Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Bat House

Some of our post-Christmas entertainment included a trip to the bat house on the University of Florida campus. Every evening at dusk, thousands (estimates range from 60,000 to 100,000) bats fly out of the house to hunt. More than 100 people gathered on the sidewalk to wait for this exciting event--apparently it frequently draws large crowds.

The kids were pretty patient while we waited for the big moment. Less patient people ventured across the street to some kind of lake/swamp where you could apparently see alligators. We didn't look.

Elizabeth and Abbey waited in their stroller. Unlike my kids, they are always happy to smile nicely for the camera.

After about 30 minutes, the bats finally emerged. I was glad we were standing under a tree when they flew over, although the branches didn't block the stench from the flying bats.

I read on an informational sign near the bat house that one bat can eat up to 3,000 insects a night. We're considering building a house for some to move into our backyard.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas craziness

We have had a very exciting Christmas with my family this week, starting with an ambitious trip to a Christmas Eve church service with Josh, Molly and the twins. This is the best picture I got before I left. Josh and Molly made it through most of the service with only one minor fight over a plastic cup. Luckily that was during some congregational singing, so most of the people did not hear Molly's high-pitched screaming.

We spent the rest of Christmas Eve wrapping presents and putting together toys in triplet for the girls. Here are some elves assembling small plastic shopping carts.

Josh told my mom all week that she had too many presents under her tree, a problem that he easily could fix by opening a few. We made him hold off until Christmas morning, and he was pretty excited when the day finally arrived.

The most popular gifts among the toddler girl set were baby dolls and child-size strollers.

My parents' enormous bathroom has been the site of several interesting incidents this week, including the girls playing in the shower with the strollers and Molly and Elizabeth filling the toilet with TP and trying to flush it. Last night's bathroom highlight included Josh streaking in front of dinner guests to quietly tell my mom about Molly pooping (I'll leave out the gory details) and Josh helping Molly slide headfirst into the giant tub. It's been quite an adventure.

Don't worry. There's no photo documentation from last night.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Edible Art

We indulged in a little Christmas spirit tonight and let the kids decorate gingerbread houses that Josh brought home from school last week. I think they enjoyed eating the "cement" (Josh's word for icing) as much as they did the decorating. The results were not that artistic, but the process was fun.

A rare moment of working together

Molly was very meticulous about her candy placement

Gran supervised

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Traumatizing Santa

We accomplished a new first tonight: possibly the only family that Santa asked to move on because he was being "traumatized." As you can see in this picture, he was telling Chris not to take his picture with Molly, who pitched a fit anytime she got within a five-foot radius of Santa. I was trying not to laugh and telling Chris to quickly record the moment while Santa was telling us he just couldn't do this to kids or himself. Apparently this Santa is not familiar with the long-standing tradition of Santas holding crying kids.

Josh did better, although I think he just tolerated Santa because he wanted a candy cane. I was just glad he didn't get into the spanking position like he did with Peter Rabbit at Easter.

Santa was in residence at the botanical gardens tonight, which we visited to see the outdoor Christmas light displays. It was magical, and we had to practically drag the kids out of there.

Here's our family portrait in the orchid conservatory. Molly was not interested, possibly because they'd already posed for pictures all over the gardens for us.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thunder Road Marathon

Chris and Randy made it!

We were proud today when they crossed the finish line of the Thunder Road marathon. This was the first marathon for both, and they've been training for several months. Steph was kind enough to drive them to the start this morning (it was about 25 degrees), and Steph, Em and I and the kids spent the morning cheering Chris and Randy from the sidelines.

Our first stop was mile 13, the halfway point. Josh enjoyed holding up the sign for Randy, as I ran out of time this morning to make a sign for Chris.

Chris and Randy lost each other early in the race. Chris rounded the corner a few minutes after Randy at the halfway point.

This was also our first encounter with some of the race's more interesting entrants, such as the running Christmas trees and two guys running in business suits. We later saw a guy running while playing the guitar--he actually finished the race! For the record, Chris and Randy finished ahead of the Christmas trees and the guitar guys. We don't think the suits finished.

We then took the trolley over to mile 19, where we had our lunch and cheered for the marathoners. Josh began yelling, "Go, hurry up!" to some of them, which we quickly asked him to change to, "You're doing great!"

Chris and Randy caught up with each other here and finished the race together.

Josh ran a short way with Chris when he passed us at mile 19.

We then walked over to the finish line and waited for the big moment.

Chris and Randy got medals and t-shirts for finishing, and we got our picture taken with Sir Purr, the mascot for the Carolina Panthers. Molly referred to Sir Purr as "Meow," and Josh called him "The Cat." He was a good sport about it.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Kiddie Parties

We have found that the best way to get over the newness of an addition is to let 20 kids loose in it! Today was the annual neighborhood playgroup Christmas cookie swap, which never fails to turn into total chaos. Unfortunately a torrential downpour foiled my usual plan of ushering the herd of children into the backyard, so we played inside. The new rooms are completely broken in now--the furniture has been jumped on, the rugs eaten on and the the walls run into. We commemorated the event by taking the annual group picture of the kids we could round up in the new room. Overall, a very fun afternoon!

My "craft" idea of having the kids glue sequins to wood cutouts to make Christmas ornaments was a big hit, although the sequins have somehow made it into every room of the house. Here's Molly working on her ornament with her friend Jack.

I also had signed up to help with the Christmas party for Molly's class today, so I spent an hour making handprint ornaments with 2 year olds. This group picture was a lot easier, and you can see that Molly has abandoned the traditional "line-'em-up-and-shoot-'em" pose for something more "creative."

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Leaf Problem

After much procrastination, we took a stab at the growing carpet of leaves on our front lawn. The task of picking them all seems so insurmountable that we wonder why we even try! Our current plan is to rake the remaining leaves into a big pile in the backyard and hope they magically turn into compost.

Josh and Molly dove right into the piles of leaves. At least someone enjoys this fall tradition!

I took this picture of Molly at church this morning because her outfit matched the advent altar cloths (in the background) perfectly. Just for the record, I took this picture long before church started. We don't let the kids play shoeless on the altar during church!

Josh was a very reluctant shepherd in a Sunday School nativity project today. Here he is swinging a stuffed sheep over his head in the group photo. So much for biblical accuracy.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

We have a couch! And a rug!

We started moving into the addition this week, even though we're still waiting to pass the final inspection and for the cable guy to come out and turn on the cable. We bought a green couch this week, and our new room is finally getting a little more livable.

Here's an attempt at a Christmas photo we took on the green couch. I decided that after last year's Christmas card photo marathon, we were taking one shot at it this year. The photos were OK--at least the kids were smiling this year rather than giving me the stoic school picture faces.

I think the promise of a tub of chocolate chips post-photo probably had something to do with the smiling. I cannot speak highly enough of the power of chocolate chips.

Thanksgiving Catch-up

It started to snow the day before we left Chicago, so we headed out to the "Choo Choo" for some indoor activity. The restaurant is a hit with kids because a toy train brings the food out and kids can ride another toy train while they wait. Ethan, Josh and Molly all had fun with this, and they managed to keep the fighting over who got to switch the ride on and off to a minimum.
Josh displayed possible engineering skills later that afternoon by building a huge Tinker Toy structure:

Our trip home was a true epic journey, taking 10 hours and involving lots of waiting. Here's Molly in the Atlanta airport, lounging in her stroller and eating chocolate chips. To anyone flying with small children, I highly recommend packing large bags of chocolate chips in your carry-on. The kids may get hyped up on sugar, but at least it stops the whining.