Friday, May 26, 2017


BEING DRAMATIC: Many hours this week have been consumed by activities revolving around a play that Annabelle has a role in. Specifically, she plays Matilda Cobblestone, wife of the Shoemaker of "The Elves and the Shoemaker" fame.  Pictured above, she's hiding behind the fireplace, spying on the elves who are making shoes.

Annabelle had performances on Wednesday and Thursday night, and Friday, the show goes on the road. But not too far down the road, just to a retirement community that is next door to the school.

Our family worked on the sets for the play. Over spring break, we turned foam board insulation into a little stage magic.
First we carved 'rocks' into the stone with knives. We used a heat gun to round some of the edges. 

Next, we had to paint the rocks (several different shades of grays and browns), and the 'grout' lines.
Below, CJ and Annabelle work in the fireplace's inside. It was darker, due to the many fires that have burned within the Cobblestones' hearth.
We made flames out of orange, yellow and red fabric cut into flamey shapes and then stiffened via fabric stiffener.

We went down to a local beach to pick up a few pieces of driftwood to serve as the base for the fire. We were lucky enough to find some that had been charred by an illegal beach fire, so it was perfect. (We'll return the driftwood after the final performance, because I have an inkling one is not supposed to take wood from the beach.)

Below is a not great photo of the fireplace 'in action.' I'll try to get a better shot of it at today's performance. 
Oh, and did I mention that we also worked on catering dinner before each of the performances? We, along with some great volunteers, ran "Cobblestones Kitchen." The menu was simple, like the Cobblestones' lifestyle. People had choices between two types of hearty soup (posole or lasagna soup), and there was bread, vegetables, and homemade cobbler for dessert. We fed about 45 people each night, I do believe.

CJ helped with seating and serving and setting the stage both nights. 

We do allegedly have video, so stay tuned for that. 

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

On the Run

SUNDAY RUN DAY: Sunday morning, we were up early and headed toward Renton Memorial Stadium, site of the "Girls on the Run" 5K event.

Annabelle has been training with some other kids her age, and a bit younger, for the event. They've been running once a week on a Seattle track.

The kids are required to have a running buddy. Christian volunteered, as my running days are in the rearview mirror due to my bionic hip. 

They had beautiful weather for their jaunt, and CJ and I were there to cheer them on as they approached the finish line.

If you're on Facebook, you can see their last lap here:

LET THERE BE LIGHTHOUSES:  Here are some photos I never got around to posting a couple weeks back. We made some lighthouse/waterfront themed cookies for the Mukilteo Historical Society. 
 We made ferries, Washington states, some seagulls and sailboats - a fun mix.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Back in the Saddle

SPACEWALKERS AND ROCKET LAUNCH: We have been ultra super busy at MPA, and I'm way behind in documenting our duties. Let's see what I can remember. ...

I do remember we started last Friday with a spacewalk! 

Well, we didn't do the walking, but a pair of NASA astronauts did. Above, the photo shows 
Expedition 51 Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA. His spacewalk on Friday was his first. Accompanying him was astronaut Peggy Whitson. It was her ninth spacewalk. All totaled, it was the 200th spacewalk for the International Space Station's assembly and maintenance. 

Monday afternoon, there was a SpaceX launch that went perfectly.

The mission was Inmarsat-5 Flight 4, taking place at the historic Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. 
Due to mission requirements, SpaceX did not attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage after launch. 
Speaking of space stuff, recently we learned about a partnership between NASA and Texas Instruments to create a fun new contest to highlight the STEM and coding skills used to explore space every day. Called STEMnauts, it involves deciphering puzzles and brainteasers using the coding and STEM* problem-solving strategies NASA uses to make human life in space possible.

I wish we'd heard about it sooner

RUNAWAY: On Thursday afternoon, Annabelle ran the equivalent of a 5k, which was 12 laps around a track on Queen Anne hill. She's been participating in a "Girls on the Run" program for several weeks. This coming weekend, she'll do an official 5k run.
Go Annabelle!

LEWIS & CLARK & CO,: CJ and Annabelle participate in a social studies club. Last week, the kids each did reports related to the Corps of Discovery. 

CJ focused on Dismal Nitch, an unpleasant stop on their journey. As part of his report, he shared this National Parks Service video about it. It's pretty interesting.

Annabelle shared info about the one and only dog who went on the journey, Seaman.
You can see her presentation here:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

No Problem

PUT TO THE TEST: Our routine this week has been unusual. The kids don't have any of their regular classes Monday - Thursday. Instead, they have been taking Washington State's standardized test.  Called "Smarter Balanced," it's actually four tests; two language arts, two math.
To help boost their brains before the test, the kids have been ingesting a small shot of caffeine in the form of Mountain Dew. Specifically, some crazy concoction called  Dew.S.A, a new flavor of Mountain Dew.
PROBLEMATIC: As we've been cramming on math this week to review concepts and and new to the kids, there have been some frustrations and protestations - and one BIG light bulb moment. 

Around our kitchen table, we try to approach math as a conversation - we see a "problem," and before we even put pen to paper, we talk about what question is being posed. What are the units of measurement involved, if any? What is a reasonable estimate of what the answer will be? Those types of things. 

All the while, I try to keep reminding the kids that math is a process and a puzzle, and that it's fun to figure out or solve! 

While doing so, a couple of afternoons ago, I had an "Ah ha!" moment: It occurred to me that from the youngest age we're taught that math is a PROBLEM. 

How many times in your life have you been instructed to solve the math PROBLEM? Probably too many to count. 

Now think about this for a moment ...

Merriam-Websters defines problem, in part, as "a source of perplexity, distress, or vexation."

Google tells me problem is "a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome."

So let's do a little math ... 

Problem = Distress + Harm + Vexation
Math = Problem
Math = Distress + Harm + Vexation

See how that adds up?

And when do you ever want to have "a problem"?

Um, never!

Given all this, I think it's time to change how we talk about math. I propose that the word 'problem' not be used in association with math any more. Ever.

There are options. For instance, it could be solved by simply swapping in the word "puzzle," or "exercise "or "challenge" or even just "question."

A powerful tool to solve everything from calculating the cost of a banana to understanding the mysteries of life, the universe and everything, math is cause for celebration, not dread. 

Math is not the problem. The way it's talked about and taught IS all-too-often the problem. 

The good news is, there's a solution and it can start with something as simple as swapping out one problematic word.

MUSIC MAKERS: On Monday morning, CJ and Annabelle had the opportunity to take a field trip to the Apple store in the University District. There, they attended a neat-o workshop about how to use "GarageBand," a computer software program, to produce music.

I'll let CJ tell you a little more about it.

Monday, my sister and I got up before 8 A.M. to go to the Apple Store in the University District, located a couple miles from our house. We went for a workshop hosted at the store, where we would play with GarageBand, a popular IOS app used to create music.
Though I had heard about the workshop for multiple weeks prior, I had no idea what GarageBand was actually like until we went to the workshop. GarageBand allows you to take multiple audio tracks (that you can create with "Smart Instruments"), put them together, and thus get a song as a result. No knowledge of actual instruments is needed to make a song.
The song I made, titled "GarageBand Composition", is available at SoundCloud and Google Drive.
And here is a link to Annabelle's composition:

The kids got some nice swag from the class - a cool Apple T-shirt (they have them on in the photos at the top of this post) and a USB bracelet. Sweet!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Art and Airplanes

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: Friday evening, we headed downtown to the Seattle Art Museum. It was a special occasion as it was Annabelle's first time having her art hanging in a museum.

She, along with many other Seattle Public Schools students had art in the annual show.
Just inside the doorway, she checked in at the artists' table. She received a sticker identifying her as an artist, a nice certificate, and an event program.
 We found her artwork near the rear of the exhibition. 
I'll let her tell you a bit more about the experience.

WINGING IT: Saturday morning, we were up at 6:30 to make sure we could have Annabelle down to The Museum of Flight by 7:15. The occasion: A special meeting of Amelia's Club and a chance to visit the Alaska Airlines facility at SeaTac.

It looks like part of her day included a slide show about everything from how to fly a plane to how to become a pilot.

 I like the sense of humor in the slide below. 
 The visitors were definitely asked to take their opportunity seriously.

I'll let Annabelle tell you a bit more about her day. ...

Alaska Airlines Aviation Day was an event I went to as part of my Amelia’s Aero Club, a club for middle-high school girls that are interested in aviation. When I arrived at the Museum of Flight, I joined my group and we got on the bus to Alaska Airlines. The first thing we did when we reached the building was watch a few presentations by pilots and employees of Alaska Airlines. They talked about how planes fly, why they fly for Alaska, and how we could become pilots, too. After watching the presentations, my group came together and took turns in the flight simulator used by real pilots! The simulator had a large, curved screen in front of it so it actually looked like you were pulling in to the airport. Me and my friend, Isabell, took turns and successfully landed the plane twice!

                  (the photo below is a small model of the flight simulator)
Our next stop around the offices was a room where flight attendants showed us the self-defense they learn and how they evacuate planes in an emergency. There was a training dummy (named Bob) that they used to show how to use parts of your body like thumbs, to poke at an attacker’s eyes; your elbow, to deliver fast and tough jabs to the abdomen; and your feet to stomp in their way and kick them. After the small training on self-defense, my group worked our way into the model plane, where the flight attendants briefed us on what was going to happen. A (recorded) safety briefing began to play, before it was interrupted by the attendants telling everyone loudly to get our heads down and grab our ankles in a bracing position. After the plane “landed” they told everyone to get up and out of the way (so they could check the damage) and the two in the front directed everyone to fold their arms and step off onto the slide. The attendants said the rules state they need to be able to evacuate everyone in 90 seconds or less.

Before I knew it, we went for lunch in the plane hangar and sat right next to a plane. Once everyone was finished eating, we walked to a few small planes and learned a bit about US customs and what they prevent. Our group went back to the flight attendant’s room to kill some time, and then we left. It was a fun day, and I love learning more about aeronautics!
She certainly got an up close view of some pretty planes!
 Below is a photo of some of the things that didn't make it through U.S. Customs checkpoints.

CJ enjoyed his moment in the sun at the Museum of Flight. Earlier in the day, he purchased his first two domain names. Look for more information about those in posts to come.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

May the Fourth Merriment

FORCE-FULL: Thursday was May the Fourth, and for our family, that's akin to a holiday, because it's Star Wars Day! For those who don't know, the 'holiday' happens because May the Fourth sounds like "May the Force ... " of Star Wars fame.)

It just so happened that on that day we were helping host a teacher and staff appreciation luncheon. Naturally, we used a Star Wars theme for that ...
Darth Tater, Frylo Ren and the Spud Trooper stood guard at the start of the baked potato bar.
There were liquid refreshments. ... 
 We had a few fun signs around the room. ...

 And some spaceships, as well!
 The table was set with Star-Warsy items.
And light sabers lined the white board.
We had to have a few cookies, of course.
And vintage Star Wars Thermoses served as flower vases.
Meanwhile, down the hallway, CJ and Annabelle led a Star Wars singalong.
They played Weird Al's "The Saga Begins."

Later that afternoon, the young Rebels caught a transport, and headed to the Safeco Field spaceport.
Sign and stuffie on hand, they hung out in the bullpen for awhile
And then they made their way around the concourse, running into some old friends ... and enemies. 

They made sure to make time to watch the "Hat Trick" puzzle.
 And they even watched some baseball.
All in all, it was an epic day.