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Archive for September, 2011

Today as I was trying to write about deep things, I kept being interrupted by little girls wanting to play with baby dolls. “Mama can you put this baby in my tummy…on my back…ergo…pretend ergo…blanket…bag…” Then the 1yo would motion and grunt for me to help her get the pacifier in the doll’s mouth or the sewed-on hat off the doll’s head or the doll dress off another doll. After about 17 births and 47 outfit changes the requests turned into, “will you wrap me like a baby?” “And me! And me!”  And the 1yo would grunt and adorably find a blanket to hand to me too.

I started off hesitantly and not too enthusiastic as I wrapped and re-wrapped dozens of times. If you think swaddle wrapping a newborn can be a lot of work, wrapping 4yo’s and toddlers is a full-body workout and I’m already sore from my “real” workout today! But, slowly as I loosened up on my desire to get back to my writing and began to get into the playful spirit myself, it became a whole lot of fun for me too. I even got some great shots of smiles and sisterly affection to help me remember.

I have to pause sometimes and remind myself that this is so good for us. After moments spent connecting like this, we all just feel better. It somehow resets strained relationships and allows the communication to flow smoothly. These moments are gifts and I hope they keep coming!

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We love to draw with chalk. Our courtyard is covered and semi-permanently stained with many, many colors of chalk. Several weeks ago, we drove up to Redondo Beach to check out their Chalk Festival. I had only heard about it the day before, so it was too late to register to have the girls participate. When we arrived, we walked right by, or would have walked right by, the arcade. My husband seemed as drawn in as the girls. They walked around for a minute and then the girls took a ride on the little merry-go-round. They bopped some frogs and then we escaped.

When we found the Chalk Festival, there were still plenty of amateur/family entries available and the organizers easily talked us into participating. We were handed a registration form and a bag of pale chalk. The theme was “the earth” and we took it pretty literally. Surrounding our beige and blue planet, however, were fairies, hearts, dinosaurs, other planets, a dolphin (I think) and a pink house. Deep stuff. If we could have explained it, we wouldn’t have had to draw it folks.

Even the baby got into it.

We were sandwiched in between two professional artists who were planning on spending the entire four available hours to complete their drawings. We took away a few things from watching them work: gloves, grids, starting in the middle and (the most exciting discovery for me) pastel chalk! I had only ever seen oil pastels. I had no idea chalk pastels existed. I still haven’t made it to the art store to pick some up. I think I might try to do that before we leave on our long trip.

You can kind of see one of our neighboring artist’s gridded square in the picture below. And there I am smudging Baja. 

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Horses It Is

Our 4yo loves horses. I’d like to be able to find ways for her to be around them more often. I plan on looking into local stables, but since we will be on the road for a while, the next month or so, we’ll just have to keep our eyes open for opportunities as we go.

We went by a stable on our way home from Pinecrest Lake last week where the older two girls were able to ride. Even though she was able to be on the horse for an hour or so, our 4yo was crying when we had to leave. She still talks about Susie-Q being her best friend and she makes sure to let us know how much she misses her.

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On our way up to Pinecrest Lake a couple weeks ago, we saw a sign right on the side of the road for “The Fossil Discovery Center” in Chowchilla (19450 Road 21 1/2) off highway 99. We were tempted to pull Classy off the freeway and go right then, but some of the girls were napping and I hesitated a moment too long. We looked it up on the iPad and discovered that they opened the center less than a year ago. It is built across the street from the Fairmead Landfill where fossils were discovered by a landfill employee back in 1993. The first of the fossils was a 500,000 year old Mammoth tusk that had been burried 35 feet below the surface of the ground.  A year later, the San Joaquin Valley Paleontology Foundation was formed and since then, Fairmead Landfill and Paleontologists from the center have been working together to excavate hundreds of bones from prehistoric animals including ancient horses, camels, giant sloths, and Columbian mammoths. A lot of this information is not available on their website yet. We ended up visiting the center on our way home (that’s how I actually know all this, ya’ll). The best resource, in my opinion, on their website is the video page.

On our way home once we had internet again we looked up the hours for the center. We realized then that we were still about 2 and a half hours out and the center would be closing in exactly 2 and a half hours. My husband set the cruise control a little faster than our optimal mpg speed (still well under the speed limit) and we arrived right as they were about to lock the door. Blake, the friendly tour guide/paleontologist let us join in on the end of the tour in progress, so we did get to see a good deal of what they have to offer. We are realy looking forward to going back and spending more time there. The highlights for me were getting to talk to a real live paleontologist and see actual fossils. I know they are all over the place, but they still make my heart beat faster.

This site is one of the largest middle-Pleistocene fossil beds in North America. Fossils have been found over more than 14 acres at depths of ten to sixty feet. According to Robert Dundas, a vertebrate paleontologist at Cal State Fresno, “There’s no indication of fossils running out any time soon. I don’t think anyone knows how big the site really is.” Seriously makes me giddy.

Our 4yo and the baby walked through the tour with us and our 2yo kept herself entertained by the table height rolling sand box with plastic dinosaurs and cave men and women figurines. I have to admit the juxtaposition of the humans and dinosaurs was a little too reminiscent of all the creationism of my past and made me a little uncomfortable, but I reminded myself that she often has Strawberry Shortcake play right in the midst of her elephants and giraffes and this to her is just as fantastical. Just about then she said something about the dinosaurs looking for worms for food and I noticed that their heads were buried in the sand like ostriches. She dug around them with her plastic blue shovel that she grabbed as we had hurriedly exited the RV, saying something to the likes of, “have to bring it to dig up fahw-sools.”

Our 4yo liked the fact that she could pick up fossils of giant shells and a few large bones.There were also coloring pages for the kids. Blake, our guide, told us it was fine to take them with us, so the girls enjoyed coloring them in their car seats for an hour or so after we left. I enjoyed studying the folding timeline of the ages that we picked up in the gift shop.

I don’t know much about it, but there is a mock dig program, that I believe is geared towards kids. Its $4. It might be fun, but I want to see a real dig! The center is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9am to 4pm. Its $8 for adults, $6 for kids ages 4 and older (with discounts for students, seniors and military).

I definitely recommend this if you live relatively near or if you are travelling along the 99.

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To our 4yo, camping means bead collecting. Someone must have broken a necklace (or two) in one of the campsites we stayed in at Yosemite over the summer. We kept finding bright colored beads for days. A bright green bead even ended up in my nephew’s nose and had to be fished out by a doctor at the local clinic with a specialized object-in-nostril extracting tool.

When we went up to Pinecrest Lake last week, our daughter let us know before we got there that she planned on collecting more beads. To my surprise, we did end up finding a handful of actual beads, but we also found a whole lot of these small round, brightly colored balls. I think they must be from some sort of pellet gun or something. 

Despite our warnings, on our last night at Pinecrest, our 2yo somehow managed to get one of these little bead-ball things in her nose. Fortunately it didn’t make its way too deep and we were able to suck it out ourselves with a clean flexible sippy-cup straw.

Along with beads and tiny balls, we also found a lot of quarters, dimes, pennies and nickles and our 2yo was fascinated by the little round cap gun “rings” she kept finding. Each of the girls had their own little zippered pouch in which to keep their collections.

So far this “collecting” has been taking place solely on RV trips, but I imagine this sort of  collection saving will start happening more often at parks and the beach. 

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Just because we don’t do “school” doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy some of the things that have been made for school. Come September, all the larger discount stores have dollar workbooks for various subjects that the girls love to play with. Maybe its the opportunity to use dry erase markers or maybe it has more to do with the little pictures of objects for each letter that they enjoy. Either way, they get very excited about them and our 4yo loves to trace the letters. Last year she enjoyed tracing and writing printed letters and this year she meticulously traced a page of cursive letters. We laughed at how the ‘Q’ looked like a 2 (so silly!) and then she drew a heart and her name and another heart and her sister’s name. Our 2yo wrote an upside down uppercase ‘A’ an an ‘H’ (that ‘H’ may have been upside down too). She’s written them right-side up for a little while, but has recently switched to writing a lot of her letters upside down. We tried out several of the picnic tables and a bench or two while we were on a walk one morning at Pinecrest Lake.

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Two-year-old’s Photography

At a wedding we attended over the weekend, our 2yo grabbed the camera and took a few closeups. Its fun to see what she sees. 

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