Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Swan Lake - The place, not the ballet

My mom found this cool park about an hour from us in Sumter. This guy (a long time ago) bought up a bunch of swamp land, filled it in some, and created a beautiful park. There is still a big pond with giant Bald and Tupelo Cypress trees (my favorite), walking paths, a garden for the visually impaired, an "island" of camelia bushes, herons, ducks, geese, and representatives of all 8 species of Swans (who knew there were 8).

The black ones were our favorite - all of the swans are obviously mated pairs because each pair was always together, they rarely left each other and swam that far away. The black ones were cool because they had these ruffled feathers on their backs. All birds were obviously used to people and the ducks/geese/swans weren't too aggressive - even with the kids feeding them. We ended up feeding them a loaf and a half of bread, and they followed us in the water as we walked around on the path.
We also watched this Anhinga (Cormorant) catch his fish, throw them into the air and swallow them whole. The girls would cheer every time he came up with a fish. If I can get Brian to zoom in on this and edit it I will post a better pic later. We are definitely easily entertained.

Brian snuck up on a heron and took some gorgeous pictures.

While waiting for Brian to take a million pics of the heron, Blondie and Cheesie and I were looking for "cool" things in nature. Blondie found gold mushrooms, and seedpods, while Cheesie found Camelia bushes blooming. The little girls climbed on the Cypress knees and tried to see if they could balance on some of the points. All of the girls thought the visually impaired garden was cool because the plants were chosen for their fragrance or texture, and as you followed the rail around the garden there were signs in print and in braille describing the plants - we're definitely going back in the spring to check that out when its in bloom - not a whole lot going on in the garden at the moment.

We were only able to stay about an hour because Blondie had therapy today, but all of the girls want to go back. We need to finish our trek around the pond/lake, and go across the bridge to the other side of the park. We also need to buy more bread!

Monday, December 28, 2009

A few more Christmas pics

It is our tradition, after everyone does Christmas morning at their house, we gather at my house, or mom's or my sister's and exchange gifts. This year was Christy's turn to host. Whoever hosts makes a big brunch, we all eat, and then gifts are handed out.

Blondie was determined to play Santa this year, and Christy told her she could hand out presents if she wore a hat.

Mom received a couple of her own prints framed. That is Cheesie dressed in her Halloween costume - mom took some amazing portraits of her.

The kids put the pool table/ ping pong table to good use in the basement while the rest of us hung out upstairs.

Early in the afternoon we left, and later gathered at my house for Christmas Dinner. Everyone had a great day. We really enjoy just being together.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Morning

We have a hard and fast rule at the Dawson house regarding Christmas morning.... A child may NOT wake up the parents to go downstairs until at LEAST 6 a.m. This was instituted because Big Al (you'd think it would be the little girls, but NO), has issues with sleeping on Christmas Eve- she can't do it. So now Brian and I get at least some sleep before the fun of Christmas morning.

So, at 6 a.m, Big Al is standing next to our bed telling us to get up, and can she wake the little girls, etc.
Big Al got a few unexpected presents that made her very happy. A new phone, a green jacket, her beast sweatshirt and another soccer t-shirt, piano music (Christmas music and Twilight music) earrings, Transformer video, a couple books, money from grandparents, and misc.

T-Rex got her much coveted phone, tons of books that she wanted - and some she didn't know were out, the Monk movies (her favorite TV show) Harry Potter, earrings, art stuff, money from grandparents, etc.
Blondie got her very wanted Bitty Baby doll, a doll bed, doll clothes, art stuff, Magic Treehouse books, Up, money from grandparents, and an outfit, etc.

Cheesie's looked a lot like Blondie's. She got a smore's set from American Girl, Bitty Baby doll clothes, doll bed, art stuff, money from grandparents, Ice Age, books, puzzles, Little Pet shop junk, an outfit, etc.

The kids are thrilled, and playing happily in the living room. Next up is family exchange and brunch at my sister's house, then dinner over here. Can't wait for everyone to come over and hang out today. Merry Christmas to everyone.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Brian and I took the girls out to see the Christmas Lights down by the river. They are a HUGE display and seem to get bigger each year.
They divide the park into different viewing areas : sports, Santa's workshop, Military, Singing Trees etc.
It's a great place to drive through and get a little bit more into the Christmas spirit.

And then there are still a bunch of puzzles Cheesie and I need to put together...
I hope everyone enjoys their holiday... Merry Christmas from the Dawsons.

Monday, December 21, 2009


Why is it that when the kids sit down with Santa a whole bunch of new things you've never heard about are being asked for Christmas?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Countdown

The tree is decorated.

Cookies are always being baked - it's T-Rex's favorite thing to do!
Brian has his Christmas village set up

Christmas Stockings are hung with Fred the Elf hiding in one...

I just have to finish making a couple of things, and wrap the last presents, make a quick trip to visit Santa and then I think we're ready.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Who are you?

I tried this last year and got a few surprising responses, so the girls and I thought we would try again. Who are you and why are you reading this? Simple.... With the handy-dandy map thingie on the right side of the blog we see new cities springing up periodically and we love to watch it. I'm sure many of you are hemi parents - great - that's why we actually started this, so we could chronicle what is was like to have a hemi kid. Except after awhile the other kids wanted to share what they were doing, and really our life became about more than recovering from that surgery. Once we found our new normal our world did not revolve around Blondie's former illness. By the way, I'm hoping Brian takes pics tonight of Blondie's two new braces and I'll put something up on the Rasmussen's blog soon about her new muscle/tendon issues.
So if you feel like it - click on the little comment link on the bottom and leave us a message.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Music Music Music

Thursday found us going in different directions (sort of a theme at this house). Big Al had a concert of all the bands at her middle school, and Brian and my mom went to go see her. It was the 6th grade, then the 7th, then the 8th grade bands, the orchestra, and then the chorus --- they were gone for awhile. Big Al is the kid on the far left...

Meanwhile, T-Rex had a chorus presentation of the Nutcracker Suite. In the first part of the play she was a soldier, and then she and her friend switched the lead role halfway through the play and she did a tremendous job. T-Rex tends to be an introvert, so I was quite surprised that she tried out for this part. Sorry for the blurry pics.

A few weeks ago Big Al tried out for District Honor Band, and was CERTAIN that she bombed. She was wrong. Apparently she was one of just a few 7th graders who made it. So Friday she was shuttled over to a high school, spent a day and a half with new music, and Saturday afternoon gave a concert. She got to do a steel pan drum piece that she really enjoyed. She's thinking about trying out for the school's steel pan club next year.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Froze our buns!

Big Al had one last soccer tournament this past weekend in Atlanta, so she and I drove down this past Friday to participate. We stayed in a really great hotel, with families and players that are just SO MUCH fun. The only down side to the weekend was the threat of snow. By Friday evening we knew that the snow would miss us, but we southerners STILL don't like cold..... and it was past cold and into freezing. Big Al had two games at 9:30 (on Sat. and Sun) and then a game at 3:30 on Saturday. Temperatures ranged between 29 and 47 degrees depending on the time of day, but the wind was what made us miserable.

The first game the girls won 5-0, and the second game (Big Al scored) was also 5-0. So that meant we had to (I mean got to) stay for the championship game at 3:00 on Sunday -- which also meant we got to drive home in the dark... but we had fun. Between the two games Big Al and I went Christmas shopping at the American Girl store, and had a ball, but the other people shopping there were CRAZY.

Sunday the girls shivered their way to another victory, 3-0 and we all spent the wait time at the hotel, and then at the mall. While at the mall some of the girls posed for the picture with Santa, and just generally goofed off.
At 3:00 we were ready to play again, and those of us watching saw a spectacular game. No one scored on either team.... they were so evenly matched, but it was great fun to watch the girls try to put something together. In the end all positions played so hard that it was tied 0-0. So we had to go to the shootout. Each team lined up on the field, and 6 were chosen to shoot one-on-one with the opposing goalie, and the team with the most goals at the end would win.... it was tough to watch. The girls who missed beat themselves up, the goalies were tough on themselves.... one Dad filmed this video... Big Al's team is wearing the blue shirts.

So in the end, the girls left as champions, and all was well.... for us at least. About halfway home we finally warmed up.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

We're pulling for Aaron


Aaron is a young man from our city that had a stroke as 4 year old. He is now trying to earn a place on the American paralympic cycling team. We here at the Dawson household are cheering for him. Here is someone with left side weakness (sound familiar) who is doing something amazing, and once again reminding me as a mom to push my child, and then get out of her way. Way to go Aaron.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Finally! A buddy for secret, geeky, fun

My hope was waning.... my hope that a child of mine would like to engage in a pretty silly activity that I find cathartic..... that's right.... puzzles.
When I was growing up we would buy a big puzzle to do at the lake house for our visit, or bring one to Grandma Jolly's when visiting for a holiday. .... not that grandma's was boring, far from it. It was a great way for several of us to wander in and wander out of conversation around the card table it was set up on. It was a favorite memory of mine, so of course I trek them out to the lake house whenever we go because there isn't TV, or computers, and in the summer the afternoon storm is a definite given to drive us indoors.
Big Al loses interest fast, so does Blondie.... I had hopes for T-Rex, but she's only good for about an hour...... BEHOLD CHEESIE. Cheesie is in a STEMS magnet (Science Tech, engineering and mathematics) and her teacher always has a 100 piece puzzle going in the classroom (I swear it helps logic and spatial reasoning - really, I'm a math teacher, I promise) So Cheesie asked if we could do a puzzle over Thanksgiving... WHY OF COURSE DARLING CHILD. So I pulled out a 500 piece one that we could do together, and even Brian joined in. So then we needed more puzzles because my others are 1000 pieces and that would be a bit overwhelming for her, so we borrowed from grandma and Aunt Christy. Now, it can't be just any puzzle, it has to have artwork, and a LOT of elements, not just some photo of a mountain range - boring... Cheesie helped me to do 3 puzzles in 3 days.... except now I'm older... and my back hurts from bending over, and my eyes squint a bit.... but I got to indulge my old holiday memory and work a fun puzzle with my youngest.... thank goodness. The conversation was lovely, and she refused to go to bed or leave the table unless everyone else did because she didn't want someone doing it behind her back. She'll also tell you that she did most of it....
Also, yesterday was Big Al's actual birthday, and we wrapped up the endless celebrations with a family dinner, minus T-Rex who thought it would be more fun to see Miley Cyrus with a friend. Family, and Big I (who also helped with the puzzles) came together and Big Al was quite happy. Not the best picture with leftover dishes on the table, but here is a look at the gathering.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful for....

I am very thankful for my family. I am lucky to have a husband who goes on fun mini-adventures with me, actively participates in the lives of our children, pitches in with everything, and works hard to have things go right for all of us.

I am thankful for Big Al. She is hitting the teen years in a very good place. She is responsible, intelligent, adventurous and caring. She enjoys helping others, and has cultivated very good friends. She works hard at school and achieves the goals she has set.

I am thankful for T-Rex. Her varied interests are going to lead her on an adventure through life. She sits back and thinks deeply about things, and then jumps in to try to help. She is using her intelligence to work hard in school, and finds the balance in her life with her reading and her crafts.

I am thankful for Blondie. Each and everyday I am impressed at how she focuses on doing things that may be difficult. She sets an example for others, not just kids with Rasmussen's, but others who notice how she never complains about her path in life. We have every expectation that she will be just as productive a citizen as anyone else. She is kind, strong, smart and has the goofiest sense of humor.

I am thankful for Cheesie. She is my builder, my architect, and still snuggles on our laps. She enjoys hanging out with family, and going on small adventures. She is successful in school, and a fiend for puzzles. She is the rule follower who keeps us all on track.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Turning 13

Okay, she actually turns 13 on Saturday, but we had a small friend gathering before everyone left town, and others go to a big concert on Saturday. This weekend Big I will join us for her "family" birthday and we'll finish off the celebration.
Last night she had a few girls from school come over and spend the night. They played guitar hero, ate dinner, and did "girl stuff" for quite awhile. At one point I had visions of her future as they played around with flat irons, and hair in the bathroom. It really reminded me of my high school (and college) days getting ready to go out with friends. They seem to have had a good time hanging out - despite Big Al starting to get conjested.

Listening to a sweet letter from "B".

Opening presents

Although much subdued compared to last year due to budget constraints, Big Al is excited about being allowed to wear some makeup now, and she is having a great year with these friends. I'm very proud of her.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Marry a thief - again

I am a bad, bad mom. I allowed Big Al to go to my brother's CD release party for Marry a Thief..... held in a Tavern. Tavern is the polite name for a bar that gathers a whole bunch of college kids. We listened to Cayla perform one of the opening acts, but I had to take Big Al outside for the second opening band (way to attached to 4-letter words). Marry a Thief came on, and unfortunately because we had left the place for the band before, we didn't have a place up front to listen. So we found steps on the side and Big Al watched the show from there.

Colin was, of course, AWESOME. My mom took these pictures and more (sorry Mom, I totally ripped you off). You can check them out at www.photoblog.com/widcat . You can also check out www.marryathief.com if you want to hear more of their music. I believe they have posted their new song ONLY on the website.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Thinking of Veterans

Major Charles M. Brown
Lt. Col John B. Davis
Donald Brown
Lt. Col Warren Jolly
Lt. Cecil E. Newman
and of course
Petty Officer Brian Dawson

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I love Rudy Mancke

Rudy chasing butterflies

Wednesday night I left the family, and drove to Myrtle Beach with a colleague (and friend). She and I were on our way to the science teacher convention. Sadly, you could really see that budget cuts were taking their toll, as the attendance was MUCH lower than I expected. Happily, I got to meet Rudy Mancke. He is an absolute walking encyclopedia when it comes to natural history in SC. He is currently a USC (the real one, not the one in Southern California) professor, and a former curator at the state history museum.

Now, I have to admit, I vaguely knew who he was (most in SC do), but I wasn't brimming over with excitement UNTIL I heard him speak at the keynote address. WOW. He is amazing. I attended my workshops for the rest of the day, and made a lot of contacts that may pan out for my students, as well as others in my school.
Dr. Michel

The BIG FUN, however, came on Friday when I went on a beach walk with Rudy, and Dr. Jaqueline Michel. She is a geologist who described all of the changes on the coast. It was supposed to be a 2 hour workshop, however, as we walked across the street to walk the block to the ocean, Rudy stopped in the lot that had overgrown..... and then he started showing us EVERYTHING - he knows the name of every shrub, plant, tree, insect, bird, etc. It took us about 45 minutes to walk that one block because he had comments to share about everything we found. When we got to the beach Dr. Michel explained a lot about the erosion of the coast, and the last OBVIOUS beach nourishment project on Myrtle Beach, and why it doesn't have the dunes it should have. When she finished Rudy took us to several places along the beach and explaine every single shell, coral, sponge, etc that we could find. He connected everything back to Dr. Michel's talk about the changes in coast. It was mesmerizing.... I know.... I hear you..... first a math geek, now a science geek. But I was truly inspired. On the way back to the hotel some random person ran up to him, "Are you Rudy from the NatureSCene show." He was of course gracious. Many South Carolinians have grown up watching his show, which he called Show and Tell on TV.

All day, I kept thinking - I shouldn't have blown off all of those biology classes - I mean I REALLY couldn't stand them, but now I'm seeing the value of knowing the difference between a mollusk and an echinoderm. So I'm actually looking into taking classes at the rival to USC, although I'll never buy an orange sweatshirt... and seeing if I could maybe one day grow up to be Rudy Mancke and try to inspire my students with the science they really should have each and every day.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trick-or-Treating in different directions

Apparently last year WAS the last year that all my chicks would trick-or-treat together.

Big Al went to a party with her friends, after we made those costumes yesterday (they wanted to be "skinny m&m's).

T-Rex started with us, but quickly ditched us for her friends, although Cheesie's friends were still with us.
And the little girls were excited that my Uncle, Aunt and Cousin went with us for a bit. I crack up that they all dress up, but they had a great time (The bee keeper, the Queen Bee, and the two little bees). Tiny Miss Busy Pants hung in there for a while, but had to be taken home when she was walking and yawning at the same time. She also thought she was supposed to go inside everyone's house. FUN!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Corn Maze

Took two different groups of girl scouts out to the corn maze. Each year this guy does a different maze, and this year it was 3 miles of space theme..... which we did in the dark. Sorry for the really bad pictures.

At the end of it they went down a big slide outside of the maze.......

A fun evening - just not a great photo op.