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!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Farewell President Bush

I frequently get my news from liberal CNN (from whence came this picture), not because I like their views, but because I like the layout of their site. After becoming accustomed to the hate speech consistently spewed forth there, especially in the comments of political articles . . . In fact, the final picture they showed in their photo piece titled "The Bush Presidency" was a shot of him dodging the shoe. Nice. Very respectful, CNN. Capital bit of journaling, as usual. I hope you can detect sarcasm.

It was refreshing to browse the opinion section of the more conservative Washington Times. Commenters actually have civil discussions there. Astounding.

Anyway, I wanted to say farewell to President Bush and decided to do so by reading a bit about him, reminiscing on events from the past eight years. I'm rather sad. If our lives were made up of many books, one for each area of interest, this would be the end of a chapter. The 2000 elections jump-started an awakening in me; it was the first time I voted. Thus, my political interests have been closely tied to the Bush era. I will never forget researching and debating my views, watching the numbers breathlessly with the rest of the country late into the night not once but thrice . . . after many months and then years of investing time and effort into being informed . . . and the great relief I felt both times Bush won.

Nor will I forget the sorrow I felt as he was cruelly, mercilessly attacked. Did I think he was perfect? No. But that doesn't justify the treatment he received, as Bush-haters prominently showed how low society has spiraled over the past 200 years. Basic decency and manners have been traded for rudeness and disrespect for authority.
The government, it seemed, consisted of a single man. There was no congress, no system of checks and balances, no advisors. This one individual was responsible for everything that went wrong in our country and oftentimes the world. Every serviceman who died . . . It was Bush's fault. The devastation from Hurricane Katrina, Bush's fault. No WMDs? Bush's fault.

The good he did was often downplayed, spun, or largely ignored by the media. This is because "good" is often seen by liberals as evil. In their twisted minds, right and wrong are reversed. His support for abstinence and the unborn, for example. In a liberal's mind, the distribution of condoms and unrestricted access to infanticide is infinitely more effective in preventing STDs and teen pregnancy than avoiding sex altogether. That might be the case in a Bizarro world, but not the real world.

One might wonder, just how is it that paradise on earth is obtained by government? I will tell you: it is not. Just as our government is not made up of one man, it is also not able to fix everything wrong in our lives or in the world. We must look to God for our salvation, peace, comfort, hope, guidance, direction, and future; not government. I am not proposing anarchy or theocracy. I am urging people to take responsibility for themselves and their souls. People have souls, and when they are neglected and starved bad things happen.

I came across a poll asking how history will remember the Bush administration. One gentleman left a comment, which I thought was nicely written. It is the way I would like to remember Bush, so I will share it here:

    Thank you, President Bush, for your 8 years of service to this great nation. You restored dignity to the Office of the President. You kept the country safe after we experienced the attack that awakened us to WWIII. You were a friend to the common man as well as the unborn child. You ushered in prosperity with wise tax cuts, and challenged us to again aim for the moon and beyond. You demanded accountability to investors in the Board Rooms of Wall Street. You embodied freedom to a world dominated by oppression. You supported liberty in school choice at home and in freedom from radical Islamic tyranny in the Middle East. You brought hope to millions of AIDS sufferers in Africa. You showed the nation and the world what it is to be a leader with moral clarity and a heart that is full.
    Mr. President, you are a man of uncommon decency, and although the demise of journalistic integrity failed you, history will chronicle your Presidency with the utmost regard and respect and gratitude. May God richly bless you and your family, and may God bless America.
I won't forget. Farewell, Mr. President, and may the Lord richly bless you and your family for taking on the toughest job in the nation.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Year News

When I don’t blog for a couple of weeks, you know we’ve been busy! Here’s a little update on our lives since December 30th:

Our Favorite Christmas Gifts
Kylen graduated from college, became a computer programmer (just like his dad!), married, had three kids (including one set of twins), and bought a small cape house, all within the first week of the new year! He experienced debt, career changes, taxes, even retirement! Can you guess how? One of his favorite gifts was the board game Life. I highly recommend it! He thought it was so cool getting to be an adult!

One of my personal favorites was a set of 600 thread count sheets. They are amazing. Almost sheer but they do a better job keeping me warm than a blanket and are very soft. Thanks, Mom!
Ball of Whacks. Sounds awful, doesn’t it? But it’s a really neat toy made up of magnetic blocks that can be built into all sorts of things. You can even stick them to the fridge!

Other highlights: a couple of new CDs and four way chess for Greg, three mini handmade scrapbooks by a local crafter (whose work I love), and lots of LEGO stuff! Lots and lots of LEGO stuff!!

Homeschooling in Earnest
We are back at it! Co-op has resumed, and Greg is again teaching two sections of a programming class. He comes up with the material himself, so it requires a good chunk of his time on weekends.

Much of my time is spent on basic housekeeping and helping Kylen with cursive, math, English, history, and science. He has resumed basketball with one practice and one game a week.

Greg’s Job Status
Some of you have heard about layoffs at Greg’s company. Only around 30 out of 130 people are expected to remain at this site. Some will be gone by the end of this month, and others will stay till October. We just found out Greg will indeed be layed off but not until October. We are thankful his job is secure for the next nine months, and we are excited to see what the Lord has planned for the future. Greg has begun job searching and applied for a couple of permanent positions at his current company that are open.

Annual Birthday Bash
We throw one very large party every year for our son’s birthday. Besides allowing me an outlet for my favorite hobby, it is an opportunity to invite lots of people over for a great time. Kylen, being an only, looks forward to having the house full, and we all enjoy the planning and preparations. So many hours this past week have been spent putting away Christmas stuff and working on the party.

That's our life lately. Now, I need to catch up on blog reading!