To The Nines

Five Ball’s birthday was “to the nines”, or as near to perfect as any 9th birthday could be. The birthday boy decided to spend most of the day at his favorite game store. If you are a fan of board games, role playing games, or card games then Guardian Games is definitely a place that you want to check out when in the Northwest. They have a massive selection of games, gaming supplies, and a huge space for game play. Five Ball first fell in love with this store last April and was completely thrilled to spend his birthday there today.

One of the best parts about Guardian Games is that they let you try out games from their well stocked collection at one of the many tables that they have set up in store. This is a great way to try out new games, or check out a game before buying your own copy. Today we chose to play Ghostbusters: The Board Game. This adventure game allows four players to fight Slimer, The Marshmellow Man, and other spirits in a variety of scenarios. The kids had a great time getting slimmed, firing proton streams, and banishing spirits.

Before leaving Guardian Games Five Ball picked out his birthday present. Being a huge Dungeons and Dragons fan he knew he wanted a present that included rogues, wizards, and lots of monsters. He wasn’t disappointed with his choice of the game Dungeon! created by Wizards of the Coast. As soon as we returned home the game was opened and taken out for a lengthy test spin. It was quickly decided that this is a fabulous board game for D&D fans and it made our birthday boy fantastically happy.

After battling ghosts and monsters all day we had all worked up an impressive appetite and were ready to sit down for a birthday meal. Five Ball had just enough energy left to blow out his candles with amazing force and polish off a sizable piece of raspberry chocolate mouse pie. We couldn’t have wished for a more perfect day for our rogue at heart (he has definitely stolen all of our heart’s).



Enchanted Rose City

Over the past few weeks we’ve enjoyed several outings into Portland, but last night was our first night out in the Rose City. What better way to spend a family night out than seeing Beauty and the Beast downtown? We were thrilled last week to hear we had won tickets through our membership at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and it was definitely hard waiting for the big night to finally arrive.

After taking in the impressive interior of the Newmark Theater, our outing started in earnest with an incredible backstage tour led by the show’s producer and director Greg Tamblyn. We had a chance to learn some of the show’s secrets firsthand (sorry, we’re sworn to secrecy) as well as meet some of the talented actors and crew.  The tour was a wonderful glimpse into all the hard work it takes to put on a performance of this magnitude, and it really gave us a better appreciation of everything we saw on stage when the curtains finally went up.

Beauty and the Beast was truly a treat and kept us swept up in the story from start to finish. The acting and singing were first rate, the special effects impressive, and the scenery magnificent. Stepping outside after the show felt like waking up from a dream, but as we walked back to catch our train we were pleased to find there was still plenty of magic in the air.

Blast Off to Seven

High Five turned seven years old today and what better way to celebrate then with an outer space themed party. Since he was a toddler High Five has been fascinated by stars, planets, and the general unknown of our universe. He always has a book on outer space checked out from the library and he has a special love for Pluto.

After starting the day out with homemade planet pancakes and a space movie we headed to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry to take advantage of their wonderful planetarium. High Five chose tickets for the show Perfect Little Planet, which he first saw when he was two and is a family favorite.

Following the planetarium show we headed over to the OMSI Motion Simulator to try out the simulated ride experience Space Chase. The simulator is akin to a ride that you would experience at Disney and had us feeling like we were flying through outer space. It was twisty and turny and the perfect fun for a seven year old would be space explorer.

Before heading home for homemade Pluto pizza and astronaut ice cream cake we stopped by the museum gift shop to pick the birthday boy out his gift. He wisely chose a Lego 3-in-1 Space Shuttle creator set. All in all it was a truly amazing, out of this world birthday!

Wilderness Wednesday – Steigerwald Lake

We are finally settled in our new rental house in Vancouver, Washington! Leaving Montana and heading towards a more populated area we were afraid that we would lose the access to wild places that we love so much. However, we have been pleasantly surprised with how many parks and wildlife refuges exist in the greater Vancouver area. We were even more delighted to find out that there is a homeschool group that gets together for “Wilderness Wednesdays”. We love to get out into nature whenever possible, but what a great idea to make a special trip to a favorite nature based destination every Wednesday.

For our first “Wilderness Wednesday” we headed east of our new house to the Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Washougal. When we arrived there were two school buses in the parking lot bringing local school kids to the refuge on a field trip. It was great to see so many kids out in nature. The Steigerwald Lake National Wildlife Refuge is is comprised of 1,049 acres of wetlands, woodlands, and field that border the Columbia River. The diversity of habitats makes it a great place to view a variety of birds.

We didn’t have to make our way very far down the refuge trail before we started seeing birds. From song birds to water birds our three hour visit at the refuge was packed with bird sightings. In total we ended up viewing 15 species of birds, four of which were new species for our Family Big Year. On our way down the path towards the Columbia River we were most excited to spot three Hooded Mergansers. The coloring of the male is really something!

However, our trip back from the Columbia River to our car was even more exciting as we passed by a small section of woodlands and heard an owl hooting. We stopped to listen and used our best owl imitation to hoot back. The owl responded and we called back and forth for several minutes before spotting the owl tucked up close to a tree trunk. It took a while before we got all five of us to clearly see the owl and just as we were able to leave a second owl swooped down and perched on a lower branch giving us an amazing view. We were able to snap some great shots of what we can now tell was a Great Horned Owl (although it looked really wet). Then both of the owls flew off over the water to a second patch of woodland. It was really an amazing sight!

When we finally made it back to the car we were exhausted. Even though we had only walked about 2 1/2 miles we had worked hard looking, listening, and observing new bird species. It turned out to be a very successful Wilderness Wednesday and we can’t wait for the next one.

Smaller Castle. Bigger Kids. Still Disneyrific.

Five years ago on our first ever long distance trip road trip (Route 1) we took the kids to Disney World. We had a fabulous time and the kids were the perfect age for enjoying the Magic Kingdom. Since then they have asked if we could return for a second trip, especially High Five who was only one and 1/2 at the time. So, we made a compromise that if we were ever near Disneyland we take them for a visit.

Our most recent road trip through California, Nevada, and Arizona brought us withing close proximity of Disneyland and it was time to make good on our promise. So, on what was supposed to be a relatively “non-crowded” Monday for Disneyland we spent 12 hours exploring the park and comparing it to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World.

Overall we had a really great time. However, as many people had warned us Disneyland is no Magic Kingdom and at the end of our visit we understood what they meant. First of all the park was crowded and stayed that way all day long. In fact it seemed to get worse in the afternoon and evening as yearly pass holders dropped in after school and work. In addition the staff at Disneyland are not at the same caliber as Disney World. During our visit we only interacted with a couple of staff members who were courteous or helpful. The rest were snippy, seemed bored with their jobs, and some were even rude. However, the biggest difference that we found was in Fantasyland. At the Magic Kingdom we had a blast in Fantasyland and found the ride lines to move smoothly and the area a great place for young children. In Disneyland the ride wait times in Fantasyland were 20 to 45 minutes long throughout the entire day. The area was crowded, the rides super packed together, and overall it lacked the Disney magic that other park areas have.

Even though there were some disappointing parts of Disneyland all in all it was still a great place to spend the day. Now that the kids are older we were able to take advantage of the more thrilling rides and didn’t have to worry about strollers, nap times, or stopping to rest. Instead on this trip we spent a great deal of time in Tomorrowland where we rode Space Mountain, Buzz Lightyear, and Star Tours multiple times. Star Tours alone is worth the large sum of money that it takes to get into Disneyland.

To our great pleasure the Younger Fives also really loved Big Thunder Mountain, which was also a favorite of ours when we were little. The whole family loved the ride so much that we rode it three times and would have ridden it more if the lines were shorter, or we could have gotten more Fast Passes. Just like when we visited Disney World the Fast Pass system definitely made our day much more enjoyable and helped us plan our visit.

Unfortunately there were no fireworks or parades on the day that we visited. However, we did get to watch Mickey and the Magic Map at the Fantasyland Theatre. The show was pretty good and even though the kids would have rather seen Fantasmic! it was still enjoyable. Overall our visit to Disneyland was a success. The kids enjoyed themselves and we didn’t have to make a return trip to Florida. This will probably be our last Disney trip as the Younger Fives are older and into more thrilling rides. However, it was nice to be able to let them experience a little bit of Disney magic one last time.