Thursday, December 14, 2017

Blast from the past

Eric just happened across an old soundbite of Annika talking back when she was a wee toddler -- maybe 18 months or so. 

Hearing her tiny voice warmed my heart and brought a tear to my eye. IShe has changed and grown so much since the recording was made... and I can't help but wonder about all of the things that her future holds.

To hear her squeaky voice, click below. Enjoy!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Annika's 1st Robotics Competition

Yesterday, Miss A and her fellow Cybernetic Sisters participated in their first robotics competition and did a great job!!

For months, they worked on programming their robot to accomplish set tasks put forth by the Lego robotics league. Their robot had to do things like pick up a certain item, press a specific lever, etc. There were three rounds and the teams received a score for each round. The best of the three scores was the team's final score.

In addition to the robot tasks, each team had to solve a water-based problem. The Cybernetic Sisters created The Firequacker, which is a duck decoy that is enhanced to alert firefighters and helicopter pilots to good water sources when they are fighting wildfires.

The girls learned so many poignant life skills during the robotics season, including researching, interviewing, public speaking, teamwork, and collaboration. The coaches acted as resources for the projects and gave an insane amount of their time, but the girls are the ones who drove the project and their progress.

The Cybernetic Sisters placed 17th among 34 teams, and we parents couldn't be more proud of them! It was a loooooong day and our kiddos proved to be excellent competitors and teammates.

Way to go, Cybernetic Sisters!!!

Cybernetic Sisters, Round 2

Friday, December 8, 2017

Conor's Song Lyrics

A few days ago, Conor sidled up to me and said, "Mama? I don't understand a song."

I replied, "Which song?"

"The one about the sheep."

"The one about the sheep?"

"Yeah... blah blah black sheep. Why do we say blah blah?"

"That's baa baa, not blah blah. Baa, as in  what a sheep says."

"OH!! That makes more sense. Baa baa, not blah blah. Got it!"

Monday, November 13, 2017

Conor and His Robot Prototypes

Last night, we Olsons unplugged. Annika and Eric worked on a robotics building project for much of the night while Conor and I played a few hands of Crazy 8s.

I see so much of Eric in his face from this angle. 

During our marathon of cards, Conor had the uncontrollable urge to put down his cards and pick up a pen to draw ideas for robots prototypes that were apparently zipping around in the depths of his imagination. Watching his creativity at work was a true joy. So often, as parents, we ask "What were you thinking???" Last night, I got to see what he was thinking flow from his brain, down his arm, and onto a lot of pieces of paper.

Yes, the tongue does help!

His focus and attention to detail were remarkable. Often, this kid can't sit still for more than 30 seconds... when he was drawing his robots, he was the poster child for self control, patience, and focus. His face would sqinch this way and he'd shift a little that way to get a better view of his art, but that was about it. He was steadfast and welcomed his ideas as they sprang forth.

Naturally, after the second or third cute face squinch, I grabbed my camera to work on my low-light, non-posed photography skills. Come one, he was being way too cute not to photograph!! Honestly, who could blame me??

Hard at work
(Please ignore his dirty finger nails!)

Conor and  one of his robot creations

Robots galore!

In all, I think he came up with ideas for 17 robots. One set the table for you. One was a robotic spatula that attached to your arm. One was a Mama foot massager (my favorite!).

Keep those creative juices flowing, sweet boy!! They will serve you well in life.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Conor's Audition Recap

A number of weeks ago, Conor's school music teacher asked me if Conor would be interested in auditioning for the NW Boys Choir. I said we didn't know anything about it, so she sent information about the program to me and we set up an audition for him.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was really torn about the idea of the choir. On one hand, I knew he'd really enjoy it because of his love for music. On the other hand, it had rehearsals 2x per week in the U. District starting at 4:30 (hello, rush hour traffic) and would disrupt my work schedule and I wasn't convinced he has hit the maturity level needed for this type of group. I had more than one sleepless night trying to figure out how it would work out and my stress level climbed at the thought of it all. On the other hand (how many hands do I have??), I felt guilty putting my stress ahead of his potential growth.

Ready for his audition

Fast forward to Saturday. Conor's audition lasted 10-ish minutes and the man who ran the audition was lovely. He obviously is a natural with kids and was highly encouraging and positive with Conor. The audition began with Conor singing a song of his choice. He was then asked to repeat (clap) rhythms that he heard. Finally, he was asked to repeat one of two notes played simultaneously on the piano. Conor did a lovely job with his song and nailed the rhythms. He struggled with the portion of the audition where he needed to hear and then repeat a note. Because of this, he wasn't invited back for a callback; instead, he was encouraged to try again in 6-12 months. Sometimes this skill can still develop with practice; we aren't sure if he simply doesn't have this skill figured out yet or if his recent double ear infection and fluidy ears impacted his ability to hear the notes.

We are so proud of Conor for putting himself out there and taking a chance. Did he made the choir? No. Did he have fun? Yes. Did he try something new? Yes. Did he take a risk? Yes. Did he get a little reminder that life doesn't always go your way? Yes. Does he care that he didn't make the choir? Nope! (Is my stress level reduced? YES! Selfishly, I'm glad the choir people made the decision for us... it rids me of some mom guilt.) 😃

Way to go, kiddo!!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

All Saints Day 2017

For the past few weeks, Conor's class has been studying the saints. As is tradition for the 2nd grade at our kids' school, each student picks a saint, researches that person, and then dresses up as that saint for the all-school mass on All Saints Day.

Conor chose St. Francis of Assisi, partially because he loves animals and partially because his friend Ollie didn't know any saints other than St. Patrick (which was Conor's 1st choice due to his Irish heritage). Conor learned all about St. Francis' life, his kind works, and his feast day.

Not only did Conor research St. Francis of Assisi and dress like him, he also helped his class lead mass today. He was the person who welcomed everyone to mass and, I must say, he did a fantastic job!! Don't believe me?? Watch below! :)

During mass, Fr. Armando asked the kids about their various saints, and each one did a fantastic job pointing out a fact or two about their respective saints. I love how these kids are unaffected by speaking in front of the entire congregation with such enthusiasm! After mass, I took photos of the class, both as a group and individually. So proud of this group and so impressed with the love of learning and the patience their teachers exudes on a daily basis!!!!

When Annika was in 2nd grade, she researched and dressed as St. Elizabeth Anne Seton. (I just realized after scrolling back through the blog that I never posted a photo of her in costume ... probably because she broke her arm 2 days later and that quickly became our focus. So, better late than never, here is Annika from her 2nd grade class' All Saints Day project.)


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Synopsis

Our kids love Halloween for MANY reasons. Of course, we do love going to the pumpkin patch and carving our pumpkins each year. Honestly, who wouldn't love doing those things???

Another reason our kids love Halloween is they get to wear their costumes to school instead of their uniforms.

(Side note: They have a MUCH more lenient uniform policy than we ever did as kids. I see this as a good thing because it creates less resentment toward the clothes as kids age. They even get to wear shorts!! My inner St. Charles student is very jealous of that fact!)

In order to wear a costume to school, the uniform has to follow certain guidelines (understandably), which can make deciding on a costume a little tricky at times. In years past, Annika has really liked the idea of a scary costume, which doesn't fit the school policy, so she wound up having a school costume and a scarier trick-or-treating costume. I decided we were done with that... too much work for the grownups. Fortunately this year. both kids chose easy and school-friendly costumes. WHEW!!!

Annika dressed as a kid who overslept for school and Conor dressed as a Jedi. (He did have to leave the light saber at home because of the -- quite appropriate -- no weapons part of the school costume guidelines).

All smiles

"In character" poses

The note on Annika's PJ shirt

In other pre-holiday news, the kids decorated pumpkins as literary characters for their library projects. Conor decorated his to look like a Master Pokeball (does a Pokeball really count as a character???) while Annika chose the Headless Horseman. (Yes, we beheaded a Ken doll .... what's your point??)

Conor showing off his Pokeboall

Annika and her headless horseman

Ready for school!

We also spent some time this weekend decorating Halloween cookies. I know, BIG surprise there, huh??? I had to play with my new cookie presses... I simply HAD to! They actually worked out really well because decorating them was quite quick and considering they were for Conor's class party today, many cookies a bit faster = win!

The kids are now old enough, they really enjoy lending a hand with the cookie decorating and really do a good job. It is neat to be able to give them a little instruction and a pastry bag, and then let them go to town on their cookies. The ownership of the creativity and skill is really fun to watch.

Annika putting smiles and eyes on our happy bats

Conor giving his ghost cookie a green heart


Bats and ghosts

Cookies for the 2nd grade's Halloween party

Monday, October 30, 2017

Family Pumpkin Carving

Last night, we covered the kitchen table with plastic garbage bags, grabbed some knives and spoons, and collected our pumpkins from the front porch for our annual family pumpkin carving event.

Now, when I was a kid, we grabbed our pumpkins, knives, and spoons. We carved triangle eyes, a triangle nose, and a zig-zag mouth and called it good. Fast forward many years to when I married an artistic man and we had kids. Now, pumpkin carving requires a sketch pad and a lot more pre-planning than I ever imagined. That said, our pumpkins looks WAY better than any of my pre-Eric pumpkins every did.

We had lots of fun making grossed out sounds as we scooped out the pumpkin's insides and sang along with "Monster Mash" on our Echo/Alexa. Once the pumpkins were hollowed out, Eric sat down with each kiddo to sketch out his/her desired pumpkin face/expression. (Meanwhile, I went to the computer and printed up the Seahawks "12" logo and used a pin to transfer the numbers to my pumpkin. I figured the Hawks deserved a nod after their nail-biting win a few hours before!)

I have to give Eric immeasurable props for how he handles this process with the kids. They often want VERY elaborate things that simply aren't possible ... due to physics or the tools we have on hand. He very gently guides them toward a more practical design while keeping the essence of their ideas in mind and always remaining positive and having them talk through the evolution of the design. There are many moments that I've stood there and thought "Dang! He is such a great dad." and watching him figure out pumpkin faces with the kids was yet another example of when I had that exact thought. Conor definitely wanted jagged teeth in his pumpkin. Annika HAD to have a tongue sticking out. Conor wanted angry eyebrows. Annika wanted vampire fangs. Leave it to Eric to figure out how to incorporate their ideas and transfer them onto a pumpkin. :)

Let the pumpkin carving begin!

First cuts

Conor takes after Eric ... lots of sketches!

Annika and Eric co-piloting the knife process

Conor's topless pumpkin

Scoopin' out the guts

Planning time!

More sketching!

Annika inspecting her pumpkin's insides

Getting out the last seed stragglers 

Conor's pumpkin mid-carved



After many, many, many knife cuts and pottery tool scrapes later, the kids' pumpkins were done. We all agreed they looked amazing and would make our porch very "Halloweeny".  The icing on the (pumpkin) cake was the LED pumpkin lights that I picked up at the dollar store earlier in the day worked like a charm!! 


Monday, October 23, 2017

2017 Family Pumpkin Patch Excursion

Today, we made our annual excursion to Fairbank Animal Farm to pick our our pumpkins for Halloween.  This year was extra special because the Hall family joined us.

Considering the day before, we were about to start researching plans for building an ark, we were beyond overjoyed to have nothing but sunny weather today! I'm talking we needed sunglasses it was so nice! The rain from the previous days required us to don our rain boots to avoid getting overly muddy, but oh well!!

We started off visiting the goats (like we'd start anywhere else ... duh!) and moved on to the various birds (ducks, geese, peacocks, chickens) and fed them the little cups of feed that we got when we paid for our admission. While it is fun to see the birds, it is also a strong reminder that I'm not much of a captive bird gal ... they suckers are loud and smell like ... well, wet birds.). We made our way to the piglets (about a month old) and were (once again) awed by the sheer size of their mamas. Those are some large tired ladies ... then again, I would be, too, if I'd given birth to 12 children a few weeks before!)

We wound our way through the petting barn and got to pet the baby chicks, ducklings, and bunny. While they were cute, the baby sheep and month-old twin goats were what captured my heart. Beyond cute!! We also saw a couple of bearded dragons and a legless lizard (which ... only after my snarky statement "yeah... most people just call 'em snakes" I learned is quite different from a snake due to its eyelids, external ears, and uniform scale pattern.) Annika and Benji even watched a chick break out of its egg and join the world. How exciting is that???

Anyone want to guess who won this staring contest??

Eric proved to be an expert goat scratcher ... pretty sure she would have
followed him home if the fences hadn't gotten in the way

Annika giving the chicks a little love

Annabelle, Conor, and a goat
(I love how stumpy the goat's legs are!!)

Annika and Benji watching the chicks emerge from their eggs in the incubator
After we gave the animals their much-deserved attention, it was off to the pumpkin patch to pick out our perfect pumpkins! (Or in Annabelle's case, three perfect pumpkins!) Picking out THE pumpkin is such a different experience for adults than it is for kids. I'm pretty sure the kids inspected almost every pumpkin available before choosing which one to take home. Well.... Benji actually picked out his huge green pumpkin pretty early on, but then had to check out all of the other options before finalizing his green pumpkin decision. Annika and Conor both tromped through multiple pumpkin patches and considered many pumpkins before (finally) making their decisions. Annabelle went with three little pumpkins instead of one big pumpkin approach. We adults, on the other hand, basically walking into the patch, found some that fit our criterial (not rotting, not eaten by a squirrel, fairly uniformly shaped) and called it good within a couple of minutes. Yeah, we're just boring that way

Eric and Annika with her pick of the patch
Conor considering a massive green pumpkin

Pretty sure this thing weighs more than she does!

Conor and Eric returning from the patch with Conor's gem

The Halls

The Olson Four

Annika and Eric wheeling the pumpkins to the front of the farm 

While the dads paid for the pumpkins, the kiddos opted to run around the little play/photo area and burn off a little energy. The kids were in and out of the teepee, up and down on the wagon, and all too eager to put their faces in the various painted scenes so we could take their photos.

Conor being silly in his stump hidy hole

Annika and Annabelle just kidding around
(haha! Get it???)

Our cute babies