Thursday, March 31, 2011

the fox and the wrens

We've started our Scottish Trickster Tales. The first is the story of "The Fox and the Wrens," in which the fox tries to trick the wrens into pointing out which one is the father (with the thought that if she caught the father, the sons would be without leadership and easy to catch). But those wary wrens were too smart, and they tricked the fox into letting them all go instead. Above is J's story work, below is Zoo Boy's.

Monday, March 28, 2011

bunny love

Zoo Boy has been begging for a bunny since the dawn of time. We had told him that when J got his puppy (promised to him when he turned 10), he could have bunny. But since then, J has realized that he's probably not got the time to raise and train a puppy, given that almost all of his time is spent at dance studios (or going to and from them). So when we came across these wonderful Jersey Wooly babies, he decided that perhaps a bunny was a more appropriate pet for him as well.

Here's a better look at the cuties: Zoo Boy named his white baby "Snowball" and J named his black baby "Nellie":

Both boys are thrilled, but especially Zoo Boy, who gave his new baby a tour of the house, and introduced her to his cockatiel, Lucario.

The bunnies in their temporary digs in the boys' room. They'll outgrow this cage rapidly, but we'll come up with a better plan for them soon. Given that I used to have about a hundred angora rabbits, we're not exactly lacking in proper equipment and housing. But the fact that the boys want these little girls to live in their room means we have some thinking to do in regards to appropriate accommodations.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

the big show!

The cast of dancEnlight's world premiere show, "In Between."

Above, the kids excitedly wait for the first act to begin during dress rehearsal. Below, the company members all signed show posters as gifts for the kids. Very, VERY cool! Below, final bows on the last night. (J is 2nd from the left in blue, in case you couldn't figure that out on your own).
What an incredible experience this was for J. The show was just a gorgeous body of work, and we all are feeling very artistically inspired around here.

And exhausted. Time to breathe deep and relax a bit. It's amazing how draining a week's worth of late night rehearsals is, not to mention how emotionally charged everyone becomes the nights of the show.

Of course, we can't relax long, J has a ballet performance in 2 weeks, and is busy rehearsing for a recital, a spring show, and a spring concert. Oy!

ballet class

(I know, I'm doing it again, blogging in bursts -- my apologies, my computer is giving me all kinds of problems, I can't always open it up every day, hence you get a glut of posts on the days I can get in. SOMEDAY I'll have a brand new, reliable computer. In the meantime, this is the best I can do....)

It was Parent Observation Week at the ballet school last week, so I got to sit in on 3 of J's ballet classes, and even remembered to bring my camera to Friday's class! J dances ballet on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays (and would dance it the rest of the days, too, if he had his choice!). He was moved up a level between semesters this year, and from what I'm being told, he's doing really great at this level. (They all seem to think I should be able to see how obviously wonderful he's doing just by watching a class -- hahahaha! When it comes to dance, I'm afraid I'm completely clueless. But I nod my head a lot like I understand what they are saying, and I sure as heck love watching him dance. I'm bound to get more with the program the longer he dances. Fortunately, I completely trust his instructors and directors to steer him right, so if they say he's doing great, I'm perfectly willing to believe them!)

Class begins! This is one of his two male instructors. I'm really pleased that he's dancing at a school with not only one, but two fabulous male ballet teachers! The more male dancer role models for him, the better, as far as I'm concerned! J of course idolizes them both.

Mr. David helps J improve his foot placement.


It's such a thrill for me to watch J doing something he is so passionate about (and apparently talented at). Although I can tell he's pretty distracted by me being in the classroom with him, so I guess it's good that it's not Parent's Observation Week every week!


I was hoping against hope that my best ewe, Bella, would give me twin ewe lambs this year, but she went one better on me and had triplets -- and all girls to boot! The black one is Ellen, the bigger white one (in front) is Agnes, and the little white one in the back is Martha. (If anyone is wondering, our lamb names this year are from the book Pillars of the Earth, which The Map Man and I both recently read. Well, except for Reggie, who is just too goofy to share a name with any of the characters in the book. We use a theme every year, the year Bella, Alice and Rosalie, moms of our current lambs, were born, it was Twilight, and last year was King Arthur -- our Gwenywyfar should lamb in another month or two.)

I'm beyond excited. All babies are doing well -- triplets can be worrisome, because sheep only have two teats, but Bella is a wonderful mother, and if any ewe can successfully raise triplets, it's her! She takes very good care of her babies.

Plan is to keep all the girls, assuming they turn out! (These three, plus Aliena, who is Alice's daughter.) The boys are already spoken for (in fact, I'm going to be way short on lambs to sell this year, even for my repeat customers). Gwen should give us single lamb at some point (generally ewes have only one on their first lambing when bred as a lamb themselves), so we'll see what that turns out to be. Although Bella surprised us with twins at her first lambing, so you never know! And we're going to have to let Rosalie go this year, since she only singled. No sense in keeping the less productive sheep, especially when we've got tripling genetics we can build on by keeping Bella's babies.

So it looks like spring out there, even though it doesn't feel like it! One of these days it'll warm up....

ghosts and goblins have their say

We (slowly) wrapped up our little spelling rules block with two days of work on the story "The Ghosts and Goblins Have Their Say," in which the influence of "gh" at the end of vowel blends is explored. (There is, in fact, one more story in the series, but I'm choosing not to use it with my kids at this time, but rather leave them in this playful mood. We'll use it between our next two cultures, as reawakening and wrap-up.) Above is my drawing from the story, below are the boys'.
J's drawing (above) is way better than mine, depicting what happens to the vowels when they are poked and tickled by the ghosts and goblins, and made to say different sounds than their actual names. Zoo Boy (his drawing is below) actually spent 3 hours (yes, that's right, 3 hours!), or, in other words, an entire morning, doing his drawing and writing in his words. He was quite insistent and persistent on this task, and didn't want to take any shortcuts, leave out any characters, or any "gh" words, so I gave him the time and space to finish his work to his satisfaction. (And yes, the irony of this was not lost on me, given his reluctance to draw and write just a few short weeks ago....)

Part of our story verse -- it was too long to write the whole thing all in one day. I had been planning on taking 2 days to complete it anyway, but with Zoo Boy's drawing work taking so much time the first day, we didn't start it until Friday, so had to wrap up with just the basics. J's writing above, Zoo Boy's (just the first stanza) below.

We're on to some Trickster Tales next! We've been dancing to a silly, playful Scottish folk song called "Aiken Drum" and doing our spin-and-fold sequences to "A Drunken Sailor" (still a favorite from our lite Robin Hood block back in January), so we're all ready for a cultural trip to the British Isles.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

big show coming up

This is production week for the dancEnlight show (to be held this weekend). DancEnlight is the professional Modern Dance company that is allowing J and a few other students to participate in one of their numbers. It's been an incredible experience for the kids to work alongside world-renown dancers and choreographers for the past several months, and the show is really going to be something (I got to see it all the way through for the first time last night). It's given us a bit of a feel for what working in a professional company is like (and the sorts of hours they keep, which is taking a big adjustment for us!). J is totally sold -- he has declared himself as fully intending on pursuing a career in professional dance. No big surprise there!

I's pride

Despite my general malaise as of late, we soldier on with our schoolwork! The first story we worked with this week was "I's Pride," which describes what happens when "ie" is not followed by other letters (sounds like long "i" -- or "y"). "I" was feeling sad that there was such a hooplah about her saying "E's" name in the last story, and "E" found a way for her to say her own name when nobody was following them, and still be protected from the ghosts and goblins. (The King's Yeoman "Y" steps in front of "I" so she can't be seen.) The above drawing is mine, using the actual letter-characters. Of course, the boys have their own take on this:

J's drawing above, same idea as mine, but his characters are real, not letters. Below is Zoo Boy's drawing, he insisted on included the King's Servant ("S") who also helps out by hissing to distract the ghost, in the case that "Y" can't hide "I".

Above, our verse explaining this spelling rule, written by J. Below, Zoo Boy's playful version of the first stanza of the verse. The boys are having SO much fun with this little spelling rules block! The stories really capture their imaginations, and they are thrilled to write their spelling words down on the drawings that embody the rules. Who would have thought spelling was so fun?


Meet "Reggie" (aka "Sir Reginald Fuzzbutt"), born yesterday morning amidst a fresh coating of spring snow. He's a sturdy little (big!) dude. And very fuzzy (not actually what I'm looking for in a newborn lamb, but cute!).

Richard (l) and Aliena (r) are thrilled to have a new co-conspirator in little lamb games, such as "Annoy the Pony" and "Torture the Turkeys".

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

happy Spring?

This is how we celebrated the Equinox.

And no, you've not missed anything. Apparently I've sunken into my usual January doldrums a couple months late, so not much in the way of formal school work has been going on around here lately. Ah well, spring IS (supposedly) here, my enthusiasm is bound to re-bloom along with the flowers!

Monday, March 14, 2011

spring must be coming...

zoo boy's party

Welcome to Zoo Boy's super-fun museum birthday party. Yes, it's true, I'm not anywhere near as fabulous as Kyra, I'm not willing to have 16 kids plus assorted adults invade my house while I serve a Hogwarts-shaped cake I made from scratch. Instead, I go the turn-the-kids-over-to-the-museum-staff and store-bought-spiderman-cake route.

Zoo Boy, fortunately, doesn't seem to care that Mommy is a lazy party-thrower, all he cares is that he's surrounded by friends and doing all the things he likes to do best in the world. So off we go....

This way to adventure!! Zoo Boy and a couple of his guests (in this case his friends D and R) set off on safari in one of the exhibits. The party started by our group visiting 3 of the museum's exhibits, where they had bunches of fun, including coming face-to-face with this guy:

Then we went back to our party room and got to meet a ferret up close and personal. The Map Man and I used to have a couple of ferrets (before we had kids), so it was sort of nostalgic for us (especially since the ferret we met looked just like one of ours!). J thinks maybe it's time we had another ferret. He says if it slept with him, it could kiss him in the morning and wake him up.

Then Zoo Boy made a wish and blew out his candles. He was good about not telling anyone (at least not me!) what his wish was!

Opening gifts, something all the kids were into. He got a bunch of good stuff -- a couple new games for his DS, a couple of DVD shows (Spiderman and Scooby Doo), a couple of books (including the much-coveted Guardians of Gahool series), some Beyblades (one of the popular boy toys right now -- they are basically souped-up tops), and a Lego set.

Last item on the agenda was a visit to the planetarium for a show about Mars, which I hear was very educational (I was busy cleaning up the party room, so I missed it).

Everyone seemed to have a great time! With any luck, Zoo Boy will choose to have his party here again next year. It's certainly made my life easy for the past two birthdays!

the royal letter guard

Above is my drawing -- yeah, I know, I don't usually post those anymore (in fact, I don't really draw all that often anymore, the kids don't need the living model anymore, they prefer their own creative processes. Since they really think of the characters as being children who represent the letters, rather than the letters themselves, I drew my "letters" first (just to make sure they were connecting the story with the visual reality of the spelling rules), and then the kids had a good laugh and did their drawings (below). In this story, the Guard begins their duty of protecting the King from the ghosts and goblins, but runs into a bit of trouble when "E" become too tired to call out his name.

J's above, Zoo Boy's below. The deal is that "I" protects "E" by calling out his name for him in the top drawing (he was too tired and weak to do it himself), hence saving them all from the ghosts and goblins. But "I" got tired eventually, and their Counselor from Royal Camp stepped in to help while "I" fell back to rest (in the bottom drawing). Hence, the whole "i" before "e" except after "c" thingy. After we did our drawings, we each chose some "i before e" and "except after c" spelling words to show what our drawings signified.

Zoo Boy actually said it was scary when I needed to call out E's name. The follow-up story, "I's Pride" helped resolve that (we just read that one today, so work on that will happen on Wednesday -- Tuesday is therapy and music lesson day, we don't do story work that day). I find it telling that Zoo Boy sees the loss of individuality as scary....

Our "I before E" verse, a bit different than the traditional saying, weaves in the story image and makes it a living verse for the kids to connect to rather than just a rhyme to memorize. (J's writing above, Zoo Boy's below.)