Monday, June 29, 2009

I wanna go on THAT ride!

The ride pictured above is called the Italian Swings, and this particular one is located at Knoebel's Grove, Elysburg, PA. Read more about the park below.

The Italian Swings are pretty darn cool, in my estimation. You start out going around in circles a few feet off the ground. Then you pick up speed, the whole roof telescopes upward (taking you with it), and then the roof tilts. You, in your swing, soar skyward on one side, then you plunge back down in almost a free-fall until you bottom out and start upward again. It's really thrilling. It's like soaring on the biggest swingset EVER, and when you drop down, you get that giddy feeling like your stomach is dropping out of your body.

Added bonus if you're a boy: the swing is decorated with vintage Italian art. Classical Italian Artwork. Which means topless Italian women. Very tastefully done, of course, but naked boobs all the same.

Like it. Love it. Couldn't wait to take my kids on it. When one of my sons was big enough (and brave enough), probably about age 4 or 5, we went on side-by-side. He loved it! I could hear him screaming and laughing with delight. And at one point, he called out, "I like this ride, Mom! It tickles my PEEEEEEEEEE-NIIIIIIIIIIIIIS!"

I've never heard a better endorsement in my life.

This is one of my favorite. memories. Ever.

Okay, on to Knoebel's.

They call themselves "America's Largest Free Admission Amusement Park." It may be true, I don't know; I haven't been to all of America's Free Admission Amusement Parks yet to see for myself.

This park is within driving distance of my hometown, and I've been going there regularly for as long as I can remember. I mean, seriously, as in pre-potty training memories. You can pay for a full-access handstamp, or go a-la-carte and purchase a book of ride tickets to spend as you please. It's very shady and cool (blistering summer days excluded), and the best thing (where should I start?) is you can come and go as you please, exit the park and re-enter at will, bring your own food and water bottles in and picnic in the park, bring your dogs, etc.

In my opinion, it used to be better before people outside the area got wind of it. Back then, you could let the kids scamper ahead of you, there were no "one-hour-from this point" line waiting signs, the attendants would let you stay on the rides longer if it wasn't busy.

Thanks to all the out-of-towners, those days are gone now, but for those other reasons it's still better than Dorney, HersheyPark, Six Flags, etc. You can even bring a camper, tent, or rent a cabin. Seriously folks, check it out. Of course, if you do, then I'll be complaining about YOU when you show up and make the place more crowded. Nowadays, the only times I'll go are before the school year lets out, after the school years starts again, and evenings when it might rain, because everybody leaves early on days like that and we once again have the place to ourselves.

Ever since our own kids were capable of sitting up and not trying to climb off the rides, we've been taking them, too. They start out on the Spanish Bambini, the boats, the Fire Trucks. Then they progress to the Kiddie Whip, Moon Walk, Turnpike. It's always a huge milestone when they're old enough to power their own Hand Car, drive their own Antique Car or go on the Bumper Cars by themselves.

Definitely click on the collage. Definitely. It's too small to see as is.

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Another face of a stomach virus

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Does it get any funnier than this?

What do you see when you look at this picture? Parking lot? Threatening sky? American flags? Roadside tent? Nope. Give up? Let me tell you what my twins see when they look at this picture...

Today in our travels we passed a fireworks tent. Here in Pennsylvania, most types of fireworks are illegal, so each June, yellow-and-white-striped tents pop up all over the landscape, hawking "PA LEGAL FIREWORKS!!!" "BUY-1-GET-1-FREE" and "$25 FREE WITH $100 PURCHASE!"

These tents are usually festooned with American flags and gaily-flapping pennants, so even if I manage to get past without all the kids who can read howling for me to stop, the pre-readers also get whipped into a frenzy.

I avoid these tents like the plague.

Today, however, we were compelled to drive past one. Of course the 10yo started begging, "Please, Mom? Please can we stop?? Please can you spend the last of the month's grocery money on incendiary devices that go up in smoke in a matter of seconds???"

My usual response is, "Sure, we can stop. You brought your wallet, right?" (crestfallen silence from the backseat).

But today it was Noelle. She's two-and-a-half, as she'll proudly tell you herself. And from her booster seat vantage point, she started pointing and shrieking.

"Wook! Wook! See it? See it? Wook, Mommy!"

Gritting my teeth, I say, "Yes, I see all the flags."

"No, Mommy! No! Wook at the toy-wet house! Bwoo toy-wet house!!!" She's about hysterical with delight now.

So I turn my head, and there, just behind the fireworks tent is a blue port-a-potty.

At our church picnic last week, both twins became obsessed with the little blue houses. At first they thought it was a playhouse or another kiddie game, until I had to physically show them there was a toilet inside just so they would believe me. I have seen moms do lots of strange things, but I can't remember doing anything stranger than being dragged by the twins ("Wanna see in the toy-wet house!) over to each little blue house we passed, just to open the door for them and say "See? Another toilet," after which they would dissolve into giggles and cheers.

Then Noelle, who is still resolutely in diapers, declares, "Have to stop, Mommy. Have to go potty. Have to go potty in the toy-wet house!" (I swear this is word-for-word what she said to me.)

I've tried lots of tricks to encourage the kids to toilet-train, but sorry, seeking out job-johnnys for each tinkle is out of the question.

Some families go on national monument sight-seeing vacations. Us, we drive around and rubberneck at porta-johns.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lovin' This Summer Weather!

We had gorgeous weather today - 85 degrees, sunny and breezy. Oh yeah baby!

This is Clare and Theresa being cool, and Noelle and Natalie doing their best to imitate.

As hard as they tried, they just couldn't figure out that "peace out" thing...

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Monday, June 22, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Okay, it's official. The twins have moved on.

First it was the BabyFaith videos. They watched them incessantly.

Next it was VeggieTales. At first it was "Where's God When I'm Scared." "Care You! Care You! (scare you)" they would demand excitedly, although they didn't limit themselves to only that one. They preferred episodes that featured Bob prominently, and disliked LarryBoy at first, although they soon began to ask for LarryBoy and the Bad Apple by name.

Not long after, they began to obsess over VeggieTales' Jonah. They could watch the entire full-length feature 6 times a day, and coveted a small plastic Jonah figure so strenuously that I bought an entire extra Jonah playset on ebay just to get another Jonah for the loser less fortunate twin.

But now, VeggieTales has lost its luster. In favor, of all things, of Blue's Clues.

Since we don't have cable or satellite TV, my mother tapes VHS copies of Blue's Clues for the kids, interspersed with Toot n' Puddles, Curious George, and WordWorld. But Blue is the winner, hands down. We prefer Steve to Joe, but that's another can of worms entirely...

Tonight, the only way I could peacefully entice them into their room for bedtime was to sing every Blue's Clues ditty I could dredge up. The twins were both tickled that I actually knew the words, but "Mail Time" elicited the most giggles (it always has been my favorite). What you are about to see is probably the twentieth singing of said song, but I finally remembered to run and get the camera:

{p.s. - it's just perfect that she's also wearing a Blue's Clues nightshirt...}

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Seven A.M. Swim Practice...

... sure takes a lot out of you.

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Monday Morning Memories

Just had to write this one down so I don't forget. The twins usually wake up together in the morning, and as a unit, either a) both come in search of me, wailing loudly, or b) stay upstairs and start playing. This morning, however, as I sat downstairs leafing through a new issue of Secular Homeschooling, Natalie came downstairs alone. I assumed that Noelle was still asleep. But when I had to run upstairs to get something, she wasn't in her bed. Hmmm. That's usually not good.

So it was up to the third floor... and there she was, in the playroom, quietly playing with the dollhouse. This wasn't possible a few days ago because of the solid foot of toy debris on the floor, but I spent a few hours this week cleaning and organizing up there. So there she sat, humming to herself, playing contentedly.

"Good morning, Noelle."

"Good morning, Mommy."

"Are you playing with the dollhouse?"

"Yes." (Always "yes." Never "yep" or "uh-huh.")

A short pause, then she turns to me and asks,

" pway wif a dollhouse when you tiny wike me?"

Bless her little heart.

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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day to my Dad

I have had so much going on this week that Father's Day completely snuck up on me. Ideally, I'd like to set up a visit with my dad, or at least get a card in the mail on time. I'd also like to force encourage the kids to write letters, make cards or send a little gift. However, none of those things happened. I don't have so much as a lousy tie for my husband. What I do have is this video card the kids and I made for GrandDad.

We love you!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Birthday Clare!

Today we celebrated the first 8 years with Clare!
Happy Birthday, Honey!

Theresa, Heidi & Clare

Theresa, Heidi, Clare, Mam Mam, Noelle & Conor

Shark Tale, one of Clare's movie favorites

Mom, Clare & Dad

The Lord even sent Clare a birthday present - a double rainbow!

The second rainbow didn't show up too well in the picture - it begins at the water tower and arches up to the left.

The first rainbow was incandescently bright at the bottom.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

How does my garden grow?

We got started a little late in the season, but we finally got a section of yard cleared to put in a vegetable garden.

It's an odd-shaped section that's on a slope, which was a pain to mow, plus it gets full sunshine during the day. I didn't want to give up any of the "play" area of the yard, so it was a perfect solution. Bonus: we took all of the sod we dug out and filled in a huge bare patch, so that you can barely see where it was!

After everything was put in, I sat on the sidewalk for a while, admiring the results and dreaming about a winter of not having to pay top dollar for a red pepper.

Sitting in the warm sunshine and watching the breeze gently ruffle the leaves of these young bell pepper plants just filled my soul with contentment.

In addition the bell peppers, we also put in two types of tomato, cucumber, broccoli, squash, jalapenos, zucchini, watermelon, and celery. It's been a while since we grew anything but cukes. I'm really looking forward to tender young veggies! The soil is very ashy, so we'll have to wait and see how well everything does.

I also planted lettuce. I was so looking forward to tender, tasty young leaf lettuce!

Apparently, so were the local critters.

Look closely: Former lettuce locations.
I suspect the chipmunks. Naively, I thought they only ate seeds and stuff. But I witnessed one of the little buggers take one of the two only strawberries from our three lonely strawberry plants, and eat the half-ripened fruit right there in front of me.

This is our answer to those lettuce-munching rodents:

We'll see if it works. So far it's been 20 hours and no munching.

Vegetables are not all that's growing. That large plant to the left is some sort of hosta. I have never seen anything grow as fast as that plant did. I literally measured the growth in inches each day. To the right are marigolds and my favorite little flower plant, the portulaca (which is not yet blooming). Not only do I love the hardy plants with their cheerful, colorful flowers, I also like to say the name.



In this shady spot, I planted (L-R) impatiens, marigolds and lily-of-the-valley.
When I was a kid, lily-of-the-valley grew in my grandparents' backyard, and I used to love picking those delicate fragrant stalks of white bells. It also spreads ferociously, which is what I ultimately hope it does in this section.

These "Wave" petunias were my Mother's Day gift.

This basket was hanging on a rack at the entrance to our supermarket. I fell in love with the multicolored blooms, but I didn't have any extra spending money with me that first time. A few days later, it was still there, and I knew I'd regret it for the rest of the summer if I didn't bring this home.

If anybody knows what it's called, please tell me!

Our yard is also now the part-time home to a feral chicken. It's a long story, but there have been a few chickens living wild in our town for several years. One of them has been frequenting our yard for two weeks now. I saw it, this morning, standing outside the back fence, longingly staring into my garden. It wanted with all its little heart to come in and hunt for bugs, but I was puttering around in the yard and it was afraid to come in.

We have also acquired two furry friends.

Total eating machines.
They are technically meat rabbits, but I wonder if that might change by the time they're big enough to eat. Our children, Theresa in particular, have really taken to them. They are nearly the cutest things we've ever seen.

As for other things that grow in my garden, there's some unidentified flower bush that I believe is in the rhododendron family. It's breathtakingly delicate and lovely.

There's also honeysuckle, another personal favorite, spilling over the fence in three places from the neighboring yard. It exquisitely perfumes the evening air. When we first noticed the blooms, Clare and Theresa spent an hour standing by the fence, dissecting the flowers to extract each delectably delicious drop of nectar.

What else grows in my garden?


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Friday, June 12, 2009

You know you're a homeschooler when...

A friend's daughter put this together for an end-of-year homeschool project. A couple of my kids (and myself) are sprinkled in there.

The first interview says "You know you're homeschooled when Life Skills class consists of DOING things rather than just working on project sheets..."
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