Thursday, April 30, 2009

Water Bottles

Have you seen the cool Nathan Water bottles? I purchased two from amazon some time ago. (Yes, these are amongst the items they won't ship overseas! We had to divert again..) I'm rarely seen without a water bottle. Not only is water very good for you, I find that I dehydrate quickly and nothing sets off a migraine quicker. So for me I need a water bottle that's not only durable but can hold a large amount of water.

These things come in a variety of size, and I went with the 1 liter size for myself. I also chose pink, in the hopes that my boys would leave them alone. However, should they chose to use them the flip tops (which are very awesome!) are rubbery which means that even if your five year old chews on it, he won't damage it!

I love the clip on it which means taking it on our hikes will be handy. I won't have to fish my oversized water bottle out of the pack because I can clip it to the side. You can supposedly clip them to belt loops too, but I'm so not that brave! I figure with a liter of water I might rip the belt loop right off my pants, but hey who knows.

The best feature? These are BPA free and still affordable. When my last water bottle(s) bit the dust I couldn't find anything! BPA free or otherwise. A few shops carried some aluminum sports bottles that were glazed so your water never came in complete contact with the aluminum, but none of them held enough water. The stainless steel ones I found were not only over the top expensive and not being sold in my town, but the drinking tops weren't sports tops which meant removing the whole lid. Not likely to be spill free, and nothing like sloshing a whole liter of water on yourself while driving down the street.

In America you can purchase these through Amazon and if you buy more then one you get free shipping. Unless they do to you like they did to me, which is to ship them separately thus eliminating your free shipping. Yeah, I wanted to shout about it, but I figure it wasn't worth the international phone call! There may be other sources, but that's where I got mine from.

In Australia (I just found this out last night thanks to Google!) You can buy them on the mainland at Everest Sports. They also do mail orders so you if you don't live in their area you can still purchase them. They are a bit more expensive, but less hassle having to divert through American addresses.

Seriously cool water bottles!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Money Math

In my great effort to give the kids a well balanced and full rounded education in both American and Australian heritage, I've found that math can be the hardest. Why? Well, it's like this. The best homeschool math curriculum (for us at least) is Saxon Math. In fact, many Australian homeschool sites I've visited in an effort to see what other homeschooler use review Saxon as being one of the best.

Why is this an issue? Saxon is put out by an American company. Thus, all the work is imperial. This isn't a huge issue (yet), except when you can't find an American ruler. No, the bigger problem is money. You see, each day we count out some coins in one fashion or another. We might play store, we might just do a quick review, we might group, etc. We simply mess with the coins.

So in general I have American and Australian coins all lumped together. No biggie. In fact I think we have a few Canadian quarters, and some New Zealand coins in there as well. All of this hasn't ever been a huge issue, except I can NEVER get enough pennies.

You see, in Australia we no longer use pennies. Our smallest coin is a 5 cent piece, which is nearly obsolete. No matter how many times I try to convince a parking meter to take the coin it won't, and on the rare occasion that it does it refuses to give me time for it. This causes me great annoyance!

(Aussie 5 cent pieces)

So, today I was trying to demonstrate how 100 cents was equivalent to a dollar. I pulled out all three bags of play and real money I have stashed away for school. This included a new pile of American money (thanks Mom) that we got this week. I put piles all over the kitchen table of 5's, 10's, 20's, 25's, 50's, and then dollar coins.

(Aussie 50 cent, 20 cent, 1 dollar coin)

Then I had the kids start helping me count the piles. First Morgan broke all the pennies down into piles of ten. Which we dutifully counted by tens. Then we counted them by ones, much to his horror!

(American Pennies, don't ask me why some are silver.. that's just how they came!)

Then we stacked up each pile that was counted and placed a bill under it to help them visualize the whole dollar concept. Mind you, in Australia we don't have a paper dollar. We use a 1 and 2 dollar coin. Our smallest paper (which is really plastic) is a 5 dollar note, which for the record is purple, not green.

(All the American money divvied up)

We lined up the American money on one side of the table and we stacked up the Australian money on the other side of the table. Then we counted how many ways there were to make a dollar in each denomination. They were impressed that America had one extra way of doing it, which led us into a discussion on how Australia no longer uses a penny.

(Aussie money broken down, and we threw paper $1 bills under them too)

The boys do really well counting money from either country, despite the differences. There are really only two major differences: Aussie 5 cent pieces are the same size as a Dime. Australia uses a 20 cent piece and America uses 25 cent piece. Other then that they are rather self explanatory to be honest. They all find their way into our shopping game and the kids do well choosing the right ones, which is all that truly matters in the long run.

Telling Time

There's a tradition running through both sides of our families. Tradition one comes from my family and is that we couldn't own a watch until we could tell time on an analog clock. Tradition two comes from Lawrence's family and was that a child was given a watch at ten years of age.
It dawned on me, while messing with a learning clock in the schoolroom, that Morgan is very apt at telling time based on Half and Whole hours. But, he's not learned much more then that yet. He also needs ALL the practice he can get counting by 5's because they seem to throw him for a loop. Enter a watch.
I thought having a watch would help him. He'd need to count by 5's to use it properly. It would help increase his ability to learn to tell time before he hit it in his new math book. He's really good with fractions (what he knows of them) and this would also give him a hands on approach to learning them.

Our plan, after much discussion of not squashing tradition two, was to buy him a very kiddie watch. Something simple but childlike that would help him learn to tell time. Once he could use that very effectively he'd get the time honored tradition of a "grown up" watch at the age of ten. (Which he's informed us is only two birthdays away, I promptly passed out on the floor.)

We had intended to get him the Timex Learning Watch for Christmas. Except, there was a tiny catch. I couldn't find it in Tassie. I couldn't find it online in Australia! We decided to order it from America in time for his birthday, but Amazon decided to be finicky about it. Did you know there are certain things an overseas client can not purchase from them?

So far I can't purchase BPA free waterbottles and have them shipped to Tassie. Nor will they ship me hole punches or binding machines (non electric) or the watch I wanted. Apparently they are worried I may squirt the mailman in the face with my water, while I pierce his ears with my nifty hole punch, followed off by binding all the mail into one big book, and then proceeding to tell him time. Makes no sense right?

So, Morgan's birthday came and went and he didn't get a watch, after all I'm not in the habit of harming our mailman, getting run over by him.. yes. I know, also weird, but that's what happens in a country where mailmen ride on dirt bikes and claim they are motorcycles. Need I say more, except perhaps that they drive them on sidewalks..

The point is, I wanted that watch to help Morgan with his efforts to tell time! Morgan learns best in a hands on approach, and the only company willing to ship to me wasn't one I was familiar with. I ended up getting ours from Walgreens (online) and had it diverted through an American address.

The watch has been a total hit. We've been told the time every half hour and hour for three straight days now. We've also been asked what time it is and had many counting by 5 lessons. Discussion on being able to say "quarter to", "half past", "ten to", etc.

Yup, I went with tractors/vehicles. You can get girlie ones, space theme, army themed, bug themed, etc. The watch is very cool! The band is material and SUPER tight elastic that can be adjusted. (In typical Morgan style it's very tiny right now.) The face is plastic vs glass. It's tiny but the 5's are on there as well as the 1's. Plus, I love how it has different colored hands for minute and hour and how it has half the face one color, and the other half another color to remind of him of past and to. Jayden's all ready counting down until he can have one!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Anzac Biscuits

Anzac Biscuit (cookies) are a big Aussie icon. They are especially prominent around ANZAC Day. The story I've been told over and over is that the biscuits were made and sent to the men in the trenches. Now, it's been said that it was a form of nourishment, and while the ingredients may not seem to wholesome to us today, you have to remember that food was highly rationed during that time (World War I). There are many stories or theories as to how these biscuits came into play, but they all go back to World War I. There are those who say the troops themselves created them. Some think that perhaps the CWA started them (which isn't possible because it wasn't founded at the time), and the Kiwis have an entirely different view point. The fact still remains though that ANZAC Biscuits are a great way for me to help my kids learn a bit about their Australian heritage.

They might be too young to pull out of bed at sunrise and take them to a service or gathering. But they are never too young or too old for a biscuit! So, while the kids were upstairs waking up to Blue's Clues I was downstairs reminiscing as to how I wasn't getting to see any of the soldiers returning home, and preparing a batch of Anzac Biscuits. The recipe is extremely simple, but, as always, loaded with sugar.

I turned to the pantry and lined up the sweeteners I had available, which was followed with a few laments for those I was out of. Then, I set to work making a batch of these tasty treats with no sugar. Something to keep in mind is that I don't have access to things like Date Sugar and Maple Sugar.

I've been giving the green light to import them for myself, so long as packages are clearly marked, but when I looked into the price of shipping I nearly lost my mind! So, with that said I have to supplement with what I do have. If you can get yourself some date or maple sugar then you're free to make these cookies with the original recipe simply using maple or date sugar as a cup for cup replacement.

I wasn't into using honey for them if I could help it. Honey will make them soft, and Anzac's are suppose to be a bit more crispy. I had hoped to use my brown rice syrup, but I was out. Which left me with maple syrup (Lawrence doesn't like maple), Molasses, Agave Nectar, & stevia. Plus, I remembered I had some dried dates in the cupboard that were a bit too hard for eating. It was suggested I attempt to make my own date sugar by grinding them in the food processor.

I ground them, but they were super sticky once they broke down enough. Knowing that date sugar doesn't fully dissolve I opted to use them anyway. In the end here's the recipe I used:

Anzac Biscuits
(without sugar)

180 g butter
2 T agave nectar
1 T molasses
1/2 t Stevia
1 c dried date pureed
1 t baking soda
1 c oats
1 c flour
1 c desiccated coconut

Put the butter in a small saucepan add agave nectar, molasses, and stevia. Heat on low until all melted, add baking soda. It will foam a bit, but this is normal and okay! Set aside. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, add date and either mix with a fork, pastry cutter, fingers, OR throw it all in the food processor and give it a whirl until it's crumbly. Mix wet and dry together. Scoop out by tablespoon full, roll into ball and squash it flat between your palms. Put them on pre-greased trays and bake at 180 c (350 F) for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.

NOTES: I had only 50 grams of butter, so I used margarine for the rest. I was also nearly out of white flour and only had 1/4 cup (extra bran) and used 3/4 cup barley for the rest. I was also shy on coconut, but had desiccated toasted (I'd used them on marshmallows earlier this year) and so I simply threw in the toasted to make up what I needed. I used the food processor to combine the date puree into my dry ingredients. My biscuits took just under 10 minutes. They crisp up once cooled. Not CRISP, but crisp outside with a softer inside. I do NOT like coconut, but I love these biscuits.

The boys were delighted to be told they could have one before breakfast. Which opened up lots of questions as to why were having Anzac biscuits. They, of course, ran to the window to see if they could spot any soldiers (no such luck), and were dismayed to find out that the soldiers didn't get a cup of milk with their tasty biscuits.

For those of you who don't mind sugar you can get the original recipe from many sources, but here's two: Anzac Biscuits 1 -- Anzac Biscuits 2. You could also use those recipes if you were subbing with Maple or Date sugar. Metric measuring spoons/cups are slightly bigger then American ones, so you may find that you need to be more generous with your measurements.

If you really want to try a packaged one (I swear to you homemade is better) and you reside in America you can try to buy them from either of these places: Australian Catalog (located in GA, they are REALLY good company, and if you go to GA they have bakeries where you can get loads of yummy treats.) Amazon also has them listed, but not available.

ANZAC Day: Lest We Forget

Today is ANZAC Day, and while we didn't rise for any sunrise remembrance services we'll remember. Perhaps not as painfully as those who attended a service, or those who remember the ones they lost today, but we'll remember in our own way. It may be a small miracle in itself that there's no rain falling today, because in the two previous ANZAC Days since I've been here it has. Each year I've watched as retired soldiers, dressed in their olive green uniforms, troop back home in the miserable mass of rain and fog that engulfs the day. There's usually barely any light to lead them home, and it's always left with me a feeling that the Australians and New Zealanders aren't the only ones crying as they remember. So, today, to all the brave Australian Soldiers who bravely guard the borders, and carry out the duties that give the Australians their rights and freedoms, we say, "Thank you, we haven't forgotten you're there or the daily sacrifices you make."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Presidential Unit Study

One of the things on the table this year was to start teaching the boys about a variety of famous people. While this seems simple enough, we wanted to give them a good mix of both American and Australian historical figures. It seemed like a good idea to start with the most obvious, which led us to Presidents & Prime Ministers. Both of which are historical figures Morgan is overly interested in.

While looking on our bookcase for a few books on Presidents I stumbled upon Arthur Meets The President, and decided to come up with a few quick ideas for using the book to introduce presidents.
We won't be using this book to study all 44 US presidents, but rather to learn about Washington D.C., and to introduce presidents to the boys.
Morgan all ready knows what a president does, and will dutifully tell anyone who asks that a President rules over the land, as does a Prime minister, King, Queen, and sometimes other people, but God rules the universe. He's quick on his toes, don'tcha think?

The entire unit study came together reasonably quickly, and I ended up getting very carried away in what I was doing and making a lapbook, and notebooking pages for all 44 US presidents. The boys have been oogling over all of it in their anticipation to dig in. As for me, I decided to share all my hard work here for anyone else who wants to have a fun week introducing presidents. I'll even provide links to the nifty President notebooking pages.

One thing to keep in mind is that the study was made for what I'll be doing with my kids, so you might have to change it to fit your needs. I made up lapbook bits and pieces for what we'll be covering. I also tucked in lots, and lots, and lots (seriously lots) of Additional Resources that I've gathered up. Like, a White House paper craft, Presidential Cookie Blog, and links to president crafts.

I'm also providing links to the President notebooking pages. I made the picture of the president a coloring sheet with his terms of office and name on the front. On the reverse side I left lots of room for the boys to gather their notes about each president. I don't expect at this stage of the game they'll gather too much, but you never know. Often times it's getting them to stop giving me information that's harder then getting them to give it to me. Seriously.

Anyway, here's the links for anyone interested:

Arthur Lapbook (not sure how quick this will load)

President Notebooking Pages:
(These are all big files so they may take a bit of time to download)
Clinton - Obama (2 optional covers, and extra "info" pages)


Wednesday, April 22, 2009


It's been a quiet week here on the homestead. We took a second week off school while we awaited the arrival of a package. It's also given us time to do a few things we were to rushed to take time for last week. The boys have played just about every game we own.
Morgan is very intent to teach Jayden how to play backgammon, but I'm not sure Jayden is as intent to learn. They attempted to play while Daddy was out for a run on Sunday and I found them counting out 64 spaces, which they reversed to 46. Crazy thing is I was of no help at all to them because I've no idea how to play the game either. It kept them busy though, and they enjoyed themselves. Morgan has been intent to learn to play backgammon for so long that when we found a kids version two Christmases ago we snatched it up and surprised him with it.
He now plays it regularly, as well as the adult version, the bugcafe version, and any other version he can get his hands on.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Animal Crackers In My Soup

Animal crackers are a huge favorite around this house, but sadly we can't get them in Australia. Even if we could it probably wouldn't matter because I'm pretty sure they don't make animal crackers with a natural sweetener. Morgan is highly disappointed by this because he loves animal crackers. I think, for him, it's more about the shape then the taste, and we happen to own a lot of cookie cutters. Most of which are still in limbo vs being in our pantry. So we had a look around and found a small tin of animal cracker cookie cutters that we purchased and opted to make him some animal crackers.

Personally, I was all for making the cheese kind vs the sweet kind, but I knew that wasn't what he had in mind when he requested the silly things. Which meant I had to search around for an animal cracker recipe. I found a couple made with honey, and ended up changing it a bit based on what was in our cupboard.

These cookie cutters are super tiny, which made the job a tad tedious, but the recipe doesn't make up gobs of dough so it wasn't too bad. Personally my favorite was the elephant, mostly cause I was pretty sure none of him would burn. There's a monkey cutter too, and he was all arms and legs spread out like he was swinging from tree to tree. Then there were a few unrecognizable animals, including one we're nearly certain is a wombat, but that doesn't make much sense does it? I mean, how many times have you noticed a wooly wombat roaming around your package of animal crackers?

Animal Crackers

1/2 c oats
3/4 c flour
1/4 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 c butter
2 T agave syrup (you could use honey)
1 t vanilla
1-4 T milk

Whirl the oats in the food processor until they are a pit powdery. Add the other dry ingredients and let them whirl away for a minute or so. Add the butter and give it another buzz until the mixture is crumbly; add sweetener and vanilla and whirl again. (I did it while the machine was running.) Add milk until mixture holds together in a firm ball. Roll out to 1/8 inch thickness, cut into shapes, and bake at 210c (400 F) for about 5 minutes.

Because I added a pinch too much milk I had to add a bit extra flour. This made my dough tough after I kneaded the scraps back together. The cookies didn't seem to be effected by this once baked though. The kids were scarfing them down as soon as they got the green light to touch them.

These cookies aren't super sweet, but our sugar eater didn't spit them out or tell us that they were bitter, so they couldn't have been too bad. The rest of us didn't really care that they weren't that sweet, we thought they were fine. They had more flavor once fully cooled, but still didn't have a LOT. These don't taste like regular animal crackers, but again my gang didn't care about it. Because you use such a minimal amount of sweetener I don't think it will effect this recipe to make it with stevia. We might try it that way next time..

Sunday, April 19, 2009

More Harry Potter Fun

We decided to decorate our dinning room ceiling with stars as the Hogwarts Great Hall is. I printed out a variety of different sized stars on paper and covered them with a glue stick. Morgan shook on lots and lots of glitter. Then we ran them through the hot laminator and cut them out. We used invisible thread and tape to hang them up. It too a while to cut them all out, and I had to stick a couple back through the laminator due to excess sparkle keeping the laminate from fully sealing. Either way, it was a quick craft and Morgan really enjoyed it. The picture doesn't do it enough justice, but the ceiling really does look fun. We decided afterwards it would have been really fun to spray them with the glow in the dark "stuff". All though I think we could obtain the same effect by using one of the nifty black bulb "thingies". Notice my fancy technical terms? Doesn't it just make you want to quote me?

Morgan is especially fond of this star because it's super shiny and gold. It's also bent and crooked because upon getting "relaminated" on it's own one edge got jammed in the laminator. He didn't care, he wanted it hung right over his chair so he could see it. Small pleasures.

We also tried some Yorkshire Pudding. We actually asked Nana if she'd be willing to make us some, because we knew she'd made it in the past. She willingly agreed and Morgan helped mix it up, while I was taught the "secret" to making really good Yorkshire Pudding.

After mixing it up, Morgan had to wait on the roast beef to finish cooking, one of the ingredients to yorkshire pudding is the fat or meat drippings (because that just sounds way better then saying, hey let's add cow fat to the yorkshire pudding, doesn't it?) is a key ingredient. Once the beef was done Nana used the beef drippings while Morgan surveyed and ooed and ahhed over a few of her pans. Seriously, Small Pleasures for him.

After cooling they sink a bit, but they were still just as tasty. The boys weren't as equally impressed with them. That may, or may not, have had something to do with the fact that they were eagerly waiting for Nana to hunt down her hidden Easter Chocolate, but...

Pardon, the hideous photo, but Jayden opted for a turn with Daddy's big camera while Morgan was busy baking with Nana. Daddy was obliging to sit for a nice photo and had no idea I'd stuck my head in while making a horrible face. Not even Jayden's giggles gave it away, Daddy simply presumed Jayden was giggling because it's just what Jayden does. So when Daddy flipped the camera around to check out the photo he was in for a nice big surprise, which is nothing to say of my surprise... that's one freaky thing happening there with my eyes!

Here's the recipe used for the pudding. Yes, seriously. And I was told the trick to really good yorkshire pudding is getting the muffin tin (she used a muffin tin) REALLY hot before putting the batter in it. Some topped theirs with gravy, others ate them plain.

Pizza Party

We had a fun Friday evening with Family as we celebrated Lawrence's birthday over pizza, chocolate coconut cake, and chocolate ice cream. The boys had a blast playing with cousins, especially ones that were willing to wrestle without complaint, jump on the trampoline for an unlimited amount of time, and then proceed to play any kind of game that included a ball and the attempt to flatten someone into the mud. Boys will be boys.. There was also some great laughs over the vivid red hair that oddly matched the vividly red shirt.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Happy Birthday To You

Lawrence's birthday was on the 15th, and we weren't sure what we'd do this year. Last year we packed it up and had a hike and picnic lunch. We considered doing the same this year, but the weather this past week has been completely unpredictable, and we didn't want to make the hour drive out to get rained on. In the end we had a nice lunch out (Thank You Nana!), and a quiet evening at home. Because we were having a small family party a few days later I didn't want to make a huge cake on his birthday and then have another one on Friday. Not that it would have gone astray, but it was just too much cake! Lawrence loves cherry pie, and I've been fiddling with a few recipes to come up with something that is not only tasty but also sugar free. (You knew I'd say that didn't you? Everything comes back to being sugar-free eventually, right?)

Funny thing about his birthday pie is that I made it rather late at night. We had an hour change recently, so any time it's dark out is "late at night" to me now. It was probably about 7 by the time I got the whole thing in the oven. The boys opted to buy Daddy a new Wii game for his birthday so while the pie baked we all trooped upstairs for a few rounds.

We had some bottled cherries from this summer, and I decided to open a bottle for the pie. I think, personally, that two bottles of cherries would have been better. With that said when I make a pie I like it to be FULL and brimming with fruit. Either way the pie was a success, so I thought I'd share the recipe.

1 bottle of cherries (this was about 3 cups of bottled cherries and 1.5 - 2 c of the water/juice)
2-3 T Arrowroot flour (tapioca flour) OR 4-6 T cornstarch
2-3 T butter
1/4 t cinnamon
1 T vanilla
1/2 t stevia
2 T honey

1 pie crust recipe (we use an old oil pastry, and any other recipe I've ever used has been icky in comparison)

Put the cherries (juice included) on the stove and bring to a boil. Add the cinnamon, vanilla, stevia, and honey mixing well and simmer for ten minutes. If you use Arrowroot you won't need to return it to a boil before adding it. Just mix it with equal parts water until smooth and add stirring until it's as thick as you want. If using cornstarch you'll need to mix with water until smooth and return to boil to thicken it. Either way, thicken to desired consistency. Add butter and mix well. Pour into crust and bake until crust is lightly golden. I baked ours at 180 (350 or just higher) for about 40 minutes and didn't need to cover the crust with foil.

The gang here topped their slices with sweetened cream, and licked the plates clean. Literally. (To sweeten our cream I simply put 1/2 - 1 cup of cream mixed with 1/2 T of vanilla and 3 "scoops" of stevia. Mix until thick.)

As a side note, this was a birthday pie, so I opted to put in a few candles. After all, what's a birthday without a few candles?! So we plopped four candles in our pie, lit them, sang away, and watched the birthday "boy" blow them out. The boys were delighted, all though there wasn't too much arguing over who would pull the candles out and lick them because I was too busy lamenting over how wax had dripped into the fruit filling.

Ever calm, Lawrence pointed out that it didn't matter. He did add that people eat wax all the time, which initiated conversations about how often he nips into the cupboard for a nibble of birthday candle.. However, our real shock came when we pulled those melting candles out of the pie.

Notice the non burned wick? The bottom of the candles melted into the pie! Never stick candles into a pie, even if you've let it cool for an entire 40 minutes! Apparently candles feel this is still too hot, all though I must say it gives your cherry pie a lovely shade of blueberry..

And we didn't even need food coloring to get it! Never mind though, the pie is so tasty no one complained one bit about it, in fact I think Lawrence might have been on to something about that whole "eating wax" theory because I didn't see anyone pluck any bits of wax out of their pie. I'm not 100% sold on the fact that it was because I managed to scrape it all out before serving it..

Happy Birthday to my Love!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Easter Fun

We did a few Easter crafts this weekend as we sat around discussing why Easter is so important to us. I like hand print crafts, and generally we do one at Easter as well as Christmas. Last year we made handprint sheep to pass around to family, and this year we made handprint lilies. They are very, very simple to make all though I became slightly frustrated taping the leaves on, and had to get help prying my fingers apart after taping them together. In my defense I only needed help because I was holding the half finished lily in the other hand! We still have a few hanging around that we need to give to their owners! Daddy read the Parable Of The Lily to us while we shaped our handprints into flowers. We had considered using this book for a unit study, but we're still caught up with one, so maybe next year.

We also did a papercraft from over at dltk kids. It was meant to be an Easter Mobile craft, but we hung it from a long doorway in our dinning room. Morgan was impressed that he not only knew why the words were on the crosses, but that he could read them as well.

Morgan saw this owl craft and wanted to make one for Nana, because he was very sure she'd love it since she collects owls. Daddy helped him cut out the felt and get them all glued on, he was very proud of the results. Morgan was right, Nana did enjoy it!

Don't you love how it looks like it's walking? We put the tape around the egg, because it wasn't wanting to stand up and we threw some dried beans inside. We decided to tape the egg closed so that it wouldn't pop open and spill beans all over.

While Morgan worked on his owl craft Jayden wanted to hear the story of Easter again, so I obliged while hanging up laundry. Then we made a "scene" to show all the various components of the story. He had a really great time working on this, and shows it to anyone who walks in the front door.

Now before you laugh too much, let's see if I can explain what everything he put in there is. The egg shell represents the tomb (lucky for him we had eggs for breakfast!). The donkey was because he wanted to show that Jesus rode on a donkey. The police men are suppose to be the Roman Guards, and he made one lay down because it was so scared. He also stuck a rooster in there because of the cock crowing 3x. As for the sheep, I'm not 100% sure on that one, other then "it was there".

It's had a small tumble since being made, and the rock path is now washed in dirt, and half the "hill" fell into some homemade games, the donkey is now laying down, but he's still just as proud of it.

We have a tradition on Easter to go to Sheffield and check out the Mural Fest, which actually starts on Good Friday. A group of artists submit their work in small scale size and explain why they have chosen their painting. There's always a theme. Then from that group only 6 artists are selected. You can go and watch them paint, you can vote for which one you like the most, and other such fun things. We love going and checking out the progress, and watching it unfold.

This artist is actually from America. He's painting the mountain we climbed earlier this year. It's always amazing to see how they get the finished results There's lots of blue hues on his current project, but by the end there won't be.

The boys also enjoy writing their names on the chalk wall each year. It's interesting to see how much their handwriting changes annually. Last year Jayden only had enough room for three letters in his name, this year he nearly got them all on!

After that we headed back to Nanas, for a very yummy dinner.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kenny & The Dragon

As normal we're reading a book around here, in fact I think some of us may be reading 4 or 5 books, but we won't get into that.. In anycase, this book caught my eye at the library the other day, and we brought it home. I know, I know, never judge a book by it's cover! However, I was truly taken by the charming illustrations and when I realized that I was getting odd looks from other people's kids in the library because I was camped out against an entire wall of junior fiction books I decided to check it out and bring it home. It's a quick read, with lots and lots of illustrations inside.

We've been reading Kenny & The Dragon by Tony DiTerlizzi after breakfast, while the kids put away dishes, after lunch, sometimes after dinner.. When we see it laying around and the fancy strikes we read. It's not a long book, and the chapters are short too which means both boys are willing to sit and listen.

Right now we're at a point in the book where a young bunny (who plays chess, the kids love this because they adore playing chess too), has become friends with a dragon (who enjoys reading books and acting out plays. The kids also love this because well they enjoy doing these things too!) Only, the little bunny soon realizes the town wants to exterminate his friend. After reading those words Jayden banned me from reading the book for two days.

I'm not sure if it was just the pure pleasure of saying, "No." and being taken seriously, or if he was really worried about the dragon. My guess is on the later, but who knows. My ban is lifted tomorrow and I'm sure between worrying about making 15 pizzas (minis, so you can close your mouths now!) and churning ice cream, we'll read a chapter or two.

Between, chess, dragons, knights, castles, old fashioned bicycles & old book shops we have to find out what's going to happen next!

Busy, Busy..

We've undergone a new facelift here at the Pumpkin Patch. Our old look went kapoot for a variety of reasons that are all completely unexplainable! Seriously! So, we've got a nice fresh new look, which is quite snazzy, don't you agree?

All is well here, we've celebrated another birthday this week, and are looking forward to a small pizza party tomorrow. We've got lots of pictures of the birthday, including the birthday pie. Yes, I said pie not cake. When I post pictures I'll explain. It was a very yummy pie too, and the birthday man was very delighted with it.

The boys are fully enjoying their week off, and it's coming to an end far too quickly. Still many unfinished things to hopefully accomplish this week. We shall see, we shall see. The boys are holding out for a visit with cousins, and perhaps a trip to Jungle Gyms.

We've survived a wicked set of storms this week that reminded us of Spring in middle TN. I'm talking major lightning, thunder, and hail. Morgan promptly announced the arrival of hail by standing in the middle of our bedroom, covering his ears and screaming as though his pants were on fire. Weird thing was, I was standing right there looking out the window. Amazingly enough he didn't wake up our house guest..

Soccer practice wasn't canceled, despite the rain. Thankfully it only sprinkled once during the entire hour. Morgan's improving by leaps and bounds by being back out on the field. He impressed his coach with his knowledge of the game this week as he had a one-on-one practice because the rest of the kids were busy with other soccer related "things".

He's spent the past 24 hours informing Jayden of all things soccer. From goalies to forwards and everything else in between. Oddly enough Jayden was willing to sit through the entire speel twice before pointing out he was now "bored and needed to do something fun."

Hopefully I'll have pictures to post tomorrow.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter

What wonderfully amazing conversations we've had around the house this week. Morgan has had some beautifully deep though provoking questions, and I'm reminded daily that it was Easter of last year when he told us he was ready to ask Jesus into his heart. How much he's grown, in a spiritual sense, and how amazing it's been to stand there and watch and be a part of it.

I found this video online yesterday and the boys, especially Jayden, have watched it over and over again. I thought I'd share..

Preview for HE IS RISEN

We say Happy Easter, not because of the chocolate bunnies hidden on top of the fridge, but because He is risen. May you all have a happy and blessed Easter.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Homeschooling Schedule

We're preparing for a week off from school starting tomorrow. Normally we school three weeks on and one week off, but due to a blip in our schedule we were on for four weeks. We've truly dragged at bit this week in our anticipation for some regrouping time, but we survived. (I think we have one other four week stretch much later in the year!) Anyway, I get lots of questions about schooling this way and I thought I'd try and answer some. Just keep in mind that this is how we do it, because it's what works best for our family. It's certainly not the only way to try it!

First off, I pull out the calendar in December and check out when holidays and birthdays will fall in the new year. I mark each week that we'll take off based on those pre-planned events. We like to take the week of a person's birthday off, unless their birthday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then we take the week after their birthday off (like a huge long weekend.) We also tend to take major holiday times off, but those may or may not fall on a normal week off. For instance, we take Australia Day off, and we usually try to plan for that. We take Easter off, but not always Good Friday.

We don't take the American Thanksgiving off now that we reside in Australia. Instead we do Thanksgiving"y" things around that time and have a mini meal to go with it. and we pluck along. Mostly because we take a week earlier in the month off for a birthday, and we take most of December "off" to focus on the Season. From here I bring up a yearly calendar highlight the weeks we'll be off and print out a half dozen copies to hand around.

Once I know when my weeks off are I can better plan what unit studies we'll aim to do when. Nothing is firm, I just jot down on a notebook the dates and the planned units. This helps me plan our weeks off a bit too. That way if we want to tie in a trip with our studies we can line them up if possible! It also helps me decide which homeschooling activities I will participate in that our group may be doing.

Our biggest reason for schooling this way is that we're not dependent on the public school schedule, and this gives us the freedom of going on vacation, avoiding burn-out and lets me plan out our upcoming school weeks without rushing for time. The idea is to simply relax, but get everything in order for the upcoming month. In our weeks off we:

  • grocery shop
  • put meals in the freezer
  • make the next 3 weeks school plans
  • visit family/friends
  • blah out around the house
  • take a day trip somewhere
Our first day off is usually a Saturday we spend that day cleaning up anything we've not tackled for the week. That way we can start the week fresh without having to worry about any upcoming chores other then normal tidying up. Monday & Tuesday are often reserved for pure blahing out and putting school plans on paper.

This means the kids will probably play a bit more on the computer or wii then normally allowed. We might watch a movie in the middle of the day, and chances are most of the chores are "off the hook" (dishes excluded). Wednesday we do our big shopping trip and if we're back early enough to get things in the freezer then we often have a day trip on Thursday.

Day trips aren't usually anything fancy. In fact it usually boils down to a trip into the big city about an hour away. We hit the library, a few organic shops, a book store or two, and the craft shop. We often take the kids to the park so they can gawk at the monkeys and play too.

The kids get a lot of free time during their weeks off where they get to build monstrous lego or block skyscrapers which they aren't asked to tear down before bed. We usually work on a craft that we haven't had time for (or haven't made time for) as well, amongst a variety of other things. It can be trickier in the winter to keep their free time fun without it being tv or video because we get so much rain in our winters. With that in mind I made a quick list of kid friendly things we'd most likely be doing this week:

  • help make cake & ice cream for Daddy's birthday
  • call cousins to come play (or go to)
  • ride bikes down at the beach
  • make play-doh
  • star gazing
  • board games (I'm trying to make them one, so I might have them do some test runs on it)
  • Help Nana shop (they like this cause she's brave enough to let them push the cart!)
  • transplant pumpkins (they are taking over their pots!)
  • read 1 book/story to Mommy or Daddy ea. day (Morgan)
  • soccer practice (the other one will probably go on a nature hunt during this time)
  • park (which we'll hit after soccer IF it's not cold and rainy this time)
  • Kenny & The Dragon (read aloud, very good book.. we'll probably finish it before our week is up & start another one..)
  • Possibly swimming (our fingers are crossed on this one!)
  • trip to the apple orchard
  • trip into the city
Who knows if it will all happen, because sometimes we end up just hanging out at home being nuts. We've been known to have trampoline competitions to see who can, jump the highest, do the best splits, trip everyone first, annoy the dog the most, etc. If the wind is right we could land at the beach flying kites and chasing crabs, or looking for stingrays.

I've also got a few winter crafts (bird related) for them that we might start on. We have some beautiful windows at the front of the house we're looking to hang some feeders at this winter so we can keep watching our winged friends. We shall see, we may end up saving that one for a workbox filler..

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Audio Books For Kids

We love listening to audio books around here. Maybe it's because we tend to find ourselves in the car a lot, or because during the wet winter we can all crowd around a game board, puzzle, or snuggle up with hot cocoa while we listen to them. The point is, we love audio books. I've mentioned a list of audio books that we've listened to, and it's constantly growing. I enjoy reading to the kids, and we do so daily, but they also like to be able to take the books to bed and listen to them then too. Or on long car rides when it's impossible to drive and read at the same time. (All though we have been known to make up very odd and usually funny stories during long drives..) I like to keep audio books that match up to books we all ready own. I have many audio books of our Five In A Row books, and the kids like to listen to them while half telling the story themselves. So yesterday, while visiting my Audio Book Club and wondering what book I might snag next for us, I opted to run over to the kids side of the club. I've been debating for a while with getting Morgan a kids account.

You have total control over the child's account, but it allows them to build a wish list and when they have funds in their account to purchase books. He was given a new ipod for his birthday and he'd really enjoy listening to books on it. I suspect he may have worn out his copy of Peter Pan, still one of his all time favorite stories! Anyway, I checked out their 99 cent specials. They've added several new books into the category. (That's where I opted to get most of my audio copies of the Five In A Row Books, because they cost me about 69 cents each!)

Anyway, I picked up another stack of audio books at a meager 69 cents last night. Needless to say all three of them nearly choked on their breakfast because they were too busy laughing to the latest adventure of Walter The Farting Dog. I know, totally sick sounding, and I have to be honest, the story is 100% boyishly sick-o, not to mention the sound effects. I also picked up some SkippyJon Jones, which Jayden usually finds amusing. They also have some Eric Carle books, Snowmen at Night (beautiful illustrations if you can get your hands on a copy of the "real" book too!), as well as a large assortment of Five in A Row books still!

I suspect Jayden will be delighted to find them in his workboxes along with a real book to hold and turn pages on while he listens. In fact, I'm pretty sure if Morgan doesn't find a few in his workboxes from time to time I'll hear complaints.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Averaging Assignment

Friday we decided to get a good visual on how big a giant is. The description stated that Hagrid was 6x time size of an average man. So I asked Morgan to name six men. He was pretty quick to come up with a list: Daddy, Poppy, Uncle "D", Uncle Chris, Uncle Damien, & Grandpa. (Thanks to all 6 of you!) He then measured Daddy and wrote that down, which left him with 5 phone calls to make. It took us a while to get all our information together, and when we finally had it all we decided to wait until the morning to set to work. Only we had a soccer game, and one thing led to another. Monday morning we showed Morgan how to use a calculator and had him add up (in centimeters) how tall each person he'd surveyed was. We explained that when you average you have to divide the number you get amongst the amount of people you spoke with. (Dividing is a new concept, and while he multiplies (unaware) multiplying was a new concept as well.) Once we had all the mathematical equations taken care of, we headed outside.

We were armed with chalk, information, and tape measures and set to work. Daddy was elected chief sketcher, and Morgan gave him the information he needed. Jayden was chief "make sure he's doing it right, and he's not Mom, it's not right I'm sure!" man. I was simply "Women with four shirts on attempting to take a picture while the wind blew me away." Now that you've got all that figured out..

Daddy decided to draw the head first, something we had no measurement for. Morgan did inform him that Hagrid should have a shaggy beard, beetle black eyes, and black hair.

Next we moved on to his arms (again no measurements), but we knew his hands were the size of trash can lids. Morgan had all ready measured our lid and came up with 68 centimeters. So his hands were drawn (and for the record I could sit in his hand with my knees drawn up without any problem at all!) The boys were impressed they could each sit in a hand and decided it would be a lot cooler if they just got a ride from Hagrid for a variety of things.

After that they walked out the length of his body and started drawing. Let's just say I heard a few, "Mom, is he going too far?" from Cheif, "He's doing it all wrong." However, it truly was right. Sadly our driveway is a big hill so we don't have a dead on picture, that and we needed to be on the roof for a good view, but:

Once they filled in his legs, they put on his feet. Morgan was hoping for some bare feet, but Daddy felt the fingers/hands were bad enough and shoes would be a lot easier. Thus we have boot clad feed. We had measurements for these knowing they were the size of a baby dolphin. We looked up dolphins and Morgan reported back that they were 3 feet when they are born. So we used our nifty convertor and came up with 94 centimeters and there you have it.

After which we decided to see how each of us compared to Hagrid in height. It was hard for the boys to fully grasp this since they were laying down, but even with three of us stacked head to foot we didn't come close to his waistline.

The broom is there for another eye view of just how big our Hagrid is. As for those funky knees and little shoe laces.. we were going for humor, after all if the neighbor looked out their window and saw our kids laying flat on the pavement getting chalk outlines we didn't want them to panic!

Daddy then drew each of the boys next to Hagrid so they could each visualize just what a huge size difference this was. They found the whole process of being outlined so fun they made Daddy lay down so they could outline him as well. They thought this was loads of fun, and I they considered making him take off his shoes so they could outline his toes.. I think this is a math lesson they'll be remembering for a while, after all there's still a giant out in the driveway!