Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Happy Halloween

The artist hard a work.

Three happy faces.

We grew these pumpkins, from seed to jack-o-lantern, right here at home. That's a first for us. Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Place For Children

I may have made mention here that I am somewhat lacking in the green thumb department. I maintain this is because all the green genes went to my sister. Amy is a master gardener and her husband is a talented landscaper. Not only is her house surrounded by beautiful plants and rocks, but she also put in a natural prairie filled with native plants. It's lovely to look at and also invites climbing.
(It could be that these plants are so healthy because they are the final destination of the poop scooped by the pony riders in the previous post.)

Amy's other ongoing project is a children's garden created and maintained by her group of master gardeners. I've been hearing about this project for several years, but to be honest, I had no idea of the scope of this project. My own children's garden at the library is a 16 X 16 ft. piece of dirt where we plant, weed and harvest during the summer and plant rye in the winter. While I knew Amy's garden would be more elaborate than that, I was not prepared for the reality.

Unfortunately my camera was dead by the time we got there, so I don't have as many pictures as I'd like to. I found the above picture online. You can see the metalwork entry. There is a variety of metal sculptures, all painted bright kid friendly colors. There is a butterfly house.
By the time of our visit, all the butterflies had gone off on their annual Mexican vacation, but I'm assured that they were in residence over the summer. There is a pavilion for programming, a potting shed for obvious purposes, a secret garden complete with sleeping cat, a Japanese garden with bell that the kids can ring, and a mini version of the 100 Acre Wood complete with Eeyore's house and a bee tree. There is a tunnel maze and a sun dial, all kid sized along with a great photo op.

Isn't that the cutest little ladybug ever?

I was frankly amazed. Although we visited very late in the year, there were still lots of plants and flowers, and the structures were lovely. But of course the garden wasn't built for me, so my opinion isn't what matters. What matters is that my kid swept into the place like a mini tsunami and loved every single square foot. The mark of a great place for kids is often whether or not the children need to be told how to enjoy it. Apart from the sun dial, Kate needed no instruction. She flitted from spot to spot like a super excited hummingbird and covered every inch of the place. This is definitely a place for kids.

She took a ride on the rhino and finally came to rest on the butterfly chair.

Good job Aunt Amy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Cowgirls Don't Cry...Much

Last weekend we visited my sister, Amy and her husband, Clint. They live in our state, but 3.5 hours away, so we don't get out there as much as we should. Odd because it's really my favorite vacation. There's no stress, no one expects you to be entertaining or show up anywhere at a certain time, and there's even electricity (in contrast to our last vacation).

It's been so long since our last visit, that it was all new to Kate; dogs, horses and all. (Including ours, there were 4 dogs, 2 horses, 1 pony and an indeterminate amount of cats. They hide while we are there, so I'm never sure.) We picked a good weekend to visit. On Saturday we went to the Van Wert Apple Festival, one of those nice, small town fair events with crafters, homemade food and a barrel train. What, you've never seen a barrel train before?

Don't worry, I'd never seen one either. There were about 8 barrels with seats and seat belts installed and pulled by a lawn mower. The guy just put out a donations jar, and took kids all around the fair grounds. My kid was in heaven. There was no yarn or fiber to buy, but I did pick up a cool new purse made from a rag rug. Really.

On Sunday, we went to the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo for their Halloween event. Kate got to trick-or-treat, see some of the animals, and pick out a pumpkin to take home. The animals who were not on display due to the cold, were replaced by some lifelike doubles:

They are made from gourds, pumpkins, cornstalks and some rebar. Somebody worked really hard at it. There was a giraffe, an awesome peacock and some crowned cranes that we spent about three full minutes admiring without noticing the live versions walking around behind them. Oops. They also had a corn and hay bale maze. Kate and I worked our way through the cornstalk maze together and then she made it to the center of the short maze all on her own. She was so proud.

Daddy also attempted a death-defying stunt:

Don't worry, he survived. Then Kate found an old friend:

We have taken her picture with this distinguished gentleman every year at the Cleveland Zoo. It was some kind of surprise to find him visiting Fort Wayne at the same time as us. I had to laugh as other families tried to convince their kids to sit with him, and tried to show them where to be, and Kate just scampered up there and parked herself right where she belonged.

So the apple festival and the zoo were really fun, but the highlight of the weekend was really in the barn:

My sister and her husband purchase this little guy, named Booger (Clint has an interesting sense of humor) for his nephew, Kale, to ride. Kale is 3 and generally wants to get down after 10 minutes or so. Clint put Kate up there and started walking around the barn and I had to tell him that she wasn't going to ask him to stop. If he was waiting for her to be done, he'd be walking all night. And Clint was more than happy to walk most of the evening. **Brace yourself, I'm about to brag on my kid** So we put Kate's hands on the saddle horn and told her to hang on tight. After a few rounds, Booger did a little pony dance and Kate came out of the saddle. I looked up to see my kid hanging off the side of him like a little leech. She would NOT let go. Clint grabbed her up and brought her over to us. She had a scrape on her belly and was crying a little. I made sure she was OK and said the classic line, "Now, if you want to be a real cowgirl, you need to get back on and ride some more." And guess what, she DID. I'm beyond proud. Seriously, I'm convinced this is one of the defining moments of my parenting life. My kid literally, not figuratively, climbed back on the horse that bucked her off. She might turn out OK after all.

And in the same "learning experience" vein, Kate also paid for her ride each night by helping Uncle Clint scoop the horse poop. Here she is with Kale carrying the bucket from pile to pile.

So we all enjoyed the weekend immensely, aside from Karl who had some trouble working out which of the dogs was in charge and whose butt he should not sniff. (oooh TMI?)

On Monday, before we left, Amy took us to the Children's Garden she has helped create. Trust me, it needs it own blog entry. Stay tuned.