Monday, April 26, 2010

flowers and field trips and alligators, oh my!

It's been a beautiful spring so far, and our yard has been in full bloom! We have new purple tulips: Our redbud actually had more than 2 or 3 blossoms this year:
We also have pink tulips:
Some new periwinkle:
Several containers of pansies:
Orange and yellow tulips:
A new magnolia tree:
A newly planted lungwort (such an ugly name for such a pretty plant!):
Lots of grape hyacinth:
A few double tulips (I think something's been eating the bulbs because we've had a lot more of these in years past):
All kinds of daffodils:

A new columbine plant:
Bleeding hearts:
And some new anemones:
Also this month, Emm and Nick have been enjoying their bikes: On the 15th, I chaperoned the 5th grade class field trip to Springfield, IL. Nick and I had to get up early, and walked over to the school at 5:30am. By 6am we'd boarded the bus and we were on our way!
Once we got to Springfield, our first stop was Lincoln's home:
It was very interesting to see all of the furniture and other items that the Lincolns used:
Next, we spent some time at the IL State Capitol:
We got to see the House of Representatives:
and also the Senate (which was in session), the old Supreme Court room, and many other things. I loved all of the beautiful architecture, especially the dome:
After some lunch, we headed to Lincoln's Tomb, a beautiful memorial. We were there on the 145th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's death:

Nick's friends lifted him up so he could rub the statue's nose for good luck:
The group:
Our final stop (other than a restaurant for supper) was Lincoln's Presidential Library and Museum, which was very cool! The kids enjoyed trying out some old-fashioned toys:
Dressing up as Lincoln:
and seeing all of the neat exhibits (most of which we were not allowed to photograph):
It was a loooong bus ride home, and we did not get back until 9:30pm.
The following day, I drove over to Aledo, IL for a weekend in the Slammer! :) I had a blast with my friends there, and got a lot of scrapping done, too. The theme this time was Halloween, so one night we had a costume party. Not everyone dressed up, but some of us did:
Tammy was an angel (bwahahaha):
Jessica had the best costume, Octo-Mom:
And I used Nick's stag beetle costume to be a "Scrappin' Bug" (as in "I've caught the scrappin' bug"):
Unfortunately, my camera broke that weekend and I was unable to take any more photos. On the 24th, I bought myself a new camera, and then the kids and I headed to an Earth Day event so I could test it out. :) We were at James Philip State Park and Bartlett Nature Center:
There were several booths and exhibits about various aspects of the environment. We all liked this one, with a salamander and the box next to it, filled with teeny tadpoles:
There were all kinds of craft activities for the kids, as well:
Emm makes a necklace with a disc cut from a tree:
Ben shows off his coffee filter butterfly:
We also watched a show, Jim Nesci's Cold Blooded Creatures, and we got right up close and personal with some reptiles! Here Jim is holding Godzilla, a monitor lizard (his head perched on an audience member's head):
He walked around the room with Godzilla, and at one point, I was face-to-face with this very cool creature! Jim held Godzilla so that his head was about 5 inches from my face ~ I kept expecting the monitor to lick me with his big forked tongue!

We were also introduced to Lucky the alligator, rescued from a Chicago area water sewage treatment plant several years ago: And then there was this alligator, Bubba. He was huge. And unbelievably well-trained:
(That's Nick's leg in the picture, just inches from Bubba's mouth.)
Some small children got to take a ride on Bubba's back, and all the kids got to pet him. (Except Ben, who wanted nothing to do with the alligator, LOL! Can't say that I really blamed him.)

The kids and I also took a short hike on one of the park trails:

We spotted several red-winged blackbirds and a couple frogs:
I tested out my close-up setting on my camera, and really liked this photo of dandelions that I ended up with:
Can't believe it's almost May already!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

a major accomplishment (and some other stuff)

Earlier this week, a hail storm blew in around 10pm. At first, it was just pea-sized hail, but then they changed to walnut-sized hail stones. They were coming down so hard (and the wind was really blowing, too) ~ George and I were afraid our western windows would break. Luckily, all of them stayed intact. Some of my daffodils weren't quite so lucky (though I was surprised that so many survived the pounding!): On the evening of the 8th, the kids and I went to Preschool Family Night at Ben's school. Emm and Nick weren't real thrilled about going, but they ended up having fun! We moved from room to room, doing various activities. We started out in the Bear Room, doing a craft. The theme of the night was "Circus", so the kids made circus train pictures:
Our next stop was the Elepant/Giraffe Room, where we enjoyed some popcorn and juice:
Next was music time in the Penguin Room. This photo was taken while the kids were pretending to be elephants:
I wasn't able to catch the best part on film, however. (Thanks to someone stepping right in front of me as I was about to snap a photo.) For a song about clowns, each child was supposed to take a turn going into the middle of the circle, and do something funny for everyone to copy. Most of the little kids just stood there shyly, looking at the ground. Not Benjamin. When it was his turn, he went into the middle with a huge grin on his face, and proceeded to break dance! I think that was probably the highlight of the night for all of the adults there, LOL!

After that, we headed to the Fun Zone. The kids had a blast climbing the rock wall: Playing on the equipment:

And playing "hoop ball" (as Ben calls it):
Our last stop of the evening was the Zebra Room, where one of the preschool teachers read a few circus books aloud to the group. It was a nice event, and Ben just loved showing his siblings all around his school. :)

And now for the major accomplishment. Yesterday, after YEARS of encouragement, frustration, scrapes and bruises, and even some bribery, Nick and Emmalie FINALLY learned how to ride their bikes! They were very excited, and I was excited for them! :) Nick figured it out first. (Yes, I know he's not wearing a helmet in this picture. He corrected that problem shortly afterwards.):
Thumbs up!:
Go, Nick, go!
Seeing her younger brother actually ride around without falling prompted Emmalie to give it a try. It took a little while, but she finally got it!:

Way to go, Emm!:
I am so proud of them!!