Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Week 4 - Pinewood Derby and Bike Riding

I finished my second book this year in just a few days.  Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan.  It's about a young journalist living in NYC who has a sudden and bizarre breakdown caused by a rare autoimmune disease.  It was fascinating to hear her story and to also learn the medical science and explanations about everything that happened to her brain & body during that time.  I couldn't put it down.  (I was little concerned about the language in the first chapter, but it quickly got cleaner as she lost her mind.  Ha!)

For our YW activity this week the Laurels had planned to play tennis.  Kara plays for her high school and has a tennis scholarship for college next year, so she was our instructor for the evening.  We went to the Eagle Watch courts to play - Kara versus Gloria and I.  Though I was pretty terrible, I did better than anticipated and had a lot of fun too.  It had been years and years since I'd played tennis and I was surprised how much skill is involved.  I got some good pointers from Kara and improved my game at least slightly by the end of the evening.  

Charlie is the Scout Committee Chair for our ward, which means he oversees the Cub & the Boy Scout programs.  We went to the church on Friday night to help set up the Pinewood Derby track.  The boys were playing some kind of farting game with balloons to pass the time while the adults worked.

Saturday was the much anticipated race.  We bought pre-cut cars from Hobby Town because Charlie is not really a tool guy and doesn't have the right kind of saw.  The boys chose their paint colors and decals.  Isaac's car was called "The Golden Eagle" and Luke called his car "The Flame Thrower." He didn't like the extra weights I glued onto it, but when we tested it the night before it was way too light and wouldn't even make it to the end of the track.

Isaac's car won third place!  He was super proud because last year his car came in dead last in almost every heat.  The Willy Wonka chocolate bar car won first and I think the red car with the Lego driver came in second. 

Next it was time for the sibling race.  It's actually called the Outlaw Race and any car can participate, with no rules or restrictions.  Luke was probably more excited than Isaac was about the Pinewood Derby.  His car had been super slow the night before during test runs, but after Charlie made some adjustments to the wheels, and we added some weights and graphite powder, it sped up quite a bit.  Luke's car came in second and he was absolutely thrilled with his win and with his plastic medal.  

Of course we had to take a few photos in the winners circle photo booth afterwards.  

Later that afternoon we managed to load all four of our bikes into the back of our van, and drove up to a very flat park in Canton to do some bike riding.  We live in a super hilly neighborhood which makes it nearly impossible to ride bikes around - especially the beach cruisers with no gears that Charlie & I have. 

Before we left California Isaac was riding on two-wheels really well, but then he had a fall and refused to ride again.  We had made a few half-hearted attempts since we moved of getting him to ride, but hadn't really pushed him again.  Until now.  We let him make a lap with his training wheels first, and then Charlie took them off.  Isaac did great!  It took him a few minutes to get going, but then he was off!  

We had invited our neighbors to go with us.  I think it helped that their son Conner, who is seven, is riding well.  That was a little more motivation for Isaac to ditch the training wheels.  

Bike Riding 1.28.17 from Carrie Wood on Vimeo.

The park is really great because it's completely flat and has about two miles worth of paved trails that loop around.  It was a great place for Isaac to practice and I loved being on my bike again after so long.  We really need to invest in a trailer though because cramming those bikes into the van was quite the feat.

We had brought a bike for Luke that a friend had given us, but once we got to the park we realized that the chain was stuck.  So Luke rode his scooter and we'll work on bike riding with him next time.

Week 3 - Amicalola Falls and Crab Legs

The boys had Monday off of school for Martin Luther King Day.  I had been wanting to hike Amicalola Falls for awhile, and it seemed like the perfect day for an adventure (well, except for the rain in the forecast).  We set out early on our drive and the boys were not very excited about my plans for the day.  It was about an hour drive up to the park and then just a two-mile round trip hike to the top of the falls and back.

The trail is meant to be hiked going up the waterfall, so that you can see the entire thing from the base and then choose how high up you want to climb.  Well I must have gotten confused and taken a wrong turn right from the start, because we ended up hiking the back trail all of the way up instead.  I kept thinking we should have been able to see the waterfall by now, and it wasn't until about 1/2 mile up that I realized we were going the wrong way.  We decided to just keep going.  I pointed out this cool tree that had somehow grown to the side & then back up.  Isaac wanted to take a photo to pretend like he was holding it up.

When we finally made it to the top, the boys were quite underwhelmed.  I pointed out the parking lot below to show them how far up we had come.  

We began climbing down all of the stairs that we were meant to climb up, and finally got a view of the waterfall. I had to start bribing the boys with drinks and snacks to get them to smile for photos.  

After every few flights of stairs there would be a landing with seating to rest or take in the views.  Luke's little legs started to give out after awhile.  I was surprised to feel my calves get a bit shaky towards the end. 

The total height of Amicalola Falls is 729 feet, making it the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi.  I'd love to go back again in the spring when everything is green and the water is flowing a bit more.  Still, it was an impressive waterfall and a fun hike.  Though I'd go up the right way next time!

Once we were past the falls and headed back towards the visitor center, Luke had a little fall and scraped up the palms of his hands just a bit.  We made a bit of a detour off the side of the trail to rinse his hands in the cool stream and let the boys play on the rocks a bit.  They loved jumping from rock to rock across the water, and picking up the smaller ones to throw in and make a splash. 

There were several playground areas back near the visitor center, so we spent some time playing for a bit.  Inside the center they had a section of live reptiles - mostly snakes and a turtle or too.  Luke had seen a display of stuffed birds before the hike and had not stopped asking for one.  That is until he saw the stuffed snakes!  Isaac has a stuffed snake that he got years ago during a visit to the San Diego Zoo, and Luke has always been envious of it.  Well today was his lucky day I guess because I gave in and bought him his very own snake.  Isaac was content with a push-pop.

Before our hike that day I had told the boys we would get a treat afterwards.  I had packed lunches for each of us, which we ate during the drive home.  Then we stopped at Menchie's once we were back in Woodstock.  (Double dose of ice cream for Isaac, but he didn't mind one bit.)  Luke always finishes first and then asks to go draw on the big chalkboard.

Charlie had been on a business trip for a few days and while out at a store one night found a display of Lego sets on clearance.  We typically don't buy our boys toys on a whim, but Charlie decided to bring them each home a Lego set.  Luke wanted to build his right away when he came home from school. (He is also quick to change into his "comfy" clothes everyday immediately after school.)  He still needs a lot of help, but is getting much better at following the instructions and building on his own.

Our Ward had an emergency prep fair and the Young Women were asked to make a video demonstrating how to turn off household utilities.  I was not the one filming, so I didn't have a lot to work with, but managed to put together a decent video nonetheless.

YW Utilities from Carrie Wood on Vimeo.

In Luke's preschool class they have a big stoplight with red, yellow, and green lights.  If the boys stay on green all week then they get to choose something out of the treasure box on Friday.  This week Luke chose a red plastic heart necklace to give to me.  I was totally charmed and flattered by my sweet boy and his choice to pick something for me rather that himself.  I wore my new necklace with pride for the rest of the day.

One of my goals for the year is to read more books, and I finished my first one this week.  Andy Warhol was a Hoarder by Claudia Kalb.  It's a collection of essays analyzing possible mental disorders of famous personalities throughout history.  It was a fascinating read and I enjoyed learning the history of people such as Abraham Lincoln, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Darwin, Fydor Dostoyevsky, Christine Jorgensen, and Betty Ford.

On Saturday we drove down the Barrett Pkwy to go to Hobby Town.  The Pinewood Derby is coming up and Charlie likes to get the boys cool decals and accessories for their cars.  After shopping we decided to stop for lunch at Red Lobster.  We haven't eaten at a Red Lobster in at least ten years, so the boys had never been.  Isaac is a seafood lover and was so excited to see king crab legs on the kids menu.

Charlie had to help him quite a bit to crack the shells and pull the meat out, but Isaac thought it was the coolest thing ever - especially the one with the claw on the end.  Something tells me it won't be another ten years before we go back.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Week Two - Snowed In, STEM Night, and a New Year's Resolution

Freezing rain preceded the snowfall last Friday, resulting in extremely icy and slick roads. Our stake cancelled all church meetings for Sunday, January 8th. We enjoyed a quiet, uneventful day at home, with the exception of some happy news that Charlie and I received that night.

School was cancelled on Monday. The stir crazy was starting to set in. Charlie left on a business trip. His Subaru with 4-wheel drive managed to get out of our neighborhood, but I wasn't about to chance it in my van. There are steep hills in all directions and we were seeing (on Facebook, and Charlie first hand) and hearing reports of cars sliding all over the place. So I stayed put. 

The boys and I made Pokemon characters out of perler beads, and tried out a new XBox game from Christmas that we hadn't had a chance to play yet. As you can see, Cracker just wanted to soak up any bit of sun he could find. 

We also did some bird watching. I absolutely LOVE having a bird feeder. Janelle sent it as a birthday gift when we first moved to Georgia. I am still amazed by the number and variety of birds we see. I also found this art print that I love, titled "Backyard Birds of Georgia" with drawings of the different birds and their names. I framed it and hung it near the back window so that we can quickly identify the birds we see. The boys and I have so much fun doing this together. As it turned out, the snow made for a perfect bird watching day. Since the ground was covered, we received a plethora of hungry birds on our feeder that day. I can never get really good photos of them from the window, but in this photo you can see at least one Eastern Blue Bird (one of my personal favorites) sitting on the feeder. 

That night we played games and ate up some remaining Christmas candy. We sent a photo to Charlie to say hi. We played two rounds of Go Fish (Luke's pick) and two rounds of Jenga (Isaac's pick). 

School was cancelled on Tuesday. We started losing our minds. It wasn't so much that we missed school, but not leaving the house for four days was getting pretty old. Luckily by the afternoon most of the snow had melted and the Sheriff's department was reporting clear roads. So we ventured out into the world!  Luke needed to have hearing and vision screenings done for some school assessments.  We still have not found a pediatrician here in GA, and I knew the health department would be a quick in-and-out, so we just went there. 

On the drive over I gave Luke a quick explanation of what to expect, but he was not very excited about the whole thing - insisting that he could hear & see everything just fine! 

The nurse was super friendly and nice and Luke warmed up to her right away (he usually gets very shy around strangers).  She asked about our dog and then told us she has two dachshunds of her own. Ah ha!  A fellow dachshund lover. I knew I liked her. 

Just as he said, Luke's hearing & vision are perfectly fine. He weighed in at ?lbs and is ?inches tall. He's still our small guy but is catching up just a tiny bit. He said his favorite part of the test was when they took a picture of his eyes with what looked like a big hand held price scanner gun. I had never seen that before. I guess they do that now instead of having them read a letter chart. 

On Wednesday life resumed as normal. Hallelujah! I went to the gym for my Body Works class and did a bit of grocery shopping.

After I picked up Luke from school on Thursday we drove through the car wash to get the salt from the roads off of the van.  He loves driving through and asked if he could take his seatbelt off. He said the big long tentacles swirling around the top of the car were those of a giant jelly fish trying to eat us!

He loved helping to vacuum the car out too.

That night was STEM night at Isaac's school. (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) The first three are all things Isaac loves and he really wanted to go. Charlie had dinner with an out of town friend so Luke got to come to STEM night too. First up was building marshmallow catapults out of Popsicle sticks. Next we moved on to coding. The activities were geared towards older children but I was surprised how well Luke did with the Angry Birds coding game. He was very intent. Isaac loved driving a robot around the room by using an iPad with a coding program.

We then moved on to a center where we tried to build air powered cars using paper, drinking straws, masking tape, and lifesavers as wheels. Our car wasn't very successful, the boys ultimately ended up eating the lifesaver wheels, and we left. 

We found Isaac's owl again in the front hall, and he wanted to be in the picture this time. 

We had to cut STEM night short and hurry to the church. Isaac's Cub Scout den was building stools with Sister Futral (they are pretty cool - I should get a picture), and he didn't want to miss it.  I also needed to get to YW. 

The bishop had asked the YM President and I to plan our joint activity for the month to introduce the new 2017 mutual theme, which is James 1:5-6 "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God."  My presidency came up with the idea of doing a game show incorporating elements from Jeopardy, Family Feud, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire?  I put together 60 trivia questions in different categories such as Book of Mormon, Church History, Name That Hymn, etc. The youth were grouped in teams and when it was their turn for a question they had the option of using a "lifeline" for help by asking the Bishopric, the Elders, or the Sisters. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask!"  We had a really good turn out and the youth seemed to enjoy it. Micki and I went to the building that morning after our walk and set up the game board and tables. Then I asked Adam to be the host and get everything started since I knew I would be late that evening. These are bad pictures, but oh well. 

Luke loves coming to the church with me on Thursday nights. Isaac has scouts but Luke gets to hang out with the YW (including his favorite baby sitters) and whatever other kids happen to be there. On this night he kept busy by stomach surfing on longboards across the back of the cultural hall along with Tanner and Drennan (sons of my presidency members). 

On Friday I went to Costco. I saw these gorgeous succulents near the check out and ended up buying them for our mantel/bookshelves. It was a total impulse buy. Oh Costco, you get me everytime! 

Luke brought home this paper from school and it cracked me up. 

Charlie ran a 10k Turkey Trot in Hilton Head when we were there for Thanksgiving. They also had a kids fun run and a 5k, so we decided that next time we would all participate. Luke is determined to run the 5k and has been talking about how he is going to run a lot to practice for it. It just makes me laugh to see this as his New Year's Resolution, since it is a goal more typical of someone 30 years his senior. 

On Saturday morning I attended a BYC breakfast and planning meeting at the bishop's home. He had the youth do a trust fall as a team building exercise. Emily and I lucked out being at the end of the line since we only ever caught the hair of the tallest participant. 

That evening we drove to Atlanta to see one of Charlie's old coworkers whom he worked with at Bradshaw in California. Renee was in town for a trade show so we picked her up and took her to dinner at The Flying Biscuit and then for ice cream at Jeni's. 

Jeni's is swoon worthy and easily the best ice cream I've ever tasted. I tried three new to me flavors this time and loved them all. Roxbury road, salted peanut butter with chocolate flecks, and sweet potato eclair. It is probably best that we don't live closer.