Tuesday, February 24, 2015

FIAR: Very Last First Time

Our latest FIAR book was Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews. It's the story of an Inuit girl named Eva who goes searching for mussels at low tide under the sea ice in the winter in Canada. It was a great book and the kids loved the idea of being able to walk around under the ice. 

 We did an experiment to show what tides do. First we put rocks and a couple of animals (ok... dinosaurs) on the rocks. Then we filled the water a little bit (low tide) and the boys could see how they could still easily move across the rocks without getting wet.
 Then we poured more water in (high tide) making it so most of the rocks were now under water and so trapped the animals on the rocks where they were. 
 Rebecca picked up a bag of mussels from the store one evening and we let the kids see how they opened up when you put then in water. 

The artwork in the point has a lot of pointillist style, so we tried an art project we saw on someone else's page where they used spiky rings to paint with, creating a sort-of-pointillist effect.
We also read a couple of other books: Arctic Son (which our library thankfully had, since it's out of print) and The Three Snow Bears. We talked some about polar bears and how they have a thick (up to 6 inches!) layer of fat and how they can swim in the icy arctic waters. 
To illustrate how that works, Gabe and Ezra stuck their hands in ice water and held them there for a minute. 
Then we made a "glove" out of two ziploc bags with shortening in between them. They stuck their hands back in with the gloves on and didn't get cold at all!
Irene thought that was way cool, so she wanted to try it, too. :)
This was a really fun and interesting unit study for all of us.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Snow fun

After despairing for weeks about not getting any snow, we got an answer to prayer! :) I wasn't much, but it was something. We got about an ich of cnow and then another inch of sleet on top of it, so it was very slick for sledding. Our first idea was just to go down the driveway, but, as I discovered to my own continuing pain, it was so slick as to be uncontrollable. I flew down the driveway, across the street and slammed into the opposite curb. I now have a pretty good bruise and a good stiff limp to show for it. Olivia decided she'd try her hand at it so long as I was there to catch her. 

 After only one time, it was deemed too scary and so we moved to our traditional hill across the street. Ezra bailed before even going once because he was cold, but Olivia and Gabe were troopers and were in for the long haul.

 They had a blast! after only one or two runs, they too to having races down the hill. The ice made it certainly fast enough to be exciting.

There's a little more snow in the forecast, so we're hoping the weathermen are right!

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Circus Came To Town

Taking the kids to the circus has become a biennial event for us, with this being our 3rd time going. The kids just love it, of course. We went early this year (like we did 4 years ago) and got to see the animals in their pens/cages before the show. 

Most of the tigers were lazily lounging around, but there were couple that were pacing like... well, tigers in a cage. 
The kids were very excited about the camels, since they'd never seen one up close before. 
Then, of course, were the elephants. 

It was nearly showtime, so they were getting their last minute preparations done, like getting blown off with a leaf blower and putting on their harnesses.

Then it was time for the show! As we expected, the kids just loved it. It was hard to get pictures of their reactions, but they were very animated most of the show, even little Irene. :)
 Olivia loved these aerial acrobats. They were lit up with blacklights and were doing all kinds of synchronized tricks on bungee cables.

Emma and Irene loved the elephants.

Gabe's favorite part was the guys on the trampolines doing tricks.
Ezra, not surprisingly, loved the cannon and the bmx trick riders.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Bunk Beds

So, with Irene getting bigger and being more "interactive", we decided she needed to move out of our room and into the girls' room. The only problem was that there weren't enough beds for the three of them. And if we were going to do something about their room, we probably should do the boys' as well.  Their rooms also needed insulation so, last fall, we decided to just redo the kids' bedrooms with insulation, new paint and custom-built bunk beds. We packed up their rooms and moved everyone up to the classroom to camp for a couple of weeks (which turned into 2 months!). I cut holes in the walls to pump insulation in. I patched those gaping holes and managed to make them disappear pretty well (if I do say so myself :). Rebecca picked out the paint colors and I slapped them on the walls. Finally, I bought some triple bunk bed plans online and got to work. They had two versions of the beds and it just so happens that only one of each would work in each of their rooms. The girls' room had a long wall that allowed me to build them staggered. 
These things are built with 2x4s and 2x8s and are lag-bolted into the studs. They aren't going anywhere. 

Irene's bed doesn't have a mattress yet because she's still sleeping in the Pack N Play. If we were to let her out, she'd never sleep at night for all the playing she'd do with Emma. :) But her bed does await her when the day comes.
The boys didn't have a wall long enough for the layout in the girls' room, but fortunately the plans had this corner setup that looked like it might work and it did! There's still a spare bed for any guests who might come to visit.
I can't tell you how excited the kids are to have their new beds. They just love them!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A New (Lego) Adventure

So... back at Thanksgiving, we bought (unseen) the Lego Movie because it was on sale at Target for $6. We all sat down and watched it the next day and just loved it. The kids thought it was hilarious and immediately wanted to start building stuff. Unfortunately, we didn't own any Legos. Unbeknownst to the kids, though, we had plotted to purchase, and also to have gifted to them for Hanukkah, a couple of Lego sets. Now, as I mentioned, we've never owned the real Legos. We've had Duplos and MegaBloks, but the traditional tiny Lego pieces were unknown in our house, primarily due to the choking hazard with the littles, but also because of their reputation as in-home landmines. But once the movie was introduced to the kids, there was no going back.
Ezra's penchant for building airplanes has been documented on this blog before, so getting access to more things to build airplanes with was simply irresistible to him. What they actually got were sets like an Airport Firetruck that came with a big jet engine and a Construction Hauler. I made a deal with them before we started: I would build it by the instructions one time and then they were free to do what they wanted, but they were on their own after that. I think the firetruck lasted a day before he took it apart and built a jet.
Later, we used some Barnes and Nobles gift cards to buy some small sets that were specifically geared to make airplaneshelicopters and race cars, each of which either I or Olivia built one time. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the race car lasted less than 30 minutes before he reconfigured it with wings.
I should point out that Ezra's not alone in his unbridled creativity. Gabe is very much of the same mindset, though he does tend to build some different vehicles than just planes. Olivia has also been found from time-to-time building herself some impressive things. Emma received an adorable Lego Friends set, though she has been more inclined to dismantle rather than build with the small pieces. The Duplo set she got from her Aunt Nancy and Uncle Charlie has been more her speed.
 In an effort to prevent a ridiculous mess, I searched for storage ideas and found a few people that suggested an Ikea piece for which you can buy bins of various sizes for sorting the Legos by color. While this seemed a little OCD to me at first, I realized that it's kinda the way the instructions tell you to build things: grab 4 red of this shape and 3 black of this shape and 2 yellow of that shape. So sorting by color actually did make sense... While there are more than 6 colors, I didn't see a strong need to sort out the different shades of gray or brown into their own bins. Perhaps when we get into the larger sets, we'll look at expanding our storage with a second unit. Every week, I make then go through and sort the bins out since they tend to just toss the pieces in the bottom bin when in a hurry.
As far as the landmine factor goes, we do find Legos around the house, but it hasn't been the terrible disaster I initially expected. It's a bit frustrating to pick them up in the vacuum, which then requires me to sift through the dirt to retrieve them, but for the most part, we've kept a pretty good handle on them so they're not all completely lost.

So, if anyone's looking for birthday or Hanukkah gift ideas, look no further than the Lego section. :)

Friday, January 30, 2015

FIAR: Papa Piccolo and Gabrielle's Song

Since we just did Clown of God, which takes place in Italy, we decided to continue with Papa Piccolo, which is set in Venice. 
 Papa Piccolo is about a tomcat in Venice who enjoys his nights of freedom along the canals, but then finds a pair of kittens on their own and winds up taking them under his wing. Not having cats ourselves, the kids were very happy to learn more about them and absolutely loved the antics of Piccolo and his proteges, Marco and Polo. 
 They also got to learn more about Venice and its landmarks like the Grand Canal, The Piazzo San Marco and the city's famous gondoliers.
 Ezra has been learning his letters and so was happy to be able to do a simple copywork page for the notebook. He declined to color the picture, tho. :)
 To get up close and personal with some cats, we went to our friends' farm where they have several barn cats who are friendly to an extreme. Gabe walked out the back door and sat down and was immediately approached by one, then two, the five cats, all begging for his attention. He then stood out in the barn and watched them while the cow was being milked nearby and he reported to us on how they acted. He said they all watched and waited while Mr Ezra milked and then quickly gathered around their pan for him to pour a little of the fresh milk in for them. He noticed that they didn't fight and got along very well with each other.
 We didn't end our tour of venice with Papa Piccolo. We found a recommendation for another book, Gabriella's Song, also set in Venice.  Gabriella is a little girl who listens to the everyday noises of the city and hums a simple tune that is picked up by the baker, passed to a widow, a gondolier and then the whole city through a composer who gives credit to "whomever it was that was singing the tune in the streets." All eyes eventually turn toward Gabriella. 
 As we read the book, we talked about musical terms, what a composer does, played an orchestra memory game and learned about compound words. We also talked specifically about Vivaldi, who is one of Venice's famous composers. 

Both of these books were a pure delight to us all and we really recommend you check them out. You won't be disappointed. Sadly, Papa Piccolo is out of print, so it's only available through used-book sellers. Our library had a copy, so we just checked it out there.