Archive for April, 2007

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Marine Life

April 28, 2007

The kids and I decided to go to work with Jeff again. So we all got up early, got ready and headed out. Last time we went with him, we got a membership to the zoo that has reciprocal benefits all over the place. One of the places that we can use the membership for a discount is at the local aquarium. This was one of my favorite places to go as a kid, so I, of course, like taking my own kids there. We arrived just in time to see the penguins being fed. Kyle really likes penguins, so this was very cool.

The feeding was supposed to begin at 9:30, so we went over and stood in front of the enclosure at about 9:25. Within a minute or two, one penguin went and stood by the door waiting for his food. By the time the man came through the door with the bucket of fish, there were 6 or 7 penguins awaiting his arrival. He had a bucket and a Tupperware type container, both with some fish in them. He handed out the fish in the plastic container first, one at a time, to each penguin. Well, some were more insistent than others and came back for more, so he would gently push them back, or push them into the water and they would back off. I had several different kinds of birds growing up but all of them would peck at us if they were angry or scared. These penguins just waited patiently, or at least calmly and never pecked at the man feeding them or at each other. Every now and then one would try to steal another’s fish, but it would only grab at the fish, not the other penguin. All in all, they were very cool little birds. We really enjoyed watching them. Penguins are probably my second favorite wild animals (after giraffes).

Erin took the picture of this poor gal. She looks half bald, but a sign above the enclosure informed us that they are simply molting. I sure hope she gets her feathers back soon, cuz she looks baaad! It’s a really good picture though…yeah Erin!

The aquarium is quite small, so the largest animals they have are Sea Lions, but they have a lot of smaller fish and other marine creatures. They also have skeletons of much larger creatures hanging up in a few places. The girls decided to have their picture taken in a shark cage that sits in front of a giant shark hanging from the ceiling.

Sarah protects Erin from the impending attack. Doesn’t Sarah look scared?

Erin shows how scary the shark behind her is!

There was a really cool tide pool exhibit there. It was about 10 feet long and about 1 foot deep with about 8 to 10 inches of water in it. The top was open and the whole thing was about 3 feet off the ground. It was the perfect height for kids to peer into it from above and for adults to look down onto it. I, being short, was able to lean against it and use my arms as a tripod to take pictures from above.

The crab in this picture is pretty obvious, but do you see the flatfish? I believe it is a Sole.

Watching this Sea Star, we were able to see the little tube feet moving. The little, tiny bubbles in the picture were created as the tube feet moved around.

I thought the coloring on these Sea Anemones was really pretty. Can you see the Sole hiding half in the sand under the anemone on the right? There were about 7 or 8 of these guys hiding in the pool. They should have had a “Where’s the Sole” game going…LOL!

In another display, there was a tank full of different kinds of Sea Anemone…

…and apparently Kyle, sticking out his tongue at his sister while I was busy snapping a picture! NOT a terribly attractive picture of him! He would be mortified if he knew I had posted it here…shhh, don’t tell him!

When a field trip of about 30 preschool aged children showed up, we decided it was time to go, but not before we saw Diamond perform for us…

Diamond is a Sea Lion, who likes to clap, nod yes to lots of things, and hide her head under her flipper in shame. The show was very cute, but the preschoolers were very loud, so we decided to go some where else.

After leaving the aquarium, the kids were hungry so we went to Dairy Queen. We do not have them where we live, so the kids find it to be quite a treat. I have nostalgic memories of going to PA with my grandfather to help him mow the property they own there and then walking over the tracks and across the street to DQ for lunch. He always got a chili dog and a root beer float and I always got a foot long hot dog with ketchup. Even though I have been watching what I eat and have managed to drop 15 pounds over the last 2 months, I decided to have a foot long dog and a root beer float for old times. It was almost as good as I remember it. Perhaps if I smelled like cut grass it would have been better, haha!

As we were finishing lunch, Erin was complaining that her tooth hurt. She had a loose tooth that was half out, but she wouldn’t pull it because it hurt too badly. I had listened to her complain about it for two days and was tired of the whining, so I decided to pull the darn thing. I grabbed a wad of napkins and when we got outside, I grabbed her, tipped her head back, and yanked on the tooth. She started wailing, but the stupid tooth didn’t come out. I decided I better leave it alone, lest someone call child protective services on me for torturing my 7 year old. Erin was really crying and yelling at that point. As I turned around to get in the car, I looked up and saw two construction worker types sitting in the front window of DQ, eating ice cream, and laughing at our little display! Good thing Erin didn’t see them, she would have cried even harder!

It was only about noon when we finished lunch, so we still had 5 hours to kill. We are members at our local science museum, so again, we can get into other science museums for free or for a reduced price. The kids decided they would like to go to the science museum, so we went there for a few hours and checked things out. It isn’t the greatest science museum, but I like it because it has tons of samples of minerals. The earth scientist in me gets excited about such things! I didn’t take any pictures there, as there wasn’t good lighting and there wasn’t really anything I wanted pictures of.

There is a really cool playground that I was going to take the kids to after the science museum, but our plans were foiled. We still had about 2 hours before Jeff was done at work, so I headed towards the park. We decided to stop at Office Max along the way to pick up something Jeff was looking for and while we were in there, the sky opened up! The forecast originally had called for a relatively nice day, becoming cloudy in the afternoon, with a slight possibility of a shower later in the day. Well, the forecast was right on! The rain sounded like a band of drummers on the roof. Obviously, the playground was out.

Eventually the rain stopped, so we drove around looking at different neighborhoods, trying to find houses for sale to see how expensive the housing in those neighborhoods is. It wasn’t the most fun we have ever had, but we did find a few nice neighborhoods and some affordable houses.

Finally, we picked up Jeff, grabbed dinner, and went home. I fell into bed at 10 pm, exhausted and achy. When Joe woke up at 4, I told him it was too early. Fortunately, he listened and settled right back down. Good thing, because I was just too tired to deal!

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Spring Cleaning?

April 26, 2007

don’t think the person who came up with the idea of spring cleaning had basement demolition in mind…

But I did! Ever since Jeff had pneumonia, he has had difficulty breathing easily in the house. It got much worse a couple weeks ago after a heavy rain and a partial blockage caused our main drain to back up. The plumbers came and fixed the problem, rerouted some plumbing, and left a mess. After standing in the basement for literally hours, checking out their work and watching them work, I started to notice some interesting things…like mold and mildew where I hadn’t noticed it before.
Let me give you some history here…The former owner of our house decided to “finish” the basement. First off, the basement has obviously had some water issues in the past since there is a drain system built around the perimeter to collect and drain any water that wicks in through the foundation walls. The house is also built on “soil” that is nearly all clay…serious, heavy duty clay that does not allow much water to pass through it. It just holds the water. Why anyone would think that “finishing” a basement prone to moisture is a good idea, is beyond me…but what do I know…LOL!!!!
So anyway, the “finished” portion of the basement consists of a raised wooden platform covering the floor and a frame wall, built about 6 inches from the exterior walls and stuffed (fully) with fiberglass insulation. The walls are then covered with plastic as a (sad) vapor barrier, and finally finished (used loosely) with ugly, old, brown paneling. Some of the walls have drywall instead of paneling. Have you ever stuck the bottom of a piece of drywall in water, just to see what would happen? I’ll tell you…the drywall acts as a wick, drawing the water up into it. Mold and mildew are NOT my friends! So here are a few pictures I took…they are arranged as before and after shots…

Before

After

Before

After

Before

After

Also After

This last picture is of the mess on the curb after we were done. Fortunately, the city I live in collects trash like this without requiring a special pick up. They have a huge claw they use to pick up whatever debris you leave on the curb. The only downside is that they usually take a chunk of lawn with the trash. It is however, a small price to pay for the convenience! Unfortunately this picture is a little dark. I forgot to take it until I was sitting here writing this post. My desk overlooks the front of the house, so I opened the window and snapped a photo. I had to lighten it severely, so if it gets blown up too big, it is super grainy. Anywho…that’s my basement sitting on my front curb.
There is still a long way still to go, but it is so nice to have gotten rid of as much as I have.

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Lots of Excitement

April 4, 2007

The last couple of weeks have held both a lot of tension and excitement. On January 15 of this year Jeff was laid off from a company where he had worked for nearly 10 years. He had been unhappy in the position for some time, but felt that it was secure and so he stayed. Just prior to being laid off he had pneumonia. So while he looked for a new job, he was able to finish recovering without the stress of a job in which he was unhappy anyway.

He found a position that he thought looked interesting, but was unsure if he was truly qualified for it. He went ahead and applied anyway and received a phone call almost immediately to set up an interview. Jeff had an interview on a Monday, they called him with an offer on Tuesday, and he accepted on Friday after some discussion of money. The company is about an hour away from our house, but the entire drive is on limited access highways, except for the first and last minute of travel, so it really isn’t too bad. Eventually we would like to move, but I have to put the house back together and square away a few other things first.

So last week, the kids and I went to work with him on Friday. While Jeff was at work, we went to play. First we visited a power plant that was very cool. When we arrived the woman who greeted us asked if the kids had a day off from school. When I told her they are home schooled, she got all excited and started giving them information and activity books. As we wandered around, we ran into a noisy class of school kids on a field trip. The kids on the field trip where getting a demonstration of a Van de Graaff generator, and each one was given the opportunity to try it out. As I was thinking how cool it would be for my children to be able to try it, the woman from the information desk approached me to see if my kids would want to try it when the field trip kids were done. They, of course, were thrilled with the idea, so my kids got to try out the Van de Graaff generator as well. Each of them thought it was pretty neat. It was a small one, so they only had a slight “hair raising” experience.

Erin got the best results, as she has the finest hair of the three.

After a couple hours there, we went to meet Jeff for lunch and ate take out from Long John Silver’s. We don’t have one where we live, but Jeff loves their food every once in a while. So he got a bit of a treat.
After we dropped Jeff back at work, we went to the zoo. I love this particular zoo, as they have a few giraffes. I think giraffes are my favorite wild animals. There is something about them that makes them really neat to watch. Fortunately at least one of my children shares my fascination with them, so we spent nearly 20 minutes staring at giraffes.

I am not entirely sure what this giraffe was doing, but the picture was funny. It almost looks as though she is talking. Their antics were quite amusing. They had recently been fed, so they were snacking on hay that had been put into holders with vertical bars, attached to the walls. There was a baby that had a trough lower on the wall, and the adults were all eating from two that were up higher. One giraffe was separated from the others by a wall that was low enough that they could reach across it with their necks, but high enough that they could not walk over it. Most of the hay was gone and much had fallen on the ground nearby. Apparently one of the giraffes was too lazy to bend over and pick it up off the ground, so she would wait for the other one to pick up a mouthful, and she would reach over and snatch some that was hanging from the other’s mouth. Then when she tired of waiting for the other to get more, she would reach over the wall into the other giraffe’s area and try to snatch some out of the holder on the wall in there. The whole time this was going on, I was trying to get pictures of the baby, but she would not take her head out of her trough on the wall.

So here is a picture of all the “headless” giraffes at the zoo…LOL!

Normally I don’t get excited about rhinoceros, however, this one was cool!

How often do you go to a zoo and see a rhino running in its enclosure? This rhino ran and ran and ran all around the enclosure. I managed to get this one good picture. I really wish I had a camera with better zoom and less delay between pushing the button and taking the picture!

The last silly animal we saw was a hyena. She came over in front of where we were standing, looked at us, and laid down with her belly facing us. It was almost as if she decided to pose for a picture.

As we were leaving the zoo, I remembered that there is a Frank Lloyd Wright house very near the zoo, but I couldn’t remember for sure which street it is on. I took a stab at it and was pretty sure I had the right one. As I was driving down the street, I was a little concerned that I might drive by and miss the house. I had to laugh as we approached it…there was a huge chain link fence around it with a large sign explaining the plans for restoring the house. I took a couple pictures, but they do not do the house justice. The fact that the sky was gray and gloomy didn’t help. Oh yeah, I am a BIG fan of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses. I am not fanatical about it…I know little about the man and whatnot, but I just find his designs appealing to look at.

We had a fun day, but were all very exhausted by the time we arrived home.