Hands-On Alabama History: The Conclusion.

From the beginning

1st-Day-of-school-2016s-3 I promise this was from the beginning of this school year. Ignore the wrong dates. I’m a qualified teacher really I am.

To the end.

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It was an absolute adventure.

And my most ambitious and longest school year yet is finally over.

Although we’d finished most subjects, we officially ended it all on May 24, toward the end of a two-day field trip to Huntsville when Ali and I mutually agreed that although we did not go to all the places in my giant Alabama History plan, we were both officially done. Two days later, after she finished her field trip reports on said trip, we were DONE done.

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We did a total of 36 field trips, some(crazy)how, over her fourth grade year. (Some were multiple trips on the same day, so it’s not quite as insane as it sounds.) The book she wrote about those visits…is substantial.

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It was a remarkable year – one that we all learned more than usual and we will all remember extraordinarily fondly, but also a busy year. And oh by the way, Ali grew just a bit.

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(Noah grew too and also Noah learned to read this year but poor kid – gets overshadowed by our giant history project. Someone clap for Noah! He can read! Hooray!!)

(Okay thank you. Now let’s continue.)

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I didn’t get all of our Alabama History adventures written about during the year, but Ali’s reports are so much better than mine, so I’ll just let her cover the ones I never got around to:

Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens: This was our least favorite trip – we went in December and it was really cold that day, so we didn’t enjoy the grounds. The admission price was high, and there wasn’t that much to see. The Christmas decorations were pretty, though, and the “A Christmas Carol” theme was fun. Ali and Noah made the best of it and slid down the very uneven floors in the Antebellum mansion. (The floors were uneven because plumbing was installed post-construction. Makes for a fun indoor slide.)

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Tuscaloosa – we went to the Bear Bryant Museum and the Children’s Hands-On Museum. The Hands-On Museum wasn’t exactly history related, but it was my favorite museum when I was a kid, and I wanted them to enjoy it again. As expected, Noah now asks me to take him back there at least every other day. This was our last field trip with Carla Jean, so it was a delightful, yet bittersweet, final opportunity to enjoy our perfect symbiosis of friendship and education.

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Southern Museum of Flight and the Birmingham Public Library Maps Exhibit: we took my Dad along to the Southern Museum of flight, which was fantastic, because he was able to teach the kids so much about the planes he’d worked on in the Air Force. Like their inappropriate nicknames and the fact that the switch that drops the missiles is called the “Pickle Switch.” Important information. The kids really enjoyed this museum – they had many planes to play in and several hands-on areas. The education director, Mr. Charlie, was a wealth of information and really fun to make and fly paper airplanes with.

Southern Museum of Flight and Maps Exhibit

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute: This was one of our most important visits, but also ended up being one of our most risky visits. It is definitely geared more toward teens and adults, yet I was brilliant that day and invited friends to come with us. Needless to say, our group of 11 kids ten years old and under were greeted at the front door by a museum curator with strict instructions on how to behave and respect the museum. They did well, considering, but I wished I had left Noah with someone and just taken Ali. It was a grave experience, and there’s so much Civil Rights history that happened right here in Birmingham to absorb. The videos are quite graphic, as are the exhibits. It’s both a vital and painful piece of understanding Alabama’s history.

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

U.S. Space and Rocket Center: Alabama played an important part in the Space Race. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is a fantastic campus (it’s way more than a museum) to learn about and appreciate that impact. They have actual vessels that have been on the moon – that alone is worth the drive. The staff there was extremely helpful and voluntary with their loads of information. They made the kid’s visit so much more fun.

US Space and Rocket Center

The Double Helix Park, EarlyWorks, and The Huntsville Depot – We did a triple take for our last field trip day (maybe that’s why we were so done by the end of it) – we first walked The Double Helix Trail in Huntsville, which is a really excellent .8 mile walking trail in the shape of a double helix. Along the way, you learn about characteristics that are on each genome and how they affect our genetic makeup. They also have an app that you can download and turn the walk into a Scavenger Hunt, which we did and the kids adored.

EarlyWorks is a Children’s Museum in Huntsville that, instead of being a science-based hands-on museum like McWane in Birmingham, it’s a history-based hands-on museum, specifically focused on Alabama History. It was an excellent place to spend an afternoon – the kids loved playing Mercantile, running through the River Boat, and setting off dynamite. Oh and their pile of stuffed dogs is AMAZING.

The Huntsville Depot had a fantastic collection of train cars that could be played on, and even had working buttons and switches that made thrilling noises. They also had a museum of old cars and a train museum. We didn’t make it in time to go into the train museum, but the kids enjoyed the rest of it immensely.

Huntsville Field Trips

Interviews – we didn’t do nearly as many history interviews as I’d hoped to. The fact that all the interviews would be in the latter part of the project (nobody’s still alive from the prehistoric days, after all) contributed to my failure in that area. By the time we got to the end of the year, I was just trying to desperately finish the field trip part of our project. We did have one interview event, however, that was seriously tremendous. Our famous meteorologist James Spann came and spoke to us and a group of about 40 other people who have been participating in our Alabama History project, or that just wanted to come and hear him speak. It was very off-the-cuff, and he talked about all sorts of fantastic Alabama stuff (such as the route one would take if they wanted to turn the four hour trip to the beach into a four day trip, going through every little town and eating at every tiny bar-b-q dive along the way.) He took questions from the kids, as well, which was really fun and quite hilarious. We talked about tornadoes and racism and small-town Alabama and everything in between. He was the perfect person to single-handedly handle the interview portion of our project.

James Spann Interview

And that’s it. I’ll see you again in four years, Alabama History.

If anyone wants the last version of my spreadsheet, they can find it here. I do plan on doing a seminar later in the summer for anyone interested in the details of how we made this year work. I plan on having a curriculum guide written up and copies of my spreadsheet ready to go, so let me know if you’d like to be a part of that.

I mean, I plan to do all that, but it is summer. And it’s been a mighty long school year. So feel free to nag if you don’t hear from me. Until then, I’ll be making like Noah and taking a nice, long, nap.

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Extra Special Trends for Summer.

I walked into Nordstrom Rack on Wednesday, realizing as I walked that I was literally a walking Rack.

I was currently wearing the following that had been bought at Nordstrom Rack or HauteLook:
– Shirt
– Shoes
– Sports Bra
– Pants
– Sunglasses
– Purse

Literally the only things I had on or with me that I hadn’t bought from Rack/HauteLook were:
– Underwear
– Socks
– My children

But though I go to them for nearly my entire wardrobe, it’s the things I don’t purchase that give me the most joy.

Like, for instance, did you know that you can buy partial legs with your pumps now?

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It’s as if they wanted to repurpose the Wicked Witch of the East’s shoes and what was left of her body after that house dropped on her.

Although personally, I’d be much more likely to wear the original.

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It’s just less grotesque to wear someone else’s legs when they’re covered in black and white stripes, don’t you agree?

If you’re not ready to wear someone else’s calves, though, how about stitching tiny pairs of underwear all over your jeans?

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They’re almost as if the witch who met Hansel and Gretel liked to add patches to her clothes to commemorate all the gingham-clad children she’d stuffed into her oven.

I mean just think – originally, those jeans looked like this.

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Clearly, baking children improves denim choices.

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But you know what else improves denim? Three words: Ruffles, Suspenders, and Grommets. Oh and a tube top.

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If you’ve always wondered why the Red Cross was repeatedly asking you to come in and donate platelets, it’s because they had a quota from the fashion world.

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“Feel like the life’s been drained out of you? For just $110, wear other people’s life blood – guaranteed to perk you up and make you feel like you’d just been at the receiving end of a giraffe birthing process.”

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(As an aside, I refused to follow the whole April the Giraffe drama, but wouldn’t that social media hussy know just when to start giving birth so that the whole world was playing on their phones while their kids watched Saturday morning cartoons. I had no idea so much afterbirth could come out of one being. And that placenta could’ve fed a hippy army for a year.)

If you were to find yourself at the receiving end of a giraffe placenta, may I suggest a garbage bag jumpsuit.

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You can just slip out of the jumpsuit, tie that baby up in it, and voila – immediate HAZMAT situation contained.

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Do you have some denim cloth napkins left over from 1984? Have you considered stitching them onto your favorite black sweater? If not, why not?

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I have trouble keeping Kleenex around – especially in the car. They seem to disappear constantly, and I’m left having just sneezed all over my steering wheel and nothing to sop up the mess.

But fashion has come to save the day.

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Now, with built in BOOB TISSUES!! They can reach your nose, reach your steering wheel, reach your kid’s grubby cheeks in the backseat, and cover up those embarrassing breastfeeding mom leaks.

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My Great-Grandmother always kept three Kleenexes in her bra for emergencies (tucked in next to that $5 bill) – she would have TOTALLY understood this dress.

But if your problem is that your boobs have been naughty and you need to put them in time out, this dress is here for you. Guaranteed to not allow your boobs – or your arms – to move an inch.

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Hey Mom – can you reach the cereal on the top shelf?
No, no I actually cannot.

And finally. If your teenage son is a little bit goth and a little bit country and just CANNOT hurry up and decide what to wear to school tomorrow, I have found his token look. His black lipstick and rebel flag trucker hat will BOTH work perfectly with it.

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And now, you’re prepared for summer.

Temporarily Closed for Battle.

I haven’t disappeared or thrown away the merits of blogging in exchange for being in the woods all day every day (although we have been having a exquisitely lovely Spring and most recently a divine three day weekend, so that possibility is most definitely always there) (and also might I add, we’ve been watching Anne with an E and her sweepingly dramatic and dashing descriptors have truly delighted my brain), but rather I’ve been waging war against my blog.

Silly blog – it seems to be getting a bit of an attitude, and no wonder – it’s nearly hit puberty. It’ll be 10 next February, and it has reached that tragical age where the moodiness hits hard. Between nasty uninvited pop-up ads that I’ve been fighting for a month (which, incidentally, seems to be the scourge of the internet of late – I’ve gotten similar ugly ads on many national, reputable websites) and the fact that it is refusing to upload any pictures at the moment, this blog is really making itself quite useless.

As soon as it’ll let me upload again, I’ll be back. Which should be very very soon.

That is, if I’m not in the woods.

(Speaking of which, I had the privilege of pulling a tick off of Chris for the very first time last night. Which means that finally, after 16 years of marriage, we’re officially “Alabama Married.”)

On that note, may your weeks be lovely and your husbands not be covered in ticks.