Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A dream come true!

For a long time now, I have been dreaming of a designated space for the kids to do school. I have been struggling for 2 years doing school either in the floor or at the kitchen table. Granted, sometimes the floor is the perfect place to do work, but the kitchen table sucked! I would always have to clear off school stuff in order to feed these little twerpos! I have been trying to convince Big Daddy for some time now that we should turn our "formal living" room into a library / school room. He has been very resistant to this, not wanting the first room that you see when you walk into our house to look like a preschool. I can get that to a certain extent, but at this point, I am more interested in function than anything. This is a room that is rarely used, wasted space really. And I wasn't planning to have chalkboards and tiny little desks with plastic chairs, I wanted some nice bookshelves and a couple of desks and still keep our couch and end tables, more of a home office / library feel.

Anyway, my dreams came true last weekend, Big Daddy finally caved to my pestering and since the bookshelves I wanted were $30 off, it was time to move forward! He built 3 bookshelves and fastened them to the wall to keep the Piggle from pulling them down on her head. Then we went back a couple of days later and purchased two desks, one for each side of the bookshelf. Now the Monkey Man will have a workspace and the other desk will house the computer. It is looking great and we did school for the first time yesterday in our new room and it was AWESOME!! His school books are now stored right next to his desk, he has plenty of room to spread out and I didn't have to clear everything off for lunch! Woohoo!

I just figured since we are probably going to be in this house for at least the next 2-3 years (or maybe forever with this economy) that I better take advantage of any space we have available! And besides, it's not like we are entertaining diplomats here on a weekly basis, the only people that come in are family and friends and most of our friends are homeschoolers as well, so they totally get it. I am feeling such a sense of relief, this space feels warm and inviting, like I want to spend more time in here, it's so nice! The only downside is the Piggle deciding she wants to take every book off the shelf everyday! I am hoping that the newness wears off soon and she won't be so apt to do that! We'll see.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Those of you that have been following along know that this summer was my first bonafide attempt at a vegetable garden in Central Texas. It has been several months of hard work, great joy, and extreme frustration! I have learned that bell peppers don't do so well, yet jalapenos thrive. I have watched beautiful little seedling squash emerge only to see the whole crop wiped out by squash borers (evil little beasties!). I have had days where I got 3 tiny tomatoes and other days where I picked upward of 30. It has been a crazy ride! My main goal with this garden was to get a few tomatoes, some squash, some peppers, a few cantaloupes and now I am hoping for at least 2 pumpkins. I wanted to show my children how plants grow and where food comes from. I wanted them to see the different types of bugs, pests and beneficials. I wanted my son to feel a sense of accomplishment everytime he ate a fresh tomato. So, we may not have had the best harvest ever, after all, it's been 3 months since we've seen a drop of rain, so ANYTHING we got was a success, but this garden has been a wonderful learning experience for all of us. If hadn't been for this garden, we would never have found Ernie the Tomato Hornworm and we would have never had that amazing experience of raising a gorgeous moth!

The main downside of the garden was the damn squash! EVERY single time I planted squash, it got hit and destroyed by borers. But for some reason, one of the last bunch I planted has managed to keep it going. I'm pretty sure it has some borer infestation, but it keeps growing, the same thing has happened with the pumpkin vine. Anyway, long story short, I noticed last week that the zucchini was starting to put on and I was thrilled! So this morning when I went out, I was able to harvest my first squash!! I am so excited, it is a beautiful golden zucchini and I am sure it will be lovely in calabacitas for dinner tonight! So... as long as I end up with at least 2 pumpkins, I will call this garden a semi-success and hope for better harvests in my winter garden!

My pumpkin and squash vines, oh my!

Crazy, out of control tomato vine!

Baby pumpkin!

The first squash...

Harvested! Can't wait to eat it!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Bathroom etiquette

So I really didn't mean to have my mind in the toilet today, but it just seems like the topic won't go away! I took the Monkey Man over to my friend Amy's house for our weekly science co-op. As we were about to load up in the car to go home, I am informed by the Monkey Man that he needs to poop. Such impeccable timing! So we went back in and I helped Amy clean up a little more while the boy did his thing. He finishes, we say our good-byes and out the door we go. Well about 6 blocks after we left I thought to ask him if he had flushed. To which I was told, much to my great horror, that he had not! Seriously!?!?! I am at my wits end here! For months I have gently reminded him to flush, I have yelled at him to flush, I have threatened to take toys away if he doesn't flush, but NOTHING seems to make an impact! So, at this moment, his is in the kitchen writing, "I will flush when I poop." twenty-six times. Then I'm going to make him write an apology to Amy for dropping a deuce in her crapper and not flushing! I am wondering if this will have any impact whatsoever on his actions. I guess only time will tell. But I swear, if I open up the toilet one more time to find an unflushed present, I may have to give him a swirly!

Things that make you go hmmmmm....

So does this mean pink for the girls and blue for the boys?!? Yes! That would actually be so very cool because we girls DO NOT like sharing port-a-potties with boys! It is beyond disgusting! I think in general, if it involves boys and bathrooms it is just gross, I should know, I live with two boys and I'm the one that cleans the bathrooms! To give mine credit, they are nowhere near as nasty as most, but they are still messier than girls. I mean you know boys must be bad when my hubby REFUSES to take the Monkey Man into any public men's room unless he has no other choice! And if he does have to take him into one, the child is immediately slathered in Purell upon leaving! I have luckily never been inside a public men's room and I am thankful, but I HAVE been in co-ed port-a-potties. So... upon seeing these port-a-potties (they call them Honey-Buckets here, which is sick and wrong in its own special way), I am whole-heartedly in support of port-a-potty segregation!

More photos... critter edition!

Edmontosaurus (we went to the Dino Land exhibit this week... too cool!)


Zen with koi

Local egret

Ruffled pigeon

My latest photographic efforts... the flower edition

I have taken the kids all over the place the past couple of weeks and although I always take a million pictures of my kids, I have tried to take photos of other stuff as well. I am working really hard to hone some skills as I have several folks that are wanting me to take family photographs and stuff. I recently took product photos for a friend of mine and that was fun and they look GREAT on her website. I really enjoy photography and would LOVE to make a living doing that. It's one of the few things I could work around my busy, homeschooling mom schedule. So here are some of my latest... let me know what you think!

Water lilies

A rose is a rose...


Inner hibiscus

If only all things in life could be this radiant!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Testing, testing...

I have been trying to post some photos on my other blog for the past two days and not having any luck. So I thought I would try this blog and see if it works. If it does, you will be seeing the lovely mammoth that I painted while my children and I explored our inner cave-people last week. Now that we have finished with the death of the dinosaurs, it is off to the Ice Ages and the Stone Age and the dawn of mankind. FUN!

Mama's mammoth

OK, it worked... weird!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Emergence of Ernie!

We came home yesterday afternoon after running some errands to find something marvelous in our kitchen. Ernie the caterpillar, who became Ernie the naked pupa, was now Ernie the 5-spotted Hawkmoth! He was on the side of his tupperware enclosure resting and drying his wings. He is GORGEOUS! I took a couple of quick pictures, then decided to leave him be, they tend to be very delicate right after emergence and I didn't want to stress him. When we got up this morning, his wings were dry and he was moving about some. I took a couple of photos then took him upstairs to the Monkey Man's room. We shut the door (so if he escaped he be more easily recaptured) and I got Ernie out of the enclosure. He was still very mellow and crawled around on my hand. Both kids were mesmerized by him! I took some photos and allowed the Monkey Man to hold him for a minute. This moth has very drab wings, but his body is amazing, black and gray and white with bright orange spots (5 on each side of course). I had hoped to be able to keep him to show my science co-op on Wed. But my expert from Canada, Mr. Oehlke says that he will need to nectar and trying to do that artificially is very hard. So we can keep Ernie for the rest of today, but we must release him tomorrow night at the latest, which is pretty ironic being that tomorrow night it the full moon. Crazy how living things are so in tune with the world around them. His pupation and emergence were perfectly coincided with the full moon. Wow!

This has been a wonderful experience for the entire family. Watching something go from a big fat, bright-green caterpillar, then change into this weird, brown alien-looking thing, then into a gorgeous 2-1/2 inch moth was so amazing! I think what impressed me the most was the actual chrysalid. I examined it when I removed it from the enclosure. It was so light and delicate! It was hard, yet very, very thin and it's almost impossible for me to explain what it felt like, maybe like Celophane but not as flexible. How completely incredible that such a HUGE transformation happens inside something so completely fragile! Anyway, here are some photos of Ernie the 5-spotted Hawkmoth! And any of you out there that doubted my reasons for keeping him can now look at the amazing creature he turned into. Pest or not, he is something to behold!

Monday, September 08, 2008

This says it all really...

Ernie makes some changes

As you all probably remember, I took in a LARGE tomato horntail caterpillar after finding him raping and pillaging through my tomato vine. And I'm sure you all wondered why in the world I would take in such a hideous, destructive beast and the answer was... good science! As a homeschooling mother you have to take any opportunity you get to teach your child something! And what a wonderful opportunity to have a science project pretty much dropped in my lap!

I did alot of research and came across an amazing man in Canada who raises silkmoths and has one of the most comprehensive sites on Sphingidae and Saturnidae moths. Please see: http://www.silkmoths.bizland.com/danjansphinx.htm if you are interested in learning more about these amazing creatures. Anyway, after contacting Bill, I was told to put the caterpillar in an airtight container with foliage for him to eat. I was to change out the foliage every other day. The first couple of days, Ernie ate like a beast, and pooped like a beast, then one morning I opened the container and there was this stiff, slightly brown, dehydrated looking thing. Well, Ernie was obviously a goner! I contacted Bill and he said to poke it to make sure. Well, I was pulling out the tomato leaves and one brushed up against Ernie and that thing flailed around the cookie tin like it was possessed by the devil! I almost crapped myself! I'm not really squeamish when it comes to bugs, but when you're pretty sure something is dead and it flips out, it has a tendency to unnerve you a bit! At that point, I removed all the foliage, put in a clean paper towel and closed his lid. We checked on him once a day and within two days he had fully pupated into what is called a "naked" pupa and left a big wad of dry shedded skin, much like a snake. I left him alone for a few days, then I transferred him per Bill into a deep Tupperware container layered with damp paper towels, bubble wrap and dry paper towels. We are hoping he emerges within the next 4-5 weeks, otherwise, I will have to make special preparation for him to "overwinter" in my refrigerator! Ugh! That damn thing better emerge! Last thing I need is a pupated caterpillar in my fridge all winter!

Oh well... I just have to keep telling myself, "Great science, great science, great science!"