Thursday, May 31, 2007

Sophie's Nature Journal

I scanned in Sophie's journal entry about the American Coot and posted it at Sophie's Side. Feel free to read it and leave a comment!

Waterfowl and Wildflowers

The kids and I set out for an expedition to the pond in the morning, hoping to avoid afternoon rainshowers (which did not materialize anyway.) Sophie gathered a wildflower bouquet along the way while the boys "collected specimens" to be identified at home.

Once again, we were treated to new sights at the water. An American coot family swam among the reeds at the pond's edge, including two little red-headed youngsters. Loons soared overhead before landing. (I think that is the first time I've seen a loon flying.) Canada geese drifted in a row to the center of the pond. After spending some time gazing at the water, I noticed some flecks reflecting light near the big birds. I finally realized that they must be goslings but was surprised at how tiny they were! Ducks landed nearby, skidding as they chased each other. Matthew spotted two small ducks, the male with a white patch on its face and a blue beak. Later at home, he identified it as a Ruddy Duck. (See last picture on linked page.)

Matthew pushed the jogger stroller awhile on the way home while Logan and I played the "Cough Game." (We made it up on the spot). Logan fake coughed, and I whirled suddenly around to look at him each time he hacked while he crowed with laughter in between.

At home, the older three once again eagerly pulled out their nature notebooks to record some of their discoveries.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

"Recycling" China

My Grandma enjoyed her collection of tea cups and saucers and did not know what to do with this particular saucer when the tea cup broke. She gave it to my aunt who gave it to me and now I have a unique and lovely soap dish! The colors complement the decor of my bathroom. While the towels and other accessories merely bring to mind the department store from which they were purchased, this dish reminds me of my dear Grandma.

Works for me!

By the Wayside



Click to view video

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Scenery

Welcome home little birdy!






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Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Weekend Walk

Our family and friend Michelle enjoyed a walk by the Platte River. More pictures in later posts!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Homeschool Blessings

This past school year has been a rather difficult one for me personally. I have struggled with a lack of overall focus and my own low energy has often made this year's homeschool journey feel like a trudge through the Slough of Despond rather than a mountaintop experience.

This week
was dreary, overcast and rainy, corresponding to my own emotional landscape, but the sun shone again on Friday, bringing with it some rays of encouragement.

I took the children for a walk to our local pond, not planning on making it a nature hike or learning experience, but just to provide a breather in our day before finishing the afternoon school work. The kids, on the other hand, seemed to consider the walk a naturalist expedition. They each packed gear and supplies in their backpacks. Evan brought a monocular and they each packed their nature notebooks. I grumped to Sophie that she'd better think twice about complaining if she got tired walking with a backpack and that I would not end up carrying it. However, the kids' preparations did inspire me to bring my camera just in case of photo-ops.

As we walked, the kids checked a field for garter snakes and took detours to investigate some ditches for frogs, crawdads or other interesting creatures. As we strolled around the pond, we spied a dark waterfowl with a white bill swimming jerkily out in the middle of the water. I thought to myself, "I have never seen a black duck with a white beak." Evan claimed that it was a loon, but I argued that loons were much more calm and smooth as they glided across the pond.

A solitary yellow-headed blackbird in a tree claimed my attention and I snapped pictures. It flew away to a stand of willows waving in the wind. The bird perched for a length of time with such poise in spite of the bobbing branches. I switched my camera to an action setting to attempt to shoot the moving target.

100_1957 100_1959 100_1958 100_1969
(Please do click on these to see them larger!)

We circumnavigated the pond (not on water) and walked homewards. The boys stopped a few times to pick a few flower specimens that they wanted to try and identify (nothing rare or endangered I assure you).

When we arrived at home, the children finished their assigned schoolwork then went about what they wanted to do. Matthew put the flowers in a vase, sketched them in his nature notebook, then looked them up in our guide to wildflowers of the plains and foothills. He identified the sprigs as Alfalfa, Copper Mallow, and False Flax and labeled them in his book. He also excitedly pointed out in the guidebook several different weeds wildflowers growing in our own backyard.

Meanwhile, Sophie looked up from thumbing through a Colorado bird guide and announced, "The black bird that we saw swimming was an American Coot." Skeptical, I looked in the book at the picture of a black bird with a white bill, but was fully convinced that she was correct when I read the the description "the only dark waterbird with a white bill." The book also noted its bobbing movement when swimming. Sophie proceded to sketch the bird into her nature notebook with colored pencils and began to write a summary.

Evan had to get in on the activity and pasted his drawing of a yellow-headed blackbird into his notebook and began a rough draft narration. As suppertime drew near, I actually had to insist that the children put away their work for the time being. We all felt exhilarated with our discoveries and investigations ~ the best kind of treasure hunt! I could not have planned a more inspiring educational experience! (The children will most likely post some of their work on their own blogs to share later.)

I write this late on Saturday night now after yet another unplanned enrichment activity. I have been finishing up reading aloud The Story of the World Volume 4: The Modern Age by Susan Wise Bauer to the kids. This evening, James turned on PBS and found a show on the race to space between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Since we read a chapter about that last week, we watched the documentary with added understanding and interest. The show focused on the Apollo 8 voyage, the first to orbit the moon. We were thrilled to hear the first-hand accounts from NASA scientists, the Apollo 8 crew of three and their wives concerning the events of the historic flight. (I was impressed with the risks that all involved were willing to take to accomplish such a venture.) What an awe-inspiring experience the astronauts had to see the earth from thousands of miles out in space and to view the moon up close. My heart swelled to hear their broadcast as they read from the creation account in Genesis and I praised God for His wonderful works that they had the privilege of beholding from a new-to-humankind vantage point.

I thank the Lord for these experiences we have enjoyed this weekend and for the much-needed reminder of His good gifts and the evidence of His hand in our lives.

Friday, May 25, 2007

"Home James"

As I said to the kids as they went to bed last night, "It is always better when Daddy is home." James was gone for work for three days this week, and we sure are glad that he is home. The days get long without adult reinforcement come evening...especially when there is no chocolate in the house to speak of (well at least not of the gluten-free, dairy-free variety.) James came back and brought chocolate, the dear man.

I'm not sure of the point, but in some meeting that he attended, someone shared a video called "Herding Cats" which we looked up on YouTube. Here it is for your viewing enjoyment:

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Axe the Eggs

As I posted previously, I found out that I must go on a permanent gluten-free diet. I also eliminated dairy due to Logan's eczema.

I just got off the phone with my children's pediatrician who had ordered a blood test for Logan at his 9 month visit to test for food allergies. The pediatrician reported that the blood test indicated that Logan is allergic to eggs and milk. There goes my breakfast of choice: I just happen to eat eggs every morning!

I'm going to have to get even more creative with breakfast!

Logan may grow out of his allergies and that certainly is my prayer.

Prismacolor Pinions

Speaking of birds, Evan drew this Yellow-headed blackbird with colored pencil after our walk. I scanned it into Printmaster and he printed out thank you cards with the image and wrote notes to friends and family who gave him birthday gifts. You can visit The Far Side of the Mountain to see a larger version and to read his comments.

Destructo Baby

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Logan demonstrates his crawling and deconstructing abilities.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Ode to the Ergo

I've posted praises for my Ergo baby carrier before and now that it is time for another Works for Me Wednesday, I'll praise it again.

How did I manage to care for three babies without it?

The Ergo is the first baby carrier that I have used that has not strained my neck or back. It is truly an ergonomically correct baby carrier, not only for the baby, but for the mommy (or daddy).

I'm impressed with how content Logan is to sit on my back, sucking on the Ergo strap, playing with a toy, or just observing the activity around him as I help the older kids with schoolwork or get work done around the house.

He gets plenty of time to crawl around, explore and play, but there are certain times when he just needs to be held. The Ergo helps me to meet his needs while still meeting the needs of my older children.

Today I held Logan in the Ergo and walked about the room as I read to my older kids. On Sunday, halfway throught the church service, I put him in the Ergo and he fell asleep while I stood at the back of the sanctuary still able to listen to the sermon. Last Friday, I held Logan in the Ergo for hours, because he was fussy due to teething and I had food to prepare for Evan's birthday party.

I am looking forward to hiking in the mountains this summer without the added weight of a backpack frame!

I purchased my Ergo from this great online store. Works for me!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Go to Sleep Now and Rest

Maybe I'm spoiling him. He is my fourth baby, and I like to hold him as he falls asleep.

Each of my first three babies learned quickly to fall asleep when I put them down in the crib. I remember times when they were so tired they reached for their bed and wanted to be laid down. Naptime or bedtime was rarely difficult...unless the naptime or bedtime did not occur at home. I remember, especially with my first, when my baby could not go to sleep, because he did not have his crib in which to fall asleep.

Logan, on the other hand, can fall asleep in my arms (or on my back in the Ergo) anywhere which makes going out and about with a baby a little bit easier. Of course, sometimes, I do miss just laying the baby down and walking out of the room.

Tonight, I enjoyed rocking Logan who played with my fingers till he drifted off to sleep.

Then I sneezed.

His eyes flew open. He smiled behind his paci. He started making noises that sounded like a cross between a lap dog "woofing" and sniffing. Yet another sound effect to add to the repetoire.

After a while, he drifted off to sleep again.

I carried him upstairs, laid him down in his crib and walked out of the room.

The tendons in my feet cracked...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Colorado Birds

We took a break this afternoon from lawn-mowing, weed-pulling, laundry and dishes to take a walk as a family to a local pond. We were treated to the stunning sight of Yellow-headed Blackbirds in the trees by the reeds along the water as well as the ubiquitous Red-Winged Blackbirds. While we often see a lone loon with its periscope head poking up out of the water, this time we spotted a loon on a log spreading its wings. And half-hidden along the edge of a partly submerged stand of trees, a Great Blue Heron warily waded in the water, then spread its wide wings to fly to a more distant spot of the pond. We enjoyed the calming fresh breath of nature in the midst of the mundane duties of our day.

Ten Months

The little Logeman turned ten months this week. A delightful age. A delightful boy. For the most part. He does have a cranky dark side. Especially when teething. Like now. Fussy boy did just try to claw off my face whilst I tried to snap his pants. Temper, temper.

But back to the good stuff. He definitely knows the meaning of "Hi" and "Goodbye" and waves his little fingers (at himself) when he hears those words. He also has figured out that pointing is directing someone's attention to something of interest. He likes to point at objects and gasp with glee. Thankfully, no one will consider him rude for pointing at ten months. He is rather disruptive at family worship, but that's mainly our fault. We are not disciplining ourselves to stop giggling when he practices his coughing or growling.

He has the crawling down pat now and has the red, rough knees to prove it. He also enjoys pulling up on furniture and walking along it. Evan says that he stood without holding on to anything briefly. (I'll believe it when I see it.) I'm not in any hurry for him to walk.

He's mostly a Momma's boy, though sometimes he prefers Evan to me. (Evan carts him around without trying to "get something done" at the same time.) Logan is very wary of "strangers" (anyone not in his immediate family.) At the least, he stares at others, but if someone dares to try to hold him, it usually elicits much arching of the back and wailing from him. None of my older three did that. I feel bad for my friends who are just itching to cuddle a baby, but get handed a banshee instead!

Sophie sighed this morning, saying, "I'm so glad we have a new baby." He doesn't seem so new to me at ten months, but I sure enjoy this age.

Number Eleven

Sometimes birthdays around here are a pleasant family time at home. Sometimes we eat out at a special restaurant. Sometimes we throw a party. In honor of Evan's eleventh birthday this year, the mood hit for a party.

James did the food shopping last night, and this evening the kids and I put together a taco salad supper at the church. Six families attended Evan's party. We set up tables indoors, but the beautiful weather enticed everyone to grab chairs and eat out on the lawn.

Seventeen children (not counting two babies) attended, providing a good number for a few games of "Capture the Flag." After a healthy amount of outdoor running around, the kids came in to play "Space Base." In the latter game, James picked two "aliens" who hid (in relatively plain sight) the pieces to a flashlight around the church building while the space travelers counted in a back room. When the time was up, the space cadets searched for the "laser" parts while trying to avoid getting tagged and frozen by the aliens. The cadets were given twenty minutes to find and assemble the laser and shoot the aliens. If they failed in their mission, the aliens won.

After several space battles, time allowed for another group game and the playing of some assorted board games. The parents enjoyed the opportunity to socialize as well!


Evan holds up a truck poster made by his friend Caleb for all to admire.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Towards Multiplication Mastery

My seven year old daughter has begun learning the concept of multiplication as well as memorizing multiplication facts. A friend of mine just emailed me last night and asked for ideas to help her own daughter master her multiplication facts.

This time around, I have been much more consistent in having my child learn skip counting. I wasn't as diligent with my older two boys. They do know their multiplication facts now, but I can see that memorizing skip counting lays a more thorough foundation than just drilling facts. Skip counting communicates the concept that multiplication is fast adding.

We have a skip counting tape which sets the number lists to music, but the tunes are, for the most part, not familiar, making them difficult to learn. So, I just picked my own tunes and used the word "and" strategically to make the list fit the music! For instance, for 6's, I used "Lightly Row": six, twelve, eight-teen, twen-ty-four, thir-ty, a-and thir-ty-six, for-ty-two and for-ty-eight, fif-ty-four and six-ty.

Now when my daughter solves multiplication problems (or division), she can use her skip counting to find the answer. For instance: 6 x 6 ~ She can count "6, 12, 18, 24, 30, 36", keeping track how far to go by holding up fingers until she gets to six fingers. She can do this fairly quickly and with repetition is memorizing her facts.

Of course, she drills the facts as well and now we have a tool to use: The Flashmaster which is just a high-falutin' way of doing flashcards, but more fun.

Even at Sophie's young age, she already has her upper times tables down cold thanks to this gem:

The advertising claims that this tool helps children to learn their upper times tables in about an hour. I purchased and used Times Tales Deluxe with my kids and found the advertising to be accurate! My boys already knew their facts, but my daughter learned them for the first time in an hour and still has excellent retention of the facts months later.

These tools for multiplication mastery work for me!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Two Dudes on a Ranch

Last Saturday, the boys were treated to a trip to a dude ranch by Bob and Cheryl. Matthew asked me if he could blog about it. (Yes, my boy asked me if he could write.) You can go to The Far Side of the Mountain to read about their adventures and view pictures.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Word Detectives

As far as I can tell, this week I've been hit in succession with a cold virus and a stomach virus. I'm looking forward to feeling better and getting out of survival mode. I'm sure that my whole family feels the same...I'm glad they didn't haul me out to the corner with the broken-down washer!

In recent weeks, I've read aloud to the children from historical novels set during World War II. We finished Escape from Warsaw and are currently reading The Winged Watchman which is proving to be quite captivating and well-written. I am also reading aloud The Good Fight: How World War II Was Won, an excellent pictorial history. The children have read other non-fiction World War II books on their own as well.

Two nights ago for supper, we ate grilled bratwursts and some chorizo (spicy Italian sausage which James alone could tolerate) along with sauerkraut and succotash made with corn and edamame. We noticed that we were eating foods common to Germany, Italy and Japan (stretching it with the edamame) and called it our Axis powers dinner. I know, we're bad.

We have continued with our beginning Latin studies which, surprisingly to me, has added more enjoyment to our read-alouds. The kids can earn a penny for any Latin derivative that they identify, defining both the Latin root and the English word. Sometimes the kids even catch derivatives that fly under my radar (or is it over?). I remember several months ago, reading from Caddie Woodlawn and beginning to explain the meaning of "portage." Before I got the definition out of my mouth, Sophie piped up, "Portage comes from porto which means I carry!" Well...Yes!

And today, while reading The Good Fight, Matthew stated, "Primitive comes from primus which means first." I had to say, "You might be right! Let's look it up" and read "Middle English primitif from Old French from Latin primitivus
from primus, first." I read the definition and asked, "Can you give me an example of a primitive weapon?"

"An atom bomb?" answered Matthew.

"Actually, an atom bomb is the opposite of primitive, because it is very technologically advanced," I explained.

Evan answered, "A spear."

"Yes, a spear is primitive," I replied, "because it is a simple weapon and it was one of the
first weapons used."

I learn something new every day!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


In the past six weeks, my 9 month old developed a nasty case of eczema. From past experience, I knew that our pediatrician would recommend using hydrocortisone and Aquaphor. I'm not thrilled with using a steroidal treatment on my kids and I've had limited success with Aquaphor. This time around, first I tried using a coconut oil lotion, again with limited success (though it is my favorite lotion to use on my own Colorado dry skin). Finally I listened to my cousin who recommended ...

The Vanicream has caused the redness to fade and the rough patches and bumps are mostly gone.

Works for me!

Friday, May 04, 2007

On Lemons and Luxuries

Our washing machine would have cost over $400 to repair. The Sears repairman did not charge us a thing for his trip and diagnosis. I think he realized that we had purchased a lemon from Sears and felt sorry for us. The machine was not old.

I did research on the internet to figure out a replacement machine. James went shopping Thursday evening, but without success. Today he decided to take the day off to get the job done. Good thing. It took most of the day for him to purchase the washer, drive to a warehouse and pick it up, unload it at home and hook it up. If he had waited until tomorrow to do this, there would not have been time to get the laundry done this weekend.

Now I have Mt. Laundry to tackle, and it is pleasant to do with a new machine. This washer has a sanitary cycle which takes longer to run, but means death to germs!

I accidentally ran a load of darks last night without laundry detergent. Several of the jeans were caked with mud. I thought I'd have to run them again, but when I inspected the clothes, they smelled clean and were stain free. So far, very good...

Our dishwasher is dying a slow, lingering and loud death. It also is beyond repair. Funny how appliance failure often seems to happen all at once! Yesterday, as I blew dry my bangs, my hairdryer popped and died in a flash of sparks.

I could get by without a hairdryer or a dishwasher if necessary, but a washing machine? I've been reflecting on how necessary that appliance seems to modern life. I could wash dishes by hand easily, but clothes? My grandmothers have stories to tell about how they used to do dishes or laundry. My father's mother at one time, while living in Kentucky, had to get water from a creek and wash clothes in a washtub, including diapers.

I'm very thankful to the Lord for providing James with a reliable job and savings to go out and replace appliances right away.

After James took out the "old" washer, he contemplated how to get rid of it. He recalled that our town was scheduled to have a once-a-year, large item curb-side pick up sometime in May. He looked it up on the web and found the pick up scheduled for...this weekend! What a blessing that he could just wheel the lemon out to the curb this morning! The trash guys heaved the machine into the truck and I watched as it crunched the washer flat.

This whole episode causes me to realize how easy my life is, to thank the Lord for his good gifts, and to remind myself that my treasure needs to be in heaven even in times of plenty.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Reader's Digest

Reader's Digest 100_1897

Birthday Cakes, Cards and Crafts

This week's Works for Me Wednesday features a birthday theme. I've never been particularly fond of making birthday cakes, but my most infamous confectionary catastrophe occurred on my second child's third birthday. I baked a cake from a mix in a 9X13, and leaving it in the pan, I frosted it with whipped cream and attempted to decorate it with colorful sprinkles. Bad idea. The cake absorbed much of the cream and the lid fell off of the sprinkle shaker, dumping the candy confetti unceremoniously in a heap. Thankfully my three year old did not have much aesthetic sense and was perfectly thrilled with the mess. Unfortunately for me, the cake is memorialized in full-color pictures. (No I will NOT scan one in and post it!) I wailed to my husband, "Why can't I buy the cake and make the card? I'm much better at cards!"

Fortunately, before my children grew old enough to catch on to their mother's incompetence, came to my rescue. I'm betting that many wfmw participants will post about this wonderful website with a cake finder to provide step-by-step instructions for truly easy-to-make cakes that are guaranteed cute, allowing any mom to become a member of the "Fun Mom Club."

Betty Crocker is another good source of easy recipes for birthday cakes. Here is a cake that I made from a Betty Crocker recipe:

I still would rather make a birthday card! Here is a goofy card that my husband and I made together for my oldest son for his eighth birthday:

On the front of the card, we wrote: "For your birthday, we wanted to invent a CAKE EATING MACHINE..." Inside: "but then we realized: That's Why We Have YOU!!" (I said it was goofy.) I put together a little collage below this of small scanned in pictures of my son with cake at each of his previous b-days.

Our family's most elaborate birthday party in the past was a "Flying Pony Party" (named by my daughter) which included a hobby horse craft:

When the kids arrived, they colored posterboard pony heads that I had drawn and cut out ahead of time. Two other moms and I, armed with glue guns, stuck googly eyes on the ponies, glued on each kid's choice of crinkle paper mane, and attached a stick to make homemade hobby horses. (The mane and stick were sandwiched between two posterboard pony heads.)

This concludes a very wordy Works For Me Wednesday post!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

What Does the Logan Say?

While we read an animal board book, Logan came up with his own signature sound:

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Fact Building

Can you smell that? Sorry. Our washing machine put a spin on things by running through its cycles today...without water. I didn't figure it out until I "washed" the diapers twice~ first on "cold" then on "hot". Water did run into the drum initially, but then right on out, leaving behind a lot of suds to mingle with the mess. A Sears repairman is scheduled to show up sometime on Wednesday. Sigh. I've gotta do something with the diapers before Wednesday.

On a cheerier note, Logan just discovered that his knees work well for getting around and is crawling "for real". He has even managed to crawl up the stairs several times. The older kids make great "spotters" and cheerleaders.

We kept a program from the piano competition for posterity. Evan had to write a short blurb about his interests and future plans for the performing arts when he applied for the competition. The program listed "fact building" as one of his hobbies. I wonder if anyone scratched their head about that one and thought "geeky homeschooler". Evan actually wrote "fort building." (He knows some facts, but doesn't presume to build any!)