Thursday, July 24, 2008

Picking more blueberries and the Texas Freshwater Fisheries

We headed off on an adventure this week to see the Texas Freshwater Fisheries with some friends. In researching the location, I discovered a blueberry farm nearby that still had blueberries (lots of them in fact!) and so we made a detour to feed my need to fill my freezer with delicious blueberries (instead of the marbles they sell at the store and pretend are the same thing).

This blueberry farm was awesome. It was huge and full of very tall blueberry "bushes". They were pretty much trees. And they were covered with blueberries in bunches, just ripe for the taking. We had fun picking them.

I almost put my hand right into this spider. Luckily I saw his beautiful web and then saw him before I destroyed the web and upset her. I am not a huge spider fan, especially large spiders. She is an Argiope aurantia or Yellow garden spider, of the orb weaver variety. (click on the picture to enlarge, the spider is in the top left of the center).

Because the bushes were so high, the kids decided they needed a boost in order to reach the high berries and used this dad as their lifter. He got quite the shoulder workout at the blueberry farm!

Immediately after we arrived at the Fisheries center, the kids asked for money for fish food to feed the fish. We walked down to a window where we saw others feeding fish and were met by this swarm of catfish. I got splashed by fish jumping on each other to get to the top of the fish pile! Their gaping mouths are a bit scary when they are reaching right at you for food!

Here's the view from behind the safety glass. Notice that girls are good at posing for pictures while boys (at least mine) give me approximately 1/64th of a second to take the photo and then run off to more important things. I wish I'd taken a video of the catfish as the pictures don't capture the awesomeness of their swarming. It was really an experience.

I wish I wasn't in this photo. In my defense, I am 17 weeks pregnant. (Surprise!) Trainboy is still too busy to look at a camera, and Dinoguy is making a face. I love my boys.

They did have a nice museum full of interesting displays all about fishing, fish hatching and stocking all the "lakes" here in Texas. Did you know that there is only one natural lake in Texas? The rest are man made!



Pop quiz: The best use for an empty room full of chairs meant for watching a movie
is _____.














It was a favorite room of mine, because I could sit and watch the giant fish tank while the kids worked on acing that quiz. (See above)













Eventually we all were ready to head outside and try the fishing. They give you poles and stinkbait for catfish. Next time, I'm taking my own bait as stinkbait really stinks.

Fishing with a bunch of kids is not as relaxing and boring as it is supposed to be. I was constantly putting bait on hooks and helping cast lines. Almost immediately, our blond friend caught a catfish along with a big clump of algae. The fish was so well hidden in the algae that the entire time it was being pulled in we were debating whether or not there was actually a fish in it. She got her first fish! (And then we released it for the next fisherman.)

Also, fishing in July in the afternoon is pretty hot. Thankfully they had shady spots. The kids had some fun for a bit, but when they didn't have immediate results, got bored. I was helping Trainboy bait a hook when I hear the sound of a pole moving and look and try to chase Dinoguy's pole as a fish pulls it into the water. I didn't catch it, but the workers kayaked out later and got it because the bobber was still floating. That ended fishing for me as I ran out of patience at that point, which upset him, because he wanted to catch a fish. Hey, you technically did - but you weren't holding onto your pole!

So we headed back inside to wait for the crocodile feeding and for snacks for us too. My favorite memory of this was my friends' 2 yr old twin boys sitting in my lap and eating a bunch of my sugar snap peas. They are adorable.

The crocodiles ate several chicken legs right in front of the glass and then went back in their pond toward the end. It only lasted about 10 minutes but was neat to see.


The kids were all fascinated by watching them swallow the chicken legs whole. There were two employees with the bucket of food and long sticks to bang and push the chicken legs around with. I guess the crocs are pretty tame because I would want more protection between me and the crocs at feeding time. I'm glad that's not my job!

We were pretty tired after this and went back and actually kind of watched the movie in the nice cool movie/aquarium room before deciding to pack it up and head home. Okay I did get to go look for 2 letterboxes in a cemetery before heading home, though only 1 was there. We do have to support my letterboxing habit by going occasionally after all!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Learning to sew

I have been making a cross stitch stocking for Dinoguy since before he was born. I am getting close to done on the Santa that goes on the stocking... but there is still a ton more to do. One of those crafts you buy and start thinking it'll be fun and realize that you just took on WAY more than you thought and then you are all stubborn and refuse to quit. (At least that's how its played out with me.)

Dinoguy saw me working on it one time and wanted to know all about it and when he found out it was for him, he wanted to help. I told him I'd teach him how to cross-stitch his own craft if he liked and we used a coupon at Michaels to buy a cute little kit for him. By the time we had bought it though, he had moved on to other things and he didn't bring it up again until today. Today he saw me crocheting (another project I started) and asked if I would teach him to sew. After clarifying if he meant crochet or sewing machine or cross-stitch, I found the little kit and we sat down on the couch and I began to teach him all I know about cross stitch. (Which isn't a ton, it comes from my memories of my mom teaching me and then experience with the stocking.)

It was interesting to me to notice for the first time as I tried to explain everything to him how much learning there is in sewing. Reading the graph for where to put the stitches, counting the corresponding grid on your cloth. Finding the center of the cloth. Counting and separating threads and threading a needle!

I really thought he might get overwhelmed or discouraged because while I'd thought the weave of the cloth was big enough for him, it was still kind of small and took some work to get the right holes. Nope, he was very very in to it and didn't seem to get frustrated at all and we worked carefully for about a half hour until I needed a break (it was time for my Sunday nap!) He's still not quite independent as the blind hole search from underneath is hard for him.

Then he cuddled up with me while I fell asleep. Then he proceeded to wrestle with his brother on top of my legs while I tried to sleep. Then he apparently went to his bed and took his own nap, because I woke up later (probably because it was unusually quiet) and everyone else in the house was asleep! I love Sunday naps! Oops, he's awake and asking if we can cross-stitch some more. Gotta go!

And I need another kit now for Trainboy. He wants to learn now too.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Colors & light

Dinoguy asked me this morning "Mom, how do you make the color blue?"

I stumbled thru the idea that blue is a primary color and you don't make it, but that wasn't what he wanted to know. So we talked about making colors by squishing berries or flowers and making a paste to make the color, but I still wasn't answering his question right, so we turned to google. I learned that there are different types of primary colors and your printer makes blue by adding cyan and magenta. At this point I remember the light science kit my mom had given us and tell Dinoguy we should pull it out and it will help us.

So we pulled out the kit and started playing with light filters and flashlights and prisms and color mixing. The most successful way to mix the red, green and blue filters for us was by putting them on as glasses, the flashlight filters weren't as easy to see for us but we had a lot of fun. Trainboy joined in and we also played with other parts of the kit, making all sorts of cool discoveries. Dinoguy put on the green glasses and looked outside and pointed out that the sky wasn't green tinted but a brighter blue. This was a great way to show that green and blue make cyan, I showed him the kit diagram that we had tried to replicate and it made more sense, and we tried the red glasses and the sky was magenta!

We proceeded to try out layering the colored glasses, watching TV with the glasses, and playing with the flashlight and more. It was lots of fun.

Swimming & playing

Wednesday was a full day of swimming and play for us. We went swimming with friends in the morning and early afternoon, celebrating Trainboy's ability to swim again.

We had lots of fun playing in the pool and at the playground, and when we were tired of the pool we headed home with our friends and Dinoguy & friend played Spongebob Monopoly & Rumis with the moms while Trainboy and the twins played trains and cars.

We played outside and rode bikes, played with Sarge, had snacks... wish I'd taken more pictures like my friend did! Good times.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dog training class with kids

Today was a nice relaxing day at home. We had yummy blueberries in our oatmeal for breakfast and watched the blueberry episode of Good Eats, making plans for what to cook for Dad's return tomorrow. Blueberry buckle, blueberry pie, blueberry train cake...so many options, so much fun!

Monday evenings are usually when I take Sarge to training class and the kids stay home and play with Dad. But with no Dad and no sitter, they came to class with me today! The class is later in the evening and Trainboy was quite tired afterward and immediately fell asleep when we got back in the truck. Class went pretty well, Sarge is in the advanced class at Petsmart. We are working on distance and distractions in class and I brought 2 excellent distractions (my boys!) for all the dogs with me tonight! The teacher/trainer is awesome and worked with the boys to include them as helpful distractions as we practiced our commands with the dogs in various situations. It was rather hectic and I'm glad that they don't usually come with me because it was a lot harder to focus on working with Sarge when my kids were running everywhere, but the trainer pointed out Sarge needed to learn around the kids anyway since they are his "distractions" at home. (Oops, I've been working with him only away from the kids!)

At the end of this series of classes, Sarge & I will take the tests for the Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog certificates. Dog training classes have been super helpful to me with Sarge, who is a loving, wonderfully sweet dog with lots of energy. I found that I couldn't learn everything I needed to about training a dog from the books I got at the library when we first got Sarge and I'm so glad he came with the "free" beginner training class from his previous owners because I don't think I ever would have gone to a class otherwise because I like to be independent and capable of doing things on my own. He was a big handful when we got him and being able to talk to the trainer every week and get advice and help as I learned to handle my dog has been awesome. I recommend it to everyone!

Anyway, the therapy dog certificate will mean Sarge is capable of going to hospitals and nursing homes for service and I think having a purpose in his life beyond being a family pet will be good for him. I also think it will be a great way to give service with the kids. Can you see us? 2 young boys, a mom & a dog visiting nursing homes to bring cheer to older folks? That's my dream.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Blueberries & Letterboxes

Saturday was a fun adventure for the boys & I. Fixitman is up in Idaho at his high school reunion and having lots of fun without us, so we decided to go have some fun ourselves. (He has the only camera battery, even though we have 2 cameras, and I never went to the store for another battery, so no pictures!)

The morning was spent playing trains with a little friend from church while his parents helped move someone else's refrigerator with our truck. We built the train track around the house again, and the boys played for over an hour driving trains and building track. Then we moved outside and played in the backyard with bikes, slides & bubbles, and enjoying popsicles.

Our promised new front door was finally put on by the landlord and looks wonderful. Fixitman will do the finish painting on the frame and door when he gets back, it looks much better and is safer too. (Though our neighborhood is a safe one, I still prefer a solid wood door to an old hollow one!)

After all of that fun, we packed up the truck and drove east to pick some of the last blueberries of the season here in Texas. It was hot and the berries were smaller since it was the end of the season but we had some fun and then ate blueberry muffins and drank blueberry lemonade in their store afterward.

Then we went letterboxing in the nearby town and country and found 6 boxes and 1 hitchhiker. One of the boxes was quite a spooky adventure for me, it was in a cemetery behind a church with waist high grass. Both the church and the cemetery had an abandoned look though there were recent stones, so I think its just not kept up, but it really gave a spooky feel. Add to that big spiderwebs and the possibility of snakes in the high grass and I was quite jumpy. There was another box there, but I didn't find it right away and my nerves decided I should quit. (The boys had smartly decided to stay in the nice cool truck for that box.)

We stopped at a gas station for snacks before driving home, and the boys slept most of the way. We gorged ourselves on blueberries at home before freezing the rest. It was a wonderful day of play and adventure.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Birthday party fun

We got to go to the 1st birthday party of a family friend, and had a great time. There were many fun things for kids to play, and good times were had by all. Here is a fun picture of 2 of the kids, waiting for cake. I can't believe I got a real smile from her, she usually gives me her signature glare.

Ooohhhh... pretty...













What a great shot of Dinoguy eating his cake.













The cute baby enjoys his personal birthday cake.

What a fun party! :)

Home Depot Day

It's that time again, time to go to Home Depot for a fun building craft! Yay!

Dinoguy gets help from his Uncle LaXCoach at building a birdhouse, so I can just take pictures and watch. I love those sunglasses.

Trainboy and Fixitman work on the floor where its easier for him to hammer. His hammering is getting more consistent, though it still takes about 100 hits per nail. Good times.




The boys show off their finished bird homes, ready for play. They may one day become bird houses outside, we'll see.

Independence Day Celebrations

We had a grand start to our Firework picnicking. We were about to leave, and found Trainboy had decided to take a nap first. He's totally asleep. He stayed asleep on the drive over and big brother joined him.

The place we went had tons of fountains and a spray area that were full of kids. Trainboy can't get his hand wet, so he got to pursue other activities, but Dinoguy pursued some of the wet splashy fun.

We picnicked and played for several hours waiting for it to get dark and for the fireworks to begin. For more fun though, there was an airshow for a while to watch too. They did all sorts of cool tricks in old planes and we saw many neat planes fly overhead.

Trainboy was given a ruler at one of the booths, which became a great tool for measuring everything.

















Here is Dinoguy's look of wonder as we watched the fireworks. Note that the light stick doesn't show up its awesome colors in the photo. :(






And my best fireworks shot. I have since learned it is good to use your camera on manual settings and slow down the exposure to get more fun fireworks shots. Hopefully next year that will happen!





We got up bright and early the next morning for our Church holiday breakfast which included a percussion mini-concert and freeplay for the kids.






Here is my favorite "trash" percussion item that was there in addition to the more traditional things - the PVC pipes, which are played with duct taped spatulas. Tons of fun.






Then while Fixitman helped clean up, we had some fun playing basketball in the gym with Uncle LaXCoach who was visiting us.







Here are the boys sharing some of their favorite TV shows with their Uncle. A great way to end lots of celebratory fun.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Days at home

While I don't have any photos of today, it was a busy and full day of fun at home.

I spent most of the day dealing with food for the next week. Planning meals and making shopping lists, finding coupons, shopping (which Dinoguy helped with), cooking and prepping food. We had vegetable soup and biscuits at Dinoguys request for dinner and made Creamy Lemon Pie together for dessert. It was a good summer meal, the fresh vegetables in the soup really popping with flavor and the cold dessert being very refreshing. I also made chocolate zucchini bread with some of the zucchini a friend gave me, (it did not use enough zucchini though!), started crusty sandwich bread for tomorrow and blanched and froze the fresh corn for this weekend so it wouldn't lose its sweetness (hopefully). I was dealing with food ALL day. Hopefully the rest of the week will flow smoothly and easily on the food front as a result.

Dinoguy helped with the chopping, mixing and cooking, and we also made more wiggly wonder slime for him to play with. Trainboy built and played train tracks a good while. There was cowboy rope play for a while, singing of songs I think were being made up, games of hide-n-seek a walk with scooters and Sarge, playing computer games, and TV shows.

We have a new (to us) Veggietales computer game that I think Dinoguy has played completely through 5-6 times so far. He isn't quite ready for the Math blaster games we were given, but likes trying them and seeing the animations. He does love to watch Cyberchase and as I watch with him, I wonder how much of the math he is absorbing. Only time will tell there I guess. :) Trainboy likes to visit Thomas the Tank Engine's website, as well as Caillou's train building game and Peep video's online are very fun too. He also likes to animate the train you color when searching for Zee on noggin.com (sense a theme?)

Time spent watching TV and playing computer has dropped off this week again as they have caught up I guess on all they missed while we were traveling. We do so many fun things throughout the day, but many of them are short and simple and it would be easy to focus on the large amounts of time that they seem to be in front of electronic media sometimes But when I watch with them, I realize how much more they are doing than just watching the TV and that they really don't spend more time with it than I do. There is so much more going on usually with toys and such even while watching TV.

While there is so much out there about limiting children from electronic media, because of the potential negative effects, there is a small but growing amount of info out there about choosing not to arbitrarily limit access to these powerful resources, but teaching them how to use them and allow them to self monitor their choices. I could go on and on about this, but really, I'm just glad we have chosen to focus on the positives (which there are so many) of electronic media (TV, computers, etc.) and yet make sure there are many other options available and shared with our kids. Our family is thriving.

When I first started blogging I didn't feel the urge to include photos with every post. But other blogs used a lot of pictures and I started using them more too. Photos are fun, but I'm tired of feeling constrained by them in my blogging. There doesn't have to be a photo for a good post. And days full of busy play and work like today often aren't shared because I never thought to pick up a camera and document the day digitally. So today, I'm sharing anyway.

We're going to the zoo

We went to the zoo this week and had a blast. We love seeing the animals, the boys amaze me with their ability to name so many of them. Here are some photo highlights of our trip.

Don't the boys look cute in their safari hats they bought last time?

Here we are looking at the cheetahs, who love to stalk around in the bamboo, staying mostly hidden. You just have to watch for movement in the trees.

They loved hugging this baby elephant statue. Was it because it was cool metal or because they love having their picture taken? It was neat to show them the full sized elephant that this baby grew into.



Here we are with our friends all lined up looking at the Gerenuk, which can stand up on their hind legs.









We rode the zoo train, and Dinoguy loves holding babies. Of course someone gave him bunny ears in the background. :)










In the old Texas town, they had a fake water tower with "gunshots" in the sides causing it to sprinkle out water for kids to play in. Trainboy couldn't get his hand wet, but Dinoguy loved running through the water.


While other kids were getting wet, Trainboy was having fun in the stagecoach.











We spent quite a while watching the pancake tortoise in the background. He was trying to climb up rocks a bit to far for him, and frequently fell backwards on his back against the glass and then tried again. It was quite funny.

Accidents happen

Shortly after Dinoguy was born, I remember clearly having the thought that now I couldn't protect him from getting hurt, now that he was no longer connected to me and safe inside me. It was a terrifying thought, as I am some what of a klutz; realizing that I am not strong enough to protect my son from all physical pain.

The past month of May brought a pretty bad fall, when walking the dog with Fixitman. Dinoguy tripped and started to fall, Sarge kept going, (at a pretty fast speed, they usually run together) and Dinoguy hit the ground pretty hard. Fixitman called me on the cell phone and told me to come get them right away with ice, as Dinoguy was growing a pretty good sized egg on his head. I must have checked him for concussion signs every 20 minutes for a few hours.

Of course, he has had other bumps, bruises, falls, infections, illnesses and more. Every time he bumps his head hard, or gets a cut, all sorts of awful stories go thru my mind, thanks to Reader's Digest, the newspaper, magazines, the internet, etc. So I check him over carefully, and care for the injury as best I can, praying that I don't miss any signs of more serious injury.

We have had our first bike fall about a week ago - that one was scary to me, but the neighbors came out and brought ice and popcicles and the popcicles seemed to be the therapy that worked best. Thank goodness.

This past weekend brought one of my personal nightmares to life. An injury that requires a hospital visit; it's that bad. It happened to my younger son - Trainboy. It involved Trainboy's hand and was a hatchet wound that had me hysterically calling people asking where the nearest hospital was and trying to comfort the scared brother at the same time while Fixitman attended to the blood. (I do not handle blood well. If there is only a little, I can suck it up, but large amounts of blood cause me to get rather sick.)

Thankfully the wound did not cut any arteries, bones, ligaments or tendons. He was still able to move all his fingers and the x-ray came back clean. The doctor used 8 stitches to close it up - something I was not able to watch him do as it involved them wrapping him up, a large man leaning on him to prevent him from moving and several nurses assisting in keeping him still. Fixitman stayed near his head and tried to provide the physical comfort that he needed and the mental distraction that helped somewhat. Both a nurse and Fixitman advised me not to be nearby, and my weak stomach for blood agreed, so I stood a bit off and listened to my baby cry and cried along with him.

The photo of the stitches was taken 24 hours after they were done, you can see it started healing up quickly, he is doing great. Fixitman carefully cleans the wound and changes the bandage twice a day while Dinoguy & I distract him from looking at it. As long as he can't see the stitches, Trainboy seems to be alright with his bandaged hand. But the first cleansing of the wound was hard, as he remembered getting the stitches.

Tonight Dinoguy fell off his scooter and got some scrapes. We are feeling very human and vulnerable around here. I am feeling very blessed that things were not worse with Trainboys' hand. It has taken me 3 days to be able to write about it, it isn't easy to remember and share our experiences with pain.

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