Chronicles of the O'Brien Family Adventures...

Friday, May 1, 2015

May Day

May Day was a beautiful event this year, as always. Many homeschoolers came out to join us in dancing around the May Tree for our annual hlsa event. The wind was brisk but the weather was lovelier than most May Day's in the past.

Cai was happy to wear the flower wreath I made him. For a little bit anyway. Enough for a few pictures. 

Summer had a blast playing with friends.

And even Aidan had a great time! The food table helped with that, being a pretty typical preteen boy.

Good food, merry friends, flowers, music and laughter. Can't complain about that! And next year I will be taking over the organizing of this annual Hlsa event. I'm excited to be officially handed the reigns (or in this case ribbons), as this event has always been near and dear to my heart.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Feeding the Homeless

Aidan participated with his Scout group this week in feeding nearly 200 homeless people at the Mustard Seed. It was a fabulous, yet intense experience for him. He was a bit nervous about what he'd encounter after the speech given by the staff. They discussed some of the possible behaviors the kids may come across, particular from mentally challenged patrons. But Aidan persevered despite intense intrepidation. I was very proud of him. He worked hard and was bone tired after the five hour shift.

On the way home we had a great discussion about what led some people to become homeless and what contributed to different behaviors they might have. We discussed child abuse and neglect and mental illness. 

Summer, ever my child of lots of ideas, was excited upon seeing the shelter when I dropped Aidan off (we were then heading to drop her off at a sleepover at a brand new friends house). She wished she could stay as well to cook and serve, then talked about how she wanted to start a place just like it someday. On the way to her friends house she explored her ideas of what this homeless shelter would be like. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Geocaching and Other Adventures with the NLC

We are back to the Spring schedule with the Natural Learning Community at Argyll. This means Friday morning swims followed by our usual afternoon Games Day. Most Games Days take place at the Argyll campus but one week we went to Gold Bar Park where I organized a geocaching expedition for the families. I gave the talk I prepared for our Brownie unit and we set off! I hadn't pre-checked the area because of a lack of time, so it was really quite the adventure. The cache closest to us required more bush-whacking than I anticipated and I was starting to worry my iPhone would give up before we found it. It was also "interesting" to say the least to help my two year old maneuver to the cache location. In the end, success! I was so pleased and a little relieved. Summer found the cache.

Following our adventure the kids enjoyed a game of Predator and Prey while Cai and I played with flying disks and balls and explored the little lake. As often is the case, Summer wound up going home with another family for an impromptu sleepover.


This past Friday's Games Day the kids enjoyed a presentation I organized with the Rehabiliation Society of Alberta on Wetlands and the Environment. It was a wonderful presentation that emphasized the importance of maintaining wetlands areas for migratory birds. 

Summer loves Games Days the best I believe, because she meets up with lots of friends. All the kids are enjoying their morning swim, which is a nice addition to the Saturday community swim Dad takes them to when we don't have other commitments.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Earth Day and Advancement

Our geocaching/nature walk adventure was supposed to happen on Earth Day but we needed to reschedule as the District Advancement for Girl Guides happened to be the same day. Knowing I love to do something special for Earth Day (and assuring Aidan that no, going out to a restaurant wasn't really the most appropriate way to celebrate it), I asked the kids for ideas. Summer immediately knew she wanted to go pick garbage in the neighborhood to help clean it up.

So we went up to our favorite bike path armed with gloves, garbage bags and grabber devices. The day was windy but warm. Sometimes trash had to be chased. But we had such a blast. Even Cai really loved to join in. 

Summer was thrilled to find a geocache unintentionally while cleaning in amongst the pine trees! What a fun find! 

One day wasn't enough and so we decided to enrolled again in the Captial City Clean Up initiative that used to be a yearly family tradition (we let it go after Cai was born, as we found we weren't being very diligent with keeping up with our promise to maintain our territory on a weekly basis).

I'm thrilled to be enrolled in the program again, working an area that has great meaning for us. It's a beautiful stretch of park space that borders between backyards, making it farther from local traffic and safer for the kids biking. A simple play park adds charm for Cai. Even the big kids sometimes prefer it to the big fancy busy parks that leave very little to the imagination.

In the evening was Summer's advancement at Girl Guides. This was an exciting night for me.

I'm so thrilled with how much Summer enjoys Girl Guides. Over the past two years of the Brownies program I have watched her blossom as a team player and a natural leader. Next year we will continue on with Guides, where she'll have a greater opportunity to develop her leadership skills and natural confidence, while having fun and making new friends. I am so proud of her! We already are beginning to plan the next Guiding year with excitement. More camps, more fun, it's going to be fantastic! 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Big Lake Geocaching

This event was huge for me, taking a lot of my time and preparation, from the scouting out a perfect location to the applying to borrow district gps devices. I organized it for our Brownie group, as an introduction to geocaching and an opportunity to enjoy a nature hike. We also purchased nature guides from the BLESS society at Big Lake for each of the girls. 

It was a huge success. I was overjoyed when Summer told me it was her favorite meeting of the year (I think it helped that she found the majority of the caches personally)! There's something wonderful about being outdoors in nature, especially with friends. The sunshine, the fresh air, and a new adventure, all contributed to a really fun evening.

We found five geocaches and did an Earthcache at the edge of Big Lake where we measured the water depth, discussed what an aquifer was and looked for local wildlife and waterfowl.

I was concerned the walk was too long for 7 and 8 year olds, but they proved to be resilient beings. After the end of an hour and a half, they happily attacked the play park by the parking lot while urging their parents for "just five more minutes."
The girls also contributed a momento for a geocache I'm putting together for the group. It'll be 17th St. Albert Brownies very own official geocache to visit and maintain. I've placed it bordering the Big Lake wetlands but still need to move it and find a new location due to other unpublished caches in the area. It's proving tricky to find a good location for this cache, as caches around the clubhouse prevent me placing it there too (geocaches must be at least 161 m apart). I will find a place though and then all the girls will be able to bring their families to visit it, introducing them to the wonderful world of geocaching!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Telus World of Science Activities

For our Brownies space badge, I organized a field trip to the Telus world of Science. They actually have a program specifically created for the scout and guide programs. We started out with a Margaret Ziedler dome show about telescopes and space. It was very educational, even to most of the adults. Following this the girls had time to explore the Space Place by themselves (the facilities were only open for us). We physically explored meteorites and discussed their properties. Next we went to the science stage to explore chemical reactions and a few explosions. You can never go wrong with explosions. 

The kids have been enjoying their homeschool classes at the World of Science each month as well. Sometimes they learn a lot, mostly it covers material they've already learned through other venues, at which point it becomes a great reminder. I love connecting with friends on these day. I usually lose Summer to a gaggle of girls; a part which I know she likes best!
Even I've been enjoying the World of Science, with their adult only Dark Matters evenings! I first ventured to the horror themed night with my mom, which treated us to an evening of local horror pics in the IMAX theatre that were part boring, part hilarious. I won the next month's tickets from filling out a survey. It turned out to be all about food and beer. There was a plethora of beer tastings, a chance to learn how to make a basic mozzarella cheese and various science showcases dealing with food. Each event turns the science center into a rocking joint with thumping music, lights and wine and beer available to carry around the facility. Next night will be about sex and you better believe I'm going to be there, dragging my husband along for the ride. 


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Corpse Flower

The last time Putrella the Corpse Flower blossomed, we missed it by several hours. That was almost three years ago. So when I heard that she was blossoming again - open for only twenty-four hours, we worked our schedule to make sure we had the chance to experience her in all her glory.

The Corpse Flower is very rare. Most people will never see one in their lifetime. That's why it's so thrilling to have one right here in Edmonton. It flowers every three to seven years and is the largest unbranched fluorescence in the world. What that means is that, even though it looks like one huge flower, it's actually made up of a multitude of smaller ones, out of sight. 

Corpse Flowers are so called because they reek. Their flower gives of the scent of rotting flesh to attract carrion beetles and flies, which pollinate it. The flower even raises its temperature during it's bloom to match the body temperature of a mammal. This increases the strength of the smell but takes a tremendous toll on the plant. It's a huge expenditure of energy; energy it takes three to seven years to build. This is why her bloom time is so short. 

In between blooms she looks more like a small tree. 

After seeing and smelling the Corpse Flower, we enjoyed the rest of the biomes of the muttart. We stopped to smell the flowers (the pretty smelling ones), the big kids challenged themselves with a scavenger hunt of plant species, and Cai ran around in ecstatic delight as only a toddler can.