Saturday, January 31, 2009

I snapped a picture of the delivery truck the last time we had our oil tank filled.

Norah has spent some time learning about the Arctic and Eskimos. I found something very interesting. Eskimos obviously had no wood to burn... where would they find it on the arctic tundra, after all? So, they'd burn fat from the animals they hunted as heating fuel.

Knowing this, makes me much more humble about our huge, old, but ever faithful oil tank in the corner of our basement. The tacky paint on it used to bother me, but really, it doesn't anymore. I realize the only thing I need to do to receive our heating oil is give the delivery service a credit card number. I never even have to open our front door, let alone make the house smell like burning animal fat just to keep warm.

For windows (which were necessary to see if an angry polar bear happened to be coming around, looking for the source of BBQ smell) they'd use even thinner pieces of ice!

And, when the Eskimos didn't have fat to burn, they'd depend on more layers of furs or animal skins to retain their precious body heat. Right now, I'm wearing an old, threadbare t-shirt looking out what, all of sudden, seem like obscenely large thermal windows. There's a thick layer of snow on the ground, icicles hanging from the edge of our roof...

I am so much more pampered than I thought I was.

Friday, January 30, 2009

J is for Junk Drawer, too.

That's what we call it, but the stuff in this drawer really isn't junk at all. It's all the little things we need to have on hand that just don't go anywhere else. And, believe it or not, this is organized. It looked much worse, would barely even close a few weeks ago, before I got the urge to clean it out.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Egg Carton Memory Game

I saw a version of this game at a toy store and got the idea. That egg carton was plastic and it had little round barnyard animals in the sections. The manufacturer was charging somewhere between ten and twenty bucks for it.

Sometimes I'll see things like this for sale and say to myself, "I can make that!" But, I usually don't end up making whatever it is I am talking about. However, this time I actually did!

I saved an egg carton and used little things I have have around to go in the sections: pom pom animals we've made: too fragile to play with usually, but just right for this game, an empty bobbin, a ceramic heart, a glass rock, a spare key, a piece of candy, etc. You are supposed the move the pieces around, practicing your memory.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I was watching a documentary about US Presidents and learned the origin of the Democratic party's symbol.

Opponents of his campaign called Andrew Jackson a "Jackass." He was an aggressive man, stubborn and would always have things his way, so he was flattered by the comparison and adopted the symbol for his entire party and it stuck.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

When Norah was two years old and just learning to color, I had to wrap her little hand around each crayon and place her tiny fingers on the tip just so. Then I had to squeeze her hand gently but firmly and guide her crayon around the page for a moment or two, coloring with her. This was painstaking and she didn't enjoy my guidance.

After a while, I'd let go and let her color by herself. She'd hold the crayon correctly for a little while, but then she'd switch her grip and go back to an incorrect hold. Depending on what I was doing at the time and so as not to take all the fun out of coloring, I'd let her color incorrectly for a moment or two, just enjoying putting marks on the paper.

But, eventually, I'd start the process over again. I'd place the crayon back in her hand the right way and hold it there while we colored together again. Then I'd let her color alone.

We did this from the beginning, every time she colored in her coloring books. It ended up being worth the effort. After six months, she was holding her crayon perfectly. She never even thought to hold it wrong. When the time came for her to switch to markers for art or pencils for school work, she never had trouble holding those correctly. She could focus on drawing what she wanted or learning her letters, because she'd been holding her crayons right for years.

"Teach a child from the beginning to hold a pencil correctly. Draw lots of circles and loops in a counterclockwise direction. Most printed letters use counterclockwise circles; although many children will want to draw circles clockwise, this habit will make cursive writing difficult later on."

-Excerpt from The Well Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home

Monday, January 26, 2009

made this marshmallow train much earlier in the school year. This is a craft preschool kids can do themselves with only a little guidance.

When she did this, Norah was just starting to learn how to follow the teacher's instructions, move in her space (without knocking all her materials off the table), etc. So, it was challenging enough for her at the time and a fun activity for younger students, especially those who love trains.

Marshmallow Train

Large marshmallows
Pretzel Sticks
Round cereal, such as Cheerios or Fruit Loops
Peanut Butter

Have kids connect the marshmallows (train cars) with the pretzel sticks. Make the train as long as you want. Dip the cereal pieces (wheels) and a short piece of licorice (smoke snack) into the peanut butter and attach them to the appropriate places on the train. You can practice counting the train cars, wheels, etc. then let them eat the train when they are done with it!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

These photos were taken several years ago at Brevard Zoo, not far from where Dwayne's parents live in Florida.

Giraffes are the tallest living land animals. Females usually have tufts of hair sticking off their horns, making them look a little funny. Males' horns are usually larger and bare, since they use their heads in battle and the hair rubs off the horns with the force and friction of the blows they deliver. Females live in groups while full-grown males usually live alone, challenging other males for mating rights to the group of females.

The males in the bottom picture were fighting or "necking" the day I visited the zoo, so I snapped a picture of them. They'd lean their body weight into each other and throw their heads all the way back and to the side, taking turns smacking each other upside the body. It was painful to watch since their heads made a unbelievably loud "Pop!" when they hit. I was surprised at how flexible and tough their necks proved to be. This match went on longer than I could stand and watch, but overall, I think the fight I witnessed was pretty tame, since I looked online and found footage of a much more aggressive standoff that included kicks.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Earlier today, Dwayne told Norah to “Pick up the pace!”

She was standing on top of her dirty pajamas, chattering away and taking way too long to get her regular clothes on for the day, etc.

She didn't want to be in trouble with her dad, so she bent down to pick it up, but realized she didn't know what he was talking about...

“Which one? Where's the pace? Dad, which one's the pace?!”

Friday, January 23, 2009

J is for Jumping

Norah likes to jump on my Bosu. I didn't foresee it when I bought this for myself, but it gives her as much exercise (or more) than it gives me.

Norah - "I am so sad for Grandma Karen and Grandpa Herb..."

Me - "Why, Honey?"

Norah - "They never get hot chocolate."

Norah said this last night after hearing her dad and I talking about the fact that it never snows in Florida where his parents live.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

is of Icing

Strawberry icing with sprinkles, to be exact. Against my better judgment, I let Norah choose her own breakfast. After two bites, you can already see the crazed, sugar-glazed look in her eyes.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The pictures below show some of the activities Norah has been doing this week while learning about the weather makers: sun, wind, clouds and rain.

We filled a vase with water and are marking the evaporation with rubber bands, discussing, on a very basic level, the different states of water.

We used a cotton ball and a cup of water to demonstrate how clouds get too heavy with water and make rain or other types of precipitation.

To further explain how clouds form, what they are made of, etc. I found this helpful website and clicked on the label leading to the page about "clouds."

We used more cotton balls to demonstrate the different shapes of clouds. We discussed how clouds will often change shape when parts of them dry or shift with the wind. Norah wanted to make a cloud shaped like a flower and illustrate a picture around it.

One morning, I caught Norah using her Doodle Pro before breakfast, drawing a picture of our house in a rain storm.

We also made a "cloud" out of a few squirts of shaving cream on a cookie sheet and practiced forming numbers along with her teacher on the DVD.

The patchwork quilt Norah slept under as an infant.

"For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."

-President Barack Obama

An excerpt from his Inaugural Address earlier today.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A coloring page of Martin Luther King Jr. Norah is in the process of finishing. In addition to her regular lessons today, Norah and I found this picture and watched his famous speech online to celebrate the holiday.

"In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men - yes, black men as well as white men - would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'"

-Martin Luther King Jr.

This is an excerpt
from his famous speech now titled "I Have a Dream" given in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the historic civil rights march on our nation's capital in 1963. The march was the largest peaceful protest in the history of our nation. People came to show their support for the Civil Rights Act that, once passed by congress the next year, made the racial segregation and discrimination going on in certain states illegal.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Today's a day of rest, quite literally.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Norah and I made some peanut butter cookies tonight. After her dad saw them, the conversation went something like this:

Dwayne- "Seriously. Those are about the most perfect cookies I've ever seen."

Me- "Yeah. They did turn out real well... but that's because Norah was supervising." (This is when I patted her head and smiled. Obviously, I was being a little sarcastic.)

Speaking to her dad with a very serious face, Norah-

"Really, Dad. I did do most of the licking."
I have often laughed with other moms about the fact that raising kids can cause you to begin substituting words like "bathroom" with less refined vocabulary like "potty," even in your conversations with other adults. And, these days, it is pretty common for me to find crayons to write out the grocery list long before finding an ink pen.

I noticed two other things said and done around the house today that only really make sense in the context of our life with a four year old and if taken alone, are quite absurd and hilarious.

"Can you help me put her butt on?"

Needless to say, without the picture, it would make no sense that my daughter ever even had reason to ask me this specific question.

"You left your wand in here again!
Please come get it and put it with your boa!"

This is just one more thing I never thought I'd say to my daughter even once, let alone five times a day like I do now. But, with a little girl who likes to dress up like a princess to do everything, even school work, anything goes!

H is for Hat

Norah's current lessons are covering some of our most celebrated, identifiable presidents. On the day we covered Abraham Lincoln, we made a simple top hat that he is famous for wearing. She had fun wearing it during the lessons and a little later, for dress up... until it ripped apart.

This was as simple as it looks to make. I cut the shape of a top hat and two eight inch strips out of a piece of black construction paper. Then, I stapled the two strips to the front of the hat, fitted the strips to Norah's head briefly, then stapled the strips together before I let her slide it on. The hat didn't last long, but I didn't mind that because it will be so easy to make again, if Norah ever wants another one to play with.

G is for Games

If we made a pie graph of our days, the time we spend playing games would represent a healthy slice anyway. But, that has been especially true of the last few days. Norah and I have been spending a lot of time on my bed under our thickest blankets playing Match Up.

Besides the fact that I haven't been sleeping at night, making me feel like resting during the day anyway, the cable guys were here this week. They worked all day for two days, going in and out of the house, letting the cold wind in and all the heat out. They installed our new cable and had to replace wires all the way from the pole on the street, through our floor and walls, to the outlet behind our television in an effort to set up the new service.

So, under the blankets on my bed has been the only warm place in the house! Norah's willingness to play this game with me has been such a blessing. I laugh at her because she will say "Yes!" and throw her fist in the air anytime she wins.

This is a picture of Norah listening to the tape I made for her late Tuesday night. She seems to enjoy this Tape Time and asks to listen at least once a day, often more. It does my heart good when I hear her giggling, repeating or singing in response to the cues on the tape. And, I may be imagining it, but she seems to be more contemplative the last few days, even a little distracted sometimes, like she is thinking about something. I've also noticed she needs much less coaching when it is time to do a chore that I mentioned on the tape! So, I think the messages are getting into her head. I hope they are blessing her and helping to mold her precious little heart.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Norah and I went for a walk on our neighborhood's golf course yesterday. It's wooded and left wild along the outside edges of its fairways and the course is located right next to a large reservoir.

The famous educator Charlotte Mason encouraged students of nature to visit and observe the same wild places throughout the year, studying how the plants there will change from one season to another. We've explored several more remote places around the state, but I haven't found it practical enough to visit any of the same locations more than once or twice a year, especially since many state parks and their trails close for the winter. So, I am resolved to make our "wild places" the ones in our own neighborhood, hoping that will make our visits more frequent and practical.

I rigged Norah's sled with a jump rope so I could pull her behind me on top of the frozen snow. It worked well, but she didn't want to ride the entire time. She really enjoyed having the freedom to run far ahead of me on the deserted course, exploring the tree line and sledding down the gentle slopes on the fairways again and again.

You can see from the pictures above that one tree lost two large branches from the weight of the ice that covered them during the recent frozen rain. But, my favorite picture is the last. From far away, I saw a flowering bush that sparkled like a crystal chandelier. But, when I got close enough to inspect it, I saw that unbelievably large, solid chunks of ice were dangling from all the delicate, dry blossoms that covered the bush.

The ice chunks like the one in the picture above must have formed when the thinner sheets of ice that covered the stems and blossoms started to melt, moving tiny drops downward, but then freezing them again before they ever reached the ground and repeating this process over and over. You can almost see gravity pulling the water molecules downward. But, behold the amazing cohesive and adhesive properties of water! The water molecules are clinging to one another while also gripping the last, tiny parts of the blossoms for dear life!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

All my leaves have fallen,
and all the world can see
where I hid my little nest
safe, within this tree.

All my leaves have fallen,
and yet, another year,
when I have need to hide my nest,
the leaves will reappear.

-Ruth Bell Graham

Tape Time

The teaching of kindness is on her tongue... or is it on her tapes?

I believe I got this idea from the blog Preschoolers and Peace, originally. The homeschooling mom who writes it says she records messages for her children on tape, anything she wants them to know, and then makes them sit aside and listen.

She says that this "Tape Time" serves to keep at least one of her several children occupied for while, so she can work with another child without as many interruptions. But, more importantly, she says the tapes strengthen listening skills and remind her kids of all the little, but very important things she is trying to teach them. It sounded like a good idea to me, so I recorded Norah's first tape tonight.

Before I started, I typed a rough outline to help me organize my thoughts and remember the things I wanted to say. It may seem silly, but I also had to wait till my husband was in bed before I started recording. For some reason, recording with him in the room felt too awkward. I think I would have looked at him and that would have caused me to start laughing. I have no doubt he will hear the tape, now that it is finished, but that doesn't bother me for some reason.

I will include an outline of my message to Norah below, if you are interested in reading it. Maybe it will give other moms, like me (or other grandmothers, like ours... Hint, Hint) some ideas to use for their own "Tape Time."


I started with basic instructions on how to use the tape player, which button Norah needed to use to pause, play or stop the tape. I warned her to never to press the record button, etc.

I talked to Norah about discipline first. I explained to her that, "Your dad and I love you and that is why we discipline you when you do things that are wrong." I didn't give the specific Bible references, since I felt they were unnecessary, but I used the same tone and several texts from the book of Proverbs. I said that the Bible tells parents, “Discipline your daughter and she will give you peace. Your daughter will be a delight to your soul, if you discipline her." I told her she was, in fact, "a delight to our souls."

Next, I thanked her for being a good helper. I found another Bible verse that instructs people to "Offer help to each other without complaining" and says that "Each person should use whatever talents he has to serve other people." I praised her for the good attitude she has when she is asked to do things within her power to help us around the house. Then, I sang her the song "Make me a Servant."

I listed several things I'd like her to start (or continue) helping with around the house, including reminding me to brush her hair everyday. As obvious as this must be to other moms, it is something I often overlook and now that Norah is old enough, I think she can help me remember to get the tangles out of her hair before they get out of control. I also asked her to do things like clean the paste off the sides of the sink and put her step stool away when she is done brushing her teeth, asked her to stay closer to me in crowded places, talked to her about strangers, and the dangers of water even now that she is learning to swim, etc.

I listed the things I like about her and the things I like to do with her, my favorite being snuggling, reading and then falling asleep. I recited some of the memory verses she has to learn for AWANA and talked to her about what they mean. The club motto for the kids her age is "Jesus Loves Me" so I sang that song to her as well. Finally, I went over several phonics pages from her Handbook for Reading that I know she can use extra practice with.

I plan to use the tape with her tomorrow. We will see how it goes!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Norah drew this family portrait on her dry erase board last night. I asked where her baby sister was. In previous pictures you can see the baby in my stomach. She assured me that I was pregnant in the picture, "You just can't see the baby cause your shirt and skin is over it." So, now her art work is taking on more realism. But, if that's the case, what is she trying to say about the size of my head... or her dad's?

Monday, January 12, 2009

F is for Football

Dwayne watched the playoff game between the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants on Sunday. The Eagles won 23 to 11. They will play the Cardinals next Sunday. The last time those two teams were matched up, the Eagles won the game by a long shot as well.

My husband grew up in Pennsylvania, so he usually roots for his home teams, whatever the sport. Dwayne doesn't watch a lot of sports, in general, which I appreciate. But, this time of year it's fun to watch, even for me, because the Superbowl is fast approaching. And, isn't every American a football fan on that day?

Here's a bit of trivia for you Eagles fans.

The Eagles got their mascot from the symbol used for the NRA, National Recovery Administration, one part of FDR's New Deal that was eventually ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court. But, the name has stuck since that time in the 1930's.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

This is a recent photo of snow covered logs on our wood pile in the backyard.
I wonder how may insects are hiding there.

Where do insects go in the winter?

I've heard and seen the footage of the millions of monarch butterflies migrating south for the winter. It's awe inspiring. But, I've been wondering where all the other insects go this time of year.

I did some reading and found out that there are quite a few insects who travel to warmer places to wait out the winter, just like the monarchs. But, most insects prefer to stay put where they are and do some interesting work in order to survive the oncoming cold.

Insects are cold blooded, meaning their internal temperatures fall (or rise) with temperatures outside. So, the winter presents them with unique dangers. Just as the water in ponds or lakes will freeze, any water that is inside an insects' bodies could freeze, too. If it did, it would expand, like water always does when it freezes, and at some point, the newly formed ice crystals inside the insects' bodies would literally tear their six legs off their bodies from the inside out.

But, to get around this fact of nature, insects do an awesome trick. They reduce the amount of water inside their bodies and replace it with a substance called glycerol that has many of the same attributes as antifreeze. That's right. Insects make their own antifreeze! Who knew?!

For extra protection from the cold, insects will also do something like burrow into the ground under layers and layers of fallen leaves. As the snow falls thicker over those leaves on the ground, insects will be even more insulated there as the weather gets more harsh above them. Many insects also prefer to hide in, between or under empty logs within something like a cocoon they build to insulate themselves even more from the cold. In these hiding places, insects rest, much like bears hibernate, until the temperatures outside are warm enough and there is enough new vegetation growing in the spring for them to survive on again.

So, like me, insects are hiding away "indoors," snuggling up to stay warm this winter. And, just when I feel like it is warm enough to venture back outdoors in the spring, the insects will begin thawing out and they will be ready to greet me there.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Consider creating a picture file.

Today I cut the twelve pictures off a calendar we received in the mail from our insurance company. The calendar had vivid prints of a family of white wolves, a polar bear, a bay seal, a moose, a mountain lion, etc. I mounted each picture to construction paper and labeled them. I plan to take them to the local teacher's store to have them laminated, then add them to a large plastic file folder where I keep the other pictures we've collected.

My mom started this picture file when I was in kindergarten more than twenty years ago. She was in college getting her master's degree in elementary education at the time. My dad helped her with her school work at the dinner table in the evenings. When I was capable, they'd let me help, too, so her education often seemed like something we all participated in. I have memories of my dad cutting and mounting, cutting and mounting hundreds of photos out of stacks and stacks of magazines like National Geographic. My mom gave me this picture file last year and I have enjoyed adding to it as often as I can. I loved to look at the pictures when I was growing up and it seems like Norah loves it, too.

E is for Eric

He's Norah's main squeeze. The photo above is a portion of another coloring page Norah finished in her princess coloring book. Notice that this time she colored a beard on him to make him look more like her dad. So sweet!

is for Dwayne

My husband. My best friend. The most Christ-like person I know. Attentive father. Provider. Protector. Affectionate. Passionate. Gentle. Capable. Brilliant! Witty...