Monday, February 27, 2012

The Knoxville Zoo

One of the measures we are taking to save money is forgoing any week-long vacations this year.  We bought a pass at our local nature center that will get us into many zoos this year for free or nearly free.  Some grandparents were in town this past week.   We decided to go to our first zoo of the year with them.  The day was a bit gray, but the weather held out for us.

We had never been to the Knoxville Zoo.  It is a mixture of old cages and new lovely habitats.  It appears to be a zoo in transition.  The zoo was a nice size, not too small and not too big.  It had all of the popular animals people go to zoos to see.  My favorite are the giraffes.  I don't really think of a place as a zoo if it doesn't have at least one giraffe.  LOL!  The giraffe exhibit was nice (but old and up against the highway), with three giraffes.  My Father, a professional photographer, got a much better shot than I.  However, here is my favorite shot from my photo taking.

My oldest son loves the elephants.  One of the elephants loved him, too, and came right up for a photo shot.

We also saw bears, prairie dogs, rhinos, a variety of birds, red pandas, African wild dogs, and monkeys, to name a few.  I do like being able to see the animals and that was easy to do at this zoo.  Some zoos work so hard on making great habitats for the animals that the patrons can't see the animals.  I think there needs to be a balance there.  My kids will grow up wanting to help preserve the welfare of wild animals -- if they can see them and develop an affection for them.

The kids really liked the hands-on activities scattered around the zoo.  There was a carousel, jeeps to crawl on, and lots of small activities to help you understand about the animals (such as how long is your arm span in comparison to a condor's wing).

It was a fun day overall!  Here is proof that my father and I were both there behind our cameras!  Like father, like daughter.  LOL!

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lent 2012

Now that Fat Tuesday is over, it is time to start Lent.  We decided to do two things for Lent this year.  The first is a prayer bulletin board.  Each day the children and I will be choosing someone or something to pray for and then writing it down on an egg.  It should be fun to see the Easter eggs adding up with prayers on the board. 
The second thing is more complicated.  I have heard several folks around the Internet talking about eating as they do in the Third World and then taking the difference in their grocery budget to put towards the poor.  I love this idea.  However, with our son's very special diet, we simply cannot do it.  The kids and I decided to set the table with a place setting that will stay up all though Lent.  My mother made the heart bowl in a pottery class many years ago.  This will remind us that many go without enough food and safe water.  We will be giving up a different item for each 10 days of Lent.  We will be giving up juice, chocolate milk, and soda (which my father and step-mother left in our home) for the first 10 days.  Then we will give up white sugar for the next 10 days.  We also plan on giving up all bread types (tapioca and wheat) and milk for 10 days each.  The money saved from not buying these items will be placed in the jar in our place setting.  I also plan on giving the kids challenges that will help them earn money for the jar.  The challenges will be things like carrying a jug of water for one mile, taking a sponge bath or washing all of your undergarments in a limited amount of water.  These are activities that other children in the world do who live in less fortunate circumstances.  The money they earn will go towards a share in a well through

We will also be reading A Life Like Mine.  I am looking forward to guiding the kids' hearts towards charity with this new projects.

Blessings, Dawn

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy Presidents Day 2012

The children love our tradition of pulling out my husband's pewter presidents each year.  We always play a scavenger hunt with them.  I change the game around a bit each year.  One year we did popular presidents and last year we did some of the presidents' favorite food.  This year I decided to do all of the presidents through the Civil War (which we have just finished studying in history).  Below is the trivia about each president and the hiding place.

1) George Washington ~ One of the first citizens to own an ice cream maker.  (ice cream maker)
2) John Adams ~ Once stole a sliver of wood off William Shakespeare's chair to keep as a souvenir. (on our Shakespeare book)
3) Thomas Jefferson ~ He practiced his violin for 3 hours every day. (next to our toy violin)

4) James Madison ~ Our tiniest president.  He weighed only 100 pounds. (scale)
5) James Monroe ~ The third president to die on the Fourth of July.  (wrapped in a patriotic towel)
6) John Quincy Adams ~ He owned a pet alligator. (alligator skull in son's room)
7) Andrew Jackson ~ He put on many parties for children when he was president. (Easter egg basket with eggs)
8) Martin Van Buren ~ He was an enthusiastic singer. (piano bench with song books)
9) William Henry Harrison ~ He was a doctor before becoming president. (stethoscope)
10) John Tyler ~ He had 15 children.  (cradle with baby dolls)
11) James Polk ~ He did not trust banks and kept his money in bags hidden around the house. (near dd's piggy banks)

12) Zachary Taylor ~ He had a severe digestive upset after eating milk, pickles and cherries mixed together.  This event led to his death.
13) Millard Fillmore ~ He added a library to the White House. (bookcases)
14) Franklin Pierce ~ He made many upgrades to the White House, including central heating. (hidden in one of the radiators)
15) James Buchanan ~ Since he never married, he lived in the White House alone.  The American people felt sorry for him and sent him many pets, including a herd of elephants. (our zoo animals)
16) Abraham Lincoln ~ He loved to watch plays and enjoyed sitting in rocking chairs.  The Ford's Theater provided a rocking chair for Lincoln whenever he came to see a show. (rocking chair)

Blessings, Dawn

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real ~ Valentine's Edition

Pretty ~
I was spoiled this Valentine's Day.  My husband bought me the math program I wanted for the kids for Valentine's Day.  I was so excited about it.  He also used blog2print to get the first year of my blog put into book form.  We have really enjoyed reading it this past week.  In addition, my parents gave me flowers and a valance for my sitting room window. Aren't the flowers pretty?

We decided to buy the kids a gift each this year.  We are trying to reduce stuff coming into our home on a regular basis. Thus, we decided to take advantage of the holiday as a reason to add a few things we'd been wanting in the household.  When they get the "wanties", I just say they have to wait for the next holiday. 

The kids were delighted with their gifts.  We are now in a Waltons marathon.  I am so pleased that my children love "The Waltons".

Happy ~
We were so happy to take a break from our studies and go to an ice cream social at a friend's home. 

The kids and I were also happy to do two charities this week.  We made cat toys out of socks, cat nip and stuffing for the Humane Society.  We also made about 70 Valentine's cards for the clients of Meals on Wheels.

Funny ~
For most people Valentine's Day involves lots of sweets.  With our special needs diet, most treats are impossible, so I made a special breakfast.  My kids thought these apples were funny and yummy. 

Real ~
We managed to get everyone to the dentist this month.  The oldest had a cavity, but everyone else had great checkups.  Little Red Ridinghood loved changing from her pediatric dentist to my dentist.  We made the switch because my dentist is much cheaper, and I felt like she was old enough to handle a cleaning without me by her side.  She did great.

Please join Like Mother, Like Daughter for more great PHFR entries.

Blessings, Dawn

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Wrap-Up ~ Where Did the Week Go?

We had a super busy week.  We were running between seven doctor appointments, four dance lessons, enrolling Timothy in a special needs college program, and tons of preparations for our science fair projects.
  1. We celebrated Charles Dickens' birthday with a viewing of  Great Expectations (animated version).
  2. We found a few books at the 25 cent library sale.  We bought American Girl Real Fitness, American Girl Real Beauty, Belle Prater's Boy, Discovery School Volcanoes, Abbie Against the Storm, Dumbing Us Down, Lives of the Presidents, Raising Yoder's Barn, and Mary Cassatt.
  3. I asked my husband for Teaching Textbook Math 3 for Valentine's day.  Yes, I tend to ask for strange things at times.  My husband obliged.  I am glad we finally broke down and spent the money.  The kids are loving it!  One child is starting in the middle and the other is starting at the beginning of the book.  My oldest loved this series when he was in high school.  I know how great it is, but I had trouble committing to purchasing something that I was fully capable of teaching myself.  However, this will help so much with giving me time to do other things.  I love how interactive it is and that every single problem is explained if the child is confused.  I also love that we can carry it anywhere on the laptop.  The kids did it in the doctor's waiting room today.  The grade book is wonderful, too.
  4. We are living and breathing science fair projects around here.  It is at the end of the month.  Little Red Ridinghood (8) is doing rainbows (a research project), Tom Sawyer (9) is doing volcanoes, and Goldilocks is testing the question "Which dog toy is toughest?".  Boomer is LOVING being her assistant.  LOL  We are about half-way done.


Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Wrap-Up ~ A Good Week

We had a pretty good week, although there were a lot of doctor appointments, which made the week a bit hectic.  However, we got most of our planned schooling done, plus some extras.
  1. Tom Sawyer has been very creative with Legos.  This week one of his creations was a rock band. 
  2. What happens when I let our oldest go off to play sports with his friends?  He comes home bloody.
  3. We went to Science Wow at our local science museum and learned all about probability.  The lessons were taught game-show style.  Everyone got to play and win a prize.
  4. We celebrated the end of our study of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln with a Strawberry Soiree.  Mary Todd and Abe Lincoln loved to eat strawberries and holding a soiree was their favorite way to entertain.  We had strawberries with homemade chocolate sauce, spinach and strawberry salad, meatballs, potato chips, homemade strawberry juice, and strawberry yogurt.  The kids also read their Civil War reports to Daddy.

    Here is another view of Tom Sawyer's Lego creation.
    In yesterday's entry, I said I'd talk about the dentist and living grain free.  I never imagined that avoiding corn at the dentist would be such an ordeal!  We love our dentist.  He and his staff do a great job of meeting my kids' special needs.  I explained Tom Sawyer's allergies and told them I was especially concerned about avoiding corn.  They started reading labels on all of their products.  After more than 30 minutes of phone calls to toothpaste companies, Internet searches, and digging through their storage closet, a plan was devised.  They brushed his teeth with ground up volcanic ash (pumice)!!  It was the only thing they had without corn in it.  They also had to use the infant fluoride and special gloves that had not been dusted with cornstarch (many food items and products are dusted with cornstarch to prevent sticking).  It was a big ordeal.  It is now in his records, so no one will have to go through this again.
    To see more great Friday Wrap-Ups, please join Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers and Homegrown Learners.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real ~ Living a Grain-Free Life

For those who are new here ~ My son is allergic to ALL grains.  He is also allergic to most nuts, soy and a few other individual things.  In my opinion, the hardest thing to avoid is corn.  It is in everything from Pledge Dusting Spray to 80% of food you can buy in the store (according to our doctors).  Even processed food that has no corn in it likely was put on a conveyor belt sprinkled with cornstarch to keep it from sticking to the belt. Tomorrow I will be talking about going to the dentist with a corn allergy.  However, today I am celebrating food and learning how to eat grain free.

Pretty ~
I made Chicken Fingers recently.  They came out so pretty.  I took chicken breasts and dipped them in tapioca flour, then egg, then smashed potato chips.  Then I browned them in oil and baked them in the oven.  Yummy!

My son really missed bread of some kind.  I did find a bagel in our health food store that he loves made out of tapioca flour.  However, it is almost $8 for 6 bagels!  That is a bit steep for me to buy on a weekly basis.  Thus, I was happy when I found this recipe.  I have trouble leaving recipes alone so I use tapioca flour instead of the potato starch and only a 1/4 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.  My son loves this and I can use it for pancakes or sandwich bread.

Funny ~
As I said before, I tend to do my own thing with recipes.  Funnily enough, my husband often says he will never get the same dish twice, since his wife won't remember what she put in it last time.  Due to my son's allergies, I have been forced to follow recipes more closely in recent months.  It is so easy to ruin dishes when you are using all of these strange, unforgiving, grain-free flours.  Most people say you throw away a ton while learning grain-free cooking.  I simply can not afford to do that.  Unfortunately, I did have to throw away a batch of homemade jelly beans the other day.  I don't know if my kids will have jelly beans for Easter this year (even the organic, corn-free ones are shook in confectionery sugar, which has cornstarch in it, to keep them from sticking).  It must be possible since they sell the molds.  There was a time when I thought marshmallows were impossible, but now I can whip them up without any trouble.

Real ~
Almost everything has to be made from scratch, and I mean EVERYTHING.  We make our own fruit roll- ups, marshmallows, bread products, whip cream, ice cream and Feingold simple syrup (to replace corn syrup).  Now I need to learn how to make vanilla extract, since even organic is made with corn whiskey, as all extracts are!  I just made raspberry syrup for pancakes and ice cream.  It came out a bit thin but tastes great.

Please join Like Mother, Like Daughter for more great entries.