Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's Twins!

About a month ago, we realized a mockingbird had a nest in the crepe myrtle by our back door.  Whenever we stepped out of the house, she'd fly from her nest to the nearby fence.  We had to wonder if she knew that it was a little late in the year to be nest sitting.  Well, we figured she knew better than us.  So we kept an eye on her with delight.  She seemed like a friendly bird.  She had great trust in us.  She'd allow me to get the big clippers to reach up high to snip off old seed pods to make way for new blooms.  Amazingly, she never dive bombed me like many a blue jay has done. 

Imagine our surprise when the children realized the babies had hatched!  We discovered this last week.  The nest is up a bit over our heads, but when she'd return to the nest, we'd see their little heads bob up with their beaks pointing to the sky, their mouths wide open, waiting for dinner!  We'd be all atingle with excitement!  The best part of each day was watching this.  Eventually we figured out that there was a daddy bird helping too.  

As  a result of all this, I pulled out a huge book I had purchased in preparation to join The Outdoor Hour Challenges.  The Handbook of Nature Study  is huge.  We learned that they hatch 3 broods a season.  Ohhhhhh!  They do like to build their nests near humans.  They especially like gardens! =)  Mockingbirds are a lot of fun.  They get their name because they can imitate other birds.  We also know from first hand experience that they can imitate any sound they hear, such as house alarms and car alarms.  A few years ago we had a mockingbird in the neighborhood who imitated alarms all the time!  Well, this is a variation of the first Outdoor Hour Challenge. 

Then last week Hurricane Dolly blew in to South Texas.  The next day, after she became a tropical storm, we got a heavy downpour, over 3" of badly needed rain.  The winds ferociously picked up, blowing the rain sideways.  Oh how I wanted to get that nest and bring the mockingbird family safely inside. Mamma bird sat on top of those birds in that nest, bracing herself while the winds furiously blew and the rain poured down.  It was amazing how tenacious she was at protecting her young ones.  Later we found out there was a tornado warning during this time.  Thankfully there was no damage.  The temperatures dropped 20 degrees and Mamma bird stayed with her babies through most of the afternoon before she started getting more food for them. They must have been starving!  

That evening, ds decided to video tape them with his camera.  Unbeknownst to me, dh told him to use the tripod to reach the camera high above the nest.  After successfully getting a video, ds delightfully showed me the tape.  I couldn't believe he did that.  As charming as the birds were, I told him never to do that again.  He could have lost control of the tripod and knocked the babies out of their nest.  Oh. He was sad. He had never thought about that. In addition, that was teasing to put the camera up there and make them think Mamma had come with food.  Oh.  He didn't think about that. Also, messing with wild babies like that can cause a mother to turn away and leave her brood for good.  Oh.  He had no idea. He was really sad. We went down stairs to check on the nest through the window.  Thankfully, there was Mamma bird, sitting on top of her babies again, this time looking around in full alert.     I told him that Mamma bird must be keeping an eye out for that little boy.  I warned him she might punish him like a blue jay does and start dive bombing him.   But she never did!  What a trustworthy and forgiving bird.  

The next day, we started hearing the babies chirping.  Every time Mamma bird came back with the food, we could hear their high pitched voices...."me, me, me, me, me!"  It was so sweet.  Every time we'd hear them we'd get a big smile on our faces.   

With vacation to Colonial Williamsburg coming soon, we began to fear they'd leave the nest while we were gone.  Then on Sunday afternoon, I realized I hadn't heard a single peep.  hmmmmmm  I looked out of the back door and lingered there a while...waiting...watching.  Nothing.  hmmmmmm  Later ds went outback and came running in all upset.  One of the babies was in the middle of the back yard, dead.  DD ran out back with ds and I.  Oh how sad we were.  It was heartbreaking.  How fragile life is.  I told dh about it later and he said he saw Mamma bird carry the baby out of the nest and it looked like it fell.  That was earlier in the morning when we were getting ready for church.  We haven't seen the others at all.  We hope they are all safe and sound.  

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Visiting Mummies and Tumbling Pyramids

On one of our summer trips to the Witte Museum, we focused on Ancient Egypt. We had studied Ancient Egypt for 3 weeks in the autumn of 2006 and now we could finally see some of the things we had studied.
Before the practice of formal mummification as we know it, people were buried curled up in the ground. Because of the hot dry conditions of Egypt, the bodies were rather well preserved...

That led to the process of mummification, which refined the art. Mummification cannot be called a true science, because they did not know WHY it worked. They did not apply the scientific process. However they did know WHAT worked. This is the mummy of a lady. Nearby are computers which detail today's scientific process that explains WHY this works and HOW modern investigations are done to determine WHO that mummy is. Did you know that the book of Genesis in the Bible records that Joseph and his father, Jacob, were mummified? After Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, he was taken into Egypt where he was falsely accused of a crime, but later freed and became pharoah's right hand man, or vizier. Joseph saved Egypt from the devastating 7 year famine. Unwrapping the Pharoahs, written by a Christian archaeologist, showed lovely pictures of some places today that seem to be named after Joseph. We used this book as our key Egyptian resource in our rhetoric studies. It's about lining up the old timeline to one that matches with a Creationist viewpoint. It's still theory but is much more logical than other recommended sources.


Nearby is a fun activity. In our history and fine arts books we kept seeing this picture. As I recall it is from the walls of a pyramid. The key to unlocking the doors of history is understanding worldview. Beautiful works of art were mostly displayed in the pyramids with the dead, to aid in the afterlife. That's why a wealth of treasures would be discovered in pyramids, because they were essential to their viewpoint of the afterlife. That is also why so many pyramids were destroyed, due to grave robbers who knew they could put that wealth to their current dishonest advantage. That is why the discovery of King Tut was huge. Although he wasn't one of the most significant pharoahs but that his tomb was found intact with great wealth. You know we keep missing that exhibit as it has toured the world.

Imagine you are in the depths of one of those dark mysterious pyramids...think Indiana Jones. Oh no! The wall has tumbled down? Can you put it back together?

Hurry! Before anger strikes!

There is a button that you push after the wall is completed, that has inner groanings and roarings, like in the Indiana Jones movies....

The wall shakes and rumbles...

Every visit we made to the museum, the kids wanted to go build the wall of impending doom.

Becoming Scientists: Weathergirl and Bicycle Guys

We finally got my husband to go to the Witte Museum with us.  Along with their traveling exhibits, there are many permament exhibits which we focused on this trip!
They could ride a bike on a "tightrope" because there was a counterweight preventing the bike from falling over. There was a weight limit to the bike. (We didn't think this would be a good idea for me to do, since I only have one balance nerve.)



My favorite room was upstairs in the tree house which had a weather station. There was even a special room where we learned how weather forecasts were made. This was sponsored by KENS5, the news station I had watched daily since I was a little girl, so I grew up knowing all the weathermen and they were huge favorites of ours. There were videos with these weathermen explaining aspects of weather. We even got to be a weatherman/girl! There was a huge screen just like the one used at the KENS studios as well as a movie camera in position to tape our weather report. At our fingertips we could choose our weather media and forecast for the camera. There were even special jackets to wear to simulate what happens when different colors are worn against this giant screen. Some colors would make us invisible! Then there was a television screen for everyone to see your performance. My son took a turn...then my daughter...and my husband. Then they insisted that I do it. Oh dear. I was afraid of bombing in front of everyone but surprisingly they really liked my weather report and they very kindly said I did the best. They kept asking, "How did you know what to say?" Well I was always glued to the tv for the weather reports all my life, I've lived most of my life in San Antonio so I could just about explain any weather pattern...although today I am still trying to figure out Virgnia! Both Texas and Virginia have similar weather characteristics. Both have weather that changes in an instance. But the origins of the weather patterns are different which still confuses me. I haven't found any weather forecasters up here yet that are as informative as the ones in San Antonio at KENS.

Anyway, when we left, the kids discovered the big screen plasma tv in the lobby of the tree house that allowed EVERYONE to see whoever was giving the weather report! (gasp!) If I knew that I might not have ever done it! Nevertheless we each survived giving a live broadcast of south central Texas weather! I wish we had gotten pictures. The weather room was probably my favorite of the whole museum.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Invitation Example for a "Becoming History" Presentation

For our first history presentation  I invited my parents and brother and his family, who live nearby, to come and see what the children had been learning.  Following is the invitation I sent to them:

Everyone is invited to our musuem showcasing Ancient Egypt on Sunday, October 22, anytime after noon.  Come and go as you like. We have learned a lot of exciting things about Ancient Egypt, the Creation, the Great Flood, the Patriarchs, and the first 5 books of the Bible.  The children would like to share their art projects and more.  B and C have each chosen one of the papers that they have written to present as a speech.  (We will not force that presentation on anyone. However, if interested, ask and they will make their presentations.)  We will have foods available that are representative of these ancient cultures.  B and C would love to share all that they've learned.  Ask as many questions as you want. (Although they have learned a lot, they haven't learned everything!  We had to save something for the high school years!)   Please let us know if you are coming and the general time frame of your arrival.  Thanks!



Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Interacting with Leonardo da Vinci's Machines at the Museum!

After lunch, we went to the museum located at the edge of the park.  I was especially interested to take the dc to the Leonardo da Vinci display which had just opened a few weeks earlier and would only be available for a few months. 

We entered the Leonardo da Vinci room and the first thing to read about was his life.  My dc said, "Oh, we already read about all that last winter."  YES!  We checked out all the machines.  Recreated, before our eyes, were the very machines he imagined and sketched on paper, most of which were never actually made until decades, even centuries later.  Some we could only look at and wait for an "apprentice" or museum helper to demonstrate.  Most, however, we were able to work ourselves.  The dc kept saying in awe, over and over, "We read about these last winter!" Since da Vinci was the quintessential Renaissance man, I had the dc wrote research papers about him.  We also used an excellent book to learn about his life and work, Leonardo da Vinci for Kids: His Life and Ideas.

Here's his war machine.  Army tanks today are constructed very much like this one.

DS climbing to the top from within...

Here's a type of cannon...

Cranking up the flywheel. 

Hmmmm, what's this? DS does remember that this has been adapted for today's army tanks, having control of the direction of fire...

DS is turning a crank to lift the column, just like in da Vinci's day...

Going up...

Ball bearings...we saw a lot of devices using these.  When we got home ds went straight to the geomag he had left on the table and said, "Hey, this uses ball bearings!"  YES!

Hmmmm, cranking up something.  I forget.  But ds remembers that today we use this type of thing to roll out sheets of metal.  Actually it reminds me of pizza dough machines and pasta dough rollers. Oh, and ds is now thinking of the old fashioned washing machines.  I remember helping my grandma use that machine.  I used to think wash day with her was sooooo much fun!

DS tells me that this is a pedometer...

This is how the printing press works...

Bet you can guess this one!

Then we went into the workshop. DS is analyzing flight with different sets of paper wings.

These men were intent on making these sticks become...

...this bridge that could be built with only sticks and no nails.

They suceeded! It's not as easy as it looks.   

DS decided to try it...

Grandma and dd had a race to get their submarine to the top first...

How is ds doing?

Ta da!  Oops! It fell apart quickly.  It wasn't quite stable enough.  You tweak one little area and it falls apart.  DS wanted to keep working but there had been a few men watching...and waiting...ever so patiently.  You could tell they could hardly stand it, not interrupting him.  I told ds to take turns and let the men try.  I really had a great time watching all the men act like kids in this place!  =)

We built an arch.  I had a blast doing that!  We studied these in in our Ancient Rome unit.  The Etruscans invented this extremely important and sturdy design centuries before da Vinci was born.  Completing it proves how wobbly it is in construction, yet how sturdy it is in the end.  I wonder what da Vinci had to do with it?  Better hit the books!

Looking at DD skectch a picture of me with a special gadget...

Here is Grandma sketching a picture of dd.

We all aimed the catapult at the castle...

DS tried to find another opportunity to build the bridge again.  But the man who built the bridge right before ds was back with his kids (teens/college age) and they tried it.  We watched, trying to get tips.  Just when it looked like they had it...oops!   It fell apart.  We finally had to go. This was my absolutely favorite museum visit ever!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brackenridge Park in San Antonio

After the zoo, MIL and the dc and I went to Brackenridge Park for lunch.  The Japanese Tea Gardens, zoo, and the Witte Museum all border this lovely park.  The headwaters to the San Antonio River begin nearby and meanders through the park.  I took the dc back here last Fri and we had lunch on the island, fed the ducks and rode the train on the tracks that date back to 1956. The train meanders around and through the park, over the San Antonio River, through the tunnel, with various drop offs/pick ups such as the one at the Witte Museum. I have a host of childhood memories at this park. Enjoy!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Visiting the San Antonio Zoo

The Japanese Tea Garden is next door to the zoo.  MIL loves zoos!  Even though we had planned to do lunch in Brackenridge Park and then do the museum, she suggested we sqeeze in the zoo too!  At the gate MIL was so sweet that she paid.  When asked if she had a military id for a discount, I dug mine out.  An elderly gentleman behind us was so sweet...he said that being military, we should get in free.  He saw me later in front of the bears and asked me which branch my dh was in.  He told me that he served in the Navy many years ago, for about 4 years. As he thanked me I was thanking him! He was a great encouragement to me!
The San Antonio Zoo was built in an old rock quarry, which provides a charming rustic setting near the San Antonio River. The zoo began in the 19th century and by 1929 it was known for it's cageless setting, one of my favorite aspects of the zoo! 

Well, we never got to see everything.  My son spent a lot of time getting the perfect the reptile house even!  MIL really wanted to go to the Witte museum too, so I told her to lead us to her favorite animals.  Because she adores kitties so much, she really wanted to see the lions.  Well, in years past I could have taken her right to them.  But the zoo has changed so much and the Africa area is going through more renovation phases, I'm not sure where they were hiding!  In all I think we saw 1/3 of the zoo.  Enjoy!