Saturday, September 29, 2007


There are some lovely things going on in our yard in celebration of fall...

Our glorious apple tree and some more sunflowers (check out the kale plants in there as well!)

Sunflower magic. I planted 3 varieties this year and they all turned out lovely. One of my favorite flowers for sure. Plus, the chickadees love them later on when their seeds come out.

The artemisia has done really well here and the borage has expanded its range... Everything is very lush after the rain.

And imagine how lovely to be greeted by this bush every time we go out front. I love fall!

Friday, September 28, 2007


Well, the dinosaurs have definitely taken over our house. Out came the bucket-o-dinos from the garage. Out came the robot dinosaurs. We have checked out several detailed, not-so-detailed, simple and complex books about dinosaurs of all types from the library. Dinosaurs counting, doing their abc's, going to sleep, chasing people, showing up out of nowhere...The kids have played dinosaur video games, including the Walking With Dinosaurs game, which has a very complicated and fun time line to fill in with dinosaur pictures and names, the likes of which most of us have never heard of!

There have been several videos watched and rewatched about dinosaurs, including one of Eva's favorites, The Land Before Time (and all of the seven or eight! follow up episodes, which aren't nearly as good as the original, in my opinion) as well as Dinosaur and Dinotopia and of course, Walking with Dinosaurs. And did you know there is a Walking with Prehistoric Animals (I can't remember the exact title). Samuel liked this one better than the original one with Dinosaurs. The favorite, by far, has been Chased by Dinosaurs and Allosaurus (the story of Al, the allosaurus). Both specials are made by Walking with Dinosaurs, so the graphics are amazing. And there is much theory woven into a story about how the dinosaurs looked and lived and enjoyed their time on Earth so many years ago.

Last night we read a great book, Did Dinosaurs eat Pizza, which talked about what we don't know about dinosaurs. I enjoyed reading this after Walking with Dinosaurs because it focused on what we know for sure about dinosaurs and what are theories and guesses and ideas about how dinosaurs may have lived. Eva was very happy to find out that some of the momma prehistoric beasties may not have just abandoned their young like the narrator said they did. She was very happy it was just a theory!

In the car Samuel likes to go over many of the dinosaurs and what we know about them. He likes to list off the dinosaurs that *most* people know about, the old standbys like stegosaurus, triceratops, t-rex, you know the usuals...And then he lists some of the dinosaurs that only experts know about. I can't remember those right now and am not sure if he includes me in with the experts or not. I do know that he lists himself as a certified dinosaur expert and on most day he even includes Eva!

Friday, September 21, 2007

This is great. One thing that I really love is finding out what other people are passionate about.

Today I was doing a search online about how shells are made and I came across this blog that has A LOT of information about slugs and snails, which I love, but which this person seems to be dedicated to at a whole other level... It is a real pleasure to look through this blog and see some of his photos and to witness his enthusiasm for snails and slugs- and his knowledge! There are several comments on his page as well, illustrating that others out there are enthusiastic too! And it is nice to know that others are taking photos of slugs out there in the world as well.0.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"There is one common flow, one common breathing. All things are in sympathy."
What's going on around here-

-little spiders, really little, making little webs under places like an oregano leaf, so tiny...

-watching our dog Jack peel off tiny pieces of melted parmesan cheese from a slice of zucchini

-Eva telling me she learned something today and me asking what, sweetie and her answering, "cucumber sticks to walls..." and me remembering back through the day and thinking, "ah ha! that's what she was doing"

-after two really dissatisfying days in a playful inventions class, Samuel finally tells me he thought it was going to be a woodworking class (things I wish I had known before...)

-minestrone soup and zucchini and blueberry muffins

-fun art class!

-sunflowers and roses blooming together

-lots of kale, lots and lots of kale

-a cool book called Dragonolgy, all about dragons!

The other day I was making dinner...

and Eva came in to make dinner with me. She plays games while I cook or hang laundry or garden and incorporates her game into what I am doing. So, for instance, she came into the kitchen and explained that she was a woman back in olden times in Britain. And she asked me how I got here and would I like to help her. So I told her the trees brought me and yes I would like to help. And we're off... I cook dinner and through it Eva and I have a dialog going in her game. This one was very curious to me because I have been noticing Eva noticing some of our less than desirable aspects for women in our sometimes misogynistic culture.

Eva talked a lot about the culture where she was *pretending* to be. She said that in her culture, all of the women cook dinner. And all of the men run around outside saying "The British are coming, the British are coming!" And all of the children play all day long. And then she said this was all good because the women LIKED to cook dinner and the men LIKED to run around saying "The British are coming, the British are coming!" and the kids LIKED to play. I thought this was so great. I love that she puts such importance on all of the people enjoying what they do. Of course they enjoy it! Why else would you do something, after all!

After we finished cooking, Eva put everything out on the table because she likes to have a feast! When we had finished I told Eva that I wanted to vacuum. Eva turned to me and said, "Well, Momma, in this culture we only vacuum once a week and that day is, unfortunately, tomorrow."

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Brandywine Tomato

Well, the brandywine tomatoes are divine! I made some salsa this week with some of them and it was so out of this world I had to share it!

1 yellow brandywine tomato
1 pink brandywine tomato
some red cherry tomatoes
a red tomato or two
4-ish or more purple tomatillos
1 purple onion
4-5 cloves of garlic or more

Chop it all up and mix it up. Wow!

I can't believe that I had never had a tomatillo until this year. They are delicious. Crunchier than tomatoes, slightly sweet and tart. The combination with the brandywines was what really made the salsa. Any kinds of tomatoes, however, could be used to make the salsa, with or without tomatillos! Yum!
We finished up the Tales from the Odyssey series by Mary Pope Osborne last night. At the very end of the story there is a touching scene when Odysseus and his father Laertes finally meet again after so many years apart. It is a touching and sad scene because Laertes talks of his grief and how he missed Odysseus. But at the at one point he does something that seemed so incongruous and silly that Samuel burst out laughing. Then we both laughed and laughed. We are still laughing about it this morning-
"Then the burden of his grief became too much for him. Groaning with misery, he picked up a handful of dirt and poured it over his head."
Ok, so obviously we weren't laughing at the poor man and his grief, but at him pouring the dirt over his head! How did that come up? This morning I was kind of grumpy at one point because I hadn't gotten to eat breakfast, etc. Samuel broke the tension by saying in a very serious tone, "he poured dirt onto his head..." So funny and it lightened things right up! Thank you Laertes!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Freshly gleaned license plate wisdom found at our homeschooling center today-
"Those who say it cannot be done shouldn't interrupt the people doing it!"

Ellen and Eva playing cards and doing stickers. Eva is dressed as a police officer.

Samuel and Evan playing the police officer/ thief game. Samuel is in full officer regalia, catching an elusive thief no doubt. And Jack never misses an opportunity to suggest someone throw the ball for him.

Samuel learning how to play chess with Evan.

Eva and Ellen doing lots of puzzles. This puzzle of the United States prompted Eva to tell me that she really wants to see more of the world.

I am really tired. I must be the only person in this house who ever gets tired, besides the cats, that is. And Jack seems to enjoy sleeping quite a bit lately as well. Samuel is playing last minute video games and Eva is having a picnic!! in the living room. Not sure what is on the agenda for tomorrow. I am sure it will be inspiring whatever it is!

New Blogs

The kids have both started their own blogs. I have them linked on the side so you can check them out. Samuel has several links on his about knights. He is planning on expanding the links to other areas of interest. Right now, though, he is focusing on knights. He picked out a new knight book yesterday that he is really enjoying by Usborne. It has several internet links to all things to do with knights and these are the links he has chosen to put on his blog.

Eva's blog is about how much she loves animals. She plans to take lots of photographs of animals and all of the other things she loves and post them on her blog.

We have spent the last couple of days (and plan to spend a couple more days next week) figuring out if the kids like the classes we are trying out at Village Home. So far we have not really found a match for either of the kids. Eva said no to Spanish for Preschoolers. Samuel was disappointed with both his playful inventions class and the drama class he tried out today. He has decided to try them both out one more time next week to see if he enjoys them any more. Eva is also going to see what their little villagers class is like. It is a kind of preschool-y type of class for four-ish year olds (and threes and maybe a five or two), all homeschoolers I am told. And then because we dropped one class and are thinking of dropping some others, we signed up for an art class, because as Samuel says, those are always fun. If Samuel doesn't like the drama class next week I may sign him up for another drama class at a children's theater in Portland. But for right now we are just figuring out these classes. And that has turned out to be plenty for now. Even if we end up dropping all of the classes it has been a learning adventure for all of us and helped us to clarify what it is we are all looking for, myself included. And yes, next time I may go to the meet-the-teacher night to see if we can glean any extra information about the class and/ or teacher before hand.

We are reading many many books about cats and dogs and horses this week. Eva wanted lots of cat and dog books and also books on spiders (imagine that!) and a book on crystals and rocks and a great book on eggs (that was my pick and it was enjoyed by all). Samuel wants to know more about horses and even how to take care of horses. We are also reading this interesting and enjoyable series by Mary Pope Osborne (she wrote the magic tree house series) about the Odyssey. She has adapted the stories into six short books for kids. They are really fun and Samuel is loving them. They are a bit over the top for Eva, though, and a little more gruesome than I imagined they would be. She is very faithful to the original! I just saw she also has a favorite Greek myths book and favorite stories from the middle ages and I think those will be our next stop.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Eva eating a peach near the sunflowers that she planted. We planted the sunflowers at different intervals this year so they are all coming up tall and short and blooming all around.

Here are some of the taller guys. They are taller than me!

This bee is really enjoying the sunflowers we planted.

The autumn light creates long shadows on the tomatoes who are finally turning red. The next few days of heat will probably turn several of them and then it is spaghetti time!

Eva picking flowers in her maiden costume. Today she asked me what the difference was between a maid and a maiden and it got me thinking about the origin of the word maid. It is embarrassing to explain these things to my very open and optimistic daughter. I feel sad but she tosses it off happily!

More lovely flowers Eva picked.

Lovely rainbow in our back yard.
“The means to gain happiness is to throw out from oneself like a spider in all directions an adhesive web of love, and to catch in it all that comes”
- Tolstoy

Eva took some photos of some of the largest spiders living in our front yard. We counted five giant spiders last night- there are others but these five all have bodies of about a 1/2 inch and their bodies plus legs are about 1 1/2 inches, maybe a little larger. They are big. I think four of them are banded garden spiders. One of them I thought was a large yellow garden spider but after looking at photos I don't think so any more. I lost the link of the spider I thought it was. Oh well, suffice it to say she is one large spider!

Two of the spiders were frightened by the flash. They ran off of their web to their hiding spot. The other three stood their ground, with one of them even displaying at the camera, putting her forelegs out to show us she was fierce and prepared to protect her web and/or eat us. It was tricky for Eva to get so close without running into the webs. I thought they turned out pretty good.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Merrily, merrily shall I live now, Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
The Tempest, Act V, Sc. I

Today the kids and I met some friends and went to Oaks Park's Not-Back-to-School-Day, a day set aside each year just for homeschoolers to have fun at the small Portland amusement park. Ride bracelets are thrillingly cheap and the kids went on several today. It was a lot of fun, although I have to say for myself that I think I have had my fill of spin-around-until-you-are-sick rides, at least for this year!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

scooter race gone mad

Tonight I heard the kids out on our patio racing their scooters and then I heard a lot of crazy screaming and crying and just general frustration and obvious dissatisfaction, so I went out to see what was up. This is not entirely foreign around here but it did sound more urgent than even the more usual outbursts.

When I got outside both kids were beside themselves and very angry and frustrated. When I heard the story I couldn't help but smile. Ah. An exercise on who won. Samuel was using his scooter, one of the kinds you stand up on and push off with one foot. Eva was using her scooter, the kind that you sit down on and has four wheels and you push along. If I had to bet money on them, I would assume that during this game Samuel would win every single time and Eva would be more and more frustrated. Because one, it isn't much fun and because two, Samuel is not always the most graceful of winners and will let Eva know that she has lost every single time. There are times when he works with Eva and she wins some and he wins some and the *game* goes more smoothly. This was not one of those times.

What I did not know was that during these races, Eva's friend Lizzie was also racing. And would you believe that Lizzie, not Samuel, was winning every single time? For those of you who don't know Lizzie, she is one of those grand childhood friends that only a child can see. We don't call them pretend because who am I to doubt the reality of my child. We do admit that they are invisible to most of us and can usually only be seen by the child who knows them. In this case, Eva is the only one who sees Lizzie. So you can imagine Samuel's frustration when Eva would announce AGAIN that Lizzie had won that race, NOT Samuel. Samuel would race across the finish line, triumphant and shout "I won!" And Eva would smile slyly and say, "Nope, Lizzie won that one too." Oh was Samuel upset. That must have happened a couple of times at least by the time I got out there.

But! If you knew what kind of scooter Lizzie was riding, you wouldn't be surprised that she had won every race. Lizzie's scooter had wind machines (and it is very windy tonight!) and windmills all over her scooter and Lizzie's scooter had a cup holder (reminiscent of the cup holder on Samuel's new booster seat in the car) and Lizzie's scooter was comfortable enough to sit on with all of your legs up and the windmills just wheeled it along. No wonder she won. I offered to get Samuel a windmill for his scooter to give him a leg up on Lizzie and he was most decidedly not amused. I should say that at first he did smile, but then he remembered how upset he was by the whole thing and he yelled again. And what did he yell? "Lizzie can't race with us any more!"

Maybe Eva isn't the only one who can see Lizzie :)

blog on sleeping

Here is an interesting blog with a post on bimodal sleeping. This is a neat concept to me, as someone who has been labeled a "light sleeper", a.k.a. someone who wakes up in the night if something is going on (e.g. earthquakes have woken me up, babies have woken me up, dogs tick tick ticking on the hard wood floors have woken me up, lights in the hallway have woken me up...).

Bimodal sleeping is thought to be the type of sleeping our ancestors engaged in, those who lived out on the savannah before electric lights kept us up to all hours of the night. It is characterized by two sleep sessions during the night separated by a light waking time of an hour or so between them.

"With artificial light, modern humans have essentially managed to extend their daytime activities late into the night, when all other sensible creatures are busy sleeping.

As a result, we have compressed our natural sleep into artificially short nighttimes, but not all people are so easily tamed by artificial light. Some people, who may just have very strong circadian rhythms, still have this primitive bimodal sleep that they confuse with a sleep disorder."

Saturday, September 1, 2007


Well, I have already posted about spiders once recently. But I do love them so. Spider season is a fun time and it is in full swing now with the spiders getting bigger and bigger. I counted at least 7 different spiders and 5 different species making webs in just one window of my home. I love spiders and we co-habitate well together. I have been running into more and more webs that are suspended further and further out from tree branches and rose bushes and plants and in the car window and suspended from the roof and seemingly in mid-air. The other day I walked into three giant spider webs complete with spiders. They don't want to be on my head any more than I want them there and it is a mad scramble for both of us. And these are big spiders too, the larger banded garden spiders and they are getting bigger by the day. Then, if that weren't enough for one day, I put on my jeans that I had drying out on the clothesline and there was a spider, complete with web, inside one of the legs. I guess this is why I haven't found very many ear wigs lately.

The kids and I have also been going again out at night with a flashlight to check out the spiders. This is a great time to see them. They are out in all their glory, often catching several insects. We keep track of the biggest spiders and check on them periodically. There are two right now in the front that are vying for largest-spider-in-the-yard-status, otherwise known as the big-ladies. I like to find their hiding places as well. Usually you can trace one of the web lines to a leaf or flower or some small hiding place and if the spider is not in the center of her web, she can be found hiding behind the leaf, etc.

For those who haven't seen the link about the giant spider web in Texas... What fun to think of those spiders weaving those webs together.

And here is an interesting biology blog...