June 29, 2006
June 25, 2006
The art of flashlight tag
The kids camped in tents in our backyard with a bunch of their 4-H friends two nights ago and had a great time (and their parents are still catching up on sleep).
One of the games we played was flashlight tag. When I was little I used to play the game around my grandmother's postage stamp yard with my cousins. And that small loop of space wrapping around her house actually had a lot of advantages. Running around a corner made it harder to get caught in the flashlight beam and kept the game going for a long time.
When I suggested flashlight tag to our visiting campers, they loved the idea. What kid doesn't love to run around hours after bedtime playing with flashlights?
So someone volunteered to be "it" and the others scattered in our yard's open field.
The game lasted about 5 seconds.
Since the kids' tent was set up close to the house and the ongoing shed construction tools and materials took up some space, the kids couldn't run completely around the house. And that made tagging everyone with the flashlight beam a piece of cake. There was nowhere to hide in the field.
We decided to move the game to a small forested area in our front yard. That made things a little more challenging but after a few rounds, the kids decided it was time for the next activity, making s'mores around the campfire.
What I found funny was that a group of urban kids growing up just north of Boston, could have more fun playing flashlight tag than my country-raised kids.
There must be a different way to play flashlight tag when you have more open space. If you have a suggestion, let me know. I'm all ears in anticipation of our next camping night later this summer when our city cousins come to visit.
June 24, 2006
The kids trade postcards with other kids all over the world through Yahoo Groups. They love buying postcards and their favorite ones have puffins on them.
When they first started trading (more than a year ago), we did a little research to find some fun "facts" about Maine to write on the back of the postcards. We came across the Puffin Project and the kids learned a lot from that website (and the movie clips are a big hit with them). Needless to say, there are quite a few kids around the world who have learned a fact or two about Puffins because of my kids' fascination with the little birds.
So after I read today's story about the new Puffin Visitor Center in Rockland, I asked the girls if they'd like to check it out. Of course they'd rather see the birds in person but agreed with me that the center sounded fun.
"But someday we have to see a real Puffin," G. told me.
Well, there are puffin watch cruises that run through mid-August. I think this may be the summer we find time to make that trip.
June 22, 2006
The unfortunate frog
These photos were another surprise when I downloaded my camera's memory card this morning. And as I sifted through the 20+ photos of this frog, I couldn't help but feel some sympathy for the little creature even though the girls' intentions were good.
Well, maybe the 5 feet to the ground isn't too far to jump.
Do I not deserve a little modesty girls? Please.
Hanging out in a shoe is not my idea of a good time girls.
(And thanks Uncle Scott for those new shoes. The girls are obviously finding creative ways to enjoy them.)
"How long you been here?" asked the frog.
"Just grin and bear it, they'll let you go ... eventually," replied the blind cat.
Aaah, freedom isn't far now.
June 21, 2006
Slugger is cool
We went to the Sea Dogs game last night, our first ever.
Hadlock Field gets a big thumbs out from G. for their fried dough. "It was waaaay better than the Civic Center." Making it fresh at the field would be better than the pre-made version she had at the Pirates games.
The pace of the baseball game was slow for the kids, especially after an exciting hockey season. And since they aren't so familiar with the game of baseball (they have never wanted to play little league), they kept asking how long the game was going to be. They liked the countdown clock at hockey games for game play as well as breaks between periods. And hockey is a fast-paced sport, much more appealing to my active kids' attention spans.
As I had predicted, the kids started getting a little antsy after the third inning so G. picked up the camera and started taking "action" photos. When I downloaded them from the camera there were easily 50 of these type of pictures.
But hey, it kept her busy for a while and watching the game.
Then the girls started sliding around on the bleachers (we went for the cheap seats) and I had to put a stop to that.
But then the Sea Dogs started scoring and the fans were making a lot of noise in the stands. Stamping feet on the bleachers was really loud and the kids loved it. They stamped and stamped ... and stamped.
Then a foul ball flew in our direction and I told the girls to duck while a bunch of people around us leaped to catch it. And yes, not only are we not a puck-catching family, we're not a flyball one either. And the girls were not impressed with the fighting among fans about that baseball.
"Geeze mom, those people are crazy!"
The music was similar to the Pirates game, including Neil Diamond (OK, it's clearly a sports event song that I didn't know about) so we laughed and sang along since now we know the words.
Then the YMCA song started and that's when the girls decided that Slugger was really cool.
They were really impressed by Slugger's moves on top of the dugout.
"WOW, Slugger did a jazz split mom! Salty Pete and Crackers never did anything like THAT," said G. I told her I thought it was a little easier to do tricks like that when you're not wearing ice skates...
So then the girls decided to do splits in the stands but I had to call a stop to that too. I managed to last until the 8th inning before I called it a night and told the girls we were going home.
It was our first game so I wasn't sure what to expect. Now I know we'll bring a few diversions in the backpack next time. We already have plans to go to another game this season with some friends.
"Mom, that fried dough was really good. We have to come back again."
"Yeah, and Slugger was so funny! We have to see him dance again."
We went right out to Dole's Orchards after my earlier entry this morning. When we got home L. washed the strawberries, G. made whipped cream and I made the shortcake that we really like (we substitute some of the white flour with oatmeal flour to make it a little healthier plus, we all love oatmeal anyway).
Fino better get home early tonight to get his strawberry shortcake - the girls and I have already made more than a dent in the 11 pounds of strawberries we picked today.
Do you have a favorite strawberry recipe? Post a comment - we'd love to have some new recipes this season.
June 19, 2006
The U-Pick season is here
We have a small strawberry patch in our garden and last night we found a bunch that were ripe but not enough to satisfy our taste for the fruit.
So we're making time this week to go to a pick-your-own farm to get as much as we can eat and make our annual batch of strawberry jam.
Actually, we go to a bunch of the u-pick farms' seasons - strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and apple - because we love the fresh fruit. There's nothing like eating the stuff the day you pick it.
My mouth is watering already for more strawberries...
June 17, 2006
A new day
I saw a beautiful sunrise on the way to the office this morning. I know I'm in the minority, but I'm so glad it's Monday.
It means that dance recital weekend is over.
Not that the girls and I don't enjoy recital, but it takes a lot of hours and work. And this year's costumes and props (from circus hat spinners and tightrope walkers to mermaids), were plentiful and hard to keep track of all weekend. I think our winter ski gear is actually easier to manage.
But now it's Monday and it doesn't matter if we can't find the mermaid hair bow, or the tightrope walker jump rope and parasol. And we don't have to worry about the quick change from one prop-filled number to the next backstage.
I can sleep. I can finally get some sleep.
June 14, 2006
Treasure hunting and geology
The kids enjoyed our latest treasure hunt - and learned a bit of geology along the way. Read my monthly column to learn more about gem hunting in Maine.
June 13, 2006
Free orienteering workshops
For all families wanting to learn how to orienteer, there are some free workshops offered by the Gray Recreation Department this summer to learn how to do it. The workshop dates are: June 17, July 8, 22 and 29.
Orienteering is a sport that uses a detailed map to find check points along a course. Once a check point is found, each player marks their course card with the paper punch attached to the control station. Naturally the paper punch - and their various patterns - are what my kids really enjoy. And although orienteering is traditionally organized as a race, my family has never been interested in that aspect. It's finding the control stations that feel like a treasure hunt that we all love.
The free workshops being offered are geared toward families wanting to learn the sport. Pineland Farms has monthly courses set up so for a small fee, families can orienteer anytime they want from spring through fall. Libby Hill also has plans in the works for offering a monthly course as well in the fall.
The free workshops are open to families (for all ages with parents supervising young children) to learn the sport together and will begin at the base of Libby Hill Trails, adjacent to the Gray-NG Middle School, at the end of Libby Hill Road in Gray, off Rt 26.
All classes begin at 9 a.m. and are expected to run about 60-90 minutes. The coordinator of the workshops suggests families bring water, a snack, bug stuff and wear good shoes. For more info contact Tracy Ross at 657-7213, firstname.lastname@example.org
June 12, 2006
'Hoot' really was one
We were listening to the audio book "Hoot" in the car last week and I have to recommend it based on the humor factor, not to mention its worthy environmental message to kids.
The adult characters in the book, for the most part, are depicted as being dimwitted, which of course the kids thought was great. But at one point, we had to shut off the CD player because we were laughing so hard. The reason: a chicken reference.
As the story goes, the main characters - kids - are trying to save these little burrowing owls from being buried alive on a construction site. The kids talk with the foreman on the project about the owls then see one fly by right in front of them and burrow into the ground. The kids point it out to prove their point but the foreman says, no, there aren't any burrowing owls around. Those things flying around are "wild chickens!"
You gotta read the book - and a little of my blog - to really appreciate why this was so funny to us.
And then yesterday afternoon we were weeding the garden and collecting eggs while the chickens were taking their "dirt baths." They do this all the time but when I looked more closely, I noticed a bunch of holes in the ground. I asked the kids what was going on.
"The chickens dig holes for their baths mommy. You didn't know that?" G. asked.
"Yeah, kinda like the owls from 'Hoot' only the holes aren't so deep," said L.
No, I never noticed that our chickens dig holes in the back yard.
Maybe I should re-read "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" because this place - and the things I've learned here - is like no place I ever imagined I'd be today.
Of course I wouldn't trade it for the world. I mean, you never know when this weird bit of information might come in handy.
June 10, 2006
The house breach
With all the rain and spending the past week sewing mermaid dance costumes for the kids' recital, I'm all set with this whole water theme going on right now.
So this morning I downloaded the photos from my camera to grab one I took for this blog entry. And I admit, it was nothing exciting.
But then I saw that there were a bunch of photos on the camera that I knew I didn't take. G. had obviously been working on her 4-H photography project yesterday.
Then I looked through the photos...
Well G.'s perspective is always interesting, including photos she chooses to take of her visiting Flat Stanleys. And I know I shouldn't complain about the fact that the girls were actually doing their chores and washing the dishes, but I didn't need to know they flooded the sink and kitchen floor to do it.
G.'s theme for her project is "action/motion" so my guess would be that she was going for dripping and/or spraying water. Still, it's an artsy-type photo and OK in my book.
Now this one, for so many reasons, is so NOT OK that it will require a serious chat when I get home.
I've told the kids a million times not to let the chickens on the porch and not to feed the chickens the cats' food even though they like to eat it.
So this is like the double-rule breaker -- without the house breach.
And what were the girls thinking when they took this picture, that I wouldn't see it?
It's a good thing they're cute...
June 09, 2006
An insightful lesson
After mining for gems at Mt. Apatite (you'll hear more about that soon) and finding some nice quartz the kids made into necklaces and headbands, we decided to try the rock tumbler the kids got for Christmas last year.
The tumbler came with gems in their rough state and instructions on how to transform them into glossy stones to make jewelry. After reading the full directions from inside the box, we realized it was going to take A MONTH to tumble the rough stones into gems.
That information was definitely NOT on the outside of the box.
The inside instructions also reminded us several times that the tumbler was replicating a process nature took hundreds of years to do. Yeah, well because 21st century kids are not known for patience that information was strategically left off the outside of the box. Obviously a good marketing plan.
But we went ahead anyway with the project. The kids washed the rocks as instructed and set them tumbling with the first of 4 packets of "grit" to smooth out the stones.
Then I turned on the tumbler and man, that thing was LOUD (another detail not mentioned).
So we moved the tumbler to the basement and marked our calendar to check on it 5 days later. That's when we had to rinse the rocks and add the next packet. The next round of grit needed 14 days and a mark on the calendar. The next round required 7 days and the final polishing round needed 5.
Then finally it was time to see the stones - 31 days later.
"What do you think girls?" I asked them after the final rinse.
"They aren't pretty colors like they are on the box," said G. skeptically.
"Yeah, they aren't as nice as our crystals from Mt. Apatite," said a disappointed L.
"They're OK, I guess," said G.
So it turns out that the collection of rocks from our various outdoor adventures are actually more impressive than the $25 rock tumbler from the toy store. Now I could have told them that but this lesson was worth so much more - on so many levels - for them.
Maybe it really was worth that $25 after all.
Even in the basement, the constant churning of rocks could still be heard upstairs. It ran continuously for 31 days.
After each round, we had to dump the contents outside (so we didn't clog our drain), rinse the rocks and add the next round of grit.
With each opening of the tumbler, we had to put vaseline on the rim to ensure a good seal to prevent leakage.
The final polishing produced a lot of foam and started to overflow when I lifted off the top.
After 31 days, yes, most of the stones were glossy but hardly impressive to the girls.
June 07, 2006
And not only are the ducks gloating about all the rain, they're causing trouble again. We let them out of the coop but now they've decided to cross the street and free-range at the neighbors.
Rain-lovers, I don't like 'em.
June 04, 2006
I-Spy on Mackworth
We went hiking on Mackworth Island again yesterday. Like my co-worker, I too feel the need to drop everything and get outside when the sun makes one of its rare appearances.
It was a great day for a hike and L. found all kinds of things to show me on the trail. It was one of those, "Look mommy - look - look," kind of days.
A dead crab, one of many she found along the shore
A slug, also one of many she found in the fairy village
More pretty flowers
After I thought about it, the best sight of the day was my very special child's socks.
June 02, 2006
A poison ivy re-education
I was sifting through my email this morning and a headline from a weekly health newsletter caught my eye, "Study: Global warming means itchier poison ivy." Curious, I read the full story.
But I had a Huh? moment when I looked at the photo of poison ivy posted with the story because it didn't look right to me. With my curiosity peaked -- and the fact that I obviously needed to refresh my memory about the plant -- I did a quick Google image search.
The images varied quite a bit and made it clear that there's more to identifying the plant than the simple rhyme I learned years ago, "Leaves of 3, let it be."
The shiny, pointy leaves are what I usually look out for on the trail, although the 3-leave bunches are less clear in this photo.
These look more like birch tree leaves to me because of their roundness. I would not have likely recognized these leaves as poison ivy on the trail.
These don't look so shiny but have the leave shape to watch out for so I might have identified them correctly.
My most recent run-in with poison ivy was last summer while geocaching with the kids. We were in the thick of it before I identified the plant. And luckily (after breaking out the baby wipes and washing our lower bodies) none of the kids came down with a rash. As for me, the itchy ankles (because I forgot to wash off my sandals) didn't last long.
So after looking through the various images of poison ivy, I went to the FDA's website to brush up on preventive measures I can take if we run into the pesky plant again - which is likely with all the hiking and geocaching we do.
And the CNN story that inspired this rambling gave me yet another reason why I want to see Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth when it opens in Maine movie theaters at the end of the month.
Bugs, moths and a little psychology
The mosquitos are out and biting with a vengence so we're looking for new bug repellent ideas because our old bottle of bug juice isn't cutting it this year. And with a new line of clothing that has bug repellent already in the material, I'm exploring our options right now.
But there is one insect L. does not want to repel - moths. She is fascinated with them and treats every one she can catch (and that would be lots because she's good at it) like loving pets. I'll never forget the night she watched an old Godzilla vs. Mothra movie with Fino and cried for an hour afterwards because Mothra died at the end.
Yeah, she really likes moths.
So the other night after some hunting around outside, she caught a new one and named her, "Pink Princess."
She made a bed of leaves and bark for Pink Princess before she went to bed. Of course the moth fluttered around the house all night and G. ended up closing their bedroom door to keep her out. G. does not feel the same affinity to moths that L. does.
So the next morning, after L. read Pink Princess a book, G. talked to her about how the moth's family might miss her if she stayed in the house all day. L. released her a little while later.
I think I need to take some lessons in psychology from G.
And if you know what kind of moth Pink Princess is, let me know.
June 01, 2006
Flying chicken redux
G. was still trying to get the "perfect" flying chicken photo yesterday. So I thought I'd post this photo, just for the record, that I didn't do anything more than hold the chicken in my hands and let it fly away. No "catapulted" chickens at our house :-).
They can fly?
Yup. It's not pretty but chickens can fly.
G. was working on her 4-H photography project yesterday and needed an "action" shot. She thought flying chickens would make the perfect subject, proving L. is not the only creative thinker in the family.
And speaking of chickens, I'm really looking forward to Fino putting in our air conditioner this weekend for cooling off as well as the white noise. The morning sounds of Chickenland - quaint as the country farm life may be - are waking me up way too early on my days off from work.
(And just for the record, that soundclip was made from inside my bedroom at 4:30 a.m. this morning.)