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.

Niagara Falls - A road trip

How can you live in the USA and not visit Niagara falls? Well, we nearly managed to miss it, but with 6 days till leaving the USA to move back to the UK we managed a road trip from Chicago to the Falls.

Taking my VW Taureg on a road trip was no hardship.....however, the 12hr journey across was a little longer than expected. However, we all remained in high spirits, Kevin & i shared the driving and Henry caught up on his sleep, and a large number of DVDs.We left Chicago on a Thursday morning, and arrived in Niagara on the Lake early evening. Our first night was at a great B&B called Hoppy's B&B. Although self publicised as more of an adults retreat, our hosts were really welcoming, coped with Henry's exuberance brilliantly and provided him with a great roll out bed in our room. I can highly recommend it for families...just check with them first at booking. A swim in the B&B pool and dinner at a great pizza bistro saw us fall into bed exhausted!

On Friday I'd like to say the day dawned bright....however it didn't. All day it rained. However we knew we would be getting more than a little damp so were not put off!

First stop, a walk along the river from above where the Canadian falls make their drop all the way to opposite the Ame
rican falls. T
otally stunning, but very wet with all the rising mist.

The Maid of the Mist was the next activity. Having seen the boats from above, we were fairly excited about this one.

You know all those times you tell the kids never to play with plastic bags....this was the first activity of three that required us all to climb inside a bag (otherwise known as a poncho) and have it well over our heads! To say we got a little wet is an understatement, however it was fantastic. Up under the falls it was like being in a very cold shower, you couldn't even open your eyes. Henry coped great though and was very brave.

We took a walk behind the falls as well on the first day, which was good....and wet!

A trip back to Niagara on the Lake for dinner (to escape the awful touristy location that Niagara is) was perfect with a horse and carriage drive around the beautiful town.

Back at Niagara (where we stayed the second night), we enjoyed the fireworks display & illumination of the falls.

Our last day saw a trip to the local souvenir shop for photo opportunities, then a few hours at Fort George, near Niagara on the Lake which Henry thought was fun to explore.

We broke the trip home up by stopping at Port Stanley on Lake Eerie for the night. Arriving home the following evening after another day of driving.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Henry goes camping!

So the first night under canvas should ideally be somewhere warm and dry......well tonight we have the dry, so that is what Henry and Kevin are doing. They are camping out in my parents back garden in Suffolk!

It was with much excitement that my small 2 man tent was retrieved from the cupboard, last used 15 years ago, it is in good shape still. Henry helped with putting it up. He loved wielding the long poles around every ones heads, and then hitting my hand as he tried to bang in the pegs. The enthusiasm was impressive though.

After playing in the tent during the day, the idea of a night stop over was put to him. It was met with such excitement we decided it was a "must do" while staying with my parents.

The weather has not been that great, but with a dry night forecast, all hands were on deck to pump up the camp bed and lay out the sleeping bags.

Stories were read by torch light, and Custard tucked up in her own little bed (the little pocket in the wall of the tent lining).

To the sound of the church bells, Henry fell asleep......or did he?

Next day update - Henry was asleep very quickly, daddy took a little longer though! Henry thought the whole experience was a lot of fun and wants to do it again......daddy has suggested mummy spend the night on a hard blow up bed in a tiny tent with Henry who apparently likes to spread out across all but 4" of the bed!!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A trip to the beach

I love a trip to the beach, Henry loves the beach, so it doesn't take much persuading for us to make a visit.

Back in the UK now, beaches are rural, unspoiled, hardly populated and COLD! Still, an opportunity to dig in a giant sand pit, jump a few waves and dig a sand castle is still a lot of fun and a great way to get fresh air, time with the family and learn a few things along the way.

Toady our trip to the beach started with fish and chips...a real English tradition. Just on cue, as we sat and ate our lunch, a fishing boat was winched up the beach. Henry was intrigued by the process and wanted to see what they had caught. Unfortunately it took so long to winch the boat up the beach he lost interest before we had chance to find out about its catch. I plan to do a follow up exercise on this one.....something to do with fish and chips.....keep your eye on future posts.

A spot of sandcastle building, stone throwing and exploring the beach for stones to decorate the castle followed.

Despite the water being pretty chilly, Henry wanted to jump some waves, which he did for about 30 minutes! Lots of exercise was followed by a quick change into dry clothes.

To round up the beach visit we all had 99 flake ice creams...another real English seaside tradition....Another follow up project possibly.

Henry managed to smuggle half the beach back in the hood of his sweater, which we stowed in a bucket for the trip home. At home he had a great time filling up small containers with the small pebbles. At bath time, we selected some of the larger pebbles to go in the bath, which he tried balancing on the ducklings in the bath.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A holiday in Oregon

Henry and i took a 4 day trip over to Portland in Oregon, USA to see our good friends Celina, Cory, Julian and new baby Will.

Despite not having seen each other in over a year, Henry & Julian got on great for the whole stay.

We did a lot of fun activities.

A drive over to Hood River was great. A lovely pub lunch then a trip to a lavender farm, which was just beautiful. Watching the kids run up and down the lavender plants was lovely.

Next stop was a cherry farm, where we all got to work picking the most amazing tasting cherries i have ever had. At $1 per pound, great value as well. On the was home we stopped for a look at Multnomah falls.

On another day we took the boys to the Chinese gardens in Portland. Trying to hush two very wild boys in a place of tranquility was a bit of a job though, so this was quite a quick visit! A trip to Voodo Doughnuts followed which was just yummy!

Our last day was spend over on the coast at a town called "Seaside". Despite being a little chilly we spent a couple of hours on the beach with the boys.

We had thought the weather was too chilly for swim gear, so left that at home; good thing we brought change of clothes though, as both the boys found the water warm enough to sit in fully dressed! Lots of fun in the waves, sand excavating and ice cream made this day a great hit with all of us.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The great move has begun

On Monday this week (the 6th July) the movers arrived to start packing up all our worldly possessions. In the space of a day, everything was wrapped ready for loading the following day. We were left our beds for the night. Amazingly Henry coped really well. Made rather a lot of chat with all the guys doing the packing, and made sure all his toys were loaded safely into the boxes.

Yesterday everything was packed into the 40ft container that arrived early in the day. On the way into the USA we brought only a 20ft, but with new beds and other furniture we are taking home way more!

Henry had a pretty special day, what with getting rides on the mover's trolley, and getting to ride his trike flat out down the ramp from the container to the drive (before taking a nose dive over the handlebars)...he just would not be told it was not a good idea!

However, the highlight of his day came when everything was loaded. Garry the foreman helped Henry into the huge cab and let him start the engine. He then showed him where the air horn was and Henry blew it so many times i think we let the whole neighbourhood know we were going. His face was a picture.
I have loads of pictures to add to this blog article, but have no way of getting at them right now, so i will update this post when i have the pictures.

We all waved goodbye to the container before making our way to temporary accommodation in the apartments where we started when we arrived in the USA.

Our container is going to take approximately 4 weeks to reach our house in the UK.

If you would like to track it, check out sea and put in the container number as GATU4295280 with the shipping line as MSC. We expect the container to leave New York next week by ship. This is the ship we expect our precious cargo to be sailing on.

Monday, July 6, 2009

4th July celebrations

For our family, the 4th of July was one last chance to spend time with our friends and party before moving back to the UK. So this year we did it in style!

On Friday the 3rd we started with a trip to Arlington Park race track to watch a couple of races and then wa
tch the fireworks. We went with friends of ours and Henry's great mate Derek. When Henry & Derek get together, you can be guaranteed high jinks will follow.

Given the confined space we managed to secure at the race track, Henry, and 4 other kids all under 5 managed their boredom very well. Glow sticks and lollipops were a great help.

The fireworks were fantastic, Henry realy enjoyed them this year, and we eventually rolled into bed at 11pm.

On Saturday 4th we watched the Arlington Heights parade with more friends. Henry loves the spectacle of it all, and the fire trucks were a big hit.

After the parade we walked over to the Frontier days fair, where Henry had a blast on the mini roller coaster, dodgems, slide, and he & Kevin even managed to get me on a very whirly waltzer ride.....Henry enjoyed it far more than i did!

The afternoon saw us at another party on our street, which eventually saw us home at 11pm. Needless to say we all slept in late most of the weekend.
When Henry is old enough i look forward to explaining to him about the 4th July, i'm not sure we will get away with the celebration when we get back to the UK though!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A good excuse for a party!!!

The fun
This week, Henry and I had a great send off from a large number of my mom friends. With overcast weather, we had a great afternoon play date in the back garden. 21 children raging in age from 1 - 7 played great together (well most of it) for over two hours. I got a chance to catch up with all my mom friends who have been of great support to me in the last two years, and Henry got to play with so many people!

The swing was a big hit, the ball pool was completely emptied and the sand pit spread across the patio mixed in with cake....but it was great!

A note about our move
After two and a half years living near Chicago in the USA, we are finally moving back to the UK. Before moving to the USA Henry was barely two years old, i worked part time and i had never even heard of home schooling.

I have however, always known that i wanted Henry to enjoy life, and Kevin & i are both keen for Henry to have every opportunity possible to experience everything that life has to offer.

In the couple of years i have adjusted to being at home with an increasingly active toddler, who has a mind of his own, can be as stubborn as they come......that said, the love he offers and joy i get from watching him experience all that we do together far outweighs his moody moments!

When we return to the UK, Henry will start school full time in September, and i am sure i will be lost without him. I fully intend to keep up with lots of family activities at the weekends though, so that we can all continue to learn together.

Sunflowers up date

About 2 months after we planted our sunflowers, the time spent looking at their growth has rather reduced! We originally started the sunflowers as part of an Outdoor Hour challenge. However, with our move back to the UK imminent, i thought we should record their growth one last time.

Henry decided which wasthe tallest sunflower of the group we have.

He then used the tape measure to see how high it was. A massive 24"! Last time we measured we took a reading of 37cm (a month ago). We have changed into inches as i did not have enough squares on my graph paper to continue in cm!!!

After measuring, we counted the leaves. There were 18 leaves.

I asked Henry to draw what he saw & make a record of what the plant looked like. He started off really well with two sets of leaves on the stem & one set at the top....i then asked where the other 12 should go; they then got placed all the way down the stem wherever they could be fitted in, hence the great drawing of the sunflower plant.

I then removed a leave from the plant, Henry traced around it. we then discussed what he could see on the leaf. He could see "lines" - i explained these were veins, and showed him my veins and we found his in his arm. We discussed how blood moves in our veins and how the veins in a leave moved the food and water to help the plant grow. Henry then had a go at drawing the veins in the leaf.

We are very sad to leave our sunflowers before they have flowers, but they are going to a great home with one of Henry's friend's who has promised to update us with lots of photos when they flower.

A little exercise can be a fun thing!

Henry loves my exercise mat, and you can guarantee that if i want to try and catch a few minutes to try some exercises on the floor mat, Henry is there jumping on me!

So yesterday he came to me with the balls and band that i use in an exercise class that i do each week called Restore The Core run by Stroller Fit and said "can i do my exercises", so i thought why not, we could have some fun together and both get a work out!

We started with a warm of up of stretching up to the sky, down to the flowers, out like a big balloon, and then started on what Henry called "the exercises".

We did some fun moves with the exercise balls and band, that when executed correctly can improve core strength. With Henry i just wanted him to have fun, so i wasn't to worried about how he looked.

After finished our exercises (which lasted about 10 minutes) we finished with warm down stretching. Henry was particularly good at the "cat and the cow" stretches where you arch your back and then drop your belly alternately holding each for 5-10 seconds. Even more funny was when we both added the animal sounds to the moves.

If i can keep exercise this fun for him, I'm on a winner!

Car painting and washing

This is an idea that we first tried out last summer. Since then we have replicated the activity a number of times. Great for a warm day outside.

Last summer we attended a street art show, where the most occupied booth of the whole show was a real full sized car, being painted by kids. After putting on an apron, the kids were given paint and told to go make a masterpiece, it was amazing.

Henry went straight for the headlights with the yellow paint, then decorated it all over with purple sports here and there. It gave him an idea........He was going to paint mummy's car when we got home......It gave me an let him loose with his washable paints on his outdoor ride in car (his Cosy Coupe).

Dressed in messy clothes Henry was very enthusiastic about the idea. The car was painted in a multitude of colours, and this activity kept him occupied the first time for hours! The second time not quite as long, but the novelty was still there.
After all that hard work painting the car, Henry got to work with water, a sponge and washing up liquid to clean the car, so he could start all over again.

This fun activity allowed him to create art on a large scale with absolutely no expectation or suggestion from me as to how he should do it. A great way to develop creativity i think.