September 29, 2006
September 27, 2006
The kids know how to rock now
Blue Man Group was my kids' first rock concert and wow, it was awesome. I had never seen the group perform but everyone told me they put on a great show and the kids would love it. Oh yeah, it was.
L. had the arm waving, head-bobbing and raising the roof arms down pat by the end of the show. The whole rock star parady theme the group had going was tons of fun. The kids were too busy following all the Rock Star Fan "Rules" during the show to really care why Fino and I were laughing so hard at it all.
If you ever want your kids to have a concert experience - and enjoy the show yourself - Blue Man Group is it.
There were so many glowing cell phone lights in the crowd last night I couldn't resist taking a shot of our own.
Check out our Seen Team photos of the audience last night
September 25, 2006
Kids are teachers too
Yesterday the kids and I spent the afternoon and evening at the Cumberland Fair. The kids' 4-H club sponsored a geocaching booth and we introduced a few new families to the game. I had several little-helpers at the fairgrounds and I have a few new "learnings/re-learnings" to report.
Make all the kids in your group wear matching bright orange shirts to keep track of everyone (thanks for the tip - and the shirts - Meg!)
Using someone else's GPS units doesn't always work as planned, especially when the unit's settings aren't the same as yours and it interprets your waypoints differently (i.e., end up a totally wrong location).
5-year-olds get tired a lot faster than 8-year-olds so snack breaks are all-important.
Do one thing at a time. Realize that you can't manage to take photos with 4 kids walking the fairgrounds while 2 of them, in addition to you, have GPS units and are trying to find geocaches (even though it's a bummer you don't have any pics of the fun you had).
Kids love glitter pens (thanks MaineToday) and pins (thanks County Extension Office).
Plan to visit the bunny barn at least twice - and plan to deflect the multiple requests for one because daddy said no.
Kids love stickers (especially bright orange ones)
Let the kids be silly, you might think it's funny too
Kids love to dance (btw, the band never said who they were last night but my crew liked them alot).
Don't be surprised when the kids linger to chat with the vendors in the Exhibition Hall.
You never know who you'll meet at the fair (her photos from Iraq were great)
No matter what you say about what you will - or will not - buy at the fairgrounds, Grandma will always get the kids what they want anyway. Thanks Grandma!
View all our photos from the fairgrounds yesterday in Seen.
September 24, 2006
Good times on Day 1 of the fair
We were at the fairgrounds to volunteer in the 4-H Food Booth yesterday. The kids and Fino were wiped out by the end of the day (I arrived late from work and was a bit of a slacker) but we all agree it was for a good cause. The proceeds from the booth go to the county's 4-H programs and they offer some great stuff throughout the year. And here's an insider's tip: the booth has some of the cheapest grub on the fairgrounds.
The girls did work hard but in classic L. and G. style, they also had plenty of breaks.
Fino and Josh worked the grill and made some really tasty burgers according to L.
As a reward for a job well-done, we treated ourselves to a big bowl of fries.
The kids love the vinegar spray bottle. Good thing we like lots and lots of it on our fries.
And per usual, the kids took charge of the camera and I had the pleasure of sifting through the 100+ photos this morning. About 25 photos were from poultry house of various chickens. Apparently we don't have enough chicken photos at home. Another few dozen were taken inside the 4-H Hall. There were some really great entries this year -- the rat maze and living history costumes were a few of our favorites.
But these photos by G. cracked me up. Sometimes she really captures more than just an animal.
September 23, 2006
Why did the (blank) cross the road?
My day at the office begins at 5 a.m. a few of days a week and since I live about 30 minutes away, I'm out of the house well before dawn.
I often see animals on the secondary roads I take into Portland but this morning it was like wildlife central. Luckily I avoided hitting anything (well, everything that wasn't already dead).
Mile 1: A possom scuttling across the road.
Mile 3: A dead skunk I smelled long before I actually saw it.
Mile 8: A slow moving racoon that crossed the road and required a quick stop to avoid hitting.
Mile 9: A deer that lept about 20 feet in front of my car before running into the woods.
Mile 13: Another freshly dead skunk with a potent aroma.
Mile 15: A racoon walking along the dirt shoulder.
My nerves were a little frayed by the time I got to work in my attempts to avoid killing anything or getting into an accident. The kids of course we disappointed they missed it all when I told them about it.
Have others see a lot of roadside wildlife lately? Must be the seasons changing.
September 22, 2006
Geocache at the Cumberland County Fair
My family will be spending several days next week at the fair for various 4-H activities but the one we're really excited about this year is the geocaching. On Tuesday the kid's club is hiding several geocaches around the fairgrounds. Mark your calendars for this one:
Tuesday, Sept. 26
Cumberland County Fairgrounds
Pick up coordinates at the 4-H Hall
Anyone can pick up coordinates at the 4-H Exhibit Hall from 4-6 p.m. (but, the caches will only be available during that time on Tuesday).
For those who don't have a GPS unit, a 4-Her will be available to take you on a "tour" (with one of several GPS units loaned to us for the day by the Cumberland County Extension Office) to find the caches and show you how geocaching is done.
This is a good opportunity for kids - and their parents - to give the high-tech treasure hunting game a try. It's a lot of fun.
See you at the fair.
September 16, 2006
For the past couple of weeks the girls have been getting all their 4-H projects together for the Cumberland Fair (it opens Sunday). Taste-testing recipes for G.'s final baking entries and L.'s 10-recipe cookbook hasn't been a hardship for anyone in the family. Well, except for G.'s first version of gingerbread that had a 1/2 cup of salt instead of a 1/2 teaspoon. The chickens didn't complain though, they ate every last crumb.
Of course it would have been easy to gain a few extra pounds this week with all the baked goods around so we shared the goodies with friends and co-workers.
And putting the final touches on their project posters and notebooks was enjoyable as well. I especially like the Lucy the Chicken poster G. did. Her addition of the actual cast to be displayed with it was a nice touch I thought.
Completing the paperwork required to show their projects in the 4-H exhibit hall however has not been much fun for them. There are multiple pages to the forms that require a lot of writing and something they always procrastinate until the last minute because they don't like doing it.
But last night L. finished the last of the paperwork.
She leaped off the chair with a huge smile, did a little circle jig while waving her arms in the air and chanted, "I'm freeeeeee! I'm freeeeeee!"
And me, I let out a big sigh of relief. No more worrying about how hard on both girls have worked on their projects all year and not getting all the proper paperwork done to display them in the fair's exhibit hall.
This morning we're carefree and have a renewed excitement about the fair opening on Sunday.
September 14, 2006
"They're so cute!"
The kids, especially G., has been asking for a while to see a seal pup release by the Marine Animal Lifeline. Yesterday we finally found a release time that fit into our crazy schedule.
Both girls enjoyed watching the seals swimming around once they were in the water and we asked one of the volunteers a few questions about them. She said they look really cute but they aren't so nice up close. They're wild animals and act accordingly (i.e., bite if you get too close).
There's some great photos of the pups as patients on the Lifeline's website that the kids love to look at. There is also a species identification page that gives lots of interesting details about the pinnipeds (another word for seals - a new vocabularly word for me :) in the Gulf of Maine.
G. caught all the action on the beach during the release -- and specified which pictures I should share.
The pups are transported in large dog carriers. There was a hooded seal that needed a lot of coaxing to leave his carrier yesterday.
The pups swam near the beach initially and the kids had fun trying to guess when - and where - they would pop their heads above the water.
Volunteers use large wood "shields" to re-direct any errant seals. Some were staying close to shore initially and needed some coaxing to swim out to sea.
L. can not leave any place we go without something. Note the new "seaweed collection" in her hand that she has decided to start.
September 13, 2006
Lucy's cast removal
Lucy, of lucky chicken fame, had her cast removed today. Her leg is not straight and we really didn't expect it to be given we know nothing about healing chicken's bones.
She's not moving around so much right now without the cast support but she seems to be doing fine. We knew it was time to take off the cast when she enthusiastically got herself to the compost pile every afternoon this past week after I dumped table scraps there. She's sort of a one-legged, hopping, partly flying chicken who really can move fast with the right motivation.
G. took the photos below while L. held Lucy down. Fino did all the precision work and Lucy was back in the coop a short while later without a scratch.
This whole thing with Lucy simply cracks me up and provides endless entertainment for the kids, who offer Cheerios and apple incentives during their daily physical therapy sessions with her.
Fino's drammel worked like a charm to remove the cast.
The cast sans Lucy. G. plans to use it for her 4-H project about Lucy at the Cumberland Fair in a couple of weeks.
September 12, 2006
Sprechen Sie Deutsch at the Almeida's
Tonight I checked my email and received an update about one of our geocaching travel bugs, Hiking Doggie. Although still in New Zealand, Hiking Doggie has some non-Englsih speaking hosts at the moment. The log entry is in German.
(Travel bugs are geocaching game pieces with a dog tag that travels from geocache to geocache. We have 6 and track them through geocaching.com).
This is what is so great about the game - you never know where your travel bug will end up or how another geocacher in the world will surprise you. After a quick web search - and a guess what language the entry was in - I was able to translate the log entry. If I understand correctly - big IF there - we might see a new photo of Hiking Doggie soon.
This is one more reason why I love my kids. I can be the big geek that I am and enjoy this stuff all in the name of international education for them.
September 09, 2006
Being prepared on the trail
Our first aid/emergency kit came in more than a little handy during our last hike. Some people have asked us what we carry in our kit so I just did an inventory.
Some of the items are a little unusual thanks to my husband's worst-case-scenario thinking acquired from his military days. It's a good thing he typically carries this emergency kit because I'd get rid of a few things simply based on weight. But hey, I can't argue that our kit has been a life saver previously.
Gum, tictacs and lollipops. It gives kids something to focus on rather than the injury. We've given away some of these feel-good items on the trail too. Like the time a little girl lost her tooth and was upset about the blood, another time a little one fell and badly scraped his legs, and one time we weren't sure what happened but we could hear the crying (and screaming) about 1/2 mile away and thought we'd stop to help... These situations always confirming for us that ANYTHING can happen on the trail with kids.
acetaminophen for adults AND kids
ibuprofen for kids as well (a necessity since this hike)
band-aids of several sizes
triple antibiotic cream
bottle of iodine
anti-itch cream for bug bites
athlete's foot cream
meat tenderizer - mix into a paste for bee stings. It gets a big endorsement from G. that it really works
2 clothespins - why, I'm not sure but Fino insists
small scissors, a needle, nail clippers and tweezers
feminine hygiene pads - my husband says they're good for a serious accident because of their absorbency (I refrained for getting those in the picture of our kit however)
a couple of hooded ponchos
baby wipes - great for a quick washdown if you run into poison ivy
baby powder - it's magical in getting sand off skin. When you have a kid with sensory issues, it's a parent's best friend.
deet-free insect repellent
We go through our emergency kit periodically to replenish and check on expiration dates. On our hike in Topsham I realized that the kid's bottle of acetaminophen had just expired but the ibuprofen was OK. It's hard to keep up on these things until you really do have an emergency but we now have a renewed priority to do it.
You just never know when some crazy thing is going to happen. Or, when you have a situation and you realize, "Yeah, that clothespin was just what we needed." I'm still waiting on that one but Fino will be feeling quite smug when it happens I'm sure.
What do you carry in your emergency/first aid kit when hiking with kids?
September 08, 2006
A hike that went frighteningly wrong
A hike on some nice and easy trails in Topsham turned into more than we bargained for when Fino and G. walked over a hornet's nest. Yeah, we got swarmed and stung and it was without a doubt the single, most scariest moment we have ever had while hiking.
Our hike around the Cathance River Nature Preserve started with the discovery of a whole bunch of blackberry bushes. We stopped multiple times to pick and eat several large handfuls.
L., as usual, was collecting mica and "pretty" rocks for her collection. She even found some really nice quartz pieces as well.
We also found a geocache before deciding to make our way over to the river trails.
The kids explored the rocks by the river for a while before we hiked up a small hill. We didn't have a problem going up the hill's path but when we walked down the same path, Fino and G. ran into trouble.
L. and I were about 30 feet away from G. when she started screaming. Then Fino yelled at her to run and they both raced down the trail.
As Fino ran with G., he yelled back to me to find another way down the hill. I found another path and picked up L. who was hysterically crying because she was panicked and worried about her sister.
There really wasn't any way to totally escape the swarm of yellow jackets but L. and I avoided a lot more than G. and Fino did. Luckily L. had a coat on with a hood so I covered her up and ran down the trail with her in my arms and she managed to make it through without a sting.
I met up with Fino and G. about 1/4 mile down the trail and could tell they had been stung multiple times. There were still yellow jackets around but we needed G. to sit down because her legs started to really swell-up. Fino put her near the water so I could get some cool water on her while he dug out the first aid kit.
Several years ago a pharmacist had told me the most effective way to reduce the swelling and ease the pain of a bee sting is a paste of meat tenderizer and water. We've carried meat tenderizer in our emergency kit ever since and as weird as it sounds, it really does work.
One of G.'s legs with multiple stings covered by the paste we made. Looked totally weird but G. agreed that it didn't hurt as much with the paste on.
Because I was carrying L. in my arms and wearing a short sleeve shirt, I ended up with several yellow jackets in my shirt via the arm holes. Let me just tell you that getting stung under your arm and multiple times on your breast is not a pleasant experience. And I couldn't yell or complain about it because I really needed to calm the girls down. They were in a real state of hysterics and couldn't stop swinging their arms in the air.
I ended up providing some comic relief when I took my shirt off to shake out the remaining yellow jackets. As Fino was pulling out the stingers I tried to make it a joke that he was "being naughty" by stealing my shirt. Then he took off his shirt to shake out (both of us had still had yellow jackets in our shirts at that point) and I started whistling and oogling him. That got some giggles mixed with tears from the girls and they finally stopped jumping and swiping at the air.
We rubbed the meat tenderizer paste over everyone's stings. One was actually on Fino's ear and we made a joke that it was definitely a weird place to get stung. But then the kids started talking about boobs and they were laughing again after suggesting they get a picture of my stings (which btw, did not happen).
Fino took a few minutes to go back down the trail and lay some logs on the path to prevent others from disturbing the nest. He also took a couple of photos. I told him he was crazy to get close enough for a photo but thought it couldn't have been any worse than it already was. At least, he said, he didn't have to worry about them swarming all over G. again.
The nest is a sort of white color between the roots in the middle of the photo.
Since most of the nest was under the dirt, it is not easily seen unless you were looking for it.
When everyone was a little calmer we decided to head back to the car. G. was having a hard time walking but a lollipop from the emergency kit (another staple we always carry) made the pain not so bad. Along the way we spotted a big frog and stopped for a minute to watch him. Then we found more blackberries and ate our way down that part of the trail.
In retrospect I think this was just an unlucky break for us. We were walking on a clearly established path where many others had hiked on before us. And in all the years we have been hiking, with and without kids, we have never had a situation like this happen before.
The kids agreed with Fino and I on the drive home that the nature preserve was "really fun" until the yellow jacket attack and that we should visit another time.
"Yeah mom, during the winter when all the bees are gone," G. said from the back seat.
Fino and I couldn't agree more.
September 06, 2006
Chickenland's late night visitor
For a few weeks Fino has been repairing Chickenland (our chicken coop). There's a few places where the wire fencing has started to weaken at the dirt line (it's dug about a foot beneath the dirt) and there is a hole big enough for an animal to get through. Since we've been finding a few cracked eggs and a need to buy more chicken feed than usual, we guessed Chickenland might have a late night guest or two.
We didn't worry too much about it though since all the chickens were accounted for (every one of our 25 chickens has a name and can be identified by the girls). The visitor didn't seem interested in eating any of the chickens, just their feed and eggs.
Last night our suspicions were confirmed. Around 3 a.m. we woke to the sounds of loud chicken noises so Fino jumped out of bed, grabbed a flashlight and my camera and went to go check it out.
I saw him running towards Chickenland from our bedroom window before he came to a quick -- very quick -- stop. Then he did a very slow back-up.
It seems we have a new skunk friend regularly visiting Chickenland -- and he looks well-fed.
Now we have to find a way to encourage our friend to find another late night snack location. Any suggestions?
September 05, 2006
Art, L.'s back on skates and a Lucy update
Taking a trip to the Portland Museum of Art is more than a little different from our usual outdoor adventure. It took a few minutes for the kids to adjust.
There's no yelling, running, touching or chatting it up with people you meet along the way.
Once the kids got the hang of it, they enjoyed themselves. Especially the search to find paintings on their Kid Cards (we were given them from a friendly docent at the front desk). The Charles DuBack card was a particular favorite and the questions on the Card were thought-provoking and fun for the kids to answer. Another Card asked questions about Confidences by Renoir and the kids discussed how it "glowed." Of course I was aware of the many diligent security guards (I spotted 6) keeping an eye on us during our 1.5 hour visit.
It's official, L.'s back on the ice to skate again. She had some seriously good karma the other day to find a pair of almost new Glacier skates (a good brand we were told by our ice skating friends) for $3.99 at Goodwill. That's not even the shipping cost on eBay.
But today I am nursing 4 bleeding blisters from tying skate laces. I have some kind of brain cramp about boot laces. Someday I hope to remember to wear gloves BEFORE the painful lesson reminds me again.
Lucky Lucy the Chicken is doing well with her physical therapy this week. Instead of the usual Cheerios to coax her to walk across the yard, L.'s apple core did the trick instead. Another lesson for me on chicken eating preferences.
September 03, 2006
A rainbow sighting yesterday afternoon.
The kids new favorite spot to read - the Clubhouse loft (phase 2 of Fino's shed project was completed last week).
The kids have spent every night this past weekend reading in the loft with Fino. Hey, whatever gets the kids excited about reading, I'm all for that. I guess location is everything...
September 01, 2006
Combining games is a win-win
My new monthly column about letterboxing is out and in the process of writing it, my family decided to hide some of our own letterboxes.
(The box is also listed on Atlasquest.com, another letterboxing site)
And then after some research and a query for advice on geocachingmaine.org, we also hid some geocache letterbox "Hybrids," something I hadn't realized was an option in that game until recently.
Hybrids don't have the usual trinkets to trade like other hidden caches. Instead there's a stamp and logbook inside like a letterbox. I was pleased to find a way to combine the parts of each game that we liked -- easy to follow directions (GPS coordinates - I love that gadget) with the kids' desire to collect stamp impressions for our letterboxing logbook. We're hoping hybrids catch on in Maine (there are only a few right now) because the kids really want to find some that we didn't hide.
"Ski Away" is listed on both games' websites.
Hybrid: Ski Away
Letterbox: Ski Away
(Also listed on Atlasquest.com)
Hybrid: Baxter's Treasure
(I'm working out the clue for the letterboxing site today...)
The hybrid/box creations were a group effort. The kids carved most of the stamps, Fino made the "boxes" and I found places to hide them. And I'm sure it comes as no surprise that Fino was in his glory in the Clubhouse (i.e., the shed) with his power tools making these crafty little (and one not so little) boxes.
What I have always enjoyed about geocaching is that the players are plugged-in. They log visits to our caches and upload photos to the website. I LOVE that. [Acutally within a few HOURS of our "Ski Away" hybrid going live on geocaching.com, someone had already found it, logged it and uploaded a couple of photos they took with it. Thanks TeamTrout!]
The letterboxing websites aren't designed with the same features (public logs or photo uploads) and although I've received two emails from letterboxers about our boxes, it seems the game's players aren't as keen on tracking their visits online - or emailing box owners.
So it works out that the geocachers keep us informed with their log entries between routine maintenance visits - which we do periodically with all our geocaches.
And when we do check on our boxes, the kids' anticipation of seeing a new stamp (or drawing like a creative geocacher added last week) is kinda like a birthday present waiting to be unwrapped each time.
Toddy the Superhero and Lucky Lucy gets moving
We had an eventful Thursday. Our blind cat Toddy protected us from an intruder while Lucky Lucy the chicken figured out how to escape a hose shower, broken leg and all.
Toddy was sitting in the middle of the steps leading into the kitchen yesterday, which is nothing unusual. Pick the most inconvenient spot in the house to be and that's where Toddy will be. While I was in another room, L. started frantically yelling for me to come to the steps.
"Toddy is fighting with something furry mom!"
It seems a squirrel had somehow found his way into the house (probably through the basement door that was left open most of last weekend while Fino moved his various tools into the shed).
Although we don't think Toddy actually injured the squirrel, he certainly scared it into hiding. Fino did a quick search of the basement last night without finding it. Now Chion, our other cat who loves to hunt (he's always killing and leaving dead stuff outside the front door), has been commisioned to find the squirrel. Well, basically we locked him in the basement in hopes he'll find the intruder and take care of it for us.
As for Toddy, he's standing guard on the steps - his new favorite spot - protecting the family.
Good times at the homestead.
The latest news on the Lucky Lucy the chicken is that she's getting physical therapy twice a day for her broken leg. That means we carry her out of the coop and encourage her to stand and walk around a bit. She's standing on her own now.
But her lack of movement has made her kind of smelly (well more than usual). So the girls attempted to give her a little misting shower with the hose in hopes of cleaning her back feathers a bit.
Amazing what a little motivation to get away from a bath will do for a chicken.
Here it is in live action: Lucky Lucy on the move
[8 seconds, QuickTime video]