Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"Locks of Love" Causes Panic Attack in Mom

Okay, maybe that headline is a slight exaggeration. I was actually so overcome by the fact that my son was turning seven that I accidentally answered, "sure" when my daughter asked if she could get her hair cut short. She had been working on me for months. When I got my hair cut, she thought it would get easier, but I only told her that, "moms have short hair, little girls have long hair." She didn't buy it. She's no dummy!
She's had long hair ever since it could GET long. I beamed with pride when, as a toddler, she would bounce down the hall at church with long, blonde hair with a little flip at the bottom. Older women would "ooooohhh!" and "aaaaahhhhhh!" as she danced by them. She was three before we ever cut it, because I knew it would cut out that precious little curl!
Honestly, I was ready for a change. Change is hard, but man, no more tangles, no more unbrushed, ratty hair. No more ponytails! Why didn't we do this sooner?! Anyway, here is what she looks like now. If Dakota Fanning didn't have a little sister, Anna could play her double!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

An Interesting Thing at the Zoo

We've never seen this before, and this is a great reminder why you should visit the zoo year 'round and not just once (get a pass!) We went in the "Amphibian and Reptile House" to see our favorite giant tortoises. Once, we got to watch them get clean and for some reason my daughter wanted to watch the helper scrub the floor and hose down their habitat. It was a lengthy process! Anyway, just inside the building there is a tank with TONS of turtles. They were shedding!
This is normal, and I googled it just to make sure! I found this:

You think YOUR kids grow quickly?

I've got a LOT to share, as I let TEN days go by without blogging. But I just had to share this. We had a beautiful spring day last Wednesday so the kids decided to go to the zoo while we were in Wichita for the day. When they stood by their favorite penguins, I HAD to take a picture, because I remembered that the last time we went to the zoo their heights were even with the penguins. Check them out now...

and Now...

How much time do you think there was between photos? ONLY SIX MONTHS!!!!!!

Water Experiment

After discussing how much trash we generate and where it ends up, we also discussed wasting other resources in our home such as electricity and water. This is a huge issue for me, because I have an internal reminder (that probably comes from my mom who grew up in East Germany) that dings every time the water is running for no reason or a light has been left on.
The first thing we did was make "Energy Police" badges. Then we put bright green light switch covers on our most-used switches that read "TURN OFF." Then I asked the kids, "What uses more water, a bath, or a shower?"
They both said, "shower." So Friday I had them both take showers, but we plugged the tub so that the water would collect in the tub. My son went first, and he took a REALLY long shower. The tub filled up, even more than if he had taken a bath. So when it was Anna's turn, I decided to time her shower. Even though we have a fairly low flow with our Showerwise shower filter [shameless plug] I was amazed to see that after only ten minutes, the tub was at the same level that she would normally take a bath.
This was a great way to show the kids how much water is used for showers. Our rule generally is that if you plan on taking a long shower, take a bath. If you just want to get in and get clean, take a shower. We also conserve water by not flushing the toilet every time. This is not on purpose; this is because the kids are afraid it will overflow on them, so they don't flush!
P.S. We did visit our recycling center but I haven't blogged about it because I forgot to bring a camera. When I have pictures to share, I'll write about our visit. This week: How our choices affect things outside our house (we have discussed the water cycle and will be focusing on the rainforests starting tomorrow.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Easter Funny

A few days after Easter, my daughter came to me and asked if she could have some of her chocolate bunny. The bunny was solid, dark chocolate, and I didn't think anything of it as I sent her on her way with the bunny in hand. She came to me a few minutes later, bloody tooth in one hand, and her bunny in the other. "My tooth fell out!" she cried. At first I panicked, because she didn't have any loose teeth ready to come out. "Was the bunny that hard?" I wondered. Seeing visions of a toothless child with teeth falling out all over the place, I remembered that she had been complaining about her two bottom teeth hurting. So I checked the other one next to it, and sure enough, it was loose. Since it wasn't to the point of hanging on by a thread, her tooth coming out was a total shock.
I wanted to take a picture to commemorate the "big event" so I put her in front of the window and she showed me her missing tooth. Later when I downloaded pictures, I learned that she and Thomas had taken pictures of each other with their bunnies, as they didn't want to eat them unless they could "preserve" them. So essentially, I have a "before" picture, and an "after" picture. It cracked me up. The pictures are so similar, as if I planned them.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

How much trash do we generate per day?

Yesterday for school, we calculated how much trash our family of three generates per day. We collected our trash for three days. Since some days have little trash, and other days have more, I wanted to get a better idea of where we stood. (We did discuss "high trash" weeks like birthdays and Christmas when we have boxes and wrapping paper, etc.) But on average, we generate about one pound each day.
My children are 5 (and 5 months) and 6 (and 11 months). I am exact with their ages, because if they were in school, there is NO WAY this problem would be put in front of them. First, I asked how to figure out how much trash we generated in one day if we know how much trash we generated in 3 days. They kind of threw around some close ideas, so I drew an illustration that worked out their thoughts more concretely. "What if I took each piece in the trash and cut it into three equal pieces. I would put each piece into a pile, and have three piles when I'm done. Would you say that I split the trash into three even stacks, representing the three days? And would one stack represent the trash we would generate in one day?" Their eyes began to light up. Since we had already talked about fractions, they quickly recognized that we had split the trash into thirds.
I then drew a circle on a paper and said, "this circle represents the three days worth of trash that we collected. How can I divide the "trash" to help me figure out the amount generated in one day?"
"Divide it into three equal parts."
I tried my best at making "thirds" and it was at least sufficient. I then showed how I can not only divide a circle into thirds, or the trash into thirds, but a number into thirds (division- a new concept). They now know that we generate one pound per day.
"How many do we generate in a week?" To which my FIVE year-old responded, "Seven." Sign her up for MIT, folks!
She new the answer was 7, but did not know how to explain why. So I let her brother think and verbalize. I then explained how you could add 1+1+1+1+1+1+1 to get 7, or you could say "1 TIMES 7." I knew they got it once we needed to know how many pounds we generate in a month, and used "30" as the number of days per month.
When we started working on the number of pounds per year, I first was going to use the result from our monthly figure, but my 6 year old helped me realize something when he said, "figure out how many days there are in a year and times that..." It occurred to me that he was dead on. Since there are not 30 days in every month, you cannot simply multiply that result by 12. You need to go back to the daily amount and multiply it by 365 for the most accurate result.
There was never any reason for them to know how many days there are in a year, but they know now!
This is a great example of the many concepts taught in one activity. And this was part of "science," not math! It also shows that children understand much more than we give them credit for. I've mentioned this often in my blog, but in case you are a new reader, my daughter isn't even supposed to be in kindergarten yet, according to her birthday. And here she is at home, dividing, multiplying, and problem solving!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Earth Day Activities for School- Trash

During this month, we will be doing Earth Day related studies for science and social studies. I will share what we are doing in hopes that it will motivate you to share some earth-friendly thoughts with your own children!

We started this "unit" last week, with reading The Berenstain Bears Don't Pollute (Anymore). Since we just finished learning about communities and neighborhoods, this was a great follow up story to lead into how we take care of our community. Because it is an easy concept to grasp, we are starting with "trash," and where it goes. This is much easier than starting with wasting electricity or water. Once they get the trash issue, it is easier to transfer their understanding of good stewardship to something that is not as concrete.

So how do you teach about trash? Good question! I remember when I first had a newborn and a toddler in diapers and how much trash it generated every week. One baby's diapers didn't phase me, but two...holy cow! I was moved to start using cloth diapers and life returned to normal. So it only makes sense for the kids to see how much trash we generate as a family. I have a book from The Mailbox called Environment. It is for grades 1-3. In this book, there is an activity called "Tons of Trash." For this activity, you are to collect a day's worth of trash all in one bag. I decided to go three days, and then take an average. Today is the 3rd day. Tomorrow we will complete the graph, showing how much trash we generate each day, how much it would be in a week, and how much for a month. Then we will go through the bag and look at each item, discussing how we could reduce the use or if the item can be recycled. (No food went into the trash).

This week we will also make a visit to our local recycling center. We will bring all our recyclables and talk about what we see there. We have lived here for two years and this is the first visit to the center! This is totally unlike me, but it took this long to find out we even have recycling here. In Georgia they picked it up curbside, so it wasn't much to think about. Next week, we will visit our local landfill. It is only two years old, and my children's dad had a part in helping construct some railings around the landfill offices. We had just moved here when he did the work, and we've never been to see it. Perhaps we will visit each year and see how much it changes!

Come back and see the other ideas I have planned this month!
*Various mom-owned businesses are running Earth Day specials. Check them out!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

First Soccer Game of the Season

I can't believe that this is Thomas' third year playing soccer! He played his first year right when he turned 5, and he was TERRIFIED! His dad and I ended up helping coach so that he would be more comfortable out on the field. He is one of those kids who doesn't like people watching him, and he didn't really know what was going on yet, so he was very unsure of himself. I was really surprised last year when he said he wanted to play again. He did much better and was actually getting in there and kicking the ball some, even though he isn't very aggressive. This year, he "aged up" to the under-8 team and he is doing VERY well. His first game was Saturday and I was very impressed by his skills and endurance.

Of course, Anna started playing last year at 4 1/2 and had a lot of fun playing alongside her brother. She is still playing in under-6 this year, and her dad is coaching. They had their first practice today and I just know not only is she going to be one of the better players on the field, she will do it all with a big, toothless smile!

I also have a son...

I've been writing about my daughter so much that I thought I should write about my son a little! Anna is at that age where she is just blossoming and Thomas has already been through that stage. His progression is much slower, even though he still blows me away daily with his knowledge and abilities! For instance, recently he spent his allowance on a Star Wars Lego set. The next day, we took a little break from school and he worked on it a little bit. He started it the night before. He got frustrated for a minute, and then as soon as he asked for my help he saw where he went wrong and corrected it himself. It was then that I realized how much a child really gets out of building, so I decided as long as he stuck with it, that would be his "school." Little did I know that he would not quit! He worked on it for the rest of the day, and when I went to check his progress, I took a look at the box. He was about 75% finished with a set that is meant for 8-12 year-olds. When I showed it to him and explained what it meant, he understood why I had the look of astonishment on my face. Here he was, almost 7, doing a "big boy" project all on his own! Night time came up before he could get it complete, so he finally asked his dad if he wanted to help. They finished it together.

Because Thomas does not typically stick with something this challenging for that long, of course I made a big deal out of it. While his Lego abilities were nurtured over time, his perseverance is still something in the beginning stages of development. He is learning! Here he is with his new "Rogue Shadow."