Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Last Day of 2008!
December has been filled with snow...and then melting snow. We've had some pretty wild extremes here, but today has been COLD!

On December 20th the kids celebrated the last day of Fall with a snowy swing ride.

They love to get swinging pretty high...

and then jump off the swing, turn around in the air, and land in the snow.

Kyle just likes to fall off the swing into the snow.

It's hard to believe but we've live in Wisconsin 15 years now and this year we broke down and bought a Geo Tracker with a snow plow!

No more shoveling for hours on end just to get out of the more dependence on the kindness of our neighbors to eventually plow us out when they can. Now we can actually help to plow them out. We'll also be able to use our full driveway down to the garage...and not just the bit at the edge of the driveway. The day we bought it was pouring rain and then that night we got about 3 inches of fresh snow for Tom to test the plow. It worked great!

Tom's business has been growing and getting stronger. He's serviced 50 customers since August and hasn't had too many days off since then. We decided it was time to upgrade his work vehicle. Currently he's been using the Family Van...our 92 Toyota Previa, and we're thinking we're going to need that again in April when we'll have 3 kids to tote around.
He found a great deal on a 2002 Chevy Express Cargo Van.

I'll take more pictures when we get the business lettering on it, but we're thinking the lettering might look something like this...

I've been pulling my hair out the past couple of days trying to upgrade our free business site to a professional one (without the annoying pop-up ads and top banner advertising). I tried because they had a hosting special and I read that they were user friendly. I spent days trying to learn Joomla (a software script for building websites) with no luck at all! I followed the tutorials, but I just didn't get it. Then I researched "best web hosts for beginners" and found They had a better special going on, so I actually ended up saving $$. I can't really dive into it until hostmonster transfers my domain (can take up to 72hrs), but so far I think I'll like it better. They have a website builder for idiots like me called Page Mason. I can just plug my info into a template, which is pretty much all I know how to do. I still have to figure out how to upload pictures, but I think that will be easier once the domain is transferred.
I'm making Black-Eyed peas for New's Years dinner tonight...unfortunately I have NO collard greens...will cabbage do? I hope so. We also have some New Glarus Cherry Ale to ring in the New Year...don't worry I won't drink too much. It's a mild Ale, IMHO :-).
We still have our Christmas tree and Christmas decorations up...I gotta work on taking them's the longest I've ever kept it up.
The baby is doing least it's moving around a lot and the heartbeat sounds strong and healthy. I visit the midwife on January 5th.
Reeve and Kyle are doing well and are happy when it snows...just one of the reasons that it's probably a good thing we live in Wisconsin. The other things we love about life in Wisconsin is the easy access to locally grown organic food and Wisconsin Public Radio. We love to listen to Garrison Keilor's "A Prairie Home Companion," Big Top Chautauqua's Tent Show Radio, Wisconsin's Old Time Radio Drama with great radio shows from the 40's & 50's, and my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE RADIO SHOW IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD... CHICAGO PUBLIC RADIO'S "THIS AMERICAN LIFE" with Ira Glass. If you ever get a chance to listen to it...DO! It's awesome.

Everyone have a SAFE and HAPPY NEW YEAR'S EVE!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Once Upon a Christmas Cherry in the Lab of Shakashiri

A couple of weeks ago we went to the University of Wisconsin in Madison to watch UW Chemistry Professor, Bassam Shakashiri, put on his annual "Once Upon a Christmas Cherry in the Lab of Shakashiri" Christmas presentation.

It was a lot of fun! The kids got to sit in the same lecture hall where I had Chemistry...I started to get panicky about taking exams.

We had front row seats for Bassam Shakashiri's (don't you just LOVE his name) 39th Christmas might be able to see it on your local PBS station. Here is the link to his website. We've seen it on TV, so it was really something to be in the front row and see it live.

Bassam likes to use a lot of color, explosions, and fire in his demonstrations...

All the balloons had different gasses in them and they each did something different when he set them on fire.

This one made a huge popping sound:

Reeve and Kyle were in awe...theire faces looked like this throughout the whole show...

Since it was the 39th Presentation Bassam's lecture focussed on the 39th Element in the Periodic table...Yttrium

It was discovered in Ytterby, Sweeden in 1794 and has been used to make the red color in color tv's (not the new flat screen kind...but the old color tv's with tubes), the crystal garnet used in radars, and other uses in lasers, camera lenses and fireproof bricks.
This is a bubble floating on carbon dioxide:

Bucky Badger came to visit and help...check out is science goggles...

After he was done helping he got Kyle to sit on his lap!

Santa came to help too!

After the show we went and picked out some VOCfree paint and floor tiles for the bathroom...I would like to get this project done before the baby comes in April...I'm actually hoping to finish the bathroom and paint/tile the adjoining bedroom. I was under the false assumption that Tom would have more time to work on the house when he went into business for himself, but he's still working 6-7 days a week! When he's not working he's been shoveling snow and chopping firewood. We've had the 6th snowiest December sincd 1881!
I recently had a visit with my midwife and all is well with baby and me. The baby has been very active...especially around 3-4am. I have a feeling I'll have another early morning seems they know that's a good time because I'm not doing anything important...only sleeping :-).
While we were at the midwife's house we got to see her calf that was born 2 weeks precious!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thanksgiving Trip

First I'd like to respond to my friend's comment about our last trip sounding kind of miserable...amazingly enough it wasn't :-). It was short and sweet. I guess you could say, as a family, we're incurable optimists and usually when challenges come our way we can generally find a reason to be thankful. We went down there and accomplished mainly what we wanted to...Tommy going to the HHO fair, camping near the beach, and seeing my brother and his wife. True we packed it all in a short period of time, but we had a fun time doing it. The kids really missed going over to Hobe Sound and hanging out with everyone there, but they also knew we'd see everyone at Thanksgiving, and they actually couldn't wait to get back to Wisconsin.

Reeve was way too hot in Florida, and he was worried they were going to miss some good snow back home. It seems like everyday since about August he's been waiting for the snow to come. He's spent countless hours drawing up plans of our yard and where he and Kyle are going to build their snow forts for the snowball fights. Before we left we had a little snow and they were out there trying to sled on was difficult because there was such a tiny amount of snow and the grass was still poking out...then it melted on them and they came inside all muddy. Many a time Reeve's expressed a concern about moving to the South...he's afraid life will be miserable with no snow and hot weather. I seriously think if we did move down South he'd have Seasonal Affectivenss Disorder (SAD) becuase there'd be no snow. He even loves it when it gets pitch black dark at 4:30pm! Last week it was like 13F outside and he was out trying to build his snow forts in the 2" of snow we had. He stayed out there for hours and long past Kyle's limit. Kyle came in rosy cheeked and frozen looking, so I checked on Reeve...I think he was joking, but when I asked him if he was cold he said, "No! Are you kidding me? I'm sweating!" He just looked so happy. He said that if we move we should move to Viroqua, WI and for his first job he wants to go around to all of our neighbors and offer to shovel their snow off the sidewalks.

We were also glad to get back and rescue my friend from our cat Cosmo. She said he did fine in her house, but he was anxious to get outside. It's also really tough to leave in the cold weather for any length of time because it takes such a long time to get the house back up to a comfortable temperature.

Since we've been back from our Thanksgiving trip we've had over a foot of snow fall. Monday night through Tuesday we had 10 inches of snow fall from one storm. Our neighbor was super kind to plow out our driveway. Reeve is a maniac with the snow shovel. He didn't even want to eat breakfast Tuesday morning when he saw the mountains of snow outside. He got his snow suit on and was out there shoveling pathways. He made some nice pathways for me to the mailbox and compost pile...I was really tickled. Kyle's not into shoveling, but he's good at keeping Reeve entertained out there. He's constantly acting out some play he's thought up and he really cracks himself up with his wittiness.

Okay...moving on to our wonderful trip to Atlanta for Thanksgiving. We had a blast there and the kids loved playing with their cousins. Tommy and the kids found some great parks to play in, and we learned that Gwinett County Georgia is number one in the nation for their parks system. We drove around and saw where Tommy grew up and the parks where he used to play.
They had fun whispering to each other at this park:

I think they were supposed to stand on these spinners, but they had fun sitting:

After seeing pictures of their Uncle Ken and Aunt Erin rock climbing they couldn't wait to scale this rock climbing boulder:

Tommy had fun learning to set the timer on our camera:

This one is a better practice shot before the group picture...I'm almost 5 months pregnant :-)

We got some really good family pics's one:

and a great family pic with the timer outside:

Thanksgiving dinner was wonderfully delicious. The kids were really cute all dressed up.

They even held hands and said a Thanks before they ate:

The next day a few of us went to the Coke Museum in downtown Atlanta.

We saw lots of American Coke art:

and Santa Coke art:

The American Idol couch from Season 4 was there:

We also got to taste different coke products from around the world.

My favorite was a gingery tasting one from Tanzania. Sadly we've brainwashed our kids so much that they refused to even try a coke. Reeve was in disbelief that I'd want him to try something that could rott his teeth out. We tried to explain that a little every once in awhile would do no harm, but both of them were very serious about not drinking even one ounce.
The visit ended with a sit on Santa's lap

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Traveling Rayes

November was a month of travel for us. We had originally hoped to take 3 weeks off...1 week in Tampa, 1 week in Hobe Sound, and 1 week in Georgia, but our plans changed in a big way.

We started out Nov 10th driving to Bradenton, FL for the world's first HHO Expo...(an expo all about hydrogen as energy and demonstrations on how to convert your car to burn gas more efficiently, reduce emissions, and raise miles per gallon by about 30%). Tom has been VERY interested in this for quite some time and he really wanted to go to see how others were converting their cars.

On the way down we had renewable energy on the brain. Normally we pass by this wind farm near Paw Paw, IL at night. We were surprised to see they had added a lot of wind turbines since the last night we had seen it in the daylight.

For the most part the kids slept, which was a relief to the drivers! They used to be fairly easy to travel with long distance, but this trip they were non-stop chatter boxes. Kyle gets especially animated and they both want to be sound effects experts...using their own voices for all the effects. When Tom and I are trying to tag team driving one of us sleeps and the other drives, well when the kids were up sleeping was impossible.
We were exhausted when we arrived at the HHO expo. We all walked around with Tom and saw a lot of demos that looked like this:

And technical stuff like this:

I tried to get into it, but most all of it went way over my head and I spent most of the time sleeping in the mini-van or at our campsite.
We really lucked out and had beautiful camping weather and an awesome campsite right on the water in Ft. Desoto Park near Tampa, FL. My brother Ken reccomended it, and we're oh so glad he did.

We picked out a site and had the tent set up just in time to see the sunset. There was a full moon out and we slept in the tent on the really was comfy.

In the morning we all had breakfast and then said goodbye to Tom as he went to Day2 of the HHO Expo.
Meanwhile the kids and I took a 3 mile walk to the beach.

I was hoping it was going to be on the Gulf of Mexico, but to get to that beach was an additional 5 mile hike...NO WAY was I doing that.

It was hot and Reeve was so hot he said he had to put his shirt on his head to cool off. I tried to explain to him that it was a dark shirt, and probably wasn't helping to cool him off, but he didn't care.

We didn't go into the water for several reasons. The water was a little chilly, there were sting ray warnings (which totally freaked Reeve out), it was on the Tampa Bay side and Reeve knows there are a lot of sharks in Tampa Bay, and the water didn't look too terribly inviting.
When we got back to camp Kyle accidently got his foot stuck in the picnic table...

He was very upset at me for taking a picture of him while he was in agony. He made me promise to take a better picture of him...

While Tom was at the HHO expo he had a neighbor call him asking for a bid on a new furnace because his 50year furnace gave out and he was without heat. We decided to visit my brother Ken and his wife Erin and then head on back to Wisconsin.
Ken and Erin made us some home made pizza which we all scarfed down. We hadn't really eaten a whole lot on the trip. I had made sandwhiches for the ride down and then we forgot the coleman fuel for the campstove. The first day we got there we ate fruit and then had cereal for breakfast the next morning. For lunch we had leftover beans & rice with chips...that was it until we got to Ken's!

Ken and Erin have two lively little dogs...the picture is blurry, but Sam can really jump!

Kyle is shaking hands with Toto.

After dinner Ken introduced us to the wonderful world of Wii! We had never seen this before.

Reeve had a try at hitting virtual soccer balls with his head and dodging shoes and other flying objects.

Kyle had fun doing the hula.

And Reeve really got into the virtual jogging...however, he had a really hard time jogging in place. Ken kept having to pull him back so he wouldn't run into the TV.

We spent 3 hours at Ken & Erin's and then drove non-stop back to Wisconsin. We were gone a total of 4 days...just about the shortest trip we've ever taken to Florida.