Sunday, May 31, 2009

Making Fire

How we spent part of the afternoon...

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stuffing the Gnome's Pack

When Jon bought our garden gnome, he told us the gnome likes shiny things. The only shiny thing he had at the time was an ugly piece of aluminum pie pan that was found in the yard. So Bastian and I found some more shiny things to bedazzle his pack with. I think you're supposed to put a plant in there, but the shiny things are much cooler. Sadly, I borrowed some found shiny things from Ganesha's offering bowls in our living room. Ganesha's shiny things were there forever. We'll make him a nice offer soon to make up for it...

Friday, May 29, 2009

Bastian Officially Turns Four

For Bastian's actual birthday, I made brownies (with a powdered sugar S) to take to Lego club in the afternoon. Much to our surprise, there were presents at Lego club!
Donna sewed Bastian a bag to pack full of crap for when we go to Grandma's house (or when we go to the library or the bank or anywhere, I'm sure). It has robots on it. He liked it very much. Mari and Ian gave him a dinosaur creativity set, which he and Aleks broke into as soon as we got home.
I brought beads and ribbon to make either bookmarks or strands of beads since Bastian seemed to enjoy beading so much before.
He worked very hard.
Later, Mari broke out paints and pieces of slate. We painted pictures of Bag End. Except for Bastian who painted his entire slate green.

After Lego Club, we had junk food for dinner, then picked up Papa to go see Up. Bastian kicked people's seats, nursed a bit, didn't pay hardly any attention at all to the movie, and at one point even crawled under the seats. Papa thought the movie was a terrible idea. He liked it anyway though, as did Aleks and I. Bastian was only taken in by the most exciting bits. He's a little young for movies, yet, I guess. I've taken both children by myself to movies and it is indeed difficult and frustrating, but I usually go during matinees where they can run in the aisles rather than opening night on the weekend. At least Papa can marvel at my dedication now.

Scary Sky

Just as Papa was preparing to watch Game 5 between the Cavs and the Orlando Magic, Aleks ran out onto the porch to look at the strange colors outside. Papa explained that a storm was coming and that it would be okay, then Aleks took some photos. When I asked about none of the photos much showing the sky, Jon explained that Aleks was really frightened about it and wouldn't venture far enough out to get a better view. It almost looked like tornado weather, but luckily it wasn't.

The Cavs won. It was awesome.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Art Day Envelopes

Apparently my children can't help but create. First thing in the morning, Aleks sets to drawing just about every day. He works at the coffee table and fills sheet after sheet of clean white paper, leaving all those with printing on but one side utterly neglected. The drawer in the printer cabinet spills corners of creature cards and lists of ideas. I've yet to find a satisfactory way to store and sort the vast amounts of art that litter the house (though I have plans, I just lack time and momentum). Every single day the table and floor are covered with gobs of tape, markers, crayons, pens, pencils, the varying contents of the box of extra office supplies, scissors, and tons of tiny bits of confetti, cut from the corners and edges of his life's work.

He's recently spent weeks perfecting his Christmas list (as well as that of his brother and assorted friends) by copying and pasting images from online toy stores into Publisher documents, which he then prints (after several attempts at just hitting random buttons on my printer thus changing the on-screen language to Russian and spitting out page after page of test sheets that drain the 80-dollar-a-piece color cartridges). He cuts these out and tapes them down to the ever-growing, ever-changing lists. Other times, the images are just clipped and left about the room.

I cannot say enough how proud it makes me that his creative urges are so strong, that he draws fearlessly, constantly, whenever the mood strikes him, that his ideas are huge though his practical ability is limited, and that for our family art is essential. It proves that for us art really is everyday and limitless.
My youngest boy is beginning to follow in Aleks' footsteps in yet another regard. While I was still bleary-eyed, Bastian broke out the watercolors. I helped get him started almost before I'd gotten the coffee made.He did lots of handprints. I thought they looked awesome with all the colors and realized this beginning to our day would be perfect for making envelopes with when the others arrived for Art Day.
Bastian doesn't really draw yet, though he can make a circle if prompted. He and I held the marker together to write this fish letter to Otto.
Then we used an envelope as a template to make more colorful receptacles for our mail.
Off to Otto...
We only really used the handprint paintings that Bastian made for the envelopes, though I did squeeze in one collage envelope. Aleks had zero interest in folding and cutting, but did write a letter to Max.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Trip to Grandma's to Honor Bastian Turning Four

I've been trying to write this post for several days now. I've just been too busy to bother and just keep leaving the window open until I have to go do something else I have to do.

We changed the date for the party for Bastian three times. His birthday isn't actually until the 29th, but due to the family's work schedules and Memorial Day and whatnot and whatnot, finally the 23rd was settled upon for the party. It wasn't a particularly eventful party. Just family getting together and a couple of cousins to play with. In the morning, the boys went snake hunting with Grandma Cat and caught a garter snake in the compost bin. She got away rather quickly and could not be caught.
Aleks tried for ages to find her again. When he did, I messed it all up by being too uneasy about the squirming and thus not catching her.
Aleks set up a trap anyway. He really wanted to keep her as a pet. I figured we'd cross the bridge regarding that conversation when we came to it.
Meanwhile, Bastian helped Grandma make chocolate icing for his cake.
The cousins all enjoyed one another's company.
Emmalyn asked about the cake a week before, the night before, and several times during the day.
Papa Logan.

Happy Birthday singing. We couldn't find candles, so sparklers had to do.

Nothing better than spinning rapidly after filling up your tummy with junk food.

The rest of the weekend was perfect too: more snake hunts, chicken chasing, croquet, helping Grandpa, picking lettuce in the garden, a trip to Krispy Kreme with the grandparents,
Swimming, (Bastian was finally tall enough to stand with head above water in the shallow end, which was a great relief for Mama & Papa)
Treasure-Hunting in the yard (all dug up from the new septic system)
with incredible finds: glass, pottery, bone, shell,
bits of metal, two chicken skulls,
old fungus, shotgun shell,
belt buckle, skeleton toy,
feather, toy car, wild onions,
and two long-forgotten tennis balls, chewed through by the dog who passed in November.
Then I stacked rocks with the boys to annoy my mother, who is bothered by little rocks stacked atop bigger rocks.
We discovered a lovely blue-highlighted caterpillar while throwing rocks into a hole in the yard.
and Bastian ate more donuts, should be the poster child for Krispy Kreme.

Grandpa Jim is also doing our year-end homeschooling assessment and all this running amok was pretty much the extent of his observing the children. Of course, Aleks also read and demonstrated his excellent knowledge of many varied things like snakes and lizards and dinosaurs and math and his vast imagination with drawings and stories and his endless talking, talking, talking. So there's plenty there to go on when he compiles his written narrative extolling the virtues of Aleksander working to his own individual potential.

It's always a relief for all my doubting when we spend time at the Grandparents'. The boys are able to explore so much more in the more rural setting than at home in the city. They dig in dirt either way, but our busy street is much different than the massive, sloping lawn at Grandma's. There's also the fact of so much relaxed time there - time without worrying about all the dumb things I gotta do and time away from all my external demands. At times I wonder if all of my external demands are things I should be doing because they both satisfy me and offer a model for the boys of a volunteer ethic and community involvement, or if I'm not just distracting myself from the real work of my life which is raising my children.

It can become an awful conflict - especially when the stress of so much to do feels out of control and I'm being less-than-nice due to it - but then I realize that surely I need that connection, that I need these activities and without that sort of meaning in my life, I'd feel the crush of everything always the same. Maybe I'm just not cut out for the total stay-at-home-mom gig. Or maybe it really is okay. It's difficult to assess what the proper course of action is when there is no way to appropriately or ethically dictate in absolutes what makes a good life. And when I think about that, I'm thrilled to be not the same as everyone else, to have more to me and more to my long-term goals than the going forth and back in cars to create enriching activity. I'm thrilled to realize that I just live it.

Learning To Fly

In the middle of a tremendously busy Thursday afternoon, we discovered this hideous creature hopping around in our driveway, fresh from the nest, not yet capable of soaring.
Based on the adult bird perched on the rain spout above, I believe this is a Starling. I hope he'll grow into his mouth. Otherwise I'm a little concerned about pollution levels around here...

Random Things

Monday, May 25, 2009

Rabindranath Tagore

We have come to this world to accept it, not merely to know it. We may become powerful by knowledge, but we attain fullness by sympathy. The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence. But we find that this education of sympathy is not only systematically ignored in schools, but it is severely repressed. From our very childhood habits are formed and knowledge is imparted in such a manner that our life is weaned away from nature and our mind and the world are set in opposition from the beginning of our days. Thus the greatest of educations for which we came prepared is neglected, and we are made to lose our world to find a bagful of information instead. We rob the child of his earth to teach him geography, of language to teach him grammar. His hunger is for the Epic, but he is supplied with chronicles of facts and dates…Child-nature protests against such calamity with all its power of suffering, subdued at last into silence by punishment. (Rabindranath Tagore, Personality,1917: 116-17)

Thanks to Patty at Slow Learning for the info on Tagore.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Marbeling Paper & Unschooler's Letter Exchange

The lady over at The Artful Parent has an endless supply of art projects, which aids us in our laziness. She digs 'em up and we pick and choose. We leave the trial and error up to her. So since she didn't much care for marbling with cornstarch, we went to her older posts to dig up the tutorial from Unplug Your Kids.

This was a great, last minute thrown-together project for an art day when I couldn't quite pick from my many splendid ideas. It would, however, help if I had things together beforehand, I think. I think most definitely it would at the very least help my patience when the kids start digging fists in whatever materials we were trying to use.

Donna helped measure 1/2 tablespoons of oil (my cheap olive oil I use for cleaning) into glasses, followed by 1 teaspoon of food coloring (which ended up being whatever we had left after my kids colored their bathwater the last several months). The kids mixed this combination with forks to evenly distribute the color. We then poured water to line pans. In retrospect, we think that even less water might have been good - just enough to cover the bottom, no more. Then using eyedroppers (leftover from varying tinctures, which I keep lest I need them and finally I did), the kids put drops of the oil colors into the water, noting that oil and water do not mix (science!).
They then swirled and mixed their colors a bit.
They then laid sheets of white paper atop the liquid to soak up the oil colors.
Finally, we set the papers on a sheet to dry. We did find that some of the papers are quite oily. We're not quite sure how to remedy that, though I did not, admittedly, fully read the instructions I linked to. Perhaps that would yield some answers.
Afterward, we all headed outside to soak up the warm-enough weather. Donna traced the kids on the sidewalk. Aleks assumed a "T-Rex" position. Ivy drew a lion's mane on her outline.
While playing on bikes, with hula hoops, and bouncy balls, and blowing bubbles and coloring with chalk (such a plethora of summer outdoor fun!), Ivy suddenly discovered her toe had been stubbed and was bleeding quite a bit. Bastian practically climbed in Donna's lap while she tended to her injured patient, who dripped blood all over the porch steps and was finally mended with a sushi bandaid. Quite the eventful Art Day!

Call for Letter Exchange

On next week's Art Day agenda, we will be making envelopes. We'd like to write letters on our marbled paper to send in our homemade envelopes in exchange for letters. If you or your child would like to participate, please email me at annakissmm at