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Monday, May 28, 2012

Mama's Magic is Moving!

Virtually, that is -- I've been hard at work behind the scenes, achieving a longtime goal: my own Mama's Magic Studio website!

It's still a bit of a work in progress (among other things, I'm in the process retagging all 1000+ posts into better categories... whew!) but I'm so excited that I just can't wait any longer to share the news.

I may continue posting over here at Blogger (still investigating the SEO involved with that). But for now, please click on over to my new online home for my new blog and more of Mama's Magic.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Maker Faire 2012

We went to Maker Faire yesterday, our second annual visit. Lots of fun but also LOTS of stress, since it was extremely crowded (and I don't do all that well with crowds). All in all, though, the day was a success.

The kids enjoyed the R2-D2 robots very much. The guys in the back had the robots zooming around their little roped-off area, interacting with the crowds. Too cute.

BJ giggled and waved and tried to talk to this little guy for quite a while. I think the man standing up behind is the one with the remote for it -- he was laughing too.
 Three blue R2s and one red R2 and two excited kids!

Alas, BB continued to be nervous about many of the exhibits, especially in the Fiesta Hall where it was dark and LOUD. BJ wasn't nervous at all. He especially loved this "Land Shark" light up robot and tried to wave and talk to it just like he had with the R2s.

 The flash washed out that pic -- it was much more impressive in the darkness of the hall.

Though the darkness of the hall also stressed me out, since BJ kept darting out into the crowd to see some other cool thing. (Sigh.) Happily, the organizers are smart about this tendency and had a station where you could get your kid an armband bracelet that would be linked to your cell phone number, so any lost kids could be quickly reunited with parents. (And even more happily, we didn't have to see how well this system worked in person.)

Both kids were enchanted with the ball chain sculpture, which hung strands of ball chain from a platform and encouraged folks to walk/dance/twirl through it.

Sort of like metallic rain! Very cool.

BB was much happier outdoors, where there were plenty of other things to see and do. We spent a good amount of time at the make your own underwater ROV area, where the kids created vehicles from PVC pipe and foam floaties. By this time, we'd met up with our friends J and J and were spending good time together. Nice to have another adult and someone BJ's age to hang around with!

 Then we hooked up their creations to the propeller motors and tossed them in the pool to see how they did!

 Another popular attraction: the LEGO Jeep!

While the boys (and J) headed over to see the Mentos and Coke show, BB and I went to the Baz Biz booths. Great to see so many of my Etsy peeps doing so well! I didn't manage to get any pics or really have time to focus on shopping or browsing, but I enjoyed zipping through and saying hi and getting hugs. BB toted along all her piggybank change and wanted to buy something so badly -- we finally found some pinback buttons at the booth of my pal Steph from NerdJERK, so BB is now the proud owner of a pin illustrated with some of Steph's crocheted Mario mushrooms.

The Mentos and Coke show was still going on when we went back to find the boys (and J). Crowded much? The stage is up there between the red robots.
We did manage to see a fair amount of the impressive soda geysers. And afterwards, BB wanted to go back and make her own cape at the Swap a Rama Rama. This part of Maker Faire was very  much more her speed -- she could have spent much more time here!
 We swung through the Expo Hall on our way out, in search of the Munchkin artist that she remembered seeing last year. (Alas, it seemed he wasn't here. Or if he was, we couldn't find him.) While BB and S searched for him, BJ and I checked out this remote controlled ball maze -- you stood on the platform and controlled it with your body. Very cool!

There was so much more that I wish we'd had time to see and explore -- so many more pics I wish I could have taken! This is why people get a weekend pass, right?

But no way are we up for two full days like that. Not yet. We hoofed it back to our parking (a good 15 minute walk away) and grabbed some dinner before heading home. A long, tiring day, but all told, I'm very glad we went.  (Especially since I'd scored free tickets for me and S, so it wasn't nearly as ridiculously expensive as it might otherwise have been!) I'm hopeful that this can become a tradition for our family, and one of these years I'll probably give it a go with a Mama's Magic Studio booth at the Baz Biz section. Just think: someday, the kids will be old enough to help me out in such an endeavor! Something to look forward to.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Another Week!

Another full week over here, and now it's gone -- zoom! Busy days, busy hands (and paws!) -- lots of fun.

BB has been asking and asking about prettying up the containers on our patio, so we took some time to visit the nursery and plant some flowers in the patio garden.  She was delighted.
We've also been enjoying picnic lunches in the lawn outside our apartment. The weather has been gorgeous!

We visited the pet store for more food for the cats and got them a new toy for their cat condo. They LOVE it.
Go Shelly! She's so fierce!
The cats are pretty good at sharing, too.
The cats continue to be a source of great entertainment as well as some annoyances. They are into everything! I've declared an escalation in the counter top wars and have armed myself with a water spray bottle (since the water pistol kept leaking). We'll see if they learn to stay down....

BJ's latest interest: the Magic Tree House series of books. He's nuts about all things Jack and Annie. He discovered that they have a website, and he's been enjoying creating his own tree house. In typical BJ style, after he does something on the computer, he likes to draw a rendition of it. He gave me my own aquarium, based on the one in his tree house. Too cute.
My own aquarium for my own "magic tree house" -- courtesy of BJ. I think I got a red notebook too (on the left) and the purple shape on the right has significance as well. I'm just not quite sure what it is.

Summer is definitely on the way, and we've been counting down the days of school. BB has only 4 days of preschool left! And BJ has only 8 days left in first grade. Hard to believe!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

15 Year Anniversary

As I commented earlier today, "15 years ago, I said "I do" to my best friend. Best two words I ever said!"

On that joyful day, so many years ago, I would have predicted that in 15 years I'd still be with my sweetie. That much I felt certain about -- when I vowed to be his for a lifetime, I meant it. I still do.

But I would not have predicted that I'd be living in a dormitory apartment on a beautiful campus in California -- I would not have predicted that I'd be a SAHM with two great kids -- I would not have predicted that I'd be on the cusp of turning 40 and wondering, "What am I going to do when I grow up?" 40 years old seemed impossible to imagine. I would not have predicted that it would feel like this! But I'm sure happy things turned out as they have. I'm so very lucky to live the life that I'm living and to get to share it with my sweetie and my wonderful family.

We celebrated our anniversary with a date night, even though it was a Thursday night and we knew we'd be up early the next day. We went out for dinner at a favorite new restaurant, Pacific Catch. Yum!

After dinner -- full and happy. That's pretty much my life right now: full and happy!

After dinner, we browsed around one of our favorite used bookstores. Bookstore dates are an oldie but goodie for us -- we've been visiting them together since the earliest days of our friendship. I can still remember the first real one-on-one time I ever spent with S: walking together from campus down Main Street to check out a book sale at the Newark Shopping Center. It wasn't even a date back then, just something for two new friends to do together.

Sitting on the kids' bookshelf is one of the books that was bought way back then at that book sale -- 26 Starlings will Fly Through Your Mind. I remember thinking how neat it was that S would purchase a kids' book. How many college freshman guys did that? No other ones that I knew! Little did I dare to imagine that someday we'd be reading that book to our own children.

I got some good finds for myself this time, including a book on collage quilts! Here's my haul for the night:  

After the bookstore, we checked out some live blues playing at a local bar. Good music but standing room only (and we'd hoped to get in some dancing, alas). We hung out for a bit, then decided to go get some ice cream. I love that we both make the same selection when given the choice between booze and loud music and ice cream and conversation. Even after 15 years, we would still choose a chance to talk together. Ice cream beats beer any day of the week, and it doesn't even really matter what we're talking about!

Happy Anniversary, my dear. Here's to another 15 years and more together.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Another Happy Mother's Day!

What a lovely Mother's Day! I got to sleep late and got all sorts of love and good family time. Who could ask for more?

When I got up -- a good hour and a half later than I usually would (bliss!) --breakfast was made for me. Idea courtesy of the kids; execution courtesy of S.

Yum! Pancakes!
I was showered with many thoughtful gifts and cards, including ones made by the kids (my favorites, of course). BB drew me a house with colored pencils -- I love how she continues to explore new techniques with her art! -- and BJ made me a card at school (on my favorite color of construction paper, naturally).

House by BB -- I had to play with the scan settings so it would show up, since the colored pencils were a little light. Love the detail of the shutters and the flowers!

The inside of my card from BJ: "dear mom. I love playing and snuglling and talking and resting with you."

S also gave me a gift certificate for a massage (yay!) and helped the kids with a "surprise" for me -- getting my bike all fixed up! After more than a year in storage, the tires were flat and it needed a bit of a tuneup. Later that afternoon, BB and I went for a bike ride together on campus. Lovely.

In the afternoon, we did our weekly Sunday Family Movie, and I got to choose. Mary Poppins! S and I also put in phone calls to our moms to wish them a happy day. Now that I have my own kids, I am ever more grateful for having had such a wonderful mother myself. Thanks, Mom!

In the evening, we went out for a family dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. Before heading out, we tried to get a picture of me and the kids, since an annual mother's day pic has become a tradition. Unfortunately, between BB's insistence on "posing" for pictures and BJ's being in the "manic cheese" stage of smiling for pictures, we didn't get a very good one of all three of us. 
BB and me, both looking sweet (one of her less obvious "poses" for pictures)

Got one with BJ before he said "cheese!"
Last year, we got a great picture of me in the middle with both kids kissing me on the cheek. (Loved it so much, I've used the pic on Facebook for a year now.) Tried again this year, with less stellar results.
BB had the right idea... a gentle peck on the cheek. BJ had to plan his approach.
Actually, this is my favorite picture of the day. I love the gentle smile on BJ's face.

Turned out that BJ's contribution was a wet, sloppy, open-mouthed smack.
I tried to keep a nice smile, but my expression betrayed the squick factor involved.
This was the last pic we tried to take in the "Good Picture For Mom Before Dinner" photo shoot.
At dinner, the kids behaved fairly well, especially considering how crowded it was. We ate on the patio and afterwards they goofed around near the entrance. They are definitely learning how to ham it up for the camera.

After dinner, we went across the street to the candy shop for a sweet treat. BJ was mesmerized by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Gene Wilder version) which was playing on a TV in the back.
Angry Birds

BB was overwhelmed by all the choices and took a good 15 minutes to make her selection -- finally settling on PEZ!
We tried again for a shot of me with both the kids...
Too sunny, Mom!
And then called it a night. What a nice Mother's Day! Hope all the other moms out there had a lovely day as well.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Like Mama, Like Daughter

I love how crafty BB is these days. She is having a particularly good time with her sewing. She has her own craft supplies and will set up her own projects. Adorable!

The other day, she used her afternoon quiet time as an opportunity to start a set of "curtains." She was so into this project that she wanted to take them with her when we headed to pick up her brother from school. While we waited for him to be dismissed, she sat at the table outside his classroom and worked on her sewing.

I was very glad I brought the camera!

I'm especially amused to see such vivid evidence of how much she is like me: she gets the same exact frown of concentration that I do when I'm working on my crafting.

Exhibit A -- just compare these two shots!

As my mom would say, "Crows don't raise canaries!" -- gotta claim this girl as my own for sure! (Not that there was ever any doubt.) It's pretty amazing that all the pics from my recent studio photoshoot didn't turn out with that same expression on my face; I confess I was making a conscious effort to try to look like I was enjoying myself!

In the Studio

Mother's Day is typically when I'm most busy in Mama's Magic Studio, working on my Handmade Magic -- especially the bird's nest designs. I love making family jewelry! This year, I was delighted to trade a custom family nest for the photography services of my good friend, Jill. It was such fun to hang out with her, do my creative thing, and get some nice studio pics in the process!
Each nest takes at least five feet of wire! I string the pearls to the center and start weaving....

Quality control courtesy of resident feline, Stormy. (At least he's learning that the wire isn't a toy! His sister, Shelly, is still figuring that out and is often banished from the studio these days.)

All the nest weaving is done by hand, mostly without tools.

Each one ends up a little different!

Jill liked how I was wearing my own family nest (two eggs for my two kidlets!) and making one at the same time.

One nest finished!
We took a bunch more pics, and I'm really looking forward to using them in some of my Etsy listings and on my website (improving the site is one of my big summer projects.) I love having talented, creative friends -- thanks for the lovely morning, Jill!

All photos in this post by Jill Bernhardt.

Monday, May 7, 2012

On Retreat

This past weekend, S and I and the kids went on retreat! It was part of the staff formation activties for S's campus community, something that happens in various forms every year. This year, they decided to rent a house up in Mill Valley and do an overnight. We thought the kids were old enough (finally!) to come along for something like this -- and we were, pleasantly, correct!

It was the first time the kids had been over the Golden Gate bridge. They were suitably impressed.

 On our way to the house, we stopped in the Mt. Tamalpais State Park to enjoy the scenery and to do some hiking. It was an absolutely gorgeous day for it, too!
What a view! That's San Francisco behind and below us.

Hanging out, waiting for the hike to start

On the way up the trail!
 The trip organizer had planned out a very easy hike on a paved loop -- but the group ended up heading up and up and up on a different trail. It was a beautiful, fun hike which I would have greatly enjoyed if it weren't for the fact that it got my lower back acting up again... alas. But we survived. Made it all the way to the top of the Fire Lookout.

2571 feet up!

Perched with Dad on the side of the Fire Lookout
The kids were especially proud that they'd made it all the way up there. (Of course they also insisted on scrambling about at the base of the station, which made me more than a bit nervous because I couldn't really follow them all that well with my back starting to act up and knowing I still had to hike back down! But S was up for the challenge of following them about. Thank goodness! Tag-team parenting at its best.) They did so well with the hike that I'm really looking forward to the next one. I certainly wouldn't have planned to take them on such an ambitious trail, but once my back is strong again we should definitely explore more some of our local hiking options.

Here we are back at the bottom of the trail. BJ caught a lizard while we waited for S and BB to catch up. He was pretty thrilled! (And I was amazed the little guy hung around on his hand long enough for me to snap a pic!)

When we got to the rental house, it was nice to take a little break and enjoy the surroundings.
View from the upper deck -- pool on the deck below, and trampoline at the bottom!
I did NOT like the trampoline... no net, exposed springs, shudder... Lots of mom worries there. But I insisted on just one kid at a time, and everything was fine. The house was very pretty, very large, and full of interesting stuff. Perhaps the oddest thing there was this taxidermied goat, which puzzled the kids somewhat. (Was it real? Was it alive? The students on the trip kept trying to convince BB that it was just reeeeally good at sitting still. Pretty funny.)


Sweet moment of the trip award: BB decided she would "study" the plants growing all around the house. She explored all the decks, making sketches of the leaves in her notebook, tracing the leaves, and recording her "observations." Too stinkin' cute.

 Both kids were enchanted with N, the 10 month old baby of S's colleague. He is such a sweet, happy baby. And it was nice that my kids weren't the only munchkins around.
The student leaders who were there for staff formation were very sweet about our kids being part of things.  We all played Apples to Apples Junior (and BJ only had one moment of bad sportsmanship; BB was partnered with C, who happened to also be one of the teachers from her preschool -- this helped enormously) and let the kids stay up later than their usual bedtime. We'd hoped to see the supermoon, but by the time it rose above the mountains and trees, it looked like a normal, though lovely, full moon.

None of us got as much sleep as we should, and we were exhausted by the time we got back home, but all told it was a really nice weekend and well worth the effort involved. Felt like a validation that we were doing good things as parents to see our kids do so well in a new situation like this. And the kids are already asking about next year!