Tuesday, June 29, 2004

We had a great weekend! Got the yard dug out for the pool--one of those 15' diameter blowup pools. The kids are having a great time with it, though the water's still pretty cold.

Sunday we went rock climbing over at Carderocks. The kids did a great job and enjoyed their first foray onto real rock. Julia was in her element! She's such a fantastic climber, a real natural on the rock. Sam did a super job once he warmed up to it and realized that he could do it. He scrambled up "Kindergarten" a 5.0 climb, which is perfect for beginning climbers. Emily did a great job on "Kindergarten" as well, but froze up a bit on "The Nose," a 5.3 climb. She had a hard time getting down, unable to relax enough to let us lower her down. I was bummed that she ended the day on a scary note, but she seemed to put it behind her and focus on her good climbs earlier in the day. Great resiliency! All the kids are asking to go again this weekend.

Jim and I were back on the rock for the first time in about 7 years. It's amazing how much you remember and forget! We were both able to do "Spider Walk" a 5.7 on the first try, but it was a very new feeling trying to trust our feet on the greasy schist! Things I used to know I could stand on seemed sketchy and slippery. Time for a whole new learning curve on the rock! It felt really great to be out there again, and we're all looking forward to many more years of climbing together as a family.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Whew! We had a full day today, which started out with the free movie up at Annapolis Mall. The kids really enjoyed Rugrats Go Wild!. The Rugrats get marooned on a deserted island and meet up with the Wild Thornberrys.

Once we got home, the kids watched their new DVD--Scooby-Doo meets the Lochness Monster. We played Dinosaur Extinction and painted faces, collected some new leaves for our caterpillars and fed the chicks. Tomorrow promises to be just as busy, as we embark on our new 4-H adventure. Should be interesting!

Monday, June 21, 2004

What a lovely weekend! The humidity disappeared, and we spent a relaxing father's day weekend just enjoying being outside for the first time in several days. We went walking on the boardwalk and played on the climbing wall.

The kids and I have been hunting for more butterfly eggs on the undersides of our leaves. The zebra swallowtail eggs still haven't hatched, but the orange eggs did. Eeeewww! My best guess is that they were ladybeatle eggs because the larvae are quite distinctive. But, it's pretty hard to identify insect eggs as there are so many out there!

We found three zebra swallowtail caterpillars in their first and second instars--very cool and growing every day. We saw one caterpillar after it shed its first instar. We also caught a giant fritillary, which we kept inside overnight and then set free. You can see some pictures once I get them posted.

We've been researching the different life stages of butterflies and the different foods necessary for each stage. Last week we bought some milkweed, pentas, yarrow, snap dragons and verbena to fill in some flowers in our herb garden. We got two different kinds of milkweed, which should help to attract monarchs as well as other butterflies to our yard.

We had some friends over for a playdate today, and the kids had a great time. They played on the climber, fed the fish, turned onion stalks into magic wands, drew with sidewalk chalk and played dress-up. The kids played together really well, and it was nice because they balanced each other out, too. The oldest friend is a girl a couple months older than Em, and she has two younger brothers--one Julia's age and one about a year younger than Sam. So, it was nice for Katie to be with some girls for a change, and Sam really enjoyed playing with boys for a change.

Friday, June 18, 2004

Well, we've spent the past week caring for our 12 new arrivals--baby chicks! You can check out some chick pics at our projects page. We brought them home last Thursday as one-day old babies, and they've nearly doubled in size, I think! They are living in a swimming pool brooder in the shed, except for a several day stint in the laundry room due to unseasonably cool temperatures the day after we brought them home. The kids have been helping to take care of them, even walking outside in the rain and dark to check the temperature in the brooder, which needs to be kept between 90 and 95 degrees the first week. Now, we'll start dropping that temp by about 5 degrees each week until they no longer need the heat. We had three chicks suffering from pasty butt--lovely description, isn't it? So, we ground and mixed some oatmeal with the starter feed, and talked about how different foods affect our digestive system. All the chicks now seem fine. They're big enough now that our new worry is them flapping out of the brooder!

The 4-H club is coming together, and I've been spending lots of time on the details for that. The weather here has been disgusting, so lots of time cooped up inside! I'm putting it to good use, though, keeping up with all my volunteer activities and working on a new page for my website.

Emily lost her first tooth on Monday! She was so excited and had been waiting for months to lose a tooth. The past week, the kids have been watching lots of tv and movies, putting on musicals, drawing and painting. Poor Sam was pretty sick on Monday, but luckily, the girls got a much more mild version and just felt a bit out of sorts. It's been a pretty low key week, focused mostly on the chicks.

Yesterday, we harvested likely the last lettuce from our garden because of the heat and the first string beans. We have several green tomatoes on the vines and lots of flowers on our cucumber and zuchini plants. We've already roasted several green chilis, and there are more following! Afterward, we went on a hunt for some butterfly eggs and found two batches! We've tentatively identified one batch as as Zebra Swallowtail eggs, which we found on a pawpaw leaf. The other batch I'm baffled over, and we'll likely have to wait till they hatch. We found them on a spicebush leaf, but they're yellowish orange. I don't think they're spicebush swallowtail eggs, though they may be giant swallowtail eggs even though spicebush is not listed as a host plant. We looked at eggs under the microscope, which was really cool! I'll post those pictures as soon as I capture them.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

We had a rainy weekend at the Jersey Shore, but the kids had a good time playing with their cousin nonetheless. They were glad to spend time with their extended family--grandma, grampa, aunt and cousin.

This week the kids all opened up savings accounts, where they will deposit their monthly savings budget. They're excited to have a bank account and watch their money grow. I figured that since the kids were already taking "savings" out of their monthly budget because that's what the household does, it made sense for it to go directly into an account for them instead of the household account. The money will do more towards learning there, and they'll be able to save for trips and special items without having to give up all their spending money. Of course, they can always choose to put their spending money in the savings account, too, to make it grow more quickly, but that choice will be theirs.

My 4-H leader training is complete, and now I'm in the process of trying to put together a Community Club. I'm very excited about all the possibilities! We're looking forward to offering an Heirloom Poultry club, a Rock Hounds climbing club and a Gardening for Life club. It's going to be so exciting, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the club grow.

This evening we watched the Reagan funeral procession on TV. We talked about Ronald reagan being the 40th president, the origin of the 21 gun solute, the fall of the Berlin Wall, which we actually have a piece of, the fact that Reagan was the first president that I really recall the majority of his presidency, his issues and policies. Ford is the first president I remember, and I recall Carter and the gas crisis, but they are just snippets, bits and pieces. Reagan was president from the time I was 10 until I was 18--my entire adolescence!

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

We had a delightfully long holiday weekend. It's so nice to have a three day weekend with dh! We really miss his alternate Friday off schedule that he used to have in Albuquerque. He finished building the climbing wall this weekend, and we've all had a great time bouldering around on it. Here are some pictures of the kids climbing. We enjoyed our annual Memorial Day party despite the rain. It's always fun to get to know the folks dh works with and to put faces to names. I had the chance to talk to a new mom about homeschooling, and she left with my homeschooling books. I do hope I was a good ambassador! *g*

Yesterday, we had some friends over. They tried out the new climbing wall and set free their tadpole-turned-frog to live in our pond. We're hoping they'll be able to come to visit him. I also got another free chicken consult, since this is the friend with whom I ordered the chicks. They'll be delivered to her house on either the 10th or 11th of June! We're getting very excited, and she's given us valuable advice on brooding and building the coop.

Today, I had my 4-H leader training, and I'm really looking forward to putting together a Community Club geared towards homeschoolers. We're planning on putting together project clubs for poultry--raising heirloom breeds and layers--and rock hounds--geology, rock climbing, orienteering. I'd also like to do something with wildlife gardening and herbs/ natural remedies. We'll have to see how much energy I have and how much interest I can generate. Right now, though, I'm very excited about the possibilities and look forward to growing into 4-H with Em, Julia and Sam over the next several years.

On the way home from our 4-H meeting today, we stopped at Walmart to pick up a brooder for the chicks and look at toys. The kids did their budget last night, since it was the beginning of the month. They each get $40 income each month, out of which they pay bills, put money into savings and have left-over spending money. We figured out the percentage of our household income that goes to large categories like mortgage, car, utilities, groceries and savings, and the kids each put the same percentage of their budget into appropriate envelopes. What ever's left over (a little more than $6 each) is theirs to spend. They all got some fun toys, and Sam's still coming to terms with the concept of losing all his money at the end of the shopping trip. He likes the toy he picks out and wants to take it home; he just doesn't like the idea of having no money left afterwards. I'm guessing that he'll decide to keep his money instead of spending it pretty soon.

When we got home, we made some lunch, then went outside to watch the Water Works guy flush the fire hydrants. The county flushes the water system periodically to purge the pipes of the iron build up. It's really cool to watch the water come out dark reddish-brown and eventually run clear. We talked about why they flush the system, where the iron comes from, the water pressure and the different nozzles used to release water from the hydrant. Very cool! Of course, the kids couldn't resist throwing leaves into the flowing water and watched all kinds of things get carried away by the current. Magnolia leaves were by far the best floating objects after much trial and error.