Thursday, December 22, 2011

Handmade Holidays

Christmas is upon us! I have become obsessed with the idea of homemade decorations. There are so many wonderful ideas floating around there! The kids and I are having a great time making ornaments. I have found that they make great little gifts for loved ones from the kids. Here's a list of my favorite homemade goodies this year:

Check out this cute advent calendar.
Jingle bell wreaths make me smile
This jingle bell garland would be super easy to create at home
It just isn't Christmas without getting a little glitter everywhere
Make an cute partridge for your pear tree

I am on the lookout for a cute tree topper to make at home. Do you have any suggestions? How are you getting ready for the holidays?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Hidden Hazards of Crafting and the Beatles

No one ever warned me that crafting can be dangerous!

No, it really didn't hurt going in. Yes, it hurt like crap coming out, although it doesn't hurt at all now. The spot where I got a fresh tetanus shot, however, is still aching. And yes, it was my own damn fault for not putting the needle away immediately after I used it. After hearing  horror stories from ladies in the waiting room, the nurse, and the doctor about sharp objects lodged in flesh, I have no immediate plans to milk this incident for pity. There are far worse things to step on, and it's the grace of God that I stepped on it, and not a precious baby.

On a side note, I am thankful that I had someone very special to hold my hand while I had "surgery". He was wonderful, and barely gave me a hard time about it. Although he wanted to be very clear that I did not have to skewer my little toe in order to see him. A simple phone call would have sufficed. Good to know, baby. I'll try to avoid self-mutilation the next time I want to hold your hand.

Happy Thursday!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Up Where the Air Is Clear

I saw this video a while ago, but I still think it's cool. A father and son attached an iPhone to a weather balloon and released it with the video rolling. Once it descended, they located it with the GPS in the iPhone. Awesome. We are learning about gravity this week, and so it came to mind. Enjoy!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Knitted Scarf: A Project of Firsts

I was waiting to post about this project until I took some better pictures, but I completed this weeks ago and have yet to take any more pictures (surprise! surprise!), so I thought I should just go ahead and write about it anyway.

I had a sort of joke with myself about the fact that I have been knitting for more than a year and have never made a scarf, because that is usually everyone's first knitting project (either that or a wash cloth, which I have also yet to make). This is just one of my little quirks. After about six months I decided to wait and see how long I could go before I broke down and made one. I held out for over a year, but after fine-gauge project after fine-gauge project, I wanted  to relax with some chunky knitting, and decided a scarf was just the sort of quick project I needed. There was never any question about which scarf would be my first: Braided by Susan B. Anderson was the project that I saw over a year ago and said to myself, "I must make that some day." It was the project that pushed me over the edge, from longing to knit, to bravely picking up my needles and knitting.

Here is the link to the Ravelry project page for Braided (note: you have to sign up for Ravelry to see it. It's a free site that is basically Facebook for the fiber-obsessed.)

Here is the link to the free pattern on the Spud Says! blog.

You can see that on the ride side, the ribbing and braid are looser and sloppier than the left side.

I love this project so much that I bought the Spud and Chloe Outer yarn in the Soapstone colorway for it ages ago and have just been waiting for the right time and cooler weather to inspire me to get going. I seriously thought that it would be a cinch to knit and would look fantastic (I mean, I'm now venturing into sweater knitting, for Pete's sake!), but oh, was I mistaken. I completely underestimated my ability to screw up a project. I found the US size 17 needles to be clunky and awkward at first, evenly tensioning the super-bulky yarn was a challenge, and for some reason I could not get the braid right. I finally got it all together about halfway through my scarf.

This is the "better" end.

My tip on this project is to weave in the ends as you go (which I've found is a good idea for any project) so that it's not an over-whelming task at the very end. Ask me how I know that.

I experimented with knitting the tail yarn and working yarn at the same time, and it's held fast and looks okay, but I'm not convinced it's any better than weaving in the ends with a tapestry needle.

However, despite everything, I'm extremely proud of my first chunky scarf. It is deliciously soft and fluffy, and I know it will be so cozy and warm when we finally get our cold weather in January and February. All the mistakes are little reminders that it was made by my hands. Others may make a scarf from the same pattern with the same yarn, but no one botched it up exactly like I did, and that makes it uniquely mine. ;-)

Happy Monday!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Oatmeal: A Busy Mom's Best Friend

I want to take a few moments to wax poetic about one of our favorite foods: humble oatmeal. Not the sugary-instant-processed-packages (which I do not allow in the house), but the good ol' rolled oat variety. How do you like your oatmeal? Our preferred texture is not runny and not thick, but nice and creamy. I make it in the microwave in around three minutes with minimal clean-up. We liven it up with our favorite toppings: real maple syrup or real local honey, real cream, fresh fruits and nuts, or our favorite trick: frozen blueberries. The hot oatmeal melts the blueberries and makes them soft and juicy, while the cold blueberries immediately cool down the piping hot oatmeal to the perfect temperature for immediate consumption. The oatmeal even turns one of the girls' favorite color: purple. We've tried it with other frozen berries, too. Sliced frozen strawberries are best, the whole variety are just too big, or frozen blackberries and raspberries, and all are delicious, but the blueberries are our favorites. Other favorite combos are fresh sliced bananas and walnuts; warm cinnamon apples; and fresh berries and cream in the spring and summer.

I like to add either honey or real maple syrup for sweetener that brings more than empty calories. The roots of the maple trees reach deep down into the earth, pulling up trace minerals that are not commonly found in other foods. While calorie-wise, maple syrup is close to sugar, at least maple syrup contains a little bit of zinc, manganese, and calcium! Pick brands, such as Coombs Family Farms, which do not use formaldehyde in the refining process. Raw honey is a good choice, too, because it contains amylases and enzymes to digest carbohydrates and grains, which are hard on the tummy. According to Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon,  honey also does not spike the bloodsugar as severely as table sugar. I always have to keep in mind, though, that a sweetener is a sweetener, and no sugar is "good for you", so I try to restrain myself when adding one, even the goods ones like honey and maple syrup.

Even though oatmeal is a complex carb, it will still get broken down into simple sugars, and according to Diana Scharzbein in The Schwarzbein Principle, it's best to eat all carbs in combination with protein and real fat (not trans fats, which are man-made). That's why we always add real cream to ours, and the kids usually eat it in combination with some kind of protein, usually a scrambled egg.
But enough nutrition talk! Here's how I make it:

Super-Easy Oatmeal

I usually make 1 cup of dried oatmeal at a time, but you can make any amount you want, just cook it for more or less time. Just remember that however much oatmeal you have, you will use twice as much water. Cooking times may vary depending on how many watts your microwave is. I believe ours is pretty high powered, at least 1100 watts. The trick about microwaving oatmeal is to break up the cooking time into smaller increments so that the oats don't boil over and make a huge mess. Play with your toppings and find your favorites.

1 cup rolled oats (not quick cook)
2 cups water

In microwave safe bowl, combine oats and water.
Oats and water before cooking

Microwave on high in 1-minute increments, stirring between each increment, until you reach desired doneness, about 3 minutes.
The cooked oatmeal with honey and cream. Not too thick, not too thin. Delicious!

 If it still needs to cook longer than three minutes, switch to 30-second increments. Sometimes I have to add a bit of extra water to get the consistency the way we like it. Be careful when you take the bowl out of the microwave! It will be hot!

Toppings (the best part!)

3-4 tablespoons real cream
1-2 teaspoons honey or maple syrup
2 large handfuls frozen blueberries
Frozen blueberries are our favorite topping
The girls love how the blueberries turn the oatmeal purple.

Darling had the bowls all ready

Other topping ideas:
sliced fresh bananas, maple syrup, chopped walnuts, and cream
stewed apricots and figs with honey
stewed apples with cinnamon
fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cream, real maple sugar

Monday, September 26, 2011

Music Monday

As a parent, I'm always on the hunt for kid's music that doesn't make me want to puncture my eardrums with a q-tip. Sometimes it's hard to find that balance of appropriate content and musical satisfaction, especially these days. I like a lot of acoustic guitar, quirky lyrics and a melody that's easy to to hum (my brother calls it "folky girly music"). I just stumbled across an album called Fascinating Creatures by Frances England, and it's just the kind of thing I like. I read her bio on her website, and it's no wonder that I enjoy her music, for she also grew up in the South and now lives in San Francisco! Check out all three of her albums on iTunes, as well as some of her videos on youtube. You can visit her website here and listen to full versions of all her songs.

I'll leave you with a special Monday treat, her video, "Sleepyhead Mommy". I definitely fall into that category! Happy Monday!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


We did a two-week unit on butterflies, and I wanted to share some of my resources. There is a lot out there to do!

We used this butterfly unit study and lapbook from Homeschool Share as the basis of our study. 

I found some wonderful nature videos of the Monarch butterfly here. ARKive is a wonderful site---just be careful as there are some graphic videos of animals mating and giving birth. Best to preview without young children to make sure which videos you want to watch.

We made this mobile of the butterfly life cycle from Enchanted Learning.

We put out plates with slices of bananas and oranges in the yard to attract butterflies.

The girls acted out The Very Hungry Caterpillar as I read the story

We used these fingerplays here and here from Cullen's ABC's.

Books we read (most from our local library)
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons
Waiting for Wings by Lois Elhert
Are You a Butterfly? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
The Butterfly Alphabet by Kjell Bloch Sandved
From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman and Bari Weissman

We used The Very Hungry Caterpillar and this song to learn the days of the week.

I also the The Very Hungry Caterpillar to start a conversation about the importance of eating healthy.

We used this math fishing game. I printed out the symmetrical butterfly  pdf from Homeschool Share and used it as a template. Then I cut out a butterfly in each of ten different colors of construction paper and numbered them 1-10 to play the game. I figured the colors would be a helpful clue for Doodlebug, and once she has mastered the game, I will cut the butterflies out all in one color for a bit more of a challenge.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Question Asking and Answer Seeking

I have to admit it: the more we go into our homeschool, the less structured it is. In this early stage of learning, though, I'm not sure that's a bad thing. Instead, we go outside and observe, do science experiments, get paint and glue on nearly everything, and ask tons and tons of question then attempt to find the answers (sometimes asking questions takes a little guidance from Mommy). I hope that by nurturing this curiosity and teaching them how to seek out information that they will have a solid foundation for research later on.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago Darling wanted to know what sound a giraffe makes, and our search for the answer turned up this video from the Blank Park Zoo in Iowa. I thought the answer was pretty interesting, and wanted to share.

We've watched a few more videos from the Blank Park Zoo, and really enjoyed them. I wish our zoo did something like this. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Edible Education

In an attempt to make our math lessons more "hands on" (or in this case, more "sticky-hands on"), I took our lesson to that tried and true arena of learning: the kitchen. Our first math unit has been on same/different/similar, so I thought that decorating pairs of cookies would be a delicious way to illustrate this concept.

We used recipe number 2 of these sugar cookie recipes, and it was just about the best sugar cookie dough I've ever had. We made the dough one day, then cut and baked them the next morning, then decorated them in the afternoon. I let the girls pick out all the cookie cutters, and we made two of each shape to decorate either the same or different. I think the spray-can frosting is pretty awful, but it's super easy and simpler to manipulate than a piping bag (also, I don't own a piping bag, and had no more butter to make frosting anyway, so there you have it).

Darling made time for her math lesson before her wedding. Such dedication to her schooling!

I think it was a smashing success. I'm so proud of Doodlebug, especially, who has been pointing out things that are the same or different ever since! Darling was more interested in eating the cookies and then getting back to playing dress-up.

They decorated the cookies themselves. While they earned an A for math, let's just say that I know two little ladies who will never compete on Cupcake Wars. ;-)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cucumber Conundrum

Refreshing Agua Fresca.
Have you ever grown cucumbers? If so, then you know what I mean when I say I have got to find ways to use them up. Now, I know everyone says "pickles" but I have neither the time nor the inclination to make pickles right now, so that's just not going to happen. I've had my fill of cucumber, tomato, and feta salad, and today I was on the search for something new to do with the 'cukes on my counter.

My search brought me, as always, to Simply Recipes. I love this site. If you have not visited before, you must. It has saved our family dinner too many times to count. Today, it saved my cucumbers. Wanting to try something new, I decided to make the Cucumber Lime Mint Agua Fresca. I have tons of mint growing in my garden, so I decided to go for it. I used chocolate mint instead of spearmint, and lemon instead of lime, but it was quite tasty just the same. I would recommend it if you want to try something different!

Prolific chocolate mint in the garden.

Since I'm obsessed with vegetables, of course I did some research on cucumbers to learn more about them.  I learned that this widely cultivated veggie, which I always seemed to overlook in the grocery store, was thought to originate in India, and is actually very nutritious. They are part of the cucurbitaceae family, which also includes pumpkins, melons, zucchini, and other squashes. Because of their unique combination of phytonutrients, including lignans, cucurbitacins, and flavanoids 'cukes can actually provide you with anti-inflammitory and anti-cancer protection, while fiber, a healthy dose of vitamin K, and a high water content keep you regular. Who knew? You can head over to World's Healthiest Foods if you'd like to learn more.

Freshly picked.

I decided to give some to the kids, since I try to sneak vegetables into their diets at every possible opportunity. The girls turned their noses up at it, but they did try it. Pumpkin, however, ran over immediately, pointing and saying, "Sip dat! Sip dat!" I gave him his own in a sippy cup.

After the first sip--I love his face!
 He drank the whole thing. I enjoyed it, too, and found it extremely refreshing on this hot day. So even though the girls didn't like it, I consider it to be a successful recipe.

He decided he liked it, though.

 I have lots more 'cukes on the vine. What is your favorite way to eat a cucumber? I need some suggestions!

Friday, August 19, 2011


Our first science unit on ants have been a success so far! And most of that is due to some very busy insects building away in our flower beds. A couple of days ago, Doodlebug picked up our bird feeder that had fallen off a tree into the flower bed, and we discovered that the ants had built their nest underneath it.
Our windblown bird feeder made a great home for ants!

 It turned out to be a living example of what we had read! Moving the bird feeder allowed us to see rooms and passages the ants had built. With their roof suddenly gone, the ants were in a panic, trying to carry all the eggs and larvae underground.

See that little white thing the ants are all over? That's the larva
We saw one worker ant struggle to carry a larva underground and another come to help it. 

We could also see the difference in size between the soldiers and the workers. Those large ants that you can see are the soldiers, and the little specks are the workers. I believe, but am not certain, that the winged ant in the middle left is a young queen. Probably not the nest queen, because we read that their wings fall off when they begin to lay eggs.

Some little girls enjoyed observing the ants in their natural environment. What we didn't realize when Doodlebug moved the bird feeder was that the ants were storing their eggs on the underside of it. When we returned the bird feeder to the ant nest, we discovered all their eggs had fallen off into a big pile. See the little white specks there?

The ants had already discovered their missing stash and were busy moving them all underground, where it was safer. We came back a little later and every single egg was gone. Ants are highly organized and efficient!

Here are the books we have read and enjoyed about ants to far:

I wonder what our unit on butterflies will have in store?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Words of Wisodm

On a piece of paper that was once part of my credit card billing statement that says, "This page was intentionally left blank" I have written some Bible verses/words of wisdom that really spoke to me in this stage of my journey as a parent. I was so inspired when I read them that I immediately grabbed the nearest piece of paper (thus, the credit card statement) and scribbled them down. I've never transferred them to something that's prettier, I just folded it up and have it in my desk drawer. I pull it out every morning and read the words there. Each morning, the words still speak to me, so I thought I would share them.

"A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1

"A fool's mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul." Proverbs 18:7

"He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin." Proverbs 13:3

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." Hebrews 12:11

I think of these words all day long as my kids and I go through trial after trial. Yesterday, I recalled that last verse as I battled for two hours with Pumpkin when he threw a tantrum over his cracker being in pieces, and then he would not say he was sorry for throwing the tantrum. I recalled those words and held fast, and he did, in fact, cave in and say he was sorry. It was a testament to the fact that children understand so much more than we think they do. He knew exactly what he was doing, and he was letting me know that he knew. He's got a stubborn streak. I just can't imagine where he got it from. Certainly not from me. (wink)

Do you have any words of wisdom that you live by, that give you encouragement when things are hard?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Three Projects

Today I want to share about three works-in-progress. The first is the Baby's Texture Blanket. It has been on my queue for a long time, and I'm so excited to finally make it. The colors of this blanket are so vibrant and playful, it makes me happy to work on it.

Aren't the colors yummy?
The yarn is the discontinued Cotton Stria by Manos del Uruguay, and it is working up light and airy on size 6 needles, yet it's soft and snuggly at the same time. I'm using 24-inch circulars to knit back and forth. I love it so much and cannot wait to finish it so I can ship it off to the recipient.

The next project I want to share is a pattern that I am test-knitting, and I think it's just wonderful. Yemma's Dress has a simple bodice which is knit top-down in the round with a gathered, fabric skirt. I think the combination of knitting and sewing here is genius, because you get the best of both worlds: a super-cute dress that is totally wearable in a fraction of the time, and the sewing part is simple enough for any beginner (which is definitely me!).  I've already completed one, but it's turned out a bit big, and I learned an important lesson: always wash your swatch the same way you will wash your finished garment!

This is the fabric we've picked out for Darling's dress. Isn't it adorable? Darling insists on having the top pink, but I think I might make the smaller size for Doodlebug in the green, too, since I've learned a lot about fit through trial-and-error of the first one. I have two full yards of fabric, which should be plenty. The yarn is Knit Pick's Shine Sport in the green apple and cosmopolitan colorways, respectively.

And finally, I wanted to share my very first fully-sewn garment, a skirt for Darling. The pattern is part of the book Stitch by Stitch, by Deborah Moebes. The concept is to use pre-cut 5 x 5 squares of fabric collections, called charm packs, so there is no cutting, which is perfect for the beginning sewist (again, me!). The charm pack I chose is called Ruby by Moda and I think it's just about the cutest fabric I've ever seen.

I am obsessed with bright colors at the moment. Since the start of school, crafts have taken a back seat, but I do try to work a little bit on one every day. I'll share more when they are finished.

Have a great day!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Today's the Day!

This is it: the day we start homeschooling. When my oldest was born, it seemed like this day would never come, but here it is! And at the risk of sounding cliche: it went by too fast. It seems silly that I am so nervous and anxious about it. I mean, I was homeschooled myself, for Heaven's sake! I should have this in the bag! And it's just kindergarten: alphabet, cut and paste kind of stuff. Right?

I was listening to a download by Steve Lambert, husband of Five in a Row author Jane Claire Lambert, speaking at a homeschool convention. He put into words what I have always thought, but have never been able to clearly express. To paraphrase:

You, the parent, are solely responsible for how your child is raised and educated. You can do all the work yourself (as in homeschool), or you can contract out some of the work (such as sending them to school), or you can contract out all of the work (boarding school, maybe?), but in the end when you stand up to be evaluated, only you will be responsible. Those other teachers and nannies and mentors and daycare workers won't have it on their heads. So you have to make sure it's done right, and there is no second chance.


"It's just kindergarten. It's just kindergarten. It's just kindergarten."

But I have my paper bag handy, just in case....

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Of Melons and Memories

Last night we picked our very first watermelon from our garden! We have been waiting and waiting for it to ripen. Every day, all the kids and I march down to the garden (which is, by necessity, at the very farthest corner from the door as it could be) and check on our watermelon. It is a variety of ice-box watermelon called Sugar Baby, which is a very popular small heirloom variety. It's called "ice-box" because it will actually fit in the refrigerator. We have only one vine, which I am actually growing up a trellis as an experiment because it requires so much less space. I first read about that in Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew and it's going well so far. One melon did crash to the ground prematurely, but I suspect that had more to do with bugs that anything else, because two melons are waxing fat and happy, dangling from the top of the trellis.  I'm growing cantaloupes this way, too, and they will fall off the vine when they are ripe, but I actually like that, since my trellises are not too high. I always know when one is ripe without them busting when they hit the ground. Speaking of busting, Darling begged to carry the watermelon back to the house, then immediately dropped it as soon as it was in her hands. I love that girl so much. I couldn't help but laugh. It busted a little bit (you can see it in the picture), but it didn't affect the flavor one bit. :)

It was sooooo juicy. The juice just ran out everywhere when I cut into it. It dripped down little chins and turned little hands sticky and was such a mess to clean up. But a lovely mess, because it was a homegrown mess in every sense. We had such a good time eating it. I taught the kids how to spit out the seeds as they ate. Darling caught on immediately and became an expert seed spitter. Doodlebug had a bit more trouble and the seeds just sort of fell out her mouth (I picked all the seeds out of Pumpkin's melons before giving them to him). I never could get a good picture of them spitting the seeds, but I wish I had been able to. Oh well. I have some blurry ones for my own memories.

When I was a child, my grandparents lived out on some acreage, and they grew watermelons every summer. My aunt, uncle, and cousins would come down and Papaw would put all the melons on ice in preparations. In the afternoons we would gather on the deck and cut open the most enormous, juicy watermelons you've ever seen and pass the salt shakers around. I don't think any watermelons have ever tasted so good as those from my childhood. When we were all done there was a contest to see who could hurl the rind the furthest. I don't think I ever won, not once. I guess hurling watermelon rinds was just not my thing.

As you can see, we completely devoured our watermelon. The kids ate it like it was their last meal on earth. Pumpkin had an enormous pile of rinds in front of him, and he actually gnawed one rind until there was hardly anything left, then carried another rind around with him all over the yard. I guess he was saving it for later. We all felt extremely proud that we grew it ourselves. It makes me happy to think of what a lesson in patience and perseverance (not to mention botany!) this was for them. I hope they will cherish these memories as much as I do. I can't imagine a better way to spend an evening.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


A momentous day for our family arrived a few months ago: the day I decided to start reading aloud chapter books with the kids, and not just picture books. I had been dreaming about that day for a long time. If you have books that are special favorites from your childhood, maybe you know what I mean. I couldn't wait for the day their attention spans and memories were developed enough to handle a story spread out of many days. Reading some of my favorite children's classics with them has been such a treat, and I'm trying to savor every moment.

When I say I'm reading aloud to "the kids", I mostly mean to Darling (who is now 5). Doodlebug (3) is always included, but she gets up to play, then comes back to listen to what she finds interesting, then moves back to her baby dolls and so on. As long as she's in the room, I think that's fine. Sometimes Pumpkin (not yet 2) is present for the chapter read-alouds, and sometimes he has already gone to bed. He gets his own special reading time with Mommy, separate from his sisters' reading time, as part of his nighttime routine. I'll combine the reading time when he is older.

Reading time has always been a fixture in our bedtime routine, often getting stretched out from our usual thirty minutes to nearly two hours. We always read before bed, but I am thinking about adding a second reading time, maybe after lunch. What does your read-aloud time look like? I would love suggestions. I have tried to surround my kids with books from the very beginning, and even though none of them can read yet, they have already started a love affair with books. Pumpkin even takes board books to bed with him. I'll peek in on him in the mornings sometimes and he will be sitting in bed flipping through the pages, looking at pictures, pointing and chattering. One day I hope to get a video of it, it is so precious to watch. I hope this is the start of a life-long love of learning.

Back to our chapter books.

Our very first chapter read-aloud was Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace. The Betsy-Tacy series is one of my absolute favorites. I have completely worn out my copy of at least six of the books. As I got older I mostly re-read her high school years, and then I fixated on Betsy and Great World, and especially on Betsy's Wedding for a long time. I probably read it close to a 30 or 40 times over the years. I loved it so much, and it was always next to my bed when I was a teenager. I had forgotten, though, how wonderful the very first books are. It was a joy to read, and both of my girls enjoyed it immensely.  We finished it in just a couple of days, as I was unable to resist whenever Darling would say, "Let's just keep reading." We started Betsy-Tacy and Tib and were over halfway through it when they went with their dad for a week. It was hard to pick back up where we left off, so I decided to just start a new book, The BFG by Roald Dahl.

I've been surprised to learn that whenever I mentioned we were reading The BFG, no one had heard of it. Really? I guess it's not his most popular work (I suppose the a story of how giants steal children and eat them doesn't have as much mass-appeal as a flying, giant peach or an eccentric chocolatier), but I remember my mother reading it to my brothers and me when we were little. I especially remember the part of the carbonation going down instead of up. Isn't is funny what sticks with you? Anyway, my girls and I all enjoyed it. We moved on to James and the Giant Peach, also by Roald Dahl, which we just finished last night. It was an enormous hit with everyone. Doodlebug said she wanted to ride on a giant peach. Darling said she was sure there was a giant peach roller coaster somewhere we could ride on. I remember these stories being fresh and captivating when I was a child; and they are even more so  now. Roald Dahl wrote classics, that's for sure. I can't wait to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. However, I really want to move on the Chronicles of Narnia next. We will start with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and read the series in the order the books were written. I know that most of the collections now put the books in chronological order, but I don't like it that way. I think it's so much nicer, more Narnian, when the timeline jumps around.

*8/14/11 Update: we actually started Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater, which Darling loved so much that we finished in three sittings---and most of that was in one sitting.

While I might have waited to delve into Narnia with the kids, I am a little bit paranoid that they will see the movies before they read the books. While, for the most part, I'm a fan of the movies of classic books, I think that every child deserves the opportunity to form their own opinions about the story first, in their head. Once they see the movie, they will forever envision those characters as the actors who played them, and they will never get another chance to form their own visions and make the story their own. This is one of the ways that movies can never be as powerful as great literature.

And lastly, I highly recommend The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease if you need extra recommendations for great books. I have my mother's copy from the '70's. While it is a fantastic list of books that make wonderful read-alouds, and a useful tool in building a solid home library, it is also a very informative about the importance and power of reading aloud to children even after they can read themselves.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer

Is it August already? It must be: it is hot! The wind is hot, the grass is hot, the water is hot. The pool is more like a hot tub by the end of the day, and the water flows hot from the faucets. We have had just a few summer thunderstorms (maybe two) in the past few weeks, and are desperate for more rain. Hot, hot, hot! The thermometer on my car read 108 today as the kids and I drove home from the market. Tonight I let them play much longer outside than usual--until 8:30. The sun was setting. It’s just too hot to play outside at any other time of day. They were having such a good time swimming and playing that I hated to bring it all to an end. Darling is really doing well with swimming. She is really starting to stretch out her movements and keep herself afloat while she moves through the water. She amazes me every day. Doodlebug is still shy about the water and wants her floaties. I have no problems with her leaving the shallow end-- that makes her too nervous! She is like a little water bug, though: she loves to splash! Pumpkin is quite the little daredevil. He did not want to get in the pool (the water was hot!), instead I let him play with the hose for a little bit. Then he wanted to swing and climb the tower. He also is very fascinated by the ants that have made a home in our flower bed. He watches them scurry around for many minutes at a time, and can very clearly say “An-tuh!”. He is very explosive with the t-sound! I know I will miss that when it disappears.

I found a pill bug (I used to call them roly-polies), and showed it to the kids. I had always thought that it was so much fun the way they curl their bodies up when you touch them, but the kids were far more interested in the dragonflies. There must have been two dozen dragon flies zipping over the grass in our backyard. Darling decided that she wanted to catch one, so she chased them around for several minutes with her net before she came to me, panting and sweating, and asked if I would please catch one for her. Lol. I hope the neighbors didn’t see me stalking dragonflies and waving my net around like a madwoman. I caught one, though! We put it in a pickle jar and looked at it closely, with its double, iridescent wings.

Then Doodlebug was determined that she would catch one, too:

This dragonfly had a yellow body, and it was not happy to be caught! I told the girls it would suffocate if we left the lid on the jar, so Darling took the lid off so it could breathe, and of course it escaped. Everyone was happy for it to fly to its home, though. That gentleness towards animals makes me so happy to see. I try to encourage that every chance I get.

As you can see, Pumpkin was more interested in the marigolds. He loves the garden and is always poking around there whenever we're outside. He loves to help me water and insists on holding the water hose. It warms my heart the way that he wants to help me. I want to nurture that quality--I hope it won't ever fade!

As you can see, we're always up to something and yet not really up to anything. How are you spending the final days of your summer break?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

In the Still of the Morning

It's been such a long time since I posted on my blog, but I'm trying to squeeze in a few moments for an update before the kids wake up. My life seems to get busier and busier, yet if you ask me what I'm up to, I'll just shrug and say, "Oh, you know! Same ol', same ol'." Why is that? I think it's because Pumpkin is walking (well, running) around like a champ, talking up a storm, and of course he needs to be supervised every single moment or else he's into something.  My life totally revolves around keeping him from hurting himself and keeping him and his sisters stimulated. While that can be summed up in a mere sentence (okay, a compound sentence), it requires every waking moment to actually accomplish. I'm trying to get up earlier in the day to get some time to myself, but it seems like I'm just getting up early to work before I start to work. Do you ever feel that way? I was hoping to get in some good knitting time this morning, but so far, it's a no-go.

Speaking of knitting, there is a store-wide sale going on over at Loop. Ten percent off! I went ahead and ordered some Spud and Chloe Outer yarn in preparation for the new free Outer Baby Blanket pattern that Susan Anderson will post soon. I know it will not be all the yarn I need, but it will be enough to get me started. I find Outer to be a stretch for my small budget, so I have to buy it in increments anyway.

Our garden is producing! We're enjoying plenty of tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and we've had one eggplant so far. There are watermelons and cantaloupes ripening on the vine. Those a I grew vertically on a trellis and am having good results so far! I already have plans for improvements next year. I've found that with gardening (well, with anything) that you really do learn by doing. I've learned more this year with a small Square-foot Garden than I did reading a dozen books on gardening. I think the problem is that you don't know what you need to know until you actually encounter a problem. And once you find the solution, you don't forget it. Or at least you don't forget what didn't work. Sometimes you can't find the solution before it's too late. But there's always next year! For me, I simply did not realize the sheer size the plants grow to. I know that sounds silly, but it's hard to visualize something that you've never seen before. Another thing I learned this year was the absolute importance of keeping cucumbers evenly watered. You don't realize how important it is until you taste a bitter 'cuke! Pest control, surprisingly, has not been a problem. I planted marigolds throughout and they are doing a good job of keeping all kinds of pest away.

I plan to start homeschooling Darling in just a few weeks. I'm just pulling together my last supplies. My girls are very crafty and I have  a few fun craft projects planned to get us going. I've chosen our curriculum. If you're interested, here it is:

Math- Singapore Math, Earlybird Math Standards Edition
Phonics- Phonics Pathways
Handwriting- Handwriting Without Tears
Science- Living Learning Books, Life Science
Language/Literature- Five in a Row

I plan on doing quite a bit of art through lapbooks and crafts that go along with Five in a Row. There are tons of ideas at Homeschool Share and there are new Fold n Learn downloads from FIAR. And I absolutely love the books by MaryAnn Kohl. Our library has quite a few of her books.

I suppose that's all for now. Can you believe it's already Thursday? The days fly by so quickly that I can barely keep track!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Spring Has Sprung!

Despite a thankfully mild cold snap, spring has definitely sprung around here. The daffodils have already come and gone, and the tulips are on their way out. I wish I had gotten more pictures. I managed to lose the memory card to the camera a while back. I finally went out and bought a new one so I could take pictures of the things that are making me smile today:
I love these decorative flags

My new shoes. Casual with just a touch of bling!

Red bud trees are everywhere!

Believe it or not, there are lots of tomatoes on my patio tomato plant!

A great wave of purple flowers

The last of the tulips in our front yard

The azaleas are warming up for their big show!

The last blossom on the tulip tree

The yarn from a big knitting project. But more on that later.

Ready to garden!

With our cute rubber boots, spring rains won't slow us down!

What has made you smile today?

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Post for February

Wow, has it really been a month since I last posted? As always, the days are getting ahead of me! Is it as busy at your house as it is at mine?

It is starting to look like spring around here! There are daffodils and hyacinths popping up all over the place. While the breeze is still cold, we are experiencing warmer weather and springs rains!  We are also preparing for Easter, even though it is so late this year (April 24th). I love the little ceramic eggs that my girls colored for me:

I am knitting frantically for Easter now. I am making a Bunny Tail Hat from Itty-Bitty Hats for all three of my kids for their Easter pictures this year. Here is the first one:
Doodlebug models her new hat

My kids are in love with my knitting. On the Spud Says! Blog, Susan B. Anderson talked about how she  heard children were placing orders for toys from her book, Itty-Bitty Toys, as if it were a catalog. That is exactly what my kids do! They flip through all of my books and make requests. I will be a busy knitter for a very long time. Here is what I've made the last couple of weeks:
Here are the Happily-Ever-After mitts I made for myself
Here is a sweet hat I made for my little nephew. This was a pattern that I was given and I'm not sure where it came from  

This Enora (named by Darling)
I love her spots!

Sleeping peacefully in a doll bed that was mine when I was a little girl

And, just for fun, here is a picture of Darling curled up in the blanket her Nana made when she was born:

Happy spring!