Monday, December 24, 2012

Lucky Pajamas!

We were instructed, by Grandma Connie and Grandpa Jon, to open a package last night.
The monkey is wearing "This is my lazy shirt ... and I don't feel like doing anything".
The big monkey is wearing "I may not always be right, but I'm never wrong".
Do you see what our little super hero is wearing?
Awesome Man is fast as a rocket!
What is the secret to his lightning-fast speed, you may ask?
His new super hero cape! This is The Flaming Eyeball, of course! Grandma painted this for him! She sent us all "Lucky Pajamas" to open last night. They are awesome!
Dylan is kicking back, enjoying Christmas break, feeling pretty lazy.... and pretty lucky. He is looking pretty cool too.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A snippet of holiday silliness ...

"Pterodactyl Piggy-Back Rides"
"...decorating [his] own Christmas Tree... like the big one."
"Blasting off in a rocket ship" (Although Ben has not forgotten what he asked Santa for, "The rocket ship" box has been a great distraction from the presents waiting under the tree. The tree decorations themselves appear to be mysteriously shifting and drooping in ways not attributable to gravity. This kiddo is so excited about Christmas, that fireworks go off every time he runs into the room. Hurry Christmas, hurry fast!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hard-Earned Hard Candy

Benjamin found out that he is on Santa's "Good List"!
He got to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas. However, he was not real happy about everyone taking pictures during his interview.
He gave Santa a "high five" in hopes that it meant his wish would be granted.
Santa was happy to see Dylan again. Big brother has been on Santa's "Good List" every year!
Ben said, "Thanks for the candy cane! Merry Christmas!" and toddled off looking a little confused, but not too traumatized.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Little Blue Bomber

We got more snow!!! It was just what we ordered! The forecast was for no more than 1/2 inch of accumulation. However, we got  4-6 inches overnight!
Ben is so good at sledding! We bought him a new sled which was rated for kids ages 5+ years. He is a pro on it! He can climb on, kick off, and stop himself. That is he could, theoretically, slow down and stop if he wasn't a little speed demon. He wants me to push him "Faster! Faster, Momma!".
He is still learning to steer.
For whatever reason, Ben brushes the snow off of his sled before he hops on. Perhaps he is trying to improve the aerodynamics of the thing.
Ben has discovered that snow is edible.
He tried repeatedly to feed snow to Lucy Kitty. She wasn't interested.
Once she was satisfied that she wasn't being left out of anything she wanted to be involved in, Lucy headed for the house. I tried to tell her that when she wanted to come out with us. She had to see for herself. Benjamin waved, "Bye-Bye Kiddly!".

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Brief Flurries

We had a pretty brisk ephemeral snow storm today. We ran out to enjoy it!  As you can see, snow in the Bitterroot Valley has been hard to come by.
We really have a great yard for sledding. The grass slowed Ben down a bit, but he didn't know any better and he had a great time! When we get more snow and we think it might stay, we plan to host a sledding party.
We all ventured downtown for some coffee and lunch. Ben did some window shopping and stopped in to visit with Santa (pictures will be posted soon).
We are looking forward to more fun and games with Dylan home for the holidays.

Monday, December 10, 2012

12, 348 Miles

Or half way around the Earth, is how far I traveled over the past two weeks on a business trip to Brussels.  Two weeks away from home and family is far too long, especially this time of year, but it was not without some very rewarding experiences along the way.

This is the main library at the University of Leuven (one of the oldest Universities in all of Europe) which had been rebuilt twice as it was destroyed during both WWI and WWII.  Much of Leuven was destroyed by the Germans during the wars and hence the statue at the top of the entrance is standing on the eagle of the third Reich.  Not much German food to be found in Leuven.  I shudder when I think of how many wonderful ancient books were lost and the incalculable wisdom and human effort lost with them.

My travel companions were my colleagues Chris and Melinda who made being away from home much easier and less lonely than it could have been.  Here we are out dining on the Belgium staple of mussels and beer.  You can get mussels served 50 different ways and I've tried 35 of them over my past 5 trips to Brussels.

On the weekend we had enough time for a day trip (3 hours and 50 euros by train) to Amsterdam.... one of our first stops is the tiny old pub you see behind us which was built in 1695.  This pub is extra special because in 2000 my lovely wife stood before this very same pub on her trip to Amsterdam.  If you look carefully you can see that its leaning heavily, but still stands to this day.

Of course, we had to sample the pub's brew so here is a picture from inside... note the map on the back wall which is of Amsterdam from the 18th century, so yes, the pub was there back then too!

Here I snapped a photo of a beautiful old clock tower which caught our attention with its deep bell tolling the hour... hearing those old bells clang transports you back in time which is somewhat ironic since that is what they are the keeper of.
Water channels run through Amsterdam as though you were in Venice and here you see "house boats" which are half submerged homes year round.  

The highlight of Amsterdam was the Hermitage Art museum which houses many works by Vincent van Gogh and tells his story from start to finish.  The most interesting thing I learned about him?  He was not born an artistic genius, like we think of Mozart or Beethoven... he spent years teaching himself to paint starting at the age of 27 and he did hundreds of  practice projects to develop his techniques.  You could see this in the progression of his work.

Christmas was on display in Grand Place in Brussels about two blocks from my hotel.

Here is our research team having our off-site meeting in the upstairs of an old convent... it was truly surreal to be discussing state of the art bio-science in a 400 year old building who's carpenters utilized beam and peg construction because it predated nails.  Yet it stands strong to this day.  The trees used to make those old beams don't even grow in Europe anymore because there is no space for them.

The i4 Innovation competition was one of the main reasons we went to Belgium.  On the stage below you can see a team of Nao robots who put on a performance for the audience as one of the inspirational acts.  This was followed by Andre Borschberg who piloted Solar Impulse, the first solar powered airplane to complete a full 24 hour flight.  Our team was one of two selected for funding to produce the next generation of vaccines!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

This is for the birds!

There probably isn't anything Benjamin Jon has resisted more than having his haircut. However, the little guy was getting so shaggy that his comb was getting caught on snags in the mop. Washing and rinsing his hair was taking longer and longer. This thick head of hair was causing unnecessary daily grooming distress and was looking pretty unkempt. It was high time for a trim.

I must tell you that every trim thus far has been an exercise in futility; resulting in tears and tantrums and the knowledge that we would be back at it in a few short months. We have tried a professional barber, having him accompany his Daddy and I to the salon for our cuts, video distraction, reasoning with him, bribery and much more. I dare say, we have tried just about everything.

Then, very recently, a friend had a suggestion that had never occurred to me. She suggested that we save the hair and place it near our trees for the birds to use for nesting in the spring.
Brilliant! I pitched the idea to Benjamin. I cut my own hair in front of him and asked him to put the hair into a bowl for the birds. He helped me with my trim.
Then Ben actually wanted to get his hair trimmed so he could give the hair to the birds! He almost chickened out when the clipper turned on, but he braved the whole cut! He only had complaints about hair bits getting on his face and mouth. We took lots of breaks to clean off the small bits and to place the large ones into a bowl for the birds. He has been talking about helping the birds ever since!
We will put the hair into a mesh bag to hang near our nesting box. We filled our bird feeders and have been watching videos and reading about the needs of our birds. (click here to see Bird Habitat ideas)
I am so proud of our handsome little birder!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mr. Contrary

If I say to Benjamin, "You look just like a Space Ranger", then he will scowl and say, "I'm not a Space Ranger! I'm Buzz Lightyear!". If I say to Benjamin, "You look just like Buzz Lightyear", then he will scowl and say, "I'm not Buzz Lightyear, I'm a Space Ranger!". That is just how it is around here lately.
So, I say to Benjamin, "Other than "adorable", tell me, what are you?".
"I'm not da-door-ball-al! I'm Ben-ja-jen!"
So, I was right after all.

(Yes, he dressed himself today....winter boots he dug out of his closet, 65 cent Buzz Lightyear shirt I scored at the thrift store, and a blue Cookie Monster hat he dug out of the hallway closet)

Step On It!

Our toddler is a little blur. When he isn't zooming from one end of the house to the other he is, literally, running around in circles. Circles. I don't make any of this stuff up, folks; I don't have to. When I ask him to slow down, or ask "Why are you running around in circles son?", he replies, "I'm running a race". I am having a harder and harder time getting pictures to share with family and friends. Usually, my technique includes taking approximately 8 billion pictures and then posting the two least fuzzy ones. Today, I caught the flying carpet by stepping on it.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Kitchen Tips From Chef Ben: A Stirring Topic

Benjamin can climb down from his booster seat; he often does. For example, if I gave him a spoon to eat with, but he has decided that he would prefer a fork, then he can go get one from the drawer. I am happy about his independence in this regard. However, today as I was loading the dishwasher, Benjamin chose a slightly different utensil.
I turned around when I heard this unique sound at the table. Apparently, he felt that his cottage cheese needed to be "mixed"?
When asked if that made it taste better he replied, "Yes. It just tastes smacky." So there you have it. For "Smacky" cottage cheese, just whip out your hand mixer and spin it until it is in your lap.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

All Things Are Possible

Have you ever seen a Pileated Woodpecker nesting with an American Crow?
Have you ever blasted off in a space ship with an unwilling cat?

Have you ever held the hand of a stranger and led them to vandalize a small shrubbery?
Have you ever ridden a caterpillar across the desert?
Have you ever loaded your tool belt so you could go save the day?
Have you ever driven a firetruck through a crowded grocery store?
Have you ever shared a snack that made you this happy?