Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Teeth, Tegus and Tasty Treats

View from the upper level of the Hamilton Farmer's Market

Yesterday was a busy day! I was far too worn out to write a blog post until now :)

We started our day MUCH earlier than usual. I was up at 6:30 a.m. to ensure that the boys and I were ready to leave the house by 7:30. We were aiming to catch a 7:39 bus since we were due downtown at 8 a.m. for an appointment at the Canadian Institute of Dental Hygiene. The graduating students are required to do a certain number of teeth cleanings independently (I think it's 20) and they do the cleanings for free (with a *very* small annual fee). Since we don't have dental coverage right now, we decided to check it out. The appointment was very long (4 hrs!) but the students were excellent with the boys. The examinations were incredibly thorough, and we all learned a lot more about Noah and Nathan's mouths than we ever had before at a regular dental appointment. I was surprised that Noah still had several baby teeth left (they showed me where they all were). I thought he had maybe one or two left. Nathan had fun taking rides in the dental chair and answering math problems (one of the student hygienists was working overtime to keep him entertained!)

Despite the great care we received, we were all pretty relieved when it was time to go (4 hours is a really long time!!) After a quick snack, our next stop was the Reptile Store just a few blocks down the street. They have many different kinds of reptiles there, including some very large critters that are "show animals" (used for their reptile shows) and not for sale. We visit fairly often, since we need to buy food and supplies for Spark (our Bearded Dragon). Most of these animals (including a gigantic Tegu) feel like old friends to us now! They had some month-old Beardie babies this time and it was fascinating to see how small they were as we're used to the size of our full-grown lizard.

From the reptile store we hopped on a bus down to Jackson Square to hit the Farmer's Market for some lunch. We feasted on chicken-and-vegetable samosas and jalaybee (also spelled jalebi), as well as M&M chocolate chip cookies. It was the first time the boys tried jalaybee; Noah didn't like it but Nathan enjoyed his first taste enough to ask for more. I find it extremely sweet, although that's not necessarily a bad thing after a spicy samosa!

After all that activity, we were ready to head home and relax for the rest of the afternoon - I needed a nap after getting up that early and the boys chilled out with the Ratchet and Clank game a friend lent them.

Friday, April 25, 2008

A-Hikin' and A-Fishin' We Go!

Nathan in his natural habitat

Hunting for frogs

We found one! There were many other smaller frogs hopping into the water as we walked along the bank of the stream.

We have spent a lot of this week outdoors, enjoying the glorious, unseasonably warm weather! On Tuesday we spent the afternoon hiking in the woods (the dog enjoyed himself at least as much as anyone else!) We did one of our typical hikes in Cootes Paradise, along the Ravine Road and Caleb's Walk trails. Along with the frogs, we spotted two garter snakes.

Time for a dip in the creek? Maybe not...

Noah about to take a flying leap off a giant log!

Reclining at leisure in the log chairs! Marley's waiting for Noah to throw that stick :)

Noah does his tightrope act

Wednesday afternoon we went fishing off the Waterfront Trail with our unschooling friends. We didn't catch anything, but I did take a dramatic tumble off an unstable log into the shallow water! Since we were already nearby, we took the opportunity to watch them lift fish out of the Fishway. The staff there are pretty cool about letting us get a good look at the various species of fish they release back into the marsh (Cootes Paradise). I tried really hard to remember all the different fish; we saw channel catfish, white suckers, carp, largemouth bass, a brown bullhead, shad, and a brown trout. There were probably a couple of others that I forgot as well.

We are so blessed to have so many fun things to do outdoors, right in our own neighbourhood!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Our Indoor Rock Climbing Adventure

Yesterday we went to Gravity Climbing Gym with a group of local homeschoolers. This was the first time I had tried out a climbing wall - the boys had a little experience from trying it out at a local festival last year. I was excited before we left, but once I got there and saw how high the walls were I started to have second thoughts!

After watching the boys both climb up right to the top of one of the beginner walls, I decided to give it a shot. I was pretty nervous, but part way up I started to enjoy it and got all the way to the top. Once I got that first climb over with, I was feeling much more enthusiastic and ready for more! The boys both really took to it. Noah surprised me by climbing all the way to the top of one of the walls I had found pretty challenging. He said "I was really sweating up there mom, but I decided I could do it, and I did!" YAY Noah!

I lost count of how many walls the boys climbed through the course of the afternoon. I went up three fairly easy walls, and two that were tough enough that I wasn't sure I was going to make it all the way to the top once I was part way up (but I DID IT!) I also tried out two other more challenging walls that I knew I wasn't going to get to the top of, but I wanted to see how far I could go. The staff were really helpful and coached me on the way up. At one point I slipped right off the wall about 25 or 30 feet up - that was a bit scary the first time it happened but it's actually kind of fun hanging from the harness! I gave that wall a couple more tries but kept getting stuck at the same spot.

We will definitely be going back for another climbing adventure, which is a good thing since I forgot my camera (yes, again!) This time it was a case of group camnesia as every single one of us parents had forgotten our camera (and my cell phone, which has a camera, had dead batteries!)

The best I can do right now is a shot of what my left knee looks like the day after:

Note the bruises, scratches, scrapes and general beat up look :) While my knee shows the only visible effects of yesterday's adventure, I'm surprised at how much my entire body aches! I am pretty active (cycling, yoga, strength training, walking, hiking, and assorted other random physical pursuits) but climbing seems to use just about every muscle in your entire body. My hands, wrists, forearms, shoulders, triceps, hamstrings, quads, glutes, lats, and core muscles are all feeling abused today (I kind of feel like I went tumbling off the side of a cliff, lol!) The kids aren't feeling it at all, of course! Despite the discomfort, I definitely want to give those tricky walls another shot, and I know the kids are game for more.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Making a Thaumatrope

We finally got around to making a thaumatrope!! Since the weather has been so much nicer lately, we haven't been doing too many indoor activities. Yesterday was cold and rainy, so it was the perfect time to break out our animation books and try this out.


It doesn't take long to make one of these simple animation devices. The most creative part of the process is deciding on the images you want to use.

This is the design Nathan came up with:

When you spin the thaumatrope, the two images appear to combine together into one. This happens because of the phenomenon of Persistence of Vision.

I think we'll likely be creating a few different thaumatrope designs! If you'd like to give it a try, too, there are instructions here.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Honouring Our Children's Learning Styles

One of the many benefits of unschooling is that we trust that our children know what they need to learn best. This is a real blessing when your child happens to have a learning style that is not well understood! Both of my boys are extremely visual spatial (which fascinates me because I am most definitely NOT!) Their brains work in an entirely different way than mine does, and I'm glad that I have taken the time to understand their learning style. Since the first thing *I* do when I want to learn something new is read a book (or 5...) about it, it's really helpful for me to know that usually that is not what my boys need or want to do!

A visual spatial learner in action!

I have made a new lens on Squidoo called Celebrating Visual Spatial Learners for those who would like to know more about how VSLs learn best.

Reading maps comes more naturally to VSLs than reading books.
Eight-year-old Nathan drew this one.

Visual spatial learners are known for their high degree of creativity (and the general level of messiness that goes along with it-they are also known for being disorganized, lol!) It is exciting to watch their vivid imagination come to life in all their creations. Being the mom of two VSLs has definitely been a world-expanding experience for me!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Announcement Time!

I've spent a lot of time at the computer over the past couple of days, pulling together a few things I've been working on for a while.

My BIG announcement is my new blog, The Speeding Kitchen, which is finally ready for viewing. If you're interested in tips, strategies and recipes for getting tasty, inexpensive meals on the table quickly, this is the blog for you! Please come check it out and leave me plenty of comments and suggestions. Remember, it's just getting started, so there is not a lot of content there yet, but be patient. I plan to blog there several times a week, so there will be lots of great stuff there soon.

I have also started a couple of lenses on Squidoo: The Speeding Kitchen and Raising Boys. Please come by and check them out. If you like what you see, please make sure to rate them! Feel free to make suggestions for additional content you would like to see there, too. If you are a fellow Squidoo lensmaster, please consider adding my lenses to your lensroll. And let me know about your lenses too - I'd love to check them out!

Friday, April 04, 2008

"Under Construction"

That seems to be the theme of the past week or so around here! Noah and Nathan have been busily building forts of many varieties: kid-sized forts out on the porch, and stuffed-animal-sized forts on the living room coffee table. There's been quite a lot of Lego construction going on as well. I have also been working on some "construction" of my own - I'm not ready to share yet, but I will be unveiling my project very soon.

Yes, I pictures AGAIN! We got new camera batteries today (at long last - don't ask me what was up with that!) so I promise my next post will contain some photos!

What else have we been up to in the last week or so?

-Watching movies (Surf's Up, Next, Gremlins, School of Rock)
-Going swimming at one of the community pools
-A trip to the SPCA (it's so hard not to bring home a new dog every time, lol!)
-Random experiments with Dr. Dreadful's Drink Lab
-lots of playing outside!
-reading Commander Toad books
-playing with Spark, our beardie, who has now fully awakened from his winter brumation many other things I've already forgotten!

Ive also been furiously trying to catch up on the events of Season 3 of Battlestar Galactica by reading the plot summaries on Wikipedia. Season 4 starts tonight and we haven't managed to watch Season 3 yet! Joe and I have been eagerly anticipating the fourth (and final) season - only an hour and a half to go until it starts!