Why the Tree of Life?


Boo Bash

Hello? Dunagan is that you?

Last night was the Austin Area Homeschoolers' Boo Bash at the Austin Children's Museum. The boys had a great time running all over the place, playing with friends and exploring the exhibits. The museum was packed with homeschoolers.

We had a potluck dinner and then trick'r treating at five separate candy stations. I didn't think we would need their candy collecting bags (DOH!), so we didn't bring them. Kirven went with the flow and collected in his hat, and after lots of tears, we were able to covince Dunagan that he could collect candy in his fireman helmet.

Yes, Kirven? It's me, Dunagan!

There was dancing at the end of the evening. You can see the dancers in the picture above through the railing on the floor below. Our boys were more typically interested in how the bubble machine was working.





I didn't feel like painting last week, but apparently I am an anchor because both boys painted for about three seconds. I went back to painting with them this week, and they painted longer.


Driftwood Blocks

Dad and the boys brought home some driftwood from the ranch and cut them into smaller pieces for indoor creative play during project night with Dad one evening last week. Kirven and Dunagan both did some sawing, and they have enjoyed playing with with the bog blocks since, especially Dunagan. He lined all of them up across the room one morning and called it an elephant bridge (for his little wheeled elephant). I wish I had gotten a picture of it.

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Daddy & Kirven Date

Today was Kirven's turn for some Daddy time. Kirven's plans were not as concrete as Dunagan's. The only for sure thing was Amy's Ice Cream. In fact, he was pushing to eat breakfast at Amy's and was quite disappointed to have to wait until after supper.

We started our adventure with a quick trip to Target to pick up a candy collection/carrying device. I'll leave our find for a later post with their costumes. Next, we stopped at Zilker park but it was crowded due to a Halloween festival so we opted instead for Longview Park. That was much quieter and more Kirven's speed.

Kirven has become camera shy lately. You have to time your snaps well, as evidenced below...

After lots of play and walking around the park, we went to supper at Azul Tequila. Kirven enjoyed his fajitas "with everything." Yes, everything. Beef, onions, sour cream, guacamole, cheese, lettuce, beans, rice, and pico de gallo. Fortunately, getting him to eat has not been to hard lately!

Of course, we capped the night with ice cream which made the whole day a success for Kirven!


Daddy & Dunagan Date

Today Daddy & Dunagan went on a "date". Just us, no Mommy or siblings. Since Ayla's arrival, Dunagan and Kirven have both been in need of some one-on-one time with us. Dunagan really enjoyed having me all to himself. We spent our time doing whatever he wanted and eating whatever he wanted (except for the Starbucks run, that was Dad's idea).

After nap we left the house and ran a quick errand, then got some coffee for me. The Iced Lemon Pound Cake was humming to us, so that was our first treat.

Next we rode the Zilker Zephyr and played on the playscape for a long time. A highlight was getting to watch them change the LP tank. I think this was the first thing he mentioned when we got home.

For supper, we had a Big Kahuna pizza. This is, hands down, Dunagan's favorite meal. It's really the pineapple on the pizza that he likes best. You have to protect your own piece or he'll snitch all your pineapple while you're not looking!

We finished the night with Amy's Ice Cream. While we were at Amy's, Jennifer sent me a text that Kirven was "dying" to know where we were. Apparently, we were out longer than he thought we should have been. So, tomorrow night, when it's his turn, "we are going to have to stay out even longer..." :-)

Hopefully, we can separate the leech from Mommy for three or four hours next weekend so that she can have dates with the boys, too.

BTW, this is my first post! Jennifer has been nagging me to post & this seemed an appropriate first.


"Try This At Home"

Danielle posted a link in the comments section to a fellow Austinite's blog. Stephanie at Blue Yonder wrote incredibly eloquently about Maker Faire, much more eloquently than I did. It's worth the read.

In defense of my poor writing, as the main keeper of the 6 month old and the boys' stroller, I saw Maker Faire mostly from the fringes. But what I saw from a distance was uber-cool. So uber-cool that it is worth a second post about it!

Colored Corn

Colored corn proved to be a little more difficult to find this year than in years past. I spent several weeks looking for it. It was not at Michael's. It was not at Hobby Lobby. It was not at Central Market. St. John's Methodist Church Pumpkin patch had sold out. I finally thought of and found it at Whole Foods! And then, the very next day when I went to vote early at Randall's, a grocery store I don't shop at, there it was in their front doorway. Of course. Kirven and I shook our heads at each other.

We're doing another farm to food project. We brought home 9 ears of colored corn; three for our nature table, three for Kirven and three for Dunagan. The boys spent over an hour happily shelling the corn off the cobs into bowls.

Since I had no idea if the colored corn was safe to eat since it is meant for decoration, I bought popping corn for us to grind. I couldn't find anything else, unfortunately, and it proved to be incredibly hard stuff. Kirven ground about 3 tablespoons before giving up. He was jumping and pulling so hard on the handle that Dunagan and I couldn't hold the table down. Evan has suggested to me that I need to loosen up the grind, and grind it more than once. Perhaps that is where we are going wrong.

We were going to make cornbread today, but that didn't happen. I've decided to move our baking day to Tuesday, which I think will be easier for us in the future. By Friday afternoon, we're all just waiting for Dad to get home so we can begin the weekend.


Maker Faire

Someone made R2D2 and friend

We went to Maker Faire this last weekend. A friend introduced me a while ago to Make Magazine, and I knew it would be Evan's Christmas present that year. Their Maker Faire is basically the magazine on display. There were a lot of cool things to see. Evan could probably blog better about this event. Needless to say, if you know Evan and/or the boys, you know that Maker Faire has been much anticipated since the day after last year's Maker Faire. Everything there was made by someone for fun.

Robot with sirens blazing that shot ping pong balls at the crowd. Made by someone for fun.

Kirven waiting to be shot at with ping pong balls.

Ice cream fozen instantly with liquid nitrogen. The boys declared it delicious!

The biggest Van de Graaph generator (Correction: Evan said it was a Tesla Coil) I've ever seen, and it was set to music.

Kirven made and flew a kite!

Killer Robot

Robots killing each other.

The next year will be spent discussing everything we saw at Maker Faire, especially if it involved fire. If you visit us, you will probably hear about Maker Faire. Really, this event is just about the coolest event in Austin all year. The boys are already discussing what they can make to show off at the Faire next year.

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread

Yum! We made Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread last Friday for Baking Day. This recipe made three loaves, so I only cooked one and froze the batter for the other two in separate ziplocks. It was really very delicious. I used double chocolate (bittersweet) chips instead of semisweet. Both boys broke eggs without getting any eggshell bits in the batter, and they really enjoyed using the hand-crank egg beater to mix that I just bought. It gave Kirven's arms a work-out toward the end when all the flour was added!



We made pom-poms today from the Enki Kindergarten Seasonal Craft book. Kirven made the rainbow one first, and then the orange one. I made the blue one for Dunagan.

The most difficult part was cutting the yarn around the outside of the pattern without it all falling apart before I could get the string tight around the center of it. Kirven really enjoyed this project and made the orange one on his own initiative. And it had to have a bell, of course.

Yellow, Yellow, Yellow (& gold)

Mine (shading gold to yellow)

Dunagan's (with tempera yellow)

Kirven's ("Mama, I made gold!")

On the Move

Ayla has discovered that she can get up on the little shelf under the table.


Harvest Loaf

We baked the Harvest Loaf out of All Year Round on Friday. It is actually a loaf that goes with Michaelmas, but I thought it sounded really neat because you tell a story as you mix the ingredients. You create a landscape of hills and valleys with the flour and talk about how beautiful it is and how happy the people are. But then a dragon (the frothy yeast milk mixture in the measuring cup) comes and takes over the land, and creates a frozen wasteland (sprinkle salt and sugar). Much sadness all round until the hero (the Archangel Michael) throws stars (currants) from the heavens which become iron and sungold (egg yolk) to warm the land and defeat the dragon. All live and work and share happily ever after.

Sounds nice right?

First tip: when you intend to prepare by pre-reading the story the night before, do it (don't say, aw, nuts to that, I'm going to bed)... because you might notice that all the ingredients are in English metrics. How many cups are in 1 kg of wholemeal flour, you might ask. The answer would be 8, give or take. Because, if you don't notice this minor detail ahead of time, you will be dashing back and forth from the kitchen to the computer to look up 50g of sugar and 250g of currants (or was it the other way around?). Thank goodness an egg is an egg. Because, keep in mind, you will also be checking on the baby to be sure that she doesn't get ahold of any chokables while she is being neglected and also checking on the boys who are grinding eight cups of wheat berries on their own and unsupervised.

As you can see above, we did get all the ingredients together eventually, though it literally took all morning. The boys ground four cups on their own, and I finished off the last four.

Second tip: when the instructions say to memorize the story, memorize the story. Otherwise, you may get this:

Me (reading): There once was a beautiful land. No one could tell if the hills were more lovely, or the valleys were more lovely.
Kirven (looking out the window in the opposite direction): Mom, did you know that bulk collection is going to take the plastics first and then the rubber; that's why they left the tires.
Me (reading): And then a terrible dragon came over the land. Do you see the dragon, Kirven?
Dunagan: Can I do it? I'm doing it! I'm pouring! Let go, Mom!
Me: Ok (said with good cheer to Dunagan)
Kirven (still looking out the window in the opposite direction): huh? yeah, I see it. Did you know that the bulk collection is going to take our rubber later?

As you can see, it was a very magical moment. One filled with wonder and awe.

While the story didn't capture their imagination, and Kirven couldn't seemed to be bothered with any part of it (besides the grinding), Dunagan greatly enjoyed all the mixing and was up to his elbows in 'dough'.

Why the 'dough' in quotes?

Take a look at exhibit A:

Lovely, no? Granola doorstop.

I have the gainmill cranked down as far as I can while still being able to turn it. It should be spitting out flour. I'd say we got a ratio of dusty flour to crunchy, graininess of 2 to 5. When we had mixed it all up and were to the kneading part, it was not anywhere close to dough and wasn't sticking together. I added probably a couple cups of store-bought flour to get it to at least resemble a dough of some sort.

Kirven, again, wasn't the least bit interested as we waited for it to rise, though Dunagan enjoyed checking on it. And Kirven probably ate only one bite in total, whereas Dunagan has had numerous pieces, preferably stuffed in his mouth all at once.

What lessons have I learned here?
a) listen to my gut. Something told me to hold off on this project, and I should have listened.
b) read the instructions the night before!
c) do this project again (or another recipe), but write my own story that I know they will be interested in. They have no idea who the Archangel Michael is, and Michaelmas is not something we celebrate.

Now, I'm just debating throwing out the rest of the loaf or allowing Dunagan to continue eating on it for another day since he seems to be enjoying it.



Kirven lost his second tooth yesterday. He was just as withdrawn about this one as he was with the first, but he cheered up a little faster. He doesn't seem to want anyone to notice his mouth. Perhaps he is embarrassed? He wanted it put in my special pouch again. No tooth fairy.


Six Months

Already! Ayla is already six months old. The time is absolutely flying. It took forever for Kirven to reach six months... and we thought we were such veteran parents by then. We felt like we had had Kirven for forever. I think it's safe to say that Evan and I have been parents long enough now to realize we've hardly begun. Dunagan's babyhood flew, too, but not nearly as fast as Ayla's seems to be. Seriously, I gave birth to her yesterday.

But I have also reached that point that I reached with both the boys where I have a hard time remembering what life was like without Ayla.

I wish I could freeze time. I love Ayla's toothless grin. I love her belly-flop scoot mode of transport, that's already disappearing now that she is really and truly crawling. I love when she rolls on her side and looks up at me like a lazy odalisque. I love when she sticks her tongue out at me so that I will copy her. I love how much she loves the boys, and that they can make her laugh just by her hearing their voices in another room. And I am happy that she is happy.


Leaf Rubbings


We live near a lovely wooded park, and on our nature walk this morning, we collected leaves for rubbing. Not many leaves have started to turn colors around here. Just the sycamore and the cedar elm, and even then-- just.

Dunagan was frustrated with this project. We used block crayons, and he couldn't figure out how I was holding them to use them broadside, and he didn't let me demonstrate. He ended up giving up pretty quickly, and I was too slow to recommend that he just color on his page. The brown leaf in the middle of his is actually mine. He did the yellow and the green on the sides, but was visibly frustrated that they weren't looking like Kirven's and mine. He kept looking at Kirven's page, then his page, then my page, then his page... and then he said he was going outside. This isn't a craft I expect him to do. I don't actually expect him to do any of the kindergarten work. I'm struggling on how to help him feel included when something is clearly too challenging for his age. I'm trying to make sure that we do plenty that is targeted at him, too, but I can sense a new tension growing between the boys, and I think it is sparked by jealousy. Any suggestions?


Stone Soup

Last week, we read Stone Soup from the Enki Kindergarten Folk Tales, and today we made Stone Soup for lunch! We got the pot on by 7am, so it was really nice and rich and thick by lunchtime. We only put things in that were in the story, so we had: a round gray stone, yellow onions, long thin carrots (that the boys chopped), juicy beef bones, salt and pepper, and butter and barley. It was really very tasty! And Geena, our dog, loved the bones I fished out when it was done. We have plenty of soup left for tomorrow.

Blue and Red

... but mostly blue. Aunt Hillary joined us yesterday for painting, and Dunagan's painting supplies finally arrived, so he was able to paint, too! Hip, hip, hooray! No tantrums today! He had his own brush, his own painting board, and his own little jars of paint, as you can see above. Last week I diluted finger paints with slimy, unsatisfactory results. This week, I mixed up thin tempera from powder, and had great results. The only difference, besides some lack of vibrancy, was that it dried just a little powdery looking, though not actually powdery. I'm very pleased with this solution. Maybe you can tell the difference in the pictures? I actually think I got Kirven's blue too thick this week (after all my trouble with it being too thin!) because it was, wow, blue, and the red had no chance.




Nature Center

looking at a fox pelt

We met some friends at the Austin Nature Center today to trade in some finds from our Summer Nature Table. You can trade up to five things at a time and then 'buy' something in their collection (from finds other children have brought in). Kirven didn't want to trade anything this time, but Dunagan traded a sycamore seed, a mountain laurel seed pod, a mesquite bean, and cicada shed, and a mud dabber nest. He got twenty-five points, plus fifteen for talking to her. He ended up wanting to save up his points. The naturalist had a tray of seeds, and Dunagan found the matching ones to the ones we had brought, and he also matched the cicada shed to the one on a board of mounted insects. Then she broke open the mud dabber nest to show us the dead spiders inside that the parents bring into the nest to feed the babies. Cool! (and makes me shiver uncontrollably at the same time).

When we first arrived, there was a large elementary school group in the Naturalist's Workshop room. We hung around outside watching the bees in their see-through hive until all the children lined up and headed outside. It had been pandamonium in that little room. How nice it is as homeschoolers to go in moments later when no one else is there and have the naturalist to ourselves! She could leisurely answer all our questions and even get to know our names. Hers was Mary, by the way.

Beeswax Polishing

The boys and Dad made paint holders for our watercolors during one of their project nights. We've been sanding them, and today, we polished them with beeswax. We all smelled so nice afterward!

Ziplock Ice Cream

We made ziplock ice cream last Friday. Yum! Dunagan wanted 'just' vanilla, and we substituted hot chocolate mix for sugar in Kirven's to make chocolate. Super easy and fast--- 8 minutes, tops, to freeze. Put about a cup of cream and 2 Tablespoons of sugar and a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla in a quart ziplock, and then put that in a gallon ziplock with ice and rock salt. We were able to do both boys' at once. Kirven was willing to share with me, but I wish I had bought enough cream for my own! (Wear mittens!)


Kirven didn't get very far with the sewing project last week. I think he did only one of the seven stitches you see below (I did the rest trying to demonstrate). We finally just put it aside. I really think he had trouble with this one because I didn't have a preparation story to read to him beforehand. The ones we read for finger knitting and finger crocheting really seemed to help. I've got a rough draft of a sewing story about a dolphin. Once I get that polished, we'll return to this project. It's very difficult getting that needle to come up where you want it to!

Ayla's Crawling!

...and pulling up! If I can get my act together, I will take some video. She pulled up on the dishwasher tonight, but needed help back down without bonking her noggin.



We're doing a 'field to bread' type of activity. We threshed and winnowed wheat this week. It was really a lot of fun. The threshing part was very easy, and I didn't have to do more than just show them what to do, but the winnowing was a bit more difficult. I turned on our porch fans to create a breeze, and then I tossed the threshed wheat into the air and caught it again in the bowl. The chaff did blow away quite easily, but the heavier bits of chaff never did fly away. I'm really curious now how one does go about getting just the wheat berries and none of the chaff. Kirven winnowed some, but was so careful about it that he didn't really toss it up out of the bowl; and Dunagan tossed 80% of it out of the bowl and onto the porch. But no problem, because we weren't going to actually eat this wheat since it was really meant to be used in someone's Thanksgiving centerpiece decoration.

I found this idea in Earthways, which is a great book and fits in very nicely with Enki. We're going to hand grind food-grade wheat berries this week, and then bake bread with our flour on Friday.

I highly recommend doing this activity outside (very messy). And also, if available, a wooden bowl would work best. Anything else will break, crack or be really, really loud. My plastic bowl does have a nice crack in it now. And this amount of wheat was just about right. I don't think they would have made it through two bundles. But it was a lot of fun.