Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter Bird Photos

They are just soooo cute!!! I filled my feeder, loaded up my suet cage and threw some seed on top of the snow. Then I sat at our picnic table and just waited. Within a couple of minutes they came to feed. This is as close as I've come to a towhee. The other one is a junco.

Don't they look like they are having a little conversation? Probably something like "Back off, buddy. This stuff is mine!" The white-throated sparrows are pretty spunky. They tend to chase other birds off, even other sparrows.

The view above my picnic table. Currently, we only have pines as mature trees.

Quite the charmer!

Ever seen a mockingbird's butt? You have now! He flew onto a wire above me and I just had to take the shot. At least you get a better idea of how his tail feathers look. (I was just hoping there wouldn't be a 'drop' mid-picture.)

Next up: Sledding photos and some shots of icicles.

January Activities

We've been keeping quite busy in between snow storms. In keeping with the cold weather, we got with our homeschool group for ice skating.

He's quite determined.

Pooh did a great job this time. He stayed out on the ice the whole time. (before he would sneak into the warm food area where the video games are) Also, despite falling a few times, he got back up and kept on going. And stayed cheerful!

Next up is Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC. It is usually a great place (well, it still is somewhat) but this time over half of it was closed off for renovations. We didn't know that until we got there. However, the boys still had a grande time!

Tigger enjoyed the building table. Lots of little kids in those areas.

He had a meltdown once because his creation was destroyed by others but he managed to regain his control and try again. I was very proud of him!

This is a wind table. The boats are on wheels and the kids can change the direction of the wind and the sails to see how things move differently with the changes.

This table was mostly surrounded by boys and they had fun racing those boats.

More wind!!! It's a hurricane tube. It replicates the wind forces of a Category 1 Hurricane. The wind speed reached 78 miles an hour.

It's messing up my hair! LOL Bad wind!
In addition to these events, we've been working on our play for drama, doing our best to keep up with school work and generally enjoying the bursts of winter weather. I can't wait for some spring temps though!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Family Dinner

We don't eat at the table together every night but we do eat together often. Probably about 4 times per week. We do make other times to hang out together. Sometimes it's breakfast together, sometimes it's tea or cocoa time. These times are important for families. Conversation is always on a different level when you are sitting around a table with other people than at any other time. Even riding in a vehicle talking doesn't produce the same type of conversation. I wonder if it's because the table is designed so that everyone is facing each other and you're sort of forced to "see" each other.

I want to improve our diet. For all of us. I'm even looking into making 'green smoothies'. These are smoothies that include some type of green veggie, many times spinach. I made of these on Thursday and even the boys said it was good and drank a full wineglass of it. (I put it in wineglasses to make it more appealing. The boys know that usually only mom and dad get to use those glasses.)

These are photos of our dinner together that night. We had salmon (a recipe that uses a layer of mayo and ketchup on top for flavoring), broccoli and baked potatoes.

Adding a little fresh pepper to the baked potato.

Mashed potatoes are Tigger's favorite. He tackled his potato first.

Despite the face, Pooh really enjoys his dinner. He LOVES broccoli and many times will ask for seconds. Plus, he's growing and eating more now.

Here's a close up of my plate. My men, both big and little, were not as adventurous as I. What is that purple stuff??? It is a purple sweet potato and I must say that I think it was tastier than a regular sweet potato. It's not sweeter but somehow it was much better.

One advantage of eating together is that I can convince the boys to try new foods. They did take a taste of that purple potato. I even told Tigger that there is a blue potato. It's a type of heirloom potato. We're going to be checking out the farmer's market for it and maybe they'll even like it!

Another Snow Storm!--Bird Photos

Osita's first foray this morning into the snow.

We are currently experiencing our 2nd snowstorm for this winter. This is very uncommon in our area. Usually we are fortunate to get ONE decent snow. Some winters we get absolutely nothing.

This male was being elusive for a while but I got him!

A song sparrow. They frequently sit in my butterfly bushes or the telephone wires and serenade us.

The majority of it came in during sleeping hours so the first word I heard from Tigger was "Whoa!" (Ok. Technically this was his 2nd waking. His first waking was him dreaming and punching me in the nose in the middle of my dead sleep. I whimpered and he woke up enough to apologize and then he was out again. Joys of parenthood.) We have at least six inches out there now and it's still a mix of sleet and snow coming until about 5pm, although it won't add too much more to our totals. I'll be getting out there later for measuring purposes and to play with the boys. We won't be going down the road to our sledding place today. I don't think we're ready to brave the roads.

This towhee wasn't being cooperative today. I took this through the window that had screening on it so it didn't come out as well. He wouldn't come to the side of the bush where my storm door was. Maybe I'll get a shot of him when we make it outside.

A goldfinch. It's holding a seed. They haven't been visiting much this winter. This is the first I've seen of them for a while.

The white throated sparrows move around so fast. I have both kinds--tan striped and white striped.

Just got a call from some friends who want to go sledding together! I told her we'd be watching the roads this weekend and I'd have to see how the King feels about these roads. Right now, the wind is something awful.

It's Chippy! The chipping sparrow. A whole flock landed in my backyard about a week ago. I'd never seen that many birds in my yard. I think there were about a hundred of them!

Chippy again. He's got beautiful coloring.

Female cardinal. The males are so showy but the females are very lovely and soft looking.

I spent my morning hours watching the weather first and then watching and taking pictures (at least trying!!!) of the birds who've come out of the woodwork to feed near the feeders. My feeders aren't doing that well this year because the King took down my feeder stand to fix the bottom and never got it done. Therefore, all my feeders are too close together and too close to the ground. I've put food in a couple of them and this morning I threw sunflower seeds on top of the snow. As I was trying to get a close up of a white throated sparrow, a hawk flew right in front of the window and scared them all away. I didn't get a photo of him because he was way too fast and I was in closeup mode. No time to catch him. He was a beautiful flash of color and power though!!! That wouldn't happen without all the snow around I can tell ya that.

Check out the colors on this bird's back. I think it's one of the white throated sparrows. I used to think all those 'brown birds' were boring, but you can't be bored by all those variations in color.
Enjoy your winter wonderland if you have one!!!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Our New Spanish Thing

I figured with everything else out there on YouTube there had to be some Spanish videos too. Sure enough there is a cute little series of shows called Pocoyo. Some of you may know these shows. They're probably on cable but we only get the very basic cable (16 channels) and so I'd never seen these before. The boys really like them, especially Tigger. He asks to watch them every day.

The ones we watch are all in Spanish although I have seen them translated into English too. Here's a sample:

One can hope they learn a word or two here and there. At least they are getting a good ear for the language. Tigger is the most interested and doesn't mind us talking to him in Spanish. He's definitely gotten to where he understands a few phrases like 'Ven aca.' Pooh on the other hand says he wants to learn but when we try it he complains because he doesn't understand. He knows how to call people 'loco' though. With all the proper inflection. LOL Whatever works I guess.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Measuring and Fractions

We worked on money math for about 2 weeks and I thought we needed a little change of pace. So for a fun math activity I decided that we could work on measurement--ie learning to use a ruler. I haven't ever worked on that with either of the boys. I had the boys find two rulers. As it turns out they each found a different size ruler. Tigger's ruler was the typical 12 inches and Pooh's was a 6 inch ruler. This made it interesting for Pooh when we had to measure things longer than 12 inches.

Both boys got 5 things from their room that they wanted to measure. One of Pooh's stuffed animals was more than 24 inches long so we had to 'add'. This was one of those days where Pooh forgot how to add. Again. Suddenly 6 + 6 became a huge ordeal. We had to get out the blocks and start from scratch to measure the stuffed animal. We did have smaller things to measure and he did fine with that part (ie 8 inches etc) but when he had to use the 6 inch ruler and add it more than once, it was a 'big deal'. Some days he would be able to get this fine. Other days it seems as if he's forgotten most of what he's learned. It's crazy and really slows us down with his mathematical learning. Thus the reason he's never worked on measurement before. Tigger on the other hand, was adding in his head. Sigh. But that's really great for him!!!

Before they measured their items, we practiced by tracing our feet and hand prints onto paper and measuring them. Pooh's hand and foot measurements were scarily close to mine. The boy is growing!

Tigger's measurements.

Once we got a good grasp of the measuring, I realized that we needed to talk about fractions a little too. They were getting a little confused with the 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 inch measurements. It just sort of naturally flowed into a lesson on fractions. The first day all I did was show them a pizza cut into fourths and we talked about those basic fractions that fit in with our measurements.

This is what we did the 2nd day. Pooh likes to look at all the different country and state flags and even though he's not memorized them all, he still knows a lot more than me.

So we spent our math time the second day using flags to talk about fractions. I only worked with the flags that show the basic fractions of 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 or 1 whole color. I was surprised by how many of the flags are separated into thirds with their color scheme. Any good children's atlas book with show the flags that go with the countries, so you can check there in case you'd like to 'try this at home'. ;D This was definitely a success because it was something Pooh was very interested in. I even tried showing how each part adds up to be the whole thing, but I know that will need more repetition because I could see it was flying over the top of his head. I'm pretty sure that Tigger understood it though.

Pooh was proud of his paper. Tigger was irritated by something else. LOL
Right now, we're back to MUS work but it is great that we took the break we did. Pooh has been working on word problems with dimes in his workbook so he's getting it all right. Working with money when we did turned out terrific. (One day I hope to be a little more organized with my Living Math approach. One day...) I think I'll take another week off once both boys are done with Lesson 8 to review some of what we learned.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My Baby is Losing His Baby Teeth!

It's so cute and so sad all at the same time. Tigger has three teeth on the top that went loose all at the same time. One is gone and you can see the adult tooth coming in. Boo Hoo.

Both boys had a dentist appointment this week and Tigger has a few cavities to get filled (between molars) and they may have to pull one of those front teeth out if it doesn't come on it's own. I plan to discuss it more with the doctor when we go back next week.

Trying to get him to be still enough for the photo while he flies his Toy Story Lego Spaceship.

Pooh was cavity free!!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Garden News

Despite the time of year and despite the cold temperatures, there is still garden news to report. Nothing outside, of course, it's the greenhouse and future planning that makes the news this time around.

First to report is the fact that I have several plants hanging out in the greenhouse. There are a bunch of pepper plants, 3 tomatoes, a pineapple sage, geraniums, mesclun mix lettuce and several other 'rescue' plants that I bought for .25 and .50 at Lowes at the end of the season. My hope for the rescue plants is for them to be used in containers come spring.

My myriad of pepper plants, tomatoes and geraniums.

The mesclun lettuce is coming right along!

This year's greenhouse season has been interesting so far. My plants have been invaded by whiteflies and aphids. I've even found some small, strange stick looking bug, a few leafhoppers, some ants and I have a praying mantis egg sac that was laid on a pepper plant before the adults disappeared. All the insects that are alive and moving around so far have been bad. I was hoping for the mantis sac to hatch but nothing yet. I did happen to find one ladybug in there today, but I believe the workload of eating all those aphids may be too much for one small ladybug. I have attempted to kill them with Neem spray and a soap spray but I'm also waiting on a special shipment of Green Lacewings to hatch and help with the problem. Once those hatch I won't be able to use my sprays. So, due to the pest infestation the plants you see here don't look as great as they should. I'm just glad they're still alive.

The mantis sac.

This year's luffas drying. They were a little late coming in this year so I had to pick them green. I hope to get them in earlier this year.

The other things I've done have to do with planning. I've actually done something pretty amazing for me--I've paper planned the spring and summer gardens! I'm not very good at planning on paper but this year I've turned over a new leaf. No pun intended. ;D I even have a Garden Notebook! In it are a few different sections: general garden info, vegetable planting plans, monthly to do lists for my local area (from the extension service), garden notes, specific plant info and greenhouse. For the vegetable planning, I have the back garden separated into about 19 sections and each one has it's own paper where I have drawn a grid. Beside the grid is the list of what I hope to plant with the date I hope to it in the ground.

Plans for Bed 4

Plans for Bed 11

Part of my plan is to include lots of flowers in a 'companion planting' scheme and just for general looks. Some of those flowers include lots of nasturtium (for supposedly deterring squash bugs--one can hope!) ; borage (to go with the potato plants); cosmos; french marigolds (general good bug attractant); calendula for eating; epazote (a mexican herb to be used in cooking); zinnias and more. I'd like the garden to come alive in 2010.

A sample of the flowers that may adorn my patio in the spring.

My seed orders for this year have been made and anything that isn't on hold for future shipment is already here. I shopped at Baker's Creek Heirloom Seeds, High Mowing Organic Seeds and Southern Exposure seed exchange. I've ordered some news things this year. Seeds for yellow strawberries, ground cherries, hardy kiwi, huckleberries and a watermelon that turns yellow on the outside when it's ripe. I love to try something new every year. I was supposed to try peanuts too but somehow in ordering I left it off. Oh well, there's always next year.

This tomato is already forming some flower buds.
My next seeds to start will be the cabbage and soon some other cole crops. Can you believe that next month the Sugar snaps are supposed to go in the ground already? There's not much of a break in gardening when you like to start plants from seed. See?!? Even in this weather there's Garden News.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I'm so glad December is over...

Just in the last week we've had other 'issues' we've dealt with.

The hard drive on my computer started sending out warnings of impending doom (ie imminent crash) so I called a friend and he spent several hours trying to get the slug to transfer info to a new(er) desktop he sold us. It is a refurbished Dell. Already the speed difference was amazing. It's not new and fancy but it does the work I need it to do. I also got a refurbished laptop from him that I had been wanting anyway. This will help with googling things in the middle of school--now I don't have to try and remember to do it when I 'get upstairs'.

ALL of us got sick this last week. I guess it was the flu. It whipped through all of us in about 5 days which is pretty fast and furious. If it gets the King, then it's something. He hardly ever gets sick. He's home today as a matter of fact, taking his first sick day in I don't know when. We all seem to be recovering fine, just have the congestion to get rid of and we should be ok.

Also on tap for the last week, the King's grandmother died. She had recently returned to Nicaragua to live because she said she wanted to die there. It's just nobody expected it to happen so fast. It seems a heart valve burst and there was nothing that could be done. The King did get to talk to her on the phone before she was too far gone. Also, we're glad that we went ahead and made the Florida trip last spring (2008), because he was able to see her and she was able to see her great grandsons.

You may remember me mentioning that I managed to bust out my van's back window? Well, unbeknownst to me the truck's hood got a little dented and the King had to spend some time fixing the hood so he could open it. While he was doing that, he had to fix the lock on one of his truck's passenger doors because it had decided to stay in the locked position when he opened it and wouldn't shut. How does life manage it to make all this stuff happen at the same time???

Anyway, I'm looking forward to hopefully some normalcy in the near future. Even though we were all sick, the King took us for a Saturday afternoon drive so that we could get out of the house and see some nice scenery (and I had to pick up some herbs for my congestion anyway). It was a beautiful day. Butt Cold! but beautiful. We drove up into Virginia and got out of the van for about 5 minutes to see a neat old house/mill thing (we can't quite figure out what it was used for) but quickly got our cabooses back in. Despite being well wrapped up, any skin that was exposed was getting bitten by the cold wind.

I somehow doubt that school will return to normal this week, but perhaps we can get ourselves moving in the right direction. With all the coughing still going on, it would be difficult to get our reading done. Plus, Pooh needs some time to readjust his mood. Tv watching while sick has rendered him a serious grump. We need to do some deprogramming. Sigh.

I do have at least one nice gardening post I need to get to. So look for that as my next project. That means I have to set up these new computers with my camera's software. Ugh. Well, I'll get to it eventually. Hope everyone out there is staying safe and warm!