Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Butterfly Treehouse

In early August, I mentioned that our shipment of caterpillars for our Butterfly Treehouse had arrived. They were in a box marked "Live Insects" - I don't think I have received a more terrifying piece of mail in my life.

Luckily they came in a little plastic cup with holes in the lid and they were able to happily (maybe) live out their caterpillar days in the comfort of that very same cup.

Those caterpillar days were quite brief as within a couple of days, three of them were already in their chrysalis stage, and by 4 days in, all four were hanging from the lid of the cup. I guess they lived out most of their caterpillarhood in the mail. I am sure they have fond memories of the box.

Anyway, at the point where they were all hanging from the lid, they needed to be transferred into their treehouse. I delegated this important (and potentially gross) task to Mike, giving him a wonderful bonding moment with his son. Sharing the joy, that's what I am all about.

And you know, not touching bugs, I am very much about that, too.

Then we had to wait. The instructions said it would take 7-10 days for them to hatch (emerge? unchrysalize?) Tater was very excited to see them, but we had a weekend at the beach coming up and I was afraid we would miss the big event. He assured me that he wasn't all that interested in the hatching, he just liked the idea of having butterflies in his room.

Right around the 7 day mark, we found that there were two butterflies hanging out on the side of the treehouse. Apparently they have to sit around for a while for their wings to dry before they can actually fly around.

I had read in the instructions that came with treehouse that there could be some "red stuff" in the cage, which was part of the hatching process and not anything to be concerned about. I am glad I read that, because otherwise when I saw the splatters of what looked like (a lot of) blood all over the bottom and sides of the cage, I would have been QUITE concerned.

As it was, we had the treehouse sitting very close to the blinds in Tater's room and they looked like part of some sort of crime scene. Luckily it could all be wiped up pretty easily, but I would definitely recommend not putting this thing anywhere near upholstered surfaces or curtains. Could be big trouble!

Once the butterflies had hatched, we had to feed them. We mixed up some sugar water and put a few plastic bottlecaps full in the cage. Let me remind you that sugar water is quite sticky, and sugar water in a bottlecap is not at all spill-resistant. So make sure your kid understands that swinging the cage around is a BAD idea once the water is in there. Not that I have any personal experience with such a thing, but just saying...

On the day before we left for our beach weekend, all of the butterflies were out and beginning to fly. We made a deal with Tater that we would let them go the day after we returned, so that the butterflies would live out at least some piece of their lives in freedom. He sort of agreed.

So off we went to the beach (and had a lovely time), and when we came back, all of the butterflies were dry and flying around. Fun!!

So finally the day had come to set Tater's pets free! Except that he begged for one more day. So then THAT day arrived...

First we had to carefully take the (very sticky) bottlecaps out.

Then we took the treehouse out on the deck and unzipped the door.

Then we waited.

And waited.
You know how a fly can't seem to figure out how to go out of the open window?

Butterflies are just about that smart.

Finally, one flew out and away...and of course it went so suddenly and so quickly that I was unable to get a picture...

Then...another one...suddenly and quickly...

Then, more waiting. And some experimentation with encouraging the remaining occupants of the treehouse to take to the sky.

Then the third butterfly came out, circled Tater's head (wouldn't that have been a great picture?? Except that it isn't...) and flew away. This is what it looked like right AFTER the butterfly flew away. I am an excellent photographer.

Then, finally, the last one came out and landed on Tater's garden. I know you can't see him here...

But here's a closer look...see him now?

The kids thought it was very exciting that he had landed right there and was free, yet still visible.

They watched him for a little while and then encouraged him to fly which point he fluttered down to the grass and didn't fly away. And didn't fly away. And still didn't fly away.

I am telling myself he just liked us and didn't want to leave...but he might have ended up being lunch for some bird. The circle of life.

The directions in the Butterfly Treehouse suggest that it can be re-used. You can just order more caterpillars and start all over again. However, with the blood spatter and the sugar water stickiness, I felt that it was not something we needed to keep around. And really - been there, done that.

Now, Tater wants some thing that he heard about for hatching ladybugs. And maybe praying mantis. Did I mention that I am not all that fond of bugs?

Besides, now we have this little I am thinking we are full up on pets for a little while!!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Use Your Noodle

I have been remiss in my reporting duties.

Fun has been had, and yet, I did not write about it.

I promise to do better. For now - here is the review of our experience with Brain Noodles.

And no, that isn't food. That would be gross.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Mug Cake

My aunt sent me this recipe/idea last week and of course we had to try it right away.

The recipe is for a chocolate cake cooked in a coffee mug. Fun, right?

Of course, Tater refuses to eat chocolate cake. So we left the chocolate parts out and made a vanilla version.'s the recipe:

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake
4 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa (we left this out)
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
3 tablespoons chocolate chips (we left these out - my aunt said they all sink to the bottom anyway)
Splash of vanilla extract (we used a big splash since we left out the chocolate)
1 large coffee mug

So we took our mug (new mug from Cape Cod).

Added the dry ingredients and mixed well.
Added the egg and mixed thoroughly.
Added the milk and oil and mixed thoroughly.
Mixed in the vanilla (this is when you would add the chips).

Sprout loves to mix things.

So does Tater.

We should have made two of these - less fighting over who gets to do what.

Live and learn, right?

Once everything is mixed together, you put the mug in the microwave for 3 minutes at 1000 watts.

Ours was 1800 watts. I think we overcooked it a tad.

The cake rises dramatically out of the top of the mug. Very exciting! Once the oven goes off, it sinks back down.

So then we let it cool for a minute or two and dumped it out on a plate.

Mmmmm...scary looking, huh? Sort of like a cupcake gone wrong.

But we cut it up a bit and doled it out onto 3 plates and dressed it up with strawberries and whipped cream.

Sprout just had the whipped cream part.

Icing would also be good.

The cake was very dense. Probably more suited to a fudgy chocolate sort of thing. A little heavy for vanilla. Probably also because of the overcooking situation.

But it was still yummy. And I would totally try it again!

5 minutes till cake!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Maine Event

We went to Maine for the last week in July and stayed in a lovely cottage on the coast near Boothbay Harbor (the area is actually called Ocean Point). Starfish Cottage even has its own Facebook page, so Maine isn't quite as cut-off from civilization as you might think. The cottage even had a wireless network so we were able to check e-mail despite the fact that no one had any cell phone coverage at all!

Technical considerations aside, we were in Maine because my parents rented the house and invited my brother and me to bring our families along for the week. Mom's idea. Yay, Mom!

It took us a while to get up there - a flight from Philadelphia to Manchester, New Hampshire and then about 2 1/2 hours in the car. But I have to say, I think it was worth it!

Maine is bee-oo-ti-ful! The house had this incredible view of the bay, lighthouse, boats, rocks, wildflowers... stunning.

Maine is also rainy and foggy much of the time, leading to quite a bit of in-the-house time. Luckily we had a challenging puzzle, several decks of cards and three kids who haven't played together in a year or so. The novelty of my gorgeous nephew was enough to keep my kids playing nicely almost the whole time!

The fog also ensured that we could enjoy the blast of the foghorn every 30 seconds for approximately 5 days straight. Honk.

On the first full day of our vacation, the rain was coming down and the kids spent the entire day in their pajamas building forts in the "bunk room" - where no children wanted to sleep, but they all loved to play.

Mid-day we found this note on the door.

The guns were made of Lego, so we weren't all that concerned.

Late in the afternoon, the rain stopped and the kids (mine still in their pajamas - but with jackets) went out to explore the rocks and tide pools. They each came back with a bucket of crabs and snails and they were SO happy about it. Check out the smiles!

In the morning we found that most of the snails had attempted to make a break for it and were scattered around outside of the buckets. Oops. After we gathered them all up, they were swiftly returned to the ocean.

But our big adventure was a whale-watching boat trip.

Tater has some motion-sickness issues, so I was worried about his sea-worthiness and dosed him with Dramamine before the boat trip. He slept part of the way out to sea, but woke up when we got to the whale feeding area, said "A whale!" and scampered off to see.

I, on the other hand, took a Dramamine just in case and totally should have taken 2 (or 3 maybe...) Luckily the whales came close enough to the boat that I could see them without standing up. And luckily Mike was taking pictures. Because standing and focusing were so totally not on my list of things to do while out on the open ocean.

The next day my parents, my mother-in-law-in-law and all the kids went on another boat tour to see puffins. They really enjoyed it - but I have no pictures since I wasn't there. I was shopping in Freeport, which was very entertaining in its own way!

We set up a badminton net out front and there were several heated tournaments.

Three Interesting Badminton Facts:
1) I can totally smash the birdie over the head of a 6-year-old.

2) Saying shuttlecock is funny no matter how old you are.

3) My mom totally rocks at badminton.

Not much story here except how cute are the lobster hats?

And Tater lost a tooth while we were away (see the enormous - or as he would say "hue-normous" hole in his smile) AND the tooth fairy TOTALLY found him in his bed in Maine. That is one smart fairy.

Because where we were was on a point out into the ocean, there was a west-facing side that looked out over the water. This means a sunset over the water.

Of course, that only works if it isn't foggy and/or raining. My Dad went and saw an amazing sunset, but the night that we all went it was pretty much a big cloud with light around it, which was cool anyway.

This is our group of grown-ups at the "sunset party" (except Mike, who took the picture). At the moment when the sun disappeared over the horizon, someone fired a cannon (an actual cannon!) before lowering their flag.

Cannons are loud, especially when you aren't expecting them.
I am surprised none of us fell off the rock.

Here is the younger set enjoying the sunset - and climbing around on the rocks.

I think they enjoyed the rocks as much as they do a sandy beach. With all of the climbing and exploring, they thought it was very exciting!

We couldn't really swim near the house since it was freezing cold and so rocky, but we did find a "real" beach about an hour away and went there on our last day.

Here are the sandcastle builders at Reid State Park Beach.

The day started out very nicely, but soon after we finished building our sandcastle, the rain started to fall and we had to high-tail it out of there.

Hmmm...other highlights of the trip:

1) Both kids tried lobster, and of course both liked it. Sprout, who complains bitterly when she is served chicken again, declared it to be "sort of chewy", but she will surely order it again!

2) My sister-in-law taught Sprout to play double-solitaire.

3) We finished a 1000 piece puzzle that was crazy hard. My brother was utterly obsessed and did most of the work.

4) S'mores.

5) More fort building.

6) Several highly competitive rounds of Monopoly.

7) A giggly game of Rummy 500.

8) A more-than-3-mile walk along the more-highwayish-than-we-thought road to the store.

9) Lots of smiling.

10) Quality time with our far-away people.

I have to say I would totally make the Maine coast my go-to summer destination if it wasn't so very far away. The cool weather, beautiful scenery, laid-back atmosphere, smell of the ocean, cute shops...all good stuff.

Just have to remember next time - more Dramamine!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Karate Camp

I know, I know - I still have to tell you about Maine.

But the pictures are on the other computer and it is WAY over on the other side of the room.

I am just that lazy.

BUT, I will tell you about the week that my kids have had at
The Martial Arts Studio summer camp over in Lionville. Some of you locals can still get in on the remaining weeks if you want. My kids would highly recommend it.

PLUS (see, I am like a Ginsu Knife commercial over here with the extras...) they have been on cool field trips and you might like to check out where they went.

So really, I am doing you a favor by deferring the Maine story. See how nice I am?

First let me say that my kids used to take karate lessons at
The Martial Arts Studio. And I highly recommend their after school program - Sprout did it for 3 years and it was great. I wish I could get them to go for more karate, it seems like such a lifetime sport/activity. But they insist that that phase of their lives is over.

Well, they aren't quite that eloquent about it, they just say "No" and whine a lot.

Anyhoo, I wasn't sure they would be all that into Karate Camp, but it was the only camp offered in August and I very much liked the idea of them having something to do at some point during the month.

Very very much.

So I signed them up.
This week is "Ninja Week" and the kids started things off learning to use Nunchuks (they say "Nunchuku" on their website). Foam ones. So not all that scary. Although I am still forbidding their use in the house.

They start of each day with a class using the Nunchuks, which they are enjoying.
Sprout said that if they could do weapons training every time, she would go back to Karate class. I am trying not to be troubled by my sweet daughter's apparent interest in weapons.

Also, three days this week, they went on field trips (included in the price of the camp).

On Tuesday they went rock climbing. Apparently their favorite thing was some kind of bouldering (which I must admit I am utterly clueless about). Sprout came back with blisters all over her fingers, but she wants to go back. Tater said he isn't so great at rock climbing, but he liked it anyway.

On Wednesday they went innertubing down the Brandywine River. Tater had some concerns about this because someone told him there was a crocodile in the Brandywine River. I assured him there was not, and hoped I was right. No one was eaten (this time anyway!), so I am guessing the crocodile was a suburban legend.

Yesterday, their final trip was to Mt. Gretna Lake, near Lancaster. I had never even heard of this place, but the kids had a blast swimming and playing in the lake. At least one of the teachers went off of a trapeze into the water (!) which the kids thought was extremely cool. I am thinking this might be a destination later in the month when we need something to do!! I found this discounted admission coupon which would make it $11 for adults and $7 for kids over 4. You can find a full-sized one and some others on their website.

Today they are having water wars and pizza. And a "surprise" trip from the ice cream truck, which is sure to be one of the highlights for my poor, deprived children - since their mother
doesn't believe in the Ice Cream Man.

They are exhausted from all of the physical activity (which is a good thing). Tater has had a hard time keeping track of his belongings, losing over the course of the week: his shorts, his pants, his shoes, and yesterday - his underwear.

But all has been recovered and overall, they have LOVED the camp. So - check it out if you are still looking for something to do this month - or check out the field trip destinations from this week!

Either way - only 3 weeks left until school starts (Yikes!) We have a lot of plans for those three weeks including:

1) Puppy shopping (!)

2) Visiting the Amish House in Lancaster

3) Crystal Cave

4) A weekend in Avalon
5) Golf with PopPop
6) A trip to Florida which MAY include a day at SeaWorld (!)

7) A revisit to the zoo...

Hopefully also a lot of sleeping late and pool visits.

Speaking of "sleeping" - Tater's caterpillars (which thankfully came in a cup and haven't (yet) had to be moved) - wasted no time in turning themselves into chrysalises (chrysalii?)

Two of the four are already doing their metamorphasis thing...meaning that someone (hopefully NOT me) will have to move them into the "Treehouse" in just a few days!

And really, at some point I will tell you about our awesome week in Maine!

Stay cool!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Tater bought this in late June.

He saw an ad on Nickelodeon (of course) and was trying to get me to order over the phone. But I prevailed and made him to to Toys R Us and get it in person without paying shipping.

Because that's the kind of tough-love parent I am - FORCING the children to go to Toys R Us!

The caterpillars had to be ordered via mail, and would take several weeks. Considering our week-long trip to Maine, we decided to get them delivered in early August,
so we would be around to experience the whole "metamorphosis" thing - which is sort of the whole point, right?

So the "tent" has been sitting, forlorn and empty in Tater's room for many weeks. And he has frequently said that he was waiting for August 3rd, which I thought meant he was PRETTY excited about my birthday - but was the bugs.

And the caterpillars did not come yesterday.

BUT...this little box was in the mail today. And I must admit I was a little skittish (squeamish? skeevish?) about picking it up to carry it inside.

Live insects. Yuck.

But when Tater gets home from camp this afternoon, there will be much rejoicing.
And live insects.

I'll keep you posted!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Happy Birthday to Me!

It's my birthday today and despite how much I don't want to keep adding the numbers, I wouldn't want to give any of it all up, so I guess I'll keep moving forward!

I ate ice cream today - twice. So that was good.
I don't think it counts on your birthday.

I will be back soon with tales of what we did in Maine (which was AWESOME).

But for now...this is what we found when we got back...and it was AWESOME, too!

That whole "growing food from a seed" thing is TRUE!

Hope you had a great day, even if it wasn't a double-ice-cream type for you!