Friday, February 29, 2008

We are free to leave the country.

Our passports arrived today, so we are good to go for our trip to Mexico in April! Kudos to the passport agency - the turn abound time on our passports was only 3 weeks. Hubby is having a crummy time at work and is threatening to stay in Mexico, indefinitely. ;P

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Someone really thought it was necessary to bring back jelly sandals? Thankfully I was just slightly too old to have fallen for this fad their first time around. Lord grant me the strength to stand strong and remain unmoved by the desperate pleas of my 8 year old daughter, who can't begin to understand the deep loathing I have for these shoes.

These same jelly sandal people were probably also on the committee responsible for the rebirth of leg warmers. I didn't wear those either. That's right. I'm no slave to fashion.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Balance, balance, use your balance..

(If you haven't checked in recently, be sure to scroll down for more entries, including pictures from our trip to the reptile zoo!)

Jo-jo's circus, anyone? Nevermind.

Since we had spent Saturday split up and scattered to the far reaches of the greater Seattle area, we decided to spend Sunday altogether as a family. With the weather still being nice, and with A. having celebrated a fifth bday this month (and already having demonstrated some decent balancing skills), I suggested we take the training wheels off of his bike. I packed up a picnic lunch, we loaded the kids' bikes into the van, and headed over to Farrel-McWhirter park in Redmond. It's the same location N. learned to ride without training wheels a couple years ago - there's an area with a nice, gradual slope, and a dirt/gravel/grass surface that's less painful to crash on (always important). Here's the play-by-play in pictures:

Kids hopping on their bikes.

Daddy gets boy-boy steady.

Daddy helps get him going.

Mommy takes over (I didn't get a picture of the first time A. took off on his own - it ended in a crash that I could hear from around a bend in the path, and it took some convincing to get him to hop back on for another go).

And he's off!

He was pretty exhausted after this, so the kids went off into the woods, first with Daddy,

and then on their own. They were out there alone for 30 minutes or so - not terribly long, but it felt like an adventure to them. Hubby and I figure it's good for them to have some unsupervised kid-time in the woods, and we could hear them every once in a while, so we knew they were safe. When they returned, they wanted to take us on their "path" - they had tried to see how far they could go only walking on fallen logs.

This is me, trying to cross a log over a stream crossing. The kids naturally scrambled over this with no problem, even N. who tends to get anxious about these things. Of course hubby was over like a shot, having grown up with this stuff. But not me. I'm clinging to these poor little branches for dear life. In spite of that, I nearly tripped over an itty-bitty little nub of a branch near my left foot. Why is it that two feet suddenly seems so high when it's over water? Hubby reminded me that the creek is so low I'd likely only get my feet wet, but I explained that it wasn't wet shoes, or bodily injury I was worried about - more the wounded pride I was anticipating. If nothing else, the kids were getting a kick out of watching me try to cross this toothpick of a log suspended over a roaring rapids.

Hubby is lucky that I have a sense of humor. Here's me making it back to solid land. What a relief. The kids made the daddy stick close to me for the rest of the hike to help out the poor mommy. After 15+ years of traipsing through the woods, I still retain the balance of a drunk sailor. Hopefully the kids will take after their father!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Roman art from the Louvre was so cool!!!

N. and I had the best time on Saturday! We were just wrapping up two months of learning about the Roman Empire, from its beginnings with King Romulus to its fall in 476 AD, when I learned that this exhibit was opening at the Seattle Art Museum this weekend. Saturday was Family Day, so there were a lot of activities planned for the kids (Roman-themed coloring pages, decorating cloth bags, button making, face painting, a juggler, Roman era costumes to try on), as well as live music and roaming actors and actresses dressed as gladiators and patricians (N. suggests that the women may have been dressed as emperors' wives). Before we left we had downloaded the audio tour from the SAM website, and N. listened to it on the drive over. She was really into it, and I'd hear an excited exclamation once in a while from her, but otherwise she refused to tell me what she was hearing about because, she said, "You'll hear it when you get there!"

While I stood in line to pay, N. went over and decorated a couple of cloth bags, one for each of us. Then we went upstairs to go see some art! After another short line, and exhanging a defective audio tour device, we were raring to go. I'm really glad N. had her own audio - she was riveted during the entire 2+ hours we took to go through the exhibit. They had the art displayed in different themed rooms: first emperors, religion, citizens of Rome, military, entertainment, and death (urns, sarcophaguses, etc). I think my favorite piece, or one I found surprising, was one of the emperor Nero - one might argue that he was one of Rome's worst emperors. This guy spent a lot of time in leisure pursuits, and really seemed more concerned with his own self-interests than those of the empire (if you need examples of this, you can give N. a call and she'd be happy to discuss his downfalls with you). On display was a statue of Nero, with his head placed upon the body of a child (apparently this was a common occurance - placing someone's head on another's body), which gave him almost an angellic appearance. It seems that Nero was really looked over by family and friends as a child, no one cared much for him, and they never anticipated him becoming emperor of Rome someday. Whereas other children in the family had statues of themselves out in the gardens, none had ever been commisioned of poor Nero. So when he was 17 and became emperor, they whipped out this statue - its stature giving some indication of the opinion others had of him at the time. I also really enjoyed the relief panels ("frieze"), though most showed animal sacrifice, which became slightly disturbing after a while. N. liked "everything", and I couldn't have been more proud of her while we were there - she was attentive, poised, and thoughtful. Really a pleasure to be with.

After going through the exhibit, N. and I both agreed that there is more about the Roman Empire we would like to learn. In particular, we'd both like to study Emperor Trajan - the history curriculum we're using never made any mention of him, but he sounds like a pretty important guy to get to know. Overall, I think our knowledge of the era was likely above that of most people who there, and having that background definitely lead to a better understanding of the art, and its significance. That's not to say that you shouldn't pop on over to the SAM to check it out if you don't know anything about ancient Rome! There's definitely lots of good background information presented to help bring you up to speed, plus the art is just impressive to look at anyway. It's also likely to get you thinking, which is never a bad thing!

The boys went on a nice, long bike ride over in Duvall. A. mentioned that highlights of their trip included a father and son passing them on horses, and spending time playing on the riverbank. This was all followed up by a stop at DQ - bike rides are always made even better when ice cream is involved!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Did anyone happen to pay attention to the groundhog?

Somehow groundhog's day passed me by, so I'm not sure what the prediction was, but the weather this week was absolutely fabulous!

I have to share exciting news about N. and her reading - she has just taken off in the last two weeks! And not just with her reading, but with her writing, too. She's been writing and illustrating stories, and now she's editing one that she wants to enter into the Young Writers and Illustrators contest. The final date submissions are due is March 7th, so she needs to hustle if that's going to happen. I think she may actually do it though. She's also been writing to some friends. The books she's been reading are from The Adventures of Benny and Watch series (early readers that spun off of the Boxcar Children series created by Gertrude Warner). I stumbled upon them when I was looking for a link to post for my last blog entry. They've really built up her confidence, and suddenly she's trying to read literally everything. She's attempting to read books, magazines, signs, cereal boxes - this is all completely new.

Interestingly, the desire to read and/or write seems to disappear once we pull out school work! At this point I've decided to handle it the way we've always handled asynchronous development in the past - if writing or reading isn't the skill being assessed, then I don't see a reason to push it. Our language arts curriculum uses "guided reading assessments" a few times/week. These are mainly to determine reading comprehension. In order to encourage N's new enjoyment of reading, I'm simply substituting the reading she's doing on her own and asking her questions about that, and then reading the LA stuff together (cuz the stories are actually pretty cool).

Tomorrow, N. and I are going to the Seattle Art Museum to see their new exhibit of ancient Roman art. This ties in really well with the era of history we've been studying for the past couple of months. Tomorrow is Family Day at SAM, and they have a lot of fun activities planned, so N. is pretty excited. Plus she gets to go with just Momma, and that makes it even more special. The boys are going to go do boy things outdoors somewhere.

And speaking of the boy child.... A. is currently into counting. He really likes to count, and he'll count just about anything. The more of something there is to count, the better. In the evening he'll lay on the living room floor on his tummy and count all the beads on the abacus. Today I bought a 200pc container of connecting cubes, which he promptly connected to make a snake, and then began counting one by one. I'm pretty sure he only made it to 100 because I remember him asking what came next, and I was distracted with something else, darn it. N. commented that she doesn't think she's ever counted to 100 because she never had a reason to. LOL - hard to argue with that logic! The funny thing is that both hubby and I can recall counting to ourselves as kids. I remember that I liked the patterns of the numbers - maybe it was soothing or something. We were both weird and introverted as children. Thankfully one of us grew out of it! ;P

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Nothing profound

Just thought I should do a blog entry.

We spent the morning doing some science experiments on friction. We tested the force needed to pull a shoe across five different textures: brick, carpet, grass, wood, and tile. N. hypothesized that the carpet would create the most friction (based on an activity she did online beforehand), but it turned out the grass required a stronger pull to drag it across the grass. Maybe our grass is too long? Nah....

I've been trying to gauge whether or not the kids want to do science projects for our upcoming science fair. N. did a great research project on Clouded Leopards last year, and was talking about doing another report on animals, but I kind of steered her away from that idea. I'd like her to do an actual project or develop an experiment. I think she's finally gotten inspired! She was watching something on tv this weekend, and came running upstairs to tell me that the show said she should try soaking a raw egg in a cup of vinegar overnight and then see what happens. Now, she doesn't remember that we did this years ago with a chicken bone, so I think we'll go for it. I suggested to her today that after we do that experiment and see what the results are, she might want to continue the experiment by soaking eggs in other materials. She seemed interested, so we'll see where this goes. Granted, we're not allowed to have food in the location where the fair is being held, so there will likely be videotaping involved, and then dubbing to dvd - really more work than simply attending the fair. Hmmm... why am I encouraging this? LOL! Oh, the kids' hypotheses - A. thinks the egg will turn green (hey, it's his favorite color! Maybe he doesn't understand the difference between making a wish and making a hypothesis. We'll come back to that.) and N. thinks the raw egg will harden like a hardboiled egg. Hee, hee- won't she be surprised. I think the experiment is generally done with an already hardboiled egg, but I'm up for trying it raw.

In other news, N. is really enjoying The Boxcar Children series of books. We've only read the first and fourth books so far, but I like that they are an enjoyable reads written at a level that a struggling reader can grasp fairly well. Seeing as how the series began back in the 1940s, I haven't found there to be any behaviors that are annoying or offensive - some of the current popular series really irritate me. Do kids' books have to be about playing tricks on teachers, or generally viewing adults as idiots or obstacles to joy in life? It's nice to find nice, wholesome storylines that my kids enjoy together. I mean, sure, they might decide they can go live off on their own in a boxcar in the woods, but other than that, it's great! ;P Actually, A. and I were discussing the first book. The youngest sibling in the books is the little brother, Benny, who is the same age as A. I asked A. if he thought that he and N. could live alone in the woods, and if he thought N. could make them dinner. He said, rather emphatically, "NO!" So I don't think they're likely to hit the road anytime soon.

Anybody out there have kids who enjoy graphic novels? I don't recall them being around when I was a kid, but we've stumbled across a couple that mine like. N. just checked out her second Babymouse book. These are just plain weird if you ask me. I guess they're basically about a girl mouse who's probably 11ish years old, loves to read, is not especially talented or popular, and is quite the daydreamer. It's written in comic book form, all in white, grayscale, and pink. The other series that A. likes to get his hands on are the Star Wars Clone Wars Adventure graphic novels. Doesn't make for the greatest read-aloud (I'm not very good at making laser sounds, etc.), but when you're a Jedi-in-training these are a must-have.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Caucus Day! (updated: Obama takes it!)

From the Seattle PI: The breadth of Obama's victory in Washington matched its depth: with 94 percent of caucus results posted, Obama beat Clinton in every county that had reported as well as in every one of the 16 legislative districts entirely or partly within King County.

My blog entry from earlier in the day...
Taken from the Washington State Democrats website.

Still undecided? Go to the Electoral Compass to see how your views on the issues line up with the candidates. (Thanks J, for sending this website my way!)

It's Caucus day here in Washington state, and there's been an excited buzz all week leading up to this. I personally know of at least ten people who are all going to be attending a caucus for the very first time today, and we're all a little nervous because no one really knows what happens once we're there. Yesterday I finally met a lady who knows someone who attended a caucus once - kind of like knowing a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend thing. Well after today there will be a whole lot less newbies to the process. Hmmm... I wonder if I can sell "I'm a Caucus Virgin" t-shirts outside the steel workers hall today (my caucus location)? Should have thought of that a week ago, darn it! ;P

In preparing for today, I found a couple of fun resources to get myself ready and answer all my questions. One was sent in an email by Fuse's Presidential Caucus Guide (In which we address all your excuses for not going). I hope they are right because I plan to challenge two of those issues - my 8 year old has a bday party to attend immediately following the caucus, so I'm bringing her along. I've also heard that while these are only supposed to take 90 minutes or so, they can go longer and get fairly heated, so while I don't want to disappoint my daughter, or the bday boy who the party is for, I may see if I really can sign in and leave. Granted, my recap of the caucus experience would not be nearly as interesting, but I'd get to have my say in the process, and I'd make a couple of kids all the more happy.

For a fun, sort of "caucus 101" walk through the caucus process (and to gain an understanding of sub-caucuses), this YouTube video from Franken for Senate titled How to Caucus was really helpful. For another informational video put out by the Washington state Democrats go here.

To continue your education on the nomination process for presidential candidates in the democratic party, you need to gain an understanding of the role of the Super Delegates. These are mostly elected officials, or other party leaders from the democratic party (like ex-president Bill Clinton, Al Gore, the governor of Washington state, etc.)who are given their own vote at the national convention. Their voting power actually represents 40% of the total delegates available within the party! That's huge, especially with how close the numbers have been running up to this point for Hillary and Barack. There's a brief article here about who the super delegates are, why the democrats use them, and what role they've played in past elections.

With the clarification that we could not only take our kids to the caucus, but also sign-in with our vote and leave, both hubby and I were able to take part in the caucus. All the children are happy, birthday parties will be attended, and I feel like my opinion got to matter to some extent. Best of all I convinced hubby to participate in the process (and he even voted for the same candidate that I did!). I told him that at the next caucus I'm going to stick around, and I'm not making any other plans. I definitely missed out on some of the nitty gritty political discussion that was going to be taking place, and that would have been fun to be a part of.

I have no idea how this is going to turn out today. There were hundreds of people at our caucus location, and there were three precincts reporting there. We passed another caucus location (a middle school), and its parking lot was so full that they were parking cars on the lawn, and in a lot across the street. Still more people were making their way on foot. When we signed in, the sheets each contained space for five voters to sign and list the candidate they were supporting. There was a line below that if you chose to change your vote once the caucus is underway. My sheet had 2 for Obama, 1 for Clinton, hubby's sheet had one for each plus two undecideds, and he saw another sheet that was all Clinton. I think our particular area tends towards moderate dems, so I wouldn't be surprised if Clinton took away more delegates from our precinct, even with Obama's generally strong turn outs in caucus states. I guess we just have to wait and see!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Webkinz party details

We're pretty into Webkinz at our house. I probably shouldn't admit this, but even I have my own Lil'Kinz (she's a little white poodle named Vanilla Soy. I was going to name her Soy Delicious, but then I thought that sounded a little too much like some adult film star - seemed inappropriate in Webkinz world). Actually, for anyone who enjoys spending money, but really shouldn't be spending money, I recommend a small purchase of a Webkinz. For anyone not in the know, this is how it works: You first purchase a cute, cuddly little webkinz stuffed animal at the store. Each WK comes with it's own unique code, which you then use to adopt a virtual version of your pet in WK world. When you adopt a pet, you receive KinzCash and a room for your pet, along with some special adoption gifts. You use KinzCash to pay for things around WK world: food, clothing, furniture, additional rooms, classes for your pet, etc. You earn money by playing games, getting a job at the employment office, answering trivia questions, and hunting for gems in the mine. I love decorating my room - my home in WK world looks way more classy than the one I actually live in in real life, LOL!

So A. decided, at the last minute, that he wanted a birthday party. Seeing as he gave me about three days notice, I wasn't sure how it could possibly happen. Seeing as how I pretty much rock as a mom, I pulled it off. ;P

We invited my nephew over, and the kids started out with a gem scavenger hunt. This consisted of "mining" for gems all around the house. I used screen capture to get images of the gems, and then cut and pasted them to the inside of a piece of black construction paper that was folded in half on the horizontal. For fun I snagged a picture of a pickaxe and glued one to the front of each. I even found pictures of slag.

Once they kids had all found all the gems, they came to the table to make their Legendary Crowns of Wonder. These were foam visors (found on clearance at the party store) that I cut to look like crowns, and the kids attached self-sticking "gems" to them.

After that, it was time to go after the Zingo. I tell you, once Ganz starts making pinatas, they'll really have something going. Anyone familiar with the game "Wacky Zingoz" on WK world knows how these odd little creatures like to be hit with a bat (too weird for even me to make up). I bet you didn't know that they also like to be hit with Nerf darts! Yes, little known fact. So I taped the Zingo to the window, and then put strips of tape on the floor marking 25, 50, and 100 kinzcash. The further back they hit the Zingo from, the more kc they earned. All their money went into their own "wallet" (an envelope with their name on it). Each kid got 6 darts to shoot with. They liked that one. N. is a whiz with a dart gun, and racked up huge points. I didn't have enough play money to pay her off, so I handed her a credit card (actually one of those fake ones you get when they try to get you to apply).

Next it was time to be Dr. Quack's Assistant. This is a job you can do in WK world where you take care of animal patients. Each presents with an ailment or injury, and you have to give them the appropriate treatment. We had ice packs for bumps on the noggin, cold medicine for snuffly noses, and bandages for scrapes. Like pin the tale on the donkey, we blindfolded each kid, spun them around, and sent them fumbling toward the wall. Each kid got paid for doing the job.

And what do you do with all that cash? W Shop, of course! I set up a W Shop on the table, individualized for each kid (only one person can be in the W Shop at a time), with items to purchase marked with their cost. Each of them had the opportunity to "buy" an item of WK clothing, pack of trading cards, squishy ball, wristbands, candy necklace, flashing lizard pen, and frog pencils. Only A. didn't have quite enough kc, and went out to pop off a few more darts at the Zingo so he could finish his purchase. The W Shop stuff was basically their party favors/goody bag.

We (the kids and grown-ups) all had a lot of fun, and I'm glad A. had a good time. I'm also glad we only had the three kids because it allowed me to go ahead and have cool stuff in the W Shop that I wouldn't have splurged for if we'd had more guests.

So that's the story of our 5 year old's Webkinz birthday party!

Friday, February 1, 2008

5 years ago today...

Well, first off, today is the five year anniversary of the space shuttle Columbia disaster. The crew, and the families they left behind, should be remembered today.

But, today will always be remembered in our family as the day I gave birth to a baby moose. Yes, it was five years ago today.

This photo was taken on January 25th, less than a week before A's grand arrival. As hubby so eloquently puts it "A small child could find shade under there!"...
Can I just tell you how much I miss wearing shorts in January? LOL!

After a very intense, and thankfully brief, two hour labor, A. was born at an impressive 9lbs. 14oz. and 22 3/4 inches long (though I have to tell you that once his little cone head went down, he was only 22 1/2 inches at his two week well-check)...

More of this trip down memory lane to come. We're off to take A. to circus school, then lunch and a movie, followed by a Webkinz-themed bday party this evening. Check back later for more fun!

UPDATE: We're back. We missed the movie! We were so disappointed! We left circus class and got stuck on the I-90 bridge due to a crime scene investigation after a violent carjacking took place. We were on the bridge for over an hour, and consequently missed the showing of Veggie Tales: The Pirates Who Don't do Anything. I may take the kids tomorrow. The day was salvaged somewhat with lunch at Red Robin, where the staff is so great at making a big deal out of birthdays. Everyone clapped and sang for A., and he had a big smile on his face. Then I high-fived him - we used to give high-fours when he was four, but now we can give five.

Back to the photos....

Here's N. with A. (she was 3 1/2 at the time).

And here's the birthday boy when he was just 9 days old. This was the photo we used for his birth announcement.

He took off running (with the remote - he understood where the power lies at an early age) a week after his 9 month bday. Apparently he didn't get the memo that reads "babies should not be walking on their own":

1st Birthday:

2nd Birthday:

3rd Birthday:

4th Birthday:

And the big 5th Birthday:

I'll update about the party later - it was a lot of fun!