Monday, December 29, 2008

It's raining, it's pouring...

And us ladies are baking.

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes, made by Cyan for her tea party with her friend Hannah tomorrow. We put a small layer of tiny chocolate chips on the bottom, then filled the cups half full with devils food cake mix, then added one cherry (from cherry pie filling) in the center of each cupcake. She did the whole thing herself (hense the cake mix). It is an experiment, but wow... they sure smell good.

And here is my brilliant moment in the day. There are 26 letters for this sweet gadget that Grandma sent Logan for Christmas. But I KNEW there would be letters all over my floor all the time if I put them all up. So I decided that I had to only let him have a few. I put his name over the top of the toy base and he has been pulling them down, pressing them into the toy to hear them sing, and putting them back 'where they go' all by himself. They get messed up and dropped, but as long as I put them back he at least tries to put them back above in order. It has been fun to watch him hearing all the letters of his name as well... "L says "l". "A says 'A' and 'a'."

Along with this, we have started singing the ABC song when we brush his teeth. It works well, not only for a timer but as a distraction. He is TERRIBLY impatient with teeth brushing and hair washing. He will put his hand on your hand as you are brushing and say "'top!" Sigh... smart kids are rough sometimes.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Snow and ice

This is what happens when it snows, and then it melts a bit, and then you have a snowstorm. You end up with a ice layer. Dangerous for drivers. But very cool for homeschoolers. :)

There were actually two ice layers... one under the snow as well. This is the dangerous one for drivers and the reason that our winter weather becomes so dangerous so fast. Snow chains, tred tires, etc don't really do anything with the amount of slush and then ice that forms under it.

This means we have not been driving... and that means that we have been playing a whole bunch in the snow. ;)

Beautiful... isn't it?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Footprints in snow

We have had a crazy fun time these last two days being snowed in. And we have learned a bunch as well.

Cat tracks:

Squirrel tracks:

Bird tracks:

And more bird tracks:

Did you notice the difference between the bird footprints? The first ones are 'walkers' (their feet are spread apart like they are walking). The walkers are ground feeders. The second picture is of 'hoppers' (their feet are side by side like they were hopping) and they are the tree feeders. Interesting huh?

We have also brought in two quarts of snow. One to melt measured in the jar to see if the snow takes up the same amount of space as the water the snow will turn into does. The other quart is being saved until we can head to a store with litmas paper. Alex wants to check if it is "acid rain snow".

And for what else we have done since being snowed in... check this out:

Snow Days

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Alex is on a new plan. After weeks of some pretty serious issues (all on the normal 'hormonal teen stuff' scale, but effecting our lives), Don and I came up with a point system that seems to be working out well. For each job he does above and beyond his daily chores, Alex earns time for his own pursuits... like Gameboy time, X box time, and or movie time. We have separated each job into categories... small jobs earn 3 points (each point in 5 minutes, so 15 minutes) medium jobs are 30 minutes (6 points) and large jobs are 60 minutes (12 points). For each time he mouths back, or doesn't do what we tell him enough times to annoy, we start counting. 1, 2, 3.... etc... that is how many points he looses off of whatever he has earned (being 5 minutes of his own time each). On school days (we don't play games on school days) he can 'bank' points for the weekend, and on the weekend he can keep his points for playing games with friends or whatever.

Yeah. I set up my sons life like a video game. But let me tell you, it is WORKING. I have never had my patio so clean, or my sidewalk shoveled of snow so fast with such a willing worker. He is even going to iron my table napkins.

This plan also comes with learning the safe and easy way of doing chores however... he did clean the patio of ice and snow yesterday with large buckets of hot water. He would fill the bucket up, and take it outside. I was thinking that he was using it for the tougher spots... nope. That is how he did the entire job. Large buckets of hot water poured all over my cement patio. When I told him that the patio would be an ice rink by 5pm he said "but I used HOT water".

Awww... The joy of 12 year olds.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Doesn't he look ready for snow?

Bedecked in one of his sisters boots, Don's hat, and spider pj's... he is ready to go 'bye bye'... but first, he has to have a snack:

Alex's newest project:

He has been making origami for the last week pretty obsessively. It has been neat to watch him start out with the easy stuff, and slowly start to make things like these boxes that he has put all over the Christmas tree to things even more complicated (like a Ty-fighter).

It hasn't gotten over freezing in days now. This last Sunday it was about 22 degrees in the wind... which is where I was standing all day at work. It was bad. But I have since recovered (all but a bit of frost burn on my hand that is bugging me right now) and am ready for the next two days worth of snow. The weather forecast says 4 inches.

Bring it on.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter Birthdays

Yesterday Cyan took a trip to a wonderland far away,

for the very special birthday of a certain sweet tinker fairy.

All of our fairy friends were there.

Some that had been stuck with a terrible illness and are gratefully in sweet recovery,

We bestowed gifts upon the beautiful fairy princess as she lounged in her wonderland,

And then shared in a chocolate fountain made by the beautiful fairy queen.

All were covered in chocolate goodness, and were happy.

And this was good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New quotes

"Alex, I need your phone."


"Because I am taking it for a couple days."


"Because you called me 13 times while I was out."

"Well you didn't answer the first twelve times."


As we open the box the Christmas gifts come in from the kids grandma in CA Cyan says:

"I bet grandma bought me a pink ballet outfit."

"Honey, I doubt it. We just scaned your list yesterday, I didn't send it to her."

"Oh yes. I bet she did. She loves me... and she can read my mind."

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tree study going strong

The tree study is going well so far. Today, Alex looked up what type of trees we had in our old neighborhood in the Arbor Association book, and then I had him go out and figure out what kinds of trees we have in our new neighborhood. His best guess was a White Oak. But the book had white oaks only listed on the east side of the country. I had him look closely at the details: 'grow in stands' (place with a lot of the same tree variety) and between our neighbors and us there were 26 that he could see from our front yard. That sounds like a stand to me. 'Has a leaf with rounded lobes and has a rounded crown of branches.' Check, and check. But still... we are not in the middle east part of the US. So I had him check the placement on the map, just to make sure it didn't include somewhere close to us.

Above, he is mapping where the book said the White Oaks were most prevalent, he took string and mapped from each place they said. The book says that they only grow from 'west Missouri, to Maine, to Florida, and then back to Texas." We are in Washington. Not anywhere near there. We were stumped... we definitely have some type of White Oak in our backyard. So we asked the almighty Google for help. Sure enough, we found this in short order:

As far as we can tell, the differences are in the leaves. White Oaks have 5 - 9 lobes, most of the time having more than 7. Garry Oaks have 5 - 7 lobes, numbering in the lower numbers more often. There is also a slight difference in stature. Our oaks are smaller.


We also looked at bark from our Tree Ring Discovery Kit. We figured out how old the red oak was that we had the rounds from, and then identified all of the different pieces of the trunk (heartwood, sapwood, cambium and inner/outer bark layers).

After that, we saw a new bird in our yard... a spotted Towhee... and the lesson moved on. Cyan drawing what she saw out the window, Alex looking up birds and listening to the sounds they make in his bird book. There is a lot of nature in this little yard. Here are pictures from the ten minutes after the lesson before Logan drug me away for an episode of Blue's Clues.

This is a busy little yard. :)

And let me introduce you to the squirrel we have so aptly named "Spider Squirrel" or "Spidy" for short.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

First day of school in the new house

What a blessing this set up is going to be! I love not having the tv in the same room as our school time. Logan was able to watch part of a Blue's Clues while we were working, and the kids didn't get up to watch the tv once. It was wonderful!

Those windows may prove to be nearly as much of a distraction though. There are SO many animals and birds around here! What a great nature lesson in our own backyard. Already today we have watched squirrels chasing each other around our yard, we have seen 4 stellar jays in the same tree at the same time (it was a little tree too), and seen 4 other different kinds of birds eating at our feeders. I am glad I decided not to skip the Trees Unit Study. Because this will be a good introduction to the nature in our new neighborhood. And that means that my kids won't constantly be in trouble for pointing out the newest animal in the yard, or the trees that look funny, or the bird that just came to the window feeder. Because I have to admit, it is pretty darn hard for me to not be distracted by all the life out there right now... so it is near impossible for them.

Back in Nov we started this unit study with what trees need to survive. But that was over a month ago now, so today we had a refresher on that topic. We wrote up diagrams and talked about what they need and what each one is called (air, sunshine, water, soil, protection (bark)). Then we started a new mini unit of photosynthesis. The best way to learn that is to see it.

This is our photosynthesis experiment. For the next four days, this leaf, on our healthiest window plant, will be covered by 3 layers of dark colored paper. Nothing else is changed... the leaf is not damaged and still has access to air, water, and soil. The experiment will be to see if it is still the vibrant green at the end of our school week. Alex had to write up what we did for the experiment, a hypothesis about what will happen, and at the end, he will write a conclusion.

We have used quite a few books for this unit study already. The best (which we are still using) have been Trees by Mary Julivert, Berries, Nuts & Seeds, and Trees, Leaves, & Bark, (both in the Fun with Nature Take-along Guide series). The "Trees" book is a field guide. They whole thing is set up in two page spreads, much like a good encyclopedia.

Now we are on our way to the Festival of Trees downtown. Not quite related as they are ALL fir trees... but it will be fun anyhow.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Greensleeves by Mozart

This seemed appropriate for the season. Mozart wrote it, but it was an Englishman in 1865 who wrote the words that have become dear to our hearts this time of year. This is a beautiful tribute to Greensleeves and Mother Nature, who is sleeping, and to the baby that is rejoiced this time of year for his gifts of love.

Late start

Last month we were studying trees, Mary Cassatt, and Mozart. And then we found out we were moving in three weeks and all but the basics of homeschool stopped dead in the water. So I decided to bump it a month. This month has been a long one in coming. We have our homeschool corner all set up and are ready to begin some learning with our first full day of school in the new house tomorrow. :) I am excited and I think so are the kids.

I think I am going to try an experiment for this month. We are not going to do basics. By that I mean, we are not going to follow our reading, writing, and math curriculums as we have been. We are going to be studying trees, Mary Cassatt, and Mozart. And we are going to base everything, unit study style, on those three things. Cyan will read books about trees, or read captions in books I am reading. Alex will write papers, and keep a journal on the different types of trees they find in the neighborhood, and Cyan can draw pictures. They can count how many acorns they find in the back yard now that Alex has raked... or better yet, they can count how many acorns they find in a 2X2 square in the back yard and then walk the back yard to see how many would be in the whole yard that way. I want to try it. I think this is the best way to learn, personally, and I find it fun. So for this month, I think that is our plan. To immerse ourselves in the beauty of the trees we are getting to know. To draw and paint like Mary Cassatt, and to listen and appreciate Mozart and learn about his life. Maybe we will find a new way to do school in this month, and perhaps we will turn back... but it certainly won't hurt to try.

A neat tree web site we have been playing with:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Logan speaks!

My sweet boy is really starting to talk. Today, Don left to go out with a friend for Starbucks, and Logan came running in and said "MAMA! Ba-ba, go, bye-bye." Yes, the punctuation is correct. He paused between each word... also correct is the fact that he calls his daddy "Ba-ba". Don't know why. Who knows a one year old's logic? But today, he sounded more like a two year old to me. Speaking in sentences that didn't have signs that went with them... My sweet boy. Growing up so very fast.

In other news, Logan had his first real visit to the ER last week. He wasn't breathing correctly. At first, I thought that he just had a cold. And then, after 24 hours, I started to think that he may have gotten something stuck in his airway. He did have a very distinct stridor, with the dip in his chest caving each time he fought to take a deep breath.... which of course was the thing making me the most nervous, so on night #2 of this abnormal breathing, I took him strait to the ER. They did a quick X-ray, which showed no blockage and they determined that it was actually Croup, but without the characteristic 'seal bark' cough. Which is quite abnormal. She asked me quite a few times if he coughed when upset, or had a high fever, or any other sign of croup... but each time the answer was 'no'. He was just fighting for breath.

It took them a steroid shot and two different nebulizer meds before he didn't sound like someone was sitting on his chest. He was apparently never lacking for oxygen however, even though he was fighting for every bit of air he got; they had that little red light thing on his toe (that made him look like a distant cousin of ET) to keep track of the oxygen in his blood. Which was good. But we were there for 5 hours with him hooked up to the ET thing keeping track of his O2 levels, and they finally called a respiratory specialist in. She gave him the shot of steroids and within two hours (or the length of the movie 'Chicken Little') he started breathing easier and we were able to go home around 4:30am.

The whole next day he sounded like he had asthma with a constant loud wheeze. But he wasn't fighting like he was the night before... and he was a normal toddler again in other ways too... like constantly getting into my purse, and wanting to watch specific movies... but not any that I chose. Stuff like that that makes you know your child feels better. He recovered quickly after that... but of all the childhood diseases that I have encountered, this one was one of the most scary. Watching your baby fight for breath is really frightening. He is doing great now though. And I am very grateful.