Sunday, July 31, 2016

Little Guys and the Harp!

The harp may be Viva's, but it is awfully shiny and pretty (and sounds so good) - it makes it hard to resist!

Friday, July 29, 2016

The Newest Member of Our Musical Family

We have added a harp to our family, and it is a beautiful addition!

It all started back in the spring when we went to Bentley's first cello recital.  One of the girls there played a duet with her twin - one plays cello, one plays harp.  It was quite delightful.  And Viva leaned over and told me "that was so pretty, what is it?"

And I was captivated too.  So I tracked down the teacher of the girl who we heard play, as the girl played well so obviously has a good teacher.  And then I learned all about types of harps (pedal harps, lever harps, lap harps, concert harps, celtic harps, troubadour harps, harps with different #s of strings.... !)

It's all quite fascinating, actually.  And now we own a harp and Viva has started lessons!

A celtic harp - big, but not huge:

(A concert harp - they are big!)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Review: Little Engineer App & Game

I was recently contacted by an Indiegogo project and introduced to a new and soon to be released product, Little Engineer, that hopes to help kids connect with coding through a hands on game that uses both physical tiles and an iPad interface.  I have some experience with Osmo products (which are also a combination of physical game pieces and an iPad interface) so I agreed to do a write up contrasting Osmo Coding with Little Engineer, in exchange for a pre-release sample of the program.  :)

It showed up nicely packaged in a heavy duty case.  I love the wide design of the base.  It's stable, elegant, and modern looking.  The small mirror that sits on top of your iPad's camera nests right into the base for storage - that was clever thinking.  I appreciate the open ends of this game's base as it means you can use it with iPad minis, iPad "regulars", and the largest iPad pros.  My Osmo games only work with the minis and the regular iPads because the base has raised side walls.

The game tiles fit right into the side of the storage box and are nice and sturdy.  They are easy to put away (contrasted with Osmo, which is a study in jigsaw engineering whenever we have to put it back in the cute little box!)  The plastic tiles are large, clunky, and bright.  The pieces are easy for little hands to work with and look to be very durable.  I like their sizing and bright colors.

As for the actual game itself... it is modeled loosely after the Pokemon Go concept - which means it is bound to be very popular and relatable to a large percentage of youngsters!  Pokemon Go is not a "thing" at our house, but I do get the appeal.  :)  There are two worlds in the Little Engineer game.  Tech Town (where we are, the basics are covered here) and Fantasy World (where more advanced concepts are covered.)  Many programming games are out there for the iPad and I feel like a lot of them don't really deliver on what they promise.  This game requires some deeper thinking to get through and I'm confident it's providing some lessons in logic (aka what programming is about) to the kids.  There is a basic story line involving robots, an alien and treasure hunts for needed items.  Through tracking down the items using both the screen and your physical tiles to come up with solutions to the roadblocks in your way you will get through the levels/unlock the challenges.

The game is listed as best for ages 4-10.  My 4 year old definitely needs some hands on (by his side, constantly!) assistance from older siblings.  He finds the game engaging and intriguing but from an actual learning to code perspective I'm not sure how much he would get out of it on his own - and he's a smart kid!  So be aware that the younger crowd will need an active older sibling or adult participant.  The 10 year upper target is probably right on.  One of my 9 year olds is really enjoying this, but it's not really drawing in my (old for his age, in some ways!) 10 year old.  It's a little too cartoon-ish.  Which is what makes it appealing to the younger crowd.

Random thoughts:
- We like the catchy background music in the program.  Some games you certainly can't say that about!
- I like that the program incorporates the images from the room into the program, it gives the game a more immersive feeling than you get with the Osmo coding app.
- My daughter is really enjoying the ability to code/build your own levels.  She puts together "challenges" and then helps her younger brother go through them.
- I like that it's a team activity - something that they can find a way to do together and both get something engaging and educational out of.

Conclusion?  A worthy addition to your iPad accessories.  Fully compatible with all versions of iPad, and bug free/stable run (impressive, considering it is still in beta right now!)  If you have inquisitive kids that enjoy a challenge on the iPad, this game just might be your ticket to drawing them into learning some basic loops/sequences/logic structures for coding.  Programming is my college background and I am impressed with the level of detail this game gets into as kids progress through/unlock the levels.  Check out their webpage for more info.  The Pokemon Go angle is definitely going to be a big hook/draw in for a lot of kids.  Two thumbs up for a well executed and designed app and system that will help to draw a new generation into the fun that is coding.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Birthday Bash Pics (The Twins!)

When Jake & Viva (& Bentley!) returned from their Idaho and Las Vegas adventures we had a belated birthday celebration.  Jake wanted to do it the evening of their arrival, and I can totally relate - he wanted to open those presents he had been thinking about!  So, of course, we obliged.  Viva wanted a german chocolate cake this year and Jake opted for a chocolate bundt cake with reeses and mini M&Ms on it.  And then we opened presents and joy reigned in the land.... or, at least, in the house. 

Love these twins!  And now they are "half grown".  Way scary... !

Friday, July 22, 2016

Cello Recital

Bentley finished Suzuki book 1, and we have a celebration recital at our home with his teacher.  It went very well (despite the stifling hot weather due to a big forest fire, hot weather, and windows we couldn't open b/c of the smokey air....!  Good job, Bentley!  Can't wait to see what you learn next!

Bee Stings!

It's been a fantastic year for the bees, wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets in South Central Alaska. The past two years of mild winters helped them grow their populations. Add to that the fact that I planted flowers in our planters and put them on the front porch and...Eureka!...we have a nest under the deck that Mark has tried to remove repeatedly, but he can't see it so his efforts have been in vain. Earlier this week I moved all the flowers away from the front porch and Kara created a home-made hornet trap. Three hornets (or whatever) flew in. Viva created a hornet trap, too, and caught one. ARG!

Why is this a problem? Bentley has been stung twice while outside and says he's done with going outdoors this summer. I was stung while clearing out invasive vetch. The USPS, UPS, and FedEx people have been seen swatting away hornets (or whatever) when delivering packages to our front door. Kara would be very sad if our home went to "no delivery possible" status! We need to solve this problem even it means calling in outside help.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Idaho Las Vegas Road Trip Pics

My pookies did a poor job of capturing photos of their Idaho to Las Vegas road trip for me, but Grandpa Tim & Adrianna sent me some a few days back so I have something!  :)  The whole family on reunion day, a birthday shot, and some shots from their roadtrip.  I think Adrianna was the official photographer and unfortunately she had to head out partly through the visit to CA because her Mom was sick so, alas, my photos abruptly stop.  Some is better than none though!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

All About Lincoln


Favorite food: french fries
Favorite color: dark green
Favorite book: Star Wars Episode 7 (Golden book)
Favorite thing to do: Play
Favorite place to go: The waterpark
Favorite movie: Kung Fu Panda 1
Favorite animal: I don't have a favorite, but I like tigers

Funny conversation with Lincoln today...

Lincoln: Where were you born, Mommy?
Me: American Fork!
Lincoln: Is that on planet earth?

Lincoln likes:

coloring detailed intricate drawings
clean rooms - he loves to make his bed
food - cheerios, raisins, raspberries, blueberry bagels, chicken, steak....

Lincoln says he wants to learn the cello, like Bentley, but he also tells me that he wants to play a violin.  Hmmmmm.....

Lincoln is inquisitive and helpful, sometimes he is shy though when he meets new people.  I think he is an introvert like his older sister Genevieve!

He has a great attention span and spends hours playing imaginative games with his Legos.  He loves to play with Evan, they are great buddies.  He is independent and not afraid to voice his opinions!

And there are some notes on my favorite five year old.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Noonish Today

This morning when I checked in with what the children were doing at noon, I found this:

Bentley was lying on the floor between the couch and the ottoman reading a newspaper article on Sensei Tanaka. (It was a front page story and we learned a lot!)

Lincoln was working out his anger at his mother by drawing while sitting on the kitchen floor.

Viva was not yet dressed. She was thinking about starting her school work...

Evan was playing with two Playmobil horses.

Jake was doing schoolwork in his bedroom while wearing his dojo jacket.

Lincoln Turns FIVE!

Lincoln had a birthday on Friday!  It was a fun filled day.  His birthday request was a day at H2Oasis, so we convinced Daddy to take a day off from work and all seven of us headed off to the waterpark.  We lasted almost four hours - two gold stars for the parents, I think!  The kids had a really great time.  We made it home where work on the requested eagle cake commenced, and then the day had some playing outside, some cake, some presents, some pizza, and a Star Wars movie.  Lincoln & Evan slept well at the end of the adventure filled day!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, kiddo!  We can't believe you're five already.  :)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Sunday Photos

The children were all looking particularly fine in their Sunday gear so we took some pictures outside!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Summer Saturday!

Just another Saturday.  Another crazy, beautiful, wonderful weekend day.  :)  I realized I captured all the creatures via photo so I had to post the day!