Saturday, July 30, 2011

Heat Wave

The weather is scorching hot here. Last weekend we disregarded the heat and went to pick grapes at a vineyard about an hour's drive away. Actually, we hoped to pick grapes, peaches and apples. But turned out that peaches were all killed in the late spring frost and apples weren't quite ready for picking.
But the grapes were excellent.
We picked a lot of grapes and also had some grape slushies. These are always great!
The entire last week we mostly stayed indoors. This weekend we thought about going to a lake, but it's been record heat today, so we tried staying indoors as much as possible. Except, of course, at some point we went to Target and got a slip-n-slide, which was, conveniently, on sale.
So the rest of the day was pretty great. We set the slip-n-slide in the shade and ran it for a little while. I think Chris and I enjoyed it just as much as M did.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Star Wars Playdate

It's been super-hot here every day this week and we've been trying to stay indoors as much as possible. But Monday wasn't too bad which was great 'cause that was our official Star Wars Playdate day with our homeschooling group.

Let me just say, the mom who came up with the idea did an amazing job organizing the whole thing. They even had time to bake Star Wars cookies!
We all got together at a local park. Everyone was encouraged to bring their Star Wars toys and dress up. M finally had his dream realized - all his friends brought their light sabers and were allowed to have as many battles as they wanted. Aside from almost non-stop light saber battles, there was some hard-core jedi training. It included Nerf gun practice, insignia making, light saber crafting, learning to navigate dangerous fog-filled jungles of Dagobah.

The capstone of the event was an epic battle - all the little kids against 2 teenagers who volunteered to be the bad guys (in exchange for a chance to handle dry ice).

It was super awesome! It also helped that a day before the playdate I scored this paper mask of Darth Vader for $0.25 at a Kids Exchange Sale. M was so thrilled. He put the mask on right away and walked around the house, breathing noisily and humming the Imperial March which is, of course, Darth Vader's theme.

He wore the mask as the playdate as much as possible, but insisted on being on the side of good. You see, his Vader is a rehabilitated one who's nice and even "helps Mama wash dishes".

Beach Trip - Part 3

We were at the beach for just a couple of days and it's taking me 3 times as long to write about it. Funny, ain't it? So this is the last post about our mini-vacation on Corolla. And it's going to be mostly pictures (at least that's the plan now; we'll see how well I can stick to it 'cause you know, I loooove talking).

We took a few group pictures while on island. Of course, one of us is always missing, having to operate the camera. I guess we'll just photoshop that person in later. I like this picture above of gals only + the little kids (A. was swimming with her dad).

This picture is not bad either. Vadim is missing from it 'cause he was behind the camera.

Then there's this one, taken on our last day as we were all returning from the beach. This time Masha was taking the picture. No worries, we'll photoshop her in later, I guess :)
When it comes to pictures of myself, I usually don't have many. I generally don't like being on pictures 'cause my hair is never right, my weight is never right and having fun posing for a picture is just not something I know how to do. But seeing Masha and Irina having so much fun being photographed, I decided to give it a try. The result is above. See what I'm saying?!

Photographing others is fun though. Here's my super-sexy hubby enjoying the surf.

Now, before setting out on our trip, we made a list of things we wanted to do while at the beach. Kite flying was one of them. So on the second day of our stay we went to fly kites. It was so much fun!!! I just wish we had the time to make our own kites instead of buying them. But we'll leave this idea for another time.
Another thing we wanted to do was to go out to a restaurant. It wasn't even that we wanted something special to eat. But we hardly ever get to go out and so the experience itself is pretty special to us. We took M with us even though it was pretty late and he was going to miss him regular bed time. But you know, it's just so much fun to take him along. Plus the restaurant we chose was very casual and had this little pier jutting out into the Sound with a little boat house at the end of it. So there was plenty for M to explore while we waited for our appetizers. Something I completely forgot to put on our "beach to-do" list was to dig a giant hole in the sand. Fortunately, we were reminded of it on our last evening there by a family that dug an absolutely enormous hole. Seriously, it was more like a mini-crater than a hole. Very inspirational. So M wanted to dig one just like that. And he wanted to do it all by himself. No fair! It was my idea in the first place!
Fortunately, as he got about mid-way through it, the hole became too deep for him to dig from the outside and he needed my help widening it without crashing the sides in. And then we decided to keep digging until we hit water (although there was a brief discussion of how awesome it'd be if we hit oil instead).
Finally, the giant hole was dug and all the little ones wanted to climb into it. Preferrably, all at once. All except for baby Jake who just wanted to pour water into the hole 'cause that's what he is into.

I honestly planned on getting up early at least once to see sunrise. Every evening I made plans for it. But then, around 5:30 every morning I'd wake up briefly and think "no freaking way" and go back to sleep. Sunrises are tough for me. Sunsets are much better. Except we didn't get to see sunsets either. We tried once, but were late by maybe 2 minutes. No matter 'cause it was beautiful anyway. BTW, Chris is NOT chocking me (this is his manly hug) and he is NOT in the Navy (the word "Old" in "Old Navy" is obscured by my big head).

Did I mention that the house my cousins rented came fully stocked with like everything? Down to board games! So our second night there we all played Life after all the kids went to bed. I'd never played this game before and I wish I did. I almost won too, taking the third place (out of 6). I think nobody noticed that for the first half of the game I wasn't supposed to draw any salary (being a substitute teacher). I didn't notice that for sure, being busy drinking wine.

Like father like son for sure and so adorable!
M was very upset that we had to go back to Raleigh. He wanted to stay for longer. So to soften the blow and help him (and selves) with the transition, we stopped by an icecream parlor in Kitty Hawk on the way back. M got an ice-cream cone, looked at us (we didn't buy any for ourselves) and asked "как на счёт вы вдвоём купите себе мороженое?" [how about the two of you buying yourself some ice-cream?]

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Lighthouse Family

It's a title of one of M's most favorite Recorded Books (books on CDs). He listened to the Lighthouse Family: the Storm too many times too count. He also pretend played the story with me being Pandora the Cat, himself - Seabold, the Dog. Also, as I'd take him to our favorite local seafood place, we'd look at the framed prints of lighthouses and tried to choose the one that looked most like the lighthouse in the story. But he'd never seen a real lighthouse before.

Needless to say, he was very excited when I told him that while at the beach, we'll get to see (and climb) a real life lighthouse. Just the kind that Pandora lived in. Hooray!

And so we went there, the three of us and my second cousin, A. M was absolutely thrilled to see a real lighthouse and even more so 'cause this lighthouse was red, M's most favorite color (yes, still). He couldn't wait to go inside. But we had to stay in line which was difficult with two impatient kiddos. So instead we left Chris to stand in line and I took the kids into a gift shop. There I made an unwise promise which seemed like a really good idea at the time...

You see, the brochure said that there were 214 stairs to the top of the lighthouse. I was a bit apprehensive about M climbing them without my help. And I really didn't feel like carrying him up or down, especially in the narrow and steep part of the spiral staircase at the top of the structure.

At the gift shop M was so taken with the little model of the lighthouse and wanted it so very much, that I promised to get it for him IF he were to climb up to the very top and down again without asking to be carried. His cousin wanted a little toy wild horse and a similar promise was made to her except the condition was she had to "behave" (yeah, rather nebulous, but she's 7 so I think she knows by now what it means).

Then we climbed all 214 stairs to the very top. The 360-degree view from the top was amazing! Except (and that's where "not so wise" part of my promise became evident) the kids were in such a hurry to get their toys that they didn't want to stay up and enjoy the scenery. Instead, they wanted to hurry down and into the gift shop! Still, we managed a couple of pictures. I must say, A behaved and M climbed every single step, just like he promised! So both got their gifts (and I got a mood ring for myself 'cause I wanted one after listening to Judy Moody Predicts Future 100 times, another of M's favorite Recorded Books).

We then walked over to get some ice-cream for the kids. This was a good move since it allowed us about 10 minutes of sitting in the shade quietly enjoying the views.

That day M carried the lighthouse toy with him everywhere (did I tell you, turned out it had a little battery-operated light and so was even more amazing). And he listened to The Lighthouse Family while in the car.

Later that night, before going to bed, he wanted to play the Lighthouse story. So we invited A. to join us. She wanted to be Laila, the little Mouse. And the three of us had some awesome lighthouse adventures - several severe storms, a wild horse that showed up and became Laila's pet, and a sudden appearance of Luke Skywalker on the island.

And the next day we went back to the lighthouse. Except we didn't climb it. Instead, we walked over to the Wild Horses Museum. Turned out, they had a "paint your own wild horse" activity going for kids. So M and A got to paint little horses. A's horse turned out all pretty and very real-looking. She spared no details and worked very diligently on painting it. M's approach was different. He worked in bold brush strokes, laying thick layers of paint. I was afraid it was all going to turn "the preschool slime brown" color, but he stuck to the pallete of red, orange, a bit of brown and lots of pink and it turned out kind of sunset colored.

Finally, we walked on a nature trail all the way out to the Pamlico Sound. M was in a terrible mood 'cause he was very tired and just wanted to go back to the house. But we'd have none of it. The Sound was too beautiful and just a few steps away, just past a forest of reeds. Fortunately, after reaching the Sound, M felt a bit better and even joined in on the fun of dipping his feet into a very shallow and very warm water.
I love this picture. Am I not married to like the most handsome guy ever? Just thought I'd brag.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Corolla - Day 1 and 1/2

Last Tuesday was just about the longest day ever! M and I had to wait for Chris to come home from work and the day just dragged. Mostly because M kept asking every few minutes if Papa was on his way home yet. I was busy as a bee trying to get stuff done, like wash the dishes, clean up, make sandwiches, pack, leave extra food and water for the cat and on and on.

Finally, we were on our way. Took us a while to get out of town since we had to make a last minute stop to pick up some wine for when we get to the island. By the time we got to the rental, it was already past 10pm and M was way overtired and past his bed time. So first, I took him to bed and then we just chatted with my cousins and their wives for a little bit.

The next day we all slept in, including M, which was very unusual and very nice. Then we went to the beach to find crabs. M's idea, before leaving home, was to catch a small crab, put it into a jar and bring him home as a pet. And he marched off to the beach proudly carrying his brand new catching net. And then, at some point while walking on the soft sand, it occured to M that crabs hide under the sand and can pinch his feet whenever they feel like it. That was the end of crab catching and almost the end of beach going (I had to promise him to go the part of the beach with no crabs from then on).
The water was very cold though so we didn't swim or even waded much (mostly just for pictures). Instead, after a short while we returned back to the cottage and jumped into the pool. Ok, so I might be exhaggerating a bit about the whole jumping in part since the pool was also cold (or it seemed so 'cause it was nearly 100 degrees outside).

M splashed around in his life preserver and inflatable sleeves and had lots of fun with all the different water toys and floaties. His cousin joined us and the two of them had a blast. M learned a new phrase "dog paddle" and was splashing around screaming it off the top of his lungs. Except he was saying it as "paddle dog". Too funny.

Next thing we knew it was time for the little ones (the two toddlers) to take a nap which meant M had to stay very quiet, something he has a hard time doing. I mean, he tries, but keeps forgetting to speak in his quietest indoor voice. It was too hot to go to the beach, so instead the four of us - Chris, myself, M and his cousin - went to the Currituck Lighthouse (to be continued)

How Gaming Got Us to Corolla

Have you heard of Well, I was researching something not very relevant when I stumbled on it and it looked confusing, but interesting. So I looked through the forums and there it was - a post (can't find it now) from someone who set up a job search game. It sounded cool - turning a stressful and frustrating process into a rewarding game. At the same time, we've been trying to pay off one of our student loans. So we decided, why not make it a game?!

We were already making more than the minimum payments on the loan and figured that we'd pay it off by the end of the year. But it was a drudgery. So we set up a whole system of game levels, points and rewards. Oh, and there were penalties too. I'm not going to bore you with the details. Besides, we tweaked the game as we played it. For example, the way the rewards were originally set up wasn't working; it just wasn't very motivating. So over a couple of beers at the local Flying Saucer we came up with a better rewards system. Our top level reward morphed into an off-season overnight getaway to some place nice, like maybe Edenton, NC or Wilmington, NC.

Long story short, the loan is paid off as of early last week, months ahead of schedule. And we already claimed our reward, thanks to my cousins and their families. They rented a house in Corolla for a week and invited us over. So we had our dream getaway and more - 2 whole days during high season in a vacation rental on the Outer Banks with the family!!! It was AWESOME!

Now we're back (I'll post more pictures later tonight) and are going to set up a new loan paying game (we have LOTS of student loans). This next loan is going to be a pretty big one and we estimate even with the game it'd take us close to 2 years to pay it off. So wish us luck!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Just Random Pictures

I got a bunch of random pix that I took throughout the last couple of weeks, starting with this one above - the first tomato from our garden. So here they are:
This is M and one of his friends at our regular Friday morning park playdate. They usually just run around and have pretend sword fights with sticks, but this time they found a little frog.
And here they are sliding down the slides. They are almost the same age, the other boy being 4.5 already (turning 5 in a couple of months). And while their temperaments are very different, both of them are extremely talkative and really enjoy playing together.
This is an engineering test we conducted. How many bricks can M stack up? How many can he stack up so that they hold a ramp? How many can he stack up so that they hold a ramp loaded with toys (or with him)? Also, we explored how changing the angle of a ramp affects how objects roll or slide off of it. And what angle would be easier to climb. And then M discovered a see-saw (out of a plank and a little chair).

This is M playing a doctor after I (nearly) broke my toe. I was icing my toe, but it still hurt a lot. So he made me wear all sorts of plastic junk and a pair of binoculars to make me look like a robot. Because, as he pointed out, robots don't hurt. So as long as I'm a robot, I won't hurt either. He was very pleased with both the solution and the idea of making a giant robot.
This is Chris and M making a solar oven out of a pizza box. This is our new idea (ok, my new idea) - that they have to do some kind of a father-son DIY project each weekend. Their first project was a solar oven 'cause we already had a pizza box. In case you're wondering - the egg didn't fry, but the white congealed... after about 4 hours.
I picked up several math workbooks from a dollar bin at a Target store. I wanted to keep them 'til our school year officially starts, but M got interested in the PreK workbook and here we are giving it a try.
This is M at a local playground. For almost 3 hours he played with a group of kids from a local camp. They seemed to really like him and accepted him into the group easily. At one point they even made him "the center of everything" in one of their games. He enjoyed it as well especially since the kids were mostly older than him and helped him up and down the stairs.

Later that same day, after the camp group left the park, M got busy digging the river.
Finally, this is the latest Star Wars toy that we found at the flea market. In case you don't know, it's a TIE Figher. Most TIE Fighter are flown by the bad guys, but this one is different, as M assured me. M repaired it (see the robot changing the solar panels?) and taught it to not be part of the Dark Side.