Monday, August 24, 2015

Our field trip to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden

We recently took a little field trip with some friends to the Umlauf Sculpture Garden.  Drew and I have been talking about going to this fun place for years, but just have never made it out to visit.  But, with all of the other fun things to do around Austin, it just hasn't made it on our schedule during the weekends.  When I found out recently that admission was free through August, I decided a field trip before the end of the month was definitely in order.  So, we let some of our friends in our homeschool co-op know, and some of them decided they also wanted to visit.  It was officially a field trip.    It was a gorgeous day, and we even got a little much needed rain at the beginning of our visit there.  Because of the wonderful rain, we decided to start out inside.

The Umlauf has some fun activities for kids to complete for both the indoor exhibits and in the garden.   This was wonderful, as it kept their interest in the sculptures for a much longer duration than it may have otherwise.  For example, in the indoor exhibit, they ask specific questions about some of the exhibits.  To get the answer, you must find the exhibit and inspect it.  Question 1 was, "Remember Eve from the Bible?  She was Adam's wife and Cain and Abel's mother.  The sculpture shows her before she eats from the Tree of Knowledge.  What is in her hand?"  Then, there was a connect the dots activity on the page which revealed the answer (in this case, an apple.)  After they completed each of the activities on the scavenger hunt sheet, they received a special sticker.

Here are some of the kids inside, completing the indoor scavenger hunt activity sheet:
Then, it was time to begin our scavenger hunt in the garden.  The garden was gorgeous.

The kids began closely inspecting the statues after checking them off on their scavenger hunt sheet.  Hmmm...what is this statue doing?  Of course, the boys' first thought was that perhaps the statue was about to use the restroom. 

Oh, okay.  Maybe the statue is diving.

The outdoor statues could be touched, thankfully, because the kids wanted to touch them all.   It was all part of the learning experience.

And although it was a sculpture park, they found many wonderful distractions along our walk.  Of course they wanted to build a little mountain on the trail.

And you know what question the kids asked about each statue?  I am going to be honest--" think he is pooping?"  Sorry.

Abbey wanted me to take a picture of her in front of the statue.  I think others may be investigating the possibility of whether the statue is about to poop.

 And you know what they are discussing here.  They ARE little kids.  ;-)  But don't worry, us moms did our best to provide some education to the kids on what the statues actually represented.

Here, Luke was using his sense of touch and determined the statue was likely made of stone:

And then they were off on the trail!  Running...

 and climbing and balancing...

Abbey wanted to help the youngest of the bunch along...

I'm not sure why she is holding his arm instead of his hand, but it's still sweet.  You can see some of the boys climbing over the stones--they have found the top of a little waterfall.  And little Grace is right there with all the big kids as well

  And this is where the kids spent the rest of our visit at the garden:  

They were thoroughly checking this "waterfall" out. 

Abbey enjoyed throwing small items in from the top and watching them make their way to the bottom.

And when Luke finds a stream of flowing water, the first thing he usually wants to do after throwing a couple of rocks in is build a dam.  And that is what he and his friends did:

We finished our visit at the waterfall.  But, before we left, we somehow were able to get them all to sit on a little bench and then we snapped a couple of photos.

Here is their "silly face" picture.  Their sweet face picture is at the top of this post.

 It was a lot of fun.  The kids enjoyed the "hiking"part so much, that us moms discussed taking another hiking adventure soon at one of my favorite local museums that also has outdoor artwork:  Laguna Gloria.  They have free admission on Tuesdays, and we are planning that soon for the fall.  I love homeschooling.  And, it's fun to get to learn right alongside my kids.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Just a Swingin'

With all the big live oaks surrounding us in our new home, I knew that one project had to be added to our list soon after we moved here:  a tree swing!

It has been pushed pretty far down on the list in priority.  But after I finished the kitchen table and Abbey's mirror recently, I was able to convince Drew that this fun project could be completed quickly next.  So, on one weekend morning, we got started.

We used the tree swing plans on the Lowe's Canada website:  

We had wood leftover from a previous project, so Drew just used the Lowe's plan and glued to cut pieces together.

He made sure to sand it well, so the two pieces went together seamlessly.

After researching and looking at so many different plans, we decided this looked the most simple and would be great for our tree.  We decided to put it in our front yard, because it is one of our favorite places to hang out (I know, I need to do a "my favorite spaces" post, because it has been a while).  We followed the directions exactly, however, we still ended up with too little of rope once we made the recommended cuts.  We should have added at least of foot of rope for each side.  After paying $14 for the rope, I didn't want to go back to the store and have to buy another $14 worth of rope.  So, we decided to relocate the rope to a different tree that had a thinner branch, thus giving us more rope slack.   This location is actually ideal and is our favorite spot for the swing.  However,with the limb being smaller than our original plan, the swing is probably geared more towards children.   The branch definitely sways a bit when an adult uses the swing.  I tried it anyway though, and it is SO. MUCH. FUN.  So, we have decided to modify it to be able to go back to the original spot so adults can enjoy it too.   Or, we may just spend another $14 on some rope and buy some more wood to make another swing for adults.  I am fine with either as long as I get to swing.  :-)  It really is so much fun!

Here are a few pictures of Luke and Abbey enjoying it.

While Luke can swing all by himself, Abbey needed a little push.  So, big brother came to assist.  He loves to make her laugh. 
Daddy was pushing her from behind in this photo--and was also making her giggle.
While they were waiting to take turns, I decided to snap some photos of each child.  The sun was setting and thus the lighting was just gorgeous, so I felt like it was required that I take more photos!  

Goodness I love these kids!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Our First Stop Motion Movie

With my love of photography and videography, I have been wanting to attempt to create a stop motion movie with Luke and Abbey's assistance for a while.  I just knew it would require lots of patience, so I was waiting for the perfect time.  I figured it would be a great learning opportunity for both of them.  Recently, on a day I felt the patience was there, I gave Luke and Abbey each a task of coming up with a storyline.  Once they did so, we decided to use Abbey's storyline first (hers was a little less complicated) and create our first stop motion movie.  We decided to use Legos, since they are pretty easy to pose and are just so cool.  (We all love Legos at our house).

At first, I couldn't find a piece of my tripod.  This meant that I had to attempt to hold the camera as still as possible and tell Abbey and Luke when to move the different pieces.  When I say "as still as possible," it means I couldn't move at all--during any of the shots.  In stop motion, you take hundred of shots for just even a short movie.  Remember when I spoke of patience early in this post?  Well, patience went out the window and we had to quit the project.  We came back inside (we were shooting the photos outside), had a snack, and then I miraculously found that other piece of the tripod.  I say miraculously, because I had looked everywhere before we originally went outside to shoot. After I lost the patience with the first go around, I went to the Lord in prayer that he would help me keep my patience, and that I would be kind and loving in my tone towards the kids.  Then, as we were all happy and calm, I found the piece I was missing!  That was totally God's doing. He gave me a test--watched me fail as I attempted it on my own.  Then, drew me back to himself.  As I drew near, repented and asked for his help, he then allowed me to find the missing piece.  So, I set the tripod up, and we started all over on our project.  It went really well and was super easy.

After we took all the photos, it was time to put them into the form of a movie.  There are actually a lot of stop-motion movie software apps you can download for your Ipad.  Here is a link that discusses eight great stop-motion apps for your Ipad:  Lego also has a free one called, "Lego Movie Maker."  These apps are great because they allow the kids the ability to create the entire movie from start to finish all by themselves.  They are very user friendly. However, most don't allow the ability of adding your own choice in sounds, including your own voice.  So, I knew that I wanted to use Adobe Premier Pro for ours this time.  We downloading some free sounds and also made our own using a voice recording app I downloaded on my smartphone.  And, without further adieu, here is our first stop motion movie.  It is a Lego stop motion movie titled, "Little Racer." It's not much, but it is our first attempt and we had fun doing it.

Now, we are excited to try to turn Luke's storyline into a stop motion movie.  

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Five in a Row with "Lentil"

We had so much fun "rowing" Lentil recently, that I just had to document it in the form of a blog post.  When I use the word, "rowing," I am referring to the "Five in a Row" curriculum term, which basically means reading a specific classic book each day for five days in a row.  On each of the days, we make the book and its many concepts come to life by doing fun activities together.

Recently, we read "Lentil".  In the book, the vocally challenged Lentil finds his mantra through the harmonica and ends up saving the day with it.  That is a very brief synopsis, but the book actually had so many different interesting and fun pieces to it.  A quick search on pinterest and several other sites (including gave me a plethora of ideas for activities to complete with the kids while we rowed the book.  We have actually even extended our "rowing" beyond the five days, because we have enjoyed this book so much.

On the first day, I got out my harmonica for the kids to try out.  This was a huge hit!  The kids loved it, which excited me since I have a huge love for music and musical instruments.  My plan was to take them to a music store and let them try out various instruments to see if there was anything they would have an interest in playing (whether now or in the future).  In the book, Lentil plays the harmonic in the bathtub, because it improved the tone 100% (discussion of the 100% was a great opportunity to do activities that taught the kids about percentage).   Abbey decided to try out the harmonica in the bathtub, to see if the tone really was significantly improved.

Then, we made that trip to the music store.  The employees measured Abbey and Luke's arm lengths to see which violin would be appropriate for them to try out.  The violin for Abbey was the tiniest one they make, and looked like it was a toy for a baby doll.  It was adorable.  And then they showed Abbey how to hold it.  Oh. My. Goodness.  It was the most precious thing ever.  All of the employees in the store were saying with a "how sweet" tone in their voices, "Awwwwwww" when they saw her holding the tiny violin. And honestly, the violin didn't look tiny when she held it.  It looked just her size.  I guess the measuring thing is done for a reason--ha!  Here is a video of her playing the little violin.  They didn't have any used bows that they would let her use, so she just used her fingers to pluck the strings.


We didn't buy a violin while we were there--that thing was $400!   But, I did look for used ones on craigslist when I returned home and found I could probably pick one up for a quarter of that cost!  Now, I will just wait to see if Abbey shows more interest in learning and can take care of one appropriately.    Although we didn't purchase any musical instruments, I did pick up a beginning Alfred's basic piano book, so I can give Luke piano lessons.  These are the same books I learned on when I was a child.  I was going to seek out a private teacher to give Luke piano lessons, but then I figured, why pay someone else to teach him when I can do so for free.  So, that is what we are doing.   I feel strongly that music is vital to their education.  So many studies have shown the numerous values of a musical education and playing musical instruments--including studies which show its value in math.  The link between the physical practice of music and strong mathematical abilities are demonstrated in studies that show that kids who play a musical instrument can perform more complex arithmetical operations than those who do not play an instrument. The constant practice, the attention to detail and the discipline it takes to learn an instrument are also excellent preparation for the practice involved in building strong math skills.

Art was another fun subject we got to tackle with our reading of "Lentil."  The artwork in the book is very cool and was completely created by using charcoal.  So, we had some fun experimenting using charcoal.  We also learned about charcoal's earliest uses in cave art (believed to be created using burnt sticks) and how its made.

 In the book, a grumpy older character, "Old Sneep" is usually seen sitting on a park bench whittling.  So, the next day, we practiced "whittling" with some soap.  I purchased some cheap soap for Luke, Abbey and I to practice on.

We began by drawing on the soap the outline of what we wished to whittle.

Abbey chose the flower.
Luke chose the fish, and I chose the penguin.  As you can see on this picture,  Abbey and I were not as successful as Luke--ha!
It was very difficult to whittle with the soap I bought, as it was extremely soft and broke easily.  The technique that Abbey and I chose involved sticking our knife right into the outline of the design and then attempt to pry the outside soap off.  Abbey learned in her first jab that that didn't work.  Her flower fell apart into pieces with her first jab of the knife.  You would have thought I would have learned from that, but I didn't.   I didn't think it out as well as Luke did.  But Luke is so good at building and creating things.  His mind works so well with these activities.  He patiently whittled away the soap, slowly working his way from the outside of the soap bar towards the outline of the fish.

He was the only one successful at the task at hand.

Patience pays, folks.

From left to right:  penguin (with sad wings which fell off but I pressed back on), flower, and fish. 
In the book, old Sneep sucks on a lemon and it makes those around him pucker--the band couldn't even play their instruments because they were puckering.  But, Lentil wasn't able to pucker, so he stepped in and saved the day by playing his harmonica as the town hero arrived and stepped off the train.  So, the kids and I did a lesson on taste buds.  Did you know that we have 10,000 taste buds on our tongue?  Every two weeks, old ones are replaced.  As we age, some of those taste buds are not replaced.  Thus, some older folks may have only 5,000 taste buds.  Kids are great at regenerating things, so almost all have 10,000 taste buds.  This is why often kids have stronger senses of taste than older adults do.  We also learned about how taste and smell are so closely connected.  And, of course we learned about the four different tastes:  bitter, salty, sour, sweet.  The kids had lots of fun with this one.  We tried different foods that fell into each of the categories.

We also plugged our noses and tasted different foods to see if it made a difference in how it tasted.
Luke tasting sweet applesauce with his nose plugged.

Abbey tasting a sour lemon.
We also did a fun exercise about our communities.  In this activity, we discussed and drew pictures of our family, our house, our city, our county, our state, our country, our continent and our planet.  This gave Luke (who did this activity) a great sense of how we are part of something much bigger.   As a kid, community seems like something so much smaller.

We had a blast with Lentil (and still are), so we are renewing this library book!   

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Projects, Projects, Projects

The past week has been very successful in getting some big things on my enormous to-do list checked off. We organized our garage about a month ago or so (that was a big thing on our to-do list).  However, there were a few things in the garage that still needed to be addressed in order to have a fully clean, organized garage.  First, I had purchased a table a month or so after we moved into our home.  My intent was to remove the nasty seafoam green paint on the top of the table, sand it, stain it, and then refinish the beige-painted pedestal base by painting it with Annie sloan chalk paint.  With two kids though (that are home all the time) and many, many other projects on our list that were a bit higher priority, I had to refinish the table in pieces, as time permitted.  Well, that table had been sitting in our garage for the past few months and was sort of annoying in the amount of space it took up.  In addition, when we lived at our previous home I had purchased an old but cool antique mirror form someone on craigslist for $10, with the intention of repainting it for Abbey's room.  I have been waiting until I believed Abbey would appreciate it.  So, that too has been sitting in our garage.  And lastly, after we moved there were several things we no longer needed, that I intended on selling.  In addition, there were many items that had collected into a "donation" pile.   I got on a roll last week and finally finished the table, cleaned, painted and waxed the mirror, and got rid of all of the extra things in our garage (sold and donated)! 

I am excited about how the table turned out and am thrilled to share the before and after photos.  First, I wish I had a photo of what our previous table looked like in our current kitchen dining space.  The table is one that Drew had as a bachelor.  It was a nice table, but it is the one piece of furniture of his that I really didn't like when we combined furniture upon marriage.  All of our other furniture went so well together...then there was that table.  I call it the "big, orange table."   Reluctantly, I sold my cute table (Drew thinks I remember the table being cuter than it actually was) that I had in my kitchen when we got married, and we moved his big orange table into the space.  It didn't look terrible in the space, so I was okay with it being there temporarily (this was in 2008).  Then, in the summer of 2009, we moved into a new home.  It was the first home we purchased together.   We both agreed that the table didn't work in our kitchen dining area.
Here is the big orange table in our old kitchen. There was not much space to get around it.
It was much too large and didn't match any of our other furniture style.  However, we thought we would just wait until we got settled into the home and figured out what we wanted.  Then, we would list it on craiglist and look for a new (to us), used table.  But, kids were born, life got busy, and we continued to use the big orange table.    Six years later and we were still using that table.  So, when we moved into this home, one of my first missions was to find a table that would work better in our new kitchen.  I knew exactly what I wanted.  I showed photos to Drew, who agreed on the style.  I procured the table on craigslist (for a great price).  And I dreamed about how I wanted to refinish it.
Here is the table I procured on craigslist to refinish for our current kitchen.  This photo was taken after I had begun removing the paint.
It seemed there were many layers of the blue/green paint on top!
It took a lot of elbow grease to remove that paint and stain the top.  But, I really wanted a stained top.  If I had chosen to use the Annie Sloan Chalk paint on top, I wouldn't have had to sand, scrape, prime, or anything.  Annie Sloan chalk paint is awesome for so many reasons:  you never have to prime, sand, or remove the old finish.  You paint right over it.   Also, usually, you only need one coat, so it requires so much less work than other finishing options.  All of these awesome reasons were in the back of my head as I put so much effort into refinishing the top.  It would have been so easy to just quit and paint the top.  But, I am glad I didn't.  I love how it turned out!  Here is the process I used to refinish it:

Top:  I stripped the paint, sanded, sanded and sanded.  Then, I stained it...3 times.  Unfortunately, it wasn't until after staining it, that I found some tiny bits of paint were still on the table top.  They were difficult to see on the unfinished top before staining.  So, I resanded a few areas and applied stain...again.  Then, I applied 3 coats of polyacrylic (spray--for an even coat), sanding in between coats.   Then, the rest was easy.  I ended up applying two coats of Annie Sloan chalk paint in white on all the other parts of the table (other than the top).  After that dried (it dries very quickly), I applied the Annie Sloan clear wax.  I waited 24 hours and then buffed the table.      Here are some photos of the finished product:

The brown rug is old, and temporary until we decide which rug (if any) we want there.

I found the cute metal container (centerpiece) at Ross for $4.99, then made an arrangements from some flowers I picked up in the 70% off clearance section at Michael's.  I wanted to bring in a little red since we have a lot of red elsewhere in our home.

We found the fun yellow metal chairs at TJ Maxx for $29.99, which I think is a pretty good deal!  Both Drew and I fell in love with them as soon as we saw them and knew they would be perfect!

As I was setting things up to apply the wax to the table last week, I decided, why not just bring that old mirror in and paint and wax that too.  I decided this after experiencing just how simply the Annie Sloan paint was to use and how quickly it dried.  So, one morning, I applied a couple of coats of paint to the mirror after cleaning it up.  Then, I waxed our table while the mirror dried.  Then, after I completed waxing the table, the paint was already dry on the mirror, so I waxed the mirror. 

Later that day, after buffing the waxed mirror, I applied some hanging rings to the back of the mirror and hung it in Abbey's room.  She was so excited!  That girl loves fashion.  She often tries outfits on and eagerly runs to our standing mirror (in our master bedroom) to check herself out.  So, I know she will love this new mirror.

Here is what the mirror looked like before painting. 


I actually liked the color, but it definitely wouldn't have worked in Abbey's room.  Plus, I was concerned about the paint being lead-based, since it is a really old mirror. 

Here is the refinished mirror, hung in Abbey's room.

another photo of the mirror....with Abbey photo bombing.  :-)

Here is the rest of Abbey's room.

The mirror works perfectly in there.  Also, it makes her room feel larger and more open.  It is crazy that simply hanging a big mirror can make the room feel that much larger! 

By the time the weekend was over, everyone had picked up the items we had for sale, and we had donated the other items.   (Except for our big orange table--that is still for sale and is currently in our front living room (which will eventually be a reading room).  If you know of anyone who is interested in a nice, solid wood table, it is for sale!)   Our garage is now organized and rid of the extra items we no longer need.  Also, we started on another fun project--a tree swing!   Hopefully we will have pictures of that fun project soon, when it is complete!