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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Lucky 7 Year Old!

BJ turns seven today. (I'll spare you my cliched maternal astonishment over this fact and just repeat: SEVEN!!???!!!)

The tooth fairy visited him for the fourth time last night. She left seven coins (and two fairy kisses, one for each kid; his kiss is on the other side of the note that was left with his coins).

Seven years old and four adult teeth grown up. So he is sporting a double gap-toothed smile today, one on the top in the middle and the other (the latest one) off to the side on the bottom. You can see both missing teeth is the pic above, as he excitedly eyes his birthday cake. (We got smart and did a small ice cream cake, since it was just the four of us.)

We started off the day with opening gifts, much to his delight. While we were waiting for S to wake up, I told BJ he could have a little iPad time. Guess who got all excited because I'd put Angry Birds Space on the device? (Hint: not me or BB.)

The other gifts went over very well also, but I don't think anything got that same super-excited smile. The boy loves his Angry Birds. (And put them in outer space? Could it be any closer to his specific interest set???)

He especially liked the geodes and crystal growing set from Giki and Pop-Pop. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

He'd opened the Angry Birds set from my folks earlier this week, when it arrived in the mail. They were definitely a hit:

We gave him the Angry Birds board game, too. (Yep, there's a theme here.)

And a cardboard color your own rocket ship. Cool!

(He'd opened the other gifts from family earlier in the week as well, and I didn't manage to get good pictures. Mom fail! Oops! But thanks, everybody, for the generous and thoughtful gifts!)

BJ had said some time ago that he didn't want to have a birthday party this year -- he wanted to visit the California Academy of Sciences. We'd originally planned to visit on Friday, when there was a school inservice day, but one of our on-the-ball friends (who also happened to be planning a visit on Friday) informed us on Thursday night that the museum would be closing at 12:30 on Friday! Disaster averted and plan B goes into effect: we will visit on BJ's Actual Birthday! Guess 7 really is lucky, because we sure got lucky in this case!

We told him he could bring one friend, and it wasn't surprising that he chose H, his "best friend." H is a super-sweet girl that has been his friend since kindergarten -- it was at the end of last year that he declared her his "best friend," and the label has stuck this year. She was a lovely addition to our family trip, and it meant to much to him that she was able to be there.

No visit to the Academy is complete without checking out the dinosaur skeleton! (Too bad I didn't get much of it in the frame!)

The rainforest was once again a huge highlight, especially the butterflies.

You know it's friendship when you'll share your butterfly! This one showed us what a "social butterfly" is all about, visiting from kid to kid!
We ran into our friends who had alerted us to the Friday closure and joined them for lunch and the planetarium show. Afterwards, we hung out by the pendulum for a bit. (BB and S had the patience to watch it until one of the pegs got knocked over. Drama!) Here are BJ, H, and friend J hanging out (literally).

We'd thought we might stay until the museum closed, but about 3:30 the kids started running out of gas. We finished our checklist of things we wanted to see -- the diver in the coral reef, the penguins -- and headed home. Rainbows on our drive home were a nice touch to a nice day (which had started out with furious rainstorms on the drive up to the city):
Happy birthday to my sweet, lucky 7 year old boy. Seven years ago, your arrival changed everything -- breaking the white light of my life into a dazzling array of colors. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Happy Spring

We've been enjoying the spring weather over here, taking bike rides and visiting the campus gardens with their beautiful wisteria and blossoms. BB's getting really good on her two-wheeler, and BJ has discovered the fun of his scooter. Good times!

Feeling very lucky to live in such a beautiful place!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Not Bilingual

I sometimes feel guilty that my kids live in such a monolingual household. Their cousins speak English and Mandarin, many friends speak English and Spanish, some schoolmates speak what sounds like Russian (something Slavic at any rate -- it might be Greek?) as well as English. One of their very good friends speaks French as well as English.

Us, we just speak English at home. (Pig-latin hardly qualifies as a second language, even if the kids were fluent, which they are not.)

S has a lot of languages under his belt, including reading fluency in ancient Greek, Latin, German, and maybe even Italian -- I've lost track of the number of languages he learned as part of his scholarly work. He's also good with French, both speaking and reading. He's really got a knack for languages.

Me, I've got the remains of the French classes I took in college and high school. (Which makes things a little awkward around the kids' friends' family who speaks French; somehow we never shared with them the fact that we also know some French, and at this point it's gone a little too long for us to let them know. So far no terribly embarrassing eavesdropping, but it's been clear that they speak French around us not expecting us to understand.) I'm hardly what you'd call fluent, but I understand a fair amount and have I've retained enough speaking ability for S and I to use it as a secondary means of communication when we're trying to say things that we don't want little pitchers' ears to hear.

So we are a language-rich household, full of reading and writing and appreciation of the joy of words, but we are definitely not a bilingual household.

Which makes it interesting when we bring home books from the library that include other languages. Last week, BB chose a retelling of Cinderella, Cendrillon, that includes some creole French words. Reading it aloud, my accent isn't too terrible, I flatter myself to think. But BB was definitely thrown by the foreign words. Every time I'd say one, even though the context of the sentence defined for us what the word might mean, she'd ask, "Mom, what does that mean?"

I'd pause, tell her the meaning of the word, and keep reading. Another French word would come up, and she'd ask about it, and I'd explain it. "Why are there all these weird words, Mommy?" I explained that the story took place in Martinique, where they speak more than one language, and they were including the other language as part of the way they wanted to tell the story.

Finally, about the fifth or sixth time a French word was part of the story, she sighed in exasperation and said, "Mom, can you please just speak HUMAN?"

(Yeah, Anglocentric much? Sigh. Yes, I took the teachable moment, but I also had to laugh ruefully about it as well.)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Whoops -- there went another week!

Last weekend, I threw my back out. (By getting out of bed on Sunday morning. That'll teach me.) It had been years since my last bad back episode, but I remember enough of what this is like to have been pretty cranky for most of the week. Bleah.

Luckily, S was able to help a lot on Sunday and Monday, so that I was able to stay down and resting for most of the time. I was on my feet again by Tuesday, when I had to drive for BJ's field trip, and I made it through the rest of the week. Was feeling pretty good by Saturday night, until BB ran full-on into my midsection, coming around the corner and not watching where she was going. So much for recovering in a week.

But that's why I've not been blogging. Sitting at the computer just isn't the best idea at the moment!

This morning, I'm feeling okay, a little bit better, but not pain-free. The good news is that so far it seems localized to my lower back and is not giving any sciatic symptoms. (Knock wood!!!)

BJ is home for furlough days today, tomorrow, and Friday, and BB's preschool is closed on Thursday. Going to be an interesting week. Here's to getting through it and being able to walk around comfortably again soon, without wincing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Science Fair

Yesterday was the Science Fair for BJ's school, and it came at the end of an interesting day. After being laid up for several days, I managed to get mobile enough to fulfill my volunteer obligation to drive for his field trip (a class visit to Pizza My Heart that went very well -- alas, I forgot my camera to snag some pics). But even though he enjoyed the field trip, he wasn't at his best.

The night before, he'd come out of the bathtub complaining about a sore neck, and in the morning, he was still complaining. I'd told him that we'd see where things were after the field trip, and he said it was still hurting, so we went in for an urgent care appointment. Turns out he strained a muscle in his neck and it had spasmed. The pediatrician sent him home with a cervical collar and instructions to take it easy.

What a sight we were, me hobbling along with my sore back and him in his collar. It sure got him some attention at the science fair in the evening! His project about keeping apple slices from turning brown went over very well. Here he is talking about the project with his teacher from last year.

By this morning, he was back to his normal self and feeling just fine. I hope I can say the same again soon!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Leprechaun Traps

We aren't real big on St. Patty's day around here -- not surprising, perhaps, since we're neither Irish (though if inclined, I could make a case for some dilute Irish blood in my ancestry) nor big consumers of alcoholic beverages. But the kids had fun anticipating the holiday and doing a bit to mark the day. They both insisted on wearing green and looking for leprechauns.

(When BJ was despairing of seeing any evidence of leprechaun mischief yesterday, I had a little Mommy fun by adding green food coloring into the toilet water. They loved it.)

Earlier this week, they decided to set up leprechaun traps. BB's involved paper "gold" coins that she'd cut out, long stalks from the foliage around the patio, two big rocks, a stick, and several pieces of paper taped together.

Attempt number one to assemble the trap:

(I tried to give her a helpful tip: scotch tape doesn't stick to stucco all that well. She insisted she wanted to figure it out All By Herself.)

The final trap (reconfigured after realizing that scotch tape was indeed insufficient for the original design):

I still don't understand how this was supposed to lure in the unsuspecting leprechaun, but she seemed pleased with the result, so I wasn't going to quibble about details.

BJ's approach relied more on chalk and guile. (AKA outright lies and deception; those gullible leprechauns would surely believe the words of a six-almost-seven-year-old, right?)

He started out with a soccer ball. (Don't ask me why.)
Add in some intriguing chalk arrows.... Then some suggestions....

Clim (b) up here (into the bushes, I suppose)
(It always helps to catch crafty mythological creatures if you explain any unclear parts of the plan: it seems that long chalk line is a rope.)
"Clim(b) up here -- If you walk the rope you will get..."
(Appealing to their known avaricious nature of leprechauns -- good plan!)

Gold! Here! Now that's sure to bring in the leprechauns! And just in case it isn't 100% clear, add more arrows.

I have to say I chuckle to think what the resident college kids must have thought when seeing the chalk remnants on the sidewalk. They lingered for most of the week, until the recent driving rains. No signs of leprechaun life, though. (Unless you count the green toilet water! And today, when asked point blank if I'd done it, I fessed up that it was indeed my doing, and not leftover leprechaun pee. Still fun, though! Hope your St. Patrick's Day was equally entertaining.)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Close Call

Took in the kittens yesterday so they could get "fixed" -- and it turns out that we dodged a bit of a bullet! Even though they were only four months and one week old, Shelly girl was already in heat!

This was very surprising, since we hadn't seen any signs of amorous behavior on her part. I had noticed that her kitty boobies seemed a little lumpy, but since she's the first cat I've ever had that has let me rub her tummy, I figured that was just the way that kitty boobies were supposed to be! (I did mention it to the vet tech when we dropped off the cats for the surgery, though, to have them check it out just in case it was something to be concerned about. It wasn't.) Both cats came through their surgeries just fine -- the vet said that Shelly being in heat wasn't a problem. It just meant the surgery took a little bit longer. Whew. Very glad we're not looking at her becoming an incestuous kitten momma!
Both kittens have been recuperating well. (Of course the first thing Shelly wanted to do when she got home was climb the cat condo.... Sigh.) They were still a little out of it when they got home, especially Shelly. Here they are, finally settled in on the piles of dirty laundry that I'd been sorting. Stormy's eyes still have a bit of that post-anesthetic glaze. Shelly was totally zonked out, and Stormy came and found her so that he could keep watch. He's been very sweet (when he isn't tackling her repeatedly, as though to ask, "Are you ready to play yet? What about now? Now???)

It was interesting trying to explain to the kids why the kittens had to have the surgeries. I was reminded of the story my mom tells on me: apparently, when I was in kindergarten, I informed everybody that my cat had to go to the vet to have her tubes tied around her neck, so that she wouldn't have kittens. (A little unclear on the details there, wouldn't you say?) So when the kids started asking about everything on Thursday night, when we were talking about bringing in the cats to the vet the next day, I was careful to give specific and accurate answers to their questions. Yes, I told them about sperm and eggs and fallopian tubes, and I explained that brothers and sisters should never become mommies and daddies together.

Not surprisingly, BJ's teacher M informed me on Friday afternoon that BJ was telling his class all about the kittens: he explained how they were removing Stormy's sperm and Shelly's eggs so that they couldn't mate. "What's mating?" one of his classmates predictably asked. M laughingly said to me that at that point she told the class it was how cats made kittens, and then rather quickly changed the subject before it could get even more graphic. That's my boy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mama's Magic Makes the Etsy Front Page!

Here's my exciting news from the weekend -- for the first time, one of my items made it to the front page of Etsy!

It was my silver knitting needle earrings, part of this lovely Captain's Quarters treasury. I got a bunch of views and favorites and three sales out of my little bit of Etsy fame! Thrilled doesn't even begin to describe it! So grateful to The Jetty for including me in this beautiful collection!

Seven Months Later... BJ Adopts His Whale!

It took a lot of perseverance -- but this week BJ finally met his fundraising goal for his whale adoption project! Here he is, coutning up all the monies to make sure he had enough.

He's been saving his allowance for months, a dollar a week at a time, adding that to the initial funds he raised through his lemonade stand and some help from his kindergarten teacher (who donated $10 and let him do odd jobs in the classroom for a little extra cash) -- add in a final $10 donation from his wonderful Tia M, and he finally made it to $125! That's a lot for a six (almost seven) year old kid!

Now he's all set to adopt Shackleton the whale. I went to do it online, and it looked like they needed to put it in my name with the online form, so I'm contacting them directly to see if we can have it put in his name. After all, he's the one who had the idea and stuck to the project for all this time! So proud of my kid!

(He'd originally hoped to make it to $250, but considering that he's stuck to this for seven months now and only gotten halfway, he decided he'd settle for the second-highest adoption level. Good call, I think.)

Monday, March 12, 2012

BJ's Science Fair Project

For this year's Science Fair, BJ decided to investigate how best to keep apple slices from turning brown. Apples are a favorite fruit, and since he's losing teeth now, the apple slices make for easier eating. But brown slices? Not so appetizing.

I knew a little about the basic chemistry behind the question he was asking -- acids inhibit the enzyme reaction that leads to brown fruit. I'd used lemon juice myself to keep apples from browning. We decided we'd test a variety of acids: lemon juice, lemonade Kool-Aid, apple cider vinegar, and white vinegar. (We diluted 1/2 teaspoon of powder in 6 tablespoons water.) Each apple slice was dipped in the liquid for two minutes and then set out on waxed paper to see what would happen.

He included water and a control slice of apple for comparison.
After three hours, the control and vinegar slices were decidedly brown. The lemon juice and lemonade Kool-Aid did the best job of keeping the apples from browning. The one soaked in water was a little bit brown. Surprisingly, the vinegar-soaked slices were as brown or even more brown than the control. (The results don't show up as well as we would have liked in the picture.)
He then did a taste test -- since the idea behind the experiment was to keep the apple slices from browning so that they would be more appetizing. The vinegar ones were "OK" but not all that yummy, he told me. The control and water slices were "normal." The lemon juice one was "Yum" and the lemonade Kool-aid was deemed to be yummiest of all.

So the citric acid and ascorbic acid in the Kool-aid was the winner!

Unfortunately, I didn't have any pH strips to test acidity directly. (Then again, it's a first-grader's project. The lack of pH strips isn't that big a deal in this context.)

After the experiment was over, we did what BJ usually does these days when faced with a question: GOOGLE IT!

Here's what we discovered on FAQ KIDS:
Q: Why does lemon juice prevent cut apples from turning brown and vinegar doesn’t?

A: Cut apples turn brown because of a reaction called oxidation. Oxygen in the air reacts with a natural substance in apples called phenolase and turns the cut surface brown. Mild acids like lemon juice can stop this reaction; tossing cut apple chunks with a little lemon juice will keep the apples from turning brown. Vinegar which literally means “sour wine” goes through a fermentation process, which makes it stronger than lemon juice. The key here seems to be the mildness of lemon juice.

If I had it to do over again, I'd include those pH strips to quantify the acidity of each liquid. But BJ enjoyed the experiment, learned a little bit about chemistry, and discovered a practical cooking tip in the process. I call that success.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Another Visit From The Tooth Fairy

BJ lost his third tooth today -- the first one on the top! He was pretty excited, having spent all of Friday in wiggling it to get it to come out.

Of course, I asked him to show me where he'd lost the tooth:
Love that gap-toothed smile!


It's such fun to see BB working on her reading, handwriting, and spelling! She's starting to recognize words. For some time now, she's been able to read and write her name and her brother's name. This week when we were reading Kevin Henkes' Julius the Baby of the World, she repeatedly pointed out, "Mom! That says 'Julius'!" And she was right!

So interesting to see the different ways that kids learn. BJ picked up reading first and early, and writing came much later. BB has been working on the writing, with lots of perseverance. She enjoys asking us to spell out words for her so that she can write them. Earlier this week, she had been asking me how to spell names of people in the family, and then she presented me with this:

Yes, I'm "NON" when she writes it out. Still working on that M/N distinction -- she'll ask me, "Mom, which one has two mountains? M or N?" Love it.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Still Here

Sorry for the infrequent posts recently -- I'm still here, and all's well, but the blog bug has definitely been on vacation, not nibbling at me the way it usually does. I've just been plugging along with the usual good stuff: volunteering in BJ's classroom, doing the typical errands, taking BB to the park for a playdate with her preschool pals, keeping the household running more-or-less smoothly... My pinkeye is getting better, though still annoying. Generally, the days have been zooming by without a whole lot to report at the end of them, so that cuts down on the motivation to blog. Hence the lack of posts!

Maybe I need to wear my new t-shirt more often, the one I just couldn't resist getting from Willo, one of my SF Etsy teammates. It says "You Would Blog Too If It Happened To You" and I'd post a link, but turns out Etsy is down at the moment! (Of course it is -- Murphy's Law -- this morning is the time I'd FINALLY set aside to work on Etsy listings!) So I figured I should do at least a brief update while I wait for things to come back up.

To keep this from being a thoroughly boring entry, I leave you with a pic of cute kittens giving me nap therapy:

Now if only my days were less full so that I could get in more regular sessions with the little fuzzballs! I doubt it would make for more interesting blogging, but it would be good for the soul. And given the choice, I'll take the soul improvement -- every time.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sigh. Oh My.

Last week was one of those weeks. Nightmares and Pinkeye and Headaches. Oh My. (I think I would have preferred Lions and Tigers and Bears.) The whole week has been a blur. BB got totally spooked by a nightmare about "being in a bathtub with a big black widow spider on my chest" and was up most of the night (and worried about nightmares for most of the week). This made the rest of the week very challenging and entirely shot the next day which was supposed to be a studio day for me -- I ended up having to take a survival nap for most of the hours that I was going to (finally) work. Dang but sleep affects EVERYTHING. Add in sleep deprivation headaches and what was apparently BB's first headache yesterday. And for the first time, BJ did not want to go to school on Friday, because he Really Did NOT want to participate in the field trip -- to the ballet. (My feminist heart broke a bit at that... Of course I took it for as much of a teachable moment as I could without getting dogmatic. Turns out the trip was not as bad as he feared it would be. But still. Sigh.)

And to top it off, yesterday morning I woke up with pinkeye.

Wish I had a do-over for the week! Thank goodness for antibiotics and naps. Here's to next week being much better!