Also pretty neat, though, was the "conveyder belt" tank, as Simon likes to call it, with sharks and the like swimming all about. Fortunately, none of the sharks ate him for lunch.
Most impressive thing about the Aquarium, I thought, was the large, female Octopus! She was draped all over her tank when we arrived before 9 a.m. on Wednesday, having been recently prodded away by an Aquarium employee with a long stick from her smaller, newer, male counterpart in the adjoining tank. (Apparently they sometimes eat one another in the wild!)
Also pretty neat, though, was the "conveyder belt" tank, as Simon likes to call it, with sharks and the like swimming all about. Fortunately, none of the sharks ate him for lunch.
My real favourite, though, were the sting rays... they were social, swimming up to the edge of the tank to say hello to their many admirers. But only a very few came close enough to the surface to allow themselves to be petted. "Glubby", was how Simon and I described the texture.
Tats came home late the other day, just as I was beginning to panic about what horrible fate might have befallen her. She had a good story, though... here it is:
Having ridden my bike all over Toronto for the last ten years, I've had many critters run, fly and waddle across my path. Cats. Dogs. Squirrels. Raccoons. Ducks. Geese. As of yesterday, I can add another species to the list: a Vietnamese Pot-Bellied Pig. Yes, pig.
I was riding my bike home on Royal York having dropped off one of our kids at his rock-climbing class, when a pig nonchalantly trotted across the road, stopping the few drivers and pedestrians who happened to be around in their tracks. People were laughing and taking pictures, but no one seemed to be calling OSPCA or Animal Control, which I found surprising. I would have done it, but my phone is currently sim-card free, so it cannot make calls.
I couldn't leave the poor piggie all alone now!
And so I followed her.
That proved a challenging task, for the pig had no respect for property boundaries and, despite being pot-bellied, was able to fit through considerably smaller openings that I, especially since I still had my bike with me. At one point I lost sight of her, but a passer-by, having inquired whether I was "looking for a pig", directed me back across Royal York, to the back yard of one of the triplexes whither the pig had apparently decided to wander.
I was joined in my quest by a woman carrying a slip-on leash (just happens to carry it in her car in case there is a pig on the loose, it turns out), a man and a teenaged boy. The woman tried to coral the pig in a corner by a chainlink fence, while I stood a bit back to cut off an escape route back onto Royal York and the man and the boy hung back, yelling to the woman "Stay away from the animal! It looks agitated! It's not your job to save it! It's dangerous."
The pig -- who was obviously someone's pet -- didn't look all too dangerous, but, since the lady with the leash had her hands in her pockets, must have assumed that there were treats to be had, and was indeed becoming increasingly agitated. She started nibbling the lady's coat and eventually jumped up on her, sending the poor woman flying right into the puddle, splashes and all! I helped the lady get up and retrieve her phone, while the man and the boy walked away, not willing to risk their life and limb in a face-off with a lethal monster that is a pot-bellied pet piggy. Classy move, dudes.
Luckily, the cell phone that had landed right by the edge of the puddle was undamaged, and some phone calls were being made. Apparently the lady had already called 911 a few minutes ago, in the heat of the moment, but they refused to send out a fire truck, lights a-flashing and siren a-blazing, to trap a pig on the loose. Call us back when it's a tiger was their message. Then she tried 311, 411, Animal Control... I wasn't paying much attention to the numbers she was dialling, since I kept following the roving pig, trying to guide her away from traffic and back into the back yard.
Some residents emerged from the triplex, rubbing their eyes and asking: "Is this what I think it is?" If you think it's a pig, then yes. It is. One of the residents brought out a head of lettuce and starting feeding the pig, which at least kept her in one place. Once the lettuce ran out though, the pig wanted more and was not shy about letting us know that, and the guy had to keep a fine balance between allowing the pig to throw him into the puddle and scaring her away completely.
A few more people came and left, offering their commentary ("I hope this pig's not heading to the No Frills across the way, not unless it's suicidal, hah hah!"), but no sign of Animal Services. I was getting cold and worn out and I knew Vera must have been getting concerned about my absence: she was expecting me to be home right about now since she had to leave for an engagement in town, and I was supposed to take on child-minding duty. But what could I do?! I had a pig to save!
Finally, a car pulled into the driveway. A man came out, walked up to the pig and, petting her hairy back, mumbled: "Hmmm, Olympia, so how are we going to get you home?"
Owner and pig appeared to be reunited. Except... he wasn't sure how to get her home!
The man rigged up a harness or so out of a length of rope, but the pig -- who had been all about roaming the neighbourhood half an hour ago -- was now perfectly content to stay where it was.
She refused to budge!
After a considerable amount of pushing, pulling and head-scratching, the owner decided that she would just have to go for a ride in the trunk.
Olympia the pig didn't think much of that plan and put up a good fight as the man tried to wrestle her in. Even after the trunk closed, she continued to struggle, which made for a scene right out of a cheap Hollywood thriller.
"Don't get stopped by the police!" I told the owner, and finally, after an hour of pig-herding, was on my way.
At home, I was greeted by a very concerned-looking girlfriend who announced that she was about to call start calling the police and the hospitals. "You better have a good excuse!" she exclaimed.
I pulled out my phone with the pictures and grinned at her: "Oh, do I ever..."
My Incredible Body is a highly visual app aimed at sharing information about how the different body systems work, in child-friendly language. When my sons, now in Grade 5, came home earlier this year with an assignment on the respiratory and other systems, I was somewhat disappointed with how "thin" their knowledge seemed.
Since the Human Body is part of the Grade 5 Science curriculum, I decided to download the app. I was also interested to see if the reproductive system would be included in this app, since it is not explicitly included in the Science curriculum, and I feel it is a shame to exclude one of the systems when looking at the body holistically (more on that later).
I sat down with one of my sons to check out My Incredible Body, and was immediately impressed with the multiple entry points the app offers: Users select not only which body system to explore, but also whether to navigate it themselves, or watch a pre-selected video introduction to that system, or read short paragraphs on different parts of that system. As a teacher, and as a mother of two students with special learning needs (both my children are Gifted, and one has a Learning Disability), I was impressed with the differentiated approach the app offered. I especially liked the fact that paragraphs were read aloud in a clear voice as they appeared on the screen with the different systems.
The visual and auditory combination is something that I can see working well in a classroom, as a resource. This app could be used as a general reference for students throughout the unit, or different systems could be set up on different iPads around the room as "stations" that individual or small groups of students rotate through, collecting information. The app includes digestive, respiratory, skeletal, urinary, sensory, muscular, and cardiovascular systems.
While we were exploring My Incredible Body, my son asked if we could download the reproductive system "add-on". At first I was annoyed that I'd have to pay extra for this in-app purchase, but upon further reflection, I am glad that downloading the reproductive system requires parental consent/input.
It's not that I was opposed to my son exploring this feature on his own, but it was good for me to know he was interested in doing so, as it provided me with a segway for a rich conversation about puberty with my child, who is on the cusp of it!
Although as a parent of twins, I was disappointed with the usual one-baby womb on display, I was impressed with how the app handles reproduction. The typical "mommy and daddy come together" nonsense was replaced with a child-friendly yet scientifically accurate description that both a woman's and a man's ingredients are needed to make a a baby.
As with the other systems, the reproductive system includes narrated videos (in this case, one for boys and another for girls -- my son watched both!)
As a parent, I appreciated the starting point this app offered for further conversations -- we were able to discuss a few questions he had, using the visuals in the app as a reference point. As a teacher, I like the high quality images and the fact that the information is read aloud. I also like that students can pick and choose what they want to read and review. In addition to using it in Science, I can totally see myself using this app when teaching the Health part of the Health and Phys. Ed. curriculum.
Since this app seems to offer such matter-of-fact approach, I would love to see what they could do with transgender topics. At the very least, I would have liked to have seen a slight modification on the "all girls/boys experience these changes at puberty" narration to include at least one sentence about gender non-conforming children, since puberty is such a challenging time for them especially.
One feature I was excited about was the quiz option -- as a teacher, I love the idea that students can quiz themselves to see how much they've learned!
Unfortunately, access to the quizzes requires yet another in-app purchase, which, for a $5.79 app seems like a bit of a cash grab. I did not download the quizzes, and am hopeful the company will consider including these in the overall price of the app at some point in the future.
Other than having to pay for the quizzes, my only other real complaint was that those parts of the app where skin colour could have been included seemed fairly Caucasian to me -- I've got nothing against white people, but as a teacher in a highly diverse school, I'm always on the look out to ensure the resources I use are inclusive, and it was pretty clear that both baby and both children in the reproductive system were pretty, er, "monochromatic"!
Overall, though, I'd have to give this app a two thumbs up: It's a visually accurate, highly accessible and interactive resource that is educational and entertaining for both children and adults. Well done, Zybright!
Some readers may recall our run-in with Tony, the misogynistic homophobe on Parliament Hill a few weeks ago. Today I finally got around to crafting an email which I sent to the good people at the permit office in Ottawa.
We shall see what transpires...
A grand (mis)adventure happened at our home this morning: Two new stuffies of Alex and Simon's were kidnapped by Cow and Panda, their old stuffies!
The boys arrived at our place from their dad's to see Panda and Cow perched on a chair in the doorway to their bedroom, in full kidnapper regalia, a screwdriver in their hot little hands, and a ransom note:
Having unscrewed (get it?) the battery cap to a nearby toy, the boys figured out (with Mommy's help) that the first clue required a mirror to decode...
The next clue was hidden under the carpet, and led the boys to the first captive...
Thanks, Tatsy, for another amazing puzzle!!! :D
Some days it's exhausting, but other days I feel so lucky to be Alex and Simon's mom!
Today we went to check out Castle, a board game café downtown. A few photos, some with captions if you hover over top...
Bought our tree at the local grocer on Sat., and hauled it home. We'd had him cut a ring off the bottom for added freshness, but it still needled like crazy. Also, we ended up having to borrow a saw from a neighbour to cut off an additional branch, as the stump would not fit into my cheap stand. The friend who was helping us set up got over-zealous and sawed off another branch, too, leaving a giant gap on one side!
After a weekend filled with dance recitals, German school concert and more seasonal festivities, we finally managed to get the darned thing decorated.
Since last Christmas had found some of us with Trevor and others on PEI (and hence, without a Christmas tree), I couldn't actually remember what decorations we had kept when leaving for Argentina, and which we had passed along to Trevor.
As we unpacked our one remaining Christmas bin, I was sad to discover that I must have passed my fancy pears and apples on, along with the wooden stars that a former room-mate and I had bought together at a local shop more than a decade ago, but I was pleased to find our various birds (aviation theme, hehe) and musical instruments (including the little drum ornament I stole from the tree at the hospital the night my mother died over 20 years ago!!!) nestled in among various red balls and the five remaining straw stars made by my great-grandfather.
The boys, of course, preferred silliness and wrestling to a more picture-perfect pose once all the decorations were in place, so here is the best I got:
(click to enlarge)
It began in the wee hours of the morning. One of my kids was sick, so sleep was restless at best. I'd stayed up far too late (again), too, planning a circumference lesson for my Grade 8s, so that didn't help in terms of the sleep situation.
When I finally hauled out of bed at 6:08 a.m. it was a race against time to get out the door in time for work.
Of course this was a morning when one of my kids opted for a meltdown requiring parental intervention. It is hard to be calm, patient, a great model of tranquility and optimism when your tired as #%^!… AND YOU'RE RUNNING LATE FOR WORK!!!!
But somehow I managed to pull it off with some success, get everyone's tears dried and leave the kiddies in reasonably decent spirits as I sprinted out the door, lunch bag in one hand, folder of marking in the other, while juggling phone, keys, bus token and sheer physical and mental exhaustion!
No sooner had I gotten on the bus than I realised that the data stick on which I had saved my marginally brilliant circumference lesson was still plugged into my computer.
Ugh. Too late to turn back -- I had duty before school that day, and was already running behind!
Still half asleep and now worried about when and how I would re-plan the lesson I was to teach later this morning, I rode the bus while finishing up marking some Grade 7 Math journals, and stumbled from bus to subway to Mississauga Transit bus, backpack and lunch bag in one hand, stack of math journals and orange pen in the other, phone (hopefully) in pocket, trying not to lose anything, but reticent to pack all the marking up in my backpack due to the lost time (and resultant incomplete marking) that comes with such frequent transfers.
Safely installed on a new-ish and very comfortable Mississauga Transit bus, I got deep into my marking again... when I looked up to a strange landscape, and realised that in fact I was on the WRONG BUS!!!
REALLY, PEOPLE??!!! What kind of a loser gets on the wrong bus?! In a city she's lived in her whole life?
Happily, the diversion wasn't too far out of the way, and there was a southbound bus I could intercept some stops ahead that would take me directly to school.
I got on that bus and discovered three of my students and a colleague were also riding it! :)
Managed to make it to school just in time to dump my various piles and bags and run out to morning duty. Happily, I had a planning time this morning before my Grade 8 class, so my "to do" list got bumped in favour for the more urgent "re-make in 32 minutes the circles lesson that Ms. Teschow spent 1.5 hours on last night and then idiotically left at home".
With two minutes to spare at the end of my planning time, I logged onto my email to check the status of some colour printing I had sent off to the keeper of the colour printer in the school the night before -- ambitiously, I had prepped and sent some colour printing for THREE upcoming lessons in ONE email, in order to save everyone time. 12 pages of colour printing in one fell swoop would soon be mine, with no subsequent paper chasing over the next two weeks... at least for that stuff.
Or so I thought.
My organization was my downfall: Waiting for me in my inbox was the less-than-inspiring news that anything over 6 pages required principal approval, and could I please check with Mrs. So-and-So and get back to printer lady.
Tempted as I was to simply re-send the printing request in three distinct less-than-6-page chunks, I instead took a deep breath, brewed myself some Mate, and went out into the hall to greet my Grade 8 math class.
Sometimes such days happen... And it's good when they're finally over! So I'll skip over the part about getting home to find a letter from the building under the door requiring a whole series of actions in the next 24 hours which I can't possibly and simply won't fulfill, and instead fast-forward to the part where I got to snuggle with my kids at bedtime and read the penultimate chapter of Anne together, which we started last summer on the Island, and which has become such a regular part of our routine that the boys have requested the sequel once we finish the first book. :)
A nice, calm finish to this terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day!
First Hallowe'en without the kids was bittersweet... last year at this time, we were in Buenos Aires, and this past week I got three emails from some of last year's people asking me if there was any plan for this year's event, hehe. (We've been gone since May!!)
So this year was Trevor's turn, and with Tats out of province, I decided to volunteer to help shell out at my building.
As the weather was fairly lousy, we actually didn't get that many children passing through. But, give me a few dozen chocolate bars and couple baggies of cheesies, and I'm happy as a pig in shit!
It was nice to hang out with some of my neighbours for a low key evening in the lobby, and I enjoyed seeing some of the unique and interesting hallowe'en costumes of my fellow apartment dwellers, their children, and -- in several cases -- their pets!
The boys, meanwhile, were at their dad's... having come home early, they were busily sorting through their hallowe'en candy before selecting a previously agreed-upon number to indulge in.
After writing for several teacher and multiple birth publications, including ETFO's Voice Magazine, Multiple Moments, and the Bulletwin, Vera now focuses most of her written attention to prolific blogging, including BiB, "Learn to Fly with Vera!" and, more recently, SMARTbansho and Homeschooling 4. Contact Vera by clicking the photo above.
The views expressed on this blog are the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the perspectives of her family members or the position of her employer on the the issues she blogs about. These posts are intended to share resources, document family life, and encourage critical thought on a variety of subjects. They are not intended to cause harm to any individual or member of any group. By reading this blog and viewing this site, you agree to not hold Vera liable for any harm done by views expressed in this blog.