Comedy Break

“The only things Elaine treasures more than her prized blue and white urn collection are the framed drawings of her blue and white urn collection.”

This site is hysterical!  Catalog Living imagines the story behind catalog pictures.  You must go have a look!  And maybe give the kids the task of ripping out some catalog pages and captioning them in the same spirit.  🙂

Not Back to School Week!

We usually have a special Not-back-to-school day, but this year we sort of went all out.  Monday our local schools started and we wanted to do something special, but we had to wait for (and clean for) the tax appraiser.

Which is not exactly magical.

So we did a few fun things Monday and decided to continue it into Tuesday… and then Wednesday… and then our camping party sort of fit in perfectly and we extended that with a sleepover and before we knew it we’d had a week of fabulous fun.

A few highlights…

  • A special cake and cute cupcakes
  • Dinner feasts at home, complete with dressing up for dinner
  • A trip to the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls to hit the science museum where we ended up sidetracked and exploring the art half we never knew existed.  We looked at multiple galleries of amazing art and the kids all got to play and create in a wonderful art room.
  • A trip to our favorite authentic Mexican restaurant.
  • Going to a matinee (Despicable Me in 3D for Daryl and the younger kids, Vampires Suck for me and Victoria).
  • Wandering the mall!  You know how that’s a big deal for my gang.  😉
  • Streamers, balloons and other decorations downstairs all week.
  • Fun movies from Netflix.
  • Walking the Sculpture Walk in Sioux Falls.
  • Oodles of books from Scholastic, including tons of free ones.
  • Lots of visits to libraries and Barnes and Noble.
  • Camping, hiking and exploring with friends.
  • A slumber party in the living room, complete with junk food and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.
  • More friends visiting.
  • You get the idea!

It’s been a whirlwind and we managed to do most of it downright frugally too, which pleases me to no end.  We’re members of the museum, much of what we did was free and we managed to find ways to cut costs with most of the rest.  Besides, think of what we save with back to school shopping costs! 😉

Here’s a few pics!

It’s been a pretty nice way to start the new “school” year!  🙂

Play Games, Help Cure Cancer?

Have you heard of Foldit?

How does my game playing contribute to curing diseases?

With all the things proteins do to keep our bodies functioning and healthy, they can be involved in disease in many different ways. The more we know about how certain proteins fold, the better new proteins we can design to combat the disease-related proteins and cure the diseases. Below, we list three diseases that represent different ways that proteins can be involved in disease…

We are definitely working this into our homeschooling!

Zoo Day!

We decided on an impromptu trip to the zoo last week and had a fabulous time.

I even rode a camel!

We learned lots about camels from the trainer. For instance…

  • The camels were not owned by the zoo.  The camel trainer is a freelancer who brought them for the summer.  On September 1 he heads to California.
  • Camels live 30 to 40 years.  They use them for camel rides and zoos for only about the first 10 years and then they sell them to “private owners” or retire them to their farm.

I told the kids that I thought that would be an awesome job to have when they grow up — freelance camel trainer!  They’d get to travel, be their own bosses and certainly have an interesting job.  😉

I also get a kick out of private owners buying camels.  I’m not sure why, but backyard camels just tickle me!

Here’s more pics of the day….

It’s a long drive, but we have a family membership and have so much fun.  We’re determined to go even more often this year.

My homeschool column is finally back up, too!

Latest writings…

Campfire science!

Get 10 free books and more from Scholastic!

Homeschool days at the Petroglyphs set for October, November, March and May

Fabulously fun things for homeschoolers to do on the first day of school

New to homeschooling? What you need to buy right now

The Eat Local Challenge

We’ve joined in with the Eat Local Challenge from August 15 to September 15 and it’s been fun so far.

We’re not doing it that we have to eat *just* local foods, but that we have to eat at least one local food per day.

So far, our local foods have included…

  • Japanese and heirloom corn on the cob from the Worthington Farmers’ Market
  • Sliced tomatoes from Grandpa’s garden
  • Pesto made from basil picked by our back door
  • Sliced cucumbers from a nearby family farm
  • A taste test of yellow, pink and orange heirloom tomatoes from the Mankato Farmers’ Market, plus gobbling lots of colors and types of cherry and grape tomatoes also from there

We’ve also enjoyed melons, herbs, peppers and lots more.  It’s a great way to make sure that we are even more mindful of using the fabulous local foods that are all around us right now.

Today, we’re making salsa from a huge assortment of colors of tomatoes and types of peppers with cilantro, onion and lime.  No, the lime isn’t local but otherwise we’ll be doing pretty well!

What local foods do you eat this time of year?

Out of Order is redesigning their whole site, which means articles are wonky, pictures are missing, errors are widespread, and for a few examiners, entire columns are missing.

Yep, I’m one of the unlucky few.

If you follow my homeschooling column, you probably already know that it’s all gone — all redirected to someone else’s page no matter how you try to access it.

I’ve been told that it should be back by Monday.  In the meantime, I’m not writing new articles there.  The latest one was great ways to mark the first day of homeschool and that one was sucked into the abyss, so hopefully that will be up along with all my other ones tomorrow.

Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, here’s some I’ve written in my AP and green living columns…

Researchers say babies sleep better when parents are emotionally responsive

When it comes to helping little ones get a good night’s sleep, you’ll hear advice about everything from co-sleeping to darkness to schedules.  A new study suggests that the details are less important than…

Kissing hands to lunch box jokes: Ways to make first days at school easier

Little ones can feel mighty anxious about heading off to school without us.  School can feel scary and overwhelming, especially if kids are starting school for the first time or starting in a new school…

Family to travel the USA to help others

Many of us talk about wanting to live more simply or do more to help the world, but one young family is really putting that in action.  The Sheaffer family is selling their home and most of their belongings in order to embark on an RV adventure…

Broken bones, hospital stays and sick days: Making down time a little easier on kids

Recently, a mother wrote and asked me for suggestions on how to make the days a little easier for her daughter while she was in the hospital for regular treatments for an illness.  Whether kids have broken bones, a chronic illness or are just…

10 Fun ways to get kids ready to read

It’s back to school time in Minnesota and around the country, and the time of the year when parents are most prone to worrying about what their kids can and cannot do. If reading is a skill on your child’s horizon…

Join in the Eat Local Challenge — August 15 to September 15!

It’s the easiest time of year to eat locally grown food, and a nationwide challenge is working to give people an extra push to try it themselves.  The Eat Local Challenge, sponsored by food coops such as Whole Foods, asks people to commit to…

26 Healthy lunchbox choices

It’s nearly back to school time and it’s time to start thinking of lunchbox options.  If your kids bring a lunch to school, here are 26 healthy choices to put inside.

How to make avocado pit pendants

Here’s a simple, sweet craft that’s free to make and as eco-friendly as they come!  Avocado pit pendants are charming, personalized creations that are easy to create and surprisingly beautiful.

Should you be worried about BPA in receipts?

News spread through the internet recently about the fact that many receipts are now treated with BPA.  The warning was featured on NPR’s Science Friday, The Washington Post, CBS News and the UK’s Daily Mail, just to name a few…

What’s the big deal about BPA?

BPA has been in the news a lot lately.  The Environmental Working Group has found that many receipts contain the compound, as well as a host of other products.  Consumers are anxious to avoid exposure to BPA, but it can be difficult…

Green Living 101: What food brands and products are BPA-free?

So you know you want to avoid BPA, but it seems to be everywhere.  Even organic canned tomatoes contain the worrisome compound.  How do find products that are BPA free?

Here’s a list of brands, foods and products to look for…

Harvest recipes: Zucchini apple crisp

It’s that time of year when zucchini is becoming so plentiful in Minnesota back yards and farmers’ market stalls that people can barely give it away.  Here’s a recipe that tastes so good you’ll wish you planted more.

Site rates the 25 most unhealthy kids’ meals

The Daily Beast has compiled a list of the 25 most unhealthy restaurant kids’ meals and the results are pretty dismal.  With many meals far surpassing the average child’s calorie needs for an entire day…

The Civil War, Shooting Stars and Cipro

We’re still insanely busy here.

We took Annalee to the doctor today, since she’s had an ear infection since Nebraska that just will not quit.  She was at the ER with a high fever and terrible pain down there, and 10 days and two prescriptions later she still can’t sleep well at night.

Anna is now on Cipro and a couple of ear drops.  The doctor said she’s been seeing antibiotic-resistant staph infections in kids’ ears lately, including one earlier this week.  Yikes.  Hopefully this will kick it.

In other news….

We’re heading to this Civil War reenactment tomorrow.  It sounds like a blast!  Literally, with the cannon fire and all.  😉

Usually, we take part in a knap-in in Lake Benton for this weekend, with Daryl teaching the atlatl, free camping and ooga-booga ceremonies galore (don’t ask, it’s super secret and I couldn’t tell!).  But Daryl’s legs are just too bad right now so we’re taking it easy and being tourists for the weekend somewhere else instead.

Daryl took the girls out to the country to see the Leoneid meteor shower last night.  They counted dozens.  Daryl came home and said “I love small-town living.”  While they were parked by the side of the road, a car pulled up and a man asked if they needed any help.  Daryl told the driver, “No thanks, we’re just looking at the meteor shower” and the voice from the darkness said, “Daryl?”.

It turns out it was Dave, one of Daryl’s local friends and the father of one of Anna’s best friends.  They chatted and watched shooting stars for a bit before Dave headed home and my brood went back to watching the skies.

It’s kind of nice living somewhere where not only will passing cars stop to offer help if you’re parked by the side of the road, but they’ll recognize your voice in the darkness (and know you’re probably the only guy who’d haul his kids out to the middle of nowhere at 2 a.m. to watching meteor showers).  🙂

It’s a crazy life but I kinda secretly love it.

As long as there’s occasional chocolate and wine!

Random Bits

It has been oppressively hot upstairs in our house lately, where I unfortunately sleep, write and blog.  Hence, I’ve been spending a lot of time downstairs and off the computer.

Tonight we finally had a nice storm that cooled the world down a bit and finally brought a breeze.  While it’s under 100, I figured I’d post some random bits of info about life here lately…

  1. We’re loving our new Brock Magiscope and have now looked at hair from three of us, a swatted fly, a butterfly wing, a bit of a sea sponge, sugar, a whisker, coffee grounds, sand, microprinting on a dollar bill, the texture of a paper towel versus a kleenex, a bee leg and more.  I’m getting higher lenses ASAP so we can look at even more.
  2. Victoria has started writing the newsletter for our local food coop.  It’s a way for her to volunteer, get publishing experience and work on skills like editing.  Here’s her first newsletter.  They always run a “green” article at the start of the newsletter so she used one of mine from my new green living column.  I think she did such a great job!
  3. Anna has been fighting a killer ear infection since Nebraska.  While we were down there we had to drive her around for hours trying to find someone to treat her with our out-of-state health insurance and finally ended up in the ER.  Nearly 2 weeks later she’s still in pretty bad pain despite the medications so we’re taking her back in.
  4. Jack learned to ride a bike yesterday.  He hadn’t gotten around to learning until now and it took all of 30 seconds and he was off like a streak.  He crashed twice into curbs and once into the back of our van but he just bounced a bit and climbed back on.  He’s now racing up and down the streets on his bike every minute.  I really like the “better late than early” approach to so much in life.  Whether it’s toilet training, multiplying, reading or riding a bike, it really is fantastically easy to teach kids things when they’re more than ready.  It also helps alleviate my mama guilt when I think I suck for not having taught my kids things by now.  😉
  5. This article talks about a study that followed kids from childhood into adulthood and rated how successful they were based on personality traits they’d had as kids.  According to the researchers, being impulsive, talkative and adaptable were basically the biggest factors in being healthy, successful adults.  While it’s nice to hear since our kids tend to be all three at least part of the time (and schools tend to discourage much of that), Daryl and I both felt it was pretty rudely skewed in attitude towards introverts and other personality styles.  What do you think?
  6. I’m off to watch shooting stars with some of my favorite people.  Here’s hoping we spy some beauties!