Fun Friday – Field Trips!

I have been on two field trips in the last week; one with Big Brother to a local nursery because he has been learning about plants, and one with The Princess to our local natural habitat zoo because she has been learning about animals.

I tried to snap a few pictures of the kids and their friends learning in the fun settings, but I also let them take charge of the camera at times so that they could practice their photography skills. ¬†They were both very proud of their photos so I thought I would share some. ūüôā

First, Tallahassee Nurseries with 3rd graders:

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the beautiful gazebo with wind chimes

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getting beans to plant

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a banana plant in full bloom

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someone found a cicada skeleton

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the dragon in the pond

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pollinating bees

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gigantic sword beans (they were over a foot long)

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class portrait

And now, the Tallahassee Museum with 1st graders:

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black bear going for a swim

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Florida panther hanging out in a tree

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deer

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wild turkeys

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vultures – yuck

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bald eagle

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finally brave enough to touch a snake

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watching turtles “running” over to eat

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“scientists”

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that’s my girl in the front row with a disgusted look on her face…she was not that excited about being so close to a baby alligator

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here’s a shot of my girl (in pig tails) waiting for the hand sanitizer…she touched the alligator so quickly, the camera missed it.

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class shot

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Fun At The Jelly Belly Factory

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by the official Jelly Belly van

While we were in the San Francisco area a few weeks ago, we decided to take the kids for a tour of the Jelly Belly factory.  Now, I must confess that I am not a huge fan of jelly beans in general.  I find the consistency kind of gross and the flavors usually remind me of cough syrup and for those reasons I tend to steer clear of them.  However, sampling all of the flavors at the Jelly Belly factory has changed my mind!

entering the factory/store

entering the factory/store

We got there right when it opened and only had to wait in line a few minute before our tour began.

Ready for the tour

Ready for the tour

They offered us all little hats to wear and even Big Trouble kept his on most of the time (except for when we took a family picture with the giant jelly bean, naturally).

He couldn't be bothered with his hat during the photo op

He couldn’t be bothered with his hat during the photo-op

We got to see each stage of the jelly bean making process (sadly, couldn’t take pictures) and taste a new flavor of jelly beans at each little stop. ¬†The first we tasted was cantaloupe and it tasted EXACTLY like cantaloupe! ¬†I was floored at how accurate the flavor was! ¬†We also got to taste plum and marshmallow, as well as 3 more flavors of our choice. ¬†I have to say, they were all pretty tasty, but my favorite was the buttered popcorn! ¬†YUMMY!

Of course, they mentioned that not all of their flavor attempts turn out, but they save these anyway and rename them nasty names and sell them for “fun” (I’m guessing this was inspired by the Harry Potter ‘every flavor beans’ but you know they won’t admit that). ¬†I was not up for trying any gross flavors, but Big Trouble will eat just about anything so he got to try booger, pencil shavings and moldy cheese! ¬†He did not spit them out. ¬†(insert a semi-guilty mom-conscience for allowing him to be the guinea pig for nasty jelly beans, but it was pretty funny)

check out some of the reject flavors

check out some of the reject flavors

Along the way, we also saw some of the cool jelly bean mosaics that have been created over time as the Jelly Belly corporation grew.

hall of presidents

hall of presidents

Ronald Reagan - champion of jelly beans

with Ronald Reagan – champion of jelly beans

We also got to sample some spectacular fudge (who knew they made that too?) and we each received a sampler bag of their most popular flavors, which we shared with other family members.  Might I mention that this entire ordeal was completely FREE?!  Yes, you read that right; it was totally free!

what a great trip!

one more fun shot before we left

I have officially been converted to a fan of Jelly Belly’s and I foresee me purchasing some more of those buttered popcorn jelly beans in the very near future! I will steer clear of the moldy cheese and booger flavored ones though. ūüôā

How To Tote a Car Seat Through An Airport Without Losing Your Mind (Or Spending A Fortune)

airplaneI’m the first to admit that the scariest part about flying cross-country with our three young children was thinking about how in the world we were going to get our 2-year-old (Big Trouble) to sit still on the flights. ¬†I mean, he doesn’t sit still at home or nearly anywhere else, so why would I even think he would stay in an easily escapable plane seat? ¬†Even though I have never used a car seat on a flight before, I knew I really didn’t have any other options if I didn’t want our flight crew to kick us off the plane. ¬†My tiny “angel” had to be strapped in.

I started asking around and getting ideas from various people and friends and family and while the consensus was that it is a pain to use a car seat on an airplane (yes, it is, when you factor in the narrow aisles and even smaller areas for leg room between the seats while you are trying to set everything up), there are things you can use to get it around the airport without a lot of trouble; everything from specialty bags with wheels, to collapsable luggage carts, to specialized straps that you can buy to attach the seat to a rolling luggage.  The prices ranged from $19.95 to over $100.

Well, there was no way I was going to spend a ton of money when we hardly ever fly, not to mention that a lot of these products had to be ordered well in advance and had numerous reviews citing that they are not as easy to use as they appear so I would need to practice so that I don’t hold up the line at security and getting on and off the plane. ¬†Um, no; having to practice something hardly makes it easy. ¬†But, we had a TON of luggage that would be going with us and there was no way anyone could carry the car seat through the airport. ¬†So, I looked around for an alternative and, guess what? ¬†I found it very easily for $1.50 at The Home Depot.

all of our junk on the "helpful" luggage cart (this did not include the car seat or our three kids so you can imagine the struggles)

all of our junk on the “helpful” luggage cart (this did not include the car seat or our three kids so you can imagine the struggles)

The mystery item that was the secret to my success? ¬†A bungee cord with plastic hooks. ¬†Seriously. ¬†That’s it. ¬†It is an adjustable cord that allows it to go from 24″ to 42″ so it will fit any size car seat and rolling carry-on luggage (no, it was not created especially for this purpose but I had no idea what size I would need so the adjustable worked beautifully). ¬†And, it literally took me about 10 seconds to strap together and less than that to take it apart. ¬†Every time. ¬†Absolute life saver in my book.

perfection

perfection

Just flip the seat upside down, place it on top of the luggage and strap on. ¬†Never had an issue with it sliding or falling off or not wheeling correctly, etc. ¬†And, the cord doesn’t have metal so it’s safe for you, security doesn’t think you are going to use it as a weapon on anyone else, and it’s easily stored in a back pack or the rolling carry-on until the next use.

The car seat worked well for us and Big Trouble was renamed “Just a Little Trouble Because We’re Flying At Awful Times” for the duration of our flights to the West Coast and back home again.

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Strapped in and ready for Take Off!

Seriously, if you are flying and need to bring a car seat, even if you just check it at the gate so that there’s no fear of losing it along the way, this is the way to go!!! ¬†Now, if only I could have figured out how to strap Big Trouble to the bigger luggage…..

Leaving On A Jet Plane….With 3 kids

Well, tonight we head out west to attend a wedding and see the San Francisco area. ¬†While we are excited to go, I am a little terrified of the flights since Big Trouble is known for living up to his name and that’s never good on a long flight (or when there is a layover that will inevitably be delayed).

hopefully it won't come to this...

hopefully it won’t come to this…

Please say a little prayer for us as we attempt to keep our sanity during this time! ūüôā ¬†I am looking forward to catching up with everyone when we get back! ¬†Have a great week!

Painting With A Highwayman

A few weekends ago, my older son was invited to attend a special painting session with Aletha Butler, a second generation Florida “Highwayman” artist. ¬†If you are not familiar with this famous group of artists, here’s a little snippet on their history.

The Florida Highwaymen, a group of 26 African-Americans, broke convention to paint beautiful iconic landscapes. Originating in the mid 1950’s, an era marked by racism and poverty, these self-taught entrepreneurs mentored each other while they painted on basic materials like Upson board for canvasses, and crown molding for frames. Local galleries shunned their work, so they peddled their art from car trunks along area roadways, hence their name. Their art freed them from work in citrus groves and labor camps, and they created a body of work that has become not only a timeless collection of a natural environment, but a symbol of determination and belief in oneself. ¬†¬†The surviving Highwaymen, now in their sixties and seventies, are an important chapter in America‚Äôs culture and history, indeed, a National Treasure. Their self-determination in the face of adversity remains an important story of perseverance, inspiration and creativity.

We were very excited to learn that siblings were welcome to attend this outing as well so I left Big Trouble with Daddy (can you imagine him with an abundance of paint and a huge landscape to destroy?!) and headed over to Mission San Luis to meet the artist and learn more about her painting style.

introduction to the Butler family

introduction to the Butler family

The day couldn’t have been more perfect for the outdoor session; it was sunny, in the low 70’s, with a calm, cool breeze. ¬†The group of children who attended was small enough that Ms. Butler was able to interact with everyone easily. ¬†We were delighted to learn that she had brought her mother and father, Robert Butler, an original member of the Highwaymen, along to the session as well. ¬†The trio of Butlers proved to be lovely people; extremely accommodating and friendly to all of the children.

Now, my mother’s paternal side of the family are all very artistic. ¬†My great-grandmother was an artist, as was my great-uncle, and most of the distant relations have some sort of artistic ability. ¬†As much I as wanted to inherit this ability like my mom and brother and sister, it was not in the cards for me. ¬†I am a very creative person, but artistic? Not so much. ¬†My older son is very much like me in that he desperately longs to be artistic, but his strength lies in the “art” of writing vs. the visual arts. ¬†We knew this heading into the session, so I was interested to see what both he and my daughter (who shows a little more promise in the arts, at least when she takes her time) would come up with.

watching the demonstration

watching the demonstration

The kids watched Ms. Butler explain how she starts by using shapes and mixing colors and it was amazing to watch her make it look so simple (it definitely is not simple). ¬†My daughter started off trying to paint the landscape like Ms. Butler did, and it looked really good until she discovered that mixing the colors and just spreading them across the canvas was more fun – she was “exspearminting”. ¬†The flower she had been working on was quickly covered by randomness.

notice how calm and normal the pictures started off

notice how calm and normal the pictures started off

the mess that it turned into when she started mixing colors

the mess that it turned into when she started mixing colors

I did no painting and somehow I was still covered in paint....

I did no painting and somehow I was still covered in paint thanks to her “experiments”….

My son chose a different route and tried to paint a copy of an amazing painting Ms. Butler had done of a frog on a leaf.

Ms. Butler's painting

Ms. Butler’s painting

the beginning of a frog

the beginning of his copy

I could tell what he was going for, but the colors kind of just started blending into each other and he started getting a little frustrated when no one else could tell what he was painting.  At that point, Mr. Butler came over and started talking to my son about his painting.  He had just finished painting a picture with another student, so my son bravely asked if he would mind painting with him.  I thought he might have been tired from making the rounds earlier, but he sat right down with my son and gave him a one-on-one lesson about how he creates paintings.

discussing painting with Robert Butler

discussing painting with Robert Butler and a friend

He used the weird colors that my son had used and placed them in the same parts of the canvas that my son had, but reinterpreted it to create a landscape.

starting his copy of my son's picture

starting his copy of my son’s picture, using just the colors and placement

a little more added to the canvas

a little more added to the canvas

things are starting to look like actual objects with just simple strokes of the brush

things are starting to look like actual objects with just simple strokes of the brush

adding the finishing touches

adding the finishing touches

pointing out the similarities and differences because every artist has a different point of view

pointing out the similarities and differences because every artist has a different point of view

IT WAS AMAZING.  And it only took him about 15 minutes to complete his painting.  He even signed it and gave it to my son to keep, while sweetly asking my son to send him a signed piece when he gets older in exchange.

The two paintings side by side

The two paintings side by side (it’s hard to tell from this picture, but up close, the details in Mr. Butler’s painting are so vivid and create a simplistically beautiful portrait of a small pond within a bright, wooded area – and that all came from just glancing at my son’s color scheme!)

I know my 7-year-old doesn’t fully comprehend how special that moment (or the gift of the picture) was, but I sure do. ¬†I am going to frame both pictures and hang them in his room so that we can remember this experience.

Both Robert and Aletha Butler, as well as many of the other Butler children, still work as artists and sell their beautiful paintings, so if you are in the market for a beautiful landscape painting, please check this extraordinary family out. ¬†You won’t be disappointed.

**If you are in the Tallahassee area, Ms. Butler’s work will be on display at the FSU Fine Arts Museum from May-July as part of the Generations exhibit. ¬†My son will also have a piece there too as part of a class legacy project!**

Wordless Wednesday – The Helicopter Egg Hunt

the descent of the helicopter

the descent of the helicopter

ooh, here it comes

ooh, here it comes

dropping eggs down for the kids

dropping eggs down for the kids

the little kids watching the eggs come down

the little kids watching the eggs come down

searching for eggs

searching for eggs

bypassing all of the eggs on the preschool playground because the slide is more fun than egg hunting

bypassing all of the eggs on the preschool playground because the slide is more fun than egg hunting

finally realizing we were on the playground to find eggs

finally realizing we were on the playground to find eggs

they found golden eggs!

they found golden eggs!

covered in eggs on the drive home

covered in eggs on the drive home

Wordless Wednesday – No Ducks Were Harmed In The Writing Of This Post

a beautiful day to run at Lake Ella

a beautiful day to run at Lake Ella

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hello Mr. Duck, want me to spwash with you?

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The ducks wisely ran away (we left them some bread to apologize for the noise my little guy was making)

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checking out the “knees” of the trees

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who wants to look at the beauty of nature when there are rocks to climb on?!

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mama duck guarding her new little babies who were snuggling together in the sun

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turtle sunbathing

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday – Wakulla Springs

**This past weekend, I took my older two kids to ride the river boat at Wakulla Springs. ¬†It is the place where the original “Creature From the Black Lagoon” and several of the Johnny Weismuller “Tarzan” movies were filmed. ¬†It is a beautiful and peaceful setting right down the road from our home in Tallahassee and, although my daughter could only manage to tell the captain of the boat that the water stinks (which it doesn’t – she is weird) and wonder how long until she fell off the boat, my son and I loved exploring the beautiful, and somewhat scary, elements of nature that we saw on this visit. ¬†I wanted to share them with you. ¬†We don’t live in the “Everglades” part of Florida so some of these animals are pretty rare for us and for a lot of the United States too so I hope you enjoy them as much as we did! ¬†Happy Wednesday!**

I know it might appear as though he is about to shove her off of the boat, but he was really just pointing out the cool stuff in the water.  It was pretty sweet.

I know it might appear as though he is about to shove her off of the boat, but he was really just pointing out the cool stuff in the water. It was a rare moment of sweetness.

A mama manatee and her baby

A mama manatee and her baby

6 little turtles all in a row

6 little turtles all in a row

a crazy big brown snake that apparently was not a water moccasin

a crazy big brown snake that apparently was not a water moccasin, but just as frightening as I did not zoom in on this picture.  we really were that close and that sucker is roaming the wild.

just one of the many alligators we saw

just one of the many alligators we saw

if you look closely behind this mama alligator, in between her and the shore, you can see that she is guarding two of her little babies (they are tiny and striped)

if you look closely behind this mama alligator, in between her and the shore, you can see that she is guarding a baby (it is tiny and striped so kind of looks like a snake in the picture)

a large anhinga

a large anhinga drying her wings

a white ibis

a white ibis

a rare blue heron

a rare blue heron

a bunch of old coots (I just liked the name of these - reminds me of something I would hear at a retirement home)

a bunch of old coots (I just liked the name of these – reminds me of something I would hear at a retirement home)