Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A Lot Going On

Things have been very busy around here lately.

Friday we had Drama practice, a Co-Op Athletic event and Art. Saturday was our annual 'Mommy Meeting' for our homeschool group where we get together to discuss next year's activities. Ever since then, we've been getting ready to leave for a field trip/vacation.

We're headed to Wilmington, NC. One of our field trip moms organized a river boat ride and a day at an aquarium at Ft. Fisher. The boys are very excited. We're leaving this afternoon so as to have a couple of free days to enjoy ourselves.

I had hoped to leave a couple of reading goodies for you while gone, but that didn't happen. So, I'll be taking lots of photos and will get things back on track when I return.

Have a great week everyone!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Flower Study-Tulips

We've done our first real flower study this year. I picked tulips first because I was afraid if I waited too long, they would be gone. They are petering out this week so I think my choice was a good one.

This time around for our nature study we got started as soon as our bible reading was done. I think that when we've done it in the past, (in the afternoon) it's difficult because they are just ready to play, not be outside for nature study. So, getting them going in between readings seemed to help.

We started in the house reading the pages on tulips from the Handbook of Nature Study. The main thing we discussed this time was pistils and stamens. This was learning for me as well because its just something I've never paid any attention to before. I didn't even know about the sticky stuff on the end of the pistil! First grade science to the rescue! LOL I also have a little set of books about common questions kids ask and there was a page on stamens and pistils so we went over that.

Then it was on to the real life stuff! This is an earlier photo I had taken of the tulip. It has one pistil and six stamens. A very fancy pistil if I may say so. Very swirly looking and alluring saying "Come and pollinate me please". For more photos of all the flower parts, you can Google 'flower sex organs' and get some nice diagrams of all the different parts. Here's a nice one that is easy for me to look at and learn a thing or two. One of the tulips had already lost its petals so we were able to see the pistil very clearly.

Our tulips are very conveniently located. I planted these this past fall just to see how they would do. I love them! We got one of our old comforters on the sidewalk and sat down to study and draw in our nature journals. I somehow didn't get a photo of mine, but it's not a loss because it's not much different from the kids. We'll be working on the drawings eventually. ;D


They surprised me by not griping at having to look at flowers. Let's hope they have as much fun with our next flower study--bleeding hearts!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Fundraising-Yard Sale

This past weekend when I had my little blog break, I was still quite busy. We were fundraising for our local homeschool group. I'm in charge of coordinating field trips and we've started this year to hold fundraisers to raise money to pay for the kids to go. We managed to have about 5-6 field trips this year where all the kids got in free! This was from one yard sale and one candy bar fundraiser. The yard sale we just completed is getting some funds together to be ready to start the year in September.

Thursday I had the boys helping me a lot. There was a lot of stuff from the last yard sale that I had saved and put into my shed. It had to come out (and nothing was getting saved this time!). Then there were tables and other wood shelving that had to be pulled out and set up. There was no way I could do it myself, so I had Pooh and Tigger helping me. They did great! It was the one day last week where it felt very warm outside so Pooh complained a bit about being hot. We took breaks here and there to ease the load.

Friday was the first day of the sale. The weather proved to be tricky. Despite the forecast the day before that it was going to rain LATE afternoon and evening, the rain started at about 12:30. We did pretty well despite only being open an hour and a half. My volunteers (which included several of the teenagers in our group) helped us cover what could be covered and bring in the rest. Shall we say it was a bit crowded in my family room/basement???

Saturday was the main day. We were able to sell quite a bit and earned several hundred dollars to help the group. We were busy constantly. We started closing up at about 3pm and took all the leftovers to one of the Goodwill drop off sites. Yeah! It's done and I don't have to look at any of that stuff anymore.

My only legacy is that I need an adjustment. I really wore out my back on Thursday so I guess I'll have to change those plans for our next one. Even with the boys helping, I did too much. I hate getting older!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Garden April 6th

My updates will always be behind I guess. By the time I get the photos on the computer and then do a post about them, it's usually at least a week later. So all of you in gardening Zone 6b should be seeing what I'm seeing about now or next week. LOL

This is my grape vine budding. I have 4 grape vines now. They were supposed to be seedless but I discovered last year that they weren't and they taste more like muscadines. So instead of eating them straight, I made grape cordial and we drank them. I have ordered 6 more vines from a nursery coming now. Hopefully, they really will be seedless. I have 3 green grapes, 2 red grapes and 1 black grape ordered. I figured a respected nursery would be more apt to get it right than what I found before at Lowes.

The strawberries are blooming away. I can't believe how many there are already. Tigger will be so happy when they're ready. He discovered last spring that he loves strawberries. He wouldn't eat them before because Pooh doesn't eat them (seeds on the outside you know). However, I convinced Tigger to taste them as he helped me pick them and wouldn't ya know? Success!!! That's part of the wonder of gardening-convincing your kids to try new fruits and veggies and then they'll start expanding their diet.

The onions have really shot up. We'll be eating fresh ones soon!

Here's my asparagus. I'm harvesting about 8 spears every other day this year. They taste delicious. The King came up with a very good description of eating them raw. Sugar snaps. They taste a lot like sugar snaps when they are raw. Yummy! I was so excited this past weekend to see tiny baby asparagus plants that had seeded themselves. See, most people are very diligent in their gardens and get their asparagus cut down quickly in the fall. I always tend to be a bit behind on gardening duties. So by the time I cut down my asparagus, it has dropped lots of little seed berries onto the ground. How that has paid off! In about 3 years I'll have tons of asparagus to trim every day.

The sugar/snow peas are vining now. They are starting to latch onto their support. The broccoli and cabbage aren't taking off yet. I'm hoping they start soon or they'll end up going to seed in the heat instead of giving me some nice veggies to eat.

This is a front flower bed. It was cleaned out and weeded a couple of weekends ago. I threw down some leaves in their too. Only one garbage bag worth because that's all I had, but hopefully, the worms will like it and get to work. I discovered that the soil in there is still too clayey. I'm hoping to get some compost to work in a bit better in there. I found one of my plants had rotted from all the rain and the poor drainage. So that's something I have to work on.

Despite that, several plants do really well in here. I have echinacia, salvia, french lavender, lamb's ear. There is a clematis against the wall that I'm trying to get to go up so I attached some new string. I just planted a climbing rose, transplanted another clematis and put in a peony.
This area was cleaned out of english ivy. My purpose in planting that was to have something nice growing against the brick even in the winter for color. However, it just takes over too easily and, I found this out later, is considered an invasive species for our area. So, it was dug out.

You can see the lavender here with a Queen Elizabeth rose behind it. That rose is gorgeous. It had gotten way too tall over the years so this February I cut it back severely. I thought I had killed it. However, it has some wonderful new growth coming and I can't wait for the show it'll put out soon.

This is an arbor the King built for me. It is the entrance to the sidewalk leading to our front door. I have Carolina Jasmine growing up the left side of it and along the fence of the driveway. It smells wonderful every spring when it blooms.

Here's a better look at the flowers. Another nice thing about his plant is that it's an evergreen.

Here's my survivor. It's in a hanging basket on my greenhouse. I did nothing with it the whole winter and it came up from seed. Isn't creation a wonderful thing?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Greenhouse April 6th

These pictures were taken about a week ago. Things are perking right along in there. The lettuce is still growing. The carrots are coming along, although on hot days they sort of flop over. Almost all my tomato seeds sprouted. My yellow peppers came up but for some reason my red ones haven't. I'm also still waiting on my sage seeds. They are slow germinators.

This is the tomato plant that last time I photographed it was about 1 1/2 feet smaller. It has lots of flowers to come but I haven't seen any baby tomatoes forming yet. Hopefully soon!

Here are the tomato seedlings. I planted about 4 different varieties. Roma, Brandywine, Homestead, Old German. The cherry tomatoes seem to come up on their own every year so I haven't planted seeds for them for about 3 years now.
Here's my luffa. I think I have about 4 that have popped up. I'm hoping to actually see them bear fruit this time. I started them one other time, but they fizzled out quick. (Somebody forgot to water them. Don't know who that could have been! In my defense, they were way out of the way of the rest of the garden. ;D)

Here are the baby cukes that have started. I don't think they've grown that much since I took this photo. It must be the crazy up and down temps slowing them down.

The seeds that I planted with the boys are coming up as well. We have different squashes coming. The hollyhocks are up, as is some of the marjoram, a couple of daisies and the corn. I'm going to have to do some fancy configuring for next week when we're out of town. I don't want them to croak while we're gone. I'll get some photos of them soon as well. Pooh came running to tell me when he discovered his seeds were sprouting. It was so cute!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

All The King's Men

They're geared up for battle!

The King is chopping up some twigs and branches. These will go as a bottom layer in our compost pile. Yes, it's getting cleaned up. ;D The bottom layer of twigs will help keep a little air there for the pile to breathe. The more air that gets worked in the faster the stuff breaks down. Evidently. We're trying this theory anyway. LOL

Here it is almost done. We're using that big pvc pipe with holes drilled in for ventilation too. We never get around to turning the pile on a regular basis so we're trying to set it up so that maybe it will decompose faster without all our help. What you don't see are the layers. Twigs, soil, leaves, cuttings (greens) and food scraps. All these are repeated except the twigs.

Pooh has a hatchet and is chopping a huge log. It's an activity he enjoys.

Tigger is exclaiming about all the 'hard work'! He has a machete. He loves this type of stuff. He always wants to help the King with anything he's doing outside.

In this photo Pooh is using a machete.

I know it may freak some people out for them to be using these instruments. It freaks me out when I think about it. However, this is how my Latin King grew up. Evidently, Latin Americans are partial to their machetes. I couldn't believe it when we were first married and the King wanted to buy one. Whaaaa???? He's even taken us on hikes with the thing. I guess I know who I'm going to the jungle with. LOL

We do have safety rules for the kids.

1. Wear gloves.
2. Wear glasses. (usually sunglasses)
3. Wear real shoes. Not your sandals.
4. We keep separate. See the photos above how they're on opposite sides of the fire pit.
5. They are never allowed to 'play' with them.
6. Keep the machete in the down position when others are around. (We usually call a warning when we're walking their way. "Coming through!")
7. When the blades are not in use, they are harnessed or are stuck into the ground or something of that nature so it can't be stepped on or knocked around.
8. The King is always with them.

After the initial horrified look I gave him, the King assured me that he was concerned with their safety as well. (good thing!) I keep an eye on things but have learned to relax about it. Even to be proud of their skills. Won't their wives be happy to go to the jungle with them!

Well, that was part of our weekend work. I'll try to post some photos of our other work soon. Friday and Saturday I'm in charge of our yard sale fundraiser. So, I may end up with a few days break between the next posts. If you don't hear from me, just hope we're earning lots of money for our field trips!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Kids' Gardens-Starting Seeds

Last week we had a seed planting day. I got things set up for Pooh and Tigger. They each had a tray and some newspaper cups. I had presoaked the seed starting medium so it would be ready.

We then discussed the seeds they wanted to start. Tigger was pretty much set with what he wanted:
2 Sugar Pie Pumpkin, 2 Ali Baba watermelon, 9 Country Gentleman corn. He wanted carrots too but it won't work quite right with the other stuff he's growing. I may convince him to plant some beans seeds around the corn once it gets going. Then he'll have the 3 Sisters (corn, beans, squash).

He ended up filling some cups that I used later.

Pooh had me read off some of the seeds I had and decided from there. He picked some things that "I'll grow it but I won't eat it." 5 spinach, 2 eggplant, 2 zucchini, 2 cucumbers and 6 nasturtium. I'm going to show him that you can eat the flowers of this one. Won't he be surprised!

The way we worked it was:

1. They told me what seed they wanted to plant next.
2. I asked them how many.
3. As they were putting the planting medium into their cups, I marked the required amount of Popsicle sticks with the name of the seed.
4. They placed their markers in.
5. I then either game them the correct number of seeds (more for Tigger) or gave them the packet to plant their seeds (Pooh). They placed 2 seeds in each cup. I did that because these are older seeds and I wanted to make sure they got something to sprout.

See! It wasn't as horrific as you expected, Pooh! ;D

The seed tray is now in the greenhouse. They have a small soda bottle with a special sprinkle top on it so they can water their seeds each morning. The fun part will be when the little green shoots start popping up.

In my tray I planted, yellow squash, pumpkin, petunia, moss rose, african daisy, hyssop, impatiens, nasturtium, scallop squash, 4 o'clocks, hollyhocks, marjoram, zinnias and winter squash. The zinnias are already coming up!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Folk Music & Nature--A Wonderful Combination

The used book store I frequent also carries cd's and vhs, etc. I try to remember to check out the cd section, especially the kid's section.

I scored a great find the last time and I didn't even realize it until later. The cover looked cute and it sounded interesting so I thought I'd give it a try. It couldn't have turned out better. The songs are well done. Not cheesy or overly loud. They are played with all sorts of instruments (banjo, harmonica, etc) and have some great imitations of the animals' actual sounds. We've really enjoyed listening to the stories too. The first one I enjoyed was about the guardians of the water. It's a great environmental story. The one we recently listened to had us all quiet as mouses in the van. It's about a black rat snake that Mr. Elliot had in his back yard. You won't believe what happens!

You can find the cd at Native Ground Music where they have samples to listen to (although I couldn't figure out how to play the ones from this cd because the file is RAM and what plays that???). Amazon also has his cds but doesn't have any sample music.

I'm hoping to at least get one more of his. This is something I don't mind listening to. Most of the children's music put out these days is grating, nauseating, boring or a combination of the three. This isn't.

I plan on sharing a couple more kid's cds we've enjoyed. I hope that my reviews help you to find something that you can sing along with too.

Monday, April 6, 2009


Many of us are familiar with the scripture at Deuteronomy 6:6,7. It discusses inculcating God's laws on your child's heart. The boys and I were discussing that scripture a couple of weeks ago during our daily text. We talked about what the word 'inculcate' means--to repeat, to say again and again, to impress.

Then I explained to them that this is why Mommy and Daddy tell them the same things all the time. It's part of our job. When they say, "I knoooow, I knoooow" I understand that they know, but I'm 'inculcating' so that I know they know. LOL

Anyway, while we were outside this past weekend (glorious by the way!) something happened that caused me to give them a speech. I don't remember exactly what it was. It had something to do with their behavior with the neighbor's grandson. Towards the end of my speech, Tigger lets out with this one:

"Mommy, I think you're inculcating us."

"Yes, Tigger, that's exactly what I'm doing. That's my job."


Here's Personality in a Picture:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Late Readers

On one of the AO yahoo groups, there's been a recent discussion on early reading skills. I thought I would post here my response as it may help some of you with late readers.

I just want to share an experience on not stressing about the reading. I know there are some children out there who are quite eager to be reading at 3. However, for a lot of kids, this is a completely unreasonable expectation. Before finding CM, I had unreasonable expectations.

My oldest son has autism. He's what many would refer to as high functioning. I had been working with him on learning his letters since he was about 4. We worked on letter sounds. We spent a whole year just doing ma, me, mi, mo, mu type nonsense. (which it did help eventually, but anyway...) I finally, through doing some online research, discovered Better Late Than Early. I believe that book does discuss some researched negatives on early reading, but I'm not positive as it's been a few years since I've looked at it.

From that book I learned to relax. We even took a whole year off doing 'school' when my son was about 8-9. I was a little freaked out about doing that, but it helped in so many ways. We learned to relax with each other. I learned it wasn't the end of the world that he wasn't reading yet.

After the year off, we picked up on some simple reading again. Cvc words. We spent another year on cat, hat, mat, etc. Again before CM. I was muddling my way through.

My son learned to read when he was 10. He now reads beautifully. More than that, he understands what he reads. He reads for fun. I have to force him to leave books in the van when we go in stores. He chooses books that I would think are above his reading level, but he reads them anyway. He would really love it if he could read Treasure Island, but it looks too overwhelming to him right now (and rightly so for his developmental level). We were walking through goodwill the other week and he was reading aloud from a book he found there about Pearl Harbor. A lady stopped me and asked what grade he was and then stated that her granddaughter (2 years ahead of him) can't read that well. He also reads by changing voices with the characters. You should hear his Pharaoh voice! (we're reading Exodus right now)

My point in all this is to assure you that it will come. There's no medal that one gets for learning to read by a certain age. One should learn to enjoy reading, not because it's one more chore on the list of life achievements.

We still have a lot of things to work on. Spelling, writing, etc. but I've seen that time has nothing to do with it. Children will learn when they are ready and then they will learn it well. I've even seen this happen in other areas like learning to tie shoes or riding a bike.

That's the take of this mother of a special needs child. I wish I had known about CM all those years ago. I do know now and as we continue to work through the AO years, I will continue to enjoy the progress my son makes as he's ready.

And just fyi, we started Year 1 this past year at age 10.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Spring Flowers Have Arrived!

One of my daffodils. This is the large flowered one I have. Since these were taken, my smaller flowered daffadowndillies have opened. They are fragrant.

Trying to get a close up of my tulip planted in the fall.
A better shot. Aren't the colors lovely?

I know, to some of you it's a weed (dandelion). To me they bring some spring cheer on these rainy, gloomy days of April showers. Perhaps a dandelion study soon??? We shall see.

Kids' Gardens

I've talked with the boys about them having their own gardens this year. Tigger is very excited about it and has named way too many vegetables to grow in his. We had a whole discussion on why you can't grow sunflowers and corn in the same patch. (sunflower roots put out a substance that basically will poison the corn--something like that. I have the book carrots love tomatoes all on companion planting). So, as of now Tigger wants to plant pumpkin, watermelon, corn, carrots, sunflowers. I'm still not exactly sure what Pooh is going to plant. Gardening isn't exactly a big hit with him.

Here they are ready to get started. See Pooh's face? It says it all.

The first thing to teach the boys is preparing the beds. There were weeds coming up in their designated spaces and we have to get those cleaned out. Not exactly fun work but necessary. We talked about how the vegetable plants wouldn't grow well if all these weeds were in the way.

Tigger found two cultivators that he decided were going to be his velociraptor claws. He clawed out his weeds.

There was also hoeing. Notice these before pictures because the difference in before and after is beautiful!

That's actually a sage plant in Pooh's garden. Right, lower corner. That's staying.

Here's the after! Don't they look great?!?

Ok, please totally ignore the out of control compost heap in the background. Oh and all the other weeds. Sigh.

While we were digging (yes, i was helping LOL), we found lots of earwigs-those little guys with the pincers on their rears and earthworms. Tigger was so excited at finding the worms. Everytime I found one in his garden bed, he would come get it and move it to the already cleared section saying "Here ya go little fella." It was so adorable!

Pooh did look at his worms but wasn't especially happy with the whole project. We sang songs to pass the time. Pooh sang 15 Men and the Dead Man's Chest from Muppet Treasure Island. I sang Never Smile at a Crocodile from Peter Pan. Tigger made up some songs about weeds and worms. ;D Pooh brought his special dog Osita over for some cuddle time and to keep him company doing the dreadful deed of weed pulling.

OH! and I almost forgot. Evidently the boys witnessed our baby bluebirds leaving their nest box while I was off getting something! Pooh said there was one Mommy bird and 3 babies that came out. Isn't that cool! I've never seen the babies come out of there even though we've had the box up for about 5 years now. It didn't surprise me that the babies were already out because last week I saw a house finch baby being fed by its parent at my feeders.

Lots of nature study these days!

Friday, April 3, 2009

More Pine Siskin

Here he comes having landed on the little dead tree branch we attached to the arbor.

He first went for the thistle sock feeder. (it was refilled after he left)

These are two very nice snapshots of him at the black oil sunflower seed feeder. You can really see the yellow touches of color on his wing and tail feathers.

Remember that you can click on the pictures to see an enlarged one.

(The pictures are getting better, yes? ;D)


We have a rabbit named Smokey. We received him from another family that were tired of taking care of him. We were told that he is a Netherland Dwarf rabbit. He's very sweet. I haven't yet done a 'study' of rabbits with the boys, but when we do we'll have a very convenient specimen to examine.

Pooh is in charge of checking on him every morning. He checks his water, dry food and litter box (he was already litter trained when we got him!). Tigger loves giving him fresh greens from the garden. He loves all those weeds that I need to get rid of. :D

We don't take him out of his cage much because he gets a little jumpy when out of the cage. My plan is to start getting him used to wearing a harness and leash so that we can take him out here and there. The King has a dream of moving the hutch and adding a whole bottom section to it so that he has a play area and the boys can get in the bottom part to play with him.

One really cool thing that he's done is to almost purr when I pet him sometimes. I had no idea rabbits even made noises! (I wasn't really raised as an animal person so I'm getting used to them.)

Tigger has no such reservations! (Isn't he the cutest! (if i do say so myself LOL))