Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween day

Big Sis and I went over to Little Brother's school today for his class Halloween party. He dressed up as Indiana Jones/an explorer for school because there were rules about no costumes with violent themes, and I wasn't sure how they'd feel about a Jedi. He wore a denim shirt with khaki pants, a safari hat, and a pair of binoculars.

Earlier this week I found out that some of the merchants in town were going to be hosting a community trick-or-treat this afternoon, which of course the kids thought was an excellent idea. Big Sister decided that she felt too self-conscious in the vet costume ("Can't I be a black cat? Everyone else is being a black cat"), plus she kept having to tell people that she was a vet, not a doctor, so she abandoned it to be a butterfly instead. Little Brother went to a party as a pirate yesterday and had a lot of fun with the moustache and goatee, so he opted for that character again this afternoon.

I found this picture on the camera this evening. It's from the other night when Sis sat next to me on the couch taking pictures of this and that. She got a really nice self-portrait of herself and her favorite stuffed animal, Spotsy...

So we've eaten dinner (homemade pizza), and we're now waiting for night to fall so we can head out with the kids around the neighborhood to trick-or-treat. With any luck we'll be able to duck out between rain showers. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gearing up for Halloween

This year the kids are going with a "future careers" theme:

Big Sister is a veterinarian

Little Brother is a Jedi (yes, that's his Obi-wan Kenobi costume from last year)

From parkday with our homeschool group:

And our family of jack o' lanterns:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Just doing my part...

I spent the past hour making playdough for Little Brother's kindergarten class. At back-to-school night there were sign-ups for each month for playdough, and I took November. Made the stove top kind, with cream of tartar. Makes a nice playdough, but have you seen the price of cream of tartar lately??? I made four batches, which wiped out my large container of c.o.t. so that's all they're getting out of me. I don't really mind though. I kind of find kneading the warm dough to be relaxing, and I highly recommend running to your kitchen to whip up a batch right now if you have any kind of joint pain in your hands or wrists. Feels great. I'm also doing my volunteer stint in the classroom tomorrow. I just found out there have been three car break-ins in the school parking lot in the past five weeks, so I need to clean out the van before I leave in the morning so there's nothing tempting in there. Especially those Christmas presents I've been driving around hidden in the trunk - would be a big bah humbug to have those swiped.

Tuesday catch-up...

Big sister and I took part in a girl scout workshop on orienteering on Sunday. It was ccccc-cold out there! The workshop was great - they had some folks from the Washington Surveyors Association who brought different maps and gps equipment, including a couple of women working in the field who told the girls all about what surveyors do, and how they can become licensed. The ladies were fantastic with the girls. The first half of the day was spent working with compasses, using them with maps, setting pace, and then using the really high-tech gps units that the professionals use. They were accurate enough to find pennies hidden in the grass. Then we broke for lunch, and had some hands-on training on regular, run-of-the-mill gps units. When we were done, we split into group to go do some geo-caching, which was a lot of fun. It's like letterboxing, but with a gps. With gps in hand, Big Sister hiked more enthusiastically then I've seen in quite some time!

Today is our homeschool group's trick-or-treat parkday. Weather looks like it will be good. I need to find something to pass out before then. We'll see what I can come up with.

Oh, I forgot to mention - Big Sis was working on her requirements for the Juniors pet care badge yesterday. One of the activities I helped her with was to determine the cost of caring for a pet monthly and yearly. She chose to figure out the costs for her rat, and we were both surprised by the results. She included things like the cost of water for drinking and cleaning, and gas to drive to the store to buy supplies, and yearly vet checks. We also factored in the monthly cost for the cage that we purchased back when we brought the rats home. Grand total: over $400/year! Who knew? Ironically, the cost of monthly dog food ends up being the same as the cost of all the rat's various needs put together. I'd have thought it cost much more to have a larger pet vs. a small one, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Granted, once you add in licensing, yearly vet and shots, plus any boarding we have to do, the dog is definitely more costly.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Interesting commentary

Singer/songwriter Tom Chapin has written a song titled "Not on the Test" that illustrates what may be taking place in public schools that are no longer providing instruction in art, music, and physical education due to restrictions placed on them by NCLB. The video and lyrics, as well as Tom's experience as a student of the public school system vs. what he sees in his grandchildren's generation, can be found at
As a kid who leaned heavily to the "artsy" side, I'm not sure how I would have fared in school if I hadn't had that outlet. It wasn't until I had the opportunity to pursue my own passions by taking electives in jr. high and high school that I really began to excel academically. I hope the artsy, musical kids aren't forgotten.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Putting the "car" in carschooling today...

No more driving for me. Today was my day for driving drama carpool, so I go pick up our other drama princess, drive to Kirkland, drive back to pick-up my kindergartener, drive back to Kirkland, drive back to drop of drama princess #2, and drive home. We were supposed to have parkday afterwards, but by then I'd already put 50+ miles on the van this morning, and parkday was way the heck out in Brier (which means nothing to most of you, but let's just say it isn't even remotely in my neck of the woods). And it is an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day! I just couldn't make myself drive another mile. I told the kids they had to go play out in the yard and soak up some vitamin D before their bones turn to rubber. Socialization can wait another day. ;P

And speaking of that very thing...

Yesterday, after the "incident" with that sweet little girl during the hearing screening, I finally had the opportunity to meet Little Brother's Recess Teacher. He's been coming home with stories about her since day one of the school year, and he seems to spend a lot of time chatting with her each day. Recess Teacher is actually an office assistant who doubles as the playground supervisor at recess time. When I introduced myself, she said she was so excited to finally met Little Brother's Mom. Apparently she's been working at this school from the time her kids were born (they're now 28 and 26), so she's met a kid or two. She said that every once in a while she meets a kid who she thinks is just really put together, and that my boy is one of those kids (and shush! - she doesn't say that to everyone!). She said he's polite, caring, respectful, friendly, helpful, gets along great with the other kids, and is interesting to talk with. She wanted to know how we (ie. Mom and Dad) had managed to create such a great kid. I said I wasn't really sure, but that it was nice to hear these things because he's been homeschooled since birth, and I was a little worried how he'd get along at school. She responded, "Well, he's so well socialized, you can't even tell he was homeschooled!"

That's a compliment. Right? I'm taking it as a compliment. I think.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Let that be a lesson to ya!

I volunteered at Little Brother's school today. They needed some volunteers to help with the hearing and vision screening they do on all the kids each fall. I found a friend to ship Big Sister off to, and decided to give it a go. I was assigned to test hearing. It went well, with the exception of the poor little girl who I injured shortly after she sat down at my hearing station. I was about to fit the headphones over her ears when I accidently let go of one side, which caused the ear piece to spring back into her face. She looked absolutely horrified, and would no longer make eye contact. I told her that when she got back out with her classmates, be sure to tell them to watch out for the mean blonde lady with glasses. That's right. Don't mess with me.

...only kidding on that last part.... Unfortunately I really did smack her in the face with the headphones. What? It's not like she cried! But she did remain very still and did exactly what I asked of her for the rest of her time at my station.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Out of the mouths of babes...

The other day Big Sister told me that she heard there's a guy named Dino Rossi running for governor, but she saw a commercial that said there are a lot of people that don't like him. She also saw a commercial that showed Christine Gregoire, and it said that a lot of people don't like her, either.

"Mom? If you don't like any of the candidates that are running, do you have to vote for one?"

A good question, my dear, a very good question....

A fall hike in the woods...(updated w/additional comment below)

From our hike today in the Redmond Watershed...

UPDATE: Thanks for the nice comments! That hike was a lot of fun. We just kept making really cool discoveries, and on our way back to the car after our turn around point, I started taking pictures of some of the stuff we had seen. I couldn't believe all the different varieties of fungi out there. I took 87 pictures along a half mile stretch of trail. Today the kids and I checked out some books about fungi, slime molds, and lichen so we could learn more about them. I apologize for not resizing my photos before posting like I usually do, but I was in a hurry to share them with the world. ;P

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Hey, that's my dog!

Click to Mix and Solve

These USA puzzles are kickin' my rear. All those square states look the same! LOL - I'm sure the residents of the square states are shaking their heads at me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One more sunny day

We have to take advantage of these last few sunny days, since we don't know which one will be our last. It could be months before we have any natural UV again! We spent part of the afternoon at parkday with our hs group.

This morning I drove Little Brother's library book to school. I debated about making him suffer without his book, but it was library day, and he loves checking out a new book each week. He can only check out a new one if the old one gets checked back in first. He seems to like the Kevin Henke books. So far he's checked out "Owen", "Julius, the Baby of the World", and "Wemberly Worried". I asked him tonight if he ever goes anywhere besides the "H" shelf, but he didn't seem to get what I was asking. Last week he brought home "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly", but it turns out another kid in class had pulled it off the shelf and then asked A. if he wanted it. It's a good thing I enjoy the Kevin Henke books, otherwise the stories about cute little mice would be getting mighty old by now!

Tomorrow I go volunteer for the first time in his classroom at school. It also happens to be Brown day, so I'll have to dress appropriately.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Because you have nothing better to do with your time...

Don't go to JigZone if you know what's good for you. I found out about it from vegiemama, and I now spend far too much time putting puzzles together. I'm getting faster! easily amused...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Here I am!

Sorry - I was out of commission for a week or so with the tooth and all. I have no idea how people become addicted to pain killers, because I absolutely could not function on them, even on the lowest dose. I could barely keep my eyes open, and I felt just plain weird. Weirder than normal, that is. ;P

Last weekend I went with N's girl scout troop to help chaperone on the encampment they were going on. It rained for most of the weekend, but we had a good time. Days were better than nights. Nights involved tears, fears, and eventually the shuffling of adults to ensure that each cabin had a grown-up to make the girls feel better. These were the same girls who, when orginally given the option of having girl-only cabins, or cabins with a grown-up, unanimously chose option numero uno. In their defense, the cabins were a bit creepy - they had no doors or windows, just openings at either end of the cabin. LOL - it's a good thing we didn't tell the girls that there had been a bear sighting on the first afternoon when we arrived at camp, or they never would have slept the entire weekend.

I really had a good time. Lots of singing, being outdoors, hiking around - pretty much what I did for a living before I had kids. I'm not sure why it never occured to me that becoming a girl scout leader would have allowed me to do all these things for the past four years. Better late than never, and now I get to help out a troop and I don't actually have to lead it. Best of both worlds.

The homeschooling is going well this year. We've made the observation that N. can actually read fairly well - she just can't read aloud very well. I bumped her up a level in her reading comprehension activities because the lower one was getting too easy. If I went solely based on how well she reads out loud, she'd be two grade levels lower. I'm sure there's some explanation for the short-circuit that gets in the way of the words coming to her lips. To be honest, she's always talked kind of slow, too, like she has to plan what she's going to say before she says it. Interesting observations. Anyway, my real point is that she's reading - just don't put her on the spot (unless it's to ask what she has been reading about, and then it will spring forth like a fountain, and she won't stop talking, lol).

We're about a month into Spelling Power, and still liking it. She's retaining the words, which is good. We had a lot of homophones this week (great/grate, made/maid), so I made up a crossword puzzle to reinforce meaning and spelling. Found a free puzzle generator at edhelper, which was a lot faster than trying to draw one on my own (which I did end up doing when my printer stopped working the other day).

Lots of story problems in math this week, because I'm fun like that. Actually, I think it's a really good way to reinforce the conceptual parts of math. What's the point of memorizing facts if you don't know how to use them? And she's much more excited about doing story problems than she is about sitting down to a list of mulitplication and division problems.

This week our Real Science-4-Kids Pre-level One Chemistry books arrived (ordered from Rainbow Resource)! We read the first chapter together (alternating reading aloud at each paragraph), then did the experiment. We saved the write-up and discussion for the next day, partly because the lab and reading had taken over an hour, and partly because it let some of the lessons sink in and allowed us to discuss it more before she put it into words. Even little brother likes it, and has been asking us to read to him from the textbook at bedtime.

It looks like we start cursive next week in our house. With N's input, I found a couple of "modern cursive" instruction/workbooks that look like what she's interested in learning. When compared with HWT, this is more like what I remember from when I was a kid. She likes that it's "prettier" than HWT's cursive.

Little brother had his first vacation day from school (a teacher inservice day) on Friday. You'd think he'd sleep in, but Noooooo - he was up when Daddy left for work in the morning. And Big Sister followed shortly thereafter. Helloooo??? What about my Mommy Time??? They parked in front of the television for a while, we did some schoolwork (Brother doodled on the dry erase board and wrote some words), and then we went to the library for lego club with our homeschool group.

Guess what??? My tomatoes began ripening this week! We had our first frost last night, but the romas are covered, and I'll probably bring them in later today. Next year I start seeds in January!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Creamy Thai Carrot Soup

Yum. As soon as I knew I was going to be on smooth foods for a week, I started craving this soup. I couldn't wait to make up a batch this morning!



2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 pound baby carrots
1/2c. chopped onions
1 medium garlic clove, peeled and minced
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger root
1 1/2 tsp. yellow curry powder, or thai curry paste
1/2 tsp. salt
6oz. silken tofu
3/4 c. plain yogurt


1. In a medium saucepan (I use a 3qt.) bring broth, carrots, onion, garlic, and ginger to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until carrots are tender. Stir in curry paste/powder and salt; simmer 1 minute to blend flavors. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

2. In a small bowl, mix together tofu and yogurt; add to saucepan and puree in pot using an immersion hand blender (or in batches in regular blender) until smooth. Yields approximately 4 - 1 cup servings.

When I popped into the grocery store on my way home from my tooth extraction, they didn't have any silken tofu, so I ended up with firm. Consequently my soup is a little grainy. I was hoping the yogurt would smooth it out some, which it may have (this was my first time making it with the yogurt, and I think it adds nice flavor).