Monday, November 24, 2008


Last Friday after I got my haircut, I was finally able to finish up with my study. I have finished sorting all of the books and found places for all of my knitting and sewing materials, and also all of my other things. It feels good to have finished this and its great to finally have a work room of my own after all of these years. Here are some photos.

This is a wonderful room for a study. I have had dreams of having a cabin where I could study and create, and so I love that the pin Oak branches outside look like they are hugging the room. When the tree is full of leaves it really shrouds the view of the street and so I fell quite separate from the outside world. Here are some photos of my view while I am writing this.

Next year's garden

Because of the forward thinking person that I am, and also because of the success of this years garden, I can't wait to get started on next years garden. So, I decided not to. I prepared one of the garden beds with mulch and manure to get it jump started for next spring. I went to a horse stable to get manure, an Joseph came along to help collect it.

Tommy and Spot waited in the car.

Joseph had a lot of fun. He really had a blast scooping manure; I guess its those Frisian roots, or maybe just that he is a four year old boy. Here is a video.

Leaves, leaves, and more leaves

Today Joanne is here, so I was able to clean up all of the leaves. I hope that this will the last time, but we'll see. A couple of weeks ago we bought a yard vacuum because cleaning up the leaves from the pin oak in the front is a monster task. Here is a before and after picture of the tree.

The vacuum grinds up the leaves and makes the piles about 10 times smaller in volume. I put a lot of the leaves on the garden beds as a mulch. Here are some pictures of today's efforts.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

First Halloween in our New House

We had a lot of fun on Halloween trick-or-treating in our new neighbourhood. We had more kids walking around that night than I have ever experienced. I had fun decorating the entrance with spiderweb, and we had a ghost that moved and made scary noises.

Joseph was a fireman, but he really wanted to be a truck. First he wanted to be a tow truck, but I convinced him that a firetruck would be a really good truck to be (and a lot easier for me to make.) I was making an opossum costume for Tommy and me, and then on Halloween wear him on my back (Like real opossums carry their babies, but I ran out of time and so I wore my standard witch costume that I always have on hand. This year I added a lantern that I carried and that enhanced the otherworldly impression. Jim was a bat, and you can see his silhouette in the door of the outdoor photo.

Getting settled

We are finally getting settled into our new place. It has been tough getting it all together; the boys have been sick this last week so that has defiantly put a kink in things. Now Joseph at least is feeling better, so now things will happen a little faster again. Jim has been working on the fence. These photos are from the front. He has been working on the back this week but I don't have any photos of it yet.
Clearly from the amount of foliage these photos were taken a long time ago (probably a month ago.) Another thing we have been spending a lot of time on is cleaning up leaves, and there are A LOT.

Here are some photos of the ground floor.

The kids reading area.

The kitchen.

The playroom.

The playroom has actually changed a lot. We got a big fence divider so that Joseph can build with blocks with getting them knocked down. It has been very helpful because this way I am not breaking up fights every 30 seconds.

I don't have any good photos of what the living room, upstairs, or basement look like right now, so those will have to wait.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Sometimes I read things in the news that are so far from my understanding that I feel unmoored by them. Tonight I read a story that did just that. The horrible thing is that this is the third such story that I have heard about recently (they are all mentioned in the article.) The subject is about the child abandonment that has been happening in Omaha since a safe haven law took effect in Nebraska. Now, in my mind leaving a baby is one thing (because at least that baby will not remember that he or she was abandoned,) but leaving a teenager? And as I said before, this is not just one isolated case, but the third since July.

Monday, September 29, 2008


I have gone back and forth on the issue of sending Joseph to preschool. Now it looks like he will be attending the Montessori school after all, at least he will if there is enough room. We visited the school again today, and I completed the application and surrendered the accompanying application fee, so I guess that makes it official that we are trying to send him there at least.

He really enjoyed being there today, and tonight he told me that he wants to go back tomorrow because he didn't do all the things that were there. I really like this school; it really feels like a school, and not just a place to keep them busy. What is great about this is that it is not a school in the academic sense, but in a worldly sense. What I mean is that it teaches children to experience the world though there senses, and also how to best learn and accomplish certain tasks. They have stations set up like water pouring, rice pouring, painting, and clay. They do also have academic things available, like math and language, but the child can engage in these when he chooses. This school is really very close to the original Montessori method, and I think it would be good for Joseph to experience that. They stress being orderly and calm and it would be very good for him to be in such and environment.

The last week or so he talks about how big he is, and he has said a few times "Look how big I am! I am big enough to go to school without you Memmy." He was so excited that he unhooked the gate on his own and got in the car so that we could go. I didn't know he was doing this, and so when I went looking for him, I got a real scare the at gate was unhooked. However, as we were getting in the car to go home after visiting the school, he said he was really to go to the school, but I have to stay. It was really kind of cute; I am sure he would be fine without me now though. He also seems like he is almost ready to give up his nap, and he is getting to be a little bit less dependent on me in general, so this is perfect timing in that sense. The last two weeks he stayed in the nursery during Mom's group of his own will, and he said that he really liked it and had fun playing with the other children. January is still quite aways away, so by then I am fairly sure that he will be ready.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fun with Haggling

The past couple of weeks I have been stopping at yard sales and experimenting with haggling. My mother used to haggle for our Christmas tree, and while I was never embarrassed I certainly never thought that I could do that. Well, that has all changed now. Recently I stopped at a yard sale and it just sort of happened. One afternoon I was driving around because after an errand both kids fell asleep in the car. I drove past a place that had a wooden highchair, and figured why not stop to see how much they are asking. I looked at it, and then walked around to see the other things because I thought it priced a little high. Then I saw a serger, which I have been wanting for a long time, but would never buy brand new. I sew enough to want a professional finish on my projects, but not enough that I want to pay full price for the machine. So I checked it out, and it was a good machine that the woman had just had serviced. Somehow I asked for a lower price on both items together, and the seller agreed. I guess what made the difference is that I didn't really need either, and I was willing to walk away. Then I went to another sale and saw a wicker settee. I really liked it, but I didn't want to get something like that without asking Jim first. I ended up going back the next day and asked them to lower the price. At first I was too low, and then we made a deal. Since then I am hooked. I don't really do it because of saving money, after all, these are yard sale items we are talking about (although saving money does help.) Really for me it is the social interaction, the guessing about what I should offer, and then the discussion that I like. Unfortunately most of the time the people here seem a bit surprised, think for a minute and then agree, so there isn't a whole lot of discussion. Either I don't go low enough, or they just don't know what to make of it. Too bad I don't live in the Mediterranean, 'cause there it is just par for the course.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Real Preschooler

Joseph is really a preschooler now, at least in terms of behaviour and likes if not in school attendance. Lately we have been playing games in the evenings on Friday and Saturday nights, and he just loves it. We have even made up our own game using some vehicle counters that I have. It is not too complicated but Joseph likes it. The game involves trading, which being the social one that he is, this is his favourite part. I decided to get some more complicated games because the ones that I have are too simple for him already (I have some matching games, simple counting games, etc.) He is always wanting to add rules to make the game more fun, but usually these 'rules' are really just an extension of his fantasy having to do with ambulances, firetrucks etc.

So anyway, I bought 'The Ladybug Game' and we just finished playing it this morning. It has a little story about how these ladybugs have to get back home to their rose garden after getting blown away by a storm. Along the way they meet a scary Praying Mantis, and some bossy ants who want the ladybug's aphids before passing. Joseph really enjoyed it, and so I guess this is his first real board game. I did have to help with reading the numbers, and I also made the rules simpler so that we never lost any turns or aphids. This will be fun for game nights and also snow days. Now I will have to try some other games. I Found lots of really neat Looking ones on amazon, so once in a while I will add one.

Another change showing that he is growing up is that he is really into listening to chapter books on tape lately. He listens to 'Socks' and 'The Mouse and the Motorcycle' by Beverly Cleary, and less often to 'Stuart Little' by E.B. White. His favourite is most certainly 'The Mouse and the Motorcycle' and he listens to it at least once a day. We also got the movie version from the library, and he also wants to watch that pretty often too. Where I can really tell that he is getting older is that during the scary parts in the movie, his eyes shine and he squeals with delight. The scary parts are like when Ralph, the main character, almost gets sucked up by a vacuum and once he gets chased by a cat. At first he wanted me to sit right next to him to watch these parts and he was totally on edge even though he knew the story from the book. Now these parts don't scare him so much but he still gets a thrill out of them.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

State Fair

This morning I took Joseph and Tommy to the Nebraska State Fair and we saw some amazing things, as it should be at the state fair. When we first got there we saw this sand sculpture.

Having an art background I was of course totally impressed by this, but Joseph preferred the thing next door which was a big pool of water with people trying desperately to get their unwilling dogs to swim so that they could compete for who was the fastest, etc. We sat there for a while and watched while we ate our sandwiches. Through out the day this was the theme; the simplest things pleased Joseph, and I just went along with it. Its fun to see what gets a three year old excited.

Later on we had fun trying to milk the fiberglass cow. They fill it up with water from an opening in the top, and then you pull the teats to get the water to come out. This is supposed to be like milking a real cow, though I don't know how accurate it is of course, since I have never really milked a cow. The guy in the blue shirt in the background seemed to have experience and also that it was a pretty good model. Doesn't Joseph look like a perfect future farmer?

In the same pavilion this guy was sculpting a block of cheese. Once again, I thought this was pretty neat, but Joseph didn't really get it.

Finally, at the end of our visit we went to the exotic animal petting zoo. This was Joseph's favorite, along with the birthing pavilion where there were animals (pigs, sheep, cows, chicken, and mice) who were about to, or had very recently given birth. The petting zoo had all kinds of animals for which one could buy feed and give to them with little shovels.

We had so much fun that we are going to go again and this time we might actually see a show or two, and maybe even shuck some corn. After all, it wouldn't be the Nebraska State Fair with out corn shucking, now would it?

Monday, August 25, 2008

New House

The time has finally come; we are buying our first house! I just checked the realtor's website and the photo isn't there anymore, so I can't post any images of it. Perhaps I will go take a photo to post it. (Ha! Another good excuse to drive by!)

I will miss our wonderful landlords and neighbours, but not the mice that are quite populous here lately. This summer I was feeding the birds, but as things got busy lately I stopped, and so now we have a bunch of fat, hungry mice rooming around. At first they were only outside, but now we see them inside too from time to time. Trapping them is easy because they are so fat, but Jim has to be sneaky about it because Joseph has lately gotten sensitive about mice and what happens to them.

Which leads me to my next topic. Lately Joseph has been listening to Beverly Cleary's Mouse and the Motorcycle, and he really loves the main character. It is amazing how good his attention span is; he listens to the whole story (two hours worth) everyday. He doesn't listen to it all at one time of course, but he does listen to it in order. He loves it so much that he will just lie on his floor listening too it. Thinking about this gave me the brilliant idea to try listening to it with him when it is nap time. Lately he is so obstinate about falling asleep, but he really, really needs it, and his lack of napping is quite painful for all of us at dinnertime. So my plan is that we can listen to the story together at quiet time while lying in bed, and maybe, just maybe he will fall asleep. Brilliant, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Friedrich Froebel and Blocks

I'm not sure what got me started, but I have been studying the origins of Kindergarten lately. The inventor of Kindergarten, Friedrich Froebel, had a very different idea of what Kindergarten should be from what it is now (at least what it is now in America,) but his ideas are still very useful. His method involved giving children a series of twenty "gifts" and occupations that all would build on each other. The early gifts were mostly some combination of blocks that related to each other mathematically, and the occupations would be arranging the blocks, and later on other materials, to make harmonious and aesthetically pleasing arrangements and constructions. Maria Montessori was greatly influenced by Froebel, and so that is why Montessori programs include physical math. Froebel thought that children should do these types of activities from the time they were what we would call preschool age until seven or eight years old. It is a shame that contemporary Kindergarten, as well as the later lower elementary school years, are so focused on academic learning. There is definitely something to the idea that if a child plays with unit blocks, then they will intuitively understand math at a much deeper level later on, and so this argues against the worksheet and drill type instruction that is so common nowadays. Interestingly, it seems that many successful architects, as well as other creative types, went through Froebel Kindergarten programs.

So, all this theory led me to buy some standard unit blocks, and Joseph really likes them. I haven't had too much time to play with them with him yet, but I am really looking forward too it. I do think that our set is pretty basic though, so I am sure that I will be buying some more complicated shapes sometime in the future. You can't build a very interesting road without curves, for instance, and roads are what Joseph likes to build.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ancient Chariot

I opened my yahoo mail, and this article was on the front page. I wish there were more news stories like this. It is so much more interesting than politics or sensationalist crime stories. If you click on the photo you can see more images of the Chariot. Reading this article reminds me of when I went to study art and art history in Greece. Wow, that was a great time! I hope to go there again someday. For the moment I can dream through this article.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

He's an outlaw

Jim always said "He's an outlaw, you can see it in his eye." Or course, being naive, I said "No, no he's not, He's a good boy." Well, it looks like Jim was right. This morning when I was watering my plants, Joseph was eying the hose because he wanted to play fireman. I fought with him for a while, and then I just let him have it, naively thinking he would just be spraying the lawn or something. When I went to get him he was spraying the front porch, including the door and my newly cleaned windows. Then he told me he sprayed the inside of the house too. "Oh no, and it's my fault for letting him have the hose", I thought. Luckily if wasn't true, but he was thinking about it. Sigh....

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Kapla Blocks

Last week Joseph commented that the Elves had not visited for a while, and suggested that we invite them over for coffee. I explained that being shy of loud noise that they probably wouldn't like coffee time (though I assured him that it was very generous of him to want to invite them.) I told him that I would call them and ask them to come for a visit, and so this is what they built last Wednesday night ...

I suppose they had such a good time building this tower, that they came back and built this (Of which I hear they are especially proud because of its original design)...

After this fury of building, it came to my attention that perhaps the Elves need more blocks. Through my research I found that there is an identical product made by a french company called Kapla, however, they also produce colored blocks. This was something I could not resist, so I went ahead and ordered some. I can't wait to see what the Elves think of them!


Can you believe this?

We lowered the playpen because Tommy was trying to stand up all weekend. Yep, you read that right. At six and a half months he is trying to stand up. Boy, am I in for it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Changing Fast

This is one of those weeks that things are changing so fast I can hardly believe it. I am so glad that I am home with these boys to see their changes.

Last Friday I caught Tommy sitting up in the portable playpen outside. He fell over almost right away, but he kept trying all day. The next day he was already sitting up for longer, though not very straight, and by Sunday evening he could already totally straiten up and balance pretty well, with minor tipping.

On Monday morning he would already sit up for half a minute or so, and then later in the day he would sit up for several minutes. Unbelievable. It literally seemed like minute to minute changes. Now he can already sit for twenty minutes or so to play with his toys. With these photos you can see how things progressed.

Another amazing change is that Tommy started signing this last Sunday! I have been making different signs to him for a couple of weeks, and on Sunday he started to wave his arm when he has to go potty. And today, he made the sign for nursing. He is just brilliant!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Close Call

For a little while this evening it seemed like we lost Spot. I was watering my plants before dinner, and accidentally left the gate open to the front. We went inside to have dinner and didn't think much of it that Spot wasn't there until a couple of hours later, just as I was bringing Joseph up to bed. I guess we just assumed that Spot was out in the yard, like he prefers so often as of late. Jim noticed that the gate was open and then went out to look for him. He didn't see him anywhere and came back home, only to go out and look again. About the third time going out, Jim found Spot was two door down from our house with a neighbour that found him wandering around. It really goes to show how poorly we know our neighbours when something like this happens, because after all, we are always outside, and we walk Spot at least once a day.

Well anyway, I am very happy we found him, because I was really starting to get worried. It is so unlike him to wander away, but I guess he is feeling rather comfortable here now that we have lived here a couple of years. Just imagine how Joseph would have reacted...

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Freecycle is an internet news group where people post stuff that they want to get rid of and want to give away for free. The idea is that it is better to exchange things in the community so that we reuse things and not contribute to adding to the landfills as much as possible. It is not always possible, or worth it to try to sell things, and it is better than donating it to a thrift store because you are certain that the person who comes to pick it up really wants it, and you don't even have to take it anywhere to get rid of it.

Today I did my first freecycle. I needed some chicken wire to keep a cat from pooping in my garden (more on that later.) I didn't really want to buy any, since I didn't need very much. I thought, 'hey let me check freecycle', and lo and behold I got an offer the very next morning. I also put up on the board a kids knitting machine that I didn't want anymore because it dropped too many stitches for my taste. Coincidentally the lady who was going to give me the chicken wire wanted the knitting machine, so that worked out very nicely.

Now I am working on getting rid of and old screen door that I was going to use to make a trellis and a bread machine that doesn't work anymore (you wouldn't believe what people are offering and taking on this board.) Unbelievably I already got two replies about the screen door. One man's junk is another man's treasure.

Friday, July 18, 2008


A couple of days ago Joseph and I were playing a game with picture cards that have opposites on them. He wanted me to tell stories about them, so I told a few. Here is an example of one of my stories. The pictures were a clean boy and a dirty boy, so I told a story of how a Memmy got a boy ready to go out and then he went outside and jumped in a puddle. I said that then he had to go to the library dirty, but Joseph made a face showing he didn't like that. So then I said they went in and got clean clothes on and then went to the library.
This was lots of fun and after a while Joseph wanted to tell a story too. The picture pair he picked was of a candle that was lit, and one that was unlit.

Here is his story:
Once there was a boy. There was a candle with a flame and he blew it out. Then his Memmy and Daddy came and said "Ohhh, you blew the candle out." Then the boy lit the candle again, and the Memmy and the Daddy said, "Ohhh, you lit the candle again."

Pretty good story, isn't it? I mean it shows a timeline, has characters, and cause and effect. It just keeps getting funner.

Six months old

I can't believe it! Tommy turned six months old last Sunday. He had his six month well baby check on Monday and he weighed 16 lbs, 8 oz, which is 40th percentile, and was 28 and 1/4 inches long, which is 95th percentile. He had to have his shots, and of course he cried but over all he did very well the rest of the day. Today he sat up by himself for the first time! He was in the camping playpen outside; he moves so fast now I can't just put him on a blanket anymore. I was working in the garden and looked over at him, and there he was sitting up. I was so surprised and from the look on his face, so was he. The playpen has soft mesh sides, so I am sure that helped him to get in a sitting position. Here is a picture of Joseph at six months old for comparison.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Yesterday morning the boys and I woke up with a cold, so we have been staying home. It is just a cold, and I actually don't feel too bad, but judging from Joseph's whining yesterday, he doesn't feel as good as I do. Then again, maybe he is just three years old. I am actually getting some rest at the moment because Tommy is taking his late morning nap after an active morning of almost crawling! He is so close, it is scaring me. This morning it took him about eight minutes to cross our bedroom floor over to where the cords of the fan and air conditioner are. I guess it is time to baby proof the house. All morning long when I had him in the ergo, he wanted to get down on the floor so that he could move around. After a while I just decided to put him on the floor where ever I was going, and that kept him happy. This way I spent much of my morning doing laundry, and downloading photos to Snapfish so that I can finally make some scrapbooks.
Joseph spent the morning watching video's, which we don't usually do in the morning, but considering how he was feeling I figured it was OK. Afterward he actually went to play quietly in his playroom, so I figured he must be still feeling sick, but hey I'll take quite anyway that it comes, which isn't often in this house. At the moment he is outside because after a torrential rainstorm last night and threats of rain all morning it is now sunny and also not too hot. I think that I am going to move the laptop out there in a bit when I am done with this post. Just think, I can sit on my patio with the internet moving photos around, all while listening to Tommy's baby music on the baby monitor! Ah the wonders of technology...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Monster Dandelion

Check out this monster dandelion plant that Joseph and I found. I took some of the seeds home so that we could plant it to see what the flower looks like. I recently did this with an interesting seed that we were finding everywhere, and it turned out to be from a Honey Locust Tree.