Saturday, January 27, 2018

"Stickwork" art installation at Pease Park by Patrick Dougherty

This morning, we headed to the downtown Austin area, at Pease Park to check out the new art installation by Patrick Dougherty.  Appropriately known as Stickwork, artist Patrick Dougherty and his team of volunteers used seven truckloads of willow, elm, and ash sticks and saplings harvested from Stonewall, Texas to construct four whimsical huts in the middle of Pease Park.

Stickwork will be on display for as long as it naturally stays.  Rather than break down the huts, Dougherty "allows the elements to envelop the sculpture, a process that can take anywhere from 18 months to three years". Can you believe that North Carolina-based Dougherty has crafted more than 250 similar versions of Stickwork across the world?  It's pretty neat that the sculpture was created with the help of volunteers.  This means that the artist didn't even know what it would end up looking like until it was complete--which was yesterday--since each volunteer lent shape to the piece.  The art took about 3 weeks to create.


If you have ever been to Pease Park, you know that it is beautiful and full of majestic trees to climb.   So, although this amazing piece of art was there to explore, our kids explored it for a short amount of time, and instead headed straight to the gorgeous trees.  With the amazing overcast skies present, I just kept snapping photos.



Abbey wanted to wear a good twirling dress today.


My little ninja warrior!


I was drooling over all the trees!


Abbey loved this one in particular.

In fact, she didn't want to ever get down.  She was pouting in this picture, and saying, "I just love this tree so much, I don't ever want to get down."
I even captured her kissing this particular tree. 

Again, pouting as she never wants to leave this tree.

But there's my happy Abbey!
We highly recommend checking out the new art installation soon--before the elements change it too much.  It is so well done and the park is really fun to enjoy as well!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Wild and Free Book Club: Little House

We had our first book club through our local Wild and Free club on Thursday.  To prepare, we could read whatever Little House series books we desired.  We read Little House in the Big Woods and the Long Winter.  The kids really enjoyed reading these books together.  The Little House series is full of fun stories from Life on the Prairie during the pioneer days.  We laughed a lot while reading them together.  I think both kids could really relate to Laura Ingalls.

After reading the books, and even watching the first season of Little House on the Prairie, the kids were excited for the day of the Book Club.  The event was held at the Old Settler's Association, which ended up being just perfect for our group.  There was an old house that we had activities in and plenty of space outdoors to explore.  Outdoors, there were animals (chickens, goats, ducks, and donkeys), an old barn, old farm equipment, an old truck (definitely post-pioneer times though), and many old pioneer buildings to explore (including an outhouse).

When we arrived, Abbey spotted the quill pens and was excited to try those out.  She said to me, "Mommy, this is so hard."  Which was great--because she got to experience how simple tasks were a lot more difficult back in the pioneer days.  Although, today there are so many choices (gel pens, markers, crayons, oil pastels, charcoal, paint, etc.), which makes decision making a little more difficult. 



Back in the pioneer days, you couldn't just run to the grocery store, like HEB, and buy butter.  The kids got to experience how the pioneers made butter.  Here, my friend, Sarah, is explaining the process they were going to use. 


It required a lot of shaking.
But the reward at the end was homemade butter smeared onto a homemade corn muffin.  We also got to see a presentation from the Williamson Museum.  We got to see what the pioneers wore, how they made their clothes, and more. 


After the presentation, Abbey quickly discovered the paper doll activity station, while Luke ran outside to play with his friends. 



Then, we headed outside and visited the wood burning station.  This was the kids' favorite station, and we may need to invest in a wood burning tool.  This was fun!  Luke's friend, Austin, had a turn first.


Luke practiced for a bit before putting an "L" on the token that he chose to make a necklace out of.


putting an "L" on the wooden token

Abbey burned a leaf design on one side of her token, by taking a stamp and then wood burning over the stamped leaf.


Abbey burned an "A" on the other side.
After doing the wood burning, the kids were excited to explore the awesome property.


Abbey and her friend, Brynley, checking out the ducks and chickens.


The kids were just so adorable in their little bonnets!

Luke loved exploring this old barn.

His friend, Jack, enjoyed it as well.

Abbey discovered it later and wasted no time exploring.

The kids looked so cute in their Little House character-inspired clothes. 

There were so many old buildings to explore---there was a small house, a school house and more.  Each house had items set up inside to explore as well.
It was such a great time celebrating the book with our group.  We are looking forward to the next book club, in April!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

First Field Trip of the Year--IFly

Those of you who know our family or follow me know that I LOVE field trips in our "homeschool".   I feel like through hands on "experiences" we learn so much.  We make sure to squeeze lots of field trips in with our homeschooling. Our first field trip of the year came last Friday when we visited iFly in Austin.  IFly offers indoor skydiving.   "How in the world do you skydive indoors?", you may ask.  In indoor skydiving, you get the simulation of true freefall conditions in a vertical wind tunnel.

When registering for this field trip, we indicated whether we wanted to register just for the lecture and lab and demonstrations or whether we also wanted to "fly."  Both Abbey and Luke said they definitely did not want to "fly."  This didn't surprise me though, because Luke, who was previously pretty fearless has become way more careful and calculating before he embarks on activities.  And I am completely fine with that.  Abbey is also becoming a bit more careful. I also told both of them that if they decided to fly when we were there, they could do so.

When we arrived for our field trip, we went straight up to the tunnel and watched some experts demonstrate for us.  They did some really neat tricks and are extremely talented at skydiving.  What a fun job to be able to do that every day, right?   Below are some videos of the experts flying prior to our class beginning. 

After watching them do all of the awesome tricks, Abbey was ready to fly!  But first, we attended a little lecture for some learning.

We learned all about the wind tunnel.  (Below is from the iFly website:)

The animation below illustrates how airflow is created in our vertical wind tunnels:

  1. A vertical wind tunnel has fans at the top to draw air through the flight chamber and then push it back down the sides through Return Air Towers (RATs).
  2. The air is ‘turned’ from the RATs into the bottom of the tunnel (plenum) and back up toward the flight chamber through an inlet contractor.
  3. The inlet contractor reduces the space the air can travel in, thus compressing and speeding up the air before it reenters the flight chamber.
  4. The result: a smooth column of air that enables you to fly.
The kids learned about engineering and discussed different ways the wind tunnels are used. (The tunnels are used to copy the actions of an object in flight. Researchers use wind tunnels to learn more about how an aircraft will fly. NASA uses wind tunnels to test scale models of aircraft and spacecraft. Some wind tunnels are big enough to hold full-size versions of vehicles--they can test how aerodynamic a vehicle is).  The kids learned about force and how changing their body positioning might impact their flight.  Overall, it was a great  S.T.E.A.M learning opportunity.  The kids also got to guess what might happen when they tossed water into the tunnel.  Then, they watched them toss water in the tunnel.  The water from the container, once poured, turned into millions of little droplets, which floated all around.  In addition, the kids predicted which balls would fall fastest (wiffle ball, basketball, and a light playground ball).  They thoroughly enjoyed watching all of those demonstrations and taking guesses, learning something along the way.

But, enough of the lecture type learning, it was time to experience flying!  I have done it before.  In fact, I went to an educator's session at iFly (several months prior to this field trip) to see what their field trips were like and got to fly there myself.  I felt like it was such a great learning opportunity and scheduled this field trip for our homeschool group based upon that session.  I thought I would LOVE flying.  Surprisingly, I did not at all.  I paid $10 to have the "high flying" experience.  Perhaps that was a mistake.  For that, they turn up the wind more it seems.  I had so much wind coming up at my face that I found it difficult to breathe.  I couldn't wait for my time in the tunnel to be over--ha!  I have since learned from others it is best to keep your mouth open, in order to not feel that inability to breathe.  Here is a video of my flying in case you are interested.  (The longest minute of my life--ha!)

Anyway--enough about my experience.  you can imagine that when Abbey said she wanted to do it I was a little bit nervous for her.  But I was excited for her to get to experience something so awesome.

Abbey and two of her friends who also wanted to fly.
All suited up and ready to fly!
   At first, the kids were flying one at a time with the instructors.  But eventually, due to the size of our group, they began taking two kids at a time.  Abbey got to be in the tunnel with one of her good friends, Bella.  It was so much fun to watch them experience flying for the first time.  Here is the video that iFly took of the girls flying.  I like this version because you can see the reactions of Luke, me and Abbey's good friends on the other side of the glass.

And here is the one that I took (you can hear all the commentary).

As you can hear from that video, I really thought Abbey was scared (based on her facial expression).  But, she told me afterwards that she LOVED the experience and wants to do it again.

 She was so glad that she tried it!  Luke was just as happy watching her and many of his friends fly. It was a successful first field trip of 2018.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Abbey is 6!

It's a new year, which means a fresh start.  I am really hoping I can get back into the groove of blogging again.  I miss having a journal of our memories we have made over the past year.  I have yet to miss writing all about our kids as they reach the new milestone of a new age.  So, I cannot miss a blog post all about our 5 year old Abbey, who just turned 6 years old.  Hopefully this post helps encourage me to write other blog posts as well.

Each year I create a book for each of our children to give to them on their birthday.  I have done this from the very beginning, on Luke's First Birthday.  The book documents our year together and highlight's that child's special memories and personality traits.  Here are excerpts from Abbey's 6th Year Book, which I just created for her 6th birthday:

At the end of her book, is a personal note to Abbey, which I won't share here. But Abbey, here are some things I want to remember about you from this past year.

Abbey, you are my sweetheart!   You write precious notes and cards for me every day.  In fact, on your birthday you created a sweet little card for me!  Even though it was YOUR birthday.  Your card said, "I'm growing up!" and you drew a sweet little picture to go along with those words.  I have a feeling you will be much better at documenting your life and thoughts than I am!  And your spelling is amazing!   I don't know how you know how to spell every word at such a young age.  You amaze me. You write the most fun stories and journal your life in the cutest ways in your journal each day.  I cherish it and I know you do too!

You bring a smile to my face every day just by being you!  When we were recently watching the Oklahoma vs Georgia NCAA football playoff game, you came running out of your room with a gymnastics leotard and tutu on and said you were the cheerleader.  You were a great distraction for the stressful game with your awesome performances!  You come up with the most fun little pretend play scenarios and your bedroom is a rotating room of different settings:  one day it is a bakery, one day a hair salon, and the next, a dance studio.  You invite us into your precious world of imagination and I absolutely love it!

"Words of Affirmation" is most definitely your love language!  From Gary Chapman's "Five Love Languages" book, "unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, 'I love you,' are important – hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten. Kind, encouraging, and positive words are truly life-giving."  When I give a compliment to Luke such as, "Luke you are such a sweet kid," you will quickly reply, "Am I a sweet kid too?"  Ha!  I tell you, "I love you," and your face lights up and you give me that endearing look of love right back.

You are competitive.  We knew you would be though.  Even though Luke is a couple of years older than you, you aim to make sure you can do everything he can.  You read at a 6th grade level (which is the highest level I can test you at and you have read at that level since you were 4 years old), and according to the math game that you play regularly, "Prodigy," you are at a 2nd grade level based upon the questions you have answered correctly.  (Luke is currently at 3rd/4th grade level in that game, so you are trying to catch up). You are at a level 72 on that game (you began at level 0 and the highest level you can get is 100).  All of this is because of your drive and competitive spirit, which your daddy and I can totally understand and relate to.   Because you were "Kindergarten" age this year, you got to move up to "Sparks" in the AWANA program we attend.  You were so excited to get your handbook.  As soon as you did, you began reading it every day and memorizing your Bible verses.   By, the next week you attended Sparks, you literally had the entire book memorized.  But of course there wasn't enough time to recite all 38 verses and all of the books of the New Testament in one week.  So, the leaders let you recite them over the course of a couple weeks.  We were amazed!  And, I think they were too, as they said they had never had someone complete their book so quickly.  So, they graciously gave you some extra credit work to work on, which you also already completed.  God has gifted you with an amazing memory, a desire to read and learn his Word, and a drive to succeed.  I am glad that God has allowed me to homeschool you so that I can constantly challenge you.

You love theater!  This year, you were cast as a lead in two different productions--Cinderella (where you played Cinderella) and Keep Christ in Christmas (a Live Nativity through a nearby church, where you played Mary).  We were so proud of you and thoroughly enjoyed watching you do something you love and are very talented at.  You also took your first theater class this year, called "Broadway Kids" through the Zach Scott Theater in Austin.  There, you honed your singing, acting and dancing skills.  You are definitely our artsy little gal.

You tried out soccer this past fall and really enjoyed it.  It was so much fun to see our artsy little girly girl be so competitive at a sport.  We weren't sure what to expect, but loved watching you get in all the action on the field and try to steal the ball away from your competition.  You are looking forward to playing baseball this spring.

You tell me your favorite thing to do of all things is to hike.  You are a girl after my heart!  You also enjoy singing, dancing and acting, creating art, drawing, writing letters and making cards, reading, your Bible and memorizing verses, photography, playing with American Girl Dolls, playing with friends, exploring our city, crafting, baking and eating yummy food.  You love riding your bike and you learned to ride without training wheels this past spring.  

I have to admit I got pretty sad when you lost your first tooth in November--followed by your second lost tooth in December.  To me, this was a big sign that you weren't my little baby anymore.  Although, you will always be "my baby."

You are our precious little sweetheart and we love you so much, Abbey.  We can't wait to see what's in store for year 7!