Thursday, December 28, 2006


Our Solstice celebration was really fun this year. We continued our usual tradition of reading the Solstice stories from Circle Round. Then we added the new ritual of baking Sunflower Millet bread (We've added baking to our list of weekly activities. We bake now. We're bakers.)
Sunflower Millet Bread

Nightowl was very pleased by our craft for gifting: beeswax candles. She was able to make many of these for friends and family. On the 21st we had a fun time at a Solstice celebration with other homeschooling families - many treats, candles, kids and laughs.
Beeswax Candles

Finally, in culmination we woke early (for us) on the 22nd to wait for and welcome the sun. It was kind of a downer as our Indiana gray skies showed only brightening cloud cover, but we sang songs and ate our bread.
Mother Sky cradeling the newborn sun, by Nightowl

Then later, in the afternoon, when the sun finally burst through Nightowl cheered: "I knew you could do it!"
Sundancers, by Nightowl

Monday, December 18, 2006

Reading, Reading, Reading

That's what we're doing these days. Just a quick update (see our Grade One Book List). We are currently into a number of books (including books about Mammoths). These days you'll find the following on Nightowl's reading table:
Mary Poppins
Don Quixote
McGuffey's Eclectic Primer
Peter Pan
Frog and Toad All Year (she's reading this aloud to me)
Fira and the Full Moon
Meet Kaya

We've recently finished The Moffat Museum and Ginger Pye, which nearly completes our foray into the works of Eleanor Estes (I think all we have left is Pinky Pye).

Nightowl also listened to the complete Addy Story Collection from American Girl on CD. This was pretty intense as Addy is the American Girl who escapes from slavery and creates a new life in the North with her parents. Thematicaly, this set of books is a bit too old for Nightowl, we happened upon it while looking for something to listen to during our Thanksgiving drive to see the relatives. The first book was so realistic and sad that we very nearly abandonded it. I'm glad Nightowl listened through to the end as doing so helped to resolve some of her worries. However, these books have inspired endless discussions of human rights issues, racism and bigotry. Big topics for my little one.

- Addy in the fields collecting worms, by Nightowl

LA Story #5: The Best Time Ever

On our final evening in Los Angeles we headed to the famous La Brea Tar Pits. We waited until after naps and for a respite from the 90 degree sun(!) to head downtown.

Going late in the day was great. It was near twilight. The Page Museum was closing soon so we got in at half price. There were no crowds. We had the run of the place - great!

Nightowl describes this part of the trip as "The best thing I've ever done! The best time I've ever had!" She's been dinosaur obsessed since she was three, and a museum of ice age skeletons and facts thrilled her beyond measure.

We literally ran through the museum (the clock was ticking) which wasn't really hard because it's a very, very, very small museum. But it was thrilling. We dicovered a mammoth statue and real mammoth skeleton.

Nightowl loved the saber tooths, the wolf skulls and the timeline of ice-age man. She was really intrigued by the female skeleton that was found in the tar.

After going through the entire museum, twice, we ventured outside for a twilight stroll near the tar. Also thrilling. Seriously, Nightowl could not get enough of this. We followed the pathways imagining the mammoths, the cats, the hunters. Her excitement did not end with the end of our trip. At home we now have several books about the Great Ice Age Mammoths. Plus she's added Archeologist to her growing list of future careers: Paleontologist, Violinist, Ice Skater... Archaeologist.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

LA Story #4: The Seaside

Our main goal during vacation was to be out in nature - the weather was great and it was a good counter to the seemingly endless hours spent driving.

So, our next adventure took us to Santa Monica for a day at the beach and the Santa Monica pier. This was the Bearcub's first experience with an ocean. She was not daunted and ran merrily into the waves, headfirst. The water was chilly so we remained clothed, barefoot and near the edge. Quite fun and quite the challenge with the cub as she continued to head in (literally) again and again and again.

Once we were completely chilled and sandy we headed to the outdoor showers near the pier. On the way we found ourselves walking, quite unexpectedly, through a graveyard. Or rather, the image of a graveyard.

We were in the middle of Arlingon West a temporary memorial erected in the sand by the local chapter of Veterans for Peace. This graveyard gave us a chilling picture of war and it's consequences. Nightowl had some questions and we all discussed war, our nation and the world. Quite the unexpected Social Studies lesson. Despite the gravity of the memorial I was happy that Nightowl got to experience it. She has heard of the war from radio, our parental talks and from sermons at church. This particular memorial fell right in line with our pacifist, UU tendencies.

After lunch we visited Pacific Park - a small amusement park on the Santa Monica pier. It's just a few rides but enough to have a little carnival like amusement. Nightowl really enjoyed the bungee jump, entertaining us with back flips at forty feet. Wee!!

We ended our coastal adventures with a side trip to Venice Beach in search of a little yarn shop recommended by a California friend and fellow knitter. There we purchased our only bag of LA goodies: yarn and lots of it. The owner was very friendly and helped Nightowl find several types of yarn that she could use to make things for her dolls. She also got her first pair of circular needles. If you're ever in Venice check out A Mano Yarn Center - very wonderful.

LA Story #3: The Huntington Botanical Gardens

Saturday in Los Angeles was cool, sunny and wonderful. We chose to spend the day at the Huntington Library, Art Collection and Botantical Gardens.

For Nightowl (and the rest of us) the botanical garden was the only option. And it really was amazing. Bearcub and I spent the morning at the Garden. Then we headed back to the hotel for afternoon nap. We picked up Chillymama and Nightowl when the gardens closed. They'd spent six hours in the gardens and we're still not really ready to go.

First we explored the Children's Garden - a very hands-on, experiential type of garden with lots of topiary, water, sand and fog. The actual Fog Garden was a favorite (first photo). Every five minutes chimes would toll and clouds of fog would billow. Bearcub enjoyed the topiary animals (second photo). There were rabbits, deer, dinosaurs. We also splashed in a number of fountains, enjoyed a "plant house," the prisim rainbow bridge and a number of topiary tunnels (third photo).

After the Children's Garden we went to explore the science lab and other nature exhibits - all very hands on and exceptional. One favorite was the tropical seeds exhibit. Nightowl saw a variety of spices and learned to connect them to the actual plant (vanilla pods - vanilla plants, cocoa - cocoa plant, etc.). Nightowl spent a long time here. In the first image she's checking out the view through a bee's eye. The second is a coconut exhibit. The third is an identify the plant game:

There was still more to see: Chinese Gardnes, Desert Gardens, Wildflower Gardens, Rose Gardens, Japanese Water Gardens and on and on. We could have spent days there. Days.

LA Story #2: Flowers, Flowers, Flowers

During our trip Nightowl was continually fascinated by the change in plantlife. Everything seemed to be blooming in LA and she took every opportunity to enjoy it. We spent one afternoon at a lovely park in South Pasadena. This particular park had a rose garden and Nightowl had a camera.

Sad to say that the camera she used was a disposable that we picked up during the wedding reception. The actual photos did not turn out so well. But a good time was had by all. And the observation of roses added well to our work on reverence for nature.

LA Story #1: The Incredible Glass Eating Baby

During the first week of November the entire family packed up and headed to the West Coast. Our main reason for traveling was to attend the wedding of a close college friend. But, as it had been so long since we'd travelled, we extended the trip into a week long vacation in Southern California. Fun!

The first item on our itinerary was the wedding. It was a lovely evening event. We dressed up - something we never do - but of course forgot to get a photo. Their ceremony was short and sincere. My dear friend was beautiful and so happy - her husband seems so perfect for her. There was a lovely meal, a kid's room with crafts, dancing, fabulous cake, visits with old friends and lovely chocolate. All in all a good time.

One noteworthy item from the evening: During dinner I held Bearcub on my lap. I gave her a drink of water from my glass while I chatted with an old friend. Then, from across the table I hear: "Oh my god! Your baby!" I look down and Bearcub has taken a large bite out of the piece of stemwear from which she was drinking. Gads!

It was a clean break. No shards in the mouth. No cuts. Just a big bite out of the glass and a good story for the baby book. And perhaps a career in the circus sideshow for Bearcub - possibly.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Spirits and Lights

Time to catch-up. I believe I left this blog right before Halloween. So....

We had a lovely Halloween.Time was spent getting ready by decorating with a number of rainbow skeletons. We also created the list of our beloved dead whom we honor during the day of the dead.

Although trick-or-treating might seem like the pinnacle of Halloween, our big event is the annual Halloween concert with the String Academy. Imagine more than a hundred young violinists aged 5-18 on stage playing together and listening to each other. Each violinist in an imaginative costume. The teachers wear costumes too. As this is an annual concert with all the students we do tend to hear a repetition of the songs every year. But it doesn't matter because each year Nightowl is at a new level, playing new songs and getting more and more confident. Plus, it's so darn cute.

Our final early-fall celebration was the lantern festival on November 11, Martinmas-- bringing light into the darkness. Nightowl made a simple folded paper lantern in her Oak Meadow class. It was decorated with cutouts and watercolor paints and contained a small candle.

That evening we all gathered for a lantern walk in the woods. There were songs and treats and a bonfire. The lantern processional always feels a little scary to me as we actually give children, little children, open flame lanterns to carry through the woods - yikes! (I keep looking around thinking: "There a lot of dry tinder on the ground..."). But I got over it as the feeling of reverence took over.

It's amazing how serious and careful the children were. And the trail of lantern lights twinkling in the woods is really beautiful. I, of course, forgot the camera but we took pictures once we returned home. Very lovely.