Sunday, July 29, 2012

Fun in Niagara Falls and the African Lion Safari

We've taken the boys up to see Niagara Falls maybe once. They were too little to do much walking around, so we just looked at the Falls and left. When you live in ROC, it's a place that you often take for granted. It's there. We pass it every single time we go through Canada to get to Michigan, and we always say "some day we need to make a point of taking the boys there overnight". This past weekend we did just that. We decided to couple our trip with a visit to the African Lion Safari in Hamilton, Ontario.

The kids loved all of the cheezy, kitschy, silly things that the main strip in Niagara Falls has to offer. We didn't bother with the Wax Museum, but we did go through Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum, ate at the Rainforest Cafe, spent time at Fudge Factory and many other shops. Above all, the boys LOVED the arcade. They could have spent the entire time at the arcade if we let them. After we walked around and got some ice cream, we headed down to the Niagara River and horseshoe falls for the 10pm Fireworks show. It was pretty beautiful even though it was only about 15 minutes long.

I'm learning that Christopher is fearless. He went into the Hurricane Simulator Machine with no hesitation, wanted to enter into every single Haunted House (we wouldn't let him), and went on a ride on the Sky Wheel over the Falls with Greg. He also liked the Vortex inside of Ripley's. All things I wouldn't do, but I'm glad he's not afraid of these things. I enjoyed seeing him laugh and laugh and laugh.
View of Niagara Falls from the Sky Wheel (looks a bit grey through the glass)

After we finished at the falls, we left for Hamilton, Ontario to visit the African Lion Safari. Greg and I had been there once before, about 10 or so years ago, and we had a lot of great memories of monkeys and baboons jumping all over our cars. We thought the kids would love it, so we gave it a try.
The animals were not as willing to come up to the cars this time. They were a bit anti-social. The place was monitored heavily by rangers, making sure people were not luring the animals toward their cars with food.
But, even so, the boys really enjoyed it. They liked being real close to animals that they would never have the opportunity to see up front. As we drove through the safari, they pointed to all of the animals, and we got pics as best we could through the strictly-enforced "windows up" policy.

There's no way I could add all of the awesome pictures we took, so I've put them on my Flickr page. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Helper

My Mom always told me that if either of the kids show any interest at "helping" with daily chores, even when it really isn't help at all, and even if it would make even the most simple task take twice the time...take them up on it. It teaches them responsibility. It shows them that it's everyone's job to keep the place in order. And hopefully, these values or sentiments will stick with them as they get older.

As it turns out, I have one kid who LOVES to help (that would be Joe) and one (guess who) who breaks out in hives at the very thought of simple tasks like putting his laundry in the basket, toys back where they belong, Karate Gi in gym bag. It's like pulling teeth.

Joe, on the other hand, seems to really enjoy doing stuff like watering the plants outdoors, washing the car (OK, spraying it with the hose), helping with dinner, setting the table, emptying the dishwasher, even helping with laundry. We are especially proud of how well he took care of his string bean plants! He planted the seed at school, brought it home in a plastic cup for Greg to re-pot. He watered it every day, and voila, BEANS!!

He and I enjoy baking together. He likes to pour ingredients in the bowls and stir. He's excellent at following directions and takes good care to keep all the contents in the bowl while very gently mixing. He's great at decorating cupcakes! I like this time that we have together, because it's focused and one on one. Usually we chat about anything at random, and it's always fun.

Sometimes having a little helper can be a very good thing!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Blueberry Picking at G and S Orchards

Greg had been wanting to go blueberry picking all summer. In fact, he's mentioned it for a few summers now that at some point, we should go. The neighbors had gone to G and S Orchards in Walworth last week, and very generously gave us a sampling of the blueberries and raspberries. WOW were they sweet and delicious... there's nothing quite like fresh picked fruits and vegetables.

So, we decided to head on over to G and S ourselves this morning. We got there at about 11:30 and it was already pretty hot. We were completely awe struck by the huge-ness of the place and how many different varieties of berries and fruits you can pick. Not to mention all of the fresh fruits and veggies available at the farm stand around the corner from the picking fields.

The Taste Testers!

We picked almost 7 POUNDS OF BLUEBERRIES!!! The kids were great at spotting out all the bushes with the biggest berries.
I froze enough to fill 2 quart-sized freezer bags, and even with this high heat and humidity, I decided to make my ever-popular and hugely yummy Blueberry Sour Cream cake from the Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library cookbook collection. It's a book from WS older "Kitchen Library" series, and I got it as a wedding shower gift. The recipes in that book are yummy, classic, and have stood the test of time for sure!

Plenty to freeze. They are like candy straight from the freezer

I made the Williams-Sonoma Blueberry Sour Cream cake that we all (including, apparently, Sneaker) love

The cake was extra special with hand-picked blueberries, and a lemon glaze over top

We will be coming to G and S for years to come!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Kindergarten. The Year in Review.

It's about time I get a post out about Christopher's year in Kindergarten! I've been thinking and thinking and then finally found the time to do it. I have so many pictures of the year, and his report cards, projects, and of him.
When I went into my list of posts, I had found the draft of Christopher's first day of school that for some reason I never published. I am so glad I found that draft, because it had an uploaded picture from Chris' first day of school!

The pictures say it all. I can't believe how much he has changed this year. Just amazing!!!

We are extremely proud of him. He has had MANY firsts this year, among them:

1. Christopher learned to write sentences and can even read "Books with chapters!!!"His teacher said he was the first student in the class who tried to write as many sentences as he could.
2. Christopher learned to add, subtract, and do other math concepts like graphing
3. Expression with Art and music, geography, science
4. Chris can record his own "Light Saber Reviews" on YouTube. He knows how to hit the record button on an iPod or a video camera, and goes from there. I will have to make a point to post some of them here because they are priceless.
5. Christopher lost 5 Teeth!
6. Christopher joined Karate, and he is currently a Green Belt working toward his Blue Belt.

The First Day of Kindergarten, September 2011
The perfect report cards. There were many, and some were not so perfect. He grew quite a bit.

Mother's Day Recipe Book they made for the Moms!

Christopher's "Japanese" version of Red Riding Hood. Is it different? :)
End of the school year, look at the change from September. WOW!!! Congrats, Christoper! We are PROUD!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Year of the Loose Teeth

This has been such a great year for Christopher. He really enjoyed Kindergarten and made great friends. He loves karate and is really looking forward to the camp sessions they are having this year. Christopher has also lost about 5 teeth in school this year! It seems like after he lost his first, they all just came one after the next! He gets sooo excited over the Tooth Fairy, and loves to save up his money to get books and toys. Today, one of his front teeth that had been loose for months finally wiggled out during school. He's been asking every single day: "Mom, when will my tooth come out?", to which I say " When it decided it's ready to, Chris." Well, July 9, 2012 was the day it finally made up its' mind.

Joe Learns to Ride

I should really say Joe taught himself to ride, because that's what happened. One morning before school, Joe had gone into the garage, got the "Diego" bike, and began to ride all on his own! When Greg walked out and saw this, he was thrilled, and said "Hey!! Joey! Great job riding your bike!", and Joe, in true form, looked at Greg and said "Dad, all you do is put your feet on these things and move them up and down!" Like, no big deal! We decided that we'd see how well Joe can do on a short bike ride around the block. This way, he can get some practice and maybe will be ready to ride to the playground soon! Here are some cute pictures of Joe and Chris as we took a whirl around the block last night. He did well, but got tired during the last stretch. As we turned to go up the final hill toward our house, he decided he needed to get off the bike and walk it the rest of the way. We are so proud of big Joe!

Walking his bike up the last big hill

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fireworks First-Timers

Waiting patiently for the show to begin!
We've been wanting to take the kids to see fireworks for some time now. Usually, we aren't home over the 4th. We're either in Michigan or in Mass. visiting family. Although there are fireworks all during the summer on weekends here and there, Greg and I always seem to miss them. This year, with the 4th falling on Wednesday, we knew we'd be home from Michigan in time to catch them. The kids have been off all week, so were well rested. We didn't know which location in Rochester would be best for the kids. We wanted a place that was not too crowded, close to home, and where you didn't have to walk a mile from your car to see them. After looking up places, and checking with friends on where they usually go, we settled on Calkins Road right near the new Wegman's.

We found a spot, set up our blankets and chairs, and settled in. We got there around 8:50, but the fireworks weren't scheduled to go off until around 9:45. I brought water bottles, but forgot some munchies, so Greg and Chris went to one of the surrounding stores and picked up a few ice cream bars and some popcorn for us to have while waiting. The kids were VERY excited about the fireworks! With every warm up shot, they would jump up and down and laugh. I'm glad we made the effort to go, it was worth it just to see their reactions, and the location was pretty decent. Next year, we'll probably go to the same place, but will try to get a bit closer to the field for an even better view.

The "Drumstick"

I also wanted to try and get some good pictures with my Kodak Z990. It is one of the best digital cameras we've made in terms of quality, features, and affordability. Here are a few of the shots that Greg got:

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thank God for the Kiddie Pool

 With the high temps (and high humidity) we've been having this summer, I am forever grateful that some smart person out there invented kiddie pools. The boys love being in the pool. They go in every weekend, and even on weeknights after dinner when it's still really hot out. Here are some adorable shots from earlier in June.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Michigan Visit: Summer 2012

We had a very short, but really fun visit to Michigan this past weekend. We spent a night at Mark and Erika's new house, and then continued on to Oma's place. The temps were really, really high and the sun was strong! The kids had a great time visiting with their cousins, as they always do. This year we had water balloon fights and several trips through the sprinklers to cool down from the heat.

Water Balloon Fight!!!

Ian and Christopher
Olivia and Christopher

The bunk beds are way too exciting!
Oma is known for her beautiful potted flowers every summer. She told us that this year she couldn't do as much as she has in previous summers, but you'd never know it. The flowers and plants are as beautiful as always. I managed to score some pretty cute birdhouses for the girls in the family this year. I went into Homegood's to see if there were any nice gifts to bring, and happened upon these adorable little Cynthia Rowley birdhouses! I got one each for Erika, Andrea, and Greg's Mom. They all loved them! I may have to go back there myself to see if there are any left for our yard!
One of the things we do every time we visit at Greg's Mom's house is take a drive (or a walk) up to the back 40 acres of her property. Greg loves to check out the land, and tell the boys stories of his own childhood and all of the things he did back there. Camping, gardening, hiking and just enjoying the great outdoors are what Greg loves most.
Oma with the boys (wearing her hats!)

Uncle Mark's quad was a big hit.
Back 40

Cute little Cynthia Rowley birdhouse!
Boys looking over the Little Mac Bridge into the pretty stream
S'mores were a big hit!
The Blue Water Bridge coming into Michigan from Sarnia, Ontairo Canada.


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