Friday, March 29, 2013

Fresh air and baby chicks

      Gearing up for Easter dinner this weekend I wanted to clean house today.  The boys were kind enough to help-- moaning and complaining are helping right?  I was up early and got a good portion of the upstairs cleaned while the boys slept and then I put away all the stuff for the geography fair so we would have a clean table to sit at for our Easter dinner.  Once the boys were up we ate a quick breakfast and I read a few more chapters of James and the Giant Peach.  The younger boys battled with Bakugan's for a bit while Ian helped me make a peanut butter pie.  It's a huge family favorite and it's so easy to put together! 
Decadent Peanut Butter Pie
Picture courtesy of
       Once we were done in the kitchen, I sent all the boys upstairs to get dressed, make their beds, and clean their rooms.  Ian and Alec had some laundry to fold and put away too.  Ian went right to work, he folded all his clothes, dusted his room and then offered to take the mop from me and mop the hallway and stairs!  Alec was having a hard time folding all of his clothes and kept asking me to help.  I felt bad, but I said no.  I was busy cleaning and told him I would help him when I was done if he wasn't finished by then.  Evan spent 20 minutes complaining that he doesn't like to clean or dust, but he eventually realized I was serious about him not leaving his room until it was cleaned so he finally dusted.  I did help Alec fold a few of his clothes, mostly his socks, and then he dusted his room.  We still had a bunch of toys bins in each of the boys rooms from when we babysat for my brother's kids last week and so we spent time this morning carrying them all down and putting toys away.  While the boys worked on organizing the toys, I cleaned in another and then handed them each a dust rag and/or the vacuum and they cleaned the whole playroom too.  I was pretty proud of them that the complaining was kept to a minimum.  Those few times they did complain, I offered to let them take a break from dusting or vacuuming and let them clean a toilet or sink and then they happily decided they'd rather dust or vacuum. 
       As soon as our chores were done, we headed out for some errands.  Ian and I needed some rain boots for a homeschool field trip later next week and Ian needed some work boots.  We had to drive to four different stores but we finally found everything we needed.  Unknown to me Ian was keeping tabs in his head of all the money we spent today.  When he asked if he was right and I stopped to think about it, realising he was, he told me he was only going to have one or two kids since three seem really expensive.  I had to laugh and agree.  Kids are expensive and the more you have, the more expensive they seem to be, but it is so worth it.   Ian, at almost 9, has had his life planned out for some time.  He has always planned on one or two kids and swears they will be homeschooled too.  He will work with trucks either gold mining or building truck accessories (or both!) and will have his wife stay at home with the kids.  This scenario has had little to no changes in the last several years so it sure will be neat to see how his future turns out and changes as he gets older. 
        The boys were thrilled when we stopped at Tractor Supply to look for the rain boots and they were able to hear and see the baby chicks.  They all fell in love and, of course, asked if we could take some home.  At only 1.99 each I did think of it, but realized we'd need lots of supplies for them that we don't have.  I did tell the boys to take one of the "caring/ learning about baby chickens" papers they had hanging around and told them if they all read up on it and learned what to do that we could probably get some next year.  It must have been a moment of pure insanity as I don't really like animals.  I wish I did, I love them from afar, like when we're at the zoo.  I'd love to get the boys hamsters, fish, chickens, gecko's, and all the other little animals they ask for.  I love the thought of having pets and having the boys grow up loving and bonding with living creatures; I just don't enjoy the reality of having more things to clean up after, feed and take care of.  But I have been thinking for almost a year that I'd really like to get an incubator and have the boys see what it's like to hatch baby chicks from eggs and then we could keep them for a bit until they got big enough to need a house outside.  For the rest of the day they read that sheet and talked about getting baby chicks.  We grabbed some lunch and headed home.  While running errands we finished the Magic Treehouse book Dingoes at Dinnertime and started Civil War on Sunday.  Before we started listening I asked the boys if they knew what the Civil war was and they actually knew quite a bit!  Especially the two main points:  it was a war between the southern and northern states over slavery & the north won. 
    Ian is working with this great grandfather again today and Alec and Evan asked if they could go to work too.  While I was OK with letting Alec try his hand at raking and picking up twigs with Ian, I didn't want to ask their great grandfather to watch all 3 of them.  I also knew Evan would quickly loose interest and not be much help.  So, with their grandfather's approval Alec and Ian set off for work with tons of lectures from me about working hard, earning the money they make and not fighting.  I know all three boys really want to work so that they can have some spending money, let's face it, that's why most adults work.  How many people would continue at their jobs without a paycheck, right?  So I was more than happy that Alec, who hates the outdoors, was willing to try real hard to earn some spending money.   They both told me they'd try to come home with tired hands and blisters.  It was too funny.  I hope they don't get blisters though.  That's what work gloves are for.   I gently explained to Evan that while I realized he wanted to make money too that I think he's just to young and it would be to much work for G.G.  I told him that he could help out daddy when he goes raking and mowing and earn extra cash that way.  I love that my boys want to work!  Perhaps they all have a better work ethic than I typically give them credit for.
       While waiting for their great grandfather to pick them up the boys, once again, wanted to play baseball.  They're quickly learning the rules of the game and they each take turns batting, pitching, and being on "teams."  I use the term loosely since at any given time they are for or against one another.  Once the older boys were gone though, Evan seemed a bit lost.  I suggested taking advantage of the nice weather and going somewhere. 
     We decided to head to the park and use the swings, slides, and climber.  It's about a 15min. ride from our house but we talked the whole way and it was nice to have time, just the two of us.  I wasn't thinking of how muddy and wet we'd find the place.  I also didn't realize Evan would need to use the bathroom less than 10 minutes into our playing.  He climbed the slide and slid down a few times but then asked to leave so he could come home and go to the bathroom (the park's bathrooms were closed for the season).  I think he was a bit bored without his brothers there.  I think, as the youngest, he has the hardest time being alone and occupying himself since he rarely has to worry about it.  He's had built- in playmates since the day he was born.  Lucky for Evan, his cousins had a half- day of school and came over to see if there was anyone to play with.  Evan and his cousins spent the afternoon playing with the stomp rockets, bubbles, dirt, shovels, and swings.  They had so much fun competing to see who could make the rockets fly farther.  Evan noticed they always turned slightly and came down in an arch.  I reminded him that that was called trajectory like in the Disney Imagineering movies.  I asked him what was making them come back down and he told me force.  I asked him what kind of force?  What kind of force keeps things falling to Earth?  And he yelled out gravity and then proceeded to try and teach his cousin.  It was funny but I loved hearing him spontaneously use such scientific terms.  They played with the bubbles for a bit and the wands we bought fell off the sticks.  Evan realised the sticks were tubes and tried to put a want on each end and get them both to blow bubbles.  It's so much fun to watch their imagination at work and see what ideas they'll come up with.  His uncle asked how he was going to manage to get them both full of bubbles and blow them.  He thought for a few minutes and then arranged the wands facing the same directions, pulled the two wells of bubble solution together and dunked the wands in at the same time.  Then he tried to swing the wands around and managed to get a few bubbles out of both of them.  What great problem solving!   Then, once his brothers came home, after working hard and beaming with smiles from the money they made,  they all dragged out bikes, scooters, baseball supplies and bubbles and play outside until it was time to cook dinner.  It was a wonderful day filled with fresh air and sunshine. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Rainbow stories

Our Children's librarians all dressed for rainbow night

Making fruit loop necklaces
        I just loved this blog I stumbled across yesterday.  The article I read was called 18 reasons why Doctors and Lawyers homeschool.  Now I should warn you that the title is a bit misleading but in general it goes over the reasons why this one family homeschools but emphasizes how much homeschooling is growing and how many different types of families homeschool.  It's funny, no matter how many of these articles I read and no matter how much each family differs from one another we all have the same basic reasons.  Is it all sunshine and roses and happy, smiling faces everyday?  Well, NO!  But I do find our days are happier most days than they ever were when we were schlepping our kids around to school and after school activities.  It's amazing what a difference a little freedom to set your own schedule for your own family will make.  Speaking of setting our own schedule...  my kids agreed yesterday to wake up and get ready extra early this morning since we had to get out to the grocery store and make it back home to put all of our groceries away before leaving for a homeschool gym day.  I wasn't sure this was going to be possible since we all got to bed a little late last night.  Our library had a special event called Rainbow Stories last night that my younger two sons wanted to attend.  They got to listen to Spring/rainbow stories, make fruit loop necklaces, paint with pudding, sing songs, get their faces painted, decorate and eat graham crackers with colored frosting and sprinkles,  etc.  It was great.   Evan was thrilled to run into one of his friends from school.  Alec was thrilled when everyone oohed and aahed over his pudding painting of the cheetah.  Evan's painting came out looking like most of the other's with some blobs of paint here and there and dashes and lines where he just experimented with texture and color and I really wish I had brought a camera with me (these photos on the blog are from the librarian) because while his painting may not have looked like much to the casual observer, I was amazed at the story he told me his picture told.  There was an orange dot to one side of the page that was the Magic Treehouse and Jack and Annie were on the other side of the paper.  They had to make their way through all the dashes (which was a giant lazer maze) in order to get back into the treehouse safely.  They had been on a mission for Merlin trying to rescue him and they were all done but they had to fight their way through the maze in order to get into the house and get safely home.  It was a wonderful story!  And It was a great, free, family fun night!   By the time we got home they all wanted a bit of time with Daddy, who will be working late for the next few nights and I couldn't say no!  But I knew if they couldn't get up on time in the morning we could find time later in the day or on Friday to get our groceries done.  Our schedule is usually pretty flexible and I just love that!

         While the boys did sleep in a little we had time to run to the grocery store this morning.  On the way we listened to the Magic Treehouse story Leprechauns in Late Winter.  The boys helped out in the store as usual with Ian pushing a second carriage and helping me select things from the shelf.  He's learned to check the dates on things we buy like milk and orange juice to make sure they won't go bad.  Alec, once again crossed items off my list and even tried to teach Evan some reading by asking him to find words on the list.
          Once home the boys made themselves breakfast while I put away the groceries.  Ian and Alec worked on Alec's color by number page and then all the boys made up a game to play for a bit and then tried to play hide and seek.  By that time we needed to leave and I had the boys help me load up the car with a bunch of equipment for our homeschool gym day.  We brought a Frisbee, a hula hoop, some balls, a bat, a soccer ball and other assorted toys to play with.  On the drive we listened to more of our book on CD and stopped by the library to pick up Alec's pudding painting; to our surprise it did actually dry!  I felt real bad that Evan's painting was missing, luckily he didn't seem to be upset.  
       We played at the gym for an hour running, batting, pitching, spinning in circles until we were dizzy and all the kids took turns spinning in a soft "drum/barrel."  They had a great time and worked off some of their energy.  I think they were bummed that only one other family showed up but they all played fairly nice together. 



        We finished our Treehouse book on the way home and had some lunch while watching Liberty's Kids We the People.  The kids told me they thought it was a boring movie and they were glad it was short but when I asked them if they'd rather learn history some other way they all agreed the movies were their favorite way.  Unfortunately, they just seem to hate learning about history.  The only time I think they actually enjoy it is when they don't even know they're learning it; like when we read some of the Magic Treehouse books and they visit places and times in history.
       After lunch the boys played outside and Alec toted his camera all around taking pictures of everyone and everything. He even tried to take self- portraits while looking in a mirror.  It was rather fitting that the room we were using at the library last night for rainbow stories was filled with all sorts of photographer's works on display.  We took a few moments to walk around and inspect their animal pictures, portraits and flowers.  I think it's given him some ideas. 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Work Ethic

             My oldest son has three jobs lines up for the spring and summer already.  He goes to work most weekends with my husband and father- in - law already but is now planning on going more regularly.  There's even talk of him working a few afternoons during the week, but we'll see.  For today, he went with his great grandfather to his house to help with raking and yard work.  My husband's grandparents have a large yard with lots of trees, flowers, and plants so he's going to help rake, weed, etc.  He was so excited to go too.  My son loves being outdoors and really enjoys activities like raking, shoveling, and digging; especially when he's going to get paid.  He's lined up a job mowing the lawn of his great great aunt that will start a bit later in the spring.  He'll go with my husband to mow and rake while my husband does the weed whacking and other jobs around her house and yard.  Ian can't wait.  I am so proud of him and his work ethic.  He can be lazy about his chores and helping out around the house but when I see him really working I know he has a wonderful ethic.  Normally, he has to turn over half of the money he earns to me to put in his savings bank since it seems to burn a hole in his pocket.  He has more money than most other kids his age but he spends it rather stupidly; paying his brothers $2.00 to play with him or even worse the time he paid them $20 to play with some play dough they were using!  As a family we've decided, for now,  to let that rule slide for a bit as he really wants to save up for his own brand- new four wheeler.  We searched on- line to get an idea of pricing and warned him it will take a long time to save up that much even with three jobs.  Since my husband has been trying to convince me to give up our family vacation to buy a new four- wheeler for him I thought it was in every one's best interest to let Ian see how long and how hard he'll have to work up to save up for it on his own.  I hope he'll learn that it's better to save his money for something important instead of wasting it.  I hope he'll see that it takes time and hard work to get the things we want in life.  The more he spends needlessly, the longer he'll have to wait for his four wheeler.   It should be the best life lesson of all.   
         He seems so young to me to be working so hard and I have a hard time letting him go and allowing him to do all of this.  I keep thinking he's too young to mow lawns and be out working, yet I couldn't hold him back.  He's extremely motivated and truly enjoys work.  I blame it on genetics; I married into a family, that I affectionately have dubbed, as "workaholics" and Ian definitely shares in that DNA.  Even at play they work; whether it be mowing lawns on an almost nightly basis, washing cars a few times a week, organizing tools, etc., they are incapable of sitting and relaxing (unless it's time to sleep!).   I just worry that he'll work so much and forget to play and have fun too.   But then I remember that when he plays he's digging holes, shoveling and raking so perhaps his jobs are just an extension of his play?  I don't know.  What I do know is that he's just a kid and childhood only comes along once.  I don't want him to have any regrets and I want him to have lots of fun.  He wants to do this so I guess I have to let him go.  Yet, I can't help thinking "where did my baby go?"  He's growing up so fast, I know one day I'll swear it went by in the blink of an eye. 
          Knowing Ian was leaving after lunch I was anxious to start school bright and early.  However, my oldest two boys had a sleepover in my oldest son's room last night and they wanted to just hang out in bed.  They were giggling and getting along so well I didn't dare interrupt.  They usually spend the day fighting and yelling. I know it's typical sibling stuff so I try not to get too upset but days like today when they were really enjoying each other's company are so rare we just have to savor them. 
          During a late breakfast the boys asked me to read some more of James and the Giant Peach so I read another 6 chapters.  They really are making excellent predictions and loving the book.  They then got ready for the day and we all did a few chores before settling down for some schoolwork.  Ian finished up his geography board this morning while I taught Alec how to find animal pictures on the Internet and copy/paste them into his word document for his Brazil report.  Once finished we printed his four pages and pasted them onto his board so all he has left is one small flap that we'll try and finish up early next week.  Evan and I sat down to read a few Florida books and make a list of the animals we wanted to put on his report and a list of foods he wanted to include.  We then pasted animal pictures from our trip onto his board and spent some time writing up labels for a few of them.   His board is also almost finished and I think they all look wonderful.  They grumbled, complained and told me over and over that they wished they had never signed up for the fair and warned me they won't sign up for next year's fair but, for the most part, I tried to ignore them.  I did point out that they complain when they go to school, when they homeschool, when I plan work, or when I don't so I don't care anymore if they complain.  I'm not sure I got through to them but hopefully over time they'll complain less. 
          Once Ian finished his geography stuff he started putting together a radio.  It was a science kit he got for Christmas and he was left pretty much on his own to follow directions.  I helped now and then and he was so amazed when it actually worked!  We were able to listen to some of our favorite stations with a bit of snow and we talked about moving the antennae all around to get a better signal. 

         The younger two moved onto science also and pulled out the flubber we had made a few weeks back.  They had fun cutting it, rolling it and pretending to sell it to customers.  Alec told me he learned how the plastic works and cut through flubber and meat.  "The sharp points get stuck and then when you move the knife back and forth it brings that with them and cuts it!"  Alec uses a steak knife to cut his own meat and I was surprised that he made this revelation now but Evan, who's only allowed to use a butter knife, was practicing really hard to cut stuff with the plastic knives.  He told me he's learning so he'll be able to use a real knife when he's bigger.

         Ian was building with blocks and asking to go outside to play since the shine is finally shining and it's somewhat warm today.  I reminded him he's going to be outside all afternoon working but that I had no problem if he wanted to go outside and play.  We ended up deciding to play a math game instead.  I made up an egg target and we took turns trying to throw blocks onto the target and adding up our score.  It was actually really hard to get the blocks onto the target and the game instructions did suggest using small, wrapped, chocolate eggs but I didn't have any.  I think they would've rolled too and probably wouldn't have made the game any more fun.  Before I knew it all 4 of us were playing, laughing, giggling and it was getting really rowdy.  Evan tried putting up road blocks, kissing everyone and tackling them to the ground.  We did finally start landing some blocks and adding up scores.  I'm not sure how much math they actually learned but after playing for almost 20-30 minutes it sure was engaging! 

       They watched Wild Kratts during lunch and then I had them all head outside.  I was hopeful that they'd ride bikes, but really I just wanted them to enjoy soaking up some sunshine.  Ian and Alec played baseball though Alec did ask Ian and Evan to pretend to play for a bit so he could take some pictures.  He found his camera this morning and has been snapping pictures of everyone all day.  He keeps telling me he's going to be a photographer when he grows up.  I have no doubt that if that actually happens he'll be a wildlife photographer so I keep encouraging him to bring his camera to the zoo with us too.  But it was really neat to watch him pose his brother's for the perfect shot.  Ian left shortly after that and Evan decided to swing on the swings.  Alec asked me to pitch to him so he could practice baseball and that's all he played for the hour or so that we were outside.  Evan dug in the sand, rode his bike and then took out his bow my husband had made for him to play Green Arrow.  He took a few turns trying to pitch to Alec and they laughed like crazy over how far off his pitches were.  Anytime Alec actually hit a ball he'd throw the bat and run back and forth from what he was calling home to the other bases he made up and he'd just run in circles over and over shouting out numbers like he was racking up the scores.  It was hilarious and he was getting so much exercise. 


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Here Fishy Fishy!

       As soon as he woke up Ian asked if he could watch his movie Travel With Kids to Alaska during breakfast.  He wasn't even down the stairs yet and here he was planning his day.  I love that he is so motivated to do things every day starting bright and early in the morning.  His brothers settled in next to him to watch most of the movie.  There was quite a bit of bickering though and the boys knew that we had planned on going to the aquarium today.  I had to threaten many times to just stay home and send them to their rooms.  It wasn't the ideal way to start our day.  Once the movie was over Ian and Evan were raring to do when Alec told me he didn't want to go to the aquarium because he'd rather just wear his pajamas all day.  He's the whole reason I planned this trip.  He has been begging us to go, especially once he heard that they have piranhas, poison dart frogs, and a whole Amazon section.  I'll admit I didn't keep my cool.  I yelled at him to go get dressed or else he had to find me some money to reimburse me (since I already bought the tickets).  I knew he'd have a blast once we got there and I felt like he was only saying he didn't want to go because his brothers did want to go.  He gets in these moods sometimes where he just loves to antagonize everyone else.  I had packed lunches and prepared for a field trip and unless someone was sick we were going! 
       The boys brought some work to do in the car.  Alec has an extreme color by number sheet he wanted to finish and Ian worked on his extreme dot to dot book.  We also listened to another Magic Treehouse book on CD; today's selection was Tigers at Twilight.  On the drive I got a text from my sister that she was heading down there with some of our old homeschooling pals from the southern end of the state that we haven't seen in quite a while.  I handed the phone to my oldest and asked him to text back that we were already on our way.  It was such a wonderful, unexpected bonus to be able to meet friends and family at the aquarium.
      When we arrived the lady walked us through their membership benefits and my boys were overjoyed to hear that we could watch a 4-D movie for free and get a free cookie from the cafe-- another wonderful bonus!  We watched the beluga whales being fed, went to the ray tank to pet the rays, watched a 4- D movie called Earth from Pole to Pole then spent almost 30 minutes in the Titanic exhibit.  We went into the aquarium and went through the Amazon exhibit, they went from touch tank to touch tank and were able to feel or hold many marine animals including sand sharks, crabs, hermit crabs, shells, and the like.  We saw a live baby shark still inside the mermaids purse moving around with it's placenta.  We watched the sharks, sea lions, jellyfish and sea horses.  We met up with my sister and their cousins and our friends and we explored the Titanic exhibit a bit more, saw all the penguins, sea lions, a hurt harbor seal, and spent our time walking all around inside and out.  We covered the place multiple times but spent the most time at the touch tanks.  We watched the California Sea Lion show-- twice (by request of my kids)!  It was a great day.
Ian pets a ray
Alec pets a ray

Evan pets a ray

The boys play rock, paper, scissors while waiting
Beluga whale feeding
Ian and Alec touch an "ice berg"

Playing inside the Titanic exhibit
Alec LOVED the touch screen computers inside Titanic

A very cool that the boys could walk on inside the Titanic

Learning all about the Amazon

Evan tries to make electricity

Ian picks up a crab
Hermit crabs!

Look at the size of that ray!  It was HUGE
Babies inside the mermaid;s purse

Part of our group

Inside the Alvin submersible replica

Eating our free cookies!

The injured harbor seal


We got to see the Iguana walking all around
Petting the sharks

Sea lion show

Very unusual fish

Most of the kids in our gang today

Hanging out in the penguin exhibit
Loggerhead sea turtle

This penguin has a vest to keep warm

Back at the touch tanks
Evan digs right in this time

Our last sea lion show of the day
   We were sad to leave, but we would never have been home for dinner if we stayed until closing.  We listened two more Magic Treehouse books:  Twister on Tuesday & Dinosaurs Before Dark on the way home and Ian came close to finishing his dot- to- dot page.  Everyone looked pretty tired and I made them all shower when we got home.  After having had their hands in sea water all day they had gotten their clothes pretty wet too and I figured it would be nice to get comfy in our pajama's and plan for an early bedtime.