Day 160: Box Aquarium

Last night while I was at a meeting, Boy and Girl started working on a box aquarium, and they started this morning as soon as they’d gotten a quick bite to eat. They worked on the box aquarium on and off throughout the day. I have to say their teamwork was exceptional.

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Girl was feeling completely better, and made a drawing about that.

Girl drew this to celebrate her recovery, and as a PSA of sorts.
Girl drew this to celebrate her recovery, and as a PSA of sorts. “Things to do when you’re sick.”

Next, Girl found a box that said FRAGILE on the front of it and said she wanted to be a box troll. (Whose name, by the law of box trolls, would then be ‘Fragile.’) I cut out arm holes for her, and she put on her box and went out back to play with her brother, dad, and dog. I went out back to play with them a little, too.

Fragile swinging.
Fragile swinging.
Fragile playing basketball with Boy and Papa.
Fragile playing basketball with Boy and Papa.
Fragile hiding in her box.
Fragile hiding in her box.

When we came back in Papa made the kids some lunch while I got ready for my meeting with Miss P down the street, to make a plan for tomorrow’s Geography Club meeting (Tomorrow: Costa Rica and Panama). Before I left, I also made a worry doll, since I hadn’t gotten to finish the one I started during last week’s Geography Club meeting (wherein we studied Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua). All three age groups made worry dolls for a craft, but we all used a different method. I liked the way the oldest kids had done it, and tried that myself. Here she is.


I’m hoping to do more with the kids. In fact, while I was gone, Girl made one of her own, and made her a little bed and a blanket. (Pictures to follow tomorrow; there’s not enough light now.)

When I got home, Papa made dinner so I could finish getting ready for our Costa Rica and Panama activities. I needed to find all of the pieces of our water table necessary to set up a lock and canal system (to illustrate the Panama Canal).

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I put it together, cleaned it, and made sure that everything still worked. Then I let the kids play with it while I cut out pieces for paper ox-carts, so the kids can make a Costa Rican carretas craft tomorrow. We didn’t really get a chance to practice our Costa Rican dance (featuring some fancy scarf twirling) and I didn’t get fish for ceviche. So we will wing the one, postpone the other (Colombians also love ceviche!), and I did manage to find video of howler monkeys and wattled bellbirds, two animals we’d been wondering about last week. I’ll be cooking corn tortillas for lunch tomorrow.

Days 151-159: Catch up

Apologies for my unplanned blog stoppage! Life got a little crazy, and even on nights when I could have written, I was just too tired to do it. On several occasions I basically went to bed with the kids.

Let’s see. The particulars:

Last Friday we read books about the Garifuna for Geography Club on Monday. Papa had a going-away party for work, and I was so tired from staying up very late a couple of nights that I fell asleep with the kids.

The next morning, Saturday, we packed some things and headed up to a timeshare condo an hour away that my parents were renting for a week. (Because of our other obligations, Papa’s work, and the dog, we couldn’t spend every night there, and one of us always needed to sleep at home. So for the rest of the week, we shuttled back and forth.) Once we got there, Papa went to go pick up Uncle B from the airport, and then he had to head back home for a second going-away party. (This was Papa’s last week of work at the hospital. At the beginning of April he’ll be going away for four months for additional school and training, and then begin working at the brig nearby for the next three years. Papa is sad to leave his friends at this job, and they are sad to see him go.)

The kids and I spent Saturday evening with Uncle Ben and Grammy and Grampy, and slept at the condo. Papa came up the next morning, and then after an outing we all drove home Sunday evening. I got us ready for Geography Club the next morning.

Monday: Geography Club, library, ballet. Early to bed. Tuesday: co-op, then drove back up to the condo. Papa stayed home. Wednesday, Papa drove up to the condo, and I drove back home with Boy, leaving Girl with Papa. Boy and I went to violin, the library, and ballet. Afterwards I took him out to eat at a fancy Bolivian restaurant to try tamales. He absolutely loved them. When we got home, we went on a night walk. Then we cuddled up and went to bed at the same time.

Meanwhile, Girl had a fabulous day of adventure with her Dad, her beloved uncle, and her grandparents. They played mini-golf. They took her out to eat. Then for the first time in her life, she spent the night without me. She called me a couple of times, and woke up during the night a couple of times, but she did great.

The next morning, now Thursday, I drove back up with Boy so we could visit with Grammy and Grampy before saying goodbye. Uncle B flew home that morning. We visited, ate, said goodbye, drove home. That night I went to bed with the kids, but Girl got sick, we thought maybe from a bad hotdog.

Friday I made appointments for the next couple of weeks (trying to take advantage of Papa’s leave), cleaned, tried to regroup a little. Girl got a fever. She slept for most of the day.

Friday night in bed, Girl started to complain of tummy pain. By early early Saturday morning, it was severe enough that Papa drove her to the ER to make sure it wasn’t appendicitis. It wasn’t. Probably just stomach cramps on her right side. Papa brought her home with some anti-nausea medication. She was very upset with us because she couldn’t go to a birthday party that was going to be a lot of fun, for one of her best friends. She was also very upset with us because we made french toast and wouldn’t give her any. Then she was mad because we wouldn’t let her play outside. Eventually she just gave up on us completely and went to sleep.

She slept for several hours.

In the late afternoon I needed to go to a meeting with the other directors of our co-op, and that lasted several hours. When I got home, I got the kids in bed, and then spent the rest of the evening going through the many small items on my to-do list for the co-op, fearing that if I delayed, I would forget to do something.

And that, my friends, brings us to Sunday. Which gets its own post. It’s nice to be back!

Day 150: Button Jar Challenge Club

What’s that? You ask. It’s our brand new math and science club, and today was the first day. We met at a friend’s house this morning.

Nine children ages 5-8, divided into three teams. Three five-year-old girls (Girl included), two seven-year-old boys and one girl, and three eight-year-old boys (Boy included). Six moms. Three challenges. (Three moms have an activity table, and three accompany the teams to the different tables. We meet every other week, so that means each mom has to provide a challenge once a month.) The teams get a half hour at each challenge table, during which time they earn buttons to put in their jar. When the jars are full, in some number of weeks, we celebrate.

At my table today we did tangrams. For the two younger groups I showed them the solution to the puzzle, and they had to arrange the pieces like they were in the picture. (It’s more challenging than you’d think!)  For the older boys, they actually worked on solving the puzzles. Every solved puzzle earned them a button in the jar. The tangrams themselves are hard, but what they are learning is also how to work together as a team, to talk to each other, not to grab. Collaboration.

At the second table, the kids made clocks powered by vegetables.

At the third table, two kids sat on opposite sides of a partition. One kid laid out a design using pattern blocks, and then directed the kid on the other side to make the same pattern. No looking. Then at the end, they check to make sure the designs are the same. So again, math-y spatial skills, but also: communication, articulation, patience.

All of the kids did great. The three teams ended up being very well suited to each other in ability and temperament. I was impressed with how well the kids did with the tangrams, and I think I’ll do that again next month when it’s my turn again.

After the challenges were completed the kids got to play outside and eat lunch together. There was a lot of running and sword fighting.

Later when most people had gone home there was quiet, earnest Lego building.

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Tonight at bedtime we read a long picture book about a family in rural Honduras learning some new farming methods from a progressive school teacher (composting, terraces, marigolds, cash crops for the farmer’s market) and how it made their life better. Boy and Girl were TOTALLY into it. I could imagine that book might not hold a lot of kids’ interest, even though it was beautifully illustrated. I felt really appreciative of what empathetic, interested kids we have.

There are some genuinely difficult things about homeschooling, or just having a family. Well, about being alive, if we’re being honest. We all need moments where can see and feel the evidence of being on a good path. Not the only path. But a good one.

Additional note:

Late this afternoon, while the kids were playing in our back yard with a jump rope, Girl fell hard on her hands and knees on the cement, tearing a hole in the knee of her favorite beautiful, flowered cargo pants with very good pockets. Even when we got her calmed down, she wouldn’t let us see her scraped knees. She insisted on going into Boy’s room and closing the door to inspect the damage in private. We could hear her weeping to herself Why, why, why did I do this? Why did this happen? 

She would not let us in, she would not let us see, or help. But she did come out for a popsicle, a cookie, and some hugs and kisses. Later, though, when Boy came inside, she asked if he would come look at her scrapes. She said only he could see them. So back they went into his room, closed the door, and I guess either pulled her pants down or pulled them up over her knees so they could look. They were back there for a while, talking quietly. When they came out, Boy reported that Girl had one ‘medium sized scrape’ and the he recommended ‘the SP-word.’ (That would be: spray.)

Girl wished she had an arnica tablet to put under her tongue like Miss S gave her when she fell on her way in to the American Girl party a couple of weeks ago. She said under no circumstances would she let me see the scrape, so there was no way I could put spray on it. What if she put it on herself? I suggested. Okay! she agreed brightly. Back into Boy’s room she went with the bottle of antiseptic spray. When she needed a paper towel to wipe the excess, I was required to close my eyes and back into the room, holding the paper towel out until she scootched over and grabbed it from my hand. She protested that it stung more than both I and the bottle claimed that it would, but was pleased with herself for taking care of herself.

Me too, little Girl.

Day 149: Mesoamerica

The kids and I woke up at the same time this morning, and the kids worked together to make their own breakfast: toast with butter, honey, and cinnamon, and yogurt with frozen blueberries and raisins. The new kitchen arrangement is really making things a bit easier for them.


It was warm today, so immediately after eating they got dressed and went outside. They stayed out there until 11:30, when it was time to come inside and get ready for violin and the library.

Violin lesson was good, and afterwards we went to the library to return a couple of books and pick up the rest of our holds for next week’s Geography Club meeting, covering Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. We’ve got some books about each of the individual countries, some story books set in each of the countries, both rural and urban, one about the Garifuna, and some books about the ancient Maya. Boy has read all of the Roald Dahl books we got out of the library a couple of weeks ago (Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox) in addition to five or so Magic Tree House books. Today he picked out a couple more, and Girl picked out just one picture book (I heard Boy reading it to her in a spare moment tonight.)

It had started raining while we were out, so when we got home I made popcorn and hot chocolate, and we sat on the couch and read a book about the Ancient Maya together. Then I put together this week’s discovery table.


Then Boy got ready for ballet, and Papa came home and took him. While they were gone, Girl and I made masa dough for corn tortillas, and I folded laundry and washed dishes while Girl worked on a paper project. Girl helped me put laundry away, and then she started making the tortillas out of the dough while I cooked them in a dry cast iron skillet.


Boy and Papa got home, and Boy asked if he could make some of the tortillas from Girl’s dough. Girl said okay, and I let Papa manage helping them use the hot skillet themselves while I folded more laundry. We ate tortillas and pasta with parmesan cheese and nuts and seeds and capers and black pepper, and then the kids took baths. Boy is bathing himself now, and Girl is trying to, though she can’t manage her hair alone. While Girl was in the bath, Boy sat in the big chair in his towel, looking at a book about El Salvador.

At bed time we read a story about a boy going home to El Salvador from San Francisco for the first time since he’d had to flee with his family years earlier. The kids were mesmerized, but asleep almost before I was finished reading.

Tomorrow: first meeting of Color Wars (our new math and science club).

Day 147: Mexico

The kids and I made breakfast together this morning.

Then: Geography Club.

It was Mexico Day. We looked at some things, we looked at the maps, I read two books, one about Day of the Dead. We made calaveras masks, we colored flags and map pictures, we danced a special Day of the Dead dance. In this dance, boys dress up as very old men, and dance like they are tired and stiff and their backs ache. As the dance goes on, the boys grow younger and younger, until they are dancing with youth and joy. The kids danced twice just us, then once in front of everyone in the other room.

In addition to their academic endeavors, the older kids made Aztec calendars out of salt dough, and the teens colored elaborate calaveras designs. One of the moms did Day of the Dead face-painting.

We ate tacos and had (non-alcoholic) sangria. The kids played outside for an hour with swords or climbed trees.

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When we got home, Girl’s friend A from down the street came over to play for a short while. I heard them playing in our toy kitchen, making a pretend Day of the Dead meal so they could “remember all of our family who we love who died.” It made me happy that they seemed to grasp the spirit of the holiday, since it is such a nice tradition. Then Papa took Boy to ballet (Girl resolutely refused to go). So she and I made corn tortillas and cleaned up the house.

After dinner, Papa and I washed dishes. Boy asked if he could dry the ones that went in the kids’ area and put them away himself. He did that, and cleared and wiped their table.

At bedtime I read them the first story about Guatemala, and Boy finished Fantastic Mr. Fox on his own.

Tomorrow: co-op.

Day 146: Day of the Dead

Today was Sunday, and we needed to get ready for Mexico Day in Geography Club tomorrow, and enjoy the warm sunny weather.

I woke up to the sound of Boy making breakfast for everyone, taking advantage of the new arrangement in the kitchen. Honey toast, carrots, and water. Breakfast of champions. He was so proud of himself.

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Girl started on her Day of the Dead crafts early, making a scene like she read about in the library books we’ve been reading.

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After that the kids and I played outside with the dog for a couple of hours. With the snow gone, the yard is just brown.


Then we came in and I made the kids lunch and started on the Dulce de Alegria, a traditional Day of the Dead candy made from popped amaranth seeds and honey. I’ve heard that it may descend from an Aztec treat. Ours has pumpkin and sunflower seeds, too.

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After they were done, I went out back with Boy and the dog again, and threw the Squeaky for the dog while I watched Boy shoot baskets. (I love watching him; he’s so good at it!)

Next we put on some Day of the Dead music and practiced our dance for tomorrow, something we read about in the wonderful Day of the Dead book we got from the library. In this dance, boys pretend to be very old men, and dance slowly and painfully, but as the music continues they grow younger and younger until they are upright and dancing with energy and joy. We’ll be doing this with both boys and girls of course. The kids did a really great job, and I hope they will feel comfortable showing their friends tomorrow.

Then we made some sample masks, and I cut out the shapes for all the kids to make them tomorrow.  We’ve got some books so kids can see examples of what traditional decorated skulls look like, and we’ll have craft stick to tape the masks to.


Papa got Mexican food from Moe’s for us for dinner, and then we did our last craft of the evening. I’d promised Girl we could do these all week, and even though we couldn’t finish them (with clothes and paint) they came out pretty adorably. These guys will make a nice addition to the exploration table tomorrow morning.

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Day 145: Spring cleaning begins

Today is a Saturday, and the first day of spring cleaning. Pretty sure I won’t be done until sometime in April. I cleared off my stainless steel kitchen island, scrubbed it, washed everything on it, and rearranged to give the kids a work space and easy access to plastic cups, bowls, and plates. I’ve been telling them I’d do this so they can more easily start to make some simple meals for themselves.

Later I raked the cement and paver areas in the back yard, the side walk, and swept out the carport. We decided in the fall to let the back yard go ‘natural,’ since the grass was spotty to begin with and the dog was tearing up what was there.  We’re going to let the leaves and pine straw cover the ground, but we still have to clean off a couple of areas. We’ll focus on making/keeping the front yard tidy and more ‘suburban.’ After that I pumped ALL of the tires on ALL of the things with wheels, bikes to wheelbarrows, full of air so they can be used.