Saturday, September 8, 2012

First Day of First Grade (and Third Grade)

I was really dreading the first day of school this year because we have had a wonderful summer, the best ever.  I was able to work three ten hour days and be home two weekdays with the kids, and Dan was able to arrange to have most Fridays off.  The kids actually enjoyed the two days per week in their summer day care program.  I had time to take the kids to the beach, work in the garden, or teach the kids things I would never attempt during the hectic school year, like how to clean a toilet!  I know they were thrilled about that.  Dan said to me, "No wonder they want to spend more time at day care!"

Now that we have the first week of school under our belt, I think I can do it -- get back into the school schedule.  The kids were so excited to start school, they have made it easy for me so far.  I wish every week could go this well.

One thing that will be tough this year, is that the boys have memory work for school every day except Monday -- usually a Bible verse, but for Fridays, they have to memorize a verse of a hymn.  This, I can tell you, will be a challenge.

Anna is truly excited to learn to read "real" books this year.  She's already geared up for the classroom reading contest.

We will have to wait to see what else this year has in store.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Zucchini Chef

Ehren is definitely the chef of the house.

Since we have had a major overrun of regular and yellow zucchini from the garden, he's taken to picking one and sauteing it for a snack.  I the light the gas burner (they aren't allowed to turn on the stove), but really he does the rest. 

The kids don't seem to care for my Tuscan Parmesan zucchini saute, so he struck out on his own.  If you're dying for the recipe, he simply slices it up, sautes it in olive oil, and sprinkles it with creole seasoning.

After Ehren made zucchini a few times, Anna asked if she could make some too. She's good at cutting it up, but I had to supervise the rest. 

Finally Christian {always the last to come around on a new idea} asked when he "would be old enough to cook zucchini."  Totally funny way to ask since he's the same age as Ehren and older than Anna!  He turned out to be a good zucchini chef too.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Undercover Chickens: Henpecked

Even non-farmer Dan is warming up to the chickens.  He likes to let them perch on his shoulder like a parrot perches on a pirate's shoulder.  

The other day he was posing for pictures with Madge.  As I was snapping away, she decided maybe she didn't like being a parrot anymore.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Slip n' Slide Fun

With the record-breaking July heat, it was time for some water sports {even if the water was from a backyard hose}.

We dug out last year's slip n' slide.   

Anna is a kamikaze water-slide pro!  It wasn't fun enough just running full speed and sliding.  She amped it up by getting out a boat floatation cushion and using it like a sled.

The boys had a friend from school over to enjoy the water fun. The play date turned into to their first friend sleepover, complete with a movie on Netflix and popcorn.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

I Turned My Chickens Into Cannibals

Having chickens for the first time is like having a new baby.  Everyone wants to visit them; everyone asks a lot of questions about them; and finally, everyone who has ever had chickens gives you advice.  The other day at Costco, someone in the refrigerator aisle asked me if I thought it was worth it to spend the extra money to buy the organic eggs.  I said, "I don't know. I'm waiting for my new backyard chickens to start laying eggs so I don't have to buy them anymore."  He said, "Oh, you have chickens!  I used to raise chickens.  They eat everything, you know.  You're feeding them all your food scraps, right?  Make sure to feed them your scraps."  I got this advice from several chicken-raising veterans.

Actually, I had been wondering what I could feed them besides the store-bought feed.  I give them different raw vegetable scraps, but moving the coop around every couple days provides a constant supply of yard weeds to eat, so they aren't always enthusiastic about the vegetable scraps.  The other day, I gave them some watermelon rinds, and it turns out they love watermelon as much as my kids!  In short order, they ate everything right down to the thin tough green outer rind.  I got the same result with cantaloupe rinds.

Over the Fourth of July, we had some friends staying with us.  They used to raise backyard chickens and also encouraged us to feed them more table scraps.  They had some restaurant leftovers they didn't want to take with them when they left.  They said, "Just feed it to the chickens.  They'll eat anything."  I took their advice, and sure enough they devoured everything with gusto, especially the meat.  And then I realized I had just turned my chickens into cannibals.  They were eating chicken enchiladas.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Undercover Chickens: The Chicken Wrangler

The girls are growing up.

Anna loves the chickens.  I'd like to tell you she is a chicken whisperer, charming them with gentle words and a soft voice like the picture below implies, but you're more likely to see her chasing them around trying to catch one.  She's more like a chicken wrangler than a chicken whisperer.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Undercover Chickens: Bundles of Fuzzy Goodness

We live in a suburban neighborhood that has a covenant against backyard poultry.  However, we also have one of the largest and most private backyards in our neighborhood.  Our yard backs up to a strip of wooded city property with a pond.  I felt certain that having a few quiet hens in a portable coop was not going to disturb any neighbors, so I decided to make my backyard chicken dream a reality.  On May 17, we picked up the six baby chicks we ordered from a local garden center.  They were all the fuzzy cuteness I imagined they would be.

Their first home was a newspaper-lined plastic tub in our unfinished basement.  When they weren't eating, they gathered in a tight huddle under the heat lamp (or in our case, a shop lamp with a 100-watt bulb clipped over their tub).  Over the first couple weeks, they started to acquire names.  First, Anna named the bigger Barred Rock "Cutie" because, well, she was cute and she was Anna's favorite.  

Then Ehren named one of the Rhode Island Reds "Pilot" because she was always trying to fly.  I named the smaller Rhode Island Red "Little Red."  Cousin Elsie visited and named the two Orpington Buffs "Khaki" and "KaCoach" (which we shortened to "Coach"), and the remaining Barred Rock "Madge."  Our six little bundles of fuzzy goodness were a big hit at show and tell in both Kindergarten and 2nd grade.   But after about three weeks, their growing feathers moved them right into the ugly duckling stage.

Those feathers were also a warning that Dan needed to hurry and finish building their outdoor coop.  I'm not going to lie.  Building the coop to my specifications was a lot of work for Dan.  He often reminds me that my dream of turning him into a farmer is never going to happen, but nevertheless, he finished the coop, and it was beautiful.

In mid-June, the girls moved outside.  On their first night in the outdoor coop, a big thunderstorm rumbled in.  We worried that they might not be able to climb the ramp up to their snug dry roost.  We kept looking out the window during flashes of lightning to see if they were still outside.  It was a rough initiation into outdoor living, but those resourceful girls made it to their roost.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fools

April Fools!  But, it's not a joke.  There were Bloodroots bursting into bloom, a full three weeks ahead of schedule.  Here's a photo I shot with my iPod while I was out running.

It's terrible shot, I know, but I just had to have proof in hand that these little guys were really there on April 1. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Seventy on St. Patrick's

Are we still in Minnesota?  I have never seen a winter like this, so I have to write this down. We have three days in a row with highs of 79 degrees, preceded by a week of 60's and 70's. I just looked at the forecast, and another week of the same is predicted. Yesterday, on St. Patrick's Day, the ice went out on the lake, and we had a bonfire in our backyard in the evening.

My onions, garlic and tarragon are up, and I even noticed a few weeds sprouting. 

Saturday and Sunday night, we slept with all the windows wide open, listening to the frogs in the pond. We were not cold. The robins arrived in full force last Tuesday, March 13 (after Monday's rain). The plants, animals, and I are lulled into a false sense that the calendar says May, but it's not. It's a little weird and scary if I stop to think about it. The kids were unable to have any outdoor hockey games this winter; cars were going through the ice on the lake in February. The kids got virtually no sledding time because of the warm winter and lack of snow. How will we pay for this unnaturalness, I wonder? A summer drought?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Compliment Gone Awry

Whenever I see Christian get that look in his eye and make a beeline to talk to a stranger, I know it's not going to end well {for me}. Tonight after church was over, I saw him heading toward a man getting up to leave. I trailed Christian just in time to hear him say with much enthusiasm, "You could be on the Biggest Loser!" Are you imagining me cringing? Oh my word. But let me backup and say that Christian meant this as the highest compliment. My kids love that show. Of course you can imagine it might not have been so well received. Thankfully for me, the man happens to have a son with Asperger's. I don't really know the family, but I'm hoping he didn't take the comment too personally, and maybe, just maybe, he even went home and had a little chuckle about it.

Christian does not have a mean bone in his body. He would never intentionally hurt anyone's feelings. It's just that he sees the world so differently than the average person. After all, how could anyone not want to be on that popular TV show?

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Anna has begged to take dance forever {too many Angelina Ballerina books!}.  Finally this winter, we let Anna step into the world of dance via a community education class.  The students had their final class today and got to show the parents a few moves. 

I was a little frightened at how well Anna had this move down.  Look at her shaking those hips!

Even though the kids didn't learn anything very technical, Anna gave it her all.  Her enthusiasm was something to be proud of.

But truthfully, I wish I had signed her up for the six-year-old class because being with a whole lot of preschoolers was a little boring.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Crazy Day at School

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


I remember last year, one of the boys told me, "[classmate] writes her name in cursive."  They were impressed.  But hey, she had an older sister to teach her, and her name is only four letters long.  The other night Christian showed me he could write his whole name in cursive.   For some reason, I think he's starting to like cursive, even though he dislikes writing in general. 

Then last night, Ehren came home with his name written in cursive on both of his math worksheets.

I like it!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Anna Hits the Slopes

Please, Dad, please.  Will you take me skiing?  When, Dad, when?

Even though her brothers didn't get to ski until they turned seven, Dad finally agreed to take Anna skiing for a few hours on her day off school. 

Lucky for Dad, Anna's a good student.

Lucky for Anna, Dad used to be a ski instructor.


Here we go!

This is the life, baby!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Midterm Update

While school takes effort for Ehren and Christian, they both brought home a glowing mid-term report this week with mostly A's and a couple of B's. 

I was hoping that would be the case since they've continued to have many perfect spelling tests and have been scoring 97-99% on recent timed 100 Math Facts tests.

Their teacher works hard to devise creative, engaging learning opportunities for the class.  She recently brought her two dogs, Rocky and Lexis, to class as subjects for a descriptive writing exercise.  Since then, every Friday, two students are selected to bring home a stuffed animal version of Rocky or Lexis for the weekend.  They write in a class journal about their weekend with their stuffed animal sidekick.  Writing is definitely the big challenge of second grade.

Next up, they have to power through writing their first big report on a historical figure and giving a presentation to their class.  Ehren chose George Washington, and Christian chose Thomas Jefferson.  They have finished reading the book they chose about their historical figure and have found one alternative source of information from the Internet.  They need to find one more.  At school, they're taking notes and preparing their reports.  The final presentation is coming up in less than a month.  More on this to come, but in the meantime, wish them luck!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How to Turn Eight

Here's how you turn eight in our house.  First, schedule your birthday on a holiday, so there is no school.  Next, wake up and play a game of Battleship with your brother. 

Then devour some giant, heart-shaped cinnamon rolls. 

After breakfast, send your little sister away for a couple of hours with dad. 

Later, rejoin Dad and Anna to see the matinee showing of Star Wars: Episode I in 3D.

Return to share a family dinner featuring baked salmon, quinoa salad, caesar salad, hot bread and virgin frozen strawberry mojitos with both sets of Grandparents.  Blow out the candles on your {wilted} Thing One and Thing Two cupcakes (hmmm, the flaming blue cotton candy hair melted into the frosting).

Open your presents, including things like grippy nerf footballs, joke books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, a new game called "Tilt," and money.  Finally, just before bed, check out the shark and beach cupcakes you get to take to school the next day.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Words Come Second

Just as I was working on this post, my friend at The Fragile X Files shared this Temple Grandin quote on her blog:

I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk. I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not get the words out, so I would just scream.

A couple of weeks ago, Christian had a particularly rough day.  He had several color changes at school (color changes are given when rules are broken).   Normally, when I ask the boys how they got their color changes, they are reluctant to give me the details.  They often say, "I just don't know.  I just can't remember."   Sometimes, I think it's true and their minds are all-a-jumble; sometimes, I think they don't want to admit their mistakes; and sometimes, I think it's just too much work for them to put the whole situation into words. 

Surprisingly, on this day, when I asked Christian about how he got his color changes, he just spilled out tons of information.  In particular, he was upset with himself about a color change he got at recess.  He explained that a classmate was in his way, and he pushed her out of the way.   He told me he knew he should have asked her to move, but he just moved her out of the way instead.  I know this was not mean-spirited.  It's just that it takes a lot of effort for him to operate with words.  He knows he should, but I speculate that he often finds it frustrating and inefficient.

The next day I was a recess volunteer at school.  I was retelling Christian's story to the teacher on recess duty with me.  She said, "Oh, I was out here when he got the color change!" She told me that Christian's unhappy classmate came up to her and said, "Christian hit me."  Christian didn't defend or explain himself {again, too many words; too much effort}, so that was the end of it.  He got a color change.

I'm not saying Christian was right to push the girl out of his way, but this is just one example of the frustration and misunderstandings that happen everyday when words don't come easily.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Aspiring Cheerleader

This is what happens when Anna goes to a school pepfest.

She comes home and tries to recruit her brothers to do cheers with her.  No matter what sports we put this girl in (and she seems to be pretty athletic), she loves the girly stuff like dance and cheerleading.  She didn't get it from me!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Stone Soup

Here's our little actress performing in her first play, Stone Soup.  While Anna enjoyed her role as a villager (which is another way of saying she was in the chorus), she was a little disappointed she wasn't one of the kids who got to walk up and drop something into the soup pot.  But hey, when there are almost fifty kids in a play with no speaking parts, there are a lot of villagers.

Clearly I hadn't yet joined Pinterest when I was working on her costume because it didn't win any awards for creativity, but it was very, ahem, bourgeois. Her scarf is a hand-me-down receiving blanket we've had for years.  When it's not part of a villager costume, Anna uses it as a blanket for her dolls.  Her apron is one that her great-aunt Lois sewed in home-ec class back in the fifties or sixties.  I retrieved it from the old dress-up bin in my parents' basement.  Everything else originated from her dresser.

We loved your play last night, Anna!  Good job.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Chinese Architecture In Legos

Christian brought me this Lego house he made.  He said, "It's kind of strange, but I made it.  It was tricky to make."  With the roof design and the red and yellow colors, it looked just like a miniature display of Chinese architecture.

Step inside.