Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October 2012

October started with a visit from Granny and the grand entrance of the beautiful crisp Fall weather.  The trip highlight was having friends over for the first campfire of the season and dining on Granny's super delicious chili, cornbread, and fried pies.

We went camping at Guadalupe River State Park with the Ruschs, Ericksons, and cousin Aaron.  On the drive there we were entertained by an authentic Ranchero showing off his lasso tricks while his gas was pumping.  We were a pump over watching with big grins.  It was so awesome and somehow made my Texas life more complete.....  Definitely crazy camping weather; sometimes muggy, overcast, and humid, sometimes raining, and sometimes perfect!  Caleb had a great first day camping and he was super excited that we let him stay up with the adults by the campfire as late as he wanted for the first time ever.  Sadly, he came down with a cold the second day and was a big pile of mopey sadness.  We tried to express that you can have a good attitude even while you feel sick, but he just couldn’t kick the floppy body language and frowny face; with the exception of the couple rounds of the Settlers of Catan board game he got to play with the grown ups.  He loved that and it was enough to distract him from feeling bad.  So Caleb and Jon had to sit out on our big river float, which was a bummer.  Ben and I really loved our first river float.  The adults were outnumbered by small children, each on their own floatation devices.  It was interesting keeping track of all the kids, but we managed.  I mostly kept track of my Ben.  I was in my tube with my legs hooked over onto Ben’s tube.  He grabbed my feet to doubly make sure he didn’t float away.  He was nervous, but excited.  He did great until we got to the small rapids section of the river.  He was not okay with that.  We had to get out while I tried to talk him into trying it with me.  I decided, kind of stupidly, to squish Ben’s partially deflated tube into the center hole of my tube.  The beginnings of the currents were very shallow and I was trying to increase our buoyancy so we didn’t have to combat scraping our behinds up on all the rocks, while simultaneously trying to keep Ben having fun.  I sat him on my lap for us to brave the rapids together in my double tube invention.  Our tubes totally tipped and dumped me on top of Ben.  The currents + the rocks + a scared Ben + a smashed Ben under a Mom = a terrified, bleeding, scraped up Ben.  Epic Mom fail!  So, while the rest of the group played in the rapids for the next hour and half, Ben and I sat on the side lines.  But, just about the time we were all ready to leave, I finally got Ben to try the rapids.  It helped a lot that he had been watching all the other kids going down the shoot over and over and over.  Also, the men delved into their inner child and went nuts rearranging the boulders to make the most ideal rapids shoot possible.  This is really the reason that Ben finally felt comfortable enough to brave the rapids.  Yay Ben and yay Justin, Jay, and Aaron!  Once Ben got going, he really loved the rapids.  I loved it too.  I’ve never done anything like that before and it was a blast!  I was so bummed that Caleb and Jon missed out.  We brought the gang all back the next afternoon though.  I forced Caleb to try the rapids a couple times, but he just didn’t feel good enough to be able to enjoy it.  He spent most of his time sitting around.  At least he was sitting around in gorgeous scenery.  We set up a table in the shallow rocks and the group played another round of Settlers of Catan, which brightened up Caleb’s afternoon.  I spent some lovely time with my camping chair set up in the middle of the river sunning myself after a few chilly rides down the rapids.  It was so perfect.

One day Ben’s Friday school needed me to volunteer as the teacher's assistant. Each parent has to volunteer twice throughout the school year, but since we started a little late, all the spots had been filled.  I’m the backup if someone has to cancel.  It was a fun and random day.  I had all the art classes. It was great seeing what Ben does in school because I haven’t been able to get much info out of him when I pick him up from school.  Really, hardly anything at all; and no work had been sent home with him either.  I was getting very curious.  It was exciting to see what art projects he’s been working on and what he is like in the school setting!  He is very cute, in case you were wondering, although I know I’m partial.  It was a great day, but I was running on low because Caleb had been sick since our camping trip and I’ve had to get up a lot during the previous few nights to help him.  That particular night I missed many hours of sleep.

I finally figured out a plan for Caleb’s English curriculum that works for us.  It’s a bit of this and that.  I found some stuff in the education store in town and some I improvised.  Caleb is no longer doing busy work or using curriculum that doesn’t fit his learning styles – he’s learning and that makes me glad.

Near the end of the month we had a fantastic Saturday; the best day!  We got a ton done in the house, Jon repaired his lathe machine, Caleb and Jon began making a new board game, Quoridor, Jon taught Ben how to play catch, and we even got a game of tennis in! Then we finished our night off with friends, roasting chili cheese dogs, and eating ice cream around a campfire in our yard.

Caleb first saw the game Quoridor in a teacher supply store when I was looking at homeschool curriculum. He was super interested, so he and Jon made plans to make their own.  I am so amazed and proud of Caleb and Jon for their creativity, perseverance, and ingenuity.  In one weekend they created their design, cut out the board/walls, turned the game pieces (1 representing each member of our family - guess who is who in the photos), sanded, and varnished it all.  We are so pleased with how fun the game is!  It’s very addictive.  Here are the game rules if you’re interested.

We very much missed our annual Halloween party at Jared & Claudine Allen’s home and trick-or-treating with the Flores and Jenkins families.  We miss our California friends an extra measure at times like these.  But we were still able to have a good time.  A couple days before Halloween, I asked the boys to look through our costumes, to see what they could come up with to wear.  Caleb just wasn’t satisfied with anything.  He has exhausted what we have and is too big now to be impressed with anything Target has to offer.  So we brainstormed and decided to tackle making him into a Lego minifigure, which is the little Lego person.  He really got excited!  It took two long days to make the Lego costume. I knew, yet didn't know, what I was getting myself into. It's amazing what cardboard, styrofoam sheets, glue, tape, and paint can become. Oh, and some PVC for the hands.   It really turned out spectacular. 

We joined the Rusch family at their church’s Harvest Festival again this year.  It was pretty much the same as last year.  Caleb turned a lot of heads as we walked in.  Sadly, he quickly became disoriented, overheated, and wilty in his costume.  It was very stifling in the styrofoam head, with very limited vision, and he couldn’t bend his knees to walk.  It turned out to be a very impressive, but impractical costume.  He ended up sitting out on a lot of the festivities. Meanwhile, Jon and I took Ben around to play the variety of carnival games for candy.  We dined on chili dogs, cotton candy, and popcorn.  We got to check out all kinds of prehistoric looking creatures, went for a hayride, and Ben got a balloon snake made by the balloon man.  Caleb had fun doing the costume contest at the end of the night.  Funny enough, there was another little boy in line with him in a homemade cardboard box costume that he had designed to be a transformer in its vehicle mode.  He was a nice little boy about Caleb’s age and I was later telling Caleb that he should go find that boy and try to make friends with him.  Caleb wasn’t interested in doing that of course, but I was internally pining over this potential friendship.  I could just tell that they would be great friends.

Later on, one of my new friends showed up.  I was surprised to see her because we know her from Caleb’s robotics class.  Her son and Caleb had hit it off in class and we had been over to her house once for a play date.  It turned out that her brother brought her son Lucas to the Harvest Festival because she had taken her youngest to the hospital.  So the little boy I had been pining over ended up being Caleb’s friend already!  We just didn’t recognize him out of context!  So funny!  I have no doubt that these friendships will grow and grow.

Caleb was very excited to win the costume contest for his age group.  He has now won two years in a row.  Last year he had put together a very random assortment of bits of pieces from our dress up box and called himself Captain Random.

We're considering finishing up the details that we ran out of time to add to the Lego costume, name him, and then photograph him in funny places around town over the next year. We were cracking ourselves up with our ideas on our drive home.  I’m kind of hoping we do, I think we’d have a good time. 

I’ll end this entry with a super new tasty dessert I discovered.  It’s perfect for Fall and I’ve even made it twice because they are so yummy, and I rarely care about treats.   Here you go…welcome to the world of Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with cream cheese frosting! 

Whoopie Pie Recipe (disregard the frosting portion):

Frosting Recipe (You need to double the frosting recipe, and although this whole recipe is tasty, you only need the frosting portion for the pumpkin whoopie pies):

Tip: When you drop the cookie batter onto the cookie sheets, you need to use a spoon and swirl them into a flatter and smoother shape. They pretty much stay the same shape as they are when you put them on the cookie sheet.