February 12, 2012

All Aboard! (Pinewood Derby 2012)

As soon as the last cars crossed the finish line at the 2011 Cub Scout Pinewood Derby, Brevin was already excited to make plans for his next year's car.  The Wii remote was quite a hit, and we knew it would be a hard act to follow.  Brevin was determined that night, though, that his next car would be of the sleek, aerodynamic variety.  He was set on building a fast car that would win.  I figured he'd have a full year to change his mind.  And he did.

When we began discussing design plans, Jason and I encouraged Brevin to go for creative aesthetics over speed.  It's easier to control the variables of the outcome.  Plus I figured the reigning champ, Carson, and his dad would likely produce another winner.  (I heard his father elaborate on all the techniques he applied to his winning car.  It was a very methodical approach, and he had it down to a science.)  They would be hard to beat.

Brevin seemed to agree and began to give suggestions that related to his current obsession, Harry Potter.  He imagined his car as a broomstick or lightening bolt.  I threw out the idea of the Hogwarts Express, and it was the idea that stuck.  At first, Jason was skeptical about the idea.  He thought it would be too difficult.  Once I showed him a picture of the Lego version of the train, he realized that it was actually a very simple train design and quite doable.

After a trip to Hobby Lobby for detail pieces, it was time to begin construction on the train.  The garage was converted into a wood shop where cutting, sanding, drilling, and painting took place.  As it turned out, the the most difficult task was getting the train to make weight.  The cylinder of the engine and back compartment had to be completely hollowed out with the drill. It was a little tricky, but it worked. 

The entire family worked on the project over the course of a month, and by the end, Brevin had a derby car worthy of display...but could it race?  Well, we would see.

On the night of the Pinewood Derby, Brevin was really excited to show off his creation.  He had also been adequately prepared beforehand to be a gracious loser.  Jason and I made him aware that his was not built for speed.  It was built for looks.  It looked pretty slick.  We just hoped that it would make it across the finish line and not derail.

His car actually did better than expected.  It placed second in one heat and third in most others.  That was a pleasant surprise.  Another surprise was when Karson's car just barely edged out Carson's car for the overall win. 

Grandpa Park used to work on repairing railroad trains.  We're relieved
he didn't have to "come out of retirement" to fix Brevin's tonight.

It turned out to be a wonerfully fun family evening.  On the way home, Brevin and Spencer both talked about how they wanted their next year's car to be be of the sleek, aerodynamic variety. They are both set on building a fast car that will win. I guess they have a full year to change their mind.

This post authored by Amber

February 9, 2012

And Just Like That...

...Ella's walking.  I know.  Crazy, huh?

This post authored by Amber

Ella's Winter One-derland Birthday

So, I came across an idea that I thought was so clever and unique for Ella's first birthday party--A Winter One-derland Party. I also thought it would be fun to do a hot chocolate bar for refreshments (another idea that I gleaned from the internet). As I was making preparations for the decorations and invitations, I searched for some graphics and ended up with a list of about a billion web pages with the same party theme.  Turns out, the  idea was not so original after all, but extremely "trendy." 

Oh well. I embraced that fact and decided that if I was going to be doing a trendy party, then it would be the trendiest party ever, complete with bunting and Martha Stewart pom poms adorning the dessert (display) table. And then, I was going to photograph it and blog about it, thus adding my party details to the plethora of ideas already out there on the world wide web.  I found my information the old-fashioned way, though. You know, Google (instead of Pinterest) so I might not be as trendy as I am purporting to be.

Anyway, here's how we celebrated Ella's special day:

I finally managed to pull some invitations together
and get them delivered around two days before the event.
We like to put a birthday banner on the outside of the house.  This one was up
for three days (from the day of her actual birthday to the night of the party). 

Guests were served vanilla and chocolate coconut cupcakes,
while Ella had her own polar bear smash cake.

This is just a sampling of some of the toppings that were available to put on
or in the hot chocolate.  I may never be able to have plain hot chocolate again!

Ella wore a birthday tutu that I made using the instructions from
an online tutorial. It was seriously so fun and easy to make.  Don't be
surprised if you start to see her dressed in nothing but tutus.

After presents and a slide show video, we all came up to
sing Happy Birthday to Ella, watch her demolish her cake, and help
ourselves to the hot chocolate and dessert.  (I love how Garrett
is poised to blow out the candles.  The kid is seriously obsessed
when it comes to blowing out candles.)

This was the only damage done to the cake.  YAWN.  It's no wonder she's so skinny,
what with her reservation demonstrated for baked and frosted goods!

While the party was on Sunday, Ella's actual birthday was the Friday before.   (We like to spread these things out, you know.)  Here are pictures from that day's activities:

Everyone gets a special breakfast of their request for their birthday.
Ella couldn't exactly tell us what she wanted, so the boys got to choose--waffles.

As for the traditional birthday dinner at a restaurant, Mom and Dad
 chose Red Lobster because they were running an incredible promotion.

Ella seemed to be having a great time eating
Garrett's macaroni and cheese and french fries. I'm relieved
that the server only spilled a glass of water on Garrett.  That would
have been a bummer to be all wet during your birthday dinner.
Ella drank most of Garrett's complimentary shake, however. 

Happy first birthday, Ella dear!

This post authored by Amber


     Eleven Months                                           Twelve Months

So much development takes place during a child's first year, it makes your head spin.  Time passes, and in its wake are the things that defined a stage of development now overcome by the next.  Old tricks that once brought delight for observing parents have been left behind for new skills that bring just as much satisfaction to watch unfold.

I have loved watching Ella grow this past year.  Just as it is hard for me to remember what our family was like before we had her, it is hard for me to think of her as anything other than what she is at present.  That's why I remind myself of what she was doing during each month so I can revisit and reminisce.  So, yeah, these posts are really for me...and Ella.

And you can call me a "mommy blogger," because that's what I am.

Ella at Eleven Months

 Now that Ella has mastered crawling, she is lightening quick.  Open a door, and she will be there to slip through it as if she were a cat that had been locked out on a cold night.  She especially loves the bathroom door.  Yes, she has unrolled the toilet paper a number of times. She also likes to get into my drawer of make-up. Many a drawer and door has been closed in her face, and she does not like that one bit.  What I do not like is how she insists on climbing up the ladder to the top of the boys' bunk bed. Good thing she has impecable balance. Ella is confident and asserts herself into activities that others are doing.  She's not afraid to reach over and grab a toy from someone if it piques her interest. (Won't that quality be fantastic for when she goes to nursery?) 

Ella at Twelve Months

 A doctor appointment confirmed what outside observers have commented all along.  Ella is tiny.  Well, really she's just  lightweight.  She's actually tall for her age group, but she only weighs 17 pounds, 5 ounces. It makes her easier to carry, though, so I'm not complaining.  Her top two teeth broke through at Christmas.  I thought that was fitting (All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth). Those will come in handy now that we've been given the go-ahead to switch all baby food for table food.  Ella loves the new change and independence that comes from feeding herself.  She also loves to smear food all over her face and in her hair.  She has grown to like drinking milk from a sippy cup, but I haven't given up nursing entirely, yet. Ella's hair is now long enough that I have to blow dry it after baths and we are contemplating trimming the bangs.  She is developing socially, too.  She'd much rather stand on the church bench backwards and look at faces rather than the back of heads. It is easier to interact and blow raspberries at people from that vantage point. She loves the opening credits for the TV show Bubble Guppies and when she hears it, she stops what she's doing to go and bounce to the beat at the foot of the television. Very near her birthday, Ella took her first steps. I guess that's just it.  Keep moving forward!     

Here are a few more pictures I took of Ella in her birthday tutu:

I took her pacifier out of her mouth to get her to look at me (hence the excessive drool).

She did not like that very much.

Okay, I think she's had it!

This post authored by Amber



We love a good, dumping snowstorm.  There's so much to do when a significant amount of snow accumulates in a short period. We excuse ourselves from boring Saturday chores to build snowmen, snowball fight, and sled instead.  I have a reasonable excuse to have a messy front room, what with the littering of wet boots, puffy coats, gloves, and stocking caps.

This winter we've had merely flurries and rain, and the mountains above our house have been looking grey and naked (and no one wants to be out in the cold naked!), so you can imagine our bliss when the two days of slushy rain finally decided to turn into fluffy powder.

Time to break out the snowman kit we got for Christmas!

Brevin and Spencer were lured into the house with offers of hot chocolate while Garrett remained outside.  They watched with Ella from the front window as Jason and Garrett had a final snowball battle.

It just does not seem like winter is complete without experiencing a day like this. 

This post authored by Amber

Thirty-three Just Rode Off Into the Sunset

I had another birthday.  "That's the thing about birthdays--they're kind of an annual thing."

So I guess this means I am one year wiser, too, right?  Well, I'm not wise enough to know that when you go out to eat at Texas Roadhouse and they make you sit on a birthday saddle while the waitress shouts to the restaurant to give a "Yee-haw" for the birthday girl, it is not advisable to grasp the saddle horn and swing your arm wildly as if you were trying to lasso an animal.  You will end up looking stupid.  Lesson learned (thanks to this picture):

But I did "lasso" a most delicious entree of top sirloin steak and shrimp for the evening, and that was not too shabby.

Over the years, I've also learned that we save everyone a lot of stress by purchasing the birthday cake.  This year I instructed Jason to swing by The Sweet Tooth Fairy bakery on his way home from work and pick up some cake bites that I've been meaning to try.  He did as instructed, but when I found out how expensive the darn things were, I figured we'd have been able to get a full size sheet cake at a grocery store for that price, and I could have been eating birthday cake for breakfast for an entire week following.  Lesson learned.

Who says, "You can't teach and old dog new tricks?"

This post authored by Amber