August 31, 2006
August 28, 2006
Great day on the Merrimack
Yesterday the kids and I meandered down the Merrimack River in Newburyport, Massachusetts, with my mother and her friend on a houseboat-type craft.
The boat, dubbed "The Treehouse," on the public dock in Newburyport.
It was a little chilly for a swim but it didn't matter. The kids were enamored with The Treehouse and found plenty to do aboard.
What kid doesn't love the singing fish plaque? Every time L. passed by this one hanging in the galley, she had to hit the button to play a song and stick her finger in its mouth.
Taking pictures always keeps the girls busy. We have about 20 pictures - no exaggeration - that G. took from the sleeping quarters below deck like this one.
L. enjoyed driving The Treehouse and even the first reluctant G. enjoyed her chance to do it too. Actually G. was driving the boat on our approach to the public dock and it was suggested she turn over the wheel because the boat traffic was heavier and the buoys much closer together.
"No I got it," she said.
It took a little more convincing from the real captain of the boat to turn over the controls.
We did a little window shopping once we docked and the kids found a shop that sold tons of fairy stuff. They've already put in their Christmas present orders with Grandma.
And of course we had to stop at an ice cream shop for a frozen treat. Since we can't find a good Italian Ice in Maine, we opted for some in Newburyport.
Note to self: Lament about being land-locked in June next year in hopes that all our family and friends offer to take us out on their boats to cruise Sebago, Casco Bay and the Merrimack River again next summer.
August 26, 2006
Sunflowers and a Lucy update
I asked L. to take some photos of the sunflowers in our yard over the weekend. They really are blooming now (thanks to all the chicken poop fertilizer) and as tall as last year. Although we liked the suggestion/comment from Nancy about making a sunflower house, we never did get our act together to plant them correctly to do it.
L. said this one was a "sunflower picture with Chion." She always finds an excuse to take another photo of one of our cats (like we don't already have about 1,000 of them). I suppose you can see that tiny flower in the background...
And we have an update on Lucy the Lucky Chicken that the girls wanted to share. Fino put a plaster cast on her leg yesterday and now she can hobble around the coop.
I'm always learning something new about my chicken friends - and my husband's many talents.
August 25, 2006
Chicken in pink
It has been a rough week on legs at the Almeida homestead, first L. and now Lucy our chicken.
Fino discovered the chicken's leg broken yesterday morning. Nurses L. and G. assisted with the splint and helped to secure it with an old sock from L.
When I got home from the office yesterday, I was told in great detail about poor Lucy's injury and how the nurses and Fino helped her. There was a lot of speculation about how the injury happened but Fino really wasn't sure.
Lucy was resting comfortably in the coop last night and the nurses have now given her a new name.
"Lucky Lucy the Chicken"
And I'm sure she's feeling lucky and the envy of her friends. She's probably the only chicken in Maine wearing a pink sock right now.
August 22, 2006
Dogs and Kids get-together
Yesterday we got together with Nancy, the Dog's Life blogger and her daughters at a playground (one of my kids' favorite places). It was a beautiful day and everyone had fun.
G. was in her glory with Nancy's dogs Charlee and Finney.
G. also took a couple of photos of Charlee doing some tricks, which we all were really impressed with.
I also wanted to thank all those who posted comments or emailed asking about L.'s accident earlier this week. Her knee is sore but she was climbing and running around the playground yesterday so she is definitely on the mend. And her friend is lending her a new pair of ice skates with a firmer boot for open skate next week. She's sure she won't fall again with better skates -- and although skeptical, I'm going with it.
August 19, 2006
Good beginning, rough middle, happy ending
The day started off sunny and warm and the kids had a romp through the sprinkler with their friends in our yard.
But our plan this afternoon included spending some time indoors - to ice skate. Their skating friends had let us know that the Ice Arena at USM was opening today for the season and asked us join them for open skate. The kids were thrilled at the prospect of ice skating in August.
After digging out the skates, the girls of course had to find their favorite skating outfits.
But during the last 5 minutes of open skate, L. fell down - hard - on her knees. She's not a big crier when in pain (she's broken her arm 3 times and the crying didn't last more than a couple of minutes in any of those incidents - even the one that required surgery) but this fall had her in tears for longer than usual. That of course prompted me to overreact and take her to the emergency room. (And BTW, none of those broken bones were sports-related - a slip in the shower, a leap off a playground swing, a fall off a chair.)
Of course I planned ahead for a long wait at the ER with a quick stop to the library on our way into Portland. L. agreed it was worth the 5-minute stop for a couple of books to pass the time once we got there.
It turned out that nothing was broken but she'll be in some pain for a while and have a nasty purple bruise.
After leaving the emergency room I called Fino to let him know about L.'s accident at the rink. Before I could tell him exactly what had happened, he interrupted to ask apprehensively. "Oh no, did she break her arm again?"
I had thought the same thing when I had first seen her crying on the ice. And crazy as this sounds, I was happy to report it was only a couple of badly bruised knees. Those broken arms for L. were almost as traumatic for her parents as they were for her.
So L. is staying off the ice for at least a week - a real hardship during sunny August - and now vying for a better pair of ice skates.
"My skate boots are too wobbly mom. I need those hard boots like Katie has so I don't fall like that again."
Whatever it takes for some no-broken-bone insurance, I'll take it. E-bay here I come...
August 18, 2006
Cruising Casco Bay
Fino, being the land-lover that he is, wasn't so keen on the idea of cruising Casco Bay on his friend's new sailboat at first. I jumped at the chance and coaxed him into it. I love boats and being on the water and this was an opportunity the girls and I didn't want to miss.
The afternoon was fabulous and we all had a great time.
The kids have been asking us for years to buy a "house car" and have a fixation on any cars or boats with sleeping quarters. So during our 3-hour boat ride, they spent a lot of time below deck playing house. Once I evenutally coaxed them above deck, they enjoyed sitting up front and checking out the sights.
Unfortunately we only spotted birds on seal rock yesterday.
The girls and I were highly amused at this seagull's perch. Our friend said it wouldn't be so funny if it were our radar. My car knows the mess a seagull can make first-hand.
The kids enjoyed the new perspective on their favorite rollerblading trail at Bug Light.
L. enjoyed the lighthouses and pointed out that they were in order of height - Portland Headlight, Portland Breakwater and Bug Light - when we spotted them all along the shore. My camera's lens wasn't wide enough to capture them all in a single shot.
The girls and I decided we were going to take a ferry ride to explore Fort Georges another day.
Our friend said that this water taxi was making a larger-than-acceptable wake while passing us. The kids asked, "what's a taxi?" Yup, they're growing up in Maine.
August 16, 2006
We picked 10 pounds of blueberries yesterday and have plans for another visit to stock our freezer at a u-pick farm in Limerick. At $1.35/pound, picking your own is a real bargain.
L. loves frozen blueberries (she calls them little popsicles) and eats them year-round. And we all love blueberry muffins and cobbler so it's always been worth the effort to pick as much as we can in August and September.
Since Fino was home early from work yesterday, we dragged him along to help. He thought the sun was too hot so he caught some shade between the blueberry bushes.
Some blueberry fans prefer the wild blueberries but we have found picking the low bush fruit is hard on the back because we don't have a harvest rake. And although we have a lot of wild berries in our backyard and pick them regularly (although the chickens eat a lot before we can get to all the ripe ones), we rely on the cultivated berries at the u-pick farm to stockpile.
If you've never been blueberry picking, bring containers with handles for your little ones to use. Beach pails and cookie tins work great and prevent some of the spilling accidents that happen while picking with kids.
Blueberry picking season runs through the end of September at u-pick farm around the state.
August 14, 2006
Geocaching, space weather and an astronomy event
I just read a short story about satellites and geocaching. The satellites orbiting the earth - and used by geocachers to locate their hidden treasures - can be affected by solar storms. This isn't big news, it's happened before, but the US government now has an idea to protect them. But it would affect communications from space so there's some disagreement from the rest of the world about the idea.
Although the protection idea is clever, I don't think it will happen. Not that geocachers will have the influence to stop it, but cell-phone and satellite tv-users will likely put up a much bigger fight.
The whole notion of solar storms and space weather had me doing a quick web search this morning. I discovered that you can find out - on a daily basis - what the weather is like in space. They even forecast solar flares.
My sleepy-eyed kids were not nearly as enthusiastic or interested as I was with this information when I dragged them over to the computer at 7 a.m. this morning. Although the abstract forecasts were too much for them so early in the day, they thought the sun spot photos were "really cool."
At least they humored me for a few minutes. And now I know where to check if my GPS unit or cell phone connections are wacky. Although that's really just an excuse to indulge my inner geek.
The other day I received an email about an event in September sponsored by the Astronomical Association of Northern New England. Since my kids have always been interested in space, especially G, we hope to attend part of the weekend-long event in Kennebunk.
It sounds like a great way for families to learn more about astronomy.
I couldn't find specific information about this event on the association's website yet, so I thought I'd post an image of the flier.
A sunny side quest
Paddling a canoe with a spouse who doesn't spend much time on the water (he's not a boating or swimming enthusiast) requires nerves of steel and lots of patience.
I know this because after a paddling trip with my daughters' 4-H club late yesterday afternoon, I have a lot of bite marks on my tongue.
My day began at 5 a.m. at the office with an hour break later in the morning to run up to Topsham to pick up the girls' exhibits from the fairgrounds then return to the office to finish up there before rushing to meet up with the girls and their 4-H club in Windham for the family canoe trip.
Needless to say I was a bit frazzled when I arrived at the river and everyone was waiting for me. So I just got in our family's borrowed canoe and pushed off the shore.
Quickly I realized that I was sitting in a bad spot. My long legs did not fit into the bow of the boat so I had to swing them over the side. I felt ridiculous but the cool water felt great on my feet. This was one example in a series of moments that I chose to look on the sunny side of my situation.
The Presumpscot River in Windham is a great place to paddle with kids.
The group decided to explore a small finger of the river so we followed the other canoes through a narrow passage.
My arms got tired fast and I realized that Fino wasn't paddling. He and the girls were watching some ducks and a crane on a dock. Now that's not normally a problem, I wanted the kids to enjoy the scenary on the ride, but Fino needed to help so we could keep up with the group.
I suggested this to him and after a few strokes of his paddle, had us banging into the shore. Did I mention he was in the rear of the canoe and was supposed to be steering the boat?
We got back on track with the other 5 canoes but continued to have a few steering problems. But the kids were enjoying themselves so that was OK - another sunny side moment.
After about 45 minutes I turned over my paddle to L. because I needed a break. Fino gave his paddle to G. and the girls had fun paddling us around the river. We found some pretty flowers and lilypads and even spotted a turtle.
When we decided to head back - which meant we had to paddle against the current - Fino took G.'s paddle and started us on our way. L. still had my paddle and I happily let her keep it since she was doing well.
I had my back to the bow of the boat to stretch my legs and didn't see the big tree branches until they smacked me on the back of the head.
Thanks for the warning - let alone steering - darling husband. No sunny side moment then.
After some seat-swapping Fino and I paddled our way back to the boat launch without incident. I think we'd finally found our rhythm after a few hours on the water.
The girls did a much better job paddling than our trip last year and I was proud of them.
There really is a sunny side to every situation.
August 12, 2006
Lots of lovin' care
Over the weekend the kids found a snake in our driveway.
Last summer they had found a similar snake with one distinct difference - it was paralized. Yeah, he couldn't move anything other than his tongue. I didn't think the snake would live more than a few days and agreed to let the girls put it in an old aquarium in the house.
The girls helped the snake drink water and caught tiny bugs to feed it. They took such good care of that snake that he lived for several months. My friends would often look at me like I was crazy when I explained that we had a paralized snake (in addition to the chickens, ducks and blind cat).
We've got a little of everything at our house I'd say.
And speaking of our cat Toddy, he was sporting a new wardrobe last night thanks to L. She thought it was chilly in the house and wanted to make sure Toddy was warm.
I don't think anyone could question that our animal friends get a lot of loving care from the Almeida girls.
August 09, 2006
Eating chicken with chickens
I joke with anyone who eats a meal at our house that my kids have a warped perception about what to do with the remnants of their dinner. At our house they throw food scraps out the backdoor.
Chickens, like dogs, will eat anything and much to our occasional dinner guest's surprise (and mine initially), are happily cannibalistic. So when our backdoor opens, the chickens come running because more often than not, it means some kind of food is being tossed out for them.
I know it's weird -- particularly for my many city-born friends -- but my practical side appreciates the time I save on kitchen cleanup.
But last night I was reminded that there is a down-side to our table scrap practice.
Fino made chicken on the grill while I set the big table in the backyard with plates, silverware and a rice dish. When it came time for all of us to sit down to eat, a dozen chickens ran over to the table and surrounded us.
The chickens walked around - and under - the table while we ate. Within a few minutes I think our entire coop's population had surrounded us (25+). We attempted to shoo them away but that didn't work so the kids threw some rice into another part of the yard. That worked for about a minute before the chickens came back looking for more. Needless to say, it was a quickly eaten meal.
I guess the old adage applies here - you take the good with the bad.
And in case you were wondering, the chickens got the table scraps from this meal too.
Fairy leaping, fried Oreos and hopes for the Dogs
We have some friends visiting from out of town and since they read my blog, they had a few requests, including a trip to Mackworth Island to build fairy houses. So yesterday we visited the island and thoroughly enjoyed the picture perfect hiking weather.
The comment of the day was, "Wow, this fairy village is much bigger than I realized." Yeah, my camera has never really caught the size or many interesting details of the village. And in case you were wondering if the kids enjoyed themselves, I think this picture says it all.
Today we headed to the Topsham Fair since it was one-ticket ride day. The kids also wanted to see their projects in the exhibit hall. They were pleased with their ribbon placements but much more eager to go on the rides and get some fried dough and french fries. And the adults in our group were just as eager to eat our way through the fair.
Our usual treats were tasty but we felt the need to expand our horizons and try our first deep fried Twinkee and Oreos. You know, we don't like enough greasy, heart-clogging food already.
The Oreos were the hands-down favorite. The Twinkees' cream melted into the cake and the chocolate and whipped cream was just over the top for us.
The fried Twinkees were served with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. They really know how to add caloric intake with these.
We decided to play our Seen Team role and took lots of photos around the fairgrounds.
Tomorrow we're headed to the Sea Dogs game and we're really hoping they break
their losing streak.
August 07, 2006
3 letterboxes launched
We just hid our first 3 letterboxes and they're at Baxter Memorial Library in Gorham. The kids carved the stamps (that means not to expect anything elaborate) themselves after Fino made the "boxes" (which required a creative touch and his favorite power tool). The clues are very kid-friendly but if you have trouble cracking the code to any of the clues, just ask one of the Children's Room librarians for assistance. They are eager to help kids learn to letterbox.
Since letterboxing.org went down last week and is still offline, we can't register our letterboxes there yet. So, if you have any questions and/or comments about our letterboxes, post a comment here. We'd love to hear from families that find them. And my kids can't wait to see some new stamps in their box logbooks.
August 05, 2006
A new appreciation this weekend
I solve a mystery clue (no town location given) for a letterbox in Cumberland County
We drive to the location and follow the rest of the clues to find the box
Search and search
And search some more
Knowingly walk through poison ivy because it is in area we think box is hidden based on clue directions
Tell L. not to follow me while I investigate
L. follows anyway
Her and I wash our legs and shoes in nearby bathroom to avoid rash
We find box in a different patch of trees nearby
We re-read the clue directions to the box
Family votes unanimously that letterboxers write clues that are not clever so much as simply poor directions (this was our experience with other boxes we have found as well)
Kids tell parents in the car that "geocaching is more fun" even though "the letterbox stamps are cool."
Later try to go to letterboxing.org to log our box find
Find the letterboxing website is not operational
I pull out my GPS unit and admire it lovingly
No one breaks out with poison ivy the next day
An impromtu dad game
Yesterday we drove to Topsham to drop off some projects the kids made for the exhibit hall at the Topsham Fair (the fair opens tomorrow and runs through next Saturday).
Realizing it was going to take a while for the tags to be printed by the hall officials for their exhibits, I asked Fino to take the girls outside to grab a snack from the car. I knew they'd get antsy waiting around with me.
Everything for the exhibit hall was settled about 20 minutes later so I went in search of Fino and the kids and found them running around and laughing under one of the tents.
Bless those dads, they come up with things moms would never think to do.
Case in point -- flip-flop frisbee.
"Daddy's flip-flop flies wicked good mom. Look!"