Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Finally Framed

This is our favorite baby picture of Q-ster. You can't see us in the image, but I'm holding one of his hands and SwingDaddy is holding the other. I had it framed years ago, and it hung on the wall of our old house in a place of honor.

Then we moved, and we had another baby, and the picture sat in a box with all our other art for three years. We had another photo shoot and got some great baby pictures for Buster, but it wasn't until this spring that I got around to having one printed by a good lab.

Now we just have to hang them up!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Libraries, Vegetables, and the Hunger Games

It seemed particularly appropriate to see my children perched on giant vegetables this weekend, peacefully reading at the library.

Why? I just plowed through The Hunger Games trilogy, and I can imagine Katniss appreciating a good Chinese cabbage for the family soup.

The books have been so popular and they've been on my list for a while, but all the fuss about the movie is what pushed me into reading it right now. It's going to be harder and harder to avoid spoilers! Now I know the whole story and can enjoy all the preview photos without fear.

This was such a nice change from the Twilight series. I enjoyed Twilight, but I felt like I was making excuses the whole way - the writing's not very good (for the first one, much improved in later volumes), but I'm so compelled to read. The heroine's kinda bland, but I keep reading. The boys/men are so high maintenance, but I still want to know what's going to happen. And so on, and so forth.

With The Hunger Games, the heroine rocks, the writing is good, and the first book was perfect. The sequels had a very few weak points, but overall, excellent reads.

Do any of you use an e-reader regularly? I'm still getting used to it.

Pro: After I discovered that Catching Fire (book 2) ended on a total cliffhanger, I could order and download Mockingjay (book 3) in the middle of the night instead of waiting for the bookstore to open.

Con: I don't really have a sense for how much reading I did over the weekend, since the Kindle gives me "percent complete" rather than a physical sense of pages. These are YA novels, so I assume they're not that long, but it's weird not to have a physical connection.

The Hunger Games - highly recommended.
Kindle - Mostly highly recommended. Buster likes to press buttons, so I have to cue him for when he's allowed to turn pages for me, and that does not make for a relaxing read.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Someone at This School is Brilliant

The elementary school had a walk-a-thon fundraiser a couple of weeks ago, and the little dude came home reporting that it had been a pretty fun event. They had been rewarded every three laps with a “circle band” which he explained as a “special kind of silly band, shaped like a circle.”

Alert readers and those of you with kids who’ve been through the fad know that silly bands are basically rubber bands that retract into cute shapes, like animals or Jedi characters. A low cost, high markup collectible toy that young’uns can buy themselves – a perfect storm of marketing, if you will.

So, a silly band in the shape of a circle, which is what a rubber band is in the first place? That is even MORE BRILLIANT. SwingDaddy and I were imagining a clever PTA parent running over to OfficeMax for a couple of 1000-count boxes of rubber bands and turning them into a motivational device.

Postscript: Q-ster showed me his “circle bands” yesterday and it turns out that they’re not actually plain old rubber bands. They’re rubber bracelets, like the skinny black tubes that Madonna wore in stacks back in the 80’s, except in bright colors. I think the “special silly band” designation was to keep the boys from dismissing them as girl-jewelry. And it worked!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Jedi Frog

For most children, all the ‘favorite things’ get mixed together on occasion in a spectacular mashup. After bathtime, we get JEDI FROG, and the boys hop around in their hooded frog towels, swirling them around like capes.

In unrelated news, I discovered a package of chocolate marshmallow bears on my desk yesterday, and it turned out that a colleague had brought them for me from Scandinavia when he came into town this week. “You always bring us sweets from California,” he explained. Yum! I opened up the package and all my neighbors agreed that they were delicious.

I forgot to bring any home yesterday, but I told the boys that I would bring them one each tonight. Q-ster immediately asked me how big the bag was, and started negotiating for a larger share. His business instincts are good, if somewhat alarming.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Patience, Patience

At the Victorian Day where I modeled the 1880's gown, there were several exhibits of crafts, including a table of lace-makers.

Their work is beautiful and breathtakingly delicate. Each one of those decorated sticks is attached to a slender thread that is wound between the pins, making the lace pattern.

This is a coarser wire lace, still very pretty.

As SwingDaddy put it when I showed him the pictures, "If you go to hell, this will be your assignment." Indeed, I would go out of my mind trying to do that kind of work. But for the ladies who demonstrated the craft, it was relaxing and meditative.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ok, That Was a Good One

Sometimes the movie product tie-ins are strained and just plain weird (Darth Vader valentines, anyone?), but this one is pretty much perfect.

(Pirate Booty promotion of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie, in case you can't see the text.)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hats and Bustles

I had fun modeling in a Victorian fashion show this weekend. The lady on the lower left (in violet) designed and created all eight gowns pictured.

I’m in an 1880’s day gown and my friend is wearing an 1890’s evening gown. We need more reasons to wear hats.

Does this dress make my butt look big?
Yes, yes it does.
Why, thank you!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

School Priorities

We attended the Open House at the Q-ster's elementary school tonight. The kindergarteners had made paper images of themselves for Earth Day.

Buster pointed out the classroom globe and exclaimed, "Google Earth!"

Showing off craft projects paled beside the main point of interest - monkey bars!

Then we visited the book fair, and even monkey bars weren't a temptation compared to the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow.

I can't believe that he's almost done with kindergarten already.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Cupcake Advisor

Since I’m not a particularly inventive cook, I was thrilled when one of my friends asked for frosting advice on the ninja cupcakes and made a set of Ninjagos for her seven year old’s birthday party. I got the inspiration for the ninjas from Baking Makes Me Happy, but the skeletons were my design. I saw her cupcake pictures on Facebook – they looked terrific! Hooray for really silly foods.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Contrasts, Yet Again

Why is it that a three year old can patiently assemble and dissemble Lego mini-figs or insert tiny beads in a peg board, yet not be able to consistently drop his blankie on the dresser instead of the floor?

Monday, May 16, 2011

An Early Foray into Hogwarts

(Spoilers for Harry Potter and Star Wars, if you haven’t lived on the planet in the last ten years.)

The boys have learned about Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Pirates of the Caribbean largely from Lego games, storybooks, and other tie-ins, not the actual movies, because most of the films are meant for an older age group. They know that Anakin turns to the Dark Side and that Darth Vader is Luke’s father. These things are just part of American culture and there’s no way to avoid knowing.

We’d been holding off on getting the Harry Potter Lego game though, because I felt that it was one story worth discovering the proper way – reading the books. The Pirates stories are so tangled that it’s no loss to get spoilers, but Harry Potter! We could wait for that.

However, it was not destined to be. A couple of weeks ago, Q-ster asked me, “Who becomes the teacher of Hogwarts after Dumbledore dies?”

What? How did he know that?

He couldn’t really remember. From reading the back of a DVD cover? From talking to friends with older siblings? I guess it’s just a much more spoiler-filled world these days.

Anyhow, I got home from work on Friday and the little dude started talking about reading Harry Potter and how he saw the series on my bookshelf.

“Well, there are a lot of scary parts, but we can talk about it. Maybe we can read it together,” I replied. He’s only six, after all, and as JK Rowling likes to point out, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” starts with a double murder.

We kept on talking, and it became apparent that he’d started reading it himself that day and had a fairly high level of retention, even if he needed some help pronouncing names like Gryffindor, Hermione, and Hagrid. He started asking me which parts I thought were scary.

“The part where the letters come flying in the house?” Oh, so he’s gotten to the chapter where Harry’s been invited to Hogwarts.

Then, he commented, “Harry thought he might become a Hufflepuff,” he said. Ok, he already made it to the part with the Sorting Hat. A few more comments, and I got so curious that I went upstairs to find the book and bookmark to see exactly how much he’d read. 134 pages in an afternoon. Dude.

He finished the book the next day, minus the final chapter, which we read out loud together. And then he ran to the shelf to pick up Chamber of Secrets.

I am so loving this. Fortunately, Jedi robes double as wizard’s robes pretty well, which will tie us over until I figure out how to fulfill the request for a Quidditch costume.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Life Clearly Not Mine

My latest guilty pleasure listening has been Ke$ha’s album. With a dollar sign in her stage name, you know it’s not going to be classy music, but it’s quite amazing just how on-message every single one of her songs is. Topics: getting drunk, throwing up, not being able to find her clothes, still being drunk when the sun comes up. Every single song. All delivered in a very cheerful, upbeat, catchy tune format.

It makes me grateful to have the life that I do. Perhaps not as “exciting,” but even the hours I work are less exhausting than her partying. I’m totally enjoying the album, but have to make sure I never sing the words out loud.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

That Perfect Ratio

Someone sent this to the building email alias at work.

Subject: Please observe good parking practices

Building X is very full, and consequently, parking around Building X
is limited.

You can help ensure availability of parking by observing good parking
practices, chief among which is the correct vehicle-to-parking-space
ratio. The correct ratio is 1:1. Examples of incorrect ratios include
1:2 and 1:3. (Observation indicates that many have forgotten or are
unaware of the correct ratio.)

When you take a few extra seconds to straighten your vehicle and/or
place it approximately equidistant from the two white lines, you help to
ensure that parking is readily available for all.

Thank you for your kind attention!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lemur-ball

It was kind of chilly last weekend when we visited our little local zoo. Look, it's a lemur-ball! I think there are at least two lemurs in that bundle.

A couple of golden monkeys hanging out.

More lemur-balls, this time individually.

I think I'll take this one home. The zoo has some clever crawl spaces where children can get an additional view of the lemur enclosures. This is a heavily Madagascar-centric neighborhood. All types of lemurs, fossas, etc.

And to top it off, a barrel horse ride! It's always the simple things where they decide to spend half an hour.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Little Gluey Hats

A couple of weeks ago, at the end of a very tough, exhausting work week, I doggedly followed Q-ster into kindergarten for my volunteer session. If I'm going to work all night, then darn it, I'm gonna spend an hour of daylight at my little dude's school, sitting quietly in the back of the classroom, trimming yarn, cutting construction paper, or whatever clerical task Mrs. Kindergarten Teacher assigns me, all the while listening to the adorable burble of six year olds (mostly) behaving well.

Except this is what I faced.

On a day when I had no patience left, I had to supervise fifteen children as they painted glue onto paper plate/bowl contraptions and stuck pieces of paper towel all over it. Drippy, messy,and subject to highly varying levels of competence among the crew, not that competence at attaching gluey paper necessarily means anything.

Like most things, in the end it turned out to be quite fun. I got to talk to the kids and admire their sticky work, and I left for the office in a good mood.

Over the weekend, Q-ster revealed the finished project. A paper-mache hat for Mother's Day! Even cuter was the little pamphlet that each child filled out. Apparently I help him clean his room (illustrated with toy-filled bookshelves) and the whole family is shaped like those yellow-headed Lego minifigs.

I hope that you all had a great Mother's Day!

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Taiko

Last weekend, I took the boys to a local festival. We've been every year since we moved here, and it's amazing what a difference a year makes. Twelve months ago, I was still thinking about budgeting my strength to carry Buster back to the car at the end of the day. This time, both of them walked sturdily and without complaint. Q-ster even carried our picnic blanket using the little backpack straps.

As always, they love the drums.

And I just realized that I posted a shot of this same bit of the playground last year too.

After we got home, Q-ster built a drum circle and they made their rounds, happily making a racket.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Cardmaker, Junior

Q-ster has been in charge of making the family greeting cards for years now, becoming more skilled with each holiday. Where we used to get a few reluctant scribbles, we now get fully formed sentences (with some coaching) in reasonably legible print. Buster has been sliding along by adding one of his favorite stamps to his brother’s work and calling it a day.

No more.

While Q-ster was off testing for his taekwondo yellow belt yesterday (woo-hoo!), Buster and I tacked Mother’s Day cards. Grandmothers – please be prepared for a step back to three-year old art and mommy printing. The micro dude was thrilled to add foam stickers to construction paper, although he refused to attempt drawing a “C” for his signature. He was pretty proud to have been the card-creator this time, and when his big brother got home, we made space for him to add his signature.

And in non sequitur theater tradition, here’s another story. I think there is nothing quite as alert as the ears of a parent of a potty-training child. Last weekend, SwingDaddy and I both thought we heard the word “poop” spoken by Buster and we sprinted to the other room to make sure that nothing untoward was happening. It turns out that he was explaining that “Wormie is pooping on the potty.”

Ok then. It’s good that even our plush friends are participating in the action.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

In Honor of Star Wars Day


What, you didn’t know it was Star Wars Day? May the Fourth be with you!

I was hoping to see this day, when the older Jedi handed down his robe to the younger Jedi, but Buster has always been curiously unwilling to try on costumes. Last week, I got home from work and was thrilled to see they were playing "adventurers," wearing their robes and popping up the hoods when it was "raining."

They had also lit a pretend campfire of red cushions using the plush torch and were roasting a stuffed tiger on top for supper. Toy food has come a long way, kind of.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A New Meaning to Well Balanced

Q-ster brought home a flyer from kindergarten that advertised “Classic Math School’s Summer Math Camp.”

It touts a “well balanced summer” for your child. The mornings are full of academics, and the afternoon features sports like, uh “Chess.”

Ok, to be fair, swimming and tennis were listed too, but it was too funny to see chess regarded as a sports activity at a math camp. There should totally be a Lego session too.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Cephalopods on the High Seas

I first saw the trend last autumn, before I knew it was a trend. A pirate octopus! It turns out that there are bath towels too.


Then yesterday, I saw the cutest set of baby clothes at Gymboree, so cute that I momentarily considered having another son. More pirate octopodes!

Here is another sealife pirate band, although it’s the whale with the eye patch this time.

For fellow fans of Paul, the Psychic Octopus, check this out. It's a good season for octopus-themed clothing.