Thursday, November 19, 2015

Field Trip: Tallgrass Nature Preserve

  We've been wanting to do this one!  We had printed our Junior Ranger packets out for Tallgrass Nature Preserve 2 years ago and filled them out.  Each time we've tried, we've been deflected from our goal.  But our time came!  Hubby and I had some business to do down near Strong City and today was our chance!
  On not too bad of a day for the middle of November, we dropped Hubby off at the job site and went in search of some multi-sensory learning :) The Tallgrass Nature Preserve is located just north of Strong City and like many of the smaller National Parks, has free admission.  The kids had their Junior Ranger packets in hand and double checked answers and filled in some blanks they hadn't needed to finish. 

The Visitor's Center was not very large, but it did a good job of telling the story of the prairie and the critters that live there.  After walking around and watching the short video on the area, we headed out to one of the other exhibits.
This ranch, which is part of the preserve, has been around since 1882.  It is absolutely fabulous.  You are able to explore two of the three levels of the barn...
This picture of Shorty kills me.  He had been walking around for a while with what looked like a piece of straw in his mouth - gross, but he was being a farmer right?  Well, one of the other kids asked him where he got the toothpick.  Toothpick?  Ok, now it was mom's turn to ask where he got the toothpick. "Down on the sidewalk by the horse".  YUCK!!!! This picture is us in the middle of trying to get him to PUT IT DOWN!!! :) Bleh!
We made a new buddy :) Then it was off to explore the house.  The house is not very furnished, but I am sure that is due to low staff.  The whole complex had adequate signage and really the architecture was so elaborate, who needs "stuff" ? ;)
Mookie working on her Ranger booklet

The "secret passage"
The kids' favorite was the tunnels that took you from one root cellar to another.
The grand front entrance

We accomplished our Ranger goal and got sworn in as Rangers of the Tallgrass prairie :) Then it was off to the Lower Fox Creek School just up the road and also part of the Preserve.
The building was furnished and had some accessories for the kids to play school with.  We played there for quite a long time.  Then we waited at the city park before it was time to pick up Hubby. It had the coolest swing!
The building in the background is an old auditorium.  It was so sad to see it abandoned.  Grand total for today's trip: lunch and gas.  There's a ton more to do in that area too with Council Grove just up the highway and Cottonwood Falls across the river.  We'll be back ;)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Field Trip: Are you prepared?

Bubby a few years ago
   The Royals won the World Series this week.  It's been 30 years since that goal has been attained.  Our family has thoroughly enjoyed attending a few Royals' games over the years.  Hubby suggested that we see if Union Station was open on the day of the parade and then hang out until the parade ended there for the rally.  Sounded like a good idea, and Union Station (which houses Science City, a children's museum) was discounted on account of being closed when the parade started, so we made it a date with Ducky and Grandma.
  We headed out bright and early this morning so we could arrive at Union Station at 9.  The exhibits opened at 8 but we figured we had a nice balance by leaving the house at 7:30.  Well, traffic was really awful when we hit downtown Kansas City and Hubby and Ducky dumped us out about 4 blocks from our destination and went to find a parking space at about 10:30. People were already parking on any green space that was available and even in the medians, so we knew finding that place would be hard!

People were bailing out of their cars on the highway to go in advance and hold places for family
Hoofin' it

We had no plan other than the Station to meet - this turned out to be a problem!  The kids, Grandma and I got to the area in front of the Station and I texted Hubby a general text that we had gotten there and were by the music.  We had a bathroom emergency so went in search of a bathroom.  The porta-potty lines were horrendous so we went into the station (I'd rather wait in a huge line for an inside bathroom anyway).  All thoughts of actually going to the exhibits were out of mind now.  The crowd was growing by the second.  I went to send a text to Hubby and my other message was still sending - cell service was overwhelmed!  So I shot him another note and we waited in line.  By the time we exited the building, Hubby had told me they were at the station, so we still had no clue where each other was.  Out into the sea of humanity we went.
Looking for the guys
We found a place and stayed with it.  Calling was out of the question, so I sent another text with our specific location.  When that one failed, we set out in a search for the boys.  Amazingly we found them!  Hubby had sent numerous texts as well that had failed.  I am seriously amazed we actually found each other.
  We didn't last the whole time, but we made the most of our time and made some memories.  Here is what I learned from our experiences:
  1) Make a specific plan if you are going to be separated from your group.  Normally our general plan would have worked, but this day proved to be unprecedented on so many levels that a specific plan would have saved a bunch of time! We needed to pretend that we were living in 1985 (the last time the Royals won the Series) and not rely on those silly cell phones so heavily!
  2) In a crowd situation - take a backpack instead of a purse.  I had and boy was I so glad I did!  I stuffed our jackets in it and other supplies too!  Much easier to carry!
  3) Identifying clothing.  You're saying, "yeah, yeah" but today most everyone was wearing royal blue with something Royals on it.  After I thought about it for a while I was scared Shorty would take off on me without his jacket on and I wouldn't be able to see his blue Superman shirt for the sea of Royals shirts.  I wish I'd dressed the kids in florescents no matter how much they would have protested.
  4) Carry food and water.  I had the water, but neglected to switch the granola bars over from my purse to the backpack and we could have used them.
  5) Carry change.  When we attempted to buy some extra snacks, the snack machines was only accepting coins.  My extra quarters came in real handy!
  6) Don't get stressed!  We went into this day to expect the unexpected and I'm so glad we did!  It greatly decreased the stress level for all of us.  There were a lot of things that we could have reacted strongly to when they weren't going right, but it helped that we were going with the flow.  The kids benefited too because when we get stressed they pick up on that too.  
Letting the 500,000 other people have their fun
Today was definitely a day we will never forget :) I am so grateful for the time we were able to spend together and the lessons we learned along the way :)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Field Trip: Best Laid Plans

We were supposed to go to Council Grove. The threat of rain with the hour long drive kept us close to home though.  So we decided to go close to home and hit the trails close to the Governor's Mansion in Topeka.  Our buddies met us at the main trail at the Cedar Crest grounds.  We started in, but quickly realized that what we really wanted was a wooded trail that would 1) shelter us from the damp cold of the otherwise beautiful fall day and 2) create a more interesting walk.   Although some didn't care where we went, they were just happy to be there ;)
   Our quest for a new trail took us up to the area by the Kansas Wildlife and Parks center.  Grandma has been after me for a while to take the kids to the KDWP building, so we can mark it off of our list now ;)   It is a great resource.  They have all kinds of free identification guides, trail maps, and more.  There are aquariums with little critters...
Lots of furs from different local animals...
After I toned the kids back on taking one each of every identification guide (we would have put quite a dent in their supply), we headed to the great outdoors!  It was a wonderful trail.  At the end, we broke from it and followed a road that headed the direction of the cars.  It took us right into the old Menninger hospital grounds.  I guess it is technically trespassing, but that road wasn't marked, so we enjoyed looking at the old buildings as we made our way to our cars ;)
   I am not sure any one of the field trips we've taken this year was totally planned out, but I'll tell you what, I wouldn't trade a one!  Who needs plans? ;)

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Blackjack battle!

  This weekend was kind of symbolic. Bubby has been involved with Boy Scouts since he was a Tiger cub.  Since he joined he has always wanted to become an Eagle Scout like his grandpa Ducky.  This year has held some drastic changes with our pack and our troop is battling our way up from bare bones to even stay in existence.  In order to garner some excitement, the parents have been trying to find some pretty exciting things to build our boys up with Scouting interest while holding on to our dwindling numbers.  The first thing that came to our attention was this super cool reenactment of a pre-Civil War battle that had been held for the past couple of years close to the nearby town of Baldwin, Kansas.  This Battle of Blackjack took place between pro-slavery and free-state forces (led by John Brown and crew) in 1856 and was a result of the rising tensions of the time.  Through some wonderful connections we made we not only received an invite to the event, but also offers of mentorship for our troop!  What a blessing!
  One of the things that they needed to take with them was a mock-gun because real guns were not allowed.  One of our good buddies helped cut the gun forms out for the boys (Bubby got to assist) and then the boys were able to detail them.

  The boys had arrived to the Blackjack battlegrounds on Friday, and while the main event didn't take place until the next day, they participated in "raids" on the other camps all evening and were up by 5am on Saturday morning raiding the other camps then too!
looking over the schedule

  They broke out into groups on Saturday and rotated through different stations which included listening to a talk by a John Brown reenactor...
John Brown watching his battle (center)
a reenactor portraying Henry Pate who led the pro-slavery forces, a tour of a Civil War encampment and learned about some period historic artifacts...
The main event was the reenactment.  The boys were divided up and preformed the battle two times.  It was complete with sound effects of gun shots and smoke machines!
Bubby waiting for his turn
Someone wishing he could join Bubby in battle
the conquering heroes
The weekend was a complete success!  The boys got a second weekend of two night camping under their belts (last weekend it was camping at a black powder rendezvous), cooked some great food in the open air and had a ton of fun and made some new friends too!  While we still have a ways to go as a troop, the future looks bright and our Scouts are happy Scouts :)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Field Trip: Wichita Mountains

  Hubby and I's work project ultimately took us to the Wichita Mountains.  Have you heard of them? They are located in southern Oklahoma and are encapsulated in a wildlife preserve.  As homeschoolers this was a a schooling dream!  Geology, biology, history and more, not to mention all the hiking too!

  The wildlife includes buffalo, longhorns, and elk all of which are herds maintained for preservation purposes.  These guys are everywhere.  You see them on the roads and on the trails.  It is super cool!  The boys even heard the elk bugling while they were out hiking one afternoon!  The kids got chased by prairie dogs, poked at millipedes, and saw these wonderful little lizards too...
The kids had seen pictures of them prior to our trip and it was their goal to see them before they left.  We saw the biggest concentration at the Holy City of the Wichitas.  The Holy City is neat, it was and is the site of a large passion play every year.

The neat thing about the Holy City is that it is not only the setting for a play, but for those that come to wander the grounds, they have little dioramas amongst the set that tell the story of the different stations of the cross.  The kids loved exploring here!
  Our explorations also took us to the Wichita's dams...

And to the summit of Mt. Scott its highest mountain...
While we were up there we saw another fun member of the wildlife in the mountains, a roadrunner...
One of our favorite treks was to the "watchtower" at Jed Johnson lake.
It was about 1/2 mile to get back to it and when we did we felt like this...
*disclaimer* we did not write this, but it was funny :)

Well, some of us did.  Some of us were just content to pick up "treasures" aka. pieces of glass (notice the bulging pockets?).
One of our favorite places that is on the edge of the Wichitas is Medicine Park.  It was created as a resort community to the Wichita Mountains.  Its architecture is fun with the cobblestone boulders...
The building in the background of the picture above is the Plantation Restaurant - excellent food!
The neatest part of Medicine Park was the "Creek Walk" which took you along Medicine Creek.  There was a swimming area...
and just fun little park areas...
We spent a full week in the Wichitas.  The working vacation kind of wore us out, but we were having so much fun we were not too willing to come home.  I'm hoping our schedules give us another chance to return and explore some more!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Field Trip: Sam Noble Museum

  This is a weird blog for me to write.  I get to tell you about one of the most fantastic museums we have ever been to, but this time around I didn't get to go with the kiddos.  Hubby and I had some work in Oklahoma so we packed up the kids and Ducky and Grandma for a working vacation.  Our first stop took us through Norman, Oklahoma where Hubby and I did some research on the University of Oklahoma campus and Ducky and Grandma took the kids to the Sam Noble museum.  The last time we had taken the older kids was when they were about 4 & 2 (they are now 12 and 11).  If I had one sadness on this trip it was that I didn't get to go to the Sam Noble museum too - it is that fun :)
A dino lover's dream.  Now this being said, I have not been to any of the "big city" natural history museums, but this satisfies just fine ;)
The real fun is the "dinovator" which is an elevator that takes you eye to eye with one of the big plant eaters (ha, can you tell I'm not the dino expert?  I'd want to say apatosaurus, but we'll just play it general...). 
  They also have a wonderful diorama area which has all the flora and fauna of Oklahoma, even down to caves where bats are lurking...
 My favorite picture from their experience there is with the big mammoth statue. 
  Mookie and Bubby are proudly posing with the mammoth, but do you see Shorty?  He's getting ready to kill the mammoth with the ancient Native American family. 
  We had the biggest discussion about what the family was doing, why the mom was hiding behind the dad, what the dog was doing, etc... With field trips, you don't need to "do" anything, kiddos soak up more than you realize, but you reinforce what they learn with a good discussion and make it all applicable to their lives right now it just encourages them to seek out learning later on. 
  If you get down to Norman, Ok you should definitely check the Sam Noble out.  Our family got in for around $15 which was well worth the trip!