Saturday, March 28, 2009


I am turning over a new leaf. As of today, I will no longer neglect my sweet husband and boys over my dual obsessions of scrapbooking and reading. As of today, I am going to start neglecting them for my NEW obsession!! Photoshop! Woo!

I have been frustrated with my pictures in general for the last couple of years. In 2007 we acquired a smokin' hot new camera that upped the quality of my pics considerably, however, something was still missing. Photoshop! Duh! Most of the photos that I admire by other people have been tweaked to some degree or another. So why not mine? And so...a new obsession is born. This program is a whopper. I can forsee many late nights and sore backs from studying and playing with this baby. But my pictures are gonna look fantastic so it'll all be worth it!! Just look at the difference...

This first pic is of my cutie pie nephew, straight up and unedited.

Now here it is after applying the first action...

And here is an action on top of another action...

After messing around for a bit with these pics and a few others, I realized that my originals were all very blue. So, I warmed them up a little and WOW! What a change...this one is my favorite.

This is so great! Just think how excellent my scrapbook pages are gonna look now!!

Uh, about that whole scrapping thing...I never said I was giving it up all together. Just that I wasn't going to neglect my family for it any longer.

But that was probably a lie.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Who is this Child?

This afternoon the boys were sitting at the table snacking on their after-school fare and so, not wanting to be left out, I started rummaging through the fridge. Since I'm in the middle of my bi-annual attempt to be healthy, I broke out the broccoli and ranch dressing and started crunching…yay me! The very next moment Jaden is standing next to me asking if he can have some too. Now, this was not actually the astounding part. The astounding part was the fact he'd left his half-eaten chocolate crème Oreo cookie behind to come eat the broccoli!

Wonders never cease.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Wild Ride Days 7-8

The final hours of our epic adventure had arrived. Kyndra and her little one were both sick and feverish by this point so Jaden and I made the trek to Colonial Williamsburg alone. It was a perfect day for exploring Virginia! The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and children were frolicking in the lane. Actually, Jaden was the only frolicking child. Apparently children are supposed to attend school on Wednesdays in February and are not supposed to be gallivanting across the countryside with their mothers. In my defense though, we were in Williamsburg and Jaden's class had been studying Colonial America prior to our gallivanting. Anyway, Williamsburg is a fascinating place full of people in period dress doing period things like making shoes and wigs and such. The main street is even littered with piles of horse manure. How authentic. It turns out, however, that Williamsburg is not a particularly hands-on kind of place. It's more of a look-and-listen kind of place. Did you know that 6-year old boys are not look-and-listen kinds of creatures? Of all the very cool look-and-listen things to see, Jaden's favorite was the open grassy field (where he could play Star Wars) that sat between two historically significant buildings. Oh well. Live and learn. He did perk up a bit after I bought him a wooden pistol from the gift shop. He spent the rest of the outing hopping over horse poop and shooting everyone that walked by.

Oh yeah! I am SO getting me one of these!

The plan after Williamsburg was to drive the 5 miles down the road to Jamestown. I sat in the car for a good 15 minutes considering the sanity of this choice. In the end, I figured we couldn't get this close and NOT go and at least set foot in the birthplace of our country, so off we went. This was a well-rewarded choice and I am to this day kicking myself for not researching this stuff better. Had I done so, I would've known that Jamestown was much more suited to the 6-year old version of 'cool' and we would've spent the majority of our time there instead. The first part of your Jamestown experience is to explore the museum that tells the story of Virginia from pre-history through the time of settlement. That is one excellent museum. There are life size replicas of everything, they pipe 'ambience' through the speakers and there are lots of artifacts from the site. Jaden was able to see an actual hornbook used by schoolchildren of the period (something he learned about in his Colonial America study) and absolutely went into orbit…in a good way. He was so excited to have made this discovery that you'd have thought I told him he could eat ice cream for dinner for the rest of his life! So far so good, and we hadn't even made it outside to the cool stuff yet…

After the museum, you head outside to find more people in period dress doing period things, but THIS time, they all encourage you to pick things up and explore and touch and feel and ask questions and WOW! I almost lost the kid at this point…a spirited little boy is a difficult being to keep up with. At the Powhatan village, all the dwellings were open to explore and full of tools and pottery and more animal pelts than I was comfortable being close to. Jaden touched everything, laid on the beds (ick), ground some corn…I thought he might stop to do a rain dance but he saw the masts of the ships in the harbor first and zing! Off he went again. Only one of the ships was open to tour on that day (Wednesday in February when all the children are supposed to be in school learning, remember?), but J was in heaven…more tools and beds (ick again), cannons and guns, but not quite as many pelts so I felt a little more at ease. And guess what you can see from the top deck of the ship? Yes, the fort, up the hill, in the distance. Zing! The child was off the ship and half way up the path before I could shimmy out of the galley and find the gangplank (colonial age ships were not built to accommodate Amazonian women such as myself). Now, what would a little boy find in a fort that would be of interest? Beds! Of course. Thankfully he was easily distracted from the sleeping arrangements by the sound of gunfire. At the far end of the fort, some little guy in costume was demonstrating the firing of a matchlock musket that was easily twice as long as Jaden himself. Now on to the guardhouse…the glorious building where all the armor, muskets, ammunition, and medieval sticks with pointy ends are held. Yes, I know that 'sticks with pointy ends' is not the proper name but who has time for specifics with so much weaponry to behold?? Then! The woman manning the guardhouse (and yes that's funny…Affirmative Action I suppose) says to us, "Has he tried on the armor yet?" Cue the angelic harmonies and heavenly shaft of light illuminating the plate armor across the courtyard. Zing!!

We were thoroughly exhausted by the time we got back to Kyndras.  J konked out without any trouble and Kyndra and I finally sat down to watch Mamma Mia. We were thrilled to get to finally watch it with each other since the husbands had not been too keen on having to endure it with us.  You can daaaaaaance, you can ji-ive, having the time of your li-i-ife....oooooooo

The next day was loooooong again as we flew home…this time by way of Orlando and Austin. But it was uneventful and well worth it. I can't wait to go back!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Wild Ride Day 6

Day 6 brought us a trip to NASA! Almost. We actually went to the Virginia Air and Space Center, which is the visitor center for NASA/Langley; but Jaden didn't know the difference and he was just as happy as a clam. This was another hands-on and interactive little boy paradise. The place had full size planes hanging from the ceiling, flight simulators galore, programmable Mars rover robots, and a full size DC-9! 

Here you see J "piloting" the DC-9. In 20 years, if you board a plane and the pilot stops you to say, "Hi there! Don't you remember me? I'm Jaden Potts!" you should turn and exit the aircraft immediately then ask for a refund. As the passenger a few rows back, first class of course, I think I died at least 247 times. Check out the windows though….LCDs that give you lovely CG images of the ground rushing toward you in the seconds before you crash. How thoughtful.

More thrilling than crashing the passenger jet, however, was exploring its cockpit. Jaden spent at least ½ an hour flipping switches, twisting dials, and imagining countless successful flights. This was a great surprise as he was quite dejected when he learned he couldn't go in the cockpits of the planes we flew in on the way to VA (how was that for preposition abuse). I finally had to threaten him to get him out so we could see the rest of the place. I'm thinking if we ever get rid of the trampoline in the backyard, we should replace it with the front end of a small plane. I wonder if you can buy those at the surplus store…

Now, I wasn't able to do this next shot any justice whatsoever, so let me give you some stats to put it in perspective…30 feet up, hanging from the ceiling, are these planetary models. Jupiter weighs more than 750 pounds and has a diameter of 10 feet. Saturn is 8.5 feet in diameter, weighs 450 pounds, and is encircled by an additional 495 pounds of rings. And it's all made from Styrofoam!! That's impressive.

After exhausting the wonders of the Air and Space Center, we headed south to Virginia Beach to explore the culinary delights known as P.F. Chang's and The Cheesecake Factory. Uh, I mean, we headed south to Virginia Beach to expose Jaden to the marvelous Atlantic coastline, the varied wildlife and their habitats.

Jaden and Neptune. I did not enjoy taking this picture. I seem to have an overactive imagination and could not stop worrying about the structural integrity of the hand/turtle.

We tried collecting some shells but the pickings were slim and it was freakin' cold on the water, so we headed back towards the boardwalk. When we reached dry sand, I stopped to scoop a sample into a trusty Ziploc (I'm totally stealing this idea from my sis-in-law in Richmond….whilst standing at their kitchen sink late one night scavenging a cup of water, I noticed on the window sill a collection of little apothecary type vials filled with different sands and gravelly rocks, each with a cute little tag denoting the origin of the sample/special place they'd visited…love it!). When I stood up I noticed a flock of seagulls flapping straight for us. My first thought, as they're circling overhead was, "Gee. This would make a cool picture!" So as I'm fumbling with numb fingers to make the camera work, my imagination started up, or maybe my brain just kicked back on, and I realized we were standing UNDER a flock of SEAGULLS. Ruuuuunnnn!!! Now let me tell you, seagulls are persistent creatures. Just because we decided to part company with them didn't mean they agreed. The flock chased us down the beach…some flapping overhead, others hopping along beside us squawking/laughing at our escape attempt. When I realized outrunning them was not an option, I tried the "idiot tactic" which, loosely translated, means flail your arms wildly about to shoo the birds away while kicking in their general direction when they peck at your new ½ price Sketchers. This new approach worked like a charm…although I think a few of the gulls actually fell over laughing. Apparently while I was performing the idiot dance for my seagull audience, Jaden had boogied on down the sand a short way and was happily playing on some recently installed playground equipment…his Alfred Hitchcock moment completely forgotten.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wild Ride Day 5

Enterprise Rent-A-Car was our first stop once we arrived back in Newport News…not an experience that would normally be blog worthy BUT ... I'd initially scored a weekend rate and the car was decent enough even though the last renter was clearly a smoker. It wasn't suffocating enough to merit waiting another ½ hour for a better car, plus I really really didn't relish the idea of getting stuck in Richmond traffic, so off we went. This was last Friday of course….so fast forward to Monday, where this rambling of mine began, and I'm in the rental agency returning the car. The chickadee behind the counter was working up all the relevant paperwork and asked if everything was okay with the rental. I said that yes, it was, except it was a little smoky when we picked it up. So she apologized and asked if there was anything I'd like them to do about that, to which I jokingly replied, "Sure! You could just give me the whole thing free!" Chickadee laughed and said she couldn't do that of course, but she could take one of the days off for me. Yeah baby! I love customer service. You just can't beat a 3 day, standard size car rental for $50!

The plan for the next 3 days was to hang out with my super amazing friend, Kyndra. She's a science teacher/guru and knows lots of great places to visit; so first on the Monday agenda was a trip to the Virginia Living Museum. What a superbly cool place! The picture below is from the bubonic plague/French catacombs portion of the Microbe exhibit. I'm not sure if he meant to pick the dead guy's nose or not. I'd rather not know.

Jaden's pretty into the science thing too, but you've gotta wonder how much kids are actually absorbing in a place like that. Apparently J absorbed everything Kyndra told him because he's still talking about it all almost a week later! Yesterday he tells Grant, "And there was this bad flu that stopped a whole war (Spanish Influenza, WWI) 'cause it killed so many people there weren't enough left to fight. Then it mysteriously disappeared and Mom thinks that's kind of scary, but I don't know why." So why doesn't he absorb that whole 'say excuse me when you burp' thing?? Maybe it would help if Kyndra said it!!

The exhibits were all very hands-on, which translates to 6-year old paradise. Below is a pic of J and Kyndra exploring everything they could get their hands on without the museum employees yelling at them.