Thursday, February 25, 2010

Art Institute and the Hubbard Street Dance Troupe

The picture above probably looks pretty strange. I wanted to take a picture of the dance floor and couldn't do it once the dancers were on stage. More about that in a few minutes. 

A few weekends ago we went to the Art Institute again for their family festival. We came here last year and really loved it. They had a musical performance last year, and we were able to look at the original drawings from Bill Peet's picture books. We started reading some of his books before viewing the exhibit, and now we're just one book shy of reading all 33 of his books.

Before watching the dance performance, we went into the Ryan Education Center where Jared sat for a silhouette portrait, and Alexa and I read some books together. Steve and Jared joined us, and Jared and I worked on a puzzle before heading to the dance area to get a good seat.

We were able to sit in the very front. The Hubbard Street dancers put on a really nice performance of contemporary, lyrical dance. They played three excerpts of songs and had dancers dance the same choreography to each song, showing how music can change the tone and feel of dance. Then a choreographer came to discuss his dance before it was performed.

While we were waiting for the dance to start, I snapped a cute picture of Alexa and Steve, and then it was Alexa's turn to take my and Steve's picture, and one of me and Jared.

Cute Pics

Field Museum

We really had a great time at the Field Museum a few weeks ago, despite Jared running repeatedly away from me through the exhibits. I don't know what we're going to do with that boy sometimes. Steve doesn't want us to chase after him, but he will go on and on, running farther and farther ahead, and I can't take the chance of losing him in such a large museum. I'd love to take the kids places like this by myself, but until Jared can understand the importance of staying where I can see him, for now I need to have someone else with me.

The kids were much more interested Sue, the largest, best preserved fossilized T-Rex, and the woolly mammoths much more than on previous visits, mostly, I think, because they are really into the show Dinosaur Train right now. We started to go in the exhibit with the preserved animals, but realized if we didn't eat lunch soon we wouldn't be on time for the 3-D show.

The 3-D show Dinosaurs Alive! was pretty intense. Jared was glued to the screen the whole time. It was so awesome to have these recreated dinosaurs come out of the screen and almost seem to touch you. I highly, highly recommend this show.

Outside the theater, we walked past a unique display. There was a handle that led down to a vat of tar, and you had to pull on the handle to see how heavy it would be to pull yourself out of a tar pit.

Of course, the only way to the museum's central area from the theater is to walk right through a gift shop. We spent quite some time there, at least a half hour. It's hard not to feel like you're wasting your time just looking at stuff where there's an entire museum to explore, but I know to the kids it was a whole room of exciting things to explore. So we had puppet dinosaur fights, played with dinosaur figurines, and tried on dinosaur masks.  

I had thought we'd head to another exhibit, something we'd never seen before, but the kids wanted to go to the Crown Family Playlab. So, that's where we spent the rest of our time. They headed first to the percussion room....

then to the dioramas..

the dinosaur section where they pretended to sit in a dino nest and brush off dinosaur fossils...

Next, they headed to the play pueblo where they gathered corn and cooked it over a kettle...

made puppets out of paper bags in the art room....

and of course tried on animal costumes where they even encouraged me to join in the fun.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fun Play Around the House in February Part 1

On their own, the kids came up with the idea of putting each different colored marker in it's own container and watching the ink dye the water. It's a pretty frequent game of theirs lately.

Lots of impromptu concerts.

They've created a game they call store, which makes me cringe whenever they want to play it because it usually involves a lot of clean up afterwards, but they really, really love it. They'll take something from the fridge or pantry and hand it to me. I'm the cashier; I scan the item, they give money and I give them the item. They put it in a bag and carry it to the couch. They then proceed to do this until there are literally fifty bags piled high on the couch. I wish I had a picture with all the bags, but I only have one below taken at the beginning of the game.

Lots and lot of concoctions.

Of course the hours and hours of dress-up fun.

And quite a few painting sessions.

Alex'a First Haircut

I've trimmed Alexa's hair before, but she's never had a real haircut.  Jared's come twice to my hairdresser for a hair cut, and Alexa's always been there, too, so I was surprised when she said she didn't want to go to the beauty salon. When I asked why, she said, "Because I'll get sprayed in the face with water." Jared hasn't had a  haircut in at least three months, the hairdresser sprayed his head with water a few times, and we've never, ever brought that up, so I was surprised a small detail like that would make such an impression on her.

So, I was so glad that after Jared's haircut, she marched right up to the chair and actually seemed to enjoy herself, which was a good thing because I spent much of the time chasing after Jared, who kept running into the changing stalls, jumping up on the chairs, and being pretty loud. They both liked the lollipops afterwards. One customer approached me and asked if Alexa was my daughter. She said, "She'd absolutely gorgeous. She's gonna be a real looker when she gets older." Yep. That's what I'm afraid of.

Involving Kids in Real Work

My kids think washing windows is fun. They also think doing the laundry, dusting, and helping cook is fun, too. They think this because they see me doing it, and little kids naturally want to do whatever it is their parents are doing.

The problem comes when adults think of ways to push kids away from helping. I get it; believe me, I do. It's not always a fun, care-free thing to have your 2 year old help mix, stir, pour, or chop while you make dinner. Sometimes half the dinner winds up on the floor, or you have to mop the floor once again. It also takes double the time to make the bed, dust, separate the laundry or mop the floor when your thee year old is by your side.

But the parents who always put their kids in front of the T.V. or try to get them involved in something else whenever they are doing chores and the kids want to help, are the the same parents who want their 12, 13 and 14 year olds to help out more around the house. Why should those kids want to now?  When they did have a deep interest, they learned they were just in the way. There have been no habits formed at a time when the kids did not see pitching in around the house as "work"; it was simply wanting to be like mommy and daddy.

My kids can crack an egg open neatly, chop vegetables, pour, mix with the mixer, separate laundry, put clothes from the washer to the dryer, dust, spray down windows, mop a floor with assistance, and help make a bed. Never have I asked either of the kids to help me do any of these things. They see me doing them, and ask to do them, too. Because she is an early reader, Alexa also reads off the grocery list to me at the store, and both kids put things from the shelves into the cart.

Are my kids special?  Well, of course, but not in the sense that other kids their age couldn't do the same things, too, if their parents would involve them in their every day work. I've read of kids who can hammer nails perfectly at age three, fry their own eggs by themselves at 7 (oh, wait, that was me!) and know how to dock a boat at age 5. It's simply because they've had hours and hours of practice at their parents' side doing these things.

If natural, life learning is to take place, kids must be involved in real, adult work from the time they are just toddlers. They need to know they are useful, and that they have an important part to play in the family. If we encourage kids in other interests, we must expand this to include practical skills, not simply ones certain people would deem "educational."

Trick Dogs, Barefoot Hawaiians, and The Mean African King

We've gone to quite a few library programs in the past two months, so I'm going to lump them all together in one post.

One of our favorites was a dog show at the LaGrange Public Library, where we also met my friend and her son. The dogs jumped through hoops, zipped and unzipped jackets, climbed ladders and did dozens of other tricks. Then, the kids were invited to pet the dogs after the show.

Even with all that excitement, I think my kids had the most fun pushing their little friend around in his stroller after the show.

Alexa danced on stage with other girls in the audience when we saw the Barefoot Hawaiians at the Oak Park Library. Jared was a little too nervous to get on stage with the other boys. Both kids really loved watching and listening to dances from French Polynesia, Hawaii, New Zealand, the Cook Islands and Fiji. Plus, it made looking at those places on the map much more memorable.

We've also visited the Oak Park library in the past month for an arts project where they created a winter collage, and we've seen a theater/music performance on Martin Luther King, Jr. birthday. A two person acting team put on several short skits based on legends from different parts of the world, performed a dragon dance from China, and other dances from around the globe.

There are so many awesome free library programs in our area. We can usually go to at least three a month if we want to. It's an incredible way to show kids things they may have never been introduced to before, a chance to be with other kids, and also to see what new things might spark their interest.

It's also just a great chance for pretend play, checking out new books and even watching some fish. And best of all, kids can choose whether or not to participate and what they want to dig into even deeper.