Christmas Morning :: Indoors

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Christmas morning was as lovely indoors, as it was out.

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One thing that struck me, is that while we may think that times are getting more difficult, we are not needy. Look at the abundance under that tree… We are so rich that I think we can’t even begin to comprehend what need actually is.

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Everything we gave to our daughters came from the thrift shop, and while it was an unusually abundant Christmas for them, everything cost less than $30, when it was all said and done.

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One of the highlights of Kinsley’s stocking, was the can of black olives which Dan suggested adding.

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Sophie on the other hand, was thrilled to death with a twenty-five cent stuffed hippo from Goodwill.

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Ornament Favorites :: Old and New

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This ornament has been the highlight of Sophie’s Christmas, so far. It came in a package from Uncle Mark and Aunt Holly. When we opened the box and showed the cheerful pink hippo to the girls, they squealed in delight. Then they hung it on the Christmas tree and have shown it proudly to everyone who walks through our door. Three or four times, in fact. So thank you, Uncle Mark and Aunt Holly!!!

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This tiny little cardinal came on a box of wonderful English Toffee, from cousins Rachel and Nemiah. Kinsley has taken a particular shine to it, and has shown it to everyone who stops to look at the Pink Hippo. She and Papa have done quite a bit of bird watching lately, and she has been fascinated by cardinals in particular, so this was also a very timely little gift!

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This is the last of the new ornaments this year, a gift from Dan’s papa. He has sent us several of these hand painted, mouth blown, Christmas ornaments over the years, and we always love to look at the delicate detail.

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Another one from Papa.

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This one was a wedding present. Isn’t it romantic?

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This is one I bought before we were married. I think it came from Dollar General, and yet, it’s still one that I love to see every year…

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A gift from a dear friend. I think it was given to us on our first Christmas together, but it may have been our second. They’re all starting to blend now…

When I was due with Sophie around Christmas time two years ago, we kept her name to ourselves. We were actually going to name her Lucy Sophia, and had experienced a few negative reactions to the name Lucy, so we decided not to share the name until there was a tiny girl to go with it. My little sister, Hannah saw this ornament hanging on the tree, and was certain that she had learned the name of our baby girl!

As it turned out, Sophie’s name got changed while I was in labor to Sophie Lucia Marie, so all that secrecy was for naught.

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This ornament was made by Aunt Paula, and acquired at an ornament exchange which was hosted by my mom.

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A vintage ornament which I happen to love. Actually, I love all the vintage ornaments, but this one was particularly photogenic. My grandma gave me this. She doesn’t treasure these old things the same way I do, because this is what she’s always had. Plastic is still new and fascinating to Grandma.

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This sweet little hand-painted, Nativity set was given to us by Dan’s sister Holly and her husband, Quico. It came all the way from Spain, last Christmas. The only damage it sustained was to Joseph’s hand, but he doesn’t seem to notice. In fact, he holds his staff as suavely as ever, even without the hand.

So, that’s the partial tour of our tree. What are your favorite ornaments? What memories to they bring to mind?

The Scholarly Hippo

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This is Sophie. But we can’t tell her that, because she’s convinced that when she dons these lovely glasses, she becomes a hippo.

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The glasses were her father’s. From way back in his bachelor days when he had no wife to help him make such important fashion choices.

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The Hippo is reading from Winnie The Pooh.

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A very deep and thought provoking book, by the way.

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This is actually preferable to Sophie’s other condition, which is Hippo Schizophrenia. When she is suffering from this other condition, she hears a hippo talking to her. A hippo who, in fact, carries on very long and belligerent conversations. A hippo who “lives in her neck”.

Pygmy Hippos

Dan’s niece Rachel, knowing of our house-wide hippo obsession, sent us the below video. We’ve watched over and over again…

That peaked our interest in the area of Pygmy Hippopotami, which lead to the finding of this video.

Since the girls like to watch this video over and over as well, I thought I’d “save” them both here, then I won’t have to search YouTube every time they want to watch it. YouTube has become quite the minefield when it comes to searching for Hippo Videos – we have to watch out very carefully for Singing Hippos, you know.

The Zoo :: The Hippopotamus

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Anyone who reads this blog much, probably knew this post was coming… The hippos were one of the main reasons we decided to make this trip to the zoo. In fact, hippos are starting to dominate my blog so much, that I think I’m going to have to give them their own category.

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The St. Louis zoo has an amazing Hippo exhibit (is that what you call it, an exhibit?) at their River’s Edge. I was amazed at how graceful the hippopotamus actually is! Kinsley spent a lot of time running back and forth in front of the gigantic aquarium in disbelief.

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The pictures really can’t capture the grace and agility these huge animals have in the water, so I’m adding this video, which actually isn’t ours, but from auntwoka, on YouTube.

Something about the way these guys move, reminds me of The Boy moving around in me. He may not have all that much space, come to think of it.

Since this blog is becoming a virtual Hippo Haven, I thought I’d also include the information given from the Zoo’s website about these fascinating creatures:

Fat — but Fast!

Hippos are the second-largest land animal — second only to elephants. Male hippos can weigh more than 6,000 pounds. Females are more “delicate,” topping out around 3,000 pounds. Despite their massive bulk, hippos can run faster than humans — up to 30 miles per hour!
Made for Water

A hippo spends most of its life in the water, and its body is well-suited to a liquid lifestyle. Blubber makes the animal buoyant, so it can float. And its skin oozes a pink “slime” that protects the hippo from sunburn, both in and out of the water.

The hippo’s head is also well adapted for aquatic life. Its eyes sit on top of the head, so the hippo can get most of its body under water and still see what’s going on above water. The nostrils are also located on top of the muzzle so the hippo can stay mostly under water and still breathe and sniff the air. When the hippo submerges, the nostrils close to keep out water.

The ears sit high on the head, so the hippo can still hear what’s going on above water when it’s mostly underneath. If the whole head goes under, the ears swivel to shake out water when the hippo resurfaces. But what about sounds below the water? That’s a job for the hippo’s jawbone, which conducts sound waves. So a hippo with its jaw submerged can hear sounds above and below water at the same time!

And one more way a hippo is adapted for life in the water: it can hold its breath for up to five minutes.

Hungry, Hungry Hippos

Hippos spend most of their days in or near the water in groups called pods. In the evenings, pods break up and the hippos leave the water, either singly or as females with their calves. They wander as much as three miles from the water in search of food.

Hippos spend most of the night eating grass. They use their wide mouth like a lawnmower, grazing the grass down to a few inches from the ground over a large area. A hippo can eat up to 90 pounds of grass in one night!

Water Babies

Hippos are so aquatic that females even give birth in the water! The babies, weighing 50 to 100 pounds, surface right after birth to take their first breath.

For the first year of their life, the youngsters nurse — either under water or on land, depending on where mom is when they get hungry. After they’re weaned, calves remain with their mothers until fully grown, at about eight years of age.

Females, Bachelors, and Territorial Bulls

Female hippos and their calves gather into groups during the day. But when they leave the water at night, groups breaks apart and each female goes off with her own calves to graze.

Most males hang out in bachelor groups. But a small percentage of males (about 10% of the population) are territorial. Each territorial bull defends his own stretch of land along the water’s edge. Along with the real estate come exclusive mating rights to all females who live in his domain.

The territorial male will allow bachelor males to wander into his territory, providing they know who’s boss and behave submissively. If a bachelor male challenges the territory holder, a bloody battle can break out. Dagger-sharp canines, up to 20 inches long, can seriously injure — or even kill — an opponent.

Helpful Hippos

Hippos may not know it, but they help other animals that live in their habitat. As they walk from the water to their grazing grounds, hippos create well-worn paths. Other animals use these paths, too. And when hippos “mow” grass, they create hippo lawns. Other animals, like gazelles, benefit from the new green shoots that grow there.

When hippos return to the river, they help the fish who swim there. How? Hippos defecate in the water, and their tail acts like a “manure spreader,” shooting dung everywhere. Small fish, snails, and other little critters gobble up the nutrient-rich dung — and are themselves eaten by larger fish. Downriver, people and other animals catch and eat the fish. They can thank a hippo for their food!

What’s Happening to Hippos?

Hippos are threatened in the wild. In the last 10 years, their numbers have declined by up to 20%, and it’s estimated that as few as 125,000 hippos remain in Africa. More important than the total number of hippos, however, is their distribution. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and West African countries have seen the sharpest hippo declines; if the trend continues, the hippo could become extinct in these areas.

Hippos are hunted for their meat and for their canine teeth. There is an increasing demand for hippo teeth in the illegal ivory trade, due largely to the ban on elephant ivory. Many items that appear to be carved from small elephant tusks are in fact made from hippo canines.

Another problem is habitat loss. As people move into hippo habitat, they come into conflict with the animals, which raid their crops. Some of these hippos are shot and killed. Others escape wounded — and dangerous. Rampaging hippos can attack and kill people on land or in the river.

What’s being done to help hippos? Since 1995, the international trade in hippos and hippo products has been severely restricted. Nevertheless, poaching remains a serious problem. There is a need for long-term protection of national parks and other hippo habitats if these animals are to survive.

Fun Facts

* Hippos can’t sweat, so staying in water helps them keep cool.
* A hippo’s bellow can be louder than a heavy-metal band playing 15 feet away.
* Hippopotamus means “river horse” in Greek, but the animal is more closely related to the pig than the horse.

Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Hippopotamidae

Sophie’s Hippo (and children’s art tangent)

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See, I told you they’re obsessed! Sophie doodled this hippo the other night. I’m not sure if this would be the head of a hippo, or the whole hog-er, I mean whole hippo.

I love the girls drawings and “letters”. I have this great plan to save digitized copies of many of their drawings over the years, and then on their 5th birthdays to have them made into photo books, like this. I can imagine putting in their artwork, and adding photos of what they looked like at the time that they created this or that particular piece of artwork. Then, it will all be neatly bound and stored in one book, and they can put in on their coffee tables, or show it to their own children. I need to keep captions on each masterpiece, since they always carefully explain what their drawings are, and I am certain to forget.

So from now on, all their drawings must be:
1. Scanned
2. Captioned (with Picasa)
3. Saved with file names explaining who the artist was, and the date that the art was created
4. Saved to our external hard drive
5. Burned to disk, every so often

To Catch a Hippo

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Photo Credit goes to “digitalART2

Ever since she learned that her cousins Nathan and Natalie were going deer hunting, Kinsley has become obsessed with the idea of hunting hippos. Specifically, Hippos with Cook-able Feet. She has laid out a very detailed plan for the Hippo Hunt, which I will transcribe as she re-explains it to me (for the fifth time today):

“We need to check to see if we have any string in the basement, and then IF we do, then we need to attach some chain to the end of it. Then we head out the door. When we get to Uncle Eric’s house, we can ask them if they have Any Hippos on their farm, and when they say that they do, then we go out to The Rocks, and you will hold The String, and I will tackle the hippo and then get The String from you – and tie it around The Hippo’s neck. Then, I will lead The Hippo home, (and we will need a towel for The Hippo), and we will take it into our kitchen, and Uncle Jared can come to our house (because he likes hippos to eat) and we can cook it, and eat it. It should probably be a Baby Hippo, because Smaller Hippos, are long enough to eat. And we may need a gun, to shoot The Hippo, in case it tries to sing.”

I admit, the girl is bonkers.

She has been obsessed with Hippos for over a year now. She saw the below video, and took such an instant and terrible dislike to it, that she literally drops to the ground screaming with fright if she sees this clip, or even hears a bit of the song by the Tokens. Sad.