Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Noah's 11th birthday

Two days before Noah's birthday we had all the family assembled for Noah and Evie's piano recital so we planned to celebrate afterwards. Before the recital we had Culvers for lunch (Noah's favorite) and after the party we had pizza for lunch. Not such a healthy day but Noah loved it.

Big breath...

...and blow! 

Noah had wanted this Obi Wan and General Grievous Star Wars Lego set for nearly a year. Each set of grandparents got him one character.

They're pretty much boy Barbies... (cough, ahem)... I mean, action figures. Four light sabers are definitely cool though. 

We are all about Star Wars in this house, obviously, and since we had just bought The Force Awakens DVD earlier that month, it seemed appropriate Noah should get a Kylo Ren action figure too. 

Crazy-eyed Evie got Noah a Stitch Infinity character. 

Noah put all three characters together that evening and played with them all the following day. 

Two days later was Noah's actual birthday, April 19. We "woke" him by singing the birthday song, as is tradition.

We had reserved one final gift for his actual birthday. 

More Kylo Ren.  

And a donut.

Since Noah's birthday fell during the school week, his teacher exempted him from school work. She was extra generous and let him play his new Infinity characters on the Wii. 

Meanwhile, Evie did her second grade testing.

Throughout the day, whenever I had a moment, I worked on a project I had wanted to do for my kids' eleventh birthdays but neglected to plan beforehand: A HARRY POTTER HOGWARTS LETTER! 

 I found the letter and font here and the signature here.

The second page of the letter. 

The third page was a nice touch. Notice wrote it? :D

The map was found here and included because it was cool. 

The train ticket came from here.

I even made my own envelope from here.

We had piano lessons that afternoon and I was able to deliver the letter right before we left.

I sent Noah to get the mail on our way out of the house. 

What is this?! 

EEEEE! I was so excited. I was grinning like I was the eleven year old getting the letter. 

Noah carefully read the whole thing. 

Noah was so confused. After he had read everything he looked over to me and was like, "Is this for real?" It was so dang innocent and sweet. "I don't think I want to leave home and go to Hogwarts..." We had a talk about how it was all just for fun. Evie was much more eager, "I hope I get a letter when I turn eleven!"

That night we had more chicken pot pie and then went to small group where we celebrated with some more cake. It was a fun day! 

piano recital 2016

On Sunday April 17 Noah and Evie had their second ever piano recital with Mrs. Reeves. They had both been practicing for months, had their music memorized, and did rather well. Better even than I anticipated.

Evie cracks me up.

And a third attempt at genuine smiles.

Evie performed a fiery song called Flamenco Dancer.

Noah's song was called Runaway Train, and it sounded like one.

Monday, May 2, 2016

aerating the lawn

On a Wednesday in mid-April, Terry rented an Aerator, otherwise affectionately known and dubbed as a Poopilator by my brother. As a child I never understood why my dad would do take all the time, work, and money to plug our yard and thought it was rather gross. Now that we have our own lawn it makes sense. Our lawn certainly does get tramped all over and quite compacted. In the past, before we aerated, it was July before our grass would really green up, despite regular watering. Last year it helped a ton - more than the Chem Lawn we dished out for since we thought it needed it that desperately. Turned out all we needed to do was aerate. Stinking Chem Lawn. So Terry rented the aerator a few days before it was supposed to rain and went to work:

It took a very short time for him to complete the front yard and a little longer for the backyard.

Terry got up early that morning to go and fetch the aerator and had started only when the kids had just gotten up. It was such fun for them to watch that I didn't want to pull them inside to eat breakfast. We ate outside.

I thought it looked like Ezra was at a pool. 


The trees had just started to bud. To see life returning makes my heart happy.


We had friends over yesterday who thought perhaps we needed to clean up after Snap. 

There's a man picture for you.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

the making of the marble shelf

Terry invented a marble shelf! It's awesome.

We frequent the library quite often and usually come away with no less than 30 books. This particular day we checked out 41. However, we used to have nowhere to put them! They would get splayed all around the main living room and every once in a while I would neatly pile them on the coffee table. And then the four-kid-tornado would hit and tear them all apart.

My friend Amanda and her homeschooled kids also check out tons of books. Last summer she had added a library book shelf to their living room and I thought it was such a good idea that I asked Terry for one too. And much like how Evie asked for a shelf for Christmas and received much more, so did I. We didn't want to buy a flimsy shelf so he decided to make one himself. While he was constructing it, he came up with the idea to make the shelf into a toy - a marble track. They love playing with marbles. We had a plastic marble track from a few years ago and the kids have destroyed it several times. Every time we go to Who's Toy House the littles are magnetically drawn to the large wooden marble tracks. Terry's a genius to come up with this idea.

Back in March before Dare 2 Share, Terry constructed the shelf's basic shape with pine boards. He then decided they weren't nice enough and added mahogany plywood over it all. But then we had D2S and he got sick with the flu and so the shelf sat for a while. When we recovered he cut one inch strips of wood and glued them to one side of the shelf. He didn't have enough clamps so he improvised with the old bricks from our fireplace.

However, once the pieces were all dry and we tried it out, it didn't work so well! The drops between each level were too great and there wasn't enough of an incline to hold the marble in and it would bounce right out.

Terry went through many iterations of corrections for this problem and finally landed on adding a long thin piece of pine to hold the marbles in and prevent them from bouncing out. And then on the other side of the shelf he put the tracks closer together, cut with more of a angle, both of which pretty much stopped the bounce. 

Next he added a marble/car maze for the top of the shelf. Once you reach the back corners the marbles drop down into the track.

The final thing Terry did was so add some mahogany plywood over the top of the pine track pieces and trim. It made it look a lot cleaner and smooth. 

Terry put two coats of gray stain down. It's the same color I put on the $10 coffee table and our storage bed. I thought we'd try it to take out any of the yellow color in the wood.

After those two coats. It looked a it a bit purple... 

I added two coats of Special Walnut, which is also what I did with the coffee table. 

Much better. Finally I put a couple coats of polyurethane on it. After about two months, it was finally done.

This was the first side that gave Terry all the trouble. You can see the long strips he added to cover where the marble drops down each level. It looks like it was part of the original design - you can't tell it was to hide a mistake.   

This is the other side that has more tracks and shorter drops. He added another thin strip of pine to prevent marbles from bouncing out, but it was much less of an issue on this side. 

Here it is in action! 

Noah helped me bring it inside after our library trip and then they got to work getting the books loaded on.


We have more than enough shelf space! Terry is seriously considering building another shelf, this time a little smaller. This one is a bit too snug for the kids to fit next to it. He even looked at wood yesterday. :D

The second side. 

The first side. 

 Look at those clean coffee tables! Oh, and the shelf. Oh, and the adorable kids reading...or pretending they can (I mean Samuel yo!)

The following morning Ezra discovered that his micro machines fit perfectly on top. He is the child that plays with this the most.  

Aw, such a cute boy and great shelf toy.