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Most of the moon unit I had planned for Katie focused on learning the shapes of the moon at various points of its cycle. On the first night of our moon unit, I brought out these neat little laminated cards showing each phase of the moon.  Imagine my surprise when, as soon as she saw them, Katie exclaimed, “I know what these are!!” As she proceeded to name the basic shapes (new, full, gibbous, crescent, quarter, though she was unsure about which orientations were waxing or waning), I rattled my brains in my head in utter stupefaction. When I asked her how she knew these shapes already, she said, “It’s in my book, Mommy.”

With a bit of probing, I discovered that, indeed, the moon shapes are in her Tangled Tag Reader book, a gift from my friends Steve and Carol last year. Initially, we had read the book out loud together—I hadn’t yet purchased a Tag Reader wand. This past summer, though, a whole Tag Reader wand-and-book set was on sell at Costco. Although I had held out on buying the system in preference of parent-to-child reading, I decided to try it this summer. Katie had been trying to read books on her own (mainly flipping through pictures) when I was busy with Eric. I reasoned that she could use the Tag system to study on her own (it reads each word as you trace under it with the wand, and there are phonics games in each book, as well as other enrichment components) when I was busy with Eric. I still read personally to Katie as close to two hours a day as we can manage, and most of the time, we achieve that.

It turns out, she has been learning much from her Tag Reader books. I was extremely pleased that she already knew the basic moon shapes.

At the same time, I had that moment that occurs sometimes in teaching that “Whoa, they already know this material better than I thought” moment. So, I have tried enriching her knowledge of the moon in other ways, and then I chose to connect it more to an autumn-type unit.  Part of my issue was that I wasn’t as prepped for our moon unit as I should have been (I knew that going in), and I have somewhat jumped ship on it, I must admit. Instead I have redoubled our efforts on language/reading skills in its place and spending a week trying to get my project-oriented and Montessori groove back. I was a bit disorganized with our learning the past week, trying to find my flow again.

After some much-needed lesson planning time on Friday night and a few purchases from Montessori Print Shop, I have found myself reinvigorated and re-inspired.

Although I have expressed this before, one of my biggest homeschooling challenges is keeping Eric engaged, stimulated, and involved while working with Katie. I save most of our advanced material and advanced literature for times when he is napping. I have faith that, as he grows older, they will be able to work more together and it will be easier to differentiate our curriculum.

Yesterday, we worked on painting paper pumpkins. Katie knows that red paint and yellow paint make orange, so that part of the lesson was review for her. Color mixing is new for Eric, though.

The kiddos work on painting their pumpkins. Eric borrowed a pair of Katie’s paint clothes, and they looked like little twins!

I soon realized that, although I can hold down classrooms of 38-40 students, I am not much of a match for a preschooler and a toddler and a big pie pan of paint! That paint spread fast! It all started when Eric figured out how fun it is to put his feet in paint—and Katie followed suit. But there is no learning without a little mess, right? I am a big believer in the need of children to experience every dimension of a project and to revel with all of their senses in it.

Eric ran away with the paint brush and painted his face.

The finished pumpkins: Erc’s is the one on top, Katie’s is the one below. After we painted them, we cut them out (I did that part), and then the kiddos colored the stems with brown crayon, and then they glued on their construction paper leaves. Katie did hers alone, of course, and I helped Eric hold the glue stick. He knew what to do, especially with the coloring, though his dexterity is catching up. For a finishing touch, we made tendrils out of Easter grass and glued them to the stem.

We’ve begun working on a multi-day lesson on the life cycle of a pumpkin. Katie has laminated cards showing each stage, as well as a circular chart. We ordered a book some time ago called Pumpkin Jack by Will Hubbell. We love it, and the theme works perfectly with this lesson. The story is about a boy who carves his pumpkin and keeps it in the garden after Halloween. He watches it rot and covers the seeds with earth, eventually tending a garden of new pumpkins over the year. I have Katie hold up the life cycle cards at each part of the story, and we have practiced putting them in order. We have at least one more art project to do with this lesson series, and we might get to it today or tomorrow.

We also worked on a pumpkin word search and, as usual, are keeping up with our basic math and language lessons.

For fun, we made a treat last night inspired by our Harry Potter reading: Hagrid’s treacle fudge! Hagrid makes this fudge for Harry a few times, if I recall, mainly around Christmas. I found this recipe for it online. From what I understand, molasses is not true treacle but it is easier to come by in the states, and we had some in our pantry. The kiddos and I found the treacle fudge to be delicious!

A few nights ago, Bill took this picture of the three of us cuddling and reading. Eric has certain books that he loves, and he has started bringing them over to me with more and more frequency. Lately, he even says, “a buh a buh” for “a book.” The sound of the children asking to read is music to my mind and heart.

As I write, Bill is reading to Eric and helping to dress Katie up in a costume she is making out of long scarves and ribbons. I also hear a drum… We are all up in the playroom/kiddos’ rooms area, and it is so cozy. Still, I’d better wrap this up and get dressed myself, especially as Katie just came in to me and announced, “You’re Lupin and I’m Tonks, got it? Tonks and Lupin, okay? This is my outfit for that!”(Lupin and Tonks are characters from the Harry Potter series).

Have a happy Sunday, everyone!

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As we scurried around this morning getting dressed and having breakfast, Katie and Eric were excited for “Pumpkin Patch Day” as Katie happily called it. We have a local pumpkin patch less than five minutes from our house in Wine Country, and during this fun and cozy season, we play on the farm as much as possible. It has been tradition, too, to take Katie there on her birthday—after all, she is my little Pumpkin Girl, born right before Halloween.

This morning we went to the farm primarily to pet the goats and walk through the corn maze, as well as to play around the pumpkins. Since we plan on going several more times, we will pick out our pumpkins later. The farm has added a gem panning activity this year that we are eager to try, though it runs only in the later afternoon after the school kiddos get out for the day. There are also pony rides, pig races, and a train ride. Katie has never seen the farm at night, all lighted up with the white lights: I want to take her at night at least once this year.

My mom went with us this morning. We had a great time, though it was quite warm, and we’re looking forward to another trip soon.

My mom and her grandchildren

Tremendous pumpkin!

Amie, Katie, and Eric navigate the corn maze

Hi, goat! (And what a neat turkey)!

Walking along the hay bales

Investigating

With my two pumpkins

Last year, he was just a couple of months old at the pumpkin patch

I am definitely in love with this boy

My mom started the day by surprising us with treats from Godiva! My treat was a set of beautifully adorned pumpkin truffles. Eric and I shared one—yum!

Playing on the John Deere tractor

Eric truly adores goats, ever since he was a wee little guy…takes after me, in this respect. Goats are quite possibly my favorite animal. I wish I could have a goat or two in my own yard.

I spot the Eric hand…can you spot the Eric face?

Beautiful ghost

Amie and Katie feed the goats

Pumpkin June, my October girl

Katie takes Eric for a wild ride on the tractor (see Mr. E in the wooden truck, which is hitched to the tractor).

Oh we love this place!

Katie and I are mid-way through the final book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Having begun this reading experience with my daughter in July of this year, I cannot imagine coming to the last pages of the final book. What a powerful imaginative experience she and I now have in common, a whole language that, three months ago, we did not share. J.K. Rowling’s characters, themes, and vivid wizarding world are truly present in our household, vital and part of our daily talk, interests, and play. Katie had learned dozens of new words, and her own spoken syntax has also increased in sophistication. Her memory for the details of every book astounds me. If she has missed anything at all due to the advanced reading level, I am assured that it isn’t much. These characters are real to her: she knows their nuances, speaks about them as dimensional people. I feel my chest seize up every time I think, “Oh no, this is our last book in the series.” Even now, a lump comes to my throat.

Oh how I will miss this with her. Cuddly early mornings, or snuggled at night. That look we give each other of, “Yay, Eric went down for his nap—let’s read Harry Potter!” Sometimes I think to myself, “Maybe I can convince her that we should start the series all over again!” I wouldn’t be sorry. Harry’s magical world has become our magical world.

I wasn’t an early adopter of the Harry Potter series. As with all things that become very trendy very quickly, I steered clear of the series for awhile. In fact, I remember my mom telling me about them (and how much my brother and she enjoyed them) while I was away at college (the U.S. had published the first three by my sophomore year in college, 1999). Sometime during the summer of 2000, home and eager for something different to read, I picked up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I couldn’t put it down. I read ravenously through the first three in the series, and I waited my turn for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (published July 2000). At that point, my mom, brother, and I were all sharing one book. So, too, with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, published in the summer of 2003.

By the time Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was published in 2005, I was deeply in need of my own copy immediately upon release. I count the reading of the 6th book as one of the most cozy and best reading experiences in my life. I was up at my brother’s apartment in Berkeley with my mom, having just completed an Advanced Placement Conference at Stanford in anticipation of teaching my second year of A.P. English to my high school juniors. The conference coincided with my brother’s July birthday, and we happened to be at Berkeley celebrating the week with him when this 6th book was released. It was a cozy week anyway (baking cookies, taking walks, seeing my brother in his element, prepping a bunch of freezer meals with my mom for David to eat after we went home, the Ranch 99 Market, the Point Reyes lighthouse, my aunts, and more). On the day it came out, we all went to the Richmond Costco and picked up a copy. My mom and I would curl up in the apartment family room while my brother studied nearby, and we all read late late into the night, drinking hot chocolate. I must have read for hours and hours straight over a day or so. I finished it before we traveled home.

Two years later, I pre-ordered my copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This last book was significant for me in personal ways, and much of that is welling up again as I read this 7th book to Katie. First, I was pregnant with Katie when I read it the first time. She was just a baby growing inside of me, and now she is here and almost four years old. Whoosh, Time, whoosh. I remember, too, that my Uncle Eric was an avid Harry Potter fan. He never got to read this last book, never got to find out what happened to Harry, never saw this book be published. That thought was with me constantly as I read this book the first time in 2007, and it is even more pronounced now. There is a quality of sadness inherent even in holding this book in my hands which is bittersweet, now, because I have the joy of sharing it with my children. In any event, I remember the thud as it landed on my doorstep—yes, I was home. I tore the box open faster than anything, and I sat down right away in our big cozy yellow chair (then at Azalea House) and began reading. I remember, also, that my friend Steve was studying for the Bar that summer and had imposed a media semi-blackout on himself, not wanting to hear anything about the outcome of this book until he could get to it after his exam and read it.

So the first six books comprise 3,341 pages. I haven’t added the 7th book into this total, because we are not yet done with it. While I read much, much faster silently to myself, I estimate that each page is taking 1.5 to 2 minutes to read out loud to Katie. Due to how frequently we stop to talk about characters, plot, vocabulary, and the like, I am going to say that we probably are closer, overall, to two minutes a page. A little bit of math later, and… I calculate that we have spent somewhere close to 111 hours reading the Harry Potter series together. If we took those hours and read straight through without stopping for any reason, ever, that would amount to over 4.5 days of pure reading. That does not count all of the other reading we have done out of other books over the past three months. I feel good that her little growing brain is marinating in all of this language and imagination. Sop it up, little Katie brain, sop it up.

For me, too, I have cherished every second of this reading experience with her. Not just because we get to be cuddled together—but because I appreciate these books in a different way now that I am older. Dumbledore’s wisdom and choices as a character are so much more poignant to me now, for example. And now as a mother, I actually get physically weepy any time that Harry’s mother’s sacrifice and unconditional love are mentioned. Voldemort is much scarier to me than he was, because I know now that part of human nature that makes me understand how easily he could be real. Neville Longbottom’s silent and humble bravery also means so much more to me than they did the first time. Finally, reading all of the books right together (without waiting for one to be published every two years) gives all the characters more coherency to me, and I see their strengths and weaknesses much more clearly.

What am I going to do when we are done? I can barely think about it. I don’t want this season of Harry Potter with my daughter to end.

 

Toward the end of summer, I start looking forward to planting our October mums. Mums are one of my most favorite flowers, deeply rich in color and smelling of autumn.We love this tradition in our house, and we usually string up white and orange lights at the time of our mum planting, as well. It has been so cozy over the past nights to have the backyard twinkling with white and orange in the trees and around part of the patio cover.

Katie and Eric picked out mums on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday morning, we potted our mums, some in the front and some in the backyard. I love my little helpers.

Katie plants one of the mums she picked out.

Pretty mums!

After planting, the kiddos played with their bat and ball. I love the look of Eric’s joy as he reacts to his sister. They truly have a beautiful connection to each other. They know they are part of each other forever.

We look for roly polies almost daily, and this is one of the spots at which the roly polies congregate.

This weekend seemed to be equal parts work and play, a good balance. We were able to spend part of this afternoon dispatching our remaining apple harvest into a huge batch of apple chutney and an apple crumble pie—which will be frozen until sometime this winter, when we will bring it out and eat it with joyful memories of our September/October days.

One of my favorite products at this time of year is the pumpkin curry sauce from Williams-Sonoma. Oh my goodness, I simmered chicken in it tonight and served it over basmati rice, and the kiddos gobbled it up. I mean, gobbled. I am always thrilled to find something they both eat with the same gusto and big appetite. Anyway, this curry sauce is definitely a fun October treat—I am eager to pick up some more!

This week we are eager to visit the pumpkin farm for the first time this season and to start planning Katie’s birthday celebration! October is so lovely!

About a week ago, some water in Katie’s sippy spilled out into our diaper bag. Even though Eric now rarely has instances of needing his diaper changed on-the-go, I have still been using our diaper bag as an all-purpose bag. I cleaned it out a few months ago, but since then we’ve been living off the top of it. Moms out there, am I alone in thinking that the bottom of the bag can be a fearsome place? Graham cracker crumbs, long-lost socks, and whoa, that round Gerber toddler meal…

I was aware that water had spilled, but it was more in quantity than I thought. A few days ago (yes, I said days, but just got to it this afternoon) I began to smell a bit of a tell-tale musty smell. While that smell is charming on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, it is not a good sign coming from the diaper bag.

Even I was surprised to see how black was the life form growing. It had also spread to the front pocket. Ugh. Emptied totally, the diaper bag took a ride in super hot water in the washing machine.

A little while later, I checked excitedly on the bag. Having a clean, pristine, organized diaper bag always feels so good, as if for that moment I am a highly organized mother who is on top of things for once. Yet when I looked into the bag, the life form still clung to it stubbornly. So I washed it again.

The punchline is that our diaper bag is soiled and ruined beyond redemption. Whatever is on it does not want to come off, and it is everywhere on the bottom. I can’t put diapers in there, and I don’t want Eric’s spare pants or sweatshirts to touch it either.

In truth, Eric doesn’t much need a diaper bag anymore, or perhaps it is that I do not need one for him. Like Katie, he is ready for a little backpack. He is ready to move on.

Am I?

Our brown and light blue diaper bag has been with us since shortly after Katie was born. It has never ripped, has stayed mostly clean, has  traveled everywhere with me through two children. In the interim between Katie’s first backpack and Eric’s creation, it stayed safely in the downstairs closet—hopefully waiting to be used again. When Eric was born, and when I packed the diaper bag for the first time, it was like seeing an old friend. So many of our baby/newborn things are that way. As Eric has grown and inherited so many of Katie’s baby items, each one has been a symbol that sparks the thought in me, “Oh, I remember when Katie used that!”  The diaper bag is one such talisman that links together two gloriously beautiful times—the times of my childrens’ babyhoods.

I do not know what to do with our diaper bag. Believe me when I say, it cannot be salvaged or put to another use. Objectively, it needs to be thrown away. It feels like throwing away part of a really significant time to some degree. When I really probe my feelings, though, I realize that my sentimentality is not about the diaper bag; what I have to reckon with here is the underlying knowledge that we have wanted two children and are unlikely to have any more. Even now, it is painful and impossible to write that we won’t have more. Mothers, do you know the feeling I mean? Just as most of us spend our whole young lives wanting babies, we then arrive at this point where we have to let go of the idea of having more. I’d be lying if I said that, for me, this thought isn’t sad. I have loved having my babies, making my babies, holding my babies, delivering my babies, cuddling my babies, smelling their little baby-ness. I love everything about having children, and everything about carrying and delivering them. It is hard to think of not having more, wondering who else there might have been.

I have not yet reckoned with the finality of it. I would not be sorry if by some turn of events we had a third one, or more. Yet I also know that our resources (of finances, time, energy, etc) can do two children better than we could do three. I am speaking for just our particular family, and I don’t generalize here. Each family has different resources they choose to allot—for us, two is the number we feel we can do. The past two nights, we have spent time as a family reading in the evening. Bill has been reading older books to Katie, while I sit nearby with Eric and read to him. There has been such a beautiful balance to it. Some families have the resources to balance more than two children, and I say, more power to them. But two, three, four, or five—somewhere, sometime for most of us women, we come to the same moment of deciding to stop.

At best, that moment is bittersweet. We know we make the decision for good reasons: perhaps it is the expectation that our children will attend universities, and we know we have the resources for four of them to attend but not five; possibly we have three and worry that four will cause teams to develop; who knows? Even though we know our reasons are rational and planned, and even though we feel a sense of joy in doing what is best for our family, still there may be part of us that wishes we did not have to relinquish our childbearing years.

For they can be years of such immense beauty and discovery about Life. Our children are unbounded love. It is a time of magic and awe. I love being a mommy, even when a day is hard.

So what do I do with the diaper bag? It is difficult to give it up, well, difficult to give up what it represents. And I cannot even begin to start sorting Katie’s and Eric’s outgrown clothes. Part of me, the irrational part, still believes there could be a chance that another little baby of ours will need them. Every time I come close to tackling those bins in the garage, a pang in my heart turns me away to another task. I am not ready to give childbearing up just yet, even if I know I need to.

This is the other side of motherhood I’ve heard few ever mention. As girls we are often vocal about wanting babies, or not, but at the end of bearing our children we often only whisper what is in our hearts. You hear it, sometimes, in soft spoken answers to questions about having more. “It wasn’t in the cards,” I have heard. Or, “I wouldn’t have been sorry to have another.” These little expressions of longing tell so much about the decision many of us encounter. I am not sure I will ever be able to say with absolute language that “we are done having children.” I am working on getting there, though, because I find great value in owning and naming decisions.

Until I can name it, though, our baby things are staying on hold in the garage. Sometimes the biggest grace we can give to ourselves is time.

With my Katie June, five days old… November 3, 2007

We spent the afternoon visiting with Nana and also, for a short bit, our Great-great-Uncle Ross (Nana’s brother). This time with my elder family members is so precious to me. I know that Katie is old enough now that she will always remember these days, our Nana.

Eric, too, has a growing bond with Nana—I can see that the love they share is part of him. He loves to play peekaboo with her and to hold her cane. When Nana and my mom returned from doing Nana’s weekly marketing, Eric pointed right at Nana and said in his little baby voice, “Hi, Na-na.” Later, saying goodbye, he leaned his head into her for a kiss, and then he took his finger and touched her lips twice and then touched her face with his hand. I know that she will always be a part of both of my children. These are important days, I believe, some of the most significant of their lives. I feel that having a strong connection to ancestors and the family elders, to grandparents and great-grandparents, is extremely valuable in shaping a child and a child’s character, as well as the child’s perception of self and the world. I grew up knowing that my family was truly my rock, and I want that for my children, too. Family is forever.

Greeting Nana in the kitchen

Okay, what follows next is a slew of pictures of Eric at Nana’s piano. This is definitely a classic blogging moment of “doting mommy who cannot choose just a couple, so she will post most of them.” But, that’s the privilege of having my own blog, yes?

Usually after seeing Nana, Eric runs right to the piano. I am impressed that he remembers where it is each the time, because he cannot see it from the kitchen or family room. This tells me, too, that he is already making memories of Nana and Nana’s house. These days are already a part of his heart and imagination.

Is he already working on fingering? Awed mommy notes two-handed, non-pounding, very methodical, different-fingers-on-different-hands approach that Eric employs. Starstruck mother will always be the biggest fan. 😉

The piano makes him very pleased. I think this little guy will want, actually want, piano lessons someday—I think it is part of him.

La la la…

Having fun and singing with mommy.

Lunchtime in Nana’s kitchen! I remember my lunches here as a child…

Warm memories

Thinking about climbing the tree…

Playing in the fountain

Playing chase in Nana’s front yard

I am grateful for this day, and for the love that we all feel at Nana’s house. I want to bathe my children in that glow, so that they always know it.

It is appropriate, tonight, to open with words of wisdom from the late Steve Jobs, whose amazing mind has led our culture to change profoundly. Jobs gave a commencement speech at my alma mater, Stanford, in 2005—a few years after I passed through The Farm. The whole commencement speech is worth your fifteen minutes of time, believe me. It is findable on You Tube, and I have already shared that link on my Facebook wall.

Yet as I reflect about my day, I offer this quote from his address:

…since then…I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

So, if this were my last day, would this have been how I wanted to live it? Yes. Yes. When I think about what is most important in my life, and even beyond my life, I am brought back continually to my family, to my husband, to my children. I have often wondered about the sum total of my legacy. I have yet to fulfill my goal of writing something that will survive beyond a generation, and on the global scale I have not been as ambitious as some of my Stanford peers. Every once in awhile, I worry that I am not as ambitious as I ought to be, or in the “right” ways. That perfectionism thing can be a beast. 😉

Then I remember…

Years ago, I was standing near the window in my Kairos room, looking out onto the watery street below. I can only describe what happened next as an epiphany, like a decision being made so clearly that it became axiomatic at that moment. I realized that I could live a decent life and contribute in my own quiet way through close relationships with people I really loved and admired. I could teach, and like Jane Stanford encouraged, help to better society through education and great care. That was the moment I decided for certain to come home after college, to leave a legacy through teaching, through starting my own family, through passing on the farm values (farm to Farm?) with which my family had always raised me. This decision wasn’t because of grades—I had good enough grades at Stanford to get into grad school, and professors from different departments suggesting I pursue grad school in their fields. I just knew I wanted a family, and that I wanted to pursue a different path.

When parents die, it is our children who carry us on, both in memory and in gene. When I die, I hope my last day is with my family, holding the hands of my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I want to be loved in the way that my Nana is loved. I want to have the graciousness that she has at her age, her adaptability. I want to have done enough teaching—of my high school students, of my children, of whomever else rolls my way—that the ripples of what I hold dear (free, rational thought, love for humanity, the search of beauty, a positive spirit) ripple throughout time.

So, Steve Jobs, this post is partly for you. When I think of what I find truly important, it is my family and my time spent with them.

Eric was a lie-a-bed this morning, and so Katie and I had a deliciously unexpected hour of reading snuggled in her bed while the rain hastened outside. Then it was downstairs for breakfast and more books for Eric and Yorkshire tea with milk and rain and just the sound of rain and each other. Katie worked on her scarecrow tray:

I had pre-cut scarecrow pieces, which Katie colored and glued onto orange construction paper.

Then she snipped yellow yarn into “hay” and decorated her scarecrow.

We went outside in the misty morning for a little recess—it wasn’t raining at this point—and yes, we were barefoot and wild and free. We watched a trash truck, and we hung up our ghosts from yesterday’s craft session.

The haunted yard…

Then we put away laundry, dressed—it was an old college sweatshirt kind of day—and Eric got cozy and napped. Katie and I started some oatmeal molasses bread rising and finished our mise en place for our pumpkin pasta and sweet sausage dinner (which always reminds me of Rosa, who first cooked this with me many years ago). We ate some lunch, my new VS jammies arrived at the doorstep, and we delved into a handful of new books about leaves and Halloween. Cozy, cozy, cozy.

Then Katie practiced her sewing (she uses my needles and scraps of fabric), I prepared lunch for Eric. By then, the rain was really pouring. So we prepared for PUDDLE STOMPING! Yes!

My dad happened to be dropping something off at our house right in time to join us! I am sure he wondered why I was taking my children out in the nippy rainy weather, but we’re hardcore players over here, I confess!

Oh yeah, and my dad found this really neat moth (AND a praying mantis). When I held the moth, we could see how colorful the inside of its wings really are!

After playing and absorbing how beautiful the rain makes everything, the kiddos had a warm bubble bath and hot chocolate and snug jammies. We had the whole evening ahead of us, so we finished making dinner and then we made…

A lifesize Harry Potter!

Why? Because we could! If we want to turn our home into Hogwarts by Halloween, we definitely need Harry, right?

He is currently hanging in the dining room, but I think we will move him to the porch on Halloween night. We just don’t want his face to drip ink before then. His head is a picture I found online, printed out full size. I totally came across this idea elsewhere, by the way, in my bedtime jaunts around the Internet. So, once we had the head, Katie and I glued it on cardboard, and I cut around it so that the cardboard wouldn’t show.

A little hot glue later, and the head was mounted on one of my wooden hangers, positioned so that his neck actually went down into the robes. His wizard robes are one of my graduation robes. Those robes have been SO handy in all kinds of dress up projects over the years, I must say.

I don’t own a Gryffindor scarf, but I do have a red one. You know that yellow yarn from the scarecrow project? Well, it came in handy again to make the yellow stripes.

We are so pleased with our own life-sized Harry that we are contemplating making Snape, too.

I loved this day, so much.

Even as an experienced teacher, I can’t exactly say I’ve done a bang-up job in transitioning between our apple unit and our next units of study. I am still navigating my way through preschool curriculum for the first time, and there are rocky parts to be sure. Not the least of which: I am finding myself in the middle of a “Moon-Leaf-Halloween” unit without any real hook connecting those elements except for “Harvest.” It will be one of those things I need to create as I go.

Despite a rather abrupt transition, however, we did make sure to have closure (although we will still continue to enjoy our apple counters and apple literature this month) on our apple unit.

We enjoyed making caramel apples with my mom this past weekend, and on Monday morning, we finished our KWL chart. Katie answered, “What did we learn?”

* I like Red Delicious and Gala

* How bees collect the pollen from the apple blossom

* I learned how to make papier-mâché

* How an apple tree changes during the year (seasons)

* Johnny Appleseed traveled and planted apple seeds

* The parts of an apple blossom

* They have eight seeds

* What the parts of an apple are called

* We learned how to make a graph

* Learned to make caramel apples

Then, it was on to our Goodnight Moon Unit:

We laminated moon phase cards bought from the Montessori Printshop, an excellent online resource. We actually started working with these on October 1st, because we have a moon phase calendar for this whole month. We have been trying to get outside every night to watch it progress (the kidlets we tired tonight, though, and I had them in bed before remembering this task). Katie is able to identify the new, crescent, quarter, gibbous, and full moons—though she is still working on remembering how, for example, the waxing crescent moon differs from the waning crescent. We have a whole month of practice, so we’ll she if she can put these in order by the end. Hey, even I have to stop and think about which side of the moon is showing, sometimes. I will be happy if she just can know the names of the general shapes (which she already does) and to understand that the moon appears in a cycle. Anything else will be icing on the cake.

We’ve been doing more slate work, as well. Sometimes basic teaching does the job fine, and lately it has served us well since I am behind a bit in prepping the next set of art projects. For our Monday slate work, Katie wanted Halloween-themed words to trace and then to write herself: here, she is practicing “zombie” and “goblin.” We also use the slate extensively to work math sums. I love this portable whiteboard—definitely a great investment for us, as we use it constantly. It is easy to check the work, to re-do work if necessary, and it is conducive to immediate feedback.

Also on Monday afternoon, Kd came over to finish sewing her quilt top!

Cousin love!

What I love about Kd is that she is so easy to be with. We love to talk and catch up, yet she is one of those people who are very comfortable just to “be” with. You know what I mean? I can really be myself and go about my business with the kiddos when she is her, and she is content to sew happily and doesn’t mind if I pick up a conversation we started ten minutes before, after getting Eric’s lunch. I cherish my relationship with her, because I feel that we are ourselves—ourselves without pressure, without judgment. We don’t feel like we have to entertain each other for there to be value—I just naturally find her entertaining and fun to be with. We are the first and last of Grandpa Don’s grandchildren. When we were growing up, it seemed we were ages and worlds apart, but I don’t find that to be the case so much now. We may still be in different life phases, but we find ourselves wondering about the same big things now and how to be our best selves. I love that, and I love her, too.

This evening, as the rain made everything so cozy, the kiddos and I made trash bag ghosts:

We will hang them up tomorrow. Katie LOVED this! Loved it.  This project randomly popped into my head today… Goes to show, doesn’t it? Sometimes it is the simple and unplanned things that do the trick.

The morning began with a pumpkin spice latte, Halloween t-shirts for both kiddos, and bringing in boxes of October decorations. This year, we had several boxes of Grandpa Yoder’s Halloween decorations, brought to us by my Aunt Diane. So many of these decorations were familiar to us—reminders of that time after Katie’s birth when I left my career and had the chance to visit Great-Grandpa Yoder frequently. I can still picture where some of these decorations were in his house.


Katie and Eric had a blast playing with everything and helping to figure out where it would go.


Eric sits by some of the black cats.


Ghostly new friends; in the back is the black tree, from which we hung small skeletons Boppa gave us.


A plethora of autumn leaves, glass beads, and autumn harvest vegetables and fruits allowed us to make our sideboard cozy.


The sideboard and the dining room table with Grandpa Yoder’s pumpkins.


A new pumpkin scarecrow…


Entryway table


Our autumn wreath with a trio of pumpkins


Harvest flag and our metal pumpkin…


Eric and Bill hung bats up by the wall quilt—the first official piece of decorating Bill has ever done in the house! Looks great, honey!


Katie and I made Mr. Pumpkin two years ago, and he hangs above our kitchen table.

I finished some editing work this afternoon, and then we made pumpkin bread (for breakfast tomorrow) and broccoli soup with grilled ham and cheese sandwiches for dinner. Katie was treated to the 6th Harry Potter film, and after we put Eric to bed, she and I indulged in a caramel apple.

Cozy day and a great weekend!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

October! Is! Here!

We cannot wait to decorate tomorrow for Halloween!

The festivities are already beginning: my mom came over today to help the kiddos make caramel apples. What a perfect way to bridge between our September apple unit and the coming month, yes?

The caramel-coated apple gets a roll in the rainbow sprinkles.

These were deluxe caramel apples! My mom brought caramel, sprinkles, and both white and dark chocolate for drizzling! Yummy!

Drizzling two kinds of chocolate…

Eric helps a bit…

We all ate them outside at the kiddos’ picnic table. They were delicious. Yes. And full of Octobery goodness.

Thank you, Mom, for the fun project this afternoon!