Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Meet Buddy

Yesterday, snow.  Today, bugs.

These are great bug jars by the way.  Super cheap from Rainbow Resources, and they have a little magnifier built in.

After we got a good look at Buddy, we let him go, of course.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Guess I'm Not Planting Tomatoes Today

Look how pretty it is!  

Yesterday, it was in the 60's, we had the back door open and a hummingbird flew into the house!  Dad Sparklee had to catch it before it knocked itself silly on our kitchen window.
And today--snow!

The best part is...I did my grocery shopping yesterday, so I don't have to drive anywhere in this mess!  

The kids and I will clean out the feeders and make up a batch of sugar water for Hummie.  They need their calories in weather like this...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

This Week at School

This week at the Super Awesome School of Super Awesomeness we...

Continued working on our Animal Kingdom notebook. We visited the local pet store to choose fish for our lab. We noted the price of the fish, food, and habitat (aquarium.) Supersim chose a pretty redcap goldfish; Dudeman chose a larger moor with a fancy tail. We also got a cute little yellow snail and a live plant.

After we set up the aquarium for "Chewey" and "Rocky," we talked about how fish need oxygen just like mammals, but they get it in a different way. We observed how they pulled water through their gills, and talked about why the live plant is beneficial. We talked about the difference between ectothermic and endothermic animals. We took the temperature of the water and hypothesized about the fish's body temperature. We also noted the room temperature and took our own temperatures to calculate the difference.

We did some research online and found some interesting pictures of different types of fish scales. Did you know that on some fish, you can guess their age by the patterns on their scales? We also found photos of really strange fish, including the Pacific Barrelhead, which has a transparent head! We found pictures of our favorite fish (not our favorites to eat, but the ones we find the most interesting!) This included lionfish, sharks, and fugu. Wikipedia has a long, informative entry on fugu with lots of pictures. As Dudeman wisely said, "What flavor is worth that risk?"

I had planned a 30-minute piano lesson for Dudeman early in the week, because he has expressed interest in playing. I hadn't counted on his enthusiasm--he ended up playing all morning that day and learned two beginner songs. I'm pretty sure we are going to need a real piano teacher (way better than me) and a real piano, too, because he is very excited about learning to play. The rest of the week, he went back to the keyboard several times a day to practice his songs, and he couldn't wait to show off when he went to a friend's house.

We made up a very silly story problem about cats. A girl cat named Goldie, nicknamed "Goo," met a boy cat named Pudgy, nicknamed "Poo." Goo and Poo had four kittens: Bloo, Choo, Koo, and Twoo. If Goo went to the store and got 3 cheese-flavored kitty treats for each kitten, how many did she buy? If Poo went to the store and got 4 sardines for each kitten, how many did he buy? And so on. This is where Dudeman takes over the storyline, in case you can't tell...

Then, Bloo went on a game show and won $5000. He generously decides to share with his family. Which leads to all sorts of purchases, including toys, groceries, cell phones, and scented pine cones (where did THAT come from?). When Goo decides to make her world famous cheesecake, the ingredients cost $50, but she already has milk at home so she doesn't need to buy a $5 carton of milk. To complicate matters even more, some of the kittens decide to pool their money so they can make bigger purchases. Also, the scented pine cones were on clearance, 10 for $5. Can Bloo divide them evenly between his family members?

All I can say is...Why NOT make math silly? And what the heck is in a $50 cheesecake?

We played Scrambled States of America, Domination, Apples to Apples, and Stack. We spent an awesome day at the creek, and had another great playdate with good friends.

We read LOTS of good books, and I'm going to post about them soon. It was a good week, and we're taking tomorrow off to clean the house!


Forgive me for being whiny, but it seems unfair to me that we went seamlessly from cold season to allergy season this year.

We also went from snow on the lawn to needing to mow our lawn in about two days.

Sorry I'm cranky.  It's probably just my allergies...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's So True

Supersim: "You can make all kinds of pizza alternatives, but they're never as good as pizza."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Poem By Supersim

All species
Have feces
Which is poo.

Ostriches do it.
Bugs do, too.

Friday, April 17, 2009

This Week at School

This week at the Super Awesome School of Super Awesomeness we...

...looked at a bank statement and paid bills. We talked about how you keep track of money in a checking account, and what happens when you write a check.
...practiced multiplication facts and did a couple of math sheets.
...researched mammals for our Animal Kingdom Notebook; added lots of mammal facts and some great art.
...read Polar Bear Cub by Jacqueline Moody-Luther.
...did a science experiment about polar bear blubber; we used two thermometers; one was bare and one was insulated with shortening. The bare thermometer registered much lower temperatures than the thermometer covered with "blubber."
...bought four hermit crabs and set up their "crabitat."
...had an awesome playdate at Dude's best bud's house.
...borrowed lizard skin and bird feathers from best bud's pets and looked at them under the microscope.
...read The Mushroom Man by Ethel Pochocki.
...played Domination (a great game!!!)
...read Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O'Neill.
...made Ancestral Puebloan water jugs out of Sculpey. Also snakes, rats, and bulldogs.
...constructed a Lego gears set. The fan was neat, but the Clone Carousel was the best!
...read It's Disgusting and We Ate It! by James Solheim.
...read You Wouldn't Want to Be a Mammoth Hunter and You Wouldn't Want to Be a Roman Gladiator by John Malam.
...traced the path from Gallia to Rome on the globe.
...read Show Me How Fast It Is! by Jerry Pallotta.
...played Professor Noggin's Outer Space game.
...planted our "sensitive plant" mini-terrariums.
...read Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne.
...started building the battery-powered motor for our motorboat.
...played Higher/Lower/Odd/Even.
...reviewed addition strategies: Plus 10, Plus 9, and Doubles.
...read How Much, How Many, How Far, How Heavy, How Long, How Tall is 1000? by Helen Nolan.
...read Wackiest White House Pets by Gibbs Davis.
...made up a long, goofy story problem involving a dad who brings home a paycheck and is immediately attacked by his greedy family, asking for more and more money for Wii games, hermit crabs, and dinners out (I don't know anyone like that!)

I know, I know. We are the cliche new homeschoolers, trying to cram way too much into our days. But the kids helped me unpack the Rainbow Resources box and they were so excited, they wanted to get started on everything NOW! As long as they are enthusiastic, I'll let them run with it.

Um, I'm not sure if this qualifies for "home education" but the kids also took the huge Rainbow Resources box, drew a cow face on it, put it over their heads and walked around the living room scaring the dogs out of their minds...

Monday, April 13, 2009


There is a kids' cereal commercial (Cocoa Puffs, maybe?) that features a crazy cartoon opera, complete with a blond Viking lady. So my kids were watching TV tonight and this is what I happened to hear...

Dude: That is one bad soap opera.
Super: That's not a soap opera. That's just an opera.
Dude: Oh. Then what's a soap opera?
Super: A soap opera is when you have deep, dark secrets.
Dude. Oh. I thought that was Oprah.

I swear, my kids have never seen an opera, a soap opera, or Oprah! But they got it just about right, didn't they?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Colored Eggs

The kids ran out of eggs, but they didn't want to waste all those great colors, so they dropped in some rocks to see what would happen. The eggs and the rocks turned out great, don't you think? They had a great time, as always. One of their friends came over to join the fun, and she brought one of those sparkly tie-dye egg kits.

These photos brought back memories of playing Colored Eggs. Do you remember that game? Someone was the Mother Hen, and she named all her little chickies different colors. Then her chickies stood behind her while the Big Bad Wolf knocked on the door.

"Who is it?"

"Big Bad Wolf."

"Whaddya want?"

"Colored eggs."

"What color?"

Tricky Mother Hens wouldn't name anyone just "Pink" or "Yellow." Tricky Mother Hens used the 64-box names like "Burnt Sienna" and "Periwinkle."

So, when the Big Bad Wolf called for "Chartreuse" or whatever, that little chickie had to run to base without getting tagged. In my neighborhood, base was always the big tree in the Campbell's front yard. There were a bunch of kids on our street, and in the summer we played Colored Eggs and other forms of tag until the streetlights came on. If we were lucky, our parents would come outside to call us and get involved in conversations with other parents, and we could play a little longer while the grownups talked. In my childhood memories, it's always summer, the grass is always green and cool on my bare feet, and it's always dusk and the kids are trying to squeeze in a few more minutes of tag before bedtime.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mesa Verde!!!!!!!!

Mesa Verde!!!!!!!!

What can I say?  It's one of the greatest places on Earth, and the kids loved it.  The Museum is as wonderful as ever, with the tiny dioramas that kids always find so fascinating, and a movie about the discovery of the cliff dwellings (not exactly factual, but it's a nice story...)

We only had 2 full days in Mesa Verde, and you really need more time to explore it all.  But we did a lot in 2 days! 

First we visited Spruce Tree House.  There was still frost on the trail and icicles on the trees in the shade, but it was very comfortable in the sun.  The kids got to go into a real kiva (with the roof rebuilt in the original style).  Dudeman was really fascinated with kiva design and how the Ancestral Puebloans built deflectors for heat and smoke.  Supersim found it interesting that the people trapped and kept wild turkeys in little pens behind the dwellings.  The kids had already learned about grinding corn with the mano and matate, so it was interesting to see real ones there.  
Our Cliff Palace tour was in the afternoon, a smart suggestion from the ranger.  The sun had melted the frost and even with the breeze moving through the canyon, we were perfectly warm.  Mimi wasn't sure she wanted to climb the ladders to get out of the canyon so she stayed at the top and took pictures.    

Our tour guide asked where we were all from--there were visitors from Germany, Israel, Ireland, and Australia as well as several states.  We weren't allowed into the kivas but we did get to poke our heads into one tower to see a pictograph.  It was a red square pattern and Supersim said it reminded her of a rug. 

Dad Sparklee remembers climbing and running all over the Sun Temple as a kid, but you aren't allowed to do that anymore.  You can only peek in the 2 windows for a view of the narrow hallways inside.  I know the people were smaller then, but even so, it seems very claustrophobic in there! 

Square Tower was glowing in the evening sun.  Mesa Verde is one of those places that just feels magical to me.  The kids are already asking when we can go back! 

Monday, April 6, 2009

Pink Fog

We drove from Canyonlands to Cortez in the strangest weather any of us had ever seen. A cold, damp wind was blowing and it seemed like it was trying to snow or rain or something, but just couldn't work up enough strength to do it. The fields on either side of the road were all recently plowed, exposing the red dirt, and the wind picked up all the red dust and made pink fog. No kidding!

Dad said it felt like we were driving on Mars. Later, we heard that the towns west of Cortez got pink snow overnight!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Gatorade, Crackers and Canyonlands

Before leaving Moab, we each took turns enjoying a lovely stomach virus. We decided to add some time on the end of our trip to make up for the fun we missed! Once everyone was stabilized (meaning, able to travel in a car without puking) we visited Canyonlands. No one was ready for any major hiking (hurling, maybe, but not hiking.) Of course we stopped at Newspaper Rock, which is not to be missed, even for our slightly queasy family. Newspaper Rock has a special meaning for us...

Once upon a time, two college kids camped across the road from Newspaper Rock. A sudden cold front moved through the area, bringing gusts and freezing rain. The canyon turned into a bitterly cold wind tunnel, and water from the river blew into the tent. The girl had a lousy sleeping bag and was too cold to sleep most of the night. The guy had a better sleeping bag and slept soundly. In the morning, the girl was a GROUCH! She complained that she hadn't slept, her back was stiff, and breakfast was cold, and she bitterly pointed out that the tent was coated with ice.

The guy, sensing impending doom, broke down the campsite, loaded up all the stuff, and took his cranky girlfriend into town for a shower and a hot breakfast. When they got back to his parent's house, the boy's mother said, "Well, I guess you two really are meant for each other. You went camping on a cold night and you're still together." The girl agreed, and the rest is history.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Yes, We Went to Hole in the Rock

And it was cooler than we expected! We've passed the place many times, but we always figured it was a tourist trap and not worth stopping. But, there is a petting zoo, and the kids were restless...

Friday, April 3, 2009

I wasn’t too sure about scrambling up the narrow sandstone fin that leads to Navajo arch, but the men wanted to do it, and I wanted to set a good example for Supersim. So after we saw Landscape Arch, we continued up the “trail” (narrow sandstone fin mentioned above) to Navajo Arch, which I had never seen.

Halfway up the rock, the wind started to blow like crazy and it started to snow on us. When we got past the sandstone and reached more level ground, the snow stopped and the sun came out. We all peeled off our hats and gloves. Ten minutes later, it was snowing again. By the time we got to the arch, the sun was out again. We had the place to ourselves (something about hiking uphill on slickrock in the snow, I guess) so I took lots of pictures.

Mimi waited for us at Landscape Arch. She said she was worried about us when it started to snow, but we were fine! Personally, I prefer cool spring hiking to blazing hot summer hiking.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Shshshsh! Don't tell them it's educational!

We were concerned that the kids might be underwhelmed with this trip. They have been here before, it’s unseasonably cold, and we’re getting up early and spending long, busy days at the park. But so far they have been very enthusiastic. They protest if we even suggest skipping a hike or seeing a certain formation. They are old enough to do some of the longer hikes now, and we did make sure everyone had gloves, caps and warm jackets.

Typically, Dudeman is the trailblazer, leading the way and hollering at the rest of us to hurry up. Dad follows him. I’m stopping to take pictures, so they don’t even bother to wait for me anymore. And Supersim is stopping to notice the little details: a furry little black and orange spider, a lizard, animal scat, a good patch of cryptobiotic soil.

She also loves to name things. When we came back down from the Spectacles trail, I pointed out a rounded pillar and said, “Doesn’t that one look kind of like a Native American clay pot?” Supersim (who was waiting for me at the bottom of the trail) said, “That’s what I just said! Let’s name that one Potter’s Rock.”

Both kids get very indignant when they see someone break the rules. The graffiti on the petroglyphs and scratched into rock surfaces really makes them mad. “Who would do that?” “Why did someone mess it up?” They were horrified when a man wandered way off the trail just to get a better photo of his girlfriend. “What’s wrong with that man?” “Doesn’t he know he’s damaging the soil?” He probably doesn’t know or care, but I’m proud that my kids are more respectful of nature.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Day Three: We Are So Roughing It

No one had time to write anything in their journals, so here is what we did yesterday and today:

Hiked the Park Avenue Trail, saw Queen Nefertiti and Sheep Rock.

Hiked to the Spectacles and Turret Arch.

Took pictures of pinyon pine, narrowleaf yucca, juniper, mormon tea, snakeroot, prickly pear cactus, Indian riceweed, a few early wildflowers, and cryptobiotic soil.

Visited the petroglyph sites in Kane Creek Canyon.

Went back to Pasta Jay’s for dinner. Yeah, we are so roughing it.