Sunday, October 23, 2011

Halloween 2011...

I love Halloween.  It encompasses a super fun transition from the warmer to the cooler days.  Some might just say, "I love Fall."  But, my love for the season ends when it's too cold to go outside without a jacket and all the leaves are off the tree.  I do not love the Thanksgiving season.  Granted, there are 4 seasons, but the holidays around this time categorize a season more than the season itself.  I love the Christmas season, too.  I do not love the bitter cold days of January and February.  And the Valentine season just doesn't really exist.  Tax season, now there's a season to look forward to!
I'll stop being fresh now.

Starburst Fangs


This is the man I married...


Halloween festivities are never complete without face painting.


Our spooky window #1


Spooky window #2


Worms...because worms are scary. 
 


BRAINS!
 Back to the Halloween season...
The hubs brought the tradition of rolling out Starburst candy and cutting out teeth into our home from his childhood.  Nothing says I Love You like tooth decay.
Every year I volunteer at the local community center at their Haunted Halls.  This year was the first year the hubs brought the kids.  My four-year-old couldn't wait to go into the super haunted house.  There were 3 sections.  An activities room for the littles, a medium-scary room for the slightly older, and the super spooky haunted halls.  My oldest only wanted to stay in the littles room with me.  The other three went into the medium-scary room and fared well.  The hubs and the very eager 4-year-old ventured into the haunted halls, child yanking adult fiercely across the building with excitement!  I saw them exit.  Odin was walking slowly, eyes unblinking.  "Hey buddy, how was it?"  He looked up at his dad.  The hubs says, "It's okay, you can tell her." 
"Mom.  There was this guy.  With a chainsaw.  Trying to cut off another guys....head."
"Are you okay, man?  Will I need to send you to therapy in a few years?"
"I was scared, mom." He gives me a big hug and then was on his way, telling his brothers all about the things he saw, telling them he wasn't scared at all. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

CSA Fun

We headed to our csa today to pick up our last share.  I am not looking forward to buying vegetables next week!  And sometimes, it's not just about the vegetables...
Gorgeous oranges and yellows


Mud puddles to boys are like flames for moths.


It's all fun and games until there is mud in your eye


Brussel Sprouts


"I am all muddy!"

Sinister contemplating

Rethinking the whole mud-jumping idea


Muddy lashes


Yes, there's a child lying in the muddiness...


Grabbing mud for mud ball throwing...this never ends well.
 


Dry and toasty with Pirate Booty




Mud-laden garments


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Feeding a Catfish

There are moments as a mom where you reach ultimate coolness.  When they're little, everything you do is awesome to your kids.  When their friends are around, it's very crucial to time your cool moments perfectly so that everyone sees.  (I'm hoping you don't really think I do this on purpose.)
Today, we visited the Ecotarium...again.  We were invited by friends, and who can turn down an invite?  Not I.
While there we hung out on the dock in the lower pond area.  I had no idea this place existed until a few weeks ago when the boys and I were there.  However, it was closed the day we went.  Today it was open.  The boys saw fish in the murky waters.  I had crusts from sandwiches left over in my bag.  (No, that wasn't the cool part) We started feeding the fish.  Kivvers, Sunfish, Pumpkinseed fish.  Not really sure what they were called, but they're in every pond we go to.  Little Ankle Biters is what I call them. 
One kids suddenly yells, "Catfish!"
We all crane our necks to see.  A few moments later I saw it.  The only catfish I've seen is in a tank in my house when I was 8-years-old.  It was not nearly as large as this guy. 
One of the kids had his stick (they were trying to catch fish with just a stick) dangling above the water.  A catfish came over and stuck it's mouth above the water and tried to bite the stick.  I have to admit, it was a wee bit freaky.  They are not cute little fellers. 
I had an idea.  (Get ready...here it comes...) I got a piece of sandwich crust, big enough to hold and dangle in the water.  I had my camera in one hand, the crust in the other.  I dangled.  I hovered.  Then the catfish came.

Yeah, that's right.  Who's cool now?
Okay, so the kids thought I was cool for a second.  My friend and I thought I was cool for way longer.  I still think I'm cool and it's hours later and I'm blogging about it.  I hope it doesn't go to my head.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Backyard Swamp and Frogs!

Some friends of ours have this great backyard.  There is a swamp against the furthermost point of their yard.  I can't imagine the flooding that must occur when the rains are at their peak, but the fun the kids had the other day makes the whole potential flooding worth it.  Almost.  As a homeschooling mom, everything is a learning opportunity, whether my kids realize it or not.  We talked about frog lifespans - did you know frogs can live from 4 to 10 years out in the wild, but many don't because of predators?
There's something so natural about a boy and his frog.



Impromptu frog habitat
We talked about frog habitats - how too much or too little sun can affect them...what frogs need to live.  Air, food, water.  They hibernate in the mud at the bottom of ponds. Frogs are also amphibians, which means they live part of their life in water and part of it on land.  They will also keep growing for up to 5 years. 

There's nothing like being barefoot and almost knee-deep in mud


In captivity, a frog can live up to 40 years!


Some cool frog sites:
http://ed.fnal.gov/projects/frogs/greenfroginfo.html
http://www.herpsofnc.org/herps_of_NC/anurans/Hylchrver/Hyl_chrver.html
http://www.naturesound.com/frogs/frogs.html
http://www.kidzone.ws/lw/frogs/activities.htm
http://www.pondfilter.com/the-frog-pond-a-froggy-guide-for-kids.aspx

Theme Unit - The Rain Forest and Jungle

Here's how it started:  "Mom, I want to learn about all animals", said Eli.  "Dude, you've got to narrow it down.  What kind of animals?", said mom.  "All animals", replied Eli.  Repeat what mom said again, then add in a few categories to choose from.  Rain forest/Jungle animals was not on the example list.  Then my first question was, "What is the difference between the Jungle and the Rain forest...is there a difference?"  Apparently, there is.  Taken from sites like ehow.com, wisegeek.com and differencebetween.net, I was able to formulate a distinction.  Basically, a rain forest has taller trees and a thicker canopy (top of trees) with less growth in the understory (ground level).  The jungle can be independent of a rain forest, however it is also usually found surrounding a rain forest, as the trees thin out and more sunlight is let in.  The jungle has more growth in the understory.  Here is a list from differencebetween:

Summary:

1.A rain forest has a very thick canopy of tall trees, making it very difficult for light to penetrate to the ground level which makes it difficult for plants to flourish. A jungle floor on the other hand will usually have a thick undergrowth of plants and vegetation.

2.If part of a rain forest is cleared, the remaining trees will let in more light towards the forest floor, thus encouraging growth of vegetation, and thereby making a jungle out of a former rain forest.

3.Forests in the Indian sub-continent have always been known as jungles, whereas the rain forests have really been identified with the Amazonian basin in Brazil.

4.Another difference lies in the importance of tropical rain forests to the ecological health of the earth, which is immense. In comparison, jungles have a relatively minor impact.

I was ready to move on. 
Eli wanted to make a mural.  I started printing out rain forest/jungle related activities off different sites.  We have a subscription to edHelper.com.  They have worksheets and activities related to just about everything the typical school-aged child will want or need to know.  I found all sorts of things to print out.  I'm pretty sure I got overzealous and printed out way too many things.
We worked for 2 hours.  Eli colored in a lion and giraffe, created a pond, hippo and tiger.  We created a Morpho butterfly.  I found a map of Africa, enlarged it and printed it out.   We spent another 2 hours the next day.  Then he was done.  But I have worksheets and booklets to color and read and word searches!

We've since taken a break.  We visited the library yesterday and found a ton of books on the subject at hand.  However, we could only take out three on one subject.  I was told to put 7 books back.  Whoops. 

We own a copy of The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry.  I ordered A Guide for Using The Great Kapok Tree in the Classroom.  Okay, so we're not in a classroom, but it's still useful.  I was able to get the guide for $4.00 from Amazon.  It was a used, old library copy for a penny, but then they charge $3.99 for shipping.  Because I get Prime shipping and it was in the a.m. when I ordered it, I received it the next day. 
In a few weeks, we'll wrap up our rain forest/jungle exploration with a trip to Roger Williams Zoo in Rhode Island, where they have a Tropical America exhibit.  It'll be cold by then, so I'm not sure how much will actually be exhibited.  We'll also take some time out to visit the Butterfly Place again.  They have Blue Morpho butterflies, which can only be found naturally in the rain forests of South America. 
We watched Rio, which isn't educational at all, but does take place in the Brazilian Rain forest and is pretty funny.  We also watched Go Deigo Go! It's a Bug World.  My two-year-old picked it out at the library.  I've also found some rain forest movies on Netflix. 
What I've learned from this - Kids generally want some information and parents get more excited and expect lesson plan after lesson plan to get completed.  Some other homeschool mommas and I chatted regarding this topic...we were all overzealous and super excited there was a topic our child was interested in.  If our Kindergarten-aged children were actually in school, they would probably spend the same amount of time over a period of a month on one topic as we do in a few days.  I have to keep reminding myself of that.  And that when my kids' desire for a topic has been sated, to just stop, regardless of how excited I am.  Well, unless it's driving them to want more.   

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

You're Eating Maggots, Michael...

Whenever I hear the word maggots, I think of that movie with Keifer Sutherland as a vampire.  "You're eating maggots, Michael", he says to an unsuspecting contender while he's eating rice out of a Chinese take-out box.  Lost Boys.  A classic of the 80's, in my book anyway.  I was bringing our trash barrel back from curbside and I noticed this horrible smell.  I never, ever have cleaned our trash barrel.  It's this supersized barrel the trash collectors loan to their customers.  We throw our bags in and call it a day.  This day, I looked inside.  I almost vomited.  At the bottom were maggots.  And not just maggots...plump, smelly maggots.  I was so grossed out.  As you can see, the barrel isn't excessively dirty.  It's a trash barrel that remains outside, for goodness sake.  Some vinegar, soap and hot water later, I now have a much cleaner, less smelly barrel.  These things are hard to clean, too.  I am certainly not climbing in to give it a good scrub.  Blech.

The little yellowy things are maggots.  Hundreds of them.
And in case a picture isn't enough...here's a video.  My kids even thought it was gross...and that's saying something.
video
I'm not the best videographer and it was taken with my phone, so it's not the best quality, but you get the picture.  Blech...again.
What have we learned?  Keep that trash barrel clean, momma.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Hannaford Field Trip

I have been using The Field Trip Factory for over a year now.  I love it.  They offer FREE field trips.  This time we went to Hannaford Supermarket.  They introduced the kids to their Guiding Stars program.
Pros:
  • We got to go behind the scenes. 
  • It was fast-paced
  • Free samples of food along the way
  • A cute reusable bag with goodies for the kids
Cons: 
  • We don't necessarily follow their guidelines for healthy eating.  (example- things that are low/no sugar appear on their star program.  This could also mean that it contains aspartame or some other artificial sweetener.  No thanks.  We like our food natural and pure.)
Overall, it was a great trip.  I highly recommend using The Field Trip Factory to book trips in your area.  It's done online and some trips even give coupons for stuff...like the AC Moore trip - what's better than a $5 coupon for each kid?


In the bakery


They saw pizza...


Meat


Corn


Learning about recycling


Lobster petting


Hands on Nature class

We love nature.  Eli is in 3 different nature classes.  Each one brings a different world view of nature.  There are different kids, teachers and locales. 
This particular one is a 40 minute ride away.  It's run by a fabulous woman, who has boys of her own, named Heather.  And fortunately, Odin gets to join in on the fun.  It's his first class.  Like in soccer, he clung to me.  Then I had to bring Silas to the bathroom.  When I came back I could hear Odin talking to Heather halfway down the hall.  I stopped and listened.  He was very conversational and participatory...without me being there.  As soon as I stepped back into the room he was at my side.  What have we learned here, mom?  Leave the kids be.  I tagged along with them on their walk.  Next time, though, I'll be dropping them off and leaving so they can fully enjoy the experience without me.  I'd love to be able to help facilitate their adventures, but it seems my presence is more of a hindrance for Odin.

Writing in his nature journal


Taking time out for a snack


Deer markings


In the stream

worm

Worcester Ecotarium


Bubbles!

Bear Skulls


Shark and Whale teeth


Tide Pool
 I love going places with my boys, I really do.  What I don't like is how fast they move through everything.  This time I really tried to grab their attention and make them stop and really see what was there.  Eli, my oldest, was more apt to stop and take note.  The others just zoomed.  Luckily the Ecotarium is small enough where they could zoom and I could still keep track of them with only a small number of patrons knowing the names of my children.  Our favorite was the curator's exhibit where they could touch and hold shark's teeth, porcupine quills, skulls, huge pine cones, snakeskin and so much more. 
Unfortunately, their polar bear passed away back in January and their fox den was empty for revamping.  And we missed the train ride... 
If you head out there, check their website for the train schedule.