Posted in family life

the feast of the transfiguration

One of my goals this year is to stay more in tune with the liturgical calendar of the church, and I’ve tried to pick 1-3 feast days or saints each month to celebrate and explore more deeply. A large amount of this was shaped by what books I was able to find, especially for the saints, but I also tried to choose feasts commemorating important Biblical events as well. So we began August (the 6th, to be precise) with the Feast of the Transfiguration.

We read the story from Archbishop Tutu’s children’s Bible, The Children of God Storybook Bible, and then walked through the story again while making meringue cookies.

First we separated three egg whites into a bowl, symbolizing the three disciples, and added 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar, symbolizing Jesus, and then we whipped with the beater until they rose into peaks in the bowl like the four men climbed up the mountain. It was a long walk, just like we had to stand and beat the egg whites for a long time! But at the top of the mountain, Elijah and Moses appeared before them (1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla and a dash of salt), and the glory of God shone around them (2/3 cup sugar, added gradually). At this point I let the kids taste the meringue batter, if they wanted (Aubade loved it). This is good, we realized, and if we weren’t paying attention to our recipe, we might want to stop right here just like Peter wanted to stay up on the mountain with Jesus and Moses and Elijah. But just like Jesus and the disciples came back down the mountain to share their experience and knowledge of God’s love and purpose with the rest of humanity, so too our meringues have to bake (at 250 for 45 minutes, with at least an hour in the oven cooling after turning it off) so that we can share their delicious goodness with others. It would have been best for the story to give some away, at this point, but we ended up eating them all ourselves since I didn’t really know who would want them…

IMG_6038

The kids seemed to take away a feeling that good things often require time and effort – the journey up the mountain for the disciples, the time beating and baking for the meringues. The part that stood out most to me this year, that I hadn’t thought much of before, was one of the reasons for coming back down the mountain, a reason for any special experience or understanding of God: not just to draw closer to God ourselves, but also to be able to pour back into God’s people, to give back to the world that He loves and is redeeming. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians, “God comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

Posted in family life

lift off!

Our biomes curriculum started off by introducing our planet’s location in the Solar System – it’s kind of important, after all, since the sun plays such a crucial role in shaping climate, determining the seasons, and maintaining life. It’s intended to be just a brief overview, before diving down more deeply into Earth itself, but both Rondel and Limerick have become completely, utterly captivated by outer space.

Limerick in particular has attacked it with his rather academic and obsessive bent, spending hours poring through images of the sun and the planets (always in order, from Mercury outward, including the dwarf planets), asking me to read and reread the books we have in the house, getting out the play dough day after day to model the solar system and using the kitchen scale to make his planets as close to an accurate scale as he can. (Since it’s finicky in its old age and won’t switch from standard to metric units, he’s gotten some practice working with pounds and ounces as well. It is rather irritating when something needs to be 1000 times larger than something else and you have to divide by 16 to get the correct number of pounds.)

 

(I may be to blame for his obsession with accurate scaling… for our first solar system activity, we made a scaled model of the solar system with play dough, based on NASA’s mass estimations for each planet, and measured out the appropriate distances between the planets so we could set them up down the hallway. Jupiter was so much larger that we ended up making a new double batch of play dough, using it all for Jupiter, and scaling everything else in relation to that.)

From top left, clockwise: all eight planets before placing them relative to the “sun” (the bookshelf); the whiteboard with calculations (and on the bottom a comparison of Jupiter’s mass in kg to various family members in kg); Jupiter looking out toward the other gas giants; Neptune looking in toward the “sun”; Jupiter looking in toward the inner planets.

Over the weekend, both boys decided to make paper models of the solar system as well, not to scale, but showing all the planets and the sun. They even wrote labels for each planet, which is the most handwriting they’ve ever done at one time! (Rondel’s picture is on the left and Limerick’s is on the right – Rondel included Ceres, a dwarf planet in the asteroid belt, and Limerick gave his sun quite a few solar flares.)

They’ve also been asking to read from our (admittedly small but at least quality) space book collection at bedtime and throughout the day. We’ve been cycling through Our Solar System by Seymour Simon (published in 1992, and lacking a lot of newer information), The Magic School Bus: Lost in the Solar System (published in 1990, so the same problem), and Astronomica by Fred Watson (published in 2011, absolutely massive, with amazing images and detailed information which I have to skim through to read at a level the boys can understand).

I’m planning on finding some supplementary books from the library about different space missions and picture book biographies of people involved in space exploration, so we can incorporate some history into our space study as well. We’ve already made a timeline with the lives of family members and individuals from books we’ve read, so it would be natural to include important dates in space exploration. Since ASU has a large space exploration exhibit and 3D show open to the public, I’ll probably try to incorporate that as well. And while Limerick has already used math with all the scaling he’s done, I’d like to find a way to show the boys how much math was used in designing spacecraft, planning missions, and charting the orbits of planets – Rondel enjoys math far more when it involves a topic he’s interested in. It might not have been my original plan for the beginning of the school year, but what’s the point in homeschooling, after all, if you can’t be flexible and use your children’s interests to motivate their learning?

Posted in family life, information

flamingo chicks!

With both boys in Zoo Camp for the week, Aubade and I spent the morning visiting the zoo at her pace. Despite the heat, we had a really nice time together – and ran into an unexpected adventure along the way!

Apparently, at the beginning of the summer, the Phoenix Zoo received 11 greater flamingo eggs from the San Diego Zoo to supplement their flock – and decided to try to train them to go on walks and mingle with people, since they were going to have to hand rear them anyway. So, as we snacked by the Children’s Trail, a zookeeper came up to us and told us that flamingo chicks would be coming out for a walk in just a few minutes up by the vulture exhibit. Needless to say, we cut our snack short and made our way over.

IMG_5896

The chicks are about 7 weeks old and just starting to grow their contoured wing feathers; everywhere else they are still fuzzy with down, and they haven’t begun eating the diet that will provide them with their characteristic pigmentation. They are also still a bit wobbly when they walk, and it was so adorable when they would have to hop on two feet and flap their wings to keep their balance. Having been raised as a group instead of as single chicks (greater flamingos only lay one egg at a time, and the chicks do not socialize with the rest of the flock until closer to maturity), they have become inseparable. They also still retain some of the snuggliness of babyhood, and a few climbed up into the zookeepers’ laps to cuddle after their walk.

IMG_5911While they asked us to stay about 6 feet behind the flamingos during the walk itself (or stay motionless off to the side), as the flamingos can be distracted easily, we got to be very close to them during the huddle at the end. Aubade even got to spray some water on their feet to help them cool down!

IMG_5917

If you’re local and want to see the flamingos yourself, they are currently walking around the Children’s Trail every day at 7:30, and most days at 9:30 (depending on how hot it is). Their walk starts near the vulture and owl exhibits, although I’m sure the exact tour varies from day to day. It’s definitely not something that happens all the time, and worth braving the heat for in my opinion. Just walk out for the poop while you’re following them around!

Posted in family life

jack-o-lanterns in july

The unique gardening calendar of the low desert means that we’ve been harvesting butternut squash and pumpkins for the past few weeks, and enjoying all the traditional fall flavors and activities as we go.

We had so many pumpkins that I really didn’t know what to do with them all. We have cups and cups of seeds (some roasted, some dried for crafting), two quarts of pumpkin juice (for my inner Harry Potter fan), and quite a few bags of puree in the freezer (although that is mostly from the butternut). I’ve made butternut pasta sauce, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cinnamon rolls, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin waffles, and Thai butternut curry so far – and more pumpkins and squashes keep ripening on the vines. (Everything was good except the pasta sauce, and I knew it was a risk when I tried it. What can I say, I was getting desperate.)

So, I’ve been letting the kids draw faces on the extra pumpkins, carving them out, and using the resulting jack-o-lanterns as nightlights! It may not be October, but we’re certainly enjoying our autumnal friends this summer 🙂

 

 

Posted in family life, sqt

{sqt} – water, water, everywhere!

I’m linking up with This Ain’t the Lyceum today for the weekly seven quick takes blog party 🙂 Head over to catch up with everyone else!

  1. Our city has a family pool pass option for the summers, and it’s half price if purchased before Memorial Day weekend – so I decided to try it out this year. While we haven’t quite recouped the investment yet, we’re getting close: we’ve already visited our local pool eight times in the three weeks its been open! And if the kids start itching for something different, there are a few other pools around the city with their own unique features we can try with the same pass. Every time we go, the kids tell me they want to go swimming every day. It’s only because there are other things to do in life that we don’t :)Waiting in front of the entrance to the pool!
    IMG_5707
    Waiting in front of the entrance to the pool

  2. We’ve also been taking swim lessons at that same pool. The boys had a two week session early in June, and all three of them will have another starting soon; Aubade is still too young to be in a class without a parent (the minimum age for our city is 3), so I thought I’d save it for the hotter weather. It wasn’t unbearable sitting and watching in early June, but it’s just been getting warmer since then. (Although I am comfortable sitting outdoors typing this, with a warm glow coming up from the ground and a cool breeze rustling through the drying sunflower stalks, so I most definitely can’t claim that this is one of those hellishly hot summers Phoenix is known for). Anyway, it’s a chance for the boys to learn some form and technique, and Aubade has been dancing and twirling every time she remembers that she gets to have lessons this time also, so it’s a good thing all around 🙂
  3. Our other go-to pool is the one at my parents’ house. It’s a very different experience than the city pool: there’s no beach entry, Aubade can wear arm floaties, the kids can run on the deck, they have pool toys to play with, and so on. So it is a good way to mix things up – and of course it is always nice to visit the grandparents and eat all their cookies and popsicles…
  4. At home, we have a little kiddie pool that we can set up in a few ways. Or rather… for a few days the kids were satisfied playing in it under the shade of the patio, but now it’s been instated at the foot of the double slide, with a hose rigged up at the top so they can slide into the pool under the spray. Rondel remembered how we had set it up that way last summer, and when I suggested doing it again this year he started running around in circles because he was so excited 🙂
    IMG_5568
    Playing in the pool the “boring” way…
  5. This week (since we had some extra time without either swim lessons or zoo camp), we also took an afternoon to drive up to Saguaro Lake and swim. I had bought a massive inflatable watermelon raft on clearance a month or so ago, so we got to try it out for the first time and the kids absolutely loved it. Well, the boys loved it. Aubade was so excited she stayed awake on the car ride there, and announced she was tired after fifteen minutes in the water; fortunately, however, inflatable rafts are apparently rather soporific and she took a nap on the raft while the boys bounced on and off of it around her, taking turns swimming back and forth from the raft to me in the deeper water. After her rest Aubade did have a great time, though! She kept bouncing and twirling through the water, telling me how beautiful it all was.
  6. Next time we have a day free and need a place to go, however, I’m hoping to take the kids up to the Verde River just north of Payson. They loved our creek hikes last year, and while I had the chance to go up with just Paul for our anniversary this year, I’d also like to take them. The running water below with the wind through the trees overhead, the clean sharp edge to the air with the rich earthy counterpoint of rough bark and tree sap, the pure blue of the sky and the myriad shades of green – all of these make those little northern Arizona rivers some of my favorite places in the world. In fact, it was one of them that I envisioned when my therapist had me construct/imagine a safe place for some anti-anxiety exercises. So I’ll go up any time I can.
    IMG_5523
    The backyard view from the cabin Paul and I stayed in for our anniversary!

  7. In the meantime, if our other springs run dry, we still have all the Valley splash pads to explore this year! And by the time another month has passed, we’ll have the monsoon rains upon us. The dry season here can sometimes feel like those barren and thirsty wastelands of life: empty, scorched, and fruitless. But when we retreat to our oases, to the pools and lakes and rivers, we find happiness – just like our spirits can find joy in the wellspring of the water of life in Jesus.
Posted in family life

wildlife in the backyard

As I haven’t had the chance yet to pick up some brown paper lunch bags to cover the sunflower heads, the local birds are enjoying quite the feast in our yard. Rondel was absolutely thrilled, a few mornings back, to come across a rosy-faced lovebird breakfasting on the ripening seeds – and I’ve seen more of them every day since then!

The lovebird isn’t a native species – the Arizona Field Ornithologists website has a lot of information here. However, it is still really neat to see them hopping through the yard and on the sunflowers! Growing all these plants has turned our backyard into a living science lesson, with so many different insects and birds coming for food or to make a home. Rondel especially has been taking full advantage of that fact, prowling the yard for hours every day looking for bugs and other animals: he’s caught or observed so many different varieties of butterfly and moth (including one that looked so much like a leaf I almost missed it), countless crickets, soldier beetles, ladybugs, green lacewings, stinkbugs, crab spiders, orb spiders, and more that we weren’t able to identify.

Of course, when the yard looks like this, I would be more surprised if there weren’t butterflies and moths:

IMG_2871

My experimental lawn alternative was rather a failure due to my impulsive decision to add some wildflower seeds to the mix… but while the end result is most definitely not a lawn, it is certainly beautiful right now with everything in bloom. We’ll just try again in the fall to get something more walkable 🙂 and for now let our budding naturalist enjoy his private field for exploration.

Posted in family life, sqt

{sqt} – just living life

This is a real {sqt} post this week: just seven updates from our life 🙂 Visit This Ain’t the Lyceum for the rest of the linkup!

  1. I now officially have my autism diagnosis! So if you read my series for Autism Acceptance Month, which I wrote during the diagnosis process, you can now be comfortable in the knowledge that it comes from a “real” autistic person instead of an imposter. Not that I think most self-diagnosed individuals are – but it was how I was afraid I would be perceived (and honestly, I was deeply afraid that it was true of myself). It was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and also a lot more uncomfortable. I was so afraid, the whole time, that the psychologist would tell me I was just intelligent with typical gifted quirkiness – and then I would be left wondering, if that were so, why I seemed to struggle so much with things that came naturally to the gifted friends I grew up with? But fortunately for my peace of mind, I can now say I’m autistic with confidence, and I say it to myself a lot when I need to advocate for myself or address areas of weaknesses in my life, and it helps to stop the perfectionist depressive thinking patterns from asserting themselves.
  2. I have realized how much game play helps with the development of strategic thinking and forethought, by watching Rondel grow in those skills. I’ve seen him take the initiative to plan a course of play at the beginning of a game; stay aware of the events of the game so that opportune moments for deviating from that plan can be seized; look ahead at his opponents’ possible moves to make the optimal choice for his own; and see several steps ahead on the pathway to his desired end – in several different game settings. These are really valuable skills for life, not just for games! This is all about considering options, observing the environment, planning for the future, and making decisions in the moment that affect long-term goals. When I write up his kindergarten year summary, I may include some of these games in a SPED section under executive functions…
  3. Teaching something that I don’t remember learning is challenging. In other words, while we are all into math and science over here (definitely at least a grade ahead in math, and more for Limerick), we’ve barely done more than the alphabet and letter sounds when it comes to reading, and I’m struggling to know where to go next. I have a few ideas from my sister-in-law and I looked up some phonics/beginning reader games online that look fun (my kids are always up for a new game) – but to me, reading is like breathing. I can’t imagine (or remember) life without it. And how would you go about teaching someone to breathe?
  4. I may have a new favorite food, and I think Aubade would agree. I whipped up some heavy cream, added some yogurt and maple syrup, and discovered paradisiacal creaminess with just the right balance of airiness and weight, sweetness and tang. We’re calling it “breakfast cream”, over here.
    IMG_5466
    Picture is of Aubade in a black and white striped polo shirt at a kitchen table with a bowl of whipped yogurt, eating a spoon of it, with white smears all around her mouth and nose.

    The recipe is very straightforward: two parts heavy cream, whipped until very stiff; beat in three parts plain Greek yogurt (I used full fat); sweeten with one tablespoon maple syrup for each quarter cup of yogurt. Last time I made it, I rolled it up inside fresh crepes with diced peaches; Aubade just ate three bowls of it unadorned 🙂

  5. The cantaloupe vines have reached the top of the trellis (8 feet high!) and are beginning to claim the other side. It makes for a beautiful shady green retreat from the world, tucked under the trellis on a camp chair, looking out at the sunflowers starting to bloom. The fruits themselves are not overwhelming in number (which could be because I planted too many too close together), but they are massive. Paul keeps asking me if I’m sure they aren’t actually watermelons and I can’t really blame him because I have never seen cantaloupes this size in my life…

     

  6. Every few months for the past couple years, I’ve pulled out my old pattern blocks to see if the kids are interested in them – and now at last their interest and their fine motor skills are there! Limerick and I make patterns (he prefers to work with me rather than on his own, even if he’s making all the decisions), and Rondel tends to build animals. Aubade isn’t really ready – but she has fun playing along with the boys 🙂

    It is such a great foundation for an understanding of geometry and the more mathematically abstract styles of art, and having the hexagonal base is a nice contrast to our other building toys which are either octagonal (Brain Flakes) or rectangular (Legos). And it’s just so much fun… I could make patterns for hours.

  7. This past week was rather interesting for me in terms of theological discussion. My sister-in-law and I had a discussion about Protestant/Catholic differences that spilled over onto Facebook (where actual Catholics got involved, to my delight) and many text messages days later. Then, I spent a morning with two Protestant missionaries on home assignment, and finally was accosted by two Mormon missionaries that same afternoon. These are all concepts and divisions I have thought about and researched a lot, but I don’t often have the opportunity to actually discuss them in real life very frequently. And I realized that while I still am officially Protestant, I was arguing the Catholic side and thinking in Catholic terms more often than not during all of these interactions. So, having surmounted the autism diagnosis hurdle, addressing this theological hurdle is next on my list of Important But Uncomfortable Things To Address. I’d be interested in any resources, thoughts, or experiential wisdom you have to offer here!

Again, don’t forget to visit the linkup today! If you share your own blog there let me know and I’ll make sure to read it, or I’d love to hear some of the highlights of your week in the comments as well 🙂