Thursday, May 26, 2016

Playing Catch-Up . . . and Introducing our Newest Additions . . .

So, some highlights of what's been happening since we got back from western PA . . . 

Friends from NC came and spent the night with us before heading to Shriner's hospital for their oldest daughter's back surgery (which went perfectly, and E is doing great!).  It's always so much fun when they come to visit. Little Bit and their girls get along sooo well! Their little boy (3) has claimed Lexie and Ashlyn as his personal playmates and drags them around the house to play with him. He's little and cute, so they don't mind.  I had to laugh when, at one point, one of his sisters came to play cars with him, and he told her NO! I want the big girls to play with me! 

A couple months ago, Starla, from church asked if Lexie would do a violin/flute duet with her for special music at church. Soon after that, Lexie got her new violin, so we delayed things a bit for Lexie to get used to the new violin. Their special music was a couple weeks ago (Starla's mom, Sharon, joined them on piano). 

Little Bit has always been my gift-giver. And has suffered some from living in a house full of . . . not-gift-givers . . . Daddy and big sisters aren't real good at helping her with her desire to give gifts. But this year, much to her delight, her Sabbath School teachers had the perfect craft . . . they had the kids all make vases for their moms for Mother's Day (the week before, so it had time to dry) and then brought flowers for the kids to put IN the vases, and give to us moms after church. Little Bit was SOOO excited to give it to me.  Isn't it pretty? :) 

Our other big Mother's Day news was that the stray cat who "adopted" us last winter, became a mother in our flower bed.  By the time we got back from Pittsburgh, she was definitely pregnant. I had been afraid of that, but was also afraid that, with the return of warm weather, she'd go back to whatever family she used to live with (I can't imagine that she didn't have another family, she's much too friendly to have been a feral cat). She hung pretty close to the house for the rest of her pregnancy, but during the night that night, she'd been picking fights with our other cats, and I got tired of it waking me up, so I put her outside. The next morning, Little Bit was playing outside and came in all excited because Tracy had kittens! She had 2 kittens at that point, but as the morning progressed, she ended up with 5!!! For a small, young cat, that worried me. . . We had plans to go to a baseball game that day, so made sure she had food, water, and shade . . . I warned the girls that one of the kittens didn't look like it was doing well . . . so I wasn't sure what we'd find when we got home, and we left.
When we got home, all 5 kittens were still alive, but she still didn't seem to want to stay with them very well. We decided to bring her, and them, inside. So set up a box for her.  The next day, Ashlyn came and told me that she thought one of the kittens had died, and that Tracy wouldn't get in the box with the kittens at all. When I checked on them, 2 of them were actually dead, and as soon as I removed them from the box, she got back in. So, I'm assuming that one of them was the one who had never looked like it was doing well, and either it died, and then she wasn't willing to get in the box as long as the dead kitten was there, and the next weakest kitten couldn't survive even a little while, without her in with it to keep it warm, or something happened that both of them died at the same time.  Regardless, while it's always sad when a life ends, I have to admit, I was relieved, I felt like the other 3 kittens had a better chance, and it would be healthier for such a young/small mama cat, to have 3 kittens instead of 5. And because it was so soon after they were born, the girls hadn't bonded with them, so handled it ok. 
Tracy continues to not be a great mom. . . .for the first week she'd only stay in the box with the kittens during the day if people kept her company, so the girls took turns doing their school work and generally hanging out next to her box.  She did seem to stay in the box with them pretty well when we weren't home, and at night, at least. But if we were around, she wanted people near her. 
Friday afternoon, Little Bit was on kitten duty, and all of a sudden called "Mommy, Tracy has a kitten in her mouth!" Lexie followed her, and she carried it and tried to stash it behind stuff in the cabinet under the kitchen sink (that someone had left open). Needless to say, we moved the kitten back to the box, and made sure all cabinets were kept closed. During the night Friday night, I woke up to hear a kitten crying. Went down to check on them, and Tracy was out of the box, behind the big chair, nursing one kitten. Eins, the kitten that was crying (the girls named the kittens Eins, Zwei, and Drei (1, 2, 3 in German), Zwei & Drei look so much alike that I haven't figured out which is which but Eins was darker, and mouthier), was out of the box, about halfway between the box & Tracy, and the 3rd kitten was still in the box. I couldn't reach Tracy & the kitten with her, so I opted to move Eins, and the kitten from the box, to where she was, but then I was afraid if she left them, they'd get too cold on the floor, and might crawl under the chair, trying to find her, so I stayed with them, the rest of the night. About the time I needed to go get ready for church, Tracy left them, so I crawled in behind the chair and moved all 3 of them back into their box. 

They were still in the box, and Tracy was mostly staying with them, when the girls and I left for church. But just as Rodney was getting ready to leave (he comes later because we have to be there early for the girls to help serve breakfast, and one of the girls, and I to set up our respective Sabbath School classrooms), Tracy moved the kittens (I think all 3 of them this time) behind the chair again. Rodney texted me to see what to do, and I suggested moving the chair out, and putting the box where she seemed to want the kittens. He tried that, and she moved the kittens to the kitchen, under one of the kitchen chairs.  So he decided he better stay home to make sure she didn't hide them someplace else.

When we got home, she was still under the kitchen chair with them. We moved her box from the sunroom to the living room, and apparently that's what she wanted, she hasn't moved them any more (knock on wood).  This week the kittens' eyes started opening. Two of them (Zwei and Drei) have gotten soo much bigger, but we noticed that Eins wasn't growing nearly as fast, and his eyes didn't open as soon. He also seemed to still get really cold if Tracy didn't stay with them. So we started making sure to cuddle all of them, especially Eins, whenever Tracy got out of the box. We also started trying to make sure Eins got to nurse whenever she did get in the box (the other two tended to push him out of the way), but he still didn't seem to be gaining much weight, his eyes did eventually open) and even when we tried to make sure he could nurse, a lot of the time, he wouldn't. . .
Just as it seemed like he had a little more energy and might be doing better, last night when the girls started to put the kittens back in their box so they (the girls) could go to bed, Eins, who'd been sleeping on Ashlyn's chest, wasn't breathing :( Needless to say, it was a very sad bedtime. Eins had been such a little fighter, and was Little Bit's favorite :( In this picture, he's the one "hugging" Lexie's thumb. I feel like there must have been something wrong, and there probably wasn't anything we could have done, but this loss has definitely been harder on us, because we'd bonded with them. I feel pretty confident that Zwei and Drei seem to be strong, and nurse well whenever Tracy does get in the box with them, so hopefully they'll continue to thrive. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A VERY Belated Post About the Final Day of Our Trip

 I know, I know, our trip was WEEKS ago . . . and I have no real excuse . . . but here, at last, is the last post about the trip.

The girls and I spent a fun day at the Erie Zoo.

The animals were super active when we first got there.

I had to laugh, there some monkey-like animals (I don't remember what they were called) that were screaming at each other at the top of their lungs in the morning. When we walked back by their cage after lunch, they were both curled up on the grass with their "blankies", sound asleep.

Little Bit had fun with the various sculptures that are there.  And as she does so often, managed to make new friends at the playground, who she was sad to leave :)

There was much eye rolling from the big girls when I asked all 3 of them to pose by the same penguins that they've been posing at since we first went to the Erie Zoo in 2011 (and again in 2013). But Lexie and Little Bit were willing to humor me :)

And that, finally, finished up our trip to western PA!



Monday, May 2, 2016

Children's Museum of Pittsburgh

I'm finally continuing with our trip to western PA. On Tuesday, we planned to go to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, but the client Rodney was meeting was farther out than I realized, so I decided we'd just hang out nearby that day and go to the Children's Museum the next day. So Tuesday was a playground in the morning, and swimming at the hotel once we got back. 

Wednesday we headed to the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh. It's always fun to see what Little Bit does and doesn't remember from places we've been going to all her life, but only once a year or so . . . she was very excited to see the huge glass bird sculpture in the lobby and, when I explained that it's too tall for me to effectively take a picture of her with it (it would be her standing by it's metal legs), she commandeered the camera and took her own pictures of "her bird". 
One disappointment was that there were LOTS (and lots and lots and lots) of school groups there. I'm not sure why there were SO many there and NONE at Carnegie, maybe Monday is a non-field trip day? Or we just got lucky? Anyway . . . We did a pretty good job of going where the school groups weren't, and waiting it out until they all left for the day. THEN we went and spent more time in the areas that had been so crowded.  While we were waiting, we discovered that most school groups never went to the 4th floor water area. Understandably . . . If I was a teacher I wouldn't want to have to deal with a whole class full of wet kids. So we spent quite a bit of time there. At first we tried to do the "don't get soaked" parts, the best of which was playing with SNOW! They make "snow" (pretty much use a shaved ice machine, I think) and put a pile of it on a table and have various molds and other "sand toy" type things to use so the kids can play with the snow. Little Bit went back to that table multiple times while we were there.

The big girls have pretty much outgrown this museum overall, and definitely didn't feel the need to play in the water and snow, BUT conveniently tucked away right next to the water play area was a little sunlit nook perfect for reading! They very happily hid away in this nook the whole time Little Bit played on that floor.

Once she was tired of the snow table she begged and pleaded to get really wet! If it had been one of the hot days we'd had earlier in the week, and/or if it was the last thing on our agenda that day (AND if we weren't going to be driving for a couple hours to the next hotel when we left the museum), I probably would have just let her get wet in her clothes, but given all those factors AND conveniently we did HAVE her swimsuit in the car because of being between hotels. And even better, through some twist of fate, hers was near the top. So I went out to the car and got her swimsuit and let her change into it.  Then the water play began in earnest. She had sooo much fun (note to self, MUST bring swimsuit (or go in swimsuit and bring change of clothes) next time, she really did love it!) There was all kinds of ways to experiment with water and just have FUN with it. I kept my distance since I wasn't in MY swimsuit, but she had a blast. When I told her that the school groups had cleared out and we could now go enjoy the rest of the museum in peace, she was reluctant to leave :) 

One of the things we knew we wanted to check out, but NOT while it was crowded, was the current exhibit in the changing exhibit area. It was tunnels and things to crawl through made out of packaging tape . . .MILES and MILES of packaging tape.  Socks were required, and I wasn't sure I'd fit very well anyway, so I didn't go in, but asked Ashlyn to take some pictures while she was in there. They turned out great, and Little Bit had a blast! AND since we waited until there were no crowds, they could play in there as long as they wanted, instead of making one quick trip through like the kids had to do when it was crowded. 


Little Bit also had fun with the gears in the Make Shop and actually spent quite awhile learning about electricity in the Make Shop. One of the employees sat down with her and explained how it worked and kept asking questions . . . "What would happen if we hooked this up?" It was the most focused I've seen her on something, and definitely worked better than if I'd been trying to help her :) It was fun to  watch.
As we were leaving we had to pause for a picture next to the giraffe sculpture because . . . it's a GIRAFFE after all!!! 

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Carnegie Science Center

Last Monday, after dropping Daddy off at a client's, we headed to Carnegie Science Center. This has been a hands-down favorite ever since Lexie and Ashlyn were Little Bit's age! One minor disappointment was discovering that none of the exhibits have changed since last time we were there (over a year ago). I'm not sure what's up with that, in the past, they've changed more than once a year. Perhaps budget cuts, but it's too bad, part of our love of this museum is learning new things every time we go. Little Bit still had a blast, but the older girls have been often enough that the main draw (at least in the main museum building) is to see what's new.

One area that never gets old there is the Sports zone. A whole separate building full of interactive sports type stuff. To make it even better, when we go on a week day during the school year, we generally have the Sports zone almost to ourselves! There are very short lines, if any. Little Bit's favorite is the big trampoline. I think she went on it 8 times all together that day. By the last time, when she got there the employee just laughed and said "you know the drill" instead of going over the steps to get her ready to jump.

She was also willing to try the rock wall this year, though she didn't go very far up. She DID find out that it's fun to rappel back down, so she climbed up (just 5 or 6 feet) several times and rappelled back down.

Lexie and Ashlyn have been climbing that rock wall since they were Little Bit's age or a little older. So they can easily climb to the top of the 2 easy climbs, and get very close to the top (there are hand/foot holds missing that make them not quite tall enough, even now) of the medium and hard climbs.


Lexie also did the way up in the air bike thing again (both Lexie and Ashlyn did it last time we were there (that was the first time they were tall enough to do it).  Technically it was closed, but when Lexie asked about it, the girl said she could do it since there wasn't anyone (other than Ashlyn) there who was even tall enough (I think there was one other kid and his parents in the whole building). To give some perspective, the yellow beam going through the rock wall in the picture above is the beam the bike is on. So it's about 15 ft in the air. It's attached to the beam, and you're buckled in, so you can't actually fall off of it, it's just the whole heights thing. The employee who let Lexie do it, was impressed that Lexie went the whole length of it and back. She said most people only go part way and get scared and come back.

Since we didn't spend as much time at the regular exhibits as we would have if there'd been new stuff there, we decided to go to a "class" on making ice cream. It was nothing too earth shattering, just demonstrated making ice cream by shaking it in a bag of ice/salt, and then also demonstrated making it using dry ice. But was somewhat interesting. I would have liked her to get into more of the science of WHY you put salt in with the ice, for example. And what dry ice is. But oh well . . . the big girls already know it, and Little Bit probably wouldn't have paid that close attention to the "why it works" parts anyway. Little Bit did go up and help make the ice cream in a bag.

All in all, it was a very fun day!

Wrapping Up . . . Field Trips Galore!

A couple weeks ago, Rodney asked me if the girls and I wanted to with him when he went to Pittsburgh and Erie for work. It's been over a year since we've traveled with him, so I really wanted to make it happen. BUT . . . it's been over a year since we've traveled, so we didn't have an active museum membership, and he'd only given me a little over a week's notice. Most museums will give you a receipt when you buy a membership and then mail you a permanent membership card. The receipt generally works to get you back into THAT museum, but it's iffy, at best, to try to use that receipt to get into reciprocal museums. Buying a membership at one of the Pittsburgh museums doesn't work because there are 2 museums we love and they won't reciprocate with each other. So I dove into researching nearby museums that we might be able to get a membership card in time. And settled on the Lancaster Science Factory. 

It's reasonably priced, nearby, and the website said that if you came in and bought a membership they'd give you your membership card that day. Perfect! So, Tuesday before last, after music lessons and lunch, we headed to the Lancaster Science Factory. It's not huge, but we had fun. BONUS they give a homeschool discount on the membership, so it was even less than I'd expected! The "Factory" in the name means it's in an old warehouse/factory building (or maybe just a building that was built to look like one?) So everything was in one big warehouse-ish room. Which was AWESOME because it meant I could keep an eye on everyone while they each did what they wanted, instead of having to all stay together. Lots of the exhibits were things we'd seen before at other museums, but Little Bit didn't remember them, so she had a blast. Lexie found some robotic cubes that she spent most of her time figuring out and building with. Now she wants to add them to her Christmas list :) Ashlyn spent time figuring out how to run a sound board, but had trouble convincing her sisters to talk into the microphone so she could figure it all out. It was a nice afternoon, and is close enough that on super hot or super cold days when we need a change of pace, we can pop back over there. And, as promised, we got our membership card the same day, woo-hoo!

Later that week when we went to Sonya's for co-op, Ashlyn found out that Heather (the other family that comes) was bringing their dog Maggie (the lab we watched over Christmas). AND since Maggie would be there, Sonya was going to at least try having their dog (whose name I can never remember how to spell) out and see how he did with Maggie. The dogs did fine together. The weather was gorgeous so we spent most of the time outside soaking up the sunshine and fresh air, and Ashlyn was IN HEAVEN! And Lexie was pretty happy to get to play with the baby without having to share with Ashlyn :) 

Sabbath afternoon we loaded up and headed to Pittsburgh. It occurred to me that Little Bit is now older than the twins were when Rodney started travelling. It's definitely worlds easier now with 3 big kids instead of a baby and two little big kids. One of the things Little Bit remembers from previous trips is her "hotel breakfast". I shudder a little bit about the huge quantities of simple carbs and other things that I try to limit, but it doesn't happen often . . . she spreads yogurt on a waffle and then sticks fruit loops into the yogurt *shudder*!! I have faith that, like her sisters, she will eventually realize that fruit loops are nasty, and move on to at least slightly healthier options when eating at hotels (but our hotel breakfasts are most definitely not up to our usual health standards). 
Sunday we hung out at the hotel, went swimming, and did some school. I figured crowds would be worse at the museums and such on Sunday, and didn't feel like fighting them. 

And . . . this is getting long, and we had a BUSY week last week, so I think I'll wait and continue our adventures in a second post :) 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Book Review: Wonderfully Made: God's Story of Life from Conception to Birth

Recently Little Bit has been asking me more about where babies come from. My older girls got to experience learning about how a baby grows from conception to birth when I was pregnant with her, but she doesn't get that experience. When I was given the opportunity to review Wonderfully Made: God's Story of Life from Conception to Birth by Danika Cooley, I thought it would be a great way to help Little Bit learn about this miracle!

Danika Cooley is the creator of our Bible Curriculum, Bible Road Trip, as well as the author of a book we reviewed last year, When Lightning Struck: The Story of Martin Luther.

As the title suggestions, Wonderfully Made: God's Story of Life from Conception to Birth walks through the weeks of pregnancy showing how the baby develops from conception until birth. The book is meant for ages 5-11 and is currently $9.99 on Amazon.
It is written as if the child's mother is talking, telling her child about how he or she developed through the pregnancy. While this worked well for me to read to Little Bit, it wouldn't work as well for her sisters, or daddy to read it to her. Also, if I was pregnant, and looking for a book to help my child understand what was happening with their new sibling, growing inside me, I think I would prefer a book that didn't specify that it was about the child bring read to.  With some effort, a reader could modify the book, while reading it out loud, to make it 3rd person (saying "your mommy's" instead of "my") or to make it about "your new brother or sister" instead of "you", so not a "deal breaker", just something to be aware of.

Little Bit enjoyed the book, though one thing she is currently interested is how the baby comes out of the Mommy's tummy, and this book doesn't go into the details of how the baby is born. I assume this is either because some babies are born c-section and others are not, or because some people would be uncomfortable with the discussion of female anatomy that would be necessary. I should also note that it doesn't go into any details of how the daddy's sperm joins with the mommy's egg inside the mommy, so again, there is no concern about introducing more about sex than you might be comfortable with at a young age. So, while Little Bit was looking for more, I think these omissions were handled well. The lack of information didn't stop Little Bit from asking to have the book read to her several times in the first couple of days after we received it. And I had to tell her that I needed to keep it on the bookshelf in the living room until after the review was written, she was planning to take it with her to keep in her room. She'll be glad to know I've FINALLY written the review so she can have her book back :)

Each page of the book includes artwork and a Bible verse. I wasn't sure how to handle the Bible verses, it would make the story very "choppy" to read them, so I didn't. You can see how the Bible verse is included on the sample page to the right.

Something else I hadn't thought about being an issue, but maybe I should have. We didn't have ultrasounds or find out Little Bit's gender before she was born. This book assumes everything that is done during a typical "mainstream" pregnancy, so I had to do some editing while I read, to explain that while yes, many people have the doctor take a picture of the baby inside mommy's tummy at this point, we didn't . . . etc.

Overall, if you're looking for a book to walk your child through how a baby develops throughout a pregnancy, this would be a good choice.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. No other compensation was received and I was not required to write a positive review.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Wrapping Up the Week of April 3-9

We had a quieter week last week. 

Spring decided to leave and it's been COLD, so we haven't been able to be outside as much as I'd like. Ashlyn and I did manage to get the raise bed built, though we haven't filled it yet. 

Last week was the final week that my parents could be here helping get our old house ready to go on the market, so they were working over there all week, and bringing the last odds and ends from the garage, so I spent time rearranging things in THIS garage to make room for them. Now I need to get serious about getting through stuff and getting rid of stuff we don't need! 

On Thursday we went to a homeschoolers archery class. Little Bit decided, at the last minute that she didn't want to participate, but Lexie and Ashlyn enjoyed it.
Rodney found out late in the week that he'll be travelling to Pittsburgh and Erie soon, and asked if we wanted to come along. It's been over a year since we've traveled with him, so we're overdue to visit our favorite western PA museums, so YES! BUT . . . it's been over a year since we've traveled with him, and we've MOVED in that year. And because he's not travelling as often, doing more day trips, or quick overnights that aren't practical for us to join him on, I didn't bother to keep all our "travel stuff" together during the move. And since it's been so long, our museum membership has expired. So, as soon as I found out, I started working to figure out what membership to buy (if I could buy a membership to one of the Pittsburgh museums and use it at both of them, I'd LOVE to do that, and give them the revenue, but they don't allow reciprocity between them, so I always buy a membership somewhere else that will let us go to both Carnegie Science Center AND the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh). And what food we need to make ahead and buy ahead and such . . . we don't like to have to eat out much while traveling, so plan meals that can be heated in the microwave and lunches to pack to take with us to museums that allow it. So, lots of "figuring" to do related to that trip.

Little Bit continues to love doing crafts. It's definitely her favorite part of her "school bins" (shhh . . . don't tell her, but I'm also "figuring" to have craft-ish stuff for her to do on the drive to and from Western PA, and any days that we're in the hotel room long enough for her to do things). But this week she also discovered Uno. We have been playing LOTS of Uno ever since :) 

We ended our week with SNOW!!!! Seriously! I saw it in the forecast but didn't believe it would happen, but sure enough, early Saturday morning, it started snowing! Snowed a good part of the day. It was warm enough that the roads were fine, thankfully, but by the time we got home from church, and helping with crafts at the boys and girls club, the ground was covered. To make it more amusing, Amazon sent me pictures of this time 3 years ago and the kids were playing in the CREEK! What a difference!