The porch has been looking particularly bad lately with peeling paint and chicken poop stains all over it. Since we have large sliding doors in our kitchen with a view of the porch, I decided a few weeks ago I was tired of looking at the sad sight.
I solicited the girls' help with the project in hopes that they would have more incentive once the porch was looking good again to keep those darn chickens off it.
The kids were all smiles the first day of the porch painting project when we primed the floor and steps. The second day was a bit longer painting all the railings and they were anxious for it to be done (translation: they were whining about finishing so they could go and play).
The kids really like outdoor carpeting so we bought some at the hardware store. They assured me the chickens were not going to ruin their new rug! I really hope my plan works...
On Fino's list of projects was building a new book shelf. Our house isn't that big and we have A LOT of books, magazines and random items piled up all over the place (we're all pack rats) so we decided a new bookshelf was needed to get us better organized. He finished building it today and we put a coat of primer on it.
And if all that painting wasn't enough, L. and I also painted a sign for our dance studio this weekend. She really enjoys painting and art (we've done a few for Schoolhouse Arts too) so we volunteer to make them when needed.
Painting large signs isn't all that hard with an overhead projector, basic tracing skills and the ability to paint in the lines.
Needless to say, as I write this the girls are getting ready to take showers to wash away the latex paint that covers most of their bodies at the moment. And I'm covered in my fair share too.
Well, I had to agree with the girls yesterday that the duck video they made was pretty funny. They recorded it the other day while the ducks were swimming in their little pool and dubbed it the "Disco Ducks" because the ducks "shake their booties all the time."
I think it could have been called, the "Funky Moves by L. and the Disco Ducks" because she's much funnier than the ducks.
The kids like to simply sit and watch our flock of chickens and ducks walk around (or swim). They find this highly entertaining and I too think they really are funny creatures to observe.
And since poultry is one of G.'s favorite subjects to photograph (the flying chicken photo was a keeper last year) she was at it again - but with the ducks this time. I guess they are the stars of her 4-H photography project this year.
And during the duck photo session, L. got laughing so hard doing her 'disco duck' moves she fell off her chair.
Well it certainly is an interesting way to spend an afternoon in the backyard.
It's been a busy week of nothing special, just keeping up with all our various activities. The kids downloaded some video of the ducks that they insist I share here once they edit it. We'll see how that turns out when I get home from the office later. G. just emailed me to tell me she was 'working' on the computer right now.
Actually, it's pretty funny to exchange emails with the girls while I'm at work. I started an email account for them a couple of months ago and both girls love it (they are 9 1/2 and 11 years old now). Of course I monitor what they're doing (I love Google mail's tools and the fact that multiple users can be logged on an account at the same time without a glitch) and send them emails periodically.
I often send them links to kid-friendly websites because:
a) They are disappointed if they don't have at least one new message each day
b) If I don't suggest a new website to explore, they will play on Webkinz.com for hours and hours (not that the site's not good, it is, but I think a little variety once in a while is a good thing)
c) They always email me back to tell me about it and I like that
Today, G. emailed me about a website link (Math Cats) I sent her that can tell you exactly how old you are (from the months down to the seconds).
Dear mom we were on math cats. but i will tell you how old we were at home ok. math cat was cool. love g
And then there are the emails that L sends to her friends that she usually shares with me too. She tends to write more but usually forgets the punctuation. But hey, she spelled Amethyst correctly and she knows a lot about ducks so I won't worry about her too much.
we got two new duckings we don't know if they are boy or girl i think my sisters is a girl and mine is a boy but i gave it a girl name instead it is Gracie my sisters duck name is Amethyst do you know how to tell a girl and a boy duck apart? by there quacks i cant tell if mine is a girl i don't know which quack is a boy or girl to tell if the ducks are boy or girl
(And no, we still aren't completely sure about the ducks' genders yet.)
But there has also been a fair amount of these type of emails from the girls recently.
Hi mom when you come home can I put a video on youtube?
Nope, they don't miss an opportunity to work things to their advantage; they figure out stuff pretty darn quick.
Mother's Day was a lot of fun this year - I received a new bicycle and am thoroughly enjoying it!
When I got home from the office yesterday I received some special homemade cards from the girls - and Toddy.
The girls always make sure Toddy is included in the card-giving tradition. But he will likely spend the next week trying to get blue marker off his paw.
And then we attached the new bike rack (to go with the new bike) to the car to set off for the Mountain Division Trail. Since the girls only learned to ride a bike about 2 weeks ago (yeah, it's the first year they've seemed interested in learning), the trail was a little scary for them. And although I learned to ride a bike as a kid, I haven't owned one in over 15 years. Needless to say, the females of the family are not strong riders and the rocky, bumpy trail was a little stressful for us (not feeling in control going down hills with lots of rocks that move your wheels around). We decided to give it another try in a few weeks when we're more confident in our riding abilities.
The girls and I were being silly with a self-portrait on the trail.
Fino has a new bike too (an early Father's Day present) and was teasing me about being excited about my new bike. I thought he had similiar feelings about his bike but just wouldn't admit it.
Later in the afternoon, we set took a short ride to Grandpa's house together to show off our new bikes.
My dad gave me a basket for my bike and commented that he felt it was a bit odd to be buying his adult daughter a bike basket. I assured him it was just what I wanted.
L.'s bike has been around our house for years without anyone riding it until now. We found G.'s bike at Salvation Army for $10 this year and after a tune-up, it's a great bike for her.
Now the family is ready to explore some biking trails this year. If you have a favorite biking trek, let us know.
We have some new ducks this week and when we brought them home, the girls decided to use one of their winter sleds for a pool for them. This isn't too odd for us though, the girls' old sand box is used as a water trough in the main part of the coop.
The ducks were hatched by some students at Magdalen College and turned over to the older brother of the girls' friends.
And then we invited one of our neighbor's dogs (the friendly, well-behaved ones) over and Cody just loved the other sled.
Other duck news...
We were saddened - but not surprised - that our other ducks were 'lost' last week. They refused to go back into the coop at night and after years of regularly chasing the ducks to get inside for their own good, we decided we'd had enough. It took about 2 weeks before one of the many predators in the woods behind our house finally caught them.
But now we have two new ones and the girls plan to "train" them (they think if they handle them more as ducklings, they will be "better listeners").
But I'm not sure I can say that's going so well. L. just emailed me to update me on something else she was doing and then wrote a "p.s." about the training.
my duck scratched me again but it not as bad as the one yesterday.
Since it was so warm yesterday afternoon (and today!) the girls set up their new Slip 'n Slide. Every year we buy one (for $5 we're happy to have it last a single summer) and put it at the base of the swing set slide. Then the girls wet the slide and the Slip 'n Slide and have a ball.
How it works
And then I had a "mom moment" and had to track down the photos from the first summer we started this warm weather tradition - in 2002.
L. was 4 1/2 years old that summer and didn't like getting her face wet so she wore goggles. Hey, it worked for her at the time.
G. was 6 years old and a whole lot shorter.
I guess my peanuts (my nickname for kids that my little 3-year-old friend 'Mario' thinks is hysterically funny) really aren't peanuts anymore!
The kids' 4-H club visited two farms this weekend to learn more about fiber arts. The club met at one of the member's houses and while waiting for the rest of the group, G. spent some time with her friend's goats. But she learned that goats are tricky.
While G. was petting one goat, another was making a grab for her camera bag.
And it seems that G. has a knack for taking interesting photos of animals. I think because she loves them so much, she can capture a look or action that makes the pictures more fun.
The club's official first stop was at the Long Plains Alpacas farm in Buxton. The kids were invited to walk around the paddock with the alplacas and try to pet them. They were not aggressive, but a bit skittish and seemed to prefer the kids over adults. So with some extra patience, L. was able to get a animals interested in getting close to her (and of course the bribe helped).
Alpaca wool is really soft.
And G. didn't have any trouble getting close enough for some photos.
The young alpacas are sheared in early spring so their wool will grow back thicker in time for fall.
The farm also had a friendly goose.
If you're interested in learning more about alpacas, you can visit the Long Plains Alpacas farm during their Open House and Education Day on Sunday, May 27 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. For more information, visit their website: www.longplainsalpacas.com
The club went to Shearbrooke Farm in Standish next to learn about sheep and try their hand at carding wool.
Unwashed wool feels wet because it still has its lanolin.
Carding doesn't look hard until you start to do it. It's a labor-intensive - and time-consuming - process to get the wool to all go in the same direction on the carding brush.
And then G. was back to taking pictures of the animals.
The walking path here on Mackworth Island has been re-opened temporarily. The path is safe to walk but there are two areas of concern that will be addressed shortly by the Department of Conservation (DOC). Dirt from the stone pier was washed away and until the DOC is able to bring in some new fill the pier will be blocked off from access. Away from the path are trees that continue to litter the woods and plans are underway to contract with a professional forester to haul away and clean up the woods. When this occurs the walking path will be closed for approximately 1-2 weeks.
The kids and their friend E. decided to make a movie yesterday. Like thousands of kids, they love YouTube and always seem to be planning their next video contribution to our channel.
The 'Quest for the Magical Leaf' was an interesting movie to make and I was vastly entertained by not only the kids, but their animal actors as well.
Here's the basic story line: An orphan girl Marie (played by L.) escapes the evil orphanage to find the magical leaf that will destroy the evil-doers at the orphange. But while searching for the leaf she runs into the evil chicken (voice of G.). Marie is saved from the evil chicken by Wilbeena (E.) and her magic fork. Then together Wilbeena and Marie continue the quest and find the leaf but have to get past the princess protecting it (played by G.) and the "kung fu master" (played by Toddy), which they do and everyone is happy in the end.
As one would guess, there were some interesting production issues to deal with while making this movie with our pets (and I was charged with recording with my digital camera but had little say on the plot or character happenings).
Here were some of the 'learnings':
Accomodate your actors. L. is learning to ride a bike (better late than never) and insisted it be in the movie. With much reluctance on E. and G.'s part, they agreed to have the beloved bike in every scene.
Trying to film a talking chicken without getting the handler's hands and/or body in the shot is not easy. I did my best but was told I needed to work on this skill in the future.
Being flexible and substituting actors when they prove uncooperative. A hen laying an egg had to fill in for the Evil King because the girls could not get their rooster to stay in one place long enough to film the scene. And several different chickens had to be used while filming because the kids could not keep track of the one they started out with (there was a lot of "flying" away and once the chicken did that, it was hard to track her down again).
Trying to get a chicken to curtsy is nearly impossible. But spreading its wings in a gesture of evil grandeure is much easier.
'Real life' can be helpful in getting your actors to show more emotion. There were no issues with flying insects (the kids were too busy having fun to notice) but the ticks were out. During filming L. spotted one crawling up E.'s back right at the moment that E. was doing her 'injury' scene. The look on L.'s face is one of genuine concern and a really great addition to the scene.
Heros do not need magical wands to defeat evil chickens; a kitchen fork will do just fine. And to the preteen actors, hysterically funny.
When your lead chicken doesn't fly away as originally planned, you change your dialog from, "I must fly away" to "I must fly, fly ... or walk ... away."
Kids that grow up with chickens don't say "cluck" to imitate their sound. They do a much more realistic, "bahgaaw."
You can't plan everything but sometimes things work out perfectly. Toddy meowed at a key moment when the princess handed over the leaf to the orphan. It was as if he was offering his own bit of dramatic skills with his reluctance at giving up the leaf.
Getting chickens to scatter in fear of the magical leaf proved harder than planned. The Almeida chickens simply aren't scared of the kids and therefore strut - more than run - away from them.
When the cameraperson says the movie has to stay short to adhere to YouTube guidelines, some compromises have to be made. Lines like "I've been sent by someone to get you there safely..." is used in favor of a longer explanation. Or having the princess argue with the orphan and Wilbeena that they can't take the leaf but then quickly agreeing to it. The consolation for the actors was the agreement of a sequel.
Out takes can be as funny as the actual movie when your actors forget their character's name, or a tick crawls up their back (the out takes are at the end of the movie).
Yesterday afternoon I was driving our minivan with the windows rolled down and chatting with the kids about what a beautiful day it was. Then all of the sudden I was hit with something large and furry (yeah, I felt it) right between the eyes. Needless to say, it sacred the beejeezus out of me -- and when that happens, I scream. I simply can't help my natural reaction. I know, I'm such a female.
The kids started screaming after my initial distress because they saw what had hit me - a very large round flying insect. It was stunned for a minute on the floor of the van but then went airborn again trying to get back outside.
Meanwhile I tried to pull over to the side of the road so I could focus on getting the bug -- whatever it was -- out of the van while telling the girls to calm down. The thing flew out before I completely stopped and the girls immediately started yelling at me to shut all the windows.
It took about 5 minutes for them to get a grip on themselves and then L. asked in a teary voice, "Why did God make bees mommy?"
I explained about the whole flower and plant pollination thing but she wasn't convinced bees should really exist. Then she had an idea that we should move to a place that always has snow to avoid the issue.
So I have a query for all of you. How do I help my kids get over their immediate panic at flying insects? I've taken the reflective listening approach since it happened but with the onset of spring and start of bug season, I'm open to ideas ...