Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Juggling skills

At the table: "Dad, after dinner you should show me your juggling skills."

I have no juggling skills. I have no idea where this one is coming from.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Omnidroid Birthday Party

We have entered the world of themed birthday parties.

About a month before his birthday, R asked Scott what kind of birthday cake he would like. She fully expected Lightning McQueen or Spiderman. Scott surprised her with his response: "The Incredibles robot." If you are familiar with the Pixar animated film, you know what he's talking about. Mr Incredible and his superhero family face off against a giant spider-like robot created by an evil mastermind. The robot is called the Omnidroid and there are various models that were tested against numerous ill-fated "supers" in preparation to wreak havoc on the world.

My reproduction of the Omnidroid 6000

While we were a bit surprised by Scott's unique selection, we immediately recognized the potential for birthday fun and we set about planning. We talked about having an omnidroid cake and I began devising ways to make a spherical cake complete with legs and a laser eye. From there, I conceived the idea for an pinata -- a must-have for any birthday bash. After one balloon, some black spray paint and a stovetop covered in paper-mache paste, we had ourselves a pinata. Then we needed something to put in it.

We didn't want to stuff it full of high-fructose corn syrup, but filling such a large pinata with things like toy robots or Kinder eggs would be terribly expensive -- on the other hand, using ketchup packets swiped from Burger King would probably be the opposite.

Ultimately, we came up with t-shirts. We already wanted to give each child some kind of swag, since it's no fun watching somebody else unwrap loads of new gear while you get nothing. We figured t-shirts would be fun -- one in each of their favourite colours. I first went to Michael's art and craft store to buy the shirts and iron-on transfer paper because I had a 40% off coupon.

When I got there, I found red, blue and pink youth-small shirts on sale (which looked a bit big) and the same kind of iron-on paper we used for our Halloween costumes (which cracked and peeled immediately) plus another brand. I asked the girl at the till if she knew which type of transfer paper was best, and she said that their stuff is awful and she buys hers at Staples Office Depot. So, it turns out that I couldn't use the 40% off coupon for the shirts because they were on a 17% off sale, which irked me a bit. I won out in the end, because I found shirts that fit really well at Walmart for less than half the price -- except that all the red ones were gone so Scott had to settle for white with red trim.

Scott had a Jolly Rancher in his mouth just before this picture was taken. In the photo, his candy had just fallen out and landed in the dirt.

While the Omnidroid represented the theme for the decorations, the theme for the presents was quite different. All the gifts were things that Scott could use to either play outside or to do craft / activities inside -- there were hardly any toys, really.

For outside, he got a helmet for his tricycle, a velcro baseball glove and ball, a plastic bat and ball, an inflatable bounce house, and a backpack to hold his various essential. For inside, he got some books, some board games, a craft desk with 2 chairs, some beads / pipe cleaner, a plastic smock, playdoh, The Incredibles DVD ... and A PAIR OF SCISSORS!!

The cake was an interesting compilation of themes, and hardly in the same league as the stuff I've seen from cake-pro cousin or semi-pro sister. Originally, I was going to have a 3-D spherical Omnidroid cake made from rice krispies, but we replaced that idea with the pinata. Instead, we kept the cake pretty simple and just went down to Dairy Queen and ordered one.

True to Scott's preferences, we asked for a Spiderman graphic on it, and then we added the Omnidroid afterwards. In fact, we added three Omnidroids -- one for each of the kids. R and Scott made balls out of rice krispies and then I coated them in melted chocolate, adding black pipe-cleaner legs before putting them on the cake in various threatening positions. You want to see a mess? give a toddler a chocolate-covered ball and tell him to eat it.

Speaking of messes, here is the damage after eating pizza, salad and cake. Notice the Lightning McQueen cups and plates -- Pixar was well represented at this party. I guess we didn't have any Nemo stuff or Monsters Inc.

This is the outfit that Scott wore for the next 4 days straight, from dawn until dusk. He finally stopped wearing the helmet everywhere when he found that it made his head sweaty. He wears the backpack to church every week, loaded with books, treats, and the other odds and ends that are precious to a three-year-old

Here's our boy -- one year older. We love him to bits.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Our Family Tree is in Our Back Yard

In preparation for a family reunion this summer, we were asked to provide pictures of our family. We scoured the archives and discovered that we didn't have a decent picture of the four of us yet. We immediately set out to remedy the problem. Unfortunately, the solution isn't so simple as point-and-shoot.

We took a camera along to our niece's 3rd birthday party, intending to snap a photo with the help of the other party-goers. It's hard to say what went wrong -- too much sun, not the right backdrop, awkward poses -- but the family photo didn't quite materialize.

However, we did manage to snap some great candid shots of the kids.

The following day was Sunday and we pulled the tripod down from the closet shelf to make an attempt in our backyard. It was pretty chilly so we didn't have much time to work with. First we tried the swing.

Interesting, but unsuccessful.

We also tried the wagon.

Nice idea, but Katie really didn't react well to the direct sunlight.

The best result came when we used the tree. It is nice to see that the trees in our yard are good for something other than dispensing a limitless supply of twigs, leaves, seeds and assorted rejectamenta.

I thought the final results were good, especially given the rushed job that we did. I think we will have to make use of this "family tree" for future photo shoots -- especially once Katie can clamber onto a branch on her own.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Gluten Moon Begins

On Friday we kicked off the gluten-eating binge in proper fashion, getting two medium pizzas from a favourite local pizzeria. The crusts there are so thick and tasty, it is definitely the sort of thing you can't get gluten-free.

We followed that up on Saturday by eating French toast for lunch and hitting up Wendy's for dinner -- that is hardly "easing" back into eating gluten, but we were out watching the SuperTrain exhibition and there was a Wendy's just across the street.

Scott really enjoyed the SuperTrain exhibition, although he is hardly the train fanatic that he was last year at this time. He has diversified his interests into things like trucks, cars, soccer balls and Spiderman, but he still loves to watch a train in motion.

The exhibition was mainly hobbyists (often representing hobby stores) who were displaying their very elaborate train models for the benefit of other hobbyists and young children. It was interesting to be an event that is primarily focused on elderly men and young boys. There are few such venues.

While boys seem to gravitate toward trains, there was plenty to captivate the interest of any child -- including a huge play area stocked with Thomas the Tank Engine tracks and trains. Apparently, there are three such play areas at a hobby shop in the small town of Nanton, Alberta (this shop provided the toys for the expo). We drive through Nanton every time we go to the US to visit family, so we should add that one to our list of possible stopping points.

Another such point is the gluten-free pizza restaurant in Okotoks. You see how all this fits together. Gluten-free pizza and trains are very closely connected. In fact, we picked up some prepackaged frozen gluten-free pizzas from Coco Brooks to try, since it was only 3 blocks from the SuperTrain show.

It must be the Gluten Moon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Camping in Five Weeks

Scott and I were burning some fallen branches in the firepit in the backyard and I reminded him that he and I would camp in a tent pretty soon. I asked him when we would do it. Without a moment's hesitation he answered, "In five weeks, I think." I laughed, but I think his estimate is pretty accurate. It makes me wonder if he has any idea what that actually means.

My guess is not really.

Younger Scott and Elder Scott

Taking a hint from R's sister J, we took a trip to Michael's Craft Store to pick up a number of inexpensive craft projects to occupy Scott's time while we watched the several sessions of General Conference of the church on TV. Normally, you would not expect a toddler to be enthusiastic about watching people speak at a podium for several hours, but he was enthralled with the whole thing, and sad when it came to a close.





Sunday, April 18, 2010

Easter Bunny: Mysterious, but Very Welcome

Scott wanted to stay up to see the Easter Bunny this year. For some reason, this surprised me. I guess I took it for granted that kids would prefer to be bed sleeping, rather than witnessing the fantastic arrival of a candy-distributing rabbit.

No, no. You can't wait up to see the Easter Bunny.


Uh... because he... prefers to work alone.

It's funny that the idea of a bunny accessing our house unsupervised to secrete candies about the premises in the dark doesn't really faze a child. Scott's eyes lit up as we fed him the tall tale, especially when we got to the part about all the candy. I think he would have been fine if we'd told him that Count Dracula was coming by riding on Bigfoot's shoulders, so long as they were going to leave candy behind.

What is the point of perpetuating these elaborate stories? I feel a bit silly fabricating this illusion for the child that is supposed to be trusting me. Now, I suppose he wouldn't be quite as excited if we told him that we were going to wait until after he went to sleep to hide candy all over the house? It wouldn't seem quite so magical, but it would still be pretty sweet -- and truthy.

Following the tradition of R's family, we did the Easter Bunny / candy stuff on the Saturday morning so that we could focus on the real meaning of Easter on Easter Sunday. Stay tuned for that.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Spicy Hut: Ginger Beef is Back!

I had heard from a coworker about a little Chinese restaurant in Bridgeland (just NE of downtown) that can do gluten-free ginger beef on request. Yesterday we had to go pick up a kijiji-purchased birthday present in Bridgeland, so we decided to hit up the Spicy Hut.

My friend at work refers to it as the "Shady Hut", but he does so lovingly. The neighborhood is older and the decor is nothing that would be featured in a design magazine.

All shadyness aside, it was exceptionally friendly, and exceptionally tasty. The cashew chicken was quite good, but the ginger beef was the highlight. Even without any gluten, it was some of the best ginger beef I've ever tasted -- and the plate was huge.

Who needs gluten when you've got the Spicy Hut?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Smiling and Cooing

Do you like pictures of cute babies? I sure do.

Although Katie continues to be a very sleepy baby, her alert time is becoming more alert. She recognizes us and greets us with smiles. Her smiles range from small grin to gaping mouth. The smiles are often followed by soft cooing -- pretty much the cutest thing ever.

Do you like videos of cute babies?

I sure do.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Uniform

Here is the uniform.

Scott would prefer to wear this outfit every day of the week if he could. The shorts are two sizes too baggy for him but they have a Spiderman symbol on the bottom and the wide legs allow him to run really fast. The shirt features three x-wing fighters and the Death Star from Star Wars. He calls it his "spaceship shirt." As with the shorts, it is an essential part of the uniform. (However, if his uniform is in the laundry, he will settle for another pair of shorts and a short-sleeve shirt.)

Scott can be seen here posing with his cousins. This gives you a sense of the height difference between 3-year-olds and 5-year olds.