Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"Live" Science

Teeny tiny froggie!
One of our tadpoles completed his (her?) transformation today - I've never witnessed the metamorphosis from tadpole to frog happen so quickly! It seemed like this frog was on fast forward. We released him to our herb garden instead of the pond behind our house as several white heron

were gathering nearby. At least in our herb garden he has a fighting chance!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bringing the Wild Home

On one of our quests last week, the rangers did a program on tadpoles and frogs and gave each participant a tadpole to take home. We brought home two different tadpoles. My girls have been fascinated with the little creatures, and today, on their own, they researched enough to identify what type of frog each tadpole will grow to be and are in the process of writing up little reports to detail each frog (or toad, as the case may be). It turns out that Slacker, the larger tadpole, is a Wood Frog and MicroMan, the aptly-named small tadpole, is a Common Toad.  We'll post more pictures as they change into adults - Slacker already sprouted legs yesterday. And naturally we'll release them once they are adults. We live in front of a large pond (teeming with both common toads and wood frogs) or we would not have agreed to take them.

Monday, May 23, 2011

We're Back!

View of the girls along the water at sunset - taken from our campsite
At a trail head (by the copperhead)
Pirate Treasure Hunt
What a week!! We are back after our journey all around the state. My husband and I were reflecting last night on what an amazing week we had... We visited the State Capitol, hiked along a Native American trail and tried our hand at a Native American childrens' game, built our own miniature raft, visited the wild ponies at Assateague Island, kayaked the waterways of the Chesapeake Bay, visited an old tobacco plantation, enjoyed letter-boxing all over a State Forest, tried our hand (fairly successfully!) at Trail Orienteering, enjoyed a family game of disc golf, hiked a few miles on the Appalachian Trail to a natural spring and thru-hiker rest spot, learned so much at an aviary and reptile house, spotted a copperhead snake, and visited a living history village where we talked to reenactors about life in our state at the time of the Revolution. Phew - what a week! We are incredibly thankful to live a state that puts on such a great Parks program - we had a wonderful trip, and while it's good to be, we wouldn't trade the time away for the world.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Road Trip!

We're taking off for a week - heading out to go camping and enjoy the late spring weather. May is the kick-off month for Park Quest, a family program run by the Maryland DNR, and we are taking full advantage of the cooler weather to visit the parks this month (not to mention that my husband's upcoming work schedule makes a June or July trip impossible).  We've already visited 8 state parks via day trips and are looking forward to the upcoming week of adventure! 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fine Art Friday

This week we talked about Jackson Pollock - the famous 20th-century abstract expressionist. The very cool thing about Pollock is that unlike other artists, he didn't paint "things" or "people" - he tried to capture "action." We discussed a bit about Pollock's biography and his art. The size of his work alone is impressive, and although sometimes this type of art can seem like "anyone can do it," we discussed what it means to be a pioneer in a field and how that fact can make the art important.

If you have kids that are easily frustrated by drawing and painting (and not having the drawings and paintings turn out on paper as they appeared first in the mind!), a Pollock-inspired Action Painting will be right up your alley! I set out only a few colors to keep the focus on the action. We did this project outside as it is a messy one! The kids had fun trying different splattering techniques - quick whipping, slashing, banging, etc., all provide a different effect. There is no "wrong" with this type of art, and my girls found it very freeing to just have at it! I would love to do this with them again with canvas and acrylics instead of cardstock and tempera paint. I could have four Originals hanging on the walls - quick and beautiful way to decorate the house. =D

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Break Over!

Before we left for the orthopedist yesterday, I told my husband that I was still holding out hope that the new x-ray would show that my arm wasn't broken.... And my dream came true! Basically, the first x-ray taken at urgent care apparently wasn't clear because of the swelling. The urgent care doctor did tell me they would most likely take another x-ray and I'm so glad they did!! It turns out I seriously thwacked my arm, bruised the bone (causing the major bump sticking out of my arm) and injured the connective tissue between the bones (spraining my forearm - I did not even know you could do that). So yes, it's quite painful; yes, I'm supposed to wear a sling/brace; but NO - it's not broken. And I'll be better much faster. He thinks a week if I take it easy on the arm (boo - no yoga).

I'm so relieved! =D

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Taking a Break

Ahhh, I wish this meant I was going on vacation! No - I broke my arm yesterday & as such, typing is seriously slow and a pain! So I will be much less wordy and my posts may be fewer and further between!  I don't even have a good story... I tripped wearing old, stretched out flip-flops in the garage and hit the open edge of the trunk of my minivan. On top of the break I have a pretty slash on my forearm. I'll be totally fine, but this is a serious pain in my, er... eh-hem... "arm."

Friday, May 6, 2011

Fine Art Friday

Our artist for this week is Charles Demuth, an early 20th-century Precisionist. Precisionism is a further development of the cubist movement, and is often described as Cubist Realism. Demuth is somewhat of a local artist for us as he is from Lancaster, Pennsylvania (about an hour from where we live). I have a field trip planned to the Demuth Museum later this month.

Demuth: The Figure 5 in Gold
 Our Demuth-inspired projects are based on his famous piece "The Figure 5 in Gold" (left). For our project, we each chose a number (everyone chose her age, except my 9-year-old who chose 4 and 5, the sum of which is her age - I love that) and used it as the centerpiece. We then added intersecting lines and used oil pastels to add color. The idea was to use varying tones of the same hue to indicate changes in lighting, but of course creative license is encouraged and this effect was achieved to varying degrees by everyone.

As always, it is interesting for me to see the variety that results with each piece. The girls all use the same tools, but end up with such different finished products. In particular, it is apparent which girl has a "heavy hand" when it comes to using oil pastels and which use a lighter touch. There is no "right" way to create art, and I enjoy seeing how they all view the same artist and artwork in a different light.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Discussing Bin Laden

Yesterday, on the way to swim practice, we passed a sign that read something to the effect of "Bin Laden is Dead, Praise Jesus, God Bless America!"  My oldest daughter (age 10) knew that Bin Laden was dead, but she pointed to the sign and started asking questions:

"Why would we praise Jesus for someone's death?"
"What does God blessing America have to do with someone being killed?"

... and so on. Good questions, really. I don't typically have many moments where I hesitate to answer, but with a car full of young children I was a bit tongue-tied. I've read many stories and watched the footage of people celebrating Bin Laden's death. It made me feel awkward, because while I didn't know how I felt about the matter, I knew I didn't feel like jumping up and down. "Why not?!?!" is the incredulous response I've received from several people with whom I've discussed this issue in person. Why, indeed? I know I am not sad in the least to see Bin Laden go - that's for certain. But nor do I feel like setting off fireworks and having a parade.  I explained to the girls that there are groups of people all over the world that do terrible things, causing many innocent people to die - as in the 9/11 attacks. And that Bin Laden was the famous leader of one of those groups, so people are glad to that he is gone. And I told them that because of the 9/11 (and other) attacks, many Americans feel that Bin Laden's death is a victory for America and are celebrating with signs, etc. I also had to touch on the fact that many people feel their god is on their side - we talked about the myriad of wars, conflicts, etc., from history and how in each instance the parties involved (be they Ancient Greeks praising Zeus or modern-day Americans praising the Christian God) feel that their deity is on their side, so they pray asking for help in bringing them victory or a positive resolution. But I tried to make clear that for me, personally, while I felt a sense of what can only be described as a type of relief (?), I did not experience elation, probably because when it comes down to it, I support nonviolence. It would be hard for me to jump up and down over any violent solution.

As I told them this, a part of me whispered, "You're sounding very un-American..."  But that's only the part that is surrounded by signs like the one we passed. Part of being American is having the freedom to choose your beliefs and life philosophies.  So I explained that to the girls as well. I told them that my view is probably not the popular choice (especially given where we live) but that it is my right nonetheless to have it. I explained that I don't have a solution to the problems Bin Laden and his group pose, but I do have questions and asking questions is an important first step.

We ended up having a very interesting discussion and in the end I think that is the best I could have done. They probably walked away with more questions than answers, but I felt I could sleep at night because I ignored my first instinct to gloss over the difficulty of the situation. Initially, I felt they couldn't possibly understand so complex an issue - I mean, I can barely wrap my head around it sometimes. But keeping it relatively simple and focused allowed them to think, process, and ask questions. It felt like the beginning of a new level of discussion (with my oldest specifically) as the questions coming at me were quite mature, and I'm looking forward to the next phase.

"The important thing is not to stop questioning.  Curiosity has its own reason for existing.  One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. "
~Albert Einstein

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Backyard Friends

Friendly little guy!
Daddy returning it to the pond...
Making sure it had a safe re-entry

 This weekend we had another backyard visitor - a painted turtle!  My youngest daughter spotted it first, and ran to get us. It was next to the picnic table and on its way to the driveway - very bad decision for the turtle! We followed it around for a while before deciding to set it back nearer to the pond.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sew Much Fun!

Okay, that's a really cheesy title, but it's fitting - we had a lot of fun sewing skirts today. Each girl made herself a skirt (with varying degrees of help). The girls each used the same basic fabric, but individualized the skirts by changing up the length, fit, and notions. Sewing is a good lesson in patience, which, by the fourth skirt, I have to admit mine was waning a bit - hence, these are "fly by the seat of skirt" skirts - which is code for "pattern free."  We simply measured, cut, ironed and sewed. The waists are simple elastic. And the girls couldn't be happier. And at this age, they are so small that they can easily get multiple skirts out of a yard of fabric, so they are all now looking forward to hitting the remnant bin again!  They proudly wore them to the Post Office and loved all the attention the ladies there gave the skirts. They were even given ideas for their next projects. My youngest told everyone her next project would be making socks! We'll have to see about that... =D