Wednesday, August 26, 2009

up close and personal

A few weeks ago we had the opportunity to take Olivia to a super cool place. There is an animal sanctuary about one hour from our house called the Black Pine Animal Park. One of my Mom's students from this past year, Kellie, is a volunteer at the park and invited us to come for a visit. We were able to get some behind the scene access to some of the coolest animals I have ever seen.

We started with a tour of the cat house. There were many indoor and outdoor cages filled with lions, tigers and leopards. One of the first animals to catch my eye was the male lion. He was large than life and so regal. I could not believe how close we were to this guy. I could have just stood and watched him for hours...very fascinating!

Then Kellie took us indoors to see where the cats go to cool off. We were able to get inches away from these animals. They are quite calm because they are captive and trained to be good with people. I was able to put my hand against the cage while one of the lions gave it a big lick. It was probably one of the bravest things I have ever done. If you have ever had a house cat lick your hand you know that their tongues are rough, like sandpaper. Well imagine that, but 100 times the size. Olivia was not interested in getting that close to a tiger, but I am glad I gave it a try.

Some of the bigger cats were a little intimidating to Olivia. Not surprising, considering how close we were to them. She was interested in the black bear though and even fed him a couple of marsh mellows. Kellie told us that this black bear did not have any teeth, only gums, so there was no reason to be afraid. I think this may be the only time in Olivia's life that she will have the opportunity to feed a black bear so I am glad that she did it. She probably will not remember doing it, but luckily I caught it on video. He was a sweet bear and we all took turns feeding him marsh mellows. He sure seemed to like them.

After the cat house we moved on to another area of the park. This area housed a lot of farm like animals. There were goats, donkeys, llamas, etc. We were introduced to a sweet little goat and his little horse friend, Mini. Kellie gave Olivia some food to give to them and she immediately became their best friend. Mini was the tiniest little horse I have ever seen. Olivia was not scared at all to hold out her hand and feed them. I think this was her favorite part of our visit.

Next we were introduced to Johnny, the camel. I never thought I would get this close to an animal that weighs close to 2,000 lbs! It was quite fascinating to stand face to face with such a large animal and look into his eyes. We all took turns feeding Johnny a snack and I even had my picture taken with him. What a sport he was! Although Olivia thought he was cool she quickly lost interest and headed back to see her goat and horse friends.

Our last stop was the monkey house. At this point Olivia was quite tired and was begging to go home. We were not going to leave without seeing everything so Todd stayed outside while Kellie took us in to see all of the monkey's in their cages. Monkey's are fascinating creatures because although they are quite smart they can be quite nasty to humans. We had to stay far away from the cages and only Kellie was allowed to touch them. There was one monkey in particular that grabbed my attention. I cannot remember what kind of monkey this is, but there is something about his face that is so interesting. Just look at this eyes!

This was such an awesome opportunity! Olivia is still talking about all of the animals she saw and the things she got to do. I really suggest taking a trip to the Black Pine Animal Park if you live in Fort Wayne. It is really worth the trip.

Well I think our summer is drawing to a close. Olivia starts school next week. We had a class picnic on Monday which allowed her to meet some of the other kids that will be in her new class. She is excited about starting a new year in a new classroom but I am a little nervous for her. She is going to be the youngest in her class and most of the kids are between the ages of 4-5. I know my Olivia and her personality and I have no doubt she will be able to hold her own. I just hope that the other kids welcome her and the other little ones into the class with loving arms. It will be an adjustment and a challenge for her, but Olivia loves nothing more than a good challenge and I think she will grow by leaps and bounds this year. I can't wait!

Friday, August 14, 2009

"'s summer camp, not summer school!"

As you have seen from my previous posts, Olivia has had a very busy summer. What I did not mention is that she attended a summer camp program at her school for most of it. For seven weeks this summer Olivia was able to maintain her normal school routine of going to Three Rivers Montessori three mornings a week. The difference was that she was able to take a break from learning and have a ton of fun with the other toddler teacher and some new friends. They turned the focus away from teaching new things and allowed the children to enjoy the outdoors and just have fun.

Each week during the summer they focused on different topic. One week was space, the next, the ocean, etc. They would then read books, do art work or play games that centered around that topic. They would also have circle time each day, just like they do during the school year, where they would sing songs, read books and dance. I was told multiple times that Olivia would lead circle time or read books to her friends. (Not surprising!) One day she got very creative and organized a marching band with all of her friends.

During the last few weeks of summer camp the kids even learned a little bit of yoga. One evening at home Olivia demonstrated and asked me to join her in doing the "boat pose". There was another one she called "elephant breath", which is a pose I have never seen in any yoga class I have ever attended. Regardless it was really fun watching her demonstrate all of her poses. I can only imagine how cute it was to see a room full of toddlers doing yoga. The only peak I got was this one picture. That's Olivia on the left...

I know that Olivia tends to be a leader. She likes to help other children and most of the time she does it without being very bossy. Each day the teacher would send home notes about what they did that day. There were many times that I would read how Olivia showed concern for others, or how she helped another friend in class. I think that sometimes I immediately think that she is being bossy, when she is just being thoughtful or helpful. Because she is so outgoing she does tend to be the one that takes the lead or ends up being the center of attention, but I think that the structure at school keeps her from getting too carried away with her "leadership". She has learned how to be compassionate and concerned for others and I just love that about her.

One of the best parts of summer camp is spending time outdoors. They did a lot of swimming...which Olivia loves! All of the kids would jump into the school's big kiddie pool and have a blast! They also spent lots of time on the playground...another one of Olivia's favorite things to do. The would play and create things in the sand, working together side by side. I love to see how these kids have learned to play together without arguing over who's turn it is next. Over the weeks they made pizza, ice cream, and many different crafts. They even had time to do some gardening. Olivia was able to plant some seeds and watch them grow over the summer. She took care of her garden by watering it each day and was never scared to dig in the dirt.

The summer went by very quickly with Olivia taking part in the summer camp program. Not only did she experience new things and make new friends she got the chance to know the other toddler teacher at the school...Miss Alicia. Olivia was not in Miss Alicia's class this past year, but by the end of the 7 weeks you would have thought they had been together for an entire school year. Here is Olivia on the lap of the toddler assistant, Miss Lisa, with Miss Alicia sitting next to her.

Since Olivia is moving up to the Primary classroom when school starts back up in a few weeks, it was kind of sad to see the summer camp program come to an end. Olivia is about to step into a whole new world, and leave toddler-hood behind. Although I am excited for her, it is just another reminder of how my baby is no longer a baby. I am glad she was able to participate in this great program at her school over the summer. Now she gets a few weeks off before she starts a whole new year!