Sunday, February 18, 2018

A tale of two cheeses

Carnival ended this week with Mardi Gras on Tuesday February 13th. We had planned to invite all the kids in the neighborhood to parade around the park and eat doughnuts to celebrate. We bought party favors and Mardi Gras beads and invited everyone we knew. Then Monday night, the kids started throwing up. All four of them threw up multiple times that night, so there went our Mardi Gras plans. We spent the day laying around watching movies (Wild Kratts, Nothing Can Stop the Smooze, and Roger and Hammerstein's Cinderella), which was fun, but not Mardi Gras.

Alison was going to let it drop, but the kids insisted that Mardi Gras be rescheduled. So we emailed everyone to come to the park Thursday after school. Thursday ended up having a bitter, biting wind that froze us to tears. No one else braved the wind to join us, so the kids got to eat some doughnut holes and then went home.

So we took our decorated bikes and doughnuts to our regular park day on Friday. Then at least we had some other kids blow on the noisemakers, wear the beads, and eat the doughnuts with us. We're glad we finally got something of a party.

We were glad that the kids got done throwing up quickly, because Wednesday we had an appointment to get Gideon's passport. The post office was very expeditious; we got there ten minutes early, as requested, and we left 3 minutes after the appointment was scheduled to start. Gideon cooperated pretty well with the picture taking, much better than Timmy did at that age. We are getting so excited for Italy! Grandma Julie and Grandpa Craig are considering joining us for a few days in Venice.

Gideon is talking more and more each week. He's started saying "Love you bye-bye" when someone goes out the door (even just to take out the trash). On Saturday at the grocery store he requested balls and chocolate by name. And on Sunday after the sacrament prayer he said Amen repeatedly and very loudly. It's fun to have such a talkative baby.

Grandma Sheila and Grandpa Mike sent the kids each $5 for Valentine's Day, so on Saturday we went to the dollar store. The kids got fun toys and chocolate. The grandparents also sent a food processor for Mike and Alison! They haven't used theirs in years, so they passed it on to us. We are very happy and grateful. We will try making sunflower seed butter and see if that is a Gideon-safe substitute for peanut butter.

Grandma Julie is coming to visit this week. Rea saved some of her Valentine money and other money, and now she's determined to buy a Little Caesar's pizza and bake a cake to celebrate Grandma's coming. It will be a fun party planned and paid for by the kids. Maybe our weekly Carnival parties are teaching her party planning skills.

Sara suggested that we give an update on our Calming Corner. It is working very well. Kids (and Mom) go there multiple times a day and use the poster to identify how they're feeling, how they want to feel, and which strategy they'll use to get there. Timmy likes to hug a stuffed animal or read a book, while the girls tend to close their eyes, take deep breaths, and think happy thoughts. Mommy likes to use the app Insight Timer for a short guided meditation. It's been really nice to have a consistant response to whining and crying, and it seems to work for the kids too.

On Tuesday Mike went to BGDG, and played someone elses game. The game played very well for a first time game, but wasn't very strategic, so it wasn't Mike's favorite game. Next time he goes he will be able to bring one of his own games again.

Mike was also given some dogecoin as a joke by a co-worker. 1 Dogecoin is worth less than a penny, and the exchange fees for buying and selling cryptocurrencies are non-negligible, so he can't get the money as US dollars. Basically it was a useless exchange of money.

Given that the money is useless Mike has started speculating with it. He put 100 dogecoin (about $0.66 worth in USD) into an account, and has been trying to time the cryptocurrency market by exchanging it for other cryptocurrencies whenever one goes up and the other goes down. After a week of trading, he now has about $1.07 USD worth of various cryptocurrencies. This is about a 62% return. If he can keep this up at the same rate, that $0.66 could become a trillion dollars by next year. More likely he will make a mistake, and lose value until it is $0.66 again. We will keep you all up to date if we become trillionaires.

On Saturday Mike made a Parmesan, which is currently in the brine. It will age for a year, and hopefully you will hear about it then. A side effect of making Parmesan is ricotta, so we are eating about 2 or three lbs of ricotta now. Perhaps we will make some gnocchi with it.

Also on Saturday we moved more wood chips. Sara was such a big help that she earned $1.75 for her work. She cleaned a bunch of sticks up (5 bundles of them), and also hauled a bunch of rocks. She is getting really good at working hard.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Monday's Montessori

On Monday, Alison opened up the new Montessori room for the kids. It was a big hit. They have had no trouble choosing work to occupy themselves for the entire 3 hour work cycle every day and usually wish it were open longer. It was set up perfectly for Sara and Timmy, but Rea's part needed some work. Her school is much more book focused; Alison has a list of classics for her to read and do something with. This week she read The Secret Garden, then looked up the flowers mentioned in it and drew pictures of them and labeled them with their Latin names. She also has a microscope and some science and history work to do (along with the math we do as a family first thing), so we decided Elementary needed its own set of shelves. But it was still a great start.

Also on Monday, in the middle of the day, Mike got a message from Google Flights (which will watch airplane ticket prices for you and notify you when the change) saying that we could get to Italy from Utah and back for $400 each. This is a really good discount (about 50% off), so we immediately bought some. We are going to be in Italy from Oct 9th to Oct 30th. We already had a place to stay for one of the weeks, but we immediately started searching for places to stay during the other weeks. We are really excited!

On Tuesday, we found a castle in Italy that is renting rooms out, and we decided to stay in one. If anyone else wants to join us, there are other vacancies! It is in Tuscany, and we will be there during the height of mushroom season. You can only imagine how exciting that is ;)

On Wednesday, our fishes nearly died. Timmy fed them a massive handful of food. It was touch and go for a day or two, but they have all perked back up since then, so we are hoping that there was no permanent harm.

On Thursday, for our next-to-last party of the Carnival season, the kids got a pinata and took it to the park. Timmy announced that he wanted a zebra pinata (it was his turn to plan the party), and Alison thought there was no way they'd find one. But Mike took the kids to the grocery store down the street, and lo and behold there was a zebra pinata! Pretty cool. We had our party at the park with the Dalyais again. Our last party will be next Tuesday for Mardi Gras. Carnival has been great this year. We've really enjoyed having something to look forward to this time of year.

Thursday night, someone on the internet offered to make card art for one of Mikes games. He said yes, and then on Friday, the guy delivered some amazingly polished looking artwork. Mike doesn't even know how to thank the guy enough, since he just did it for fun, and Mike wasn't even offering him any payment.

Mike plans on showing the game to a publisher at Saltcon, so he am really excited to have such a clean looking game.

On Friday, since we didn't have a babysitter, we went to the DI to look for an orange shirt, and a food processor. We found a book case for the Elementary work in the Montessori room, and some dishes to replace the broken ones that always happen. We found an orange shirt, but not a food processor.

Saturday morning we tried to potty train Gideon. He figured out that he was supposed to be tinkling in the potty after a while, and got a ton of treats, but then he also tinkled all over the house after that, so it is definitely not done yet.

Later we went back to the DI, because we wanted a lamp, and we also got Sunday boots for all of the kids (we didn't find a lamp, nor a food processor).

Rea wants to add that she got a green light up bracelet (for St Patrick's Day), and that she has been reading Harry Potter 1-3.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Dog-Days of Winter

The last few years mike has been an Ion Award finalist. This Tuesday Mike found out that he is Not an Ion Award finalist this year. He is disappointed, however it is better to not be a finalist than to be a finalist and lose. He can never submit any games that are finalists again to the Ion Award, so if they didn't make the cut this year, he can continue to develop them and submit them next year.

On Wednesday we had this week's carnival party. The kids worked really hard spreading woodchips last week, so we offered them a great treat, and they picked a cake from the grocery store bakery. We invited the Dalyais and the Guertlers over to make masks - we cut them out of cardstock, decorated with glue and glitter, and stapled on elastic to hold them on. Then the kids played on the piles of woodchips decorating our yard. The cake was a huge hit and totally worth the effort for them. We're having a lot of fun with Carnival. We have one more party this coming week, and then it's Mardi Gras and the grand finale. Alison's thinking of options for that.

Thursday Mike went to Board Game Design Guild for the first time in months (it was fun), and Alison and the kids watched 101 Dalmations 2. It was about as good as any sequel; the kids enjoyed it anyway.

This week Alison finished another room of Organized Simplicity: the spare room/home office/Gideon's old room. She cleared out everything that was stored on the shelves in there and is using them for our new Montessori space. The kids will be allowed to go in and select a work and bring it out during Montessori time. It looks very nice, like a Montessori room should, and hopefully it will be motivating for the kids to work with the materials and keep them orderly. That's the Montessori theory, anyway. We'll try it out starting Monday.

On Saturday we worked hard. We went to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore and bought a replacement door for our garage shed, since the old one was almost in splinters. The ReStore is great; the replacement was only $10. It was exactly the right door, but we discovered that the old door was in such bad shape because it had been badly installed, so Mike had quite a bit of work to recess the hinges properly so that this one will work. With an organized shed and a usable door, our storage solution seems much more reasonable now.

On Saturday we went to Maceys, and got a Pinata for the next carnival party. Timmy wanted a zebra, and they had one, so we got it. Mike knocked it off the top shelf with a broom. The kids were worried. The zebra is named "Stars and Stripes Timmy Zebra"

We spent the rest of Saturday spreading woodchips again. Alison is digging out a border around every garden bed and having the kids line it with rocks; then Mike is filling the beds with woodchips. We'll also use woodchips to bury our hand-pump water feature so the kids can really use it this summer. We're hoping the yard will look decent and require little water and upkeep; it's been absurdly warm and dry this winter, so we're really worried about water this summer.

Saturday night was Stake Conference. Before we left, Alison told Mike what she was hoping would and wouldn't be part of Stake Conference this time. (Lately our Stake Conferences seem to have talks divided between "You're not doing well enough at XYZ" and weird doctrinal discussions [abuse, domestic violence, and apostasy in the past year], and she was hoping for more encouragement and faith-filled talks.) When we arrived, the presiding Seventy, Elder Warner, introduced the evening with almost exactly the same things Alison had been saying! It was an awesome Stake Conference, very spiritually enriching and filling.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Well done, us!

The girls worked like crazy this week to earn money; they each did over a dozen chores. They had seen the Valentine section in the grocery store and wanted money to buy things. Alison decided to capitalize on their enthusiasm and started another round of Organized Simplicity. She and the kids cleaned out the shed and went through it and organized it. The kids actually helped a lot and earned a bag of candy for their Carnival party this week.

On Thursday (for Carnival) the kids had an Easter egg hunt in the snow at the park. They invited their friends the Dalyais and the Beuses. The big girls found some eggs without candy in them and decided it was a mystery. Their evidence points to the big boys sneaking it. They really enjoyed it, actually. Rea has been reading a lot of Boxcar Children mysteries lately.

Mike also found out that the Perfect Moment (the game that he has a publishing deal for) is going to be published in June of this year! It has been a multi-year goal to get that to happen, so we are all super excited about it.

Gideon was inexplicably fussy on Friday. We think it was maybe an ear infection, although no one seems really sick this week. (Last week's colds were nothing more than a few days of runny noses.) He's also had rashes off and on; we're pretty sure he reacts to peanuts the way Rea reacted to cow's milk. We'll have to start making sunbutter out of sunflower seeds to replace peanut butter; the kids keep leaving their peanut butter bread around and he gets bites and gets sick. No more buying peanut butter for us. Maybe Alison will use this as an excuse to get a Vitamix or a Blendtec. Everyone is very sad about missing peanut butter.

On Saturday Mike met with a publisher about some of his games (nothing came of it, however). At the same time, Alison took the kids to the Treehouse Museum. The kids really loved the tree itself, the dolls, the toy knights in the castle, the chess sets, and the hero section.

We came home from our trip in the evening to find that a guy that we talked to on a homesteading facebook group had delivered a large mound of wood-chips for us. We had requested that he deliver some (we thought that it would be about a cubic yard), but we had no idea that it would end up being this many. We must have gotten 5 or 6 cubic yards of wood chips for free. We had to spend 6 hours unblocking our driveway, but we now can drive in and out again.

We will be spreading them around over the upcoming week. Hopefully it remains warm :).

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The First Real Snow of Winter!

We asked the kids to dictate some of the blog post:

Timmy loved playing with dad this week.

He also liked playing with a teapot and plates.

Timmy and Sara like the snow that we got.

Timmy liked getting doughnuts from Grandma Sheila

Sara loved seeing Grandma and Grandpa. (Except Grandpa wasn't there.)

Sara liked going sledding and playing with Grandma and Petra.

Gideon, don't touch our buttons!

Gideon loves everything, especially peas. And music.

Rea's favorite thing this week was reading "Pollyanna" for the first time. Also, on Sunday she made tiny snowmen and pretended to be a Tyrannosaurus and ate them! They didn't have noses or eyes or mouths.

Rea was also super excited for her Baptism Preview last Sunday. Rea will be baptized on November 3rd at 10am, for those who like to plan ahead :-).

Mike has completed his second week of teaching CS 101 at BYU-Idaho. He has been having a fun time so far.

He has also bought tickets to Salt Con (and reserved a hotel) so that we can attend it. The cheap price is going to expire soon!

Alison showed the kids a YouTube tour of a Montessori classroom, and they got super excited. So we may be rearranging our stuff into a more traditional Montessori setup again. School is going well even without that, though. Everyone is enjoying playing math with our Cuisenaire rods, and Sara is working hard at reading. Timmy is acing the sound games and ready to start writing with the moveable alphabet as soon as Alison gets it set up. Rea is enjoying the Great Lessons even more the second time through.

For their date this week, Alison and Mike went to "Eric Jensen's Charlie's Aunt" at the Off Broadway Theater. As always, it was hilarious and we really enjoyed it. This version was adapted by Eric Jensen, the manager of the OBT, and he's always played the butler in the past, but this year there was a new butler. He was still very good, although we missed Eric. Any version of the play is funny, but we make sure to see the OBT one every time they put it on. In fact, we went opening night, and we plan to go back next month for the closing weekend. They often make changes over the run of a play, so we're curious to see what happens.

And, finally, after less than one week of the family being healthy, Gideon and Timmy both have colds again. These ones seem pretty mild, so we're hoping for the best.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Long Sick

Being sick over Christmas is no fun! We managed to do many of our traditions, though. Everyone got Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh, and Swaddling Clothes presents. Sara loved her new dolls, Timmy was excited to get a Playmobile nativity set, and Rea can't wait to start horseback riding lessons next month. Alison got a new phone, which prompted weeks of work to get her old phone replaced under warranty and send it to Katie. That should be completed tomorrow, which is exciting. Mike's favorite was his new board game about meteors.

Then we tried to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas (which, if you recall, were originally after Christmas; that works well for Alison, who is never organized enough to do them before). The first few days we got to spend with the Brown and Poulson grandparents, which was awesome. We did a few activities at home, like making homemade face paints and finger paints, but we mostly watched a lot of movies. It's really hard being too contagious to leave the house for over a month. The kids enjoyed the movies, though.

Two of our twelve days of Christmas activities are a New Year's Eve party and a New Year's Day game day. This year we were too contagious to invite people over, so we did them by ourselves. For New Year's Eve, we got one of the big $60 Lego Elves sets and put it together as a family. It was awesome and will definitely be a tradition. New Year's Day everyone picked a game and we played them all: Tales of the Crystals, Myrmes, Robots on the Line, and Feurio. It was very fun, even without having people over.

On Twelfth Night, we had fish and pasta for dinner, and then made a crown-shaped cinnamon roll cake. It was delicious and Rea found the crown! She had us all go outside and play in the snow and make shadow plays on the wall, and then come in and cuddle by the fire and listen to an audiobook. It was a very nice Twelfth Night, despite being so tired of being sick.

Finally, this week we started to feel better. Alison started up school again for the kids; we did the First Great Lesson, which was very popular, as always, and Rea learned to use the internet to do research. Timmy has been studying woolly mammoths, and Alison has created some activities for him, and Sara is doing a lot of art. For scriptures, Alison is drawing an outline of a symbol of a scripture story in the kids' Book of Mormon, and then the kids color it while she reads the story. They're playing with math blocks for math, which no one wants to start but everyone enjoys once we're into it, and Rea and Sara just did an assessment to start spelling with the Words Their Way program. The kids have really been enjoying school time, and Alison is proud of how well they're concentrating.

In the afternoons, they try to go outside every day. The weather has been ridiculously warm, so it ought to be easy, but when she's sick, Alison really doesn't like getting everyone dressed up in their outdoor gear (it's still wet and windy, so kids need coats and things even if it's warm). But they got a few good days this week, and she hopes they'll get out every day next week.

Mike is still sleeping polyphasicly, and he's using the time to be an online adjunct professor at BYU-I. He's doing this mainly as a service, although if Alison starts teaching English to kids in China when she sleeps polyphasicly, between the two of them they might make enough to travel and support themselves with their online jobs. That would be cool. Mike is finding being a professor really easy, although replying to all the students' introductory posts took a lot of time this week. He expects it to slow down a bit. If it does, maybe he'll teach English for an hour a night too.

Oh, and goals! Mike wants to make $100/month on Patreon and save $100,000 so we can retire, submit 12 games to publishers, 30 minutes/day of scripture study, and exercise every day. Alison's goals are polyphasic sleep, using a prayer journal, creating a Calming Corner for the kids (and herself), and speak French whenever Mike is home. Rea wants to improve her prayers (maybe with a prayer journal), use the calming corner, learn to ride a horse, and do Sudoku puzzles. Sara's goals are to climb a tree, practice positive thinking, draw pictures of 10 scripture stories and tell them, and stop the habit of saying "I can't." Timmy was asleep when we set goals, so we don't have his. We set goals for Gideon: use the potty, go to nursery (May!), stay in sacrament meeting, and not scream at Timmy every time they're together. We'll see how we do this year. In 2017 the boys achieved most of their goals, and the girls mostly did not.

The break is over.

It has been nearly a month since we posted. Sorry about that. We have all been sick for most of it. Our entire family got a nasty cough, which went on and on and on.

Mike even got sick, which is saying something, because he usually doesn't. During the long sickness, we had a lot of soup, and Mike used his "work from home" ability far more than he ever expected to.

The kids have mostly recovered. Alison and Mike still have coughs.

During the time, we made gingerbread cookies (which turned out really good).

Rea wrote a short story unprompted recently:

Creel and the dragon
By Rea
Once upon a time a girl named Creel rescued herself from the dragons. The end.

It was pretty short, but it has all of the elements of a story. We were excited about it.

Timmy has really loved building legos, and making board games with Mike. He and Mike are working on the Jurassic universe game that mike made a few years back. Timmy loves to throw all sorts of animals into a space ship and send them to a planet.

Sara is doing really well during team clean recently. She can work so hard. It is great, because we sometimes wondered if she would ever get there.

Gideon is talking more daily, and walking around a lot. He has voluntarily started cleaning up during team clean, which is fun to see, however we have to watch him, since he sometimes cleans up things to the trashcan that do not need to be there.

We made new years goals, which I will let Alison write about. I think I am going to end this, and go to sleep however.

Here's a bunch of pictures: