Saturday, July 28, 2012

Watermelon: The Wonder Fruit!

What is Summer without juicy, sweet, crunchy watermelon?? This is a staple in our house whenever it is in season. This is our desert, go-to snack and sometimes breakfast during the Summer. I don't know any fruit I love more than watermelon!

Watermelon has so many more health benefits than most people know about, which is why this is a food that I can feel good about Alex eating in unlimited quantities.

Here are some of the good things watermelon provides:

As a member of the Cucurbitaceae family, the watermelon is related to the cantaloupe, squash and pumpkin, and other plants that also grow on vines on the ground. These are all notorious cancer-fighting foods.

Watermelon has tons of Vitamins A and C in just 1 wedge of watermelon. Vitamin B6, pantothenic acid and thiamin are also provided in significant amounts. A powerful antioxidant, watermelon helps neutralize free radicals that cause inflammation, illness, stroke and heart attacks.

The red/pink color of watermelon comes from beta-carotene and Lycopene, both powerful cancer-fighting allies.

One of the main health benefits of watermelon is its status as a powerful antioxidant, which helps to neutralize free radicals than can lead to inflammation, general sickness and chronic illnesses such as stroke and heart attack.

Because of it's high water content, watermelon helps make your metabolism work more efficiently, which in turn can aid in weight loss and fluid retention. Plus, watermelon has so much fiber and protein, your body will still work harder simply processing watermelon, which equals fat burning, y'all!

Alex's Practical Joke

We had some friends over last night for a casual dinner, and someone brought soda. When I opened the fridge to grab the drinks I saw Alex had left me a note directing me to open the drink on the left first.

Knowing my devious practical joker so very well, I grabbed the one on the right instead, silently congratulating myself on my cleverness. 

Alas, I underestimated his deviousness (per usual). The one I opened exploded with flair! I can honestly say I have never seen a soda bottle explode with that much force. Luckily, I, having some nano-second internal warning of the future, and being the spry and lightening quick ninja that I am, sprang out of harms way without a drop on me.

He is a worthy opponent, to be sure. But, due to his need to stay close and watch the mayhem he knew was about to ensue, he was right in the path of the geyser and was the ONLY one who got drenched. 

Check mate. 

Alex's Video titled 'Spinning'

A hurl-worthy performance! 3 thumbs up for this upcoming artist!

Blue Angels

The Blue Angels have not always been my favorite thing. My sentiments are you've seen one airshow, you've seen them all. But since they've been practicing DIRECTLY overhead our neighborhood the last few days, I thought the daycare kids would enjoy getting a peek. 

I'm hoping we will be able to see some of the show from our house (like we did the fireworks for the 4th!) so I don't have to come up with an excuse for not going into town to watch them today. ;-)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Kitty Jail

Alex building a kitty jail.

New sctrach and play toy for the kitties. The swinging ball lasted a good long week before meeting it's doom.

Riding Bikes

Alex learned to ride his bike without his trainers this year, right around his 8th birthday. He's had a bike since he was 2, and loved riding, that is until I took off his training wheels when he was 6 and tried to 'force' him to learn. By forcing I mean I went into super-excited-positive-encouraging-cheerleader-you can do it!-mom mode. I tried to make it FUN and AWESOME! I failed.

Alex (green) with his best friend Mathew (blue) riding bikes at home.

By trying to force him to learn something he naturally resisted, and by trying to pressure him to learn something before he was ready I made him not want to ride his bike at all.

Forced learning is not the unschool way, and I tried to justify my actions by using strange and bizarre mom psychology on myself- "He just needs a little push and he'll thank me! He just needs to get on there and do it, then he'll see it's not so bad, and he'll thank me! He just needs to learn about hard work and the benefits of making an effort. When it pays off he'll thank me!"

So really, as I look back, I skipped over his feelings and went straight to the him thanking me part. In my head I envisioned awards and parades in my honor for helping my child achieve this milestone. In my heart, the whole time I felt guilty and awful. I knew this wasn't the right way for him. I should have listened to my heart, not my head/ego. 

After several tries, I did finally listen to my heart, and I put the training wheels back on. I didn't feel like I was giving up. I made peace with the fact that he just wasn't ready. I silenced that voice in my head that wanted to remind me that 2-yr olds in third world countries learned to ride two-wheel bikes so they could go to the market for their parents. And I made peace with the idea that if he never learned to ride a bike we would all survive just fine.   

When Alex's dad bought him a new bike, sans trainers, for the winter holiday last year, Alex was less than excited. He preferred to ride his scooter every day, and didn't touch his shiny new bike for months. I had learned my lesson already and showed excitement and gratitude for the new bike but stayed clear of any pressure for him to ride it. I allowed it to collect dust and kept my lips zipped.

Then I bought a bike at a local thrift store for myself. I had really been wanting to get back to riding for a while. The first few times we went riding together, it was me on my bike and Alex on his scooter. But he quickly realized there was unexplored territory for us to discover on bikes that he just couldn't do on his scooter.

That week, Alex learned to ride his bike.  Once he finally picked it up and saw me riding, his inner competitor kicked in and spurred him to want to try. So we tried earnestly- without pressure or expectations this time- for three days, and by day 3 he was a pro.

It was like rainbows and cupcakes and sunshine and kittens and puppies all rolled together. It was one of the best days of my life as a mom, watching him 'get it' and seeing the light in his eyes as he mastered it, on his terms.

A Morning at the Spider Park

We spent yesterday morning with the school aged daycare kids playing at the Spider Park. That's the name we call it, I'm sure it has another 'official' name. It got it's name because of the web-like climbing structure. It's a favorite place for my kiddos!

Alex's Favorite Place to Eat

Golden Corral is Alex's favorite place to eat. We go there once every few months and he never fails to say 'Thank You, Mom!' with glee on his face as we pull into the parking lot.


Alex and friends having a cuddle snooze on the couch.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Stormy Weather Brings Us Together

While our neighbors may run for the comfort of their homes in inclement weather, we grab our shoes (or not!) and head outside.

Today's thunderstorms were a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the magic of the elements converging. The energy created by storms is something we hate to miss out on.  

We played in the backyard with the dogs and cats, feeling invigorated by the warm wind and rain drops.

Then we hopped onto our bikes and raced until we couldn't peddle any longer, laughing the whole way. I love hearing Alex let out squeals of exhilaration and delight. These happy moments confirm that he is enjoying his childhood.

The horses were running free in the fields next to us and seemed to be enjoying the energy in the air as much as we were. They seemed to be galloping with us as we sped along, as if acknowledging our celebration of nature.

For me, this is a perfect example of the unschooling mentality.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Salt Dough Stars

These are our salt dough stars we made last week and painted.

I love how fun they turned out!

Making Watercolors

Next week we're working on an art project that uses watercolors,
so I've been testing ways to make larger batches.

I think the individual watercolor cases are fun for small or abstract art, but with a whole page needing to be filled in I knew those weren't going to do the job.

I know you can buy watercolor tablets to mix in water, kind of like those dye tablets you get when you do Easter eggs. I'm not sure how other people make watercolors, but since I like trying to use what I have on hand before buying something new, I took out my tempera paints and just added water.

I used our dollar store muffin tins to hold the paints. They were perfect for this!

If you've worked with tempera paints before, you know that you always have some that are a little runny, and some that are a little thick. I have experienced this with the cheap and the higher end brands alike. So I found that I couldn't add a standard unit of measured water to each tin cup, as the paints themselves weren't consistent to begin with. This is really a trial and error effort. Every color needed a different amount of water and mixing. I just had to keep at each of them until they 'felt' right to me. Someone else might like them more watery or thicker than me, though.

I liked the end result and did a test painting from a project listed on Art Projects for Kids to see how the colors worked. I think the kids will be able to use these really well when we do our project next week.  

Trip to Greenhouses

Today I took the toddlers to visit the greenhouses!

Pepper plants.

Both greenhouse/farms we visited were lovely to look at, but when asked, I learned they use chemicals to treat their weeds, and one uses chemicals on the plants themselves. I was really disappointed, because we couldn't buy anything, and I really had hopes of getting some fresh peaches today. :-(

Still, it was a nice trip to see all the things growing and the pretty flowers.

So the search continues for organic produce in Southern Idaho!

Horse Drawn Buggy

I was so glad to find this lovely relic at the Kelly Greenhouses when we took a trip there this week to visit the plants!

What kid isn't fascinated with old buggies and carriages? In our fast-paced society of multi-lane highways, cars, trains, planes and boats, younger 'are we there yet??' generations have no concept of moseying along at a leisurely pace and enjoying the ride. I don't know that my generation knows about moseying, either, but I think we can imagine it better because our parents and grandparents moseyed.

I'm not entirely sure the folks from back in the day completely enjoyed riding this way, and I can not fathom the ladies of that time had an easy time getting up and down from these carriages with their heavy dresses. I imagine they must have at least had the advantage of appreciating the journey a little more than we do today, though. To them this was advanced technology. Cutting edge stuff only the privileged could afford.

What a fun game to pretend this was a time machine and we traveled back in time to when horses were literally the motors! Imagine the sounds and the smells we would have experienced!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Crayon Butterflies

Using fun silicone molds from Denmark, we made these bright and colorful
Crayon Butterflies!

If you have old, broken or unused crayons, this is a fun project for all ages. My only tip is not to mix crayon brands, as they do not always mix well. Some melt at higher temperatures than others and the end result may have unmelted chunks remaining. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Playing Tag & Tumbling

Yesterday afternoon the kids played tag in the front yard and used the tree as base. They were having so much fun several of the neighbor kids came over to join in (not pictured). Who needs TV when there's a game of Tag happening?? Not us!

The kiddos performing tumbles and somersaults.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Sun Powered Strawberry-Lemonade

Three are strawberries and lemons for strawberry lemonade, and the one on the end is all the leftover lemons for lemonade. We also made tea (not pictured) by placing one tea bag in each jar filled with water. They turned out so yummy!

Thank you, Sun!!

Making Salt Dough

With the sun still turned to the mid-high 90's I want to make the most of our sun power!

Today we're making salt dough and using the sun to 'bake' them for us.
All the basic ingredients went into our recipe- salt, flour and water. But then, after we'd already started mixing, I realized we were short enough flour, so we improvised with dry oats!

I grabbed some oats we had used for a soap making project. The kids went to work grinding the oats by hand, then I used the spice mill to finish it all up and voila! Flour!!

Anytime we make salt dough the kids LOVE the rolling pin part and the kneading part. Sad faces inevitably ensue when there aren't enough rolling pins and they have to wait a turn to share. Oh the torture!! AND a happy discovery- the kitties ate all the crumbs that fell on the floor so I had less clean-up!  

Welcoming Our New Kittens!

On the weekend just prior to the 4th of July, we had the opportunity to rescue two kittens from a local farm and adopt them! I'm allergic to cats but since we got our puppies a few months ago I seem to have built up a tolerance for them again. Yay! They are about 7 or 8 week old little girls and adorable as beans!

Being mainly outdoors and on a farm with other animals, I didn't know what to expect in the way of temperaments. But to my thankful surprise they have been so gentle and sweet.

They love being held, have never used their claws (which I trimmed on day two just in case) and they had no trouble with the litter box or sleeping with us in our bed all night.
They are so stinkin' cuddly!

Making Organic Fruit Leather

We just bought a bunch of blueberries to use in fruit cups for the 4th only to realize too late all of the daycare children were out all week for the holiday! So we had all these blueberries and decided we could make fruit leather instead!

I cooked the blueberries for about 10 minutes in a few tablespoons of water, then added applesauce and honey. Then I blended it all together in the blender and poured it out onto two cookie sheets lined with parchment (don't use wax paper!!).

The oven was set on the lowest temperature, and I propped it open with an oven mitt to get it cooler inside (you want to dehydrate the fruit, not cook it). If you have a food dehydrator you can use that instead.

It took about 8 hours but when they were done they were so pretty and perfect. Next time I'll do this overnight instead of during the day, though. 

I used scissors to cut them into strips. Unfortunately, my son ate them all before I had a chance to take any more pictures. :-)


Monday, July 9, 2012

Tubbs Berry Farm

Early this season we visited Tubbs Berry Farm and picked our own fresh strawberries!

We ended up with about two gallons of strawberries! I made a super delicious pancake sauce with the berries using honey and cream cheese. The kids have asked for the strawberry pancake sauce every day since!

The farm has other animals, too. Here is where the turkey chics live. The kids really had a blast trying to catch them and hold them.

They engaged is some light competition to see who could find the biggest berries.
I think they all won!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Eating Our Rainbow

Alex and I put together an on-the-go snack jar today.

Red: strawberries and raspberries
Orange: orange slices
Yellow: pineapple
Green: kiwi
Blue: blueberries
Purple: plums
Indigo: black grapes

Next time I might add a wire handle to make it easier to carry.

Happy Solstice!

Happy Suns to Greet Visitors!

Snack Time is Fun!

"If We Destroy Our Roots, We Cannot Grow"

Inspired by F. Hundertwasser, the Austrian artist:

The kids used colored pencils to create these. Wavy lines were the order of the day.

These were quite a bit of work because everything was first sketched using pencils, then outlined with colored pencils, then the pencil marks were erased, then everything was shaded and colored in. 

They needed a total of three breaks (one was a dance break) before they were able to get through it all! But I'm glad they finished them and now don't they look lovely!?    

Plus, we went online to learn more about the artist and the kids had a lot to say about his other works. They liked his colors and shapes, and loved his quote about lines:

"The straight line leads to the downfall of humanity."

Thank you Kathy Barbro from Art Projects for Kids for this fun art project!

Fresh Picked Cherries!

One of the daycare moms brought us a large container of cherries from their cherry trees!

Thanks Henriikka, Eric, Levi and Oskar for sharing this delicious treat!