Tuesday, October 26, 2004

We had a lovely weekend, and it was so nice to see the sun again on Saturday! We took the puppy over to the beach where we all had a lovely day hunting for fossils and just being outside. We've had so much rain here recently! The kids hunted around for some fossilized sharks teeth and played pirate under the huge cliffs.

Sam had a blast playing in the water, which we knew he would. That boy is drawn to water like a moth to a flame! Water always helps him find peace, and he can play in it for hours. He's funny to watch at the beach because he'll be totally mesmerized and peaceful; then, all of a sudden, he'll cross a sensory threshold and have to get into a warm tub immediately! Too much sand, too much cold, whatever--get that boy a tub!

Julia had fun climbing and throwing the stick for our puppy to fetch. She was the only one not to get wet, not a big surprise, though Boo took care of that by shaking on her each time she came back on the beach! Boo can fetch that stick for more than an hour--as long as we're there, she's in the water. Hard to say who likes it more Sam or Boo. Sunday, it was raining again, so it was good we got out in the sunshine when we had the chance!

The leaves here look lovely, and the kids are quite excited for Halloween. They're counting down the days!

Friday, October 22, 2004

We've started reading Harry Potter: The Goblet of Fire this week, which we're really enjoying. This weekend, Emily and I were talking about reading, and she remarked how boring all the beginning reader books are, though Julia really likes the Bob's Books on occasion. So, I started writing them their own Hogwart's stories for us to read together, and the girls love them! Emily, however, made sure that she wasn't actually going to have to go away to boarding school, even if it was one as cool as Hogwarts.

Emily's been playing with our fractiles and making some amazing 3-D images with them. Here she's made a huge ball, then added arms, legs and a head to make the inflated Aunt Marge from Harry Potter 3. She has such an incredible imagination! We borrowed Sorcer's Stone and Chamber of Secrets DVD's from the library and have been watching them again. We had wanted to see Chamber of Secrets again because I couldn't recall the anagram for Lord Voldemort, which I'd been trying to do because Goblet of Fire begins with the Riddle House. So, we were talking all about Tom Riddle and playing with anagrams.

The other day, the kids pulled out the face paints, and Sam had a blast painting his own face. He ended up this cool, swirly blue-green color and was tinged green for the next 24 hours after he washed it off. He looked vaguely sea-sick the whole time. The girls have been playing a lot at Cyberchase and Sam's been playing lots of Scooby-Doo by himself and with dh at night.

The kids have been creating all kinds of really cool science experiments. They've been linking together these large elastic headbands that look like giant pony-tail holders, and Sam has been tying them to all sorts of objects. He'll stretch them as long as he can then watch it rebound with the items of different weights. He's taken to tying his Halloween treat pumpkin to it and filling it with all sorts of things, then watching how it springs back. Pretty good physics lesson! They've also been experimenting with frosted glass, watching how frost and condensation form, freezing water in glasses and marking the levels before and after. Some very cool experiments.

Emily's been pursuing an ongoing interest in Egypt, and recently she's come up with all kinds of projects she wants to do after paging through Pyramids!: 50 Hands-On Activities to Experience Ancient Egypt. We're planning to make a papier mache pyramid this weekend, which we haven't done yet because it's been such a rainy week, and I didn't want to head out to the shed for the chicken wire on my bum ankle. So, she contented herself with making a Sculpey recreation of Egypt that we'll use for our model of the Nile River. All the kids and I made them, and we've got several of the Great Pyramids, the step pyramid that Imhotep designed and, my favorite, Emily's Great Sphinx.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

We've had such an amazing few days. There's been such a burst of learning going on! The other night, Emily asked me to write out some "math puzzles" as she calls them. She loves playing with numbers in the car, figuring out relations and patterns, and the other night, she wanted to do some with me on paper. So, we played around with what I call "magic tens" because I've told her that the way I make numbers easier to think about is by working with tens. Her father's the one to play with other base-number systems because he can spout them off much easier than I can! We played with the different combinations to make ten, then went on to double digit addition, writing them two different ways and talking about which was easier to conceptualize and why. For instance,

27 + 44 = 71



We were working with carrying numbers and tying that back to the tens that we'd just done.

After we'd done a couple of problems, she'd had enough and wanted to move onto drawing. We began drawing together, taking turns on the same paper and playing off what the other person had drawn. We ended up drawing the whole solar system, talking about each planet, because I had drawn the Earth. Then we drew a woodland fairy scene, with a mushroom, tree, owl, mouse and several fairies. We had so much fun drawing cooperative stories!

Dh built the first fire of the season in our woodstove Saturday morning, and over breakfast, he brought up one of his favorite poems, "Those Winter Sundays." I went over to the bookshelf, pulled it out and read it to the kids: you can read it by clicking on "online poems" here: Modern American Poetry. It's such a powerful poem! We talked about the imagery and the feeling he creates by using color to describe the cold; we talked about the father and how we felt about him and what the narrator might be feeling now about his father versus how he felt as a boy. It was such a neat discussion!

Sunday, Emily decided that she wanted to do some experimental kitchen concoctions, playing with pepper, salt and water. She discovered that pepper can make a person sneeze! She ended up making a salt water solution at one point, and dh told her to taste it. Blech! Dh asked her what it tasted like, and she said, "The Ocean!" We started talking about the salt content of the Ocean being close to that of the human body, yet the body can't survive by drinking salt water. I started quoting the line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner": "Water, water every where/ and all the boards did shrink;/ Water, water every where/ Ne any drop to drink." We read the first three parts before the kids lost interest--more than I would have thought would hold their attention!

Sunday night, Emily, Julia and I ended up making origami at the kitchen table together. Julia and I made star boxes, and we all tried our hands at the crane. Emily remarked that it must be easier for people in the country that invented origami than it was for us, and I wondered outloud whether it were Japan or China. Before I could even begin to reason out why I thought it was Japan, Emily busts out with, "It's Japanese." When I asked her how she knew, she said because the cranes were all over Japan in her computer game Carmen Sandiego! Amazing!

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Well, it's been an interesting week. I fell while bouldering last Sunday and sprained my ankle, putting me out of commission pretty well. UGH! I haven't been able to get around much at all for the past week and have had my ankle immobile and elevated most of the time. The kids have been great and really understanding, considering they've had to be pretty self-sufficient all week long. The girls have been making sure I have plenty of water to drink, and all the kids have been teriffic about fetching things for me or helping me shuffle all my stuff from the couch to the bed where we can watch DVD's.

The upside of the whole ankle thing is that we've been catching up on our reading. We began Harry Potter: Prisoner of Azkaban on Tuesday and just finished it last night. The girls and I have been reading voraciously! Emily has been working hard to negotiate all the strong emotions evoked by the novel, which has afforded some really good opportunities to talk about dealing with our emotions.

Sam has had, probably, the hardest time dealing with my ankle being out of whack because I haven't been as available for him as I usually am. For one thing, he misses snuggling in his new sling! Luckily, we haven't been out and about, so he hasn't needed it as much to create a comfort zone, but he does miss snuggling in the morning while trying to wake up. He's been enjoying his gameboy and finding small ways to help me when he's feeling generous.

Last night, he came upstairs dressed in his wolf costume, which always makes Boo go nuts. He and the dog were rolling around and wrestling on the floor, and it was absolutely the cutest, funniest moment! He loves his puppy, and she is so good with him. The two of them are basically like litter mates since we got Boo when she was just 7 weeks old. She and Sam have grown up together, and it's hard to say who likes the wrestling more!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

We've had a quite a week! We've been doing some really fantastic things, learning and growing as a family in so many ways.

Some Highlights
The girls and I have been having several conversations about friendship, how friends act and what we seek in our friendships. We've been learning quite a bit about human nature and the choices we make.

Sam has been teaching all of us about the importance of family and taking life a bit more slowly. We're working to scale back a bit and focus more on our lives together and less on outside obligations.

We've been playing chess and coloring and gardening. The kids (as well as dh and I!) have realy been enjoying their gameboys; Scooby-Doo and Star Wars seem to be the favorites.

Dh found a really cool program on the Chronic Logic site, that simulates bridge engineering, and he and the kids have been playing with it several nights in a row. They've been playing with the free download and having a blast. You can click to create different kinds of support structures and shapes then have a train ride across. Different colors indicate where the stress load is placed, and the bridge will either hold or collapse, depending upon the structure.

They had made several bridges that would hold and several that would immediately collapse, but it took some trying to get a bridge strong enough to allow the train on but weak enough to collapse while the train was crossing. When that happens, you get to see the bridge break and the train fall into the water. They were having loads of fun with this!

After watching Cyberchase one day, the kids got way into tessellations. They kept repeating the problem from the show: how to make a bridge over lava with "no gaps and no overlaps." Sam immediately went and got the big bowl of wooden shapes, and we began creating our own tessellations.

Emily and I looked up the word on the internet and found a really great website on tessellations and MC Escher. We had just been talking all about positive and negative space in artwork a few days before, and I'd brought up Escher, trying to describe how he used the negative space of a shape to make the same shape. Emily and I had great fun clicking through all of the different samples of his tessellations, and I'd never even known what they were called!

The kids spent the next several days making their own designs, and came up with some really beautiful examples. Here's one they made by taking turns each completing one layer around.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Yesterday was a pretty great day. We started out with some dry cheerios while Em and Sam did some projects. Emily pulled out some card stock paper and scissors and began making a model of the solar system that she cut out and taped on the paper. I offered to grab her some glue, but she really wanted to use the tape, and it ended up having this cool lift-the-flap quality. Once again, a lesson in staying out of things unless asked! Sam got into the groove, too, and started cutting shapes out of the paper, something he loves to do.

Sam then decided he wanted some of the Envirokids Gorilla Munch cereal he picked out the other day, so we pulled that out. I started reading the back of the box, which is all about gorillas as an endagered species and the work of Dianne Fossey in Rwanda. On the front of the box, there's a picture of a bowl of cereal with some strawberries in it, so Em asks whether strawberries grow in the forest.

Hmmmm... I don't know. So we googled the history of strawberries and end up reading about their history in Rome and Northern Europe and Native America. Then we come across a wonderful Cherokee origin story about strawberries. First Man and First Woman were bickering and First Woman decided to leave and began walking East. First Man was so mad he let her leave. After some time, First Man decided he was lonely and missed First Woman, and the Sun took pity on him. First Man began to follow First Woman, and the Sun tried to distract First Woman. First, the Sun caused a beautiful field of blueberries to spring up under her feet, but she kept walking. Then, the sun grew beautiful, full blackberries, but First Woman kept walking. At last, the Sun made appear a beautiful, red berry First Woman had never seen or smelled before and she stopped walking. As she bent down to pick the strawberries, her anger disappeared and she thought only of sharing the wondeful berries with First Man. She began walking West and met First Man. Together they shared the strawberries and forgot all but their love for eachother. Or, something along those lines.

After reading the strawberry myth, Em comes up with this amazing story behind her solar system project. The moon and the asteroid were jealous of the Earth, who always made good decisions and did good things, so they were coming after it. They were trying to destroy just a part of the Earth--a country cottage high up on a mountain top where there lived a person who helped the Earth do all the good things. By destroying this cottage, the moon and the asteroid would destroy the good part of the Earth. The myth ends there--she's still working on the rest of the story. She may come back to it; she may not. Pretty cool as it is, imo.

Later, I played chess with Emily and Sam. Emily is getting pretty good; it won't be long before she'll be able to beat me. Sam is beginning to learn the names of the pieces and the way they move, but I don't push it. He moves however he wants to, while I move by the rules and verbalize it, "I'll move my knight: up one and over two." This keeps it fun, and he gets to take my pieces at random. *lol* Makes it very hard to win!

The kids had fun playing with their gameboys on and off throughout the day. At one point, they were all sitting outside in a cherry tree, playing. What a happy sight!

In the afternoon, they played with the neighborhood kids after school--running around the yard, swinging, riding scooters, playing hopscotch. Sam helped me light the grill and begin dinner and then helped dh grill the chicken. We had a minor trauma at one point when Sam pinched his finger in the grill tongs, but we focused on all the good things that happened before it and got over it pretty well.

At dinner, we had a cool discussion about classical rhetoric and Ancient Greece. We talked about different rhetorical appeals used to persuade an audience--ethos, pathos and logos. We remembered different commercials and how they used the different rhetorical appeals and talked about how Kerry and Bush would be choosing their words very carefully in order to get people to vote for them. We also talked about our own word choices and how they affect those around us, what might be the most effective way to get what we want and how tone plays into that. Emily and Julia both asked about trying to persuade people to believe something that wasn't true, so we had a really cool discussion about ethics and discernment.

After dinner, dh and the kids played some more gameboy before the debates--hard to say who likes them more! During the debates, the kids and I all snuggled in bed to watch the debates. Emily and Julia watched nearly all of the debates with me, though Em paid closer attention. She's quite intriqued by politics and loves watching the different speeches with me. She noticed how much Bush paused and stumbled compared to John Kerry--a pretty astute observation for a 7 year old, huh?