Monday, March 26, 2012

History Chalkboard Drawings

     This is what I wanted the chalkboard for;  to illustrate history lessons and such.  We started reading about the War of the Roses today, and so I drew this on our chalkboard.  It was fun drawing it and finding the Shakespeare quote I wanted to have on it.  I'm not sure if this is more for Anna or myself.  I love history and drawing, and well... it's fun.  Maybe she'll get something out of it.

        On a completely different note...

     I love watching my little boy in his serious work-play.  He was loading up logs today in his dump truck, and then lining them up in the yard.  He was all business, and seemed to be doing it just for the pleasure of moving the logs.  So different from how my girls play, which is all imagination and fantasy. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Outdoor Play Spaces

     This is my recently completed, (or at least nearly so; I'm always thinking of something else too add) play area for the kids. 
     This place has been slowly evolving over the years, from a completely unusable space under our deck, to what it is now.  It started with the one little swing that is past the tire swing.  We put that up for Anna shortly after we moved, and for one little girl who entertained herself easily, that was pretty good.  Then the twins got old enough to play out side, and I realized that all the unfinished outside projects that had come to a screeching halt when I became pregnant, not only had not miraculously completed itself, but that the mess had to be cleaned up in order to make it safe enough for two wobbly one year olds to be outside.  There was a lot of wood that had to be gotten rid of, so I used some of it to make a sand box.  It's nothing fancy, but it works.
     I wanted to get some more swings, so that everyone could swing at the same time, but apparently swings have gotten ridiculously expensive in the few years since I bought one for Anna.  Then Dave had to get tires for his truck, and I had a Eureka! moment.  A tire swing would be so much cheaper, and all the kids could ride on it together.  I asked Dave to save one of the truck tires, but instead of saving one of his old tires, he asked if he could have one of the tires laying around the garage.  The guy said, "Sure, as long as you don't bring it back!" He got the biggest one there.  The kids have loved it, and our whole family can fit on it!
        We added some logs and mulch this past week, and now it's really nice under there.  I read Robinhood to Anna while sitting on the logs yesterday.  Almost as good as sitting under the greenwood tree.
     It's amazing how necessary it is to have a place for kids to play, when you have a rather small boring yard.  Growing up, I had acres to play on!  There was always something to do, (even if I do remember saying "I'm bored" pretty frequently.) 
     The next thing I want to add is a pulley going from the top of the deck, down to the ground.  As long as they don't pulley each other up, I think they will have fun with it.  Although they would probably have fun pulling each other up until somebody falls, hits their head on a rock, and gets knocked out.  Ask me how I know.  ;)


     It is full blown spring here, and we are LOVING it!  I haven't had much time to blog, as we are spending as much time as possible outside enjoying the beautiful weather.  The house has been getting neglected as well, but I spent some of today bringing some spring inside.  I finally got our spring nature table set up. 
     It looks so cheery; I love it.  It was getting quite ridiculous still having our winter table set up.  The "flowering" tree was made by ripping squares out of tissue paper, and then twisting them in the middle to make a blossom shape.  I then hot melt glued them onto a branch.  So easy, and yet so pretty.
I made some root children for the table.  I've been trying to make something new every season, as it makes it more fun. There is a little Grass, Buttercup, and Violet.  The kids love seeing the characters from their favorite books come to life on the table.

Anna got further into it by setting up a scene from "The Root Children", using a snail she made last year.  Shy little Violet is hiding behind the tree. 

      I don't keep out all the children's books we have since I got tired of wading through them, and no one really looking at them, since there were just too many.  Now, I keep most of them in my "library", aka, my closet.  I rotate the stock every so often to keep the books fresh.  Today I got out the spring books, and the twins got a thrill out of seeing all the "new" books.  They're not all expressly spring books, but they have that feel.  (Well, to me at least)
     I'm so glad spring is here!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Some Things I've Been Working On

These are just a few random things I've been working on lately.  My biggest project I've got going, is a play mat for the kid's Christmas.  Yes, I know it's March, but I figure the way this is going, I very well could be still working on it in December.  I was inspired by The Knitted Farmyard  ,and as I was looking for more images of it on the web, I ran across several blogs that talked of starting this project.  Nobody seems to have finished it.  It is time consuming, but I will finish it. It will be too wonderful not to finish.
It actually looks more complete now than when I took this picture, so I'm making progress.

For a while now I've been wanting a marker/chalk board for our school area, but didn't like the price of anything half way decent.  I thought it was going to have to be put on the back burner for awhile, until the other day I was in the playroom, and realized I already had what I wanted.  Last spring I bought a kids art easel from Ikea, mostly because it was really cheap and I had such a nice cleared out playroom to put it in, more than I thought the kids needed it; and there it has sat, neglected and taking up too much room, since.  Sooo... I took it down to my shop, cut off the legs, and glued on a piece of trim for the eraser tray, and now I have a new marker/chalkboard.  I love when I can use something superfluous that I have, and turn it into something I need.

This was definitely a spur of the moment project.  Anna is going to her cousins Birthday party in the morning, and I suddenly realized tonight, after it was too late to drag the kids out to the store, that I forgot to get her a Birthday present.  I didn't want to make a quick dash to Walmart in the morning, and just get something. (Probably plastic, breakable, and something I wouldn't want for my kids, so why would I want it for my niece?) I started thinking about what I could make with what I have on hand, and I came up with this.  I think it is perfect for her, since she loves to dress up, and it suits her fiery personality.

The last thing is a little doll for my little niece, who I have yet to meet.  I hope that a little of my love goes to her through this doll, and that she wont be too much bigger before I finally see her.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Happy Gardening!

A beautiful earth worm found today.  This thing was huge!

Multiplication Cookies (and other ways to learn the tables)

     Anna is a very right brained, visual- kinesthetic learner, so when it came time to start learning the times tables, I knew she would need more than just going through the tables a few times.  One of the ways she learned that multiplication is the same thing as adding equal groups, is through making cookies. 
    First we made some Icebox Sugar Cookies last night.  These are great cookies for this activity, since you can slice off however many cookies you need right then. 
     This is how it works.  The cookie represents the "groups of", and the chocolate chips are how many that are in the group.  So, 2 x 3 would be two cookies with three chocolate chips on each one.

On the left half of the cookie sheet there are four groups of five chips. On the right, there are five groups of four chips.  I had her do it this way to demonstrate how if you reverse the numbers in the problem, the product is the same. Twenty chips.  She did a few more problems, until I decided that we had enough cookies for one day.
                                                      Multiplication never tasted so good!

     Some other things we've been doing is tossing bean bags back and fourth, while skip counting the tables. Once I feel that she's got the counting down pretty well, I'll say, "3x4 is..." and toss.  Then she says "12" and tosses back to me.  She loves doing this, and seeing how fast we can go.

     This is my favorite multiplication tool.  I saw someone do this on a chalk board, and though it would be fun to make one out of wood and string.  A couple of hours in my shop and, Ta da! My multiplication circle.  The point of it is to make different shapes by going through the tables.  This is the one times. As you can see it's not that interesting, since you're just counting. But it gets better.
This is the two times. A pentagon!  The string is wrapped around twice, since every time you pass the 0, the invisible tens place goes up one. So 0 becomes 10, 2 becomes 12, etc.
Here's the three times.  This is when it really gets neat.  At first it seems like you are just doing some random lines, and then a ten pointed star appears!
This is the last one. After this the shapes repeat, and the five times is just a line.  The four times is a five pointed star.  I love it.  Isn't math beautiful?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


     This has to be my favorite Holling C. Holling book.  I love the lively way it's written, and the pictures are simply beautiful.
     Of course with a book this engaging, figuring out activities to go along with it is easy.  Anna has started illustrating the animals it talks about in the book.  I just bought some beeswax crayons, and so she's been using those.  Block crayons seem to be made for drawing underwater scenes, and I can see her spark and enthusiasm for drawing coming back.  Here are the ones she has done thus far.

This is Pagoo as he first appears in the book.

Here are some of the little creatures he shares the waters with.

A mussel bed.

      She's starting to find her footing in learning to use the block crayons.  They layer so well, that it makes it easy to create a beautiful glowing picture.  After we finish the book, I am going to put all her pictures in a binder, so that she can have her own illustrated book. 
      I admit I was hesitant about buying such expensive crayons, but I am glad I did.  They really are a pleasure to use; I am having a lot of fun with them myself!  The twins desperately want to use them, but I haven't let them, which makes me seem kind of mean, but it wont be long until they are in school, and I want to keep some things special and new for them then.