Saturday, September 30, 2006

Grandma Grace

Today we had a wonderful day with friends out on a lake. We all laughed and played and enjoyed life. On the way home I got the call from my mom that my Grandma Grace died this afternoon. She passed away in her sleep at home--something for which we are very grateful. Grandma enjoyed life too and she brought so much joy to everyone who loved her. On a recent visit there was a moment when my brother was being silly and had worked both Grandma and Scotty into hysterics to the point of tears. The two of them were feeding off each other--it was really hilarious. Grandma knew how to laugh that's for sure.

Grandma had four children, twelve grandchildren, and twelve great grandchildren. (This is a picture of her with her 4 kids--my mom is first on her left.) She was very involved in all of our lives. She knew and loved every last one of her great grandchildren, even the youngest of all, my little 12 month old nephew. She loved and was loved by many children and grandchildren-in-law as well. We will all miss her so much.

She was witty and opinionated to the very end of her life of 95 years. Now none of us can play a game of "May I" and even dream of cheating because we know she's watching us!

If there is a heaven I hope there's a casino there. Have a good time, Grandma. We love you.

Friday, September 22, 2006

So long summer.......

Tonight is the last night of summer but consistent with the bizarre weather pattern this year we have actually already had frost! About 5 days ago the pumpkins took a hit and tonight it's downright COLD as we go to bed. We are a good 15 to 20 degrees below average during the day and overnight. Chris' dad says he has never seen it freeze this early in the 25 years he's lived here.

Tonight on Mom M's recommendation I went out and harvested all but two of the basil plants. Looks like there is some pesto in our future!

The last of the corn

The kids and I went out into what remained of the corn field to gather whatever seed we could find. Then we turned the animals onto it. The cows were so funny--they looked so guilty out there! Every time they saw us they gave us that guilty cow look.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Here is a diagram of Scotty's engine

Scotty's latest creation

I'm trying to upload a video this time because a still photo just doesn't do it justice. Today Scotty wanted to make a single cylinder steam engine with an oiler box that automatically pumps oil to the engine--out of K'NEX. Our usual routine is that he has the design in his head but physically has trouble manipulating the pieces so I am in charge of executing his design. It can lead to some frustration on my part because I do not have the mind for engineering that he does so when he says "just put an eccentric in there" I have real trouble figuring out what he means. In every case, he has always been right on in terms of how the finished product will work. Today was no exception. And I doubted him! Sure enough, the main crank that he turns runs the main engine--that's the horizontal grey stick going through the "cylinder", which is made of yellow sticks. There is an eccentric that goes from the crank shaft to the piston. The oiler works by attaching another eccentric to the first one, but this one doesn't go all the way around, it just rocks back and forth, causing the vertical red stick to move just a bit up and down inside the vertical cylinder. I swear, this entire thing was designed in his head before we ever started. I am totally blown away.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A different perspective

I just love what happens when you give a kid a camera. Now that there is digital technology there's nothing stopping us from letting the kids take as many photos as they like with our new digital camera. Scotty took several this evening, and as usual I marvel at the unique perspective he offers. His shorter stature gives him a view of the world that is totally different than mine. It's also so cool to see what interests him. Here are some of his photos from this evening.

Saturday Morning Pancakes

One of the sweetest pleasures in my world is sleeping in on a Saturday morning while listening to my darling husband and children making breakfast in the kitchen. This morning I just had to drag myself out of bed to snap this photo of my guys.

Ah, bliss......

Our beautiful sleeping angels

They don't look related, do they?

The magic of thrift stores

A recent trip to the thrift store yielded some great finds. I found a cool building set for Eliza that lets you make all kinds of bugs out of a variety of parts. She had made a flying creature that had a claw for a mouth. The kit came with two claws and she wanted to also make a crab of some kind. Since she had already used one of the claws it occurred to me that we could make a fiddler crab, which has one big claw and walks sideways. We had a great time coming up with all kinds of creative creatures, all for the low price of $1.99.

For Scotty I found some pieces of the Gears Gears Gears set that he loves to play with at Nino's house. It was in a bag at the thrift store and was an incomplete set. This one had only half of a train engine, some cool wheels, and ONE eccentric (Scotty would tell you that this is a device that converts rotary motion into reciprocal motion) but my little creative guy figured out how to make something really cool with it! Here is the complete set, which he hasn't seen:

And here he is creating his own unique version of it:

If we had bought this set new, not only would we have paid 30 bucks for it (as opposed to the $2.99 it cost me) but chances are we would have set it up just like in the picture and Scotty would not have been challenged to think outside the box to create his own machine. It was a great exercise in problem solving for him.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Live and Learn 2006

Yesterday was the last day of the 2006 Live and Learn Conference which was held here in Albuquerque this year. It was an incredible 5 days of fun, friendship, and connections for all of us. The kids and I attended the 2005 conference in St. Louis without Chris and I have to say that having him with us this year made a huge difference! He was so supportive of me in my efforts to spend time with my tribe. He also took the initiative to meet many new friends of his own and he attended several talks. This really helps us to be able to explore our style of homeschooling and mindful parenting much deeper together. The kids also had a great time! Last year they were a bit freaked out by all the activity but this year they both joined in with the funshops and the opportunities for play. It helped Scotty a lot that his best friend Dan was also there. As usual, many people thought they were twins. Eliza didn't need any help making friends though. She easily ran up to kids of all ages and joined right in. The most wonderful thing about this conference is to spend time with these amazing homeschooled kids. The teens especially are a joy to be around. Yes, I just said that the teenagers are a joy! Even when there are a lot of them!!! They are confident, friendly, talented, warm, and helpful. They are comfortable interacting with the adults and consider themselves as having something to contribute to the conversation. They are just as comfortable hanging out with the younger children and are patient and kind with them. I just can't say enough about these kids! On our first night I stayed late (thank you Chris!) to have a drink with some friends and one of the teens just plunked himself down at the table with us to say hi and chat. He also made it a point to learn all of our names and he remembered them throughout the week!

As usual I was too busy to remember to take enough photos but my girls have backed me up. You can see some great photos of the conference and of our house and kids at Crystal's blog HERE. There's an amazing photo of Eliza in her Natural State. Sylvia also took photos and I'll post here when she has them up on her blog.

Wednesday the 6th we held an open house for families from the conference to come tour our house. We also had some folks down on Friday and Sunday. About 20 families total came to see it during the conference. I hope we have planted some seeds!

Wednesday night was the opening ice breaker for the conference. It was so great to see my old friends and meet new ones. Of course I forgot my camera but Crystal has pictures on her blog.

Thursday was the first day of sessions. I attended Diana Jenner's talk about homeschooling during and after losing her husband to cancer and her daughter to leukemia. Armed with tissues, we all laughed and cried with Diana as she took us through her journey. Once again we were reminded of how precious every moment with our chidren really is. The kids went with Chris to a Building Toys funshop (a funshop is a "workshop" but more aptly named) and had a great time.

We had lunch with Crystal's family and our friend Anna and her son Bruce who are also homeschoolers. Then Chris attended a talk on how kids learn from video games (not something we are doing in our house yet but we expect it to come up in the future) and came away from it with some interesting ideas. While he was doing that I took the kids to a Wikki Stix funshop where they made all kinds of creations out of colorful wax-dipped yarn. We then went on to a Bratz dolls funshop where Eliza had no problem joining in with the older girls in their play. Later I went to a session on exploring creativity while Chris took the kids to dinner. We stayed for some of the talent show that night and then went home and collapsed.

Friday we stayed home during the day to rest and prepare the house for the lunchtime tours. Three families came down during lunch and we had a good time with them. The rest of the afternoon was spent practicing and preparing for our performance in that evening's talent show. I did a short flamenco dance accompanied by Chris on guitar and Mark doing palmas. Ren Allen, a professional makeup artist, made up my face for the stage. She did a great job because nobody recognized me! The dancing was great fun and the audience responded with much enthusiasm. Here's where I finally remembered to take some pictures:

The show opened with the teens and kids doing Pink Floyd. It's kind of the conference theme: "Hey teacher, leave those kids alone!"

Here we are doing our bit:

Saturday morning after a late night on Friday I woke super early to take some folks to the Downtown Grower's Market. I snapped this one of the farm under a blanket of cool fog:

We spent all day Saturday at the conference. I was there early after the grower's market and Chris and the kids came up around 10:30. I attended a discussion about our childrens' passions and Danielle's talk about all the things she swore she'd never let her children do that are now enriching their lives. After that Chris went to Ben's talk on Rules vs. Principles while I took the kids to a "Make Your Own Sarong" funshop. There were old sheets to cut up into sarongs that could then be painted. Scotty painted his with a steam engine and Eliza took a more modern approach with many colors.

After we made sarongs Chris and some of the other homeschooling dads started a jam session in the pavillion. Many people ate their lunch to some great music and singing.

Kelly the Conference Diva stops to enjoy the music.

After lunch we went swimming for a little while but it was too cold for me so we got out. The kids wanted to go to the second session of the Building Toys funshop while Chris went to a talk. Eliza fell asleep during the funshop while Scotty built a little car. The funshop sponsor was really impressed with Scotty's engineering abilities.

When the afternoon sessions were over we stayed to wait for the banquet and dance that evening. Eliza was still asleep on a chair in the lobby while Scotty and Dan played outside in the courtyard with the other kids for at least an hour. They didn't know or care where we were, but of course we were watching them.

The dinner and dance were hectic but fun. Eliza never really felt good after her late nap so she was very clingy. Chris was not feeling well either but he was so sweet to stay and try to help me with her so I could dance some. The dance part was great--many of the parents really came out of their shells and got a little crazy. The kids loved it too. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures from the dance but Gary took many so some of them might show up on Sylvia's blog.

Sunday morning the kids and Chris stayed home while I went to see if we won anything in the raffle. We didn't for the second year in a row. Then we went to the closing picnic at Tiguex park that afternoon. It was also a lot of fun. James Coburn (yes he's related) made nitrogen ice cream. Basically he just adds liquid nitrogen to a metal bowl with the ice cream mix in it and it freezes instantly without making crystals. I got to impress everyone with Mom's lemon ice cream recipe--mmmmmmm.

Tiguex park with the hotel in the background:

Scotty and Dan watch the ice cream process:

The kids with their ice cream:

Another fun jam session. The teenager was really friendly and fun to play with.

After the picnic some of us went to get tattoos. Ren, Gail, Danielle, Jon, and I each got one. Ren and Jon started the tradition last year when they got some after the St. Louis conference. I got a beautiful flower on my shoulder to symbolize my new passion for flamenco. I didn't have my camera but others got some photos so when I get one I'll post it. Finally Danielle and I went back to her room for a beer and a chat. It was hard to say goodbye but I do admit to being glad to have some rest! We all had such a great time we are already thinking about how to get ourselves to North Carolina for next year's conference.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Taking the new camera for a walk

This evening the kids and I took a walk down the driveway and in the yard to test out the new camera. Getting good photos around here proved to be a challenge because it's hard to miss the piles of construction materials still in the yard. It's also hard to photograph Nature Girl in her natural habitat without getting arrested! Here is the result of our first time out with the camera:

Eliza is holding her "Baby Condor", which is really a Kiwi but she insists it's a condor.

Here is my perennial herb garden near the end of its first year.

Here is Scotty's favorite chicken, an Ameracauna named Big Eyes.

One of our late-planted pumpkins with chickens nearby.

Setting off down the driveway from the house. Scotty rode his pedal tractor and Eliza pushed Baby Condor in the stroller in a nest she had made for it. Eliza was complying with my request to adjust her position a bit for the photo.

We have hundreds of plum trees lining the driveway.

Lots of snails too.

Some of the green ash trees are already starting to turn.

At the bottom of the driveway looking back at the house.

The cows.