Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mashamoquet with friends

We took advantage of the GOREGEOUS weather this past week to meet friends that we haven't seen for a year at Mashamoquet State Park. Great place, spring-fed pond for swimming, brook for exploring, fields for romping, woods for camping -- this won't be our only visit there! Enjoy some photos from our day:

We had many, MANY more fun adventures this week, which I'll get around to blogging about eventually....

Friday, August 28, 2009

photos by Zoo Boy

The kids recently discovered a very old, outdated digital camera in a box of junk (we have plenty of those -- boxes of junk, not old digital cameras....). Zoo Boy in particular has become very enthusiastic about it, and wanted to share some of his efforts with you folks. He seems to be specializing in important things in his world.

His house.

His forest toys.

His great-grandmother.

His Mimi.

His cat.

His brother. His dog (although I'm not entirely sure he wants to lay claim to THIS particular dog -- he likes Joy a lot better than Grace and would have probably been happier photographing her).

His bedroom (that's J being "his" guard -- he's the prince -- in the castle they built out of their beds and bedding).

One of the mushrooms he found on our "mushroom hunt" this week.

His bird, his playmobile castle.

And a little artistic effort, just to round out his talents.

Next thing you know, he'll be wanting his own blog....

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

last week

Ok, so before I'm late with posting about THIS week, I figured I'd post some photos from LAST week. That way I don't get more than two weeks behind....

We had one last swim playdate at our lake with Lori, Justin and Russ before the beach closed for the season (SOB!) at the end of the week. We got there every day but one last week, though, so I feel like we did our best to let the lake know we love it and will back next year....

Despite SCORCHING temperatures and MELT YOUR BRAIN CELLS humidity, the boys insisted on keeping up with our morning walks. (I did talk them out of it one day, but had to hear about it for DAYS to come, so decided it was easier to just sweat and let them walk than to be mercilessly harassed....). That's Grace, who is almost not a puppy anymore, according to J. The reason he knows this is because 1. she's almost a year old and 2. she's trained enough for him to walk her without it turning into a dog sled race. J says Grace is his favorite dog in the whole world. Given that Grace pretty much thinks J is the best kid in the whole world, I guess it's mutual.

J sent his PlayMobil elves on a trip around the world.

AKA Geography lessons via the little people.

This particular visit, to the southern half of Africa, was inspired by our listening to "The Gift of the Tortoise", a CD for kids about South African musical traditions, which we've been listening to on drives the past couple of weeks. (We use a lot of these sorts of musical story CDs for "vehicle rest time" -- in other words, when we're out driving during what would normally be our rest time.)

A sea of blue boys at Stratton Brook State Park, where we landed for a playdate with some friends. The pond was full of about 20 boys, and I kid you not, they all had blue shirts, blue swimsuits, and blue boogie boards. I wound up going in with my clothes on simply because there was no other way to keep track of which kids were mine!

Zoo Boy got to meet the new Skink at the children's museum while J was taking a class in Taxonomy (classifying plants and animals). J loved his class. And Zoo Boy loved this Skink. (And I'll admit, it was a very pretty lizard at that.)

Hurricane Bill passed off the coast and brought us an interesting red sky and funky lighting on Saturday morning. We got some periods of heavy, tropical rains and a little bit of wind, but nothing damaging.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

new lecture by Professor J

It's been a long time since Professor J has graced us with one of his world-renown lectures. In honor of his "light" (read the sarcasm) summer reading topics (chosen by him, not me, I thought toadstools and wizards would have been good....), the topic for this self-illustrated lecture was:

Human Anatomy and Physiology
by Professor J

In this first illustration, we see some of the components of the skeletal system. The skeletal system is made up of bones (unfortunately I can't remember quite what he said about the actual components that make bones, but I assure you, it was accurate), and where bones come together, they form joints, such as the elbow, wrist and knuckles, which are the joints of the fingers, also called phalanges. (Ok, ok, I have no doubt I massacred the spelling of that, but remember, it was a LECTURE, not an essay....) The skeletal system is what gives us our basic shape and provides the foundation for all of the other systems.

Next we have the muscular system (note the jazzy spelling! I inadvertently chuckled at it and from this point on, he refused to label his illustrations. Bad Mommy....). The bones are covered with muscles which, with the help of ligaments and tendons, move the joints and allows us to run, jump, and participate in sports.

The muscles respond to instructions sent from the brain by the nervous system. The Central Nervous system runs from the brain through the middle of the body. The Central Nervous System (or CNS) connects to the peripheral nervous system in the arms and legs. So when a person wants to scratch an itch, the brain sends an electrical signal through the CNS, which then travels to the peripheral nervous system, which tells the muscles to respond. So then you scratch your nose.

This is the sensory system. (And yes, I guessed wrong SEVERAL times as to what this was an illustration of. I'm lucky he didn't make me wear a dunce cap and sit in a corner!) The sensory system includes sight (eyes), hearing (ears), smell (nose), taste (tongue), and touch (skin). Sometimes something goes wrong with the sensory system. Like you, Mommy (gee, thanks J....), you were born with bad eyes. Sometimes that happens, and then this happens: (Ok, my bad, the photo I took of his next illustration didn't come out -- he drew eyeglasses on that face. He thought he was pretty clever and amusing. He was right.) That's right! Eyeglasses can help people whose vision doesn't work right be able to see like normal people. (So glad I can almost pass for normal....)

None of us could live without the circulatory system. The heart pumps and sends blood through the whole body through the veins and arteries. Unoxygenated blood travels first through the lungs to pick up oxygen to bring to the muscles through the arteries. Without oxygen, the muscles wouldn't work right and would DIE. (Always there is a sinister emphasis on that word....) The same with the brain and other organs, they need oxygen to work right, otherwise the person would DIE. After the oxygen gets to where it's going, the blood returns through veins. And then the whole cycle starts over again. (He also had an illustration of lungs doing their thing, along with aveoli and all that jazz that takes place in the lungs. I was too slow getting a picture, and zip! it was gone and he was on to the next illustration.)

The digestive system (which he's given an entire separate lecture about in the past -- oh, he's done that with the heart too....) fuels the body by taking in food through the mouth, and carrying it to the stomach where it is digested by acid. Then it moves trough the intestines, first the small intestine, and then the large intestine. Eventually the waste products pass through the colon and come out the anus as poop. (He went on to discuss the urinary system, along with a very simple drawing of two kidneys, a bladder, and a penis, but I figured I'd keep the drawings I posted G-rated....which is why I don't have any info on the reproductive system either, which he described -- and drew -- with his usual attention to detail.)

At this point, the lecture had gone on for at least 45 minutes, and I was starting to zone out, check email, etc. (There are frequent breaks in his lectures while he draws the next illustration, so keeping focus isn't as simple as you would think, despite the fact that he's a pretty engaging professor!) I missed snapping photos of his illustrations of the limbic system (eek, he knows more about that than I ever did!) and the endocrine system, but I did manage to catch this nifty illustration during his diatribe on the immune system -- that's a white blood cell about to devour a bacteria. There's just no mystery to illness for this kid!

He wrapped up by saying that he knows all this stuff because he's going to be a doctor when he grows up. Probably an endocrinologist. Or maybe a geneticist. Okey dokey, J!

Of course, this morning he told me he's going to be an ecologist and study endangered ecosystems. Isn't it great to be 8?! You can be something different every day.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

fair enough

We took the boys to the local 4-H fair this weekend. It's small as fairs go (certainly no where near as large or as crowded as the local agricultural fairs), but for boys this age and this size, it was perfect. And the timing was just great -- we finished up reading Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright a week or two ago, in which the main character of the book, Garnet, raised a piglet and showed it at the fair, winning a blue ribbon. One of the big highlights for the boys was walking through the hog barn and pointing out the blue-ribbon winning pig. "Just like Garnet!" they both cried out.

Here's said pig, basking in his glory.

Of course, as much fun as pigs are (snort!), one of the big attractions for the boys were the rides. There were only a handful, but they were plenty enough for these guys. J even tried out a "real" (non-kiddie) ride (the swings), but found it a bit too intense for his liking, although he was a real good sport about it.

Our fun was doubled because we brought friends along with us to the fair. Here Zoo Boy and Russ ham it up in the tea-cup type ride. (You can see J in a car in the background, and The Map Man, Justin, and Lori watching from the outside.)

We had to try some of the classic fair food. J shared some of his plain (no syrup, silly kid!) sno-cone with Justin.

Popcorn was more Zoo Boy's style (I don't blame him, it was delicious!), and Lori and her kids got cotton candy (also delicious!). The Map Man and I shared an enormous piece of fried dough with the boys, too, J eating off the cinnamon side, and Zoo Boy off the powdered sugar side. (The Man and I pretty much ate anything that was left over.) It, too, was delicious. There's just something about food at a fair.... (oh yeah, fat, calories, sugar....)

We watched some of the Doodle Bug pulls while we ate our snacks. Despite the loud noise (usually a deal breaker for my guys), the boys seemed to really enjoy it. Honestly, that surprised me, not just from the noise perspective, but because my guys have never really shown much interest in that sort of thing before.

And of course we visited all of the animals - there was a rather impressive assortment of donkeys and mules, tons of goats, a bunch of cows and sheep, and of course a barn full of poultry and rabbits. Here the four boys are checking out some chickens. We got to see kids milking their goats (J says he didn't know that milk comes from goats too, and was fascinated to see that the milk looked the same as cow's milk), trimming their sheep, washing their cows. And one really nice 4-H teenager brought out a baby goat just so our boys could pet it.

We also walked through the building with the baking and arts and crafts and other projects. J was particularly interested in the decorated cakes, as he's taking a cake decorating class this fall.

There were pretty much ear-to-ear grins all evening. J's been talking ever since about the sorts of projects he'll enter in the fair when he's old enough to join a 4-H club.

And Zoo Boy's still talking about the rides.

stuff we've been up to

I'm definitely into the dog days of summer now -- not only am I not good at photographing what we're doing at this point, but I'm finding almost zero motivation to actually post about any of it! But trust me, we're continuing to have fun, and here's a bit of proof:

In the first photo, J is hunting for jewel weed pods to pop with his cousin, K.

I took J to see a community theater production of "Cinderella", at the same Theater Guild that hosts the Youth Chorus he sings with. He just loved the production, and knew all of the kids in the Children's Ensemble (they also do chorus with him). He had the opportunity to be involved with this production as well, but I didn't think we should sacrifice our entire summer for it (rehearsals were 4 nights a week when it got close to performance time, and the show ran for 3 weekends -- yikes!). He does think he'd like to be in a show, though, so we're planning on him participating in a low-key children's theater production later this fall.

Playing football in the front yard.

We finally sheared the last 3 ewes -- sheesh, it's ridiculous to be shearing in August, but we just couldn't find enough dry time before now where the fleeces were dry enough to shear! (As it was, one of them was still a little damp, but we took the fleece off of her anyway -- it was already ruined from staying on her too long, and at this point, it was just important to get it OFF. At least the other two fleeces look really nice.)

A Mancala tournament has been ongoing this past week. Zoo Boy wins every time. It's not that his strategy is particularly developed, it's just that he's the most observant child on the planet, and he can see every mistake his opponent makes, therefore being able to capitalize on it. Fortunately, his brother isn't sick of losing to him yet.

Fun at the lake, as usual, this time with their friend, Russ, along! Even though swim lessons are done for the summer, we're still swimming almost every day.

Zoo Boy running down the beach, his favorite way to dry off after swimming.

J drew this picture of a Pelican with a pencil on paper. Ok, so that might not seem like a big deal to the average person, but J's favorite drawing medium has thus been his Doodle Pro, so I'm pretty thrilled that he's starting to creating some lasting art that isn't erased as soon as it's completed!

Pool party!

Zoo Boy took the kids' "Atlas of the Universe" outside one night this weekend to see which constellations he could identify in the night sky. He would have stayed out there all night star-gazing if I didn't drag him back indoors to go to bed. Even the swarms of mosquitoes didn't discourage him.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

it's Greek to me

Greece has been the topic of much discussion and interest around here lately. My kids have suddenly become obsessed with the Greek alphabet and are constantly forming various Greek letters out of shoe laces and pieces of food and quizzing me on which letter it is. I, with almost no knowledge of Greek, have been doing a lot of shrugging and saying "huh" in response to the boys' repeated attempts in getting me to take an interest in it.

A little sleuthing led to me to discover the catalyst for all this interest in Greek. Here's a passage from a recent "Magic Tree House" book they read, in which the heroes discover this word in code -- turns out it's "Pegasus" written in Greek leters. Which certainly explains the interest in Greek, but not necessarily some of the other things that started happening.

Like this for instance:
???? It's Greek. Or it's at least some word in English rewritten with Greek letters. Which is bizarre enough in itself, but I was pretty stymied as to where the kids were learning the Greek letters. It's not like they're just googling up the Greek alphabet.

But as it turns out, that's exactly what happened. Via their enabler (i.e. their father). They bugged him incessantly, and he finally gave in and printed out this Greek alphabet key for them.

At first, I was less than thrilled, and gave The Map Man a quick lecture in how we should be introducing language via a living format, not just shoving keys at them and encouraging pure decoding skills and direct translations. I explained how I'm bringing Spanish to them as a form of communication and sharing on our morning walks. I described how the brain processes that form of learning as opposed to how it processes decoding.

And then I watched Zoo Boy spend the better part of the afternoon decoding bird names into Greek. Here he is on his mission -- to his left is his beloved bird song identification book (complete with an electronic library of bird songs -- no 5 year old should be caught with this! Otherwise how will they identify Belted Kingfishers calling unseen from the reeds on the other side of the lake they are swimming in? VITAL STUFF!). To his right is the above-pictured Greek Alphabet key. In the middle (on his lap) is his Doodle-Pro, and that's him WRITING on said Doodle-Pro. He would refer to his bird book, search the key for the letter he wanted, then meticulously form the Greek letter, continuing until he'd completed his work, then race down the hall to show J. Then he would erase it and start over with a new bird.

So I told The Map Man he was off the hook for giving them that key. Anything that inspires Zoo Boy to write willingly on his own (not to mention voluntarily working on the type of tracking skills needed to keep re-finding his place in both the book and on the key) is OK by me.