Thursday, December 30, 2010

Spencer's Room Re-Do

We redid Spencer's room from rainforest to computers. It involved a bigtime muck-out too. It looks much better and should be easier to keep up.

The IKEA filmstrip picture hangers and circuit board poster

computer interface chart (left) and server motherboard (rright)

Desk area with medals and ribbons hung neatly up

Cool LED IKEA lamp on dresser

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


We are test-driving a new/used cat named Goo! She's a middle-aged tortoise shell cat with a gooey eye. Her family will be traveling in Europe for a year and needed to place her for that time, or indefinitely if the keepers (us) grow attached! She originally belonged to another mutual friend, Brad, so she has a long line of people who love her and are keeping tabs.

So far so good. She is very confident and self-assured without being aggressive. Trixie the dog keeps a healthy distance and Hannah the cat has seemed fine. Goo hides all day (where, exactly, we are not sure) and comes out in the evenings. She comes to her name, when it suits her, and has followed Spencer up to his room several times.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


Christmas 2010 had a few unexpected surprises associated with it, but it turned out to be a success for all. Oma/Therese, who is normally the hub of all of our holiday activity, bumped up her trip to Germany to be with her ailing brother.  That left us as the defacto hub. Elisabeth drove to Blacksburg with her newly adopted dog Penny and stayed with us which was a real treat. Cortney ended up with a cast and crutches which dropped her level of productivity by 75%. We've also had two significant snow events already, including one Christmas Day, putting us way ahead of schedule for the year.

Elisabeth and Robert ended up in charge of the traditional fried potato pancake dinner, which was made in the garage with much trial and error.  Elisabeth took on preparations for the herring salad for Christmas Eve.  It was agreed the efforts would make Therese proud!

The big gifts (of the purchased variety) this year were Grant's new laptop and a flatscreen LED TV for the family room. 

Cooking in the garage

Elisabeth and Penny

Some of the potato pancakes!

Spencer and Aunt Elisabeth

Grant and Grandfriend George looking at the atlas

Herring salad!

Christmas morning - bright-eyed boys!

Grant and the long-awaited new laptop computer which Spencer set up for him.

A successful Christmas morning.  Is it nap time?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Winter blast

We got our first winter blast - VERY cold temps followed by snow topped with sleet/freezing rain.  This resulted in two delayed days of school and two canceled days.  Spencer made this huge snowball down the street and went to MUCH effort to bring it home! is the gang...all housebound!
And....the tree! Not too huge this year, but perfect in every way!
And...the gingerbread house, a great tradition with Oma!

Christmas Cookies

Thanks to a canceled school day, we had our Christmas cookie bake-a-thon.  I had planned to make three batches of three recipes each, two tried-and-tested (Chocolate Crinkle Cookies and Peanut Butter Blossoms) and one newcomer, Thumbprint cookies.  The Thumbprints were a bit of a bust and won't be back next year.  They are a butter-based cookie that ended up spreading and looking more fried egg than cookie.  Anyway, we had fun making about 18 dozen cookies in all.  The were boxed up as gifts, and we still have about 426 cookies left to eat, it seems.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

HAE Spelling Bee

On Friday, November 19, I held the first (ever?) HAE Spelling Bee as part of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.  We chose to hold a Bee for each grade level, 1-5.  Only the 5th grade winner advances, because at that point the Bee is just for 5th-8th graders.

The origin of our Bee is that Grant is great with words, enjoyed Akeela and the Bee and Spellbound, and wanted to participate in a Bee.  So you know what happens when you mention something like that to the principal, suddenly you are in charge!

I recruited four VT students to  help and we planned it out.  About 80 students participated.  What amazed me was the buzz that the bee (pun intended) created in the school.  Many of the kids really studied from the supplied word list and the level of intensity across all grades was impressive.

I was the overseer for 3-5 grades, then I ran 1-2 grades. I made a point to stay out of Grant's room, which was good since he did end up winning the thing!

Grant with the final round folks
The following Monday, the winners enjoyed a trip on the Hooptie Ride to Books-A-Million to chose a book and to Maggie Moo's for ice cream! I hope this becomes a yearly tradition.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Spencer's Cool Shoes

Found these online and couldn't resist getting a pair for Spencer - custom Keds with a circuit board design!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

LEGO League

Saturday was the LEGO League tournament. It's been a wild 7 or so weeks getting ready for it, with about 4 hours of meeting time each week on average.  Don and Jeannine Leo were the coaches, and led the 10 4th and 5th grade boys through the process.  The tournament involves a best-of 3-round performance section, where the teams have 2-1/2 minutes to complete as many "missions" as they can to amass points. They had to build and program the robot to accomplish each mission. They also had to do a team research project and present it to a group of judges.  The theme this year was Biomedical Engineering so our team, the Harding Avenue Elementary Red Robo Docs, learned about robotic surgery and sensors. There's also a teamwork score too.

Overall I think we finished in 5th out of 10 teams.  The kids learned a ton,  had experience working under pressure and as a team, and they had great attitudes throughout.  Their coaches, Don and Jeannine, are to be commended, as are the kids and parents.

The judging area, two teams went at once

Spencer lining the robot up to do the mission he programmed.

Spencer and VT volunteer Lindsay

Fine-tuning things between rounds.

Still smiling!
With Coach Don

Spencer in the hotseat!

Using brainwaves to raise a pingpong ball in a cylinder

Awards ceremony

The judges in red!

Orange Crush U10 Soccer!

Saturday was the final game of the "Orange Crush" soccer team led by Coach C (Todd Crosson).They had a great season - won some, tied some, lost some.  But they were cohesive and showed great improvement and maturation. The players were alot warmer than the spectators on that 34 degree morning!!

Friday, November 5, 2010


Trixie and Hannah, pals!

Halloween 2010

Another Halloween, Luster's Mill style! Thanks to the Hobarts for the hay wagon and the Wilson's for the party locale. This is clearly our best neighborhood holiday! We hit the 15 or so houses here as a group, sparing folks the endless doorbell ringing, and finish up with the now annual Haunted House and homebrew drinking at the Wilson's.

This year, after the dads scared the pants off the kids, the kids took over and ran the adults through the haunted house.  The Wilson's do it up big and they must almost certainly have the biggest collection of Halloween paraphernalia that I've ever seen - light up skulls, framed pictures with blinking eyes, brains in jars, chains, theme get the idea!

Pumpkin carving

Spencer handing out candy at our stop

In our matched set of battery-powered "target detecting" tshirts that sense other tshirts in the vicinity

At an adult "beverage station" along the way