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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Oh No! Baby Rash!

Spotted baby!

Wordless Wednesday Hop

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Not Quite Over Pluto Yet

I'm not the only one who has a feeling of loss about the whole Pluto thing. I mean, nine is my lucky number, so nine planets seemed perfect. Also, I would've much rather added on (I get that Eris is larger than Pluto and if we count Pluto we really have to consider Eris a planet as well, but I was okay with that) than taken away, so when they were listing all the "dwarf planets" that could be considered if we were truly to keep Pluto as a planet, I was all but putting up "Welcome to the Solar System Club" banners in anticipation of all these cool new planets to name and love.

What I really dislike about it is that it forces upgrades on "educational material" that was always sufficient before like the Blue's Clues Planet song

and of course Interplanet Janet!

Some good things about it:

It shows human scientists are not infallible. They can be wrong. Things we "know" can change. That's just something kids need to be ready to accept. Adults can be wrong, even highly credited adults. There is nothing wrong with questioning long standing ideas. It keeps science from becoming dogma.

It allows for some discussion, helps kids become aware of other planetary bodies because we can't erase Pluto from the dictionary, not without throwing out a lot of good old books and educational entertainment. Now we don't just get to memorize the planets. We have to actually think about what a planet is and we get to learn about Dwarf Planets, the Kuiper Belt, maybe even the Oort Cloud. After all, what truly makes space exciting, what makes it the Final Frontier, if you will (Ocean floor still gives it a run for its money on that, in my opinion, but I digress), is the aspect of the unknown, that anything could be out there. If you want a planet completely devoted to sentient cats, you can have it.

In a universe of infinite unknowns anything, however improbable, is possible.

So I may  be having  a hard time bringing myself to create a foam sphere model of the solar system because I'd have to leave out little Pluto or include God knows how many extra asteroids, but the opportunities for learning are only expanding. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Reaching for the Stars: Preschool Science

Stars, by Coryn

My daughter has an interest in space. Almost all her artwork is "space" themed, be it stars or aliens or planets. From a very young age she could recognize space ships (on my Voyager dvds for instance) and as I have mentioned before, she loves to watch Doctor Who with me. I recently had an epiphany that this is my chance to make science fun and cool for her, so I googled the best preschool and kindergarten books to teach kids about space and started looking them up to see if they were locally available at my library. Disappointingly, only two or three of them were, but Coryn was still excited when I told her we were going to the library to pick up books about space!

One highly recommended book which was available was Moonshot. This is the lyrical but factual tale of the Apollo 11 missions. It is beautifully illustrated and while informative, still reads like a story.

We also got a selection of "pure fiction" books on the subject. Her favorite is Mooncake, about a bear who wants to taste the moon,

though Zathura was also a big hit. I didn't prefer Zathura. The illustrations are good, but the writing and story aren't what I consider greatShe keeps asking to hear it, though.

I preferred Papa, Please Get the Moon For Me,  but Coryn has not asked to re-read it, so apparently it isn't a favorite.

One book that she surprised me by asking to hear more than once was Stars.

This National Geographic book was not on recommended lists, but they only had two or three of the recommended ones available, so I had to improvise (the rest I just found by searching the library data base for anything space related).  I was concerned it was too informational for Coryn, but apparently it is right at the level it needs to be for her to absorb information and she really likes to look at the pictures.

Dwarf Planets, however, erred on being a little too factual and not enough fun. She listened to it once, but no read again requests were forthcoming.

And while I really like Look at the Moon, which is a long poem about the moon, not scientific at all, Coryn keeps telling me she doesn't want to read it.

So that was my quickly put together "unit study" on Space. I am hoping it spurs an interest in science that will match her thirst for science fiction. She has already mentioned being an astronaut at least once this week, so we will see.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Slowly but surely, Choosing My Own Adventure

I started my Choose Your Own Adventure blog a bit ago but was distracted by a sudden urge to clean up my existing novels for possible publication, a wave of inspiration at how to end the novel I am writing (almost done!), and the first special order from my Critters for Coryn Etsy account in FOREVER! When it rains it pours!  Tonight I managed a few more entries,  and as much work as I still need to do on this, I am incredibly proud of this. Someday I'd like to include pictures and maybe even audio or video clips to make it multi-media. Check it out if you have a few minutes. It's kind of fun!

Choose Your Own Adventure: Part One: A Restful Beginning: As a preface: I'm writing this a little at a time just off the top of my head. I have no great plan, and I'm sorry that I am postin...

Daisy Cottage Designs

Wordless Wednesday: A Hill of Beans

Baby Derp
After my success with pasta play time, I decided to try dried beans.

The results were predictably messy.

Doggy Photobomb
Wordless Wednesday Hop

Amanda’s Books and More

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Northwest Florida Wildlife Sanctuary Open House

I don't know if any of you remember the Saga of the Squirrels from last month (chronicled here and here) but to summarize we ended up dropping off two baby squirrels to be cared for by the kind people at the Wildlife Sanctuary of Northwest Florida, a local non-profit that rescues wild animals that have fallen on hard times. In spite of my best efforts to get back there on one of the days they allow self-guided tours, we never had an afternoon where it seemed the right time. Today, however, they had their open house "Baby Shower" event and that I wasn't going to let my girls miss for the world.

WARNING: This is a picture heavy post and I am NOT a photographer.

My camera is cheap. My method is to take a picture with my left hand while holding the camera as far away from the baby on my right hip as possible and hope that the framing miraculously comes out okay. I am like that dog on the internet who has no idea what he is doing but somehow always manages to be in the driver's seat of something or other. . .

So the event was today from noon to 3 or so, and we managed to get there pretty much right at noon. Parking conditions were not perfect; there were cars lined up on both sides of the narrow street and I was surprised at how many people came to this event considering how tucked away the Sanctuary is (It's down a bunch of twisted back streets behind a school and what looks to be a gravel pit of some kind), but it is a nice little surprise when you find it. It's right in the middle of Pensacola, but there is a small pond, lots of trees, and the place just feels miles away from the suburban area that surrounds it.

For Coryn the best part was definitely face painting.

A couple of years ago we went to a party on base (in Iwakuni) where they had face painting but there was about a forty minute line so I convinced her to go do the other activities (bouncy houses, food, etc) while we waited for the line to thin down. It never thinned down, and she went home without face paint, and since then she has been scheming to get her face painted by hook or by crook. The tickets were four for a dollar or twenty-five for five dollars and face painting was six tickets, surprisingly reasonable, I felt. As a cheap mom it is nice to find family activities that don't cost $40 an hour (referencing an experience at a local zoo which was definitely over priced). The tickets were also used to play cute games they'd set up like fishing for rubber ducks and bobbing for jellyfish.

For a dollar you got a tray of fish to feed the pelicans, so of course we had to do that!

I gave Coryn her fish and set her out on a little dock to throw fishies to the birds below.

They had a lot of pelicans. . .and they were hungry. I turned away for a moment to take a picture of Claire and this happened:

Pelican attack!

One of the volunteers came over and pushed the greedy bird back off the dock telling him to stop being selfish (Coryn was never in any danger, but the snapping beak made her a little nervous, you could tell).

Still, every so often a pelican or two would decide to push the boundaries.

They are actually really big birds. You  don't think about  it until they are sitting right next to you eying your fishies.
So, what else was there. . .

A bald eagle nest themed photo spot.

Bird wingspan cutouts: my arm span is about equal to a great horned owl, if I remember right.

They had bald eagles, but none of my pictures turned out and a bobcat, but he was napping and wouldn't come out of his box for anything.

And this really tiny owl. . .

And this not so tiny owl. . .

And this goose. . .

The girls loved this mini-zoo and I hope we can go back again soon. Unfortunately,  our squirrel was not there. A worker told me they get about hundred squirrels over "baby season" and have to release them as soon as possible, so our squirrels are already out there, running free. Good luck squirrels!


Super Sunday Sync

="http://www.the-chicken-chick.com" target="_blank"><img alt="The Chicken Chick" src=" http://i1108.photobucket.com/albums/h402/ADozenGirlz/CleverChicksBloghop150x147_zps2ab1a684.jpg" />

Cara Box Reveal

This is my third month participating in the Cara Box exchange but due to some apparent lost in mail issues only my second box I have ever received. I do really enjoy making up the boxes and tailoring it best I can to what is going on at that particular time and place with my partners, though. This month Mandee with Life, Chaos, and Quotes sent me a box while I sent a box to Amanda at Faith*Love*Strength (Technically they are both Amandas and at least in my head their blog names are similar so it is a wonder I didn't accidentally send the box to the wrong one . . . at least I hope I didn't. . . if I did . . .I'm not going to think about that now. They'll tell me if I messed up, right?).

I should mention that Mandee has an Etsy shop with some stunning, unique jewelry. Check that out here.

The theme was Green and Mandee went out of her way to find recycled items that fit the bill.

Upcycled packaging change purse.

Water bottles reincarnated as pens.

A book on the subject for my girls.

Do you think she hand shredded all this packaging? I like to think she was up all night with little scissors and if I pieced them together there would be a message for me.
Also, aren't these classy?

A bright, canvas tote, for shopping I'm assuming, though I have a feeling Coryn will hijack it. She loves these sort of colors.

Thanks, Mandee!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Pasta Fun

Today was a day for pasta play!  

The youtube video linked above is part of a longish play time I had with Claire this afternoon. I admit to being a little bit lost with babies. I've had two. They still confuse me a little. I still look at them and beg to know, "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" If they are sleeping, great. They are adorable and cuddly. If they are happy and staring at something, awesome, but it is so hard to actually play with them.

Claire is finally getting to the age where we can play! 

So today I was getting frustrated with her because she had two "settings," crying because I wasn't giving her the specific sort of undivided attention she desired (which as usual I was completely lost about) or pulling every single piece of Tupperware out of the drawer and scattering it all  over the floor to be contaminated by German Shepherd hair (which is everywhere on everything that isn't shrink wrapped around here). 

So, I took her and some of the Tupperware and a handful of pasta (of the options in my pantry it seemed the best size for what I had in mind) and we played for about twenty minutes, an eternity in baby time, picking up pasta, putting it down, emptying containers, filling containers, etc.

Afterwards, since our  floor time activity had rendered the pasta unfit for human consumption, I decided to go for macaroni jewelry. I've never actually done this with my girls before, even though Coryn loves that kind of thing, mainly because she has always had a fairly good collection of real beads so it seemed silly to make our own. Still, I called her down to help me dye the pasta. She enjoyed selecting the colors. She is very proud of her knowledge about secondary verses primary colors and color mixing, so we had to mix our colors up (hence the orange, purple, and green). I used a tutorial I found (via Google) on Many Little Blessings, though being me, I didn't actually measure anything, just sort of eyeballed it . . . yeah, I am physically incapable of being precise. I found that the dry times listed weren't necessary. It only took about an hour for our pasta to be dry enough to handle (as you can see from the photo, we laid it out on paper towels. Maybe that helped.). All in all, an awesome use of pasta, if I say so myself.

Follow Who? Social Weekend Hop

ABC Mouse

A bit ago, I signed Coryn up for ABC Mouse a site with games and activities for preschool kids.

Before ABC Mouse Coryn loved to play on her computer games but her options were Nick Jr. which has a lot of time wasting, non-educational content (she mostly ends up watching the video clips) or Shepherd Software which has some good learning content but she tends to click on ads that lead her off site and a lot of the games require reading to truly master, and we aren't quite there yet.

ABC Mouse is ad free and well designed for a child who likes to click on EVERYTHING. Major account changes require a password so the adult is in charge of the learning level and important settings. The site provides lesson plans with activities tailored towards the grade you select for your child (or children, you can set it up for more than one student) or you can tailor specific lessons by going to the dashboard. Kids earn "tickets" for completing activities which they can spend on clothing and pets for their "avatar" or toys for their house or accessories for their hamster cage. Yes, they have an online hamster cage.

The site isn't perfect. There are still some things that I consider time killers. Coryn will zone out in front of the previously mentioned hamster cage and just watch her digital pets skitter up and down the tubes sometimes, for instance. Sometimes she'll do puzzles and games that are meant for lower levels which I know are completely effortless for her. . . though I've also seen her struggle through games that required a sight word proficiency that she hasn't mastered simply because she really wanted to play that game. 

If you think your child might be interested, they are constantly offering free thirty day trials which, as long as you cancel the account before the 30 days are up, shouldn't cost you anything. We signed up on a trial and ended up staying. The link at the beginning of this review should get you to one such offer which has the added benefit (for me, sorry) of being a referral for our account which will credit us free game time if you choose to sign up at some point.

I would be happy to answer any specific questions about ABC Mouse if you address them to me in the comments.

Wordless Wednesday-Baby loves toilet paper

Almost all our toilet paper rolls end up looking like this because Claire grabs the end and takes off running.

Wordless Wednesday Hop

Saturday, April 13, 2013

My Defining Philosophy

I recently said something in a casual email exchange with someone whose name/relationship to me isn't important in this context that I think alienated them . . . at least they have declined to reply to me since that, so I'm thinking I may have annoyed them. Honestly, I'm pretty casual about people I meet. I have very few "good" friends and don't particularly want that many more. I like people to like me, who doesn't, but if someone wants to write me off for something I disagree with them on or something I don't take as seriously as they do, then fine. Gives me more time to work on the dragon themed romance novel I'm writing.

However, I started thinking about the context of what I said, and I realized that this is going to come up again, probably, and not just with this subject, but with a lot of subjects because I have a general life philosophy that paints almost every opinion I have and almost everything I do. No, it isn't my belief in God, though that is also central to my thinking process, or my belief in Grace in Jesus Christ, though again, central. . . though to explain, I guess I need to go into what the original discussion was about.

It was a simple question. The other person asked me in what ways I like to be "green?"

Now, in a lot of places in life, I'm an optimistic, fairy tale believer, but when it comes to the whole green thing, my skeptic level is pretty high. I didn't want to be too flippant, but I wanted to be honest, so after some thought, I replied as follows:

I was going to say I don't think I do anything intentionally green. I grew up in the 90's and it seems like every time I turned on the television I was listening to a "green message" about how we must save the planet and it kind of made me a cynic about the whole "environmental" issue. I do, however, I realized do a lot of things in the name of "thrift" and avoiding waste which could be considered green. For instance, we always use both sides of paper. I'll print up a worksheet on one side and then put it in the "drawing paper" pile so Coryn (my five-year-old) can be an artist with the other. I've been trying to compost since I would really like a garden, but I think I may be too lazy to start a garden from scratch (if the beds were already laid out for me , I think I could do it, but the thought of digging up a section of yard and marking out beds has me very much overwhelmed), and I save weird things, like coffee grounds which I use for exfoliating, orange peels which I fully intend to make essential oils with, and plastic and glass containers. Where being cheap and being green meet, I generally am there. 

 Which I thought worked for me. After all, the question was about getting to know me and I wasn't going to pretend to be an environmental activist when I am anything but.

But I don't think my email buddy cared for my response, just based on their lack of response and some other little hints.

Thinking back over it, I realize that a lot of things I do are front in center in grassroots green campaigns: I like thrift stores, garage sales, and hand me down clothes; I horde glass jars; I recycle . . .but no, green is not a color I plan to paint my day to day life simply because the whole movement is full of people trying to force their personal opinions and choices on other people via laws and shaming, and even when I agree with an idea that annoys me.

Because that overwhelming, central philosophy I mentioned earlier is "there is nothing more important than individual liberty."

I grew up reading "Uncle Eric" books and moved on to Frederic Bastiat and other classical liberal philosophers. I believe there are only two laws that matter: do not harm another living person and do not violate another person's property. In my belief system, every law that does not stem from one of these two concepts is  unnatural and will inevitably do more harm than good.

Because of this there are a lot of movements I am never going to get into because for all their grass roots goodness where they are just trying to inform people of choices that they can make and the consequences of those choices, they almost always turn into lobbies where they are trying to pass laws to tell other people what sort of bags they have to use at the grocery store, what sort of light bulbs they have to have in their house, or what sort of car they have to drive . . . and if, for whatever reason, you choose to exercise your personality liberty  and reject one of their "you musts" you are labeled a bad person and next thing you know they are arguing in front of congress that your right to choose is not more important than their belief that your shopping bags are doing irreparable harm to the universe.

I also suspect that a lot of "green" is just clever marketing, the way that words like "organic," "natural," and "part of a nutritious breakfast" are often meaningless or misleading.

When I was little I read a book called "Facts, Not Fear" that held up examples of environmental activism gone wrong as a sort of morality tale to explain why panicking over a situation and forcing change can sometimes back fire. My favorite story is how the campaign against the McDonald's clam shells  (the Styrofoam boxes hamburgers came in way back when) caused them to quickly change their packaging to paper wrappers which actually had a higher environmental impact. A lot of environmental activism seems to be based around panic rather than facts. It's about getting people wound up or shame faced so that they feel like they need to do something or giving them a chance to feel smug about things they do that other people do not do.

You might say, wait a minute, you mentioned you were a Christian. You believe in right and wrong? Right? You believe that there is good and evil and therefore some things people do are wrong.

Of course I do.

But I also believe a person needs to come to these beliefs, these choices, based on their own free will and the movement of the Spirit in their life. It isn't my job to go around shaming people who don't go to church and don't tithe and don't love one another up to the standards outlined in the Holy Bible. For one thing, I would be a hypocrite for every Sunday morning I've slept in or every time I've ever rolled my eyes at the immodestly dressed girl in the Walmart checkout line and made assumptions about her lifestyle. Shame is a blunt weapon that might knock a few people into heaven, bruised and bleeding, but will send more fleeing for cover. If your intention is to shame someone into something, anything, you need to take a step back and take a look at what you  are doing and why (which is another hypocrite moment for me as I think of the last time I told my daughter in my long suffering voice that she needs to stop doing something because she is giving me a headache.).

The best thing about the Christian philosophy, if you really read it, is it starts with the "you are forgiven" and then lets Jesus inside so that you have the tools to fix yourself as He calls things to your attention. It orders us not to make assumptions about others. We are supposed to love them, not shame them.

And to me that goes very well with my over-arching philosophy of FREEDOM.

(image source)

So yeah, if you are convicted to live a green lifestyle, go ahead and use reusable shopping totes. But for goodness sakes, if you ban my disposable ones, I'm no longer going to have my source of free garbage liners! Better start stockpiling. . .

So yeah, your personal weight loss journey has soured you to McDonalds, but my daughter really likes her special treat hamburger now and again, and I don't need you lecturing her little tender mind about how she shouldn't put that stuff in her body or she is going to be obese.


I actually feel the way about the "Green" crowd that I used to feel about "feminism." I agreed with a lot of the philosophies of feminism but couldn't get past the man haters and abortion activists and the people who would denounce my plans to be a stay at home mom, so if anyone approached me using that particular label I would shy away. I think now I've learned to accept that you can embrace parts of a philosophy without having the whole of it burdening you, and maybe someday I'll get  over my Captain Planet and Ranger Rick are trying to make me feel guilty for using paper plates and killing the spotted owls that comes from growing up in the environmentalist over kill that was the 90s (I actually kind of wanted to be the kid with "heart" powers. Is that crazy?).

Friday, April 12, 2013

Coryn wants to be a doctor

Coryn: Mom, when I grow up I want to be a doctor.
Me: Great.
Coryn: I want to have adventures in space!
Me: That's not really what most doctors. . .oh, okay, you can be a doctor and have adventures in space.

This is a picture of space. It even has Saturn (which in this rendition is purple with green rings).  

Inspired Tuesday

Monday, April 8, 2013

Zugzwang-Unintentional Sex Ed Edition

I recently learned a new term from the source of all knowledge: television crime dramas . . .  you know, cause they never make anything up. . .but anyway, according to a recent episode of Criminal Minds the chess term "Zugzwang" means the point in the game where you realize that you can't win and have to choose whether to forfeit or play out the inevitable defeat. . .  true to form, a quick scan of Wikipedia (which I think is slightly more reliable than most works of fiction on CBS), it is a little more complicated than that, but since I am not a chess player (cried when my husband tried to teach me), the Criminal Minds definition is the one I am choosing to go with.

Now I find that this term is following me around. Popping into my brain as I play arcade games online and realize that I'm running out of moves, as I attempt to screw the lid onto a sippy cup one handed while my baby flails for it from my hip, when I get into ANY argument with my husband . . .

I don't know why anyone in their right mind would argue with my husband. My only excuse is that I am frequently not in my right mind.

So where was I . . .

I recently have become aware that, in spite of their ability to teach me how to miss-use chess terms, most of the shows I watch are not Coryn safe. Some are scary. Some have people who almost have sex (meaning they lean into each other breathing heavy before things fade to back; I'm not into HBO type stuff, so it's mostly pg 13) at which point I inevitably find that Coryn has sneaked back into the room and wants to know things like, "Do they love each other? Are they married? What are they doing?"

Still, there are times I really like to watch television when she is still awake, notably dinner making time (Though Matt blames me watching TV and cooking on a few instances of us ordering pizza) and exercise time (I judge my workouts by how much television I can watch before I give up and sit there and drink water or "stretch" ie sit on the floor  and look at my toes: New Girl workout=pathetic, Project Runway workout=hard core, NCIS workout=about right.). Because of this I am now searching for things I can watch with Coryn. We have gotten through all of the modern Doctor Who episodes (eventually we might need to start the old ones). Cooking shows are usually a safe bet. . . but lately I decided to get ambitious and look up some animal documentary programs. Those would be awesome and clean and fun and even a little educational.

What I ended up getting a hold of was a series called "Whale Adventures with Nigel Marven." This British guy is following Gray Whales up the coast of the western US, well, western US and Mexico. Whales are cool, right?

So we started and things were going well. He was in a boat in Baja California petting a friendly baby whale and Coryn was intrigued and amused and I felt so proud of myself from coming up with this great idea to simultaneously entertain and educate my child via marine biology . . . and then it happened.

Good old Nigel saw a bunch of whales thrashing about and announced that this was unusual behavior so late in the season. These whales are mating!

Okay, I thought, how graphic can whale sex be. They are underwater. They are whales. They are. . . omgosh, what is that?

Pervy Nigel's pervy camera man zooms right in on this (obviously) male whale, lying belly up on the surface of the water, letting it all hang out. I'm not really going to describe this scene to you. It was about a ten second clip, but it was pretty dang obvious what we were seeing to me but I hoped not to Coryn. Maybe she hadn't noticed?

"Mommy, what IS that?" she burst out before the ten seconds were up. Zugzwang.

I drew a deep breath and decided that trying to obfuscate or misdirect or deny her curiosity would probably do more harm than good at this age so I said, "That is a boy whale and those are his boy parts." (She knows the medical terms, but I personally still have a hard time saying them for whatever reason, so I generally fall back on "private parts" and "girl parts" and "boy parts" when it comes up which considering that the majority of the house is female only comes up when discussing the dog who sometimes flashes us). Coryn thought this was hilarious.

"You mean his . . ." and she pointed to her own privates.

"Yes," I said. She laughed for a bit then she said.

"It's really long."

It was rather.

So, we are still looking for completely complication free television. In the meantime I'm going to try and bleach the image of rather long whale privates from my brain.

Crochet Shrug

I don't consider this a pattern so much as it is simply "instructions" on how to create a basic shrug. You could make this in any size using may different kinds of stitches. I chose to make mine with a v stitch.
To make this shrug you simply crochet a rectangular swath. Below you can see a close up of the stitch I chose but that really isn't important. The size of the piece should be determined by who is going to wear it. I just made it to fit my daughter.

Once you have your rectangle you fold it so that the two wide edges touches and sew up a few inches on each end to create sleeves as seen above.

You'll find several variations on this basic idea if you search shrug patterns. I glanced at a few of these but then just decided to make it up as I went. It's a very easy, straight forward but still wearable project.

Willamette Valley Wonder Woman

The Chicken Chick

Daisy Cottage Designs