Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Reading Program 2016

Last week I signed James up for the Summer Reading Program at our wonderful library branch. This will be a good time to just sit together unplugged and read.

Our first two books:
The Big Honey Hunt (the Berenstain Bears - James' choice)

Horrible Harry Goes Cuckoo (my choice; I thought James would identify with the challenges of keeping still)

Oh boy!

Sibling DIfferences In Shoe Shopping

She: Visit several stores, punctuated by hangry episodes and at least a dozen variations of "I want them, but: there's a seam / tightness in the toes / no one wears shows like this / nah." Buy at least one pair of new socks to make show wearing bearable. Can't be any socks, there are usually at least 3 qualities that MUST be present for sock wearing. Deal with Accessories Temptation on both our parts.
Finally get lucky at REI / Big 5, far from home. Once (as in only once) I scored during Black Friday Deals weekend at Old Navy with Uggs. Current favourite shoes are glossy black rain boots. They look fantastic, but they are rain boots, bought on after searching in vain at Garretts, Old Navy, Costco, and Target.

He: Make plans to spend up to an hour at Payless Shoes, mostly looking for the right size and something on sale-ish. Run late and decide WalMart will have take care of frozen chicken nuggets, bigger underpants, and shoes for James.

Stroll down shoe aisle at the back of the store, after scoring last package of undies in the new size. Spot 2 pairs very blue tennis shoes. Whisk off his sandal and hold them up to the soles and decide he's probably now a size 6. Ask if he likes them. "Yes." Ask if he really will wear these shoes. Every day. "Yes." Purchase shoes after snagging chicken nuggets. We pretty much traveled in a rectangle inside the store and were out in 20 minutes, 5 minutes from home. With any luck, both pairs will last for more than 6 months.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A Little Vacuum Miracle

Another "first."

The old vacuum (I cannot even remember how old it was) has finally died a slow, ugly, noisy, smelly death. I knew it was time to give it up and get a new machine when the old model started channeling the Exorcist by spewing out what it had just tried to consume creating hazy, odoriferous mayhem. I put off finding a replacement for as long as I could.

Over the past dozen years or so, vacuuming has become a traumatic event - for the kids because of the noise (it would literally send James running, screaming as he bolted in panic to escape the noise) and for me because it turned the chore into a horrible beat the clock kind of ordeal that had to be planned and frantically executed in a small amount of time when the kids were not around (which got even more challenging once I went back to work full time and the vacuum started breaking down and needing constant fixing).

Even opening the closet and seeing the red instrument of malevolent cacophony would set of anxiety attacks for James, who would then need constant reassurance that that hideous thing would soon be safely back behind closed doors. Unplugged. No really, I mean it.

So, new vacuum. I debated endlessly the merits of vacuums. We have cats. There is dirt galore. Crumbalanches have been known to happen in areas near the TV. I discover that lower decibel vacuums for pet owners in a modest price range are now a thing. Excitement! After hours of research and second-guessing myself, I schlepped off to Costco for a new Shark. I've never bought one before, but it got good reviews online and was on sale.

As I was eyeing the two Shark models on display, an older gentleman paused his cart alongside mine and regarded me with faint dismay. "Oh my, no. You are thinking of buying the Shark?" Out whisked a business card. "Forgive me, but I run a vacuum repair shop in town. You do not want a Shark. Those things come in for repairs? They are useless. Just a big metal paperweight. I am sorry for for interrupting but I just could not help myself. You can call the number on the card if you need anything." And off he sailed, as gracious as all get out.

Okay, Universe, I can take a hint. Hoover Wind Tunnel it was.

I got it home, assembled it, and turned it on. Oh my goodness - it really is a lot quieter!! And it does work well. I just have to continuously empty the canister. That's okay, though. It's easier to get to the canister and overall it is much lighter and easier to maneuver than the old one. It was more on sale than either of the two Sharks. My favourite feature? Auto-retractable cord. Yes!

The mini miracle? James isn't scared of it. He even came out to see how it worked. Both hands over his ears and bent over with anxiety, but I actually think he will get more used to this. He even tried pushing the vacuum himself. This is one of the times I am doing a victory whoop and dance inside my head. Yes!!!! We are just that much closer to mastering another life skill.

Which is good, because our mastery with the mop still needs a LOT of work. But that's another story ...

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

This Video Pretty Much Says It All ..

If you've been on social media, you may have seen this video making the rounds:

What you may not see is the extended post from The Mighty's website. And yes,

Because of my kids, I've learned the little things in life are often the sweetest. I would not have experienced that so exquisitely without them.

Monday, May 30, 2016

FFA Twighlight Parade: Let the Summer Start!

Many small towns have sweet traditions. Healdsburg has the Future Farmers' Association Twighlight Parade. James and I took it in. It signals the start to summer up in our area. As Healdsburg has become "discovered" it has become a big draw for the area.

Luckily, I know how to sneak in some side streets and find parking at a fairly close range, even once the parade gets underway. James' sister has been in this parade three times. This year, just James and I watched from the cur, sharing a bag of Doritos and a huge bottle of water.

There are trick riders:

HOBO Bicyclists (my favourites for this year):

Many dogs, a few goats, and an occassional cow on a float ... everyone from the preschools to the vineyards enjoyed this year's Barnyard Beach Party!

New entry for me this year (which might be James' favourite entry): our local airport. Nice waving, Control Tower! Can you bring the REACH helicopters next year?

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Fifth Grade Field Trip: Steelhead Release

I had to fight to get James included with this fifth grade peers this year. Despite a clear IEP, it took several sounds of meetings, many emails, and a lawyer or two to enforce it. When the dust settled and James was finally with his peers, it was January. It took more emails to get included on the class email list, and there were 3 field trips left in the year by then.

Release of the steelhead fry in a local creek was the first we could make, and it was a great trip. The day was sunny and cloudy, neither too hot or chilly for the fish or the kids. The class was literally all over the rocks and boulders, like bouncing ping pong balls. James started off by himself, watching, and eventually ended up under a grove of trees with some other boys.

Magnifying glasses came out and the kids lifted rocks to look for life forms underneath. They called out to each other to come see when they found something. They were excited as heck to be out of a classroom and exploring. The Mom Chaperones shouted out to those who strayed too far in their explorations ... there were some very enthusiastic discoverers in the group!

We had snacks and then headed down to the water's edge of Brush Creek, where the fry were somewhat acclimated to fresh water temps. The kids broke into groups to check the pH levels and water temperatures. They were going to turn in their data for scientific research. James stood apart watching, and was then called over by a group of kids, so he would not be left out. Right there, I felt all the struggles of this year were worth it. I was so happy to watch this inclusion just happen.

James' job was to report pH levels, which he did just fine. He then wandered up and down, observing other groups and having a great time climbing around the rocks. The fish were getting impatient, trying to swim out of their plastic cups.

The fish were released and cheered on as they swam away to freedom. After a bit of excited talking amongst themselves, the kids were rounded up for a class photo (my battery was out at this point, unfortunately) and then driven back to school. Did James have a good time?

Yes! Totally, totally worth it. At last!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Angry Birds Movie: Review

So this week I found out there really is an Angry Birds movie and heard some decent buzz around it. James missed the last day of school, due to a 24-hour flu bug. I thought seeing the movie would be a good way to cheer him up and for us to have some quality time.

 Yes, it's a movie about a video game; an app. You don't need to be up on all the birds' names and characteristics, but it helps make the movie more enjoyable. You are introduced to the main Angry Birds characters and the whole community of Bird Island (who remind me of the Lotus Eaters, but never mind). Nicely done, Rovio.

There is a nice set up for both the movie and game premise. We will overlook the comedic but oddly  unnecessary heroic eagle character who has no counterpart in the game. The ending of the movie, however deals with him rather neatly.

The piggies arrive. They are gleeful. We the audience know they are wicked: cowboy hats, chaps, trampolines and all. I enjoyed the setup. It feels true to the games and doesn't try to be too clever. It does not take too long.

There are explosions! Egg nappings en masse! Weeping parents who ended up at a loss as to what to feel or do next. The angry characters and the whole Angry Birds backstory suddenly made a lot of sense. I felt like the gang at Rovio saw Inside Out and became inspired (although I know this is probably not what happened).

Spoilers (and come on, you probably already know this is going to happen)....

The Sacking of Piggie Island is glorious. I have rarely seen James so animated, so gleeful!! He spent about 20 minutes jumping around in his seat with elation, laughing and stimming with "Eeeeeeee!", punctuated with "Did you see that, Mother?! What is your favourite part?" I thought the destruction of the Piggie Town was well and lovingly executed. You can just tell the entire team took pride in demolishing the structures following the spirit of the games.

The ending, as previously stated, was well done. Not over-the-top sweet and very satisfying. We stayed all the way through the credits. James *wanted* to stay for the credits. They were fun too.

Parental Summary:
  • Not too loud soundtrack (which is amazing these days). 
  • No swearing (although there are plenty of innuendos for the grown ups). 
  • Characters got upset but they did not make James upset, which is a neat trick.
  • Main characters all got into trouble and had consequences. Very familiar for kids and well handled, I thought. This also can be a trigger for James and it was not for this movie.
  • Lots of visual gags and painted puns -- they expect their audience to be quick and on the lookout for fun stuff. 
I feel like James got a big kick out of seeing familiar characters onscreen doing their stuff and from making connections between the whole emotions angle and his Social Communications class at the Swain Center.

Full disclosure - you get an up close (from the back) view of the eagle peeing off a cliff for over a minute. James could not figure that one out and I finally had to tell him I'd have to explain later. Get you potty humour scripts ready, folks!

Five out of five gold eggs! Check it out and enjoy some family time together!