Friday, December 31, 2010

New Year, New Project

The New Year doesn't even start for another day and I'm already WAAAAY ahead on my resolutions.

You see, I came up with this awesome idea for a year-long project. But I won't tell you what it is. Not yet anyway. For now, just check out this kewl iPod case I made.
Check out my hot pink iPod. I love it so! I listen to all sorts of podcasts (mostly NPR) when I clean the house and also before bed. Heck, the Splendid Table literally puts me to sleep (awesome podcast though).

But hot pink iPod just doesn't look right on my cream nightstand. It conflicts with calming blues and creams of my bedroom. It intrudes and makes the whole room look disheveled. So I made this case for it using an old hardcover book that I don't care to read again and a map from an old issue of National Geographic. So now the room is once again balanced!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

M's Pictures

Chris sometimes asks why do I let M use my camera to take pictures. Well, what am I supposed to let him use it for? To sweep floors? Seriously though, M is too old for a dummy plastic toy camera and we're not rich enough to buy him one of those fancy $50 ones just for kids.

And since we have two point-and-shoot digital cameras, I give him the newer, crappier one to use unsupervised. With supervision, I even let him use my older and much better Canon PS S50 because a) it takes better pictures and b) the way it's designed is perfect - there's no way M can both push the button and cover the lense at the same time.

So he runs around and shoots all what he deems most important at the moment (like myself, his fingers, and kitchen cabinet doors). Most of these pictures are way out of focus and in those that aren't, he covers the lense with his fingers. But once in a while I see some really nice shots when I download pix from the cameras. Like the ones in this post.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Our Christmas 2010 - The Snow

The White Christmas didn't quite happen this year. But we new that something was on its way nevertheless. I had this humongous headache that I get every time it's about to rain or snow. It didn't seem cold enough for snow though. As we drove home from our friends' on Christmas evening, we noticed a few drops on the windshield.
So imagine our surprise when we woke up to THIS:
Yep, 6 inches of soft fluffy snow and more falling. I was fully intent on sleeping late, but how could I?! Not when it was so beautiful and fairy-tale-y outside. I did have a thought that we should probably re-pack the gift and replay the entire Christmas morning, including pineapple pancakes. How absolutely gorgeous would that be? So very Christmas-y! Instead, we all got dressed in many layers and went outside into the snow.

So we played some games, walked through the snow, and taught M to make snow angels. He, in turn, taught us how to snow-swim. After a bit of snow-swimming he needed to go home to warm up and dry off his clothes.

While in the house, we experimented with snow - melting it, then evaporating the water. The big words learned - "water vapor", "evaporating", "solution", "mixture", and, for some reason, "flavor". On his own M made an excellent observation that to make water boil faster or more vigorously he just needed to add some salt to it.

Once the clothes were dry, Chris took M onto the deck to collect some fresh clean snow for snow cream. But instead of the plain vanilla (1 cup milk, 1/2 cup sugar, some vanilla and as much snow as you feel like eating), we went fancy with a chocolate-cranberry-pecan snow cream. Delicious! (At least the first 3-4 spoons before the whole thing melts).
After another round of running the dryer and mopping the floors, we went outside once again. This time we went sledding.

You see, we have this hill in the neighborhood, just around the corner from us, that is perfect for sledding. On a good snowy day you can see most of our neighbors there. Last year we rode on the sled with M, but this year he was big enough and said that he wanted to ride alone.
Then, at the bottom of the hill, we had a good old snowball fight. We then got back home and M played some more with his one and only Christmas gift.

Our Christmas 2010 - The Parties

Parties as in more than one. Our good friends invited us over for a Christmas Eve lunch. They have two kids. One is M's age and the boys have been friends since before their first birthdays. Our friends also invited another couple and their 3 boys. So we ended up celebrating Christmas Eve in a houseful of boys. Actually, it was super-awesome.

The boys were all different ages, from 8 all the way down to 18 months. And that always works out very well as the older ones help entertain and keep in check the younger ones. Having some Christmas-special cartoons on the big screen TV also helped. We, the adults, spent absolutely delightful 5 hours chatting and laughing and drinking wine and relaxing and babying the youngest kiddo.

But lest you think that the boys were glued to the TV, they also tore through the toys in the living room, playing with all the Lego blocks and toy cars and trains they could find. It was a fairly warm day and they spent a big chunk of it outside on the playset. And when it got darker, they got back inside, rounded up a ton of cardboard boxes of all sizes and climbed, jumped, crawled, built and demolished to their hearts' content.

Since we had the big holiday meal the day before Christmas, Chris and I didn't feel like re-creating the whole thing at home the day of. Instead, we opted for a nice brunch - turkey bacon, scrambled eggs, and pineapple pancakes were on the menu. Yum! Such a great idea! I really think we should do it the next year thus eliminating (or rather re-scheduling) all the fuss, stress and dish washing that comes with cooking the holiday dinner.

On Christmas Day our friends, the same very hospitable and patient couple, invited us all back for after lunch. Again all the kids were there and mostly played outside, including in this awesome sandbox that Santa dropped off the night before.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Our Christmas 2010 - The Gift

This year we got just ONE gift for M. Partially because we couldn't find anything really exciting and not stupid for him that would also be within the price range. So we got him this Imaginext Space Shuttle set and it's been a huge hit. We still have to participate quite a lot. The set comes with three or four figurines. One of the scary octopus-like alien monster, a couple of brave astro-troopers and something that looks like an exoskeleton from the Avatar movie. M completely ignored the troopers, but took an immense liking to the alien.

At first he kept shooting at it (yeah, the exoskeleton shoots little blue disks), but then warmed up to the critter and even took him on a tour of his space room (our family room). Since I provide the voice-over for the alien, I had a chance to participate in the tour and watch proudly as my child named all the planets to the alient, explained why we can't land on the Sun or on Jupiter, and showed, in proper order and with explanations, how glowing gas clouds come about.

He keeps referring to it as "the gift" or "my gift" as in "I'm going to play with my gift now" and "Momma, let's go play with the gift".

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ice Skating 101

Actually, we went ice skating a couple of weeks ago, but I just downloaded the pictures. This was M's first time ice-skating and we were a bit worried. At least I was. You see, neither Chris nor I can skate very well. As often as we do it, it's a wonder we remember how to put the skates on.

I, for one, can skate forward and make gentle turns. I can also come to a full stop given enough time and clearance or a sturdy object to crash into. Chris is at about the same level. And now, I'm proud to say, so is M.

To our surprise, not only did he stand up on skates without any difficulty, but he took a few steps totally by himself without holding onto us, the wall, or any other support! Of course, at first we were holding him pretty tight. He did fall a few times, but found it hilarious.

We all got tired pretty fast though, especially M. My legs felt like Jello after less than an hour of skating! Awesome! And then, after watching the Zamboni machine, we all went to get ourselves a few treats for being such great skaters.

Friday, December 17, 2010

We Finally Belong!

It's such a nice feeling to be with people who "get" you and share the same interests, right? See, starting in September we've been a bit lonely. No, I don't mean because M was not yet potty trained.
(He is totally potty trained by now and it only took me 2 days with no tears and no mess and no embarrassment. I've meant to write a whole big book, something like "No Cry Potty Training" or something, but turns out I only have 1 piece of advice - don't rush it, wait, don't worry shame or compare to others, don't listen to grandparents' nagging. One day it's like a switch will flip in the little one's head and he'll be like "yeah, mom/dad, I can do it and I WANT to do it!")

What I mean is most of our little friends started preschool and were busy 2-3 days of the week. And the rest of the time they were either sick or doing something "developmental" like craft classes or organized sports or ballet.

Then finally, at M's gym class (yeah, the irony of it) we've ran into another mom who was homeschooling her 3 year old. And she told me about this group, Cary Homeschoolers. It's secular and open to all who are either homeschooling or thinking about it. And also to non-Cary residents. So we promptly joined and it's been awesome. So far we've been to a bunch of park playdates where kids of all ages get together and play freely for hours.

We've also been to the weekly preschool co-op where 3-5 year olds do show-and-tells and listen to a story and then explore and play a lot. We've been to the Holiday Cookie Exchange - awesome, lots of cookies, hot cider and hot chocolate in the perfectly wintry, sans snow, weather. And the latest was the gingerbread house making party for preschoolers. M really enjoyed it and did most of the job decorating his house and then a gingerbread man.

So we're excited about all the new friends, about their cool toys (the Toy Story 3 Action Junk Yard), their crazy stunts (jumping off the stool face down onto the couch), and all the cool games (no holds barred tag). And I'm thrilled about meeting other moms who are giving a shot to homeschooling.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Building the Star City

I've noticed that since M spends most of his waking time downstairs, he almost never plays with the blocks nowadays. Not good! So I freed up some shelf space in the family room and moved the smaller unit blocks there. It seemed to work since he started using the blocks for different games.
And then he built a city for his astronauts and hangars for all the shuttle and the Hubble telescope and a launch pad for the rocket.
He even "planted" a few trees in his city saying that those were apple trees so that the astronauts would pick apples. And he built a planetarium for the astronauts too (can't see it on the pictures though).

Do you see that red structure made of two flat blocks and one cylindrical one? That's the International Space Station. But we ran out blocks before he could build a house for it too.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Astronaut Training

A couple of weekends ago M and I spent almost the entire weekend in astronaut training. Well, he spent it in training. I was just helping him.

But before that happened, we went to a friend's birthday. Actually, the birthday was at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham. It's an awesome place with a rocket outside and a bunch of cool exhibits inside and on the museum's grounds. And yes, kids can touch and play with pretty much anything there.
So on that particular trip M spent quite a lot of time outside, primarily at the water feature. He said it was a space station's chocolate making factory. Making space chocolates... Hmm, as long as he's got his priorities straight.

Inside the museum M spent most of the time at the astronaut's exhibit looking at the videos of lunar landings and monkeys getting trained up for space flights. He also spent quite some time at this contraption kinda like the one they have at some malls. We launched a few coins down it and M concluded that it was a black hole (I couldn't agree more).
Finally, he spent the remaining hour or so in the space capsule, counting down and launching it (his countdown goes like this: "One-two-three-one-blast off!".
So the following weekend we had an astronaut training camp. Since M already knows so much about solar system, it was a bit of a challenge to come up with the age-appropriate learning tasks. And then I realized that even though we had a total of 4 solar systems around the house, we didn't have a single comet!

That became our first training task - to learn about comets and make one. Here it is, complete with a tissue-paper tail and a cotton-ball coma.
We then experimented with gravity, practiced putting the space suit on, discussed which foods cannot be eaten on the space station, ran around a little obstacle course, and went to the planetarium. By the way, M wore his full astronaut costume - space suit, glothes, helmet, etc - into the planetarium to the great pleasure of 100 or so people that happened to also attend the "Earth, Moon and Sun" show there that morning.

Further training was delayed due to inclement weather - snow! It was awesome, falling in huge heavy clumps that quickly covered the garden, the car, the driveway. M was so excited! You can see that he didn't even want to take time to change from his astronaut suit, but instead put a shark hat and a jacket on.

But then the novelty wore off and it started getting really cold outside. So we went inside and made a huge space mural of Astronaut M Exploring Lunar Surface. Then, while M acted out space shuttle's landing on the Moon and launch of Hubble, I asked him all sorts of questions for his letter to NASA (because you know, now that he is ready, it's up to them to decide what mission he'll fly and when).

Plus M wrote his own letter to NASA just to be on the safe side. Afterwards he put some more star and planet stickers on his space ship (he says they show all the places the space ship's been to) and the day was over. Now we're waiting for NASA to write back to us.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

At the Tree Farm

We got our X-mas tree from a X-mas tree farm. Yes, the pick-your-own obsession of ours continues even with snow on the ground. Honestly, it was a lot of fun. First, the place looks very much like a toy forest with little toy trees, almost perfectly triangular and different shades of green. There were also two huge pecan trees which we first thought were oaks until we saw pecan nuts on the ground underneath.

So last Monday M and I picked up Chris after work and drove to the farm. Where he proceeded to cut the tree we chose the weekend before. Yep, he was cutting the tree in his dress clothes and dress shoes. That's my guy!

But check out M - he's totally into cutting down this tree! He was asking about it all weekend, ever since we chose the tree on the first visit to the farm. He wanted to cut it, bring it home and decorate it.
Turned out that the tree was a bit taller than we thought. It almost reaches the ceiling in the living room. And we almost ran out of our decorations.