Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Short Rant - Air Con

Why on earth does all air conditioning have to feel like walking into a fridge?  I don't set the temperature low and I just want to maintain the space at "room" temperature.  I don't need to get the chills or have a gust of wind blowing over me.

Someone needs to invent a home and car cooler that creates a pleasant living temperature.  There should be choices beyond "sweating" or "refrigerated."

End of rant.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Something Pretty in Houston

In my opinion, Houston is not a particularly pretty city.  Sure, there are pockets of beauty, but overall it's not that pretty.

Our neighbourhood is a lovely contrast to most of the city.  We are near a big park so it's lush with greenery.  It's a traditional neighbourhood with shady streets and front yard gardens.

There are some very pretty street signs in Houston.  I haven't seen signs like this before, and I think they are cute and quirky.  Here are a couple of photos:






Sunday, April 27, 2014

Let's Go Fly a Kite....

Yesterday was the perfect day to fly a kite.  Big Boy got a kite for his birthday, so we took it to the field near our house and set it up.  It was very easy to fly.  It took almost no effort to launch the kite and only minimal "steering" to keep it flying high.  Big Boy and Little Boy could both fly the kite alone, and they had a lot of fun.  

The kite is very large - an imposing Optimus Prime measuring 54" from top to bottom.  Where does one buy an enormous Optimus Prime kite?  Costco, of course!  It wasn't even expensive - about $12 and it came with everything we needed, including string.

Here are some pictures:




Even Baby Boy was excited about the kite!
I also got out my pocket kite - usually a very reliable kite - but we couldn't get it to fly.  I think the trees were blocking the "lower" wind that the pocket kite needs to launch.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Kids Say the Cutest Things (Or so their parents think....)

This week my boys have said a few funny things.  Thought I would share....

Big Boy:

He has started to sound a bit like a Southerner.  In Scotland Big Boy was instructed by Americans and most of his friends were other international children, so the local sounds and accent didn't creep into his speech.  In contrast, Little Boy was instructed by Scottish ladies and he picked up a slight accent.

Back to Big Boy.  Big Boy was talking about how he read more than his brothers and he said:

"I read more than all y'all."

Not very Canadian!

Little Boy:

Little Boy is at an age where pretty much everything he says is adorable.  He tries to use large and sophisticated words but he doesn't quite understand their meaning. Yesterday at the playground he said: "I'm going to chase you down the queue."  I looked over to see what he was talking about and he was chasing Baby Boy down a tunnel.

Little Boy also has a wonderful innocence about him.  He is also obsessed with cars (wonder where he gets that from??).  We drive past an old-but-good-condition Volkswagen Microbus when we take Big Boy to karate.  It is on Little Boy's side of the car and he loves to look at it.  This week when we drove past it he said (in a dreamy voice):  "Look at that van, isn't it cute?  It's amazing."  And he stretched out amazing to be "am-a-zing" - so cute!!

Little Boy also informed me that riding his bike is not exercise "because it's fun and you can do it on a road sometime."  Well, that's a new definition.

The most surprising thing he did this week was to sort out his showering.  Little Boy hates to have water sprayed at him.  He always cries and screams in the shower and he twists around to avoid the stream when we pour water over his head to wash his hair.  

Earlier this week, my husband had a talk with him about being good in the shower.  That evening when I was spraying him down with the shower I braced myself for the usual tears and twisting.  Instead he did something totally unexpected - he started singing to himself.  He calmed himself down completely by singing and had no problem tolerating the water.  I'm so glad we are done with the bad showering phase!

Baby Boy:

Baby Boy is cute as a button and he doesn't really talk yet.  He has been saying and enthusiastic "yes" accompanied by a big nod in response to questions for a while, and this week he started to say a soft, long "no" in response to questions.  He has also started to say Big Boy's name, or at least the last part. 

Baby Boy loves to try to sing!  He sings loud and mimics the sound and style of other singers.  In church on Palm Sunday he yowled along with all of the hymns even when only the choir was singing. 

He also mimics my speech patterns.  At dinner the other night I was saying someone went "blah blah blah" in kind of a droning voice.  He started to go "baaaah, baaaah, baaaah" in the same tone.  He is so close to talking and I'm sure he will have a lot of cheeky things to say!  I can already tell he will be a little clown, he likes to trick and tease.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Easter Weekend - Part Two - San Antonio, The Alamo, Missions, and Shopping

After our day at Sea World, we drove to a hotel on the River Walk in San Antonio and stayed the night.  In the morning we woke up and walked along the River Walk to the Alamo.  The River Walk is beautiful, and on Easter Sunday it was peaceful.  Here are some photos of the River Walk.



A waterfall (through the arches) beneath our hotel on the River Walk.


We walked up to the Alamo.  The Alamo is much smaller than I expected!  We wandered through the gardens and read the information on the educational plaques.

The Alamo from a distance (for size).

A spectacular cactus at the Alamo.
After the Alamo we walked back to our hotel and retrieved our truck.  We drove out to the San Antonio missions and we walked around at 3 of them.

Mission San Jose was our first stop.  This Mission is huge and the kids had a nice run around in the open area.  Church was in session so they could not be too rowdy.





We drove on to Mission San Juan Capistrano.  
Another spectacular cactus thriving beneath the cross.

The last mission we visited was Mission Espada.  It has a classic look - I'm sure I've seen it as calendar art.



After our Mission tour, we started the long drive home.  It also started to rain...we were lucky it didn't rain until we were driving.  Traffic was slow and tedious - far too many vehicles were on the road and they were driving with "Texas" courtesy - none whatsoever.  We stopped for a very quick shopping trip (3 stores only) at the outlets and headed home for a very late supper and bedtime.

Big Boy went off to school on Monday while the rest of us used the day to unpack, clean up, and catch up on chores.
S

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter Weekend - Part One - Good Friday and Sea World

We had a non-traditional Easter weekend this year. 

My husband had Good Friday off work, but Big Boy did not (it was a make-up day for a bad weather day), so we did chores around the house while he was in school.  Big Boy's school had an Easter egg hunt in the morning so we took the younger boys over to watch.  Little Boy, true to form, ended up with a sack of Easter eggs for himself.  The Easter egg hunt was a free-for-all.  There were plastic filled eggs laying all over the school field and the kids just ran around and grabbed them.  They were each allowed to "find" 10.

After the egg hunt Little Boy and Daddy went for a ride in the convertible to pick up lunch. 

After school the kids completed a scavenger hunt to find their Easter baskets.  I made a hunt with 7 clues and they each found a basket that I made with small gifts for them.  It was fun, and definitely enough clues.

On Saturday morning we left the house very early and drove to Sea World in San Antonio.  It is about 2.5-3 hours away.  The drive was great and our day out at Sea World was fun.  Sea World is an amusement park that consists of aquariums and animal displays like a zoo as well as rides and a large play park.

We purchased our tickets online the night before we went and we elected to also buy food wristbands for the park.  Our total price for all of the tickets, wristbands, and parking was $250.  We were on the fence about buying the food wristbands, but they were definitely good value.  You are not allowed to take food into the park (they search your bag at the entrance) and the food is expensive.  After a few snacks and a meal, we had more than paid for the wrist bands.  To give you a sense of the cost of food, the wrist band is about $30 for an adult and around $16 for a child.  A bottle of water is nearly $3 and a container of fruit $3.50.  Meals were around $9 for kids and around $13+ for adults (Big Boy ate an adult meal).  The boys (Baby Boy in particular) ate a shocking amount of food, I guess they needed fuel to keep those little bodies moving all day.   

We spent 11 hours at the park!  We saw most of the shows and rode on the rides that the kids were able to ride on and were interested in.  We also looked at the animal displays.  The younger boys each took a nap in the buggy and all the boys were remarkable well behaved.  There were lines, but the park was not as busy as I would have expected during the Easter weekend.  We avoided the rides during the busy mid-day period.

Here is a list of what we did with some limited commentary followed by photos:

We saw the following shows:

- One World (the Shamu show) - this was my favourite. The show was rubbish but killer whales are majestic creatures and amazing to watch.  We didn't get wet but large parts of the audience were soaked to the skin.
- Cannery Row Caper (sea lion/walrus show) - Big Boy liked this.  It was an over the top 40s style detective show.
- Sunny Days (Sesame Street show) - this was perfect for Baby Boy.  The kids were sitting a short distance away from us and in the middle of the show Baby Boy stood up and I was worried he was going to wander off.  Turned out he just wanted to dance!
- Franklin the Turtle - the bigger boys met Franklin and Big Boy had a photo taken with him.

We went on the following rides:

- Shamu Express - kids roller coaster
- Rio Loco - rafting ride (adult ride but Big Boy could go on too)
- various rides in the Sesame Street area
- Little Boy went on the carousel 10 times.  He adored it!

Our boys were too small for many of the rides, but they loved the ones they were allowed on.  Baby Boy could go on a few rides, but only if he could walk 3 steps independently (which he can).  Each ride operator tested him and he started to just run when we got to the front of the ride lines.

We viewed the following animal displays:

- Dolphin Cove - dolphins swimming around
- Alligator Alley - Alligators laying around
- Penguin Encounter - this was a moving sidewalk in front of a long window that you could look through to see an enormous penguin habitat
- Sharks - aquariums filled with sharks and other tropical fish
- Animal Connections Conservation Center - an unloved corner of the park with a few animal displays

We ate at the following:

- Rosita's Cafe - pizza buffet lunch
- Seafire Grille - supper
- Sea Star Market - fruit bowls, cookies, drinks, and a turkey sandwich
- Azul Treats - turkey legs, cotton candy, drinks, chips - this place had terrible lines and rude staff.  I'd avoid it in the future.

The weather was pleasantly hot during our visit and the older boys finished off the day with an extended play session on the net playground and a long run around in the water park.  Baby Boy rode the carousel over and over while they played.  The last activity for us was a family ride on the carousel.

Sesame Street Show

Our lunch time view.

A pile of alligators and some turtles.

Dolphin

Penguin moving sidewalk

Shamu show

Large net playground that big the kids loved.
It was about 3 stories high at the top.
They played so hard that Little Boy couldn't make it up to the top at the end.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mid-Week Picnic

It's a nice day today so I decided to take the 2 younger boys for a picnic at a local playground.  We prepared for the picnic in the morning - we went to the grocery store and bought some picnic foods and we packed up our lunch.

Late in the morning we headed out.  I was disappointed because the sky looked and felt like rain, but we soldiered on to the playground.  When we arrived at the playground I was even more disappointed - the normally quiet playground was teeming with children.   We found out a couple of minutes later that a school was having it's school picnic at that particular playground.  The children were a bit older than mine, and this made it difficult for my kids to safely play.

I followed Baby Boy around the playground keeping him out of harm's path for about an hour before we ate.  Due to the overcrowding by the school kids and their teachers (each teacher seemed to require an entire table to sit and text on a mobile phone), all of the picnic tables were taken, so we sat on our picnic blanket while the kids gobbled their food.  Then they played for a few more minutes before we headed home.  The sun came out as soon as we started toward home.  We didn't get rained on.

The kids on the playground were typical children in some ways - fairly self interested and not really looking out for others.  I was surprised, though, at how unfit they appeared physically.  A large portion of the children looked overweight and many of them were constantly stopping to catch their breath during their playtime.  


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Commitment

I love theatre and opera.  In Aberdeen a few shows rolled through town each year and I saw as many of them as possible.

Here in Houston there are many theatres with many shows.  It's hard to figure out what to go to and how to get there.  I decided to take the kids to a children's theatre and the show was wonderful.  The theatre was close to home and parking abundant and free!  

The theatre we went to offers subscription blocks and I decided we would subscribe for a 3 show package for the next theatre season.  I just filled out the form and committed to theatre dates a year from now!  I can't believe there are dates in my diary for then.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Baking

I made some Easter egg cookies for the schools and my friend helped me to decorate them. Here are some pictures!

Flood iced cookies

Decorated cookies

Cookie platters

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Embroidered Picture

Big Boy wanted me to embroider something for him, so I decided to make a picture of a horse to hang on his wall.  He particularly likes the metallic thread, so I sucked it up and used it for part of his picture.  Metallic thread is difficult to stitch with and it bunches and gathers in the most annoying ways.  Sorry about the light reflections on the photos, the picture is framed with glass so taking a picture is tough.





Monday, April 14, 2014

Arboretum

We went to the Arboretum today before the big storm hit. I'm glad we did, we had a fun walk and learned about bees. 

We also saw a few snakes. I took a picture of this little guy....he's not too close, just the way I like it. 


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday - Little Boy's Singing Debut

Today is Palm Sunday and Little Boy's class from school sang at church.  For weeks they practiced the songs.   Their teachers made up palm leafs for them to carry to the front of the church.  Little Boy practiced at home.

Today Little Boy had a bath and got all dressed up.  We ate a nutritious breakfast and headed off to church....where he stood and sucked his thumb instead of singing.  His classmates all did their own thing.  Two of them sang boisterously.  Two of them cried.  One of them simply stared out at everyone.  Little Boy stood in a relaxed pose and sucked his thumb.

I asked Little Boy afterwards why he didn't sing.  He said "I didn't want to."  Then he sang the songs all the way home.

I guess that's how it works when you are three years old.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Busy Saturday

We had a busy day!

It started early, when we dropped off Daddy for a 7:00 a.m. start on the MS 150 Bike Tour.  The starting point was a fair distance from our house.  We left him at about 6:30 a.m. and I took the kids out for breakfast at Denny's. 

I've never been to Denny's and I was pleasantly surprised. The kids menu was very clever - for a set price the kids can pick 3 items off a list.  The list had about 10 things to pick from so every kid should be able to find what makes them happy. Breakfast was fast and cheap and the kids ate well. We will definitely go back. 

Then, I took the kids home and we did some chores. We headed out to do a craft at Michael's at 10 a.m.  The craft wasn't great.  The kids basically made cards out of construction paper and used felt markers to draw on them.  Pretty disappointing for a craft store. 

After the craft we went home for lunch and a quick nap.  Then we drove Big Boy to a birthday party that was very far away from home (a 35 minute drive).  We dropped off Big Boy and the I took the other kids to visit our friends. Partway through the visit I got a call saying the birthday party was going to be extended and that I should pick up Big Boy at 6:00 p.m.  It was a 4 hour party!

Since the party ran through dinner hour I took the little kids out for supper before picking up Big Boy. Then home to bed!!

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Mixed Bag on a Friday

Ah....Friday.  Great day to start at weekend. Today I bring you a variety of things:

Baby Boy

Baby Boy learned something very important this week - how to eat from a sandwich bag without spilling everything.  This is not a benchmark in any baby growth chart I've seen, but as a parent I think it's an incredibly important step.  No more fiddly baby snack cups!

He also learned to say "cheers". 

Little Boy

Little Boy learned to start himself off on his bike.  Now I don't have to hold the bike steady for him to start!

Trail Ride

On Friday morning Little Boy learned to start his bike by himself.  So naturally on Friday afternoon I took them on a trail ride. 

It started as a bike ride through the park but we quickly figured out that bicycles are not permitted (or welcomed) on the running path.  So, we found a bike path.  I had no idea it was a mountain bike trail!  

I started the kids off on the trail and I thought we'd turn around at the first sign of a tree root. I was shocked when they sailed over the lumps and bumps with ease!   I had to drag them off the trail to get home in time for dinner. 

A relatively smooth ride in the park.

And then the bumpy trail!


Even some "bike climbing"!

I could not keep up with them!

Safety

On the way home from our trail ride the kids were riding on the sidewalk a bit less than one house-length (about 30 feet) in front of me. I could see and hear them and they could hear me. They stop at all driveways and wait for me at the road crossings. 

I was stopped by a man washing cars who told me that he saw the boys and thought they were on their own. He then lectured me about how dangerous it is to be that far behind them. 

Can you imagine!  Not so long ago it would be expected that a 7 year old could ride his bike without his mother trailing along behind. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Baby Kisses and Toddler Hugs

Baby Boy loves to kiss and hug.  He is a very cuddly little boy.  Only problem is that he goes in for a kiss with his mouth completely open in this enormous grin, like he's going to take a bite of his favourite food.  And he only likes to kiss on the lips.....

It's pretty cute but so awkward.

Last night I was trying to dress Baby Boy and Little Boy was being a pest.  He was grabbing at me and I asked him to stop, to back away.  He looked up at me with his enormous brown eyes and said:  "Mummy, I love you so much I just need to hug you."  He gave me a hug and walked off.

Boy did I feel bad for trying to chase him off!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Grass

I cut my own grass for the first time today.  What a terrible job.  I'm happy that I have 3 boys and will be able to pass that chore off to them once they are teenagers.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Smaland

It's a rainy Sunday here in Houston.  The younger boys seem to be on the verge of getting sick so I decided to plan a low key indoor activity for the kids.  I decided that we would go to Ikea and visit the play centre there, which is called "Smaland".  I've never taken any of the kids to an Ikea play centre.

We arrived at the play centre about 1/2 hour after it opened.  There was a queue for entry and it moved very slowly.  After about 10 minutes we were near the front (there were 3 little boys ahead of mine) and at that point I could see the signs on the entryway indicating that playtime would be limited to 1/2 hour and that currently the play centre was at capacity.  I looked in the window and it looked nearly empty.

The 2 boys at the front of the line got in and I could see more of what was going on.  The play centre takes 6 children at a time.  It is an enormous space for 6 children so I was surprised at the limitation on the numbers.  We had to wait for 3 children to leave because there was one boy in front of us.  Once he went in the operator informed me that the next child was not scheduled to leave for nearly 20 minutes.  I elected to stay in the line because we had invested a lot of time at that point and also because we really had nothing better to do.  Other parents left the line at that point.

Once it was our turn the kids went in and I ran through the store with Baby Boy to finish my shopping within 1/2 hour. I picked them up right on time.

The kids enjoyed their playtime.  Little Boy liked playing in the ball pit and Big Boy had fun drawing.  They both thought it was worth it despite the long wait time, but I'm not so sure.  They waited slightly longer in line than the length of their play time.  Maybe it's different during the work week or when the weather is nicer.  I only had small items to buy and I wonder if anyone can get any serious shopping done within the 1/2 hour time limit.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Home Depot Workshop

On Saturday I took my boys to a workshop for children at the Home Depot.  The project this month was a bird feeder/birdbath. 

I planned for Big Boy to do the project but they allowed Little Boy to do one as well. The children were given a project packet, hammer, paintbrush, wood glue, and screw driver.  Big Boy read his way through the instructions and did everything on his own (better than many of the adults present) and I helped Little Boy with his.  

They both finished the project and did a great job.  Big Boy wanted to paint his green and Little Boy copied the colour choice.  The project was sponsored by the film Rio 2 so the kids were given stickers for the backboard.  Little Boy put his sticker on but painted over it.  Big Boy thought the sticker was ugly and decided not to use it.

Here is a picture of the finished project, if you look carefully you will see a picture on the bottom of the instruction sheet showing what the finished product was supposed to look like:


Happy Birthday Daddy!

My husband's birthday was on Thursday and (due to a scheduling conflict) we had his birthday dinner on Friday night.  We had lasagna, fresh bread, Caesar salad, and jalapeno peppers stuffed with ricotta then wrapped in bacon.  For desert we had a birthday cake.  I wanted to serve ice cream with it but our freezer is broken.


I need to work on my cake writing skills!

It's tough to come up with gifts for the kids to give their dad.  Little Boy wanted to paint him a picture so I bought them all canvases and let them paint away (inspired by my friend Anna in Scotland!).  I thought the results were interesting:

Top Left:  Big Boy.  Top Right:  Little Boy.  Lower Left:  Baby Boy.  Lower Right:  Big Boy.

This is Big Boy's version of a landscape.
The brown around the edge is a picture frame.
The green is the grass topped with a blue sky and a black storm rolling in.

This picture is by Little Boy.
He first told me that the "right way up" was as pictured above.
Then he told me this is the right way around.  The picture is of a bird and ladybug.

Baby Boy used his fingers and a brush to create this.

Big Boy spent a long time creating this picture with painters tape.

Our small pile of gifts made a cute vignette with bunting and a bouquet of flowers.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Turtles!

On Monday morning I took the 2 younger boys to the Arboreteum (again).  This week the turtles were everywhere!  There were also some Blue Bonnets (or lupine to everyone outside of Texas....). 

Can you spot all the turtles?





Little Boy has mastered the ropes on the playground!