Saturday, March 23, 2013

Schoolhouse, Treehouse, Apothecary

I don't think my grandchildren realize what a wonderland they live in. This is their schoolroom--the wall not showing is completely full of books and educational games. The deck is for wildlife watching, and their classroom boasts a microscope with slides. The drawers hold at least twice the curriculum they need. They love it--school at home that is. Carina teaches most of their subjects and Art fills in with engineering and math, science experiments and some of their P.E. They are rather advanced in all their classes, but don't realize that, since they've not had a lot of opportunity to compare.

Since their main coursework is over by noon they are allowed to play "games" if they finish their chores. The games are all educational games like Khan Academy, SAT vocabulary, and Dragon Box-(a fantastic little app for the i-pad that teaches algebraic equations and the balancing thereof without ever saying that's what it's doing.)
Real video games--like Lego Mario and Pokemon are restricted to week-ends, and they don't watch regular television--just pre-approved netflicks.
So they play a lot, imaginative play like building with legos and circuitry boards. They practice piano, and guitar, read lots of books, jump on the trampoline, and catch tadpoles in the creek. Sometimes they see a deer in their backyard, and every morning, a groundhog waddles up from the creek to nose around the flower bed.
They have a rope swing that sails to the top of the world, and a hammock for naps at the edge of the horizon.
Their papa is in the process of building them a treehouse. It spans two trees and uses a third for a natural ladder. It's easy to climb. I was able to scale right up. The roof is half shingled, and the outside just lacks siding. They will probably paint the inside themselves. Mim calls it her castle.

If you look through this hole in the floor, you can see how the spokes of the tree serve as handgrasps and footrests.

This is Mim's apothecary/rockshop where she grinds grasses, flowers, and herbs and where she cracks rocks open to examine their anatomy. She's proud of the counter and all the little spaces where she stores smashing, grinding and cleaning tools.

The trampoline is Zaya's favorite place to be outside. He spends hours jumping and playing imaginary games, saving the world from villains and dreaming up new inventions.

The neighbors' dog  has adopted all the kids in the neighborhood and wandered over to inspect this grandmother and make sure she was not a rabid groundhog. Either I passed the test, or the dog was morbidly afraid of rabid groundhogs but clever enough to appear nonchalant.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Fort Scott Adventure

While I was visiting the grandchildren, my daughter and I took a chance on a very cool day to travel into the little town of Fort Scott. There were a couple of attractions there which held great promise for the young ones and, I'll confess, the older ones as well. First, we explored a used book store on the square. It was a musty place--all scented with old pages of adventure. Carina and I went through all the Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, and Helen McInnes, hoping to find any new books they had written...but, of course, they hadn't, so we contented ourselves with finding a few we didn't currently own.
The children each bought a couple of treasures as well, choosing from a huge selection of youth-oriented books. I showed Zaya "The Forgotten Door", and "Ozma, of Oz". Mim was happy with Berenstain Bears--"Go Fly a Kite and Life with Papa".

We puttered around for quite a while, waiting for a clerk to show up, but he never did. There was a discussion among the shoppers over whether we should look for him, but nobody wanted to go down the rickety stairs into the dark, dank dungeon of a basement, lest we stumble into the opening of one of our books.
Still. The guy didn't appear. Finally, we found a sheet of paper, made an invoice of our purchases and left the money to cover them on the desk. He called later and apologized for being gone, saying that he had been quite sick and had stepped out for a moment.  So we avoided the flu.

Mim is a history fanatic like her grandfather Turtle, so she talked us into visiting the Fort. We roamed around every building looking at exhibits and getting our exercise for the day.
Thankfully, the sun shone brightly, warming up what had begun as a cold, cloudy, cheerless day.
Every building on the square was either a restored original, or a replica with authentic furniture.
What surprised us the most about the barracks was the size of the bunk beds. They seemed shorter than usual, and were about twin bed width, but two soldiers were assigned to each level, so they slept four men. There were around fifty men assigned to each of the two rooms upstairs, and four officers slept in a small room in the middle. Even they had to sleep four to a single bunk bed.
The sign said the barracks had to be cleaned regularly and the mattresses re-stuffed with fresh prairie grass every week to control the population of bedbugs which feasted on the soldiers every night.

There was a bakery, a guardhouse, an ammunition building, and cannon garages. The officers' houses had backyard gardens, garages for the carriages, and even a little storage shed; it looked like an ancient version of backyard suburbia.
The stables were huge. Dragoons need horses.
Their stalls were empty, but a large wooden horse on the wall gave the children some idea of the animal's size.

Mim insisted we watch the video in the main museum's mini auditorium, but that proved too much for two of us. (Zaya didn't mind sitting for another thirty minutes). Not that the film wasn't well-enacted, but it was more history than we wanted to endure in one afternoon, so we dragged the younger ones away and headed back to the house, where we thoroughly appreciated the central heat, running water, and mattresses without bedbugs.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Do it Yourself Bulldozer

I took the grandchildren two building kits: a bulldozer and a helicopter. Mim chose the bulldozer first.It involved a little patience with a wrench and screwdriver, but they finally got it put together one evening with their daddy's supervision and motivation. What might have turned into a tedious task was done with relatively little whining, and they were proud of the finished product. Here's Zay, posing patiently for my documentation of the deed.And giving himself horns, because a nine-year-old boy thinks no picture of children should be without at least one child in horns.

And here is Mim, revealing the real reason she chose the bulldozer.
It seems she needed a carriage for her family of Polly Pockets.
If I were a Polly Pocket, I'd try to hide the copter before it made it onto the assembly table.

Elusive Cardinal

While I was visiting my daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren in Missouri, a brightly colored cardinal kept perching in the convoluted, brown branches of an oak tree outside their window. Most of the time, the weather was gray, and his brilliance made an amazing contrast to the background. For three days I tried to get that picture. Impossible! As soon as I'd open the window, or sneak around the side of the door on the deck, he'd be off.

The best I could do was take his picture through the rain-spotted window, or capture his glowing silhouette in the trees across the creek with my zoom at the max.

I think there needs to be a place for a hidden camera on my daughter's back porch--not just for Mr. cardinal, but for Mr. groundhog, and the squirrel family as well, and for the sparrows, the robins and the occasional bluebird.