Thursday, September 13, 2012

Taxonomy 101

The school year has now truly begun. I taught my first Science Time classes on Monday and Tuesday. The weekly routine is complete and I don't have any more excuses to prevent me from submerging into this whole writing business. So here I blog.

Science Time started when my friend Peggy called two years ago and asked if I wanted to teach an after school preschool science program. Sure. Why not? Sounds like a good endeavor for someone who wants to write chapter books for children.

Now Peggy and I are business partners going into our third year of Science Time. My study is littered with plastic specimen jars, bug cages, googley eyes and pipe cleaners.

Usually Boxer and her children star in the first class because even the most teary eyed hesitant young three year old will crack a smile and laugh when a box turtle poops in their hand. I know my audience.

I gave the turtles a break this year because Boxer is a.w.o.l. and I hate pausing class to wash my hands.

Peggy and I taught Taxonomy 101. Can three's and four's get this? Yes. Scientists study things by sorting. So do preschoolers. We sorted each other and sorted crayons before moving on to the good stuff: cold blooded vs. warm blooded animals.

The secret to a successful Science Time class is a bullet proof message. No matter what, some part of the message needs to make it home to the parents. Even if a turtle did poop on the teacher and that's all the kids want to talk about.

This week we made a set of animal cards cut from brown paper bags with pictures glued on them. Not only is this material recycled it is durable. We punched holes in the cards and reinforced them just in case.

While the kids colored, I handed out the cards one at a time. Repetition is the key. Each time we went over what makes that animal warm blooded or cold blooded.

When we were done going through all 10 cards, the children strung them on a pipe cleaner, making a nice neat package to carry home.

The rest of the class was filled with playing the game. I would ask them to go through their cards and find a two legged warm blooded animal or a cold blooded animal with no legs. They loved it.

Next week we are teaching All Turtles Great and Small whether Boxer comes back or not.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Rules for Falling Behind on a Blog

The first rule for falling behind on your blog is don't talk about falling behind on your blog.

No one wants to hear why you are behind.

The second rule for falling behind on your blog is don't talk about falling behind on the blog.  

Just admit that you stumbled into a worm hole and get over it.

The third rule for falling behind on your blog is post a picture of a cat and move on.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Boxing up the Herb Garden

The backyard is slowly undergoing a total redo.  The end results will be an undulating patio with a pergola, grilling station and scattered seating.  

This means I finally get to tear down the weird detached deck built by the previous owners.  It is more dock or dais then deck.  Standing on the vile thing, I feel like I'm on a watch tower looking into the neighbors yards.  

Before the despised deck can go, I need to make a temporary space for the grill and table.  We don't want to sacrifice nice evenings outside for a prolonged construction project. 

Step 1.  Move the herb garden.  This will let me use pavers to extend the small patio off the back door. 

But I don't know where the new herb garden will be.  So I am building moving crates out of garage scraps.  Lining the crates with newspaper let's me easily shuffle my homeless herbs around or give them up for adoption.  

If you need mint, lemon balm, oregano or catnip, let me know. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

The 2012 Mommy Manifesto

Three years ago I taped ten rules for summer vacation to the wall of our kitchen.  Those rules have grown with my kids and evolved through trial and error into The Mommy Manifesto.

Do we stick to the rules the whole summer?  No.  At first we are strict but by August the rules are pretty loose and open to interpretation.

Then why post rules at all?  Because think of how feral my kids would be if I started out lax.  It would be unbrushed hair, jammies all day, breakfast at 11 a.m. and surly moods all around before the end of June.

The Mommy Manifesto
Summer 2012

1.  Have breakfast with Dad on the weekdays.
This ensures that the little dears are up and fed by 7:15 a.m., letting us take advantage of cooler mornings for outside activities.  It also means that the little rotters will be tired by 7:15 p.m., allowing mom and dad some grown up time.

2.  4 p.m. to 5 p.m. is quiet hour.  
Interpretation:  No screen time.  No saying "mom" for one hour.  Other than that, you can do what you want, where ever you want to in the house as long as you don't touch or talk to your sibling.  This lets me caffeinate, cook dinner and head into the last part of the day with a bit of sanity.

3.  No Screen Time before noon.  
If the screen time starts first thing in the morning, the active part of our day bleeds away into one more show or one more level.  Better to leave that junk for the heat of the day and not waste valuable outside morning time.

4.  Screen Time must be earned.  
Screen Time is not an inalienable right and must be earned half an hour at a time.  See the Mommy Manifesto Screen Time Addendum 2012.

5.  Each kid cooks dinner once a week.  
Parental help is provided.  This rule flopped the first year because I tried to have the kids working together to produce a meal.  It has since evolved into a sibling separation tactic.

6.  Go hiking once a week.  
This should be fun this year because we can go hiking then pick up our CSA at Leroy Springs on Tuesdays.

7.  Have dinner at the pool once a week.
Always fun because Dad gets to join us at the pool for an evening swim.  Also, nothing makes a kid sleepier than a little chlorinated water in their eyes.

8.  Three movie nights a week.
I have to state this right up front, otherwise there is constant begging for a movie night and arguing over what to watch.  Movie night every night means that bedtimes runs away with us and my sanity erodes.

9.  Try a new recipe once a week. 
Debuting a new rule this year in honor of our first summer in a CSA.  I'm hoping this keeps the kids involved in meal time and gets them to try more foods.

10.  Have fun!  
An over scheduled summer is like an over scheduled school year:  No time for spontaneous play and plain old fun with friends.

The Mommy Manifesto Screen Time Addendum, 2012
Screen Time may be earned half an hour at a time by:
Reading a chapter book for half an hour.
Walking or running one mile. (Yes, the weekly hike earns screen time)
Writing a NEW story.  Beginning, middle and end required, thank you very much.
Cleaning your room.

All activities can be repeated in the same day (except cleaning your room) to earn even more screen time.  Please!  Read for an hour or more, hike/walk/run a mile or more, write lots of stories.  But a room may only be cleaned once in a day.

Screen time must be used the day it is earned.  There are no roll over screen time minutes.
Family movie night does need to be earned.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Yet Another Birth Announcement

Look who joined me for coffee this morning.

There was a little hatching mishap over the weekend.

In March I ordered three Chinese Praying Mantis Ootheca.  Unfortunately they arrived when I was ill.  Not only was their home made cage not ready but the poor dears spent a day or two cooking in the black metal mailbox in full sun.

I drilled a few holes in the plastic pretzel barrel and set the ootheca on the bottom, rather than hanging them up from a nest of sticks.  After more than a month, I gave up hope that they would hatch.

This is my very lame apology for the fact that the lid was not all the way on the pretzel jar when at least a thousand.

My son and his friend discovered the hatching on Sunday.  The nymphs must have just started hatching because only a couple hundred were running around loose in the library.

I quickly finished the mantis habitat with a piece of screen and some duct tape for proper ventilation plus sticks for climbing.

My son rounded up as many nymphs as he could.  Obviously a few are still making the rounds of the house.

I'm going to set this little guy outside with the other liberated nymphs.  Hopefully they will eat lots of mosquitoes, grow up and lay ootheca of their own.

Their siblings in captivity aren't faring as well.  I'm not having much success catching fruit flies for the nymphs and the tiny crickets I bought at petsmart are too big.  The nymphs are coping with the problem.

Alas alack, the fratricide has begun.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Birth Announcement

Look what I found during my morning garden rounds.
This little box turtle is from the 2011 brood that hatched in August.  The 2010 brood had six babies hatch.  When we found Scooter in August, I searched the pen a few times looking for any siblings.  Baby box turtles survive their first three years by the curl up and cope method.  Clearly they are great at hiding.

The older a box turtle is, the more eggs she lays.  Clutches start out at two or three.  Boxer is at least 14 years old.  We thought there would be more babies in Scooter's clutch but figured that predators or the harsh summer took a toll.

Since this little guy hibernated through the winter all on his or her own, I think the name should be Lucky.   However, my husband and son seem to remember a promise that the next turtle be named Gamera.

That's an awfully big name for such a little turtle.  But a promise is a promise.

Welcome to the Garden of Good Intentions, Gamera.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wrapping Up Science Time

This year Peggy and I got smart.  As Science Time wound down and the kids wound up for summer, we made our projects more and more kinetic.  Less and less dependent on glue sticks.

Imaginary play is a great way to learn.  Our three's and four's loved this salt marsh project. 

We gave them an 18"x12" page with the blue tide line already hot glued to it.  The "tide" is open at the top, making a perfect pocket for all the marsh animals we handed out during the class. 

Cord grass is the heart of the salt marsh.  We explained this to the children while they colored the whole page green.  Even during science class, there is always time to hone those fine motor skills. 

Next we handed out wavy strips of brown paper to represent the creeks as the tide goes out.  This was my favorite part because each child got to design their own marsh.  I love it when the kids go home with projects showing their own individual flair.  

Last, we borrowed a story rhythm from Erik caarl to help us introduce the marsh animals.   Blue heron, blue heron, what do you see. . . .

Our marsh animals came from online clip art and were printed on white card stock to make them more durable. The children colored them in while we explained how each animal played a roll in the salt marsh ecosystem.

By the end of the hour, the class room was a din of talking otters, blue crabs, shrimp, herring gulls, sheepshead minnows, periwinkle snails and happy preschoolers.   

Now its time to get ready for our June 11-15 Science Time Summer Camp. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Retail Therapy

 I was in a pretty grumpy mood yesterday.   Annie's dialogue won't write itself.  She is a complex character for a five year old.  It takes a lot of curiosity, mirth and coffee to write Annie.  I had to shake the grumpy mood fast.
Home Depot did the trick.   I bought five boxes of star drive screws.  One of every length they had from 1 1/2 to 3 1/2".  

I don't think this is what my grandmother had in mind when she tried to teach me the finer points of retail therapy. But we do what works, don't we?

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Mother of All Hole Punchers

The clock is ticking.  I am racing to finish C is for Centurion before the kids get out of school for the summer.  Four chapters to go and the first draft is done.

Meanwhile, I am also prepping for Science Time summer camp.   This was my excuse at Hobby Lobby when I indulged in a shiny new toy to help speed things along.  

Peggy already teases me for being addicted to paper punches but I don't care because this is the Tim Allen Model of hole punchers.

Fellow art web member Lisa Finley lent me her super duper hole punch this fall and I fell in love.  She uses it for her Recycled Materials Jewelry.  Lisa likes the precision of the smaller punch setting.  

I like the muscle power.  This puppy let me prep 24 felt wallet sewing kits in under an hour, punching through three layers of felt at once.

Prepping these mosaic butterfly cut outs was a snap with the smaller hole setting.  This punch is so stable that my seven year old has fun using it.  

As soon as summer camp is over, I guarantee I will be looking around for projects to test out the rivet and grommet setting.  For now it's back to Titus and Annie.   

Check out Lisa's blog for more great ideas and some fun recipes:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Art Trek Tryon 2012

Titus and Annie are just not cooperating.  I am too far behind in my work to slip away to Tryon this weekend for Art Trek 2012.


This is a great event.  I go every year to help my mother and sister.  Not only do you get to drive around and see some remarkable work spaces, you also get to meet interesting artists and fellow art enthusiasts.

2012 promises to be the best Art Trek yet because they have moved the event from sweltering July to this new more temperate time in May.

Tryon, Saluda, Columbus and Landrum are some really cute little towns.  If you are in Upstate South Carolina, pack your car with friends and check this out.

Start with the Upstairs Gallery in Down Town Tryon where you can see a sampling of work from the participating artists:

Walk down to La Bouteille and get some libations:
They are the home of local brewer Bottle Tree Beer:

Plot your course through the studios.  Make sure you stop by Warrior Drive and say hello to my mother, Diana Gurri, my sister Catherine Gurri, and our friend Bob Neely.  Three very different artists.  Lots of great work.

Head up towards Saluda and stop by the Purple Onion:

If I won the lottery, I would live in Saluda.  I would also make sure I could walk to (and home) from the Purple Onion.  The taps are as exciting as the food.

Have a great weekend and send me pictures please.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Kubbs for Monica

Yesterday was a lot of fun.  After officially becoming a dance mom, I took my daughter out to Mama's Coffee House to celebrate her performance.  We met up with the other dancers and their moms.

This gave me a chance to finally give my friend Monica her birthday present.

Even thought it was hard to come up with a theme for this kubb set it is definitely my favorite one so far and was tons of fun to paint.

What I value most about Monica is she cannot be summed up by a favorite team, color or animal.  There is just too much going on in her mind.  But she does love color, so that's where I started.

I chose ten fun recycled/rescued paints from the shelves for the base colors and only let them repeat four times throughout the set in the decorations.

This gift is green. Everything but the glue is recycled or rescued.

Paint and Valspar varnish from the paint shed at the recycling center.

Scraps of dowels and a slice of bamboo for stamping the circles.

Wood from the cull bin at Home Depot, a construction dumpster or two and the scraps bin from Black Hawk Hardware in Charlotte.

If you are interested in Kubb, here is a quick easy to follow video explanation of the rules:

Friday, April 27, 2012

Beyond Stomp Rockets

Peggy and I are running a Science Time Summer Camp at Lake Wylie Lutheran Preschool, June 11-15.

Our regular weekly format only gives us time to explore natural sciences.  This summer, I have four centers a day and the same kids five days in a row.  I get to plan all sorts of physical experiments.  (Insert mad scientist laugh track)

The family is getting in on the action also.  This weekend my husband and son built this rocket launcher for the camp.  Think stomp rockets on steroids.

The build only took an hour but the fun lasted five.  The whole family got into it.  At the end of the day we realized that a penny and a piece of paper made the best rockets, ten pumps flies as well as twenty for height but twenty five pumps lets you bug the neighbors in the next subdivision.  

Here is the link to the plans posted by Jeff Elmer, a physics teacher at Oshkosh North High School:  

If you already have a bicycle pump, the cost of the materials gives you a lot of bang for your buck.  The rocket launcher is really durable and will provide years of fun. We even plan on building a few of these for gifts.

My only modification for the preschool summer camp will be to spot tie the whole thing down to a 2'x4' piece of plywood so my there's and fours don't have to worry about keeping the bike pump upright.    

Anyone know of some other great Science Builds?  This household is always looking for the next project.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

I'm Back

It's official.  I'm back.  

It has taken me almost a month to get over a silly little appendectomy.  This is the last cat picture I'm posting fro a while.   

Yesterday was the first day that I've been able to do my quirky little routine and enjoy every minute of it. 

My life is laid out in errand loops.  To describe it almost sounds like a Laura Numeroff book. 

If I teach Science Time on Tuesday, I drive right by Home Depot.

If I drive by Home Depot, I'm going to want to check the cull bin.

If I check the cull bin, I'm going to find goodies.  Today I found 3
pieces of peg board, and fifteen feet of 2'x6' lumber for a whopping total of $3.  

If I plan to bring home more lumber, I'm going to need to clean the house and garage.  I do so try to bring more stuff out of the house than I bring in.

If I clean the house and garage, I'm going to need a trip to the recycling center. 

If I go to the recycling center, I'm going to have to look in the paint shed. 

If I look in the paint shed, I'm going to find treasures.  

Today's treasures include a Simple Human kitchen trash can that is larger and cleaner than the one in my house, an almost full quart of clear polyurethane, plus two giant bags full of pristine craft paints, paint brushes and stencil materials.  SCORE!!!!

The Tuesday Science Time kids got a kick out of Butterfly and Caterpillar Self Defense 101.    

A quick cup of tea got me through dinner and soccer practice with enough juice left over to prep for today's writing session.  It's good to be back.  Titus isn't the only one who likes a bit of routine.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Brief Hiatus

You all know I just post a picture of a cat and move on when I fall behind on the blog.  Not this time.
I had my appendix out Thursday night.  No, they did not let me keep it in a jar for Science Time.  I asked.  Bummer.

Another bummer was getting readmitted to the ER.  But I'm home now and feeling better everyday.

The biggest danger now is boredom.  This sitting still business is for the birds.  I am eager for the time when my favorite coffee mug isn't too heavy and when a big book sits comfortably in my hand.

The family is going to have a hard time keeping me out of the garden and the workshop until May.

Thanks to everyone who has helped out with meals, thoughts, phone calls and kiddie wrangling.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Writing Al Fresco

The weather is beautiful.   I have moved the office outside and rolled up my sleeves. I am working on getting rid of my wicked farmers tan and my writers mission statement.

I want my readers, middle grade and adult, 
to realize there is a giant Venn diagram 
where we all intersect on at least one point. 

The arms might need some tan in a can.

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's been a while . . .

. . . so let me repost the rules for falling behind on a blog:

The first rule about being behind on your blog is don't talk about being behind on your blog.

The second rule about being behind on your blog is don't talk about being behind on your blog.

The third rule about being behind on your blog is post a picture of a cat and get over it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Notes From the Nightstand

My Goodreads "currently reading" folder is over flowing and so is my nightstand.  Think of this as more of an insight into the life of a rabid reader than a book review post.

Candy Bomger:  The Story of the Berlin Airlift's "Chocolate Pilot" by Michael O. Tunnell
I got this for my 9 year old son.  I figured this was a good read to put some humanity into the World War II airplanes and tanks he loves so much.  Didn't want to hit him over the head with a brick about the topic because he is only nine after all.  But it's important to realize that war is not glorious.

Kat, Incorrigible (The Unladylike Adventures of Kat Stephenson, #1) by Stephanie Burgess
I am reading this aloud with my 7 year old daughter and loving every minute of it.  I love Kat the same way I love Alan Bradbury's Flavia De Luce character.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 
This is one of the few grown up books to cross my nightstand but I would recommend it to any advanced middle school readers.  Especially girls.  Totally appropriate, lush visual details yet wonderful pacing. Morgenstern's background as a visual artist really shows in the composition of her text. 

A King's Ransom (The 39 Clues:  Cahills vs. Vespers, #2) by Jude Watson
As a reader I have paled on this series but as a writer I feel compelled to continue with the project and enjoy watching the authors pass the plot.

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O'Connor
Found this recommendation on Ms. Yingling Reads (Marvelous Middle Grade Monday)
Beautiful pacing!  I need to read more of O'Connor and learn.  I am also going to pass this on to my son for a quick read. 

Beyond the Deep Woods (Edge Chronicles, Book 1) by Paul Stewart
Part of my never ending search for books my son will enjoy. 

The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, #2) by Maryrose Wood
Reading this book aloud to both of my children.  I enjoy the Victorian sentence structure and tangents.  They like acting like they have been raised by wolves.  Not a good independent reader but wonderfully fun read aloud.  

Lament:  The Faerie Queen's Deception (Books of Faerie, #1) by Maggie Stiefvater
My first e-book!  Unfortunately, I think my slow progress in the book is due to the format, not Stiefvater's craft.

What's on your nightstand?

Friday, March 9, 2012

R2DKubb Update

The Star Wars Kubb set is coming along!

I started obsessing over the details and then remembered that this is a chunk of wood destined to be hit repeatedly with other chunks of wood.

The others will go faster now that the paint has had time to dry.  Winter projects are hard on my impetuous self because paint takes longer to set up when it is cold.

Once the kubbs are done I can start on the Death Star king.  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Morning Read

Thanks to my friend Nichole, I am catching up on my blog reads.  She showed me an easier to use blog reader.  Now there is less cussing and more reading.  

I can skim blogs at the table with the kids and husband in the morning instead of being an antisocial grump chained to the desktop computer.  The added perks of being a Middle Grade writer is that work makes for good table talk.  

Special thanks to Shannon O'Donnell and her Book Dreaming blog for two great quotes. 

I like myself better when I am writing regularly
-Willie Nelson

Imagination is more important than knowledge.  
Knowledge is limited.  
Imagination encircles the world.  
-Albert Einstein

These jewels are going on my word walk.  A 90 lb bag of Portland cement is sitting in my garage.  It is the very heavy carrot on a stick.  When I've met my writing goals for today, I get to make mud pies.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Open for suggestions.

I like to putter in the garage while I am "writing."  No one but the cat notices that I'm talking to myself, testing out dialogues and transitions.  Simple repetitive tasks keep my hands busy while the brain wanders.  

Painting kubbs fits the bill perfectly.  Plus, if I paint them I don't have to spend as much time sanding.  

Sanding isn't good for thinking.  Too much dust tracking into the house.  Sneezing in one's respirator is unfortunate and gross.  Then there was that one time my mind wandered and I ran over my thumb with the orbital sander.  

Painting is much safer for thinking.  When I'm ready to hit the keyboard again, all I have to do is plop the brush in a can of water.  

Any ideas for these ten naked little kubbs?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Jurassic Fail

I am never teaching dinosaurs in Science Time again.  Never ever.

Giant reptiles make kids way too excited after the end of a busy preschool day.

If a lesson plan starts to wane, I can usually save it with silly rhymes, extemporized once upon a time stories, or spur of the moment play acting.  Not this time.

I gave up on the content ten minutes into the class and just focused on the arts and crafts aspect.  The kids had fun.  That's what really matters.

Don't think that I'm discouraged.  This class was such a flop that I am still laughing three weeks later.

I am very grateful for Science Time.  It gives me the chance to take risks and see immediate results.  Science Time is the opposite of writing.  Writers take an intellectual risk, nurture it and wait years to see the results.  Preschool Science classes are the ying to the writer's yang.

Science Time also provides just enough income that I don't feel guilty, selfish or penniless while pursuing this whole idea of a writing career.

Thank you to my ever patient partner in science, Peggy Cheadle, and Danielle Hawkins at Lake Wylie Lutheran Preschool for getting us started.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunday Special

Sunday is the longest day!  No power tools until noon.  Sigh.

The coffee starts flowing at 7 a.m.  The ideas start going at 8 a.m.  

Yesterday the weather was extra nice and the coffee was extra strong.  I made cafe con leche.  We are in the middle of a total backyard redo so I took my coffee outside to do some planning.

The wood pile no longer looked happy and rustic with 2/3 of the logs gone.  The cafe con leche said I needed to build a proper, slightly whimsical wood crib and I needed to build it now!  

 Luckily, last weeks treasures from the Home Depot cull bin were more or less all the same length.  So the design of this project was dictated by the materials.  I didn't have to use the chop saw until 11 a.m.

Yes, I broke the rule but not before I heard two leaf blowers and an edger running in the neighborhood.  

The kids had fun paintingt and the color (from the recycling center, of course) really makes the structure melt into the background.

The roof used up a lot of those pesky scraps that are too good to throw away but too short to be useful.  My garage is just a bit cleaner after this project.

The wood crib is near the tree with the bottle opener, so it seems only fitting to shingle it with the empty Guinnes and Crispin cans.  Anyone want to come over and help me make some shingles?  

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Spring is in the Air

Fish Bone Wind Chime
I am bragging about Art Web again.

Lisa has been busy with exciting kiln openings.  Here in the Carolinas the weather has been unseasonably warm.  This fish wind chime lets me know that Lisa is already thinking through Spring to Summer and windsurfing.

You can find more of Lisa's creations on her Etsy page:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dictionary Pages

Owl, 7x10, by Catherine Gurri
Art Web has been busy.  

Catherine found an old dictionary that I saved from a library purge my freshmen year in college.  Let's just say that year was a long time ago.  The dictionary binding had given up the ghost so Catherine is giving the pages new life with these 7x10 charcoal and conte sketches.  

I love the eyes on this owl. 

This is truly art with good karma.  Beyond the repurposed pages, the water based polyurethane she used came from the local recycling center.  The boards are from the cull bin at Home Depot.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Back To School

Hurray!  After two days of mystery ick, my son is back in school.

Yes, I'm happy he is feeling better and no longer a pasty gray shell of a child.

But I am also excited because now I can get some work done.

He is not a demanding kid when he is sick.  I could blog, work on Science Time and even do our taxes while he lazed at my feet with his orange tabby daemon.  But I could not get anything done on "C is for Centurion."

Each time I opened the manuscript or pulled up the file, dearest darling son would creep up and read over my shoulder.

"Mom!  You can't write that!  It's boring!"
"Mom!  No one will buy this book."
"Mom!  You're going to make kids cry!"

Unnerved by a third grader.  That's me!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Advanced Readers are like Really Tall Children

My beef with the concept of reading levels rears its head again. 

A Third Grade friend recently picked up Harry Potter and fell in love with the books.   He chewed through the first two.  By the third book he slowed down and the fourth book ended up being set aside.  


It is not his skill as a reader.  According to all the numerology and lexical computations attached to literacy today, he reads on a 5th grade level.  

My third grade friend set Book 4 down because emotionally he is a 3rd grader.  This makes perfect sense to me.  I sobbed when Serious Black died.  

J. K. Rowling aged her characters and her writing style with each book.  Her first readers matured a year or so while they waited for the next installment in the series.  The following generations of readers get to consume the books at will.  For the younger advanced readers, this can take them out of their comfort zone.

Anyone who has spent time watching children knows of someone who grew much faster than the others.  The tall children have a hard time because physically they look a few years older than they are.  But let a 4' tall second grader scrape his or her knee and you will see their emotional age.  

There is not a direct correlation between maturity and physical height or numeric reading level.  

For those readers who are not ready for the later years of Harry Potter, I heartily suggest "The Familiars" by Adam Jay Epstein.  This is a growing series from the point of view of magical animals.  Lots of fun Potteresque magic, solid world building, and lots of personal growth.  No static characters for Epstein.  This is a plus in my book .  "The Familiars" will challenge the 3rd and 4th grade readers, build their vocabulary and entertain them.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Going Old School with Science Time

Remember the days when Fisher Price's Little People didn't have arms or legs?  The child's imagination was supposed to take care of those details.  I kept this in mind when Peggy and I taught "Habitats" in Science Time.

For their take home craft, the children designed their own creature and build it's habitat.  Since Science Time is an after school program for three and four year old's so we kept it simple.

I made the pom poms with knitting yarn rather than using the familiar store bought kind.  No eyes, tails or legs either.  All of those details were up to the child's imagination.

Preschoolers are always doing crafts with round plates so I tossed things up a bit and splurged for the oval plates.  

I cut toilet paper tubes in half and hot glued them to the plates the night before.  The biggest challenge we face in Science Time is making sure the glue is dry at the end of the hour.  Our Scientists do not want to wait to show Mom and Dad what they learned.

Our 3's are too young to use scissors so we set out an array of construction paper from the scraps bin, cut into strips and shapes.

The children loved it!  My only regret is I didn't have time to write down what they were saying about their creatures and their habitats.

What beautiful imaginations!  Science Time will definitely be doing this Habitat class again.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Estee Lauder and Me

I am pleased to present . . . Fort Gwenyth Paltrow.

My poor neighbors.  They are investing in more landscaping as we speak.

Fort GP began over a year ago at the recycling center as a right place at the right time kind of thing. A woman pulled up with a mini van full of giant cardboard tubes.  The super fun ones that are hard to find.  Recycling zen!

She warned me that they were full.  I promised to recycle the contents.

Little did I realize that this was a double score!  Inside the tubes were all the promotional materials for Estee Lauder.  The giant banners that hang from the ceiling.
The daughter loves Fort Gwenyth.  The son is revolted.  Says he has nightmares about blue eyes staring at him.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rules of the Garage

Working with recycled materials is my attempt at good karma.  It makes me happy to give something a new life, whether its functional or aesthetic.

The problem is managing those recycled materials.  Sometimes I see something so great that I have to pick it up. Like a giant truck muffler that my sister and I found in a gutter.  Or the 5 foot long piece of pvc pipe large enough for my son to crawl through.  I know I can do something cool with these things but what and when isn't always clear.

To keep from being on one of those tv shows and to stay happily married, my garage has a strict rule.  If I don't use it in a year it goes back to the recycling center.  Sometimes just knowing that the time limit is about to expire provides inspiration.

These pine blocks came from the Blue Ridge Log Cabin dumpster on 26 near Spartanburg.  With one week left, they received a stay of execution.

Pinterest saved the day.  There I was, dithering on this awesome site for crafting with mason jars:

Suddenly I knew what to do with the log cabin chunks, my mason jar fetish, the chalk board paint i found at the recycling center and my poor lonely mantle that has never been properly decorated.

No, I haven't finished the mantel piece installation yet.  But I will.  Have no fear.  Meanwhile, the log cabin chunks have received a stay of execution and a date with the sander.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Seed Starting

Starting seeds inside isn't really that hard.  Or so they say.  But I have yet to get it right.

Granted, there are external factors involved.  The first year I tried, there was a very helpful three year old picking the "flowers" to show mommy.  The next year I placed the pots in a higher more out of the way place then promptly forgot about them.  My third attempt moved away from prefab peat pots using home made recycled newspaper pots on old cookie sheets.  Unfortunately this was the year we got two kittens.  Most of this attempt ended up in the vacuum cleaner.

Last year I saved the giant sized costco salad boxes.  Placed upside down on a coffee table, each box held eight newspaper pots and served as a tiny little green house.  Even though a few seedlings survived and made it to the garden I still consider the effort a big old fail.

The table the boxes were on took up a lot of space in the living room.  The boxes them selves were too light and awkward.  Cats, happy doggy tails, clumsy grownups and vacuum cleaners knocked half the garden to the floor.  Then there were the mushrooms.  I forgot to poke some holes in the tops of the salad boxes.  They retained too much moisture.

At the risk of jinxing myself, I think I finally have it right this year.  This year's set up is less invasive than the others.  I clamped a 10" wide strip of ply wood to the window sill to make a base sturdy enough to with stand  a six kid playdate on a rainy day.

Two 10 gallon aquariums hold the pots.  The glass sides let the kids "see" without touching and are high enough to keep the cats out.

So far I am using recycled coffee cups from Mama's because they are abundant.  I will make some paper pots out of rough drafts when I run out (if I run out) of coffee cups.

The first round of tomato seeds are popping up.  Very exciting.  Hopefully this set up lets me get one step closer to my goal of a year round harvest.