Sunday, June 29, 2014

Postcards From the Peanut Gallery Wks. 4-5

6/16/14 Natalie began VBS camp at Webster Gardens Lutheran Church.  Though we aren't members, each summer they welcome our family with open arms.  Their team is not only ultra-organized, but creative and come up with inviting, colorful decorations and fun activities to teach children about God's love. 
Each time they brought in money, they could add a balloon to the container.  By the end of the week, the kids had raised $800 to fund clean drinking water for children in India.
Natalie with her camp counselor, Caroline.
6/17/14 Celebrating 12 Years with new coverings for our 85 year old home.  We are only the 2nd owners.  The original dweller called it home for 73 years!

6/19/14 A fun GNO with my friend, Terri.  We attended a Home Depot Do It Herself Workshop to learn how to build an occasion table and I won a cool lantern in a drawing.  The free, monthly workshops are held in the store, last about an hour and include dinner and a chance to win a prize.  At this workshop there were four prizes...with about 25 women in attendance.  So, odds were good one of us would win.  But, no one went home empty handed, we were all given loot bags filled with chocolatey treats.

6/21/14 Together Natalie and her friends, Megan and Lindsay caught a combined total of 461 1/2 inches of fish at the 11th Annual DesPeres Youth Fishing Derby.  

6/22/14 Sunday evening we gathered at the Braun's house for a long overdue fiesta.  Barb served yummy Tilapia Tacos with fresh, homemade salsa.  She invited two other families to join us -- the Browns and the McCullas -- whom Barb and I met through MOPS.  I was part of a MOPS group for nearly 10 years.  The group served not only to help me through some tough mothering times, but taught me how to have a closer relationship with God.
The hostess with the mostest
The girls approved of my Tres Leches cake.
Nancy - the Baby Whisperer
Eraka and Rhys.  Rhys really enjoyed my salted pretzel caramel brownies. So easy but really good!
6/25/14  I was so happy when I received an email from the library stating that Noah and Natalie had moved up on the wait list and were officially registered for their Candy Science program. However, not everyone in our camp felt the same way...
Noah: "I am NOT going...I hate science."
But, within minutes, Noah was very much engaged and excited to participate and answer questions posed by the librarian.  They performed several experiments based on the book, Candy Experiments by Loralee Leavitt. 

6/26/14 With Noah at Camp Happy Day, Natalie enjoyed a fun morning at the zoo with her best friend, Alex.  The two share a gift for the gab, a zany sense of humor and a love of animals. We checked out the three new exhibits in the River's Edge (Sun Bear Forest, Purina Painted Dog Preserve and Andean Bear Range) and met a new edition - a 3 week old camel named Presley.
Mama, Papa and baby Presley
Something you don't get to see at the zoo every day.
I love an artist with a sense of humor.
Andean Bear Range exhibit.
The new preserve offers viewers an up-close look at the Painted Dogs.
While they didn't see the sun bear, they did find a new place to hang out.
 6/28/14 Due to the kids' bout with stomach flu followed by a series of scheduling conflicts - we had to wait nearly a month to celebrate Noah's birthday.  But, it was worth it, as this was the first time in 11 years that it didn't storm on his party day. Another first...he asked for party decorations.  Of course, he didn't share this with me until the day before his party and none of the local shops had anything Lord of the Rings.  Thankfully I was able to find a free, downloadable LOTR font and created a small banner and sign.  The result?...He was happier than a Hobbit enjoying second breakfast.
I found edible wafer paper LEGO LOTR cupcake toppers on ebay from a baker in England. The best $5 I ever spent.
Noah with his new friend, Ben.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Musings From Natalie #94

Natalie: "Mom, can you come with me to college?"
Me: "Sure, I'll help you get settled in."
Natalie: "I wish you could be my roommate."
Me: "Hmm...I'm not sure how that would work."
Natalie: "But I won't see you for 4 years!"
Me: "You'll come home to visit."
Natalie: "Okay! I'll come home every afternoon, but I won't be able to see you in the mornings because I'll be working."

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Catch of the Day

My husband is always up for a game of catch...just not with a ball and glove.

Steve's pastime of choice involves a rod and reel.  Most would call that fishing...but maybe that's because they aren't used to catching.  And, he is never more happy then when he is sharing his passion for catching with kids.  Last Saturday we met up with my longtime friend, Barb, and her kids for the 11th Annual DesPeres Youth Fishing Derby.  An opportunity for family fun, but also a time for Megan (Barb's oldest) and Natalie to defend their titles from last year's competition.

We arrived on-time and prepared.  While Steve made sure all of the poles were ready for action, Barb, had purchased one of everything from Schnucks' snack aisle.  Although Barb had assured Steve that she'd bring the hotdogs (for bait), Steve wasn't sure about using her "all beef" franks.  He had me bring along a pack of Aldi's finest - made up of turkey, chicken and pork parts.  

Thus began the "Great Hot Dog De-bait".

At 8 a.m. on the dot, we heard the call to begin.  Within minutes Lindsay was reeling in a 6.5" bluegill (caught with one of Barb's perfectly diced dogs) and soon after both Megan and Natalie had made similar catches -- though Steve had Nat use a piece of an Aldi wiener from a package he kept in his pocket. Of course this led to many jokes - namely "Is that a hotdog in your pocket?..." He and Barb spent most of the morning heckling each other especially when one of the kids caught a fish using their preferred frank.

In the end, Lindsay caught a whopping 213 inches of bluegill and won the total length award for the 6-9 year old division using all beef hotdogs.  Natalie struggled with equipment failure throughout the competition (Steve ended up chucking her pole), but still had a good show with 82.5 inches of bluegill using Aldi dogs.  But, it was Megan who drew attention from the crowds when she landed a 3+ lb., 20 inch catfish.  Steve was so happy for Meggie, but more than that he relished the fact she had baited her hook with an Aldi dog.  Megan won the biggest fish award and also earned the total length award for her age division with 166 inches of fish (4 cats and a bunch of bluegill), though she admitted to switching between the two brand of hotdogs throughout the morning to "throw the fish off guard." So, the jury is still out on which wiener performed better, but as any good fisherman will tell you...size really does matter.
Because it's never good to fish on an empty stomach...or so I'm told.
Whoever said fishing isn't a spectator sport, failed to bring enough snacks.
"Ahh! These fish are greedy," grumped Natalie as another fish stole her bait.
"Look out for your eyeballs," warned Nat as she cast out.

"This fish is a fighter!" said Carter.
Whoops! Barb cast right into Jenna's hair.
Lindsay - our fishing fashionista
Barb accidentally hooked herself. Steve had to free her with one hand while his other held onto Lindsay's latest catch.
Cooperative Catch
Lindsay shows off one of 30+ bluegill she caught...on her "lucky rock".  
Steve had just happened to put 12 lb. line on Megan's rod...otherwise she never would have landed it.

While Steve helped Megan bring in her whopper - Lindsay caught yet another bluegill.
Steve estimated it weighed 3+ lbs.
"Um, we're gonna need a bigger ruler," said the scorekeeper.
My favorite shot as it captures good sportsmanship.  While Natalie was bummed she lost, she was happy her friend won.
A good day for catching.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Postcards From the Peanut Gallery Wk. 3

6/9/14  I'm doing a happy dance as today marks the first day of camp!  Noah is returning to Camp Happy Day - a place that has not only served to keep him from falling behind in his schoolwork during the summer, but has encouraged him to try so many new things like climbing a 30 foot ladder and playing basketball! During the five week course, he'll receive 1 on 1 speech and language support, reading and math instruction, swimming lessons twice a week and weekly field trips. We could have never sent him to this camp without the generous support of Action for Autism. For Natalie, she is enrolled at Camp COCA for a 5 day session called "Best of Broadway. 

6/13/14  TGIF! Natalie had a wonderful experience.  At the end of each day she hugged her teacher, Ms. Boneau and told her she would miss her.  I was really impressed with the enthusiasm and professionalism of both her instructors. Janne Boneau, has been working at COCA for 15 years and holds a Masters degree in music and Jess Ruhlin, professional ballerina, painter and writer for Alive Magazine and Bodies Never Lie, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance Pedagogy.  Natalie and her fellow campers enjoyed showing off the songs and dance skills they learned throughout the week.

That evening, we invited my folks to join us for Webster Groves' 10th Annual Gazebo series. For six consecutive Fridays in the summer, the events offer free live music followed by a movie. On this evening, the air was actually a bit cool. Another bonus -- no mosquitos! We brought blankets and chairs, but didn't have time to pull together a cheese tray.  McDonald's is located across the street -- we made do with a couple orders of the Golden Arches finest fried potatoes.  The band was called Bible Belt Sinners - a rockabilly group with lots of personality and lyrics that really made you LOL.

Pre-party duel
All the kids loved jumping and crawling around Bob Cassilly's apple chairs. I think it would have made him happy.

     A couple of Hoopster fitness instructors were on hand to show off a new way to make exercise more fun.
Hoop Fit classes offered Thursdays @ 5:30 p.m. on the Shaw School lawn.  $5 drop in fee.

Bible Belt Sinners belting it out.
6/14/14 We had an exciting morning.  After many months of preparation, Edgar Road School can now boast to have not one, but two, Buddy Benches on its grounds. I learned about the concept back in December when I read this in the Huffington Post. Thankfully our principal and fearless leader, Dr. Retzlaff, agreed.

But how?

Serendipidiously, Mark Curtin, a former ERS student came to visit Dr. R and happened to mention he was seeking Eagle Scout status. don't say?

About the same time, I contacted my friend/Webster Groves Garden Club member, Sarah Whitney, to see if her group had any grants available.

They did.

And, our proposed project was completely in line with their group's mission.  It was truly wonderful because it offered an opportunity for the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts to work together.  While Mark  learned how to manage a team project and earned his wings, the girls devoted their time to learning all they could about gardening.  Under the direction of, Sarah, they examined the proposed Buddy Bench areas to decide which flowers would be best suited for the therapeutic gardens that would hug each bench.  They considered color, height and blooming seasons.  They selected lavender and lilac for their sweet smelling properties and velvety leaved lamb's ear along with butterfly bushes to attract a fluttery friend or two.

We even received a little press.  I hope it serves to inspire more Scouts to build Buddy Benches on playgrounds across the planet!

A heartfelt thank you goes out to the Webster Groves Garden Club without whom none of this would have been possible.  

And, I'm happy to report that the Buddy Bench movement has really gained momentum.  Today five other countries now have benches and there are more than 300 confirmed benches in more than 40 states! Christian's parents now have a website providing step by step instructions for other schools to attain a Buddy Bench. 

The Dirty Knees Club
That afternoon we headed out to Gray Summit, MO for Purina Farms Blue Grass Festival and Kids Country Carnival.   While we had been out there a few years ago for their annual Easter Village, the kids had no memory of the visit so everything was new again for them. We arrived just in time for the dog agility show but missed out on the opportunity to milk a cow.  After the show we listened to the band and enjoyed a snow cone.  Later we headed to the barn to visit a few furry friends.  We finished our tour with a tractor ride around the grounds.  Good times. 

This is one of my favorite cakes.  I love Charlie Houska's art - so bright and fun.

6/15/14  Happy Father's Day! My brother and I gathered our families to celebrate at our parent's house.  With our Dad's birthday on the 19th - we also observed his special day with cake, ice cream and an exchange of gifts.  Steve and I bought him a poker table topper and Brian taught us all to play Texas Hold 'Em.  It was a good time but we learned a few things. 1. Jack has no poker face. 2. If we had a farm...Natalie would risk losing it any chance she got!