Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A New Look

Alysun's blog post about how to make a blog header inspired me to shake up my blog look a little. I'm working with Gimp which I'm not as familiar with as I am Photoshop so it takes me awhile to do something and I can't do things the way I would do them in Photoshop. Frustrating, but at least I can manage something! It only took me an hour and a half this morning to accomplish which means I still haven't brushed my teeth, showered, gotten dressed, or gone to the grocery store as I had planned. In fact I'm so lazy today that I'm not even going to bother taking pretty pictures for you all. Instead I'll share these of Ethan making silly faces last week. Enjoy.

Trying to make a fishy face at me

I see you Mommy. I see you AND the camera.

He just can't resist smiling at me. Probably because I can't resist smiling at him!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The end of Saturday afternoon naps

Poor David has lost his ability to take a peaceful nap on the couch on Saturday afternoons. Or any afternoon for that matter. Every time David's eyelids get a little heavy while lounging on the couch watching tv one of the kids will notice and will jump on him, sit on his head, or climb all over him in circles. It's the price of fatherhood.

How can you get upset when the culprit is this cute?

Why are your eyes closed Father?

Surely you want me to climb up here and keep you from falling asleep watching this super exciting lacrosse game.

Actually you might have a good thing going here. I like to snuggle!

Daddy kisses. I'm a puddle over here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Game of the Week: Alhambra

Another fun game to add to our list is Alhambra. This game is good for 2-6 players (though David and I have never played just the two of us, not sure it would be as fun) and takes about an hour to play. It's another excellent German board game and won the Spiel des Jahres in 2003.

The rules are pretty simple but like most games it takes playing a full game to understand some of the strategies. Everyone starts the game with a city fountain and $20 or more in currency. During your turn you can either take money, buy a city tile, or move a tile on/off your board. There are seven building types and you score points by having the most of a color at each of the three scoring times in the game. You also get points for having the longest continuous wall. The walls are what gives most new players the most trouble as they can really make it hard to play additional city tiles. You can only place a city tile in your Alhambra if you can walk to it.

There are four city tiles up for sale at the beginning of each turn, one in each of the four colored currencies. If you pay the exact price for the city tile you get another turn. If you overpay you don't get any change and your turn is done. Kind of a bummer, but if you really want a tile you better jump on the chance before someone else buys it! We played Alhambra earlier this month with our friends James and Jessi so I had a chance to take some pictures of the game and not borrow some from Boardgamegeek.com which I'm sure you're all appreciative of!

This photo shows David's Alhambra. He won this particular game so study up on his "stairstep" city tile placement strategy. It's a good one!

James is buying one of the four city tiles on his turn. There are four currency cards to choose from if he didn't want to buy a city tile, and if there are several small amounts you can take multiple currency cards as long as the value equals 5 or under. Helpful for paying in exact amounts and getting a second turn!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Why Everyone Needs an Uncle Sam

My favorite brother in law is here visiting which has Grace and Ethan pretty excited. Sam scored big when he built the tallest block tower our living room has ever seen this morning. It was pretty impressive. In fact it was so impressive that nobody wanted to knock it over!

We walked to the elementary school playground by our home this morning and had a good time playing. Grace showed Uncle Sam how much fun the small blue slide was and he talked her into going down the big green one a few times. One big green slide is really three in one so both kids went down at the same time as Uncle Sam which was quite the Grand Finale. Ethan LOVES slides and spent most of his time at the playground going down one. It's so cute to watch him scoot his little behind to push himself down!

Now the boys are at a Blazer game with my brother Brian which I'm sure they're enjoying. We'll probably head out to the beach at some point to visit Uncle Ed and Aunt Diane's new place in Otis (and score an Otis Cafe breakfast at the same time!). Otherwise we'll be hanging out here and keeping Sam occupied with learning how to dance ballet (and what exactly a tondu is supposed to look like) with a little Wii Disney Princess video games. If he's lucky he might get to throw balls with Ethan and play a few more rounds of Street Fighter with David. Life is pretty exciting at our house!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Grace playing with trucks in the mud...or Yes girly girls like to get dirty too!

This afternoon the kids and I went outside to play in the mud. Well, not on purpose, but since our yard is pretty much mud for 98% of the year it no longer phases me. Especially now that Grace has a pair of practical rubber boots that hose off better then black ballet flats. The bonus is that she thinks they're cool even if they're navy blue without even a hint of polka dots or hearts.

Our wonderful neighbors gifted the kids with two big plastic trucks their kids had outgrown and so we had to try them out. Grace immediately got into the spirit of things and showed Ethan how to make them climb hills and roll down the driveway into the street. Well that part wasn't so great, but at least she didn't go chasing after it. I got them to bring their trucks over to the side of the house with the gravel and showed them the fun of filling plastic trucks with rocks and dumping them back out again. That fun lasted quite a while until Grace found a ladybug.

We had quite a few ladybugs in our yard last summer and Grace remembered exactly what to do with them. She held her fingers out for the ladybug who obliged by crawling onto her hand. Grace held very still and talked to her ladybug friend, who happened to be a girl named Caterpillar by the way, and even sang her a ladybug song about being red and having spots. It was very sweet. She eventually decided that the ladybug would like to ride in her green truck and then in Ethan's red truck. By that time I noticed that the ladybug wasn't looking so spry anymore so I told her that her ladybug friend was sick and needed to spend some time in our grass to feel better. Poor thing.

A portrait of the photographer

I've been too busy and haven't participated in the last few photography assignments so I thought I'd go back and try a few I missed. One was taking a portrait of another person which I do all the time so I won't concentrate on that for now. The hardest one (for me at least!) was to do a self portrait. Tricky stuff. I attempted it yesterday with mixed results. I sat next to a window in the afternoon and turned on the delay so I could push the button and get myself into some kind of pose. I was lazy and didn't get any further from the camera then I could reach because getting the focus right was a challenge otherwise.

One thing I discovered is that this process would be way easier if I didn't wear glasses. They reflect the window in a lot of shots which I didn't like. I'm not real used to taking pictures of people with glasses since I take mostly pictures of my kids and they don't wear them. Of course when I'm behind the camera and not in front of it I can move myself to an angle where the reflection isn't an issue. In this series I was guessing how to move my face to make the reflection disappear.

Perhaps I'll try this again a few more times and see if I get any better at it. It certainly showed me that I need to practice taking pictures of people with glasses!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Wicked Evening

David and I had no real plans for Saturday other then a vague "we'll do something in Portland" thinking we'd probably wind up seeing a movie in a theater which is a big treat these days. We were talking about our weekend plans (or non-plans) with our friends at the wedding and learned about an awesome opportunity to see Wicked for a reasonable price. Apparently if you show up 2.5 hours before the show starts (5pm for evening shows) you can put your name in a hat for a last minute ticket lottery. The only requirement is that you be there to put your name in the hat between 5 and 5:30pm, have cash for the tickets on hand, and a photo id. We'd looked into buying Wicked tickets earlier and decided against it because of the price but for $25 apiece we thought it was worth a shot.

We got to Portland a little after noon and parked the car at the Lloyd Center and browsed the mall a little to kill some time. We watched the ice skaters and ate Steak Escape and I got a new pair of khakis that I've been needing for $10.99 at Old Navy. After we got bored of the mall we dropped my new pants off at the car and got on Max to go downtown. Have I ever mentioned how awesome Fareless Square is? We use it any time we need to go downtown to avoid the parking fees and confusing one ways. Anyways, we got to the Keller Auditorium in the afternoon to confirm the ticket lottery details and then hunted down a Washington Mutual bank to get cash (the iphone totally saved our bacon!) before returning to stand in line. We were the first ones in line but by the time they started pulling names out of the hat we estimated there were 70 people vying for the 20 available tickets. We were getting nervous that our evening plans might not turn out the way we hoped they would when David's name was called! He was the second to last name to be pulled and we were super excited when we went to buy the tickets and found out they were even together since we were pretty sure we'd have separate seats. We went for dinner at the Rock Bottom Brewery before heading back for the show at 7pm.

Our seats were in row D which happens to be the sixth row back from the stage. We were pretty far to the right so we missed a little action that happened back stage right but all the main action happened in the front of the stage which we could see really well. We even saw the spit fly out of the actor's mouths at times. We looked up the cost of the tickets when we got home and they were $93 apiece! No way would we have paid that, the back row of the second balcony (as far away as you can get) were the tickets we had considered and deemed to expensive at over $50 a pop. Here's a picture David took of me in front of the orchestra pit so you can see how close to the stage we were. It was awesome!

The show was really good and both David and I really enjoyed it. Neither of us were terribly impressed with the music but the quality of acting and singing was excellent. My favorite character was Glinda, she was absolutely hilarious!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My body has lost the ability to sleep in

I'm typing this blog post from the comfort of a warm bed far, far away from home where no small children have a chance of waking me. And what happens? I can't sleep past 7am! It's really ridiculous.

We had a fantastic time yesterday attending our friend Deb's wedding. She got married in a cute bed and breakfast outside of Mt. Rainier and several of David's grad school friends were also in attendance so it's been fun catching up with them and hanging out with pre-children friends. Plus we love Deb and wholeheartedly wish her and her new husband Robbie all the happiness in the world. We ate good and danced hard before going to bed late which is why I'm so annoyed my body won't cooperate to sleep in. I guess that's ok since we're meeting everyone downstairs for breakfast at 9am anyways, but I'd still rather stay asleep until the alarm goes off at 8am!

By the way, this is our first time away from Ethan which means the last time we got away was in August of 2007 when we went to the Shakespeare Festival and left Grace with my parents. I was big and pregnant with him at the time and it was our last weekend away before baby. Now that we will no longer have nursing babies we aren't so hindered and my Mom has no problem spending the night with the kids which means we might do this more often. What a thought!

We're not sure of our plans tonight. Mom offered to let us stay at her house (she's at our place with the kids...it's easier) in Portland which we might do. We got a hot tip that you can get your name in a lottery for unsold Wicked tickets and if you get them they're $25 apiece and whatever seats didn't sell...which could be front row! We're highly tempted to put our names in the lottery tonight and see what happens. It's a Saturday night so I'm not sure we'd have good odds but it sure would be awesome!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Signs of Spring

You know things are looking up when I can let the kids play outside for more then 30 seconds without a coat on. This afternoon we went outside to play as soon as Ethan woke up from his afternoon nap. He's been pretty cranky after his nap lately and just as I hoped, the sunshine turned him into a smiling happy boy immediately. I'm sorry if you are all bored of seeing the same ugly background of the kids playing in our backyard but it's a small space and you get what you get. At least you don't have to sink in the soggy grass or dodge the dog poo. We did our best to get as much grass as possible back there and our kids prefer to play in the barkdust/dirt or in the rocks on the side of the house. The appeal of gravel is immense. Ethan loves to pick up the gravel and play with it on the outside trash can and Grace likes to pretend the rocks are food for her "table" in the front yard. You make do with what you have.

Our daffodils in the front were almost ready to pop yesterday so they're one spot of prettiness in our otherwise bleak yard. I cleaned up the lillies and weeded last week so things are looking better. Give it a few more weeks and we might even have flowering trees!

Grace eventually talked me into taking the kids on a walk in the red wagon so we could hunt for flowers. We found some in other yards, but most looked kind of like ours. That made me feel better. We went over to the empty lots and found some wild flowering weeds of some kind for Grace to pick which made her thrilled. We couldn't find any purple flowers which would have really made her day (yesterday was a Purple Day).

Ethan playing with his green balloon

I'm not sure little boys come any cuter then this one!

I was practicing taking non-blurry photos of fast moving targets. Dancing Grace fit the bill.

Playing in the rocks. I think she's telling me this one is a purple rock.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How I had Sirrius, loved it, and lost it

When we bought our new-to-us van in October of 2007 we discovered it had Sirrius radio. We assumed it would run out at the end of the month but when November came and it was still working we assumed it would end at the end of the year. David even called Sirrius up to try and find out how long our van had a subscription for and the guy was surprised we still had it so we were pretty sure we'd lose it quickly. After 2008 came and we were still getting Sirrius radio we were starting to think that maybe our van had a lifetime subscription. Or rather I hoped that was the case. You see, I had become pretty used to our fuzz-free radio and Grace and I both enjoyed the kids station. I loved how clear the reception was and every time I drove the Ford I could barely listen to the fuzzy NPR. I was spoiled.

It's been over a year of radio bliss. And then it happened. I was driving home from Walmart yesterday and turned the channel and the Sirrius went out. Instead of listening to Classic Vinyl I now saw the "Call 1-888-...." message and I got worried. I tried another station. Same thing. I got home and unloaded the pet food and went back to pick up Grace from ballet. Surely the Sirrius would be back after I turned the car off and on again. No dice. I checked again on the way home from ballet once I picked up Grace and again, no reception. No reception on the way to swim class last night or home from our church meeting. Nothing. Checked again this morning and you guessed it...nothing.

To say I'm mourning the loss of my much enjoyed Sirrius radio might be a bit of an overstatement, but man I miss it! It's funny how quickly I became used to it. One of the reasons I liked Sirrius was that the kids station played fairly decent music. My favorite FM channel used to be 97.1 KISN but it switched to different programming way back in 2005 that left me in a tizzy. So now I'm at a little bit of a loss as to what radio channel to listen to in the car with the kids. I like NPR and 106.7 but miss having the kid friendly options. What does everybody else listen to? I need some good recommendations that are family friendly!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I hope everyone is wearing their green today. All four of us are wearing green today and our kitchen is decked out in sparkly shamrocks thanks to the Indoor Park St. Patrick's Day party yesterday. The glitter is everywhere. Due to my lack of sleep and visit to the dentist I haven't really felt like taking any pictures today so instead I thought I would leave you all with a few pictures of Grace from her first St. Patricks Day. I'm not sure I could ever get a cuter pictures then these!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

14 Day Trial

David asked me to try out this new blog site for 14 days to consider moving there permanently, or at least see if it'd work for The Ten Pound Sledge. So I'm going to try it out and will be posting our updates for the next 14 days there. If it turns out that I don't like it or don't want to pay for the privilege of blogging on a fancy site then I'll move all the posts back here. If David wins we'll move there permanently. So go, check out the new site and tell me what you think. Is it any easier to navigate then blogger? Do you like the layout? Are you annoyed to have to reset your bookmarks?

Here's the a link to the new site: The Parry Family Chronicles

Novacaine bites

I had the misfortune to be diagnosed with a cavity at my last dental cleaning last month and today was the day I had it taken care of. I can't say I was excited about it, more nervous and a little in denial. It's not like I've never had novacaine or had not fun dental procedures. On the contrary. I've had braces two separate times, have had 7 teeth pulled, and a few smaller cavities that didn't require novacaine to be worked on. Oh, and I had my wisdom teeth out two years ago.

This was the first time I've had novacaine since I gave birth and I was more then a little nervous that it wouldn't work. Right after I gave birth to Grace my midwife attempted to numb me "down there" to put a few stitches in and the anasthetic she was using wasn't working. After the second or third try (ouch!) she asked me if novacaine worked for me at the dentist office. That question has haunted me for over three years and now I can answer that YES novacaine still works for me at the dentist office. Thank God.

I didn't mind the shot but the drilling was kind of unsettling. Seeing bits of toothdust flying is really pretty gross. The smell wasn't so fantastic either. I went in prepared that the cavity might involve two teeth and was happy to discover that it was only one. That saved me time in the dentist chair and my pocketbook. The whole thing took 30 minutes which was better then the hour they told me it would take. I was even able to make it home before David's 10am work meeting started so he didn't have to try to watch the kids and participate in a work meeting on the phone.

So while I won't be chomping at the bit to go back to the dentist anytime soon it really wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. The novacaine is as bad as I remembered, the feeling that half your face is a rock is no picnic, but no part of the procedure was painful or even uncomfortable. I'm just hoping my face will be back to normal before too long!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my Mom's birthday and we were lucky enough to enjoy it with her all day! She came down in time to join us for church and then hang out all afternoon before enjoying a delicious barbecue meal and a game of Pandemic (we lost). Brian came out in the afternoon and stayed through dinner. He's certainly not going to turn down a meal, especially when it consists of his favorite things: bread, potatoes, and steak. We had to clean the grill up a bit since we haven't fired it up since last fall but it was worth it...we've missed our Morton's Meat Candy! If you've never tried Morton's Marinated Steak from Costco you are totally missing out. It's absolutely, positively, fantastic. Grace wolfed it down and she never wolfs down anything resembling meat. It's that good.

Of course Mom's birthday cake wasn't too bad either. I found the recipe on my favorite food recipe site Allrecipes.com when I was searching for a chocolate cake recipe and it's definitely a keeper. The cake is called Too Much Chocolate Cake and received a 5 star rating with 1137 reviews. That's pretty darn good. One of the reviews suggested topping it with Satiny Chocolate Glaze which 393 reviewers also rate 5 stars. That stuff is chocolate heaven. And super easy!

Grace took the lead in singing Happy Birthday and then helped Grandma blow out her candle. Then we dug in to our chocolatey goodness (which is NOT too much chocolate by our standards). After cake we played some Pandemic and were two turns from winning when we lost because of too many disease outbreaks. It was quite dissapointing, but there's always next time.

Hope you have a great year this year Mom, you deserve it!

Ethan learning how to inhale rolls from his Uncle B

Grace helping Grandma blow out her candle

Brian wondering why we're not winning in Pandemic

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday Morning Pancakes

David treated us all to pancakes this morning which we all enjoyed! We played loud music (yes...Jack Johnson's Banana Pancakes song was in the mix), danced, and generally had a good time while David flipped our pancakes to perfection. It wound up being a brunch rather then breakfast but the kids still ate up. You can't keep Grace from pancakes with purple syrup and Ethan kept signing "more" and ate one and half pancakes in addition to a whole sausage. I think it's hilarious when he eats more then Grace does! I'm pretty sure he's going to pass her up before too long. We actually measured how tall the kids were this morning (Grace came in at 38" and Ethan at 31") and I know there's about a 7-8 pound difference. Not much.

We'll definitely have to do more Daddy Breakfast Mornings because this morning was a lot of fun. You rock David!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Settlers of Catan Part II: The Expansions

The first expansion I'm going to talk about is Cities and Knights. Why? Because I like it and it's my favorite way to play Settlers of Catan. If you've ever thought about getting an expansion this is the one to get! The big changes are the addition of commodity cards and knights along with the pirate ship. The pirate ship moves the barbarians one spot closer to Catan every time a 7 is rolled. Every seventh time a 7 is rolled the "black ship cometh" and there's a possibility for doom as the barbarians attack. Players build knights and activate them to counter the attack. The barbarians strength is measured in the amount of cities (not settlements) built. Catan's strength is measured by the amount of knights that have been built and activated. If the strength of Catan's knights is equal to or more then the barbarians then Catan wins and nothing happens (you can get a victory point by contributing the most knights to the "battle" though). If the barbarians win then whichever player(s) contributed the least amount of knights lose a city (converts back to a settlement). Obviously there's incentive to build knights. The knights can also block certain buildings along roads and have a few other functions.

The other big addition is the commodity cards. Instead of receiving two sheep for having a city on a sheep tile you now receive a sheep and a cloth card. A city on an ore tile receives an ore and a coin, and a city on a forest tile receives a wood and a paper card. Commodities purchase a building for your cities. Once you've built the 3rd building with a commodity you get a special ability. The 4th building makes one of your cities a metropolis (worth 4 victory points) and the 5th building cements your metropolis status in case someone tries to steal it.

Cities and Knights is still meant for 3-4 players and takes 2 hours to play. The nice thing about the version we bought is that it comes with an outer ocean section that locks all the tiles in place. It takes 13 victory points to win this version, but one of the nice features is the ability to build city walls which allows you to hold an extra 2 cards in your hand when a 7 is rolled.

We have the Seafarers of Catan which we haven't played with as much, mostly because we really enjoy Cities and Knights! Seafarers doesn't change the gameplay quite as much as Cities and Knights does, it just mixes the board up with water tiles which makes it a little more challenging. You build ships along ocean tiles that act like roads, but otherwise I think the gameplay is mostly the same. It still takes 3-4 players and takes about 90 minutes to play a game.

The 5-6 player expansion comes in handy when you have more then 3-4 players that want to play a game together! We've only played this once so far but it was interesting. The game takes a little longer (2 hours is the estimated time) mostly because there are more players to take turns and spend endless amounts of time trying to trade and strategizing. If I remember right you're allowed to hold up to 9 cards in your hand to make up for the fact that it takes awhile to get around to your turn with the additional players.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


David and I met with our financial adviser Tuesday night for our yearly meeting to see how things are going. Since David and I are still both young the current economic climate isn't as scary as it is for our parents who are much closer to retirement. In fact, we're not looking too bad at all. It was nice to get an affirmation that we are doing the right things at the moment and that we're heading down the path of eventual retirement. Preferably earlier rather then later! I plan to go back to work once Ethan is in school full time which took us awhile to calculate...happens to be 2013. It sounds so far away but I know that time goes on fast forward with small kids, even though a single day seems to last forever. It got me thinking about what kind of job I want to have at that time. I've had enough of crappy "pay the rent" kind of jobs which I've worked out of necessity. I want to work a job that is challenging but not stressful. One that plays up my strengths, and one that might even let me use my creativity. I'm not quite sure what that job might be yet but I'm thinking about it. I'd love to own my own business some day but I'm not quite sure how that would work. One thing I would love to do is find a way to get paid for photography, but that's still a long ways off if ever. Who knows, maybe by 2013 I will be good enough. A girl can dream!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Little Green Rubber Boots

I have no idea why people think boys aren't as much to buy clothes for as girls are. Maybe I'm nuts but I think Ethan is just as much fun to dress as Grace, maybe even more fun since he wears what I put on him with no complaints while Grace has very firm ideas on what she wants to wear on a given day. And it usually involves the colors pink or purple and a dress. Ethan on the other hand could care less at the moment. I'm sure that will change at some point but for now I'm having fun! He's just starting to grow into 12-18 month sized clothes (been wearing 18 month sized shirts for a while now and just getting into the pants for the length) so we're pulling out new outfits which is always fun. Today he's wearing his tractor outfit for the first time and I think it may be my new favorite! He looks fantastic in bright blue and green and the green rubber boots are precious. I don't know what it is about baby shoes but I can't get enough of them. They're so cute and tiny!

I've also been buying lots of overalls for him since they solve our pants issue (pants that fit his waist are way too short and pants that fit lengthwise won't stay up!) and I know as soon as he potty trains he won't be wearing them much. They're so little boy cute! I didn't put Grace in overalls or rompers near enough, I love them but they don't wear them for long. Ethan is also growing into size 4 shoes (yes he's small!) so I pulled all his size 3 shoes out of the closet. I'm sad he outgrew his trusty brown Pedipeds because he wore them a ton and I haven't found a cheap replacement brown pair yet. Have you looked at the baby boy shoe selection at Target and Walmart lately? Pretty sad. The girls have lots of cute options with a rainbow of colors. Boys get 3 selections, two of which are stiff tennis shoes and the third is navy blue sandals which we already own. I have such luck at Target for Grace's shoes but I think I'll have to hunt around a little more to find affordable shoes for Ethan. Any experienced boy moms out there that have suggestions for me can feel free to let me know where the good baby boy shoe selection is!