Friday, November 30, 2007

park outing

We had a beautiful late-autumn day for our Friday Excursion to our favorite park today, with our merry little band of homeschooling friends. I'm grateful for every nice day we can get at this point, as it's not out of the norm to have accumulating snow in November. I appreciate the large snowfalls holding off until after we actually end our Autumn Semester, which was today! What a great way to end a fabulous first "official" semester of homeschooling!

Zoo Boy does some pretend farm chores. He has a whole routine where he pretends to be feeding and caring for the various farmyard animals in the barn. Everyone else had wandered off to the pasture to see the cows, but he said he needed to stay behind to finish his work. Little does he know that he's in training for his future....

My boys check out the Pumpkin Cannon. We just today found out what it was, thanks to the Grounds Crew being hard at work cleaning up leaves before the snows hit. We're still not entirely sure how it's operated, but that didn't stop the boys from gleefully shooting off invisible pumpkins to parts unknown.

We all enjoyed looking at the various dried flower stalks and seed pod heads in the herb/butterfly garden. One of the boys in our group used one of the seed heads as a wand to grant us magic thoughts. One of the Mom's magic thoughts was about a lot of snow. I guess we're all preparing ourselves for winter's icy hand!

Inside the Nature Center, my guys did a bunch of pretend play with puppets. Playing for an hour or two inside the Nature Center is always the highlight of my kids' visit to this park.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

the old gray goose

While I was working in the kitchen yesterday morning, baking the rest of the leftover turkey into pastry pouches so I could toss them in the freezer and have a dozen ready-meals for the coming winter, the kids were busy playing. They started in the living room, turning all of their stuffed animals and puppets into Pokemon (Pokemons? Pokemen? Pokemi?) with varying powers. ("This is Junior! He's a Companion Bird Pokemon! His power is pecking! His defense is flight!" "This is Killer Ground Hog! He's a Ground Hog Pokemon! His power is Killing!", etc) The game eventually drifted down the hall to the bedrooms, and for awhile I lost track of the story line.

Eventually they both came running back down the hall. Still playing, Zoo Boy said "Uh oh. Who's going to tell Aunt Rhoadie?" They debated for a moment then Zoo Boy said "Ok, I'll do it." Pause. "Aunt Rhoadie?" "Yes?" answered J in his best old-woman voice. "The old gray goose is dead," said Zoo Boy, with a very matter-of-fact tone. "Oh dear, that's just too unbearable," replied Aunt Rhoadie-J. J then picked up his harmonica (pictured here) and played a very mournful version of "Go Tell Aunt Rhoadie".

Here's a photo of the instruction booklet that J has been using this week to teach himself how to play the Harmonica. He's got quite a repertoire going, including, as you may have guessed, "Go Tell Aunt Rhoadie".

I suppose I could just leave the story at that, with a touching tribute to an imaginary dead goose. But lest you think that I'm managing to raise sensitive, thoughtful boys, I feel I need to tell the rest of the story....

After an appropriately respectful moment of silence when the song ended, Zoo Boy said "Well, it's dead. Let's go see what else we can kill!" And the boys ran gleefully down the hall. So much for sensitivity!

tagged! 7 random facts about me

My friend JamBerry tagged me for a meme. But I'm not linking to her blog, because it's private and most of you won't be able to get in anyway! Here's the meme rules:

1) Link to the person that tagged you, and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

This fits in pretty well with my I-can't-think-of-much-to-blog-about theme lately, so here's 7 things about me that you probably could have done just as well not knowing:

1. I love filling out surveys. I'm sort of a survey-aholic. I'm not sure why, except that I really like to share things about myself, even if it's filling out bubbles on pre-designed consumer studies. Like "Ooh! Missy Numbercounter from the National Bureau of Random Facts wants to know how many bottles of shampoo I use in a year! Yes, I must share!!"

2. Speaking of odd things I really love, funerals is another one. Of course, I don't love the REASON necessitating a funeral, but I love hearing all about the life and times of the loved one, sharing memories with family and friends, and the camaraderie and support of being with others who loved the same person. It's all about the love! And that love doesn't quit when the person's body does. Feeling that person all around me is what makes funerals a really special event for me.

3. That said, however, I've been to one funeral that was just awful. Not that the ceremony itself was bad. I just had trouble accepting the death of this particular person. Jim was a former supervisor of mine, who had left the state's Wildlife Biology division to become a Conservation Officer shortly after I left that job. He and I had a unique relationship -- we shared an office, and nagged each other constantly. The bickering was nearly constant, and extremely amusing both for us and anyone within earshot, but anyone could tell it all came from a place of really caring for each other. He called me the nagging wife he never had, I called him the bratty child I never wanted. Jim was shot and killed by a hunter (who was hunting illegally after dark) while on duty, 9 years ago last week. I hadn't seen him in several years and felt extremely guilty about not staying in touch. The combination of guilt and mourning and general shock left me a mess for weeks. I sobbed through the extremely enormous State funeral, and the graveside ceremony afterwards, and pretty much continually for several weeks. I haven't hunted since.

4. Speaking of that, and trying to lighten the mood a bit, I worked for the State's Wildlife Division on and off for several years, after which I went into the Veterinary Technician field, where I worked for more than a dozen years. However, prior to all that, I worked as an Environmental Educator for several state and town environmental conservation programs and even a fairly large Science Museum after graduating from college.

5. My major in college was Wildlife Management. Among other jobs I held while at school (I was working 6 different jobs simultaneously during my senior year), I worked at a research facility where I bottle-raised deer fawns, took care of coyotes and bobcats, and followed radio-collared animals through the woods to record every bite of food they took. I also worked at an Aviary where I cared for a countless variety of waterfowl from around the world, and studied Aspergillosis (a fungal infection) in Eider Ducks. Wildlife Management was a VERY cool major.

6. Ok, getting back to the random: When we were young teenagers, my brother and I each had a bedroom in the basement of my parent's house. At bedtime many nights, I'd sneak downstairs ahead of my brother and hide somewhere in his room. Then, after he was settled into bed at night and just about falling asleep, I would leap out and scare the living daylights out of him. Good times....

7. I've been a life-long New England Patriots fan. Ok, ok, I know that's not news to anyone. But I don't think the rules of this meme say it has to be NEW facts about ourselves! And this is SUCH a good year to be a Patriot's fan. For those of you not keeping track (and if not, WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH YOU?????), "we" (don't you love how possessive sports fans are of their teams?) are undefeated so far this year, and look to remain that way straight through the Superbowl (which will be "our" FOURTH Super Bowl title this decade). Everyone credits super-coach Bill Belichick and our totally rockin' record-breaking Quarterback Tom Brady with the success of the team in recent years. But I personally know it's all due to the birth of our own lucky charm, J. They sucked before he was born! And now they're unstoppable. What else could it be?

And now onto the other rules of this meme. I need to tag 7 people. SEVEN. I couldn't even think of 5 that hadn't been tagged before the last time I did a meme. Seven just ain't gonna happen -- I don't even read 7 blogs! So I guess I'll stick with my old stand-by and say, sorry, I'm going to break that rule. If anyone WANTS to do this meme and hasn't been tagged yet, you are more than welcome to consider yourself tagged by me!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

scenes around the farm

Funny thing about blogging -- if I'm doing it daily, I've got too much I want to write about and have trouble deciding what to include and what to leave out. But when I'm not here typing away every day, I start to lose both motivation to write, and creativity to come up with something interesting to say (or at least something that's not a complete waste of time to read). Unfortunately for all of you, I'm in the latter mode these days. So I figured I'd just throw up some pictures from around the farm the last couple of days and see what I can come up with.

First photo is our two boys and their rapidly growing Pig. I think one of the reasons I don't seem to take as many photos this time of year is that the boys look like this -- if I didn't tell you they were mine (and they weren't, you know, pictured on MY blog), these could be any two kids anywhere. Well, the pig might be a dead give-away. Of course, the other problem is that I have trouble digging my camera phone out from underneath my dozens of layers of clothing when I see something picture-worth. By the time I finally finagle it through the maze of pockets and holes, the Kodak moment generally has ended. Combined with the fact that we're just not outside as much this time of year as we are the rest of the year, it means a serious lack of outdoor pics through the winter months.

Here's The Map Man working on one of our seemingly never-ending fencing projects. We're putting the top 3 boards on our 4-board paddock fencing. The bottom boards went on the day before we picked the pig up, because pigs have a tendency to want to dig out of their pens. Not so with this little porker, though, (who can be seen giving The Man a, um, snout?..with his project) -- she seems perfectly happy to hang out in her own little world with her chicken buddies and the occasional pony that sticks a head in for a visit, so long as we visit her three or four times a day to offer some food and a good back-scratching.

The kids playing in the pasture. Really. They're down there. Under the pine tree. You see the little orange dot and the little yellow dot? There you have it. That's their favorite place to hang out, and I don't blame them -- it's one of the sunnier spots, it's set low in a hollow (more correctly called a "holler", although that's what I call what I do when I want them to come up out of the hollow...) so that there's a natural wind break. And it's as far as possible from watchful parent eyes while still being inside the fencing (which is the rule 'round these parts, no climbing over the fence and escaping, be it children or critters). What do they do down there in the holler all afternoon? Beats the heck out of me. That's the funny thing about allowing unsupervised time. It's unsupervised. They could be building a small weapons store down there for all I know. Or experimenting with gravity. Or coming up with a scheme to climb over the fence and escape.... The fact that there's a couple of chickens (the even-smaller red and white dots) and a cat (the tiny black dot) down there with them only adds to the intrigue.

I'm running out of mundane details of our lives to share, so I'll leave you with Annie enjoying a good roll in the pasture...

Or, actually, a picture of her AFTER the roll, whence she is covered from tail tip to whiskers with dirt. (Go ahead, click on the photo to get a larger sized version so you can se how truly filthy she is!) Life really doesn't get much better for a horse. Multiply that times 3, and you can see why I'm suffering from a raging case of horse-brusher's-shoulder.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

vacation week

This past week was our Thanksgiving Holiday week. So we did a whole lot of what the kids are doing in this photo. Not much of anything in particular. (Although actually, if you were to ask them, they were doing VERY important work -- lying amongst scattered Pokemon cards and toys, each carefully studying the Pokemon guide book -- J teaching himself how the play the game, and Zoo Boy looking at all the great Pokemon cards that are illustrated in it.) No movement circle, no curriculum story, only one night of Family Story Time (and only because Zoo Boy insisted on it), no Special Story Time on Friday night. No homeschooling classes (they are between semesters). In fact, the only organized events we had this week were the Thanksgiving Feast class at the children's museum on Tuesday, our actual Thanksgiving Feast on Thursday, and J's Tae Kwon Do class yesterday morning.

Of course, we DID do other things. On Monday, we went out to the horse farm to meet Annie, who came to live with us later in the week (and is seen here this morning, settling in with Lacy in the pasture). Both kids got to ride her and we spent a good chunk of the afternoon visiting with and petting her, talking with her owner, and meeting the other horses and donkeys on their farm. On Tuesday we did a bunch of Christmas shopping, then spent the bulk of the afternoon at the children's museum. Wednesday we spent most of the day working on getting the house ready for guests, and did a bit of baking as well.

Thursday was of course Thanksgiving Day. We decided to start hosting Thanksgiving Dinner at our house a few years ago, when we realized that Thanksgiving is both The Map Man's and my favorite holiday. It seemed a natural that we should become the place to gather on the holidays. (I mean, other than the fact that I don't cook.... But I manage to pull it off every year. I considered sharing my secrets with you all this year, but didn't ever quite get around to it. Maybe next year! Or maybe it'll all just remain a big secret....) We've had a moderate crowd the last few years (both sets of our parents, my sister and her family, one of The Map Man's brothers and his family), and we're hopeful that our number of guests will grow as the years progress. After the turkey went into the oven Thursday morning, the kids and I made napkin rings out of cardboard tubes and silk leaves, then folded the napkins to go in them for an autumn tree sort of look.

Yesterday we continued the festivities at my parent's house, where my brother and his family joined the rest of us for some holiday camaraderie. The cousins had their usual bunches-o-fun playing together, and we all made our Christmas holiday plans together (which is what the rest of my family loves best, so we leave that pretty much up to them).

In the meantime, some of my Enki Education First Grade materials came in, so I'll be looking for time to start reading through the First Grade Teacher's Guide. I also need to put the finishing touches on my Winter Kindergarten Curriculum (which will include a few First Grade component for J as the semester progresses). This coming week will be the 12th and last week of our Fall Semester, and I'm excited about some of the additional activities I'm going to work into our Winter weekly rhythms.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

letters to Santa

Bright and early Friday morning, Zoo Boy excitedly asked "Can we write our letters to Santa now?" The turkey hadn't even completely cooled yet....

But we set forth to notify the jolly old dude about what he should make for my cherubs. J didn't need (or want) any help with his letter this year, he composed and wrote it entirely himself, envelope as well. Zoo Boy opted to hire me as his own personal correspondence secretary (a job which paid off with a great big smile, some of the best salary I've ever earned!). He dictated to me a brief, yet heart-felt, letter:

"Dear Santa,

I wish for a Ugly Doll that is "Ice Bat".


Zoo Boy"

J's letter was equally specific and to the point:

"Dear Santa,

I want a
Car Desig-
ner Kit."

On the back of the page he added "Love, J."

Both kids included a catalog page, with their desired toy circled, to make sure that Santa knew exactly what they were talking about.

The Map Man took the kids down to the post office this morning, where they popped the letters in the mailbox, soon to be whisked off to the North Pole. Being the wonderful boys that they are, I have no doubt that Santa will set to work on their gifts as soon as he gets those notes. He's that kind of guy, Santa.

Friday, November 23, 2007

our Annie

Some of you knew we were thinking about it, some of you knew we'd decided, and some had no idea we had any intention of doing it. But I doubt anyone is going to be too surprised that we have a new addition to announce! Meet Annie, our new pony mare. She showed up at 10:00 this morning, and by 10:15 seemed as settled as if she'd been here forever.

Her color is chestnut. According to her teeth, she's somewhere in her late teens, but not yet 20. Her breed and her history are a mystery, but somewhere along the line she was treated nicely enough that she's trusting and trustworthy herself. She's taken kids, sheep, dogs, cats, chickens, and Pig all in stride. She even peacefully looked on while I taught a couple of herding lessons this morning, head hanging over the fence between lessons as if to ask the sheep what the deal was with the whole thing.

Annie and Lacy greet each other. For the most part the interactions between the three ponies have been very amicable. An occasional squeal from Lacy or Butterscotch, but nobody looks too serious about it, more just a "hey, this is our place, so don't try anything crazy!" sort of thing.

Interesting coincidence, the woman I bought Annie from is the same woman that sold Lacy to the woman who gave her to me. Small world! Was fun chatting with her about Lacy's past. (Apparently she'd been a fairly well known hunter-jumper pony in the south prior to being sold as a broodmare. This woman bought her to breed to her Welsh Cob stallion, got a nice little colt out of her, then sold her to the woman who eventually gave her to me.)

Here's Zoo Boy aboard Annie when we went to look at her earlier in the week. The important thing about this was that Zoo Boy doesn't like riding horses. At least, not traditionally. He rode the pony we used to have (Ladybug) when he was a toddler, but has had no interest in riding Butterscotch, Nina (a pony we'd adopted for the kids to ride last spring, who wound up not getting along with our other two so we had to find a home for her), or any other horse/pony we've come across since. Yet, the first thing he said when he saw her was "Can I ride her?" Once he found out that yes, indeed, we were there so that they COULD ride her, he asked "Can I go first?" and then didn't accept just being led around inside the barn, he wanted to REALLY ride her. So, go figure. Certainly weighed heavily in my decision to buy her!

Hanging out with the gang. We'll keep a fence between them for the first day or two, just to be safe, but I can already tell that they are going to work out to be buddies. So now we're a 3 horse family. Which means we officially have a "herd". Which means I'll have that much less time for blogging....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

what I'm thankful for this year

And no, I'm not talking about snow. Although we DID get our first snowfall yesterday morning. Only amounted to 1 1/2 inches, but given that they'd only predicted flurries, it was a surprise. Although not entirely unexpected given the time of year. So of course we had to run out to buy snow boots for the boys. Nothing like waiting until the last minute.

No, what I'm thankful for has to do with this. This is J (on the left), in a cooking class at the children's museum. I'm going to take a minute to let that sink in for those of you that know all about our journey with J. For the rest of you, let me fill you in briefly by saying that of all the issues we've faced with J's Autism, the "food thing" has been the most persistent and troublesome. So although J has been loving all of the museum classes he's done, I've been avoiding the cooking classes like the plague. We've not mentioned the "A" word to anyone at the museum, so up to this point they've just assumed he's your typical adorable enthusiastic Kindergartner, and we've been a bit reluctant to put him in a situation where his lingering issues surrounding his sensory and regulatory challenges might come bursting to the surface. It's the one place we go where Autism hasn't figured into anyone's perception of J, and we'd really like to keep it that way.

But for some reason, I decided that now was the time to take this whole remediation concept for a spin and test out really how far we've come in the past 3 years. So I signed him up for the Thanksgiving Feast class -- a COOKING class -- and cheerfully left him in a classroom full of strong aromas and unfamiliar foods. But despite my outward bravado, my stomach was churning, and I kept sneaking peeks through the classroom window. And, lo and behold, I saw amazing things. Like, for instance, J joyfully scooping gook out of a large pumpkin!!

And J eating a pumpkin cookie that they made in class. Yes, our J made pumpkin cookies from scratch. With walnuts and cranberries. And then -- ATE THEM. (In this photo he's commenting to the teachers on how delicious the cookie is.) After class the teacher, totally unaware of any of this child's history, took me aside and told me how much he enjoyed cooking and that she wants me to sign him up for all of her future cooking classes too, because she believes this is something that he really enjoys.

Well, what do you know. Maybe he IS just your typical adorable enthusiastic Kindergartner after all! And if that's not something to be thankful for, I don't know what is.

A bit lower on the scale of miracles, but amazing enough and also worthy of thankfulness this season is how well our dear Lacy is doing right now. She's gained back all the weight and muscling that she'd lost when she was in the throws of problems from her DSLD, and seems to finally have stabilized on the experimental treatment. In fact, she looks as good as she ever has since I owned her. Here's hoping that continues for a good long time!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! May we all be thankful for the many blessings in our lives.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

week #11 wrap-up

It was a REALLY busy week! Yet, keeping my eye focused on our supportive rhythms, we didn't fall into the chaos or dysregulation of week #9, but instead continued the smooth groove we established in week #10. Our fall semester is winding down, only one more week to go (although we'll take next week "off" to prepare for, and celebrate, Thanksgiving, and will wrap up with one more week the last week of November).

It was the last week for our Monday homeschooling classes in Chorus and Soccer, complete with a Choral Performance and soccer awards. J took a museum class on Harry Houdini and magic. I had a phone consultation/support session with the director of Enki Education to discuss where we're headed for our upcoming Winter Semester (I will probably blog about that conversation in the coming week). We attended an open gym session with other homeschoolers (there's a photo down below of this). I had my yearly physical (and other than being a little heftier than I should be, am in pretty reasonable health, which is always nice to hear). Our Friday Excursion took us to the ever-wonderful Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory. J tested for and earned his first instructor-awarded belt in Tae Kwon Do. And I attended a soap-making class and made my first-ever batch of REAL soap!

Here is a picture that J drew about our Curriculum Story this week. This week I modified a story based on the Native American spirit quest, written by Leigh Casler, entitled "The Boy Who Dreamed of an Acorn". (The picture book version of this story, illustrated by Shonto Begay, can be found here.) J depicts the beginning of the story, where 3 boys go on a spirit quest, and one dreams of a bear, one dreams of an eagle, and one dreams of an acorn. The general gist is that each dream brings it's own power to teach and guide each child. The kids loved the story almost as much as I do. When I modify a story to better suit my kids' needs, I add a repeating verse if one is not already included in the story, and make sure the story flows in a predictable pattern. In this case, I also gave the boys Native American names (they were not named, only referred to as the boy who dreamed of the bear, etc) so that my kids could relate better to their characters. (In case anyone is interested, I used the names Running Water, Bright Star, and Little Wind.)

Here's a photo of my kids during the Open Gym time I mentioned above. One of the other homeschooling moms in our local group arranged for us to use this church gym a couple afternoons a month throughout the winter. Only a few families came this first time, but I'm sure attendance will be picking up once the news gets around about what a great time we had! Nice clean gym, lots of balls and jump ropes, a basketball court, a stage area with tables for crafts or games, and kiddie-sized versions of air hockey, Foosball, and pool, as well as a bookshelf full of books, and a dollhouse with rather extensive accessories.

(To the left, a depiction of the water cycle, built out of pattern blocks by J. Entirely his own idea and pattern, we've got the rain falling on a tree, where it will be absorbed by the roots -- the white things below the ground -- and then the sun will evaporate the water and it will all start over again. Thanks, Professor J!)

For Family Story Time this week, we read The Acorn and the Oak Tree, by Lori C. Froeb, illustrated by Chi Chung; Nuts to You!, by Lois Ehlert; and The Deer in the Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Renee Graef. We also watched the pilot movie for Little House on the Prairie, which J quite enjoyed (the content was a little too mature for Zoo Boy), and he joyfully connected the characters in the movie with the My First Little House Books we've been reading throughout the year. Special Story Time on Friday evening in front of the fire was much anticipated all week by the boys. This week I read them an Enki Nature Story entitled Night Magic.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

karate kid

This morning at Tae Kwon Do, J and another classmate tested for their white-with-yellow-stripe belt. Here both proud boys pose with their black-belt instructor, wearing their new belts.

For warm-ups, prior to the testing, they played a jumping and reflexes type game. J gets some good air under him while the "Connecticut Alligator" passes underneath him.

The boys demonstrate their knowledge of the Star Block sequence. They did it first along with their instructor, then on their own.

A flying front kick, after a roll-out. J got some good height here, too!

The instructor ties J's new belt onto him. This was followed by the ceremonial throwing of the old belt over his shoulder, signifying throwing away all the "bad" behaviors that were experienced while wearing that belt, in effect wiping the slate clean for this new belt. Not exactly how I would have worded it, but interesting symbolism none the less. The boys were pretty excited about the new belt with color, and no longer being White Belts.

Friday, November 16, 2007

butterfly hunters

Today we ventured up to Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory in South Deerfield, MA, with some of our homeschooling pals. This was not our first visit to this wonderful place, you can read about our last visit there in this blog entry and also in this one, and you can see lots of butterfly photos from that trip here and here and here. Oh, and some photos of some of the other critters that live there as well can be found here. Yup, we like it there! In this first picture, my boys and their friend B use their identification chart to hunt down various species so they can check them off on their list.

J shows me what the caterpillars in this tank are going to change into eventually -- Blue Morpho Butterflies, one of my favorites! The caterpillars are actually sort of hideous, which is surprising given how gorgeous their adult form is.

Zoo Boy was sure to point out all the reptilian inhabitants as well, here spotlighting the fact that Magic Wings STILL has Bearded Dragons, and WE still do NOT. Duly noted. He also managed to talk one of the employees into taking the Gila Monster out of it's cage so he could pet it. It was a lively fella, and all my photos of their interaction came out ridiculously blurry, so you're just going to have to take my word on it. Zoo Boy giggled at how feisty he was. I made a mental note NOT to consider, under any circumstances, allowing him to get a Gila Monster.

J and Zoo Boy check their identification chart to figure out the name of the butterfly they are looking at. They didn't accept "Charlie", which was my answer. (In fact, I got a quite mature roll-of-the-eyes response from at least one of them.) It was a really good day to be in a tropical location -- the weather on the other side of the glass wall was windy and bitterly cold, while we on the inside were cavorting around in short-sleeves.

J takes a quiet moment to enjoy the ambiance. I could spend all day in that place. In fact, we're talking about bringing our entire families (husbands, too, imagine that) up there for a weekend in mid-winter. Part of the idea is so that the menfolk can partake in the wonder and beauty of this place, too. The other part, of course, is that then we'd have someone else to chase after the kids, and us Moms can just sit and enjoy the butterflies, flowers, tropical atmosphere, and each other's company for a bit. Ahhh, sounds like heaven!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

it's magic

J took a class about Houdini and magic tricks at the children's museum yesterday. He put on a little magic show for us when he got home. Here, he makes a quarter disappear. He told us that Houdini didn't use "Abracadabra", or any other magic words, so he insists on not using them, too.

The magic spoon-arising-from-behind-a-napkin illusion.

The mysterious growing magic wand.

Meanwhile, back at the museum, Zoo Boy spent the time J was in class riding the high seas of his imagination, deep sea fishing...

...and convincing museum employees to take out animals for him to pet, and talking them into taking him behind the scenes to see animals that are not out on public display. We're sort of becoming a fixture at that place, and Zoo boy is slowly weaseling his way into the inner workings, convincing volunteers to let him help clean cages and feed the animals, and garnering invitations into the office and behind the exhibits. Museum policy limits volunteers to age 14 or above, but he's working his hardest to get them to bend that rule. He reminds me a lot of someone...let's see, who was that...oh, yeah, ME!

Monday, November 12, 2007

awards and performances

Today was the last day of the local Homeschool Classes' fall semester. The parents who taught the classes truly outdid themselves. Here J shows off his soccer certificate of accomplishment, and a nice little trophy (that the moms running the program obviously footed the bill for themselves, as it was a no-charge class!). I was blown away, to say the least -- what an amazing, dedicated group of homeschooling parents!

The Homeschool Chorus poses for a portrait with their teacher (a wonderful professional music teacher hired by the homeschooling group to instruct our kids). J is 2nd from the right, in the red and blue shirt.

The chorus treated us to a performance of the songs they've worked on this semester. Parents and siblings and grandparents and friends filled the room as the kids performed on the stage, it was quite a crowd!

J and some of his buddies taking direction from their teacher during the performance. J was so excited to get to "show off" all of the songs he'd learned -- he's been practicing a lot the past few weeks, wandering off in the pasture by himself when we're out doing chores. I could hear his sweet voice riding on the breeze, and if I asked him later, he'd say "oh, I was just practicing my chorus singing".

The kids take bow at the end of their concert. Lots of smiles all around.

J's sad to see the semester end, but is excited about the 4 week "intersession" that is being held prior to the winter semester. He's registered for Chorus and African Drumming, and can't wait to be making music with his friends again.