Thursday, February 21, 2008

Homegrown Scientists

In Einey's school, there is such a focus on reading, writing and math, that the teacher is only allowed 20 minutes a week for science and history. 20 minutes! So when I saw the topic for this week's parent blogger blast, I just had to share some of the ways we've brought science back to our kids.

Science is all around us. It's prevalent throughout nature and the natural world. Last summer, when the girls found this cicada emerging from it's pupal state, we watched. And took pictures. And discussed. And then we looked it up on the computer. We frequently take hikes in the woods on our letterboxing quests. On our hikes, we discuss weather (and how it changes - we've been caught out in the woods in rain bursts), we identify plants and animals. We look under rocks and logs. We catch frogs and salamanders. In short, we take the time to really look at our surroundings and discuss the hows, the whys, the whats. How things change and why they change. How every little creature affects other creatures.

In addition, we do experiments with our gardens. When planting seeds inside for the spring, we measure and chart their progress. When building our sunflower house, we measured the sunflowers, first from seedlings with a ruler, then outside with the kids. We discussed how the plants were growing and then when they finished their growth, how they provided nectar for the bees and lastly seeds for the birds. In the spring, I have a suspicion we'll discuss the life cycle circle they made, as I am sure we'll have new sunflowers sprouting in the garden.

We've done sink or float test with them gathering objects and making predictions. Currently, we have a crystal growing on the counter in the kitchen.* We've frozen water and watched it melt. We mix water and other liquids to see what's heavier. We've looked at the viscosity of different liquids. We take tours where they are offered - power plants, nature sanctuaries, science center. We've discussed actions and reactions (like the time Husband threw a wooden block at the window - of course it broke). We spend evenings out on the deck looking at the stars. We pull out the telescope and search the sky's. We watch meteor showers and eclipses (Einey was very impressed by the lunar eclipse the other night). We visit science centers on rainy days. We discussed changes that come with the season (and living in New England, we have four very unique seasons each with it's own specific characteristics). Just the other day, we discussed how and why this river changed from autumn to winter. I wasn't at all surprised last week, when Einey's teacher told me they started discussing the water cycle and Einey knew all about it and was able to name the cycles.

Science is all around us. It's all a matter of taking time to look at the little things and really discuss the how and why's. As long as they keep asking questions, we will answer. We'll keep searching under logs, splashing in rivers, filling jars with liquids. We'll keep measuring and labeling and recording. For my girls, science is fun. And learning is a bonus. We will bring science back through hands on fun.

This post was created for the Parent Blogger Network's Friday Blog Blast and the Zula Patrol's Zula Intergalactic Inquirer. They want to know, how will you bring science back for your kids, and why do you think it’s important?

*Because it's a quick and easy science experiment, here's what you do: You need a jar, water, salt, a string and a pencil. Tie the string around the pencil. Fill the jar with water and then salt until the salt is dissolved. Put the pencil over the jar with the string hanging in the jar. As the water dissolves, the salt will crystallize to the string. You can see the results start within hours! Just add a little more water and salt as it dissolves for a bigger crystal.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Raging Meltwater

Now - February

Tons of rain (we set the record for monthly rainfall yesterday and we still have 10 days left of the month) and melting rain transformed the tranquil river we visited this summer into a raging river. The girls were intimidated and stayed safely away.

Then - September:

That time, the girls hoped from rock to rock. They turned over stones looking forr crayfish and cought frogs on the banks of the river.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

New England in the winter...

New England winters can be tricky to navigate. One day, it might be 20 degrees with a wind chill that throws the temperatures below zero. The next day, it might be 20 and snowing. And still the next day, you might get temperatures in the 50's or even 60's.

Friday was one of those nice days. The girls had the day off as part of their winter break. Instead of a full week off like most schools have this week, they got Friday and Monday off. By 10 am, they had started bickering. The temperature was crawling up into the low 40's. It was then I made my decision. We needed to get out.

So I bundled the girls up and we hit the zoo. Many people don't think about visiting the zoo during the winter, but we love going in the off-season. One of the main draws for us, of course, is the lack of crowds. You can stand in watch the animals as long as you want, without blocking other's views. You can meander as slowly or as quickly through the empty monkey house.

Another benefit is you'll see the animals in a whole different setting. Animals that are usually just laying in a shady spot during the summer months, trying to stay cool, are usually up and moving around. The girls came face to face with a penguin instead of watching them from afar. The cheetah, the snow leopards, moon bear, lemurs, wallaby's and gibbons were all active and visible in their cage.

Even though we have a season pass, this trip to the zoo was different. We hadn't been since last March, when the zoo was working on some of many improvements to the zoo. So there were many new things to see. There were wild dogs, a new bald eagle exhibit, the giant anteater (which we couldn't find) and more giraffe's. Last spring, the zoo welcomed two giraffe calf's.

The downside is, sometimes the weather is too cold, so some animals are taken off exhibit. So in addition to the giant anteaters we didn't see, the tortoises and Australian pig things were not out.

All in all, we had a great time. We even ate lunch at the zoo (something we never do) but I failed to plan ahead in my desperation to get out and get some fresh air. So I grudgingly coughed up $3 per grilled cheese sandwich and we ate in the warmth of the zoo cafeteria. At the same time, I let the girls pick an item from the gift shop, something we also never let them do. We came home with a stuffed hedgehog, a bag of plastic animals and a bag of rocks. Because you know, we don't have any of those.... We even ran into some friends who made the trip to the zoo from our hometown. As we were sitting waiting for our lunch, Meenie was watching out the door and said, "hey mom, look, it's our friends!"

The one complaint I got was "my legs are tired, I want to go home". Luckily, it happened towards the end of the trip and I didn't have to carry any of them. Apparently the zoo is too much when you've spent most of the winter cooped up inside. Sounds like it's time to get moving and build up some strength again. I look forward to more nice days when we can start spending more time outside.

So if you have a chance, visit a local zoo or aquarium in the off season. You'd be surprised at how different it can be.

Out of the corner of our eyes...

Yesterday, Husband and I had to do some shopping. So we loaded up the kids and headed to the shopping mall area. I needed gas so we pulled into this little gas station.

As Husband and I were fighting the wind, waiting for the receipt, she approached us from the drivers side of the van. She began with how she saw us here, and that she doesn't see many families out. And how she wanted to pass on information of God's Kingdom to us.

Yup, that's right, we were hit up by a Jehovah's Witness while pumping gas. And there was no place to hide.

Husband explained that we were Catholic and after a few more kind words, we were on our way. Then we got to talking about religion. Really talking. And while we both are pretty tolerant of different religion, we both agree that we don't like being approached and having religion forced on us. It's just weird.

Has anyone else ever been approached outside of home?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day

Message I noticed while kneeling on the floor fishing an item out of the bowl

This morning, I was all set with not recieving any gifts. Husband and I talked about not knowing what to get each other (because you know, we buy everything we want). That and well, who needs a holiday to tell someone they love them. After all, we show each other we love each other throughout the year in little ways. It's the little things that matter most.

So this morning, I was very happy with this little message I found on the medicine cabinet door.

So when he walked in the door, I greeted him at the door with a great big hug, kiss and thanks.

His reply. "I'm glad you liked them. Iwas worried because I thought you'd page me".

Me: ???????

...... "page you for a message written in shaving cream?"

Him: "go look again"

Inside the cabinet was a lovely pair of opal earrings from his favorite jeweler (I say his favorite, because it's where he always buys my jewelery from, I've only been there once).

Of course, Husband chose this spot specifically to hide a gift because he knew I needed my contacts. I however, choose last night as the one night to sleep with them in. I didn't even think about opening the door.

I am so lame that I was happy with just a simple little I love you message!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

What's that Smell?

That's a question I've fielded about 20 bajillion times the last few days. It really doesn't help that I can't smell a thing at this point in time. So I wasn't to alarmed when I heard "what's that smell". It's could be anything. "No it smells like burning plastic (smell learned the other night when someone touched a plastic item to the lamp)". Well I was all at attention at that, even before one of the other girls added in with "yeah it smells real bad".

The culprit?

So yeah, apparently Moe tried to microwave a snack. Luckily that was all the damage done. The tiny flame I noticed when I walked into the kitchen (at which point, the smell had permeated the mucus in my nose) extinguished itself before I could grab the fire extinguisher.

I would almost have preferred the smell of dead rodent....

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Whon-Horns and other small tales

The origins of Whon-Horns

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who liked Whon-Horns. It took her parents many moons to figure out just what a whon-horn was. They even took her to the speech therapists because they suspected a problem with her language development. It turns out her speech was fine, she just wasn't supposed to be able to pronounce whon-horns right. Then one day, in the magical toy store, there standing in front of the little girl was a whon-horn. It was then that her parents were able to finally understand that she liked unicorns. Day in and day out, she would carry her whon-horn around and quickly, her siblings adapted to the new found pronunciation of their sisters favorite toy. Now as the little girl grew, she was finally able to pronounce unicorn right. The only problem is her sisters still call it a whon-horn, thus confusing the poor little child. The end.

Puppy Dog Tales

Once there was a puppy with dry skin. She itched and itched and chewed until her owners couldn't stand it anymore. They called the pet groomer and took the cute puppy dog for a trip. The puppy tolerated the bathing and drying and brushing and then found a nice giant bone. That is, after trying to drink the water from the fish tank. Now she weighs about 10 pounds less, left the groomer pretty hairy and has a nice shiny coat and big new bone. The end.

Color Kids Phase

Do you remember the color kids? I had forgotten about the color kid phase until just recently. The color kid phase hits around two and a half to three years old. You'll know your in it when your child wants to wear one color and one color only. Even her "undies" have to match. And your up the creek without a paddle you if you don't have a specific color shoe or coat.

Lessons in Fairness

Einey: "It's not fair, I have four pages of homework and everyone else in my class only has two"

Mom: "Well, if you remembered to bring your homework home yesterday, you wouldn't have had that problem".

Dad: " Yesterday you had no homework and everyone else had two pages".

Einey: "It's still not fair."

Mom: "Life's not fair"

Mardi Gras

It's the beginning of the Catholic season of Lent. And prior to Ash Wednesday is Fat Tuesday. Yesterday Einey came home from school with a set of Mardi Gras beads. They were given to all the kids from the cafeteria ladies. (Throughout the year, they'll come home with trinkets - stickers, chalk, jump ropes, batons, ect given to each child at lunch from the cafeteria ladies). Husband turns to me and says "I don't want to know what she had to do to get those"....

Four little words for you

Airborne is your friend.

and finally, I'll leave you with what I believe is the grossest thing I ever had to say.


To Moe.

"Did you just lick the side of my van?" "Uh-huh"

Yuck double yuck. Do they make disinfection wipes for the mouth? Keep in mind, I live in New England, it's winter, my van hasn't been washed in months (although I've tried a few times, but it seems like when the weather warms up, the car washes are always broken, or not accepting credit cards), and there is all manner of sand and salt and who knows what stuck to the side. Yuck!

Monday, February 04, 2008

I'm not here right now....

Psst. I've posted another bird themed post over at the New England Mamas site today. Today's topic is Eagle Fest 2008.

So once your finished reading about this weekend's disappointments, head over there and check out that post.

Groundhog Day Prediction

The girls were hoping for an early spring, so they were disappointed that Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow.

I guess when we look on the bright side, there is still time to actually get enough snow to use the sleds we brought earlier in the year and haven't gotten a chance to use. The reason being the snow either melted to quick or turned to ice. They used their old sleds once this winter. Oh well, same thing happened last year as well. Although, I remember as a kid having snow almost all winter and sledding almost every day. That or building forts and having snowball fights.

Next up, Super Tuesday. The girls are already talking about "Superbowl Tuesday" and how we can pick the President. They've also decided to nominate themselves this morning for Presidency. Einey and Meenie both decided that they want to be President! I even tried to explain to them that it's not the actual vote for Presidency, but the vote to decide who will eventually run.

Let's hope it's not 3 for 3 in terms of disappointment for the girls (not in them not getting the Presidency but in our pick not getting the majority of votes).

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Superbowl Fever

Yeah Yeah, I know, another superbowl post...

Superbowl fever has hit this house hard. The surprising part? It's from the under 3 foot tall crowd. We're not a very sports family. Sure, we enjoy playing sports and watching, just not on TV. We'd take a farm league, high school, middle school or even kiddy league game in person over any (well most any) game on TV any day.

So I have been getting a chuckle out of "Patriots this and Patriots that" coming out of their little mouths this morning. Frankly, I was surprised they knew about the Patriots let alone knew it was football. Meenie has it in her mind that we are going to watch the Patriots play tonight. I had no plans to but maybe I'll let them watch for a few.

This morning, I had to search for Pats gear for the kids for school. They have a dress down day tomorrow that's tied into their favorite Superbowl team and they have to wear their team colors. Of course, most things were sold out. I did manage to grab two adult small sweatshirts (I know, I know) which are only slightly too big. I just need to cuff the sleeves alot to make them fit. Once the Pats win tonight, I know there are going to be Championship Tees everywhere, so I may just make Husband stop on the way home from work in the morning to grab a few tees that actually fit them for school.

So yeah, Go Pats.