Monday, August 30, 2004

We got back late Sunday night from a wonderful trip up north. I dropped the kids and dh at the grandparents' shore house, where they had a fabulous time playing on the beach, riding the rides at the boardwalk and playing with their cousin. Emily was telling me all about how well she was boogie boarding, and I can't wait to see her next time we're up. I missed their first rollercoaster ride, but it's the first thing I've missed in their lives, so I'll try to feel better about that.

I spent the weekend by myself at the 3rd Annual Live and Learn Conference outside of Boston. I missed the kids desperately but had a wonderful time meeting so many unschoolers and their families. The tenor of the weekend was just amazing--to see so many gentle, respectful parents and so many kids living in freedom made my heart soar! And I know how much fun my kids will have being a part of it all next year!

Meeting all the people I *know* from online was incredible. Sandra was insightful, AnneO was inspiring, and Kelly, well, I just wished I could take her home with me so she could be my neighbor (maybe we could end up on adjacent farms in Virginia! lol). I met so many other wonderful people--too many to name.

It's great to be home, but I wish that everyone wasn't scattering back across the continent. It would be wonderful to live closer to everyone and enjoy the feeling of community more than just once a year. Pensacola here I come! The countdown has begun!

Thursday, August 19, 2004

We went up for a visit to the University of Maryland Geology Department today with our 4-H Rock Hounds club. The kids had a good time, though Emily, unfortunately, started feeling sick on the ride up, so she didn't enjoy it as much as she might have. The graduate students who put together our program set up three wonderful, hands-on learning stations for the kids to explore.

In the paleontology station, the kids were able to touch and hold fossils of fish, coral, wood, and plants among others. They also got to hold models of a mega-raptor claw, carnivor teeth and an arm bone and got to view a real fossilized carnivor tooth and partial whale skeleton. Emily was able to identify the fossilized fish poop and ferns. Julia and Em both really enjoyed this station, and even Sam settled down after a few walks up and down the hallway and enjoyed playing with the models of fossilized carnivore teetch and claws.

In the everday minerals station, the 4-Hers had a chance to explore and make connections between minerals and the ways they're used in homes. They got to handle mica, used in cosmetics; graphite, used in pencils; talc, used in powders and cosmetics; flourite, used in toothpaste; calcite, used in antacids; and others. The kids also got a chance to try panning for galena, similar to panning for gold because of it's high specific gravity. The kids had lots of fun playing in the water, and we found out there are some old gold mines over at Great Falls that we can check out.

In the rocks/gems/minerals station, all the kids had the chance to view the extensive collection housed in the University of Maryland's Gem and Mineral Museum. Throughout the room several stations were set up to explore the different kinds of rocks and minerals. With minerals, the kidds could test their hardness, view them through hand lenses, test with a mild HCl acid and test for magnetic properties. They could also explore different samples of igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic rocks, examine folds, striations and mineral deposits. The kids were able to feel the different textures of the different rocks, compare igneous rocks cooled quickly and slowly, and examine first-hand the changes wrought on metamorphic rocks from their original forms.

By the time we got home, though, Em was sick, so we've spent the rest of the day just relaxing. Right now, we're watching the Olympics in our bed together and Sam's downstairs playing his computer game.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Over the past couple days we've done so much just relaxing at home and not having to rush anywhere! We've been watching the Olympics and talking about all the countries competing, and the girls have been checking out some of their Top Secret Agent books on the different countries and making the criminal cards into a trading card game.

Yesterday morning Emily wanted to play with the Magnetic Poetry set we recently purchased, so we were all sitting together on the floor, making up a poem about the Superheroes. It was difficult trying to find specific words we wanted in the huge sea of little magnet letters, so we ended up sorting them into different categories: nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns, prepositions and pre/suffixes.

This morning I was working a crossword puzzle next to Julia, keeping her company while she was coloring her mozaic patterns. She started asking me questions about the puzzle and eventually asked when crosswords were invented, so we researched all about the history of crossword puzzles and found out they first appeared in a New York publication in 1913.

The kids have spent most of their days playing with our neighbor, who's been at our house pretty much non-stop since he moved in. They're having fun playing legos, neopets and pokemon, but primarily they spend their time playing an elaborate pirate game where they explore, trade treasure, sail the seas and battle one another, best I can tell. They do a really great job playing together and working things out--he's a really nice kid.

Today, we got some wicked thunderstorms in the afternoon, so the kids all climbed up into the loft to tell scary stories--some were a bit too scary and I ended up with Julia and Sam crying next to me. But, I think even they were having fun; it just got to be too much. The kids were also playing with the wooden tangram blocks, making elaborate geometric designs all over the living room floor. My job was to keep Boo, our pupppy, from careening into them and scattering them everywhere.

Monday, August 16, 2004

We've had several quiet days here, playing board games and drawing, as a cold made it rounds through the family. Between the rain from Charley and being sick, the past couple of days have left us all with a good case of cabin fever!

We all watched the opening ceremonies for the Olympics the other night, which the kids loved. Emily really enjoyed trying to spot different mythological heroes that she knew. I was rather annoyed that they had a pregnant woman who wasn't really pregnant at all, yet one more cooptation of female creativity, I thought. Why use a really pregnant woman when a slim, unpregnant one looks so much better, without the logistics of trying to make her ample belly glow. But this writer put it even better: "Paul and I couldn't decide if it was closest to 2001, Alien, or Rosemary's Baby. It was exquisitely upsetting. I am left to conclude that the future hinges either on a battery-powered translucent bowling ball, or on a radioactive demon child sending signals to the mothership from the surface of our doomed planet." Enough ranting, though. The kids loved the parade, and the DNA light show put one more dot on our recent discussions of genes and DNA. The parade of nations, however, didn't go over nearly as well, as my kids all grumbled something about "boring!" So, we ended up watching Man vs. Beast and an amazing Somoan tree-climber that gave Julia something to shoot for!

Yesterday, the kids spent the afternoon outside with several kids from the neighborhood, playing their pirate game. I love watching them up on the climber, using the ship's wheel--makes me feel good inside! Boy were they glad to see friends again and be running around outside.

Today, they've been playing Imaginext on the computer off and on; Sam's getting really good at it! This morning they went out butterfly hunting and caught 5 skippers and one tiger swallowtail, all of which are flying around in our butterfly house right now, which you can see here. The girls picked handfuls of zinnias so the butterflies would have plenty to eat. Later, they went out on the climber for most of the day, playing their game. Ahhh, summer! It's hard to believe that the kids around here go back to school in a week--and that's later than some!

Thursday, August 12, 2004

The girls have been writing in their journals the past couple of days, and Emily's been having me write out some more extensive entries. I feel so privileged hear their hopes and dreams and wishes--it's been some very special bonding time for us.

Yesterday, we did a bunch of running around, and I was able to take care of some errands for 4-H and grab some groceries. When we got home, one of our neighbors came over, and the kids picked up the ongoing game of treasure hunting/ pirateering that they've been playing for several weeks now. It's been loads of fun watching them play on the climber, sword fight and trade "de-balloons" and other sunken treasure.

Today, poor Julia woke up with a fever of 103 degrees. She's been very out of sorts all day, though the motrin has helped some. We had to cancel our 4-H trip to pick berries at Westmoreland Berry Farm, which we were very disappointed about. One family from our group went and said they had a terrific time and that it was well-worth the drive. We're definitely going to have to reschedule.

It was nice staying home today, though, and reconnecting as a family without running errands or having the neighbor kids over. We played Settlers of Catan twice, watched a couple of movies together and colored mosaic patterns. It felt like eons since we'd had a quiet day like that, and it was nice for us all to recharge our batteries.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

What a jam-packed day! The kids pulled out the watercolors this morning, and afterwards, they did some Pokemon trading with a neighbor.

We packed up a picnic lunch and met some friends at the park. The kids had fun running and playing, but they had just as much fun playing under the old weeping willow and making whips from the branches. They all played really well today--no one left out or excluded. It probably helped that Sam hung out with/near me most of the time, but it was nice nonethless.

Afterwards, we all headed over to the Volunteer Fire Department to see the Reptile Man, who put on an hour and half show with live reptiles. It was hard sitting still and listening that long, but I think overall the kids really enjoyed themselves. There were more than 400 people there! We saw a snapping turtle, an american alligator, a Nile crocodile, a Mexican beaded lizard, a Mexican milk snake named Lipstick, an Anaconda, an Indian Cobra, a Copperhead and a 16+ foot long Indian Rock Python named Bananaboy--an albino that weighed well over 200 lbs. The kids each got to touch the python on the way out, and Julia was so pleased that the snake smelled her with his tongue.

Monday, August 09, 2004

We just got back from the Jersey shore--what a glorious weekend! The weather was cool, more like September than August, and it was lovely to just sit outside on the big porch. The kids had a blast playing with their cousin, exploring the beach and the jetty, swimming in the ocean and bonding with their grandparents. It really is nice being back on the East Coast where we can enjoy extended family more often.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Emily had a wonderful birthday party on Monday. The rain held off long enough for all the kids to swim, play in the sprinkler and have a waterballoon toss. By the time it started sprinkling, we just moved inside for cake and presents. The birthday girl sure had a lot of fun with all her friends!

After the party, things got really exciting: Julia fell off her chair while climbing up for some dinner and cracked her head on the table. She cut open her eyebrow, which I didn't realize at first. I just knew she hit really hard, so I was just hugging her tight. By the time I pulled her back to see how bad she hit, we were both covered in blood! We got cleaned up and calmed down, put on a butterfly stitch and prepared to head to the ER. I threw on a fresh shirt and toasted a bagel for her, then gathered a banana, water cup, blanket and some Polly Pockets to play with. We were ready to hunker down and wait.

And wait we did. We spent about 3 hours in the ER, and Julia was such a trooper. We played rhyming games much of the night to pass the time. Once we headed back to our triage room, we played Polly Pockets going to the hospital--she had cut her cheek. I think the role playing helped Julia process everything that was happening. I have to say, everyone there was so kind and respectful of her. They talked to her, not me, explained and described what they were going to do before they did it, and showed her what they would use. I was very impressed, and the whole time Julia was in excellent spirits. We talked about the biohazard trash bags, sharps containers and where the laundry goes as we watched the triage nurse clean up after his patients. Nothing like unschooling in an ER--though the triage side was a bit less hectic than the emergency side.

The PA checked Julia's eyes and ears, and we learned that in head traumas, brain fluid will leak behind the ear drum. The triage nurse cleaned and irrigated the cut with a saline solution, which we learned was the same concentration as the saline in our cells--.9%. He showed Julia the catheter tube that would inject the saline, and she was so brave while he did it. He watched it for a little while to make sure it wasn't going to start pulling apart and need stitches, and the doctor came in to check it also. Finally, they decided to glue it, which seems to be an intermediate kind of step and much less invasive than stitches would have been. When we got home, everyone asked if she got stitches, and Julia just said, "No. They glued me back together!"