June 23, 2006

Frog Update

The past two days have been exciting frog days here at our house. Yesterday one of our tadpoles finally got his back legs! We have had the tadpoles for just about 2 months now. We are down to just 4 - so we are watching the other three closely to see if we can see the transformation as it happens.

Ciaran being our local expert on frogs looked at the tank in the morning and said "Mom I think that one is going to get legs, those bumps are real big". He went off to VBS and upon his return we discovered that the tadpole had indeed grown his two back legs! Very exciting after watching them for 2 months.

This morning our neighbors came over bearing another gift. A Cope's tree frog, bright green. The little girl (about Sirah's age) was super excited. So we transferred the tadpoles from the terrarium (I had just transferred them there this morning) back to the fishbowl and put the tree frog into the terrarium. Ciaran immediately headed outside to find some bugs for his new frog.

Ciaran is positive it is the same frog we had a few weeks ago and released into the neighbors backyard (where it was discovered). Who am I to argue? He could very well be the same frog. It is definitely the same kind of frog. So once again we have a frog for awhile.

A mother's heart I have. As I went out this morning to the nearby pond filled with duckweed and pond scum. I climbed out on a rock, holding a tree branch with a big bucket and sifted through the muck to get some "fresh" pondwater for the tadpoles and tree frog. Carrying the bucket of water back I thought about how much I love my kids and what I do now that I never thought I would ever do.

More updates to come as the frogs grow.

June 21, 2006

Local Homeschoolers receive Congressional Award

Two local homeschoolers, both now in college, are receiving the Congressional Award Gold Medal for their volunteer work for ALS.

Jaymes Grossman, 18, and his 16-year-old sister, Jansina, today will receive the nation's highest award for volunteerism by young people at a ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

"They are great kids," said their mother, Karen Grossman, who home-schooled them.

The siblings will receive the Congressional Award Gold Medal for completing more than 400 hours of volunteer service over two years. The family, including dad, Glen Grossman, left for Washington on Tuesday.

Read more.

June 20, 2006

Summer Days

Summer days have a rhythm all of their own. This summer especially we have spent little time in the car. We are a one car family. In order for me and the kids to have the car for the day we have to drive Serona to and from work. This means getting up early and double gas money and mileage. So we have been experimenting with not having the car often. It has been easier than I thought.

We still get out quite a bit. Just yesterday, sans car, we went to two banks, the library and the pool. We walked a good bit and we rode the bus some. The only downside was we had to follow someone else's schedule to a point as we were limited by the times the bus ran to and from our destinations.

We are able to do many things without a car due to where we live and our willingness to walk, bike ride and use public transportation. Yes it is easier to drive, but sometimes it is nicer when we walk or bike and it is certainly better for our health.

Of course I always grew up this way. I am from New York and even when we lived in the suburbs as I got older we still walked, biked and took the trains often. To this day my father, and many of my relatives take a train and sometimes a bus every day to work. So I appreciate and respect public transportation. I also appreciate that we choose a home in a walking friendly neighborhood. Groceries, banks, library, post office, ice cream, and so on all are bikable for us. For that I am thankful.

We are still doing usual summer things: beach, pool, sprinkler, parks, hikes, nature walks, library, reading, catching frogs, playing in the yard, biking and so on. In many ways not have the car has freed us to do these things more.

Occasionally I miss the car as I can not decide. Let's go to the zoo, arborteum, Fort Snelling, or the museum today and then just go. Still all in all this is giving us a freedom to just be at home and enjoy what is right here with us and decreasing our need or even desire to eat out. Hope you are enjoying your summer as well.


June 17, 2006


Homeschooling is interesting because you will work in a variety of spaces. Just this past year we found we worked primarily at our kitchen table, our library table, the kids desks and montessori tables. In reevaluating our spaces for this upcoming year we made some changes.

We are big fans of the "freecycle" movement. Email or message boards where you list items you no longer need for free and people need to only pick them up. Over the years we have utilized these many times both to give away and to receive. This past week we freecycled our Montessori tables and desks and we received a traditional school table similar to this one.

It is large, about 6 foot by 4 foot and it takes up a good chunk of our schooling space. Still it makes the room look and feel cleaner to have just one table instead of the 4 items we had before. It serves the purpose of all of those and we can all sit around the table at the same time with plenty of space. Tonight we played board games and colored on it. It was perfect. A good height for the kids and high enough for Serona and I. Due to the shape everyone could see the board game better and their supplies were at hand when they wanted to color.

Of course we will still end up at the kitchen table from time to time, I mean it is right next to the food and where I prepare the food which I feel is what I do all day long during the school year. The library offers a nice quiet spot for a kid to escape to from the chaos of their siblings. Yet this new workspace offers the multi-functionality we wanted in a workspace and the benefit of everyone being able to comfortably sit and work at it at the same time. I'll report back in a year.

Where do you work?

June 13, 2006

Why Field Trips

I often get asked why I take my little kids on so many field trips and why we have memberships to all the museums now while they are young. There are many reasons we do this while our kids are still young, I will list some of them here.

We Love It - My kids thrive at museums, field trips and all the people think I am crazy to take them while they are young. Ask my kids where they want to go today and you will hear things like "The arboretum!" or "Fort Snelling!" or "Oliver Kelly Farm!" along with the usual library, beach, pool and park. When we are there they have a great time whether it is working the farm chores, making a nail at the blacksmith, identifying flowers, seeing their favorite animals, learning about science, history or whatever else we are doing that day. I have many great pictures of them doing things most people take older kids to do when they are as young as two. One of my favorite pictures is of Sirah threshing wheat while Ciaran is tossing manure and Rhiannon and stomping down the hay pile at a field trip to the Oliver Kelly Farm - they were 2, 4 and 6 at the time. They just plain have fun.

They are Impressionable Still - Perhaps part of why they think it is fun is because they are so young and still get excited about what I get excited about. They don't know any better some might say. They are not experiencing these places for the first time with a bunch of peers who tell them "this is lame" or "why do we have to do this?" to form their impressions for them. They are experiencing it with me who can gear it to their interests and help them form new interests in it. They get to explore at their pace and at their interest level and I can give positive direction to something new if they get bored. I also have the freedom to decide how long or short we stay at any given place based on my kids needs and interest level at the time. So they don't have to spend hours at something they hate and leave to soon at something they love (though we usually do leave before they would choose to).

They Remember It
- Yes my kids are young but they remember these experiences and places far more than you might think they would. When they are very young it usually takes one experience or thing they did to remind them but even as young as 4 they are asking to go back again and again because they remember they had a fun time. This says to me these are things to do again. Experiences my kids love and remember and ask for again.

They Learn From It
- They have learned so much more from field trips and museum visits than all the books we read. To be sure we often complement the two together, which mutually reinforce each other. Still I can not count the number of times I have heard "Remember when we did x" while learning a lesson in a book. Or they will come forward with some crazy tidbit of information and I ask "Where did you learn that?" and they say "Mom, don't you remember when we were at Fort Snelling and we did this?" Whenever we can why not learn in life? Field trips and museums offer this opportunity so easily and for our family with so much fun involved.

Real Life Experiences
- Think back to your own schooling. What is the first memory you have of history or science? I bet for many of you it involved an experiment or nature experience for science and for history a character dress up, or field trip. That is because we remember our experiences more than what we read when we are little. The hands on experiences stick with us through our lives. Starting this while they are young gives them years of life experiences. We are planting the seeds now for a lifetime of harvest. Teaching them to enjoy it and love it while we still have a significant influence in their interests and desires.

They Build On It - The more we go to a location the more the kids get out of it. If we return to the fire station each year they learn something new each year and reinforce in their memory what they learned the year before. Each visit to the science museum allows us to build off the last one, see and discover new things and learn more about what we already knew. The kids feel comfortable there and free to learn instead of having to experience everything in this moment because it is their only opportunity. They have confidence we will do the same thing again or something similar to it.

Membership Pays For Itself - We are members at our local science museum, history museum, children's museum, arboretum and zoo. We use all memberships regularly. Typically we will use each membership monthly at least, often more than once a month depending on the season. For a family of 5 a typical membership pays for itself in two or three visits and everything on top of that is essentially free. It also has the benefit that you have many fun family experiences available for "free" to you throughout the year. Once you have paid for your membership you can visit a place without worries about how you will pay for it. I even buy my kids treats at the location more frequently because I did not just spend $40 to get in the door. We have asked for and received memberships for holidays and birthdays. This is one of my kids favorite gifts to get because it keeps giving the whole year long.

They Create Keepsakes - My kids usually bring a sketchbook, pencils and crayons with us. Many times they will make a drawing at a location of something they enjoyed or liked. Then we will add that drawing to their history or nature notebooks. When Rhiannon was at the history museum she really liked the rocket experience so she drew a picture of a rocket and we added it to her history timeline. When Ciaran was at the zoo he drew a shark and we added it to his nature notebook. We can go back and compare his notebook drawing from when he was three and when he was five because we have gone so many times he eventually picks the same thing to draw. Sometimes we purchase postcards or stickers or some small token from a particular location. Sometimes it is just our pictures. Still they are creating keepsakes through these field trips.

Developing Appreciation
- By doing so many field trips and museum trips we are helping to develop an appreciation of field trips and museums and experiential learning in our kids. For us a field trip is not about the "novelty" of the trip or experience but rather another way to help our kids develop an appreciation for learning in life. It is yet another training ground for becoming lifetime learners with a passion for finer things. The consistency of this in our kids helps them to see that we can enjoy the same things over and over again if those have a lot to offer us.

Homeschooling Makes it Easy - Homeschooling gives us the freedom and flexibility to do so many hands on experiences and trips. We have the time, we have the mobility and we have the flexibility in our schedule. Due to family generosity and our own financial priorities we have the financial means to do so as well. Homeschooling also makes it easier because our kids are used to learning in many different ways and different locations.

Mom is the Coordinator - Okay I have such a passion for these types of experiences that I work on the field trip committee for our homeschool support group. We have over 70 families involved with a wide range in children ages and interests. This past year we offered many interesting field trips for the kids and parents to enjoy. Together our field trip committee worked to offer field trips that interested the very young to the older students while focusing primarily on our elementary age group. I figure if I believe all this I should help with it, so I do. It also makes it easy to get tours and discount rates for locations when you have a large group of people, which we almost always do.

So there are some of our reasons for doing field trips with our kids. We started when Rhiannon (our oldest) was just shy of 4 and have been going strong since. I can remember being at a fire station field trip when Sirah was just shy of two weeks old. She was in the sling and the kids were having a great time. Of course I think that was easier after she was born then when I took them strawberry picking and to the farm when I was 8 and 9 months pregnant. What was I thinking? They remember it and that first trip to the farm was the one that started their love for the farm and Rhia's love for horses. So it is all worth it.

Making Cleaning Fun with Kids

I am the first to admit I hate cleaning. I think I always have. I have repeatedly in my life tried to have a change of heart and have never managed to do it. I have gotten better at it over the years and our house is fine.

Yet I do not want my kids to grow up feeling the way I do about housework so I am really trying to be better, atleast for them. As in many other areas of life, my kids are often the motivation that finally pushes me to just do it.

With summer here and homeschooling responsibilities off our shoulders now is the time to make this transition. Yesterday we managed to have a fun time implementing some of the techniques recommended by Fly Lady, a free online self-help for messies like me.

We decided to the the "Home Blessing Hour" she recommends together. During this hour you do the following tasks, in about ten minute increments:

* Vacuum
* Dust
* Mop
* Polish Mirrors and Doors
* Purge magazines
* Change Sheets
* Empty all trash

To make it more fun I wrote the tasks on small pieces of paper and let the kids take turns choosing them - then we ran around the house together for 10 minutes doing as much as we could. Their favorite tasks were polish mirrors, windows and doors and mopping. Yes I said mopping!

I tried something different and they loved it. For our mopping time they all changed into bathing suits and I got a big bucket of water and some big rags. They dipped the rag in water and sat on them and scooched around the floor on their bottoms. They had a blast doing this and got wet and my floor got cleaner in the process. Not perfect mind you, but much better than it was 10 minutes ago. In 10 minutes they did our kitchen floor and entry way. I helped with a rag to get the corners and stubborn spots. As a reward and to rinse off they ran in the sprinkler.

When we polished the doors and mirrors they all loved the squirting part and the reward was the biggest helper/hardest worker got the "reward" of helping me wash the outside windows with the hose. Ciaran won that reward and Sirah and Rhia both said next week they would work harder so they could do that.

We set a timer and did as much as we could in that amount of time. The only one we kept going a bit longer was making the beds so we could finish the task. I think they liked knowing that it was only going to be a short time on each task. We also broke it up with some playtime and the sprinkler so our hour took two hours to get done but the kids had playtime in the middle and enjoyed it and look forward to doing it again.

We did some silly things and talked about ways to make it fun as well as how nice it was to have everything done and how nice it felt to be clean.

We also started a project, turning our office into a guest room and have been working on it a bit at a time with the kids help. Well I have spent the morning indoors and need to get outside on this beautiful day!


June 9, 2006

Drama Camp Performance

Well we have been running all week and have not done daily updates. Drama camp wrapped up tonight after 5 full days with a performance. The kids did an awesome job under their director and music maestro. It really is amazing how much they could accomplish in such a short time. Rhiannon really had fun and played her part well. She came back ready for the next one.

We enjoyed a nice cast party and bonfire in the chilly Minnesota air - only to head back outside for another bonfire with our neighbors. Only in Minnesota does a nice crisp and very windy 55 encourage a bonfire evening in June. It feels nice to have all the windows open instead of air conditioning for a change.

Well more full recap to come later after a nice relaxing evening of unwinding for us.


Target Attitude T-shirts

In our local target, and I guessing many Target's throughout the country there is a new line of t-shirts for very young children (18months to 4T) - here is a sample of the slogans on these t-shirts.

Chick Magnet
It's My Brother's Fault
I've decided to put myself in charge
It seemed like a good idea at the time
My grandparents don't spoil me they are just very accomodating

This is a long one all on one shirt:
Toddle Laws of Property
If I like it its mine
If Its in my hand its mine
If I had it a little while ago it is mine
If it looks like mine its mine
If I think it is mine it is mine.

Then these three jumped out from the little girls section (4-12)

Girls Only Want Boyfriends who have great skills
Heck Yes (Napolean Dynamite)
A for Attitude Warning May Answer Back (with a halo over an A with wings)

I have seen many of these and worse tshirts in the adult and teen section for a long time and while I never liked them never really bugged me either. However, for small children that is another story. What 2 year old shouldn't wear a shirt that says Chick Magnet and what four year old girl should be without a tshirt about boyfriends? What child of the ages 2-6 should be without tshirts against parents and siblings?

I understand I do not need to buy it and I did not. However, I also know that I don't need to just accept that this is the way things are now everywhere I go. I am a customer as much as the next person and my opinion should count too.

So I spoke with a store manager, who was very accomodating and helpful and understanding. I explained that I understood it was a corporate issue and not their fault but that I would like to complain to the person that I should. He found the information I needed and also assured me that the store would send a letter on my behalf as well documenting my concerns with specefic item numbers. The softline purchaser was also in town today and would be showed the items I objected to.

I applaud the customer service I received in the store. I came home and called corporate. My experience was fine, though I do feel a bit dismissed by them and wondering if anyone will do anything. I will also follow up with a written letter. I encourage anyone else who feels these tshirts go to far to contact your local store managers (if they are in your store) and call and/or write Target about these items.

The customer service number is 1-800-440-0680, follow the prompts about store merchandise and ask to speak with a supervisor when you call - I eventually got transferred to one. List specefic items and the reasons you are unhappy with them. The shirts I listed above, many were from the Now and Zen line of clothing (though not all) so I mentioned them specefically and gave the lines from the shirts I objected to.

Perhaps nothing will be done, but perhaps something will. By sitting quiet I just acquise and accept it. By standing up and speaking out in a respectful and positive way I may eventually affect change or at least let them know that some of us do not just accept and love these changes. And we still spend money and they want to keep us as customers.

Just my .02,

June 6, 2006

Drama Camp Day Two

Today was day two of Rhiannon's drama camp. Today was my day off from the carpool so I did not attend at all. Here is a description of the days events according to Rhiannon. How accurate it is I have no idea. But I have empathy now for parents who try to get out of their kids "What did you learn in school today?" which I have never really experienced before. Here is her account.

They opened the day with prayer. They went over their lines in their individual charachter groups. Rhia (a mouse) practiced her lines with Cinderella and she said it went well.

Then they played some games. Some of the games they played were.
Follow the Drama - Their teacher said here is how you do x in drama and they all repeated it after her and did it themselves. For example Shout out in drama voice, in underwater voice, etc. The kids did this activity all together in a big group.

They also played a game she can't remember the name of which actions called things like Fox in the Hen House, Rooster on the hen house, food on the table, monkey in the tree, backpack, and bunk beds. These were all motions or actions that they played.

They learned about important things about being an actor. They worked on stage voices, practiced their song, and learned about the importance of being quiet and following directions on stage.

They talked about how the play would go and they practiced their lines all together by all the kids sitting in straight lines and sat quiet in prep work for sitting behind stage. That was hard for the kids. Rhia said she was thinking "I gotta go, I gotta go run, go play, go potty, go scream, I gotta go."

She said it was hard sometimes to be quiet and not laugh at the funny parts but how it was important so the people in the audience can hear the performance and not just them laughing.

She seems in good spirits and really enjoys the light up teeth she got as a gift there today. They also celebrated one of her friends birthday's today so they got additional treats which she always enjoys.

Not too long before it will be her writing these blog posts not me :)


Remember Reading?

I need to remember to read to my little ones more. Rhiannon was the one always pushing to be read to as she grew up. Now she reads herself and I find myself reading less to my younger two. I hate that a day can pass without me reading a storybook to one of them! This from me, who used to read an average of 10 storybooks a day. How did I fall out of that positive habit? More important how do I get back into it?

Remember what worked for me and do it again. It worked when I had three set reading times a day, not by the clock but by the rhythm and activities of our day. Then the kids each pick a story and I pick a story and we read them. Plus I get to read all my favorite kids storybooks again. Rhia may not want me to read her "Quick as a Cricket" and "Sailor Moo" but Ciaran and Sirah love them. There are so many good books to read, and then read again and again and again to them. Plus reading on the couch with my preschoolers is absolutely one of my favorite things in the world to do. So I need to just stop what I am doing and read.

I also need to remember to say "Yes!" whenever they ask me to read and stop what I am doing (within reason) to read them a short book. Just about anything else can wait to instill a love of learning and some snuggle time with my kids. I find the more often we read the more often they ask to read. Also the more often we go to the library the more they ask.

I sat today with Sirah for about 30 minutes while Rhiannon was at drama camp and Ciaran was taking a rare nap and just read to her. What a pure joy it was. Reading books she enjoys and taking the time to look at the pictures and enjoy the simplicity of the stories. Today we read:

The red ripe strawberry and the big hungry bear by Audrey Wood
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn
The Water Hole by Grame Base
Ten Little Ladybugs by Melanie Gerth
I Love You with all my Heart - Noris Kern

She loved these stories and I loved sharing them with her. We also looked for Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon - one of her absolute favorites but we could not locate it. Anyway read with your little ones. They love it and you will too.


June 5, 2006

Drama Camp

Well I wore my "I'm blogging this" t-shirt so I suppose I really should follow through. Especially since one of the students asked me "Are you sure you are really blogging this?" so here is my blog at the end of a tired day.

Today was Rhiannon's first day of drama camp. It is a camp run by a mom in our homeschool support group and I think she has approximately 30 students (or so it looked) ranging in ages from 6-13 I think. The first two days are being held out at her farmhouse, the last three at a coffeshop with an upstairs theater. The kids are doing a play that looks at a wide variety of fairy tales and the moral lessons found in each of them.

Rhiannon had to learn and recite a few lines for her first audition. Since Rhiannon was just shy of four years old she has been begging to be up on stage performing. She took Irish step dance lessons and performed in a big college auditorium but she has always wanted to act. It is the side that takes after Serona, not me to be sure! I recall two times I tried theater and neither was a success, once was required I think in 8th grade and the next time I went kicking and screaming to a tryout with a friend. She got the lead and I did not get cast (no shock as it was a musical - I can not carry a tune). Serona on the other hand is a born actor and has had many opportunities to use his talents. I can say honestly (not biased) that he is very talented and it is just that his priorities and calling have moved him from this talent that you have not heard of him :)

Anyway I digress. The camp began with a prayer (nice part of being part of a Christian support group) and some discussion of how things would go. The kids had to say their memory verse (a line from the song they all need to learn) and they received a little bag to carry all their supplies in. Then they all learned the main song together and practiced that several times. They gathered together in a group and played an ice breaker game. Each child had to take turns being an animal (for example a frog, lion, turtle, horse, etc) in the middle of a big circle of each other. They were supposed to feel free to be silly and get into character. It was fun to watch. Each child went and then tapped another child with the name of the animal they were to be. Everyone was smiling and laughing and they did a good job. They seemed much looser and less nervous after this.

Then the kids were called inside in small groups for individual auditions. The auditions themselves were done with each child and the play director and music director only. This was a relief to Rhiannon who was concerned she was going to have to audition in front of everyone. While the kids took turns for their auditions (singing a piece of a song, reciting a memory verse and running some lines from the play they all memorized) the other kids were outside playing games. Games like Simon says to practice listening to directions. This system seemed to work well. I left right before lunch and they were still doing this.

Ciaran and Sirah simply could not take any more time there. They were truthfully good sports, after an hour in the car and then several hours roaming around the yard of a big farmhouse being told they could not join in with this big group of kids they had lost their patience and needed some attention. So we left for a few hour break. They both took short naps and we stopped for ice cream at one of their favorite ice cream shops (a big help to be sure) we returned in better moods.

When we returned the kids were all split up into little groups working on their lines. The play's scenes are divided by the different character stories (Jack and the Beanstalk, Humpty Dumpty, Cinderella, etc) so the kids were working in their character groups. Everyone seemed to be working intently and well behaved. I stayed for just a bit while they finished up. I ended up with an extra child in our carpool and we headed home with a full car listening to the musical score for the play on the car CD player and talking about the day and their parts. I had a 6, 8 and 9 year old in my car. They all seemed positive about the camp and were interested in listening to their songs and talking about their parts.

At first Rhiannon was a bit saddened that she got a "small part" but quickly recovered and described her character as "hilarious" and began working on some character development with Serona tonight. We talked about how young she is and how this is her first performance and how she should be excited about the opportunity. By the end of the evening she seemed much better about the whole thing and excited for her role and the things she needed to learn. She was enjoying applying herself to this role and seeing all that she could do with it and how much more acting she would be doing then just the words she was saying. She was excited tonight before bed. I am so thankful Serona was the one to run lines and work with her as he could really reach her and help her see things much better than I.

Rhiannon will be playing a mouse in the Cinderella scene. Her and one of her friends , another girl her age, will be the mice and I am sure they are perfect for the role, they will be very cute. She has one whole song to learn for the chorus plus part of a song for her scene and a few solo lines. She was learning how to appear like a mouse today and ways she could act like a mouse in her movements and actions without words. She also tried to think through what her character would think and feel and how to hold herself to express that.

The length of the days may be a bit much for Rhiannon, we will see how tired she is at the end of the week. The days are long, especially for a bunch of homeschoolers not used to those long stretches. Add to the length of the day the commute - nearly an hour each way! She is excited and enjoying herself so far and drama camp day one is a success!


June 1, 2006

Tree Frog

Ciaran could not be happier. Not only do we have two dozen tadpoles swimming around here in our home but now we have a tree frog as well. I have not lost my mind and agreed to a permanent new pet. I am however a soft hearted pushover of a mom and agreed to let him stay for a few days before we release him back into the wild. Had it been any other kind of a frog and I would have said no, let him play a bit and released him but tree frogs are different for Ciaran.

It was a tree frog that started all of this frog stuff for our family. We were on a camping trip and the kids were catching frogs. Ciaran was particularly good at it - he was three years old. He caught a tree frog and no one else was able to. Since then it has been all about frogs. I kept waiting for him to outgrow this but have now accepted it is unlikely to be outgrown and we have embraced frogs much the way we embrace and celebrate Star Wars in our home.

Back to the current tree frog. Our neighbor came over with a gift for Ciaran. He did ask me first before he showed Ciaran. Our neighbor went to grill his dinner tonight and to his surprise discovered a tree frog on his grill. He though of Ciaran and brought it over, everyone knows of his love for frogs. We had a terrarium in his closet and brought it down to use. Serona and I agreed he can keep the frog for a few days to observe but then he will have to release him. The terrarium will be fine for a short time, there is good water spots and climbing and hiding spots for the frog and we even agreed to buy a few crickets (a large stretch for Serona and I) so we can keep him for a few days. So Ciaran is estatic and his sisters are in on it as well.

They all got a turn to hold the frog and then have spent many long stretches this evening just sitting in front of the terrarium watching the frog. I pray we picked up a female and not a male as it is mating season and listening to a tree frog call all night might push me a bit.

This was a wonderful cap to a great day. We had friends come over to play this morning and early afternoon and the kids got to go on an exploratory hike and they even drew a map of the area they were exploring.

We missed out on our homeschool group first hike of the season. I organized a weekly playtime for the group this summer alternating weeks between hike days at local parks and beach days at local beaches. Good turnout I am told, 10 families and they had fun together. Looking forward to the next one.

I finally hear the sounds of silence now so I am off for some reading time for me. I am currently reading Book Two of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. The kids current read alouds are Zooman Sam by Lois Lowry and Redwall.

It's My Birthday

Well I am 32 now. I had a wonderful birthday. It started the evening before with a "gift" from my neighbors. We live in a practical joke neighborhood, we have good fun with each other. In the month of may there were three birthdays. The first one received a teepeeing of his car - complete with Napolean Dynamite quotes written all over his window and a carful of blown up balloons. The next birthday received a yard full of 300 colorful pipecleaners wrapped around popsicle sticks. My birthday was the last and I received a house and yard wrapped in bright yellow CAUTION tape (think police tape) and outlines of bodies drawn on my driveway along with a big sign on my garage door that said "Caution it is Tenniel's Birthday Caution". To someone passing by it looked like our house was taped off for the scene of a crime until you read the sign. It was funny and I left it up the whole day (we discovered it before bed the evening they did it).

Then each of my children gave me a dozen roses! Ciaran picked white, Sirah picked pink and Rhiannon chose red - yes three dozen roses - wow! Serona bought me a beautiful matching necklace and bracelet with silver Celtic knots and beautiful black stones from Scotland. They are really something special. I also received a handknit Irish sweater from Ireland from my parents and some wonderful cards and cash gifts from various family members. It is tradition in my Irish family to call and sing "Happy Birthday" so I received quite a few of those fun phone messages. One of my favorite things on a birthday! My neighbors also gave me a wonderful Raspberry Sage candle and a bottle of Minnesota Cuvee Chardonnay that I am really looking forward to opening.

The kids and I spent the day at the MN arboretum, one of my favorite places to go and a membership that I use birthday money to purchase each year. We went with a neighbor and her daughter, who is just a bit younger than Sirah. We had a nice time and the kids enjoyed wandering around, even when I got us lost :) Ciaran found his first toad of the day which was very exciting to him and everyone wanted turns with the toad who we let go after a few minutes. We had lunch there and enjoyed the rest of our afternoon.

Ciaran had a tball game last night so we headed to the field for that. It is fun to watch him play though the kids are definitely still learning. At one point he was playing a field position that gets no action at his age (short stop) his coach asked him what he was doing and he said drawing rainbows in the sand. Atleast he was honest. At another point a boy hit the ball and did not think it went far enough so ran into the field and kicked it further before heading to first base! The things they do :)

We came home and uptaped our yard and I talked took some family phone calls. We had to postpone my birthday dessert (strawberry shortcake instead of cake) because it got too late. All in all a great birthday.