Over the weekend the girls and I went to find more letterboxes but ran into a snafu. The Fore River Sanctuary trail, which has a series of 7 letterboxes, was full of bees feasting on the overgrown flowering plants covering the trail. Normally we love hiking here but the girls were a little stressed about getting stung while wearing shorts (it was 90+ degrees). And I can't say I was too excited about the prospect either.
So back at the car I consulted our letterboxing notebook and solved a riddle for another letterbox that we believed wasn't too far away.
We found the hidden box at the location and all of us, including Bunny, had a scoop of our favorite ice cream.
Do you know where Bunny is?
Game Rule Reminder: The first person to POST A COMMENT (it doesn't count if you email me) about Bunny's location in the photo, wins a new MaineToday.com frisbee. Anyone can win so if you know the answer, post it -- and don't forget to include your email address.
When we set off to find letterboxes on Douglas Mountain on Friday afternoon, we knew we had to bring a lot of water. With the temperature at almost 90 degrees, Fino decided to pack several frozen water bottles in his backpack.
That made his pack heavier than usual, and since he was still recovering from a head cold, it was a tiring climb for him.
The girls and I set out the picnic blanket once we reached the top of the mountain so he could lay down for a few minutes while we ate our snack.
Fino decided to get more comfortable and used one of the water bottles as a head rest. The girls thought that was pretty funny and decided to add to the silliness.
It probably would have been more refreshing if we'd had a couple of cucumbers with us.
After finding a few letterboxes this past week, I realize that I really need to work on my stamp-making technique before I make another stamp to hide in our own letterbox (which we hope to do next week). Some of the stamps we have found in letterboxes have been downright impressive.
The first stamp in our letterboxing log book from the Art Guru.
Our second find at a coffee shop had a very detailed stamp as well. The kids loved this box because the shop also sold ice cream and they managed to talk me into a cone for each of them before we left.
We found a stamp in a box on the top of Douglas Mountain yesterday. It had a lot of detail even though L. didn't do such a great ink job. The stamp said, "non sibi sed omnibus, douglas mountain". That's a lot of letters to carve. Me, I gave up after carving "R.B." on our stamp last week.
Actually, one of the things the kids like most about letterboxing is looking at all the stamps in the log books we find inside the boxes. These were a couple of their favorites from a box we found at USM.
And our logbook, even with only 5 stamps in it at the moment, is already really interesting. L. pulled it out of my backpack to show her friend yesterday.
I guess scrolling through our geocache finds on my GPS unit is a little less interesting to a couple of 8-year-olds...
buji TM is a lotion that offers protection against urushiol, the oil found in poison ivy/oak. The company makes two products, one is a pre-contact lotion, the other is a wash to use if you've already been exposed. Oh, and the pre-contact stuff has an SPF 20 sunscreen too.
Now what I found really amusing is that they didn't use the usual "outdoor enthusiasts" in the press release or say... "hikers." Nope. It "protects geocachers."
What I don't know is if I should be insulted that the buji TM people know I don't always pay careful attention to where I'm going while looking for a geocache and need their product. Or maybe I should be happy that they do and have something to help me?
Making bubble prints is definitely an outdoor activity. Mix kids and paint with bubbles and you get one messy activity -- and a bunch of happy kids.
Yesterday I taught an outdoor crafts class at my daughters' camp. And one thing I've learned with my own kids - let alone a group of them - is that when you can avoid the stress of dealing with a big mess, the happier everyone will be. That meant this particular project had to be done outdoors.
To make the paint for the project I used a small plastic cup and mixed 1" of each of the following (and in this order): water, bubble solution (dish washing soap works OK too), tempera/poster paint and mixed it well.
Then I handed each kid a straw and told them to blow bubbles until the cup started overflowing with them.
Then they placed their paper over the bubbles in the cup.
When they lifted the paper, they could see their "print."
We used 6 different colors and I encouraged the kids to overlap them for a more colorful effect. And the best thing about bubble printing is that the paint dries fast - about 5 minutes in the sun.
The not so great thing - and the reason I do this outside near a garden hose - is this.
While we were outside with a mess of bubbles already, I brought out my homemade bubble wands. I cut a straight straw (the bendy part doesn't work well) in half and threaded cotton yarn (it has to be cotton otherwise it won't hold the bubble) through the straws and tied it off at the size we wanted (and make sure the knot is inside the straw before blowing, otherwise it will break the bubble). It's a great, inexpensive way to make bigger bubbles -- and the kids love them.
Dip the wand in bubble solution with the straws together. Then lift the wand out and gently pull the straws apart before blowing.
The kids blew some huge bubbles but I didn't manage to get any photos of them. I was too busy trying to clean up hands, arms and legs and wishing the kids wore their bathing suits. A few runs through the sprinkler would have worked better. Next time.
I have been doing some research for my next column on Letterboxing this weekend. Ever since my first column about geocaching, I've had letterboxers emailing me to write about their game. I thought it about time I figured out how to play.
I had a great chat with Jeremy at the Art Guru in Gorham yesterday because he also happens to be a letterboxing guru too.
To oversimplify things, letterboxing is a lot like geocaching without the GPS unit. To find letterboxes, players have to solve puzzles/riddles instead of using coordinates. And to be honest, the reason I've waited so long to try the game is because downloading coordinates to a traditional cache is easier. (Yes geocachers, I know there are other kinds of caches that use riddles/puzzles too, I just haven't done those yet.) Plus, I love using my high tech gadget.
Another difference (and apparently a common mistake for geocachers finding a letter box by mistake) is that you don't TAKE anything away from the box. You stamp your personal log book with the stamp provided in the letterbox and then you stamp the box's log book with your stamp.
Jeremy gave me some suggestions on how to make a stamp, which we needed before we set out to find our first box. I found from looking through his logbook that letterboxers take great pride in making their own stamps and really are beautiful works of art.
I knew the stamp I was going to make would be less than impressive but I bought the eraser, flexible tip markers (to ink the stamp once I made it) and a new blank notebook and took it all home to show the kids.
Fino was busy in his clubhouse, oh I mean his newly completed shed, in the backyard so the task of using the sharp carving tools to make the family stamp was left to me.
I traced a picture of Bunny - of course! - onto the eraser and then started cutting away the shape. But I had a little trouble.
It took a few minutes but even though I was really, really careful, I managed to cut myself with the carving tool. It was one of those times when I was so focused on NOT doing something, that I couldn't help but do it.
My carving skills have a lot to be desired but I managed to get something that sort of resembled Bunny on the eraser. And then I totally got lazy with our log name (RobotBunny) because initials was all I could manage.
This week we're going back to visit Jeremy to find the letterbox hidden inside the Art Guru store then venture out to find some other boxes. We'll let you know how things go.
If you letterbox and have some tips for us, please post a comment.
We went to a favorite spot on the Saco River for a quick dip before dinner on Thursday night.
The one (and only) thing I dislike about taking the kids swimming in the summer is their desire to drag all kinds of toys along. I started a rule when the girls were preschoolers, "You want it, you carry it." That usually dissuades them from bringing too much and saves me multiple trips back to the car. Plus the kids have learned that I'm more likely to take them swimming if we keep things simple.
And the thing is, they almost never even use the toys they bring anyway.
But they insisted they bring a couple of toys for our quick trip to the river and dragged their gear across the rocks to the beach.
Amazingly, this time they actually played with them.
Then L. made a discovery while she sat in the river eating her apple.
I think you can guess which "inflatable" was the most fun.
Do your kids have a favorite beach "toy?" Tell us about it.
We were assigned to be "helpers" for the Don Campbell Band at the beginning of the event. Other than fetching a couple of water bottles and assisting with the break down of some tripod stands, we didn't do much in the way of helping. But we had front row seats in the visitors dugout and really enjoyed the music.
And while we were in the dugout, the girls couldn't help but snoop around.
"Wow, that's a lot of toilet paper mom," said G.
Yeah I thought, why do they need that much with a team full of guys?
The big crowd pleaser of the night was Shane O'Brien, winning the homerun derby and scoring some runs during the softball game. At one point he did what looked more like a hockey move than a baseball one when running to third base covered by a Bruins player. There was definitely some blocking by the Bruins guy and some checking done by O'Brien. The kids thought that was hysterical.
There were lots of Pirates fans in the stands and L. chatted it up with a couple we sat next to at a playoff game in May.
But the kids seemed most excited about the Lori Voornas autographed baseball they got (they love the Q radio station). There were a ton of photos on my camera this morning of her and Shane O'Brien on the field. Although I decided to spare everyone the play by play with just a couple of shots for the Seen gallery.
So our volunteer activity turned out to be a lot more FUN than work and the kids didn't mind that one bit.
Now it seems they have Toddy our blind cat involved.
And if you don't know much about Toddy, G. wrote this about him in the Pets section in May (along with her favorite chicken Una too).
This is my cat Toddy. This is a close-up of him that I took in my yard. He got hit by a car and we adopted him from my dad's work after his accident. Toddy is blind but he can find his way around the house. He goes up and down the stairs and he knows where his food is. He eats a lot and he's kinda chubby. He's not supposed to climb to my sister's top bunk but he does anyway. I taught him to climb down the ladder so it would be easier for him to get down the stairs. He gets down but he falls mostly still. I don't know why he climbs to the top bunk but I think he goes to snuggle with my sister. He's very nuts to climb up the ladder!
No worries about Toddy getting around our house. Although every once in a while I hear a loud THUMP in the middle of the night. But I don't worry about that anymore. It's just Toddy missing a step on the bunk bed ladder on his way down to get a midnight snack.
Every year we splurge on a trip to a water park. This year we decided to go to Aquaboggan in Saco with some friends yesterday. I was downloading photos of our visit this morning when I ran across these photos on the camera taken by G. the night before we went. As usual, the photos were entertaining as well as plentiful. There were more than a dozen of this subject.
I think they were a little excited about our trip to the water slides.
Now what really cracked me up about our experiment was not the fact that it worked - or that Fino was in his glory blowing something up - but the chicken factor. Always have to count our feathered friends being part of anything we do in our backyard.
The first experiment was great and the mentos, along with the warm diet coke (we took my co-workers' advice), went shooting out of the bottle.
Being the opportunists they are, the chickens then came over to see if they could catch a bite to eat. One hen discovered a mento on the ground and started pecking at it. Then Fino started another "experiment" and the hen shot out of sight almost as fast as the diet coke did.
Fino and the girls did another experiment to see if adding mentos to the already used diet coke would explode again. It did -- with a little help.
And in case you're wondering, yes, the diet coke left in the bottle is drinkable - and tasty according to Fino.
Of course, we did catch all the live action on video.
It doesn't matter what toys you bring to the beach, it's the random item that captures a child's attention. Our friends invited us for a dinnertime boat ride and picnic on Sebago Lake and packed a bunch of toys to keep all our kids entertained so the adults could relax.
But even with all the careful planning of my friend, it was a paper plate that her 19-month-old found fascinating -- and threw like an ultimate frisbee pro.
I have loved spending time on Sebago Lake since I was a teenager. It was great to spend some time on a boat with my kids and now watch them enjoy it. We don't have a boat right now but I'm working on Fino to get one.
The kids loved the boat ride around the lake and letting their hair "blow dry" in the wind. Then when we anchored at the Sand Bar, they spent nearly all their time in the water swimming and playing with barbies.
We eventually dragged the kids out of the water for dinner. And then dads built a small campfire afterwards and asked the kids if they wanted to toast marshmallows. As usual, the kids definition of "toasting" meant lighting marshmallows on fire. I can't say how many times I've tried to show the girls how to get the marshmallows golden brown but they don't care. They want them hot any way they can get them - and as soon as possible.
Here's a few more photos from our Sebago Lake boat trip. Did I mention how much I love Sebago?
We drove around Frye Island.
The Sand Bar has a couple of fire pits and was a perfect dinner picnic spot.
Yeah, nothing better than enjoying a sunset on the lake.
We went to opening day at the Ossipee Fair yesterday. The kids have a bunch of their 4-H projects in the exhibit hall so in addition taking in the sights around the fairgrounds, we also served as monitors for the hall for a few hours (an expectation for each 4-H club entering exhibits).
The highlight in the exhibit hall, besides the girls being pleased with their blue riboons for their photography projects, was the ant dragging string across the floor.
And I really enjoyed this photo by L. "It's tail action mom, just like (G.'s) chicken action!"
And no trip to the fair is complete without some of these.
And then I noticed that the girls had some kind of animal leg theme going on with their photos yesterday.
The pig scramble was enjoyable to watch until the pigs were put into bags. "Those poor pigs. They put them in bags without air holes! I don't like that," huffed G. She had a similar reaction at the Oxen pull with the whips. The girls like the animals and don't like to see them being hit or distressed. I guess they're really not cut out for the farm life. They'll stick with their errant ducks and crazy chickens.
And speaking of ducks, we had another run in with someone else's pesky birds last night. We had to come to a very quick stop driving home on Route 25 in Cornish because several ducks decided to cross the road around 9:45 p.m. They took their own sweet time getting across that road too (and blowing the horn didn't even phase them, let alone get them moving faster).
"Geeze mom, ducks are a pain in the butt aren't they?"
The girls and I were feeling a little landlocked this morning so we decided to go to Dundee Park in Windham to rent a paddle boat.
We rented a paddle boat because the kids' leg muscles are in much better shape than their arms are for canoeing right now. We haven't been canoeing at all this year because our friend with the canoe moved out of the area. Not a good excuse I know, but I wanted an easy, stress-free afternoon so I went with what I thought would be easiest for us.
And we did have a great time on that little boat - well worth the $5/hour rental fee we paid. Of course we had the typical paddle boat steering problems (going in circles before getting the hang of the rudder). And because we switched positions several times, everyone had their chance to steer and not get us where we wanted to go - me included.
At one point L. decided to jump off the side to take a little dip.
But G. decided to pull out her book and read for a while.
Then G. decided to take command of the camera and as usual, it was amusing to see what she chose to photograph.
We went to the Arboretum in Augusta the other day and even though thunderstorms were threatening, we managed to explore quite a few of the trails (and have a quick picnic) before the storm.
The girls took over the camera for most of the hike and continue to surprise and amuse me every time I download the pictures.
So here are the photo highlights of the Arboretum from their perspective.
G. caught me once again in the act of of trying to wrangle L's hair into a ponytail before we hit the trail.
Lupine is L.'s favorite wildflower.
The kids loved the hosta garden. They spent a long time reading all the names of the plants and laughing about some of them. "Elvis Lives" is the real name of that plant. I never knew hosta gardeners had such a sense of humor.
OK, what kind of tree is this? I thought it was a spruce variety but then started over-thinking it after looking at the Balsam Fir. I don't think I've ever seen purple pine cones. Post a comment if you know what it is.
I took this photo and asked L. if she could have tried to be more careful in the marsh. "Well look at you mommy!"