Friday, 31 August 2007

IHE Not Back to School Carnival

My wee tot always gets wet. Thank you to Gookins Christine for taking these sweet pictures. I have camera envy. :)

Iowa Home Educators organized this event. They are a homeschooling group that is all inclusive; we all get together and the kids go nuts.

I wished that we could have stayed for the after party, but the carnival was a good time too. ;)

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Today's Harvest Picture

Check it out! 2 pumpkins! Whoo Hoo! AND those bell peppers? The size of my small child's head. They are awesome.


This morning we attempted a 1 mile walk around a local lake. We got there early but thought we were late. I forgot to pack water bottles and thought geesh, it's 65 degrees out and only a mile....we'll be fine, we'll park by the playground, and end up there in an hour.

Right. As we passed the parking area that we were supposed to have parked at had we gotten the time right, we noticed the now parked there vehicle of one of the moms. Gah. We could see them ahead, but the wind was just right that they could not hear our "yeowing" or see our frantic excited hand waiving.

We ran. We paused. We panted. We walked fast. We paused. We panted. Lil'Bug pointed out that now they were WAAAAAY ahead of us. At some point we could also see them at the playground; we were at the first 1/4 mile marker.

I gave up and sat down. Those of you who know me know that I've been battling the blues lately, the mean blues. I laid down in the grass and looked up at the blue blue sky. Yup. A turkey vulture was circling.

Lil'Bug sat next to me and pointed out the spiderweb on the bridge iron, the turtle swimming just beneath the water's surface, and the really big frogs everywhere.

I miss these things while we are busting ourselves to try and catch up with everyone else. It took us three (YES 3) hours to walk the rest of the way. Turns out it is TWO (2) miles around the lake and the 65 degrees was quickly 95. A kind jogger lady saw us (and likely overheard me telling my sister on the phone) and reported to the park ranger that a small woman and her helpless tot were about to become dehydrated road jerky at mile marker 1.75.

We were soon after driven by golf cart to the nearest water fountain and lectured on being prepared with water bottles. Humph. As we walked back to the car, Lil'Bug saw the playground. I told her if she was too tired to walk there (not carried) then it wasn't safe to play. She took off running. How???? Where do kids get it???? I want some.

While I didn't meet up with my mom friend, the walk, almost killing me, lifted some of those mean blues. I think I can see the forest for the trees now.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

She Has Your Eyes

When a car cuts me off, speeding on the freeway, I don't curse at the driver. I make a conscious effort try to hold back the curses instead of throwing them out into the world. Why? That driver may be on his way to the hospital to meet his baby in the NICU or say goodbye to his wife at the airport or any number of things that are pretty important. I pray safe passage for that traveler. I apply this to many things: moms having a rough day with their kids, rude people, etc. I try to see it in a different way and pass on good tidings to them instead of it making me grumpy.


Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about children + TV. Help me out here. At x family dining experience we saw a mom put a portable DVD player in front of her three year old (only child with them) as they sat down. It was on through the entire meal. They handed him food instead of giving him a plate and letting him eat. Really, that makes sense with the expensive electronic parent on the table. No one talked through the entire meal, not to baby, not to each other. It was painful to watch. Tell me there is a medical reason to plug a child in to Elmo while eating out? I need something to stop the cursing. Right now all I could think of was a prayer for a spilled drink and that's not very nice.

The whole thing has me thinking again of pitching our TV or locking it in a closet, but we use it as a tool not a parent. Sometimes it is nice to cuddle with Lil'Bug and watch Beauty and the Beast.

Oh, and funny unrelated tidbit: Lil'Bug declared at the end of Sunday night dinner (baked fish, squash, green beans, and carrots), "That was nice Mom. It tasted like hot feet."

From the mouths of babes. Next time, less Slap Yo' Mama. :)

Friday, 24 August 2007

One of Those Days

Have you ever had one of those days? You know those days? The kind of day where you come home from the (insert activity here) and the dishes are not done and are two days expired in the sink, someone (likely you) forgot to put the washed clothes in the dryer and now they are also stinky expired, the trash needed to go out and your dog (with the cat helping) tried to do it for you, vomit, kid decided she wants to splash in puddles in the living room (in not water), and then on top of it all you've been cranky and blew up at your best friend so now she's not just mad, she's actually decided not to be your friend anymore ever (much like the Jr. High drama that you thought you'd left behind, you know, like 20 years ago) so you don't have anyone to vent to, bring you tea, or lend comfort in a rough time.....and then when you vent to your dearest husband he tells you to deal with it and reminds you, in the most loving caring way, all of the above is of your own making?

You know, one of those days.

I am having a week like that. So, my brilliant idea was to post this and ask for anyone who reads this to share YOUR most rottenest day. I'd like some company in my misery. :)

"maintenance" free

The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.
Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless
You know what this quote is really about? Vinyl siding. Or really anything else that claims to be "maintenance" free. It is one of the joys (hear my voice drop an octave and my eyes look sternly at you) of old house living: everything is repairable. The problem is really when it all needs it at the same time and it is all so minor that you cannot justify paying someone to do it nor find the time to actually do it yourself. Luckily we are not dealing with vinyl siding. Just lots and lots of rain and a cat.

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Top 10 People: Part 2

I've decided to do a different kind of top 10 people list. The inspiration hit me in the car last month driving to meet Mama B for berry picking. What occurred to me was that my homeschooling friends may not know how much they impacted my resolve to homeschool. They welcomed me into a wonderful community even though Lil'Bug is only 2.5 and most would think she is too young for school. I have difficulty making friends, but this group just let me slip in and suddenly I was part of the group!

But my inspiration really came from a stranger. I get asked a lot about homeschooling, and then challenged like this, "What makes you think you can do a better job than someone who spent 4 years in college learning about early education?" 1) I have three times the education/degrees as the typical K-12 teacher and 2) No they didn't. They spent likely 2 semesters worth of classes on specialized subject matter and got a B or better in their major. They only needed a C or better average in the rest. 3) Now this is the kicker, the best teachers I have ever known or had only, or barely, have a high school degree OR they flunked out of high school and went to college anyway. Seriously. It's not about generic assessment, it is about passion for learning.

So my top ten people impacting my home schooling right now are as follows:
1) My husband: He humors me most of the time, but is wholeheartedly and actively supporting Lil'Bug's education. He is the smartest most well read person I have ever met. He dropped out of high school 2 weeks before graduation and then completed his HS requirements at the local community college in less than that time.
2) Lil'Bug: One of the best teachers I have ever had. I learn so much from her everyday.
3) H. at minimemoirs: I am lucky I met her on one of the local boards. She really knows her stuff.
4) Mama B. makes a kickin' cup of tea and is the best listener. She is a stellar example of resourcefulness in homeschooling and resolve to start early. Her kiddos will thank her someday. We thank her now.
5) E. and the kids down the street. I was working on our neighborhood newsletter and googled the new family. Up came an article about "unschooling".....curious, I researched it. Then I got to know them. Amazing kids.
6) J. from my very first composition class. A homeschool kid with mad grammar skills and a natural leader. He was stuck on subject matter so I directed him to "unschooling" and a research project that compared his own experience of traditional religious method to the theory of unschooling. Neat. He was the first student in the class and the first to call me Professor ever. Then he became the college student newspaper's head editor, though I pushed him in that direction a little bit. Oh, wait, I thought homeschoolers couldn't get into college? :)
7) Montucky Rox. A woman and family member that I admire. We went to visit her and discovered that she had homeschooled and knew of John Holt. We even misplace our glasses the same way. Every time I connect with her we discover some other facet of connection.
8) The online community. Everyday I meet or connect with another family and get ideas and support from complete strangers. Like Amy at the Foil Hat or Needleroozer at Turtle Works or some lady named Christine who I thought was a local Christine until her icon popped up and it was not Christine but a blogger that I didn't know at Welcome to my Brain.....(see my blogroll for those links.)
9) All the rest of my family. We are lucky to have such support. I suspect that they really like that we travel as part of our learning!
10) Me. Can I say that? What comes down to the foundation of it all is that I know I can. I know it's right for all of us. My projected confidence and humor gets others to support us too. I do doubt myself sometimes, but I'm working on that. I'm the mom.

So who influences you? This isn't really a meme since I just came up with it and it's just a list. Should I tag someone? :)


I will apologize up front to the relatives who read this and still see me as a 6 year old girl. I'm going to talk about boobs. Don't read any further if that's going to upset you.

I've been reading over at Welcome to My Brain and pondering some of the comments and posts on lactivism. It was really sad when I began breastfeeding. We had to work so hard to get it to work for us and I did so under a blanket or hiding in a guest room. My first week home from the hospital I visited a friend (mistake # 1, should stay in bed after major surgery) and walking up the stairs to the guest room to sit on the floor to feed my newborn (standing up was mistake # 2) and then ending up in the ER because I had torn things internally. All because I felt an imposed shame, I could have died from internal bleeding. Who would have seen? A supportive mother friend who formula fed her kid. I have no idea why I felt the need to hide from her. It took me two years to finally get the confidence to breastfeed in public AND stand up for others doing so.

It's what they are for. I'm glad mine worked. I am also glad that women like Christine at WTMB work so hard to help normalize it visually. She has beautiful photos! My daughter often pretends to feed her babies (and recently the cat) her mommy milk. It is so sweet. It also reminds me that I worked really hard to give that to her and I wouldn't change a thing (except the stupidity that landed me in the ER). I feel bad for women who quit because they feel pressured to use formula or ashamed of the exposure, I can empathize. Been there, done that, but I didn't give in to peer pressure. I am blessed beyond measure to have a wonderful husband who encouraged me, drove me to the ER, and encouraged me some more. I could not have stood the front without his guard.

So that's my thank you for the day: to my dearest husband, thank you for being a great dad and husband. Thank you for facilitating breastfeeding our daughter. Thank you for everything.

Thank you and I am Sorry

I've been reading Lynn Truss's book Talk to the Hand; it is about modern manners and the disintegration of polite exchange between human beings. She contends that we establish personal boundaries by being polite. The chapters I just finished were about Thank You and I am Sorry.

My thoughts: I wish I was better at writing Thank You cards/notes. I love getting them, but I never remember to send them. I have 100+ cards in a drawer ready for use but I always forget. I try really hard to say thank you in person, face to face. I also try to show my gratitude in other way, like returning the favor or kindness or by random acts of kindness (to show my gratitude of life). Grateful people are happy people because the appreciate the small things and happy is contagious.

Sometimes it is hurtful when I do something really big and hard and the person doesn't say thank you. Every time I babysat as a teenager, if the kids were older, I would clean the kitchen and help the kids pick up their rooms. People like to come home to clean rather than chaos. As an adult, I decided the same was true for vacationing friends. My sister cleans house when she dog sits for us. It's nice. I love it. I do it for others. When they don't notice or say thank you, it hurts a little. I have to ground myself and remind the inner me that I didn't do it for the reward of a vocal "thank you", I did it to be nice.

However, I want my daughter to say thank you. I want her to learn gratitude and understand the work that goes in to seemingly small kindnesses.

I also want her to say I am Sorry and mean it. I am constantly apologizing for everything to people, "Sorry, I talked your ear off," "Sorry, I vomited on you," "Sorry, I didn't see you there!" AND the big, hard one, "I am sorry I hurt you or your feelings." This week had the realization that I can count on my fingers the times that someone has apologized TO me. Friends and family that is. Why is taking personal responsibility for your own actions so hard? Why is acknowledging the affect those actions/choices have on others so hard?

I started paying attention to how people apologize: "I am sorry you are hurt by what I said," is not the same as "I'm sorry I hurt you." or "I am sorry I said that."

Then I heard this, "Be the change you want to see...."

Ok. Here goes.

Berry Queen Blizzard

Oh wow. We had a blast today! The "pick your own" finally re-opened and they had red, red raspberries- Lil'Bug's favorite! Yum. We picked and picked and wore our selves out and then ate and ate. They had early apples too. It was a really good day. She learned all about what bugs are a problem for the plants and how to tell if the berry is ready to be picked. We tasted the varied shades of pink to red to purple. Yum.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Teaching Meme

I know that being tagged for something shouldn't make me so happy, but it does. It really does. Thank you Heather.

1. I am a good teacher because…I'm not. I have much to learn, but thankfully my student is the best teacher and I'm along for the ride.
2. If I were not a teacher I would be a…A teacher. I'm a college professor in my other life and it is what I wanted to do before Lil'Bug was in the picture.
3. My teaching style is…Right now, it is unschooling. It works for us. Perhaps when she demonstrates a need or desire for structure we will take on what she wants. Right now she learns best by exploring. If I had to name something closer to a method, she's Charlotte Mason leaning.
4. My classroom is…Life. The way we live is not typical, but we do a lot of things that encourage learning and hands on lessons.
5. My lesson plans are…all in my head. There are things day to day that I teach my little one. It takes a bit of common sense and planning to include her.
6. One of my teaching goals…To produce a thoughtful, resourceful child who loves learning as much as I do.
7. The toughest part of teaching is…learning to relax. I am so insecure sometimes and it doesn't take much for a comment to shake my confidence. Then it takes me too long to re-balance my confidence. I need to be the steady one for my Lil'Bug.
8. The thing I love about teaching is…EVERYTHING! I really do. I love engaging Lil'Bug. I also love creating confidence and accomplishment for my college students.
9. A common misconception about teaching is…that it is hard. It's hard work, but its not hard. I give the teaching back to the students and facilitate their learning. Like a surgeon's assistant handing the doc scalpel, string, Hotwheels, iodine, etc.....I am there to anticipate their needs and hand over the tools. You don't need a degree to do that for your own children, though you might for a classroom of strangers and you definitely need expertise (not necessarily schooling) for highly advanced levels.
10. The most important thing I have learned since I started teaching is…to be less judgemental and relaxed. I used to really get my spikes up when someone would say, "I could never do that!" about homeschooling, etc. I would want to say back to them about sending their kid to public school, etc., "I could never do that!" I would say, "It works for us," without really considering that they, too, do what works for them. I need to consider that they have researched their options and know their children well enough to make the decision for their own family. I'm quite sure that the judging we do to each other about everything is not helpful. Every single family does things their own way. If we start the stone throwing and nose holding then the idea of community is next to impossible. What do we teach our kids when we do this? This realization is not just making me a better teacher, but a better person.

I'd like to tag Needleroozer (LB). I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Monday, 20 August 2007

Artistic expression expression expression expression......

I think I may have stumbled on my stumbling block and finally saw what it is that keeps tripping me. I do things 210%. I know this, I embrace this, but it may be what is hindering my progress.

For example: last night I decided the time had come to paint. I had purchased all the necessary things (brushes, paint, canvas....) and so I began. But wait, here is where it gets complicated. I needed to prime them with color. So I prime all six canvases with the same color. Efficient production. While that is setting, I step outside to get a few photos of plant shapes and lines. Good as any place to start. THEN I come in and start painting (yes, ignoring the photos entirely) not one at a time mind you....all six at the same time.

After photo 2 I realized that none of the six would be very good if I continued like this. Also, what am I going to do with six canvases all with the same teal background?

Tonight, I will work on one of them. Just one. Deciding which one will probably stop the whole process and I'll end up doing dishes, cleaning cat box, or.......blogging. :)

Friday, 17 August 2007

Live and Learn, (welcoming the new semester)

I've been asked to blog about my education philosophy, maybe it would be stated better as a method really.

I love to learn. I love my fields of scholarship. I tripled in the MA program because I couldn't decide and doing each one one at a time would be horrifically more expensive than the horrifically huge amount of money we have already spent, but I still couldn't decide. Doing all three fixed a couple problems for me: 1) It meant I didn't have to take "electives" or some of the boring unrelated to my actual interest mundane classes related to the disciplines 2) I had to propose my thesis before I was accepted instead of 6 months before graduation and 3) I got to do all three! Yippee!

I flounder in the boring classes. Why? Because I get it early on and then I am bored. I read ahead. I did ok, if I could tutor someone else in the class. However, in the advanced classes I had to learn the boring stuff as I went, along with the themed material, as a means to understanding it. Then I was motivated, fascinated, and occupied mentally the entire time. No floundering. That worked really well for me and I retain to this day about 80 percent of the content in each of those classes. I did have a problem with dominating conversation though. This led to a long heart to heart with an professor who suggested I teach. Maybe he was joking? Doesn't matter because that's what I do now and I love it. Don't think that I got a pass on the cores of each discipline; at my thesis defense I was drilled on all of it and had no notes, no idea what they would ask, and I had no know it all. Plus my actual thesis had to demonstrate working knowledge in all three. Fun stuff.

Which brings me to my classroom. What do I do that works so well for my students? I do not stand up front and lecture the cliff notes of the textbook. That bores me as much as it bores them. I choose to teach an element of my field that is process instead of content: Composition. What worked for me in my education works for them to, if they are willing to take it on. They choose, within a set pretext, what they will write about. Then we use their topic to learn the process of composition, research, and revision.

One semester I had a student use the same topic for every theme: his beloved race car. His autobiography was about learning to read about cars, his profile of a place was about the undercarriage while he built it in his garage, his problem paper was about track safety and his solution paper was about better pr for the type of racing he does. These papers were creative, interesting, and really well done all from a student who had told me at the beginning that he struggled with English and hated writing papers. His grade? A. (103% after extra credit) So that got me thinking, why not encourage all my students some freedom to be creative and bend the rules a bit? I could have told him, "No, write about a park or a coffee house," but I didn't and he excelled.

Most people, by the time they are working adults, hate education and see it as a tedious chore. That mindset happens long before, when they are forced to study topics they hate and will never use, forced to do homework, forced to work for grades instead of learning. Thus the humiliation of "Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader". It's not that you are or are not smarter, it is just that hopefully, at age 11, those little people have not had their desire for learning stomped on by tedious tasks and busy work. So why should I continue that loathing of education? (I am smarter than a 5th grader, BTW. I played along twice and know more than 80 percent of the answers! They would never let me play on TV though.)

I set fluid parameters. I cannot force them to learn. If they fail a paper I do not mark an F, I give it back to them to do again with reasons why. They can take a zero or try again. People learn by trying again. Life is like that.

I also teach them that I am a person, one of many that they can learn from, but that I am their equal as a person. That is a different dynamic than most primary schools teach. Many students are afraid to talk to me, afraid to advocate for themselves (if they don't, no one will), and afraid to fail. Real learning is counter to all of that. Once they take responsibility for all of the above, then....I can teach them, or rather they begin teaching themselves and I facilitate the classroom experience.

Teaching my daughter is no different. I am her guide, but really, most of the time she is the one leading her own discoveries and I am along to document it. Call it unschooling, learning driven by delight, child led learning, or "relaxed"/"eclectic" homeschooling- it's what works for us.

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Talk to the Hands (the painting ones at least....)

My kid is all about feeling things, texture and all, it doesn't matter if its food, paint, mud, whatever. I thought, "yes, let's paint today WITH her..."

Um, well. She had a blast. Then I was the mean mommy with a dastardly plan! Lil'Bug gets to clean up the mess she made! Herself! Ha ha ha!

This plan totally backfired. While I stepped into the dining room to check on an email thread, she managed to "snail trail" very sudsy soap all over the kitchen floor (I had to clean water rinse 3 times to get the soap residue up- my fault, I added too much dish soap to her bucket). I then spent 36.2 minutes mopping up her cleaning attempt. I got no pictures of this because I stripped her paint clothes off of her and I will never post naked baby pictures here or anywhere, cute as I think she is. I wish I had left her clothed though, because her evil grin after the 2 minute rampage of soap bubbles certainly screamed, "I win!" Gaaaah. These pictures at least show the creative process.....
Oh, and when asked what her picture is of...
"Hands. Mama, what did you think I was painting?"

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

The Finger Paint of Inspiration

I used to paint. A while has passed and I've spent many years channeling all my creative energy into house and house thesis writing. All else fell wayside. An Internet blogger who is beginning her journey has inspired me to pick up my brush and begin teaching myself again. I am posting a picture of the last painting I did before moving to the "house"'s a finger painting of an iris that I did for the little girls I nannied to show them that finger painting is fun and not babyish.

I took an art class (as in one, ever) in high school my senior year, an AP class. It was the only session that fit my schedule and the teacher took a liking to my weird, disparate (not desperate) persona. Her words. She was the only teacher who ever hugged me. I really needed hugs that year. Also, she was the teacher that I encountered 5 years post high school who encouraged me to pursue teaching as a career......that led me to add two other disciplines to my MA and apply at the local community college to teach. I digress, what I learned from her was that art comes from practice and experience AND passion. Only so much of it is fine motor skills and the rest is chemistry and poetry. So, since I have both of the later right now I am picking up the "brush" again, dipping my fingers into the ink well of creativity.

August Clean Up

I get the itch to clean and rearrange in the fall instead of the Spring. With Finals grading so intense last week, I fell behind keeping up with the kid mess which was amplified by having a Mother's Helper helping Lil'Bug make messes + canning of garden harvests beginning + bathroom/laundry room project wrapping up (read: lots of cardboard boxes and styrofoam bits for Lil'Bug to build with and crumble all over the house....).

Lil"Bug decided to help today. Then she played doctor with the cat. Yes, her shirt really says, "I'm in charge here, the parents are just for show."

We've been planning for fall too.

I finally have the field trips figured out and we are attending a monthly Science/Nature field trip. I'm actually using that program to build on something else with Lil'Bug. We attend the class and then go back out and repeat the activity 2-3 times during the month. She loves it. The hot weather is putting a lot of our outside plans on hold until it cools off. Our camping to see meteor showers was nixed due to the heat and the nighttime thunderstorms. That happens every year darn it.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Tea and flash cards

I'm about to sit down and start reading a book that claims it can explain why Americans cannot make a decent cup of tea. Really? I'd like to know what's holding me back from great tea making: The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams.

I'm also reading a book called Einstein Never Used Flash Cards. It's full of things I already know, but someone did very expensive studies at very prestigious universities to write them up. That sounds snotty and I'm sorry. It really is a good book that is full of useful things and ideas for creative play with Lil'Bug.

So...does anyone else wants to read and discuss?

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Sounds Like Fun: The Iowa State Fair

Sounds like fun, eh? Sure. When it's 105 degrees out and sunny, it sounds like fun to gather with 7,378+ people and eat deep fried whatever you can think of and walk around lost looking at animals in barns, people in barns, through the left overs of both and emerge into the gloriously, glaring, and overbearing Iowa sunshine only to think of all the other deep fried food you can ingest before you die of heatstroke on the Midway........

Oh, but we had fun! We did. The new Animal Learning Center is awesome (read: air conditioned), HARRY POTTER WAS IN BUTTER (I'm not kidding!), and I whole heartedly agree that next time we go we are doing so to view our own 1st place ribbons on our own food entries. My raspberry jam could so beat out this year's entry.

Also, I'm entering the Ugliest Cake contest; I have ideas bubbling right now, most of which are titled, "Muck and Goo For You".......
If they had a muddy hippos contest, I'd enter Lil'Bug. She went straight for the water fountains when we sat down to eat round 1 of greasy fair food. :) She says she liked the piglets best.....

Friday, 10 August 2007

One Buggy Night

The Creepy Crawly occurred to both Dear Husband and I at the same time how interesting it was that they chose to serve hot dogs. Yummmmmy.

Lil'Bug had a great time, mostly because she loves bugs and dear husband caught and jarred six specimens to be identified by the "expert" etymologists, and quite a bit because Mama B and her boys were there too.

I was not impressed by the undergraduate students (who were likely failing Bug 101 and needed extra credit) who identified 3 of our mystery spiders as.....spiders. Seriously. Our fly that looked like a bee....."I'm pretty sure that's a fly that looks like a bee," said the "expert" and our squash beetles, "Yes, that's definitely a bug." ???? Very disappointing. I am considering emailing their supervising TA (I asked and they provided me his contact information), on the other hand they were there, which is likely all they needed to be.

Parent is a VERB.......

Nothing like a good trip out into the world after work hours to get a good example of families with the noun kind of parents. There was a kid, looked to be about 18 months, playing with an exterior outlet box, not one adult with in 15 ft, and he played for way longer than I felt comfortable with. Moms with strollers were pushing through people and not saying please or thank you, like bumper cars. Moms and Dads who were acting as if just being there was an imposition and that their children annoyed them to the point that they were martyrs.

Yuck. My kid annoys me sometimes, usually in public, but these people were so disconnected from their children. It was sad.

This got me thinking about all the things I do with Lil'Bug. When she tires me out, do I behave that way? I hope not. She was extra cranky this week, but we still ventured out. It was a challenge but I think it benefited us both to get back to our activities.

Things we did this week (Friday-Thursday): Pond Study, IMAX Amazing Caves (my first ever IMAX movie), Sci Center IA, swimming "lessons", library, shopping, 4 art sessions, a park explore hike, baked cookies/treats 4 times, took dog to groomer, ISU bug zoo (2nd trip to Sci Center), and a lot of reading time. We didn't do as much because we had a mother's helper and I was grading finals so we were at home more than is usual. Are other people this busy?

Parent is a verb in our home, as in we parent our child. Normally the verbing of nouns annoys me to no end, but in this and several other related cases, it fits. We school at home, we parent, and we learn. Our learning comes from everything and so do our opportunities to parent. We don't just show up at things, we are present.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

August Storms

Tonight the sky is thundering, violent, the winds are warm and everything feels unsettled. I finished laundry, baked some failures, and worked on final grading.

Every year August brings some big change for us. In 2005, I quit my 40 hours a week job at a museum and became an adjunct professor; 2006 brought the end of my MA journey (ok, that was May but the tension didn't settle out of my neck until August); 2007: this year we are preparing to move while I have made a transition to even less teaching and even that is night and online. We are saying goodbye to the big Victorian house and greeting a simpler life.

This year Lil'Bug is experiencing the pain and growth of change too. While the storms are rolling in, she is working on a growth spurt (and a brain spurt), understanding the changes, and meeting new friends. She has her own room, new chores, and official lessons.

All of this is hard. Once school starts many of our friends go back to "school" and are less available during the week, but our days and our learning keep its course since we don't break for the seasons or the calendar. Everyone is talking about curriculum and plans, but I am looking forward to the less crowded museums and parks and the like. Lil'Bug has asked to learn more about many things and listed the things she would like to see and do: ride a real train, go back to the buffalo park and explore the grass maze, berry picking, more farm helping, and the apple orchard. She also wants to go camping, which we would do on a whim right now but it is so unbearably humid and hot right now. I also want to take her to the Children's museum, the Missisippi River Museum, and possibly to the Maytag cheese factory.

Yay fall!

New Plan

1. Get a cat.
2. ...
3. Profit!

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Mystery Prints?

Fine. Stainless steel fridges are a bad idea when you have kids.....or.....a perfect medium for clues. How do the Popsicles keep disappearing? Ok, we know the who, but how? How is Lil'bug opening the door, exactly? See the above photo for the answer.

Eggrollies.......the Experiement in Cabbage!

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder OR 1 tsp of GP and 1 of sweet curry powder
  • 1 quart peanut oil for frying
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour + 2 tablespoons water OR 2 tbs of soy sauce
  • 3 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 4 ounces shredded carrots (like more carrots? we do. I used 5 carrots)
  • 20 (7 inch square) egg roll wrappers
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds or crushed cashews/peanuts (optional)
  1. Season pork with ginger and garlic powder (or curry or whatever seasoning) and mix thoroughly. Heat mixture in a medium skillet, stirring, until pork is cooked through and no longer pink. Set aside.
  2. In another large skillet heat oil to about 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) or medium high heat. While oil is heating, combine flour and water in a bowl until they form a paste (if you use that option). In a separate bowl combine the cabbage, carrots and reserved pork mixture. Mix all together.
  3. Lay out one egg roll skin with a corner pointed toward you. Place about a 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the cabbage, carrot and pork mixture on egg roll paper and fold corner up over the mixture. Fold left and right corners toward the center and continue to roll. Brush a bit of the flour paste on the final corner to help seal the egg roll.
  4. Place egg rolls into heated oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels or rack. Put on serving plate and top with sesame seeds if desired.

These are/were seriously yummy. We now have 40 eggrolls in the freezer. What an excellent way to use cabbage and save $$ on lunches. We froze 3-4 per bag, so a perfect individual serving. I was really worried about what to use the cabbage in and then I was worried about the deep fry part (made Dear Husband do it). Silly me. They were easy! Ok, they were only easy because I made him do all the hard parts. :)

Friday, 3 August 2007

House Rule #17

Do not put the cat in anything.

PCCB Field Trip Pond Study

Polk County Conservation Board (PCCB) offers awesome hands on science classes. We signed up for one a month, year round. Today was the first and it was really, really cool. It was also only $2.50 per family. Some insects, amphibians, and reptiles cannot live in water that is pollutes by certain degrees. The naturalists can determine the health, not only by labratory tests but by cataloguing the creatures and plants in the water. We helped! Here are the pictures of what we found when testing the health of a pond by documenting the living inhabitants.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

The Week of Final Exams

We are fast approaching the end of the summer semester and this means grading crunch. I took on a 4th class this summer as a favor and that added 25 students (read 100 essays + 250 discussion forum entries) to my grading load. Needless to say, if I am to balance spending time with the tot with my current employment obligation, there will be fewer posts until August 15th.

Cheers and God Bless!

Mama Podkayne

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Star Kitty gets a check up....

Ear Mite & Ear Mite Eggs

This is what else we brought home. :) Star Kitty checked out at the vet, all tests good except ear mites, she had a lot of ear mites. Lil'Bug got to see the mites and eggs under a microscope and they were still wiggling. She thought is was really cool that the Dr. let her back into the lab to see the microscope (so did I!) and fret not, mites are actually pretty common with farm cats and treatable. There are some other medical problems common to farm cats that Star Kitty is free and clear of but that we learned all about anyway. Someday soon we'll have to know as much about it as possible. By the grace of God, that someday will be soon!

New Member of Our Family

This is Star Kitty. Lil'Bug is in love with her! She is exuberant in her affection. Later today we will be visiting the vet for a lesson on how a three year old should hold a kitten.

I have fond memories of animals in my childhood (Thanks Aunt Deedle!) and so far, Lil'Bug is doing really well with animals in general. This is, however, the first furry critter that could not hold their own to Lil'Bug's enthusiastic play! Yikes.