Monday, March 26, 2012

The Bluest Eyes in Texas

This may not qualify as a creative post-much like my last post- but we have had a tough few weeks for creativity. With soccer and softball starting again it seems like all we do right now is shuttle to and fro (and geocache in the downtime-we are addicted). We will get back to projects soon.

Today’s post, however, was years in the making. I wanted to discuss the soothing, springtime, Texas ritual that is The Bluebonnet Photo.

If you are not from Texas, this concept may seem foreign to you. I was told by a friend today, with a tone that suggested I was insane, that people in other states don’t pose their children in front of, say, wheat. True, but is wheat a glorious mix of blues that make your kids blue-eyes pop? No? Well, there’s the difference.

I looked back at the past years’ bluebonnet photo shoots. Not every year was a winner, but I have hauled them out to the bee and ant-infested flowers every year of their lives-if for nothing else but continuity.

First year in the blues!

2nd time around!

And baby makes two!

Still love the blues!

And baby makes three!

Herding Cats!


Wind can blow dust in the eyes! can get cold in March!

Ahhhhh! Bee!


And last year...

Over the years, I have found myself saying some interesting things as I have photographed:

“It doesn’t want to sting you, it wants the flowers.”

“Don’t squash the bluebonnets.”

“Don’t pick the flowers.”

“Don’t eat the flowers.”

“I’m hot, too. Just smile and we can go.”

"Don't squeeze your sister so hard."

“I know she sat on your hand, and I am so sorry.”

I know I have said some more intelligent and pithy things to my kids on the days of The Bluebonnet Photo but I am sure I have said some worse and more exasperated things as well.

Our choice of flower patches has ranged from Houston to College Station to Fredericksburg and even a really scary spot by DFW airport under the landing path of MANY big jets. That was a short photo shoot!

Today, we brought the experience closer to home. A lovely crop of bluebonnets is growing by The Flower Mound this year. Yes, the actual mound for which the town of Flower Mound is named. The same mound I played on as a child and which I remember stretching all the way down to the intersection of 3040 and 2499. No Tom Thumb, not fence, no sign, just rolling grass and flowers.

For nostalgia’s sake, I wanted to get pictures of the girls there, at least once. I was in luck and we had a beautiful day. A light breeze and bright sunshine made it a little tough to keep the squinty eyes and wayward hair strands away, but it was gorgeous. And nobody fought! Here are the pictures from today. I will keep going every year-even when they thing it is sooooooo lame. Maybe especially then!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Into the Great Wide Open

We discovered a new creative pursuit this Spring Break. Something that our poor cast-ridden oldest child not only could do, but wanted to do. Geocaching. We had heard of geocaching from other friends who had partaken in the “sport” before. I logged onto the site to read up a bit and then put the free geocaching app on my phone. When we headed down to the Dallas Zoo, I ran the app and discovered that there was a geocache inside the zoo.

Finding the zoo cache!
***Time-out to explain geocaching***

Different people hide caches (containers ranging in size from film canister to lunchbox or larger, holding a paper log to be signed and dated by the cacher) in various locations, public and wild alike, and then log the coordinates of the cache location. They post their cache on the geocaching website for people to find.

Sample of a log
There are literally over a million caches around the world. Some contain trinkets that you can swap, some contain trinkets to move on to another cache. Non-geocachers are called muggles after the term for non-magic folk in Harry Potter. You can use a GPS device or a smart phone with the app to find the caches. After we got a little addicted, we upgraded to the more advanced app. That ties into the website and allows you to track and log finds.

***Back to the story***

So at the zoo, we used the compass and map on the phone, along with the description and hint to wind our way through the crowds and exhibits until we located our first cache. We almost missed it until the hawkeyed-hubby caught a glimpse of the container. The girls were pretty hooked at that point. Okay, I was pretty hooked then, too.

Over the next few Spring Break days, we turned our “staycation” into a geocache treasure hunt. Our local Lake Park proved to be a wealth of caches and we were able to walk to about five without getting back into the car.

Wouldn't you want to look for a cache here?

Hint: make your kids hit the restroom BEFORE hiking a half-mile into the woods to find a cache!

After a half-mile run to a port-o-potty, we resumed our hunt. We found three caches and about a million ladybugs and lizards. I guess the first sunny day brought all the lizards out of hiding. A catalog of our favorites is to follow. You will notice one fellow’s tail tracks in the sand as he cruised by us!

See, I told you there were a lot of lizards! Could you see them all?

The reason we found three caches and not five is: 
1. The aforementioned potty break, and, 2. The huge snake sunning itself in the vicinity of the last cache.

After the snake, we decided to go a bit more urban and hit the mean streets of Lewisville. We found three park-and-grab caches, which are generally in parking lots and easy to, say it with me, park-and-grab!

found another one!

Pros of geocaching:
*Finding cool wildlife like lizards, shamrocks, bird nests and ladybugs.
*Extra walking, climbing, hiking.
*Creates interest for child who is not really into “crafty” things and for children who are into “crafty” things.
*Kids learn fun things about direction, compasses, stealth and Frisbee golf.

Cons of geocaching:
*Big, big snakes.
*Sometimes muggles destroy caches so there is nothing to find.
*Briar scratches.
*Kids learn that Frisbee golfers have no patience for geocachers!

Fro-Yo break!
All in all, we have a great activity to do together. We created a little geocaching pack, full of bottled water, pens (some caches are too tiny for a pen) snacks and a box of tiny trinkets to trade. On our way to or from a practice, lesson or appointment, we can check our vicinity for a cache and try our hand at finding it. It is an ongoing treasure hunt that makes every trip in the car a potential adventure!


Monday, March 12, 2012

Sweeter Sweater Wreath

So, in between kids’ doctor’s appointments and cleaning up pet messes, there has not been a lot of time for writing this week. That, and I got a new book on the Titanic for my birthday and I had to read that incessantly.

Yesterday we got our crafty groove back. The youngest child and I started to tackle more of the big sweater pile in the craft room. She decided that she felt sorry for her big sister since we found out her new cast has to be on for four more weeks.

“I want to make her a wreath to cheer her up since she can’t play softball for even longer,” she said. “And she can use it as a ‘keep out of my room’ wreath and hang it on her door when she doesn’t want anyone in her room.”

Can you argue with that logic? I certainly couldn’t.

Although the girls had used the rotary cutter on fabric before, the thick, felted wool was a bit trickier to get through. I decided to do the cutting of the squares myself. I asked her to back up because she is a huge allergy sufferer and a by-product of cutting wool is a million tiny wool fibers floating through the air.

“What are fibers?”

“Well, they are the long strands of hair or cotton material that get woven together to make threads or yarn and then fabric.”

“What are strands?”

“Well, they are the tiny, thread-like, itty-bitty strings that make up a plant or an animal’s fur.”

“Oh, so those would get in my nose and make me sneeze?”

“Yes, basically.”


Raw sweaters
Cutting strips into squares
 And on we went from there. I became a sweater butcher: cuffs in this pile, not arms get whacked off at the shoulder and go over here. The thinner sweaters got parceled into large squares to be made into roses, while the thicker sweaters were cut in strips and then tiny squares for wreaths. I cut until I had a sizable mountain of squares to choose from.

Time for the youngest to step back in.

“Wow, you have a lot cut already!” she said.

“I already have a pattern I want to use,” she said. “Purple then pink and repeat all along the wreath. I am going to use purple because of her softball team, and pink because you have to put something with the purple,” she said.

I threaded a larger, dull needle with embroidery floss and tied one end to a pencil to keep the squares from sliding off the thread. She dug through the pile for the pinks and purples she needed then held up a purple square and squinted at it closely.

“Is there a darker purple and a lighter purple in here?”

“No, just the one.”

“Okay, because I was like, if there are two purples in here then my pattern is messed up!”

I grabbed a needle and thread of my own and started digging through the pile for slightly less-purpley-toned squares. I settled on some boring, tweedy greens, tans and maroons for my wreath. She observed my choices with a look but no comment. Tactful, even at six.

“Have you ever poken yourself with a needle?”

“I have poked myself with lots of needles, but not this kind,” I told her.

“This must have taken you a while to snip up all of these sweaters.”

“Yes, it did.”

“I am going to make this a surprise so don’t tell her until I finish,” she said quietly.


“I was going to make it for her birthday, but now I feel bad about her arm,” she said. “Her birthday is kind of far away so I will wait until the middle of April to start making her birthday gift.”

We sat there for a little while, threading and chatting. I can see the value of older times and the circles of women who quilted, knitted and sewed with neighbors, friends and daughters. The quiet moments of steady work, the accomplishment and pride at showing others your progress, the good conversation.

Once the wreath was finished and we tied off a knot and loop to hang it, she decided there needed to be a bow.

“Can you cut a strip of purple?”

“Yes, and I’ll sew it with a sharper needle and thread.”

“I need to see how you do it because one day I want to do lots of projects with my kids and I need to be able to show them how.”

Maybe I don’t need to live in the older times. Seems like now is just fine.

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