Tennessee Vacation, Part 2

Last Monday we went to the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. A friend of mine had given us a little tip to ask for the homeschool discount. We just went to the place where you pay, said we were homeschoolers, showed Ani and Cameron’s Calvert School IDs (they barely looked at them), and we got in for half of what it normally would have cost for our family to go there! $7 each for me, Jamie, and the big kids and $5 each for the little boys. It was an excellent aquarium. We all enjoyed it very much.

We went through a tube under where lots of fish, a turtle, some huge sawfish, and a few sharks swim around. The floor had a conveyor belt built right in so we just stood there and it took us through the tube.

Adrian showed us how fish move by “flapping.”

The kids got to touch horseshoe crabs (only the big kids wanted to do that).

There were some tanks that had places where you could get inside. That was really neat.

I even got in one. I loved seeing how tiny the Nemos were compared to the Dorys.

The jellyfish were beautiful. Ani had just learned about cephalopods and got to see lots of them in one part of the aquarium.

The kids all watched the stingrays for quite a while.

The penguin exhibit was fun. Before we went to it, we went to a short question and answer thing about penguins. In the middle of the presentation, Fritz told me he had a question so I had him tell it to me. He wanted to know how the penguins stay up and walk on the ice. I thought that was a very good question. The person doing the presentation wasn’t totally sure, but she said they have spike-like things on their feet and that helps with keeping warm and she would assume they have something to do with helping them stay upright as well.

We watched the penguins swim around for a long time. The exhibit had a spot where you could sit under where the penguins go. One startled us by swimming right over us very quickly. Adrian jumped and hit his head on the plexiglass. He insisted the penguin had hit him.

There was a place where you could try to touch the stingrays. They stayed pretty well away from the edges where the people were. Ian was determined to touch one. He did, but got a little wet in the process.

You can look down toward where the tube is. That’s a sawfish sitting on the bottom and two sharks swimming near the top of the water.

That’s definitely a place we’d go back to again! The homeschool discount made it 100% worth it.

Tennesse Vacation, Part 1

We spent a week in Gatlinburg TN. It was a wonderful vacation. We had a lot of fun and definitely want to go back down there.

Our vacation started with taking the big kids to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. We got to the movie theater about 10:30 pm. We sat with some friends. They had made glasses out of pipe cleaners. We drew lightning bolt scars on each other.

At midnight we led the people in the theater in singing happy birthday to Jamie (35) and our friend (19). And then, at 12:01 am, the movie began. It was totally awesome and we all enjoyed it a lot. We were headed back home at 2:39 am.

We got home, finished loading up the van, and the six of us were on our way about 3:15 am. We arrived at the resort at 12:30. Check-in isn’t until 4, so the kids played on the playground for a while. At 3 they told us our room was ready.

On Saturday my friend and her family came over. We had a great time with them (so much so we spent Thursday at their house).

Ani totally fell in love with my friend’s littlest.

Four of our littles! Two of my friend’s boys and my Adrian and Fritz.

My Cameron and my friend’s oldest got along fabulously. I have no idea what they were talking about here, but surely it was important stuff!

My friend and I are usually the ones behind the cameras, but sometimes we end up in front.

The view from our suite was gorgeous. We love mountains (when you are from near sea level the Appalachian foothills are definitely mountains!).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! I figured this year I’d write just a few things I am thankful. Twenty-six to be exact. One for each letter of the alphabet.
A – Aldi’s (Where else can you get good tasting super-cheap food?)
B – Books (I love to read. Enough said.)
C – Calvert School (We have seriously been blessed by going back to using Calvert this year.)
D – Daddy (My father has taught me so much and is just plain fun to be around.)
E – E-Mail (It is such a useful tool for keeping in touch with friends and family.)
F – Fabric (I love just touching fabric.)
G – Glue (Particularly in stick form, glue is just very useful.)
H – Hand-Me-Downs (We have saved so incredibly much money over the years because people have passed down clothes, books, and toys to our kids.)
I – Ice Cream (particularly mint chocolate chip)
J – Jamie (I’m not including my kids on this list, mainly because two of them start with the same letter, but for obvious reasons I am including my husband.)
K – K (She’s my best friend even though she lives 2,000 miles away.)
L – Legos (Mostly because I just love hearing Fritz talking about them. He says “Yegos.”)
M – Mommie (My mother is one of my very favorite people.)
N – Nose (I am glad that my nose allows me to smell things, particularly when it is smelling nice things.)
O – Old Navy (Their clothes fit Ani so nicely and are pretty much always on sale and I can often get coupons on top of those sales.)
P – Pasta (I love to eat pasta, especially in summer tomato pasta or spaghetti and meatballs.)
Q – Quilting (I enjoy making quilts, particularly paper pieced quilts.)
R – Rain (I particularly like light, warm, Spring rain.)
S – Salad (My very favorite food is salad, especially if it comes from a salad bar.)
T – There’s No Place Like Home (I just love the group of ladies on that message board.)
U – Ubiquitous (It’s just plain a cool word.)
V – Vacations (I love going on vacation with my family and having lots of fun relaxing together.)
W – Words (Without them I could neither speak nor write this list.)
X – X-Rays (They really are quite useful when you need one.)
Y – Yolk (It’s my favorite part of the egg, especially when it’s a fresh egg from a farm.)
Z – Zigzag (Yet another word that is just plain fun to say.)

Ani’s First Report Card

Last week Ani completed her first 40 lessons of Calvert 7 and so got her first ever report card. She insists she did not do well. To her, nothing less than 100% is “doing well.” I, however, know full well that she did an awesome job.

She gets 11 grades. 8 of those were A’s and 3 were B’s. Her A’s: Art (96%), Composition (93%), History (93%), Reading (96%), Science (95%), Spanish (97%), Spelling (93%), and Technology (99%). Her B’s: Math (87%), Geography (89%), and Grammar (88%).

To Build a Coral Reef

A couple weeks ago Ani had an assignment in Calvert 7 science to build a tasty coral polyp.

She started with a plate that represents the limestone base to which the coral attach. She put some large marshmallows on the plate and scattered mini marshmallows on top of the large ones. The marshmallows represent the coral colony (the small ones being the buds). She stuck licorice strips into the marshmallows. Those represent tentacles. On top of all that she poured some chocolate sauce to represent a coating of limestone or calcium carbonate. Finally, she poured on some sprinkles. Those represent the stinging cells. After all that, the kids got to eat the portion of a coral reef Ani made!

The Election

I often wonder why I majored in nursing instead of political science. I finished the one poli sci college class I took with 116%. I couldn’t resist doing all the extra credit offered. I love politics. I love learning how things work from Washington down to the local level and watching what our politicians do.

I also happen to strongly dislike my representative in the House, Steny Hoyer. And, so, we did a little campaigning and a lot of supporting of his opponent this election cycle, Charles Lollar.

The night of the election we went to an elections return party given by Charles. We hoped it would be a victory party, but, unfortunately, in this blue, blue state it is very hard for a Republican to get elected even if the Democrat has overstayed his welcome (I was 3 when Hoyer entered the House of Representatives).

However, there was good news. Charles was the first Republican to win two of the full counties in our district in 18 years and one of the partial counties in 14 years. He lost my county (which elected every Democrat on the ballot as usual) and the gerrymandered portion of another county. In the end, he did better than any other Republican since 2000. For the first time I can remember Hoyer actually did some campaigning in our district rather than just expecting to be reelected. We are impressed with Charles in so many ways and look forward to moving back to the rallying point and working with him again in 2012. (And, if nothing else good happened last Tuesday night, Hoyer will no longer be the House Majority Leader since his party lost the majority.)

Lab Field Trip

About three weeks ago Ani started her second Calvert 7 science textbook. Each book in the series Calvert 7 uses begins with an interview with a scientist. The scientist her animal book begins with is currently an assistant professor at the University of Maryland. She was given an assignment to write an article about Daphne Soares as if she had been the one to do the interview. Here is what Ani wrote:

Dr. Daphne Soares’s Discovery
by Ani

Dr. Soares was born in Brazil. She was raised on a horse farm. She says, “Living on the farm made me curious about how animals interact with their environment.” Dr. Soares received a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Maryland.

She started a investigation about the little black dots on an alligator’s face while she was still a university student. She wants to become a professor at that same university. She also wants to continue to study crocodilians.

The first things Dr. Soares actually studied were barn owls. The crocodilians are the closest living relative of barn owls and other birds. The first time Dr. Soares got close to an alligator was when she was in the bed of a truck helping hold down an 8 foot long alligator.

As soon as she could after she discovered the dots, Dr. Soares went to the library and found out that the dots had been noticed, but no one knew what they were. She decided to find out what the dots were and to study the nervous system in alligators.

The first experiment she did was put a special type of dye on each one of the dots on a few young alligators. This dye would travel through the nervous system if the dots were connected to nerves. The dye went to the brain and so Dr. Soares found out they were a part of the nervous system.

The second thing she had to do was find out what the nerves did. She set up a system where if the nerves detected something a wailing sound would go off. She brought food near the spots, to see if the dots were like taste buds. She tried light. Did they act like eyes? She even tried heat. Nothing. There was absolutely no response.

One day she accidentally dropped a tool into the tank where the alligator was resting. When she reached in to retrieve it the alarms went off. The dots might be detecting pressure! Dr. Soares still had to make sure it wasn’t something else so she tried dimming the light and plugging up the alligators ears. She repeated what happened with the same reaction.

Now Dr. Soares is working on blind cavefish. She wants to know if they are born blind or become blind as they grow up. She has a great amount of curiosity and that is the greatest trait a scientist can have and, as Dr. Soares has discovered, accidents can lead to great discoveries as well.

On a whim I googled Dr. Soares (which turned up some cool videos showing a little of her research with the alligators). It also turned up her e-mail address. So I e-mailed her what Ani had written. Within minutes I had an e-mail back from her requesting Ani call her the next day.

Ani is a bit shy and so she spent a little time getting up the courage to call. When she did Dr. Soares told her that her paper was fabulous and she invited us to come up to Maryland University and visit her lab!

We went up there a week ago Monday. We got to see (and touch) the baby alligators (about 2 years old). We looked at her fish. As Ani wrote in her paper, she is studying blind cavefish so she had a tank of those as well as some river fish. We got to look at baby (2 week old) river fish under a powerful microscope. She answered lots of questions. It was all very fascinating and totally a cool field trip!



A new animal

Last week in science Ani had an interesting assignment. She was asked to design a new animal. She had to draw it, describe how it moves and defends itself, and create a 3D model of it. I gave her the option of using the nuudles or pipe cleaners to create her model. She chose to use nuudles.


Her animal moves in a slithering motion, kind of rocking back and forth to move. The tail end has a stinger. When a predator comes near it stings to defend itself. The mouth end is on a thin tube with a flower-shaped mouth at the end of the tube. It sucks up food through the mouth. I don’t think it’s a creature I’d want to run into!