February 27, 2009

Boxcar Children

Somewhere between a major headcold and my birthday celebrations, we began a new study of The Boxcar Children. You may have read this series as a child; I apparently was deprived of this fabulous set of books. We are thoroughly enjoying reading and studying this piece of literature.

In the beginning, the children fall asleep inside a haystack. This led to a discussion of farming and the evolution of haystacks to hay bales that we see today. My cyberfriend, Gail, composed a blog post of life on her farm, including excellent pictures of hay. Check it out!

February 20, 2009

Photo Scavenger Hunt

We hosted our support group's 2nd and 3rd grade girls at the zoo with a photo scavenger hunt.

We were just in time for the display of the zoo's baby giraffe as seen here with her mother, a picture in our hunt:

Here are the items that we looked for, plus a few others that I thought about while we were there. So grab your camera and took a new look at the wildlife through your viewfinder:
  • Your favorite animal

  • An animal that starts with the same first letter as your name

  • The longest tail

  • Animal with its tongue sticking out or yawning

  • Paw print

  • Animal native to your area

  • Zookeeper caring for the animal

  • Sleeping

  • Picture of you in front of the zoo sign or on an animal statue

  • Capture two different species in one photo

  • Mother animal with baby

  • Animals playing together

  • Animal you wouldn’t want to meet in the wild

  • Animal you would love to have as a pet

  • Cute and cuddly

  • Stripes

  • Horns

  • Animal looking at you

  • Nicest living area

  • Animal playing with water

  • Picture that captures the most birds

  • An animal from another continent

  • Smallest animal

  • Largest animal

  • Eating

  • Animal with your favorite color

February 17, 2009

There once was a little boy

cute and cuddly to the core
but every once in awhile
he morphs into a tornado
and no matter how many times I tell him NO
there's always some destruction to show...
Micah, being all boy that he is, loves electronics. Forget the cars and trains and wild animal pieces he has cluttering his room.
He'd much rather play with mommy's toys.
Before his first birthday, he carefully peeled apart our TV remote layer by layer ; right after he turned one, he drowned my cell phone by dipping it repeatedly in the dog's water dish; and now--he's still a few months from two--he climbed higher than ever, grabbed my camera...and now it doesn't work anymore. :(
Since I can't take any pictures to show what happened, the girls drew you the scenario so that you can see for yourself. :)

Above you see that Mabry depicted his naughtiness by walking away from the table with the camera. Notice the chairs are still pushed in towards the table--I really thinked he scaled the table leg to get on top. Or maybe he can really can reach that high in a single bound.
The camera was actually on our computer table, pushed all the way back to the wall. I was downloading images, stepped away for a second to fulfill a motherly duty and now live with the knowledge that my toddler is really a mighty Superman.
Below Kenna writes about what she saw. She was the one to find him with the camera. On the left, she yells, "Miiiiiiiiccccaaaaaaaaaaah" and on the right she describes
We'll be sending the camera back to the manufacturer in hopes they can undo the damage of a 20-month-old. Though I suspect he's probably outsmarted them too.
I just hope we find some kryptonite to slow him down soon! He's taking on increasingly complex tasks--if he started with a simple remote and now befuddled a camera so soon...I'm a bit concerned about my house and car.

February 14, 2009

I can handle these reptiles...

Snakes, gila monsters, snapping turtles, crocodiles...I have not affection for.

But these creatures--straight from my kids' imaginations--can make themselves a home in my yard anytime!

Kenna's creation: The Rhode Island Famous Crocodile

Lives in Rhode Island; is green with a pink head and red dots on it's legs; eats oysters, leaves and bird; grows to be 14,000lbs; uses it's oversized tail to swat birds and leaves from the trees.

Mabry's creation: The Pink Snap-headed Allicroc
Lives in cars; is very little with a spikey tail just like a porcupine; it is poisonous because it eats poisonous flowers; it's tail is shaped like a pecan.

Cayli's creation: The Cactus Green Lizard

(Cayli isn't one to fill in the blanks--she wrote an entire story of finding this creature!)

I once was skipping through the rsin forest on a hot sunny day. I knew it was going to rain this afternoon. But it was morning, so I had nothing to worry about. As I was skipping, I saw an odd-shaped green lizard. It had a white long zig-zag flowing down his back. On it's light green tail it had white spikes like a cactus branch on each side of it's tail. The tip of each spike was blue. I saw that he had green eyes, but the middle of his eyes were dark greenish brown. I put out my hand. He crawled on. And I tell you, he was as light as a feather! He was at least 4 inches long. I brought him home and researched him hard. I could not find it in my research, so I gave him a name. I named him the Cactus Green Lizard. That very same day, I observed what he eats and where he lives. He eats green cocoa brown leaves. I learned that he had a family that lives under a green cocnut tree in the rainforest. I let him go under a spikey plant--whatever it was called--and that was where I found him. Even today, the lizard I found is called the Cactus Green Lizard.

February 11, 2009


I figured at some point in my kids' young lives they needed to study about reptiles. Most of what they already know is based on the thousands of lizards they have captured over the past few years and they also hear my warnings of "look out for snakes!" I yell with a ting of vocal disgust at that slithery, slimey creatures as the girls go traipsing through the woods around our house.

So this week was as good as any. I swallowed hard and started shuttering reading about how reptiles have 3 chambered heart, are cold-blooded, legs (if any) are in pairs, so forth and so on...

Then I sent them out with a camera to see what they would come back with.

Here's what they found:

Fortunately we were at the zoo and the snake was securely behind glass. Thick glass.

Which was good because this snake was active. It kept spiraling around it's area, checking us out like he was as interested in us as we were in him:

Turns out, this snake is a Boelen's Python, native to New Guinea.

Here's a tip: When you go to zoo to take pictures of creepy interesting creatures, make sure you take a picture of the informational sign. That way you can always go back and remember the name of the creature that you want to avoid at all cost in real life.

February 9, 2009

Curious About Quetzals

A few weeks ago the beautiful weather was calling us to put away our books and go ahead tie the loose ends on our rain forest study. The only thing we had to do was go to the local zoo and take pictures of the birds that call South America their home and put into our lapbooks.

Mabry's only request: find a quetzal, please

I had never even heard of this splendid bird before our study. And that's a shame--everyone in the world needs to experience this beauty:

(Image lifted from the gorgeous pictures at http://www.natureslorephotography/.)

As we made our way through the zoo, we snapped some shots of a parrot:

and a toucan:

and this magnificent blue crowned pigeon (wish our city pigeons looked like this):

But no quetzals.

Mabry was sad, sullen and downright grumpy. While she was thankful for all the beautiful birds we had seen, she refused to smile for the customary family photo. Her day was ruined. And so was ours because she had not seen a quetzal.

I jokingly offered her a glimmer of hope: why don't you write the zookeeper to see if he can go catch a quetzal for you and the rest the state to see?

Her cantankerous countenance returned to the upright position as she, much to my potential embarrassment, penned a letter:

Dear Zookeeper,
I think you need some quetzals. If you do not know, quetzals live in the South American rainforests. They are all kinds of different colors. They have red feathers and green feathers and blue feathers too. Will you consider catching one and putting in the zoo? We would love to see one.

We perfected her rough draft over the course of few days, and she finished it off with an illustration of her favorite bird--just in case the zookeeper needed to know what it looked like, she said.
Three days later, Mabry received a reply:

Dear Mabry,

Thank you very much for your letter suggesting that the zoo get a quetzal. Your drawing of a quetzal is very nice. I really like the colors.

There are some animals that are difficult to keep in zoos and I am afraid that quetzals fit into that category. In fact, there are no quetzals in captivity. Since we only try to keep animals that will thrive in the zoo I doubt that we will ever have them. So I'm afraid that you may have to enjoy them through books and maybe television...

The letter continues with a personal story of when the zoo's director visited Costa Rica and saw a real, live quetzal.

So now my Mabes understands that she'll never see a quetzal at our zoo and I'm as thrilled as a mama can be that a busy executive took the time to affirm my daughter's love for animals and explained away her disappointment as only a zookeeper can. Of course, now I have to figure out a way to get Mabry to Costa Rica...

February 4, 2009

You know you're a homeschoolin' mama...

when you go to the store to buy diapers, but come home with a bundle of tulips (though I would like to know how tulips are available in early February...).

Why tulips? Because you're studying Holland. So it's a must-have accessory. And Wally World (of all places) conveniently had them on sale.

And what do you do with them? Why you wait for them to open before dissecting them (we apparently don't simply enjoy flowers and their beauty, we take them apart, like all good homeschooling mini-scientists. The girls had their exacto knives and field microscopes ready before I got in the door). While you wait, you draw them!

Not 5 minutes after pouring water into the vase and sorting the flowers, the crayons, markers and paints spontaneously appeared and the creativity flowed.

The rebel of the family decided that tulips are nice and pretty and all, but a passion fruit flower would be more suitable for a sheet of paper and a post-pad sticky (it's amazing what my kids come up with!):

I spent some time with my watercolor set and slowly got a grip on my reality: I did NOT inherited my grandmother's artistic talent. So I took a picture:

Here's some fascinating trivia for you: In the 1700s the goverment of Holland had to begin regulating the sale of tulips because the national economy started to collaspe as the price of tulips rose well above the cost of living. And, though the tulip is a national symbol of Holland, it originated in the Mediterrean region. The Dutch were able to harness the beauty and bring prosperity to the Netherlands, thus creating the iconic tulip that we can purchase at the local grocery store.

February 1, 2009

It's official: I'm the meanest mom ever!

Tired of the fighting, biting, bickering, shoving, aggravating, screaming and general lack of respect for parental authority regarding each child's computer time allotted for Webkinz World, I quietly fought back.

I secretly changed all of their passwords.

I suspect my kids will be perfect angels this week. :)

In other news...

Cayli Grace turned 9 this past week!
She even decorated her own cake...

And spent the day of her birthday with her forever friend (they've been best buds since they were 2!). Together they decorated a large cookie...