Thursday, December 9, 2010

Must edit!

Audrey likes riddles. She got a lot of reading practice telling us the jokes from Laffy Taffy wrappers from her Halloween loot. So, last night I printed out a list of Christmas riddles that came in an e-mail from a spelling program publisher. I left it in the printer, and when I came downstairs to check my e-mail this morning, I found that the riddles had been marked up by our resident author/editor-to-be, Mary. She bracketed one of the riddles with the comment "takes longer to get" and reworded another riddle so the punchline wasn't in the question.

Original version:
Q. What do you call an Eskimo cow?
A. An Eskimoo.

Mary's version:
Q. What do you call an Alaskan cow?
A. An Eskimoo.

I just thought it was very funny that Mary, seeing a page of riddles, would assume they were there for her to comment on and improve. She's also been having lots of fun with Google Translator lately, translating Girl Scout songs into Latin. And of course, editing the result if she disagrees with Google's choice of phrasing.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Braces off!

Mary has something extra to be thankful for this Thanksgiving: no more braces! She celebrated by eating Laffy Taffy, and biting into a whole (not sliced) apple. How was the apple? "Satisfying."

Here's where we started, over a year ago:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Zome bubble fun

Every time Mary finishes a unit in math, she gets a change of pace. Today it was making bubbles with Zome tools.

Mary did most of the building, and Audrey did most of the dipping.

The spiral was hard to figure out from the illustration in the book. I helped out with that one.

Here it is, the amazing bubble square.


All dressed up for the neighborhood party:

Audrey was the first one to bob for apples.

Stephen came over to go trick-or-treating on the hayride around our neighborhood.

Lucy decided to try her hand, I mean her teeth, at carving a pumpkin.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Owl Pellets

Mary has finished reading the entire Harry Potter series, and has started watching the movies. She wanted to do some Harry Potter related lessons, so today we dissected owl pellets, so we would find out what our Owl Post owls have been eating.

The pellet is a regurgitated wad of fur and bones:

Audrey didn't mind using her fingers to pull it apart, but Mary preferred to use the tools.

Audrey found lots of tiny bones, including top and bottom jaws with sharp little teeth.

Mary's owl ate something bigger. We found a section of tail in her pellet.

Pumpkin Carving

Monday, September 20, 2010


Highlights of our weekend:

We picked up our boat on Saturday. Driving it around the lake was great fun. We got it up to the top speed of about 50 mph before we read the manual and found out you're not supposed to go full throttle during the engine's breaking-in period. (You're also not supposed to tow anything during the car engine's breaking-in period. But that's what we got that car for!)

The faster you go, the smoother the ride. The kids enjoy bouncing over other boats' wakes, though. It's better than the roller coasters at Carowinds.

Backing the boat trailer down the boat ramp and getting the boat on and off the trailer is not as much fun. The first day was really stressful. The public boat ramp was very crowded. It seems everyone who wasn't at the UNC game was at the lake. We had to back the boat around another boat that was tied up at the dock. We kept waiting for them to move, but they had a dead battery and couldn't go anywhere. Luckily, we managed to get the boat in and out of the water without destroying anything.

We had planned to park the boat in our yard. We had measured out where we thought it would go, and the boat could fit. But there's not enough room to maneuver the boat plus trailer plus car. Our steep driveway is a problem, too. We parked the boat in the street in front of our house, wedged rocks under the trailer tires to keep it from rolling down the hill and crashing through the neighbor's house, slept badly, and took it to the marina the next day.

Since we had to drop it off at the marina, we figured we might as well get more practice. So on Sunday afternoon, after church and lunch, we tooled around the lake a bit, then found a secluded section of shore and tied up. The girls loved swimming around near the boat, and we all enjoyed having a picnic on the back of the boat.

The marina's boat ramp area is much better laid-out than the public ramp. Trailers are only entering the ramp area from one side, instead of all directions. Instead of docks where you have to avoid boats loading and unloading passengers, there's a little beach area next to the ramps for loading and unloading. I felt a lot safer with the girls waiting on the beach rather than on the dock, and they had more fun playing in the sand while they waited for us to get the boat down or up the ramp. After using the ramps at the marina, Scott and I relaxed and stopped feeling so panicky about owning a boat. We still need a lot of practice getting it in and out of the water, and backing it in and out of parking spaces, but now we feel like we can do it.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Bug Fest

We interrupt your regularly scheduled vacation photos to bring you this message about what we did today. We went to Bug Fest at the NC Museum of Natural History. Bug exhibits were set up throughout the museum and along several streets outside. We talked to bug experts about the exciting one-day life of adult mayflies, saw a beekeeper wearing a bee beard, cheered on our favorite contender in the cockroach race, learned about mummy berry blight, held bugs, ate a chocolate-covered bug larva (I was the only one brave enough to try it), and slurped snow cone syrup from a flower-shaped bowl.

The first thing we saw when we got there was a giant dead beetle lying on its back:

The most unusual thing we saw was a real, old-fashioned flea circus. Scott and I were standing in the back, so we didn't actually see the fleas, but the kids were sitting on the ground up front, and Audrey swears she got splashed when the high-diving flea landed in the tin can of water.

Scott was impressed by the real, mechanical street organ that the flea circus ringmaster played by turning a crank. Digital everything is taken for granted so much now, that anything non-digital seems amazing. Like watching a crowd scene in an old movie and realizing, "Wow, those are all real people!"

Here's Mary holding her new friend. She held praying mantises and stick bugs. Audrey petted hissing cockroaches and held a small stick bug.

The bug I ate didn't taste gross. It was chewy and chocolatey. The only gross part was picking little exoskeleton bits out of my teeth afterwards.

New York Trip, Day Two

The Prospect Park Zoo in Brooklyn was our destination for day two. Kerry sometimes runs in Prospect Park, but had never been to the zoo. There were two baby baboons we especially wanted to see. The babies were old enough to explore their surroundings, but they couldn't go far from mom, because before they made it out of her reach, she would grab their tail.

At an animal encounter, we met a 20 pound rabbit. These Belgian rabbits were bred for their size during the age of long sea voyages to the New World. They provided a lot of meat, and replaced themselves quickly, since they breed like, well, rabbits.

We also saw various monkeys, birds, snakes, fish, and a sea lion show. After seeing so many animals, we were ready to turn into animals ourselves!

We popped out of holes in a prairie dog town...

Narrowly avoided being eaten by a giant spider...

Hatched out of eggs...

And hopped across lily pads...

New York Trip, Day One

We went to visit my sister Kerry in New York during the last few days of August. We stayed with her in her Brooklyn apartment. It's about the size of a hotel room, spacious compared to her previous apartment in Manhattan. We arrived at about lunch time on a Saturday, so after we admired her place, we walked down the street to get some lunch from the food vendors at the flea market. Mary got some good shots of the fun we had exploring the rest of the vendors after lunch.

After we left the flea market, we took the subway into Manhattan and walked back over the Brooklyn Bridge. Nobody tried to sell it to us, but there were plenty of guys selling, "Ice cold water, only one dollar!" Kerry had brought some trail mix and small candies in case the girls needed extra energy to make it over the bridge.

That evening we ate at a Mediterranean restaurant in Brooklyn. A couple of neighborhood kids got into a fight outside the restaurant, and the owner went out to chase them away. Mary decided that New York would be a good place for a writer to live, because there's always something interesting going on.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First week of school

This actually happened a couple weeks ago: Mary and I decided to turn some of her commemorative T-shirts into drawstring bags and pillow covers.

This week, Audrey wanted to try the sewing machine. She did a good job of keeping the fabric straight while she tried the various stitches the machine can do.

We built some crazy creatures with our Zometool kit. I bought a pack of lesson plans that have topics in math, engineering, science, and art. Pretty soon we'll try the bubble lesson plans and make cube-shaped bubbles!

We started our school on Monday. Audrey is doing school for the first time. Here's what they're studying:

Audrey (5 1/2)
Math (Right Start B) - we're skimming over and through the first several lessons. This was a hand-me-down from Mary.
Spelling (All About Spelling Level 1) - again, skimming and skipping. She already knows consonants and short vowels well
Reading - whatever beginning books we have around the house or get from the library. Last night we sorted out the "too easy" books from the "just right" and "too hard" ones.
Writing (Handwriting Without Tears) - we reviewed the capital letters, learned the numbers she didn't already know (4 and 8 are tricky). Today she copied our address and phone number (always good to know).
Other subjects: read-alouds, geography (basic map skills, continents and bodies of water, land and water forms), science (looking at interesting things with jeweler's loups or under the microscope), art (haven't done any lessons yet, but I have Artistic Pursuits from when Mary was little, and she draws a lot on her own)

Mary (10 1/2)
Latin (Latin Alive Level One) - she likes this a lot so far. She enjoyed Greek, but there wasn't a Greek program at the appropriate level. We started with Elementary Greek, but the readings, which made her eyes light up, only came every five chapters, and the rest was grammar charts. All scales and no music. We tried Athenaze, but it's meant for high school or college students, so the readings got too long too fast, and it didn't have all the nice hand-holding things, like recordings to show you how to pronounce the vocabulary words, that you get with courses aimed at younger students. And we had to adapt the grammar exercises to fit an 8-year-old's attention span, so she wasn't getting as much grammar practice as she needed. Latin Alive is aimed at middle school students, so the pace of instruction is very comfortable for Mary. I bought the DVDs, so she watches the lesson and follows along in her book. The written exercises are pretty short so far. The readings start with a few short sentences, ramp up to a couple short paragraphs, and by the end of the book she'll be reading close to a page in Latin. Each unit has a reading with questions in the style of the AP or National Latin Exam, so if she wants to take either exam when she's older, she'll be familiar with the format.

Math - I didn't buy a math curriculum this year. We are going to use a combination of Life of Fred, lesson plans from Zometool, Mythmatical Battles and other card games, books like "The Number Devil", and Singapore 5B, which we have left from last year. I did buy an interesting book called "Is Democracy Fair? The Mathematics of Voting and Apportionment" which we probably won't use until the 2012 election, assuming I can still find it then. The math in it looks a little advanced for her right now.

Writing - A lot of her academic writing skills (note-taking, writing paragraphs and essays) will be done through her history studies. She writes lots of fiction on her own, and I'm sure she'll want to do NaNoWriMo again this year. For mechanics, I have a book on homophones and some diagramming resources that we can pull out from time to time. Before NaNoWriMo starts, I'll need to remind her how to punctuate dialog.

History - Mary wanted to find out all about everybody who came to America, and when they came and why. Right now she's reading a great book called "Before Columbus" by Charles Mann. I found a good Smithsonian website on Viking settlements
and we'll get into some European history as we learn about the early colonists and the big wave that came through Ellis Island. She and Scott are going on a field trip to an archaeological dig site of an inland Spanish settlement.

Science: she's taking a physics class for homeschooled middle-schoolers through the university's Carolina Center for Educational Excellence.

Other stuff: piano, maybe some logic, Movies as Literature, reading good books, Girl Scout badges and her Bronze Award, and whatever else comes up.

The last unicorn

Last Sunday, we visited an unusual place nearby. The Last Unicorn is a cross between an antique store, outdoor sculpture garden, and junkyard. The owner has been collecting interesting wrought iron and stained glass for decades, and displays them in his five-acre wooded yard. There are cottages with walls made entirely of stained glass windows, themed areas such as Narnia Forest.

Audrey enjoyed going over the troll bridge. The owner enjoys putting together creative displays of his antiques, and combining pieces in interesting ways. Scott was impressed that he managed to get "The Last Unicorn" as his URL. He figured the Rankin-Bass movie would have scored

Monday, August 16, 2010

Beach vacation

For Scott's "company picnic" this year, we spent a week at a beach house. It was our first trip to one of the Carolina beaches, and we had a great time playing in the sand:

And surf:

Mary mastered boogie boarding:

We saw baby sea turtles make their way into the surf. This nest had 125 eggs. We watched them crawl down the turtle racetrack and into the ocean.

For a change of pace, we caught the ferry to Bald Head Island one afternoon. Old Baldy is the oldest lighthouse in North Carolina, dating from 1817. Yes, the light is off-center.

It's a bit tight at the top:

But there's a pretty view of the tidal creeks: