Tuesday, September 28, 2010

dead computer

Hey everyone -- my computer breathed it's last breath last night and is now dead. Funeral services will be held privately. A replacement will be brought in after an appropriate period of mourning.

So no blogging, and I won't be able to moderate/approve comments, until further notice.

Hope to "see" you all soon!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Ribbon -- painting

The Ribbon
by Emily Dickinson

I'll tell you how the sun rose -

A ribbon at a time-

The Steeples swam in Amethyst -

The news, like Squirrels, ran -

J's painting is on top, Zoo Boy's above this, mine at the bottom. This was a really simple, yet really fun painting, just to play with color and blending. Here's how we did it:

I set out a jar of each color in our watercolor paint collection (Prussian Blue, Ultramarine, Cobalt Blue, Crimson, Vermilion, Golden Yellow, and Lemon Yellow) and we all shared them, dipping our brush only once for each color (and of course cleaning thoroughly in between).

I started out by reciting the entire poem. Then I said "A ribbon at a time" and, with the kids following my lead, I dipped my paint brush into the first color (Prussian blue) and painted a single line with a single stroke across the top of my paper. I repeated "A ribbon at at time" again and moved on to the next color, and so forth, until we got to our last color (lemon yellow), to which I recited the entire poem again and filled the rest of my paper with yellow.

Then we cleaned our brushes and filled them with just water, and, starting at the bottom of the paper, and using long horizontal brush strokes, worked the entire page from bottom to top, blending all of the colors as we went.

The results were simply lovely.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Harriet Tubman, chapter 2

Above is J's chapter 2 drawing from our Harriet Tubman sage story, of Daddy Ben and Harriet walking in the woods near their cabin. Zoo Boy's drawing is below, of the family inside the cabin, with Old Rit and Daddy Ben at the head of the table, and Harriet at the foot of the table, thinking about the creek singing about running away.

Above is J's chapter summary, below is Zoo Boy's simplified one.

Below is my drawing, of Harriet, in bed with her siblings under the pacthwork quilts, asking Old Rit about the conversation she overheard about being sold, and Old Rit responding "You a slave, chile, and there ain't nothin you can do about it."

Harriet Tubman, chapter 1

We began our sage cycle this week, reading the first two chapters of the Harriet Tubman story from Enki Education. Above is J's story drawing from the first chapter, of Harriet walking in the woods, listening to the birds telling their story. Below is Zoo Boy's drawing of Harriet and Lucinda, the slave who was assigned to watch the children while the parents were working at their respective jobs (Harriet's mother in the Big House, her father in the woods and fields).

J's story summary is above, Zoo Boy's simplified version is below. (Note how much progress Zoo Boy has made not only with his drawing, but also his handwriting!)

Below is my drawing of Harriet listening to the birds and Brer Creek singing about running away.

kids in the kitchen, blanket in a pig?

Here's the kids' meal creation for our "Kids in the Kitchen Wednesday" dinner this week -- blanket-in-a-pig (a reverse on the old standby, pigs-in-a-blanket), selected and created by the kids.

They started with a can of prepared bread stick dough. They grated (with my help, of course) Parmesan cheese, then rolled the dough in the cheese and baked according to the instructions on the package. (Note: probably better to just cover 3 sides of the bread sticks with cheese, we had a bit of a problem with them being glued to our pan.)

Then they mixed up some honey mustard (ok, we cheated, it was honey butter, none of us are mustard fans) and spread it on one side of a slice of deli ham.

(By the way, if you've never had honey butter before, you're missing out, it's heavenly! I was running around spreading it on everything....)

Then they took a cooked bread stick and rolled it up in the slice of ham, and served it.

It made for a bit of a messy finger-food, yet too awkward to eat with a fork, so we just got messy.

I thought they were OK, I liked how simple they were to make, the kids could basically do everything themselves without much help from me. The Map Man liked them (then again, he's ridiculously easy to please). The boys thought they were gross. Ah well, at least they both tried them enthusiastically! As well as the veggies they chose to serve with their meal, an "antioxidant" mix of broccoli, carrots, and red and yellow peppers.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

back to Old Sturbridge Village

Ok, I really overdid it with photos this time, but we just had too much fun not to try to include a least a fair representative of the day. I'll try to make up for it by not gabbing so much....

On Monday we took advantage of our free returners-tickets to Old Sturbridge Village -- and BOY did we take advantage! We were there all day. Doing fun stuff like this river boat ride on the Quinnebaug River.

And talking to all sorts of "townfolk", like this store keeper...

...this cobbler...

...this printer...

...this blacksmith...

...and this potter.

And we learned all about their professions and how they ran their businesses in the 1830s.

The boys' personal favorite was the potter, we got to watch him make a really cool mug...

...then we visited the kiln where he wood-fires all of his wares (and then they are available at the village shops for visitors like us to purchase)...

...and they even got to run the clay mill, which is how the clay from the potter's field is broken up and stirred up and made ready for him to throw on his wheel.

We also met this farmer's wife who was busy with the first of the fall harvest. She introduced us to all sorts of heirloom vegetables, such as ox-heart carrots and a squash that looks sort of like a brain, and she taught us how to prepare root vegetables for storage in the root cellar.

It was just a gorgeous day to be in the village, and it was laundry day at the Freeman Farm (they are doing their laundry in this photo, you can see them towards the back of the house, slaving over a boiling cauldron of wash water).

Zoo Boy checked out the portion of the harvest being stored in barrels in the barn -- in this case, apples.

And speaking of barrels, here's the boys in the cooper's shed, trying their hand at preparing barrel pieces.

Oxen grazing in the pasture across from the orchard.
Did I mention it was a gorgeous day?!

The boys play a game of flying hoop outside the meetinghouse.

Walking on stilts outside of the schoolhouse.

That's the "carryall" wagon that we rode on, parked in front of the gristmill, with the carding mill in the background. We got to see all the inner workings of these mills, the boys loved figuring out how the waterwheels turned the gears which in turn turned the carding machines and the grindstones.

The boys outside the sawmill, which they were both very anxious to see, but we missed it in operation today. Maybe next visit!

And there will be many, many more visits if the boys have their way!

Monday, September 20, 2010

dance your pants off

That's exactly what J did, and here he is in his brand new tights.

He's off to a rip-roaring start with his dance year. This past week several exciting events occurred:

He started his new Jazz class, which he says is fun and easy.

He started his new Modern class, at a level up. Which he says is challenging, but he also says it's his favorite class "because I get to do a lot of stuff on the floor and I really like that."

He started his new Ballet class, which he said was pretty easy, and that his teacher is his favorite teacher. Which is nice, as she's also the artistic director of the school and is someone I very much trust to bring him along at a developmentally appropriate pace.

He started his new Tap class, at a level that is pretty advanced for a kid who's never had a tap class before. He said it's hard, but that his teacher told him "If you find it hard, you need to go home and practice. And if you find it easy, you need to go home and practice." We're trying to figure out a space for him to tap in. Later this winter we'll be replacing our wall-to-wall carpeting with some sort of wood flooring to creating a better dancing surface for him (well, also because it's just healthier, but the dancing surface is a bonus!), in the meantime we'll just strip some carpet back and let him tap on the underlayment.

He auditioned for The Nutcracker, which is being put on by his ballet school. He'll get a part (all the kids do) so he'll be in the show, the auditions were just to allow the directors to see all of the dancers at once so they can figure out which parts they are going to dance. We'll find out later this week.

Most exciting of all, he came home with a letter after just one ballet class at the new school. It started out: "Dear Parent, We have identified your dancer as talented and very promising and hence we are inviting your dancer to participate in our special Junior Trainee program." Basically the program provides an additional ballet class each week to give kids that have the potential to become professional dancers the opportunity for further training under the guidance of an American Ballet Theater certified instructor. (Who just so happens to be J's ballet teacher.) They also may have special appearances and performances and other assorted opportunities. Two of his friends also received letters, one a fellow homeschooler, and the other a boy he met for the first time at ballet class this week and really hit it off with.

So he's very excited, and as a result of realizing just how much dancing he was doing this fall, he asked to drop chorus for this semester so that he doesn't have any commitments on Sundays and has one day to just relax. Makes sense to me. And just because he's not singing with the chorus this semester doesn't mean there won't be plenty of singing going on around here, mostly on the way to and from dance class!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Autumn Morning paintings

Autumn Morning
by Adeline White

The southwest wind is blowing
The red fox hurries by
The lake of silver water
Reflects a rainbow sky.

The morning sun is shining
Upon the golden corn
An early blackbird wakens
And sings to greet the dawn.

My stinky little camera has not done justice to our beautiful paintings for this week, a lot of the subtlety is missing. At the top is J's painting, above this is Zoo Boy's. and below this is mine. Here's what we did:

1. As I recited "The southwest wind is blowing, the red fox hurries by," we loaded our brushes with red and painted a red circle in the middle of our paper, then used long horizontal strokes to each side, so we wound up with a line of reddish pink on either side of our red circle.

2. As I recited "The lake of silver water reflects a rainbow sky" we loaded our brushes with blue and painted the bottom quarter of our paper blue with long horizontal strokes.

3. As I recited "The morning sun is shining upon the golden corn" we generously loaded our brushes with golden yellow, letting the gold creep up into the red and down into the blue.

4. As I recited "An early blackbird wakens and sings to greet the dawn" we loaded our brushes with lemon yellow and, starting at the top of our paper, painted with broad strokes all the way down and through the red. The result was a combination of subtle reds, pinks, oranges, and yellows in our "sky", a really cool effect that isn't as obvious in the photos. Our "sun" is also much more obvious in real life.

5. I then loaded just the tip of my brush with golden yellow and dabbed on a line of "corn stalks" along the horizon of my painting. The boys did likewise, although their paintings were quite a bit wetter than mine, so they didn't' show up as well. If I were to do it again, I would wait for the paintings to dry a bit more and/or use a more concentrated golden yellow paint.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Brer Fox Tries Farming Again

Brer Fox tried his hand at farming with Brer Rabbit again, but this time he insisted on keeping both the tops AND the bottoms. So ol' Brer Rabbit decided to grow corn -- and just as agreed, he only kept what grew in the middle. Which, of course, left Brer Fox with nothing but a bunch of useless corn stalks. J (above) and Zoo Boy (below) drew an angry Brer Fox watching Brer Rabbit leave the field with a bag full of corn. (I particularly like Brer Fox's cloud of black thoughts in J's drawing!)

I chose to draw Brer Rabbit harvesting the corn:

That puts a wrap on our Tricksters cycle for this culture (although we may read a few more here and there just because they are super duper fun, and we'll be spending quite a bit more time within this culture). On to our sage, Harriet Tubman, next week!

frog hunt

We actually got a little bit of rainfall on Thursday evening (after a long stretch with no rain), so the boys (especially Zoo Boy) were anxious to go check on the frogs right away. So as soon as we got home from dance class we donned our rain jackets and walked up the road to the vernal pool.

Much to their disappointment, the rain had already pretty much let up (it was just drizzling) and there hadn't been enough to puddle up in the pool. So there wasn't a frog to be seen anywhere, despite my having to swerve to avoid them when driving past the lake just half an hour earlier. We were, however, serenaded by legions of happy tree frogs, far too high up in the trees for us to see with our flashlights.

We decided to walk down to a swampy place below our house to see if there was anything hopping about there. We were just a bit too late, there were a couple of flat frogs on the road (sure hope I wasn't the cause of either of those!), but nothing moving. We decided to climb in the car and drive further afield in search of frogs, but by then the rain had quit completely, and after checking out several likely locations, we gave up and called it a night with only a few toads to our name, including this little guy who actually climbed up onto The Map Man's foot (though I missed the photo of that):

We checked the pool again the next morning on our walk. Sure enough, there wasn't any water in it, just a bit of mud. Which prompted more discussion about the frogs and why vernal pools don't have water in them all year round.

The boys are hoping for a bigger rainfall the next time to really get some frogs out and moving in our neighborhood. But they can't be hoping for rain as much as we adults are. So far our well has been fine, but we're really pushing our luck at this point, we've only had an inch or so of rain over the past two months.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Brer Fox Plants Peanuts

This story is sort of self-explanatory from the drawings and summary, so I'll just let you enjoy them, J's above and Zoo Boy's below, and mine at the very bottom. The kids really got into drawing this particular story, then squealed with glee when today's story was yet another related story.

kids in the kitchen

We started a new tradition here this week -- Wednesday is Kids in the Kitchen day. It's their day to plan, prepare, and serve a family meal.

First step is to pick out a recipe -- I recently got them Rachel Ray's "Cooking Rocks: 30-minute Meals" cookbook. There are things I like and things I hate about it. I like that it encourages adventurous cooking/tasting. I hate that there is no nutritional information on her recipes. It's pretty mainstream, which is both good and bad (more likely kids will actually eat their creations, less likely Mom really wants them eating it....).

Anyway! After they've decided what they wanted to make (in this case stuffed crust Mexican pizzas -- no sense in going easy on themselves their first time out, huh? I figured they'd choose mac and cheese from a box!), J writes out a shopping list as his writing practice exercise for the day. Then during the afternoon I took them to the grocery store, armed them with a shopping cart and $20, and followed them around with as little input as possible. (They needed a clue as to what a scallion looked like and didn't know which isle olives were in.)

After paying for their groceries we headed home, and they put the items that needed refrigeration in the appropriate place.

A couple hours later they began putting together their creations. Zoo Boy raved about how much fun this was, and both boys said they couldn't wait to try them.

J cutting up the scallions. ("Nice organic scallions," he commented, as if he was some sort of scallion expert rather than this probably being the first time he's even been in the same room with a scallion....)

A quick aside -- don't you guys love how neat and orderly my counter workspace is?? (snort)

And here it is, the grand creation. And dang, that sucker tasted GOOOOOOD! Way better than a regular pizza. The basic premise is to make a cheese quesadilla, then top it like a pizza only using salsa instead of pizza sauce and pepper jack cheese instead of mozzarella.

And for the record, both kids did try it, willingly and enthusiastically, but neither of them liked it. Which meant more for us, woo hoo! See, there ARE advantages to sensory defensive kids!