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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Blast off


Sarah and Matthew decided to transform the boys' room into outer space. They pulled open a book about our solar system and drew each planet on construction paper. Sarah was very meticulous about getting the red spot on Jupiter correct, and making sure Uranus had the rings going vertically. They cut them out and hung them on the walls of the room. They had so much fun taping confetti stars all over the walls as well.

Astronauts always wear cool helmets, which they couldn't find. The crowns made an acceptable substitution for them. It's something cool to wear on the head that makes them feel special. Good enough.

The final detail was the astronaut food. Matthew informed me that toothpaste wasn't an option, even though it fit the correct appearance. "Mom, it LOOKS like astronaut food, but that would just be too spicy." Matthew found some condiment containers and asked me to fill them with applesauce. Perfect! Everyone had their own astronaut snack in the space ship.

After the applesauce was gone, they decided there wasn't much else fun to do as an astronaut. It was pretty boring, so the games were done. Why is it that so much set up is required for a 5 minute snack?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Garden update

Our garden is growing well, aside from a few setbacks. We had a tragedy last week....mosaic virus. Our favorite heirloom pepper plant (with all-white peppers) caught it and had to be exterminated immediately. It spread to another pepper plant and a Super Sweet 100 tomato plant. That was a sad, sad day. The empty cages mark the where the plants used to live.

Luckily, everything else is growing very well. The basil is huge and ready for some harvesting. We are making basil jelly for the first time this year, and I'm very excited to try it out. The recipe is from a farmhouse cookbook. It's for pouring over meats or dipping crackers into. Yum!
The Green Machine melons are growing like crazy. Nathan trained the vine to climb up a cedar branch to the fence, so now it grows happily along the top of the fence, getting all the sunshine it wants. This melon vine is an intense producer, so it should have dozens of fruit. A lot of flowers have already started fruiting, so we're really excited. I'm still volunteering time to help people collect materials to start their own gardens, and I'm teaching another gardening class in two weeks. I'm so excited that people are starting to take an interest in where their food comes from. It's so important to know exactly what you're consuming, so I love my garden!


Daniel loves to sing an educational song called 'Punctuation'. He'll sing it at the top of his lungs, and the chorus goes: Punc, Punc, Puncuation! He pronounces it "Pumbulation". I love it! He'll march around the house singing Pumbulation with such conviction.

Speaking of speech impediments (no pun intended), Matthew spells words according to his impediments. He says the 'th' sound like 'f'. For example, he was so pleased with himself when he spell MOF, or 'moth'. He'll do that with any word using the letters 'th', except for the word 'the'. He says it like 'deh', so he spells it 'DE'. I can see we have some work cut out for us before he starts kindergarten next fall.

For Mother's Day we had a real tea party with some other moms and daughters from our ward. Our daughters were all the same ages, so it was really fun for the girls to be together. The girls all wore fun hats. Nathan and I had spent most of Saturday cooking lemon scones, cookies, several kinds of tea sandwiches, etc. It was a lot of work, but worth the effort. I'm hoping this will be one of the memories Sarah keeps forever, and that makes any amount of work validated.

We had a variety of herbal teas so everyone could choose their own flavor. Sarah really loved pouring in the cream and sugar. It was delightful, eating this lunch of really tasty treats. I had never done a real tea party with guests before, just pretend ones with the kids and their dolls, so I looked up tea party etiquette rules. It was ridiculous. All the strict, meaningless rules would take any fun out of the occasion. No wonder English tea time is so formal and stiff...we decided to leave the rules alone and just enjoy ourselves. I figured having classical piano playing in the background would make it formal enough. It was nice to chat with my friends and catch up on everyone's lives (there never is time to chat at church!). After the girls were finished with their treats, they ran outside to play with the baby bunnies. They had a blast and were so cute in their Sunday dresses holding white rabbits.

With the girls distracted outside and the tea table vacated, the boys landed at the party to enjoy the remains. Matthew sat at the head of the table and acted like he was the lord over it all. It was so funny to see how important he felt to sit at the head of such a grand spread. They really enjoyed 'cleaning up' any treats left behind.

Family outing

We went to the Austin Nature and Science Center (our favorite place to visit in Austin). Sarah and Matthew always beg us to take them there. It's such a highlight to dig in the dino pit.
Matthew is our tree-climber. Anytime we are in a park with large trees, he's up it. It's the highlight of any trip and he'll stay up the tree enjoying the view for a long time.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Medievil study

We're exploring medieval history in home school right now. I had a fun realization. We studied this morning about castle architecture and defense mechanisms. The skinny holes in the walls and battlements that archers shoot arrows through onto the enemy are called loops. Sarah was showing me her drawing of a castle and pointed out the loops. I just realized that this is where the term 'loop-holes' comes from. So cool!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Monday, May 18, 2009

We've made our vegetable garden into a demonstration garden using several gardening techniques. The rock garden is the best looking part of the garden. It was the most labor-intensive approach to gardening, but it was also free. We collected the rocks from a cemetery in Austin and the dirt was our high-quality dirt from our original garden plot. The only part we paid anything for was the gas to go pick up rocks. We usually picked up rocks when we were in the area for other things, such as dental appointments, so the gas calculations would be tricky to figure out.
Pros- low cost(free), nice aesthetics, the most space efficient approach to gardening, water efficient
Cons- high labor cost, permanent structure

The square box gardens cost about $25 for the wood. The dividers are from sections of Venetian blinds that were falling apart in our toy room (who needs window treatments in the toy room, anyway? Dumb.). The dirt was about $50 per box garden. The dirt could be free, but for us it wasn't. I now have an arrangement to get free dirt, so that won't be a cost factor in the future.
Pros- could be low cost, space efficient, water efficient, nice aesthetics with the grid layout
Cons- Walls need to be rebuilt periodically as wood rots, not well suited for large plants like squash or tomatoes, need access space on all sides

The Earthbox gardens are practically fool-proof. There's a water reservoir in the bottom fo the box, so there's constant water access to the plants. The overflow holes let out excess water, so it's impossible to over-water these plants. It's great for a beginner gardener and one box can happily fit a large tomato plant coupled with some basil. It's not a permanent fixture in the garden, so it can be moved (although it's VERY heavy) if needed. It's great for a patio garden or apartment-dwellers with no yard. Our boxes were given to us by some friends at work, although to buy one is extremely expensive. They go for around $50. I have building plans made by the Travis county master gardener's association to build your own Earthbox for around $10-15.
Pros- portable, small, beginner-friendly, no soil pests, water efficient
Cons- can be expensive

Some other fun developments: we've found a dozen 'volunteer' tomato seedlings that grew spontaneously from last year's plants. I found out that tomato seedlings can be pulled-just like you would pull a weed- and replanted in a pot. They grow just fine and don't struggle at all after that harsh treatment. We've been potting them and giving them away as gifts to students of my gardening class. It's been lots of fun and we keep finding more tomato seedlings as time goes by. We even had one growing out of the side of our compost pile.

We LOVE the lettuce variety we grew this year. It's Mignonette Bronze lettuce. It's a compact variety perfect for small gardens, and we've been devouring it with gusto for weeks. I planted 9 heads of lettuce and we've been eating the same plants for weeks. They are very vigorous growers, so when we harvest all the leaves, they just pop back with a full head in 2-3 days. We've really loved it. The leaves are a beautiful bronzed color and the flavor is sweet and crispy. was surprised that they grew back so well and we've decided this variety is DEFINITELY a keeper. This species of lettuce is an heirloom variety discovered in a French monastery garden. This species is over a thousand years old. We love it!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Father-Son campout

It's finally arrived: the annual Father-Son campout. Matthew was so excited for that weekend! The entire week before the trip, he'd periodically squeeze his hands in delight, wiggle all over like a puppy, and giggle loudly, exclaiming, "Iamsoexcited!Iamsoexcited!"

Here's Matthew's account of the trip:

I had a lot of stuff for dinner! I had a bottle of orange juice, and I drank it. I played with lots of friends. We played good guys and bad guys with sticks. I was a bad guy for a long time, but then I wanted to be a good guy, so I traded teams. My friend the bad guy said, "Oh no! My partner switched! Now he's turned on me!"

I had pancakes for breakfast and I went fishing. It rained on us, and I didn't like that. I caught my own fish all by myself. The fish was shiny and silvery. It had sharp things on it's back that I couldn't touch. I like to go fishing. I was the only one to catch a fish, and no one helped me catch it. I threw the fish back in the water so it could live. I like fish and I didn't want it to die. It was so pretty I wanted it to live. I think I will always let fish live, I don't want them to die.

I liked sleeping in the tent. Mosquitoes bit me on the face and I took off my band-aid and lost it. I don't know where it is. At the fire I cooked marshmallows and I had apple juice and orange juice. I cooked my own marshmallows and Dad lit a marshmallow on fire and so did someone else. I didn't light any on fire, I just cooked it and it got squooshy. I also ate cookies.

It appears to me that camping must all be about the food for little boys. I'm glad he had a great time. Nathan said Matt was extremely helpful in setting up things and worked hard. He was nice to the other kids and cheerful the entire time. He was reverent during the fireside and was just wonderful to have around. I'm so glad to hear things like that. We've struggled a lot with Matt's stubbornness and bullying when he was younger and he's been growing into such a delightful person. I'm so pleased with his progress! Now if Daniel can just follow suit....

Friday, May 15, 2009

Flu bugs...let's squash them

We'll be quarantined voluntarily for a while. We've contracted a nasty flu bug. I had been so meticulous about avoiding public spaces with the children and adding hand sanitizer to the daily regimen of hygiene. I don't care to find out if it's swine flu or just another bug going around. Verifying the particular strain would just mean a doctor's office trip, a co-pay, and a sympathetic cluck of the tongue as they send us home to wait it out the best we can.

Daniel has been very sick for 3 days, and Sarah just came down with it today. If it makes the rounds one person at a time, it's going to be a verrrrrrrrrry long week. On the other hand, I'm very thankful that I can minister to each person individually as they feel sick, rather than be overwelmed with the entire family sick simultaneously. Hopefully we won't spread the virus to anyone else due to our quarantine. Hopefully it will pass sooner than later!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Matthew!

This year for our birthdays, instead of doing a party with friends, the children get to pick a family adventure to do. I plan on alternating every other year with a party or family outing. This year Matthew chose to go to the zoo in San Antonio. We bought a family pass as part of his gifts. The zoo was SO huge!

We picked up Nathan from work early and drove down together. We had dinner along the way...we LOVE Taco Cabana! It's the ultimate fast food. It costs the same as McDonalds would be, but the food is so much tastier and we don't feel gross afterwards like we feel after eating hamburgers and fries. The kids love the food and can't get enough of the beans and tortillas. Sarah exclaimed, "I could eat this for the rest of my life and be happy!" When we have visited McD's, the children never finish their hamburgers because it makes their tummies hurt, so I love the fact that they enjoy healthier Mexican food!

The zoo had several areas where the animals weren't restrained by any sort of fence or barrier. The zoo created the ideal habitats for these animals, so they just stayed. My favorite was the lake full of cranes, herons, swans, geese, and ducks. They would fly right over our heads as they searched for nesting material, then they'd always come back to the lake. It was incredible!

Matthew was given a pair of goggles for his birthday and he wore them most of the day! He loved those goggles so much! He was so cute with them on! He'd tell Daniel, "If you're lucky, I'll let you wear my goggles for a few minutes!" He did a great job of sharing them with his little brother, and it was funny to see what a privilege it was for Daniel!

There was a tree-top lookout point where you could hike through the trees to a tall tower and look out over the zoo. It was pretty fun.

We all enjoyed searching out the squashed penny machines. We started collecting them as a family after Lisa introduced them to us. It's such a fun souvenir that doesn't cost much, and it's so fun to watch them be pressed in the machines. The children were so excited each time we found a new machine! They'd all pick a design to imprint on their penny and we kept all the pennies in our little collection book.

After 4 hours of exploring, we were all exhausted and we had only seen half of the zoo! We decided to go home and come another day to explore the other half. We were particularly grateful that we had purchased an annual pass.

After the zoo we visited some dear friends that had moved to San Antonio near the temple. we used to home school together and we'd meet every week to do activities. They let us raise 25 chicks on their farm before the big move. It was wonderful to share dinner together and celebrate Matt's birthday with them. They were so kind and offered to babysit so Nathan and I could go throught the temple session that evening. It was so wonderful! It was the perfect cap to a wonderful day.

Blackberry foraging

we love to forgae for nature's bounty in the wild. THis is the time for blackberries to be ripe. We usually drive 30 minutes away to pick berries near Lake Georgetown. It was a mile hike away from the road to reach the berry spot, and the area was known for snakes, fire ants, cactus(Sarah had a mean experience with those last year) and ticks. It was a lot of grueling work and hiking, but totally worth the fruit. This year we weren't going to go.

On the way home from a family outing to the park behind our house, Sarah went exploring behind a bunch of large bushes. She found the largest berry patch we've ever seen! The ground was covered in blackberry vines as far as we could see along the path! We ran home as fast as possible and brought back containers for our harvest. We picked berries until the sun went down. Matthew found an intact snake spine under one of the bushes, so that was a highlight. We harvested several quarts of berries. The next day we went back again and picked until we were faint-headed from the heat. Now we have enough for jam! I can't believe we found the perfect berry patch literally right behind our house! It's so perfect!

All week we've thanked the Lord for showing us that patch. It's been so convenient and delightful. Sarah has been begging every day to go pick more berries. We love it!