Stephen F. Austin State Park Camping Trip

We finally took Alex on his first camping trip.  We’ve been planning to go for ages, but it took my sister planning a trip to Newman’s Castle to get us committed to finally doing it.

We packed enough stuff to hide out in the woods for a week (at least) and took enough conveniences to not feel too far from home, but Alex had a blast and it was fun to camp with family (we lump Jessica and her family right into our family) who are so much fun to hang out with!  Alex had five other boys and one little girl to keep him busy and the time flew by.  Had it not been for the 99% humidity and the tiny tent we took, I could stayed a few more days and not missed a thing!

For full disclosure, I must add that I have been giving Dustin a hard time for YEARS about how he thinks he can’t sleep on the ground anymore because he is too old.  We took our little tent and pads to sleep on.  I was WRONG.  Way wrong.  So wrong, that I didn’t sleep more than a few minutes the entire night, because the ground is HARD.  Even with a pad.  My hip fell asleep.  I didn’t even know that was possible.  The one benefit of being up all night – I got to hear the wonder in Alex’s voice when he woke up at 2 a.m. to listen to the owls hooting nearby. That’s not something we hear in the city!

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Alex took quite naturally to helping build and maintain a fire.  Just like his dad.  He had a fire-poking stick, and he quickly learned how to use it.

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Alex took his own tent and had a great time sharing with the boys (and occasionally Katie too). No, he did not sleep in it overnight!

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Trailblazers Hiking Club at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

Today was our first hike of the 2015-2016 year with the Texas Trailblazers Hiking Club.  Because it is National Wildlife Refuge Week, we hiked 2.2 miles (through the Hill Country) inside the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.  It’s still very warm here in Texas, so while the weather was beautiful starting out, we were pretty hot by the time we made it back down from the top.  But the view was worth the climb and Alex was amazed at how far he could see.

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Farewell, Treetop…Welcome, Spots

Farewell Treetop

The first reptile to take up residence in Alex’s room was a little house gecko, whom he affectionately named Treetop.  We re-purposed our old aquarium and with some plants, rocks, and dirt from the backyard, Alex soon had his very first terrarium…and it will certainly NOT be his last.  I’m fairly certain it will be the first in a LONG line of creature habits that will share living space with us in the years to come.

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Treetop was tiny.  I think even for house gecko size, he was tiny.  We soon discovered that your typical crickets from the pet store we just too big for him to eat, and mealworms couldn’t be his sole source of nutrition.  Lucky for Treetop, our local exotic pet store sold “pinhead” crickets.  No kidding.  They are the size of pinheads.  The lady there said we’d be lucky if Treetop lived for a couple of weeks in captivity, but she loved how interested Alex was in all the reptiles they have, and she thought it was a great way for him to observe nature up close.  Every so often we would make the trip out to pick up the crickets for Treetop and a few weeks turned into a few months.  Treetop lived a longer life than we expected, but he made a great first reptile for Alex.  And it didn’t take long before reptile number two became the newest resident in our home.

Meet Spots

Spots is a juvenile Leopard Gecko, who was chosen for his…well, spots.  He eats small crickets and mealworms and sleeps all day (much to Alex’s frustration, he keeps picking nocturnal creatures) .  Two special things about Spots that Alex likes are that he has ear holes and eyelids.  Not all geckos have eyelids.

Here are some observational notes from Alex:

Spots sleeps with his head out of the log.  He yawns.  He is active during the evening.  He droops his head.  He stares.

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20150214_154319 20150214_154342 20150214_154657(And he is pretty stinkin’ cute…for a reptile.)

River Place Nature Trail, Austin

This might just be my favorite nature trail in Austin, but it is not for the faint-of-heart in 100 degree Texas heat.  For a little boy and his dog, no problem.

In case you can’t tell from the picture, that is a hill of steps…and there are many more!

No time for pictures!

Taking a break

Meesha loves to walk right beside Alex

Yes, even in Austin we have hills big enough that you have to watch out for falling rocks!

Mom of a "future zoologist" boy

How do you know you’re the mom of a boy who wants to grow up to be a zoologist?  You come home from a nature walk with a picture of this:

Yes, it is animal poop.  With seeds.  And “of course it must be from a black bear”, said the budding zoologist, who followed every nature sign he could find in hopes of trailing the elusive black bear that may live in our neighborhood.  It was with great disappointment that he returned home without a bear-sighting. However, the very next day he headed out to search again.

The Nature Box

One of the core components of our curriculum for this next school year is a Charlotte Mason style nature study using The Outdoor Secrets and The Outdoor Secrets Companion.

You can read more about Charlotte Mason style homeschooling and find many great resources for creating a CM based curriclum at Simply Charlotte Mason.

We are really, really excited about it because while we have been doing nature study on our own for a while now, I wanted something to give us a bit of guidance as we look more closely at the world around us.  I grew up in big cities, and we live in a suburban neighborhood so sadly I can’t say I have ever given much thought to nature until a very curious child began asking a WHOLE LOT of questions.

I just finished making a nature box where Alex can store some of the treasures he finds while on his nature walks and he has already found a few leaves, flowers, and even a snake skin to put in the box.  Here’s a little peek at my handy work. (The stone-texture paint was AWESOME!)

Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch

Alex (also known as The Crocodile Hunter Jr. or as he keeps insisting, “Steve” Johnson) took a drive through the safari today, Texas style.  Take a look.
And we did.  As long as hanging out the window to take pictures counts as being in the vehicle.

They are not shy…

But they are seriously cute.

Goats.  A whole entire petting zoo of goats.  Need I say more?
  

They are adorable.
And they will SO eat your clothes.  And lick you.  
And poop on you if you don’t watch out.  Go ahead.  Ask me how I know this.

 

That face (above) is for these fish (below)
This one is my favorite of all.  I tried to bring him home with us, but he didn’t fit in the car (though he gave it a honest try).