Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hungry Settlers

My sister gave Q-ster the Junior Settlers of Catan board game for his birthday, and we've played it with great success a couple times now.  It's a resource game - you earn items like wood, gold, animals, trade goods like molasses, and then you exchange them for larger items like ships and forts.  I'm amazed at how fast the boys develop the trades, even little Buster. 

We also agree that the most distracting element is that it's very hard to look at the player piece for gold and not see it as cornbread.  Cornbread and molasses, yum!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Another Day, Another Belt Test

The micro dude went for his green belt senior test last week.

In solemn contemplation with the pieces of the board he broke.

Answering the master's questions.

He's still the littlest one in his rank, but he's starting to get big enough that we are no longer amazed that he can do the kicks without simply falling over with cuteness.  His forms are coming along nicely - good work, dude!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Adventures Outdoors

 We went on a "letterboxing" adventure with my sister and her family last weekend. Following web page instructions, the boys searched for packets along a trail that contained a special stamp (to stamp our notebooks) and often a small book for us to mark with our own stamps.

And it was just fun to get everyone outside on a beautiful day.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Portrait of the Mighty Morphin' Artist

In the first part of the long weekend, Q-ster was deeply into illustrating and writing - here, the Power Rangers, and elsewhere, his own martial arts movie script.

By the end of the weekend, he'd moved completely onto the stunt coordination aspect, flinging his body onto carefully piled pillows and mats.

I know you're not supposed to overprotect your kids and that they learn how to judge risks by taking small ones, but I'll admit that I vetoed a few stunts involving crashing into overturned chairs.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

We are Chefs, Chefs, Chefs

Q-ster has been singing various songs about "Friendly Neighborhood Helpers" mixed in with Les Miz these days. 

We are chefs, chefs, chefs
Ooh la la la . . .

and this one:

I look left
I look right
Not a car in sight.
Oh I look long
I look hard
I’m the crossing guard.

We attended his second grade play on Friday to see the results.  Quite amusing, the flock of kids with their dedicated teachers!  My favorites were Q-ster's plumber song and the dentist song.

We are all dentists
Oh that is the truth
We are all dentists
We love ev’ry tooth.

Open wide
Open wider
We adore
Each incisor.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Observant at Just the Right Moments

The preschool had its open house/40th anniversary party this week and we went to celebrate with them.  The boys have each spent two years there, and it was great to get to talk to the teachers, who are as loving and caring as you can possibly imagine preschool teachers to be.

Midway through the administrator thank-yous, Buster trotted off and sat down at a picnic table.  Puzzled, I followed him over and saw why.  He'd observed that there was a large cake on one end of the table, and he nabbed the last seat on the bench.

The children waited patiently for the announcements to conclude, cake to be cut and served, and dug into their pieces. It's not a proper party without cake, after all.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Frankly Historical

During my brief interlude in Frankfurt earlier this month, I stopped by the city Historical Museum. For hundreds of years, it has been a commerce city, given imperial rights to host trade fairs, leading to its role as a financial center today.

There were some of the typical cool museum items like suits of armor.

And a few more unusual ones, like this excavated underground brick tunnel that originally led to a chapel. Today, you can squeeze through the passage to get to another gallery.

The architecture and presentation was interesting as well.  These stark concrete columns  . . .

 . . framed and led to a room of very traditional items - old books, sculpture, baroquely decorated vintage navigation devices.

I also loved this old staircase, in the midst of a modern building.

I'm becoming the master of tearing through a museum in an hour.  Rather than feeling sad that I'm not getting to see the whole thing, I'm learning to treasure whatever I manage to see. It's more than I would learn at the airport or my hotel room.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Critical Octopus Thinking

A couple of weeks ago, Q-ster was telling us about a tree octopus, which sounded familiar in an urban myth-y sort of way, so I questioned it. "It's true, I read it!" he said.

We looked at his National Geographic Kids magazine (which was an awesome gift from his great aunt,) and read the article a bit more carefully.  See the headline?


 We read each sub-article together, made our guess on which ones were true and checked the answers.

So indeed, the Pacific Northwest tree octopus is a hoax.  The wikipedia entry is pretty funny, mentioning that its alleged primary predator is the legendary Sasquatch.  Presumably, it's friends with the Loch Ness Monster as well.


Topics related only highly tangentially related (education! critical thinking!):

Lots of school events now, towards the end of the year. One of the benefits of working long and odd hours at my job is that it's easy to spend an hour each week in the classroom, doing some filing (alphabetizing skills!) and getting to see Q-ster in his school environment. This morning, the elementary school had a thank-you tea for all the volunteers.  It was lovely - food and company, but most of all, seeing how many parents come to help out.

This evening, the school district held a session explaining the new Common Core State Standards for teaching math. The professor giving the talk gave an extended example about how fractions are very poorly taught in traditional math textbooks and made several references to how the parents in the audience probably had bad memories about fractions.  I scanned the people around me and made a sweeping racial generalization. With so many Chinese parents, I doubt it. Do you really think that many would have struggled or their own parents would have let them?  Ah, stereotypes.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Lean In, Dads

Glad to see this at the local mall.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Translation Help

I made a stop at the grocery store with a colleague last week before we joined his family for dinner in our favorite Scandinavian capital.  I saw some deli meats labeled "Appelsin Skinke."

Me: Dude, tell me that this isn't a package of orange-flavored lizard.  Not a blue tongued skink?

Him: Of course not!  It's ham.

Sometimes, you think you can figure labels out, but others times, you really need a translator.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Turtles and Ruffles

I sewed a few small turtles with the spare fabric (from the Ninja Turtle shells) and a spare hour before I flew out over the weekend . . .

. . . to give to some of the kids I've seen this week, as well as the other half of the ruffly fabric to make a fancy dress skirt for the daughter of another colleague.

I also added a ribbon to a long skirt for me to wear for national day.  I'm in my hotel and quite excited to see the festivities in an hour or two!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Helium and Flames


We returned to my parents house after our Disney adventure last month and celebrated their birthdays with balloons and cake.

Hi-float, the coating you can squeeze into the inside of a balloon before inflating, is amazing.  My mom said the balloons stayed in the air for days and days.

The candle-handlers had two candle distribution strategies.  I placed mine evenly (above,) and my sister placed them tightly, which had a more dramatic flickery impact!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Disney Day Three - All About the LightSabers

Arriving. Day One. Day Two.

We hopped between the two parks (California Adventure and the Magic Kingdom) on the last day, repeating some favorites like Star Tours and Mater's tractor ride, and tried out some new ones like Jumping Jellyfish.  Or at least Buster and SwingDaddy did, going waaaay up high.

The last highlight of the trip was going to the much discussed Make Your Own Lightsaber booth, where the boys had carefully weighted their options and selected their souvenir of the trip.

It was a terrific trip - spending time with my parents, my sister and her family, and our clan - we had a great time!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Getting Back to the Disney Saga - Day Two

Arriving. Day One.

It was big news when Disney bought Lucasfilm a few months ago, but it also wasn't.  In Disneyland, Star Wars has been a prominent player for years, and never more that now.

The Star Tours ride has finally fulfilled its promise, 20-odd years after it first opened.  If you're not familiar with the ride, you board a "shuttle," buckle up, and go on a journey. The room/seats shift angles, shake and bounce while you watch a film, and it really gives a pretty realistic feeling of moving through space. 

The story has been the same for decades, but in the new, upgraded, 3D version of the ride, there are several different storylines that get put together dynamically each time.  C3P0 is now the pilot, and we flew the pod race on Tatooine, dodged AT-ATs on Hoth, zipped around asteroids to avoid Jengo Fett and the Death Star on various trips.  The boys each declared that it was their favorite, and we rode it four times.

We also watched the Jedi Training - at first they clamored to participate, but when the time drew near, they both got shy and we watched instead.  The Jedi Master (a dashing Asian-American!) was particularly good with his patter as he helped the tiniest padawans try to open their lightsabers.  "Try again. You can do it.  I believe it you. Use the Force. Here, take mine."

The old favorites - the Enchanted Tiki House, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and Small World were delightful as ever.  Dad remembered seeing the original incarnation of Small World at the 1962 New York World's Fair before in was permanently installed at Disneyland.  I took a picture of some of the fanciful shrubbery in front of the ride so that I could show my Northern colleague what a "California moose" looked like.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mom's Day, Far Away

Since I was on the road today, we decided to celebrate Mother's Day when I'm back home, but the micro dude was too excited and gave me his present early.  The preschool teachers are so creative with the projects, and I loved his explanation of his painted sun, sky and grass.

I had an hour to walk through Frankfurt during my flight layover, and the Sunday morning air was filled with the peal of church bells.  It was a pretty amazing sound.

I miss my boys!  Happy Mother's Day to all!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Art in Space and Nature

There was a lot of Star Wars art posted over the weekend (May the Fourth be with you!), and I love this Amy Mebberson painting of Princess Leia's story.

It's available for sale here.

I've also been admiring the Wonderland series of photographs by Kristy Mitchell.  The prints are available (for thousands of dollars,) so I'm hoping she comes out with a book.  Apparently, all the images were taken near her home in England and it's all natural - sewn costumes and real flowers - no Photoshop.