Saturday, May 31, 2014

Kids Say the Darndest Things.....Again

Our plans were spoiled by the rain today.  We were planning to go to a sandcastle competition - but it's bucketing, flooding, and windy.  There are flash flood warnings and possible funnel clouds.

Since we didn't go anywhere interesting I thought I'd share some of the funny things the older boys have said in the last couple of days.

***

Little Boy loves Duplo.  Our Duplo set has some tow trucks and they have hooks with cords to tow cars.  Little Boy calls these "hookers".  He is constantly chattering away like this:

"I love playing with the hookers."

"Look at all my hookers."

"Mom did you see these hookers."

"Dad, I'm tired of these hookers, I'm going to play with something else."

etc., etc.

Very funny when I'm in the mood to laugh at it!  

***

Big Boy surprised me the other day.  He was telling me about some of his classmates and he was listing off that certain kids had two moms and other kids had two dads.  I asked him about it and he said that 5 of his friends had either two moms or two dads.  I thought that there was an unusually high population of same-sex parents in his class.  As he kept talking I figured it out.....he was talking about children who had step-parents in addition to biological parents.....very confusing!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Summer! Montie Beach Spray Park

Big Boy finished school for the year yesterday so it's officially summer vacation for all of us!!  Big Boy passed to grade two (he did very well) so his summer is free from summer school. 

I want to get into a "summer days" routine, but today we had some errands to attend to.  This morning we visited the pool where the kids will take swimming lessons to check the requirements for the classes.  Then we did a big shop at H-E-B.  

After lunch and naps we headed to the library to register for the summer reading club. The kids picked a bunch of books and the we headed out to a splash park to run around a bit in the sun.  It was raining earlier in the afternoon and the sun was a pleasant surprise.  

We went to the Montie Beach Spray Park. I picked it off of the city map of spray parks based on location and description.  It was terrible!

The Splash Pad was built under the H-E-B Programme.  When it was new it was probably nice but today it was small, dingy, poorly maintained, and full of litter. There were picnic tables and benches nearby and almost every single one had litter on it - disgusting. We will not be going back.  Shame on people for not picking up after themselves.  This could be a nice place if it was cleaned up a bit and not full of litter.

I managed to snap this photo of the spray park with no children in it....dismal.
The other problem I had with this particular spray park was "under-parented" children.  The spray park is visible from the parking lot and there were some parents that "watched" their children from their cars while the kids were playing.  The kids were fairly wild and I hate it when I'm the only adult present in situations like that.  

One small girl found a juice box and was filling it with water and spraying it.  She kept refilling it from the vile ground water.  She sprayed me and Baby Boy with it.  I asked her to stop and she did it again.  I said firmly "please stop, I don't like that and it's very rude".  She asked "why? It's just filled with water?" and I explained that it is yucky because it's ground water being sprayed out of trash.  She said "ok" and started chattering to me about playing and things she likes.  She was a lovely little girl and we had a good chat, but she was definitely looking for adult attention.

There was also one boy in particular that my older boys were playing with and I felt he was getting to silly.  But with none of his parents present the best I could do was tell my kids to stop playing wild.

The icing on the cake in terms of this spray park experience was the ice cream man.  He came by and I didn't pay too much attention because I had snacks from home.  When I finally looked at him I was pretty surprised....it was not an ice cream man per se, but a man with a cooler on his pannier holder selling ice cream.  It was not a "Dickie Dee" set up to say the least.  His cooler had an advert on the side so it was probably legit....but very interesting.



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rain!

We had had some nasty weather over the last few days - rain storms, thunder, lightening, flooding, and funnel clouds.  Our house is high enough to be out of flooding danger but the street in front of our house and the park near our house are flooding almost every day.

I will have to think of some indoor activities for these first few days of summer vacation!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Awards!

Yesterday the whole family went to Big Boy's school for the awards ceremony.  Big Boy did really well - he earned 3 awards.  I'm so proud of him!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Houston Museum of Natural Science

On Sunday we took the kids to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  I purchased a Groupon a few weeks back for discounted admission and I wanted to use it before it expired.  With the Groupon, our admission cost $40 when it would regularly have cost $70.

We parked at the Zoo and walked over to the Museum (about a 10 minute walk).  The walk was through the beautiful Hermann Park.  I will definitely take the kids back to Hermann Park, hopefully the parking insanity dies down during the work week (more about that later).

An obelisk and spider statue in Hermann Park.
(Click on the picture to make it larger to see the cool spider statue.)

More park art....a hedge house.

We got to the museum and looked at the extremely confusing map.  The issue with the map is that it uses the proper name (i.e. the donor name) of each gallery - sometimes it is followed by a very vague descriptive name but not always.  Sometimes the names are not helpful at all.  This means it takes longer to read the map and it's confusing.  For example, the space exhibit is called the "Expedition Center"....how am I to know what type of "expedition" it's referring to?  Other examples are the "Fondren Gallery" and the "Brown Gallery".

I decided we should try to see a few galleries - the dinosaurs (Morian Hall of Paleontology), the energy (i.e. oil) gallery (Weiss Energy Hall), the new Egypt exhibit (Hall of Ancient Egypt), and the space gallery (The Expedition Center).  We headed into the dinosaur gallery and I was very surprised.  It looked more like a museum of fine arts than a dinosaur exhibit.  The displays were on large blank walls and minimal text guided the visitor through the display.  There were no interactive displays for children.  

Doesn't this look like an art gallery?

We went through the display and saw some lovely skeletons.  Not every item exhibited had an information label, but they all had attribution labels for their donors.  It was beautiful, but not the interactive and educational experience I was hoping for.

After the dinosaurs we saw the oil exhibit....it was slightly more interactive, there were exhibits that the kids could push buttons or handle a computer screen.  But the explanatory panels were limited and not written in a way that the children could easily understand so they were merely pushing buttons and not really learning anything about the content of the exhibit.

We took the elevator upstairs to the Egypt exhibit.  It was not at all good for children.  It reminded me of the Museum of Anthropology at my Alma Mater...UBC.  It was dimly lit, sterile, and had very sombre and well catalogued exhibits.  The kids didn't get much out of it but I have to admit I couldn't look away from the unwrapped mummy face.  It was chilling.  I even went back to look some more.

We walked through the John P. McGovern Hall of the Americas.  It is nicely set up and more interesting for the children.  I learned that the word "Eskimo" is still acceptable in the USA while we stopped using it some time ago in Canada.  I had been surprised to hear it here, now I know why.

We headed to lunch at the museum (in the McDonald's).  Probably the most child-friendly thing about this museum is the fact that the cafe is a McDonald's instead of a stuffy museum restaurant.

After lunch we went downstairs to see the space exhibit (The  Expedition Centre).  After a few navigational issues we found the dismal, forgotten area that consists of broken science experiments that the kids could operate on their own and computer monitors with educational information.  The kids also played with the science exhibits at the equally run-down Earth Forum.

Our last stop was the Welch Chemistry Hall.  This hall had hands on experiments for the kids and they were in working order.  The kids played with interactive Periodic Tables of the Elements and my husband built compounds on a computer.  There was a science show and we watched it.  Big Boy went up as a volunteer helper.  The show was enjoyable with neat experiments but it wasn't presented in a dynamic manner.  

We left the museum and had an enjoyable walk back through Hermann Park.  Then the parking madness started.  The parking lot had filled up while we were in the museum.  It is Memorial Day weekend, the parking lot is in a popular spot (serving the park and the Zoo), and it was a beautiful day.   People were desperate for a spot.  When we were trying to drive out, there were cars jamming our aisle looking for spaces and they wouldn't get out of our way for fear that they would miss out on a spot, so we actually had to drive around them.

Then as we were leaving a park we saw some shocking driving.  One direction of the road was closed off to deal with some obvious traffic management issues - to create a single direction of traffic flow through the park and organize the entry and exit for the parking lots.  We saw one car simply drive up onto a lawn and kerb and through the orange traffic cones.  He actually dragged a cone on the bottom of his car.  A couple of other disgruntled drivers drove the wrong way down the road to get around the closed portion.  They actually drove blindly into oncoming traffic!  Earlier during our walk to the museum we saw someone go around a traffic circle in the wrong direction....this is actually the third time I have seen someone do that in Houston!  

Overall I was disappointed with the museum.  I didn't find it particularly engaging as an adult.  The signage was focussed more on donor recognition than education and it was a very sterile environment.  My kids love museums -  we have been spoiled by wonderful museums during our travels.  Usually they are fun, interactive, educational, and interesting to children.  My husband and I were chatting about this and we wondered if this museum is different than the others we have visited because it is not publicly funded.  I have seen this museum listed on many "top ten" lists of things to do with children in Houston and I disagree....I'm starting to think those lists are written by people with no children!




Sunday, May 25, 2014

Baking Week

For some reason I baked a lot this week.....here are some photos, it was a delicious week!

Teacher gift....cinnamon twist.

Party cookies.

Garlic breadsticks (from a package and so yummy!).

Angel food cake.

Strawberry shortcake angel food cake.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Creature Sightings at the Arboretum and at Home

Last week we had visitors and we went to the arboretum twice.  Our first visit was on a picture perfect day and we saw so many "creatures" - too many of them snakes!  The second visit was for a preschool class that Baby Boy and Little Boy attended.  It was a lovely day and we saw a bullfrog (my first sighting).  Here are some photos:

A monarch butterfly that Big Boy found. 
A pond full of lily pads.

Frog!

When I was taking a picture of the snake on this leaf I accidentally
captured the turtle swimming below....see the next picture as well.


We saw a whole bunch of geckos at home....I never knew that their throats expand and turn red....and they croak!  It was difficult to take photos - geckos skitter away as soon as people approach them, so I took the photos from the indoors through a window.



Cute little guys.




Thursday, May 22, 2014

Wrapping Up

We have had a busy couple of weeks.   School is wrapping up for the year for Big Boy and Little Boy - it was Little Boy's last day yesterday.  We have also had visitors.  I will be posting photos of some of the fun activities we did but today I will write about Little Boy's party and end of year concert. 

Little Boy's class celebrated the last day of school with a pool party.  The teacher brought in splash pools and planned a bunch of fun games and activities.  

I'm going to be honest with you - the thought of a bunch of 3 year olds playing around in the water makes me very nervous.  I was a bit on edge during the whole party (worrying from home) even though they supervision ratio was 2:1.  My worry was for naught, everyone had a great time and all the children were safe. 

It's difficult for me to volunteer to help out in the classroom so I tend to try to send in baking or supplies as my contribution. Today I sent watermelon cookies that I made....the kids loved them!



After the party Little Boy had a big nap!

After the party excitement, Little Boy still had one last school activity.  Last night we went to the church and Little Boy had a concert and watched the graduation ceremony.  

I say he "had" a concert - because I couldn't decide what word to use to describe what happened.  He went to his concert and stood on the stage with his school mates and sucked his thumb while they sang and danced.  Hmmmmm....not sure what that's called, maybe he was watching the concert from the stage?

Anyways, after the concert there was a reception for the children and Little Boy said "goodbye" to his teacher forever. She is retiring and he is leaving the school.  It was a sad moment for both of them.



Karate Catch-Up

So much has happened with Big Boy and his karate over the last few weeks.  

Big Boy wore the medals that he won in the May 10 karate tournament to class on May 13.  He was formally congratulated for his victories by the karate Master and he was awarded patches to sew on his uniform indicating that he is now a part of the competition team at his karate school.  He also lead the class through a part of the creed and earned an American flag patch. His permanent karate record was update to reflect the tournament. 

On May 14, he was tested on his "One-Step" forms before class.  It didn't go well.  The test stressed him out and he flubbed up some basic moves that he never gets wrong.  Luckily he has an understanding teacher.   The karate Master asked Big Boy to stay after class that day to practice.   The minute he started to practice he correctly performed all of the moves.  Master had him run through them twice and then awarded him his white belt stripe. 

It was important that he was awarded his white stripe that night because the next day (May 15) we went in early for a belt test.  (A student needs to earn a black and a white belt stripe prior to taking the belt test).  Big Boy handled the test with ease.  He was awarded his gold with black belt and he is still excited!  Unfortunately the belt is expected via post so we don't know when it will actually arrive.  

After he successfully completed his belt test, Big Boy was formally invited to join the karate school.  He was awarded a patch to sew on his uniform and I could see he was proud as punch!

I have a lot of sewing to do!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Block Party

On Friday night we went to a block party at Big Boy's school.  It was interesting.  The party started straight away following school pick up.  The school had arranged for 3 food trucks to supply food and the PTO was selling drinks (that the parents had donated).  The school gates were closed to make it a car-free and safe environment for the kids to roam and the party was rounded out with a DJ and mixing table.

Even with all this, the party had some trouble getting off the ground.  It was very hot, so everyone was hanging out in the shady spots near the school.  The food was very expensive on the food trucks ($9.00 for a hot dog was the cheapest "meal" item and all of the treats were around $3.00.  The music was loud and fun, but I was surprised by the decision not to edit some of the lyrics (for example they played "Thrift Shop" a couple of times while we were there without any of the language edited).  

We stayed for sno cones and watched the dance team perform, but we decided to have our dinner elsewhere.  The kids had fun running around and dancing - they liked the Mexican pop songs in particular.  


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Half Mast

Sometimes the Internet amazes me.  I wanted to know why the flag at Big Boy's school was half mast today.  So I "googled" it.  

Turns out there is a website where you can look up the flag status every day:  www.halfstaff.us

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Raining!

We had a big storm last night!  Our rain ditches are all filled and the water was falling fast enough to splash over the kerbs!

It's still very warm out though.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Karate Tournament

Today we woke up early and packed the kids into the truck to drive to Alvin, Texas for a Karate tournament.  Alvin is a scrappy little town about 45 minutes away from our home.

We had no idea what to expect from the tournament.  I assumed it would be long and I packed enough snacks for an entire day.  We arrived early and we watched advanced students compete in weapons sparring competitions.  

Then the tournament started and they divided the children into age groups.  Big Boy competed in his Kata (demonstration) form and he won a third place medal.  His next event was flag sparring and he won his fight!  He earned a first place medal.

Big Boy's participation took about an hour and then we went out to lunch and drove home. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Retro Toys....Lite Brite

When we were about to move from Canada, someone gave us a Lite Brite for a gift.  It remained unopened until a couple of weeks ago because it ended up being packed into our storage unit.  

I decided that Little Boy is a good age for this toy and I set him up to complete a picture.  It took nearly 2 weeks for him to finish it but he did!  



The toy has a few flaws - the peg tray "sprays" the pegs everywhere when you open it and the pegs fall out of the screen, but it was a fun project for Little Boy.  He is learning his colours and letters and this reinforced some of his lessons.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Evita and Artista

Last night my friend and I went to see Evita at the Hobby Centre.

We started the evening with dinner at Artista Restaurant.  My friend warned me about large portions at fine dining restaurants (an American expectation as far as I can tell) and I decided to order 2 appetizers.  I had these lovely ahi tuna taquitos as well as a lobster biqsue.  Both were delicious and enormous - either could easily have served as a main course on it's own.


After dinner we found our seats in the theatre a few minutes before the start of the show.  Our seats were wonderful - the first row of the first balcony.  In my opinion this is the perfect place to sit if you are not terribly tall.

The show was great.  The music was exotic and complicated - well executed by the theatre company.  The costumes were glamorous and somewhat understated.  Che was impressive, Evita was good but not incredible.  

I have waited a long time to see this musical live and it was every bit as good as I thought it would be.  I was surprised by the bits of film used on stage.  

I was even more surprised by some of the people sitting around us.  At the interval, a couple behind me was talking about how they didn't know it would be a musical.  Then they wondered aloud where it was set and decide it must be New York City!  I think they came to that conclusion based on the song where they say "Buenos Aires...Big Apple".  During the show there could not have been more references to Argentina!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Sunday Zoo-Day

On Sunday we took the kids on a spontaneous zoo trip.  We had other plans but we changed them at the last minute when the weather looked perfect for a day at the zoo.  Admission was free for me and my husband!

We got to the zoo just as it was opening and easily found a parking space. When we left the parking lot was a gridlock of desperate parking space seekers and rare cars leaving those precious spots.  

At the zoo we focused on the big cats because Big Boy wanted to see the cheetah.  I saw two jaguars having a spat - terrifying!  We also spent a lot of time watching monkeys and seeing the African exhibit.

Big Boy lost a tooth at the lion exhibit....how many people can say that!

After we ate our picnic lunch we let the kids play on the splash pad.  They were soaked by the end so I cleaned them up and we left for home.  

They had wonderful naps while my husband and I entertained our first-ever pop in visitor in Houston.




Monday, May 5, 2014

Cinco de Mayo

Today is Cinco de Mayo (obviously).  This is a holiday that I hitherto knew almost nothing about....and I still know very little apart from what I read on the Internet.

Big Boy's school had a celebration and parents were invited so I went.  I took the 2 younger boys and we watched the students participate in a parade through the school and school yard.   It was neat!  Big Boy was chosen to carry a banner for his class.  Some classes dressed up and made music and the atmosphere was very festive.

Many of the parents sent the kids to school in costume.  We were invited to dress our children up but I had no idea how to dress him!  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

James and the Giant Peach

On Saturday afternoon I took the two older boys to the Main Street Theater production of James and the Giant Peach.  Our seats were in the very back row, but, because of how the theatre is set up the kids could see well.

The play was a shortened version of the Roald Dahl book.  I have to admit that I hate the book!  I bought it to read with the boys and I could not bear it - Big Boy was the main reader.  I'm not a big Roald Dahl fan overall.  The play was very good - it brought the story to life and I enjoyed it in live theatre format.

The show was not a musical but it relied heavily on sprechgesang (yes, like Wagner) to move the plot from point to point.  The insect characters were rather brilliantly represented in human form.  

The boys liked the show - not the best or worst we've seen.  Big Boy was better suited in age to the show.  He laughed at the jokes and enjoyed the story while Little Boy didn't "get" everything but he enjoyed what he understood.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

Home Depot Workshop

We had a busy day!  This post will only cover the morning. Stay tuned for the rest of the day in another post....

This morning we took the boys to the Home Depot for the kids workshop. This time my husband came along, which was great - he provided Little Boy the intensive help he needed and I supervised/advised Big Boy while entertaining Baby Boy. 

The project was a planter and they both did a great job!   When they finished the store clerk gave them each a bedding plant....hopefully I can keep them alive!




After the carpentry project we visited friends who were having a garage sale....I'm not convinced I need to host one anytime soon....it looked like a lot of work!