Thursday, July 30, 2015

Illinois State Museum - or what Illinois was doing right

  Bear with me on a little rant.  This past week we went to the best comprehensive state museum we've been to in the mid-West and it is slated to close its doors in August due to the funding or what will be the lack thereof by the state.
  The Illinois State Museum in Springfield, IL is an educator's dream.  The first level take you through the natural history of the state of Illinois starting with its paleontology and working its way forward through the modern environment.
taken by my co-photographer Mookie
  There are tons of hands-on items, excellent graphics and dioramas to draw in the student.  "Phone" stations where you can listen in to further details about parts of the exhibit and little cards you can swipe to light up more clues!
swiping a card
   My most favorite part?  How it draws it all together.  For instance, on the exhibit on bears, they had the diorama display, a tactile bear track, description of all those and the items in the diorama and then you can pull out a drawer beneath and see how bears were reflected in Native American culture!  Sheer awesomeness!
the bear exhibit
Not to mention how other scientific fields like geology, archaeology, biology and the like are covered in such an interesting way to appeal to even the most disinterested of passerby.
  The second level was partly dedicated to the Native population (with some life-sized figures that made my pre-teen blush I might add).
listening to the "phone"
They also had a section dedicated to art, but right now it is mostly empty space.  The other exhibit takes you on a historical tour through time from first settlement to modern day.
  Shorty's favorite part was the basement - the play area!  He got to load a jeep to take out on a specimen expedition, dig for fossils, use a microscope to look at bones up close, put together replicas of Native pottery and read in the nook!

local wildlife hide and seek

a quiet book nook

For those of you in NE Kansas, the layers of learning in this one museum was like me taking our group to 3 different ones in our area: the Kansas Historical Museum, Natural History museum at KU and the Children's Discovery Center.  All in one museum!  And not paying the $50+ for admissions and travel.  This museum was FREE!! All we had to pay was a couple bucks for parking.  I am certain (as I am for our home state) that this museum is NOT a major money vacuum and that cutting it from the budget will solve even part of the financial ills for the state.  I wonder if charging a fee (not prohibitive to regular attendance by locals like our own historical museum) was discussed.  Surely that would be a benefit.  We are planning to make a trip back to Springfield in the near future and the kids keep asking if we can go again.  All I can answer is, "I hope so, I hope so."

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Field Trip: Lincoln!

  Our next stop on our trip was Springfield, Illinois.  Our family loves the Junior Ranger program put on by the National Park Service so when Hubby had the day off we planned a trip so we could add the Abraham Lincoln home to our collection of badges without eating too much into daddy's free time too much. 
  The Lincoln home is not just the home itself.  The Park Service has bought up four blocks of period houses and restored them.  Some are used for offices, but three are open to the public with displays and there are interpretive spots all up and down the streets - including signage or call in stations.
in front of the Lincoln home
in the neighborhood

  When you go, you sign up for a specific tour time.  They said go early to make sure you are able to get a time - and they aren't kidding.  By the time we left, they were already issuing tickets (which are free) for tours two hours later.  We had an hour wait, which gave us plenty of time to complete the ranger challenges. 
  Our tour of the home came with strict instructions of not to touch the walls, door jams, stay on a certain carpet, etc... Definitely one of the more stringent tours we'd been on, although they won't harass you too much if you are caught leaning where you aren't supposed to.
one of the places you can lean...
  The thing that made the kids' eyes just light up the most was when our ranger guide told us that the place they could touch that was from Abe Lincoln's time was the stair rail.  They were utterly thrilled to do that (never you mind that the thing was urethaned to high heaven ;) ).
  After our tour we got the kiddos sworn in for their Junior Ranger badges.  I will tell you what, we have never met a park ranger we didn't like.  Most go out of their way for junior rangers.  I always ask permission if I snap their picture and this particular ranger made sure he put his hat on for our picture! 
  Our Lincoln trip wouldn't have been complete without a trip to the president's tomb which was not far away. 
  They were amazed by the sheer size of it.  The inside was quite grand and I was really glad someone in our group didn't attempt to use the circular nature of the layout for a racetrack...

Huck Finn Freedom Center: Jim's Journey

  Hubby is away so we're in high gear for some rather large field trips!  This series included a perfect fit into our schooling too!  We've been plugging along through Mark Twain's Huck Finn for longer than I care to mention.  It is a wonderful book but anything of length usually gets put to the back burner with everyday life ;) This trip took us through Samuel Clemmens' hometown of Hannibal, MO.  Our first stop was the Huck Finn Freedom Center: Jim's Journey.

   Jim's Journey focuses on the African American history of the area.  It features a display on Daniel Quarles (who was the inspiration for Mark Twain's character Jim in Huck Finn) but also continues up to the present age.
  It is just a little one room museum, but stuffed full of artifacts and memorabilia.  They won me over right away - our host had a scavenger hunt for the big kids. Then she further won the kids over by telling them they'd get to choose a prize for completing it!
   It took the kids about an hour to complete.  They gained a wealth of information!  The museum was wonderfully organized and was essentially like one big I Spy book :)
  After a long drive and no nap, Shorty was not so interested so he watched the fountain nearby...
  He really, really, really wanted to go in, but we managed to convince him otherwise. Our host gave him his "prize" (a bottle of bubbles) early and then he sat on the front stoop blowing bubbles for a while and explored some of the artifacts outside.
   The museum was free, but they would gladly accept donations.  This was the best display of African American history and memorabilia I have seen so far in our travels.  I would venture to say that they could at least double their space without any problem with all the artifacts and stories there are to tell! 
  We didn't explore the town too much more beyond a couple of photo ops, but odds are we are going to end up there again soon. The kids enjoyed Jim's Journey so much that they asked about a return trip :)
a bit of good timing thanks to Mookie
the Hannibal light house


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Field Trip: Waukarusa Valley Heritage Musem

  Well, the original plan was to go to Kansas City on Friday with Hubby and then field trip along the way, but then life happened.  So today we hit a local stop that is only opened on the weekends.  I've been wanting to go to the Waukarusa Valley Heritage Museum for a while.  The focus of their exhibits is Underground Railroad and Civil War and I was excited to learn more about the UGRR in our area!  The site is on the farm of Col. J. C. Steele who was involved with the Underground Railroad. The original house has been demolished, but the window frames were saved and are on display outside the new museum building.
The museum itself is quite small.  The displays however, do an excellent job of telling the story of the area from Bleeding Kansas past the Civil War. 
I was truly thrilled with the depth that the displays went into with the African Americans during this time period. The best job on this particular subject I have seen so far :)

I was a little worried about Shorty when we were there.  The kiddo had gone to sleep really late last night and no nap today - a recipe for a wild kid!  However, there were enough things to keep him busy like the binoculars by the big window with the excellent view of Clinton Lake...
And the chance to make your own quilt block that he did really well!
Now, his quilt block turned out to be just that one square, but he was thrilled, so I was thrilled :)

Outside they have these big rings that symbolize the different communities in this particular area of Douglas County.  The kids loved exploring around them and looking for the old building foundations still on the property.
We probably could have spent longer there, but I wasn't pushing my luck.  It was a free stop (although donations are welcomed).  It was a great way to get a little fun in without going too far or spending a lot!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Going Granola

 I’m becoming “granola” (aka all natural foods, medicines, etc…), as Hubby jokingly refers to me.  I never would have thought that I would, or even to the extent that I am, but that’s where life is leading us.  It all started when Mookie started having her problems .  Because of her allergic reactions that seemed to be food related we started eating more from scratch to help stem some of the reactions - which did help to a degree.  After my previous post on her situation, we did end up doing an intestinal scope which came up with a small amount of bacteria that she got treated for - but then her symptoms returned.  Weird rashes, headaches, stomach aches, no focus, irritability, fatigue.  A few weeks ago it was in full force.  Something had to give. The allergist was out of ideas and so were our doctors.  The last specialist we saw was just going to put her on biofeedback for the pain - um, wrong!  So, instead of heading back to mainstream medicine we took the advice of some family and friends and went to a chiropractor that treats holistically.  Ok, so I have/had my doubts about this kind of stuff and have avoided even thinking about it on numerous occasions, but we’d exhausted all of our other outlets and we needed answers!
  When we arrived for our appointment, he poked and prodded, asked questions, and a few other things.  Then he turned and looked at me and said “she has a candida yeast overgrowth”.  Now, I’d wondered about this for her in fact, I’d wondered about this for me but with all the tests the poor kid has undergone I was sure that they would have found something like that.  Nope.  Doc said that they just don’t test for those things.  Then he said, “let’s have a look at Mom”, and sure enough me too.  
  I know I’ve dealt with mine for a while.  It has at least been with me since after Mookie was born (pregnancy can be a cause of the good yeast to go nuts and overgrow.  Strong antibiotics can do it too).  My symptoms ran the gamut of mood swings, sleeplessness, forgetfulness, fatigue, stomach and intestinal problems, blood sugar spikes and drops and most notably chest pain and racing pulse.  The chest pain got me tested for every single heart problem they could think of for a person of my age which of course came up negative. My doctor at the time looked at me and said “it’s not your heart” and I told him “I don’t care if it is my heart or not, I just want to know what it is!”, and then he prescribed me some nice anti-depressants (ha! - those didn’t work, in fact they made things worse).
  So Doc put us on a variety of herbal meds and a strict veggies and meat only diet.  He sent us on our way with a warning that the first few days would be the worst.  We found that out on day 2.  Did you know that if you kill yeast off in great amounts it off-gases some nasty toxins (ethanol and acetaldehyde amongst them)?  Yep, so all the symptoms Mookie had been facing in the previous couple of weeks paled in what she was facing during the die off - headache, double ear ache, eyes watering - yuck!  Mine was in the form of headaches and severe fatigue.  But you know what?  We got past that couple of days and we felt better!  Way better!  It has been three weeks and Mookie has not even had a hint of a symptom.  I can definitely tell the difference in my body too.  My blood sugar has not dropped since we’ve started down this path - yay!  
  While I still am not quite breathing a total sigh of relief, this is the closest we’ve come to feeling like we’ve got this one figured out - and it feels so good!  If this is the real deal, unless we have to be treated with strong antibiotics we don’t have to worry about it raising its ugly head again! Hooray!
  Thank you to all of our buddies who prayed for us, encouraged us, and just showed us love over the past few years.  You are so precious to us!

Marie Durand: A book review

from Christian Biographies for Young Readers
   I was excited to try the newest Christian Biography for Young Readers on Marie Durand by Simonetta Carr.  I'd previously reviewed the biography on Jonathan Edwards in the same series and fell in love with the style and detail.
   My book arrived in the mail and I set it aside until evening when it would have more of my attention.  That plan got derailed when when my daughter Mookie (age 10) couldn't sleep.  I gave it to her joking that either it would be so boring it would put her to sleep or it would help keep her up ;) The next morning I checked in and she had read the whole thing!  This is the kid who doesn't really like non-fiction.  If it is about a strong girl figure she'll give it a chance, but it needs to be really striking to get her attention. 
  Anxious to see who this Marie Durand was I delved in.  Marie was jailed for her Protestant faith in a time where the rule of the land was to be Roman Catholic or you were an enemy of the state.  The subject is timely since we are seeing an increase in persecution of the Christian faith throughout the world. I could personally identify with Marie because my grandfather's ancestors were French Huguenots who fled France prior to Marie's time and finally took sanctuary in the United States. 
translated "to resist" scrawled in the jail where Marie was held
    Marie remained in prison 38 years. Thirty-eight years where she ministered to those she was imprisoned with.  Thirty-eight years where she encouraged by correspondence those who were persecuted as she.  Thirty-eight years where she inspired those that visited her prison and wished to help her and her fellow prisoners in their plight.  What a woman!  Marie epitomizes all the strong characteristics that would appeal to my Mookie, a deep love of God, a love of writing, and a love of family - no wonder she couldn't put the book down. 
    These books are just fantastically set up: an intro to the subject matter, a body that is written like a story but just chalked full of excellent facts, pictures of the actual places and things that the main character was at or used.  The end of Marie's book contained a timeline, pronunciation key (for those tricky French words), a "did you know?" section, and a translated letter from Marie to her beloved niece Anne. 
    As a historian, I love these books for how they draw young people in to history and make it come alive!  As a homeschooling mom, I love using these because they point out the sources they come from and encourage the kids that are reading them to delve in more to the time by giving them a brief bit of information on either side of the time they feature.  As a reader myself, I enjoy being able to sit down for an hour or less and dig in myself and learn something new!
    I received this book free from the publisher and the thoughts and comments are my own and was not required to write a positive review. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Field Trip: Sternberg

  With all the busy-ness of summer upon us I almost forgot to post about one of adventures in Hays!  So, about a month later.... let me tell you about the the other Hays adventures we had :)  We started off the day at Frontier Park which is on the south side of town.  It had a great little playground, a nice waterfall area
and of course was close to a train track!  Shorty was thrilled!
  This park is right close to Fort Hays, which had visited when the bigger kids were young, but it hit the cutting block this time. 
  Next stop, the Sternberg.  When Hubby was working in this part of the world several years ago we went several times. The older kids were prepping Shorty on seeing the big dino that roars (more on that later) so much so that I finally had to tell them to stop!
  The museum had changed things up a bit since we'd been there last, and it was even better!  They had incorporated more live animals into the displays.  The kids loved the funny little mudskippers.

One of the biggies is of course the fish within a fish
And they were thrilled with Titanoboa - ewww!

The big T-Rex did not roar this time at us, which is just as well Shorty was shaking like a leaf when I carried him past.
The dig pit was there previously, but in a different area.  Where it is now is a great usage of what had been dead space!
A great place for the kids is the kids' discovery center.  They have tons of hands on scientific activities ranging from critters, puppets, microscopes and even down to a collection of poop ;)

One thing I need to mention is that if you are ever in Hays, you have got to try Al's Chickenette.  Cute little diner with excellent food and service! 
All this reminiscing about adventures makes me ready for another!  So far it's just been swimming since then.  Well, tomorrow is Friday.  We'll see where the road takes us!