Friday, August 26, 2011


This month our family went on a week long vacation up north near the boundary waters of Minnesota. We stayed in a cute little cabin on Fenske Lake, with no TV, no computers, and surrounded by wilderness. It was just what our family needed! With John's busy schedule, it's often hard to get in a lot of quality family time and he loved getting the chance to spend so much time with the kids, and they loved all the time they got to spend with him!
My parents camped across the lake so we met up every day for meals, canoing, hikes, swimming, and visiting the near-by town of Ely. They also watched the kids while John and I celebrated our anniversary with dinner at the Blue Heron, where we had a great 5-course meal. The chef made my dinner all vegan. It was wonderful!

It was so enriching for the kids to be surrounded by nature for a week. Ava and Noah learned to paddle a canoe, they went on a row-boat for the first time (Amora's first time on a boat), saw many different animals including a fox who came up right outside our cabin and ate some leftover food the kids were feeding the chipmunks.

Ava learning to paddle.

Noah loved going into the lilly pads!

It was fun seeing how each of their personalities fit themselves into the vacation. Ava enjoyes a bit of solitude and liked having her own room in the cabin where she could sit and do art and play games with her grandparents or John or I. She liked to go off on hikes with grandpa and go out canoing on the quiet lake. I remember growing up being the same way. My dad often brought me on early morning canoe rides on the quiet lakes so we could see wildlife. It was really cool watching her soak up all the peacefulness.

Noah loves animals, insects, fish, and flowers. Going a short-distance on a walk takes much longer with Noah. He stops at each of the many butterflies and follows them. Finds slugs and beetles. Stops off in patches of flowers and weeds. Examines the ground and the plants. And wades into any open water he comes across. Clothes and all. He is very delighted by the smallest simplest things. I love watching his eyes sparkling as he explores and we always had a pretty kid-picked bouquet of flowers for the cabin table.

Amora loved the butterflies and all the animals she saw. She loved laying on the dock watching the fish. She got braver in the water on this trip too. She learned so many new words and saw so many animals for the first time including the fox, bear, and wolves we saw. She turned two years old on the trip!

We walked (or rowed) to the beach almost every day. It was such a nice quiet little swimming area, good for making sand castles, and the dock was perfect for the kids to run and jump off of. There were tons of small fish that the kids fed bits of crackers to. Then when they'd go in the water, the fish weren't afraid of them and would even come up and "kiss" their toes. Noah's face the first time a fish came up and "kissed" his foot by our cabin dock was priceless.
One evening at the beach, a man was fishing on the near-by dock. Ava and Noah loudly serenaded him with a song about how he shouldn't hurt fish and gasped everytime he brought up the rod saying, "Oh no! I hope he didn't get one!" He didn't fish there long. Our kids rock :) No wonder the fishies love them.

In Ely, we visited the bear center, the wolf center, and also Dorothy Molter's (The Root Beer Lady) cabins which Ava liked. It was cool for her to see how someone lived up in the boundary water area without many modern conveniences. She chopped her own wood, washed clothes on a washing board and did a lot of snowshoing and, more famously, made and sold Root Beer to those who paddled in.

The hardest part of the week was leaving. There were many tears and sad faces. Ava wanted to live there. She had her whole plan together that we would come back and get our cat and bring him up. Then mail a letter to all her friends with our new address so they could come visit. She went and hid in one of the rooms when it was time to leave and John went in and carried her out. She just layed her head on his shoulder and didn't say a word.
Even Amora, when I told her we were going bye bye earlier that day, had made a mad face and said, "NO BYE-BYE!"

It helped us all when John stopped by the lodge and booked us again for next year, though!

Ava with her magnifying glass and tweezers.

Examining a dead mouse perhaps dropped by a bird.

Amora's first S'mores!

Bat and ball with daddy.

Pounding a fern to get the color onto paper.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Birthdays, New Camera, Learn Nothing!

Summer's been flying past, and as we check things off our summer bucket list, it seems we just can't fit enough in this summer and wish it wouldn't end!
We've gone to an outdoor concert, walked an "Art in the Park" full of homemade crafts, celebrated the kids' birthdays and so much more.
Here's a sampling!

Ava took a kids class at a program at the local community college. She chose a kids chemistry class called "Blow It Up." As you can imagine, it was pretty fun and she loved it. It was a "camp" style so was four days in a row. She didn't want it to end.

I like to have "Mommy Days" with each of the kids since it's sometimes hard for me to get out and have one-on-one time with the kids. Ava chose to go to the play Annie at the Children's Theatre. This was only the second play she'd been to. It was a wonderful production and so nice to go with just her and me.
Noah chose to go to a movie. We watched about half of it then he wanted to leave which was just fine. So we went to Subway and the book store and he played with the train set for a half hour and I picked up some books for the kids, including a favorite, "Pete The Cat."

We've used the kiddie pool a lot this summer and to jazz it up, I gave the kids some food coloring and added some olive oil to the pool to see how the oil separated in the water and how the colors mixed. And of course, play in it all!

For her 6th Birthday, Ava got her own camera/video camera. She's crazy about it and has been practicing her photography where ever we go and out the car windows. Her favorite subject? Our cat Frodo. You can see he's thrilled...

Fairy Tale Frodo
Princess Frodo

Ava-cam: This was on our way to check out a train bridge collapse after flooding eroded it.

Ava's pic of Daddy driving and a flag.

More van pics by Ava!
The garden has been doing well. The kids do great helping with it and I love their look of excitement when we pick things from it.

We've gone to a couple of the kids' friends' birthday parties in July and the kids also celebrated their own birthdays with a Triple Birthday Party. We rented a bounce house and they had lots of friends and family to celebrate with. It was a wonderful, though very hot and VERY humid, evening!

Amora figured out how to take her own pic!

At friends' Birthday Party

Triple Birthday Bash!

Ami ready for cake!

Noah's turn!

The week following the Birthdays was spent doing so many fun crafts and activities that they had received as gifts.

Making a new game out of good Ol' Twister.

Ava teaching Noah how to play their new game.

The look of accomplishment!

July 24th is known as "Learn Nothing" day among unschoolers/child lead-learners. It's a fun, albeit tongue-in-cheek, day to remind us how hard it is for kids to not learn anything all day! So I announced it to the kids and they found it amusing but didn't really think it was possible. How do we not learn? haha!  As predicted, they accidentally learned things anyways. Ava and Noah learned to play a new game they got from their grandma, and worked on playing together and patience! Amora learned that she could push a dining room chair into the kitchen and reach anything she wanted (doh!). Amora also learned how to roller-pin play-doh and make it flat.

Don't worry, it's shut off.

Ava got a keyboard last Christmas that came with a DVD and CD-ROM of piano lessons. So for the past 6 or 7 months, she has played on her keyboard. I never pushed her toward the learning lessons. I think it's important for kids to get the feel for things themselves and hear the tunes with their own ears and make sense of the keys. Now that she's comfortable with it and enjoys it so much, she asked me to put in the CD-ROM for her and later the DVD. It's a bit fast-based for her age but still, she learned from it and now plays her first song, "Mary Had A Little Lamb." It was challenging for her to keep up with the disc and now has put it up and is back to playing on her own. I suspect in the future she'll grab the lessons again and try again. If it's left up to kids, they will learn what they like to learn and need to learn in their own time. When they are ready.

Ava and Amora on their keyboards.
We recently went to our neighborhood Night To Unite meet-up as well. The kids got to meet some fire fighters, tour the emergency truck and play with new friends. There's actually another homeschooling family with five children a few houses down that we met from going to these neighborhood meetings! It's so great for us to get to know our neighbors.

So that's been the way things have been going. This brings us up to our big week-long awesome, wonderful, fantastic, trip up at Fenske, near the Boundary Waters. Hoping to get that posted soon!!!!

More summer pics:

Pottery Wheel

Noah checking out the gooey clay water.

Shooting daddy with Nerf!

Floor Art!

Ava trying to draw with her little sister.

Two markers are better than one!