Monday, March 26, 2007

Planet Earth

Last night we were mesmerized by the Discovery Channel's new series, Planet Earth. The photography is amazing. Its definitely biased towards featuring the more highly adapted vertebrates on our planet. But who cares? These animals are fantastic - polar bear cubs skittering across the ice, sharks bursting out of the water to catch a seal, enormous whale sharks drifting by in a smokey cloud of bait fish.

I was so excited, I told the kids about the series on the way to school. After homework was done, I turned the ocean episode on for them while I finished dinner. They were just as enthusiastic as we were. "I see a dolphin!" Colin shrieked. "A whale shark!!!!" (his favorite) Anna said, "Those baby turtles are so, so cute! Hurry and get into the water before the birds eat you!"

If you have Tivo, but this series on your list. It gets 4 Thumbs up from us.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Spring is an eggy time of year

If you just feed the chickens over the fence, and don't actually go in there to collect eggs for a few days, this is what you get:

14 eggs!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Busy as a Bee in Spring

Everyday I notice more plants, trees, and flowers blooming as I drive around Austin. It's beautiful. March always has the best weather, but it seems so tenuous and fragile - before we know it, it will be hot and humid all the time. As the bluebonnets fade, we'll close up the windows and turn on the AC. It'll stay on until the end of September. Soon, we won't be able to walk across the parking lot without getting coated with a layer of sweat. Right now the weather is perfect, idyllic, Californian. It makes you want to spend all your days gardening (eh, Sinda?)

We had a visit from Anthony's uncle Volker from Germany. Anthony and Volker have always had a special relationship, and we always especially enjoy his once-a-year visits. Last year, they built a composting system. This year, they worked on some of the landscaping. It looks great, and lots of neighbors are giving us compliments.

Anna is getting geared up for her 6th birthday and party. This year its going to be smaller (and saner) than last year. She is so much fun to be around. She made brownies for her ballet teacher to say thank you for all our guests last week. Anna read the instructions and made them all by herself. She even bravely put the pan in the hot oven with my assistance, AND she cleaned the bowl (with soap, not just her tongue!).

Colin is precious, using more sophisticated language skills every day. He is very sweet and snuggly, and if he gains any more weight I won't be able to pick him up anymore. He loves to read about whales, sharks, and fish. He loves to check my teeth with his finger. Maybe he'll be a marine veterinarian dentist.

Francesca has been so good and sweet lately. When she was staying at Stacy's house last week, I really missed her. At 1 1/2 years of age, she is starting to settle in; she is secure about her place here and knows the rules and routine. She never fails to greet me without an earnest, endearing nose in my face. She hasn't stolen any food for ages!

Anthony and I started our second Spanish class. We have a new instructor, who is very enthusiastic, very dynamic, and very talented at teaching Spanish. Unfortunately, we are starting a little bit behind. She speaks almost exclusively in Spanish during class. It is overwhelming, but I am hoping the accelerated pace will drag us forward. The instructor pantomimes what she is saying, to great comic effect - "Es emergencia! Necessito ir al bano!" and waves her arms about, to great musical effect, since she has many bracelets and bangles. Seriously, like 32 on one arm and 12 on the other. With charms.

This month is so full, so fun, so precious, so happy; like the weather, I almost wish it would last forever. Except for this sore throat! Anthony and I have both had allergic pharyngitis for over a week now!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Funny Quotes from Spring Break

At the big buffet dinner, Graham and Anna decided to try onion rings. They selected one each.

"What do you think of that onion ring, Graham?" his mom asked.

"Crunchy....and not good," he decided. Anna agreed, holding hers aloft. It was perfectly round, with one tiny bite of batter gone at the rim.

Colin took his shoe off in the car and discovered a hole on the bottom of his sock.

"Look at your hole!" Anna said. "Its so big!"

"Its like an 'O,' " Colin said solemnly.

(maybe it was funnier in person with Colin's adorable delivery)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Spring Break Photos

Stephanie and the twins came to our house to start, and they all got treated to Anna's ballet class. This was a lot of fun for all the cousins!

Anna and a classmate are in front; Paige, Graham, and Colin are in the back.

The next day after a big pancake breakfast, we caravaned down to San Antonio. We stayed in a really great hotel that had a lazy river and lots of pools and other outdoor activities. UNFORTUNATELY, it poured rain so we could not avail ourselves of all the neat outdoor amenities. But, they had indoor stuff set up, like hair braiding, air brush tattoos, and a screening of CARS.

When we got to our room, Anna was so impressed she had to call her Daddy and tell him all about it. "Daddy, they have a phone and a TV in here! And the floor tiles are in a pattern; they are in a pattern. And the shower is amazing, it has walls that go up, and a seat! And they left us soaps! Isn't that nice of them?"

Here are the kids, following Stephanie like a line of little ducklings down the hall!

The next day we got up early and went to Sea World. There was no rain; instead, there was a heavy overcast mist, that blocked the sun and kept it a cool 58 degrees. We never got hot, didn't need sunblock, and I only bought one drink all day. The kids LOVED the park. They loved the kiddie rollercoaster, the shark and ray exhibit, the funny sea lion show, and the killer whale show. Anna even got to touch a dolphin! Here we are, getting ready for the big show. "SHAMU!"

At 4 in the afternoon, we were sad to say goodbye to our cousins but ready to go home. Colin fell asleep in the car on the way home, and Anna slept until 9:30 am the next day! How great to be tuckered out from so much fun!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

And, we're off!

Thanks for all your many well wishes of health! I am feeling better, so we are off to San Antonio and Sea World for lots of fun with our cousins and Aunties. Both kids (but especially Colin) have recently developed an interest in marine biology, so they are excited beyond belief!

See ya soon!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Out of Sorts

Yesterday, Anthony and I cancelled all our work appointments and lounged around in bed together all day. Sounds lovely, doesn't it? Well, it wasn't -- we both came down with what I suspect was food poisoning. I started vomiting at 3 am. I got up to let the dog out and feed her at 9 am and vomited some more. I did manage to be upright for about 30 minutes between 4-5 pm, then I went back to bed and fell asleep until morning.

Anthony felt marginally better. He didn't have any vomiting, and was able to take the kids to school and get them home. He cooked a frozen pizza for their dinner.

This morning both kids were excited to see me sitting up. Later, we went to a local plant sale to buy our heirloom tomato plants, and I petered out pretty quickly. I ended up sitting in the grass, listening to a mediocre children's musician with Colin, while Anna and Anth did most of the plant picking.

I tried to nap this afternoon, but about every 20 minutes Colin came banging on the door. "Mahhhhh....Mayyyyyy...Ding-dong, ding-dong!" He just wanted my attention. I gave up on the nap, talked to him, and played some card games with Anna.

Hopefully tomorrow will be even better.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Dog C-Section Pictures

You may remember that the day after Thanksgiving I was quite chuffed to do a scheduled c-section on a bulldog. Here are some before and after photos.

This is me, presenting the enormous Y-shaped uterus after I pulled it out of the abdomen. It is stuffed with 6 big puppies.

This photo is a little blurry because it's an action shot, me pulling one of the pups from the warm, wet uterus into the cold, bright world.

6 weeks later I had the pleasure of seeing the pups again for their first vaccinations. They were all fat and beautiful. Unfortunately, I couldn't manage a picture of all 6 in one view.

Like Sausages!

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Chef Anthony

When I came home from work today, the kids were happily munching away at the table. Next to them was a little menu, where they had circled their lunch choices. To make lunch at home more fun for them, Anthony had printed menus for his "restaurant." Choices included quesadilla with white cheese, quesadilla with yellow cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, yogurt, and sliced or whole apple. The "special" was mango. Very cute.

Then, since I volunteered him to make a cake for Anna's school fundraiser cake walk, he got to bake all afternoon. I made a batch of icing for him and mixed a few colors, and did some clean up, but he was the one with the skills for execution:

Poor guy, and he was feeling under the weather. Anna's school symbol is a hot air balloon, so that is where the idea for the design came from. I love the little people he put in the basket.

By far, Anthony's cake was the best at the cake walk. Sadly, there were only about 5 homemade cakes there. The rest were store bought. There were also some store bought cookies and cupcakes. It just seemed SO wrong. Why pay $1 for a one in thirty chance at a cake I can buy for $5 at HEB? Anthony literally put hours into this cake, and it was lost in a sea of plastic store containers. There probably won't be a repeat performance.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dumb and Dumber

Last weekend we went to a great gardening festival. There were lots of kids' activities, including stations where they could learn about frogs, worms, and bees. There was a real hive, the kind behind glass, where you could watch all the bees busy working on top of the honeycomb. The big queen had a little dot on her back, and you could watch her laying eggs.

Anna and Colin entered a contest to win the fire-bellied toad they were going to give away at the end of the festival. You'll never guess who won. Yep, Anna did. She was so excited - she whooped and hollered, then stepped up to get her toad. They made her promise to buy him live food, provide him a safe appropriate habitat, and take him to the vet if he got sick. She breathlessly answered yes. (BTW, I don't know what I'll do with him if he gets sick.)

At first I thought we'd gotten more than I bargained for, looking at the list of things this creature needed - a heat source, a filter, a live plant, and live food (crickets). But apparently one toad in one large tank in our warm climate does not need all those bells and whistles. The crickets, though, are nonnegotiable.

So now we have a toad living with us, and about 10 crickets. The crickets are gross. Anna loves "Speckles," her toad, but he is dull. He sits on his rock all day, and he sits under his rock all night.

The toad is not very smart either. The cricket basically has to wander right in front of his field of vision in a way that triggers the little hunting ganglion in his rudimentary brain before he will snap at it.

The crickets are even dumber. They like to jump off the rocks into the water, where they inevitably drown. So I put a cricket in there, and he jumps into the water, I reach in to rescue the bug, but my hand startles the toad who goes off swimming. I put the cricket back on the rocks, and it crawls over the toad, which kicks him into the water. I put him back on the rock, and he crawls up over the back of the toad. The toad does not recognize him as food when he sneaks up behind him this way, and so he lets it get away and jump in the water again. I rescue the cricket again, who is now heaving with respirations on the rock. I leave them alone. An hour later, the cricket is drowned, thus inedible.

So far, we've drowned 5 crickets, and the toad ate two. Argh!