Sunday, November 27, 2011

Keeping Busy!

The kids and I have been having a great time this past week or so--Brooklyn had all of last week off of school, which I was so excited for!! Some days we did a ton, and others we did absolutely nothing. So in other words, it was fantastic! Here are some of the things we've been up to...

Bubba brought the kids some finger lights and I showed them how to take long exposure photos in our pitch black bathroom. I showed Brooklyn how to press the button to snap the photo...
...and let her at it...
...until the kids couldn't decide who was going to push the button and I was afraid my camera would end up in the Momma had to intervene. Done for today, kiddos!
Brooklyn saw a magic show at her school last month, and she LOVED it. She was SO excited to come home and show me how to bend a spoon...I had an inkling she thought she truly possessed the magic to do it, so hinted that magic isn't entirely real...but she HAD to show me how it was done.

The look of excitement on her face was heartbreaking as I knew it wouldn't last long. She waved her hand magically above the spoon and said proudly, "ABRACADABRA!!" First came the look of confusion, and then the heartbreaking, alligator tears streaming down her face. At that moment, I wanted to punch that magician in the face, lol. But she got over it and despite the trauma, she is still intrigued by magic.

There was a children's magician performing a couple of towns over this past week and both kids were SO excited to go! This theater was PACKED with kids under the age of 6 and their parents. Fun fun.
Here is the fantastic Zappo himself. I personally wasn't extremely impressed, but the kids adored him. I'll give him credit though--he did squeeze in all sorts of educational stuff: numbers, letters, colors, animals, countries, etc.

And he was really good with the audience--lots of of which was Brooklyn. And her mom... I KNEW I should have changed out of my breakfast stained shirt that morning. Sigh.

He had her draw a picture of what her mom looks like first thing in the morning on a piece of fabric. He then cored an apple, and wrapped the apple in a paper napkin. I was given the apple to hold on my head ala William Tell, while the magician made Brooklyn's picture turn invisible. She then took the invisible picture, and threw it at the apple on my head. The magician then pulled the picture out of the apple. Voila! Brooklyn was in seventh heaven, especially since she got to keep her picture. Then we got to go sit back down with Sam, who was expecting to be able to go up next...whoops, sorry dude.
The kids have been interested in video recording things lately. Well actually, Sam likes to record lots of things, but Brooklyn doesn't care to--she just likes to look at how things look in the camera screen. So be it. So we've been taking the camcorder to all sorts of things lately.
We made a trip to the Oakland zoo, which was great! Not too big, not too small, lots of big spaces for animals to move around, no crowd, perfect we got in for free instead of the 50% discount I was expecting. We had a BLAST running around, each of us taking turns choosing which way to turn and which animal to see next. It was actually really amazing--nearly all of the animals were out and about. The elephants were AMAZING. And the giraffes were RIGHT THERE. And there was this crazy monkey who was swinging all around the trees in his exhibit. And the bats! Wow! Way fun.
The local rock climbing gym was having a special for kids--$10 for 3 hours of climbing. And I've been wanting to let both kids try it out as I figured they would love it, with the way they whip across the monkey bars and shimmy up poles at the playground.

I assumed Sam would walk right up the wall to the top first thing, as Brooklyn is usually a bit more reserved about heading into something like this head on. This girl just WENT FOR IT. It took a time or two to get the feel for it...
And then there's this monkey who wasn't as crazy about shimmying up the wall as I thought he would be. He had a tough time figuring out that he needs to climb with his feet as well...he uses mostly upper-body strength, and then started using his KNEES to climb with, lol. Anyways, he spent the majority of the time scaling the smaller wall and dropping to the mat below. ...and playing with all of the other kids there.
Brooklyn went up this wall and run the bell at least 7 times before the volunteer told her she could probably do the next harder one took her a time or two, and a little encouragement from the volunteer who was belaying her, but she did it! And again. And again...
Sam would occasionally decide to give the big wall another try, and each time he would make it a LITTLE farther. Well finally, with a bit of help and encouragement from the girl belaying him, he made it!!! He got down and said, "I do it again?" Both kids closed the place down wanting to go again and again. And they have been begging to go back again...I would LOVE to get a family membership...if they offered one, and it wasn't a kazillion dollars. Alas, once or twice a month will have to suffice.
After rock climbing, we headed over to the library where Brooklyn was signed up with the Paws to Read program. Turns out it was Crafting Friday too! So my two turkeys got to make some turkeys. Aww...
Here's Brooklyn when she went to her first Paws to Read. It's neat--they have a large room int he back of the library and they bring in 6 dogs and their owners and the kids get to pick out 3 books to read to the dog. It's so sweet! And then at the end, they are given bookmarks with a photo and info about they dog they read to so that they can collect all of the bookmarks. She absolutely loves it.

I am an avid reader of the Play At Home Mom blog, and they are big on sensory development stuff. Although both of my kids are a bit older than theirs, I thought I'd try a few ideas, just to see what kind of curiosity it piqued in both of them...

The first thing we tried was shaving gel. I just squirted a bunch in the bottom of this bucket and let them do whatever. I thought it interesting that neither ever even touched the gel, or even wanted to after suggesting it. Sam quickly decided it needed ice and water. Brooklyn decided a bit later that it needed paint. Lots of paint. So they mixed colors and whisked and scooped and had fun.
After a break, I thought it would be fun to see how they reacted to vinegar and baking soda. Of course Sam loved it. I noticed that Brooklyn would get intrigued for a bit, and once she'd seen something, she was pretty much done. Occasionally she'll later suggest adding something else--usually paint.
I loved all of the bubbles that it made!! Russ and I had fun doing it as well--we got out funnels, vases, marbles, rubber bands...just for fun. We actually ended up using 2/3 a gallon of vinegar...hehe.
Sam had had so much fun that day doing the sensory stuff, Brooklyn and I took a trip to The Dollar Store to see what sorts of stuff we could find there. I was so excited to find water beads there! And food coloring! So we added the water beads to the bucket and I made some "spray paints" for Sam to experiment with. Russ soon suggested the garlic press...
SQUIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIISHHHH............ The end result of the garlic press-ing was a sloppy mess of gloop. Blech. But seriously, if you have the opportunity to play with water beads, do it! They are so much fun!
Haha, just had to show Russ's...invention, I guess? It worked pretty well, actually, lol.
"Mom, I need my OWN avocado."
More Dollar Store crafts...give the kids some popsicle sticks, some googly eyes, and some glue and you're good to go for a good while.
Of course you are required to see each and every creation...fortunately, when googly eyes are involved, they are quite hilarious at times.

Well, today was officially the last day of Brooklyn's Thanksgiving break, and I'm really bummed about it. We've been enjoying having her back at home with us SO much...15 more days of school and she's all mine! Yippee!!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


While my parents were visiting, Brooklyn drew my mom's portrait. Very impressive.
We had a fire one night, and the kids wanted to read books by the fire...except that it wasn't a very bright fire, so Grammie had to don the headlamp. Stylish, no?
Another reason we wanted Grammie and Grandpa Scott to come down this particular weekend was to go trick or treating with us! Unfortunately, the last flight out of Oakland was at 6:30pm, so neighborhood stuff wasn't an option. Instead, I figured there would be plenty of places to trick or treat in downtown business areas. As I started searching for a place, I quickly realized that they just don't do it anymore!! Apparently our city decided to nix it in favor of a Halloween Carnival--and they charge $5 a head. Grumble grumble.

We did find a nice little area near the airport though and the kids had a BLAST. They both filled up their buckets just by going down one side of the block and up the other.

Oh, and Brooklyn decided that morning that she wanted to be a reindeer (she even did her own makeup), and Sam decided he wanted to be a gymnast! HA! People would say, "Oh what a cute reindeer and....uh...uh..." "I a bim-nast!!" he'd say. Hehe.
After trick or treating and some lunch, we headed to a park that was close by and happened to be on the waterfront. What was I thinking??? Kids + water = no good. See...SOAKED.
Of course Grandpa had NOTHING to do with it, I'm sure.... "Here Sam, take my hand..."
"SURE I'll swing you over the water..."
"Oh look at hands were slippery..."
"Gwampa Scott, I SAID NO WET GO!"
After dropping the grandparents off at the airport, we zoomed back home to hit the Dollar Store for some glowsticks to give out to the neighborhood kids while the kids decided what they wanted to be this go-around....Brooklyn settled on a princess and Sam went for Super Mustachio. Love it.
We ended up scarfing down some dinner and as we were headed out, our neighbors were walking by and invited us to join them. SO much fun!! The kids got to run from house to house with their buddies and we got to get to know our neighbors some more.

We didn't even make it the entire way around our small block and the kids' buckets were full AGAIN. They were handing out full-size candy bars!! Crazy. The even crazier part was that I told the kids I'd pay them a quarter for each piece of candy they "donated" to me...I had to re-think my strategy as I was going to be out $70!!!! So we did a dime per piece. I was impressed...Sam wanted to shove all of the candy in his face, so I put the money in his hand first and then he had to give it back if he wanted to keep some of his money. He still opted for more candy than money though, lol. Brooklyn though ate maybe 8 pieces of candy TOTAL. Unfortunately, Russ and I had no one paying US not to eat it...alas.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Alcatraz and Muir Woods.

My mom had a "big" birthday this year. I probably shouldn't tell you which one...oh well, she's hundreds of miles away, she can't throw anything at my head from that far away...

My mom turned 30 this year. Yup, the big 3-0. Can you believe it?! Where have the years gone...

Anyways, we've missed out on many a birthday since we've been in North Carolina, so we decided to do something fun. My dad and I started scheming in early September for her end-of-October birthday. Flights were SO much less from WA to CA than they were to NC!! We thought it would be fun to surprise her with a trip to visit us.

My dad was amazing. He called her boss and arranged for her to take a couple of days off, explaining the circumstances. And then on the big day, he picked her up for "lunch". Her friends at work knew about it and were so excited for her, they could barely restrain themselves. Apparently my mom's boss told her that she (her boss) would be going out of town this weekend, so my mom needed to get some extra work done. My mom wasn't aware that her boss was fibbing, and was just helping my mom get caught up on everything before she had to leave town so she wouldn't have a pile of things to do the size of Mt. Everest when she got back. my dad shows up to pick up Mom and she's hurrying to finish everything and her co-workers are hurrying her out the door. They get in the car and he says, "Where do you want to go?" Thinking she's being a smart-alec she says, "North Bend!" (North Bend has a large outlet mall, and is conveniently 2/3 of the way to the airport they were flying out of.) So Dad says, "OKAY!"

So they pull into the outlet mall, drive around, and Dad says, "You know what? This is NOT good enough for this milestone birthday." And he leaves. Of course Mom is thinking, "What the heck does he have up his sleeve...?" Over the course of the afternoon, he takes her to various restaurants, etc. saying, "How about this? ...No, not good enough."

They finally end up at the Mall in Tacoma (I think that's the one, anyway) where he drives around seemingly aimlessly, looking for "the perfect parking spot" (which was directly in front of my grandma's pickup truck...but Mom didn't notice). So they head inside the mall, meandering...they end up in the men's boots section (I believe it was), and "randomly" run into my grandma and aunt!

So they all head out to the car and my aunt proceeds with the, "Hey let's go in here...nope, not good enough" act. Finally she starts driving in the direction of the airport. When it becomes obvious that that's where they're headed, my aunt says, "Hope you brought your passport!" HA!

They finally get to the airport and Dad opens Mom's door, "Do I need my purse?" is her reaction. Um, yes, you need your purse. Then he unloaded all of the luggage--Dad had been keeping a notepad of information over the previous week about all of his favorite things she wore so he'd know what to pack. He also packed an ENTIRE SUITCASE with everything "beauty" from her makeup box to nail polish and remover to hair stuff that hadn't been used in years. Unfortunately, he was so busy trying to get everything right in that bag that he forgot to pack more than 2 shirts for her...whoops! So he got to take her shopping.

Anyways...once they got to the airport they called me and I told her she was coming to visit. Goodness...that story should have been a post all in itself!

Okay...on to the photos...

So Mom and Dad got in late Thursday night and we had to be up and out of the house by 8:30am to get to Alcatraz. Everyone was excited!
Checking out all of the different piers--SO much to do and see in San Francisco!
We got there just in time to take a potty break and then get on the ferry.
It's not hard to be silly when Grandpa Scott is around...
View of San Francisco as we pull out of the dock.
Can you tell we're excited?? We've been talking and reading about this trip all week!
Alcatraz with the Golden Gate bridge on the far left.
Did you know that Alcatraz wasn't just a prison? It was first a desolate rock that served as a military outpost as it was the first thing intruders would see as they came into the bay by ship. Then after it closed, the native americans claimed it as their land and took over for awhile--there is graffiti randomly painted around the grounds as evidence of them. Then it soon after turned into the oh-so-famous prison.
Another thing that I didn't realize is that the majority of the people that worked at Alcatraz lived there. Families and everything. They had houses and gardens and everything. The only actual prison area is that building on the top of the hill (above photo).
Listening to the speaker tell us where to find everything. Brooklyn didn't want to let go of her Grammie and Grampa Scott.
We were much happier hanging back out of the crowd while Sam was more than content looking in and poking his fingers into holes in the cement. Fun.
We watched the movie that they recommend you start off with and by that time, everyone needed a snack before we went off exploring.
I love the architecture here. This would be perfect for some wedding portraits, don't you think??
The men fell in with a tour-guided group, but we didn't have attention spans big enough for we did this instead.
This used to be the officer's barracks or something I think? Where they had all of their entertainment...I believe they used to have some sort of bowling in here...I'm fuzzy on the facts. My reading of information boards was severely punctuated with "Be Careful's!" and "Stay Where I Can See You's!" and "Watch Out For The Tourists!!"
The water tower. Very cool architecture.
Not sure this girl's feet ever touch the ground...
Sam was hungry and tired and had a full-blown face-to-the-pavement meltdown. Grandpa picked him up and sack-o-potatoes carried him up the hill.

We got inside the prison and decided to attempt the audio tour. Of COURSE you have to go through the showers to get your audio tour. It was pretty crazy.
I highly recommend doing the audio tour--it's absolutely captivating. It's like a book on tape--you get to hear from the prisoner's and guard's point of views and stories's just amazing listening as you walk through there, imagining what it was like.

The D-Block...apparently awful as it was always either sweltering or freezing. And then there's the whole solitary confinement thing on the bottom that puts a damper on one's afternoon, I would imagine.
Checking out solitary confinement. One of the prisoners stories on the audio tour was that the first thing he'd do when he was in confinement was rip a button off his clothes and toss it (keep in mind that it's pitch black when the door is closed) and spend hours trying to find it to keep himself sane.

Our Alcatraz tour got cut short as some of us didn't have the attention spans required to keep going. And it was lunch time. And nap time.
We drove around San Fran and stopped at a Safeway for some lunch supplies. Had lunch in the car with all of the doors and windows open, basking in the glorious sunlight. Then we headed out for the Muir Woods, where all of the redwood trees live. Of course nearly the entire car passed out from exhaustion while driving there, and nearly missed driving over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Everyone was all rested up by the time we got to Muir Woods. Unfortunately, we only had an hour to hike, but we ended up getting a family pass as it was cheaper than paying for the one-time entrance fee. Woot! Can't wait to go back and do the 5 mile hike.
The kids love looking at tree rings. This was neat--each of those dots corresponded to certain things in Columbus arriving in the America's. Crazy.

It was absolutely gorgeous here and we were all so excited to finally see the redwoods. Next on the list, the giant sequoias in Yosemite. We were hoping to spend Thanksgiving there, but given the fact that they recommend having a 4x4 vehicle while visiting there in the winter...I think we'll wait until spring...

As we were leaving, Brooklyn had to use the restroom. When she came out, she had this big wad of toilet paper. "What is that for??" I asked. "In case anybody has to go potty on the side of the road!" Duh, Mom.

On the drive home, everyone promptly fell asleep...minus the children in the very back yelling, "MORE WATER PLEASE!" and other lovely things. It was good though--the sunset over San Francisco was nothing short of absolutely breath taking. Can't wait to go back again!