Welcome to TwoCowgirls, the blog about our crazy life in Downtown Saint Paul!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012: A Very Relaxing Christmas

This was the Christmas I'd been wishing for for years!  In the years past, we have spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day running around from party to party, exhausting the kids, exhausting ourselves, running on a very tight schedule, and breathing a big sigh of relief when it was all over.

This year was a bit different.  Buds side of the family was out of town for Christmas, so we celebrated with them two weeks early.  My sister worked on Christmas weekend, so we celebrated with my family a week early.

All that early celebrating left us with four days of simple family time.  It was relaxing, not stressful, and blissful.  Here's what we did:

Saturday we cleaned the house and relaxed.  I had to go out and brave the crowds at JoAnn fabrics.  The store wasn't too crowded, but traffic getting there was really bad!  That'll teach me to do last minute shopping!  We just hung out at home after that, and had a movie-a-thon in the evening (Muppet Christmas Carol and Elf), and ate pizza in front of the TV.

Sunday we picked up Kinsey and headed over to Great Grandma Lenore's house for dinner and a small Christmas party.  On the way home, we swung through the drive through at Byerlys and picked up the groceries I had ordered ahead of time online.  Talk about avoiding the last minute rush!

Monday, Christmas Eve, we slept in, went ice skating, went out to dinner (I'd never been out to eat on Christmas Eve before!).  On the way out of the restaurant, Elise said "Berry Cwistmas, everybody!"  It was so cute!  She got quite a happy response from the other restaurant goers.  We then came home and baked cookies.  After we ate cookies, read the story of Christmas by candle light, and called the relatives to wish them a Merry Christmas, we let the kids open the gifts under the tree (gifts from us to them, and to each other).  The kids were eager to get to bed at a decent hour, so they'd be asleep when Santa arrived!  I love Christmas Eve after the kids are in bed!  We bring up all the Santa gifts, open up a bottle of wine, put a movie in, and wrap until the wrapping is done.  So much fun!

Christmas day the kids woke up and tore into their stockings while Bud and I slept in.  When we woke up, the girls opened their Santa gifts.  Elise's favorite was a makeup kit (that Santa thought was fake makeup, but wasn't!).  Millie's two favorite gifts were a Lego set and Pocahontas doll. Kinsey came over around 1ish.  I worked in the kitchen, slaving over a yule log.  Seriously.  It took 6 hours to make.  I'm NEVER doing that again ;)  I also made stew.  Mmmm.  We just hung out, chit chatted, and ate.  It was a fantastic day.

The night is still young (sort of)!  Bud and I are going to watch Miracle on 34th Street before calling it a night.

                          Merry Christmas!

                         Check out what other homeschool families were doing this Christmas, here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Service Project 4 - Humane Society

Today we stopped by the Humane Society with gifts for the animals.

I'd never been to a Humane Society before.  I was really surprised at how clean and unscented it was.  The place was crawling with volunteers playing with, brushing, and petting the animals.

I didn't think we'd actually be able to get up close and personal with the animals, but the staff and volunteers were so awesome, they let the kids get right in there and pet and play with the cats and dogs.

I fell in love with a black cat named Ebony.  She was so sweet!

Included in our gift basket were pig ears, dog biscuits, wet cat food, balls with bells for the cats, hay, and special waffle shaped treats.  The girls also stuffed toilet paper tubes with hay to give to the small and furry animals.

The Humane Society has a list of suggested service projects that we could do.  I'd love to do a few more projects throughout the year!  Millie has already requested that we go back.  SOON.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Service Project 3 - Bell Ringing

This was year 5 of ringing the bell for the Salvation Army!  We always ring on the skyway level in Downtown above Macys.

We started doing it after I heard a story about my Grandma's childhood.  Her family was a poor Italian immigrant family living in a place called "the levee".  Eventually the levee was forced to be evacuated and the place was burned down because of the poor living conditions.  Anyhow, it came out at a family members funeral that if the Salvation Army hadn't been around, the children in her family wouldn't have had a Christmas at all.  So, now I like to "give back" by ringing the bell once per year.

I must say, the girls charm people into dropping lots of bills into the kettle!  They sang, handed out candy canes, danced, and just looked cute.  We had a few $20's, a few $5's, lots of $1's, and barely any change.  Good work, ladies!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Two Cowgirls Preschool - Letter M

I can tell that the season is making me really lazy.  We only did preschool one day this week.  It's very possible that next weeks lessons will be replaced with snowy, wintery, Christmas fun and service projects.

Here's what we did this week:

We read The Tomten and the Fox.  It was not my favorite, but the illustrations are super.  After that, Elise practiced writing the letter M. When we were done with that, we got on to the really fun stuff!  We went outside and gathered a cup of snow (full to the rim).  While the snow was melting, Elise practiced cutting.  When she was done, the snow was melted, and we got to see how little water there is, in fact, in a cup of snow.  It was pretty cool to observe.

That's it!  See how lazy I've been??

Here's what else we did this week:

The girls had skating lessons on Tuesday, and got to spend day with Grandma, Anna, and Kinsey, who were in town. Thursday, Elise was supposed to be in the Ballet Minnesota production of The Nutcracker, but she chickened out at the last minute.  She was already in costume and everything!  She was deathly afraid of the "rats".  So, we watched from the audience instead.  It was a fantastic production.  Next year I want to do a week long unit study about it.  Friday, cousins Ben and Patrick came over and swam for a bit.

And, just because Elise likes to challenge me, today she stated that her favorite subject is Physics.  Guess what my LEAST favorite subject is!  Oh boy.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Two Cowgirls Preschool - Letter H

We have officially wrapped up the Harvest Time session of the Wee Folk Art preschool curriculum.  It was so amazing, I can't possibly give it enough praise.  Be sure to check it out!!  Now that Winter is here, we're starting up the Winter Wonderland session.  Here's what we did this week:

Day 1:

Today we started working on the letter H, using Jan Brett alphabet printables.  We also read the book Snowballs by Lois Ehlert.  The book is really simple, but the pictures are fantastic, and we spend a lot of time talking about what we found on each page.  When we were done with our "book work", Elise started a science project.  Since we're learning about snow, we decided to make "snow crystals".  Here's how:

First, gather supplies.  You'll need:
 - 2 small jars (the ones I used are about a cup each)
 - Yarn about the length of your arm
 - 2 paper clips
 - Cups (enough to fill up both jars)
 - About 6 tablespoons of baking soda
 - Plate
Once you have everything, heat up the water in the microwave until it's boiling.  Of course, you'll do this part, and make sure your tot doesn't touch the hot water ;)  Once it's good and hot, pour it into the 2 jars.  Spoon in about 3 tablespoons into each jar and mix it up.  Tie a paperclip onto each end of the yarn and place one end into each jar.  Place the plate between the jars.  Droop the yarn so it's not touching the plate.  When I set this up, I rubbed the yarn with some of the water from the jar to get it started.  Leave it for a few days, and see what happens!

Day 2:

Today we read The Story of Snow by Mark Cassino and Jon Nelson, Ph.D.  This book was great, and Elise actually talked about what she learned about in the book, later in the week.  I love when she demonstrates what she learns!  After that, we took a look at our snow crystals, both with our naked eye and under the microscope.  It was pretty cool!  Both girls really enjoyed this experiment.  When that was done, we painted with water colors, then sprinkled salt over the wet paint.  I don't think it did what it was supposed to do, but we had a great time, anyways :)

What else did we do this week?

Elise did great on the ice in her new ice skates at skating lessons.  We went to the Minnesota Childrens Museum to do some art.  Elise played with clay, then played with the sensory bin.  When the kids were done there, they went and listened to a talk about rats.  On Thursday evening, we went out to the University of Minnesota physics and astronomy lab, and listened to a talk about space, then had an opportunity to look at Jupiter and its two moons through a HUGE 120 year old telescope.  It was really impressive!!  Lastly, the girls made salt dough ornaments for the relatives for Christmas.  Fun times :)

Oh, and just for fun, here's our family enjoying the first big snow of the season!!  (Actually, it's the first big snow in 2 years).

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas Service Project 2 - Forest Critters

Did you think we'd forget the forest critters??  No way!  Not with my forest critter lovin' kidlets.  :)

We strung up some cranberries and popcorn, and brought it down to the "island" at the farm.  The island is a magical place at the farm (which is really more of a peninsula than an island), where Elise has a castle made out of a fallen tree.  Her castle is complete with a kitchen, bedroom, TV, and upstairs :)  I dream of having "island school" out there next Spring.  Imagine a tent, lap desks, nature study up the wazoo, and wading in the creek...

I'm not exactly sure who will eat our popcorn and cranberry stings.  Perhaps some squirrels, mice, or birds will enjoy an early Christmas feast.

Elise is in the kitchen section of her castle
Bud is in the upstairs section of Elise's castle

I can't keep this kid out of the creek!
Check out Service Project 1: Operation Christmas Child

Friday, November 30, 2012

On the Eve of the Advent Season

'Twas the night before advent...

We took a couple minutes today to prepare for the upcoming advent season!  For Bud, I decided to make a "Husband Christmas Count down".  Tomorrow he'll pull the #1 card off the twine, and get his first Christmas surprise!!  

The girls made a Christmas count down chain for their room.

This is such an exciting time of year!  I'm looking forward to each and every fun event we have planned from now until the New Year!!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas Service Project 1 - Operation Christmas Child

In true Leslie fashion, we waited until the very last minute to turn in our shoe boxes ;)

The girls had a blast picking out items to donate to less fortunate children in other parts of the world.  We opted to donate our $7/box online, and taking advantage of the "Follow Your Box" option.  That way, we can turn this into a geography lesson when we get an email letting us know where our boxes ended up.  I'm so excited!
The girls picked out:

  • Teddy bears
  • Candy
  • Socks
  • Cups
  • Wash cloths
  • Crayons
  • Coloring books/notebooks
  • Hair accessories
  • Puzzles

Other ideas we'll take advantage of next year (don't let me forget!):
  • Fat quarters
  • Sewing scissors
  • Needles/thread
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Shoes

Monday, November 19, 2012

Two Cowgirls Preschool: Letter A

We celebrated our first snow fall with hot cocoa during circle time
Well, we are officially in "lazy preschool" mode.  I knew Christmas would "interfere" with our schedule a bit, but it's really caused me to be lazy with my preschool.  She's still learning, but there's very little structure.

Here's what we did:

We read The Very First Thanksgiving Day.  I thought this book was OK, but we both really enjoyed looking at the pictures.

We did our first service project of the year, by making placemats to be handed out to Meals on Wheels clients.  From what I hear, they really enjoy getting artwork from kids.  The girls had a blast making them!

We had a lot of outings.  The kids had ice skating lessons, a trip to Como Park for Lil' Explorers, and a visit to the Science Museum with friends.

Here's what Elise did while Millie had lessons:

Nature Study - Mice

When asked what rodent Millie wanted to study for her first nature study of the year, she chose mice.  She knew she'd have some time to herself while Elise was at a preschool event at Como Park, and that there are mice running around the tropics room.  This was quite an accomplishment for Millie.  She doesn't usually like to leave my side alone, but she was really brave last Thursday.  She spent 45 minutes exploring the tropics room at Como, talking to zoo keepers, and taking pictures.  She was quite proud of herself (and I of her!).

Anywhooo, back to the nature study.

We get all of our nature study ideas by following this blog.  I read a few passages about mice aloud to Millie from the Handbook Of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.  Then, she was set free to photograph, observe, and record info about the mice she found at Como.

Here's what she found out:

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Two Cowgirls Preschool - Letter Z

Our theme this week was "Thanksgiving".  Each morning during circle time we talked about what we were thankful for (next year, remind me to write them down and make a Thankful Tree!).  Millie read a couple cute books about Thanksgiving.  Their favorite was Mousekin's Thanksgiving.

Here's what we did this week:

Day 1:  We worked on a "Z" worksheet.  She loves tracing letters, and has now started copying the letters off her ABC board that we use during circle time (for fun, I might add!).  I'm glad she's finally taking an interest in her letters!!  We read the book Farmers Market Rounding, which was way over her head.  She liked looking at and talking about the pictures, though.  For fun, we baked soft gingerbread cookies.

Day 3:  Today Elise practiced cutting, by cutting out feathers for a turkey.  She loves cutting papers into bits, but wasn't interested in cutting along the line.  I ended up cutting out most of the feathers.  Anywhoo, she practiced writing her letters on the back, and plans to send her beautiful piece of art to her Great Grandma.  We read The Ox Cart Man.  I LOVE that  book!  So did Elise.  What a great story with beautiful illustrations!

Here's what Elise did while I was teaching Millie this week:

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I really need to up the ante our art/handcrafts/PE department.  I must pat myself on the back this week, as we covered all of them!  For art, we went to the Children's Museum art room to do a little finger painting.  Elise painted a little bit (I mean a really little bit), until she discovered the sensory bin, filled with shaving cream and gourds.  Great fun!  For handicrafts, we made wooden spoon puppets.  Last but not least, the girls started Learn To Skate.  Elise is moving around like crazy on the ice.  I'm really proud of her!!!

Most of my inspiration for this week's preschool came from Wee Folk Art.  
Find out what other homeschool families were up to last week, here!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

3rd Grade, 1st Quarter. A Review.

Jumping in the leaves at the Alexander Ramsey House

Well, we successfully completed our first quarter of 3rd grade!  At this time last year, I had the mindset that if it didn't work out, I'd put her back in school.  But now, it's become such a part of our lives, that I can't even fathom sending her back to public school.  I have threatened to send her back (please tell me I'm not the only one who's done that!), and she told me she doesn't want to go back.  Why?  Because she can spend more time on subjects she's having trouble with (fractions, for example).  I *think* it might also because she enjoys the freedom.  Anywhoo, here's what we did this year:

Grammar:  She's using Queens Language Lessons.  This curriculum has been such a blessing!  Millie used to cry daily last year when we used Bob Jones English.  It was a great program, just too intense for Millie.  Queens is much more gentle, and the lessons are shorter and to the point.

Spelling:  We're using All About Spelling.  She was really behind on her spelling, so I had to find something that had a great track record for success.  All About Spelling has been amazing!  I'm learning right along with her.  I didn't know any of the rules that we've learned so far...  Eeek.  It's great to see her building up her confidence again!

Printing:  We're not doing anything formal.  She's been using Draw Write Now, and focusing on correct printing during spelling.  I sit next to her and observe each stroke to make sure she's going it right.  I think she's almost ready to do it on her own, but she's still working on it.  It's amazing to see her progress!

Reading and Literature:  Every morning Millie reads a picture book to Elise to practice her read aloud skills.  That has improved greatly!  Plus, it's a great way for Millie to feel included when we do circle time in the morning.  I pick out story books to correspond with our weekly theme.  During Elises's preschool time, Millie reads on her own.  This quarter she read White Fang, The Secret Garden, Animal Stories, Meet Kaya, Tikta'Lictac': An Inuit Eskimo Legend, and Little Caribou.  She reads a lot on her own too.  I'm super happy that she's started reading Little House In The Big Woods!  Yay!  Each night we do a read aloud.  This quarter we've read The Birchbark House and Mary Poppins.  We're off track on our read alouds.  Boo.  We were also supposed to have read Where The Red Fern Grows, and Trouble At Fort LaPoint, but sadly we didn't get to it.  Hopefully we can pick them up later.

Math:  Still doing Saxon.  Still loving it!

Science:  One of Millie's top two favorite subjects!  We spent the whole quarter learning about plants.  We learned about and did experiments about water plants, classifying plants, plant cells and leaf structure, stems and roots, plant tissue and movement, plant food and sensitivity, biomes, and natural cycles of plants and people.

History:  Millie's second favorite subject.  We've been focusing on the study of Native Americans.  She researched and did projects based on several of the different tribes.  We used the Native Americans History Pockets and read a lot of great books.  Along with doing really cool projects from the History Pockets book, we also made hominy (holy smokes, that was quite a process!), painted rock toys like in The Birchbark House, went to the Minnesota History Museum to see the Dakota War exhibit, and set up a plains Indian village.  Millie enjoyed the study of Native American culture so much.  Now she's asking if she can buy a bison hide so she can make things out of it... Oh boy!

Info about Grandma 'Rira
Info about Grandpa Howard

Art, Nature Study, & PE:  Millie is continuing to take piano lessons.  She's playing more advanced pieces, which is really cool!  My goal was to get to the Childrens Museum to paint and do art projects once per week, which I have not succeeded at.  We only went once this quarter.  I also wanted to do more handcrafts, and we didn't really do any.  For PE, we did as much outside as we could before the cold sets in.  We went for bike rides, walks, and also swimming and she just started ice skating lessons.  And nature study?  We didn't do any.  I think I get a "D" in the art, nature study, and PE department.

Classes and Outings:  We try to get out of the house at least 2 days per week so Millie can play with her friends.  This quarter we collected acorns for Great River Greening.  It was a fun service project, but the best part was finding a fairy house at the base of a tree on our way out to the car! We went to an apple orchard to pick apples, took Jr. Ranger classes through the National Park Service where she learned about fossils and geocaching, took archery and rock climbing at the Boy Scout Base Camp, went to the Renaissance Festival, took a polka dancing class, did Halloween crafts at a friends house, took a Populations and Water Quality class at the Bruce Vento Nature Center, spent lots of time at the library, played with a friend at the Science Museum, and co-hosted a Halloween party at our house.

It's been a fantastic year so far!  Is there anything I'd like to change?  Of course!!  I need to focus on including more art, handcrafts, PE, and nature study.