Nov 30, 2011

One More Preparedness Post...

I mentioned how cool I thought Sam and Adrienne's wood burning stove was, right?

Sam cooking up some delicious Lemon Chicken
Well, it got me even more motivated to get my emergency "stuff" in order.  I'm using the closet under the stairs as my food storage/72-hour-kit storage.  (We have very little closet/storage space here.)  At the moment, everything is just shoved back there and it's all pretty inaccessible.  But at least I have most of the stuff I need.
For example,  I bought 6 of these backpacks:

One for each member of our family.  I want to transfer all our 72-hour stuff into these.  Some of our stuff is already in backpacks, but not rolling ones.  And some is in boxes.  I want everything uniform and clearly marked.  Also, these should give us more than enough room for everything including one backpack full of spare outfits.  (Should be pretty light--Gray can pull that one!)

I looked at quite a few different options before buying these ones.  They're not the highest quality, but that meant they weren't as expensive and they still got good reviews.

They're also not the cheapest option, but if I'm fleeing somewhere and my kids are schlepping along behind me dragging their 72 hour kit, I don't want anyone's handle to break in half or wheel to pop off.
(Once they're all packed and ready, I'll print and laminate some cards for each one with emergency contact info, etc.)

I bought a few more of these so we now have one for each boy:

(If the power is out, they can wear it around their neck to be hands-free, and also, it's harder to shine directly into my eyeballs.)  These come with new batteries in the plastic shell packaging, but we also have plenty of spare AA's.  (I think these take 3 AA's, but it might be AAA.)  Last time the power went out here, I found two water bottle lanyards for Max and Sam and hung them from those.

When I get it organized and cleaned up, I'll post some pictures.

I've also started buying #10 cans of grain, and we got our first water barrel!

Not this exact one, but same thing:

Adrienne had about 10 under her house.  But hey, baby steps to preparedness, right?!?
(Note:  My sister Laura told us not to put this directly on cement or concrete, but up on wood.  So I bought a 2x4, had it cut into thirds at Home Depot, and we put our barrel on top of the wood on the side of our house...and then filled it with the hose.  We did not treat the water with bleach because it's clean enough coming from the hose already.  And this isn't water for drinking.  We have bulk water bottles for that.)

Oh, and one of the reasons I'm writing this post:  To pass on this brilliant tip:
Tami read somewhere the other day that a family who lost power, took their solar garden lights from their yard, and used them to light their house.

I think this is a brilliant idea because;
1.  No fuel or batteries needed.
2.  No fire hazard from candles tipping over.  (A real concern when you're being rocked by multiple aftershocks after an earthquake.)
3.  They're being continually charged--and stored--right in your yard, ready to go!

And from the looks of it, you can buy a ten-pack for around 40 bucks.  Not too shabby.  (Plus, you'll have cool little lights in your yard!)

I thought that was two smart not to pass on to you.  Because even if I had these in my yard, I probably wouldn't have thought to bring them in if the power went off!

Now what about you?  What have you done to prepare for an emergency lately?  Any more brilliant tips for me?

Thanksgiving Recap - Part 2

Day 4/Friday:  Check out day.
Got off to a slightly tense start when Tami had a pregnancy scare. (Which started the night before)
No, not the kind where you’re scared you’re pregnant.  The kind where you’re pregnant and scared that something is wrong with the pregnancy.  Wes took her to Urgent Care and everything is okay for the time being.  The high altitude, dehydration and probably stress and overwork were causing some issues.  But there were some fervent prayers, a Priesthood blessing, and tears and the baby is okay and staying put.  Okay, now I’m crying again.  Moving on. 

This changed the plans a little and instead of going straight to Monterey, we went to Sam and Ad’s house for a driving break.  They have a super cool house on a beautiful piece of land in Nor Cal.  Plus, they’re into preparedness so it was cool to see their awesome crawl space filled with food and water and talk to Adrienne about how she has prepared her family for just about anything.  For one thing, they have a huge garden bursting with fresh food.  They also have this super cool wood burning stove.  It heats most of their downstairs PLUS you can COOK on it.   Tami and I were both staring at it enviously and thinking how much different life could have been after the earthquake if we’d had a wood burning stove for warmth and cooking purposes.

It's definitely going on my "dream house ideas" pin board.

After spending the afternoon and evening at Sam's, we hopped back in the car and headed to Monterey.
Wes just finished "school" in Monterey.  He learned Spanish at the Defense Language Institute to prepare him for his next assignment in Argentina.  They leave in January and we're a little (a lot) bit heart-broken that they wont be just up the (relative) street from us anymore.

We're hoping to go visit them there next year though, so that is a small consolation.  We also get to see them one more time on their way out of town so we're not too filled with despair.

Day 5/Saturday:  We took our time getting up and ready and headed to Monterey Bay Aquarium.  I've been here a few times before and have great memories of my visits.  I hope my kids will now too.
Camille trying out Max's wheel chair

Waiting for the shark show to start
Coincidently, I also ran into Claudia, my dad's wife, with a few of her kids and grandkids!  They live in Clovis but were in town to visit the aquarium too.
The new Sea Horse exhibit was amazing!

The Jelly Fish exhibit is always a crowd pleaser...

And now the boy/girl thing has official become "awkward".

I love Sea Turtles...

Baby Gray checking out the baby grays.

Gabe stayed in this position for quite awhile...
It was SUPER crowded, but we managed to have a great time regardless.  We put Tami in a wheel chair, Max in a wheel chair, (he twisted his ankle the night before and REALLY wanted a wheel chair--whether or not he needed it is debatable.) and Gray in a stroller and stormed our way through the whole place.  

It was a fun day and we were glad we braved the crowds.  (I don't know if Wes and Tami were since they have season passes and can go when it's not crowded...)

Day 6/Sunday:  Time for our fun to come to an end.  We had to drive home.  We ditched out on church so we could get on the road and drove all day getting home after 9p.m.

It was a great trip and we're so glad we did it!
Thank you Tami and Wes (and Sam and Adrienne) for your generosity in sharing your Timeshare/Holiday/Family Time/and Home.
You guys are the best!  We love you!!!

This year, I'm thankful for UBER FAMILY!!!

Thanksgiving Recap - Part 1

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  We just returned from a great week with the Wes and Tami family.   (You know the guy who has a job much cooler than your job?  That's Wes.  See the above link.)

You may recall that they are the friends who stayed with us after the earthquake.  They used some Timeshare points to get condos in Lake Tahoe and asked us --while we were still in Japan-- if we wanted to join them for Thanksgiving.

We considered the fall-out if we chose to spend our first major holiday in the states with friends instead of family...

Then we realized that they ARE our family:  Uber Family.  Earthquake Family.  Japan Family.  Just family.  And hey, they asked us first.  So we said YES!
(Plus, we're also FUTURE family since we're planning for our kids to inter-marry--just to make things more official.)
We are SO glad we went.  We had a blast.  Here's a quick(longish) re-cap:

Thanksgiving Tahoe Vacation
Day 1/Tuesday:  Leave at 6:30 a.m.  Drive a new way up the 395.  Drive drive, drive drive drive, 

Breakfast at Denny’s, drive on windy road, stop for Sam to puke, drive drive drive.

Really pretty scenery, stop for ice ball fight,

drive drive drive, 12 different pee breaks, drive, drive, drive, stop at an antique store, drive drive drive.

Arrive in Tahoe.  Papa Murphy’s for dinner.  Meet up with Tami and Wes, check in to our BEAUTIFUL condo.  {This is the second time Doug and I have stayed in a time share condo in Tahoe and, again, it was awesome.} We had a two room suite, Tami and Wes had a two room suite, and Wes’ brother Sam, wife Adrienne, and their eight kids had a three room suite.  If we ever buy a time share, it will be in Tahoe.  It was awesome.

(We met Sam and Adrienne when we went to Monterey for Camille’s baptism a few months ago and our kids were excited to see each other again.)

Day 2/Wednesday:  We visited the lake (right across the street from our condo)
It was a little chilly, but super-duper beautiful!

And only one kid (Sammy) fell in the frozen lake.

 relaxed, hung out, made pies, watched HGTV and YouTube videos,
Doug and Wes are such a cute couple!

went in the hot tub,

and went shopping for groceries and supplies.  (I made two America’s Test Kitchen Chocolate Cream Pies.  No Peanut Butter pie this year…I thought it would be too hard in a condo kitchen.  I’ll make it for Christmas!)

Day 3/Thursday:  Tami made stuffing and we got it in the Turkey and in the oven early.  (I was in charge of the turkey, which is the easiest thing ever) and Adrienne did potatoes.  Tami made apple pies the day before and the rolls were from Costco this year.  Oh, and Doug made Raspberry Jello which is always a crowd pleaser...

Wes, Doug and Sam (Sam is Wes' older brother)
Lunch/dinner was at 2 and a huge success.  Everything tasted fabulous and there were plenty of left-overs.

Lots of kids having lots of fun!

Tami, Me, Adrienne

Mini Wes and Mini Doug (Sam Jr. and Max)
To top off a perfect day, Guillotine and Rummikub were both played multiple times.

With one major exception, it was a fabulous day!
And that exception is...a story for tomorrow!

To Be Continued... 

Nov 21, 2011

Day at the Beach--Oregon Style

San Diego Temple view coming home from the airport.
My awesome cousin Kimmy, her husband and baby all came to visit us from Utah last weekend and we had a blast.
Kim, Coleman, and Cliff (the goof-ball!)
On the Oceanside Pier.
Kim wanted to take her baby to the beach despite it being rainy and cold.  Our friends from church had the same idea: go to beach despite rain.  Since I'm super tough and impervious to cold, I said "HECK YEAH!!!"  So last Saturday we loaded up all the beach crap that's been un-used for the last two months, grabbed some kites, and went to the beach in the rain.  In NOVEMBER.
Kim introducing Coleman to jumping over incoming surf.
This cute little guy LOVED staying at our house due to our overabundance of TRAINS!
And okay, he liked the beach too...
Turns out going to the beach when it's rainy and cold is sorta rainy and cold.  But the kids didn't seem to notice.  

Until their limbs starting turning blue and dropping off and random.

But before that, a frisbee was lost, kites were flown, clothes drenched, Smash Ball played, holes were dug, castles built, and sand consumed (by Gray).  In other words, it was a perfect day at the beach.
Ruth/Scott Family watching some kite action
 Of course, this (cold) little adventure necessitated a follow-up Hot Chocolate party at my house.

Oh, to have some of Tommy's energy!
On our way inside, one of the kids stepped in the overflowing gutter and I overheard Ruth say "Oh, you're fine!  Gutters are natures bathtub!"

Classic.  Definitely my favorite quote of the day.

I'm not gonna lie.  It never would have occurred to me to choose the beach as a rainy day activity.  But it was a LOT of fun.  And darn pretty to boot!

A good time was had by all!

Nov 18, 2011

Monday Home School Report - Weekend Edition

In other news H.S. news this week...
 I finally made it to our new charter school (30 minutes away) and met my "Educational Specialist" (E.S.) and picked up a bunch of curriculum.  I'm excited, but also terrified.

And back to having hourly panic attacks and asking myself alternately;

"WHAT was I thinking?"
"What would they do if I just took him back to school and dropped him off tomorrow...?!?"

The reason for my panic is that our "E.S." told us to expect to work for a normal full school day.  Six hours.  I don't think we (ANY of us) can handle that!
BUT I'm not totally hopeless.
I want to try it and see what happens.
This comes on the heels of Monday.
We had a great day of "unschooling" on Monday.  We went to the beach with my cousin and uncle and family (who's visit I still need to blog) and talked about:
Starting a business, patents, monopolies, competition, price fixing, price gouging, marketing, advertising, overhead, profit margins, supply and demand, etc.
AND (during lunch at Ruby's on the Pier)
Customer Service, (good vs. bad) tipping, and work ethic.
AND (walking across the Pier)
A bunch of engineering stuff about how you support a Pier and get it to stand up.  (Okay, that part came from cousin Cliff.  Not me.)
AND saw a sea star, some live (caught) fish, and two pelicans,
AND played in the sand,
AND even looked up some stuff on the Internet about the Pier that night.

Anyway, it was an awesome day of learning and playing without many books.  (Though we still worked on math and the above writing.)

It's hard to want to trade that in for a very structured and full day.

I'm torn.

But like I said...I still need to try the Charter method and see how it goes.
Okay, yesterday I sat down with Max and cracked the books we got from the charter school.
It was INCREDIBLY overwhelming.  Then, late last night after coming home from a church activity, I started trying to tell Doug about the Charter school and their expectations and pretty much had a full blown panic attack.
If I do what the C.S. wants, I'll be completely overwhelmed.  If I don't, I'll feel guilty that he's getting behind in other core subjects like science and history.  (Since our focus has been on Math and Writing.)

This morning...I don't know what I'll do.  And my E.S. is gone for vacation so I can't get any more information about what is actually required and what is suggested.  All I know is, they expect me to work with him for 6 hours a day and gave me enough to do with him for 10.

So here's my question:  Do I take Max back to school NOW, or wait until after Thanksgiving...?

Overheard in Pottery Class...

Woman wearing flourescent orange full body jump suit over her clothes:  "I don't have a wire tool, but I have this half eaten dog biscuit..."  (long pause while she considers her next statement...)  "they're actually pretty good!  It's hard to find really crunchy snacks without too much sugar!"

Teacher:  "If I win the lottery, I'd love to buy a restored '66 VW bus!  ...I actually spent a year and a half living in one!"  (Confirmed my suspicion that all pottery teachers are ex-hippies.)

Woman 1:  "So how was the date otherwise...?"
Woman 2:  "You mean besides his age and his body?"
(Neither were up to her standard.  Evidently women are allowed to lie about their age on on-line dating services, but men are NOT.)
Woman 2:  "He did have horses..."

Me:  "This is way more interesting than the audio book I was going to listen to...!"

Teacher:  "Everyone needs to get out of here!  I have a cold Stella waiting for me in the car and a woman in a teddy waiting for me at home!"

I love taking pottery!!!

Nov 17, 2011

Monday Home Schooling Report

Okay, since it's Wednesday night at 11:49 p.m., maybe I should give up on the idea of a Monday Home Schooling Report.  Clearly, I'm not totally on top of my blogging game these days.

But there are a few things I want to jot down so here we go:

The other day Max said:  "I want to do creative writing!"  I said "Awesome!  Okay!"  And then went back to making quesadillas and cleaning up spilled soy milk.
Then later that day, I was cleaning up the family room and picked up a piece of orange construction paper.  It had a single sentence written across the top.

Something like; "Boom boom boom tweet tweet tweet smoke filled the air."
I told him it was the best thing I'd ever read (sorry Brandon Sanderson) and that I wanted him to write more.  I told him he had to fill a whole page.

He did, and it was awesome!

So the next day, I told him I wanted MORE!  Who is this guy Bob and where did he come from?  We talked about characterization.  I asked him a bunch of questions about his character and had him write another whole page to preceed the first one he wrote.

I was so impressed, I told him I was going to blog it.
He forbade me.
Too bad he's not the boss of me!
(I'll apologize when he finds out when he's older....)

Here is what he wrote without any correction from me.  (Except I'm fixing the spelling for you.  You're welcome.)

(2nd Day Characterization)
Ricky was a strong muscular man who had stunning gold eyes and blond hair.  He had a dog named Sushi who loved sushi.  He just came to a deserted island where it was lined with volcanos.  He had just building a very nice log cabin and a very nice dog house.  He was taking his dog on a walk  on a very ___ day and the birds were singing.

(1st Day Story)
Tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet tweet.  Boom!  Boom!  (He knew he had to fill the page, so he was generous with the tweets.)
Bombs started falling every where!  But Bob (got changed to Ricky on day two.) was still alive!  He ran for cover as soon as the first boom sound filled the air.  He ran into a cave.  But it started to collapse.  The entrance was blocked!  Then he saw light at the back of the cave.  He quickly ran over to it.  There was a fire burning, but nobody was there to make it...

Are you dying to know who made the fire?  And who dropped the bomb?  Me too.

Sure, his handwriting and spelling are absolutely horrendous, but for someone who's never ever ever ever voluntarily written anything creative (that I remember) I think it's pretty darn good!  He could start writing with Clive Cussler!

Anyway, much more to discuss this week!

This post to be continued tomorrow...

Nov 15, 2011

Yep, I'm a Fan-Girl with Post Edit

So the other night Doug arranged to take me on a surprise date.  He got a babysitter and everything.

It was a Wednesday night.

I was sure he was taking me dancing or to a dance class.

I'd used various deductive reasoning techniques to come up with this theory and I was very sure of myself.

I told at least two people we were going dancing.

I put on a swingy dress and my new red heels.

I applied full make-up AND even a tiny bit of perfume.

We got in the car and Doug said, "We are NOT going dancing!"
I said "Yes we are!  ...Aren't we?"
No.  We weren't.

We went into San Diego to "The Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore" for a book signing by
Brandon Sanderson.

And it was AWE.SOME.

Even better than dancing!  The rest of this post will now be addressed to someone else:

Dear Brandon Sanderson,
First, I'd like to start by saying, I'm sorry we walked in to your reading late.  If I had known we were NOT going to a Swing dance class but instead going to hang out with a bunch of fantasy readers, I would have held off on the make-up and heels and we would have been on time.  My bad.  (But also Doug's bad for not telling me sooner.)

However, how AWESOME was it that there were two empty seats for us on the front row?  (Totally awesome.)  I could NOT believe my luck!  And hearing you read Legion was really cool.  (BTW, is that title a Biblical reference?)  I wont lie, I recorded your whole reading on my phone.  But I wont post it unless you say it's okay.  (But I might send it to my nephew in Utah even without permission 'cause he's a huge fan.)

Anyway, mostly just wanted to let you know it was a great night.  My husband and I are huge fans!  (And so are our boys because they've been listening to the Audible version of Alcatraz and the Evil Librarian.  So stinkin' funny!)

Also, I'd like to tell you a little about myself:  I am an avid reader.  I have been since first grade when I got hooked on Boxcar Children.  I'm pretty much always reading at least one novel.  At the moment, I'm reading three different books.  (One in the bathroom, one in the car, one by my get the idea.)  My point is, I read a lot.
And here's the thing:  I think you are HANDS DOWN one of the (if not THE) BEST AUTHOR I've ever read.
Your intelligence is astounding.  Your imagination is awe-inspiring.  Your worlds are incredibly cohesive and believable and awesome and deeply-developed-without-being-overwhelming and awesome...

But of most importance to me, your books have something I learned about in college:  they have Artistic Unity.  In your words, (heard on a pod cast Doug found--if I'm remembering correctly...) "no unkept promises".  (or was it unanswered?)  Anyway...

Every tiny detail in your books is in your books for a reason.  When I finished the Mistborn series, I was sad that it was over, but HAPPY because you had answered all my questions and resolved every introduced issue.  What a freakin' awesome series!

{I'm SO glad you've chosen to continue it in a different time period.  I would be reading my signed copy of The Alloy of Law right now if it weren't for those other three books and the fact that Doug got to it first.}

(An aside:  Once I read "The Historian" and it sucked.  Not because it was about vampires.  Because it lacked cohesion and left MANY questions unanswered.  I'm still bitter I wasted so much time on that book! Just like stupid Lost!!!  I'm still mad at you and your lack of ARTISTIC UNITY Lost!)

Anyway again, just wanted to let you know I'm a big fan.

Also, I know when you travel, Tor probably puts you up in some fancy-shmancy hotel.  BUT, if you ever crave more homey accommodations in the San Diego area (that include yummy healthy homemade dinners with unhealthy desserts), know that you and your family are more than welcome in our home.  You mentioned you have two boys.  We have four, therefore; plenty of boy toys.  (Not "Boy-Toys" per se....oh, I know you know what I mean 'cause you're a freakin' genius.)  I'm just saying you're welcome to stay with us.  And I promise not to be too weird and fan-ish.

(Okay well, I'll ask for another picture because the one where we're posing with you turned out super blurry... :(

But after that I'll be normal.  I swear.)

So to sum up, you're the best writer ever and it would be super rad if you wanted to bring your family and sleep in our guest room.

Emily W.

P.S.  My baby's middle name is Brandon.  Not after you, but still...!

P.P.S.  This is my first fan letter.  Did I come on too strong?  Sound too stalker-like?  Dangerous?  Sorry.  I swear I'm normal(ish).

POST EDIT:  My blog posts are automatically e-mailed to my mom so her comments come to my e-mail in-box.  This was her response to this post:

Dear Emily,  Great fan letter!  I'll have you know that I borrowed and read (my brother) Brandons  copies of Mistborn!  They were OK.  What shall I try next that's not so far out into ugly and violent cretins?  I didn't like all the good guys expiring.
(Not ALL the good guys expire...!!)
But I love you and Brandon, and I trust your judgement normally.
Love, Mom xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

I had to laugh.  Clearly, Epic Fantasy is NOT for everyone!  :)  Always good to have differing opinions!  

(I told her to try Gail Tsukiyama--an author I read and liked in Japan.)

Nov 9, 2011

Japan Rememberances

Cleaning out the office today, I found a random index card with notes scribbled all over it.  On the back, I had written;
"Things I don't want to forget: Restaur. have kid stuff, poles have pics, happy construc signs."

Good thing I found this, because I already don't remember what "poles have pics" means.
BUT, I do remember items 1 and 3.

1.  When we ate out, 97.3% of the time the servers/owners/chefs brought out special
dishes, cups and occasionally silverware for the boys.  Usually kid sized melamine stuff.
Winnie the Pooh was a favorite theme.  Also, Anpanman--a Japanese character.  Most places were very sweet and accommodating to the boys.  I just loved it that they kept separate cute dishes around for kids.

3.  Never before have I seen such happy construction signs.  They want you to know they are working on the road, but they're very sorry for the inconvenience it may cause and just want you to know they are happily and efficiently carrying on with their work.
I may be reading in to things a bit, but that's what I got!  I remember always being astounded to pass road workers.  Not only did they ALWAYS bow at passing cars, but they also always had a man with a straw broom trailing along behind them cleaning up the mess.  Unbelievably awesome.

{When Doug and I were driving home from Utah a few weeks ago, we went through some construction.  As we passed a large man holding a flag, we both automatically bowed to him.
He did not bow back.}

HEY, I just remembered what 2 means!
2.  Poles have pics.  As you drive along the road, the guard rails/fence posts, are painted so that as you drive by you see a picture.  Does that make any sense?  Individually, each post doesn't look like anything, but as you drive by, they form a large picture collectively.  Birds in flight or something.  Just another example of how the Japanese try to make every day things (even ugly utilitarian things) better and more beautiful.

Japan, you're so kawaii!!!!

Nov 8, 2011

Monday Home Schooling Post--Right on Time

Okay, actually a day late.  I told you I wasn't very good at formal schedules, right?

So yesterday marked our one-week anniversary of Home Schooling.  And yes, I'm still getting minor panic attacks when I think of what I've done.

But then I think, hey, Max has now mastered his 7 times table and almost has his 8's taken care of.  Something we couldn't manage all of last year.  So we're doing pretty good.

And that sums up most of what we did during the last week:  We worked on multiplication.  I made flash cards, we watched a lot of School House Rock, played "Timez Attack", (which is awesome, btw) and took tests using "Mad Minutes".

For writing, we worked on writing letters to friends in Korea and Germany.  We worked on penmanship, spelling, sentence structure, grammar, and letter etiquette.

Last night Max asked me if we could work on "Creative Writing".

Uh, yeah.

I think I can help with that.

Better get to it!

P.S.  For those of you worried about his socialization:  He hasn't turned weird yet.  I'll keep you posted.