Saturday, August 29, 2009

Family Week

I'm so behind on blogging. I'm so behind on everything right now.

A lot of bloggable things happened this week, they just weren't really directly related to our theme.

There was problem solving. It's so amusing to me to say, I won't do it for you, figure out how to do it yourselves.

How to get a ball from under the car.
How to get magnetix out of a 2 liter bottle. The eventual solution was scissors.

After our recent rains, we found giant toadstools.
We played with lots of bugs. Our favorite is a preying mantis that lives in our ferns in our front yard. Thing One was braver than me. He really wanted to hold him and he did!
Did you know they can fly? And when they get scared and threatened, they take the most interesting stance where they spread their wings and put their front legs out?
For schoolwork, we mostly read books and played games. Thing One is fascinated by two things right now. The first is the book Anno's Math Games by Mitsumaso Anna. It is really difficult to even describe. It's an introduction to beginning math concepts.

The second is a game I ordered on sale. It's a puzzle game called Cat and Mouse. It has nine tiles and a booklet with many different puzzles of different difficulty levels. The player tries to place the tiles to fulfill the requirements of the puzzle. I love it because it's a one-player game which is often hard to find, and because all the pieces fit inside! It's great for travel or waiting for food at a restaurant.
Thing One went to his first real sporting event this week, a minor league baseball game. Thing Two got his first bicycle (yard sale, $3). We need to get him some training wheels and a helmet.

Here's our list of family books:
The Family Book by Parr
Jesse Bear Climbs the Family Tree by Carlstrom
Henry and Mudge in the Family Trees by Rylant
Fathers, Mothers, Sisters, Brothers: A Collection of Family Poems by Hoberman
Chicken of the Family by Amato
My Family Plays Music by Cox

Hope you all are having fun with your families this week!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back to School

Today would have been Thing One's first day of kindergarten, if he would have gone to public school. I've had a strange, bittersweet feeling all day. But I know in my heart we made the right decision for our family.

So, instead, we started back to homeschooling after a two week break. He's so happy to be back. I can tell, even if he hadn't told his daddy this morning that he is excited.
We put together our new wall calendar. Thing Two wanted to "play", too. Then we read the introduction in Story of the World Vol. 1, and talked about Thing One's "personal history." We looked at his baby book, his baby pictures, watched videos of him as a baby, and made a timeline of his life.

We put a big piece of brown paper on our classroom door and made a family tree. Things One and Two decorated it with flowers and butterflies.
We're sending out some questionnaires to family members about their lives.

Then we headed to the library. I love that it is a two minute walk from our house. We loaded up on books about sharks and manta rays, and family. I got some reference books about homeschooling to look over as well. We found a cicada to play with on the walk home.
Now we're eating dinosaur-shaped turkey sandwiches while we watch the Magic School Bus video we checked out. Thing Two's headed for nap time next, while Thing One tries out afternoon center time. It has been a great "first day of school."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Try Angles

A friend and I are doing a round robin together. We each started a quilt center, then passed it to the other person, who does something to the quilt, then we switch again, until we deem the quilts "done." We each put a box of fabric together that we wish to be in the quilt, and decided on rules (she and I are very relaxed about the rules--for this, basically anything goes. But some round robins are quite strict as to time frames, size, what fabrics you can use, etc.).

I got mine back last week. It looked like this.
Isn't the embroidery pretty?

I stared at it for a week. I didn't know what to do next! I looked online at border treatments everyday and debated, and sketched.

I knew I'd be seeing some quilting friends at Bunco tonight, so this afternoon I took it out to put it with my bag so I could ask their opinions about how to proceed. Well, inspiration struck, right there in the midst of my scrap piles and laundry baskets.

I had just seen an easy method for making a dogtooth border. The focus fabric I chose has a dogtooth-type border on it.

But I was a bit afraid of it. Like many beginning quilters, I have a fear of triangles. Templates. All those bias edges. Terrifying.

But after reading through the directions, I decided it didn't sound too difficult and it was worth a try. I had to make my template three times. But I finally got it right!

I'm so glad I tried! I made a small inner border to bring my measurements up to what they needed to be to fit, then added the dogtooth border.

My corners are lousy, but I don't care. I learned something new today!

Bunco Night

I went to a quilting friend's home tonight and played Bunco. With eleven other women. It was fabulous! I learned a new game, met some new people and had child-free time to chat with my quilting friends. All for the low, low price of $10 cold, hard cash. I didn't win any prizes but I think $10 is a very fair price for good company, fun, and yummy snacks. And my other friend even picked me up and dropped me off!
This is me, wearing the pink scarf, which was the "traveler" for the night. (I don't know what's up with my lip. I think my camera lens must need a good cleaning!)

You can learn how to play here, and even print off free score cards. We had a great time!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

While I'm Sitting Here

I might as well tell you about what's going on around here, while I'm sitting in this beautiful puddle of sunshine with my laptop. Thing Two is napping (yay! he skipped the last two days and fought me today but he needed it). Thing One is playing some complicated imaginary game quietly. I'm breathing deeply and staying hydrated. Life is good.

We have taken the last two weeks off school to get reorganized and renerergized. We've cleared out so much stuff we're having a yard sale Saturday. I love that my boys don't get too attached to things. They are always willing to part with some books, videos, toys when it's time to purge.

We added some things, too. I rearranged the classroom a bit to free up one big wall. I hung up our new magnetic wipe-off board to use with All About Spelling. I found a great wall calendar on clearance for $7, so Thing One will be helping me put that together when we start back up with school. I hung up a big bulletin board downstairs in our dining room, which will house Math on the Wall activities.

I needed a way to keep our daily supplies organized and off the middle of our desk. I wanted something to hang on the wall but couldn't find just the right thing, til I found a small shower caddy with two hooks on it. The caddy holds our glue, paintbrushes, pencils and pens, the hooks hold two pairs of kids' scissors. Perfect.

We may take another week off if I don't feel ready to start Monday. Or maybe we'll start Wednesday. Isn't homeschooling great?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pinwheels and Prairie Points

A while back, I gave you a sneak preview of my latest quilt. It is yet another baby quilt! So many babies on the way.

I found this pattern online and altered it slightly. I did not use a charm pack, I just cut scraps into five inch blocks, and I added more blocks. I used 18 blocks, 16 on front, and 2 on the back. Eighteen is a good luck number. A good explanation of its significance can be found here.

Those mysterious 2.5 inch squares were for prairie points! I've never made them before so this was a fun new project.

So here it is! I love the way quilts look hanging on our fence. It brings a touch of country to these city suburbs!

I still have to finish the binding, then on to the next project!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Chore Bingo

I've been searching for some ideas for encouraging the boys to do chores. I'm going to try chore bingo. I am going to make cards for all four of us (nine squares for the boys and 25 for the adults) and put them on the fridge, and as we finish a chore we can put a magnet on that square. First one to get a Bingo wins some kind of special prize. The boys are so competitive, hopefully this will motivate them to help out around the house.

I'm a big believer in kids doing chores. When I was reading all about unschooling, I found most of the parents were on a big "anti-coercive parenting" kick. Don't force your kids to do chores. Or clean up after themselves or be responsible for their own things. I thought a lot about what they had to say. I decided I don’t agree with that philosophy at all.

I don't know why this rubs me the wrong way so much. I guess it hearkens back to my childhood. I come from an extremely rural part of Louisiana. We had a huge garden. I had to get up at 6am every day during the summer and on Saturdays and Sundays during the school year to help in the garden. We planted, watered, harvested, shucked, and preserved about 80% of the food we ate during the year. We were also expected to help with all the household chores, every day, on top of our homework.

I think chores have great value for a child. It helps a child learn basic life skills. It helps a child learn to appreciate what he has. It helps a child learn responsibility, and that other people are relying on him. It can help a child learn cooperation skills. It gives child a sense of accomplishment and worth. How great do you feel when you finish a job completely, especially when it was challenging? It helps the child feel that he has a real role in his family. He feels that his contribution is important.

How do you feel about chores? Do you have a trick or two that you use to encourage your kids?

Row, Row, Row your Quilt

I was recently introduced to the idea of a row quilt through my quilting guild. We are hosting a quilt bingo in October, and if you aren't able to donate a finished quilt for a prize, you were asked to donate rows for a few quilts. Here are some examples. I spent one day this week sewing some rows.
The two french braid rows are the same set of fabrics, just put together differently. These were my first braid quilting, and my first attempt at separating fabric solely on value.

The other three are strip-pieced and cut into eight inch sections. On two, I rotated every other block; on the last one, I just pieced them all the same direction.

I can't wait to see the quilt bingo row quilts put together! They are all autumn colors and will be truly stunning based on the rows I have seen at guild so far!

What's Thing Two Been Up To?

Looking Cool

Sticker backgrounds

Glue and glitter art

Poingo books

Perfecting his golf game

Milk lid letters


Playing King of the Mountain
Riding his scooter

Sticking things in styrofoam


Birthday parties

Looking cool!

We're Official!

I got notification from the county today that they have received our forms. You're gonna love this, I know I did. The form on the internet had the incorrect address on it as to where to send it, and I'm so surprised it still got to the right person. My name was spelled wrong on the envelope, but correctly on the letter.

We took the week off of school this week. We had planned a whale week, and we did a few whale themed activities. I was planning a break next week, but Monday we just couldn't get started and it became obvious we'd start our break early. So mostly we just hung out.

You would think the kids would love a break from school, right? Thing One has been horribly whiny and fussy all week. He kept complaining that he was bored, and wanted to do something fun. Then he had a total meltdown on Thursday. It was triggered by my saying no to a computer game he wanted to play. But after a half hour tantrum followed by a twenty minute calming down period, we talked. He admitted he was having a hard time with our schedule being all messed up and not doing school like we've been doing all summer. And with not getting as much attention from mommy, who has been busy organizing the classroom, and even *gasp* taking some time to do things she likes to do for herself. This is why, as much as I like the idea of unschooling, it does not work for our family. Despite me having to twist arms to get the boys, especially Thing One, to do anything, even things he enjoys, we have to have the structure of at least a routine. I don't stick to a strict schedule but we do the same routine every day. Even weekends cause stress at our house, because Dad's home which changes the whole dynamic, and because we don't stick to our usual routine.

So I think we're going to take one more week off then get back into it. I've spent this whole week doing physical organization, and I need next week to do the mental organization and some prep. I know we're going to stick with workboxes. I'm going to set up three for Thing Two (he's been asking for them), and probably take away three from Thing One, leaving him nine. That's how many we actually get through on a normal day. I'm going to begin some more structured lessons instead of just working on a unit study/theme. We're going to start doing activities to go along with Story of the World Vol. 1 (the activity book is on the way). We've already listened to all of the CDs from vol. 1 in the car, while running errands, etc. and the boys love them. We're also going to start All About Spelling and Miquon Math.

I want to address our "problem time" during the day. We have been doing school only until lunchtime each day. So Thing Two's naptime, and then after Thing Two wakes up until dinner time is wide open. That's when I want a break, but Thing One still wants my undivided attention if he isn't allowed to play computer games, play Wii, or watch a video. I'm thinking I will set up some centers (probably aim for 10/month) and he will be allowed to choose one per day. They would almost be like "afternoon workboxes" but call them something different to interest him. He had centers in his preschool and liked them, and it will be a chance perhaps to explore an idea more in depth. Thing One likes to plan his own workboxes on Saturday so I may enlist his help on planning these. It may not work but it is worth a try.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Summer Swaps

We signed up for a great summer swap here a couple of months ago.

Last Sunday evening, in a frenzy that can only be brought on by a looming deadline, I finished packing up all the lovelies we had been collecting for our swap friends. Monday morning we made a beeline for the post office and sent them off.

Thing One received his package the same day. It was full of goodies from Iowa, sent from Toby. Mama loved their list of things and why they included them.
Thing One loved the geode, because he got to smash it with a hammer and see what was inside. We had just studied rocks and beginning geology the week before so that was great timing!
And the giant paperclip got tons of oohs and aahs!

There were so many other awesome things in this package: popcorn, a coloring book, a prairie sounds cd, a homemade bag full of homemade crayons shaped like cars, a state pencil, an Iowa flag, a drawing and family photos.

Daniel in Ohio sent Thing Two an awesome package as well! He received a (very professional looking) book All About Daniel, a handmade bead bracelet, and a handmade mini-feltboard with three bears and a tree inside.

We could tell he worked really hard on making such a cool book!

Thanks so much to both families, and to the host sites! We had a great time learning about new friends and places.

Bug Week

We're going on a bug hunt.
We're going to catch a big one.
What a beautiful day!
We're not scared!
Uh, oh, a creek. A cold, shady creek. We can't go over it, we can't go under it. Oh No, we have to go thru it! Splish, splash, splish, splash!

We're going on a bug hunt again tomorrow!
I gathered up all our shiny collage paper and glitter and we made shiny beetles.

We made coffee filter butterflies. We made these cool flowers with bugs that rotate around them.
We read:
In the Tall, Tall Grass by Fleming
Beetle Bop by Fleming
Bean Thirteen by McElligott
The Lion's Share by McElligott
Ant, Ant, Ant (An Insect Chant) by Sayre
Thelonius Monster's Sky-High Fly Pie by Sierra
Bird, Butterfly, Eel by Prosek
Bright Beetle by Chrustowski
Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum by Wheeler (BIG hit)
Bugs Are Insects by Rockwell (great introduction; my two year old asked me all week "is a cricket really an insect?")
Have You Seen Bugs? by Oppenheim
I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track by Prince (BIG hit)
DK Big Book of Bugs
A neat reference for adults is Play and Find Out about Bugs: Easy Experiments for Young Children by Janice VanCleave. It has some really neat, easy ideas.

We listened to:
Pete Seeger, Birds Beasts, Bugs and Fishes
Jane Murphy, Songs About Insects, Bugs and Squiggly Things
Bugs, Bugs, Bugs (Vol 3 of 8 theme based Music CDS)

We watched:
The Jeff Corwin Experience: Insects and Arachnids (We all loved this video. After some boring ones the last few weeks, this has reassured Thing One of the value of science videos. Just the right combination of scary and gross.)
DK Eyewitness DVD: Insect
A Bug's Life

We concentrated on what makes an insect an insect, and how they are useful in the big scheme of things. I told the boys that if they were kind to insects all week, they would earn a "Bug Buddy" certificate. I had Thing One tell me some ways that bugs are helpful in order to get his. When they got them on Friday, they were so proud! You can find your own here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Use it Up, Wear it Out, Make Do or Do Without

I've been doing without a lot lately.

I had to do without my laptop for a couple of days when the hard drive mysteriously died and it had to be repaired. (I suspect it was dropped but no one will admit it.) The stairs to the desktop upstairs never seemed so tall. I only got it last Christmas. I didn't realize I had become so addicted to its convenience. I've been doing without my night bejeweled blitz game and facebook and blogs.

I've been doing without ice cream. (OK, truth be told, I caved and bought some at the grocery store tonight. I'm weak!) I have gained back a few pounds and don't want to backslide too far. I need to tighten the belt, so to speak. The weight gain mysteriously coincides with the laptop acquisition.

I've been doing without the family car. My husband of 8 years just got his first driver's license. We're having to share the car, which is new. And it's often inconvenient for one of us. Luckily we live within easy walking distance of almost everything, and walking more helps with the weight gain. Unless I walk to the store to buy more ice cream.

I've been doing without television. We haven't had cable tv since we moved into this house five years ago. Since the digital switchover, despite having the magical box and an antenna, we get terrible reception. So we just haven't been watching television. We watch dvds. We keep visiting the idea of paying for cable, or satellite, or FIOS. But we keep coming back to the idea that we can do without just fine.

Since I became Mom, I have done without personal time or any semblance of privacy. (I get a hug from Thing Two every time I go to the toilet. Is that because he is getting praise for going potty?) I do without time alone with my husband.

About most things, I'm fine to do without, especially if it's only temporary. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. I don't mind when my husband travels for business, or the week my kids spend at their grandparents' house. I love food but I can give it up if need be. I can give up convenience and comfort. Part of me thinks deprivation builds character. Silent retreats. Fasting. Simple Living. Walden.

One of the most interesting experiments I've ever done was part of The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron: a week of reading deprivation. It was so ridiculously difficult for me. No reading books, magazines, newspapers, online, cereal boxes while you eat breakfast, pamphlets at the doctor's office waiting room, nothing. Only necessary reading for work/school and situations like menus was allowed. The idea was that you can spend that time and energy in creative pursuits, like thinking and planning and sketching your next art project, or actually working on it! It was excruciating. It did make me realize how much time I waste distracting myself with reading. I read to escape. I read to escape boredom, to avoid conversations I don't want to have with my spouse, to block out external sensory input that I want to ignore (like loud annoying kids, my own, by the way. I'm rereading this blog entry right now while I try to ignore their loudness). I read to procrastinate.

There are some things I cannot do without. Like my meds (you think I'm joking, don't you?). I've tried to go without them. I could make it work before I had kids. I could function. With all the stress and overstimulation that comes with small children, I can't do it. At least not yet. I really don't like being on meds. It makes me feel weak for needing help. It makes me feel dulled. It makes me feel like my essential me-ness is shrouded in a fog. But it enables me to function on a daily basis. It allows me to get out of bed, get myself together, deal with stubborn mule-brained boys all day, do the same boring thankless tasks I do to keep our household running again, and be mostly nice to people. I feel like the trade-off is that much of my creativity is shoved to the back burner for now. I guess that comes with parenting.

I've been doing without my family and alot of friends for way too long. We live 1000 miles away from them now. And I miss them. Some things, like television and ice cream, I don't mind doing without. But I don't like having to do without the people I love.

Wordless Wednesday

For more Wordless Wednesdays, click here.

Monday, August 3, 2009

My Quilting Space(s)

I've spent the last several months getting my sewing supplies and fabric stash organized. After setting up our homeschool classroom, we have a big chunk of our bedroom back because we moved the huge computer desk into the classroom.

My darling hubby installed some shelves in a hall closet that was drastically under-utilized. I organized all my fabric by color/style.
I have all my supplies sorted in bins in the closet in our bedroom where I sew.

I also have two bins of garment fabric, two big boxes of scraps, and my old (now emergency backup) sewing machine in this closet.

Here is my updated sewing space.
It has nice afternoon light, which is when I do most of my sewing these days. I have a small three drawer bin with thread and basic supplies on the sewing table. I may get another folding table and form a corner there so I don't have to move stuff on the sewing table to use my cutting board. It's not huge or fancy, but it's so important to me to have a devoted space so I can sit down and sew whenever I have a few minutes.

A Teaser

Here are the beginnings of my next baby quilt:

My only suggestions for color were "neutrals like light green." So I pulled all my light greens and some of my neutrals and got busy cutting.

Nothing says "baby quilt" to me like the pinwheel block. But this one has a fun twist! It's something I've never tried before. It involves those stacks of 2.5 inch squares up there. Stay tuned!