Wednesday, December 30, 2009

ACT Playground

A new playground is being planned for in our town, a playground accessible to all children including those with physical handicaps. Land has been donated, but of course the equipment is slated to cost about $250,000. Fundraising events are underway and that's why I'm here today. A 15 month calendar is available for purchase. Savannah Smiles Photography has donated their services and took gorgeous photos of area children with disabilities. Local businesses sponsored the calendar making printing possible. Our own precious Little J is the October child and boy is he cute. If you could just see all the photos, each one cuter than the next.

15 month calendar - $15.00
If you'd like one please email me or leave a comment and I will make sure you get one.

ACT Playground - check out the website to get a view of the proposed playground

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Week Before Christmas School

When last minute Christmas preparations sneak up it's time to relax the math, spelling and language and go heavy on art (sewing, cutting, gluing, framing, glitter, wrapping), physical education (sledding, ice hockey) and of course daily living skills (dusting, scrubbing, tidying, slicing, chopping, mixing, baking). We haven't forgotten about reading though. I bought lots of new Advent/Christmas books this year. We're also listening to A Season of Gifts.

And when Amber and Sam are feeling the need for a little phonics practice, Starfall always delivers. They love it and so do I. Amber was trying to spell Claus as in Santa yesterday and when I prompted her with au sounds like? She said oh I learned that on Starfall and immediately spelled it correctly.

Movie Review

Amber: White Christmas is better than High School Musical.

Since watching White Christmas every little patch of ice is a tap dance floor and every open floor space is for dancing with lots of spinning.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday Game Day

At the beginning of this school year we added to our schedule Game Day. Every Thursday we set aside as the day to play games in the morning before seat work. I had envisioned games like Scrabble, Yahtze, Chutes 'n Ladders, card games of all sort, multiplication BINGO, Guess Who...games that had the potential to practice skills learned during regular seat work. I envisioned wrong. Most Thursdays when it was warm we played Inny-I-Over and now that it's been cold they want to play Hide-n-Seek in the house. Today I heard the cutest thing as I was hiding behind a bunch of coats and snowpants hanging on a hook.

Nicholas - This game would be a lot more fun if all the good hiding places didn't cause suffocation.

Science? Health? Vocabulary? What subject would this fit into?

OHS Anniversary

Foremost on my mind today is December 10, 2008. The day Little J had his open heart surgery. I remember so many things about that day, most of them not relating directly to the heart surgery. I remember eating an early breakfast at some restaurant, maybe Baker's Square. I didn't want to go, but Warren made me. He said it was going to be a long day and we'd best get some food in us for sustenance. I remember fretting over feeding Little J a bottle of Pedialyte. He couldn't nurse at all after 6am and I wondered if he would except the bottle. I wondered how I was going to pump under the weight of the day and how it all would work out. He took the bottle like a champ and the pumping, honestly I don't even remember how it worked out, but it must have. I remember the anesthesiologist giving us the run down on what would happen and when to expect Brandi, the nurse, to make her first appearance in the waiting room for a update. I remember the anesthesiologist saying ok, I'll take him. And I said, just like this, as he reached his arms out for him. And then he carried him off into what seemed like a black hole. We were then escorted through a door into the surgical waiting room where a variety of faces stared at my tear streaked face. A chipper middle aged woman assured us that this was the place for us and that we could expect regular updates from our surgeon's nurse, Brandi. She showed us to the drink station and then took her place behind the curved desk again. I remember fidgeting around looking at the pages in the book I brought along. I remember lots of updates from Brandi, he's been prepped, the incision was made, he's on bypass, the first repair is finished, the second repair is finished, he's off bypass - his heart is beating on its own, drainage tubes are in and he's been stitched up, he's in recovery. I remember the much needed distraction my uncle brought when he stopped by the waiting room. And then the next 24 hours of memory are blurry at best except for eating a bag of Salsitos and half of a brown apple from the almost closed hospital deli. He stayed in the hospital for a week, then 8 weeks of scooping and now here we are today. If not for the scar on his chest one would never even know everything he went through.

I praise God everyday for the doctors' knowledge and the wonderful nurses at Children's Hospital of Milwaukee.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm in charge of bringing the pies to our Thanksgiving Feast. I opted for the standby pumpkin and then threw in one of Warren's favs, cranberry apple crunch and then tried a new recipe, German Sweet Chocolate Pie. Funny story about acquiring the recipe. Just yesterday I was in the grocery store checkout lane when I glanced at the cart ahead. There on top of the woman's purse was a computer printout with a large turkey on it and in large capital letters, German Sweet Chocolate Pie. She was placing the ingredients, I assumed, up on the belt. When she stepped back to grab her purse I commented about this being the time of year for pies. She agreed and mentioned how her family wouldn't let her come to dinner unless she brought this pie, pointing to the recipe. I said, oh a chocolate pie? I'd like to take a chocolate pie to our feast, too. That's when she grabbed a pen and scribbled down the website on a scrap of paper and said I had to get the recipe and make it. So there it is in the lower right corner. Tomorrow I'll garnish it with dollops of cream and mini chocolate chips. I licked the whisk tonight and YUM!!!
I pray that your blessings outweigh your burdens.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Look Who's Trying to Crawl

Granola Head

I'm not really a granola head, but I did make granola today using this recipe. We were sampling it and giving our opinions as to what should be added.
Me: toasted pecans and dried cranberries, maybe a little more coconut
Nick: mini chocolate chips then they would taste like chewy granola bars
Friend M: raisins would be good
Sam: You know what would make the granola really good......Butterfingers
I can see my kids have a thing for chocolate. I can't blame them, so do I.

Deer Hunt 2009 Opening Day

The basement was filled with blaze orange Friday night in anticipation of opening day. At 5:30am they all headed down to suit up for the day. It turned out to be a little cooler than predicted, but still a nice day for hunting.
It was incredibly foggy this morning. That's part of the crew that hunts here.

First year hunting - First day of the hunt
She shot two deer. First a spike buck and then 15 minutes later a doe. There weren't many deer shot just a couple other does. She was definitely the #1 big buck killer today. I am so proud of her. Her brother and sister are proud of her too.

Dad thinks it was pretty awesome too.

I don't want to leave you with pictures of deer with their tongues hanging out so here's the cutest boy in blaze orange I saw today.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Canned Pumpkin Shortage

Do you have any canned pumpkin in your pantry? If so, consider yourself lucky. Today in preparation for Thanksgiving I stopped by Walmart to pick up a couple quick cans of pumpkin. I wasn't the only one; two other women were down on their hands and knees searching behind the apple pie filling for any lost cans of pumpkin. Unfortunately they didn't find any. Another lady stopped and said she heard something about a pumpkin shortage due to wet fields. I stopped at another grocer and ran into the same situation. Luckily when I got home I found one large can of pumpkin in the pantry, enough to make two pumpkin pies. I guess that'll have to do.

And speaking of pumpkin pie here's a tasty recipe for making your own pumpkin pie spice. A lot of recipes I make this time of year use it, but boy is it expensive. I make my own and store in an airtight container.

Pumpkin Pie Spice
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. ginger
1/8 t. cloves

Obviously this makes 1 teaspoon. I always make a huge batch at a time, starting with 8-10 tsp. of cinnamon and then altering the recipe accordingly.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Learning Letter Sounds

Samuel is working at perfecting his beginning letter sounds. He isn't much for paper and pencil unless it's for math. He loves his math workbook. But for letters and sounds he'd much rather play games. What we've been doing lately is to pull out the tub of animals and bucket of ABC tiles. Then we select an animal say its name and find the letter tile representing its beginning sound. He loves this and since we have plenty of animals, never get bored doing the same b is for bear over and over.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What We've Been Up To

Yes, I ended that phrase with a preposition. But really, what would be correct?

What we've up to been.

We've been up to what.
Up to what we've been.

As you can tell, we've been doing a whole lot of grammar around here lately. Emily and Nick are really moving along in their Language of God workbooks. I'm finding Level E to be extremely helpful and look forward to advancing to Level F in spring.

Warren and a few heating and cooling guys installed an outdoor wood burner. If you plan on taking on this project be forewarned that it will be way more involved than you think and will end up costing way more than the estimate. Today at about 3 pm it was completely finished. We are now heating the house and shop with the wood burner. The basement is cleared of the old wood stove, extra duct work installed, trench filled in and yard somewhat raked smooth again.

I finally finished Amber Lou's Kitty Cat Love quilt.

Amber Lou took a crack at riding the dirt bike. She progressed quickly. After about 10 times around the house she asked to go further away from us where no one could see her. So she dirt biked to her beloved horses and back and called it a day.

And Little J is 15 months. We are quickly approaching the anniversary of his heart surgery and as of yesterday's pediatric and cardiology appointment he is in great shape. He's up to 16 pounds 10 ounces, always smiling and just learned to clap his hands, too.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Couple Resources

Since this is a homeschooling blog, I think it's about time I actually write a bit about it. I have some favorite resources I'd like to share.

Art Projects For Kids - I love this art teacher's blog. The art projects have easy to follow directions, adaptable to a wide age range, making them perfect for homeschooling families. She has a great list of topics in the lefthand sidebar so you can easily find an art project to coordinate with a particular artist, holiday or season.

Rookie Read About Books - I believe these are aimed at K-2, which makes them perfect for us since I have a K and a 2. The Rookie Readers are a great introduction to nonfiction reading. Here are links to three of the series:

Today Amber read Veterans Day from the Holiday series which was quite helpful. We talked about ticker tape, poppies and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. All of which I don't think would come up very often in our average daily conversations. I like this series because they offer books about holidays celebrated in other countries as well.

Schlessinger Movies - These are short informative videos about holidays, history, folk tales and more. For a complete list go here.

That Grin

Today Samuel smelled of cologne, lots of cologne. When asked if he had gotten into dad's cologne he just smiled. You know, that sheepish little smile that keeps growing the more he thinks about what he did. He didn't have to say a word. We knew the answer by the grin on his face.

Veteran's Day Sunrise

Dear God,
We thank you for all our veterans-
the deceased, the crippled, the wounded,
the soldiers still fighting today.
We thank you for giving them the strength
to stand up for America.
Bless them abundantly in this life
and grant them eternal rest when their day comes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kids' Funnies

It's haircut time around here for all the boys. We were discussing what type of cut each wanted and Sam asked:

Can you bald me around the edges and leave a mohawk in the middle?


Amber is always full of her own words; here are her latest dictionary entries:

shaggy pants - stretchy knit culottes/split skirt

hannatizer - lazy man's version of hand sanitizer


The newest game around here is just a remake of an old favorite. Hide 'n Seek is fun with people, but how about with kittens. The kids bring the five kittens into the porch, close their eyes, and wait for the kittens to run off and "hide". Then they search for the kittens. Simple, but by the squeals and giggles I hear is obviously tons of fun.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

All Saints and All Souls

I really enjoy celebrating All Saints and All Souls days. We had a big chicken dinner on Sunday, the Feast of All Saints, and had fun looking through the Patron Saints book. We found out that there is a Saint for just about any occupation, ailment or condition. In our search for patron saints we came across St. George, St. Isadore the farmer, St. Anne, St. Hippolitus, St. Joseph, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Francis of Assisi and so many more. Do you have a skin rash or lost article? Then ask St. Anthony to intercede on your behalf. I wish I had more knowledge of the Saints and their virtues. I do try to read their stories, but the reading wish list is so long that I'm sure I'll never even make a dent. Emily and Nick are studying many of the Saints through their Reading Comprehension studies. They read silently and then narrate to me all they learned, in this way we are learning together and typically I have many questions for them and I think they like taking on the teacher role sometimes.

I think many people have a misconception as to how the Saints are "used" in the Catholic Faith. For one we do not pray to the Saints, but we ask for them to intercede on our behalf. They are obviously more holy and closer to God than I am and Catholics believe they have a special place in heaven and are a direct link between us and God. So if you have misplaced an item, it would be appropriate to ask St. Anthony to present a special prayer to God on your behalf that you might find that item. That is called an intercessory prayer. I love introducing our kids to this type of prayer because it gives them something tangible to hang onto. I believe it helps them feel related to God in a much closer way. All those who have died before us are also the saints in heaven and can be called on to intercede on our behalf.

All Souls Day is serious and fun all at the same time. It's a day to pray for the souls of all the departed that may be in purgatory that their soul might be cleansed so they have eternal life in heaven. We used this day to put into action the Corporal Work of Mercy - Bury the Dead. We headed out to the cemetery to clean up around a few family grave sites.

We also celebrated it with a little Latin American flair by making these very cool Day of the Dead skulls.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Weekend Rambling

It's not really the weekend anymore, but I have lots to ramble on about from the weekend. First off cranberry harvest is done. I wasn't able to get in all my virtual cranberry harvest tour posts due to the weather. We had so many rainy, windy, freezing cold days that it was hard to get out and take pictures. The pics I did take turned out dark and blurry from the rain, drizzle and haze. But the harvest was a good one none the less.

We carved pumpkins.

We roasted pumpkin seeds. The kids love these. I don't wash off the pumpkin; that's what gives them the flavor. We just melt about 2 Tbsp. butter on the cookie sheet and then put a single layer of seeds on the pan, salt them and roast them for 12-13 minutes at 350 F. YUM!!!

And of course did a little Trick-or-Treating on Halloween. This year we had a soldier, cowboy, nurse and Nancy Drew. Little J wore his hunting clothes and slept in his carseat the entire time.

I spent quite a bit of time sewing in 15 minute increments. I'm making a little gift for a friend's birthday this Friday. Emily and I also made taggy blankies, one for our new nephew. He weighed in at 1o lbs. 9 oz. I don't even know if the receiving blanket will wrap around him. The other Emily made for Little J.
We had a very cold weekend, especially Saturday. I spent about 1 1/2 hours outside cleaning up the yard, feeding the birds, basically general cleaning up before the snow flies.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Warren's Words

This is not the place to detail our conversations, but I will say we were sharing our thoughts on God's work and the devil's work in our life. Real light conversation for 7:30am Saturday morning. We ended with Warren saying, "Life is just a series of adjustments." So True!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Grammar Woes

On the homeschooling front we've been just skipping along. Some weeks it can be drudgery, but some can be skippy. It's been pretty skippy here lately, well until now. Emily's working through Language of God Level E for middle school students. It's been a great fit for her allowing us to skip along at a nice pace, but today was a little different; she started on adverbs and the words they modify and adjectives and the words they modify. She did quite a bit with this last year and couldn't wait to complete the last page in May. So this year adjectives and the words they modify has been easily understood. However, adverbs is another thing. So we were doing the exercise together reading the sentences aloud with lots of emphasis on the subject and predicate and then softly saying the rest of the sentence except when I would forcefully enunciate the adverb. We did this a few times until she understood better and then I stopped the enunciating part and she would just pick out the words by herself. This worked great and we survived 26 sentences with multiple adverb/adjective/modifier combinations and still love one another. Yes! Keeping with her tradition she always looks ahead to tomorrows page letting me in on the fun we'll be having with grammar. Today she just laughed out loud when she read the next page's title

More Adjective-Adverb Confusion

Matter of fact the next 6 pages have that title which helps her to realize she's not the only one a bit confused. I always tell her the number of practice pages for a particular part of speech is directly proportionate to the number of kids (in millions) who need more practice. She usually turns away at the point, probably because I forbid her to roll her eyes at me. A tiny part of me thinks she might be rolling them, though, when she turns away.

Movie Night

Keeping with tradition, Tuesday was movie night. We went with Domino's pizza this week. It was good, but not great. Last year we rotated between homemade, freezer and Little Caesars pizza. But Little Caesars seemed to be going down hill so we needed to change it up a bit this year. Anyway, the movie was Imagine That. So many movies and TV shows make dads look like bumbling idiots without any parenting skills. I get so tired of that. But not Imagine That, this movie's dad is a hands off workaholic that through lots of twists and turns turns into a loving daddy that his little girl can't live without. He does have a few bumbling moments, but it's Eddie Murphy, enough said. And the Beatles song All You Need is Love is extremely catchy and if you happen to watch this movie you and your family will be humming it all the next day. We also spent a considerable amount of time listening to different renditions at Amazon.com. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Virtual Cranberry Marsh Tour Day 7

Well here we are at day 7 of the virtual cranberry marsh tour. In reality we are on day 12. During this time of year Warren does work on Sundays, although the harvest crew does not. I still don't have any new pics from this year of the trucks being loaded to share, but yesterday.....wow, what an awesome day, I took a few random pics on the marsh. The sunlight captured the color beautifully.

Note the shorts Sam is wearing, quite different from last week's apparel when it was snowing.

I love the color variations of the cranberries; the way they form swirls is captivating.

There's even time to have a few laughs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Little Halloween Prep

Halloween is a hard holiday for me. With talk of harvest, prep for
harvest, worries of harvest, excitement of harvest, visitors during harvest, preparing for and enjoying the harvest party, clean up from harvest, trying to rest after harvest, October is pretty well spoken for. Then BAM Halloween shows up on the last day of the month. It shouldn't come as a surprise considering it's the same day every year, but it does and I won't make excuses for myself. So I'm just tickled that Amber Lou and I carved out some time to make a few paper Jack-o-Lanterns this afternoon. We followed the directions at Art Projects For Kids. I just love Kathy's blog; check it out for tons of art projects to keep you and your children busy forever.
I just love this pumpkin Amber Lou made. I think it looks like a french artist because the mouth looks more like mustache to me.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Virtual Cranberry Marsh Tour Day 6

The exhaustion has taken its grip on everyone here. My eyes are so heavy as I type. Even though I don't get in on the rigors of harvest, the constant elevated awareness is so tiring. Yesterday I had a tour group here. It turned out to be the best day of the week weather wise. After the main part of the tour I gave them a chance to try the old way of hand raking. I wish I'd taken some pictures but with a baby on my back and my mind filled with harvest info I just totally forgot the camera. The tourists had a fun time hand raking. They couldn't believe how hard it was after just a minute or two. And the thought of doing that all day seemed impossible. Here's a link to some cranberry history. The rake used in the picture is exactly like the rakes we have for hand raking. Notice the picture is from 1874. It makes me wonder when our rakes were made.
Again today I didn't have the camera with me. Between dropping off and picking up kids from the horse stable, preparing a turkey and stuffing dinner, whipping up a batch of ginger cookies and heading to Walgreens for a ton of toilet paper, I never made it down on the marsh at all. Tomorrow 25 mph winds are predicted and even though it's the Sabbath day work will be done. This is one time of year that it has to be done. You never know what way the weather will turn from day to day and best to get the fruit harvested before extreme conditions set in.

My Girls

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Virtual Cranberry Marsh Tour Day 5

Rain, snow and then a misty drizzle to finish off the day made for a cold walk for Little J and me, but we persevered to get pics of the booming and loading of the cranberries.

I stood up by our house so I could capture the whole action shot, but that makes it a little difficult to see what is exactly going on. Two guys on 4-wheelers drag a boom (yellow weighted floating device) from one end of the cranberry bed to the the other working hard to collect every cranberry. This is a pretty slow process since the cranberries weigh a ton or more literally.

Once they get to the end of the bed where they will be loading from the guys secure the boom.

They set up the sprayer jets and the berry cleaner and slowly begin to tighten the boom which keeps the berries moving towards the elevator. The water jets help push them along also.

The paddles on the elevator grab the fruit and carry them up to the cleaning belt. High pressure water is sprayed onto the cranberries to wash away as many leaves and bits of grass as possible.

The white bristled rollers spin continuously brushing away leaves, twigs and rotten cranberries. The trash falls onto the trailer and the clean cranberries go on their way up.

The cranberries are elevated once again, this time emptying into the dump truck.

*The above picture was taken on Tuesday when it was cold, yet sunny. I forgot to take a picture of the truck today. I guess I just couldn't wait to get back inside to my pot of chicken noodle soup simmering on the stove.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Virtual Cranberry Marsh Tour Day 4

Our mornings are filled with school and chores so by the time I get a chance to mosy out to the marsh it's typically after lunch. Today though, with violin lessons and then a momentary baking frenzy, I didn't get outside for pictures until 4:00. What I had wanted to share with you all today was the process of booming the bed, but it had already been done and won't happen until tomorrow mid-morning. While reviewing my pics from the last week I noticed a common theme of faces. I'm calling these the faces of cranberry harvest.

And here are my favorite cranberry recipes: cranberry pecan pie cranberry apple spice bars

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cranberry Marsh Tour Day 3

Sunday was a glorious day. COLD!!! yet just awesome. The sky was incredibly blue and the clouds so wispy and irregular. I bundled up Little J and we were off for a walk with camera in hand to capture more of harvest. >yesSo this is the first year using a new method of harvesting the cranberries. Since the late 70's our marsh has been harvested using the method called beating. For a picture of the beater tractor go here. But, alas, we aren't using that method anymore. This year Warren built what is called a harrow or rake. Instead of a spinning action used to beat the berries off the vine, the rake lifts and plucks the berries from the vine. It also eliminates the use of hydraulics and I was just informed that it uses spring tension instead. The actual time spent in each bed is also cut by.....a lot. We haven't done any official timing this year, but the beater speed was 1 mph. The rake can be driven, he's estimating, 4-5 mph.
The tractor is driven right into the cranberry bed and then driven around the perimeter, gradually moving towards the center. The tines on the rake are under water lifting and plucking the fruit from the vines. The rake on the front removes most of the berries, but just to be sure there is also a rake on the back as well.

As Warren drives through the bed the berries boil up and float until the next step. You get a really good look at the process of harvesting here. It's very easy to see where he's been and where he still needs to go.
And this is a completely picked bed. All the fruit is floating. Usually the wind pushes it all to one end and if luck enters the picture, the berries should be on the right end for the next step of elevating and cleaning the fruit.