Monday, August 19, 2013

First Day of School! First Day of School!

After a rather long summer, the first day of school arrived with great anticipation by all of us!!  Here they all are ready to go:


Elise--1/2 day kindergarten



Grace—2nd grade


Stuart—4th grade


Henry—mommy’s little buddy




Yes, the ridiculously happy grin on my face reflects the ridiculously happy feeling I had that school was finally in session. 






Monday, March 18, 2013

Be Prepared!

In the past, when I would think about emergency preparedness and specifically 72 hour kits, I always figured that between the random crap in my car and the loaded diaper bag I was lugging around could get us through any disaster/emergency/evacuation.  With the event of the terrible fires in Colorado last summer, it got me thinking that if we really did have to evacuate our homes for more than a day or two, it would be a good idea to have more than just crushed cheerios and petrified french fries to live on.  One of the problems I have is that I always try to think about what a realistic emergency would be for my family and most of the time the only thing that comes to mind is a big snow storm that would keep us at home for a couple of days until the roads were clear or the stores got restocked.  If we were caught unaware, we may not always have 3 days worth of fresh food/perishables, but I know that if we had to live for 3 days at home without going to the store, it wouldn’t be a problem.  But most likely, a disaster or emergency would not be that simple.  If I wanted to truly test our readiness, I think the best scenario comes down to two factors:

  1. Are we at home, without power, water, heat, etc.
  2. Are we evacuated somewhere to a shelter/church/school with only the items we can carry with us.

Now that our children are a little bit older and we are a group of 6 people, it would take a lot more supplies to get us through either situation “comfortably”.  I know that this should be a priority for me, so I am going to try and document this journey here so I there is more accountability.  Plus I am hoping some of you will comment on what has worked for your family and give us good ideas : )

Here’s some things I am working on now, or will be working on soon.  Baby steps…

Being Prepared at Home:


Water, water, water.  If we did not have running water, we would be in big trouble.  I do not have water stored (other than what is in our water heater), and the recommendation is 3 gallons per person per day for drinking, and “limited” cooking and personal hygiene.  That means I need to store 18 gallons of water!!


Food: I think we would be ok with the food storage we have on hand for three days, but without electricity it would definitely be challenging to prepare things.  We have a charcoal grill, but don’t always have a good supply of briquettes.  We also have a variety of camp stoves and propane tanks.  I know we can boil water (as long as I get busy storing 18 gallons), so any kind of hot chocolate, oatmeal, ramen noodles, macaroni and cheese, etc. would be doable.  Our camp stove also has a griddle plate, so cooking eggs, pancakes, bacon, hamburgers, grilled cheese, etc. would work too (I’m guessing we’d eat our way out of the fridge first since they say refrigerated food should be consumed within 4 hours.  Another tip I read was to have enough paper products to eat with—since you don’t want to use your water to clean dishes, etc. 


Heat: we do have a fireplace, and we have a lot of rotting wood in our backyard, so as long as we huddled around the fireplace I think we’d stay frostbite free even in the coldest indoor conditions.


Phones: We still have our land line, and we have a non-cordless phone somewhere in the house (the kids play with it so I haven’t seen it for a while).  A lot of people I know have gotten rid of their land lines and only have mobile phones.  I have A LOT of issues with this.  Emergencies being the main one—if the power goes out, the traditional phone lines are still good.  Most cell phones won’t last more than a day or two without charging, so if your phone is dead and you have no power, then you’ve got no communication in or out.  The reverse 911 thing is also ineffective if you have no land line, so if there was an evacuation order sent  via reverse 911, you wouldn’t receive it unless your mobile phone (or VOIP phone) is registered with the county or city you live in and you have activated whatever service they use for that (here in Jefferson county it is CodeRED).  The other big issue I have with getting rid of our land line leaving the kids without a way to call anyone.  If Dave and I are gone and we have a babysitter who doesn’t have a cell phone (this has happened), and we didn’t have a land line, she would have no way of contacting us and vice versa.  In a few more years our kids will be old enough to leave with Stuart in charge and we don’t have plans to get him a cell phone any time soon, so he’d be left without a phone as well.

So it looks like I need to stock up on water, charcoal, and paper products. 

I’m still compiling a checklist for our 72 hour kits but will post progress as it comes.

Do you have kits ready for everyone in your family?  Where do you store them?  How have you made this achievable for your family? I’d love gather wisdom here.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Somewhere over the rainbow

Elise turns 5 today!!  She had her first “friends” party this morning and rather than email grandparents with photos attached, I might as well post it here.

It is a well known fact that I have serious birthday party phobia, but with the advent of pinterest, I have been enabled to overcome some of my fears of planning and executing a themed party for large groups of under age children.

It started with the invitations:

(I have no phobia of paper, paper products, computers, or candy)



Then the preparations:


(dying pasta noodles for the rainbow craft)

I do have a “food art” phobia, but this wasn’t trying to make food look pretty, it was trying to make something pretty with food, so I muddled through.

The decorations:


Another birthday banner for my collection, and the goodie bags were filled with homemade play-dough in 5 rainbow colors, plus a notebook and crayons.  And skittles.  Taste the rainbow.  Sorry for the dark photo (Amber, where are you when I need you!!!)

Here’s the framed sign in the middle:

elise rainbow birthday-004


This was part décor, and part activity.  Dave and I filled the balloons last night with confetti, candy, and miscellaneous prizes that would fit inside, then we pinned them to foam board.  There was much humor involved.

The cake:


(note the missing m&m’s--the kids kept sneaking pieces off as they walked by it)

The cake could almost be classified in my “food art” phobia category but other than taking me like 45 minutes to put the m&m’s on it, it was manageable.

The party girl:


She spent the morning at a friends’ house (Thanks Laura!) while I prepared the food and decorated.  We had a last minute hair-do, and no shoes.  At least she’s not wearing her pajamas for the party.


Friends making rainbow pasta pictures



balloon games




Popping the balloons for prizes. 

After the balloon popping, we played a musical chairs type of game with towels on the floor, using Elise’s favorite song, “Boogie Fever”. 

Lunch was rainbow fruit kabobs, ham, cheese, and tomato kabobs, and rainbow jello.  (Yes, it took me 2 1/2 days to make the rainbow jello).  Totally worth it.








After the cake the kids played for about 20 minutes and it was time to go home. 

A big thank you to Eileen for watching Henry all morning, and Rebecca for crowd control and holding my hand.  And thank you pinterest.  Without you I would never have attempted such a party. 

We still have to do round 2 this afternoon/tonight when the big kids get home from school.  I need a nap. 

I think I can, in good conscience, take a break from hosting friend-birthday parties for the next 3-5 years.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

So amazing!

The United States of America might be in the middle of a financial disaster and on the brink of total self destruction or implosion or annihilation or something but setting all that aside…

We just shipped and landed a car sized rover on Mars…and my husbands fingerprints are all over it.  Ok, well, his glove prints anyway. 

The Mars Science Lab (MSL) launched about 9 months ago and has been travelling at about 20,000 mph on its way to Mars which is something like 35 million miles away from here.  (WHAT!!!!!?)

I’ve explained Dave’s role in previous posts, but generally and non-technically speaking, Dave’s role was the design, test, and manufacturing of the heat shield separation mechanisms—most of which took place 4 years ago.   Here’s a picture of him with his team from last summer when they were assembling the heat shield and backshell:



In order to better understand what the heck I’m talking about you MUST watch this video that JPL did explaining the “7 minutes of terror” they anticipated once the spacecraft entered Mars atmosphere. 


7 minutes of terror

Rather dramatic don’t you think?  So not only did they have to get the 2,000 pound rover 35 million miles away, they had to land the dang thing in the fanciest way possible.

We had the opportunity to go to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science last night for a special event which included the live broadcast of from the control room at JPL in Pasadena.

Here are some pics and highlights:


Here’s Dave geekin’ out at a display with his hardware explaining things to the crowd.



This is Dave saying, “I’ve already explained this to you 5 times, don’t you get it?”



Watching mission control on the imax screen in the theater at DMNC.  There was a 14 minute time delay from Mars to Earth.  Wrap your brain around that one.



A computer simulation of the aeroshell entering the Mars atmosphere.  Dave’s big moment of truth was a few minutes later.



Another computer simulation screen—but with actual measurements of velocity and fuel, etc.  You can’t really see it too well, but the “gauge” on the bottom of the screen shows that the vehicle is travelling at nearly Mach 4.  Dave told me that the separation would happen just after it slowed to Mach 1.


This one shows that the heat shield has separated (YAY DAVE!!), and that the a 50 foot diameter parachute had deployed. 


Mission control celebrating the success of the landing.  There was a lot of love in that room.  And probably stinkiness too. 

They were able to receive images from the rover almost immediately, which was somewhat unexpected—it had to do with the positioning of the Mars Odyssey Orbiter and its ability to capture the messages from the rover and send them back to earth, all in a 3-4 minute window they had before earth “set” on Mars and we were out of sight for a while .  Here’s the first picture we saw:


Here’s one that came later taken by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter of the parachute stage of the descent:


Overall a totally awesome experience and amazing accomplishment for the hundreds of scientists and engineers that worked on it.  Including our very own Dave. 

If you want to watch the entry, decent and landing broadcast from NASA/JPL, here it is:

Here’s the link to the msl pages online: