Monday, October 31, 2011

Swashbucklers & Buccaneers

It seems like Sunday after church is our time to do things as a family.  Bob and I like to spend Saturday doing nothing (like mowing the lawn, playing with the kids, and laundry), but on Sunday's we get up and go to church, and once the kids are in the car, the hard part of leaving the house is over.  Last Sunday, Matt & Maggie invited us to come with them and Miss Ella to the Pirate Gathering in St. Augustine.
Having been to St. Augustine recently, Bob and I loaded up two strollers and were ready for action.  It ended up being a small field with lots of stuff for the kids.  The first thing we saw were the bounce houses.  It ended up being a pretty good deal - $5 for all you can jump.  Bob and I were both afraid that  the money would be wasted on Ryan, but after a few in and outs, he decided to bounce.
Ry really liked the Ocean Adventure bounce house.  It was open at the top and had lots of things to climb on, so it was right up his alley.
James, as always, could't be coaxed out of the bounce house for anything, although, when I told him it was time to go and he needed to come with us, he hopped right out.  I was truly impressed at how compliant he was.
After leaving the bouncing houses, we headed over to the ponies.  This is the face of James learning that we would not be riding the ponies.
Miss Maggie made it all better by purchasing some pony feed and passing it out.  The boys and Ella really loved feeding the ponies.
 Ryan kept trying to feed the working ponies as opposed to the two who were sitting in the pens nearby.  I assume it was his shameless ploy to entreat them to give him a free ride.
Michael also enjoyed feeding the ponies.  I was a little concerned about him trying to hop the fence and get some pony action.  This is the hat he must wear when riding his horse at home, so since he was wearing the proper hat, I was concerned he was not going to leave peacefully.
Ella's got her choice of boyfriends, but here Ryan applies for the job.  They are only a couple of months apart in age, but Miss E is already learning how to use the potty.  I keep asking the boys if they want to poopoo in the potty like pirates (I've even bought pirate hats to use like it says to in our book), but so far, our forays onto the potty have been either post peeing in the tub (Ryan mostly) or when they just feel that the toilet needs a good flushing.  I'm sure it'll come in time.  I'm not too worried about it, but since Michael still needs to be taped into his diaper to prevent poop disasters and reckless peeing during nap time, I think we still have a ways to go.
Of the boys, Ryan is by far the most cautious.  He doesn't really approach strangers and is pretty shy.  James, on the opposite end of the spectrum, will go up to just about anyone, grab their hand and try and lead them around.  Usually, he is so cute that he cons whomever he's chosen as a victim pretty easily.
Matt & Maggie got the boys a pirate sword to get them in the mood for some swashbuckling.  They loved them, and before we even made it to the gathering, a couple of swords had their tips and handles well chewed.  Here, the kids paused to watch a three piece pirate band and some very mobile belly dancers.  I wish I could have gotten a picture of the talent, but trying to stage a photo op is just not something that happens very frequently in our on the go family.
After the roving band of musicians, we headed to the tent to watch the pirate band play Scottish tunes.  It made me wish that John & Lainie could have been there.  I enjoyed the band.  I can't speak for the rest of the adults (of the four of us, I'm probably the only one whose musical knowledge is limited to the spectrum of George Strait to U2 and who has only recently been able to identify the specific sounds instruments in a rock band make - don't even attempt to get me past the tubas in other types of music).  I think it ended up being a good thing we only stayed for a couple of songs, because on the next peppy tune, I was going to drag my boys on the dance floor and show them a good time.  Sadly, Bob doesn't even pretend to want to dance with me, so I've got to train the next generation up right.
Ryan and I listening to the music.  He loved watching all the pirates, and the occasional cannon fire didn't seem to bother him.
Michael loved his sword.  He spent lots of time swishing it about in the general direction of his brothers heads.
Michael and Ella show us how to jump, jump.  Michael was fascinated by the mesh doors that kept the kids from falling out of the bounce house.  He might just grow up to be like his Grandpa Robin and spend some time as a bouncer.  Of course, now that I've typed that I might want to reconsider.  It probably would not mean that he had chosen a proper path to stratospheric success if he's a bouncer at some night club despite the added benefit of making his grandpa proud.
Maybe he'll be a trainer at Sea World.  Although, according to the local news, that is a pretty dangerous career path as well.
Perhaps, he'll move to Somalia and become a pirate.  Hmm, not sure I like that option either.  I think those automatic weapons might be too much temptation for my toy terrorist to handle.  Guess that means he's back to lawyer like Uncle Zach or some such "respectable" profession.
Ryan and Miss Maggie check out the pirate atop the bounce house.  The straight up bounce house is so 1990.  Our boys like the ones with the big slide.
Ella struts her stuff down the slide.
Michael sets his cap at a jaunty angle and tackles the slide with panache.
James was a slide maniac.  He kept flying down like a madman and going back for more.  I think he'd still be sliding if at all possible.
Ryan absolutely refused to slide.  He did try a couple of times to go up the ladder but the bigger kids and the movement in the bounce house gave him pause and he climbed back out.  I convinced Michael to help Ryan go up the slide, but by the time we made it back to the bounce house and the staircase, Ryan had fled to the whale and octopus inflatable.
At the end of the day, we had a parking lot picnic complete with juice boxes, granola bars, and costumes.  I love how James and Michael are holding hands.  They caught up with Ryan to hold his hand too, but by that point I was  too busy passing out beverages and costumes to capture it on memory card.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pumpkin Face

The last week has been somewhat of a new and unusual occurrence for us.  Bob had a business trip, so he left early Monday morning and didn't return until Friday afternoon.  Jim and Kathy are in Texas visiting Sue, so that means it was just the kids and I for the week.  Since I'm still not a Jacksonville pro, I know where the library is but not an actual city park, we mostly hung at the house.  It's somewhat of a production to leave the house, and we seem to attract a lot more attention here than we did in Dallas.  On Wednesday, we went to the library and the park.  We've been watching a lot of TV.  I wish we watched less, but at least we watch educational TV.  Thanks PBS.  We color, go outside (although lately, it's been like pulling teeth to get them to go outside), watch Lion King in the bed (my personal favorite), and destroy all of my cleaning efforts in 2.2 seconds.  Since TV is a big player in the house, we've been seeing a lot of Halloween themed episodes.  Ryan has really latched on to the whole halloween idea.  He runs around the house saying "happy halloween" and has made up his own halloween song to the tune of happy birthday.
In honor of this auspicious occasion, the boys and I journeyed to the local Wal-Mart to buy a big pumpkin.  Sadly, I waited too long and the "big" pumpkin is more of a fair to middling size, but for $4 who's complaining?  The boys did great at Wal-Mart after deciding that our seating arrangements needed to be somewhat more spread out.  (Ryan kept putting his feet on James and I'm pretty sure James's head was about to explode).  In the store, they kept trying to eat all of the fruit we bought, but I told them we had to pay the lady for it.  As soon as the apples returned to the cart in a bag, Ry and James both grabbed one, and I handed one to Michael.  The cashier was so impressed that they were eating apples instead of candy, that I had to give myself a mental pat on the back.  Please, God, help my boys to have good eating habits so that they don't end up like their mom.
Once we got home, it was time for a little Lion King in the living room in order to distract one Ryan Newhouse from the plans to carve a face on his pumpkin.  In fact, during nap time, he broke out of his crib tent, sauntered into my room, and said "Mom, pumpkin face."  We discussed how we had to wait for Daddy to do the pumpkin face, so when Bob got home, as soon as Ryan saw him, he yelled "Daddy, PUMPKIN FACE!"
Ryan catches some quality chair time while watching the king of beasts.  I don't mind the Lion King obsession, but I could do without the lion kisses (licks).
I'm sure he's plotting something.  Always figuring out how to be silently devious and three steps ahead of me.  Michael can clear a bookshelf, a toy tub, or a drawer in the time it takes to blink.
My electronically fixated child.  James loves watching TV, playing Monkey Ball on the iPhone, and all things electronic.  I had to physically remove the phone from his hand and place him in front of the pumpkin before he even noticed it.
Finally, it's face time!
The boys were not too keen on touching the pumpkin guts, so we pulled out the spoon, and Ryan went to town.  Last year, James was fascinated by the whole process, Ryan couldn't care less, and Michael screamed and cried.  This year was totally different.
Ryan works the spoon.
Michael takes a turn.
Daddy gets in on the action.
Teamwork by the Newhouse boys (minus James who was distracted by the World Series pre-game - I will not pontificate on the tragic demise and debacle of the Rangers' World Series run, but suffice it to say, the sadness is palpable in this house).
Ryan works two spoons while Michael begins the decoration process on his small pumpkin.
Still digging.
The art squad decorates the pumpkin with their washable markers.  Thankfully.  By the end of the night, Michael had sucked so much ink out of the pink marker that I looked over and thought he was bleeding.  Nice, only two and already making his own fake blood.
Intense concentration.  The design is on the pumpkin, but I had a little extra help from someone primed to create a pumpkin face.
Is that a lefty?  He also bats left.  Hmm, maybe a future Ranger pitcher?  Move over CJ.
The face of bliss.  By the time we were finished, Ryan was calling the pumpkin his monster.  I guess it's a friendly monster.  Unlike most, I'm not a big fan of being scared or the whole halloween/scary thing.  We focus on Charlie Brown around this place.  Our neighbor has a whole graveyard complete with a box to jump out of, I'm thinking of skipping their house on our trick or treat route.
Not only are the pumpkins great to decorate, they are also good for playing the drums.
My "helper" puts some finishing touches on the pumpkin design.  Bob was grateful that I just went with the standard face as opposed to one of those fancy designs.
My three pumpkins decorating their pumpkins.
What a face!  Sadly, by the end of the night, I'm not sure whose face had more marker on it - the pumpkin/monster or Michael.
We've lost James to the pre-game, Michael has started coloring his hand, and Ryan has given himself a black eye with the brown marker.  It's official, Halloween is here!

The back also needs a little bit of decoration.
Time to light this guy up!  Michael refused to take his tray off and continued to color it and himself, Ryan began singing his happy birthday halloween song, and James spent a large amount of breath attempting to blow out the pumpkin's candle.
With our little guy all carved and ready to go, we are ready for those trick or treaters (although, we might have to replenish our candy supply - those stressful Ranger games might have made a certain mommy dip into the stash).

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Zoo Crew

After church on Sunday, Bob and I took the boys to the zoo.  It was a beautiful day, and the boys had a great time.  Our first stop was the walk through aviary.  The boys really enjoyed looking at the birds.
Ryan, our fearless navigator, held on to his zoo map for the majority of the day.  He only surrendered it after I plied him with juice and a granola bar.
Michael shows us the way to see more animals.  When I asked him if he wanted to see the sting rays next, he told me, "I want to see all of it!"
James and Ryan checking out the bird.  I was a wee bit concerned about the very minimal boundaries between my children (who have perfected cat chasing and I'm pretty sure that translates to bird chasing) and the animals.
The boys did a great job wearing their hats.  Michael is still rocking his Easter hat.  I just washed all three of the hats in hopes of them recovering some shape and removing various food stains.  I'm not sure how much longer these hats will last, but I'm pretty sure Michael will stretch as much life out of them as possible.
We bought an annual pass to the zoo, and for our first trip, we got all of the "extras" for free.  This is sting ray bay.  It is definitely not worth the $2 per person the zoo wants for it.  There really wasn't much possibility for kids to be able to touch the sting rays.  Despite the lack of contact, the boys loved putting their hands in the water and laying on the side of the pool.
Daddy maintains order.  The boys definitely thought that the pool would be fun to climb in.
Michael reaches out to touch a ray, but those guys are FAST.
The Jacksonville Zoo is somewhat strangely laid out or the signs are unclear or maybe it's just you don't think straight about directions while chasing three two year olds.  We spent most of our time looking for the animals and missing them.  I'm sure we'll learn where things are in time.
We did find the giraffes.  Michael has been talking about feeding the giraffes with Grandma at the zoo for months, and it's possible to feed them in Jax as well, but for some reason, he wasn't interested in feeding the giraffes as much as just checking them out.  Ryan spent most of his time near the giraffes trying to wash his hands.  He is just obsessed with hand washing.  If only I could get James to consider washing his hands, I'd be happy.
The Jacksonville Zoo reminds me of a small scale version of the Dallas Zoo.  It's even got its own metal elephants.  They are MUCH taller than the elephants in Dallas, and the boys didn't understand while Daddy wouldn't put them up on top of these two guys.
One of the random things I like to do with the boys is pretend that toilet paper rolls and other hollow cylindrical things are horns and sing "do ta do ta do."  Ryan in particular loves this, and here he takes the opportunity to "do ta do ta do" the elephant trunk.

Really Daddy, James needs to go UP.
After our elephant fun, it's time to move on.
This tapir is much larger than the one I ran across in the rain forest of Costa Rica, but he's also much sleepier.  The boys really liked looking at him.
Probably the biggest perk of the "extra" package we got at the zoo were the unlimited rides on the carousel.  James LOVED it.  I had to basically rip him off of an animal and make a run for it after our third trip around.
Michael was also thrilled to ride the carousel, but he was definitely unhappy riding anything but the horse once he realized that a horse was an option.  Michael is what I refer to as a toy terrorist.  He refuses to share certain toys with his brothers.  The best example of this is our ride on horse.  He will mercilessly harass, try to bite, pull off the horse, wound in a variety of manners anyone who dares to ride "his" horse.  I guess when you are a triplet and have to share everything, every once in a while you have to put your foot down.
James and Daddy enjoy the nice afternoon breeze and the spin.  Ryan absolutely REFUSED to get on an animal no matter how hard or how many times I tried.  He took issue with any and all attempts to get him on a moving animal.  After two spins around, he and Daddy headed out to watch the rest of us ride around.  He did enjoy looking for us and waving as we passed him by.
The photo-op carousel animal.  The boys were all happy to ride him (even Ryan).
The best surprise of the day was the penguin area.  The zoo has a "underlook" built in to the exhibit where the kids can crawl under and the penguins swim over and next to you.  James loved it.  He refused to come out for what seemed like ten minutes.  Ryan was also very excited about it.  Every time a penguin would go by, he'd run out and yell "penguin, penguin!"
Michael liked the undertook, but he preferred to run around and watch them from above.
All the boys check out the penguins.  I'm sure that we will be returning to the penguin exhibit in the future.
The zoo has a nice play area, but I have to say, it made me very nervous.  It's two levels, and you can't see the kids playing on the upper level.  It is a neat area, and it was packed.  I definitely couldn't take the kids here without help.  You need lots of eyes in this play area.
The play area is set up with a big tree in the middle.  The second level has a squirrel hole and a bird's nest.  James really loved both.
All of that hyper vigilance combined with tired, hungry boys prompted us to take the boys and head out.  They did a great job, and we rode the train from the back of the zoo to the front.  It definitely wasn't designed to be an interactive zoo exhibit as we saw the back of a lot of cages and gates but very few animals.  I don't think we'll ride the train again unless it's to soothe our tired feet.
It's nice that we will be able to go back any time we want.  I've been thinking about taking the kids by myself.  This week, we had a great time going to the library (it was a tad bit harry, but they are getting better and I'm relaxing a tiny bit - not much, but enough to remember to breathe), the park, and to the grocery store to buy a pumpkin.  Who knows, maybe I'll get brave this week and we will go.  Gotta put that pass to good use.