Tuesday, March 30, 2010

throwing rocks.

It may look like we just went on a walk and threw rocks into a pond, but I know better. The boys are chatty, and love to ask questions even when fully occupied digging and throwing.

What feeds this pond?

What causes the current in this small of a pond?

How can you measure how fast the current is going?

Do those tiny fish have a hard time swimming against the current?

What kind of fish live in here?

Why did they used to dye the water blue? Does it make the fish more blue?

Can people eat the fish if there is blue in the water?

Was this island made by people?

How much dirt did it take to make an island this tall?

If it is man made, I wonder where all these rocks started from, exactly.

I wonder how many rocks are on this little island.

What makes the bigger rocks make a lower sound, and smaller rocks make a higher sound when you throw them into the water?

What is the size and shape that would make the best skipping rock?

If two rocks are the same shape but one is heavy and the other is light, will they both skip the same?

How high can you throw a rock?

What is our altitude here?

Do maps show altitude?

Do man-made islands show up on GPS maps?

Can satellites see trees?

How far do the trees roots go?

If we can see these roots, does that mean they go out into the water?

Are these holes by the roots from rocks or animals?

If you dug a hole close to the pond, would water seep into it from underground? How deep would you have to dig?

I love those quiet ;) walks with my boys, hanging out, soaking up some sun, exploring, chatting, thinking, being.

Monday, March 29, 2010

a first.

Last weekend A competed in his very first karate tournament. He has had the opportunity to enter before, but we knew he would let us know if/when he was ready to do more than just classes. This time when the tournament flyer was passed out, he told us he wanted to go and compete!

A is an intense sensitive kid. Huge crowds, bright lights, lots of noise ... all can be tough for him, so we knew to keep it steady and follow his lead to help him manage his first experience in a gym with over 1,000 people (it is the largest tournament in the state).

He practiced and practiced all week (he had his brother play judge) - from walking on the floor and approaching the judges, to his form, bow, and exit. He was ready, excited and determined!

We didn't go too early so we didn't have to sit for too long, but we went early enough to watch several of the black belts from his karate school compete in weapons. Sitting in the stands and cheering for people he knows was a great way to loosen up and get a feel for the place.

When it was his turn to do his form he was cool and totally focused. I was impressed that he was not flustered at all with all that was going on around him. He was awesome! :)

I love watching my boys as they make decisions, try new things, grow and expand their world, and pursue their interests. I'm so proud of him. He's quite an amazing kid!

Friday, March 26, 2010

New Beginnings...

Enjoy Life Unschooling is hosting it's first blog carnival, with the topic of New Beginnings. Two of the questions she asked were what are some favorite spring activities, and how do you celebrate new beginnings in your life?

We tend to flow with the seasons - and spring is a time of new beginnings. For us, spring is about finishing up all of our winter projects, spring cleaning, and preparing for the next season. Right now that means planting seeds, cleaning garden beds, prepping the soil, re-connecting our rain barrel, and sketching all the plans for our garden ideas.

It also means thinking of what we want to do next, as each new season means new opportunities, ideas, and activities. One way we kick off each season and put to rest the old is by creating a dream drawing. We sit down together and brainstorm all of the things we want to do, places we want to go, and ideas we want to explore for the next few months. Fresh ideas, goals, dreams, interests...we always feel refreshed and jazzed again looking forward this way.

One way we like to do this is to cover the dining room table with a big piece of paper. We pull out markers, pencils, crayons. We start to draw images, write ideas, and color it all in as we go. What do we want to do? Where do we want to go? What have we been wanting to learn more about? Each of us (kids and parents) expresses what we are interested in and dreaming of doing, and we think of new ideas as we read and look at each others drawings. At the end, we have a big list of all the things we want to do as a family, plus we have it all written down so we don't forget!

Our lists include all kinds of things. Seasonal/holiday activities and family traditions. Themes and topics we want to learn more about. Places we want to visit. Activities we want to do. Museums we want to visit. Projects we want to work on together. Community service we want to volunteer for. From robotics events to a family ceramics class to animal tracking - we put it all out there, and talk about what we dream of doing, learning, seeing, exploring. And yes, there are new ideas every season!

From our list, I can go look up things online and find out about dates for events and activities in advance. I can also get books and supplies and research where we can go that has the kinds of things we are looking for. This doesn't mean our next season is set in stone (we do pursue ideas & interests as we go, of course), and it doesn't mean we always do every single thing, but it does mean we are all excited by our ideas, we have each had a voice in the family plans for the next few months, we have some activities planned to look forward to, and we have talked about it and know what everyone is interested in! All good!

So for now, new beginnings for us means laying the winter to rest and working this spring so we are ready for the nice weather when it arrives. We have some great ideas for what we want to do this spring and summer - I can't wait! Happy Spring!

spring farm visit.

The other day we stopped by a friends farm to pick up some eggs and drop off some kefir grains. When we arrived, she asked the boys if they wanted to see something. Who could refuse?

We walked to a tree and saw that it was tapped, with a bucket full of sap! It was syruping time! The boys excitedly ran around looking at the few trees that had buckets and checking out the equipment as she told them about her setup, and then we walked to her campfire with a huge cauldron of bubbling sap on top.

The boys got to help her as she filtered the buckets from the trees and then helped haul the wagon with the fresh sap to the fire - watching as she added more sap to the pot. It was nice to just stand in the warm sun, listening to the bubbling liquid and crackling fire. Of course once the boys were outside on a farm, which is just about their most favorite thing on the planet, they had to do some animal visiting.

We visited some pregnant goats, chatted with sheep, pet the dog & cats, watched some beautiful turkeys puff and spin, and of course, saw the chickens. A loves chickens. I mean LOVES them. He spends most of his time at any farm with a chicken tucked under an arm (or each arm), as he happily walks around stroking it and chatting away. He.loves.chickens.

G got a little chicken snuggle in too, before we left, while A climbed a cliff and watched some hens take a dust bath. After a while we were off. Happy dirty boys full of sunshine, fresh air, and a little bit of chicken.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

photos of the day:: my superheroes

Mister Trouble never hangs around
When he hears this Mighty sound.

"Here we come to save the day"

That means that Mighty Brothers are on their way.

It doesn't get any better than this.

Monday, March 22, 2010

springing back.

The boys have been feeling better slowly but surely, and even though they have still been a bit blech, they haven't wanted to miss any more of this nice sunny weather! For the past few days they have been venturing back outside, soaking up the sun, and staying out as long as they can.

They have been practicing their casting, riding their bikes,

swinging and sliding, peeking in ponds for signs of life,

going on walks at local parks, playing hopscotch, and enjoying the lighter evenings.

Even though it snowed several inches over the weekend, most of it melted pretty quickly, and it does feel like spring!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

sunny days.

While it is unusually warm this week - in the 60's and sunny (in March! in Wisconsin!) - we have spent much of our time inside...with a sick boy who can barely move off of the couch. Poor guy. Today the boys did come out onto the deck with me for a bit to gaze in wonder at how the snow is all gone. G also had to do some dance and yoga moves, even though he is starting to feel pretty yuck himself.

They were thrilled to see all of the little plants poking their heads up - tulips, lemon balm, parsley, spinach, chives (boy are those plants in for a shock, it is supposed to snow this weekend!).

I have even gotten some yard cleanup and bed raking done. Sweet! It feels so nice to be able to sit outside in a chair, without a coat, and just soak up the sun and watch the birds.


Saturday, March 13, 2010

good companions.

calendula & pentunia

It is the time of year for seed catalog browsing and ordering. I had my orders in a few weeks earlier this year (finally!) to get rolling on that seed starting so that we could have an early spring garden.

But, with all the veggie eye candy in those catalogs don't forget to look at the flowers and herbs. So many plants make great companions. They attract good bugs, repel bad bugs, trick and trap pesky bugs from your food, smell nice, make your beds look more attractive, and just generally make your garden a wonderland and not just a block of rows. Of course some flowers are edible too - another good incentive to plant them in every nook and cranny you can find. And companion planting is also about garden health - certain plants just do better next to each other, one providing a little boost of something the other needs to really flourish.

calendula & borage

I'm by no means an expert, but I do grow my garden organically and rely on companion planting for all the above reasons. I also have very limited space and a garden that is fully visible from the street. My garden has to be integrated into my landscaping seamlessly while still optimizing what little space and sun I have! I plant fruit, vegetables, flowers, bushes, and herbs all together. No rows or square plots here! Looks are important when I have neighbors only feet away. I will admit that my garden is a wild luscious jungle by August but it is beautiful and productive...and we don't use any chemicals. Only water, kelp, eggshells, mulch, coffee grounds, water from our rain barrel (as long as we can), and whatever other natural goodies we can find to help it along or address specific issues.

mint flowering & wasp

I have many favorite flowers and herbs for companion planting. Here are just a few!

Attracts good bugs. What are good bugs? Bees, hover flies, wasps, ladybugs, butterflies...I know, you think you don't want bees or wasps! I have kids! I have found that if I have a yard full of good plants & a water source (bird bath) that we do not get stung (we also don't wear bright colored clothes in the garden anymore, just earth tones). Years ago we would get stung constantly. Now we don't. Really. I am happy to have them come - they pollinate the fruit and vegetables and many eat the bad bugs. We need them and we enjoy watching them work busily on those sunny summer mornings.

A few good ones (there are more, these are easy to find and pretty) :: angelica, anise, borage, caraway, german chamomile, dill, chervil, fennel, lovage, nasturtiums, parsley, tansy, bee balm, goldenrod, purple coneflower, yarrow, calendula, cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers, asyssum


Repels bad bugs. To repel, the plants generally have a scent that hides the scent of the vegetables the 'bad' bugs want to ravage. A few that I like :: basil, borage, calendula, chives, garlic, hyssop, marigold, mint, nasturtium, onions, parsley, radishes, sage, savory, tansy, thyme

I like choosing plants that multi-task. :) Herbs which are great to eat but also a good companion plant. Flowers that are good at repelling bad bugs but are also tasty on a salad. And lots of color so that everything looks lovely all summer long.

If so many options seem overwhelming, I have a few favorites.

marigolds next to soap wort

Marigolds seem to really work on keeping the rabbits out, and we seem to have less insect damage. I line all of my beds, throughout the entire yard, with marigolds spaced on the edge. They are easy to find in any nursery too, and very affordable.


Nasturtiums are the same - they look so nice, the bees love them, and they grow so easily from seed. There are many colors to choose from - and they spread great. The flowers also add a nice peppery flavor to salads.


Sunflowers are always a great addition - bees love them, and they are pretty for so long. There are so many varieties of sunflowers - from short to massive, from traditional yellow to streaked red.

So when planning your garden don't forget to scatter some of these great plants throughout your veggies to keep your garden healthier and more beautiful!

If you want to read more about companion planting or get into the details of specific companion combinations, a few good books with more detailed and extensive information::

Great Garden Companions: A Companion-Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden, by Sally Jean Cunningham

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening, by Louise Riotte

Monday, March 08, 2010

happy, happy birthday!

A is seven! To celebrate his special day, he and his brother wanted to visit a water park. While we just spent just one night at the resort they picked, we packed a LOT into the time we had.

The boys went down water slides (a LOT of water slides!), surfed in wave pools, sat in a special kids 'warm tub'.

In the arcade they played games, rode speed bikes, and played a lot black light air hockey. They stayed up late in our room watching movies, eating birthday treats, and putting together birthday gifts.

They waved magic wands, completed a magical Quest, and slid down 2-4 story high slides. They played and ran and swam. Happy and exhausted boys.

A had a fantastic time and a great birthday. We were so happy to spend it with him, having fun together as a family.

Happy Birthday sweet boy!

Monday, March 01, 2010

losin' it.

It is amazing that while years can change an appearance so little, simply losing a top tooth can change an appearance drastically! My little guy is going to be 7 (!!!!) in about a week, and with the loss of his first top tooth over the weekend he just seems so, well, big.

He has been changing a lot this winter. He is deep into his make believe stories and scenes, and is excited by tales of magic, wizards, knights and mythical creatures (they used to just scare him). His karate is moving along and he is now in a class with mostly bigger kids, which has charged his focus. He is reading super fast, drawing comics, and loves games of logic and strategy. He is building and programming his Mindstorms, amazing us all with how quickly he picks it all up. He has so many fun interests and we all love exploring them with him.

He is such a funny, warm, quirky, interesting kid - and while I can't believe that almost 7 years have now passed, I'm excited to see what the future brings. He is quite a force!