Thursday, July 31, 2008

Snow Cone Twins

snowcone twins
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Sometimes it's fun to be a twin. Especially when your twin sister decides to buy a snow cone at a ballgame for you to share.

Yes that's right, I have six year olds that decide on their own to share a snow cone and to use their allowance money.

But the best part was the after photo. To get a true gauge of the purple wonder of their mouths check out this photo.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Artist of the Week: All Star

batter up
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
In honor of the end of baseball (well at least for this year) Nate is the Artist of the week.

He had a lot of fun, even though he was (in our opinion at least) underutilized. He is one of those natural athletes that loves to play the game, any game at all.

In baseball he is a decent little hitter (and a very cute one at that) that always, and I do mean always, runs full steam. He'll make it to first when some kids might have let up and been beat out.

got it
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Out on the field he'll do a good job in any position, remaining focused and in the game. He is best utilized in the infield, there his quick reflexes really pay off. During the regular season he was the primary catcher, but could be a pitcher in a pinch.

For the All Star games he was limited mostly to the outfield, but he did get a couple of innings as catcher. That's him there , behind the plate in the lower picture. I'm really pleased with this picture because I got it just after he caught the ball. You can see the ball safely tucked inside the glove, his right hand just where it should be, with a little puff of dust surrounding the glove from the ball's impact. Nate had a great attitude even with the late nights and high temperatures. For that alone he deserves recognition.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Summer Busy

We are in the heart of summer break and it is a very busy time for us. Baseball has finally and absolutely draw to a close, but we still have our morning tennis lessons (or let's give the moms a child free hour to go grocery shopping). Then there are the afternoon classes at the MathScience Innovation Center, the same place Jake went for LEGO Robotics.

Last week Nate took a course called computer math games. He got introduced to a nifty piece of software that enables you to create your own computer game. Nate being who he is designed the most ambitious and complex game. In fact he was unable to finish it the time the class ended. We're going to get the software and have him finish his game and create new ones.

This week Jake is learning all about architecture. He is having a grand time and has already had a chance to display his sense of humor. On the first day he designed a floor plan that had a funny little space. He was asked about it and replied "that's where the rats live." That's my boy, very bright and very quirky.

And all these activities mean we are a very busy family. I don't begrudge the afternoon classes, but next year I'll push for the boys to do them during the same week. All this driving around is very grueling and not cheap.

Monday, July 28, 2008

So Close

This is John Fratelli of The Fratellis performing an acoustic version "Whistle for the Choir." I love both this recording and the studio version. I think it speaks very well of a band if they can put out equally good versions of a song in and out of the studio. I first heard the Fratellis on Letterman a few months ago. Since then I have become a bit of a fan.

From what I've heard and read they put on terrific concerts. Happily they will be touring the US this year and will be in the Mid-Atlantic region this fall, but... not in Richmond. The most frustrating aspect of their tour schedule is they will be in North Carolina on October 1st (a Wednesday) and up in DC on October 2nd. The band will literally drive through my area. There is no hope of them picking up anything around here unless they extend their tour.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

You Gotta Watch Out for the Gazpacho

Nate has a computer game that he loves to play. It's basically a world War II shoot 'em up and Jake usually watches (with just a bit if kibitzing) while Nate plays.

Today Nate was playing along, I was in the kitchen and Jake was watching his brother. After a bit Jake came over and started talking about the gazpacho and how dangerous it was. He went on for a while saying gazpacho this and gazpacho that when I finally had to stop him. Laughing, I told him that he wasn't quite getting the pronunciation right.

It's ge-sta-po not gaz-pa-cho.

I went on to tell him that he was talking about a cold vegetable soup, not the nazi Germany secret police. He found his mistake just as hilarious as I did. When I told Larry later he too was amused and his only comment was that he didn't like either.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Maxfield Parrish

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
In honor of Maxfield Parrish's birthday I'm posting this picture I took a little over two years ago. I was at baseball practice and the sun was getting low in the sky. I just snapped a few and this is what I got. The only editing I've done was to crop out a building and run it through the "water color" filter.

It hasn't quite got the luminescent colors of his work, but it'll do. I have had it as my desktop's wallpaper for quite some time.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Coolest Cake Ever

You have to go to this site, Cake Wrecks.

Mostly it is a blog about truly awful professionally decorated cakes. But today's was a departure from the norm. I just love it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Artist of the Week: Maps

Max and friends
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This week's artist is Max. I'm reposting this picture of him from last November because it is so very appropriate for today's post.

As you can see Max has a lot of stuffed animals or, as we like to call them, stuffies. He drags them all over the house, upstairs, downstairs and even out in the car. Which is fine as long as he picks them up when they are downstairs. The dogs too are rather fond of stuffies, but in a very destructive fashion.

A few days ago Max had part of his collection downstairs scattered about on the floor. The dogs were loose and Max realized that he needed to relocate his toys into safer waters. He pushed them into a big pile and just before he picked them up he noticed something.

Stuffy America
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar

He had inadvertently created a fairly good rendition of the continental US. He rushed over to show me what he had done and asked me to take a picture. I was impressed as was all of his siblings. We all oohed and ahhed over his creation.

I love how he got the coastlines, I admit I ever so slightly readjusted Florida (by less than an inch), but the rest stand as they were. Maine is a bit out there, but I love the suggestion of the Great Lakes via the snake's coils. It really is quite remarkable and doubly so that a 6 year picked up on it all by himself.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Like a Hole in the Head

You know the phrase "I need this like another hole in my head"? Well, sometimes you do need an extra hole (or two) in the head.

Max went in to day to get the tubes in his ears replaced. His old tubes were pretty much out and needed two new holes to be put in his head. We had a good long ear infection free run with the old set, but now he was getting them again.

Things were a little bit different this time around. There still is the same old no food after midnight, but now it is acceptable to have clear liquids up to two hours before surgery. And I must say it makes all the difference in the world when you can give a kid a spot of lemonade before you drag them into the hospital. That hit of sugar made him a far cheerier person. Admittedly he was still hungry, but not nearly as grumpy as last time.

In fact he was downright hilarious when the pre-anesthetic cocktail hit him. It was just a little something to reduce his anxiety (which he has a lot of) and relax him before they put him under. They handed it off to me in a little plastic cup for him to drink down. It took a bit of prodding, but he did slug it down. He was initially fine, but after about 10 minutes it hit him like a sack of bricks. He couldn't sit up, much less stand and his speech became exaggerated and slurred. It was like having a miniature drunk college student in my lap. He had a toy phone smashed against his face and kept saying "Heeeey Naaate!" Nate and Rebecca, meanwhile, caught on to what was going on and started dancing about in a slow motion while waving their arms. All four of them were giggling madly. Then the staff came and whisked Max away in a little red wagon.

Monday, July 21, 2008

All Star Update

So far we've won two and lost one game and only just barely.

Tonight's was a real doozy we won 17 to 3, only giving up the three runs during the last inning. Nate got to catch during the last inning and it was fun watching tear off the helmet to snag errant balls. Nate does everything with a great deal of enthusiasm and it's a pleasure to watch him in action.

So now we are done with pool play. Our team did well enough that they advanced to the single elimination championship round. That'll be on Wednesday, so we get tomorrow off.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cake or Death

I love Eddie Izzard and this bit is very appropriate for this blog.

And I must add, there is nothing funnier than a bunch of kids careening about, chanting "Cake or Death!"

Friday, July 18, 2008

He's an All Star Baby

He's an All Star Baby
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
You know how I said waaaay back in June that we had played our last baseball game of the season.

Well I was wrong. Nate got nominated to the All Star team.

For the past two weeks he has been practicing with his team in preparation for the tournament that starts this weekend. He'll be playing tomorrow, Sunday and Monday. If his team does well he'll get to play a few more games.

It'll be brutally hot, but we'll be cheering him on with the added bonus of Meryl joining us with her mother. And then really, no more baseball.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I Live In a Frat House Part 2

You know that sweet little girl I just featured yesterday as artist of the week, well it's not all sugar and spice and everything nice.

Not by a long shot.

As I have mentioned before, I live in a frat house. Thankfully the chugging contests have ended, but now we have a new facet of life with four kids. Last night I enacted a new rule at dinner that honestly I had never even considered before. In fact I even stated that I could not believe what I'm about to say.

Rebecca, my pretty little girly girl wearing a lovely sun dress (yes, that one in yesterday's photo), stood up on her chair with her right arm held straight up and announced that she could sniff her armpit. She then proceeded to demonstrate this ability. Next, she told her twin brother, seated on her right, to sniff her pit. He obliged and dramatically, with much giggling, said phew that stinks. Surprised, she sniffed again and said she didn't smell anything.

I was stunned as was Jake. Nate and Larry had already left for baseball, so I was on my own.

So now we have a new rule, no armpit sniffing at the table. Jake afterward shook his head over the outright surreality of the situation. I'm right there with him. But it was pretty darn funny.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Artist of the Week: A Gift

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This week's artist is little Miss. Rebecca.

She just constantly amazes us with her pictures. The girl is one person art show. Recycle day is always tough, because it's hard to decide which ones to keep and which ones to let go. She also loves to share her art. Every now and then will have a little flurry of drawings that need to be sent out to her grandparents and friends. And sometimes she'll draw something to give to us.

Last week Max was at one of his many regular doctor appointments. It was just Max, Rebecca and I. The older two were off with their father. Max went off with his doctor and Rebecca and I retired to the family waiting area/playroom. At first she hauled out some of the toys hidden in the room, but then she settled down with crayons and paper.

And this is what she created.

under the sea
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar

It is a wonderful undersea scape drawn just for Max. Unfortunately the picture is a bit on the pale side, I tried to bring it out as much as possible. The two main creatures are a sea turtle (Max's favorite animal) and a manatee. There are also a multitude of fish, a crab on the sea floor and a wonderful eel. I was very impressed, as were her brothers. In fact Jake declared it far better than anything he could make (well except for buildings and maps- which he does excel at).

She is quite a little artist.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Whole Range of Colors

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
We have a whole range of hair colors here at Life At Full Volume. If fact you can so the two ends of the spectrum in this picture of Max and Jake.

Max is always been called the blond of the family, in fact he has been called the white sheep by the pediatrician. But except for that ,I tend to forget about the varieties of color offered by the rest of the crew.

Until it's hair cut time.

Yesterday I rounded up the shaggiest of the bunch and gave them haircuts. Rebecca's bangs wee always in her eyes, Jake's face was disappearing under his mop and Max just plain wanted a haircut. Nate got a pass this time because his last hair cut was pretty drastic. The cuts themselves were pretty basic, but it is the aftermath that was very striking.

whole range
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Jake's hair looks almost black, making Rebecca's seem far lighter than it really is. As for Max, well he still is the blond one. In case I'm not completly clear: Jake's is on the top, Rebecca's hair is the lower right and Max's is the lower left. Nate's, if it was there, would fall between Jake and Rebecca. It is much closer to Jake's color than their sister's.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Something for a Rainy Day

No tennis today, so instead we are stuck indoors. My friend Kathy, from college, sent me this and the kids love it.

So do I.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The First Tomato

first tomato
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Yesterday we picked our first official tomato from our deck garden.

I say official because we had two Romas that I stripped off the vine due to blossom end rot and the one Roma that inexplicably dropped off the vine while still very green.

But this one, is a keeper.

This has been a much anticipated event. It looked a bit dicey for a bit with the aforementioned end rot with the Romas (they are fine now, turns out I wasn't watering regularly enough) and some mysterious critter stripping off leaves and nibbling a tomato.

I don't know what the animal was. Judging by the height of the bite mark and the stripped leaves I would hazard a deer had done the deed. But I find that hard to believe. The deer would have to climb up the steps onto the deck and then walk the full length of the deck to reach the plants. Our deer are bold, but I don't think they are that bold.

Anyway Rebecca was pleased to model with the fruit of our labor. She was a bit miffed that I picked it and not her, but she got over it. I'll let her pick the next one.

Oh, and I have to let you in on a not so little secret. Rebecca lost one of her front teeth the other day, hence the gappy smile. She was very upset by the whole thing and we are not to talk about it. Kind of hard when it's a front tooth.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cause and Effect

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This doe (and her many, many cohorts) is a major cause of consternation for Dell and John. Mostly it is Dell that gets upset, but John has no love for what I refer to as the tall rats in our backyard.

I took this particular picture yesterday just after lunch. Dell started barking hysterically at the window near our dining table. I swear Dell almost had an stroke from the barking. John, too, got seriously revved up by the deer and his half brother's histrionics. The doe was less than 15 feet away from the window was completely unconcerned by the barking dogs inside the house. I snapped this picture just before letting loose the hounds and filming their reaction.

The millisecond the door opened the doe took off. The red boys never had a chance, but they did have a glorious full tilt run around the bush telling off the local wildlife that this was their backyard.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Artist of the Week: LEGO Robotics

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This week's artist is Jake. Today was the last day of his LEGO Robotics course that he took under the auspices of the Summer Regional Governor's School (scroll down the page for the summer school programs). The courses are free and are open to gifted students that have been accepted into the program via a competitive application. It is a wonderful program and, as you can see in the picture, Jake was one very happy camper.

He was very willing to get up early each morning of the eight day session and ride in with his father and be dropped off before the opening bell at 8:30 am. Not once did he gripe to me about going to school. I think his only disappointment was concerning their field trip to a local robotic manufacturer, because the students were not allowed on the production floor.

Anyway, he had a great time and this is about the final robot that he helped to produce. The students would get partnered up with different kids then design, build and program a robot for the challenge of the day. The kids were not only learning about the engineering side, but also about teamwork.

Team 1
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Today family members were invited to attend the last robotic challenge. It gave us a chance to see exactly what had been going on during the past eight days of class. Fortunately both Larry and I were able to go and see the fun firsthand.

For his last project Jake was teamed up with the young lady in the picture. She seemed like a really sweet girl and was bright and chatty when we met her today. She explained the program and the robot to us and was very impressed with Nate's knowledge of radar (thank you History channel- aka the WWII channel). It looked like she and Jake worked well together and were having a good time.

The Robot
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
The robot they designed was meant to follow a course and hit four different targets. The course, on white paper, was laid out on several tables in the classroom. A black lined marked the preferred path to the targets. From what I could see Jake's team used line/color sensor to find the line and an ultrasonic sensor to find the target. They used a laptop to set up the running program and then downloaded it into the LEGO NXT Intelligent Brick (the brain of the robot).

Each team got two tries with time built in to modify the robot in between runs. The course stared off fairly simply with a straight path to the first target. Then it got tricky. The robot had to turn and cross a short yet narrow bridge. After the second target the course got progressively harder.

Here is a longish film of the two runs spliced together.

Second Place Trophy
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
I'm very proud to say that their robot came in second overall. It wasn't able to complete the course, but points were awarded for hitting the taget and following the line. One robot almost finished the course. It just missed hitting the final target. The two teaching assistants made special trophies to commemorate the occasion. Jake, of course, promptly put it on his head and walked around with it precariously perched on top. I t was such an utterly Jake thing to do I just had to share it with y'all.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

AOTW: Postponed

It's late and what I want to do won't be ready until tomorrow, so Artist of the Week is postponed until tomorrow.

Really, I promise.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Free Movies

I love movies, but I have very little time to see them. As a result there are many decent films out there I haven't seen. My husband and I considered Netflix, but again there is that whole time thing. We would end up paying money for movies we don't have time to watch and feel pressured to watch them because we paid for them. It's only five bucks a month, but I know there'll be months when we don't watch anything.

Enter the library. It turns out or local library has quite a collection of DVDs. Even better, there is also the option of inter-library loan. They don't have all the movies I want to see, but they have enough to keep me happy. Especially when you consider the price, free for seven days. I can put in a request online and the library calls me when it is ready for pick up. You can't beat that for convenience.

Monday, July 07, 2008

What Kinda of Parent are You?

I think I'm becoming the unexpected Mom according to at least one of my sons' friends.

I asked Nate's friend how his Fourth went. He was a bit surprised that I asked, I guess he's not used to adults asking his opinion. Anyway he replied that it was good, they did some fun things and saw fireworks. My response "it's fun watching things blow up" stunned him. Most Moms would, at least in his experience, never admit such things. But I am the mother of three boys and I'm a bit of a Tom boy and watching stuff go boom is fun. Honestly that why we love Myth Busters so very much. Nate then went off to play at his friends house for the rest of the day.

Around 4:00 Nate came back home along with his friend. They then spent a good 20 minutes messing about on our driveway with their bikes. Which sounds a bit boring unless you know our driveway. It's a gravel drive and over the years it has developed bumps in it. Our ultimate goal is to pave the whole mess, but for now we have a bumpy driveway. Nate has discovered that he can jump the bumps with his bike. The boys had a terrific time going back and forth over the bumps. I even shot a little video of Nate in action.

I think his friend was a bit surprised that I allowed, almost encouraged borderline dangerous behavior. However, in my defense, the jumps really weren't that big and they were both wearing helmets. When it was finely time for Nate's friend to go I asked him if he liked our driveway. He thought it was pretty cool.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Yummy Ribs

yummy ribs
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This is what the ribs looked like on Friday and I have my friend Google to thank for telling me how to cook them.

The first site I hit was this one, Texas Style BBQ Beef Ribs. It was invaluable for the great pictures and general advice. It was there that I learned about the importance of taking your time, beef ribs need to be slow cooked at about 250 for 6 - 7 hours. From there it was pretty much the seat of my pants.

I decided Thursday night that I really should apply the dry rub and that night and let the ribs sit overnight in the fridge with the rub on. Of course I never did find a dry rub I liked so I had to make my own. After endlessly sifting through many different sites for recipes I found one to my liking that filled my main criteria. It had to only have ingredients I have on hand.

This one fit the bill:

1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/4 paprika (that used up my little jar)
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

The directions accompanying the above were dead simple.

1- It is very important to peel the membrane off of the inside of the rack of beef ribs before starting.

2- Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl.

3- Sprinkle the mixture on both sides and rub it in.

4- Grill on medium heat grill for 2-3 hours or until rib meat is tender.*

*I did not actually grill the ribs (*horrors!) Instead I baked them in the oven for 6 and 1/2 hours at 250. I had wrapped them overnight in aluminum foil and placed the packets on jelly roll pans. After an hour of cooking I opened up the packets, but left the ribs on the foil; to contain the mess. During the last couple of hours I brushed on some commercial barbecue sauce. I used Jack Daniel's Original No. 7 Recipe after a great conversion in my local super market with a guy that had tried them all.

After a few hours the kitchen started to smell great. After six hours the ribs were just right. Max passed on them (I think they looked too messy to him), but everybody else enjoyed the ribs. Jake is already begging me to make them again.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth of July

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
I hope y'all stateside had a good Fourth of July.

Ours was tasty one. The ribs came out great and Meryl brought some very very delicious corn.

The fireworks, alas, were a bust. A line of thunderstorms bulled their way through just as we sat down for dinner a bit after 5:00 pm. The winds were impressive, tossing about the trees and doing some serious damage up by the fireworks site.

Of course we did not know this until we headed up there at 7:30. The roads were blocked and the troopers redirected us away from the show grounds. We didn't know what was up until we found an electronic billboard informing us that the fireworks had been canceled. I was a bit peeved because I did call the special events hot line number and checked the news websites before heading out.

But as I said the food was fabulous. We set off some sparklers outside and had a little show inside when I made Bananas Foster for dessert.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Ribs for the Fourth

Normally we just do the basic grill out for the Fourth, but this year I've decided to be daring and try making beef ribs.

The major inspiration for this was, surprise surprise, that the store had them on sale. I don't know exactly what I'm going to do, but it should be interesting. We can always do burgers and dogs if it turns out poorly.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Artist of the Week: Time Line

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Nate is this week's artist. He looks so darn cute in this picture. It's hard to see his eyes underneath the shaggy hair, but if you look carefully you can see their sparkle. Mind you, I cut his hair not so long ago and he hated it- In his opinion his hair was far too short.

Anyway, hair cuts side, we are here for art. Specifically a neat little time line I fished out of the huge pile of papers he dragged home.

Last spring Nate's class did a unit called Galleon. The students were grouped into teams. Each team had a ship that they had to pilot across the Atlantic. Part of the assignment was to make a time line summarizing key events in the voyage.

Galleon Timeline
Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
This Nate's time line.

Unfortunately it is a bit small, but if you go here you get a better view of it. I love all the little details in the pictures. It is about a foot and half long, I think Nate did a terrific job in rendering the ships. His teacher liked it as well and the grade ( check plus) reflects that.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Red Boys

Originally uploaded by Teckelcar
Most non-dachshund people have a hard time telling the red boys apart. To me, and those that know John and Dell, it is fairly easy to tell them apart. Heck, when I pat them in the dark I instantly know which dog it is.

The most striking difference is their size. Both are good sized standards that dwarf the far more common miniature. (A mini is defined as a a full grown dachshund that is a eleven pounds or less. My boys weigh in at 27 and 25 pounds apiece.) John is a fairly robust 27 lbs with thicker, hound-like features. He is of the old fashioned hunting type. Dell is the lighter of the two and has the more elegant type favored today.

Interestingly their personalities do not match their body types. Dell, my elegant dog, is a complete oaf. He bounces around with absolutely no regard for what surrounds him. Today for example Nate was on the floor stretched out next to the sofa. I was happily reading a book while on the sofa. At some point I called over Dell. He dashed over, trampling Nate and then proceeded to bounce all over Nate while I patted him. Nate thought it was hilarious that Dell was oblivious to what he was doing to Nate.

After a bit I got up and let out the dogs. Dell paused for his half brother to reach the deck, then launched himself onto the lawn and careened about. John meanwhile, calmly surveyed the yard and then sedately descended the few steps to the lawn.

Once we wee all back inside Nate asked me why does John always looks out before going down the steps. I thought for a bit and replied that John likes to check out what is going on before he gets involved. Which is true for John in general. Our big red boy is far more aware of what he is doing than Dell. John almost never bounces on Nate. When we repeated the set up we had with Dell (Nate stretched out on the floor by my side), John only stepped on Nate once and that was only because Nate got in his way. John would carefully stretch out above Nate so I could reach him. And then, when he was done, would neatly sit back down without touching Nate. It was amazing to watch the precision of John's movements. Far different from his manically happy half-brother, Dell.

It just goes to show you really can't judge a book by its cover.