Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas day

Christmas couldn't have been much simpler--or happier!--around here. I'm smiling at the Nativity costumes the boys put together one night,
 especially the little angel with a towel and a headlamp!
Zachary, the head costume designer, made some gold for the wise men. Why don't adults think of things like this? Just get pieces of paper and write "gold" on them, adding a bit of gold-looking jewelry? I tend to severely overcomplicate things and was relieved that the practical kids stepped in!
Of course Christmas morning was thrilling. Each boy received three gifts, but it seemed like a bundle since they all enjoy each other's toys. They played and played, and Eric and I sat opening packaging and hearing reports on each gift's happy details.
Jacob received a Ripstik, which I imagine has made it around our main floor loop about 2000 times, mainly when I'm trying to fix dinner!

Of course we also read "Christmas Day in the Morning" and "The Gift of the Magi," two of the best short stories ever written. We sang through the Reader's Digest Christmas Songbook and the hymns. It's such a joy to have a piano in our home! This was the first year that the kids could accompany some of the Christmas singing. They insisted that we become proficient at singing "Hey Ho, Nobody Home" in three parts, and we practiced on several nights. I'm not sure that we nailed it this year; maybe that's a goal for 2014. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Geography Fun

I coached our school's Geography Club and organized the school bee again this year, and we had a great turnout: thirty of the school's 4th- and 5th- graders opted to skip recess to come study geography! The kids are vibrantly curious, as world geography has not yet been part of their school curriculum. Here are some of the club members choosing stamps for their passports:
The weekend before the bee I hosted a finalists' breakfast, when we review for a couple hours. These kids are motivated by genuine interest--their curiosity has me looking up material constantly!
Here they are shooting at the maps to identify the correct answers. :)
The day of the final bee was exciting! I'm proud of the efforts I saw from all of those kids, and I consider all of them champions--it takes courage to compete in these contests!

That same week we also planned an international night for Cub Scouts, in which the boys made a Peruvian Christmas tree out of soda bottles, met a surfing Santa from Australia, painted Chinese characters, and examined Ukrainian art. We have some great leaders with international experiences who helped pull off a truly memorable night.
Geography! Go take the daily GeoBee Quiz and get excited!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Four short stories

1. Snail and fish breeding
While walking home from school one day, I told the kids that I had a surprise. They asked if it was a new baby! I told them that actually it was LOTS of new babies and some eggs. Of course they sprinted home to see what was going on. "Ducks! I bet it's ducks. Ducks come from eggs," I heard Zach say. Instead, they found dozens of baby snails and some penmark-thin baby fish swimming about. Our fish and snails had laid eggs, and some were hatching! Zach established a nursery to protect the youngsters from their hungry parents. Here are the proud owners of our little school:

2. All things done in order
The boys and I had a wonderful time collecting and sorting food for some food pantry Thanksgiving baskets this year. These happy workers sorted four three-tiered carts full of holiday food one afternoon! Some kids were darting around, quickly memorizing where the different types of food were kept. Others specialized in macaroni or stuffing and built up a pile. 
The one who got me laughing was Jacob, who painstakingly reorganized the entire Jell-o reserve into columns according to type, flavor, and brand name. It must have taken him half an hour. Bless that meticulous, darling boy. 

3. Rocking out with Samuel Hutchinson
One night Eric and Max went to bed early. Max had missed his nap because of church, and Eric had missed most of the last night's sleep because of an emergency surgery. So I told the boys that we were going to go singing at the Overture Center as if we were famous. They caught the enthusiasm and loaded up. The annual Christmas hymn sing is a free event where the audience sings along with the "colossal Klaus," performed by the classy and exuberant organist Samuel Hutchinson.  
Darling Michael sang every word for over an hour--Jacob and Zachary were riveted as well and even attempted the unfamiliar selections. Adam fell asleep in my arms for most of it. When we finished, we all felt pretty famous:

4. Zach's watch-rental business
Several months ago Zachary invested his saved chore money into a calculator watch. The watch quickly became the envy of the second grade, with friends asking to borrow it for a few minutes, a lunch period, or a day. When Zach began turning down requests, the kids started making offers. A quarter for a day? Two quarters? But apparently none of the kids had any actual money, so they traded in the next best currency: Matchbox cars. Zach now regularly rents his watch out at a rate of one Matchbox car per day. Once he got a crazy cool rainbow loom bracelet for a week of wearing privileges, but other than that, it's all cars. Here are some of them. I'm pretty sure he's earned back the $12 he spent on the watch already. He's an entrepreneur if I've ever seen one!