Friday, December 22, 2006

Prairie Dogs & The Polar Express

Yesterday, we drove to Kansas to spend Christmas with my in-laws. Today, us "girls" (me, Alexandra, and her Nana) drove to go see an IMAX film of The Polar Express. Alexandra & I actually saw it for the first time on our TV a few days ago. I wasn't very excited to see it - it didn't look very interesting to me, but I loved it! So, when I saw it was at the IMAX theatre near here, we had to go and see it!

Near the theatre, out in some fields near Lowe's, are lots and lots of prairie dogs! I had seen them years ago, but Alexandra has never seen them. We watched these cute little guys that act so much like meerkats. And, when I got out of the car, one of them sounded a high-pitched warning that sent the others scrambling towards their holes. They were so cute!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pictures from Galveston

I scanned in these photos from Galveston last week. I might try to scan a better quality.

This first photo is of a large hermit crab Alexandra found. After she found it, we realized there were lots of them crawling around on our mud "path." I've never seen a hermit crab out in the wild before, and this was really neat!

This photo is of Alexandra holding a periwinkle - a type of snail. If you look closely, you'll see lots of them on the tall grass.

This is a photo of Alexandra being carried by David, the man who carried her for so long. You can see our guide (light blue shirt) pulling the net we used to collect whatever we could find.

The above photo is of a blue crab we found in the net. It was neat to open the net each time and see what we'd caught!
This last photo was taken in the much clearer water near the sandy beach. The kids really enjoyed wading in the water and looking for shells.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Salt Marsh, Sand Dunes, and a Beach at Galveston

On Wednesday, Alexandra and I went on a field trip with some other homeschoolers to Galveston. We were in a class that visited a salt marsh and then went to a beach that had sand dunes. It was a long day, but it was a lot of fun.

We went to the salt marsh, first, and discussed the purpose of a salt marsh (home for marine life - especially babies, protection, filters the water, holds flood waters) and discussed that estuaries are where salt water mixes with fresh water. Then, we headed off through the mud after being taught the stingray shuffle.

The first thing Alexandra found was a large shell - with a hermit crab in it! We were very excited as we noticed these hermit crabs everywhere! Then, we saw periwinkle snails on the grass - 100's of them! They are about the size of a shooter marble and they were climbing up the stalks of grass.

The mud was hard to walk in even before we got in the water. The first few steps into the shallow water were hard to take - it made you feel like you were just learning to walk. As we got into the water, Alexandra was scared (the fact that we had to learn the stingray shuffle and that they said there was a 99.9% chance that you'd fall in the water didn't help). It was also cold and sprinkling. A kind homeschooling dad offered to carry her and his son gave her his jacket. I was amazed that this gentleman carried her for over an hour!

Some of the kids pulled a large net behind them while another child walked in front of the net to "kick up" whatever was at the bottom of the marsh. We caught: lots of shrimp, lots of small baby fish, a few pike fish, some tongue fish (a lot like a flounder), lots of small baby crabs, one large blue crab, and lots of sea snot - which looks like just what it sounds like.

Again, I was amazed at how hard it was to walk around while shuffling in the mud. There were lots of holes - at time I'd step into one and the water would go up to the bottom of my shorts. Also, at times my foot would get trapped. They warned us not to pull our foot out of our shoe or you'd never find your shoe again. We saw evidence of this - unclaimed shoes that washed up on the beach. A few times I got stuck in mud that came to the top of my socks. You have to wiggle your heal, then pull your toe up first to keep your shoe on your foot.

After the marsh, we went to the beach. At the beach, they discussed the importance of sand dunes - both to the animals that live in it and the people who are protected by it. We looked at some of the different types of plants that grow on them - some are not native.

Then, we combed the beach for shells and whatever else we could find. We found: lots of shells (there'd been some flooding about 9 days earlier), a man-of-war, a dead hawk, lots of pieces of oyster, pieces of sand dollars, and our best find: horse manure. Actually, this was kind of funny. I found it when Alexandra and I were by ourselves. I asked her what she thought it was - it was mainly in little round balls. She said she didn't know and picked some up and it broke up in her hands. I called over the gentleman, David, who'd helped us before. David is a farmer and knew immediately that we'd made a wonderful find: horse manure. Yuck! Thankfully, our guides had hand sanitizer.

Photo #1: a piece of oyster on the left and a piece of a large lightning whelk shell covered in worm tunnels on the right side (we learned to identify some shells and things, too!)
Photo #2: top 3: shell (I don't remember it's name), piece of lightning whelk piece, piece of sand dollar; bottom 3: piece of sand dollar, piece of shark's eye shell (what's really neat about it is the little hole at the top - we learned that when you find a shell like this, it's because the organism had been eaten by a snail the uses its tounge and some acid to "drill" a hole and then eat the organism!), a piece of an angel's wing shell

Here's a great site I came across to help identify shells and other things found in Galveston:

I did a little more research online about shark's eyes also known as moon snails. The teacher told us their tongue has little teeth - the teeth are called radula. These types of snails are predators called "drills." They drill a tiny hole in the shell of their prey. They can also be cannibals and I'm guessing our little shell of a shark's eye was eaten by another shark's eye or some other type of "drill."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Galveston Photos

My friend just sent me some photos of our recent day-trip to Galveston, so I thought I'd put a few here. She has some amazing photos! My favorite was of a pelican - I think it could be on a calendar! So, I don't want to "steal" it and put it here. :-) Thanks, friend!!!

This is the turtle we got excited about watching. We even saw him eat some squid! And, we could tell it was a "he" from the time we spent at the turtle barn earlier in the day. You can tell it's a "he" because only the male's tails extend past their shells.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Turtles and a Day at the Beach

(Picture above: The baby turtles. These turtles are almost 2 months old. They are kept separated because sea turtles are not social creatures and also so they can watch how well they are eating.)

On Thursday, we went with some friends (mom & 2 dds) and spent a day in Galveston. Our first stop was a sea turtle facility. We got there early and, as it was raining, they let us come in and look around. We saw baby turtles (almost 2 months old), yearlings, and 2-year-olds. We were the only people there for most of the "tour." It was very interesting. To me, the most interesting part was how small sea turtles brains are - about the size of a pea! We saw a skull & the hole for their brain was so small! Because of this, though, they don't learn anything new. Everything they need to learn is by instinct. So, they don't have to un-learn anything from their time at the facility and can easily be released into the wild.

Our next stop was the Aquarium, at Moody Gardens. Wow! None of us had ever been there. It was much larger than I thought it would be and we were there several hours. Some of the highlights were: feeding time with the penguins, the touch tank, the snake & dangerous animal exhibit (one of my friend's dds decided snakes weren't so bad after all & we went through this part twice!), and watching the sea turtle eat squid (it had to "fight" for it against the fish in the tank). We would have loved to stay here longer, but we wanted to hit the beach & we had to be back for ice skating.

The last place we went was to the beach. The water was pretty nice, although we only waded. I've been to the beach quite a few times & have rarely seen a pelican. We saw lots & lots of pelicans! I was very excited. And, we watched a sea gull preparing to eat a fish - it would let it go in the water, catch it again, let it go, catch it... about 10 times! I guess he finally ate it. And, we saw sea gulls fighting over food - they don't share very well!

It was a great day at the beach and I felt bad that I haven't taken Alexandra very often. So, we'll be going more regularly! And, there are so many more things to do in Galveston.

My camera needs replaced, so I didn't get very good pictures. My friend got great pictures, though, so I'll share some of those when I can.
(Photo above: The men feeding the penguins. It was neat to see the men in the exhibit actually feeding the penguins by hand! They also threw a bunch of dead shrimp in the water & we got to watch the penguins swimming through the water, eating their lunch. And, after the men left, they left a big basket of fish. One penguin kept grabbing fish & throwing them on the ground as if he was looking for that "perfect" fish. If I had known my pictures of the penguins would turn out so well, I would have taken more!)

We read Sea Turtles by Gail Gibbons. Except for the evolutionary aspect, this was a great book that taught us both a lot about sea turtles!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bed of Nails

While visiting family, we also went to a museum in nearby Ft. Worth. The girls (Alexandra & her cousin) enjoyed digging for dinosaur bones in the hot Texas sun. After this, my mom, brother & I left my sister in charge of the girls while we went to an art museum. When we came back, the girls showed us some of their favorite things, including this bed of nails. They said it didn't hurt, so I tried it. Well, maybe it doesn't hurt, but it isn't very comfortable. :-)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Pony Express Muesum in St. Joseph, MO

In St. Joseph, MO, we visited the Pony Express Museum. Again, the camera wasn't working properly, so unfortunately I don't have photos.

This museum was wonderful! It had a great handout that you carried with you that explained some things and told you special things to look for. We all enjoyed moving the mochilas (mail bags) from one pony to the next. You were supposed to time yourself.

Alexandra loved the play area where she got to dress up and play like she was a pioneer lady. They had a neat, handmade wooden kitchen area & some pretend food, etc.

Altogether, we spent about 2 hours here. I highly recommend it. (Photo is of 2 postcards and Alexandra's Pony Express horse, Brownie.)

Independence, MO

Besides the Truman Presidential Museum, we did the following in Independence last week:

  • rode in a covered wagon pulled by 2 mules through historic Independence - including riding in a swale made by wagons in the mid-1800's - very nice, but it was very cold
  • ate a delicious lunch at Clinton's, an old-fashioned soda fountain that Harry S. Truman worked at when he was young - we also had delicious shakes
  • visited the Frontier Trails Museum - I was not impressed with this museum as it had new things mixed in with it's artifacts, but it didn't tell you that - we did like the hand-on part: you got to load a wagon with whatever you thought was essential for your trip west & it would tell you if it got too heavy. You also got to pack a mule. Their gift shop was great - we spent a lot there.
For all the souvenir photos, I had placed a pink jacket over a chair. Well, Alexandra wanted to get in this picture, and she put the jacket on while it was still on the chair. The photos include a postcard & button from the covered wagon ride we took with Pinoeer Trails Adventures.

Union Station in Kansas City

We also went to Union Station in Kansas City. Last year was the first time we'd visited KC and we went to Union Station that time, too.

We did 3 things at Union Station:
  • IMAX film called Olympic Glory - Amazing! We almost didn't go to it, but Alexandra really wanted to, so we did. She really was hooked on the Olympics this year. Anyway, I'd highly recommend this film!
  • Science City - very good hands-on children's science museum. We'd went there last year and spent a lot of time, so this year was a little quicker. They had added a new part to their dinosaur exhibit. Real scientists are there, behind glass, working on real dinosaur bones! One was there cleaning some bones while we watched. Pretty neat!
  • KC Rail exhibit - about the history of trains in KC. We got to walk through quite a few cars on a couple of different trains - that was our favorite part

Toy & Miniature Museum of Kansas City

The first museum we went to while visiting Kansas City this year was the Toy and Miniature Museum. We had never been there and we weren't sure what to expect. It was wonderful! I highly recommend it.

It was very large. I think we were there 2 hours and didn't see everything. What I enjoyed most were they tiny china dishes & crystal glasses. The detail was amazing. And, I also loved the miniature woven rugs. Who could make such a thing? Wow! My souvenir was a pair of very inexpensive miniature muffin tins to remember those beautiful dishes.

Alexandra's favorite part was the marbles. There were many on display and drawer after drawer to open and explore. She spent a long time looking at them. Her souvenir was a miniature ceramic box that has a table, a little girl, and a teddy bear sitting at it having a picnic. Also in the picture is a souvenir "smashed" penny. She got those from several places we visited.

Truman Museum & the Miniature Whitehouse

While on our vacation last week, one of the places we stopped in Independence, MO was the Truman Museum. We found it kid friendly and I would highly recommend it. We did walk very quickly through the section about the atomic bomb. Alexandra was scared and we didn't explain any of it - just walked right on through!

Alexandra really enjoyed a little computer terminal where you could press on different presidents and hear some interesting things about them. Pres. Polk was one of them and she got excited about him because one of her ancestors was a cousin to the president! Also, I share a birthday with Washington and she shares a birthday with Teddy Roosevelt, and they were both there, too!

There were also some hands-on exhibits - a dress up area, a mail area (she wrote a letter to Truman), an area to make a campaign button (her's says "I Love Truman"), and a few others.

Another highlight was the traveling exhibit of the miniature Whitehouse. Incredible! And, it had just been decorated for Easter! There were tiny eggs & bunnies in many rooms and on the lawn. We had our own personal tour as one of the guides walked along beside us explaining the various rooms, etc.

Unfortunately, the digital camera we use had a defective chip so all of our pictures were ruined. So, I took a picture of our souvenirs. The campaign button Alexandra made says "I love Truman." And, she loves the postcard that says "Dewey Defeats Truman." We've seen that picture several times since and I think it's neat that she knows the story behind it.

(updated 4/13/06): A friend loaned me some books about the White House. We didn't have time to read them all right now, but I wanted to save this resource list for later:
  • The White House: An Illustrated History by Catherine O'Neill Grace - we enjoyed looking at the pictures of this one
  • A Kid's Guide to the White House by Betty Debnam - great book with some activities - I'm going to try to buy a copy of this book
  • First Pets: Presidential Best Friends by Nell Fuqua - cute book with cartoon illustrations - shows some very unusual first pets and some neat, sometimes funny, stories about them
  • First Kids by Gibbs Davis (Step Into Reading book) (we own this one) - antedotes about some of the First Kids
  • Smart About the First Ladies by Jon Buller (a Smart About History book) - another series we like - we just got this in the mail this week and are still reading it - it goes through each First Lady (including Laura Bush) and tells some about them - neat stories!
  • Woodrow, the White House Mouse by Barnes - we read this one and Alexandra really enjoyed it - there are others in this series