Monday, September 29, 2008

Trip To The Moon

Today DS and his classmates took a trip to the moon. Really....they did a space mission and landed on the moon at around noon today. OK, OK, so it was just a simulation, but it was totally awesome and amazingly realistic for something designed as a field trip for students. I went along as a chaperon and was totally impressed by the facility as well as by the students' performance during the mission. They went to the Challenger Learning Center (one of 52 world-wide).....these centers have been set up as living memorials to the astronauts who died in the Challenger space shuttle disaster on January 28, 1986 (as an aside, today is the 20th anniversary of the first shuttle mission that occurred after the Challenger disaster....September 29, 1988....a neat day for the kids to have had their mission simulation at the Challenger Center). The students were divided into two team was stationed in "mission control" while the other team (DS' team) was stationed in the space module that was "launched" into "orbit," first around Earth and then around the moon. The kids had many realistic tasks they had to perform during this simulation. At first, all were nervous (DS was nervous, but his nerves were very much overtaken by his major excitement about the experience....I thought at one point he was going to bounce right out of his shoes from being unable to contain all of the excitement!), but quickly settled into their respective roles and became very engrossed in what they were doing. I think that at times they probably even forgot that it was only a simulation and they were actually still here on Earth. They even handled an "emergency" with admirable calm. DS was assigned to the Probe Team, which placed him alone in a "clean room" to wire up the electronics of a lunar probe with only the verbal instructions from a member of Mission Control to guide him (the room did have glass doors that allowed him to see what was going on in the rest of the space module). He completed his task successfully! At the half-way point the teams switched places to give everyone a chance to experience both the space module portion and the mission control portion. By the end of their mission they had successfully landed their space module on the moon! DS was quick to inform me that although the mission control part was very interesting, the space module portion was a lot more fun for him. I think this definitely rates up there as one of DS' favorite field trips. I know it is probably one of the most interesting I have ever been on, especially as a chaperon (and that is even taking into consideration that in the past 2 years I have chaperoned 2 overnight field trips with to the zoo, and one involving winter survival and hiking with 6 inches of snowfall on top of what was already on the ground, followed by cross-country skiing). So to DS and his classmates....Great mission! And welcome back to Earth!

Friday, September 26, 2008


Well, last Saturday DH completed his second marathon. Last year he ran the Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. He trained hard for 3 months and set a goal to finish in under 4 hours. He completed the marathon in 3 hours 53 minutes 53 seconds. Earlier this year he considered running this year's Air Force Marathon as well, especially after discussing it with a friend from work who had decided to run it this year. Well, it's been an extremely busy year at work (as well as at home) for both of them and neither had really done any training throughout the year so DH just assumed they would not be running it. Fast-forward to 3 weeks before the race......yes, THREE WEEKS! DH had a conversation with his coworker in which he discovered that he was still planning on running in the marathon even though he had not been training up until that point (he had set a goal for himself....a New Year's the beginning of the year and was determined to keep it). So both DH and his friend started training for the run at 3 weeks before the race (for those who are unaware......a marathon is 26.2 miles long!). Well, needless to say, neither of them was truly prepared for the race.....I know DH's longest recent run before the race had only been 8 miles. Quite a difference from a marathon! But they had determination and perseverance! They were able to run the first 10 miles at a good, steady pace. At that point their bodies needed a break so they started walking. Unfortunately, when they started to run again DH's friend's calf cramped up. He did everything he could to remedy the situation to no avail. But this did not stop them! They kept walking at a good, steady clip (15 minutes/mile) to try to make sure they finished the race before the cut-off time of 7 hours from the start of the race. Although their pace fell a tad towards the end of the 16 miles they walked, they were able to finish the race in 6 hours 23 minutes, well ahead of the cut-off limit, and were able to receive their finishers' medals directly from the Air Force officers awarding them to the runners.So even though it was a totally different experience for DH from last year's race, it was a great day.....his friend was able to succeed in fulfilling his resolution and DH was able to complete a race he went into unprepared for. That's what you call perseverance!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Am I Smarter Than My Fifth Grader?

regolith: unconsolidated residual or transported material that overlies the solid rock on the earth, moon, or a planet.
Wow, what a word. Nope, I had no idea what it meant until I looked it up. Why did I look it up? Well, because it is a a word on DS's spelling list this week! I must say this is the first time one of my children has brought home a word on a spelling list that I had no idea if it was even really a word. At least when I was back in 5th grade my parents could recognize the words without having to look up the meaning. Guess I continue to learn something new every day, even when it arrives as my DS's 5th grade homework. Puts a new spin on the "Are You Smarter Than AFifth Grader?" game, that's for sure! Guess I better go do some studying....

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Can You See Me Now?

Well, DD has to get glasses. She has been having some trouble seeing details like differentiating the notes on the staff of her piano books, a bit of trouble with reading books, etc. So off to the eye doctor we went for a check-up where it was confirmed that she needs glasses for close-up work such as reading, playing piano, and computer work. DD was quite thrilled that she will not have to wear them all of the time as her biggest concern was having to possibly give up her collection of princess sunglasses she wears she was very relieved to find out she still gets to wear those! Once she was reassured about that, she was quite into the selection of glasses process, much to the amusement of the lady assisting us at the eye doctor's office. DD managed to try on about 1/3 of the kids' choices of glasses (the only ones she didn't try on were the obviously boy ones and the obviously too small ones!) and was quite quick to say "no way" or "maybe." She ended up with a stack of about 8 styles in the "maybe" pile that she then had to go through trying on again a couple of times to make new piles of "most likely nots" and "most likely yeses" before narrowing it down to one pair. Oh, and it wasn't just how the glasses looked on her face (she did pay attention to that too though, very much) but she had to see what designs were on the temple (side) pieces as well. Of course, anyone that knows DD, knows she picked out a pink pair of glasses. And I was really proud of DS (who had spent the picking-out time sitting in the waiting room with the occasional pop-in to see if we were done yet) who on the way home asked DD what color she picked out and then said, "I bet you'll look really good in those." And it was said in a nice, sincere tone. Gotta love it when your kids get along!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Wood Floor Is Finished!!!

OK, so they were done a week ago, but it took a few days to recover from the exhaustion enough to think straight then had to get some good pictures (and the weather wasn't cooperating for some good lighting for a couple of days) and then had to find the time to put them on here.......but IT'S DONE!! Here's what the dining room looks like (we still need to put the baseboards back up but this is the floor):
This is a closeup of the dining room floor with the heating vent that we bought and stained to match the floor (as well as the new patio doors that have a wood-clad interior that we also stained to match the floor):
This is the floor going down the hallway towards the front door:
And a closeup of the floor in the bit of hallway that goes into the playroom by the front entryway:So this part of our home improvement project is done! Yea!! I'm not even going to come close to trying to figure out how many hours we put into this the time you add up the removing of it from the old house, the installing of it, the sanding of it, the staining, the sealing of it with the poly......more hours than I care to think of (and less sleep than DH & I really needed!)! But it turned out how we wanted it to....even better than we hoped. And no complaints from the males in the house as they acquired new tools as a result of the project (even some we hadn't planned on due to running into a few snafus along the way!): jigsaw, miter saw, 2 new orbital sanders, air compressor......oh, yeah, they're happy! (And don't worry, DD hasn't been left out....I promised her a special treat this weekend for all she's had to put up with during this project and seeing as how she didn't get any tools out of the deal herself.) Now off to enjoy the floor for awhile before DH decides it's time to start the next project......

Friday, September 5, 2008


Well, I haven't mentioned much about the kids lately as the floor project has consumed so much of our lives. But on Thursday my DD brought home a project she was very, very proud of. According to her, they had worked on these projects for 5 days at school and she was very excited to get to bring it home to show me. It was a piece of green construction paper divided up into sections into which they put down their favorite item under each category. Under most categories were pictures cut out of magazines: food----ice cream; color----pink; place to be----little girl running through a sprinkler; holiday----picture of jack-o-lanterns for Halloween; sport----swimming. For the final category she wrote down (instead of putting a picture) what is her favorite: school activity----math, speleen. Yes, she actually wrote "speleen" instead of "spelling" and you can imagine how hard it was to not show the irony of that on my face as I praised her for her good work on her project.

DS came home extremely excited from school yesterday as well.....which, for those of you that know my DS, is a rare occurrence. At the kids' school they do announcements over the TVs in the classrooms. So the kids are actually doing the announcements each morning (like a little mini TV newscast). The older students are chosen to present the announcements and the younger students get to take turns in groups leading the Pledge of Allegiance. DS does not like to get up in front of people to give presentations and so was extremely thrilled that yesterday, today, and all of next week he is in charge of running the camera for the announcements. So not only does he not have to be in front of the camera where people can see him, he gets to, as he puts it, "work with technology." All in all, even with the hassle of the floor, a happy week for both kids.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Will It Never End??

Well, the floor has been sanded. Yep, sanded but not finished. Even with a 3-day weekend we ran out of time. How could that be you ask? Well, it was a combination of occurrences. We had to rent a drum sander (big walk-behind sander for doing hardwood floors) to sand down the old finish off of the boards and even out the floor (the boards were all uneven and this piece of equipment would not only remove the old finish but make a nice smooth surface across the entire floor as well....or at least that as the idea...). Well, the one they rented to us came with a plug that looked like this:
And it came with a cord that looked like this:We should have known at that point that it was not going to work well. But we started the sanding process (which was preceded by taping clear vinyl sheeting over the entrances to all of the other rooms in the house to contain the massive amounts of dust to the area in which we were working). The drum sander worked well for the two coarsest grits of sandpaper to remove most of the old finish and level most of the boards. Unfortunately it cannot get within about 4 inches of the edges of the walls, so that required getting on hands & knees with a hand-held orbital sander to spend tons of time doing the edges. There were also some trouble spots out in the middle of the room (due to the uneven nature of the boards) that the drum sander was having difficulty taking care of.....those also required the orbital sander. The hallway.....unfortunately the entire hallway is too narrow for the drum sander at all. So DH got out his hand-held belt sander to do most of the hard work (and that thing really throws the sawdust around as unlike the other sanders it does NOT have a dust collector on it!) followed by yet more use of the orbital sander. That poor orbital was getting a workout (luckily it was brand-new.....DH's old one had died earlier in the project)! Then came the really frustrating part.....the drum sander completely stopped working! Now a few times during it's use it had refused to turn off when the switch was turned to off (requiring it to be unplugged to turn it off), but at the point we were ready for the last pass with the finest grit of sandpaper, it stopped sanding! Which meant that we had to do the last sanding of the entire hardwood floor with the orbital which point we bought a second one so both DH & I could be working at the same time.

After all the was time to use the rented floor buffing machine to give the floor a final smooth surface before applying the finish. Well, that thing is an extremely unwieldy beast and while it was admittedly amusing to watch DH try to use it, we quickly realized that it was not going to be able to get close to the edges at all and thus we'd be using the orbitals once again. So we decided to just do the whole thing with the orbitals. Yes, I have spent WAY more time on my hands & knees on that floor than I ever wanted to! And we're not done! Tonight after finishing cleaning up all the sawdust (ever vacuum your ceiling & walls?) we will be staining the floor. Then after that dries we will apply the first coat of polyurethane. My poor children spent the weekend at my parents' house (they had a blast.....went apple-picking!) then returned only to be immediately sent to DH's mom's house for the night. We all spent the night there then I brought them home in time to catch the bus for school this morning. Due to the stain and poly fumes they will be spending another night there as well. Nothing like getting to spend the night at a grandparent's house on a school night! But at least progress is being made! Picture of the floors sanded: