Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Our Classroom Today--December 29

We missed the homeschool day at the Works this month. The weather was a little iffy and the roads weren't great. Kiddo also had art class that afternoon, so it just made more sense to get to the closer event and skip the other one.works,classroom

But my Tuesday group decided to go to the Works for one of our Tuesdays! It was a general public day, so it was very different than the homeschool days. It always amazes me what the kids will do here. Kiddo hit the block room and helped build a huge fort out of the foam blocks. You can see from the picture that is was as high as the door. It is so much fun to watch the kids working together to build something. I missed how this started, but by the end, they were using all of the blocks and all of the kids were working together. Love it!

Kutey loves to play in the dark room. She loves to mix colors, and especially dance in the split light. They have three lights on the ceiling, which results in the fun multi-colored shadows you see above. Kutey and I spent quite a lot of time in there playing. She didn't get into the foam block building, but did build a nice tall tower out of the small wooden blocks.

The activity was disk drive dissection. I was a little disappointed they didn't tell us more about the drives. We took the whole thing apart, and then, fortunately, could take it home with us. The trickiest part was getting it back into a state that could be taken home again! I wanted a few screws in place so it wouldn't fall apart in my bag. The drives also have super powerful magnets inside them. If they are put back together, that magnet has a much smaller chance of coming into contact with things it shouldn't.

Kiddo is lucky. Daddy works in computers, so they took the whole drive apart again and Daddy explained how it all works. I felt bad for the kids who couldn't go home and have it all explained. Mostly, it seemed, Kiddo liked the noise his made when he turned the platters. I am not sure he had any real idea of what the drive even was, just that he got to take a whole lot of screws out of it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas....

PhotobucketWell, not really. We got white. We also got snowed in. We managed to get to my Dad's house for Christmas Eve, we only got stuck twice and both times were within a block of our driveway. The first was at the end of the driveway. They hadn't plowed our street yet, and the 8 inches of snow were more than the mini van could handle. Lucky for us our neighbors are kind (and strong) and pushed us out of the snow.

Santa paid us a personal visit when we arrived at my Dad's. He has been coming by before his rounds every year since Kutey was born. It is a great treat, though my kids are both still very uncertain. Neither of them will sit on his lap. This year I got them to stand next to Santa for a photo--that was pretty good! We prepped some food for dinner (cranberry orange chicken, Swedish meatballs, cranberry-raspberry salad, lefse, mashed potatoes, etc.) then we left for church.

By 5 p.m., sitting in church (where we barely made it because we got stuck...again), we knew there was no way we were driving home. We went prepared to stay, fortunately. We had a wonderful evening--in spite of the fact that two of the people who were present had been up since about 2 am plowing snow--and were looking at getting up at the same time on Christmas morning to repeat the process. Kiddo got Legos from all of his aunts. Kutey got an adorable pink camouflage sleeping bag. I got Sense and Sensibility and Persuasion. Everyone who was leaving had 4-wheel-drive and had a much shorter drive than us.

We awoke to more snow the next morning. The kids were thrilled that Santa found them at Papa's house and we had a quiet morning. My sister arrived at about 10 am and informed us that we wouldn't be able to get out of the driveway and down the tiny bit of road that led to the much clearer roads. This was the view from the window:A White Christmas So we hunkered down and watched White Christmas (one of my Santa gifts...along with white socks).

Eventually Hubby and my sister went out (with the kids) and shoveled out the van. We gathered everything up and made our way home. The roads were fine, though I was pleased we were driving them in daylight!

In all, though, it was a good holiday. We had to cancel plans for Christmas Day, but they were easy enough to reschedule. Still, I don't necessarily hope for a repeat next year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies

December ActivitiesEvery year my sisters and I get together to bake about a bazillion kinds of cookies in one day. Really it is only seven kinds, but some of them are so putzy that it feels like more. My kids have grown to love this day, and Kiddo listed it among the traditions he did not want to miss when I asked him what things we had to do this December. The picture is of how he thought it would be best to cut out sugar cookies--one of every cutter.

We spent basically the whole day baking cookies. We arrived later than I might have liked, about 11 am. My sisters had already mixed up the chocolate crinkles and the sugar cookies because they have to chill. We proceeded to mix up and bake peanut blossoms, almond bark cookies, almond butter cookies (which are pressed with a spritz press), krumkake (Norwegian cookies shaped like scrolls, baked two at a time on a special iron), and chocolate turtles (baked 4 at a time on a waffle iron). The kids helped with the almond bark cookies, the almond butter cookies, and the sugar cookies. They took some major breaks to play, go outside, and play some more. We got snow earlier in the week, but by the weekend it had warmed up, so in addition to making cookies, Kiddo and Kutey got some time outside with Auntie J in the snow. Another absolute favorite activity. They may have watched a movie in there, too, I can't really remember! I was busy. Seven kinds of cookies in one day is a lot. I wish I had remembered to take a picture of each kind, but, well, I just didn't. Maybe next year!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sandpaper Gingerbread people

I love crafts that use somewhat unexpected materials. Sandpaper provides a great texture experience for the kids as well as a unique look to the finished project.

December Activities

I used the template provided here for the larger ones. Kiddo wanted me to do my own, too, but I didn't want to use another sheet of sandpaper, so I freehanded the smaller one. I think it turned out fairly well!

Once we had the gingerbread people cut out, we got out the Scribbles 3D paints and started drawing the details in. Kiddo wanted to know what gingerbread people looked like, so I went and found the book Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett.

December Activities.

It is a cute story, and new for the kids this season. I picked it up at H*lf-Price Books sometime this summer. SO once Kiddo had used it for the pictures, I read them the story. We followed it up by eating some gingerbread cookies!

Paper Strip Trees

I have seen this activity a couple of places, and it seemed so easy yet festive and fun!
December Activities

The materials were so simple! Paper and glue. We added stickers, but you certainly could do it without the stickers. I bought a book of 8 x 8 Christmas themed scrapbook paper for something like $5. It was on sale, and we have plenty of paper left after this activity to either do other crafts or actually use for scrapbooking (if I ever find time to do such things!)
December Activities

I took out one sheet of each pattern, cut 2 half-inch strips off of each, then cut them in varying lengths--some 1 inch, some 2 inch, some 3 inch, some 4 inch, and some 5 inch. I put each group into one of our recycled applesauce cups. I also cut light weight cardstock so that I had pieces that were 6 X 8 1/2.

December Activities

The kids took one strip of each size paper, smeared glue on the back with a glue stick (I used school glue and a paint brush because all but 2 of our glue sticks are worthless) and placed them in order from longest at the bottom to shortest at the top.

Then we realized we had floating trees. So I cut some sort of goldish cardstock from the same paper book into 1 inch squares and we glued those on as trunks. We used stickers for the stars on top. I thought they were lovely just the way they were, but Kiddo and Kutey wanted to decorate the trees. Hmmm, well, OK. I dug out some stickers and let them pick out what they wanted. I won't say they were the most Christmasy stickers but the kids enjoyed them and that is what matters!

December Activities

Mine are the undecorated two on the left. Kiddos are the two on top, and Kutey's are below his. As you can see, Kiddo went with all one color paper, which means two things: I had to cut more paper halfway through, and there is a bunch of other colors left in strips. There was going to be some left over anyway, so it isn't huge, but I need to find a craft that would use it up now. Any ideas are welcome!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Our Classroom Today--December 8

Our Classroom

One of the benefits to living in a metropolitan area is the vast array of opportunities available. Today our Tuesday group spent the afternoon at the American Swedish Institute. I love the Swedish Institute. I have only been there at Christmas time, when they have the whole house decorated for the season. It is beautiful. And educational. They do a "Nordic Christmas," which means you get to learn about Christmas traditions in not only Sweden, but also Norway, Finland, and Denmark.

The history is right up Kiddo's alley, too. In fact, when we left, he said he wanted to go back sometime because we didn't get to read everything and explore everything.

The mansion that houses the Swedish Institute was built in the early part of the 20th century by Swan Turnblad. He published the Swedish language newspaper Svenska Amerikanska Posten. He moved into the house in 1908 with his wife and theri only child, a daughter. They lived in the house until his wife passed away in 1929, when they moved across the street and created the American Swedish Institute, giving house to the organization. I am always taken aback that this house was built for three people to live in. Their daughter was already in her 20's when they moved in, so they knew they would not be having more children. And then to live there for 20 years, and be the only family to ever live in the house. It just amazes me.

We didn't do a guided tour this time--our experience last time was a bit less than expected, so we opted to go on our own--but we did buy the Tomte Tour book for $2. It was worth two dollars, though I am glad it didn't cost more. They also had a sheet of 100 things to try to find in various parts of the house. With a group of 8 kids ranging in age from not quite a year to 6 1/2, we didn't try to find all 100. I am impressed we got as many as we did!

When we had exhausted the children's attention span, we headed to the basement of the institute where they have a small (very small) cafe. We snacked on flat bread and cheese, fruit soup, and cookies. I love fruit soup, but don't get it very often. This was delicious. Kiddo and Kutey sampled it, too, and enjoyed it. I think I will find a recipe to try...in January or February.

The kids also enjoyed riding on the hand crafted Dala horse, playing in a great little Swedish kitchen complete with pretend lussekatt and pepparkakor, and hunting for all 11 of the kakelugnar. We only found 10, which just means we'll be looking again next time!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Christmas Tree

Every year we head out to the tree farm to cut our own Christmas tree. And it seems that every year the weekend we select is the absolute coldest weekend possible. This year was no different. Still, the kids look forward to it, it is a family tradition (I am big on those, and I recognize the importance of them to children), so we went.

December activities

I love evergreens. Maybe it is because I live in an area with short summers. The deep green of the spruce and fir and pine trees is beautiful against the snow here. Even before the snow comes, the green provides some contrast in the otherwise brown landscape. The snow isn't deep this year, which is good. We went to a different farm than in years past because our past farm no longer had any fir trees. I like fir trees. I don't like spruce trees. I break out if I touch a spruce tree. That makes decorating a bit tricky. It is interesting to go to different farms and see the difference in their trees. The previous farm made their trees look quite cone-shaped in their trimming. Unnaturally so. They also seem to color at least some of their trees--to make them more green (aren't evergreens green in the first place?) This year's farm trimmed their trees some, but they looked much more natural. And none of them seemed an unnatural green.

We walked out in the freezing cold. We searched through all the trees. Kiddo kept finding a new one that was the right one. One of the pleasures of cutting your own tree is that you get to see what it looks like before it was all squashed on a truck. I grew up with an artificial tree. Hubby grew up with real, but not cut your own. We finally settled on one that I deemed "good enough!" That is usually what happens. I get so cold I'll say yes to any tree! The kids love to watch Daddy cut it down, and then we dragged it back to the stand and the car. Another Christmas tree down.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Peppermint Glitter Playdough

I love homemade playdough. It is so much more malleable than the store bought stuff, it lasts for what seems like forever in the refrigerator, and you can make whatever color you want. So when I read this, I knew it would be one of the things I made for our December activity countdown.

I used this recipe, which is basically the same as the recipe the originally poster links to here. I like her list of ideas, however, so I am linking hers, too! I added about a teaspoon of peppermint to this batch. I actually like the peppermint addition! I do not mix my food coloring in until the end, however. That allows me to make more than one color out of a recipe. One recipe made enough for 3 colors, and enough for Kiddo and Kutey to each have a ball of each color.

christmas countdown

I let Kiddo and Kutey pick the colors--red, green and white. Then we picked glitter. Oh, the fun. Adding glitter was new to all of us. They chose to have the glitter match the color of the dough--green dough/green glitter, red dough/red glitter, white dough/white glitter. They had a blast!

I added 5 cookie cutters I got for a couple of bucks at Targ*t. So simple, so fun. I am glad I made this early in the month--I can see it being played with a ton!

christmas countdown

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mint meltaway cookies

Today the kids and I made Mint Meltaway cookies for my MOMS Club's cookie exchange tomorrow. Well, actually, the batch we made will be consumed by us. The batch I made by myself after a trip to the grocery store will be for the exchange. Something went wrong with the first batch, though I can't figure out what.

These cookies are quite simple to make, and the recipe makes a manageable number of cookies. The ingredients are quite simple. You add a little green food coloring, though, and the mint extract, and they become very festive. I also like to add some red and green sprinkles to the powdered sugar you roll them in at the end. It makes them a bit more festive.

Here is the recipe, in case you'd like to try them yourself.

Mint Meltaway Cookies
1 cup of butter or margarine (I use butter)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
1 tsp peppermint extract
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix butter, powdered sugar, and mint thoroughly. In a separate bowl, mix salt and flour together. Mix into butter mixture. Mix in a few drops of green food coloring. Drop by teaspoonful onto ungreased cookie sheet (I use a small cookie scoop). Cookies do not spread, so they can be placed fairly close together. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 8 minutes (I think mine are usually a little less), until cookies are set but not brown. While warm, dip in powdered sugar and red and green sprinkles.


Modified from Betty Crocker's Cooky Book.

Now THIS is an outdoor classroom!

One of the reasons I love our Tuesday playgroup so much is that we regularly spend vast quantities of time out of doors. Kids are at there best when they have access to that. So this sounds fabulous! I love that it is mixed ages (coincidentally approximately the same age range as out playgroup). I love that they go out in all kinds of weather (I admit to being a bit of a weather wimp. I like to be warm. Cold and rain are no good. Makes it tricking when I live in Minnesota). I got the feeling they are given lots and lots of freedom to play, which would be the ideal. Think we'll be seeing anymore of these?

December Christmas Countdown

I love the Christmas Season. But I don't love feeling harried and rushed. Sometimes I feel like I miss things. So this year I am trying something new. I put everything on my goo*le calendar (I LOVE my goo*le calendar--but that is a whole other post) and I simply go there to make sure I am not missing anything. I filled it with activities, crafts, decorating, and baking, just to name a few. I also added all the holiday TV specials to the calendar, because it always seems that we miss them!

One of the great things about setting it up as a goo*le calendar is that I can easily change things up if I have to. When Kiddo received an invitation to a birthday party, I was able to move the activities I had planned for that day (like cutting our Christmas tree) to another day easily. It is an extraordinary visual reminder of what I hoped to accomplish today. It also makes it easy to keep the kids doing things all month. I hope to post most of what we do all month, but I may have to do them in clusters!

What are you doing for the month of December? Do you have an organized way to keep track of your activities? Do you use one of those beautiful advent calendars? I love this one, but, well, it was a bit more than I could do this year! Maybe I'll make it in January, so I have it ready for next year!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday--Thanksgiving

This weeks Muffin Tin Monday theme was Thanksgiving. Since we will have 2 Thanksgiving dinners this year already, I opted to try to avoid the foods we will have for those meals. And I added in some fun, too!

muffin tin Monday

Here is Kiddo's:
muffin tin Monday

Top row: pretzels, teeny turkey sandwiches, edible Indian corn
Middle row: pretzels, butternut squash, caramel to dip apples in
Bottom row: apple chunks

And Kutey's:
muffin tin Monday

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Glow Stick Magic

One of my kids favorite things to do is show off their dance moves. Neither DH or I are big dancers, but we try to encourage the kids to dance freely :). I sometimes wonder when we lose that freedom and become so inhibited.

The only thing that they love more than a good dance party night is a good dance party night with glow sticks. You can often buy a tube of 15 bracelets at the dollar spot at T*rget. It only take one per kid, and you have a hit, which stretches that dollar! Cheap, fun, family entertainment. It doesn't get much better. Oh, unless you add in a few long exposure photos...

light fun

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Our Classroom Today--November 17

In Minnesota, you have to enjoy the nice weather while it is here. We can be trapped inside for months with weather that is just too cold to do much outside. Especially for little ones. So we are extra appreciative of the beautiful November we have been having. And of the fact that our Tuesday group has been able to enjoy the great outdoors for a little bit longer than we anticipated! We returned to a nature center we have previously enjoyed this week, and enjoyed it immensely again.

Today we walked all the way around the lake. There are several places where the path is a boardwalk which gets you right into the middle of the cattails. Because of this, the cattails were within reach (especially with the assistance of the hook stick Kiddo found). I guess I have never really explored cattails. I love to photograph them. But I guess I never actually touched them before. They bloom in your hand. The seeds literally puff off as you touch them, and it keeps going and going. There are thousands of seeds packed on there. A little tip, though. When you are holding a cattail for a child to touch, make sure you are up wind. Though being covered in cattail seeds does lend itself to a lesson in seed distribution.

Our classroom

Muffin Tin Monday--Thankful

The theme of this week's Muffin Tin Monday was "thankful." So I asked Kiddo what foods he was thankful for. His list was long. The kid likes to eat. So we restricted it a little. For example, melon isn't really in season here right now. You can get it, but they are not the best always, are often expensive, and may have had to travel a lot to get here. So we skipped it, even though it is a favorite food in our house--Kiddo and Kutey could and would eat half a melon in one sitting.

Instead we came up with this:
muffin tin Monday

It could also have be the letter P muffin tin, as we could make everything start with the letter P.

Here is Kutey's:
muffin tin Monday
Top row: Pizza goldfish, Pomegranate applesauce, Plain bagel (with whipped cream cheese and jam)
Bottom row: Peanuts and Pretzels, Plain yogurt, Pepperoni.
There were many other food they were thankful for, this was just my selection of what we had on hand that fit in a tin well.

Here's Kiddo's:
muffin tin Monday

Monday, November 16, 2009

Mill City Museum

classroom,historyWe visited another historical site/museum today! Kiddo's fascination with history is teaching me a great deal!

Today's outing was The Mill City Museum, a museum "built into the ruins of what was once the world’s largest flour mill." The mill closed in 1965 and was all but ruined in a fire in 1991. I remember the fire, it was obviously huge news--it was a huge fire. Thankfully, someone saw the historic value of the building and made it into a museum. Mostly it was destroyed, but there are still pieces that are valuable and they have done a great job of making it into a museum. They brought in items to round out the history, too.
There is a kitchen where they do cooking classes for field trips, and a water lab where they explain how water was used to run the mill through interactive water tables. We didn't participate in the kitchen activities, but we did have time in the water lab. It was very cool.
It was, however, one of the few times with a homeschool group where I felt the groups were poorly divided--but it was entirely our own fault. Our group had one child who was considerable older than the rest. She really wanted to direct the other kids. Given that everyone else was younger than Kiddo, they had a little bit different idea of what they wanted to do and how they needed to do it. There were a few moments of frustration, on both sides. It was OK, but could have been better. The kids really did enjoy it, for the most part.
The highlight of the visit is the "Flour Tower," a media presentation in an elevator that culminates with a visit to the 9th floor roof with breathtaking views. It was fabulous.

Kiddo, of course, wants to go back. We read as much as we could, but we took the train in and I wanted to get back out before we hit too much of rush hour, when the train is much more crowded. We'll have to find another time to go, so he can explore more.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Our Classroom Today--November 10

After visiting several area nature centers, today's outing took us to another zoo!
Our classroom

The Minnesota Zoo is great. We have been members since Kiddo was a toddler. One of the major benefits of being a member is that we never feel bad about only visiting for a couple of hours at a time. We try to go early and leave just before the kids get too worn out for it to be any fun anymore. We can go back any time we want to. Since we went with our Tuesday group, however, we stayed much, MUCH longer than normal. We got there at 10 and we weren't headed toward the door until 3:30 or later. I have never before heard the announcement that the zoo is closing, but we did this time!

One of the best parts about the Tuesday group is that there is never a rush to make sure we are getting enough in. Even though we were there for over 5 hours, we didn't see everything. The kids soaked it in. They ran as a pack and looked at the animals. They ask awesome questions. They remember a ton. And they share what they know with each other. So much fun.

One of the newest things at our zoo is the Grizzly Coast exhibit. It is so well designed! They have 3 grizzly bears, all of which were found alone as cubs and would not have survived in the wild. The great thing is that their exhibit allows them to come right up to the people. The kids were touching the bears paws--with a large piece of glass between them, of course. It just gives you a much better sense of just how big they are when you can get that close to them.

On this trip, in particular, we were blessed with a plethora of awesome volunteers. They answered our questions so nicely! When they didn't know what the huge horn on the hornbill was for, they went and found out, then came back into the trail and found us to tell us! (It is just for display. The one pictured is a male, hence the huge horn). They also pointed out the Victoria Crested Pigeons on their nest. We were amazed to see the baby already had the crest. We probably would have missed it if the volunteer hadn't pointed it out. We also learned how they transport our giraffes (they are only here in the summer because we don't have good winter housing for them. They have to be moved twice a year in a 19 foot tall horse-like trailer with hydraulic sides that can be lowered temporarily if they have a low passage they can't go around. Who knew?!), that the sea otters are the most expensive animals to feed (because they eat restaurant grade seafood), and that the bears are not actually fed raw meat, but are instead fed fruits and vegetables along with a hefty serving of dog food. We learned there are 3 amur leopards at the zoo, 2 females and one male. The females are sisters. At least one of the leopards is on loan from somewhere in Europe for an unknown period of time. Oh, and of the 3 bears, only one knows how to fish, but he only gets to eat about a third of what he catches because one of the other bears takes away the fish if he can. All of this we learned from the volunteers (the bear stuff was a staff person, I think). What a wealth of knowledge, and kindness. Thanks zoo volunteers!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Did you know...

Free Rice now has subjects other than vocabulary? I love the vocab, but I am super excited about all the other areas! Geography? Math? Chemistry? Art? WOW! So many good things, and feeding the hungry to boot! Check it out!


Today is one of those days that I dread. We had Lego league in the morning, a quick stop at home for lunch (and I mean QUICK!) then off to art class. Kiddo is always exhausted at the end of these days--which always makes me wonder about the kids who are in school longer than the time he is in these two activities.

At any rate, while Kiddo is in art class, Kutey and I "run errands." She loves this. She loves that she gets to go shopping with me and have my attention for an hour and a half. I'd love to spend the time doing something more with her, but that would require advanced planning, which I haven't been too on top of lately. So we run errands and chat. Today I had nothing I needed to do, so I asked her what she wanted to do. "We could go to the thrift shop!" That was her response. That is my kind of kid. So off to the thrift shop we went.

I didn't need anything. That never stops me. We spent the entire time at the thrift shop. And got some great things!

I bought 3 cds--2 Magic Tree House audio books (the kind you can get free in W*ndy's Kids meals), the two we missed the last time around. I also got an Usb*rne "Stories of Princes and Princesses," which I hope Kutey will enjoy. Each was 80 cents. I picked up a few books, 60 to 80 cents each. Nothing spectacular, mind you, but fun none the less. And they occupied Kutey in the cart the whole time. I got Kiddo a new Vikings sweatshirt for $3 (he likes to wear his sweatshirt on game days, but I sometimes don't get it washed in time for the next game). I also got a bag full of PRANG colored pencils in hopes of using them for our field bags. I bought a box of them a couple of months ago with the same purpose in mind, but Kiddo has taken them hostage. And I bought Kutey two fleece baby blankets to use as curtains on her bed, a project I will hopefully post about later. Not bad for not needing anything!

Kiddo had a great art class, learning about perspective, the horizon line, and the vanishing point. I am so grateful for an excellent art teacher for Kiddo. She is great at what she does, and Kiddo loves it.

We came home to two packages in the mailbox. One is a cd I ordered on the advice of a friend, I'll tell you more once I listen to it. The other is a book. I'll tell you more about that, too. So this evening I playing with my new toys--sorting colored pencils, listening to cds, and washing blankets to hang as curtains. All while the kids play quietly and watch some Electric Company--they are so tired!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Storytime with Miss Rosa

outingI let my kids watch some TV. Generally only PBS, and generally not a lot. When I heard Miss Rosa was coming to our area for storytime, I signed up immediately. Kiddo is admittedly a bit older than the target market for this event, but Kutey goes to things that are targeted for him all the time, so I figured he could go once to an event for her.

Miss Rosa did not disappoint. She is full of energy and enthusiasm. She knows how to connect with the kids, and barely batted an eye at the interruptions that inevitably come from a roomful of children under the age of 5. She read 2 stories: My Truck is Stuck and Way Far Away on a Wild Safari. We have read both of those, we own the latter, but that didn't matter. She kept the kids actively involved in the stories, and active! She had props and actions to go with the stories. There was no getting bored, because there was too much action!

After the story time, there were activities around the children's area of the library. Kiddo and Kutey did them all while we waited for the line to shrink so we could get Miss Rosa's autograph and have pictures taken with her. Even that she fabulously. She met every child where they needed to be met. She accommodated pictures in parents arms, she did pictures with my kids one on each side of her--first one, then she leaned over to the other one--because they wouldn't move any closer to her so I could get them all in one (in hind sight, that was actually a much better plan! They each have their own picture now, which makes more sense). She was just fabulous!

If you have one in the under 5 set, and you get a chance to see her, it was an outing well worth the time (and the $10 in parking!).

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Our Classroom Today--November 3

Our classroom

Ah, Tuesday. I love Tuesdays. And as Kutey has been battling crud for a couple of weeks off and on, making our Tuesday outing even more important. We had to miss a few other outings we had planned last week and at least one was canceled due to the rain. We were ready to get out. We were ready to play. And it was a great day!

We hit yet another nature center in our area. We are lucky to have so many about. Again, I had never been to this particular one, and it is great. We started at the large playground, where the kids had a blast. Then we pulled out the jump ropes! New for my kids, Kiddo picked it up quickly, Kutey needs to practice just jumping in general, but she'll get there. Our friends O and M picked it up quickly and were quite good! Then it was time for lunch and a walk in the woods. The walk was short, as we found holes in trees that were perfect for making fairy houses. I need to find a small chair to carry with me, cause I could have sat down for the amount of time the kids spent building these fairy houses. They had fun, and worked together, though, so I can't complain!

We also saw: 6 or so wild turkeys (more than once, and rather close--so close, in fact, that I had to remind the kids that they were wild and that if they felt threatened they would come at them), a huge hawk that flew low over the jump roping, a squirrel (Kiddo's sighting, and he loved that it was camouflaged with the log it was sitting on), a couple of woodpeckers (Kutey and I saw them when we went to wash her hands after an unfortunate tumble on the playground), and black-capped chickadees on the bird feeders outside the center. The turkeys were particularly fun to watch, since they didn't seem to care too much that we were there, and were in no hurry to walk away from us. It was also fun for Kiddo, Kutey and I to watch them literally walk down the path we were planning to take, all in a row. If you look carefully at the picture, you can just see them on the path.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Backlog

As I add posts, I am going to be backdating them to reflect the time when the events actually transpired. Because of this, I will try to keep a list here of the newest posts I have created.

Bert and Ernie, goodnight!

Muffin Tin monday--Outer Space

We were actually on theme again with our muffin tins for Muffin Tin Monday! No small accomplishment for us these days.

muffin tin Monday

Top: Pizza Space Sauce
Next row: Milky way yogurt, cheese stars
Next row: meatball planets, pepperoni saucers
Bottom: Grape asteroids, marshmallow martian

Here is Kiddo's:

muffin tin Monday

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Our Classroom Today

Our classroom

We have been loving our Tuesday group. The company is good, and the "classrooms" are magnificent! This one was a bit farther afield than we usually venture, but well worth the drive time. The nature center had great things for the kids to do and see. Lots of appropriate make believe toys, along with some nature piece exhibits such as furs and skeletons.

Once the kids started getting squirrely, we moved outside for lunch and a hike. It is getting cooler here, we have had snow, but that hasn't stopped us from venturing into the great outdoors, for which I am grateful. We walked along a path that then became a smaller path, that wound up being not a trail. We turned around went back to find the boardwalk. On the boardwalk we found these:

woolly bears

Everyone had to have a turn carrying them (poor things, just there minding their own business, then high up tin the air being bounced along). They were eventually returned to the boardwalk, in one piece, and hopefully none the worse for the trip.

Let's hope the good weather continues so we can hit a few more outside treks before the snow sticks!

Monday, October 26, 2009

too many ideas!


We started doing Halloween things today, you know, crafts and the like (we had our muffin tins and we made these fabulous skeletons! I'll post pictures hopefully later this week).

Kiddo wants more. And he has BIG ideas (always--he has never once had a small idea). And so I went looking for more things to do (because our week wasn't full enough--we have a Halloween related outing everyday from now until Halloween--I told you it is always one of the busiest weeks on our calendar!). I want to do sooooooo many of them! People out there in webland have such amazingly creative brains!

Here are a few I hope we can get done this week:
Paper Bats from 4 Crazy Kings--SO cute. SO simple. Can't wait.
Spider web boards from Vintage Chica--This one may require a trip to the hardware store (though I could do the craft she based it on without going anywhere, I have paper plates and yarn) but I think it would be worth it. These are awesome. I think the kids would love banging in the nails, and I would love making the spiderwebs, oh, and so would the kids!
Ghost Garland from wendolonia--This one would require either a trip to the fabric store, or a paper substitution (which is much more likely!) I probably only need to make 3-5 for the space Kiddo wants to have ghosts in. Paper might have to do for this year and then we can make the cloth ones for next year. I think they will last a little longer, so we wouldn't have to make them year after year. That will open up more time for all the other things I find to do!

There are others, trust me. But I think 3 is probably MORE than enough for us to bite off right now. We also have to carve our pumpkins, which requires us to buy pumpkins first, which requires a visit to the pumpkin patch, which requires locating a pumpkin patch that is closer than a half hour away. Yep, we'll be plenty busy!

Muffin Tin Monday--Halloween!!

Halloween is a favorite holiday at our house. I am not sure why, but we always seem to have more going on the week of Halloween than any other time of the year! So today we started our week of festivities with our Halloween Muffin Tin Monday!

muffin tin Monday

It took me FOREVER to put this meal together. FOR. EVER. Too long, really. Even though each individual part was very easy, everything added together ended up taking a lot of time. The end result was good, but for the amount of time I put in it should have been great. The kids loved it, though, so really what else matters?

Here is Kiddo's:
muffin tin Monday

Top row:
Goblin mouths (apple wedges and slivered almonds), bread stick ghost (I had to do something with the leftover bread sticks--it is a stretch, I know), white chocolate ghostie, another goblin mouth.

Middle row:
Dragon eye (hard-boiled egg half with black olive pupil), goblin teeth (slivered almonds--I needed something to fill in the spaces on his tin), pumpkin spice jack-o-lantern muffin (recipe here, I added the chocolate jack-o-lantern face).

Bottom row:
Witches broom (fruit-by-the-foot wrapped around a pretzel stick), Mummy dog, another witches broom.

Many of the other items came from Family Fun, though I saw them elsewhere in webland, too.
Here is Kutey's:
Kutey's Halloween 2009 Muffin Tin

Monday, October 19, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday--Themeless 3

Since I have such a backlog of posts, I am going to post a few random Muffin Tin Mondays. This one is completely themeless, made up of whatever I could find in the house. We had several of those in the last couple of months. The kids still loved them--though Kiddo regularly asks what the theme is.

<muffin tin Monday

In Kutey's from left to right:
Top: Chik'n Nuggets, apple slices
Middle: chips (filler!), peach slices
Bottom: mashed potatoes and gravy (leftovers), string cheese

The extra cup on top is the dip for her nuggets. We have been using pizza sauce. The kids love it !

More posts to come, including a couple where we took our muffin tins on the road!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A backlog of posts

I have a long list of posts to make, from field trips to "classrooms" to crafts to muffin tins to newly acquired "curriculum." But we have been so busy that I have not been able to pull it all together. Next week our schedule lightens up a bit, so I hope to get a bunch of them posted then.

For now, however, I have to share a website I stumbled upon today. Windows to the Universe is a website about the universe and it is FULL of information, games, and teacher resources. I have only scratched the surface, but I am looking forward to using this resource!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our Classroom Today--October 13

classroomWe had snow. And it is chilly. But that did not dampen our spirits! We headed out to the "other" zoo, Como Zoo in St. Paul. We have the privilege of having not one but 2 incredible zoos within a short drive. We love them both, for different reasons. We don't get to Como as often as we might, but that makes it almost more special when we do!

The kids spent a lot of time in the primates enclosure. There is a lot of activity there. Lots of animals. Lots of action. Our kids included. They would see something in one, then run to the next, only to head back to the first when something moving caught their eye. Exhausting for me! They also got to see giraffes, zebras, lions, tigers, and mountain lions. It is a relatively small zoo, so we saw most of it before lunch.

After lunch, we headed out to the playground, where the kids played in the now melting snow and got drenched. We changed clothes (I always carry a full change of clothes for each of them these days!) and headed home, once again, exhausted. Tuesdays are fabulous.

*While I like the variety of animals at the Como Zoo, I admit that one of the reasons we don't go there is that it makes me a little sad. The enclosures, while better than they used to be, still seem rather small to me. And sometimes the animals look just absolutely bored. Especially the gorillas. And I love the gorillas.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bert and Ernie, Good Night!

We are fortunate to live in an area with a strong performing arts community. There are theaters everywhere, and many of them do shows oriented to children. The premiere theater for children here is The Children's Theatre Company. We attended a performance there last winter (on last minute $5 tickets). This year I thought we might see a few shows--but it might end up being only 1 again. While their shows NEVER disappoint (they have been around since before Hubby and I were kids), their prices, well, they are a bit steep. I am planning more theater trips, but I think we will mix it up a bit and see shows at other venues as well.

We did, however, fit the world premiere of "Bert and Ernie, goodnight!" into our exceptionally busy schedule. Kiddo and Kutey LOVED it. We went as a school group, which saved us a bit, and gave us the opportunity to see the performance while the kids were still fresh in the morning instead of when they were tired from the day.

The play was phenomenal! The actors did a fabulous job of portraying the beloved Sesame Street characters. The staging was impressive--the whole thing took place in Bert and Ernie's bedroom. It is a musical with lots of great songs throughout the performance. "I'd Like to Visit the Moon," and "Doing the Pigeon" both appear. Many of the skits we have seen and LOVED on Sesame Street were adapted to fit the story and stage. The basic premise is that Ernie can't go to sleep, and Bert wants to. Hilarity abounds as Bert tries to find a way to get Ernie to go to sleep.

Two favorite moments: Ernie "testing" whether or not Bert is asleep by poking him, and the poem "The Park" By Ernie.

It only runs through October 25, 2009 here. If you get a chance to see it, take it! I would love to take the kids back and see it again!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

An odd sighting

Yesterday was one of few occasions I did not have my camera with me. It is usually strapped to my sling pack/purse so I have it with me at all times. It is quite convenient and I often find that I have it at moments when I wouldn't normally have thought to pick it up on the way out. But yesterday I left it home thinking we were going to the MOMS Club Members meeting and then on to the Dollar store. Really, what could be photo-worthy in that stretch? Not much, I thought, so home it stayed.

I wish it hadn't. Because we saw the oddest thing, and something the kids are sure to talk about for a while. And it happened completely by chance. We went to the Dollar Tree looking for the phonics tiles mentioned here. They didn't have them, but we picked up a 2 pack of gliders--made of plastic with weighted noses and a rubberband launcher--which Kiddo and Kutey have been thoroughly enjoying. When we left we noticed a crane had gone up in the parking lot next door. We put our stuff in the car and walked to the Goodwill store. I was looking for a history book I should have picked up on Saturday when I was there, it was gone, but I found myself 2 new fleece shirts for $3, so all was not lost. When we got back to the car, we noticed that now there was a refrigerator in the bucket suspended from the crane. What on earth?

We got in the car and went a little closer, to get a better view. I parked the car, the kids moved to the front seat with me, and we watched as they proceeded to drop that refrigerator and 3 more from at least 30 feet in the air. I wish I could have taken a picture! They were filming a commercial, I assume. There was a local company that does commercials there with cameras. They were positioned in front of a local appliance outlet, and we saw their usual spokesperson (I think he is the owner). The filming was behind a truck from where we were sitting, and I don't think the kids cared. It was just fun to watch them drop refrigerators!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Emergency Preparedness

Kiddo woke up this morning and, in the most chipper of voices, told us he had a bad dream. We asked him about it, as we usually do. He began telling us about it, a generic bad dream that was not terribly worrisome to us. Part way through the telling of the dream he told us it was ok, because you could just call 9-1-1. We haven't covered 9-1-1. It has been mentioned in passing, but no more than that. We started pushing a bit to see just what he knows.

Now here is where he shocked us. He could tell us how to dial it, who would come, and when it should be called. He knew the fire department is contacted that way, the police are contacted that way, and the ambulance is contacted that way. We didn't "teach" him that, he just picked it up. Hubby disclosed that that he had been feeling badly that we hadn't taught him about 9-1-1. Guess we needn't worry. Kiddo is prepared!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Our Classroom Today--September 22

We hit this park again today:

Given that I was able to take pictures that have not a single child in them, you might not believe my previous statements about the crowds. Believe me, in the summer, it is awful. We had a bit of a scare when a couple of buses arrived, but they went deeper into the park for activities. I am not sure they ever got to play on the equipment--kind of a unique kind of torture, you can see it, but no, you can't play there!

We again visited the woods after lunch. The kids spent hours adding finishing touches to the wood hut they have helped to build. They hung bits of plastic they found in the woods, the found special brightly colored leaves and put them in cubbies in the house. They gathered firewood. They designated spaces for cupboards. And all of this they did by negotiating with one another. We never heard an argument. Well, we didn't hear an argument for a couple of hours. When they start getting tired, we can tell, but then we kinda know what is going on. They are having so much fun! And coming home completely exhausted.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our classroom today...

was this:

Well, this and two other ponds, the area surrounding them, etc.

I often get asked about how homeschooling works by parents who send their kids to public and private schools. They ask about my schedule. They ask how I get them to do their work. They ask if we are very definite about when we are in school. It becomes obvious that they can't imagine homeschooling because they are thinking of putting the classroom into the home. I know there are homeschoolers that work that way. But it is so far from what I do that I usually end up laughing.

Today is a perfect example. We spent 5 hours playing in the ponds at a nature center. They had a bucket that had nets, bowls, spoons, magnifying glasses, and a page of pictures and names of the things we might see. We saw snails and minnows and water boatmen, leeches and water mites and damselfly nymphs and side swimmers. We saw turtles and dragonflies and hawks. The kids were at their best. There were 6 kids, and none of them melted down, there were no fights, there was a great deal of teamwork, and it was one of the most delightful days! I attribute a great deal of that to them being in their element.

And that is what homeschool often looks like for us. Time spent immersing ourselves into the learning. Time spent with others who are doing the same thing. Time spent in a great big classroom without walls. There were no books, no computers. One double-sided piece of paper told us as much as we needed to know. The kids were not even aware they were learning. They didn't know "school" was happening. And that is when I know we are at our best. They will remember far more that they saw and learned today than they ever would if I tried to teach it to them sitting at the dining room table, which is where most people assume I homeschool. I should take a picture of the table for you. Then you could laugh, too, because there is very little chance we would be doing school among the piles there!

Muffin Tin Monday--unthemed

I have missed a couple of Muffin Tin Mondays. It isn't that I haven't served a meal in a tin, we just have been so busy that I haven't had a chance to blog them! And it takes very little time to blog a muffin tin. That is just how busy we have been.

We did our Muffin Tin Monday for dinner last night. Hubby is taking a class on Monday nights, so I am on my own to feed the kids. It worked out well yesterday, since we went from Lego League in the morning, to a chocolate potluck at lunch, and then to art class. Muffin tins were not to be. But dinner worked perfectly for a muffin tin! I have no clue what the theme was supposed to be, but here is what we had!

muffin tin Monday

Here is Kutey's:
muffin tin Monday
Milk, pudding (under the foil--can't be open or that is all she would eat!), cherry tomatoes from the garden, fish sticks, tarter sauce, sweet potato fries, applesauce, yogurt with honey.

And Kiddo's:
muffin tin Monday

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Our Classroom Today--September 8

Today is the day that MOST public schools in my area started. Last year at this time, I was worried about Kiddo missing out on all that first day of school electricity. This year, far less concern. We like our rhythm. We like our freedom. And we like being able to go to places like this:
when there are very few other kids around! Today, for "Not Back to School Day," we met friends here. We went once this summer, and all of our kids came out and said there were too many kids in the park to play. It was true, busloads of children had arrived, making it rather unpleasant. We couldn't blame them.
After playing on the equipment to their hearts content, we had some lunch. After lunch, the kids chose to play here:
instead of on the equipment. Really, they enjoy this as much or more than the equipment. They played here this summer, too, when the equipment was too crowded. I love that they love this just as much. I love to watch them play here. I love that we can spend the entire day here if that is what we want to do.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Finding a homeschool niche

There are a lot of homeschoolers in my area. I am grateful for that. But finding a group, even a small group, of like-minded homeschoolers is nearly impossible it seems.

I am not talking about curriculum like-minded. I am pretty eclectic, have read about a lot of different programs, pulled in bits and pieces from a variety of places. I am very open (I think) to listening to what others have chosen to use and why. I don't think I push my ideas onto others, and if I do it is most certainly unintentional. I definitely do not think my way is the best or only way of doing things. It is the method that works for us, and that is one of the best things about homeschooling, choosing what works for you.

No, I am talking about people who are interested in similar things as my family outside of the homeschooling arena. I'd love to find families that we mesh well with, people I can talk to and don't get uncomfortable with the conversation time and again. It has happened to me several times lately. Honestly, I don't think I need to talk about the vaccination debate (because it seems I am on the wrong side) or homebirth/natural birth/hospital birth/cesarean birth (you can probably guess why), or the evils of doctors (I have many friends in the medical professions, I fully trust them), or how terrible it is to not eat only organic foods (I can't afford organic foods exclusively). If there wasn't so much judgment loaded into these conversations maybe it would be ok. The problem is I walk away feeling beat up for the choices (or in some cases the necessities!) of my life.

That is not what I need from a day at the park with other homeschoolers. I want my kids to have friends, but I am struggling with finding a way to let them have friends and allow me to not dread the play dates. I'd love for the people to be close geograpically. Right now, I am going a bit out of my way to go hang out with people I enjoy, and hoping Kiddo and Kutey like their kids, too. We need the interaction. How do I find the people I need?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Muffin Tin Monday--Mini

It's Muffin Tin Monday! I just finished walking the Twin Cities Breast Cancer 3-day, so I am sore, I have blisters, I am sunburned, and two nights sleeping on the ground in the cold was a bit less than restful. I also have no idea what today's theme was supposed to be! Hubby fed the kids lunch (great guy that he is, he took today off so I could sit at my computer and watch movies and rest.) And he didn't serve them in muffin tins.

BUT! I served them a plethora of Muffin Tin Meals last week, so I have one to post anyway!

Here it is, Muffin Tin Monday (served last week, not on Monday), Mini themed!
muffin tin Monday

Here is Kutey's:
muffin tin Monday
Top: Mini (cherry) tomatoes, Mini (baby) carrots, pizza sauce for dipping (love pizza sauce in a squeeze bottle!)
Center: mini (bite-size) monster cookie
Bottom: Mini (Babybel) cheese, frosted Mini wheats, Mini chick'n (nuggets)

And Kiddo's:
muffin tin Monday