Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer Lunches

Boogs summer lunches have not been very exciting. Someone asked me to post a few of the lunches I have made this summer. I don't have very many to post. Boogs has not been asking for story themed lunches this summer. Most of his lunches have been pretty boring. I have not taken many lunch pictures since school ended. Here the few lunches I have pictures of:
 In the ELB: turkey, Goldfish Crackers, yogurt, granola bar, blueberries, carrots, and an apple.

On the lunch tray: yogurt, blackberries, roll, ham, salad

On the divided plate: yogurt, plum, garlic bologna, Babybel cheese, broccoli, and a homemade pumpkin chocolate chip muffin.

Today I actually made a story themed lunch inspired by The Otherworldly Adventures of Tyler Washburn, The New Kid by Dylan Cole.
Boogs read this book several times. It is tells the story of a boy inventor who is constantly causing trouble with his inventions. Tyler accidentally stumbles his way into the STAR (The Society of Technologically Advanced Races) Academy. It is an intergalactic school for young beings from around the universe. Tyler makes some new friends and learns many exciting things about different planets and space travel. Tyler is able to successfully create an invention that helps his new friends. Boogs loved looking at the illustrations in this book. The author/illustrator also works in the entertainment industry. He was the concept art director for the movie Avatar and the production designer for the movie Maleficent.

School has been out for 5 weeks so I am a little out of practice drawing on cheese. In the ELB lunchbox: Tyler and his friends drawn on a piece of cheese which is on top of a pb&j sandwich, phyllopod salad, and surface of Engogia mango.

Be sure to check out the wonderful sites I link to on my sidebar!  If you want to see more book inspired lunches, click on the "lunches" label at the end of this post or go to My Story Themed Lunches board on Pinterest. I would love for you to leave a comment to let me know you stopped by.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Camping Trip Part 3

We arrived at Carlsbad Caverns National Park a little before before noon on Wednesday. Unfortunately, we just missed the noon tour of the King's Palace. We bought tickets for the next King's Palace tour which was scheduled at 3 p.m. There was plenty to do while we waited for our tour time.
We visited the gift shop and let all of the boys make a souvenir pressed penny. The boys enjoyed looking at everything in the gift shop.
There was a really neat interactive area for kids. J1, Boogs, and J3 spent a long time using this screen to create their own cave formations. This helped them identify various formations when we went down into the cavern.
Boogs crawled through the small cave tunnel several times. He said he would be okay having to crawl through something that small in the cavern.
Each of the boys took a turn posing as spelunkers.
One table had several skulls, skins, and some spelunker equipment on it.
We went down 750 feet to walk the 1.6 mile Self-Guided tour. It was a cool 56 degrees F in the cave.
I wish my photos could have captured how amazing the cave formations looked in real life.
After our Self-guided tour, we ate at the cafe 750 feet underground. The kids were ready to get back to the surface. J4 said he wanted to ride the elevator up so he could see the cars and chew some blue gum.
After eating, we still had a bit of time before our tour. I noticed a little girl working on a Jr. Ranger booklet. So, we went to the information desk and got Jr. Ranger booklets for all of the boys. When the boys found out they could earn a patch for completing at least half of the booklet, they were very excited to get to work. They were a little sad to have to put the booklets away when the King's Palace Tour began.

The cave formations on the King's Palace tour were spectacular. We enjoyed listening to Ranger Jim tell us the history of the cave. He was an excellent tour guide. Boogs was fascinated by Ranger Jim's stories about closing down the cavern after the last tour each day. Ranger Jim said,"I sometimes feel like there is something down here with me even though I know it is just my brain trying to trick me. So, I sing Michael Jackson and Beyonce songs while I am turning off the lights. It helps chase the goobers away." That statement led to Boogs starting a ten minute discussion on the death of Michael Jackson and prescription medications. It was an unusual discussion to be having deep in a cavern.
Ranger Jim had J2 help him out with a demonstration, J2 became part of a water molecule. Ranger Jim gave J3 his jacket to help him warm up on the tour.
I am so glad we stayed for the King's Palace Tour. It was really neat to learn so much about the history of the discovery and maintenance of the caverns. After the tour, the boys worked on their Jr. Ranger booklets. They were able to complete enough of their booklets to take the Jr. Ranger Pledge to help learn about and protect the natural world around them. The boys had to raise their hands and repeat after Ranger Jim to take the pledge. Ranger Jim added on "... I will not argue in the car and I will listen to my mom..." Boogs stopped repeating the words and said, "Hey, I read the real pledge and I know that is not part of it." Ranger Jim signed their booklets in English and Chinese then gave each boy a Carlsbad Caverns Jr. Ranger Patch. They happily added it to the other patches we have collected on this trip.
On the way out of the park road, we had to stop and get a picture with the aliens before leaving New Mexico to return to Texas. I would have loved to spend a couple of days in the Carlsbad area.
We stopped for dinner at a little diner called Happy's. The owner had a huge toy collection on display. After dinner, we piled in the car to drive for 5 to 6 hours. We had planned on taking the noon tour at the caverns so we could leave earlier in the day. With our later tour and dinner, we did not leave Carlsbad until almost 7 p.m. Our next campsite reservation was at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, Texas. We drove until midnight and then decided that it was just too late to try and drive another two hours to Glen Rose. All of the boys were asleep. Daphne and I were laughing and talking during the entire drive. I think we were getting a little delirious with being tired because we started laughing at the most ridiculous things. We'd spent the last two nights in tents with lightning, thunder, and strong winds. We started cracking ourselves up by listing the silly things that had happened on the trip that annoyed our children even though the trip was "for the kids". We needed to pull over and set up camp somewhere.

We checked online for the closest campsite and ended up at Abilene State Park a little after 1 a.m. Daphne and I set up the two tents with pillows and sleeping bags while the kids were asleep in the car. It was not a lot of fun setting up camp with only the car's headlights to show us what we were doing. I ended up tripping, falling, and getting road rash on my palms, knees, and foot. My toe bled so bad that the inside of my shoe became slippery with blood while we were setting up camp. After we carried the kids into the tent I went and bandaged my wounds. It started raining shortly after we went to sleep. We checked and Abilene was under a flash flood warning. There was a little bit of water inside my tent when I got up at 6, but the rain had stopped. Three of the boys woke up and I fed them. Then it started raining again. I let the boys play in the car to stay out of the rain. Then it started pouring. Daphne called me from the tent. Water was coming up through the tent seams along the floor of the tent. She sent me a video of her pushing the tent floor, it looked like a waterbed. When the rain went back down to a drizzle, we put the last two boys in the car and took down our tents as quickly as possible.
The tents were standing in about two inches of water. What a mess! The pillows and sleeping bags were soaked. There was no way things were going to dry before we had to set up camp for that night so we decided to call it quits and head home. Heading home was harder than we imagined it would be. The low water crossings were flooded. We drove through one low water crossing with about 8 inches of water flowing across the road. It made me very, very nervous to drive through it. Then we came to a second low water crossing. After looking at it for a few minutes, we decided not to press our luck. We started backing up the car to try and find a place to turn around. Another car drove up, the woman in the car said that there had been construction for the last six months to fix the flooding on this section of road. She was not very happy about the situation. She told us an alternate route to take us to the highway. We started backing up again and then four pick-up trucks drove up to the low water crossing. We waited to see if they made it across.
The pick-up truck on the left side of the street made it across but he almost stalled in the middle of the flooded area. At the deepest part, the water came up to the top of his wheel wells. Scary!
The weather was mostly cloudy and drizzling all the way home. We were sad for our trip to end early, be we had a great time in spite of a few little things going wrong. Everyone got along most of the time, the kids were pleasant in the car, we experienced new things, saw great sites, and had fun together.
This is what the boys looked like on the last leg of our trip. We had to cram wet sleeping bags into the back of my car. They survived the trip and hopefully have some fond memories of it. I know I do.

For Daphne -it is all for the kids (ha)
"They went for a walk while I am in here soaking to death."
"Mama it's raining. It's perfect."
Turn around don't drown.
"The water ran red."
They can't wear backpacks because of the crick in their necks.
Beef jerky bags are amazing!
"Cheetos drool makes me puke."
"This makes me very, very, very, very nervous."
Rain of bugs.
Caution, Tarantulas Crossing the Road
"I can't back up!"
"Why do you two gag so much?"
Watch out for mud puddles in the dark!

Daphne, thanks for joining us on this crazy adventure. I can't wait for the next one.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Camping Trip Part 2

We left Balmorhea State Park (see post HERE) on Tuesday morning. Our original plan was to go to White Sands, New Mexico for a couple of hours before making our way to our next campsite near Carlsbad, New Mexico. We decided to shave off a couple of hours of driving by experiencing the sand dunes at Monahans Sandhills State Park in Texas instead of driving out of our way to White Sands, New Mexico. We figured the kids would still get to experience sliding down giant sand dunes and enjoy less time in the car.
We were fortunate to have a cloudy day with temperatures in the low 90s. The sand was hot, but not unbearably so.
I love this pic of Boogs falling out of his sled. It looks like something I would do.
The sleds didn't work all that well. Sometimes you had to hop them a bit to keep sliding.
Here's Daphne on her first run down the dune.
We took a water break and several of the boys decided they were too tired to go back out on the dunes for more sliding. So I took Boogs and J2 for a couple more slides. It wore them out. Everyone took quick showers and tried to shake all of the sand off their clothing before we got back in the car for the next leg of our journey.

Brantley Lake State Park, New Mexico
I loved this campground! Brantley State Park made you really feel like you were out in the wilderness. It was about 30 miles from Carlsbad and there was nothing close to it. The area we camped in only had 3 campsites in use out of 25. The boys loved the shaded playground. We kept busy playing Frisbee, badminton, Trouble, hiking, and exploring the area around our campsite.
A thunderstorm with lightning and high winds started during the middle of the night. We stayed dry and the sun was shining in the morning. Boogs and I went for a sunrise walk on the trail before anyone else woke up.
New Mexico is full of "cute" little creatures. I have no idea what the bug on the left is, it looked creepy.
I found a free printable scavenger hunt list with pictures on The Creative Homemaker. I attached a copy of the list to a bag for each of the boys. The boys enjoyed searching for the items on the list. They searched around our campsite, took the bags to the playground, and then took them on our Lake Loop Trail hike.
The boys were a little disappointed that the Lake Loop Trail did not actually go to the lake. It was a pretty walk. If we wanted to go to the lake, we would have had to drive to the beach area.
We packed up and left Brantley Lake State Park a little before lunch time to go to Carlsbad Caverns. I will write about that part of our trip tomorrow.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Camping Trip Part 1

Last year, Daphne and I took our boys on a summer trip to Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas and we also camped for a couple of nights at Colorado Bend State Park. This year, we planned a six day camping trip in Texas and New Mexico.

On Sunday (07/13), we had a really rough start to our trip. It was a ton of work trying to cram 7 people (five of them under the age of 12), 3 carseats/booster seats, and all of the stuff for a week of tent camping into my Pathfinder and a borrowed rooftop cargo carrier. Daphne was planning on taking two tents but her large tent would not fit in the carrier so we had to leave it behind. It was quite a feat to get everything loaded.
It took us at least an hour to travel the first 30 miles of our trip. One of the kiddos got carsick, we kept having to pull over for him to puke. Luckily, we are resourceful gals and came up with a substitute barf bag for the car. The beef jerky bags are airtight and leak proof, YAY! Sadly, I have a weak stomach and when we pulled over for the sick kiddo, it made me sick too. Once we got that out of the way, our trip went much faster. Daphne thought it was hilarious that I had to throw up. I don't know why but Daphne and I ended up with a case of the giggles about the start of our trip. We were laughing so much, the boys asked if we were okay.
After being on the road for a couple of hours, we decided to stop for lunch. We unloaded all 5 hungry boys and went into a Dairy Queen. There was a long line with very slow service so we put everyone back in the car and told them we would eat at the next town. We drove another 30 minutes and got everyone out again to eat at a BBQ place. We stood in line for about 10 minutes then decided against BBQ. When we got close enough in line to read the menu, the lunch plates were $15 each. Those poor hungry kids were loaded back in the car and told we would eat at the next place we found. Thirty minutes later we ended up at another Dariy Queen and FINALLY let the kids eat. This of course, brought on another case of the giggles. Our boys really were great in the car.

We arrived at Balmorhea State Park around 5 p.m. The drive should have taken us a little over five hours, we actually made it in 8 hours.

Balmorhea State Park
click for link to website

Balmorhea is beautiful. It has the world's largest spring-fed swimming pool and covers 1.75 acres with a capacity of 3.5 million gallons of water. The shallow end is 3 ft deep and parts of the pool are 25 feet deep. There are a lot of fish living in the water. At first, Boogs was worried about swimming with some of the larger catfish in the deep end. He soon stopped worrying about the fish.

The boys were ready to swim with goggles and snorkels. They also had two pair of fins to share.
The water was a cool 72 degrees F. It sure felt colder when you first jumped in.
We swam three times in the two days we camped here. These pool pictures are from both days of swimming.
Daphne brought her underwater camera and took some really neat pictures. I stole this one off of her Facebook page.
The boys really liked the diving boards. All five of them went off the low board. J4, the three-year-old, wanted to be big like his brothers. He walked out to the end of the diving board then wanted him mom to pull him in.
It took the boys a while to be brave enough for the high dive. The bigger fish swam in the high dive area. Once they started using the high dive, the kept going again and again. (I didn't jump off the high dive.)
When they became too cold to swim, the boys found other ways to spend their time. J3 and Boogs followed a chipmunk around the field by the pool and watched it go down this hole in the ground. They decided to see if they could catch him when he came out again.

There were other chipmunk holes around the field. Pretty soon, all of the boys were guarding different entrances and exits. They never caught the chipmunk but they had fun trying.
There were turtles in this part of the water.
There was a canal behind our campsite. The boys liked exploring near it. They even took a badminton birdie down to the water and used it to try and catch a few fish. Guess what happened to the birdie?
It was really nice to have a large covered area and picnic table at the campsite. We were able to sit in the shade while the boys had a championship Badminton tournament. The prize for the winner was a fruit cup.
The park let you borrow a Jr. Ranger Explorer Pack. It came with magnifying glasses, binoculars,  crayons, a journal, drawing paper, an animal track identification set, and 6 guides for identifying different types of animals and plants. The boys explored with it for a bit but soon got too hot.
On the second day, we decided to get out of the heat by taking a little side trip to the McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains.
We were able to join a tour to see and learn about two of the largest telescopes at the observatory. I thought it was very interesting, but I don't think the boys really enjoyed it that much.
Around 4am on the second night of camping, Daphne woke up and noticed huge dark clouds in the sky. The two of us hurriedly threw everything (chairs, toys, towels, ice chest, etc) we could into the car before the storm hit. It was a fierce rainstorm with lot of thunder and lightning. It felt like the wind was going to blow our tent away. Luckily, the rain stayed out of our tents. I was the only one who did not sleep through the storm. The storm lasted a little over an hour. By seven, the sky was clear and beautiful.

Boogs actually slept in Tuesday morning. We were doing a great job of wearing him out.
As soon as we got all of the boys up, we packed up our tents and headed out for New Mexico.

I will post more about the next part of our trip another day. This post is linked to:
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall