Saturday, January 30, 2010

Our Little House

We live in a little house. It has three bedrooms, two baths and one great room that is the kitchen dining and living room all in one. All in about 1000 square feet. It isn't much bigger than apartments we have lived in. There are a lot of reasons it would be nice to have more space.

I often dream of having one more living room or even another bedroom. Molly at the moment sleeps in our walk-in closet but will one day have to share a room with her 8 years older sister. Our little house also doesn't have a garage or much of a yard. One of the many drawbacks to having a small house with no garage is that the master bedroom ends up being the catch all. It is where the computer, the t.v. and all the "stuff" tends to reside.

We decided the computer and t.v were going to be in the bedroom to make them less accessible to our children. Out of sight and out of mind. I actually don't mind having the t.v. in the bedroom. It is rather nice to be able to lay in bed and watch a good movie. On the other hand, when the kids want to watch a movie I have them all sitting on and in my bed. I can't tell you how many times I have found popcorn in my bed when I am trying to sleep.

Today after months and months of telling myself to clean and my husband saying we needed to organize or get rid of a lot this of junk, we decided to finally get to our bedroom/t.v/computer/stuff room. Rather then just tidying up like we usually do, I decided to rearrange everything. All the "stuff" got shifted and the furniture moved. It felt nice to sweep up that much dust and fluff. The garbage can is filled and there are a number of books that are going to be given to the Friends of the LIbrary booksale and even a bag of items that are going to the Goodwill. And the rearrangement is such a better use of space. The room suddenly feels more spacious. This is quite an achievement considering what needs a home in this room. My kids are even trying to convince us that there is now enough space for a Wii.

As much as I complain about the tight quarters that the 6 of us live in, I am actually very happy to live in our little house. We feel pretty lucky to able to live as comfortably as we do, in the area of the world in which we live, and on one income. This little house keeps us from gathering too much "stuff" or getting too "Heavy" as my husband puts it. Many purchases have been averted, since I always have to consider the space it is going to need or take in the house. It helps me keep things simple.

As much as it would be nice to have a dining room, a play room, a theater room, a nicely planned out school room, a bedroom for each child, and a really nice big pantry for our food storage (so I wouldn't have to store it under the kids' beds), I don't think it would make our lives any better. We have it really good! Right now we even have it a little less dusty and a little more organized. It is feeling wonderful!

I hope it stays this way for a little while!

That was a lot of work.

Outdoor Hour - Winter Tree Study - Box Elder

We headed out a few days ago to enjoy a break in the storm and decided it was time to look at our tree again for our Outdoor hour. We looked at our Box Elder in the Fall and now needed to see what changes we could see now that we are in the thick of Winter. For us winter isn't snow it is rain. The past week or so has brought plenty of that!
Here is our Box Elder. It doesn't have any leaves left on it.
There are a few clumps of seeds still clinging onto it and the kids immediately went to work pulling them off and watching them twirl through the air. The wind was a little too strong, since another storm was moving in. The seeds didn't float and twirl nearly as much as they did when there was only a slight breeze.
Our attention quickly shifted to a nearby tree.
We could hear a lot of chirping coming from this tree nearby and we turned to see a tree filled with birds. Robins, mocking birds, and finches (as well as others, I am sure, this is just what I recognized) were all gathered in this one tree. We watched them flit around the tree gathering berries. We think that is what attracted them. The tree is one of the few that has leaves left on it and it has little purplish berries on it.

Sophie tried to walk up to the tree to see better but the birds quickly took flight. We watched them scatter. Then when we moved away from the tree a way and we watched as the birds all seemed to return. The birds kept us entertained for quite awhile and we lost interest in looking at our Box Elder.

I guess when we come back in a few months for a look it will be decked out in its Springtime leaves it will be more interesting.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rain, Rain, Rain, and more Rain

That about sums up our week! We have had non stop rain. Not just rain, but thunder and lightning storms, strong winds, and more rain. Friday afternoon we finally had a break so the kids rushed out to enjoy the small respite before the next storm rolled in.
Henry of course had to climb a tree.
The others rode around on their bikes for a bit.

You would think with so much inside time we would do a bunch of school work but I can't say we did any more than usual.
In fact I would say we had a few more tantrums because someone didn't want to do her copy work and a lot more stir craziness. But let me see what we actually did accomplish.

Sophie finished her Math book. She is excited to be able to start the Singapore Math 4a book on Monday. I am so glad math isn't a struggle anymore. Sophie used to fight her daily math exercises. She is pretty confident in her math abilities and we mix things up a bit so it isn't too boring. So math isn't ever really anything to worry about, just to do.

I wish copywork or any kind of writing would be as easy. Sophie really hates writing. I am going to start something different on Monday. So rather than do a lesson from our Language lessons book we are going to be working through a poetry unit. I haven't totally thought it through yet but it should be a change of pace if nothing else.

One thing Sophie made sure we did each day was Latin. For some reason she really likes our Latin lessons. She seems to be catching on pretty well. And since we don't do a lot of writing with our lessons she enjoys it. I think it is like a puzzle for her to figure out. There are always sentences to translate or other english words that use that latin root to think about. I am glad she is enjoying it.

We went to Russia again for History and that is always a favorite with my kids. They for some reason love Baba Yaga stories and of course we got out the Matroyskas or Nesting dolls which are always fun for my kids. I know we all learned a lot about Peter the Great, St. Petersburg and even got to revisit a FIAR favorite Another Celebrated Dancing Bear. My boys didn't remember this FIAR story but Sophie did. Maybe it is time to try to get FIAR back into our schedule. I don't want my boys to miss out on some of these great books.

We finished up our study of the elements this week and tried to move into the next topic but didn't really get very far. I am going to have to make Science more of a focus next week.

Sophie has also been taking a Lego Robotics class which she loves. She gets to build robots using Lego MindstormsWe got to go and see her first project this week.
Ian is so jealous and wants so badly to take the class too. But you have to be 8 to take the class so he has 2 years to wait.

Ian is doing well on his reading and math as well. He is getting more and more confident with his writing and reading. And he is reading more and more of his Math workbook.

Henry hasn't been interested in doing much of anything except his cutting practice and sitting in on most of the reading. But that is fine by me, he is only 4.

I guess I should start to include Molly in on this weekly reports. She is growing up so quickly. She is so happy to sit up and play with the other kids. But my goodness if you leave her alone for very long she has the highest pitched squeal that just sets my nerves on edge. I can't take that noise very long before I start to really go crazy.
She is getting better at eating solids and using a sippy cup. We are still working on the sleeping through the night. It is hit and miss. One night she only wakes up once and other nights I have to get up 3 times to rock her back to sleep. I know... I am not supposed to do this but I do.... I am a wimp and can't stand the crying.

Mostly my kids have spent the week indoors building things with Knex, Legos or blocks. They often have the dress up clothes out and have even taken to adding a few items to Molly's wardrobe as well.

We finished a fun audio book, Igraine the Brave. Sophie particularly loved this one and wants to listen to it again next week but I picked up other things for us to listen to over the next few days. We are expecting more rain next week too and we are going to need something new to listen to and do.

Another soggy week ahead. I hope I make it! :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Meet the Monarchs

We went to one of our favorite places this weekend. It is a old farm from the days when there were actually farms here in Silicon Valley. We purposely went at this time of year to see the Monarchs that winter in the trees at this farm. Evidently there are usually thousands of butterflies that come down from Canada to winter in a small grove of Eucalyptus trees that were planted here on this farm. The last few years there have only been a few hundred. This year they estimate that there are about 500 monarch butterflies. It was pretty impressive to see there clustered in bunches in the trees. It is hard to see them in these pictures. They are up high and also when they are closed up the underside isn't as bright and tends to blend in. We picked a great day to come because a storm was coming so it was slightly warm and the butterflies were a bit more fluttery. We saw many of them flitting about in the small grove. It was really amazing to see that many butterflies at once. I can only image what it is like when there are thousands flapping around above you.

In the green house they had a few milkweed plants with caterpillars and a few chrystalis for us to look at.

We had a great time just wondering around the farm and looking at all the different animals and trees that they have there.
We happened to catch the Peacock while he was all puffed up and trying to impress the hens.
This peacock just couldn't quite compete.

On the drive home we watched the storm clouds roll in. Sophie made the observation that the clouds looked like a Georgia O'Keefe painting. It think she was right! I had to grin thinking how long ago we studied O'Keefe in our art studies but she still remembers her work well.

It was a lovely afternoon out in nature. It is a good thing too since we are stuck inside for the next few days because evidently it isn't just one storm that was expected but we are going to be wet all week as storm after storm rolls in.

Friday, January 15, 2010

The last two weeks of work

We have jumped back into our studies. I admit December was a bit of a slack month. We did school work, but really lightly. We have had two pretty good weeks. This is the rundown of what we have done and where we are now.

Math - She is finishing up Singapore Math 3B. I think there are 1 or 2 more exercises. She is doing great with telling time and some Geometry. We have also kept going with our Mathematicians are people too book. Every time Sophie finishes a section in her math workbook and makes it through the review we take a day off and read about a mathematician. We read about Isaac Newton this week. He wasn't next in the book but since he was also the subject of history this week so we read about him for Math as well.

History - We studied about William Penn, Isaac Newton and farming the last little bit. Sophie really enjoyed the activity from the SOTW activity book which helped us learn more about crop rotation. We also have almost finished listening to The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I really like this book. I don't remember reading it when I was younger.

Science - We read about Silver, Tin, Mercury and Sodium. I think it is time to move on from the Periodic Table and the elements. We have really enjoyed learning about all the different elements and may come back to do a few more but we need to move on to other parts of Chemistry. But my kids still want to make ice cream since that was the experiment that went along with the sodium book. I just didn't have the rock salt.

Language Arts - We have been doing an exercise every day from our Primary Language Lessons book. Sophie really hates doing any writing. We are really going to have to work on this. But if we do it daily then hopefully she will get used to it and not fight it as much. At the moment we are still fighting it.

Music - Sophie recieved three of the Vox biography CD's for Christmas. The stories are interesting and the music is lovely. I think we are going to have to invest in a few more of these.

Art - We looked at two books for art study this week. How Artists see Animals and Come look with Me: Animals. I had all three older kids sitting around the book looking at these interesting paintings. Sophie and I really liked the two paintings by Paul Klee. I think we are going to have to look at more of his work.
We will be picking up the other books in each of these art series'. We all really liked these.

Latin - We only did one lesson this week and reviewed since we haven't done Latin in awhile.

Ian participates in a lot of what Sophie is studying. He loves doing science and listens to the history lesson.

Language Arts - He is finishing up Explode the code 2 and is starting to really read and write a lot better. He still sounds out just about every word even if he has read it over and over again. But he is getting faster and it seems to be easier.

Someone gave us a few sets of Bob books. He has been reading these to me. I don't really love them, but Ian does, so we read them. I would rather go back to having him read through his primer but I guess he is reading and eventually we will run out of Bob books.

Math - Ian finished Singapore 1A and started into 1B. He gets the math but we are mainly working on him reading the problems himself rather then me reading each one to him. This slows him down a bit but it is coming along.


Henry hasn't really been interested in doing much of any school work and I don't require anything of him since he isn't officially in school yet. He did a few cutting pages from his Kumon workbooks but wasn't interested in doing any writing pages. I have also been trying to fit in more books just for him. It is so fun to read Dr. Seuss and Jan Brett books that have nothing to do with school work.

This is about it for school work. We are just getting warmed up again after being off for a few weeks. I think we are doing pretty well.

Outdoor Hour - Cattails in the Winter

We headed out side for a nature walk this week. Before we get rain, I figured we needed to get out.
My kids never seem to forget the things we have already studied or looked at. They love to point out the plants or things they see along the way. Sophie wanted to pick a bunch of this minor's lettuce so we could add it to our salad at dinner. Knowing that this is a trail a lot of people use to walk their dogs, I decided not to. But I was happy to see that she remembers the plant and that it is edible.
The purpose of our walk this week we headed out to look at Cattails again. We looked at them in the Fall and now we went back to the same place again to see what has changed in the last few months.
In the early autumn, the grass all around the little stream was dry. Now everything, thanks to a few good rain storms, looked green. What has changed, is that the cattail stalks, that were green are now all yellow. It isn't because of lack of water. There has been tons of water.
Picking off the cattail was pretty easy and the kids had a great time tearing them apart. This is my kids favorite part of cattails.
This time we took a moment to look at the stalk after all the seeds and fluff was pulled off. It was still soft and had lots of little hairs.
Then of course we had to go scatter those seeds some more so that there will be more cattails for next time.
They especially liked to watch the fluff float down the stream.
On the walk back we spotted some signs of Spring already. These should be popping open in a few months. We are going to have to walk back this way to see them.

What a refreshing walk. I really need to make sure we take these walks more often.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Watch Out, Here She Comes!

This is my latest development. This is so much better than just laying on the floor. Even when on my tummy I can't reach nearly as much as I can now.
I love my new outlook on things.
I know my Mom is always giving me baby toys to play with but these look like so much more fun. I don't think Sophie will mind if I just grab and taste her latest K'nex' creation.

It won't be too long before I am really moving, so, be ready!


Saturday, January 9, 2010

End of the Holiday Season

Our holiday season is long. It seems to start in September when we celebrate Sophie and Henry's birthdays. Then we have my birthday and Halloween in October and then it seems Christmas starts creeping in sometime in November somewhere around Thanksgiving and sticks around a very long time and then finally the season ends with Ian's birthday which is 13 days after Christmas (He has been telling people his birthday is 13 days after Christmas rather than the date lately). Today I can officially say it is done. We had the big birthday party and all is right with the world. Thank goodness!

Here is the cake.

I wasn't very creative. It is just a swirl cake in a bunt pan shape. I stuck a few Indiana Jones lego guys on the top and Ian was thrilled!

As the kids arrived we started with painting. They each had a little wooden segmented snake they got to paint.
This is actually a great time using activity. It took at least 30 min for all the kids to be done. As they finished they went into the boys room and played trains or legos or something.

We then started our games. They were each given an Indiana Jones bag that I had made. (Hurray for after Christmas fabric sales. I was able to make all 16 bags for about 15 dollars. The most expensive part was the straps.) The bags were filled with a few tools or toys the kids would either use later or just get to take home.

In their bags they had to find a hieroglyphics key or translator and then use it to to find their names on a cartouche. For this age group this was actually a bit of a challenge. Most of them are just beginning readers. Some had started school and others haven't had any.

Next we found a big stash of gold and jewels but they were covered with poisonous snakes and bugs. The kids were split into teams and then took turns using little grabber tools, they had in their bag, to pick out the treasure and fill their teams jar. The jewels were just some gold chocolate coins and some red and silver foil covered chocolate balls (Thank you after Christmas sales). When the candy was exhausted and the kids were done we measured to see which team won and then added the spoils to the pinata that would come later.

We used a few gold coins to play an Indiana Jones version of pin the tail on the donkey. This time they were trying to fill Indiana's bag with gold. I am actually quite proud of this poster. I drew the lego figure Indiana just an hour or so before the party. My husband outlined my drawing with markers and suddenly we had another game. Ian loves it and it now hangs on the wall in his room. We thought about coloring it in but liked it just outlined.

My kids think it is required to have a pinata. It would be like not having cake or something if we didn't have a pinata. We tried to make one earlier in the week but it failed miserably. I ended up buying this one. Ian chose a boot. I don't think it really mattered since none of the pinatas at the store really fit our theme. The kids had fun hitting it and it actually broke open this time. Often we end up having to break it open for them. I guess our kids our getting older and can really give these pinatas a whack.

Then we ate cake.

Opened gifts. (Ian got tons of new legos! Two boys gave him some bakugan guys. I don't know anything about these. I guess we will find out!? And a bunch of other things. Thank you everyone!)

And then we played another game while we waited for parents to arrive. This was a version of musical chairs that I made up. I used my Hullabaloo pads and the kids had to walk around the room and when the music stopped one child ended up in the mush pot. But they got to choose the way that the rest had to walk. They could choose to make them walk backward, sideways, hop, crabwalk or whatever. As the kids got out they enjoyed picking something silly for the others to have to do as they walked around the room.

By the time we had ended this game it was time the parents were here and the kids were excited to show them all the fun things in their bags. There was a lot of energy in the room and all were very happy.

The most amazing thing of the whole event was that Molly went to sleep about 5 minutes before the party started and slept through the entire thing.

That was the perfect gift to Mom! I had thought I would end up with her in the sling during the party but somehow it was planned just right and she didn't wake up. Even with all 15 kids bouncing around and having a great time.

It was a great party and I am so glad it is over. I am taking a huge sigh of relief. The holiday season is now over and I can relax a bit.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Indiana Ian

Ian has had an Indiana Jones day. He was so thrilled to open up his "breakfast present". He wore the hat all day and the boys fought over the whip endlessly. We have an Indiana Jones friend party planned for the weekend and all the kids can't wait. I just hope I make it! We invited his whole primary class and so far it seems all 13 are coming. Why didn't I do the easy party at the play place again this year? The smile on his face will be worth it, I guess.

Wish me luck!