Monday, June 22, 2009

Friends, Kinders, and Monet Week

"Give a friend a hug, hug a friend next to you. Hug a friend, oh, you'll be so glad you did!" (lyrics from I Like Being a Kid, Brian Kinder)...I love their wholeheartedness here. Saturday, we went to watch Brian and Terri Kinder perform at the library downtown. They're great. We love their music, and it's a lot of fun for the kids to participate. Our friends, Lori and Paul, met us there, and we got to spend the day with them. We got to know them 11 years ago, when Ryan and Paul had a lot of hair on their heads and before there were any kids. They have four great kids, and it's a fun little zoo when we get together. After the concert, we walked over to shop at the farmer's market, then ate lunch at Macaroni Grill.
singing their hearts out
farmer's market
Dash and Saylor, dueling silly faces
I just can't get enough of little Atticus...
and apparently, everyone else feels the same way.
Monday, two of our favorite little kiddos, "H" and "E" came to spend the day with us. We met their parents in childbirth class when I was pregnant with Tornado, and they were expecting "H." They are special friends of ours. The kids are always so excited to have company. They rode the 4 wheelers and played freeze tag outside, before the overwhelming heat beckoned us inside.

They joined in on our Monet Week by watching Claude Monet from the Getting the Know the Greatest Artist Series. We took our paper and paints outside to create Monet-inspired art. They had mentioned on the video that Monet himself did not like to be confined in a studio and preferred to go outside to paint. You can buy the book versions of the DVD's for $2.99 here.
We talked about how Monet liked to draw pictures of landscapes, flowers, etc. and also silly pictures of people. "E" decided to draw silly pictures of snowmen, which were adorable. The other three kids painted scenery. We talked about how Monet had visible brush strokes and blended a lot of colors, which they did a great job replicating. They also experimented with sponges and cotton balls to get the right "look."
And...of was inevitable.
"H," putting the final touches on her volcano/beach...After they finished painting, we also watched the DVD version of the book Linnea in Monet's Garden, which is a story of a young girl who travels with her elderly friend to Monet's home and garden to witness the inspiration behind his work. They discuss different aspects of his paintings, such as how he used light/shadow and how, from far away, the scene is obvious, but when you look closely, it appears to be just a "blob" of paint.

Sissy loved having an older girl around that would dote upon her and that she could lead around. I often saw them cuddled in a chair throughout the day, while "H" read books to her.

Friday, June 19, 2009


This week's Friday Night Mystery surprise was going to our local water park. They were thrilled. I just brought in Tornado's V-Tech camera because I didn't want to keep up with mine, and here are a few of the pics. It was so bright I couldn't really see the screen when I was taking the pictures. And I somehow hit a button to put the snow graphics on this one, and now I don't want to go back and figure out if I can get it off there. I didn't want to leave him out, and this is the only one I got of him.
Sissy proved to be my bravest kid yet in the water. She had no problem sticking her face right in there, and she fell under a couple of times; it didn't seem to faze her.
We stayed until closing time. Dash was brave and rode a big waterslide with Daddy. He had the funniest look of panic on his face when they came bursting out of the tunnel. However, when he reached me, he said, "I was scared and didn't want to go, but then I liked it."
The kids and I took all of Tornado's birthday party donations to the Humane Society this week. Here he is, holding some of them. The kids were all really proud, each carrying something inside, and the people seemed very appreciative of everything we brought. We're still going to volunteer sometime, but we haven't been through volunteer training yet.
One lesson/idea book we've enjoyed lately is Teaching Early Math Skills with Favorite Picture Books. It includes ideas for such books as Rainbow Fish (as we were working on here), 12 Ways to Get to 11, and Blueberries for Sal, etc. It's great for us because we love doing literature based activities, and even though it's recommended for grades K-1 (which is none of my kids technically), there is a lot that is helpful to reinforce with Tornado, as math is not his strong point. And the boys can both participate together in the activities.
When we are driving to the library, I always ask the kids what subjects of books they want to pick out this time. They're always decisive with their answers, such as "Dinosaurs, trees, and bicycles." They'll usually pick for Sissy. "She wants caterpillars and spiders, right Sissy?" to which Sissy agrees, "Right." I think it's a great lesson for them to either look up the subject on the computer card catalog, then find the location themselves, or ask the librarian in a confident, polite voice for help in locating their desired topic. I think this trip, Tornado said, "Volcanoes and hurricanes." After picking out this book from the library, we were in serious volcano mode for a few days. We had to find our other volcano books to read...
and then, of course, we had to make volcanoes, per instructions in the book.
No matter how many times we've made them before, making volcanoes never gets old for them.
Last week, one of our big projects was planting flower pots for our front steps. Googie and Papaw were planning to take the kids out for supper, and I was going to head to the greenhouse and Wal-Mart to pick out flowers. Dash said he wanted to go with me instead, which seemed very unlike him, because they're usually ALL about Googie and Papaw. His reason for wanting to go with me - "I miss you." (He hadn't been apart from me all day or really all week.) Well, I'm not going to argue with that sweet little answer. Dash and I picked out the pots and flowers (spending way too much money, but now at least we have the pots for years to come). They were really serious about helping me fill the pots, and it was really helpful having their manpower.
In case you missed our beautiful flowers in the birthday party pics, ta-da!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Warhol Week

We rented the Andy Warhol DVD episode of the Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists series from the library. They have several different artists; we also picked up Monet, which we'll do next. The kids really loved watching it. I did, too. It's 24 minutes long and completely entertaining. It was full of fun facts about Warhol, such as his name was originally Warhola. It was spelled incorrectly in a publication, and he liked it and kept it. The video is full of examples of his work, and it teaches viewers about pop art. The kids have watched it 3 or 4 times.

I found this Andy Warhol Pop Mag activity guide online, and we printed it off and went through it together. Tornado and Dash each had their own copies, and Sissy drew on a title page while they were busy at work. Fun stuff. They had to complete such activities as designing a shoe (because Warhol drew a lot of shoes as a commercial artist) and listing what they would put in their own time capsule (based on Warhol's own Time Capsule project). Tornado wrote "comics, hidden pictures, animals (his stuffed animals he has lined up on his bed), and puzzles." They also really enjoyed cutting out and gluing the "stickers" of things that might be found in Andy's studio, The Factory.
Another activity - I made copies of their photos, first using the coloring book option on my photo editor. They picked a few colors they wanted to focus on, and I have to say, they worked really hard on their pictures. This was an idea I had long ago ripped out of a 2004 issue of Pack-O-Fun magazine. We mounted them on card stock. I think they look great!
The video mentioned a method Warhol used to "create." He painted a picture, then covered with another sheet and pressed down (something like that). Tornado requested we try it. I folded a sheet of sketchbook paper, and after they painted on one side, they folded it over and pressed down. Even Sissy loved doing this.
the completed works of art
Another picture of them showing of their art...I'm particularly endeared to Dash's shirt tucked into his underwear and shorts. :) What I am also endeared to is the way Dash goes around talking about "Andy Warhol," just as clear as can be. He throws his name into conversation, or may ask something like, "Daddy, do you know about Andy Warhol?" He always really gets into studying about people in history.

I noticed Journey into Unschooling had this fun activity on her blog. We'll have to try that one next!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Weekend With Grandma and Grandpa

Grandma and Grandpa (Ryan's parents) came down this weekend for Tornado's birthday, and the kids enjoyed spending time with them. We went for a walk around the neighborhood...

...and played the new game we got Tornado for his birthday, Guess What I Am? It's the kind of game even an adult can enjoy playing (or at least, I do).

6 Unimportant Things That Make Me Happy

I have been tagged by Orange Juice who wants me to list 6 unimportant things that make me happy. She is a fun mom with great learning ideas for her kid. I love her theme boxes, and I've got to start doing them, too!

Making this list was difficult because every time I thought of something seemingly unimportant, I think of some reason it IS important. Even little things can be beneficial in some way, but here are a few things that I COULD live without - but hope I don't have to.

1. Reading a magazine cover to cover, preferably while in the bathtub - but in bed with the lamp on will work, too.

2. Chocolate covered cocoa nibs...or licking a chocolate ice cream cone.

3. Going to a Whole Foods or other natural foods store I've been never to and slowly walking up and down every aisle. I could seriously spend two hours doing just that, scouring the aisles for new products I've yet to discover.

4. Head rubs/back scratches/all of that.

5. Watching Friday Night Lights with Ryan...I think that may be the tenth time I've mentioned that show, but seriously, everyone, start watching it. It's the greatest show for having such a small audience. Watch it, watch it; I can't live if it gets canceled.

6. Blogging stuff...blogging, reading other people's blogs, comments in my comment box, people following me on my blog, and strangers as cool as Orange Juice tagging me! Now, if you want to write about 6 unimportant things that make you happy, let me know so I can read your list, too. I might come back later and tag 6 people, too.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Tornado's Fetch Birthday

Saturday, my baby boy turned nine years old. I am four short years away from having a teenager. And I still feel like I'm a teenager myself sometimes. For two years, Tornado has been requesting a Fetch! Ruff Ruffman birthday party. Last year, we had a small family party since we were in Seattle at the time. So this year, Fetch! it was.
For those of you who do not know, Fetch! is a show on PBS Kids. It is part animation/part real kids' game show. It is full of interesting challenges and science projects, right up Tornado's alley. We used dog (and cat) themed decorations. We considered having it at the Humane Society but decided against it. Instead, guests were instructed to bring gifts or donations for the dogs and cats, and Tornado and I are going to volunteer one day soon. Recently, I visited the facility - not really the wisest thing for me to do. I usually end up bringing living creatures home with me when I go to animal shelters. My eyes were brimming with tears the whole time I was there. I can't take it when I pass a dog's cage, and he sits up straight - like he's trying to impress me enough so I will take him home. I have to touch every single animal in every single cage so none of them feel left out. (except the mean, growly ones...just like there are mean people in the world, there are mean animals, too; they can be nice if they want my attention) Anyway, Tornado is very excited about dropping the gifts off and spending time playing with some of the animals. And I absolutely will not build a animal refuge on our land where many animals can play happily, not behind iron bars and on hard concrete. I have not thought about this at all. :0
salad and baked potato bar...Tornado's favorite kind of meal
The kids ate their meals out of (clean/new/food-safe) dog bowls. Even Papaw joined in on the fun.
Fetch! party ware does not exist, and I did not find a lot of ideas from others online. I did find a couple of blogs that wrote about Fetch! parties that were held for their kids. So in case you have found us by doing your own search, here are a few of our ideas. (names have been deleted to protect the innocent/guilty)
We divided the kids into the Blue Team and the Red Team. I made t-shirts by hand drawing an outline of Ruff Ruffman and photocopying it onto iron-on transfer paper. I know it could have been easier, but since I'm not very "computer software-y," I hand wrote their names backward. (I wasted one shirt by forgetting to write it mirror-image, silly me.)
Ryan was in charge of the whole game show. He built this dog house entry way. Tornado was quick to point out it was black, not orange like on the show. Ryan made a video of the opening credits of the television show. There was an electrical outage on the animation, then Ryan cut it off to a scene of him waking up in a dog bed with a dog collar around his neck. He barked and drank water and ate food out of the dog bowl. He was trying to show that somehow the electric surge caused Ruff to take on Ryan's body, therefore Ryan was going to have to take over host duties for the night. Can I tell you how much I love my husband for thinking of this and putting on a dog collar, all in the name of love for my son and for me? Unfortunately, Tornado was very upset by the Ruff changing into Ryan thing, and he told us so repeatedly. He actually probably thought it was funny and interesting, but it's just one of those things he can't process very well. (Perhaps I'll share more of that another time.)
the contestants...pretty rough (cute!) looking bunch, huh?
Ryan's poster of the Fetch 3000 - "an amazing machine capable of tabulating scores, disposing of annoying cats, and blending the occasional smoothie. Yes, the FETCH 3000 can even turn a dog...into a star." (taken from He drew pictures of things Tornado likes, like mazes and of course - tornadoes, and highlighted the dog tattoo he often has on his arm (which comes from Amy's frozen kids' meals). If you can't read Ruff's quote, it says, "Wow! This is my kind of kid. I like this kid already."
Tornado, pulling the first challenge out of the mailbox (that he colored)
Balloon race...the three challenges all had to do with air, based on the scripture Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." Here they are making a "zoom vehicle" that goes, on its own, from one end of the string to the other. Their instructions were to use straws, balloons, paper clips, rubber bands, tape, or anything else to make it work.
Little "G"...trying not to smile because he doesn't really like me yet. Lori, I think he looks a lot like B.T. here.
Challenge Huff and Puff..."use tape, paper, paper clips, scissors, and straws to create an object that can be moved to the finish line without touching it with your hands."
"B" created a very impressive I knew he would
"N" very cleverly used not one but three straws to move his object along.
Challenge Hang Time...they cut out these little pre-printed helicopters and thought of ways to perfect the design for a better launch.
"E," working on his helicopter
Dash, dropping his copter from up high on the ladder
S's "senior pic"
I made cupcakes with these handmade toppers. Party favors were bone shaped sugar cookies with frosting tied up in this cute black and white dog and cat material I bought at Hobby Lobby.
I never make cakes because it usually ends up in disaster (He didn't even have a birthday cake at his 7th birthday party. I had messed up on his artist's palette cake, and it was time to leave for his party at the art studio - and I had no cake to take. Fortunately, I had ice cream cups, and we ate my misshapened, too-embarrassing-for-public cake at home that night.) Anyway, Tornado ALWAYS wants a cake...cupcakes just don't say "birthday" to him. He cried at his 6th b-day because he had cupcakes and not a "birthday cake." So...I ventured into making a cake and even piped a Ruff Ruffman outline and his name in chocolate; it turned out fine, which was a relief.See...I don't always get a smile like this out of Tornado for pictures. That's how happy he was about having a cake...these b-day cake smiles are some of my most favorite pictures of him ever.
Later...Tornado, opening some presents he received...crayons, sketch books, markers, books, beach towel, money, etc. His big gift from us (and all of the grandparents) was not wrapped as we didn't quite decide which one to get...but he opened a picture of - a trampoline, which we're getting soon. It took a lot of convincing to 'ol Dad, who wants to buy a motorcycle but is too worried for his kids to have a trampoline. :) I'm very excited about it (as are the kids...Dash woke up this morning, asking if it was time to put the trampoline together)! Now that the birthday parties are complete until February, I'll get back to blogging again this week. What I will NOT be doing is putting all the leftover food away and washing dishes because my mom and Ryan's mom did ALL of that for me...they seriously did so much, helping me get ready and clean up. (And Dad did some last minute errands for me!) THANK YOU!!!