Why the Tree of Life?


Dunagan's B'day Party

We had Dunagan's birthday party on Saturday, May 23rd. He wanted only family, "just like Ayla's party." Easy enough for me! His dragon took center stage.

We started off the evening with some interpretive dancing to Rodrigo y Gabriela and disco lights.

Then on to a dinner of homemade spaghetti, cheese toast and salad...

...all of which was just a means to an end, the cake:

Chocolate with raspberry filling and cream cheese icing and the SR-71 Blackbird, only the fastest plane, evah.

Dunagan has been talking about this cake for weeks. WEEKS. Did the bakery have it ready when we went to pick it up? No. Our order had been lost, but very, very happily, it was found in time to bake it, even with a couple hours to spare. Whew.

Ayla dug into this cake much better than she did on her own birthday cake. She does apparently like chocolate, just not my chocolate. So let's all pretend that this picture is from her 1st birthday, shall we? That's more like it.

Everyone else liked it, too.

And then it was on to the orgy of gift opening. Ayla also enjoyed opening Dunagan's presents more than she had enjoyed opening her own. But Dunagan loved everything he got and really had a wonderful birthday overall!



Nine total between the three kids, plus a TB test and hemocrit! Needless to say, it was a big day at the pediatrician's day before yesterday. It took them 20 minutes just to draw up all the vaccines. I hate, hate, hate this part of parenting: holding a child down and looking into their eyes as they have something medical done to them. Dunagan was very brave. He got four shots (after I had told him that he wouldn't have any because I stupidly looked at the wrong chart the night before), but he hopped right up on the table and didn't cry a bit even though it obviously hurt him.

We all had Chick Fil-A and Amy's ice cream afterwards.


Chore Chart

I've been wanting a chore chart for the boys for a long time. I've looked around for one to buy, but none of the ones I could find were quite what I was looking for. I was wanting something super simple. I had a chance a couple of weeks ago to work on my own idea, and I am very pleased with the results. I bought a magnetic white board, some red crepe art tape and 48-1"square blank magnets. With the tape, I made a 'To Do' side and a 'Done' side.

Then I found free clip art pictures to represent each of the chores the boys can do, saved them to my desktop, reduced them all to one inch, made two images of each, printed them out, stuck a magnet behind them, cut them out and colored them (our printer is only B&W).

And that was it. The chore chart has been a big hit. The boys love it, and so far, the novelty hasn't worn off yet, so chore time is super exciting. I really like that they have a little more independence around this part of the day, and we all work together.


Organic Circle

I tried reestablishing our movement work a couple of weeks ago, but it was still like pulling teeth. Too many distractions, too little interest, too little motivation.

My other strategy of having each activity spread out through the day didn't work as well as I had hoped either. It felt too disjointed and frantic, plus, beyond the first set of movement verses, I would forget the rest throughout the day. I would get to bedtime, and go: oh, yeah... whoops... well, tomorrow's another day, drat. Every day.

Meanwhile, the boys' crankiness has been increasing over the many weeks. Physically, their bodies have been screaming for the grounding they have gotten in the past from adventure circles. But the stars were just not aligning for us to have successful circle times. I felt like scolding them far too much in the process, and that's definitely not how it's supposed to be.

So, I set it aside, again.

But we have gotten back to our morning walks, which brings me to the successful point of my story. I just felt like singing one morning during one of last week's walks, and the boys started singing with me and skipping, too. Before I knew it, we had done three Enki opening movement activities. When we got inside, we did a proprioceptive/vestibular activity, and we were done.

An 'Enhanced Exercise Walk/Organic Circle' is one of the options mentioned in the Enki curriculum, but I just hadn't thought we would be interested in that. I thought the adventure circles were so much more fun. Oh... wait, this isn't about me...

The clincher came yesterday morning when Evan and I were trying to sort out our Saturday chore list and the boys were bouncing off the walls and getting on our nerves in the process. I said, "Let's go for a walk," and Kirven squealed, "Yeah, Daddy! We don't do it like we used to!" with a sly look on his face as if to say, we have a surprise for you, and it's so much fun!


We went on to have a great walk, doing the three opening activities we had been doing the last week: Rosie Ray, Far Out at Sea, Sally Goes Round, and then Spider (a proprioceptive activity) when we were back inside, and everyone was much calmer and ready to work. Kirven requested that we do more, and I promised that I would look up more in the movement binder. (I'll post what I come up with on Tree of Life Musings since it'll be untried and theoretical). The nice thing is that I don't have to come up with a storyline. Coming up with a storyline is fun, but it is time and brain power intensive when I am lacking in both.

Some details for Enki folks:
Rosie Ray: skip whole time (and I end up singing it about four or five times without realizing it.)
Far Out at Sea: skip or gallop far away from me, and come running back to me on "And the lashing winds are driving them home."
Sally Goes Round the Sun: Skip on first verse, then "Sally hops round the sun", scissor step, tiptoe, walk backwards... all moving in the direction that we're walking.
Spider when we're back inside.
My Little Pony (for midline) and Spanish verses before Enki storytime
Mouse fingerplay at naptime.


Happy 4th Birthday, Dunagan!!

Dunagan turned four yesterday. He wanted to save his presents from Ayla and Kirven to open today at his party (so that he can have more to open all at once), though he was greeted by a green dragon waiting for him at breakfast. He was so quiet when he picked him up, but his eyes were so big. A fiery dragon fits his temperament so well. He's been very careful not to let Ayla get close to it. She might get burned.

They've gone out now to run errands for the party. I've got spaghetti sauce simmering and cheese toast toasting. Our house smells delicious, and Ayla is cooperatively taking a much needed nap.


Butterfly Farm

Toward the end of April, we visited Wild Connections Butterfly Farm and Nature Center with GAHA. We had been once before when Dunagan was about a year old. Boy, was it hot and muggy that day! This day, on the other hand, was very pleasant. We've had a real spring this year! The boys sat through an old film strip about the life cycle of butterflies.

We also got to see their little nursery for all their different butterflies. See all the chrysalids attached to the paper towels? The red blotches are from a liquid that comes out when the butterflies emerge.

Then it was on to the butterfly house to try to catch one on a piece of fruit. We weren't successful. The butterflies were only interested in real nectar that day.

Kirven spent a long time counting butterflies, caterpillars and eggs in his little booklet.

Afterward, we had a lovely picnic with the group. It was a well-timed trip since we had recently hatched our own Painted Ladies.



This is the way it usually starts:

Mama, can we use water?
Mama, can we please use water?
Mama, we'll only use a little.
Mama, we'll only water the plants.
Mama, we'll keep it in the sandbox.
Mama, we'll only fill up the bucket and then turn it
right off, promise.

It never quite works out that way.


Making Butter

So, the next day, home from the dairy, we took our "fresh" cream and set out to make butter. All it takes is a container which will seal nicely, a few marbles, cream, and a lot of shaking.

While we took turns shaking, we sang:

Come, butter, come,
Come, butter, come,
Kirven's at the garden gate,
Waiting with the butter plate,
Come, butter, come,
Come, butter, come.

Come, butter, come,
Come, butter, come,
Du'g'n's at the garden gate,
Waiting with the butter plate,
Come, butter, come,
Come, butter, come.

Come, butter, come,
Come, butter, come,
Mommy's at the garden gate,
Waiting with the butter plate,
Come, butter, come,
Come, butter, come.
from Earthways

We checked it often, but not too often. First, it turned into whipped cream (so that's how people did it without electric mixers!). Then we had a casualty when the container slipped out of our hands and cracked on the porch floor, but no worries because we were able to transfer nearly all of it to a clean and whole container. Then we shook and shook some more. And then, all of a sudden, and I mean, one moment it wasn't and in another moment it was, it started sloshing and had become this:

We had butter! (and is the rest of it whey? or just skim milk? dunno.) We scooped it out of the container and onto a plate where we molded it with spoons and pressed out any pockets of liquid.

We each made a little butter cake.

We had plenty to share with our neighbors, and the boys had just as much fun running deliveries next door. My, was it good on bread! It didn't last long.


Jersey Barnyard

Welcome to the Jersey Barnyard! Home of Belle, Blue Bell Ice Cream's famous spokescow. We didn't even know she lived here, so we got to meet her quite by accident.

So what was the real reason behind our trip? To tour the dairy, of course! We visited with the goats,

fed them a little feed as fast as we could get it out of our cups,

fed some ducks and piglets,

said hi to some bunnies and baby chicks,

and even got to feed a bottle of milk to a calf!

The boys had to hold on for dear life; talk about a sucking reflex. I think they'd suck the skin off a finger. Needless to say, the milk was gone in about five seconds.

While we waited for the tractor to get ready, the boys wandered through a hay maze. Dunagan decided to come sit with me, but Kirven eventually made it through to the end.

Then we went for a hay ride out to the milking barn!

And here's a tip for if you ever visit: go around 3pm, because milking time is at 4pm. We got to see all the dozens and dozens of cows streaming in from the pastures to be milked. Normally, they just hunt a cow down, tie her up to a tree, and you get to try your hand at hand-milking. We got to see the machinery in action though! If you know Kirven and Dunagan, you know they were fascinated.

Stepping down into the milking parlor, we saw how they sanitize the equipment and then hook them up. I can't remember the numbers now, but I think each cow gives 8-10 gallons a day. That's a lot of milk.

Then we each got to try while the guide kept the cow from kicking us in the face.

It was pretty easy, and each of us had a successful turn. Then we got back on the hay ride, and headed back to the storefront. Along the way, I asked if it was still ok if I could get some cream to take home with us (I had emailed beforehand), but they had decided it wasn't going to work out as I had hoped since it would violate the restrictions around raw milk. I had plans of us taking cream home from the dairy and making butter.

Well, we could always have ice cream; Blue Bell, of course, and we did! It was the perfect treat after a sunny hayride. I also decided to buy some of their cheese, which they did have available for sale. As I was looking in their fridge, I noticed a single carton of HEB cream. I asked them if I could buy it, and they said I could, so I did. Our butter-making project was saved! I really wanted the boys to connect the cows and the dairy with the milk products that we buy; that there are living, breathing animals behind what we eat.

Even Ayla enjoyed this trip. She was able to run free for much of it, and pet many of the animals. The chickens intimidated her quite a bit, but she was ready to climb behind the fence with Belle the cow, maybe because Belle didn't have a pointy beak.

If you're in Austin, it's worth the drive out to La Grange for a visit. It took us about an hour and a half. You can stop at the Whataburger on the way back home. As usual, I told the boys that this was their last Whataburger ever, and that they better enjoy it... we are going to stop eating fast food after this. As usual, they saw through me. They know my weakness for fries and a coke. And they exploit it.

Check back soon to see what we did with our cream!