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 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. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

For The Love of Tinkering

Not a third world country just a 100 year old basement
 These kids come from a long line of tinkers.  Their great grandfather enjoyed tinkering with stained glass and terrariums.  Their grandfather enjoys tinkering with wood and electronics.  Their dad enjoys tinkering with paper and pencil. They enjoy tinkering with everything! 

They recently received a huge cache of figurines from their great grandpa's collection. They are thrilled!  They set right to work tinkering up an environment for the little guys. The paper, scissors and tape are flying in the basement.  I love it. I love seeing them engaged. I love watching them move and manipulate the pieces. The ideas are flowing and so is the teamwork.  Have you ever noticed that? If my kids are actually engaged in a project there is so much less fighting.  Don't get me wrong, the Tindle kids argue plenty but when they are really interested in something the squabbles dissipate. I love it! 

Logan floating his homemade canoe
He's pretty excited!

So what is tinkering and who is a tinker?  Well it can really be anything but it generally has to do with making something, especially a surprising something.  It can be big or little, take months or seconds.  Tinkering is what the tinker makes it.  Here are some photos of things we've tinkered in the past year. 

Carter displaying his bat box.
This kid has mad building skills.
They've worked with paper, wood, cloth, yarn, paint, glue, tape, string, branches, water, plastics, bricks, rocks, leaves, acorn caps, lots of recyclables. Most everything we've tinkered has come to us second hand or been purchased for very little money.  Many of these things were just something that the kids thought up and decided to do.  Some were more directed but most were kid led. Really that's the best kind of fun, right? 
Layne with a syrup arch shortly after
 visiting the St Louis Science center.


 We take as many opportunities as we can find to let them just go for it. There are tinkering spots everywhere.  We love the many child based museums, art and science centers that we have visited and we've had some amazing tinkering experiences there but most of the time we tinker at home or in our community. 

We built this sculpture on the beach
at one of our favorite campsites.
Tinkering is great.  It isn't a craft or a science experiment.  It isn't really art or math. It's definitely not report writing or spelling. Yet, somehow it is all of those things.  My kids would never be able to build a pulley system for their tree house without a little understanding of how simple machines work. When tinkering a recipe, units of measurement become critically important.  They use color, line, contrast, tints and shades to tinker cards for their family and friends.  Every academic discipline can be explored more fully through tinkering.  What a lovely thing.

Everyone tinkering with their new
color wonder cars. 

If you would like more information on tinkering check out this info by Gever Tulley the founder of Tinkering School.  You can also check out the blog Get Your Mess On to meet a mom who has taken the concept of tinkering and run with it.  Take a look at Berkeley's Adventure Playground for the ultimate example of child led tinkering and how far it can really go.  Don't you think every city should have one of these?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The sower and the soil

Am I a consumer or a producer?  Big question.  So far I would have to say consumer. I consume products, stories, ideas, inspiration, scripture, experiences... What do I produce? Do I produce fruit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control; these are the fruits of the spirit. Do I produce these? If so, how much? Jesus said that the seeds that fell on the rich and fertile soil were held with a pure heart and that the holder produced fruit with perseverance even to a hundred fold.  A HUNDRED FOLD. I can't imagine taking a seed of God's love and being able to produce a hundred times more.  Whether I can imagine it or not isn't the issue.  The issue is whether I believe what God says. 
I used to think that my heart was the dry rocky soil that Jesus spoke about.  The heart that would have the seed fall upon it, accept it with joy and then have it whither away because it lacked a good root system.  In fact I think I was that person.  Hear that, WAS.  Jesus has done an amazing work in me.  He has tilled that soil, conditioned it, watered it and cared for it.  He is capable, not me. 

Now I am working on holding fast.  Holding fast to God is so easy though.  Willingness is really all it takes. It reminds me of my little daughter.  She is four and still has to hold hands while we cross the road.  Sometimes she is stubborn and does not want to take my hand.  So... we don't move.  As soon as she pulls her little hand out of her pocket and makes the slightest movement upward I reach down take her hand securely in mine and we proceed.  That's how it has been with God. Just a movement from me has allowed him to hold me securely; to whisper his words of guidance, love, correction and direction. Just the tiniest concession in my heart has allowed him to dig away at it until the soil is rich and fertile ground...

God is amazing.  He has given me provision. He has given me love. He has shown me joy.  He has been gentle with me. He has been kind when I have not deserved it.  He has been patient through all of my ups and downs.  He has persevered in our relationship.  He has been there with me through all of my failings.  These are the seeds that he has given me.  These are the things that he has planted.  Willingness on my part will allow a crop of a hundred fold to rise up... God is the farmer.  It is his skill, his determination, his sweat, his sacrifice, his love that will bring about a crop.

I am beginning to see the faint yellow green of spring.  Sprouts are topping the soil, it is an exciting and sometimes painful time.  I am thankful though, life is poring through and there is nothing in the world like it. 


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

My side of the Mountain

My Side of the Mountain is a wonderful story about a young boy named Sam Gribley.  Sam lives in New York with his large family in a small apartment in the city.  One day, he decides that he has had enough of the city and he tells his dad that he is going to the mountains to make it on his own.  His dad gives him a chuckle and says that every boy should try it at least once, then relates the story of his own adventure running away to sea and how he was back on dry land before the ships bell could ring.  Sam surprises his dad though and catches a ride up to the Catskill mountains to an old homestead that belonged to a previous generation of the Gribley clan.  Pretty soon, Sam has made a home for himself and his adventures just keep getting better. 

The book by Jean Craighead George was a fantastic read for our family.  My kids adore survival shows such as, Survivorman and Man vs. Wild.  Sam Gribley's year in the mountains fell right into that vein.  They loved the adventure.  They were intrigued by Sam's independence. They were awed by his skillfulness. The lure of the Catskills was strong. 

The book was also a fantastic springboard for a wonderful word study.  We were able to look up tons of birds, plants, animals, trees and geographical terms that might not have come up otherwise.  The kids were excited to learn the difference between a Nuthatch and a Junco or an Aspen and a Hemlock.  It was so easy too.  We read a chapter, made a list of the words we didn't know and then googled each word and added them to a slide show.  In this way, the kids were able to understand the text much more fully and were even able to take some of that knowledge into the world with them. For instance, we were playing in the park and my eight year old ran down the hillside and under a bridge so that he could play in the "ravine" just like Sam.  Here are some of the slides we made.

We did several more but Blogger is being a pain and won't let me format them the way that I want to. So these will have to give you an idea. If you would like the rest for your own study, email me and I will send them to you.  All in all, it was a fantastic reading experience.  A lot of time spent cuddling together and a lot of new concepts introduced.