Friday, October 31, 2008

See! they did come in handy.

I have a box in my closet that holds what I affectionately call "the junk from my childhood". Over the years this box has been downsized and things get taken out and thrown away. So hopefully this box now holds only the really important things.It holds a few journals from my early years. One in particular is always funny to read. It is written in my parent's hand writing but they wrote exactly what said when I was only 3 or 4 years old. So it is my voice but their writing. This box is also home to a bunch of the pictures I took on trips that I went on or of friends and family as well as school pictures over the years. For some reason I kept a song book from girls camp when I was 12 years old. There is also a few awards that I won and little items given to me from friends, family or teachers. When looking through the papers I have kept I found a few old report cards and school papers I wrote. I even found my SAT and ACT scores in there. Very important things to save! But two things from this box came out yesterday. They are probably the oldest items I have in this box.
The book of stories is from the Fall of my 3rd grade year and the Marvelous Me Book is from 2nd Grade. I dragged out the box yesterday to find these little treasures because Sophie was in tears yesterday during our drawing lesson. She was frustrated that things just didn't look right and she kept saying she just wasn't good at drawing. She likes to compare her drawings to mine and she gets so frustrated when hers don't look as good as mine. No matter how many times I tell her that it takes a lot of practice and years of work to be able to draw well, she just doesn't believe me. So I went in search of some of my early artwork. And these two books were perfect.
Here is one of the Halloween stories from the book of stories I wrote and illustrated in the Fall of 1983. Great work!

Here are a few of the pictures included in the Marvelous Me book that I did in 2nd grade.

You would never think that these drawings done by a little 7 year old girl who dreamed of being a "Jokey" (Jockey) would later get an art degree.

Now take a look at my 7 year old's art work. Here is one she did for fun this week.
A very good drawing of a viking ship!

And here is one of the drawings that she was crying about. For our drawing lesson this week we did a few practice warm-ups and then tried to draw birds. The book gave us some very specific drawing instructions to follow. I loved her birds but she thought they just weren't good enough. They didn't look exactly like the ones in the book. And she didn't like me giving any suggestions on things she could do differently to make them look more like the ones in the book. This is when I pulled out my old drawings and showed her how much better she is at drawing than I was at her age. She loved looking through the books and pointing out all my misspellings and she laughed at my silly drawings. She thought my stories were pretty boring. I guess even then I wasn't headed to a literary career. But she did have to admit that my hand writing was easier to read than hers and one of the stories was written in cursive.

This experience reminded me to make sure I save some of these great drawings and some of her work so she too can pull them out later in life to show to her kids. Thanks mom for saving these for me. I am glad that she didn't save everything because I really don't have space for boxes and boxes of "Junk from my childhood" but one box with a few things will hopefully be able to show the journey one traveled and what was important at the time.
Every time I dig through this box I find little treasures that I didn't realize I saved. And of course there are still things in this box I have no idea why I am still holding on to them.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hopefully a Language Arts Breakthrough

For weeks we haven't done much of any grammar or language arts. I just haven't felt motivated to do it and Sophie hasn't wanted to do it at all so I just put it on the back burner. This week I brought out a new program to try. We have only done the first two lessons but so far it seems to be working better than First Language Lessons had been.

Today's lesson was to do some copy work and dictation. Sophie hates doing copy work. She knows it is just busy work and throws a highly dramatic fit about how boring it is and how she doesn't want to do it. And then today I threw dictation at her where she doesn't get to see the words and has to sound them out for a change. Once I could get her to stop crying and screaming at me. I explained that I am required to teach "Reading, Writing, Math, History and Science". I told her she is very good at reading, and that she is doing very well at math. She already loves history and science so it is time we got started on writing. For some reason she suddenly calmed down, came to the table again and picked up the pencil to give it a try. She hated it at first. And got upset if the word didn't look right. But she made it through 3 complete sentences of dictation. I couldn't believe it. And she was even cooperative when I then asked her to read a lesson out of the McGuffey Reader.

I think I am going to try to make sure we do at least 3 lessons a week and see if we have less fights over time. Math has gotten better because I was persistent with it and now she loves it. It is always so hard to get Soph to do something that she isn't used to doing. But I was so happy with today's 15 min lesson I just had to share.

Let's hope it continues.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sum up of our week

I have been lazy about doing my weekly reports lately. Time is really at a premium the last little bit. I am actually looking forward to the holidays. Soccer will be done and the election will be over and cold weather will finally stick around (we are still wearing shorts and t-shirts most days). But we did do some school work this week but I do admit we left out some of our normal things just because things got crazy toward the end of the week with parties and excitement related to them.

So here is the run down.

History - Charlemagne was the topic for the week so back to france. We read the chapter from SOTW and did the map work. Sophie and Henry enjoyed coloring in the the faces of Charlemagne's family and other characters in his story. We also read a few of the tales from france. The Acrobat and the angel was one. Toads and Diamonds as well as one called Three sacs of truth was interesting.

Science- The biome for this week and next is Rivers. So far we have read a few books about rivers in general and also waterfalls. We also watched another of those great Schlessinger media films about fresh water ecosystems. I do feel sort of bad that I am using so many videos to teach science the last few weeks. But I just don't feel up to planning anything more than books and videos at the moment.

Math - Ian has been faithfully doing a page or two of his Earlybird Math book and is really trying to write his letters but he really is having a hard time making his hand do what his mind is telling him. He really wants to get tot he point where he is doing "real math like Sophie" but he isn't able to write well yet so it really slows him down.

Sophie is doing great with Math the last few weeks. She loves multiplication. She is flying through the lessons and so far seem to be remembering them. But then we are only doing up to the 4 times tables so she is quickly doing the addition in her head I think. But she does her math on her own lately. She doesn't even wait for me to ask her to do it. She just grabs it goes through the lesson and exercise and brings it to show me.

Art/Drawing - we didn't do our next lesson from Drawing with Children. Thursday is our day set for our this drawing lesson and we were just busy and the kids were tired and cranky so it just didn't happen. The lesson also required a certain children's book and my hold at the library didn't make it this week but it is sitting there waiting for me to pick it up next week when we visit our visit. So we will proceed with the next lesson this coming week.

Music - We listened to the Classics for kids shows about Bach and we listened to our Bach CD a number of times.
Sophie is almost to the point where she is able to distinguish some of the pieces from the others. She knows the Brandonburg Concertos pretty well.

Crafts - Sophie has found a new love. While at a friend's house a few weeks ago she did some Perler Bead projects.

I found a bucket of the beads on sale somewhere and bought her some. She spends a lot of time making little cats, dogs, fish, flowers and all sorts of other things with these beads.

We also made some paper pumpkins and some collages. Anytime we get glue and paper out my kids have to do a collage.

Friday we had a Halloween party to go to and then on Saturday we had a birthday party and also the Trunk or Treet at Church. Lets just say there is no shortage of candy in our house at the moment.
Here are the kids enjoying pieces of candy as quickly as they can.

Henry just looked so cute with this lolly in his mouth.

It was a busy week but I can't say we accomplished as much as we should have. But we did read our scriptures everyday and most of the basics so we did pretty good.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thirteen things

I have had a bit of the blogging slump. I just haven't felt compelled to post anything recently. I just don't think anything is that interesting to write about or I just have had other things going on. But I thought I would share 13 things I have been thinking about or doing recently.

1. I just finished reading The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter. I always enjoy and recommend everyone read her books. She is a somewhat recent find for me. My mom has told me that she read the books in her youth but I don't remember ever hearing about her novels until recently. I started with Laddie and have now read just about all of her published books. Good, wholesome, moral books! Much better than the stuff that comes out today. Before reading reading this book I had quickly read through Jane Austen in Scarsdale. Interesting, and at times funny, book but nothing I am going to really recommend or read again.

2. Emma Watson did a good job playing Pauline Fossil in Dancing Shoes. This was the only other film I have seen her in other than the Harry Potter movies. We watching this today and enjoyed it. It follows the book quite well but rushes through. If you haven't read the book, I would say read it before watching. It will make a lot more sense if you already know the story.

3. Dover coloring books are great! Last Fall I went online and ordered as many of the dover coloring books or maze books as I could for $50, which is the amount you have to buy in order to get free shipping. I got a lot of their bargain bin ones for a dollar or so and tried to find ones that would go along with our studies during the little while. At first I thought I was crazy for buying coloring books for so much money but Sophie has so enjoyed them I have no regrets. She has colored a few pages in a lot of different ones. She loves the birds, insects and flower ones and often tells me all about the flower she is coloring because she actually reads those captions at the bottom of the page. She has really enjoyed the historical ones I picked and give to her when they go along with the history. She just recently finished coloring the last of the Roman one I gave her last spring when studying about them. So they have been a good review at times of the things we have already studied. But mostly I love that Sophie loves to color while she listens to audio books. She will do that for hours some days and it is nice. Now if only I can get Ian to color. He has never taken to it... but he loves the maze books.

4. The Acrobat and the Angel by Mark Shannon is a fun library find this week. I got it to go along with our middle ages France studies for the week since it claimed to be a french tale and takes place in that time period. It reminds me a lot of The clown of God by Tomie dePaola. Maybe they are based on similar tales or legends.

5. I am ready for this election to come and go. I am tired of politics and especially the presidential race. It just makes me weary thinking about it. Plus I am ready to have my husband be less busy. He is always doing something related to his work with the Yes on Prop 8 groups. Saturdays are especially busy as we juggle soccer games, ballet and prop 8.

6. Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins are the best! I can't even say how many times I have made these muffins over the last few months but they are great every time! My kids love them, I love them and my husband always shares with his co workers and they love them. Have I posted this one already? If I have then here it is again. If not then here it is and enjoy. I usually half this recipe and it still makes two pans worth.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 cups canned pumpkin (one large can.)
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
4 cups white sugar
6 eggs
4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons cloves
mini chocolate chips (as many as your heart desires)

In a large bowl, mix together the pumpkin, vegetable oil, sugar and eggs. Mix well by hand or use an electric mixer. Blend in the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ground cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Mix thoroughly. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven. For baby muffins bake for 15-18 minutes. For muffins and small loaves, bake for 30-35 minutes. For medium and large loaves, bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

7. I need to use my crock pot more often. I coach Ian's soccer team late on Thursday afternoons and it would have been a much nicer dinner if I had had it cooking away while we were gone and came home to something tastier then Chicken nuggets which has become my standard last minute dinner other than pancakes and scrambled eggs which we have been having far too often of late.

8. Our toad hasn't eaten in about 2 weeks. Not because of lack of food. I keep putting a cricket in his box and yet it is always there. He never eats it. I remove that one and put in another one thinking he just doesn't like that one and yet he still doesn't eat. Do toads go that long without eating?

9. My kids love halloween. They are so excited for the different parties we have planned to attend this weekend and next. They found a new favorite halloween book, One Halloween Night by Mark Teague. Sophie has read it to the boys several times. Sophie is going to be a princess, Ian will dress up as a pirate and Henry is a skeleton. Parents are supposed to dress up too but I really am not creative and usually don't end up doing anything.

10. Ok... so I can't come up with any more and my husband needs to use the computer so just image there are 13 things.




Thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

8 has Huge Support!

Today we went and were part of a rally and walk for supporters of Prop 8. This was a group of mostly Christian Asian Americans, but there was also a large number of Hispanic people there too. They were from all over the bay area and gathered to walk and let people know that they supported traditional marriage.This was a different group then the Protect organization of which we have been supporting. This group's website is It was so amazing to see so many people all in one gathering. What was really amazing was to see how long the line of people walking the sidewalks of the busy street. They estimated that there were about 5,000 people at this rally.

Our kids had a good time walking along with the group. And many of the people around us loved that we brought our children along.

Sophie and Ian are getting very good a waving signs. We also were part of a small wave walk in our city, on Saturday. They love it when people honk. Henry's little voice yelling out "yes on 8" is just too cute! It is so wonderful to see such support and gives me a lot of hope that our cause will win this.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What's up with Science?

One of the subjects I have been trying to focus more attention on is science. In October we have begun a study of the different biomes on the earth. Our first biome was forests (but not the rain forest, we will do that later). So we have been reading books all about coniferous and deciduous forests. I can't say there are a lot of great books at the library for young kids about these forests. But we have found a few that we have really liked. We own a book called Nature Cross Sections.
We really enjoyed looking at the cross sections of the forest trees with all the animals that live in all the different parts of the forest. We love animals around our house so we also watched a Going Wild with Jeff Corwin video that I found at the library. He explores a forest in colorado to find an elk. My kids loved this video. I think I am going to have to find others of this series. It is sort of like watching animal planet which is what my kids enjoy watching when at Grandma's house.

We have also been watching more Schlessinger videos. Both of these ones have been very useful.
It is sort of sad that I have been using so many videos to teach science. But I know along with the videos and a few books we also have been out on our nature walks and outdoor hour challenges which have helped us take a closer look at the coniferous and deciduous trees that we find in our neighborhood.

We are moving on to our next biome or ecosystem, rivers, next week. I don't really feel like we totally covered forests. (We didn't even do any fun projects. No... that isn't true. We did go out and collect the colorful leaves outside and we made them into collages.) I am thankful that I will get to cover the topic again and again in the years to come. That is one of the things that I need to remember and remind myself. That I don't have to cram the whole topic into their head this time around. In fact I shouldn't be cramming anything into their head but simply introducing topics to them and see where it leads us.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Outdoor Hour #32 - Pine Trees

We are going back to the challenge for a few weeks ago, Pine Trees. We didn't do just one study of pine trees. We have looked at the many different varieties of Pine tree we have come across on our daily walks.
We have looked at these scale like pine trees a number of times. They are shaped into a huge hedge along one of our neighbor's driveway.
We also see a number of junipers used as bushes in many different yards. My kids love to pick the blue berries on the different junipers. The berries on the first one is rather bumpy while the 2nd one's berries are perfect little round blue gray berries.

Here is another pine tree that we love to visit and pick the cute little cones off the tree.
We stopped to look at the number of needles that grow in each group. Mostly this trees grew two but sometimes there were three needles in a group.
But the most impressive part of this tree to the kids is the sticky sap they can see. They were afraid to touch it at first because they know it usually is sticky but today it was hard and they decided it was now "sap crystals".

I have decided that pine trees are very difficult to identify. I thought we would try to figure out what kind of pine tree we have in our front yard. So we looked at the needles and how they grew out of the branches.
The cones are very distinct. They look like roses.
I thought it shouldn't be hard to identify this tree. But I looked in my California field guide and couldn't find it. So I looked in my Trees of North America Field Guide and again I couldn't see it in there. The cones grow up on top of the branches and the needles are short and grow in large clusters.
My guess is that it is some kind of Cedar, but which kind exactly I can't tell.
My kids sure love to play with the roses and needles they find all over the yard. At the moment our deck is covered with both.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Cathedral, a Temple and a Monastery

Throughout our studies so far this year we have been learning a lot about different religions as well as the start of Christianity. My sister in law invited us to go along with her gaggle of kids to visit a few sights today. They drove down to the city and we drove up to the city and meet in the center of San Francisco for our first stop, Grace Cathedral. This was quite a trip for us. We hate driving into San Fransico with all those one way narrow streets and steep hills.
One of my favorite parts of the Cathedral were these carved doors in the front. They are replicas of doors made by Ghiberti, a famous Florentine sculptor.
We had fun trying to figure out the different bible stories being told in each of the panels. The one above as Abraham and Isaac and the first one is of the Israelites circling the city of Jericho.
Look at all these little heads sticking out of the doors. Very interesting to look at. I could have stood and looked at these doors a long time but with small kids they always want to move on quickly.
This labyrinth was a hit with the kids. They loved following the path through the maze. It kept them busy for a while.
Sophie tried out some of the different types of chairs scattered about all the different niches and corners of the church.
We all gazed at the beautiful stained glass windows throughout the cathedral. This traditional rose window was particularly lovely.
We of course discussed the architecture. The gothic arches and the ribbed ceiling.
The kids all wanted to hear the organ but it wasn't in the cards for today.
But they did take a moment to try out the prayer cushions. They decided these were a good thing.
This is one of the newer stained glass windows in the cathedral. Many of the more traditional windows are being replaced by these more modern designs.
My husband was the photographer for most of this trip and I had no idea why he was taking pictures of this bunch of candles, there were candles everywhere in the church, but then I took a closer look and saw the heart someone had drawn in the sand.
As we were walking back up one of the side aisles we noticed the pillars and the colorful light that shimmered on them through the stained glass windows above.
After leaving the Cathedral we went across the street to a cute little park to play for a bit. We all enjoyed listening to the bells chime the hour and wondered if many people in the bustling city even hear them through all the noise of the city all around them.
After our morning in San Francisco and the Cathedral we decided we would eat our lunch on the Oakland Temple grounds. It was very windy but it was a lovely blue sky to eat under. We also went into the visitor center and the children had a great time looking at the pictures and sculptures of Jesus Christ.

This wasn't our last stop though. We still had one more place we had on the agenda before heading home.

We arranged for a tour of a real monastery. This was a group of Orthodox monks (as opposed to catholic) that allowed us to take a short tour of a modern day monastery. They certainly don't live like the monks in medieval times. These monks have satellite dishes, internet access and even receive netflix.
We did see some very nice examples of Byzantine mosaics. The Monastery was full of these types of Icons of either Mary, Jesus or other saints. It was a quick visit
The kids had a great time exploring the grounds.
But they especially enjoyed it when the monk let them try out the different bells. It hurt our ears and they just kept coming back to these bells.
We saw these wild turkeys run through the grounds while we were out on the terrace.

It was a very busy, long day. We saw a lot and drove around a lot. They kids just had a great time being with cousins. We made it completely around the bay before we made it home. I am worn out and ready to just relax.