Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Activities

Whenever there's a holiday, we like to do things connected to the holiday whether it's reading books, watching movies or doing some type of art or science activity. It really gets us in the mood and excited about it. Last year we watched the Disney Squanto: A Warrior's Tale for the first time. This year we watched it again, and it will probably turn into a yearly tradition.

I was looking online at some sites, tying to get some ideas of fun activities we could do together, and I ran across this site. I'm so sorry, but I forgot what the site was called, but I took a picture of one of the main pages. Alexa was sitting on my lap browsing with me, and she was absolutely glued to this site for about an hour. They had actual documents from some of the Pilgrims, had a cool section on facts and myths surrounding the Pilgrims, and a lot of info about the Wampanoag tribe.

Last year I had bought a huge bag of walnuts, wanting to do this craft/science experiment with the kids, and we never got around to it. The kids were so, so, so psyched to do this project this year.  It was all about making our own mini Mayflowers.  We cracked walnut shells in half, stuck some playdough to the bottom of the shell, and stuck in a toothpick with a bit of wax paper attached into the playdough. Then we dyed a container of water blue and tried to see which shells floated and which sunk.

I don't have pictures of this, but we also made Thanksgiving scrolls, which I'll write about more in a few days.

We also make turkey cookies by tracing our hands in paper and outlining the paper against cookie dough. It was a fun project, but it took WAY, WAY longer than I'd thought. The kids ran out of steam with it long before the cookies were done, so I did much of it by myself. But the next morning, Steve and the kids decorated the cookies with dyed icing and raisins, so they got into the spirit of it again.

We listened to some Thanksgiving songs from a kids CD and read a few picture books about the Pilgrims from the library.

What fun Thanksgiving activities have you done this year?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Digging up Sue at the Field Museum

We had such an awesome day at the Field Museum on the 17th of this month. I had originally brought the idea up to the kids a few weeks ago when we read Sunset of the Sabretooth and learned more about the Ice Age. The Field Museum has a great exhibit called the Evolving Planet that holds lots of prehistoric fossils.

Before heading to that exhibit, though, we went through the Ancient Egypt exhibit - a permanent fixture at the Field. I've written before about how what we get out of things, whether they be books, movies or experiences, changes every time we go back to them because we are a new person each day (or should be!).  Since I truly believe this, you'd think I shouldn't have been surprised at how different the kids were in the Egypt exhibit than they were last year. I really didn't think they'd like it since they just ran through it last year, but I was very much surprised at how much they enjoyed it. I knew I would. I've been reading through the Amelia Peabody books by Elizabeth Peters.  It's about an amature Egyptologist in the late 1800-early 1900s and is also a mystery series. I love it!

The kids love, love, love Scooby Doo movies. Unfortunately, this caused a little problem when Alexa learned we were going to see a real mummy. I had to hold her clinging to me since she thought there would be mummies that would chase her like in the last Scooby Doo movie she saw. After a while, she calmed down and actually wanted to look inside the case. Did you know the word "mummy" actually came from an Arabic word mumiyah which means "body preserved by wax or bitumen." When the Europeans saw the Arabs point at the preserved body and say "mumiyah," they thought that was the name for it. After a while the word was shorted to "mummy".

Here's Jared seeing if he could pull a 500 pound limestone block on a wooden sleigh...

...and the kids trying to balance Egyptian weights on a scale.

We went for a short time to the Crown Family Playlab where the kids gravitated towards the adobe hut and dinosaur sections. The man who ran the front information desk told me about the lending program the museum has, and I soon found out he was homeschooled growing up. We even talked about the In-Home Conference held in March in St. Charles, Illinois where he often speaks. Very cool.

After a quick lunch, we walked upstairs to the IMAX theater to watch the 3-D movie "Walking the T-Rex," which tells the story of the discovery of Sue, the most in-tact Tyrannosaurus Rex in the world, up until her unveiling in 2000 at the Field Museum. It was a really great movie that I highly recommend.

Afterwards, we walked through the Evolving Planet exhibit and checked out some prehistoric fossils. The first picture below is of a saber tooth tiger, but I can't remember what the other picture was.

And then before we left, we took a close-up view of "Sue" which was so much more meaningful since we finished learning all about her.

What is your favorite museum to visit?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fun Days

Spontaneous fun.
Daddy fun.
Puzzle fun.
Mr. Potato Head Fun.

Pretending to be Sandman, capturing Spiderman (Jared) and throwing him into the garbage (hamper) per his request, so Joker, Riddler and the rest of the villains could terrorize the city.

(yep, he's really buried under all that!)

Savoring those unexpected moments of laughter, learning and life. That's what we've been about lately.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Day Out with Grammy and Pappa

Last Friday my mom took the kids for about five hours so I could have some alone time. I've had a bad sinus cold lately, the house has been descending into chaos and I was feeling very stressed. So, when my mom offered to pick the kids up at 9:30, play with them, feed them lunch, and then drop them off again at 3:30 before Alexa's make-up ballet class, I about cried with relief. 

I don't spend that much time away from the kids, usually just a few hours during the week mainly for doctor's appointments and running errands, so it felt good to get hours of absolute quiet and an hour's nap on the couch. Still, I sent my camera with my mom so I could get some glimpses of what they did during the day so I wouldn't miss out that much. So, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves to show what fun they had with my parents.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Homeschool Gym Days

I wrote before how Jared said he wanted to go to a gymnastics class so he could play on the balance beam, horse and other gymnastics equipment. Well, I had seen a listing in the YMCA for Homeschool Gymnastics for kids ages 3-5. It would be perfect, I thought. The class might be less structured and focus more on spending time on the equipment, and I might not have to be surrounded by other mothers discussing different preschool options. I could either read a book or talk with another non-school mom about stuff I'm more interested in.

Turns out the class is a bit different than it was listed in the catalogue. It is only made up of kids who don't plan on attending school, but it's more of a fitness time, with a little bit o duck-duck-goose sprinkled in for fun. That's all good and fine, but Jared really wanted to do gymnastics things. My friend from a relaxed homeschool mom's book club I attend is there, so it's fun talking with her, but still, I feel bad for Jared who was so disappointed. They both like playing with the other kids, but I'll see how they feel attending after the holidays are over. Thank goodness the session is only six weeks long.

Have you ever had an experience with a class, homeschooling or otherwise, that was much different then you had anticipated?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

November Hikes

I wrote recently about our October hikes and really didn't think we'd be taking many in November, but it's been a surprisingly warm first part of November, and we've been trying to take advantage of it for as long as we can.

On Sunday afternoon we decided to go by the woods near our house to feed the geese. Well, we got a pretty late start and didn't see any geese near the pond. We saw a few deer playing across a field, but when we started walking towards them, we heard the police car making its rounds and were kicked out of the woods. It was only 5:00, but already the sun had almost set. It's always a shock to me every year to get used to this.

But today we more than made up for our failed woods hike. Steve came home early from a meeting downtown, so we drove down to the Fullersburg Woods next to the Old Graue Mill.

We brought bread with us and found one duck to feed.

The kids we running, and climbing, and surprisingly Jared didn't want to be carried that much by Steve.

I don't have any pictures of it (they turned out way too dark), but we ran into a family of deer. I have never seen deer run so close to me before. It really was a thrilling feeling. We saw the most beautiful buck with these huge antlers. We crept as silently as we could to the edge of the pond where the deer dipped their heads into the water on the other side of us, and then bent their heads up to stare at us, too.

We went into the nature center, but they were closing up just as we walked in. We talked about how we must come back in the snow, all bundled up, to walk in the woods once again, and not tell ourselves to wait until next spring.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Visiting Daddy and the DuPage Children's Museum

It had been a while since we visited Steve at his office, and since we were going to the DuPage Children's Museum later that day, we thought we'd stop by and see Daddy first.  The kids LOVE visiting their dad at his job. He's a sales tax manager and has a nice big office that is fun to play in. Plus, they get to go around saying hi to the members of his team.

We went out to eat at Pompeii, dropped Steve back at work, and then headed to the museum. We have a membership so we can go whenever we want to, and let me tell you, afternoon is the best time to go. It was 1:30 when we arrived, and I think there was probably only three or four other families in the entire building. Awesome! Of course that's because most older kids are at school and the younger kids are taking naps, so that's probably not true about the summers.

I had the idea to go there when I saw on the museum's website that the art studio's project was painting with gears. Turns out the kids spent about five minutes in that room and then wanted to play in the shadow exhibit for about a half hour. It's funny how our interests may draw us towards something, but yet we often walk away in a whole other direction.

What I love about museums is how even though you've been to the same one many times, you still seem to always see or do something new every time you go back. Of course some of that has to do with changing temporary exhibits, but I think it's also about how you've learned new things, think in new ways and are really a different person when you go back.  So, even though the kids have been in this woodworking part of the exhibit a few times before and have seem so-so about it, they spent a long time there today, especially Jared, focusing intently on their projects.

Maybe it was because the water/wind room had literally no other people in it when we were there, or simply because the kids were in such great spirits that day, but we had so, so, much fun pushing rubber ducks down waterfalls, running through wind machines, and playing pirates on a ship. It was a good, good day. Something we all really needed.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Some More Random Fall Fun

Alexa is back in ballet again. She took lessons for six months last year and then said, "I don't want to do this anymore," after her first recital. Then in September, she asked me why I took down a picture (that had been hanging on the fridge forever) of the different ballet positions and threw it away. She was very upset with me. I didn't even realize it meant that much to her. She said she wanted to go to dance again. I said to ask me again the next day. She did. I said to ask me again the next day. She did. Then I knew she was serious.

So, she's been very, very happily attending dance lessons once a week. She told me yesterday she wished she could go every day. It was such a cool lesson to me that even if your kids drop something and say they never want to have anything to do with it again, that's not always the case. Not that I care if she hadn't ever wanted to dance again, but if say your kid doesn't pick up a book to read in six months, it doesn't mean he won't ever want to read again.

Anyways, at the end of every class, Alexa's dance teacher gives the girls coloring pages. Jared always asks for these too. Now, I've never bought my kids coloring books. I personally feel they hinder a lot of creativity and have always preferred the kids free draw. They've also never wanted to color when grandparents or other people have given them coloring books. So, I was really, really shocked when Alexa walked in the kitchen this week holding up a picture she had colored. To my knowledge this is the first picture she has ever colored.

I remember going with the kids to some story times at the library when they were two, and afterwards they had pages for the kids to color. I remember most of the moms guiding their child's hand to color inside the lines. My kids just wrote on the backs of these sheets, and the mothers gave me a strange, pitying look. It was crazy to me that these women actually thought they needed to teach their children how to color correctly! I'd never, ever care if my kids colored outside the lines, but I thought it very ironic that their first attempts at coloring a picture turned out like this.

Besides our foray at bread making a few weeks ago, the kids haven't been interested in helping me bake or cook. Then yesterday Jared says, "Let's make brownies!" So that's what we did.

While the brownies were cooking, I gave the kids a bag of eight pieces of corn on the cob and asked if they wanted to shuck them. I knew Jared would love doing it, and he did. He is so like me in that he loves to do little, detailed manual things. He's good at doing hands-on, detailed things, whereas Alexa is good at mental, detailed things.

We had an awesome morning today. The kids were sitting on top of the couch in front of the living room picture window, waving goodbye to their dad, when they noticed a few squirrels and called me over. We noticed the squirrels were coming right up to the front stairs. I suddenly remembered a huge bag of walnuts I had bought almost a year ago for a project we never did, and ran downstairs to get it.

We threw one out at the squirrel and giggled with delight when he sat nibbling on it, holding it in his little paws with his tail swishing. Then he ran across the street with it. Soon another squirrel came up to him, and it really looked like they were talking to each other. So, I pretended to be the first squirrel talking to the new squirrel telling him how cool that house was across the street and how he should run across and get a nut, too. To our surprise, as soon as I said this, the second squirrel ran across the street and up to our door. The kids LOVED throwing out walnuts to him, and eventually to the other dozen or so squirrels that came out to beg over the next hour. I told the kids that maybe it was the squirrel's Halloween and they were trick-or-treating to our door. They loved that idea. I love, love, love being able to take the spontaneous things of life and run with them without having to always stress over a tightly scheduled life. Moments like this would have been lost, and that would be a huge shame.