Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bits From Our Weekend

Tornado and I read Kites Sail High by Ruth Heller (She has a whole set of books like this to supplement parts of speech studies.) and If You Were a Verb by Michael Dahl (He also has many other fun learning books.) to go along with workbook pages we completed on verbs. We read Even More Parts by Tedd Arnold to discuss idioms.
The kids spent a lot of time coloring on the big pieces of cardboard left over from our new television box.
I walked outside and saw Sissy, completely still and on her back, with her arms flat at her side. It freaked me out for just a second until I saw her move and realized Tornado was just tracing her.
Daddy sat outside with the kids and helped them put together some of the paper airplanes I bought at Land of Nod. They enjoyed playing with them for awhile.
Then Daddy helped them make their own airplane, complete with propeller, out of the cardboard.

Dash went on errands with Daddy while Tornado and Sissy made beach pictures by gluing little shells on paper.
For a special occasion, we let the kids eat supper (sandwiches and apples for the little ones, mashed potatoes, lima beans, and leftover broccoli/ravioli for Tornado) on our bed. I'm happy to report there were no stains left on our white bedding. They were watching "Ratatouille" on the new t.v. Ryan got for our bedroom Friday night. Two words: forty-seven inches. Ryan says it was in response to the combination of his stressful job topped off by missing his family while he was on a three day business trip that turned into four days because he was stuck in Atlanta due to bad weather. That's quite a run-on sentence, but that was how the week was for him. He rarely spends money or time on himself so he deserves it. To further prove how much he deserves it, he stayed up until 1 a.m. setting up the stand and hooking the tv to the stand...only to find out the tv was dead. That's the kind of luck he has, poor guy. The next morning, the company's customer service said, yeah, we're going to have to take it back. That was no easy feat, carrying it down the stairs and back to the store, because this thing is huge. And all he wanted to do was relax with a movie in bed after his hard week. :(
Sissy has really been into making little creations, like the one above. She worked really hard on this. Every little pen stroke was deliberate and carefully executed. She arranged the icecream pages on the white page and decorated it all with little post-its.
Daddy took the kids to the zoo on Sunday while I cleaned and prepared.
They caught the Winged Wonders bird show. The boys gave this bird a dollar donation, and it deposited it in the box.
After going to the zoo, they cooled off by watching Up at the movie theater. He'll probably get mad at me for announcing this to the world, but Ryan said he got teary-eyed during it. When he was giving me a summary later, I totally started crying. It includes a love story with a big theme of regret. He said it made him think of us because the couple had been together for a really long time and really loved each other a lot. And she was plucky and adventurous, and he was a little grouchy and simple - and she had dreams they kept putting off until it was too late...I won't say any more in case you want to watch it. You can read a summary here, though. I wondered how this could be a kid movie, but he said those themes were so subtle, the kids just caught the great fun and humor. I think it sounds so good! It's PG, not G, and if you want to read more about whether it's appropriate for your child, go to, which always goes into details about movies. This movie got several marks off for violence, etc. (keeping in mind, so did movies like Finding Nemo and Curious George).

Speaking of big purchases, I am excited I finally got a new camera. I did have a little digital camera before, but I really only used it for blogging/emailing purposes because the quality wasn't as good as the ones taken with my regular Canon. However, that digital one broke, and I had been borrowing my mom's. I was finally ready to embrace technology and change - no more developing film and having to store tons of pictures - and it's going to be a great thing around here. I'm even going to read my owner's manual and take my free class, which hurts my brain a little just thinking about it. As much as I love reading and learning things, I don't think I love learning HOW to do new things. I don't even know how to sync up my ipod with new songs; I always just ask Ryan to do it. Shameful, yes.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Picnic Table Talk

One of the blogs I follow, ABC and 123 (which is a super place full of ideas for teaching your little ones) is celebrating summer with Picnic Table Talk. One of the first topics of conversation, beyond introducing yourself and your blog, is picnics and picnic food. Since I JUST blogged about our picnic table and our picnic today, I thought I would join in. Scroll on down to the next post to read about "picnic-y" things.
I am trying to do this quickly and don't want to look for a more recent picture of our whole family; this one was taken last summer on vacation in Seattle.

Introductions: We are a homeschooling family of five. My husband and I met in college, and we have been married over 11 1/2 years. We both taught school for two years before starting a family. I've stayed home ever since, and he had to move on to the corporate world. (boo!) My husband is a very good man and a very good dad. He just may be even more creative than I am. I can always count on him for great ideas and support.

I enjoy the topics of parenting, vegan food, homeschooling (I think I could run my own school with the amount of curriculum, books, manipulatives, etc. that I own. I have to stay away from the teacher supply stores. And my Discount School Supply catalog is dog-eared to death right now with all the many things I can't wait to order. I would most describe us as "unschoolers," yet maybe "unschoolers who love curriculum" - can we just be that? I have an elementary ed degree, and it's all too ingrained within me.), scrapbooking, blogging, missions, books, Friday Night Lights (my current favorite show), health, adoption (have never adopted a child; I just find it all very interesting), travel, and conscious living (which, for me, involves living in a Christ-directed way and considering how my actions and life affect the earth)...and I don't know, tons of other things - my brain isn't working too well because it's late; I do have an embarrassing interest in "celebrity news," but I'm trying to cut back :). I am so glad I don't strive for perfection because I'd be falling way short...but I like my life and with God's help, I hope I am not too far off the path.
"Tornado" is almost 9 and is a JOY to home school. He loves to learn. He just eats it all up - books, lessons, projects, whatever. He also likes comic books and computer games. And holidays and occasions - thank goodness, because I am all for the celebrations.

"Dash" is the sweetest, smartest little 4 year old BOOGER. Left to his own devices, he can and will wreak havoc of many proportions...cuddle up next to him or play a game with him (We really like Guess Who?), and he will melt your heart. He likes dinosaurs and being active outside.

"Sissy" is 2, and she likes to be with her Momma. She does really enjoy playing with her brothers and at some points in the day, she'll wander off with them for awhile, but she mostly wants to do what I'm doing. She's sweet and helpful (although a typical 2 year old and sometimes demanding and stubborn.)

I love my kids.
I was quickly looking for a "homeschooling" picture that I haven't already used. Here are a couple of Tornado from...I think FOUR YEARS ago. Good grief, he's getting old. Back in the olden days, at our previous house when we only had 1 or 2 kids, the doors in the hall were covered in all our many fun activities. Here, during our Farm Unit, he is singing along to the "The 12 days of Farming" pages, which he illustrated. And yeah, I think his underwear is on backwards. Some things never change.

And during our Space Unit, putting the post-it stars in order.

I haven't blogged much yet about specific "school" activities we do, but here are a few "learning" related posts.

Culminating our ocean unit with a party

How we keep track of all our little craft supplies

Devotion books we really enjoy

Planting activity

a fun field/road trip we took

Cinco de Mayo fun here and here

What are our summer plans? We don't run by a "school year" so - more of the same. I hope we get to take a few really fun vacations and learning field trips; I have a few things up my sleeve. My husband and I are in "how to make life simpler and more productive" mode so I'll be sharing more of our journey toward that. And I am all about, this summer, going swimming. There just aren't many places to go swimming where we live, and we always end up making it through the entire summer, having only swam a handful of times. Not this summer, by golly.

Okay, I feel like I need a "conclusion," but I really am tired now. Therefore, I conclude. For now.

We love our new picnic table.

The kids and I loaded up the other day and went to buy a picnic table at Toys "R" Us. We had been wanting one for awhile, but I kept putting it off so that I could find the perfect metal or wooden one. Cheap (although it wasn't actually cheap - $89.99! For plastic!) and maintenance-free won out, though. It wouldn't fit in the back of our car so a sales guy helped me open the box and squeeze in all the pieces. Then Daddy lovingly stayed up in the dark that night to put it together for us.
Anyway, we use it almost every day now. Every day that doesn't rain, of course. I have been trying to have the kids eat most of their snacks and lot of their meals out there. Helps with indoor-mess problem. It's very helpful, too, that they are in charge of keeping their table clean. And they love going out there, damp cloths in hand, to clean it.

We were planning a trip to a nearby lake today, but we didn't want to miss out on seeing the cousins tonight. Instead, we had a special picnic outside, using our new stainless steel To-Go Ware container. It is three-tiered (and even comes with a little Sidekick that fits inside for dips or sauces, etc.). I always get inspired with the cute lunch boxes at Vegan Lunch Box.

We had sunflower butter and fruit spread (365 brand "Fruits of the Forest" - doesn't that name sound delicious?) on Food for Life fruit juice sweetened Brown Rice bread sandwiches. I think this may be my new favorite bread for nut/fruit sandwiches; it's spongy - like sponge cake (I mean, you know, as spongy as "less-processed" bread can be.). Fruit salad and granola "salad" with Galaxy Granola vanilla munch, Himalania Goji Berries & Almond Crunch, and a few Annie's Homegrown Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks mixed in. You know what they ate first, of course - the bunnies.

We also dig our new Bambu veneerware sporks (idea from Green and Crunchy...I'm such an easy target for cool kitchen gadgets that are pictured with pretty food)...spoon on one side, fork on the other. They are supposed to be disposable, but we have been carefully reusing them (can't leave them in dishwater, though, or they come apart in layers). They are biodegradable, though; I can just toss 'em out in the woods when we're finished with them!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Craft Stick Rewards and Chocolate

(For more parenting tips, check out the links at We are That Family. the continued effort to improve efficiency in our home, we are trying a new "positive reinforcement" idea. I put a "stick" in the kid's "cup" every time I catch him or her engaging in desirable behavior - sharing, asking nicely, not fighting, etc. Each stick stands for 10 minutes of t.v. or fun computer time (not their learning games).

It is really helping me make the decision for the "I wanna watch tv." request. We just look at their cups to see if they've earned enough time. We've only been doing this for about five days, but it is working so far. Sissy doesn't really understand that the sticks stand for something else. She's just excited about having a stick. ("I wana stick.") They can lose a craft stick for bad behavior, too. Our former system of losing privileges wasn't working with Dash anymore. (He was losing all of his privileges for the day too often.) We just needed to take a step back and try something new.

Just for fun, yesterday they went outside and painted the craft sticks. Our completed sticks...I'm going to let them decorate their cups today with stickers, etc., too.

In other news...I think I have mentioned before that my kids will eat practically anything if it is in frozen form. Here is one of our latest homemade "ice cream" treats. I started out making chocolate chia shakes that were inspired by ideas from Green and Crunchy and Kristen's Raw. The ingredients were raw soaked cashews, soaked dates, lucuma powder, raw cacao powder, soaked chia seeds, hemp seeds, etc.

I actually really enjoy drinking it, and Tornado drank it well, too. Dash was not really crazy about it, and neither was Sissy. It's funny; they tried it, didn't like it, but it was so tempting seeing Tornado and me drinking something thick and chocolaty from a straw - they asked for their cups back. They just barely sipped it, though, so I decided to make ice cream (by just freezing it in a bowl) out of their leftovers. I have made different versions with slightly different ingredients (adding banana, avocado, maybe a little agave nectar), but they love it just the same. They don't call it "the ice cream that's only sort of like ice cream only not as good." It's just ice cream to them, and they devour it.
In "slightly" less healthy (but "pretty" healthy) news...we've also been enjoying chocolate covered nuts these days. I just melt dark chocolate or vegan chocolate chips in the microwave, add a little milk, stir, dump in a bunch of nuts (any kind, the softer the better - like pecans or walnuts...almonds are good but even better if you use sliced almonds), stir, and drop spoonfuls on wax paper. Mmmm, I had really missed chocolate covered nuts; it had been awhile.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Last Day of Preschool

The little ones finished up preschool last week. It was bittersweet. "Last days" are always kind of sad. And to be honest, Tornado and I really enjoyed our days alone. We got to engage in uninterrupted learning projects, paint at the pottery studio, meet daddy for lunch, etc. However, the plus sides are not having to get out two days a week, having nap times/schedules go back to normal on those days, and saving money. Tornado and I went to watch Dash's class perform for the families. I was very nervous as to how he would do. You just never really know. At first, he was a little shy and kept his hands by his mouth. Got a little of his mom's performance anxiety.
But after awhile, he really got into it, engaging in hand movements and everything. It was really, really sweet. He kept looking at me with a proud/embarrassed face. I loved it. (This is his class joined with another class. The very cute girl standing next to him is the one he says doesn't like him because he put glue on her.)
We went into his classroom afterward for a little party. They all received a shovel and pail filled with a book, puzzle, sidewalk chalk, etc.
Sissy, in her classroom, got a little pail filled with goodies, too. She just loved going to school.
outside school
Back at home...we had a little photo session outside because I realized their outfits coordinated. And I hadn't even planned it - bonus. I didn't even have to bribe them this time. My "I do everything for you, and I don't ask for very much in return; can you please do this for your momma who loves you?" speech worked.
Okay...this is the last one, I promise. I have cute kids. I mean, they're cute, right? :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Kids in the Garden"

We rented two of these DVDs from the library - the Soil and Plant Survivors episodes. Since we enjoyed them (they're really short - short enough for Sissy and Dash to watch) and are looking forward to more planting/gardening studies, we are going to pick out different ones during our next library visit. These two episodes included ideas for planting activities.
We recently planted seeds in these Jiffy greenhouse kits I picked up on a whim at Wal-Mart. (spent about $12 on the kit and seeds) Dash had so much fun planting pea seeds in little peat pots while at school and watching them grow at home, I knew we would enjoy this, as well. I am easing my way into having the full out flower and vegetable garden that is on the horizon for "one year soon." I've always said I'm going to have a garden once all of my babies are out of diapers.
This was the perfect little project for the three of them to work on together. Each little soil pellet has to have 1/8 cup of water added to it. Since we didn't have an 1/8 cup, we got to talk about how we had to use 1/2 of a 1/4 cup. They worked together really well and enjoyed the goal of getting the soil to plump up. Once the water was added, Tornado gently ripped open the netting...
...and they put a few seeds in each one. We picked all perennial seeds, hoping our hard work will last beyond one year. However, even they don't grow much at all, it was a fun project, anyway. We do already have little plants taking off, though.
Before we got all of the seeds covered up with soil, the boys started wandering away. Sissy stuck with it to the end, though. I love the way little kids like being "helpers."
Project complete!
More and more critters find their way into our home via Dash. The Soil DVD included instructions on how to have a worm garden/compost, which really got them excited. I've been wanting to start composting, anyway, so that is next on our to-do list.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Weekend Celebrations

I mentioned I have been out of town three weekends in a row. The first weekend we had double shower duty. On Saturday, we threw a wedding shower for Angie (pictured here: Elizabeth, Angie, Missy, and me, taken after Lori and Heather, two of my other highschool friends, had already left). Angie, I've mentioned before, eloped in Las Vegas on 03-06-09. Boy, did she have our email loop going crazy that weekend when we got word that she was IN Las Vegas, already married, without telling us she was even thinking about it.We tried to go the "green" route when planning the shower. We used evites, eliminating paper use, and asked guests to be environmentally creative when wrapping gifts. There were some really fun ideas (wish I would have gotten a picture of Missy's newspaper ribbon; it was very pretty!) like this bow made from cutting strips of newspaper, tying together, and fluffing.
Centerpieces were flowers cut from Elizabeth's mom Jeanelle's garden. We used dishes from the church, where the shower was held.
I made party favors by putting flower bulbs (and coconut fiber "moss") in peat pots with recycled/handmade paper tags.
On Sunday, a baby shower was held for Elizabeth, who is due very soon. You can't really tell from this picture, but Angie (our photographer extraordinaire) spelled out Elizabeth's baby's name by finding objects outside that looked like letters (like the gate/fences that looked like an E and H). It was very cute, and I might have to try that sometime.
Missy brought her 11 year old daughter (11! yikes!), who is only about an inch or two away from being as tall as me. She was one of the first babies I ever really "knew," and so, boy, does she make me feel old.
This weekend, Angie's and Lafe's moms threw them a barbeque to celebrate their marriage. (Ang, Lafe has now made two appearances on my blog; tell him I'm sorry, and I'll try to cut back!)
Angie's mom, Joyce, bought and prepared so much food especially for Sissy and me. I can't even tell you how nice that is. She made vegan coleslaw, potatoes, rolls, Tofurky kielbasas, cheese dip, and fruit. She was so dismissive about what a big deal it was to me, but seriously...reason #89 why I want to move back to Missouri. It's nice to be around people who know you and love you. And go to trouble for you.
It was really nice getting to spend the day solely with Sissy. I think I do that often with Tornado and Dash, and I don't do it enough with her. It's interesting how the kids act a little bit different when they are on their own. She just seemed like a little girl, rather than a "baby." She carries a "blankie" now, though. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be any particular blanket, as I am sure we would not be able to keep up with that; any of her little blankets will do.
Trips up north also mean getting to spend time with my nieces and nephews (and brothers and sisters). I LOVE my little Pierson. I don't know what it is about him; maybe because I've hit the two year post baby mark. Biologically (not rationally), I've got "baby" on the brain. He IS, however, one of the cutest babies ever.