Saturday, March 28, 2009

how to put away a sharp knife

... according to Ebo.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

2009 Pinewood Derby

I vividly remember making my own pinewood derby car. Even though my mom was pretty handy around the shop, growing up without a dad put me at quite a disadvantage. But I didn't know that. I recall filing a grove in the hood of my car with something that I'm pretty sure was supposed to be a metal file. I carefully painted it (black of course) and even more carefully wrote the words "Ninja III" on the side (I was into ninjas as the time). To me it was a thing of beauty. When I finished it, I didn't think there could possibly be any car that looked better or ran faster. I mentally rehearsed getting the first place trophy. I knew there was no way I could lose.

Needless to say things didn't go down as I planned. Once I got to the derby, I saw an assortment of modified cars that left me dumbfounded. What's this thing about a weight limit? You mean you should add weight to the car? I was pretty outclassed. I finished near the bottom in speed and took home a ribbon or trophy that said "Snazziest" (seriously)--only because this was back when everyone had to win something.

Fast forward twenty-some years. Now it's not my pinewood derby car, but Aidan and Luke's car. Unfortunately, I'm probably only about 13% more competent with hand tools than I was when I built my own pinewood derby car. To this day I have never changed the oil in my car (and I have no plans to... don't get me started).

But I am pretty good at the Internet.

Who'd have known that there are pages and pages of tips on how to build fast pinewood derby cars. I printed off about 15 pages of stuff and after reading it myself, I handed it to Aidan and said, "after you read through this, we'll get started on your car." He read it that night.

At breakfast the next morning I quizzed him to see what he'd retained. He was on track. He knew the key was to reduce all sources of friction and to get the car to track as straight as possible. He knew that you'd need to add weight to get the car right up to the 5 oz limit.

We began construction on two cars. One for him and an "outlaw" car for Luke. Luke's not quite old enough to officially race, but we built him a car too. They started by drawing their designs on paper. After addressing a few impracticalities, we got to cutting.

It's pretty serious business.

Through much toil (a solid Saturday and a half), we came up with a couple nice cars.

Aidan had the "Gold Racer".

Luke made a tank.

I'll be honest that even though I tried to involve the boys as much as possible, I was feeling a little bit concerned that I had helped too much. Turning a 6 year old lose with a dremel was scary, but should I have let him shape the lead too? Isn't lead dangerous?

Once I arrived at the race and took a gander at the other cars, all my guilt was washed clean away. I then realized... this is as much a contest for Dad as it is for kids. Some athletic dads live vicariously through their kids' sporting endeavors. Us nerdy dads atone for childhood failures by engineering a pine wood masterpiece. Some of these cars were amazing.

The "Outlaws" looked pretty good too. Before the races, all the scouts and outlaws got to vote on which cars they liked the best. Neither of our boys voted for their own cars, which is remarkable considering they possess my DNA.

After all the cars were checked in and tested for illegal performance-enhancing modification (seriously), the first race was set to begin.

Tensions were high. Would our plans work?

We got second in our first race. Not too bad. We weren't the worst car.

In fact we got second a lot.

Look at that white car beating us to the line by less than a centimeter. We will have our revenge. Somebody check that car for PEDs!

Ah, the sweet taste of redemption as we pull out yet another second place finish, this time by beating that white car in a photo finish.

Oh come on! Sabotage! Foul play! Someone didn't want us to win and placed our car on the track backwards, dropping us to third place in this race.

But it looks like that black car truly was the better car this day. Even facing the right way we could not overcome her.

Luke enjoyed the races, patiently waiting his turn to run with the outlaws.

Unfortunately, the tank was really slow. I mean really slow. It got last every time. But that's okay. Luke's artistic expression was rewarded. The outlaws voted him the best of the bunch!! Who would have thought that a bunch of 6 year old boys would have deemed a tank to be coolest car?

Aidan's car finished 10th. I call that a top ten finish. It was fun making the cars and talking about the physics involved in making the cars go fast. The creation process was definitely the highlight for me and I think the boys really liked working with the power tools. We'll be back next year with three cars: Ebo will take his turn as an outlaw as Luke gets to run in the official races.

I'm thinking we may work for two and a half Saturdays next year. The competition doesn't stand a chance.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

luke's reading list

Luke has enjoyed some really great books lately. Here he is during one morning's reading practice.

One of the books we really enjoyed reading was, "Ruby Bridges" by Robert Coles. What a wonderful picture book this was, teaching us the story of Ruby who was one of the first four black six year olds to be sent to an "all white" school. My kids were incredulous that this sort of injustice happened in a place that in Aidan's words "probably had at least one Christian." Luke really liked that Ruby who was the same age as him was wise enough to pray for the people in the mob outside the school who were mean to her.

After reading about Ruby Bridges Luke moved on to his reader. Today it was "Black Flag" a wonderful story about a preacher named Cotton Mather who implored a group of buccaneers to repent of their sins and call out to God prior to being hanged. Luke loved this book and he did a great job reading it. My favorite thing about the stage Luke is at as far as reading ability goes is that as he hits challenging words which require extra work sounding out he gets louder and louder. By the time is finished with a paragraph he is practically yelling! Little sweetie.

The third book we read this week is "Wait For Me, Watch For Me Eula Bee." What an amazing story this has been! Recommended by good friends, Eula Bee as we call it has been one of Luke's favorite read alouds. This book about a family whose settlement is raided by Indians during the civil war has had us all on the edge of our seats. Luke will stop me many times to talk about our emotions during it, "Aren't you scared momma?" Or "Isn't that so sad momma?" as I am trying to read through tears.

It is so rewarding to sit beside my kids as they cuddle close and read them good books. Almost always the rest of the day is filled with discussion about ways in which the books we have read relate to our days and our worldview.

And this cuddly guy is one of my favorite people to listen to read and to read to, I don't want to ever forget how special are these school days.

Friday, March 13, 2009

valentines day

Our family is hit or miss when it comes to days like February 14th. Sometimes we celebrate, sometimes we don't. This Valentine's Day we had a good time celebrating.

We began several days before by having four kids from one family over and two with their mom from another. We had a blast. 10 kids 8 and under with Cutzi and me as the authority figures. We sang songs together (which all of the kids LOVED!), we made treats dipping pretzels into melted chocolate and decorating with sprinkles, shared lunch, played lots and lots, and made paper crafty valentines. Lots of laughs and fun but no pictures! It kills me that I did not even take one picture. I guess that is the thing that had to go taking care of ten kids ages 8 to 11 months!

On the 14th we got things started by giving the kids Spiderman (a current fav around here) valentines and punching balloons which I had picked up at the dollar store. The kids thought these gifts were the greatest thing ever!

Mike treated us all to his fabulous banana-blueberry pancakes (and of course we sang Jack Johnson). Yummy, he always makes the best breakfasts (and I make good coffee)!

Later that morning we headed over to Hovander for a chilly walk and visit to the playground. We all really enjoyed ourselves and most of all enjoyed spending time together. Especially after the time we have had apart due to Mike's travel lately.

We've studied the history of the holiday. We know we are not celebrating the pagan Lupercalia and we discussed the reason Roman Christian's chose to begin the tradition of remembering Christian martyrs and especially Saint Valentine on this day. But most of all we just enjoyed the sweet gift the Lord has given us in one another!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

our citrus habit

Every time we go to Costco these days, we come home with a 15 lbs bag of grapefruit.

I absolutely love grapefruit. But even better than grapefruit is fresh squeezed grapefruit juice.

I make up a big jar of fresh juice at least once a week.

We used to just drink it strait over ice. We still do that. It's incredible.

Even more incredible is to mix it with gin. It's pretty close to magical in its goodness. I think being able to have gin & grapefruit juice is top 3 on Amy's list of things that she's looking forward to about not being pregnant. Seriously it probably goes (1) holding/meeting the baby, (2) feeling better, (3) gin & juice, (4) the hospital food (5) who knows... See, it's right up there by my estimation.

For the time being, she mixes hers with club soda.

Seriously, you need to try this. Get yourself a citrus juicer and a big bag of grapefruit. Doesn't need to be a fancy one: this, this or this would probably be fine.

Friday, March 6, 2009

a fount of wisdom

Sometimes I wonder how other families get along without their own Ebo.

If a good tree bears good fruit, there must be a forest of full of "huh?" trees inside our Ebo. In order to remember this, we wrote down three things that he said. Keep in mind that these three things were said within a span of about 30 minutes. And it's not as if Ethan turned off the wisdom spigot at that point. It flows daily at our house.

[Ethan had worn his mother's shoes out into the family room because when his sister Ava does it, it's funny/cute. It's more funny/weird when he does it, but that's not the point of the story. I walk by and notice the spectacle out of the corner of my eye on my way into the kitchen. Also, keep in mind that all the boys are very much into Star Wars right now.]

Ebo, yelling into the kitchen: Daddy, I'm wearing momma's shoes!

Me: Yes, I know, I saw that.

Ebo, running into the kitchen: Daddy, how did you know? Did you use the force to see me?

[Sitting at the dinner table, we have a nice discussion about how Luke actually got to see the baby (inside momma's tummy) kick this afternoon and how special that is.]

The rooster crows.

Ebo: Momma, I just heard the baby kick.

And he's completely serious.

[About 10 mintues after that we're having a discussion about how momma get's scared sometimes with scary books or movies with real bad guys in them.]

Ethan offers: Momma, you don't have to be scared--the only real bad guys are giants [pause for effect] and monsters.

Again, he's not trying to be funny.

You don't have to ask Ethan to pose for these pictures. This is just what he does naturally.