Chronicles of the O'Brien Family Adventures...

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Let's Grow at the Muttart

The Muttart Conservatory was our destination this evening for our Brownies group; a field trip - called Let's Grow - organized by me! We explored the various biomes by flashlight, under the glow of the evening colored lights that bring a new dimension to the Muttart experience. 

We discussed the various methods plants used to defend themselves and ensure their survival. We met various plants from the differing climates and learned about the requirements for plant life to grow. Following a few fun games and further exploration, we ended our evening with the girls planting Coleus tropical plants to bring home. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Physics: Finale!

Our last experiments with our Physics kit included water rockets and baking soda vinegar rockets. 

The water rockets we didn't repeat, as it was the exact same thing we enjoyed doing - repeatedly - last weekend at the Dark Sky Festival in Jasper. So we moved straight on to the baking soda/vinegar one. It worked, as in the reaction happened, but it didn't work so well in that I had trouble setting up the rocket fast enough so it powered up into the sky instead of my hand. We tried twice and enjoyed the explosive reaction.

The last experiment involved spinning a bucket of water upside down. The kids were amazed to see the water stay put in the bucket and we discussed the reasoning for it (although Summer was bucketly challenged and kept throwing it before making a complete rotation when she tried it. She got a little wet). 

We've had a good exploration of the laws of thermodynamics through this kit. To finish it off, we watched an awesome YouTube video examining one of our initial questions through watching a bowling ball and feather fall together both normally and then in a near perfect vacuum. This led to a fun discussion (and demonstration) on the nature of gravity and the fabric of space-time. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Night at the Dinosaur Museum

Sleeping over at a dinosaur museum is as cool and fun as it sounds. That's exactly what Summer and I did this weekend with our Brownie group at the Tyrell museum in Drumheller.

We enjoyed the three and a half hour trip on a coach bus we had rented for the occasion. It was a comfortable ride with an on board toilet and movies (we appropriately watched Night at the Museum on the way down). We left at 3 pm and arrived in the Badlands late evening. We set up our sleeping bags in the museum and proceeded to enjoy the nighttime programming. 

The girls painted and strung dinosaur pendants for our first activity. Summer and her friend made friendship pendants by choosing to make them exactly the same. 

Then we listened to a presentation about reptiles and enjoyed holding and meeting a boa constrictor. It looked so tiny compared to my sister's five foot long Python! 

Our next activity was a guided tour of the museum by flashlight. This was epically awesome. 

Lastly, the girls learned about archeological digs and tried their hand at excavating real dinosaur bones from plaster with the techniques taught to them. 

Following a snack, we were all more than ready for bed. Lights were turned off by 11 pm and everyone quickly fell asleep. My favorite time was lying in my sleeping bag, with the silhouette of dino's around me, reading my book by a small light. It was so cozy and fun. And it was much cooler than I thought it would be to go to sleep amongst the bones of the dinosaurs. It was epically cool. 

The view directly above me. 

The view across from me, when I laid on my side. 

In the morning, we watched a movie together after a hot breakfast, then had a couple of hours to explore the museum on our own before lunch and boarding our bus. 

The trip was designed as a mother/daughter adventure. But my Summer had little to do with me for the trip; she was too busy with her friends. This was a happy thing and exactly as it should be for my growing up girl. Bittersweet is a good description of the feeling: it's sad to say goodbye to that little girl in my lap but exciting to see the confident social butterfly emerge as my daughter approaches the preteen years. I enjoyed watching her have a blast and develop friendships. 

The weekend was phenomenal and loads of fun for us all. Memories made. Adventures had. Epic fun. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Happy Halloween and Samhain Too

Halloween is a favorite time of year for our family - after Yule. We enjoy putting up our decorations with our Halloween music playing, we enjoy finding costumes, attending parties, the Haunted Pumpkin Festival, carving pumpkins, making pumpkin pies, our Feast of the Dead and of course trick or treating.

Summer and Aidan both enjoyed Halloween parties with their Brownies and Scouts group. Aidan even won a contest with his Ninja costume. At Summer's, she dazzled as a Greek goddess. Although she was flabbergasted that a few of her Brownie friends had no clue what a Greek goddess was. 

We dressed up for Cai's Music Together class, along with Games Day (which we brought a gruesome treat to as well). 

It was especially fun carving pumpkins with Cai this year. He got right into it and was eager to design his creation. 

I must say the carving is my favorite part of this holiday. I love the music, the seed roasting and watching everyone's creations unfold. 

The 31st brought decent weather. Following our annual Samhain tradition of the Feast of the Dead, a dinner where we invite the spirits of our ancestors and departed to join us in thanks, we ventured out!

It was Cai's first year trick or treating. He was quite excited, as he didn't quite "get" what this Halloween thing - anticipated with such excitement - was all about. But he already new the drill and shouted out as loud as any of the kids. After a block, we joined up with one of Summer's friends from Brownies and stayed out until nearly 9 pm. After, the kids enjoyed sorting through their treasures and sampling and trading the goods. 

As much as I enjoy setting up our decorations, I enjoy taking them down again: the clean slate, the order restored. I eagerly await decorating for Yule, my absolute favorite season; especially as we bought a brand new tree on sale - after twenty years with our last tree, the tree my mom had bought me for a birthday present the year I left home. Pictures to follow when we set it up!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Dark Sky Festival: Jasper!

Four hours of travel, without a single stop, brought us into Jasper Friday afternoon after a noon departure. The wildlife was out and about in abundance - we enjoyed sharing the road with a group of young big horned sheep and slowed for a picture of an exquisite large male elk. 

I loved watching Summer's expression as the Rocky Mountains began to appear: the awe and joy and amazement. I feel the same way each time I return to the mountains, no matter how many times I've seen them. The mountains feel like home to me and I love to return to them.

We stayed at the Marmot Lodge for two nights, along with grandma and grandpa, for Jasper's annual Dark Sky Festival this weekend. After settling into our hotel room, we enjoyed dinner with grandma and grandpa at L&W, followed by a swim in the hotel pool and then a trip up the mountain to Lake Annette for the evening festivities. 

It was a spectacular evening. The event was well organized with lots of helpers between areas and long strings of glowing lights to follow to the different areas: an aboriginal area with a teepee, stories and drumming around a fire and local made tea to enjoy, lights leading to a dark sky photography info session, lights heading to exhibits and more lights heading to a plethora of telescopes pointed into the clear night sky. 

Just looking up is breathtaking! So many stars! And then of course the Milky Way stretched across the sky in pure opulence adds such splendor to the scene. The highlight of the night for me was seeing the Dumbbell nebulae. 

The next day we woke and after fitting in four showers, we enjoyed the hotel breakfast buffet and headed to Centennial Field for a day filled with activities. 

We enjoyed creating pop bottle rockets and launching them with water and air, speaker presentations, hide drawings, a planetarium night sky dome show, and viewing of sun spots in a telescope set up as the heavy cloud cover began to clear. 

We headed back to the hotel by 3 PM and the kids enjoyed a long swim in the pool while Cai had his afternoon nap in the room. 

For dinner we went with mom and Doug to Evil Dave's for an unforgettable dining experience. We shared the family sampler which included several main dishes with a couple of appetizers, along with baked Brie to start. Each dish was exquisite. I can honestly say it was among the top best meals of my life.

That night the snow came. It looked like a mild blizzard. All the kids wanted to do was swim some more (and Cai wanted to make up for missing the afternoon swim), so knowing conditions weren't ideal for dark sky viewing, we returned home to spend the evening in the pool. Summer was particularly ecstatic because she learned how to swim! My daughter who always refused to put her head under water, was now diving under and floating and performing various strokes. Her transformation was amazing and exciting! Aidan, who had more swimming skills already, also improved and further developed his skills. It was a fun night. 

We slept in until 9 AM in the morning and spent our time packing up to go. Leaving Jasper, I marveled at the beauty of the new winter landscape around us. I was glad to be leaving it behind (as well as enjoy it from a warm vehicle with heated seats. We aren't acclimatized for winter yet). 

We were glad we had a beautiful day and night to enjoy ourselves and the festivities. It was a great trip and a fabulous festival. 

On our way home we dropped by my dad's acreage to jump on snow cleared trampolines. 

Approaching Edmonton, snow turned to rain. Although it caught up with us later in the evening anyway!