Well, I’m glad that’s over!

Is it sacrilege to admit I’m happy the holidays are done with? :)   We don’t even have stressful holidays.  They’re rather nice and low key, but the whole tone of the world is so frantic and annoyed this time of year, and you can’t go anywhere at all because of the masses of people out shopping day and night.

And the disparity among the children — my kids have some teenage friends who got new cars and computers, and others who got next to nothing (some family friends weren’t going to be able to have any Christmas at all but that has been remedied).  I’m always acutely aware of how tough it is to be a really poor kid the week after Christmas.

Not to mention the friends who are dealing with grief this time of year — death, divorce and so on.  The only thing harder than dealing with something devastating is dealing with it while everybody else seems to be blissfully happy.

In any case, we had a nice holiday (or set of them).  We celebrated the Winter Solstice and opened our presents together Solstice morning, then Daryl took all of the kids to the matinee while I cooked and visited with a friend who stopped by.  We had an evening feast that night.  We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa, braving quite a lot of snow and terrible roads to get there.  We had a lovely feast there too, and the kids got to play in the snow and spend time with family.


And now, I’m preparing for the new year and all sorts of goals and resolutions.

I am not at all the type to make New Years resolutions other than ones like these better homeschool resolutions for 2014 but I am looking at the new year as a time to try to implement some fun schedules and changes.

They go along with the new winter schedule that I posted recently, wanting to have some daily activities (reading aloud educationally and for fun, math each day and so on) and some weekly ones (messy art on Wednesday, field trips and literature on Friday, and such).

I am still trying to figure out how to balance it all better… homeschooling such different ages, spending quality time with five kids, keeping up with four columns and two blogs, cooking, chores and so on.

I think it ought to be one of my personal goals for 2014 to be completely caught up on laundry even one day:)

In any case, I’m working on it and will report back on anything that works well.

In the meantime, here’s a few odds and ends that might be of interest…

Bradshaw & Sons: how to make snow lollies...  Maple syrup, snow & a stick. Looks fun!

How to make snow lollies (boiled maple syrup, snow & a stick)

Homeschool 101: What can we do for PE when it's cold outside?

Cold weather exercise ideas… Homeschool 101: What can we do for PE when it’s cold outside?

Cold weather science!

Vaporize hot water in the air, blow frozen bubbles, testing the freezing points of various liquids and more… Cold weather science!

Waldorf ~ 3rd grade ~ Math ~ Vertical Subtraction ~ main lesson book

An interesting (Waldorf-inspired) way of doing subtraction (I couldn’t find a link, just the graphic on someone’s Pinterest page from their iCloud, but it is pretty self explanatory)

Fabulous New Years activities for families

Fabulous New Years activities for families

Fun ways to ring in the new year with children

And more… Fun ways to ring in the new year with children

Graphing with sponges from teachertipster.com (no more info, just the pic)

And a nice little set of goals…

Now on to that laundry…..



Hiking Monday

It’s fall, and that means we ease into the fall season of homeschooling. I love homeschooling by the seasons, and even though I am always so sad to see summer end I have to admit there are things to love about fall.

One tradition I love is hiking.  We generally plan for hiking every Monday, and we aim to go to a different place every week.

Last week we tried out Kilen Woods State Park for the first time, even though it’s barely more than a half an hour away from us.

It was a wonderful visit.

We had it to ourselves, and had so much fun.

Daryl announced when we got there that it was important to mark the start of fall with an acorn fight, and the kids had an immensely wonderful time ganging up on poor Daddy with acorns by the hundreds.

Even Fiona grinned and grinned.

Then we left our oldest and youngest behind (Daryl’s legs are still not up to hiking and Fiona is not quite old enough for the amount we wanted to do) and we headed down the wooded paths while they stayed behind to gather walnuts and acorns and play.

It was a wonderful trail, full of meandering creeks and treasures to find.

There was even a section that met up with the Des Moines River, and it was a beautiful spot to rest.

When we got back, we played with caterpillars (we ID’ed ours thanks to the ID books in the little cabin at the site but I’ve forgotten what he was!) and water pumps and sand boxes.

It was a lovely way to do our nature studies and PE for the day!


Nature Studies Last Week

A big part of our “curriculum” this time of year is nature. We spend as much time as possible outside and much of our life in general is dictated by nature. We are harvesting in the garden, “putting up” produce like non-GMO corn from a nearby farm and homemade pickles with farmers’ market cukes, cooking like crazy with extra zucchini gifted by others, watching wildlife, spending days at the lake, foraging, climbing trees, playing and eating nearly every dinner outside in the back yard at our new farmhouse table.

(Daryl and Victoria built it for me.  Isn’t it marvelous?!)

This week was a pretty great week for nature studies. Here’s some of what we did….

  • We watched a cicada emerge from his alien-like skin with his new green wings.
  • We watched a monarch butterfly emerge from its chrysalis right by our back door, pump its new wings until they were dry, and fly away.
  • We swam at the lake many times and played with sand, water, driftwood and water bugs.
  • Victoria found some neat rocks and an arrowhead artifact at the lake, and was with Daryl when he found another fossilized shark tooth.
  • Alex and Jack helped Daryl forage for acorns, walnuts, apples and crab apples.  The boys always excitedly gather any acorns or walnuts they come across to bring home to process, which tickles me since 99.9% of the world considers them nuisances for the lawnmower.
  • Daryl and the kids “foraged” for apples and crab apples by getting permission from various owners who said they would not be harvesting them and who gave us permission to pick them.  These were all organic apples since the owners didn’t plan to harvest them and therefore didn’t spray them.
  • Alex helped Daryl made applesauce from the apples and crab apples and we canned many pints and quarts of it for the winter.  We talked about why our new pressure canner can safely preserve low-acid foods.
  • Victoria helped Daryl process the acorns and turn them into acorn flour(Here’s how our family does that.)
  • I made gluten-free apple cake with acorn flour (and other gluten free flours) we made from acorns Daryl and Alex gathered at our UU church, then we brought the flour for everyone to see and smell (it smells divine).  We’ll be bringing them baked good samples and printed instructions on how to do it themselves, too.  (Here’s the recipe I used for the apple cake, substituting acorn flour for the soy flour.) The apples were also foraged ones, and the eggs were from a homeschooling family down the highway (we buy 5-10 dozen eggs from them at a time from their free-roaming chickens at $1 a dozen), so a lot of the ingredients were locally sourced.
  • Jack and Alex helped Daryl husk walnuts and put them in big mesh onion bags in the garage to dry.
  • The kids helped husk non-GMO corn from a nearby farm to blanch and freeze it for winter.  We buy enormous boxes of ears for $6 each and spend a day at a time putting it up.  It’s a lot of work but it’s well worth it for many reasons!  (Here’s how Daryl and the kids process it.)
  • We watered and tended our gardens.  I use wine bottles for drip irrigation, and Jack helped me fill the bottles.
  • We made gluten-free zucchini breads and cakes like crazy, and froze extra shredded zucchini for use in recipes later in the year.  (These are our favorite recipe so far to use extra zucchini — Easy triple chocolate zucchini mini donuts and Chocolate zucchini bread, which tastes like chocolate cake to us.) We also made lots of grilled zucchini and zucchini everything else!  :)
  • We saw hundreds of dead carp by Talcot Dam, littering the shore.  We believe the combination of hot weather and low water just killed them off.  It led to more talk about weather and climate change.
  • We saw great blue herons, vultures, sandpipers, cranes, pelicans and other beautiful birds at the lake and in the wetlands that we pass when we head out of town for groceries.
  • Toria, Alex and Fiona found a frog after church and played with him before letting him go.
  • We talked about our funny sunflowers that don’t usually turn to face the sun at all the way they’re supposed to, but rather stick their faces in all directions.  Incidentally, if you want to know why they turn to follow the sun, ask.com says, “Sunflowers face the sun due to their ability of ‘heliotropism’ or sun-tracking. Sunflowers have a hydraulic system in the stem which enables them to turn in the direction of the sun. Water builds up on the shady side of the stem, leading to pressure which causes the head to arc toward the light.”
  • We read from One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Science! and the kids used their biology knowledge to try to solve the mysteries in the life science section.
  • I made the mistake of wandering into the Nature Bats Last blog and following rabbit trails there until I was left an utter basket case in the middle of the night and had to email a friend whose wife is an environmental science professor to talk me off the ledge.  If you want to feel despondent pretty quickly, google “near term extinction” sometime and take a look at the amazingly short number of years some scientists are giving humanity and pretty much all life on earth.  (Note:  I had Nature Bats Last hyperlinked for you but I really consider it a public service announcement not to send any poor unsuspecting souls there.  I prefer hope.  Yes, climate change and climate chaos is real and getting really bad really fast, but paralyzing us with fear isn’t going to inspire the kind of change that’s needed to save ourselves and our world.  For goodness sake, we all need to get serious about making real changes, though.)
  • We are starting an in-depth family study of ways to convert our house to more sustainable energy, along with various tools we use (for instance, we bought a push reel mower a couple of years ago to use instead of the gas powered one).  We are also going to see how far we can lower our utility bill from September of last year and talk to our minister about starting a community garden at our UU church next year (the church is already wind powered, which is pretty awesome and shows their commitment to sustainable living).
  • I made up a batch of elderberry honey syrup to beat a bad summer cold.
  • Jack, Alex and Fiona took part in the Think! challenge to make mandalas from natural objects.  The boys made fantastic ones (Fiona just played) and they were posted on the Think! blog.  Unfortunately, the blog owner posted Alex’s twice and didn’t post Jack’s at all and she apparently doesn’t read her comments, so you can’t see Jack’s!  It was awesome and I’m going to try to contact her again to see if she’ll put his up because I know he’ll be proud to see it online.
  • We have been taking walks, climbing trees, visiting with friends in the back yard, eating outside, grilling out (mostly produce and veggies… stuffed portabello mushrooms are our all-time favorite but they’re about 1000 calories apiece!), making refrigerator pickles and scrap apple juice and peach pie and a hundred other things to use up excess fruits and veggies, trimming trees and bushes, loving on pets, talking about the jet stream and weather, photographing bugs, pulling weeds, checking on wild edibles (grapes, elderberries and plums are ripening soon, among others… here’s what’s in season in September in the midwest)…

And that’s why we don’t start “doing school” in late August just because the local schools have started up again.  :)   Not that we ever do school anyway, but this is just not a sit-down and study kind of season for us.  We do homeschooling through the seasons and I love this season.

In other news…

Here’s some free science notebooking pages you can download.

Here’s some articles I’ve published lately…

Daryl read somewhere years ago that September is the month of winds and magic.  Since it is the month of his birthday and our anniversary, it is a special month for us.  Happy September!


5 Unusual Things We’re Doing Today

Well, it’s never a dull moment here! Here’s what we’re up to today (well, five of the things)….

  1. Victoria showed up at a nearby farm at 5 a.m. for her first day of field work. She’s hoping to save up for a Nexus.  I figure this should count for PE for a while too.  ;)
  2. Anna is at the hospital getting fitted for an “event monitor” for her heart.  She’s been having chest pains and the doctor suggested wearing it for a short time just to see what it shows.  We’re fairly sure she’s fine, but it will be interesting to be able to track what her heart is doing and I’ve learned that it’s never a bad thing to be thorough about medical issues with my kids.
  3. We’re processing bushels and bushels of apples. A wonderful homeschooling friend let us come and pick some of their plentiful apples the other day, and we really loaded up.  This time of year is great for finding organic apples since so many people don’t spray their trees and they often have more than they can use.  We’re making applesauce, Dutch apple pies, faux cider (I use the peels and cores, simmer them in water until the water is really infused with the apple flavor, strain and add sugar and a dash of cinnamon), and so on.
  4. There’s a whole lot of canning going on. I have a new pressure canner and have been canning applesauce like crazy.  Next is pickles and apple pie filling, and soon will be salsa.  This is my favorite salsa recipe of all time to use with fresh tomatoes (it’s the type you get in authentic Mexican restaurants instead of the vinegar-based jarred kind and it takes about 30 seconds!) and I want to make a ton to put up for later.
  5. To be announced! I’m not sure what we’ll do for number five so I’ll report back tomorrow.  :)

Latest articles:


So Much for Posting Every Day….

Well, right after I resolved to try to post every day for the rest of July, I went and got myself into a funk and then took off to the wilds of Nebraska with Fiona and Toria to visit Tiffany and family.

So here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to since then…

We went and saw a Scottish homeschool family band (Jiggerypokery!) at a little hometown event.  Mom and Dad each had a baby strapped to their backs and four bigger ones! :)

We went to the library twice, went walking, read books, made gluten free goodies, visited with friends, went swimming…

Oh yes, and Tiffany helped give Toria a more exciting haircut!

We also took the younger kids to the zoo…

And we got Tiffany caught up in wild foraging, with some tasty mulberries and other goodies.

And we watched Sherlock, drank wine, ate chocolate, had lots of tea, talked and relaxed.

While we were gone, my actors all carried on in the Wilder Pageant, performing for another couple of thousand people (nearly) over the weekend.  They also did lots more foraging and I came home to a freezer full of black raspberries, mulberries and raspberries, each labeled with contents, dates and where they were harvested.  Those should make for some good jellies, syrups, ice creams, cakes and other goodies later in the year and I hear they made for many smoothies over the week we were gone.

I am working on getting my head in order, battling this funk and also figuring out how to juggle all that I want to juggle this year — homeschooling 5 such different kids at different stages, doing crafts, reading books, homesteading, cooking, editing and completing two books, keeping up with blogs, keeping up with my columns, having a social life and support system, getting us all exercising more, getting the house in order…

Yep, feeling overwhelmed again!

Ah well, I’m working on it.  The break gave me a bit of breath to dive back in.  At least it’s never boring!

10 Fun Ways We’ve Learned and Played Lately

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these updates.  Here’s a few of the ways we’ve learned and played in our homeschool recently…….

  1. Jack, Alex and Daryl dressed up in old time clothes to volunteer at Pioneer Village in Worthington for Independence Day.  Our friend Nancy and her son Logan dressed up to join in, and Anna joined them all in modern clothes.  Alex, Jack and Logan taught kids how to roll hoops and Nancy was dressed as a prairie woman.  Daryl was a riverboat gambler in the saloon and he taught visitors card tricks and old-time gambling games like chuck-a-luck.  He even made the local paper!  
  2. We stayed with some fabulous homeschool friends near the Twin Cities so Daryl could take part in yet another historic event (a Civil War event commemorating the First Minnesota’s amazing sacrifice at the Battle of Gettysburg).  While there, Anna’s friend Ryker taught her how to use a blow dart and throwing stars!
  3. Victoria’s friend shared this video about infinity on her Facebook wall, which she loved and went to learn more about.  http://youtu.be/A-QoutHCu4o
  4. Victoria is learning how to build websites via sites like Code Academy.
  5. The kids went to our town’s “Fun Days” and bounced in bouncy houses, met zoo animals, watched the parade and had other festival fun.  Anna got this picture of Fiona meeting Luna the skunk. 
  6. Daryl and Toria went and collected cattail pollen, which I incorporated into homemade GF pasta.  It is a vibrant yellow gold and it’s full of nutrients.  This is a continuation of our summer of learning about foraging and wild edibles, and it’s the second way we’ve eaten cattails (the lower part of the spring stalks are wonderful boiled and served with butter and salt and pepper).
  7. Anna, Jack, Alex and Daryl are in the last week of rehearsals for the Laura Ingalls Wilder pageant, which opens next week.   Family friend Logan is in it for his first year this year, too.  It should be a great show again this year and it’s always exciting! 
  8. We all went and visited Great Grandma Lueck (Daryl’s grandma, who’s nearly 97 years old and still beautiful!) at the nursing home with Daryl’s mom.  It was wonderful to see her again, since we hadn’t visited her since she moved from her own home into the nursing home earlier this year.  We also talked to a man who brings in his therapy dog to visit with the patients. 
  9. Alex and Fiona had lots of fun sheet painting and then getting clean in the sink. 
  10. I’ve been working on handwriting with Jack, writing out lines for him to copy.  We’re also working on spelling.  One of our summer HS goals is for him to get one grade level of spelling improvement by the end of the summer.

The kids have all been doing lots of other things as well…. gardening, biking, walking, playing, skyping, writing stories, doing art, reading books, watching educational (and non-educational) TV, cooking, helping with the little kids, doing pet care, hanging out with friends, keeping up on current events (the political unrest in Egypt, the fires out west, the Texas filibuster and its aftermath, DOMA and other news), bird watching, learning about the Civil War, having deep talks, doing educational games, taking photos, making videos, shopping, climbing trees, playing ball, going to the park, snuggling and enjoying life……..

And in case you need it, here’s over 50 free curricular resources for your third grader that I wrote today.


Checking In

What a terrible blogger I’ve become!

I swear, there’s something about having five kids that is somehow ten times as busy-making as having four kids.  :)   I love it, but my does it interfere with my productivity!

We’ve been busy bees around here…

  • The boys and I went to the Science and Nature Conference.
  • The whole lot of us went to a homeschool day at the petroglyphs, where we taught kids how to make their own atlatls and hunt the buffalo (the wind meant they had a rough go at it!).
  • We all went to a PBS screening of a show they produced about parks in our area, at a nearby historic theater.  It was fun seeing “our” parks featured and seeing them interviewing our friends from the park.
  • I’ve been busy planting my garden for the year.  In so far:  red and orange carrots, lots of lettuces, spinach, lots of kinds of peas, potatoes (which got overly wet and rotted so I have to replant), chard, turnips, dill, cilantro, nasturtiums, beets, lots of tomatoes (started indoors early), eggplants (ditto), basil, sunflowers, borage, and probably a few things I’ve forgotten!  And I’m not even a third of the way done….
  • We’re planning a trip to the Badlands next week.
  • Anna spent 5 days with family friends in Northern Minnesota.
  • Daryl and the girls have been doing a lot of birding.
  • Anna and Victoria have been doing lots of biking.
  • Victoria has been doing a lot of photography.
  • Daryl and the kids are in the Wilder Pageant again.  Toria is sitting out this year and Fiona will still be home with me, but the rest of them will be busy with rehearsals soon.
  • We’ve been enjoying the warm weather (at last!) with lots of time outside — playing in the sandbox, heading to the beach, climbing trees, riding Big Wheels, playing ball, going to the park, walking the dog, working in the yard, making mud pies, you name it.

I have a list of 100 things I want to learn/teach in our homeschool by the end of the summer.  We’re having fun working on it.  The kids helped make the list and I have no idea how many we’ll get done but it’s a fun goal.

We’ll be doing some Civil War reenacting next month and there’s all sorts of homeschool projects I want to get to and books I want to read with the kids.  My to-do list is several thousand items long, I think.  :)

This year is so much better than last year at this time!  Some experiences really do keep you focusing on the big picture and counting your blessings.  I am so grateful to have last year that far behind us and Toria healthy and tentatively cancer-free.

I’m hoping it will be a pretty awesome summer.  I’ll do what I can to help make it happen!


Another Birthday Week Survived

We made it through another birthday week here.

Jack turned 10, Victoria turned 15, and Alex turned 6.

I made a lot of cakes and cupcakes.  :)

Here’s a quick round-up of ten fun ways we played and learned during birthday week….

  1. Victoria chose books for birthday presents, and picked out an awesome assortment at Barnes and Noble (see pic above).  She also bought herself the Les Miserables soundtrack and we’ve been listening to a lot of French Revolutionary songs in the car.
  2. We’ve been doing a lot of bird watching. Daryl and the kids have spotted a white-faced ibis, an osprey, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, lots of song birds, vultures, many kinds of migrating ducks, returning pelicans and a fantastic battle between two hawks in the road this morning, along with a very determined crow dive-bombing a red-tailed hawk on a pole this afternoon.
  3. Victoria taught her younger siblings about Nihilism. Of course.  ;)
  4. Anna has been writing poems and doing song rewrites. She has one about Corn and Snow (living in Minnesota) based on Carrie Underwood’s tornado song (I can’t remember the name now) and “I Knew You Were Homeschooled” instead of “I Knew You Were Trouble” by Taylor Swift.
  5. Jack graduated archery class and did an awesome job. We bought a family membership for the rest of the year so we can use the facility and the gear any time.
  6. Alex has been working on sight words. He knows about 30 now.  We have a goal of 50 by the end of the summer and I keep track in my journal.
  7. Anna has headed up to Bemidji for the week with family friends. She stays with Guy and Val once or twice a year.  They love getting to play parents and she loves getting to be an only child.  They also teach her about legal stuff (Val is a lawyer), computers and all of the many subjects they are so knowledgeable about.
  8. Victoria and Daryl went to a writers/actors/artists workshop. They learned about everything from collage to Taiko drumming to writing to charcoal and paint.  It was at a nearby college and Victoria made some cool new connections and they both had a great time.
  9. We have seedlings on all the windowsills and have started many gardens. We got a ton of snow on top of my freshly planted seeds, but they’re cold tolerant so hopefully they’ll fare okay.  Inside, I have heirloom tomatoes everywhere, along with some exotic eggplants and interesting cabbage.  I can’t wait for it to warm up enough to really get serious in the garden.
  10. Daryl, Anna and Jack auditioned for the Wilder Pageant. Victoria is sitting out this year (she has been in it every summer since she was 6), but Alex may join in as one of Daryl’s kids.  Daryl will probably be Reverend Alden and Elias Bedal (Walnut Grove’s first mayor) again.  We haven’t received official word about roles yet, but the cast photos are on Saturday so we’ll know this week.

We’ve also talked about… European travel, youth hostels, abortion, the Gosnell trial, townships, voting registration and more.  The kids have also been doing… finger knitting, Big Wheel riding, ball playing, tree climbing, drawing, Lego building, Wii playing, video chatting, hiking, bike riding, sticky ball tossing, solitaire playing, Free Rice earning, dog walking, cooking, chores, talking on the phone with friends, reading, reading, reading and a whole lot of playing.

If you haven’t seen them, here’s my latest homeschooling articles elsewhere….

Students can use free public domain classes to learn over 40 languages


Here’s a great free resource to round out your child’s foreign language studies.  FSI Language Courses offer dozens of foreign language programs in mp3 format and in print for languages ranging from Finnish to Swahili…

Kids can take part in virtual Maker Camp this summer


Kids are invited to take part in Make Magazine’s six-week Maker’s Camp again this summer, with all sorts of great science, technology and crafting fun.The annual program boasts 30 days of “awesome projects…

Elemons turns the Periodic Table of Elements into a Pokemon-style card game


The best educational games are ones that kids would choose to play anyway because they’re enjoyable, well made and easy to play.  Elemons is a great example of this kind of game…

Free geometry book available from Wikijunior


Wikijunior has created a free geometry wikibook for the elementary level that’s a great introduction to geometry for all ages.The 72-page book, Geometry for Elementary School, covers basic information such as points, lines, symmetry, congruence, how…

Minecraft homeschool: Incredible educational Minecraft inspiration from all over

Do your kids love Minecraft?  Why not take advantage of that and use Minecraft to help teach history, science, language arts and more? There are dozens of wonderful sites on the internet designed to help parents and teachers… 

50 Simple household items that help your child become a math whiz


Want to raise a child who loves math and is great at it?  One of the easiest ways to do that is to fill your house with hands-on materials that encourage kids to play with numbers, puzzles, shapes…

Free 700-page middle school chemistry course available online


Looking for a comprehensive chemistry course for the middle school level?  The American Chemical Society provides their entire 691-page curriculum for free as a PDF download or online resource…
And now, I have one final cake to bake (Victoria would like a gluten-free Red Velvet Cake) so I’d better get to it.

Checking In…

My goodness, I’ve been gone a lot lately!  We’ve been so busy for being recluses.  ;)

Here’s a bit of what we’ve been up to….

Daryl had his recheck for his hip replacement surgery at the Mayo.  All looks great and he has the go-ahead for physical therapy.

While we were there, I surprised the kids with $10 each to spend at Rochester’s giant thrift store, Saver’s.

My boys pooled their money for light sabers, nerf guns, tech toys and mini figurines.

Anna used her cash for yarn, an awesome high-tech watch, a wizardry book that goes along with Harry Potter crafts, and a 39 Clues card collection case.

Victoria spent it on nothing but books (The Outsiders, Slaughterhouse Five, Farenheit 451…).  And then talked me into buying an enormous stack of extra textbooks for her (organic chemistry, psychology, biology, surgical nursing, algebra one if I got her the others…).  That girl sure makes me smile sometimes.   ;)

Jack and I have been playing this game like crazy to help him learn his multiplication facts (and also because it’s just plain fun).

Here’s a bit of what I posted about it on Facebook:

It’s called Roll n Multiply and you play it similarly to tic tac toe but it’s far more fun. Jack and I love it. You roll two dice and multiply the numbers (they are 10 sided), then put the game piece with that number on it anywhere on the board flipped to your color. The object is to get 4 in a row. BUT, if you roll a number that is already on the board you can take it and use it elsewhere (whether it was yours or your opponent’s, you just flip it to your color and put it where you want it), so you can move things and unblock lines that were blocked before. So if I had 3 in a row and Jack blocked me with his orange 24, and then I rolled 6×4, I could flip over his 24 to purple and win. It’s part luck, part strategy, part math. We play it a ton of and both of us like it. There’s a cheat sheet you can use if you don’t know your facts too, and I think Alex will be able to play it fine even though he’s only 5 and doesn’t know most of his facts yet. You really don’t need to know them but they end up learning them accidentally very quickly. I highly recommend it and I promised Jack I’d buy us a set of our own. You can check it out at the MSU library as soon as I return it and see if you guys like it. It’s nice and sturdy too, which I like. Here’s the link on Amazon (different cover now but the inside looks identical).

We stayed at a hotel for a couple of days while we were there for the recheck and had fun swimming at the pool, putting together fun gourmet (gluten free, vegetarian, etc.) hotel room meals and splurging a bit one time.

We finished off our visit by stopping by a fabulous HS family’s dairy farm to meet up in real life for the first time after us moms had known each other online for years.  It was a really special day and so much fun.  None of us could stop smiling afterwards and we can’t wait to visit again.  :)

I was too busy having fun to take any pictures but I think Toria and Anna got a few.  I snagged this from my friend’s FB feed of one of their new babies.  I love the fact that every single one of the 90+ cows has a name (Vanessa, Molly, Avery….) and that they are treated so lovingly (Avery steals peanut butter cups).  We learned so much, too!  And we just plain adored their family.  :)

In other news, someone made these beautiful flint-knapped driftglass arrowheads for our family.  Daryl struck up a conversation with the artist a few years ago as Daryl was looking for sharks’ teeth at a small local lake and this man was looking for arrowheads.  They’ve networked a bit since then (the “primitive tech” community is a small and friendly one!), and my sweetie offered him some big chunks of good flintknapping rock that we had sitting unused in our garage.  In thanks, he made these for all of us.  Aren’t they beautiful?!

We’re also working on our seeds, readying the garden and so much more.  Poor Fiona has been in and out of doctor’s offices and ERs the past week (she’s okay) and so much else is going on, but that’s a good bit for the first catch-up!

Oh yes, and we’re in the middle of some crazy winter storm that’s got people all around us without power and everything is covered with ice.  Trees and power lines are broken left and right, and there’s some pretty dire situations all around.

Hopefully all of that will pass quickly.  Minnesota winters are a bit like movie bad guys.  Every time you think they’re finally dead, they grab your ankle and come after you one more time.  ;)   I’m just pretending it’s green out there and going on with my garden planning.

Hopefully it will be less than a month till the next check in!

99 Things I Did Yesterday

I’ve written before about how we don’t have a “typical” homeschool day. That said, I thought it could be interesting to log a day here at home while D is recovering from surgery.

Here’s 99 things I did yesterday.

I realize this is probably interesting to nobody except me, so you will not hurt my feelings in the least by skipping this completely!  I just thought it would be fun to log once.

It should be noted that Victoria is up visiting friends in the Cities for the next week and a half, so I’m a mother of four for the time being instead of five.

This is not everything I did yesterday, just a random 99. I obviously changed Fiona more than once, and some things just don’t need to be logged.  It’s not necessarily in order, either.

  1. Made coffee.
  2. Fed the pets (even though it’s Jack’s job).
  3. Got dressed and used two lint rolling sheets getting all the dog and cat hair off of my sweater.
  4. Dressed Fiona.
  5. Changed Fiona.
  6. Brought breakfast to Daryl (still on bed rest from surgery).
  7. Set Fiona up with breakfast in her high chair.  (Jack took care of breakfast for himself and Alex, and Anna takes care of herself.)
  8. Checked email.
  9. Took pictures of some delightful creations Jack and Alex made with clementines, blueberries and bananas (and ate one). 
  10. Gathered compost.
  11. Hugged kids.
  12. Blogged 10 Ways to Make Today Magical.
  13. Taught Jack how to add and subtract fractions.
  14. Browsed Pinterest and pinned some of my articles to various boards.
  15. Went to the grocery store to pick up four dozen cartons of local farm eggs.
  16. Made corned beef hash and eggs for Daryl, myself and the boys.  We are a mostly vegetarian family (Anna is always vegetarian).  Mostly does not include hash in the case of most of us.
  17. Did four loads of laundry.
  18. Turned off the TV and told the boys to do something educational.
  19. Answered questions on email lists about surveys for money, homeschooling high school and various other topics.
  20. Posted about a friend’s missing dog on Facebook.  Also shared a meme about having an awesome husband, a missing teen notice, an article about organic gardening and probably at least one cartoon about wine.
  21. Answered questions about multiplication, money, spelling, erosion and spiritual beliefs.
  22. Set Fiona up with a bunch of boxes and cupboard items she could stack and play with rather than the jars of lentils she was trying to stack.
  23. Went to the post office.
  24. Played with our new foam clock to work on telling time with Alex.
  25. Helped Fiona draw with markers.
  26. Cleaned markers off of Fiona’s hands, arms and face.
  27. Sent a message to Victoria telling her about homeschool days at an indoor climbing place in the Cities tomorrow.
  28. Followed through to be sure that my four winners for my NuNaturals giveaway would be getting their goodies this week.
  29. Talked to Daryl while snuggling Fiona.
  30. Folded laundry.
  31. Called out words for Jack to spell while I folded laundry.
  32. Trimmed Daryl’s surgical tape.
  33. Nursed Fiona.
  34. Caught up with Anna, who was up late helping Daryl out and sleeps late right now to balance out the night shift.
  35. Fixed the couch and cushions after Alex made pillow forts.
  36. Had Alex fix the couch and cushions after Alex made pillow forts (it should be noted that this could count as ten entries throughout the day).
  37. Sent Jack outside with Layla and a ham bone I picked up for her at the grocery store.  Got a very happy dog.
  38. Checked my Examiner earnings, pinned and shared articles in columns that were low earners yesterday.
  39. Read anti-HSLDA sites, the NYT article about the baby who was allegedly cured of HIV, a blog by a mom with stage IV breast cancer, federal financial aid information and learned various other topics.
  40. Sent ice packs, mail, seconds of meals, ice cream and assorted other necessities with various children up to Daryl.
  41. Pawned Fiona off on various family members to watch.
  42. Looked for colored tissue paper and baggie of tiny pretties (dyed feathers, metallic shapes, etc.) to do a contact paper craft with Alex.  Couldn’t find them, got out oil pastels instead.
  43. Did altered book pages with Alex and Fiona.  
  44. Changed Fiona into a new outfit that wasn’t covered in marker and banana.
  45. Doled out vitamins and supplements.
  46. Treated and bandaged a wound on Alex’s foot.
  47. Taught Jack the nines finger trick for figuring out multiples of nines.
  48. Dropped off folded laundry in Victoria’s room, chased the giant dog off of her bed.
  49. Rescued various items from the trash and recycling bins (courtesy of a one year-old girl who likes to toss things).
  50. Talked to Anna about country music lyrics, scrapbooking, Westboro Baptist Church, friends, childhood memories and so on.
  51. Gave various assignments to Anna (do Khan Academy, gather dirty laundry from her room and bring it to the basement, help with Fiona…).
  52. Posted a picture of Jack’s awesome philosophical drawing on Facebook via Instagram.  It’s called “The Spirit of Peace.” He said “It’s fire and water coming together to form life and peace because life is not possible without harmony.” Deep, huh? ;) He even made up a song to go with it. 
  53. Responded to an email asking me to review KIND snack products.
  54. Showed Jack and Alex how to use my exercise band and helped them do lifts and stretches with it.
  55. Gave Anna a fancy new box for her new scrapbooking hobby, letter stickers and some colorful cardstock pieces.
  56. Listed the A-C bulk spice list on the Plum Creek Food Co-op’s Facebook page.
  57. Read books to Alex and Fiona.
  58. Talked about reasons for poverty and world hunger with Alex as Jack was doing Free Rice to earn rice to donate to the hungry.
  59. Helped Jack with vocabulary and multiplication on Free Rice.
  60. Tidied the living room.
  61. Made supper (stir fried veggies with rice, crazy fattening mini sweet pepper poppers).
  62. Ate way too many poppers.  And stir fry, but mostly poppers.
  63. Settled squabbles.
  64. Drank a very nice, very large glass of wine.
  65. Watched Bones with the kids.
  66. Ate chocolate.
  67. Talked to Jack about his moral dilemma of wanting to donate all of his savings in the bank (nearly $100) to feed the hungry, but he also had been saving up for things he really wanted.  He finally decided it was okay to keep his money but he’d set a personal goal of donating 1,000 grains of rice per day to help make a difference.
  68. Replied to comments and questions that had come in on Facebook.
  69. Snuggled with Alex on the couch.
  70. Got Fiona to sleep.
  71. Got Fiona to sleep again.  And again.  And so forth.
  72. Checked D’s incision.
  73. Started cleaning the table, had Jack take over.
  74. Set up two experiments on the Electronic Playground with Jack, as promised all day (morse code and blinking LED lights). 
  75. Put together the first half of my (way too large) order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.
  76. Gave kids rock candy swizzle sticks for a special treat for dessert (ingredient: sugar, note: make these for science class).
  77. Unpacked new mini donut maker, looked for Gluten Free on a Shoestring Quick and Easy cookbook that had the GF mini donut recipe that spurned the impulse buy.  No luck.
  78. Loved on the dog.
  79. Helped Alex and Jack pick out their classes for the upcoming science conference.
  80. Emailed Victoria.
  81. Talked to Anna about her new goal to write a musical about her life.
  82. Loved on the cat.
  83. Officially applied for a PIN from the federal government for financial aid forms once the kids are ready to start applying to colleges.
  84. Fixed my necklace after Fiona broke it.  Twice.
  85. Debated about ordering stir fry rice noodles, sorgum flour, organic (non-GMO) corn starchorganic GF corn flakestapioca flour and potato starch straight up or through Subscribe and Save on Amazon.com.  Dilemma — if you order five or more items that will be delivered at the same time, you get 15% off now (and only 5% off through subscribe and save) and it’s a better deal on gluten free items I use a lot.  On the other hand, it stings to drop that kind of money on bulk flours and such. Hemmed and hawed and left it all to think about tomorrow.
  86. Watched MythBusters on Netflix with Jack and Alex.
  87. Snuggled with Alex until he fell asleep.
  88. Planned my garden out on paper.
  89. Planned our menus for the week.
  90. Ate more chocolate.
  91. Made sure kids did nightly chores (take dog out, put leftovers away, etc.).
  92. Got out frozen pumpkin to thaw in the fridge for GF mix and match quick bread tomorrow.
  93. Shared chocolate with hubby.
  94. Gave Anna the new Discover Magazine and asked her to read it and talk to me tomorrow about some of the stories she found most interesting.
  95. Swept cobwebs from the ceilings upstairs.  Note:  Especially cold winters really do seem to mean many more spiders!  Good grief.  Every two weeks we seem ready for haunted house status.
  96. Helped Anna find chocolate chips to make trail mix (raw almonds, cranberries, dark chocolate chips) for a midnight snack.  Yes, there is a chocolate theme at our house.
  97. Posted a couple of nifties to the Magical Homeschool page on Facebook.
  98. Watched CNN.
  99. Logged this.  ;)

There were a lot of things that I didn’t do that I usually do.  I didn’t bake anything, didn’t get any of the littles into real baths, didn’t have long talks with Toria, didn’t do much one-on-one with Anna or homeschool with Alex, didn’t write any articles… I didn’t even do the dishes.

I can’t imagine why I don’t get more done…

It was fun to log, though, and I highly recommend it for those days when you’re sure you never get anything accomplished!

PS  This post contains affiliate links.  If you buy anything at Amazon after clicking through here, I’ll make a small fortune.  Okay, a really, really small fortune, but it’s something and you should know that.