Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Palisades at Plymouth Colony

     The Tindle kids have been studying early explorers this school  year and now we are heading into the colonial period of America.  This week we focused on the voyage of the Mayflower and the establishment of the Plymouth colony.  They really enjoyed learning about Captain Myles Standish, Governors Carver and Bradford and of course their alliance with Chief Massasoit.  What really grabbed my three boys' attention though, was the interaction between Plymouth colony and Chief Canonicus.  Apparently Canonicus sent Plymouth a  quiver full of arrows, daring the settlers to a fight. In response, Governor Bradford returned the quiver but loaded it full of powder and ball shot. This frightened Canonicus so much that he refused to even touch the quiver.   The boys loved the story and it was a great illustration of using wisdom to solve big problems.

The settlers did not stop with a simple gesture to protect themselves.  They also spent time and energy on defense by building large wooden walls around their settlement.  They were constantly on guard and aware that attack could come at any time.

Inspired by this illustration, the kids decided to build their own palisades.

They used magazine pages and glue sticks to create their logs. 

The four of them worked quickly and mom helped some, so there was quite a pile of building material after about thirty minutes.

Then they got to work with the glue guns. My kids love working with the hot glue guns so any project that allows them to do so is a big hit.  I love the glue guns too, work is so much faster and easier when we use them. 

Our palisades came together much faster than the settlers' did but still it is a work in progress.  The walls are all built. There are hinged gates as well as some windows.  The builders are currently in the process of creating the buildings and individuals to inhabit the settlement.  I think Legos are going to be a huge player in that process. There have already been discussions of spray painting the fort so that it is more realistic, we'll see. 

I love a good project and the kids are so excited about this one.  It is terrific to see them really think about what the palisades were for.  They are very concerned about getting all the gaps covered so that arrows could not penetrate the walls, they also want to make sure that the gates are defended so that attack will be difficult there.  I'm sure these were some of the same thoughts that were running through the Plymouth colonialists minds as they built their walls. 

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Guts of a Pencil Sharpener

Our pencil sharpener bit the dust this week. This is a bad thing because we sharpen about twelve pencils a day around here. We are currently handling this task with a cheapo hand sharpener from Walmart, not satisfactory. Erik decided to break into the contraption and see if it could be repaired. No luck. Erik wasn't able to fix it so we got to tinker with it. Woo Hoo!

I love a good hands on project! The kids were all over this one; they pulled the pieces apart, probed, poked and observed. We've done some work with electrical circuits and simple machines before so they were pretty good at identifying the different mechanisms and figuring out what their function was.

Here, Carter has found the switch that is activated when a pencil is inserted into the sharpener. You can see how it closes the electrical circuit.

This motor actually had two switches on it though. One that is depressed by the pencil, another is depressed by a slide in tray that catches the pencil shavings. The kids found both, tinkered a way to depress both and the motor went wild. We were all thrilled.

Here, they were attempting to rebuild the gear box. I don't think we quite got all the pieces in the right place but I loved how their minds were whirring away during this project. They were so engrossed and pulled up tons of information that we haven't covered in over a year. We all got a bit grimy from the grease and this exploration took up a good portion of our morning but it was worth it. We gleaned a great review session and all of us will always remember what a pencil sharpener's guts look like. Bonus: we now have a motor, a couple of cool switches and power sources to add to our electrical gizmo collection.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Go Play in the Mud!

Okay, so we're a little weird around here but it is a happy weird.  Case in point, we just had seven tons of dirt delivered to our backyard.  The clerk at earth works asked us, the delivery guy asked us, our neighbors asked us, my sister asked us, even the kids asked us, "What is all that dirt for?" The answer... to play in. 

When I was a kid, my dad decided he wanted to build a swimming pool.  First step, order a truck full of dirt.  Well dad got the first step taken care of, he just never went beyond that. I'm so grateful he didn't.  We had a very small yard but with that pile of dirt and my sweet mothers blessing, well, let's just say we made excellent use of the vertical space. My sister, brother and I would play for hours.  We built tunnels for hotwheels, acted out epic battles with Gi Joe infantry and Barbie Nurses and baked up a ton and a half of mud pie delicacies.  Literally, best toy ever! 
Now it is time for the next generation to take a turn.  As soon as these kids heard that the dirt was specifically for them, they scaled the mountain. 
They ran for buckets of water, I ran for swim clothes to help contain the mess.  It didn't take long at all for them to figure out how to make a mudslide.  What followed was both absolutely common place and legendary, these kids hit that dirt and didn't let up.  They dug, they hoed, they watered, they slid, they rubbed, they built, they created; in short, they had a fantastic time! 

A quick dance in the sprinkler and a half load of laundry and the mess is gone, til tomorrow.  I'm sure, that there will be times that I get sick of the laundry and the footprints through the house. I'm human. But so are they and I want them to experience it all; so kids, you have my permission to "Go play in the mud!"

Thanks for reading,

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Best thing in the truck...

Today, we got a delivery from our local Menards.  It was a nice big truck full of wonderful things for our house.  We got some flooring, some insulation and an energy efficient washer and dryer *Pause for excited squeal: we went from FORTY FIVE gallons of water to FIVE to TWENTY gallons, WOOHOO* Okay, I'm back.  Here's a pic of our truck and one of our great delivery guys...

See good stuff... By the way, the delivery guy was insulted when I told him I was taking a shot of all the swag as a before pic for the blog. He only agreed to let me snap the photo, when I told him I would tell the world he was a great delivery guy. I swear, these attention craving delivery guys. Back to the point, sorry.

With all that cool stuff, the best thing by far was...
That's right! The best thing in the truck was the box that the washer came in. Because that is how we roll here in Casa Tindle. 
We added a little bit of this...

The kids did some of this...

and created the cubby of their dreams.  I hope they are prepared to defend it.

It looks like the Tombots are gearing up for attack! 

** If you are wondering why I took the time to flip through ALL of Picnik's super cool options, it's simple, I am in Hyper-Avoidance Mode.  Avoiding what you say?  Duh. The truck load of DIY home improvement work that is now residing in my garage.  I'm going to dodge that bullet as long as I can... now where is my sewing machine?

Thanks for reading,

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Summer Projects: Library Bags

My family loves the public library.  I began taking my children to story hour when they were still wearing diapers.  We all love to read and we all love sitting in and amongst all of those books.  Up to this point, I have always held every body's library cards and we've kept borrowed books on a shelf in our living room.  This made things fast and easy for me but the kids were missing out on an opportunity for independence.  When they began asking to check books out themselves, I figured it was time to change things up. We headed to Walmart and picked up some Tulip Fabric spray and a couple packs of canvas bags.  I used my Silhouette SD to cut some stencils from freezer paper and ironed them to the bags.
The kids each sprayed over the top of the stencil. I encouraged them to only use two colors to avoid the dreaded "muddy" look. One of my sons saw that as a challenge to his creative powers, so he dutifully took on three colors and managed a very cool blended effect. After the bags we're sprayed, we peeled off the freezer paper to reveal the design.  The kids loved this part!  

 If you try this project, I recommend that you spray lightly and have some paper towels on hand to dab up excess paint. We were able to achieve some pretty fun effects with just the four colors included in the pack of Tulips that we purchased. 
Each kid also made a boondoggle with a key ring to hook onto their bag and hold their library card. Now they can check books out, carry them home and store them in their bags until our next trip to the library. Judging by this smile, I think the new system will be a success! Thanks for reading. LT

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Spanish for Kids: Colors

Team Tindle is studying Spanish as a second language this year. This is a new thing for all of us and we are doing our best, slowly moving through a new vocabulary. This week the kids are working on their Spanish numbers and colors. I decided to throw in an art activity to help cement the new words.
I gave each kid a sheet of paper and asked them to divide the paper into sections using tape. We used colored masking tape but I would recommend using painters tape if you do this project.  Once that was done, the kids used colored pencils to fill in each section with a different color.When they finished up their coloring, the kids began labeling each section with their newly acquired vocabulary words.

Then we peeled back the tape, very slowly and carefully. This made the different sections really pop. The kids loved the reveal!

Here is James, showing off his Spanish/Art homework. I'd say this simple activity was a success.  The kids all explored with their new Spanish words and each of them really likes their final product.

For more information on teaching Spanish to children visit Spanish Town.  It is a free site, featuring monthly segments of vocabulary for the early elementary grades.  Each new word can be played as an audio file, which has really helped me teach my kids accurate pronunciation.  Enjoy!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cave in Rock / Southern Illinois

Team Tindle has been gone on summer break.  We've enjoyed ourselves but it is time to get back to work.  We started school last week and are reestablishing our routines.  To get the blog up and running again, I thought I would share a video I made during one of our trips this summer.  This is filmed at Cave in Rock, one of Southern Illinois' many natural attractions.  We spent a morning there playing on the rock formations and exploring the cave. Be patient with me, I am new to video editing and I'm afraid it is a little rough. I hope you still enjoy it! 

Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sleep in the Wild...

Yesterday, the kids and I took part in a grand experiment.  It all began with four little words, "I wish we could..."  and a two page spread from a recent read called Fifty Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do.)

The munchkins had spent the better part of the afternoon outside in the backyard.  Following their lead, I decided a picnic supper was in order for the evening.  They joined me at the picnic table. As we nibbled our cheese and crackers, the kids filled me in on their various pursuits.  They had used some old treelimbs and rope to construct a boat.  They had created a construction zone beneath the trampoline; complete with gravel piles, dump trucks and partially created pyramids.  The boys had worked out a game involving a baseball bat, a 14 inch ball and exactly three rules.  Layne had drug her chairs all over the yard setting up picnic areas for her entourage.  Logan and James had decided to rub every visible inch of their bodies with dirt to protect themselves from mosquitos in true Survivorman fashion.  Ladies, I mean EVERY INCH. 

Anyway, as we talked one of my guys piped up with "I wish we could sleep outside."  Normally this comment would have slipped right past me, a child's fantasy shared in the moment.  As a new owner of Gever Tulley's book, my child's longing pulled me to a full stop.  I had just read Number #49 -Sleep in the Wild, a couple of nights before.  This was  a dangerous thing that I had not expected to encounter so quickly.  One of the few in the book that I truely had reservations about.   Maybe it was the challenge to myself or the fact that my kiddos really wanted to give it a try.  Maybe it was the idea of those dirty boys on their clean sheets.  Maybe it was what Gever said, "The familiar area around our home becomes a whole new world after dark, and we see and hear things in a whole new way."  I don't know why but I chose to say "Why couldn't you?"

All four of the kids pounced upon the idea.  They began formulating how it would work, where they would sleep, what type of blankets they would need, etc.  They decided that mom and dad would sleep inside.  The kids would use the trampoline for their bed.  Mom could stay until it was dark; we could do the nightly routine of reading our chapter book, prayers and kisses. After that, I was supposed to return to the house.  They also wanted to sleep in their day clothes, fewer bug bites.  Makes total sense right?

Anyway, that is exactly how we did it.  They grabbed comforters, climbed onto the trampoline and we used eachothers stomachs for pillows while I read a few chapters of "My Friend Flicka."  When it grew dark, we picked out the Big Dipper and talked about how many more stars we could see this way. Then I said prayers and gave kisses.  I assured each of them that they could come in whenever they chose but insisted that if my oldest wanted to come in that the youngest come in also.  I climbed off the trampoline, crossed the yard, climbed up the stairs to the porch, walked through and closed the kitchen door behind me. 

Of course, my heart leaped within my chest the second I closed that door.  I walked straight through the house to the front door and hit the front porch in a manner of seconds.  I took the long way back around the house so that I could keep an eye on my little ones.  I ducked into our homemade fort and found a seat in the wet grass.  Close enough to my babies but just out of sight so that they could have the feeling of independence.  I was determined to sit there throughout the night if I had to, allowing my kids to have their adventure but asauging my fears about safety. 

What I witnessed was endearing.  Left to their own devices the four of them quickly created a system of protection. The oldest two boys encouraged the younger kids to go to sleep, assuring them that they would be the look outs for all four sides of the trampoline.  They decided sharing their four comforters and coming together in a pile of sorts made much more sense than each of them laying by themselves.  My oldest son began telling my little girl a princess story in order to calm her nerves.  Every movement and sound was identified and communicated, so that no one would have a chance to get the willies.  The two lookouts did their job beautifully.  Every couple of seconds, a little head would bob up from the mound of blankets and take a 180 degree look around the yard.  Then the other head would come up and begin a scan in the opposite direction.  With all this surveillance going on, it wasn't long before one of them spotted me. 

I knew as soon as it happend.  I quickly pulled back into the shadows but it was too late.  A hurried whisper and flurry of motion followed.  Each kid was on the alert.  All four heads were up and looking my direction.  Carter decided to start making some noises, hoping to frighten away the "dog" that had laid down in the fort. Carter and James tried desperately to calm Logan and Layne but it was too late.  Logan decided that this was not his cup of tea after all and succumbed to the idea of his secure bed.  As soon as he walked in I made a beeline for the front door.  I didn't want him to suspect that I had been cheating during this adventure.  I put him to bed quickly and then ran back to my lookout.  Unfortunately, the little guards were on high alert.  As soon as they saw my head bob above the wall of the fort, a yelp went out, "MOM!"  There was panic in his voice.  He didn't know it was me!  I hurried out of hiding and was greeted with a torent of "You SCARED ME!"  I assured them that I wasn't trying to scare them, I was just checking on them. I was making sure that they were okay.  They quickly tumbled through all of their ideas of what my presence might have been.  A big dog, a guy, the lady next door, someone coming into the yard; all negative, scary things. I gathered them in a hug and apologized profusely. 

Two of them decided to come in right then.  Carter decided to try and brave it alone.  I walked James and Layne in and Carter followed within minutes.  Apparently, bravery is better found in the multitude.  They were all chattering quite a bit and decided that it truly had been an adventure.  They even woke up with smiles and squirming to fill daddy in on the night before's experiment. 

I on the otherhand felt a little shame faced.  What would have happend if I had let my children be?  Would the boogy man, that I was so afraid of, really have nabbed them?  Would anybody have come into the yard and disturbed them?  Would a storm have rolled in and frightened the kids with booming thunder as they slept?  or would they have had a perfectly peaceful, adventurous, wonderful evening lying together beneath the stars?  I don't know.  I hope it would have been the latter and I feel kind of sad that I ruined their chance to find out.  Thankfully, kids bounce back.  They are all very willing to try the experiment again.  I've managed put it off for a month.  Maybe next time, I'll just hide in the garage.... 


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Box City

Inspired by Teacher Tom, we decided to build Box city.  We grabbed up all the boxes that we had around the house, pulled out the glue gun and some tape and set to work.   
 They were so excited to get to man the glue gun all by themselves.  Each of them ended up burned but when asked if they wanted to stop building they all emphatically told me no. Each child decided that he or she just needed to be more careful. 
They made sure that the city was aesthetically pleasing as well as structurally sound.  Of course there were plenty of booby traps and snares for any bad guys that might be lurking in the grass.  Two of my favorites were the spider trap (made from an old Parmesan cheese container) and the ball catapult and connecting track.  Sorry, no pics of those.  My camera's battery latch is broken and it is a serious pain to take photos with it. 

Here Carter is attaching his radio tower complete with several satellites and antennae.  Layne is busy fixing up an escalator so that the people can get into the party store. 
The Tindle kids spent about two hours building and fortifying their city.  It was complete with a pool, a satellite, a water tower, city hall, the public library, a science center, several hide outs and tunnels, a bridge, a couple hotels and a party store.  After they were all finished building they grabbed a ton of action figures, some of their great grandpa's old figurines and the kung zhu hamsters and spent another two hours racing the hamsters through the "dark city streets."  Four hours of play and learning for about fifty cents worth of glue sticks and a month's worth of recycling, yeah, I'm good with that investment. 

I think we will have a dynamic little play area, at least as long as the rain holds out.  If I'm brave enough, I might let them paint it Teacher Tom style in the next day or two.  We'll see.

Here is the academic breakdown.  
~ Everybody learned a bit about safe practices when dealing with heat and electricity. This also ended up being a great opportunity to talk about appropriate first aid for burns.  Each of the kids either dealt with their own burn or helped someone else dress theirs, with supervision. 
~They naturally learned a bit about structures and balance.  These "blocks" were very different from their stable wooden set in the house. 
~They added in social studies by discussing the purposes of the various buildings.  When they grabbed their toys and started acting out their stories they began putting a librarian in the library and a scientist in the science center. 
~Creative story telling is only a skip and a jump away from creative writing.  My kids had plenty of stories to tell about the building process, various "construction zones," different enemies and the heroes who would protect the city, etc.  This is an ongoing play mode in our home but what they create verbally while playing usually ends up finding it's way to paper eventually. 
~It was also a great exercise in cooperation and communication.  We had four kids and one glue gun, they had to work together in order to build anything. 
~It is an obvious art link, especially if we decide to finish decorating it. 
~We didn't, but you could incorporate math by counting boxes as they are added, multiplying by fours and sixes (number of sides) and subtracting if something was pulled off the structure.

See, plenty of learning to be had.

Hope you are all having a great week. Thanks for reading!


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Family Fun gone Awry

Have you ever read a blog and thought, "Boy, my life just doesn't work out like that?"  Yeah, me too.  All those beautiful pictures of sun drenched babies that don't have a smudge of food on their cheeks or a hair out of place, seem completely foreign to me.  The interiors really get me though, how do these women get photos of their kids room or art space where there isn't a single rogue matchbox car in the shot or a pile of broken crayons most of them missing their papers?  I don't know, I can barely manage to get a photo that isn't blurry and even then I spend half an hour on picnik trying to crop out the baskets of dirty laundry or the stained cushion on my couch.  Well here is a post that will not make you wonder how "their days are always so perfect." Grab a cup of coffee and enjoy a glimpse of normalcy.

Today, we decided to head to the beach for a little kite flying.  We've done this several years in a row and always have a great time. So, of course, I grab the camera hoping to get some pictures of colorful kites dotting the horizon as waves rush in to meet the shore and bare footed babies dabble their toes in the cool water....

Instead, I got these
My husband is not trying to be funny here.  The wind was so strong that it just about carried us away, here it has blown his shirt up over his head and is threatening to knock over our little daughter who is standing out of sight just behind him.

Carter is bravely trying to get his kite flying while James is struggling to cover exposed skin areas to protect them from the onslaught of blowing sand.

Again, poor Erik is trying to get these kites assembled while the wind blows the dollar kites away and poor Logan is shielding his eyes from flying sand.

Here is Logan taking cues from the Earthquake protection plan as he curls into the fetal position to avoid the continuous pelting. 

Kites dotting blue skies? Didn't happen.  Nope, this is as high as those poor kites ever got.

See, normalcy.  Or at least normalcy for the Tindle clan.  We don't have very many days where everything just works out perfectly.  We have fun, we laugh, we enjoy each other but most of the time it is in spite of whatever funky circumstances we find ourselves in not because of any brilliant planning on my part. 

This day at the beach will probably become one of our favorite campfire stories, a story told in hilarious bursts of laughter and with such enthusiasm that we will all feel the tiny pebbles of sand biting our necks again.  A story that ranks right up there with the time that the raccoons ate our plaster of paris, the day that Dad saw a steep hill sign and thought that it meant peddle faster, the day that the snakes chose dinner time to wiggle out of Poppy's pockets and the day that Memaw's brothers hung her in the well. A perfect day at the beach just wouldn't have made the cut. 

Thanks a bunch for reading,

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Value of Tinkering

Here in the Tindle house we have enjoyed learning more and more through tinkering.  We take random bits and pieces; art materials, construction materials, cooking materials, books, tape (there's always tape!) and let the kids go.  We watch, we encourage, we question but we try our best to let them go.  Erik and I are doing this in the midst of real homework such as; math, spelling, bible, history, science and the like.  The funny thing is, what looks like child's play is often the experience or "work" that is the most fruitful. 

This week we used art to tinker spring.  We began by painting a few butterflies which quickly morphed into other insects.  This led to more spring time creatures and pretty soon the kids were painting tad poles and frogs, eggs and robins, a chrysalis - caterpillar - butterfly trio, a snake slithering in the grass near the pond "it's habitat" my son said. I now have beautiful spring art work adorning my dining room wall but it is so much more than that.  It is a portrait of my children's learning.  It is a testament to their knowledge and their connection with the earth around them.  It is an example of what a child's mind left alone for a few minutes can conceptualize.

The conversation was amazing.  The engagement was inspiring.  I loved seeing my kids work through various life stages of the creatures they were thinking of. I loved seeing them throw in color theory and work so hard to get this or that animal's markings just right.  I loved it, but it also made me nervous.  All this tinkering takes time.  Much more time than a simple math worksheet.  We spent an entire afternoon tinkering with these concepts, exploring what spring means, how it effects us.  We didn't get any spelling done that afternoon, we didn't do one math problem.  As much as my kids were learning and as much as I was loving it, there was still a nagging in the back of my head saying, "This isn't "real" homework, shouldn't we be getting some book work done soon?" 

Well according to this guy, I'm being silly. 

This is John Seely Brown from the University of Southern California.  He is a solid collegiate big wig and he  thinks that tinkering is not only valid but an extremely valuable learning model for children as well as adults.

I don't know how much time and energy we will be putting into tinkering in the future. I'm not ready to throw out all of our textbooks or our seat work time.  I don't think it would be a terrible thing if we did, I kind of think it would be great.  I'm just not brave enough, yet. I do feel encouraged and excited when I explore these concepts through Brown or Tulley's eyes. However, I think the biggest source of encouragement in these methods comes from what I see with my own eyes.

Tinkering with costume design and story telling

Tinkering with homemade paper

Tinkering with flotation and ship design

Tinkering with the properties of liquids and solids

Tinkering with the forces of friction and momentum
Yeah, I think we will keep experimenting with tinkering.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Playing with Fire

Weekdays can be kind of hectic around the Tindle house so this Sunday we spent the entire day doing nothing. 

Well, not quite nothing.

We played with fire, actually we let the kids play with fire. 

Erik and I have grown enamored with Gever Tulley's Tinkering School concepts.  Gever believes that children can use grown up materials and tools to do grown up things in a grown up way, if we trust them to do so.  To that end Gever Tulley has written a book titled 50 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do. We've ordered the book but it won't come til May.  We just couldn't wait. 

When James found the matches and we realized we had some wood left in the pit we decided to go for it.  We asked James to strike a match.  He did.  It blew out.  Then he did it again.  It didn't light.  Then he tried one more time.  The match broke in two.  At this point frustration began to show.  Erik and I talked James through it and encouraged him to try some more.  Several tries later, he produced a flame which he quickly touched to some leaves.  FIRE! 

The kids were thrilled, until they saw their fire dwindle to smoke.  They asked to light another match.  Then they begged to light another match.  Erik and I held firm, where there is smoke there is fire.  The kids were incredulous but they got to work.  James began blowing...
Logan and Carter began gathering various forms of fuel supplies...
Layne began working on her tan....
Pretty soon their concerted efforts yielded this...
Soon after that there was an honest to goodness fire.  Though by then I had slowed in snapping pictures and so don't have a single one of the actual flames.  Too bad.  It was a great fire too.  The kids built it and maintained it all by themselves.  We were able to roast hot dogs and marshmallows for lunch over that fire.  The kids also took some time to experiment over that fire.  Did you know that plastic shrinks when you burn it?  Or that tape on a cardboard box boils and then liquefies?  Did you realize that wet maple leaves make green colored smoke?  Did you know that nuts in their shell can explode? These are just some of the things they discovered through tinkering with fire. 

What I discovered

When my kids are really engaged...
they are excited
they are cooperative
they are encouraging to one another
they are solution seekers
they are unstoppable
they are industrious
they are incredible. 

Well, they are that last one all the time but it really showed up on Sunday. 

Thanks for reading!


Little Layne Turned 5

My sweet Layne celebrated her fifth birthday this month.  She is a feisty five.  Layne loves to climb and tumble. She loves to help momma in the kitchen and rake leaves in the yard. Layne spends time each day creating with paper, crayons, paint, markers and whatever else mom and dad let her get her hands on.  Layne is the little mother to all of her older brothers.  Whenever they get scraped up she is the first one to the first aid kit, quickly dealing out love and band aids.  Layne has a temper but it is because she is so passionate.  She can be stubborn but most of the time it shows itself as determination.  Layne loves music and dancing and is rarely silent.  Layne is our girl.  She is a special one. 

This year we planned a special day for Layne's birthday.  Rather than do a party, we decided to take Layne on a ladies day out.  To accomplish this, I asked her Grandma Pam and Great Grandma Mildred to accompany us to the Build a Bear workshop.  They gladly accepted.  

Here is Layne walking with Great Grandma.  I love how she's looking up to see how a "lady" behaves in the big stores.  She is so precious with her dainty little purse and her purposeful walk. 

We strolled into build a bear and Layne got giddy.  She flitted from one shelf to another touching everything and oohing and ahhing every other second.  Layne was so excited, it made the three of us chuckle.  Layne very quickly decided that she must have a pink bear for her birthday bear.  She hugged that one tight and walked right to the next station.  Layne loved the stuffing machine, she was completely engrossed watching it do its magic. 
Then we headed to bath time.  Too cute!

I'm sorry about the blurry picture but I couldn't leave it out.  Look how happy that little girl is! 
Of course she was happiest when her new Sally Bear was dressed and placed into her waiting arms.  Just like every good momma! 

Happy Birthday Layne!

Friday, February 25, 2011

I'm over the moon for Ooh Moon!

Have you heard of the website called Ooh Moon? The owner is a fantastic artist named Katie who has committed to giving away an illustration every single day for a year.  Her art is really wonderful and kid inspired.  It would be great to decorate all of your kid friendly spaces. I'm thinking about my kids bedrooms, our shared bathroom, the playroom downstairs, even our little cubby closet that is tucked under our stairs. 

This is today's free illustration.
Isn't he cute?

Plus, Katie is allowing us to use her gift in as many ways as we can imagine.  I've already found a couple that would be so much fun printed on iron transfer paper for t shirts, tote bags, pillow cases and play scenes.  I could also print it, mod podge it to some cereal cardboard and create a super hip, super modern, super cheap puzzle.  I love all the different themes that Katie has done so far.  She has fairy tales, bakerella, monsters, Noah's ark, the nativity and so many more. Plus she works with Compassion international.  If you decide to purchase anything from Ooh Moon.com 10 percent of your receipt will go directly to Compassion International, an organization dedicated to caring for children around the globe.  You can't get much better than that.  So hop over to Ooh Moon and check it out!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Blast from the Past: Meramec Caverns

Last year we decided to nix birthday parties.  I'd done several in a row and thought we needed a change. Erik and I decided to take turns giving the birthday kid a special day by themselves.  We have four kids and it is almost impossible to get any individual time with each while we're at the house.  This has ended up being the coolest day of our kids' year. 

Carter turned nine this year and it was my turn to take him out on a birthday trip. I wanted to take him to a place he had never been before. I also wanted it to be grand, a place he would remember forever.  I hit gold with Meramec Caverns. 
I was a bit worried that the one hour tour would not hold my active son's attention. I needn't have worried. Meramec Caverns is a boy's dream come true.  It is a huge cave but it is so much more than that. Meramec was once the home of Indians. The union and rebel armies took turns occupying the caves and using it's resources to build explosives. The James gang used Meramec as a hideout and Jesse almost got caught right there but narrowly escaped by using the underground river to swim right past his would be captors. There have even been movies filmed inside Meramec caverns. Yes, they were old movies and one episode of Lassie but it was still Hollywood. 
Even without the history of the place, Meramec was beautiful and intriguing. We saw stalagmites and stalactites. Soda straw sculptures and a huge rock formation called the Curtain were beautiful. We enjoyed an underground light show and were amazed at the reflecting pools.  Meramec Caverns was a sight worth seeing.  When we headed above ground there was still more to be done.

We grabbed the a ticket and hopped on a boat for a guided tour of the river running past Meramec. We saw turtles basking in the sun, discovered a snake swimming our direction and met canoes paddling down stream.  There were also several interactive exhibits that day.  Carter was able to build a bat house and make an arrowhead necklace.  He loved it.  We also treated ourselves to a hard ice cream cone and a little shopping in the souvenir shop. 

On our way home we found this strange animal emporium.  It looked kind of beat up and I wasn't sure whether there were in fact any animals present on the grounds but Carter really wanted to go in and find out.  I really wasn't sure but it was his birthday. We went in and we were very surprised with what we found.  The front part of the shop was a strange kind of junk shop filled with Ripley's Believe it or Not type oddities.  The storekeeper assured us that there were animals behind the doors so we paid the fee and waited for our tour guide. Sure enough, he lead us back to several exhibits. Many of which were very hands on.  This was where I really earned the title of Coolest Mom Ever.  Yes, that is my sweet son holding an alligator.  In fact, while we were outside that gentleman behind Carter allowed him to go into the fenced enclosure where the adult alligators are kept.  He even allowed one to get within feet of Carter.  I have pictures but they are very blurry due to excessive shaking on my part.

Here is Carter holding the Albino Python. See how excited he is

Here is my picture with the same snake.  Obviously snake handling is not my cup of tea.  We left soon after this encounter. 

All in all, it was a fantastic trip.  Meramec has been talked about off and on for months and I don't think either of us will ever forget our introductions to the reptile kingdom.