Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Little Buckeye Children's Museum - Mansfield, Ohio

Back in June, we visited an amazing place - The Little Buckeye Children's Museum in Mansfield, Ohio.  I've been meaning to write a post about it because I wasn't able to find much in the way of information / pics before we went, and I feel like it's a hidden gem that needs to be shared.  I was absolutely blown away by the place.  Every part of it was so thoughtfully designed, so inviting, and so full of imaginative play potential.  Apologies in advance for the quality of the photos - I only had my cell and was regretting not bringing the good camera with us.  But hopefully this will help give you an idea of the size and scope of the place.

The first thing you see when you enter is this cool and fun musical instrument made of PVC pipes.  You slap the openings with pieces of foam to make various tones.

Next you come to a play area with a dinosaur dig, a cave, and an treehouse-like upper balcony.  Here you can see Bug disappearing into it.  The cave is pretty dark inside, and there are flashlights available for the kids to take inside and "discover" paintings and fossils on the cave walls.

Next begins a miniature city street with play areas for all different parts of the town.

First, the doctor's office:

And next, the Little Bank, complete with working pneumatic tube system for the drive-thru.  The kids spent a long time playing here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Birds and the Bees, or My Kid Says Hilarious Stuff

I must record a few recent conversations for posterity.  One night last week, we were having one of our bedtime chats, when Monkey said, "I'm never going to have kids."  I was surprised to hear this, because he LOVES babies and little kids.  I said, "Really?  You don't want to be a Dad?" to which he responded, totally matter-of-factly, "Well, I have no idea how to breed!"  (He is thinking in terms of "breeding" because he's been playing a game called Dragon City where you collect dragons and breed them to make new dragons.)  I couldn't help laughing, and I told him not to worry, that he'd figure it out eventually.  I then reminded him that we've read It's Not the Stork! about where babies come from, and promised to re-read it with him soon.  At some point in the discussion, he said to me, "If you and Dad are gonna breed, make sure to tell me.  'Cause I might wake up in the night and... [grimace]" (which would seem to indicate that he understood at least a *little* about breeding).

Seriously, this book is fantastic.  It's a must-have for every household.
Fast-forward to this week.  We re-read It's Not the Stork.  Twice.  This was also Bug's first encounter with the book.  Both kids found it fascinating and kept interrupting to ask questions.  Both were especially fascinated by the umbilical cord and Monkey asked, "Wait.  If the cord gets cut when a baby is born, how can more babies be born later?"  (A good question, I thought.)  So I explained about placentas and how each kid gets a new one.  Overall, a fun and interesting read that prompted good discussion with no awkwardness or discomfort at all.  Next we moved on to read "You Are Stardust" which Monkey particularly enjoyed.

You Are Stardust, by Elin Kelsey

This prompted both boys to start reciting that every item in the room was made of stardust - "This pillow is made of stardust!" [giggles] "My elbow is made of stardust!" [giggles] "My toes are made of stardust!" [giggles]  "My penis is made of stardust!"  [huge giggles] and then Monkey looks at me and, mentally searching for the newly-learned word "vulva" and forgetting it, he exclaimed, "Your vagina-butt is made of stardust!"  I knew right away what he meant and we all dissolved in a fit of giggles.  I kept chuckling about that for the rest of the night.  So, ladies, if you need a mental picker-upper, just think about how your vagina-butt is made of stardust.  I dare you not to smile at that thought.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My husband rocks! Or, A New Bed for the Boys!

So, my kids have wanted a bunk bed ever since they got to sleep in one on vacation a couple years ago.  Unfortunately our near-century home has very low, sloped ceilings and a normal sized bunk bed would never fit in their room.  But then I saw some amazing examples on blog posts and Pinterest of how people got creative with IKEA's Kura bed, so I checked the measurements and realized it would actually be a perfect fit.  The $199 price tag seemed pretty reasonable too.

 However, as soon as I showed it to my husband, he said what he always says - "Pssh, I can build that!"  So it's been on his very long to-do list for months.  This past Friday, while perusing our local buy/sell/trade Facebook page (if you recall, that's where I scored our awesome lockers), I came across a posting from someone who was selling this loft bed in barely-used condition for $75.  I showed it to him and asked if it might be easier to modify this one than to build a whole bed from scratch.  He said yes and we liked the price, so we picked it up the next day.  That was Saturday.


Tonight (Tuesday) he came home from work and tackled the project in just a couple of hours.  We installed it in the boys' room and *poof* project complete.  Sorry I don't have an actual tutorial for you, but he basically popped the plastic caps off the bottoms, sawed off the legs to make the bed the right height, and popped the plastic caps back on.  He adjusted/reinforced/welded a couple other spots on the frame to make up for what he had cut off, and that was it.  So we basically ended up in a sturdier version of the IKEA Kura bed, for less than half the price - and we only had to drive about 10 minutes to pick it up versus the hour-plus drive to the IKEA store.  I am super pleased with it - he did a great job. 

We still need to get a second mattress for underneath, but for now it's a cozy little play area/reading nook.  The boys are loving it - way to go, Daddy!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

On the culture of fear in our society...

I just shared this on Facebook but wanted to share it here too.

Last week, I stopped home from the grocery to put some frozen food away before heading back out to visit my mother-in-law. I came out of the house 3 minutes later to find a strange woman parked in my driveway, yelling to me "ARE THESE KIDS OKAY? THEY'RE IN THIS CAR WITH THE WINDOWS UP!" First of all, yes they are fine, I ran in the house and came right back out. Second of all, they are both big enough to exit the car on their own if they get hot. Third of all, get the hell off my property! Okay, I didn't say the last one except in my head, but really? I spent the rest of that day wondering if I was going to receive a call from the authorities. I understand that people want to look out for the safety of children, but sometimes it gets a little out of control and crosses into nosy busybody territory.

Someone posted this article on FB this morning, and even though it's kind of long, it's a worthy read.  It shows how, not only do we have to live in constant fear of terrible things happening everywhere (according the media, anyway), now we have to be afraid of the people who are so afraid of bad things happening that they feel entitled to involve themselves and law enforcement into the lives of strangers over the most minute concerns.  And while I don't agree with what this mother did - I would never leave my 4 year old alone in a mall parking lot even if it was only for 5 minutes - but I don't think it's necessarily criminal.  It just pisses me off, what this mom had to go through.  The worst part is how her son now fears the police and is afraid to have her leave his side because he's afraid someone will kidnap him, since you know, there are kidnappers lurking EVERYWHERE.  Right?

For further reading, look up Lenore Skenazy (mentioned in the above article) and her blog Free Range Kids.  If you're not familiar with her, she's the mom who let her very capable 9-year-old son use the subway on his own and received outrage for it.  Her blog is a breath of (rational!) fresh air.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Reading Level Assessment

I just have to share this here.  A relative just posted a picture of a reading level certificate that her son received at school.  I realized I have never tested Monkey to see what level he is at, and I got curious.  I did a quick search and found a simple online test, which consisted of multiple lists of words of increasing difficulty.  You just have the kid read the lists until they get too difficult.  I called him over and said, hey, read these words for me... and now read these... okay read these... and so on.  The result was level 48, which equals fourth grade, in the eighth month.  So he's at the end of second grade and is testing at the end of fourth grade, or roughly two grade levels ahead.  So I guess I must be doing something right!  I mean, I knew he was doing fine, and I'm sure this simple test is not as comprehensive as a thorough evaluation done by a teacher, but it gives me a sense of encouragement to get a general idea of where he's at.  Yay!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Chicken Update

Chicks grow up really, really fast.  Here are some pics to illustrate their growth rate:

The day we brought them home

At two weeks of age

At three weeks old

At four weeks old
Today, at five weeks old

That's right, five weeks!

They are no longer cute fluffy chicks, but lovely feathered little birds.  They still have a way to go to maturity, of course, but I am amazed at how quickly they grow up.

You may be able to tell from the last two images that they are no longer in the cardboard brooder in the basement, but have moved into the chicken coop.  We took them out there a week ago today, on Memorial Day, and they have settled in and seem quite happy and comfortable out there.  I think my husband (with the help of our friend, Pat) has done quite a nice job on the place - would you like a tour?

I want to turn that stump into a pretend fairy/gnome house, like the ones here.

Shane and Pat built a dutch door on the outside and a screen door on the inside.

Thanks to my Mom for the sign!
Here you can see the rustic/natural roosts Shane built out of some sturdy tree branches.

And here are the cozy nesting boxes he built.  He made them with a wire mesh bottom and a flip-up top for easy cleaning.  Not in use yet, but they will be in just a few short months.

This picture shows all three of our breeds nicely.  From L-R:  Buff Orpington, Australorp, and Dominique.  All chosen for their reputation for being good egg layers and supposed mellow/tame personalities.  The Dominiques are our favorites.  They're the prettiest and friendliest of the bunch for sure.

They really are charmingly entertaining and inquisitive creatures.  Bug and I go out and sit with them once or twice a day and just hang out and watch them.

Here they are clustered at my feet, tugging on the strings of my capris.  Silly birds, those aren't worms!

Photo credit:  Bug

 The boys are absolutely loving their new birdie friends - especially Bug.  He is quite the chicken whisperer.  They LOVE him and will happily sit in his lap and be petted, to his great delight.


And I must admit, I adore them too.  Enough to take a chicken selfie.  :)

Monday, May 5, 2014

A new learning exprience for the whole family... CHICKENS!

After doing a lot of reading and talking about wanting to do something to be more self-sufficient and more connected to where our food comes from, Shane and I decided that this year, we wanted to acquire a flock of chickens.  Of course that decision led to more reading, and Shane dove in in full force.  I got a pile of books from the library and Shane's favorite by far was this one.  He liked it so much that I bought a copy to keep on hand as a reference. 

The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery

So, after asking around for recommendations for a reputable hatchery, we chose to get our chicks from Meyer Hatchery in Polk, Ohio.  After much research, we decided to get six birds each from three breeds:  Australorps, Buff Orpingtons, and Dominiques.  We were looking for breeds that were both docile/friendly and known for being good egg layers.  Not quite two weeks ago, the kids and I drove out to pick up our 18 little balls of fluff.  It was a scenic drive and we passed several Amish farms on the way.  We were actually behind a horse and buggy on the way home, to the kids' delight.

We even got to go through a little tunnel too!

So here are the chicks on the day we brought them home:

We have all been enjoying their company immensely.

Farmer Shane

Bug absolutely adores them and loves giving them (gentle) hugs and kisses.

They are currently in a brooder in the basement that Shane built out of some heavy-duty cardboard that he brought home from work.  They have a simple heat lamp keeping them toasty and a feeder and a waterer. 

So far, they're pretty simple to care for.  I go down once a day and change their water and refill their food, and just hang out and hold them for a bit so they will be used to human contact.  Shane has been excitedly catching bugs and worms to toss in to them as treats and they go nuts over them!  He also tosses in occasional handfuls of grasses and dandelions too.  For a few days a few of the chicks had some poo stuck to their butts and we had to wash them off with warm, soapy water (yeah, a little bit "eww") but then Shane read that if you give them greens you should leave the roots and dirt on them, which the chicks will also eat.  This provides grit to aid in digestion and proper non-sticky poops, and we haven't had any more issues with that in a week now.

Meanwhile, Shane has been busy working on creating their home.  He's converting a decrepit old shed that has been on our property since we bought it 14 years ago.  It sat on a decent concrete pad, but had crumbling particle board sides.   Also the roof was so low he kept hitting his head when he went inside, so he decided to move the whole frame off of the concrete base, have a friend lay two courses of block, move the frame back onto the block, and put new siding on it.  I didn't get a perfect "before" shot - the first two were taken after the frame was moved off the base.



Shane and our dear friend, Pat, putting up the new siding after they had moved the frame onto the new block.

 And now, here is the current state of the chicken house, after this past weekend's efforts.  He still has to make the man door and chicken doors and ramps, install the nesting boxes (which are built, but I don't have any pics of yet) and roosts, and securely fence in the runs.  Plans include two or three separate runs that we will rotate usage of.


It has been great fun throwing ourselves into this project, and it's amazing to witness the daily growth and development of the chickens.  We bought the chicks unsexed, so we don't know how many boys vs. girls we have.  The plan is to keep one or possibly two roosters, and all of the girls, and the rest of the roosters are going to become food.  I will admit that this is something I feel a bit squeamish about, however, I know that every time I eat chicken, an animal had to meet its end somewhere... and this way we'll at least know that they had a free and happy life, rather than spending their entire existence inside a huge farm standing shoulder to shoulder with other chickens in a living space the size of a sheet of copy paper.  Shane seems pretty confident in his ability to perform this task, and we have some knowledgeable friends and family who will probably help him out the first time.  I haven't decided if I will be present for that or not... I feel like I should be here for moral support, at least, but I may end up choosing to stay with the kids at Grandma's house instead.  Not sure yet.  I will continue to update on our progress in this adventure!  Oh, and here are two last pics, just taken this morning.  You can see they've already grown quite a bit in their 13 days here - they now have feathers on their wings and tails, and they're quite a bit bigger too.  They are really sweet and funny little creatures. 

We will be including the kids in the responsibilities of caring for them and collecting eggs each day, which will hopefully help them make a connection to where their food comes from, besides the grocery store.  So far, it's a wonderful learning experience for all of us.