Sunday, May 31, 2009

Flat Stanley Goes to the Desert

Whew, we are home.  It was sooo wonderful to come home to a clean house, courtesy of my beloved children, who cleaned the house from top to bottom the day before we left for Missouri.  I'll have to post some photos of our trip in my month-in-review entry for May, but that might be a few days.  Or hours.   In the meantime, I wanted to share this:

A cycling friend has posted photos of Flat Stanley's trip to the desert.  For all you geography buffs or Flat Stanley fans, or for those of you who are interested in what it looks like around here, click right HERE. (Hurry, I don't know how long this will be up!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Three Big Helpers

I have been running around like crazy with my head in a deep fog, thinking about all the details involved in getting a family of six ready to go on a road trip.  But the fog is lifting -- these girls are the best helpers!   This is now one less thing on my to-do-before-we-go list.   The bags are packed and I have a whole day (Thursday) to... shop for fabric, fix supper, and go to church.  Oh yes, and clean the house, since the house will be having company while we are gone.  Honestly, I thank the Lord for easy last-minute meals like Red Baron pizza plus a green salad, and this week I am especially thanking the Lord for Amy (Booklover), who has been an extra big help to me. Emily needed a couple of dresses, so Amy and I whipped them up assembly line style, with me pinning and Amy doing most of the sewing.  I'll show off her work later, in my end of the month post.   In the meantime, if you live anywhere between here and Missouri, we'll wave as we pass you on the highway.  So sorry we can't stop. We girls would LOVE to. The driver, however, is a time-Nazi, and on this trip I can't really blame him.  We have a lot of country to cover and not much time to do it.  I think that while we are tooling along all that endless New Mexico or West Texas or Oklahoma or Kansas terrain (there's not much to see between here and there) I will write a rough draft for an entry on the secrets of hassle-free road traveling... if I discover any.    See you when we get home!

For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey:
He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed.
Proverbs 7:19,20

Thursday, May 7, 2009

More Self Portraits

About five years ago my older girls did the project in my previous post, and then we added a twist to that one -- making a collage of their faces from colored papers. That was a little bit more challenging, but it was fun.  I dug around and was only able to come up with Alison's art work (she was nine) and the pictures I did of Emily when she was five months old.  (Gotta love the big ol' angel kiss on her upper lip! )  To do the collage, simply glue little bits of colored paper over the photo.  Instructions for the drawing are in the post below.

While you're here, go see Michelle's kids' results.  They did a stupendous job!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Easy Self-Portraits

1. Find a subject for a self-portrait.  I have two very willing subjects. I did not have to do my own.
2. Take the subject's photo with a digital camera.

3. Use your photo-editing program to crop the photo so that the face takes up most of the rectangle, then change the color to gray-scale.  Fuss with the brightness/contrast to get a nice, light photo with deep shadows and good dark lines.
4. Print the photo to fit the paper.

5. Tape the photo to a bright window at shoulder height, and tape a blank piece of paper over the top of it.
6.  Now you are ready to draw your self-portrait.  If a child is doing the self-portrait, inform him ahead of time that the finished product will NOT look exactly like him.  In fact, for some this might be a good Halloween project, lol.  Depending on child's ability, he can just draw the lines he sees or he can shade in the shadows.

7. Ta-da!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Month in Review -- April

Okay, here it is, by request (as if I don't know who asked), the Month in Review!

WARNING: Long post!
What a busy, fun-filled month we have had!  No, we aren't finished with school yet, but we will be one of these days... maybe by the 4th of July...? sigh.  Well, the other things we did this month were oh so educational, that makes up for our putzing along. Right? 

First of all, and this is a biggie, Amy (Booklover) finished the dolls she was asked to make for a sweet fellow blogger's Keepers of the Faith club.  You can see Julie's lovely blog entry about them right here. Although she has been given gifts of cash for playing her flute from time to time, this was the first time Amy was actually HIRED to do something.  It was a great experience in time management, ingenuity, and keeping commitments.  Thank you, Julie, for being our teacher of life skills this month, and our friend!  Here is the dolls' "class picture":

Since the dollies were completed and lovingly packed and shipped, many other crafy items have found homes here.  These are Amy's.  I see I am missing a few photos.  She also made spool dollies and bead dollies and who knows what else.  That kid is always doing something with her hands.

And these are Elisabeth's (Carrotlover).  Remember, I told you I run from crafts.  She came up with this on her own, marshmallow people making smores in their foam campsite. 

And, more crafty people.

This was so fun.  We dried apples!  A friend of ours showed me this, and it is so obvious -- we do live in a dehydrator, after all!  We strung these sliced apples on a piece of ribbon in the afternoon, and the next morning we had a fun snack!

(Whose poor little waif is this?  She appears to have no mother to care for her messy hair...)

The same friend came up with a wonderful idea for us homeschoolers -- a shoebox science fair.  Each child brought a science experiment or demonstration.  All of the ingredients/equipment had to fit in a shoebox.  We were supposed to also have an 8x11 piece of paper stating the title of the experiment, the equipment/ingredients, the method or explanation involved, and a conclusion.  We forgot that part, and I think everyone else did, too.  This was my kind of project -- it took only a few minutes of exploring a backyard science book and my Science Concoctions ebook, and four demonstrations were ready to go!  It was great fun, and a good opportunity for the kids to practice following instructions,  communicating by demonstration,  and even their audience manners.  We had a good variety, too: DNA extraction, surface tension, light and reflection, gravity and air pressure, fingerprinting, molecular "grabbing" (for lack of the correct term), boiling water in a balloon, and mind/muscle coordination.

DNA Extraction

How many pennies can you add to a full glass of water before it spills over?
Mind/muscle Coordination
Why doesn't the balloon pop? 
Light Reflection
Air Pressure/Gravity
Grabby Molecules

We made a trip to my parents' in So. Cal., which just happened to be the cheap take-off point for my DH to fly to Kansas for a preachers' meeting.  Isn't it nice how those things work out?  We arrived around midnight, then got up at 5:30 a.m. to take him to the little Long Beach airport.  He drove, and I worked at waking up so I could drive myself back to the house and go back to bed!  It was a wonderful whirlwind trip for the girls and me.  We did lots of shopping (found a GREAT thrift store and spent too many hours there), but we also got to do some really fun things.  One of those fun things was visiting puppies!  They were too cute.  Lucky for me, neither Daddy nor I want a dog, so the girls knew better than to beg for one and make me feel guilty for saying NO. 

Back to thrift store shopping, here's an idea for those of you whose little girls wear  long skirts. Once upon a time, many years ago, little Alison and I were perusing the ladies' skirt rack. She picked up a mini-skirt and exclaimed, "Look Mommy!!  This skirt is for a lady with VERY SHORT LEGS!!" Hee hee!!    I  laughed and told her she was right, and then I got an idea.  Ladies' skirts in small sizes are perfect for little girls -- little ladies with short legs!  And ever since then, we have gotten many of our little girls' skirts off the grown-up racks.  We found several nice ones last week, and I am thankful for that.  Modest girls' clothes are hard to find!

My wonderful mom is always ready with a quick art project idea, so while the older girls and I shopped some more (sorry, girls), Grammy and the little girls made tie-dyed tissue paper for wrapping. It's so simple.  Fold a piece of white tissue paper, and dip the corners into bowls of food coloring.  Let it dry, then unfold carefully.

We made a trip to our favorite music store (always a necessary stop when we visit my mom and dad).  My five-yr-old, Emily, begged and begged to buy herself a violin.  (Know anyone who wants to get rid of a 1/4 violin?)  I told her we'd have to discuss it with Daddy first.  So then she asked for a recorder instead.  No, we have one you can play at home.  An ocarina?  No, we have one of those, too.  Okay, how about a harmonica?  My, the child is persistent.  Lucky for me, Grammy stepped in and said Emily could play her harmonica. *whew*  We went home, and in less than 24 hours Emily had figured out how to play "Nothing But the Blood of Jesus" on the harmonica. I like that determination!

Speaking of music, one of the highlights of this trip was something we have been trying to do for two years -- we attended a rehearsal of the world-renowned Musique Sur la Mer Youth Symphony Orchestra, founded and conducted by Marcy Sudok. Check out their website.  The group was awesome, and I was very impressed with Mrs. Sudok.  Alison was hoping to sit in and play along on her violin, but they were learning new music for a concert the following weekend.   (That is some good sight-reading going on, there!)   This youth orchestra started out as a little group of homeschoolers who needed some musical comraderie and instruction.  Now there are dozens of members, and much of the group is still made up of homeschoolers.  If you ever get a chance to see them in concert, do!  One of the pieces we heard the strings section practice was "Irish Legend", composed by Robert Kerr. The MSLMYSO played it much better than any of the groups on YouTube did.  The first violinist really made his instrument sing.  Oh, it was very lovely!

While Alison and I did yet MORE shopping (sorry, Honey), (and I did say SHOPPING, not buying), Grammy and the other girls went to the El Dorado Nature Center and had a wonderful time exploring, playing, and discovering.

I grew up in the Long Beach area and never even heard of this wonderful, FREE, attraction, Rancho Los Alamitos, until last week.   The human history of this site dates back thousands of years and is quite interesting.  Read all about it here.  The house is actually made of adobe and has been covered up with "real" house-building material since.  Windows in the inside walls reveal the mud structure underneath.  Booklover Amy and I drooled over the book shelves in the family library!  Such a great collection.  Unfortunately, taking photos is not allowed in the adobe, but there were plenty of things to photograph outdoors!  The landscape is lush and just gorgeous, with such a huge variety of colors, textures, and sizes of plant life.  I could have stayed a lot longer... I loved these "hairy" trees!

And here's the house.  Look at the variety of palms in the front.  The ones in the back with the broad stumps are elephant palms, and the short, prickly, thin ones are dwarf palms, I believe.  What do I know.  They needed to have placards with the names of all the plants for people like me!

And here's a small sampling of the rest of the flora (oh yes, and one of the girls at the base of the huge fig tree):

Most of these photos by Booklover

We recently met a friend's flute instructor, a very nice German lady who spends half the year in Germany and half here in the desert.  Long story short, she was disappointed to hear Alison was not playing in a group of any kind, and she arranged for her to play violin with a few other ladies in town once a week.  Last week was the first time, and both Alison and Amy (flute) spent two hours doing nothing but sight reading.  It was a good experience for both of them, and they were more capable than they felt.  Playing with others is a lot different than playing alone!   Alison will be replacing the nice flute lady for the summer -- what a great opportunity for her. Thank you, Lord.

I just had to post this photo of the artistic cupcakes a couple of our church girls made and then shared with us at Kings Kids. Aren't they festive-looking?  They were also very yummy!

And for the rest of the news... Amy Booklover got her "braces" this month -- really they are removeable appliances, palate wideners to make her teeny mouth a bit larger.  The braces will be coming later.  It is amazing how fast these doohickeys work -- she has had them less than two weeks, and already the gap between her front teeth is closing.  I will be glad when her molars meet, and she can chew stuff like lettuce and meat!

We also had company from Washington, a family with three adorable adopted kids and a beloved foster child who goes "home" when they get back.  Being foster parents must be one of the hardest things in the world, especially when they are hoping to adopt the child they have loved and nurtured since his birth, and that child gets sent back to a parent who didn't bother with him for the first two and a half years of his life.  I think being a good mother is by far the most difficult thing I have ever done, or tried to do, but being a foster mother would be harder.  God bless all you foster moms out there who are lovingly raising other people's neglected children.

And that's the end of this month's review.  I hope to be around more in May, but it's another busy month...

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