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…..

 

 

The Sixth 4th

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This is the sixth 4th of July that my kids have celebrated together – look how they’ve grown!

We wish you a day full of family and friends and fireworks.  Happy Fourth!

Pi Day!

Are you ready for Pi Day?

Here’s a heads up so you can gather whatever you need to celebrate this fun math holiday on 3-14.  We always have fun with it!

I put together all sorts of Pi Day carols, crafts, activities, links, etc. here:

Celebrate Pi Day on 3-14!

Have fun!

 

Happy Fourth of July!

Picnics, parties, sprinklers, sun, games, friendship, fireworks… above all these, my favorite Fourth of July tradition is taking a picture of the two kids outside.

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I love to see how they’ve changed over the years – and how they’ve stayed the same!

Happy Spring Holidays!

The Mind Games family wants to wish all our friends & loved ones a very happy spring weekend… whether you are celebrating Easter or Passover, or have recently celebrated Ostara and the Spring Equinox, or whether you are just enjoying a happy sunny Sunday, may you find joy.

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Our family celebrates Easter, but in a secular way, with jelly beans and eggs and chocolate bunnies, books and movies and a delicious dinner.

This morning, we were reading one of GoGoGirl’s new books, called A Year Full of Holidays.  The simple story follows a five-year-old girl who cannot wait for her next birthday, but her friends and family remind her that she has a whole year full of holidays to celebrate before her next birthday, and she enjoys the fun found in each passing month.  (This was a perfect pick for GoGoGirl, by the way, who can’t bear the thought that her next birthday isn’t until November.)

When we finished, KarateKid said, “Well, they had most of the big holidays, but they didn’t include all of them.  They forgot National Watermelon Day.”

Hmm, do you think we celebrate too much?

I wouldn’t have it any other way!  Enjoy your day, whatever you celebrate!

Cascarones – Not Just for Easter Anymore!

New Year’s Day brought a fun new activity this year – we decided to make and break some cascarones!

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Traditionally found in Mexico and parts of Central America, as well as some areas of the southwestern US, cascarones are confetti-filled eggshells, cracked over the heads of friends and family to bring luck.  Cascarones are most often made at Easter time… but we decided to break tradition!

GoGoGirl is working on an “egg badge” for our scouting program, and together with the group leaders, we have been coming up with several egg-related projects she would like to do.  I was already planning to have GoGoGirl make the scrambled eggs for breakfast when I thought it would be great fun to use the shells to make some good-luck cascarones for 2012.

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I helped GoGoGirl open her eggs by cracking a quarter-sized hole at the bottom, then she shook the egg white and yolk out into a bowl for scrambling. While we were eating our delicious breakfast, I boiled water and added vinegar and food coloring so we could dye the shells.

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The shells needed time to dry, so we got out a pile of scrap paper and all our fancy hole punches and scissors to make a bowl full of confetti. This was some serious fine-motor-muscle work, let me tell you! Even my hands were getting tired and sore of squeezing, squeezing, squeezing the hole punches, but no one gave up (not even me!) until we had an impressive pile of confetti.

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We decorated our egg shells with markers and glitter, filled each one about two-thirds full of confetti, and covered the hole on the bottom by gluing on a piece of tissue paper.

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The hardest part was waiting for the glue to dry!

Finally we took the eggs outside (there were only 11 – GoGoGirl squeezed when she should have been shaking, and broke just one into the bowl in the morning).

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Oh the joy!

There are few things as thrilling as being allowed to crack an egg on your dad’s head!

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Stomping, dancing, twirling in the confetti and the good luck swirling down over us!

I don’t know why we’ve never made cascarones except at Easter… it was a quick, easy, and exciting project for any holiday, big or small!

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Merry Christmas Box

Most years, there is some part of our family that we can’t see on Christmas for one reason or another.  This year, my dad had jury duty in December, so the kids have been waiting for Pappy and Grandma N. to come and visit for one last Christmas this season… they finally arrived this evening!

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We had a nice evening of chatting and present-ripping-open.  KarateKid was especially pleased with his brand-new, serious-quality triple beam balance.  GoGoGirl liked her new princess dolls and the book Press Here by Herve Tullet.

If you haven’t read this one, you should – and this picture explains why:

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Press Here is a delightfully interactive book, and in an age when that means electronic chips and noises and QR codes, this simple book draws upon the magic of imagination and anticipation. “Press here.” Tap the yellow dot, and on the next page – two yellow dots. Press again? Now there are three. Gently rub the dot on the left – and by the next page, it has turned red. The grand finale comes as the reader is entreated to clap her hands, again, again – and each time she does, the dots get bigger, and bigger, and bigger.  That’s what’s happening in the picture… GoGoGirl is clapping and laughing herself silly.  We read the book at least four times tonight, and she would have gladly read it again and again.

After all the dust and paper had settled, while we were happily looking through our presents, KarateKid set his eye on something else: the big box the presents arrived in.  He covered it with duct tape, tore into it with scissors, and produced a pirate dinghy, announcing: “This box is the best gift of all!”

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Some things never change.  Merry Christmas, again!

Happy New Year!

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Our family has had some major struggles in the past year, but through it all, we kept waking up in the morning.

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Even in our darkest times, the innate optimism of the kids continued to rise to the surface, and their joy and curiosity and wonder made us laugh every single day.  It is their spirit that reminds me to keep living, to keep loving, and to keep laughing.

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I don’t want to wish that 2012 will be better than 2011 (after all, we welcomed the sweetest new niece to the world this year – what could be better than that?).  I simply wish for our family and yours that we never lose the light; that we wake up every morning and always find a reason to laugh.

Lego Party

Are our babies really nine already?  KarateKid turned 9 at the beginning of the summer, and his buddy E turns 9 this weekend, at the beginning of fall.  It’s hard to believe that our babies are so big and now have a troupe of younger siblings following them around!

My friend Heather is a party-planning maniac and as usual had a fun and creative party ready for the kids.  This was E’s second Lego party (he had one last year too) so Heather could reuse and expand on many of the same ideas… last year, the kids took turns hitting the pinata while wearing a Lego head… this year, there was a Lego brick body to wear too!

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GoGoGirl had a wonderful afternoon with Heather’s girls, playing with balloons, dancing, coloring, and playing “Mother and Sister” and “the Cheese Game.” (The Cheese Game was one they made up while eating cheese balls… make your friend laugh her head off by coming up with silly things that could be made of cheese… “Cheese Legos!” “Cheese Pinata!” “Cheese Camera!” “Cheese Underpants!”)

KarateKid was a little nervous at first because he doesn’t know any of E’s public school friends… but he was glad to see E’s friend C there – someone he knows from other parties – and the two of them built Lego cars together and assembled paper rockets together, too. (John was brave enough to let the kids launch the rockets inside, because it was pouring rain!)

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At the end of the party, the kids played musical chairs. I had to remind my poor, unsocialized-homeschooler kids how to play, since the last time they played was at E’s party last year! They had great fun with it, and KarateKid was thrilled to be the winner.

After the other guests left, MechDaddy and I helped Heather and John clean up while our six kids kept playing, and playing, and playing.

The kids all loved the Lego party with the Lego-head pops, the Lego-guy cupcakes, and especially the Lego costume… but mostly the time with friends.  What a terrific day!

Watermelon Day – a Day Late!

August 3rd is National Watermelon Day.  Really.  (My kids say I make these things up!)

We managed to get out and buy a pair of watermelons on the 3rd – our grocery store even had seeded melons this year!  Unfortunately for the kids, the afternoon of the 3rd was filled with steady rain and I stood firm against the idea of them tearing apart a watermelon inside my house!  We ate slices of watermelon, read books about watermelon, and spit seeds off the front porch.  But the main event had to wait until the next day…

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The kids’ favorite sensory activity of the summer is when I give them half a watermelon and let them dig into it with a variety of tools and their bare hands.  This year, we had a seeded watermelon and so the kids had the added challenge of trying to save as many of the black seeds as possible.

We had tools including: an ice cream scoop, a big mesh strainer, a scoop-size mesh strainer, a set of melon-baller tongs, a regular set of tongs, two wavy veggie cutters, funnels, measuring cups, scoops, plastic spreaders, plastic knives, a plastic strawberry huller, and a variety of bowls and bins and cups.

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I posted about our watermelon exploring activity last year too, but we hadn’t talked about it in months.  When I told the kids on the 3rd that it was watermelon day, GoGoGirl immediately asked, “Are we going to open it on the little picnic table in the front yard and use those scoopers and smush it in our hands?”  This is obviously an activity well worth the mess, because it’s so much fun that it really sticks in their memories!

Our favorite watermelon book is Benjamin & Tulip by Rosemary Wells, which has, unfortunately, been out of print for years.  In this story, meek Benjamin has to walk under the tree where bossy Tulip is waiting to pounce on him and beat him up.  When Benjamin tries to walk home with a watermelon, he winds up with the melon on his head.  “You’re crusing for a bruising!” was part of our family’s lexicon because we loved this book so much.

Our copy is inscribed to me, with love from Mommy and Daddy, on my 4th birthday in 1980!  My copy originally came with a Weston Woods cassette with the story read aloud – with fantastic seed-spitting sound effects at the end.

I have been trying all week to track down a copy of this audio book – on cassette, cd, mp3, anywhere, and have been out of luck.  I have some friends scouting far-flung libraries for copies of the cassette, so hopefully my kids will be able to enjoy it soon.  If you happen to be reading this and have a copy to share… we would be so grateful!