The Forever Swing

While visiting my parents over the weekend, we took the boys to a playground.  As they had a blast, I began to think about the animated GIF capabilities of PhotoScape, our Picnik replacement.  (Yes, I’m a geek.)

So, since I’m too tired from the trip home to write out a coherent post, here’s an animated shot of my boys doing one of their favorite things in the world: Swinging at the playground.  I call this one, The Forever Swing.


Of course, NHL should get some swinging in, so here’s The Forever Swing, Part 2: Forever More.


Doesn’t that look like fun?

A Leaf Walking Trip With NHL

The day after Yom Kippur, we were deciding what to do with the boys.  NHL had off from Hebrew School, so this was a rare opportunity to do something fun the whole day.  We started it off by going apple picking.  Perhaps it was the Irene and Lee rains or perhaps it was the freakish 80 degree day (resulting in shorts instead of our usual apple picking pants), but we didn’t have as much fun.  The apples didn’t look as good and we got tired quicker.  After much complaining, we called it a day and headed out.  Of course, being hot and tired didn’t stop us from picking 39 pounds of apples.  Yes, THIRTY NINE POUNDS!  Much slow cooker apple sauce will be made.

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(As usual, click on the photos to enlarge them.)

After apple picking, the boys were tired and thirsty.  We considered going for ice cream, but every place was too crowded.  Besides, the apple orchard had affected B’s breathing.  (Which was already impacted from recovering from being sick.)  We needed a nice spot to relax for a few hours and B’s parents’ house got chosen.

After a short rest, NHL wanted to do something.  B and I considered it and we came up with going on a leaf-photography trip together.  First, we went home and dropped off the apples.  (This is when I weighed them too.)  I got NHL’s camera and off we went.

First stop was back to B’s parents’ house to drop off the car.  Then, we began walking.  As we walked, we talked and occasionally took photos of interesting things that we saw.

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Despite the warm weather, there was no denying fall was in the air.

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Eventually, we reached our destination: A local pond.  As I had guessed, the ducks were spending some time by the shore.

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NHL spotted a small playground nearby and I let him play there for a bit.  Then, we went back to taking photos.

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It was nice spending some quiet time bonding with NHL and he did me proud by spotting some nice shots.

Before long, though, a mistake I made prior to us leaving caught up with us.  I had forgotten to get NHL to go to the bathroom.  We had no car, there was no bathroom at the pond and we had a good 10 minute walk back to B’s parents’ house.  NHL held it in and didn’t complain much as we walked back.

Along the way, we spotted landmarks, like the stairs where we saw a chipmunk hop by as we had walked to the pond.


As we got closer, NHL was definitely slowing down more and getting a bit more cranky (as any tired, potty-emergency-stricken kid might be).  Still, he had moments when he’d ask me to take a photo.  Like of this tree that he thought looked like a monster.


In the end, we made it back.  We had a great time, made some great memories, and have some great photos to boot.  I need to take more of these walking trips with NHL before the snow begins to fall.

My Weekend With The Boys While TheAngelForever Was At #SheStreams, Part 2

I woke up on Sunday morning to the sound of a kid out of bed.  This is a usual affair.  NHL will wake up at 6am and ask if he can watch TV.  When I opened my eyes, though, I saw two kids looking at me.  JSL was out of bed also.  I approved them going to watch TV on the couch and tried to get some more sleep.

I gave up soon, though, realizing that I needed to get moving.  NHL has Hebrew school every Sunday morning at 9:30am.  This meant I needed to get the kids fed, get the kids dressed, get myself showered, get myself dressed, and get us all out of the house by 9:15am.  I decided that we would all wear matching Perry the Platypus shirts.


Dropping NHL off at Hebrew school, I found out just how many people were Phineas and Ferb fans.  As we walked up the steps, NHL in front and JSL and I behind, I heard someone singing “doo-bee-doo-bee-doo-wa”.  They had spotted NHL’s shirt and were expressing approval.  Then, as JSL and I came into view, they stopped.  Their appreciation was quite apparent.  For the record, these weren’t kids.  These were adults.  To rephrase my statement above: I found out just how many parents in our temple are Phineas and Ferb fans!

After NHL was in Hebrew school, JSL and I did some grocery shopping.  Then we picked NHL back up, stopped by the house because I had forgotten my camera (bad camera geek!), and headed to lunch.

My first thought for lunch was Cici’s.  However, eating pizza the night before had soured me on the thought of an all-you-can-eat pizza lunch.  Instead, we went to Moe’s Southwest Grill.  There, the boys each had a Mini Masterpiece (kids cheese quesadilla).  I opted out of my usual Homewrecker (beans, seasoned rice, shredded cheese, pico de gallo, lettuce, sour cream, tofu and guacamole on a whole wheat tortilla), deciding instead to get an Art Vandalay.  This burrito has everything that the Homewrecker has except for the tofu and is $1 cheaper.

While they were making mine, they asked if I wanted grilled veggies.  That sounded good so in went grilled onions, peppers and mushrooms.  When it came time to roll it up, the guy somehow succeeded.  I have no clue how they do this.  If I were rolling that burrito, the tortilla would rip, toppings would leak out of all sides, and the burrito wouldn’t be able to be closed.  It’d be a mess.  A delicious mess, but still a mess.

This guy somehow fit all of those toppings into a rolled up tortilla that by all rights shouldn’t have been able to hold them all.  The end result was so delicious that the Art Vandalay with grilled veggies has now replaced the Homewrecker as my new favorite Moe’s burrito.

After lunch, I figured that the boys needed some time running around.  So to the park we went.  First up, was the hedge maze.  This is a favorite of the boys.  They run around hiding from each other (and from me) and having a blast.  I tried taking photos of them, but was only partially successful.  They were just too busy having a good time to wait for dad’s camera.

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With the hedge maze run through (multiple times), it was time for the boys to tackle the playground.  JSL and NHL had fun on the slides, swings, and various other fun activities.

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A favorite of theirs was the telephone.  There is a hollow pipe which winds under the playground to two separate locations.  Through either end, you can talk and be heard on the other side.  At first, NHL and JSL spoke to each other.  Then, as NHL lost interest and went on to other activities, JSL found himself talking to other kids.  He would chat for a short while and then shout “I’m coming over to see you!”  At this point, he’d dart as fast as his little legs could take him across the playground to say hi to his new friend.

I noticed that our time was running low, so I herded the boys to the lake.  There were ducks, fish, geese, and even remote controlled boats.

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Before long, our dad and kids time was coming to an end.  We had to go get B from the train station.  Reluctantly, we left the park and went to the train station (stopping by briefly to buy an iced tea for B since she texted that she was thirsty). 

Despite my worrying that we’d get there late, we arrived with plenty of time to spare.  The boys got busy looking around in wonder at the train tracks below.  We spotted a train pull up and then pull back.  NHL worried that the train was leaving without dropping B off.  I reassured him that B’s train wouldn’t leave her behind.  Sure enough, B’s train (a different one than the one we saw earlier) pulled in a few minutes later.


We looked as people came out and suddenly I saw a familiar figure.  B was back!


(Click to enlarge and see the returning Angel.)

The boys ran up and hugged B and off we went back home.

I want to thank the folks from SheStreams for taking such good care of my wonderful wife.  You tired her out, but in a good way.  She returned with lots of new ideas and excited about her blogging future.  Best of all, from the kids’ point of view, she brought back gifts!

Spiders, Itchiness and Dizzying Heights

I’m sitting here scratching my legs, arms, and neck.  Why, you ask?  Last night, our handyman stopped by to fix some stuff on the outside of our house.  The kids wanted to see what was going on so we let them outside.  Then, quickly getting bored of guys standing on a van’s roof inspecting siding, they decided to play with some balls instead.

While they did this, I took the opportunity to go to our tomato plants.  You see, I had watered them earlier and noticed a big, brown spider on one.  A kind of spider that I haven’t seen before.  Being the geeky bug photographer that I am, I tried to get a photo of him.  Unfortunately, the shy spider sensed my efforts and crawled to the safety of the underside of a tomato leaf.  While I was in my work clothes, I wasn’t going to get onto the ground to get a good photo.

Luckily, I was now in casual clothing.  So down on the ground I went, positioned my lens pointing up, and captured a few shots of the mystery spider.


Here’s a crop of the original so you can better see him since I know you all are so eager to see it up close and personal.  (Don’t forget to click the photos to see them larger.)


I even got a shot of the spider on its web.  This is the spider’s underbelly.  Would this count as spider-porn?  Look at that cephalothorax!

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Getting back to the itchiness, though.  As night descended and our handyman finished up his work, I began to get the boys ready to go in.  At about this time, I began to realize that I was itching.  Not just from one spot either, but all over.  It felt like my legs and arms were on fire.  I suddenly realized that all of our running and playing had turned me into a mosquito all-you-can-eat buffet.

We shuttled the boys in and we all took showers.  I scrubbed extra-hard with an abrasive shower scrub brush.  It might not have been the best thing for me, but it felt SOOOO good.  Sadly, the itching continued well into the night and the next day.

Just to end on a non-itchy note, I’ll flash back to the weekend when we went to a local amusement park for the last time this season.  The last time the boys went with B, she was alone and thus NHL couldn’t go on the bigger kid rides.  (B couldn’t go on with him and leave JSL alone.  Neither would NHL go on them by himself.)  This time, though, we were able to split up.  NHL and I headed for the rollercoaster and Ferris Wheel.  JSL and B went to the more little kid-friendly rides.

As we boarded the rollercoaster, I realized I had made a horrible mistake.  I left my camera at home!  Bad, photographer geek!  Therefore there is no photographic evidence of our thrilling rollercoaster trip.  (Well, mildly thrilling.  It’s a small rollercoaster for a small amusement park.)

As we boarded the Ferris Wheel, I remembered my camera phone.  Of course, my fear of falling kicked in once we got to the top.  The rocking cart, long way down and very windy air at the top all factored in.  Still, I managed to shoot a few pics before fear completely took over and I clutched my phone close to me as if it were going to leap out of my hands and plummet down.

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As we were up in the air, I even spotted B and JSL heading for a ride.  We yelled at them and they finally looked up.  B took a photo of us hanging in the air.


Next time we go (which will have to be next year), I’ll need to take my camera up with me.  Yes, I’ll brave my fears if it means getting a nice photo.  Geekiness overrules fear in my book!

Update: Thanks to @reptileadventur, we now know that our mystery spider is a marbled orb-weaver, Araneus marmoreus.  From this website, I learned that it doesn’t bite humans, but dines on flying insects.  (Given my recent encounters with mosquitoes, I say dine away Mrs. Spider!)  I also found out that it builds its web at dusk every day and waits there or in a nearby retreat.  Once an insect hits the web, “the spider runs out and wraps the prey in silk. After the prey is immobilized, the prey is bitten and eventually eaten.”  Yummy!

A Day At The Park With Cousins

The day before NHL’s birthday, we decided to spend some time with Nana, Papa, Uncle I and Cousins S & B.  First, though, we needed to return some Netflix DVDs.  So NHL and JSL walked with me to the mailbox.  Along the way, we spotted some mushrooms growing in someone’s yard. Given the boys’ recent obsession with certain little blue characters, I joked that Smurfs might be living in there.  Luckily, I didn’t see anything come out of the mushrooms as I took photos of them.

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With the Netflix DVDs mailed, we piled into the car and went to meet B’s family.  We were meeting them at a local park that hosts a farmer’s market every Saturday.  The boys were a bit annoyed at having to walk through the market since the playground was so close.  Still, we made the best of it and looked at all of the interesting vendors.  Sadly, I didn’t take many photos since I was trying to keep and eye on the little ones while looking at the wares for sale.  At one stand, though, there was a sunflower for sale that a bee had landed on.  I took out my camera and showed JSL and S just how I take bee macro photos.


We returned to the cars to get a quick drink and then off we went to play.  We had taken our Aerobie Sprint Flying Ring, Z-Curve Bow, and Zing-Shot Launcher so we broke those out.  The kids loved tossing the Aerobie or shooting the bow and arrow across the grass.  (The slingshot had a few misfires so I put it away lest it frustrate the younger kids.)

Uncle I had two really good bow-and-arrow shots.  In one, he hit JSL (by accident) from about 50 feet away.   We all laughed about the good shot while JSL proclaimed that he wasn’t hurt because the arrow’s made of soft foam.  The second shot was later on and rocketed a good 150 feet.  It was quite amazing to behold.

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At one point, we stopped by a veteran’s memorial in the park.  I’ve been to this park many times and, for some reason, I hadn’t visited this before.  It’s quite impressive (even if the lack of wind kept the flags from unfurling properly).

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NHL used the benches at the memorial to show his love for his cousin.


Then, it was on to the park’s pond where we got to see ducks and fishes.

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At some point, Uncle I took NHL away.  You see, there’s one thing NHL loves more than anything about this park: the hedge maze.  He was dying to show it to Uncle I.  After a few more minutes admiring the ducks and fish, JSL wanted to show Cousin S the maze also so I walked them over.


Once at the maze, we all went crazy running through it.  JSL even got brave enough to allow himself to be separated from me a few times.

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Park play is hungry work, so we all went out to lunch.  Well, we all went to go out to dinner.  Unfortunately, B fell asleep in the car.  (He had skipped an earlier nap so we were expecting this.)  Nana and Papa took him back to their house for some much needed rest while the rest of us ate in the Cheesecake Factory.

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Finally, it was time to go back to Nana and Papa’s house to play and (later on) eat dinner with more family.

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