Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

much love to you all...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas in the City

Christmas in the City
One of the books we checked out from the library before our NYC trip was Christmas in the City by Loretta Krupinski. It is a story of two mice who make their home in a large evergreen. One day, their home becomes a Christmas tree when it is taken to Rockefeller Center in New York City. The mice are excited as they leave their nest to explore the wonder and magic of a NYC holiday season.

The story was especially fun and significant for us since we had seen the tree on our vacation. It was before the lighting ceremony had taken place, though.

This is how it might have looked all decorated.

I adore mice as characters in books.

I don't know why, though, because in real life, mice sort of freak me out. But in animation or illustration, there aren't too many things cuter.

See the the peephole where the mice can watch the ice skaters on the rink at the Rockefeller Center?

Dash and I went ice skating on the same rink one night of our vacation.

Our craft projects:
I bought a package of plain glass balls at Hobby Lobby, along with a bag of brown paper shreds. I told the kids to stuff the pieces of paper into their balls to make a "nest" like the mice used in the book for their newborn babies. They enjoyed this, and it was a good fine motor activity that kept them busy for a little bit.

(Note: The balls we used had smooth, strong openings, but occasionally an ornament hole can have sharp edges. I told them not to stick their fingers into them, anyway, just in case.)

Sissy's completed ornament

I found a cute (!) Christmas Mouse coloring page at author/illustrator Elizabeth O. Dulemba's blog. I copied it and shrunk it to around a 2 in. x 2 in. size. They colored their mice with colored pencils and markers, and I cut them out.

Dash's ornament

I had to slightly fold the cut out mouse to fit it inside the hole, then manipulate it with a pencil until it fit right among the "nest." I love the simplicity of their finished creations.

Tornado's ornament

I think I will write the year with marker on the back of the ornament. I just really loved how these turned out. They will be able to keep these ornaments to trigger a memory of our NYC trip. It made me think that I would like to have the kids make a similar ornament every year, based on something special we did. I'm going to keep the remaining glass balls handy in case we are inspired to make a "memory ornament" during the year. We kept looking at fun ornaments on our trip that I was tempted to buy as souvenirs, but I didn't because of the $15-25 price tags. This is a more frugal alternative.

I also printed copies of the same coloring page onto cardstock and let the kids paint it with water colors.

I cut out my 3 year old's mouse, and the boys cut out their mice.

Their mice were glued onto brown construction paper, and they added paper shreds for the nest.

Joining in on the fun with stART, Read Explore Learn, and Kids Get Crafty!

Thanks to Elizabeth O. Dulemba for sharing her lovely artwork; she provides more coloring pages on Coloring Page Tuesdays. And if you live in Georgia or are learning about the state, her latest children's book is The 12 Day of Christmas in Georgia. Visit here to see other Georgia worksheets, including a tutorial for a Georgia peach ornament.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Trip to Gettysburg


Our geography and history lessons and discussions continue to follow along the subjects that were initiated before and during our November vacation to the Northeast. I had really wanted to blog about our trip in chronological order (for our own memory keeping)...but I've ended up skipping around...and I have no idea why. I guess it's because I haven't had a lot of time to blog, and when I sit down to do it, I just sort of jump in on whatever strikes me at the time. Gettysburg was actually the first big part of our trip.

We bought this book in the Gettysburg Museum gift shop: The Gettysburg Address in Translation, What It Really Means by Kay Melchisedech Olson.

We had checked out several books for the library on the war, trying to find ones that were appropriate enough for a 10, 5, and 3 year old. The "If You..." series books are always a fun choice. We like these books because they don't have to be read all at once. Reading even just one question and answer sparks enough discussion to last for awhile.

I thought Gettysburg was a really cute town (seemingly out in the "middle of nowhere") with cute shops. I would have liked to have spent more time there, but we figured that the amount of time we did spend (arrived late to a hotel, then left around 3 the next day) was a good starting point with the kids. We'll go again when they're older and can appreciate it on another level. I think there would have been plenty for us to do had we stayed a few days.

I believe the new museum & visitor center has only been open for around two years. It replaced a much smaller building. This facility was definitely very nice, FULL of plenty to read and explore.

One amazing aspect of the museum is the Cyclorama, a "massive 360 degree "Battle of Gettysburg" painting" that circles a large room and measures 377 feet around and 42 feet high. The painting (first exhibited in 1884 and later restored) is so life-like that you can't really tell where the painting ends and the real objects (such as fake plant life or a fence or whatever) sitting on the floor begin. Different sections are lit up as you listen to narrative.

We also watched the movie in the museum, which tells the basic story of the battle. The information desk told us it was appropriate for children, and I "guess" it was. It was probably a little more graphic than I would have preferred for the kids, but they didn't seem bothered by it. I gave Sissy big hugs a couple of times to hide her face.

Gettysburg is obviously a great place to take kids. It introduces them to an important part of history...

...and just look what they get to do.

It's funny how Ryan and I will sometimes analyze an event or place to visit, such as, "Will the kids even CARE about this?" And then we remember...WE want to go. It's not ALWAYS about what they want to do the most. Sometimes Mom and Dad get to spend time doing what they've always wanted to do, as well. The kids had a great day, though, too, so our concerns were unnecessary.

Oh, yeah...except Sissy did lose her patience before we were completely finished looking through the museum. She was tired and hungry and made sure we knew it...every 30 seconds. We ate sandwiches in the car from the cooler, then let her sleep while Ryan and I took turns getting out with the boys at statues and landmarks throughout the rest of the park.

Johnny the Confederate Soldier: With 27 Stickers [Book]
For fun, the boys played with these little sticker books (that only cost about a $1.50).

They get to dress their Confederate soldier (clad only in red long underwear) in a choice of infantry private, cavalry captain, artillery major, or Tiger Zouave uniforms, including hats and weapons. The stickers are reusable so the outfits can be changed.

It's funny because Dash was not happy that there wasn't a Union soldier sticker book available.

Now I'm off to Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn to see what other families have been up to in Geography & History.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Our Visit to the Liberty Bell

This week's stART (story + art) learning activity:
The Liberty Bell.

We really, really enjoyed our recent visit to...

We read a couple of these books in the hotel room before our visit and a couple of them after our visit when we returned home. The Great Big Wagon That Rang by Joseph Slate and The Liberty Bell by Debbie L. Yanuck were the two better choices for my kids' age ranges of 10, 5, and 3. The other two were better suited for my 10 year old.

The Great Big Wagon That Rang: How the Liberty Bell Was Saved
The Great Big Wagon That Rang tells the story of a farmer who used his wagon to hide the Liberty Bell from the British. It has a poetic rhythm, making it an enjoyable story to read. It is a great book to introduce your children to the Revolutionary War. There are different children's books with similar stories of the Liberty Bell being hidden in wagons driven by unlikely people.

The part of Philadelphia we experienced was just so lovely. Arkansas autumn can be pretty, too, but it really doesn't compare to New England.

Spontaneous leaf fights were constantly breaking out.

The historic area of Philadelphia looks like this...

with amazing things like this everywhere.

Our first night in Philadelphia, we walked over to see the Liberty Bell. It is held in a very small museum (The Liberty Bell Center), but the photographs and stories written on the exhibits are very interesting! I wanted to read them all.

It's the Liberty Bell! How cool!

On our walk back to our hotel that night - I recommend staying at a hotel in close walking distance to the historic sites. We stayed at The Holiday Inn/Historic District, and it was great for us.

This is the area courtyard area of Independence National Historic Park.

The next day, we had part of a day to do a little more sightseeing. There is a really nice, large visitor's center that is the perfect starting point for a visit.

We took guided tours of the various buildings within Independence National Historic Park, including Congress Hall, where events such as George Washington's 2nd inauguration and the Bill of Rights ratification took place.

Tickets (free but timed) are required for your tour of Independence Hall (where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed). That's the cage where criminals stood before the court. You never know what young kids are soaking in from these types of trips and tours. However, when we returned from our trip, several times the kids have made comments towards pictures in books, such as "We saw that!" and "That's where 'such and such' happened."

There were so many places we did not have a chance to visit this time, including the Ben Franklin house and his grave site, etc. I had also wanted to visit the Betsy Ross house. I think some of the other places might have been better for young children. Next time!

Onto the art projects:
Sadly, I left my camera battery charger on vacation, and I had to order another one (which hasn't arrived yet). My phone doesn't take good indoor pictures. This is the three of them working on their Liberty Bell craft. I first saw the idea on The Goodwin Family's blog. I also saw that Christy from Superheroes and Princesses had made them AND these fun Liberty Bell cookies that we'll make whenever we get a chance.

This is one of their finished bells (made with a paper cup, foil, part of a wrapping paper roll, a pipe cleaner, and a jingle bell). Instructions can be found on many websites, including this one.

They were begging to paint, so I sketched (not too impressively) outlines of the Liberty Bell onto finger painting paper. They like to paint on this kind of paper because it's so smooth. You can't tell, but they used glitter paint for the bell.

Thank you, A Mommy's Adventures, for hosting stART!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Booker T. Washington National Monument in Virginia

On our drive back to Arkansas, one of our stops was Hardy, Virginia where the Booker T. Washington National Monument is located.

We prefaced this visit by reading Booker T. Washington by Lola M. Schaefer. There were several similar books at our library; I chose this one because it seemed to be geared to the youngest audience. It also felt appropriate to learn about Washington and his life because we had already visited Gettysburg during this trip, and the discussion of the Civil War and slavery was already underway.

We found worksheets (crossword puzzles, word searches, etc.) and a nice youtube video about Washington on this site.

We enjoyed our visit! We didn't have a lot of time on our drive back, and we wanted to choose rest stops that were easy, fun, educational, and allowed the kids to run around a little bit. Hardy was about 30 minutes (I think!) from interstate 81.

There are several sculptures and exhibits with information to read. The ladies who worked in the museum were sooo nice and helpful. They were very friendly and gracious in offering us information and answering our questions. There was a nice gift shop full of books and learning materials about African American history.

Since Tornado loves comic books, we picked out this book, Wonder Women. You can read more about Chester Comix here; I'm sure we'll end up getting more of these.

We began our visit with watching a video presentation on Washington and his life. I just love these videos at visitor's centers. I always find them interesting. I think the kids like them, too, because they watch them intently, without making a peep. They also enjoyed looking at this 3-dimensional story board.

The museum is located on the original Burroughs family planation. James Burrough owned the 207 acre tobacco farm. Above is a replica of the building that served as the kitchen and home to the plantation cook and her children, one of whom was little Booker. You are able to step inside the 19th century replica farm buildings and get a feel of what life was like for the young slave and his family.

Our most notable impression was just how cooold it was inside this house. We watched on the video that Booker slept with blankets on the floor, and the windows didn't even fully close. It just made me feel so sad inside.

This the Burroughs family home (which is no longer standing). Washington recalls a Union Soldier standing on the porch reading what he later came to know as the Emancipation Proclamation. After reading it, he told them they were free, and Washington traveled with his mother and siblings to West Virginia where her husband worked in the salt mines.

There is a lot of space to run and things to explore!
There were farm animals on the property (to help create the mood of a real, working farm) and trails to help you tour the property more completely. We didn't have time to walk the trails, but we would love to stop by again sometime when we're "in the neighborhood." We really enjoyed Virginia, and there was so much we were unable to take advantage of.

I always love seeing what everyone else is up to.