Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Some Thoughts on F


F is for Ford, our rescued bird. Also Ford as in the classic cars we saw at the Bluegrass Festival on Saturday, including a Model A and Model T.

F is for Fairy.

F is for Ferdinand the bull. That's the story we did tonight, in fact.

And Flowers of course. So we'll have to stop by the Amish famer's market.

Oh yes, and Farmer. We visit the CSA on Saturday. The Children's Day on the Farm festival at Jefferson Patterson Park is Sunday.

F is for fire and making s'mores. One day this week.

F is for fireman -- the children have been very interested in the rescue squad and police vehicles lately. A field trip?

F is for fishing, something we can try out while we're at the beach.

Seems like it will be an excellent themed week! I love it when things all fall into place.

Skink Singular and Moths Plural

Oh, the animals just keep on coming! (Rebecca told me today that she has decided to ask Santa Claus for a bunny. Good thing he's going to have lots of time to plan that one). Yesterday afternoon Natalie discovered a blue-tailed skink on our screen porch and asked me if we could keep him. I told her that we can't keep him since he's a wild animal but we can put him in a terrarium and observe him for a few days. Our butterfly pavilion is also full of gypsy moths coming out of their cocoons.

Today was a playdate for the children in the AM and then pizza night with their dad. Sometimes it seems like I don't get to see them much! I know this isn't true but it just seems that way. We spent the afternoon doing errands. Tomorrow I don't have to work at all so it will be beach and playground. We have been doing a lot of Mother Goose rhymes since the children are interested in sounds. One favorite that we did tonight is Gold Lock, Gold Key. It goes like this - one person says the type of lock, the other responds with the matching key. At the end you trick the respondent into saying they are a donkey! Natalie thought it was completely hilarious. You can also do it with monkey.

1. I am a gold lock.
2. I am a gold key.

1. I am a silver lock.
2. I am a silver key.

1. I am a brass lock.
2. I am a brass key.

1. I am a lead lock.
2. I am a lead key.

1. I am a monk lock.
2. I am a monk key!

The children also enjoyed Forehead, Eyes, Cheeks, Nose, Mouth, and Chin.

I think that Mother Goose rhymes are suitable for grades K, 1, and 2. And some of them I still enjoy as an adult!

Nice illustrated versions abound; I particularly enjoy Salley Mavor and Clare Beaton's work (I like fabric art illustrators). I also love an old Mother Goose book that was my great-aunt's. She says that there used to be no such thing as children's picture books. MG was all you got. It amazed her that a billion dollar a year business sprung up out of nowhere. Her book is beautiful -- although it is falling apart -- and has many rhymes that you never even see anymore.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Washing Dishes

We have settled down into a nice little routine here. Walk the dog several times a day (he had a yard before). I moved the dishes into a lower cabinet so the children could set the table, a job they are used to having. So they each set their place for meals and then bus their dishes into the kitchen and place them on the counter when they are done. Natalie washes. Leah rinses and puts things in the dish drainer. Rebecca wipes down the table. I cook, of course, and clear away the food we haven't eaten and put it in the fridge. We brought some games and toys over from the house and put them in the basement to make a sort of makeshift playroom. I haven't gotten up into the loft yet but I'd love to sleep there. Right now I'm in a room with Becca and we each have a single bed. Leah and Natalie are sharing a double bed in the other room. I guess I could have slept with Leah (she has to be in the bedroom with no carpet) but N and L are used to being together and wanted to share a bed so I said okay. Today Leah squirreled her dental floss away into her room and proceeded to tear off lengths of it and drop them in the electric radiators. So that was exciting. We made apple cinnamon muffins for snack and then gave the dog a nice long walk and did an explore of our property. AM was church and the sermon was about that passage where Jesus is talking about not worrying about things... God takes care of the flowers of the field and the little birds so don't you think he's going to take good care of you too? That was the perfect thing for me to hear as we wonder about the upcoming homelessness situation. Right now the girls are pleased as punch to be having a summer vacation and hopefully we'll get to spend lots of time down on the beach and at the playground and they will get to know some of the other little children here. My mind is mostly on the packing and moving. So much stuff to get out of the big house! Luckily Tidewater is giving me a generous amount of space in the elementary classroom to store my summer camp materials... I was upset at the idea that things might be lost in the move and I wouldn't have them when I needed them. We did a walk-through and the teacher and I talked about what things she would leave out for me. It is nice to have ready access to the library and the art supplies and to not have to pack everything in. The elem. kids are also tending our veg. garden seedlings for this last week of school and then I guess they will be here on our screened porch until time comes to plant them.

Another tick today... we'll have to be super-careful about that now that we are even more rural than before. This was a tiny tiny one, the Lyme disease kind, so I am glad that Natalie brought it to my attention that it was running around on her arm. She discovered it in church so I had to get up and leave the sanctuary and go flush it down the toilet in the ladies room. I'm still glad she told me, though; it was the right thing to do. I have been frustrated lately that my girls aren't more independent and then I realized that they can only do what I teach them. So if I want them to be able to do more things on their own, I am the one who has to make that happen. It seems like if I ask Leah to do something, she'll wander off, get discouraged and give up almost immediately and just yell for me to do it. Like if I ask her to go and get herself a fork. Yes, I know this is a new kitchen but she could at least open a drawer! She just can't think through how to solve a problem. So I have to work on that with her and do lots of problem solving activities. Like, you are wise and I know you can figure this out for yourself. Natalie gets a lot of that positive reinforcement at school. All of a sudden you turn around and you don't have two toddlers and an infant, you have three little girls who are perfectly capable of doing lots of things if shown how and given adequate supervision and plenty of encouragement. I need to pull back a bit from always taking over and doing it myself. Faster yes. But not better. And I have to tell you that Leah has not done a dish rinsing job before and I am quite sure my glass of milk tasted like dish detergent but that's okay. I'll survive. Her sense of self esteem and accomplishment is more important.

Tomorrow we are puttering around and hopefully getting on bathing suits and playing in some sand. I have some grown up paperwork to do which always seems to take the entire day so I need some way of making sure that doesn't happen. Naptime is plenty of time to work on my to do list and this is a vacation for my girls and I need to clear my schedule and hang out with them! We have a playground right up the street and the beach is an equally short walk in the other direction so let's put on some flip flops and sun hats and have fun.

Hope everyone else is having a nice Mem. Day holiday as well.

P.S. I got three more tomato seedlings from Clagett Farm and want to put here that they are Roma tomatoes so I don't forget. Paste tomatoes will be good for the pizza garden, for saucemaking. I am also putting some sweet little yellow cherry tomatoes, some big beefy slicing tomatoes, and some Black Prince heirloom tomatoes for variety. I got permission to build an herb spiral (from Spring: Nature Activities with Children) with my F&G class so that will look lovely in the center of the circular garden.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Rehabilitation for Ford

Yesterday and today were filled with excitement around here. Yesterday, Friday, we somehow picked up a fledgling crow in the undercarriage of our car. We were driving along and I kept waiting for the bird in the road in front of us to fly out of the way at the last minute... except he didn't. I did my best to straddle him with the wheels of my car and had my fingers crossed that I didn't run him over. I didn't. He disappeared! When I looked in the rear view mirror the road was completely empty. Several miles later we blew out a tire (in an unrelated incident) and had to wait over an hour for roadside assistance to change the tire. In all that time, the bird never made a peep but he must have been under the car the whole time. As we came out of the house to get Natalie from school I kept hearing chirping... really really close by chirping. And I was saying to the children, doesn't that sound like a bird is in our car? As I walked around the car I saw that he was stuck in the grill above the front bumper and by the license plate. So I called the local nature center and asked if it was okay for me to touch the bird and try to get him out. Andy said yes and I should call back if he had trouble flying and they would get me the phone number of a rescue volunteer. After I got the crow out of the car he tried to fly away but only went about 5 inches and fell back down to the ground. Fuzzy grey thing with fluff on top of his head and a yellow beak. Large for a young bird. Anyway, we put him in the dog crate at first because we had to get Natalie pronto but when we came home he had gotten out and was sitting on a window sill chirping. So we went to the pet store and got a cage to keep him in for overnight until I could get him to rehab. We named him Ford in honor of the Ford Windstar in which he was found. :-)

The bird went right to sleep when it got dark but woke up as soon as it got light -- whee!!! Chirp, chirp, chirp, chirp. I explained to the children that it is not okay to keep wild things as pets, that usually they are miserable (which they learned from our Old Mr. Toad experience last spring) and so they understood that we had to take him to rehab and we agreed to get a parakeet. Golly, we already had the cage so why not. And a new pet might take some of the sting out of having to move (house is being foreclosed upon due to my darling ex stopping all mortgage payments unbeknownst to me). So this morning we visited Mr. Dave who showed us his rescue animals and explained to the children that we had found a fledgling crow who in fact wasn't injured at all, so that was good news. He gave us lots of advice about parakeets which was handy to have since this is my first bird. We also got to see him feed infant birds with an eyedropper. Every 15 minutes around the clock!!! (Luckily, they sleep at night.) We cleaned the cage and disinfected it and then headed up to parakeet shop. I chose a quiet reserved but beautiful sky blue parakeet with white clouds on her and we named her Skye. Her actual name is Blue Skye Blue Ford. Blue Skye is her first name. Blue is her middle name. And Ford is her last name, in honor of the crow who started it all. You can tell that naming her was a group effort.

After Skye got settled into her new cage and we had done some unpacking in the little cabin (we are spending the next three weeks at a beach cabin on the Ches. Bay -- the children think it is a summer vacation special treat) we went to the Bluegrass in the Park festival in Cheltenham which cost a fortune and wasn't very nice. It was $20 to get in and $24 for lunch. We were still hungry after lunch, didn't have anywhere to sit to listen to the music, and had to leave early because the girls got overheated and Leah had a tick on her neck which she pitched a huge screaming fit about when the first aid people tried to remove it. She isn't keen on having strangers in her personal space. After that debacle we calmed her down a bit, checked out the classic cars (one of my interests) and went to get our CSA farm pickup, then rested a bit at the cabin and went down to South Beach for a Mem. Day cookout. My girls don't like meat so they each chose to have a plain hamburger bun with cheese on it and some tomato slices. Rebecca discovered that when you kick sand into your food it doesn't taste very nice later on. Their grandfather showed up so we got to see him a bit and then Rebecca stumbled while she was standing in ankle deep water and fell over into the Bay and so I rescued her and we were all wet and cold and we headed straight home to get her dry and warmed up. The two older ones were very disappointed that we couldn't stay for the marshmallow roast and s'mores extravaganza but I told them we had a copper firepit, which we do, and we can roast marshmallows at another time and Becca's health was more important.

So this is our first night in the little cabin and although my cell phone doesn't get reception here I can just barely get onto the internet if I sit right by the window :-) so I will probably move the dining room table over to the window tomorrow morning so I can work on the summer camps curriculum planning some more. Farming & Gardening is the first one I am knocking out in detail and I purchased our plants already. We are going to have a regular raised bed rectangular vegetable garden and a separate circular pizza garden with the tomatoes and herbs. For housebuilding we will make a greenhouse cover for the rectangular bed which can be removed and used as a small playhouse on the playground and a cob bench at the entrance to the nature walk (apparently, there is a large deposit of very clay rich soil there so it will be perfect for us, plus it is sheltered from the weather).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Soap Nuts

Today we had an exciting almost-field trip. I was going to take the children to the Baltimore Aquarium since Natalie had the day off from school for parent conferences but it was such a grey rainy miserable day that we turned around to come back home and got lost! Ended up on a road which dead ended at Maryland Sunrise Farm, an awesome organic farm with a CSA and educational programs. Right next door was a lovely little natural market which we enjoyed immensely. We had gluten-free pumpkin muffins and some papaya juice for a snack, bought three marvelous CDs of world music for children (http://www.putumayo.com/), and reveled in the colorful animal murals all over the back wall of the store -- including one of the ocean with fish, a manta ray, dolphin, whales, and a jellyfish, just as if we had gone to the aquarium after all. We had a leisurely stroll through the entire store, including a walk through the produce section where I identified things for the children, some of which were new to them. They had a ton of gluten free products so I got a business card for a friend with Celiac. I wandered up and down the homeopathic aisle in heaven. And in the natural household items section we really struck paydirt. Maggie's Soap Nuts! This is a completely new thing for me which I have never seen before -- the dried fruits of the Chinese Soapberry Tree. You put a few soap nuts in a small cotton sack (included) and drop it in your laundry. One box does 36-50 loads. Soap THAT GROWS ON TREES! I cannot even tell you how jazzed I am to have found this product. Leah has terrible eczema and so we are constantly trying to figure out what is irritating her system. Then we found out that this store is just a mile or so off a road that I travel and know well. It's not exactly near my house but I do head up that way on occasion, so we are happy to have discovered it. And as soon as I can find the CDs I will put them here. One of them has a version of "Old Macdonald Had a Farm" in Italian which was absolutely fascinating!

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Venison Situation

I am finding myself here in a bit of a venison situation. The local food pantry gave me two 5 pound bags of frozen ground venison. I thawed one out but now I'm realizing that that means that I have to find uses for all five pounds of it immediately - I can cook something and refreeze it if it is thoroughly cooked but I can't refreeze the raw meat. And we are not big meat eaters, certainly not the beef and other red meat families, so I am scratching my head trying to remember what people do with ground meat! :-)

So far I have come up with sloppy joes and we'll have that for dinner. The FP gave us a can of sloppy joe sauce as well so that was a happy coincidence. Now I am making a sauce for a macaroni casserole with ground meat, onion, green peppers, diced tomatoes and whatever else I can find. I remember about shepherd's pie... oh yeah, and there's meatballs and pasta sauce over spaghetti. That might be good.

Anyway, things are exciting here and I hope the power doesn't go out in this storm because it's good food and I don't want to have to throw it away! We try not to waste food in this house since money is so tight. Even if it is a kind of food I don't know how to cook. Ha ha.

ColorKu & ABC

I HAVE to recommend this fantastic new board game I found -- it is all wood and is a variation on sudoku with colored balls which go into indentations (9 spots each in nine squares, just like the classic). Children love this game and it works on all levels. Little ones can sort the colors so that each block has all the same. Older ones can make patterns. Elementary children can try the puzzles (cards are included in differing levels of difficulty which tell you where to place the balls to start out). It is beautifully made and I am so excited to have discovered it!

Find it here for $29.95.

In other news, today school was delayed by 2 hours due to heavy winds and rain. So we made strawberry-banana bread (with sour cream and finely chopped crystallized ginger -- yum!), gave the dog a bath, and read books. We never made it to the Aquarium on Friday due to the same weather conditions; it has been hanging around for a while. It is dreadful to hear about all the weather-related tragedies going on all around the world. I was just hearing on the radio about the earthquake in China.

Natalie's school had a yard sale and I scored a wonderful four story all wood handmade dollhouse with a turret! It was $15. A good friend had made some small dolls for me which the children immediately moved into the dollhouse (thanks, Robin) and I am going to fix up the exterior where some pieces are missing but leave the girls to furnish the interior with whatever they think would be suitable furniture. Natalie was talking about folding some small fabric pieces to make beds.

We have our butterfly pavilion full of 5 once-caterpillars-now-cocoons that the girls are so excited about. Our front steps were absolutely swarming with tent caterpillars and they gathered some up plus some leaves and now all around the upper edge are white spun tents (they are a kind of moth). We can't wait for them to hatch out!

This week is technically "E" according to the nice people at Sonlight but Waldorf teaches the vowels through eurythmy instead of sound stories so I'm going to read the books they recommend but not push and add on more of my own. However, I will put the LMNOP alphabet suggestions here since next week is F and I like to do the LMNOP card word as the first one we do in the week (like D first for dragon) so I can show the children the card and they can figure out for themselves that it makes the shape. I'm not pushing on it too hard, just introducing the idea that words are made up of sounds. Leah is already really into rhyming. Natalie struggled in her first year at Tidewater, which is definitely where the other two will go, so I have to make sure they are a little more prepared instead of completely going non-academic like I did before. In fact, Natalie may have to repeat kindergarten -- I will find out the results of the assessment on Friday.

LMNOP Alphabet Illustrations for consonants

Holding Hands
Jumping Jacks
Zig Zag

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Letter D

This week we are reinforcing the letter D. As some of you know, I chose to switch to the Sonlight Core B homeschool curriculum due to legal battles which are going on here. The Sonlight curriculum does include one letter per week, which is explored through stories which have to do with that sound, as well as some science (they gave us a Berenstain Bears book about this -- we are talking about the three states of matter this week) and logical thinking skills (workbook pages with things like mazes, which one comes first, etc). No writing or mathematics. It is advertised as a non-academic preschool curriculum but is still much more traditional than Waldorf. There are about six stories which we read per day from the booklist they supply us with -- although I do some substitutions -- and we also continue with our nature walks, field trips to museums, cooking, playtime, music, yoga, gardening and so on.

Anyway, if anyone else out there is doing the letter D this week (through Oak Meadow or what have you), we are doing dragon, duck, daddy, dog, the Big Dipper, and dolphin.

Branislav the Dragon by Mary Lou Masey

The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack

What Mommies Do Best/What Daddies Do Best by Laura Numeroff

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion

We are stargazing one night this week (probably Thursday, if it is a clear night) and we are going to the National Aquarium in Baltimore for our field trip on Friday to see the dolphin show. I have already purchased the dolphin puppet which has been getting a lot of use!

This weekend I am giving a presentation on child development of the 2 year old at the local library and will be sure to post the websites, books, and notes which I think would be helpful. The Toddler program which I am working on is very Waldorf based. It makes me sad that we can't do full-bore Waldorf here at home but I know that a lot of people are in the same boat. So why worry -- we all do the best we can.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Revised Common Lectionary

We are switching Sunday School supervisors next year and I have been told that I can teach in whatever style I like but the lessons need to be based on what the pastor's sermon is going to be about, so that the stories we teach on Sunday are more cohesive. I always disliked one lesson during the S.S. service, another during the class time, a third Bible reading during the Children's Sermon at "big church" and then a fourth during Wee Worship. It seemed like the kids would be overwhelmed by all that. So I am happy to follow the guidelines given - the Revised Common Lectionary. I had no idea that the pastors were given Bible verses in advance!

Anyway, all of this to say that I probably won't be sharing as much of my S.S. notes because it won't really be the chronological lessons of the Old Testament block of Waldorf 3rd grade, it will skip around much more. I am really enjoying our prep for Daniel, Servant of the Lord. Today we practiced with microphones and costumes on our stage. Next week is another, more formal, dress rehearsal; performance on May 18th.

Natalie gave me a beautiful bouquet of flowers on May Day. They made simple cones out of shelf liner paper (water resistant) with ribbon handles. School is almost ended for her - May 30th. Leah and Rebecca have had slight fevers lately so we've taken things slow, although we did get outside for some bubbles and hopscotch on Friday.