Sunday, August 30, 2009

The new look

This weekend, we made some changes around here, and MAN, do I feel old!

The first thing we did was go get M1 some new fall clothes. He'll need plenty more, but it's a small start.

He's decided he likes baggy pants, Airwalk shoes, and ... basically ... the skater look. He has no idea that it's even called the skater look, but he likes it. I usually let his hair grow over the winter, so this was likely his last haircut other than a trim till spring. It's going to be interesting to watch how this look changes. Mostly I'm just amused that my not-even-7-year-old boy is interested in fashion! So this is his new look.

M2 got her hair cut, too - very drastic change for her! She's excited, though. It was her idea. She had informed me that she was tired of me brushing out tangles and that she wanted short hair, so in we went. She marched up to the chair, sat down, gathered her hair up, informed my stylist, "I want it THIS short," and sat perfectly still for the whole thing. When the stylist asked me if I wanted to keep her bangs sideswept or cut straight across the front, I went to answer and was interrupted by a small voice in the chair.

"Across the front."

Right. You don't argue with that voice. And it did turn out cute. This is her new look.

And between the clothes, the hair, the massive quantities of food that my children consume on a daily basis, this is my husband's new look. Though, actually, this specific look was caused by me insisting that we needed a bench for our utility room that includes storage for the growing pile of shoes that seems to be breeding and otherwise multiplying out there. I can't stand the look of all those shoes sprawling all over the floor.

I suppose we all like certain looks, don't we?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Passiflora incarnata

Homeschooling is a funny thing. It happens when you least expect it.

It is a gorgeous evening here in my neck of the woods, and despite the fact that both kids are battling sinus infections and ragweed allergy season is really kicking off - which is why I punctuate every sentence with a sneeze these days - I wanted to make the most of it. So we all got outside and played. We played on the trampoline and we played catch, mostly, but then I talked M2 into asking Oz if we could go see the pond in the lawn mower. Really this means riding in the lawn mower trailer that we can hook up to the back, but the kids know what I mean.

So Oz hooked up the trailer, we all piled in - me, M1, M2, and the dog that wasn't about to be left behind if I was going anywhere - and off we went. I thought we'd just go down to the pond, but Oz took us clear to the back of the property.

As we made the U-turn to come back, Oz spotted a plant. A familiar-looking plant, to him. Then he saw another one, and he stopped.

"That looks JUST like a passionfruit flower," he announced, climbing off the mower to pick one.

"And these look like unripe passionfruit!"

So we hauled it all back to the house to research.

Turns out it is, indeed, a form of passionflower, native to the region, a species called Passiflora incarnata. It is quite beautiful and, when the fruit turns yellow and gets ripe, is also edible!
The seeds and nectar are the part that are edible, though there are accounts of the whole thing being boiled into a syrup. The plant also has medicinal value and attracts butterflies and their larvae.

Crazy how you can live in a region for years and still feel like you've never learned a darned thing, isn't it?

Passiflora incarnata. And now I'll never forget.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Photojournalism through the eyes of a 6-year-old

As part of our science study this year, we're doing the most important thing - getting outside and STUDYING SCIENCE!

Each week, M1 does a bit of science journaling. Usually it involves taking colored pencils outside and drawing a bit of what he observes and telling me about it when he comes back in. Sometimes I write down his observations, sometimes not. This week, I had a new idea - I gave him the digital camera, set it to shoot macros, showed him how to shoot really close, and let him loose in the back yard.

He had a lot of fun.

I did ask him to specifically try to find some arthropods, since that's what we're studying this week. He found:

A cicada shell

A grasshopper on a green bean plant

A red ant on an okra leaf (eating hummingbird nectar that had dripped out of the feeder)

Then he got adventurous and started taking photos of other stuff:

The crape myrtle that he loves to climb

Sunshine! He adores this photo...

And one of our bell peppers.

I think the photo journal might be a regular occurrence on the blog. It's just too much fun for both of us!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Decisions, decisions

There has been a lot of decision-making going on around here lately. Like what to do with 22 pounds of tomatoes that were sitting in my fridge (they got turned into sauce and frozen) or what to do for vacation this fall (still up in the air, though a trip to Alabaster Caverns State Park, a trip to Branson/Silver Dollar City, and a couple of smaller day trips are all in the running).

Decisions have also been made regarding the kittens. Remember the four kittens that were found under our house? They all have homes now. One of them went to my friend M's house, where her two boys and toddler girl are probably loving it to death. It got named Snuggles, because that particular kitty was indeed very, very snuggly.

Another kitten went to my mother-in-law's house. She didn't neeeeed another cat, but who does? Cats aren't something that you base on need. You simply base it on the ability to clean out another litter box and provide enough food and scratching materials. Its name is, tentatively, Loki.

Then there are the final two kittens. Oz had resigned himself, after the first day or two of having them in the house, to the fact that we'd probably wind up with another kitten. M1 and M2 cried every time the idea of giving them all away was brought up. The point of conflict was that M1 really really wanted one kitty, and Oz had fallen head over heels in love with another (odd, odd thing to see, let me assure you). So I told Oz he was going to have to have it out with his son about which kitty they were keeping...

to which Oz replied, "Let's just keep both!"

I looked at him like snakes were crawling out of his ears and seriously began to question his sanity. This is the man who had told me for about two years now that we have a 'revolving cat door' policy regarding more felines - if one comes in, another has to go out. And he was willing to let us keep TWO??

But when he called the kids in and handed them each a kitten and said, "Here... these are your special kitties," it was my job to shut up, remind him that he'll regret this at Christmastime when the kittens are six months old and there's a shiny tree standing in the corner of the living room that somehow can't manage to stay vertical for more than 20 minutes at a time, and move on.

So let me introduce the newest members of the family:

This is Vixen. Tempest (my only other girl cat who, ironically, is also a gray tabby) still hasn't decided whether to hate her or teach her how to be a proper matriarch. Vixen likes food and has HUGE kittypaws. This is the cat that Oz has fallen hard over, and even he says that her paws are lionesque. She is a sweet girl, though she's got an evil streak. Don't all cats?

She'll be a good cat, though. Really. Even if I will have fur wads all over my carpet from now till kingdom come.

This is Lucifer. He's evil. I now understand why cats are called CATs. CAT is an acronym for Claws And Teeth, and he fits that bill 100%. He is constantly chewing, climbing, and messing with everything. I have claw marks in my knee right now from when he decided he neeeeeded some tuna out of the salad I was fixing for supper. He's also a techno-cat. He likes to type IM messages... and send them..., turn the cordless phones on and off, chew phones/cords, and otherwise mess with technology. For those of you who understand the lolcat world, this is Basement Cat.

I seriously took about 12 photos of Lucifer while trying to get a good snapshot for this blog, and he looked equally batshit crazy in all of them. There's no helping this one. Even though his sister's back there trying to beat some sense into him.

The bathroom is also completed, having made every possible decision I could about this room, up to and including the paint color.

I'm going to shut up now and simply let the pictures tell the story. I couldn't be happier with how it turned out.

Hopefully all this means I'm done with the big decisions for a while.

Time to go finish making a lemon meringue pie.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

OK, so I like powwows...

Well, it's been a few days. Time for a quick update, and then I'll get on with it.

This isn't anything gross, I promise. It's actually M1's latest history project - making scented oil. We started with olive oil and added cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and nutmeg. He's been shaking it a few times a day for about three days now, and if you open the jar, it smells good! I'll strain it out tomorrow. Not sure where we'll go from there, but maybe apples will be involved lol. Apparently scented oils like this (though I'm sure the spices were different) were used in mummification and even as perfume in ancient Egypt. Fun times.

This is today's take from the garden. As you can probably see, the okra is still doing very, very well. The plants are actually taller than I am... and still growing! The green beans had slowed down during the heat but are bouncing back with new flowers now. The bell peppers are also doing well, and the tomatoes have had some bug damage but are still slowly producing.

I need to get in there and chop the basil back again, but I haven't been able to find pine nuts in bulk to make enough pesto to freeze for over-winter use. That's my next preserving project, though. This last week I blanched and froze two pounds of green beans. Yum!

Moving on... today, the kids and their friends J and F (and their mom, M) and I went to a powwow hosted by theIntertribal Indian Club of Tulsa. We got there just in time for the Grand Entry. It was beautiful. It was led by a dancer carrying an eagle staff.

He was followed by all the competing dancers of all ages.

The kids were actually fascinated and kept asking questions through the whole thing, although if you asked the boys later, they'd tell you it was "boring." M2, on the other hand, had a whole slew of questions of her own, like, "Mom, do Native Americans have birthdays?" She is absolutely fascinated by the idea of Native American culture (bearing in mind that around here, they still call themselves Indians). She wants to be Indian with all her 4-year-old soul. I keep looking!

Moving on...

this man followed the one carrying the eagle staff.

There was also a "tiny tots" category, and I have never seen cuter kids in all my life. The boys, especially, got into it. There were a few of them who are definitely champions in the making!

Mostly, I loved these moccasins. How neat are they?? Looking at the costumes, I have to wonder if there is a requirement as to how much of the costume has to be handmade. There was a lot of improvisation going on with some of them - I saw CDs with beads glued on and wooden thread spools used to hold feathers up on the headdresses. It was really neat to see how they were all put together, and you'd never have guessed from looking at the whole outfit at once. They were all gorgeous.

One of my favorites.

I'm hoping to find another one or two to attend during the fall. M2 got herself a small bracelet and M1 found himself a dreamcatcher (he's a bit of a mystic lover). It was a good day!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why I do what I do

Someone posted on a forum that I participate in that they were looking for reasons to continue homeschooling and asked others to please list the reasons that they homeschooled.

Of course, there were many people who have homeschooled from day 1 who have a long list of reasons that schools themselves are evil. I don't think they are, but my son doesn't 'fit' at a school very well, and I love having the opportunity to be able to homeschool. If it doesn't work out, he can always go back, and we'll work around his issues as they arise.

There were also people who had a good list of reasons such as flexible scheduling, saving money, etc. Very, very valid reasons to homeschool were included in these lists, and I'd copy and paste them here if it wouldn't turn this post into a novelette as opposed to a short story.

Very few people mentioned the reasons that I am homeschooling M1. They are out there, I'm sure, but either they have homeschooled from the beginning and never ran into the same issues I have or they just aren't as vocal because they are aware that folks like us are in the minority. Then again, kids like M1 are in the minority, too.

I have mentioned some of these reasons before, so just smack me if I start repeating myself too often. However, without further adieu, I present to you my reasons for homeschooling:

1. I refuse to have my son labeled.
He is a very smart kid and learns quickly, but he has some issues. I could have kept him at the private school he was at, but even there, the teachers and administration were at their wits' end as to how to handle him. He gets disruptive when he's bored. By homeschooling, I'm able to move to the next subject as soon as he finishes one. He loves this. He doesn't do timed tests well at all because he spends so much time worrying about how much time is left that he forgets about the test. Every time I would go in to have a conference with the teacher, she'd tell me that he scored X on a reading test but she actually knew he was at Y level. She also would occasionally send me notes or e-mails asking what to do about a new tic or problem he had developed, like I should be able to tell her how to 'fix' it. Teachers do talk about students like these, and in time, he would have been labeled the special kid. If I had sent him to a public school, or even if I'd continued at the private one, I'd probably have had to set up an IEP, especially regarding handwriting which, by the end of his kindergarten year, was still completely illegible. By bringing him home, I can work with him. I don't need to time anything as long as I can see that he is progressing. I don't have to worry about his tics because they're not bothering anyone. If he knocks over an entire case of blocks, nobody is going to call him clumsy. This brings me to point #2.

2. I refuse to let him be bullied.

He's big for his age, so he often wants to play with the older kids, but they usually reject him after a day or two as 'too weird' and move on. When he plays with kids his age, he can have a hard time toning down the roughness factor and sometimes winds up hurting someone, which he hates doing but can't always control. The girls in his class picked on him because he wasn't able to control himself during class, usually making noises or banging things, which is something that will get better with age but not at the same rate as his peers. He internalizes a lot of things as part of his issues, not realizing that an adult might be able to help, and so I'd often never hear about these incidents until months after they happened. Now that he's home, he loves not having to worry about what anyone is going to do to him or say to him.

3. I refuse to make him spend an entire day in a chair.
He is wiggly. He NEEDS to be able to get up and move. Some educators would argue with me and say that he NEEDS to be able to learn to sit still and work for long periods of time, but that's not true. Sure, if he intends to go to college, he'll have to be able to sit through a lecture and take notes and work, but that's still about 12 years away, and then, for all I know, he'll be training for a job in a field where he can be out working 95% of the time! Not to mention the fact that he can plan classes with large breaks in between. He doesn't need to achieve perfect behavior at the first-grade level, or the second, or the third. He can't do it without going crazy, and I love that I don't have to make him. He rejected a project I had planned for him yesterday because it involved sitting still. Instead, he took the pharaoh's crown that we'd made last week, decorated it, cut out a false beard, taped it to his chin, and pretended to be pharaoh. Not a teacher in the public or private school world could let their entire class just make a project as they pleased, being up and running around while they do it.

4. I don't like medicating him.

Last year, I medicated him. I felt I had to because not only was he considered disruptive in a school setting, he would explode when he got home. I figured out at some point during the year that his explosions were all due to the release of anxiety. I took him off the medication at the end of June, just to see how things would go, and as long as I keep his stress and anxiety level low, he acts like any other very active 6-year-old boy. It's only when he gets worked up that things start to go awry. Timeouts are still a perfect solution for him, especially if I can send him outside where he has lots of space to run off the energy. He was given 'hidey holes' in his kindergarten classroom, but they were small, and he still had to be quiet so that he wasn't disturbing the students who were still working. That doesn't fly for him.

5. I do not believe schools can teach exactly to how my child learns.

My son is very hands-on/visual, as I think most boys tend to be. Teachers, especially as the kids get older, have a hard time tailoring learning to kinesthetic learners. Homeschooling lets me teach the way he learns and, if he isn't getting a concept, I can stop, back up, or change the teaching strategy as needed.
It's very nice to have this opportunity.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The last day

The contractor finished his part of the bathroom today. There's still work to be done - painting the walls/trim, staining the closet door, and reinstalling the medicine cabinet (now painted bone to match the rest of the bathroom), but for the most part, it's finished.

Just for kicks, let's take a look at the before and after, shall we?





I'm thinking I like this bathroom now. Final pictures will be posted as soon as it's all done!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bribery - it's a way of life

So here's the kitty update. One way or the other, we have a home for all of them! My mother-in-law is also going to take one. She said she wanted a male with white paws; as far as I can tell right now, we have only one that fits that description, so that's who she gets. She's going to name him Chance, because it was Chance that caused me to hear the kitten cries from underneath my house and be able to get them all out safely. I'm taking them all to the vet tomorrow to make sure they're healthy, which I believe they are other than maybe a little bit of eye gunk, and then they'll be ready for new homes.

Two of them might go with my friend M. She just needs to make sure that her daughter's not actually allergic to kitties before she keeps them. If she doesn't wind up keeping them, another friend's father will take them for well-kept barn cats - he feeds them and closes them in the barn at night, but they will be barn cats. Given the alternative these babies had of turning feral... I'll let them be barn cats!

The hardest part is going to be deciding which one we keep. My kids begged, cried, and otherwise worked hard on Daddy until he agreed to let us keep one. But just one. And only one. And man, it's hard to pick!! All four of them (well, three since I've promised my MIL one) have absolutely great attributes and reasons to keep them.

The girl is just as snuggly as anything you've ever met. She's the kind that loves to stick her nose in your nose, sit on your chest, and have a nap attack instantly.

(This is M2 snuggling with Chance.)

Even Oz is smitten. He really loves the most fluffy cat who is, admittedly, the most adorable, but Oz has a hard time getting past the fluff. The fact that we walk on Pepe's fur wads on a daily basis makes this understandable.

Then there's the all-black spitfire/climber. He's a busy little beaver, and he's M1's favorite. He's got shorter fur than the rest of them, though he still has at least a little bit of an undercoat. M1 has named him Set, after the Egyptian god that we started studying today, and would just love love LOVE to keep him.

Mommy's going to take some bribery. That girl and the fluffernutter have me smitten.

The vanity and countertop got tentatively placed today. There are going to have to be a few minor changes to the bathroom to get this set in, but it'll get done tomorrow. This counter is larger than our old one, but apparently it's almost impossible to get a smaller one these days. And it does look nice. The only down side is that we're unable to center it underneath the medicine cabinet at this point. Not ideal, but it'll still look better than it used to!

Here's a rough overview of the bathroom at the moment. Most of it is done; the contractor thinks he'll have just about everything done by the end of tomorrow! Floor trim, door trim, recessed toilet paper holder, the cabinet over the toilet, finish up the vanity/countertop, hang the shower rod, and voila! OK, not voila, but close. It'll be so, so close! I can't wait to get the shower curtain, bath mat, and other stuff in...

... and to be able to take a shower!!! This is actually functional at this point; we're just waiting on the grout to be sealed.

*sigh of happiness* It'll be so nice to have it done, and even nicer to be able to invite people over and not be ashamed of the bathroom!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The trifecta - a long post about a crazy day

Today was a crazy, weird sort of day. After all the drama of yesterday (none mine, but exposure = fatigue), I had been hoping for a nice, relaxed sort of day.

HA! I should know better. It wasn't a bad day, just crazy and weird.

It started out very pleasantly. M1 and I got done very quickly with most of his schoolwork, and his science 'assignment' was to start a science journal today. Without a working loo, he and I headed to a nearby park where I knew they let some of the grass grow a little crazy... and I let the boy go nuts.

He had a lot of fun. At one point, another nature-lover pointed out a bald eagle soaring over the nearby river, and he spent quite a bit of time watching it. Did he put it in the journal? Nope, but that's okay. He still had a blast and can't wait to go back.

Once the contractor left today, I got to see my new floor... and new toilet... and if you look carefully on the right, you can see the new door hardware that we've added. I really, really like the floor. That was actually one of my biggest worries - that the floor would go in, and it wouldn't look good with everything else we'd purchased. I shouldn't have worried. It's great!

So... then... at about 3:45 this afternoon... I heard a mewing.

Not a loud mewing.

Just... mewing.

Kitten mewing.
And it was coming from under my house.

So, being me (and not really wanting things to die underneath the house and really not wanting to hear Oz whine about having to rescue cats), I went and took a peek.

And these are what I pulled out.

They're probably 5-6 weeks old. They are active, cute, flea-free(!), and clearly - especially this last one - love food. They're kittypiled in the dog cage tonight.
And now you're updated on my weird, crazy day.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Just a daily update :)

If you look over in the left-hand column of this blog, you'll see a list of the curricula that I'm using this year. In that list is a book for history called "Story of the World." You can also purchase an activity guide to go with it. I'm in love with that guide. It contains ideas for supplemental reading, crafts, maps, coloring pages, games, recipes, etc., etc., etc. *I* think the book is just about the bomb-diggity.

Today, for history, we reviewed Chapter 1, which covered nomads and early farmers, and made a craft - a cave painting! M1 had checked a book out of the library about prehistoric rock art, so he considered himself well-versed in this process, especially the colors used. He loved that a lot of them painted bison in their creations, so that's what he did.

There's his bison, complete with a hunter (the shape up at the top) wielding a bow and arrow to hunt his prey. Note the use of browns and blacks and brown mixed with orange because "that's what they had back then, Mom."

I'm so glad he's enjoying learning at home. Tomorrow is science journal day - his first one - so I can't wait to see what he discovers! I won't be able to do it at home like I had planned since we'll be toilet-less for most of the day, but that's all right... maybe we'll head down to Riverside or out to a park and see what's to be seen!

Time for the bathroom update! The rest of the tub tile got put in today - grout to be done tomorrow, I imagine - as well as the subfloor laid and trim put in around the window. The floor tile is supposed to be laid tomorrow (which is why we'll be toilet-less), so that'll be the true test of what the room is going to look like. Fingers crossed... though, as Oz and other people have told me, it can't look any worse than it used to!