Pumpkin Patch

This trip marks the beginning of the season for us. The pumpkins are out, the leaves are changing, the air is colder....
Yesterday was our annual pumpkin patch field trip, one the boys look foward to as soon as the signs get put up down the road. A little late this year, but at least our pumpkins won't be lopsided and rotten come Halloween this Friday.

The pumpkins were picked. And dropped off in the yard. I had no inclination to carve yesterday, something about gusty and 40 degrees that doesn't pair well with gooey pumpkin pulp. No matter how hard this one begged:

We'll carve them this afternoon.

Here's the last picture taken of the 5 mom and Amy left this morning. It was a short visit and Rylan cried on the way home from the airport. He has a hard time saying good-bye. I wish we were closer than 700 miles apart.
And on a side note: to anyone who may happen to subscribe...I am planning on transferring some more old posts from my homeschoolblogger you may just want to skip over them....


We're going downtown....

We spent the [very cold] afternoon in Knoxville, down by the World's Fair Park. Amy's science teacher told her to try and see the Sunsphere while she was here we paired that trip with a fun day at Fort Kid. Fort Kid is big wooden playground dowtown, it's been around for awhile- I remember when I was in the 4th grade they had us kids draw designs in school to help in the planning, so they could create something kids would really enjoy. It was cold and windy and not at all sunny, but they had a blast running around....and I ran around with my camera and shadowing Lakin to keep myself warm.

After falling a few times, Lakin spent most of his time in the rocks and chasing chickadees all over the place.

Last time we were here, Cohen could hardly hold his own....this time I don't think I saw him once he was up there...




Finally my mom and I had enough and we trekked off for the Sunsphere. We've only ever been up in it once before, but they had just as much fun....being 200+ ft up in the air makes everything more exciting.

The Sunsphere: This unusual object was built for the 1982 World's Fair. It is a 266 foot tall steel tower. At the top is a five-story globe made up of bronze-coated reflective glass. It is the most recognizable landmark in Knoxville and quickly became the city's unofficial symbol, though it does adorn many official documents. During the fair, there was a restaurant in the globe. Now there's only a museum, but you can still go to the top and take in the view.


The Past 70 Days....

We have completed 70 days of our current school year. I am at a evaluation point in our year where I want to get rid of somethings that aren't working and add or keep other things that are going well. Since we are heading into the holiday season we have a shorter stretches between our breaks....3 weeks on, 1 week off from now until after Christmas before we go back to 4 on, 1 off for the rest of the year.

Language arts:

  • The Explode the Code books are not working. Neither boys are really into them, and neither am I.
  • The Little Critter based, Spectrum Phonics work book seems to be working for Cale for intermittent use
  • Cale is beginning to work through the phonograms; and so far our system of one per day, using our magnetic letters to form numerous words and then read through that particular section in our Words! Lapbook for review seems to be working great.
  • I plan on using the remaining Words are Categorical books as we work through the parts of speech and creative writing
  • Rylan needs practice in reading aloud. And I am still in search of a chapter books he will be more willing to read on his own. He's probaby right at about a 3 RL but needs to improve on his decoding and speed (and attitude!)


  • While I like the mathematics program we have been using for Rylan, I think I am going to stop the workbooks for the next few weeks. He would be starting the multiplication book, but I think we will work through the initial facts using the smaller sheets and beads and other manipulatives for a few weeks, while also reviewing some of the stuff he's learned in the past.
  • Same as above for Cale. We will work through his basic addition without a workbook and then I will reevaluate and see if I want to purchase a math curriculum for him then.
  • I want to spend more time on money and time for both boys. Cale for adding coins, Rylan for making change.
  • I also want to add more living math. I have come across a lot of neat ideas in the past few weeks but haven't had the extra time read through or try them out.


  • MORE!! We have been seriously lacking in these subjects lately and I am really missing our projects and unit studies. And if I could get myself focused I would really like to pull a huge unit together....we all really enjoyed our study on the human body last year and I would like to do something like that again. I am thinking airplanes/air ships- based on the books they have been choosing at the library: Airplane Alphabet Book, The Glorious Flight, and The Hindenburg


  • I would like to do another artist study. My plan was to do one a month but that hasn't happened. I have had the pictures ready to do one on Matisse for a month or more but haven't gotten to putting the rest together.

Now I just have to get all that out of my head and into action....


Flashback Friday: A Family Visit

My mom and sister are flying in tomorrow to visit for a few days. The boys love my mom and Amy's visits and have been counting down for the past few weeks. So here is a trip down memory lane....with my boys and thier Aunt Amy...

Amy (3) and Cale (6 months) -2004

Amy (4) and Cohen (1 month) -2005

Rylan (5), Amy (5), Cale (3) at a wildlife safari in Arkansas (2006)

Playing the very safe game of getting sprayed with a hose while jumping on the trampoline (2006)

Feeding chickens in OK (2007)

Amy (6), Rylan (6), Cale (4) and Cohen (2) having dinner and a movie....(2007)

I have a lot more pictures of them together- but that would include scanning. I am really suprised I have none of her holding Lakin as a baby- esp. since they visited last summer when he was only a few months old....

For more flashback Fridays visit Kellieann at Hilltop Academy


Wonderful Things

Here are a few items from our school week that we have been enjoying:

I love this series of books. They are by Brian P. Cleary, the series is Words Are Categorical. My boys have loved reading through them this week. We have started each day with a different one so far....we will read the book, brainstorm huge list of words and then their writing assignments are based on them. Monday we just wrote nouns, Tuesday simple sentences with a noun and verb. Today adjective and noun pairs. Tomorrow we will put them together into sentences a little more complex. I plan on getting a couple more from the library so we can continue. Plus...Cale loves making up the silliest sentences he can think of and Rylan, of course, is much more realistic.

Color. I love color. We've been reading the Magic School Bus Makes a Rainbow, Little Blue and Little Yellow (for Lakin and Cohen) and a book called A Color Sampler which has a lot of visuals and designs based on the color wheel. So we have been exploring with our oil pastels- which is one of my favorite mediums.

Learning new things. Rylan has been wanting to really learn multiplication. We took a break between where we stopped in his subtraction book to learn a little more about place value. I figured since he could subtract (and add ) 1,298,342,234 and 3,456,646,565 he should be able to read past the 1000s place. So now that he can read up in the trillions we started an intro to multiplication. I used the bead stairs I made a few months back and the multiplication exercises I printed online. (this site has them for add, sub, mult and div). We were going to do zero today, but he was so excited about how easy that rule was he wanted to do x1 too. And since that was so easy he wanted to do x2. He figured out the patten immediately and I love seeing him so excited. Cale is using the addition excercises this week to start on the road to memorizing his addition facts.

And of course we love and enjoy the friendly dragon that has been dancing around the house all week...


Sandwich Bread

For the past few months I have been making all of our bread products at home....a little of wanting less preservative filled foods, more fresh and to save a little money. Sandwiches have been an issue- I have been trying different recipes from my standard egg bread, to plain old white to wheat. It's not that I want the same flavorless sqaushy texture of storebought....but something soft, easy to slice relatively thin, and taste right with peanut butter! And after all the different recipes....I belive I have found what I my old standard honey oat bread that I have been making for years. All it took was a couple changes and it works great. I'm partial to bread and butter and this is my all time favorite for fresh eating with dinner as well.

Honey Oatmeal Bread

2 cups boiling water
1 cup oats
1/2 cup honey
2 T butter
2 tsp salt
2 eggs
1 pkg (or 2 1/4 tsp) yeast
1/2 cup warm water
4-6 cups flour (white, wheat or a mix of both)
1 heaping T vital wheat gluten

Mix boiling water, oats, honey, salt and butter and let sit for 1 hour. Stir in eggs. Soften the yeast in the warm water for a few minutes then add to oat mixture. Add 2 cups of flour and the wheat gluten and stir (or use the dough hook on a mixer). Add the remaining flour 1 cup at a time. I usually use about 5 cups- more makes for a drier loaf. Knead for a few minutes. Cover and rise for 1 hour. Form into 2 loaves and place in greased loaf pans. Cover and rise for another 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375o. Bake for 30-35 minutes.


For the first time.... more than 7 years I live in a crib-less house. The crib has been a permanent fixture in our house. Sometimes in contained baby stuff instead of sleeping babies, but only for the few months leading up to it's next inhabitants arrival. Yesterday I took it apart....Lakin has resided in the bunk house for the past few days...

Yeah...more growing up going on around here....but apart from the baby not being a baby anymore....I now have a spare room.

A room for things like this:

or this:

and most importantly this:

What is that you ask?? It's half a [ceral] box house. Once we get more hot glue sticks it will be more of a house. And once I eat even more Special K than I have already it will be a whole house. The ideas Cale gets from reading Family Fun...


Proud Boy, Proud Mom

A few weeks ago Rylan started writing numbers. Not too suprising. In kindergarten he would write numbers on a whiteboard for hours (yes that is an exaggeration). He got to 230 before he ran out of room on the paper. Somewhere during this time I told him if he got to 1000 I'd give him a prize. (From our prize box that has a bunch of random items in it) Cale of course wanted to know what he could do to get a prize. I told him he could write to 100.

Today he (Cale) finished. It took him 3 days once he decided to actually take on the challenge. Once again my camera batteries are acting up, so no smiling face holding his paper- but he was oh so proud of it. And I am so proud of how focused he was. And how well he knew the numbers.
Backwards numbers and all.
Now if I can only get him to stop skipping 13 and 16 when he counts objects?
His prize: a little plastic man with a plastic parachute attached. He played with it for an hour- throwing it as high as he could. Then the parachute broke....:)


I do believe....

Remember this little chick? "She" and her sister were bought for Rylan as his replacement chicks when Shadow died.
A month or so ago we noticed she was getting awfully red in the face. We didn't think too much of it since our other chickens got red at various times, some earlier than others. But then we brought them inside one night when it was pouring down rain. We noticed the tail feathers were getting a little curled at the ends. Yeah.....I do believe he's a rooster.

Rylan is still holding on to a little bit of hope. He wants to wait until he fully crows before we find him a new home. He's made one attempt so far I think. I feel bad for his flock-mate though. She will be lost without him. We finally put them in with the big chickens last week and they are always together away from everyone else. Paul and Rylan are working on changing my mind. "He's a very tame rooster" they say. "She will be too lonely!!" they say. I say I don't want to risk them being attacked. I say I am not too keen on eating fertilized eggs. Don't know why- I just don't like it....along the same lines as me not eating meat in general. They are 13 weeks old. A few more and we will be finding him a new home....


Gulf Fritillary Emergence

A few weeks ago we caught 3 Gulf Fritillary caterpillars off of our passion flower plants. Within a few days they were in their chysillis. The last one we were able to actually witness the process. I guess I thought it was more gradual, but after hanging upside down overnight and changing colors a bit, he still looked very much like an upside down caterpillar. But during lunch we saw this whitish color sort of moving up this body and his spines going along with it until it reached the top and the spines fell off. Very different from the cabbage worms.
But on Saturday morning 2 of the chysillises were black and hanging straight down. We missed the first one, saw him just after emerging, still wrinkled.
Just before lunch I walked past and saw the head of the second one wiggling. So they boys came running and we finally got to watch the entire emergence. They were so excited. And if my blind videography skills were any good I would have got it on video. They were amazed how it could fit in such a small space and how quickly it's wings stretched out.
The second one was a flier from the start. We had trouble keeping him on our hands to get to the door. Not that the boys were in any hurry to let them go. But Cohen had the job of taking him out. He didn't stay on his finger very long.
Soon he fluttered up to his ear.
And crawled all the way up to his head. (Don't they have beautiful coloring!)
And finally onto his face.

This morning the third was black and straight. We missed it coming out too. But did get a lot more pictures before sending him out to the cosmos- which seem to be their favorites.

Somehow I think that next spring/summer we will be bringing in every single caterpillar we find.


Think! Challenge- Week 7

This week's challenge is:
Use the materials below to build a car. No scissors! Then, see if you can make it roll down a ramp. If it rolls, measure how far it goes and send your pics and results!
4 sheets of paper
2 pencils
2 markers
scotch tape
Since we had about 30 minutes before Cale went to bed and I just read the newest challenge, i handed over the items and gave them the directions.
Cale got right to work. He needed a lot of reminding that his car should roll....he wanted to tape down everything. The only make-shift ramp we had at the moment was a 2ft long cardboard box. So we set it at a slight incline and his car made it all the way down and the "wheels" fell off upon reaching the bottom. He used 2 pencils, 2 markers with the lids off, 3 sheets of paper and some tape.

After a 10 minute rant about the task being impossible. How he needed something that could actually roll and there was NO WAY EVER he could possibly build something with just these items. He finally closed his mouth and started to work- using Cale's progress as a jumping off point. Within about 5 min he was done. His car also made it down our 2 ft ramp. He used 1 piece of paper, 2 pencils and the lids of his markers- he had chosen double sided markers- and some tape.

For more challenges visit Think!

Growing Up....

Last night I called Rylan inside from playing. He and the neighbor boy came to the door...with whispers of "ask her...".

"Can I spend the night at Austin's house?"

Is it bad that I felt sad? I have been waiting for a day like this. For my oldest to have a friend he likes enough to go to his house and knock on the door without fear. But I then....Rylan and I spend our nights reading after the younger ones go to bed. He is excited everynight to read and see what Harry Potter will do next. But staying at a friend's is so much more exciting than reading with your mom.

Is it bad that I was secretly happy when I sent Austin home to ask his dad first and he said no? And was happy to read that Harry survived his first task in the Triwizard Tournament.


National Depression and Mental Health Month

October is Depression and Mental Health Awareness Month. And tomorrow October 10, 2008 is National Depression Screening Day. So in honor of this day I am going to share my experiences with this disease.

Depression is something that has been surrounding me for most of my life. When I was younger it didn't have a name. But looking back I can name it now. One of the most outstanding memories for me was when I was 7 yrs old. I remember sitting with my legs dangling out my 2nd story window. I remember thinking that my family would be better off without me around.

My preteen and teenage life was a series of " I don't knows" and "I don't cares" to questions. It was a feeling of not belonging. It was thrusting myself into school. Being too hard on myself for anything less than 100%. It was putting a smile on my face and pretending everything was wonderful. And it worked. I think I hid my feelings well for the most part. I appeared happy. Sometimes I could talk myself into actually being happy, after all I had no real reason to be unhappy.
Sometime after I graduated highschool things started to go downhill. Anxiety and panic attacks crept in. I couldn't hide it anymore. Paul was left with a shell of a girl who never smiled and sat there with a bottle of pills in her hand. It took some time to find a medicine that didn't cause my problems to get worse. But I couldn't shake the guilt for being on meds for something like this. I heard a lot of "why can't you just be happy?" -there is a lot of disbelief that this is a real condition.

-but she just couldn't stand it when I 'd explain that nothing at all was wrong, that it was just a matter of everything. ~ Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel

So I survived. I made it through my first year of college with a full course load and a 4.0 GPA. I signed up for a full course load summer semester too. I was back to putting on a happy face and burying myself in work. If I didn't stop, the negative feelings wouldn't creep back into my mind. 2nd year of college began and I was failing fast. And everything came to a complete hault one night, in December of 1999. I can't remember now what happened. We were getting ready for bed. I was upset about something. I went into the bathroom and saw the razor. There wasn't any hesitation when I started cutting. Superficial. It wasn't about suicide. It was about giving real pain and real scars to the real pain I was feeling that no one could see and some wouldn't awknowledge. Within 2 days I was completely addicted. All I could think about was cutting. I couldn't concentrate at work. I was hospitalized for a few days. Meds were changed. I was released. Nothing much had changed other than 5 days without a razor was enough to break my cycle. I dropped all my classes and withdrew from the university.

The plain fact of it was that I was miserable- though my misery wasn't so much sadness as it was a shrieking unease, a gnawing despair, which I had been trying that morning to cut out of myself. ~ The Skin Game, by Caroline Kettlewell

So I gradually recovered. I cut a few more times but it never got as bad as it had been. Meds helped, I found a psychologist that I could sort of talk to. And I was off meds by the time we concieved our first child. With Rylan I had no apparent problems, with Cale I had PPD. With Cohen I got PPD even worse- I was on meds before he was born. I fought meds each time. I hated the fact that I needed to be medicated to be a good mom. With Lakin I was back on meds by the time I reached the end of my 1st trimester. But I sucessfully weaned off of them before he was born and haven't been back since.
I still struggle. I still put on a happy face. I still fight the urge to cut. I will the rest of my life. Depression is real. You can't just snap out of it. You can't just choose to be happy. It's a powerful disease that is unspoken and dismissed a lot of the time.

So to anyone out there that is living with depression or hiding depression. Get help. Find a medication, a homeopatic remedy that works for you, a person you can talk to. Don't hide it. Don't feel guilty that you have no real reason to be unhappy. And if you are living with someone who has, or you think may be suffering with depression. Listen to them and don't try to fix them. And the 2 books I quoted above Prozac Nation and The Skin Game helped me immensly. Reading the words of someone who has felt what I made it real.

There are several types of depression -- major depression, dysthymia, bipolar depression, and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Clinical depression or major depression is a serious and common disorder of mood that is pervasive, intense and attacks the mind and body at the same time. Current theories indicate that clinical depression may be associated with an imbalance of chemicals in the brain that carry communications between nerve cells that control mood and other bodily systems. Other factors may also come into play, such as negative life experiences including stress or loss, medication, other medical illnesses, and certain personality traits and genetic factors.
Symptoms of depression:
Persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in ordinary activities
Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue
Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
Restlessness or irritability
Inability to sleep or oversleeping
Changes in appetite or weight
Unexplained aches and pains
Thoughts of death or suicide

History with Billy Joel

My 2 oldest have a new favorite song. After constantly being asked to play the song off my playlist here I dug out my old Storm Front CD and handed it over. They listen to it every night now.

Which song? We Didn't Start the Fire. So I figure while they are constantly listening to it, why not explain some of the references made in the song? They already know a few. They know Buddy Holly and how he died. They know Elivs and the Beatles. I explained what "JFK blown away" refers to.

So yesterday at the library I picked up a couple books on 2 figrues named in the first stanza of the song. Harry Truman and Joe DiMaggio. Today we started reading Harry S Truman Missouri Farm Boy by Wilma J Hudson. They really enjoyed the chapters we read (we read 3). It starts off in his childhood- around age 4 and goes up to his death in 1972. While I was reading they colored the Harry Truman picture from this coloring book.

Sometime in the next week we'll get to joe DiMaggio too. I'll admit my boys know very little about the game of baseball. 3 strikes, running bases, and hitting might be about it. So we will probably play some and talk about the game in general in addition to talking about Joltin' Joe.


Homeschool Memoirs: Study Spot

This week's Homeschool Memoirs asks for your favorite study spot.
When we learned we were expecting Lakin we made the decision to add a room on to our home. The boys' toys and our school supplies were taking over the house and adding another body would put us in cramped quarters and make me a little more stressed in general. So we knocked out a set of double windows in our living room, put in French doors and built a 16' x 16 ft room. It is our playroom and our classroom. It is where the majority of our studying takes place.
My biggest purchase for this room was our table. I am not a fan of desks. And I wanted a table that we could all fit at, and would grow as they grow. The legs on our table will adjust to be a foot or more higher than it is now. So all I will need is bigger chairs when they don't fit the little ones anymore. The table is where almost all of our book work, experiments and art projects take place.
Then we have our book corner. This picture was taken a few months ago. It looks a little different now, more boxed in and another pillow added.
They boys do their read aloud here. And Cohen and Lakin like to lounge around looking at books here too. And as you can see there is almost always one of our cats there as well.
But not all the studying takes place in those 2 places. A lot of times they spread out to places like the door:

Or the floor:

But almost always we are in the school room. I am not sure we ever use our dining room table for school. Other than for cooking or the occasional math assignment that isn't getting done in a room full of other people. We do spread out though: read on the living room floor or couches, cooking in the kitchen, and outside on the decks or in the yard. But for the most part our schoolroom is very well used.


Dollywood Day

Every year Paul's work hosts a Family Appreciation Day at Dollywood. We only go on that one day, so the boys look foward to it ALL year. The first Sunday in October kicks off their favorite time of year. This year we decided to go up and spend the night in Townsend to shave 30 min off the drive time to the park. The boys and I went up early and ate dinner and did some fishing. We've been using live bait the past few trips and haven't had much luck around here, but they had a lot of luck up at the campgrounds lake. I left my camera at the camper before we walked of course they had a good catch. Rylan caught 6, Cohen caught 4, and Cale caught 1. That boy is just clueless when it comes to fishing :) He's my one with his head in the clouds. He got a good bite...the bobber went under and he started to reel it in. A few seconds later it popped back up out of the water and he stopped reeling. I was across the lake at the playground with Lakin and Cohen at the time. He yelled and said it let go. I kept telling him to reel it in....he was completely oblivious to the fact that his bobber was 'floating' rather fast, against the wind across the lake. Finally he started to reel, and the fish started to fight. He was so suprised there was a fish on the hook at all. (Of course that meant I had to struggle to get the hook out of the fish, since he nearly swallowed the whole thing). Rylan didn't want to stop until he hit 10, but it got dark so he couldn't make his goal. We are planning on going back up tomorrow afternoon.

On to Dollywood. We got to the park just after 10 am. We are at a frustrating point in heights. Rylan can almost ride everything alone, Cale can ride most things with someone. Cohen can ride some with someone and Lakin can ride the kiddie rides. At least I have 2 that still find joy going in circles....give them a steering wheel and they are happy...
And every so often a big brother would join then to tell them how to work things "the right way"
But over all Rylan and Cale have moved on to bigger and better things like this:

or this:

Cohen, who was a little nervous at first, opened up and rode the kid's roller coaster and even joined me and Cale on the River Rampage (and got the most soaked, but was laughing by the end).

By the time we left at 5:30, they were all soaked to the bone and extremely tired. I think they enjoyed this year more than ever before.