Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Squirrel Trapping

It was a four day weekend, folks. It was tiring for me. The kids ran the gamut of self-entertainment, and saying 'I'm boooooored!' and 'There's nothing to eat!!!' You know the drill. One success however was James spending hours over the weekend trying to trap a squirrel. There is an abundance of gray squirrels in the 'hood and he wanted to catch one. He first set up a milk crate propped with a stick. He put a spoonful of peanut butter inside. The squirrel went right in and helped himself to the banquet without tripping the trap. After that, James tied a rope to the stick and hid in a bush so he could pull the rope when the squirrel was in the trap. The problem was he would get bored about every 20 minutes, come inside, and in the meantime the squirrel would help himself. James would reload the peanut butter and try again. I will hand it to him. He spent an awful lot of time laying perfectly still waiting. But by the time he had been still long enough for the squirrel to come in, he would get up an adjust the trap. After a while, I was tired to dirty peanut butter spoons and just a wee bit concerned that he would double dip the squirrel spoon. I was making homemade granola bars and gave him the peanut buttered measuring cup. I figured that would be harder for the squirrel to clean off and it would be in the trap long enough for James to trap it. Well....after a while, James decided to take a break and he set the milk crate over the measuring cup and left to take a break. Ten minutes later, Katie and Tyler came running in yelling that a squirrel just stole the measuring cup. I thought they were being just a tad over-dramatic and went out to see what was up. As it turns out, the pesky squirrel actually lifted the milk crate and removed the measuring cup. It then picked up the measuring cup and ran up our neighbor's huge maple tree. So long, measuring cup! And squirrel, I've got my eye on you...well, maybe not you in particular as you are all gray and look the same, but it's your ilk that keeps digging holes all over my yard too. Be gone!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Tyler Strikes Again

I believe it wasn't too long ago that I was writing about finding a slimy, stinking mess in the kitchen trash. It turned out to be the remains of a frog that Tyler caught and stashed away when we went camping in June. After that, I forbid the capture and detainment of critters. Catch them? Fine. But catch and release it was! For a while. Fast forward to this morning. We were all getting ready for church, and if you have ever attempted to get three kids ready for church, you know it was a bit crazy. Just as we were ready to leave, a smell permeated the house so awful my olfactories will be scarred for life. Again it was Tyler standing there, looking sheepish. Actually, he was smart enough to remove himself from the general vicinity of the stank before reporting the incident. Turns out, Tyler had finally found his long-lost film canister, the one he was so afraid he has lost on our camping trip. He had used it to store a few clams and snails, for whatever reasons a five year old keeps clams and snails. After they marinated in that canister for a week, let me tell you, it was RANK! Offensive! Disturbing! Putrid! All this from a pile of sand and goo the size of a quarter. I removed the offending mess, leaving off the Hazmat suit only because I do not own one. No Hazmat suit?! I get an F for preparedness. After spraying everything in the general vicinity with cleaner, I told Tyler to wash his hands, and we all got in the car. Me, James, Katie, Tyler and the STINK. It came with us. It became obvious within 2.4 seconds that Tyler had merely rinsed his hands and hadn't bothered with that overrated stuff we call soap. I gave him some flowerly lotion, hoping it would cover up the smell until we got to church. It didn't. In fact, it was so bad that Tyler rode the whole way there with his hands held out, fingers spread, so as not to contaminate anything. Due to all the commotion, we were late to church and missed a parking spot. Yep, we would have to ride the shuttle. It was just us, and oh, like 8 other people in the shuttle bus. A friend on the bus asked Tyler to give him a high five and I told him there was no way he wanted a high five from Tyler. He kind of looked puzzled, and said OK, so I explained and everyone laughed. We got to the church and immediately scrubbed the kid down with actual soap. Fortunately, it made a big difference and a bath later got rid of any residual stink. Moral of the story? I don't even know. Don't keep clams in film canisters, people.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Assateague Island: Part Three Odd(ities) and Ends

 I am a sucker for weird sightseeing adventures. Tell me you have the world's largest prairie dog in the middle of nowhere, and I will stop to see it. (Note: world's largest prairie dog is in fact, the world's largest and most abstract pile of concrete "prairie dog"
 When I was planning our trip, I googled 'Roadside Oddities' in Delaware. Turns out it holds the distinction of have the largest steampunk treehouse made of metal, or something like that.
This thing is really cool! It is in a small little town, nothing flashy, just a giant metal treehouse in the middle of hometown America.

 I don't know if they give tours, and they were closed the day we went. It is in part of the headquarters for the Dogfish Head Brewery. It seems like a really cool company, because a) hello! giant tree house! and b) their signage was humorous which is always good. They also had two huge bocce courts in front of the brewing tanks.
 The pigeons also think the treehouse is pretty nifty, and we scared up a dozen or so from under the treehouse.

 Here are the brewing tanks, complete with funky outdoor lighting, which hangs over the bocce courts.
 Here is the door of the tree house. Oh, to have the key that opens the door!
 Alas, we were left to wonder if the inside was as cool as the outside.
 And because I stink at transitions, here's a picture of the bay side of the island! The bay side is marshy and filled with white cranes (egrets? herons?)

This little guy was so cute. A little colt out grazing by itself. I wanted to load it up and take it home, except for the whole 'wild' part. Just a small holdup!
The morning we were to leave, the sky was very dark. I figured it was going to rain so I got the fire going and started to make breakfast. I was desperate for some tea because I got a wicked cold while we were there and I wanted tea in the worst way. James also wanted toast, so I was making him toast over the fire with my fire-cooking ninja skills. It began to sprinkle and I decided it was in my best interest to take down the tent before it started to pour. About 49 seconds later, it commenced to doing just that. I packed up the whole camp in the rain while the kids sat in the car watching Little House on the Prairie like true pioneers. Everything went into the car wet and covered in sand. James' second piece of toast went from toasty to soggy but my tea was salvageable. As I was finishing the final preparations to leave camp (leaving 'no trace' when you have three kids in tow is easier said than done) all of a sudden 5 ponies came wandering in. They stood right where our tent had been, then walked right past me and over to a neighboring campsite. Those people had left food on their table and watched from a distance as the horses devoured their food.
 It was a pretty amazing end to our stay, and this was all before 8:15 in the morning. I had planned on taking them to Ocean City, Maryland on the way out but it was very early and the clouds were dark and foreboding. I decided to go for it, but driving over the bridge into Ocean City it was so dark and cloudy i was hard to see. We came over the bridge, parked and the clouds literally disappeared. It went from dark and menacing to bright and sunny in a matter of minutes. It was perfect! We walked the boardwalk, which was remarkably uncrowded since it was early. I might get flack for saying this, but the boardwalk blows anything in Jersey out of the water. The boardwalk is nice and wide, very clean and full of fun attractions. And! I didn't spot anyone walking around with the words 'Jerzy Gurl' emblazoned on their butt which is a win in my book!
 One of the big attractions on the boardwalk is the Ripley's Believe It or Not! museum. This giant tire was sitting in front. It was from some sort of mining vehicle and cost $20,000. It was so huge that both Katie and James could comfortably stand together inside the tire wall. Crazy!

The best part of our time on the boardwalk, aside from taffy and Fisher's popcorn, was when this little chicky did a cartwheel on the boardwalk. It was accompanied by a cacophonous clatter you wouldn't ordinarily associate with cartwheels. We all paused, including a couple who was walking behind us, then busted out laughing. Turns out she had stuffed all her pockets with seashells, and they all came tumbling out mid-cartwheel! She had a sheepish grin as we picked them all back up and stuffed them back in her pockets. She's a peach!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Assateague Island Part 2

 Why, yes, thank you very much, I am going to subject you to days upon days of pictures from our trip. Because it was fun. And I took a lot of pictures. Killed the old camera batteries, I did. You can see here that our tent (technically the 'rents tent) is located directly next to the dune, which is located directly next to the ocean. The video in the Visitor's Center said it is the most easterly part of the North American continent which is very strange to think about.
 Since we were so close to the beach, we could go whenever we pleased. This was our pre-breakfast walk.
 The island is a long, narrow barrier island. Imagine splitting it in half, lengthwise. The state of Maryland owns the side toward the Atlantic and the bayside is a National Park. In the National Park, you can drive on the beach and have campfires on the beach. On the Maryland side, you can camp. The nice thing about the Maryland side is that aside from a public beach when you first arrive, the rest of the park is accessible only to campers. They give you a special code to get through the gate into the rest of the park.
 On Chincoteague Island, the ponies are owned and managed by the fire department. Every summer, they swim the bay and sell off part of the herd. In Assateague, the ponies are owned by the state and are treated as wild animals. They 'live wild and die wild' with no supplemental feeding or veterinary care.
 If you have read the book Misty of Chincoteague, you will remember the story of a Spanish ship crashing off the coast and the ponies swimming ashore. Sadly, this is a myth, but the truth is interesting too. Three hundred years ago, settlers used the island as a natural corral. They kept their horses there to graze and the island provided the natural barriers to keep them safe. Over time, horses were left on the island and it was no longer used for a corral. The ponies continued to mate, and occasionally other horses were left at the island as well.
 The ponies grew in population and became well adapted to living on the island with its harsh conditions. They are not like the wild horses you see in pictures, especially the ones out West. These are considered ponies more than horses. They are not as small as many ponies, but not as tall as most horses. Clear as mud? They are also very stout and healthy looking, despite foraging for all they eat.
 When we first arrived, of course we had our eyes peeled for ponies. When we went to the Ranger's Station to register, two of them walked right up the sidewalk! It was exciting, but I will admit it was kind of disappointing. They didn't seem wild to me and I wondered if they were tame from years of exposure to people.
 After the initial disappointment, though, I realized that the horses may seem tame, but they are not. They just know they run the island and go wherever they darn well please. We did not see any running about in herds with their manes blowing in the wind. They mostly just grazed in the meadow areas and on the grassy shoulders of the road. I think this is why people think they are tame and therefore safe to approach. There are signs everywhere saying no feed, touching, etc. There is a park ranger who rides around on his bike and when he sees wild horses and people in the same vicinity, he hangs around to make sure no one does anything stupid.
 The first day, we saw no horses near our campsite. Just dogs, hot dogs. The kids even roasted them for breakfast. Don't judge.
 Our campsite was so close to the beach, away from the grassy meadows on the bay side. I thought maybe the horses didn't hang out there as much. Alas! What is that we spied? Why piles of road apples of course. So they do come here. But when?
 We didn't spend too much time pondering this because there were s'mores to make and seashells to collect.
 And sand to blow into every nook and cranny of our gear.
 The second night, the wind blew like crazy. It blew 3 of the stakes out for the rain fly, and two stakes from the tent. I was hoping we didn't lift off, and also that the kids wouldn't wake up in the middle of it. During the night, with the wind blowing, I thought I heard the sound of horses. After mental debating whether it was worth it to risk waking up the kids to unzip the window and look out, I decided not to. Can you imagine being a kid, waking up in an unfamiliar place with the wind blowing like crazy inside a tent that feels like a plastic bag about ready to take off, with horses outside the window? Not exactly a recipe for success.
 The next morning, our neighboring campers told me that the horses had come right past my tent TWICE in the night! So it was them! Which has nothing to do with this giant chicken. We saw it driving into the area and knew we had to come back. Have you hugged a chicken today? Do it! It'll make you feel better.
 Or, have you made weird faces in front of a chicken while your kid gives you bunny ears? You should try that too. More so to make me feel like I am not the only crazy person in the world.
 And this! I am not sure what in the world he was doing here, but all I can think of is the Incredible Doctor Pol saying 'We've got to push her YOUUUUUUterus back in!' in his cute Dutch accent.
 Now that I've used the word 'uterus' on the blog, lets move along. Here some wild ponies eating their lunch. This is what they mainly eat, and they supplement their diet with food left out by careless campers. I'll take the fresh meadow grass with a side of Cheetos, please. Hey, it gives the seagulls some competition.
 I love the one of the left. The coloring is so cool.
 See how nice and shiny they are? I guess meadow grass and Cheetos are good for one's complexion.
And the last picture of the day, I promise. Spotted by the eagle-eyed Captain Squatchy, we saw a pod of dolphins swimming by. He initially confused them for sharks, and I had to do a double take but they were coming up out of the water in that rhythmic dolphin way. There were about a half dozen of them, swimming in pairs and it was so cool to watch. We later saw another group in the bay near Ocean City. Apparently dolphins in the water are a good sign: it means sharks are not present. 

Stay tuned for one more day of pictures!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Assateague Adventures Part 1

 Over the summer we read Misty of Chincoteague. It was a fun book to read, and even more fun because we just got to go there! On Sunday I took the kids to go camping on Assateague Island in Maryland.
 It was a blast! Our campsite was right at the base of the dunes. A very short walk and we were on the beach.
 The weather when we arrived was absolutely amazing! The fence here is to protect the dunes from people and I think, the horses. The fence is supposed to be electrified but Tyler tried it out and said it wasn't. :)
 Some friends came to visit us at our campsite and brought their four kids. We roasted hot dogs and made s'mores. As the sun began its decent, we saw a sun dog! The only reason I know what a sun dog is is because of my friend Linda, who posts a lot of cool weather phenomena.
After that, we rounded up all seven kids and went for a walk on the beach. I hadn't seen these friends in quite a while, and couldn't believe how big their kids are getting!
They made instant friends!
Because of the way the park is set up, there is beach access only for campers. I will write more about that tomorrow. That means the beaches are not crowded or full of tanned-leather women in too-small bikinis or otherwise unsavory beach attractions. At least not while we were there.
We collected a ton of shells and watched the waves roll in.
And we found this crusty old chap, a wizened horseshoe crab who has been around the block a time or two and has the barnacles to prove it. It was alive and caused lots of excitement. We learned in the Visitors Center that they use their spiky tails not as a weapon, but to flip themselves upright again.  We also found 3 dried up carcasses of horseshoe crabs, and each kid came home with a special treasure. P.S. This time I got smart and brought a gallon ziplock for each kid, labeled with their name, to put their treasures in. It worked great!
As we walked the sun was setting and the tide was on its way out. It left these really cool channels of water, which of course drew the kids like a magnet.
They splashed and got nice and sandy before bed time.
Tyler was a man on a mission: find awesome shells!
Here are Scott and Merry Jo with their newest little snuggle bunny. He has a delightful number of chins and is quite adorable.
And here we are! Long ago, in the days of yore, when Friends actually airing in real time, and we had no kids, we used to get together and sew in my basement apartment. Until Merry Jo had to leave RIGHT NOW because Survivor was on, and DVR hadn't been invented yet. See...I told you it was in the days of yore.
Pretty soon the sky began to light up and it was the most beautiful sunset I have seen in a long, long time.
The verse that kept repeating in my mind was: The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Psalm 19:1

After everyone went home, we trekked to the bathrooms with Tyler as flashlight man and came back and crashed in the tent. The sound of the waves did a good job of lulling everyone to sleep. Unfortunately, it did nothing to keep me asleep but that's camping for you. More tomorrow, and yes! We saw the ponies!

Friday, September 05, 2014

And the Blunder of the Year Award goes to.....

I found an interesting smoothing recipe on Pinterest. It contained coconut milk (yum!!) and almond butter, with dates to sweeten it. I whipped it up and it tasted great, with one notable problem...there were particles of....something....insoluble, off-putting bits of....??? I was bummed, but put it through a strainer and got the bits out. All was good! After the fact, I read the package of dates and learned a valuable lesson. Not all dates come pitted!!! Hardy, har, har! Well ain't that the berries. As Socrates once said: when your smoothie is the pits, you probably should have pitted the dates.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

School & Reorganizing

School is in full swing and I am happy to say that the kids are doing great! Fortunately for me, I have not received a second bite from my rabid Kindergartener. In fact, the rabid Kindergartener declared school to be 'so fun'. Yes!!! In the meantime I am conducting a major organizational overhaul of the house. This involves making things disappear. Shh! The benefit to all three of the lovelies being in school is that I can take the cast-offs directly to the thrift store before they get off the bus, thus bypassing the whole 'What?!?! You are throwing this away??? I used it three years ago which means I might use it again in the next five years!!!' Tell me you know what I am talking about? These kids, they accumulate mass quantities of stuff. I can handle things like Legos and Lincoln Logs (well, not stepping on them in the middle of the night or finding them in my bed sheets) because they get used a ton, and they inspire creativity. I am so old school. I want my kids to be creative and entertain themselves without electronic devices. The stuff I hate includes: cheap plastic crap from China, anything that makes noise, anything that requires batteries, and stuffed animals. Oh, stuffed animals. I am pretty sure it is a proven fact that when you turn your back, they reproduce like rabbits and all of a sudden there are 97 of them threatening to take over the world, or at least your house. Evil, furry things. I think they may even have some connection to the mysterious disappearance of socks in the dryer and the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. So someday, dear children, when you are reading this, you will finally know what happened to Fluffy the bunny that you never cared about until you couldn't find it one day. Your mother gave it to the thrift store. And remember that time you saw that one toy at the thrift store and declared 'We have one just like that!'? Well, I'll let you in on a little secret: that was your toy.

I'm pretty sure they will turn out OK despite my ruthless culling of unused toys. My personal motto is "I will never have to pick this toy up off the floor again!' And all the people said.....Amen!