Sunday, March 18, 2018

Cat Potatoes

This week was a crazy one.

On Monday Mike was told by his boss and grandboss that his team had been disbanded, and that he was assigned to work on the web team. If someone were to ask Mike which software engineering team at 1800Contacts he would have liked to work at the least, he would have certainly told you the web team. After talking with Alison, Mike started to search for a new job. He applied at five places - all of them in Ithaca NY. He also posted his resume at three different employment sites.

Monday night our toilet clogged, and wouldn't unclog. Mike worked on it for a few hours, and eventually we decided to call a plumber. Tuesday morning the plumber came over and got the water flowing again, so we could use the bathroom. This has made our desire to add a second bathroom increase significantly.

Also on Monday, Alison did her first class teaching English online with VIPKID. She's been seeing people mention this job for about a year now, and it really felt like it was something she was supposed to pursue now. She has been signed up for 9 classes this week and taught 5 of them (the others were student no-shows, which is apparently not too uncommon), and she's enjoying it a lot. Actually, she's somewhat surprised at how much she likes it and how it helps her feel better about parenting after a teaching break. She's also made $75 this week, so she's off to a good start!

Tuesday Mike was getting too many calls from headhunters. He talked to a former co-worker who offered him a really good lead at a company just across the freeway at 106th South. It seems to have everything that Mike is looking for with the exception of being in Ithaca NY. Both Alison and Mike have felt that this job opportunity is the "right" one, so we are expecting that it will be the one to pan out (though, Mike is considering the possibility that he is only feeling good about it because the Lord wants to delay him so that a different job opens up for him, the real "right" one).

Tuesday night we had a baby sitter, so that Mike and Alison could go to the dentist. Everything went well, although we probably wouldn't have planned it then if we had known about everything else that would be happening this week.

Thursday Alison went to a relief society activity, and Mike took care of the kids. They had macaroni and sausages for dinner. The kids approved heartily.

By Friday, Mike had narrowed the job opportunities to three. He has two interviews scheduled next week, and is waiting to hear back from another to set up a time for an interview with them. The two with interviews are both second interviews, and the other one is in Ithaca, and is a first interview.

Friday during the day Gideon finally started pooping in the potty. We were very excited. He has just graduated from being a baby to being a big kid. The requirements (as they currently stand) are: talking, walking, and pooping in the potty. Because of this graduation, we decided to have a goal day party for him.

Friday, we remembered that we had a play planned for that night, however Alison had also set her teaching schedule open for the entire night, and a kid signed up for 8:00PM. We could have cancelled on the kid, but Alison is just starting, and a bad review would be really bad right now, so we had to skip the play.

On Saturday Mike and Alison went on a date to an adult nature workshop run by the homeschool nature group Alison takes the kids to. The adults split up and sat still for 40 minutes, then tried to piece together what had been happening around the area based on what each individual had seen and heard. This was surprisingly fun, and we figured out a lot, like two chickadees calling back and forth and the flight pattern of two ducks. Then they wandered around to see what they could find: an elk yard and the place where a fox caught a bird were highlights. It was not anything that was a stretch for Alison and Mike (although it was for some of the other parents), but they enjoyed a chance to get out in nature without kids distracting them.

Saturday night we had a goal-day party for Alison and Gideon. We had Indian food - basically we went to the Indian cash-and-carry, and bought ingredients for Mauritian roti. We also bought various Indian breads, which are always amazing. Our favorite by far was the paratha bread. Mike is definitely going to start making it. Hopefully all the time. We planned on finishing up the meal with gato batate - a traditional Mauritian desert, which probably means potato cakes, but if it were Italian, it would mean cat potatoes.

Mike doesn't really like job hunting, so here's to hoping that everything will be done before the end of the next week. Alison is hoping to start getting regular students instead of trial students, so that her schedule will be more predictable. We know God is guiding both of these job situations, so it will all work out.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

A Legendary Date

On Tuesday we attended Olivia's baptism. It was beautiful. We are so happy that she's part of our family. We are planning Rea's baptism for 10am on November 3rd, so everyone who schedules things six months in advance can be prepared. Rea found and tried on Alison's dress from her baptism and it fits, so she's considering wearing it for her baptism. Alison tried on her wedding dress while Rea tried on the baptism dress. It no longer fits :), but it was fun.

Alison has decided that we don't get enough movement in our lives, so we're adding some more activities. She found a website that will use a YouTube video as an alarm, so each evening a kid picks something to be our Morning Movement first thing the next day. So far we've done dinosaur dances and ninja dances. It's a good way to wake up. Sara loves it, Timmy enjoys it, and Alison feels much more awake afterwards. Rea seems put-upon, but she's participating a bit. We're also trying to add some games after dinner every night, but that is not becoming habit as fast.

One night, we danced to the music of the Nutcracker around our front room. It's one of our favorite exercises, but this time, Alison slid along the floor and got a half-inch-long splinter in her foot. It took two days, soaking in Epsom salts, and slicing into the foot with an Xacto knife to get all of it out, but she can walk normally now.

Friday night, the kids watched Moana while Mike and Alison played one of their new games for a date. Even Gideon stayed out of the way (he was napping) and they got to play it through twice. It was a game called "Legendary," a cooperative deck-builder. Its theme is Marvel superheroes, and both Mike and Alison are prejudiced against anything with a commercial theme, because most of them trade on the theme and don't bother being high quality. But Alison loves cooperative games and deck building games and this was on the best-of lists of both, so we traded for it in the math trade. We're glad we did. It was a very fun game, and we're excited to play with different options in the decks.

This week Alison was officially accepted to be a VIPKID teacher, teaching English online to kids in China. It's an independent contractor system, so Alison had to put up a profile on the website and wait for parents to hire her. She just got her profile up yesterday, so she's hoping to start getting some bookings soon. It usually takes a few weeks.

On Sunday, the weather was beautiful, so after Church and callings were done, we rode to the school playground on our bikes. Sara fussed and fussed about getting the bucket bike, but finally gave in and had a decent attitude. But Alison is thinking of selling the bucket bike and switching to a bike seat for Gideon and a double trail-a-bike for Sara and Timmy. Maybe Sara would like it better, and at least she and Timmy could get some exercise and practice so that they could move to their own bikes sooner. The school playground was full of kids and we had a good time there.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

SaltCon 2018

We missed a week again... This had better not become a habit.

This week we went to SaltCon. We spent the first half of the week getting ready. Mike finished up with the math trade, and participated in the online flea market. The kids packed so many things. Alison planned meals and packed. Gideon mostly said "Nurse! Nurse! Nurse!" (because he liked to nurse a lot this week, I guess).

When we were at SaltCon, we stayed at a different hotel than last time. This one was the Hilton Hampton Inn. It was way better than the Hilton Garden Inn which is attached to the convention center. The convenience of being attached to the convention center is nice, but the free breakfasts  every day and the free dinner on Thursdays halved the number of meals that we had to plan for.

Additionally the staff was very friendly, and the pool was way less crowded. We also got to hang out in the lobby so that we didn't have to bother our neighbors so much with our loud children.

We played a few cool games that we want to get. Most impressive was Clank!, which is quite a good game. We would recommend it to any connoisseur of fine board games. Mike also really liked Santorini.

We got 20 new (to us) board games, so we will be playing games for quite a while.

Mike also pitched a game not entirely without success at the convention. The publisher expressed interest in helping develop the game, and potentially publishing it in the future.

Since we are polyphasic now, we got to play a bunch of board games together that we would have never been able to play last year. We just spent our midnight time playing grown up games. It was an excellent thing. It's sort of like having a babysitter.

On Saturday before going home, we went to the Mongolian barbecue. The food was plenteous and good. We will probably make that a tradition.

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 :).