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Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve

Hard to believe -- another year coming to a close. It's been a good year, a full year, and I feel very lucky that life is generally going so well for me and my family. So much to be thankful for.

Tonight, we'll be joining some friends for a "New York New Year's Eve" (celebrating 9 PM instead of midnight) so that the kids can take part. Should be a fun time. Then we'll head home and S and I will have a quiet evening together. We've never been big on New Year's celebrations, so a quiet turning of the year is fine by me.

Here's to 2012 -- may the New Year be bright and blessed.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Time with Tia!

What a great way to spend a day of Winter break -- visiting CuriOdyssey with Tia M!

It was a lovely December day (if a bit chilly) and the kids were thrilled to have some time with their Tia. They practically tackled her when she arrived!
We got to see all sorts of neat exhibits...


local wildlife... like this beautiful bobcat
snakes (much to BJ's delight)

some waterfowl...
an eagle (thought of you, Dad!)

otters!

they even had banana slugs! (this one's for you, Mom! They really do exist!)


After the museum/zoo, we had a little picnic and explored the grounds a bit.
Of course the kids loved asking Tia about all the nature stuff -- she's our resident expert! Here she's telling BJ about the eucalyptus buttons.

What a fun day! Thanks, Tia, for the invitation! We'll hope to see you again soon.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

More Kitten Cuteness

Our new furry members of the family are definitely settling in. It's like they were always meant to be here. So sweet to see how well they get along with each other, and very dear to see how patient they are with the kids. They are both extremely playful, very well socialized, super sweet, and the boy especially is very snuggly. Definitely getting some much-needed kitty therapy around here.



As requested, here are some pics. Actually, it's been rather hard to do justice to their extreme cuteness. Because they are so close in color, and because they like to spend so much time together, I keep getting pics that look like a single cat with three ears, or five limbs, or the like.

Enjoy the kitten cuteness!

To sleep or to play -- that is the kitten dilemma. (BJ with Stormy, our super snuggly guy.)

The kittens like Mousetrap as much as the kids do!
Snuggling together under the Christmas tree...

That's Shelly looking right at the camera. She's getting more white to her markings almost by the day!

There's that cat with three ears I mentioned earlier...

Look for more kitten cuteness soon! It's so wonderful to have them here.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

BJ's Ant Farm

For a Winter Break science activity, we finally got around to obtaining ants for BJ's AntWorks Space Age Ant Farm. Over the summer, we'd tried the ant farm with ants he collected, but it turns out you need a specific species, harvester ants, for it to work. The setup is pretty cool, actually. The ants live in a blue gel media which is apparently based on a 2006 NASA experiment to study ants in zero gravity. This thing was practically made to suit my kid's interests!

Here he is in his "laboratory" next to where he's going to set up the ant farm.


He was so excited when the ants arrived in our mailbox! He's showing us the little vial in which they traveled. 30 ants in there!


We put them in their new home and sealed the lid.

Wow, Mom! COOL!

BJ decided that he'd keep an Ant Journal to study his ants in their habitat. It took a day for the ants to start digging, but once they started it was quite impressive!




BJ is definitely interested in his ants (though admittedly, the arrival of the kittens has demoted their status as "pets" -- which they were called, with great excitement, when they arrived before Christmas). He told me, "Mom, this is great! When I get bored, I can just go and watch my ants!!!"

The whole thing reminded me of a book that I vividly recall from my childhood, The City Under the Back Steps, by Evelyn Sibley Lampman. Alas, it's out of print and very pricey to obtain (I suspect there might be a copy up in my parents attic, but I wasn't going to ask them to go looking for it!) so I ordered the much more reasonably priced audio CD from Chinaberry. We've been following the adventures of Jill and Craig (complete with post-listening discussions about gender stereotyping, an unexpected bonus) and I've been impressed with how well the audiobook keeps the kids' attention, not only BJ but BB as well. They were rapt throughout the entire first CD (more than 70 minutes) and today we listened to the second and third (each also a bit more than 70 minutes). First time we've tried an audiobook like this. Fascinating!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Family Portraits

One of the many posts that didn't get up in a timely manner -- we had our family portraits taken back in November, thanks to a fundraiser with BB's preschool. The photos turned out quite well!




About time we had a nice family pic -- not to mention one of S and I together!

This one is my favorite:

And it's the one we chose for our Christmas cards, too!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas

Ours was a very, very Merry Christmas -- from satisfied recipients of Santa gifts to the sweet introduction of new four-legged family members, it was wonderful from start to finish!

BJ was awake first, not surprisingly. He was thrilled to see the Big Stuffed Snake he'd asked Santa to bring.
BB was pretty danged excited to see her Princess Leia doll (alas I didn't get a very good pic, tho!)


Stockings were unstuffed -- revealing sweet treats and various Star Wars miniatures. What can I say? Santa knows what these kids like!


"Dad!" BB exclaimed, "You don't have to get me a Princess Leia Action Figure anymore! I GOT ONE FROM SANTA!"


The kids were sweetly thoughtful with their gifts to me -- from BB, a thread organizer!


From BJ, a watch to replace the one he'd given me for my birthday (which got lost at one of my craft shows recently, alas).


BB was so excited to give S the Munchkin Board Game. She could barely contain the secret.

BJ was excited for S to open his gift as well -- a t-shirt that said "VADER IS COMING -- Look Busy!"
Like I've said, Star Wars is popular around here these days!

And I was very excited for our big surprise -- which went off about as well as one could ask. After they opened the book I'd written for them, BJ was all about sitting down and listening to it. BB, not so much. Not wanting to ruin the moment, we took a break for some breakfast, then I read the book to them. It was very, very sweet, BJ's reaction especially. At the end of my story, when I wrote about Shelly and Stormy getting the "forever home" that they'd wished for -- our home -- BJ looked at me with tears in his eyes. "Is it true?" he asked.

"Want to go see?" I replied with a smile.

The kittens behaved beautifully, coming right up to see us when I opened up the door to the master bathroom where they'd spent the night.


BJ was still pretty teary-eyed even after spending a good amount of time playing with the kittens. I think he just couldn't quite believe it. S gave him a big hug and reassured him that the kittens would indeed be staying with us, their "forever home." I love that my son feels things so deeply especially where animals are concerned (reminds me of myself that way).

The kittens were happy to join us for opening the rest of the gifts. After a while, Shelly settled under the tree for a Christmas nap.


Stormy had a great time playing with the Nativity set. (What is it about Baby Jesus that makes the figurine such an attractive cat toy???)


Turns out the palm trees are pretty yummy, too, apparently...
(This picture just cracks up BB.)

Auntie B, I just had to share this picture of BJ opening his gift from you guys -- as you can tell, he was pretty danged excited. That expression is not feigned at all!


BB wanted to get right to work on some of the art and craft kits she received. The shrinky-dink fairy set was definitely a favorite.

Nana J was a great sport about all the kitten excitement -- and she and BJ especially had great fun with the Wii she gave the family for Christmas. It was very cute to see them playing Super Mario together!


Later on, BB decided to "help" the kittens take a nap. She cuddled them for a while...



Then settled them to sleep in a pile of her favorite blankets. Even tucked them in. Their patience with this process is sure testament to their sweet good nature, I tell ya!


I spent the afternoon making the worst Happy Birthday Jesus cake I've made to date (and I've been doing this a while!)



The 7 minute frosting just refused to set up -- and unfortunately, in spite of the evidence in front of me, after about 14 minutes of whipping I decided that it was "done enough" to ice the cake. Gravity promptly did its job, pulling the frosting into puddles around the bottom of the cake. Sigh. At least it tasted good!

After that fiasco, some kitten therapy was definitely in order.
I love how bonded these siblings are. They will just relax together almost anywhere, in that sweet kitten nap state. Here's the view from my perspective:

I am excited to see just how stripey these kitties get -- from this pic, it looks like Shelley especially might be a tabby after all!

All told, it was a lovely Christmas day. Missed my family, and it was exhausting, the way that Christmas is for parents (and unfortunately, no nap this year) but worth it, definitely worth it. Merry Christmas!