint. Actually, I don't want to paint. To be honest, I have a real story about painting. I HATE painting! It stinks and gives me a headache, it is messy, and it requires cleaning, prepping and cleanup. Ick. Ick. And Ick again. But, I am sick and tired of the horrible smoke stained walls, and the lack of cheery color. Papa will deny it if you ask him, but when we moved into the Farmhouse 2 years ago after 5+ years in a rental where the walls were all a boring white, he told me I could paint every wall a different color if I wanted to. And did I mention that his sister is a professional painter, and has left her color wheel with me? I have been walking through the house, looking at walls and imagining them in a rainbow of different shades. Pain in the butt or no, it looks like painting is in my future!

Well, that will do for now. That is a lot to be, and I know I can't do it all right off the bat at the same time, but just getting it down is a start.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Two quotes

Here are two great quotes I found at Miz Booshay's blog today. Miz Booshay's tag line is "Encourage one another." She does this so well. Thanks, Donna.

To teach is to learn twice. ~Joseph Joubert, Penses, 1842

Our aim in education is to give a full life. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking - the strain would be too great - but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest~Charlotte Mason

Musical Friday

Big day today. The Girl is going to be making her audition tape (to try to get into Interlochen summer camp) this morning. This will probably eat up our whole morning. She has been puttting in hours of time on the piano lately, perfecting two pieces she will tape today. They need to be by two artists from different periods, with different styles. She picked Bach's Inventio I, and Bartok's Study in Chords. The Bartok was easy for her, but she has been struggling with the Bach- over and over and over again. It is sounding so good now. I love the litle trills she does. Sigh. Happiness is having a piano in the living room, and someone who loves to play it living with you.

UPDATE: I had just hit the POST button when the Girl's Piano teacher called to say she wasn't able to get the recording equipment for today. Sigh. The Girl is slightly dissapointed but okay that she has a bit more time to perfect her pieces. Guess where she is right now. That's right- at the piano.

The Boy also is working hard at his music. He is really struggling with learning the note names, and the different registers in his French Horn playing. I can't explain it more than that, it is complicated, but the horn notes are different than the piano notes, and it can get confusing, learning to transpose it all. But if his goal is to use his horn to get into and through college, he needs to work very hard in the next few years. Horn players are rare, so colleges seek them out, sometimes paying full scholarships. I thank him often for introducing me to the wonderfully rich and mellow tones of the french horn. More happy sighs.

He has a playing test for his band teacher this afternoon. He will be asked to play random bits from any or all of the pieces they are currently working on. It should be interesting to hear how he did.

I had wanted to pack it all in and go skating today, but that isn't going to happen. Music wins out every time in this household!! Other than that, we are going to really focus on school today, finishing up our work for the week, including math and latin tests, and finishing Boy's primary source work on the Indian Wars. I am ready for a Latin test myself, although I am 20 chapters behind the kids!

I think we will try for a walk or at the very least a climb in the treehouse late this afternoon. I can see we haven't been getting enough physical exercise in- the Boy doesn't do well when that happens. Other than that, we may make a stop at the movie store. I feel the need for some mindless entertainment.

Gotta get a move on here- they are done with chores and ready for breakfast, and a chapter in Drifthouse.

And speaking of books, Crissy, I am enjoying both Monte Cristo, and Rare Encounters with Ordinary Birds. The latter is just wonderful, and I am enjoying the illustrations as much as the stories- it is great to come across a book by a local author who describes birds I know and love. And the former is a wonderful story which I find very hard to put down at night! Thanks for the recommendations.

My personal to do list for this weekend:
I must have the application materials in to the library by tomorrow at the latest. I have lots of work to do in this area.
I really need to learn how to put link titles in the side bar, so I can have long lists of different types of links.
I need to figure out what to get/make the Girl for her birthday on Monday, and post her birth story.
I also feel the need to come up with a tagline, a standard like Look to the finish, or Kiss those babies, but one hasn't resonated with me yet.

Oh, and a trip is in our emminent future, but I won't write about it till we have the details straight.

Have a great day,

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What is you O.Q.?

I got this one from Laney. Thanks, I haven't had a clue what to post lately. But I have to admit to not enjoying this one too much- it hits too close to home for me. "Hi, I'm LB, and I have a hard time throwing things away, let alone putting them away. I'd so rather be reading, or sleeping."

What is Your O.Q.?
What is your Organization Quotient?
1. I can find important papers I need within a few minutes
A. All the time.
B. Most the time.
C. Rarely. I have them but they're not in any order.
D. Never. They're scattered all over.

2. My clothes are
A. In order and I can get dressed easily.
I rarely get behind on laundry.
B. In order most of the time, but the laundry sometimes stacks up.
C. In stacks waiting to be washed or ironed or put away.
D. In piles all over, getting stepped on.

3. The clothes in my closet and drawers
A. Fit me and have been worn within the past year.
B. Fit me but I haven't worn some of them in a long time.
C. Some fit me and some do not. I don't wear many of them anymore for various reasons.
D. I have no idea what is in my closet, if it fits, or the last time I wore the clothes.

4. Mail
A. Gets read and sorted daily.
B. Gets read most days.
Then it sits on the counter or desk waiting for me to make decisions.
C. Doesn't get read sometimes and gets piled up until company comes. Then it goes into another room until I can get to it.
D. Some is in the house, some in the car. I don't really know.

5. Bills get paid
A. On time every time.
B. On time most of the time, unless there is an oversight.
C. Late sometimes. I don't have a routine for paying bills.
D. Often they are late and I pay many late fees.

6. In the Kitchen
A. I can make a meal easily because I can find all the utensils and my pantry is stocked.
B. I can usually find everything, but sometimes I'm out of things I need.
C. I don't cook much. It's too much trouble to put a meal together.
D. I eat frozen meals, order in or eat out most days because I can't manage my kitchen.

7. My photographs
A. Are all arranged in scrapbooks, albums, or boxes.
B. Are mostly arranged but some are waiting until I get to it.
C. Are all together, but in no particular order.
D. Are somewhere in the house.
(There should be an E. here for those of us who have 30 rolls of film in a rubbermaid tub on the kitchen counter. Sigh.)

8. My Desk
A. Is always clear on top so I can work.
B. Is messy while I'm working, but I put papers away regularly.
C. Is messy almost always until I toss everything in a pile on the floor.
D. Is somewhere under that big pile of stuff.

9. The attic and basement in my home
A. Are orderly and are used for storing things I don't use very often.
B. Are somewhat in order, but sometimes things get lost.
C. Are cluttered with junk I never use and would probably earn me a great deal of money at a garage sale if I ever cleaned it up.
D. Are big black holes. Stuff goes in and never come out.

10. My Calendar
A. I use it daily to remember appointments and prioritize tasks.
B. I use it to write down appointments and hardly ever miss one.
C. I write down appointments most of the time but forget to check it regularly.
D. I don't have calendar I like so I don't use one.

11. I get distracted when trying to organize.
A. Never
B. Sometimes
C. Often
D. Always

12. I feel overwhelmed by the size of my organizing projects.
A. Never
B. Sometimes
C. Often
D. Always

13. I know the logical spots where things in my home should be put away.
A. Always
B. Often
C. Sometimes
D. Never

14. I feel confident that I can pick the right containers for the things I need to organize.
A. Always
B. Often
C. Sometimes
D. Never

15. I am able to purge items from my home when I no longer love them or need them.
A. Always. I don't hold onto things.
B. Often. But I have some emotional attachments.
C. Sometimes. I can but I struggle with it.
D. Never. I don't even try anymore.

16. When I start an organizing project, I finish it.
A. Always. This is not a problem for me.
B. Often. I usually finish, but sometimes get bored or distracted.
C. Sometimes. But I sometimes get bored or distracted by something or someone.
D. Never. I love the idea of organizing but am often too distracted to see it through to the end.

17. My family helps keep the home in order and running smoothly.
A. Always or does not apply
B. Often
C. Sometimes
D. Never

18. My home makes me feel happy and comfortable.
A. Always
B. Often
C. Sometimes
D. Never

19. Being at home and seeing my clutter makes me feel stressed.
A. Never
B. Sometimes
C. Often
D. Always2

0. On a scale of 1-4 with 4 being the most cluttered, my home feels like a:
A. 1
B. 2
C. 3
D. 4
Look for the scoring in the comments. I scored a 50. I answered honestly. I need some help! How 'bout you?

Happy singing.

A link to an article connecting singing and happiness. Hey Jess, maybe this is why your son enjoys his choir so much!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Friday the 13th, part 2

For the record, I love Friday the 13th. My mom was born on a Friday the 13th, so it has always been a good day for me, no superstitions here.

So, the rest of our day went pretty smoothly, too. The zoo was great! Because of the rain, there was hardly anyone there. Just gotta love that. We spent the entire 2 hours in the reptile and nocturnal houses. There was a keeper going from window to window, cleaning and checking the animals, and the kids just followed him, enrapt. They were fascinated when Mr. Zookeeper used the long snake stick thing to gently hold back the rattler when he was cleaning the enclosure. They loved it when he lifted two lizards out in one hand, and watched intently as he examined the pond turtle as he removed it. They also loved it when he sprayed water towards them and made faces at them occassionally.

I had an interesting converesation with a zookeeper who was telling me all about the recent illness and then recuperation of the tree kangaroos, a pair about 17 yrs old. She also told me that the little armadillo we are all so fond of watching is named Edward. Edward is hillarious to watch- he runs around and around and around and around. He crawls through tubes, digs into the underbrush, then digs back out again, then runs around and around and around some more.

When we went into the nocturnal house, they were enthralled once more. They found Edward and watched him for some time. I had fun watching the porcupines (they don't call me Needleroozer for nothin'!), and was, as usual surprised by thier agility and climbing ability. We spent a long time looking at the bats, as they were the focus of our visit today. We all did semi-blind (very dark in the nocturnal house, ya know) contour drawings of them, and just sat there in awe at how beautiful they are. They look so fluffy and soft, and then there are those wings! When they stretch out, you can see the veins, and get a good look at their fingers!

Then we went to the cafe, and ate dried fruit, strawberries, and carob-covered raisins. We looked at each others' drawings, and found them quite impressive for having been done in the dark. A few minutes of at the playground time for the kids, while we two moms talked curriculum (but of course!), and a few more minutes in the zoostore, where the girl bought a stuffed komodo dragon, and then we were off.

We found a used bookstore near the zoo, and spent a delightful 45 minutes checking out their entire collection. The kids and I reminisced about books they loved as toddlers- they even made me read Jamberry by Bruce Degan to them. As many times as I read it over and over again when they were little, I never get tired of reading that book! And did you know Alexandra Day has a new Carl book out? Carl's Sleepy Afternoon. I will have to get that one some day- yes, I still have all the kids' board and picture books. I am saving them for the future grandbabies! Anyhow, it was a fun way to spend some time. The Boy used all his spending money to buy a 4 book series that I can't remember the name of, but that he has wanted for some time.

By now, we had used up enough time that we could stop by and pick Papa up from work. We stopped by the store to pick up a bag of salad, and came out with $60. worth of food!! Funny how that works! Headed home, fixed salads using leftover chicken from last night, and plopped in front of the tube to watch Heaven Can Wait with Warren Beatty. We had watched Here Comes Mr. Jordan a couple of months ago, so we thought this remake would be fun to see as well. It was. It is so cool to be able to watch movies with the kids that aren't always animated or juvenile in nature. I also love to be able to use the library system to check out movies- when your budget is tight, it is very convenient!

The kids are tucked in now, they need to get up at our regular time tomorrow. Remember when I was so sick after Thanksgiving and we had to cancel our plans with the Godparents? Well, they called this week and said they have this weekend free, so we are going to drive out there tomorrow to spend the day with them. I bought sandwich makings tonight, and will take the rest of the strawberries and make a pie there. We will also take some of the new games Santa brought us for Christmas. Should be fun!

Okay, new topic. You all know I lost my respite care job at the beginning of December, and I have been adjusting to not working for the last month. There have been some definate advantges to being completely home. I miss the challenge, and I miss the little bit of money I made doing it, but all in all, I don't miss the stress of the job. I thought I might just throw myself into teaching, momming, and maybe throw some art time in there too. Well..........

I found out at the beginning of this week that there is an opening for a library page at the local library, just about 5 minutes from our house. It is for 8 hours a week, and is just about the same hourly wage I made at respite care- with far fewer responsiblities and I think, less stress. Duties include shelving books, tidying library, helping patrons occasionally. This is the job I wanted two years ago when we first moved to this house, but this is the first opening for a page there has been in hat time. That is why I took the respite care job in the first place.
I tried to put it out of my mind, but it didn't seem to work. I wasn't sure how Papa would react, but I told him about it tonight. He encouraged me to apply. The deadline to apply is the girl's birthday, the 23rd of this month. I have a couple of days to think about it. It would most likely be 2 to 3 evenings a week, from 6 to 9 pm. I would miss dinner and storytime those nights, but Papa would be home to watch the kids.

I don't really want to work, but you know, the Girl wants to go to Interlochen music camp this summer, and Boy wants to take those summer classes at the UW. Boy needs his own french horn, and Girl wants a cello. I know it isn't much, but $300. a month would really help out with things like that. I have musical kids, and there are things they are going to need.

What do you guys think? I have enjoyed not working, and wonder if it has had an impact on the kids. Boy just seems so much more willing to do his schoolwork lately, and we have had a few less discipline issues. But this would be working in the evenings, not during their school hours. Hmmmmmmm.

Well, I promised myself I would start reading Count of Monte Cristo tonight, and I also need to get to bed at a reasonable time (I am actually already there, snuggled in with my wonderful laptop), so I will sign off. I am not checking for typos, so there! Have a great day tomorrow!

Busy, busy!

I'll try to post something real tonight, but right now I just have time for a quick update.

Boy was in a skit about MLK Jr. this morning, so all 4 of us were at the middle school at 8 am this morning, with our chores done, and breakfast in our bellies, and with smiles on. Whew!

We dropped Papa off at the bus stop, then came home so Girl could get an hour of piano in, and so I could pack lunch. Now we are headed out to pick Boy up, take girl to her piano lesson, and after that, we are headed to the zoo for some bat watching!! Can you tell our next kit from the Burke will be about bats?!

Hope youu are having a great day, talk to you tonight.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

What we did in school yesterday, and Wed. plans

I am not feeling particularly awake or creative at the moment, but here I am, anyhow.

Nature Study did go well yesterday, the kids were completely sucked in, except for the littlest one, and he held out for an hour, so that's pretty good.

We examined and compared wings, talked about primary and secondary flight feathers, and how they work when the bird is taking off and maneuvering in the air;We talked about down, and how these feathers keep the bird warm and don't have shafts; we examined several different birds' feet (picture me holding a lone seagull foot in one hand and an owl foot in the other), and talked about the difference between feet designed for perching (3 toes face forwards, one facing rear), climbing (a woodpecker has 2 toes facing front, 2 facing rear) , and wading (the coot has double flanges, or ridges, that open as it swims, vs. ducks and gulls webbed feet that act as paddles when they swim.). We also felt the sharp talons of an owl foot, and noticed that they have "trousers" that cover their feet with warm feathers down to its ankle and sometimes to its toes.

While examining an owl head (holding the head of an owlin my hands was just a bit creepy for a second), we talked about the strong senses of sight and hearing that birds have. Did you know that owls usually have one ear opening that is higher than another, and that this increases their hearing ability?

We covered nest-building (Birds engage in cup nest building by placing mud mixed with saliva on the inside of their collection of twigs, moss, etc, and then turning their bodies around and around, to make it round and smooth inside.),including all the different materials that are used, and egg-laying, and looked at 6 pages of different sized eggs.

I didn't focus too much on drawing, but each kid did manage to draw at least one bird. We will meet again next Tuesday, so I will focus on drawing then. The kids still haven't even seen all the birds that are in the box, and we worked over 2 hours! I highly recommend the Eyewitness book Birds. Pages and pages of good stuff.

After the lesson, the moms sat around and laughed together for a bit while the kids rain outside in the rain, and then came in and played with the dollhouse I had set up for them in the living room.

When everyone left around 4, the kids and I headed out to the dreaded shopping mall to do some Christmas returns. The Boy's return was simple enough- we just had to go to Toys R Us and trade a duplicate Bionicle guy for a different Bionicle guy. Girl's proved a bit more challenging. She got this hot pink velour sweatsuit set, and it was too large. After spending a fruitless 30 minutes roaming Penney's looking for something she liked (something modest that wasn't covered in fake rhinestones or said "Love" on the butt, and maybe green vs hot pink), we left with the hot pink sweatsuit, and a promise from me to try to shrink it in the wash for her. We were both appalled at the selection of clothes available to a 10 yr old girl! She wasn't impressed.

We picked up teriyaki for supper, and with lucky timing, happened upon Papa at the bus stop as we were driving home, so all came home together. After supper, Papa read to us from All the Weyrs of Pern, then we tucked the kids in with their books, and Papa and I watched Robin Williams on Broadway, 2002. Man, I do love him. He is cute (those blue eyes), funny, and is a true hope for a mother of a kinesthetic teenager whose talents include being able to sound like 3 different kinds of sprinkler systems. You know, that question, if you could have lunch with anyone on the planet, who would it be? Well, I would love a luncheon with the mothers of Jonathan WInters and Robin Williams. I would love to know how they encouraged the talents of these two boys without sqelching them or trying too hard for them to fit into society's molds.
Anyways, he makes me laugh (though we tried to do it quietly), and I love Robin for that. And for the record, I will never, ever, ever see One Hour Photo. I am amazed by the acting ability of this man and there is no way I want to watch him in that role. Talk about being WIGGED OUT!

So, what does today hold? Luckily, it isn't a killer Wednesday. All I have on the docket this afternoon is Boy's horn lesson, and Tadah!! His horn teacher wants to start having it here at our house! And she wants to knock $5. off the cost of the lesson, because of that. Yay!! I don't have to take an hour out of my day to drive to and from Kent! This really eases my Wicked Wednesdays a great deal, especially on our food bank weeks. I am so psyched!

Other than Nature Study and instrument practice, we didn't cover any school yesterday, so we will need to focus a bit today. I am looking forward to being able to. I am still trying to wrap my brain around Classical Compostition, so I will spend some time going over the teacher's guide, trying to figure out how to implement this program, and also reading Composition in the Classical Tradition (if I can just get through this book without all the tip-overs!!!).

Hope whatever you do today is productive and enjoyable.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Look at the birdy!

I just picked up another study kit from the Burke. This one is titled Bird Identification. It is packed tightly and neatly in a huge Rubbermaid box. I haven't opened it all up yet, but there is a checklist on top. Here is just a partial list of what it includes: Wings from a red-shafted flicker, a barn owl, a seagull, a varied thrush, a red-winged blackbird, and a sawhet owl; claws of a wren, a stellar's jay, and an owl; and the head of a barn owl. Complete bird specimens include a cedar waxwing, evening grosbeak, a violet-green swallow, and a rufus hummingbird. There is also a copy of Eyewitness books: Bird, the Field Guide to the Birds of North America (which we own and I highly recommend), and an intense looking teacher's guide. Whew! What did I get myself in for?! ;-) This looks like a lot of fun, and lots of learning. We are meeting tomorrow, and will probably meet a couple more times in the two weeks we have the kit.

The kids are doing their latin and math right now, so while it is quiet (and they aren't looking over my shoulder), I am going to do a little studying to get ready for tomorrow!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Brusell sprouts for Janie

Hey Janie,
I did reply to your post this morning, but it seems to have dissapeared into the internet ether. I also went to your blog, and for some reason, the links on your sidebar were missing. So...... here is, for the 3rd time, how I fix brussel sprouts. I should have just posted it here in the first place! ;-)

I cut the ends off the sprouts, and cut the bigger ones in half. Put them in a cast iron skillet, slick them with a bit of olive oil, and put them in a preheated hot over, 450 to 500 degrees.
Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, toss and turn, then 10 to 15 minutes more. You can also add sliced onion and garlic to extend this as a side dish. I serve them with a sprinkling of kosher salt and lemon juice. This is the only way I make brussel sprouts anymore, and is bascially how I cook all my veggies. Roasting at a high heat is the way to go. I learned this technique from the book Roasting, A Simple Art by Barbara Kafka.

Let me know how they turn out!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Taking a quick break

Check out Janie's latest blog entry. I concur as well. Books, books, and more books!!
I don't know how to cut and paste images yet- I tried 3 times and couldn't get it to work. But Janie's blog is fun to read, so there ya' go.

And for the record, it is raining full force now. Tippy the Christmas Tree has just been moved outside, and the decorations are all in boxes in the basement again. I was able to consolodate stuff, so now we only have 3 rubbermaid Christmas boxes instead of 4. Yay! Now to vaccumm the living room.

LB, gettin' back at it.

Sleep, blessed sleep!

Good morning! Joy of joys, I got 10.5 hours of sleep last night!!! I went to sleep at 11, and woke about 9:30. How luxurious! Checked a few blogs, then came downstairs when I heard noises. Found the kids at the table fixing their own frozen waffles, and saw dh outside in the yard. It is not raining on a Saturday for the first time in weeks! Life is good.

Now I have decisions to make. Do I stay inside and rearrange my room and do that deep cleaning up here that really needs to be done? Or do I go to the basement and struggle to find, clean, and organize a workspace for myself down there? Or do I bundle up, go outside, and putter, while the weather is decent? Or do I sit on this computer and try to figure out how to put neat stuff in my sidebar? Or do I go take down Christmas decorations and put Tippy the tree back outside? Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions. So much to do, so little time.

Whatever I do, I am already in a better frame of mind than I spent yesterday in. The not-sleeping thing was really starting to interfere with my life.

Well, not sure what the day holds, but I am going to get off this computer and go find out!
Happy Saturday, folks!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Tag! I'm it!

I've been tagged for the first time, by Mindy.
So here you go....
2 Things

2 names you go by:
1. Lori, my first name, which I have never liked much. Lori Beth is softer, I like it better.
2. Lo-Lo, the nickname my mom calls me.

2 parts of your heritage:
1. Native American, supposedly from the Umatilla tribe in Oregon.
2 Irish

2 things that scare you:
1. the thought of someone snatching my kids.
2. being alone in the house with the kids at night when Papa is away (thankfully this rarely happens).

2 of your everyday essentials:
1. a long hot bath in which to read and wake up in.
2. my thyroid med 1st thing in a.m.

2 things you are wearing right now: (and for the record, I am wearing more than this!)
1. my fave purple bra from Victoria's Secrets
2. my new necklace made with magnetized hematite and malachite beads, a Christmas gift from Papa

2 favorite bands or musical artists (at the moment):
1. Norah Jones
2.Jimmy Buffet

2 favorite songs at the moment:
1. I have no idea- I have the radio tuned to 96.5 Jack FM, and they play whatever they want, so I just listen to it all.

2 things you want in a relationship (other than real love):
1. frequent displays of affection, public or otherwise
2. laughter

2 truths:
1. My Christmas decorations are still up, and I have no desire to take them down.
2. I am fairly lazy, but work well with a deadline.

2 physical things that appeal to you (in the opposite sex):
1. a tall (6 ft or over) and thin physique
2. Blue eyes and long hair

2 of your favorite hobbies:
1. quilting (or lately, reading about quilting)
2. dancing (although I haven't done it in a while)

2 things you want really badly: Have to answer this 1st one the same as Mindy-
1. The one thing I wanted really badly, I am typing on right now.
2. I was going to say a scooter with a raincover or a motorcycle, but I think I'd rather have my basement finished and a place to quilt.

2 places you want to go on vacation:
1. Australia
2. Greece

2 things you want to do before you die:
1. See the kids graduate from college and start lives of their own (grandbabies!)

2 ways that you are stereotypically a chick:
1. I like to watch sappy movies and cry at the happy/sad bits, especially at that time of the month.
2. I like to be wooed and spoiled a bit by my man.

2 things you are thinking about now:
1. That I have been on this thing way too long, and should go make dinner.
2. The kids are supposed to be finishing their schoolwork in their rooms- I wonder if they are really doing this.

2 stores you shop at:
1. Trader Joe's
2. Half-Price Books

2 people I would like to see take this quiz:
Hmmmm. How 'bout
1. Laney
2. Amy at Good Soil

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Killer Wednesdays

No doubt about it, Wednesdays are tough! I didn't sleep well last night (haven't been since before Christmas, and I am starting to really notice the signs of sleep deprivation!!), but I was up at 6:30. After dropping Boy off at 9, I came home and got him registered for the ACT test on Feb. 11. This was a long, compicated process, but I feel good about finally getting it done, even if it was only 2 days before the deadline! We had thought he would be taking the SAT, but I missed that deadline, and now, am glad of that- the ACT won't include a writing section, and he will have 2 extra weeks to study. Regardless of how well he does, this will be a great experience for him. He is loving the prep, which is weird from the boy who hates to study!

I picked Boy-o up from classes at 11, stopped by and pick up Pony, and we all headed up to the food bank. We helped pack and then delivered 9 bags of groceries, then headed back to our neck of the woods. We dropped Pony off at home, then headed south. Ate oranges, some gross turkey lunch meat and rice cakes in the car. Stopped at Barnes and Noble to pick up Cracking the ACT, then stopped by Kris's to pick up the last couple of weeks worth of our Time for Kids magazines (not the most indepth articles, but the kids like it, and it is an easy way to do current events with no work for me).

Horn Lessons start at 2:30, and we were only 7 minutes late. We ordered some new manuscript paper for the Girl (I swear the manager of the music store rubs his hands together with glee each week when we come in, we buy SOMETHING everytime we come for a lesson, whether it is manuscript paper, guitar picks and books for Papa, or Chopin's Etudes or some Bartok for Girl's piano. At least he gives me a teacher's discount.), and then she and I visited the dollar store and bought ourselves a couple new pairs of toe socks while Boy was in his lesson. I know, I know. I am supposed to study Latin during this time. I promise to next week!

We got home about 5 pm, and I should be fixing dinner, but I am just so tired. I hope there are leftovers in the fridge, I really do.

My mom had an eye appt today, but hasn't called me yet. I hope it all went okay. Well, off to the kitchen with me, the sooner I get supper made, the sooner I can go to bed.

I just re-read what I have written so far- I hope this doesn't sound too whiny, I am aware of how good I have it. It is good to be tired, and I feel like I accomplished a great deal today. Oh- even though most of it was car-schooling, the kids got math, latin, instrument practice, and even a little history reading in today, in addition to all the good community service and horn lessons! Yay!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Nature Study

This one is for Laney, who asked me to describe how I teach Nature Study. I hope it isn't too disjointed to follow. There are lots of things in our homeschool that I don't think go very smoothly sometimes, but this isn't one of them. I really do this ala Charlotte Mason. My inspriation to start this was A Pocketful of Pinecones by Karen Andreola. I would also read The Charlotte Mason Companion for more nature study ideas.

And lastly before I start, here is a great link Jane posted on the WTM boards just this morning that has tons of great ideas for Nature Study in winter.

The important thing for us in this group is not how well we draw, but doing it on a regular basis, learning as we go, and having lots of fun in nature. Before I had the group to keep me in integrity, I averaged one drawing about every 2 months in a 3 yr time period. Now I average 2 to 4 a month, sometimes more. Two of us moms are learning to draw for the first time, and the one that just joined our group is very good. I like having lots of different levels/styles to round us all out.

The goals I have set specifically for the kids are to use quiet voices in nature (especially when we are birding) so that we actually have a chance to see some of it; to get them comfortable with drawing in nature and not to feel self-conscious about it; and to learn to appreciate and take care of our natural world.

We started out with just 2 moms and 3 kids, and now, in our second year, we have 3 moms and 5 kids, ranging in ages from 4 to 13. Keeping it small is a good idea, especially with the wide age range. We meet on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays from approximately 1 to 3, although we have been quite flexible on our times, sometimes meeting earlier in the day if we are doing more of a field trip. We have met at our various homes, mostly keeping it in the backyards, at Kubota Gardens (a fave of all of us, and where we all adopted trees to watch over the upcoming year), at the zoo (where the kids surprised us once by drawing for literally an hour and then not being ready to leave), Camp Long (a great place to go when studying ponds, and where the kids want to do an overnight field trip), the afformentioned Burke Museum, or the Arboretum.

Just some of the topics we have covered are trees/leaves, birds (this is a fave topic which gets revisited often), shells (I have a big box of these, and they are surprisingly challenging to draw!), insects (Papa has a great insect collection which is fun to draw from on a rainy day, as does the Science Center.), and owls. We have had one lesson on contour drawing, and will focus on more drawing lessons when I get my tushy in gear and start learning ahead of them like I am supposed to be doing. Sometimes we just go out and draw whatever we find. That is fun, too.

I usually don't have too much of a plan as to what we will be studying ahead of time. I prefer to keep it fluid, and go with what interests the kids. I will sometimes email the kids the week prior and give them a choice of two topics (Do you want to collect and draw leaves in my backyard, or do you want to go visit and draw our trees?). Once I know what we will be studying, I go to the science shelves in my schoolroom (unfinished basement), and grab every book I can on the subject, including any and all field guides on the subject. I sometimes also will go to the library and just pull out whatever is currently on their shelves, too. Put it all in a tub, and have it all set up with our other regular supplies/resources, and either load them into the back of Whitey the minivan, or set it on the table on the back porch. The other moms bring resources also, and we all have different ones, so we usually have a wide variety to use/choose from.

In addition to these, I always grab The Handbook of Nature Study and Sketching in Nature. These are the main tools I am using to teach myself and the kids about our subjects and how best to draw them. I also refer to Artistic Pursuits, often, for simple drawing tips.

My standard supplies include drawing pencils, colored pencils, watercolor pencils, CrayolaTwistables, our nature journals, plain sketch pads, etc. **A note on the art supplies-I don't use all of these for every lesson, just pick and choose what will work best or what has been motivating the kids lately. The watercolor pencils are new- we are just getting started learning how to use these out in the wild.

Nature Journals: We have tried out many different ones, from the first one at Tanglewood (which looked okay, but was too flimsy, and had a bad binding that always came off), to a more scripted version. One of my students has a great waterproof 3 ring notebook her mom made of cardboard, taped over to avoid the rain. It has held up well, and provides a nice hard surface on which to draw. What we use most now are a 5 by 7 blank sketchbook, and this one from Rainbow Resource. The next time I order from them, I plan on buying several of these- I want all kids in my group to have this one, because on days when I have been too lazy to plan, it is easy enough to teach right out of this book. Two of us moms also have this NJ, based on the book Keeping a Nature Journal (I have checked this out time and time again and really want to own this- a very good book!) by Claire Leslie Walker. If I know I am going to the zoo or going to be doing contour drawing or something really sketchy, I use the sketchbook, otherwise I take the pretty, hardcover one.

Once we are all together and ready to go, I will teach a very simple short lesson. If we are studying ants, say, I would read pertinent tidbits from HONS, and maybe a poem if I found one. We might go over the 3 body parts of insects, and in general talk about observations we have made in the past of ants. I would show the kids the books to choose from, in case they want to do any research while we are working. Then we would probably all take a jar and head out to find some. We would probably draw one in our journal, either from real life, or one of the field guides. One of the moms takes lots of pics, and uses them in her journal. I always make sure we use Latin names whenever possible to label drawings, and encourage the kids in their drawing skills.

When we first started, I praised every drawing and commented only a little. Now after a year, I will encourage them to draw only the lines they see, add more detail, write a paragraph about where we were when we saw it, a poem, etc. I am trying to stretch them a bit now. Of course with the littles (4 and 6), it is still praise, praise, praise. I have been having my two olders pair with the littles on things like owl pellet disection, etc. and I think there will be great value in this. My kids are realizing how much they know by tutoring the littles.

After they have worked hard for at least an hour (this time has increased greatly since we first started, and is much shorter for the current littles- I try to bring something fun but nature oriented for them to do while the olders are still working), hopefully a bit longer, I let them play. They either play in our treehouse or engage in imaginary play in the backyard, or run free at whatever park/place we are at.

Once we figure out how to use the Boy's digital camera, I will try to post some of the things we have done.

I probably haven't covered everything, but that's it in a nutshell. Let me know if you have specific questions.
addendum: Here are a few links from one of the other moms in our group. I haven't visited these sites yet, but will today. Cool! New things to explore!
Charlotte Mason Nature Study ideas.

backyard nature

bug guide

bird guide


more bugs