Friday, August 31, 2012

I Saw it on Vacation - Week 29 - August 31

What have you seen on Vacation? "I Saw it on Vacation" is a weekly link-up for kids and adults to learn about geography. Many of us have been to exciting places and seen unique things. Let us dream about future vacations while we learn more about our world!

Corn fields in Iowa, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Sleeping Bear Dunes in Michigan, grizzly bears in Alaska…….monuments, landmarks, national parks, geographical features of any type are fair game. It doesn’t even really need to be a vacation. Your post could be about your local climate, or the traditions of your region. If the post shows photos of mountains and big horn sheep in Colorado, or explains hurricanes in the south it’s applicable. Just make sure it is kid-friendly and geography related.

Feel free to link-up a post you've already written and comment on the posts of others! Please link your post on the weekly I Saw it on Vacation blog-hop post and on the I Saw it on Vacation page. I’m excited to see what you have seen!
  • Link-up in two places;
    - Weekly I Saw it on Vacation blog-hop post below so we can see what’s new
    - I Saw it on Vacation Page – If you don’t see your territory send me a email so I can add it. jmommymom @ gmail . com
  • Follow me and I will follow back. Leave me a comment to let me know.
  • Link-up to your post or your main URL if your entire blog is dedicated to one place
  • Include a link back to this page in your post – You can grab the button below
  • Optional: Include the “I Saw it on Vacation” button on your side bar so others can join
  • Include the location and a short description of what you saw in your link up.
  • Check out what others have seen

If you would like to see what we have seen, check out German Living Topics, European Countries and European Living Topics on the side bar.
Germany makes great beer and so does Belgium and the Czech Republic. All three countries are known for their beer making and consumption. People in the Czech Republic drink more beer than people in any other country. In Belgium, each type of beer has it's own special glass, and Germany has Oktoberfest.

What have you seen?

Highhill Homeschool

Eight Great Day Trips (with or without the Kids)

My second article entitled Eight Great Day Trips (with or without the Kids) for the new website Military in Germany was just published. The website is affiliated with the local newspaper the Kaiserslautern American and offers information on subjects such as news, things to do, movies, events, life, videos and classifieds. You can read my article below.

My other article, Seven Best Playgrounds in Ramstein and Kaiserslautern is the number one article on the site and has received over 400 hits. If you are living in the Ramstein area take some time to poke around the Military in Germany website. You just may find something new.

There is so much more to Germany than the wonderful churches and castles. Have you ever heard of farm golf or seen a Celtic house? Kids and adults alike will enjoy investigating German houses of the past and whizzing down a hillside in a toboggan. From swimming pools to steel factories, there are so many places to visit.

Potzberg Wild Animal Park

Every day from spring to fall there is a Birds of Prey Show at the Potzberg Wild Animal Park. Even visitors who don’t speak German get a thrill when the hawks swoop past. The spacious zoo has several animals and is a wonderful way to catch a glimpse of the wild boar that dominates the local forests.

Volklingen Steel Factory

The Volklingen Steel Factory closed its doors in 1986 when its equipment and manufacturing processes became obsolete. It is the only preserved plant of its kind and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors are permitted to walk all around the plant for a fascinating self-guided tour. Blast furnaces that look like large canisters dominate the skyline. Cable cars run all over the plant like a chair lift runs up a mountain. Walking around, smelling the dust, noticing the weather feeling the immensity of the factory sparks the imagination into seeing what it would have been like to work there. A tour of the plant takes around 3 hours and is well worth the short drive to the Saarbrucken area.


If you haven’t seen storks in the Ramstein area, you are sure to see them at Luisenpark. This unique and large park in Mannheim contains playgrounds, restaurants, and animals.  Pink pelicans and flamingos play in the water. A butterfly may land on you in the butterfly house. Hidden behind the Chinese Garden are two Terra Cotta Soldiers from an ancient Chinese burial site. From relaxing in the shade, climbing in the playground and viewing snakes in the reptile house this park offers something for everyone.


This Celtic living history museum lets visitors experience life in Germany 2,000 years ago. Children may get the opportunity to cut and sew leather to construct their own coin purse, or pound copper to make a medallion. See how grain was ground and check out the construction of Celtic structures. Plan ahead. This small museum is only open on the weekends.


About 500 years ago, several years after the Celts, and several before modern times, the Freilichtmuseum gives visitors a more recent look into Germany’s past. It turns out that life wasn’t too much different from the American Pioneers. There wasn’t water or electricity inside the houses, cooking was done over open fires, and houses were swept with hand-made brooms. A walking trip through all the buildings can easily last four hours as there are many open
buildings. Rest at the restaurant or pack a picnic. Visit during a special event to see live demonstrations of what life was like.

Natural Swimming Pool

The natural water filtration system gives this swimming pool its name. Hidden behind a building on the edge of Landstuhl its surprising to see a large grassy area, water slide and landscaped swimming pools. Little ones can toddle among the pebbles in the ankle deep water, while big kids enjoy the low platform diving board and inner tubes. If all the play builds up the appetite, brats can be purchased or visitors can enjoy a picnic. A day can easily slip away as
everyone enjoys the afternoon swimming, sunning and relaxing.

Alpine Slide

Although the thought of sliding down a hill in a metal cart on a track may seem frightening, it’s actually quite fun. The cars are towed up and then released at the top for a curvy, fun-filled ride down the hill. Each car has breaks which are easy to use, and parents can ride with their small children. In the winter there is a single poma lift to bring skiers up the hill. It’s not too often we get the opportunity to spend an afternoon like this.

Farm Golf

With wooden shoes attached to a stick visitors try to hit a soccer ball into a bucket recessed into the ground. The course is laid out in a farm field like a golf course. After the round visitors can grab a beer and a bite to eat, and that’s not all. There is also a hay hotel. That’s right, you can spend the night in the barn on the hay.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Leukemia - How is Jemma? - Day 74

Jemma's blood is still weak, but finally moving in the right direction. On Wednesday her neutrophil count rose to 300. A count less than 500 means she is extremely sensitive to illness.

Mon, August 20 - 100
Wed, August 22 -    0
Fri,    August 24 -    0
Mon, August 27 - 100
Wed, August 29 - 300

Unfortunately, we still don't know the reason her blood has been taking so long to regenerate. She has been tested for five viruses. Three of the tests have come back negative and we haven't gotten results for the other two. Although testing found she was not extra sensitive to the Purinetol chemo pills it is possible she is extra sensitive to the CPM chemo she received through her catheter on our overnight stay in the hospital on July 25th. Because her blood is still weak chemotherapy remains on hold as it has been since Monday August 13.

The past few weeks have been difficult to say the least. Tuesday morning Jemma woke with leg pain. This was extra scary for me as it brought back visions of her Leukemia before it was diagnosed. One night she very innocently said "mom, my leg hurts." I told her to drink some water and go back to bed. This time when she told me her leg hurt I worried about it for a few days and continue to think about it in the back of my mind. The doctors said it would be impossible for her to have Leukemic blasts in her blood which cause leg pain on Tuesday after a clean bone marrow withdraw less than 24 hours earlier. The leg pain went away, but it is another unexplained item that makes me worry.

In an effort to avoid worry, at home we have been focused on school and sewing crafts. These distractions help both me and my mother while keeping the kids entertained and learning. Actually, Jemma focuses on these things in the hospital too. She often brings craft projects and schoolwork to do while waiting for blood test results.

Although her blood is bad, she feels good. Here she is skipping way ahead of me down the sidewalk, on our way home from the hospital. Our next visit is scheduled for Friday (tomorrow). Hopefully her blood continues to regenerate so she can continue with therapy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Estimation Activities

After attending a family math night at our local public school I was inspired to do some estimation activities with my son at home. Practicing estimation is fun and an important skill. In life we estimate how much things will cost, the number of days until food will spoil, the quantity of tomatos we will need to buy for the week, the number of hours it will take to complete a project and so much more. These estimation activities were very simple and easy to do at home. Well, my son loved it.

First he estimated how many animals, mosaic tiles, fuse beads and colored pencils he could grab with one handful.

Then he grabbed a handful and counted. Each time he grabbed a handful of something he modified his estimates for the remaining items.

Next he estimated how far he could jump, throw a tissue, a Q-tip and a Band-aid. Again he modified his estimates while going through the activity. When he threw the tissue and Band-aid he also did a bit of science. It didn't take long for him to figure out that if these items were crumpled into a ball he could throw them farther.

That was all I had planned, but he had ideas for more.
He thought we could also estimate weight. He estimated the weight of three books, 10 quarters and a cup of water without the cup. To check the weight of the water without the cup he weighed the cup, the weighed the cup with water and found the difference.

Then he checked to see how close he was. All of the data was recorded in a notebook.

He is a visual, hands-on learner who loves to figure things out. This activity helped him better understand estimation and its importance while having fun.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Wall

To protect the city during medieval times a wall was built around the village of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Today visitors can walk 2.5 km loop on the wall around the city.

Several towers served as watch points as well as entry points to the city.

During medieval times the city had a curfew. Anyone coming home late had to pay a hefty fine and could enter through the man hole in the large door, or spend the night outdoors. This is an original door from the middle ages.


Monday, August 27, 2012


Schneeballe translated to English means snowballs. These shortbread-like cookies are a favorite Rothenburg ob der Tauber snack.

Papa bought one for each of the kids. They ate the whole thing, but I'm not sure this one was a favorite for them. They didn't ask for more and that is very unusual for my children.

Leukemia - How is Jemma? - Day 71

Today Jemma and I spent the entire day in the hospital. We left when the first mothers were dropping their children off at preschool and returned with the 9-5 working folk. During that time Jemma's blood was checked, she was put to sleep for a bone marrow withdraw and then she received her seventh blood transfusion. 

The long break from chemotherapy continues. It has been a stressful weekend as a break this long is a bit uncommon. Jemma's blood has not begun to regenerate and she has been on a break from chemotherapy since August 13 (15 days).

Three things are most likely to cause the delay; First, she could have a virus. She was tested for several viruses on Friday and we still do not have these results. Second, her blood could contain an enzyme which makes it extremely sensitive to the Purinetol chemo pills she was taking. This test came back negative and she does not have the sensitivity. Third, her Leukemia could have relapsed and instead of producing good white blood cells she could again be producing bad white blood cells known as blasts. After the results from her blood work this morning indicated little to no regeneration a bone marrow withdraw was performed. I am so relieved that the results of this test showed no blasts (bad white blood cells). In addition, under the microscope the building blocks required for her body to produce red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets were all visible in the bone marrow from this test.

Therefore, a virus is the most likely cause for the delay, but it has not been the proven cause. The doctors believe her blood should show signs of regeneration within a few days. In the mean time, she has no immune system and we continue to clean obsessively, use lots of hand sanitizer, watch her closely and check her for fever several times during the night.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a well preserved medieval city.
It took us a few hours to walk the wall around the city.

Each night a local resident known as "The Night Watchman" takes visitors on a walking tour of the city. My children usually don't care too much for tours, but this guy was excellent. His rhythmical voice coupled with his entertaining stories held not only their attention, but ours as well.

St. Jakob's Cathedral and the Franciscan Abbey, two medieval Cathedrals still stand in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

 The Markt Platz in the center of town is preserved in the medieval style.

Several times during the Thrity Years War roving armies visited the town and took supplies and other items they needed. The first time this happed the residents decided to defend their city and not allow the armies to enter the town. They held the army at bay for three days before the troops entered to plunder and seek revenge against the unhospitable hosts.

During World War II approximately 40% of the city was damaged. Luckily people from around the world donated money to have the damaged portions of the wall rebuilt and the city restored.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Colorado Bird Banding

In the spring I was asked by Karl at the Denver Audubon Society to write an article for their newsletter - The Warbler. Bird banding is a great way to introduce children and adults to birds. Most banding is done in April-May and in September-October when the birds are migrating. They have stations in Nebraska and Colorado. You can read the article here.

Target Practice - Line Graphing (and some Algebra)

All the kids ages five to eleven learned from this target practice activity. The goal was to create a line graph based on data collected from shooting at the target. 

First we measured the distance from the target and placed marks at 5 feet intervals.

Each child shot 12 bullets from each of the 5 ft marks from 5 feet to 35 feet.

The number of bullets which stuck to the target we recorded at each location.

To demonstrate an application of the activity I showed them a line graph I created to track the white blood cells in my five year old's blood each day. (She is currently battling Leukemia.)

Then I helped them to create their own graphs. Distance is on the x-axis and number of bullets which hit the target is on the y-axis. From the graph, my oldest used the formula y=mx+b to develop an equation for the line. m is the slope of the line and can be calculated by selecting two points on the line and finding the rise divided by the run. Or the difference between the y-axis points divided by the difference between the x-axis points. b is the y-intercept or y value where the line intersects the y-axis. The line had to be projected to determine the y-intercept and the equation was only good for distances between 10 and 35 feet.

My 5 year old learned about line graphs, my 9 year old practiced graphing and saw practical applications for graphs, while my oldest saw an application for equations for lines and was able to practice creating an equation for a line.

To see more of our hands on math activities please visit our math page.

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