Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Hoard of Locusts

5 1/2 cheese pizzas
4 bags assorted chips
1 jar salsa
1 lb. M&Ms
1/2 lb. peanut M&Ms
at least 6 12-packs of soda
2 lbs of Twizzlers
a couple pounds of leftover Halloween candy
5 1/2 doz. homemade chocolate chip cookies
~4 doz. assorted other homemade cookies

17 teenagers (including JC and Rachel)
10 hours
Only one item left behind (so far)

No casualties, no breakage, only a couple of spills.  But I think I might be slightly deaf.

Post-Christmas Chaos

We have a dozen-plus teenagers in my house right now.  JC asked if he could invite all the members of the Role-Playing Games (RPG) club to our house for a Christmas party.

They're heeeeeere.....

I can't complain, really.  These are the same kids, current generation, that I hung out with when I was in high school.  (One of the girls is wearing knee-high boots with buckles all the way up the front and 4 inch platform heels.  At least, she came in with them on, there's a huge pile of shoes in my front hall.)  The dress is both different and the same (one of the boys has a knit hat COVERED with buttons (the kind with sayings.  I had a coat like than in high school)).  These are the gamer girls and geek boys that freak out parents and make teachers assume they are stoners.  For the record, I don't get that vibe from any of them.  They're actually pretty polite, and several of them have mentioned they think our house is awesome.  And they're including Rachel and tolerating William. 

There was a short period of time when William got out his Nerf guns that got a little chaotic, but now they have settled back into a role-playing game.  This is actually about the third or fourth game that has been played, and most of them have really arcane, complicated rules that seem to require arguing and evil laughs and such.  I'm sitting down in my craft room, "cleaning", but really eavesdropping and occasionally coming out to "check if you need more food".  It's a little noisy, but all good so far.  They inhaled a bag of potato chips in about 5 minutes, and I think we'll be picking up multiple pizzas later, but so far I have enough chips and cookies and such out that they seem to be happy.

I wish I had the nerve to take pictures and post them, but I don't think they'd say yes if I asked, and I'm not going to post without permission.

I may need a very very quiet day tomorrow to recover, though.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

All Kinds of Awesome

A week or so ago, we had a family experience that ranks up there with THE BEST EVER.  Maybe even number one on the list.
Last year (so, more than a year ago), we bid on and bought the "Behind the Scenes tour at the American Museum of Natural History", at the charity gala that I've been working on.  One of my friends had done it through another charity auction and raved about it.  I thought it would appeal to everyone in our family, and we ended up being the only bidders so we paid the minimum (which was still pretty pricey).

Well, when I opened the envelope, I found out it needed to be after 5 pm on a weekday.  That's a challenge during the school year, so I put off contacting the museum.  And then I didn't get around to it all summer.  And then the school year started again.  And then.... eventually my friend contacted the guy again about offering it at THIS year's auction, and nudged me to get it together.  So I did.

I don't know that I can adequately describe our tour.  Our guide was Carl Mehling, who was absolutely delightful.  He's a research assistant who manages the fossil collection in the Paleontology Department.  Imagine someone with the enthusiasm of a 5-year old for dinosaurs, and you'll be close.  We went up to the prep lab, where we took no pictures because most of it hasn't been published yet, and got to talk to one of the museum's preparators.  He was absolutely fascinating and answered all of our questions, including, "what do you major in for college to get a job like this?"  (Art and biology, actually.)  We saw fabulous specimens in various states of prep, saw the tools, talked about the different kinds of rock and challenges that preparing fossils can present, and how very LONG it can take.  Months and months - the most important skill for the job is patience.  If you watch this video from the museum, we saw that very ankylosaur skull in its "finished" state in that lab. 

From there, we went downstairs in the world's biggest elevator (not really, but it was REALLY big), to the "Big Bone Room".  I do have a few pictures from there, but I need to contact Carl to see if I can "publish" them.  However, I found this video on the museum website, so you have to imagine us there in that storage room.  (the 2nd video on the page has better views of the Big Bone Room, though we weren't in the room with the T-Rex model)  Those shelves are on tracks in the floor, and have cranks to move them because they weigh thousands of pounds.  William got to turn the cranks - gears are your friend!  Some of those bones are absolutely huge, I kept telling the kids, "stand next to this so I can take a picture."  We absolutely grilled Carl with questions (Poor guy.  JC adored dinosaurs when he was younger so we've actually read a fair amount on the subject).  He was great, though.  I'm sure we kept him much longer than he expected, but we did eventually wrap it up and head back up to the public part of the museum.

After we said good-bye to Carl, all three kids said something to the effect of "that was SO COOL!!"

They were right.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

23 1/2 Hours a Day

I found this very moving.  Thanks to The Yarn Harlot for tweeting about it and providing the link.

I will add that I recently joined a new gym - I've been going to a gym for years, but had fallen off in intensity and frequency.  New gym, better equipment, yes, a little more time per session, but...

The back issues I've had for several years now?  Much reduced.
The knee issues that had popped up again after several years of little trouble?  Virtually gone.
I've been going 2+ times a week for less than 3 weeks.

Better than any drug.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas...

...which means I'm feeling behind.  The challenge of having family spread across the country is that you lose a week or more of shopping - because you have to save time to ship.  I got smart and ordered a number of things online and had them shipped directly, but there are still a couple of boxes to go out.

That's what I'm supposed to be doing right now.  I'm blogging.  Procrastinate much?

I have some much belated pictures from William's birthday to share.  We went with a Star Wars theme.  Pipe insulation light sabers (customized with colored electrical tape), origami Yodas and Darth Papers (inspired by the books of the same names), light saber cupcakes, and the piece de resistance, custom stormtrooper balloons decorated by Rachel.  They were all different - she googled stormtrooper images and we had everyone from the Clone Troopers to Forest Scouts to Darth Vader himself.

The weather was surprisingly warm for a November birthday, so we threw the boys in the backyard with their light sabers, and tied the balloons to weights all over the yard.  You'd be surprised how much they got into "attacking" the stormtroopers - although poor Darth Vader, after 20 minutes or more of painstaking work by Rachel, ended up an early casualty.  One of the boys whacked him repeatedly and enthusiastically, and he popped quickly.  The others lasted longer - one was accidentally released to the wild, and several actually survived the battle.

After pizza and cupcakes, we plugged them into a Lego Clone Wars DVD.  Worked well as a time filler while the parents trickled in.

Seems like just yesterday... but it was the middle of November - which may explain why I'm gobsmacked that Christmas is so close.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Beginning or the End?

Saturday is the Band Parents Craft Fair. This marks the last of the major volunteering I've been doing this fall. There are a few ongoing projects, but they're mostly on autopilot now. To say that I am relieved would be an understatement. I haven't worked (for pay) outside the home for over 15 years, and while these commitments haven't added up to a full-time job, it's been a significant part-time job since September. I am no longer used to having this much committed time, and yes, my respect for working parents has only gone up. I think I will endeavor not to do this again.

I've always volunteered, but this was enough to make me not enjoy the process. If it's adding this much stress, and I feel like I can't do a good job, I really have to learn to say "no". It's hard, but it's got to start happening.

So now the Christmas season can begin, for me at least. I'm having a bit of a conflict this year-I'd like to spend a little less and clutter up the house less (mine and others), and I'd also like to shop more locally, support small artists, and otherwise spend responsibly. What's the problem, you say? There is SO much cool stuff out there! Etsy is a seriously dangerous site for me. Got a daughter who's into Japanese anime and manga? This site has pins and earrings from her favorite comics! Got a son who's into video games and online comics? This site has t-shirts! Got a family member who's into bacon? Somebody on Etsy has a whole shop dedicated to bacon accessories. If I had to search out each little store and drive all over the place, it would seriously curb this. The Internet is an enabler. But if you're on my Christmas list and you like something obscure? Let me know - the hunt is afoot!