Monday, July 31, 2006

Emma's vacation

Emma has been a riot on this vacation. She has been cruising the entire main floor of Emily's house - always with Bella the dog on her trail like a "mother hen". Bella is very worried about Emma all the time and comes running every time Emma cries even a little bit. I saw Bella laid out asleep in the middle of the floor tonight and I remarked to Emily that Ed must have worn her out tonight - and Emily said she felt certain that it was Emma that wore Bella out.

Emma hasn't been a big fan of the pool. As a matter of fact, that is an understatement. When I take her into the pool with me, she grabs hold of each of my bathing suit straps and holds on for dear life, and tucks her head into my neck hiding her face. I have been able to pry her off of me a couple of times and give her a dunk or too - she comes up every times with really big eyes from looking underwater. But that said, she LOVES to sit on the steps into the pool, or the "shelf" at the end of the pool. She sat there for a long time throwing the ball, playing with the torpedo, or just splashing the water around - as far as she was concerned, that WAS the pool.

But the funniest thing is that Emma LOVES Ed. Its not in and of itself funny except when you compare it to the fact that she REALLY doesn't like strangers and didn't even want Aunt Emmy coming anywhere near her when we saw her at the airport. But, the minute she saw Ed, she ran up to him and "asked him" (in her best Emma speak" to hold her - they sat in the recliner for a long time together and Emma just loved sitting there with Ed!

So Emma has certainly had a good vacation - and we have worn her out. She is sleeping in a pack-n-play in my closet (so that it is sufficiently dark and quiet) and I had to wake her up from BOTH naps today so that she would sleep tonight!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Houston Children's Museum

We took a day trip to the Houston Children's Museum. I can hardly call it a museum - because everything there is "hands on" for the kids. It is welcoming from the minute you drive up - when you see the bright yellow building with happy children adorning the front entrance - all in the middle of a city block in Downtown Houston.

The fun started the minute we walked in the door, with displays in the lobby showing gadgets and gears - something for the kids to play with while the parents got tickets! Then, we got to take part of a "special" exhibit - only here for the summer - where the kids got to make their own Stomp Rockets. Pretty neat project and something we could easily do ourselves at home. That's what I think is neat - I got some good ideas for projects we could do at home.

There were lots of rooms and displays - the kids could "practice" how to go grocery shopping, from choosing their food to paying and seeing how much change they would receive. They had corresponding displays that talked about cows and how the milk gets from the cows to the grocery store - and a display about chickens, including live baby chicks! They also got to see how lots of different machines worked, and each of them tried to pull themselves up using ropes on pulleys to see how the different number of pulleys affected their ability to pull themselves up!

There were just so many activities for the kids to do, its hard to enumerate them all here. But, we think our favorite room was the "prototype" room where they had some activities they were considering making a permanent part of the museum and they were getting feedback. Michael loved playing with the "balls and clips" toy where he was able to use a crank to adjust the angle of a ramp and have golf balls roll down into a bucket. Samantha loved playing with what I called a "pinball machine" where they shot a ping pong ball and scored points based on the cards that they hit.

Did you know that you can make a "jet paper airplane" with a balloon - well you can. We will definitely try that at home.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Space Center - Houston

On our first full day in Houston for vacation with my sister Emily, we went to Johnson Space Center - NASA. Michael is fascinated with space and we definitely knew he would enjoy it.

When you "Go to NASA", what you are really doing is going to a visitor's center that they have built called "Space Center Houston". It is on the property of Johnson Space Center, but away from any of the "business of NASA"

The first exhibit we visited was a short movie about the United States' space activities - from Mercury through the Space Shuttle. Emma would NOT sit still during this movie. After watching the movie, we walked through an exhibit where they had samples of EACH of the different space capsules - Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo. They also had a model of the Moon Rover that was used in the later Apollo missions. We got to walk through a sample of the Skylab.

After giving the kids a good taste of space activities, we took a tram ride around the Johnson Space Center. We had two different "destinations" to choose from and we chose to go see "Historical Mission Control". You drive through what looks like a "normal office park" and pull up to a quite non-descript building. But, after walking into the lobby and up 87 steps - and they make a point to tell you that you will be walking up 87 steps - you walk down the hall and into the observation room of the original Mission Control. This room was used by the media, distinguished guests and family members to watch operations of the numerous space missions starting with Mercury until well into the shuttle missions, when they upgraded to a new modern facility. The walls of mission control were adorned with mission patches signifying all of the missions run from that room, and other souvenirs and momentos of the momentous occasions steered from that room - from the walk on the moon of Apollo 11, the fight to return the crew of Apollo 13, and the last Apollo mission in conjunction with the Soviet space agency. Other activities including the management of Skylab, the early launches of the space shuttle and the loss of the Challenger shuttle and crew. After moving Mission Control to a new facility, they retro fitted the historical Mission Control with the panels used during the Apollo days.

The kids had a great time using the simulators to "Land the Space Shuttle", and we watched MANY crashes during their attempts to land. We also saw a neat presentation of what life is like living on the International Space Station, where the presenter talked about what happens to your body in zero gravity, and demonstrated how the astronauts eat, sleep, and bathe. They also had a neat exhibit showing all the different kinds of suits and uniforms that the astronauts have worn, and had mission photos from EACH of the missions, starting with Mercury through the most recent shuttle mission.

At the front of Space Center, Houston, they have a HUGE play area, and after seeing all that we wanted to see about NASA, we let the kids play in the play area for a while before coming home.

Of course, sight-seeing aside, the kids were almost MORE interested in swimming in Aunt Emily's pool - so after we returned from NASA, we all donned our suits (including Emma) and spent some time in the pool. Emma didn't have the best time right away, and was quite perterbed with me when I dipped her under the water, but she eventually warmed up to the idea of playing in the water, and had a good time.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

We're Leavin' - on a Jet Plane!

So, tomorrow around 12:45pm, I am hopping on a jet plane, with 3 kids (and no hubby) to head to Houston! Going to spend a week visiting with my sister Emily.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Sometimes traditions are passed down through generations. Others are new events that you hope to share with your kids and their kids...

Well, last night we celebrated another "Stopper Family Tradition". It was Mike's birthday. We went to Otani, the Japanese steak house not far from the house. It was certainly a nice dinner (although Emma didn't seem too happy to be there), but we don't go too often because its a little pricey!

That said - my kids have decided that Otani is where you go for a birthday. So, we go AT LEAST 4 times a year. And they didn't understand why we didn't go for Emma's birthday, because she certainly likes the food!!

So, anyway, Happy Birthday Mike. I have to keep reminding him that he's getting older. When we talk about "other people" (celebrities, famous people, etc) he will speculate as to their age - and usually suggest merely a year or two older than himself, when all along that person has been 10 or more years older than him - he's just lost track of the fact that he's 38!

PS. Thanks for the card, Mom!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Old Friends!

I have two old friends from when I worked at AMS - Jill and Karen. I hadn't seen either of them in a long time, since they have both gone to other companies and I stopped working. A few weeks back I was getting nostalgic and contacted each of them about getting together.

So our 3 families got together for a cookout this evening at our house. It was nice to see them and we comfortably fell back into conversations about the kids, our houses, our jobs and other friends we had from our jobs. Our families have certainly changed, as all of our "older kids" have grown so much since we've seen them, and the Cinibulks (and the Stoppers) have added a new member of the family. Emma, incidentally, loved playing with Karen's 2 year old Kyle - she hugged him and he said "Bye Bye Mema" when they left.

And can you believe I don't have one picture to show for it!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Samantha's First Job

Samantha had her first "job" today. She went to my friend's house to be a mother's helper. She was having a Creative Memories workshop and wanted Samantha to entertain her 3 year old. This friend had babysat Samantha the other day and saw how well that Samantha and her daughter played together, so she suggested it. It went great, Samantha had a great time and so did my friend's daughter. And Samantha earned $5 for her time (I told her not to pay too much - just to give her an idea that working earns you money).

She must have done a good job because my friend invited her back to help again next month!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Camp Week

I planned a couple of "camps" for the kids this summer to give them a chance to do some things they don't otherwise get a chance to do during the year.

This past week, Samantha had horseback riding camp and Michael had basketball camp. Despite the fact that I felt like I was in the car all morning, it actually worked out well (with Michael in camp from 8-11 and Samantha in camp 10-12).

Michael was excited to talk about the types of passes that he learned about, and about dribbling with both hands, and was excited to share that the kids beat the parents in the game at the end of the week (42-10 I believe was the final score!!). He really had a great time and showed us yet another sport that he enjoys (and plays well). And I was so pleased to see what a great sport he was. Whoever on his team had the ball, he was cheering for them to shoot and score! I was really proud.

Samantha loved her horse camp and has already asked to go back. She rode a pony this week named Nikki. She learned how to take care of Nikki, brush her and give her a bath, as well as putting her saddle on and taking it off. In the riding ring, she learned to control the pony, getting her to start and stop and turn as she wanted. She was even able to trot with a guide and was doing very well at "posting" while the horse was trotting. It was fun to watch her ride and made me nostalgic for when I rode horses at summer camp as a child.

It was a nice week for the kids to have some activities, and I was able to get a few things done around the house, but it will be nice for things to be a little "lower key" this coming week as we really have nothing planned!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Washington Nationals!!

Last year, the DC area got their first professional baseball team in 30 years when the Washington Nationals relocated from Montreal to Washington, DC. With both Mike and I being baseball fans, we were excited to have the team. But, with 3 kids in tow, and many summer days topping 90 degrees with high humidity, there isn't always a great day to go to the game.

Last Friday, I heard a weather report on the radio talking about how perfect the weekend weather was going to be - 80 degrees during the day, 60 degrees at night, with low humidity. I then heard an ad for the Washington Nationals being in town. A few web searches and a couple of phone calls later, we had tickets to the Saturday night game.

Now, last year, we paid for the most inexpensive tickets we could, which were right field seats. The seats were fine, but the way the field is designed (being a former football stadium) the seats were VERY HIGH up because the wall is 50' or 60' before the seats start.

So, we splurged for seats a little lower down - and they were perfect. We looked right down the third base line to home plate. We ended up with front row (of the section) seats on the end of a row, so I had a railing in front for Emma to play with, and a spot on the concrete beside me for her to sit on the ground if she wanted to. While she was clearly happiest when she was actually sitting in one of OUR chairs, we were happy to move her around as we didn't have to pay for her until she is 2 as long as she "sits in our lap".

Well, a great time was had by all DESPITE the loss to the San Diego Padres. The Nationals started the game with a home run hit off the first pitch to the first batter in the bottom of the first, but it went downhill from there!!

But, we had great seats, close parking, and a fun time. Definitely worth the money and warrants a return trip soon!!