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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Digging for dinosaurs

Our cousins visited from Alaska for two days, so we went on a couple field trips. Our favorite destination is the Austin Nature and Science Center. The highlight of the location is a huge pit of sand full of replicated dinosaur fossils for the children to discover. We could happily spend all day there! The children all worked together really well to uncover huge sections of skeletons.

Sarah remembered to bring a natural treasure to trade at the exchange desk. She brought a rock and the teacher at the desk helped her explore what mineral it was based on several observations they made together. She was rewarded points for her work and was allowed to 'shop' for a prize. She was quite happy to find a polished amethyst in the prize choices. Matthew was eager to participate, so when we went outside, he filled his pockets with as many rocks as he could possibly fit. The pockets bulged full of rock so much the fabric stretched! His pants were so heavy that he had to hold them up with his hands as he walked back to the exchange desk!

He was so proud of his 'loot' and was so excited to trade them. The lady helped him find out what types of rocks he had. His favorite experiment with the rocks was to find out if they were harder than a pane of glass. He was told to try to scratch the glass with his rock and see if a mark was made. That was definitely cool!

He traded a leaf, ball moss, and rocks for a fossilized oyster and a polished shell. It's possible to accumulate points and save up for a bigger prize, such as a animal skull, antelope horns, insect collections, etc. They sure enjoyed bringing home their treasure!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cross-stitching hoopla

This Sunday morning before church I taught Sarah and Matthew a basic embroidery stitch. They each were given a hoop, fabric, and needle. I let them choose what picture they'd like to stitch in floss. Sarah picked a butterfly. Matthew chose a pirate's symbol of skull and crossbones. He's been obsessed with pirates lately. :)

I was surprised with how diligent they were with the stitchery work. I knew Sarah would do well with it since she loves projects like this and several of her literature heroes do embroidery. She's been reading the American Girl's Collection about Felicity, a girl in the American Revolution. Felicity has embroidery lessons daily, so it's piqued Sarah's interest in similar arts. I was shocked that Matthew even wanted to try this. He's so active and boisterous, it didn't seem to match his personality one bit. It turns out he loves stitching! He sat quietly with his thread and worked for 2 hours today! It was like a mother's dream come true...something I had been sureonly happened in m ovies! I was sitting on my bed with Sarah and Matthew both happily and quietly stitching while Daniel napped. It was absolutely marvelous! Nathan came home from working at the church while this fleeting moment was occuring. I was so eager for him to come upstairs and see our industrious little moment!

Matthew loved this so much, he asked me if he could spend his allowance money on picking out more embroidery floss and fabric for more projects. HIs birthday is this week, so we agreed he could pick out some of his own colors at the store. He's so excited about this!

I suggested we hang up their handiwork in their rooms. Matthew always say's no to this idea. He'd prefer to stick his favorite creations in his 72-hour backpack so he can take them with us if the house burns down. He never wants to put his work on display. It takes a lot of coaxing to convince him that the house most likely will not burn down, and it would be a real shame to lock away his creations forever in a backpack where he can never see it.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Bedtime stories

I love Nathan. He's such a great dad! He just finished reading the unabridged Alice in Wonderland book out loud to our children. They read a chapter each day and the children LOVED it! He's so talented at doing different voices for the characters and making it fun. I loved listening to him. He'd be fantastic at doing recorded audio books! I just wanted to share this, even though I don't have a picture of it. I think it's so awesome that they'd all cuddle on the couch reading an old classic. I love my family!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Baby rabbits


The rabbits have their eyes open and they can hop around and play now. We've had a lot of fun playing with them! They're unbelievably soft and fat. We really enjoyed holding them and cuddling with them while we listening to General Conference. We've brought out to play several times each day. Bella is also fascinated with them, but hasn't been allowed to get close enough to play with them. This batch of rabbits won't be slaughtered this year. This will be our new breeding stock, so we're free to get as attached as we want with them.

Family painting, attempt two

Okay, so the last family art attempt was really fun, but didn't look very good. This is try number two. We wanted to imitate the Circle Painting movement happening in Asia. Sarah and I painted the basic pattern so there'd be a certain level of continuity. Everyone picked a circle or area to paint and they were allowed to paint it however they chose. It was a project that we kept out for two days, so the children would work on it in pieces here and there. They really enjoyed it and it was fun to see what they chose to do with their own areas. Matthew particularly loved mixing his own colors for his circles. Sarah was meticulous, adding lots of dots and swirls. Daniel just did dots. We would sit around the table as a family working on it after dinner. It was really fun and I want to do more projects like this.

For anyone wanting to do a similar project, check out the Circle Painting website for some info on international projects, some of which are really huge. It's

To make the project, take a piece of cloth, either a bed sheet for a large painting, or a smaller square cut to size. Canvas worked better than thin cotton. We didn't have any paint bleed through the canvas. We used a scrap left over from an earlier sewing project. It's also best to prime the canvas with a layer of paint, or else the canvas will start to wrinkle and roll as the details are painted on. We used the cheap craft paint found at any department store.

You can lay out a basic background pattern, or just let everyone paint whatever they choose. I found it works best to have some sort of background colors; it adds a lot of character to the painting.

Hidden in our picture are the following: the tree of life, our favorite hen, a mouse, the three degrees of glory, a cherry pie, the missing piece of pie, blue eyes, the names of each person in the family, and a winding path through the entire painting. Can you find them all?

Strawberry harvest

We decided this year to make our year supply of jam from strawberries. We'll be missing the wild grape harvest in Texas this year due to vacation scheduled the month of harvest. That's how we usually obtain our fruit for the annual jam-making spree.

When we realized we'd miss the wild harvest, we opted to go to a berry farm an hour away and make our jam early this year. The farm is an hour away, reached by a beautiful mountain drive. The roads were so twisty and so steep that the children squealed and laughed at each decline. It really felt like a rollercoaster. It even made us nauseous, but it was still a blast.

The farm itself was pretty large. There were four large strawberry fields, each planted with different varieties of fruit. The berries were so big! I hadn't seen so many huge strawberries before. We sure enjoyed ourselves. There's an advertised rule that you should eat as many berries as you can while you work, since you won't be charged for them. I asked the owner about that, just to be sure it was okay. She told me if the children don't have red-stained faces when they come out of the field, they didn't have enough fun. What a neat rule!

The children played and enjoyed as many strawberries as their tummies could hold. We all enjoyed our time and the berries were absolutey amazing, especially when you bite into them and they're still warm from the sun. MMMMM!

After filling our baskets and playing with the farm animals, we drove home and enjoyed ice cream along the way. It was such a fun family activity. Now we just have to make the jam.