Wednesday, March 22, 2017

East Texas: Animals

Have I mentioned how Jeff is the master at turning something small into a great adventure? Well, this might be his best work yet! For Spring Break, we headed east and enjoyed all that Tyler, Longview and Marshall has to offer! What? You've never seen East Texas on a top destination list? Well, they are very good with animals. We saw all varieties: wild, roaming, caged and deceased.

A big thing in Tyler is Brookshire's grocery...founded in 1928 by Mr. and Mrs. Brooksire. They were fond of their business and community, and apparently also fond of hunting. After many trips to Africa, they needed to do something with their prizes, hence the birth of the World of Wildlife Museum.

The [free] museum includes over 450 animals from Africa and North America. It was a little unsettling to think about the actions behind the displays, but if you get past the notion of hunting, it was quite interesting to stare right into the face of a lion, black bear or huge polar bear...or a group of monkeys!

After the animal viewing, we enjoyed the old-timey country store, and purchased a few classics! The kids had never tried Cracker Jack and of course we had to sample the famous Tyler peanut patty (think praline with peanuts).

Our next animal adventure was one step up, and included caged animals at the Caldwell Zoo. I'm not usually a fan of zoos (for many reasons -- I feel bad for the animals and I don't like walking long distances to see the back side of an animal or just a tail or foot sticking out from behind a rock).

However, this zoo was a decent, yet manageable size (we circled it twice in about 3 hours). Also, we timed our visit nicely because we came right after the rain, when the sun was shining and the animals were out soaking up the rays.

Well, some were still hibernating, but at least their patch of sunlight was right next to the viewing window!


Even before arriving, Naomi insisted that if there was a bird-feeding area, we must do it! She was right -- it was pretty neat. Imagine stepping inside a human-sized bird cage like you see at PetSmart, filled with oodles of parakeets!

It took a bit of effort to find a bird that was still hungry, late in the afternoon.

NOTE: This was the only alligator we saw on the trip...a safe distance away and behind bars! (more to come on that...)

We did encounter one wild animal while at the zoo: a real live [non-squished] armadillo, who was trying to dig his way out! Unfortunately, his presence drew a crowd, which attracted the attention of the zoo crew, who captured him in a cage. (Still better than the first category of animals!)

The coolest of all our animal encounters had to be Cherokee Trace, the drive-thru safari! We've been to the more popular one down in Glenrose, but I think I preferred this one more (a bit smaller, so the animals were closer together). You definitely want to arrive when it first opens, because all the animals are awake and hungry!

Sooo, they tell you, "don't feed the animals from your hand". Uh, I think these donkeys are breaking the rules!

Ok, so, yeah, pretty much all the animals break the rules!

This is the one guy we didn't really want to test! (Turns out, they peck fast, but have excellent precision and only get the food, not your skin!)

The zebra's were the best! They have no boundaries -- they come in without even being invited! Very entertaining!

Some animals were a bit more polite. The llama was my personal favorite. Very gentle, and not a messy, slobbery eater.

This highland cow was by far the messiest! He left a blob of drool down the inside of our car door. Watch for him at the end of this:


Definitely a fun, animal time!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Friend of Claire's

Big happenings over Spring Break! More to come soon about our get-away, but first...check this out!

Yep...Naomi got her ears pierced! She had been asking off and on for the past year about getting it done. We told her she could get it done for her 10th birthday, but when that time came, she never mentioned it. We felt this was one of those things that she should really want before committing to 6 weeks of cleaning and care!

About a month ago, she started asking every day about it! So I said maybe we could get it done during Spring Break. The asking continued, until it finally happened this past Thursday! We headed to the mall to visit Claire's (where I had my ears pierced many, many years ago!) They no longer use a piercing gun -- they have these pre-loaded, spring contraption thingy's that they hold to your ear and it snaps shut. She claims the first ear hurt (I did notice her wince), but no tears or struggle on the second ear!

She's been great about cleaning them 3 times a day! Now we work on getting her to wear her hair back or up so she can show them off! (She claims she wants to be humble about it and not show-off...)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Half Grade

I don't remember mid-year school photos being a thing when I was a kid, but apparently it is now. Another opportunity to make bucks I guess.

Anyway, what a difference a few months makes! N&D both look so much older in the spring than they did in the fall.
Danielle, 1st Grade
Spring 2017

Naomi, 5th Grade
Spring 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Hottest Band In The World...

"I want to rock 'n' roll all night and party every day!" - Naomi

I doubt this is what the school district had in mind when they decided to issue iPads to students...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Danielle in the House

While attending Open House, we were stunned to learn that Danielle was wanted!! [gasp] We were not surprised to learn of her offense: kidnapping Ivy (our 18-month neighbor, whom Danielle absolutely adores)


On the flip side, we were thrilled to learn that our little outlaw was Athlete of the Month! Clearly, you need to be in good shape to live a life on the run.

With any type of success, there are always others that help you get there, right? We were proud to be recognized as well! (Her family always completes the monthly Fitness Calendars). (NOTE: Danielle's favorite person, Annabelle, happens to be Ivy's older sister. This family is obviously having a major impact on Danielle's life!)

As for Danielle's first-grade teacher....well, we LOVE Mrs. Ramos! Her songs, her classroom activities, her encouragement towards the kids, her enthusiasm for teaching and her positive outlook!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Naomi's House

Each year in the spring, Morningside opens its doors to let the students show off all the cool things they have been learning and creating. Art class provides the some of the more exciting, tangible items. Naomi was quite proud of her raspberry, chocolate cake!

While studying government and history and learning about the Declaration of Independence, the kids were tasked with creating their own declaration...finally, a chance to formalize their wishes! Naomi is hoping for more weekends -- she could totally run for president on this platform and win! Who doesn't want more weekends?? (I enjoyed helping her burn the edges of the paper!)

Another part of Naomi's school experience includes SMART Girls, a once-a-week after-school club for girls focusing on Science, Math, Achievement, Research, Technology. I have been quite impressed with the topics they cover and the ideals that Naomi comes home talking about. (Did you know they alter the way people look on magazine covers? Do you know what women went through so that girls could vote? Have you noticed how tiny Areil's waist size is in Disney movies? Did you realize the food on menus and ads is not really edible?)

For the last couple months, the SMART Girls have been working on a photography project. One of the teachers does photography as a hobby and has been introducing the girls to the world of photography. They combined this with learning about famous females that have an a positive impact on society. Each girl selected a female to research and then they dressed up and were photographed to replicate that person. Naomi selected Malala Yousafzai, and couldn't stop retelling her amazing story of survival and bravery.

Open House is also a chance to mingle with the teachers and get a little insight about Naomi as a student. The teachers only confirmed what we already knew...Naomi is a bright, kind, helpful, engaged student (who always wears cowboy boots, except on PE day)!