Monday, August 29, 2011

Like Riding a Bike

After playing at a friend's house, who was riding a two wheeler, the Caboose decided it was time for him to learn.

Not long after we went out to start practicing.
Before long all the neighbor kids came over to cheer him on. They would clap for him, and explain what to do, and line up on the street encouraging him to "see if you can go THIS far!"

By the second night he was able to go the length of the street.

Learning to read and ride a two-wheeler all in the same summer? My baby is evaporating before my eyes!

And he couldn't be more proud of himself.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pepsi Light

The Denver Nugget's home court is the Pepsi Center. It's pretty fabulous; great music, live action on the jumbotron, a scoreboard with loud buzzers, etc.

Big Boy #1 has managed to create a miniature version of the Pepsi Center in the basement. I call it the Pepsi Light Center, or the diet Pepsi Center.

One of the best parts of a game at the Pepsi Center is the live video shots on the jumbotron. Big Boy #1 found a bunch of old equipment in the basement and hooked it all up so that it showed the kids live, as they were playing. Then, he created a PowerPoint presentation for the game opening introductions which highlights each player. It is really incredible.

One of my favorite parts of any game in the Pepsi Center is the great music. So BB#1 set up my old stereo to play all kinds of great sports themed music. He also figured out how to get his iPod to play on my old system and then found an app for his iPod that lets him play only the chorus of crowd-thrilling, popular tunes.

The latest addition to the Pepsi Light Center is this scoreboard. It took a lot of mowing, but BB#1 saved up his money and bought this way cool scoreboard. It buzzes when the clock ticks down and everything.

The final touch was when Big Boy #1 set up a bunch of lights around the basement and hooked them all together on one switch, which he flashes on and off during the opening introductions.

It's quite the set up and the boys just love it. They had some friends over earlier this week and they all seemed to think the basement was pretty cool. I'm beginning to wonder if this kid may have a future in sports broadcasting. I know Diamond would love some free tickets!

Friday, August 19, 2011

First Day

The kids have already been in school for a couple of weeks now. YES, they started the FIRST week of August. (Seriously? I feel so ripped off! I want more summer with my kids!)

I only captured one picture of BB#2 before he took off with his other 5th grade buddies.

And here is Big Boy #2 on the first day of seventh grade.

But the real story this year is that the Caboose started kindergarten. Of all my kids, he is the most ready. He has been to the school countless times, knows so many of the other kids from church, and has been progressing academically. He was BEYOND excited to start school.

But ME??? Well, that's a slightly different story. I was doing just fine, seeing him off and waving goodbye as he walked through the classroom door. But then just as I was about to turn and head home, Big Boy #1 decided to sneak a peek through the glass window to the classroom. How could I resist?

I peeked through the window to admire how darling the Caboose was as he put away his backpack and got into his chair. So CUTE! And wouldn't I be a bad parent if I didn't take a picture or two through the glass???

I admit it may be a tad too much, but he's my baaabbyy!

One of My Favorite Things

One of my very favorite parts of being a mom is watching my kids learn to read. There is something magical about hearing "cccc-aaaa-ttt, CAT!" and it makes me swoon just a bit. I love watching the world open up as they begin to see words around them and discover the joy of reading.

This summer the Caboose has entered that world. And we owe it all to these little jars of pennies.

When I was a little girl, my parents paid me a penny a page to read. I vividly remember sitting at the kitchen table, reading Hop on Pop and deliberately dropping a shiny penny into a custard dish page after page. While we didn't adopt that strategy with the first two, this summer we started paying the Caboose one cent for every page he read. He has been so motivated to read and earn some cash that over the summer he would pour over simple beginner books for hours on end with those little jars of pennies tucked in next to him. We have gradually introduced more complex books and it has been amazing to see him growing as a reader!

I LOVE reading, and seeing that love blossom in my kids is absolutely a highlight of being a mom. Love it!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer Reading

My favorite time of the year to have a good book in hand is summer. I just LOVE the utter relaxation that comes from mixing sunshine, a diet Coke and a great read. This last batch has some goodies!

This was hands down my favorite of this batch of books. I could hardly put it one down. Tiger Mother is the autobiography of a second generation Chinese immigrant who insists on raising her children in the traditional Chinese way. Amy Chua is tough, occasionally to the point that I would consider abusive, but she makes some fabulous points about the weaknesses of Western parenting. It was a book that gave me a lot of think about and probably even changed my parenting style just a bit. Really, really great.
Tracy recommended Escape on her blog and I found it to be a fabulous book. Escape is another autobiography, but this was of a women who lived under the Warren Jeff's polygamist rule. Carolyn Jessop tells about her life growing up in a polygamous community, her marriage to a powerful church leader and her eventual escape from that life. I can get really, really agitated by the topic of polygamy, and I was a bit hesitant to even read Escape, but for some reason the book didn't leave me feeling anything but fascinated. I liked it a lot.
I didn't see the movie, but all the hype had me reaching for Water for Elephants. I have to give a disclaimer that because the book follows the life of a circus troop it's a bit rough. There is the violent animal master, the drunken exploits, the description of the peep show, etc. The heart of the story is a love triangle between the star performer, her abusive husband and the animal veterinarian. It was really interesting to learn about circus life and I found myself anxious to see what was going to happen next. It's not for everyone, but I found it really compelling.
My friend Danae recommended this one on her blog. It tells the story of four generations of women in rural Appalachia. There's a bit of a slow start, but it picks up steam with story of a set of young twins and their emotionally disturbed mother. It's almost a mystery as the book explores how the disturbed mother become so unstable. As the story revealed itself, my interest grew and by the end I was totally engrossed.

I know I'm a bit behind the curve on this one, but I just finished reading the Last Lecture. It's about a 47 year old college professor who, after finding out that he is dying of pancreatic cancer prepares for and delivers his last lecture to his students at Carnegie Melon. Randy Pausch makes no qualms about the fact that the whole thing is really about leaving a series of life lessons for his three young children. While there were parts of the book that were way too cheesy and other parts were he came of as way too vain, it was still a touching book that left me in tears on more than one occasion.
Ahh, Sophie Kinsella... It's all fluff, but I love me some fluff - especially in the summertime. Mini-Shopaholic continues the series that began with Confessions of a Shopaholic. In this latest addition, Becky's bratty little girl Minnie causes all kinds of grief for her parents while entertaining the reader. It's not great literature, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

When the BBC came up with its list of 100 Books to read I felt a bit of a compulsion to start checking items off my list. Reading The Adventures of Sherlock's Holmes came from that urge. I was a bit surprised to realize that the book is a series of vignettes about the famous detective, as opposed to some overarching plot that wove through the story. I had it on my iPod, which really was perfect for that kind of thing. I could read a tale or two, then put it away until the next time I had some time on my hands. The book itself was find enough. I didn't LOVE it, Holmes was a bit too smug for my tastes, but it was good enough for me to spend some time on.

Skipping a Beat is a solid chic-lit read about a high school sweethearts that became extremely wealthy, but emotionally distant. They get a wake up call when the husband has an unexpected heart attack. I found it a bit predictable, but did make some good points about what truly is important in a relationship.I have to thank my fellow bloggers out there who also share what they are reading. So much of what I read comes from recommendations from others. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mount Rushmore

As a parent of American children, there are certain places we are just "supposed" to take our children, right? Disneyland, Yellowstone, and Mount Rushmore. While Yellowstone will have to wait, we were able to cross Mount Rushmore off the list this summer.

And if we are going to be going on a road trip anyway, why not bring Vern and her family along for the ride? Vern and I drove up in one car with Samantha and the Caboose while the rest of the boys were in the other car. So great! The boys got along wonderfully, and Samantha was amazing with the Caboose.

While at Mt. Rushmore, we were able to catch the evening program, which included a video highlighting the presidents as well as a tribute to all the veterans in the audience. It was touching to hear the crowd cheer and applaud the veterans with Mount Rushmore in the backdrop.

Of course Mount Rushmore was all of about two hours of our trip. Diamond found Fort Hayes, a town constructed by the makers of Dancing with Wolves. It was interesting to walk around and see were the movie had been filmed.

Looks like Drew had had enough of Big Boy #1 by that time.

And it didn't take too long for the kids to wind up here:

Instead of Dances with Wolves, felt like we should be in the musical Oklahoma sitting in this "surrey with a fringe on the top."

I'm not sure what a bunch of historic cars were doing on the set of a Civil War era town, but the boys thought they were very cool.

Bear Country was another highlight of our trip. Here the animals roam free while the people drive around safely caged in their cars. The bears ambled amazingly close to the car thrilling everyone inside.

Vern and the elk:

We also stopped at Jewel Caves to explore the world's largest cave. The Caboose was too little to go on the "Lantern Tour" so the two of us opted for a slightly shorter version.

One of the highlights for the boys was touring "Cosmos", a little place in the Black Hills that optimises optical illusions to create water flowing uphill and strange angles that make you a little dizzy.

It was hard to even walk across the room!

We only spent a few days, but it was a great little getaway before returning to school. Thanks Vern for coming with us!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Scout Camp

Big Boy #1 went to his first Scout Camp this summer. When asked what he missed most about home he said "my bed and my toilet." Nice. Good to know that bed and toilet rank higher than Mom. Whatever.

I really can't complain. It was a very successful week wherein he earned SEVEN merit badges. (This is were I have to give a HUGE shout out to his Scout leaders who signed up the boys for everything possible, and then still did two extra merit badges with the kids during free time.) He just about earned his Life from that week alone!

BB#1's favorite part of camp was working on his swimming merit badge, even though it was also the hardest thing he did that week. The boys had to make a floatation device out of their jeans. BB#1 described that treading water while trying to take heavy, water-soaked jeans off in the deep end of the pool was far from easy. Picking up a brick from the floor of the deep end wasn't much better. But he enjoyed being in the water and accomplishing something that was difficult.

Although our troop only had four boys come up, BB#1 was able to camp next to the boys from our old ward and was able to spend time with his old friends, which he thoroughly enjoyed.

When we asked about the food, he said the best food was the ice cream and worst food was the mystery meatloaf, that one kid confused for steak. (Yuck!)

Diamond spent a couple nights up at camp with the boys. He's a good sport - especially considering that their tent was downwind of the outhouse. (Double Yuck!)

All in all, a week spent surrounded by beautiful trees, with a bunch of rowdy boys to hang out with was a great success.