Friday, May 30, 2008

Rear Ended... (and Pompeii)

Yep... today I was rear ended on our way to the museum to see the Pompeii exhibit. We're all fine - I was driving and had Alexandra, another mom and her son. The man who rear ended us was fine, too. But, his truck was in pretty bad shape and had to be towed. Chalk it up as another "cell phone" wreck... he said he'd just finished a call and looked down to lay it down and when he looked up, there I was. (This is a reminder to us all, I hope!)

We pulled off the road and didn't get on the road again for 2 1/2 hours! Yes, it took the police (almost) that long. It seems that the local schools in that area had gotten out early for their last day of school and were celebrating a little too hard... including throwing rocks and I'm not sure what else. So, all the local policemen were dealing with that.

It was neat talking to the other guy. Throughout the morning/afternoon, we got to talk to him quite a bit. He was so nice. He was a roofer and was on his way to a jobsite on a 3-story house. He said maybe God knew he didn't need to be going up on that house today. I loved how we just sat (I mean stood... most of the time in the sun and I did get a sunburn) and talked about God and His plans for our lives and how He watches over us.

We also had a nice lady come out of a local floral shop and give us all cold water bottles! And, the policeman who finally came said something like "Praise God the children weren't hurt."

So, we missed the Pompeii movie, but made it in time to have a very late lunch and then go through the exhibit. It was incredible! If you ever get the chance to go see some real artifacts from Pompeii... well, I'd say it was worth it. We enjoyed listening to the audio tour. And, Alexandra's favorite part was seeing the actual cast of the dog that you see in quite a few books, etc. We read a Pompeii book by Usborne this morning which is really good and reminded us about Pompeii and the who/what/when/etc.

Unfortunately, we couldn't take any photos, so I have none to share. We did get a puzzle, a book, and Alexandra bought me a magnet, so maybe I'll take a photo of them to add to this post... but right now, I'm just very tired. It's been a long day.

UPDATE: We watched National Geographic's "In the Shadow of Vesuvius" which was a good documentary.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Kids Summer Cooking Camp - Online & Free!

I just signed Alexandra up for a free kids summer cooking camp. It's online and they will send out recipes once a week for 7 weeks. Or, you can pay $5 and get them all at once. They didn't have me specify "younger" or "older", but here are the descriptions of the 2 camps.

Older Chefs Kids Cooking Program
For older chefs we've planned a Dinner Club. Each week you will receive a dinner menu to prepare for your family or friends and a cooking emphasis, such as etiquette, manners, table setting and more.

Younger Chefs Kids Cooking Curriculum
Younger chefs can enjoy our cooking and reading summer program. Each week you will receive a book title(s) and a few recipes to create that go with the book.

Sounds like fun to me. Let's get cooking this summer! :-)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


On Friday, we went to the new Grossology exhibit at one of our local museums. It was so much fun! The exhibit is about all things "gross" as related to our body. Just perfect for 7-year-olds...

Here she is making "snot." She also ate some chocolate covered... something. The lady didn't tell her what she'd eaten until AFTER Alexandra ate it. What was it? A chocolate covered cricket. Did my little girl really eat that??? Yes. And, then I did, too. I thought that maybe it was harder to eat since I knew what I was eating. And, really, it just tasted like some (not so great) chocolate... with a crunch.
Here's Alexandra shooting into a nose. The thing would "sneeze" every once in awhile. I think this was teaching about the importance of the nose in keeping harmful substances, like dust and bacteria, out of your body.
Here is the "burping" guy. We had fun pumping him full of soda and making him burp. We really got the giggles from this whole crazy museum exhibit.

And, here's a very short video of Alexandra "burping." As you can see, she was having lots of fun!

Memorial Day Lapbook

I know it is a little late, but we completed a Memorial Day lapbook today. It was created by the 8-year-old daughter at Lilliput Station! And, it was quite good. Now, my daughter would like to create her own lapbook, too.

We both learned a lot about the history of Memorial Day and things related to Memorial Day. One of my favorite activities with Alexandra was learning about the song "taps." We watched several videos online.
For reference, we mainly used the True Book: Memorial Day by Ditchfield and we looked up other facts online. We also used cardstock instead of a file folder this time, and we both really liked the look.

What I've Been Up To...

I've been having a lot of fun the past few days doing different things. I got in a "crazy" organizing mode over the holiday weekend. I spent hours & hours (with lots of help from Alexandra) organizing... Alexandra's toys in her bedroom (and we found her Nintendo DS which we thought was lost!), under my sink, my husband's sink, Alexandra's sink, and the downstair's bathroom, 2 medicine cabinets, the 2 "junk drawers" by the phone, and part of the garage. I finally got "burned out" Monday afternoon and was ready to collapse.... but it felt great! We have TONS of trash to take out today and I already dropped off 4 or 5 bags of stuff to donate.

On Monday afternoon, I joined a gym! I haven't exercised much in 3 years (since I started homeschooling) and I went to my first class last night. IT FELT GREAT!!! Since my health problems last month, I really did it "light" in the class, but I was still sore last night. And, I was so glad Alexandra "begged" to go to the Kid's Club (play area) and really enjoyed it! I was going to try and go just when my husband was home or she was in classes. At least for now, this looks like a fun time for both of us. I can't wait to get "back in shape." Today, I go for my "initial assessment." Yikes! But, at least I'll know where I started from...

Also, in the past few weeks, I haven't wanted to break for summer. There is just so much we 'want to' and 'need to' do. But, now I'm SO ready for a break!!! I can't wait to just spend some time sleeping in (well, actually I'm not much of a sleep in type of person - but I can let Alexandra sleep in and enjoy some quiet reading time... or computer time!), swimming, going to museums, etc, without the nagging in my head that "we should be doing school."

Lastly, I'm really considering switching to more of a Classical method of homeschooling next year. Does anyone do that? And, could I ask you some questions if you do? Thanks!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Wet Pants...

So, why did I jump into the pool tonight and get wet pants??? To go after our luna moth.

Yes, our luna moth emerged last night. I heard him wiggling around, which usually only happens in the morning. Too bad I didn't go and check on him. I was on the phone for about 20 minutes, and when I came back into the living room, I saw him sitting on the side of the butterfly hut!

This evening, we decided to let "him" free. We took him out in the backyard and opened up the hut and Alexandra tried to let him crawl on her. He ended up getting out of the hut and flapping around on the ground. Next thing we knew, he was headed for the pool and we couldn't stop him. He fluttered into the pool and landed on the water. I jumped in past my knees and reached gently under him and picked him up and put him back in his hut.

Tonight, we have him sitting in his hut, but with the door opened - and not in the yard with the pool but in a separate fenced in area. Our hope is that if he can fly, he'll fly away during the night.

We were hoping to get photos of us holding him, but that just didn't work out. But, he is beautiful and we were so happy to have this experience.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

From the Top at Carnegie Hall

A few months ago, we happened to catch "From the Top at Carnegie Hall" on the radio. And, we learned that it's also a TV show. This show is about kids, ages 8 to 18, who excel at music. They are amazing!!!

Season 2 started earlier this month and I now have my DVR set to record them. I should have my first episode to watch today! But, even if you can't record them, you can watch them online HERE. They have videos of all of season 1 and the start of season 2 there. And, they also have a "for teacher's" page with activities and additional links to videos, etc. So, enjoy some music!!! Maybe your child, or you, will be inspired to create some music of their own... or at least to practice the piano a little more. :-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Four Seasons... and Memorial Day

(Above video: "Winter" from "The Four Seasons" - I know I'm more familiar with "Spring", but this piece is lovely! And, I love the pan flute! What a seldom-seen instrument.)

I love what Melissa at In the Sparrow's Nest is doing for spring and the four seasons. She is using the book Nature's Paintbox which depicts each of the four seasons in a different medium. She is using those mediums to make their own pieces of art. They did a GREAT job with spring!

Along with that, she mentioned Vivaldi's "The Four Seasons." I commented on her blog that we might start studying Vivaldi & The Four Seasons. We have a piano book I picked up a month or so ago called
Antonio Vivaldi: The Four Seasons in an easy arrangement for piano. But, it isn't "that" easy. :-) My daughter's been playing since August and she couldn't play it. But, I've played for about many years, and I'll do just fine. It has pictures and poems and the piano music.

After listening to a sample at Amazon, we requested Classical Kids
"Vivaldi's Ring of Mystery" from the library. We also requested "I, Vivaldi" by Shefelman. And, we plan on using The Four Seasons at Classics for Kids, which Melissa also recommended.

I also have
Beethoven's Wig 2 which has the "Spring" piece from The Four Seasons. I hear it and in my head I hear, "It's spring, let us sing, Vivaldi!" OK, we really need to get that CD out tomorrow. (Oh, and I just saw that they have Beethoven's Wig 3!!!)

We might wait and do this study in the summer, but I wanted to post it here so I have everything in one spot.
And, on a different "note", I just bought a Memorial Day set of 12 minibooks to make a lapbook from Lilliput Station. This is actually a project her daughter helped her create. (See May 21st post) So, we'll probably be working on that during the next few days.

Patricia Polacco Part 2

We are continuing our study of author/illustrator Patricia Polacco which we are doing with Author Fiesta. Today, we read 4 more of her books, though 2 of them were for "little" kids. (I didn't know she had books for different ages. We also watched Reading Rainbow's Rechenka's Eggs. This was a great video where you actually got to "meet" Patricia Polacco and watch her make some Pysanky eggs!

We've also read a biography, Firetalking, which is really good. But, so many of her stories tell us about her and her life! I am LOVING her books, and I can't believe it's taken me this long to find them.

Today we filled out an "author research form" which Cay Gibson at Author Fiesta created. Alexandra said her favorite books (we added that line) were Chicken Sunday and John Phillip Duck. Chicken Sunday is about Patricia when she was little. Her and 2 friends end up making some pysanky eggs to give to an elderly shopkeeper who ends up letting the kids sell them in his store. I REALLY want to get a pysanky kit.

Online, I found these 2 videos: the first one is about the history of pysanky eggs and the second one shows you how to make the eggs!


Alexandra's other favorite Polacco book, John Philip Duck, was about the ducks at Peabody Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. My husband and I went to that museum on a school trip the summer before my senior year. At the hotel, the ducks are trained to spend the night on the roof and then they ride down the elevator and march into the water fountain to spend the day. They march to John Philip Souza. Polacco's books is "loosely based on actualy events." I was glad to find a video (thought not a very good one) of the ducks marching to Souza. Maybe we need to do a little Souza study???
My favorite book (so far) has been Thank You, Mr. Falker. This is another true story from Polacco's childhood. In this story, she tells about how much trouble she had learning to read and how stupid she felt at school, but she always loved to draw. But, a special teacher helped her during her 5th grade year... and now she's a famous author AND illustrator! Of course, this is one of the books that made me cry. How wonderful it is to have great people touch a life. And, each of us can touch a life in a very positive way! (Especially our own children!)
Next week, I plan on doing a free lapbook from homeschoolshare about one of Polacco's books, Mrs. Mack. We haven't read the book yet, but it looks like it's about horses, which I know Alexandra will enjoy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


I LOVE photography. (Have you noticed?) And, Alexandra has definitely gotten bitten by the photo-bug, too. She took several hundred pictures this week. (And, I'm planning on having her blog her own photos soon!) But, my husband was actually the first photographer in our family. He even took a class in college and he has his photos from the class - they're great! He took over the camera for a few minutes this week and captured some GREAT shots. (And, all of my photos are unedited as I don't have any software on this computer. I plan on fixing that soon!)

Here's our little chihuahua who turned 3 on the day my nephew was born. She always has yellow eyes when I photographer her. I just love this photo!

And, he took this great shot of his grandfather who was out on the deck watching for hummingbirds.

And, here's my shot of one of the hummingbirds! It needs cropped, so you might just enlarge it for now. We LOVED watching the hummingbirds. And, I picked up some books about them today to do a little study. I want some hummingbird feeders now, too!

And, a photo of my precious daughter's hands holding her little cousin. My sister-in-law has an incredible photo "spot" right by a window - the lighting is incredible! And, isn't he a precious little boy???

Monday, May 19, 2008

Family On Bikes

Lapaz Home Learning posted about "the coolest homeschooling family EVER". This family includes mom, dad, and twin boys her are 10. Oh, and their dog! They will soon be starting about a 2.5 year bike ride along the Pan-American Highway and will earn a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest people to bike the whole highway.

They will be blogging about their adventures from the tip of Alaska to the bottom tip of South America. They are hoping for this to be a very education experience not only for their own kids, but for students anywhere... including homeschoolers! I think we'll be using this for some geography studies... starting with Alaska!!!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Just the 3 of Us...

Oh, we had SO MUCH FUN yesterday on our 5 hour nature... um.... experience. (We actually were in the car most of the time and then just walked around a little bit so I can hardly call it a "hike")

I thought I'd start with some of the photos my husband's aunt. She's a professional photographer in that she sells some of her work and has even had at least one show. What amazed me most as I looked through her photos, besides how good they were, is that she often only takes one shot of something! If I want to make sure I'm going to get a good shot, I might take a dozen. I'll have to ask her how she knows she's got "the" shot.

This first photos is of some water striders. I remember one of you studied these lately, and I'd love to have a link to your post! I was amazed at how well this photo turned out because we were up on a pretty high bridge.

There is actually graffiti on these rocks, but the formations were so beautiful. And, I actually studied geology once and yet I'm not sure what these rocks are... maybe we'll study some rocks this summer.

We all took turns taking photos through the whole in the side of this hill. I know you don't see photos of me very often, so yep! That's me!

I grew up in Oklahoma and had no idea we had waterfalls like this there! This waterfall is 77 feet tall! Kind of reminds us of Hawaii...

One of our coolest "finds"... we found TONS of tadpoles in various pools of water, and then came upon these 2 toads... There was a string of eggs behind them and I remembered how Robin at martinzoo had recently posted about the difference between frog & toad eggs. If we lived closer, I would have scooped some up to watch.

I actually went to college near here and during our geology class, we took a field trip out here. I couldn't remember how to get here, so I was glad "my" aunt was familiar with it and asked if we wanted to go see it! There are little pools of water etched into the hard rock. And, the water just flows lightly over the country road you drive on. My geology teacher told me the pools were created by rocks that somehow got "stuck" and swirled round and round and etched these pools. This is where we found the tadpoles & toads.

The first site when we drove up to the small pools of water were LOTS of these blue butterflies! Probably 40-50. They were sitting in groups and I love the photo my aunt took of this one near Alexandra's foot.

My aunt noticed Alexandra in the rearview mirror and took this cute shot. As we drove slowly along the country road, Alexandra kept yelling "stop!" whenever she saw something she wanted to photograph. And, yes, that is partly why our trip ended up lasting 5 GREAT hours.

Now, some photos by me.... here are TONS of tadpoles in one of the pools!

Here's my close up shot of the toads. I like how the toads are in view, but think my aunt's are more artistic.

I loved how these turkey vultures seemed to be playing king of the hill.

This is one of Alexandra's best finds... she actually saw this lizard as we were driving down the country road! It was about 10 inches long. I'm still working on an ID.

Here's Alexandra taking photos of the tadpoles.

Here are some of the small "waterfalls" where the pools of water formed. I wish I would have taken a shot where you could see where the road runs.
After our 2 hikes (the pools of water and the waterfall), we let Alexandra play at a park in the state park. Then, we went and got some lunch at 3:30 pm. (We had eaten some snacks.) We stopped at a little pizza place and got to play air hockey and fuz ball. And, the pizza was delicious! What a great day. :-)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Nature in Oklahoma

What a day! We went on a 5 hour nature drive with my husband's aunt. We kept stopping the car and getting out to take photos. I let Alexandra use one of my cameras and between the 3 of us we have about 300 photos. So, maybe later tonight I'll try to post some of them. We had some amazing finds!!! I'm really enjoying my time out in the country and loved this spider web shot I took late this morning with the dew still on it.

And, we'd appreciate prayers for little Baby H - my new nephew who is almost 5 days old. He got put back in the hospital this afternoon. It's nothing too serious - he is jaundice and also had lost some weight. Hopefully, they'll release him again tomorrow. Thanks for your prayers!

Nephew :-)

Well, we're here in Oklahoma and got to see my nephew for the first time yesterday afternoon. So, please indulge me as I post a few photos over the next few days. Tonight, I'll try to post some photos of Alexandra holding her little cousin.

Above is a photo of great-grandma with her only great-grandson... Alexandra is her only great-granddaughter. Also, my sister-in-law and her little family live out in the country, and I'm having a terrible time downloading photos. It took me about 20 minutes to get this one photo, so I'll try to post more later.
Alexandra and I went on a nature hike with our dog yesterday. And, today, we're going to go see a waterfall and other things! We're going out with my husband's aunt who is more of a photographer than I am. So, hopefully we'll get some good shots and maybe I'll learn a thing or two.

Oh, and I enjoyed pulling some middle-of-the-night duty last night and putting my little nephew to sleep. So sweet! And, so far I'm not too tired... lets see what I'm like in a few more days...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I have a new....

NEPHEW!!! Our families are both fairly small, so this is my first nephew, and I only have 1 niece. So, we are very excited! Alexandra's "girl cousin" (we've been discussing the fact that most terms have a girl/boy version... aunt/uncle... niece/nephew... grandma/grandpa... but cousin doesn't!) is 10 years old, so this time Alexandra is the BIG cousin. :-) We can't wait to go see him. I did get one photo today, but it is on the other computer where Alexandra is sleeping so I'll be posting it ASAP.

Woohoo!!! :-)

Wednesday Update: Here's the photo! It's the only one I've seen. It's from a cell phone, so not great quality... but, we get to go see him tomorrow! And, you know I'll post some more photos.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Author Fiesta: Patricia Polacco

Cay Gibson has started a new blog called Author Fiesta. Each month, she will lead a study highlighting a children's author and/or artist. She will have pages to print and books to read.
For May, the author is Patricia Polacco. I'm so excited to be doing this study with Alexandra, because I haven't really been reading Polacco's books. Tonight, we read three of them and I found myself "tearing up" during two of them! They are beautiful stories about real people and events from her childhood. It makes me want to record some of my own stories!
I'll keep you posted and please let me know if you decide to join us on this author study!
Also, I think we'll try making some pysanky Ukranian eggs after reading "Chicken Sunday." I read someone's blog back at Easter time and they had made some beautiful eggs. If that was you, could you contact me? I need to order a kit. :-)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Green Hour Challenge #10: Picnic

I drove 3 girls (including Alexandra) to the crime science field trip on Thursday. Afterwards, we had a picnic back "at school." I decided to use this for challenge #10.

Here's Alexandra being silly on the picnic blanket.

This was a very tiny, almost transparent light-green insect. I wish I could have photographed him better.

At one point, it looked like it was snowing! I searched around and found that this tree was shedding these little white petals. I'm not sure what it is.
We'd noticed these blackberry vines before and I found ONE ripe blackberry!

Very neat, tiny spider. This one looks really neat enlarged. And, I think he might be holding something, but I'm not sure. I love his hairy legs!
Alexandra actually found this leaf-footed bug about a week ago, but thought I'd go ahead and post it. She watched him for about 10 minutes and was surprised when he flew! He was about 1.75 inches long!

And, on Saturday I found this HUGE moth (about 4 inches wide) on a bush near my driveway. I looked him up on What's That Bug? and found he is an Imperial Moth. The females have more yellow, so I believe this is a male. They also go through 5 instars, like the luna moth, so I'm curious if this is typical of moths. I read on this site that the caterpillar can grow as big as a hot dog. Wow!!! I've also enjoyed looking at this site of moth photographers. Near the bottom of the page, it shows that both Luna Moths (which I posted about here) and the Imperial Moth are giant silkmoths, which are some of the largest resident moths of North America.

Crime Lab Field Trip

One of Alexandra's enrichment classes this year was about crime science. On Thursday, the kids took a field trip to a real crime lab and I got to go along! The lady police officer was wonderful as she gave us the tour.

This computer helps match up a bullet to the right gun. You have your photo on the left, and when you find one on the right that you think is a good match, you can move it around and see if the pieces will fit together.
The officer also used her own blood to show the kids how the investigators determine if something is blood or not.

She also showed us how they lift fingerprints for identification. She was using small, magnetic pieces to stick to the fingerprints. She told us that every fingerprint is unique because they form in your mother's womb according to what you touch. I wasn't sure about this and looked it up online. It seems that the formation of fingerprints is uncertain.

On our last stop, she showed us where they actually look for fingerprint matches. She talked about the fact that they can only access criminal fingerprints. The prints you give when you get your driver's license or join the military are not usually searchable by police.

May Nature Day - Mercer Arboretum

We went on our monthly Nature Day outing with our local homeschool nature group yesterday. What a great day! Though hot!!! In Houston, we had our first official 90 degree day of the year on Thursday, and Friday was even hotter!

Before we even got officially started, the kids were busy finding turtles in some water in a ditch. Aren't they cute??? They were "baby" red-eared sliders.

We had our largest group ever... I think we had 19 families. We have really grown this year!!!

Our main topic was moths and the man in the red plaid shirt was our guest speaker, Mr. Don. Mr. Don raises moth caterpillars and brought plent for the families to take home. (The caterpillars or "cats" are on the picnic table on sweetgum cuttings - he had both luna moth cats and regalis cats.) Unfortunately, we're going to be out of town soon and couldn't take any home.
But, we did get to take home one of these cocoons! These are the luna pupa in cocoons. It's pretty neat that they "rattle" to scare you away if you pick them up or disturb them. So, we'll have a lot of fun waiting and watching to see our luna moth emerge! Here's a website that shows the luna moth life cycle.
Here's a photo of a luna cat that was spinning its cocoon. Their false legs kind of go back inside of their bodies.And, here's the photo of the pupa (brown) in its cocoon. They often wrap themselves in a leaf, too - that's how ours is.
Close up of one of the luna moth caterpillars.
And a very small regalis caterpillar. They go through 5 sheddings producing 5 different looking caterpillars - called instars. Bug guide has neat "egg to caterpillar" photos. (The regalis is also known as the Hickory Horned Devil. This is an instar 1 caterpillar.
After Mr. Don talked about moths and how to raise the caterpillars, we ate lunch and then went on a hike. I watched this insect flying and followed it to where it landed and happened to get a quick, decent photo before he took off again. It's a net winged beetle - I actually thought it might be some kind of moth.
We ran into lots of poison ivy, and I'm hoping no one got a rash! Mr. Don showed us how to recognize it by the 3 leaves - the middle one is often bigger than the other 2. It wasn't only growing on the tree, but on the ground, too. A good reason to stay on the paths!

Mr. Don showed us a gall and explained how the leaf protects itself from the wasp larva living inside of it. If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know I really think galls are neat! You can search my blog for "gall" - I think I have 5 or 6 posts. Here's one of my favorites.
Another of my finds. Mr. Don said this was a cicada exoskeleton, but it's about 1/3rd the size of the cicado exoskeletons we usually find. And, I loved its stripped abdomen! Cool!

I saw one of the kids studying this leaf and went to take a look. Something has been eating it - what neat holes it has left!
As we finished our hike and went back to pick up our pupa, we were amazed to see one of the moths had emerged!!! So, here is what our luna will look like. :-) We weren't expecting them to emerge until June, but now we're not sure when ours will emerge. This little guys wings still haven't expanded.
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