Monday, April 28, 2008

Green Hour #11 - Our Tree

My kids are having a very hard time staying indoors anymore. They want to be outside almost from the very start of the day. So today I decided we would start out outside,so by the time the sun really got hot we would be indoors. Since we were already heading out, I thought it was a good time to start our Green Hour Challenge #11. For this challenge we are to pick a tree to observe throughout the year. Last night I had read from the Handbook of Nature study about trees and most of the trees that are described in the book, I don't have in my neighborhood. (Maybe I do and I just don't know it. There are tons of different types all around and I certainly don't know them all.) So when we when out to do this challenge, I decided to let Sophie pick any tree to study. She quickly ran outside and wrapped her arms around the first tree she saw.
It was one of the three trees that line our driveway and that I park under everyday. I grabbed the tree field guide and we sat down on the driveway to find our tree in it. It wasn't too hard to figure out it is a Birch tree, a Paper Birch, I believe.

I had printed out the tree study journal page with the observation questions so we started with those. We sat somewhat quietly and just looked at our tree. We talked about the branches and how they point straight up but at the ends they curve and the leaves make it look a little bit droopy. We didn't see any birds today because we were too noisy. But usually our house sparrow friends that are nesting in the carport frequent these trees. We talked about how the branches are thin and weak so squirrels would be too heavy for them.
When we tried to listen we had trouble being quiet. But we did see the breeze blow through the leaves and branches.
We broke out our magnifying glasses next and got a close up look at our tree. The boys found a little ant trail going up the tree and they followed it for a bit.

We all noticed the bark and how it was curling and was so easy to peal off the tree. Sophie described the tree as soft and crinkly. The boys just liked to watch the ants.

We took a little time to really look at the leaves. We looked closely and could see some new leaves still starting to come out and unroll.

We pulled a few off to smell them. They didn't really smell like anything in particular. We did a little rubbing of the leaves.
Sophie liked doing the rubbings so much she took the leaves inside when we were done and did a whole page full of multicolored leaf rubbings. We need to gather more leaves from different trees and do rubbings of them as well.

We pulled off a few of the catkins too. I had to look up the name for these clusters. Now I know the correct term for these little things that I find on my windshield every time we head out in the car. There were still some dried up ones from last year along with some fresh green ones. The dry ones of course break up easily and are blown about by the wind.
Since we are well into spring we have already watched as these trees went from their empty winter look to the full spring look. We did notice how the tree got more and more leaves a few weeks back. And could see some the new leaves still coming out. So these trees will be good for us to really look at and watch as it transforms from season to season.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Very Industrious!

Guess what I was busy doing today. YUM!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Borrowers!

Yesterday I found a book called Sea Star by Marguerite Henry which is a sequal to the Misty books we had read earlier this year. Sophie was all excited about it when I showed it to her yesterday at the library. Last night I finished the book I was reading to her at bedtime, The Borrowers Afield. When I left her room I asked her if she wanted to read the Sea Star book next. She said "Oh no.... we have to read more Borrowers. I guess it is a good thing we also have The Borrowers Afloat sitting on the shelf waiting to be read as well. It is wonderful to have such a dilemma.

Green Hour Challenge #10 Outdoor Picnic

I know the Challenge for the week is to go on an outdoor picnic but somehow I forgot to photograph that part of our outing. We went to one of our many parks and sat at a picnic table and gave everyone a sandwich and some apples. We sat listening to the birds around us and the kids playing on the playground as we ate. I made the mistake of telling the kids I brought along a little lunch for the birds too. I had packed a small bag of bird seed for each of them. They quickly dropped their food and grabbed the bags and went out to try to feed the birds.
They went and scattered some seeds under a tree where we had seen a few birds before. Then I told them they needed to come back to the table and watch to see if any birds came to eat their offering. They wouldn't come if we were too near.
While we finished our lunch we watched as some black birds came and nibbled on some of the seeds the kids had scattered.
When finished we took a little walk out around the grassy area of the park to see what we could see.
I was surprised to see these cute little yellow birds. I guess I haven't paid much attention to birds because I hadn't ever seen these little guys before. I think they are some kind of Gold Finch. I would have to get a better look at them. I only saw them from below.
While on our stroll around the park we noticed this tree with these strange balls on the tree. I haven't been able to figure out what kid of tree it is.We of course had to scatter a few more seeds around this tree as well. I am thinking it is some kind of oak tree but I could be all wrong. I am so novice at this tree identification. I haven't found any tree, in any of the field guides we have, that has those balls on it. A lot of the trees in our neighborhoods aren't native to the area so give me a little more trouble sometimes.

It is hard to miss these very friendly birds in the park. They will come right up to the table if they know you have food for them.

And since we seem to have shifted our focus a bit to birds recently I thought I would include some of the other birds and things we saw today on our walk.
As we walked out of our drive way, Sophie pointed out the morning dove that was sitting on the neighbors roof.
We had seen one the other day while out "chalking" on the driveway. I had pointed it out and told her it was a dove. We had gone inside and looked it up in our field guide to find out exactly which kind. Sophie remembered it was called a morning dove.
While out walking we found the cutest little pine cones covering someone's driveway.
We collected a number of them and filled our pockets with them to take home. I have relented and we bring some of our treasures into the house. There is a glass mason jar filled with small rocks, cones and nuts that we find.
Here is the tree they are from. I will have to try to identify it more specifically then fir or spruce. Some kind of conifer tree is all I know. I may need to go walk by it again.
Henry found this little rollie pollie pill bug on the side walk and wouldn't put it down. He took it home with him and played with it for awhile.
Poor little rolled up critter.

Californian Poppies are still going strong in our neighborhood!
These really looked lovely in the wild patch of someone's yard mixed in with the purple flowers.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

It is a good thing I am Elinor

What Jane Austen gentleman is for you?

Mr. Ferrars.
Sense and Sensibility's Edward Ferrars is soft spoken, but he is firm in his decisions and will always make good on his promises, even if he's changed his mind. His good nature might lead him into the wrong situations sometimes, but he's not as naive as you might think.
Take this quiz!

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sophie's Blog

Sophie has had a blog for a few months now. She decided to name it The Bean Stalk. She isn't very regular about posting. Mostly she likes to talk about what she dreamt about that night or something like that. She dreams about the Cheshire cat a lot. But she checks it once in awhile to see if anyone has commented on her posts. We have kept her blog private but if any of her friends or family would like to comment on some of her posts, email me and I will send you an invitation to view her blog.
She would be thrilled!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

First Band Concert

We had our first band concert today. Yes, I know it is Sunday but it is a FREE concert so I don't feel like it is breaking the Sabbath.

Here is most of the band. My husband is the photographer. I of course sit in the flute section which means front row in a Symphonic Band. That is me, the third flute.
Not that we really sit according to any order. If that were the case I would be sitting at the end of the flutes since I am so rusty. We usually sit where ever we are comfortable within our sections. Some prefer to sit right in front of the conductor while others of us really don't care as long as there is room enough for the flute that sticks out on the right side.

My favorite part of the evening is hearing each song announced. I listened to the MC tell a little about the composer, the piece or for what it was written for and often what movie it was used in. It was interesting to see how he wove all this seemingly disjointed songs together into one program. The concert was called "Journey's through Time and Space". I guess you can pretty much fit anything into that.

My husband besides being the photographer also had the fun job of keeping our three kids under control. Sophie has been to concerts before but the boys, well.... we had stake conference this morning and it didn't go too well. So we knew this was going to be fun. But my husband thought we should all go. The boys need to get used to concerts and especially see Mom perform.
The boys made it through about 3 songs. Henry thought we were too loud and was covering his ears the whole time. I don't blame him. We were in a small room and we started with a fanfare by Richard Strauss. During one of the quiet and slow songs about 4 pieces into the program the boys got bored and had to get taken out. Sophie sat there like a little lady and listened. During the intermission Sophie was able to come up and talk to some of the other musicians and look at their instruments. She was fascinated by the Bassoon.
My husband brought the boys back in after the intermission and they made it through the rest of the show. They loved the Pirates of the Caribbean medley we played and Sophie loved the Star Trek music. I personally love Gershwin's American in Paris which we played last. It is really hard for me to play but it is a fun song to listen to. My husband went home humming one of the marches that we played. It sounds like a long concert but really there were only 12 song on the program. I was amazed at how well the kids did.
It is fun to play my flute again and if I can just fit in a bit more practice time I would really get better and not have to fake my way through some of the pieces.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Rabbit Week

Our week has been all about Rabbits it seems. Sophie can't think about anything except rabbits. Our Five in a Row book this week was The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. So we read all sorts of books about rabbits, vegitables, gardening and Beatrix Potter. Along with many of her other stories. Now every squirrel is called Squirrel Nutkin. Ian loved the My Dear Noel book. We read it a few times this week at his request.
To finish off our week we went to the pet store to look at rabbits. And ask about what it takes to keep one as a pet. Sophie has her heart set on getting one of her own. The pet store didn't have any rabbits in today so instead we instead we asked about guinea pigs. We asked about what they eat and how to take care of them and what kind of cage they would need and such. The pet store worker even took one out and let the kids pet it. Now Sophie thinks she going to be getting one for her birthday. Two actually since guinea pigs do better in pairs. We will have to see about that. Pets can get very pricey.
We broke out the water colors and gave them a try. I think I need to get some new water colors because there wasn't much left in the boxes that I had. But the kids had a great time with the washable poster paints which I had in abundance.
We also checked on the status of our Garden. The Tomato plants have sure grown but the cucumbers are not growing as fast. But thy do still look healthy so I expect them to take off soon.

The strawberry plants are doing well. They look all perky and have a bunch of blossoms. And Sophie's bulbs are poking up out of the soil.

Along with Five in a Row we also did a bit of math. Sophie is learning the very basics of multiplication. We practiced counting by 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. She does well with 2 and 5 but the others need a lot more practice.

We also did a few more chapters of Story of the World. I turned on the CD one and and we reviewed the previous chapter about Julius Ceasar then the next chapter which talks about Ceasar's conquest of Britan and return to Rome. And we kept listening as we heard about his murder. Sophie didn't want to stop so I let the CD go through the next chapter about the rise of Christianity too. That is where the CD ended so we stopped. I know we will have to review all those chapters again. But I was happy to let her listen. We were coloring some more of her Dover Coloring book about life in Ancient Rome as we listened. We also looked at the map as the story unfolded so we could see where the different parts of the story were taking place. Later we read some more of the Roman News and even started reading a Children's version of Shakespere's Julius Ceasar. We haven't finished that. We will have to continue it next week.
Here is Sophie showing off our picture wall of all the Peter Rabbit pictures and Ceasar pictures that we have on display at the moment.
Today just for fun we also attempted some Origami. Not for any reason especially. I just saw the origami instruction book on the shelf and decided to give it a try. Sophie wanted to make cats.

Here are the finished products.

Anyway.. It was a great week. School went well and we have had a great time. The kids are learning and loving it.

Leaves of three, let them be.

I think on our hike on Tuesday I got a little too close to the nature around me. I remember sitting on a rock to take a picture of the kids and then looking down and seeing a lovely 3 leafed plant right there next to me. I really hoped it wasn't poison oak. It may not have been but somewhere along that hike I must have or my kids must have rubbed up against it. Yesterday I started scratching my arm and then during the night I woke up and had to scratch my neck. Then this morning I discovered that have a little patch behind my knee. This is what finally really clued me in. I actually have a few little blisters on the back of my leg. I have been looking online for the best solutions to my problem. Oatmeal or baking soda are said to help. At the moment I am just applying aloe lotion because it cools it down and it feels good, but I have to reapply it often. I don't have calamine. Maybe I will run to the drug store or something and see what they have.
So far my kids don't seem to have any which is good. I am going to have to become better acquainted with what poison oak looks like so I can avoid it in the future.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Red Poppy

Yesterday at the library I picked up a great book. I saw the title on the shelf and thought since we were seeing so many poppies about, it would a fun read. So I took it home. The book is just called "The Red Poppy" by Irmgard Lucht.
This morning we read a bunch of books about gardening and Vegetables to go along with our FIAR book, Peter Rabbit. I went to the library shelf (we have one cube in our large shelf where the library books go) and saw this book there and thought it too would kinda go along. We we all piled into the story telling chair to read through this one. I hadn't even opened it yet, which is kinda strange of me to take a book home without at least glancing through it first. But I guess even from the cover you can get at least a feel for the type of book and pictures that you will find inside.
The artwork is beautiful. And the story is lovely. We had so much fun looking for the insects and animals hidden in the grasses or even in the flowers. The story explains the whole life cycle of the poppy through words and pictures. It is a great resource for teaching about plants I think. And the close up look into the parts of the poppy were great! My kids don't always love all the non fiction books and since this one is really a picture/story book they loved it.
It appears to be out of print. Amazon isn't selling it new. So see if you Library has it. It is well worth a read.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Green Hour Challenge #8 Up close and Personal

I can't say we actually went out this week specifically to complete this challenge. We have spent a lot of time out of doors recently. How can we not when we have such lovely weather. I have made a point to bring along our magnifying glasses so when the moment arises I would have them handy. We have broken them out often to look closely at the pollen inside of flowers but mostly to look closely at some insects that we have found. We have looked closely at ants and lots of spiders. We even found a lady bug one day.

On our hike today the kids found a chrysalis stuck to some rocks they were climbing on.
What a great opportunity to use those magnifying glasses that I had packed along. It gives the kids something to do with their hands rather then try to pick it up.

We had a number of kids along with us on our hike so I doubt this chrysalis is going to make it. It got a bit knocked about. It is so hard to keep little hands away from something they want to examine.
On the walk back down Sophie and some of her friends caught this grasshopper.
They weren't able to get a really good look at it since it really wanted to get away. Each time they opened their hands it would jump out and they would have to catch it again.
All along the trail today we saw a plant I remember playing with in my childhood. Having grown up in the CA gold country we always called it Miner's Lettuce.
We, my siblings and I, picked it and ate it while we were out playing in the fields. I wouldn't let my kids try any since this trail is used to walk dogs. Maybe we will pick some next time and bring it home and give it a try.

Also during the past week our carport has become the nesting place of some birds. We hear them chirping and chirping whenever we step outside.
It is really hard to get a picture of birds. I have new respect for anyone who takes bird pictures because it took me so many tries to get even these few pictures of the birds.
I haven't yet identified the birds. I am really not good at birds. Flowers and trees are hard enough but birds especially these seemingly nondescript birds. I really need a field guide for just California instead of the one I have of all North America. I will see what the Library has this week.
Henry of course wanted to catch the birds and he could hear them in the trees so he had to climb up in them.
Sophie spotted this wasp nest on the carport. It doesn't look in use at the moment so I am going to knock it off and maybe we can get a closer look at it.
And while we were out walking around the block I noticed another tree that I could identify. We have tons of these Magnolia Trees all around our neighborhood. In a few months we should see the big white flowers bloom.
These are a few of our outdoor adventures during the last few days.