Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shanghai Pictures and Chris's Family Letter

Chris travelled to Shanghai last week and entertained us with daily photos. He also found time to write a family letter... the door to door travel time is about 24 hours.

Dear Family,

You probably guessed it already. I’m on another flight to China, so a good time to write a letter. This is my 4th trip in four months, and there is a good chance that I will go two more times in the next two months as well. The good news is that the contracts are close to being finished. First, we got one signed last week for a new plant in China (license only, no investment). I wasn’t involved in that project, but it frees up resources in our group to finish the remaining 3-4 projects that I am involved with. We should have another contract ready for signature after this week’s meeting in Shanghai, and next week’s meeting in Houston (they are coming for a plant tour plus technical discussions). At that point, we will be down to the last 3 contracts (or less if one falls by the wayside). We don’t have enough legal services to handle all these contracts, so our clients are getting rather anxious and/or ticked off at us. This trip is a short one at 4 days – two days of travel and two days of meetings. In the past 6 years, I probably spent 25% of my time working to license this technology, and it is finally paying off. I will be able to say more when the deal is announced publicly.

We had Lia’s 3rd birthday party last weekend. Lia was really excited about it since she remembers Emily’s and David’s birthdays last Fall, and wanted to experience the same. She helped Michelle make a pink cake with a heart on it. She also helped Michelle pick out the party favors and table decorations (mostly pink and/or heart themed).

Both Emily and David have enjoyed their kid cameras that they got as Christmas gifts. Last week, I downloaded the software that allows them to upload their pictures onto our family laptop. On top of that, Michelle helped set up blogs for both Emily and David. Pretty amazing to see David already learn how to make a new blog entry, write the title, insert a picture with a caption, and then write about it. Of course, most of it is gibberish (which he thinks is funny). Emily, on other hand, composes grammatically correct sentences. The odd thing is that David is reading at a 2nd grade level, but can’t write a sentence. To give you an example, David can read out loud 90% of this letter without assistance, but likes to write, “jkdghghghghghhhhhhhhhhhglhsdlfhlkd” in his blog. David turned 5 in October, so doesn’t start kindergarten till next year.

Emily is still on track for 1st communion. Because there are so many kids involved, the 1st communion masses are spread out over May and June. Emily wanted to do hers in June.

By the way, we did NOT get the 2-3 inches of snow that the forecasters promised us two weeks ago. Instead, we got freezing rain, which played havoc on all of the flyover interchanges in Houston. I stayed home until the temperature got above freezing, which was about 11 am. Oh well, maybe next year for snow accumulation. If you saw the Super Bowl, you would have seen that Dallas had quite a bit of snow (on two separate occasions I believe during Super Bowl week).

Even though it did not snow, it has been mostly cold and wet since the start of the year. This has caused a fair amount of stir-craziness at the Nelli household. It’s much better when the kids can play outside. They are not used to playing in parkas, gloves, and hats. The winters in the Houston area are usually milder than this. The last two years have been very cold, with hard freezes (low in the teens) that have killed a lot of the above-ground vegetation in our garden beds. Fortunately, the roots typically survive (though we lost some plants last year). It typically warms up in early March. In fact, most of the trees start budding in mid-March.

That’s it for now. I’m hoping for a break in May so we can visit Michelle’s parents at their condo in Hawaii.


Chris and Michelle

Valentine Party

Lia and her friend Clare.

Cute girls!

Birthday Jammies

Emily and I picked out these pajamas for Lia. She looked particularly cute in them so I took her picture. The artwork on her wall is proof that she really liked the Hello Kitty stamps I got her as well.

Happy Birthday Lia!

My big 3 year old celebrated her birthday with her grandparents and we had a great party! The cake was pink, the tablecloth was pink. We had heart plates and heart napkins. There were pink balloons on every chair, a special birthday girl party hat and lots of presents. Just look at that smile.

I love this sweet picture of my girls.

And a great group shot of the kids with their grandparents.

Happy Birthday Lia!!!

Lia's Birthday Cake - Part 2

We let Lia's cake cool over night. The next morning, she couldn't wait to get started icing it pink! Emily and Lia have their very special frosting knives and are hard at work here.

And doing a fine job.

Lia wanted a heart in the middle of her cake. Only light pink and dark pink candies could be used. Note the AB pattern. There were a few red sprinkles in our mix but she said that was okay.

I think she likes it!

Upon further inspection, the cake was deemed, "too boring" so we let Lia add a little more. Here is the finished product with candles and everything the way Lia wanted it.

Lia's Birthday Cake - Part One

It wasn't really surprising that Lia said she wanted a pink cake with pink icing. When we went down the cake aisle at the grocery store, she picked strawberry cake and strawberry icing. Tradition has been set that the kids make their birthday cakes together. And they have lots of fun doing it! Here they are getting it all ready.

Happy times!

Happy 11th Anniversary

February 5th was our 11th wedding anniversary. We got a babysitter and treated ourselves to dinner at America's! It was fabulous. Thank you very much to David for taking our picture on our anniversary. It is fun to have a son who loves photography so much.

Fetching the Paper on Cold Days

It is David's job to go get the newspaper every morning. We have had some very cold days in February! It cracks me up when he comes downstairs in shorts and a t-shirt and the weather outside is 30 degrees! I ask him if he thinks he is dressed correctly to get the paper and he finds out pretty quickly he is not when he opens the door! So... he now has this routine of putting on his warm hat, jacket and mittens to go do his job. It takes a really long time for him to put on all this gear by the way! I don't think the sunglasses are necessary... but he really likes the wearing them. And what is funny, is that he has them on over his hat instead of tucked behind his ears. Whatever gets the job done. I have been quite pleased that I have him to do this for me!

Lia wanted to go with him on this day. David's sandals, with no socks, made me chuckle. Lia followed his lead but she was smart enough to put socks on with her sandals.

The Valentine Box Project

Our homeschooling group has a big Valentine Exchange party each year with roughly 100 kids attending. The kids were very excited to decorate their Valentine boxes this year. Emily and I made a trip to the craft store to pick up plenty of supplies and she was very excited to begin. She finished hers first... and I must say it came out really nice! The flowers were a nice touch.

Emily helped Lia to put her name on her box. Then we just let her go to town with all the stickers we bought. This little girl loves stickers!

Here is David painting on his glue and covering his box with red paper. He was very serious about his work!

And the decorating process... Emily and I did our best to pick out some "boy" stickers that he might like. We got animals, sports, and stars. He seemed pretty happy with our selections.

And this ended up being the picture we selected for our family Valentine cards. I missed sending out Christmas cards again this year but made up for it with Valentines! And I was able to sneak in thank you notes for wonderful Christmas gifts as well. Double duty is good.

Happy Valentines Day!!!

The Golden Rule

You might say David is officially obsessed with Berenstain Bears. I fondly remember Emily at this stage. We would go to the library and check the 'B' shelf for new Berenstain Bears books that we hadn't read already. Well, David has taken this behavior to another level. He is very aware of everything I do on the computer and he pays attention when I request books for Emily using the online catalog. Since he is 5 now... he has his own library card and can check out his own books. Whenever we finish reading a Berenstain Bears book, he flips it over to the back cover where the other Berenstain Bears books are advertised. He likes to read the part that says, "Collect Them All!" and informs me which books he has read and which ones we need to request online. And by the way, there are a lot of these books!

He really liked the Golden Rule. He liked it so much he decided to do the "project" at the end of the book so he could have a copy for his room.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Science Experiment - Volcano!

We used to do a lot of science experiments when we were studying Chemistry with Real Science for Kids. In fact, each chapter had an experiment. And it was great! We loved it. This semester we started the Great Science Adventures book and Emily chose Discovering Earth's Landforms and Surface Features. We have learned about Earth's location in space, plate tectonics, earthquakes, mountains and finally volcanoes this week. While each chapter has a variety of suggested activities, it isn't as "exciting" as chemistry was. However, when I announced we would make our very own volcano... the kids were very excited.

As you can see, they are ready to go. We filled our jar with vinegar and dyed it red. At this point, we could have just added the baking soda and watched it 'erupt' but the kids wanted to make the volcano look more realistic with some real dirt. Now mind you, it was very cold outside or we would have done this outdoors... so I was contemplating how I was going to make this work when I remembered I had some potting soil in the garage. Excellent. I had to grit my teeth and let them play with dirt inside my house... and watch them put dirt in my clean pyrex baking dish... but I did it!

After one failed attempt... we used a too tall jar and didn't use enough vinegar and folded up the papertowel holding the baking soda instead of pinching it... we got it right the second time! Look at that!

The coolest homemade volcano ever. And yes, it all cleaned up fairly easily. Thank goodness!

Animal Games

This tiny little room is the bathroom in Lia's room (our guest room). The kids play "animal games" here almost every day. They literally get all their stuffed animals, all their bed sheets and blankets, and piles of books and set up house. It amuses them to no end.

Here is Emily's corner. It is between the sink and the toilet. They are always asking for laundry baskets to make beds for their animals. Of course a proper bed must be outfitted with pillows, blankets, toys and books. Now keep in mind... all of this stuff comes from their rooms which are upstairs. You should see them hauling it down the stairs with their faces full of glee (and a little bit of mischief)! I always tell them, in my Mommy voice, "You do realize, you are going to have to haul all that stuff back up again, right?" And of course, they ALWAYS assure me they will.

And David's corner, in front of the shower.

Trouble. I tell you. Don't they look like they think they're getting away with something?

Nelli Family Pretzels!

Emily had this sacramental preparation assignment where she had to time how long bread dough took to rise and how long it took to bake... Chris came up with the idea of making his Moms family recipie for homemade pretzels and we all thought it was a great idea! Everyone wanted to help out in the kitchen. Here they are kneading the dough and getting flour everywhere.

Lia's little hands could only knead a small amount of dough at a time but what she lacked in quantity she made up for in effort! She took her job very seriously.

After the dough rised for an hour, the pretzel formation process began. According to Chris, you can make the classic twist shaped pretzel or the braided/spiral variety. You can see David with his "pretzel worm" here. And notice all the flour on the shirt... that's because no matter how hard we try to teach him otherwise, he always wipes his hands on his shirt!
Hard workers! And see the pretzel dough that looks like a cookie on the pan in the picture below... That one is Lia's.

Alpha Critters, V is for Vulture

We are still plugging along with homeschooling. I am seeing the end of the alphabet! David has been asking to do Alphabet Critters for a while and all the kids are so happy when we take the time to do it! V is for Vulture!

We spend about 30 minutes doing the craft. We spend about 1 minute writing lower and uppercase V's... and 10-15 minutes cleaning up the mess! Oh well... they love it and that's what matters.

Here is Emily's vulture.

And as usual, Lia insists on doing things her "own self" and we laughed at her silly vulture with the feet on backwards.

Daddy Home!!!

So Chris was in China for almost 2 weeks this trip. We really missed him! Around the beginning of the second week, David asked me, "Mommy, Is Daddy EVER going to come home?" Needless to say, he got quite a welcome when he came in the door!

As usual, he brings the kids all sorts of interesting gifts. This time they got chinese candy!

These Tuckahoe Pies were like rice paper tortillas with a peach gummy filling. I can't say they were very tasty... interesting though.

I believe these wafers were a little better. Do you recognize the red trademark in the upper left corner? It's Kraft.

And after 18+ hours on a plane, my dear hubby just wanted to lie down. But he indulged the kids and let them build a pillow fort around him. I think he was asleep about 5 minutes after I took this picture. We are so glad to have him home!!!

Cecilia's Chicka Boom Boom Party

While Chris was away, we were invited to Cecilia's 3rd birthday. The 'K' family puts on the best parties. They love children's literature and this party celebrated Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Aren't they a beautiful family! The kid's craft is on the wall. They made palm trees with ink from their hand and arm. Then they had alphabet stamps to show the letters climbing up the tree like in the book. I think they put coconuts on with their finger prints too.

Here are the kids working on the craft.

And even the snack was true to theme! So cute. Apple slices, malt balls, gummy letters, chocolate wafters.
Each family got to take home a copy of the book. My kids didn't have this book and I had never read it. The author, Bill Martin, however wrote another one of our favorites, Brown Bear, Brown Bear.

I think Emily had a really great time! Here she is with the birthday girl.

David and Lia had a ball too. It was a little crazy!

And here is Cecilia with her gift... We found orange and pink polka dotted pajamas justl like the ones on the cover of the book. Clever gift, eh?

And thank you to Blair! I think she gets credit for most of these photos. I didn't have my camera but got tagged on Facebook for many of these. Very fun!