Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chicago Children's Museum

I just love the Chicago Children's Museum.  We've only been here twice, mostly because parking is $23 every time we come. I'm sure we'd be here a lot more often if parking was cheaper.

Anyhow, it was fun to see what exhibits Jared and Alexa still enjoyed and what new things they were drawn to. When you first walk into the musem, there is a fire exhibit. Alexa loved pulling the hoses. Jared's favorite part of this exhibit was dressing up. They were disappointed there wasn't an ambulance here like last year.

They have this amazing net rope lader/tunnel kids can crawl through. Jared did a fantastic job climbing this last year when he was 2 1/2 (with Steve crawling behind him). Once again, my little climber was fearless, climbing the net ladder up two stories tall. Alexa wouldn't climb with them (she hadn't last year, either), so we watched the boys and took pictures. The picture below is at the very end of the climb.

Last year in the building section, the kids hammered golf tees into styrophome. This year they went all out and tried to build something with real tools and wood.

Very briefly, we visited the water section.

Then we headed over to the winter/snow exhibit. Last year the kids had fun dressing up the snowmen, but this year snowman's costume was much more elaborate. It's so fun to see the picture of the snowman from last year and put it up to this year's picture. I really hope they have the same exhibit there this December. It's becoming something of a family tradition.

The last section we visited we stayed the longest. First, the kids slid about thirty or forty times down a slide that made music as you slid down. Ours were one of the few kids who also went down belly first, both head and feet first.

Alexa was absolutely enthralled with the last activity. You'd construct your own flying machine out of foam, and then put it on a ledge attached to a pully contraption. Then you'd crank the flying machine about forty to fifty feet in the air. Then the flying machine would come floating down. They had a stop clock for those who wanted to time how long it took for thier machine to hit the ground. It was a perfect exhibit for all ages. In fact, we had to ask this one adult to step out of the way because he wasn't taking turns!  I really love children's museums.  All kids should have to opportunity to visit often and have full say in which exhibit they visit and for how long they stay.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Celebrating Christmas with the Cousins

Since we were not able to get together on Christmas Eve with Steve's brother and family, we met up with them the week after Christmas. The kids LOVE thier cousins, aunt and uncle. It's so great to visit a house where I know the kids will be just as loud as mine, and I won't have to worry about it.

They received really nice gifts from their cousins. Both kids loved thier Mr. and Mrs. Potato Heads with tons of accessories. In fact just last night (Jan 25th), we were playing with them. The kids made up a country which they call Metagorgia. I was the queen (they dressed me up, including putting lip gloss all over my face), and we dressed up the Potato Heads to be warriors to protect us against the evil Two-Face (they had just watched a Batman movie the night before). Alexa also received play-dough and a necklace, and Jared loved the addition of more Indians/Cowboys.

Jared was enthralled with his cousin's new drum set and was really upset when we had to leave. He played on it for quite some time there, and he has been asking ever since about buying him a drum set. He's wanted one for a while, but now it's become a daily request. We are trying hard to come up with extra money to get him one, but even junior drum sets can be quite costly. Hopefully, by his birthday he will have one.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

First Sledding Trip of the Year

Last year Steve took the kids sledding a handful of times, but we never went sledding down a hill. It just wasn't a great year for sledding. We had taken the kids sledding down a hill when they were twenty months, but they had fogotten that trip.

So this year, the day after Christmas, our first outing with Steve, we headed for the sledding hill. Before we left, the kids had fun eating snow, shovelling and playing outside.

Quite a few families turned out to take advantage of the newly falling snow. The weather for sledding couldn't have been more perfect. After pulling the kids in the sled up to the top of the hill, Steve took them on their first trip down. It was my turn next, but I'm so bad a fast-moving rides, that even sledding down the hill scared me (silly, I know). Near the bottom of the hill, I lost control of the sled, and we all tumbled out. Alexa was a little scared, but no one cried (including me!)

Here's a few pictures. I was so caught up in the moment, these are they only ones I have of the day.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Christmas Day at Aunt Amy's

After opening presents at home and eating a quick lunch, we headed over to my sister's house to spend the rest of Christmas Day with her, my brother-in-law, nephew, parents, brother and grandmother.

We did the usual: have a delicious dinner, open presents, and just play with everyone. I realized, looking through the camera afterwards, that I didn't take as many pictures as I would have liked. We did take some more video, but I was having such a great time just talking and laughing with everyone, that I forgot to take pictures!

Here are some of the best that I have:

The picture above was taken by Alexa.

Christmas Morning at Home

Steve and I thought for sure the kids would come running early in the morning into our room, jump on the bed and demand to open presents. We were so shocked that we actually had time to open our own stocking to each other before they woke up.

The night before they hadn't fallen asleep until 10:00, so I guess it makes sense that they wouldn't get up until almost 8:00, and it was nice to have some quiet time with Steve in the morning, but it did seem strange. Oh, well. I suppose I should just take it as a little gift. I'm sure future years won't be like this.

The volume definitely turned up when they started opening up stockings. Jared loved his new sword, but I think he liked the candy even more. He wanted to take each individual piece out of the stocking and line it up (why didn't I just keep them in the bag?), but we soon coaxed him into opening other presents.

I think we went a little overboard with the amount of presents we bought for the kids. We always stay within our budget, but I usually go to the thrift store for some things, and all those 50 items start to add up to a huge pile of presents to open. Then they want to stop to play with each thing for a while. And Jared had to make sure every last bit of paper and tape was off each present before he would stop to look at it.

Here's Alexa doing her dance of joy when she opened up her new stamp set - her number one request.

Steve helped Jared put together his new Transformer - Jared's number one request was a robot.

Alexa loved her new princess dress-up set and matching shoes.

Another big hit: a Lego robot set to put together with Steve.

And the last present of the morning: a Playmobile pirate ship, which Jared and Steve put together promptly afterwards.

Christmas Eve

Every Christmas Eve, we go to Steve's parents house to celebrate. We would trade off Christmas Day with my parents, but Steve's brother is never able to do that, so it's become tradition to celebrate the night before Christmas at Grandma and Granddad's house.

This year the kids were very, very disappointed their cousins (from Steve's brother) did not come. We really played them seeing their cousins up a lot, and they were so excited and talked about it for days beforehand. We adults did the best we could to play with them and make the evening as fun as possible.

After a delicious dinner, we let the kids open one present before heading over to look at Steve's sister's new home.

Then, after we returned, we started the present-opening in earnest. Here were some of the kid's  favorite gifts of the evening:

Jared is so into Mr. Potato Head lately, and he also loves Spider-Man. When he ripped open this Spider-Man Mr. Potato Head he yelled out, "I really wanted this!"

As you can see, the kids had just as much fun helping everyone else open up their presents.

It's also a tradition for us to have a candle time. Twelve days before Christmas we light a candle every evening, which is  placed in one of the holes around a six-point star, and sing Christmas carols. On Christmas Eve, we also read the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible, and act out the story.

Alexa played an angel, and Jared played one of the shepherds. He was so adorable when he'd run up to everyone in the room, throw up his arms, and say, "Jesus is born!"

During the singing, he loved using the popcorn tin as a drum and banging away.

Reading Novels to Three-Year Olds

We've always read a lot to our kids. When they were 12 months old, they'd sit on my lap for a half hour at a time listening to me read picture books. Dr. Seuss was a favorite at that age. Gradually, they sat for even longer periods of time and needed less pictures.

About three months after they turned 3, I brought home a large stack of books from a thrift store. I had purchased a copy of Charlotte's Web and thought I'd put it on the side for when they were a bit older. We had see the newer movie version of the book, but I still didn't think they were ready to sit for a book that had one black-and-white line picture every third of fourth page. To my surprise, Alexa picked up the book and asked me to read it to her. Jared joined her on the couch, and they sat totally engrossed for the first chapter. Then they begged me to read another chapter, which I did.

That became the start of reading novels to the kids. We've still not read a novel or chapter book that is totally devoid of pictures, but I am amazed at how many longer books we've read in five months time.

Here's a list of the novels or chapter books we've read so far. We usually read these books during lunchtime for an hour or so.

The Wizard of Oz
The Fantastic Mr. Fox
George's Marvelous Medicine
My Father's Dragon
Cam Jansen and the Mystery Clown
Charlotte's Web
Stuart Little
A Scooby Doo mystery ( a chapter book that I can't remember the title)
A Good Night for Ghosts (A Magic Treehouse book - I will write a longer post about this soon)

We're currently reading James and the Giant Peach. Now we still read dozens and dozens of picture books each month, too, and Alexa has been quickly reading many Step 1 and 2 early reader books on her own, but I think our favorite times together are reading and talking about our longer books.

The term age-appropriate drives me crazy. Most people wouldn't feel it was age appropriate to read James and the Giant Peach to three year olds, but my kids are loving it. I think using terms like age-appropriate make us forget that kids are all individuals. If your three year old wants to spend two hours working on reading (which Alexa does sometimes), you need to go with that. If your eight year old still isn't interested in reading, that is just as valid, too. Jared has shown no interest so far in reading, and that's just fine. He can build a sixty piece puzzle on his own, but so far Alexa has shown no interest in puzzles.

Kids have different gifts and strengths. I am so loving this aspect of unschooling. Respect and trust your child's interests, strengths and passions and watch what amazing, vibrant, interesting and exceptional children they are and will continue to become.

Alexa's Self-Portraits

I've written quite a bit about how Alexa loves photography. Often she'll ask for the camera, and then go off to take pictures and return the camera when she's finished. Sometimes I don't even realize she's done this until I scan through the pictures. Here's a series of self-portraits I found on the camera a few weeks ago. Most are taken sideways, but I kind of like that quirky aspect to them. Enjoy!