Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Halloween Surprise

'Twas the night before Halloween, and Misha, Sebby, and I had just spent the whole evening carving pumpkins. We only had two more days to wait until Josh would fly back to the States. Misha and I were trying out a new technique (thanks, Tanya) of carving 3D features into the pumpkin like a statue. It was slow-going without the proper tools, but in the end, they turned out better than expected. However, because of the time and the mess involved, it ended up that the boys were still awake after 10 p.m.

The Pumpkin Project

I helped Sebby with the knife work.

Misha shaves away to make a face.

My "old woman" face begins to take shape...


Even better with a candle!

Ready to add atmosphere to Halloween night.

I had just tucked them into bed when Josh called on Skype, hoping to say hello to the kids. I agreed but asked him to make it quick. When Josh told them that he had, with Bud's help, made a little scavenger hunt for them, I said with irritation, "No; it's past their bedtime!"  At Bud and Josh's insistence, I reluctantly gave in. Misha and Sebby dashed quickly from clue to clue, ending up in my bedroom. When we were all searching for the grand prize, someone popped out of my closet and grabbed me around the waist , scaring me to death - and it was Josh himself! After the initial shock, I was soon smiling, and the kids weren't scared at all. They were ecstatic to have daddy back. Sebby was fully convinced that Josh had just done the best magic trick conceivable: "Daddy just came out of the computer!! How did you do that, Daddy?"

Following the clues...

To the prize!

Totally caught off guard!

Misha's "welcome home" project

So it turned out that we could celebrate Halloween together after all. Our last Halloween was four years ago (since then we had been out of the country), so we were ready to make the most of this one. I had long since wanted to be an elf. With Bud and Ashley's huge array of costumes at our disposal, we came up with some very nice get-ups, and we hit the streets. The neighbors were extremely generous with their candy, and the lawn decorations were bordering on Christmas-level craziness, with skeletons, huge spiderwebs, and tombstones everywhere.

Hunter/Ranger and Elf

Gladiator and Athena
Misha the tiger

Sebby clowning around

Bud, Ashley, Josh, and I followed the kids - Misha the tiger and Sebby the clown - from house to house. (We were not the only adults dressed up.) This was Sebby's first 'rememberable' Halloween, and he loved every second. Misha showed him exactly what to do. Sebby ran alongside, knocking on doors and yelling, "Trick or treat!" After receiving his candy, he would hold his bag wide open just a little longer ... usually with the result of a generous neighbor cooing, "Oh, do you want another one? Here you go." Then he would shout, "Thank you for trick or treating!" and dash on to the next house. The fuller his bag got, the more it dragged on the ground, until we finally convinced him to empty his bag into another pouch that we would keep for him. The next house he went to, he held open his empty bag and announced, "I have more candy in the car!" At one house, a lady opened the door with a real snake draped around her neck. She let the boys pet his smooth skin and even let Misha "wear" him on his shoulders. Of course, now he wants a python. (Can you blame him? I'm tempted as well.)

Off to trick-or-treat!

Sebby in the trick-or-treat spirit.

Cobwebs and bats...

and skeletons, oh my!


Cuddling with a python.

Ashley displays Misha's stash  - this doesn't even include Sebby's candy!

Bedtime with Daddy. :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

On the Bayou

I recently learned that we live very close to the Armand Bayou Nature Center, so last weekend I decided to take the boys. Though I had heard the word "bayou" before (mostly in association with Jo Stafford song, to be perfectly honest), I wasn't 100% sure what it meant, so I looked it up. It's similar to marsh, wetland, bog - that kind of thing. The perfect adventure for us!

It was close enough for Misha and me to bike to within 25 minutes. Since it was a bit too far for Sebby on his scooter, I had the bright idea of tying him to my back with a big sheet Mozambique-style (thank you, Instructables). Luckily, there was a bike path alongside the main road that took us all the way to the bayou. By the time we arrived, I was more than ready to untie him and let him run free.

The boys took great interest in the sign suggesting what kinds of animals to look for in the bayou. Unfortunately, no matter how quietly Misha and strolled along, most of the animals had ample time to run and hide because of Sebby's dashing, singing, and loudly-voiced comments. As for the armadillo, the park ranger told us that they only come out at dusk, when the park is closed. However, mornings are a good time to view deer.

Turtle, check. At least we found something.

This "gator safety" sign made me laugh. People have to be told everything! 

The cute and fuzzy puss moth caterpillar is actually one of the most toxic caterpillars in North America.

Beautiful blue dragonfly.

On the trail.

Fascinated by fungus

The purplest of berries.

Spanish Moss

Misha loved how the vines wove their way into the bark.

We walked one of the many trails, which ended in the prairie grasses on the edge of the reserve.  

Collecting seed pods beneath a perfect sky.

Reminiscent of South Dakota

A buckeye butterfly in the grass.
There was an Interpretive Center which displayed baby alligators, turtles, frogs, and snakes. Sebby was hoping to see an alligator out in the bayou, but at least he got to see one in the aquarium!

Baby alligator

A soft-shelled turtle. (So tempting to say taco.)

Tree frog.

Two rescued red-tailed hawks also lived at the reserve.
After a fun afternoon wandering in the bayou, it was time to head home. I'm sure we'll come again!

"Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou!"