Friday, August 30, 2013

One Trip-- Multiple Subjects!

     Yesterday morning I would have thought we were staying home for the day.  Not one of the boys seemed all that excited about heading anywhere.  I mentioned several suggestions after my initial idea to go the aquarium was shot down and when no one seemed all that enthused I decided to just plan a nice quiet day at home.  Ian decided to make some pancakes and got out the recipe, ingredients and bowl.  I've been trying to help just a bit less each time he bakes/ cooks and I found it worked best yesterday for me to be out of the room.  I'm close enough he can ask questions, but not hovering over him to correct every little mistake.  I was impressed with how easily he's starting to be able to add fractions, as he once again doubled the recipe.  I helped him cook them so he could eat after the first batch was done and tried a little bite-- they were very tasty!  I'm thinking breakfast for dinner is in order one night soon and we'll leave Ian to do all the cooking! 
        Once we had the kitchen cleaned back up, all the kids came to me and asked to go to Mystic Aquarium.  I thought "Really?!!  Didn't I ask that like an hour ago?"  But I shrugged my shoulders and realized that perhaps they aren't as anxious to head out as early as we used to.  They all picked out what they wanted to pack for lunch and helped me pack the backpack cooler.  We headed out and listened to a bit more of Treasure Island on the car ride there.  I'll be honest and admit that I don't really like this book.  It's boring (to me) and I'm constantly getting confused because I'm not always listening as well as I should.  The boys, however, seem to enjoy it, Ian especially.  He quickly summarizes the story for me when I turn it off to ask a quick question so I know he's following along.  I dread listening to the whole thing but I can't bear to tell them they can't listen to it!  We did take breaks from the story and use our Brain Quest packets for some fun trivia time and we sang along with some songs on the radio.  We arrived just before lunch and we were all amazed at how packed it was.  All the parking lots were full and there was a huge line to get in the gate! 
       Luckily, we're members and members have their own gate so we didn't have to wait in line.  I sat back and let the boys set the pace and the layout of our day.  They wanted to start by heading to all the touch tanks.  We pet sharks and alligators.  We saw baby rays and stopped to read all about the relationship between clown fish and sea anemones.  We went through the Amazon rainforest exhibit reading and answering all the questions on  the interactive boards.  We headed outside to find that the sun came out!  We went into the Australian bird exhibit and fed parakeets.  We learned how to get the birds to "step up" onto our stick and even how to encourage them to switch from stick to stick.  We looked for frogs, turtles and fish in the ponds and marshes.  We checked out the penguins, seals and sea lions.  We stopped to see the beluga whales and finally had a nice late lunch.
Petting a baby alligator
Looking at Skate eggs and urchins
These fish have 4 eyes!!  They can see above and below the water at the same time
loggerhead sea turtle exhibit
A new castle! 
watching anemones and clown fish
Matching animals to their sounds in the amazon exhibit
Heading into the "outback"
Evan loves the birds
Alec most fed the birds but I did get him to hold one on his stick
Ian's bird
"a woman kindly hands her parakeet over to Evan"
"I got one!"
another bird for Ian
Ian's third or fourth bird of the day
       After lunch we headed in to see the sea lion show.  Typically, when we're there in the off season we just go in through the exit and so we've never walked through the main entrance to the theatre.  There were interactive displays about local sights to see, ocean and marine life, and a whole hallway dedicated to beluga whales.  There were full color photographs, maps of all the provinces of Canada (that we just had to stop and look at!).  I told the boys we should walk up there next time we come just to read and see it all, even if it doesn't lead to the show.  The show started and we were thrilled to find that it was a totally different show than usual.  It was so fun and playful and it even required audience participation!
The sea lion can blow on a whistle for a VERY long time!
Map of Canada; the boys were eager to study! 

        After the show the boys wanted to head into the Titanic exhibit.  Ian was very interested in the control room display and we started talking about Morse code-- what it is, how it works, etc.  We could listen to actual Morse code messages sent back and forth from the Titanic to nearby ships.  There was a map that would light up with the location of all the ships so we could see how far away they were.  They even had a message written in Morse code so we could see the dots and dashes.  It was very interesting!  From there they played around the exhibit checking out the lights and buttons, the mini sub, and the interactive computer tables showing pictures of sea life, Titanic wreckage and things.
        They announced a Nautilus live tele-chat that Ian really wanted to sit in on and we convinced the other two boys to come along with us since it was only 20 minutes.  We all LOVED it!  The kids even got free activity books to bring home.  The boys had me take their card so we could check out their website later on too.  We can't wait to play around on   Alec was a bit nervous at first because he though they were still excavating the Titanic site and that tends to upset him.  He was relieved to hear that the Nautilus was working in the Caribbean sea.  We learned about sea floor mapping, sonar, satellites, ocean depths, plant and animal life, etc.  I was impressed that a few times, when other adults in the audience were asking what type of animal we were seeing, Alec was able to tell me the answer before the scientists!  We learned about underwater volcanoes, heating ducts/ vents and the sea life that has formed around them.  We talked about hurricane season (since this was the last chat with the Nautilus for the time being.  They pull into port for the September in hopes of missing the worst of hurricane season in the Caribbean.  They were eager to look at and dive into their activity books right away!  We went to take one last look at the penguins and then we headed home.  On our way out the boys all started playing around on the giant world map made out of concrete at the entrance/exit.  I asked them if they could find the great lakes, and Alec went on to tell me all sorts of things like Central America, South America, we found Florida, Ct, Alaska, and so much more.  Between reading all the signs, looking at all the maps, learning about the various animals, and exploring the Titanic we managed to cover reading, science, history and geography all in one trip!  It was great!! 

tiny sun turtles

Huge bull frogs

The biggest water lilies we've ever seen! 

We love the belugas! 

Interactive computer where we listened to all the Morse
Code messages

The ships control room

Just hanging out with the penguins

Ian dives into his booklet before we even get to the car

our free booklets

"pet" the penguin!

A sea lion

World Map

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Rocks, pillows, and ice cream

    Today's post is mostly a rant about my kids and our day yesterday.  We had a great day and we had lots of fun, but I can't believe how hard is it to get them out of the house!  I had tons of field trips planned for  this week and next.  There are so many places we did not bother to go all summer long, partly because I didn't feel like going anywhere, but mostly because I prefer to avoid the crowds.  You'd be amazed how much more you get to see and do at a museum when you're one of only a handful of families there!  So, I awoke yesterday with the hopes of going someplace "new" called West End Creamery.  It's a farm with animals, a miniature golf course, a bounce pillow and ice cream.  Sounds fun right?  No one wanted to get dressed, no one really got excited about going.  You would have though I was dragging them to the Doctors to get shots or something.  I knew they'd love it though and so I just made sure to be persistent. 
     We stopped at the library to pick up some new books on CD for the ride and, once again, I heard complaints about the plan for the day.  We were going to stop at Purgatory Chasm, hike the Chasm, have some lunch and wait for West End Creamery to open.  These two places are only about 5 minutes away from each other and my boys LOVE the chasm.  They've been complaining we haven't been in over a year.  Yesterday, they didn't want to go to the chasm!  I finally snapped and started ranting about how they complain when we're home and they're bored, they complain when I plan something, they complain when I teach and they complain when I let them unschool.  They complain ALL The time, or at least it feels that way.  I know they're kids and kids complain, but I just get so frustrated when they seem to take for granted everything we do.   We do so much and I know my kids are so lucky.  Sometimes I just wished they'd realize how lucky they are.  I seriously started driving home from the library and told them all to forget it, we'd just spend the next two weeks at home and they could all complain about being bored all day long.  I was DONE!  Then they all started crying and begging to go to Purgatory Chasm and West End Creamery.  I didn't get it... they didn't want to go so we weren't going to go and now they want to go?!  Lucky for them I really wanted to go so I gave them a second chance and we finally headed out for our day trip.
      We arrived at the Chasm around noon and had some lunch.  On the way to the picnic area near the playground the boys climbed a few rocks and slid down one really large one.  They happily played and ate and we never even made it into the chasm.  They met some kids on the playground and had so much fun playing they didn't want to stop.  Not having any real agenda for our day, other than getting back to our fun family outings, I let them play.  It was hot and sunny and all the boys were getting pretty sweaty.  One by one all the kids we met left and so we decided to head to the creamery.  On the way to our car we stopped at the bathroom building and looked around at all the nature displays they have set up.  We looked at the Luna moths and read about them.  We looked at a giant bulletin board about the boring beetles and learned which ones to report and which ones are native to our area.  We even learned about a special "class" that they're offering this Friday. 

sliding down the big hill

They had so much fun spinning in circles

        We bought an all day pass for mini golf and the bounce pillow for $11 each.  We started to play mini golf and I'll be honest and say it was an hour or so of torture.  The boys seemed to enjoy it, but I couldn't relax and have fun.  It was hot and sunny and we were all sweating pretty miserably.  It was crowded and my boys don't really know how to golf.  We were holding people up behind us and had to stop and allow them to play through.  They all lost their balls a few times, in the water, in the bushes, in the grass-- we could not keep them on the green.  At least one time I thought they were going to hit something with a ball.  They yelled at one another as they each kept touching one another's ball or got in the way of someone's shot.  I was looking so forward to hole #18 and wishing we had only paid for the bounce pillow!  Amazingly enough though they seemed to enjoy golfing and would like to play again another day when it's not so hot.  Looking back I wished I could have joked, laughed and gone with the flow instead of getting all uptight and upset with them.  I was sighing, rushing them along and kind of killing the fun.  I don't know why, but I know I was. 

Fishing the ball out of the water-- again!

waiting for a turn

Fishing another ball out of the water
        We moved onto bouncing and that was a lot of fun.  I even joined in and we worked up a great appetite for some nice cool treats.  They made some new friends and after playing a few bouncing games like popcorn and tag, and seeing who could bounce the highest and the farthest we took a break to try out some of their ice cream, sherbet and Del's Lemonade.  We jumped a bit more and then decided to head home and cool off in the lake.  It was the perfect day for a dip In the lake. 

Jumping and bouncing! 
The boys have fun playing with a new toy
while waiting to order their treats
Best part of the day!! 
      As I write this I'm already getting annoyed about today.  I have offered to take them to the aquarium, the zoo or even the science museum and I'm getting shrugs, "whatever," or my personal favorite "I'll only go if you buy me something at the gift shop" as a response.  Seriously?!?!  I feel like my husband and I spend all of our time trying to teach the kids to be grateful for what they have, yet we are failing miserably.  I hope it's just the age, but I can't help wondering what we could and should be doing differently.  I have tried making them save up money and pay for their own things.  I have tried pointing out the things we get to do that many of their friends never have, I have tried everything I can think of, but it all seems to go in one ear and out the other.  Maybe I'm making to much of it, but I am so sick of my kids taking everything for granted and always wanting more.  If anyone has a suggestion or a solution, please feel free to share!! 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Banana Bread, Bowling, and Books

      We decided to take advantage of our last week of free bowling coupons and hit the bowling alley today.  But first Ian was asking if he could bake something.  He has been asking for a few days now, but always seems to wait until I'm ready to cook dinner to decide he'd like to make something.  I told him last night that mornings and right after lunch are the two best times to tackle something like that.  He decided to make banana bread today.  I turned that task over to him and left him to do 90% of it on his own this time. 
      While Ian was busy baking the younger two boys were dragging out board game after board game.  They were playing pretty nicely together, but once they started fighting more and more I asked them to clean up and come eat breakfast.  Evan asked me to please read the rest of Mr. Docker is off his Rocker while they ate their cereal.  I sat down to read and kept an eye on Ian in case he needed help with his bread.  As soon as the boys finished eating, they went right back to playing board games.  Ian finally got his bread into the oven and went to play with Lego's, K'nex and Jovo blocks.  Alec and Evan wandered in from time to time building things too.  No one seemed in a hurry to get dressed or go anywhere.  I feared we'd be staying home again. 

Playing Dinosaur Train

Building w/ Jovo blocks

Playing a Lego game

       We finally headed out to the bowling alley and listened to the end of The Secret of the Indian.  Once at the alley, we were amazed by how many families were there today.  We played a few rounds and once again I found myself thinking of all the math, science and gross motor development bowling entails.  They count pins, add scores, compare scores, subtract pins standing from the total number of pins, compared the speed of the balls thrown, etc..  They also pointed out things like force, speed, and trajectory.  They watched the path of the balls, calculated angles when the balls bounced off the bumpers, and tried to determine if a heavier ball was better or worse.  Evan managed to get a strike without having his ball touch a single bumper, all three boys managed quite a few spares and we learned that a spare and a strike during the last frame allows that person to throw another ball or two.  It was great. 

Ian really gets into his game

Evan jumps, twists, pleads and prays with his ball
      On the way home we stopped to buy some of the supplies we needed to run some of Ian's science experiments and then we stopped to eat lunch.  At the restaurant they all received a different kids menu and played word games, word scrambles, did mazes, and more.  I loved that they were learning while having fun waiting for food!  The best part was when they flipped the menu's over and Evan was so excited to realize his menu was all about the Aurora Borealis.  He loves the northern lights and excited started talking all about them.  Alec flipped his menu over and we learned all about Mt. Everest. We talked about elevation, sea level, and below sea level.  We talked about the weather patterns on Mt. Everest, why only 300 people have made it to the summit (according to the menu).  Ian knew a lot about climbing Mt. Everest and was eager to share with his brothers.   Ian's menu taught us about the Great Barrier Reef.  When talking about why it was visible from space Alec informed us that the Great Wall of China is also visible from space.  So our day included some geography as well!  Once our food arrived Evan asked me to cut his three chicken fingers up so they'd cool off faster.  He counted them up and as I cut through the first one he told me he now had 4. I asked him how many he'd have once I cut them all and with the help of some fingers he was able to figure out he'd have 6.  But since the chicken fingers were pretty long I cut them each into thirds.  Once I asked him how many he'd have when I was done cutting them all into three pieces he quickly said 9!  I tend to think this was just a very good random guess but he was so proud of himself.   Real life math lessons! 
     Since we had no books on CD to listen to in the car on the way home Ian decided to work on his friendship bracelet.  He finished it!  He then decided that he wanted to keep this bracelet for himself and make other bracelets for his friends.  He worked so long and so hard on it that I couldn't fault him for wanting to keep it.  I was glad to hear him say he'd like to make more.  Alec was working on his bracelet a bit here and there too but he kept having problems and so he decided to do some drawing.  He drew a very elaborate picture of Mr. Klutz (from The Weird School books) surfing with a shark, a swordfish, and lots of seaweed.  He decided the picture would be funnier if Mr. Klutz was in his underwear.  He then drew Andrea (a girl from the same series) swimming naked next to the shark and her best friend Emily surfing while crying buckets of water.  It was quite imaginative and all the boys were laughing hysterically as Alec narrated what he was drawing.
       We had a few stops to make on our way home so we were in the car for quite a while.  We listened to music and sang along with the radio.  Out of the blue Evan announced that when you count by three's you start with the number 3, and next thing I knew we were going through all the numbers.  "When you count by 4's you start with 4" etc. all the way up to 10 and then Alec skipped right to 100.  He started counting by 100's up through 2,000!  At one point Alec asked why the south pole was cold if it was in the south and the south tends to be warm.  I explained that it all had to do with the shape of the globe and the intensity of the sun.  The north pole is very cold, we get some cold weather, and yes, south of us down near Florida and the Caribbean it is very warm.  We talked about the Equator, the Tropic of Cancer, and the Tropic of Capricorn.  We talked about the "tropics" and how it's always warm where the globe is fattest and closest to the sun.  I explained that as you get even further south the temperature gets cooler again and places have weather similar to ours with seasons until it gets to the south pole and it's frozen again.  I wasn't sure I explained it all perfectly but I think they all understood the gist of it.  I wished we had a globe in the car but was confident that it was a good geography lesson.  It probably only took about 5 minutes but they were interested and asking questions.  Once their questions stopped I stopped talking and explaining.  I find it works best not to give more information at a time than they are looking for anyway as they just start to tune me out. 
        Once home the boys played and swam in the lake until dinnertime.  We ended the night with the whole family snuggled on the couch reading the Weird School Anthology aloud.  While it's a repeat for Alec and Ian they still enjoy listening and Evan was begging us to read these stories out loud to him.  It was the perfect end to our great day!