Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Outside at the park again!

Finally, we're back to the park for our tribal gatherings. After too many weeks meeting indoors -- at the community center, or the ice rink or rock climbing -- it's great to just be outdoors at the park again! The weather yesterday was absolutely yummy! It was sunny and warm, no wind and everyone had a great time.
Dan & Scotty back on their favorite teeter-totter.
Scotty, hanging from the center -- this one is on a spring, so the riding options are many. More fun than the board-on-a rail ones we had when I was a kid!
This may look like they're fighing for dominance -- some sort of ritual to impress the girls standing nearby -- but it's really how the teeter-totter is launched for side-to-side fun.
At least this year, they're not yet too tall to do this without serious injury -- just lots of sand in your hair.
The girls quickly lost interest in the boys' game with the teeter-totter. Emma and Clare with two little girls from another group of homeschoolers that meets in the same park as we do.
It is just so nice to be outside, in the sun again. Yeah, I know we're all huge winter wimps and I don't care. We're all just so much happier roaming in the park.

NM Mining Museum

Last week, we went to Grants for a tour of the NM Mining Museum, with Crystal & Sorscha. We enjoyed the museum -- and the nearby park with arroyo and small waterfall while waiting for the museum to open. Crystal had called ahead to confirm it would be open, but no one mentioned the 'employee meeting' going until 1:30 pm.

It's not a big museum -- the receptionist answers the phone with 'Grants NM Chamber of Commerce and Mining Museum' -- and when the 'tour' is led by kids moving at varying speeds -- from slow and contemplative to warp speed -- it's nothing like a tour in the traditional sense. It's lots more fun!

They raced thru most of the underground exhibit, with joyous faces the whole time! We saw the mine shafts, cars and tracks, the lunchroom, a mechanics' toolroom -- all stocked with more cool stuff than I can remember.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

more swimming

We go swimming every Weds, so I won't post pictures here from every week, but here are a few from last Weds, after the Valentine's party.
Andy & Garrett
Dan & Connor

Scotty & Eliza -- they've just recently begun to really swim. Eliza spent most of the evening jumping from the side and swimming to Jenny.

Valentine's Snow

Valentine's Day arrived and we woke to more snow! About 4" -- tho the forecast had called for only a dusting in most areas. Where is all this surprise snow coming from? I don't know, but can we send it back? Sure, a little snow is pretty, but I'm getting pretty tired of this now. We are ready for spring.

The news reports were full of warning about icy bridges and bad traffic. Schools were closed. We heard the usual warnings of 'if you don't have to go out, don't.' Well, we were determined to have our party. Susan insisted it would be today, and since she's the hostess, we all showed up. The kids had a great time in the snow. We Moms had a great time, hanging out, playing True Colors (and learned a coupla new things about each other). A wonderful day all around.

Eliza & Emma in the snow -- I think they may be gathering snow for the snow soup.

Judson helping Andy collect snow for his snow project.

Scotty -- looks like he wants to see if he can see his breath.

Eliza running down what became the sledding hill.

Scotty eating snow near the playset

The snow soup. Early in the party, Sorscha announced they were making snow food. Then it became snow soup and they filled up at three bowls of soup.

Andy with his snow duck -- why a snow duck? Because it was the easiest thing to make!

Connor, Scotty & Dan on the trampoline in the snow.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Family outing

Last month, I quit my weekend job. This past weekend was my first one at home and the boys insisted we celebrate with a family outing to the zoo and aquarium. We had a great time, seeing everything in the aquarium, riding the train to the zoo, then back to the botanic gardens. Gary didn't remember he had the camera until we were leaving the zoo, to catch the train to the gardens, so all the photos here are from the later part of our day.

Here's the picture that got the boys shouting for the camera. The boys love the free-roaming peacocks at the zoo. With spring almost here, the birds' tailfeathers are filling out. Dan on the train -- both boys just glowed all day. They're very happy to have time for family trips again, and to have me home every day now.
Andy, happily riding the train -- another glowing face!
Andy is telling Dan something that's interesting enough to hold Dan's attention for a few minutes, at least.
Dan watching the world go by from the train window

At the botanic garden, there's a children's fantasy garden, with everything set up as it would be if the kids were ant-sized. Here's Andy at the bottom of the slide there.

The boys at the overlook to the maze at the center of the fantasy garden.

Turning on the faucet in the garden. It doesn't turn at all, but gives a nice illustration of how big thing are in the garden.
Andy and me on the train ride to the gardens.

There's a garden-size train track at the Gardens, with two or three trains running most days. We enjoyed watching the trains go by.

There's a controller -- at the push sign -- for a small pushcart train on a small oval track in the middle of all the other train action. Dan loved running that little train.

Here he's giving a token look at the camera. Not sure what the look is about, but it was just too cute to pass up.
We all had a fabulous day together. We weren't far into our zoo time, when I told Gary that even if it means we eat ramen noodles 6 nights a week, we need to keep our weekends free so we can spend time like this with the boys.

After the zoo trip, we ended our day at Jenny & Chris' farm, where Dan spent his first overnight away from home, with his best buddy Scotty.

Rock Climbing

The local tribe has gone rock climbing at a local gym twice recently. We all had a blast -- the kids climb and we Moms belay for them.

Dan & Sorscha starting a climb together
Andy & Sorscha climbing with Dan getting a late start. Andy climbed without a harness that time, so he stopped at the safe limit marked by red handprints.
Andy climbing with the harness. He enjoys climbing higher, but finds the harness isn't really comfortable -- I have to agree with him! He does most of his climbing without a harness, staying below the safety markers.

Sorscha climbing -- she reached the top of that wall.

Here's Sorscha almost at the top -- best shot I got, Crystal, so help yourself!

Dan climbing the boulder, with some help from Crystal

Spencer on the rock wall -- his first time with the harness today.

Dan almost at the top of the boulder. He's come so close to reaching the top by this route, but not quite over the edge. He has a path around the back that we can basically lift him to the edge and he pulls up, allowing him to summit the boulder without all the climbing.

Andy trying the same boulder. He almost made it this week. He'll keep trying. Unfortunately, the back route Dan uses won't work because Andy's just too tall for me to lift him.
Since they can climb the boulder without a harness, Andy made several attempts that day. The challenge is finding a trail-- they're marked in different colors of tape -- with the handholds near enough to reach. Another challenge is that as you near the top, there seem to be fewer handholds, requiring more upper body strength. Both boys are determined to climb to the top, and I'm sure they'll make it soon!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Stream of Consciousness

One of my favorite things about spending our days together is the conversations we have -- the connections the boys make. I am always amazed where their thought goes as they put things together, and almost daily I am surprised by some fact they know.

Wednesday, we didn't have the car, so when it was time to go to our regular swimming date we decided to walk. I suggested Dan ride his scooter and we headed out. It's only about 1-1/2 miles. Andy reminded me we often walk farther in the summer, at the zoo, and that at our last house we walked farther than that roundtrip to our favorite park/playground.

Along the way we talked -- talk that wouldn't have happened in the car or on the bus. Yes, there we would have talked, but it would have been a different conversation I'll bet. Here's what I remember of it and how it meandered.

Initially, Dan started to talk about our 'dream house' -- the one we'll build someday. Gary and I see it as being a smaller, off-grid, solar powered house. Dan and Andy have much more grandiose plans! They've always expected it will have a pool indoors. Since taking up ice skating, they've added an ice rink to our dream house. Dan mentioned the ice rink. Andy said, "the best part is that since we'd own it, we could skate whenever we wanted, as fast as we wanted, in any direction we wanted." We continued along for a while talking about what we'd want in a dream home in general -- two-story (they really want stairs) pool, ice rink, go-kart track, what kind of animals Dan plans to have (chickens, horses, sheep and maybe goats or cows) and so on. Hey, it's a dream house -- it doesn't really need any reality injected!

As we headed towards the main road, out of the neighborhood, we walked thru the lot at a carwash -- with vacuum areas and a big building where the employees wash the cars. Dan commented it must be hard to stand there all day and wash cars, and boring when there aren't any cars -- he'd seen the two attendants inside. I spotted change on the ground, under where a car would have been vacuumed. Andy saw it and said, 'it's only 15 cents.' Dan saw a nickel, dime, & 3 pennies and was willing to pick them all up (he often finds loose change) and another dime, so he had 28 cents. He put it in his pocket and hopped back onto his scooter. Just then the bus came by -- it was a Rapid Ride reticulated bus, the very kind he'd hoped to catch before we decided to walk instead. He rushed ahead on his scooter, calling out "wait, wait -- wait for me!" Andy wanted to take his sweater off to see how long he could be out in the cold in a t-shirt. He worked out a way to bundle it up so the sleeves didn't drag and he could slip it over his arm like a handbag.

Dan gave up on the bus, and I pointed out that the stop where we'd have gotten off to walk was only about 100 yards ahead. Even if we had the change, it wouldn't be worth the expense now.

Up ahead is an abandoned house, with the windows boarded. It's an old, two-story house, still structurally intact. Mostly likely it was abandoned because it's on a now-commercial street, tho it was likely built when Coors Rd was still rural. We've noticed it before as we drove by. Andy wanted to go up and see what's wrong with it that no one lives there. He wondered if maybe someone does live there but just doesn't like the sunlight or wants to hide out. Then he said, "oh, yeah, we never see any cars there."

I asked him not to go up to the house -- I was worried the porch might collapse -- and pointed out that with the windows boarded up, he wouldn't be able to see anything anyway. I said that sometimes when windows are boarded up it means a house was used to make illegal drugs which create fumes that have toxins and can be poisonous. The only way to keep the neighbors safe is to seal it up.

Dan asked how the people can make the drugs if the smell is poisonous. I said that usually once a person is making that kind of drugs, he's also using them, and because those drugs damage the brain, they probably don't care that they're in danger.

We walked past a church. Andy called out, 'Mom, spell Presbyterian." I did and pointed out how cool it was that he'd read the word. He frequently tells us when he's read a new word -- he'll call out, "Mom, Dad -- I read [insert new word]!" Earlier in the day, they'd discovered I'm a pretty good speller (okay, so I'm a spelling freak) and had been throwing me words. During that day, I'd spelled tyrannosaurus, brachiosaurus, brontosaurus, dinosaur (no one seemed to notice the words were quite repetitive).

We decided to get our snack & drinks at the burger place across the street (we had had to cross anyway to get to the pool) instead of the Subway on this side of the street. Andy wanted to cross before the light, mid-block -- at rush hour, on pretty busy 3-lane road. I pointed out that would be dangerous. He shared with us his plan for how he'd avoid cars in all three lanes, assuming they would be perfectly well-spaced for such a maneuver. I said, "Yeah, but what if you tripped and fell?" "I'm guessing that wouldn't happen much," replied Andy. I said "It only has to happen once, you know." While Andy and I are having this exchange, Dan goes over and hits the crossing button. As we're crossing, Andy agrees it's a better idea to cross at the light.

We stop at the burger place, where the boys head to the restroom to wash up. Andy comes right back to the counter, because the sign on the door said to ask for entry at the counter. The manager tells him to go ahead, it's open. I explain that Andy reads all signs and always does what they say -- he hadn't even checked to see if the door was open. And people wonder how homeschooled kids ever get socialized or learn how to get by in the world.

As we waited for our food, the boys asked me to spell more words. and now Andy asked me to spell photosynthesis. The first word I'd spelled that day was chrysalis for Dan following an episode of a cartoon. I pointed out that if Andy can't spell the word, how would he know I got it right -- I could be making it all up as I went along. He looked like that honestly never occurred to him.

As we headed out for the rest of the walk, someone mentioned the Naked Brothers' Band Movie we'd watched earlier on Disney. Andy related a part where someone talked about poop and how there are these little worm-like parts inside you that squeeze all the good stuff out of your food and push out poop. He shared his theory of how digestion worked. I clarified the finer points, about enzymes and how our bodies extract nutrition from food.

Then Andy commented that poop is a palindrome. Lately, he loves finding palindromes. So as we walked, we shared the ones we know and the boys tried to come up with new ones. Some worked and some didn't -- sass and lull, for example. Dan offered that he can spell 'moo' and did. I said, "if that's how you spell moo -- how do you spell moon?" He thought for a second, and spelled it with the n.

Dan spotted the practice running track at the high school, and we talked about track sports at school. As we passed the front entrance, Dan asked me to read the sign above the door, which said West Mesa High School. He asked if the pool next door --where we swim -- is called the West Mesa pool. I answered that it's called West Mesa Aquatic Center, probably because it's more than just one pool, with a waterplay area included.

As we passed a school portable building, Dan said "there's an abandoned building." I said it was a portable classroom. He said, "well, then they never clean back here because it's a mess." He was right, it was a mess with paper and litter scattered around.

We reached the pool and the boys began asking 'who invented...' This is one of their favorite games. They start with silly thing like, 'who invented trees' or lightning. This time, they asked about electricity. No one invented it, but we talked about how it occurs and when people discovered how to channel it, use it and generate it ourselves. Who invented metals? They occur naturally, but man did figure out how to dig them up, smelt them and make tools, etc. Who invented the telephone? Alexander Graham Bell. The light bulb? Well, Thomas Edison was the first one to patent a light bulb that design that actually worked, tho he'd bought it from someone else, experimented a bit, made some changes and for that he gets credit (in my school days at least) for 'inventing' the light bulb.

All this in 45 minutes as we walked to the pool. We'd covered houses, ice rinks, carwashes, money, drug houses, the dangers of some drugs, street-crossing safety, photosynthesis, spelled a bunch of words, talked about how food is digested and intestines work, played with palindromes. We'd talked about school track sports, portable classrooms, litter, who invented phones & light bulbs, and how man learned to generate and use electricity and smelt metals. As a bonus, we got the exercise and fresh air!

The next morning, Good Morning America did a piece on the most expensive house in America. A behemoth of a house being built in Montana, basically because they can, according to the architect interviewed. The house is 53,000 square feet with 360 degree views, an ice rink, indoor pool, movie theater, underground garage for 20 cars (with cars included!) a helicopter, and so much more. They both thought it was a very cool house!

Andy asked me, "is it off-grid?" No. "oh, that’s a problem." Dan asked, "Is it near Scotty?" No. "Is it in this state?" No. "Is it in the US?" Yes, up near Canada. "Oh well, I guess we’ll wait for another dream house to show up. "

A few minutes later, Andy told me he’d figured out how our bones stay together – our muscles and skin. We talked about that for a while.

I just love how many connections are made in this stream of consciousness life we have – all made possible by choosing to have our kids spend their days with us instead of away from us.