Through October 14th

This has been a really exciting couple of weeks around here.

Rosie turned 7!  We had a quiet little party at Granny’s house.

Granny and Auntie Asheigh


Uncle Chris and Aunt Dottie



Mom and Dad



The birthday girl got lots of nice presents including earrings, new shoes and legos.




Granny and Aunt Dottie made Rosie a tray of special cupcakes.



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Here’s some pictures from Rosie’s party from Granny’s camera.  Much better than the grainy ones from my phone.

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This was Rosie’s present from Dad and Mom – a grownup vanity!



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We made ‘Roboarms’ at the Maker class this week.  The kids loved it.

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We had a fun play date over at Harper’s while she was on spring break from school.

There was the monthly large homeschool park day.

That Saturday night was Harper’s birthday party.  We managed to make it to most of the party.  She had a movie theater theme in the backyard and the kids had cake and watched a movie together.  The kids absolutely loved it.

Sunday after church the girls and I went to the airport to pick up our special visitors.   Seanna came to visit and she brought Eleanor!



Monday we all got dressed and went to the co-op together.

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That afternoon, Uncle Kico and Aunt Sandy came over to see the girls.

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They had to leave early because they work early but then Granny, Aunt Dottie and Uncle Chris came over for dinner.  They were all happy to see Seanna and Eleanor but I didn’t get a single picture while they were over because I was busy getting dinner together.

The next day, we got up and made our way to the pool.

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That night we went to Someburros for dinner and then the mall to walk around.



I spent nearly all of Wednesday snuggling Eleanor and playing with her.  Seanna and I tried to watch a movie but Momma fell asleep and I let her rest while stealing her baby.  The girls were really helpful with feeding and playing with Eleanor.  It was a great few days but went too fast.

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A few times Maurice managed to wrench Eleanor out of my grip.




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Through Sept 30

I took Ellie to Gangplank for a Women Who Code meeting on JavaScript since she’s been learning JS at home.  She was kind of a ‘know it all’ and thought she knew everything until we started learning stuff she didn’t know.  Then she acted fussy.  But later, to hear her tell it, she learned some new things. So, this being a monthly meet-up, we will try again next month and see what new things we can learn during the October meeting.

Things at the Co-op are moving along.  The girls love their tiny gardens class and are making neat projects every week.  We made marshmallow shooters in the maker class which all the kids loved, of course, and ASL is a lot of repeat for the girls but it’s good for them to review.

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We all met Maurice’s dad at the library and the girls enjoyed talking to him.  Then later that night, Maurice and I had a meeting to go to for the co-op to do planning for the next session of classes.  Maurice has volunteered to lead a coding challenge class and I was asked to do something with Lego Storystarters so when I figure out what that is, I’ll be running that class.

We had our mid-month park day with the homeschool group.  It was actually really warm even though the entire week before had been lovely.  Only a few moms came and with younger kids so the girls were very disappointed.

We got an email from church though and choir is starting up again in January!  The girls are very excited.  They love AWANA too but choir gave them another chance to see their friends.

The homeschool group took a field trip to the Halle Heart Museum.  I think the kids thought it was just OK.  It was free so the price was right.



Today was the start of Kyrene schools fall break so we met Isabella and the park this morning.

Legoland September 2016

We left the house at 9:30am hoping to beat San Diego rush hour traffic at the end of the long drive. The drive was very uneventful but we did listen to the Old Yeller audiobook, which the girls loved.  At some point around lunchtime, we pulled off to use the bathroom and then sat in a random parking lot in our car and had a picnic.  It seems like we were near El Centro when this happened.

We made it to the I5 North in San Diego in decent time and then sat in the last 10 miles of awful traffic for about an hour around 3pm.  Needless to say, we were pretty tired by the time we arrived to the hotel.

There were no problems with check-in.  We got the room I had requested, a King bed and a sofa bed.  The room was really small but that was ok.  It was clean.  Except for the carpets really needed a good shampoo, which I didn’t notice until much later in our stay.  This is the website’s picture of the room and aside from the weird angle indicating the photographer was perched like a bug in a crack in the wall to make everything look more spacious, it’s pretty accurate.


After we got settled a bit, we headed over the the grocery store, picked up some deli chicken and sides and various snacks to bring into the park, and went back to the room where we ate dinner.

I thought the kids should move around and get some of their car energy out so we went to check out the pool and spa.  I sat in the spa for a bit while the girls went back and forth between spa and pool for about 30 minutes.  Dad joined us toward the end and then it was back to the room for pajamas.

We all got settled into bed.  Maurice found a movie and turned it on and I don’t even remember what movie it was because all of us fell asleep really early while watching tv.

The hotel was very quiet at night.  We could hear the large semis driving by on the close freeway but it wasn’t loud and it didn’t keep us awake or wake us up.

Because we went to bed so early, Ellie and I were up really early.  The hotel breakfast starts at 6:30 so we went down there together and had waffles, eggs, juice, coffee, cereal and all kinds of great treats we never eat at home. By the time we made it back to the room, Dad and Rosie were just leaving to come find us so we went back down with them so they could eat.

Back in the room, we got dressed and were at the park by 9:30.

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The park was open at 9:30 (scheduled to open at 10) but many of the rides were not.  We headed off to the right and found Ninjago Land open!  It was supposed to open mid-2016 but then Ellie told me she heard it was not open yet and we were bummed we were going to miss it during our annual pass year.  But, sure enough there it was.


The little area was small and Dad was not impressed.  But the girls seemed excited.  On the way into Ninjago, the girls saw a carnival game to bounce a ball off a board and into a basket to win a prize.  Rosie wanted to try and Granny had given each of the kids $20 spending money before we left.  We had been in the park less than 5 minutes and Rosie was ready to spend.  You could get 1 ball for $3 and Rosie said she only wanted 1 ball to try the game.  Dad said nobody wins these but Rosie was insistent.  And then she won.  A huge stuffed ninja penguin.


We took him on the ride in Ninjago Land, which was some kind of video game ride similar to the one in Adventure Land.

Then Rosie took him on this little playground.


The stuffed penguin took a rest so the girls could climb the rock wall.

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There were some cool Lego builds in Ninjago Land.


And that’s about it.

From here walked around and the kids played a couple more carnival games.  By this time, we have several items to keep track of and it’s getting annoying.  I tell them no more carnival games and dad takes them to do some rides while I take all of the stuffed animals back to the car.  It took me a few minutes but nothing like the walk/tram if we had been and Disneyland.

Because it was a Friday and school was back in session around the country, I felt like we had the park to ourselves.  We noticed Asians and a lot of people speaking Spanish so perhaps there were school holidays happening other places but it was really nice to beat the crowds and feel like we had the run of the place.

We ate at the BBQ place from last time in the Kingdom Land.  It was good, for theme park food.

These pictures came out very dark because we were inside but of course Rosie wanted a picture with the Lego penguin.

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On the way out of the park this day, Dad wanted to pick a ride and so we did one of our favorites.  It’s also the only time I end up in a picture at Legoland, aside from the one Maurice took on the way in at the start of the day.

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The park closed at 5pm this day so we continued around riding rides until then and then headed back to the room.  We had the fixings to make bean burritos in the room so that was dinner.  After eating we all laid down.  The entire family was asleep before 8pm.

Saturday morning breakfast started at 7am and we all went downstairs together.  Everybody was fairly rested from falling asleep at a ridiculous evening hour.  We were at the park again by 9:30 and I had packed a separate bag of our swimsuits, towels, etc.  We did rides as we slowly made our way to the waterpark, which opened at Noon.

Maurice walked around the park while the kids and I went to the waterpark to play.  The girls met some local girls their same ages and they played until 3pm.  I finally told them we had to get dressed and go spend some time with dad.

It was too late for lunch so we wandered, rode some rides, and looked at Lego builds.

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We stayed until the park closed at 6pm and then went to Kings Fish House (where we went when the entire family came with us last October) for dinner.  It was nice and relaxing.

This evening we also spent some time at the hotel pool.  There were a couple of families with kids swimming so the girls played for awhile and then we headed upstairs for bed.

At 7am we went down for breakfast at the hotel again, packed up the car, and drove home.  We left Carlsbad around 10 and ended up back at home about 4pm.  We didn’t stop for lunch and just went straight through, stopping for sandwiches in Phoenix to take home for dinner.


Through Sept 13

The last month has been a blur.  Everything has started back up again for the ‘school year.’

AWANA has been back for a couple of weeks now.  Ellie said there are about half as many kids this year.  It does look to me like the classes are much less crowded.  But, the girls are enjoying seeing their friends and going every week.

We’ve had our homeschool park day.  It seems like a lot of families have started with the group because quite a few new people were at park day.  Lots of ‘old friends’ though for the girls and they were non-stop busy playing for 2 solid hours.  We were the last ones to leave the park.

The co-op group started classes again.  I’m doing a maker class this session and the girls are in that with me.  They are also taking a tiny gardens class and ASL.

I’m still having the kids do a calendar every week to keep track of their own schoolwork.  So far, so good (or good enough while we practice this skill).  ‘Schoolwork’ now consists of some math, coding, checking their email, solving cryptograms (we are going to be SO READY for SEVCTF4Kids next year!), Sunday school homework, robotics, learning the recorder etc.   We mostly stay pretty busy.

And then their are the activities…I’m exhausted…  We went to Gangplank last night for CraftHack night.  We were to bring 4 t-shirts to make skirts out of them.  The girls’ friend Isabella met us over there.  We weren’t terribly prepared because I wasn’t sure what to expect so the girls ended up getting a lot of help making a skirt for Rosie and Isabella and then they got insanely busy cutting all of their t-shirts into making clothes for one of Rosie’s stuffed animals she brought with her.  They all had a blast.


The kids have had another slumber party at Granny’s recently.  We’ve had Ashleigh over for dinner.  Looking at my calendar it seems like we really have been as busy as I’ve felt.

I’ve been teaching Sunday school, first grade class, every other week.  The girls love it because they get to stay for 2 hours of Sunday school with their friends.

Uncle Chris and Aunt Dottie just sold their house and got moved down here into a rental.  It’s halfway between our house and Toni’s so I can’t think of anything more convenient.

Through August 16



Nothing has happened since we got back from DEF CON 24 except we have been crazy tired and trying to get things back to normal.

The Social Engineering Village hosts from DEF CON sent me this picture of all the kids involved in the CTF4Kids event.


The summer Olympics, held in Rio this time around, started while we were in Vegas.  On top of being exhausted and out of routine from our trip, coming back and watching the Olympics 24/7 is compounding the problem.

I did get the girls’ VEX team registration completed and they are signed up for a couple of competitions now.  This will give us a deadline to shoot for with our build design, testing, learning to drive, autonomous programming, etc etc.



DEF CON 24 trip report day 6 and 7


Dad and I watched ROOMCON, how to hack boarding passes, at 10.  Then I went to the casino to gamble for a bit while Maurice got dressed.

I ran into Toni and found out she never went to bed.  I guess Tabi and her split after midnight and when Toni went to bed at 2, Tabi had thrown the door bolt and wouldn’t answer the door or phone.  So it was 11am in the morning when I saw Toni and she had yet to be asleep.  She looked rough.  I asked if she wanted to come lay down in our room but I’m not even sure she processed the question.

I went back to the room and grabbed Ellie and we went back to Rootz to pick up her 3D object.


Things were kind of winding down for the weekend in the Rootz room.

Back in the room it was lunch time.

Then we went to watch hacker jeopardy at Rootz.  Closing ceremonies were supposed to be at 3 but jeopardy was running way long so we went back to the room.

At 4 we met Chris, Dottie and Tabi and headed over to the DEFCON closing ceremonies starting at 4:30.  That was interesting. They went over the network needs for the conference, black badge contest winners, and so on.


The last thing they said was the conference is moving to Caesars next year.  Boo.  We hate Caesars and I’m majorly bummed about that but it wont keep us from going.

It was about dinner time so we had burritos in the room.  Everyone was pretty tired.

I went down to gamble but came back after 30 minutes to find Maurice was just getting set to join me.  Once I was back though neither of us wanted to do anything.  We just watched TV in the room until 11 and then went to bed.

This was definitely a relaxing, easy paced day.


I set the alarm for 7am with a hotel checkout time of 11.  Maurice thought that was too early.  I checked out the first room at 11 and the second at 11:04 so I guess I timed that pretty well.  I knew it would take him 4 hours.

We had the car loaded by 11:20 (one trip down with our fancy cart).  Nothing eventful on the drive home.  We stopped for lunch at Wendy’s in Kingman, of course.  I had promised Ellie ice cream at the start of our trip so I got her a frosty and she was pretty jazzed.

We picked up pizza on the way home and ate dinner at home here by 6pm.

DEF CON 24 trip report day 5

Today was the day of the SEV CTF4Kids competition.  We were supposed to check in at 9:30 sharp.  I got the girls there at 9:20 and we found out even though we registered late, very late, and were Team #6, there were 10 teams in total.  They were definitely the youngest there as the competition was for ages 5-12.


The game involved solving cyphers, puzzles, lockpicking and so on.  It was set up as a scavenger hunt.  The girls were given a backpack full of supplies, their first puzzle (a keyword cypher) and sent on their way.

We went back up to the room so the girls could work their puzzle.

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The adults couldn’t help so we tried to point them in the right direction and leave them alone.  They had a hard time with attention span.  Finally around 11:30 they had it solved with a clue to find a SEV employee in the Vendor space.

The girls found the employee, did what she asked (list 20 words you would want to use if you could only have 20 the rest of your life and wrote them into 5 sentences) and were given the next puzzle to solve.  That turned into a clue to find a SEV employee in the Cafe.  Only problem was, there were 2 DEFCON cafes and probably one for the hotel.  The girls banked on the closest DEFCON cafe but were too shy to actually talk to anyone. Finally it was around 4pm and they called it quits.  We turned in our supplies, thanked SEV, and went to the Paris Cafe for dinner.

I have a packet of instructions they gave the kids on how to solve different puzzles that I’m sure were farther along in the scavenger hunt.  We will work on getting better at these things before next year.

Dinner at the cafe was nice. We shared dessert and relaxed for a bit.

The girls (Ellie too this time!) wanted to do karaoke again.  We went upstairs but karaoke was gone and something else was going on.  We told them to pick some songs for next year and practice.  We didn’t stay upstairs at all and the girls wanted to go back to the room and rent a movie.  However, I did take a couple of pictures of some of the stuff from the from our walk around.

The list from the scavenger hunt this year was insane.  This picture might be too fuzzy to really read but one of these years I think this would be a fun activity just to up the crazy level.

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Maurice said he was amazed to not find my name on the Wall of Sheep.  Haha




OnDemand movies were $20! And the kids selected Kung Fu Panda 3!  But, they were excited and settled down with snacks, happy to rest.

Dad and I met Toni and Tabi at the bar and we all gambled and hung out until 11:30.

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I was sort of surprised to find the kids still awake in the room when we got back.  Since everyone was feeling snacky, we all ate some food and watched TV together then went to bed pretty late.

DEF CON 24 trip report day 4

The girls and I went to get in the DEFCON swag line at 9.  Rosie ended up buying a pink DEFCON hat and we picked up a glass dad wanted.  At 10 we wanted to be over at Rootz for the opening ceremonies.


We stayed for opening ceremonies, a guy then gave a talk on UFOs that was super interesting, and a Young Hacker Talk by a girl who explained making modifications in Minecraft.  It was awesome.


Rootz is the KIDSCON of DEFCON.  Kid workshops, kid talks, kid activities, etc.  The kids also got Rootz t-shirts.  Here, the girls had already made a little friend their age while in line and the kids ditched the parents to quickly get seats together.



Here are pictures of stuff going on around the ROOTZ room.

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We headed over to a DEFCON talk on hacking car insurance data collection gadgets. Next was a talk on hacking heavy trucks Rosie had wanted to see and then how to hack the DEFCON black badge.


The girls mostly played with their new books, drawing and designing.  We had peanut butter sandwiches in the conference room while all of this was going on.

By the last talk, Rosie got too antsy.  We went back to Rootz but she was too tired to do much so we went back to the room to eat snacks and relax.

After awhile, I took Ellie to the vendors.  Rosie was still pooped.  Ellie found some pins and a tshirt.  I took Ellie back to Rootz and she used TinkerCAD to design an object they sent to the 3D printer for her.

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We came back to the room and Rosie wanted to shop.  Dad and Aunt Dottie took the girls back to the vendors and Rosie found a shot glass with a penguin.

By this time it was dinner so we split with Aunt Dottie and Uncle Chris to meet up with them at 8 when the parties upstairs start.

When we got upstairs it was pretty quiet.  That was actually good because I went up to the parties last year with Sara and it was outrageous.  We wanted to show the girls the ‘parties’ but without the actual crazy.  We walked around and found a spot where they were doing hacker karaoke.  We watched one person sing and the girls had a lot of questions.  Next thing I knew, Rosie was signing herself up.  She sang I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.  Everybody loved it but how could you not.  It was really the cutest thing.

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Then they talked Uncle Chris into singing Bob Dylan Forever Young.  Only, he did it in the style of Bob Dylan.  I died laughing.  And the best part was the audience was trying really hard to be nice and polite because they couldn’t tell if he was serious or not.  Oh, their expressions were the best.


Down the hall there was a group sponsoring drone wars.  Literally two people piloting drones through an obstacle course.  It was cool but it only held the kids’ interest for a little bit.  Here’s a picture of the drone wars course.  It’s not a great picture but you get the idea.


We checked out the suites while we were up there.  Still creepy.  We didn’t stay long there.

Back in the room, the kids were tired.  They watched TV and Maurice and I went downstairs to gamble for a little while.

I can tell we are getting old because, again, we were in bed around 10.

DEF CON 24 trip report day 3

I was up at 7 and asked the girls if they wanted to go to the pool.  Of course they said yes!  Ellie had called the night before and heard the pool opened at 9.  We got there right at 9 and it had been open since 8!  I was a little bummed because we didn’t have very much time and it also started to rain a little towards the end.  But, the kids played with their diving rings and we did some races back and forth for about 30 minutes then headed back to the room to get dressed.

I had signed the girls up for the Social Engineering Village CTF4Kids event.  About a week before we left town, I got an email from the event coordinators saying if we Paypal pre-paid for badges, we could pick them up at SEV after 10am on Thursday.  That sounded awesome and not like waiting in a gigantic line so I got 4 (for us), 2 for Chris and Dottie and 1 for Tabi (Toni had gone to Black Hat and was getting her DEFCON badge there).  I sent a HUGE amount of money on blind faith through Paypal and we showed up at the SEV at 10:30 to pick up our badges this morning.

I guess things were a little disorganized in the line and the SEV employee wasn’t able to get the badges until after 11 so we had a bit of a wait.  I didn’t even care because we were in the Village room, sitting in chairs and it was all very leisurely pleasant.  However, we found out later they ran out of electronic badges in the lines about 11am so we were very happy to have been given the electronic ones and I think our plan is to brave the line ourself next year.

Once we had our badges, we went to check out the vendors.  They didn’t open until the next day.

Back in the room, we had lunch and dad did ROOMCON (some of the talks started Thursday afternoon) while the girls and I walked over to Bellagio to see the atrium.  It was gorgeous, as usual.

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I went gambling after that while the girls and dad hung out in the room.

We had an early dinner at 3:30 to be at the Cyber Grand Challenge by 4.  It started at 5 but we wanted good seats.

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DARPA issued a challenge two years ago with a $2mil prize for any team that could build an autonomous machine to play CTF.  It was the first of its kind and I really wanted to be there for it.  We made it plenty early and they were playing videos of the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff until it began.  At 5 it became a real event.  I wasn’t sure what to expect but they were filming a TV show.  I loved the idea and it was fascinating when they actually explained how it worked or what the machines were doing but after about an hour of not much live machine competition stuff and a lot of talking and repeating, we gave up and left.  The girls were very good and patient while we tried it out.

Back in the room, Maurice watched the rest of the CGC and I went to the bar to meet Toni.  Maurice was going to come out and meet me after it ended at 8 and the girls had wanted to play in the room but Rosie ended up having a fit. She was pretty tired.

I went back upstairs and sent Maurice down to visit the adults.  I showed the girls some new books I made for them.  A fashion design book for Rosie and a real pencil drawing techniques book for Ellie.  They were so excited they settled right down in front of the Disney channel with their new books and I went out to meet Maurice.  We ended up hanging out downstairs until about 10.

Then it was off to bed.

DEF CON 24 trip report day 2

This was our family day.  I was up way too early so I just got dressed and went downstairs to gamble.  At a more reasonable hour, I came back and everyone had breakfast.

Dad wanted to relax so I took the girls to the lower floor where they have a bunch of gift shops at Bally’s. Rosie was desperately looking for lip gloss but no luck.

We found dad and headed out of the room around 11:30am.  We were going to the wax museum at the Venetian.  There is a monorail stop right at Bally’s so we took it from there to Harrah’s.  Then, we walked from Harrah’s to the Venetian.

On the way, we passed a Walgreens.  The girls both managed to find some lovely lip gloss (and pay for it with their saved allowance).  The wax museum was very close to the Walgreens.

I have always wanted to see the wax museum but it is pricey.  We used our Legoland annual passes to get in for free.  It was so creepy.  The figures are so lifelike you can see them moving out of the corner of your eye.  It was fun but not $25 a person fun so I’m glad we had the passes and got to see it once.

As it turns out, Rosie has become a real ham and really likes taking funny pictures.

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From the wax museum we headed into the shops at the Venetian.   We ate lunch at the food court.


And tried to show the girls the really lovely hallway by reception.  They didn’t seem impressed.


Then we took them on their first taxi ride back to Ballys, which they got a big kick out of.

About 2pm we made it back to our room and I texted my contact at the Social Engineering Village, Amanda, to ask if there was anything we could do to help them prepare for DEFCON.

We ate dinner in the room awhile later and then Maurice and I fell asleep while the kids played.  At 9pm we went back out to see the convention space.


More stuff was up and out and a line was already forming for the badges going on sale the following morning.


We were back in the room by 9:30 to get to bed.