Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book Basket

This week we're taking a break from our themed book basket. We still have a bunch of garden books lying around (ours & from the library), but I think I've already posted about many of them. Our top three favorite non-garden reads this week have been...

Frightful's Daughter by Jean Craighead George ~ wonderfully illustrated picture book that introduces Oksi, a peregrine falcon chick and the daughter of Frightful (of Frightful's Mountain). Great read aloud selection for an older child ~ my ds7 loved it.

Frightful's Daughter Meets the Baron Weasel by Jean Craighead George ~ Sequel to Frightful's Daughter. Oksi now has a family of her own that she must protect from the Baron Weasel.

Paddington Bear by Michael Bond ~ this is a newly re-illustrated version of the original Paddington Bear story. My ds7 has been feeling a bit under the weather for the past few days and has been requesting lots of read-alouds and he loved this book. This book reminds me of the "My First Little House" series of books (which we love). It takes a portion of the original book and puts it in picture book form complete with beautiful illustrations.

Be sure to check out what others are reading in The Happy Housewife's book basket series.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Backyard Birdwatching

My kiddos and I have been watching the birds in our backyard ~ it's one of our favorite springtime activities. It's really easy to catch a glimpse of the birds with our eyes, but do you know how hard it is to actually get a photograph of one of these little guys? Well, at least it's been pretty tough for me...
One day last week, I set up a stake out on our backyard swingset which is located just a few feet away from our birdhouse...yep, I climbed up the ladder and set myself up on the little deck area ~ just me and my trusty camera, and I waited...I was FINALLY able to catch a few pics of one of the inhabitants of our birdhouse...

My ds7 was inspired by my bird pics, so he asked to take the camera outside one day ~ boy, was I amazed by this picture ~ that's a worm in the robin's mouth! And my ds7 took this picture all by himself!

And another pic of our robin friend...

I do believe that this is the robin whose nest is under our deck.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Baby Birds

My kiddos made a surprising discovery under our deck a few weeks ago...

A robin family had built its nest on one of the support beams under our deck, and then filled the nest with eggs.

A few days ago, my kiddos came running up to me excitedly shouting, "Mom, the eggs have hatched!" My ds7 had to get down on his hands and knees and place the camera lens between the deck boards to get these pics. If you look very carefully, you may just see the little baby birds in the nest.

It's definitely a finer thing to have such an up-close view of God's handiwork!
Read about more finer things over at Finer Things Friday

Thursday, May 14, 2009

This week's bookbasket

To finish out our garden theme, I have two more books to share from our library stash:

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart: in this book a little girl proves that you don't have to have a large patch of earth to create a beautiful garden ~ very sweet story.

And the Good Brown Earth by Kathy Henderson: as Joe follows Gram into the garden he learns about all the different "times" that a garden has: digging time, thinking time, watching time, and more. This book was a great addition to our garden book basket.

Fun Reads and Kids' Choices:

Bunny Money by Rosemary Wells: cute Max & Ruby story, the money that Ruby has saved up to buy a gift for her Grandma is going fast, and she hasn't even bought Grandma's gift yet.

Miss Hunnicutt's Hat by Jeff Brumbeau: we discovered this fun book last spring, my kids think this book is hilarious. One thing to note: the back flap describes this book as a "...lesson in the value of tolerance". I really don't like the way that the word "tolerance" is the new catch-phrase in our culture. In my opinion, this book is simply a fun read about a woman who found that being different from her neighbors wasn't such a bad thing.

Thomas and the Shooting Star: my 2yo is a big fan of Thomas the Tank Engine.

Oodles of Animals by Lois Ehlert: wonderful illustrations and rhyming text ~ this would be a great addition to any animal study. We really enjoy looking at the illustrations in Ehlert's books.

Heron & Turtle by Valeri Gorbachev: cute story about the things that Heron & Turtle enjoy doing together

To see what others are reading, be sure to check out The Happy Housewife's Book Basket series. I discovered these books after reading other book basket posts...

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: excellent story, I had a really hard time putting it down. I reserved the CD audio for my ds7.

Pete's a Pizza by William Steig: short, simple and very funny story.

The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman: my 5yo especially enjoyed this book about a family that has seven picky eaters.

Just for me:

Homeschooling at the Speed of Life: Balancing Home, School, and Family in the Real World by Marilyn Rockett: the subtitle says it all. I am just starting to read through this one.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Book Basket

This week I reserved books about gardens for our book basket. I'm a theme gal, remember? And since "April showers bring May flowers" I thought that the first week of May was an excellent time to read about gardens ~ flower gardens, vegie gardens...

Up first are some of our favorite garden reads:

Princess Chamomile's Garden by Hiawyn Oram: cute story about a princess who draws up plans for her own garden ~ and then sets to work to create this special garden, with the help of some friends.

In My Garden: A Counting Book by Ward Schumaker: picture book that's perfect for preschoolers ~ counts things in the garden from one to ten, then by tens to fifty ~ and ends with a surprising number.

Zinnia's Flower Garden by Monica Wellington: charming little picture book about all of the things that Zinnia has to do to prepare, plant, and harvest her flower garden. Great non-fiction choice, simple enough for preschoolers, yet lots of info included so that even my 7yo learned some new things.

Whose Garden is it? by Mary Ann Hoberman: everyone insists that the garden is theirs ~ from the gardener who plants it, to the rabbit who dines off of it, to the bumble bee that pollinates it, to the rain who nourishes it...and the list goes on. I liked how this story weaves a lot of information about all of the different things that are involved in the life of a garden.

In the Garden: Who's Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George ~ we borrowed this one from the library a couple of years ago, and we loved it so much that I purchased it (for a bargain price, of course!)...My kids absolutely loved this book ~ in this book, a brother and sister use clues left by visitors to their garden to determine who's been here. This book is a great read-aloud to add to any science or nature study of gardens. There are also other similar books by this author that we own & enjoy: At the Pond: Who's Been Here?, In the Snow: Who's Been Here?, In the Woods: Who's Been Here?.

This was actually just a partial listing of all of the garden books that we are reading, next week I'll share some more finds...

Fun Reads:

Jamberry by Bruce Degen: This was a book that I saw in a number of other book basket posts. All three of my kiddos (7,5,2) loved this book. Great illustrations and wonderful rhyming words.

Smash! Crash! (Trucktown Series) by Jon Scieszka: We really enjoyed the first book that we read from this Trucktown Series...however, this one disappointed me. It was about two trucks that like to "Smash Crash" ~ translation, they like to make big messes. The book begins with the two trucks smashing and crashing a construction zone, they pretty much make a huge mess of the cones and other materials and then run away. They then proceed to "smash crash" other places, sometimes creating a big mess, and other times creating something fun for someone else. Throughout the whole book there was a loud voice calling for them, and I guess they figured that the person (or maybe truck) that the voice was coming from would scold them for all of their smashing and crashing (this was my thought) ~ but when the truck with the voice finally caught up with them they were actually rewarded...nothing was ever said about their bad behavior...not really a lesson I want my kids learning. The illustrations in this book are very appealing to my 2yo, but I'm not sure we'll be reading any more books from this series.

Commander Toad and the Intergalactic Spy by Jane Yolen: This is a chapter book series that follows Commander Toad and his crew aboard the Star Warts spaceship. This book made me laugh out loud ~ I kid you not! I read it one night before bed, and I honestly laughed out loud a number of times...First published in 1986, this book would be a great read for a child who's ready for chapter books. I finished it in about 20 minutes, my 7yo read it in about 30 minutes. The characters are silly and funny; and the story line keeps your attention (and my attention :)). BTW, the illustrator for the book is Bruce Degen, the author of Jamberry, mentioned above.

Commander Toad in Space by Jane Yolen: another great book in the Commander Toad series ~ I believe this may actually be the first book in the series. I will definitely be reserving more of these books for my ds7.

I've found so many ideas for books to add to my library reserve list from this book basket series. Be sure to head over to The Happy Housewife to read about all of the interesting books that others are reading!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

I think I'll go for a walk outside now...

The past few days have brought us rain, and grey clouds, and chilly temps...Early this morning the fog and clouds remained ~ but sometime mid-morning, the cloud cover opened up and made way for the sun. I have no idea how long the sun will remain ~ they're calling for thunderstorms tonight ~ so we took advantage of the break in the clouds and headed out for a walk around our neighborhood.

I gave my 7yo full control of the camera...

BTW, anyone see the title to this post and start hearing a Brady Bunch song in their head? Yep, I'm a product of the 80's too :)

Spring Cleaning ~ Days 2 & 3

Okay, I think I'm going to try to kill two birds with one stone in this post by tackling Day 2 and Day 3 of the Spring Cleaning Party together, well here goes...

Tuesday's assignment for the Spring Cleaning Party was to work on decluttering the living room. It's a good thing this was Tuesday's assignment and not Monday's ~ on Monday I had a mountain of clean laundry hanging out on the couch, I think the blanket fort mess on the floor (courtesy of my kids) looks a bit less daunting :). Anyway, here are some before pics of our living room:

After folding the blankets and returning them to their rightful homes, and picking up a few stray toys and books...voila!

Ah, much better :)

Ok, now onto Day 3 of the Party ~ cleaning, organizing, and decorating the living room...

First up ~ cleaning ~ when I was pregnant with my 2nd child, I switched over to a very simple, all-natural cleaning system. Basically, I use a mix of 1-part vinegar to 1-part water for cleaning most of the surfaces in our home ~ windows, counters, stovetop, and even my tv screen. I have a couple of re-usable spray bottles that I fill with this homemade concoction, and I keep one bottle under each sink (kitchen, 1st floor bath, master bath). I know that there are lots of different cleaning recipes out there, but I found that this simple recipe works well for me.

For dusting, I actually don't use any cleaning solution ~ I just take a 100% cotton rag and wipe the surface down :)

Now it's onto organizing the living room ~ our living room is home to our tv, our CD player and our favorite reading spots. Therefore, it makes sense to keep our DVDs, CDs and at least a portion of our large collection of books here. Since we moved into our home almost 8 years ago, and especially since starting our family 7 years ago, I have tried lots of different organization systems for these items. About 2 years ago, I purchased a couple zippered cd cases to store our dvds and cds, and I am very pleased with how this has worked for us.

Each case holds 100 cds or dvds ~ we have no where near that amount of either, but I really don't mind having some empty slots. We store all of our kids' dvds in one case, this is kept in our tv cabinet. We use another case to store kids' music cds and kids' audio cds (Adventures in Odyssey, books on cd, etc.) ~ this case is kept on a bookshelf in a nearby room.

For book storage, we use a mix of baskets and a wall shelf (that I absolutely love!). I try to change up the books every month or so just to keep things fresh around here :)

And finally decorating ~ this one is a tough one for me. Right now we have white spots on our walls where I had dh cover up picture holes. We have paint in the basement, waiting to be used to touch up these's just a matter of taking the time to do it. I also want to replace some of the artwork on our walls with something that "says us" a bit more than our current wall-hangings...but I'm not sure what that will be yet.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring Cleaning Party

Simple Mom is having a Spring Cleaning Party ~ and I really need to join in...

The assignment for the first day is to declutter the surfaces of your home...I feel like I am pretty good at keeping clutter at bay, it feels like I declutter many surfaces on a weekly basis, but the clutter always returns. Here's a before picture of a clutter magnet area of my kitchen counter.

After tossing some things we no longer need and returning the rest to their proper homes, this area looks remarkably better :)
Next up is the before picture of the top of our tv cabinet... I usually put things here because I want to keep them out of reach of my curious 2yo :)...

and after...

Today I only tackled the main level of our home, I still have the upstairs (bedrooms), and the basement (playroom). However, I am pleased with the results so far.

Now, onto the question Simple Mom asked:

Am I feeling emotional about any of this stuff? If so, why? Do those knickknacks create your memories, or are they just things you happened to collect during those times on which you enjoy reflecting?

Actually, I'm not really much of a "collector", and since having kids, I have gotten rid of many of the knick-knacks that I did own. I remember sitting on the couch for hours upon hours nursing my first-born ~ and being so discouraged by the clutter that I saw all around me. Since then, I have been on a mission to rid our home of unnecessary clutter...

Most of the things that tend to clutter our home these days are things that we actually use (homeschool supplies, books, kids' creations, more books, kids' toys, more kid's creations). We use them, and then we fail to return them to their proper homes.

A rainy day

Today I asked my 7yo and my 5yo if they would like to get the mail for me. We have a community mailbox that is about 3 houses down from us, and just recently I have been brave enough to allow them to make the short trek there and back ALONE (with me watching from the porch).

Today's walk to the mailbox was extra special because it was raining. My kids love to play in the rain ~ must be something about the cool rain boots :) So they donned their raincoats, rainboots and grabbed an umbrella and excitedly headed out.

They both took their job very seriously. Big brother was very vigilant in his duty to make sure his little sister was covered with the umbrella. And little sis made sure that the mail was protected from the rain.

The two-year old REALLY wanted to go too, but I convinced him that hanging out on the porch with mama could be just as much fun. He quickly discovered how to get rained on too ~ well, just his little hands got rained on.

And he loved it...

He hollered from the porch to his brother and sister "yook, I get rained on!"
I love it when such a simple thing as a walk in the rain can bring such joy to my kiddos.


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