Things Here…

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I’m just popping in for a long-overdue post and update.  I always say I’m going to get back to regular blogging but I’m really going to start making it a priority soon.  I miss this.  🙂

Things are as busy as usual here.  As an update on each of the members of our family…

Toria (18 now) is in North Carolina with my cousin Eddie and his wonderful family for the week, and visiting their home in Ohio as well.  They’ve rented a house in Nag’s Head on the coast and she’s hanging with her beloved second cousins and they’re wonderfully fun household.

She is taking a gap year this year, having officially graduated homeschool this spring.  She’ll be spending this year focusing on travel, volunteer work and finalizing her thoughts on which passion to follow first in terms of college and career.  She has already traveled to visit friends in Oregon this spring, then Ohio, and now North Carolina and Ohio.  We’ll be going to see Tiffany in Nebraska for a while after we come back from getting her, and our family friend Val (whom I’ve known since high school and is like family to me and to the kids) is planning to take her to Europe sometime this year.

She is also starting up her own little shop, selling whimsical glass jewelry.  Once she has it established, I’ll post a link!

Rhia (16 now) will be officially starting her new job next month, taking over Toria’s old gig since Toria aged out (it’s only for teens under 18).  It’s a fantastic job with good pay and pretty cool experiences.  She did all the training for it this spring and got her feet wet, but they have to wait until the new fiscal year starts in August to jump back in.  That’s about all I can say in a public forum. 🙂

She just celebrated her 11 month anniversary with her boyfriend, Tyler.  He is such a great guy and we all really adore him. She’s made some new friends that she really enjoys, and has been having a lot of fun playing with fashion and hair choices.  Her hair is currently green and yellow ombre with a partly shaved side.  She is one of the only people I’ve ever known who can look good with something like that!

She’s doing the hair and makeup for the Wilder Pageant, but otherwise just enjoying the summer off.  She has been going to quite a few cool concerts with Ty, his sister and friends, and she’ll be going to the Warped Tour soon.

Jack (13) is in the Wilder Pageant again this summer.  I forget how many years he’s been in it now.  Maybe six?  He’s suddenly growing like a weed, and is now quite a bit taller than I am (though that’s not hard as I’m only 4’11”!).  His voice is now deep enough that whenever I’m on the phone with Tiffany she says, “That can’t be Jack talking!”.  🙂  His blond hair has gone quite curly from the summer humidity and it’s so thick and full that I think it adds another few inches.

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He’s been getting into Manga books and fell in love with a series I brought home from a thrift store yesterday.  He is also quite a fan of Nerf guns and we’ve amassed a massive cache of them from thrift stores since most of the other kids have caught the fever too.  I’m not a fan of guns or the mayhem that ensues in their Nerf battles.  One such battle accidentally landed Alex in the ER and required an eye patch for a week, so protective eye gear is now a rule in our house.  But I also try to bite my tongue and let him do the things that bring him joy.

He’s one of my biggest helpers around the house these days and I don’t know what I’d do without him.  He helps a lot with laundry, Fiona, the pets and occasional cooking.  He is the one I rely on the most for little odd jobs throughout the day — putting canned goods away in the basement pantry, hanging clothes on the line, grinding a batch of millet or brown rice flour in the Vitamix, setting up Fiona with something fun so I can fix dinner, and so on.

Alex (9) has a temporary best friend next door.  Our new neighbor has her nephew with her every summer, and he is Alex’s age and a fabulous fit for him. They play a lot of Minecraft together and we bring him with us when we do some fun things like head to the lake.

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We went to Sioux Falls yesterday for much-needed shopping, and we worked a visit to the zoo into it and brought the neighbor boy along.  We have memberships to the zoo and children’s museum in Sioux Falls, and try to make time for something fun for the kids every time we head there for the boring necessities like groceries since I stock up on better deals at places like Costco and Aldi once or twice a month to help keep our food budget frugal.  It was fun (and noisy) having an extra small Alex-like boy with us all day!

Alex in the Wilder Pageant again, too.  I think this is about his 3rd year, but I’m not sure.  He has a lot of fun in it and does well.  He is still a super active kid.  He loves riding his bike and playing outside, and he’s got endless energy.  He is slightly less exhausting as he ages, and he is constantly making me smile.  He continues to be fascinating with anything scientific, and soaks up scientific information like a sponge.  I was trying not to grin last week when he had a new friend in the back yard who was listening rather glassy-eyed as Alex explained in depth how to make a still.

Fiona (4) is in the Wilder Pageant for her second year.  She loves it, and looks adorable in her long braids and prairie dress.  She is quite the actress already and she’s learned most of the lines for the other actors.  She sometimes quotes them to me and then expects me to know how I’m supposed to answer.  She particularly likes quoting the little girl in the grasshopper scene (“Mama, mama, I can’t sleep.  I keep dreaming about grasshoppers.  They’re in the house and in my hair and everywhere!”… Or something like that — she could tell you exactly!).  Then I answer with a silly answer that’s not quite what the mama is supposed to say and she grins and corrects me with my proper line.

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She is learning to spell and read a few new words, and is impatient to learn to read.  I’ve told her that she’ll learn soon.  By child #5, I can tell how close she is to having it all click into place, and I have a lot of tools in my tool chest to help that happen soon for her.  It’s a goal for me to do something fun in reading readiness every day this summer, and then step it up a bit in the fall if she wants.  Of course, we read together every night and that’s probably the single best way to get children ready to read.

She still loves doing art, too, and it’s a huge part of her day.  I love her drawings and paintings.  Toria has been a big influence for her there.  That really helps her writing, too, since it gives her the fine motor control to make it easy.

Daryl is in the Wilder Pageant for his 11th (?) year, playing Mr. Kennedy this year.  He has also been busy with loads of other things, most of them volunteer-based.  And he was in a movie this week!  He got to be an extra for the movie “Hap and Ashley” that’s filming about an hour away.  He helped them as a reader when they were casting in another city a few months ago.  He even got a line!  He got to be the guy at the pot luck who shouts out, “Someone call Hank!  We’re gonna need an ambulance.”  🙂

He’s also been doing quite a lot of foraging with the kids.  He and the kids (mostly Toria) gathered over 60 pounds of wild asparagus this spring that’s in our freezer for the winter now.  He’s also gathered black raspberries (several gallons), mulberries and now bush cherries.  We transplanted a few black raspberry bushes from the wild a few years ago and they happily took over a section of our back yard, so it’s questionable if that counts as foraging or not.  I’m glad we did, as the county mowed down all the raspberry plants and cut down the mulberry trees last summer.  I wish there was less focus on making nature look tidy and empty.  I know we were hardly the only family who gathered those delicious fruits every summer.

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I have been extremely busy,  even compared to my normal level of mayhem.  Examiner notified all of its writers on July 1st that it would be taking down the website around July 10th, and I had to move thousands of articles to a safe place to keep them.  I am starting several new websites where I’m reposting those articles.  It will be better for my readers, since they won’t have to put up with those annoying pop-up ads and sometimes-horrifying “trending stories” that adorned the sidelines.  It’s not so good for us, though, as I’m out that paycheck!  I’m putting Amazon affiliate links on the sites and asking people who wish to support us to click through for any shopping they wish to do, hoping that helps a bit in making up for that loss of income.  I am choosing to look at it as a blessing, since it will give me that push off the proverbial cliff in to new directions and new beginnings, like it or not!

Our house is currently brimming with kittens and cats, and I’m working to get that down to a calm roar.  I rescued a beautiful feral female last winter and it turned out she was pregnant, so I had to find homes for her 4 kittens (3 down, one to go).  Then another feral cat moved her kittens into our garage. The mama was very wild and the kittens were already becoming as wild as mama, and I knew that they could never be adopted if I couldn’t tame them soon.  They were too young to be weaned though, so I tried a desperate experiment and caught one and brought him up to our feral (now tame) rescue mama inside.  She sniffed him, licked him and proceeded to nurse him, and I caught the other babies and she adopted them immediately as her own.

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Now they are old enough to be weaned and move on to new homes.  They have become friendly, social, loving and litter trained.  My neighbor has agreed to take one (a black kitten she’s named Zeus) but there are three left to place.  In the meantime, our old cats are doing a fairly good job of being overrun by all of these manic kittens!

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We managed to catch that feral mama, brought her in to the local vet to be spayed (courtesy of a wonderful county rescue organization) and released her again.  She has adopted me as the only human she will let pet her, and she is slowly becoming trusting and very loving.

In addition, we’re having a ton of much-needed renovations done to the house over the next month, and it will require pretty much emptying our entire downstairs and work done on all four floors (main, upstairs, basement and attic!).  I am completely overwhelmed by all that has to be done, but it’s another thing that will ultimately be a huge blessing when it’s done.

That’s just a fraction of what’s been going on here!  I will try to start popping in more regularly so I don’t have to do massive updates like this every time.  Hope your summer is going well!

 

 

 

Sewing 101

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I learned to sew on my new sewing machine today!

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I asked for a sewing machine for a solstice present from Daryl (we celebrate the winter solstice as a family, and then celebrate Christmas with extended family a couple of days later).

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Today, I used the manual, DVD and lots of trial and error to figure out how to wind the bobbin, thread the needle (there are 6 numbered places to wind and wrap it, then a less than intuitive needle threader mechanism to push, wrap, wind and pull), adjust the tension, program the stitches, troubleshoot the many problems that came up and ultimately sew my very first item — a tiny bag I presented to Alex to use for marbles or some such.

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Then, I taught a very enthusiastic Victoria how to use it.  She sewed a lovely little drawstring bag and she’s been pestering me to sew more things ever since.  The other kids are equally impatient to get to sewing.

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It’s funny, I grew up with a professional mom and grandmother who taught me all things educational and professional, but there were no “traditional” women in my life growing up in the 70’s and 80’s.

As an adult I taught myself to cook, garden, can, forage and now sew.  I am so much more proud of these old fashioned skills I’ve learned than anything I learned in college (though I’m also proud of my career work as a poet and domestic violence advocate).

I was more intimidated by that sewing machine manual than by a nuclear physics book!

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Now if I could just teach myself to clean better…  😉

 

 

Felt Foods!

While we were in Nebraska a few weeks ago, Toria happened upon a stash of felt that Tiffany wasn’t using.  With Tiffany’s blessing, she used some to make a little felt waffle for Fiona, dents and all.  And then a little felt strawberry, and then a felt orange wedge, and then a felt strawberry (complete with little embroidered seeds!) and then felt salad ingredients and felt pizza ingredients and on and on.

felt3Fiona ended up with an entire set of darling felt food, and Toria made a set for Tiffany’s two year-old daughter, Millie, too.

She made so much that we had to run out and buy her more felt.

It was a darling project and both girls loved their new play foods.

feltfelt4(No, she doesn’t need glasses, she just likes to swipe my reading glasses!)

I’ll have her share some tips when she’s back from Oregon, and I’ll post better pictures then.  Fun stuff!

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Our Winter Schedule

I like to keep a seasonal schedule to help keep myself on track in terms of homeschooling, meals, housework and so on. I am not any good at all with rigid structure, but a loose schedule helps immensely with a family of our size and with all the pans I always have in the fire.

Each day has a general theme in terms of food, activities and homeschooling focus. We are free to deviate from it, but it helps to keep things running more smoothly to have it as a general guideline.

Here’s our winter schedule, which I have posted above my desk.

Each day has a theme next to it, and the lunch is listed under it (kids make it when they can).  The dinner (or dinner theme) is listed at the end of the line.  I also list what area to clean and what HS area to focus on, plus anything unique to the day.  Along the side you can see what we have to do every day, chore-wise (dishes, laundry, pets, tidying) and at the bottom is the HS/personal stuff we do every day.

The schedule is very loose, like if we’re snowed in for Friday field trips we can still walk up to the library uptown (our whole town is like 8 blocks wide, so “uptown” is a relative term!).

And in case you’re interested, here was the fall schedule. I loved having it to refer to all during autumn.  I found that it made things just seem easier.

Since I cook from scratch and we have a lot of dietary needs in our house (various members are gluten free, dairy free and vegetarian, not to mention general tastes), it really helps me to have a general weekly meal rotation for the seasons.

Some of the benefits of this system are:

  • Weekly shopping lists are easy to compile since they don’t change that much during one season.
  • Meals are centered around seasonal foods, which are cheaper and fresher. In the winter, that means a lot of root vegetables and dried beans.  I also rely on the foods we put up earlier in the year.
  • It’s easier for me to quickly make suppers, since it’s rather routine.
  • Having a general theme instead of a specific meal plan lets me shop the sales and account for extras we have to use up. For instance, stir fries can include just about any vegetables and proteins.  Mexican can mean anything from burrito bowls to enchiladas to tostadas.  Baked potato night usually involves a horde of possible toppings, including any leftovers that sound like good toppers.  And obviously soup night leaves thousands of possibilities.  🙂
  • The meal themes are loose enough to still allow for variety. “Use it up day” lets me make use of things in the pantry and fridge, so foods aren’t wasted and I need to buy less.  Feast night on Sunday allows us to have a little fun and satisfy our cravings.
  • The general meals are incredibly frugal. With a family of 7 and our budget (and my insistence on still buying healthy, whole foods and lots of organics), this saves me a ton of money.  On Saturday nights, we have the comfort food from my childhood — cabbage, potatoes and carrots.  We just boil it up in a pot and top it with butter and salt.  A lot of families survived on that type of food five nights a week or more in the past, and while it’s not a favorite for any of my kids it gives me a night off of cooking (Daryl takes care of it).  Other meals in our rotation are heavily reliant on affordable staples like rice and beans.
  • Having this system lets it become routine to do prep work. For instance, knowing that Monday night is always Mexican night, I automatically put some black beans in the pressure cooker to soak overnight.
  • The kids know what to expect, which they like.
  • I don’t have to panic at 5 p.m. about what’s for supper. That’s the biggest plus for me!

The same holds true for the homeschooling routine and the chore routines. They are loose, but they allow for a little bit of predictability and just enough structure.  It is too easy for me to feel overwhelmed at everything that needs to be done in the house or all the things I “should” be doing with the kids, but if I can look and see that today is a day to focus on poetry, making the day magical and cleaning bedrooms, I can handle that!

Winter is actually our calmest season. We don’t have any work to do in the gardens and all of the harvests have been put up.  It’s too soon for starting seeds, the snow keeps us from going too far from home, and there are not many activities even offered this time of year.

In Homeschooling Through the Seasons I talked about the possible winter homeschool environments:

Winter is an ideal time for slowing down and doing longer projects. You can introduce lots more read-alouds of both fun fiction and history, science and other educational subjects. Winter sports can include ice skating, skiing and playing in the snow, but can also incorporate more inside activities like Wii fitness games, yoga and using mini trampolines. Homemaking skills can be part of the learning, teaching kids skills like bread making and knitting (if you don’t know how to do these, this is a perfect excuse to learn along with them!). Computers can play a bigger part in homeschooling this time of year, using educational sites like Khan Academy, online curricula such as the free ACS chemistry curriculum and educational online games. This is also an ideal time to use educational videos from Netflix or the library. The Christmas season offers its own challenges and opportunities. Homeschoolers are lucky that we can take full advantage of the season without having to squeeze in the same schedule as usual. Many homeschoolers cut back on the traditional lessons during December and let Christmas (from baking to budgeting to religious education) be a main part of homeschooling.

Today, however, our routine is off a bit because we’re deviating by traveling to Sioux Falls to pick up Victoria from the airport.  She’s back from a fantastic week and a half with friends in Oregon so we get to bring her home.

What do you think of the new hair?

I swear Fiona is more of a fan than she’s letting on there!  😉

And now I’m off to tidy the bedroom and grab some poetry books for the car……

 

 

Homesteading 101

We’ve been so busy “putting things up” the past few months, and we have one more big push to do now — pumpkins — before we’re nearly done for the year.

Daryl picked up 19 pumpkins from our local farm family source for $5 today.  Daryl told Mr. H that we needed one jack-o-lantern pumpkin and 9 pie pumpkins and Mr. H told him, “How about you take as many as you want for five dollars?”.  After Thursday, all the ones left over are going over the fence to the cows, after all.  🙂

We have 5 gallons of hard apple cider brewing on the kitchen counter right now and 18 pie pumpkins waiting on the lawn to become pumpkin puree tomorrow.

Oh yes, and Mr. H had a couple of extra flats of tomatoes and another big box of peppers he threw in cheap, so we need to prep those tomorrow too…

It is a lot of work, but I honestly really love this time of year and this work we do as a family together.

Over this growing season, we’ve canned, dried, frozen, foraged and otherwise “put up”:

  • applesauce
  • apple juice
  • hard cider
  • apple pie filling
  • chopped apples
  • green, yellow, red and purple pepper strips
  • roasted onions
  • shredded zucchini
  • wild elderberries
  • elderberry honey syrup (anti-flu medicine)
  • pears in light syrup
  • peaches in light syrup
  • roasted pumpkin seeds
  • simple roasted tomato sauce
  • rhubarb
  • refrigerator pickles
  • traditional pickles (various recipes)
  • corn (frozen and canned)
  • cattail stalks
  • cattail pollen (used as a flour and incredibly high in vitamins and Omega-3 fats)
  • acorn flour
  • mulberries
  • black raspberries
  • raspberries
  • triple berry sauce
  • mulberry fruit leather
  • dandelion syrup
  • tomatoes
  • roasted corn salsa
  • easy fresh salsa
  • fresh tomato bisque
  • grape juice
  • grape jelly
  • milkweed pods (when tiny, they can be cooked like breaded and/or sauteed and the insides are like melted mozarella cheese)
  • walnuts
  • various other wild berries (gooseberries, etc.)
  • whatever I’ve forgotten!  🙂

I love the fact that even 6 year-old Alex knows how to ID wild asparagus and he can’t pass by walnuts in the park without gathering them up in his shirt to bring home.  🙂

I get a kick out of teaching my kids how to do things like baking, canning, gardening and preserving the harvest. Most people used to think of these skills as those of our parents and grandparents, but I grew up with different role models.

My mother was a single mom who put herself through doctoral school and became a professor and then a prison psychologist.  Her mother was a teacher, then a principal, and eventually the dean of education at an Ohio university.  After retirement, she opened an educational resource center and ran that for over twenty years (she’s nearly 90 and just sold it and retired a few years ago).  Her mother was a factory worker.

My mom was actually a phenomenally terrible cook.  Not a single woman in my life seemed to know how to sew, garden, can, cook, bake or anything else remotely domestic.  Even normal jobs related to the keeping of a home were missing from my upbringing, since we moved at least once a year, rented wherever we lived and didn’t even own furniture.

Since my mother hid me from my father until after his death, I grew up not knowing anybody on my father’s side of the family.  I have been told that my grandfather loved to garden and my grandmother may have known all of the skills I missed out on from my mother’s side, but they were all dead before I found them.

So I had to teach myself.  I’ve become a regular pro at some of it (cooking and gardening, especially), and I’m still working on a few of those domestic skills (like using a sewing machine and keeping my house tidy).

I do love knowing these skills, though, and I love that my kids are growing up learning them.  They can choose to become deans of education and know how to grow an organic garden and pressure cook twenty-five quarts of back yard salsa. 🙂

Maria Montessori actually advised that the middle school years should focus on teaching homesteading skills instead of academics, for many reasons.  We loosely follow that during the middle school years, since it seems to suit the tween years so well, developmentally.  (Montessori taught that the high school years should see a refocus on academics, along with real-world work opportunities in the form of internships and volunteer work that provides helpful experience for later careers.)

I recently wrote up 10 Homesteading Skills Every Child Should Learn, and I pointed out some of the reasons it’s so good for kids to learn homesteading skills:

  • They have skills that can save them a lot of money when they’re on their own, since they won’t have to hire others to do them.
  • They are able to be self-sufficient and don’t have to rely on other people to help them or take care of them.
  • They are able to help their neighbors and communities. They can pass on their skills and use their knowledge to help others. Homesteading practices tend to help the environment, too.
  • They have the skills needed to not just survive but thrive even in difficult financial times.
  • They are prepared for emergencies and challenges.
  • They have what they need for financial freedom and are equipped to live comfortably within their means.
  • They have added pride and the sense of accomplishment that comes from “doing it yourself” and doing it well.

I’m still working on teaching a few of the top ten list to the kids (and myself!). I put links to lessons for each category in the article, like free woodworking pages and sites that help teach kids to sew.

If you’re interested in teaching your kids homesteading skills, I also have all my favorite stuff pinned on Pinterest to boards like:

You can see all my Pinterest boards here(BTW, if you’re on Pinterest too, leave a comment and let me know!)

Daryl also focuses on some homesteading skills like making applesauce, using wild foods, foraging with kids and “putting up” foods in his cooking with kids column and his urban foraging column.

I honestly think that teaching our kids homesteading skills is one of the most important parts of their education. It gives them so many advantages in life, and sneaks in plenty of science, math and other subjects along the way.

I also just find that it greatly improves our quality of life, and gives us some pretty neat memories together — and really good food.  🙂

Nature Studies Last Week

A big part of our “curriculum” this time of year is nature. We spend as much time as possible outside and much of our life in general is dictated by nature. We are harvesting in the garden, “putting up” produce like non-GMO corn from a nearby farm and homemade pickles with farmers’ market cukes, cooking like crazy with extra zucchini gifted by others, watching wildlife, spending days at the lake, foraging, climbing trees, playing and eating nearly every dinner outside in the back yard at our new farmhouse table.

(Daryl and Victoria built it for me.  Isn’t it marvelous?!)

This week was a pretty great week for nature studies. Here’s some of what we did….

  • We watched a cicada emerge from his alien-like skin with his new green wings.
  • We watched a monarch butterfly emerge from its chrysalis right by our back door, pump its new wings until they were dry, and fly away.
  • We swam at the lake many times and played with sand, water, driftwood and water bugs.
  • Victoria found some neat rocks and an arrowhead artifact at the lake, and was with Daryl when he found another fossilized shark tooth.
  • Alex and Jack helped Daryl forage for acorns, walnuts, apples and crab apples.  The boys always excitedly gather any acorns or walnuts they come across to bring home to process, which tickles me since 99.9% of the world considers them nuisances for the lawnmower.
  • Daryl and the kids “foraged” for apples and crab apples by getting permission from various owners who said they would not be harvesting them and who gave us permission to pick them.  These were all organic apples since the owners didn’t plan to harvest them and therefore didn’t spray them.
  • Alex helped Daryl made applesauce from the apples and crab apples and we canned many pints and quarts of it for the winter.  We talked about why our new pressure canner can safely preserve low-acid foods.
  • Victoria helped Daryl process the acorns and turn them into acorn flour(Here’s how our family does that.)
  • I made gluten-free apple cake with acorn flour (and other gluten free flours) we made from acorns Daryl and Alex gathered at our UU church, then we brought the flour for everyone to see and smell (it smells divine).  We’ll be bringing them baked good samples and printed instructions on how to do it themselves, too.  (Here’s the recipe I used for the apple cake, substituting acorn flour for the soy flour.) The apples were also foraged ones, and the eggs were from a homeschooling family down the highway (we buy 5-10 dozen eggs from them at a time from their free-roaming chickens at $1 a dozen), so a lot of the ingredients were locally sourced.
  • Jack and Alex helped Daryl husk walnuts and put them in big mesh onion bags in the garage to dry.
  • The kids helped husk non-GMO corn from a nearby farm to blanch and freeze it for winter.  We buy enormous boxes of ears for $6 each and spend a day at a time putting it up.  It’s a lot of work but it’s well worth it for many reasons!  (Here’s how Daryl and the kids process it.)
  • We watered and tended our gardens.  I use wine bottles for drip irrigation, and Jack helped me fill the bottles.
  • We made gluten-free zucchini breads and cakes like crazy, and froze extra shredded zucchini for use in recipes later in the year.  (These are our favorite recipe so far to use extra zucchini — Easy triple chocolate zucchini mini donuts and Chocolate zucchini bread, which tastes like chocolate cake to us.) We also made lots of grilled zucchini and zucchini everything else!  🙂
  • We saw hundreds of dead carp by Talcot Dam, littering the shore.  We believe the combination of hot weather and low water just killed them off.  It led to more talk about weather and climate change.
  • We saw great blue herons, vultures, sandpipers, cranes, pelicans and other beautiful birds at the lake and in the wetlands that we pass when we head out of town for groceries.
  • Toria, Alex and Fiona found a frog after church and played with him before letting him go.
  • We talked about our funny sunflowers that don’t usually turn to face the sun at all the way they’re supposed to, but rather stick their faces in all directions.  Incidentally, if you want to know why they turn to follow the sun, ask.com says, “Sunflowers face the sun due to their ability of ‘heliotropism’ or sun-tracking. Sunflowers have a hydraulic system in the stem which enables them to turn in the direction of the sun. Water builds up on the shady side of the stem, leading to pressure which causes the head to arc toward the light.”
  • We read from One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Science! and the kids used their biology knowledge to try to solve the mysteries in the life science section.
  • I made the mistake of wandering into the Nature Bats Last blog and following rabbit trails there until I was left an utter basket case in the middle of the night and had to email a friend whose wife is an environmental science professor to talk me off the ledge.  If you want to feel despondent pretty quickly, google “near term extinction” sometime and take a look at the amazingly short number of years some scientists are giving humanity and pretty much all life on earth.  (Note:  I had Nature Bats Last hyperlinked for you but I really consider it a public service announcement not to send any poor unsuspecting souls there.  I prefer hope.  Yes, climate change and climate chaos is real and getting really bad really fast, but paralyzing us with fear isn’t going to inspire the kind of change that’s needed to save ourselves and our world.  For goodness sake, we all need to get serious about making real changes, though.)
  • We are starting an in-depth family study of ways to convert our house to more sustainable energy, along with various tools we use (for instance, we bought a push reel mower a couple of years ago to use instead of the gas powered one).  We are also going to see how far we can lower our utility bill from September of last year and talk to our minister about starting a community garden at our UU church next year (the church is already wind powered, which is pretty awesome and shows their commitment to sustainable living).
  • I made up a batch of elderberry honey syrup to beat a bad summer cold.
  • Jack, Alex and Fiona took part in the Think! challenge to make mandalas from natural objects.  The boys made fantastic ones (Fiona just played) and they were posted on the Think! blog.  Unfortunately, the blog owner posted Alex’s twice and didn’t post Jack’s at all and she apparently doesn’t read her comments, so you can’t see Jack’s!  It was awesome and I’m going to try to contact her again to see if she’ll put his up because I know he’ll be proud to see it online.
  • We have been taking walks, climbing trees, visiting with friends in the back yard, eating outside, grilling out (mostly produce and veggies… stuffed portabello mushrooms are our all-time favorite but they’re about 1000 calories apiece!), making refrigerator pickles and scrap apple juice and peach pie and a hundred other things to use up excess fruits and veggies, trimming trees and bushes, loving on pets, talking about the jet stream and weather, photographing bugs, pulling weeds, checking on wild edibles (grapes, elderberries and plums are ripening soon, among others… here’s what’s in season in September in the midwest)…

And that’s why we don’t start “doing school” in late August just because the local schools have started up again.  🙂  Not that we ever do school anyway, but this is just not a sit-down and study kind of season for us.  We do homeschooling through the seasons and I love this season.

In other news…

Here’s some free science notebooking pages you can download.

Here’s some articles I’ve published lately…

Daryl read somewhere years ago that September is the month of winds and magic.  Since it is the month of his birthday and our anniversary, it is a special month for us.  Happy September!

 

My Filing Card To-Do System

My filing card to do systemThis is the filing card system I’ve been using lately for my to-do lists.

I have a crazy amount of things I have to do on an ongoing basis, and I couldn’t find a program, list or app that would work for me until I started doing my cards again.

I made it up years ago and later lost the box. I found it recently and have been using it again.

The system is kind of cool.  I adapted it from the book that inspired FlyLady (something about Sidetracked Home Executives?).

The cards are color coded for daily (yellow), weekly (orange), monthly or seasonal (white) and personal (pink — not chores but stuff like writing, mothering, personal stuff to remember) and you have all 12 months and numbered days, so you move things to the next day, week or month in the box as you complete it.

I just have SO MUCH I have to do every day to keep everything going regarding laundry, meals, kids, HS, work, housekeeping, etc.  I never make it through all the cards I have filed for that day, but it does help me do a lot more than I would otherwise.

I like it better than my apps or written lists because once I write the cards up I don’t have to keep doing the work of writing/typing up the lists every day and I can easily move them to the day or month I’ll next need to deal with them. A lot of apps either repeat the same things every day or you have to enter them new. This works for all the things I have to do twice a week, every Monday, once a season, etc.

And I like the pretty colors. 😉

Next up — I’m going to make up homeschooling cards to stock in it too. It’s getting very hard to keep up with all of the kids and all of the subjects, and I think this system will work well for making sure we get to the things I want to get to.

Maybe I’ll just give each of the kids his or her own box, with chore cards too….

I’ll keep you updated!