Friday, February 26, 2016

Q is for Quickly, Get Me Out Of Here

Q is for Quickly, get me out of here, or, one of my embarrassing moments.

Which included at least one of my darling children, of course.

I was doing my normal thing one day, about nine or ten years ago, and shopping at our local Costco. We go about once a month so I bring all four of the kiddies to help, as I fill the cart all the way to the top. At this point, Mr. Lego was 11, Bookworm was 8, Dasher was 7, and Nutsy was 3.

We were leaving the store, and I know I had Nutsy in the seat part of the cart, securely fastened, while the other three walked with me into the parking lot. When you leave the immediate store front at our Costco, you cross the main parking lot driveway, which is actually three driveways that converge, so it is a pretty busy place. I paused to make sure we were safe, then headed to cross the driveway to get to our car.

Exactly in the middle of this three-way convergence, my cart stops short and I can't push it. I look down, and realize that Bookworm's long skirt on her dress had rolled around and around the wheel of the cart and wound itself into a very tight knot. I try to pull it and cannot budge it even a bit. This was not a cute little dress but a long one. This was the stage when she not only loved dresses, but ones with long, flowing, full skirts that had yards of fabric. Which now most of which, is twirled very tightly around the wheel.

A car honks. I am truly stuck. I even try tearing the dress, pulling, but there is no way I can do that. More cars are piling up and there is nothing I can do about it. I want to just move the cart to the side of the road, but it will not move. And there is no way that I could even try to lift the thing to move it.

I thought about taking the dress off of her, but she was not wearing shorts or anything like that underneath. And I knew my sweet daughter, and that I could not ask her to walk the long way to the car naked in her underwear. It's summer, so I didn't have a sweater or anything to wrap around her either.

It seemed like an eternity, but someone ran to help us. They couldn't get it unstuck either. We really needed scissors so someone went back into the store to see about getting a pair.

The employee had to see for herself what was going on, so she came out, without the scissors. I explained again, there is no way I can move, please, get some scissors. She ran back in to see what she could do. I looked around, and yup, there were lines of cars in all three directions, with someone trying to direct them around our little fiasco. I really just wanted to disappear into a hole.

Finally, she brought out the scissors and asked me to do the cutting, which I did, and she was free, with a much shorter dress. A couple more cuts and the wheel was free too, and we were able to move.

Oh, that was embarrassing for me.  But the one thing that I remember clear as day, as we walked to the car, was one of my sweeties saying, "Mom! You did good and didn't get mad or say any bad words!"

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Friday, February 19, 2016

P is for Parakeet

The letter P makes me think of Parakeets.

I grew up having birds as pets, and our family has enjoyed having parakeets, or budgies, as pets the last few years.

Here are a few tips I have learned:

Don't just feed them seeds

When you bring your bird home from the breeder or pet store, you will also be buying a bag of seeds. But think about it, seeds are mostly fat and protein. You can also buy pellets, which are a more complete food, at the pet store. There are feeds out there that contain both pellets and seeds, but if you feed these to your bird, he will probably eat all the seeds and push aside the pellets. It is better if you feed seeds for a day or two, and then offer only pellets for three or four days. Then rotate back to seeds for a couple of days. You do need to start this when they are young; pellets are very hard to introduce to adults. Our parakeet is older so we actually have seeds for him at night, but during the day we feed him other foods including bread, broccoli, grated carrots, lettuce, kale, pasta, and lots of other things. Each morning he comes out and eats eggs with us, on his own little plate. But don't feed them avocados, mushrooms, fruit seeds, or spinach. These things can be toxic.

Be aggressive with  your training

Training a bird takes lots of time. To successfully train, you need to spend time with your bird every day. The first step is to get him used to your hand, then getting him onto your finger, then coming out of  his cage on your finger. This process can take a few days, or a few weeks, depending on how much time you spend with him. We learned this after we suddenly lost a bird. We were very sad, and went out that day to get a new one. And because we wanted him to be super friendly, we started right away and got him finger trained within a day or two. Within a week he was sitting on our shoulder, as we walked around the house. He was a very young bird and did not get stressed by us. Of course, if your bird is showing signs of stress and hiding down in the bottom of his cage, you need to back off and take it slower. Having their wings clipped during this intense training time is key, so they can't fly away from you. Which leads me to my next point....

The debate: clipped wings or un-clipped wings

We always have clipped our birds' wings, even when they became adults. Until something sad happened to our bird Romy. He was trained well, but had his wings clipped. We would even take him outside in the backyard, and let him play in the grass. 

Well, he was on a shoulder in the front yard and flew down to the driveway. We went to catch him, and he flew farther, into the street. Right before our eyes, a cat came out of nowhere, caught him up, and ran and jumped over a fence. (That was the sudden loss I referred to above.) If he had not had his wings clipped he would have at least survived, but might have gotten lost. And then more recently our current bird, Ozzie, who does not have his wings clipped, accidentally flew out our garage door and into the front yard. He flew down three houses, and into a tree. But, because he was very tame, we climbed the tree and got him back. So the debate still stands. We have decided to clip wings during training, but then to let them grow out when we feel they are trained enough.

Birds need companionship

Do you mostly see birds outside, by themselves? No, they are usually in a flock, or at least in the vicinity of other birds. Birds need someone to talk to, or even just someone to be around. Our very first bird, Sunny Honey, belonged to Dasher, so when we got him and he was trained, his cage went up into the girl's room. After a few weeks, he began to loose his feathers and stopped making his little bird noises. I went onto the internet to research and realized that he was lonely. So back into the kitchen he went, where we spend a lot of time and within a week he was growing his feathers back and happily chirping. When you get a bird, you need to deliberately spend time with him each day. As I am typing this, Ozzie is flying from my shoulder, to the window, to the bathroom mirror, making all sorts of happy noises. Whenever he comes by, I take a minute to talk to him. He loves it when we rub his neck, and will even come down to our hand and rub it when he has an itch. He is a very affectionate bird, and when we are talking to him, gets very close and rests his beak on our noses. Birds have different personalities and we have found that he is the most affectionate of all the birds we have had, so others might not be as cuddly. 


So the next time you are thinking of an inexpensive pet, think of a parakeet. They can usually be purchased for under $25, you can find a cage for under $50, and you will spend under $5 a month to feed them.

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

{Schoolhouse Review} ~ US Elections

It's review time again!

For my first one of the 2016 year I am reviewing a product from Home School in the Woods. This company does a great job of doing the legwork in lap books. The lap book I received is HISTORY Through the Ages Hands-on History Lap-Pak: U.S. Elections.

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

But first you might ask, what is a lap book? It is basically a file folder that has been turned into a mini presentation board. Your child will write facts, color images, and put items together to create a place to display what they have learned. Instead of wondering about all the things you can put in the file folder, Home School in the Woods has taken out all of the guesswork and created templates for all of the fun little mini items you can add into the folder.

HISTORY Through the Ages goes through the election process and is meant especially for 4th through 8th graders.

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

The things you will cover in this lap book are:

  • Different Forms of Government
  • Political Parties
  • Specifics on the Presidential Campaign, including Media, Platform, Speaking, and Advertising
  • Fundraising
  • Election Day
  • Inauguration Day

....and much more.

There are a total of 21 topics covered. Each topic has a short section to read, plus directions for the project. The kit comes as a pdf download and includes:

  • Reading Text Pages - this 13 page text can either be printed on normal paper, or double sided to make a small booklet. In it you have all that you need to answer any questions in the projects.
  • Lap Book Project Masters - this section has the templates for all 21 projects. You will print off each section for each project and your child will cut, color, glue, and fill in the blanks.
  • Introduction and Directions - There are a few helpful files in this folder. There is a list of supplies and projects and a section describing how to print off the text booklet. The other two files are the brains of the lap book, and give directions for each and every project in the lapbook, including helpful illustrations. There are also directions for assembling the final lapbook using the file folder, once all projects are completed.

Except for the glue, scissors, tape, and a few fasteners, you have everything you need to make a completed lap book!

My two younger girls worked on this. I could see this as a course to be done in about 12 weeks, so we did one to two projects weekly. I decided to read aloud to them, the section in the text booklet. The reading was not long at all - looking ahead I think the longest section might be two pages. The information was factual and not biased towards any party or political view. The reading level was on the higher side of the age range, so I did read it aloud to them, and paraphrased as needed.

I printed the projects and we would spend a good 20 minutes putting them together. One thing that I appreciated, is that there is writing sprinkled through the projects, but not too much. Dasher has a hard time with writing and the amount they did through the projects were perfect. There are places where you do print off text to go into the projects. This is where you can be very flexible with lapbooks; if I was doing this with Bookworm, I would have asked her to still write in her own words what was being said in the text.

The projects were definitely not silly or too elementary. When I told Dasher that there was cutting involved she kind of shrugged, thinking that cutting was for the younger kids. But the projects intrigued her and she actually spent more time than Nutsy preparing her pages.

We got through the first eight projects. The directions do say to save all of the projects and assemble them into the file folder at the end, but I do wish we had started gluing them into the final file folder at the beginning. It would be a way for my girls to review what they had learned and would give them a sense of progress.

Here is a photo of what ours will look like when we assemble it:

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

So I did really like this lap book. Instead of having my girls read a book and write in a workbook, they were using their hands, and learning at the same time. This is an excellent way for those students that need more of a tactile learning style and makes learning about elections fun.

Check out what other Crew members thought by clicking below.

U.S. Elections History Lap-Pak  Review

Crew Disclaimer

Friday, February 12, 2016

O is for Oreo, the Tarantula

Many years ago we had a pet tarantula.

Now this thing did not come into our lives because we asked it to, but it walked in all on its own. You should also know that creepy things don't really freak me out too much so I was okay with this.

We were on a family bike ride, minding our own business, when I saw a largish something, crawling across the road. As we got closer, the kids realized it was a gigantic spider so they jumped off their bikes to take a closer look.

He was a really neat specimen of a spider, and being the homeschooling mother that I am, we got him into a bag someone had littered nearby and rode him home.

Then being the crazy homeschooling mother that I am, we got him a nice little habitat.

At first I thought he must have been a lost pet. After all, those giant things weren't indigenous to my area, were they? After some internet research I found out that yes, they are in my area, especially in the fall.

These spiders, especially the males, come out the last year of their lives to find a mate. The males develop a stirrup in their last year, which they use when they mate. Sadly, they then continue to wander around until the cold kills them. This big guy had the stirrups and was a wanderer so we had most likely saved him from a cold and lonely death.

After some more research we decided to keep him, and give him a name.

I don't remember who thought of it, but he was named Oreo.

We fed him crickets that I bought at the pets store. They needed their own little habitat and feed too, of course. Actually what you do with the crickets is called gut-loading. You feed the crickets good healthy vitamin squares, which the spider then eats, and then he gets the nutrients he needs, through the crickets.

I didn't get any pictures of the crickets, but they were a bit annoying. They weren't too loud but they were great escape artists and would always find ways to get out of their cage. A few times I would find one wandering around and would yell at the nearest child to get it back in.

Oreo was pretty big guy.

We fed him once a week or so, and got him out every now and then.

He was very mellow, and never moved very fast, except when he was chasing his cricket.

 The kids had a blast with him and liked holding him and letting him walk down their arms.

 As I researched more, I found that they are actually very harmless, and do all sorts of things before they bite.

First, they shoot off hairs from their abdomen. These are like little slivers. Once, near the end of his life we had a friend that was really trying to get him out to hold him, and Oreo, who wanted nothing of the sort, shot him with a few hairs.

If they are still threatened by you, they will come up on two legs to look as big as they can. Oreo never did this to us though.

Their third line of defense is the run and hide. And finally, if they feel completely trapped, they will bite. But their bite is no worse, or poisonous, than that of a bee sting.

The actual danger to having these guys as pets is that you will accidentally kill them. Tarantulas are extremely fragile and any fall would kill them. So we made sure that only people that were comfortable with spiders held him.

He was so big, that if you thought of him as a crab walking up your arm, it was mentally easier to hold him.

He was a fun little guy, who lived a happy life with us for over a year.

The last few months of his life, he started spewing out hairs any time we tried to get him out, and became quite moody - a crotchety old spider, I guess.

So that was our story of Oreo. If you live in Northern California, watch out - the fall is tarantula season.


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Friday, February 5, 2016

N is for Nothing in my Brain

Last week My Sweetie and I were away celebrating. This week has been a good one, but my brain is still on vacation.

Hence, this Nothing post, which is a collection of funny/thought provoking things I have seen recently on the internet.


This one is so, so true. We try to live very simply, and remind ourselves how much we really have.

That one was HILARIOUS.

Amen to this one.

I will be shamelessly honest, this is me.

And this is a great way to think of patience.

Have a great week!

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