Tuesday, April 19, 2011

March Birthday Parties

We celebrated two birthdays in the weeks before our three week Las Vegas/San Diego trip, so it was a hectic, crazy time. Add to that me attending a two day In-Home (homeschooling )Conference,where I met Sandra Dodd, Pat Farenga, David Albert and Cindy Gaddis (I'd highly recommend attending this conference if you live in the Chicago land area), well, it was an exhausting but inspiring time.

My best friend had a party at Chuck E. Cheese for her son, celebrating his 3rd birthday. Looking through my pictures, I realized I never took a picture with all three kids together! They were all moving so fast from one ride to another that it was hard to keep up with them.

Then, three days before our trip we celebrated Steve's birthday at his parent's house. We had a good time hanging out with family. I think the present Steve liked the most was the digital recorder for his guitar. He works so hard for us and is the greatest father I know, loving to spend all of his free time with me and the kids, that I feel bad he doesn't play guitar as much anymore, something he loves to do. I hope this present reminds him of his creative side, since finding sales tax refunds all day doesn't allow for this too much!

I really am the worst wife, though. The night before Steve's real birthday, we had a little family party and the kids gave him some presents. Then, the next morning, the day we left for our trip, I let him leave the house for work without saying Happy Birthday! I remembered mid-morning when his father reminded me. I felt a little better when Steve said his dad had called him to wish him a happy birthday and HE forgot it was his own birthday, too!

Even though it's not about birthdays, I included the picture below because besides Legos, tying figures up and dangling them from things is so what Jared is about these days. He can tie knots WAY better than me now.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hawthorne Museum @ Morton College

My grandmother, now deceased grandfather and uncle all have their pictures hanging in the new Hawthorne Museum at Morton College. How cool is that!  I love museums, but to come into this one, even though it's small (just two rooms) and see my grandparents and uncle's pictures up on the wall was really cool . And it was something really special for my kids to see, too.

The museum is dedicated to the now defunct Western Electric Hawthorne Works facility located in Cicero, Illinois.  It became the manufacturing arm of the Bell Telephone Company.  The facility was really a little city of itself and boasted a hospital, fire brigade, laundry, greenhouse, a brass band, running track, tennis courts, gymnasium, an annual beauty pageant and a staff of trained nurses who made house calls. In 1975 there were 45,000 workers at the plant.

My grandmother has told many stories about working in the plant, making telephone parts. She'd tell how hot the workers would get, how many would faint because there was no air conditiong. My grandma would always say how great her boss was because if the workers complained of being faint he would send them to lay down at a cot for a while and take salt pills.

Jared just loved playing switchboard operator. He stayed at this switchboard for at least twenty minutes without getting up.

Alexa called me over to show me one of the first electric dishwashers. I think it was built in 1918. We were pretty impressed. Of course, that might be because we don't even own a dishwasher now!

The museum even has a sculpture my grandfather made using rails off a railroad track. He won first prize in entering it in an art contest at the plant.

Jared liked checking out the old-fashioned telephone booth. Both kids hid in the booth for awhile and had fun popping their heads up through the glass.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Date Night

About a month ago we had our first date night with the kids. I don't know if you've ever done anything like this in your family, but I highly recommend it. With the kids being twins, they almost never have any individual time with us. Parents of singletons have their first child to themselves for at least a year or so and then often have times during the day when the baby takes a nap. So, for a few years the oldest gets to see what it's like to have mom or dad alone. I do things individually with the kids during the day, and Steve and I do on weekends, too, but we're often interrupted or it doesn't last long.

One day after Steve and I came home from a date, Alexa asked Steve if he'd go on a date with her, too. So that's how the whole idea originated. Jared lives for Steve, quite literally he has to give Steve "ten hugs and kisses" every day before he goes to work and waves to him out the window as he drives away, so he was a bit disappointed to have me to spend the evening alone with instead of Steve. I told him we'd switch in the future, and I was determined to plan a night he would always remember, positively of course!

We went to Enchanted Castle and wound up staying there the whole time. Jared seemed a little overwhelmed at first (it was very crowded) and wanted me to hold him a lot, but he gradually warmed up to the games. He got especially excited about a Batman game he found.

After we spent a lot of tokens, we went down to the go-carts to ride. We had to stand in a half hour line, but it was so worth it. I wish I would have taken a picture of it, but Jared looked so cute inside the cart! He was very disappointed he couldn't drive it himself, but I tried to make up for it by going as fast as I could and whipping around the turns (which is saying a lot for me).

Afterwards we ordered our meal. This is when the evening started to go a bit downhill. We had to wait 45 minutes for a hot dog and hamburger. It was really hard to keep Jared patient. He wound up laying all over the floor, climbing on anything he could find and my back hurt from carrying him for a long time. Finally, when we got our food we couldn't find anywhere to sit and wound up sitting under a coat rack. Thankfully, after five minutes some people offered us their seats. 

The rest of the evening did get better. Jared cashed in his tickets for a candy bar and some tootsie rolls that he gave to Alexa. On the way to the car, I asked him if he had a good time that evening and was glad he went out with me. He looked up at me, smiled and said, "I'm glad I went with you, Mommy."  What more could I ask for?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Desert Activities

We're going to be gone for three weeks on a trip to Nevada and California. In fact, I've scheduled this post to be published while we're on that vacation. We're going to Las Vegas with my husband's work, and while we're there, we'll rent a car, drive 5 hours to San Diego where we've rented a house for two weeks. I'm so excited.

To get us excited about our trip, I check out the book Crafts For Kids Who Are Wild About Deserts.  We many some really fun memories from picking our favorite craft ideas from the book. The picture at the top of the post was a really simple camel craft using an envelope and brown construction paper for the legs, neck and face.  

We also made a diamondback rattlesnake from old egg cartons and brown, white and black paint. It took a while to make, but the kids liked the movable rattle on the back made from another egg carton.

Steve doesn't usually get to be involved as much with our projects since he's gone most of the day, but one evening Jared said he really wanted Steve to do a "desert craft" with him.  They chose to make a paper holder coyote. This is a really, really simple craft to make, too. You just need an empty cereal box, brown construction paper and a black marker.

This little skunk's main attraction is the movable "stink" near his tail.  Too cute! 

We also read a lot about the desert in Australia and the dreamstimes paintings the aboriginal people did on cave walls.  Alexa loved surfing the web for sites displaying dreamstimes artwork and read a bit about the stories that went along with the paintings. We started our own dreamstime painting, but the kids quickly petered out. I really enjoyed making mine, so I've included it here for you all to check out, too.

There were a lot of other desert crafts and activities we did and will do like cooking cactus leaves, making a coral snake bracelet and making petroglyphs.  You can read about them in Deserts: An Activity Guide for Ages 6-9.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ocean Activities

We're going to the California and staying near the ocean in a few weeks (when this is published we'll already be there!), so I checked out Awesome Ocean Science (Kids Can! series) for some ocean related activities the kids might find fun to do.

Although the book is written for kids a bit older than mine, we still found many activities simple enough to do and understand. One of our favorites was the condensation/evaporation experiment.  We put warm water in the bottom of a plastic jar and set a baggie of ice inside the rim of the jar, holding it in place with a rubber band. Then after a few minutes it was exciting to see our ice baggie start to "rain."

The kids work well together because Alexa loves to be the reader and basically tell us what to do!  Jared is definitely a hands-on person and prefers to be the one in charge of doing the experiment or activity.

They had some really cool experiments showing what happens when the fresh water of rivers flow into the salt water of the ocean. Afterwards, Jared had the most fun just playing with the food coloring, water and medicine dropper.

Alexa's favorite experiment was testing which materials absorbed and which didn't absorb water. We gathered stuff from all over the house:  gym shoes, wood, leather shoes, paper, sponges and lots of other things, too. Then we squeezed droplets of water of the material and watched what happened....

...and then finished off the rest of the water.

Another fun experiment was testing water pressure. You stick your hand in a bread bag and then plunge it into a container of water. The kids thought it was so cool that their hands would get squeezed by the water. It really made them understand what would happen to you twenty feet under the water if you weren't wearing special equipment.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Scooby Doo & Legos

I've said this in a previous post, but my kids LOVE Scooby Doo and the gang, especially Jared. He will spend hours with his Scooby Doo figures, tying them up, hanging them from his pirate ships, and shooting them down with his nerf gun.

We found the five pack figure set for only $10 at Toys R Us. They are his co-ultimate toy. The other has to be Legos. Jared is such a right-brained person. He is so creative, a deep thinker and has a built in sense of order and sequence. He loves to be read to, but I think he will not be ready to read for quite a few years. I thought things would be strange since Alexa started reading words at 2 and now reads longer children's books like Stuart Little on her own, but she reads books to him on the couch and he doesn't seem to think it's strange that he's not reading them on his own yet she can. I'm so, so, so thankful for this. They both would be so out of place in a school classroom. I guess it might party be the way they've been given a lot of freedom growing up, but it might also be their in-born personalities, too.

How great is it that they get to grow up knowing that playing Scooby Doo and Legos is just as valuable as reading a book or watching an American Frontiers DVD (which they just did this morning!)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Hanging out with Family & Friends

We've had some great fun hanging out with the family and our friends these past few months. The week after Christmas we went over to my friend's house to exchange presents with the kids. Both Jared and J love pirates so that was fun.

We also went a few times with J to the Max for their Bounce Days.

 We checked out a new place,  Jumps N' Jiggles. This place is so cool. They have an indoor carousel that you can go on unlimited times with the price of admission ($5). Wherever the kids go, they always find instant friends. They found a little boy they became attached to and loved playing with him on this helicopter play equipment.

We went to see Steve's dad play volleyball at the church.

We also made a few visits to their granddad at the church. Jared always wants to hold the dagger set someone gave Larry from Pakistan. Then we usually head down to the gym for paper airplanes and floor hockey.

We were also able to meet Steve at his job once this winter. He left early and we headed to the mall for a train ride.

A big part of our winter has been the kid's weekly gymnastics class. It's great because it's just a few minutes away and only lasts a half hour. For the most part, the kids seem to like it, although they don't do so well when the coaches have the kids standing in line too long (who would?)

And we've celebrated a few birthdays, too. We had a party Steve's dad at their house in February and for my sister's husband the beginning of March.