Monday, October 29, 2007 ;
5:17 AM
Oct 27

Antelope Island State Park

Every year, around this time, the Park will have a Bison Round-Up. They'll use men on horses, dogs, and even helicopters to drive all the buffalo to an area where the buffalo can pass the winter. There, they get counted and examined, get medical attention and care as well.

Scientists have calculated an optimal number of bison that the island can support. And since on the island, the buffalo do not have natural predators, they thrive very well. So, all the extra bison would be auctioned off.

The public are invited to watch the round-up and also the tagging and examination of the bison over these weeks. We just went to enjoy the Great Salt Lake, and view some bison.

The Great Salt Lake is really enormous. It gets water from several sources, including melted snow. However, it does not have any outlets, and water returns to the water cycle via evaporation only. So the Lake gets more and more concentrated in minerals and salts.

Hence, not much can survive in the lake, only brine shrimp and some algae. However, why is Antelope Island full of wildlife? The great diversity of birds is truly exciting. The birds all come to feed on the brine shrimp. Cos the lake is teeming with them. Every month of the year, different birds can be seen, even the bald eagle. So many avid birdwatchers gather here.

The Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake. It is even larger than Singapore, I think, looking at the map.

Ripple effect in the sand, with brine shrimp exoskeleton in the grooves. (above right)

All the various beautiful sand patterns made by wave action, around the plants on the "beach".

Above right: mineral deposits, brine shrimp and foam.
Above left: the kids playing with pebbles on the "beach".

Above right: ds1 brought his fav Ultraman Dyna along on the trip too. He will request to take pic with it, and will also tell Dyna about the sights he sees, along the way.

Above: evidence of the wildlife -- all the dead carcasses, feathers...

More flora and fauna above, proving that even harsh habitats can also be colonised.

Above left: While I was snapping pics, a cute girl asked me to take her pic too! :-)

Below: the hundreds and thousands of birds, both migratory and resident, flying around and swimming in the lake.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

Friday, October 26, 2007 ;
3:00 PM
Oct 25
Bakery Field trip

First, thanks to my parents, sis and bil (bro in law) for this parcel from home. Ultramen that cannot be found here, and lots of other goodies from the pasar malam near Jurong Point. :-)

Bakery Field Trip in ds1's school.

As usual, brought ds2 along. We walked to the bakery from the school. It was a cold morning, but the crisp air and beautiful scenery made it a good walk.

The lady in charge first read a story to the kids. It was about baking bread, and started from what type of ingredients are used, how they are obtained and then the process of combining the ingredients into bread.

Then she "tested" them on the 5 main ingredients. Surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly, since kids have amazing memories), the kids rattled off the 5:

1. water. 2. yeast. 3. honey. 4. flour. 5. milk.

She stressed that their bakery used only these ingredients, all-natural, without preservatives, additives and so on. Furthermore, she brought the grains out to show the kids and let them feel the difference between refined white flour and whole grain flour.

She then stressed that the bakery baked bread using whole grain flour. Wow. The kids seemed to be suitably determined that from then on, they will only eat whole grain stuff. haha.

She also let them taste and feel all the other main ingredients. The funny thing is, since all the kids were so impressed, they even wanted to feel and taste water, as if it was some special water that was used.

When she came to yeast (not the dried kind), she did say it might be yucky to some. So all the kids didn't want to even come near it but ds1 wanted to smell how yucky it is. So she let him. haha, he wrinkled up his nose and scrunched up his face. Even my 18 yr old students don't like the smell when we use yeast in Bio labs.

Then the kids were brought around the facility, to see the mill, the giant mixers, the giant oven and how the dough is knead by the baker. The kids were all "oohing, aahing, wowing", cos everything was super sized. I was impressed that the oven could bake 800 loaves at a time. Something like that, now the exact figure is not too clear in my head.

The white bread loaf would feel much lighter than a whole grain bread loaf too. And they even quote from Dr Sears, a parenting guru, that "White bread is air bread. Whole grain is heavier because it's muscle bread." :-)

The best part: each kid was given a loaf of whole grain bread and a huge chocoloate chip cookie. My, the cookie tasted so good, warm and fresh out of the oven. The bread too, smelt and tasted really delicious. Only thing, both boys were not used to whole grain and didn't really like the rougher texture. But the "brainwashing" did work, and ds1 was compelled to finish up a thick slice, just so he'd have bigger muscles. :-)

The teacher was so nice. There were extra cookies and she offered ds2 one, all to himself.

We then walked all the way back to school. Since there was still half an hour before school ended, the kids could play in the playground.

Above left: the school with a tree that shde all its leaves already, and another still in its red glory.

Above right: ds1 with Jimmy at the swings. Jimmy's mom told me that Jimmy went back home to tell her that ds1 is his best friend. :-) Nice to know ds1 has "best friends".

2 other moms were there at the school playground too. River's mom also brought her younger one, a girl, who happily rode on a trike. So adorable. (above left).

Aiden's mom was talking to River's mom while sitting on another similar trike too. I should've snapped a pic of the baby and her side by side. Would make a good pic. :-)

After school, I brought the kids to Inglewood Park which was near the drum teacher's house. We had picnic lunch there, and the kids played with the slides and sand for awhile before it was time for drums. While the kids were running around, I sat back to enjoy the surroundings and realised the fall foliage, and the street just beside the playground was actually very beautiful. So I snapped a pic (above right). After we leave Utah, these will serve as fond memories.
Whee down the slide! "Look at my hair! All standing up!"
Burrowing and kicking up a storm in the deep pile of fallen leaves.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

9:39 AM
This post is about breast-feeding. Those not interested in details, be forewarned.

I've learnt that child-led weaning is less traumatising for both child and mom, from some books and the AsiaParents forum. So I waited for ds2 to self-wean.

I have waited for 2.5 years, and I know some moms have done it longer, but I decided to give him some helping hints.

I hung on thus far, besides of the benefits of breastfeeding, I was thinking it may be very easy, one day, he'll decide, I'm a big boy and I don't need milk anymore. ?? But it seems that, the bigger he grew the more attached he was.

There will be alternate phases of him being independent enough to go for Bible class, but then he'll sometimes refuse to let me go and insist I be with him, if not he'll cry badly.

Then he'll want to nurse at the most inconvenient of times. Eg, while I am queueing up to pay for groceries, or while I am driving and he's in the car seat, and we're stuck in a long traffic jam on the I-15, and we're like 40min away from our destination, at least.

If I tell him no, he has to wait... ah ha... did I say he's 2? Yes, the terrible twos stage rears its head. He'll cry and scream. And now he knows how to talk, it gets little more embarrassing. He'll be hollering "breast milk" "breast!" "want breast!" till everyone is looking at me (the earlier eg of the grocery store applies here).

If I try to shush him up and explain we'll do it later, he'll try to "help himself". That is even more embarrassing. He'll be trying to pull clothes up or push them down, otherwise he'll just be groping wildly at the strategic area.

I try distractions and they sometimes work. A cookie or graham cracker, a gummy... But not all the time.

So I decided to help him along. For the past 2-3 weeks, I have been telling him what a big boy he is, so he need not drink so much milk, so frequently.

Whenever he is sleepy or cranky, I try to anticipate first, so he'll not think of milk first, and I quickly offer him a glass of cow's milk (if we're at home) or something to occupy his mouth, and then we'll sing songs, read book or watch TV. If we're out, I'll let him look at many things to distract him. Until he falls asleep in my arms or on the couch.

It's trickier at night. So I've so far tried weaning the day feeds first. The early morning one, when he first wakes, that's done with already. He's gone a month without that. The afternoon one, before he naps, that's still touch and go. But last week has been fine.

At night, just before sleeping, I try to massage him (took one baby massage lesson before, haha, just one!) or clean his ears. The latter one is very funny. He loves the feeling of the cotton bud in his ears, so I'll dip it in some olive oil and just swab it around the outer part of his earhole. Somehow that continuous motion of the cotton bud lulls him to sleep.

Sometimes when I haven't been shouting at them the whole day, then I'll also sing songs while I do the night routine, or tell stories, till they both sleep.

As for the in the middle of the night feeds? I haven't tried removing those yet. We'll do it gradually, step by step! Those are the hardest I think. Cos I'll be very sleepy and semi-conscious, and probably would just give in.

We'll see.. if my journey is coming to an end..

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

5:50 AM
Oct 23
George Eccles Dinosaur Park

After picking ds1 from school, we went off to the Eccles Dino Park in Ogden.

There are a couple of Dino Parks in Utah itself, maybe because many fossils were discovered within Utah, and many people like bringing kids to the mines themselves to dig up fossils or gems. It had been an activity I considered, since the websites had many testimonials from people and families who had dug up diamonds, gems, quartz and fossils from the mines and quarries. Also, after paying the admission/ digging fee, you can keep whatever you find. Unfortunately, since many of these mines and quarries are in southern Utah, we kept putting them off, thinking I've got the next summer to do it. Now we don't... so...

From the museums and books, I also learnt that some of the complete fossils found in Utah were new species that had not been discovered before, so they were named after Utah and the paleontologists who found them.

I brought them just before Halloween, so they had the whole park decked out in ghouls, pumpkins and skeletons too. Like the above RIP cemetery had many scary surprises hidden within.

Above right: Dracula as one of the "paleontologists" featured in the museum. :-)

We did the museum first, which had many fossils, skeletons and computers with info and history of dinos. Above left shows a triceratop with her baby beside. It was a movable dino complete with sounds, that was defending her babies against a T. Rex (not pictured) who was going to attack her babies.

Above right: ds1 was very curious abt the skeletal "guy" sitting in the wheelchair and asked if he was real, so I asked him to go say hi and shake his hand, see if he is real. :-) Sorry about the reflective strip on his jacket that reacted to my camera's flash.

Above left: fossil bone locator used by paleontologists to search for fossils in the field.

Above right: ancient fish fossil

Above left: ds2 with the dinos

Above right: the woolly mammoth

Above left: Is the T. Rex a scavenger or a predator? Scientists are arguing about this present their sides.

Above right: the gold sluice area where kids can pay to pan for gold. They also have real geodes which you can buy as a whole rock and they'll split it for you. Very beautiful and they come in all kinds of sizes and patterns.

Above: they left inflated "eyeballs" all over the place and ds1 kept playing with the eyeballs.

Then we went out to the park and viewed all the dino sculptures. so many of them! The interesting thing is, there were real animals roaming around the whole park too, with the dead dinos. So there were the geese and ducks (above left), fish and other birds, and rabbits hopping away freely. Below left: there is a black bunny nibbling on the grasses.

There are also depictions of battles amongst dinos and the casualties (above right). The boys seem to like that very much. humpph.

I also learnt something new. That the brontosaurus is actually an apatosaurus. Cos the person who discovered the "brontosaurus" bones, a Prof Marsh from Yale, tried to put it together and it was missing the skull and several other parts. He described it as the brontosaurus, but other scientists later found that it was just a large version of the apatosaurus that Marsh found. Some of the boys' dino books still have the name brontosaurus.

Just like some of their books still incorrectly list Pluto as a planet. Anyway...

Above left: the Deinonychus attacking by jumping/ flying up and digging its sharp claws into the bigger dino. Small, but very fierce, and not scared of dinos much larger than them.

Above right: aquatic dinos.

Above: Allosaurus and Diplodocus death fight.
After the information overload, more for me, cos I read all the exhibit signs while kids mainly just pretended to fight the various dinos, I let them role play at the sand pit.

The pit has sand covered fossils and various tools like brushes, picks, hammers and pails there for kids to pretend to be paleontologists.

Then we went to the silly areas, and tried out things like the Hide-Out Gulch, which is a trail walk through a dark and scary wooded area. They put lots of spider webs, spiders and scary stuff there. And ds1 took a picture of me under the sign "World's Most Dangerous Creature" and he laughed to no end upon viewing the pic he took. Grrrrrrr....

Then there was the playground, where the play structures were all dinos and other related animals.

There was also an area with blood smears, police tape and caution signs warning us not to enter. (part of Halloween). Below left.

The kids ended up spending a lot of time at this slide below too. It's a slide constructed within a petrified tree. So fun that I wanted to go on it too, but there were a couple of moms sitting there too, and I didn't want to make a fool of myself.

rainbows every day, do not worry for the morrow

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