Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Backyard

I guess it's not really the back yard ... it's more like the side yard, altho part of the stuff is in the "back". Guess I should just say the Yard, but we never call it that either, we just say Outside, but that's a rather broad term.

To say we are enjoying our country living and abundance of space would be an understatement. When we moved to the city we gave up the trampoline we had because it would take up half of our backyard. Now we have a trampoline sitting outside along with lots of other stuff and room in abundance. Of course I'm not the one who has to mow all the lawn, but really, I know Rob likes doing it seeing as he can use a nice fast zero turn lawn mower.

As I was looking around the yard some time ago I was quite impressed with how it looked homey, but how we had done it for minimal cost. Have I ever said how much I love Freecycle???? Well Freecycle helped us greatly to put together a fun place for the kids to play. Next to Freecyle I love Kijiji ... always a handy place to do some "shopping".

We manage to scoop this swing set off Freecycle this spring. Rebecca is our swinger, she has always loved to hang out on the swing. Matthew mostly loves to hang out on his belly on one of the swings.


The kids have been begging for a tire swing since we moved in. Well Rob managed to come up with a real good tire for them ... an "old" (actually relatively new, but damaged) truck tire.

Rob setting up the tire swing.

To be honest I don't know how this came about, but somewhere in the process of putting the tire on the rope I found them outside swinging on this "stick".

We did have a little mishap with the original design not being able to hold the weight of four larger persons and Rob had to go back to the drawing board to reinforce his hanging design. But it's back up and the girls can often be found hanging out on it. Matthew wants nothing to do with it.

Then there is the trampoline that we scooped off Kijiji last fall. Fall is a good time to get those summer things that people don't know where to pack away. It isn't the bounciest trampoline around, but it keeps the kids happy anyways.

The best thing out in the yard is the pool. Yup, you guessed it, another Freecycle find. We got the pool off freecycle last fall. It did not come with a pump so we posted a Wanted ad on Freecycle and received a response. We gained two pumps (and thanks to Muddy that was much needed), hosing, a box of pool supplies and water testing stuff. The only thing we had to buy was a ladder ... this we got off Kijiji ... but if I had been more patient in waiting for a response on my Wanted ad on Freecycle I could have gotten that free too.
The kids began begging to put up the pool on the Easter Weekend already when we had our first warm spell. We told them we would put it up when school was done. There was no point putting it up when they were gone most of the day, or too busy to swim, plus the weather wasn't really consistently warm. Actually it wasn't until the end of June that we even got consistently warmer weather, so after school let out was a perfect time.
The Saturday morning after school let out Rob got right to setting it up. We only filled it a foot or so that day. We emptied our cistern most of the way and then had to wait to have it cleaned out before we got water trucked in to fill the pool and the cistern.

But even with only a bit of water the kids had a hay-day playing it it. A certain black dog also thought it was lots of fun and had to be watched closely to be kept out.

Matthew warming up his feet.

All set up and having fun. The pool is only about 3 feet deep, which we find is a perfect depth for now. The girls can still have fun and swim around in it, and Matthew can stand and walk in it. The whole family can go in it and there's room if we have extras over to play. Not too big, not to small.

For the $10 we spent on the pool ... I'd say we've gotten more then our moneys worth out of it already!
(Take note of the lgreen garden shed behind the shop/garage. This also was a freecycle find from some years ago - comes in very handy!!)

I guess to give a fair perspective of the yard I have to add in Muddy's home. The dog house is a Kijiji find. Rob put up a fenced pen for Muddy a few weeks ago. He was on a chain before when we weren't around. Mostly he was loose if we were home, but had to be chained up if he got too excited when people were over or when we went away. We received the fencing from my parents after their dog died and it worked out to be a nice size pen where Muddy has enough room to still run around if he wants ... and he needs the room since his privileges of being loose most of the day have been lost. He is now only allowed loose when someone is outside to watch him. We have lost a few too many items to his chewing habits ... pool hoses and water, and then he still didn't learn and did it again along with the pool pump, jumping in the pool and chewing up the toys, my deep fryer (he nicely drank up all the liquid in it ... still hot ... and then proceeded to puk it back out all over the yard for the rest of the day), kids toys, corn stalks from my garden, really anything small enough that is left outside. And then he's always leaving "presents" for us on the front porch - old clothes, wood, chewed up newspapers, items off the compost pile, etc - we have no idea where he comes up with a lot of this stuff (our guess is the barn). The kids are learning to put things away right away and not leave anything laying around, but it's taken a few upset situations for them to really remember. For the time being he's going to have to spend a bit more time in the pen ... and we've learned ... next time we'll get an old dog, not a puppy!!

Yup, I love Freecycle and Kijiji.

All in all the open space is well loved and appreciated. The only downside is the worsened allergies that have come with being back out in the country ... can't win them all!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer HairDo

It took me a bit longer then I expected, although not too bad. Marietta's took about an hour because I tried to let her stay sitting up and watch TV while I did it. I finally gave up and made her put her head down. Rebecca's went quite a bit faster as she just lay down when I needed to do the bottom and I think we were probably done in 35-40 minutes.

Going out with the girls means we have to stop every few minutes to accept a compliment about how nice or neat their hair is or answer a question about how long it took to do their hair ... most people don't think to ask how long it stays in and are surprised that you can wash their hair with it in. I certianly wouldn't bother with such a hairdo if it was only going to last a day or two!!

On the pictures Marietta's hair has been in for 1.5 and Rebecca's for 1 week. It's great not having to worry about doing their hair. Marietta mostly does her own hair, but Rebecca does not and she has terrible hair when it comes to knots ... hence the hairdo. With all their swimming it would be awful having to constantly do her hair. The goal is to get 3 weeks out of the hair-do, but Marietta's elastics started popping at about 1.5 weeks. Lesson for next time: don't put the elastics in too tight. At two weeks I replaced some or her top ones ... it doesn't look quite as nice anymore as you lose the whole weave pattern, but good enough. So we have now made it to 3 weeks for her hair and 2.5 weeks for Rebecca's (with no popped elastics yet :)

The Sunday version:

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Quite the amazing beehive, eh!!
It really was too bad that we had to destroy it. But it simply wouldn't be safe to have such an item "hanging around" !

So I'm curious what you think ... how long do you think it took the bees to make this hive??? (and if I already told you the answer don't spoil the fun! :)

It's always amazing to see the wonders of God's creation at work. This sent us to our computers to read up about bees and beehives and how they are made. We learned about the difference between beehives (made of wax that bees produce) and wasp/hornet hives (made of papery material from wood pulp) as well as how colonies are created and maintained. We learned a bit about the work of the bees and their lifespan. It was all quite interesting and it's always a nice science lesson to learn things because you are confronted with a question or situation that you would like some answers too.

African Lions Safari

A new school means a new schedule of year-end school trips. Since the girls "new" school is not as large as their old school they are only divided into two seconds: Grade 1-4 and Grade 5-7. This meant both girls went to the same place this year. Unfortunately they were a bit disappointed that it was a place they had already gone to at their old school. I told them they could just stay home for the day then, that they didn't have to go with ...but I guess it wasn't that terrible of a deal seeing as they still wanted to go.

This year they went to African Lions Safari (the same place I went with Rebecca last year). We had nice weather for the day. Unfortunately the day was not long enough - especially compared to last year. Since we live further away now we lose more time with driving. While we still arrived at the same time (our school starts earlier, and the park doesn't open until 10am anyways), we had to leave much earlier as we had to be back by 4:30 (or was it 4? I can't remember, just remember that it was very rushed the whole day and there wasn't much relax and enjoy time ... a longer day would have been nicer). This meant we did not have time to see all the shows, but we did manage to see the best one - the Elephant Show. We missed the Parrot Show, which is also very nice. The kids only had about half an hour to play in the splash pad area - not near enough for their liking. Seemed they just go in and they had to get ready to go. It was a warm day so the air conditioned bus tour was a nice relief from the heat. I think as adults we enjoy it more then the kids as we soak up all the information they tell us and are just amazed by the characters of the various animals. The kids are too busy talking, making noise, shouting and looking around to even listen to the "boring" tour guide.

I debated whether to take the camera with this year since we were just there last year, but I just can't seem to leave my camera behind for such things and so I dragged it along for the day and took a few photos.

Marietta at the petting zoo.

Marietta found a baby goat at the petting zoo. A few seconds later she was told to put it down ... it's a petting zoo, not a holding zoo :(

Kids still love those balls. I remember loving them as a kid.

Our groups - Laura L and I spent the day together so the kids in our group could be together.

And then the animal pictures

Reindeer ... funny, until last year I didn't realize there was actually such an animal as a reindeer but thought it was just a Santa story. I was thankful to find out I wasn't the only one who thought the same. This might have something to do with the fact that it is also called a caribou in North America - not that I knew what a caribou looked like. Now I do!

The fun baboons that the kids love to watch when we take the bus through the grounds. A coupe of them decided to climb up the front of the bus too, much to the kids glee.

Ostrich - while it is not true that ostriches bury their heads in the sand, there is much to be said about their lack of brains. This ostrich was peeking at the truck ... apparently they like to do this.

This one decided it would be more fun to peck at the bus and so it wandered over and began pecking at the windows. Last year when we went through the grounds a couple of them were standing in the middle of the road ... and they decided they were not going to move.

Since I had lots of other animal pictures on my blog post last year I won't bother doing the same again this time. Except for a few more from the Elephant Show since it was such a good show.

Showing his height and strength.

Playing basketball


The weather was great, it was a nice day ... the kids were tired at the end of the day and had a good time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Boy and His Dog

I sent this e-mail to Rob on June 8th:

muddy decided to go for a swim in the creek this morning
matthew decided it would be fun to go along
neither thought to tell mom where they were going first
after 10 minutes mom called in reinforcement when Annette returned from her walk
found a cute little boy and his dog walking back from the creek, not a care in the world

Matthew really had no idea he had done anything wrong. We had never told him he couldn't go in the field or to the creek because he never had attempted to. He always stayed on the grass and he knew he wasn't allowed by the road or in the barn unless the girls were home. We never had any reason to worry about him when he was outside. As soon as I told him he had scared mommy when I couldn't find him he started crying ... his tears quickly dried up and he ran off to play. But he has never gone off in the field again without someone with him.

This was a day or two after we had decided that Muddy was ready to stay off of his chain during the day. He had been on the chain most of the day and only off at the end of the day when Rob was home. Marietta would try to let him go at times but he was too hyper and would not listen. We finally decided that maybe he would settle down a bit better if we let him loose for the day. This indeed has worked, while he can be a little much at times, he's mostly settled down and doesn't jump anymore. At the same time, if we tie him up because people are over he's accepting of this and lays quietly by his house. While there is good about the dog, his bad traits right now make it hard at times for me to remember that he has improved. I must remind myself continously as I find chewed up toys, wood, paper, gloves, towels, extension cords (for the pool), or whatever else he could have possibly found in the yard or off my clothes line on the front porch when I open the door. If there is one thing we have learned it's that we will NEVER get a puppy again.

But at the same time, as annoying as Muddy can be, I love to see the budding friendship between Matthew and Muddy. It truly is "A Boy and His Dog". When Matthew goes outside first thing in the morning he always has to make sure that Muddy is loose, he doesn't want to go outside unless Muddy is loose to play with. The two play nicely together and it's unbelieveable what Muddy will tolerate from Matthew. Matthew loves to jump and climb on him, tug and pull at him and he just lays there. They are quite the pair ... and Muddy seems to know now that Matthew isn't allowed off to the creek since he hasn't wandered off there again.

It would have made a beautiful picture that morning as they walked back from the creek. But I'm afraid I had other things on my mind and hadn't thought to bring my camera along :)

Track and Field

This year (June 11th) the girls got to partake in their first real track and field day. At their old school they did not have a true Track and Field day but instead it was a Play Day, (see previous years here and here) where they worked together as teams through various games - mostly sport related - such as soccer kick, baseball challenge, hockey challenge, sack races, waterballon volleyball.

The girls of course think Play Day is more fun. We sort of liked the true Track and Field day better then Play Day ... and there were games as well as the regular track and field events. Regardless it's a day out of the classroom, outdoors, and working as a team with the rest of the school. (While they are mostly doing things individually they are in teams to cheer and encourage each other along and to learn team cooperation and spirit. There points are added up as a team and not individually).

It was beautiful weather, sunny and warm, not hot!

A few shots:

Rebecca and the 100 meter run

Marietta doing the hurdles

Basketball Dribble - dribble around the pilons and back, each time they use two hands or lose their ball and have to restartthey lose a point (they start with 5pt I believe) and if they score a basket at the end they get 2 (or was it 3)pts.

Rebecca waiting in line for the obstacle course

Matthew playing on the high jump mat while it was not in use.

Rebecca doing the obstacle course

Marietta and the running long jump

Rebecca playing Alaskan Baseball (see rules here, it's a pretty fun game and good for all ages, but especially younger kids)

Running the bases

So as you can see it's not all strictly track and field, but a combinations of track and field and games.

Rebecca did get hurt at one point during the day. On the obstacle course she banged her chin pretty bad, but she still finished the course before we took her in to the staff room to get some ice and sit out for a bit. She hobbled for a bit but after some good icing decided to get back out there and play. Matthew decided to wipe out on the gravel a little while later ... back to the staff room for some cleaning up and bandages. Marietta made it through the day without any incidence/accidents :)

Rebecca was especially excited at the end of the day because much to her surprise her team won the overall 1st place. Since they do not post the results throughout the day the kids really have no idea until the very end who is getting the most points. Another fun day and another sign that school was almost done for another year.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Piano Recital

On May 26 the girls had their first piano recital. Marietta has been playing piano for two years and Rebecca just started this past year. I knew Marietta would like the idea of a recital but I thought Rebecca would be too nervous ... I was wrong, she was quite thrilled by the idea. Both girls played well and enjoyed it too. They each played seperately as well as playing a couple songs together.

It's been about six weeks since they finished their lessons for the year, but both girls faithfully sit down at the piano each day and practice or tinker. Marietta especially loves to play and is often told to get off the piano and go do her chores. She loves to watch the pianist or organist at concerts and has talked about playing organ when she gets older. We'll see how far it all goes, for now our main goal is to have children who can read music, understand the basics of it, and be able to play the basics ... if they desire to go further with it that's great!

Niagara Falls

Just as we were heading out the door to the RBG the phone rang ... it was our family doctor. I had called earlier that day about Rebecca. We had been in to see her at the beginning of the week and had blood work done. She had said after 10 days we would reevaluate and see what to do next. Ten days was on Friday and then it was the long weekend, so I had called Thursday afternoon to get an appointment for the next morning (as I knew she was only in for the morning). I did not want to wait the weekend out as she was getting more and more dragged down by the persistent fevers, sleeping more and more. What the kids did not know was that we also had a little get-a-way planned for the weekend and so I really hoped Rebecca would be better so we could go. This is when it was decided to try antibiotics and so the doctor sent a prescription off right away and by time we got to Hamilton it was ready for us to pick up. We gave Rebecca her first dose (a double dose) when we got back that night ... the next day - NO fevers, just tired still. By Saturday she was bright and perky and Rebecca was back!! And so we could carry on with our little overnight get-a-way plan.

Monday was was Victoria Day and so it was a holiday. Our school had an extended weekend with Friday and Tuesday also off (at least the students did, the teacher were still working). This was great because we could book a cheap deal for Monday night (the weekend nights were blocked for the deal because it was a long weekend). We still love Travelzoo and we still watch it faithfully for good deals. Mostly it's just the Niagara Falls ones that work into our budget. Many of us local dutchies take advantage of various packages. While they may make money off of some people with these packages (ours was $60 for the night, including a $45 dinner voucher and a $20 voucher to some games place), it doesn't work so well for cheapies like us. We would spend only the amount of the dinner voucher and bring food along to fill us if we're hungry in between. I bring along muffins and stuff for breakie ... so the only thing we pay for on top of the hotel is our lunch the next day (if I were really really cheap I could bring that along too:) Yup that the life of a Dutch Student! :) (I know we're not student status right now, but we still live on that mind-frame)

We arrived at our hotel early. Our room was not available yet so we went swimming for a couple hours. We had a great time as we had the pool to ourselves for almost the whole time. We did have one scare when Matthew decided to jump in the pool when no one was looking. He had been jumping to the girls and I guess he didn't realize the importance of the person catching him. He learned from that experience!!

Pushing Rebecca into the pool.

Swimming with Daddy.

My parents came out and met us for supper ... so this time the bill went over the voucher amount as they treated us :)

It ended up being extra nice that my parents were there as Rob ended up being sick. He had already been feeling "off" during the morning with a major headache and joint pain. He had loaded up on meds and seemed to do okay most of the day. But by supper time he was done and so he headed back to the hotel before we finished supper and crashed for the night.

Skylon Tower in the background. We are always amazed by the fact that it used to be the tallest building in the area. Now the area is full of highrise hotels that are taller then it. Matthew was absolutely thrilled by the elevators (they are on the outside of the building and bright yellow - click on Skylon Tower above to see a picture of the tower) and it was great that our hotel window faced the tower.

Victoria Day is usually celebrated by fireworks and so after supper we headed down to the falls to see the fireworks. Matthew was not so impressed by them ... okay, a little scared. The girls, especially Rebecca, were also scared after someone decided to set off some fireworks in the crowd, not far from us - you sometime wonder about the brains (or lack there of) on some people!!

By this time it was getting late, especially for Matthew and Rebecca who still need some extra rest. Rebecca really wanted to take the bus back instead of walking so we walked along the falls (which took just as long as it would have if we walked directly back to the hotel ... but we got to take the bus:). Matthew was scared of the falls and did not want to look at them. We did manage to at least get a couple pictures ... yup he was there :) It began to rain and get cold and we wait and wait for the bus, wondering if we had missed it. But it finally arrived. Matthew's first ride every on a bus!! He was quite thrilled!!

Lazing around the next morning ... watching TV, hanging out ... just relaxing together ... so nice!!

We checked out of our room and then waited to take the bus up town to the main attraction area. Matthew was thrilled to take the bus again.

I bought him this little bus as he was so taken by it. He sat there wait for the bus saying "I take bus on the bus" over and over.

You can't see ... but he did take the bus on the bus! :)

Up town (or is is downtown :) we ended up going to the Fun House after we found out the place we had planned to go (because of the voucher we got with our hotel) was closed for the day. A little overpriced (guess this didn't turn out to be the super dutchie holiday :) but we had lots of fun together. The kids still talk about it. The place was full of various different rooms of fun ideas. There was a room with mirrors making you look fat or skinny or tall, etc. There was a jailroom but cells were made of elasticy type material so you could stretch your way out of the cells. There was a room with huge balls (the size of the girls) ...etc. etc.

The Hamster Wheel. Marietta especially loved this one.

The boards that Matthew is walking on are both moving in different directions. He quickly figured out how to master this one on his own.

Mini carousel

Off to sea!!

Getting seasick on the inside of the boat. The kids thought this room was great and kept asking how it was built. Most of the time we were there we could not get Matthew to go in the room. He refused to set foot in it. Finally I managed to carry him across the room to the other side where he discovered there were more things to play and see yet. Then Rob managed to carry him to the table to sit down. He never did comfortably walk through the room, but with our help would make his way across it uneasily.

It was nice to get away. While it's not always necessary to go away and spend money, or even to leave home to relax ... it is necessary to get away when you have a hubby who doesn't know how to stop working and thinks it's a sin to sit down at home and just relax with his family. He always reminds me that we don't need to go away whenever there's a holiday or something of that assort ... and I always have to remind him that we need to see him and have his full attention at times. If he can learn to do that at home, then maybe we'll stay home ... otherwise we have to take him away (free or for a small fee) to get his undivided attention. I must also remind him that I am at home all the time (okay, not as often as I wish, but my main occupation is at home) ... I like to just get out and enjoy family time. It's too bad he was sick on Monday, but thankfully he was much better on Tuesday.