Our Christmas

We had an excellent Christmas. Everyone was very happy with their gifts and the little guys are old enough now to pick out presents to give other people so they were pretty excited about that. As an added bonus, my parents finally arrived a few days before Christmas and are working on getting all their stuff unpacked making us a multi-generational household once again.

We put up our tree the day after Thanksgiving. Jamie and I also did pretty much all our Christmas shopping that day. Adrian was a little puzzled by all the wrapped packages under the tree. This is the first year we’ve done that (since all the kids have figured out Santa isn’t real and everyone is old enough not to open anything before Christmas).
Our Christmas

I got 24 little Christmas books and wrapped them all up with a piece of an Advent Nativity my mom made me years ago. Each evening from December 1st to 24th, the boys unwrapped a book for me to read to them and put the Nativity piece up to finish the picture. The boys also insisted that I make a countdown chain for them to rip off one piece each day. They love countdown chains.
Our Christmas

The kids left their shoes out and got candy and little presents for St. Nicholas Day.
Our Christmas

We got a huge surprise when it actually snowed. Considering we live in south Texas, this was definitely something unusual.
Our Christmas

We went to Main Street Bethlehem in Burnet and the Walkway of Lights in Marble Falls. Both were very amazing displays.
Our Christmas

We did our annual Random Acts of Christmas Kindness December 1st through 24th.
Our Christmas

My parents couldn’t find their stockings before Christmas (we found them a couple days later), so we got ones from Target for them on Christmas Eve (not much of a selection, but 70% off).
Our Christmas

Christmas morning our stockings were full and there were presents for the animals, too. Lola’s pile was a bit bigger than all the others.
Our Christmas

Everyone was quite happy with what they were given.
Our Christmas

But then there was the totally awesome present. Cameron decided to get a Nintendo Switch for him and his siblings to share. Ani got a couple games to play on it. The little guys were so surprised and so excited.

It really made a wonderful Christmas absolutely unforgettable. Even though Christmas is all put away now (did that on Saturday), wonderful memories were made. Merry Christmas a little late (or really, really early – your choice).
Our Christmas

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It’s a New Year!

In less than a week I will have had this blog for 12 years. That’s kind of nuts. I can’t believe it’s 2018.

In just 6 weeks, I will have successfully grown a whole human when Ani turns 18. She sent in her voter registration last week. She’ll be able to vote in the primary in March.

This year Cameron will turn 17 and start 11th grade, Fritz will turn 12 and start 7th grade (and get the Priesthood at church), and Adrian will turn 10 and start 5th grade. Jamie and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary.

We’re about halfway done with year 2 of Layers of Learning. In the fall we’ll move on to year 3, the age of exploration to the American Revolution. We’re really liking Layers of Learning.

So, welcome 2018. It should be awesome!

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

We’ve done another 8 days of #24RACKs (for the first 8 days, go here).

On Saturday the 9th, we took cat and dog treats and toys to the Animal Defense League. Lola helped us deliver them because that’s where we adopted her four years ago.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Sunday the 10th, we held the door for other people.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Monday the 11th, we brought up our neighbors’ trash cans and left candy canes for them.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Tuesday the 12th, we gave a lottery ticket to a stranger.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Wednesday the 13th, we picked up litter.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Thursday the 14th, we took cookies to our pharmacist.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Friday the 15th, we fed the birds.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

On Saturday the 16th, we took socks to the homeless shelter.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness, Days 9-16

Science: Stars

Weeks 11 and 12 of school we learned about stars using Layers of Learning, year 2 unit 7.

We learned about how stars are classified (our sun is a G).
Science: Stars

The boys researched famous physicists and gave oral reports on them. Adrian chose Neil deGrasse Tyson, Fritz pick Stephen Hawking, and Cameron chose Richard Feynman.
Science: Stars

We learned about the life cycle of stars.
Science: Stars

We learned about the zodiac, identified which one we each are, and all agreed that the strengths/weaknessses descriptions of people with each sign were silly. (Cameron’s Libra, Fritz is Cancer, Adrian is Gemini, Ani is Aquarius, my mom is Virgo, my dad is Capricorn, I’m Aries, and Jamie and Ani’s boyfriend are Scorpio.)
Science: Stars

We watched a video about how we are all connected and how amazing that is.
Science: Stars

For several nights we checked outside trying to see the stars, but apparently forgot we live in south Texas where, this time of year, there is always some cloud cover.

Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

Last Friday, Jamie and I took the little guys to SpaceTime Park. It was both simple and a lot of fun. We all learned a lot. It was kind of chilly (50s after weeks of 80s and 90s), but that ended up not being a problem.

The park makes about a 1 1/2 mile loop. The first half is the solar system from the sun to Mars.
Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

At each planet, there was information and a button to press that told us all about the planet. They also had a thing that let you feel what 10 pounds on Earth feels like on that planet.
Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

If you walk about 2 1/2 miles per hour, you are traveling through the solar system model at the speed of light. The boys had fun running and saying they were going faster than the speed of light.
Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

The planets are 3-D printed from what NASA knows about the planets. They are made to scale compared to the size of the sun.
Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

On the table with Earth is our Moon. Near the moon is a peephole you can look through to see a perfect solar eclipse.
Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

Because the whole thing is a giant scale model, you can look from each planet back to the sun and see just how tiny the sun looks the further away you get. The planet models are very detailed and beautiful as can be seen in the up close picture of Mars.
Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

At the halfway point is the Worm Hole. This is where the rest of the planets and my beloved demoted to dwarf planet Pluto reside. It would be way too long a walk to continue on to the rest as they get further and further away from the sun. We stopped at the Worm Hole and ate the picnic lunch I had packed.
Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

The next third of the park is Dinosaur Island, full of models of dinosaurs and other dinosaur-era critters.
Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

As with the planet section, there is a button to push at each dinosaur telling what it is and facts about it.
Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

The giant snake was a bit freaky, but we all liked the tiny little Velociraptor. Not quite so scary as the ones imagined by Michael Crichton.
Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

Most of the larger dinosaurs were just juvenile size. Full size, they’d be gigantic. After leaving Dinosaur Island, we entered the last third which is currently just empty space. They are raising money to put in a big history timeline.
Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

Before we left, we got some astronaut ice cream from the gift shop. The boys weren’t very impressed, but to me it is wonderful. When I was a kid and we went to the Air and Space Museum in DC, my parents got us astronaut ice cream. I guess I just like the nostalgia that comes with eating it.
Field Trip: SpaceTime Park

History: Vikings

Weeks 6 and 7 of school we learned about Vikings using Layers of Learning, year 2 unit 4.

We added to our timeline.
History: Vikings

We looked at the page on Dublinia in our Ireland trip book and talked about what we saw there.
History: Vikings

We did some map work.
History: Vikings

We learned about longhouses.
History: Vikings

We made a Viking ship.
History: Vikings

We had a Viking feast. We ate meat soup, honey glazed vegetables, apple bacon, and bread and drank non-alcoholic mead.
History: Vikings

After the feast, we provided each other with live entertainment.
History: Vikings

We looked at a map of how the settlement of Vinland was laid out.
History: Vikings

We held a Viking funeral. It didn’t quite go how we expected it to. It took a lot longer to get the paper boat to ignite, required the addition of rubbing alcohol, and ended with Cameron juggling flaming cotton balls.
History: Vikings

We talked about inflation and compared the cost of things in 1938 versus today.
History: Vikings

The boys each picked a different famous Viking to teach his brothers about. Cameron picked Harald Bluetooth and finished his report with a youtube video about why we call it bluetooth today.
History: Vikings

Cameron created a PowerPoint of Norse beings and presented it to his brothers.
History: Vikings

We Tried Blue Apron

A couple weeks ago I got a MyPoints offer to sign up with Blue Apron. Jamie was about to go out of town and I hate cooking when he’s not here, so I figured why not try it.

Pros:
1.) Everything is pre-portioned.
2.) The instructions are colorful and easy to follow and give totals of the ingredients so you can recreate the meal again on your own.
3.) It’s very convenient to have a box of ingredients delivered to your doorstep.
4.) The recipes we tried were seriously delicious.
5.) The ingredients were all very fresh.
6.) The chicken was diced up nicely without any gross bits left (and I am very sensitive to gross bits on my chicken).
7.) Portions are generous (we did two person meals and split them between four of us – adult, two teens, and kid – for lunch just fine).

Cons:
1.) It’s expensive to do every week (though if the alternative is going to a restaurant to eat, it’s a huge savings).
2a.) There are very few gluten free options and I couldn’t even see what the meals would be until after I signed up.
2b.) They didn’t say whether any of the recipes were gluten free so I had to guess which would be safe and of the 8 options that week only two were okay.
3.) If I wanted to do the family size meals they are for families of four with no way to scale up to my family of six.

The box arrived mid-day on the scheduled delivery day. The top was the vegetables, then there was an ice pack thing, then the meat (double sealed), and then another ice pack thing.
We Tried Blue Apron

I pulled everything out and made sure everything we’d need was there and then stuck it all in the refrigerator. I made one of the meals two days later and the other three days later (the vegetables were still in perfect shape when I used them).
We Tried Blue Apron

The first recipe we made was Ancho Chile Chicken Tacos with Cabbage Slaw. I enlisted Cameron’s help that day and we took turns playing upbeat songs very loudly on our Amazon Echo.

The ingredients we got for this recipe were chopped chicken breast, corn tortillas, shishito peppers, green onions, a lime, red cabbage, cilantro, creme fraiche, ancho chile paste, sugar, and grated cotija cheese. The only questionable ingredient for us was the tortillas. Many corn tortillas are gluten free, but not all. We happened to have some gluten free ones in our cabinet, though, so the two non-Celiacs ate the ones from the kit and the rest of us ate the ones we knew were safe.
We Tried Blue Apron

We chopped all the veggies and cooked the chicken and peppers as directed.
We Tried Blue Apron

We laid everything for the meal out on the counter so people could assemble their tacos themselves.
We Tried Blue Apron

They were so good. The slaw was a big surprise how good it was. We enjoyed this meal so much that I put it on the menu for next week.
We Tried Blue Apron

The other meal was Seared Steaks and Roasted Potatoes with Balsamic-Glazed Mushrooms. For this one, I cooked with Fritz and we turned Maroon 5 way up on the Echo.

The ingredients for this one were steaks, cremini mushrooms, garlic (needed 2 cloves; they sent a head), Yukon gold potatoes, kale, butter, balsamic vinegar, creme fraiche, and a shallot. The only things not provided by Blue Apron (for both recipes) was salt, pepper, and olive oil.
We Tried Blue Apron

We chopped up all the vegetables. Good thing we have a bunch of bowls!
We Tried Blue Apron

We cooked the steaks and while they rested, we cooked the mushrooms.
We Tried Blue Apron

While the steaks, mushrooms, and kale cooked, we oven roasted the potato wedges.
We Tried Blue Apron

We set out all the parts of the meal on the counter to get ready for plating.
We Tried Blue Apron

This meal was also quite delicious. My oldest son was not impressed by how rare I cooked the steak (I liked it!) and he refused to touch the mushrooms. He didn’t like the kale either. Everyone else seemed okay with everything.
We Tried Blue Apron

Our little Blue Apron experiment was fun and yummy. Will we do it again? Not regularly. We might get a couple meals for a treat/alternative to going out to eat once in a while. The cost really isn’t worth it to me, especially since I have to guess whether things are gluten free or not. One thing is for sure, though. They do make cooking fun!