A large family, homeschooling, adoption, special needs, whatever strikes my fancy, sort of blog.

A large family, homeschooling, adoption, special needs, whatever strikes my fancy, sort of blog.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, Annaliese!

Annaliese's birthday got spread over two days because Paul was working on the actual day.
Brianna, my knitter extrordinaire, made her sister, not one, not two, but THREE lovely scarves for her birthday.
Furby was so cute. He said, "Are you ready for my present?" and when she said yes, he gave her a great big hug! I said, "I wish it were my birthday, that's a great present!" and he gave me one, too. :) Love that cuddle bug.
Here, you can see the scarves in this shot of Annaliese passing out cupcakes that a friend at school made for her.
Josiah carries her cake while we all sing. She asked for a cake with M&Ms on it. I usually let Brianna bake the birthday cakes, but she was behind on her school work, so we bought it and added PB M&Ms.
Guppyzilla is a nickname Annaliese got as a toddler. When she was a little nursling, I called her my Guppy, or Guppy Girl. When she started walking, Daddy & Zach were making a lego scene, and she tromped through it like Godzilla, hence the combo.
My sweet baby girl is 17. Over the course of the next year, she will make choices that will determine the direction her life takes. I miss that little guppy, but I'm captivated by the beautiful, amazing young woman she's become, and I can't wait to see where she goes as she spreads her wings to fly.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Art Appreciation

Today's featured artist at homeschool co op was Henri Matisse. We read a book and watched a movie about him, and saw samples of his work and works inspired by his style. Then one of the moms took the kids through a guided project where they created an ocean picture in Matisse-like fashion.

Brianna took things 3 dimensional, by crinkling her strands of seaweed. I cut the yellow and pink fish at the same time, then cut them into strips and "traded" pieces to make 2 striped fish. The brown at the top of her page is a fishing boat.

The kids don't look thrilled because these pictures were taken after we got home from co op, and the kids just wanted to eat lunch.

Sam's work was rather cubist. I like the motion in his green seaweed.
Eli's work is called Ocean Moonlight. The yellow in the upper right corner is the moon, and there are a mother and baby whale--can you find them?
Today was fun, and I'm looking forward to next month's art day. In fact, I think we may add some sort of art appreciation curriculum for next school year.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

That's one way to get the blinds clean

I may have mentioned that yesterday was a rather long day. By the time Annaliese got home from babysitting for one of our church's small groups, I was really ready to crash out.

The following story is true. Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 share a room. Shortly after I closed my bedroom door and started to change for bed, they came running down the hall to my room and started banging on said closed door. They had an insurmountable conflict. Thing 1 wanted the blinds closed going up. Thing 2, however, wanted the blinds closed going down. Notice they both wanted the blinds closed. They simply disagreed on which direction to turn the little stick.

Now, Thing 1 redefines "stubborn." He is as immovable as the Rock of Gibraltar. And I felt bad for asking Thing 2 if he could give in on this oh-so-important issue, but I think I mentioned that yesterday was a really LONG day? No dice. Both of them were sure their way was the ONLY way that they could possibly sleep. Sigh.

I was actually pretty ticked. But I had a Solomon-like burst of inspiration. I excused myself, shut the door, pulled on some PJ pants, opened the door, stomped down the hall, grabbing a chair from the school room. I dragged it into Things 1 & 2's room, pushed it to the window, and RIPPED THE BLINDS OFF THE WALL. Then I hauled the (seriously dusty) blinds back to my room, shut and locked the door, and went to bed.

And these guys?

Said not a word. Not a single word.

I heard some thumping around after that, but was determined to be done for the day. Next morning, I discovered that they'd nailed up a blanket with pushpins. Works for them, works for me.

When one of the things asked about having the blinds back, I told them, "Absolutely, I'll help you hang them back up as soon as you clean them." The blinds got cleaned, we hung them back up, and life moved forward. No lecture, no excuses, no whining, no punishment. I hope they learned a lesson in all this, but I can't be sure, of course. I've decided I rather like clean blinds. Maybe next time someone needs a consequense, we'll pull down some more (in a more rational manner, of course).

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Today was a 200 mile day

Our homeschool co op had a long distance field trip today. We went to the town of Petaluma and visited Mrs. Grossman's Sticker Factory and the Petaluma Adobe. I really wish I'd had Paul's nice camera with me.
Squinting into the morning sunlight for the obligatory photo before the sticker factory tour began.
The group of 4 silver sticker strips that Brianna is pointing to was designed by my aunt, Lura Schwarz Smith, artist extrordinaire.
One of the other moms took a family picture for me. :)
At each of the stations we visited in the factory, the tour guide passed out sheets of stickers. Hannah shows off her ABC stickers in front of some giant sticker rolls waiting to be packaged into smaller quantities for retail distribution.
After the tour, we were taken back to the media room where we were given bags containing more stickers and background sheets to design our own scene.
Impressive "samples" from the tour. EACH of us was given all of these stickers (and there was a sheet of car stickers, too, but I'd already traded those to Brianna when I snapped this picture).
I was good and didn't even look in the front store area, but bypassed it for the "scratch & dent" section of discounted stickers in the back. They have a 12 cent rack and a couple of 50 cent racks. I told the kids they could each choose two items. We got out of there for under $4! Way more frugal than what I usually end up spending at the Jelly Belly Factory gift shop.
While the other half of our group was having their tour, we had some time to kill, so we walked along the lake across the parking lot from the sticker factory. Hannah saw the ducks swimming in the pond and asked me, "Mom, do the ducks have wheels?"
The children attempted the fine art of skipping stones. Which looks a lot like throwing rocks at ducks. Just sayin'.
I love this picture. Hannah was tired from the long walk, and her sweet ge ge, Sam, scooped her up and carried her a while.
Next, we drove over to the adobe, where we ate our lunches. Being a lovely historic state park, lunch quickly turned to tree climbing and stick fighting and leaf pile kicking for the kids.
Soon, the tour guide appeared and told us the kids really shouldn't be climbing the trees or kicking the leaves because of TICKS. Lovely. If any of my kids is sick in a week or so, remind me to consider Lyme disease, okay? Which reminds me, I meant to do a tick check on Hannah in the tub tonight, and I forgot. Bad mom.
At any rate, we started the tour of the adobe, which was similar to the California Missions or the historic forts we've been to.
Our guide was a bit flustered at first to have so many different ages together. Kids in school get California history at a certain grade, and that's the age group that usually visits.
Did I mention that it was an absolutely gorgeous spring day with a high of 74*?

Brianna got to go behind the barricade to learn to card and spin wool from the resident sheep.

And Samuel did me a huge favor by picking up owl pellets to take home and dissect. That big white lump in the background on the right is one of two ovens. Hannah is holding a piece of spun wool.
Not only did we learn about the 1830s ways of cooking and spinning and hide trading, we even learned about saddle making. Apparantly, all that information was exhausting.

Furby and Sam were the first ones to crash out, but eventually everyone but Brianna, my co-pilot, fell asleep for a bit. Brianna knit most of the way back, finishing up her project just before we got home.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Larcenous tendencies

Brianna recently came to me with a shiny purple Matchbox-style car. She told me Hannah brought it home from school. This occurred shortly after I decided to thin out her PJ drawer and found: a taco bell sauce packet, one of Eli's Matchbox cars, and a used piece of math scratch paper squirrelled away in there. Something about it didn't sit right with me, so I emailed her teacher.

"Hey, Hannah brought home a shiny purple car, and I wanted to check and see if it was a prize of some sort or if it belongs at the school."

The reply I received confirmed my funny feeling.

"The car belongs here. I am not sure who it belongs to so I had put it in the basket next to the door. She asked about it several times and asked who it belonged to. I told her I didn’t know and it needed to stay in the basket until I found out. She probably took it on her way out the door."

Sigh. I knew I had to deal with this. And I knew I had to walk the fine line between letting her know this was NOT okay, and freaking her out to make her hide stuff.

I talked to her. Which is tough because 1) she's 4, and 2) she's only been speaking English a little over a year. We established that she did take the car after Miss P told her it was not hers. I asked her what needed to happen, and she said in a tiny voice that it needed to go back to school. Okay. I told her, "Here's what we're going to do. You're going to write a note," here she started to tear up "and we're going to give the note and the car back to Miss P." She was crying. After more discussion, it was determined that she was crying because...

...she had no idea what writing a note meant. Sigh. It's funny, because everyone always says what excellent English she speaks. And she DOES, really. But there are *gaps* both in her language and in her experiences, that I don't even think about until I'm confronted with something that pierces me like an arrow to the heart.
So I explained what writing a note meant. Then I fired up the Start Write software and composed a note for her to trace. (Start Write prints in dotted letters. Very cool for primary aged kids.)
And I was a little more conscious than usual about explaining what I was doing, and showing her the printer and identifying what it was doing. Because I forget that (unlike the other kids) she didn't grow up pushing the power button on my CPU and then crawling away giggling.
She traced so carefully. She really did a beautiful job of it.
I stapled the baggie containing the car to the note and stuck it into her backpack. And ached on the inside for a little girl whose concept of ownership was formed not in a family, but in an orphange.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

I've been wanting to take more pictures this year. Especially more pictures of all the kids together. They're not crazy about the idea, but I convinced them that they could play at the park after I finished. Honestly, the ones I took of them as individuals came out much better than the group shots. Bumer.
I made these Valentines for our homeschool co op Valentine party. I love that some of their spunkiness shines through in the pictures. Our days are never boring.

This one, I made for Hannah to pass out to her class at preschool.
Since Valentine's Day is also a birthday in our house (Josiah's) we don't have a lot of Valentine traditions, but one thing we do try to do every year is Valentine Math. What is Valentine Math? For my homeschoolers, it's a scoop of conversation hearts and whatever sort of graphing/word problems/estimating/counting problems I decide to come up with that year.
This is the one day each year that the kids ask me, "Can we do math now??"