May 31, 2006
Chocolate ban over, bring on the dairy
I actually received a couple of emails, a phone call and talked with some friends today, all wondering how we were handling the Pirate's loss last night. I had to laugh because I really didn't think anyone wanted to hear any more about hockey from me.
So the short answer to that question from G. is, "we are sad."
But it was such an exciting season, particularly the last few play-off games, that we can only thank the team for such a great season. We can't wait until next year!
L., in her special logic, had this to say about the game last night:
"I listened to the game on the computer and I was sad when they lost.
And they shouldn't have hurt Shane O'Brien! (He was hit against the boards by a couple of Bears and left the ice because he was bleeding. He did return to the game later.)
But (she said this sadly) I ate a fudgical and that was what made them lose. "
But L. isn't quite done with hockey for the season. She asked me to find the Milwaukee Admirals website because she wants them to win now. She really didn't like the Hershey players because she thought they were "really mean." And her notion was reinforced at Game 5 when Hershey's Robitaille cussed out the fans in the stands during a break in play (we were in the 3rd row and the colorful language was quite clear).
So what is L's game plan?
"Now I'm going to eat lots of cheese and milk. They are my favorites. It will be easy to give them (Admirals) good luck!"
Then Fino added, "... and Daddy will drink the beer."
May 30, 2006
A new family geocache at the beach
The geocache our family hid last year in Windham is as active as ever. But the kids have been wanting to find a new place to hide another geocache and over the holiday weekend, they found just the spot.
"We love to swim and this is such a good place!" said G. of the hiking trail near Kiwanis Beach in Standish (we had never noticed the trailhead sign previously).
"Yeah, and we'll have to check our geocache all the time to make sure people don't mess it up." said L. "This is perfect mom!"
L. being the creative thinker in the family was clearly vying for reasons that we should visit the beach more often this summer.
And after hiking the short trail (only about .2 miles), we did find a good spot for the geocache. So we marked the coordinates with the GPS unit and left our box of treasures. When we got home I registered the coordinates on geocaching.com. Within 12 hours of doing that, someone had already logged a visit. Those geocachers, they're right on top of things...
Our new family geocache is small but the kids packed it with lots of fun little toys along with our log book.
The "Nature Trail" at Kiwanis Beach is short, easy and perfect for little ones. We found lots of wildflowers in bloom this past weekend but they didn't hold nearly the appeal that the beach at the end of the trail did.
Memorial Day was a great beach weather day and the kids were so excited to be swimming in Watchic Lake that they didn't seem to care about the cold water.
May 27, 2006
Flat Stanley (and friend) visit almost every continent
Our family's Flat Stanley has had some really interesting adventures since L. drew him almost two years ago.
He's been a really great cultural exchange activity, as well as geography lesson, for the kids. The goal this past year for us was to try to get Stanley to every continent in the world. But, we've been limited based on the people in the group that we trade flats with.
Then a couple of months ago, G's former ballet teacher told us she was spending a semester in Ghana and would be happy to take along our Flat Stanley for a photo op.
She sent us the photo this weekend of Flat Stanley and said,
"The picture was taken on the campus of the University of Ghana on the day of the solar eclipse in Ghana. The eclipse was a really big deal; it was the first total solar eclipse to happen in Ghana in many years. "
She also sent us a link to a story about the eclipse that was really interesting. The kids especially liked the video clip.
So with this latest addition from Africa, Flat Stanley has now been to almost every continent in the world (except Antarctica) and we have a photo from each one for our world map at home.
Europe: Saw Bison in England
Australia/Oceana: Auckland, New Zealand
Asia: Hung out in a garden in Japan. And of course there was also his incredible trip to Iraq as well.
One of the kids' other Flat Stanley characters, Black Beauty, is currently in Chile.
South America: Ronco Beach in Chile
Anyone have a connection to a person willing to host Flat Stanley on "The Ice" for us?
May 24, 2006
More geocaching fun
We track our geocaching Travel Bugs (TB) online and even have an email "watch" (we're emailed every time someone posts a note on the TB's page) on TBs that aren't ours that we previously hosted (Dora and Goddard were the kids' favorites). A while back, when I wrote my first column about geocaching, a geocacher emailed me and suggested I pick up the Boothbay Register TB. A reporter had launched that TB and hoped other reporters would pick it up and write a follow-up story about it.
At the time the TB was too far away for me to grab so I signed up to "watch" it and thought when it moved closer to southern Maine, I'd pick it up.
It went MIA before I could get it but yesterday someone posted a note on the TB's page about a radio interview with geocachers in the Lewiston/Auburn area. They didn't have the TB but they wanted others to know about the radio program. It was a fun piece.
As for our family TBs, they all still seem to be active and moving. Recently we even released a couple of new ones.
Reading Dog was released at the Mt. A event last month after the family sat down and brainstormed "mission" ideas (most TBs have a mission - something they want to do during their travels). I thought the kids' mission was great for this TB, "...want other kids to read and share their favorite books with him." So far we've had one geocacher give us book recommendations and even took a photo of their favorite children's books.
Photo from "Team Moxiepup"
The two TBs we have in New Zealand are still moving around quite a bit. Annika The Hiker even had a new photo uploaded recently hanging out in some Hydrangea.
Photo from "Samy!" who by the way, has a fun screen photo
Hiking Doggie has the most photos of all our TBs (17) but Annika has traveled the most miles (1,200 - which obviously doesn't include the air post flight to the island nation, just mileage within NZ).
Photo also by "Samy!"
So not only is geocaching a great way to teach kids about mapping and geography, there's a whole bunch of statics we can compile about our six TBs. Nothing like making some traditionally "dry" school subjects a whole lot more interesting for them - well, for me too.
A dog attack
We returned home this afternoon to discover a mean and growling dog in our yard. I got out of the car to shoo it away and the dog continued to growl and look kinda scary. I wasn't sure which neighbor's dog it was (and I wasn't too keen on getting a closer to read his tag). But after a minute or so he ran off down the street and G. bounded out of the car (I told them not to get out until the dog was gone) in a panic about the chickens.
"Where are the chickens mommy!?!"
There weren't any around which I hadn't initially noticed so I wondered too.
After some scouting, we found the remnants from one chicken (very unpleasant for me let alone the kids) and only 3 clucking around the coop. We have 31 in total so there were a lot unaccounted for.
The feather trail is a tell-tale sign of a dead chicken nearby.
We did a head count about an hour later as L. fed them some pineapple (yeah, I didn't know they liked that either). All but 2 were accounted for, both very small bantams - "Napoleon" (a rooster who lived up to his name daily so we think maybe he'll turn up later) and "Napoleon's Sister, Annika." And as if it wasn't obvious, every chicken in the coop has a name and the girls insist they can tell them all apart. And to be honest, I don't doubt it. They spend a lot of time loving their pets.
As for the ducks, they're free range again and survived the dog attack.
I think I understand where that saying "Lucky Duck" came from now.
May 22, 2006
Fun in the stands
We love Pirates games, as if you didn't know that. It's the on-the-edge of our seats feeling that has us a bit addicted. So of course we couldn't miss the home game last night.
L. insists her ban on chocolate for the duration of the series is working. She's so serious in fact that she would not let her sister buy chocolate covered pretzels (and it was white chocolate and not Hershey) yesterday before the game. Instead of arguing with her sister (which I very much appreciated), G. bought a package of bulls eyes and decided they were REALLY good luck for the team.
"Look mom, it's a number one! The Pirates are gonna win tonight, I just know it!"
The game last night was exciting and highly entertaining for us. We had great seats and sat next to a very sweet, but thoroughly drunk, fan. Normally I don't encourage the girls to talk to people who imbibe so much, particularly at a hockey game, but this woman was really enthusiastic. And she refrained from using any profanity because she liked G. (they had quite the conversations going, from the game refs to the hazards of smoking). And she was so funny that the game was all the more fun for us because we were sitting next to her.
Here are a few favorite quotes from our friend (we even caught a bit of it on video too):
"Guys, are you doing your Heller Keller?" (She was yelling at the refs and using the bam bams to emphasize her point.)
"We don't like chocolate.... right now." (The hand gestures were great.)
"Hey guys, come down this way." (At the time, she was waving her bam bams like an air traffic controller. It didn't last long since the fans behind us started yelling to get her to sit down.)
The anti-chocolate comments at the beginning of the game immediately endeared her to the girls. Although she said eating Nestle was OK this week.
Hockey fans come in all shapes and sizes and going to games are all the more fun because of that.
May 20, 2006
We have more rocks and "crystals" than we know what to do with in the kids' playroom. The bag of crystals (it's quartz) they collected while mining for gems at Mt. Apatite a couple of weeks ago has been sitting there - untouched - since that day.
So this weekend, with our outdoor activities still thwarted by rain, I decided it was time to find some craft project we could make with all the crystals.
I had some craft wire and tulle from the girls' old dance costumes that we used to turn the rocks into necklaces.
The tulle was great for covering up our less-than neat twists of the craft wire at the ends.
And then G. made a "princess" headband that she was quite smitten with.
We still have a whole lot of larger rocks left in our bag and L. decided to use them to make some new fairy houses in the backyard this week.
I'm glad we found some creative uses for the quartz we found at Mt. Apatite. Now if we could just figure out what to do with the all the buckets and bags of sea shells and other rocks they've collected over the years, they might have some space to actually play in that playroom.
If you have any craft ideas with rocks and sea shells, we'd love to hear about it.
May 17, 2006
Foxes, chocolate and Neil Diamond
In the wee hours yesterday morning I woke up with a horrible migraine that lasted most of the day. In the haze of the migraine and trying to sleep I was jolted awake by gun shots in the backyard. I saw my husband outside on the porch with his gun and called out to ask what the heck he was doing.
"There was a cute little fox trying to get into the coop. I just shot a couple of warning shots to scare him away."
Yes, he used the word 'cute' while standing there with his gun and talking about protecting the family poultry. He was quite pleased with himself and I thought once again that life is never boring at our house.
Another case in point is the new no-eating-chocolate rule instituted by L. She came home from Thursday night's Pirates game disappointed that they didn't win.
"I'm going to give those Bear guys bad luck. I am NOT eating chocolate anymore. That will help the Pirates win!"
I'm not sure the hockey players would take much stock in her plan, but my spirited 8-year-old is convinced. She even policed the house yesterday making sure no one else in the family ate the confection either. Winning this round of the hockey play-offs is serious business for L. And I don't think the team would necessarily turn down any extra help with the Hershey Bears.
And since I'm already talking hockey, I have to ask what is with the Civic Center always playing Neil Diamond's, "Sweet Caroline" at the games (and often more than once)? I understand the classic and modern rock music choices because the crowd is there for a hard, mean game of hockey where fighting is fervently cheered. And even the Village People's, "YMCA" is a typical party song, but Diamond's song brings to mind my mother's generation of easy listening music. The song is OK but it just doesn't say 'hockey game' to me. Clearly I am missing something.
L. and G. had an interesting way of interpreting Diamond's song at the last game. I think it's clear that they agree with me on this one.
May 15, 2006
A truly thankless job
Our minivan has been past due for a cleaning for some time now, especially since the chicken incident. This afternoon, with the sun finally shining, I decided to do a thorough cleaning and then organize the unruly van.
The experience was not unlike the clown car at the circus with a seemingly never ending line of stuff coming out.
I suggested to the kids once everything was out of the van, that they do an inventory of what we had while I vacuumed the interior.
Here's the list:
3 pairs rollerblades, 3 pairs elbow and knee pads, 2 helmets, 3 pairs of wrist guards, 4 disc golf discs, 2 pairs ballet shoes, 2 pairs of lyric dance shoes, 3 pairs of tap shoes (I tap too), 1 pair flip flops, 1 pair of sneakers, 2 sand buckets, 6 plastic rings, 3 jump ropes, 1 hacky sack, 1 rubber ball, 2 plastic horses, 5 containers of hand wipes, 3 umbrellas, 2 fleece sweaters, 4 pairs of winter gloves, 1 Pokeno game, innumerable hair elastics (a hazard of girls), 5 issues of National Geographic Kids magazine, 2 "treasure" rocks, 4 AA batteries with recharger, a sketch book, a box of pencils and markers, plastic container with a change of clothes for each of the kids (socks, underwear, pants, shirt, sweater), jumper cables, jug of oil, jug of windshield fluid, jug of coolant, a snack box filled with crackers and gum, 2 unopened bottles of water, several small geocache toys, CD case with audio book, a mystery paperback and my backpack full of other stuff. And this didn't count the wrappers, half-empty water bottles and other trash we removed.
It's good to be prepared when you have kids but we are way over the top - embarrassingly so. I truly had no idea we had so much junk in there. And a few things - like the Pokeno game - I thought we had lost somewhere because I hadn't been able to find it in months.
I tried to sort through everything and repack the van with the necessities - which was still a lot of stuff - but the kids kept chiming in with their opinions.
"What if we want to jump rope and we don't have one with us?"
"We might need those plastic rings for a game."
"I like my magazines in the car so I can read them when we go places."
"We need our golf discs for when we drive by the course and want to play. And I love rollerblading so we have to keep them in the car in case we find a place to skate this week."
"Well, we can put away the bags with our dance shoes after class tonight."
I had to shoo them away so I could finish the job I started and they found a puddle to play in.
I had the van looking much improved and called to the kids to get in so we wouldn't be late for their ballet class. They ran over and I immediately realized once again why I don't clean the van much.
By my estimation, it was clean for about 60 seconds.
Raging rivers and foiled plans to inline skate
I've been a little off-topic blogging about hockey because the crazy rainfall has squelched our outdoor activities for a while.
This afternoon, the kids and I decided to take a drive by the Saco River to see if it was as bad as last October. It's one of those little side trips that we all find really interesting when we know the river is likely high. It looked as crazy as last fall. Nothing like the tranquil river it usually is in the summer.
We checked out the USGS site, which tracks the flow, height, water and air temperatures of the river. It's actually really interesting stuff.
The red triangles represent the typical level of the river at this time of year, the blue line represents how high the river actually was, well-above normal for the past couple of days.
Maine has had one soggy year with no end in sight.
WCSH6.com weather graphic
I guess the timing of my latest Outdoors with Children column about inline skating is a little poor since the soggy weather doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon. When it does, you'll have to give inline skating a try. We had been having fun checking out the great trails around Portland before the rain started.
May 12, 2006
I know it's off-topic, but they won!
I have to talk about the Pirates - the Atlantic Division Champs - since we went to the game last night.
G. and Fino stayed home to do some other stuff but L. and I really wanted to go. We bought our tickets through a radio station promotion and ended up in the 5th row, which offered a totally different vantage point that our usual 19th row (and above)cheap seats.
And not only did we have a close-up view of the action, L. found some other perks as well. She ended up with a practice puck and spent some time hanging out with Crackers and was pretty excited about it all.
During the third period of the game the play came to a stop for a while because one of the plexi-glass plates cracked (I think that's what happened) at the other end of the rink and they had to replace it. So out came a guy with a ladder and then a minute later two other guys went running across the ice with a new plate. They had the whole thing replaced in a couple of minutes.
I wish our home fix-it projects went so quickly....
The usual activities and songs went on between periods of the game, including the YMCA song. L. had some fun with her Pirates' penguin doll that we caught on video.
May 11, 2006
The hockey-ballet connection
At last night's Pirates hockey game the kids and I decided to rate the garb given out at each of the playoff games we've been to. We unanimously decided the Bam Bams were the best because we loved making noise with them. The kids also thought hitting each over the head with them, and watching other kids do that too, was "really funny."
The towels given out last night served as napkins for the fried dough since they had a hard time swinging them around in the air. They kept wrapping around their hands instead.
And L. was up to her usual antics on other uses for the towels. This photo was her idea.
I also have to mention this anecdote about the girls' ballet class. Apparently, their ballet recital has a circus theme and they are "tight rope walkers." They start their routine in tutus and dance to "Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head," then ditch the tutus and pick up jump ropes to finish their routine to another song, which they hadn't heard until Wednesday night.
"Mom, guess what the jump rope music is for our ballet recital?!!" asked L. VERY excitedly.
"The Pirate's goal song! Can you believe it?!" said G.
"Yeah, it's like being at the hockey game in ballet class. Isn't that funny?" said L.
"Yeah, it's so cool!"
G. thought it was so cool in fact that she decided to write another letter to her favorite player to tell him about it.
May 08, 2006
You know it is time to vacuum...
... the minivan when you leave the door open to load some groceries into the house and find this taking care of the crumbs when you return.
Signs of spring
We went to Mt. Apatite in Auburn yesterday to do some hiking and try our hand at crystal and mineral mining at a small quarry there. It turned out that we found plenty of other gems.
OK, what is this? It looked a lot like lettuce to me but I doubted that's what it was in the middle of the woods.
Fiddlehead season is almost here.
There were tons of tadpoles in the little pond we found.
May 06, 2006
We went to another Pirates play-off game Saturday night and took grandpa with us. The kids were psyched the team won and have now decided the grandpa jinx is over.
After putting on our white t-shirts for the game on Saturday night, we had a little fun with our current Flat Stanley visitors. They needed to share in our team spirit.
But after listening to the game last night, the kids and I decided we had to go to the next game in person to cheer on the team.
"We might be good luck mom!"
So they're not only fans, they have their own good/bad luck superstitions. This certainly isn't what I expected after first introducing them to hockey earlier this year. And as if it wasn't obvious by now, they don't feel bad for the other team losing anymore - those days are long gone.
If you're a Pirates fan, tell us how you cheer on the team.
May 05, 2006
Peking duck - Take 2
As I have mentioned, rounding up our ducks is a real hassle. We believe in letting the chickens and ducks free-range during the day and then lock them into the safety of our chicken coop at night. The chickens are never a problem; they go right in to roost at dusk. The ducks are never that cooperative.
And now with the warm weather the ducks (we had four of them) have not found the coop a desirable place, even at night.
Ducks are not very smart.
As a result, we have been out in our large backyard herding them into the coop almost nightly. And it's not an easy, nor fast process for this city-born couple.
Fino reached the final straw last week. He closed the coop around 11 p.m. and went to bed, unable to get the ducks inside.
But that strategy didn't work out so well for us. All night long the ducks quacked and quacked, obviously trying to scare away the predators that we know lurk in the woods in our backyard. It was tough sleeping through all the noise, especially knowing that one of them might get eaten.
But it worked out for our feathered friends. All four ducks survived the night. And the next night they were all too willing to go into the coop.
Then it happened again, Thursday night the ducks went AWOL. Fino, after a few expletives, decided they could spend another night outside since they fared well previously.
We went to bed, with the window open because it was a warm night, and heard the ducks incessantly quacking. Ducks are REALLY loud, especially when they decide to put up their defenses outside your bedroom window, which unfortunately is not all that far from the coop - a design flaw I know.
Around 1 a.m. Fino went out there to coax them into the coop since it was obvious there were predators around.
Nope. They wouldn't go in.
More expletives shot from Fino's mouth before he came back in the house.
The ducks went on all night long so we maybe got an hour of sleep, even after shutting the window.
Yesterday afternoon we did a duck head count. One was missing. The kids were sad but Fino and I were less broken-up about it.
Last night the kids and Fino tried to round up the three remaining ducks into the coop. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was NOT allowed to photograph the proceedings. It was a crying shame.
Each of the kids were given a couple of branches and an area to cover to guide the ducks into Fino's 'trap.' Fino had rigged chicken wire around some trees and had some guiding branches to help as well. And STILL, those ducks managed to elude them by squeezing under the wire.
More wire was unwound and then staked with a new strategy in place. After about 10 more minutes, the ducks were inside.
The ducks were then bullied by Fino into a portion of the coop that can be closed-off from the rest of the structure.
"Those suckers aren't getting out for a long time!" Fino said along with some other colorful language.
The fate of the ducks remains undecided but I doubt, if Fino has his way, we'll ever be chasing them again.
Quest for more trails to rollerblade
We went rollerblading earlier this week, before all the rain, in an attempt to find some other good places to skate.
I was clearly thinking west coast when I suggested to the kids that we try Old Orchard Beach. Even without the crowds, there are really no smooth, paved places to skate any distance there.
So we headed over to the Eastern Prom trail in Portland. That was a great trail. It was long and flat with benches along the way for rest stops.
We even spotted some birds, much to L.'s delight.
L. grabbed the camera for a quick shot of the "pretty bird."
If you have a suggestion for a good rollerblading trail, tell us about it.