Thursday, October 28, 2010

Tis the Season


Hopefully that means a little more time for this.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Cranberry harvest is officially over, but I take way more photos than I have time to post during harvest.  These pics were taken on a particularily warm and sunny day.  They really focus more on my Little J than cranberry harvest, but can you blame me.  After 10 days of cranberries, trucks, booms, and bulkheads filling up my camera's memory card I need to capture a smile.  On this day Joseph had plenty of them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

More Fine Motor Skills Development

I posted a few ideas the other day.  And now I want to share a game Nick made up for Little J.  I had these bears in cups tucked away from Sam's toddler days and ran across them when I was searching frantically for a lost phonics book, which by the way I never found.  After Little J explored the cups and bears for a while, Nick set out just two cups and the coordinating bears.  When Joseph would pick up a bear, Nick would say the color and then point to the same colored cup trying to get him to place the bear in the right cup.  Amber would actually sign the colors for him, too.  She learned those at the Down Syndrome Awareness Walk when Rachel Coleman did Signing Time Live.  Anyway, if Joseph would try putting a yellow bear in the green cup he would quickly cover up the green cup so he'd put the right bear in the right cup.  This has turned out to be a great learning opportunity for Joseph.  Nick and Amber play this with him often switching up the colors.  He's getting better at placing the right bear in the right cup, but his favorite is transferring the bears from one cup to another and then back again.  He will do this for quite some time before moving on to his normal activity...emptying every shelf, cupboard, drawer and basket.

Monday, October 25, 2010

About Joseph

I asked the kids to each write a paragraph or two describing their relationship with Little J.  I thought it would be a nice testimonial about the gifts these lovely little ones with Down syndrome bring to the family.

Hi, my name is Amber.  I'm Joseph's sister.  He is so cute.  I love it when he smiles and giggles.  It is so funny.  He is just learning how to walk and stand.  I love him.

Amber is such a caring big sister to Joseph.  She happily practices her piano songs in a lower octave just so he can sit and play with her.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

On and Off - Fine Motor Skills

Since Little J has come so far in his gross motor skills, I thought it time to really focus on fine motor skills.  Patricia Winders' book, Gross Motor Skills in Children with Down Syndrome, has become a favorite reference book.  I checked out the companion book (by a different author), Fine Motor Skills in Children with Down SyndromeI haven't gone through the entire book yet, but realized if I just sat and watched Little J he would show me all kinds of ways he's fine tuning his fine motor skills.  One of his favorite places to hang out is in the bathroom with me while I get ready in the morning.  He loves hairspray bottles and spends most of his time playing with the bottles and caps.  Perfect for developing hand eye coordination, the concept of on/off and precision muscle movements. 

Another favorite is playing with markers.  He loves removing the caps and then putting them back on pushing so hard until it clicks or snaps in place.  This gets a little messy though.  In a perfect world I'd have a baggie of dried out markers for him to use, but I tend to be a thrower and besides who keeps dried up markers anyway.  Marker play is good for developing strength; he tends to use his entire upper body including shoulders and arm muscles.

Peg puzzles are another good fine motor skill activity, but Little J doesn't seem to like those quite so well.  Nick and Amber created a game using colored cups and bears that they play with Little J.  I'll share that later this week.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

The Bridge of 33 Arches

I had planned on doing a paper bridge building activity to go along with our history studies.  The last two weeks were spent learning about the succession of Persian rulers and the Ottoman Turks.  Shah Abbas was known for his building projects, especially roads and bridges.  Nick had his own plans though, to build a bridge in the island.  How could I keep them inside with 2" x 11" strips of paper when the woods was full of bridge building materials and a ditch with running water.  Next week looks to be rainy so we'll attempt to build a paper bridge then.Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


First saw them October 18.  Everyday they're picking seeds in the lawn under the feeders.  Another nature note:  First skim ice on the chicken's water dish, October 19.Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cranberry Harvest Day 9

Today I'm sharing a collage of pictures taken over the course of a few days.  I want to share a bit about the flooding process of cranberry harvest.  Cranberry marshes have a system of reservoirs and ditches which are managed to keep the water just where it needs to be.  In the bottom right photo you can see bulkhead with boards placed to stop the flow of water.  When water is needed to flood a bed for raking the boards are pulled and water rushes through the tube and into the next ditch or cranberry bed.  In the top right picture you can see a ditch filled with water.  Throughout the course of harvest that water will be cycled into cranberry beds and the outlet ditch.  At the end of harvest water is pumped back into the reservoir to maintain a proper depth for winter flooding.
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happiness Is....

Happiness is...pulling the last frost thermometer off the cranberry marsh.

Happiness is...having kids old enough to scrapbook their own memories.

Happiness is...the aroma of pumpkin pies made by Emily.

Happiness is...seeing police lights in your review mirror and then watching them as they cruise on by.

Happiness is...cleanliness in all the inconspicuous places like under the couch and behind the piano.

I polled the rest of the family and here's what they said.
Dad says:  Happiness is...loading the last cranberry.  (which hasn't happened yet)

Emily says:  Happiness is...finishing a Heartland book in one day.

Nick says:  Happiness is...having an Airsoft war.

Amber says:  Happiness is...riding Max.

Sam says:  Happiness is...my birthday.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cranberry Recipes

Over the past 5 1/2 years of blogging here at Camp Homeschool I've shared some of our favorite cranberry recipes.  And since it's cranberry harvest time it's easy to find fresh cranberries in the grocer.  I've compiled a list of links to my cranberry recipes.  I have a oodles of recipes, but not enough time to share them all.  If you're in need of a particular type of cranberry recipe please let me know and I will do what I can to post one for you.  Enjoy!

Cranberry Zucchini Bread

Cranberry Nut Swirls (cookies)

Broccoli Cranberry Salad

Cranberry Juice

Cranberry Pecan Pie

Cranberry Apple Spice Bars

Cranberry Cake with Hot Butter Sauce

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cranberry Harvest Day 6

Today we'll be talkin' trash!

American Gothic our way.
This is almost all of the trash crew
So after the beds are harvested the trash crew goes around raking up the floating leaf debris.  It's not a glamorous job, but a necessary one because after the water is drained any floating leaf debris becomes laying on the vines debris which mats down the vines and suffocates next year's buds.
On calm days they go wading in the bed to get the trash, but on windy days it blows toward the dike as in the picture above.
There's another side to trash.  As the cranberries are elevated into the truck they pass over the cleaning belt.  Any leaves get pressure washed off and fall onto a trailer.  Can you believe you can buy this as garden mulch?
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Cranberry Harvest Day 5

Today I have a few random pictures to share.  Here's a newly raked bed.  The cranberries floating freely...until tomorrow.

Sam hitches a ride to pick up the trash trailer.  On front of the 4-wheeler is the blower, used to blow every last cranberry from the ditch edge before booming the cleanup round.

Cranberries like any plant rely on pollination to flourish.  Cranberry growers either rent honeybee hives or buy bumblebee hives. On the trailer are bumblebee quads.  They arrive in June to begin pollinating.  Many growers will get both types of bees.  Honeybees work best in pleasant weather, not unlike me.  Whereas bumblebees are willing to work during inclement weather, too.

It's interesting that when the bumblebees show up the hives are closed up and there's a mesh covering over the exit hole.  Within the first 24 hours they actually chew through the mesh.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Cranberry Harvest Day 4

Since something different happens everyday and we continue to homeschool throughout harvest, I can't always get pictures in order of how things are really done.  That's why I'm posting pictures according to task.  Today a bit about what happens to all those cranberries once boomed.  Booming was explained here.
The boom is continually tightened so the fruit is as close to the berry cleaner as possible.  Those mini lochness monsters sticking out of the cranberries are really homemade water jets.  A pump is used to push water through them.  The force of the moving water pushes berries into the green elevating machine.
The green paddles are chain driven, moving cycling around continuously grabbing fruit and pulling it up towards the pressure cleaner where leaves and other debris are power washed off the fruit.

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Homemade Crib Sheet

I couldn't wait for lunch to be done so I could make another crib sheet.  This is such a fun project.  And it's practical.  Today's flannel worked much better than yesterday's.  I found that if the fabric is wider than 45" you have to cut off the selvage in order to start with the right size rectangle.  Once the selvage is cut off that raw edge has to be finished in one way or another which adds to the sewing time.  Leaving the selvage on makes for a nicer looking finished product and saves time.
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Monday, October 11, 2010

Sewing Projects

Back in August my quilting buddy and I embarked on this adventure to make a purely scrap happy wall hanging.  This bear paw pattern was found in an older issue of Quilt.  The original pattern was for a bed size quilt, however, after all the piecing we're both glad we did this as a wall hanging.  We made one block and added a border, the original called for 16 blocks.  Simple, but time consuming.
I tried a new free motion quilting pattern; it's called pebbles.  I really like how it turned out, but it was time consuming and used a miles of thread.
Here's a closeup of the quilting.  I'm not sure if you can see it but each pebble has 2-3 rounds of stitching.  In order to achieve the look of continuous pebbles you have to quilt the pebble and then stitch around it again to the starting spot of the next pebble.  I would definitely do this again in small areas, never an entire quilt.  I suppose the pebbles could be made much larger on a bed size quilt.
Ironically, I sewed a flannel crib sheet for Little J today even though we're having an Indian summer.  His last flannels were from my sister-in-law.  I don't know how many of her children they warmed, but they warmed our first four and were basically thread bare.  Anyway, I used this tutorial at Everything Your Mama Made & More.  It was easy to follow and the project was done in no time.  I will however, make the next one an inch shorter in length and I will do a zigzag stitch all the way around the rectangle before cutting the corners and adding the elastic.
Posted by PicasaThis post wouldn't be complete without a bit about Down syndrome.  See that little space between Little J's big toe and 2nd toe?  That's called sandal gap.  It's a physical trait of Down syndrome, but nothing to fret over.  It's just a variation of normal.  He'll never have to worry about flip flop blisters.

Cranberry Harvest Day 2

Nick moved into a new job this year, booming beds.  In the past he's been on trash detail, so he's one happy guy this year.  The yellow rope like thing is called a boom.  Each end is hooked to a 4-wheeler and pulled slowly across a bed after the fruit has been raked and it's floating.  The boom is made up of two parts:  the rounded portion on top and a flap with a chain which hangs below.  The drivers drive extremely slow pulling the heavy fruit to one end of the bed.  Bed is the word used to describe a section of cranberries surrounded by a ditch and dike.  Cranberry beds on our marsh range in size from  1.68 - 3.52 acres.  Many of the new highland marshes built on sand have beds around 5 acres in size.
Here's a shot of the booming process from afar.
Here's #1 bed fully boomed and waiting to bed picked up.
I'd love to address your questions so please ask in the comments or on facebook.Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cranberry Harvest Has Begun

It's official!  Cranberry Harvest 2010 has begun and I have a few pictures to share.  Too tired for words tonight.  I don't know why, I didn't work harvest.  All I did today was make 10 quarts of chicken noodle soup, fold 8 loads of laundry, take kids to violin lessons, run all over town looking for size 14 hip waders, stop for 3 gallons of milk, entertain guests with a cranberry marsh tour, take oodles of pictures, help Nick with the supper dishes and orchestrate Saturday night showers.  So on with the pics.

School Time

Sam is working on making sentences. There's a card with a simple picture like a man in a van. Then he has to pick the correct words from a pile of word cards to create the sentence. He reads it and then picks a new card. That card might be a cat on a van. Then he just changes the appropriate words to create the new sentence. He really enjoys this game which could be homemade. Mine is not, it's Happy Phonics from Love to Learn.  I first bought this back when Nick was learning to read.  I used it consistently with him and played many of the more advanced games with Emily at the time, too.  I played a few games with Amber, but now am back to using the complete program with Samuel.  It's a very easy program to use and I'd recommend it to anyone with pre-readers.

Amber is working hard on Language Arts.  She's learning about synonyms, words that mean the same in her Language of God book from Catholic Heritage Curricula.

Emily and Nick are working on science.  Currently they are using the Usborne Science Encyclopedia to study botany, the study of plants.  Today they were learning about seed dispersal and germination.  They are using a free study unit from Homeschool Share.

And Little J is reading in daddy's Lazy Boy.  He loves turning pages.  The problem with that is if I give him traditional books with paper pages he has a tendency to tear them when he's turning them.  And if I give him traditional board books the pages are so thick that he has a hard time getting his fingers in between each page to turn it.  The perfect solution is to find board books with nontraditional pages.  For example, many Eric Carle books have staggered pages.  The first page is short, then the next is longer and the next longer and so on making them easy to turn.  Today he's reading The Grouchy Ladybug.  Also the Touch and Feel Animal books are great because the added textures make the pages stand apart a bit so he can turn them easily.  Today he's reading Touch and Feel Farm.

There you have it another look at our school day.
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Friday, October 8, 2010

Educational Games

One child needed a little extra practice with identifying adjectives today.  I found this site with an array of educational games.  I liked the fact that it didn't require running any add-ons, but it is full of advertisements.  From what we saw, nothing offensive - satellite TV, makeup, airline tickets.  The adjective game is found in the English category.  I like doing online games because it gives the kids a chance to practice computer skills and discerning pertinent info from the unimportant info.  Sometimes kids get distracted by the advertising and don't know what they're really supposed to be reading at a particular site.  Anyway if you don't mind viewing an add before playing each game you might want to check out EZSchool.com

His First 4 Steps

Little J took 4 steps twice today. 

It happened 15 minutes ago and my heart is still all a flutter.  I never doubted that he would walk, it's just when you wait so long for something so natural the level of excitement is almost incomprehensible.  I've never posted a video, but I just might have to learn how today.

Down syndrome can bring with it a host of (he just took another 2 and now another 5 steps) physical and mental delays.  The physical delays are often caused by hypotonia, low muscle tone.  Low muscle tone brings many challenges to overcome when learning to sit, crawl, walk or anything involving muscles, which happens to be everything.  Hypotonia is not exclusive to those with Down syndrome.  It can show up in any infant, but those with Ds often take longer to overcome it.  Physical Therapy is the main "treatment".  Kathy comes to our house and works with Little J and teaches us all kinds of activities to do with him until her next visit.  Kathy and us work very hard to help Little J, but really it's all him.  He has to want it.  And we've learned to be patient yet encouraging.  Little J's physical milestones have all been met later than a typical developing child.  They do come and with great applause, squealing and sometimes a few tears we watch him develop into the little guy God created him to become.

My favorite book for Gross Motor Development.

And here is Kathy's PT suggestions until his next session:
1.  2 hands held - stand in front of him - walking
2.  take breaks and resume walking from one room to another

The second suggestion to take breaks while walking has proven very helpful.  I will say something like, "Let's go see what the boys are doing in their room."  I'll grab his hands and then we'll walk to the boys room.  If he tries to sit down, I will let go of his hands and sign "take a break".  Then after a moment I'll grab his hands again and say, "ok, let's keep going,"  Sometimes we will try to bear crawl away during his break time, but I work very hard to distract him (or I just grab his legs and pull him back towards me) into continued walking so he gets the idea of purposeful walking.  Seems like it's working well.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

31 for 21 - Day 7

October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month and many bloggers are dedicating themselves to blogging about Down syndrome everyday.  Down syndrome is a part of my everyday life.  Understanding, advocating, teaching, loving, excepting...these are all words that describe my actions towards Down syndrome, however Down syndrome is not the only important thing in my life, therefore, I will continue to post about our life as usual with a few more educational posts about Down syndrome.  For today, I'd like to share a link to Sarah's blog.  She's a young lady with Down syndrome and shares her life through her blog.  It's true Down syndrome does not define a person's life.  She works, plays, has favorite movies, loves, feels pain and sadness.  She's like you and she's like me.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall Food

The air turns a bit nippy, leaves are crunching below my feet and before I can spell autumnal equinox I get the urge to start cooking.  And since it's been a while since I posted a recipe, I figured it was about time to share a couple of our fall family favorites.

Pumpkin Pancakes - the original recipe came from All Recipes.com, but since I've altered it I'll share my version.

2 cups flour (sometimes I substitute 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup white flour, but then I have to add a bit more liquid)
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
1 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 T. oil
2 T. vinegar

I like to keep prep simple so I just dump all the dry ingredients into a medium sized bowl and give it a few stirs to mix it up.  Then I add all the liquid ingredients and stir vigorously 10-12 strokes until everything is just mixed.  Don't over mix pancake batter or the gas bubbles created from the baking soda/vinegar reaction will burst leaving your pancake batter flat and your pancakes even flatter.  If the batter has small lumps and air bubbles then you've done it right.  Fry on a hot griddle.  Serve piping hot with butter and real maple syrup or try my homemade fake maple syrup.  Yummy!

Philly Cheese Steaks at Home
Now this is super simple.  Great for lunch or serve up with a big salad and dinner is on the table in no time.  First slice a family sized loaf of French or Italian bread in half the long way be careful to not cut all the way through.  Spread both sides with about 2 T. soft butter and sprinkle generously with your favorite garlic salt.
 Slice a large onion and small green pepper.  Don't be a perfectionist.  Just get off the outer layer of the onion and scoop out the seeds from the pepper and chop/slice roughly.  Saute in a small amount of butter until onion is as soft as you like it.  I like it best when they just start to brown a bit.
Now layer on 1 pound of deli roast beef, the sauteed veggies and generous slices of cheese.  I like provolone.  Warren likes pepper jack.  This time I used Amish cheese.  I'll share the story at the end of this post.  Stick under the broiler for about 4-5 minutes.  Set a timer.  Stay in the kitchen.  Watch carefully.  After all this believe me you don't want to burn the cheese steak.  Fold the top over the sandwich.  Slice into various sizes and enjoy.  Unfortunately we were so hungry that I forgot to take a photo of the end product.  But what you're going for is melty, bubbly cheese and bread that's lightly toasted. 
Why do we call it Amish cheese?  Because our horse stable friends have an Amish young man who works for them training horses.  He happens to be the 2nd or 3rd of 12 kids.  How awesome!  His dad is a wheeler dealer kind of guy and he got a phone call.  Yes you read that right, the Amish man got a phone call.  They can't have phones in their home, but they can have a centrally located phone that serves their community in a "phone booth" with an answering machine.  Anyway he received a message that 10,000 pounds of cheese had been mislabeled, couldn't be sold to the public and if he wanted it he could have it for FREE.  So he set a delivery time and in the meantime contacted all his friends and sold the cheese at $0.30 per pound.  They had to pick up their cheese immediately.  Well he gave a couple 40 pound blocks to our stable friends and they shared.  It is good.  Tastes like a white sharp cheddar.