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Very, Very Merry

Our Christmas this year was a bit hectic with multiple family gatherings to attend. Overall, it was very nice though. Good to see our family and visit with them. And it was great seeing the excitement on our boys’ faces as they opened their presents. 🙂

Due to the busyness of this past week, I didn’t have time to create and post a Christmas graphic until tonight. I figure it’s close to Christmas though, so it’s all good. Right? Eh, maybe.

Anyway, here it is. The Have a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year printable. Hope you like it! As always, it’s sized at 8″ x 10″.

If you need another size, just let me know in the comments.

Download the Have a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year printable here: Merry Christmas

Also, be sure to visit my store with onesies, shirts, and much more for your little one. Here’s a sampling of what I offer:

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Hello Winter

Hello winter printableUp here in the northern states of the U.S., it is cold. And we’ve had snow already. Not surprising since winter officially started last Friday. For some this is a favorite time of year. If you’re one of these people, then I have a free download for you!

The Hello Winter printable is sized at 8″x10″ and features hand-drawn snowflakes and evergreen trees with a delicate blue watercolor pattern in the background. I hope you like it!

If you need another size, please let me know in the comments.

Download the Hello Winter graphic here: Hello Winter

 

Also, be sure to visit my store with onesies, shirts, and much more for your little one. Here’s a sampling of what I offer:

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving time to give thanksHere is the US, we’re celebrating Thanksgiving today. 🙂 A day off of work, and a reason to get to together with the extended family for good food and good conversation.

I decided to put together one more freebie for the season, specifically for Thanksgiving. I hope you like it!

Download the Happy Thanksgiving graphic here:
Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Also, be sure to visit my store with onesies, shirts, and much more for your little one. Here’s a sampling of what I offer:

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Be Thankful

Here’ my second free printable! Just in time for Thanksgiving here in the USA. 🙂

A collection of words of things I’m (and hopefully you are too!) thankful for. I hope you like it!  And I hope you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving!

You can download a 8×10 size file of it below. If you need a different size please let me know in the comments.

Download the free Be Thankful print here:
Be Thankful

Also, be sure to visit my store with onesies, shirts, and much more for your little one. Here’s a sampling of what I offer:

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A Little Late, But Here It Is Anyway…

Welcome Autumn printableI decided a few weeks ago to do some seasonal prints — you know, Welcome Autumn, Hello Winter, etc. So, I put together the first one, showed it to Angie, and she tells me that the interwebs are just crawling with this type of thing…. for free no less! I was abashed.

So, I went back to the drawing board to do something else with the seasonal print idea on the back burner.

Well, today I decided to resurrect the idea and just release these things as free downloads. Yay for you! 😉

So, here is the first of hopefully many more seasonal prints. Download away!

This print is sized at 8″x10″. If you need a different size, please let me know and maybe I will be able to help you.

Happy Autumn! Let me know what you think of it in the comments. 🙂

Download your Welcome Autumn printable here:
Welcome Autumn

Also, be sure to visit my store with onesies, shirts, and much more for your little one. Here’s a sampling of what I offer:

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“Parsley Worms”

 

Every year we grow some vegetables and herbs in a small garden out back. This year we had tomatoes and parsley. (I know, pretty pitiful for a garden, but we don’t have that much space!)  A few weeks ago, Angie noticed some little itty bitty worms on the parsley. We thought these were just some pests that needed to be eradicated. After doing some Googling, she discovered we actually had baby swallowtail butterflies! These weren’t “parsley worms” at all, but little caterpillars that had recently hatched. Of course, since butterflies and other pollinators are being threatened by habitat loss, pesticides, etc, we decided to leave the little guys be.

In about a week, they had grown into true caterpillars with black, white and yellow markings. And our parsley was decimated. But that was OK since these little guys needed it to grow up big and strong. 🙂  After doing more research online, we decided we should bring some of the little guys inside and protect them from predators so they could turn into butterflies. Plus we figured it could be an educational experience for our boys to see them metamorphosize.

A view inside the terrarium. The little guy on the left is in position to form his chrysalis.

Angie set up a little habitat in an old terrarium we have with parsley clippings in a vase of water, lots of branches, and a water dish. She then transported 5 of the little guys inside into the habitat. The others she left outside to fend for themselves. We just couldn’t fit them all in the terrarium!

Within a few days, the first caterpillar formed its chrysalis.  The first thing they do before they form the chrysalis is suspend themselves upside down with 2 thin strings of something (webbing maybe?). Then they shed their skin and form a tough outer shell. We found they only did this last part at night when no one could see them. Apparently they were shy. We tried setting up a time lapse of the event on one of our phones, but someone turned the light off and the whole video was in the dark. 🙁

One of the brown chrysalises close up.

Over the next week, the other caterpillars formed their chrysalises. Something really interesting we noticed is that chrysalises on branches were brown, while chrysalises on parsley stems were green. They somehow knew to camouflage themselves. Pretty amazing. 🙂

The Hatching

About a week later, I was in the kitchen when Asher shouted, “Dad come quick! Look at this!” He was super excited about something. I hurried over to where he stood and saw that one of the chrysalises had hatched! We had our first black swallowtail butterfly! Asher ran upstairs and got his brothers and Mom. They all came downstairs to see our new house guest.

Our first swallowtail butterfly trying to get out! (Sorry for the blurry butterfly… it was moving fast!)

The poor thing was frantically beating it wings against the clear plastic of the terrarium. I realized we needed to get it outside so it didn’t tire itself out. We carefully carried the terrarium outside and took the lid off. You’d think the butterfly would be smart enough to sense the air coming in from above him, but he just got confused and kept frantically flying against the clear plastic. 🙁 Finally Angie had the great idea of sticking a flower on a stem into the terrarium by the butterfly. He immediately latched onto it and Angie lifted him out of the terrarium. A few seconds later he was airborne and flying away!

Over the next week, the other chrysalises hatched. One by one, we released them and watched them fly away. The last two came out close to the same time, so we figured they must be buddies. 😉 Angie let the last two go. Below is a video she took of them. It looks like another one was confused by the clear plastic. I suppose I would be too if I were stuck in a terrarium. 🙂

The moral of the story? If you have small creatures on your plants, don’t always assume they are pests. Sometimes they are, but other times they can turn into something beautiful. 🙂

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Treetop Shenanigans

James and Quinn on a treetop platform

Yesterday Angie and I took the boys to Go Ape in Western Springs. We all had a blast! James complained a bit about having to go on the Junior course, but after we started on it, he stopped complaining. 🙂 Quinn seemed OK with going, even though in the past he has mentioned a fear of heights. Asher was very excited. He kept mentioning how he’s a big parkour fan, and this was perfect for him…

What is Go Ape? Well, it’s kind of like an obstacle course through the trees. You’re maybe 25-30 feet above the ground, walking (sometimes crawling) on platforms, rope bridges, and other things that would make someone with acrophobia shudder. 😉 You move from tree to tree on “bridges” of a sort. Of course, you’re harnessed to a steel cable to keep you from falling to the ground.

Asher on the rope bridge

We went on the Junior course because Asher is too young for the Advanced course. They told us it would take about an hour of time to get through it. They start you off easy, on the ‘1st loop’ — the challenges on this course aren’t too bad. You still have to balance yourself to keep from falling. The ‘2nd loop’ is a bit more challenging— the courses aren’t as easy to balance yourself on, and some of them swing a bit. The ‘3rd loop’ is the hardest. In this loop, there are 2 courses that have very precarious swinging features that I for one found difficult to navigate.

At the end of each loop there is a zip line you go down into a giant mound of wood mulch. Needless to say, the zip line on the Junior course is designed for kids. Angie and I were not terribly graceful in our landings! In fact, we could tell the whole Junior course was designed for kids as it was difficult in some spots to get through the course. I suppose that’s what I get for being a 6′ 2″ grown-up going through an obstacle course labeled “Junior”.

James navigating one of the coursesI was very proud of Angie. She was the ONLY mom that was on the course. All the other Moms were below us watching their kids. Wimps! 😉 There was one other dad up doing the course. He was ahead of us, so I kept a close eye on him to see how he navigated each course.

We all made it through the 3 loops. The boys did an amazing job balancing and making it look easy. They put Angie and me to shame. It took us about an hour and 15 minutes or so. By the end we were all tired and sweaty. But it was a ton of fun! I’m probably going to take James and Quinn back to go on the Advanced course later this year… wish me luck…

There are Go Apes across the country. Not one in every state, but they have them close to many large cities. I would highly recommend taking your kids there! It’s a blast! 🙂

We all did it!

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Zoo Crew

We went to the zoo yesterday. Brookfield Zoo just outside of Chicago to be exact. It’s almost an hours drive from our house, but it’s worth it. Brookfield has a huge variety of animals to look at. Unfortunately, no one wanted to look at any. :/

It’s very difficult finding things to do for kids that are such a huge range of ages like ours are. Things that a 6 year old would want to do, an 11 and 13 year old do not want to do. Even though Asher wants to be just like his brothers, he still needs to do stuff that’s appropriate for his age.

James, our oldest at 13 (going on 19), was very annoyed about going. He argued with use incessantly about it. We weren’t going to let him stay home alone for several hours though. Quinn, our middle guy at 11, didn’t complain at all. He is usually very easy going about things. We are very thankful for this. Asher, our youngest at 6, was kind of excited to go, but couldn’t tell us what animals he wanted to see.

Me & the boys at the arachnid exhibit
The boys & me at the arachnid exhibit

After the long drive, we got a good parking spot (yay us!) and made our way in. Grandma had gotten the boys a year long family pass for the zoo (thank you Grandma!) so we didn’t need to pay for anything (not even parking!). Brookfield had a special arachnid exhibit on display, so we went there first. Asher does not like spiders so he was not too thrilled, but he was brave and got through it OK. The arachnid exhibit was pretty awesome. Lots of different spiders to see, along with scorpions and other bug like things from the arachnid family. Everyone like that exhibit.

Afterwards we went to the playground (for Asher). It was kind of sad watching him on the playground equipment without his brothers. 🙁 The older boys just sat with us on the picnic tables.

Quinn and Asher enjoying their snack
Quinn and Asher enjoying their snack
James enjoying his snack
James enjoying his snack

Then we went to get some zoo food. We did need to spend some money on that. Luckily we just had to get snacks for the boys. No meals or drinks (Angie had come prepared with a stocked backpack filled with capri-suns, water bottles, chips, candy, and other stuff). Angie is amazing at planning and packing for things! We are blessed to have her.

After snacks came penguins! As always, the penguin/sea exhibit smelled of fish. But that’s OK. That’s what the little guys eat, so of course it would kind of smell. We saw large fish, small fish, anemones, shrimp, coral reefs, jelly fish, some sea birds, and of course, the penguins. The penguins were having a grand old time splashing and swimming about.

The last place we went for the day was the Hammill Family Play Zoo. Again, James was not too keen on going to this place, but we felt we should for Asher. We explained (again) to James that we have to do stuff for Asher, and can’t just do things that he finds interesting. The boys all ended up having fun here. They built a fort together outside and walked around in the garden out back. Inside, James chilled in a sensory room for a bit while the rest of us went to the different exhibits.

On our way out, James admitted that he was glad he had come and had had fun. 🙂 Asher on the other hand was in a horrible mood. Probably due to his brothers being not too nice to him during our zoo excursion. Ah, brotherly love.

 

 

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A Very Good Boy: Scout

We got Scout about 6 years ago, when Asher was still a baby. June 25th, 2012 to be exact. He’s definitely part of our family, as anyone with a dog would know. Scout (or Scouty or Scouty P.) is a black lab mixed with some mystery breed that gives him a stumpy/squished tail (kinda like an Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog or Brittany Spaniel).

We got Scout from the local shelter. We would never actually buy a dog when there are so many in need of a good home. When we met Scout, one hot summer day, he seemed like a good dog: friendly, good with our kids, etc. We immediately signed the papers, and took him home. He was about a year old at that time. It was only a few days later at the vet that we discovered he had heartworm! No wonder he was so laid back and chill. He had no energy to be a puppy!

Heartworm treatment consists of a series of shots to kill the little buggers. It is an expensive treatment, especially when you have 3 kids to support. We ended up taking Scout to an awesome clinic (the Fox Valley Animal Welfare League) in a neighboring town where they provide low cost vet services. They were willing to give Scout the heartworm shots to cure this horrible disease. I took Scout over there every morning for a week or two, and picked him up after work. The clinic was a life saver! We can’t thank them enough.

With the heartworms cured, Scout turned into a medium-sized black-furred dynamo of puppy energy. Our kids loved it.

Currently, Scout is a Very Good Boy. Everyone always comments on how good he is. He is patient with the kids and very friendly with other dogs and people. He spends his days sleeping and chewing rawhides, and playing. Scout is probably about 7 or so. He is starting to get a little gray around his muzzle. 🙁

Scout’s only vice is food. He loves food. If we could hear his thoughts they would probably go like this “Hungry! Hungry! Hungry! Pet me! Hungry! Bone! Pet me! Hungry!” His favorite types of foods consist of: sticks of butter, loaves of bread, pans of brownies (see a trend?), granola bars, lettuce, and frozen peas. Most of these he turns into an acrobat for and steals from our counters (except for lettuce and frozen peas). He is a horrible counter surfer. We’ve tried different things to stop him, but nothing deters his surfin’.

Due to his eating habits Scout is quite heavy. We really need to take him on more walks! And keep the pantry door shut…

Tomorrow is the anniversary of us getting Scout. It’s his unofficial birthday. So, happy birthday Scout! We ❤ you!

Scouty P. – reclining after a busy day of chewing bones.
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Gone Fishing!

Last Saturday I took the boys to a kids’ fishing derby at Maple Lane Farms in Yorkville, IL (about an hour west of Chicago). Every year in June they hold one of these, and it’s a great experience for kids. They stock their pond with fish so you’re almost guaranteed to catch something. There were also experts on hand to help bait hooks and release fish, poles to rent, and free bait. They also had a “critter pond” with a snapping turtle, lots of bullfrogs, and some red eared sliders. Like I said, it was a great experience.

We brought two of our own poles, with hooks, and grabbed some night-crawlers from the bait area. The boys weren’t too keen at first on baiting the hooks, but after a bit, James stepped right up and started skewering worms with me. We also tried minnows as bait, which I had never done before. That was hard to do 1) because their little eyes stared straight into my soul as I pierced there tail ends with a hook 🙁 , and 2) they wriggle around like crazy (which I don’t blame them for).

We had some trouble with our poles, so we ended up renting one (for free) from the farm. James ended up catching 3 fish! (I have no clue what he caught since I do not fish myself. All I know is they had scales and gills and were pretty darn big.) He said he liked fishing and wanted to do more of it! Unfortunately, Asher and Quinn didn’t catch anything. This was a bummer because it was Asher’s first time fishing. It was Quinn’s second, but I still felt bad that they didn’t get any bites.

Overall it was a good day. I highly recommend taking your kids to this free event.

James with his catch
James displaying his first catch of the day. I had to get the hook out. (not easy!)