Leap Frog and Lizard Tycoons

The whale season this year has been extraordinary.  I am not exaggerating a bit when I tell you that for the last couple of months anytime we fixed our gaze on the water for at least ten minutes we would see some kind of whale activity.  3 mama humpbacks chose to give birth right off shore from us and have stayed within eyesight since then.  Mostly you see them spouting, always one big spout and one little one close beside.  Sometimes you just see their glistening black backs surfacing as they glide through the water.  But other times they wave their mammoth side fins in a giant Aloha or whack their tails against the water over and over and over again with such force and in such proximity that you can actually hear the echoing “Crack!” each time the tail comes down.  The most amazing sight of all is when their whole bodies torpedo upward out of the water and then come crashing down like a tower.  I can’t help but gasp in awe every time they breach.

About as good a shot of a whale as I could get from shore with my phone.

About as good a shot of a whale as I could get from shore with my phone.

My boys however seem to have lost interest.  I suppose it was exciting enough for them at first but now they are quite bored of the humpback antics.  This ambivalence might be attributed to the fact that while they can see a whale at a distance and if they’re lucky, hear it from far away, that’s about the only interaction they’ll ever have with one of these magnificent creatures.  And frankly. that’s not really the kind of relationship they’re looking for.  Boys like to be a bit more hands on when it comes to nature.  For evidence of this just scroll back to my previous post entitled “Lizards and Snakes…and the boys who love them.”  Who cares about a big old whale way out there in the ocean when there might be a renegade Coqui frog needing to be caught just right outside their door?  And it’s not that they prefer land creatures to sea creatures.  They just seem to prefer the kind of sea creature you can pull out of it’s hiding place in the tide pools and temporarily house in a bucket for “observation.”

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I really feel that environmentalists often do a great disservice to their own cause when they make nature so inaccessible to everyone but themselves.  Children will never grow to have an affinity for or sense of responsibility for something that has always been held out at a distance from them.  If nature is off limits then why should they care about it?  They’ll put their attention and affections toward whatever’s within easy reach.  Like lizards.  Which brings me to an update on last week’s epic lizard haul.  Exactly what happened to the poor reptilian captives?  You’ll be happy to know that most were released back into the wild but a few fell prey to a rather exploitative operation.

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That’s right folks.  For just 25 cents, you too, could have a close encounter with a Gecko or for just pennies more, upgrade to an Anole and have it all memorialized on camera for posterity or next years Christmas cards.

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The little tycoons brought in 7 bucks after just an hour’s work.  Not counting the half a day spent catching the poor, unsuspecting critters. And I mean the lizards.  Not the tourists.

So while Tom and I spend the sunset hour sitting on the beach or the golf course watching the whales frolic, the boys seem perfectly content ignoring the spectacular scenery and focusing on the more important tasks at hand.  Like playing Leap Frog.  And catching critters.  And plotting their next day’s adventures.


Lizards and Snakes… and the boys who love them

I’m a huge fan of delight directed teaching.  The popular trend of delight directed learning is all well and good but if my boys were left to direct all their learning according to their own delights I shudder to think of the exact nature of knowledge thusly acquired.  Besides, delight directed learning is basically what’s going on every minute of the day that school’s not in session, so for just a couple of  hours they get to learn about all the things that Mom happens to delight in.  The past couple of weeks were an exception to that.  You see chapter 10 in our Apologia science text was all about lizards and snakes.  As much as I delight in God’s created world and Apologia’s exceptional methods of presenting it, I HATE lizards and snakes.  I can bait a hook, catch and clean a trout, pull those nasty gizzard things out of a turkey, and deal with all those gross infant and childhood bodily issues that only other mothers can relate to, but lizards and snakes still make me shudder. My boys know this and delight in that knowledge.  They were thrilled to get to chapter 10 just to watch me squirm and gag as I read aloud to them each day.  Thrilled to add their own bits of expertise to my uncomfortable narrative.  Thrilled to do extra research and illustrate their knowledge by making me piles of pictures of slithering creatures with horrid, beady, glittering eyes.  And especially thrilled to hunt down as many live specimens as could possibly be found.  And while there is a shocking abundance of lizards to be found here, one of the very loveliest features of this island is it’s absence of snakes.  Hawaii is said to have no snakes at all but leave it to my Joel to find the only one on the island right outside our building and get himself bitten by it.  Apparently, there actually is one kind of snake here and it is called the Blind Snake and while the Pacific Islands National Parks website assured us that they are harmless and do not bite the tiny little puncture wounds on Joel’s index finger prove otherwise.  Incidentally, it was also Joel who at the age of 4 walked right up on a big old rattle snake back in California and thankfully had enough sense to back away while Dad “disarmed” it with a shovel.  Enough about snakes.   On to lizards.

Hawaii is absolutely crawling with geckos.  They get in your house, your car, and if you have little boys around and aren’t careful they’ll even end up in your hair.  According to my boys there are several species of geckos on our island but the most popular is the Madagascar variety after which the Geico mascot is modeled.  Only here they crawl on all fours and don’t talk.  They do chirp however.  At night.  Usually from the ceiling right over your head.

Oil-on-canvas Gecko by Titus

Oil-on-canvas Gecko by Titus

There is also the much slower moving Jackson’s Chameleon to be found which the boys have made pets of a couple times.  The first one we named The Reverend and the second was Stonewall.

This chameleon got away before we could name it anything.

This chameleon got away before we could name it anything.

Today I sent the three middle boys downstairs around 9:30 to burn some energy by running laps.  They got sidetracked catching yet another kind of lizard called Anoles and by 2:00 had relocated about a dozen of them to the pineapple patch outside our building.  Yep, when they’re too busy to even come in for lunch you know they’re having a good time.  Now that was some hardcore delight directed learning going on there.

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This week we’re moving on to amphibians.  Oh joy.

I did find one pretty thing in the pineapple patch... our first baby pineapple!

I did find one pretty thing in the pineapple patch… our first baby pineapple!


15 Glimpses of 2015… so far

I know it’s been a long time.  I haven’t written a thing since LAST YEAR!  So here’s a glimpse of what we’ve been up to in 2015, including a few of the days leading up to it.

1. We celebrated Ti’s B-day with Aebelskivers for breakfast and blueberry cobbler with all the neighbors for dessert.  He and I also went to see Handel’s Messiah together.  Just the two of us.  I was so proud of my handsome date.

Titus turns 11

Titus turns 11

2. All the boys paddled down Alii Drive in their racing outrigger for the Light Parade and won a 2nd place trophy for their efforts.  It was way longer than their usual regattas but I didn’t have to worry about them huli-ing (tipping over) the whole time.

Joel paddling the Keauhou Canoe Club into Light Parade history

Joel paddling the Keauhou Canoe Club into Light Parade history

3. After living in it’s shadow for 3 1/2 years we finally made the hike to the top of Hualalai.  We’d heard rumors of volcanic craters with parrots in them.  No parrots.  But plenty of seemingly bottomless craters to tumble to your death in.

My guys on top of Hualalai with the Kohala coast line behind

My guys on top of Hualalai with the Kohala coast line behind

4. Tom took Nate out for his first night-time snorkel with the manta rays and they were both thrilled to have a friend visiting from Hartland join them for their adventure.  I was just thrilled to have my little boy back safe and sound.

Vince, Nate, and Tom heading out for a night swim with the manta rays

Vince, Nate, and Tom heading out for a night swim with the manta rays

5.  Then came the glorious 2-week visit from Oma and Opa.  You have no idea the thrill it is to have family around.

Opa, Oma, and the stars of the "Grandparents Recital"

Opa, Oma, and the stars of the “Grandparents Recital”

6. The boys’ dear, sweet piano teacher hosted a recital just for the grandparents.  Of course, we had to invite all the neighbors, too.  What a long-suffering crowd we are surrounded by here.

Sam and Linda's duet

Sam and Linda’s duet

6.  Gideon.  He makes every minute an event.  As soon as all his older brothers had finished playing he climbed right up on the piano bench like his name was next in the program and pounded away like he’d been practicing all week.

Gideon's turn

Gideon’s turn

7.  New Year’s Eve in Hawaii.   Every year we walk down to our beach when it gets dark and watch a bunch of old guys light stuff on fire.  Then by 9:00 all our neighbors go to bed but we suffer through another 3 hours playing games until midnight at which time we go outside and light louder stuff on fire in order to wake them all up for the New Year.

Old guys light stuff on fire

Old guys lighting stuff on fire

8. I got my first pedicure.  It was a gift from the dear lady downstairs I help take care of.  A lot of wisdom comes with 90 years and the successful raising of 7 children.  Getting this mama into a day-spa for the first time in her life was certainly evidence of that 🙂

I went in a tired mom and came out a movie star.  The  boys all wanted me to get red but I had to go with pink just to be rebellious.

I went in a tired mom and came out a movie star. The boys all wanted me to get red but I had to go with pink just to be rebellious.

9.  Tom and I celebrated our 16th anniversary by utilizing a sweet Cyber Monday deal at the local Hilton.  This could only happen because Tom’s folks were here.  For 3 days and 2 nights we got to live like the wealthy kid-less crowd.  Except we ate peanut butter sandwiches in our room and talked about our kids a lot.

Living like the other set

Showing off my toes again and a very relaxed husband.  Paradise indeed.

10. After our anniversary trip we gathered everyone up and headed over to Volcano National Park where I got to enjoy some solitary hikes on rain forested trails like this one.

That bench through there clearly had my name on it

That bench through there clearly had my name on it

11. We also had a chance to visit the new lava flow in Pahoa.  This is where it crossed the road and took out a house but skirted neatly around the garage.  Even lava has it’s priorities.

That's the newest rock on Earth folks!

That’s the newest rock on Earth folks!

12.  In the winter we do a lot of whale watching but with the recent epic surf we’ve been doing a lot of wave watching as well.  This particular swell lasted several days and just pounded our coastline.  It was like having constant thunder over head and our condo shook like an earthquake every time the waves hit the shore.  Today all was calm and placid again and the whales and dolphins were back out in force.

"The seas have lifted up their pounding waves" Psalm 93:3

“The seas have lifted up their pounding waves” Psalm 93:3

13. We’re still enjoying our monthly service with the folks at the nursing home and love seeing our boys grow in their own capacity to encourage others.  This time even Gideon made sure to give everyone a cheery personal greeting right before throwing a fit over not being able to accompany the hymn singing on the piano.

Our brothers and sisters at the nursing home

The boys enjoy turning pages for our service at the nursing home and the older ladies enjoy letting them whether they need the help or not 🙂

14. Hockey season is in full swing which means heaps of stinky gear to keep organized.  Congratulations to Dad who helped lead his own men’s team to 1st place!

No gear for Gid yet but he makes good use of his cubby anyway

No gear for Gid yet but he makes good use of his cubby anyway

15.  School’s been back in session for a couple weeks now and bag-pipe lessons start back up tomorrow, so with piano and ukulele and sports and friends and the general rough and tumble activity that comes with boys, it’s just a whirl of noise and mess and motion around here.  That’s life in a manger.  And the year has  only.  just.  begun.

From the oldest to the youngest we love to fill our days with music and laughter

From the oldest to the youngest we’ll be filling 2015 with music and laughter.


Monkeying Around

I figured you all might be getting a little tired of hearing my two-cents worth so I thought I would turn this post over to the boys.  This year I haven’t been requiring them to type up summaries like I did on our previous blog sites (click here and here) mainly because we’ve been doing a much better job of recording what they’re learning using the notebook method inspired by Shannon at ihavenogreaterjoy.  Anyway they are all eager to tell you about what we’ve been learning about some of God’s silliest creatures:  monkeys and apes.

Notebooking time

Notebooking time

My favorite monkey is Spider Monkeys.  We made spider monkeys out of modeling clay and Kix and wiggly eyes and pipe cleaners.  Then we had them hang on strings and branches and we played with them all day (Sam, 5).

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We made monkey bread. You can make it too. Open 4 cans biscuit dough and  cut the biscuits into quarters.  Mix 1 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon in a big ziplock bag.  Add the biscuit  pieces and shake it all up.  Put all the sugary pieces in a pan and then pour 1/2 cube of melted butter on top.  Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes at 375  degrees.  Turn it upside down on a plate and eat it! (Nate, 7)

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One thing I like about orangutans is that it’s the smartest ape in the jungle.  It eats fruit, nuts and bugs.  They swing around in trees like madmen looking for a nice place to sleep for the night.  As orangutans get older their cheek flaps grow bigger and bigger (Joel, 9).

Thank you Kristin C. for this Big Book of Animals which we have been pulling worksheets out of to supplement our studies.

Thank you Kristin C. for this Big Book of Animals which we have been pulling worksheets out of to supplement our studies.

My favorite primate is the orangutan. I like it best mostly because of it’s orange color and hairy body. Orangutans live on the two islands of Borneo and Sumatra in Southern Asia. They are very intelligent and their face has a close resemblance to humans at dusk. Orangutans build a small hut out of sticks and branches.  Orangutans are very curious animals and often sit up in trees and gaze intently at things for hours. Thus the name orangutan means ”man of the forest” (Titus, 10).

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Recalculating Route Part 2

So with nearly 2 weeks of school done here is a continuation of the last post on what changes need to be made and a closer look at what school actually looks like for us.

Sometimes it looks like a bunch of bodies sprawled out on the floor.

Sometimes it looks like a bunch of bodies sprawled out on the floor.

Between 9 and 10am we break out the checklists.  This is brand new to us and I’m only doing it because the boys heard my friend Kristin telling me about it.  Kristin is THE smartest, most most capable woman I have ever known and my boys are just as much convinced of her abilities as I am so they decided if it was good for HER kids it must be good for them and so check lists we have.   I put their whole weeks worth of copy work, spelling, cursive, phonics, grammar and math on their personal clip board and they spend an hour each day working on those items in which ever order they prefer.  Last week they finished everything by Thursday so Friday we went to the beach instead of doing school work.

Sometimes it looks a lot like playing hooky.

Sometimes it looks a lot like playing hooky.

I didn’t know what to expect of Sam so I was figuring a couple of pages of math or phonics a day.  He finished his math workbook the first week.  Thankfully, I had another one tucked away which he did 23 pages of today.  I can’t afford for him to do any more so I made him stop.  Major miscalculation.  RECALCULATING ROUTE.

Last year Nate loved math but until the last couple months of school was sluggish with anything reading/writing.  This year Nate LOVES anything reading/writing but was overwhelmed by the amount of math on his checklist.  Easy fix.  Less math. More spelling, phonics etc… Again, thank you Kristin for the Abeka spelling book.  He LOVES it.

Joel wants more math.  At least this week he does.  I’ve been putting the tests at the end of the chapter on his and Titus’s clipboards on Monday and letting them do those first.  So far they’ve both scored 100% each time so I’ve let them skip those chapters.  But Joel actually wants to be doing more math so I’ve got to come up with something… RECALCULATING ROUTE.

Titus wants less math.  Even less than the one test a week he’s had so far.  He only wants geometry.  Looking on-line for more resources.  Also, last year he and Joel were both doing the same Sequential Spelling book (again, thank you Kristin) but this year I moved him a level ahead.  Still not challenging enough.  He wants REALLY hard words.  I don’t understand that at all.  I am the worst speller in the world and take NO delight in teaching such a mundane subject but ALL my boys claim it as one of their favorites.  Must have gotten it from their father.  RECALCULATING ROUTE.

Another change I’ve had to make is with our Rod&Staff English books for Ti and Joel.  I LOVE those books and they tolerate them except for the patently obvious pacifist undertones.  Something about my boys has them thirsty for any kind of violence or bloodshed and unfortunately Mennonite curriculum just doesn’t cut it in that area.  So I have to customize every assignment to make it more gory.  I also only give them a fraction of the assignments because they tend to be a very repetitive.  And boys HATE busy work!

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we add an hour of science and world geography.  This consists mainly of me reading aloud to them, them coloring in related activity books or looking over library books pertaining to that weeks topic, and doing one of the activities from our Apologia text.  So far, so good.  Nothing to change there.

For literature, Dad has started reading Jack London’s the Sea Wolf and they are absolutely enthralled.  I knew I wouldn’t have to change anything there because Tom is the best read-alouder in the world and always picks the perfect books for boys.  He also does a bed-time devotional with them and I am SOOOOO thankful to have Dad home in the evenings to take over when my Mommy brain is D.O.N.E. thinking.

That just leaves P.E., art, and music.  The first two I don’t even have to assign because these boys are in a constant state of creation/motion.  And piano lessons will start up again in October.  I don’t even worry about those three elements anymore.  It’s covered.  I still have to remind them to brush their teeth.  But P.E., art, and music they can handle on their own.

That’s about all we’re doing this year.  Pretty simple when you break it all down.  It all takes about 3 hours a day plus a 1/2 hour of chores which leaves PLENTY of time to play and make mischief.  And in the evenings there’s always THIS to look forward to.  Not a bad life.



Recalculating Route

All ready for the start of school.

All ready for the start of school.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way to death.”  Proverbs 14:12

With the first week of school under our belt it’s time to assess how things went and how we should proceed from here.  Every summer while Tom is working his tail off at Hartland Christian Camp I spend all the time I would normally be cooking and cleaning planning for the upcoming school year.  The boys run amuck with all their camp buddies and I have the closest thing I ever get to regular “quiet time” scouring the scriptures for passages to read and memorize during the school year.  At meal times in the cafeteria I get to drill the other seasoned veteran home-school Moms up there about everything from spelling to spot-cleaning, poetry to potty-training, and just life in general.  I am soooo thankful for the richness of Christian fellowship those fleeting weeks afford.  They keep me going through all the lean months that follow.  And the detailed planning helps me face the school year with some semblance of preparedness.

Then there’s the first week.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way to death.”  Proverbs 14:12

I just love having everything in order.  I REALLY need to get over that.

I just love having everything in order. I REALLY need to get over that.

After pouring my heart, soul, mind and strength into all the planning, prep, the extra late nights, the extra early mornings, the extra times up with the baby just because he thought this would be a great week to be fussy, the extra fun activities, the extra needs of some of our elderly neighbors, the extra work organizing the house all left me thinking, “This dying to self is going to kill me!”

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way to death.”  Proverbs 14:12

But, God also says,

“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.”  Psalm 37:5

After praying and mulling and after kicking all the boys out of the house for an afternoon at the park with Dad (isn’t it amazing how just THAT can change one’s perspective so much?) the Lord mercifully acted to bring peace of soul and clarity of mind regarding our first and forthcoming weeks.

So here is a rundown of our planned schedule and some thoughts on how various components may or may not change.

1st Five (or First 5?)This was loosely scheduled for between 8 and 9 in the morning not because it takes a whole hour to complete but because my goal is to have it done SOMETIME during that hour.  Really in a pinch it could all take about 5 minutes but we like to stretch it out to about 30. First Five consists of the following:

1. Animal Joke or Poem (you can see my complete list of poems by clicking here)  I read them 1-5 poems a week and for the days that we don’t have a poem I substitute an animal joke.  This was a new feature  and has been a HUGE hit.  Nothing like starting the day with laughter.  Won’t be changing that a bit.

A snack of Animal Crackers  to enjoy during our reading of a poem by the same name.

A snack of Animal Crackers to enjoy during our reading of a poem by the same name.

2. Prayer (Because we live in a unique community environment and because Shannon’s post on prayer really pricked my conscience, we spend this time praying for our neighbors).  Still a keeper.

3.  Hymn (For a list of all the creature-related hymns we will be singing this year click here).  After 5 years they’re not tired of hearing my croaky morning voice from behind the hymnal so praise the Lord we’re still doing this!

4.  Bible Reading (Mondays I read what ever chapter our memory verse is from, and the rest of the week I either read another chapter with animals in it or we do a Speed Drill where they race to look up some animal related verses in their Bible. You can click on that list here)  Haven’t done the Speed Drills yet so can’t evaluate but thankfully the Reading of God’s Word NEVER gets old.

5.  Verse Memorization (Still using the A-Z method and keeping to our creation-related theme.  It’s so much easier for them to keep track of a year’s worth of verses in heir heads if they have the alphabetical frame work to go from).  Click here for a list of this year’s verses.  Nothing to change there.

6+/-. Then there was the addition (and subtraction) of Bedtime Math which  I called morning Morning Math because we were going to do it as the last part of our 1st Five, only then it would be 1st Six.  But unfortunately the handy app that I had used to select all the word problems pertaining to animals crashed and I was left with only 2 problems, which all the boys loved doing but then there were no more so that was that.  If you want a great oral math warm up that’s geared for ALL grade levels check their website out or get the app or order the book which I am doing now (plan B).

So far so good, right?  Not much to  tweak there.  Of course that’s only our first 5 to 30 minutes.  The next little bit had a few more bumps, but I will have to share about that in another post as tomorrow we’ll be trying out a new version of things to see if it fits a little better than my original plan and then we’ll let you all know!  (Because, of course, I know you’re all just DYING to hear).

Let me just leave off with this.  If you are an over-planner like myself, it’s best to heed the advice of my own dear-departed Oma who often said, “Mensch denkt, aber Gott lenkt,” which was her little summary of Proverbs 16:9 which reads,

“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

If left to my own devices even my most brilliantly devised plans and strategies have the potential to kill the natural love of learning God instilled in my children.  And as much as I love being a wife/mother/teacher/neighbor/Church member, doing too much of a good thing can leave me paralyzed by fatigue and render me ineffectual on every count.  It’s only by a daily surrendering and committing of my plans to The Author of Plans and an absolute trust in His ability to Act when, no, BEFORE, I am at the end of my ability to do another. single. thing.  Only then will my plans succeed.  Because they will be His plans.  And that’s one syllabus I want to live by!

Don't want to ever kill this enthusiasm!

Don’t want to ever kill this enthusiasm!


How to “Make It Fun”

A dear reader with four little guys of her own (you can see them all here at www.storiesofourboys..com) just asked for tips on how to make school fun for boys.  Perfect timing because I just happened to score big on the fun factor today.  I’ve become more and more convinced that school shouldn’t be so much of a burden for them (or for me) and if it becomes so, some changes may be in order.  Here is an example of the kind of “change” I mean. photo  This is our Apologia science text which I read aloud to all the boys and which we all love just as much as we have loved Apologia “Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day” and the Apologia “Astronomy” books and probably as much as we would have loved their Botany and Geology books when we were studying those topics if my wonderful sister-in-law over at easygoingorganizer.com would have only introduced us to them sooner. photo-2This is the assignment at the end of the chapter which involved hiding M&M’s in a laundry basket full of torn up pieces of construction paper in order to illustrate the usefulness of camouflage for both predators and their prey.  Since all my laundry baskets were occupied with holding laundry and I didn’t happen to have enough construction paper to coordinate with the stale M&M’s that had been in my freezer since, I don’t know, last year’s post-Halloween clearance sale, and since I knew my boys weren’t about to cooperate with recording their findings on a neat little scientific experiment chart I through caution to the wind and broke out the stockpile of Jello I had saved up for emergencies just like this.  Unlike the construction paper, I DID have enough Jello flavors to coordinate with the M&M’s.  In fact I had enough of both to make a bowl of Jello and with 10 “camouflaged” M&M’s for each of the boys in their chosen “school color.”  I also had a whole bowl of whipped cream that was intended to go on the pumpkin pie which I was supposed to make yesterday and never got around to so I piled that on as well. Right after nap-time (you can’t do this kind of thing BEFORE nap-time or you won’t have one at all) I herded them all out to the lawn where we were in close proximity to the hose and gave them a science lesson that went about like this (I won’t type the boys responses, just imagine they’re getting them all right): “Remember the picture in our science book of the tiger and the bunny?  Which was the predator and which was the prey? Why did God give the tiger stripes?  Why did God make the bunny small and brown and fast?  Well, today you get to be predators again and instead of bunnies you are going to hunt for M&M’s!  Only they are camouflaged in this Jello and you have to find them!  What do you mean “Where are our spoons?”  You’re predators!  Predators don’t need spoons! Now find those M&M’s!” photo-3  Predators on the hunt. photo-5I finally let them cheat and use their hands and then Gideon wanted in on the action. photo-6I think this kind of Mad Science may have been a bit much for him. Especially when they started throwing the stuff. photo-7But lesson learned.  And thank goodness we had that hose handy.  And if you’re looking for ways to make anything fun, just add Jello.