Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!!!


Just want to wish you all a Happy New Year from warm Houston - it hit 75 today! But, it'll be cooler for the rest of the week.

Since we live in an unincorporated part of the county, we get to shoot off our own fireworks. Our "big finale" as Alexandra puts it, was a 140 shooter. We had fun, just the 3 of us, having a delicious dinner & snacks and shooting off fireworks. Then, Alexandra and I played a game (Scrabble Junior) and watched a movie (Anne of Green Gables The Sequel) while Scott watched some football. We stayed up until 12:30 as it gets pretty noisy when everyone shoots off their fireworks at midnight!

Wishing you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Maui: Day 5

On day 5 in Maui, we went on a submarine ride - a first for all of us. The weather was getting worse, but luckily the sub was still running as it's calmer under the ocean's surface.


As we waited, we visited the Banyan tree I remembered so well from our last visit. This is actually ONE tree with its main trunk in the center. Roots hang down in various places and in many places they've reached the ground forming secondary trunks. (I'm not sure of what they're really called.) So, it looks like a park full of trees, but it is really ONE tree. Amazing!

Here's some info from this site.
Through the years, gardeners from the Japanese community hung large pickle jars, full of water, beneath aerial roots sprouting from the banyan's long limbs. Hanging just out of their reach, the tree's roots lengthened until they reached the prepared earth bed. Once there, the light roots began to thicken, and eventually formed a series of supporting columns for the ever-lengthening branches. More than twelve decades later, standing 60 feet tall and measuring nearly one-fourth of a mile in circumference, this one tree covers more than two thirds of an acre.

Here's a photo of the sub we went on. I got seasick on the boat out to the sub and again on the sub.

video
Here's a video of the sub coming up out of the water - our first view of it.

A school of fish from our sub window.




My husband and Alexandra watching out the sub window - there was a window for every 2 people so we all had "front row" seats.
More fish and some coral.


Here's a view of our resort from our 9th floor balcony. It was such a beautiful view!


That night the winds kicked up and the waves got really high. If you enlarge this, you might see the surfers. This was the only day we saw them surfing off of "our" beach.

finally... birds!

(Photo - Carolina Wren on my new pole system - I should get my zoom lens next week!!!)

I was going to take down our thistle sock as I hadn't seen any activity in it. Well, yesterday after we got home, I refilled the regular feeder and both suet feeders, all part of my new feeding pole system. I got home from a day at the park - I'd taken Alexandra and a neighbor girl. I was on the phone with my mom and started seeing birds, birds, and more birds!!!

There were a couple of cardinals, which have been our most frequent visitors. And about a dozen sparrows. But, I also had 3 American Goldfinches on the thistle sock!! Our first ever!! And, we had a black-capped chickadee come in and grab a beak full a few times - another first!!! Then, we had a red-bellied woodpecker come in several times. And, a mockingbird who chased everyone away except for one brave sparrow.

I decided to go out and take some photos. I got one of a finch - I'll have to download it later tonight. And, I could see the woodpecker next door. But, everyone left. I wish I would have tried some photos through the door first! Anyway, I'm so excited! Now, to buy that zoom lens....

Maui: Day 4

Ok. I'm going to try to finish up posting about our trip to Maui! It seems like a long time ago, and it wasn't even a month ago!

This is Alexandra and her new friend (a Webkinz), Katie. They are in front of the pond at our resort. You can see some of the flamingos in the upper right.



We enjoyed watching as the resort got decorated for Christmas! We actually watched some of the chefs as they made this gingerbread village. It's a lot fancier than our little gingerbread house!

I missed a lot of great shots of the sky, but we really enjoyed watching the clouds, sunrises, etc. (Somehow, I don't think we ever caught a sunset - it was usually quite cloudy by evening.)



On this day, we ate seafood at Bubba Gump's. We were right on the oceanfront and saw some kids at the next table leaning out talking about crabs and how they could climb right in the window. We looked out our window and were surprised to see several crabs at the water's edge!

By the time we finished eating, it was storming and they closed our windows. We had to walk through flooded streets to get to the car (which my husband went to get for us as it was several blocks away. But, we still had to cross 2 streets.) I've never been able to wear flipflops, but thankfully I finally found a pair that would work just the night before! I put them in my bag that day and changed into them before we went out into the flooded streets. It sure saved my sandals! And, I had to wade out in the street to catch Alexandra's flip flop which washed off her feet. I even had to stop cars at the intersection. What a sight!!!

There was a free whaling museum just a short walk away from our resort and we went there twice. This was my big learning event of our trip. I read a book about whaling and went slowly through the museum and so did Alexandra. It's an incredibly fascinating part of our history and I'll have to share more later.

These are cut up "sheets" of blubber they call Bible sheets.

This is a model of a whale's skeleton - unfortunately, I've forgotten what kind! (I think it must be a right whale or a sperm whale - I'll try to figure it out.)

Friday, December 28, 2007

I'm Back!!!

Alexandra and I got home just a few hours... after being gone for 2 whole weeks! We spent the time with our families (on both sides) in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. While the time away was wonderful, it is so good to be home!!! I hope to catch up on some blogging tomorrow. And some blog reading, too!

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

A 1 Corinthians 13 Christmas

I found this over at On Our Journey Westward. What a great reminder of what is truly important as we celebrate Christmas and the birth of our Savior.

Love - 1 Corinthians 13 Style

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights,
and shiny glass balls but do not show love to my family, I'm just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals,
and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime but do not show love to my family, I'm just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home, and give all that I have to charity but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad of holiday parties, and sing in the choir's cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tired.

Love doesn't envy another's home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn't yell at the kids to get out of the way.

Love doesn't give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can't.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust. But giving the gift of love will endure.

Author Unknown

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas Gingerbread Tree


We decorated this Christmas tree the other night with Nana and it was easy and turned out so well! We will definitely be doing this again. It's a LOT easier than a gingerbread house and is so festive!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Geese & Ducks

For the past 2 days, we've went down by a creek here in Kansas to look at the geese and ducks. There are hundreds of Canada geese on this one little stretch of creek and this is definitely a site we don't see in Houston! There are also a few dozen ducks - mainly Mallards, but some other kinds, too.

These geese were swimming towards some people to be fed. We took our own bread today.

This chunk of the creek is still frozen. In fact, I guess that might be why the congregate here - there is ice to get out on and they can also get into some unfrozen water.

Here's a male Mallard and another beautiful duck that I think looks kind of like an alibino Mallard, but I know it isn't. There were actually several of these kind. Anyone know their ducks? I don't even have my bird book to look it up.
video

Video of the NOISY geese.

video

There were 3 geese that were a different species, though I don't know what kind. Anyway, they were really honking at us. They followed us around on the ice, too. And, it was funny to see them "ice skating." (Oh, and check out the green "splatters" on the ice. Wouldn't want to be walking on that - even if it could hold me!)

Math Fun and Christmas Fun

Robin over at martinzoo has a page about their current Christmas unit. We were thankful for many of the links she provided and used some for our own fun. Check out her site as she has many more links!

MATH:

CHRISTMAS FUN:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Snow!!!

Here are some photos from when Alexandra played with her Nana and Papa in the Kansas snow on Sunday.
Just getting started... smiling for dear old mom and her camera...

Papa is helping Alexandra to get that beautiful "snow look"

Covered in snow... and red cheeks, too...

video

A little snow fight with Papa...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Kleb Woods Nature Preserve

Well, we're already in Kansas for the start of our Christmas time with our family. We got her last night and Alexandra got to play in a few inches of snow, which is a rare treat. We will continue to do school this week since we missed a week and a half while on our trip to Hawaii and then "recovering" - unpacking, laundry, jet lag, etc. I'll continue to post from here, but I'm unsure as to whether or not I'll be able to post any photos.


On Friday, our group went on its monthly Nature Day to a place called Kleb Nature Preserve. This was a home of a German farmer, Elmer Kleb, who died in 1996 at the age of 92. We had to wonderful leaders, and I thought I'd just copy and paste the "article" I posted to our group about the trip:

We really had a wonderful time at the Kleb Nature Day Friday. In fact, it was one of the best Nature Days I've attended!


Fred Collins was a great nature guide. We went on a short (in distance) 1 hour walk with him. He was surprised at how little ground we were covering, but we were making so many finds! And, he was so good at letting us take the lead.


He started the afternoon by having the kids fill out a paper listing the current conditions - time, temperature, cloud cover, etc. Then, we went on our walk looking for biodiversity. We were recording each species we saw - whether plant or animal (mainly insects and spiders) - and then we were to count them and compare that count to another count. (We were planning on doing a second walk that day, but the day became long. So, those who went can either do their backyard or some other place to make comparisons. )


We started out mainly noticing plants - trees, weeds, mushrooms. Besides the mushrooms, he knew all of them and could even tell us stories about a lot of them! For example, he told us about Yaupon holly, alix vomitoria. This plant was "discovered" by Ponce de Leon when he went to an Indian ritual. They were brewing this plant into a tea and drinking many cups of it until they were vomiting. According to Wikipedia, it wasn't the tea itself causing the vomiting, but either the large quantities they were drinking or it was a learned behavior. Anyway, that's how the plant got its name. He also identified Yankee Weed for us, which he says got its name because it was "good for nothing." (And, yes, I'm a Yankee.)


Then, we started noticing spiders and insects. Again, he could identify most of them. We had some great finds - daddy longlegs, a sulfur butterfly, a long legged spider who had a fly he was preparing to eat, baby millipedes, a "baby" walking stick (that kept curling its tail like it was a scorpion!), a "baby" praying mantis... Anyway, there were just LOTS of great finds!!! I think it really helped that we were walking very slowly and really searching for insects and plants that we hadn't seen yet.


After the walk, we went inside where one of the moms had printed off coloring sheets of cardinals and roadrunners. We passed around bird books so the kids could see what they looked like. And, the nature center fed us a snack of apple juice, cookies, and muffins!


Then, it was back outside to go on the tour of the homestead. Ms. Linda was another great leader and was full of fun and interesting stories and laughter! She even demonstrated some German to the kids. We got to look at a lot of the old horse-drawn farm equipment that Mr. Kleb used, and hear fascinating stories about this man.


It was a great day and I believe I'll start taking our nature walks slower and carrying a clipboard, as we did, to list all of the species we see. I think this will help us to notice more or God's fascinating creation!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

"new" bird sightings!

Since we only started birding last spring, this is our first "winter" to identify birds! And, we've had 3 new types of birds this week! Today, we identified two of them, but still haven't figured out what the third type is yet.


We have a yellow rumped warbler - see photo, which is too far away, but the best I could do. I'm looking at a new camera with a zoom lens for Christmas. My husband can use my not-so-old camera sometimes, and I'll probably continue to carry it around in my purse a lot. I'll save the "bigger"and "better" camera for birding in my backyard, nature trips, and other such things.
The second bird I haven't gotten a photo of yet. It's a titmouse! He is SO cute! And, I believe it is a black-crested titmouse, not a tufted titmouse. I'll have to check better next time I see him/her.
Anyway, Alexandra and I are really enjoying the birds. We installed a new bird-feeding pole with 4 bird feeding stations 2 nights ago. And, today, we put peanut butter and a bagel and covered it with bird seeds.
So far, the squirrels can't get to our feeders. Hopefully, it stays like that! (And, the neighbor's cat can't get to them, either!!!) We saw a little squirrel standing on her tip-toes under the feeder smelling the food. We felt sorry for her and set her out a plate of nuts and bird seed. She ate all of it except the peanut butter. :-)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gingerbread House


I know I'm way behind on all of the Christmas things I should be doing... buying presents, wrapping gifts, sending out Christmas cards... but I want to make Christmas memories with Alexandra. I want this to be a fun season. So, we turned on some Christmas music and spent the evening decorating a gingerbread house. It fell apart several times before we got it to stay together. It was lots of hard work! But, worth it. :-) (And, of course, we had a few samples along the way.)
I also tried some Horizons organic low fat egg nog - and it was great!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Winter Math Fun

We've been having some fun with math this week using some things I've printed off from Mathwire. We printed off some little gingerbread men markers to play multiplication bingo. (These little men were actually for a different math game we played, too.)



And, today, we colored this gingerbread house using coordinate graphing.



Mathwire has LOTS of fun math games for elementary kids, so check it out!

Maui: Day 3

On Day 3, we drove up the volcano, Haleakala. It was actually windy and rainy at our resort, but it was sunny... and cold... on the volcano. The crater is at a little over 10,000 meters and we passed through the clouds to get to the top.

Above is a photo of a silversword plant. This plant was near extinction in the 1920's and is now protected. It is found only in Maui in the Haleakala National Park. The plant only blooms once in its life, usually in June or July, and then it dies.
Above is a silversword that has already bloomed.


This is a photo of our family at the rim of the crater of Haleakala. The crater is huge at about 7 miles across.

The crater is dotted with numerous cinder cones. You can actually hike down into this area, but we didn't. And, many people get up at about 4 in the morning to drive up the volcano and watch the sunrise. But, we preferred to sleeep in.

Alexandra took part in earning her first Junior Ranger badge, which you can earn after you turn 7. When she handed in her workbook with her answers, which we all learned from, the Park Ranger spent about 10 minutes going over her answers with her and discussing things with her. It was a great learning experience. She even took a pledge to protect wildlife, etc, when she was done. Then, the Park Ranger announced that they had their newest Junior Ranger and the 20+ customers applauded.

Here's Alexandra with her Junior Park Ranger badge.

That evening, we watched a wind surfer. It was amazing. He would travel so fast and go so far out! The first time, I was worried that he couldn't make it back. But, next thing I knew he was zipping back in towards shore. Then, back again out into the ocean. What a fun ride!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Maui: Day 2

On Day 2 in Maui, I went SCUBA diving for the first time ever! My time started with a lesson in the pool where we learned about all the equipment. We also learned what to do if our mask filled with water, if we lost our mouth piece, if our tank ran out of oxygen... all those scary things. Then, we tried it out in the pool. This was the same pool Alexandra was swimming in - well, she was around the corner. (That's me on the left in profile.)
We then put on all our gear and our tanks and walked the short walk to the beach. We got in the water, inflated our suits, got on our back and put on our flippers. Then, we swam out deeper. The deepest our dive went was 25 feet.
I was kind of disappointed that I hadn't thought to bring our underwater camera, but I was also grateful I didn't have one more thing to worry about. I was actually quite nervous and wasn't sure I could do this! But, it all worked out fine and I will do it again any time I get the chance! I wish my guide/photographer would have taken more photos (he only used 12 of 24) and especially taken more of the coral, fish, etc. But, I'm grateful for what I have! (And, I'll just have to go diving again!!!) Above is some coral. We collected 3 nice size pieces of this white coral on the shore. We didn't see any shells - just coral.


Me with a large anchor. The instructor said a boat had found this deeper and they'd brought it in closer. I'm not sure if it was specifically for the divers or what, but I enjoyed seeing it. It is covered in coral and possibly other things.

Another photo with the anchor.

A photo of just the anchor - you can see the coral growing on it.

I meant to look this up, but I think I'm holding a sea urchin. It was fat and puffy, but hard and bumpy on the surface. The instructor gently picked it up and handed it to me and I was impressed with how he put it back exactly where he found it.
I was amazed at how the only thing you hear while you're diving is your own breathing. (It's actually quite peaceful.) Well, actually twice I heard myself give out a muffled yell. :-) Once when we spotted the sea turtle and once when I thought I saw an eel, but it wasn't. Both times I felt kind of silly as no one could hear me. And, it's a little frustrating when you can't get anyone's attention to show them something, like a neat fish I saw.
Here's me with the sea turtle! That was the coolest thing I saw and it actually happened just minutes into the 45 minute dive. I actually got to pet him! (Wish that would have been in the photo.) He was covered in green algae or something. Just a really neat experience!!! In fact, my souvenir for our trip was a carved sea turtle.

Me again on top of the coral reef. There was lots of coral everywhere we swam. Besides coral and the sea turtle, I saw lots of fish, though none bigger than a foot or so. The colors were beautiful as we weren't very deep. I also saw lots of sea urchins, though very different from the one I'm holding. Most of them had lots of long spikes and they were hidden within the coral. There were beautiful colors - purple, red... I wish I had photos!

My instructor/photographer motioned for me to make this sign. :-) (If you enlarge the photo, you can see a little black fish with a white tail under my belly in this photo.)

Me again. I wasn't sure what to do as you really can't smile. :-) (In this photo, you can see some more colorful coral in the foreground.)

Me in the front with my 2 diving buddies in the background. They were from Seattle, I believe. He'd went diving once before but it was her first time, too.


The rest of the day we spent on the beach. This was only our 2nd day and our last day of nice weather, though we had some nice weather moments. Besides running in the waves, Alexandra and I spent some time making sand art. The sand is just perfect for making sand art. I even taught Alexandra how to make a tunnel in the sand - something she'd never done before. (This is a photo of my starfish.)
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