Tuesday, September 30, 2008

some G time.

A has been sick and on the couch for the last 2 days, and so G and I have been doing all kinds of things together so that A can have some peace and quiet and rest.

One project has been pulling things in from the garden since the temps look like they will dip into the 30s at night this week. The end is near. We have been dehydrating trays (and trays) of herbs, pulling pumpkins and squash, and retrieving the daily basket of the last tomatoes, raspberries and cucumbers of the season. He loves picking things, identifying plants and snipping flowers for our nature table.

He has also been enjoying doing "his own" crafts - today for one project he painted some ceramic leaves with great fall colors.

While the boys are an amazing duo and love each other dearly, it is also interesting to see G sparkle with the quiet one on one time. And he really loves taking care of his big brother and making sure he is comfortable...or maybe he just likes operating the ice maker and the digital thermometer! ;)

Monday, September 29, 2008

wind generator.

Last weekend we were invited to a potluck to learn about and assemble a wind generator. Kids were welcome, and all of the materials were laid out with notes and comments so that we could all see all of the pieces before assembling. It was very interesting - each piece was fabricated, cut and molded from scratch - no kit here!

One of the coolest things for the boys (other than the tools, of course) was seeing and feeling the crazy high powered magnets on the plate. By holding a tiny battery in their hand, they could simply hold their hand over the magnetic plate and feel the strong pull through their hand. Wow!

The magnets were fun to watch as the dads tried to tighten bolts and the wrench kept crossing large air space and attaching itself to the magnet as they tried to pull against the force...and the subsequent struggle to get it off again.

Each step was explained along the way. Kids got to help with certain steps, and as you can see, A was very excited to have both a rubber mallet and a few wrenches. He even got to gently whack a few things into place. Oooh.

Once assembled, a few people cranked the arms and sure enough, the light bulb on the panel lit up - it generated energy even from just a push by hand! A success! After a few last touches, this windmill will now get mounted and installed off at its new home. Very cool stuff - I love science in action.

Of course all of that meant that A wants to know more about wind power, generators, and windmills. He also wants to find out more about magnets...lots of fun to come.

Here are a few interesting books that are getting us started:

Our Earth: Clean Energy.

Alternative Energy.

Wind Power.

And if you are interested in learning more about how and what he constructed, plans are here!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

walk in the woods.

We love walking in the woods in the fall. Each and every day brings something new and different - the leaves change, the ground changes, the plants change, and even the light shifts and paths that have been walked one hundred times look foreign.

We have been finding leaves, acorns, pine cones, bark and other little bits of things. We have been watching chipmunks, birds and squirrels acting very busy. We have been watching, listening, smelling, feeling.

We have sat on moss, laid in the grass, rubbed bark, gently touched fuzzy caterpillars, listened to the crunch of leaves under our feet, tip-toed quietly to see birds and deer. We have run and skipped and laughed and sang. Enjoying the season.

It looks like we have rain and cooler weather for this week and will have some cozy time inside to do some fun fall projects. Hope you had a nice weekend!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

karate belt.

Yesterday was A's first belt promotion in karate. Ohhhhh, he was excited. He has been counting down the days, the hours, the minutes. This is a kid who needs to know exactly what will happen, when it will happen, the order in which it will happen, and be comfortable that he understands every piece before something happens. So, since this was his first belt promotion he was a bit nervous. A is a spunky kid. When we arrived and checked in, all of the other kids were running, jumping, doing somersaults, cartwheels...A sat. Still. For over 15 minutes. Without moving. On the mat. Waiting.

They first did all of the forms together required at this level. A relaxed a lot, but was still very exacting and serious...with the worlds biggest smile, of course. At the end names were called and belts were presented and the kids went down the line of black belts to get handshakes and their certificate. He was so thrilled. And proud. Watching the emotions and excitement and focus and acknowledgement just makes my heart swell. What a sweet boy.

At the end he asked if he could have his photo taken with his karate instructor. I think this photo sums up how he feels about karate and this great teacher of his. Good job, little guy.

Friday, September 26, 2008

apple candle holders.

The boys have been wanting to make apple candle holders ever since we picked up our first batch of apples. So today we finally made a few! They are easy to make and look nice on your fall nature table.

You just need apples, mini cookie/clay cutters, a little hammer, taper candles, and a corer or knife.

The kids gently hammer fall shapes into the apples - we have a set of mini cutters which includes a leaf, apple, pumpkin, and acorn. Hammer in enough to cut into skin, then remove. The point with this is that as the apple sits out a bit it will shrink and turn brown in the pierced area, making the design show up clearly.

The grown-up then cuts a hole in the top the right size for the taper. We put a little clay in the hole to help hold it in place, and then the boys pushed in their candles. They also embellished the holder a bit using a colorful paper leaf on a wire by pushing it into the back of the apple and bending it behind the candles (far enough away to not ignite or get wax drips). The leaves look like they are glowing when the candles are lit!

We love when it starts getting dark a bit earlier - it is a good excuse to light our beeswax candles and sit at the table together. We do puzzles, play board games, and listen to music or books on CD. Makes for a nice family evening. These candle holders will only last a day or two, but they are fun to make!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

bad hair day?

Nah, just fun at the park.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Little Changes.

Over the past few days we are back into summer humidity and heat. The grass is green, the garden is lush, the tomatoes are still coming...but here and there, we have signs of fall.

This is the time of year we love to go for morning walks at our local botanical garden. Things change so fast, and we can watch every bit. A came up with the idea to photograph all of the plants from our Wildflower Bingo game, and so we have been walking to recognize and photograph wildflowers before the season ends. As the boys realized they actually know more plants than what is just in the game, we have been photographing and cataloging more. I think we may make our own set of cards or a game. A has been thinking and I'm sure will come up with something interesting. Until then, I'll continue to take pictures of whatever they want me to! :)

Whatever we do with the images, the search has made our wanderings very fun. With the close eye on the small details, the boys have been noticing many other changes around them...like falling leaves, new colors, changing foliage, and different insects. It is fun to take along our fall nature notebooks (like these) to draw, write or trace these observations into. I think the boys also just like carrying the bag with the notebooks and pencils...makes it less like a walk and more like an adventure.

We have always loved walking in the woods, but it is also interesting to walk through these gardens to see such a wide spectrum of plants, colors, textures, smells. It is a full sensory experience.

We have a few more days of hot weather before the cooler autumn days return. I think that is when we will start to see the riot of fall color that is so wondrous around here. Can't wait!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

apple time.

With the changing leaves comes apple time! We make applesauce, apple butter, apple pie filling, dried apple rings, have lots to juice, do apple crafts, and generally over do it every September. Loads of fun!

Today the boys made applesauce. They peeled (using our hand dandy peeler/corer) apples, measured the juice and maple syrup, sprinkled cinnamon, and grated nutmeg. I love kids in the kitchen. I just read the recipe and did the stove-top work - put it on the stove, let it simmer, and put it in glass jars when ready!

This applesauce recipe is a good one. Tastes like fall. To get the recipe visit my food blog - cook.eat.think.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

1800s for a day.

Today we had another field trip - a visit to Old World Wisconsin. We have been wanting to go for awhile and this weekend was a great time to visit - it was not crowded and the weather was great.

Old World Wisconsin, as you can probably guess, is a group of period settlements representing rural and town Wisconsin during the late 1800s. Each building was carefully moved from its home in some Wisconsin town and re-constructed on site at OWW. Quite a wonder. Several settler populations from this time period are represented - German, Polish, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, African American, and Yankee.

We started in town and visited the shoemaker, blacksmith, church, general store, and the inn (the boys even played croquet!) before heading out to the farms.

The boys had a blast riding the tram from village to village (the entire place is over 600 acres, so while walking is nice, the tram is wonderful). Each farm had something interesting and different - summer kitchens, baking, food preservation, weaving, farm animals, smokehouses - many manned by volunteers in period costume who chatted with us and showed us around as they went about their day. We also visited the one room schoolhouse - the boys liked the school bell. A lot.

Each farm had a large food garden and farm animals - which the boys liked a lot - cows, sheep, pigs, chickens. The chickens liked us too...

In addition to the tram there were many hiking trails connecting the villages - it is so lush and forested there - great place to hike. At the end, we visited the town hall - which had all sorts of games for kids as well as weaving, quilting and spinning.

The boys don't think rural Wisconsinites had it too bad back then - except for the tiny farm houses...but when they heard about the cold Wisconsin winters and keeping everyone warm only via the wood stove, they thought cozy made sense on the farm and having a bed in the main room was a good thing! ;)

What a great day! It is so much fun learning about history through a living museum. It makes it more real, more fun and interesting, and kids take away so much from it. We already have some questions A and G want answered, so we will re-visit some of our Laura Ingalls-Wilder books and have some fun. And I think we will go back for their Autumn Harvest in October - the leaves will be amazing by then!

I took so many pics that I'm posting some at Flickr...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

knitting nancy.

A has been very involved with picking projects, experiments, books and trips this fall. We have been reviewing different types of handwork and craft projects he could do, and he has tried different yarn crafts with limited success. This week we found a clover wonder knitter - which is basically a fancy spinning knitting nancy, and...success!

A loves knitting with this. He selected a nice olive bamboo yarn and has been cranking out feet of tubes.

The size is manageable by small hands and the spinning top is good because it doesn't require too much finger work to operate. It is pretty simple and yet produces nice even stitches. He has really been enjoying doing this - he has wanted to work on this at night before going to sleep, while in the car, and even during the day. I think the repetition and focus with the reward of the tube coming out the bottom makes you want to just keep going, and going!

He wants to have this sewn into a hat and a wristlet when he is done! Fun! This seems like a great intro to knitting tool for small hands. And it is nice that it relaxes him and he enjoys just sitting and knitting away! :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Field Trip!

When A and I discussed if there were any special things he wanted to do this fall, "field trips" came up as a big request. Each week we try to have one special outing that we designate a "field trip" which the boys select. We went to the kids museum in Rockford a few weeks back, last week we did a raspberry u-pick, and this week we went on a tour of a local creamery!

For our creamery tour several other homeschooling families joined us (hi!) - it was fun to get out with many kids in the 6 & under set. The creamery we visited (Sassy Cow) gave us a tour of the equipment and tanks, chatted about how the milk is processed (they have both organic and conventional milk), and where it goes from there to be made into ice cream, bottled on site or sold to local cheese producers. The kids also got to see a truck hooked up getting milk from a large tank. Cool!

We took a break and the kids ate some ice cream and rode pedal tractors outside. Yep. Pedal tractors!

After a bit we went back in to watch the bottling through a window. All of those kids were very energetic for the entire time, but when that bottling machine started, they were mesmerized!

The people at the creamery were all really nice (hi!) and the weather was gorgeous. Definitely a fun field trip!