Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Gunnar, Chemistry, Flubber, and the Mad Scientist

Although the boys, Gunnar in particular, moan and complain about the end of summer and the thought of getting back to school, it's mostly for show.  Because, you know, it wouldn't be too cool for the boybarians to like school.  But the truth is, we have a pretty good time.  I won't pretend it's all sunshine and rainbows.  There are things certain subject areas we find less than exciting.  But we're interested in things.  In the world.  And in how things work.  So we make it as fun as we can.

Of course, reality doesn't always match expectations, yah?

Gunnar has his heart set on digging into chemistry this year, and I know he imagines something along the lines of Flubber...

... with a side of Back to the Future thrown in.

He sees himself as the mad scientist, the master of a lab filled with experiments, bunsen burners, test tubes and all manner of things bubbling and frothing.  


Unfortunately for him, the Grasshopper Academy's budget won't cover anything quite that extravagant.  But that won't stop us from having a great year.  So, since Crystal asked (so long ago!  I didn't forget!) here's the deal:

Just for the record, when it comes to planning I may be a bit of an over-achiever.  I like having a weekly schedule, showing what we'll cover day-by-day.  When we first began homeschooling I read Susan Wise Bauer's The Well-Trained Mind and had delusions of grandeur.  But the reality was that my boys were not going to thrive on that much sitting and writing.  We do more doing.  Still, that book is a treasure trove of good intentions.  In other words, for me it's a jumping off point.

I grabbed my copy of Eyewitness Chemistry...

... and mapped out each section per week, with the idea of finding experiments that coordinate with each topic area.  But there was a little problem with that plan, and it has to do with the fact that I've only had one chemistry class in my life, and that was kind of a Chemistry for Bone-heads course I took in college over twenty years ago.  So if the Eyewitness book says something about Oxidation-Reduction reactions I'm... well...  a little bit lost.

Then I had a reality check.  Gunnar is twelve.  TWELVE.  Thanks to homeschooling, he's had more science already than any (public) elementary student in this district and most likely the whole state.  Over the next couple of years, he'll get more introduction to chemistry in Apologia's General and Physical Science, and then a whole year of Chemistry when he's Wyatt's age.  Clearly, I have some wiggle room.

I re-thought the plan.

We'll still use Eyewitness Chemistry as a sort of a spine.  We'll read through a section each week, and we won't be stressed out when the book goes over concepts... that go right over our heads.  We'll be writing down definitions of key words, names and (brief!) bios of important scientists, major discoveries, as well as sketching things like atoms and molecules.  We have other resources to help us.

But what Gunnar is really looking forward to are the experiments, and I'm planning a couple per week.  I'm pulling them from lots of sources.

I'm hoping the test tubes, pipettes, and little bottles of chemicals in this kit will inspire him with lab work.  Though the experiments are pretty simple, all the equipment makes it feel official and important.

We've used Fizz, Bubble, and Flash before, and it's definitely targeted to a slightly younger audience, but it also has several fun experiments and Gunnar loves the little poems about various elements.  I like that the book groups the experiments with the elements as they appear in the periodic table - introducing young kids to the organizational structure there... the why of the groupings.

Of course, we love Janice van Cleave.  We've already done many of the experiments in these books, but there are some worth re-doing and a few Gunnar hasn't seen yet.

I also picked up (cheap!) a couple of these Adventures with Atoms and Molecules books.  Of course, there's a lot of redundancy (glad I didn't pay much) but they do explain some of the concepts at a kid level and have a handful of experiments the other books don't.

Where it made sense to me, I scheduled certain experiments to coordinate with our subject-of-the-week from Eyewitness Chemistry, but frankly... it doesn't all work out that neat and tidy.

I remind myself again, he is TWELVE.  He will cover chemistry again.  And again.  I do not have to create a perfect, exhaustive, grade 6 level chemistry course, that covers everything.  As if. 

What I will do is walk through a year of exploring concepts in chemistry through reading, and writing, and DOING.  We'll document our experiments, working through the scientific method (observe, ask, hypothesize, test, analyze), and we'll try to have a little fun.  You know... to preserve our sanity and our sense of humor ;D

And you?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Last Outdoor Church of the Summer

I may have mentioned that the folks from our little chapel are experts at the art of the potluck, yah?  Well one of our summer traditions is Sunday evening potluck dinners and outdoor church.  Our fabulous hosts this Sunday live just a stone's throw from the Canadian border, so we had a bit of a drive to get there, but oh-so-worth-it :D

We had just finished dinner, sung a few songs, and were getting settled on the patio for a short sermon, with the sun setting behind us, when someone in the rear called us all to step back and look at the double rainbow that was forming.

It was VERY vivid, and look how it framed the house!

And what perfect timing... after a lovely, warm evening outside, we drove home in a shower of rain.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Grasshopper Days

Grasshopper Days

For today, Monday, August 26, 2013

Outside my window...  the boys are in denial, but the leaves are just starting to show some fall color.  (*Happy squeal* but I have to keep my excitement under cover.)

Hearing...  nasty crows, cawing their heads off above the garage.  What could they want???  And why don't they go annoy someone else?

Pondering...  if I trust the weather enough to hang laundry on the line today... mmmm, probably.  (I know, I know, first-world problems.)

Praying...  work.  More work for Kerry would be great.  Also, for my mom's recovery (going well), for the preemie baby (growing well), and for the school year we're about to begin.

Thankful...  everyone is healthy, the sun is shining, the boys have work to do, and there is ice cream in the freezer :D

Wearing...  blue capris, black t-shirt, faaaaanceeeee.

Creating...  a plan.  I hope.  Because I could use one.

Going...  to take Gunnar out to get a birthday present for a friend.  Every year this boy has a birthday camp-out at a KOA.  Gunnar loves it.  They swim in the pool, play putt-putt golf, canoe around the TINY pond, and sleep all mashed together with the other boys in a big tent.  But this year Gunnar is in CAP and it's the same night, so he'll have to miss part of the evening.  Life changes as you get older...

Looking forward to...  school.  But don't tell the boys.

In the kitchen...  leftovers!  We had company for lunch yesterday - a young couple from our church.  You know what the boys always want to know when we invite someone over?  If you have kids of your own I probably don't have to tell you...  Do they have kids?

And no, they don't.  The boys visited through lunch (and oh my word, they were on a roll with goofiness... our friends were cracking up at them, but not sure if we scared them off from having kids of their own.)

But the funny thing was that after they left the boys figured out that this couple is actually closer to THEM in age than to US.  So there you go.  They don't HAVE kids.  They ARE kids.  

In the learning rooms...  ooooh, the anticipation!  (But that's just me....)

Around the house...  
So, here's a little visual for you.
I get up and I make the bed.

Okay, that's not exactly true, because when I get up Kerry is still IN the bed.  (No photo.)  But by the time I have a shower and get dressed he's usually getting up.  Close enough.

This is on the top of my dresser.

I think Gunnar was three, Tate was five, and Wyatt was eight.  And that's Kerry at about eight.  Aren't he and Wyatt two peas in a pod?

In the kitchen I find a pile of dishes and this - reminders for the day.  Because I'm not sure I trust my short-term memory skills.

And in case you're as baffled as the boys were (knowing that I shower in the morning and why would I bring fruit?), I'm going to a BABY SHOWER this evening.

I chilled a treat for later.  (The Coke.)  Maybe a little caffeine will jump start my sleepy brain cells.

I moved the furniture around a bit in the living room and tried to get all the houseplants where they'll get enough light.  See the vine-y plant?

It's a hoya.  It's a cutting from my grandma's hoya.  She had it trained on a trellis in her living room for years and I was fascinated by it.  Hoyas produce tiny, waxy flowers in clusters (umbels).  They also give off a powerful scent, and sometimes drip nectar.

Photo shamelessly kyped form wikipedia.  Thanks!

My grandparents down-sized when I was still a kid, and the hoya dropped off the radar.  Somehow it came up in conversation with my aunt after I was married, and then one day it showed up on my back porch, in a huge, tangled mass.  My cousin had had it... and boy had he HAD it.  I think the smell was too overwhelming.  So the hoya came to me.

I had it trained around our breakfast nook in our first house, with little white lights twined in the leaves - loved it!  But when we moved here ten years ago I trimmed it way back, rooted several cuttings, and started over.  And I've got three or four of them growing, but none of them have bloomed in ten years.   

I think it needs more light, so maybe this is the year!

In the meantime, I resort to artificial flowers :D

See, sunflowers still seem like summer, but they're kind of leading into fall.  Won't they look nice with some red maple leaves in a few weeks?

And a close-up of the photos of my niece and the boys.  Which reminds me that they (the boybarians) are over-due for portraits.  Waaaaay overdue.

The Mother Load...  oh boy.  Let's not think about that today, okay?

Noticing that...  they grow so fast.  I know, that's not exactly a fresh thought, but it still hits me.  Especially when Wyatt came home Saturday afternoon bubbling over with plans to buy...

... an airplane.  And no, I'm not kidding.

Something to remember for later...  check pockets before washing.  What on earth did Wyatt have in the pocket of his khaki shorts that was PURPLE???

A favorite quote for today...  Too many people have houses; not enough people have homes.  - Patrice Lewis.  A good reminder to make sure my house is a home.

One of my favorite things...  the new beginnings in every September.

A few plans for the rest of the week...  a baby shower, dinner with my folks, hunting for jeans for the boys, dentist appointments for all three boys (fun times!), shopping for a gift with Gunnar, and wringing every drop of summer out of this week.

A peek into my world...  yah.  Did that.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Prose and Cons


I've been neglecting this little bloggy space because I've been feeling a bit scrambled lately.  Probably has a lot to do with it being summer, and the lack of routine, and all that.  I know, I know, I'm the queen of organization around this house (not that there are any other contenders for the title) but when my thoughts start feeling disorderly, well, it's like a having a messy house.  You don't exactly want to invite anyone in, y'know?  But I will anyway.

It'll be sort of a stream-of-consciousness peak at my day.  Don't be scared ;D

*  Yesterday's puzzle (how to get one vehicle, one husband, and two boys to three different places bright and early this morning) resolved itself, with Kerry's waffly-ness working in his favor.  Sort of.  (Long story.  You'll thank me no to tell it.)  I only had to get two boys to one place, which is usually simple.  However this morning, even accomplishing that reminded me of the early years...

*  So now I'm home with one husband (working) and one boy (watching something on Netflix) and I'm trying to decide what to tackle next.  The Mother Load - as always - is threatening to suck me under.  Also, I think we're having friends over for lunch on Sunday.  Oh, AND a potluck dinner Sunday evening.  So there's food prep to do.  So glad I sent the boys out berry picking again.  Blackberries are still going strong and I have so many in the freezer I could make pies every couple of weeks.

However.  the kitchen floor is waaaaay overdue for a waxing.  (Fun times!)  And I still have a few things to prepare for the start of you-know-what (I'm not allowed to say school around here) in a week and a half.  And Mt. Laundry is growing, the irises need dividing, and the family room is frightening.  But not as scary as the garage.  I'd say it's time to put the boybarians to work, but 2/3 of them are gone for the day, working an airshow.

Moving on...

*  Remember this?

Yah.  I decided to make one like it, only big enough for my queen-size bed, which would be a first.  And.... I got the top about half-way pieced and there it sits, with the fabric staring at me reproachfully from the chair where I folded it.  All year I'm busy with homeschooling and home-keeping, and I have all the time in the world during the summer, but no motivation.  Well, lots of motivation to go to the beach, but not so much to quilt.  Does anyone else have this seasonal thing?  I mean, if it's sunny we Must Be Outside.  It's the PNW talking.  (Pacific Northwest, land of rain.)

Of course, I still see things that catch my eye.  Like this quilt.

I don't have the book, but I think I could figure this one out on my own.  Doesn't that look wintery?  Maybe kind of Scandinavian?  Like a sweater?

Ah... it's always so much more fun to plan the next one than to keep plodding through the one in progress.  Anyone else?
But okay, that can wait...

*  My brother sent me this.  Isn't she cute?  Actually, I think they're both cute.

But this boggles my mind.  The girl is 14 months old and they have NEVER had a portrait taken.  They only take cel phone pictures.  I mean, I love the spontaneity and all, but am I the only one who thinks they may regret not having some better quality pics of her childhood?

I mean, she's so cute!  I took these in July, at our house.  This one is framed :D

I love the joy here!

And then she discovered the flowers on her dress, and that was the end of picture time ;D

*  I just figured something out.  I was gong to complain about blogger, but no - it's Safari.  I used to use Firefox but Kerry talked me into switching to Safari, but when I load photos to a post I'm already working on if I'm in Safari the photos always load to the top of the post.  Not in Firefox.  The photos get inserted right where I left the cursor, in Firefox, and I don't have to drag them down across all the rest of the post, which for some reason screws up the formatting.  Hurray for Firefox.  Because I wanted to add photos of....

*  Kerry's 50th.  Yes.  I'm married to an OLD MAN.  Half a century old.  I mean, it's all perspective, right?  His birthday (well, and mine too, but we're not talking about me! ;D ) is much closer to WWII than the present.  That feels old!

All right, joking aside, we had a great time.  I'd asked my folks if we could have the party at their house (which is awesome) and they were happy to oblige.  Then my mom was scheduled for surgery on her dominant hand right before the party.  No problem!  I only asked for a venue, not a caterer, and my parents were both VERY helpful anyway.  We decorated...

... and put Wyatt on the grill, with Tate and Gunnar assisting.  Hurray for Wyatt, he did great!  We joke a lot about BBQing around the grasshopper house because Kerry has had his share of woes with out BBQ, as in, he burned EVERYTHING.  Well, you have to pay Really Close Attention when your BBQ was a wedding gift (ie nearly 20 years old) and really only has two settings: Off and Temperature-of-the-Sun.  So Wyatt went into this cautiously, and he did great.  Of course, this is Grandpa and Grandma's grill ;D

We asked Aunt Tami to serve cake.  Because if I served it, well... it would still taste good, but it wouldn't be pretty.

Kerry enjoyed his cards and gifts...

... but we put the really big bucks for some high quality atmosphere and entertainment...

*  And, just for the record, there is a big difference between talking about something, and actually planning it.  You can talk about something until the cows come home, but planning involves details and commitment.  Because let me tell you, if you grew up with Grandpa Grasshopper and you planned a hike, you'd be on the trail with a pack on your back as soon as it was daylight.  In other families, planning a hike results in people showing up at your house after noon and heading out for a walk at 1:30 in the afternoon.  Your results may vary ;D

*  I troll Craigslist, watching for a couple of things.  And I saw this,

Now, I'm not looking for a couch, but I kind of like it.  No, I'm not calling about it.  I'm not looking for a couch.  I almost said I'd never buy a couch off craigslist, but *ahem* clearly I did.

A leather couch.  A fake leather couch.  Whatever.  A couch you can wipe off, that doesn't have odors in it.

But I kind of like the other couch and I put the picture here to remind me, when I'm looking for something, not to settle for whatever just happens to be there.

(I told you my brain was scrambled, I mean, I warned you.)

*  My sister had the boys last week for cousin camp.  They had a ball.  Went to the fair, and up to Capilano in B.C.  I'll get pictures from her soon.  But in the meantime, here are Wyatt and Tate at the fair in 2001, riding the infamous Dragon Wagon.

Oh yah, they were Hot Stuff, I'm telling you.  Wyatt had just turned five and Tate was only two and a half... big enough to ride the Dragon Wagon.

*  And with that, we turn to the rest of the thoughts currently swirling through my gray matter...  

 - The baby bunnies are growing.  They're still cute, but not they're-so-fluffy-I'm-gonna-die cute.  If you haven't seen Despicable Me that will make no sense to you.  Especially since they're not unicorns.  But they're still cute.  I'll get some more pictures soon.

- The boys need shoes.  And jeans.  We'll hunt for the jeans at Value Village, but the shoes not so much.  I'm a little creeped out by used shoes.  And the jeans, don't get me started.  The boys have grown out of  every single pair of jeans they own and have entered the circle of Dante's hell where you can't just get a size of jeans, but you need a waist measurement and an inseam, and I may lose my mind because that is just too much information to keep track of with this many boys.  And all those years they only wanted to wear sweat pants and I wanted them to wear jeans (because jeans are so cute) are coming back to haunt me because - HELLO! - stretchy pants don't need a lot of fitting, and we all know how much boys young men enjoy trying things on at the store.  And what on earth is with the designers?  I mean, my boys young men wear out their jeans fast enough, why on earth are they making jeans that look already worn???  Or even weirder, jeans that look dirty?  People that would never soil their hands are wearing jeans that look like a mechanic owned them first and couldn't get the stains out.  What???

This is what I want.  Plain, straight leg, blue jeans.  No stains, no rips, no tears, no fake fraying.  Nothing goofy on the pockets.  Plain jeans.  Do you think I'll be able to find them to fit the boybarians?  Without paying an arm and a leg?

-  We have one more week of summer, and what will we do???  Because I feel like we should be doing something memorable.  And there's no budget for it.  So we'll probably be right here.  Trying to be memorable.

And you?  Scrambled enough for you? 

Enjoy the end of summer :D

Monday, August 19, 2013

Grasshopper Days

Grasshopper Days

For today, Monday, August 19, 2013.  

Outside my window...  cool and cloudy.  It's been a funny week, though.  Nearly every day starting out like this and ending sunny and beautiful.

Hearing...  lots of quiet, the boys are all testing.  (Usually do it at the end of school in June, but I'm behind relaxed this year.)

Pondering...  I am married to a FIFTY YEAR OLD.  Kerry had a birthday this weekend.  Can you believe it?  Half a century!

Praying...  work for Kerry, my mom (recovering nicely from hand surgery), and to enjoy the last couple of weeks of summer vacation.  *happy sigh*

Thankful...  for a fun b'day party for Kerry with lots of friends and family.

Creating...  plans for a beach party on Saturday.

Going...  to get to work on that quilt top I started forever ago.  It's so odd... I have lots of time in the summer, but I don't feel motivated to quilt.  I guess I'd rather be outside when the sun shines :D

Looking forward to...  a few more warm sunny (beach?) days.

In the kitchen...  a gracious plenty of leftovers, hallelujah.

In the learning rooms...  getting ready...

Around the house...  I'm not ready for fall yet, but maybe some sunflower-y decorations???

The Mother Load...  we're outside so much in the summer that I kind of let things go in the house.  Time to get organized before the boybarians are busy with school work and have them help me do a deep-clean.  The kitchen floor needs scrubbing, windows need cleaning, furniture needs moving, and dressers need purging.  I think the boys must photo-synthesize, they grow so much over the summer.  None of their jeans fit anymore.

Noticing that...  they need to shave more often.  *sigh*

Something to remember for later...  we went for a walk yesterday and Gunnar still wanted to hold my hand.  How long will that last?

A favorite quote for today...  Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.  Tolstoy

One of my favorite things...  a big bunch of freshly sharpened yellow pencils :D

A few plans for the rest of the week...  finish the boys' testing, clean, and sew!

A peek into my world...

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Double Plus Good

This parenting gig... it's not for the faint-hearted.  Kerry, the boybarians and I have had our share of days when we feel *ahem* less than sanctified.

* Like the day before we hosted Thanksgiving, when the kitchen sink, the dishwasher, and the washing machine all simultaneously backed up and overflowed onto the freshly waxed floor.

* Or The Day of the Body Fluids, which came on the heels of the day one of the boys (who-shall-remain-nameless) threw up in the foyer of the public library.

* The night the seven year old sleepwalked right out the back door and into the night.

* Or the seventeen year old attempted his first back flip off a diving board they day before his scheduled flight solo and nearly killed himself.  (No.  I never exaggerate.  Ever.)

* Or the multiple days one or the other of the boys has subjected us to the dubious pleasures of an Apology Tour, for reasons we've tried to forget.

* Or all the days that felt like if our family had a motto it would be Entropy, from Order to Chaos.

So the good days, and there are plenty of them, deserve to be remembered.  Yah?  Because they may not seem as remarkable... or as funny.  And the last few have been pretty good, in little ways and bigger ways.  So, in no particular order...

1.  The handle broke off the lid of one of my Revere pots.  What can I say... I have three dishwashers (Wyatt, Tate, and Gunnar) and they can be a little hard on things sometimes.

I emailed the company, told them I got the pots as a wedding gift nineteen years ago and I've been using them ever since, and asked about a replacement policy, to get a new lid.  Got an email back that they were sending me a new one - no questions asked.  Yippee!

And an even bigger YIPPEE when it came... not just a lid, but a whole new pot AND lid!  Kudos to Revere and their 25-year warranty :D

2.  My neighbor's neighbors are moving out.  (And there was much rejoicing, because apparently they like to PAR-TAY.)  Anyway, they left this...

... in a free pile, in their front yard.  So I snagged it, thinking my brother and SIL would want it for my niece, but they were... meh.  So, thank-you Craigslist for putting forty bucks in my pocket in a matter of hours.

3.  My dad hired the boys to help him with a concrete pour.  I've always got my ears open for ways for the boys to gain experience and make money working and learning useful skills.  Win-win.

Gunnar hammered all around the edge of the forms to get the air bubbles out while Wyatt and Tate used the scree to level the concrete.

Still hammering... still screeing.

The boys also cleaned up any concrete that overflowed and washed off all the tools before concrete could harden on them.

Real world work.  Amen.

(Grandma and I took pictures and provided moral support.)

4.  We had good friends come to visit.  A guy Kerry and I knew before we were married went off to Russia as a missionary.  He settled in over there for the long haul, married a sweet Russian lady, and had four kids.  Ours and theirs have met before, but it's so infrequent they don't really remember.  That didn't stop them from having a great time together all evening!

And Russian kids can be just as goofy as American kids :D

Of course, that freed us up to hang out and visit with the grown ups for hours... here's Doug and Margo.

And Grandma Grasshopper.  I could make up a great story if I had more time, but really she had surgery on her thumb.

We talked and talked and talked until the sun went down...

... and it got dark enough we saw the Space Station go over, and a "shooting star" (it's time for the Perseid Meteor Shower).

Right as Grandma spotted the space station, to the west, Gunnar and I saw the meteor to the south.  Just as she called out There it is! the meteor broke into pieces and flamed out.  And Gunnar, just for a second, thought the space station had blown up.

Which it hasn't.  So maybe that should be Good Thing Number Five. ;D

So there you have it.  My Count-Your-Blessings list for today.