Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Special guest teachers

Today, to my great delight, we had a couple of guests to help us out with school:  Nonna and Poppa!  They were Super-Grands for us -- not only providing education and entertainment for the kids, but some much-appreciated help for me.  In my ideal world, Poplar Streams Academy would have 3 teachers, to cover all the ages and stages -- and today we not only had that, but some extra bonuses as well....

My mom took Colsen to the library, which he was thrilled with.  Extra bonus:  she picked up a book I had on hold there, and checked out some books for the kids.  Nothing like fresh library books in the house!

She also read to the kids a book about different kinds of birds.  Extra bonus:  During that time I was able to make lunch without having to answer the "what are we having?" question 14 times, and without having any kids climbing on the counters or anyone trying to "help."
In the pictures above, Miles is obviously not wearing any clothes... because they had gotten wet when he was helping with an earlier activity...

washing and waxing the van:
Dad thought it would be a good idea to teach Strider the value of hard work, and strengthen the ol' work ethic, so the 2 of them not only did the outside of the van, but also vacuumed out the inside, too!  Extra bonus:  a spotless car for us!

What a blessing this morning was to this haggard teacher.  Thanks, Super-Grands!

Since I wasn't totally spent by mid-afternoon, as I usually would be, we were able to have a little fun "science" time after Nonna and Poppa left --  microwaving soap.  Here are a couple pics from that experience, but for the full account, see here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More Conversations with Colsen

 Pete:  You should have seen Colsen at the pool today -- I was throwing him up in the air and he went really high.
Me:  Colsen, were you scared??
Colsen:  No, I knew the lifeguard was there and was watching me if I drowned.
Strider:  What if the lifeguard wasn't watching because she was talking to someone else?
Colsen:  I wish my lifeguard was a spider because they have those big eyes that can see a bunch of directions, so even if he was talking to someone else, he could still see me!

Colsen:  Can I put baby powder on me?
Strider:  Why would you want to do that?
Colsen:  Because it smells good.  It makes a person smell like a candle.

Colsen:  Mom, guess what my job is.
Me:  Ummmm, are you a carpenter?
Colsen:  No...
Me:  A fireman?
Colsen:  No...
Me: A teacher?
Colsen:  No....
[This went on for quite awhile as I asked him if he was a doctor, a sewer-cleaner, a chef, a rescuer, a policeman, etc., etc.  Finally he interrupted me...]
Colsen:  Actually I tricked you!  I'm allll of those things!  I'm a builder and a rescuer and I help people and do all that kind of stuff because I'm like a James Bond kind of person..
Me: Wait- - what?  A James Bond person?  How do you know who he is??

(I'm assuming he heard about him from Strider -- but I didn't know Strider knew anything about him either.  Quite a mystery)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Babies in college

Before Rayna was born, I made a little photo collage of some of her cousins' baby pictures.  It is still hanging in her room, above the changing table, which is now used by Miles. 

Yesterday as I was getting Milo dressed, we were looking at the pictures and I was particulary struck by the babies in the 4 pictures above.  Those cute little munchkins are now at Michigan Tech, Cornell University, University of North Dakota, and the Naval Academy!  (And one is engaged, for goodness sake!) 

It's certainly not a new concept that time goes fast... but at moments like this, it sure hits home for me.  I met these oldest nephews/niece when they were just little toddlers -- and now they're all taller than me (some of them by quite a bit!). 

I'm thankful for the front-row seat I have had watching them grow up!  We're very proud of all of them.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Step 1 on the journey to Moldova

The kids' passports arrived yesterday!  Now we're (supposedly) all ready to be globe-trotters.

I think these are just the cutest passport photos I've ever seen.  :)
(They were told to stay very serious for the pictures!)

So the first thing on our "To Do Before Leaving for Moldova" list is now crossed off.  Actually, the first 3 things are crossed off:
1. Have kids' photos taken for passports
2. Go to post office for passport appointment
3. Receive passports in the mail.

We're really cruising down that list!

Too bad it has approximately 643 things on it.

Off to start # 4:  Figure out how to get to Moldova.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sunflower seeds

Last week we went to our friends' house (which also happens to be the location of our community garden).  The sunflowers in the garden were done blooming so we were invited over to do a project with the seeds!

First we found the flower heads which still had seeds (many had been gotten to by the birds first).  Carefully the kids pulled out all the seeds.

Once we had a good pile of them, we pulled out any of the debris we could easily see.

Then we did the old-fashioned method for separating the chaff from the seeds:  threw them up in the air!

Afterwards we took what was left and made little seed packets to plant next year.

Ah the circle of life!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Occam's Razor doesn't cut it when you're living with kids

In general, ever since I first heard of Occam's Razor, which popularly suggests that we should tend towards the explanations that are simpler when trying to understand the cause of some phenomenon, I have seen how it can apply in many aspects of life.  However, considering that the heuristic's orginator, William of Ockham was a Franciscan friar, I think we can assume he did a lot of his concluding without the company of little children.  Speaking now as one who has to do much of my concluding with kids underfoot, I feel that Occam's Razor has no real place as a guiding principle here in my home.

For example, if I go to the rack where I keep my car keys and find that they are missing, Occam's Razor might tell me that I should go back and look in the place where I last had them -- that would involve the simple explanation for finding them again.  But, the fact is I am actually much more likely to find them in the bottom dresser drawer in my 4-year old's room, where they ended up being tossed after he was playing "janitor" or "bus driver" or some other such game.  Or perhaps I should look in the crayon box in the office where my 2-year old might have put them to construct a fun-sounding musical instrument.  Or maybe they are now in my 9-year old's play purse, lodged now under her bed, after she used them to try and turn on her Leapster.

If Ockam wanted to construct a "razor" to cut away all the unnecessary assumptions or excessively complicated false theories, I think we who live with young children need to adopt our own method of arriving at the truth.  I call this new theorem Mama's OscillatorAs the fast-turning blade of a fan causes all objects in its path to scatter in multiple directions, so does living with kids cut a wide swath of possibilities into the events of our days.

Consider the following examples:

1. If I look down and find a purple spot on the sleeve of my shirt, what has happened?

Occam's Razor's answer:  Perhaps I spilled grape jam on it while I was eating a sandwich.

Mama's Oscillator's answer:  Perhaps my 9-year old rubbed her bloody finger on my sleeve, which already had a blueberry stain on it from when the 2-year old was snacking as he sat on my lap.  (Red + blue = purple!)

2.  If I find marker on the wall and the marker box open on the floor, what has just happened?

Occam's Razor's answer:  The 2-year old who is marker-crazy somehow got his hands on the marker box and proceed to write on the wall.

Mama's Oscillator's answer:  The 11-year old was interested in tracing the shadows of his siblings on the wall.  He swears it's washable.... followed by the words, "at least I think it is..."

3.  If I can't find the cutting board I keep in a specific cabinet, where is it?

Occam's Razor's answer:  Check the dishwasher.  And if it's not there, check the other cabinets because someone probably put it in the wrong place.

Mama's Oscillator's answer:  Check the closet in the boys' bedroom upstairs to see if got stashed there after they were using it to "sled" down the stairs.  Or check under the bed in the other bedroom in case they slid it under there after they used it as a ramp to race their matchbox cars.

The thing about Mama's Oscillator is that we are truly given permission, nay even encouraged, to truly think outside the box.  Simplicity flies out the window -- along with anything else not nailed down.

And even without the use of Occam's sharp razor to help us through these mysteries of life, we can be assured that life is never dull!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Recent conversations

As we were driving Colsen to his day of Cousins Camp, I heard Rayna in the backseat saying, "Colsen, now make sure you're very obedient to Nonna and Poppa.  And make sure you're kind to everyone, and take care of everyone, and give them hugs and all that.  You be loving, ok, Colsen?"And then, after we dropped him off, as we were driving away, Rayna sighed and said, "Awwww.... we're going to miss Colsen today." 
I love that big sister!

Miles is in the learning-about-pronouns stage of language development.  He consistenly says, "Hold you!" when he wants us to pick him up, and "Help you!" when he wants some help.  (I love it when he asks me to "hold you," so I never end up correcting him.)  The other night, I saw him very slowly and deliberately say, "Help me" and I thought we may have just had a break-through!  Then I realized he was coming to help me make the bed, thereby proving he has it all competely backwards.  (but still oh so cute)


Colsen came running into the house one morning recently.  Jabbering a mile a minute, he yelled, "Guess what! I just saw a reptile or an amphibian or something! I looked over at the fence, and I couldn't believe my eyes! I saw a tail and a flat thing, and I think it was a lizard or something!" 
I love the eyes of wonder in a little child.


I was trying to get Colsen eat some peas one night.  I told him that if he held his nose, he wouldn't taste them.  He had a better solution, though, which he yelled as he ran out of the room: "If I don't even open my mouth, I won't taste them at all!"

Strider and I were discussing how carefree and innocent it feels to be a child -- but he insisted his life was not all carefree after all. "What do you have to worry about?" I asked him. Without missing a beat, he said, "The growing national debt."
But then he followed it up with, "Just kidding. Don't put that on the blog!"

One night when Strider had a friend over, I was trying to write something and I asked them for some help.  "What's a word that starts with "M" and means really great?" I asked.
"Magnificent!" Strider answered.
"Mom!" his friend answered.
That friend needs to come over and play more often!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Poplar Streams Academy is back in session

The temperature this week has dipped -- yesterday it didn't even get higher than the 80's! --making us think maybe it was actually just about Fall time, so it was perfect for our "back to school" week.

Our first official day of the 2011-2012 school year was yesterday (Tuesday), so on Monday night we had our traditional "Treasure Hunt" in which the kids hunted around (and destroyed) the living room, looking for all the new treaures we'd be using this year.

 One of the biggest hits was the new electric pencil sharpener.    (I'm pretty sure Cole and Milo view it as an instrument for a science experiment:  how many things can be inserted in the little hole before either it or Mom blows up?)

Afterwards, Pete gave a little impromptu lesson (using the new blow-up globe) on the geography of Europe, and specifically Moldova, so the kids can better understand where we'll be going in a few months.
Then it was off to bed.... where the kids jumped around like monkeys instead of getting a nice head-start on the earlier, school-season bedtimes.

But they were bright and bushy-tailed the next morning anyway, all with school shirts donned, ready for the new schedule.  We tried to take our annual picture on the front steps, but no one was cooperating because apparently the sun was just sooooooo bright.
So we moved to the back patio, where Rayna tried to get everyone situated, and led a little chant.

After we said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang a few songs...

... we we were ready to start the academic stuff.  Don't I have such cute students?
The school day went well... everyone learned something I think!
.... and the little boys got plenty of playtime in, too.  Colsen came to me right before lunch in this get-up, with some story about how he was a policeman and had to carry all the gear to help him rescue people.
We like to encourage imagination and creativity at Poplar Streams Academy!
If anyone wants to see more of how I'm trying to be organized for this school year, including a description of what this document is,
feel free to check out this page.  More details about our schooling philosophies, etc, can also be found here.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Birthday girl

Yesterday we celebrated Rayna's 9th birthday, and true to form, she thought everything was AWESOME!

She loved her gifts:

She loved the breakfast Strider helped make for her-- French toast sticks.

She loved that we sang one of her favorite songs at church ("Oh no, you never let go!")

She loved getting all the phone messages from cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and great-grandmother, and cards from relatives and friends!

She loved her playtime at Monkey Joe's:

She loved her cake:
(It was supposed to resemble a sunflower... but per usual, my creations never quite come out right.  I was on the phone with a good friend while I was making it, so that's my excuse.)

And, she loved having friends over!

Our friends now have 4 kids almost exactly our kids' ages, so it a lot of fun playing with them.  Plus, I get a kick out of our name-overlaps... They have an Aimee and a Rayna in their family, too!

Here are 2 Amy's, 2 Rayna's, and a Molly:

All in all, I'd say it was a perfect day for our sweet Rayna!

(And Milo thought the cake was pretty good, too)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cousins Camp, Session 2011:C

Friday was Colsen's big debut at Cousins Camp!  Mom and Dad were very brave this year, initiating Colsen, Branson, and Kai altogether.  They spent the day together.... here's Cole's version:
 Me:  So, Cole, tell me about Cousins Camp!
Colsen:  I went to Discovery Place and I saw a fire engine, and there was a 40-inch, I mean 40-foot, slide, and it was really fun, and then I went to the ice cream store and got some ice cream, and I went to the Drescher's house and you came to pick me up.

Me:  Were you a little nervous at the beginning?
Colsen:  Yeah, I was a little scared because I was gonna miss you.

Me:  But it ended up being a fun day, right?  Tell me something else you saw at Discovery Place.
Colsen: There was a big car, but they took out all the oil and all the gas, and they took out the motor, and they hid the key so we couldn't drive it.

Me:  What else did you like?
Colsen:  I liked the real boat, too.  It was real.

Me:  Did you have fun with your cousins?
Colsen:  Yeah.  Branson has big muscles, but I don't know if they're bigger than mine.  Are they?

Me:  What kind of ice cream did you get?
Colsen:  I got 2 kinds -- peach and vanilla, and I put reese's sprinkles, m&m's, chocolate chips, and sprinkles on it.  But then I couldn't eat it all and I gave it to Poppa and said, "This is too much, I'm going to get sick" and I had a sad face and my eyes were a little closed.  No, not really.  Actually Poppa told us to hurry up and to only eat 2 more bites.  No I'm just kidding.

Me:  Cole, you're telling me different stories.  How am I going to know what's real?
Colsen:  OK!  None of it.  I didn't have ANY ice cream!
Me:  Yes, you did.  Alright, moving on.

Colsen:  When am I going to get to go back to Cousins Camp??  When??  When??

I'm glad Mom and Dad took some pictures.... It looks like it was a wild day!