Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pyramids, Planetariums, and Paper Maché, Oh My...

I am exhausted. Today the girls and I built a pyramid (scaled way, way down, and out of red hardening clay, so it will look nothing like a real pyramid, but so what? they now know all about the discrepancies between pharaoh and the rest of the ancient world, and also the phrase "you can't take it with you!"), trekked to outer space (okay, just to the planetarium, but it was in the rain and the car battery died so we took the metra and wow, is it hard pushing two children totaling around 80 lbs in a 35 lb stroller to and from the train station, so it might as well have been outer space), and started making paper maché masks (it's only been 2 months since Nourit started pestering me about these and wow - wow, are those every messy). Not to mention some avant-garde artwork just before bedtime. What a great idea - taking a top dipped in paint and seeing what kind of design it makes while it spins...all over the dining room table!

Did I mention all the cleaning up I did today, too? No? Well, I cleaned alot. But it was worth it. The sun came out for 5 minutes today and we discovered that Nourit's sundial actually does work! And the pyramid hasn't been marauded by marauders yet. And I'm finally getting to all the things the girls have been wanting to do since before we moved and that I've been putting off until "after we're settled."
I guess we're getting there! (and hiding there in the back of the really awful picture of our really fun pyramid is Avi's version of the Queen of Sheba.)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The 'Ff' Word of the Day

My Ffriend gave me the idea of doing a 'letter of the day/month' with the girls, and although I really intended it for Avi, it has become one of Nourit's Ffavorite morning activities. It's simply this: I give them a sheet with the Big and Small letters, we discuss what insect/animal/other thing begins with that particular letter, and then they draw for a Ffew minutes while I interject as many words with that sound. Today we used lots of 'Ff' words. The picture to the leFft is by Ffar my Ffavorite. Nourit even got some handwriting practice (something I'd just been stressing over with some other homeschooling Ffriends, who assured me it would Ffind its way into our days organically.)

Next is Avi's picture. We'll just call this one 'Ffreaky Ffoxes with Ffour or Ffive Million Ffeet'.

Ffun, Ffun, Ffun!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Snoopy and the Big Bag of Science

I love that Nourit is excited about science, because I never was...

...until today!

She's been begging for the Big Bag of Science since she saw it in a catalog last winter, but I bought her a little chemistry kit instead, which was interesting, but not super exciting (to me). So I've been prevaricating every time she asks to do more experiments. I should also say that, in general, my kids don't ask for much, which is a huge relief. (Aside from Avi and the Pillow Pets. It has been 2 years, so maybe it's time to give in to that, too.) I guess it's not really 'giving in' to get Nourit something educational. It's just that, like my mom, I needed to hear from at least 3 other people that it was worthwhile. Would she really be able to do anything besides the baking soda/vinegar volcano, or "see if it sinks or floats"experiments? After visiting a few homeschooling blogs, I was convinced, and I ordered the BIG BAG of SCIENCE which arrived yesterday.

This morning, with the bribe that we could 'do science' after she filled in her requisite handwriting worksheets, we were in investigative mode by 8 a.m., lab coats (I mean, pajamas) donned. After reading through the 70+ possible experiments, Avi chose the 'The Secret of the Diaper' and Nourit chose 'Glop' or 'Goop' or something like that. Wow. After pouring 4 ounces of water into the diaper powder stuff (there is a technical word for it, but I'm not getting up to find out), it IMMEDIATELY turned into gel. No liquid in sight. Which explains why I would sometimes find icky gel stuff in my kids' diapers (um, when I wasn't using the eco-friendly kind, which wasn't often. Honest.) So cool! Now I KNOW the evil that's happening in all those non-eco-friendly diapers. The next experiment was the gloopy stuff, which had something like PVA or TVA or ?VA, the name of which I made the girls memorize, and we combined that with something blue, shook it while counting to 60 (see? math!), and viola! GOOP! (or gloop...) Really, really fun and cool, and I can't wait for the next experiment!

Now, why was I never interested in science as a kid? Maybe because I had never read 'Charlie Brown's SECOND Super Book of Questions and Answers about the earth and space...from plants to planets!' And, I had never read the FIRST, either. This is a book we have been reading religiously since visiting Nanny and Papa and their bookshelf in the basement two weeks ago. Nourit loves this book (she calls it 'Snoopy Science' because there's a picture of Snoopy on the front)- and asks for it at every lull. She really impresses me with how much she retains. Honestly, she's more articulate than I am when describing gravity. And aside from the really boring cartoon strips, it's pretty straightforward and compelling. The problem is that it was written in 1977.

Now, I'm pretty sure a few things have changed since then. I explained that Pluto has been downgraded, and that satellites are now also used for cell phones, and (my favorite), the answer to "Will there be other women in space?" (besides the first woman cosmonaut in 1963) was, "Probably." (That was when I checked the issue date! Not very encouraging for a girl who talks about going to outerspace like it's Europe.) Her other favorite going now is "The Tiniest Giants" about a group of researchers who found teeny, tiny dinosaurs in Patagonia. Poor Avi. The only thing that remotely holds her attention in that one is the picture of dinosaur skin. It is a little more current, but I still need to find some more updated general science reads. Preferably with someone more á la mode than Snoopy (but, please, no Spongebob!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Modern Wing

Although it's been open for quite some time now, I had yet to experience the entire Modern Wing at the Art Institute. When I discovered the first 2 Wednesdays of each month are free to Illinois residents, and that I simultaneously had a free 2nd Wednesday (!), I planned an outing for the girls and their teacher (me!) There was much excitement this morning as we packed Nourit's polka-dotted backpack with, count 'em, 4 drawing pads and two pencil cases stuffed to the gills. They were ready to plagiarize, I mean draw, everything, most especially the 'Bloody Ghost'.

We set off toward the Metra with our umbrellas, backpack, and 2 bags of snacks to be consumed before entering the museum (they won't allow food, even in packed bags, which, incidentally, ended up costing us $22 in other snacks and lunch. So much for the 'free' entry.) We arrived on Michigan Avenue, snickered at the long line by the lions in front of the Art Institute, and walked smugly around the corner to the Modern Wing entrance, where there was not even the hint of a queue.

And we had a wonderful time! Nourit was the tour guide since she'd been there a few more times than I, and we giggled at all the nakedness, ooh'ed at the psychedelic colors, looked sideways at the Picassos, and had fun during the interactive exhibits, like the checker board they could walk on, the groovy gold beads we could walk through (I'm getting some of those for our apartment!), and the candy exhibit, where viewers could eat a piece of wrapped candy from the exhibit. (It was bittersweet, literally. I didn't tell the girls that it was envisioned by a man who died of AIDS, and that eating the candy was symbolically taking a part of this man's body as he lost weight.) Morbidity aside, I was impressed by their unabashed interest in the art.

Unfortunately, we never found the 'Bloody Ghost', although Avi talked about it very loudly throughout the 3 hours we were there. We followed our gallery tour up with a trip to the Education Center, which had a lovely room with a carpeted mountain-y thing that Avi crawled upside down and backward on for quite some time, blocks, puzzles, alphabet foam things, computer games (Nourit's fav), and books galore. Another room featured books and artwork on the alphabet, and another room had hands-on craft making. The best part, though, is that we get to come back - gratuit! Their website offers a yearly educator pass for teachers, including homeschooling parents. It does require documentation, and of course, I didn't have any - Nourit's only in Kindergarten and it's not required in our state for that grade. The woman was kind, though, and took my word for it and issued me the pass. My kids are going to be sooooo art savvy after this year. (Craft savvy is a different thing and a different post. Oh, boy, am I bad at crafts...)

Post Script: Later this afternoon, after Nourit had been outside for 30 minutes while I taught a piano lesson, she learned to ride her bike. In less than an hour combined without training wheels, she's riding in circles and popping wheelies. I love this kid - once she got the pooping thing down, everything else came easy. Stopping her thumb sucking addiction, simple addition, and now bike riding.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Taking Off the Training Wheels

We finally took Nourit's training wheels off her pink bike today. The same bike we bought her when she successfully stopped sucking her thumb. She's been asking for at least 4 months and my answer was always, "Later, when dad can take them off." If I'd known how easy it was to use a wrench, I would have done it at least 3 months ago. Of course, I chose this morning on our way out the door to someplace else, and while my husband was just getting down to work, to revise our schedule. I guess I was cashing in on our new freedom to finally say, "Yes, let's do it now, because, well, we don't have to wait for the weekend anymore." Surprisingly, my perfectionist 5 1/2 year old, who gets very uncomfortable and makes strange noises when she doesn't do some exactly right*, had fun trying to balance on her new bike. I stayed behind her with my hand on the seat, but she never got frustrated with herself. She hasn't managed to bike without the trainers yet, but at least she's still smiling!

*I've started teaching her piano and we've been sitting down together every day for about a week now. This is one of the hardest things for me to do, but also one of the most rewarding parts of having her home every day. There's sure to be a post soon about how I'm totally messing her up for any type of musical future, but for this week, our lessons end with a hug.

On the Blog Again

I just can't wait to git on the blog again, goin' places that I ne-e-e-ver been, oh I can't wait to git on the blog again. (Although, I'm not sure anyone is still checking for updates since those have been few and far between!) Regardless, here I am, up at midnight without anything specific to write, armed only with the need to make up for lost time.

Highlights of our year on the northside: Yoga with Gina at Namaskar, Nourit's class and teacher at the Lycée, Ionela (Renela, as Avi endearingly refers to her), the park on our cul-de-sac, passing the basket across the balcony with Natalie next-door, playing with Lida, conqueror of the playground, Fritz croissant every Saturday morning, coffee from Macondo, $8 car cleaning around the corner, a huge kitchen, our mulberry tree, having Matthew and Christine close by (okay, relatively close by in DG!), Monday night dinners with Karen & girls, the Diversey bus to Peggy Notebaert, Wednesday climbing at the zoo, a beautiful drive down LSD (albeit, 6 out of 7 days), Nourit's first lost tooth. Did I mention lovely neighbors?

Lolights of our year on the northside: Holly and the outdated windows that let in all the cold air. Those two things are unrelated. Not enough extra funding from Lycée to afford us to send both girls to school.*

Other interesting, worthwhile, and somewhat amazing events: Disney World for Mom's 70th, weekend in Milwaukee, Michael's dissertation 'Bird Show', Tuscany without kids, turning 37 at the Point, girls' weekend in D.C., and, last but not least, a move back to Hyde Park and to our 4th apartment in as many years. We really like this one and think we'll stay. For a year, at the very least.

*Thus, I will be homeschooling the girls this year in our homey new/old apartment. And that is where my blogging adventure resumes. Goin' places I really never been! Stay tuned...