Saturday, May 30, 2015

Field Trip: Wildlife Learning Center

The Wildlife Learning Center, an animal sanctuary, is in Sylmar, California, about 45 minutes from us.
My dear friend Anita gave my daughter this experience as her birthday present. It was a super-secret-surprise-adventure!
 The WLC's office is home to Zeus the screech owl. (Can you see him up there behind the WLC staff member?) Zeus is blind, and he has a condition that makes his eyes look like a starry night sky.
Just outside the office is a sensory table...
Some of the things people can touch: casts of animal tracks, snakeskin, and fox fur.
There is a bobcat, two lynxes, and some servals. A serval is an African cat, and if you google serval, you will find websites selling them as pets! I'm pretty sure that's how these servals ended up at the WLC. Servals live on the savanna and are nocturnal hunters; they can grow up to 26 inches tall (shoulder height) and weigh up to 40 pounds.
 Porcupines have such sweet faces.
Have you ever been this close to a bald eagle?! We got to see the larger one fly from where it was perched at the back of the enclosure, to the branch it is perched on in this picture!
This is a fennec fox, an African animal from the Sahara. Again, if you google fennec fox, you will find sites like this about keeping fennecs as pets. Fortunately, that site does not make owning a fennec sound like a good idea. It explains how they are much more work than a dog, high energy, loud at night, and are never fully litterbox trained. But they sure are cute.
 This alligator (the real one, the one in the cage) was kept as a pet in a bathtub.
 They also have tortoises...
 ...and squirrel monkeys.

(My mom did have a squirrel monkey as a pet when she was little. She ordered it from the back of a comic book for $19.95! And she can attest that these are not good pets.)
 This picture speaks for itself.
 How many walking sticks can you find in this picture?
 I love this picture! It's the underside of a red-toed tree frog! Look at those toes!
Here is the top-side of the tree frog.
 This is Irwin the alligator.
 Did you know porcupines could climb a chain link fence?
 That is a sloth, hanging upside down, his favorite position.
The WLC has reptile shows every hour. This is a legless lizard. Did you know that lizards can blink, but snakes can't? Or that lizards have ear holes, but snakes don't? This legless lizard is Lester. A legless lizard can regrow its tail one time. If he loses his tail a second time, he has to live without it.

I highly recommend visiting the WLC! I look forward to returning for an "animal experience."

What my 4 year old said today...

"Did God make the solar system? I need to write him a thank you note."

Friday, May 29, 2015

May Catch-all

 1. Using her Leapfrog Tag pen to read Mr. Pencil
2. My daughter found a bag of highlighters in our office supply drawer. She wanted to use them. I explained that they weren't markers, they were highlighters, and that they weren't for coloring, they were for highlighting text. "Mom, can I have some text to highlight?" I found her some pages that called for circling answers, and told her she could highlight instead.
3. Putting this puzzle together again. As we put the pieces in, I read her the capitals. "Mom, did Dorothy live in Topeka?"
 4. While I was making dinner, she showed me a page she had done on her own, while I was at work. We haven't done any formal handwriting instruction yet, and her letter formation reflects that, but I looked closely and saw that she got them all right!
5. We found this skeleton on our walk. "Maybe someone ate its skin."
6. I trapped a house centipede under a glass in the kitchen sink. I was horribly scared of it. Those things are so fast. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, they can move 16 inches per second! I named it Randall after a many-legged character (voiced by Steve Buscemi) in Monsters, Inc. And then I caught a second one. My daughter named the second one Mister Randall. We kept them for a week, feeding them instant oatmeal (pumpkin flavored, in case you were wondering) and apple slices, and then released them. House centipedes are insectivores. They eat pests like spiders, silverfish, cockroaches, and termites. Also, they can "abandon" legs. I thought I had injured the first Randall when I trapped him, cutting off one of his legs, but thankfully, no. If you want to read some more fascinating facts about house centipedes, read this.

Drawing With Children by Mona Brooks: Lessons 1 & 2

This week, I finally pulled out Mona Brooks' Drawing With Children, and did the first lesson with my students. Students use the five elements (dot, circle, straight line, curved line, and angled line) to produce pictures. In the first lesson, students draw a bird on a branch with leaves and berries. They can add whatever details they want.

My school used to have a wonderful MonArt teacher (MonArt is Mona+Art, as in Mona Brooks). Her name was Mrs. Green. Mrs. Green had students trace their pencil drawings with black marker, then fill in the space with markers, oil pastels, and paint. (Here is Mrs. Green's Cat in the Hat project. And here is her Hundertwasser project. And here is her tulips on newspaper project.) So, I had my students use thin black marker to outline, and fill in with crayons. No white space allowed.

Today, we did lesson 2 (level 3), a carousel horse. Some students chose to make a carousel horse, and some chose to make a real horse. Despite my inexpert example, my 4th graders' work turned out awesome!

I'm looking forward to using Drawing With Children on a regular basis throughout next year.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Four Things My Daughter Did Last Night Instead of TV

 1. Put together this puzzle with me.
2. Preheated the oven to 350, separated pre-portioned cookie dough, waited patiently for 13 minutes.
 Yum. These are awesome.
 3. Colored. (My daughter explained to me that this is a "walking" snowman, like Frosty.)
4. Practiced her croupier skills. Just kidding. She was being a magician and doing card tricks.

Self Portrait

Sunday, May 24, 2015

How I Tried to Make Up For FORGETTING My Husband's Birthday

It's awful, isn't it.

May is a busy month. First, there's my daughter's birthday. Then, two days later is our wedding anniversary. Then, a week later is my husband's birthday. You would think that having all those events in one month would make it easier to remember. You would think.

My husband and I don't do gifts. This year, on our 14th wedding anniversary, I said, "Happy anniversary," and he said, "You beat me to it," and we went about the day as usual.

But on my husband's birthday, I dismissed my fourth graders to recess, and opened a friend's email. She'd attached some pictures she'd taken at home(pre)school co-op, adding, "Say happy birthday to Pete for us!"

I looked at the date.

How could I forget his birthday?! I texted him immediately (I'm such a romantic), admitted that I'd forgotten, and apologized.

But that evening, when my husband had gone to work at his music studio, my daughter asked if he'd gone to his birthday party. I said no, and tried to explain that Daddy wasn't having a birthday party. Well, my daughter thought that was unacceptable. And I was glad she thought it was unacceptable. She should want to celebrate her father. He's wonderful. And I should make that possible for her. I told her we could have a birthday party for Daddy over the weekend, but that it was going to be a surprise, so she had to keep it secret.

Friday after I got off work, we stopped by the 99 Cent Store. She was completely in charge of planning and I let her buy whatever she wanted. She spent $12.
She chose Ninja Turtle decorations, Ninja Turtle plates, Ninja Turtle cups, and a Happy Birthday banner.
On Saturday morning, she woke up at 6:30 a.m.

While my husband slept, we used the helium that was leftover from her birthday party to air up a dozen balloons, and taped up the decorations. The mylar balloons from her birthday were still inflated, so we used those too. She wiped her little table clean. She wrote "Der Dad" on the card she had chosen, and "Love," and signed it. She wrapped the solar robot she got him as a present.

I made coffee and bagels for the grown-ups, and pink lemonade and a rolled-up tortilla for her (it's what she wanted). I put one candle in my husband's bagel, but she put her hands on her hips and argued that he wasn't one year old and he should have more candles. I gave her the candles.

And then I sent her in to wake up my husband.

When he walked into the room, she yelled surprise with so much joy that I got teary eyed.


Saturday morning, there was a "hoop-a-thon" at the park. We walking by, on our way to buy a birthday gift for a friend, when we saw this.

How could we not stop?

Field Trip: Abalone Cove Shoreline Park

This morning, we visited the Abalone Cove Shoreline Park. It's located in Rancho Palos Verdes, a 45 minute drive south from Santa Monica. We got there shortly after the park opened at 9:00 a.m.* and met up with some friends to hike down to the tide pools.

I had never been to Abalone Cove, or to any tide pools, and I was very excited.

The view alone is breathtaking.
My daughter came prepared with her "catch and release beach aquarium" (a birthday gift from one of her friends we went to the tide pools with), and her binoculars.
 We saw ALL! of the animals on this sign: crabs, sea anemones, sea urchins, and sea stars.

Getting to the tide pools involves a short hike through the chaparral...
Yes, that's my fingernail in the shot, and no, I didn't crop it out because it would mean cropping out the whole left side of the picture.
...down to the rocky shore.
Low tide was at 9:13 a.m. today (, and it is recommended that you explore the tide pools up to one hour before low tide and up to one hour after. We spent two hours exploring the pools, and the time flew.
Careful on the rocks. Crocs are not the best footwear for this, but they weren't the worst either. My daughter and I ended up going barefoot in the tide pools. The rocks are covered with barnacles, so barefoot is not ideal.

Ideally, we would have been wearing aqua socks.

Next time.
We're here!

Sea urchins
Sea anemones
Can you find three anemones in this picture?
A crab
Isn't that crab's coloring beautiful?
Extreme close up of a sea slug
Blue green sea anemone
One of our little friends petting a sea slug. (We have a 2 finger rule for petting sea creatures.)
We caught (and released) a sea slug and a hermit crab.
Releasing our sea slug

The star of the tide pools was a sea lion. See him posing for pictures over there?
A close up
Watching the sea lion sun himself
We had so much fun. I can't wait to go back.

We did see a sea star. At first, we mistook it for an octopus because its arms were so long. I was unable to get a picture of it. I was shocked at how fast it swam. 

My advice:
  • DO take the rocky beach path to and from the parking lot if you're with preschoolers. DON'T try (like we did) to find a short cut back to the lot; we added a good forty minutes on to our hike to our cars, and some of it was a little treacherous. 
  • DO pack a towel and a (complete) change of clothes for your preschooler.
  • DO go potty at the parking lot restroom.
  • DO pack an after-exploration snack and bottle of water for the hike back. 
  • Do NOT attempt this if you've got a pre-walker or a toddler. Your child needs to be a very good walker, good at balancing, and good at following directions.
  • DO have a one to one parent-child ratio.
*Parking is $5.