Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fuzzy Wuzzies and Creepy Crawlies!

We enjoyed so much this year the Insect Fear Film Festival put on by the entomology graduate students at the U of I.  What a great free community event to get kids excited about insects.  We took along some friends, and met several friends there too!

Here were some photo highlights:

M is very excited to be holding a tobacco hornworm!

family photo with the friendly millipede

The best story from the evening was while we were trying to take the above picture with my bestie A and Baby A, the Lubber Grasshopper leapt onto Baby A's head!  She was oblivious, while the adults buckled over in laughter and took lots of pictures:

"Grasshoppers go in many a thumming spring
And now to stalks of tasseled sow-grass cling,
That shakes and swees awhile, but still keeps straight;
While arching oxeye doubles with his weight.
Next on the cat-tail-grass with farther bound
He springs, that bends until they touch the ground."

 -John Clare

Despite the crowd and excessive noise, C found a quite moment to put together some insect puzzles.

We didn't stay for any films this year, since the selection was not child friendly, but we enjoyed running the rows of Foellinger Auditorium's upper level, and visitng with friends before heading home!


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Reading Review

As part of our evening routine we spend anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour reading books before brushing teeth and getting ready for bed.  It's relaxing to cuddle up on the couch and share stories, especially now that M can read to us too (rather eloquently too!).

I thought I'd share a book we've read repeatedly.  The kids were attracted to the story and it has become one of those that we read almost every night to the point of overload!  Daddy instituted a new rule because of this book - we give preference to new books in the stack.  If there is a book in the stack that we read the day before, it is moved to the bottom of the stack, to be read after the new arrivals.  This helps us continue to expose the kids to new books, while still reading the favorites - otherwise they'd just read the repeats and we might skip over the new books.

The book is called Heckedy Peg by Audrey Wood.  When a mother of seven goes off to market, promising to bring each child back a gift, a witch arrives at the house and turns the children into food.  The mother must figure out which food is which child in order to turn them back into their proper children form - or else the witch is going to eat them for supper!  Somewhat fairy tale, somewhat folklore, somewhat mystery, somewhat horror story!  The illustrations are absolutely stunning and move off of the page.

M is intrigued by the children, who are named after the days of the week.  She also enjoys the matching puzzle the mother solves to discover which child is which food by matching them to the gifts they requested at market.  C is a bit terrified of the whole thing, and won't look at any page with the witch on it, but he enjoys the story, especially the end when the witch jumps into the river and is never seen again!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Innocent Firsts

First day of 1st grade!

First bus ride ever on the first day of preschool!

First tooth lost, with many more to come!

First ice skating adventure!

First ever ride in an amish horse-and-buggy before the Arthur Christmas parade!

Hard to think about all of these firsts going by, without pondering the innocence of children as they come upon each new experience.

Little Pieces of Innocence

"Sweet sleep, little pieces of innocence,
While dreams so serenely fair,
Fill their heads with joyous thoughts,
How gladly do I stand and stare,
Upon the gifts that love has brought.

No darkness spreads her sorrow here,
Sleep on dear children, rest, but know,
Your father watches with such delight,
This moment of truth, and with heart aglow,
And filled with love this night.

Those little pieces of innocence,
So serene, so full of grace,
Sweetest gifts that Heaven imparts,
Fondly shall I long embrace,
The innocence in their hearts.

Those little pieces of innocence,
Their youthful years so few,
Enjoy now as you grow,
Joys of innocence, pure and true,
That only children ever know.

The hour is fleeting, and morn is nigh,
Innocence so filled with truth,
Awake! enjoy your childhood years,
Before time sweeps away your youth,
And innocence disappears.

Never, never can I lose them,
No time or distance shall stake a claim,
Though saddness may overcome me,
My heart will stay the same,
And those little pieces of innocence will forever be."

-Richard Netherland Cook


Wildlife Prairie Park

In fall 2011 my best friend A and I decided the coolest thing ever would be to stay aboard a train caboose cabin at Wildlife Prairie Park.  Unfortunately for us, we decided this in November, and the train caboose cabin season only runs April through October.  So, October 2012 was picked, and a full eleven months of anticipation ensued (and a Baby A was born!).  But it was worth the wait!  How much fun it was to sleep in a train car (that even had built in motorized rocking motion to simulate a moving train!) and wake up in a beautiful natural area.  Plus, they have lots of neat animals to see there. Here are some of the highlights,

Here we are!  (Friends A, J, and Baby A not pictured)

We took two train rides while we were there.  It was a little bit strange because the park puts on a big night-time Halloween event which includes a haunted train ride.  It was running in the evenings on the same weekend we were there.  So, the train loops were all set up with their Halloween decorations, which M was dead-set on taking pictures of every piece. 

These two were the strangest:

Stuffed animal cemetary

creepy skeleton animals with party animals painted on the reverse!

M conducting the playground train

We really enjoying hiking the grounds seeing bison, reptiles, very territorial wolves, wild cats, live stock (a donkey tried to kick me!), and many other animals.

But most of all we enjoyed sleeping in a caboose! How cool  is that?!

The family boarding the caboose!

Caboose cabin #2!

Big 4 year old conductor!!


Christmas 2012

We had such a great Christmas.  This was our second Christmas at the new house and it was nice to be able to decide what worked last year for decorations, and change those we wanted to change.  The kids of course helped decorate the tree (on Thanksgiving Day - a day earlier than usual!!)

M and Uncle S reading stories in front of the tree.

We sat on Santa's lap (three different times!)

This last one was from a special Breakfast with Santa at Silvercreek that we attended with Aunt D & Uncle S.  They put on a really good program - crafts, cookie decorating, face painting, balloon animals, and a breakfast buffet!  It's really a great way to celebrate the season with children.

We enjoyed lots of time with family, hosting the annual family Christmas party at our house, as well as attending Christmas festivities up with our Chicago family members.

Cousins galore!

Christmas morning was as magical as ever at G-ma and G-pa's house.  M proclaimed "I got everything I ever wanted!"  C was slightly disappointed that, despite Santa's best efforts, Santa was unable to produce a blue army tank or a green robotic shark.

Three generations with Grandpa.  C made sure to point out that he opened his mouth on purpose in every picture that night. ;-)

On the Epiphany, as we prepared to take down the tree, I forced the kids kicking-and-screaming into formal attire and insisted on a photo shoot in front of the tree.  This was my favorite of the pictures, currently still the background picture on my work computer, bringing me giggles every day!


Haikus like yous

here are some haikus about my two sweet kiddos:

bright teeth flash a smile
hope, beauty, innocence: love
skipping in sun rays

zoom, bang, crash, ka-boom
trains wiz, trucks chill in neat rows
puzzles, books, snuggles


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Green Beard Birthday

C's 4th birthday will forever go down in history as the Green Beard Birthday.  As some of you may know, we only celebrate our kids birthday's with parties exponentially (ages 1, 2, 4, 8. 16).  This was decided after a particularly exuberant Dora party for M's 4th birthday.  On the off years, we more quietly celebrate as a family at home, and allow the kids to have a small sleepover with friends (no gifts!).  Well, this was C's big party year!

I got the idea to invite Mr. Stephens to our party after attending several of his sing-a-long concerts at the Phillips Recreation Center over the last two years. He is great with kids and his songs are so upbeat, catchy, fun, and educational!  Even though hubby thought I was nuts, I contacted him and he immediately agreed to sing at C's party!!  It couldn't have been a more perfect form of entertainment for a four-year-old.

We also greatly enjoyed the company of our family and friends, carving & painting pumpkins, opening special gifts, and eating a pumpkin themed birthday cake!

Here's to great year of being four!


American Girl

I think I've bored my dear readers enough with my commentary - picture-post time!  I was saving this post for after Christmas because I made a photo book of these pictures for Aunt D.  So, here it is!

For M's 6th birthday, Aunt D thought the perfect gift would be to spoil M rotten with a trip to American Girl Chicago.  Boy was Aunt D spot-on with this gift! We spent all day at the store, including a delicious lunch at the American Girl Cafe, shopped til we dropped, and even got our new doll's hair done in the doll salon. M named her doll Rachel.  M was all smiles the whole time and we all had a fun day celebrating her 6th birthday.

M & Aunt D after picking out Rachel.

M, happy as a clam!

Back at home we did a photo shoot with Rachel to add to our photo-book gift for Aunt D.

We love you, Aunt D!  Thanks for making M's 6th birthday so special!


Eat Your Vegetables

While most conventional wisdom will tell us that dogs will eat just about anything (warning, that link is a little gross!), leave it to RoscoeDog to be the exception.

We thought RoscoeDog would follow in the horse-sized footsteps of other large labs that tread before him, eating everything in site. To prove the point, when he was just a wee one-year-old pup, the vet had to perform a gastronomy procedure to remove a chew bone from his stomach that had gotten lodged after he swallowed it whole.  All signs pointed to a canine gluttony!

As it turns out, however, RoscoeDog flat out refuses anything Green.  Green beans, lettuce, peas, you name it.  Even if slathered in ranch dressing or butter, he'll maw it around in his mouth to suck off the good stuff, leaving all Greens back in his bowl for his doting owners to dispose of.  Don't you know you're the garbage disposal around here, dog?  You're supposed to eat what we give you, no picky eaters allowed!  I wonder if dog-slobbered-Greens are compostable?

One funny story that hubby tells is of RoscoeDog at the dinner table.  He knows not to beg or get too close to the table while we eat.  He usually waits patiently near hubby's elbow while we eat.  If hubby approves of his behavior, he'll throw RoscoeDog a scrap or two, here and there.  Sometimes, just to see what will happen, hubby throws a Green.  And wouldn't you know? That dog can't be fooled!  Scrap after scrap of food will fly into his awaiting trap, but the second a Green is suspected, it bounces off a stone-faced pooch's muzzle.  The reflexes on this dog are unbelievable!  Our friends A and M like to retell this story with much gusto and laughter.

Here he is, in the dining room no less, in all his repulsed-by-Green-food glory:


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Summer Camp Chant

We love Nature Day Camp!  However, Kneehigh Nature Camp made a much stronger impression on C than any of us could have imaged.  The camp meets five days a week, from 9am to 12pm.  He attended the camp five weeks, spaced throughout the summer.  Kids experience different nature-themed sessions each week.  But none of these logistics matter to C.  All that matters are Dina and Rachel.  His camp leaders.

Even after summer camp ended, he asked frequently when the next session would resume.  While we tried to explain that camp was over, school would be starting, and we'd go to camp again next year, this answer did not seem to appease him.  He was convinced that camp was still happening at the Anita Purves Nature Center, year-round, and that he was missing out! 

He began asking "When can we go see Dina and Rachel" the week after camp ended.  I responded consistently, explaining that camp was over, and we'd return next year.  However, the questioning continued.  It continues to this day in February.  At least on a weekly basis, usually in the car (must remind him of going to camp?), he asks "When can we go see Dina and Rachel".  It has become the Summer Camp Chant, week after week.

I asked the Environmental Public Program Coordinator, who head's up the Nature Day Camp Program, and is also my good friend E, if she had any suggestions to curb C's inquisition.  She suggested we write a letter to Dina and Rachel, telling them how much he misses them and can't wait for Kneehigh Nature Camp to begin in June. E promised to scan the letter and email it to Dina and Rachel.  So far, we have yet to write a note, but perhaps we will make Dina and Rachel a special Valentine this year. 

If any camp leaders out there are reading this, please know how important your job can be.  You have the opportunity to make a difference in children's lives.  Children will remember you.  Teach them, laugh with them, learn from them.  Dina and Rachel made an impact on C, and he will never forget it.


Wabbit Hunting Season

At almost nine years old, RoscoeDog has begun to look down-right elderly, graying throughout his solid chocolate-brown coat, especially on his muzzle, chest, underbelly, and legs.  We have been reminiscing frequently and fondly about his younger years, and I will share and record those stories here as they emerge. 

One story that comes to mind is when my friend F and her baby J were visiting from California.  It was spring, a.k.a. baby bunny season.  We first realized his lust for baby bunnies when hubby saw two legs hanging out of his drooling jowls.  No sooner did he say "drop it", that RoscoeDog tipped back his head, allowing the poor bunny to slide easily down his gullet. In a single gulp, it was lying with the roses.

Unfortunately, we realized later, this was not his first murderous act.  In fact, twice before that week, we heard a scream when he was out in the backyard. Came to find out this was baby bunnies too! A poor, helpless sweet soft little baby bunny, nesting under the deck.  If only we had sooner discovered what a delectable treat RoscoeDog had chosen in the backyard, we could have saved an entire bunny family! 

Luckily, my friend F found his hunting instincts admirable and painted this beautiful portrait of RoscoeDog.  He must have left an impression, because the painting arrived as a Christmas gift several years later.  She wrote a lovely letter describing the painting, which she said depicts RoscoeDog in his natural habitat, a forest scene, on point and ready for Wabbit Hunting Season.


I will cherish this painting for so many reasons.  It is painted by a childhood friend whose friendship I deeply value.  It is of my first baby, RoscoeDog, with all his youthful energy.

The painting hangs above RoscoeDog's Dog Nook, which we built within the old staircase alcove, just for him and his Serta dog mattress in his old age. ♥