Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Move over Nascar!

I heard of an opportunity for children to drive race cars from a homeschool posting, right after I posted a note on a blog, Pizza and Potatoes, that it wasn't my thing. (That's what I get for being so sure...) I had the moment of hesitation, but it passed quickly enough--it was an opportunity to try something definitely outside our normal comfort zone. Nascar may not be my thing, but letting my kids try new things is right up my alley. Apparently kids drive the pint sized cars all the time and my kids didn't hesitate.

The race was through the Minnesota Quarter Midget Racing Association; they have an annual try it day in Elko, Minnesota--a small town south of the Minneapolis-St.Paul Metropolitan area and about an hour northwest from us. It cost $25 for each child to register for the event that was scheduled for Saturday and Sunday. A $3 discount was applied if people registered online prior to race day. I has signed the kids up the week before and we had planned on going on Saturday so that both my husband and I could go. We planned on going during the afternoon session so we would both be done with work. As luck would have it, it rained. I had to cover graduation the next day so, I had to bite the bullet and miss something my kids were doing. It is usually my hubby that misses out, so it turned out to be a special day for them. His only order was to take lots and lots of pictures.

They first had to take a small class on driving basics, safety, and some racetrack language. They registered in one trailer and went to another for a fifteen minute class. The hard part came when the class was over and the kids had to stand, and stand, and stand in line for their turn.

After a while, they got to suit up. My daughter was at the upper age cutoff so she barely fit into the kid suits, but it worked. They also got gloves and helmets. Then they were all set...for more waiting.

They each waited for the right sized car, then for the track to clear. They got to drive ten laps around the pint sized track. It was over far faster than they would realize, but they really had a good time. The boys asked about racing, but the cars cost thousands each--I was grateful they understood. It still made for a good time.

Each child got a certificate when they were done. My hubby got pictures and video...always a good thing. Unfortunately, my brand new hard drive camcorder was broken when it was knocked over by the wind. I will have to find someone to fix it soon. I hope they can do it again next year and that I can go with them!

Friday, June 12, 2009

When firefighters burn houses down...

I try to keep my work from my blog--but this was an important lesson learned, equal to anything we study. My husband brought my children to view the charred remains of a home that had been burned down. However, I had had been there when firefighters from five different rural departments burned down the house that had been donated to them for training purposes.

I was surprised to not only be welcomed, but invited to witness ignition from the inside of the home. I was a little nervous, but I had a dedicated instructor by my side and an escape route planned out. I watched as the firefighters prepared to light the house on fire for the first time that day, but nothing prepared me for the smoke that came so quickly.

Smoke took seconds, seconds, to obliterate the view of the firefighters from upstairs. The smoke wafted downstairs making the lessons learned about dropping so obvious. The smoke that escaped into the lower level clung to the ceiling. It is this smoke that kills so many in fires. The departments' personnel made their way and broke a window for ventilation. Just as quickly as the smoke filled the upstairs, it dramatically cleared and allowed light to filter back into the level. This took minutes, but the fire lacked the fuel of everyday things we have in our homes. Can you imagine how much more quickly the petroleum based products would fuel the fire or how much more toxic the smoke would be?

I was in the house for a very short time, but I had to try to evade the smoke as it wandered around the room. I stifled some coughs, fully aware that at the first sign, I was going to be removed. I had a scratchy throat, but was okay the next day. The firefighters ignited the house specifically to extinguish the fire as many times as they could to allow each team the practice. Instructors helped explain ways to better their efforts.

They managed to get about five practice runs, before the house finally could not support any more. As they had prepared for another attempt, flames broke through the upper story and smoke billowed from the attic vents. Eventually, after confirmation that the flames had not been of the intentional kind, the incident commander gave the order for preparation for final burn down. The heat generated topped a thousand degrees and could be felt for a ways around the home.

Even after the decision to burn down the home came, fighters doused the flames at strategic points to maintain control. The black smoke is the house burning, the gray is steam from the water. Crews worked hours to safely burn the home. Homeowners are able to use the value of the home as a deduction from their taxes and in this case, allowed them to remove the home easily. It was kind of sad for me to see such a historic, limestone home taken down, but time marches on. Please review fire safety measures with your children and check your smoke detectors.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Behind the scenes at Underwater Adventures

We have enjoyed going to the Underwater Adventures. I hadn't really planned on going again this summer, but an opportunity to go behind the scenes with some kids we know from a homeschool group prompted us to plan another trip. It was really nice to have a guided tour--people can learn a lot of interesting facts they may not know if they just do a self guided walk through the aquarium. We got to visit the lab where they care for the smaller animals and do water quality testing. We also saw the kitchen where they prepare the food for the animals. Under Minnesota law, the food given to animals cannot be garbage. If you have ever eaten at Red Lobster, you have eaten food from the same source as the animals there. It was funny to see the kids scrunch their noses up and comment about the smell and their "need to clean it." Our tour guide explained that they have the cleanest kitchen in the entire Mall of America. I've heard that on the news...it really is the cleanest kitchen in the Mega Mall. Fish heads anyone? Hmmmmm, yummy.

The kids got to hold a dried egg pouch. The pouches are nicknamed the mermaid's purse because the egg pouch has a handle that allows it to hang from rocks in the ocean. The aquarium has live ones hanging from hooks in the tanks that will eventually hatch. Well, some of them will. The aquarium will then use them for other zoos and aquariums.

Many of their animals are rescued animals. The areas of fish are more noticeably divided than they appear in the tube. We went through the exhibit after the tour. It was a different experience. Since tours were still being held when we were in, it was the first time we had seen the water completely lit up. It has been darker when we have gone before--you would not think it would be that noticeable, but it was. Near the end of the tube, we saw some of the fish getting fed what had been being prepared. We saw several stingrays eating. I always thought the face of the stingray reminded me of Face from the Nickelodeon network.

The aquarium changed the exhibit at the end and has opened a touch tank for crabs. The kids played with the crabs, careful to not get their fingers near the pinchers. We ended the trip with some iced coffee and chocolate from the mall.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Agricultural and small town historical interpretations

The county I live in has several organizations dedicated to the preservation of our history. The town I work in is no different. They have been working for years to get a building and succeeded in doing so. Sunday they had an open house--even with its limited resources it was way cool.

In addition to its community holdings, the museum has several pieces or historic equipment used in farming. During its open house, the museum had volunteers that shelled corn (both popcorn and field corn,) spinning and rope making. Some of the equipment hasn't been used in daily life for a very long time, but the volunteers both estimated that the rope making and sheller where probably used into the 50's. The rope maker was purchased by one of the volunteer's father 75 years ago for 49 cents. It is hard to imagine something we see as so simple being such a time savor and so essential on a farm.

Both were also described as tedious and frustrating. The gentleman who had been working on shelling the corn showed us his fingers from manual shelling--the dry cracks looked like they hurt. Even as slow as this simple sheller was, it sure looked better than doing it with fingers! My daughter had come with me and we both got to bring rope home--it was neat to have. My boys both regretted not coming with...hope they think about it next year!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Riding at the Barn Dance

Each year the riding center we volunteer at has a barn dance. It is a great time. There is always some great food, but the best part is always spending some time with the people we have grown so fond of out at barn. A couple weeks back we were unable to attend a training class held by Randy Kraling--a professional horse trainer from southern Minnesota. Emphasizing the natural behavior of horses, so much of his work is basic body language to get the desired behavior.

We have been very fortunate to have a band that volunteers to play. There isn't always a lot of dancing going on, but they are pretty good. I love the Johnny Cash songs they play. Last year when we were at the Mall of America looking for an outfit for my daughter--a clerk in one of the stores we went into kept asking, "This is really for a barn dance? A real barn?" I know it sounds kind of old fashioned, but we really do have fun.

There is also some wagon rides drawn by the draft horses and a hay ride pulled by a tractor. This year was great! We had extra volunteers come out and had three rides going at the same time...made for a smooth line flow! Even though I didn't go on the rides this year, my boys did and had a good time.

My boys also got to ride the horses for a short time. They enjoyed themselves. In between everything, they had fun playing with the other kids out there. While they were playing, I kept an eye on the silent auction items that were out there.

Other people got their face painted and had some goodies. The raffle tickets also sold very well this year. I was concerned that the fundraiser was not going to go very well this year because of the economy, but we did okay and have more money for feeding the horses! We really do have fun while supporting the therapeutic center.