Sunday, 19 February 2012


I like to consider myself a strong person that has scruples and stays strong in the face of adversity…….. umm, yea.  Rrriiiight.  Apparently not.

The faces say it all... "PLEASE!"

That picture right up there, would be why I am now searching the net desperately trying to find the right design for a rabbit hutch.  Stripes, while small and cute and cuddly and adorable will soon outgrow his little cage and require something bigger, and better, and more cool than plastic. 

He looked at me once today when we got him home and I could hear the evil bunny laughter as he clearly said – SUCKER!
Can you hear the evil laughter?

Thursday, 16 February 2012

I’m the Biggest thing in the Ocean toddler activity

The other day, we went down to the public library for our bi monthly library run.  It seems like every time we go to the library, we stumble across a new book or two. This time, not olnly did A find some new books, but I found a GREAT new book for C called “I’m the Biggest thing in the Ocean” by  Kevin Sherry. 

C LOVES this book, he especially loves then end where the squid gets eaten by the whale.  Personally, I think he loves it because I give the squid a surf guy voice. Since he loves this book so much, I decided to make him some play items to go with the book. 

I photocopied the characters – not all of them mind you, but the key ones, laminated them and then glued magnets to the back so he could play with them on the fridge.  At least, that was the idea.... the copies laminated well, but the magnetic tape just doesn't stick. I KNEW I should have sprung for the actual magnets.  When you laminate something twice, home use non heat sealed laminate doesn't work so well.  It is worth the hassle to have it professionally done.  All in all, the whole play set has been fun.  C likes to play with the magnets and have the squid say “I’m the biggest...”. 

I learned a few things by making these magnetics. 
  1. My Xyron 900, does a good job laminating as long as you don't double laminate
  2. The rolls of magnetic tape don't stick to plastic laminate or anything else, buy the actual magnets
  3. Hot glue doesn't stick to laminate either
  4. Pay for the laminate job at Office Max - it's worth it
  5. Invest in a roll of laminate with magnetic backing from Xyron

 I did happen to see the same idea but in felt - I think it's time for another project soon - a felt story board. The possibilities for A to act out books for C, for A to do little project based plays with it, and for C to learn things like colors, letters, and counting are endless.  That would of course mean creating all the felt stuff to go with the board, but a few well placed Etsy buys might make my life easier and let me get it done faster too.

Check out the book(if we ever return it). Your toddler is sure to love it.  

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


On Sunday, we got up at the crack of dawn. It really felt like that to me, pretty sure C didn’t care, and A was excited, so it didn’t make a difference to either of them.  Ate a good breakfast and took off to Altoona Lagoon to take part in the VI Traithlon Federation and Rotary Mid Isle Kids Duathlon.  I needed TWO cups of tea to make it out of the house, let alone remember gear and kids!

Warming up before the race start - can you tell who are serious?
A started “getting into sports” about a year ago. She is on the swim team, used to do running club when she was in school, LOVES to bike, and generally likes to be outside doing stuff.  I guess this whole triathlon, duathlon, swimming races, was just natural progression, but still, leave the house before 7:30??? On a SUNDAY??? Actually, I couldn’t think of anything I would rather do, and it makes A happy, and a happy kid is one that I want to live with J

So, here we were. Loading up the bike, the tire pump – that we borrow from the Crazy Neighbor Lady (she gave herself that name), the helmet, the water, the second breakfasts, and C starts crying that he wants to take his bike…..S I G H – did I mention it was about 7 at that time? Off came the bike, the rack, out came the tire pump, the helmet…. In went the plastic toddler trike, the tire pump, the helmet, the water, and snacks, on went the rack, and the racing bike! Whew! Are we ready yet?? Better be, it was 7:12 and we needed to vamoose!
So, this duathlon, was awesome! There were tons of kids, it was cloudy, yet didn’t rain.  Almost all of A’s sporty friends were there, certain “fast” kids had aged up, and A was raring to go.  The Rotary gave out goody bags with awesome T-shirts, the kids racked their bikes, adjusted helmets, cljmbed trees, and played in the mud – oops, that was C, not the kids who were racing! Actually, C discovered a “real” tricycle, I think we are in trouble, because he promptly turned up his nose at his old plastic one.  Oh, well, it was bound to happen at some point.

Let me tell you about the duathlon for a moment. There are different age groups for the kids, 5-6, 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, and 13+.  Each group has its own distance requirements, but it basically goes like this: run, bike, run.  A had to run a ¼ mile, bike a ½ mile, and run another ¼ mile.  While A is all arms and legs, she HATES to run because she gets cramps. Seeing as I had her same build and always got cramps too, I don’t blame her. I still don’t like to run. I’d love to be able to because it seems like such a beautiful sport when you only really race yourself, but I’d probably get about ¼ of the way into a race and end up tied up in spasmatic knots, flailing helplessly on the side of the road while the slower yet crampless runners passed me by….

Notice the feet in the air so as not to get her shoes wet!
We had figured out that A needed to pace herself, and run slowly in the first loop, bike like a bat out of hell in the biking portion, and then run as fast as possible without killing herself in the last loop.  All the way to Altoona, she chanted slow, super fast, don’t die. I tried not to laugh, really I did.  

She did just as she planned on, and ended up beating her time from the last duathlon and coming in 3rd in her age group(in the females division).  A had her best transition of her racing career yet, she got a volunteer to rack her bike and took of running with her bike helmet on.  Before she even cleared the transition area, she had taken it off and, literally, flung it aside for someone(who would that be, hmm?) to pick up and dust off later.  I guess watching the pros race around STX during the ironman in May, has paid off.  She looked good when she finished, and she had so much energy left of that she and all her sporty girlfriends rode around on their bikes for another hour after the race finished.  So proud of her, that words just can't express it.

100 mega watt smile! So proud of her.
I love events like these because it gets kids out and participating in a sport that will last them a lifetime, it celebrates the breaking of their previous records, and it is so low key that they don’t get turned off because of the stress.  If you are here on STX and your child is 5 or older, there is a kid’s triathlon at Cramer’s Park in March. Drop me a line if you want more info, if you think your kids can’t do it because they don’t have a bike, think again, there are rentals for umm, free or $5 – with helmets – so no excuses!

Now, if I could just figure out how to not get cramps when I run, A could be as proud of me, as I am of her for finishing her race with a smile on her face. 

Monday, 13 February 2012

Science outlook: Echinoderms

“Eekino… whats? Huh? What in the world are you talking about? “ Oh, you mean you don’t know what those are? It’s pretty fun to teach A the Latin name for random things.  If you are interested, Echinoderms are Sea Urchins. 

Aren’t we all fascinated by those guys? Covered in spines – some short, some long, white, black, or striped; those guys are just neato.  What is better is when they die, they leave behind the prettiest skeleton. It can be teeny tiny or extra large super combo sized. However, both end of the spectrum are pretty hard to find unless you know where to look. 

I remember snorkeling with my parents and seeing them grab up a long spiny sea urchin and cut it open to attract fish – the fish around here LOVE those guys, I also remember seeing people “harvest” them – especially the bigger ones and take them home to dry out and put on shelves.  I never thought about the ethics of that until now, but would I do it….. umm, maybe.  Shoot me ok, get mad at me for that statement, but I just might – especially if it was HUGE.  I think though, that a part of me would feel really bad about doing that, so rather than go with my baser instinct, the kids and I went on an echinoderm hunt the other day.

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We started off the day going to a beach near the north side where I had heard there were a lot of them(of the bigger variety) that occasionanly washed up on shore, we found one and it was big, but C was unhappy and kept whining the whole time, so I packed us up and went to another beach on the South Shore.  We found some tiny and medium ones, but our real find on that beach was a Helmet Conch.  Those conchs are rare – I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in the wild! Finally we went to our last ditch beach where I knew I had seen some monster big ones feeding – SCORE!!! We came home with at least 10 in semi perfect condition.  Some still had a lot of meat in them as I think they had just died and were literally washing up on shore. The car got really stinky on the way home even thought the windows were down, and we have them sitting on various ant piles right now, but once they are all clean, we should have some nice dust catchers on our shelves.

Here are some random facts we learned about Echinoderms before we went hunting (it was after all a science lesson):
  • Echinoderms means spiny skin
  • Some Sea Urchins can live to be over 200 years old
  • There are red, black, blue, brown, stripped, white, pink, and green urchins
  • Urchin eggs are a delicacy in Japan
  • There is a whole industry around harvesting Sea Urchins
  • They are NOT endangered
  • When Urchins reproduce, the male lets his sperm float out into the water, then the female releases her eggs and if they chance to touch – BAHM! A baby Urchin is born.
  • Sea Urchins have 5 teeth that grow continuously and they have to eat all the time to grind them down (like Beavers)
It was fun, educational, and fit the bill for a perfect science trip. 

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Valentine’s Day craftiness

Valentine’s Day is coming up QUICKLY!  Every year, while in school, A made cards for her classmates.  This year, I was in a quandary as to what to do for a Valentine’s Day celebration and card exchange.

The other night, while doing a late night search on homeschooled penpals for A, I stumbled across what seems to be a great group with members across the US and in other places (Australia, UK, etc).  I joined up and while searching the old postings found a Valentine’s day card exchange, so what did I do? I signed up to do the exchange with A.  Once we got our list, I thought “Holy moly! That’s a lot of kids!”  On the list were over 20 kids.  Not bad you say, but in A’s school her class size was not more than 15 and we hand make our cards.  Now, they aren’t anything fancy, just paper, markers, glitter, and a few doodads thrown together, but STILL; 20+ cards to make to mail out by Thursday!!! What was I thinking?

Finished crayons cooling.
Two nights ago, A and I whipped out a few different styles of cards. We got our inspiration from various sites on the internet.  I think the bug are the cutest.  We also decided to send out homemade crayons (I KNOW, leave well enough alone and just send the darn cards,right?) Yesterday we all(yes, even C helped) have been busy peeling old crayons, breaking them apart, placing them in mini muffin tins, and melting them.  The house smells like melted wax, has glitter ALL over, and the paper scraps are blowing in the wind…. Yes, the house is messy (and the smell is killing me), but A is happy, we have been creative, and I am pretty sure we will meet our mailing deadline of today - unless of course I decided to make something else to put in each card.....

Go make something!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Vinegar Walkers

Ever since I was a little girl, I was fascinated by Vinegar Walkers.  We used to find them on our playground at school(our playground was sand) and on the beach.  When we had a few of them saved up, we would take them to our teachers and they would pull out a flat plate, a few tablespoons of white vinegar and a hush would descend upon the gathered children as the little guys did their things.  Occasionally there would be oohs, and aahs as a few Vinegar Walkers made spectacular jerky movements across the plate.  It was a magical and thrilling moment every time it happened, and it is one that I have shared with my children many times over.  

So, what ARE Vinegar Walkers?  I had no idea exactly what they were until a few days ago.  Imagine, 30+ years of not knowing something, not knowing where to turn, and most of all, being ok with my ignorance.  Turns out that Vinegar Walkers actually have a very cool Latin name: Operculums. 

Operculum means little lids.  Apparently these semi-rounded coin shaped things with a beautiful spiral pattern on the flat side is a type of door that small mollusks or snails close when they are exposed to air.  Pretty cool, huh? Thanks Deborah for the links and info.  Without you, it might have been another 30+ years before I got that info.

For cheap thrills, go out to your local beach, find a few Operculums, head back home, grab some vinegar, and sit back and enjoy the simple joys of life. It is an experience that you and your kids will remember for a long time to come. Simple, pure fun.