Saturday, October 31, 2015

What I Do With All That Halloween Candy...

My four year old wanted to dress as a penguin again this year. Here she is with her friend, who trick or treated as Princess Ariel in the best wig ever. My daughter and I wore matching costumes, walked four and a half miles, and she was treated to half a jumbo ziploc bag of candy.
I recently read how one mother does something called the Switch Witch. She created a character, like the Tooth Fairy, who comes at night and swaps candy for toys. She even decorated a special basket for each child to leave their candy in for the Switch Witch. 

I work full time, so all I could think of when I read that was Who has time for that?

I also don't understand the concept of taking a child trick or treating, only to take the candy to a dentist's office for a "buy back" event.

If I take my child trick or treating, I'm going to let her eat the candy. I'm just not going to let her eat it all in one night, and I'm going to floss and brush her teeth afterward.

I let her choose one piece of candy per day, and she gets to eat it during her reading lesson. 

For example, this was yesterday's lesson (from The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading by Jessie Wise & Sara Buffington):
This particular page is divided into six sections, so I divided her piece of candy into six portions. That means a candy like a Tootsie Roll gets cut into sixths, and she gets to eat one sixth after each section. If she chooses a candy like M&Ms, she gets to have one M&M after each section, and the rest of the little bag at the very end.

While rewarding her for reading is very un-Charlotte Mason, training her in the habit of moderation is.

Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

What We've Been Up To The Past Few Days

1. I let my four year old daughter use a real knife for the first time Sunday night. She was making an omelet. We discussed putting the other hand on top of the knife, curving fingers, going slowly, positioning whatever is being cut flat-side down, and never trying to catch a falling knife.

2. While watching PBS, a commercial for a documentary about Queen Victoria came on, and my daughter said, "British Queen Victoria ruled over India" - a snippet of Classical Conversations timeline song. She's making connections. I love it.

3. My little guppy is really working hard at learning to swim. She's almost done with her second session of swim lessons, and I can't believe how quickly she's progressed from being hesitant to go under water, to this:
That is her in her "boy swim suit" - which came out of the Lost and Found on the day the wrong bag got taken to swim class. 

4. I dug out a DK Action Pack I bought a decade ago when I was teaching middle school history. They don't sell these anymore! :( My daughter had fun decoding the message in hieroglyphs. (A giant sphinx guards my tomb. Who am I?... The answer is Pharaoh Khafre.)
We also put together a model of a pyramid...
...which she wanted to wear as a hat...
5. And here is a shot of my baby ballerina :


We got the idea to germinate these impatiens seeds a month and a half ago, after our first Classical Conversations meeting. The science lesson was about seeds. So, we germinated impatiens seeds in a ziploc baggie with wet cotton balls. They took about 5 weeks to sprout.
This is an impatiens in a pot on our patio. I'm not sure what species. I scattered a mix of wildflower seeds a couple of years ago, and the impatiens keep coming back because they reseed themselves.
A flower's job is to make seeds, which my daughter learned from Ruth Heller's book The Reason for A Flower.

Impatiens make seed pods that pop open when you touch them, and for this reason, they are nicknamed Touch-Me-Nots.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Nature Study: Bees

Earlier this month at the Fresno Fair, I got a lesson from a beekeeper (not the one pictured above) at the bee booth in the agriculture building. Bees are fascinating.

If you're a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, you've probably read the bee section of Anna Botsford Comstock's A Handbook of Nature Study, but I'm telling you, Comstock does not do the bee justice.

Each hive has one queen bee. (Below is my daughter looking at the queen. She had a white dot on her, and she was surrounded by worker bees, grooming her.)

The queen is the only fertile female in the hive.

All of the worker bees are female, but they're sterile. The females are the ones that gather nectar and pollen, and females born in summer have a much shorter life span than females born in winter. In winter, fewer plants flower, but in summer, there is an abundance of pollen, so the females work themselves to death, dying with tattered wings.

Male bees are drones, and their job is mating with the queen. Bees mate when it's over 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so in winter, males are useless to a hive. They physically can't do anything but procreate. They don't have a proboscis suitable for gathering nectar and they don't have a stinger to defend the colony. Instead of letting them hang around, eating up all of the hive's resources, females pull them out of the hive and pull their little bee belongings out after them.

(Male bees die after mating. Click here to find out why. Ouch.)

This is what a beehive looks like in nature:
We had just finished reading A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, so I, of course, thought of Pooh trying to get honey by pretending to be a little black rain cloud. 

This hive was was huge. The beekeeper said it was home to approximately 75,000 bees and contained between 50 and 70 lbs of honey! (A hive will have tens of thousands of workers, but only hundreds of drones.)
My daughter feeling beeswax for the first time
As you can see in the poster above, a queen goes from egg to adult faster than workers and drones.
I was really curious as to why a bee becomes a queen bee, instead of just a worker, or a male. The beekeeper explained that the worker bees feed her differently. 

A queen is not fed honey or pollen (she's fed royal jelly) --> she doesn't get phenolic acids --> certain genes are activated  --> the activated genes make the proteins that build the rest of the queen bee body. 

Worker bees do get honey and pollen, and as a result, do get phenolic acids. So, even though workers and queens have identical genetic material, workers become workers and queens become queens.

(For a great article from Wired about what queen bees eat, click here, and for more information on the life cycle of the honeybee, click here. For some general information about bees from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations - for beekeeping in Africa - click here.)

It's also extremely interesting to me that the queen lays the egg of the queen who will possibly kill her to replace her.
Queen bee cells are much larger than the cells of workers and drones.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Slack Line

My daughter tried out the slack line for the first time yesterday. Growing up in Santa Monica...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Invented Spelling

This note says:
"Mom I did some Spanish without any (N E) help."☺️

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Agriculture Building

Another favorite childhood fair memory I have is of the agriculture hall. I love walking in from the Fresno heat, to the air-conditioned building, cool enough to keep fruits and vegetables looking their best for a week and a half. I love its high ceilings and the smell of over-ripe grapes and peaches.

Sun-Maid Raisins come from Central California, where I grew up. Their exhibit shows the century-old history of Sun-Maid, including the history of the Sun-Maid Raisin girl, which, yes, fair-goers can pose as.
There was also this castle-pumpkin, carved in 6 hours by expert pumpkin carver Russ Leno.
Inside the agriculture hall at the Fresno Fair
At the Mosquito Control exhibit.
We stayed a long time at the bees. I have a special bee post coming soon... :)

Sunday, October 11, 2015


One of my favorite childhood memories is of going to the county fair with my dad. And one of my favorite parts of the fair was the livestock building. I was so excited to see all of the animals.

Now, I love that my daughter gets to make these memories with her grandpa.

The Big Fresno Fair's livestock building is no longer cows, sheep, and pigs. It also includes a hands-on section for children called Ag-Ventureland.

Ag-Ventureland had a corn-kernel box (instead of a sand box), magnet boards, lift-the-flap boards, farm blocks, and a trough filled with dirt and potatoes. Because what child doesn't like digging in the dirt? It's one of my daughter's most favorite things. Here she is pretending to be a potato farmer...
...and pushing her wheelbarrow full of fruits and vegetables.
She also participated in the Kids' Pedal Tractor Pull. To see what this is, click here. My dad and I had such a good time cheering on the little ones trying to pedal the 25-foot distance.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Apple Pie

Here is the apple pie we made with the apples we picked on our apple-picking trip Saturday.
I spent an hour peeling our tiny, beautiful apples.
I'm going to tell you the filling recipe we used, but I'm also going to tell you that I'll be using a different recipe the next time I make apple pie. My husband didn't care for the nutmeg, or the pie crust. And, even after making most of the pie herself, my daughter wasn't at all interested in eating it. So, here I am with almost an entire apple pie to myself.

Anyway... our filling recipe called for 3/4 cup of sugar,
 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon,
 1/4 teaspoon salt
 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg,
2 tablespoons of flour, 
and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.

Here is my daughter making the crust...

The final steps before going in the oven...
Guess what I ate for dinner.

And salad.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Apple Picking

We spent the day apple-picking in Oak Glen, two hours east.
This is the general store where stood in line to pay for our bags and admission to the orchard. (My husband, who spent his childhood as a migrant farmworker, had no interest in joining us to pay someone to pick produce; this is an act one is paid for, not vice versa.) A small bag was $10, a large bag was $18, and admission to the orchards was $1 per person.
The employees of the farm wear costumes to give tourists the feeling of having stepped back into the 1800s. Latex gloves and a $22 price tag on a gallon of apple cider gives away the fact that one is indeed still in the 21st century.

We visited 3 farms: Riley's Farm, Riley's Apple Farm, and Willowbrook Farm. We were supposed to pick apples at Riley's Apple Farm, but we accidentally parked at Riley's Farm and paid for our bags before we'd realized our mistake. The farms are next to each other, and were originally the same business, so one can see how that might confuse a tourist, right?
Sheep at Riley's Farm
According to a bonnet-donning employee, the farmland was all purchased by Mr. Riley in the late 1800s from Joe Wilshire, for whom Wilshire Peak is named, for the tidy sum of two chickens, $50, and a jug of whiskey.
 These wildflowers line the main road on the walk from Riley's Farm to Riley's Apple Farm.
While my daughter played with her friends in this playhouse, I sat and ate a deluxe caramel apple for lunch. It was topped with ice cream, whipped cream, and chopped nuts, and lived up to its name.
For $3, one can learn to make a corn husk doll.

After Riley's Apple Farm closed at a surprising 2:46 p.m. (surprising because the website says it's open until 4 p.m.), we walked back to Riley's Farm to fill our already-paid-for bags.
The trees were really picked over. I finally found a tree with some apples on it in the "colonial arbor," and had to climb the parking lot fence to get high enough to reach the apples. I then climbed into the tree, facing off against a swarm of bees, and hoping not to get caught by farm employees. I hadn't even considered that I might have competition. A tourist with a fruit picker was reaching his pole up into the tree from the parking lot, aiming for the same fruit I was trying to get, and - with the fruit picker - was knocking loose apples, which were conking me on the head. I wanted to yell down, "This tree is mine! I saw it first!" but I thought that I should use my energy to make sure I didn't fall out of the tree or that bees didn't fly into my t-shirt.
The best part is that my picky eater actually liked the apples enough to eat three of them before we'd made it back to Santa Monica.