Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Pssst... A Sale You Don't Want to Miss!

This sale is worth checking out: Alpha Omega Publications is having an AMAZING Black Friday sale: the first 50 customers will receive a 40% off discount off their purchase with this code: BLKFRIDAY40. After these discounts are gone, you can still get a 20% off with code: BLKFRIDAY20. Go check out their curriculum and merchandise here.

We are currently visiting family in Virginia, and still homeschooling our teens using Monarch curriculum. No need to pack books and school supplies, only our computers! Aunt S has a quick internet connection, so school has not been interrupted yet. I am considering giving them Thursday and Friday off, though:)


Happy Thanksgiving!!!

PS. Make sure to also check out what Cyber Monday brings. You can sign up for emails on the AOP website, and get all the announcements right in your mailbox!

Alpha Omega Publications
is a sponsor of Our Mothership Adventures. We have been given free curriculum in exchange of our honest reviews. You can read our disclosure here.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Wonderful Windsor Castle Park


Greetings from Virginia! If you follow our Facebook page, you may have seen Our Mothership Crew on the move, again. We are on our way up north, but first are spending some time in Virginia at my sister's house.

Yesterday we packed up all thirteen of us and headed out to Smithfield to enjoy the brisk fall day outside at Windsor Castle Park.

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There was no castle (just this house), but the grounds were breathtakingly beautiful, and the walking trails perfect for big groups and little feet. We also found an orchard, fishing piers, a kayak and canoe launch, a dog park and a mountain bike trail.

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This park is fairly new. Construction started in March 2008, and work was completed in about a year. Windsor Castle Park was the vision of Joseph W. Luter III, founder and former CEO of Smithfield Foods, who donated an amazing amount of $7,200,000 towards the park's development. When living in New York City he had learned to appreciate the green oasis of Central Park in the midst of urban construction, and wanted to set aside land in his beloved hometown of Smithfield, Virginia, for similar purpose. (You can read more here.)

Thank you, Mr. Luter, this park is a treasure!!
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We had such a wonderful walk, and afterward enjoyed our packed lunch at at the picnic area, before heading home.


Directions to the park can be found here. (Quick tip: Jericho Road is squeezed between two houses, and looks like a brick driveway.) There is no entrance or parking fee to Windsor Castle Park. There are no public restroom facilities, but the port-a-potties were fairly clean, and a Starbucks can be found close by:)


Terveisiä Virginiasta! Jos seuraat facebook-sivuamme, niin olet ehkä nähnytkin, että olemme matkalla pohjoiseen, ja parhaillaan siskoni perheen luona vierailulla. Eilen pakkasimme koko konkkaronkan autoihin, ja kävimme kävelyllä upeassa Windsor Castle Park-puistossa Smithfieldissä. Retken kruunasi pikniklounas. Nauttikaa syksyisistä kuvista - päivä saattoi olla reissumme lämpimin:)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Time 4 Learning?

I've been invited to try Time4Learning for one month in exchange for a candid curriculum review. Time4Learning offers an online curriculum for prek-12th, information about homeschool portfolio reviews and tools like the How to Homeschool Guide. Be sure to come back and read about my experience.

We are particularly interested in trying high school math. Has anyone else tried it? What do you think of it?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Lowry Park Zoo/Eläintarhassa


One of the places on our field trip wish list this fall in Florida was Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. Our last visit to a zoo was so long ago no one could remember much - I'm thinking two trips in 2006: San Diego Zoo without Little Miss, and the zoo in Guangzhou on our adoption trip with Little Miss in a stroller. I think we remember more of the so-called bathrooms in the China zoo than the zoo itself.

Lowry Park Zoo was rated the best zoo in America by Parents Magazine, so our expectations were pretty high. We picked a quiet week day to go - a perk of being homeschoolers - and with our Boston Science Museum membership cards we were able to get in with half price tickets.

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The zoo is set up in different sections. It was very easy to walk around from one habitat to another. We started out in the pretty Asian Gardens where we met sleeping Mama Rhino with baby, many pretty birds, and a Malayan Tiger.

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In the Primate World we discovered orangutans, lemurs, chimpanzees, mandrills, and many other monkeys primates we had never even heard of. Check out this great little video Mr D took.


Mr D was a good sport and took Little Miss on a carousel ride as the rest of us pulled out a zoo map to find the closest place for lunch.

And here comes the negative part of our review:

We thought the food at the zoo was horrible. You couldn't bring a cooler in to bring your own lunch (which we usually do), and many of the food places were closed, because it was a quiet day. Maybe on a busy day when more places are open you can get decent lunch, but on this quiet day we only found two options: Grub and Grog Restaurant (expensive pizza, hot dogs and processed cheese nachos - yuck) or Tamani's Oasis, which looked about the same as the Grub and Grog place (with the addition of fried foods).

On our way out we discovered Garden Grille next to the zoo entrance/exit, which maybe would have provided better lunch, but it was too late for us.


Other than the food bit we did enjoy visiting the zoo very much.

Another thing I liked about Lowry Park Zoo was the few rides they had were included in the ticket price. My boys took Little Miss on Tiger Coaster in Wallaroo Station, and Gator Falls log ride, which was great, since mama really really really likes to keep her feet planted firmly on the ground.

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The Wallaroo Station is a neat area geared for younger visitors. On a hot day you can cool off in their water play area, and probably in a busier day you can pay for a pony ride (not available when we were there). The wallaby area and the petting zoo were Little Miss' favorites, and she enjoyed seeing the koala bear through glass. She decided to skip bumper boats and the flyin' bananas rides.

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We loved watching the African Penguins. Did you know:

The African Penguins have a black stripe and black spots on the chest, the spots being unique for every penguin, like human fingerprints. Females lay two eggs, with an incubation period of 38-42 days. They are a monogamous species and the lifelong partners take turns to incubate their eggs and feed their young. Read more here.


The highlight of our visit to Lowry Park Zoo was the Safari Africa section. Little Miss and Mr D got to feed a giraffe!!!

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We do have a question for our readers: "What does the giraffe say?" Does anyone know?

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The Safari Africa section had a great guided expedition tour where you can see a lot of their animals (see a list here). We were especially thrilled to see Mavi, the newest elephant calf born this summer, and her big sister Mpumi.

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Not sure if I should ask my teen boys what their favorite part of the zoo was. It may have been Gator Falls. I lost count how many times they went through it, soaking wet, and even enticed Little Miss to join the splashy fun. It wasn't even a hot day.

Missy and I decided to sit this one out.


From Gator Falls we took a very drippy walk along the Florida Boardwalk to see the manatees. On our way there we enjoyed seeing many of the Florida local wildlife.

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The manatees didn't disappoint! They were adorable!!
(Did you see our own Swimming with Manatees experience?)

Did you heard the rumor of a visitor falling into the manatee pool? We may or may not have had something to do with that. Shhh...!!!!!!


We really did have a fantastic day at Lowry Park Zoo, and highly recommend it to our readers!


Tällä viikolla teimme kotikoululuokkaretken Tampan eläintarhaan. Parents-lehti valitsi sen parhaimmaksi eläintarhaksi Usassa, ja kyllä se olikin upea paikka. Pikkuneiti (ja Mr D) jopa saivat syöttää salaatinlehteä kirahville!

Ainoa negatiivinen puoli oli kamala, epäterveellinen ruoka, emmekä saaneet tuoda omia eväitä eläintarhaan. Menimme hiljaisena viikonpäivänä jolloin monet eläintahran ruokapaikat oli kiinni.

Mutta muuten tykkäsimme! Siellä oli muutama huivipuistolaitekin, mikä tietty oli kivaa muksuille:)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Beached Whale in Madeira Beach


On October 1st, as soon as the news spread about the beached whale here in Florida, I decided we needed to go see it. It wasn't too far away, and I have always had a fascination about these huge creatures, but have never seen one in real life.

I talked three kids into coming with me, and off we went. We parked at John's Pass, and walked about five minutes on the beach. It wasn't hard to find the whale, there were huge crowds gathered on the beach, watching and waiting to see what would happen.


This was our first sight. A huge whale, just laying there, kind of sideways in the shallow weather. Moving slowly.

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Every once in a while she would flip her tail and spray water around.

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And blow water out, too.

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I honestly couldn't identify which type of whale it was, but it turned out to be a 32 foot female sperm whale. So rare for one to be in shallow waters like this. Sperm whales dive deep, as far as 10,000 feet below surface, and stay miles further out in the Gulf. Their primary diet is giant squid, which are found in deeper waters.

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According to the marine specialists, this whale was dying. She was emaciated and weak, with no hope of survival.

We were heartbroken to find out she was given a sedative, then euthanized right there, out on Madeira Beach, after we left.

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She was then towed out (in the water) to a remote beach in Fort DeSoto (one of our favorite campgrounds in Florida!), where a necropsy (a marine autopsy) was performed, and afterward she was buried in the sand.

While the results of the necropsy won't be ready for weeks, the biologists and marine researchers already have determined she was suffering from some chronic infection.

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Such an incredibly sad experience. Yet, an incredible opportunity for researchers to find more out deep water sperm whales. My Fox Tampa Bay wrote:

"We're finding some chronic infection. The animal has had some sort of issue with infection in its abdominal cavity," Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission biologist Andy Garret said. 

He added it would be premature to say that was the primary cause of the animal's distress, however.
"A lot of times, it's sort of a cascading effect where it gets an infection, it gets worse, it stops eating, the nutrition goes down, you start using your fat stores," Garrett said.

"Necropsies can be extremely valuable," explained the University of Florida's Dr. Michael Walsh. "One for the individual relationship on what happened to that individual, and another as a sentinel on what's going on in the environment."

You can read more here.

I have to say we have learned so much this Fall about marine life in our homeschool by just living so near the beach, and experiencing - then researching - about various sea creatures. Love interest-led learning!


Torstaina Floridan länsirannikolta löytyi huonossa kunnossa oleva valas tällä viikolla. Koska paikka ei ollut hurjan kaukana meistä, lähdin kolmen lapsen kanssa katsomaan valasta. Oli upeaa nähdä niin suuri otus - en ollut koskaan ennen nähnyt valasta, mutta surullisena seurasimme uutisista, kuinka valaalle ei annettu selviämismahdollisuuksia. Sen jälkeen, kun lähdimme rannalta, valas jouduttiin lopettamaan. Se hinattiin vedessä lähelle meidän lempileirintäaluetta, ja yhdellä heidän hiljaisista rannoistaan valaalle tehtiin perjantaina ruumiinavaus, ja se haudattiin sinne rannalle. Tuloksia pitää odottaa muutama viikko, mutta tutkijat näkivät jo, että valas oli heikossa ja huonossa kunnossa, mahdollisesti vatsassa olevan kroonisen tulehduksen takia.