Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Two Cats Gets a New Look

Okay, I've been piddling around nearly all day with my blogs and their looks and their content.  I've received some inspiration and encouragement from some friendly voices on a forum I visit (too often!).  I've taken out the overly-busy and too-cute background, settled for neat and clean colors that I love, and Two Cats is ready for 2010.  I also played around with my camera and came up with this

Now if only I could be so productive in the rest of my life.

Monday, December 28, 2009

And the Truth Is...

Christmas Season is not yet ended.  I realize that.  We have not celebrated the New Year or Epiphany yet.  I know.  But I'm ready to get back to the routine of regular life, school and piano lessons, play dates and field trips.  At Christmastime I love the break from the routine, but it's so strange how after a while, the break is no longer constructive.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cows, Not Cats

I called our friends to invite them to play yesterday afternoon, and on a whim she invited us to join them on an outing to a local dairy farm.  Some other families were going to investigate the possibility of buying a cow share so as to get raw milk.  I was interested, it sounded fun, so off we went.  It was muddy, but very nice for the children to see all the animals, and we were delighted with the new calves.  Here are a couple of the fun moments on the farm...Oh yes, and I am seriously considering a share to have the raw milk.  It's wonderful stuff.

Why is it always About the Cats?

Albert has not yet come home.  We don't dismiss the possibility of his return, by any means, but it seems some newcomers to the family have worked their way on the scene.  If Albert-ol-boy does come home, well...we'll have a lot of cats.

We had to check for him at the local shelter, of course.  When we did, the kids and I roamed around and looked at all the pets that were there for adoption.  Certainly we weren't looking for ourselves--just admiring all the cute, cuddly, wonderful, adoptable, heart-melting creatures that were begging every passing soul to rescue them.  Matty and I found ourselves lingering in front of one cage in particular.  Four eyes, eight legs, loud purrs, sweet snuggles...oh brothers!

These guys snatched about ten minutes of our sanity and here we are...Jack and Oliver are now part of the Mine family, and I'll say it again... "NO MORE CATS!"

...Until the next time one really, really sweet cat tells me she's been waiting just for me and really needs a home...ugh.  My allergies really can't take it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

That Darn Cat

Albert, our little roving hunter, is missing.  He disappeared Sunday night when he scooted out the door past my legs, and we have not heard from him or seen him since.  We are all missing him so much, and have not lost hope that the little vagabond might return, but so far...nothing. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fancy Nancy Girls and Regular Guys

Aimee and Molly went to a Fancy Nancy debut at Border's, complete with a fashion show for the girls in dress-up clothes. Molly had a completely wonderful time. Matty and his dad went to a gun shop and then out to eat lunch like only men can do. Matty ate almost as much as Dad. He had a wonderful time as well. I was informed that it was especially fun to go out to eat with Dad, because "you don't let me do stuff like that." I said, "like what--eat too much?" and he laughed and said, "well...yeah." good thing he's got a dad.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We Met Jan Brett!

The kids and I had an opportunity to meet Jan Brett. We have been very inspired by her the last couple of years. She is the author and illustrator of many books for children, and they are some of our favorites. Comet's Nine Lives, Trouble With Trolls, Gingerbread Baby, among her others, are books that demand all the attention of the child and the reader, because of the detail of the pictures that go along with the stories. She is a delightful woman and very sincere, and she seems to take genuine interest in her audience. Her whole countenance changed when Matty presented her with a picture that he drew for her and wanted to give to her. She encouraged him to keep his artwork and instead signed it for him!

Matty was thrilled to have his picture taken with the hedgehog who was stationed at the door to greet the people. Molly was scared of it until we told her it was just a person in a costume. Then she was able to get close to it.

We waited for three hours to get our book signed. The kids made use of the time and practiced drawing their best Jan Brett pictures while they waited. I was really impressed with Molly's ability to copy and make it actually look how she meant for it to look. I'm sensing some natural ability here, perhaps? (Mom crossing fingers, praying for a "yes!")

While they waited to meet Jan, both the kids stretched out on the floor and drew pictures of Jan's favorite animals--hedgehogs. Below, Jan is admiring Matty's artwork that he presented to her.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Keeping the Tooth Fairy Busy

Last night Matty lost his second of the two front teeth! I have to note, however, that his tooth fairy is notoriously unreliable and has been known to pay interest for no-shows. However, last night she did show, and he awoke clutching three dollars in his fist this morning. Her unreliable ways were getting expensive...perhaps she's learned her lesson.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Monday, September 07, 2009


So I asked my friends, "Is it cheesy to be inspired by a movie?" To which they heartily replied, "Oh, no!" but really I think it is a bit cheesy to be inspired to actually DO something because of a movie. Enough said, but nevertheless, I--and they--were inspired by the movie Julie and Julia. It's a movie (originally a book) about a woman in Queens, NY, turning thirty, living in a grungy apartment with her husband and her cat, who finds herself in the undertaking of a crazy project. She decides (at her husband's suggestion) to cook all of the recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days and blog about it. It was a huge number of recipes...564 I believe, and she had this crummy little kitchen and this doubting mother and these nasty friends whom she admitted to not even liking, and she persevered through all of it, and actually completed the project. Of course she did. If she had not she would not now be famous, nor would I be writing about all this.

It wasn't her perseverance that was so inspiring to me...it was Julia Childs and her cooking that inspired me. In my heart of hearts I really enjoy cooking, but I struggle to enjoy it daily. It's that everyday "what's for dinner" question that wears me down and I really need to add some flair, some new skills...some butter, according to Julia.

I went to see the movie with one friend who is crazy about food and cooking. The other friend has "issues" with cooking, to put it simply. I love the idea of it--just not the dailiness of it. So we thought it would be fun to have a monthly cooking party, a Julia Child gathering of sorts where we all agree on the menu and then get together to make it. We could actually eat in the dining room and use the nice tableware, and we could gather in the kitchen and enjoy wonderful smells and conversation, and experience some delicious French food.

So there's the plan. The next step will be to actually make it happen. But if Julie can do 564 recipes in 365 days, then shouldn't 3 homeschooling moms be able to make 24 in 12 months? Theoretically, yes. More to come...I'll post when it comes together.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Summer's End

The weather is changing. There's that ever-so-slight hint of fall in the air and it is time once again to open the windows, sleep with an extra blanket, start back to school, and have one last hurrah--a camp-out in the back yard...kids and dad asleep in the tent with a cozy fire outside in the copper fire bowl.

We grilled, we roasted marshmallows, we told stories by the fire, and then the three members of our family who can sleep outside, chose to do so. I on the other hand will appreciate the fact that they can sleep that way and will enjoy the extra space in my own bed, about 50 feet away and on the other side of the screen in my bedroom.

When I'm a better photographer and learn how to take nice photos in low light without an obnoxious flash, I'll post a blog about that. For tonight, I'll just have to be happy with posting the word picture. It's a happy one.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year or, Geeks Like Me

I believe that we homeschoolers who say, "when are you starting school?" have the wrong idea. What do I say to that? "Ummm...I started about eight years ago and have been going strong every day since. Wait...there were those two days when I had a stomach virus and didn't get out of bed. Other than that, we've been homeschooling pretty much every day." I say this tongue in cheek because I believe that we are called to be in a constant state of teaching and training our children, and that "homeschooling" is a misnomer. It implies that we've allowed the cultural concept of how we should educate our children creep into our minds -- 17 years and countless hours of firsthand training and indocrination have nothing to do with this, of course. And this is not to offend the wonderful teachers who taught me and helped to form my life and develop the way I think about things (thanks, Fran!). I loved them all. But...since now I have a choice in the matter, I believe that education that is home based is in many cases the premier choice for cultivating a whole person, both whole parent and whole child. "Homeschoolers" from classical educators to unschoolers share this notion in spite of their vast differences in style. So for lack of better terminology at the moment, I'll identify with the sector of society best known as "homeschoolers" in spite of my subtle disagreement with the label; and the notion of "starting school" implies taking textbooks out again to start working on that kind of learning again.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not a homeschool snob. I know what they mean. There's the natural rhythm of life. There comes that time of year when you just can't go anymore and you stash away the books and the whining and the routine because you're feeling a little burnt out on phonics and science projects and crafts...if you like that sort of thing. Then, you enjoy the learning that comes from critter-hunting, garden-growing, beach-combing, and campfire-lighting. It's a different kind of school entirely, but every bit as important. But somewhere around this time of year, perhaps because the leaves are showing just a tinge of red,

or perhaps because everyone around you is shopping on tax-free weekend, that question comes, "So, when are you guys going to start?" I have gotten so many different answers, from "Oh, I just can't face it. Maybe never." to the very firm, but late "Sept. 14th." We're "starting" on August 31st. What that means exactly, I'm never quite sure. It means a slight variation in our routine, in which the kids practice piano first thing in the morning and do math pages and listen to stories and do copywork and learn cursive and history and science-y type things. It means I get to relive my childhood anticipation for the first day of school all over again, but on a grander scale. I get to laminate memory cards (no home educating family should be without a laminator) and plan which science experiments and history projects we're going to do. I get to buy notebook paper and notebooks and pencils and pencil boxes and backpacks. I haven't figured out why my kids need backpacks yet, but they're cute and fun and they pack their clothes in them when we have overnights with friends.

Today I deep cleaned the basement in anticipation for our "start." It's an annual ritual of cleaning out old junk, making sure last years papers are filed away properly, books are neatly placed on the shelves, and the carpet is steam-cleaned (Please note--this is not standard. It's my own personal OCD thing with clean floors.) The planning is nearly done. The books have nearly all arrived via the friendly UPS man. The lesson planning and goal setting is very nearly complete.

Matty said to me for the first time in his life, "Mom, I can hardly wait." I said, "Wait for what, Buddy?" He said, "For school to start. I didn't feel that way before but I do now. You get better at it every year." Wow. I almost did an unsolicited, involuntary flip right there on the spot.

Bipolar Gardening, or, a Sad Tale of Neglect

And I don't mean like "two poles"--that would be great...maybe I'd have some more beans or peas or something growing. No, I mean that I have a double standard in my garden: one for the yard and one for the deck. Now, this year was our first foray into gardening. We have sincerely enjoyed it, but truthfully we haven't had a great harvest. I would even expect that we should have a LOT more tomatoes than we've had, but I've concluded that our soil is not rich enough yet. It is not composted with more than just purchased leaf compost (our own composts were not done yet, but next year, look out!) So we've had some very delicious tomatoes, just not a huge amount, like I was expecting out of 12 tomato plants. We have a zucchini plant, but have not had even one zucchini from it. We have a pumpkin plant that has overtaken the yard, but only three pumpkins. A cucumber plant that has grown up the fence but only produced three cucumbers. Our peas and beans produced about enough for a salad. Hmph. And this is the garden we've tended carefully. It's been a fun learning experience, but I want to do better next year.

On the other hand, I have utterly neglected my deck flowers. Truthfully, it gets so blazing hot out there on the deck that I hate to set foot out there during the day. Furthermore, I am usually so eager to see how my vegetables are doing I forget my little pots of flowers and fail to water them. this is the result:

I feel as though I ought to be punished somehow by the gardening authorities. It is just not in my nature to allow something to die for no reason. I would like to make a vow not to allow this to happen next year, but vows never suit me either (except the important ones, you know, like marriage). So I'm simply going to try much harder on my deck next year and hopefully have something more beautiful to show for it. Let's face it, I'm not the Pioneer Woman, at least not yet.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Beach Day for City Kids

A friend of mine invited us to the O club pool at a military base nearby. They're members, we're not--yet. It was so nice. The kids had a blast swimming with friends, and it was baking hot out, so the pool was perfect. I have that kind of tired that says, "wow, I've been baking in the sun all day." I know I'll sleep well tonight.

I miss the beach days of my childhood...I remember Mom taking us at least once, if not twice a week sometimes in the summer. I wonder if it was because she got a mental break from me yapping at her all the time, because I would get in the water and stay there all day. Literally. Nevertheless, I remember those days fondly, and wish we lived near a beach so my kids could do the same. Give me a mental break from yapping at me all day, that is. Anyway, a good pool day does the trick now and again, kind of like a beach day for city kids. I'll take it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Wild Woods out Back

Daddys are wonderful things to have around. They do wonderful things like cut paths through the briars to allow access to the woods that by this time of year are somewhat inaccessible because of (you guessed it) the briars in the way. So in the process of cutting the path, my little explorers found a box turtle...

which Molly insisted on keeping for a pet. When we told her that the turtle (named Shelly) really had to go back out, there was such grieving that I agreed to keep the thing until tomorrow.

We took a walk to the middle of the patch of woods behind our house, and really, it's all kids need. It's small enough that they can lose themselves in there without ever getting lost. There's plenty of undergrowth to explore, a beautiful covering of foliage, and at the edge, milkweed that supports Tiger Swallowtail and Monarch Butterflies. The kids are thrilled with the paths--not that the lack of them stopped them before. They're just glad they can pass through the briars without getting ripped to shreds. Once past the briars it's a nice walk back into the trees and home again. Molly was sure we were lost, but we made it back--our faithful big-brother guide made sure of it. All two hundred feet (okay, it might have been a little more than that, but not much)...

It was one of those days

When I got to see the world through my children's eyes, and remember what it felt like to be a kid and see things for the first time. A dinosaur skeleton, the Hope Diamond, the insect zoo...all things I remember seeing for the first time and feeling a thrill about...well, not really the Hope Diamond. I don't know what I was expecting, but it seemed very small--when people say things like, "the largest blah-blah in the world!" I'm expecting something really huge in relation to ME. I felt like the boy I overheard the other day, "It's just an expensive necklace!" I think the little man was rather "underwhelmed" about it, too.

We began the day by rescuing Daddy from the monotony of bureaucracy, then went to the National Museum of Natural History. We ate a hideously expensive, not-so-tasty lunch, but then it was all up from there!
From the elephant in the rotunda to the butterfly pavilion, we were all taken with the sights and experiences. The butterfly pavilion was our favorite, having just done our butterfly experiment in science.

We were also quite taken with the water striders and the water boatmen. Matty and I love to read poems for two voices about these two interesting creatures.

We finished the day with some of our favorite food from the Lebanese Taverna Market in Arlington. We brought home two very tired kiddos and put them in their bed. The day was done, practically perfect.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Butterfly Experiment

Our little scientists had a wonderful time observing the life cycle of five painted lady butterflies. Over the last two weeks we have watched these little larvae caterpillars go from being little critters to more than doubling in size, then forming chrysalises (is that really the plural for that?) and then becoming beautiful butterflies. They seemed rather forlorn in the cage to us, so we released them into our garden. As soon as we took the cage outside, they got very excited (do butterflies get butterflies in their stomachs?). They started fluttering all over and climbing to the top of the cage as if they knew the way out. We reached our hands in the cage in hopes of holding them on our fingers for a bit, but they had bigger plans and took off immediatedly. One of them made straight for the flowers, and so I was able to get some beautiful photos of her.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Doing What Comes Naturally

We've been doing Apologia Science this year for school, and have continued into the summer. We've been working through the first book in the Exploring Creation series for elementary students called Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day. It has awakened in Matty and Molly a love for observing nature, and we have been looking at the world in a whole new way. The kids and I have studied birds and have been keeping a life notebook, recording when interesting creatures come to the back yard. We've also built bird houses to put on the fences, and have had two families of wrens come and nest in them. We've seen the usual varieties of birds that are common for Northern Virginia, and have enjoyed identifying them and observing their behaviors. They go on frequent "critter hunts" and find snakes, turtles, toads, and insects, and bring them home to watch them. We have a rule that they have to return them to their natural habitat after keeping them for a day, which usually means at sunset.

Today we again observed our red-tail hawk that has been visiting our dead tree at the edge of the woods. I was able to get a picture this time around. We also witnessed a most dramatic scene in which a lovely, but disabled moth that Matty found on the deck was rapidly consumed by a wasp. It was wonderful and horrible all at the same time, and we found it fascinating to watch!

Below is a slide show of some of the visitors we've had to our back yard.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Three Cats, Nearly Two!

Despite the title of "Two Cats in the Yard," we actually are a three-cat household. Today, however, we were nearly a two-cat household, when a very substantial red-tailed hawk camped out in our tree and was very clearly eyeballing our young cat, Albert. He has, as a result, been renamed "Hawk-bait." I did not take the picture, but put it in here, because the hawk that was in our tree was very similar in appearance to this one. We have also had visits from Cooper's hawks, which are smaller. I don't suppose they are a threat to the cats, but we've seen evidence of them hunting other birds at the bird-feeder. I suppose I can't be particular about which birds feed at the feeder and on what...nature is that way. I would, however, be a little more contrary if one of these hawks caught any of my cats!