Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mississippi River Museum (Day 2 - Dubuque, IA)

On our 2nd day of vacation last week, we also went to the National Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque, Iowa.

Alex had a lot of fun in this hands-on room. You could open different draws to look at things, touch things on the counter, etc.

If you can enlarge this, I bet you'll learn some "scat facts" that you never knew. I found this very entertaining. :-)
My nephew, Baby H, at 5 months old LOVES to watch the fish in the aquariums.

Brian "Fox" Ellis was the highlight of our day for me. We just happened to be at the museum the day this incredible storyteller was performing "River Stories." We listened closely as he told tales for about an hour. And, I even bought 2 cd's so we could listen to him again and again. He was performing that night as Audubon, but we had to head on to our next destination. He's got lots of information, lesson plans, etc, on his site so you might want to check it out.

Alex at the wheel of a stemboat!

Reading with Mark Twain. Oh, we learned from the storyteller that "sawyer" was a term riverboat men used for a log or tree that was caught in the water and was dangerous. So, Tom "Sawyer" meant someone who could cause trouble.

An otter eating his lunch.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fall Lapbooks!!!

I was actually looking for some fun math activities for this fall season when I came across this free Pumpkin Lapbook from Melissa Telling at Lilliput Station. I'm tempted to use it even though it's probably too young for Alex. But, if you have some young elementary kids, this looks like a great fall project!

I think we'll be using the homeschoolshare's Stellaluna Unit instead. We'll also be doing lots of fun math games, etc, from mathwire.

Have fun learning!

On the Mississippi River (Day 2 - Dubuque)

We spent our first night in a hotel in Dubuque, Iowa and took a paddleboat on the Mississippi the next day. We rode on the Spirit of Dubuque.

I don't think I'd ever seen a bridge "open" like this - here in the Houston area, we see some drawbridges, but not a turn style bridge.

Here's an incredible house on one of the bluffs. By this point, we'd driven through a lot of the "flat" part of Iowa - these bluffs were beautiful.

Details on one of the bridges we went under.

A tugboat pushing a barge.

The paddlewheel making splashes. You might see a small rainbow in the upper left of the photo.

I loved the waves that were created by the 2 red paddles.

Yes, it was COLD out on the water! Alex and I enjoyed a hot chocolate while my mil and sil had coffee.
We were by the stairs to the pilot house when the captain announced that a few people at a time could come up for a visit. So, Alex and I were the first ones inside! It was neat to have the captain explaining some of his instruments and just seeing the river from his point of view. Unfortunately, I didn't have my regular camera - just my "big" camera - so I could only get a photo of the captain's face.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin Patch & Corn Maze (Day 1 - Iowa)

While looking at the bridges in Madison County, Iowa, we came across this pumpkin patch. I have never seen pumpkins actually growing in a field! Around here, a pumpkin patch means a pile of pumpkins. :-) (I like seeing the green pumpkin in this photo)
Anyway, there were 2 guys - I think it might have been a dad and his son - and they were filling their trunk bed with pumpkins. We were parked on this country road taking photos and they stopped to chat. Then, he invited us to follow them to "his place" to see more pumpkins. We decided to follow, even though we thought he meant his house. I figured we could stay in the car and get some more photos. We were surprised that "his place" was actually a pumpkin farm/corn maze that was open to visitors!
On the weekends, they even take rides out into the pumpkin patch to "pick your own pumpkin." Unfortunately, it wasn't the weekend. We enjoyed walking around inside the barn where they had so many different kinds of pumpkins! I think he said there were over 70 varieties!!! We bought a dried gourd, but we ended up not being able to take it home - it just took up too much room.We also went through this corn maze. It was SO big! And, the corn was SO high. We walked and walked and finally decided to head back to the beginning. Thankfully, my sil has a much better sense of direction than I do. Otherwise, we might still be wandering around in the corn...

We saw quite a bit of evidence that the deer were enjoying the corn, too... including these hoof prints in the mud.
An ear of corn... the corn stood maybe 10 foot high. I knew there was no way I could see over it, but I thought if we let Alex stand on one of our shoulders, she might be able to see which way to go. But, thankfully, we didn't have to resort to that. :-)

Alex, me, my mil, and baby H in the corn maze. All week, we had to deal with winter-like temperatures. Here in Texas, we are still in the 80's and just getting into the 70's. In Iowa & Wisconsin, we dealing with temps mostly in the 40's (sometimes low 50's) and then in the 30's at night. Brr!

The Bridges of Madison County (Day 1)

As I mentioned on my last post, we returned today from a 10 day trip to Wisconsin. Alex and I actually flew to Kansas City, MO to hook up with my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and her 5 month old son, Baby H. From Kansas City, we started our drive north and passed some signs about the Bridges of Madison County and decided to take a detour and drive out to see these incredible bridges.

The drive was beautiful as many of the trees were showing their fall colors and we saw many corn fields. We also tried to take photos of a few hawks, but I never got a good shot. On our side trip, we made it to two of the bridges. My sil has an iPhone, so we decided to look up "why" these bridges were built and just how many bridges were built and how many still existed. (I LOVED having her iPhone and being able to look up things immediately!)

Here's what we found from this site: "Originally boasting 19 covered bridges, six remain today, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bridges were covered by order of the County Board of Supervisors to help preserve the large flooring timbers, which were more expensive to replace than the lumber used to cover the bridge sides and roof. Usually, the bridges were named for the resident who lived closest."

Of the 6 remaining bridges which were all built in the late 1800's, we visited 2 of them: the Hogback Bridge and the Cedar Bridge.

These are photos of the Hogback Bridge. I found this article saying from 2003 that said "(The Hogback) bridge, with a rare Burr arch roof, burned on the one-year anniversary of an arson fire at the famed Cedar Bridge in Madison County. The Cedar Bridge was destroyed on Sept. 3, 2002." Thankfully, some passers-by put out this fire quickly, and only a 1-foot square section was burned. This bridge is only opened to pedestrians, not vehicles.

At each end of the bridge were white painted areas and, sadly, they were covered with graffiti.

My sil had the great idea to shoot this photo. I love the way it turned out. It's my favorite photo of the bridge.

These last 2 photos are of the 2nd bridge we visited, Cedar Bridge. This bridge was destroyed by arson in 2002, but this replica was built from the original plans using authentic materials and methods.

It is the only one of the 6 "remaining" bridges that you can drive your vehicle across - which we did.

We're Home from Wisconsin

We just got home from a 10 day trip - most of it spent in Wisconsin. It was a beautiful, fall trip and I can't wait to go through all of my photos and start posting. We enjoyed and learned so much!

We have now been gone 73 days out of the past 7 months! Whew! And, yes, there's no place like home!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hugo Cabret

Alexandra is in a homeschool book club at our local library this year. They are reading the Texas Bluebonnet nominees for 2008/2009. Then, in January, every child in Texas who has read at least 5 of these books gets to vote on them.

The first book we started (and just finished) is a LARGE book called Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. This is a wonderful story and the book itself is different than I've ever read. The book is about 550 pages long! But, there are TONS of 2-page spread pictures. In fact, sometimes you go through about 40 pages of pictures in a row! And, I just love the illustrations. I copied a few in my own book (like the one above).

We have loved learning about automata - mechanial figures like the one in the video below. I can't believe how detailed these machines from 1800's were - and there aren't any computer chips in them!

Here are some great sites you might want to visit if you read this book:

This video is of the author, Brian Selznick, and the automata that he used as inspiration for this book.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mummies... They're Not Just From Egypt

We went to a neat museum class today. It was all about mummies... and not just those from Egypt! Did you know "mummy" came from the Latin word "mumia"? Mumia is borrowed from a Persian word, mumiyyah, which means bitumen. The skin of the Egyptian mummies was blackened, and it was once thought to have been blackened with bitumen. Thus, the word "mummy" because they thought mummies were blackened with bitumen.
Wikipedia says "A mummy is a corpse whose skin and flesh have been preserved by either intentional or incidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity, or lack of air when bodies are submerged in bogs. Mummies of humans and other animals have been found throughout the world, both as a result of natural preservation through unusual conditions, and as cultural artifacts to preserve the dead." Today in our class, we talked a lot about both intentional and accidental mummies.
  • Ramses the Great & other Egyptian mummies
  • The Ice Maiden of Peru - the Incas evidentally practiced mummification and, unfortunately, ritual sacrifices - this "ice maiden" also named Juanita, is the best preserved Incan mummy found to date
  • Famous people like Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Soviet Communist Party - his body must be maintained weekly. Also, Mao Tse Tong & Eva Peron have been mummified.


  • Otzi - the Ice Mummy (there's a children's book called Ice Mummy, but we haven't read it) - accidentally frozen
  • Tollund Man - one of many 'bog bodies' - corpses found in a peat bog which seals out oxygen and therefore mummifies

After discussing mummies, the kids got to make an Egyptian mummy. They were to treat their corpse respectfully as the washed it, put it in natron, removed the organs, etc.

I have missed going to these classes as we always learn so much. We are signed up for a coin class in November and one about the Underground Railroad in December.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Another Ike...

One of our last stops on our evacuation trip from Ike... was to visit the home of Ike. We visited Eisenhower's Museum & Presidential library. At this site are both Ike's house and his grave.

The special exhibit at the time was From George (Washington) to George (W. Bush). For each president, they had a small display and some of their "real" memorabilia. One of Alexandra's favorite parts of the museum was the dress display. I believe these were depicting the dresses the 1st ladies wore at their husband's inagurations. We went from display to display picking out our favorite dresses. Her least favorite part were the displays about war... we went through that area very quickly.

This was a large museum and I was really impressed. We will plan on coming back when Alexandra is older and we are studying this part of history.

The Oz Museum

I never finished blogging about our stops in Kansas while we were evacuated for Hurricane Ike. On the way home, we stopped at The Oz Museum in Wamego, KS. It was small, but fun! There are models of each of the characters from the movie. And LOTS of memorabilia.

Alexandra decided to pose with each figure... doing whatever the figure was doing. So, here are the photos! The light in the museum was horrible for photos, but Alexandra was really having fun posing. And, we even picked up another Oz book.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Albert Einstein Quotes

One of our museums just opened an exhibit about Albert Einstein. Now, I'm in the process of trying to find some books or some activities to do to learn about this amazing man. While searching, I ran across Why Homeschool's blog which had listed these quotes attributed to Einstein: (By the way, if you have any ideas... let me know, OK?)

"I am neither especially clever nor especially gifted. I am only very, very curious."

"Love is a better teacher than duty."

"Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school."

"Information is not knowledge."

"It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education."
 "Most people say that is it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character."

More from Kleb Woods

I forgot to add a few photos from our Nature Day! So, here they are...

I found this pair of tree frogs on the outside of the nature center. Aren't they cute? And, they were so small! The larger one might have been 2 inches long. I think it's another photo that is begging for a caption, but I don't think I'll run a contest. If you'd like to leave a caption, just leave a comment!

A milkweed bug... I was proud of Alexandra for finding this one (and then we found quite a few more) and identifying it for everyone!

And, a velvet ant. I've only seen a few of these in my LIFE! So, I was excited when the kids found this on the path. One of the moms told us how this is a wingless, female wasp. (The males of this species can fly!) They are known for their extremely painful sting and also go by the name "cow killer" - because the pain could "kill a cow."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Nature Day: Kleb Woods Nature Preserve

We had our first nature day of the year on Friday. We had planned a BIG trip to Galveston, complete with instruction from a sand castle builder! But, Hurricane Ike had other plans. So, we took our first trip to Kleb Woods Nature Preserve. It was a great day with great weather.... but also lots of mosquitos.

This was one of our neatest "finds" - a nest of wasps! When I got home, I saw the zoom on my camera (as usual) had captured more than I could see with my eye. First of all, I thought the coloring on these wasps was beautiful! Then, I started some research to find out what kind of wasps we'd found. These are paper wasps. And, a neat thing about them is they don't cover the cells until the last stage of their metamorphosis. So, in this photo you can see some eggs (I see a few in cells on the left) and some larvae and some capped cells and some that have already been "busted" open. Paper wasps usually won't attack unless their nest is disturbed.
An unknown type of wasp on some goldenrod.

A gall... I love galls!

Cypress knees in a duckweed covered swamp.
A pair of grasshoppers - the kids said this is a mommy carrying her baby. :-) We weren't sure what kind of nut they were sitting on, but after some investigation we found out it was a pecan.
Just a neat looking tree - a vine was growing around this tree and the tree had "covered" it with it's own bark. I know it must be bad for the tree, but I thought it looked neat.

This was the picture I didn't get... there were several hundred carpenter ants living in this split-open tree. It was an amazing amount of activity. But, I never got a great shot of the ants. If you enlarge this, you might see some slightly blurry ants.

This was my other favorite "find." I actually found this outside while everyone else was still in the nature center. I took some photos and looked it up when I got home.

It is called a cuckoo wasp. They are often metallic blue in color. They are a solitary wasp and the females lay their eggs in other wasp's nests. This cuckoo wasp was on the same porch as the paper wasps.

Anyway, we had fun and it was so nice to be back on a nature day! I love watching these amazing creatures, photographing them, and learning more about them.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Hippo Captions

I was in such a hurry to post the winner of my hippo caption contest, that I didn't post the captions! So, here is the hippo photo and the captions that were posted.

  • "Hippoflatamus" by Barb
  • "Just pooped" by Tiffany B.
  • "Not * one * more * step!" by Robin
  • "Momma Hippo collapses after a long day of homeschooling her little ones." by Shanna
  • "Yoga pose 17, the Wallowing Warrior" by Sebastian (drawing winner)
  • "Hippo-cratic Oath Syndrome!" by masterpiecemom
  • ""Dislocated Hipp" by Mommy
  • "No hipp-hipp-hurray here." by Holly
  • "I've fallen and I can't get up!" by Shannon
  • "When did they drain this pool? I hate belly flops." by Paula
  • "Fatty, the bored hippopatamus" by JoJo
  • "Meltdown" by Cindee

What a creative bunch! Again, thanks for playing along! I enjoyed it, and hope you did, too.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Hippo caption WINNER!!!

Sorry I didn't post the winner sooner, but my internet went down! I called today and (cheer!) I'm back online!!

I went ahead and held a random drawing and my winner is...

So, Sebastian, email me at schoolforus @ sbcglobal . net, and I'll get your prize to you!
Thanks to all who participated! I enjoyed it, and hope you did, too! :-)

Thursday, October 02, 2008


The things you do for your kids... :-)
actually, I think I would have done this anyway. Alexandra was disappointed that she wasn't quite tall enough to try this bicycle at a museum in Kansas City.
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