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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sari's Birthday Party

Last week, I finally got my act pseudo-together and threw a very lame-o party for my little bit. She was thrilled beyond words. She told several people in the days leading up to it that she was excited. My one HUGE faux-pas was that I failed to put two and two together and realize that it was spring break which meant that her "building school" friends could have attended too. I realized it the night before, but by then it seemed too late to correct my mistake. As it was, there were about 40 people there, but I still feel bad that we missed a few.

Sari's heart's desire was a Silvermist (the Disney Fairy) cake.  She also wanted Fawn on it, but I drew the line at ONE fairy-people, even imaginary ones. are very hard to get right.  So Mimi, always artistic and ever wanting to help, decided she would put Fawn on one of the two cookie cakes I made to go with the "real" cake.  The results of both our efforts are below.

We had the party at a local park that has all new play equipment.  Sari couldn't wait to check it out.  Of course, she had to dress in proper fairy attire.

Cake time
Some of the "big girls"

This picture CRACKS me UP!!!
Look Ma, no hands!  Liv quickly realized being upside down meant "no modesty" and pulled her shirt back up :-)

The end, BWAHAHAHAHA.   Sari and Bam Bam were obsessed with hanging upside down on the swings, so I had to take a picture.
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The Vine Woman

On one of our last trips to Animal Kingdom, a woman in the restroom happened to tell us we had to see "the vine woman" just around the corner who was due to make an appearance in just about 3 minutes.  You never know if things will really be as cool as people think they are, but we were RIGHT there, and it was just the RIGHT time, so we stayed  to check it out. 

Amazing.  That's the only word for it.

The pictures will NOT do it justice, but I'll try anyway...You will probably want to click on them to see them better...and you will definitely want to check her out the next time you are at Animal Kingdom.

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Braggin' on my Boy

Scott sailed Saturday morning in some Laser races.  He was the only kid and sailed against 5 other adults.  He came in last of course (racing isn't his strong point, there was NO wind, and he was sailing with smaller sails than all the other racers), but he had a good time and thanks to our favorite Kiwi Coach, I got some nice pictures.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fabulously 40

Today is my 40th birthday.  It's funny, this cultural phenomena of celebrating birthdays.  Really we should celebrate the mothers- they did all the work.  But I'm happy to celebrate.  I'm not hung up on age. And I have to say that this is one of my best birthdays ever.  I've had a gazillion people wish me a happy birthday on Facebook.  Okay, not a gazillion, but I'd say over a 100.  I take back most of the bad stuff I have said about Facebook- it's great for birthdays. 

My celebration started yesterday with my daughter Mimi making me breakfast while I was taking Scott to school.  It was eggs, an english muffin, and strawberries with a dusting of sugar.  Yum!  We went last night to my mom's to celebrate with the family.  Mom made chocolate angel food cake which is even more YUM! 

Chunks of angel food cake, melted chocolate chip mixed with whipped cream, and then the whole thing layered and chilled.  Seriously good!  My mom gave me this:

It's a piece of Himalayan Salt with holes drilled in it for candles.  Very pretty!  Then the hubs had to run to Wally World to get something, and he came back with tulips.  I love tulips!  Oh, and Mimi made me a penguin keychain she made out of beads.  Sari gave me a beaded bracelet she made for herself at a shop in Sanibel ( and so it is WAY too small for my wrist), her entire silly band collection, and a necklace she got in a grab bag at the Pow Wow.  I had to tactfully get her to be happy with me just wearing the necklace and her keeping the other things for me ;-).

Today, my daughter Mimi took it as her personal job to make this a great birthday.  We had all the usual stuff- getting Scott to school, Precepts, etc.  Because it was a busy morning, there was no breakfast in bed, but there was a present- some barrettes Mimi embellished with beads.  And she, Sari, and Tyler all gave me cards they made.  On the way home from Precept, I treated the kids to a trip to High Five (frozen yogurt) and then a shared lunch from the new chinese restuarant next door.  (On your birthday, it's okay to eat dessert first!)  When we got home, we cancelled writing for today, but mean old mommy made them do some work for an uncoming review.  They finished that while I was picking up Scott.  I came home to this:

The TV is showing an episode of Phineas and Ferb that is about their mother's birthday.  It ahs a song that Candace writes to their mother and the girls sang it to me several times.

The board says, "We all love you Mommy" and has a birthday hat and balloon drawn on it.
I also came home to the news that the hubs was picking up Thai Jasmine for dinner.  Ohhhh, I am going to be SOOOOO fat.  Mimi gave me another present- a beaded headband that she embellished.  When I got home from UIP tonight (where I was serenaded by the whole room in the most disjointed cacophony you've ever heard), we had the cake I made- a "Bee hive" cake -made like a pineapple upside down cake but with honey and butter and Heath pieces.  Oh, and melted chocolate chips on top.  Yeah, it's good ;-).

Me blowing out the candle on the "cake" Mimi made- a slice of cinnamon toast with frosting on it.

LOVE this picture because without my HEAD, and with nothing else to give a size reference, and with one leg crossed in front of the other, I actually look, if not skinny, then at least a little less fat.

Yummy cake with 4 "old people" candles that don't go out when you blow on them and 4 other candles that Sari was SURE would look like a circle so it would be a 4-0.

Below, here I am at 5 days old.  My mom is holding me (yes, we look a LOT alike), her mom is the one to the right, and her dad's mom is the one on the left (the one Mimi is named after).

Tomorrow marks the last of the celebrations- a little breakfast soiree.  I can't wait.
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Monday, March 28, 2011

Destination Disney: Hidden Mickeys

Heidi's Destination Disney topic this week is Hidden Mickeys.  Lately, it seems we've spent a lot of time at Animal Kingdom, and we have coincidentally been taking pictures of the Hidden Mickeys we have found, so here are a few:
All the butterflies and the fish are from the paintings in the entrance to the building at Rafiki's Planet Watch.

This is from the queue for the Kali River Rapids.

These last ones can be found on the Maharajah Jungle Trek.

Some of our favorites that we don't have pictures of are the one in the clouds swirling on planet Earth as you enter Spaceship Earth, the one on the planet throughout the queue of Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, and the full length profile of Mickey in the clouds in the riverboat scene in Splash Mountain.  The timid at heart can see that one from the train if you look really fast and really closely.
Click on over to Heidi's blog to see what Hidden Mickeys the other participants have found.
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The Places I've Been

I was checking my blog feeds and saw that one of my mini-Crew members Michelle had this cool map of the US that was colored in with all the states she had visited.  She got the idea from another blog, who got the idea from my friend Heidi, who got the idea from...well, you get the idea, LOL. 

So without further ado, here are all the states I've visited.  I chose not to count Colorado since I never left the Denver airport, but the rest are all legit. 

At 26 states visited, I'm over half way there.  We'll add Hawaii next year, and I really want to add Alaska someday too.  If you want to participate, you can get your own customizable map HERE.
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Saturday, March 26, 2011

How to Devastate Your Daughter in One Easy Step

Run over a cat.  Not just any cat, but one of the friendly neighborhood strays who has come to call your food bowl home. 

Yeah, it's been a rough night.

We had fun going on a 2 mile family walk/bike ride.  Sari is spending the night with her cousin, so there were no little legs to worry about (although she does an amazing job keeping up when we go to Disney).  We got home, and I had two $10 coupons for Kohl's that were going to expire tomorrow, so since they were open until 11 tonight, I allowed Mimi to go with me for some mother-daughter time. 

We backed up, and I told her we were going to have to ride with the windows down because the car smelled a bit musty.  I couldn't figure out why until I turned around and saw Scott's sailing gear still in the back.  YUCK!  So I stopped the car and asked Mimi to take the bag of stuff and set it to the side of the shed.  She did that, got back in, and I put the car in drive.  As I very slowly started pulling forward, I felt a "thump thump".  Wondering what I ran over now (given that more than one bike and numerous scooters had all found themselves a little worse for wear after a moment under a multi-ton vehicle.  Except this time, as I looked back in the glow of the rear brake lights, I saw that this was no bike or scooter.  And I had Mimi in the car so when I got out to go get the hubs to deal with it, she saw it too.

Ohhh, my heart breaks for her.  It was sad, as the cat did not die immediately, and it was the head that was hit, so it was very traumatic.  Please pray for my sweet, sensitive Mimi whose first question was, "Do cats go to heaven?".  It's going to be a rough few days until the loss becomes less raw.  The only good part about it is that this particular cat, "Ginger", is a newer stray left behind by some family who moved away.  The kids are fond of her to be sure, but they are not nearly as fond of her as some of the others that have been part of our lives for years.
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Friday, March 25, 2011

Big IQ Kids Review

Big IQ Title Banner

Big IQ Kids is a website that offers online lessons in Spelling, Math, Vocabulary, and U.S. States.  Designed to be used daily, each program features short lessons that are age appropriate and are tailored to each individual child's abilities.  The lessons are about 10-15 minutes long and students are not advanced until mastery is achieved.  An on-screen animated character speaks the lessons to the student using phonetically correct lips so that even beginning readers can participate.  Lessons, such as spelling lists, can be customized or are drawn from the preloaded curriculum.  Best of all, diligence is rewarded with game tokens that allow the student to have some arcade time after their lessons are complete.

One of your two instructors.

 Big IQ Kids is a free site, but features a premium package that is ad free, allows full access to all the games, lets your child customize their avatar,  and allows for more parental monitoring of progress.  The cost of the premium membership varies depending on which subjects you are interested in and whether you pay up front or monthly, but all of that information, as well as a 7 day free trial of the premium version, is available HERE.

The computer screen shows what the screen would look like if your child was viewing it.

The pros: Most of the benefits of the site can be used for free, and what's not to love about that.  You can even do a bit of basic work without creating a login.  The lesson length is manageable and in doing one lesson a day you reinforce their learning and helpthem develop good study habits.  I like that the program totally adapts to the skill level of the student.  If they get too many answers incorrect, it adjusts their level.  My 3rd grader and 5th grader started out doing the same stuff on the U.S. States Program, but I have noticed the questions they are now being asked are different according to what they know.  It's not that the program is "dumbed down", it's that there is a different level of expectations.  And the fact that the programs are customizable for FREE is amazing to me!

Big IQ Kids

The cons: I'm not in love with the cluttered appearance of some pages (see the login screen above)- too many little boxes, too many options all enticing my kids to "click here and follow this rabbit trail".  And I may just be overly sensitive, but I didn't like some of the sentences used to help to define spelling words.  Here is one example, "Skinny, 'You look too skinny in the photo.'"   I don't really want a computer game making judgements about "too skinny" or "too fat".  But my biggest dislike with the program is that the characters who give you ALL the instruction and who read everything that needs to be read to younger students speak in a computer synthesized voice.  The lips might be phonetically correct, but the pronunciations and cadence are a little weird in that stilted, non-fluid way computers talk.  It would be SOOOO much better with a real human voice!

The bottom line:  We have a one year membership, and I will have the kids continue to use it.  But I'd encourage anyone who is interested to start out with the free version.  There is a special upgrade available only to free users that gives more features than free, but less than premium, and is only $9.95 for the year. (You can see what is included in each membership level HERE.)  With the free version, you can do almost everything the program has to offer, including customizing lessons, and then decide for yourself if you want to pay the extra money to be ad free and have more monitoring of what they are accomplishing.

To check out Big IQ Kids, go HERE.  To see what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about their experiences, go HERE.

Legal Disclaimer:  As a member of the TOS Crew, I received two year long premium memberships for my children to be able to try out Big IQ Kids so that I could offer an honest review.  Those memberships are the only compensation I received.
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Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Sunday Evening Post

Do you ever find yourself not even interested in your own life?  Or at least writing about your own life?  I feel like I've been too busy living it to write about it!  So here are some random updates in no particular order...

Scott is still enjoying school...mostly.  This week, he had some trouble.  All these normal, typical school experiences are new to him.  This week he got passed a note by a girl who wanted to borrow his iPod.  He wrote back that she could borrow it if she kissed him!  Oiy!  The thing is that he really thinks kissing is gross, it's just that now that he's in a "building school" environment, things like kissing girls and whether you've done it or not comes up and is discussed, and he hasn't so he was trying to remedy that.  Anyway, they wrote back and forth a little more, and he used another word that he had heard, but did NOT know the meaning of, and the teacher intercepted the note, and it went south from there.  She read it to the class, he was reprimanded and mortified, and the rest of the week, the other kids teased him about it.  We are hoping the weekend will have given the class time to move on to something else, but we will see.

This week is Spring Break for the public school students in our county.  The problem is that I wasn't  planning on taking Spring Break this week, and Scott's spring break isn't for weeks to come, so now here I am on Sunday night not knowing what I am doing Monday morning.  I did tell my god daughter's mother that Mimi could go to the beach with them tomorrow, so I guess tomorrow will be a day off at least for her.

Our hawks have been around quite a bit lately.  We hear them at least once a day.  We have to be sure the girls (chickens) are up when the hawks are out.  While the hubs thinks they are too big for the hawks to carry off, I don't want to test that theory.

I have spent quite a bit of time lately preparing our garden. The garden boxes had gotten over grown with clover and another similar weed that tends to be very prolific, and it was a ton of work to clear them out. I still have broccoli and 2 lettuce heads growing from the fall. For some reason, they decided on 180 days to harvest instead of 90 ;-). Oh, and I have peas that reseeded themselves and have been producing pods every week that get eaten before they ever make it into the house. Anyway, I planted a whole box on a Wednesday evening after I dropped the kids at AWANA only to have the sky open up an hour later and wash every last seed away. So I replanted a week later and I have some carrots, garlic, beans, lettuce, and peas already sprouting.

I had a rogue plant appear with a big flower head like the one above.  I had to wait until it opened to figure out which of the plants from the kids "light hut' experiment might have managed to make it.  The winner?  Calendula.  I'm very excited!

My broccoli and lettuce from the fall.  The plastic netting helps to keep the girls from eating my garden.

Peas on the left and new bean sprouts on the right.  I also have lettuce and purslane and peppers planted in here.

Yesterday was CRAZY hot.  I mean like 86 degrees hot.  In March.  (If that sounds good to you, just think what our July feels like.) SO of course, that was the day I started digging up a half our yard to create a new garden bed for some bushes and trees that have been living in pots for over a year.  The problem is that it's been so ling my husband can't even remember what two of them are- so I have no idea what they will grow or how much room they need to grow in.  The plan is for him to ask the guy he got them from tomorrow, but until then, they can't get planted.  I did get two blueberries and one strawberry guava planted today though, so that's progress.

This whole corner is going to be a flower bed/garden some day.  Too bad I can't harvest the dog's digging abilities.  He tried "helping" but the end result was a very dirty ME.
Grubs!  I have found about a dozen so far.  The girls LOVE them.  They are gross and scary looking, and about the width and length of my little finger.  YUCK!

Not that you can tell, but the dark circles are the new plants.  I have cleared a swath about 5 feet wide, but obviously still have work to do.

My "check engine" light is on.  If I made a top ten list of ways I did NOT want to spend my day, going to the car dealership would be VERY high on that list.  My steering wheel is cracked at the top too.  Does that even happen anymore?  Apparently it does, at least to me.

It's spring in FL.  Everything is in bloom.  The pollen counts are ridiculous, but the flowers are amazing.  Above are my azaleas and the bottom picture is my roses.

Loquats.  Not being a FL native, they are foreign to me, but the kids love to eat them.  They are almost ripe.

Okay, I know most of that was incredibly boring, but that's the best I can do.  I always have soooo much to blog about...until I actually sit down to do it ;-).  And since it's 11:48 PM, I think I'll call it quits for tonight.
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