Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The snow is falling.
The kids are painting.
The tea is warm and soothing.

A winter's day's peace.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Free Christmas Music

I realize this is not for everyone out there. But maybe I have some readers who would like it!

Amazon MP3 downloads store currently has an entire VeggieTales Christmas album to download for FREE. Yep, FREE.

The album is "The Incredible Singing Christmas Tree." There are 16 tracks on the album, and there is a story that goes along through the album with the songs. It is kind of fun! Probably especially if you like VeggieTales...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Why do kids always seem sickest in the middle of the night?

We spent yesterday pondering whether or not Kutey's cough was getting worse and whether or not Kiddo was getting sick. By the time they went to bed, they seemed OK. Kiddo was likely getting a cold, but Kutey seemed no different than she has for the last couple of weeks. She has a lingering cough, but my Pediatric Nurse Practitioner friend didn't seem concerned when she heard it on Thursday. Even when I said it had been around for a few weeks. So we all went to bed.

Kutey woke up at 1 am and called for me. She sounded worse, but I expected to be able to go in and get her to go back to sleep. When I opened the door to her room, however, it became apparent something different was going to happen. She was struggling to breathe, it sounded completely wheezy. I brought her to our room, so she wouldn't wake up Kiddo, and held her for a bit, trying to calm her down, poor miserable thing. Then I tried to lay her down again so we could all go to sleep. No go. I tried propping her up, since being vertical seemed to help. Nope. So I propped myself up with pillows, and laid her on my chest, and tried to relax her, while in my head I am frantically wondering whether we need to be at the ER, whether it is worth waking up my PNP friend, and absolutely not sleeping. Neither was hubby.

Eventually (it felt like HOURS, but really, it was only about an hour), I was able to lay Kutey down and her breathing had eased. She slept the rest of the night (I, on the other hand, woke up several times, just to make sure she was still breathing!). She woke up this morning at about 9, chipper as all get out, ready for breakfast, seeming none the worse for the night. Yes, she has a cough, but no fever, and certainly nothing that is raising any concern.

Why do they only seem terribly sick at night, when I am to tired to be rational? Why?

I guess I should just be grateful it seems to have been brief. Hopefully we will all sleep tonight...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday History Field Trip--Postponed

This weeks field trip was planned. I know Kiddo is not feeling perfect when I tell him to get ready to go on our history field trip, and he says he isn't feeling well. He rarely passes up a chance to learn more history. I wish I could say we capitalized on the free time, but I let the kids goof off most of the day.

We'll be back to our Friday History Field Trips after the holiday weekend. And the one planned for this week? We'll fit it in, likely in January!

Our Classroom Today--November 16

We held school inside a log today!


Actually, the kids choose to hang out here, drawing in their notebooks. We did not direct it in any way, which is the best. The log is part of a newer exhibit at the zoo, it allows the kids to get closer to the exhibit. The log runs through an exhibit of monkeys--Black and White Colobus Monkeys and De Brazza’s Monkeys--along with Red River Hogs.


The funny thing is the Black and White Colobus monkeys like to lay on top of the log. From the inside of the log you can't see them! From the outside, though, they are very close! The kids started in an area in the base of an artificial tree where they could get up close and personal with the fish. They were all packed in there, all with their notebooks, all blissfully drawing various things. They moved, somewhat pack-like to the log and continued to draw. I love these days!

The kids did eventually tire of the log, and we moved on. When we reached the aquarium, we noticed this fish.

Over and over and over and over again it did that.

I admit, I was more fascinated than the kids. I think there is something not right about this fish. There were no volunteers or keepers around to ask about the behavior, but it is not normal fish behavior. I would call it the equivalent of pacing in a terrestrial animal, which is not good.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Buffalo Bills

This morning while we were at my MOMS Club meeting, Kutey was in the kids room. We got there halfway through the meeting, in time for the speaker (I planned it that way). I took Kutey's coat and sent her into the room, not really worrying about it (I made sure the adult in charge saw she was there, but that was it). I went in and set Kiddo up in the back of the room, then quickly sat down to listen to the speaker. I had been sitting down for 2 minutes when one of the moms helping in the kids room came over to me. It seems that they were having snack, but Kutey would not have one until I said it was OK. Oy. Both of my kids are like this. They will not take something offered to them unless I say it is OK. I don't know where it comes from. I don't remember making an issue of it. I don't mind, it is just kind of funny.

I asked Kutey about it after the meeting, and she said she told the mom she wasn't sure if she should have a snack. The mom knows me and understood what that meant, and hence came and asked me. I asked Kutey what the snack was and she said "Buffalo Bills." Don't know what that is? Me either! Care to make a guess (and no fair guessing if you were at the meeting!)

A break through

This morning I packed the kids up and headed for my MOMS Club monthly meeting. Being the only homeschooler in the group is sometimes tricky. Obviously the kids who are there are much younger than Kiddo. But it is still social time for Kutey, and for me. And this morning they had a professional organizer come to speak. I am not so very organized, so I wanted to go and listen. But what to do with Kiddo...

I have been thinking about this for a few days. Sometimes I have another homeschooling friend who will watch the kids while I go to an event. But she has been VERY stressed lately and I did not want to add to her burden. Hubby couldn't stay home for the morning. What to do?

Then an amazing thing happened. Kiddo started reading. To himself. BY himself. Don't get me wrong. He is a good reader, he just has had very little interest in reading to himself. Or by himself. He wants me there to help, he wants to read to me. I love that, but it also means he doesn't read as much as he could. But we came home from the library on Tuesday, he had a new book, he was tired, and he just sat down and read. He finished the book that night. Yesterday he picked up another one.

I had my solution. I brought Kiddo, and his books. I also printed off some "Kidoku" from KrazyDad (LOVE his site!), which Kiddo enjoys. I had a few KenKen left from my last KenKen classroom email for him to do, and I printed a few worksheets from Math Fact Cafe.

He sat quietly in the back of the quietly in fact that some of the moms didn't know he was there. He finished his book, started the next, and worked through 8 kidoku. He was happy, I was happy, Kutey was happy. It was only 45 minutes, but it was a good 45 minutes.

Did I learn anything new from the speaker? Nothing new. I had heard most of what she said before. Just a restating of what I already know. It will take a mental shift for me to be able to get through my clutter, just telling me how to organize things doesn't really help. I am glad I went. The presenter is a homeschooler in my area and I have been curious about her business for a while. I won't be hiring her anytime soon, but it was nice to get to hear her speak.

But even better? I know now that I can go to these things, that Kiddo will be content with his books and puzzles while we are there. And that is a gift.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Northfield Historical Society--Friday History Field Trip #9

(This post is part of the back log I am working on. If you are getting it in a reader, I apologize, things will be out of order!)

This week our Friday History Field Trip took us back to the scene of the crime!


Actually, there was no crime here. This is where the James-Younger Gang was defeated. It is the proud moment in the city of Northfield's history that is celebrated every year the weekend after Labor Day. Every year, we go to the festivities, watch the reenactment, and generally have fun. But we had never taken the time (or braved the crowds) to go to the museum.

The museum is housed in what was the First National Bank in Northfield. Interestingly enough, most everything inside is original. The floors and counters are the same, the vault is the same, they have the original ledger on display, it is truly stepping back to the 1870's. The bank was only housed here for a short time, moving a few years after the thwarted robbery to it's present location across the street on the opposite corner. I don't know how they managed to keep this particular space so well preserved, given the timeline. Still, it is always so much fun to go into a building that is as it was.

The museum itself is small, but mostly well done. There is a brief video to watch that takes you through the events of September 7, 1876, the day of the attempted robbery, along with some of the events leading up to it. There are wall boards to read about the gang, the town, and the events of the day.


From there you proceed into the actual bank, where you can see the vault that was actually open on the day of the robbery. The robbers never got inside, however, largely due to the valiant efforts of bank employees who insisted it was on a timer. We spent a lot of time talking about why a robbery would have been so destructive to the town. Now, when money is largely electronic and we rarely see large amounts of it in one place, it is difficult to imagine that there would have been vast sums of money in the bank. We also live in a time when our deposits are insured, which was not the case then. I could see Kiddo wrapping his head around this as we stood there. It was here, in the actual bank, that I most wished for a guide for our tour. Here, where Kiddo had questions to which I could not remember the answers. We were fortunate, however, that the director wandered through while we stood there. Kiddo got to ask him a few questions, he showed us a seal which he stamped into play money for each of the kids, and verified some of the things I thought I remembered.

From there, you head into the artifact room. Kutey was lost at this point--tired and bored. Kiddo, however, insisted on viewing every single thing in the room and reading (or having me read) every description. My favorite display was of two inlaid wooden boxes made by the Younger brothers while they were in prison in Stillwater. My one complaint? On two description cards regarding weapons (they have quite a few on display), they used the word "witch" where they meant "which." Small, I know, but it is not helpful to young readers!


The staff at the museum was great. We tend to take a long time when we go to this kind of place, where there is no tour. On more than one occasion, a staff person wandered through and commented that we must be looking at every detail! We were; the other people who watched the video at the same time as us were long gone. You could tell they were also pleased to see the kids enjoying themselves in this setting. On the way out, they kids were even given a piece of candy by the woman at the counter. She seemed genuinely impressed with their behavior and attention to the exhibits.

We enjoyed our visit immensely. It was nice to get a more in depth picture of the events that transpired that day in 1876, an event we revisit each year. We are already making plans to return when the weather is nicer to do their podcast walking tour of Northfield! Sounds like great fun!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Moment of Irresponsibility and the Kindness of Strangers

I have been known to let the tank in my van run quite low. I have always let the tank run very low before refilling. I don't like putting gas in the car. Something about the time it takes to stand there and fill it, and the fact that the prices are so volatile, making me constantly feel like I could get a better deal if I wait--which only happens some of the time. Whatever the reason, I let the tank run low.

Today was no different as we headed out for our Tuesday group gathering. The tank was low. I noticed it was (it isn't that I don't notice most of the time!), but I thought I had enough to get to the nature center and then to the nearest gas station afterwards. No big deal. The low fuel light wasn't on yet, after all! Unfortunately, the light came on just as we turned away from the gas stations. I had a few minutes, so I thought, "oh well, we'll just head over to the next commercial area and get gas there." See, I knew enough to know there was a commercial area. In my area, that would mean there was a gas station. Or three. Sometimes literally three on one corner.

That assumption was absolutely wrong. There was no gas station there. There was no gas station at the next commercial area. By now I had driven far enough that I figured there HAD to be one closer than turning around and going back to the known gas station. I always figure I have about 15 to 20 miles once the light has come on, but I try not to have to go more than 10, because I just don't know. Nor do I want to find out exactly how far I can go.

I did find one gas station, a C*stco gas station, but as I am not a member, I didn't even bother to stop. I was only 3 miles into my low fuel light at that point, and I knew I was near the intersection of two major highways. There HAD to be a gas station around. There just HAD to be. 7 miles later I had circled back to the C*stco gas station, having been completely unable to find ANY other gas station. I drove 10 miles and couldn't find a single other station.

At this point I am freaking out about running out of gas with 2 kids in the car in an area I don't know well. Add to that the fact that, while I now have a working cell phone (I had a non-working one for a while), I didn't have any of the numbers for the friends I was meeting in it. Yep, I was feeling a bit stuck. So I pulled into the C*stco gas station.

I wish I could say the attendant was helpful. He wasn't. He told me there was a gas station about a mile away and told me how to get there--sort of. But I had already hit the limit on how far I thought I could go on the low fuel light. I was in tears. I was trying to explain to him that I didn't want to risk that with two kids in the car. especially since I now have to restart the car, which will take more fuel. He had no other solution for me.

Enter the stranger who saved my day. A kind gentleman who saw my distress and asked if I had no money. I explained that I had money--CASH even--but that I couldn't pay for gas here at this station because they don't take cash. Or V*sa. And that was all I had. Or at least I tried to explain that. Remember, I was crying. And with a thick accent, he offered to pump fuel for me. He offered to put $10 of gas in my van. I thanked him. I told him $5 was fine, that I would pay him. and through tears, I fumbled around to open the fuel door, to gather my cash, to not get in the way of the kind gentleman pumping gas for me.

And he put $5 worth of gas in my van. And I drove the 1+ miles to the next gas station. I filled the tank, and tried to shake off the terror. It is one thing to run out of gas by myself. I can handle it. I can walk. But to put my kids in that position. Not exactly my best plan. I felt terribly irresponsible. Thank goodness for the kindness of strangers. I wish him all the good karma he deserves.

Friday, November 5, 2010

W.W. Mayo House--Friday History Field Trip #8

Today's field trip almost wasn't.

I made plans to go to the W.W. Mayo House in Le Sueur, checked the website, made sure they were open, and we went! When we arrived, however, they weren't open. Curious, since the website actually says through November, and it is the first week of November. The kind woman who was in the entrance building (working at the florist that shares the space), allowed us to wait for the museum person. She arrived, and apologized, and explained. The W.W. Mayo house is a cooperative site, meaning the Minnesota Historical Society works with the Mayo House Interpretive Society(MHIS). Truthfully, the site is managed by the MHIS. The information on the Minnesota Historical Society website is not entirely accurate, and MHIS has no control over what goes there. Communication seems to be an issue. OK, but I had driven an hour with my kids to go to the W.W. Mayo house. This is where I renewed my faith in people. She gave us the tour anyway! She opened the house just for us. Thank you, Becky!


W.W. Mayo house was built in 1859 by Dr. W.W. Mayo (of Mayo Clinic fame). This is where he had his first medical practice, and where his first son was born. The house itself is small. Very small. Apparently Mayo was known as "The Little Doctor." He was short. He was my height, and I am not tall! The house shows this. A trip upstairs is tricky for me; the kids were fine, I had to duck. The ceilings are also slanted at the doorways, making it even more complicated. The doors on the main floor have been heightened, the family that lived in the house after the Mayo's left for Rochester were taller. They also added on many rooms, rooms which have since been removed to allow the house to depict the time of the Mayos.

W.W. Mayo came to Minnesota from Indiana in search of relief from malaria. Given our climate, malaria was not as prevalent here as it was in some southern states. he first settled in St. Paul, but didn't open a medical practice there, finding that there were already too many doctors in the small city. Instead, his wife opened a milliners shop, as she had in Indiana. It is likely this shop was the main source of income for the family at the time. Eventually they moved to Le Sueur. They only lived here until 1863, when they moved to Rochester where in 1889 W.W. Mayo was asked to be the medical director of St. Mary's Hospital which would become the center of the Mayo Clinic. The Mayo Clinic--the first private medical clinic in the United States--was opened in 1903. More about that history can be found here.

My favorite tidbit of information from the tour was that the medical course Dr. Mayo took was--get this--16 WEEKS long. It took longer to become a baker! Mayo did, however, have 2 medical degrees, and had studied science prior to medical school. He also worked as a tailor, a census taker, and newspaper publisher, just to name a few! I think the world is glad he finally settled into medicine, I know we here in Minnesota are.


Outside the house there is a small park with a statue entitled "The Mothers," honoring the two Louises (Mayo and Cosgrove) of the W.W. Mayo house. The statue begs for children to run around it, and so mine did!


When the Mayo's left, the house was occupied by the Cosgrove family for 3 generations. The Cosgrove family started Green Giant, a canned vegetable company currently owned by General Mills. Even though there is no Green Giant presence in Le Sueur any more, the historical connection is still celebrated and a large green giant sign is visible from the road. The house was added onto for the three generations of Cosgroves who loved there. It has been returned to the way it was when the Mayo's lived there, but the interpretive building has information on the Cosgroves as well.

Due to the tour guide needing to get to a meeting, we agreed to watch the introductory video after our tour rather than before. I was grateful for her accommodation. As we left, I grabbed a brochure on Ottawa Township. Never heard of it. The Florist assured me it was just a few miles down the road, and though nothing would be open, it was still interesting to drive through. She also mentioned that she had been homeschooled a few years herself, love it when people feel compelled to mention that! It makes what we do feel less out of the ordinary.


The town was plotted and never really became much. It does, however, have MANY old buildings. We love old buildings. The brochure I picked up had a few sentences about the buildings that we read as we stopped in front of the buildings. My favorite was the school house from 1915.


I love buildings like this. I wish there was an infinite amount money for their preservation. It would be fun to have historic programming in this building, instead of seeing it fenced in and boarded up. Maybe someday.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Friday History Field Trips

After the three Fridays at Fort Snelling, and the next Friday at Split Rock Lighthouse, I had another Friday History field trip planned to a history festival. Though we ended up not going due to a simply overwhelming week, I started to think that Fridays were starting to be History Field Trip days.

So I started planning them that way. For the last several weeks, we have been going on field trips to historical sites in our area. I haven't organized any formal groups, finding instead that we are able to get more out of it when we go alone. Kiddo likes to explore things more slowly than many kids do. This is something that really interests him; I want to make sure he has the time he needs to see what he wants to see. Not to mention the freedom to ask the questions he wants to ask. I have found that sometimes, it is just better to go it alone. We still go on some field trips with others, and enjoy those experiences, but having the freedom to spend the time we want to spend and not having to wait for others has proven to be a big benefit.

I have three more field trips to update--Folsom House in Taylors Falls, Marine Mill in Marine on St. Croix, and Le Duc House in Hastings. But if you are interested in history, keep watching for the posts about out Friday History Field Trips!

The Dentist

The kids had dentist appointments this morning--ya know, the 6 month cleaning and check-up. I'd like to report that there were no cavities, but I can't. And this isn't the first time I can't say that. I always hesitate to mention that my kids have cavities, because I always feel judged. "My kids don't have cavities, but then, they don't drink soda" as their child downs their second juice box in half an hour. Or "Really? I am 40 and still don't have cavities! But I brush my teeth really well." These are actual statements I have heard when people find out my kids have cavities.

Yep, my kids don't drink soda either, they get a glass of juice with breakfast, and maybe when they have a cold they get a little more. Sugary snacks? not really. Brush their teeth? Yep, we still brush their teeth for them (on the dentist's recommendation, apparently the dexterity to do such things on their own isn't present for another few years). Floss? Yep, daily.

They just have cavity prone teeth. I don't know where it comes from (and please, don't guilt me about my nutrition during pregnancy--that is long past, I can't go back in time and fix that, if that even is what the problem is!) What I do know is that I feel bad enough. I don't need anyone adding to my mother's guilt.

And I am grateful. We live an a place where we have the ability to get the teeth repaired. We have dental insurance that covers some of the cost. Our dentist only does white fillings, so there is no way to tell that the kids have had fillings--unless you look closely...

I'm not looking for an answer to why. I don't need any judgment. I just have to get my kids through the appointments. Maybe a unit on dental health is in our future...