Archive - August 2012

Lego Star Wars Birthday – The Party
Lego Star Wars Birthday – The Plan
School Plans 2012-2013
East Side, West Side
Birthday Bip
Apples and Haunted Houses

Lego Star Wars Birthday – The Party

The day of the party arrived! Jedi robes hung near the door and lightsabers were ready. We played the Star Wars Main Theme as the guests arrived and donned their robes. They gathered in the living room until everyone arrived. I gave a short briefing on the upcoming Jedi Training Academy and introduced their Jedi Masters, Obi Boo Kenobi and Pumpkin Secura.

First up, the Jedi Reaction Course. A Jedi must be quick witted and physically fit, ready face any obstacle or climate. First, they raced across the lava of Mustafar. I used a cheap, vinyl tablecloth with peices of cardboard taped on it.

Bip negotiates the lava of Mustafar while Master Pumpkin Secura looks on. Ignore my dead backyard. We’re having a drought.

The next challenge was to enter the Cloud City by way of the ladder, then slide to safety. Here they met Obi Boo at the Death Star and shot the three Storm Troopers with a Nerf gun.

Obi-Boo prepares to help a young Padawan shoot the Storm Troopers. Please to be noting how lush the lawn looks here. (Note: the Storm Trooper pictures were supposed to be hanging down from our deck, but it was too windy that day. We attached them to the back of a bench instead. Typical. No wind for days. DAYS! Then it decided to gust for the party.)

Setting the gun down, they moved on to Hoth where they mounted their TaunTaun. They navigated through a series of cones to reach safety before the rebel base closed its doors for the night.

Each young Padawn went through the course once on their own, then we let them go again and again until they were worn out. Then we had a water break. Background music: Tie Fighter Battle from Episode IV.

Basic Lightsaber Training was an exercise in spontaneity. For me, that is! The idea was to keep balloons off the ground with their lightsabers. Once they’d mastered that, or got bored, they would bat the balloons back and forth with a buddy. Then we’d have a relay race, keeping the balloons off the ground and passing it to a team mate. What really happened was that the wind got involved and blew the balloons everywhere, like into the creek and the neighbors’ yards. It was actually pretty hysterical. At some point we ditched the plan and just whacked those balloons until they either blew off or popped. (No pictures for this as my photographer went to the Dark Side.)

Advanced Lightsaber Training was all about combat training. Obi Boo and Pumpkin Secura taught basic dueling moves and then Padawans practiced on Pumpkin.

Suddenly a disturbance was felt in the Force (music: The Imperial March) and who should arrive but Darth Phil! Each young Padawan had the opportunity use his skill to battle Darth Phil multiple times. The Jedi Masters called out each move in sequence to help them remember. Have you seen the Jedi Training Academy at Disneyland or WDW? It was just like that. Finally Darth Phil was defeated and left to plot evil for another day.

Next was Safe Handling of Thermal Detonators. Just your basic hot potato game using a funny ball. The music for this was the Cantina Song from Episode IV.

To wrap things up the Padawans were given a “final exam”. We played Bingo using the cards I downloaded for free here: Lego Star Wars Bingo.

After food, gifts and cupcakes we finished with a graduation ceremony. Obi-Boo and Pumpkin Secura lined up the Padawans and marched them up to the deck, once around the fire pit, then had them line up. They formed an arch with their lightsabers for the new Jedi Knights pass under as their name was called. We used “the Throne Room” from Episode IV for the music.

As the Jedi Knights got their goody bags and left for their home galaxies we played the End Title in the background.

And there you have it! Much fun was had by all.

And in case you missed it, see how I planned this whole party here: Lego Star Wars Birthday – The Plan.

PS. Sorry about the inconsistent photo editing. I’m still trying to figure which look I like best and I edited these pictures on different days.

Lego Star Wars Birthday – The Plan

In a fit of maternal generosity, I agree to let Bip have his very first friend birthday party.

Have I told you I’m an introvert? And though I like people and love my kids, they just plain wear me out? Alas, Bip finally has friends of his own and he asked for a party. I couldn’t say no. I wanted to. But I didn’t.

He requested a Lego Star Wars theme.

I’d love to be one of those moms who can create a super cool themed party with coordinating everything and homemade food and cakes and all that. As I scoured the Internet looking for party ideas, I became increasingly intimidated and discouraged. Plus, everything looked so expensive! So I got a grip on the reality of what *I* am capable of doing and played to my strengths. I like Star Wars. I like to craft. I like to do graphic design stuff. And I’m a bit of a goofball. (But you knew that last part, right?)

So here’s how I got it done.

I bought this invitation here: Princess and the Peas

Yes, I could have done this myself, but by the time I remembered I needed to create, print and send the invites out, I was out of time.  (Get it cheaper by starting extra early and creating the invite yourself.  Even cheaper if you print them at home.)

I made these light sabers out of fun noodles. Fun noodles!

There are instructions all over the Internet, but I’ll tell you how to do them right now. Buy fun noodles. Cut them in half with a serrated knife (measure first!!). Use silver, not grey, duct tape to make a handle. Use electrical tape to embellish. Three things to note. 1)cover the bottom of the handle first because it doesn’t turn out very neatly and then you can cover that bit up when you start wrapping the handle. 2)Buy the silver duct tape at WalMart. Look in the craft section. 3)Use electrical tape for the black because duct tape is really hard to cut into the small pieces you need. (Cost: Fun noodles $2 each, they yield 2 sabers.  Electrical tap $3. Duct tape $5.  Total: $10 to make 4)

I’m not generally a fan of party favors, so if we’re going to give them out I want them to be worth while. I made the toppers myself, added a sheet of stickers, a Star Wars Pez, and a Lego Star Wars bottle cap key chain that I made myself.

(Cost: Pez $2 each.  Stickers $1.50 for 4 sheets.  Cellophane treat bags $2.50 for a pack. Bag toppers I printed at home on card stock. I had the keychain supplies already because we’re going to be selling them in our shop.  But small kits are available all over the place and finished ones are available on Etsy.)

For games we went through a Jedi Training Academy. We had an obstacle course, basic light saber training, advanced light saber training, safe thermal detonator handling and a final exam. More on those in another post. (Cost for a vinyl table cloth as part of the obstacle course $2.  I used things we already had for the rest of the games.)

I’ve seen a lot of clever ideas for food – Yoda Soda, Han Burgers, Wookie Cookies, bottles of water spray painted gold like C3PO. And the cakes, oh the cakes! A three dimensional R2 D2. Multi-layer cakes with fondant Lego figures. Very impressive. But yeah, not going to happen here. We ordered pizza, had water and Capri Suns, and bought cupcakes from the store. Half of them had stars on them. For the other half, I made toppers out of toothpicks, leftover stickers and card stock. Sounds way more like MacGiver than it was, but the boys really liked them.  (Cost: Cupcakes $10, plus pizza and drinks.Get it cheaper by making your own cupcakes. I don’t include the drinks in the cost because we buy Capri Suns in bulk at Sam’s Club and just pulled from our stash.  Also, pizza’s vary by brand and toppings, so I don’t include the price.)

Bip’s cupcake was topped with a Darth Vader holding a red candle as his Lightsaber. Also a big hit. And you know what? We had very little left-over food and I didn’t send the boys home all revved up on sugar.

To set the mood we played various songs from the Star Wars soundtrack. Different activities had different songs. I had an index card that told which song (and track number) went with which game and I kept it with the CD player. (Cost: $.99 for each track.  We only needed to buy one more, since we already had several from our Star Wars Halloween.Get it cheaper by asking friends if they already have the music and then borrow their iPod.)

And finally, for graduation, I made these Jedi Training Certificates using Photoshop and the Force. I had them printed as 5x7s and I wrote the boys’ names in the yellow box with a black sharpie.

(Cost: $21 as part of all the printing I had done for the party.  Get it cheaper by printing them yourself.)

Total cost for the party, not including pizza and drinks $40.50 and I could have taken that down by half by just doing more of the printing myself.

Next time I’ll show you how the whole party played out.  No surprise, it was a HUGE hit!

School Plans 2012-2013

This is the Year of Catching Up. I slept most of 2010, being pregnant with Pipsqueak and all. Then I spent 2011 and 2012 dealing with a new baby. We used to school year-round until Pumpkin Girl started doing ballet summer intensives and workshops which took up 5 weeks of summer. And now, here we are, woefully behind where I would like to be.

But oftentimes, the lesson is about family. Picking up the slack for mom while she rests and sustains a growing new life. Trips to the midwife where everyone can see the miracle via ultrasound. Learning to care for the newest, weakest member of the family. Math can wait, people cannot.

Yet, falling behind my personal schedule bothers me. So we will work on catching up this year.

This school year we have grades 2, 6 and 8. Additionally, the two boys will receive a total of three sacraments. Exciting times!

We continue to use Sonlight. My children always sigh at the end of most read aloud books and declare that, “Sonlight always sends us the *best* books!” I can’t argue with that! Boo and Pumpkin Girl are in the middle of Core 5/F, a year long study of Eastern Hemisphere cultures. We’ll be done around January, I think. Then on to Core 6/H. Bip is doing Core K (C?), World Cultures, I think it is. All are using the corresponding science programs.

For math we have a new approach.  We liked Horizon, but it is mom intensive.  That worked fine until the addition of Pipsqueak into the equation.  (Ha! math analogy!) The boys are using Math-U-See at their respective levels. They like it and both can use it on their own. Pumpkin Girl is using Teaching Textbooks, which fits her well. Having them all do math on their own frees me up big time!! With TT, I don’t even have to correct the tests!

We’re doing something new for creative writing, too. For the older two, they are using Institute for Excellence In Writing for both creative writing and grammar. Again, they are able to do this with minimum effort on my part which is good as I deal with Bip learning to read. More on that adventure later!!

Religion is more complicated this year. We are using Seton for regular, grade level work.  The boys will be required to attend the sacrament prep classes in person at our church, which irks me. But since we have a “home study” option for their regular classes and I’m “allowed” to use my own books, I’m willing to make this effort.

Extra curricular-wise, we have soccer and scouts for boys, ballet for Pumpkin Girl. Whew!  I’m wiped out just typing that all!


Our next stop on our tour of San Francisco was Alcatraz. I’d been twice before – first with my parents sometime in the early 80s when the tour was guided, and second with Philip while we were in college and by then the tour was a self-guided audio tour. Both times we just showed up at the pier and bought tickets for the next available tour, usually the very next one leaving.

All that has changed. We bought tickets a week earlier and it was a good thing! Apparently tickets sell out well in advance and perhaps the only thing that saved us was the fact that most California schools hadn’t let out for summer yet.

You’ve got to get to the pier early but they’ve got some displays to read. You can also check out this scale model.  Our traveling monster, Estrella, liked it very much!

Estrella imagines herself as Godzilla attacking Alcatraz.

Eventually we got to board the boat. (Here’s a tip, don’t bother queuing up early unless you’re cold and want to get on the boat for the warmth. Just wait for the line to go down, then board at your leisure.)

The boat ride is windy. Wear a jacket.

The audio tour is excellent! It has you moving around the prison, looking into cells or at displays that help tell the story. The sound effects and background noises really add to the atmosphere. I highly recommend it!

These are isolation cells. The audio tour has you go in one and close your eyes while a former inmate describes what is was like to live in total darkness.

A display showing a bar spreader constructed by an inmate and used for one of the escape attempts.

Prisoners were allowed to pursue some hobbies, like paint by numbers or crochet.

If you go:
Buy tickets online well in advance. This is the official site: Alcatraz Tickets. You can buy both the ferry ride and audio tour tickets together. There is limited street parking, so be prepared to walk or just get someone to drop you off or take the bus.

Wear comfortable shoes and bring a jacket, even in summer.

Eat before you get on the ferry because there is no food allowed on the island. We were gone for 3 hours!

I wouldn’t recommend this tour for toddlers. I don’t think they allow strollers and there is a lot of walking! Plus, everyone is wearing head phones and listening to the tour. A small child would get bored and restless very quickly.

East Side, West Side

Hellmann’s or Best Foods Mayonnaise? Did you know that it depends on which side of the Continental Divide you are on? It is Hellmann’s East of the Rockies and Best Foods West of the Rockies. So what do you think it might be if you are in the foothills of the Rockies?

We’ve got both!

Which do you have, Hellmann’s, Best Foods or both?

Birthday Bip

Our funny man Bip turned 7 last Friday. Seven. Wow. Where did that time go?

We took him to IHOP, his favorite restaurant, for his free birthday meal.

Just for fun, here’s Boo with his Monster Cheeseburger, made with real monsters. He’s taller than me now.

It turns out that since we were there on his actual birthday, Bip got a free sundae, too! We were already paying our bill when we found this out, so they packed it up in a kids’ drink cup for him. Thanks, IHOP!!

And Happy 7th Birthday, Bip! You bring us joy every day.

Apples and Haunted Houses

Our second day in San Francisco, we traveled down to Cupertino to visit Phil’s brother who works for Apple.  Yes, that Apple.

First we needed badges because you can’t just wander aimlessly around Apple Headquarters without an escort or a reason.  We each typed in our name and the company we work for.  Much hilarity ensued as the children decided who their employers would be.

Then we wandered around and ended up at the cafeteria for lunch.  All I can say is…wow!  They sure are living large there with a big assortment of cooked to order meals, custom pizzas, smoothies, and fruit.  We wrapped our time there taking pictures in front of the address sign, proudly displaying our free apples.

Fruit.  Not electronics.

And since we were pretty much right down the street, we also went to the Winchester Mystery House.  I have no pictures of this event because they weren’t allowed.  I have no idea why. No military discount, either.  And definitely no free apples.  But the kids thought it was really, really cool (as did the grown ups), so it was time well spent.

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