Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Natural Science and Nature Science

After five months of being here, I am finally starting to find my favorite attractions. There is alot to weed through and I still have plenty more to go. The good thing is my list of favorites are also the free things.

For instance, yesterday we visited the Natural Science Museum on the UT campus. It was great! It was 3 stories full of dinosaur bones found in central Texas, Texas wildlife, fossils, rocks, etc. This place was interesting enough to keep Summer and us satisfied.

Unfortunately there was a group of school kids there when we first got there. I have come to the conclusion that when school kids go on a field trip they are not very interested in what they are going to see...they just love being out from behind those metal doors and school desks. They were acting like they were on a playground instead of in a museum. Whew, we were glad when they left and we had the place to ourselves.

Today we had our first homeschool field trip. I had signed up for this trip a month or so ago. It was to a nature center kind of class/instructional field trip. It was very informative and I learned a few things I didn't know. I was surprised to see Summer being so interactive answering questions and wanting to tell stories of her own to the teachers. She seemed to enjoy the "school" atmosphere of it all...which may or may not be a good thing.

Needless to say, the kids on the homeschool field trip were alot calmer and not so "active". I didn't really meet anyone new...no one introduced themselves to me and I in turn did not try to make any new aquaintances. One or two friends are enough for me. I didn't feel the need to aquire anymore friends or join into any female oriented dramatically religious/secular atmosphere...been there done that. Besides, I am very good at joining in on acitivities periodically and not getting entangled in their web.

We actually do fine finding our own field trips and extracurriculars anyway. And as far as the big "socialization" issue for Summer goes, we have our one homeschool friends we made and and a pretty good crowd of neighborhood kids.

As soon as we get the one car issue solved, I am wanting to get her into some extracurriculars like art or gymnastics. But for now we have plenty on our plate.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Babies on the Way!

I noticed a couple of months ago a bird fest going on outside of my house. They were birds that were not a familiar birds of my hometown of Mobile, Alabama.... although from furthur investigating they are indigent to Alabama. They are called a swallow.

I'm sure only a homeschooling parent or bird lover would ever go into investigating an unfamiliar bird. Off to the internet I went. Seems that there are two differnt kind of swallows; the barn swallow and the cliff swallow.

What was flying crazily around my front porch was the barn swallow...unlike the cliff swallow the barn swallow has a forked tail. They have managed to build a nest on my front porch..at the top of post near the celing. We watched the whole nest building process....amazingly hard work for such a little animal.

As a science project, Summer and I have been tracking their behavior and habits.

From our investigations and internet research the barn swallows are monogomous. The male keeps very close watch over the female and lets her know very loudly when we are sitting on the front porch watching them. She is a very devoted bird though and has pecked at him and let him know who is boss of those eggs....good mama bird!

One day while the birds were out we got our ladder out and took a peek at what was up there. I was amazed at the delicacy of her nest. Notice how intricately she has layed the feathers in the middle....like to make a bed for the babies when they hatch. Though I have never been drawn into the religious dogma, I can not doubt that from my observations of this bird family that there is some kind of universal intellegence that resides within us all.

Here are some pics of the "baby's bed". We are looking forward to their arrival.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

On a Different Note...

Occasionally I will update on our more personal part of life...for no other reason other than to be personally informitive for family and friends. My free time is limited and I don't have much time for personal e-mails. I guess you could call it the "form letter" approach.

I spend most of my time internet surfing for various teaching ideas, grade standards, free curriculum sources, etc.. I have realized that it is very time consuming to do it that way...but buying a boxed curriculum is more than I want to spend...and likewise can not afford. Although it takes alot of effort on my part, that is how I have been doing it for the past few years. Research and gathering of curricula is very time consuming and tiring. It's a job that does not pay well, but hopefully in the end it will "pay off".

As far as Toby's tattooing 'career" goes, well..... Toby offers a luxary service. With the economy the way it is and gas and food prices rising the majority of the population would rather put gas in their car and food in their mouths than get cool artwork adorned on their bodies. I don't blame them in the least...unfortunately this economic cycle takes gas from my car and food out of our mouths...so to speak.

Unfortunately for Toby, he may have to eventually resort to menial labor again. But he has done it before and if need be, can and will do it again...it just won't be excercising his artistic talent. There is a reason the term "starving artist" was coined. Sad for all of us in the end because "When daddy ain't happy, ain't nobody happy". ;-)

Summer is having a blast! I have never seen her so "into" her atmosphere. She hangs out with the public schooled kids next door every day after school. I have seen her learn many things from them and them, in turn , learn many things from her. I have learned with having a public schooled educated older son, that no child ever goes without learning....they are just learning different things. Even as adults we all having something to learn from each other.

There is also a little 3 year old little hispanic boy that lives on the other side of us that she has taken under her wing. The little boy LOVES her and follows her everywhere and Summer acts like a mother hen to him. With Summer being the "baby" of the family you would not think that she would ever behave in this mothering way....they seem to have some kind of kid connection.

To be honest, I am a little envious of how billingual adults and children alike are here. My neighbor tries to teach me a few choice words but usually ends up laughing at the way I say them...or maybe it's the words she is giving me to say that makes her laugh. :-) Well anyway, if you want to consider ebonics a true language, then I do know that one...thank you Mobile, Alabama!

I will update again on personal issues about once a month....

Bob Bullock and Austin Nature

This week's "field trip" was to the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum. I knew from past experience that a history museum is only interesting to Toby and I, but on Summer's insistence we paid our admission and went on in.

Her attraction to the museum was probably the sculptured figures of steer, native americans, replicas of 1800 housing in Texas, etc. Of course, Toby and I wanted to read all the info on Texas history and ponder the history. But no, as usual in any historical museum, we are being drug from one exhibit to the other without really being able to intake any of it....only the pictures you would say in figurative speech.

Needless to say, Toby and I could have stayed in there another hour or so. The museum was 3 stories high and chock full of Texas history.

Tbe next day, since we enjoyed Walnut Creek so much last week, we took a trip back. It was Earth Day and the Earth was definitely alive for us that day. We saw so much wildlife on our trek down the creek. Thank goodness I had my camera this time so I have some pretty good pics.

We saw a mating fest of grandaddy longlegs and damsel flys. Three snakes...one in the creek we were walking in. A couple of spotted soft shelled turtles...fish..we found snake skin...spiny lizards..etc.

Here are some pics:

Here are some pics of the creek:

I had to post this pic. As I inspected the rock cliff I discovered that it was very crumbly rock. After inspecting it for a while and noticed that there were alot of big hunks of rock laying underneath the cliff, I realized that the rock falls off in hunks....as seen in some of my cliff photos. BEWARE: Do not sit directly under cliff and watch for falling rocks!

Fortunatley the rock we were walking on is millions of years old so it is very hard...the older the limestone rock the harder it is.

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Well I really debated about going to work with Toby today. But again I decided at least Summer and I could occupy ourselves downtown better than at the house by ourselves, without a vehicle on a Saturday.....even if it meant being stuck downtown for hours on end.

There was an Earth Day Event going on at a park within walking distance of the shop, so I figured Summer and I could spend a couple of hours there. It was a really well planned event and plenty of stuff for kids to do. It was also a really hot day so I got a little burnt. Here are some pics of the festival:

Summer was really impressed with the color coded porto pots!

After we left the festival, we decided it was time for a little lunch. Unfortunatley, as with all the downtown areas I have ever visited or lived in, there isn't much in the way of just a bite to eat.....like in a McDonalds or something. All the places we were passing were fancy, expensive or looked like a bar room/eating area. The bar room one looked good to me. A cold beer and a nice cool place to sit and chill, but Summer would have no part of a dark place with booze lined shelves.....so we headed directly back to the shop to get some eating ideas from Toby.

As it would go sometimes, Toby gets a customer an hour before his shift is up. Unfortunately in his business, when the customer comes you have to stay until they are finished...and depending upon the size of the tattoo, it could be hours.

So....off Summer and I went again venturing downtown. I knew it would be a couple of hours that we had to kill so I was glad we were in a city of plenty to do.

We stopped in for a tour at the Driskill Hotel. Outside the hotel were the horse and carriage tours so of course Summer wanted to pet the horses.

Okay now, check out this cool cow skin sofa Summer is on...I love it. They also sell tons of these cow skin rugs here in Austin. Toby doesn't seem as attracted to them as I am....hence, the reason why we don't have one on our living room floor right now.

After the Driskill, we decided to book it to Town Lake several blocks away hoping to catch a glimpse of the bats under the Congress Ave. bridge...by the way, which is the largest bat colony in the world and one of Austin's biggest attractions.

There were alot of things on the way to Town Lake to see, but since it was past 5:00 we could mostly window look. It was getting dusk so all the tourist were out and there were alot of adult things going on downtown...music, etc. BUT, even though my daughter did not have the patience to wait around under the bridge to watch the bats take flight, we did hear them. They were very noisy and smelled like a zoo underneath the bridge.

I am very impressed with Summer too. She has always been very active and physically strong but since we have been here she has proved her physical strength in ways that I never could have at her age..or mine. I know we had to have walked at least 3 miles today and she never once complained of the walking.

All in all, we had a very good day. I was glad we opted to go with Toby to work. Living in such a vibrant city I hate to miss any opportunity not to take advantage of it's "surprises".

I'm so glad that I stepped foot out of my "comfort zone" and took a chance. Even if it doesn't work out for us here, I can always say that I have experienced and tried something different. There is SO much to see and learn I don't want to waste any of it.

I know this was a long post, but our day was very long.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Another Park Adventure

Although today was not planned to be an outing day, it kind of ended up that way. Of course since it was not a "planned" outing day, I didn't bring my camera.

Like I have mentioned before, there are many, many, parks here. There is one not far from us that I have been wanting to venture. From what I have heard there are fossils to be found in this park. Well, being the homeschooling mom I am this had me very intrigued.

We ended up visiting the park because Toby had to go out today to a Office Depot. Conveniently, the park was only a hop, skip, and a jump from the Office Depot. I suggested we hop on over there and check it out.

The park turned out to be on my list of favorite parks. Let me stress the "parks" here are not just parks. They are very large and fully equipped with hiking/biking trails, pools, playground equip, and in most cases, built on creeks or the river.

It always amazes me the amount of water access here....even though it is a pretty good way from the coast. Being from the coast, I never realized there was such water access away from the edges of the U.S. Learn something new everyday!

By the way, I did want to mention that the only reason most of the parks are equipped with pools is because most people cannot afford built in pools here. Because of the limestone and rock. They have to be blasted in....big money.

On with the park story. We found one of the trails that lead to the creek. It was a pretty good walk along the creek and it was BEAUTIFUL! The rock cliffs were massive and breathtaking. Since I didn't have my camera there is no way I could describe the beauty and of course sometimes a camera can't do a place justice.

At one point I thought I had spotted sand.....only to discover it was only very white limestone. Summer was having a blast walking along the edge of the rock and playing in the creek. We even found some honeysuckle to snack on.

To be honest, I absolutely love it here. It is everything I imagined it would be and more.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Weekly Field Trip to the ZOO

I know in Summer's lifetime we have taken her to atleast 20 zoos! I guess a zoo is something you can never tire of...even as an adult.

There is only one zoo in Austin and it's quite a drive from us on the Southewestern side. We were reluctant to visit the zoo because Ginny had told us that it was not that great of a zoo. I guess she had never been to any bad zoos before because we found this zoo to be pretty darn good!

Anyway we took our chances and had a really good time. They had the typical animals at the zoo, but we did see one we had never even heard of or seen before. I don't remember it's technical name but they called him a "bear cat". Toby and I were checking him out because we had never seen or heard of this animal before. Summer and I have this new thing that we say everyday...to learn one new thing a day. This animal was our new thing for the day.

The shot of our "bear cat" isn't a very good one so anyone interested may have to google him.

Here are a few pics of our outing:

I don't know who wanted out of the petting pen worse...Toby or the goat.

Not such a good pic of the "bear cat".

Sunday, April 13, 2008


After 4 months of living in Austin I finally got to sightsee downtown Austin. Since we have only one car right now I am limited in where I can go.....and since Toby works downtown, that's not one of the places that he wants to sightsee when he is off duty.

So, since he works day hours on Saturdays, and Saturdays are pretty boring here at the house for Summer and I......the neighbors are usually off doing family things and there is nothing on T.V and we don't usually do school on Saturdays.....we decided to hitch a ride with Toby to work so that we could tour downtown while he was working.

I was a little reluctant about my idea, thinking that I could not entertain Summer and I all day downtown until Toby's quitting time at 7:00 p.m. but I decided after weighing the options of entertaining Summer at home with nothing or possibilties of downtown......I opted for downtown.

I am glad I chose dowtown because we had a really good time. We entertained ourselves very well with different attractions/museums. Austin's downtown is very big so we only covered two streets in one day.....we have plenty more to go.

Next week there will be an Earth Day Event downtown so Summer and I will probably go with Toby to work again. I am looking forward to another fun-filled weekend. Maybe next week I will remember my camera!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Game - Nature Seek and Find

Find the hidden animals in the pics below: Hint...you may have to click twice on the pic for a larger image

The Week's Adventures

As I have said before, we try to have at least one activity/field trip a week. Monday, we decided to go play putt-putt golf. Summer loves to play and though it's not very "educational" we decided that we better take advantage and go ahead and get our yearly putt-putt in before it got to hot to stand out in a putt-putt course. Personally, I believe putt-putt is a bit overpriced, but Summer had a good enough time that she wanted to keep playing...too bad for her because I wasn't going to pay another $15 for another round.

Tuesday, we decided to visit a place Toby's co-worker told him about. It was a really cool place a watershed/aquifier place. They have alot of these places around here....I suppose because of being on the Colorado River. All the "attractions" around here are so big we can only visit small portions at a time. Here is a little of what we visited today.

Toby and I were wondering why they had a fire hydrant in the middle of an isolated stream.....hmmmmmm

Today we visited the Botanical Gardens at Zilker. I have to say that this place was absolutely beautiful....and the best part was it was free! The weather was great today for this excursion. It was overcast and slightly drizzling with a slight breeze making the 80 degree temps very comfortable. Here are some shots of the day:

Monday, April 7, 2008

Weekly Quote

"What if you gave someone a gift, and they neglected to thank you for it--would you be likely to give them another? Life is the same way. In order to attract more of the blessings that life has to offer, you must truly appreciate what you already have."

--Ralph Marston

Friday, April 4, 2008

Our First Playdate in Austin

After all the whirlwind of moving to another state and finally settling into our new home, I decided it was time to start meeting some other homeschoolers. Yes, I do have neighbor chicks to talk to and Summer has a couple of neighbor playmates, but nothing beats having a couple of good homeschool friends to add to the mix.....after all nobody understands us "oddballs" but our own.

Because Austin is so much larger than Mobile, I knew park days would be too overwhelming for both Summer and I. So I got the idea of calling forth all homeschoolers in the "East side" of Austin and got a couple of bites. There has also been a new homeschool group formed out of "east siders".

One of the things that has made me fall in love with Austin is that they have tons of parks here. Instead of a church on every corner, like in Mobile, there is a park on every corner here. And I'm talking good parks loaded with plenty of playground equipment, walking and biking trails and most all of them have pools. The parks here are very well maintained and are kept under control.

Anyway, I met "Angela" at a park nearby. She has a 8 year old daughter. We really hit it off well and had alot in common and the girls were glued together like old friends. She has only been living in Austin for 2 years and like me has no family or friends nearby. She is originally from Shreveport, LA. I didn't realize how much I missed homeschool get togethers and companionship. It's hard to get into a groove in a new place, but I am determined to make a new homeschooling family here.

The only drawback I have right now is that we only have 1 car. There are so many things here that I would love to participate in but with Toby's strange hours it makes it hard to manipulate the car. When we first moved here I didn't mind because I didn't know my way around anyway, but now I am pretty familiar with my area and I'm getting wanting to venture around more.....like Summer and I use to in Mobile.

On another note, we got a little bit of sad news the other day. It seems that our neighbors on one side of us are moving. The ones with the little girl Summer's age. They just bought the house! The dad is a manager of an electronics store and is getting transferred to California! I really hate that because they are such good neighbors and I don't if we could get any better neighbors.....plus Summer would lose a playmate.....and me a new friend.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Haircuts For Everyone!

Toby has been growing his hair long for a while now. He's always had this on and off thing with his hair and thankfully he is one of those people that can look good either way.....in my opinion.

One the word haircut got out to Summer she decided she wanted one to. Well, you may find this hard to believe but Summer has never had a haircut. She didn't even grow hair until she was 3 years old. And of course, the last time I had my haircut was right before we moved to Austin in Dec. and the girl that cut my hair did a horrible job. Plus, the wind out here is so bad that it makes having long hair a real hassle.
I opted for a shorter do myself.

Anyway, we got to the hair cut place and Toby and I both went and sat down at the same time. The chick cutting Toby's hair was white so there was good communication.
Well, the chick that was going to cut my hair was mexican and her english was very very broken. And since I speak very very little spanish, I was worried about what the outcome of my hair would be.

I wanted my hair a couple of inches shorter and layered around my face.....I explained this to her and she acted as if she understood. In the end she did a really good job cutting my hair. Matter of fact, I was very satisfied with the outcome. Here is a pic of Toby and Summmer's new do: