Friday, October 3, 2014

What We Did Over Summer Vacation - Part 4

Also in August, we visited Lake County History Center for a pioneer day field trip.  We got to learn about life in pioneer times by performing some hands-on tasks such as doing chores in a log cabin, making johnny cakes over the fire, hand-dipping candles, and participating in lessons in a one-room schoolhouse.  It was great fun and you could really see the information being absorbed and "clicking" in the kids' heads.  I overheard Monkey saying to another boy in our group when we were in the log cabin, "This sure would be a neat life," and Bug still occasionally says "yes ma'am" to me, many weeks later, after being taught that's the proper way that children speak to adults in the schoolhouse that day.

Hand-dipping candles


The little boys (including Bug) were sent out to fetch wood, with one big boy in charge.  Monkey's group was sent to bring back buckets of water.

She was really entertaining.  She taught us about pioneer life and showed us how to grind corn and make johnny cakes over the fire, which was a daily breakfast staple.
The teacher, calling the children in to school.

Leading everyone in a "blab" lesson.

Monkey doing his lesson on his slate.  Notice the woodstove in front of him - the teacher discussed how that kept everyone warm in winter and required work from both teacher and students to keep it going.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

What We Did Over Summer Vacation - Part 3

Also in August, we made our first visit to the Cleveland Botanical Garden.  I had been a little hesitant to go because I didn't know if the boys would be that interested, but we all thoroughly enjoyed the trip and spent a good 4+ hours exploring the place.  Highlights were the butterfly enclosure and the children's garden - especially the splash pad.  What motivated me to go, though, was that I had heard good things about the temporary Lego sculpture exhibit and I wanted to see it before it ended.  They were placed all around the gardens and it was fun to come across them as we wandered.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Let me back up a second - our spring/summer To-Do List

In May or June, we wrote a To-Do list together of all the stuff we wanted to do over the next few months.  It was taped to one of our kitchen cabinets all summer.  Here it is:

If you can't read it, here's the list (with completed items crossed off):
Visit Great Lakes Science Center
Visit Pump-It-Up
Visit Sky Max
Sleep Outside / Camp Out
Complete Spring Hiking Spree
Visit a Lake Erie Beach
Go Fishing
Get a RV
Go Running
Go to Yankee Peddler
See Hot Air Balloons
Go to the Pet Store
Watch Chickens Do Chicken Stuff
Cleveland Zoo
MAPS Museum
Hale Farm
Go to Brandywine Falls
Akron Zoo
Cleveland Botanical Gardens (before Aug 24)
Blossom Concerts
Bike Ride
Stan Hywet

All in all, not a bad summer!  So the recent collection of posts are highlights of things from this list - there are more to come, but I only wrote posts about things we haven't done before, or at least, things I haven't posted about before.  There are 3 or 4 more posts ready to go.  A note on the items that did not get crossed off of the list:  some will get moved onto our fall To-Do list.  "Get an RV" will get bumped indefinitely - Monkey wrote that because he knows we really want to get one and travel, although it's not going to be in the budget anytime soon.  He also wrote "Go running" and I'm not exactly sure what he meant by that... the boys run around like maniacs all the time so I could have crossed it off I suppose.  He may have just meant to go running errands.  I don't think he meant to go running, in a purposeful, athletic way... because that's just not happening.  Not my thing.  Shooting off on a tangent though, that reminds me of a conversation I need to record for posterity: Bug challenged his big brother to a race when we were hiking a couple weeks ago - he said, "First one to the bottom of this hill is a FRESH EGG!"  I love his way of looking at things.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

What We Did Over Summer Vacation - Part 2

The same day we visited GLSC, we finally toured the nearby Steamship William G. Mather for the first time as well.  It's a self-guided tour - you just follow taped arrow lines along the floor which show you the route.  It was pretty cool but the kids loved the big spaces and mostly wanted to zip through quickly instead of stopping to examine things, so I snapped as many pics as I could to look at later. 

Sunday, September 28, 2014

What We Did Over Summer Vacation - Part 1

Back in August, we checked out the special Lego Travel Adventure exhibit going on at the Great Lakes Science Center.  It's INCREDIBLE.  There are tons of amazing three dimensional scenes and recreations of famous landmarks from around the world, as well as artwork on the walls made from Legos, interspersed with lots of free play areas.  And all of this is included in the regular admission for the museum - there's no extra fee like there usually is for the special exhibits.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Recent Conversation I Had

Recently, I was at a local Metro Park hiking with my kids.  Another hiker came along from the opposite direction with two small dogs.  My boys asked for permission to pet his dogs and he said yes, so they started petting them.  And then...

Perfect Stranger:  So, do you go to church around here?
Me:  No.
Perfect Stranger:  Aww, why don't you take these little guys to church?
Me:  Um... it's not our thing.
Perfect Stranger:  ...
Me (sensing that he was working on coming up with another persuasive statement):  No, thanks!

And we continued our separate ways down the path.  I know I shouldn't let it get to me, but I have been stewing about this.  It really rubbed me the wrong way.  Let's examine that one little statement again.

Aww, why don't you take these little guys to church?

I know the guy meant well and he thought he was being friendly.  He thought he was doing what he was supposed to do by trying to share the message or bring someone new into his church or whatever.  From his perspective, it's like he has a great big plate of cookies, and he just wants to share them with everybody, right?  But asking me why I don't take my kids to church, implies that I should.  And if I'm not doing something that I should be doing, that implies that I'm failing in some way as a parent and should feel concerned or even... guilty about that, right?

No.  No, no, no, no, no.

First of all, these are pretty personal questions to be asking a complete stranger.  And last time I checked, implying that a total stranger is somehow parenting their children incorrectly is A) just plain rude, and B) not a good strategy to win someone over.  I would never have the audacity to walk up to someone, ask if they take their kids to church, and then ask "WHY?" if they replied "Yes".  That would be rude, correct?  So why is it socially acceptable for it to happen the other way around?  It shouldn't be.

I turned the conversation around in my head for a long time, wondering if I should have said something else or if I should have given him a piece of my mind, but I'm glad I didn't.  I'm sure that would have just given him fuel to take back to church with him, "Oh, I met this angry atheist in the park the other day [shudder]..."  No, I'm glad I gave him exactly as much of my time as he deserved.

I fully respect everyone's right to believe and live as they wish - even if I do not share those beliefs - and I would just like to receive the same consideration and respect.  I should be able to go for a walk in the woods with my kids without a stranger needlessly shoving his religion down my throat and rudely implying that I'm doing parenting wrong.  Making judgemental/opinionated statements about religion is not appropriate when engaging in small talk with random strangers whose belief systems you know nothing about.  There are millions of other things to talk about.  If you really cannot think of any other topic to discuss in a small talk situation, you need to work on your social skills.

Thanks, internet, I feel better now.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Another Chicken Update

The summer has flown by and fall is nearly here.  Our feathered companions have been great company and have provided a constant stream of learning opportunities as we've watched them continue to grow and develop.  Here are a couple pics of the flock which were taken about a month ago.

Monkey thinks the chickens are kinda cool, but Bug is a bit obsessed with them.  We often refer to him as the chicken whisperer.  He loves to hang out with them and cuddle them and giggle at their antics and give them treats.  He is completely comfortable around them and utterly fearless.

Oh, and he wants to BE one for halloween.  The first element of his costume arrived the other day.  (Thank you, Amazon!)

In the past week, we have experienced two big firsts.  I had been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the first egg and had been searching the internet for information about how you could tell when your chickens were about to start laying.  Most sites said around 4 to 6 months, and a couple places said the average age was 20 weeks.  So I counted off 20 weeks from the day we picked up our newly-hatched chicks (Wednesday, April 23rd) and I wrote on the calendar on Wednesday, September 10th "Chickens are 20 weeks" and watched the date get closer and began checking the nest boxes each day.  Low and behold, right on September 10th - the first egg appeared!  And it was a Big Event for our household.  Both kids had to pose for pictures with the egg.

I'll never forget when Bug exclaimed, "I'm so proud of you, chickens!  Great job!"  I was just as excited as a little kid too.  I did refrain from taking an egg selfie though.  That same day we had taken one of the hens to our homeschool co-op with us for Bug's Preschool/Kindergarten Animal Study class.  He was so excited to share his chicken with everyone and she was a big hit.  Everyone was amazed at how relaxed and friendly she was, and I gave Bug all the credit for socializing our birds so well.  I was a little bummed that we didn't end up taking the hen who laid the egg though, because she would have ended up laying it while we were there!

Even more exciting, this morning, Shane ate that first egg for breakfast and texted me this pic:

Egg number one was a double-yolker!!
Today we received egg #2 and I could tell its arrival was imminent because the hen was definitely singing the "egg-laying song" which is something else I came across in my internet research.  (There are plenty of YouTube videos of it if you're curious.)  It's basically just some very loud clucking: bawk bawk bawk bawk BA-GAWK! with the pattern repeated over and over.  If the song had lyrics I am pretty sure they would be "What's coming out of my BUTT?!  What's coming out of my BUTT?!"  It's rather comical.

Anyway, I mentioned above that we had two firsts this week.  The other first involves an intentional decrease in our rooster population.  Shane converted two of them to food.

This majestic creature is now in my freezer.  Weird, I know.
The kids and I went elsewhere and he and a friend took care of business.  I have not gotten a lot of details from him on the process (and that's ok!), but he was committed to learning how to do it, from a self-sufficiency standpoint, although I gather that he definitely did not enjoy it.  We still have four more roosters to eliminate and I know he is not looking forward to it.  My parents offered to take them to a livestock auction instead and we may take them up on their offer.  Not sure yet.  We haven't eaten the two he killed yet and while it seems very strange to have two creatures who were recently walking around my backyard, now inside my freezer, I am curious to see if I can taste a difference in fresh, organic-fed, cage-free chicken that we raised ourselves, compared to what comes from the grocery store.  Will let you know...

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.  :)