Saturday, February 27, 2010

Ski Trip 2010

(My tram up to High Base Camp)

I'm in California!  I was dropped off at the airpot at 8:10am, my flight was at 9:30, and at 8:45 I was still standing in line to get checked-in.  I was a little nervous.  I'm not the type to get nervous at the airport about missing my flight, but as I stood at the back of line that was not moving and was so long that it was no longer contained by their ropes, I did start to get a little nervous.  Here is my first tip, pay the extra money on these days and use the curb-side check in.  I did that and it put me at the back of an even longer line for security, but I was at least checked in.  Here's my second tip.  There is a line at the MN airport for "expert travelers".  I stood, not moving, and watched this empty line and wondered what makes an "expert traveler".  Finally a TSA agent walked by and I asked.  The answer was "That is a line for people who know what to do when they get to the front of the security line.  I asked "So, anyone can go in there?  I know how to take off my shoes and stuff my belongings in a bin!" and then he laughed at me and said "Yes, you can go in there".  So, I went from pretty much missing my flight to sipping a mocha at the gate in under 3 minutes.

We went skiing straight from the airport yesterday.  When we got to Squaw Valley, I realized I had forgotten to pack my ski pants.  Not so great when your main goal of your vacation is skiing.  But, some long underwear, some sweatpants, and some good luck not falling at all and I was fine.  We're hoping to get one more ski day in today but they have been hit with a pretty big storm.  If we were staying on the mountain we'd probably be enjoying some great powder, but since we stay an hour away, we can't get over the pass to the skiing with such a huge storm.

We made up for no skiing today with several wine tastings!  I learned a lot about various wines I do not like and a couple I really enjoy.  I also learned a bit about vineyards and an overly chatty host at one winery gave me a lesson on Italian and the use of irregular verbs.  It was fairly random but she was generous in her pouring so I played along.

Cross your fingers for a break in the storm so we can get up there today to enjoy some of the fresh snow!



Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm addicted

It's official.  I'm addicted to this game. (This is just an image from the internet...not my screen).

It's called "Words with Friends (free)" and it's available as an application on iPhones or, in my case, the iPod touch.  Really, it's just Scrabble.  But, you can challenge your friends to play against you.  You make your move and then the next time your friend logs in, he/she can make their move, etc.  I have probably played the real version of Scrabble three times in my life.  So, I'm not sure why I'm so enthralled with this game, but I am.

Currently, my only friend that has it is Kerry.  We have played 5 games in the last 12 days and are working on our 6th game.  But, our schedules aren't meshing since she teaches in the evenings and I'm rearing 3 little children during the day. 

I need more.  That's what happens when you're addicted to something, right?  That, and Kerry and I tend to share a brain at times so she keeps stealing the spots I had planned for my next genius move.

Here is my plea:  If there is anyone reading this with an iPhone or iPod Touch, please download this app (for free) and start a game with me.  My username is "Tkrunche". 

Oh, and don't worry, I'm horrible.  On all my great scoring words, it's because I have just thrown letters out there and crossed my fingers that the computer recognized it as an actual word.

And then once you've started a game with me, go ahead and get one started with Kerry too.

Back to our regularly scheduled program....

Monday, February 22, 2010

Nature Center

Last Thursday the kids and I met up with our friends, Michelle and Clyde, at the Richardson Nature Center.  Both Michelle and I remember visiting here in our younger years but neither of us remembers much.  Michelle attended with Girl Scouts and I'm guessing I attended with Indian Princesses.  I remember making cider.  Michelle remembers maple syrup.  Neither of us remember having the time of our life.

Nonetheless, it's free, and with the string of beautiful weather we were having Michelle and I were itching to get outside.

This place is NOTHING like I remember it.  The walls are covered in a clay mural that the kids loved!  They had several books and puzzles related to animals.  They have 5 aquariums housing turtles, snakes, salamanders, and toads.  They also have 3 raptors (a hawk, an owl, and something else I can't remember), and upstairs they have an observation deck for birds.  We saw plenty of squirrels up there, a woodpecker, and a turkey.

Once we breezed through the inside, we headed outdoors.  There are several trails to be enjoyed but we selected the one with the least amount of hills.  I was carrying Riley on my back and knew I'd be pulling at least one child in a sled, and Michelle is pregnant.  We weren't looking for anything strenuous.

Only about 20 feet from our starting point, we spotted these forts.  Austin loved them!  He would have been content to play here in the snow for the rest of the day.  We spent some time checking them out, but the two middle kids (Clyde and Ellie) were not so sure about all the snow and wanted to get back on the trail.

Even without the hills, I definitely got my workout in!

At one point the sled picked up another passenger.  Clyde and Ellie definitely had the best seats around.  As a side note, Clyde is 10 months younger than Ellie, almost as tall, and just as heavy, if not heavier. 

And because I'm care about her and her cardiovascular health, I let Michelle pull the kids back to the center.  Afterall, she's not that pregnant.  I also didn't know the snow was going to be shin deep at points or I wouldn't have suggested we take a "short cut", over the pond, back to the building. 

Ellie did her best to create some extra resistance for Michelle by dragging her hand in the snow, stopping only briefly at times to eat it.



Once we made it back to the center we let the kids warm up inside.  They spent time exploring all their options.  A puppet show stage:

Antlers and feathers:

And Riley was patient and waited a long time for the older kids to finally get off the rocking chairs in the observation deck. 

From the look of her face, the wait was worth it.

The whole trip was worth it and we can't wait to go back for more!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Updates

We've been pretty busy around here.  Several beautiful, sunshiney days have put a bounce in our steps and the kids and I have been keeping pretty active.  Here's some snapshots from the past week or so.




Ellie just isn't Ellie until she's had her morning coffee.  Well, mostly milk, a splash of coffee, and a healthy dose of sweetner.  It's called "milk coffee" around here.  My mom started it and it has stuck.  Thanks mom.

Riley MUST be in on the action.  If everyone else is going to sit on regular chairs and drink milk coffee then so is she.  Do NOT try to put her in a high chair when she gets in these moods.  The results are not pretty.

Everyday before Austin goes to school.  We play Star Wars.  That's my knee we're playing on.  It was Princess Lea's palace.  I really struggle with this part of the morning.  My mornings would be so much more pleasant if he wanted to color or play Strawberry Shortcake.  But alas, everyone keeps telling me I'll miss this time, so I endure.

I think that Riley is getting sick.  I secretly love this time period between actually being sick and being healthy.  It marks one of the few times that she is actually snuggly.  But, she's not sick yet so she's still happy.  A happy, snuggly Riley....life doesn't get much better.

Ellie has still been requesting pigtails in her hair.  I'm getting better but still have plenty of room for improvement.  Those elastics are so flippin' tiny!  They are not much bigger than the little rubberbands I was forced to attach to my braces for quite some time.  Impossible to stretch out. 

We went to the nature center yesterday for an outdoor and indoor adventure.  More on that later when I receive some pictures from a friend.  It was an awesome day!

Last but not least, we have Austin chirping.

Why, you ask?  Well, Austin just happened to learn the fun fact that when Cheetahs want the attention of their family or friends, whether to warn them, or just to tell them it's time to eat, they chirp.  Austin has now taken to chirping from his bed every morning. 
Every. 
Morning. 
I can think of a hundred better ways I'd like to wake up in the morning, but at the same time, it does kind of make me smile.  Just a tiny bit...and I'll never admit that to him.

That's our re-cap.  This weekend will most likely include a trip back to the nature center to show Rob how cool it is, a birthday party for Austin's friend, a get together with family, and some cross country skiing.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Sock Monsters

I got a crazy idea from some internet reading I was doing the other day.  Someone (and if I remembered who, I'd link to it) made some cute little sock monsters out of...well, obviously out of socks.  Anyway, although there wasn't much in the way of directions I thought it would not be that hard to replicate and I hit up Target to purchase some knee high socks.  To my delight, they were on clearance.  After cursing my sewing machine (mostly operator error I'm sure), and then swearing under my breath about the time consuming parts, I was finally able to produce these:

That one is Austin's.

That one is Ellie's.

And, I swear that Riley has one too, but it's not finished and I didn't feel like dragging it out of hiding and taking it's picture.  Sock Monsters enjoy dark hiding places.  But, just envision something similar to the other two.

Sewing the little monsters up was really not all that difficult.  Stuffing them was time consuming.  Decorating them was the hard part.  Trying to find felt and buttons that matched the girls' socks was a pain in the rear.  It's probably why Riley's is not done yet.

But, the kids seem to like them so I guess it was all worth it.  Until Rob saw them.  Then he ruined it. 

Let me introduce you to Boba Fett:

And Jinga Fett:

Yes, Rob went and named them after Star Wars characters (and yes, I had to look up those names for spelling), and the names have stuck.  And now my cute, innocent, little sock monsters have become just one more link in the awful Star Wars craze that is taking over this house.

If/when Riley's monster does get finished, I am claiming naming rights.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Apple and the Tree

In my continual (and probably futile) effort to keep the toys in our house at a reasonable number, and more importantly out of the main traffic areas, I sorted through some of them the other day.  It seemed about every other toy I grabbed to put away was a car.  Specifically a car from the movie "Cars".  Since Austin was 2 years old he has been enamored with these cars.  There were very few places, if any, that he did not bring a car for each hand.  Although Star Wars is his main focus these days, the cars still command quite a bit of his playtime.

He has a lot of cars.  Probably close to half of them are the main character McQueen.

To the untrained eye, these may look very similar or even identical.  But, to a master Cars enthusiast, they all have very distinct differences.  It's really quite a collection.

But, it's not the only car collection in the house.  Recently, this set was brought out of retirement.

These are Micro Machines.  Each one is just a touch larger than a quarter.  Cute little things.

Some of them have little tiny doors and trunks that open.

Some of them have working head and tail lights.

And these.  These little guys hold a secret.


Micro-micro machines.  About the size of a pinky nail.

But this one: 

It is my favorite.

Always has been.  For over 22 years, this car has been my favorite.

Yep.  They are mine.  When you grow up in a neighborhood with full of boys, you play with what they play with.  This rendered me quite a Tomboy.  But, a Tomboy with an impressive collection of little toy cars that were easy to pack away for over twenty years so that someday my son (or daughter...who am I to judge!) could play with them.

Now, when Austin wants to play with them he says "Let's play you, when you were little.  Go get those machines!".

The girls have not been introduced to them yet because I think Riley might find them delicious.  But, if the apples don't far from this tree, then they too will enjoy playing with them in a little micro world.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Letter Factory

Last Wednesday, during our weekly library trip, it was Austin's turn to select the DVD (we had already reached our quota on books).  He was very adamant about checking out a LeapFrog DVD called "The Letter Factory".  I actually tried to sway him with other options because, from the outside cover, I saw this only as an educational DVD, which is all well and good but the reason I let them check out a DVD each week is so that I can use it to distract them every once in awhile while I get some other things done.  I was afraid this DVD would be boring and would not help me in my quest at all.  However, Austin was persistent so we ended up throwing it in with the books.

This is the best DVD ever!

The characters visit a letter factory where they meet each letter one by one and learn the letter's sound.  There is a catchy (and for a parent, slightly annoying) tune for each letter.  The letters "learn" their sound in creative animated ways.  For example, the A's are intentionally scared so they scream "Ahhh!"...therefore the A says Ahh.  The C's are in a refrigerated room and are c-c-c-cold.  So on and so forth.

Ellie is glued to the screen when this movie is on.  Actually, she is the one who requests it the most and the other two watch it just because it's on, but ALL three of my children are picking up on the letters and their sounds.  Austin obviously has the best recollection of the sounds associated with each letter, but even Ellie can tell you what about 10-15 of the letters say.  And, Riley is pretty good with the "F" sound.

This morning we played "Letter Factory" for over an hour.  I had to pretend to visit each letter's room and guess what letter the kids were being.  Austin and Ellie would contort their bodies into the shapes of the letters and do something that started with that letter.  For example, Austin made (an impressive) letter J shape with his body and then stood up and started jumping. J-J-Jump! 

Anyway, my point is, if you're looking for a DVD you can play for your kids that they will enjoy and that will leave you feeling like you're not just using the TV to babysit (which is okay in my book too), then this is a good way to go!

I just need to find something else we need on Amazon so I can get free shipping!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A new adventure

Well, if this 'stay at home mom' gig doesn't work out for me, I know I can find a job as a high rise construction person or a tight rope walker.

Last night my friend Carrie and I headed to the Mall of America to check out the "Flying Dutchmen Ghostly Gangplank".  Basically it was a ropes course up in the rafters of the Mall of America Nickolodeon Universe.  Or, at least they advertise it as "up in the rafters" but it is not.  It does go up about 50-60 feet, but you are hardly walking through the rafters.  What a tease.

Carrie is a friend of mine from high school.  She is kind enough to invite me to her parents house in Northern California every year to go skiing in Tahoe.  Carrie is fearless on skis.  There isn't a run she cannot conquer and has even been to places where a helicopter is required to get her to starting point.

I can hold my own on a pair of skis, but I am no Carrie.  I, unlike Carrie, do not care for skiing next to large drop offs where jagged rocks await to cushion my fall.  I like plenty of open snow (preferably fluffy) surrounding me on my way down the slopes.  Carrie does a good job each year of challenging my skills and pushing my comfort level.  I think she is secretly trying to mold me into a double black diamond skier so that she is no longer bored when I tag along each year.

Today, on the ropes course, we learned a few things.
  1. Carrie does not like heights.  When there is (almost) nothing below her (but a tiny rope or board to stand on) she does not do well.
  2. If I am strapped into a harness I have no fear.
If there were some sort of secure harness system on the slopes of Tahoe for me, Carrie would have a ski partner for life.  On the other hand, I am thankful that at all times when we are skiing, Carrie can see the ground.

As for the attraction.  It was fun.  I'd recommend it at least once if you enjoy new activities and aren't deterred by heights.  It was only $6 and there was no time limit.  They claim it would take an hour or two to traverse all the obstactles they have set up, but I don't think it would take that long.  I probably did about 20 of the 36 sections before I went down to Carrie (she did 4...but she definitely tried!) and that only took me about 25 minutes.

If you do go and you walk out onto the plank at the very top, there are two ropes there.

I wasn't sure what the point of the ropes were (no, that's not me in the picture).  Was I suppose to grab them and swing out over the crowd?  Was I suppose to use them for balance?  I wasn't sure so I just grabbed onto them.  Spoiler alert, but I wish someone would have told me this, they are there simply to pull on.  Because, when you pull on these ropes a large fog horn behind you sounds (I assume to notify the world (or mall) "I made it to the top").  Only as you are standing on a 6 inch plank 56 feet in the air, the last thing you are expecting is a fog horn behind you.  In that split second, I was certain it was some sort of warning system alerting me to get off that plank immediately.  Maybe harnesses don't render me fearless afterall.  Not when there is a foghorn around anyway.

Hurray for Thursdays!

If this is a sign of my day to come, then I am extra happy that it is Thursday.

This is Riley's horse.  Her horse is has found a new home, courtesy of Austin, in the chandelier  10 feet up above our stairs.

Now Austin is crying because he doesn't think Dad is tall enough to reach this (which he isn't) and doesn't think we have a ladder (which we do).  Also, Riley is crying becuase this horse, which she hasn't played with in at least a month, is now her favorite toy simply because it's currently unavailable.  Not to be outdone, Ellie is crying because the other two are crying and she doesn't want to be left out.

I would maybe join them but it's Thursday...ahhhhhh Thursday.  Thursday is my "night off".  Rob has class on Monday night right after work and doesn't come home until about 10pm.  On Wednesday Rob plays in a basketball league and this is his "night off" so when he gets home is up to him.  But Thursdays....that is MY night off. 

And if this horse is any symbol of how the rest of the day is going to go....I will be leaving this house the second Rob walks in the door.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What Finger Paint Reveals

The other day, to pass the time and utlize my newly organized cupboard, we decided to finger paint. As I set everyone up with their paper and paints, I realized something. Each of my kids approached the project in different ways. Furthermore, the way they approached it was very similar to their personalities and how they approach a wide variety of situations.

Austin. Austin took his time. He studied the paper for a couple minutes and talked his way into the project. He only used one finger at any given moment. He asked a lot of questions about the different colors and why they're called the name they are called.

Ellie. Ellie jumped right in. No holds barred. Two hands, all of the colors, one mess (or masterpiece). She didn't once glance up to see what the other two were doing. It was her work, and her way.

Riley. Riley was hesitant. She stole several glances from both Austin and Ellie to see what she should do. Unfortunately, she was getting very mixed answers to her conundrum. She went with one hand, but she devoted that hand completely to the task. Once she got going, there was no more peeking to see if what she was doing was right.

On two random side notes, I would like to add that I do not remember finger paints being this consistency.

Granted, prior to having kids, the last time I used finger paints was probably in preschool so my memory might not be the best, but have they always been gel-like?

Secondly, finger paints are not as washable as they promise. Our little smurf Riley's hand remained blue for quite some time.