"From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised." Psalm 113:3

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Our Winter Wanderings...Part Four


We finished up our "Round One" of our trip by heading out to do some birthday bowling.  We had timed our trip perfectly to coincide with a very special little boy's eighth birthday, and he wanted to bowl.  So we bowled.

Such as it was with seven children (including one 4 year-old), and most of them being boys.

Yeah.  

But the company was amazing, and the pizza really, really yummy!


We were warm, happy, well-fed--and had lots of kiddos who were OVER picture-taking, in case you couldn't tell from the "cheese" smiles.


Good stuff...


This cheese smile courtesy of the fifteen year-old who was pretty much over her mom at this point...


But here's a good one!

Once we had stalled our goodbyes as many times as we possibly could, we hugged, cried, and loaded into the car--headed to Connecticut to visit with cousins.  Somehow the three hour ride seemed like a total piece of cake, after our marathon trips of 12 and 10 hours so far!

Part Five--sledding in Connecticut.  Coming soon...

Friday, April 17, 2015

Field Trip Fun! A Trip to the Animatronics Factory...



Bug, Firefly, and I got to take a tour of a local Animatronics studio.  For those of you not familiar with that word (like me), animatronics are essentially robots that are created to appear like animals or people, with lifelike movements and appearances.  

Think Chuck E. Cheese, or Disney World.

I had no idea that our close-by city had an actual, real-life robot factory!

And that we could actually tour it!

But, yes, both of those facts were true, and we happily headed downtown last week to check it all out.

Our first stop on the tour was in a room that housed an amusement park-like game, complete with blacklights and laser guns.  Here, we met our tour guide and got to hear a little about the factory, what the company does, and what kinds of things we were going to be able to see.

Then, each kiddo got a turn to play the shooting game.  In the picture above, you can maybe make out some "target" lights--one is red and at the base of the spooky flower, and one is green and hanging out on the tombstone.  Those were the places to aim your shots.  Hitting the targets got you points and a scary surprise.

After we all took turns playing, we headed out on the tour.  The first stop was the design area (where no pictures were allowed).  Many designers were hard at work, using some of the coolest computer graphic technology that I've ever seen--in my many years of studying graphic design, lol!

The next stop was this room of clay figures.  Here, the artist makes the picture designs come to life in clay.  The clay is then put through a process (which our guide described so much more clearly than I can), that turns it into a mold used to make the plastic-y, silicone-y masks.


I love that our tour guide tried on the masks for us!


After the molds are complete, they are put onto the robotic frame.  In these pictures above, you can see the inner workings of the robot and his pneumatic cylinders.  We were told a little bit about the process of "dressing up" the robots, including how the (real, human) hair is individually looped into the masks.

Umm, gross. 


The rest of our tour led us through the remainder of the factory.  We got to see some of the large displays they are currently working on, 


some of their most well-known, 
 

 and even some headed to faraway lands.  The penguin extravaganza will be headed to a hotel in China later this year.  And, yes, the penguins all sing and dance--but it's all in Chinese!

This was one of the most interesting field trips we've done this year!  If you have a factory / workshop near you, I would highly recommend it...


...you might even get to leave with your own robot!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Our Winter Wanderings...Part Three...



 Our next day in Rhode Island dawned sunny and pretty--and still cold!  So the mommies stayed inside with coffee and blankets while most of the littles went out to check out the joy of freezing cold.  Once we had thawed out and they were nicely decorated with pink cheeks and windburned faces, we headed out to the downtown area to walk around, window shop (as best you can with seven children in tow), and, of course,...


...partake in frozen yogurt.

Now, let me explain for a minute.  

See, we're from Florida, remember?  And our super-great friends, although they are currently living up-where-it-is-never-warm, spent five years in Florida with us.

Froyo is our tradition.

Even if we have to fully bundle up and brave the elements to get it.  After all, by that time it had gotten to a balmy 38 degrees.

Child Protective Services moment number two of the trip...




But it was tasty.  Oh, so tasty.  There's nothing quite like frozen yogurt and best friends...

After our treat, we headed out to the local YMCA to join in their Homeschool PE class with our buddies.  My kiddos had a great time--I'm sure it helped that the sport of the day was soccer!

Go figure!  

It was an exciting hour of running, kicking, sweating, and learning new ways to play tag.  It was a blast!



While my Firefly and Bug were running around PE with their friends, Turtle headed over to the local library with my friend's preschooler for story time.  See, her "buddy" had really missed her, and he wasn't really going to let any time pass with Turtle not being right there with him!


Here are most of the "big kids" after PE, waiting for story time to be over.

After that, it was back to the house, where the Mommas and one Daddy got to go out for a wonderful dinner minus the kiddos.  One more sleep, and it would be time to move on to the next stop.

But first, we would have a birthday to celebrate...


Monday, March 30, 2015

Winter Wanderings...Part Two...


...So there we were, happily (and finally!!) in Rhode Island, visiting some of our dearest friends.  We had a wonderful time that first night, first surprising their sweet kiddos, and then letting them all run rampant while their Momma and I caught up over a glass of wine--which, I will say, was probably the best glass of wine I've ever had in my life!  Nothing like a way-too-long-two-day drive to make the wine go down smoothly!

The next day, our host kiddos took us out on a tour of their neighborhood, after a lazy morning spent in front of Pokemon cartoons and Wii Universe games.  We were thrilled (then, three days into our trip) to bundle up in all of our (mostly borrowed) winter wear and get outside!

The first place we went was to check out one of the neighborhood forts.  Which, of course, required climbing up a steep and icy hill.  Through trees and branches.  Made for little person sizes.  When the snow was all melting and making for one heck of a mud sliding phenomena going on on that hill.


This is the smile I use when I'm wondering how on earth I'm going to get back down that hill without falling on my rear end.  I shouldn't have feared.  After all, I had Batman there to help me out!

From the top of that hill, we had just a beautiful view of the water and all of the surrounding area.


Just gorgeous.  So peaceful and calming.

And cold.  And really, really windy.  But we braved it and took a walk along the "beach", searching for fun shells and sea glass and whatever other "treasures" the kiddos could find.



Did I mention how windy it was?  And check out my neat walking stick Bug found for me!

Finally, we went back to thaw out and get ready for lunch...which contained some of the best ice cream for dessert that I've ever had.

Because it's never too cold for ice cream, lol!

And then we headed over to a tiny, super-fun aquarium for kiddos.  


Everything in there was so hands-on, it was amazing!  We got to hold moon snails (the kiddos, mind you, not me!), hermit crabs, and all kinds of other water creatures.  Firefly had a blast petting the sharks, and we could observe seahorses, sharks, and rays eating their dinners.


Here are a few of the boys with their best "say cheese" smiles...


And Firefly, Bug, and our sweet hostess patiently waiting for the sharks to finish eating so they can reach in and pet them again...

Once we finished at the aquarium, we went outside to the "beach" they had there.  


Where it was still cold.  And windy.  And evidently just perfect weather for Bug, who ran around with his buddies with no jacket, no gloves, and no hat.

Truthfully, we're probably pretty lucky he had shoes on.

And wasn't in the water.

Go ahead.  Call Protective Services on me now...

It was a beautiful day of sightseeing and making memories.

And that was just day one...






Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Our Massive Winter Wanderings...Part One


You may have noticed that this blog has been a bit silent lately.  There are some good reasons for that, and some not-so-good reasons (namely, I simply cannot figure out a workable game plan for getting anything done lately), but there is one massive reason that I'm going to share over the next week or so.

Our family just returned from a huge, mega, outrageously crazy road trip.

Emphasis on the crazy.

This is the first year in many that we have been tied to a public school schedule, as Turtle is a freshman in our local high school this year.  With her Spring Break coming up, it seems I may have been a bit frantic about making sure we made the most of our time off.  

She got out of school at 1:40 on a Thursday, and we left town at 8:00 am Friday morning.

Just me and the kiddos (Daddy had to work, no way were the dogs either welcome or fitting in the car), and a car completely loaded down with everything on earth we could possibly need for this ten--yes, you read that right--TEN day road trip.

Ugh.

Well, ugh on the driving.  And on the being away from home and hubby for so long.  And on the single parenting.  And definitely on the cold.

But YAY on the company, and the adventures, and the sightseeing, and the visiting, and the hugs and love and just overall wonderfulness that was our crazy road trip!

First things first.  We left our home in Florida (where, may I say, it was over 80 degrees and sunny the ENITRE time we were gone...) and headed to stop number one:  Maryland.  I have a ton of aunts, uncles, and cousins all over the state, so we made this our first overnight stop.

12 hours later, we pulled into my aunt and uncle's driveway, where there was a minuscule amount of snow--SNOW--on the ground (which of course I can not find pictures of now...)  And I had been made all too aware that my children were long overdue for a trip up north when my eight year-old asked, in the car on the way up, "Mom, what do you think happened to all of those trees?  Was there like a fire or something?"

Because they had no leaves.

I had to explain to him that that's what winter looks like.

My apologies now to all of my readers who don't live in Florida.

After a brief romp in the one snow pile the kiddos found, we eagerly went inside, stretched out, and enjoyed not being in the car.

For a little while.  Because after going to bed and waking up nice and early, it was time to get back in it again.  For what I had thought was going to be a nice, easy 5-6 hour drive to Rhode Island.

Ha.

Like seriously.  Ha.

More like, rainy, low visibility, confusing, exhausting 8 -9 hour drive.

Which somehow took me on a tour of Yankee Stadium that I KNOW wasn't on the original plan.


Notice the beautiful, sun-shiny weather?

Yeah.  Ugh again.

We did finally make it to Newport, Rhode Island, just in time to see the remnants of the St. Patrick's Day parade still wandering through downtown.  Think green dogs, green hats, green beads...

...and green people, who had been enjoying the festivities perhaps a bit too much!

Another lovely question from the back seat:  "Mom, why is that man wearing a tiara?"

Yep.  Seeing all the sights, we were!

BUT...we made it, and headed in to visit our very wonderful, very bestest friends who used to live so very close to us but moved so far away to Rhode Island last October.  We had planned it to be a surprise to their kiddos, so the best part may have been my Bug ringing the doorbell and trying not to pee in his pants while waiting for his buddies to answer the door and be so completely surprised!!

It was a great surprise, and worked out just exactly like we hoped it would, full of bear hugs and laughter and even some screaming, and we settled in for a long overdue visit.

Of which I will post more as soon as I get another chance to sit down at this computer...

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