Saturday, February 27, 2010

Swan Sighting!

Once a year, we take a drive to the Mississippi river near Red Wing, MN to see the wintering eagle population. There is usually open water on the Mississippi, so the bald eagle population is usually large. This year we sighted a few eagles, but much more exciting was the sighting of a flock of swans!


We counted 16 of them. I am not sure if they are Tundra or Trumpeter swans. My guess would be Tundra, because they are more common and because of their migratory route. We couldn't get very close to them, this is the best picture I could get:


That is with my 10x optical + 4x digital zoom. We were also on the wrong side of the railroad tracks, and right next to the sign that said "illegal to cross." Even at that distance, though, the swans spooked a little when we moved or made too loud of a noise--such as the noise one makes when their foot unexpectedly sinks into the snow.

We also saw mergansers, snow geese, mallards, 8 wild turkeys, 4 deer, a few red-tailed hawks, and of course, bald eagles. It made up for the lack of birds we saw during the Great Backyard Bird Count.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Great Backyard Bird Count--2010 results

Our results this year were for the Great Backyard Bird Count were not much better than our results last year. We counted in our own yard for three days (Friday, Sunday, and Monday). What did we see? Ducks, but since they were in flight in the distance, we couldn't identify what kind they were so they didn't count. A little bird on a tree that might have been a woodpecker, but it was too fast and stayed mostly on the back of the tree, so we never got a good look at it. Again, it didn't count. Finally, on the last day, we had 2 mallards fly over close enough that we could definitively identify them--they counted! Yay! We didn't even get to count our resident sparrows! They hid for the whole weekend. We have seen them literally every day since then. Sigh.

Remember how I had also scheduled a trip to Grandpa's house, where there are ALWAYS a ton of birds? Yeah, a ton. Except for the day we were there. We did manage to see a northern cardinal, 2 black-capped chickadees, 2 crows, and 2 red-tailed hawks in the hour we watched. I would have said that was phenomenal, except that the last time we were there the feeder was literally crawling with birds, including 2 kinds of woodpeckers, juncos, blue jays, a male and female cardinal, and sparrows. None of them came to visit while we watched, though.

Grandpa said the birds have been there often since that day, though. He had a good chuckle about it, so I guess something good came from it. I like to make him laugh.

Even with the lack of birds, Kiddo thought it was great. He wants to do it more often (as he wanted last year) so I think we'll have to work it into our curriculum to do a backyard bird count once a month. That will give us the opportunity to see what kinds of birds we have when.

And next year? Next year we will have a feeder out starting in December!

You can see the results from this years count here.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday--Orange

The kids are really enjoying the color themed Muffin Tin Mondays! I have them brainstorm to come up with foods that are the particular color, which they love. We had a bit of a dispute over whether or not sp*ghettio-s qualified as an orange food or not. Kiddo still contends that they are not, but in the end the need for something a little more lunchish won out!

So here they are! The Orange tins!
Muffin Tin Monday

I even served beverages in orange cups. Kutey doesn't usually use a sippy anymore, but she is battling a cold. When she is sick, I fill the sippy to make sure she drinks enough. That way she can carry it around with her and i don't have to worry about spills!

The scone is not orange colored, but it is orange flavored. We have been discussing words that have more than one meaning (such as light), so orange fit right in! I love when I can toss some learning in, too!

Here is Kiddo's:
Muffin Tin Monday

Top row: cutie orange, carrots, dried apricots (a favorite of his), more carrots
Middle row: cheese, orange pepper, repeat
Bottom row: carrots, sp*ghetti-os, scone, sp*ghetti-os

Here is Kutey's:
Muffin Tin Monday

Thursday, February 18, 2010


After our Sunrise Salad on Monday, Kiddo was curious about how Jell-o works. Yeah, I don't know either. That is what the internet is for, right? Well, sort of. I found some explanations, but not exactly what I was looking for. If I had given it more time, I might have found more.

I did, however, find this nifty little experiment on non-Newtonian fluids.


We made slime! And it was so fun to play with! You can stir it slowly, but it becomes more viscous the faster you stir it. If you squeeze it in your hand it becomes almost solid, but then when you open your hand, it runs out again. It was great!


Kiddo wasn't sure he wanted to touch it (he has this thing about not liking sticky hands), but Kutey and I apparently made it look like fun, so he joined in. This was both educational and fun, but the kids loved the mess they could make. I didn't worry about it, it is just cornstarch and water! I made a half batch. I would make a full batch, though, and divide it into two so the kids could each have their own bowl to play in.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

MAD Science

We went to the Science Series at a local library again today. Today's presenter was MAD Science. The presentation was highly entertaining, but I still like to think the kids learned something. He did a number of demonstrations, some with chemicals--the foam head in the picture was melted by pouring a chemical on it, the foamy thing next to it he called elephant's toothpaste, to much laughter. Other demonstrations were done with air--he used a hair dryer (which he tried to convince the kids was an anti-gravity machine) to float a ball in the air, then brought out a leaf blower to float a kid on a "hover board." Kiddo knew exactly what he was going to do, answered a question, and was given the opportunity to ride the hover board! He turned it down, however, because he was a little wary of what the guy was going to do. I was worried he would regret it, but it didn't seem to phase him.

I am grateful for the organization that sponsors these activities. They provide these fabulous learning activities to us for free. Yay for groups that go out of their way for homeschoolers!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Valentine math--a little late

I bought conversation hearts before Valentine's day with the intention of using them for all sorts of fun school things, math specifically. But, well, we never got to it. Our playgroup was canceled today, so we had more free time than usual. So we played with some hearts!

I gave Kiddo and Kutey each a bowl of hearts (about 25 each). They sorted them onto their papers. I gave them some room to decide how they wanted to do it, as long as the general idea was followed. Kiddo made lines between his and put a stamp in each space to represent each candy. Kutey had hers all on her paper, then did the lines like her brother. Notice that one pink heart in the purple column? She didn't like the empty column, so she told me she was going to put the pink one there. She knew it wasn't right, but the empty column wasn't either. Then we did some math, compared columns, figured out which columns added together to equal which other columns, etc. Then, of course, we ate some hearts--though not all of them. Kiddo loved this activity. He asked if we could do this everyday!

You can download the heart graphing sheet here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Let 'em run!

Let 'em run!When you live somewhere that is cold in the winter, where snow is a way of life, where cold is sometimes too bitter to have the kids out long enough to wear off enough energy, you start looking for venues to let the kids run. I probably let my kids run in places others might not, but sometimes you just have to!

This weekend, though, they got to run in a space that was designed for it. We went to a paper airplane "fly in." They got to learn about airplanes, how to fold paper airplanes (though Kiddo has so many in his repertoire that he didn't really even stop at that table!), and then play some games with the planes, in addition to flying them about the large field house.

The best part, though, was the space to RUN! And run they did. Kutey seemed to think that the track oval was the best thing ever. She was in her own little world, running lap after lap, and loving every minute of it. All told, we figure she ran well over a half mile. For a not quite four-year-old, that is big!

Muffin Tin Monday--Red

The theme today for Muffin Tin Monday is RED. I admit, I like the color themes. I can do the color themes. I get the color themes. Some of the others I struggle with, but colors? Usually they are easy (just don't ask me to do blue. There are very few blue foods).
Muffin Tin Monday
Kiddo and Kutey helped me come up with the list of foods that were red. Kutey's contribution was the red bell pepper. It is one of her favorite foods, but not one I remembered until I asked her what we should have! Both kids wanted strawberries. It is so far from strawberry season here, however, that even what we can get in the store isn't very good! We settled for Sunrise Salad that used some of the berries we froze last summer.

Here is Kiddo's:
Muffin Tin Monday
Top; Sunrise Salad, M & M's, Sunrise Salad, Easy Peasy Cherry Cobbler.
Middle: pepperoni (which will probably be considered orange next week!), strawberry yogurt with red and heart sprinkles, repeat.
Bottom: red bell pepper, red apple, repeat.

Here is Kutey's:
Muffin Tin Monday
Kutey doesn't like the cobbler, so she didn't have any. I am certainly not going to force her to eat something that has very little nutritional value in the first place!

Red was fun! I can't wait to see what the kids come up with for orange next week!

Interesting information

The link for this blog post came across one of my homeschool groups. It is out of the British Red Cross and talks about why, at times of disaster, they prefer monetary donations rather than donations of goods--even things you think might be useful like tents and medicines. It is well written and explains the situation quite clearly.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Craft

I had planned to do several crafts for Valentine's day. Unfortunately we have been too busy lately and haven't had a great deal of time at home. I am trying to rectify that, but it didn't happen in time for Valentine's day.

We did however, manage to pull together this one.

craftsI was reminded of the idea here, via One Pretty Thing. But really, this is a craft for all seasons. We might be doing shamrocks for St. Patrick's Day, eggs for Easter, flowers for spring, stars for Independence day, apples for September, pumpkins for Halloween, etc. I have a stash of colorful tissue paper, and this doesn't really take that much.

I did some prep work to make the activity flow a bit better. I cut a heart out of a piece of pink construction paper (I folded it in half and drew my heart, first, to make sure I got as much out of the paper as I could). Then I cut another heart out of the center, a little less than an inch from the edge. Then I did another heart, about the same distance from the inside of that heart. This left me with two heart outlines of differing sizes and one small filled heart. We didn't use the small filled heart for this project.
I did that with 4 sheets of paper--2 red and 2 pink--so that the kids would each have 2 of each size, 1 red and 1 pink.

craftsThen I cut some tissue paper into little pieces. This is where the kids started to participate. I cut strips of tissue paper which they then cut into smaller pieces. We had shades of pink and purple, red, white, and some special papers with snowflakes, spirals and stripes. The kids did a great job of cutting it into small pieces and putting it into the cups.

craftsI had cut contact paper to the appropriate size, and I laid their hearts on the paper. Then they set about putting the tissue paper on it. This is a great project for multiple levels to do at the same time. The one thing I forgot to emphasize was that once you set down the tissue paper it was going to be stuck. I had to carefully peel a couple of pieces of tissue paper off the contact paper before they got the hang of it. Kiddo was very into the smiley faces. Kutey didn't completely cover either of the two she did. She made one with just a smiley face (have to be like big brother!) and one that was more random. I think she would enjoy just putting the tissue paper between the contact paper, without the shape. Maybe we'll try that sometime.

craftsOnce they had everything covered with tissue paper, I put another piece of contact paper over the tissue paper. I trimmed that to a heart shape, and that was it! Clean up was minimal, which is always great for a craft project. We each put one in the window, mostly because Kiddo didn't like how faded and brittle the Christmas trees we put up had gotten on the side facing the sun.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Snowy Day

My kids thoroughly enjoy going to the theater. And I love taking them. I kind of try to hit one play every 2 months--give or take. I also try to hit different theaters, different types of performances. Last fall we went to "Bert and Ernie, Goodnight!" at the Children's Theatre Company. Big production, very professional. We followed that with a community education production of Winnie-the-Pooh. Much smaller scale production, much less professional, held in a middle school auditorium with the old bowl fiberglass chairs and the swing up desks. The kids loved both productions, and that is kind of the point!

TheaterOur February production was at a smaller theater that partners with a couple of special area schools. Stages Theater is a gem! We saw The Snowy Day, based on the book by Ezra Jack Keats. The book is a favorite around here. We own at least three copies. Kutey used to recite it (as a two-year-old) as we drove from place to place. It was so cute. So when I saw it on the schedule, I knew we had to go. In spite of our balcony seating (I usually prefer the main floor, and a little closer to the action), the production was very engaging. It was very loosely based on the book, sort of the important pieces were there but were definitely expanded and added to. It was a musical, with lots and lots of singing and dancing (there were even kids who danced on in-line skates which stood in for ice skates--pretty impressive!) There was a cast of about 20 kids and 3 adults. And every one of them was fantastic.

The story itself was very well done. The scenes that were needed to keep it close to the book were present--the snowball, the mountain climbing, the tracks, the stick, the bathtub complete with funky tile. They even managed to make Peter's snow clothes look like the book--with the pointy head! There were moments that made me cry, though, because the story is about a little boy and his imagination and how some day he will be a man. Yeah, the stuff of tear-jerkers for moms' who just want their little ones to be little for as long as possible.

I think it was especially fun for the kids to see how great a performance featuring kids can be! We won't likely make it to another Stages theater production this season, but judging by the list for next season, we will be back!

The Great Backyard Bird Count!!

I am frightfully behind! The Great Backyard Bird count is this weekend! Last year we had terrible luck. We had very few birds. To stave off disappointment (mine more than anyone else's!) this year, there has been no build up. I have also made plans to head to grandpa's house in the country to watch some birds, too. Grandpa has bird feeders, and lots of feeder birds. The likelihood of seeing something there is far greater! I am frantically trying to get things ready--binoculars located, bird books found, checklists printed, etc. We'll be ready tomorrow to start the four days!

Participation is so easy! Pick a spot and watch for at least 15 minutes. Then fill out a form, and submit your results. The results are fun to explore, too. Go, take a look! I'll let you know how our count turns out.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

It Snowed!

Well, actually, it has been snowing since Sunday. I think it is about done. I hope it is about done. I shoveled this much yesterday: snow

I shoveled this much, off part of the driveway, this morning: snow
and the remainder this afternoon.

and I shoveled this:
off of the end of the driveway where the plow had gone through. I am not sure that the yard stick hit the ground there. The snow was kind of packed. I think it was probably a bit deeper than this shows! I shoveled for nearly 2 hours and I still only managed to clear the driveway and enough of the plow pile to get the van out of the driveway!

I am so ready for spring!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday--Themeless 4

It is Muffin Tin Monday, again! I have missed posting several of these, so I am adding them slowly. Last week's Dr. Seuss theme is here! The kids loved that one. We might just have it again on Dr. Seuss's actual birthday!

Here is this weeks, though.
muffin tin monday

There was no theme, so I let the kids decide what they wanted. One week in January they actually filled their own tins. This time, they just told me what they wanted and I filled them up. Kiddo was determined to have chips in his and kept emptying a space for them. In the end he didn't get chips, and was still pleased as punch to eat the contents of his tin.

We had cornbread muffins (leftover from the Super B*wl dinner we had), dried fruit (a new favorite of Kiddo's), yogurt, crackers with cream cheese, pepperoni, cheese, and applesauce.

I'm looking forward to the color themes. I love that green will fall St. Patrick's Day week. We'll be having a couple of green meals that week! Join in the fun!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Muffin Tin Monday--Dr. Seuss

muffin tin monday

This week's theme for Muffin Tin Monday was Dr. Seuss. Given my lack of motivation, and the fact that we were cramming our lunch in between Lego League and art class, I began with the obvious--Green Eggs and Ham. I scrambled some eggs and added 2 drops of food coloring. If I had been thinking a bit more, I might have tried to mix in something that would have made the eggs green more naturally--like spinach! But this is what we had to work with. I cut stars out of cheese--belly stars from Sneetches. And I cut up apples and gave them each 10 slices--Ten Apples up on Top.

This was definitely one of their favorite tins! There are some very creative folks who did this theme, too! Make sure you check them out!