Thursday, November 12, 2009

A farm park trip out

During school half term we ventured out in the rain to our local farm park - Cotswold Farm park it is a fantastic place about an hours drive from where we live. The weather certainly kept most visitors at home, so we nearly had the place to ourselves. Henry and i went with one of his friends from school.
Henry loves animals, and so the touch and
cuddle area was a BIG hit!

Henry started with a very fluffy bunny....then moved onto a very small yellow cheeping chick!

He thendecided that the pen full of ducks looked like they needed some loving, so he asked if he could hold one. Judging by the assistant's response it was obviously not a regular request! But she managed to catch a very large duckling/small duck......and Henry loved it. Fascinated by its webbed feet and the fact it had small claws on the webs.

During the rest of our trip Henry fed a VERY LARGE lamb by bottle! Chased piglets,fed goats and drove electric tractors for about an hour! We also checked out the nature trail in the wood, and took a trip round the farm by tractor and trailer.

Altogether, a FANTASTIC day out!

A garden on a plate

This is one from my childhood! Making a garden on a plate. With a little imagination Henry created a little garden on a tray.

I placed some soil in the bottom, about half an inch deep, so that anything i poked into it would stand up. If you compact the soil this may work even better.

I made Henry a little silver foil pond for him to put where he wanted.

We wandered around the garden and looked for things to use. We chose Rosemary for spiky trees, i had some bits of bush with red berri
es on that became apple trees, and small path pebbles for stepping stones and wall. We broke some twigs up to create a fence, and even bent a piece of flt twig into a bench! Henry decided some moss he found on logs in our log pile would be great as grass.

This wasn't something that Henry could do on his own yet, but with my help we hung out in the garden for half an hours exploring and fresh air.

His finish project - a cute garden with pond, stone walls and fences (like our garden) a bench by the pond, apple trees in an orchard surrounded by mossy grass so that the apples wouldn't get damaged when the fell off the trees! GREAT IMAGINATION. A final fun thing, i let him fill the pond up with water, which tested his accuracy and concentration considerably!

Better late than never!

Some more photos on our move back to the UK

I so meant to post this....well about 4 months ago now - where does the time go!
After 4 weeks in a container, our furniture arrived into Felixtowe in the UK. We didn't actually see it arrive, but Henry and i took a trip down to see where it did. He was amazed at the size of the cranes and all the ships and tug boats.
We moved back into our
house in August, and those of you familiar with American sized well they fit American sized roads! Well we had the biggest lorry arrived to deliver our furniture - but our village has TINY roads...enjoy the photos of the fun the drivers had!

This was the lorry turning to go back the way it came as there are weight restrictions out of our village in all directions except 1!

Oh yea, and in this picture you can just about see our little house behind the huge lorry! The house is actually 3 stories high!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Making letters fun!!!! - Flour.

Henry has started learning his letters at school, and we have been asked to support his learning for a few minutes each day, to help establish the letter sounds.

I'm not going to do a blog entry for every letter, just when we try something new that could be used for any of the letters.

With Henry; the hands on touchy feely approach is best. So i got out a wooden board, spread flour on it, then suggested Henry try writing the letters with his fingers in the flour.

The first time we do any letter i write it with him; i stand to his left and we write at the same time, so he can get the formation of the letter correctly. Using the flour, i then put dots where he can start his letters and let him roll with it. For the letter "t: he got very enthusiastic and i think we managed 7 of the letter "t". Henry loves to use the rolling pin to roll the flour flat and start again.

Painting without paint or a brush!!!

Outdoor Hour - Challenge #3 - Time to draw

For Henry, who doesn't go a bundle on doing art work, i try to steer away from plain drawing or painting, trying to make the experience a little more unusual if possible.

Most days we get out for a walk with our dog. So for yesterday's walk i took a bag to collect all kinds of things from nature that we might be able to use for an art project.

Henry got very into putting things into the much so we had an overflowing bag by our return home! During our walk i asked Henry to think of what we could use to draw or paint with, with some help he suggested sticks and feathers. I picked some blackberries and elderberries and got Henry to guess what we might use these for, he was very intrigued by the idea of making paint from them......even more so wh
en i told him we would paint with mud when we got home!

Back home i put all our findings out on a piece of paper and provided a fairly absorbent type of paper for Henry to create his art work on.

To start with i suggested Henry try painting with
mud, He chose a stick and created brown lines all over his page.

Next Henry tried out squashing black berries then rolling them with a stick....beautiful purple designs started to develop. Amazingly, every blackberry had a slightly different colour! Elderberries were squashed and rolled, and finally back to the mud with a rose hip and a feather to create some more brown patterns.

I was totally amazed how well this idea worked. After a good hand wash, the very unusual piece of art has pride of place on our fridge! - whoever said you needed paint and a paintbrush to create a masterpiece!!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Henry starts school

This post is a little belated...but better late than never!

Henry started school on the 3rd September 2009. One very excited boy rand down to school in his very smart school uniform! Very eager to learn...or rather "play" as we were told by Henry!

Needless to say, three weeks in, he is loving it. Finally making some friends, and even coming home with homework!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Orienteering with the National Trust

Kevin thinks that i have finally admitted to being middle aged!....I have joined the National Trust. I would like to point out that i joined to gain access to the amazing gardens and estates for walks and exploration; not to spend hours looking round inside boring houses!

So our first National Trust property was Dyrham Park, near Bath. A huge country estate with large house in the valley, it is a stunning place to visit. Our specific reason for visiting however, was for a family orienteering day.

Armed with clipboard, map, compass and instructions, we were about to see if we could find our way from the top of the hill to the main Hall at the bottom of the valley.

Whilst i tried to remember how to use a compass (good thing instructions were included) Henry headed off to find the first clue with the use of the map.

At each clue we had to either write or draw the clue answer - animals of one sort or another. Henry & i took it in turns to record the 6 clues (to maintain Henry's enthusiasm levels!) In finding each clue we were making our way down the hill to the hall.

Our final clue found and my reward to Henry was an Ice cream as we explored the beautiful formal gardens of the house. A quick game of croquet on the lawn and then we made our weary way back up the very long hill.....good thing they had a shuttle bus....there is no way Henry would have made it back to the top after 3hrs of exploration at a fair pace!

A fantastic venue and great activity.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Henrys new hobby - Horse riding!

Much to my delight, Henry is showing an interest in horses! Actually at the moment it is all animals....dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, name it Henry wants to get up close and personal which is great.

Back in the UK however, i have been given a great opportunity to use a small pony to teach Henry to ride. The pony is George...a very placid and fluffy pony who seems to cope with Henry very well!

Prior to George, Henry had never been on a pony; only horses of 16hh or higher, unsurprisingly he was a little daunted by the idea of riding. It was love at first sight with George though - a pony his size and one where there was no pressure to ride if he didn't want to.

In the last month, Henry has been on George about 5 times; each time getting a little more confident. Normally his interest lasts a lap around the field (about 10 minutes) - but he has tried a little trot (with a lot of giggling) and today Henry mastered slalom around buckets and going through the mouth of a cave (between two buckets) so he is getting the steering as well!

We will take it steady, ride whenever Henry wants to and get off as soon as the interest this stage it is important to keep it fun, so he wants to come back for more!

We are back...I think!

After what seems like months away, (well it is over 2 months since we left the USA) i think we can finally get back to this blog!

We have done a fair bit over the last few months that has not been documented, so i'm going to attempt to catch up with our activities in the next few posts.

Just as an idea i'll finally get around to blogging our trip to Niagara falls, our move from the USA to the UK. A visit to the Postal museum, a fish and chips art project, Henrys first day at school and his new found hobby of horse riding........

Takes a deep breath and gets typing!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Meeting a lobster!

My parents live close to the coast, and as a result we have taken a number of visits to the coast whilst we have been staying with them. This one was a little different.

All togged up in several layers, we took a trip to Orford in Suffolk to catch a small boat called "Regardless" to go and see what is caught in lobster pots. Detailed as an 'excursion for the family', the boat was full of kids and accompanying adults - 23 of us in total. It was run by Orford Marine services.

The trip is all about seeing what comes out of lobster pots, and getting up close and personal with the catch of the day! On request we all chanted "lobster, lobster" as the pots were lifted...assured by our skipper that this would ensure the catch included a lobster!

We got lucky on the first pot and actually had a lobster on board the boat in the first ten minutes. The deck hand was very good at explaining about the lobster and quickly banded its claws so that it could not hurt anyone! That done, the lobster made a trip around the boat numerous times, and hit the deck several times as well. All the kids got to hold it. Henry was pretty unsure of it, but eventually we held it together, and he looked pretty proud that he managed that.

In addition to the lobster there were crabs of all shapes and sizes. We were shown how to carefully pick them up without getting nipped, then it was all hands on crab. There were hermit crabs, regular crabs and a velvet swimming crab, which actually felt like velvet to touch. How to tell the male and female crabs apart was detailed, as was the fact that they shed their shell every year.

The whole trip was extremely educational and informative, and fun. At an hour long it was perfect for the kids, and the boat was small enough so that everyone got to hold and touch whatever catch was available.

At the end, everything is returned to the sea, and a crab throwing competition ensued, even Henry threw a very small crab over board, returning it to where it belonged.

Looking a little wind blown - Debbie, William, Henry and I.....daddy was there, just behind the camera for once.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Henry paints his bedroom!

This weekend we returned to our house in the UK to do a spot of decorating - namely Henry's bedroom.

One of the top floor rooms (in a three floor stone cottage of around 250 years old) is to be Henry's bedroom. It's last paint job however, was completed about 10 years ago when there were no thoughts of kids and Kevin and i were not even married. Hence the terracotta (Kevin calls it orange) colour of the walls!

We decided the room needed to be bright and either blue or green - we decided on green.

Henry was so excited about being involved in the painting of it, i was very impressed.

Dressed in one of my mum's old T shirts he enthusiastically got on with the paint job using a huge roller! Luckily the whole floor was covered in plastic and anything of importance removed from the Henry and paint get a little messy!

He stuck with it for about 20 minutes before getting bored the first time. We gave him his own wall and told him to paint it however he liked! Lots of crosses, race tracks and faces appeared on the wall which was fun.

Henry returned to paint three times in total over the weekend and was very helpful...i think! He is totally excited about moving into his room, and can claim to have painted it cool is that!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

A ride in a combine harvester

Henry is in love with John Deere tractors!....Well anything John Deere actually. When back in Chicago, we drove over to Moline in IL (over 3 hrs drive) just to visit the JD tractor museum for the day! At the museum, Henry got to climb in and out of full size tractors and harvesters of all sorts, which he thought was just great. However, his god mother Debbie totally topped this, getting him a ride in a combine harvester, actually harvesting the crop.

Henry is in the combine harvester in all these pictures, some you can spot him, others not.

The anticipation you could feel coming from Henry as he watched the combine harvest around the field was completely exceeded as it turned towards us and we told he he was about to get a ride in it.

With a bit of help to get up the steps, he and William took seats in the cab and began their trip around the field harvesting the barley crop. On the way round the combine was working to cut the crop, but the boys also got to see the tank emptied into the tractor and trailer travelling along side.

Tractors and combine are fitted with satellite guided harvesting equipment, so the driver has to do very little steering except around the corners and changing direction, so the boys were fascinated to watch the computer screen and harvesting details.

Paul, the driver was so patient with the boys, that they actually circled the field twice and cut the headlands a fair bit, spending about an hour out in the combine. Needless to say he asked if either of them ever stopped talking...ever!

Henry had a fantastic opportunity to experience something i have never done, and I'm sure he will have sweet dreams about it for many a long summer evening to come!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

A Knight for the day!

Henry has a love of all things castles, knights and of course the weapons! So it was with great excitement that we found a local castle offering "knight school and battle reenactment" for school age kids.

Framlingham castle in Suffolk is a fantastic old castle that has been well preserved and offers a great experience for adults and children. We visited during school holidays and as a result there were lots of activities aimed at kids of all ages.

Henry and i started with a walk around the ramparts of the castle. He really enjoyed this. We discussed what the slitty holes in the walls might have been used for (shooting arrows). We looked at the chimneys and the views around to see where an attack might have come from.

Back on the ground, Henry took part in 'knight school' - learning how to fight in battle! I spend all my life at home telling him not to hit anyone with anything, and there i am on the side lines shouting "hit him Henry" as my poor son tries to attack a 10 year old with a blow up sword! He really was not sure he should be doing it, but soon realised everyone else was hitting him, so he might as well join in!

There are great grounds around the castle, and you can actually climb the hills to the bottom of the castle walls, then encircle the castle by walking in the dry moat. We did this and had a lot of fun climbing up the hills and rolling back down, and climbing all over the broken down parts of the castle.

Back in the castle, there was just time to try on some of the original armour worn by the knights in battle, before Henry took part in a reenactment of the battle of Agincourt!

About 60 kids became the English army, ready to take on the French (the parents). Henry and about 10 other smaller children were the knights on horseback, who rode through the battle scene on regular intervals! He had a lot of fun, although seemed to have got the idea of sword fighting no problem as he battled with those in his own army while they awaited orders!

A really fun afternoon, we shall look out for other English Heritage events near us.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Outdoor Hour Challege - Ladybugs/Ladybirds

After a couple of weeks off the challenges with our move, we managed to complete on this week - our first in the UK.

This week we tackled Challenge #26 - Ladybugs and aphids.
At this point just let me explain that in the UK we call these little red & black bugs "ladybirds". In an attempt to have Henry speaking English again we used the English terminology for this challenge!!!!!!

Having noticed literally hundreds of lady birds flying around the garden, i looked at the list of challenges and was delighted to find one on ladybirds. However, on the day we did our challenge, the wind was blowing hard and i think we were rather short changed on our bug availability!

However, we went on an explore of my parents gorgeous garden in Suffolk, England. My parents have a great veggie patch, wild blackberries, apple trees and just so many flowers it is amazing. After about 5 minutes; no ladybirds. Armed with a magnifying glass and a pot to put a bug or two into, Henry had been pretty enthusiastic, but that started to dwindle as we found no lady birds. We did however find flies, and huge bumble bees.

Our eagle adult eyes however soon spotted the first lady bird, and after that another 8. I had Henry keep a tally on a piece of paper of every bug we found, then add them up at the end.

We caught a few for closer examination, and also had some crawl onto our arms for fun. Henry overcame his fear and even had one on his arm. Henry had a lot of fun using the magnifying glass when the bugs stayed still long enough.

Back in the house (after about half an hour outside) we journaled our experience. We discussed number of legs, spots, colours, how they moved and where they lived.

Henry drew around a cup and saucer to create the outline of the bug and then painted a great lady bird.

An couple of extra fun activities were:

Finger painting lady birds - where we put splodges of red paint on paper using our fingertips, then when dry we added legs, spots, heads, eyes, antennae etc.

Face painting - I found a face painting kit in a draw never used and Henry agreed to let me turn him into a lady bird - red face with black return he painted my face as a tiger!

This challenge was a lot of fun for us.