Thursday, July 30, 2009


J's been struggling with wet hair in his eyes during swimming lessons, and I've been trying to scrape the money together to get him to the hairdresser who he'll let cut it. But I finally got so sick of it, I said, heck with waiting, I'll cut it now. (Always a scary thing, since I have absolutely NO hair cutting training, just a very small amount of dog grooming experience.) So I sort of held my breath and cut at the same time.


He made me cut all of his hair off the back -- I've always loved him with a "pirate look" of long hair in the back, but I guess he's finally gotten sick of it. So although it made me cringe, I followed his wishes and chopped it off. Actually, I think he looks pretty sharp.

In fact, I liked how it came out so much, I forced Zoo Boy into submission and whacked his off too. He's a kid that looks GREAT with really short hair -- all-American boy type with all those freckles. Yet, the boy likes to be shaggy. So he wasn't particularly thrilled with being at the other end of my scissors.

But just look at how cute he looks!

Of course, he's mad as heck at both me and the haircut....but at least he looks good!

And we saved about $30 by doing it myself. (Which is a good thing, because I took them to a matinee this week to see "Ice Age 3" in 3-D. A warning to all parents -- the 3-D surcharge is ASTRONOMICAL, making it by far the most expensive movie we've ever seen. Good thing they enjoyed it, because THAT won't be happening again!)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

a week's worth of adventure

Here's a sampling from our past week's activities:

Waiting on the neighbor's step while I brought out her dog (which we've been walking for her while she's on vacation).

Blueberries ripening! (YUM!)

Why did the Eastern Painted Turtle cross the road?

(To lay her eggs -- it's no joke!)

Scootering at the local elementary school.

A Cecropia Moth, discovered on one of the kids' adventures without me. (I love it when I find stuff like this on my camera!)

(Addendum -- I mentioned to The Map Man that I wasn't sure if I spelled Cecropia correctly, and he told me that not only doesn't he know how to spell it, he also didn't know that's what it was called. He just knew it was a really big moth!)

Ditto for this American Robin's nest.

(Addendum -- although I suspect he DID know what this was. At least the "nest" part....)

Kings of the mountain.

Swimming in C and B's pool. (That's C's Golden Retriever, Tessie, in the background, doing her best to weasel her way into the kids' hearts -- she did a thorough job! J, who has been bound and determined to get a Corgi puppy someday is now thinking Golden Retriever.)

A little poolside entertainment -- the boys put on a musical comedy act for the other guests at the barbecue at C and B's house.

The super-hero duo of Mystery Man and his faithful side-kick Two-Tails.

Playing "Marco Polo" with lake friends.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

summer learning

I've been noticing this week all the learning that's been going on around here, despite the fact that we're on our summer "school break". A lot of it is things you would typically consider summer vacation type stuff -- swimming, hiking, playing outdoors in general. But when I sit right down with the photos, it's easy to categorize how they would fit into a typical "school" learning structure, and I thought it might be fun to share.

Take this first example, a photo of my kids doing one of their daily chores, moving the ducks from their nighttime pen to the pasture where they spend their days. Not only are they earning their weekly allowance ($1 each, farm labor is cheap) by doing chores (putting out the ducks and chickens, and collecting eggs from all), which of course is Economics, but they are also getting plenty of physical exercise in the process (Gym).

Also in the Gym category are our morning walks. Science, too, as they are making discoveries about the natural world as we go. They are both becoming very skilled Ornithologists, easily able to identify common (and some not-so-common) birds both by sight and by song. And their Botany knowledge increases daily as various plants, trees, and shrubs are discovered on our journeys. We're also working on their Occupational Therapy skills -- this photos shows some pretty complex Motor Planning and Balance activities as the boys chart their way across a stream by jumping from rock to rock.

More Gym -- bowling -- and Sensory Integration galore, hefting 8 lbs balls around and flinging them down the lane.

A little bit of Physics at work as well -- where does the ball go, what effect does it have on the pins? What if you roll it faster? Slower? A little more to the left? There's no need to point any of this out, the kids get that each action has an effect and they are drawing their own conclusions without any interference from me.

Arts and Crafts -- J pulls out his crocheting in the quiet hour before Zoo Boy gets up in the morning and spends some time working on various projects. Both boys have been sculpting sand castles, both in our play area at home and at the lake. And they continue making various origami creatures, too. So despite the fact that I've not sat down with them with paint and crayons this summer, the art work has gone on anyway.

Language Arts. I already blogged yesterday about all the reading that's been going on around here this summer. I've also set aside time (once a day after rest) for the boys to work on handwriting practice sheets, something that I sort of left out of our year last year so feel the need to make up time with. Both boys are quite enthusiastic about this practice time and are very independent about it. I hand them a different letter page each day, and they practice that page for three days (so each day they have a letter that they've worked on for 2 days, one they've worked on for 1 day, and the new letter). We're working our way through the alphabet that way, and will move on to numbers when we are done with letters. By the time we get to the start of our next school year, they'll have caught up with what we missed during last year.

Other than all that "formal" LA work, the kids are also practicing their skills on their own. Both boys are using their Magnadoodles to write out notes to each other, and to play around with letters, sounds, words, phrases, and sentences. Here's an example of J's work, playing around with various pronunciations of "a". (This is all their own work, by the way, I never even make suggestions, these things are going on during "free time", it's just what they choose to do.)

And there's plenty of handwriting practice to be found as a result of their play. Here, J listed out all the Pokemon types for The Map Man so that he could participate in a Pokemon guessing game the boys made up.

Combining Art and Math -- Zoo Boy decided to make Playdoh numbers and arranged them in various equations.

The boys also are working on their money handling/counting skills (i.e., more math). Here J counts up his change to see how much he's got. He's saving up for a new bicycle (he's ready to really learn to ride now, and has outgrown his old bike), and yesterday he went on line to find out how much a 20" boy's bike costs. (Economics!)

He then sat down and added the amount of change he has to the amount of bills, to discover that he has $36.50. The bike he wants is $80, and he was a little discouraged to discover that he's $43.50 short (after another math equation). However, I told him that if he pays for half the bike, Daddy and I will pay for the rest. That caused another quick flurry of calculations, and he happily reported that in just two more weeks he'll have enough to pay for half a bike, between his job with the neighbor and his allowance from us.

Not to be outdone, Zoo Boy figured out what he's got in funds as well. He discovered that he has $13.74. He also did a bit of research on-line, and found out that he can afford a large Bionicle, or a small Lego set, or a couple packs of Pokemon cards, or a new Bakugan set. He's undecided as to which he'll actually purchase, but is determined to take his money and go shopping the same day J buys his bike. Meanwhile, I've decided it's time for the boys to have their own wallets to carry when they shop, so I'll be on the lookout for something appropriate.

There's so much learning going on around here, I've decided that there's no need to start our school year as early as I was planning. (Which was supposed to be in 2 weeks.) I think we'd all enjoy a little more summer, especially given that the summer weather has only just begun around here. I've already planned out our fall semester, so I'm ready to go when I feel like they're ready, but right now, we're all feeling very nourished by our Summer rhythms and activities, and I see no need to rush the natural process of things along.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

summer reading

I thought I'd take a few minutes to share what we've been reading this summer. Throughout the course of the spring and the summer, the boys have moved into silently reading to themselves, in addition to reading to each other and to me. And I, of course, have been reading to them as well.

We have several formal reading times during the day. One is our weekly poem, which we read once each day (and use in some of Zoo Boy's speech therapy work). This week's poem is another by Robert Louis Stevenson (what can I say, we're on a roll):

Bed in Summer, by Robert Louis Stevenson

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candlelight.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree
Or hear the grown-up people speak
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

Just prior to rest time, I read to the boys from a chapter book. I began the summer with Misty of Chinconteague, by Marguerite Henry, but it wasn't as big a hit with them as I thought it would be. (It was one of my favorite books when I was a kid.) So I ditched my plans to follow it up with Stormy, Misty's Foal, and instead switched gears and read them The Tale of Despereaux, by Kate DiCamillo. That was a HUGE hit, surprisingly since there is a bit more intensity to that book than I would have thought my kids were comfortable with. Only goes to show that they are growing and maturing every day! We are now on to Thimble Summer, by Elizabeth Enright, which is a really, REALLY sweet book, I highly recommend it for this age group!

Every Tuesday, the boys get the next installment in a series book. J is reading The Magic Treehouse series, by Mary Pope Osborne, and Zoo Boy is reading the Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant. They've each read about 16 books or so, and I'm having to start thinking about the next series for Zoo Boy, since we're running out of books. When they get the books, they read them silently to themselves first, then they read them to each other at some point. They they read each other's books to themselves as well.

I've also resumed our Family Story Time, which is a before-bed tradition we had done during our two Kindergarten-type years, but had let slide a bit this past year. To give them more of an opportunity to read aloud, now that they are doing most of their reading to themselves, I've changed the format a bit. So I'm selecting three seasonally-appropriate picture books each week, and J is assigned one to read to us all, Zoo Boy is assigned one, and either The Map Man or I read the other (whoever is actually putting the kids to bed -- it's a rare night that we're both available). This week J is reading Summertime in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (illustrated by Renee Graef), Zoo Boy is reading Otters Under Water by Jim Arnosky, and I am reading Sunflower House, by Eve Bunting (illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt).

So plenty of reading going on around here this summer!

Monday, July 20, 2009

what the kids did last week

While I was working, the kids had their own adventures:


train show with Grandma and Grandpa

slippin' and slidin' at a birthday party

getting really, really wet, both at the party and at the lake (they went swimming every day too)

shooting off bubble rockets

checking dead trees for flying squirrels



skipping stones


building sand castles

hangin' out and swingin' around


I'm not saying they had more fun than me, but I'm thinking they weren't missing me all that much....

what I did last week

I'm back! It was a good week, most of it spent in Sturbridge, Massachusetts (so I was able to be home at night), but I also spent several days in Maine. I was busy, but I managed to take a few photos to share:

Belfast Harbor, near where I stayed with herding friends. The weather was pretty much just like this -- cloudy, cool, and a little rain. Just like the rest of my summer!

What I was there for was to work cows. These cows (seen through a spider's web, wet with mist). And sheep, and ducks. But mostly I was there for the cows.

But, since I was there anyway....we of course took in some local flavor. This is Young's Lobster Pound, where we ate fresh (like, you pick it out yourself from the tank that comes off the boats) sea fare.

Here's what I had for dinner, Bay Crabs. Mmmmmm..... (well, I didn't eat ALL of them!)

But, really, it was about the cows.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

away for a bit, back soon, here's a poem

Working this coming week at herding clincs, so will be away (both locally and in Maine for a few days as well). In the meantime, please enjoy our poem for the coming week!

The Summer Sun, by Robert Louis Stevenson

GREAT is the sun,
and wide he goes
Through empty heaven
without repose;
And in the blue
and glowing days
More thick than rain
he showers his rays.

Though closer still
the blinds we pull
To keep the shady
parlour cool,
Yet he will find
a chink or two
To slip his golden
fingers through.

Above the hills,
along the blue,
Round the bright air
with footing true,
To please the child,
to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World,
he goes.

way better frog picture

Ok, here's what a bullfrog at our local frog pond looks like when captured with better photographic equipment than my little point-n-shoot Fugi. My Dad sent this along after our visit over there on Wednesday.

He also informed me that my information on Indian Pipes (see my last post) was not quite correct. Apparently it is not a fungus itself, but rather a parasitic plant that depends on a fungus for its nutrients since does not have chlorophyll and hence cannot produce it's own food. Interesting stuff! (Maybe I should hit up my Dad for a better picture of Indian Pipes, too....)

Thanks, Dad!

Friday, July 10, 2009

frog pond

I guess my whining yesterday payed off -- it was a GORGEOUS day today! So we moved our morning walk to our favorite frog pond, which we drop by often to explore.

We don't call it the frog pond for no reason! Here a lovely bullfrog suns itself on the leaf of a pond lily, blooming nearby.

There are tadpoles aplenty to be found -- this is a first-year bullfrog tadpole -- he won't sprout legs and become a frog until next year (he'll spend the winter buried in the mud as a tadpole).

Here's a second-year bullfrog tadpole -- you can see his big webbed hind feet and his stumpy little front legs, plus his tail (quite a big shorter than the first-year tadpole's), and he's already breathing air.

I came across this painted turtle laying eggs when my Dad and I stopped by on Wednesday. Today, there was no sign the turtle was ever there, she had smoothed all that mud over her nest and left no trace of activity. We'll keep an eye on the nest -- I'm hoping if we time it right, we might be able to see some of the hatchlings!

There's a trail around the pond that we've never explored before, so today was the perfect day for that adventure!

We found these tracks in the mud. We think they are from a raccoon who was walking just on the balls of his hind feet (generally you can see the long, triangular heel as well). The front foot print certainly looks like a raccoon's.

A majestic Great Blue Heron tolerated us watching him fish.

We had to cross several streams. There's a lot more water in the area than usual for this time of year, thanks to all the recent rain. Made for a good challenge in places!

Indian pipes! Which I believe is a type of fungus? (Dad, correct me if I'm wrong!) Regardless, they are a pretty cool plant.

Ah! Wild blueberries, ripe and just waiting to be picked! (Well, they're not waiting any longer. They were delicious.)

The best part about the pond is that it's only a two minute drive from our house. So it's convenient to drop by to check on all the pond-happenings on a regular basis.