Thursday, May 26, 2016

Field Trip: Butler County Historical Society

Hubby was working down near El Dorado last week - Field Trip! El Dorado is one of those places that I always exit the Kansas turnpike on, but never really visit - that changed! THE place in El Dorado for museums is the Butler County Historical Society.  El Dorado and Butler County are known for their oil wells so the exhibits were fairly heavily slanted that way.  Which really was great, because my family's land that has the gravel bar attached to it has oil wells.  Now the kiddos have a new understanding of what's going on there!
  Now, this place made a really good first impression because the staff member who got us all checked in ($8 for all of us!) was homeschooled herself - bonus! She handed us some scavenger hunt sheets for the kids. Any place that has this kind of interaction gets extra points too!  They had booklets for the older kids and for Shorty, a laminated sheet with pictures he could mark off with a dry erase marker.
Bubby with his book
Shorty and his Scavenger Hunt
There were lots of hands on activities, the energy chutes were a favorite...
There was a kids area about halfway through for the littlest of our group.  Which was much appreciated.  It kept him busy while the big kiddos searched for the answers to their scavenger hunt questions.  But inside was not the end!  There were buildings and implements outside too!  We had to dodge some rain drops and take refuge in an oil derrick once but it was well worth it!
waiting out the rain in an oil derrick
When we finished, we drove around town for a bit. This will definitely be more than an exit on the turnpike next time for us.  Another great benefit of homeschooling - getting out of your ruts and seeking new paths :)
  We stayed overnight and the next day I was a party pooper mom.  I had kiddos who wanted to just swim and I didn't want to deal with wet kids and then jumping in the car for the drive home.  I was tired and a bummer.  I had one kid especially who let me know their disappointment.  So I compromised with a trip to the little playground next to the museum we had been at the day before (it has a lake and geese/ducks too!).  One small problem -it was cold and rainy! I had to find a quick fix.  So I drove down the road toward home and hatched a plan - the Emporia Zoo! Another exit for us on the turnpike, free and with a playground of its own.  Score!  We had been last year, but it had brought vows of revisiting so I knew it would be a hit. 
  It's a pretty basic little zoo, with a bunch of either rescue or aging animals but the landscaping is amazing and well, its a zoo :)
Bubby talking to the animals ;)
The kids were pretty thrilled because in the last area they saw the big animals (bison, longhorn and deer)  that can be found in our beloved Wichita Mountains . We'll hopefully be able to go and see the ones with freedom later this year.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The big 4-0

  So, I could pretend that this is going to be just another birthday.  When I turned 30 I tried decreasing my years, but Hubby just started adding more on when I tried to do that, so I'm sticking to my age.  Um, well, if I remember that is.  A while back I was looking at Facebook and one of my classmates was celebrating their 40th and I thought, "man, I didn't know they'd been held back a grade" - can you say denial?  Yes, that apparently was the word of the day that day ;) So, the big 4-0 this year it is. And really, we've been so busy as of late that I nearly forgot that my birthday was coming up until Hubby asked me what I wanted to do for the big day. He won't let me forget this one.  I think he may be relishing it a bit as he's a little older.
  I've never been too skiddish about aging.  I always said that I was going to be au natural, no dyes or additives, just me.  God made me who I am when I am. Now this may be that I had a grandma that had beautiful silver hair that fit her perfectly, or it could be that the other grandma had her red hair that didn't start graying until she was in her 60s, but I was contented. I even decided I wanted a gray streak like Bonnie Raitt.  That was until I started getting one, now I feel conflicted.  Yep, a streak down one side of my head, which is kind of cool because I can flip my hair over to the other side and you'd never know... ;)   The gray is kind of pretty when the light hits it, but curly - what in the world?  I guess I always wanted curly hair like my cousin, maybe I'll get it?
  I'll tell you one thing, if you wait for 6 years like we did, you automatically get put into a younger age bracket in people's minds.  Which is kind of fun.  I remember it happening to my folks when I was a kid.  They also waited for 6 years before I was born. I can secretly smile when people say how young we are, but that doesn't change where I am.
  And truly I would not want to go back.  I wish I had the energy I did when I was in my 20s. I wish could have a re-do on some not so great moments, but they've made me who I am. While I'm still a work in progress God used everything and every year to take me where He wanted me, so I am ... contented. 
  Now I may not readily admit my age, especially if it is mistaken for younger.  Or I may even adjust how I say things: like a few years ago when one of my college-aged buddies was asking me how long I'd been doing archaeology - I almost told her 20+ years (which was about how old she was) but told her since I was 12 instead (ha!).  But I'll admit it.  It won't scare me much.  Well, not much... ;)

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Field Trip: A Visit with George

  A family trip took us to the Ozarks of Missouri.  We had a little time on the way home and made a side trip to take in a field trip destination: The George Washington Carver National Monument just outside of Diamond, Missouri.  I had always thought that GWC was a pretty neat guy, but I came away from this museum thinking he was pretty fantastic!
  The National Monument is a Junior Ranger site so the kids were really excited.  While we were there we picked up booklets for the Historic Preservation badge and the Bicentennial badge.  Those we can turn in at a local NPS site later.
  The site is a no cost site, which is always nice.  The galleries were very well done.  The kids loved learning more about George.  Mom had made them read a couple of books on him before this trip and so they were filling us in on some back story along the way.
The lab area was a neat place for on-site demonstrations.  We missed one just by a couple of hours - darn! No worries though, we were totally content to wander on our own.
   For this Junior Ranger badge, you needed to do a total of 6 activities.  We had completed all of them, but couldn't pass up the chance to walk the trail too! So off we went.  It's 3/4 mile for the main part with about an extra 1/4 mile if you walk around the pond as well.
When we visited the statue of George as a child, the kids spotted a little orange lizard which thrilled them to no end.  The little guy was a bit shy and refused to make an encore appearance ;) The walk was totally lovely: a beautiful spring, bridges, the Moses Carver house tucked into the woods...  Hubby had a great time playing "what tree is this?" with Bubby (who actually didn't do too bad).
And we kept Shorty busy on the trail with a game of Red Light, Green Light.  That idea will be kept for future reference for sure! 
The cemetery of the Carver family was a peaceful addition to the walk...
The last stop on the walk was a bust of George where he would "tell" you (via recording) his favorite poem "Equipment" by Edgar Guest.  I loved it! This is only a part...
"You are the handicap you must face,
You are the one who must choose your place,
You must say where you want to go,
How much you will study the truth to know.
God has equipped you for life, but He
Lets you decide what you want to be."
 And then the swearing in.  This part never gets old.  It brings a thrill each time to all of us.  Mookie dubbed this park her new favorite (as has been each successive one ;) ).  Over all, this was an excellent site.  Hands on, colorful and intriguing displays, a walking trail - this site ranks among the best we've been to.  We have our sights set on learning more about this fascinating man and are eyeing up new possibilities for Ranger badges in the upcoming year.  Oh boy!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A Week Without Kids

  This has not happened in forever, but last week I went without seeing my kids all. week.  All week! I left them in capable hands (Ducky and Grandma).  Hubby and I were off to work on a site in NW Missouri.  It was a fascinating Antebellum homestead site and I hadn't been on a dig since before the kids were born. I'd been studying the time period and was anxious to get my hands dirty uncovering artifacts from it!
  We've been on a a high activity swing here.  The last month and a half has been run, run, run and when we do that I tend to be a little looser with the technology limitations we like to keep on ourselves.  So, when I dropped the kiddos off with Ducky and Grandma while I didn't expect them to do school I gave the kiddos a helpful list of things they could do to not be attached to a computer or tv.  Most of the things were off of Bubby's Boy Scout requirement list that really would double for schoolishness ;) I didn't have to worry though, I think that if homeschooling had been more accepted when I was young, my folks would have excelled at it because they are always coming up with interesting pursuits for the kids.
  They built contraptions out of gummy bears...
which also included color sorting and counting for Shorty.
  Hunted morel mushrooms...
they had started out hunting frogs for a Scout merit badge but got a little sidetracked ;)
  Created interesting things.  And also helped Grandma try out concoctions for vacation Bible school snacks.
They even did some technical school things like journaling and Life of Fred.

We are just trying out Life of Fred.  Bubby loves it, Mookie not so much.  But she is enjoying her Kahn Academy.
  After a long week we were all a little sad and Ducky and Grandma brought everyone out a little early for a trip to the site and then the kiddos stayed and helped - well, Bubby did and the other two played.
And we just soaked up time out in the wilds of NW Missouri together.
stomp rockets!

Friday, April 29, 2016

What an Archaeologist Does...

  Hubby is an archaeologist.  Generally those that have archaeology for a profession love it as a hobby as well (as do us historians/genealogists!) so our home is filled with rocks and books ;) One question we always get is what does an archaeologist do?  Well, since I was given the rare opportunity to actually get out into the field with hubby this last week, I'll give you a tour :)
  Archaeologists deal with past people.  Hubby went to school for an undergraduate degree in Anthropology and then a Master's degree in Archaeology.  We often get the question about if we've found any dinosaur bones - nope!  As much as we love our fossils, paleontologists deal with dinos - us, just essentially people's discarded things which become artifacts and clues to how people lived.
Some copper artifacts
Archaeology is separated into 1)locations and 2) time periods.  For instance, Hubby is a Plains archaeologist - he deals with the ancient Native American tribes of the Great Plains.  You can get some similarities with how the ancients did things all over, but archaeologists generally tend to stick to one geographic area.  There is also historic vs. prehistoric archaeology.  Historic in the New World is pretty much anything after European contact and Prehistoric anything before that.  Many archaeologists have field experience in both prehistoric and historic digs, but specialize in one or the other.
  So you ask, how do we know where to dig?  Well, all archaeologists are born with a certain sense of where to find these things... Not buying that?  Lol, well, they do it one of two ways... They know from reading historic documents or via oral tradition where a site was located (which is how we knew where the site was that we just finished up on).  For the prehistoric digs, Native Americans chose places with surroundings that provided shelter/protection and water and so if you know what to look for you can give a good educated guess on where to start looking and if you find some surface artifacts, you've found a site. Now don't just go digging up places.  Archaeology is a science that essentially destroys the site when it is uncovering it, so there are certain things that the professionals do to ensure that all the information that can be gained is recorded fully.

  If there is a site, it needs to be recorded with the state.  That way the state knows what historic resources are out there and where they are located.  Then when the archaeologist has done his/her research and has a plan the dig can begin!  But we don't just take a shovel and start digging, this is not Indiana Jones (in fact, he's a bad example - do not be Indiana Jones!). 
Our site that we worked on had each of us professionals digging in 1x1 meter square units that we gridded out ahead of time.  We chose some areas that looked promising for giving us some insight into what was going on underground and after we took the sod off we dug with trowels (Shorty wanted to try his hand, so I let him take a turn at my trowel).  The units are dug in levels (usually 10 centimeters at a time) so you can keep track of what you are finding and where.  At the end of a level then you get to draw a map of what the bottom of your level looks like.

But, you might miss something when you're digging.  Even though you're cutting through that dirt with a little trowel.  So, most often you screen all the dirt you take out of it too!  And because every artifact can hold a clue, you want to grab those too.  Can you see what I missed in my dirt?  As an archaeologist, you need good eyes - I missed 2 nails and a piece of window glass :)

  Then when you are done with your level, have all your artifacts you pack them away in a bag labeled with where you found them and how deep.  Then if your dirt is giving you clues that tell you there's more to be discovered in your unit, you go down another level!  When your time is done you map the entire site with what has been uncovered so that the head archaeologist can go back and analyze the findings. Then you carefully cover it back up so that if someone needs to come back and investigate more they can.

  Have someone in your family that is interested in archaeology?  Many states have amateur programs that offer an opportunity for a volunteer dig every year.  Hubby and I got our start with the one here in Kansas.  We have also been a part of the one in Texas (which had a great educational program aimed at kids!).  Project Archaeology is also a great resource for teaching. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

Field Trip: George & Grandpa Elmer

  We weren't necessarily going anywhere today.  A crammed schedule ahead of us was looming and I was happy to stay put.  Then you throw in something we needed to get to Ducky and the opportunity for a free showing of George Washington's inaugural Bible and we were off!
  Thursday I was checking my Facebook newsfeed and found this on one of the local history groups I belong to via the Kansas Grand Lodge:
How often is that going to happen 1/2 hr. from where you live?  Even if we didn't need to get something to Ducky, we just might have made the trip anyway ;)
  We met Ducky at the hotel hosting the event.  When we walked in we saw a room with a sign saying something about Masonic historical items.  We saw Bibles and assumed we were in the right place.  Wrong place, but we took a look around anyway.  We found some wonderful old Bibles, including a Martin Luther Bible from the 1680s.
Reminded me of our trip to see the Passages exhibit in Springfield.  While Ducky ran around with Shorty and Mookie and Bubby explored one way I rotated the other and found this:
A bunch of old Masons on the steps of the Kansas capitol from 1914. Cool pic and wouldn't mean anything unless your great-grandpa was a Kansas Mason.  So I scoured the picture and found him!
The archivist had told me that the guys in the front couple of rows especially were only the top guys.  Grandpa Elmer Gentry was the highest level Mason you can be, so I wasn't too surprised he was among the group.  To tell the truth, him being a high level Mason isn't something I'm particularly proud of. But, it is part of our family and history in general - so it opened another teaching moment for the kiddos.  I've said it before, but there is such an advantage to helping the kids personalize history.
  I almost could have gone home after finding that.  For a genealogist something like that can make your year!  But, in all seriousness we couldn't miss George's Bible.  So on we journeyed.
This gentleman brought the Bible from New York where it is housed with one of the Lodges there.  I have blanked his face because I did not ask to take the picture.  He did a fantastic job of telling the kids the story of how it came to be used by Washington for his inauguration, which Presidents have used it since and misc. other stories (Shorty was giving me a run for my money at this point so I did not have a chance to listen to the whole speech which I was sad about but not unexpected with a lively 4 year old boy).  The gentleman encouraged the kids to come behind the Bible and get their pictures taken.
Pretty darn cool!  It makes me wonder how many things like this are out there and available to visit for the general public, but aren't widely known.  We feel very blessed to have had this opportunity!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Little Things: Sale Barn

  In continuance of our stopping to do the little things, this week it was the "sale barn".  I am ashamed at how long it has taken us to do this one.  On the edge of our little town is the livestock auction house.  It is a popular place to grab a lunch and watch the cows on Mondays.  We have lived in town 15 years and I. have. never. been. :( I think the knowing of how busy it can get and not wanting to make a faux pas (especially with kiddos in tow) has been my main excuse in recent years for not going.  But no more.  Shorty had it on his list and was getting adamant about it.  In fact I heard about it all last week after we missed it on Monday.  The only reason I remembered it today was because I was lying in bed last night and then I heard the mournful mooing of the cows waiting for the big day.  I made Hubby promise to remind me.  And we didn't forget :)
waiting for the auction to start
We arrived just before sale time to get good seats.  Wow!  Those auctioneers had it down to an art form getting those cows and bulls through the arena.  Fast paced for sure!  The kids' favorite parts were the young calves and then the longhorns (there were two), which rekindled excitement of an upcoming trip to our much loved Wichita Mountains. 
We saw numerous buddies and had a grand time. The kids are excited to go back and so am I.  So, no more fear of the unknown and another "someday" off the list!