Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Kitten story

Baby T was just demanding a story with kittens from me.  I ventured a prose retelling of the three little kittens who lost their mittens, but it wasn't good enough.  Baby T wanted a different story--but I don't have any other kitten stories.

D helpfully suggested a retelling of the three little pigs with kittens.  He substituted a Minecraft creeper for the wolf, and Minecraft materials for the original materials and it worked really well.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Zipline

The zipline is up!

Christmas Day

Here's some of what's happening:

  • For Christmas Eve dinner last night, we had baked salmon, curried potatoes and garbanzo beans (thanks Tasty Bite!), mushroom soup with fried mushrooms and mushroom tortellini, fried mushrooms by themselves, and veggies.  (There may be something else I'm forgetting.)
  • Some highlights from the gifts:  homemade 3D printed Pokemon cookie/Play Doh cutters, a stuffed Pikachu, a stuffed Minecraft ocelot, a zipline, a Star Trek board game, calendars for the big kids, a Hello Kitty watch for Baby T, books for Baby T and D, German chocolates, a complete set of the Avatar:  The Last Airbender DVDs and a kitty keyboard for Baby T.
  • We made it to 9:30 AM Mass.  We did a playground visit, had salmon sandwiches for lunch, and now my husband and D are working on installing the zipline.  

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

We're just about ready for Christmas Eve.  Here's what has been happening:

  • My husband took all three children grocery shopping last night at Aldi's and HEB for essential Christmas Eve/Christmas supplies.
  • The big kids have been doing more and more each year for Christmas prep, but this year they did SO much.  C and D did a lot of the tree decorating and wrapped a lot of gifts.  Even Baby T wrapped a gift.
  • Baby T has been in Christmas mode for probably literally months now and has spent hours appropriating my aluminum foil and wrapping up random office supplies and small toys.  There's quite a pile of her items under the Christmas tree.  
  • I just gave her the left-over scraps of wrapping paper and bows and she has been wrapping furiously.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Almost done

Here's some of what's going on:

  • D had a playdate with a classmate.  They had a Nerf gun war (teaming up against D's daddy) and some Minecraft and other games
  • We have a growing gift stash in the closet.  One of the items is the long-awaited zipline.  Our backyard has little kid stuff (a slide, a wagon, a sand and water table, etc.) but there really isn't any big kid fun there (aside from D's climbing rope).  The zipline is going to change that!
  • Baby T is done with PDO for the next two weeks.
  • The big kids are just about to get out of school.  They're going to get about three weeks of break.
  • C has exams this week--the last three days are half-days with two exams every day.
  • There isn't the slightest hint of C studying for these exams, but as C's grades currently range from 96 to 99 (which I suspect I didn't have as a high school freshman), she seems to know what she's doing.  
  • I think we're going to have a Christmas tree today!
  • We're supposed to have a playdate on the last day of school with a classmate of C's and we are all going to make cookie houses.
  • Baby T loves roaming with her camera.
  • We did our yearly photobook and have sent it out.  I was pretty happy with how the Walgreen's print job worked out--in previous years, the color has been kind of harsh or washed out.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

End of school year

Here's some of what's happening:

  • I got the most be-you-tiful ukulele Christmas tree ornament from Amazon.  It's really realistic and cute!
  • Baby T is still potty training hard.  She's currently earning Paw Patrol loot.
  • D's rock climbing is coming along.  He and his daddy climb at least once a week together when the wall is open.
  • C is getting close to the end of her Lute to Uke book--three songs left.  Then we move on to 20 Spanish Baroque Pieces by Gaspar Sanz.
  • C and a few instrumental music classmates played Now Is the Month of Maying during a dance scene in a school Shakespeare play.  They sounded very good!
  • I'm not totally sure how we get Christmas stuff done in time, but I'll try!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Christmas shopping

We just roughed out our Christmas shopping plan.  Some strong emerging themes are:

  • Paw Patrol
  • Pokemon (Baby T is probably the biggest fan)
  • Star Trek
Honorable mention goes to:
  • Nerf guns and ammo
  • Minecraft
  • Skylanders

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Baking

D has spontaneously started baking on his own initiative.  So far, he has done the bulk of the work on the following projects:  pumpkin muffins, corn muffins and (tonight) snickerdoodles.  His snickerdoodles have whole wheat and are really, really good.

I was finishing decluttering and reorganizing C's room with her today.  So tired!

Friday, December 2, 2016

December!

Here's some of what's happening:

  • We wound up making a day trip to Austin the Saturday after Thanksgiving and getting the baroq-ulele (the lute-shaped ukulele) at Fiddler's Green, the Irish/folk music store.  I had initially planned to get the concert-sized version, but it looked so dinky in the store and sounded so quiet that we went for the baritone, which is much louder.  We also got C a leather strap.  We have never owned a baritone before (and still don't own a tenor), but the nice lady at the store was able to restring it in standard ukulele tuning for C, so C can just use her existing skills.  (The deal is that soprano, concert and tenor ukuleles are typically tuned GCEA while baritone ukuleles are typically tuned DGBE.  Nope, I don't actually know what that means.)   
  • After Fiddler's Green, the girls and I went to the Thinkery and the nearby playground, while my husband and D went to Crux Climbing Center in Austin.    
  • Fun fact--I have only been to Austin three times, and each time was ukulele-centered and in roughly the last year. 
  • C played A LOT on her new baroq-ulele for the rest of the weekend.  
  • She is finding some of the chords a real stretch on the larger instrument.  
  • C says she prefers the tone of her concert-sized Snail ukulele to the new baritone.  I think I do, too (and her private teacher loves the Snail), but the baroq-ulele has amazing visual appeal.  Her class is going to be providing a song for a Shakespeare performance at school, and C is planning to use the baroq-ulele for that.    
  • We had Ukulele Club at school this week.  As planned, the kids and I baked gingerbread cookies for a special holiday season meeting and Baby T got to do a lot.  (Awful fact--the ukulele cutter does not work in the real world--the necks break off.  But the stubbier cookie cutters work fine.  We had a very nice rhinoceros and the kangaroo came out surprisingly well.)  I did a double batch and we kind of fizzled after the first batch of cut-out cookies.  However, I was prepared for that eventuality.  I have a huge Wilton gingerbread man mold, and I just patted down the rest of the dough into the pan.  I baked it 12 minutes (which was probably slightly too long--I was guesstimating) and took it to the club meeting in the pan, hoping it would come out.  After some security failures, we wound up with a very modest box of the small gingerbread cookies, but we also had the monster gingerbread man.  
  •  I had to take Baby Girl to the Ukulele Club meeting.  It was not ideal (there was a lot of squeaking about needing a bandaid and her dropped gingerbread cookie), but it was OK--especially with the cookies.  There were five girls at the meeting including C.  The monster gingerbread man came out of the pan perfectly and he and the cookies were well-received.  The gingerbread man had a nice cake-like texture, not crispy like the small cut-outs from the same dough.  
  • C's godfather is in town!
  • The school year is wrapping up--slightly less than three weeks now.  The big kids are doing very well.
  • Baby T's potty-training is a work in progress.  I'd say she's about 2/3 of the way there.  I'm not panicking (yet) because she's made a lot of progress in the last 3.5 months and she has an older sibling who took several months longer to train.  But she also has a sibling who had been potty trained a couple of months at this point...No panic!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Pie clarification

My husband and D made the pecan pie.

Thanksgiving break

It's a bit of a blur, but here's what's been happening:

  • The big kids got a week off of school.
  • My husband took them to see Fantastic Beasts at the downtown theater.
  • Baby T and I sifted her toys in her bedroom, playroom and the living room.  In fact, all of her toys are now gone from the living room...
  • D and I sifted and (lightly) reorganized his bedroom and bathroom. 
  • I made a streamlined (but fairly traditional) Thanksgiving dinner: rotisserie turkey breast, box cornbread stuffing, from scratch cranberry sauce (the recipe on the bag), from scratch sweet potatoes, a store walnut apple pie, and a semi-homemade pecan pie (Pillsbury crust and scavenged pecans).  
  • My husband persuaded Baby T that the train set is not scary.  The lighthouse with foghorn had really spooked her about the whole set.
  • C has been working on her school projects and doing music practice.
  • Her teacher has been encouraging her to work toward performing at the Waxahachie renaissance fair.  Squee!  Her teacher thinks that both the Lute to Uke pieces and the 20 Spanish Baroque Pieces by Gaspar Sanz would work well for Scarborough Renaissance Festival.
  • Coincidentally, I've discovered that there is a lute-shaped ukulele (the 4-course lute or mandora) that is available not very expensively (considering that it's a pretty exotic item).  I've also discovered that Fiddler's Green in Austin has something similar.  This is early days, but it's now on my radar.  This guy is very good.  
  • We've been watching Fellowship of the Ring (with and without Baby T as appropriate).  
  • C and I are at least half-way through working on her room.  I'd really like to knock it out over Thanksgiving break, but it probably is at least two hours work and we only have tomorrow to work.

Monday, November 14, 2016

My Little Pony

A pack of My Little Pony wall decals arrived today for Baby T.  After school, I offered C the opportunity to stick them up.  She accepted gladly, and after some creative disagreements with Baby T (Baby T wanted ALL of them on one wall), the wall decals were stuck up in an aesthetically pleasing manner.  The big surprise was that (along with the more obvious ponies), the package included an exquisite Princess Celestia and Spike the dragon.  C did a great job and it looks AMAZING.

AWWWW!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

November

Here's some of what's happening:

  • We've finally got recognizable fall weather.  We had the air conditioning (slightly) until around Halloween.
  • Baby Girl is really cashing in on potty prizes of late (cheap grocery store kid DVDs have been very motivating), but I'd say she's no more than about 65% potty trained at this point.  I'm afraid the next step is trying cotton underpants again.  *shudder* Ideally, we'll be putting this all behind us by Christmas or New Years.
  • C is at the very end of her From Lute to Uke book--that's the good news.  The bad news is that the songs at the end of the book are really hard, so it's slow going.  Once she finishes that book, we've talked about having her learn the Concerning Hobbits and the LOTR Rohan theme, which are very pretty on ukulele.  (No link for Concerning Hobbits, as I feel like the youtubers are slightly flubbing it.)
  • C is also planning on playing the "Bear Dance" from the From Lute to Uke book for an in-school school "coffee house", which will be very nice. 
  • I'm not sure what book she will work from next, although my vote would be for 20 Spanish Baroque Pieces by Gaspar Sanz Arranged for Uke.  I'm a big fan of the style.  Here's an example.
  • D is prepping for a bouldering competition.
  • Thanksgiving is coming!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

More PDO!

We just got our second day of PDO from the good program.

Because of her birthday being just days past their cut-off, she's one of the oldest kids in the class.  It's also a 3-year-old class, so it's a very chill environment.

But it's what I wanted--a real preschool environment, not some sort of pre-kindergarten cram school, which is what the other PDO was.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Great Wolf Lodge

I see I'm a bit behind on the blog.  Here's some of what's happening:

  • We did a weekend at Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine a week ago and managed to hit Legoland, too.  Legoland was too loud for Baby T, but she did enjoy the quieter outdoor play area and got to drive a car all by herself around a loop.
  • At Great Wolf Lodge, C got to do a quest, D got to do the ropes course, and Baby T got to color a t-shirt souvenir.  So, everybody got a special thing.
  • I was initially very concerned because it turned out that the lobby was all decked out in scary Halloween decorations (many, many Thanksgiving platter sized fake spiders on the ceilings and walls) and I was worried Baby T would freak, but she was OK with it. 
  • I actually didn't do any barefoot time at Great Wolf Lodge (pitter pattering around the water park is a no no for me), but I still have my peroneal tendonitis flaring up after the trip.  Bummer!
  • I'd like to take the kids to the aquarium in Grapevine (across from Legoland in the mall)--the map made it look fantastic--a lot like the aquarium in Finding Dory!  We didn't go partly because of lack of time, partly because Baby T was really scared by it.  (Her current worries are dark and loud noises.)  
  • I took the big kids to see Kubo and the Two Strings at the two dollar theater yesterday.  It's very artsy, but still entertaining.  Origami magic!  Sentient origami!  But much too scary for Baby T.
  • Baby T is doing very well in her one-day-a-week PDO program.  I wish it were at least two days, but it's a good program, so I guess that will have to do.  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Club ideas

I was floating the idea to C that the more experienced beginners could help total beginners at ukulele club.

C told me, that in her opinion, the enthusiastic senior is not a beginner anymore.  On reflection, I think she's right about that--he was playing actual songs.

It's kind of a bummer that he's a senior and won't be around next year, but if he keeps turning up, I should encourage C to delegate some instruction to him, as well as make time to play something with him.


Friday, October 14, 2016

Ukulele Club!

C ran her October meeting of Ukulele Club today, having flyered earlier this week.  I brought five ukuleles in cases, four electronic tuners, three copies of Hal Leonard's Ukulele Method Book 1, From Lute to Uke and handouts.  The returning students were starting to use the tuners and look at the books by themselves.  We had six attendees total (C, three beginners and two self-described "ultra beginners") and then I think two who came in at the very end just as we were starting to pack up.  I believe our youngest two attendees were 8th graders and there was also an enthusiastic senior who wants to learn Hey, Soul Sister (an actual ukulele song, apparently!).    

Our first meeting in September was a little ragged (and HOT!) with people coming and going, but I really felt like things were gelling today.  Three students brought their own ukuleles, which shows a lot of commitment, and it looks like they've been working on their own.  I also was impressed by the fact that those three had technical questions and was thrilled that C was able to answer all of them.  The main problem was that there's only one C and there were at least two levels of beginner, so she was shuttling back and forth between the two groups.

Although we only get about 20 minutes of actual meeting time with these lunch meetings, I was really impressed with the amount of ground covered today.  I feel like the beginners are very close to the point where they'll be able to teach other people.

The current plan is to do another lunch meeting in November and then (if possible) try to do a longer after-school meeting in December to learn carols.    We'll also probably do just one meeting a month this year.

Next year, there are two things that would be nice to introduce:  twice a month meetings and an official organizational structure.  It would be nice for C to be able to share organizational responsibility with at least one other fellow student.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Cake!

Here's some of what's happening:

  • At Baby T's request, my husband machine and hand-sewed her a stuffed purple crocodile from an online pattern.  The back ridges are super.
  • We are gearing up for Baby Girl's birthday week.  (Baby Girl had lots of ideas for the cake.)  My husband and the kids made a cake for her--two layer chocolate, mini York patties between the layers, bright aqua frosting with whipping cream in it, bubbles made from white fondant.  Tomorrow, for the party, we'll be adding the big Dory-with-coral-reef candle.  
  • I've gotten back to using my recumbent bike at home.  ("Back" is kind of the wrong word here, as I did a lot of riding at the gym, we bought me a bike, and then I didn't use it...)  Chip and Joanna Gaines are helping me along--I'm 4 or 5 episodes into season 2 of Fixer Upper.  

Monday, October 3, 2016

C goes electric (again)

Here's some of what's happening:

  • My husband set C up with a piezo buzzer and Guitar Rig 5 and C was playing medieval lute music on an electric ukulele this evening.
  • I did some Wii yoga (carefully avoiding the one-legged poses) and D and I did downward facing dog together.
  • D got to do some cave exploring this past weekend with his daddy!
  • D also got to try a stand up paddle board at the marina this weekend.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Uke lesson

Yesterday, C was giving D a ukulele lesson in her room (I've been encouraging that, so that C gets more teaching experience for ukulele club).  Baby T came in with her ukulele and all three of them were sitting on a row on C's bed, playing.

I got pictures.  (A little counterproductive, though, as soon as I snapped the first one, Baby T ran over to me to see how it turned out.)

Other September news

Here are some other things that are happening:

  • Baby T is smitten with Kipper.
  • C and D are gearing up for Halloween.  C thinks that her ninja costume doesn't fit and she is passing it on to D.  C is planning to get a Pikachu headband and tail.
  • Baby T wants to wear her butterfly wings for Halloween, but I'm not sure that they're going to make it.  

New PDO

Here's some of what's happening:

  • I've completed our escape from the old PDO.  There was a space in the 3-year-old room in a friend's kid's PDO program and we took it, walking away from two weeks of paid-up PDO in the other program.  The old 4-year-old program was just too hard, both for Baby T and me--so much gotta do this, gotta do that, so little fun, and Baby T isn't even 4 yet.  They had weekly homework and a book log in a two-day-a-week program that is theoretically supposed to be mainly about giving parents a breather.
  • Baby T was in the old program only three weeks this term, after missing the first week due to illness.  Despite having gone to this PDO program for two years and adapting easily to her previous two classrooms, she never warmed up to the 4-year-old room, and it was often hard to coax her into the classroom.  Not unrelated--they didn't have free play at the start of the day.  The kids were supposed to write their names (Baby T could only manage a T) and then do a picture suggested by a prompt.  Baby T just scribbled.
  • Talking to the old teacher just made me feel bad, pretty much every single time.
  • Plus, because of Baby T's birthday, she's doing pre-k again next year anyway--she'll be doing a nearly full day at the big kids' private school three days a week.  
  • Baby T's new 3-year-old program has free play first thing in the morning.  They have toys out, including a really enticing LEGO setup.  (At the old PDO program, Baby T had been asking me where the toys were.  GAH!)  I am happy to hear from D that the pre-k classroom that Baby T is going to next year has a lot of toys.    
  • One of the big issues with the old program was potty training--we've been working hard for the past month or so and Baby T has made a lot of progress, but she is only about 50% of the way there.  It was very disheartening to be working so hard on the potty training and getting put on the naughty chair by the teacher from the old program anyway.  It's early days, but it's so much nicer to have her be one of the oldest children in the 3-year-old room rather than one of the youngest in the 4-year-old room.  I think Baby T is going to finish potty training by Christmas, but it's going to be on her time.      

Sunday, September 18, 2016

PDO blues

Here's some of what's happening:

  • PDO is kind of a pain right now.  They have homework and it's very school-ish and Baby T doesn't really seem to like it.  She's one of the three youngest children in the pre-k PDO class.
  • Baby T has been going to this program for the last two years, but I really don't like the pre-k class at all.  
  • I'm planning our escape.  Possible options:  move back to the 3-year-old room (if there's space and if they'll let us), pay a sitter (expensive and inconvenient and not a classroom experience and probably not what Baby T needs right now) or do a different PDO.  I have found a different program where Baby T would be in the 3-year-old room because of their age cut-offs, so she'd be one of the oldest kids in the group.  But it's a slightly longer drive and a slightly shorter day--but it might be a lot better. 
  • C has been teaching D ukulele and he's making progress.  I've been paying both of them a little to make that attractive, as I want C to have teaching practice before our next ukulele club meeting.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ukulele club

Here's some of what's happening:

  • We had our first meeting of ukulele club this past week.  It was at lunch time and right outside the lunch area, where everybody has to walk past.  We had some glitches but we had 5+ kids stop by and do ukulele stuff (6 if you count a guy who came in the last minute and 7 if you count C).  So, not bad.  We had a total of five ukuleles and that's just about how many I'm willing to tote around (we own a sixth one, but it was far, far away in the music room).  The 7th and 8th graders and the high school instrumental music class kids are the most interested, I think.
  • The upperclassman who came by at the last minute brought a ukulele and two of the kids who participated have ukuleles at home (one a souvenir from Hawaii), so I think that demonstrates solid interest.  A lot of the kids also have other music experience.
  • My job was to bring ukuleles in cases, electronic tuners, some books, arrive before lunch time, check in at the office, set up, and assist however necessary (answering questions, offering a handout, etc), and then haul everything away.  C helped tune everybody up and did a little bit of instruction.  We didn't have a lot of time.
  • We hope to do this once a month this year.  We'll see how it goes--there's the possibility of going to twice a month if C has the time and if there's enough interest.  This does have potential for being very nice college admissions fodder for C, but C herself finds that a sordid way to look at it.     
  • I've been pretty derelict with regard to school volunteering the last few years, so it was really nice to be able to record one hour of volunteering for me and one for C.
  • I have ordered two more Hal Leonard Ukulele Method 1 books for future meetings.  This meeting was valuable to get a sense of what kind of skill level and interest is out there--the answer being, a variety of beginners.  C is thinking of teaching them Frere Jacques next time.  (She did manage to teach it to D this summer.)  She also wants to teach them how to read tab, which will be very, very useful.    
  • Meanwhile, I'm hoping that by Christmas, she'll be able to teach some simple Christmas carols or songs.  As it happens, I own a ukulele cookie cutter and a palm tree cookie cutter, and it is my intention to bring gingerbread cookies to the December meeting.
  • So many plans!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Foiled again!

I took Baby T to Barnes and Noble.  We picked out a couple of nice potty prizes (a Doc McStuffins activity book and a Hank the octopus bath toy), a magazine for me and had a snack/lunch in the cafe.  (The Barnes and Noble membership card is well worth having, by the way.)  We got back in the minivan and I had every intention of going grocery shopping (the lunch/snack had been to facilitate good decision-making while shopping).  After I parked at the big grocery store, I discovered Baby T was fast asleep in her carseat.  So, I had to give up on the grocery shopping, but I drove us home, got her out of the carseat, and was able to set her up on a mat in the living room.  She seems to be having a good snooze.

Baby T is not officially napping these days, but she does nod off like this in the car probably once a week.  I've given up on her napping at home, but I think she has a nap/quiet time at parents' day out.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Shopping confessions

Here's some stuff I recently bought or ordered:

  • GAP stretch pants with tiny flamingos for Baby T
  • three layer cupcake/cookie carrier (holds 36)
  • two Hello Kitty booster seats for Baby T.
I'm not sure what this says about me and us...

September

Here's some of what's happening:

  • Baby T was all dry at PDO her second day of class, but her teachers took her all the time to make that happen. 
  • She's been going spontaneously herself with us 2 or 3 times a day.
  • We're trying to start a ukulele club at school--C has gotten a lot of in person interest, but we haven't gotten any email responses to the email address I put up on a flyer.  I was hoping to get some info about number, level of skill and interest, and thoughts about times.  Next step--schedule a meeting, advertise it, and see if anybody shows up.  I've suggested that if that is a flop, that our next step would be waiting until Christmas time and doing a Christmas carol learning event.
  • C is about halfway through her Wilton Level 2 cake decorating course.  The Level 1 is bake-bake-bake-bake and bring in stuff to decorate, but the Level 2 involves a lot more technical practice without baked goods.  C is now interested in doing Level 3 next summer.
  • These cake decorating courses are very intensive in terms of commitment, so we find that a single one wipes us out.  The current one is an 8 hour course that meets for 2 hours a week for four weeks, and there's a lot of work involved in shopping and packing for the class, doing the class, and then unpacking and cleaning up after the class.
  • We had some leftover royal icing from last week, so I bought some Pillsbury sugar cookies and baked them yesterday.  The kids (including Baby T) decorated them.
  •  D is resting his hand after an injury while rock climbing.
  • C has gotten into student government in a small way.
  • We are starting to plan a trip to Great Wolf Lodge near Dallas to celebrate T's 4th birthday.
  • I've started collecting a few gifts for Baby T, although I screwed up and let her open an Amazon box that contained some gifts.   

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Potty training fashion

The last week or so, I have been realizing that I hate dealing with wet stretch pants when potty training, not to mention putting on dry stretch pants in public restrooms.

So, at least until it gets colder and/or the potty training finishes up, I'm going to try to keep Baby T in knee-length dresses.  That length seems to work really well.

Baby T's crocs are another very functional fashion choice--very easy to wash off as needed!

I don't think I mentioned that Baby T got through her first day in the pre-k parents'-day-out classroom with only one accident.  That was really good!  I had been concerned that one change of clothes would not be enough.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Icing

C had her cake decorating class last night.  She isn't really a flower person, so she didn't care for that part of it.  However, she does want to do a Star Trek (!) cupcake thing as her final project.  I don't know how this is going to work, but I am trying to keep an open mind.  We are both delighted by how easy it is to clean up royal icing as compared to greasy buttercream.  The cleanup is probably the worst part of dealing with buttercream.

C took two ukuleles to school today for her instrumental music class.

Baby T went to PDO today in cotton underpants.  It was scary, but I dropped her off dry.  Baby T had reacted to meet the teacher a couple weeks ago by lying down on the floor and not wanting to meet the teacher.  Today, she got up happy, had breakfast happy, helped make lunch happy, and walked right into school happy (perhaps reassured by the presence of many familiar faces in a new room).  It's amazing how fast all of that goes when you have a child who is on board with the program...I was gratified to see her trace every single letter of her name on a sheet her teacher had given her.  Awwww!

It feels like the beginning of a new era.  

Monday, August 29, 2016

Mwahaha!

After some initial bumps (on the first day of school, I went through four different kid pickup areas, plus needing to park and take all the kids into a school building on foot to pick up some stuff), the kinks have been worked out and today I only had to go through ONE carpool line to pick up two kids.

!!!!

It's a miracle.


Sunday, August 28, 2016

Round up

Here's some of the stuff that's happened in the last week:

  • Baby Girl had hand foot and mouth and missed the first week of the new term of parents' day out.
  • Theoretically, she's supposed to be in cotton underpants for her pre-K PDO class Tuesday.  Funny!  (I do have a nice bribe stash, though, and we're working on it, but she's only been in cotton underpants twice.)
  • C and D had their first week of school (that was OK, but a lot of scurrying--it took three days to get the carpool straightened out, and I'm not sure it is yet). 
  • The fridge door is wonky and we had an appliance guy in.  They've ordered the parts and we're waiting to hear from them.  
  •  My husband was away for two nights.
  • Just before he returned, I discovered that the kitchen sink was leaking and that a small puddle had been collecting under the sink and that's why the area smelled mushroom-y.  My husband got the leak to stop and then put cat litter under the sink--we have no cat, but a big bag from a previous project.  It looks like it's going to be a household maintenance staple from now on.
  • On a happier note, C's pink cupcake project turned out exquisitely.  The white-on-white cherry blossom ones with white sprinkles looked very fancy, as did the fondant cherry blossoms brushed with diluted pink dye and the gold sprinkles.  So pretty!  The white-on-white ones would be amazing for a wedding.  
  • Baby Girl is working on a Kumon upper case letter book.  Her tracing skills have really come along the past few months.  
So, things are improving, but I can't wait until the mushroom-y smell in the kitchen goes away.  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Royal icing

I was just doing a google image search for "royal icing."

I'm just blown away--people are amazing!

Pink cupcakes

We are in the middle of a project.  When we were at the store today procuring meringue powder and powdered sugar for use in mixing up the royal icing for C's Wilton level 2 class, C noticed the fondant and asked me to buy a box.  (Previously, C has not wanted anything to do with fondant.)

Currently, some pink (the cake mix said "pink velvet") cupcakes are baking.  We have a tub of white buttercream, a box of fondant, an elegant box of white and gold sprinkles and a never-used cherry blossom fondant mold (a birthday gift).  C also wants to experiment with painting on fondant.  Lots of great options!

I'm very curious as to how this is going to go.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Good News/Bad News

Bad News:  Baby T has mystery spots that I'm concerned may be hand, foot and mouth or one of the various infectious illnesses that causes spots.  Baby T may need to miss part or all of the first week of parents' day out, depending what the doctor says.  And school is about to start for the big kids, too, so I was really hoping to get some time to catch up my school papers and emails.

Good News:  We get more potty training time before she goes to the pre-k room where everybody wears cotton underpants.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Progress!

Here's some of what's happening:

  • The last 2-3 days Baby T has been using the potty...at home!!!  Not every single time, but very often.  C has been helping a lot with taking her.  
  • This process started about a year and a half ago when Baby T seemed to be interested and making progress--but that didn't go anywhere, and I was left with a big shelf of prizes collecting dust.
  • I switched things up a few weeks ago by starting to reward just trying, not succeeding, and eventually that led to her succeeding (initially with C).  Baby T has now earned every single one of the My Little Ponies that I had on the prize shelf.  
  • Initially, I was just giving her a small prize every time she succeeded, but she's now working toward a Melissa and Doug ice cream play set that Baby T has wanted for a long, long time.  She just needs one more successful visit to get it (it's a 10 point item).
  • Here's the recent process:  reward for trying > reward immediately for success > reward with larger item for a large number of successes.
  • Baby T also has a huge appetite for craft supplies right now (Scotch tape, Play Doh, etc.) so I should probably put those into the potty prize system.   
  • I also need to suck it up and put her in cotton underpants for a few hours at a time.  This is a scary step for me, but it has to be done soon.
  • The funny thing is that Baby T is 3 years 10 months old now, and this is just about exactly when an older sibling (let's not be too exact about who) potty trained.  
  • The heat is on because while we're on break from parents' day out right now and Baby T's teacher says that she's moving up to a new classroom and she should start trying the underpants.  So it's crunch time...But I think it can be done pretty soon.    

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Austin Ukulele Society

Here's what's been happening:

  • On Thursday the five of us made a long-awaited day trip to the Austin Ukulele Society.  
  • We stopped on the way at a large suburban indoor play gym with adult-sized habitrails, an arcade and surprisingly good food (fantastic fries and very good quesadillas).
  • My husband dropped me and C off at the AUS meeting site in Austin and the rest of the family (husband, D and Baby T) went off to play at the playground near the Thinkery.
  • A caution about the meeting--we arrived right as the meeting was starting and almost didn't manage to get chairs.
  • They opened with playing and singing Bob Marley's Three Little Birds and then there was a tutorial on how to play Elton John's Rocket Man.  Then they had open mike and finished with On the Road Again.
  • The open mike performances were very impressive:  there was a teenage virtuoso, a guy simultaneously playing the kazoo (he makes and sells kazoos) and the ukulele while singing St. James Infirmary Blues, a woman playing and singing City of New Orleans (which eventually turned into a sing along), and a couple of groups from Kevin Carroll's Austin ukulele school
  • I have a lot of interest in Kevin Carroll's school for C, as they have both weekly lessons (a bit too far for us) but also weekend workshops (which is more manageable).        
  • C had a very good time and really would have liked to do the open mike if she could have gotten on.  I asked her what she liked and she said she liked playing with other people.
  • We were in a back row, but it is a very interesting feeling sitting in the middle of all of these vibrating strings. 
  • Oh, and AUS has beautiful t-shirts.
  • They have at least several other children coming to the group, including the teen virtuoso.
  • For our geography, the AUS meeting date of every second Thursday 7-8:30 PM is kind of awkward during the school year, but we should be able to come again at least next summer.  My husband was thinking that in future he could take the younger kids to a movie.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Just a suggestion

Baby T, how about next time you not copiously glue stick your toy muffin pan?

Just a thought.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

C goes electric

My husband has set C up with a piezzo buzzer and some software on his laptop that allows her to play her acoustic ukulele as if it were electric.  The software is called Guitar Rig 5 and they have all kinds of musical effects to experiment with.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Yesterday

C hasn't had a ukulele lesson, so she was asking me what to practice--a dangerous question.

I leafed through her Beatles for ukulele book and found "Yesterday."  This is her second day of practicing it, and it is starting to sound pretty good.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

He's back!

My husband is back after a business trip to the far north.  He left the day after C's birthday, so I just wasn't thinking past the birthday.  Some discoveries:

  • I'd better have a plan for any future summer business trips, because the kids' disparate sizes and interests, the awful heat outside, etc., having 5 days of nothing planned is a mistake.  We needed more exercise and intellectual life for the kids, more of a schedule.  (I hadn't run into this before, because normally when my husband is on the road, we have school or it's not so hot.)
  • C did work for a friend hanging pictures and D and Baby T had some water play there, too.  (Baby T's diaper was MASSIVE by the end of it.)
  • I think Baby T didn't do too badly, but she had parents' day out.  She did so much Play Doh, so much paper snipping and so much painting.
  • Also, just running house things by myself and managing Baby T consumes a lot of my bandwidth.
  • C is able to use the elliptical machine--she did that at least once.  D has been trying our recumbent bike.
  • C also did six days in a row of ukulele practice and a little playing today.  C normally does 4-6 practices a week, but six in a row is very unusual.  
  • So, now that I write this stuff out, a lot of stuff happened, but it didn't really fill the days up.
  • Also, there was a lot of Star Trek watching.  

Free market failure

Whyyyyy isn't there a Finding Nemo or Finding Dory Play Doh set?

Passive voice

Baby T has been complaining that her different colors of Play Doh "got mixed up" so I need to order her new Play Doh.

C and I have been pointing out to Baby T that she mixed them up.

I expect I'll buy her some more eventually, especially once she gets the Fun Factory press from my prize shelf.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Stuff

The ukulele cookie cutter and the ukulele tea towel that I ordered arrived.  The cookie cutter is your basic cookie cutter.  The tea towel is huge and so charming (the title is "Ukulele Convention") that it has crossed my mind that it would be really cute to hang.  But mine is living in my kitchen drawer...

Friday, July 22, 2016

Inside Out

Baby T just drew a picture of Disgust, the character from Inside Out (basically, some lines).  She had me add a "D."

Thursday, July 21, 2016

14!

Here's some of what's happening:

  • C is 14 as of this week!  So big!
  • We had a skate/laser tag party for her and invited all the girls from her (small) class.  There were a lot of people traveling but we invited some younger siblings and wound up with a party of (I think) 13 children, including our 3.
  • C got quite a haul of Barnes & Noble cards.  I'm going to take her to the store real soon...
  • We got her a manual for a Klingon war ship (she was so excited!), one of those little Star Wars cartoon books depicting the characters as kids, a cake decorating book (which was the subject of some angst), an MP3 player (which turned out to get really hot when plugged into the computer--so we're getting a more expensive one), and what turned out to be a badly done knockoff Deep Space 9 t-shirt.  Grandma and grandpa got her nice scissors and a large swim torpedo for the pool.  I also got her sushi from the grocery store on her actual b-day and a My Little Pony mylar balloon.  My husband also baked and frosted a minty version of the Hershey's two-layer cake recipe with mini York patties in between the layers.   
  • My husband will transfer some of her on-CD songs to the new MP3 player when we get it.  We are also going to give C $20 in credit to buy songs.
  • C also finished reading War and Peace.
  • She has also been enjoying Pokemon Go.
  • Baby T drew a spider!  She has been enjoying water colors a lot!
  • No camp this week.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Play Doh cupcakes

I got Baby T a little Easy Bake 6-cavity cupcake tin for her to make Play Doh cupcakes in.

It is a big success.

I have never had a child who was as into Play Doh play as Baby T is, but I am keeping her well-supplied with good Play Doh.  We have some pink sparkly stuff coming real soon...

Sabrer-toothed whale

Baby T just demanded that D draw her a saber-toothed whale.

That's apparently one of D's artistic specialties.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

In deep

After consulting with C, I just ordered a ukulele cookie cutter and ukulele tea towel from Ukulele Magazine.

C really wants to participate in the magazine's Cookie-lele cookie baking contest.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Watercolors

The rest of the family is back from their big British Columbia trip.

My husband and I were sifting through a wardrobe this afternoon and I discovered a treasure trove of old watercolors.  I've just given Baby T some paper towels to paint on, and have cruelly refused to do her painting for her.  She's doing great.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Giddyup!

Baby T was just trotting around the living room on her stick horse while watching The Grand Old Duke of York on a Mommy and Me video.

Lowrider

Baby T has explained to me that she only likes two of the songs she hears on the radio.  With a little investigation, I was able to find out what they are:

E

Baby T just made an excellent letter 'E' with LEGO.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Gotta watch Baby T

I just found three Netflix envelopes tidily arranged near the front door.  Baby T had packed up one of them with an unwanted (by her) Netflix movie and another with an unwanted (by her) movie from our personal library.


Baby T's shopping list

Baby T and I went grocery shopping yesterday.  What made this trip unusual was that Baby T came up with a shopping list for herself.  Here's what she wanted us to get:

--bananas
--pretzels
--goldfish crackers
--glue sticks

We got everything on her list.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Summer reading

C is really getting into War and Peace.

Zoo/Preschool KonMari

Here's some stuff I forgot to mention:

  • At the zoo, Baby T spent a long, long time in the playground and water play area.
  • Baby T was excited by the tropical fish area with Dory!!!!! and Nemo!!!!!  The zoo has very showy large blue tangs and clownfish in the aquarium--Petco's clownfish are much smaller.
  • Baby T has been doing a preschool version of KonMari with me.  What started this was Baby T herself emptying her room of all of its books and at least 3/4 of the toys, creating a huge heap out in the hall.  A week or two later we sifted her playroom and bedroom together but we still have a box or two in the living room to do (I persuaded her to take back much of the stuff in the heap in the hall, once she thought about it item by item).  The playroom is a big mess, largely due to Baby T's newfound love of Play Doh (she now owns at least a hundred separate items in the Play Doh center), but I've talked to her about just about everything in the room, and what's there obviously "sparks joy" so, it's staying.  I do have a large laundry basket full of rejected items, though.  Large noisy Little People play sets were especially hard hit in the purge, as were unloved stuffed animals and an old LEGO musical toy where you plug in different plugs and tap out tunes.      
  • When we were working, I was offering her three options:  bedroom, playroom or give away.  
  • While writing this, I took a peek in the discard basket, which agitated Baby T.  She said something like, "We're giving that away!!!!" 

We fed the giraffe

Baby T and I both got a turn feeding the giraffe at the zoo today for the first time!

There was a group of zoo campers doing it, and as they had some leftover lettuce (?) they let non-campers feed the giraffe, too.  Initially, Baby T wanted me to feed the giraffe, which I did (while holding her).  Then after we'd walked away, she decided she wanted to, too, and fortunately it was still possible.  Baby T handed it to the giraffe but dropped the lettuce during the handover, as when the giraffe was corkscrewing its tongue round the lettuce (and that's totally what they do--their tongues are amazing), the tongue touched her.  But she made the pass successfully on the second try.

Baby T was very pleased with her bravery.  As we were walking away, she said "I'm bigger!"

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Dory

Baby T located the tropical fish cookie cutter and cut out a fish outline.  She brought it to me and said, "This is Dory!"

I don't think either of the older kids was ever so passionate about Play Doh as Baby T has been the last couple weeks.  Part of that is probably the timing.  I kind of jumped the gun with C, as I started her on Play Doh cookie cutter play when she was probably not even 2, but Baby T is a solid 3.5 and she has watched a LOT of Play Doh videos online.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The futility of blue and yellow play doh

At Baby T's request, I got out some new play doh from the closet.  It was two cans--one dark blue and one bright yellow.  So, this was perfect for making Dory.

We went downstairs and Baby T started working on her play doh.  I looked over in a bit and found that she had already started blending the blue and the yellow.  I had a few words with Baby T and mixed it into a consistent turquoise for her.  She then asked me to turn it into a different color.  I told her that green was all I could do.  I also told her that there aren't any more cans of new play doh left.

I think I'll let sink in for a bit.

But I am planning to eventually get her sparkly play doh.  She is playing a lot with her play doh--probably literally hours a day.

Cookie cutters

I've been having a look at the plastic cookie cutters that I gave Baby T to use with play doh.  It's been several years since I've used them, and they're absolutely charming, especially the animal ones.

We've got a camel, whale, butterfly, teddy bear, sea horse, tropical fish, a couple dinosaurs--it's really cute.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Small pedants

Baby T hates it when I say, "Let's roll!"

She says, "We're not cars."

Gingerbread cookies?

Baby T has been working incessantly with her play doh and the big box of cookie cutters that I recently pulled out for her.

I'm thinking that we've to do gingerbread cookies this Advent.  It will be a pain to wash up the cookie cutters for the project, but on the other hand, I think it will blow Baby T's mind that you can cut out shapes, bake them and EAT them.

(And ice them, too!  But I think that just cutting out, baking and eating will be mind-blowing enough for this year.)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Scissors

I just discovered that the snipping noise coming from the other end of the kitchen was Baby T starting to attack our new mail with real scissors.

D's watering instructions

D is gone for a trip and he left me some instructions for taking care of his little container garden outside. Here's what he wrote (in cursive).

Plant Care

Water plants every other day or so if soil is dry.  Thin the carrots which are one inch or more tall to two inch spacing.  Feel free to nibble mint. 

Awwww!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

All things ukulele

I just the following in my Amazon cart:

  • a guitar cookie cutter that can be plausibly treated as a ukulele cookie cutter
  • a very cute low-key realistic ukulele Christmas tree ornament (previously I'd only seen over-the-top Hawaiian ones)
I'm somewhat inclined to also get some mixed instrument cookie cutters (as C is going to be in an ensemble), but I can wait.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Must be more discreet

I was attempting to discreetly help myself to a piece from a dark-chocolate-and-nougat Toblerone bar from a top shelf in the pantry when I heard a little voice behind me say, "That looks tasty!!!"

Saturday, July 2, 2016

4th of July recipe

Here's what I'm planning to take to a 4th of July cookout:

  • 4 pounds of strawberries (got to wash them up and cut them)
  • 3 pints blueberries (they were well under $1 a pint)
  • 2 large cans of whipped cream
It will be very festive!

T-shirts

We now own more Minecraft shirts than any household ought to--as of my order this morning, we're going to have one for Baby T, three for C and three for D in a total of four different designs.

I can stop any time.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The futility of white play doh

Minutes ago, we got a package with two cans of white Play Doh.  Baby T needs the white to make Nemo--she previously got an assortment of good colors for undersea animals (teal/turquoise, Nemo orange, yellow, etc).  I prudently set aside one can for later.

Within moments, Baby T had mashed the white Play Doh together with several different colors.  In fact, she just made a white lizard with a waffle texture and then an inner layer of a different color sandwiched inside two white layers.

!!!!!

I think I won't be ordering more Play Doh for a while, and certainly not white Play Doh.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Mandolin

Here's some of what's happening:

  • C tried out a mandolin at Guitar Center this week--four courses of double strings.  It sounded FABULOUS.  C is somewhat interested in mandolin lessons--I suggested maybe next summer?  By that time she'll have had a lot of experience playing in the instrumental music class at school.  She says she wants to get better at ukulele--I told her she should be lots better in a year.   
  • We went to the children's museum this morning with friends and had a very nice lunch at the college cafeteria.
  • We also got back our KIA minivan from the dealership after some recall repairs.  We're starting to be able to write a book (or at least a long article) on KIA's customer service and mechanical sins.  Example:  we asked them to give an estimate for repairs for some door issues.  They told us that the diagnostics they need to do to give an estimate would cost $120...We don't think our next minivan will be a KIA.
  • C did a double ukulele practice today.
  • Baby T has been purging her room of unloved toys.  There was a huge pile outside her room this morning.  One of her organizing principles is apparently that if a stuffed animal has no name, it has to go.
  • I have been reading my Alaska cruise guidebooks.  Sounds fun!      

Saturday, June 25, 2016

No camp

Here's some of what's happening:

  • We have a loose schedule the next couple weeks, but my husband has been doing great keeping the kids active (swimming and climbing) and providing intellectual stimulus.
  • I have been reading the Alaska books I got--Alaska sounds like western Washington on steroids.
  • C went to the top on the college climbing wall!  SQUEE!  We had promised her $10 for doing it, and we delivered.
  • D is doing lots of lap swimming, just like daddy.  He used to get very chilled in the water, but hasn't complained of that for about half a year.
  • Baby T is great in the pool in her little life jacket and very good about getting in and out of swim stuff.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Yet more play doh

Here's some of what's happening:

  • We're having a couple of weeks with no camp.  We don't have a very tight schedule this summer.
  • I'm not quite done booking all of the kids activities for the summer, but I'm pretty close.
  • Baby T had a water play day at parents' day out, but they've decided not to do more, as one of the kids got repeatedly bitten by fire ants.  OUCH!  
  • C has been doing SAT practice tests.
  • D's swimming is suddenly very impressive.  He is swimming long distances (just like his daddy).
  • D's injured climbing hand is on the mend and he is cautiously getting back into climbing.
  • C has recently been doing Disney DDR.
  • We have booked C's birthday party for July.
  • Baby T continues to be into youtube play doh (!) videos.
  • I recently had a birthday, and as my gift to me, I ordered a couple books about Alaska cruises.  C and I will almost certainly be able to go in 1-3 years (C would be doing a ukulele program), and I hope we would also be able to take D.  I bet Baby T will also want to go, too...I've been encouraging the extended family to think about it, because it could be a lot of fun as an extended family trip, and we've never done anything like it.   

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Taking Play Doh to the next level

Baby T has been demanding youtube Play Doh videos at bedtime.  There are a lot of videos with adults opening up new Play Doh kits and excitedly rolling out Play Doh alphabets, making Play Doh My Little Ponies, etc.

So, today was the day that I tidied up Baby T's Play Doh corner (tossed out the dry stuff, etc.) and then went to my Bat Cave and pulled out fresh Play Doh and the big tub of pointy big girl Play Doh tools and cookie cutters.  We have ABC cookie cutters, numbers, and a vast array of animal and holiday oriented cookie cutters.

Baby Girl is delighted and is currently working through the Play Doh alphabet (with help).

It looks like I should definitely do gingerbread with the kids this Christmas.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Uke Club!

We have the green light from school and have approval and a faculty adviser for the ukulele club that C has been hoping to start at school.  Here's what's going on:

  • We've got half a dozen ukuleles and I believe that many cases (gotta check).
  • We've got around half a dozen clip-on tuners (thanks to a generous donor!).
  • C has the teacher edition of 21 Songs in 6 Days, which is meant to be used teaching 4th-8th graders to play the ukulele.  It has an online video component to supplement in-person teaching.  We still need see if this is the right book.  If it is, we'll get another five or six copies of the student edition.
  • I may also get a book of Christmas songs from the same author for the holiday season.  
  • C has had a few goes at teaching D a little ukulele.  It was a little rough the first one or two times, but he seems more positive about it now and is making progress.  (I pay C $2 per 15 minute lesson.)  I've told C that she can teach Baby T next year when Baby T will be 4.5.  C has been burning to give Baby T a ukulele for some time.  I haven't let her yet, though, as Baby T is still only 3.5 now.
  • We're going to be aiming at a once a month ukulele club meeting for this coming school year, as C will just be starting high school, so she may need a lot more time for school work than she has this year.  If that goes well and if C is still interested, we can bump that up to twice a month.  (Weekly seems like too big a commitment for everybody--C will also have her own weekly lesson, an instrumental music class, and practice at home--so much music!)
  • I'm also really interested to see how the instrumental music class goes for C.  I get the feeling that she's really interested in the idea of having people to play with.      

Washington

The big kids and I did about a 9 day trip to WA a few weeks ago while my husband stayed home with Baby T.  We saw my family on the Olympic Peninsula and Seattle and my MIL in Seattle.

Here's some of what we did on the road:
  • C took her ukulele on the road for the first time, along with four (!) books of sheet music, and got in a lot of performing and practicing.
  • On the Olympic Peninsula, we got to see the kid's 1-year-old cousin who is at run-around-all-the-time age.  We had a cookout (grilled corn!) with my sister's family and my parents, played Rook with great-grandpa, saw the beautiful contemporary-meets-Craftsman cabin the family is building, went to the beach (where the kids built a shelter) and visited the rain forest.
  • If you're eating brunch at Chestnut Cottage in Port Angeles and they offer you a pastry, GET THE PASTRY.  I went for toast but eventually got a couple bites of great-grandma's amazing cherry strudel thingy.
  • The kids got a lot of use out of their Kindles during our down time.
  •  On the last leg of our trip, we took the ferry back to Seattle and my sister met us at the ferry docks downtown.  We walked around, visited Ye Olde Curiosity Shop on the waterfront (warning:  mummies and shrunken heads and weird stuff, but also a very nice Indian art display), went to Capitol Hill, checked our stuff into our massive Tudor B&B, and then had dinner at Rom Mai Thai with my sister.  (Very good, by the way!  Try the pad thai.)  
  • The only thing I have against Capitol Hill is...the hill.  Getting up and down from our B&B to Broadway was challenging.  
  • We stayed at the Shafer Bailie Mansion for three nights mostly with my MIL.  The only hitch was no laundry (it being a B&B) and exotic plumbing.  Otherwise, a very pleasant breakfast and cable for watching our now traditional HGTV on the road.
  • As on previous visits, we spent the bulk of our time at Seattle Center.  I had found out about the Star Trek exhibit at the EMP on the plane and the kids were clamoring for it, so we went.  The kids also spent a lot of time in the sound lab (a music space) at the EMP and we got to listen to some elementary school student steel bands.  The Star Trek gift shop was fantastic and I was able to pick up a couple of items for my husband for Father's Day.
  • We were finally able to have a good long visit to the Science Center.  We saw the Galapagos movie in 3D (which was actually pretty good--I'm not normally a 3D person), the LEGO art exhibit (very nice gift shop, of course!) and did other Science Center stuff (like the gerbil wheel in the water and the water cannons).  The kids also paid another visit to the massive newish playground near EMP.     
  • Basically, Seattle Center is one-stop shopping for tourists.
  • It turned out that our B&B was just a couple of blocks from Volunteer Park.  There's a good playground and a massive picturesque round brick water tower that you're not supposed to climb, but people totally do climb.  Volunteer Park has massive ancient trees and Craftsman (not making this up) public restrooms.  We didn't manage to go (just ran out of time), but it also has a conservatory and an Asian art museum.
  • On Saturday night, we went to Mass at St. James Cathedral downtown.  We were there for the blessing of about 50 pilgrims who are going to World Youth Day in Poland.  Beautiful church!  There's a lovely chapel--we lit a whole bunch of candles.
  • Seattle taxi service was good and fast.  
  • Thank you, MIL!  It was great fun!   

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Gofer

Baby T is a hard mistress.  She has me drawing Nemo, Marlin, Dory, trains, trees, cats, rabbits, castles, water, etc.  She even wanted me to draw Wednesday.

I'm also supposed to cut stuff out for her, which is harder than it sounds with tiny plastic scissors.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

End of year

Here's some of what's happening:

  • This is the last week of school!  So many half-days!
  • Baby T's parents'-day-out class had an end-of-term party today.  I came in to pick Baby T up early (as they often don't nap on party days), and I found her up, the lights off, and her PDO class mostly bouncing around in the dark.  Her teachers had a gift bucket for each child with bubbles and similar.  Awww!  She was blowing bubbles from our upstairs balcony at home this afternoon.  
  • We've been having thunderstorms and violent rain.
  • I just had a little misunderstanding with Baby T.  I thought she was asking for an "antelope" and obligingly showed her antelope on Google images.  But she was actually asking for an "envelope."  Oops!
  • I got C Ukulele Aerobics last week, as she was interested, and her teacher had just bought it.  It has a set of 40 weeks of exercises (I think), with a different exercise for every day.  She has been using it. 
  • D was sweating over a final project where he retold the story of St. George and the Dragon with words and illustrations.  All done now!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Teen rebellion

C says, "I'm going to have a teen rebellion by going to my room and playing country western music really loudly."

C hates country western, so she's just kidding.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Music preference

C is currently hopping back and forth between her Easy Classical Ukulele Solos book and From Lute to Uke.  I also want her to practice some old time country western songs from Jumpin' Jim's Ukulele Country because I think my family would enjoy that when we visit, but C isn't really into it.  We are going to be in WA to visit family during the early summer, and we'll be taking C's ukulele on the plane for the first time so she can play for family and practice.

Related:  Have you ever seen United Breaks Guitars?

End of term

Here's some of what's happening:

  • C is going to be painting Hannibal's crossing of the Alps with elephants onto a wooden sword for a school project.
  • It's a really good thing that C likes school projects so much.  Otherwise, life would be terrible.
  • D has made some progress on bouldering.
  • My husband is working on making a chalk bag for rock climbing.  (You put chalk on your hands to keep from slipping.)  He's been using C's sewing machine.  
  • This morning, Baby T was wanting to speed up our departure for the grocery store (a favorite destination).  I eventually realized why she'd grabbed a couple of reusable grocery bags--they were for me to use! 
  • The cafeterias are closing soon.  Waaaaaaaah!
  • The kids have another 2.5 weeks of school left.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Music

C is finishing up her Easy Classical Ukulele Solos book.  C is very into classical music for the ukulele and appreciates the difficulty of the pieces.  At her last ukulele lesson, we discussed her next move with her teacher, and both C and her ukulele teacher seemed very excited about the book From Lute to Uke (which is Renaissance lute music adapted for use on the ukulele), so I've ordered that.  For the long-term, there's talk of moving forward chronologically.  That will hopefully eventually include Rob MacKillop's amazing adaptations of Baroque Spanish music for the ukulele.  Here is RM playing one of his Spanish Baroque pieces.  If classical ukulele continues to be C's thing, there are a number of books available to work with.  

As we will be visiting family in about a month, I am also encouraging C to spend the month of May working on some gospel and country western pieces.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Baby T talking about D

Baby T was just musing to herself about D's color perception (D is color-blind).  She was saying something about how he sees blue but something else looks white to him.

This is 3.5, people.

Baby T wants a computer

Baby T wants a computer.  It needs the following features:

  • pink
  • smaller
  • has Hello Kitty on it
  • has games
  • has Minecraft
  • she can use it to draw unicorns
  • it needs to be in the kitchen
  • it needs to have buttons with words and also numbers
"It's going to be my computer," she says.

It's not just the computer.  Baby T also wants the booster seat with Hello Kitty on it.  I have actually promised to get it for her for when she turns 4.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Baby T packs lunch

Here's some of what's happening:

  • Baby T packed her own lunch this morning for preschool:  a yogurt, goldfish, and a mandarin orange.  She did forget to pack a spoon, but she's only 3.5...
  • So much rain!
  • C went to a junior high dance and liked it.  There was some back and forth because first she wanted to go, then she didn't (because dancing), but then she heard that there wouldn't be much dancing at the dance and decided to go.  There did turn out to be a lot of dancing at the dance (and a kid dressed up as a panda), but C had a good time.  (One of her friends taught her a little waltz.)
  • D did an indoor climbing competition this past weekend.  It was HARD, even though he was in the kids' division.  10 and 11-year-old Austinite climbers are an impressive bunch, especially the ones that are on an actual team with an actual coach.  But D did improve.  
  • C likes Water Music on the ukulele--she feels like it uses the capabilities of the ukulele very nicely. 
  • We've got about 6 more weeks of school.  Sooooon.
  • I have an actual yoga mat now and I continue to do yoga with C from time to time.  

Friday, April 8, 2016

Sushi

Baby T is having a piece of sushi because she noticed the big kids were excited about having it for dinner.  She wants it cleaned and thinks it's cold.  Basically, Baby T doesn't get the concept.  

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Swiffer!!!!

Here's some of what's happening:

  • Right now, Baby T is swiffering the kitchen floor.  Go, Baby T!
  • C did some yoga with me last night.  I'm paying her $2 per 15 minute session--we did 30 minutes last night.  I've informed C that part of what she's getting paid for is nagging me into doing it.  I'm finding several poses more and more doable but think I should probably avoid the one-legged poses.  I can touch my toes--yay!
  • C is saving for her big senior trip to Italy in four years.  We've done the math, and she needs to save $77 a month to pay the projected trip costs, plus have some pocket money.  We have been doing a check-in at the end of the month for several months now and she hands over $77 a month to the Bank of Mom and Dad (a non-FDIC insured institution that pays 3% interest a year) and any surplus for the month is transferred to her spending money.  C is pretty good at hitting the $77 every month, but she has to really hustle to get any spending money above that.
  • The Bank of Mom and Dad paid out the kids' interest after tax time this year, much to the kids' delight.  Now that both kids have accounts with us in the mid-three figures, 3% is very nice.    
  • C also accrues $2 for each 15-minute ukulele practice she does in her ukulele practice fund, which is spendable on music stuff.  She is getting close to having 1/3 of what she needs for a ukulele cruise to Alaska.  She won't have enough in time for that summer 2016 cruise and that particular group isn't doing a 2017 one, but I'm hoping that either some other group will do a 2017 Alaska cruise or that Chee and Maisel will do a 2018 one.        
  • D has been enjoying his climbing rope.
  • C says, "the zebra gets to blow out the candles."
  • For Easter, my husband and C both did chocolate molding.  C did white chocolate bunnies, lambs and chicks (dying the chicks yellow) and my husband did large dark chocolate bunnies.
  • The kids and I colored eggs, using a gold gel kit from the store.  Baby T dyed about half the eggs by herself.  C did all of the work with the gold.  
  • The big kids helpfully packed up the plastic eggs with chocolate for our egg hunt.
  • My husband hid the eggs and the kids all hunted, with Baby T getting a three-egg head start.  Baby T was so effective, though, that we are planning to cut her handicap down for next year.   
  • For Easter lunch, we had our traditional egg-and-sausage sandwiches and C cooked us French toast for dinner.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Barn?

Baby T is building a massive barn/stable/house/castle thing for a LEGO dog and Little People horse.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Baby T's plans

Here's some of what's happening:

  • The big kids get a 4-day weekend for Easter.
  • Baby T's parents' day out class had an Easter party with an egg hunt and a massive feast (Chik-fil-a chicken and fruit cup, chocolate milk, huge cupcake, small cookie, green Peep).  I took her home early after lunch, as they don't nap after parties.  She didn't nap at home, either.
  • My husband thinks that Baby T's upper body strength is increasing lately.
  • Baby T has become a regular muffin-making helper.  She enjoys smelling the spices and mixing.  She was also able to helpfully remind my husband that he needed to spray the muffin tins with PAM.  She's less than 3.5, dear readers.  
  • Baby T told my husband that she's going to learn to drive when she's bigger, and then she's going to drive to Starbucks, Petco and Old Navy!!!!  Baby T has a lot of plans.
  • C is working on Fur Elise and Ein Kleine Nachtmusik on the ukulele.
  • Her uke teacher is leaving Guitar Center for a new job.  C has worked with her new teacher before, though, and C has good chemistry with her, so it's a nice opportunity.  


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Housekeeping

I finally rearranged the kitchen bookcase so that all Baby T's art stuff is in easy reach on the second shelf.  Here's what I have out for her:

  • dry erase books
  • construction paper
  • preschool scissors
  • dry erase markers
  • washable markers
  • glue stick
  • several coloring books
  • leftover Valentine's cards
Baby T now spends hours a week puttering around with her stuff.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Night light

Here's some of what's happening:
  • C did 30 minutes of Wii yoga with me last night.  We have an arrangement where one 15 minute session = $2.  C is saving for a senior trip to Europe in four years.  They do yoga in PE at school and she really enjoys it.  I'm so stiff!  But I'm starting to get a better sense of what I can currently do, and what to work toward.  I really like having the feedback from the Wii balance board.  It's also very helpful to have C, as she has excellent spatial skills, so she doesn't get confused by the directions like I do.  
  • After a number of nights of angry wakeups from Baby T, we slept through the night last night.  It might have something to do with the fact that a friend picked up a huge star night light from IKEA for us and my husband installed it in Baby T's room last night.  I was concerned that she was going to decide she hated it, but so far so good!  She knows how to flick the switch on and off.
  • The deal with Baby T lately is that she's been wanting to use me as her human teddy bear, so even after I've gone through a longer than usual bedtime ritual, she still tells me "Don't leave!"  It's hard to know what to do with that, but the current solution is to tell her I'm leaving and to ask her for how many back pats she wants before I go.  Fingers crossed.  

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Mid-March

Here's some of what's happening:

  • Taxes done!
  • It looks like we may be able to finish off our fence this summer with our refund!  (Our backyard is 90% fenced, but with a small child at home, that last 10% is really important.  If we start doing potlucks for my husband's department, it could make it much easier on everybody to entertain young families.)
  • We also are doing a thing for the big kids this year where (right around tax prep day) we pay them 3% interest on the accounts they hold with the Bank of Mom and Dad.  (We used to do accounts for them with real banks, but it was a pain to take care of them.)  C is saving for her senior trip in four years and D is primarily interested in getting a car (although I suspect he'll be able to go on the senior trip, too).  The Bank of Mom and Dad is not FDIC insured, but you can't beat the interest rate.  
  • We're having a little cold snap--back to the low 40s in the morning.
  • C just got her monk costume in the mail--her class is going to be doing a monastery demonstration for some younger students.
  • C is back to being able to do full ukulele practices, but she still asks for an occasional Motrin.
  • After a long idyllic period of just putting Baby T to bed and then next seeing her 11+ hours later the next morning, we've hit a rough spot with Baby T's sleep.  She's now wanting to have her light left on and the door left open (we have a baby gate and a doorknob cover on that door).  Also, she has been adding many tiny rituals to the going-to-bed process (rock her in the rocker, pat her back 7 times, lie down next to her and sing to her, etc.).  It kind of makes me miss the days when I just had to dress four stuffed animals in her pajamas before getting her to bed.  She's gotten very reluctant to have me leave at the end, and will often stick a little hand out to hold me to make sure I'm not leaving before she's fast asleep.  She says, "Don't leave me!"  We've been flicking her light off and closing her door as we go to bed.  Problem is, she's also waking up in the middle of the night and needing to repeat much of the process.  She did it this morning around 1:30 something (namely, once we had fallen asleep) and I left her with the light on, as that's what she wanted.  Boo hoo.  The other thing is that apparently, only I am allowed to do this bedtime/middle of the night stuff for her now.  Boo hoo some more.  
  • Her nap is getting more and more theoretical.  Sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn't, usually it's no more than one hour, and a lot of the time, she just bounces around her room for the hour.  Problem is, they have a nap at school this year, next year, and the year after that...   
  • Baby T and I have both been enjoying discovering children's songs and videos on youtube.
  • I have started to do a little bit more planning for a West Coast trip early this summer for me, C and D.  It looks like I have about a week blocked out, but I'm not sure where we'll be during that week.  We'll be taking C's ukulele this time, I expect.  I'm planning to wait until summer 2017 to take Baby T to WA.      

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rope

Here's some of what's happening:

  • D is 11 now!
  • We did his birthday party at a gymnastics place.  They were a little amateurish (come on people--if you're serving ice cream, have spoons!) but it's a very nice facility and the boys had a great time.  We had 11 kids total, including our own--a little light considering how many we invited, but a lot of people were out of town.
  • Our main gift to D was a climbing rope for the backyard (my husband found a suitable tree).  He can climb using just his arms--no legs.
  • C had five teeth out (a sideways 12-year molar and all four wisdom teeth).  It took a week to recover to 95%.  Bummer.  She's finally back to ukulele practice, though.
  • The surgery also really interfered with her senior trip savings (she needs to save nearly $80 every month for the next four years), as she wasn't able to work as consistently as she normally would.  We've told her that we will refigure her savings number at the end of the month.  (Normally, she only gets to have as spending money anything over her monthly savings target--she's managed that for several months now.)      
  • Baby T packed her lunch for parents' day out!  And she did a good job!
  • I got Baby T a Kumon My First Book of Tracing book.  She's done the whole thing with occasional help.  The book is listed as for ages 2-4, but I think they're nuts about the 2--the complicated tracings are far too difficult for an average 2 year old.  I suggest sticking to the middle of the Kumon age ranges for safety.  
  • There's another tracing book in the series, but we'll probably wait on getting it for a month or two.  The Kumon easy mazes book will also probably be good in a month or two.  
  • Baby T is at a very artsy-craftsy stage right now.  She enjoys scissors, tape, markers, dry erase books, and chalk, with occasional forays into using wax paper and aluminum foil.  Our newish big dining room table is perfect for these large projects.    
  • By the way, I have to put a plug in here for dry erase books.  For preschoolers, they offer a lot of bang for your buck.  Kid isn't good at tracing yet?  Just wipe it off and try next week.  We have a couple of old ones, I just got a new one, and I'm expecting a shape tracing one in the mail soon, which is probably the most age-appropriate of any we have.  But Baby T can just draw in the dry erase books without me thinking, "That's a $7.95 Kumon workbook, baby girl.  Use it right!"  
  • Yesterday, we found a $6.99 My Little Pony toddler umbrella for Baby T.  She carried it around half the day yesterday.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Biscuit

Baby T has a book entitled "Where is Love, Biscuit?"  In the book, Biscuit the doggy looks for love in various places--a blanket, a warm sweater, crispy cookies, etc.

Baby T just said, "Give me a hug!"  When I gave her a hug, she said, "And that's where love is!"

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

?????

I somehow pulled off the following in about 90 minutes (aided by Baby T):

--went to grocery store and bought chocolate chips for chocolate melting project (C is molding chocolate bats to top cupcakes for a little friend's birthday), as well as other necessaries
--hit Starbucks
--returned home and unloaded groceries
--went to school, checked UIL practice times and wrote check for building fund
--hit Taco Bell drive thru and got quesadilla for D
--went back to school, met D's class as they came to lunch, gave him quesadilla and UIL practice book

All done for now!

There's some history behind the quesadilla delivery--namely that I forgot to do the school lunch order for this month for the big kids, so I promised both that I would deliver them one hot lunch this month.  One down, one to go.  

In other happy news, D's history fair costume arrived in the mail.  Hallelujah!  We only ordered it this past weekend, so it was a nailbiter.

Monday, February 22, 2016

My Little Ponies

Has anybody checked Pinkie Pie's "powdered sugar" stash?

I have some concerns.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Balloon

Baby girl is enjoying my Valentine's Day heart balloon.  Last night, in fact, she managed to untie it and it was this close to winding up stuck on the ceiling.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Valentine's Day

I saw an extremely enticing store display a few days ago and wound up coming home with a heart-shaped foil baking pan, a box of Ghirardelli brownies, and a FREE tub of dark chocolate icing (thanks to a coupon on the display).

Baby T was interested in helping, so I set up the brownie ingredients for her to assist.  She came along while I was busy setting up and dumped the oil into the brownies without being asked.  Attagirl!  I think I also had her dump in the water.  She grabbed the egg, too, but I was able to get it away from her.  We mixed up the brownie batter, poured it into the heart pan, baked it and cooled it.

After Baby T had a nap and then dinner, we frosted the brownies with the dark chocolate icing.  I also had a tube of white Wilton's icing, and I drew a small heart inside a bigger heart with the tube.

Then I gave Baby T the rest of the icing on a sheet of waxed paper and provided her a spatula and a plastic spoon and knife.  She had a glorious time.

This was all pretty basic, but it's the first time I've cooked at all with Baby T.  (My husband has already done so a couple times.)    

Everybody says that the heart brownie is delicious.  

Oatmeal

Baby T just finished scooping out all the raisins, dates and walnuts out of her raisin, date and walnut oatmeal.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Break

We're having a winter (!) break right now.  Here's some of what's happening:

  • We went to the children's museum this morning.
  • C got yet another stuffed horsey.  This one looks like the Percheron she rides out at the ranch.
  • D made a very nice Tinker Toy truss bridge.
  • Baby T is (as of this visit) able to reach the ring that pulls up soapy water into a bubble surrounding the child.
  • C has been building a large half-timbered Minecraft house.
  • Baby T has been doing lots of art work with scissors, chalk and mini-markers. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Beginning of February

Here's what's happening:

  • Baby T is having a graham cracker and Nutella moment.
  • C has been working on the Minuet in G on the ukulele.  She's lately very smitten with doing classical pieces on the ukulele--she's working through the book Easy Classical Ukulele Solos.
  • C is doing a presentation on an ancient Roman game.
  • D is getting ready for history fair.
  • He also has a rock climbing competition this spring.
  • Thanks to the kids, I now know the names of more My Little Ponies than I ever thought possible.
  • I am going to go buy donuts sooooon for Mardi Gras.  Hoping for some filled ones.  

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

End of January

Here's some of what's happening:

  • Baby T has been enjoying her mini-markers, scissors, construction paper, glue stick and Kumon cutting book.  I'm thinking of picking up another Kumon workbook, as they have lots of nice cutting, pasting and stickering workbooks for the preschool set.
  • D has been a little under the weather.
  • C is working on her snippet of the 1812 Overture and playing In the Hall of the Mountain King.
  • C is interested in doing an open mike at a tea place in town.  She really likes performing.
  • C and I are also in talks about doing an Alaska ukulele cruise in 2-3 years.  They also do these things to the Caribbean and Hawaii, but an Alaska cruise would be most convenient for us, as we are in and out of Seattle anyway about once a year.  It's a sort of floating workshop/small festival, combined with the usual cruise stuff.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Peak ukulele?

I was just looking for ukulele covers of the Beatles' "Let it be" and one of the first ones I found was a Hungarian language tutorial for the song.

C is working up a snippet from the 1812 Overture for a school performance.  She's just starting the book Easy Classical Ukulele Solos, and she's really enjoying the difficulty level of classical pieces.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Potty training?

Baby T has been informed that once she uses the potty all the time, she gets all the things.  Here is a rough list of the stuff she has been promised:

--a new pink Little People plastic doll house (we used to have one, but it had an unfortunate accident)
--a Melissa and Doug ice cream play set
--some odds and ends I have been pulling out to entice her with (including a couple of new My Little Ponies)
--a Melissa and Doug magnetic fishing set

Baby T has been talking excitedly about getting the ice cream set and having a PARTY for her My Little Ponies.

Has this translated into actual potty use?  Not yet, but she likes the idea.

I have a number of small items (key chain and stickers and small finger puppets) that I can dole out as soon as there is any progress, but the big items (doll house and ice cream set) will have to wait until there is consistent performance.

Mid-January

Here's some of what's happening:

  • Baby T was helping her daddy paint little pine cones gold for us to use as Christmas tree decorations.  (We have a bunch of big gold ones from a previous project some years ago--the old ones have done a number of years of service.)
  • The Christmas stuff is taken down and put away.
  • Baby T has had a chance to ride her balance bike outdoors a couple times on campus!  (She'd previously enjoyed it indoors.)
  • C is working on a snippet of the 1812 Overture on the ukulele for an arts night at school.
  • D is going to be in an indoor rock climbing competition.
  • Baby T has been enjoying LEGO.
  • C is back for a new term of therapeutic riding.  She got to ride the big cart horse.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Christmas break

Christmas break is almost over.  Here's what we've done, in no particular order (because I can't for the life of me remember what happened in what order):

  • We've been stocking up with goodies from World Market.  They have their Christmas stuff on sale right now.  Some of it is still on the expensive side, but we have really enjoyed rose TurkishTdelight, dark chocolate-dipped marzipan,  lemon Italian nougat (not like the nougat in US candy bars) and a dark chocolate orange.
  • There's been lots of curry.  Oh, and World Market also has a nice selection of jarred Indian and Thai curry sauces.
  • We got a big tree for the living room and a little tree for the dining room table.  Very nice, although I can't see D!
  • We got through our home Christmas prep pretty well.  Christmas notes are going to have to wait until I get Baby T back into parents' day out, if they happen at all. 
  • D made a "MERRY X-MAS" in LEGO for the shelf where I have my Christmas cards.  Awww!
  • The kids got to go skating a couple of times.
  • We went to Austin and C and I went to Fiddler's Green (a small Irish music store with a large ukulele selection) and C tried out ukuleles until she decided on a koa-top concert ukulele from Snail.  (I'm not totally sure if it's solid or laminate koa, but it's very nice.)  Meanwhile, my husband took D and Baby T to the Thinkery, an interesting but loud Austin children's museum.  We took Uber over there (my first ride--so impressed!) to meet them.  At the museum, a worker saw C's ukulele case and asked for a quick uke lesson, as they had a donated ukulele.  C gave him a 5-minute lesson.
  • For those of you counting at home, C now has one cheaper painted soprano ukulele and two mid-range concert ukuleles (price ranges from 30-something to 200-something).  She likes her new one best.
  • School is about to start and several of us are feeling a little under the weather, especially C.  She had a 102+ fever this morning and Baby T has a cough.  I'm a little sniffly.