Penguin Peg Dolls

Jax, my budding young ornithologist, loves birds–specifically owls, and because of his recent school study on penguins, they are high on his list, too.  When his teacher and I brainstormed a list of possible ways to extend his learning for enrichment, she came up with the idea of doing a diorama based on a species of penguin we saw at the New England Aquarium in February, one that he didn’t learn about in school and one he could share with his classmates.  Thus, penguin peg dolls were born.

Penguin Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

The kids and I took what felt like forever at JoAnn Fabrics, trying to come up with the best way to create a model penguin.  When we saw the wooden peg dolls, however, that we have used for so many crafts in the past, I knew we had found our medium.

I traced the outline between the black and white parts of their bodies on the peg dolls with pencil.  Then Jax colored them in.

Penguin Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It Penguin Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

After finishing the bodies, we worked on the eyes, beaks, and wings.  We didn’t bother with feet.  They came out super cute in the end!

Penguin Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It Penguin Peg Dolls @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Jax and Em had a lot of fun while she cut out an amazing house out of card stock and he was writing interesting facts on African penguins for his presentation.  These two always crack me up, and each other, apparently!

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I’m so proud of my little rockhopper!  We got to see his class’s presentation on penguins yesterday morning, complete with singing, dancing, and my little guy’s awesome emperor penguin, drawn to scale.  The kindergartners, second graders, parents and teachers were all there cheering them on, and then we walked around to hear the “experts” tell us all about their chosen penguin.  It was really impressive, especially all their enthusiasm.  I love when schoolwork ignites a fire inside a child’s imagination.  It certainly has in the case of Jax.

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And his sister, too, it looks like!  She looks so interested and proud!  Next year she’ll be the one in the penguin hat, and I bet she is counting every second!

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When The Sun Goes Down

Labor Day has come and gone and I can feel the days getting shorter, the mornings more tense as we all adjust to earlier wake-up calls, fewer snuggles and hurried breakfasts.  I already miss the lazier pace of summer, when the time after dinner wasn’t just a precursor to bed, but a wonderful and tantalizing window of opportunity for the day to continue.  I miss evenings at the beach in Maine, when the big kids and I could follow in Em’s footsteps from the year before and leap from rock to rock toward the end of the jetty at Drakes Island.

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It’s not often Em gets to show big brother the way, but that evening it was especially pleasant.

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Back on land, JDubbs and Little H were enjoying the summer evening, too.  I think he even found a bit of buried treasure!

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After we were reunited and as the tide continued to go out, tide pools emerged for some last minute nautical exploration.  Little H finally warmed up to them and all three kids happily searched for some new sea friends, something we hadn’t had much luck with all week.

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On the contrary, I–being the resident photographer–had had more than enough luck all week, and as the sun went down found more and more opportunities to capture life and light, two of my very favorite subjects.

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The kids kept moving along with the sun, and the challenges of shadows and reflections kept me thoroughly entranced until we all had to admit it was finally time to head home.

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While I’m missing the pace of the end of summer days, the adventures of this school year are already making themselves known!  As determined as I am to appreciate all ages and stages, I will always have a extra-fond place in my heart for summer nights.

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Family Photos Maine Montage

In an effort to move these Maine blog posts along–which I can’t skip because the memories and photos are precious to me but I’ll admit, there have been quite a few of them!–I’m going to combine three glorious days of Maine extended family fun into one gigantic family photo montage.  We loved sharing our vacation with our family, as did our kids, and were especially glad to celebrate our nephew’s Tommy’s birthday and to have everyone experience these locations that are so dear to our heart.  Therefore, enjoy!  Montage time!

Old Orchard Beach

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Kennebunkport, York, Wells

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Drakes Island at Sunset

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Ogunquit

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There are so many things I can say about how blessed we are to get to experience this precious life in such a glorious way, but I think the photos did it better than I ever could.  Much love to our family and thankful for these wonderful memories with them!

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Staying Cool (And Smart)

August is here, and with it some extreme temperatures that have taken our daily adventures to air conditioned or watery places.  One of our favorites is the Montshire Museum, not only because its ever-changing exhibits keep the whole family interested (praise the Lord), but also because its outdoor water play helps us beat this crazy summer heat.  What my kids don’t know is that while they are there, having a blast, their brains get slightly reactivated from their summer slumber and the learning cobwebs get shaken off just a bit.

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Something as simple as watching ping pong balls drift downriver, with various eddy pools and small elevation changes, is really fascinating for my kids.  They love running to the beginning of the stream, cranking out a new ball, and watching the process over and over again, noticing how small changes have big consequences.

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Em’s favorite part every year is tinkering with and assembling different sprinkler systems.  This year she and Jax worked together to solve their problem.  They actually worked cooperatively without fighting, probably because Em was on her own turf and who can complain when you’re “accidentally” soaking your sibling while having honest fun?

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Little H loved going here for the first time as a two-year-old.  Watching her experiment with cause and effect was particularly gratifying, with a little help from Em and Grammy.  She was so content to pull and push levers to watch how the water level changed, and if she got big sister wet in the process, well, that was just a bonus.

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Of course my kids can never go two hours without a significant meal, so after they had had their fill of water fun, it was time for lunch in the shade, away from the crowds where we could talk and maybe make some new itty bitty friends.

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At this point, the kids had pretty much dried off, so Grammy and I managed to wrangle them inside for a different kind of fun.  One of the things I love about museums is that they don’t even realize they are absorbing anything educational; they’re just having a great time.

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Keeping cool (and smart!) is the only way to go this summer!

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Mad Scientists

You know how family members always ask, What does Johnny want for his next birthday?  Or What is Suzie asking Santa for this year? Well, if your kids are elementary school-aged, I have a gift for you: a present you can give your kids that is just plain awesome.

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 I am not getting paid for this, nor do I have any affiliate links.  I really love this primary science kit (and the measuring kit that goes with it) and want to spread the word because it’s summertime and we’re all in this survival thing together.  If your kid has an inquisitive mind, do yourself a favor and invest in these sets that come with experiments made with household items, like the traditional vinegar and baking soda eruptions that every kid loves.  Because, really, all kid deserve to be mad scientists every once in a while.  Complete with safety goggles.

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In the past, we have taken our experiments to the next level by writing down or hypotheses and observations in our handy dandy journals, but, hey it’s summer!  We do experiments in our pajamas and to hell with the scientific method.  We keep it low-key so they hardly know they’re learning.  Everyone wins. IMG_4446

Speaking of learning, even I was surprised by this experiment where you put raisins in a glass with clear soda and watch them float up and down on carbonation bubbles.  It was really cool, even to me! #nerdalert

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So if the summer is stretching before you is a little daunting, invest in some toys that will keep them engaged and using their brains for countless hours to come!  There are worse things than being mad scientists; after all, as Alice in Wonderland says to the Mad Hatter, “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

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Simply Busy Sensory Play

I love spring, and I love the rain.  I even went running in the rain yesterday afternoon–how refreshing!  But day 3 of rain with kids who are just starting to savor the pleasure of being outdoors everyday is a bit…mind-numbing.  So I pulled out an old favorite for the first time with Hannah, just to see how it goes: sensory play with beans and dried peas.  Did she love it!

As I look back, the last time I did this we did it outside to minimize the mess (which may be wise) but this time we had no choice but to give it a go on the kitchen floor.  I was hoping for ten uninterrupted minutes of work while I sent out emails, so I brought out a cookie sheet, various plastic containers, a spoon and a few miniature CAT vehicles.  I dumped three bags of beans and peas onto the cookie sheet, gave the spoon to Hannah and told her to have fun.  No helicoptering, no instruction.  Just explore and investigate and experiment!

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Like I said, I was hoping for ten minutes; well, she played by herself for ten minutes before big sister joined in and then they played together for 23 more!  I sat at the table and supervised from afar because even though Hannah isn’t putting things in her mouth anymore, Emmy was constantly introducing new kitchenware into the equation to extend the fun.  Some things were good–measuring cups! spatulas! rubber brushes! the bottom of a turkey baster!–others were not so good–No, Em, let’s not use the cheese grater. 

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When they finally looked like they were about to quit, I grabbed them and reminded them it was time to clean up.  While I put away the accessories, they attempted to scoop beans into a plastic container where they will live until the next rainy day.  Then it was a battle over who would sweep, with everyone getting a turn to “help” and Mommy finally finishing the job.

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A Dino Named Sue

One of the highlights of our summer has been getting up close and personal with a local T-Rex named Sue.  I mean, really close.  It’s been awesome.

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This isn’t our first foray into the world of fossils, but having Sue in our own backyard where we can visit her as often as we like (total visits as of now: 2) is something special.  Oh, and by the way, we didn’t name her Sue.  That’s her official name.  Although, as JDubbs liked to point out, the paleontologists’ initial diagnosis was incorrect, and it is actually a male tyrannosaurus skeleton.  So, in fact, she is a boy named Sue!

After getting our fill of dino-fun, it was business as usual at the Montshire, where Little H is now old enough to do more than just observe, but can actually participate in all that the museum has to offer.  Overall, I’d say she is a fan.  She could have just stayed right here all day, rolling golf balls down ramps.  Note to self: add PVC pipe to her Christmas list.

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But we did venture outside and explore some of the excellent water fun, and as always, my dorky heart goes pitter-patter watching my kids embrace the opportunities to explore their world around them .

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Nice to meet you, Sue!  We’ll be back!

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