Why the Tree of Life?


Game Night

Wednesday nights are game nights. The guys are playing 'Little Kid, Hide'. It's a nice game that Dunagan can play, too. There are little cups under which you hide little goats. When you roll the die, you have to remember and say how many goats are under the color cup you rolled... or the wolf gets them! All that count-remembering is challenging for sleep-deprived adults as well.

Wet-on-Wet Watercolor

I thought I would show the tray that I soak our paper in. It is not listed in the Enki supplies and it was an impulse buy when I was at the art store, but I love it. It is the perfect size, it sits nicely on top of my sink, and I store all of our painting materials (minus paper and boards) in it when not in use. It is called a Butcher's Tray (if I remember correctly) and painters use it as a palette for mixing paint. I have heard other people say they use their sink, but my sink isn't quite wide enough, and the paper curls up, needing lots of water. I have heard other people say they use their bathtub, but mine always looks like this from the boys' daily excursions in the sandbox:

And Kirven's painting today. We used two reds and a yellow.

Dunagan's supplies didn't come yet, though he asked repeatedly about them, and was convinced that the package would arrive while we were painting today. I asked him if he wanted to finger paint while we were painting, but he said no. Hopefully, his materials will come by next week!



Yesterday afternoon, I brought out the beeswax. Here you see a gray Tornado-- Dunagan's creation. I thought it was very telling, given his personality! And he insisted on putting the Straw Hat that I made (from Milk and Eggs, which I read again today, by the way, and Kirven got the punchline!) on top of his Tornado. My straw hat looks a little like a cowboy hat, but what can I say; I'm Texan.

Kirven made a blue butane candlelighter, just like the one we use. See the trigger? And the nozel? Watch out, Mom! I'm melting all the beeswax! Look how big the flame is!!!!

And this is my Frog from Froggy's Swim, a finger-knitting prep story. The story is about a little tadpole and all his brothers and sisters and cousins, and how they swim happily in the reeds and then change into frogs and hop on the lilypads. There is a verse nested in the story that we will use this week when I introduce fingerknitting (which I need to figure out for myself before Thursday!). Dunagan added the blue tail, presumably since Froggy had a tail for most of the story.

I need to re-read the beeswax section because I'm not sure if I'm supposed to be guiding them or giving them free rein or just supposed to be encouraging non-representational smooshing. But this is what we did this week, and it was fun. And it always smells so nice.

Welcome Fall!

I changed our nature table Sunday night as the first day of Autumn was Monday. Kirven was the first to notice the change. I used an orange, a red, and a yellow silk, and we have a little wooden squirrel and a little wooden mouse. We bought some small pumpkins and decorative squashes today at the grocery store as well.

I think we are going to take all of our Summer 'finds' down to the Austin Nature Center. Supposedly, you earn points if you take them nature things, and then you can 'buy' something cool, like a horse skull, when you have enough points.



Ayla's first tooth has broken through today. I didn't feel it this morning when she was chewing on my finger, so it must have happened this afternoon!

New Trailer

Kirven and Dunagan's great-great grandfather (I think I'm counting right), John Dunagan Kirven, had a huge ranch near Waco that has been kept in the family. There's no longer a house there, so we've just been camping whenever we've gone up there. Ranch trips were such a prominent part of Evan's childhood that it has been really important to him that it be a part of our children's lives as well, but it has been difficult to actually make it up there unless the weather is perfect and the stars are aligned. So, this trailer has been in the works for a long time, and it actually materialized last month.

Here are the two sets of bunk beds and is also a space for tabletops.

The middle of the trailer has the living, cooking and eating areas.

And the other end of the trailer has a queen bed. The boys have had a grand time fixing it up with Dad and Grandpa and "provisioning" it. They moved the trailor up to the ranch a couple of weekends ago, and it is ready to go. I'm excited that we have a place to really get away and be in nature, regardless of the season. You can even see the stars at night. Plus, Evan will get to share all his favorite boyhood activities with Kirven, Dunagan and Ayla. So far, they mostly associate the ranch with s'mores, but that's gonna change. And the trailer has room for guests!

Baked Apples She Made

Continuing the apple theme.... We made baked apples Friday out of The Joy of Cooking. I've cored apples before with a knife, and it wasn't pretty, but this time I used a spoon to dig out the seeds. First, I nicked the skin with a knife, and then I took the spoon and just went around the core and dug it out, but not all the way through the bottom. The boys helped measure out the brown sugar, raisins, cinnamon...

... and ground the nutmeg. Grinding nutmeg is something that they like to do. You can find whole nutmeg (nuts?) with the spices at the grocery store. And they're using a little micro-plane grater, but you could use any fine grater, I think. Then they mixed all the stuffing with their hands, stuffed the apples, and...

... LICKED themselves clean (and then I made them wash their hands).

Our lovely baked apples. Our backyard neighbor made vanilla ice cream for the boys, and it went really well with the baked apples; very yummy. I was thinking, though, that instead of raisins, adding dark chocolate chunks when you add the ice cream would be pretty yummy, too (dare I say, more yummy?). Evan actually agreed with me (or wasn't listening). He usually doesn't go along with my chocolate upgrade ideas.

This was a good baking project because there were several ingredients without there being too many, and the boys got to mix with their hands and stuff the apples.


Milk and Eggs

Milk and Eggs was our Enki Kindergarten Folk Tale for this week. It's a Russian tale about a husband who goes to market for his wife to buy milk and eggs, but has trouble figuring out how to bring them home. He ends up putting the milk in his hat and then turning the hat over to put the eggs in. When he gets home to show his wife the eggs, she asks where the milk is, and then he turns his hat over, and the eggs go splat.

We read each story at least three times during the week, and after the first reading, Kirven said, "Let's read that one at least four times this week!" The funny and interesting thing is, as much as he enjoyed this story, he didn't actually get the punchline. He got that it was supposed to be funny, and I could tell that he knows something is going on here that he isn't quite grasping yet; perhaps it offers just enough challenge to him to be really intriguing. It was very hard for me not to explain the humor to him, but I was good and have left him room to discover it on his own. I think we will return to this story again later.

Jingle Braids

This week Kirven made Jingle Braids out of the Enki Seasonal Crafts Book. He was very interested in learning how to braid and ended up making a total of five braids on Thursday, and then several more on Friday. We bought four more skeins of yarn Tuesday as I came to see that we would probably go through the yarn we had rather quickly. Now we have enough that Kirven can make as many as he would like.

We also have enough that Dunagan can thread washers while Kirven works on his craft.

After he finished braiding, I tied a knot in the end and added a jingle bell. On Friday, during naptime, he requested keeping one of the skeins in his quiet bin, which I realized was a good idea, and I also showed him how to tie them off on his own so that I could go back to sleep.

Oh, we found that tying the weights to the ends of the yarn as recommended only caused things to get all tangled up. Part of the problem was that, at the beginning, Kirven wasn't minding that his ends stayed separated. He needed to keep pulling them to their alternating sides, but he wasn't doing that, and the bottom was braiding itself. He did a lot better when I took the weights off, though.



Still not thick enough. Will have to add even more color next time. We used two blues and just one yellow this time. You can't tell in the end product, but Kirven mostly painted lines, declaring them to be 'L', and then 'E', and then he ended up with a grid of yellow and blue.

Dunagan was very upset again during painting time. I had envisioned the two of us sharing materials, but he really, really, really, wants to do it by himself--- no touching, no telling. The problem is that we're sharing paints with Kirven, and the paints would quickly get all mixed up into three pots of green. Last week, Dunagan was upset, but didn't tantrum, and we fingerpainted afterward. This week, he had no interest in doing any other type of painting, wanted to be left alone to paint his way (and who wouldn't?) with 'his' paintbrush and paper, and cried the entire time. Of course, our windows were open, so the neighbors probably got to hear the whole thing, and Dunagan can (and did) cry for a very, very, very, long time.

So, I'm planning on buying a third paint board and brush. I have some children's watercolor paper already. The only thing I'm not sure about is the paint. I think I could maybe get away with diluted tempera for him? Because, really, the Scuola paints are not non-toxic, so I don't really want to let him paint with those unsupervised. But, I think that I need to include him with his own set of materials and give him his own space at the table to do them in, otherwise, painting time is going to get to be too hard on me between him crying and Ayla fussing on my back in the Ergo. Kirven had a grand ol' time despite the hysterics, and really sank into the activity.



Dried Apple Slices

On baking day (last Friday), we made dried apple slices. I chose this as a follow-up to the nature story we had read about 'how apples got their stars within'. When I cut the first apple in half, the boys were a little surprised to see the star inside.

I did the slicing, but the boys cut around the stars, and then we all strung them up together.

You're supposed to either string them together with string (which I thought would be tedious and frustrating) or put them on dowel rods (which I thought I had). I hunted and hunted for those dowel rods, but didn't find them until the next day out in the shed (oh well), so I untwisted a wire coat hanger instead and wrapped and taped wax paper around the wire. Then I covered it all with mosquito netting (that I had bought long ago for the stroller, but never used) to keep the fly away that has been flying around our house for a week that we can't seem to kill. (Side note: when your dog kills two sewer rats that she has been stalking and digging to to get to for months, DO NOT put them in your trash bin that sits right by your side door the day AFTER trash pickup. Not only does it attract normal-sized flies with its smell of Death, it attracts large mutant flies as well, and that Smell can make it through solid walls. You are also guaranteed to let a fly in when you try to take the trash out. But I digress.)

Hanging the apples on the hanger worked ok, but I should have had them spread out better. They didn't dry very fast. Also, more even slicing would have helped. By the next day, I decided to put them in the oven on warm for the day, and they dried out pretty well after that. We left the skin on because I am lazy... I mean, because it is healthier, but peeling the apples would probably be better. We used fuji apples, but I think granny smith might have had more flavor. Or maybe pink ladies.

Finger Crocheting

Last week's craft was finger crocheting, and man, did Kirven take to it like a duck to water. I demonstrated several loops, saying the verse with each one, and then Kirven said, "Mom, when are you going to let me do it?" So, I handed it off to him, watched for a moment, and then walked away. When I came back about 10 minutes later, he was over halfway through the whole thing (skein?) of yarn. He finished it off completely a few minutes later. He was so confident in his skills that later that evening when he was showing his work off to his grandmother, he undid a several chains, and then he crocheted it back without even looking and all while keeping up his end of the conversation at the same time. What a difference it makes to wait to introduce something until they are developmentally ready!


Learning Chores

Dunagan scrubbing the shower

Kirven polishing silver

During morning chore time, we all get to work on something fun. For a list of chores that work for this age, take a look at the Musings blog. Kirven has been asking to polish silver again for weeks, so I finally relented. And while we're making water messes, might as well let Dunagan run around in his skivies and scrub the shower since he's been dying to do that, too.


(Artist's notes: the enemies are in the middle and the colors covered them up)


Dunagan was not pleased by the fact that I wouldn't let him loose with his own watercolor brush and paper, so I made up for it with a little fingerpainting afterwards.

First Wet-on-Wet Watercolor

We painted wet-on-wet watercolor Wednesday. I'm very proud of us. I wasn't sure how it would go. I set up everything the night before (mixed paints, tore paper into quarters and trimmed off corners, gathered other accessories), and I am very glad I did. I was able to get it all ready after naptime with minimal fuss. Ayla even woke up as we started, but I put her in the Ergo, and she was happy the whole time. As you can see in Kirven's first painting, I left the paper too wet, and the paints weren't nearly thick enough. But Kirven enjoyed it all the same. Lessons learned for next time!


I asked for a grainmill a couple of years ago and got one for Christmas. When we were assembling it, the hopper didn't fit, and when we tried to order a replacement, it was on backorder. Months later, we finally got the new hopper, but by this time we had misplaced the grinder. We finally found both pieces, and after some persuasion with a rubber mallet, got the thing put together. The boys ground a whole bag of lentils to get the metal shaving cleared out. They enjoyed it so much that they fought for the rights to do it. I'm planning on having the boys grind wheat, and then we'll make bread from it as an upcoming activity. Will post about it when we do!

Heavy Load

The boys have a little, wheeled cart that came with a set of blocks years ago, and they have tied it to their little, wooden scooter. They very much enjoy hauling things around with it. Dunagan, in particular, likes to use the cart during pick up time or putting groceries away. Dunagan's heaviest load yet was a tub of kitty litter. The wagon sunk so deeply into the carpet that I honestly don't know how he got it to move!



We played with the modeling beeswax Monday after we got home from Dinoland, and I made a coyote from last week's story, Coyote's Rain Song, and an apple from our nature story, and Kirven made a candle and candlestick.


Our Enki co-op host was sick this Monday, so instead we went to Zilker Botanical Gardens to see the Dinoland exhibit. The exhibit featured about a dozen or more "life sized" statues of dinosaurs in their Prehistoric Garden area. The boys have never had a big dinosaur obsession, so we walked through there at a pretty fast clip. Plus, it was hot. I dutifully read off the name of each dinosaur, and then the boys asked if it was a meat eater. We talk about the dinosaurs' big teeth! The better to eat you with.

Then we walked over to the Japanese Garden and wandered around in there. It is a lovely place. The two pictures above are from there. The koi fish in that pond are huge! Then we ended up back at the visitor's center where we cooled off, had snacks and water, and then headed home.



All Fours

Ayla is so close to crawling it is ridiculous. What am I going to do with a four month old crawler?

Ribbon Staff

Kirven made the Ribbon Staff today out of the Enki Seasonal Crafts book. At first, he was resistant to the idea, but as I started setting everything up, he jumped right in. After I had everything ready, I told him and Dunagan a story about a fox who saw a rabbit go into a hole. The fox decided he wanted to eat the rabbit, but since he needed to go pee (which made the boys really laugh since they can relate), he marked the rabbit hole with an X in the dirt so that he could find it when he got back. The rabbit, sensing the fox was gone, poked his ear out and then his nose and then ran out of the hole to another hole. When the fox returned, he couldn't find the X since the rabbit had erased it on his way out, and so the fox couldn't find the right hole. The fox was very confused by this, and the boys were relieved that the rabbit had gotten away and thought it a great joke that they knew that the rabbit was gone and safe, but that the fox was still looking for it.

After I told the story, I took the first ribbon and slowly tied a bow as I said a rhyming verse about the fox marking an X, and then one rabbit ear poking up, then the nose, and then the rabbit running away. The verse really helped Kirven. He watched me do it a couple more times, and then he told me that if I would just be quiet, he could figure it out! So, I walked away, and Dunagan and I played with Ayla. Kirven tied five bows all by himself, and the craft board worked really, really well to hold his stick steady. I don't think it would have been a success without it. When he finally succeeded with the first bow, he was so shocked and proud of himself! It is so much fun for me to watch him learning something new, and it is quite a challenge to know when to help and when to sit back and let him struggle.

Dunagan planned on doing a ribbon staff making just knots, but by the time Kirven had finished his (he probably worked on it for a good 30+ minutes), Dunagan wasn't interested anymore. But Kirven let him share in the glory.


First Foods

Ayla had banana for the first time yesterday at lunch. Once she figured out the 'net teether', she attacked it with gusto. She's known we've been holding out on her. Actually, a couple of days ago, her very first foods were pizza crust at lunch and long, frozen green beans off of Dunagan's plate at dinner (Dunagan prefers his vegetables in the frozen state--- and, no, I don't know) that she enjoyed gnawing on. And then tonight, we ordered some sliced avocado for her net teether, and she enjoyed exploring that on Daddy's shirt while we ate dinner.

First Day of School

No, really, Kirven was actually very excited.

He picked out these red carnations on Tuesday at the grocery store in honor of his first day of school.

And I put out a few art supplies for him to find at breakfast. I have a paintbrush for Dunagan and I to paint wet-on-wet watercolors with together that I put at Dunagan's place. He, of course, is starting preschool, as we all have been informed. Kirven will use the yarn (isn't it pretty?) to learn how to finger crochet, which builds up hand muscles for learning to write in first grade. We will start both painting and finger crocheting next week.

See, I told you. Happy Kindergartener Kirven.

After we sent Dad off to work, Ayla fell back asleep for her morning nap early, and Dunagan was still asleep, so Kirven and I started morning chores. By the time Dunagan was awake and had finished eating breakfast, Ayla was awake again, and we headed out for our morning walk. The boys rode bikes to the park and spent most of their time riding in circles at breakneck speeds around the basketball court. Seriously, I'm sucking air through my teeth the entire time. Dunagan has training wheels and can only go so fast, but Kirven has told me numerous time that he 'has to lean like that' because it makes him go faster. "That's what motorcycles do, Mom!"

Then we headed home, put the bikes up, and went inside for circle. I put Ayla in the doorway jumper, and she was happy and entertained through the first two activities, then she wanted out. So, we had to pause, get Ayla and get her situated on the floor somewhere nearby but out of the way of skipping feet. That was a no-go, so we took another break for me to go take her to the potty and change her. She had pooped on the sly and was upset about it. We resumed circle again, but now we were to the parts that I didn't have fully memorized, so we stumbled through it, and I lost Dunagan to the swing. Finally, I had to pick up Ayla and give Kirven verbal instructions or just barrel through the last activities with her fussing. But, no worries. Circle will become second nature to us all pretty quickly, and then it will be a lot smoother. And Ayla "usually" naps during that time, so it shouldn't always be that interrupted.

Then we read Coyote's Rain Song, which both boys seemed to really like. Kirven carried our candle to the kitchen table and we had snack. Then, I forgot we were supposed to do chores next and started setting up silks and treeblocks and wooden animals to help them settle into their play. Kirven wasn't interested in playing, and he went and laid on the couch. It all really felt off until I remembered chores and asked if he wanted a chore to do. "Yeah!" he said, and jumped off the couch. So, he dusted the floor with the dustmop, and Dunagan vacuumed with the sharkvac, and I made the beds. Then they were ready to play, and they made me soup and spaghetti and coffee in the playstands.

Then we had lunch and nap and snack, and I read the Brush Tail Story while they finished eating, which is a prep story for painting about washing their brushes properly. Then they headed out to the sandbox, took a bath, and Dad came home early.

We ended the day with Kirven getting to pick dinner at a restaurant, dessert included, and he chose fajitas at Azul Tequila and fried ice cream! As my sister Hillary said, it was the best first day of school, ever!

Craft Board

Dad and the boys have spent a couple of evenings making a pair of craft boards for us to use. They finished the first one just in time for tomorrow. It's made of 1x12 soft pine (on top) and two layers of 3/4" MDF, all glued and screwed from the back, routed edges and all surfaces sanded. It is very heavy, and it is intended to hold the project in place so that the young student can work on it without having to worry about it wiggling. That puppy ain't movin. The soft pine allows for us to pin things down, as well, if need be. We'll be trying it out tomorrow making ribbon sticks, which is a bow-tying project. Kirven taught himself how to tie granny knots eons ago, and I thing bow-tying will be right up his alley and a logical next step. I'll post pictures of our first project tomorrow night, hopefully.