Saturday, October 31, 2009

my insanely crazy week

This week has been absolutely nuts! My back and my feet are so glad it's over.

I lie... sort of... the whole week hasn't been nuts. It was just enough crazy to make it feel like the whole week was a sort of time bomb. The whole culmination was Friday.

Friday, the Day of Three Parties.

Party #1: The Preschool Party

M2's school party was Friday morning. As Homeroom Mom, I'm in charge of crafts. That means I have to come up with ideas, resources, and application of an age-appropriate (and skill-appropriate) craft for 19 3- and 4-year-olds. In this case, I decided - with the help of Google - to get some 20-oz. or 1-liter bottles and some orange paint and some of the foam sticker sheets and make bottle pumpkins where the kids shook the orange paint in each bottle and stuck on pumpkin faces. Now... sounds simple enough, right? Right. But me being me, I couldn't stop there. Nooooooooooo.... that'd be far too easy. So I painted the lids of each bottle green. And I had to cut out the eyes and noses and mouths for the kids to stick on, and of course they all had to be a little bit different. And then the lead preschool teacher found a foam pumpkin kit that I decided should be customized with each kid's name (in black glitter glue - more about that later) and turned into necklaces (which means I had to punch out holes and cut strings).

Then and only then was I finally ready for the party.

We did have fun, though.

The assistant teacher is a hoot. She's truly a riot, and the kids love her as much as I do. I'm seriously going to miss both preschool teachers next year when my kids age out. I've had one kid or another in that preschool for three years now!

This is M1 with a girl from M2's class. They get along very, very well. He and that little girl played the entire time, and when I swiped my kids for Party #2, she stood at the edge of the playground and hollered bye to him over and over and over till he had to shut the van door.
Here's another shot of that cute little girl. She's got a sweet personality. M2 likes her just as much as M1.

The owner of the farm we were visiting (which belonged to the family of a classmate) kept trying to make a scarecrow. The kids kept trying to spread the hay as far and wide as possible.

Mom and her baby. The baby is the first girl for the family and is just a doll. She hung out in that sling the whole time just contented as a clam! The lead teacher and the farm owner are chatting in the background.

The resident kid. With the teacher. It is actually a full-grown goat named Precious, and at one point she nibbled the assistant teacher's leg. She just thought it was a student tugging on her pants!

This wee girl riding on a miniature horse was one of the ones who 'adopted' me. It's so darn cute when preschool kids adopt you until you realize that there are three of them waiting for space on your lap and you've only got two legs!
So that party was what I would call a success. Then it was a quick trip home for lunch and a rest for the kids before heading to

Party #2: The Homeschool Party

Our homeschool group meets from 1-3 every Friday at a local community center. It's a bit of a drive for me, from my side of town, but I try to make it as often as I can because M1 really enjoys it. The Halloween party was the biggest event with the group that we've made it to so far, and we participated in a card swap... which meant making approximately 40 cards for 40 kids who attended. MAN, was it crowded.

But, again, it was fun!
Some of the moms dressed up, too, though I wasn't creative enough to come up with something in time.

Even the punch was creative! Gotta love those ice cube hands.

The kids had a costume parade. Later on, they played some games, but M2 took a nasty slip-and-fall right on that hard linoleum floor right before the games started, so we headed out early. It was tragic, and she's got a lovely bruise right beside her left eye, but she'll be all right. Look at those costumes!

After the kids and I got home, I hung out for a little bit and then headed out again for

Party #3: Girls' Night Out!

This was a wine "tasting" event where we were supposed to bring a bottle of wine that described our personality.
This is what I found. It used to hold a German Riesling, but soon I hope it'll hold some flavored oil! It also comes in green and blue, and I may have to go get those. I thought it immensely appropriate for several reasons: One, because it's a cat; two, because it was a German wine; and three, it was a rather small bottle and I'm not much of a wine drinker! It was a good wine, though, and one of the first bottles that was completely emptied.

I was the designated driver for one of the girls in the evening, though, and she got me a giftie:
Ain't it cute?

I'd share what happened at the wine party, but that'd be just wrong. Suffice it to say, I didn't get home till almost 3 a.m.

Trick-or-treating and Halloween photos to come later! Can you believe it's already November??

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pumpkin time!

Because it's a week till Halloween...

And because the kids and I went to that very special pumpkin patch to get our very special pumpkins...

We carved them up today! M1 wasn't feeling well (that's his mug of peppermint tea in front of him), so we didn't get to be as creative as normal, but we still had fun.

I'll prove it.

Happy Early Halloween!!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Let the season begin!

Party season, that is... Halloween parties, holiday parties - lots and lots of parties!

This year, I took Dracula and a "Spanish princess" to the party with me. Yes, Drac is usually a redhead, but he insisted on getting his hair dyed this year. He really enjoyed it till he realized he had to wait for it to dry! He also loved having his face painted except for getting the 'blood' on his lips.

The reaction?

"MOM, lipstick feels GROSS!"

My princess, on the other hand, loved all the make-up. Since it was the first time she's ever had permission to wear Mama's make-up, she kept asking if it was really okay for her to wear it. I look at her in make-up, though, and finally understand why people say she looks like me. She does! Her smile in that photo is almost like my mother's.. I'll have to post some generational photos sometime because my mother looks remarkably like her grandmother, too.

Moving swiftly on from that particularly frightening line of thought...

S was our party hostess. Because I realized the other day that I need better nicknames rather than just initials for my friends, I shall now refer to this friend as Nan, mostly because she used to work as a nanny before she got her current job. Nan is a fantastic hostess. I should have taken pictures of the food, but there was hummus (dyed green) with veggies, 'mummy' pizzas (olives for eyes surrounded by split-up string cheese baked on English muffins), baked biscuit dough 'fingers' (olives for fingernails), meringue cookie 'bones,' crockpot cider, etc. Did I mention she's vegetarian? My friend B (who shall now be Shelley... as in Mary Shelley of Frankenstein fame... because she has a twisted enough and creative enough mind to come up with something like that herself) brought some cream cheese pumpkin dip and apples, and another mutual friend of ours brought a chocolate cake.

The kids played in Nan's daughter's room, which is a fairy princess dream come true. That thing that "Dorothy" (Nan's daughter) is sitting on is a SLIDE that comes down off the BED. Underneath the bed is a playhouse, and the whole thing is shaped like a castle. It's beyond gorgeous.

Nan also came up with a craft for the kids, letting them decorate picture frames with Halloween decor. When the glue didn't work out so well, she broke out the hot glue gun to make sure their frames were masterpieces that they'll really enjoy for a long time to come.

I think even Oz was bitten by the party bug and had a good time.

And yes... the dye did come out of M1's hair. Which is good. Now we get to do it all again in a week!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fun with Math and Science

So now that we're a couple months into this homeschooling bit, I've learned a few things. They may sound simplistic, but sometimes the simple truths are the hardest to learn. I'm learning that the hard way, too. ;)

1. No matter how good the curriculum is, you're going to have to supplement with something.

2. Necessity is the mother of invention.

3. When the kid gets excited, you know you've hit it right.

All that being said, M1 was having a hard time with learning addition. He had the basics, knew what he was doing, but c'mon... memorizing facts is boring. Every kid knows that. I don't know a person in the world who thinks sitting around saying "2+3=5" over... and over... and over... is fun.

I know there are a ton of math games out there, but it's tough for me to know which one is going to be fun for MY kid (and what might be fun for M1 might be totally dull for M2, if and when she comes home), so... see #2 above.

So, when I came to the knowledge that something other than flash cards and repetition were needed to help M1 master his addition facts, I did what every good mom does. I improvised!

First, I broke out the timer. Five minutes is a good time for a 7-year-old with ADHD, right? OK, OK, I admit, there are times we play 2-minute rounds.

Next, I got out the 10-sided dice. Two of them. Yes, I had these on hand, but you can purchase them in learning stores or... well... at gaming stores. My mother-in-law actually had donated a couple of sets of dice to me a few years back, and I'm kind of a pack rat like that, so I still had them. Yes, that is the truth. I swear! ;)

Roll the dice...

Add the numbers up....

And have the adult put the sum on something so it can be visualized.
The goal? We're starting out with getting the totals to reach 100 in five minutes. It's possible! He's done it! As he gets faster, I'll up the ante and have him aim for 200. He's gotten close already, 170-something the other day. If he misses an answer, he has to stop and repeat the problem with the correct answer (so if he says 7+4=10, he has to stop and repeat after me that 7+4=11). Losing the time in repeating can be a big penalty, and it's also a great motivator for him to work on his flash cards so he can get faster.

He also had been getting bored with science. OK, not bored with the lessons, per se, since he likes the stuff, but it isn't very in-depth for him. The lessons are great, and he's learning, but there's not a lot of repetition and the lessons are simple enough that we are able to complete the reading and all the labs in an hour or so. Hm. This made me think about supplementation. I asked some women on a classical education forum what they suggested, and they led me to the site The life science curriculum is free to download, and HOLY COW. I've never seen M1 so excited about doing worksheets. He learned definitions, giggled at the humor, and was so happy! Just doing the reading and the worksheets took him about 45 minutes, which means we're saving the two labs (two or so for each lesson) for other days. He's even requesting the curriculum on days when we don't usually have science scheduled. He reads science books all the time and requests labs and experiments, but usually they're not from the curriculum. So yay!

I finally feel like I'm getting to the point where he really likes everything we're doing, and I also feel like it's enough for him. I'd read once that it takes a year to really figure out what a kid needs in terms of being taught, and I think that's just about right. I'm sure there will be more revelations in the future, but at the moment, I'm sure happy with math and science!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

If You Give a Kid a Camera...

If you give a kid a camera, he will want to take pictures of the family...

And when he takes a picture of the family, he will want to take pictures of the animals...

And once he takes a picture of the animals, he'll expand his horizons to anything and everything...

And after you go through and edit the 75 pictures taken in the past 24 hours, you'll wonder why you gave the kid a camera.

Oh, right... he bought it himself with his birthday money.

Man, am I screwed.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fossils, fossils everywhere

Science reigns supreme around here. No matter what I do, we always wind up "doing science" in a big way. Big changes for a Mama who avoided science classes like the Black Plague as soon as they were no longer required. Luckily, first grade life science is a lot of fun most of the time. I say that now. I'm sure I'll eat those words later this year.

I'm also part of a great group called Tulsa Area Homeschoolers. Our fearless leader, Cheryl, is always up to stuff.

A couple of months ago, she contacted her old geology professor and asked if he'd be willing to do a fossil tour for a bunch of homeschooled kids and their parents. That sweet, sweet man was kind enough to say yes. We met up at a park that overlooks the river and that has plenty of rock formation sticking up everywhere. The kids were actually climbing on the remnants of a small landslide as we waited for the professor to arrive.

Just for the record, watching my totally non-athletic just-turned-7-year-old son climbing high up on the rocks and perching precariously on the ledge is nearly enough to give me a heart attack. It was definitely enough to make me calculate the distance to the nearest hospital versus the ETA of an ambulance if I wound up dialing 911. He managed to make it down, though, and the prof gave us a brief overview of the history of the land (who knew the land used to be hanging out around the equator?) before leading us down the highway to our fossil-finding site.

The site was full of more sheer rocks - this time made of shale rather than limestone (be still, my quaking heart... there were kids sliding downhill toward the highway left and right) - and definitely a haven for fossils.

The most abundant fossils were crinoids. They were everywhere, and most of them were pretty small. The 'big' one you see here is probably only 3/4" long.

The prof informed me that these fragments are actually fossilized ancient clam shells that had very thin skin and are hardly ever found whole.

Rare fossils were not on the list on this excursion.

This is the fossil of a brachiopod. You can see where the two shells would have been hinged together. This is the biggest fossil we managed to find.

However, after finding those and numerous other fossils, would you like to know what excited M1 the most?

Not the crinoids or the clam shells or the brachiopods...
Not even the hundreds of fresh snail shells that also dotted the land which we were searching...

It was the 3"-long snakeskin.

If I had ever, even for a second, imagined that he might one day be a famous paleontologist, I do believe that thought just flew out the window. Fossils are cool, but snakes are better. He was only upset that he couldn't find the skin's original owner.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It's a good thing we're friends...

Before we get started here, I should provide a little bit of background.

I have a big mouth.

It should really stay shut more often... but I just can't help myself.

So when I said, almost two years ago, that I thought I was a difficult person to prank, that would have been one of those moments where I should have kept my mouth shut.

Because my friends pranked me.

It was pretty benign... a simple string of expired, semi-dried-out Peeps hung over a car on my birthday. But I promised revenge. There are four of us involved, and as time has gone on, the pranks have gotten... well... special. We only do this at birthdays, so we do know when - roughly - to expect it, but we do go for the conniving and somewhat evil.

My friend B's birthday was last week. She made the mistake of going out of town. I may have hunted down her mother's phone number, because I knew who would be pet-sitting while B and her family were out of town.

She doesn't really enjoy road trips anyway.

I really doubt she'll ever go out of town again.

We were at least polite enough to warn her what she should expect when she stepped inside.

Things like cupcakes rolled in excessive amounts of $4 sprinkles. We do this because B adores sprinkles. See the can of Betty Crocker frosting in the background? Yeah... that's because B is also allergic to Earth. The only brand of cake mix/frosting that she can eat without risk of anaphylactic shock from nut exposure is Betty Crocker. My friend C, the one doing the decorating here, does not use canned frosting.

The fact that she did this... that's love.

After the cupcakes got stuck in the fridge, we got down to business.
M2 and our friend S's daughter were a little appalled at the whole idea of grown-up shenanigans at first, but they quickly got into the spirit of things. M1 really loved it all. I am probably a bad influence on my children.

There's my friend S. She's a darling and really doesn't have an evil bone in her body. C and B and I drag her into this. We like to play mental games with her. She might not be evil, but the rest of us are!!!

There's the kitchen post-bubble wrap.

And the den...

We seriously bubble-wrapped most of the house. Since B is allergic to most of Earth, we constantly tease her about needing to be a bubble person. We do what we can to help.
We did leave her a note... and a card... and sprinkles galore...

After we did that... well... we may have descended very close to the realm of vandalism.

That's a fake penguin. B has two of them that usually sit in her front yard. They are now named Bubbles and Sprinkles, and we made sure they were appropriately dressed for the occasion.

Now... just so you know... C's birthday is next. And it's a big one.

She should be afraid.

Very, very afraid.