Sunday, July 26, 2015

Lego camp for Luke and Abbey Time for Me

Several months ago I signed Luke up for his first ever Lego robotics camp (starting on July 20).  So, he has been anticipating the start of camp for quite some time.  On Monday, that time arrived, and he began "lego camp."  At lego camp, he was with kids aged Kindergarten through third grade and they collaboratively used the "Wedo" robotics kits.  Each day they built at least one pretty difficult robotics project.  And, the first 15 minutes and last 15 minutes were used as "free build" time.

While Luke was at camp, I enjoyed some special one-on-one time with Miss Abbey.  It is rare that I ever get time alone with her, so we both really enjoyed it.  After we dropped off Luke at Lego camp on Monday, we headed back home and had a little tea party in her bedroom together.

Luke was beyond excited when we picked him up on Monday--not because we were picking him up, but because he was having a BLAST!  All of the other children were on the floor doing their free build projects.  But Luke was so enthralled by the robotics project that he was still programming his project to do various things on the laptop.  I didn't event know he knew how to use a laptop mouse.  I guess he picked it up pretty quickly.  This is what he programmed the first day:

He also programmed and built a chomping alligator, a carousel, a ferris wheel and a roaring lion later in the week.  Here are some photos, and a video of the ferris wheel he built.

Each day when we picked Luke up, Abbey wanted to build something.  We have a whole family of lego lovers here.
Abbey and I had a great time on Tuesday at our favorite bakery and then the Thinkery (our local children's museum).

Abbey loves experimenting with different "sauces."  For our popover, we had the choice of a homemade honey butter or a homemade strawberry rhubarb jam.  Abbey wanted both and continuously switched back and forth between the two for each bite.
  It is a totally different experience when I go with just Abbey to the Thinkery vs. going with Luke and Abbey.  When we go with Luke, he could stay in one area building something for hours.  He is definitely our little engineer.  Abbey also loves to build, but spends more time painting and pretending at the grocery store and kitchen.

making me some food at the Thinkery
checking out her height.
loved using the squeegee to clean up her paint (maybe even more than painting)

On Friday, Abbey and I had a special morning with her first real tea at The Steeping Room in the Domain, followed by some shopping.  She was excited about her first real tea party.  :-)

She loved drinking her caffeine-free strawberry tea in her special "breakable" cup. 
We had such sweet conversations together--she's always so expressive when she speaks.
She loved clanging her cup against mine and then taking a sip.
I opted for a refill of some caffeinated tea--Abbey wanted a tiny sip of it.
On Thursday when I picked Luke up from lego camp, I reminded him that the next day, Friday, would be his last.  He was so sad.  He said, "But I want to go for 100 more days.  And, I will miss my teachers."  That kid is so sweet!  In fact, his teacher told me pretty much every day, "Luke is just the sweetest boy--so obedient and kind and works well with everyone."  That warms a momma's heart!  When we got home on Thursday, Luke asked if he could make a card for each of his teachers.  He spent so much time on them, wanting them to be just perfect.  On Friday, when I picked him up from camp, he was so sad--almost seeming depressed.  His teacher said he was literally in tears because he had made a robotic carousel and really wanted to show me, but the teachers asked all the kids to take them apart before parents arrived.  On the previous days he got to show me what he built when I picked him up, so he was saddened that I didn't get to see his most favorite build.

Here he is very sadly building a vehicle at the free build time on Friday.
I felt so badly for him that he ended the day sad.  But, once I told him that they actually make those lego kits that you can buy, he perked up.  I think he is hoping for something like that for his birthday now, ha!  It was such a great week.  Luke had "super fun" (in his words) at Lego camp, and I had some great special time with Abbey.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Take Your Child to Work Day

Recently, Luke and Abbey (and I) got to experience a day at Drew's work.  Honestly, before that day neither child really understood what daddy does at work besides "work on computers."  Drew's actual job title is "Senior Software Engineer", and he got to show the kids what all that entails on take your child to work day.   In addition, his company had a ton of really fun STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities planned for the kiddos.   I meant to bring our camera to document this fun day, but completely forgot.  Thankfully though, I always have my phone camera.  :-)

Walking into daddy's work

They begged to cross the water on the stones on the way to picking up our work security badges.
 First, we had to get our work badges.  Luke and Abbey loved their badges.  They also received a fun "goody bag" full of great surprises, including a random "Wooly Willy" toy, which I loved playing with as a child.

They were pretty excited about those badges...and the goody bags.
 A firetruck and a police k-9 unit vehicle were also there at the "take your child to work day" event, for the kids to explore.

You can see here though, Abbey seems more excited still about the work badge than the cool firetruck she is sitting in.  :-)

for comparison purposes, we had them stand in front of the fire truck's tire so they could see how large it was.
We also got to look through two separate extremely strong solar telescopes.  One telescope used a white light filter, highlighting sun spots.  The other was a hydrogen-alpha scope that showed details on prominences and filaments.

I know the event was called take your child to work day, but Drew and I really enjoyed all the events too.  I was pretty excited to check out the telescopes and view the details of the sun.

We headed to Drew's office for just a bit before the next event.  As you can see, his photos need some serious updating!  Those photos of the kids are from a few years ago.  I am going to get on that soon!  :-)
One of our favorite activities of the day was "Dr. Kold."  Dr. Kold, who is actually a retired IBM employee with a PhD in low temperature physics, demonstrated the properties of liquid nitrogen and other materials at low temperatures.  This was so cool--literally, ha!  The kids learned about each of the states of matter (solid, liquid and gas).  We also got to see the transitions of the various states happen right before our eyes, learning about sublimation, deposition, vaporization, etc.  He used the cold gases to make bubbles when adding dish soap to dry ice.  He did so many fun experiments right before our eyes.  But, of course, the favorite of the audience was when he made ice cream in 19 seconds. He then gave samples out to everyone.  :-)

Although the activities didn't give the kids a great idea of what Drew does on a day-to-day basis, they were excellent STEM activities: aimed to get the kids excited about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), each of which Drew uses regularly.

Another great STEM activity was the bridge building event.  Kids created bridges out of dry spaghetti and marshmallows.
Then, after it was finished, we had to see how strong it was by adding as many pieces of candy as possible before it fell apart.  We eventually criss-crossed many spaghetti noodles along the bottom to hold the candy. 
In this room, they also had a white board (as a "photo booth") and some fun props that the kids could use.  Then, we used our phones to take their photo.  I think these two sillies are pretty cute!
Next, it was time to see what Drew really does when he goes to work....

First, he took us to the pairing lab.  The pairing lab is where Drew and another employee share a computer (each with their own screen) when they are working on specific code.   It is a great way to collaborate and perform code reviews simultaneously.   The kids liked some of the "toys" that were in the room.  Like this really cool dart gun.

Here, Luke is using the "machine gun" dart gun.  It was super cool!
It shot rounds onto the dart board.
But, this still didn't give the kids a great idea of what Drew does as a job.  So, we went back to his office for him to show us what he works on.

Drew explained to the kids how he writes code (on the screen on the left) which creates a working application (like the screen on the right).  
The easiest way to explain it to them was to tell them that daddy writes code that creates applications, much like the games they play on the ipad.  Luke was pretty excited to do some coding himself--which he would get to the following week at Lego robotics camp.
What an awesome "take your child to work" day!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Things I want to remember about Abbey at age 3.5

Little Miss Abbey is growing up more quickly than I would desire. I don't want to miss or forget any aspect of who she is at 3.5.  But, I feel if I blink, she will suddenly be 4.  Before I forget what she is like today, I thought it would be a good idea to write it down!  I plan on writing a post on Luke soon as well.  I don't want to forget what my sweet little guy is up to lately either.

Your Name is What?  

Currently, Abbey enjoys naming each of her stuffed animals and dolls.  And, I don't mean name them once and then call them that name going forward.  She names them a very creative name, and it sticks for a day or two. Then, I say, for example, to her turtle, " Oh what are you and Paddly doing right now?"  She quickly corrects me, "Her name is not 'Paddly' it's 'Madily'."  She actually comes up with some great names.  For example, her panda is usually named "Bamboo."   She loves to name things after fruits as well.  If an animal or doll is wearing or has some red on it, it is often named "strawberry."  A few days ago, we were playing in the front yard with some of her ponies. She had told me the one I was pretending with was named "Vanilla."  It was a white horse with a lot of fancy blue accents in its saddle and decorations.  A little while into our play, the horse's name became "blueberry."  Right before we finished playing, that horse was named, "eyeball."  I have no idea where that came from, but she and Luke laughed every time I said its name so I am sure that was her intent--to be silly.  Abbey loves to be silly and make others laugh.

Tiny Dancer and Fashionista
Abbey is such a girly girl.  This morning, while Luke and I were doing our usual Thursday cleaning we were playing some fun music really loudly.  It makes cleaning more fun.   I asked Abbey if she could pick up a couple of pairs of her shoes that were laying out.  She said with a little bit of sass, "But I am REALLY busy dancing." But, my sweetie pie did eventually pick up those shoes without me asking again.  Although, she did so in a fluttering way all the way to the shoe closet--in true Abbey fashion.   She loves to pick out her outfits each day.  She loves fashion, clothes and shoes.

She made my day one day when she asked to wear a dress my mom made for me or my sister when we were little girls.  My mom used to smock dresses for me and my sister.  This dress is a treasure to me because it was something my mom made with her hands.  With my mom's deteriorating health, I am even more appreciative of every memory I have of her. 

Painted Nails
Abbey has been asking me lately if she could have her toenails painted.  I usually have mine painted, although I don't believe she has actually seen me in the process of painting them.  I never paint my finger nails, so I don't even know if she knows about people commonly painting those.  My toenails are currently painted blue, which is her favorite color.  I remembered that she was gifted with some "Piggy Paints" (non-toxic nail polish for little kids) some time ago, and we were waiting until she was the right age to appreciate it.  Well, that day arrived.  So, I asked her if she wanted her nails painted.  She was so excited!  Of course she said, "yes," and then very quickly said, "let me go get my paint."   She headed to our craft area and was getting out her favorite craft paint shade of blue.  "Aw, darling, I'm sorry, you have to use special paint for your toenails called 'nail polish'," I told her.  She wasn't let down at all though.   She simply fluttered behind me (she always flutters everywhere she goes) and sat down eagerly waiting for the polish to paint her darling little nails.

Look at those tan little toes.
Astute & Love Language
Abbey picks up on everything going on around her.  From overhearing Luke and I work on different topics at school, she has learned them.  For example, she can count to one hundred, she can count by 10's to one hundred, and can count by 5's to one hundred just because she has overheard Luke and I work on that.  She likes to be able to do everything that we can do.  She is a perfectionist too and "words of affirmation" is most definitely her love language.  For example, when we are swimming in our pool and we remind her that she needs to kick her legs more when swims to us,  she very quickly says, "I will next time, let me try it again."  Then, she will do it again, almost always better, and will look for those words of affirmation when she asks, "How did I do that time?"

Little Charmer
She has also learned how to work the pouty face.  Unfortunately, it is often very effective.  She can work that pouty face and most often get a reaction out of whomever she is targeting.  The most effective method is when you are holding her, and she puts her hands gently on your face so that your eyes are looking directly into hers.  Then, for added measure, she will add a couple of kisses on the cheek and an eskimo kiss.   I would say that is effective about 95% of the time in her getting what she is seeking.

Goodness gracious I love her so much!  I could just hug and kiss her all day!  Everything about her just makes me want to hug her tightly and smother her with kisses!
She gives the best hugs and kisses. She likes Drew to take her to bed.  She insists on giving him a big hug and a few kisses every night before she sleeps.  Then, in the morning, when she awakes she comes into our bedroom and says to both me and Drew, "let me give you a good morning kiss."  She also says, "now you need a good morning hug."   And, she continues to give out these fabulous hugs and sweet kisses all throughout the day at the most unexpected but delightful times.

4-course Breakfast
Abbey currently has a 4-course breakfast.  She sits in her high chair and eats one thing (for example, toast with peanut butter), finishes it and asks, "what else can I have?"  So, I give her some homemade granola.   She devours it and asks again, "what else can I have?"  So I give her some plain organic yogurt with chopped up bananas in it.  Again, she finishes it and then asks, "what else can I have?"  I ask, "how about some fruit--watermelon, pear or apple?"  She picks one, eats a bowl of it, and then is usually ready to go for the day.   Thankfully, she doesn't eat that way the rest of the day.  I guess she just really feels breakfast is the most important meal of the day. :-)    

Currently, I think it is cute and awesome that Abbey adds "ed" to every word that she intends on making past tense.   I guess she has gathered that most words are made past tense with "ed" added to the end, but it doesn't work with a lot of words.  One example is "eated."  The funny thing is that she used to say most of these words correctly (she used to use "ate" instead of "eated.")  Randomly one day a month ago or so she changed them all.  She also makes sure to enunciate the "ed" part of past tense words that are supposed to have the "ed" at the end--although still not correct.  For example, she pronounces "watched" as a two-syllable word, "watch-ed." I think it is adorable, and we are just rolling with it for now, knowing that she will learn it soon.  I also find it cute that although she can clearly say the "s" sound, any word that end in "s", she ends with the "k" sound.  For example, she pronounces, "Jesus" as "Jesuk."  So, when she sings "Jesus loves me" it sounds like "Yeck, Jesuk lovesk me." These are things I want to remember.  :-)  

The Pretender
She is so good at pretending with whatever she happens to have in her hands.  And sometimes, she even pretends that her hands are characters and pretends with them (for example, when she is in the car).  Listening to her pretend is often very entertaining.  I overheard her recently pretending that her Woody action figure had a couple of pet dinosaurs.  So, I grabbed my phone and tried to capture a video of it.  Of course, I interrupted her play a little and it would have been better if I could of been sneaky about capturing it without her seeing me.  Not the best video, I still got a little bit of the storyline.  I just know some day I am going to cherish having videos of her sweet little voice just being her.  I need to take way more of these types of videos.  She is growing up!    So I end this post with this little video:

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Grape, I mean Great, Adventures!

On Saturday morning last weekend, Drew, the kids and I set out on a bicycle adventure.  We rode to our town's downtown to the "Market Days." 

At market days, about to head to the restaurant to grab a bite for lunch.

It was about a 5.3 mile bike ride to this location downtown.   All along the way on the tree covered trail, the friendly folks we passed said, "good morning!" to us!  Everyone was smiling. The weather was fabulous.  We saw tons of beautiful birds and critters.  We even passed cows, horses and donkeys.  It was a perfect day!  I just love our town!  We then ventured a little further on main street to a restaurant we have wanted to try for a very long time.  The "Scarlet Rabbit," has an "Alice in Wonderland" theme for the decor.  It is such a fun place.  And, the food was ridiculously good!  We had a perfect bite for lunch and then we headed back home.

One of the restaurant employees saw me taking photos of the decor and asked if we wanted a family photo. (Terrible angle for a photo with my leg hiked up like that---not sure what I was thinking--makes my leg look much larger than it is, ha!   At least I am in a photo though--usually I am the one behind the camera.)
On our way back home along the trail, I noticed what looked like a bunch of grapes on the ground.  Then, I located a huge vine hanging over that area.  I took a photo of the vines and what I thought were grapes.  Then, we we got home, I posted the picture on a gardening group I am part of--they confirmed my suspicion.  These were mustang grapes and they were abundant. 

Mustang grapes are in their prime season right now--they grow really well in central Texas and can be found mainly along the edges of woods.  You can't really just eat them off the vine--they are pretty bitter, and they can make your hands itch.  But, apparently they make excellent jelly and wine.  So, we decided to go back later that afternoon and gather some with the proper tools--we did a little "foraging".  My plan was to make jelly and attempt my first ever "canning" experience.

This is Abbey's "I am ready to get some grapes" stance apparently.
You can see Drew used gloves and brought some clippers.

After a while in the sun, the kids got a little tired of standing and holding bags.  But, I believe it made them appreciate the process of getting those grapes and other fruits to the grocery store.

Drew walked with the kids to the playground nearby while I finished up collecting grapes.  I wanted to make sure I had plenty to make some jelly with. 

When we got home and I began removing each grape from the stem, discarding the imperfect ones, I realized we had more than enough.  The process to remove the grapes from the vines and then to wash them took a really long time.  All the while, the kids were asking me when it would be ready.  So again, it really helped not only them but also me appreciate the process that goes behind making that grape jelly.  Because the grapes are pretty tart, I noticed most of the recipes required a significant amount of sugar.  We don't typically buy any products that have sugar added to them, as I am a avid ingredient label reader.  Before anything comes into our home or into/onto our bodies, I read the ingredient list to make sure the product has ingredients I don't mind myself or my family consuming.  Since I was planning on making a lot of this jelly and we would be eating it every day, I wanted to make sure it wasn't full of sugar.  We have come so far on eliminating sugar from our daily consumption I didn't want to go back steps.  So, I finally came across a recipe (click here for a recipe for Dyanne's low sugar mustang jelly) that called for low-sugar or no-sugar pectin, which meant I could use significantly less sugar.  Also, I used coconut sugar instead of other more processed and higher glycemic index sugars.  I watched tons of videos and read many websites on the the topic of canning as well.  I was so concerned that after spending all this time collecting these grapes, locating the special pectin and spending the time removing the grapes from the vines and thoroughly cleaning them, I wanted to make sure the jelly turned out right and was canned properly. 

Here, the grapes are getting a good, thorough bath in vinegar and water.
The finished product!
I am happy to report that my first canning experience was a success!  I heard each of the lids pop, which means they were secured.  We can store this jelly in our pantry for up to a year!    Next time, I will use much smaller jars--once opened, the jelly lasts for 3 weeks in the fridge.  Using smaller jars would have been nicer, and it would be easier to share the jelly with more people.  But, through our mistakes we learn for next time.  That is what I always tell the kids.  Now, I have the confidence to do more canning--like tomatoes, pickles, the possibilities are endless!  And the only canning supplies I purchased were the jars.  I always thought you had to purchase all sorts of "supplies", but I researched how to do it with things most people already have in their kitchen.  Of course, if I end up canning more frequently, I may eventually purchase some of those helpful supplies.  Anyway, that is the story of our little Saturday "Grape Adventure."  Oh--I almost forgot--you may be wondering how the jelly tastes.  It is yummy!

And I have to add one more note to this post.  I am so proud of our little guy, Luke.  He rode over 12 miles on our bike ride on his bike, which has no gears to change.  Drew and I changed our gears several times to trek over very steep hills, but Luke had no such opportunity to change his.    He did an amazing job--and he is only 5 years old.  I don't think I ever took a 12 mile bike ride when I was his age.  He didn't even complain once.  I love our little guy so much!