Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Blog Break

I will be taking a break from this blog for now. Just really busy with life! I'll let everyone know if and when I return!


Monday, May 18, 2009

End of Co-op; Beginning of Photography?

Today was the end of the trimester at co-op. While it is nice to have a long break ahead, Greg and I will miss teaching.

One of the highlights this last trimester was a photography class I took as a student during one of my free hours. It was fun getting to know our camera better and learning tips for different kinds of shots. But it has increased my desire to pursue photography as a serious hobby, which would require a better camera.

Given Greg's shaky job status, and that our camera does a decent job, it's hard to justify buying a new one. At the same time, I get frustrated at its limitations. Certain lighting situations produce awful results on ours while giving fantastic pictures on one student's pricey camera. Who knows? Right now it is a desire, but I will be content with what we have.

In the meantime, here are some shots I took as part of my homework:

Bark using macro setting (for close-up detail)

Through a red twig dogwood, whose leaves are not yet hiding the beautifully colored branches for which it is known.

Silhouette shot: Taken against the sun.

Landscape that turned out very dull.

Same picture edited in Paint Shop Pro. Black and white, increased contrast.

Edited again, this time hue and saturation tweaked.

This sounds totally guyish, and I usually don't notice cars, but I love the interior and exterior design of our car. Here is the steering wheel area. Edited to black and white with high contrast.

OK. Now, my girly side coming out. Lol! I just love the light through the pink curtains and colors.

A bridge over a swamp at one of our parks. Edited to be sepia.

Same bridge with Kylen and Greg. Edited hue and saturation.

Wooden sign at the park.

Diagonal lines. Those are fallen leaves still hanging around after winter!

Lesson on shooting animals. The fold in the background cloth is annoying, but I love the look on the dog's face.

Capturing animals in action. Heavily cropped.

Lesson on portraits. Hubby's head is tipped back a bit too far, emphasizing nostrals too much.

Our final lesson. We used a square frame made of plastic pipes with a sheet draped over it. The front is open, and spotlights are used on the sides. The light gets diffused nicely through the sheet. I LOVE the effect. Might have to have Greg build me one of these contraptions.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Money Fun

Money Fun was the fourth class. (No need to cover Class #3, as it was DEGO Day, a term coined by one my students meaning Domino + LEGO. A theme combining two past favorites and fairly self explanatory.) This one required an absorbent amount of prep time, as there was a tremendous quantity of information to wade through and my money knowledge was very sadly lacking. I had great difficulty selecting which facts to include, making sure it was at their level and not too tedious. In the end, I think it was a bit much for their attention spans. Still, the class went quite well. I tried to balance facts with visuals and activities.

We started with a brainstorm session of synonyms for money (refer to a thesaurus) followed by the history behind one term: “bucks.” Hint: It has to do with hunting and trading. I rolled quarters down the table and asked the kids to grab ‘em as they went by. Unfortunately, this proved too tempting for many students and they kept taking other’s quarters despite repeated warnings. I talked a little about the manufacture of U.S. coins, explained how their edges came to have ridges (this is quite interesting), and gave examples of things that can be done with them. We had a contest to see who could keep his coin spinning longest.

Next, I gave a short history on our paper money and showed printouts from the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. I talked about sheets of bills and shredded bills, past and present denominations, and shared a little money trivia. Things like the largest denomination ever (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 in 1946 worth about twenty cents at the time), oldest known paper money (China, of course; 140 B.C.), and the World record for the largest bill.

Crisp new dollars, straight from the bank, were distributed. This is an age that really appreciates a buck, and I got quite a reaction when they found out they could keep them. I briefly touched on defacement and counterfeit laws, showed examples of money origami, and walked them through the steps of making a triangle from a dollar.

My husband is from Europe, which proved convenient for this class. His collection of foreign currency came in handy for show and tell! I gave each student a 2009 edition Disney dollar. We took a vacation there a few months ago, and I purchased extras for future use. By the way, for the Disney fanatics out there, this is a fun thing to collect. They change their designs each year in denominations of 1, 5, and 10.

This theme is worth doing again, though I might try and reduce the quantity of factual material.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Group Game Day

My second co-op class was Game Day. Unfortunately we had to stay home due to flu, but I sent a list of games for my assistant. I will only share those that the kids enjoyed most.

Four Corners
This was their favorite. I remembered it being one of my favorites from grade school and was happy to find it on the internet, as the rules were a bit fuzzy. I am thrilled they liked it so much. I only wish I could have been there to see it played! Like a little, happy piece of my childhood being reenacted before my eyes.

To begin, four corners (or general areas) of the room are labeled from the numbers one to four. One player is designated to be "It" or "The Counter." This player sits in the middle of the room, closes his eyes, and counts to ten. The remaining players choose any one of the corners and quietly go and stand there. When "It" has finished counting, he calls out one of the numbers. All players who had chosen that corner are out of the game and sit down. Then, "It" counts again and the remaining players move to a different corner.

The last person to still be in the game wins, and usually becomes the new "It."

If "It" calls out an empty corner, he either calls a new number right away or the players rotate to a new corner, according to different versions of game play.

Players form a circle, facing each other. Someone begins by pointing to another person in the circle and saying "ZIP!" That person then points to yet another person and says "ZAP!" That person points to another person and says "ZOP!" This continues, but the words must be said in order: ZIP, ZAP, ZOP. If someone makes a mistake and says a word out of order, that person is out of the game. Eventually, the circle dwindles to only 2 people, who are staring at each other, yelling ZIP!, ZAP!,ZOP! Until one of them makes a mistake.

Depending on the number of players, you will need to cut several comic strips into separate panels. I had 9 students and used three comic strips, three panels each. I printed my own after searching on this web site and this one. It took some time to find ones that I thought were both funny and appropriate for my age group. The best candidates seemed to be Peanuts, Garfield, Rose Is Rose, and Winnie the Pooh. Calvin & Hobbes and Dilbert might be good for older kids.

After separating the panels, mix them up! Have all the students face each other, perhaps sitting around a table so that they can’t see each other’s backs. Use clear tape to attach one panel to each back. On “GO” they must get up and arrange themselves in the correct order so that the comics can be understood.

I had two black and white strips and one in color. I thought the color comic might have an advantage, because it would be easier to distinguish from the other two. To make it more even, I used a marker to outline each of the black and white panels, using two different bright colors for the two comics. I also had a problem with the lettering in the comics printing out clearly and traced over all the letters with a fine black tip pen.

This game was a bit short, so it might be good to take twice as many comics and do two complete rounds.

Other old favorites were 7-Up and Simon Says.

Award ribbons or stickers can be handed out to all the students at the end of class for good sportsmanship.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fun with Communications

The last two times I taught Just for Fun at co-op, I did regular posts on my themes in case they might be helpful in providing fun ideas for other homeschooling parents.

There have now been seven classes! Time to catch up!

Our first day was titled Fun with Communications. After discussing the definition of this somewhat intimidating word, we brainstormed methods of communication, meanings of common facial expressions, hand/body gestures, and examples of animal communications.

Did you know that when gorillas are angry they stick their tongues out at each other?

Or that fireflies use light patterns to reveal information such as their location to nearby fireflies? This was some fascinating stuff!

I told them about language games such Back Slang and Pig Latin, including how their names would be pronounced. (Mine would be Harraf and Arrah-Fay respectively.) We chatted about Braille and sign language. There were a couple of games whose names I made up after researching and not finding a formal name:

Lazy Tongue Language (LTL): Talking while your tongue is hanging out. Looks and sounds very intelligent. Of course, we all had to try it.

Fan Talk: Talking while repeatedly covering and uncovering your mouth to simulate talking into a fan.

I printed Morse Code guides on cardstock, four to a page, and handed them out to the students. After going over how it works, lights were turned off, and I used a flashlight to spell out a word. They had to figure it out using their guides, which they were allowed to take home.

We finished with fun ways to write. I handed out sheets of paper and decorative pencils, another little item they got to take home (party supply store has bins with lots of variety). Backwards writing, upside down, tiny, big, picture, and code writing (subbing each letter for something else) great for secret messages in clubs.

Then I passed out edible paper and let them write on it with edible ink. They could consume immediately or take home in a baggy. This was a novelty item at Wal-mart during Valentine’s season, but I have also seen edible paper in a Klutz kit. Googling would probably turn something up.

This class went very well! A keeper that I will probably do again!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Mother's Day 2009

We began Mother's Day with food, and there is hardly a better way to start than that! AND, this was food I didn't prepare! Though Hubby cooks a yummy breakfast, and Kylen is an aspiring chef, this meal didn't come from them. I was treated to a marvelous ballroom brunch buffet! So many things to choose from, I didn't know where to start! Tables and tables with breakfast dishes, salads, carved meats, appetizers, fruit . . .
The baked salmon was melt-in-your-mouth scrumptious!
Desserts! All kinds! Big and small! Cakes, tarts, eclairs! I was over-whelmed!

Then we did this:

I'm still sore today! After picking out plants (including a Japanese maple, as you can see in our trailer above), we came home and did a tremendous amount of yard work. One of the few really nice days we've had since winter, and I wanted to make the most of it! We cleaned out the garden beds and added more dirt to them, pulled weeds, spread new bark, and savored the sunshine!

Our tree finally has leaves!

I prepared a new pork chop recipe for dinner that turned out delicious. At the end of it all were two wonderful cards from my boys. It was grand!

Friday, April 24, 2009

ClearPlay DVD Player Review

I have been wanting to do a post on a product called ClearPlay for some time, but my sweet husband beat me to it! Here is the link to his review.

This a DVD player that filters offensive material out of movies and has already survived a lawsuit. Thankfully, the courts decided parents have the right to mute and fast-forward through objectionable material, which is all the player really does. Since the DVD isn't altered, it can be used on rented/borrowed/owned movies.

This has opened up lots of flicks we never could have watched. There are quality problems, which we hope will improve over time. The picture is fine, but the player has a tendency to break! They are great about replacement but not always so good about promptness. Still, the trouble has been worth it for us, and we are happy to support a family-friendly business.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Left to Tell -- Book Review

Many have heard about Immaculee Ilibagiza’s incredible story of survival during the 1994 Rwandan Holocaust. She spent 91 days hiding with 7 other women in a tiny, closet-sized bathroom while her friends and family were being savagely hunted down. She gives some explanation of what led to the genocide, but it is not meant to be an in-depth history. The book is more about her life, forgiveness, and the grace of God.

The authors are to be commended for their sensitive handling of an event filled with horror. Gory details, which are necessary to accurately convey what the people suffered, are stated in a matter-of-fact manner with little descriptive language. Anyone familiar with the Jewish holocaust of WWII will be well-prepared for this book, which is appropriate for a mature audience.

Readers should be forewarned that there are several Catholic references, the religion that Immaculee was raised up in and remains in as of publication. She placed a high value on her father’s rosary and on Jesus’ mother Mary. However, being one who is aggressively opposed to many Catholic doctrines, I was still able to enjoy the book. Immaculee’s obviously intense love for God and her incredible spiritual experiences far outshine the Catholic trappings, in my opinion. I believe she is one of those people with a heart of gold despite deeply ingrained manmade traditions.

The forward is written by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer, who heaps an excessive amount of praise on Immaculee, referring to her as “a uniquely divine woman.” He elaborates on how this book will change the reader’s life forever, how it is the most “moving and poignantly significant” in the vast library that comprises his lifetime, and that it will give a new perspective on what the "field of possibilities" looks like.

I feel that Dr. Dyer’s assertions are grossly exaggerated and provide a perfect example of the human weakness for elevating men to a status we do not deserve. Immaculee, on the other hand, gives no indication of undue pride in her story. I believe she understands exactly Who deserves all the glory. This book was moving (I cried several times) and could prove life-changing for someone with little knowledge of the power of God, but I do not feel it has more potential to be life-changing than other books I have read, particularly those written about missionaries.

Simply stated, Left to Tell is worth reading because it is a wonderful testimony. The historical and cultural information is a bonus, and it can be finished in an evening or two. Here is an excerpt from one of my favorite parts:

    I drifted off to sleep shortly before dawn and had the most intense dream of my life. I saw Jesus standing in front of me, his arms out-stretched as though he were about to embrace me. He was wearing a piece of cloth wrapped about his waist, and his long hair spilled down around his shoulders. I remember being struck by how thin he looked: His ribs protruded, and his cheeks were lean and hollow. Yet his eyes sparkled like stars when he looked at me, and his voice was as soft as a gentle breeze.

    “When you leave this room, you will find that almost everyone you know and love is dead and gone,” he said. “I am here to tell you not to fear. You will not be alone – I will be with you. I will be your family. Be at peace and trust in me, for I will always be at your side. Don’t mourn too long for your family, Immaculee. They are with me now, and they have joy.”

Saturday, March 21, 2009

St. Patrick's Day 2009

Our theme day didn't go quite according to plan, but it was still fun!

The night before, after Kylen was settled snugly in his bed and Greg had bid him goodnight, I told him the legend of how leprechauns visit homes the night before St. Patrick's Day. Of course, he knew it was just a story.

Well, apparently we have done a fantastic job teaching the difference between truth and fairy tales, because he came up with plenty of explanations for the green water in the toilet, and none involved leprechauns! First, he thought that the people at the "sewage place" dyed the water to play a trick on everyone for St. Patrick's Day. I thought that was pretty smart! (I found out later the prep work had been a bit more involved than simply dropping a tablet of dye in. Greg told me how strange it felt to be sitting on the edge of the tub slowly stirring the water with a flexi-straw like a big pot of soup. Yummy!) Kylen also suggested that Greg or I did it.

There was some degree of shock and horror when he turned on his faucet to wash his hands and green water splattered all over inside of the sink. He immediately turned off the tap and just sort of stood there looking worried and bewildered, wondering if it was poison on his skin. He suggested we not drink anything until we had done some investigating. Maybe there was something wrong with the water?

In the end he said, "I still think you had something to do with it."

He knows me so well.

Here he is wearing plenty of green, including a green shamrock sticker on his arm.

He moved a workbook to find a "squashed leprechaun" underneath! His reaction? "What is silly putty doing under here??"

We read about St. Patrick's Day, did logic puzzles, I told him several jokes. These were his two favorites:

Why is a river rich?
Because it has two banks!

Knock, knock!
Who's there?
Irish who?
Irish you a happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Our snack was mint hot cocoa and biscotti for dipping.

We both enjoyed the Jolly Green Giant ads and listening to Irish music on the internet. He wanted to work on typing, so I played the songs while looking up their lyrics, then sang them while he practiced. All went well until Cockles and Mussels when Kylen said, "That's a very unappetizing song." He thought the girl was selling real muscles from her wheelbarrow! I explained what it really meant, but the next few meals he had a hard time eating, because he kept losing his appetite!

At the end, we took turns reading chapters from Leprechauns Don't Play Fetch (from Bailey's School Kids, one of his favorite series). I thought it was neat how they tied in lots of St. Patrick's Day lore and facts about Ireland.

Our dinner plans were changed rather last minute, so we didn't make our dessert. Perhaps next year!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

St. Patrick's Theme Day

There was a time when I intended to have one homeschooling theme day each month in place of the usual routine and curricula. Subjects and fun activities are built around a theme, often related to a holiday. Since we haven’t had one of these in a long, long, LOOOOOOOOOONG time, I am going all out for our St. Patrick’s Theme Day. We will be covering a variety of things, but in the future I might focus on the country of Ireland (perhaps create a lapbook), clover (and actually grow some!), or the color green.

Here are my current plans, in case any other homeschool moms are looking for a few last minute ideas. (Gleaned from a variety of sources on the internet.)

Kylen will wake up to find that mischievous leprechauns invaded our home during the night. Signs of their visit include:

  • Green water in the toilet and flowing from the tap when he washes his hands.
  • His milk magically turning green (if use link, scroll down to "magic milk") in the cup as he pours it out to make his current favorite breakfast of Ovaltine and toast.
  • Chocolate coins discovered in the strangest places with tale tell smatterings of gold dust.
  • A blob of green goo underneath a book. Oops! One less leprechaun in the world!

Once he has recovered from these shocking events, we will don our green shamrock glitter stickers and get started! History of the holiday, logic puzzles, and a little experiment called, “Letting Go of the Gold.” Then we’ll read a children’s story from the library and enjoy a magical green snack from the leprechauns (if use link, look in the comments section).

Break for some jokes! Perhaps listen to some Irish music . . .

I’ll take a trip down memory lane as we watch old ads of the Jolly Green Giant. This will help Greg and I settle our longstanding argument on whether “Ho ho ho” comes before or after the chorus “Green giant!”

Kylen will get a new book (Starring . . . You guessed it! Leprechauns!) from one of his favorite series. He’ll devour it in under an hour. Since he enjoys cooking, perhaps he’d like to help me make a new Irish dessert for dinner. (Which Greg will not eat, because he doesn’t like mint. More for us!) Of course, we’ll incorporate green foods into our meals.

Finally, we’ll wrap up the day by watching Darby O’Gill and the Little People or The Gnome-Mobile! I’ll post pics when I have them!

Monday, March 2, 2009

We're Back!

We took a short business trip to California so Greg could decide whether to accept a job offer there. After much deliberation, discussion, and prayer (including exploring the area and housing options), we decided it made most sense to stay put! Praise the Lord for His guidance! We appreciate everyone who prayed for us!

Since we skipped our vacation last year, we felt it would be a good opportunity to extend our trip by seven days in Anaheim. It was a welcome and refreshing break leaving behind all our responsibilities and concerns for a short time. The weather was perfect: 70’s and sunny! Made coming home to snow a little strange!

One day was devoted to Legoland, which may have been Kylen's favorite part. Here are my smart boys!

I love the apple fries with whipped cream! Granny Smith sticks are dipped in batter and fried. Tartness mixed with cinnamon and sugar! Mmmm!
This LEGO man was a great actor and fun to watch!
Greg's most anticipated part of the trip: picking out LEGOs from bins in their store! It was his favorite part of a similar trip we took three years ago, too!
Greg always insists on stopping at least a few minutes if we are anywhere near the coast. (Fine with me!) I was unable to get a good picture, as our camera doesn't do night shots well without a tripod. We found a great parking right next to the shore line (full of cars even after sundown). They removed shoes, rolled up pants and chased waves in the freezing water for about ten minutes.
My uncle recommended we eat at Knott's Berry Farm, which was about ten minutes away. We didn't go in their amusement park, but we enjoyed the famous chicken dinner and browsed shops.
Disneyland was my favorite! Three years ago, we had a good experience with the character breakfast at Goofy's Kitchen. This time we decided to try the Plaza Inn and weren't disappointed! Another fantastic buffet in a fantastic setting with a guarantee that several Disney characters will stop by your table.
That one with the weird face isn't a character; it's my husband. :-) Er, wait . . . My husband IS a weird character!
Last time we took one of Kylen's favorite storybooks, Disney Bedtime Stories and had those who came by sign on a blank page. We did the same thing this time and got three new signatures. Kylen said he wasn't as shy about seeing Pooh as the others, "because I've known him ever since I was a baby."
Kylen got over his fear of coasters!! Or so he says! We'll see! At any rate, he dreaded nearly every ride and ended up liking them all, even Splash Mountain (pictured below) with the 40 foot drop!

This garbage can was a really creative touch and caused quite a stir! It moved around on it's own, talking to people, singing, and making jokes! We think it was done by remote, as there didn't appear to be anyone inside. I actually threw garbage through the lid (by invitation), and it appeared mostly hollow. The cool part was that it carried on conversations. Whoever controlled it was able to hear people and transmit his voice directly to the can. These weren't prerecorded sentences. The funniest part was the kid's reactions, especially the little ones!

We had a memorable lunch at the Blue Bayou. Besides the food being excellent, it was neat watching boats (full of people) go past from the Pirates ride. Kylen kept wanting to wave! Though the restaurant is completely indoors, it is designed to feel like you are sitting just outside at night. That is exactly how it felt, though it was actually midday!

After several days going on rides together, I spent most of one day shopping at a relaxed pace while the boys did their own thing. Didn't buy much, but I sure had fun! Here is Kylen looking at me through one of the store windows.

A portion of California Adventure under serious construction!
Of course, we had to get a picture of me next to the big "F." That was the last thing we did before saying goodbye to "the happiest place on earth."

Saturday, February 14, 2009

We Are All Well, However . . .

I will not be able to get much computer time the next two weeks. Stuff related to Hubby's job came up, and we are going to be extremely busy and having to make some big decisions. In a couple weeks I should be able to check back. Appreciate prayers! Love you guys!!

Oh, and . . . Happy Valentine's Day!!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Blog Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations, KATRINA!!!!!!!

The Random Number Generator picked 2, and that is YOU!!! Let's hear it for my bloggy giveaway winner! Everyone clap! Clap, clap, clap!! *applauding*

Friday, February 6, 2009

Saturday Stirrings

What do you get when you combine "cheese" with "crackers?" Chackers! Greg has invented a new snack, and I have to admit it's pretty tasty!

Spotted Turkey Chackers
4 saltine crackers; unsalted if sensitive to salt
1 slice of cheese; cheddar is good, but Colby Jack melts better
garlic pepper seasoning
1 thin slice of turkey or ham lunchmeat

Arrange the four crackers on a small plate side by side to form a square. Place a slice of cheese on top, and sprinkle generously with garlic pepper. Add meat, if desired. Microwave 20 seconds. Remove plate; let stand one minute. Enjoy!

Name notes: If there isn’t any meat, call them Spotted Chackers. If there isn’t any seasoning, simply call them Chackers.

Are your mornings a bit scrambled? You might like Carol's husband's eggs. Seems the men 'round here are getting inspired. Or maybe their wives haven't been feeding them too well lately?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, Bloggy!!

Exactly one year ago today I entered this expansive and diverse world with my first entry, and . . . WHAT A RIDE!!! It's been rewarding, time-consuming, fun, frustrating, and totally worth it (or so I like to think). I have met AMAZING PEOPLE who blew me away with their knowledge and talent. I have gleaned tons of useful information and found fellowship with Christians I will never meet this side of heaven.

I've laughed and cried, won a couple of giveaways, stayed up all hours of the night, got to see Hubby start his own blog, and in all that time I didn't get a single rude comment that I can remember (other than a little spam), for which I am truly grateful!

I'm looking forward to doing it all again!

Now without further ado, let's celebrate with a giveaway! I did one when my blog was one month old and still remember the winner: Pam! How about it, Pam? Ready to give it another go?

The package will be specially tailored to the winner, so I can't disclose contents. I can only assure everyone that I will make it worth your time if the random number generator picks you! Simply leave a comment in the next week telling me whether you like chocolate. That doesn't guarantee there will be any, but it gives me a worthy place to start!

International folks welcome! We are accustomed to the shock of shipping costs exceeding the worth of what’s inside, as we have family in Europe to whom we occasionally mail things.

Hubby is forbidden to enter. Sorry, Hubby!

Happy One Year Birthday, Bloggy!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Star Wars Party

Kylen's ninth birthday party was a blast! Pun intended! This year he decided on a Star Wars theme. Greg had already been working on a program to simulate words moving through space like at the beginning of the movies. He spent about a week on the invitations, which were DVDs. By far the most involved invitations we've ever done, but people loved them! We even printed DVD face and case covers. The movie was 17 minutes long. It started and ended with a video clip of Kylen at two years of age talking about Star Wars LEGOs. VERY CUTE!!! Then, Greg used his program to do a little sequence with a story about Episode 9: Return of the Birthday. This was followed by several scenes from the movies with our own voice-overs talking about the party. For example, the scene where Yoda was cooking, we had Luke asking about the food at the party. It turned out pretty funny!

Decorating was a breeze. We already have black and white decor which I use during May/June in honor of Greg's birthday/Father's Day/graduation month. We filled the shelves with Star Wars LEGO models and had mostly Star Wars pictures on the walls. The only decorations we needed to buy were a birthday banner, black tablecloth, and confetti stars to scatter. We used balloons and crepe paper left-over from previous years. We also wore costumes. Greg was Han Solo, I was Princess Leia, and Kylen was a Jedi Knight.

Food included Dog Sabers (hot dogs), Cheese Sabers (string cheese on sticks), light and dark chips, Light Sauce (guacamole), Dark Sauce (salsa), and Sith Salad (pasta salad), Yoda Soda (blue punch), and Darth Mault (red punch).

We kicked off with an R2-D2 Demo, which was our gift to Kylen. The first thing Greg did was to ask if he remembers Darth Vader, which we finally figured out puts him in a VERY disagreeable mood. Once you do that, he refuses to obey commands. However, he still garnered lots of laughs with his stubborness and head shaking. Very popular with the girls. After the party, they whisked him off to another room for additional "training." Kylen took this picture:

Next, the children were ushered downstairs for a couple of games. The first was called Droid Debris. We wrapped several small prizes (glow-in-the-dark balls and stars, fake gems, a few dollars) in wads of aluminum foil and scattered over the floor. The kids were divided into two teams: Empire and Republic. Each end had six circles, half in one color and half in the other. Smaller children were placed at the end closer to the aluminum balls. On the signal, they were to gather as many balls as possible and place in their own circles. Then, all the balls were counted. The final score was actually extremely close, something like 70 to 66! Of course, they got to keep their treasures. Plus, we gave them each a stretchy flashing ring.

We had the kids form two lines and shoot Corellian Space Monkeys (Screaming Monkeys) into a target with holes. You pull the arms back on two fingers and sling-shot them through the air. It took us a couple of runs to realize the target was a tad too far away. Only a couple of kids made it in the holes. Prizes were large polished rocks.

We all came back upstairs and played Name that Sound. Greg had recorded lots of clips from the movies such as blaster fire, Jabba the Hut talking, etc. and threw in a few extras for fun: snoring, cow mooing, the Road Runner. Prizes were water yo-yos. Greg gave all the rewards neat-sounding names and background stories, such as what planet he found them on, etc.

Thankfully, we got the cake made the previous day. It was a rushed decorating job late at night, but it turned out OK. Kylen wanted something with two light sabers crossing. Frosted half red with orange highlights to resemble fire (representing the dark side of the force) and the other half a smooth blue. I made the two light sabers out of fondant. At least it tasted good, since we made the cake and frosting from scratch. We always make an extra 9x13 (not decorated, just simply frosted) since a 9" round isn't big enough for 25-30 people. Not much was left!

Suddenly, the lights dimmed, The Imperial March started playing, and Darth Vader (Greg) came out to dual Kylen. We borrowed the costume from my brother, and it's quite realistic. A couple kids were scared, but I think it went pretty well. They even used the force to push eachother back at times. Once defeated, Vader said, "I am your father!" which got lots of laughs. Wish we could take the credit for that idea, but it came from the net, along with many other things!

Finally is was time to open gifts. One of his favorites was a Star Wars cookbook. He loves to prepare food!

At the end, I gave all the kids Galactic Putty and a glow stick. They also got a sheet of scratch stickers. I know, I know. Excessive. It's only once a year, and I like to spoil them. It's so wonderful seeing everyone have a good time!