10 Things We’ve Been Up To Lately


I’ve gone and disappeared for too long again!  I really want to get back to writing and connecting here regularly.  I have to figure out a way to make it work again!

I have a massive to-do poster on my bedroom door right now, with quadrants for the house (we have a huge remodeling project starting this month), the kids, school, work and miscellaneous.  I think I’ll add blogging to the list even though it isn’t a “must” — simply because it hangs over me like one and I do feel so much better when I am keeping track of our little life here.  🙂

So in an effort to quickly catch up in a tiny way, here are 10 random things we’ve been up to lately!


  1. We all went to the Maple Syrup sugarbush boil-off at a local nature camp, as always.  There was a huge breakfast buffet with a free-will donation, and Daryl once again worked one of the tables selling maple syrup and teaching people how to tap maple trees.  (If you want to know how to tap maple trees, check here, and learn about tapping black walnut trees here.)
  2. Toria is currently in Oregon, visiting friends.
  3. The youngest three kids, Daryl and I went looking for morels at a nearby nature area today.  We figured it was too early (it is) but we wanted to check.  One good rain and they should pop!
  4. Fiona, Alex and I went to Tiffany’s for a getaway.  They had the flu and we came back the very next day.  It was a very long drive for a very short trip!
  5. We made easy gluten free playdough.  Easy recipe: 2 cups baking soda, 1 cup corn starch, 1 1/4 cups cold water. Stir over medium heat until thick, turn onto a surface until cool enough to handle (covered with a damp cloth so it doesn’t dry out), divide into balls and color. I may add a touch of oil next time, but it’s a very nice dough. Keep it in the fridge to last longer (in a baggie).
  6. Toria now has a longboard and has been riding it quite a bit.
  7. Alex was bit by the neighbor’s dog, which caused the neighbor to feel understandably bad for him and ask what sorts of things he liked.  I said he liked anything, even rocks, but that he is particularly fond of Snap Circuits since he loves science and building kits so much.  She surprised him a few days later with this massive motion exploration kit.  He literally jumped up and down and shrieked quite a bit, and has spent many hours building movable creations (ones suggested in the kit and ones he’s created himself with it).  He recovered quite well, incidentally.
  8. We have been doing lots of work on the yard and gardens now that spring is here.  It’s so nice to be around green and dirt again!
  9. The younger kids have been doing online educational games for some homeschool fun.  Fiona and Daddy play on Teach Your Monster to Read and the boys play on Prodigy for math, both of which are free.
  10. We’ve been playing lots of board games, card games, dart games and other real-life games, too.  We got an electronic dart board at a thrift store and we’ve all had a blast playing it, but it’s also been good for math.  We play 301 most of the time and you have to end up exactly on 0 to win, which means that the kids frequently have to figure out which combinations of doubles and triples would help win (like triple 17 if you’re down to 51 and have only one toss left, for instance).

Unfortunately, the flu has also invaded (we brought it home from Tiffany’s), so I have to go back to snuggling a little four year old who is not fond of being sick.  She announced today that she doesn’t remember ever being sick before and she is quite over it!  I’m dosing her up with elderberry syrup to kick it fast.

I swear I’ll be back soon!



Reason #899 Why I Love Homeschooling

(Sparkle image by Victoria)

Okay, I made that number up, but I’m pretty sure there are at least 900 reasons I love it, and it seemed silly to start at one.  🙂

Victoria just put up a tutorial on how to make a sparkle picture using Sumo Paint on her blog.

The tutorial included screen caps, lots of steps about gradients and other tools, but this advice in the comments when someone had a question:

If you don’t have an account, the only save is to computer and if you get one you can save it online. Also if you want the app to be a popup window, click Launch Sumo. And if your computer blocks popups, erase everything after the .com, then type /app and it’ll open in your tabs bar.

What?  This just floors me.

She’s twelve.  Nobody has taught her any of this.  Not how to do tutorials, not how to do screencaps, not how to make sparkle pictures, not how to launch a program if your pop-up blockers won’t allow it.

And I thought, “How did she learn all of this?” for a half second and then remembered:  Self directed learning.  Nobody has to teach her.  She knows how to find information, push herself, educate herself and even educate others — and does so nonstop because she loves to learn.

It’s not that we don’t teach her too, but I love the fact that she so enthusiastically teaches herself.

Here’s to kids who never lose the joy of learning, teaching and growing.  🙂

Educational Software Reviews

I just stumbled onto the  site while searching for more information about a computer game called Math Missions.  I found it so helpful that I thought I’d pass it on.

The site ranks educational software according to ease of use, educational value and kid appeal, plus it gives detailed information about everything from system requirements to ease of installation to potential tricky spots.  The list of subjects they cover is beyond extensive (programs for piano, preschool and problem solving just to name the P’s!) and I can’t wait to browse and find some new gems to try at home.

A note about the photos…

I’m not sure what’s going on lately, but my photos seem to be magically changing every so often!  I post a batch of them and then a few days later one or two of them will be photos from other folders on my computer.  They still look like the originals on my screen and I only found out because Daryl checks my blog from his computer and he asked why I had an odd picture up.  Since then I’ve been checking regularly and it keeps happening.

I’ve run a virus check and can’t for the life of me figure out what’s going on.  They’re getting scrambled on my end too, but what’s especially odd is that I’m uploading pictures to my blog and then days later they are swapped with pictures that weren’t even taken that day.

Most queer and perplexing!

Anyway, if you see random odd photos that seem to have nothing to do with an entry, that’s the deal!  In the meantime I’m going to see about uploading via Flickr.

Victoria's Web Report

Victoria decided yesterday that she wanted to write a “web report” on marbles.

Daryl helped her google images and information on how they were made, the history, etc.  She used Neopaint to make an animated GIF that flipped through pages of pictures, information and trivia.

The whole thing was about 15 “pages” and included a typed introduction about the history of marbles and several screens about how to play marbles.

She said it was a lot of work, but she was immensely proud of the final report.  She emailed it to me and I’d put it up here if I could figure out how to make it work.  It’s basically an animated GIF.  Anybody know if that’s possible?

I’m not only proud that she did this cool project, but I’m also proud that she decided on her own that she wanted to do it and taught herself how to design the program.  🙂

HS Journal

Oh, we’ve been busy!  I’m still sick but quite a lot is going on nonetheless.  Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to.

Maple Syrup Tapping

We took part in an annual tradition of having a big community breakfast and then learning about tapping maple trees at a nearby camp.  The girls know it by heart by now but we always have a ball.  Jack made a new friend and they played together outside.

Microscope Ecology Trek

The kids took part in an activity where they learned the history of microscopes, trekked through the woods collecting cool samples and then looked at their bounty under microscopes.  They drew and identified the goodies.

Prairie Grammar

Daryl made up a bunch of pages of grammar lessons based on Anna’s favorite book series, the Sadie Rose books.  She’s over it, though!  LOL  Anna much prefers to learn organically through writing, reading and doing.

Pirate Grammar

Victoria is still doing the 60 or so pages of pirate grammar that Daryl got for her.  She likes it and always finds a way to make the answers silly.

Computer art

Victoria has gone to town taking pictures, finding images and then creating new images by splicing things together.  She’s doing optical illusions, wacky pictures, you name it.  She created a unicorn with Alex’s head for Anna to use as wallpaper on her computer settings.  Anna and Jack have started doing computer art of their own with special effects like oil painting looks.  They’re already able to do things Daryl and I can’t.


Still plodding away at the tests.  Yesterday was too busy but Victoria did the reading comprehension test this morning.  I’m planning on doing one or two sections with each girl later today.  They like to gleefully point out how ridiculously easy it is.  Snort.  Show offs.  😉


I am reading From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler to Anna as a bedtime book.  Victoria just finished the next Molly Moon novel and is impatiently waiting for the next to arrive via interlibrary loan.  She loves that series.  Jack just gets piles of picture books read to him.  One current favorite is No Matter What.  (I am reading Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn and discussing it online, along with a pile of decorating books and Teaching Elementary Mathematics, which is not nearly as fun.)

100 Birds

Daryl set a goal for seeing/identifying 100 birds this season.  He has started a list and we already have a good number of interesting birds on it, from bald eagle to grackle to kestrel.  Victoria is enjoying helping him look new specimens up in the bird book.

Snow and mud

We’ve had spring mood swings galore over here, with balmy days followed by snowstorms.  The kids have been able to play in snow, mud, slush, grass, ice and gigantic puddles.  My kitchen floor reflects this.  😉


Jack and Anna have been making money, making stores and trying to do commerce in any way for days.  Annalee is simply destined to go into retail or fundraising.  She just loves to make, buy and sell things and to rack up money.  I’m trying to find new and creative ways to meet that need, since we’re all getting tired of her trying to charge us for art, carnivals, beads, favors and anything else she can think of.  I’m thinking of signing her up for Girl Scouts next year since around here the cookie drive is huge.  That always bugged me but she loves selling things so much (whether she gets the money is secondary) that it might be a good fit.  I was also thinking of some sort of charitable fundraiser or walkathon.

Bird & animal ID

Jack and I looked around the ecology center yesterday while the girls were doing their microscope workshop.  They have a lot of mounted critters like owls, fish, racoons and other native birds and animals.  They had a Great Blue Heron and we looked at it up close and talked about how we’d seen one flying nearby on our drive over.  Then we used their specimen sheets and crayons to draw our own funny bird and animal breeds.  Jack quizzed me on them, saying things like “Okay, which one do you think is the most complicated?”.  <G>


The girls didn’t  have Japanese class last week but I bought some neat Japanese books and they’ve been looking at those.  Victoria has been reading a book about the right thing to do in different cultural situations in Japan, and she loves it.  We also got a Japanese picture dictionary and she noticed some disparities between the words Kenai has taught them and ones the book mentions.  We’re bringing the book to ask her about it Friday.

Imaginary numbers

Daryl taught Victoria about the meaning of i and imaginary numbers.   She has started to quiz Jack and Anna about things like the square root of -25 and so she’s now taught them about imaginary numbers.

Math quandaries

We got into a discussion in the car yesterday about why Anna will not always be double Jack’s age.  It was really confusing Victoria that it could only be true sometimes, so we got into a deep discussion of why that was.  We ended up figuring out what ages each of the kids would be double each other’s ages and talking about ratios and such.

And now…

The kids are cleaning the table downstairs so we can do a little art.  We’re going to look at some Picasso and then the kids are going to try their hands at painting in his style.  I also have to put some laundry in, vacuum, clean the front porch and play with a baby.  Maybe not in that order.  🙂