Saturday, March 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Girlies!

If I was a good mom, I would probably make separate posts for each girl's birthday. However, I am combining them into one to save time.

Emma turned 8 on March 26th. Where has the time gone? It seems like yesterday, or maybe the day before, that she was a toddler. Now she's 8 going on 18. She wanted Carraba's for her birthday dinner - yum! Here she is with her birthday sundae:

Abbie turned 7 on March 28th. It's amazing to me that she's so grown up! She can read and write and sing. She's so good at gymnastics, for her first time out. Abbie decided on Chinese food at home for her birthday dinner. She's a girl after my own heart.

Our friends Ian an Tonna came for both girls' birthday dinners. Isaac loves Tonna. She comes and hangs out with us on Tuesdays and Wednesdays - she is our nanny in name, but we think of her as family. And Ian too since they're married. :)

Ian very kindly assisted Todd in assembling all the Playmobil the girls got for their birthdays. Apparently there are many, many little stickers involved in Playmobil. I'm so glad it was my job to buy it, not put it together!

Isaac wasn't too sure what was going on, but he loved Grandpa's pocket watch! All the babies in our family love that watch. Emma used to say, "Grandpa, is-a you watch in-a you pocket?" Oh, it was so cute. But, I digress. Between the pocket watch and his cut-off thumb (long story involving a table saw), he is a favorite with the grandkids, especially while they are teething.

Webkinz are the hot thing at our house right now, and the girls received several. Here is their birthday collection:

The really fun thing we did for the girls' birthdays this year was mining for emeralds! We went to the Emerald Hollow Mine at Hiddenite, NC. My dad heard about it on the National Geographic Channel. He, Abbie and I all love rocks. (Do you have a special rock? If not, you need to read this book.)

Anyhoo, this mine is the only emerald mine in North America open to the public. We thought since we were going on a Friday, it wouldn't be that busy. Boy, were we wrong! There was a huge line of people waiting to get in when we got there, because you have to pay for and fill out permits to be able to prospect for gems. By the time we got up to the check-in place, they were out of equipment for digging and panning, so our only option left was sluicing - you take your buckets o' dirt and sit in front of troughs with running water, and wash through your dirt to see what rocks you might find.

We started out with $5 buckets, and found some tiny emeralds and some other interesting things. Then, my dad decided we needed to have better rocks so he got a bigger bucket called a "Gem Cutter's Dream" or something like that. That was fun - we found some hugh quartz crystals, and a really cool cluster of amethyst crystals. That made Abbie's day! She loves amethyst. After that, we got a couple of "Ruby and Star Sapphire" buckets. We found quite a few rocks that looked like they might be worth something.

Here is Isaac in the backpack (a steal from a consignment shop for $43 - woo hoo!):

He was such a good boy! He even took a nap while Grandma wore him:

Here we have Abbie and Grandma sluicing:

And Emma and Grandma working hard:

When we got the "Gem Cutter" bucket, we were all finally sitting next to each other, sharing the dirt. I would send my little screen down for more dirt, and as they were putting it in, the girls would pick out the big rocks. "Look what I found!" they would shriek. I finally had to make them PUT THE DIRT IN MY SCREEN and let me have it. I don't mind them taking rocks, but come on! At least let me have the fun of playing in the dirt!

We brought home everything we found, and my dad got himself a rock book and a magnifier, and had a grand time sorting through all the rocks, identifying what he could and sorting them. He took them back to Michigan with him, so that he could take them to a geologist/gemologist at a jeweler's he trusts. We had sapphires, rubies, emeralds, citronite, something blue I can't recall just now, quartz, and amethyst. I know there was other stuff too, but those are the main ones.

Come to find out, everything we found is "specimen grade," which means it's fun to play with and great to study, but we won't be making any money from our rocks. That's just as well, because the girls love to play with them. He left the larger quartz crystals here, along with Abbie's amethyst. He has a rock saw, a tumbler and a polisher up north, so this summer when we go, the girls can see the rocks he's cut. He even has some of my grandfather's old findings so they can make some jewelry from the rocks. I'd really like to see them each get a necklace, at least, with the small emeralds we found. They might not be precious in anyone else's eyes, but I know they will treasure them.

That was a really fun trip. My folks had wanted to take the girls on an adventure, rather than just bringing more stuff, and it was wonderful. Last year we went to the beach, and that was cool - the first time we'd ever been to the beach in NC, after living here 9 years! I hope we will come up with another adventure for next year, too.

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