Friday, October 28, 2011

The kids at the pumpkin patch

I really don't like Halloween. My feelings don't have much to do with the darker spiritual aspects. It's mostly that I don't like the hassle of figuring out costumes and the expense of buying them and the candy. I don't like that most people see Halloween as a day to dress as gross as they can. I don't like having to deal with massive amounts of candy with my children and negotiating my way around that. But as my children are in the perfect age to be excited about this "holiday," I have forced myself to help them with their wishes of dressing up and celebrating with everyone else. Today I surprised them with a trip to the pumpkin patch after our nature walk.

Pumpkin patch, playground, and corn maze
We even saw some good friends of ours there; we hadn't planned to meet them there, but appreciated the conicidence. The kids picked out the perfect pumpkins (it invovled walking to the farthest end of the field) and we brought them home.

Daddy came home early today, and he got involved in the carving.

When the carver tool broke, Daddy got out the power tools

Daddy's Pumpkin - Cyclops?

It's so cool to see the excitement of Annika - it's almost palpable. She could hardly wait to get started on the carving, and wanted to participate in each step. She thinks she picked a very scary face for her creation; I think that is part of the thrill for her.

Annika's Pumpkin

We roasted some of the pumpkin seeds, and we'll be snacking on them all week, I'm sure.

On Monday the kids will dress in their costumes and we'll go trick-or-treating. They'll get candy, eat some of it, save some of it, and trade most in for some new art supplies. Gabriel can't eat most of it because of his braces, anyway. I'll facilitate it all because I love my children, and part of my job as mother is to create happy memories of their childhood. The holidays are an important part of that important role in life. So even though it's not a day I care about, because my children do, I'll try to make it special and fun for them.

Gabriel's pumpkin

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of School

I had great plans and high expectations for this day. Some of it happened, some of it didn't, but we've made it most of the way through, and I thought I'd document our day here. I really wanted the day to be special, with a yummy breakfast and lots of fun in store. My breakfast didn't turn out so great - baking gluten free can be unpredictable.

Well, at least my daughter was excited to start kindergarten officially. So what were all these tears for? Something strange was happening with Annika today; she just wasn't acting like her normal happy self. I dispensed lots of snuggles and tissues, and we made it through as best we could.

For math I had planned a few games instead of starting right off with worksheets (I need to get our curriculum tomorrow from school when we go in for our meeting). We had more tears from the youngest player, but then I sent her off to play with dice, so we were able to finish. Grammar was MadLibs for Gabriel and Annika and I worked on some reading exercises from the website that goes with the Usborne Very First Reading series. This series of books is the main tool I've been using to help Annika learn to read this summer. She was interested and motivated, so we do a little bit each day. It's amazing how much she has picked up from our causal yet consistent approach. She also worked on her printing, as I am trying to correct her formation of several letters.

We had lunch outside on the grass, where we found a ladybug and observed hover flies buzzing around.

Being outside seemed to help with the mood of the youngest, and the afternoon proceeded on a more positive note. I am excited about a new geography curriculum I got for the family. It's the Trail Guide to World Geography by Geography Matters. There are several support books and atlases to go along with it, and we'll be able to incorporate many other subjects as we study our way around the world this year. Gabriel has a pretty good handle on basic geography and map reading, and finds it interesting, so we'll work on it a bit each day after we've gotten the other nuts and bolts out of the way. He will be keeping a notebook on his work, with information about the earth and each continent and many countries. Annika will tag along and learn what she needs to learn.

We finished our school day with an art project using some sun print paper we've had for a few years and never used.

I thought we'd better take advantage of this Indian Summer sunshine while we had it. They turned out pretty good. The spaces in the day were filled with Lego building, reading, hula hooping, bike riding, and, after school, a video and a computer game. I had planned to take the kids to the beach for the afternoon, but the peaches I bought last Saturday for canning over the weekend didn't ripen very quickly, and now they all need to be processed. So much for my plans!

Since I wasn't able to get as much canning done this weekend as I wanted to, I took the time yesterday to make a raised bed for the garden.

I had meant to do this last spring, but didn't have much luck finding free lumber until about a month ago. I used a power saw, a drill, and a screwdriver and put the thing together on the fly. I have to say it felt pretty good to wear a tool belt and spend a few hours on a type of project I don't normally do. You really can accomplish difficult tasks if you take it one step at a time and plod your way through them.

On Sunday I spent some time with Annika working our way through a Lego project. We were given some kits from a cousin who outgrew them, and the kids have been playing with them a lot. Annika likes to follow the instructions to build specific objects, so I helped her build a shark. She is really good at figuring out what to do, she almost doesn't need my help. But having me there helps her to feel more confident, I think. She stuck with it for over an hour, piecing it together on brick at a time. I'm so proud of her!

So that's what we've been up to this weekend. Keeping super busy and occupying ourselves with worthy projects. I hope all my friends and family out there have a wonderful start to your school year!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Summer has finally arrived!

Yes, you heard that right, summer has finally arrived here in Puget Sound. No matter that it's just in time for the light to start changing as the sun sinks lower in the sky. That's all in the future - it's warm this week, and we're enjoying it.

Neighborhood Park

We went to the spray park up the street from us yesterday. It's the first time it's been warm enough for us to enjoy it. I was a bit disappointed - it looks as if they have the water on only at half volume or something, the spray was pretty anemic. But Annika had fun, and Gabriel did for awhile. Then they played at the playground, and wouldn't you know it, they both learned new skills.

Swinging on those monkey bars

Gabriel did the monkey bars for the first time, and Annika learned to pump from a dead stop on the swings for the first time.

Swinging, swinging...

So quietly, stealthily even, and they can now do something they couldn't do the day before. Is that how it's going to be, growing up, now? I almost missed it, I'm glad I was paying attention yesterday!

The front garden bed

The lilies in my front garden are spectacular this year. New baby plants sprouted this spring and got blossoms. They are so heavy they tipped over when I watered them the other day. I'm so lazy I can't be bothered to find something to prop them up with. Their fragrance meets me at the sidewalk; I even get whiffs of their scent around the back of the house sometimes! The rest of that plot looks silly, but those lilies, they steal the show.

Bowing lilies and geraniums

And I don't even remember where I got them - perhaps from the first neighbors we had when we moved in here, who got evicted and left me all their plants to take?

Beautiful moth

We have also had our regular and some irregular moths appearing lately. I love this one, it's the faintest pastel green color. Someday I'm going to take a moth class and learn how to identify them. Or not. maybe I'll just start drawing them and appreciate them that way. Or just keep taking photos. So many things to think about!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Basket weaving

School doesn't officially start here until after Labor Day (summer barely is in full swing, and, well, we won't even talk about the quality of this year's summer) but I am beginning to think about shifting our daily routines to be more in line with what we need to be doing next month. I am making a change to the rhythm of our days, desiring more structure and accountability for the children. To begin, I am instituting a morning devotional time, discussing a simple Bible verse or concept and building on a topic that will help my children develop their characters. I picked the fruits of the Spirit to start out with, since it lends itself well to several weeks of obvious topics. Today we introduced the verse, and after our discussion, we made baskets. The idea is that we will fill our baskets up with fruits of the spirit as we learn about them. I found a great tutorial for making baskets based on the African Tutsi style, and I thought I'd share what they looked like for us.

First, I went to and printed out the instructions. There are simpler baskets out there if you have younger children, but I figured Gabriel would enjoy the challenge of this project. The instructions are pretty good, though I would appreciate a few more diagrams to go with them. The kids did really well following instructions. Annika needed a break in the middle, but she came back and finished after playing for a few minutes.

One thing to be aware of is that you should make the strips the width and length in the instructions, or the weaving part will not work. Annika made hers too wide (I was trying to simplify things for her) and we ended up having to modify the strips after they were already glued together. She required hands-on assistance from mom, but Gabriel was able to do his with only verbal instructions from me. I was pleased with how the baskets turned out. This would be a good project to include if you are doing African studies or something. We had a fun time doing a craft together before I hit the chores and ran errands. I look forward to more crafting time with the kids as we begin the school year in a few weeks.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Vacation and Reentry

I feel like I have spent a lot of the summer going away and coming back again. This time it was harder than usual to get back into my routines, because I spent a whole week mostly relaxing. No cooking, no cleaning, only one load of laundry (!!!) and lots of sitting in the sun, chatting and knitting. I even got a few hours each day to myself to think, read, write, and enjoy nature. You see, the kids and I were fortunate to go with hubby's extended family for a reunion at a most unique place. Holden Village is an old mining community that was acquired in the 60s by the Lutheran Church and turned into a retreat center. It's very remote, and takes most of a day to travel to and from.

First you take a boat up the long Lake Chelan. No roads go into the area.

Then, you get on a bus for the ride 11 miles up into the mountains to the Village

There is no cell phone service, no land phone line, no internet (except for that required by the Village for registration and business purposes.) They prepare all the food, guests sleep in the lodges that were the old dormitories for the miners. There is programming you can attend, or not. There is a kids' program each weekday morning, built-in babysitting. And it was sunny all except for one day! The kids played hard all day, I went for a long hike without them (thanks Grandma for watching them), and spent a lot of time sitting around.

Deer roam through the village daily. They are used to people.

Railroad Creek runs next to the Village. You can just see the mine ruins on the hillside in the distance.

I took a hike to Hart Lake. Of course, it was the only day of the week that it rained. But the waterfalls and flowers were spectacular.

The color of Hart Lake is deep teal green. Lovely!

The views from the vicinity of the village are breathtaking. You just have to ignore the tailings piles.

Indian Paintbrush were in full bloom - red, yellow, orange, pink.

Lovely penstemon all over - big and small varieties.

Gabriel enjoyed a new journal he bought with his own money. He spent a lot of time writing and drawing.

I found it tough for a few days to get back into all the work that comes with being home and raising children. I wanted to rest from all that resting (the travel day home was tiring). But now I think I'm back in the swing of things, cooking and cleaning, catching up on laundry, decluttering. I need to plan the kids' school for the next semester, which starts after Labor Day here. I'll have two officially in school now, so I need to figure out how to fit Annika into our day. I have a sneaking suspicion it will involve being more structured, but we'll see. Hopefully I can figure out how to work Kindergarten and Fourth Grade together as much as possible.

It's finally sunny here in Puget Sound, and I am enjoying the warmth. I've picked several pints of raspberries to put into the freezer for the winter.

That's about all I have in the garden this year, except for some chives and rhubarb. Maybe next year I'll get my raised beds built and planted and have more crops, but you know, summers are so busy it seems tough to add gardening into the mix. Oh well, I enjoy what I did do, and the raspberries are fabulous!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Back in the Saddle

Things have been pretty quiet around here lately. You see, I've been working on another project, and it has been taking much of my focus. I have also felt the need for a bit of a break from this blog. But I plan to be back now, and spend some time here each week keeping up with my home school adventures and knitting and gardening and such.

My new project involves my passion of hiking with my kids. I have been hiking with them since they were babies, and have compiled a website of nearby hikes and tips for getting out with the munchkins. I'd love it if you hop on over to and check it out. There is a link for my new blog there, too. Let me know what you think! I'll still be here, too.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Honeypot Luminaries

I have been remiss in telling everyone about the wonderful gift I won recently. I follow the blog of a lovely mom and her two children who live on a boat (withe the dad, too!). It's called Zach Aboard, and it is fabulous and fun! She hosted a giveaway recently, and I was lucky enough to win. Soon after, I received a box with the most gorgeous candle inside - but that description doesn't tell it all.

Our Honeypot Luminary

This Honeypot is a molded beeswax bowl, with carvings in the sides, and a beeswax candle inside. When the candle is lit, the light shines through to reflect on the wall nearest.

A blurry photo that just gives a hint of the interesting shadows and lights that arise from the lit candle inside

It is a fascinating creation, and we enjoy having it in our home. It feels so special when it is lit, and there is something warming and soothing about the light and the subtle aroma. This company makes other types of luminaries, some with flowers molded into the wax. I highly recommend you check out their website! Thank you so much to the folks at Bee Natural, and to Cindy at Zach Aboard for hosting the giveaway.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Hiking With Children Class

Hey everyone,
I know I have a few local readers, so I thought I'd let you know about a class I'm teaching next week. It's about Hiking with Children, and it's in downtown Edmonds at the Frances Anderson Center on May 16 from 7-9pm. The cost is $15, and kids under 12 may attend free with a parent. You'll learn lots of tips for hiking with youngsters, including where to go, what to bring, and budget-friendly tips for gearing up. Call the Edmonds Parks Dept. at 425-771-0230 by Friday to register. And let me know if you will be coming, it would be cool to meet some of you face to face!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Black Canyon Field Trip

Black Canyon Road

Last week I had the opportunity to leave the kids at Grandma’s for a few days. I had some time to take care of appointments, a bit of work, and just thinking clearly for a few moments. I also got a totally free day to explore! I coerced encouraged a friend of mine to come along on my adventure.

It took forever to get out of Seattle – so much traffic for the mid-morning. Traffic was bad over the Pass, too, with construction and an accident and rain and fog. But finally we made it out of the grey. The clouds gradually lightened as we drove farther east. Suddenly, there was sunshine and blue sky! Ellensburg was warmer but breezy, and we drove through and onto the Umptanum Road. Up we climbed into the hills, the pavement soon gave way to gravel and dirt. Bluebird houses lined the fences for the entire route, and I was ecstatic to see the first wild western bluebirds of my life. We took our time driving, stopping often to take photos and just soak in the scenery.

Looking out over the sagebrush to the windmill farm and the Stuart Range

Eventually we made it to the turnoff for the Black Canyon road. I tried to make it up the road a bit, but my Camry protested, so I turned around and parked in a wide spot. We walked up the road. It was such a relief to be in short sleeves with sun glasses after all the grey and wet we’ve had this spring. The air was dry and fragrant. There were flowers all along the sides of the road.

Balsam Root on either side of the fence

Sagebrush with insect galls

My friend got a good introduction to hiking with me, as I stopped every few minutes to take a photo of a flower. The bird song hung like a liquid golden curtain on either side, western meadowlarks and bluebirds fluttering out ahead and behind.

Desert Violets

We met another gal along the trail, and slightly envied her for staying the night. We decided to stop and turn around at the true trailhead. I did want to go on farther, but we had a long drive home and my friend was ready to be done. We slowly made our way back down the road, finding a few flowers we had missed on the way up.

Ladybug on desert parsley

We realized that we had actually climbed pretty far up from the car. The drive back home took less time, and too soon we were back into the rain and clouds of the west. The sunshine and birdsong faded into the distance. But we’ll be back.

A herd of elk, as photographed through the windshield

We saw elk, deer, butterflies, beetles, and lots of flowers and birds I couldn't identify. I have put a few pics here, but there are more on my post.

Note to self: Get the Best Desert Hikes book, and a desert flower book.