Monday, December 14, 2009

Mr. Elf

Well, I did say that it was the Year of the Elf at our house a week or so ago, and I was not kidding. The elf theme continues!

After we visited the Steve Gerberich Holiday Springs and Sprockets exhibit at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham a few weekends ago, Joey started asking to make his own elf. I told him that mom didn't have the right equipment (bandsaw) to make a wooden elf but that I thought we could make a pretty good elf out of cardboard. So, I picked up a few boxes at WM on Friday, and Saturday morning we set out to build our elf. I modeled our elf loosely after the one in this picture:

First, I traced the necessary body parts onto the cardboard. The arm/hand of the elf is Joey's arm/hand. Then I used a box cutter to cut out the pieces. It went better than I thought. I was easily able to cut the cardboard. Then Joey, with a little help from me, painted the elf. Mostly I just spread out any extra thick paint on the front and then painted the backs of the pieces and set them off to dry. Then yesterday, after drying overnight, I used a hot glue gun to put him together. That also went better than expected. The glue really holds the cardboard great. Using some craft supplies I already had around the house, we were able to design a decent face. Of course I took some pics along the way and after he was done.

Joey's pretty happy, so mom's happy.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Year of the Elf

Ya know, kids are always going to be into something. Thomas, McQueen, Mario. The list is never ending, and before you know it one thing is out and a new thing is in.

Well this year for Christmas, elves are in at our house! It all started with Joey's first grade teacher, Mrs. Cherry, introducing the kids to The Elf on the Shelf.

If you aren't familiar with this tradition, an elf and a book come in this neat box. You get them out each Christmas. The child/children get to name the elf and are absolutely not allowed to touch the elf. The parent or other adult moves the elf around each day in secret but of course the kids think the elf is moving on his own. The story goes that the elf flies home to Santa each day to give a behavior type progress report on the child to Santa and then returns back 'home' and just lands in a different spot. Or, he wants a different vantage point to watch their behavior.

So, Joey was coming home from school every day for a week talking up a storm about Eddie Elf in class. I had no clue... He was even drawing Eddie and writing stories about him. So, we used a Borders gift card that we had lying around to order our own Elf on the Shelf which we named Elfy. (In the collage above he's center top row).

Then we were in the thrift store, Guardian Angel, and found Giant and Snowy...the two white elves in the collage above. 70's vintage or older antiques to be precise.

I found the cup elf and Swingset elf as Joey calls him in the attic with the boxes of stuff off my childhood tree. eBay showed me what the cup elf was really for.

And, lastly, I picked up a couple of doll type elves at Hallmark.

Let me make it very clear. I have to remember to move the elves or I'm in big trouble. One day the elves were running late and I had to move them while the kids were at school!

Joey's already asking if one of the elves can watch guard over him in his room all year long:-) And, in the picture of him and the tree above, he's dressed like an elf with hat, green shirt, and red/green elfy pants.

It's a wonderful tradition and not too late to start with your own kids. I can't say that it's helping with behavior very much, but it sure is fun!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holiday Springs and Sprockets

The boys and I took our monthly trip to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham today. The main reason for going this time was to see the Holiday Springs and Sprockets exhibit. Regulars to my blog may remember that the boys and I first encountered Steve Gerberich and this exhibit last year. Joey fell in love with the machines and gadgets and came home drawing what he'd seen and coming up with his own machines. So, it was a must for us to go back and see this year's exhibit.

Let me say, that I was really impressed! We rounded the corner to room with the display and saw this wonderful train taking up a good part of the room. Johnny is still so into trains. His face lit up. He was thrilled. Joey was also fascinated by the machines again. I think he made the most comments on the candy cane factory machine (I'm sorry, I didn't write down the exact name and neglected to take pictures of the exhibit signs.) I took many pictures even bringing in my tripod so that I could make use of available light instead of using a flash. I really like some of the things I was able to capture. What you can't get from the pictures is all the movement going on, the delight of the children experiencing the exhibit, and all the sounds as the various move. It's quite a clatter. So, enjoy my pics, but then go visit in person if you can. The exhibit is open until 1/3/10.

Because of the rain and low temps today, we actually spent most of our visit indoors. That's pretty unusual to us. But, I'm very pleased to say that we were perfectly entertained doing inside things today. We spent a lot of time playing on the spinning table. I don't know what else to call it, but there's a disc even with the table surface that spins and you can try your hand at manuevering wooden wheels, tops, and balls across the spinning service. We were able to get wheels to 'ride' without the rest of the car. Way cool! We also spent time at what I'm going to call the Google Earth table. Wow! It's a round table that tilts and spins left and right. I was able to zoom in on downtown Raleigh and make out some of the Capital buildings. Wow! This new attraction was a hit with both the kids and their adults. The boys were getting frustrated with me because I wanted to play with the table too:-)

Both boys visited the Science Lab today where we learned about the various types of skin, fur, and feathers that animals use to stay warm in the winter. Unlike humans who have to put on sweaters and jackets, animals have built in warming systems. This lab invovled the use of microscopes. We even got to test out a higher powered USB connected computer one! The kids also made a coat for their 'animal' and participated in an experiment to see if their 'coat' would keep their animal warm. In other words, how fast would hot water get cold in a canister protected by their coat.

All fun stuff!

We saw the Chick-fil-A cow which is always a hit with the boys.

We even made it outside for a an hour midday and walked the Explore the Wild and Catch the Wind loop. We said hi to Ranger Greg and looked at tadpoles stranded on the wetlands shore by the swell of water that followed the recent heavy rains.

Most exciting of all during our outside time, though, was running into aniaml trainer Erin by Max the steer. She let the boys help give Max his hay. Johnny was giggling so loud as Max ate from him pile that it would have really warmed your heart if you heard it. Joey was pretty excited about the experience to, and always comes away from visiting with the animals thinking that he wants to work with them when he grows up. Cute. Thanks, Erin!

Like I said, many things to do at the museum summer or winter, outside or inside, and now is a particularly good time to visit with the Holiday Springs and Sprockets exhibit in town.

The best pics that I took today are here on Picasa and here on SmugMug.

One last note. We had hoped that Madi would be able to come with us today, but sadly she's got the cold crud that's going around and wasn't up to coming. Hopefully next trip. We missed her.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

When we were out Friday night, we saw a lot of Christmas decorations up already. The boys have been asking for days to put stuff up, so we worked yesterday on getting the inflatables up. I figured the weather was nice and I had the time, so why not delight two little boys...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Halloween Spooktacular at the Museum of Life and Science

The boys and I went to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham today for their Halloween Spooktacular event. On the drive to the museum, the fall colors were out in all their glory, but it was rainy and dark out. We were glad to have some special activities to do inside at the museum once we got there. It was a little after 10, and our timing was great to get in on all the special events going on. First, it was up to the Chemistry Lab for some Spooky Chemistry presented by the Research Triangle Park Profressional Chapter Alpha Chi Sigma Fraternity. The kids wrote their names using laundry detergent with whiteners and learned and watched it light up under a black light. They learned the difference between fluorescent and phosphorescent. The kids did a candy chromatography lab using the dye from M&M candies. They saw capillary action move salt water and the dye up a piece of paper. That was cool. They also made some fluorescent slime. We thoroughly enjoyed this lab. Joey got to sit up at the chemistry table, and it was great to see him participating while Johnny and I cheered him on and took pictures.

Next, we checked out Wolfman Tim's Halloween Village. Think tables with a huge village scene of houses, graveyards, a Scare Fair (like state fair but spooky), a train, and lots of neat lights. The boys and I were fascinated by this. They kept pressing the buttons to light stuff up and make the train go. Meanwhile, mom was busy trying to capture the village in pictures.

There was also a great magician's show that we were able to attend in the afternoon. Joshua Lozoff performed some Deep Magic and included the kids in the audience throughout his show. He talked about how his fascination with magic started as a child when he went to see a magician for the first time. At the end of the show, he invited a child up on stage to help him teach the audience a basic magic trick using a hollowed out egg and a scarf. We all enjoyed seeing the behind the scenes steps necessary to pull off the trick. And he even threw in an extra trick at the end with a real egg. Really cool stuff, and Joey is asking to learn some magic of his own now.

Because of the rain, we never made it out to Explore the Wild today. Bummer. We did see Ranger Greg assisting some museum visitors with his golf cart and got to briefly say hello.

Thankfully, it was just sprinkling when it was time for our train ride. It was great to see Richard back driving the train. We'd missed him.

We made it over to the butterfly house just in time for the release. It was, um, extra crowded today. Thanks to the kindness of a child that got a butterfly put on their hand, they shared with Johnny who shared with Joey and we got to visit with a very nice Halloween colored butterfly. Getting lucky enough to hold a butterfly is always very special to the boys.

As you can see, we had another fun-packed day at the museum. Rain or shine it's a great place to be. And, we'll be back soon!

The rest of today's best pics can be found here (got forward in the album).

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Vollmer Farm

The boys and I went to The Vollmer Farm today. This is our 3rd year going, and it just gets better every year. We spent nearly 5 hours at the farm on the back 40 and picking our pumpkin up front. The boys got to bounce, slide, ride, run, and laugh. All of the usual stuff. But, what was extra special this year was the Autumn Princess. She rode with us out to the back 40, waved at us countless times during the day, posed for pictures with the boys multiple times, and took an extra few minutes at the end of the day to read the boys two books. She took on a Santa type quality for them and made out time today extra special. Until next year...

The rest of the best of today's pictures are here.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Halloween Decorations

The boys and I had a lot of fun today putting up our outdoor Halloween decorations this morning. It's tradition to pose with all of the characters, so I got lots of pictures when we were done. Except for the mosquitoes, it was a great time. If you want to see the full size pictures or to check out the egret that I took pictures of today too, go here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

NC Zoo Trip

We went to the NC Zoo yesterday (Thursday). I picked the day based on the best weather for walking comfort and sunny picture taking. We got there a little after 10 and left a little before 5 and were able to cover everything except that I skipped the 'plant' building. I think I can safely say that everyone had a good time. The kids were doing imaginary play games pretty much all day with the peak of that being in the Sonara Dessert building where they discovered a real hidden doorway in the wall of decorative rocks. I got a lot of nice pictures of kids smiling and of the flowers and other plants growing around the zoo. I did also take zoo animal shots, however, it just didn't end up being the best 'pose' day ever for them. Either there was a fence in the way or too far away or something. We thoroughly enjoyed the new giraffe feeding station which was on a free trial still, the new geyser, and the new honey bee exhibit. All great stuff that has very recently opened. So, if you haven't been to the zoo in a while, a trip this fall while the weather is nice would be a great idea. Won't be long and the fall colors will be in full force around the zoo too.

The rest of the zoo pics are here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Heroes and Villains at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham

The kids and I went to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham today for their special Heroes and Villains event. If you like Star Wars, want to know how they choreograph light saber scenes, and are interested in the sound and visual effects that go into making movies like Star Wars, this event is for you!

The highlight for the kids was posing with various Star Wars characters like Darth Vader and Princess Leia. I think I managed to get their picture with all the characters at the event today. None of the kids were scared of the characters, and all the characters did a great job encouraging the kids to come visit and standing for picture after picture to the delight of all the kids.

We did all of the typical things we do when we visit the museum too. The kids enjoyed the playground area and caboose. We visited with our farmyard friends. The museum had put up new color signage in the farmyard stating the name, weight, and type of animal, etc. Nice! We walked the Catch the Wind/Explore the Wild loop. To my delight, I got to take very up close pictures of a great blue heron and of a green heron. I even caught both of them going under for fish and coming up with a small fish in their mouths. I was so thrilled about the pictures I was able to take of these cooperative birds today!

I worked on taking picutures that convey movement today too. I was able to capture some great movement in the 'music' room by not turning on my flash. Also, on the train, I was able to catch the kids still but movement 'out the window'. The forest leaves made a lovely splash of moving green light.

Looks like there are going to be some spooky events in October, so I look forward to going back again with the kids real soon.

The best of today's pics are here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

What I Learned

The family went to the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh today. We've been to this museum many times over the past years...even before the boys were born to see the dinosaur fossils when the museum was in the old location. What surprised me today was that I thought I'd seen everything but I still learned several things.

So, what I learned...

1. NC has the most types of fungus in North America. Think mushrooms.

2. It's natural for butterflies to land on green leaves if they are laying eggs vs. eating. It's also natural for butterflies, especially males, to land on the ground to look for minerals and sodium.

3. Bees have pollen pouches on their legs, and they return to the hive with the pouches full so they can deposit the pollen. We saw this in action in the Discovery Room.

4. More bricks are made in NC than any other state in the country. Thank the red clay.

5. That different species of Whelk have shell openings on the left or right.

6. Chocolate tastes good. Oh, that's right, I already knew that. But, Chocolate - The Exhibition is visiting the museum right now.

The rest of the pics are here.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Noah's Landing

The boys and I went to Noah's Landing today. This place is only a few miles form my house, but if my friend Andrea hadn't mentioned it to me, I never would have known about it. We had such a fantastic time, that I wanted to definitely blog about it to get the word out.

You can look at the best pics from today here.

They were having a special event this weekend, so there was BBQ, bluegrass music, and the NC Wildlife Rescue Center from Sandford was setup with some of their rescue birds. Plus, they had their usual, but far from ordinary, animals too!

My highlight was the birds from the rescue center. I keep looking for hawks an owls in the wild for great pics, and here they were for me to see up close and personal. All of them are rescues. They wouldn't fair well in the wild, so I think it's great that we get to enjoy them and learn from them in person.

Joey's highlight was the hedgehog. Think Sonic:-) He could not get enough of petting and trying to hold those guys. Joey was really into everything animal. He touched the alligator and opossum. He asked questions. He was gentle. The volunteer staff really seemed to enjoy his enthusiasm.

Johnny seemed to really love the horses and rabbits and doggies in and around the property. Feeding carrots and gently petting were his favorites.

There was a bounce house that the boys went crazy in when no one else was in with them. Joey also made a snowman craft with beans and a suncatcher craft with a CD and glitter. Imagine Joey and glue and glitter:-)

We also saw a skunk, sloth, tortoise, porcupine, pig and more. And, we touched most of them! How cool was that?!?

We'll go back for sure, and if you get a chance, take a drive over and see for yourself. It looks like they have their next special event on Halloween weekend. Great to go when extra volunteers are onsite for lots of hands-on learning.

Andrea, thanks for the tip! Made our weekend...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Engineers Day at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham

Joey, Johnny, Madi, and I went to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham today for Engineers Day. We had a GREAT time. I know, I know, I always say that about our trips to the museum, but it's really true!

IBM sponsored the hands-on activities that were conducted inside in the Mercury Room. I have to say that the volunteers were all fantastic with the kids. It was hard to tell who was having more fun...the adults or the kids. The activities were well thought out, and the kids had fun doing them. The first activity we tried was insulating a real egg to see if it could sustain an 8' drop. The kids had foam and paper and plastic cups, etc. along with tape to use as padding. With a little help, Johnny's egg survived. Two activities involved food and building. The kids even managed not to eat their materials. With the gum drops and toothpicks, you were supposed to see how high you could build a structure with just 10 gum drops. With the marshmallows and spaghetti you were supposed to build a bridge and then do weight testing. There were Lego Mindstorm robotics, and the kids got to build an arm with a touch pad and then test out their work. There was a neat 3-D computer game were the kids were learning about being 'green'. The kids even got to see the insides of a keyboard, computer, mouse, and hard drive. How cool was that?!? Just as long as they aren't taking my computer apart at home now! They got to build a boat and see how many screws it could hold and still float. Madi's did pretty good with a little help;-) But, maybe the most popular was racing your balloon. Tape was used to attach a straw on string to a balloon. Let the air out and watch your 'rocket' go! Like I said, we had a great time. We spent over 90 minutes enjoying ourselves with these events. Thanks to all the adults who put on such a fun and educational time for the kids...

Mom was delighted to see the Great Blue Heron so close to the boardwalk in Explore the Wild today. I got some pictures that I am very happy with. Madi also took some.

One of the keepers, Erin, was at the black bears habitat when we visited and boy did I get some great pics there too! Tongues out. Splashing in the water. Eating apples. Posing just for me I think. Too cute!

The dinsour fossil dig site was open for our visit today, and Joey found a HUGE shark tooth. It's bigger than a quarter. He did that all by himself. Madi and I worked real hard trying to find luck. But, we did find coral and some bone and some smaller teeth. Every kid that gets a chance to dig in this site is going to have a good time in the dirt no matter what they walk away with!

In the butterfly house, Madi had the prettiest blue/black butterfly land in her hair. That's always a cool experience too.

We were at the museum for 6 hours today, and we could easily have stayed for another hour or two. There is just that much great stuff to see and do.

You can see the rest of the pics here.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Paint Boys!

When I was a little girl, my dad used to take me for walks in the rain with my little red goulashes.

He let me get filthy dirty at the company picnic we went to every summer.

He talked my mom into letting me have a dog in the backyard and then slowly we moved the dog into the house.

He took me to the mall to play Asteroids and other video games. He even tolerated me beating him nearly every single time.

Oh, and let's not forget the Charlies Angels and Star Wars trading cards, 45 singles, coins, stamps, McD glasses, and various other things he went out of his way to help me collect.

He baked with me in the kitchen...lemon sugar cookies, cheesecakes, and other fine delights. I was allowed to stamp the cookies too thin and spew flour in the kitchen if it made me happy and helped me learn.

Hopefully when my dad looks at a picture of my boys that looks like this, he smiles and knows I'm just following in his footsteps. Some day I hope my boys will follow in my footsteps too.

More paint pics are here.
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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Water Boy

All of us that know and love Johnny know that he loves water! I think this collage says it all! It was taken at his 5th b'day part at Marbles Kids Museum on Saturday.

I also captured, "Mom, the shark's got me!" from Joey.

I hope you smiled, and have a great day.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Johnny is 5!

We had Johnny's 5th Birthday party at Marbles Kids Museum today. We were in the party room from 1-2, and then we hung out in the museum afterward. Johnny had a yummy chocolate cake with 2 layers, vanilla buttercream frosting, and cheesecake filling. Did I say yum?!? As you can see from the pictures, the kids had a good time especially with the 'peas', the pirate ship, and in the water. Thanks to everyone who came. The rest of the pics are here.

Red-Bellied Hummingbirds

I took a few pictures out of my office window yesterday morning. I wanted to capture all of the woodpeckers that come to my suet feeders. I have several red-bellied woodpeckers including some super cute and bald (very little red on head) juveniles. They aren't small in size, but you can tell they are just kids. There are downy woodpeckers too, but no good pics of them yesterday.

I also went to the back deck and caught the male ruby throated hummingbird. Apparently the female uses the front porch feeder and he owns the back deck feeder. Hey, whatever works.

I hope to try again at these locations some afternoon when the lighting may be even better for picture taking. I had to set my camera on a tripod for these.

The rest of the pics are here including some of Johnny opening up his 'I am 5!' b'day gifts. Oh, and there's a cute drawing Joey did of his family at school.